Indiana Remixed Playlist Project: Indianapolis

Our Indianapolis spotlight starts in the late 1920s with “Kokomo Blues” by Scrapper Blackwell. Blackwell, an Indianapolis native, wrote and recorded this song in reference to Kokomo, Indiana, and the song is notably the basis for Robert Johnson’s iconic “Sweet Home Chicago.” Jumping forward 20 years to 1949, Indianapolis continues to be home to iconic blues artists like Guitar Pete Franklin, who in addition to solo recordings is credited alongside delta blues legends like Tampa Red.

By the 1950s and into the 1960s, pop music shifted to accommodate a growing interest in country, rockabilly, and vocal groups. The Blankenship Brothers of Indianapolis were unique in their blending of rockabilly tempos and rhythms with country-influenced vocal harmonies and traditional fiddle accompaniment, as heard on their 1959 B-side “Lonesome Old Jail.” Vocal groups like the Four Freshman would fade entirely from popular music by the 1960s, but their impact on the future of popular music is undeniable, and the Indianapolis quartet is cited as a major influence by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Bobby Helms, a singer and lifelong Indiana resident, is notable for his place in country music history, contributing to the growing market for country records with singles like 1957’s “My Special Angel” and the 1959 holiday classic “Jingle Bell Rock.” Even lesser known Indianapolis artists like Lattie Moore anticipated the coming popularity of rock ‘n’ roll with upbeat, guitar-driven recordings like “I’m Not Broke, but I’m Badly Bent.”

By the 1950s and 1960s, a surprising amount of jazz artists came out of Indianapolis, revolutionizing the world of jazz in the process. J.J. Johnson, a notable trombonist and Indianapolis native, released the iconic “Blue Trombone” in 1957. Meanwhile, three Indianapolis brothers, Wes, Monk, and Buddy Montgomery, each changed the trajectory of jazz with their mastery of guitar, bass, and piano respectively. Though they are each notable members of independent groups and solo compositions, their chemistry together is undeniable, as heard on tracks like “Bock to Bock” from 1961’s Groove Yard. Wes himself is an icon in jazz, revolutionizing jazz guitar with his unique stylings best represented in the recently released live concert performed in Indianapolis in 1959.

By the late 1960s, rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelic music had fully invaded popular culture, influencing groups across the city to experiment with a fusion of historically popular music and psychedelic studio effects. Garage rock act Sir Winston and the Commons exploded out of Indianapolis with 1966’s “All of the Time,” becoming mainstays in Chicago nightclubs. Southeast of Indianapolis, in the small town of New Palestine, bands were traveling to the home of Moe Whittemore to record at 700 West, an independent recording studio welcoming the experimental artists of Indianapolis. Sessions at the studio produced hours of psych-influenced gems, from the acid-funk of Ebony Rhythm Band and Indianapolis legends Amnesty to the guitar driven Anonymous and proto-metal group Primevil.

The city housed a thriving soul, gospel, and funk scene in the 1970s and 1980s, sparking the formation of LAMP Records, based in Indianapolis. LAMP was home to a plethora of Indianapolis soul and funk groups, the city’s artists producing countless lost hits like the Indy’s “Come See About Her” and P.H.D.s’ “The Way It Used to Be.” Bands like Manchild, an early project of Indiana star Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, came close to stardom with the hit “Especially for You” released in 1977. Gospel groups like the Stovall Sisters and King James Version made national waves with driving rhythms and powerful vocal arrangements. Into the 1980s, Indianapolis continued to produce iconic recordings reflective of national music trends. Al Hobbs and His Indianapolis Mass Choir released the upbeat and energetic gospel record Let Him Have His Way in 1982. As new wave and power pop grew in popularity across the globe, Indianapolis’ The Late Show released their album Portable Pop in 1980, and though it failed to chart, potential hits can be heard, as displayed on “Take a Chance.”

By the 1990s and into the 2000s, hip hop had taken the nation by storm, and artists in Indianapolis began to release their own contributions to the genre. The city’s early hip hop scene is best exemplified by Mudkids on their 1998 debut 4 Trackmind. Experimental hip hop artists like MAB LAB also came up in the late 1990s naptown hip hop scene, offering a unique blend of beats, samples, live instrumentation, and soul influenced vocalizations on their 1999 track “Fade Back.” Towards the end of the 2000s, instrumental artists like The Sound Defects offered their take on hip hop instrumentation, as heard on 2004’s “Faded Soul.”

