November 25, 2020
Wisconsin Weekend: Blues Bash 2018

STT Spotlight: Why two small Wisconsin towns are of “Paramount” importance for early Blues, Jazz, and R&B music

Paramount Records recording of "Hangman's Blues" by Blind Lemon Jefferson, recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin.
A 78 rpm record from the 1920s, produced in a Wisconsin chair factory, from pioneering Blues musician Blind Lemon Jefferson.

In a studio inside a chair factory in Grafton run by a company in nearby Port Washington between 1917 and 1932, a little-known activity was taking place: some of the earliest Blues, R&B, Jazz, and Country classics were being recorded, pressed into 78 rpm records, and distributed by Paramount Records. Many of these artists came up from Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, or the Mississippi Delta, most of the, African-American. Today, music fans around the world are embracing the rediscovery of these monumental – and unique – these early music sessions (also known as “race records”) were, and how its influence still affects music today. Find out more about Paramount, and the Paramount Music Festival that celebrates this history, in this episode of the State Trunk Tour Podcast:



You can find out more from the Paramount Music Association, which has been the impetus behind Paramount Plaza in downtown Grafton, which features a fountain, statues of the musicians, a “Walk of Fame,” and more. The Association, in conjunction with Visit Port Washington, also holds the Paramount Music Festival every Labor Day weekend, although in light of COVID for 2020, they’re instead hosting the Belgium Blues Bash in the nearby town of Belgium August 28th & 29th.

Grafton Paramount Records Plaza
Paramount Plaza in Grafton, saluting musicians who recorded here 90-100 years ago and helped set the table for the music of the 20th century.
Paamount Records Blues Walk, Grafton
The Paramount Music “Walk of Fame” in downtown Grafton, noting the many legends who recorded here from 1917 to 1932.
Visit Port Washington

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