Flying Fish Records
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Flying Fish Records was an American, Chicago-based blues, bluegrass, and country independent record label. It was founded in 1974 by Bruce Kaplan, former president of the University of Chicago's Folklore Society.
Flying Fish played a major role in bringing traditionally oriented American music to a wider audience in the 1970s. At the time Kaplan started the label, most similarly oriented companies produced albums with decidedly "homemade" packaging (e.g. cover art, etc.) and marketed the albums to a relatively narrow audience of aficionados. Kaplan realized that music of this sort had the potential to reach a wider audience, but needed to be packaged in a professional manner; people not already devotees were unlikely to take a chance on something that did not look like it came from a "real" record company. Kaplan also invested in broader promotion of the music (wide provision of albums to radio; targeted advertising to back up tours). Essentially, he located a niche between the hit-based promotion model of the major labels and the faith of the small independents that the music would find its own audience. Flying Fish recording artists were able to find that audience at the local Evanston, IL, venue Amazingrace Coffeehouse, which presented numerous artists off the roster, including Vassar Clements, John Hartford, New Grass Revival, Norman Blake, and Claudia Schmidt.
Starting with the Hillbilly Jazz double album featuring fiddler Vassar Clements, and following up with a Grammy Award winning album by John Hartford, Flying Fish Records' success with this niche approach led to similar changes by many other roots labels of the period.
The label bought Hogeye Music in the mid-1980s.
In December 1992, Kaplan developed an ear infection that did not respond to antibiotic treatment and he died very unexpectedly. After a brief period under the direction of longtime employee Jim Netter, supported by Kaplan's widow Sandra Shifrin (a social worker), the label was sold to Rounder Records, where Kaplan had worked as a producer for a brief period before founding Flying Fish.
Kaplan is survived by his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Anna, who will begin Columbia College in the Fall 2009 to major in Music Production and Business.
Flying Fish Records also distributes Blind Pig Records and Rooster Blues. They have recorded Sweet Honey in the Rock, Sam Bush, John Hartford, Jean Ritchie, Tom Paxton, David Amram, Anne Hills, Chubby Carrier, James Sapp, Steve Lyon, Pat Burton, Linda Waterfall, Northern Lights, Valerie Wellington, Tom Ball, Randy Sabien, Kenny Sultan, John Cephas, and Phil Wiggins.
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