I used to think that living in a hotel and eating out all the time would be fun. It was. But the entertaining factor grew thin after a while. Then it grew thinner. Toward the end, I missed the family and home.
Watermelon Records' Heinz Geissler was reluctant to pose for a picture for this issue's detailed history of Watermelon Records by Andy Langer. I think he was probably nervous about how he would be portrayed. This is a legitimate concern. Read Langer's piece; it is a fascinating story. I find no villains there. Geissler and John Kunz (with Robert Earl Keen, who soon sold his share) started Watermelon in 1989 with a commitment to release regional music that excited them and to treat the artists fairly. When business was reasonable, they treated everyone well and earned a national reputation for their releases. Then Watermelon was slammed by market developments, a dramatic downshift in the number of new releases ordered, and a dramatic increase in the amount of back-catalog returns. I've run a business when the economic white water was tearing up its bottom. It isn't pretty, and it isn't easy. Everyone knows how to do things better than you do; just ask them. Meanwhile, you're holding on for dear life and hoping for the best. This may make me unusually sympathetic to Watermelon, but I think most folks are. I'm not defending not paying artists, but listen to what some of the musicians that are owed money have to say.
The most important point about Watermelon's existence is the list of their releases. It is an extraordinary list -- they took a lot of chances and showed great taste. Langer's story illustrates the difficulties of the music business. No matter how well-intentioned an enterprise, it can easily be swamped by the movements of the business. When all is said and done, there are the CDs released by Watermelon representing so many wonderful acts.