Questions for Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey
The founders of Archeophone Records talk about why they started their label and the importance of musical history.
Slate: Why did you decide to start Archeophone Records?
Martin: Because as collectors and students of musical history and pop music, we saw that this was an endangered species, that these cylinders and early discs from the 1890s and the early 20th century were quickly in danger of extinction, and that we would forget our past.
Slate: In 2005 you released your Grammy-winning album Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry 1891-1922, a compilation that includes uncensored recordings of minstrel routines and of other racist performances. What would you say to critics who might object to the controversial material in your catalog?
Hennessey: I would say that it's part of history, and that we feel that our responsibility is to put out history as it was recorded. There have been other releases in which the offensive language was omitted, and that's not the original recording. We think people need to learn about the history and be aware of what it was really like—and hear it firsthand.
Slate: Do you have a favorite recording from your catalog?
Martin: Well, we're both very fond of our Sophie Tucker set. That was a lot of fun. It took many years to figure out how to put that together.
Hennessey: And that's a good example of something where if you listen to the recordings on that, you wouldn't believe [them]. It starts in 1910, and she's loud and raucous and outrageous.
Listen to Sophie Tucker perform "Some of These Days."