Running an independent record company is such a 'hands on' affair, it's inevitable that content will be shaped by its founders' musical tastes and aesthetics. Maynard and Seymour Solomon created Vanguard Records in June 1950. They were classical music lovers but, like so many liberals of the era, interested in other forms of non-mainstream music like jazz, blues and folk music - the art forms that inspired the left-thinking politics of the day.
They brought to all the music they recorded at Vanguard the same values that they applied to classical recordings: the highest sound fidelity available, extensive and informative sleeve notes and good graphic design for each LP jacket. These became the order of the day, rather than the exception. The opportunity to record the influential Newport Folk Festivals of the 1950s and 60s ensured that Vanguard was at the forefront of what was happening as the folk scene developed into the rock music one that closed out the 60s. The Solomons understood that both the Festival scene and the political milieu of the era were at the heart of the growing 1960s youth movement. They captured and reflected the energy of both, allowing tradition to be recorded for posterity but being brave enough to support the contemporary innovations that grew out of older forms. The enlistment of legendary blues writer Sam Charters to handle production on urban blues and rock projects was inspired. Sam's ear for faithfully capturing the tonal forces unleashed by such heavily amplified musicians as Charlie Musselwhite and Country Joe & The Fish was second to none. Vanguard nurtured the careers of many great artists, including those of Joan Baez, Country Joe & The Fish, Buffy Sainte-Maire, Ian & Sylvia, Doc Watson, Junior Wells, Oregon and Larry Coryell, but they also recorded a wealth of music by less well known (though no less fascinating) performers like Sandy Bull and the Frost. In recent years, the avant-moog recordings made at Vanguard by Jean Jacques Perrey have found a new audience through sampling and TV advertising. As Mimi Fariña once said, "the Solomons were visionaries".
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