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Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers (Music in American Life) Hardcover – 15 Mar 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (15 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 025203290X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252032905
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 5.1 x 25.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,822,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Record Makers and Breakers is replete with groundbreaking research that more than any other single book explains how the popular music industry worked. A must read about the record industry." -- Robert Pruter

"A treasure, John Broven has given the academic world a good dose of old-fashioned shoe leather journalism. This book will be invaluable to scholars studying the music industry and particularly the rock 'n' roll era." -- Don Cusic

"The depth of factual details is incredible, but it's presented in the style of a rich oral history . . . so as not to lose any of the flavour of their anecdotes. . . . It's a chronicle of the entrepreneurial American spirit, liberally punctuated by the creation of some of the most exciting and innovative music of all time."--"Record Collector"

"4 stars. Welcome to a world filled with payola, the mob and jukebox sounds."--"MOJO"

"A fascinating new book about the early independent labels of rock 'n' roll underscores again the central role that radio played in turning rock 'n' roll into the musical language of modern American popular culture. "Record Makers and Breakers" ... is a rich and engaging history of those early years, largely told through the words of the smart guys, hustlers and Runyonesque characters who shaped them." --"New York Daily News"

"Broven ... keeps the text moving right along, his fill-in facts and explanations welcome, his segues from interviewees' words to his own smooth and easy. The author clearly loves the music and holds the achievements of the record people in high regard, but he stays level-headed and avoids overpraising his heroes."--"Downbeat""

"Broven has put together a detailed and engrossing study of the independent record labels of the 1940s-70s. . . . An outstanding and important study that goes well beyond comparable predecessors; highly recommended."--"Library Journal" (starred review)

"Covering the convoluted history of the recording industry from the 1940s to the 1960s, [Broven] combines in-depth archival research with fascinating anecdotes about chart-toppers, shady characters and label owners. . . . The impact of conniving entrepreneurs on the musicians and the layering of rich details and digressive detours as Broven traces the transition from R&B to rock make this equal to Roger D. Kinkle s massive, four-volume "Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz."--"Publishers Weekly""

About the Author

John Broven is a respected expert on the rock 'n' roll era and has served as a consultant at Ace Records in the United Kingdom. A one-time coeditor of Blues Unlimited and cofounder of Juke Blues Magazine, he is the author of Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans and South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. He lives on Long Island, New York.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the 60s and 70s I was an avid reader of Melody Maker and I really liked a series of articles featured over the years (some possibly written by John Broven) about various U.S. independent record labels and the colourful characters who ran them, so when I saw this book I had to have it. However, this isn't a simple expansion of those Melody Maker pieces but rather a comprehensive overview of the whole independent record industry in America dealing not just with the record companies themselves but also the record distributors, pressing plants, one-stops, jukebox operators, retail stores, DJs, radio stations and industry magazines. The book deals with the the rise of the independent record companies after World War II and contrasts their fortunes with the major record companies and also the crucial role the independents played in the development of rhythm and blues, 'hillbilly' and rock and roll. It also looks at the 'payola' scandal and the role freebies and entertaining played in getting the records to feature on jukeboxes, the radio and later TV.

I found the book very well-written, this is a scholarly text that is a rare comprehensive serious survey of an area of popular culture that is not usually treated with this degree of analysis and insight. I wasn't quite sure about the book's structure - which is divided into five sections: The independent revolution; Regional sounds; The hustle is on; Rock and roll is here to stay and finally Appendices. The appendices section in particular has some very interesting information (such as totals of U.S. record sales between 1921 and 1969) that will be very useful for reference and there are also some excellent photographs of the label owners and their acts.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone interested in minute details of the murky deals of a bygone era in the music business this is perfect.
I was hoping for a few more studio secrets/ techniques, Rock 'n' Roll anecdotes and insight into the artist/ producer relationship.
A page was missing from the edition I bought but I contacted the American publisher and they emailed it through the next day.
They checked their stock and apparently it is not a recurring error.
Certainly an opus magnus which surely holds info that would otherwise become lost in time as the first hand accountants die off
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Format: Hardcover
If you are into 50's Rock n Roll you need this book ! GET IT NOW !!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
thank you so much for the service i received, my son is over the moon with the book
really good
kind regards
linda june
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x89fca57c) out of 5 stars 26 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a27a480) out of 5 stars The REAL Forgotten Heroes of Rock n' Roll 29 Mar. 2009
By popjoe&irv - Published on
Format: Hardcover
John Broven's groundbreaking book, Record Makers and Breakers, meticulously and colorfully traces the history of the men (mostly) who created the independent record labels which spawned the careers of Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Little Richard and a myriad of other r&r pioneers. If it weren't for these clever and ambitious music hustlers, it's doubtful that there would have been the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, not to mention hundreds of other later groups. They were inspired by the now legendary sounds crated by these little known entrepreneurs in New York, L.A., Memphis and Chicago.

