1920s - 1930s
Gennett was a United States based record label which flourished in the 1920s.
Gennett Records was founded in Richmond, Indiana by the Starr Piano Company. It released its first records in October 1917. The company took its name from its top managers: Harry, Fred and Clarence Gennett.
Earlier, the company had produced recordings under the Starr Records label. The early issues were vertically cut in the gramophone record grooves, using the hill-and-dale method of a U-shaped groove and sapphire ball stylus, but they switched to the more popular lateral cut method in April 1919.
Gennett is best remembered for the wealth of early jazz talent recorded on the label.
Gennett began serious electrical recording in March 1926, using a process licensed from General Electric. This process was found to be unsatisfactory, for although the quality of the recordings taken by the General Electric process was quite good, there were many customer complaints about the wear characteristics of the electric process records. The composition of the Gennett biscuit (record material) was of insufficient hardness to withstand the increased wear that resulted when the new recordings with their greatly increased frequency range were played on obsolete phonographs with mica diaphragm reproducers.
The company discontinued recording by this process in August 1926, and did not return to electric recording until February 1927, after signing a new agreement to license the RCA Photophone recording process. At this time the company also introduced an improved record biscuit which was adequate to the demands imposed by the electric recording process. The improved records were identified by a newly designed black label touting the "New Electrobeam" process.
From 1925 to 1934, Gennett released recordings by hundreds of "old-time music" artists, precursors to country music.
By the late 1920s, Gennett was pressing records for more than 25 labels worldwide, including budget disks for Sears, Roebuck's catalog. In 1926, Fred Gennett created Champion Records as a budget label for tunes previously released on Gennett.
The Gennett Company was hit severely by the Great Depression in 1930. In 1935 the Starr Piano Company sold some Gennett masters, and the Gennett and Champion trademarks to Decca Records.
Jack Kapp of Decca was primarily interested in some jazz, blues and old time music items in the Gennett catalog which he thought would add depth to the selections offered by the newly organized Decca company. Kapp also attempted to revive the Gennett and Champion labels between 1935 and 1937 as specialists in bargain pressings of race and old-time music with but little success.
For a time the Starr Piano Company was the principal manufacturer of Decca records, but much of this business dried up after Decca purchased its own pressing plant in 1938 (the Newaygo, Michigan plant that formerly had pressed Brunswick and Vocalion records).
Brunswick Records acquired the old Gennett pressing plant for Decca. After Decca opened a new pressing plant in Pinckneyville, Illinois in 1956, the old Gennett plant in Richmond, Indiana was sold to Mercury Records in 1958. Mercury operated the historic plant until 1969 when it moved to a nearby modern plant later operated by Cinram. Located at 1600 Rich Road, Cinram closed the plant in 2009.
The Gennett company produced the Gennett, Starr, Champion, Superior, and Van Speaking labels, and also produced some Supertone, Silvertone, and Challenge records under contract. The firm pressed most Autograph, Rainbow, Hitch, KKK, Our Song, and Vaughn records under contract.