Bob Feldman: 1949 to 2006
The world of roots music lost one of its most ardent supporters on January 11 when Red House Records president Bob Feldman died at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Though Feldman had been battling health problems for some time, none of his ailments were believed to be life-threatening, and at press time a cause of death had yet to be reported. Feldman was 56.
Born in St. Paul and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Feldman initially became a high school teacher and offered a course in entrepreneurship. After being smitten by a coffeehouse performance of singer-songwriter Greg Brown in 1983, however, he put his teachings into practice and resurrected the then-dormant Red House label (which Brown had founded in 1980) with a $2,000 investment. From that modest beginning, Feldman went on to grow the label into a thriving business that, today, employs nine people and boasts sales approaching $3 million.
More significant than financial success, however, was the roster of talent Feldman brought under the Red House umbrella. Besides Brown, artists who have recorded for the label include Eliza Gilkyson, Loudon Wainwright III, Robin & Linda Williams, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, whose Red House release South Coast earned a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1996. Several Minnesota-based artists have recorded for the label as well, including John Gorka, Peter Ostroushko, and Spider John Koerner.
Singer-songwriters who worked with Feldman over the years often cited his passion for promoting roots music, and emphasized the trust he placed in the creative instincts of his recording artists. Brown himself turned down several major-label offers over the years, citing “personal values” as his reason for remaining with Red House.
In a 1995 interview with the Associated Press, Feldman said Red House had evolved from “a hobby to a business to a frustrating business to a fun business.” The day after his death, Red House staffers announced they would “continue operations and passionately pursue Bob Feldman’s vision of cultivating new talent and bringing the highest quality independent music to fans around the world.”