Takoma Records

Takoma Records

Takoma Records was a small but influential record label founded by John Fahey in the late 1950s. It was named after Fahey's hometown, the Washington, D.C. suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland.

Takoma Records began with a custom pressing of 100 copies of "John Fahey/Blind Joe Death", an album of his own guitar playing released by John Fahey around 1958. He had no distribution and sold the pressing mainly to friends, and at music parties. A copy of this record recently sold on eBay for several thousand dollars.

John moved to Berkeley, California, and the label was really launched when John rediscovered the country bluesman, Bukka White. With Eugene "ED" Denson, John drove to Memphis and the pair produced Bukka's first recording in 23 years. Later in 1963 they released it, as well as John's second album of his own music.

Independent labels were a novelty at that period in American musical history, but gradually in the next several years word spread about the music. At the same time independent "folk music" labels like Rounder were springing up, and establishing distribution systems. The content of the Takoma label expanded to include other guitarists, such as Robbie Basho, and other types of folk music. At the same time the label ventured into the avant-garde with "The Psychedelic Saxophone of Charlie Nothing". Acoustic guitar music, especially that of John Fahey, remained the mainstay of the label.

Around 1967, Denson moved to full-time management of the rock band Country Joe and the Fish and John became the sole owner of Takoma. He moved the label and himself to Los Angeles, where he was studying for his Masters degree at UCLA under D.K. Wilgus. Leo Kottke's "6 and 12 String Guitar" became a surprise hit and the profits funded an expansion of the label which now had a staff.

Fahey had started a new genre of guitar music, known later as American Primitivism, which comprised traditional fingerpicking steel string guitar techniques applied to neo-classical compositions. The Takoma label showcased such music; its roster included Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Robbie Basho and already famous Mississippi bluesman Bukka White. George Winston released his first album on Takoma and Mike Bloomfield released several solo albums on the label. American composer and electronic music pioneer Joseph Byrd released three records in 1975-76 on Takoma, which were co-produced by Jon Monday.

In 1979, Fahey sold Takoma to Chrysalis Records, owned by Terry Ellis and Chris Wright, which had artists such as Blondie, Pat Benatar, and Huey Lewis. Jon Monday was General Manager of the label from 1970 until 1982 when Chrysalis sold the Takoma catalog. The catalog was purchased in 1995 by Fantasy Records, which in 2004 was taken over by the Concord Music Group. Fantasy has a handful of the Takoma recordings on the market as CDs as of this writing in 2007.

The label's best selling release was Kottke's "6 and 12-String Guitar" (often called The Armadillo Album because of the cover art). Another influential album on Takoma was the 1974 eponymous compilation LP featuring Fahey, Kottke and Lang.

ED Denson went on to co-found and manage Kicking Mule Records, which similarly featured acoustic guitarists. In 1995, he left the music business and became a criminal defense lawyer. By the early 21st century, the news about the label seems limited to death notices. Robbie Basho died in 1986, John Fahey in 2001, and Charlie Nothing died of cancer October 23, 2007.

See also

* List of record labels

External links

* [http://www.wirz.de/music/takoma.htm Illustrated Takoma Records discography]
* [http://www.johnfahey.com/ John Fahey official web site]
* [http://www.nelscline.com/fahey.html John FaheyTribute site]
* [http://www.asis.com/~edenson/edhome.html ED Denson homepage]

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