Dec 16 2014

Ralph Peer And The Making Of Popular Roots Music

This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the adventurous—even revolutionary—A&R man and music publisher who saw the universal power locked in regional roots music and tapped it, changing the breadth and flavor of popular music around the world. Below is an overview and links for more information:

The name Ralph Peer is unknown to many people today. But for anyone who loves modern music—whether it’s rock, country, rap, or Latin—Peer played a critical role in these songs and sounds being heard over the course of the last century. Peer was a revolutionary A&R man and music publisher who saw the universal power locked in regional roots music and tapped it, changing the breadth and flavor of popular music around the world. 

In RALPH PEER AND THE MAKING OF POPULAR ROOTS MUSIC, music journalist Barry Mazor tells the story of Peer’s life and fifty-year career, from the age of cylinder recordings to the stereo era. The result is a sweeping picture not only of Peer’s remarkably influential music career, but also of the changing post-war America that bought the music he recorded and published. Over the course of his career as an A&R “record man” and music publisher, Peer’s professional and personal friendships crossed color lines and economic classes at a time when much of America was still socially divided. He worked with Mamie Smith, Blind Willie McTell, Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Waller, the Memphis Jug Band, Rafael Hernandez, Agustin Lara and many more. He produced the famous “Bristol Sessions” that launched the careers of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and managed both acts. The music Peer first published has been recorded by prominent artists including Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Alabama, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Flatt & Scruggs, Julio Iglesias, and Frank Sinatra.

Peer’s legacy lives on not only through the diverse musical genres he brought from regional, community interest to national and global popularity, but also through his instrumental work in creating the music publishing industry of today. He engaged with and helped define the very issues that are front and center for music fans and music makers in today’s digital era: the extent to which genres and formats are useful, how popular music can respond to people’s changing life situations and tastes, to media globalization, and how to arrive at fair arrangements for paying musicians and composers. The firm he founded, peermusic, remains the world’s largest independent music publisher.

Links for more information:

RalphSPeer.com

Chicago Review Press

Video of presentation by author Barry Mazur at Country Music Hall of Fame.

Book trailer here.