Honoring King Records includes future, past

Local music institution King Records was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a ceremony and historical marker unveiling in front of its former headquarters at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Evanston.

Launched by Syd Nathan in 1943 as a country label, King eventually got in on the ground floor of the burgeoning rhythm and blues market.

The company soon grew into the nation's sixth-largest label, and was ahead of its time in putting African Americans into positions of leadership in recording, pressing, designing, warehousing and shipping – all of which was done on site.

Following last summer's display of King Records: A Cincinnati Legacy, a collection of King Records artifacts and memorabilia exhibited at the Main Library, Evanston Community Council president Anzora Adkins and Liz Blume, director of the Community Building Institute, discussed the idea of starting a museum.

A site on Montgomery Road, near the Flavor of Arts Studio, was chosen as a more feasible location than the old building, which is landlocked and privately owned.

Designed by SHP Leading Design, the new building will combine the arts education programming of Flavor of Arts with a memorial space that can be used by the community and a recording studio that will provide apprenticeship opportunities to neighborhood youth.

Cincinnati city councilmember John Cranley helped lead the effort to recognize King Records.

Cranley says that the new marker, and the words upon it, validate the company's importance to national music history.

"It is a great tragedy that most Cincinnatians don't know about the great history that happened here," he says.  "That has to change.  We're going to honor our history."

At last week's council meeting, a motion was adopted directing the Cincinnati Historic Preservation Office to execute a local designation landmark study on the old company property, which could eventually make it a local historic landmark and protect it from demolition.

"Our work will not be complete until we get this building back," Cranley says.  "This building is holy, sacred ground."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Source: Xavier University
Photography by Scott Beseler
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.