Sunday, March 31, 2013

Swing Records vs. Atlantic in 1949

The Swing Records Manufacturing Company of Paris, Texas, has been the subject of no small amount of curious inquiry over the years. I've blogged before about their releases by Roy Lee Brown and his Musical Brownies, Homer Clemons and his Texas Swingbillies, and The Texas Rhythm Boys. Swing also occasionally forayed into bootlegging other labels. The extent of this practice is unknown, but it was surprising to learn that Stick McGhee's 1949 hit on Atlantic, "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," was one that Swing thought they could get away with. In Robert Greenfield's biography of Ahmet Ertegun, The Last Sultan, we find this juicy passage very early on (click to enlarge):


Hoping to get one over on the New York sophisticate Ertegun, a Houston record distributor invented a lurid tale, informing him that Swing operated "in the mountains" outside Paris, where they also oversaw a moonshine still, the whole sinister operation protected by "five or six armed men on guard twenty-four hours a day." Ertegun apparently believed this tall tale, which must have been retold among the local distributors for years at parties.

There are no mountains in Paris, and Swing was located on the town's Main Street, where it is highly doubtful that bootleg whiskey was brewed up alongside bootleg records. However, the latter probably played a role in the company shutting down the following year.

Thanks to Bill McClung for bringing this passage to light.