Eric Babcock (former partner from 1993–1997)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||Chicago, Illinois U.S.|
Bloodshot Records was founded in 1993 by Nan Warshaw, Rob Miller, and Eric Babcock. Warshaw and Miller met in 1992 when they bonded over a passion for country music and began to regularly deejay on Wednesday country nights at a Chicago bar called Crash Palace, now called Delilah's. Both Warshaw and Miller had played in bands, had deejayed at their local college radio stations, and had worked in different areas of the music business. Warshaw had booked tours for bands she was friends with and had worked as a publicist for the band KillBilly who released a record on Flying Fish Records, where co-founder Babcock worked. Active in what was then an underground, burgeoning underground music scene in Chicago with a country root thread running through it, Warshaw and Miller made a wishlist of unheralded bands and musicians they loved on a cocktail napkin while having drinks at a bar.
That cocktail napkin list eventually became the label's first release, a 1994 compilation called For A Life of Sin: A Compilation of Insurgent Chicago Country that Warshaw, Miller and Babcock self-funded. The album, which documented the Chicago music scene Warshaw and Miller saw at the time, included artists such as The Bottle Rockets and Robbie Fulks as well as long-time local Chicago band, The Sundowners. Using the compilation format, Bloodshot organized record release shows in multiple cities with four of five bands on each night's line up, which allowed a wide press presence for the small label, where the bands could sell what turned out to be some of the bands' first records at the multi-band lineup shows. The record was self-distributed and sold on consignment, with enough success that the record was paid for and there was funds to do another compilation.
A year later, in 1995, the label released their second compilation album Hell Bent: Insurgent Country Volume 2. The album included band from all over the country, and Bloodshot continued to put on events showcasing the bands involved with the making of the record. Although well received by critics, Bloodshot had very tight financial constraints, and worked under the model of not starting a new project until the prior project had paid for itself. Also challenging was establishing Bloodshot's brand, a mixture of country, punk, and folk that had no prior precedence. The name of the music genre was a point of contention, with some grouping the unique, hard-to-classify singer-songwriter music under the alternative country and some grouping it under the Americana label.
In 1997, co-founder Babcock left Bloodshot, eventually relocating to Nashville where he founded Catamount Records.
In 2014, Bloodshot released their 20th anniversary album, While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records. The album is a 2-CD set with 38 artists that include bands like Andrew Bird, Blitzen Trapper, Superchunk and Diarrhea Planet covering songs by some of Bloodshot's stable of artists (i.e., Ryan Adams, Old 97's, Cory Branan, Justin Townes Earle). Bloodshot spent the year celebrating their success at surviving during a period when most independent record labels were going out of business.
While Bloodshot built its catalog of releases of both compilation and records by an ever enlarging roster of artists and bands, the cost of running a record label was very challenging, requiring both Warshaw and Miller to work supplemental jobs to keep afloat. The label was initially run out of Warshaw's basement. When Bloodshot released Ryan Adams' record Heartbreaker, the popularity of the record created a more stable financial base for the label, and allowed Warshaw and Miller to dedicate themselves full time to running the label and move to a bigger office space in the northwest side of Chicago and begin to have employees. Singer Kelly Hogan was the first paid employee, working as the label's publicist. The Chicago twang, country, and punk scene, often described as a sort of an anti-Nashville, continued to expand, often led by various projects involving The Mekons' Jon Langford.
Bloodshot has close ties to the Chicago community, and its artists have performed in themed showcases and have held residencies at the Hideout, a bar located in an industrial section of Chicago's North Side. Bloodshot Records bands often participate in the Hideout's annual Block Party festival. Musicians from Chicago's independent record labels have also supported each other, and have toured together.
Some of the early artists who started out on Bloodshot went on to sign with larger major record labels, specifically Old 97's and Ryan Adams. Ryan Adams had one of the label's best selling albums with the 2000 release "Heartbreaker," having sold almost 500,000 copies. Neko Case had a licensing deal with Bloodshot Records in the United States and Mint Records in Canada before she signed with ANTI-.
