Sunday, March 9, 2003

Performers, history play
on Cammys stage

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati's modern music scene takes the stage today at the Enquirer Pop Music Awards (the Cammys) in performances by Pay The Girl, July For Kings and Oval Opus.

Also in the spotlight: the city's rich musical history, with national recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

What: Seventh annual Enquirer Pop Music Awards (the Cammys)
Where: Jillian's, 522 W. 12th St., Covington; (859) 491-5388
When: 4 p.m. today; doors open at 3 p.m.
Tickets: $15 at the door.
Performing: July for Kings, Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, Oval Opus, Pay the Girl, the StarDevils with Rusty York and H-Bomb Ferguson, Kim Taylor, Kelly Richey and her Queens of Rhythm.
Today at Jillian's, Rock Hall president Terry Stewart will present Cincinnati's King Records with the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Legacy Award. The Rock Hall award is designed to honor institutions rather than individuals.

"King Records saw no color in the music and in that, released, simultaneously, some of the finest in white country music and black rhythm & blues," Stewart says. "Without the vision of Syd Nathan and his great team, the world may never have heard James Brown."

Stewart has been a longtime supporter of the effort to gain recognition for the pioneering local label. He was a presenter at last year's Cammys, awarding Cammy Lifetime Achievement honors to the King musicians. He traveled from Cleveland again in October for the CD release party at the Madison Theater in Covington for the multiartist local King tribute, Hidden Treasures.

  Country, bluegrass
• Stanley Brothers
• Moon Mullican
• Delmore Brothers
• Hawkshaw Hawkins
• Merle Travis
• Grandpa Jones
• Homer & Jethro
• Reno & Smiley
  R&B pioneers
Wynonie Harris
• Otis Williams & the Charms
• Little Willie John
• Tiny Bradshaw
• Bill Doggett
• Hank Ballard
• Billy Ward & the Dominoes
• Freddie King
• The Godfather of Soul, James Brown
• "Good Rocking Tonight"
• "The Twist"
• "Hide Away"
• "Fever"
• "Cold Sweat"
• "Blues Stay Away From Me"
• "Honky Tonk"
• "60 Minute Man"
• "Tomorrow Night"
• "The Train Kept A-Rolling"
King Records is internationally recognized as one of the primary foundations of rock 'n' roll. Recording African-Americans and Appalachians, the "forgotten people" of Greater Cincinnati, owner Syd Nathan and his integrated staff of producers and session musicians helped create some of the biggest hits of the '40s, '50s and '60s, songs that continue to be played today. Nathan is a 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

The remarkable diversity of King has shown through in recent events. One was the death last Sunday of King Records artist Hank Ballard , the originator of "The Twist" and other early rock hits.

The other was the 40th anniversary Wednesday of the death of country great Patsy Cline. Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, the two other country stars killed in that 1963 plane crash, were both King Records artists.

King, founded by Nathan in 1943, was also one of the most important producers of "jump blues," the R&B style that was the most direct antecedent to rock 'n' roll. Such King hits as Tiny Bradshaw's "Train Kept A-Rolling" and Wynonie Harris' "Good Rocking Tonight" were re-recorded by the first generation of rockers, the latter becoming one of the first hits for a young Elvis Presley.

Label was colorblind

King's mode of operation was as innovative as its music. At a time when strict segregation was the norm, Nathan's company was virtually colorblind. African-American producer Henry Glover worked with both country and R&B artists, and African-American drummer Phillip Paul recorded with country musician Grandpa Jones as well as blues shouter Harris.

Operating out of a building that still stands on Brewster Avenue in Evanston, King was an autonomous label, with studios, offices, a record-pressing plant and even a printing press, all under one roof.

That ability to go into the building in the afternoon and come out the next morning with a finished record made King one of the most successful labels of the late '40s and early '50s.

It was a distinctly Cincinnati phenomenon, the product of a river city with Northern industry and a Southern soul, a gateway city out of Appalachia that also had a thriving, illegal casino industry operating in Northern Kentucky, an industry that demanded high-quality live music.

As a result, the diversity of King was unparalleled, covering the mountain bluegrass of the Stanley Brothers and the razor-edged urban funk of James Brown. It continued to cover that huge piece of waterfront until Nathan's death in 1968.


Hank Ballard epitomized King Records sound
Complete Cammys coverage at

Performers, history play on Cammys stage today
Hank Ballard epitomized King Records sound
Complete Cammys coverage at

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