Old Homestead Records was founded in 1971 by John Morris, a pharmacist, deejay, Appalachian migrant, and resident of Brighton, Michigan who loved traditional old time and bluegrass music. John started the label initially as a means to issue both old and newly recorded material by Wade Mainer, a country music star of the 1930s and 1940s who had relocated to Michigan in 1953 and sang at the time only in churches. After Wade retired from his day job at General Motors in 1972, he re-entered the musical world and went on to record many albums, cassettes, and compact discs for Old Homestead. The earliest two releases bore the name "Homestead," but since there was another Homestead Record label, John altered the name to "Old Homestead" and it has so remained for four decades.

In addition to Wade Mainer, John soon taped into the rich source of Appalachian migrant bluegrass musicians who had moved to Michigan. He also began to record bluegrass musicians from other regions and soon recorded several albums by Larry Sparks and his Lonesome Ramblers. Sparks had recently struck out on his own after having served an apprenticeship with Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys. Larry went on to become a major figure in traditional bluegrass music and his early efforts on Old Homestead played a significant role in his ascension up the ladder of success. Another major figure in bluegrass music often recorded by Old Homestead was the late Charlie Moore who died in 1979, but left a rich legacy of traditional music in the Old Homestead archive. Of course, Sparks and Mainer were only two of the many Old Homestead artists. By the nineties, the Oklahoma-based duo of Bill Grant and Delia Bell perhaps ranked as his leading active artists, along with original bluegrass songwriter-vocalist Emma Smith.

Perhaps even more significant than the bluegrass series were the numerous recordings of old-time music from pre-World War II era. Old Homestead's initial foray into this field began with a reissue of the early recordings of Molly O'Day and Lynn Davis. Over the next fifteen years, John not only reissued all of her early recordings, but two albums she had done in the sixties as well. Old Homestead eventually did re-issue albums by such key figures from the early days of country music as Uncle Dave Macon, Ernest Stoneman, the Callahan Brothers, Bradley Kincaid, the Delmore Brothers, the Dixon Brothers, and of course earlier efforts of Mainer's Mountaineers. Some of the material had originally been on radio transcriptions-such as Lew Childre, Charlie Bailey, Bluegrass Roy Freeman, and the Bailes Brothers-and not generally available to the record buying public.

Ultimately, Old Homestead started two other labels, Broadway Intermission for jazz music and Rutabaga for more contemporary bluegrass. Old Homestead, in addition to the "90,000 main series" and this "100 reissue series", had an "80,000 series" for custom recordings and a "70,000 series" which included both traditional and contemporary gospel music. A "300" series reissued material primarily from the 1960's.

No record label was as important for bluegrass in the midwest as Old Homestead Records.  Still one of the rare recording companies that puts out country music form the 1920's, the ongoing legacy of Old Homestead is its dedication to making old time music accessible for the current and future generations.

Dr. Ivan M Tribe
University of Rio Grande
Rio Grande, Ohio