August 30th, 2013 By Mike Breen | Music | Posted In: Local Music, Music History, Live Music

Celebrating Cincy's Music Heritage Tonight (and Beyond)

Numerous events set to honor historically crucial Cincinnati musical institutions of the past

Tonight in Cincinnati, you can explore the state of local music at any number of area venues featuring local talent. You can also explore Cincinnati's important musical history at events set to celebrate and honor its rich legacy.

• At the site of the former Herzog recording studios (811 Race St., Downtown, also home to CityBeat), the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation (which is now headquartered in the old Herzog studio's space) is throwing a dinner party this evening to mark the 64th anniversary of music legend Hank Williams' second (and last) sessions at Herzog. Williams recorded a handful of songs in Cincinnati at Herzog that helped launch him into music superstardom, including "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Lovesick Blues," "Lost On The River," "House Without Love," "I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Living" and "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It." (Click here for more background on Herzog.)

Tonight's event at Herzog — dubbed Bucky Herzog's Legacy Hour — will get you dinner from Eli's BBQ  and drinks at 7 p.m., plus a reception at 9 p.m.

The juicy stuff's in the middle — a collection of local musicians will be performing/recording those eight famous Williams' tunes from the second session in the same spot they were originally recorded.

The music starts at 8 p.m. and the show is being presented like an old-fashioned radio hour. Edwin Vardiman hosts and performs those classic songs with Arlo McKinley and several of his talented friends from the area Roots music scene, including Timothy Carr, Tyler Lockard, Moriah Haven Lawson, Sarah Davis, Sylvia Mitchell and Kelly Thomas.

Making it even more like an old-timey radio show broadcast — it will actually be broadcast live (though through the internet's series of tubes) for those who can't make it. The first 30 minutes of the show will be streamed live through StageIt here. Head there now to grab a ticket — for a $5 donation to the Music Heritage Foundation (also the beneficiary of the live tonight), you will receive a free download of the entire performance.

Bucky Herzog's Legacy Hour is open to music lovers of all ages. Admission is $25 at the door. Visit the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation's site here for more info (or to become a member, which you can also do tonight).

• This September marks the 70th anniversary of the launch of King Records, the Cincinnati-based label that, for 30 years, released some revolutionary records in a variety of genres, including titles from James Brown, The Stanley Brothers, Hank Ballard, Tiny Bradshaw and Wynonie Harris. Founded by Cincinnatian Syd Nathan (who was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997), the label is widely credited as a pioneer of laying the foundation for Rock & Roll, releasing music by both black and white artists and putting out high-quality R&B and Country/Bluegrass artists.

The label’s legacy has gradually gotten more attention over the past couple of decades and, especially locally, hardcore music fans have loudly trumpeted King’s historical significance.

The original building still stands in Evanston (dilapidated but marked with a historical marker) and Xavier University (plus numerous boosters) is making plans for King Studios in the neighborhood. The “experiential learning” community center is set to feature interactive displays about King’s history, a recording studio (for local musicians to record and others to use for learning opportunities) and a community arts center providing visual art classes and more.  

The label’s 70th anniversary month is loaded with events throughout the city — from author visits, music and exhibits at Cincinnati library's main branch downtown to numerous King-related concerts and activities around the city.

Here's a short documentary about King Records, made Matt Peiken and posted online today at King Studios' site:

Tonight, King Records Month launches with a free reception at the Evanston Recreation Center, running 4-7 p.m., where the public can learn more about King Records and King Studios.

From 6-8 p.m. tonight, MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine hosts the opening of Royal Plastics: King Records Album Art, a very cool concept for a King-centric photo show.  

The exhibit — named for King's separate company set up to manufacture music releases, Royal Plastics — was conceived by local music historian Brian Powers, who works for the city's library, a big reason the main branch has so many King events this month (and has long been illuminating visitors about Cincy's musical past).

Powers had begun to collect King releases on vinyl when he noticed that several were obviously shot in Greater Cincinnati. Powers reached out to accomplished local photographers John Curley and Michael Wilson to assist and signed up several local musicians — including Bobby Mackey, Jake Speed and Buggs Tha Rocka — to star in "re-shoots" of the vintage covers, mimicking the original front of several of King's old releases.

For the full run-down of King Records Month events, taken from the King Studios' site, click below the fold. Be sure visit kingstudios.org for full details.

This September marks the 70th anniversary of the first songs recorded for the Cincinnati label, King Records. In September 1943 Syd Nathan convinced two WLW radio performers, Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis, to go along with his latest brainstorm - a record company based in Cincinnati. This four-song session would lead to King Records producing nearly 30 years of music in all genres while based out of the Queen City.  September will be a month long celebration, honoring the founding of Syd’s company, and its contribution to American music, with events planned for every weekend. Over a dozen events include concerts, displays, author visits, album listening parties, radio shows, and even a chance to buy your own King vinyl or compact discs at a discounted price.

    •    Friday, August 30th  The official launch of King Records Month will take place in Evanston, the neighborhood that was the headquarters for King Records and the future site for King Studios, an experiential learning partnership between the Evanston community and Xavier University. Reception at Evanston Recreation Center from 4 to 7pm. Program includes a King Records photo display, and informal presentations on King. Free and open to the public.

