In 2013 Jack White’s Third Man Records and Revenant Records teamed up to release the massive Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917-1932) box set. However, it now seems that a non-profit organisation has claimed that it owns rights to nearly 800 songs on the compilation: Lars Edegran, a jazz musician from the George H. Buck, Jr. (GHB) Jazz Foundation, claims that GHB, who owned several jazz labels, bought the rights to the Paramount catalog in 1970 – and there are documents proving ownership.
Paramount Records began as a subsidiary of a chair manufacturer and was, at first, merely devoted to producing records in bulk, on the cheap. As Third Man paints the picture, they more or less stumbled upon their incredible roster, which featured “early jazz titans (Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller), blues masters (Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James), American divas (Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters), gospel (Norfolk Jubilee Quartette), vaudeville (Papa Charlie Jackson), and the indefinable ‘other’ (Geeshie Wiley, Elvis Thomas).”
Dean Blackwood, co-founder of Revenant, replied to Edegran’s allegations in a statement saying:
“We informed the Foundation that we would gladly come to an agreement with them if they could prove ownership of the recordings” adding “To date, they haven’t produced anything that proves ownership ….although there is a more than 50-year history of labels large and small reissuing this material without their involvement, we remain open to discussions with them if they can prove ownership of the recordings.”
Edegran responded in a statement saying “Paramount recordings have been issued under license agreements for a very long time going back to the first owners, the Wisconsin Chair Company who licensed material to Columbia and Decca and others,” adding “The next owner of Paramount, John Steiner, licensed Paramount recordings to Biograph, Milestone, Riverside and others. GHB Jazz Foundation has license agreements with Sony, Rhino, Rykodisc, Shout, Universal, Fantasy, Fox Music, HBO to name a few. All these companies recognize our ownership of Paramount Records. It is true that a number of small labels have used Paramount material without our permission but there has been no infringement on the scale of the box set issued by Third Man/Revenant Records—close to 800 tracks of Paramount recordings.”
The initial instalment will cover the period of 1917 to 1927 and feature 800 re-mastered tracks from 172 artists, more than 200 restored ads and images, six heavy duty LPs on “burled chestnut-colored vinyl” housed in a “laser-etched white birch folio,” 250-page clothbound hardcover art book, a 360-page “encyclopedia-style” field guide with artist and discography info, and an app inside of a USB drive containing all of the music and ads that go with A second volume of the Paramount box set is due in November.