Ralph Peer – The Man who changed the Face of Commercially Recorded Music Essay

There was a time when the American recording industry was focused on opera, ballads and classical.  But that saw a dramatic change in the year 1927, which saw the launch of the Carter family and the “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers at a path breaking session. One man was primarily responsible – Ralph Peer; a man who shone in engineering, production and talent hunting.

It was on May 22nd, 1892 that the he was born, in Independence, MO. He started off his career at the Columbia Phonograph Company at Kansas. But his career took a turn for the better when he joined General Phonograph Company, to handle their label called OKeh and later at Victor. It was at OKeh, that he oversaw the recording of “Crazy Blues”, by Mamie Smith, targeting the African-American section of the audiences, first of its kind. The success of this record, paved way for more successes with commercially-recorded music.

Meanwhile he went about hunting for talents and signing them; Fats Weller, William Henry Whittier, John Carson; just to name a few. The period of 1923-27, when Peer travelled across the country recording the works of many artistes, was when the initial pillars of commercial recording in the US were built. Peer is also acknowledged with setting a precedence of asking his artistes to write their own songs and getting a huge share of the royalty money himself.  By 1927 he was an unstoppable force, the year that saw Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers making a spectacular entry under the mentorship of Peer.

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By the 30’s Peer had started making waves in the pop music arena and also Hollywood. His entry into international music in the 40’s brought Latin American music into the US shores on a grand scale, setting yet another trend that is still going strong.

If ever there were changes that deserved to be called landmark, these are the ones.


Georgia Music Hall of Fame 2001 Inductee (2006). Retrieved 15 June, 2009                             from Georgia Music Store Website site:           http://www.georgiamusicstore.com/artist/P219557/



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