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October 8, 2008

AAAMC Awarded Grant by the GRAMMY Foundation© Grant Program to Preserve Interviews with Pioneers of Rhythm & Blues

In March 2008, the AAAMC was awarded a $39,230 grant from the 2008 GRAMMY Foundation© Grant Program for a preservation implementation project designed to digitally preserve and make accessible nearly 300 hours of interviews with rhythm and blues pioneers. The 201 audiocassettes selected for the "Pioneers of Rhythm & Blues" project provide aural documentation of the history and development of R&B music through the personal narratives of prominent musicians, composers, producers, and record company executives--many of whom are now deceased. At present, there is a dearth of primary source material in libraries and archives pertaining to the history of black popular music, which until recently existed on the margins of academic scholarship. By digitizing the original masters and preparing access copies, the AAAMC seeks to preserve these unique interviews with seminal figures in the music industry, while promoting research into the rich legacy of African American musical traditions and, more generally, the black experience in America.

Drawing heavily on the best practices and preservation methods established by the Indiana University, Archives of Traditional Music during its NEH-funded "Sound Directions" project, "Pioneers of Rhythm & Blues" will support the preservation of two of the AAAMC's collections. The Portia Maultsby Collection includes in-depth interviews conducted from 1981-1986 by AAAMC Director and Indiana University ethnomusicology professor Dr. Maultsby. Maultsby's interviews trace the emergence of black music divisions and the promotion of black artists by major record labels.topics that have not yet been adequately explored. Maultsby recorded interviews with one hundred record company executives, producers, promoters, composers, musicians, and deejays involved with recording, marketing and performing R&B music. Some of the highlights of Maultsby's collection include interviews with Bobby Byrd of James Brown's Famous Flames, Rufus Thomas--performer of "Walking the Dog" and "The Funky Chicken"--and Albert "Diz" Russell of the Orioles. In addition to performers, Maultsby also interviewed record company personnel at Stax, Motown, and Philadelphia International. The collection also includes a number of interviews with African American female record company executives, offering an alternative behind-the-scenes perspective on the heavily male-dominated record industry.

Rolling Stone, during his research for Ray Charles: Man and Music (1998). Lyndon's definitive biography documents the significant contributions to American music by Charles, whose gospel inflected rhythm and blues gave birth to soul. The interviews also shed light on Charles' business practices, from his unprecedented control of his master tapes to the founding of his music publishing company and record label. In addition to taped interviews with Charles himself, the collection contains conversations with a multitude of musicians and record company personnel whose careers spanned the decades from 1940-1980. Among these prominent figures are bandleader Hank Crawford, saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Leroy "Hog" Cooper, and vocalists Ruth Brown and Little Jimmy Scott. Lydon also interviewed Ahmet Ertegun, Sid Feller, and Jerry Wexler, all three of whom have been recognized as among the most significant figures in the modern music industry.

By funding "Pioneers of Rhythm and Blues," the GRAMMY Foundation© has not only recognized the importance of these collections to future researchers, it has also provided the assistance necessary for this valuable content to make its journey from cassettes--a fragile medium threatened by degradation and obsolescence--into the robust realm of digital preservation.

For more information on this project, see issue no. 13 of Liner Notes, the AAAMC's annual newsletter, or the official press release at

The GRAMMY Foundation's© Grants Program is generously funded by The Recording Academy. Now in its 21st year, the GRAMMY Foundation© Grant Program has awarded $5.3 million to more than 250 noteworthy projects. The Grant Program provides funding annually to organizations and individuals to support efforts that advance the archiving and preservation of the recorded sound heritage of the Americas for future generations, as well as research projects related to the impact of music on the human condition. Recognizing the richness of collections held by individuals and organizations that may not have access to the expertise needed to create a preservation plan, in 2007 the Grant Program expanded its granting categories to include planning grants for individuals and small- to mid-sized organizations. The planning process, which may include inventorying and stabilizing a collection, articulates the steps to be taken to ultimately archive recorded sound materials for future generations.

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Archives of African American Music and Culture
Indiana University
2805 E. Tenth St., Suite 180-181
Bloomington, IN 47408-4662
Phone: (812) 855-8547
Fax: (812) 856-0333

Last updated: 4 May, 2011

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