Watch “What’s the Story Behind the Grafton House of Blues? “Angie Mack Extended” by Loki Martin May 2022″ on YouTube

0 0
Read Time:1 Second

About Post Author

ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %
2 photos side to side of a young boy and Blind Blake

Could this be an Unknown Photo of #blindblake ?

0 0
Read Time:1 Minute, 50 Second

Capture of Possible Unknown Blind Bllake Photo on Instagram

GRAFTON, WI by Angie Mack Reilly (c) 2/4/18

Today I stumbled across a photo while looking for photos to add to “Angie Mack Reilly’s Blues and Music” board on Pinterest.

Immediately, I noticed the right hand.  I got to know that right hand very well when my partner, Matthew Reilly, was painting a Blind Blake commission piece for the Village of Grafton.

Matthew graduated from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1985 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  I remember how many renditions of Blind Blake’s hand that he went through.  For months, I watched Matthew try to successfully capture Blind Blake’s hand.

So when I was glancing through photos, the right hand in this photo immediately reminded me of Blind Blake’s hand.  So I showed it to Matthew.  “Take a look this.  Look at that hand.  Do you think this could possibly be Blind Blake?”

“That looks like the hand alright.  Most men get their hands from their fathers, you know.  And the placement of the nose and mouth.  The profiles are very similar”  Matthew advised.

“Based on my artistic training and knowledge, I think that there is a good 70% chance that this could be Blind Blake or someone related to Blind Blake.”  – Matthew Reilly “The Carpenter Artist”

Painting Blind Blake photo of Matthew Reilly by Angie Mack Reilly Grafton, WI

The photo came from the Black History Album posted by @blackhistoryalb with the description,

“Young photographer. Unknown provenance – anybody know more?”

The photo is titled, “Young African American Boy, ca. 1925”.

We know that Blind Blake died in 1934 (age 38).  If indeed this photo was taken in 1925, Blake would have had to have been around the age of 29 which clearly isn’t so by looking at the photo.  Matthew thinks that the boy in the photo is around the age of 15.
Akira Kikuchi, Japanese researcher, visited Grafton, WI to do some extensive research on the only known photo of Blake.  His research confirmed that the photo of Blake was taken in Grafton, WI at the photo studio in downtown Grafton.
Anyone with knowledge or thoughts about this photo should contact angie@ozaukeetalent.com

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

Interview About Paramount Talent Scout and Salesman Harry Charles

0 0
Read Time:6 Minute, 35 Second

Phone interview with Harry Charles Jr. (HC) born in 1924 and Jeanne Kingsford (JK) born in 1927.  Conducted by Angela Mack (AM) 12/10/06 (not recorded)

AM: This is Angela Mack from Grafton, WI. I am very glad that we were able to be connected. I am wondering if I can type out our conversation today for historical purposes.

HC: Sure, before we begin, my sister reminded me that he wrote a 10 to 12 autobiography. Jean still has it. We grew up with our father in Birmingham, Alabama.

normal_harry charles

AM: How did he get to become a talent scout?

HC: I was too young to remember. But he told me stories. He said that he found talent to take them to Chicago. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that it was Chicago. I remember one time my mother and father took me to New York City. He had business there for a week. I have a feeling that it had to do with that kind of business. I was just too young, but I remember how bored I was. We stayed in an apartment.

JK: I do have copies of copy writes of songs with the names of the songs and the artists but I don’t remember what is on them.

AM: What do they look like?

JK: They look like little note cards (about 2×3 or 4). I have 6 to 8 of those. I have one copy of some sheet music that he wrote. It was published by EE Forbes in Birmingham. He worked for them.

AM: What kind of company was EE Forbes?

JK: A piano company.

HC: They handled the distribution of Paramount records in this part of the country. Our mother worked there too. Her name is Kathleen Staples.

AM: What sort of work did she do?

HC: She was a sales clerk. She sold the records and sheet music.

JK: Dad was in collections when he first started.

HC: Fundamentally he was a salesman. Later in his years he had a successful piano and organ company.

JK: It was even called Harry Charles Piano Company. It was in Birmingham on 1st ave.

HC: Prior to that, he rented space in a furniture store and put pianos in there on the 2nd floor. The first one that he had burned down. He had about 30 pianos on the 2nd floor. He had 29 in one room. There was one piano on display and somebody burned them all.

AM:Did he play piano?