Moving into the 2010s and 2020s, new artists have emerged to carry the torches passed on by their musical predecessors. Country, folk, and pop rock are blended together into the sound of Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos, as represented here by “Broadripple is Burning.” Experimental hip hop and electronic music is being pushed to new extremes by artists like Indianapolis’ DMA. Garage and psychedelic rock have seen a resurgence in the last decade as represented by artists like Vacation Club. Indianapolis natives Hoops continue to release soul and funk influenced guitar rock, with a new record due out soon. Hip hop in Indianapolis is more active than ever, led by exciting young artists like Nagasaki Dirt, Oreo Jones, Mark Battles, and Sirius Blvck. These and many more modern Indianapolis artists represent a coalition of the city’s rich musical history, pushing the boundaries of their genres into the new decade and continuing the tradition of leaving powerful cultural artifacts for future generations of naptown artists.

Resources for Further Exploration
On LAMP Records – episode of “Cultural Manifesto” on LAMP Records, out of Indianapolis
700 West Studios – label website for 700 West Studios, out of Indianapolis
Oreo Jones – interview with Oreo Jones about Indianapolis and growing up in Indiana
The Mudkids – interview from NUVO magazine with the Mudkids

Indiana Remixed Playlist Project: Bloomington

Our Bloomington spotlight starts with perhaps the most easily recognized and acclaimed Indiana artist, Hoagy Carmichael. The composition “Stardust” is notable, recorded numerous times by countless artists, but it is this example that is represented here, both sung and performed by Hoagy, a Bloomington native, but also recorded in Richmond, Indiana and released on Richmond label Gennett Records in 1950. Carmichael’s history is represented across town, from his statue on IU’s campus to his burial site in Rose Hill Cemetery to the Stardust bridge on Bloomington’s northwest side.

Jumping ahead to the 1970s we see the emergence of a rich independent music scene in Bloomington, best represented by the labels Bar-B-Q Records and Gulcher Records. The former came to encompass a collective of artists recording music that combined jazz, psychedelic rock, and folk elements into a unique regional sound, as represented by the Screaming Gypsy Bandits on their track “Junior” from their 1973 release In the Eye. Featured on this album is Caroline Peyton, who’s solo albums on Bar-B-Q further evolved this regional sound. Her 1972 effort Mock Up plays on-par with popular female folk artists of the time, fusing acoustic stripped arrangements with peculiar time signatures and jazz instrumentation. Her follow up Intuition, released in 1977, is more embedded in country rock, with full band arrangement and pop accessibility. Labelmate and Lebanon, Indiana native Bill Wilson made considerable contributions to this sound, bringing the influence of the Texas country rock scene with him upon returning to Bloomington in 1972. His 1973 album Ever Changing Minstrel is a perfect harmony of country and rock music, blending country instrumentation and rock structure and drive with powerful lyrics representative of the nation’s climate.

The latter label, Gulcher Records, came to encompass a scene that was radically different. Despite being a small and completely independent label, Gulcher housed recordings and releases by several of punk’s most significant acts, including Indiana natives Zero Boys and the Gizmos. The driving rhythm, distorted instrumentation, and aggressively shouted vocals of Indianapolis’ Zero Boys was heard by punks across the nation, influencing future generations of punk and rock musicians. The scene was a hot spot for artists embodying this aggressive new genre, as heard on The Panics’ “I Wanna Kill My Mom,” released in 1980. The Gizmos were proud torch bearers for the midwest sound happening in Bloomington, as embodied in 1981’s “The Midwest Can Be Alright” (consider this a response to 1980’s “Can’t Stand the Midwest,” a furious punk criticism of Indiana from West Lafayette’s Dow Jones and the Industrials). Gulcher records also housed New Wave acts hailing from Indiana, like Bloomington’s Amoebas in Chaos and MX-80. The Bloomington punk scene became a nexus for experimentation with the punk sound, as represented by a fusion of punk and electronic music heard on E-in Brino’s “Indianapolis and the Dancing Cigarettes” & “Pop Doormat,” both released in 1981.

