SPIVEY 1032 / Brenda BELL

The genesis of SPIVEY RECORDS is unique. Victoria Spivey cut her first song, Black Snake Blues for the Okeh label in 1926. In 1929, she starred in the first all black film, Hallelujah. In the 1930’s Spivey recorded for Victor, Vocalion, Decca and Okeh, and recorded and toured with Louis Armstrong’s various bands. She was not afraid of sexually suggestive or penetratingly direct lyrics as evidenced in her hits TB Blues, Dope Head Blues, Dirty Woman Blues, and Organ Grinder Blues. As a woman and an African American, Victoria overcame discrimination to become a well respected performer and businessperson. She was a fearless individual whose courage and intellect were admired by all.

Len Kunstadt grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He was the son of Morris Kunstadt, a violinist and chess master, and Sophie Sherry Kunstadt, a writer and businesswoman. The musical and literary influence of Lenny's family contributed significantly to his fascination with the written and spoken word. After serving as a bombediere for the US Army Air Corp in World War II, Lenny graduated from New York University and began his prolific study of jazz and blues music.

In the mid 1950’s, Len Kunstadt and Victoria Spivey became companions—an unorthodox liason which would change the face of blues for decades. Mr. Kunstadt (a.k.a. “Kazoo Papa”) was the editor and publisher of Record Research magazine, a scholarly journal, author of Jazz - A History of the New York Scene, and a blues enthusiast who lured Victoria Spivey out of retirement in the late 1950's. Together with Ms. Spivey, Kunstadt launched SPIVEY RECORDS. Beginning in 1961, they scouted for new talent while winning over legendary blues giants like Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters for their label. They attended folk festivals and toured across the US and Europe. After Spivey’s death in 1976, Kunstadt carried on the label, mixing newly discovered artists, such as the lovely Ms. Brenda Bell, with classic bluesmen until his death in 1996.

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