Casual observers of the scene may be surprised to learn of the number of bands of most every type in greater Little Rock. Perhaps also surprising is that several record labels have varying degrees of market penetration. Still more surprising might be that one Little Rock label, Max Recordings, debuted by issuing a series of 45 rpm singles by area rockers. To you kids out there, 45s are the small records with the big holes.
Max (www.maxrecordings.com) launched in January 2002 with the “Fayetteville Blues” single by Little Rock’s Big Cats. The Big Cats have been on and off the scene since the mid-1990s, and seemed a perpetual side project, with its members all playing in other bands — most notably Jason White of Little Rock playing second guitar on tour for punk rockers Green Day. Big Cats guitarist Shannon Max Yarbrough was killed in a car accident in May 2000, but the band reformed for shows in 2003 and 2004 to promote the release of the Big Cats’ collection, “Worrisome Blues,” on Max.
Burt Taggart, lead singer of the Big Cats, is Max Recordings’ owner. “I started off by kicking myself in the foot because I was putting out 45s … So that has been kind of a natural shift to start putting out full-length CDs,” Taggart says. “The real difficulty with [the label] is just time — I wish I had more time to devote to it. I don’t want to make a living on the label, but I do want the label to be self-sufficient.” Taggart was born in Little Rock in 1975, just days after the family moved from Greenville, Miss. He credits late Big Cats bandmate Yarbrough for providing both inspiration and a name for Max Recordings.
Taggart says all the artists on Max were either born or now live in Little Rock with the exception of Philadelphia, Pa.-based Amen Booze Rooster, which has Little Rock ties. The Max Recordings roster includes il libretina, the Results, John Housley, Johnny Mac and American Princes. Formed in Brooklyn, N.Y., by Little Rock natives David Slade and John Beachboard, American Princes came back to Arkansas and added Little Rock guitarist Collins Kilgore. The band is already working on its third CD for Max.
Meanwhile, veteran band Mulehead recently released its announced final album on the label.
“The Max Recordings sound is like the Little Rock sound,” Taggart says. “Mulehead [is] kind of a country-rock thing; it runs the gamut from there to American Princes, which is kind of an indie-rock thing, to the Big Cats, which are more like a Replacements-y thing. It’s kind of hitting wherever Little Rock is hitting. Whatever’s there is going to show up at some time or another.”
A Max Recordings “Gala” with American Princes, il libretina and the Big Cats will be Dec. 27 at Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock.
Here more about Max Recordings on this week’s “Arkansongs” at 6:40 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. Fridays on KUAR-FM, 89.1, in Little Rock. E-mail: skoch@arkansas.net