King Records Museum In Cincinnati's Future?

King Records Museum In Cincinnati's Future?
December 30, 2009
Rev. Keith A. Gordon

King Records, the Cincinnati-based independent label that specialized in blues, R&B, and country music during the 1950s and '60s, may finally be receiving the respect due such an important part of the 20th century American music landscape. In the wake of author Jon Hartley Fox's excellent book on the label, King of the Queen City, the city of Cincinnati is beginning to look upon its former musical ambassador to the world with a different perspective.

The Cincinnati U.S.A. Music Heritage Foundation has placed a marker outside 811 Race Street honoring the 1945-1955 existence of the E.T. Herzog Recording Co., where several of King Record's influential early hit records were recorded. The foundation also moved into the space that once housed the studio and is looking to build a collection of the label's releases to display. CUMHF president Elliott Ruther is also said to be interested in launching a course on King Records at Cincinnati State University, where he serves as the director of development.

Most interesting, however, are plans to begin fundraising for a full-fledged King Records museum honoring the label that the visionary Syd Nathan founded in the late 1940s. A "King Studios" committee has been formed with an eye towards raising $10 - $12 million to build a 12,000-square-foot museum, for-profit recording studio, multipurpose space, and visual arts studio.

From the late-1940s through the mid-1960s, the list of artists recorded by King Records is truly phenomenal. From blues greats like Freddie King and John Lee Hooker and R&B pioneers like James Brown to country legends like the Delmore Brothers, King Records made stars from a diverse range of artists, breaking down racial and musical barriers while releasing some great music. Although the label went under shortly after Nathan's death in 1968, it is well deserving of a permanent place in Cincinnati music history.
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