Bloodshot includes a diverse roster of artists. The roster includes Andre Williams, who wrote "Shake a Tail Feather," faced challenges, and then had a career renaissance making records at Bloodshot. Bloodshot includes bands and projects by many members of The Mekons, including Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and Rico Bell.
Music on Bloodshot Records
- Al Scorch‡
- Alejandro Escovedo
- Andre Williams‡
- Andrew Bird
- Barrence Whitfield and the Savages‡
- Ben Kweller
- Ben Weaver
- The Blacks
- Bobby Bare, Jr.‡
- The Bottle Rockets‡
- Charlie Pickett
- Cory Branan‡
- Danbert Nobacon
- The Deadstring Brothers‡
- The Detroit Cobras‡
- Devil In A Woodpile
- Dex Romweber Duo‡
- Dollar Store‡
- Eddie Spaghetti‡
- Exene Cervenka
- Gore Gore Girls
- Graham Parker‡
- Grievous Angels
- Ha Ha Tonka‡
- I'm Not Jim
- J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound‡
- Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops
- Jon Langford‡
- Jon Rauhouse
- Justin Townes Earle
- Kelly Hogan
- Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers
- Luke Winslow-King‡
- Lydia Loveless‡
- Maggie Björklund‡
- Mark Pickerel
- The Meat Purveyors
- Moonshine Willy
- Murder by Death‡
- Neal Pollack
- Neko Case
- Nora O'Connor
- Old 97's
- Paul Burch
- The Pine Valley Cosmonauts‡
- Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys
- Rico Bell
- The Riptones
- Robbie Fulks‡
- Roger Knox‡
- Rosie Flores‡
- Ryan Adams
- The Sadies
- Sally Timms
- The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
- Scott H. Biram‡
- Scroat Belly
- The Silos
- Split Lip Rayfield
- Trailer Bride
- The Volebeats
- Waco Brothers‡
- Wayne Hancock‡
- Wee Hairy Beasties
- Whitey Morgan and the 78's‡
- The Yawpers‡
- The Yayhoos
‡ denotes active Bloodshot artists
Bloodshot Compilations & Various Artists
Bloodshot Records began its life as a label by releasing compilations.
- 1994: For A Life of Sin: A Compilation of Insurgent Chicago Country
- 1995: Hell Bent: Insurgent Country Volume 2
- 1996: Nashville, The Other Side of the Alley
- 1997: Straight Outta Boone County
- 1999: Poor Little Knitter on the Road: A Tribute to the Knitters
- 2000: Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records
- 2002: The Bottle Let Me Down
- 2002: Making Singles, Drinking Doubles
- 2003: The Slaughter Rule (Original Movie Soundtrack)
- 2004: Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson
- 2005: For A Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records
- 2006: Bloodied But Unbowed: The Soundtrack
- 2007: Just One More: A Musical Tribute to Larry Brown
- 2011: No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot's 15th Anniversary @ The Hideout Block Party
- 2014: While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records
Bloodshot Revival/Soundies: A series of historic transcription acetate recordings that were leased to radio stations for airplay but never sold at the time of recording.
- 1999: Rex Allen: Last of the Great Singing Cowboys
- 2001: Johnny Bond: Country and Western
- 1999: Spade Cooley: Shame On You
- 2000: Jimmie Davis: Louisiana
- 1999: Pee Wee King: Country Hoedown
- 2000: Hank Penny: Crazy Rhythm
- 2001: Sons of the Pioneers: Symphonies of the Sage
- 2004: The Sundowners: Chicago Country Legends
- 1999: Hank Thompson: Hankworld
- Old Town School Recordings with Old Town School of Folk Music
- Invisible China with Martin Atkins (from Public Image Ltd (PiL))
- 2006: Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records' Life In The Trenches - 10th Anniversary DVD
Since 2002, Bloodshot has put on a free BBQ and music day-long showcase at both Austin, Texas' SXSW and New York City's CMJ music festivals. The annual SXSW BBQs have often been anchored by performances by The Waco Brothers
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