Cranley Update Efforts To Save Former King Records Studio

Written By: Ishton W. Morton – January 27th, 2017

      Cincinnati, Mayor John Cranley

On Friday, January 13th, 2017 Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley updated his on efforts to save the former King Records Studio site from demolition and ask that you too join in this cause. Also, he referred three ordinances to Budget and Finance committee which was introduced by Council members Simpson and Young to honor legendary musicians Otis Williams, Philip Paul and Bootsy Collins by renaming various streets in the Evanston neighborhood.In a sharply comparison  back in November of 2008 Cranley bench marked efforts to save the former King Records Studio.  For years civic boosters, politicians, musicologists and musicians have been asking that something be done to honor the legacy of King Records.

Subsequently, supporters of this marker’s project hoped it’s just the beginning of a resurrection of King Records in the Cincinnati consciousness. The next significant step is an ambitious plan to build a new King Records Center, complete with working studio, in the Evanston neighborhood.

However, Cranley continued to say, in 2015, together we recognized and honored the unparalleled achievements of American civil rights, music, culture and business which happened at King Records Studio in Evanston when we designated the building a historic landmark.  With our action, we declared the King Records building a place to be protected, preserved and restored.  

He added; “I’ve said then, and I will repeat now, that it is a sacred place.  That sacred place is in real danger.  The owner has scheduled a hearing for January 30th for a demolition permit again.  We need to act to improve the negotiations to save the building.  I am introducing this legislation so that we can revive the King Records legacy together.

William Earl (Bootsy Collins) the American musician and singer-songwriter better known as “Bootsy” Collins

Referencing Cranley’s position history have taught us popular and powerful music of all sorts came from that building, incubated by a world-class business model honed in civil rights. This music is music of the people – R&B, country, rock and roll, gospel, funk, bluegrass and jazz.  It was produced by the first Cincinnati company to integrate its workforce at the executive level and integrate at its company picnics in the 1940s! As we have learned from King Records musicians like Philip Paul, musicians played on a variety of genres and with others of different races and backgrounds. 

Thusly, all of this transpired under the leadership of Cincinnatian, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, buried at Judah Torah in Price Hill, Syd Nathan the American music business executive, who founded King Records, a leading independent record label, in 1943..  

Although there is enormous support for Cranley since had the honor of serving as a Councilman, and especially since having the honor to become Mayor, he tends to be extremely thrilled to see the increased excitement and community efforts around restoring the King Records legacy.  The Cincinnati Public Library has led on amazing educational programming and events.  Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has been teaching King Records history in partnership with the Rock Hall.  Artworks put up a James Brown mural. Yes! Yes! Progress is being made. However, it is fair to say the fight to save this historical land mark is far from over.

Syd Nathan

Being aware of the fight ahead, Cranley had this to say; “We can and should learn from what happened.  It is real.  It is authentic.  It is part of our city’s DNA and we should embrace it.  I am excited that we have a group of citizens, led by King Record’s artists, willing to step up to realize a vision to restore King Records on Brewster Avenue.  Let’s help them make it happen!”

Additionally, the Cincinnati Playhouse, Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops have all put on King Records productions. Also, they have seen books published on King Records like the ones by Jon Hartley Fox, Randy McNutt, and more.  Moreover, they have even made a Sunday’s edition of The New York Times for placing a historic landmark plaque with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in front of the building that they are fighting to save.  

However, during the landmark designation process, the City of Cincinnati have heard from people across the globe in support of the homegrown efforts to revive King Records and stop the former studio building from being torn down.  Cranley continued to say; “We heard from King Records alumni, the Evanston Community Council, nonprofits like the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation, Bootsy Collins Foundation, King Studios, Cincinnati Preservation Association, Xavier University and Cincinnati State.  We unanimously voted to support the unanimous votes of the historic conservation board and planning commission to protect the building.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson

Accordingly, The leadership of the City of Cincinnati Council and Administration to support so many of these efforts has been incredible. Cranley contended that he would like to recognize Ms. Simpson for her King Records events and support of King artists.  Her legislation to honor three King Record’s artists – Otis Williams, Philip Paul (drummer). and Bootsy Collins  – with street names is wonderful.  Cranley continued to be overwhelm said; “I am thrilled to support making her legislation a reality.  Also, I find it incredibly humbling for these three artists to ask us to pause on their recognition in order for us to focus us on the need to save the King building first, so that many more King employees can be honored.”  