Broven combines fascinating excerpts from years of interviews with these record giants with an equally compelling historical background. The vintage photos are alone worth the modest price of this extremely well-researched book...they document an important era in American popular culture and one which has largely disappeared. Any one with more than just a passing interest in the history and origins or rock 'n roll and certainly every avid record collector should buy this book. It's a real national exaggeration.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89e46a5c) out of 5 stars The Holy Grail of ock 'n' Roll Scriptures 4 Jun. 2009
By Anthony L. Wilkinson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It has been a while coming but this book, the third by John Broven, is well worth the wait. John's previous two books are `Walking To New Orleans' (American title `Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans') and the definitive and not bettered history of swamp pop music `South To Louisiana'. However, with his latest achievement, he has come up with a masterpiece, literally the holy grail of the story of the `backroom boys' in the formative days of rock `n' roll music.

This is the story of the people who, whilst not sharing the same degree of limelight as the performers, nevertheless played a crucial role in the launch of rock `n' roll in its formative years and then who aided its continued existence, despite the efforts of the main establishment. To say that they were key important people is an understatement. This could have been a dry and sleep inducing story but, as related by the author, it consistently retains spontaneity and the interest never flags. Indeed, it is a hard to put down journey once commenced.

John Broven has, over the course of time, interviewed the key players such as Ahmet Ertegun and Miriam Bienstock of Atlantic Records, Sam Phillips of Sun Records, Joe Bihari of Modern records and Art Rupe of Specialty Records to name but a few. Indeed, the interview with Ahmet is thought to be the last he gave prior to his unfortunate demise. But that is not all, as John has talked to such as disc jockies/promoters like Bill `Hoss' Allen of WLAC, Nashville, songwriters like Paul Evans, recording engineers such as Cosimo Matassa, music publishers Gene Goodman and Freddy Bienstock. On top of this, also considered are distributors, one-stop and juke box operators. But there is more as there then is the in-depth and extensive research undertaken by John that reveals too many to list nuggets of information. Truly, this book comes across as a labour of love but one that has appeal to all, whether they have a casual interest in the development of rock `n' roll or are out and out record collecting die-hards. The style of writing is easy to read, consistently entertaining and never less than informative. Indeed, at times, the text comes across as a real life gripping thriller.

Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the structure of the book. Part One is titled `The Independent Revolution' and provides the background to the role played by the Independents basically from the end of the second world war to the onslaught of music that was the avalanche of rock `n' roll. The second part is titled `Regional Sounds' and
as the name implies undertakes a look at the various geographical centres and their importance in this story. For example, the chapter on Nashville features the development of radio as a launch pad, and includes pieces on Excello Records, Dot Records and the numerous characters who all helped rock `n' roll to come from birth as a squalling baby through to a multi million dollar industry. This part also has chapters on Chess/Checker/Argo Records and the brothers Chess who launched their empire up north in Chicago, King/Federal/De Luxe Queen/Bethlehem out of Cincinnati, Ohio and the inimitable likes of Henry Stone and Syd Nathan. The next chapter then comes south to Memphis and Louisiana and includes the results of interviews with Sam Phillips, whom as I know from my own conversations with the gentleman, was erudite on the growth of rock `n' roll, blues, R&B, and country music in the Memphis region. Also featured are Joe Bihari, Rosco Gordon, Lillian McMurray of Trumpet Records and Stan Lewis. The last mentioned is especially important as he often is by-passed when great record men from this region are considered. The concluding chapter for this section ventures even further south down to Crowley (the legendary J D Miller - another person who I have been fortunate to meet and can therefore endorse John's writings), Eddie Shuler of Goldband Records, recording engineer Cosimo Matassa in the Crescent City and many others.