Moving into the 1980s, we see the emergence of perhaps Bloomington’s second most notable and easily recognized artist. John Mellencamp, born and raised in Seymour Indiana, had found commercial success in the late 1970s and early 1980s with singles like “Hurts so Good,” “I Need a Lover,” and “Jack & Diane.” At a crossroads in his career, Mellencamp decided to return to his home state, starting what would become a tradition of writing and recording in Indiana that would last the rest of his career. 1983’s “Pink Houses” glorified small town America, harkening to a nondescript image of average American life with accounts of vague American characters. Building on this theme and creating the image for which he is best known for, Mellencamp released Small Town in 1985, with the hit single “Small Town,” an anthem not only for small town America but also for Indiana. Mellencamp, who resides now in Bloomington, remains a proud torch bearer for Indiana music and art into the new decade.

In the 90s, artists began expanding upon the alternative rock explosion in popular culture. As shoegaze, noise rock, and grunge began to take underground and eventually mainstream markets by storm, Bloomington’s Arson Garden released their sophomore effort Under Towers in 1993, an album laden with noisy guitars affected with pitch shifting effects pedals. Horror-punk act The Nevermores released their first and only album Lock Your Doors… in 1991, blending the familiar Bloomington punk sound with Farfisa organ and screamed lyrics. Antenna formed in Bloomington after the dissolution of Blake Babies, releasing guitar driven songs with pop sensibility and distorted riffs inherent to grunge and alternative rock acts, as heard on 1993’s “Shine.”

By the late 1990s and early 2000s alternative rock had splintered and shifted in numerous directions, one towards a genre that would be coined “Emo,” inspiring genre pioneers Early Day Miners. The Bloomington band released Let us Garlands Bring in 2002, and songs like “Centralia” embody the band’s desolate and slow guitar driven compositions, layered with somber strings and whispered harmonies. Bloomington’s Good Luck took a different approach to emo music, fusing the genre’s lyrical frustration with punk’s pace and instrumentation and pop’s accessibility, as heard on 2008’s “Stars Were Exploding,” which specifically references Lake Griffy. Moving into the 2010s, the underground music scene’s of America began to revisit the early rock ‘n’ roll sound of 1960s garage bands. Apache Dropout released “Teenager” on independent label Family Vineyard in 2011, echoing the sound of Bloomington’s original punk scene. Triptides, originally of Bloomington, combines reverb-drenched guitar tones with whispered lyrics and psych-influenced song structure, as heard on 2012’s “Sun/Shine.” Diane Coffee harkens back to bubble gum pop and r&b tunes on tracks like 2013’s “Green.” Bands like Thee Tsunamis are reminiscent of Bloomington’s original punk scene while creating unique garage rock tracks like 2015’s “Drag.” Into the mid 2010’s Bloomington remained a haven for experimental artists as well, like the ambient electronic project Lake Daggers, whose 2015 “Rite II” is built upon a sparse musical landscape consisting of drum machines and droning synth bass.

Bloomington artists continue to build on the traditions of artists before them. Dasher combines punk aggression with effect-laden guitar tones reminiscent of shoegaze and alternative Bloomington bands from the 1990s. T.V. Mike & the Scarecrows produce tight country rock that would fit in the Bar-B-Q Records circa 1975. Indie pop duo Spissy combine the pop sensibilities of 1970s and 1980s rock radio with mellow guitar-driven arrangements that Mellencamp could tap his foot to. Bloomington is also home to a new generation of inspired folk musicians, like Kay Krull, whose distinctly unique recordings continue to evolve the sounds of Caroline Peyton. The Wonderhills also build on the Bar-B-Q Records sound, combining elements of bluegrass and old time into a unique folk-fusion. The Cowboys remain torch bearers for the Bloomington punk scene, bringing a fresh perspective to fast-paced, power-chord driven anthems. Amy-O draws from the same history of Bloomington’s 1990s alternative rock scene, expanding the sound with catchy riffs and beautifully arranged vocal harmonies. Most importantly, however, Bloomington remains a place for artists to blossom and create new music movements, as heard in Durand Jones & the Indications, whose retro-soul revival music is quickly gaining recognition across the nation. As it has always been, Bloomington is a place for artists across Indiana and even the world to come together, influence and inspire one another, and create exciting and timeless music.

