Atlanta Life and Culture

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'Chasin Dem Blues' by Kenny Leon's True Colors opens Friday

The story of the blues has plenty of strange twists and turns, but one of the oddest wrinkles is how a Scandinavian furniture company from a little town in Wisconsin became one of the country’s leading outlets for Mississippi Delta music.

That narrative is told in the new musical “Chasin’ dem Blues: The Untold Story of Paramount Records,” a production of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. The show opens Friday, July 10, at Fulton County’s Southwest Arts Center.

Back in 1915 the Wisconsin Chair Co., in Grafton, Wis., began producing 78 rpm records under the Paramount label to bolster its sales of phonographs. In the 1920s it entered the “race music” market, recording such artists as Alberta Hunter, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Skip James and Son House, and Paramount became the most profitable arm of the corporation.

“It’s an American story on so many levels,” said writer/director Kevin Ramsey. “How communities collide — sometimes unintentionally.”

Through Aug. 2. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (also 11 a.m. July 15 and July 23). Tickets, $15-$60. Performances are at Fulton County’s Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road. For tickets: 1-877-725-8849, or

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About the Author

Bo Emerson is an Atlanta native and a long-time AJC feature and news writer.