From “The Rolling Stone Record Guide” published by Random House/Rolling Stone Press in 1979
Even the most music interested among us can sometimes get lost in all the different labels music journalists and record companies choose to put on recordings. This glossary may help you find your way in this label jungle. As you can see from the text above here this glossary is from 1979 and as this is a retro blog that works alright for me. Besides, any music styles that has emerged since then is of little interest to me, with the possible exception of neo-classic country. I’m sorry to say that dance, trance, hip-hop, rap and the rest simply don’t do it for me – Ted
Memphis Sound: In the Fifties, thanks to Sam Phillips and Sun Records, Memphis became a key Southern recording center, producing a variety of blues and country recordings and serving as the site (appropriate to its central location) of the Elvis Presley-led rockabilly boom. In 1958, former Sun session bassist Bill Black moved to Hi Records, and the city’s second important label was born, recording a similar mix of rhythm & blues and C&W. The next year, Stax arguably the most important R&B label of the Sixties, was formed. Memphis had been an important town for black field recording as early as the Twenties, of course. But its real importance stems from these three labels, which gave us, in additon to Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Al Green, Ann Peebles, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Booker T. and the MGs, Isaac Hayes and several others. As a rock and R&B recording center, Memphis ranks with Nashville, L.A. and New York, even some outside soul singers, such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, recorded there, thanks to Stax close association with Atlantic. But since the demise of Stax in the early Seventies, the city has fallen on hard times. Only Hi, under Willie Mitchell’s direction, continues to be a factor in contemporary recording, and that thanks mostly to two artists, Green and Peebles.
Merseybeat: See Liverpool Sound.
Miami Sound: Miami’s recording business is situated around two studios, Criteria, used for pop, rock and disco productions, and TK, a complex formed by the distributor Henry Stone that concentrates most exclusively on disco and black music. Criteria has been used by many top names Aretha Franklin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Dr. John, James Brown, the Bee Gees while TK focuses on Stone’s own roster of acts, the best known being KC and the Sunshine Band and Betty Wright.
MOR: Middle of the Road-that is, music that straddles the midstream of pop taste. Applied to rock- or R&B-based music, this is almost always pejorative, implying extreme conservatism and blandness.
Motown: Berry Gordy created Motown records (originally Tamla, a subsidiary that survives, along with several others) in 1960, as a vehicle for his own songs and productions. After Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes (with Diana Ross), Marvin Gave, the Temptations, Mary Wells, the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas, among others, produced major Sixties hit records, Motown was established as the country’s highest-profile black corporation. Based in Detroit (thus the name), Motown combined the gospel intensity of R&B with a pop surface and teen lyrics that lived up to its motto: The Sound of Young America. Motown’s Sixties records are among the best dance and party (not to mention radio) music ever made, as machine-tooled as a Cadillac and just as powerful. In the Seventies, after Gordy moved the company to Los Angeles and into film production as well as record-making, the company has lost some of its singularity and a great deal of its commerciality, Only Stevie Wonder, Gay and Diana Ross remain from the vaunted Sixties stable of talent, although such new black bands as the Commodores continue the label’s tradition of heavy profit-making.
Muscle Shoals Sound: This small Alabama town became a recording center in 1961 when Rick Hall, a former Memphis sessionman and songwriter, opened Fame Studios in Florence (which is served by the Muscle Shoals airport). Oddly, the sessionmen who created this fundamental Southern R&B style were almost all white. They include keyboard players Spooner Oldham and Barry Beckett; guitarists Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carr, and for a time, Duane Allman, David Hood on bass and the remarkable Roger Hawkins on drums. The identity of this rhythm section is less stylized than those in Memphis or New Orleans, though the band’s feel for slow ballads tends to be very churchy (e.g., Percy Sledge‘s "When a Man Loves a Woman"). Among the wide variety of artists who have recorded in Muscle Shoals are Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, Arthur Conley, Etta James, Irma Thomas, Ronnie Hawkins, Otis Rush and Chef.