HC: He wouldn’t know one note from another! (laughing)…..but he WAS a salesman.
He even opened a store to sell refrigerators. When he had the piano company, he was on radio and television advertising for his company. He used talent from churches to play and sing and preach on the program. Finally he had a very big show at the auditorium. He rented the municipal auditorium. You still have flyers from that with the date on them, don’t you Jean?

JK: Yes.

HC: He invited all of the colored churches to send their choirs down to sing. It was amazing. He advertised that he had a 1,000 voices. I’m not sure if it was that many but it was big. He filled the stage with the choirs.

AM: Did you see that show?

HC: Yes. He was very friendly everyone knew him. Many people are even named after him in this area.

HC: One little anecdote is that on Pearl Harbor day, he had all 3 radio stations in Birmingham giving his advertisement. The announcement interrupted his sales shpeal.

AM: I bet that upset him.

JK: No, he was very patriotic. He wasn’t upset at all.

AM: I am assuming that your father was Caucasian. It sounds like he got along well with the African American community.

JK: He had a good report with the African American community. They loved his southern accent. I think it was because of his accent. He was everybody’s friend.

HC: He was very charismatic and it came across on his commercials.

AM: Did you ever meet any of the musicians?

HC: Yes. He had one group sing on his show. There was a woman by the name of RJ Pope who was a phenomenal singer.

AM: Was she African American?

HC: Yes. There was a group singing with her. He ran commercials non stop. They were 15 minute commercials. He would talk as if he was in the piano store. He would say, “On this piano we have such and such and on this piano we have such and such.” He would go from one piano to another. Our mother played the piano.

AM: Did you meet RJ Pope?

HC: Oh sure I did. I met RJ Pope. She was completely confident. She ruled the roost. JK: She was the boss of the singers (choir).

HC: I remember there was a male singer who got invited to sing on the show. RJ Pope didn’t like him. It was competition for her.

AM: Tell me more about his commercials.

HC: He had live commercials that were 15 minutes each on all 3 stations. It was impromptu. He made it up as he went along. He did this for about 10 years.

AM: What years did he own the piano company?

HC: Roughly 1940 to 1979. During the later years, he switched to TV commercials.
He had radio commercials until TV became popular.

AM: Did he have artists play on his TV commercials?

HC: He did not usually have artists go on the TV commercials.

JK: Not the kind that you are looking for.

HC: They sold Kimbel pianos and Kimbel would send some talent.

JK: They sold used pianos of all kinds.

HC: Gulbransen was the name of the piano manufacture.

AM: What years was he a talent scout?

HC: It was 1925 to 1930 as my guess. I know that he was done by 1931.

AM: What did he do after that?

HC: Well, this was a very difficult time, the Great Depression. It was very tough. He did nothing because it was the depression. The conditions that we lived in…..well, we lived in a very poor place. Yet he would buy a crate of eggs for $5 whole sell and try to sell them. He would go door to door.

AM: So he was still selling.

HC: He used to say, “If you can read the classified ads, you can make a living.” He was born in 1900. Me and my brother who is now deceased were involved in the piano company. I helped in the piano store that he had in the 2nd World War. He bought a recording machine and recorded wives (1942) to give to husbands in military. Those were metal records. I know that because I used to run the recording machine.

AM: Where did he get it?

HC: I have no idea.

AM: What ever happened to it?

HC: I don’t know.

AM: What did it look like?

HC: It was a turntable. It shed tiny slivers of metal as it turned around. It didn’t have a needle.

AM: Do you have any metal records, records from that era, or records with white labels on them?

JK: No records. We just arrived at my brother’s house. Could we call you back tomorrow? I will look into some of these things and get back to you.

HC: One last thing, in Birmingham when he did all of the commercials on TV, we used channel 6. I bet that they may have recordings of these. I do know that we recorded them. Channel 6 is still in existence.

AM: Did he record his radio commercials?

HC: I don’t think so. I think they were just impromptu and never recorded.

Updated Tuesday, December 19, 2006

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

Save Americana! Save Grafton WI Record Factory Site #GoFundMe

0 0
Read Time:6 Minute, 2 Second

GRAFTON, WI 

Written by Angie Mack Reilly 10/11/17

A·mer·i·ca·na

əˌmerəˈkänə,əˌmerəˈkanə/

noun

  1. things associated with the culture and history of America, especially the United States.

“This fundraiser is a long shot. Maybe. Maybe not.

I drive past the former record factory/recording studio site several times a day.