Mayor Cranley added; “On a personal note, I want to thank these artists for their inspiration and leadership.  Even though I grew up in Cincinnati, I really didn’t know much about King Records until I met Bootsy and Patti Collins at City Hall in 2002.”

Paul McCartney

Nonetheless back then, Alicia Reece was Vice Mayor to which Cranley added, “we embarked upon an awareness campaign of King Records.  I then met Philip Paul and Otis Williams.  Over the years, I have had many honors with them.  Whether it was to officiate Philip and Bobbie Paul’s wedding or to get to meet Paul McCartney, because The Beatle wanted to meet Otis and Phil.  And so, Cranley was very appreciative of her as he said; “Ms. Simpson thanks on your leadership to name these streets after them.  They most certainly deserve this for all the ways they honor us.” 

Seemingly, Cranley continues to be enthusiastic so he added let’s thank Otis, Philip, and Bootsy, for focusing us on the main request at-hand-acting to save the King Records building before the owner’s hearing to obtain a demolition permit on January 30th. He submitted attached is legislation that enables us to authorize the City Administration to acquire the King Records building for a public purpose through eminent domain. Subsequently, this is going to be the next big fight in the quest to save the King’s Records building know to many as an American leading independent record company and label founded in 1943 by Syd Nathan in Cincinnati, Ohio..  

Cranley is exceptionally passionate over this project. He said; “We have a working group of citizens and nonprofits who for years have been refining a vision and plan to revive the King Records legacy in the original building if given the chance.   Let’s give them that chance.  Hopefully, the owner will change his mind and withdraw this newest demolition effort and also accept the city’s offer to purchase the building.  With passage of this legislation we will have more opportunities to make a King Records on Brewster a reality again and take the next steps since our unanimous act last year.

                                    Otis Williams

Conversely, “Between 1943 and 1971 the address of 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati was home to some of the most vibrant and eclectic music making in America.  There was never a more important piece of real estate musically or culturally in the history of popular music. King brought together a diverse range of American voices that reflect Cincinnati’s unique geographical position as a crossroads of American culture: Rhythm and blues (disambiguation), Country music (disambiguation), Bluegrass music, Rockabilly, pop and blues-which is often written as rock & roll or rock ‘n’ roll and is a genre of popular music that actually originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, from African-American musical styles such as gospeljazzboogie woogie, and rhythm and blues with country all poured out of King’s studios.  King’s musical diversity was reflected in its business practices – it was a fully ethnically and racially integrated operation.  Moreover, King was unique because it was a self-contained record label.  Every facet of record production happened at 1540 Brewster Avenue, from recording to pressing to packaging to shipping.”

Stewart elaborated at the CEAs, saying:  “It bears repeating and underscoring… there’s not a more important piece of real estate in musical history than the building over there on Brewster.  If folks don’t remember and preserve it, shame on you. Yes!  Remember it!  It is so important to American culture, world culture… what happened in that building.”      

Before I conclude, I think we should reflect on what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President Terry Stewart said; “when asked why the building, even if in poor condition and shell of what it once was, should be saved!”

The former King Records headquarters, at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio

In conclusion, Mayor John Cranley said; “Let’s act again after listening to our local and global citizens who support us reviving King Records on Brewster.  Let’s add the King Records building to our list of iconic arts institutions worth saving like we are doing together with Music Hall and the Museum Center. In addition, let’s celebrate that this amazing music and culture came from a place of civil rights. Let’s make sure all future generations of Cincinnatians will have an opportunity to participate in this great legacy of ours. 

He added; “let’s accept their request and take the necessary effort to save the building now, and when we do rename streets after them, let us credit these three King musicians and Cincinnati legends as the leaders in getting us to finally make it happen. Yes, we have done more for King Records than any other City Hall, but our work is not finished.” 

Finally, Cranley submitted to City Council as he said; “With the Evanston Community Council, Bootsy Collins Foundation, Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation and King Studios groups as our partner, let us pass this legislation now before it is too late.