Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Black Swan Records
Black Swan was founded in May of 1921 by Harry Pace and was based in Harlem, New York City. The parent company of the record label was originally named the Pace Phonograph Company. The company was formed after the prior partnership with W.C. Handy, the Pace-Handy Music Publishing Company, dissolved. Some historians previously thought W.C. Handy had a stake in the business, but Handy's own words contradict their assumptions: "To add to my woes, my partner withdrew from the business. He disagreed with some of my business methods, but no harsh words were involved. He simply chose this time to sever connection with our firm in order that he might organized Pace Phonograph Company, issuing Black Swan Records and making a serious bid for the Negro market. ... With Pace went a large number of our employees. ... Still more confusion and anguish grew out of the fact that people did not generally know that I had no stake in the Black Swan Record Company."
Originally the company producing Black Swan was called the Pace Phonograph Corporation, but in 1923 it was renamed the Black Swan Company. The firm was named after 19th century opera star Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, who was known as the Black Swan.
Former employees of the Pace-Handy Company comprised the staff: Fletcher Henderson was recording manager, provided piano accompaniment for many of the singers, and led a small band for the recordings. William Grant Still was arranger and later musical director.
- C. Carroll Clark , baritone, made the label's first record.
- Four Harmony Kings , vocal quartet
- Henry Creamer and J. Turner Layton , vaudeville duo
- Katie Crippen , vaudeville singer
- Kemper Harreld, violinist
- Revella Hughes , soprano
- Alberta Hunter, blues singer
- "Mamie Jones" was actually a pseudonym on Black Swan for singer Aileen Stanley, perhaps the only Caucasian artist to record for the label (she was "passing for colored" on these records).
- Trixie Smith, blues singer, was second only to Ethel Waters in Black Swan sales.
- Florence Cole Talbert soprano
- Ethel Waters, blues and pop song singer. She had the label's first commercially successful records, and remained their best seller.
- Essie Whitman , vaudeville singer
Purchase by Paramount
The company decared bankruptcy in December 1923. As a result, in March 1924 Paramount Records bought the Black Swan label. This lead to the Chicago Defender publishing an article noting the accomplishments that the company had made: White owned record companies began to recognize the demand for black artists to the point that major companies began publishing music by these performers. In addition, the Defender credited Pace with the major companies to begin targetting the black audience and advertising in black newspapers.
Paramount discontinued the Black Swan label short time later.
Later incarnation of the Black Swan label
The Black Swan label was revived in the 1990s for a series of reissue compact discs of historic jazz and blues recordings originally issued on Black Swan and Paramount. These cds were issued by George H. Buck's Jazzology/GHB Record group, which has rights to the Paramount back-catalogue, but not the Paramount brand name.
- The Music of Black Americans: A History. Eileen Southern. W. W. Norton & Company; 3rd edition. ISBN 0393971414
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