This is a first in a series of articles on producers, engineers and others who bring music to the masses, for our listening enjoyment.
THE BIHARI BROTHERS
For the average music lover, the production of a record or records is usually overlooked. You can have the most talented artist on the planet, but without a good production team behind them, that artist’s work would go nowhere. Throughout the history of recorded music there have been some very talented producers and engineers. Producers and engineers are at times interchangeable. Sound engineers are generally proficient at the technical aspects of recording and mixing music and often work under the supervision of the producer. In short a producer may be able to do the engineer’s job, but it is unusual for a sound engineer to be able to do the producer’s job. That being said, many engineers have made the step up to the producer level. Make no mistake about it, when it comes to the control room, there have been some absolute genius’ at those slider controls.
The Bihari Brothers, Jules, Joe, Lester and Saul were the founders of Modern Records. Perhaps the most prolific, R&B label in music history. Here are a few of the artists that recorded for Modern; John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Hadda Brooks, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lowell Fulson, B.B. King, Etta James and Ike Turner, among others.
Modern Records operated out of L.A.’s Watts district. Jules Bihari ran a jukebox concession in the black neighborhoods and became frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t get enough copies of hit records. That would be the birth of Modern Records, as Jules set up the label with his brothers and began recording some of the best Blues artists in music history. A young piano player operating under the stage name, Hadda Brooks would the Bihari Brothers first (with many more to come) recorded artist. Soon after the enterprising brothers bought a pressing plant and had a full staff of workers which included producer Lester Sill. Tasks were divided among the brothers equally with Saul handling manufacturing and Jules taking production chores.
Throughout the years, the Bihari’s consistently showed the talent and tenacity to stay ahead of the current trends, discovering, producing and releasing some of the best work of any genre. In 1975 Saul died, leaving his three bothers to continue the company. In recent years, however, Modern has mainly relied on its back catalog and “glory days” for revenue. Still, their contribution to today’s music has left an indelible mark.