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New WTIU Documentary Explores the History of Gennett Records

Last updated on Thursday, November 8, 2018

(BLOOMINGTON) - During the early 20th century, one tiny recording studio in Richmond, Indiana, had a big impact on the soundtrack of the Jazz Age.

A new documentary from WTIU Public Television tells the unlikely story of the Gennett Recording Studios, where many of the greatest artists in American jazz, blues, country, and gospel music first recorded.

The Music Makers of Gennett Records premieres November 25 at 8 p.m. on WTIU and Facebook Live.

The documentary traces the careers of early Gennett musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, and the singing cowboy Gene Autry, among other popular artists of the era, and features several of their rare 1920s recordings.

Watch the trailer and learn more about the program.

The program also explores how Gennett's openness to recording all kinds of music and artists reflected the complex, yet the authentic voice of American popular culture.

Despite the racial segregation and influence of the Ku Klux Klan at the time, the staff of Gennett Studios was remarkably progressive in allowing many cultural minorities to record American roots music at their studio.

Gennett provided an outlet for non-mainstream music and artists when the major recording studios in New York refused to record much more than classical, Eurocentric compositions.

The Music Makers of Gennett Records features interviews with many of today's most celebrated musical performers, composers, and music executives, including jazz great Wynton Marsalis, Country Music Hall of
Fame inductee Ricky Skaggs, Broadway star Michael Feinstein, gospel music executive Dr. Bobby Jones, and many other artists, historians, and experts all over the U.S.

They reflect on the importance of these early Gennett recordings and how they helped shape the worlds of jazz, blues, country, rock, pop, and hip-hop for subsequent generations.

Following the premiere on WTIU and Facebook Live, The Music Makers of Gennett Records will be available to watch on this website from November 26 through December 26. DVD and BluRay copies of the program will be available for the public to purchase starting in April 2019 from http://shopwtiu.org.

The Music Makers of Gennett Records is made possible with production support from the Earlham College, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Visit Richmond Wayne County Indiana, and the Al Cobine Recognition Endowment Fund.

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