Friday, May 21, 2021

Vinyl Ventures: My Fifty Years at Rounder Records by Bill Nowlin - Book Review


When I joined the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) I became acquainted with Bill Nowlin who is an expert on the Boston Red Sox and a prolific author of books and articles about players, games, and other baseball research topics.  When I read his essays, I am impressed by his ability to research obscure baseball players.  I coordinate fact-checking games project articles for SABR.  There are few if any errors in his contributions.

I knew a little bit about Rounder Records and that Bill was one of the founders but was not aware of the details of how the company was started and how it grew.  I just had to get hold of his recent book:

Nowlin, Bill, 1945- author. Vinyl ventures: my fifty years at Rounder Records / Bill Nowlin. Bristol: Equinox Publishing Ltd, 2021.

Bill. Ken Irwin and Marian Leighton Levy founded the company in 1970.  It was described as being at the forefront of the second generation of independent labels. Its catalog of more than 3000 titles includes records by Alison Krauss and Union Station, George Thorogood, Tony Rice, and Béla Fleck, in addition to re-releases of seminal albums by artists such as the Carter Family, Jelly Roll Morton, Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie.  The book describes how the company grew by leaps and bounds over 50 years including many subsidiary labels. In April 2010, Los Angeles, California-based Concord Music Group acquired Rounder Records.  The three founders maintain an advisory role.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book as I read it in three sitting as I sat on park benches in Queens.  I found that the detail in Bill’s baseball publications is found in this book as well. In part, the book is autobiographical with minimal reference to his baseball interests and publications.  Bill certainly has lived a very active life in his roles in the music business and as a baseball historian.  Where did he find the time to do everything?

I read with the book with my smartphone in my pocket with the app.  I bought:

Rounder Records' 40th Anniversary Concert Compilation CD

True Believers: The Musical Family of Rounder Records DVD

I highly recommend this book to all interested in the music industry.  I suggest that SABR members read the book to become aware of the other side of Bill Nowlin. 

Matt Scutchfield interviews Bill Nowlin about the book

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