Universal Fire Masters
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George Strait, Dolly Parton and More Reportedly Lost Masters in 2008 Universal Fire


In a follow-up to his shocking, in-depth article "The Day the Music Burned," New York Times reporter Jody Rosen listed off a staggering number of artists referenced in internal documents from Universal Music Group (UMG)--meaning original masters of their recordings may have been destroyed in a June 2008 fire. Several of these names span country music history, from early taste-makers The Carter Family and The Louvin Brothers to such modern-day standard-bearers as George Strait and Dolly Parton.

Rosen's latest report was published on Tuesday (June 25) and adds 700 acts to the 100-plus he mentioned in his initial article. In addition, Rosen identifies the company's "slapdash inventory practices" as the reason why it's unclear what all may be lost forever. "UMG knew what labels' masters had been stored in the vault; they know, broadly, which artists' recordings had been on the shelves," he adds. "But the knowledge got fuzzier when it came down to individual albums or songs, especially given the presence in the vault of an indeterminate number of masters containing outtakes, demos and other recordings that were never commercially released."

Sheryl Crow's recent interview with BBC about the decade-plus cover-up sheds some light on how the loss of original masters impacts artists.

"It absolutely grieves me," Crow says. "It feels a little apocalyptic. I can't understand, first and foremost, how you could store anything in a vault that didn't have sprinklers. And secondly, I can't understand how you could make safeties [back-up copies] and have them in the same vault. I mean, what's the point? And thirdly, I can't understand how it's been 11 years. I mean, I don't understand the cover-up."


Beyond coping with personal loss, Crow grieves over how the fire impacts historians, archival record labels and fervent listeners.

"There are many songs on my masters that haven't come out, she adds. "My peace of mind in knowing I could come back someday and listen to them and mine those [sessions] for basement tapes and outtakes (is) gone. But what grieves me more than any of that is the fact that Buddy Holly and Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington -- all this important music has been erased. And it's not just the music, it's the dialogue between the music; it's the takes that didn't make it; it's the versions we'll never hear."

Country Artists Potentially Impacted By The UMG Fire

Rhett Atkins
Gary Allan
Bill Anderson
John Anderson
Asleep at the Wheel
Hoyt Axton
Owen Bradley Quintet
Glen Campbell
The Carter Family
Mark Chesnutt
Roy Clark
Patsy Cline
Sheryl Crow
Rodney Crowell
Mac Davis
Roy Drusky
The Eagles
Steve Earle
Joe Ely
Don Everly
Donna Fargo
Freddie Fender
Red Foley
Glenn Frey
Lefty Frizzell
Hank Garland
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers
Tompall Glaser
Amy Grant
Jack Greene
Lee Greenwood
Patty Griffin
Nanci Griffith
Merle Haggard
George Hamilton IV
Freddie Hart
Don Henley
John Hiatt
Jan Howard
Jason & the Scorchers
George Jones
The Jordanaires
Toby Keith
Brenda Lee
Jerry Lee Lewis
Lone Justice
The Louvin Brothers
Patty Loveless
Lyle Lovett
Loretta Lynn
Barbara Mandrell
The Mavericks
Delbert McClinton
Reba McEntire
Roger Miller
Bill Monroe
Olivia Newton-John
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Oak Ridge Boys
Dolly Parton
Webb Pierce
Marty Robbins
Jimmy Rodgers
Leon Russell
Dawn Sears
Jeannie Seely
Shel Silverstein
George Strait
Hank Thompson
Mel Tillis
Ernest Tubb
Tanya Tucker
Conway Twitty
Leroy Van Dyke
Porter Wagoner
Jerry Jeff Walker
Kitty Wells
Don Williams
Lee Ann Womack
Faron Young

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