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A Thousand Tears Too Late

A History of Cincinnati Soul

October 01, 2005 through January 01, 2006

A Thousand Tears Too Late

A Thousand Tears Too Latepieces together a little known chapter in the cultural history of Cincinnati. The specific focus of this show is the Soul music and R&B scene in Cincinnati during the 1960s and 70s. This story is told through documents, memorabilia, photographs, albums, video footage, promotional materials, and seven-inch records. Ultimately, the recollections of those who participated in the music scene and the music itself are the best testament to this ambitious explosion of creativity and talent in Cincinnati. This is a living history that is still being written. Many of the performers, songs, documents and stories reside in obscurity. With this exhibition we hope to begin to formally catalogue the contributions made by Cincinnati to the music world and engage those communities responsible for the creative output of that era to tell an even more complete story.

Independent, small and privately pressed records with labels such as Fraternity, Counterpart, Bubbles, Cha-Ru-Wa, Flo-Roe, Go Ko, House Guest, Jewel, Split, Finch, High Tension, Karat, Dimokrasi, Empire State, and Soul Sauce released an astounding amount of music during the late 1960s and 70s. Many of these labels survived only long enough to cut one seven-inch single. They had little chance of reaching even the lowest levels of the national music charts in a music industry already dominated by corporate concerns and major music labels. Without access to the distribution networks used by major music labels, the records were sold to fans from the backs of cars or given away to family members. In some cases the remaining quantities were eventually destroyed out of frustration and resignation.

All of this activity took place in the massive shadow of the legendary King Records, located in the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati. King Records featured such recording mega-stars as The Platters, The Dominoes, Hank Ballard and the extremely influential James Brown. Their success inspired a generation of musicians and songwriters to hone their skills, form their own groups, create their own music venues and eventually cut their own records. When King Records founder, Syd Nathan, passed away in 1968, the company was sold to Starday Records that same year and later sold to Lin Broadcasting. The studios moved to Nashville and the repercussions were felt throughout the Cincinnati music community.

However, as a result of the recording studios and pressing plants that were once located in Cincinnati, contemporary record collectors and DJ’s have discovered the city as a fertile ground for rare and elusive funk and soul. Through this process, the music created, performed and recorded in Cincinnati communities has become a central component of Hip-hop music and DJ culture throughout the world. This exhibition provides an intriguing historical context for the increasingly close relationship between contemporary art and music.

Through the music, album covers, photographs, playbills and posters, documentary footage, and other source material, A Thousand Tears Too Late (taken from the title of a song by Double O and his Demingos) will re-engage this vibrant and fascinating piece of Cincinnati history.

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