Takoma Records

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Takoma Records
Takoma logo.png
Parent company Concord Music Group
Founded 1959
Founder(s) John Fahey, ED Denson, Norman Pierce
Distributing label Concord Records (In the US), Universal Music Group
Genre(s) Folk music
Country US
Web address http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/labels/Takoma/

Takoma Records was a small but influential record label founded by John Fahey in the late 1950s.[1] It was named after Fahey's hometown, Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.


Takoma Records began with a custom pressing of 100 copies of John Fahey/Blind Joe Death, an album of his own guitar playing released by Fahey around 1959.[2] He had no distribution and sold the pressing mainly to friends and at music parties. A copy of this record recently sold on eBay for several thousand dollars.

Fahey moved to Berkeley, California, and the label was really launched when he rediscovered the country bluesman Bukka White. With Eugene "ED" Denson, Fahey drove to Memphis, and the pair produced White's first recording in 23 years. Later in 1963 they released it, as well as Fahey's second album of his own music.

Over the next several years word spread about the music. At the same time independent "folk music" labels like Rounder were springing up and establishing distribution systems. The content of the Takoma label expanded to include other guitarists, such as Robbie Basho, and other types of folk music. Contemporary Guitar, a compilation recorded in 1966 and featuring Fahey, Basho, White, Max Ochs, and Harry Taussig, displays Takoma's interest in diverse acoustic-guitar styles, from plantation blues to raga. At the same time the label ventured into the avant-garde with The Psychedelic Saxophone of Charlie Nothing. Acoustic guitar music, especially that of Fahey, remained the mainstay of the label.

Around 1967, Denson moved to full-time management of the rock band Country Joe and the Fish, and Fahey became the sole owner of Takoma.[3] He moved the label and himself to Los Angeles, where he was studying for his master's degree at UCLA under D.K. Wilgus. Leo Kottke's 6 and 12-String Guitar became a surprise hit, and the profits funded an expansion of the label, which now had a staff.

In 1970 Jon Monday joined the label as promotion manager and worked his way up to general manager. The label grew as progressive radio stations played new releases by Fahey and other Takoma artists. In 1973 Charlie Mitchell became Takoma's president. Takoma was one of the founding companies of the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD).

Fahey had started a new genre of guitar music, known later as American Primitivism, which comprised traditional fingerpicking steel-string guitar techniques applied to neo-classical compositions. The Takoma label showcased such music; its roster included Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Mike Auldridge, Robbie Basho, Max Ochs, and already famous Mississippi bluesman Bukka White. George Winston released his first album on Takoma, and Mike Bloomfield released several solo albums on the label. American composer and electronic music pioneer Joseph Byrd released three records in 1975–76 on Takoma, which were co-produced by Jon Monday.


In 1979, Fahey sold Takoma to Chrysalis Records, owned by Terry Ellis and Chris Wright, which had artists such as Blondie, Pat Benatar, and Huey Lewis.[3] Jon Monday continued as general manager of the label until 1982, when Chrysalis sold the Takoma catalogue. During the Chrysalis years, Takoma released albums by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Maria Muldaur, Canned Heat, Mike Bloomfield, and T-Bone Burnett. The catalogue was purchased in 1995 by Fantasy Records,[1] which in 2004 was taken over by the Concord Music Group. Fantasy has a handful of the Takoma recordings on the market as CDs as of this writing in 2007.

The label's best-selling release was Kottke's 6 and 12-String Guitar (often called The Armadillo Album because of the cover art).[3] Another influential album on Takoma was the 1974 eponymous compilation LP featuring Fahey, Kottke and Lang.

ED Denson went on to co-found and manage Kicking Mule Records, which similarly featured acoustic guitarists.[1] In 1995, he left the music business and became a criminal defense lawyer. By the early 21st century, the news about the label seems limited to death notices. Robbie Basho died in 1986, John Fahey in 2001, and Charlie Nothing died of cancer October 23, 2007.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hoffman, Frank. The Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Volume 1. CRC Press. 2005 Retrieved December 2009.
  2. ^ According to The Rolling Stone Record Guide (first edition, 1979), only ninety-five copies of the record were available for distribution. The Guide assigned the record 5 stars out of 5.
  3. ^ a b c Double Fantasy Label Purchases. Billboard Magazine. October 14, 1995. Retrieved December 2009.

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