A Taped Interview With John Steiner PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 November 2005 00:00
A Taped Interview With John Steiner

[J.M.J.reprint]---Tell it Like it Is---[An intermittent publication of the Wisconsin Blues Society, Ltd., A Non-Profit Arts Organization]---Volume 1: Number 14, Summer-Fall 1998, pages 10.

A Taped Interview With John Steiner, June 19, 1997, Milwaukee, Wisconsin---Take One, part 1

by Jim VanDrisse

Steiner: In The Paramount Book Of Blues you will find that one of the tunes is not entered in the index and has a different font. That was taken from a sheet music composition by a fellow you don't hear much of, but before 1920 he was an important figure around Chicago. His name is James White. He was a black man that walked around the Loop playing a portable organ he had strapped over his shoulder. James White was an important composer.

VanDrisse: What's your date of birth?

Steiner: July 21, 1908 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

VanDrisse: And what was your first exposure to Blues or jazz?

Steiner: When I was 12 years old I became the hat check person at my fathers' music lodge on Kinnikinnac Avenue in Milwaukee, also, mother had me taking piano lessons.

VanDrisse: Do you recall the first time you would have heard a black Blues band?

Steiner: Yes, there were about 3 or 4 black fellows performing in an afternoon concert at an outdoor amusement park on the far north shore, in a suburb, maybe Whitefish Bay. Boats used to run from a dock here and bring you back in a hour, and in the meanwhile you would go into this amusement park. We stopped and had ice cream and I heard these fellows play. This was maybe a year or two earlier than the music lodge hall job. Also, I had an aunt that worked in a music store and she sold records and would bring all the chipped ones home to me.

VanDrisse: How did you get into recording?

Steiner: You ask about a question that nobody asks. Nobody ever asked me how I got into recording. It was mostly through people that had prominence in Chicago. I lived next door to Paul Eduard Miller who wrote the Jazz Column for Downbeat Magazine. I happened to run into Hugh Davis who was an engineer, later he joined Seeburg, the jukebox people. Studs Terkel was one involved, as was the editor of Esquire Magazine, Arnold Ginsburg. It came about because we were making some pressings of Paramount. We farmed our pressings to various people in the record field, even RCA.

When Hugh Davis and I got together and I discovered that he had the facility for making copies, I had him make acetates for me. There were several records I had received when I bought Paramount that I picked up in Port Washington in new condition that I didn't want to wear, but I wanted to play them often. I would buy the blanks and he would supply the cutting tools and I'd pay him about a dollar apiece for the cutting service.

Our first labels were just typewritten and then Hugh Davis decided to design something that was commercially acceptable so thats when we got to the Steiner-Davis label. We generally included all the personal on the label. We were so close to the musicians that it seemed appropriate, and they all contributed with such importance that it was a shame not to include all of them. Also, the names were sometime selling points. For example, Lonnie Johnson might be just the accompaniment, but Lonnie Johnson might be the selling point.( TO BE CONTINUED ). By Jim VanDrisse, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , phone (920)849-3279
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