The home was built on the property in 1961 after the record plant was demolished. I heard that it was bought and renovated by an architect who owns several Milwaukee River properties. In fact, I do believe that this same architect developed the million dollar home across the river from this one. I know his name. I have spoken with him about the importance of the music history in this area. I also believe that I gave him a Paramount Walking Tour Booklet. This was several years ago. Apparently, he is not interested in preserving the history of this property to my knowledge.

Of course, someone who works in any type of real estate is going to want to profit off of this property. And guess what? In all reality, it will probably sell quite soon.

You see, I own a home as well as a music business (Ozaukee Talent) within a few blocks of this location. I have lived in Grafton for almost 22 years now. So I understand a lot of the “inside scoop”.

Within recent years, Grafton has embraced some large scale development projects including Aurora hospital. The population of Grafton is becoming more diverse and homes are selling quite quickly with all of the new physicians and hospital staff moving in.

For many years, I tried to get a Paramount Museum in Grafton. I was part of the Grafton Historic Preservation Commission and Downtown Development Ad Hoc Committee to name a few. I worked closely with the Village President, Village Administrator, Village developers and more.

At one point, we had a list of “museum artifacts” so that we could keep track of our inventory. We considered several destinations for a museum in Grafton, including this one. But, at the time, it was owned by a single property owner who, I assume, just wanted to live peacefully along the river without any bother of tourists. There wasn’t anything that we could do with it being owned.

So the tourists would come to Grafton. International tourists. They would go to the Grafton Chamber of Commerce to try to find out where the museum was in Grafton. The Chamber would send people TO MY HOUSE. I kid you not. Why? Because for many years, I have been known as the local historian on the matter. So I would volunteer my time and spend half of the day with visitors from Russia, Germany, France, Japan, New York, California, New Orleans, the UK and more. I have even given “the tour” to school groups which has proven to be very educational.

Anyhow. Long story short.

No Paramount museum in Grafton. LOTS of meetings and thousands of volunteer time and years on my part. Plans. Emails. You know. But in the end? Not a lot of action. So I pretty much gave up on the idea of trying to preserve the music history of Grafton.

Apparently, Port Washington WI is in the process of getting “The Blues Factory” which would include a museum. It seems to me that is another project with a lot of talk and very little action. Nobody has approached me from that development project to help get involved……which, to me, is a bit…..odd. It would also supposedly house a theater. I work in theater for a living.

LINK TO #GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN

Ever since the house on the former pressing plant went up for sale, I have thought to myself, “Gosh…I wish I had the money to buy that property and actually DO SOMETHING that commemorates the history.

As a business owner, music teacher, musical producer, etc…..I am quite busy. But yesterday, as I was driving around doing some errands, I thought,

“I HAVE TO AT LEAST TRY.”

There is a window of opportunity for this home to be some sort of destination that would be educational.

I can’t really claim outright what it will become. I am sure that there are zoning rules. That is why, at minimum, I think that it’s safe to say that this home could remain residential yet house a recording studio or some other type of educational facility. In all honesty, I don’t know what the Village of Grafton rules are about making the home a business.

I just know that the world of music should preserve this property to commemorate the artists who recorded here and had their records mass produced and shipped from here.

It’s Americana.

Like I said, someone with money will probably purchase the home. And the history and story of this important American landmark will be pushed into the background and eventually forgotten about. And I will still have to drive past this property on a daily basis.

1802 South Green Bay Road

People. We have an opportunity.

Yes. It’s a “long-shot”. They are asking a lot for this home. Why? Because it’s been renovated to sell big and make a nice profit.

This is the same location that PBS History Detectives filmed “Lost Musical Treasure”. You can search for the 2 episodes on YouTube. I pitched the show idea to the show producers and corresponded with and educated them for at least a year before the show was even filmed. I also worked with playwright Kevin Ramsey to ensure the historical accuracy of his musical “Grafton City Blues” which has since been renamed “Chasin’ Dem Blues”.

I am an educator. I also teach music for a living. Right now, I have about 40 private students per week. I am also producing Disney’s The Lion King for the North Shore Academy of the Arts at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center.

Music is my life. I have been teaching and performing for at least 18 years now.

As an educator and musician, I would be a fool not to at least TRY to preserve this property.

I admit, it’s a tough time in America to give right now. With the new administration, hurricanes, threat of nuclear war, shootings and racial conflicts going on, people have more things to think about than giving to projects like this. If you can’t give, it’s OK. No judgement.

But with my connections (and your connections), maybe there are some people out there with some means who care about preserving this vital cultural history that has literally shaped popular culture around the globe.

