Lawrence Cohn: Nothing but the blues, p. 376
Yazoo Records founder Nick Perls, whose specialty was 1920s and 1930s blues, was of the opinion, that 'Blues is dance music whether it's Charley Patton or Otis Redding or Blind Lemon Jefferson or James Brown. It's all dance music and it's all blues, the only difference is stylistic 'cause styles always change.' "
Lawrence Cohn: Nothing but the blues, p. 371
Yet, Perls was invaluable in preserving a culture that wasn't a money maker. But it was the formative days of a musical art and he made it available on his Yazoo Records label.
Most of Yazoo's indispensable albums (many bearing the cover illustrations by his good friend, underground artist R. Crumb) were compiled from rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920s by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Yazoos's anthologies of jazz, blues and country music are also essential to any serious understanding of where American music comes from.
Perls started Yazoo Records in the late '60s, an outgrowth of his first label, Belzona Records. He specialized in out-of-print recordings from the '20s.
His family runs New York's prestigious art gallery, Perls, so he could enjoy his company without the usual bottom-line worries.
And he indulged his love for music. A colleague remembers Perls once spending $20,000 to buy a single collection of 78s.
A few months before he died, - a victim of AIDS at the age of 45 - Perls sold Yazoo to another esoteric label, New Jersey's Shanachie Records. Shanachie's Richard Nevins, a friend of Perls for 20 years, plans to continue Yazoo, keep its 74 titles in print, and revive it.
"The label has been pretty low key for the past few years," Nevins said. "The idea is to greatly accelerate issuances and give Yazoo a higher profile."
Soon Yazoo will publish its first book, a biography of blues singer Charlie Patton, written by Steve Calt, who was a regular writer of liner notes for the label's records. There will be a Patton album to accompany it.
"There aren't a lot of records for Yazoo to issue. What is important is that they keep their records available, and Yazoo is very easy to obtain right now," Chris Strachwitz said, who owns El Cerrito's Down Home Music.
One of Yazoos pet non-record projects was issuing boxed sets of trading cards (like baseball trading cards), with illustrations by Crumb. There are three boxes, one each on blues, jazz and country. Few of the artists featured on the cards were known to the general public.
Perls's initiatives will be carried on. But he will be missed. His original initiative was an inspiration to other fans and record collectors, and to other independent record companies.
printed in:Blues & Rhythm, The Gospel TruthNumber 33, December 1987, p. 15
printed in:Juke 11 (1987/88), p. 18