Chronic Creativity

The problem with having Chronic Creativity is that it is HIGHLY contagious! It can spread rapidly through a large population or a village such as the one that I live in.

However, there are many who are immune to getting Chronic Creativity. These people prefer tradition over innovation, safety over risk, and routine over spontaneity. They can rub closely with an infected person and never get the bug. The Chronic Creativity bug is spreading rapidly through Grafton, Wisconsin right now.

It all started when I, Angela, got a photocopied letter from a record collector in my mailbox. It talked about how my hometown, Grafton, WI had a famous recording studio called Paramount Records in the 1920's and 30's. Being a musician, I laughed. "Yeah...right...", I thought, "In this little farm community." I threw it away thinking it was some chain letter. Surely, I hadn't EVER heard of that before! Oh yes, I've heard about Grafton's historical Lime Kilns. But a recording studio? NEVER!

Then, my condition, Chronic Creativity hit me a few years later. Boredom began to hit me. I was on the Internet. "Hmmmm....what shall I study?" I pondered. Nothing in the World Wide Web seemed to rectify the boredom. Then a light bulb flashed above my head. "I will study Grafton's history!" So I started to research Grafton. Sure enough, there WAS a recording studio in Grafton. But then a fury of passion rushed through every fiber of my being. I got mad. "WHY DOESN'T ANYONE KNOW ABOUT THIS? WHY DIDN'T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?"

So my crusade began. I would ask locals, "Did you know that there was a famous recording studio here? Did you know that over 50 blues artists recorded here? Did you know that the father of gospel recorded here? How about the jazz, country, and ethnic music recorded here? Did you know that all of the Paramount Records in the nation were shipped from Grafton? Do you know that we distributed over 1/4 of the "race records" at that time in the nation?" The answer was always, "No! I NEVER new that...tell me more!" I quickly found out that people wanted to be educated and there was a lack of education offered in this area. This curiosity began to hit everyone that I talked to. Once I saw their curiosity and hunger to learn more, I smiled. They were being infected with Chronic Creativity and didn't even know it!

To make a LONG story short, when I discovered that nothing was being done about Grafton's Paramount history and the legendary blues artists that recorded here, I knew that it must change. This passion was birthed out of 4 things:

  1. a passion for the African American culture and the injustice they've faced in the history of America
  2. a passion to influence the bring the arts to Grafton
  3. a passion for music history as a whole
  4. the spiritual lives of those who recorded here

It started with developing a website with my husband and Alex van der Tuuk from the Netherlands who spent 10 years of his life writing, "Paramount's Rise and Fall" and the history of Grafton. Next, I cast a vision to the Grafton Jaycees to hold a yearly blues festival. That happened for the first time on September 23, 2006 at Lime Kiln Park in Grafton, Wisconsin. Then, I connected the Grafton Area Live Arts to bring an "Embrace the Legacy" concert series with a focus on performers who could educate. I initiated Michael "Hawkeye" Herman (international blues educator and performer) to perform for all three Grafton Elementary schools followed by an evening concert. I contacted the PBS show, "History Detectives" to see if they would do a show about Grafton's Paramount Recording history. They will be doing a show next year that will air across the nation on public television.

Meanwhile, Joe, a business man, purchased a building in downtown Grafton to turn into a Paramount Restaurant. The Grafton village president took notice to the growing "underground movement" of interested locals. He gathered key leaders in Grafton to discuss how we can brand the Paramount theme into the community. He held a brainstorming meeting and we came up with over 20 things that could be done. (It's great to have a village president who has Chronic Creativity. When he mentioned that we were going to brainstorm, I recognized that he had full blown CC.) He thinks that this is the "identity" that Grafton never had. Many ideas are in place.

There is much to this part of music history. I am thankful that the village is now embracing the legacy. Overall, Grafton is changing and will continue to change. A culture is being created. It's about time! (And to think that it all started because I got bored one day.)

Our website has been maintained by my husband who is just as passionate about Paramount as I. In fact, he is the president of our newly formed "Paramount G.I.G. (Grooves in Grafton) Society." Several people wanted me to be the president but I was afraid that my serious Chronic Creativity would prevent me from being an organized leader. So because of my condition, I declined the offer.

I have never been behind such a "cause" as this before. I just let my passion and Chronic Creativity guide the brush as I've used my community as a canvas. Applying my skills as a music director, I pulled all of the right people for the right "parts" if you will. Now radio stations, newspapers, and television people are getting curious. (You know what that means.)

Please stop by our web site Paramounts Home and see for yourself what a Chronic Creativity epidemic looks like in a community. It is dedicated to telling the stories, giving information, and educating the world as to how influential the music recorded, pressed, and distributed here really was on American culture as a whole! Perhaps you, like me, will become "Passionate about Paramount." •

This excerpt is from Chronic Creativity: A Diagnostic Look at the Condition and How to Become Infected ©2001 Angela K. Mack. All rights reserved.

Angela K. MackAngie Mack Reilly is a musical director, performing artist, blues educator and writer who has a wealth of experience and connections in the arts and entertainment industry. More