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Ralph Peer, Epilogue

Ralph Peer, Epilogue


“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” S. Kierkaard
“When I pronounce the word future, the first syllable already belongs to the past.” W. Szymborska
“We cannot change the past but we can lie about it when telling our stories.” Eleanor Brown
“Tempting, but not for me. I tell it like it was, which is sometimes painful”. Leroy Martin - (Thanks to Barry Mazor for dates and facts from his 2015 biography, “Ralph Peer and the making of Popular Roots Music”).

By 1949, Ralph Peer’s agenda was finding the right people to grow his core country music. Record producers were moving to Nashville’s Castle Recording Company, located in the Tulane Hotel, and he needed someone to get new country artist to record Peer published songs. He found that person in Troy Martin, a good friend of Don Law, country music producer for Columbia records.

In the early 1950’s, he established new country stars like Lefty Frizzel, Carl Smith, Ray Price, Marty Robbins and Flatt and Scruggs, who signed with or switched to the Columbia Record label.

Through Martin’s handiwork, they recorded Peer published songs including “I Overlooked an Orchid”, “I Love You a Thousand Ways”, “If You’ve got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”, “El Paso”, and even “If You’re Ever Lonely Darling”, recorded by Ray Price and written by Troy Martin himself.

One of the new artist discovered by Law and Martin was a young Cajun singer from Cut Off, Louisiana named Vin Bruce, which led to my association with Troy Martin and Ralph Peer.

Meeting Ralph Peer:
The last day of our June 1952 Nashville visit I attended the B.M.I. awards night at the Tulane Hotel with Troy.

The guest speaker was Ralph Peer, Troy’s employer and founding father of B.M.I.

After his speech he approached Troy, who introduced me.

“This is the singer I am pitching to Decca Records this week,” he said.

Peer answered, “Yes, I remember approving it. Good looking young man. I wish you luck. I have a meeting soon with Dave Kapp (Decca executive) which may help,” and he walked away.

I met him twice more, once at the reception for Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers on May 26, 1953, the first Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Day in Meridian, Mississippi, which I attended with friends Hal Benson, manager of Thibodaux’s K.T.I.B., Johnny Schouest, Vin Bruce’s manager and W.D.S.U. announcer Bill Stanley. She introduced me again to Ralph Peer.

“Yes, I remember you with Troy Martin. How’s that Decca deal coming along?” He asked.

“I spoke to Mr. Martin yesterday. He said it’s still pending and they renewed my option for 6 more months. He seemed encouraged,” I answered.

“Good, Troy will keep me informed,” he said as he left.

I saw him one last time, again at Mrs. Rodgers’s reception at the May 26, 1959, Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Day and again she introduced me.

“Mr. Peer, you remember Leroy Martin?” she asked.

He stared at me but didn’t answer. She tapped her head to indicate that he had memory problems and I did not pursue it.

Ralph Peer died in January of 1960 and Carrie Rodgers died on November 29, 1961. I saw her one last time at her home in San Antonio.

After the 1952 demo sessions, I signed over the rights to 12 of my songs to Troy and Peer/Southern for which I received $50 per song advance. They were now Peer Publishers’ property with no obligation to record them.

Troy took the demos to Decca Records executive Dave Kapp in New York and he came back, not with a contract, but a check for $800 for me to sign a 12-month option. I left Nashville with $1400 but no Decca contract.

Troy assured me that they would execute the option within 6 months but that another demo session might be required.

The last time I heard from Troy Martin was in April of 1953 telling me that Decca was renewing my option for 6 more months and was still interested in signing me, as I told Ralph Peer in May of 1953.

Next week … my career with Decca Records.

Bye now!
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