Resources for Further Exploration
Arson Gardon – article about Arson Garden, an art rock project out of Bloomington, from Nuvo Magazine
Caroline Peyton – piece on folk artist Caroline Peyton, from Numero Group
Gulcher Records – write-up about Gulcher Records and the Bloomington punk scene
Bill Wilson – article from Nuvo Magazine about Bill Wilson, a Bloomington cosmic country artist

Indiana Remixed Playlist Project: Gary

Our Gary, Indiana spotlight starts in 1954 with the Spaniels’ third single “Goodnight Sweetheart,” released on Vee Jay records. Vee Jay, founded in Gary in 1953, would go on to become one of the most important r&b labels in the nation, paving the way for the rock ‘n’ roll explosion in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Early examples of rock ‘n’ roll can be heard on The El Durados’ “At My Door (Crazy Little Mama),” released in 1957. Vee Jay was also home to Jimmy Reed, who moved from Mississippi to Gary in the 1940s. Reed brought with him the sound of delta blues and combined that with the sound of early rock ‘n’ roll acts on Vee Jay’s catalogue, creating a unique and driven version of the blues that would influence countless rock ‘n’ roll acts into the late 1960s, as heard on tracks like 1958’s “Ain’t That Lovin You” and 1960’s “Big Boss Man.”

Moving into the late 1960s, we see the emergence of Gary’s most notable stars, the wildly popular Jackson 5. The child soul group quickly rose to international fame and created the star that was Michael Jackson. Provided here are the original 1967 recordings from the group, the first known studio sessions actually recorded in Gary. Known as the Steeltown sessions, the band’s harmonies backing Michael’s already powerful and distinct voice can be clearly recognized on tracks like “Big Boy,” the band’s first successful single, which received considerable airplay in the Gary and Chicago area. Gary is also home to r&b legend Denice Williams, whose landmark single “Free,” released in 1976, is a significant contribution to the genre. Williams would go on to have a successful solo career that would last well into the 1980s with the single “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” The 1980s would also see Michael Jackson rise far above the commercial success he had with his brothers on his solo release Thriller in 1982, an album that would go on to become the best selling album of all time. Though the Jacksons had left Gary for the west coast by this time, the monumental success of their collective careers make them perhaps the most significant Indiana artists with regards to international cultural impact.

By the 1990s, r&b had evolved to incorporate elements of 1980s pop and the increasingly popular hip hop movement. Janet Jackson made significant strides in pioneering this genre-blending type of r&b, as heard on 1993’s “That’s the Way Love Goes.” Janet became an icon upon the release of this album, exploring sexuality from the female perspective and setting herself apart from her brothers and their musical legacy to create her own. The album’s sound was fully evolved on her 1997 follow up The Velvet Rope, featuring some of Hip Hop’s biggest names. Though Janet left Gary in her earliest years, her sound was massively influential to a number of artists in Gary during the 1990s. Among these artists is r&b duo Trina & Tamara, whose 1999 eponymous debut had all the makings to be a chart topping hit, as heard on the single “What’d You Come Here For?” Equally inspired by the Jackson’s legacy was Trina and Tamara’s older brother Jesse Powell, whose 1996 single “You” would rise to critical acclaim, topping the r&b charts and earning him a grammy nomination.

Gary is now home to several torch bearers for the region, particularly in the world of hip hop. Freddie Gibbs has perhaps received the greatest amount of recognition, emerging in the early 2010s with tracks like “Eastside Moonwalker” that explore life in Gary. Gibbs carried the representation of his home city into commercial success on his revolutionary 2014 release Pinata. The collaboration with producer MadLib contains tracks like “Harold’s,” a partial ode to Harold’s Chicken in Gary, Indiana, and “Thuggin,” an ode to Gibbs’ upbringing in the city. Gibbs’ 2019 effort Bandana evolves the artists sound further, and tracks like lead single “Flat Tummy Tea” firmly establish Gibbs as one of the most important names in contemporary hip hop. Gary is also home to Will $crilla, whose 2017 Fresh Out the Joint Buzz Builders recounts the artists arrest and release from prison and explores life in Gary. Keeping in the tradition of experimentation and genre-expansion, Gary footwork artist Jlin releases works that fuse dance, techno, and hip hop into unique instrumental compositions. These artists carry the city’s tradition of pioneering artists into the 2020s, maintaining Gary’s legacy of being a hot spot for inventive artists with the potential to impact the international music scene.

Resources for Further Exploration
The Rise and Fall of Vee-Jay Records – NPR article on Vee-Jay Records, founded in Gary, Indiana
Interview with Freddie Gibbs – interview with the hip-hop artist on his hometown of Gary
Interview with Jlin – interview with the footwork artist on Gary
Jackson 5 Homecoming – news story about the Jacksons returning to Gary

Introducing the Indiana Remixed Playlist Project

The following is a guest post from Nicholae Cline (IU Libraries Scholarly Services and Media Studies Librarian) as part of the IU Arts and Humanities Council Indiana Remixed programming. 


