by Angie Mack Reilly, co-founder of www.paramountshome.org
February 20, 2016
I remember when “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume 2”arrived at my back door in Grafton, WI one day unannounced. It came as a mega surprise, especially because I didn’t order it!! The sender? Third Man Records. Be still my beating heart! You know, Jack White. Of course, I was elated! As a musician myself, I certainly couldn’t afford to purchase this. Oh, but I WANTED it real, real bad!
The thought of this amazing collection being dumped off at my back door made me laugh. Immediately, I thought of the song, “Back Door Man” by the Doors which was also covered by Howlin’ Wolf and written by Willie Dixon. The “back door” metaphor has quite a bit of innuendo and is common in blues lyrics.
800 songs are in this retro package by 175 artists who recorded in Grafton, WI. If you live elsewhere in the world, this might not mean much. But if you live in Grafton, WI this is quite the big deal. Grafton has traditionally been a mostly white, German and Irish community with the white lily on the village flag. There was also a “notorious camp” in Grafton that none of the locals talk about. And local legend has it that hobos, gypsies, the FBI, Al Capone and his mobster friends used to come through the area well.
So how did 175, mostly African American artists record 800 songs between 1929 and 1932? Legend has it that they CAME THROUGH THE BACK DOOR of the Grafton recording studio. At night. Up an old freight elevator much like the one that is in tact and functional at the ARTS MILL in Grafton.
And those “back door” recordings became quite the big deal when this amazing archival collection won at the 2016, 58th Annual Grammy Awards . “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume 2” was nominated against recordings of the Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead. Quite the big deal, alright.
In 2005, I cut out this cartoon from the local News Graphic newspaper when the Paramount Restaurant was being built by Joe Krupski (now the location of Atlas BBQ) and plopped it in my scrapbook. Charlie Patton is saying to Son House,
“Nice to finally be able to go through the front door, ain’t it?”