As I used to pen, “They made history when the needle hit the wax.” (Some of the early recordings were etched into wax!) That’s why Jack White made his Grammy-award winning Paramount “box sets”…. to preserve the music history. Oh yes. I have tried talking to him as well. Not an easy guy to get a hold of. And I was told that their recent purchases and developments as a business have been quite substantial. (They created their own “record factory” for making vinyl.)

At the end of the day, I just want to say that I tried one last time. –Angie”

Grafton WI Record Factory Courtesy of Paramountshome.org

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

Ozaukee Talent Performers at the 2017 Paramount Music Festival

0 0
Read Time:19 Second

September 3, 2017 at the Paramount Music Festival in Port Washington, WI

ozaukee talent soloist at paramount music festival

Ozaukee Talent Performers Directed by Angie Mack Reilly

DONATE

ozaukee talent at paramount music festival

400dpiLogo

Talent Development & Creative Services

Register for Music Lessons and Classes at Ozaukee Talent 

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

John McGivern Highlights Grafton’s Music and Arts History on PBS

0 0
Read Time:3 Second

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

Ozaukee Talent Announces #blueschool Coming in 2017

0 0
Read Time:3 Minute, 26 Second

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 24, 2016 

GRAFTON, WI  Ozaukee Talent is pleased to announce the addition of a blues school coming in 2017.   The blues school will be held on the weekends and will feature blues music workshops where musicians can learn from other blues musicians.  The blues school will be an extension of Ozaukee Talent’s current music education programming.

Alex Wilson Blues Guitar Workshop Grafton WI

“When I was a music major, I learned how to sing Italian Opera and analyze the music of European composers.  The general attitude toward the blues was that it was a ‘lesser art form’ that only used the basic I, IV, V chords.  From a musician’s standpoint, I have come to appreciate the blues as an advanced American-born art form.  Most American music education programs (including universities) fail to give the blues the attention it deserves. From its earliest beginnings, blues secrets have been passed from musician to musician. Experienced blues musicians teach ‘their students’ technique tricks through their recordings and open jam sessions.  

People don’t typically go to music college to become great blues musicians.  They spend their time listening to other blues musicians and then they put their own twist on it.  I love that the blues is the musical language of the common man.  It is an equal opportunity musical language that involves a mutual trust among musicians and not just an elite few.  Do you like the phrase ‘Made in America’?  The blues is an American-made product that is recognized and respected around the globe.  My biggest beef with the American music education system is that it places too much emphasis on the classical composers and European-born music and not enough on the blues genre which should be a source of pride.  As blues musician Willy Dixon said, ‘The blues is the roots.  The rest is the fruits.’  

There is a community among musicians that I would like to see in Grafton, WI. Why Grafton?  If you look at any musical genre tree,  you will see that at the very bottom toward the roots is a genre called the Delta Blues.  Musician pioneers in the Delta Blues include musicians like Charlie Patton, Son House, and Skip James to name a few.   These three mentioned musicians recorded in Grafton, WI between 1929 and 1932.  And there were many more recording artists.  It is for this reason that Grafton is a key location for a blues school.  We all heard that Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Peace Prize. And where do you think Dylan got his musical chops from?  I had the privilege of interviewing Skip James’ nephew several years ago and he talked about Dylan coming over to the house and how he adored Skip James.

I have worked with and have known musicians for most of my adult life.   By default or by nature, musicians tend to isolate.   A lot of them are brilliant, highly passionate yet incredibly shy.  And those who want to make it HAVE to be teachable.   They have to come out of the wood works and collaborate with others on a frequent basis so that their skills can be sharpened and their art form can become inspired.”

–Angie Mack Reilly, founder of Ozaukee Talent and co-founder of http://paramountshome.org

Ozaukee Talent is now booking blues musicians to be a part of the school in 2017 whether through video appearance or in person.  Anyone with comments, questions or an interest to help the  Ozaukee Talent Blues School should email angie@ozaukeetalent.com soon.

bob-dylan-guitar-photo-library-of-congress

ABOUT THE BOB DYLAN PHOTO

  • Title: [Bob Dylan and man, half-length portrait, seated, facing each other, playing guitars in restaurant] / Gilbert-Look.
  • Creator(s): Gilbert, Douglas R., 1942-, photographer
  • Date Created/Published: 1964 June 15.
  • Medium: 1 photographic print (contact sheet frame)
  • Reproduction Number: LC-USZ6-2311 (b&w film copy neg.)
  • Rights Advisory: Publication may be restricted. For information see “LOOK Magazine Photograph…” (http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/print/res/074_look.html)
  • Call Number: LOOK – Job 64-1887, frame 31 [P&P]
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

