Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NRC Records: An interview with Johnny Carter

Johnny Carter, the current owner of National Recording Corporation (NRC), says that he became a "collector of all things connected with NRC at age 11." 

NRC was an Atlanta record label that began in 1958 and released records by then-unknown artists who went on to much greater fame: Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, Joe South, Sonny James, David Houston, Johnny Sea(y), Dave Dudley, etc. 

The label had some hits, most notably Tony Bellus's "Robbin' the Cradle." And it recorded some new music from established artists, most notably the 1959 album Crying in the Chapel by Darrell Glenn. I say "most notably" in the latter case because Crying in the Chapel is one of my all-time favorite albums, so it's notable to me. It's a mixture of inspirational pop songs and traditional spirituals with rich vocal-group arrangements and instrumental accompaniment that sounds like a glockenspiel. The song "Crying in the Chapel" was a big hit for Glenn in 1953, but the NRC album contains a re-recording. 

Carter was an NRC superfan before the word "superfan" had been coined. When Carter released some recordings of his own under the name Johnny Jay in the mid '60s, the singles came out on the Cherokeeland Record Company label, the logo of which imitated the design of the NRC logo. Carter even had the singles pressed at the original NRC pressing plant. (The blog Artyfacts in Wax has a great post on Carter's Johnny Jay recordings.) 

Johnny Carter, AKA Johnny Jay

The NRC label went bankrupt in the early '60s, but the NRC pressing plant continued to operate until 1970. In 2004, Carter managed to acquire the label that had fascinated him so much as a kid. He not only reissued much of the original NRC catalog but also released new music under the NRC imprint, including new recordings by NRC stalwart Tony Bellus.

Music Weird talked to Johnny Carter about NRC and his other activities on May 20, 2014.

You have an entertainment empire going with your studio and record labels. Can you give us an overview of everything you do? 

National Recording Corporation is a full-service audio/visual company. We do custom production as well as in-house production in a number of genres. We have in-house graphic design, CD and DVD duplication, assembly, and packaging. 

Our studio is approximately 1,200 square feet, not counting the control room or isolation booth. A separate room houses audio mastering and digital video editing. NRC licenses masters to a number of companies, who release the NRC and affiliated labels: Judd, Wonder, Sho-Biz, Jax, and Scottie. And our music is available on compact disc as well as iTunes and streaming.

You went to some lengths to acquire the NRC catalog. What happened to the NRC master tapes, and have any turned up since you acquired the label?

When the original president, Bill Lowery, knew the original 1958 company was going bankrupt [April 27, 1961], he offered a number of NRC artists their master tapes in return for signing a release freeing NRC from any responsibility for future royalties. 
Some of those artists have placed those masters in my hands. A fire supposedly destroyed many of the original masters, but the fact was that many of the masters were in the hands of the artists. 

The company was bought out of receivership in 1962 by Frederick Storey, who had convinced the bankruptcy court to allow him to loan NRC $38,000. The fire destroyed the studio, and the company moved and operated as a record pressing plant until about 1970, when it was closed. 

Storey's daughters, his only heirs, inherited their father's intellectual property rights, which were purchased by myself in 2004. There had been some lease deals from NRC to budget-album labels. One of those those, Crown, was later bought by a British firm, who acknowledged my ownership of the library, and furnished their masters for my use.

What experiences have you had with reissuing the NRC catalog?

The help I received from worldwide collectors in re-creating the library was the biggest surprise. 

When it became known that I owned the library, a number of collectors from all over the world lent their mint-condition records, which we digitized, and began to make the music available again after a forty-year absence. Collectors from France and Germany visit from time to time.

Bibletone is another old label that you acquired. What is the story with that, and are you still releasing music on Bibletone?

Bibletone is the oldest [1942] gospel-music label name. The original Bibletone company closed as a result of an accident at their pressing plant. I acquired the name in the '60s and started acquiring rights from the individual artists, since most of the artists had furnished Bibletone with their masters. One of gospel music's enduring groups, the Rebels, made their first Bibletone recordings in 1950 and their latest in 2012.

You did a new single with Tony Bellus in 2008. Can you talk about that?

NRC has released two singles on Tony Bellus, who is still writing and singing great songs. 

The 2008 release was a CD single called "Won't You Hang Up 'n' Drive?

And in 2013, Tony did a Christmas CD single called "I Want Florida for Christmas." He still has many fans who remember "Robbin' The Cradle."

What are your plans for NRC? 

We still sell our products in CD and DVD at, and people get our music from iTunes, YouTube, and streaming. We will continue to record new music in our studio, and have plans to do more licensing as we acquire the rights to other labels.

No comments:

Post a Comment