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."
"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
Asleep at the Wheel
Owen Bradley Quintet
The Carter Family
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers
George Hamilton IV
Jason & the Scorchers
Jerry Lee Lewis
The Louvin Brothers
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Oak Ridge Boys
Leroy Van Dyke
Jerry Jeff Walker
Lee Ann Womack