Embracing The Legacy Of The Blues / From the South To The North by Michael “Hawkeye” Herman Part 2. Grafton, WI and Paramount Records

0 0
Read Time:15 Minute, 38 Second

Embracing The Legacy Of The Blues / From the South To The North

By Michael “Hawkeye” Herman

www.HawkeyeHerman.com

Part 2. Grafton, WI and Paramount Records

originally published in the international BLUES FESTIVAL GUIDE 2006

also published at http://www.hawkeyeherman.com/articles.htm

History, dreams, meaningful coincidences, timing, synchronicity, networking, and the blues, can come together to transform a community.

Grafton, Wisconsin is a town of 11,000 inhabitants approximately 25 north of Milwaukee on US 43. In recent years, the town has struggled with its identity in the shadow of nearby communities that had achieved status, economic growth, and recognition as tourist destinations as a result of capitalizing on their local history. Port Washington, a few miles to the northeast, has a long, colorful history as a Great Lakes port and has a restored downtown nestled against a lovely harbor. Cedarburg, just a few miles to the southeast, draws throngs of weekend tourists who walk the main street spending their dollars in shops, restaurants, and galleries that are housed in carefully maintained 19th Century Americana buildings. Grafton has long been considered an anonymous working class town that you have to drive through in order to get to and from Port Washington and Cedarburg. How could Grafton, with seemingly little local history to promote beyond the legacy of the lime kilns in Grafton’s Lime Kiln Park, find its identity, capitalize on it, and step out into the sunlight with its own sense of civic pride?

Angela Mack is a musician/music teacher who moved with her family to Grafton from Madison, WI in 1996. She has a passion for African American culture, music history, and a desire to bring arts to her new home community. A few years ago, she received a letter from a record collector. The letter had been sent to many Grafton residents. It was from a record collector who was in the area looking for old Paramount 78 rpm records. This was the first time she had heard about the Paramount Records that were produced and recorded in Grafton. She didn’t believe it, thought it was a chain letter, and threw it away. Later, she was researching Grafton history on the Internet, and sure enough, it was true. There had been a very important and influential record production plant, Paramount Records, in Grafton.

Angela became obsessed with knowing more about the history and importance of Paramount. The more she learned, the more confused she got. “Why wasn’t this a big deal in Grafton?” She became intrigued with finding out the history of Paramount Records.  Embracing The Legacy Of The Blues / From the South To The North Angela found that Grafton was more than just a footnote in America’s musical history. In the early 20th Century The Wisconsin Chair Company in nearby Port Washington manufactured furniture. The manufacturing of wooden furniture led the company into the production of wood cabinets for record players. The production of the record cabinets led them to produce Paramount Records in cooperation with New York Recording Laboratories (NYRL). Under the Paramount label, they released a continuous flow of jazz, gospel, and outstanding blues recordings. The blues recordings were marketed under the Paramount 12000/13000 “race” series. Between 1929 and 1932, NYRL operated a recording studio in Grafton. The host of seminal blues artists whose music was released on the Paramount label includes Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Son House, Skip James, Willie Brown, Louise Johnson, King Solomon Hill, The Mississippi Sheiks, Tommy Johnson, Henry Townsend, and many others. Paramount released twenty-five percent of the blues recordings that were marketed during this era, and dominated the blues marketplace. Due to the stock market crash and failing economy during the Great Depression, Paramount began to decline. They ceased recording studio activities in mid 1932, although they were able to ship records until late 1933. Paramount then went out of business.

Now Angela understood why she had received a mass-mailed letter from a record collector seeking old Paramount 78s. Vintage blues enthusiasts and collectors get very excited at the prospect of acquiring old Paramount recordings. Those old 78s are the most sought after of blues recordings. They can be sold at auction for large sums of money. Finding a previously thought to be ‘lost’ Paramount record is a milestone in the life of a record collector, as well as a milestone in the documentation of American music history. In the words of Paramount Records historian, Alex van der Tuuk, “The importance of the record company and its studio cannot be underestimated. Charley Patton is considered King of the Delta Blues, partially based on his recorded output recorded in Grafton.”

The flames of Angela’s passion for African American culture, music, and history were fanned and the Grafton link to Paramount was just the catalyst that was needed to put her interests into action. She spent time at the old Paramount factory location watching the Milwaukee River tumble over the rocks, musing over the last few brick remains of the foundation of the building, and re-read the small roadside sign that marked the historic site. Later, the idea that there should be a blues festival in Grafton at Lime Kiln Park to honor the legacy of Grafton and the blues came to her in a dream.

