H. C. Speir

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H. C. Speir (October 6, 1895 – 1972) was an American "talent broker" and record store owner from Jackson, Mississippi. He was responsible for launching the recording careers of most of the greatest Mississippi blues musicians in the 1920s and 1930s. It has been said that, “Speir was the godfather of Delta Blues" and was "a musical visionary". Without Speir, Mississippi’s greatest natural resource might have gone untapped.”


Born Henry Columbus Speir in Prospect, Mississippi, Speir was a white businessman who ran a music and mercantile store on Farish Street, in Jackson's black neighborhood. In 1926, through selling blues records in his store, he began working as a scout for the record companies producing the records, such as Okeh, Victor, Gennett, Columbia, Vocalion, Decca and Paramount.

Using a metal disc machine in his store, Speir made demo recordings of the musicians that he sent to the labels, before arranging for more formal recording sessions. Word spread among blues musicians that Speir could help them make records, and many came to audition at the store. This audition process was recreated in Martin Scorsese's The Blues television series, which aired on PBS in 2003.

Among the numerous musicians whom Speir introduced to the record companies were Ishman Bracey, Tommy......
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