Who was/is Richard Weize ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
"At first,” says Bear Family founder Richard Weize, "when record company people in the States would see me, they wouldn't believe that I was doing this because I loved the music and wanted to see it packaged right. They thought I'd found a new angle they hadn't found. Then, the fourth or fifth time they'd see me, and I'm still wearing the same jeans and T-shirt, they believe me. From the start, we never looked to make money of Bear Family Records. Our profits come from our mail-order operation. The record company came simply from a desire to see the music packaged right.” Many record companies have started by bearing the eccentric imprint of their founders, but Bear Family still has Richard Weize's imprint-and likely always will. Essentially, it's one man's vision of how vintage music should be presented. Weize began as a record collector in the '50s, and by 1962 he was ordering records directly from the States for himself and a few friends. He started a short-lived magazine, Country Collector's Information, then sold up his record collection and moved to England in 1966.
In 1968 Richard went to the International Festival of Country Music at Wembley, England and got hooked all over again. After he came back to Germany in the early '70s, he started the Folk Variety label, and started booking folk acts into German clubs. Then his partner decided to go into politics full-time and Richard was faced with the dilemma of whether to exit the record business or give up his day job and concentrate on the music business. That was in 1975. Bear Family Records was launched that year. Why Bear Family, you ask? Because of an old woodcut of a mother bear and her cubs that appealed to Richard so much that he named his label after it. His first venture into leasing vintage masters and repackaging came in 1978 when he licensed 'The Unissued Johnny Cash'. As a parallel venture, Bear Family mail order was started, and it now carries perhaps the most comprehensive catalogue of roots oriented music anywhere in the world. Music is becoming increasingly fragmented, and even the biggest record stores usually only carry a small percentage of what's available. That leaves enormous scope for a skilled, specialized organization like Bear Family mail order, particularly now that the economic barriers are crumbling in western Europe-and eastern Europe is opening up.
In general, if a record falls within Bear Family's sphere, they have it or can get it quickly. The emphasis at the Bear Family label has been on quality on all fronts. When it came to reissues, large and small European record labels have tended to order tapes from the States, and not push the issue if they're told that masters can't be located. Then they lift a few old photos out of magazines, pay some guy a little money to rehash an old article into liner notes, then run the record up the flagpole. Sometimes it works, but mostly it ends up disappointing anyone who really cares about the music. At Bear Family, things are done differently on every level. First, Bear Family licenses the masters from the copyright holders and doesn't take advantage of flaky copyright laws that enable old masters to be issued without payment after a certain number of years. Then Richard Weize or someone on his staff who knows the repertoire backward and forward goes to the States and copies all the masters digitally, taking special care to locate the first generation tape. Then every effort is made to locate unissued masters. After the audio research is complete, Richard assigns the project to the most knowledgeable people in the field who conduct new research for the discographies and liner notes, which are then double-checked for accuracy.
Every effort is made to locate rare or unpublished photos to complete the package, and again first generation prints or original negatives are used whenever possible for premium quality. Finally, any missing masters are dubbed from the best available source and the compilation is mastered by engineers who are generally acknowledged as the best in the field. That's why Bear Family records often cost a little more, but, as the old proverb goes, the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. Bear Family takes special pride in its boxed sets. Some are complete career retrospectives, while others are complete within certain time periods. They are always packaged in the LP-sized box so that the text is easily readable and the impact of the photos isn't lost.
The boxed sets are the jewels in the crown of the Bear Family catalogue, and while the boxed set itself has become an abused medium of late, Bear Family boxed sets are consistently the highest quality product on the market. If you see the same titles on different labels, you can always be assured that the Bear Family product is the best. Not always the cheapest-but always the best. Since the introduction of the compact disc, Bear Family has documented many of the truly seminal Country, Rock 'n' Roll and Rhythm 'n' Blues performers. Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, the Everly Brothers and the Orioles are among the artists who have received the Bear Family treatment, but we'd especially like to draw your attention to some of the lesser-known artists. It's often hard to take the leap of faith necessary to purchase an expensive boxed set by a little-known artist, but the music on our collections by artists like Jimmie Driftwood, Tommy Collins, Johnnie and Jack, Marvin Rainwater and Don Gibson amply repays investigation. Every one of the boxed is something special. As one of the few independent reissue labels that the major labels will still license to, we have an unparalleled wealth of material to draw upon. Look for more exciting news throughout 1993 and 1994. Make sure you're on our mailing lists, and remember that you can always buy a Bear Family record with confidence.
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