[78-L] Gennett's Catholic Engineer

Michael Biel mbiel at mbiel.com
Mon Mar 1 07:03:39 PST 2010

Bill Knowlton wrote:
> "the book says he didn't quit permanently, however. But your last 
> phrase is confusing. Revenge to who? Or what? By who? The records 
> were made, and now do exist. Is it the revenge that the records have 
> outlived the influence of the Klan? The revenge that those that the 
> Klan hated are now more powerful than they were?"
> Mr, Biel...um...(1) KKK wanted to make a record for Gennett

And they got to make their records.

>  (2) Gennett's engineer was also was a Roman Catholic.
But he was not their only engineer.  Ezra Wickemeyer, why not use his name?

>  (3) KKK happened to hate Roman Catholics

Which made this deal even more attractive to them. Make Ezra have to 
work for them.

>  (4) Roman Catholic engineer refused to record for them            
And the KKK got to get Ezra to quit his job and STILL got to make their 
records. Win-Win.

>  (5) Revenge? Well, maybe "walkout to protest KKK bigotry" would have been more accurate.

Futile walkout would be more accurate.

>  And his "revenge" was that the KKK would not benefit from his professional talents.  

Turns out they didn't need him -- and Gennett recordings were no great 
shakes even with his professional talents.  The KKK got the better end 
of the deal.  They DID get to make their records, and Ezra was not the 
only one that could do the work.  In fact, the assistant sales manager 
Clayton Jackson, who booked the session for $400 said in a 1970 
interview that "He wouldn't have to do anything but number them [the 
master discs]"  which makes it seem that there were others that would 
have done the actual engineering -- and who DID the actual engineering.  
Jackson continued "I didn't know that much about the KKK then.  We made 
a helluva lot of records for them.  We used to load them passenger 
interurban cars [commuter trains] and take them [records] to Indianapolis."

> Wow you go out on a limb at times! Sheesh!!
Not really.  It would seem that the only sweet revenge Ezra could have 
gotten would be if the records had NOT been made, and if it ended up 
that Gennett did not  hold many more KKK recording sessions and did not 
make carloads of records for the KKK to sell.  The Catholic guy was the 
one who went out on a limb and got it sawed off behind him, and you went 
down along with him!  It was the KKK that got the sweet revenge because 
they made their masters that day, eventually continued to made a dozen 
or more masters, got to sell many thousands of records, and got this 
Catholic guy to quit his job over it.  They got a great deal, and 
getting the guy to quit was icing on the cake -- and I bet they had a 
great laugh over it.  It was proof to them that they had POWER, and that 
guy couldn't stop them. 

You want to know what the sweet revenge Ezra could have really gotten?  
Make the records, but make them LOUSY.  Put some wow in 'em.  Make them 
sound off key.  Decrease the speed for the second verse and make 'em 
start sounding like ladies.  Put them too far from the horn and make the 
words indistinct.

The Catholic engineer (let's use his name--Ezra Wickemeyer) was the only 
loser that day.

Mike (safely not out on a limb) Biel  mbiel at mbiel.com 

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