Numero Group: By The Numbers

The complicated history of R.E.W. Record Distribution
July 11, 2009, 12:30 pm
Filed under: A Light On The Southside, Discographies, Methodology | Tags: ,

We spent all week working on the liners to Light: On The South Side, after having spent what seems like months trolling through back issues of Jim O’Neal’s crucial Living Blues Magazine. After Dante let us borrow his collection of 20 issues, Rob hit the Harold Washington library to pump up on the rest. It’s a real treasure, and if you ever have the chance to sit down and read an issue (especially from the 70s), don’t pass it up. 

O’Neal was kind enough to go over our 5000 word document on Chicago Blues in the 70s, filling out much needed background in places where information was thin. He ripped my paragraph on R.E.W. Record Distribution a new one, forcing me to go back and completely rework it. Here’s a glimpse at one of the most dense and untold stories of a record distributor you never wanted to know about. 

Beyond what’s revealed by a handful of records bearing its three-letter acronym, very little of what is known about R.E.W. Record Distributors is rock solid. Fitting with Mack Simmons’ fast and loose business acumen, R.E.W. was part of a series of fly-by-night labels, distributorships, and promotional scams that began with Lynn’s Productions and labels such as Little Lynn’s, Reginald, Henvick, and Big Beat in Greenville, Mississippi. From there it morphed into V.H. & L. Circle Distributors, with many releases paid for by the artists who were also required to give the distributor 500 free copies for promotion. Bearing the R.E.W. stamp were singles by Harmonica Williams, who songs were stripped out of an LP on the Ahura Mazda label from New Orleans, two by Florida’s Bobby Williams, southern soul singer Chuck Armstrong, and finally Lady Margo popped up on the R.E.W.-distributed M.T.H. label. Joyce “Lady Margo” Fargo had issued two singles on the Soul World label before the second was inexplicably “reissued” on M.T.V.H. Records, which was distributed by M.T.H., who slapped their logo on top of her third single, 1974s “This Is My Prayer (To Find Someone Of My Own),” with R.E.W. listed as the distributor. Confusing? That word best describes R.E.W.’s entire business model. 

Putting together a Reginald and related discography is a feat of strength, so bless the Soul Strut family for giving it a go. I’m sure Dante will have additions, and we’ll follow up when it’s a little more solid. If anyone has any further insights into this extremely deep world, don’t be afraid of the comments section.

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I did my best.

Comment by William Luck

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