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Rhino Records Founder Founds New Label

After leaving the AOL Time-Warner-owned, reissue-prone Rhino Records in 2001, label founder Richard Foos has stepped back into the reissue arena. Along with former Rhino executive Bob Emmer, Foos has founded Retropolis, a new label that will release old jazz and blues, among other genres.

After coming up with that clever label name, Foos and Emmer’s first order of business was to acquire the extensive catalog of early blues and jazz recordings held by the Somerville, Massachusetts-based Biograph Records. Biograph, founded in 1967 by Arnold Caplin, released over 225 albums, including over 50 CDs featuring Americana fountainheads like Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Walker, Scott Joplin, Son House and Skip James. Biograph’s catalog also includes the labels Melodeon, Center, Regal and Dawn, which in turn extends Retropolis’ catalog to include recordings by Eubie Blake, Blind Willie McTell, Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Zoot Sims, Memphis Minnie, Little Brother Montgomery and Johnny Shines. Says Foos of the Biograph purchase, “It became available…the timing was right…the masters were right and it just kind of happened.”

Foos’ plan is simple: use the formula that made Rhino such a success. “We are looking at acquiring other music like the Biograph recordings. But it’s going to be similar to Rhino because we’ll be working on various genres from rock to blues to jazz to pop, so it’ll cover the whole gamut. We’re [also] looking into music videos and great TV show classics,” he says. Retropolis will now have Rhino as a competitor, but that doesn’t bother Foos. “It forces us to be even more creative…to come up with really interesting compilations that haven’t been done.” This coming from the guy who, in 1998 mind you, successfully marketed a Monkees video lunchbox. What else is there to do?

Originally Published