She took her idea for a blues festival to the Village officials. Village President, Jim Brunnquell, says, “It took several more communications from Angela before I truly realized what a historical treasure the Village possessed.” He was now intrigued by the idea. Grafton was in the middle of a major downtown redevelopment effort. In addition, they were looking at marketing tools to attract and retain business. One quality that was needed was an identity, a hook, or concept that they could build their presence.  The ‘lost’ legacy of Paramount Records just might be the keystone that was needed to achieve all of these municipal goals. Brunnquell pursued the concept with Village officials, and he pointed Angela to the Grafton Jaycees for the possible production of a blues festival.

In early 2005, she got in touch with Alex van der Tuuk, author of “Paramount’s Rise and Fall, A History of the Wisconsin Chair Company and its Recording Activities.” Via very long distance, (van der Tuuk lives in the Netherlands), he offered Angela input, information, and moral support. Alex suggested that Angela’s husband, Patrick, start a Paramount web site to gain support from others and to begin networking. They got the web site up and running, and Alex and Angela doggedly started doing outreach to everyone they knew.

At this point, Angela posted a message online at The Blindman’s Blues Forum seeking advice, guidance, and support for her efforts to raise the Paramount/blues consciousness in Grafton. This writer saw her post on that forum, took a great deal of interest in her cause, and responded. I began advising and mentoring her toward her goals. Little did I know at that time how involved I would be in the Grafton/Paramount process, and how far all of these projects would progress in less than a year.

Meanwhile, local chef/restaurateur, Joe Krupski, was planning for a restaurant somewhere in the downtown area of Grafton. He was aware that there was a market need for dining in that area. His eyes kept turning towards a building sitting on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue/12th Street and Bridge Street–right in the heart of downtown Grafton. The building at 1304 – 12th Avenue had been vacant for quite some time, so he figured the owner would be very open to any idea that might work. He began constructing a business plan around this building in November 2004. He learned from the owner that the building was the first county courthouse and that it was nearly 160 years old–the oldest commercial building still standing in Grafton. He became interested in learning more about the building so that he could incorporate that into his business plan. He visited the public library in Grafton to do research. While looking through the Grafton archives, he noticed a few statements about a record company that existed in Grafton. He had an idea of incorporating some of Grafton’s musical history into the restaurant to make it a more interesting place to visit. (A Hard Rock style café concept with a Paramount Records theme.) He was learning more and more about Paramount/NYRL and had started collecting 78s and other memorabilia to incorporate into the restaurant. He read Alex van der Tuuk’s book on the history of Paramount. Krupski got excited about bringing Grafton’s heritage back in a venue that could also help educate the local population about an important part of their hometown history. His restaurant would definitely have a Paramount theme and to get the Village onboard, he needed to educate them on this wonderful history that was being ignored. He purchased more copies of van der Tuuk’s book and gave them to the Village President and Planner along with a CD set of all of the blues music recorded in Grafton by Paramount, as well as a full copy of his business plan. Since he was searching for capital to fund the restaurant, he also gave out copies of the book to local bankers. He approached the Grafton Chamber of Commerce where he was told that another person, Angela Mack, was e-mailing the Village asking them why they hadn’t done anything with their musical heritage and was insisting that they do something about it. He was given Angela’s phone number and e-mail address, but he did not contact her immediately due to so many other concerns regarding his business plan.

Finally, Krupski locked in an offer with the owner of the building and found funding to begin construction of the Paramount Restaurant. It was during the period of time that he officially approached the Village about doing the project was when he first met Angela Mack and her husband, Patrick. As they talked about the Paramount Records history, they knew the Village was starting to also have their share of thoughts on the Paramount concept since the Village officials had always fielded complaints that “Grafton doesn’t have a theme like Cedarburg or Port Washington.”

