Best Of 2019

Best Extended Birthday Party for a 75-Year-Old: King Records

With a month-long celebration for most of the 2010s, Cincinnati has honored the legacy of King Records, the locally-based record company whose impact on everything from the music industry to the sound of popular music today cannot be overstated. Last year, the city-wide celebration of King’s outsized influence on American culture was even bigger due to it being the 75th anniversary of the label’s first recording session. King Records Month has been honored each September for the past six years, timed to when founder Syd Nathan put his plan to launch a record label into action, enlisting Country music entertainers Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis in 1943 to record the first music for the venture. For the 75th-anniversary edition of the celebration last year, the events (from musical presentations and film screenings to lectures and panel discussions) couldn’t be contained to September’s 30 days, launching Aug. 25 with “Celebrate the King: The Gala” at Memorial Hall, which featured video tributes, live performances and the doling out of Lifetime Achievement Awards to King greats Bootsy Collins, Henry Glover, Philip Paul and Otis Williams, with the artists and/or their family members on hand to participate in the commemorative festivities. Besides the 75-year tie-in, King Records Month 2018 was also different due the substantial progress being made in both preserving the original King site in Evanston and taking the spirit of King further in the 21st century. In April, the city of Cincinnati took control of the old King building from the property’s owners, who had been threatening demolition. Plans for the site aren’t concrete yet, but various local nonprofit organizations envision things like a museum, studio, educational outpost and community space for the Evanston area. A 2002 album paying tribute to King Records’ artists and recordings was titled Hidden Treasures; nearly 20 years later, King’s crucial history is no longer a buried secret. King’s importance in bridging musical styles like R&B, Country and Rock & Roll is now far more widely acknowledged and its hometown is making sure that it will remain a living, breathing entity for years to come.