Grafton Paramount Records Plaza

Paramount Music Festival: Grafton & Port’s Blues history comes alive this weekend!

Who knew Ozaukee County had such a rich history with early recorded music?

Grafton Paramount Records Plaza

Are you aware of the great music history of Blues, Jazz, R&B, gospel, country, classical and more in… Ozaukee County? Turns out Grafton and Port Washington were music hotspots back in the day – starting over 100 years ago. From 1917 through the 1930s, Paramount Records hosted a huge variety of musicians and their studio sessions, laying groundwork for some of the most popular music genres to ever come out of this country. And the Paramount Music Festival is about to celebrate it all in Port Washington this weekend!

Paramount Records was a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company, which had a factory along the Milwaukee River in Grafton where 78 rpm records were pressed and distributed to the nation. These recordings allowed artists such as Lawrence Welk, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tom Dorsey and Louis Armstrong to inspire future music generations and lay the seeds for the R&B and Rock ‘N Roll Eras. Between 1929 and 1932 alone, over 1,600 songs were recorded in Grafton; the output accounted for about 1/4 of the so-called “race records” of the era.

Paamount Records Blues Walk, Grafton

Part of the Blues Walk in Grafton includes this keyboard, etched with names of Paramount Records’ performers through the years.

Many of the musicians were from Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, or other points south. Most came up from Milwaukee or Chicago by train, recorded in Grafton, and stayed overnights in Port Washington, near Paramount’s main offices. So many major and influential musicians cut records here that it’s an official stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Why a Chair Company Launched a Record Company

Paramount Records operated in the Wisconsin Chair Company factory in Grafton. How did that come to be? Well, apparently the company that produced chairs and cabinets – with record players, mind you – figured they should help produce records people could play and store in their cabinets. does a great job researching and celebrating the history of this iconic record company and its creations. The Paramount Blues Festival started up in Grafton in 2006 to help recognize this history and bring Blues music and more to the area from today’s performers. It has since relocated to the larger grounds of Veterans Memorial Park in Port Washington; the three-day fest will take place over Labor Day Weekend, August 31 – September 2, right along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Come celebrate the music history of Grafton and Port Washington at the Paramount Music Festival this weekend! Performers will include (click on the poster below to enlarge it):

Paramount Music Festival lineup

Click for the larger image!

Friday, August 31

Tommy Bentz Band – 5:00pm
The Blues Disciples – 6:30pm
Kashmir – The Led Zeppelin Show – 8:30pm

Saturday Sept. 1

Jonny T-Bird & the Mps – Noon
Tallan Noble Latz – 1:00pm
Ivy Ford Band – 2:30pm
Katz Sass – 4:00pm
Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys with Westside Andy – 6:00pm
Altered Five Blues Band – 8:00pm

Sunday, Sept. 2

Sue DaBaco – Noon
Jay Edward Band – 1:00
The Spectaculars – 2:15pm
Paul Filipowicz – 3:30pm
Alex Wilson Band – 4:45pm
Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo – 6:00pm
The Bel Airs – 7:30pm

By the way, the PBS series History Detectives covered Paramount Records and their history, scroll down to watch the videos!

Paramount Records celebration and Paramount Music Festival Address:

Veterans Memorial Park
430 N. Lake Street
Port Washington, WI 53074

GO Chippewa Falls

STT Podcast Spotlight: We Head to Chippewa Falls!

Wisconsin Weekend: Chippewa Falls OktoberfestThe beautiful city of Chippewa Falls sits along the Chippewa River just northeast of Eau Claire where U.S. 53 and Highways 29, 124, and 178 meet up. This town of 14,000 is practically synonymous with Leinenkugel’s Brewery; however, Chippewa Falls offers a wide variety of things to do and see from outdoor recreation to a zoo and park where the buffalo truly do roam, historic mansions, a vibrant downtown for shopping and lodging, performing arts, and celebrations such as Oktoberfest, Pure Water Days, and the Northern Wisconsin State Fair.

In fact, the Northern Wisconsin State Fair just concluded a few weeks ago on the beautiful and fun fairgrounds that bears the event’s name. These Fairgrounds are just north of the Leinenkugel’s Brewery and across the street (Highway 124, the historic U.S. 53 route) from Irvine Park. The city’s Springfest, Oktoberfest, and other major events also take place on these grounds throughout the year.

Check out our State Trunk Tour Podcast on Chippewa Falls with Chippewa Chamber’s Tourism Director Jackie Boos. Find out more about the city, two wineries, a craft brewery on top of the Leinie’s you know already, history, arts, downtown, Irvine Park & Zoo, events, and plenty more:

State Trunk Tour picks include Riverbend Vineyard & Winery, Irvine Park & Zoo, Lake Wissota State Park, the Chippewa River Distillery & Brewster Brothers Brewing Company, the Heyde Center for the Performing Arts, and of course a tour at the Leinenkugel Brewing Company. Chippewa Falls’ downtown has been booming, with the new Cobblestone Hotel & Suites opening up, more new restaurants to go with some of the long-standing classics, boutique shopping, and a lot of walkable blocks that let you explore.

Loopy's, overlooking the river west of Chippewa Falls along historic (now Business) Highway 29.

Overlooking the Chippewa River from Loopy’s just west of Chippewa Falls along Business Highway 29. A popular summer pastime is floating down the river to Loopy’s from the downtown area. It can be tried in winter, but gads, it’s cold.