On to part three and which is headed up `The Hustle Is On'. As the title implies, this deals with the various strategies and hustles that many in the record industry developed and adopted to `make a buck'. It also covers the importance of magazines such as Billboard and Cash Box. This section then goes on to discuss Hy Weiss of Old Town Records and the way in which he hustled for hits. I found this story particularly fascinating as Hy comes across as a person one could not help liking, even despite on occasion debatable business methods. From here we go onto Mercury and Roulette Records, and interviews with Luigi Creatore, Jean Bennett (who I can personally vouch is a charming lady), Shelby Singleton and a cast of hundreds. This section also explores the importance of the part played by music publishers. This is the biggest section of the book and actively explores all the various facets of the methods adopted to turn a record into a hit. Fascinating stuff and often bought a wry smile to my face as I read on. Author Broven features an extensive interview with the late Roquel `Billy' Davis, and this covers the near complete history of rock `n' roll. Furthermore, Davis was a principal player in the groundwork for the empire that became Tamla Motown. This guy was involved in and saw it all. Absolutely first rate material. This part also goes over to the west coast and, amongst others, details the Champs `Tequila' story and the part played by Dave Burgess, another important character in this evolutionary story. As the balance to the R&B influences, author Broven also views the very important country influences in the rise and rise of rock `n' roll. Some amazing facts are revealed in this portion. This part concludes with three chapters on the New York scene and this is more that justified if one considers that at the time frame we are considering, NYC was the centre of the music business.

Part Four, `Rock `n' Roll Is Here To Stay' focuses on the rise of London American Records and the story of Sir Edward Lewis, head of (UK) Decca and its subsidiary labels. London American was the label for licensing American recordings for release in various countries throughout the world. Thus it played no small part in spreading the rock `n' roll word (as well as turning a healthy profit for all concerned).

This evolves into the rise of the teen singers and labels such as Chancellor, Cameo Parkway and Jamie/Guyden. Logically, this is where the importance of Dick Clark and American Bandstand is discussed and then continues on to the Payola scandal . Clark comes out of it relatively unscathed. This section concludes with Art Rupe of Specialty Records and his staff instruction manual written in the mid-fifties. john Broven rightly declares this as the modus operandi for independent record makers. Wonderful stuff and is truly revealing.

In Part Five of the book are the various Appendices which are numerous but include sections on US Record sales in the period 1921-1969, a summary of various post war record labels including current owners and biographical data on selected record makers.

There you have it. Hopefully, I have been able to convey, in these few words, the enjoyment and knowledge that this book bought to myself. It will undoubtedly appeal to anyone who has an interest in our musical past. Moreover, it is the most important book on rock `n' roll music that has been written in more than a decade. The book is now on its second reprint and has met with acclaim from many, including quite a few of the interviewees who have been grateful that their views have been expressed without manipulation. Essential for every book shelf and as the late great Gene Vincent was heard to exclaim, `Git It.....'

