Bob Koester

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Robert Gregg Koester (born October 30, 1932) is the American founder and owner of Delmark Records, the oldest jazz and blues independent record label in the United States[1] and one of jazz's best-known imprints. He also operated the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago, formerly the world's largest jazz and blues record store.


Koester was born and grew up in Wichita, Kansas, during the heyday of big band jazz. He started collecting and then trading records in his high school years. Wanting to become a movie cameraman, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to study cinematography and business at Saint Louis University, where he sold records by mail order from his dormitory room. He was a founding member of the St. Louis Jazz Club, through which he met Ron Fister, another record collector. Koester and Fister opened a small record store, K & F Sales. On moving to bigger premises they renamed it Blue Note Record Shop. After nearly a year together, Koester and Fister decided to split their business and Koester founded Delmar Records, on Delmar Blvd. Delmar first recorded a traditional jazz group in 1953 and then searched out and recorded blues musicians of the 1920s and 1930s (Speckled Red, Big Joe Williams, J.D. Short, and James Crutchfield among others) who were living in St. Louis. The name of the label was changed from Delmar to Delmark, partly because of copyright issues.

Koester moved to Chicago in 1958. He purchased Seymour's Jazz Mart, in the Roosevelt University Building, from Seymour Schwartz in 1959. In 1963, he relocated the Jazz Record Mart and Delmark Records to 7 West Grand Avenue. In 1971, he purchased premises at 4243 N. Lincoln Avenue and moved Delmark there.

In 1996, Koester was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

The Jazz Record Mart moved to 27 East Illinois in 2006. The rent at that location ultimately proved too costly, and Koester closed the store after selling off its entire inventory to Wolfgang's Vault.[2] He reopened the store in the Horner Park neighborhood at the end of April, 2016 in the front room of his Delmark Records studio, 4121 N. Rockwell St.[3]


  1. ^ Zimmerman, Karla; Dunford, Lisa; Cavalieri, Nate (2008). Chicago City Guide. Lonely Planet. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-74104-767-7. The oldest independent jazz and blues label in the country, Delmark Records has inspired countless small startups around the world determined to promote the pioneers and mavericks of the two genres.
  2. ^ Reich, Howard (2016-02-15). "Jazz Record Mart closes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  3. ^ Tribune, Chicago. "Jazz Record Mart founder opens new store". Retrieved 2016-04-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hanson, Karen (2007). Today's Chicago Blues. Lake Claremont Press. pp. 96–98. ISBN 978-1-893121-19-5.
  • Koester, Bob (January 1974). "Letter to the Editor". Black World: 79–80. A look into the economics of the record business in the early 1970s.
  • Kennedy, Rick; McNutt, Randy (1999). Little Labels—Big Sound: Small Record Companies and the Rise of American Music. Indiana University Press. pp. 160ff. ISBN 978-0-253-33548-7.
  • Koester, Bob (July 3, 2013). "Bob Koester in His Own Words." [1] Chicago Jazz Magazine.
  • Mandel, Howard (May 20, 2013). "Delmark Records Turns 60" [2] Arts Journal.
  • Rohter, Larry (June 23, 2009). "Happily Seduced by the Blues." [3] New York Times.

External links[edit]