Fat Possum Records

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Fat Possum Records
Fat Possum Logo.png
Founded 1992
Founder Matthew Johnson
Peter Redvers-Lee
Distributor(s) RED, INgrooves
Genre Blues, rock, hip hop
Country of origin United States
Location Oxford, Mississippi
Official website FatPossum.com

Fat Possum Records is an American independent record label based in Water Valley and Oxford, Mississippi.[1] At first Fat Possum focused almost entirely on recording previously unknown Mississippi blues artists (typically from Oxford or Holly Springs, Mississippi). Recently, Fat Possum has signed younger rock acts to its roster. The label has been featured in The New York Times,[2] New Yorker,[3] The Observer,[1] a piece on NPR,[4] and a 2004 documentary, You See Me Laughin.[5]


Fat Possum was founded in 1991 by two Living Blues magazine staff, Peter Redvers-Lee and Matthew Johnson. Lee was born July 2, 1960, in Estcourt, South Africa. He came to University of Mississippi for his MA studies in Journalism, and became editor of Living Blues in 1987.[6] He planned on starting a record label and picked the name with another student, Billy 'pup' Cochrane.[7][verification needed] Johnson, who grew in the state, was too a writer in Living Blues and a student at the University of Mississippi.[8] By 1994 or so [9] Lee left, to be replaced by Bruce Watson, manager and recording engineer.[8] An early investor was John Hermann of Widespread Panic.[2]

The label initially specialised in discovering blues players from the North Mississippi region, many of whom had never recorded before.[citation needed] At Fat Possum's behest some artists, particularly R. L. Burnside, released both standard blues albums and more techno albums,[10] done in the style that would later be made famous by Moby's album Play.[citation needed] This led to a fair amount of controversy among blues purists, a group in which Johnson was largely uninterested.[11] Many of the early artists for Fat Possum were picked with the aid of New York Times music critic Robert Palmer, who also produced a number of records for the label.

Although their releases were critically acclaimed, particularly Junior Kimbrough's album All Night Long, which received 4 stars from Rolling Stone and the loud approval of Iggy Pop,[12] Fat Possum was perennially strapped for cash. Word of mouth and artist compilations, such as Not the Same Old Blues Crap 3 (with a cover illustration by Joe Sacco)[13] and All Men Are Liars, gradually pulled Fat Possum out of the red, even if only for brief periods of time. A legal fight with Capricorn Records, who were to be their distributor, drained Fat Possum's funds and left a number of projects on the shelf.[14]

Burnside proved early on to be the label's biggest money maker. Having released two albums, he teamed with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for a tour, and then recorded with the band A Ass Pocket of Whiskey, which helped Burnside and Fat Possum gain wider recognition. A remix of the R. L. Burnside song, "It's Bad You Know", was also featured prominently on The Sopranos.

With time, many of the label's artists have died. Asie Payton, King Ernest, and Charles Caldwell died before their records could be released. Kimbrough died in 1998 and Burnside 2005. T-Model Ford and Robert Belfour joined some years later.

As the label has developed, it has begun to broaden its base of artists and sign a range of younger bands such as the Heartless Bastards, Deadboy & the Elephantmen, AA Bondy, The Black Keys, Andrew Bird, Milk Music, and the hip hop group, MellowHype. It has also begun to release more archival records,[15] such as George Mitchell's 1967 recordings of Furry Lewis, Mississippi Joe Callicott, R.L. Burnside, Townes Van Zandt, and others, with covers designed by Chip Kidd. In 2013, Fat Possum released "Ready To Die" by Iggy and the Stooges.

The label also took a step in recent years to start releasing indie rock music, and released albums from artists like Wavves, Youth Lagoon, The Walkmen, Temples (band), Yuck (band), Fat White Family, The Districts, Crocodiles, and Bass Drum of Death. They also have tapped into the indie-folk scene releasing Verbena's frontman A.A. Bondy's solo records, The Felice Brothers, and female songwriter Lissie.


Fat Possum's history is known primarily for its early blues artists. The successful band The Black Keys released their second album Thickfreakness (2003) on Fat Possum, and left the label after their third album Rubber Factory (2004). Solomon Burke's "comeback" album, Don't Give Up On Me, won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Fat Possum also distributes the Al Green catalog, including "Greatest Hits" (1975).

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Grant, Richard (2003-11-16). "Delta Force". Observer Music Monthly. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  2. ^ a b J. Peder Zane (1995-01-22). "POP MUSIC; From the Heart of Blues Country - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  3. ^ The New Yorker, February 4, 2002
  4. ^ "Fat Possum Records evolves with the blues". NPR, Weekend Edition Sunday, December 19, 2004
  5. ^ You See Me Laughin': The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen (2003). Produced and directed by Mandy Stein.
  6. ^ LeBlanc, Eric (July 2, 1994). "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PETER LEE (of FAT POSSUM RECORDS)" (Mailing list). Retrieved 2015-05-14. 
  7. ^ Billy 'pup' Cochrane. "The Passing of a Master – Dave “Honeyboy” Edwards [blog post]". Retrieved 2015-05-14. 
  8. ^ a b Mike Rubin (May 1997). "Call of the Wild". SPIN. p. 74-82,128-131. ISSN 08863032. 
  9. ^ Komara, Edward, ed. (2005). "Recording". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Psychology Press. p. 820. ISBN 9780415926997. 
  10. ^ "Newspaper article". The Observer. November 16, 2003. Retrieved 2014-07-30. One last question: how does he (R. L. Burnside) like the remixes of his music that Fat Possum has put out? 'At first I didn't like them too much,' he says. 'Then I saw how much money they were making and I got to liking them pretty well.' 
  11. ^ The liner notes for Not the Same Old Blues Crap 3 and several other blues compilations contain essays by Matthew Johnson regarding his feelings for blues archivalists. He is against them.
  12. ^ Junior Kimbrough performed one of his few tours with Iggy Pop.
  13. ^ Sacco also travelled with T-Model Ford for a piece for Vanity Fair
  14. ^ "Fat Possum". Blues Access. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  15. ^ Previously, the only non-Fat Possum recorded album released was by Scott Dunbar

External links[edit]