Conference

The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records

How did a Wisconsin chair company, producing records on the cheap and run by men with little knowledge of their audience or the music business, build one of the greatest musical rosters ever assembled under one roof?


Jointly released by Jack White’s Third Man Records and John Fahey’s Revenant Records, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932 is a two-volume omnibus of art, words and music from the label that “would become a ‘race records’ powerhouse, its sound and fortunes directly linked to the Great Migration.” Join us for three days of music, conversation, and workshops to celebrate this historic release, and explore the legacy of Wisconsin's own Paramount Records.

Sounds Transformed:
From Analog Capture to Digital Formats

Thursday, April 23 at 3:00 pm
Room 313, University Club Building, 432 E. Campus Mall
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here.

  • Jeremy Morris, Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, UW-Madison
  • Craig Eley, ACLS Public Fellow, To the Best of Our Knowledge
  • Dean Blackwood, Owner, Revenant Records; Executive Producer, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records
  • Amanda Petrusich, Author, Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78 RPM Records (2014)

With Paramount as the starting point, this panel will examine how capture and playback of sound has evolved from early analog and electrical recording technologies to new digital formats, and how this affects the value of the recording as cultural artifact.

Music in a Box: The Containment
and Commodification of Paramount Records

Thursday, April 23 at 5:30 pm Room
L140 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, 800 University Ave.
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here.

  • Ann Smart Martin, Stanley and Polly Stone Professor of Art History and Director, Material Culture Program, UW-Madison
  • Craig Werner, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
  • Dean Blackwood, Owner, Revenant Records; Executive Producer,The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records
  • Amanda Petrusich, Author, Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78 RPM Records (2014)
  • Moderated by Steve Paulson, Executive Producer,To the Best of Our Knowledge

This moderated conversation will “unbox” the Paramount Records story, discussing notable songs, addressing issues of commodification, the creation of artificial barriers between “black” and “white” music, the early history of the phonograph and record cabinet, and the subsequent physical containment of music. 

The Other Sides of Paramount Records
Friday, April 24, 2015 at Noon
Wisconsin Historical Museum, 30 N. Carroll Street
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here.

  • Tom Caw, Music Public Services Librarian, Mills Music Library, UW-Madison
  • Dean Blackwood, Owner, Revenant Records; Executive Producer, The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records

Though best known for its blues recordings, Paramount released hundreds of records in dozens of genres, including work by a number of local Wisconsin artists recording Old Time (or Hillbilly) music, polka, and dance orchestra, including Stoughton’s own Jack Penewell, playing Hawaiian steel guitar. Come hear the music and tales of the musicians who made it.

Music and Media:
Live Sounds, Silk Screens, and the Story of Paramount Records

Saturday, April 25 – 9:30am to 1:00pm
Bubbler Room, Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin Street
Free and Open to the Public. Directions and Parking Information here

  • Matthew BindertPrintmaker and Artist-Mentor at Artworking
  • Simon BaltoMusician and PhD Candidate in History and Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
  • Jeffrey Kollath, Public Humanities Program Manager, UW-Madison Center for the Humanities

Join us for a music-filled, hands-on, all-ages Saturday morning workshop featuring a live performance by local musician Simon Balto, a record album silk screening workshop with graphic artist Matthew Bindert, free art projects, and a listening lab with record players, reel-to-reel tape decks, and more, all while learning about Wisconsin’s very own Paramount Records, a record label based in Grafton, WI that released some of the most influential blues, jazz, and folk records of the 20th century. Art supplies donated by Mad City Music Exchange. More information here, from our co-hosts at the Madison Public Library.