Department of Art

King Records: The Lost History of Rock and Roll

Xavier University and the Department of Art are pleased to present an exhibition King Records:

The Lost History of Rock and Roll, November 3 - December 15, 2017.  Please join us for an opening reception on Friday, November 3, 5:00-7:00 p.m.

The exhibit consists of 10 professionally designed banners that provide an overview of the first ten years of Cincinnati's King Records history (1943-1954) and it’s role in the development of Rock and Roll music. Producing, marketing and distributing both R&B and country music in the post-World War II period, King Records began to cross the boundaries of these two music genres in the late 1940s.

The exhibit focuses on King Records during these crucial years when King, through the practice of integration, can be identified as a birthplace of the American art form called Rock and Roll. This cultural phenomenon is directly linked to King Records Jewish owner Syd Nathan and his process of integrating African American and white artists and their style of music for the sole purpose of expanding King's market. The exhibit will show how, through an effort to keep his business sustainable, Syd had white musicians play their version of a song in the King catalog that was originally performed by a black artist, and vice versa. In this way the white market would be exposed to a Country /Appalachian version of a popular Rhythm & Blues song, and again vice versa. It was Syd's way of doubling down by expanding his reach into both cultural markets. An unintended consequence of this marketing effort led to the introduction of new sounds and musical stylings in the late 40’s that resulted from the twang and melodies of Country guitars mingling with the rhythms of the R&B players. This open-mindedness and experimental sound combined with the risqué lyrics of 'jump blues' had a direct influence on the future sound of rock 'n roll.

The exhibit was completed in mid-August 2016 with content provided by Philip Paul, drummer on over 250 King Records albums, and Brian Powers, author of the book A King Records Scrapbook.

More information about King Studios can be found at and