There is often an attitude of detachment from your home state, an approach to the place of your upbringing that is sometimes constituted by disinterest in its history even if lived experience is structured by lineages of many kinds. For those of you born in Indiana, perhaps you felt this growing up in a state often overlooked in general primary and secondary school social studies. This project aims to change that for ourselves, and hopefully for you as well. In compiling this list of great Indiana recordings by legendary Indiana artists, we have set out to draw connections from the Hoosier state’s musical past to its present and explore the many ways artists from the state situate themselves into national (and even global) musical movements.

Before talking about the music, it will be important to talk about the process. In deciding what to define as “Indiana music,” we drew from a number of lists and articles, some linked on this page. Generally, the artists here will have been born in or lived a significant amount of their lives in Indiana (at least five years). We have tried our best to limit the song selection to recordings produced in Indiana, showcasing the sound of legendary Indiana recording studios and producers. We have also worked within the parameters of “contemporary music,” defined as spanning from the 1920s to the 2020s.

For further exploration, we have compiled three regional spotlights, highlighting what we suggest are key musical well springs in Indiana history. In closely examining the musical history of Gary, Indianapolis, and Bloomington, Indiana, we can observe consistent communities of artists and musicians carrying the torch of Hoosier music into the new decade across a wide spectrum of genres, including blues, jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, and electronic music. Though Indiana itself hosts artists from its small towns to its large cities, it is these three localities that stand out over the last century.

There will undoubtedly be many artists we missed, because, as we’ve learned, Indiana’s musical history is much larger than ever imagined. As we move into the new decade, Indiana artists continue to produce exciting contributions to the genres and movements they situate themselves in, and if anything we hope these playlists prove that this has been the case for Indiana for the past century.

To dive in, check out our “master” playlist, with music from the entire series:

Resources for Further Exploration
100 Best Hoosier Albums Ever – Nuvo list of best albums made in or by Indiana artists
Musical Family Tree – online index of Indiana music
Record Labels of Indiana – index of Indiana record labels, from the 1950s-’70s
Cultural Manifesto – podcast from Nuvo columnist Kyle Long, with episodes on Amnesty, 700 West Studios, and many other Indiana musical legends
Riverwalk Jazz – article on Gennett Records, a blues and jazz label from Richmond, Indiana

Thanks to the entire Indiana Remixed @ Wells team for their contributions to and support with this work, especially the inimitable Brett Hoffman (one of our Arts & Humanities Library Assistants).

Martha Lipton Papers

I have no musical talent beyond pushing the buttons on my MP3 player but I love music and I am a big fan of both opera and classical music.  Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a collection of papers from Martha Lipton, a famous mezzo-soprano who was later a Professor of Voice at the Jacobs School of Music.

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Born in New York City on April 6, 1913, Lipton won a scholarship to the Julliard School where she received her formal training. Graduating in 1942, she was invited to join the worldwide music fraternity Delta Omicron as an honorary member and made her debut with the New Opera Company in Manhattan playing Pauline in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. In 1944 she began a prolific career with the Metropolitan Opera which continued until 1961 and included over 400 performances. Under the direction of famous conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, and Bruno Walter, she sang with both the New York and Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestras.  Her most popular recording was Handel’s Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir –  and while this recording I’m sure is wonderful, I’m sure that it had to be something entirely different live.  I have had the opportunity to hear the Tabernacle Choir perform in Salt Lake City and was awestruck!  Another notable role in her career was Augusta in the American opera Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore at the Central City Opera House in Colorado.  The opera became so popular that it was later performed at the Met.  In total, Lipton performed three dozen roles in four languages.

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In 1960, Lipton accepted a position on the teaching faculty of the Indiana University School of Music. Additionally during her tenure she graced the university campus with numerous performances, most notable being Puccini’s Aida in which she played the role of Amneris in July and August of 1963.  With a cast of over 600 including a full orchestra, the production was so large that the stage was built in the old Memorial Stadium! The photographs shown here give a sense of just how large the production actually was!

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The Martha Lipton papers include many wonderful promotional photographs which document the beautifully detailed costumes she wore in her performances as well as a hand fan that she used in Rigoletto.  That was a fun discovery!

Lipton was a gifted teacher who was much loved by her students.  While she officially retired from teaching in 1983 with the rank of professor emeritus, she continued to teach part-time until her death on November 28, 2006.