Born 4 August 1945, Germany

Richard Weize is the founder of Bear Family Records, probably the most important reissue label in the world when it comes to roots oriented music. Weize began collecting records in 1956, with the purchase of Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock". In the fifties he sucked in every piece of information he could find on rock 'n' roll, but from 1960 on his interest shifted to country music. Richard even started a short- lived magazine called "Country Collector's Information". In 1966 he moved to England and sold his record collection. In 1968 Weize went to the International Festival of Country Music at Wembley and got hooked all over again. After returning to Germany in the early 1970s, he started the Folk Variety label and started booking folk acts into German clubs. Bear Family Records was launched in 1975. The label's name was inspired by an old woodcut (in a 1898 encyclopedia) of a mother bear and her cubs that appealed to Richard so much that he named his company after it. His first venture into leasing vintage masters and repackaging came in 1978 when he licensed "The Unissued Johnny Cash". As a parallel venture, Bear Family mail order was started. From the start, Richard never looked to make money from Bear Family Records. The profits came from the mailorder operation. The record company came simply from a desire to see the music packaged right. As a result of this non- commercial orientation, Bear Family can postpone a release until Weize is completely satisfied with the quality. Some of the box-sets have been twenty years in the making (Ricky Nelson, in particular). The emphasis has always been on quality. Bear Family licenses the masters from the copyright holders and doesn't take advantage of the current copyright laws that enable old masters to be issued without payment after a certain number of years. Then Weize or someone on his staff goes to the States and copies all the masters digitally, taking special care to locate the first generation tape. Then every effort is made to locate unissued masters. After the audio research is completed, Richard assigns the project to the most knowledgeable people in the field who conduct new research for the discographies and liner notes, which then are double-checked for accuracy. Every effort is made to locate rare or unpublished photos to complete the package, and again first generation prints or original negatives are used whenever possible for premium quality. Finally, any missing masters are dubbed from the best available source and the compilation is mastered by engineers who are generally acknowledged as the best in the field. That's why Bear Family records cost a little more, but they are always quality products.

Bear Family takes special pride in its boxed sets. Some are complete career retrospectives, while others are complete within certain time periods. They are always packaged in an LP-sized box so that the text is easily readable and the impact of the photos isn't lost. The boxed sets are the jewels in the crown of the Bear Family catalogue. Weize calls his work a passion, an obsession. He works 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Love of music is his primary motivation. He wants to make sure that the old music is not forgotten. The man deserves our deep gratitude.

Some essential BF box-sets: The Classic Jerry Lee Lewis (BCD 15420). 8 CD-set. Fats Domino, Out of New Orleans (BCD 15541). 8 CD-set. The Classic Carl Perkins (BCD 15494). 5 CD-set. Johnny Cash : The Man In Black 1954-1958 (BCD 15517). 5 CD-set. Louis Jordan, Let The Good Times Roll (BCD 15557). 9 CD's. Duane Eddy, Twangin' From Phoenix To L.A. (BCD 15778). 5 CD's. Ricky Nelson, The American Dream (BCD 16196). 6 CD's.

Further reading: "It's a passion!" 20 years of Bear Family Records. Now Dig This 149 (August 1995), page 14-15. and

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