National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Hosts King Records Exhibition

Exhibit Celebrates 74 – Year Legacy of Cincinnati Record Label

CINCINNATI, OH – The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will host the new traveling exhibit, King Records: The King of Them All during the month of September. The exhibit, which is the second installment in a three – part series, celebrates the 74 – year legacy of Cincinnati label King Records, a local Cincinnatian record company.

King Records: The King of Them All, explores King’s thirty years as a record company. The exhibit consists of 10 professionally designed banner stands that provide an overview of the middle years of the label’s history (1954 to 1963), when the company expanded into other music genres including Rockabilly, Soul, Bluegrass, Jazz, and Chicago Blues. The exhibit also examines the early careers of future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, The “5” Royales, Little Willie John, Freddy King, and James Brown. The exhibit will be accompanied by music recorded at King during the time period. The exhibition is funded and developed by the Community Building Institute and ArtsWave.

“We are excited to showcase this piece of local history that had global influence in all genres of music,” says Dr. Ashley Jordan, Curator at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “By sharing the story of King Records we celebrate the courage African Americans had in their music during tumultuous times of inequality and injustice.”

This September marks the 74th anniversary of the first songs recorded for King Records. In September 1943, Syd Nathan convinced two WLW radio performers, Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis, to go along with his latest brainstorm – a record company based in Cincinnati. A four – song session would lead to King Records producing nearly 30 years of music in all genres while based out of the Queen City.

King Records: The King of Them All will be at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center beginning Friday, September 1 through Saturday, September 30. The exhibit is included with general admission. For more information about exhibits and programs at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, visit

Image: Steve Halper/New York Times.