Camden NJ and the Beginnings of Country Music

Trinity Church

This post is copied from, or based on, the writings of Rick Grenda in his Facebook Group, About South Jersey.

On November 30, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers arrived in Camden to cut his first professionally recorded records. Three months earlier Ralph Peer, a talent scout for Camden’s Victor Records had traveled south to Bristol VA/TN, seeking some new talent for Victor. Rodgers was the first to be invited back to Camden to record. The Carter Family followed in the spring of 1928.

The recording did not take place in the iconic Victor Building. The manufacturing plant there had become too noisy for sound recording and in 1918 Victor purchased an abandon Trinity Church 114 N 5th Street and converted it into a recording studio. The bell tower had a descending weight that was used to power the turntable of the recording machine. This church also had been used to record the popular music of the day, including opera and orchestra.

Enrico Caruso, Valdimir Horowitz, Arturo Toscanni, Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded here. But now Victor was seeking to broaden it audience to country and jazz.

On November 30, 1927 Rodgers recorded 4 songs including the first of his famous yodels, Blue Yodel #1 aka T For Texas. It went on to become a best selling hit and making Rodgers the first country superstar, often called “The Father of Country Music.”

Rodgers return to Trinity the following year to record about 18 more hit songs including more Yodels and In The Jailhouse Now. The Carter also recorded Wildwood Flower, Keep On The Sunny Side and Will The Circle Be Unbroken.

Jazz artist such as Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington began recording here as well. The Trinity Church recording studio was also used as a early motion picture soundtrack studio used to add music and sound effects to scores of Hollywood productions.

Sadly the Trinity Church is no more. In 1935 the Philadelphia subway was built almost directly underneath and the resulting noise made the building impractical for sound recording. Victor/RCA later converted the building into a gymnasium and used it as a recreation center for employees. It has been since demolished and is now a parking lot.

Below is a YouTube link to music recorded at Trinity Church.

Music recorded at Trinity Church in Camden, NJ


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