By Ethan Clark, Contributing Writer
Music writer and historian Barry Mazor gave a lecture Monday evening on music publisher Ralph Peer, a man who is credited for creating the modern music industry.
Promoting his new book Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, Mazor spoke to students and faculty in the College of Education building about the life and accomplishments of Peer.
Raised in Independence, Missouri, Peer created the first global music industry during a career that spanned five decades in the first half of the twentieth century. From jazz music to blues to the early days of rock n’ roll, he gave often overlooked regional music a place to be heard.
“The thing that [Ralph Peer] emphasized was always local,” Mazor said about Peer’s business philosophy. “Given the choice, [he] took local because nobody else was taking it.”
Barry Mazor’s book is the first authoritative biography about Ralph Peer’s career. Taking over five years to complete, Mazor pored over old records and documents to piece together Peer’s genre-spanning career. He even discovered home videos from Peer’s world tour in the late 1940’s when he and his family visited India, Egypt and South Africa.
The biography is already generating a large amount of praise from the music world.
“This is an overwhelming book about an overwhelming character in the music field, a true visionary who realized the potential power of common music long before anyone else and who transformed the lives of many of those artists who he recorded,” Bob Dylan wrote in one of the book’s many positive reviews.
Although Ralph Peer died suddenly in 1960, his 50-year career forever changed what people listened to in America and around the world.
“[Peer] said ‘People had a thirst for that kind of music; if I didn’t do it, somebody else would have,’”Mazor explained. “My point is that he’s the one who did, and the way it played out happened because of the way he did it.”