Sunday, November 11, 2018

BMG Books’ RPM Series launches with Sub Pop, Excello Records stories

Gillian G. Gaar’s World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story
The Reverend loves books about music – heck, I’ve written a couple dozen of ‘em myself, and I’m currently reading the bio of former Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen – so I’m particularly hepped up with this news of a new series from BMG Books. Dubbed ‘RPM’, the series kicks off on November 20th, 2018 with the publication of its first two books – Gillian G. Gaar’s World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story and Randy Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story.

Each tome in the RPM series is sized at 7” x 7” square to resemble the dimensions of a 45rpm record and each book features a special insert offering rare and previously-unpublished photographs. In a press release for the new series, BMG’s Kate Hyman, who conceived of the project, states “we want to honor the truly special independent labels. We want to celebrate the days when fans would buy records based on the logo alone. Let’s hope there will continue to be more of them that take the big risks and break the mold of the majors.”

Future volumes in the series will explore the history of Chrysalis Records (home to essential recordings by Procol Harum, Jethro Tull, Blondie, and many others) and the Cold Chillin’ label (a pioneering hip-hop imprint that released albums by Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie, among other ground-breaking artists). In the same press release, Publisher and Senior Director of BMG Books Scott B. Bomar says “As a self-proclaimed music geek, I’ve always been a big fan of the 33 1/3 series. We wanted to take that concept and build upon it. Instead of focusing on a single album, each volume in the series covers a label that made an important splash in one way or another. We’ve given ourselves space to dive into some of these stories in ways that maybe haven’t been explored in the past.”

They’ve certainly picked a couple of good ‘uns to launch the series. I’ve been reading Gillian G. Gaar, a Seattle-based writer, for years in publications like Mojo, Rolling Stone, and Goldmine and she’s written better than 15 books on subjects like Nirvana and Elvis Presley. As Senior Editor of Seattle’s The Rocket music magazine, Gaar was at ground zero in the late 1980s when Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman launched the legendary Sup Pop Records label with recordings by regional bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Screaming Trees, among many others. Gaar’s World Domination draws upon her years of covering the local music scene to provide a comprehensive history of the label from its founding to the present day.

Randy Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story
Nashville’s Randy Fox is an acquaintance of mine, a well-known local DJ, music journalist and historian who has written for publications like The East Nashvillian, Nashville Scene, Record Collector, The Journal of Country Music, Vintage Rock, and others. A co-founder of the independent free-form Nashville radio station WXNA-FM, Randy hosts “Hipbilly Jamboree,” a weekly broadcast of classic country, rockabilly, and Western swing music. Fox is uniquely qualified to write about the legendary Excello Records label.

Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story dives into the history of the trailblazing record label. Founded in 1953 by Ernie Young and operating out of Ernie Young’s Record Mart (“The Record Center of the South!”), Excello found a natural partnership with Nashville’s WLAC-AM, a 50,000-watt clear channel station that would broadcast R&B and blues music across much of the U.S. every night. Excello’s releases by artists like Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Lonnie Brooks, Lightnin’ Slim, Marion James and others were tailor-made for the station’s playlist, which helped extend the label’s popularity across the country and even to the U.K. where it would influence young musicians like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton.

Buy the books from
Gillian G. Gaar’s World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story
Randy Fox’s Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story

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