While Krupski was pushing forward with his Paramount-themed restaurant concept, Angela connected the Grafton Area Live Arts (GALA) to bring an “Embrace the Legacy” concert series to the GALA concert hall venue. The concert series would focus on performers who could educate on Paramount history and perform songs recorded by Paramount artists. She approached Scott Oftedahl, former Grafton High School band director and current principal of Kennedy Elementary School, about bringing a blues educator to Grafton to raise the awareness of school children regarding the history of blues music and Grafton’s blues legacy. Oftedahl was more than receptive to the idea. While Angela made arrangements with GALA for the first “Embracing The Legacy” concert, Oftedahl organized plans for a combined blues education presentation/concert for all of Grafton’s elementary school children. Over 500 elementary students would be bussed to the high school auditorium for the one-hour morning blues presentation/concert on Sept. 30th, 2005. In the afternoon, the 4th grade students at Oftedahl’s Kennedy Elementary School would have a private one-hour session with the blues educator. The concert at the GALA venue would be that same evening. A Paramount history discussion panel was scheduled for Oct. 30th at the Cedarburg Arts Council.  Participants in the panel discussion would include Paramount historian, van der Tuuk, and other knowledgeable Paramount Records devotees.

I was pleasantly surprised and most grateful when Angela Mack and school Principal, Scott Oftehdahl, requested that I participate in their plans by being the blues educational presenter, as well as the performer for the first GALA “Embracing The Legacy” concert. I eagerly anticipated my visit to Grafton, the school presentation, the concert, and to visiting the Paramount historic site.

Steve Ostermann of the local Ozaukee Press staff did a superb job of publicizing all of the Paramount ‘resurrection’ efforts, including covering my visit to Grafton. “Michael “Hawkeye” Herman had Grafton school kids bouncing in their seats. In between the boogie beat, he also taught them a few things about the blues — the profound influence it has had on music they listen to every day and the vehicle it offers for expressing their emotions. Herman’s hour-long program drew praise from students, parents and educators alike. Scott Oftedahl, Kennedy Elementary School principal, said Herman’s appearance introduced students to historically important American music and showed them how relevant it remains today. We’re very fortunate to have him come here.”

The evening GALA concert was a sell out. The audience was superb. During the concert I explained to the crowd, “Grafton and Paramount Records are responsible for much of the American blues music that came out of the 1920s and 1930s. You have a great opportunity here to show people what this history is and why it’s so important. It’s not only important for students to learn about, it’s important for the community to realize what they have. You have a sleeping giant, and it’s finally starting to wake up.” An enthusiastic full house of local residents showed up at the Cedarburg Cultural Center the following day for the afternoon Paramount panel discussion.

At about this time, local Jaycees members, Kris Marshall, Ellen Zacharias, and Peter Raymond were instrumental in founding a blues society. The group used the “Let’s Get Started/How To Create A Blues Society,” article that appeared in the 2005 issue of the Blues Festival Guide as an aid in founding the Grafton Blues Association. They immediately undertook responsibility for producing the first annual Paramount Blues Festival in cooperation with the Grafton Area Jaycees. The festival will be held on Sept. 23rd, 2006 at Lime Kiln Park, in Grafton. Marshall and her committee have pulled out all the stops in planning the all day event. The festival will feature nationally recognized blues artists and local bands, including: Albert Cummings, Nora Jean Bruso, Hawkeye Herman, David Evans and Joe Filisko, Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, and The Steve Cohen Blues Band with Greg Koch. Educational workshops will be presented by well known blues historian/author Gayle Dean Wardlow, and fellow historian/musicians, David Evans and Joe Filisko. Alex van der Tuuk will be on hand to sign copies of his book and discuss the history of Paramount Records.

Angela and Patrick Mack, Jim Brunquell, Joe Krupski, Melissa Schmitz, and others, founded GIG (Grooves In Grafton), to further support and retain the history of all of the genres of music that Paramount recorded in Grafton. GIGS will present exhibits, park history displays, and educational programs “to educate, increase the awareness of, and preserve the music recorded and pressed in Grafton, Wisconsin by the New York Recording Laboratories.”

Grafton city officials, including Village President Brunquell, had been planning to spur development in the center of downtown by providing tax-incentive financing packages to businesses locating in the downtown area. They already had their eyes on plans for the construction of a downtown plaza which would help bring people back to the area. With the newfound interest in Paramount and the possibility of the Paramount-themed restaurant going in, city officials embraced the Paramount concept for the downtown Paramount Plaza. Paramount Plaza will include a saxophone-shaped fountain spewing water from the horn, and sidewalk decor inlayed to resemble piano keys that will create a Paramount Recording Artists’ Walk Of Fame, featuring the names of artists who recorded in Grafton and the approximate recording date.

Joe Krupski is in the midst of refurbishing the old courthouse building, near the future Paramount Plaza, into The Paramount Restaurant. The building was the Bienlein Hotel in the 1920s where Paramount’s artists may have stayed the night while recording in Grafton. Krupski hopes to have the restaurant up and running before the Sept. 23rd date of the Paramount Blues Festival.

