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...In the Beginning-

From the notes of Bill Vernon's writings in the 35 Anniversary Box set.

Bill has twice received the IBMA award for Best Liner Notes, the first in 1994 for his work on the 4-CD boxed set reissue of Reno & Smiley recordings, and again in 1998 for the Rebel 35th Anniversaries Box set he completed just prior to his death.

"Recorded bluegrass, in the music's earliest years, appeared on three types of record labels, Each"major" label usually had at least one prominent bluegrass band whose records were sold in the same way as its other country music. A few strong independent labels would emerge; these could not rival the major labels but they created a kind of second tier, achieving significant distribution of a great many important bluegrass recordings. There was also a underpinning of small regional labels dedicated to bluegrass music but these could not over come the obstacle of limited distribution; they would issue great records and then be unable to continue in business. The first record label of enduring consequence to concentrate on bluegrass music, to the eventual exclusion of all other kinds of music was Rebel Records....

Rebel's beginnings were as casual as they were unpremeditated. Dick Freeland photo by carl FleischhauerCofounder and eventual sole owner (through 1979) Charles R. Freeland had always had a robust interest in bluegrass music, as had his high school friend Bill Carroll. Buzz Busby's weekly television show "Hayloft Hoedown" had spearheaded the popularity of bluegrass in the Washington area; Carroll had been booking shows for Buzz and occasionally for Reno & Smiley. When Buzz returned to his native Louisiana to join the prestigious Louisiana Hayride, Bill leased for his Carol label a Buzz Busby 45 that had originally appeared on Jiffy. By the time of Carol's second release, Dick Freeland had become Bill's partner. By November of 1959, Dick and Bill decided to form a new label and so with a third partner, Sonny "Zap" Compton , the Rebel label was born....

The techniques Rebel employed to get its label up and running could not succeed in today's complex , high pressure business climate, but in 1960, they could still prove fruitful. Evenings and weekends, Freeland and his partners would visit the Library of Congress to write down the names and mailing addresses of every radio station , every jukebox operation and every record store and distributor in America. Initial response was not overwhelming; Dick remembers response from radio stations at the highest - "they all wanted a free record" Nowadays, inventory decisions for any type of retail location are often made a thousand miles away, and a mile from Earth. By contrast, the men from Rebel succeeded back then by simply getting into their cars and appearing in person at the stores they hoped would carry their product. Initially, retailers were skeptical; they didn't want to stock items they might just have to return. Some were afraid they wouldn't be able to find anyone to return items to when the time came. The compromise was logical, Rebel's earliest 45s were often left at stores on a consignment basis. But Rebel records were in the stores, on whatever basis, and they began to sell. ..


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