Nashville Sound: Often called "Music City U.S.A.," Nashville is the principal C&W recording center; only Los Angeles can compete with it. This developed about 1925, when local radio station WSM, with a signal that could be heard throughout the South, began broadcasting the Grand Ole Opry, WSM attracted most of country’s major performers to Nashville. But the first record label in Nashville wasn’t established until 1945, which coincides with country’s rise in the marketplace. By the early Fifties, all of the major labels had offices there. A distinctive Nashville sound, as a C&W variant, developed in response to the rockabilly pouring out of Memphis and the Southwest. This forced the Nashville sessionmen to adapt, using electric guitars and drums, both previously forbidden. The fiddle and banjo simultaneously declined in use. By the late Fifties, the studio players organized around Chet Atkins had become famous as the most slick and professional in the world. By 1963, Nashville was producing half the recordings made in the United States. When first Bob Dylan (for Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline) and then the Byrds went to Nashville to record in the late Sixties, Nashville also became a pop music center. In response, country productions were splintered into pop and rock factions, the pop too bland and the rock too aggressive to fit in with traditional C&W conceptions. Not until the mid-seventies, when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson inaugurated the so-called outlaw movement, did country rediscover its roots-and then the records were often made outside Nashville. The Seventies country sound involves heavy use of strings as well as steel guitar and extensive application of vocal choruses, so that most country records are more like old-fashioned pop than the pop records of New York and L.A. are.
New Orleans Sound: New Orleans rhythm & blues played a major role in Fifties rock, with such prominent performers as Little Richard and Fats Domino emerging from the city, and many other classics including some Ray Charles songs were recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s studio. New Orleans R&B is perhaps rhythm & blues’s most stylized form, characterized by a heavily accented rhythm section (which borrows much from the "second line" of the city’s jazz style), light piano and horns (often punctuated by baritone sax), and strong lead guitar and vocal. Through the artists above and such others as Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker, Professor Longhair, Frogman Henry, Smiley Lewis, Frankie Ford and Lee Dorsey, New Orleans R&B set a pattern for developments in both soul and rock in the Sixties. But by 1963 the New Orleans scene was finished; both performers and the city’s many record labels (Minit, Ace, AFO) had left for California. A healthy studio scene thrived for only a few more years before it too was spent. Today, the only prominent New Orleans R&B players are the Meters, Allen Toussaint and Mac Rebennack, now called Dr. John. Others notably Lee Dorsey and Professor Longhair record sporadically.
New Wave: Term adopted by the bands (or applied to them) that arose in the New York and London street scenes in the late Seventies, playing unpolished but highly energetic and emotionally explosive rock. Patti Smith and the Ramones were the key figures in New York, the Sex Pistols and the Clash in London. New Wave represents a return to the emotional (and political) roots of early rock, but not to its technical or musical ones. The term encompasses punk rock, but is not synonymous with it, a principal difference being the degree of collaboration between some New Wave artists and European art-rock stylists (e.g., Talking Heads and Brian Eno).
New York Sound: Major record companies were always based in Manhattan, but in the Forties many new "independent" labels came into being, designed to record specialty music (rhythm & blues, gospel, jazz). By the Fifties, such companies as Atlantic, the longest-lived, had etched out a significant segment of the overall pop marketplace for themselves, with an array of variants on R&B in response to Southern rock. There were group records (the Drifters), solo vocalists (Clyde McPhatter, Ray Charles), doo-wop one-shots (which might include the Drifters but also many lesser knowns like the Harptones) and even some attempts at white rock (Bobby Darin). In the Sixties, New York did not develop much of a local rock scene, but R&B recording continued to proliferate, though it was nothing to match the doo-wop street corner harmony gangs of the Fifties. The Greenwich Village scene did produce the folk revival movement and Bob Dylan (a Minnesota transplant) as well as some early psychedelic bands, such as Blues Project, the Lovin’ Spoonful and the Fugs, but this did not constitute a scene with a specific style. Nor did the white rhythm & blues of the Young Rascals, although they spawned many imitators. In the Seventies, following the New York Dolls, a local scene did develop, known in America as New Wave and in England as punk. Patti Smith, the Ramones, Talking Heads and Television are among its spearheads. But for the most part, New York recording in the Seventies has been characterized by the development of disco music, which has, in any case, made its greatest technical strides in the studios of Philadelphia. Miami and Munich, Germany.