Art Laibly

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As marketing director of Paramount Records from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, Art Laibly was an important conduit for the recording of many of the first significant blues musicians to release discs.…
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As marketing director of Paramount Records from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, Art Laibly was an important conduit for the recording of many of the first significant blues musicians to release discs. Paramount was not exclusively a blues label, but it is mostly remembered for the blues artists on its roster, which it developed to address what was then called the "race" market. Among these artists were such early blues giants as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Skip James, Blind Blake, and Charley Patton. Laibly made his first major blues find, Blind Lemon Jefferson, after following the recommendation of a Dallas store owner who sold Paramount products, R.T. Ashford.

Paramount already had a talent scout, J. Mayo Williams (one of the first African-Americans to hold a significant job in the recording industry), that had attracted some blues artists to the label. Williams later said that Laibly had helped force him out of Paramount, wanting the "race" field to himself. Still, Laibly managed to make vital additions to Paramount's blues field on his own, with much assistance from scouts (who were often retailers and distributors) in the South. One of those scouts was H.C. Speir, who found Charley Patton and set up his association with Paramount. Other Delta bluesmen recorded by Laibly for Paramount included Skip James, Tommy Johnson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and Ishmon Bracey.

Paramount, like the entire recording industry, ran into grave trouble after the Depression hit. Paramount Records discontinued and Laibly lost his job. He then left the music business for a career in insurance. Although he was actually tracked down by blues researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow many years later, Wardlow reported that Laibly didn't speak much about his past musical career and did not even have a strong interest in blues music.