Rosemont Records, owned by Alfred Elijah Taylor, ran one of New Orleans’ first Black recording studios and was one of the most prolific record labels in the city’s history.
Taylor was born in 1932 in Mobile, Alabama, and moved to New Orleans, his mother’s hometown, after his father died. In 1960, after school and a stint in the Air Force, Alfred and Martha Taylor moved to the newly built Rosemont subdivision in New Orleans East.
In 1962, Taylor’s father-in-law, Reverend Alvin Tolbert, gave him a Sony mono portable recorder and asked him to record the annual musical at his church. From there Taylor started recording musical programs at churches around town using his mono rig and two microphones, one for the choir and one for the preacher. He’d live mix the two together direct to tape.
Soon after, gospel singer Naomi Gordon approached Taylor about making her session into a record. The record needed a label and Rosemont Records was born. Soon it became a one-stop shop that could record, mix, design covers and labels, press vinyl, and release custom recordings on their imprint. Churches paid a set fee for Rosemont to do it all. Before long Taylor established Orangedale publishing as well.
By 1967, Taylor bought the building at 1938 Dumaine Street in Treme, Rosemont Records’ home for next 25 years. He renovated it and in 1969 upgraded to a four-track stereo tape machine.
Rosemont recorded or released records by a who’s who of the New Orleans gospel scene, including The Gospel Soul Children, Zion Harmonizers, New Orleans Spiritualettes, The Rocks Of Harmony, Ebenezer Baptist Church Radio Choir, The Melody Clouds, Alvin Bridges and the Desire Community Choir, The Crownseekers, The Mighty Chariots, and literally hundreds more.
Rosemont regularly hired two local musical giants to collaborate on sessions or produce music while Taylor engineered. Sammy Berfect handled gospel duties, and Wilson Turbinton—better known as Willie Tee—was in charge of jazz, pop, and soul.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Rosemont produced a number of notable sessions, including Bruce Sampson’s “You’re Bad,” Willie Lee Dixon’s “Disco Gorilla,” Muchos Plus’ “Nassau’s Discos,” Ernest Skipper’s “Shotgun Joe,” and The Unit Band’s “You Fool” LP.
Legendary punk label ‘Lectric Eye recorded all three of their 45s at Rosemont: The Normals, Men In Black, and The Skinnies. Some of New Orleans’ earliest hip-hop records, “P-Wee’s Beat” by Tonya P, MC J Ro J’s “Let’s Jump,” and the Famous Low-Down Boys’ “Cold Rockin’ The Place” were recorded and released on Rosemont Records.
In addition to commercial recordings, politicians regularly used Rosemont to record election ads and local retailers hired Rosemont to produce their jingles. Rosemont hosted Jessie Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory, and a host of others.
Rev. Avery Alexander was the last person to record a spot in Rosemont Studios before it the financial burdens became too high and the payoff too small to keep the studio running in the early to mid-1990s. Hurricane Katrina and the flood of 2005 washed away the studio records, leftover vinyl, master tapes, and equipment, so little is left of this true New Orleans original.
For more about the Treme neighborhood, click here.