Twilight of the Gods -Program Two
The box of CDs arrived one morning from the Library of the University of North Carolina. I tore it open, put one of the cryptically marked (P023345-1) discs in my computer's hard drive, and was instantly transported to a Hollywood home office in 1959, listening to a conversation that was one of the most exciting things I had ever heard.
The audio tapes I was listening to were research backups that author Liliane Borgeson had made as she interviewed Ralph Peer, record producer extraordinaire, in preparation for a biography of him she was planning to write. Although few people have heard of him, Ralph Peer is one of the most important people in the history of popular music. He's the guy, in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1927, who had discovered the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and set the entire world of country music in motion. But he had also been instrumental in setting up the famous Louis Armstrong Hot Five sessions. And in bringing Latin music to North America. And more, and more. A true pioneer.
Liliane Borgeson didn't write her book, but she did donate her tapes – all seven hours of them, not especially well-recorded, to the University of North Carolina. Where they've sort of sat for the past few decades. Until now – because the Borgeson interview tapes are the centrepiece of the second episode of Twilight of the Gods, my history of the record business.
In the '20s, the record business literally created American popular culture – it created jazz, and country music – and became one of the most powerful cultural forces in the world. Ralph Peer had a front-row seat for it all – and now, so do you.
Robert Harris is the producer of Twilight of the Gods
Listen to Inside the Music on Radio 2 on Sunday 3 p.m. (3:30 NT) and Radio One on Sunday 9 p.m. (9:30 NT)
Twilight of the Gods part one: the dawn of the recording industry
Ralph Peer still creating controversy
When Cecil left the mountains
on Jul 06, 2012