    •    Friday, August 30th   Royal Plastics: King Records Album Art -   Opening on Final Friday, at MOTR Pub in Over-The- Rhine. Reception 6-8pm. This exhibit features vintage King Records album covers along with “reshots” by local photographers John Curley and Michael Wilson. This homage to King’s album cover art features 15 local Cincinnati musicians including Bobby Mackey, Buggs Tha Rocka, Jake Speed, and legendary King drummer, Philip Paul.  On display till September 26th

    •    Saturday, August 31st   Cincinnati King. The Playhouse in the Park in Mount Adams will host a free reading of a new play by Kj Sanchez about Cincinnati music pioneer Syd Nathan and King Records. Cincinnati King is a “theatrical album” of stories about the history of Cincinnati music, racial equality and the legendary rhythm and blues label.  7pm in the Thompson Shelterhouse. More information here: www.amrec.us/current-projects/

    •    Sunday September1st   Starting on first of the month, two Cincinnati record stores will be offering month-long specials on King music. Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge will have a display of specially-priced King and Federal CDs for the whole month of September. Shake It Records in Northside will be offering 10 percent off any King-related item bought in September. 

    •    Saturday, September 7th Susan Whitall, author of the book Little Willie John : a Fast Life, Mysterious Death and the Birth of Soul  will be speaking about this amazing King artist at the Main Branch of Cincinnati Public Library at 3:30 pm in Genealogy & Local History Program Space – 3rd Floor.

    •    Saturday, September 7th   WVXU FM 91.7 will rebroadcast the first episode of its 2007 four part award-winning series on King Records at 11pm. The series features music and interviews with music historians and King alumni. The other three parts will air on the following Saturdays of September—Sept 14, Sept 21, and Sept 28 at 11pm.

    •    Sunday, September 8th   From 7 to 8pm radio show Music from the Hills of Home on WNKU  89.7 FM will feature an hour of bluegrass music recorded at King Records

    •    Wednesday, September 11th Main Branch of Cincinnati Public Library Music series, Listen to This, will feature the  album – James Brown Live at the Apollo – released on King in 1963,  50 years ago. The program starts at 7pm in the Popular Library Lounge on the first floor.

    •    Saturday, September 14th  RJ Smith,  author of The One: The Life and Music of James Brown will be doing a presentation on  one of greatest music icons in history at the Main Branch of Cincinnati Public Library at 3:30 pm in Genealogy and Local History Program Space on the third floor

    •    Sunday, September 15th  King Studios’ Educational Program Benefit Concert – 6-11pm at MOTR Pub in OTR . Be part of the first ever King Records fundraiser.  All donations will go to the King Studios Traveling Suitcase, an educational toolkit that will use replica artifacts, music technology, and lesson plans based on Ohio’s common core standards to tell the King Records story. Pay what you can at the door but donations over $20 lands you a first print of the King Records t-shirt.  Featured performers will be Ricky Nye, Cheryl Renee, Magnolia Mountain, and The Sundresses.

    •    Friday, Sept 20th and Saturday, Sept 21st  For two nights, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages (see recent US Today article) will be bringing their limitless energy, frenzied performances, and full throttle soul screaming in the spirit of Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, and Screamin Jay Hawkins to MOTR Pub.  The band will pay tribute to King records by playing a selection of King tunes, talking about how King influenced their sound and tearing it up w/ their original material. Special guests will appear on both nights and DJ Bryan Dilisizian will play King Records 45’s before, between and after sets. MOTR PUB at 9pm in OTR.  21+

    •    Sunday, September 22nd At the Comet Bar in Northside at 7pm, the Comet Bluegrass All Stars will do a tribute to King’s Bluegrass artists. Disc Jockey Brian Hellmann will be spinning King Records songs on this day from 11-2pm during the Comet’s Sunday brunch. The Comet Bar will also be loading up its jukebox with King Records compact discs for King Record Month.

    •    Wednesday, September 25th  Main Branch of Cincinnati Public Library music series, Listen to This, will feature the 1958 album, This is Otis Williams and the Charms , in honor of the 60thanniverary of Otis Williams’ first recordings done at King Records in 1953.

    •    Saturday, September 28th   Following the Reds game, there will be a free concert by the Legendary Otis Williams and Charms at 8pm at the event stage at Smale Park, across from the Reds ballpark and next to the Moerlein Lager House at the Banks. Otis Williams, a Walnut Hills native, had many hits in the 1950s and is perhaps the last R & B King star still alive and performing. During the show there will be an attempt to break the record for the World Largest Twist Dance. The song “The Twist” was first recorded in Evanston at King by its composer Hank Ballard in 1958, 55 years ago.

    •    Sunday, September 29th   Starting on this day, Shake It  Records in Northside is proud to share a selection of King items that they've collected over the years from promotional photos, unreleased acetates, press materials, fanclub items, postcards, inter-office memos, newspaper clippings, court documents, bio labels, a King Phonograph Player and much more.  The items will be on display till the end of November.