Beginning March 1, 2006, the Ozaukee Bank in Grafton, a major sponsor for the Paramount Blues Festival, will host monthly exhibits presented by Grooves In Grafton (GIG) to enhance visibility for the festival and inform the community about their Paramount Records heritage. The fire of interest in local history and Paramount Records is now lit and beginning to grow. People are excited that Grafton is, at long last, getting an identity and has something to be proud of. Local folks are coming forward begging to get involved. They are excited about the opportunity to participate in something bigger than themselves that educates, entertains, and brings a sense of identity and pride to the community.

The efforts of numerous individuals interested in educating the town about their unique contribution to America’s musical history opened the eyes of many others who immediately recognized the potential to build a theme for Grafton around this important legacy. Within the next year, the face of Grafton will dramatically change. Paramount’s long kept secret legacy will finally have its chance to shine. Coming out of anonymity, the town of Grafton is embracing this legacy and is now passionate about Paramount.

In the March 2 edition of the Ozaukee Press, Steve Ostermann reported, “When blues musician and educator, Michael “Hawkeye” Herman, came to Grafton last fall to perform at schools and in concert, he spoke to local residents about their community as “a sleeping giant.” ‘Grafton,’ Herman told his audiences, ‘has chance to acknowledge its place in American music history and let the rest of the world know about a rich legacy that has long been overlooked by the general public.’ Herman’s words–which echoed the sentiments of area educators who invited him to appear locally–have not fallen on deaf ears. Since his visit last September, a growing number of residents have embraced missions publicizing Grafton’s musical heritage. The result of their efforts is the formation of groups that are organizing a blues festival, park history displays, educational programs, and a variety of other activities they hope will teach, enlighten, and entertain. The collective goal, volunteers said, is to pay tribute to the Paramount blues artists and other musicians who recorded for the former Wisconsin Chair Co.’s music division.”

History, dreams, meaningful coincidences, timing, synchronicity, networking, and the blues, came together to transform a community. For information on Grafton’s Paramount Blues Festival:

http://www.graftonblues.org

For information on Paramount Records history:

http://www.paramountshome.org

Much thanks to Michael “Hawkeye” Herman and the Blues Festival Guide for allowing Ozaukee Talent to re-publish this article.  Angela Mack (now Angie Mack Reilly) can be reached at angie@ozaukeetalent.com 

 

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %

Connecting Grafton, WI to Nationwide PBS

0 0
Read Time:1 Minute, 8 Second

A Successful Pitch to a National Television Show!

by Angie Mack Reilly

It had to be done.  More people needed to hear about the Paramount record label!!  They needed to know that Grafton, a small Wisconsin town, played a huge role in the music scene.  They needed to know more about the artists who recorded in Grafton and other places like Chicago and New York.  America needed to know!

Beginning in 2004, I began emailing everyone that I could think of who would be interested in connecting to the Paramount story.  I signed a lot of my email letters as “passionate about Paramount.”  (Did I ever email you?  Would you mind emailing me a copy at angie@ozaukeetalent.com ?)

One of the hundreds of places I wrote was the PBS show, History Detectives.  I knew that it was a long shot.  After all, they only film less than 2% of their story submissions per year.  However, the producer had taken interest and I began corresponding with the production team, I want to say, for entire year before it even aired.

Apart from airing nationwide, PBS has been promoting it online as well.  By now, the YouTube segments have been seen by over 35,000 people!

You can watch the first episode here.  Look for Part 2 on YouTube.

 

About Post Author


ozaukeetalent

One lesson. One song. One event at a time. Ozaukee Talent is a training and networking facility for people of all ages wanting to advance in the arts. Ozaukee Talent was founded by longtime arts leader Angie Mack in 2016. Ozaukee Talent provides private music and acting lessons, contracted event marketing, contracted arts project management, consulting, arts public speaking and performing, hosts musical events, workshops and classes in the arts. Contact: Ozaukee Talent 1701 11th Ave. Grafton WI 53024 angie@ozaukeetalent.com 262.309.4112 Follow @ozaukeetalent on Instagram and Facebook. Tax deductible donations for Ozaukee Talent through Create Wisconsin, Inc. Venmo: @ozaukeetalent PayPal: angie@ozaukeetalent.com


Happy

Happy

0 %


Sad

Sad

0 %


Excited

Excited

0 %


Sleepy

Sleepy

0 %


Angry

Angry

0 %


Surprise

Surprise

0 %