Intersection of Union Avenue and Diana Street with Pepper Records directly behind the gas station
Manuscript of "Juice Harp Rag" by Berl Olswanger, released as a "45" by Pepper Records in October, 1958
The following is a newspaper article on Pepper Records as printed in the June 4, 1958 edition of the Memphis Press-Scimitar
New Disk Firm Plans Studio
Pepper, Huddleston Form Partnership
Memphis’ booming record business has a major new entry in Pepper Records Corporation, which is building a studio at 62 Diana, just off Union and around the corner from WDIA.
Partners in the new company are John R. Pepper, former co-owner of WDIA and a man of many business interests, and Floyd Huddleston, Mississippi song writer. Berl Olswanger will be associated with them in music direction and supervision.
The new company is putting a substantial financial investment in its future—it is not just a copyrighted label hoping to hit it rich with a fly-by-night gamble. The building is being remodeled to accommodate elaborate recording equipment, including stereophonic recording facilities for which there is no immediate need.
“We already have made arrangements for national distribution with about 30 distributors,” Huddleston said.
The firm already has under contract Wingy Manone and the Norman Paris Trio and has already recorded the Norman Paris group, with vocals by the Honeydreamers, in an album of college songs called Coed. This album was cut in New York City.
Huddleston said Manone will come to Memphis to record soon after the new studios are finished, which will be about July 15.
Weldon Jetton of WDIA is a sound engineer in charge of designing the studio. It will have one of the few real echo chambers outside of New York, Chicago and Hollywood.
“We will be a balanced operation—will not specialize in one type of music like rock ’n’ roll,” Huddleston said. “We intend to do a lot of albums. We also intend to develop our own talent. Memphis affords tremendous opportunities for an undertaking like this, because of its huge untapped resources and potential for development.”
Huddleston and Pepper are particularly excited about a girl trio, the Townsel Sisters, three youngsters from Lake Village, Arkansas, with whom Huddleston has been working for a couple of years. Grand Ole Opry is interested in them, but Huddleston wants to keep them under wraps until they can be properly launched by the new record company. Another for whom they have hopes is Bobby Roberts, a Tiptonville, Tennessee, singer whom they will record.
They also intend to bring out some of the wealth of Negro talent in the Memphis area.
Huddleston, from Greenville, Mississippi, was the man responsible for “Swanee River Rock,” the record which had a big success in this section, but which did not make much headway nationally because of lack of distribution. He has written music for many movies, including Duchess of Idaho, with Esther Williams and Van Johnson, the song “The Trouble with Harry” from the Alfred Hitchcock picture, “Ready, Willing and Able” for Doris Day, and “Idle Gossip” for Sarah Vaughan.
He and publisher Hodding Carter are working on a musical show, getting together weekends.
Huddleston has moved to Memphis, and is staying in the guest house at the Cooper Robinson home, 401 Goodlett.
“Memphis is ideally suited for a recording company such as this,” Huddleston said. “With planes, New York and California are only a few hours away. New York is coming down here now to look for talent. The songs I write down here—they think they’re fresh when I take them up there, because I’m not influenced by what everybody else is doing in New York.”
Huddleston, Pepper and Olswanger plan an active search for new entertainers, with frequent auditions. The new company’s offices are presently at 2074 Union, next to WDIA.
— Robert Johnson
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