Born in a record store near the Apollo Theatre building in 1944, Apollo Records presented virtually every kind of popular and ethnic music. By 1962, Apollo ceased recording but continued merchandising its gospel music, primarily the Mahalia Jackson catalog. In the 1980's, Delmark acquired the rights and surviving source material of the long out of print blues and jazz masters, and has been presenting them as the Apollo Series, including numerous unissued performances and alternate takes. To date, Delmark has issued 16 albums in this acclaimed series.
Four new CDs from Apollo are scheduled for release in April, 2002. They include: Illinois Jacquet, Jumpin' At Apollo (DE 538); Piney Brown & Eddie Mack, Hoot and Holler Saturday Night! (DE 754): Alec "Guitar Slim" Seward & Louis "Jelly Belly" Hayes, The Back Porch Boys (DE 755); and Jack McVea, McVoutie's Central Avenue Blues (DE 756)
Following is an explanation of some of the work that goes into creating an
First, Steve Wagner, the label's general manager, and Bob Koester, label owner,
listen to the material available and determine if there is enough to feature
one artist for a whole CD or whether there is another concept that ties the
Once the concept for a particular CD has been decided Steve checks the discography
for titles that were issued - he begins by searching for the 78's not in Delmark's
file. For example, for the four Apollo's in the upcoming series (Illinois Jacquet,
etc.), Delmark had 19 of the issued 78's. Steve then contacted collectors internationally
to find the remaining 78's and thus determine which takes of the songs have
been issued. Often, Delmark has unissued alternate takes of songs and then Bob
and Steve make a decision regarding which takes to issue. The collectors supply
us with copies of the 78's and the label information, including the exact song
title, the composer and publisher credits. Steve said, "Among my list of twenty-five
collectors, they have almost everything recorded on 78 in the blues and jazz
fields. They are extremely helpful - we even received a cassette of material
from a collector in Ireland.
Because the Apollo record label began in the pre-tape era, in 1944, and extended
post-1950 when tape was introduced, Steve works from both acetates and tape
and occasionally from original 78's, EP's, or LP's. For example, on the new
Piney Brown CD some of the tracks were recorded on acetate and some on tape.
The masters recorded on acetate are sent to disc-to-tape transfer expert (or
should I say genius?) Jack Towers, to be transferred to DAT. These are
then sent to Cedar in England for digital removal. In the old days, clicks and
pops were cut out of analog tape, but in the new process the computer reads
the program, detects foreign sound, removes it and replaces it by duplicating
adjoining music or speech. Thus even the most perceptive percussionist will
not detect the missing material for there is none.
There are times when Delmark has the rights to a master but the original disc,
metal or tape has not survived the several changes of ownership of the Apollo
label. In fact, disc recordings are usually transferred from simultaneously-recorded
16" 33/3 rpm (standard groove) recordings made as backup in case the original
78 rpm masters got damaged. These 16" discs are called "playbacks" or "safeties."
The original 10" disc masters tended to get damaged in the electroplating process
and were discarded. Sadly, the playbacks were often discarded as well after
all the release takes were processed to metal. In 1962 or perhaps earlier, the
old 78 rpm metal parts were discarded, perhaps to save storage space - a very
short-sighted move on the part of Apollo's owner which left them no ideal source
material for much of the very early recordings. During WWII the aluminum and
chemicals used for recording blanks was critical and rationed and safeties simply
seem not to have been recorded, at least not by Apollo.
Fortunately much of the best material was preserved by being issued on LP by
Apollo, Vogue, Grand Award, Waldorf and other labels. The Apollo 10" LP's were
probably recorded direct from the disc since no 10" LP master tapes have been
found. But Apollo did issue a 12" anthology of sax (with tapes derived from
original acetates, transfers from metal parts and a few titles with tape spliced
in from the tape-recording era). Some of our Apollo albums will include tracks
derived from several different media. Occasionally we are forced to make a transfer
from the noisy wartime pressings and the surface noise can not be removed without
reducing sound quality --- we prefer to let you hear all the music even if some
surface noise survives. But thus far we have been releasing projects where we
have most, if not all, of the sides on primo source material. We are especially
indebted to the marvelous work done by Michael Cuscuna and Mosaic Records...
our Illinois Jacquet album comes right out of their box set of I.J. on Aladdin,
Apollo, ARA and RCA.
There are a lot of other folks involved in the Apollo projects. We've already mentioned the collectors who provide us with label info and loans of rare records, but one collector tipped us off to some Apollo playbacks that turned up in a New Jersey record auction which filled gaps in the West Coast Apollo sessions. Reissue projects owe an unpayable debt to the discographers and writers who have ferreted out details of personnel and date info on the old sessions (which is why we don't mind answering requests for such info if we are able to provide it). .. But please don't write us for info that's already in the discographies - buy the books and help that movement! (preferably from Jazz Record Mart).
Back to the Apollo Page
Home to the Delmark Home Page