"Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound"
re-aired February 2019
Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound
Explore the story of two men who created Florida's first black-owned record label.
About the Show
Premiere Date: July 2016
"Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound" tells the story of how two musical geniuses created the first black-owned record label in Florida. They changed the face of soul music in Miami and eventually the country forever.
America, in the1960s, was a time of great achievement, upheaval and transformation. The stains of social and racial injustice marked every corner of society. And, as often occurs in nations amidst turmoil, great artistic outlets emerged as a direct result of those changes. Soul music, a distinct cultural phenomenon born out of the inner cities, was at the forefront of this new American expression. It was a sound that combined gospel with rhythm and blues and emerged out of a uniquely African-American experience.
There were several music labels across the country, such as Atlantic and Stax Records, that captured this sound. However, the Detroit-based, Motown Records was the pioneer label during this era. Its founder, Berry Gordy, would be the first African-American to own a record label that featured primarily African-American artists, many of whom would achieve major crossover success. The label would play a significant role in the racial integration of popular music, making household names of the likes of the Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and a host of others.
Read more about the show below.
A Closer Look at "Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound"
More About the Show
All across the U.S., other cities scrambled to replicate Motown’s success. From Philly to Los Angeles, smaller labels sprang up in every corner, each enterprise lending its own regional flare to the mix. These labels mainly operated on shoe-string budgets, putting a small number releases with limited distribution. For so many of these regional entrepreneurs, it became more about creating good music than gaining commercial success.
In the mid-1960s, Miami was no exception. Deep City Records was the brainchild of producers Willie Clarke and Johnny Pearsall. One from the backwoods of Tallahassee, Florida, the other from the mean streets of Miami, this duo honed business and music skills they had learned at Florida A&M University. With its unique blend of Caribbean rhythms and marching-band cadences, this label was churning out the best soul music south of the Mason Dixon Line, creating what would later be termed the “Miami Sound."
In its prime, Deep City produced exquisite artists with top-notch sounds. There was Helene Smith with a voice as silky as that of Diana Ross. The upbeat sound of Frank Williams and the Rocketeers mirrored that of James Brown, and the label’s Betty Wright could belt out tunes as powerful as the better-known Aretha Franklin. It was a platform for considerable talent that influenced many labels and artists both locally and nationally. Like so many labels at the time, it ushered in a new era of music without reaping the spoils or true acknowledgement it so deserved.
Deep City Records: The Birth of the Miami Sound acknowledges this label as a milestone in musical history and delivers the belated recognition this pioneering musical movement is owed.
"Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound" was produced by WLRN,
Scholl Creative, Crown Street Films and The Johnson Administration.