Tribute to King Records planned

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For a mere $10,000, Cincinnati City Council can stick a historic marker outside the old King Records plant. That plaque would salute some forward thinkers who made the city a better place to live with two kinds of harmony – musical and racial.

The motion to honor the chocolate-brown building off Interstate 71 is expected to go before council Wednesday. Councilman John Cranley said he has the votes to get the motion passed.

“This is finally, finally going to happen,” he said of the project that has been off and on since 1996.

The $10,000 would buy a marker from the Cleveland-based Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The bronze plaque would place the King plant in the hall’s series of landmarks. Sites in the series include the Whisky a Go-Go – the Los Angeles club where the Doors were the house band – and Brooklyn, Ohio’s high school, where Elvis Presley played his first concert north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The 12-by-16-inch marker would be mounted on a post outside the building at 1540 Brewster Ave. The brick structure began its life as an ice house, but served as King’s recording studio and record-pressing plant from 1944 until the label left town in 1970.

The placement of the marker would just be the beginning of a multifaceted King Records tribute.

“The plan starts with the unveiling of the marker on Nov. 23,” said Elliott Ruther, a local musician steeped in King’s history, Cranley’s former aide and the development director at Cincinnati State. King Records artists will be featured that night during the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards at the newly reopened Emery Theater.

Cincinnati State plans to work with the Rock Hall to develop a lecture series and curriculum on King’s history that can be exported to area schools.

The Nov. 23 date was chosen because of its proximity to the 65th anniversary of Nov. 10, 1943. On that date, the company’s first record was released by owner Syd Nathan, a crusty cuss whose habits included chewing on cigars and chewing out musicians.

Further details of the unveiling will be announced at 11 a.m. today during a news conference at the Brewster Avenue site.

No fewer than eight members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – from James Brown to Bootsy Collins – made music at the old King Records building. King artists wrote “Fever” and “The Twist.” Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” was one of 461 King records to hit the charts.

The label brought black and white musicians to play on country and R&B recordings, an unheard of act of integration in that time.

“That is quite a legacy for Cincinnati,” Cranley said. And it is a legacy about which many native Cincinnatians know nothing.

“I grew up here and didn’t know a thing about King Records until I got on City Council,” Cranley admitted.

Now, he considers himself a fan of King’s legacy.

“To move Cincinnati forward,” Cranley said, “we have to realize what we should be proud of. And we should be very proud of what went on at King Records.”

source – Enquirer