Oral Histories

Interview of Joseph Bihari

Music producer. Co-founder and co-owner of Modern Music and Independent Record Distributers.
Central Avenue Sounds: Joseph Bihari
Central Avenue Sounds Oral History Project
African American History
Biographical Note:
Music producer. Co-founder and co-owner of Modern Music and Independent Record Distributers.
Isoardi, Steven L.
Bihari, Joseph
Persons Present:
Bihari and Isoardi.
Place Conducted:
Bihari's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Steven L. Isoardi, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., Government, University of San Francisco; M.A., Government, University of San Francisco; M.A., Political Science, UCLA; Ph.D., Political Science, UCLA.Isoardi prepared for the interview by consulting jazz histories, autobiographies, oral histories, relevant jazz periodicals, documentary films, and back issues of the California Eagle and the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Processing of Interview:
Rebecca Stone, oral history assistant, edited the interview. She checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Whenever possible, the proper names of the nightclubs were checked against articles and advertisements in back issues of the California Eagle. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.Bihari reviewed the transcript. He verified proper names and made a number of corrections and additions. Alex Cline, editor, prepared the table of contents and biographical summary. Rebecca Stone assembled the interview history.Loren Colin, editorial assistant, compiled the index.
6.7 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
Interviews in this series preserve the spoken memories of individuals, mainly musicians, who were raised near and/or performed on Los Angeles's Central Avenue from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s.
Childhood in the Jewish Children's Home in New Orleans; introduction to blues at age fourteen; old records Bihari received from his brother Lester Bihari; rejoins his family in Beverly Hills, California; Bihari helps his brothers in the jukebox business; producing the Biharis' first record; helps create Independent Record Distributors, the first distribution network for independents; Central Avenue in the 1940s; independent record labels during the mid-forties; artists on the Biharis' Modern Records label; Hadda Brooks; division of responsibilities among the Bihari brothers; Bihari travels to Memphis to record B. B. King; discovers Ike Turner and hires him as a talent scout; encounters with racism in the South; Modern Music expands into subsidiary labels; reasons for the decline of nightlife on Central Avenue during the fifties; Los Angeles area artists recorded by the Biharis; disc jockeys who were helpful to Modern Music; payola; the decline of country blues' popularity; Modern diversifies beyond music-related products; Modern brings in outside producers for its pop music albums; mounting conflict with brother Jules leads to Bihari's departure from Modern in 1978; overseas re-releases of blues records from the Modern catalog; Leon and Otis René; Johnny Moore and Charles Brown; Howlin' Wolf; Jesse Belvin; Maxwell Davis; John Lee Hooker; Johnny Otis; Art Rupe of Specialty Records; the evolution of record production from the forties to the nineties; independent record companies' influence on music in the United States.