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Modern Music The First Year - 1945, CD (£12.92)
The Modern Music Company first displayed its open for business sign almost 70 years ago. Founded by juke box repair man-cum-restocker Jules Bihari as a means of satisfying increasing demand from his customers for new product, Bihari’s label quickly joined a plethora of new independently owned labels that were appearing up and down the west coast of America in the wake of the post-WWII R&B boom. Jules started his operation in a modest manner, with a few boogie piano releases by a beautiful young woman who had become smitten with when he met her by chance in a Los Angeles music store. Those first releases by Hadda Hopgood – whom Bihari renamed Hadda Brooks because he thought it had a more commercial ring– sold far better than he might have imagined. They quickly gave him impetus to bring his brothers into the business and to make a concerted effort to establish Modern as a premium mover-and-shaker in black American music.
“The First Year”’ is an all embracing overview of those opening 12 months of the Bihari brothers’ label. Although their roster was small, the talent was plentiful and the A and B sides of the dozen 78s featured here proved to be the bud from which the Modern Records empire grew. Small and modest they may have been, and the fi not always as hi as it would later become, but they demonstrate Jules Bihari had ambitions that extended far beyond recording his girlfriend and a few other Central Avenue regulars.
Here are the A’s and B’s in the order that the 78s were issued. Some of the early records are now extremely rare, and although we have spent a couple of years tracking down the best audio sources we could find, a degree of tolerance will still be necessary at times as the audio isn’t always what you have come to expect from Ace’s Modern series. Many of the early acetates (which were glass-based) have not survived the passage of time, so dubbing from the issued discs was a necessity. On this occasion we feel that historical importance trumps the ultimate listening experience.
Besides the bewitching Miss Brooks you’ll hear be-bop trumpet prince Howard McGhee, multi-instrumentalist George “Happy” Johnson, the ever-so-hip and very cheeky Three Bits Of Rhythm and two fine vocalists whose careers almost began and ended with their Modern recordings, Jesse Perry and Pearl Traylor.
Within a few years of the sessions that produced these pioneering releases, the Modern roster would, at various times, include B B King, Etta James, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Johnny Otis, Pee Wee Crayton, John Lee Hooker, Richard Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, the Jacks/Cadets and a host of other undisputed legends of R&B and rock’n’roll. But everything began for the Modern Music Company with the recordings you hear on this CD. Drop another coin in the 78 juke box slot and get ready to Swing The Boogie!
By Tony Rounce