In an article in The Boston Globe, an engineer known for extensive work in Nashville is transferring tapes digitally for archviing purposes. What are on those tapes are of interest, since it had been rumored for years that someone had documented countless country artists performing and recording in high schools, auditoriums, dances, and fairs. Not just local talent, but national artists who came through areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. People were wondering if the rumors were true, and now it has been revealed that it is, with at least 1000 different recordings in existence.
The recordings were done by a Pennsylvania man named Ken Alexander, who did sound services for artists in his region, and apart from setting up the systems for live performances, he also recorded them with the technology of the time. He started out doing wire recordings in the 1940’s and eventually building up to tape in the 50’s, continuing through the 70’s. This is something that seems to be common throughout the country, in fact I interviewed a local man named Curtis Mohr who recorded many middle school and high school bands in the Pacific Northwest from the mid-60’s to the early 70’s for the Custom Recording Company, the label that you thrift store junkies will know as the people who make countless private press albums and church recordings, along with school records. I had been interested in speaking with him after enjoying an album by The Wa-Hi School Stage Band called Get It On, featuring covers of songs by Chicago and Don Ellis.
It seems like Mohr, Alexander was also a recording/sound enthusiast, and went out of his way to record anyone in the world of country music. Those recordings are now owned by Richard Pittman, who purchased all of the recordings and are having them transferred to digital. However, it seems Pittman will put them back on the auction block very soon, hoping for perhaps a bigger offer. Because of the amount of artists involved and all of the clearances it would take to properly release them, Pittman isn’t able to release anything at this time but hopefully the new owners will properly release some of it for the general public to hear for the first time.