Richmond Indiana is a history filled city on the Ohio-Indiana border in the central part of the state. Both I-70 and Historic US 40 run through Richmond. One of the historic sites in Richmond is the remains of the old Starr Piano manufacturing plants and the Gennett Recording studios.
Starr made high end pianos beginning in the 1870’s. The remaining Starr pianos are highly sought after by collectors and musicians alike. The Gennett recording Studios were in business from 1920 to 1934. The records were made in a primitive concrete and brick building with little acoustical features. Legend says that an Oriental rug from the Gennett mansion was used as a wall hanging to deaden the echo sounds during the recording sessions.
Today the Starr Gennett Foundation continues to keep the music history of the 20’s and 30’s alive with many events at the site of the old factory building. One of the many memorials to music is the Walk of Fame. The Starr-Gennett Foundation website details this feature: “In 2007, as part of its ongoing effort to promote and celebrate the music legacy of Starr Piano Company and its subsidiary, Gennett Records, the Foundation inaugurated the Gennett Records Walk of Fame to honor those who recorded for Gennett Records and whose work contributed significantly to American history. Selected by a national panel of music experts, those honored are musicians who created the distinctly American musical genres of jazz, blues, country, gospel, and popular music. However, the Gennett studio recorded the spoken word as well as the music of American Indian and other ethnic groups.”
Many famous musicians of the times got their first recordings made at Gennett. Hoagy Carmichael’s big band recorded there. Louis Armstrong got his start in the Gennett studio. The Great Depression, however, signaled the end of Gennett Records as it did many other record companies of the times.
The remaining portion of the brick factory now has a modern steel structure and metal roof system. This building is used for concerts, meetings and other civic events. It is interesting to think of the tremendous musical history represented at this Indiana site. Hand made pianos and the beginnings of several genres of music began here. When in Richmond be sure to seek out the old Starr Piano building. You just might hear echoes of music from the past.