Syd Nathan put his plan to launch a record label into action in September of 1943, enlisting Country music entertainers Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis to record the first music for the venture, which Nathan dubbed “King Records.” To mark the beginning of what would become one of the most crucial record labels in the history of music, Cincinnati has been celebrating King Records Month in September for the past several years.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of those first King sessions, this year’s celebration is too big to contain in just one month, getting an early start this week and with exhibits and other events extending through the end of 2018.
A multimedia celebration of all things King, the Gala kicks the litany of events off in style, honoring some of the legends associated with the label and sharing stories about the past, while also looking ahead to the future of King. There will be musical performances throughout, panel discussions, video testimonials and lots of surprises. Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented in honor of King greats Bootsy Collins, Henry Glover, Philip Paul and Otis Williams.
The design company We Have Become Vikings is organizing the event; its co-founder Jason Snell did some King-related design work for projections on the exterior wall of downtown’s St. Xavier Church during 2017’s massively successful BLINK Cincinnati.
“The idea for the gala started over beers with two people active in (the King Studios project),” Snell says. “I’d just be sitting there and go, ‘What? That happened? No.’ Just being a fan of the music coming out of here and not really knowing a tenth of what happened… it gives me goosebumps.”
According to promotional materials, a portion of the proceeds from tickets will go to preserving the original King site in Evanston and to support the musicians associated with King.
Celebrate the King: The Gala 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. $20-$80. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, memorialhallotr.com or thekingcelebration.com.