Ralph Peer

Category: Patron
Time period: Pre-WWII

Date nominated: Apr 11, 2010
Date inducted: Sep 1, 2016
Ratings: 5
Average rating: 3.83

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In a long career recording and publishing artists ranging from the Carter Family to Buddy Holly, Ralph Peer's influence on jug band music could be overlooked. But when Victor Records, which had lagged behind other companies in the "race" recording business in the 1920's, hired him to find new talent in the South (1), he hit a gold mine in Memphis.

Peer had been recording country music for OKeh, including the famous "Bristol Sessions" that were the debut of the Carter Family, Jimmie Rogers and Ernest Stoneman, and was a pioneer of "field recording" (not recording in a field, but in temporary studios in cities smaller than New York and Chicago). When he arrived in Memphis in February 1927, the first band he recorded was the Memphis Jug Band. He would go on to record over 50 sides of this seminal band over the next four years, keeping leader Will Shade on retainer to ensure a steady flow of original songs. (2)

After the early success of the Memphis Jug Band, Peer looked for other talent in Memphis and ended up recording Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, Jim Jackson, Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Minnie Wallace and Hattie Hart. (3) He would go on to work with new genres of world music in the 1940's, and early rock and roll in the 1950's, but jug band fans have him to thank for some of the all-time greatest recordings in this genre.

1) Dixon, Robert and John Godrich. Recording the Blues. New York: Stein and Day, 1970. p. 43.
2) Charters, Samuel. The Blues Makers. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1991. p. 21.
3) Dixon, Robert. Blues and Gospel Records, 4th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. p. xxv.