Friday, 5 October 2012 | Art Schuna
Bob Koester celebrates his 80th birthday this month and his record label, Delmark is celebrating its 60th year in the business. Bob also owns the Jazz Record Mart pictured here. Bob became interested in blues and jazz as a collector of 78 rpm records. He started a record store called Delmar Records named for the street it was located on, Delmar Avenue in St. Louis. Bob first recorded a trad jazz band and then went on to seek out blues performers living in the St. Louis area including Speckled Red, Big Joe Williams, JD Short and James Crutchfield. The label had to change its name from Delmar to Delmark due to copyright issues. Bob moved to Chicago and purchased Seymour’s Jazz Record Mart. I first visited Jazz Record Mart in the 1970s when it was located at West Grand Ave, not far from ‘The Magnificent Mile” on Michigan Avenue. It’s moved a few times since then. Currently located at 27 E. Illinois St, not far from that Grand Avenue location. The store has always carried an amazing inventory of jazz and blues recordings, including both new and used items as well as label overstock and discontinued items. I can usually spend hours going through the bins and dropped a lot of money there over the years. The upside is I often find things I couldn’t find anywhere else. Big Joe Williams used to live in the basement at the Grand Avenue location when he was in Chicago. His 9 string guitar was on display in a showcase at the store at one time. Bob says Delmark has been a labor of love with the record store serving as a cash cow to provide money to produce new records. Delmark has continued to turn out an amazing catalog of blues recordings by performers including Big Joe Williams, Sleepy John Estes, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, Luther Allison and Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins to name just a few. Delmark is the longest running independent blues and jazz label in the country. This interview was recorded around the time of Bob’s 70th birthday and Delmark’s 50th anniversary as a record label. Click on the title to go to the interview.