Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joe Bihari

Thanks to Dave C for letting me know about another death: that of Joe Bihari, aged 88, last of the four Bihari brothers who founded Modern records. I'm surprised not to have seen obits in the UK press but maybe I missed them. Of Hungarian Jewish descent, the Biharis founded Modern in LA in 1945 and later set up the Meteor label in Memphis, RPM and Flair. They recorded many of the pioneers of blues and R and B, including Jesse Belvin, Richard Berry, Hadda Brooks, Charles Brown, The Cadets/Jacks, Lowell Fulson, Smokey Hogg, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Etta James, Little Richard, Little Willie Littlefield, Jimmy McCracklin, Ike Turner, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and Jimmy Witherspoon and made a star of B B King. The brothers had a long running feud with Chess, who they believed stole Jackie Brenston's Rocket 88 from them after Sam Phillips sold it to the Chicago
 They closed down their labels in the late 50s and set up the budget Crown label and the Kent label targetting the rock and roll market as well as some high quality blues and soul, including Z Z Hill, Johnny Otis and Ike and Tina Turner. The Modern name was revived in 1964 with artists such as the Ikettes and Little Richard but the Biharis later focused on budget reissues and eventually went out of business. Like most record owners of the time, they claimed royalties for songs they hadn't written and many artists received little in the way of financial reward, but there is no doubting the importance of Joe and his brothers. There's an interesting interview with him in John Broven's Record Makers and Breakers (see photo).


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