A&R Pioneers offers the first comprehensive account of the diverse group of men and women who pioneered artists-and-repertoire (A&R) work in the early US recording industry. In the process, they helped create much of what we now think of as American roots music. Resourceful, innovative, and, at times, shockingly unscrupulous, they scouted and signed many of the singers and musicians who came to define American roots music between the two world wars. They also shaped the repertoires and musical styles of their discoveries, supervised recording sessions, and then devised marketing campaigns to sell the resulting records. By World War II, they had helped redefine the canons of American popular music and established the basic structure and practices of the modern recording industry. Moreover, though their musical interests, talents, and sensibilities varied enormously, these A&R pioneers created the template for the job that would subsequently become known as "record producer."
Without Ralph Peer, Art Satherley, Frank Walker, Polk C. Brockman, Eli Oberstein, Don Law, Lester Melrose, J. Mayo Williams, John Hammond, Helen Oakley Dance, and a whole army of lesser known but often hugely influential A&R representatives, the music of Bessie Smith and Bob Wills, of the Carter Family and Count Basie, of Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers may never have found its way onto commercial records and into the heart of America's musical heritage. This is their story.