Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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DELMARK

US record label established '53 in St Louis by Bob Koester; originally Delmar, named after Delmar Blvd, which took in ethnic neighbourhoods and the local jazz scene. Koester's brothers were cinematographers and film was his passion, but music took over. The name of the label changed for legal reasons; moved to Chicago '58, took over Seymour's Record Mart '59 (Jazz Record Mart now on North Wabash). Began with trad. jazz; still offered George Lewis, Earl Hines At Home, Art Hodes, etc but soon became best known for Chicago blues in 'Roots of Jazz' series: dozens of fine LPs by Junior Wells, Jimmy Dawkins, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Sleepy John Estes, Roosevelt Sykes, Luther Allison, J. B. Hutto and others. Jazz incl. Tab Smith, Jimmy Forrest, Sonny Stitt and the first albums by AACM artists: Sound by Roscoe Mitchell '66 got five stars in down beat, was followed by sets from Joseph Jarman, Anthony Braxton, Richard Abrams, others; Sun Ra's first recordings '56 reissued on Delmark mid-'60s. Subsidiary label Pearl purchased mid-'70s, used for trad. jazz and blues reissues (no connection with UK classical label). New recording fell off for a while after a manager nearly wrecked the retail business; 'Wanting to record somebody will make me very cold- blooded about how I run the store,' Koester said; 'I might be a sucker as a label owner. I'm not going to be a sucker as a retailer.' Reissues and new recording began in the CD era, and Delmark is still one of the best small catalogues, now reissuing material from United/States and Apollo labels incl. classic tracks by Forrest, Tab Smith, Paul Bascomb, Dinah Washington etc in good sound, compilations Honkers And Bar Walkers and West Coast Jive offering delightful surveys of late '40s--early '50s R&B scene. Resumed documenting Chicago music with new releases by the NRG Ensemble, Roscoe Mitchell, others incl. Jodie Christian (see Christian's entry).