It’s well-known that dying can be a great boost to a musician’s sales. Secret Stash Records co-founder Eric Foss, however, wants it to be known that his Minneapolis-based label’s surprisingly high-profile new release — a vinyl reissue of country legend George Jones’ 1957 debut album, “Grand Ole Opry’s New Star” — was in the works long before Jones passed away in April.
“This was a hard one to get done,” said Foss, who hinted that the deal could’ve been even harder to nail down postmortem. "We've been trying to license it for over a year and a half. There were a few complications, which could be expected when you're dealing with someone as big as George. But we did get the signed contract before he died."
Recorded in Beaumont, Texas (Jones' native turf, and pretty much the armpit of the Lone Star State), the "New Star" album originally came out on pioneering Texas label Starday Records, which also gave the world the Big Bopper. This record and the rest of the Starday catalog wound up in the licensing hands of Nashville's Gusto Records, which also owned the rights to the Mickey Murray album that Secret Stash reissued to a strong reception early last year. Secret Stash did even better last fall with the "Twin Cities Funk & Soul" double-LP compilation.
Foss believes that Jones' debut has never been reissued in its original format -- not legally anyway (demand for European bootlegs clued him into the prospects of reissuing it). Some of the tracks have been culled for anthologies over the years, including the hit "Why Baby Why."
So as not to confuse record buyers on Secret Stash’s more funk- and soul-centered brand, the label is creating a new imprint called Reserve Records, which will also house other country and rock records in the future. Not only is it a leap genre-wise for Foss and his team, but the Jones album also clearly doesn't fit the label's mold as one by an undiscovered artist revered only by record nerds. Still, Foss sees one common factor: its rawness.
"Some of the songs were recorded in [Starday founder] Pappy Daily's living room, and sound incredible that way," Foss marveled. "Like a lot of the soul and R&B music we work with, this was made before country music started being mass-produced and over-produced."
To celerbate the reissue locally, Secret Stash / Reserve Records staffer Danny Sigelman put together a Jones tribute concert Saturday at the Turf Club with the Blackberry Brand Boys, Curtiss A, Frankie Lee, Eleganza, Actual Wolf and John Swardson (9 p.m., $6).