© Tony Wilkinson
May 2009.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89fc2300) out of 5 stars Just About Everything You Need To Know About The Beginning of Rock 'N' Roll 29 May 2009
By Michael L. Slavin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author obviously has been minutely familiar withn the subject for years. He has meticulously and exhaustively put together an almost encyclopedic book, with appendices, coming to almost 600 pages. Therein lies my slight problem with awarding the work 5 stars as have the other reviewers. It's, for me, almost overwhelmingly too much to absorb. There are so many people described and so many anecdotes related it can almost cause brain shutdown. That's not to suggest that the book should have been condensed or edited down. But, I consider readability to be an important factor. And,to me, at least I found this not too particularly reader friendly, from the perspective of getting to the finish line. In my view a book may have good original research and fine general content. But if the pages are hard to turn it loses something. Further, let me say this, that the topic very much interests me. Particularly going back to the late 40's-mid 50's r&b. But getting thru this book was almost like plowing thru a mathematics text. Nevertheless, I willed myself to keep reading till I was finished. The author traces the business from the early days of 78rpm records to the 45rpm breakthru and introduction of the long playing record. It tells how early on the juke box operators very much controlled things. Then the small independent labels and record pressers came into play. Many of them started and run by entrepreneurial eastern european Jews. Those were the days when there were small record stores on almost every corner many of them having much influence with their customers. Some even had live dj's playing on the air from the premises. Some had recording studios in back rooms on site. We even learn that Jesse Jackson was trying to stir up the racial pot against Chess Records. Saying that since they sold to black people black people should be running the company. The Disc Jockeys and Distributors became key players in breaking out the hit records. Pay to play payola reared it's head. And it wasn't just cash. They often wanted publishing rights, part ownership of record companies and had financial interest in some artists, touring shows and even nightclubs. Today, the record pioneers are pretty much gone. As are the ma 'n pop record stores and even the megastores like Tower and Virgin as we move into the digital age. Most of the small companies that survived have been sold to mega conglomerate corporations. This book well documents an important period in the evolution of popular music. So if you're up for the undertaking. Get it. But, be prepared at the onset that it may take a major committment to get to the end.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89fbd084) out of 5 stars The definitive study of the indie-label phenomenon 18 May 2009
By Seth A. Schwartz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Probably for as long as anyone still cares about its subject, John Broven's book will remain the definitive study of the independent labels that gave rise to rhythm & blues and rock & roll.

RECORD MAKERS AND BREAKERS draws upon a vast trove of careful research and is written in a concise but lively style; throughout its 400-plus pages, Broven effectively "connects the dots" between the performers, songwriters, label entrepreneurs, pressing plants, publishing houses, and radio DJs that comprised the fervid indie-label scene, especially in the crucial period 1945-1960. I thought I knew a lot about this field already but this book introduced me (in absorbing detail) to a number of significant but little-remembered figures ranging from Clark Galehouse of Golden Crest Records to Sir Edward Lewis, founder of Decca Records UK. Bravo, Broven!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a60ef18) out of 5 stars THE BEST OF THE BEST OF ROCK & ROLL HISTORIES 6 May 2009
By paul vernon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit up front that I've been waiting for this book ever since I knew it was on its way. The story of how the indie record industry grew, the men and women involved in it and what it achieved is one that has often been told in part but, until now, has never had the benefit of a cohesive overview. I also knew that the author, John Broven, a man with a fifty year track record of getting it right would be just the person to tell it. I was right, but little did I know just how right I was.

This book is simply superb. John has interviewed -literally- hundreds of people who were involved the industry, not just the record company people but the Cash Box and Billboard journalists, the disc jockeys, the pluggers and just about everyone else he could get to. So this book is filled with those rare birds, fresh information and new insight. I've been watching this scene myself since 1963 but the moment I opened it, the book told me stuff I didn't know. The story of Mimi Trepel, for instance, the woman who, essentially, made sure that we in the UK got a decent slab of music on the London-American label. The guys at the trade papers and how they saw Rhythm and Blues grow. The very moment at which the term "Rhythm and Blues" was coined, and by whom, is nailed down.

John has spoken to surviving members of the families and teams behind such legendary labels as Chess, Modern, Sun, Fire Motown and more, right down to the street level Detroit JVB company. He notes how the juke box and radio industries influenced the development of not just R&B but also Hillbilly; it's a tale told so often, how rock and roll grew from black and white roots music, that we've grown almost tired of it, but here its presented straight from the mouths of the horses who ran the course, aided and abetted by John's masterful connecting texts.

And then there's the photos, dozens of them, all vintage, most I had not seen before and some that just made me gasp. Rockabilly fans; did you ever think you'd see a picture of Charlie Feathers in the Meteor studios the day he cut "Tongue Tied Jill"? It's here.

There are several useful and well researched indices, a ton of annotated notes, a very full and accurate index and almost 600 pages of blimey-I-didn't know-that fax'n'info to keep you enthralled. It's a keeper, and perhaps already I can say it's a classic, a text book that will stand the test of time the way, say, Paul Oliver's "Conversation with the Blues" has. Get it. Now.
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