New England Blues Society
Black Rose Records: 21 Years of Independence
By Peter Cahill
Al Cocorochio had a vision back in 1980, the idea of having a record label that his friends could release their music on without giving up their creativity. Al, a self-described “frustrated wannabe musician and singer,” decided that his love of music had to fit into this puzzle somewhere.
So in June 1980, he put together his first release, “Bert Paquette and the New Gamblers.” Now he needed a name for his label. At the suggestion of friends, he decided to name the label after Elvis’ favorite flower, the black rose. And so Black Rose Records was launched out of his home.
Today, 21 years and 30 releases later, the grassroots label is still housed out of his home in Saugus, Mass. The catalog includes all his favorite types of music, blues, country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll.
The musicians that have recorded on Black Rose are: Bert Paquette and the New Gamblers, Cub Koda, T.H. (Tom Hambridge) and the Wreckage, The New Hawks, Maynard Silva, Silvertone Steve, Big Bill (Rauworth), Liz Lannon, BRMC (Boston Rockabilly Music Conspiracy), Bobby Fosmire, Cold Cold Heart, Preacher Jack, Elijah Wald, Frank O’Brien, Brewer Phillips, Apache, Brenda and the New Hawks and Eric and the Hawks.
Al recently helped bring Jimmy D. Lane, son of the late great Jimmy Rogers, to town to record with legendary drummer Ted Harvey. They recorded in the studio and also did a live recording at Johnny D’s.
He is also talking about producing a CD with The Wildcats (he says he loves Fay Shugrue’s vocals) and a project with Parker Wheeler and Fly Amero from the Sunday Night Blues at the Grog in Newburyport, Mass.
The only prerequisite to recording on Black Rose – Al has to like the material. It’s a pretty simple formula in a world of red tape and disappointments from the larger labels. No wonder why musicians are seeking out Al and Black Rose for their releases.
Last year, Black Rose released “20 Years of Black Rose (Vol. 1)”, which really gives a great overview of the diversity of the Black Rose family. The release coincided with the Black Rose 20th Anniversary party held last June at Johnny D’s. Most of the musicians that are on the label performed to a packed house.
After four solid hours of music, I had to leave the club to be up for work that morning, but I heard that the music kept going until dawn.
The CD really highlights the respect that Al has earned from the local music community. It has 18 cuts on it from Black Rose releases, one unreleased live track, one of my favorites, “Open House at My House” by Kenny “the K” Krumbholz and a spoken word selection by Al. Some of my other favorites include, “2x9” by The New Hawks, “Handful of Gimme” by Big Bill’s Band, “Two Men” by Liz Lannon Band, “Greenie” by Silvertone Steve, “Sacred Heart of Jesus” by Preacher Jack, “You Don’t Have to Go” by Brewer Phillips and “In the Groove” by Maynard Silva.
Being an independent label does have its downfalls though. Although Black Rose doesn’t have the overhead of an office and a large staff, it is very costly and difficult to get your product noticed and to the consumer. Most of the sales rely directly on the bands to distribute at gigs and word of mouth. Black Rose records does have a link on Dirtywater.com, but distribution and major advertising costs big money.
Al said that the first question most musicians ask about it distribution. This is a problem that he has been working on for a while. Advertising is limited to local blues publications and any free press he can get.
Most of the seed money put into the production, etc. of the recordings is personal money invested by the bands and Al and his belief in the product. Some people say he’s crazy to be doing this for so long and not generating money for himself. But for Al, it all goes back to his love of music and the satisfaction of helping out. Everybody has a good word about Al – he is one of the nicest guys in the business.
On Sunday night, April 22, Blues at the Grog with Fly Amero and Parker Wheeler presented an evening of Black Rose Records. Featured artists were, Big Bill, Liz Lannon, Kenny “the K” Krumbholz, “Silvertone” Steve, Leroy Pina, and Diane Gately.
This was one hell of a blues show. They knocked the crowd dead. The evening started out with Fly and Parker fronting the band, with a three-guitar attack of Bill, Parker, and Steve. Leroy started out drumming and soon Diane was laying down the beat. The Big Bill took over center stage and started belting out a few originals and was soon joined by Liz and did a few duets.
The place was smoking, everybody was dancing and Liz just brought the house down. Four hours went by like minutes. The musicians were so on target. Sometimes you can forget just how great your friends can swing it up and then bring it right back down to the alley. This was the blues at its best, and we can all thank Al for bringing it to us on Black Rose Records.
How ironic that on the car ride home from Newburyport, while listening to Blues on Sunday on WBOS with Holly Harris, that she would be talking about Black Rose Records and Al Cocorochio. She played “Handful of Gimme” by Big Bill’s Band, an Alabama Frank selection and “Lightning Rod” by Maynard Silva.
Holly is so supportive of the local scene, she is to be commended for her effort. She even mentioned that the show had gone on at The Grog that evening, and it just sent a chill through me.
Once again, Al Cocorochio had pulled together another great show. And once again, that little record company from Saugus, and its artists made big splash in the blues pool.
So go out and support the local independent labels. They are pure blues with no red tape.