Malaco Records announces the March 23 publication of The Last Soul Company: The Malaco Records Story, a gorgeous new retrospective book from Grammy Award-winning author Rob Bowman (Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records) that weaves together the tale of a half century of Malaco productions, exploring the careers and catalog of such seminal Malaco artists as Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bobby Blue Bland, Z.Z. Hill, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, James Cleveland, and many more.
Presenting Malaco’s story in almost 200 full-color pages filled with exclusive stories, dozens of never-before-seen photographs, and other ephemera from the label’s illustrious history — and featuring a foreword from legendary music author Peter Guralnick — The Last Soul Company is an invaluable documentation of a unique and essential American music institution.
“Malaco’s story, by all rights, should never have happened,” says the collection’s author Rob Bowman. That story is one of the greatest, and certainly most improbable, of any independent record company in the history of American music. After releasing a string of era-defining soul hits in the 1960s and 70s, the Jackson, Mississippi-based label expanded into the worlds of gospel and blues, and outlasted Motown, Atlantic, Chess, Stax, Sun, Ace and every other indie label releasing African-American music in the process. Having marked its 50th anniversary, Malaco proudly stands as the oldest continuously run independent record label in America, and the biggest and most important gospel label in the world.
And the label remains vital: Not only does it continue to be a major player in the Black gospel world, but when Kanye West, Drake, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Solange, Snoop Dogg or 2Chainz are digging for soulful, powerful samples to undergird some of the 21st century’s biggest hip-hop albums, time and time again they turn to Malaco’s incredible catalog.
“Just in case we weren’t going to be a successful record company, as a pharmacy graduate, I kept my license current for a few more years, as a fallback insurance policy.” says Malaco co-founder Tommy Couch Sr. of Malaco’s improbable path to success. “We kept making records and releasing them on our own labels and soon we had a Gold album on Z. Z. Hill and we were on our way to become a real record company. We were building content years before we ever heard ‘Content is King.’
“Throughout the years there have been a few constants at Malaco: the music, independent spirit and independent distribution,” says Malaco’s Tommy Couch Jr. “While the music business has undergone tremendous changes in the past 50 years, great music, an independent spirit and independent distribution still remain Malaco’s top priorities.”