Fat Possum Records

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Fat Possum Records
Founded1992 (1992)
FounderMatthew Johnson
Peter Redvers-Lee
Distributor(s)RED Distribution (US)
GenreBlues, rock, hip hop, indie rock
Country of originUnited States
LocationOxford, Mississippi
Official websitewww.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 Sundance Channel production,[4][5] features on NPR,[6][7] and a 2004 documentary, You See Me Laughin.[8] Fat Possum also distributes the Hi Records catalog.[9]


Fat Possum was founded in 1991 by Living Blues editor Peter Redvers-Lee, who went to the University of Mississippi for his MA studies in Journalism.[10][11] He planned on starting a record label and picked the name with another student, Billy "Pup" Cochrane.[12][verification needed] Co-founder Matthew Johnson, who grew up in the state, was also a student at the University of Mississippi.[13] By 1994 or so[14] Lee left, and freelance recording engineer Bruce Watson assumed his managerial role.[13] An early investor was John Hermann of Widespread Panic, who also pitched Robert Palmer's name as producer.[2][15]

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,[16] 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.[17] Many of the early artists for Fat Possum were picked[18] with the aid of Palmer (previously a teacher of Johnson at the University of Mississippi), who also produced a number of records for the label.

Fat Possum’s early 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. In 1995, they added Arkansas bluesman John "So Blue" Weston to their roster, with So Doggone Blue (FP 1003) produced by Grammy nominee and Living Blues writer Larry Hoffman.[19] Disputes between the artist and label resulted in Hoffman buying back the master and selling it to Evidence Records (UPC: 730182609226).[20] 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)[21] 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.[22]

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 in 2005. T-Model Ford and Robert Belfour joined in the 2010s.

Responding to the first deaths, Fat Possum begun to release more archival records.[23] George Mitchell's recordings came out first as individual albums of Furry Lewis, Mississippi Joe Callicott, R.L. Burnside, Townes Van Zandt, and others, with covers designed by Chip Kidd, and then in bulk as the George Mitchell Collection. They acquired the Al Green catalog including his 1975 Greatest Hits.[24]

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.[25] In 2013, Fat Possum released Ready To Die by Iggy and the Stooges.

Concluding that further searches for rural talent are hopeless,[26][27] it has begun to broaden its base of artists and sign a range of younger, indie rock bands like Andrew Bird, Milk Music, MellowHype, the Heartless Bastards, Deadboy & the Elephantmen, Wavves, Youth Lagoon, The Walkmen, Temples, Yuck, Fat White Family, The Districts, Crocodiles, Bass Drum of Death, and Soccer Mommy. They have tapped into the indie-folk scene, releasing Verbena's frontman A.A. Bondy's solo records, The Felice Brothers, and female songwriter Lissie. In 2021, punk band Off! was signed to the label and announced that along with their upcoming fourth studio album, Fat Possum will also release their back catalog as well.[28] In 2023, Fat Possum released Armand Hammer's We Buy Diabetic Test Strips.

In 2017 Fat Possum partnered with founding Gorilla vs. Bear blogger Chris Cantalini to start new label Luminelle Recordings. Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland was the label's first signing.[29] Following Deland's signing, Fat Possum and Luminelle signed new acts such as Magdalena Bay, MUNYA, and Enumclaw.


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. ^ McInerney, Jay. "White Man at the Door: One Man's Mission to Record the 'Dirty Blues' - before Everyone Dies." The New Yorker (February 4, 2002): page 55
  4. ^ Mazor, Barry. "'Keeping Time: New Music From America's Roots'". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  5. ^ Lisle, Andria (2003-08-22). "Local Beat". Memphis Flyer. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  6. ^ "R.L. Burnside: Conversation with a Bluesman". NPR, Morning Edition, March 19, 2001
  7. ^ "Fat Possum Records evolves with the blues". NPR, Weekend Edition Sunday, December 19, 2004
  8. ^ You See Me Laughin': The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen (2003). Produced and directed by Mandy Stein.
  9. ^ "Hi Records". Fat Possum Records. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  10. ^ LeBlanc, Eric (July 2, 1994). "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PETER LEE (of FAT POSSUM RECORDS)" (Mailing list). Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  11. ^ Chris Morris (11 June 1994). "Mississippi Labels Tap into Wealth of Delta Blues Talent". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. pp. 1, 95. ISSN 0006-2510.
  12. ^ Billy 'pup' Cochrane. "The Passing of a Master – Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards [blog post]". Retrieved 2015-05-14.
  13. ^ a b Mike Rubin (May 1997). "Call of the Wild". SPIN. pp. 74–82, 128–131. ISSN 0886-3032.
  14. ^ Komara, Edward, ed. (2005). "Recording". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Psychology Press. p. 820. ISBN 9780415926997.
  15. ^ John Sinclair (1993). "Robert Palmer: Site-Specific Music". Johnsinclair.us. Archived from the original on June 26, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  16. ^ Grant, Richard (2003-11-16). "Delta Force". Observer Music Monthly. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 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.'
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "HOME". Larry Hoffman Music. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  19. ^ "So Doggone Blue - John Weston | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  20. ^ Junior Kimbrough performed one of his few tours with Iggy Pop.
  21. ^ Sacco also travelled with T-Model Ford for a piece for Vanity Fair
  22. ^ Michael Dixon (Winter 1997). "Fat Possum: a rocky road for the roots label". Blues Access. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
  23. ^ Previously, the only non-Fat Possum recorded album released was by Scott Dunbar
  24. ^ "Fat Possum: 'We never thought this label would work'". [PIAS]. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-18.
  25. ^ "Artist: Solomon Burke". www.grammy.com. Recording Academy. n.d. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  26. ^ Andy Gill (24 June 2005). "We've still got the blues". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  27. ^ Andrtia Lisle (December 14, 2006). "Replacing the Possum". Memphis Flyer. Retrieved 2015-07-17.
  28. ^ Wright, Imani WJ (July 7, 2021). "OFF! Covers Metallica's 'Holier Than Thou,' Their First New Song in Seven Years". Spin Magazine. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  29. ^ Rys, Dan (December 12, 2017). "Gorilla vs. Bear Teams With Fat Possum For New Record Label Luminelle: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved June 9, 2018.

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