This time last year Ace released its first comprehensive overview of one of the many subsidiaries of the Bihari brothers’ Modern Music Company. Having dealt with the R&B releases on Flair, we now turn our attention to other labels within the Modern family – starting with RPM, the longest-running of the subsidiaries.
It wasn’t possible to present a comprehensive overview of the label’s activities within the confines of one 2CD set. Thus we end this volume at the end of 1953 – roughly the halfway point in the label’s life. It’s a convenient point at which to make a break because, with the exception of B.B. King, none of the artists featured here continued their association with RPM beyond that time.
A deal to acquire masters from an upcoming producer in Memphis, by the name of Sam Phillips, brought B.B. King into the fold, followed in short order by a blues singing farmer who plied his trade under the alias Howling Wolf and a young Memphian whose cheerfully chaotic recordings sold in their thousands, Rosco Gordon. After falling out with Phillips, the Biharis utilised the services of one of his audio lieutenants, Ike Turner, who brought further talent into the fold, as well as recording for RPM as a vocalist.
Youngest Bihari brother Joe accompanied Ike on field trips, and cut some stupendous downhome blues throughout the South. The brothers also picked up repertoire from Texas, including some of the best recordings of Lightnin’ Hopkins, and bought the contract of Jimmy Nelson, an upcoming blues shouter from Northern California, who delivered an R&B #1 first time out with ‘T-99’. There really were no bases RPM didn’t have covered.
As with our “Dust My Rhythm & Blues: The Flair Records R&B Story” collection, this set is the result of extensive tape research, with all tracks mastered from fresh transfers of acetates, or best available tapes, plus a couple of dubs where other sources were unavailable. Wherever possible, we’ve used previously unissued or rarely reissued alternate takes of tracks found on other Ace CDs.
By Tony Rounce