June 19, 2012

All about Canyon Records

For 60 Years, Canyon Records Has Been Introducing the World to Native Music

By Vincent SchillingIn 1951, the Phoenix Little Theater asked Ray and Mary Boley, owners of a small recording studio in Phoenix, to record a performance there by a Navajo singer, Ed Lee Natay. The Boleys were so mesmerized by Natay’s show that they decided to record an album of his music. That album, Natay, Navajo Singer marked the birth of Canyon Records.

Sixty years later, that album still earns royalties for the Natay family. It was the first of many success stories that have made Canyon one of the most prosperous producers and distributors of American Indian music in Indian country today.
And:What is so special about Canyon Records?

Wood: No other label can do what they do for us. Stuff would happen when you are traveling as a group and your vehicle might break down, or you might run short on money. You can always count on them. Canyon does it for more than financial gain—there is more meaning to it for them, just like it is for us when we are singing the songs that we’re singing. I always tell [producer] Steve Butler, “You are an Indian man trapped inside a white man’s body.”

Doyle: What has been distinctive about Canyon is how the company was operated in the beginning and the philosophies established by the founders, Ray and Mary Boley. The Boleys were media pioneers in Phoenix. They approached Native American music not because they had a cultural agenda, but because they liked the music and the people. At a time when Native Americans were marginalized by the larger society, the Boleys treated everyone with basic human respect and without viewing anyone through an ethnic lens. This philosophy of ‘devotion to the music and respect for the individual’ has been infused in the company for over 60 years.
Comment:  For more on Native music, see Kiowa Gordon Talks Music and Movies and Cayuga DJ Named Canada's Best.

Below:  "Ray Boley and Ed Lee Natay."

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