there’s a full-page article in yesterday’s ny times about cincinnati’s own musical legacy, embodied by king records. the author illustrates (unintentionally or not) the patchwork heritage of the city. according to the article, king records’ influence was neglected in part because, as locally based music editor and author larry nager points out, “‘cincinnati was settled by good, solid german folk’ …. ‘to them, honest work was making soap and killing pigs, not making music or cutting records.’” on the other hand, when mentioning a visit to the grave of a king bandleader in a formerly blacks-only cemetery, the author mentions parenthetically that cincinnati is “in many ways a Southern town” (ostensibly to explain a segregated cemetery). to say nothing of the jewish influence that played a big role in king records. the heroes of the article have to be bootsy collins, who takes seriously the mission of keeping king records’ legacy alive, and syd nathan, the contrarian owner of king records, who brought together hillbilly and r&b, and exhibited a color-blindness rare in the day in the running of the record company.
so that’s us, just sittin’ here on the ohio river confounding categories for over two hundred years. king is the perfect musical legacy of a city founded by germans, with a significant but largely separate jewish population, and balanced (or occasionally not) by an influx of african americans and appalachian scots-irish. oh, and even though the point that king records is a “neglected landmark” is made several times throughout the article, i think it’s safe to say that — with bootsy’s hard work and other recent acknowledgments and celebrations (yes, including this article) — that claim just ain’t true any more.