September 12, 2014 - December 14, 2014
Ralph Peer: Record Man, an intimate exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, will be unveiled September 12. He hailed from Independence, Missouri, but the mark Ralph S. Peer left on popular music spread across the globe. He was a pioneer in recording, music publishing and artist management. He was, in all capacities, a record man.
The exhibit will be located within the museum’s permanent exhibition and will run through December 31, 2014. Barry Mazor, author of the forthcoming book Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, will participate in a public program and a signing at the museum in November.
After World War I, Peer was hired by OKeh Records to assist Fred Hager with recording sessions, including the one that captured Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues.” With the success of “Crazy Blues” and, later, Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane,” Peer demonstrated to record companies that there was a market for blues and country music—or “race” and “hillbilly” music as he called them. As a field recorder for OKeh, Peer sought out other regional acts and sold their sound to the masses. By encouraging artists to create unique music, he laid the groundwork for new styles of music, such as western swing, bluegrass, rhythm & blues, Latin pop, and, eventually, rock & roll.
As an A&R representative for Victor Records, Peer discovered, recorded and managed Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family—beginning with the famed Bristol Sessions in 1927. Among the many other artists with whom he worked are Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Mexican singer and composer Agustín Lara and Blind Willie McTell.
In 1928, Peer decided to cash in on the profitability of music publishing and founded Southern Music Publishing Company. He established multiple branches internationally, and in 1940 he created Peer International. Today the company is known as peermusic and is managed by Ralph Peer II.
Peer died in Hollywood, California, in 1960 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1984.
Among the artifacts on display in Ralph Peer: Record Man are:
- A letter written by Peer to fiddler Eck Robertson, one of the first southern musicians to record the music that would come to be known as country, addressing the renewal of Robertson’s contract with Victor Records and song selection for his upcoming record.
- A Western Electric 387W double-button carbon microphone, like the one Peer used in 1927 to record Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family in Bristol.
- A gold pocket watch and chain with Peer’s initials engraved on the back.
- A ceremonial gavel presented to Peer for serving as president of the American Camellia Society.
- An overcoat worn by Peer.
- A bronze plaque from the Southern Music Publishing Company office in New York’s Brill Building.
- An original animation cel of Donald Duck and José Carioca from the 1942 Disney film Saludos Amigos. The cel was a gift to Peer’s wife, Monique, from the couple’s good friend Walt Disney.
- Book pages inscribed by Lara to Monique Peer, Ralph Peer’s wife.
Following its run at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the exhibit wil travel to the GRAMMY Museum in eary 2015.
Museum programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.