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A&R Pioneers
Architects of American Roots Music on Record

Author(s): Brian Ward, Patrick Huber

Association for Recorded Sound Collections Certificate of Merit for the Best Historical Research in Recorded Roots or World Music, 2019

A&R Pioneers offers the first comprehensive account of the diverse group of men and women who pioneered artists-and-repertoire (A&R) work in the early US recording industry. In the process, they helped create much of what we now think of as American roots music. Resourceful, innovative, and, at times, shockingly unscrupulous, they scouted and signed many of the singers and musicians who came to define American roots music between the two world wars. They also shaped the repertoires and musical styles of their discoveries, supervised recording sessions, and then devised marketing campaigns to sell the resulting records. By World War II, they had helped redefine the canons of American popular music and established the basic structure and practices of the modern recording industry. Moreover, though their musical interests, talents, and sensibilities varied enormously, these A&R pioneers created the template for the job that would subsequently become known as "record producer."

Without Ralph Peer, Art Satherley, Frank Walker, Polk C. Brockman, Eli Oberstein, Don Law, Lester Melrose, J. Mayo Williams, John Hammond, Helen Oakley Dance, and a whole army of lesser known but often hugely influential A&R representatives, the music of Bessie Smith and Bob Wills, of the Carter Family and Count Basie, of Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers may never have found its way onto commercial records and into the heart of America's musical heritage. This is their story.

Biography of Author(s)

Brian Ward is professor in American Studies at Northumbria University. He has published eight books, including the award-winning Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations (1998) and Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South (2004).
Patrick Huber is professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is the author or editor of five books, including the prize-winning Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South (2008) and The Hank Williams Reader (2014).


  • "Music lovers will be delighted by this comprehensive history of A&R and its impact on American music."