After World War II, British jazz fans and critics looking to better understand the genre stimulated a demand for blues records; this market expanded further as first Trad jazz, then skiffle and British R&B launched a British blues revival. Major labels like Decca and Pye offered major US urban blues and soul artists, but the specialty market, dominated by connoisseurs interested in a wider variety of artists and eras, was underserved by the major labels. Thus, committed blues lovers took matters into their own hands. This paper will survey the turbulent independent blues record scene in Britain from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of labels with colorful names, shadowy origins, lofty goals, and often surprising founders. Dozens of British musicians, critics, and collectors founded labels, licensing (or bootlegging) materials for reissue, importing 45s from the United States and reselling them in Britain, or recording new material for exclusive release. Many of these small concerns, reissuing rarities and recordings by artists outside the commercial mainstream, were labors of love rather than serious commercial enterprises. Their limited-edition discs were marketed directly to their target audience, and label owners rarely did more than break even. Most only issued a handful of recordings, though in the process they revived the stalled careers of US blues singers, provided much-needed income and support to older artists, and introduced Britain to a wider variety of blues.


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pp. 94-113
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