Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

April 13 show

Jazz recording heritage in Richmond

The Starr Piano Co. in Richmond, Ind., is pictured in this vintage postcard. The Gennett Records label was based here.Memphis, Chicago, New York City and Nashville, Tenn., have long been hailed for the significant roles their recording studios played in the boom of American popular music. Why do some say Richmond in far-eastern Indiana almost should be mentioned in the same breath?

Consider that during the 1920s the parade of future musical legends who traveled to the town - specifically, to the Starr Piano Company and its Gennett Records division - included Louis Armstrong, Indiana native Hoagy Carmichael, cowboy singer Gene Autry and Jelly Roll Morton, who recorded nine piano solos at the Richmond studio in 1924.

"Gennett was among the first record companies to cater to both the segregated white and black record markets," according to Rick Kennedy, author of Jelly Roll, Bix and Hoagy, whose book, first published by IU Press in 1994, is being released in an expanded, revised edition.

Jelly Roll, Bix and Hoagy book cover.Rick will be among Nelson's guests, as will Bob Jacobsen and David Fulton, president and treasurer, respectively, of the Starr-Gennett Foundation, a nonprofit that is helping Richmond reclaim its remarkable heritage in recording jazz, blues and country music. David Fulton also is chancellor emeritus of Indiana University-East in Richmond.

To honor the city's rich but frequently overlooked heritage - which ended with the Great Depression - the Starr-Gennett Foundation has established a Gennett Records Walk of Fame and an annual music festival in September near the Whitewater River.

That's also near where the riverside piano factory and recording studio made so much musical history.

Performers who recorded on the Gennett label - either at its Richmond studio or one in Manhattan - included Duke Ellington, Joe "King" Oliver and legendary cornet and piano player Bix Beiderbecke, who befriended and influenced a young Hoagy Carmichael. The musical director and lead soloist of the Wolverine Orchestra (usually known as the Wolverines by jazz enthusiasts), Beiderbecke died at age 28 in 1931.

Rick Kennedy, 2013 photo.As Rick puts it in Jelly Roll, Bix and Hoagy, Beiderbecke "was immortalized by musicians and journalists as ... the sensitive musical genius who drank himself to death before the world could fully recognize his command of a misunderstood art form." (Beiderbecke's tragic life loosely inspired the 1950 movie Young Man with a Horn, in which Hoagy played a character based on himself.)

Bob Jacobsen.The musical history in Richmond accelerated in the 1890s when piano retailer Henry Gennett bought an interest in Starr, an existing piano company. Henry Gennett had owned music stores in Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis and other cities. Under his leadership, the piano factory also began producing player pianos, piano rolls and, eventually, phonographs.

The saga that unfolded, according to Rick's book, included a legal fight over patent infringement between Gennett and mighty Victor Records, which in 1917 had produced the world's first jazz records. (They featured the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.) David Fulton.Gennett was joined by other small labels. They prevailed in 1922, breaking Victor's stranglehold, "resulting in new record labels and greater competition," as Rick puts it.

Later in 1922, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings made their recording debut at the Richmond studio.

"Ragtime, jazz, blues, gospel, country and other 'new' sounds swelled the mainstream of popular music with the help of instruments and recordings produced by Starr and Gennett for international distribution," according to the Starr-Gennett Foundation.

Until 1934, the Gennett studio produced thousands of recordings, including some that are considered among the greatest jazz recordings of all time.

According to a history included with vintage recordings re-released in recent years on CDs titled Gennett Records Greatest Hits Collection, Hoagy Carmichael first recorded his classic Stardust at Gennett in 1927; it was released to the public early in the following year.

Although not a hit initially, Stardust eventually became "one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century."

History Mystery

Hoagy Carmichael often composed songs about places across America such as states or cities, including Can't Get Indiana Off My Mind and Memphis in June. For years, debate ensued about whether one of his songs was about a place or about one of his sisters. A commemorative stamp for Indiana’s Hoagy Carmichael was issued in 1996.She happened to have the same first name as a place.

The Hoagy Carmichael song - which evokes a mood of yearning - has been recorded by many top performers.

Question: What was the name of Hoagy's sister?

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

The prize is a pair of tickets to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park and a pair of tickets to the Eiteljorg Museum. These prizes are courtesy of Visit Indy.

Roadtrip: Levi Coffin House in Wayne County

This unusual indoor well provided water for Coffin House “guests.”Just up the road from Richmond and its Starr-Gennett sites is the Levi Coffin House, located in what is now Fountain City on U.S. 27. The house is Indiana's most famous "way station" on the Underground Railroad, and before the Civil War, Quaker owner Levi Coffin and his wife, Catharine, helped as many as 2,000 former slaves escape to freedom in the free states and Canada.

One of the many formerly enslaved persons who hid in the Coffin house was "Eliza," whose story is told in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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Thanks to new donors

Hoosier History Live! wishes to thank Bruce and Julie Buchanan, Julie Slaymaker, Ann Allen of Akron, Ind., and Dana Waddell and Clay Collins. For more information, visit "Support the show" on our website.

April 20 show

Derek Daly on Indy-car fans overseas, son Conor and more

We're going to varroom back to when former Indy-car and Formula One driver Derek Daly was growing up in Ireland. That's because Dublin native Derek Daly, now 60, will join Nelson in studio to assess how the interest level overseas in the Indianapolis 500 - as well as in NASCAR racing - has evolved during the last half-century.

Derek Daly.Now a popular motorsports commentator on TV and radio - Derek has worked for media ranging from ESPN to Fox, CBS and the Speed Channel - he also has a son who is making headlines and blazing a path. So Nelson will be asking Derek, who has lived in Noblesville for many years, about Conor Daly, 21, who has been hired by A.J. Foyt Racing as a rookie driver in next month's Indy 500.

Our guest owns Derek Daly Academy, which coaches, evaluates and manages young motorsports drivers. His career as a race driver spanned 17 years and included competing in the Indy 500 six times. He also is the author of Racing to Win (Motorsports Publishing, 2008), which features an introduction by his friend Mario Andretti.

Back in the early 1980s, foreign-born drivers like Derek and Mario were something of a novelty in the Indy 500 - although competitors during the 1960s had included popular Jimmy Clark from Scotland and Graham Hill from England, the winner of the 1966 race. Eventually, the infrequency of foreign drivers changed dramatically, almost reversing itself during the last 20 years. Derek and Conor Daly celebrate Conor’s 2012 win in Barcelona in the GP3 Series, a training series for young drivers. Photo by Daniel Kalisz/GP3 Media Service.For example, the field of 33 drivers in the 2011 race included four from Brazil alone.

So what has all of this meant to the Indy-car fan base overseas? Do Derek's native land and other European countries still reserve most of their passion for Formula One? Is NASCAR even on their radar yet?

We will explore that and more with Derek, including the remarkable rise of his son. Conor, an Indianapolis native and graduate of Heritage Christian High School, wasn't even born in 1985, when Derek had his best finish (12th) in the 500 Mile Race. So far, Conor has spent much of this year overseas himself, competing in Europe and Malaysia in lower-level racing series that are considered preludes for advancement to Formula One.

Derek Daly is his son's manager. After retiring from a career as a driver that included starting on the front row with Mario for the Indy 500 in 1984, Derek launched his successful business and broadcasting careers.

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