CHAMPAIGN — After Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey received a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album, they figured they would stay home and watch the awards ceremony on TV.
"Then we thought, 'Well, that's stupid,'" Hennessey remembered.
So the two, who are married, traveled from Champaign to Los Angeles for the Grammy week of activities plus the live telecast of the awards ceremony, not expecting anything other than a good time.
The two actually ended up winning the Grammy on that trip for their Archeophone Records release "Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922."
It was the first time they had submitted one of their releases for Grammy consideration.
Now, they don't pass up the chance to attend the Grammy show and related events whenever Archeophone Records is up for an award.
"It's a party you just can't refuse," Martin said.
So far, six of their reissues of historic music have received a total of 11 nominations for Best Historical Album and/or Best Liner Notes.
That number includes their August release, "Isham Jones, Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides," which received Grammy nods in both categories.
The Grammy telecast will begin at 7 p.m. next Sunday on CBS.
Martin and Hennessey will be in the audience. But if "Isham Jones, Happy" wins, the couple and/or writer of the CD liner notes would have been recognized earlier, at a three-hour ceremony in which the "geek" awards are announced.
"More than 60 awards are handed out from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Nokia Theatre," Martin said. "Then everyone scurries across the street to the Staples Center for the televised awards ceremony."
Actually, 90 percent of the Grammy awards are handed out before the Sunday telecast, which Hennessey described as more concert than awards ceremony.
"It's fun seeing a spectacle like that," she said.
"It's the best concert of the year, and we get in free," Martin said.
The two also enjoy the reception for all Grammy nominees the Saturday night before the telecast.
At that, "Every nominee gets a medallion," Martin said. "You look like you just won the Nobel Peace Prize, and you feel like you've won a million bucks. They take your picture too."
At the Saturday event, the two also enjoy mixing with other nominees and celebs. In past years, they've mingled with Weird Al Yankovic, Kathy Griffin and Jimmy Jam. At that event, the two from Champaign also personally congratulate the lifetime achievement award winners. Among the winners they've given their best to were legends Pinetop Perkins, Clark Terry, Allen Toussaint and David "Honeyboy" Edwards.
Martin and Hennessey won't meet any of the musicians they help maintain for posterity.
They're long gone.
Archeophone Records reissues restored and digitally remastered recordings of music made between 1890 and 1925 — the acoustic era, when musicians recorded into a crude recording horn — not a microphone.
"We're mining the world's forgotten music for which there is little interest from other labels, scholars or the recording industry at large," Martin said. "Because of the limited dynamic range, they don't like the sound or think it's quaint or old-timey."
Most of the musicians and bands on Archeophone CDs are unknown to the general public. But Archeophone also has reissued music by at least two big names:
— Bert Williams, a vaudeville entertainer and the bestselling black artist before 1920.
— Sophie Tucker, one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century, known as the "last of the red hot mamas."
"One year, I was explaining to Booker T. (at a Grammy reception) that we did a Sophie Tucker release and his mouth just dropped," Martin said.
In the future, Archeophone hopes to release Al Jolson's earliest recordings.
Mix of music
Archeophone reissues a mix of music including spirituals, ragtime, pop and early jazz and dance bands — and spoken word and comedy too.
They reissued the Isham Jones music, recorded in 1920, because it's from a largely unknown part of the saxophonist/band leader's career. Jones was, however, well-known for writing the melody for "It Had to Be You," as well as other hits.
"His arrangements were years ahead of other musicians, and he did some really interesting things with the instrumentation," Martin told the University of Illinois News Bureau. "His recordings help fill the gap between ragtime and jazz."
David Sager, a trombonist and musical scholar, wrote the liner notes for the Jones reissue.
"David has a gift for explaining music and opening it up," Hennessey told the UI News Bureau. "His notes for 'Happy' give the listener a clear sense of not only where dance music was at the time Isham started, but also why his arrangements were so special."
Martin and Hennessey started Archeophone Records in 1998, sort of as a hobby, when he was collecting 78-rpm recordings and burning out on his work toward a Ph.D. in English at Indiana University.
"We both loved popular music and wondered what happened before rock 'n' roll, the roots," Hennessey said.
"We found a whole other world nobody knew anything about," Martin said.
Archeophone soon became more than a hobby. Martin never did finish his degree — he's ABD — all but dissertation.
He and Hennessey had met at Indiana, where she was working on a master's degree in information science. She now works full-time as the manager of web services for the UI College of Business.
She maintains the Archeophone website (archeophone.com) and handles the label's e-commerce and other duties. Together, the two come up with the concepts for and produce the albums. They also do the research and design work and work with writers, usually experts, on the album notes.
Martin handles the audio engineering duties. He basically taught himself but also received advice from "smart people."
In addition to the 65 CDs Archeophone has released so far, the label provides audio transfers, consultation and record-finding services for TV shows such as "Boardwalk Empire" and some PBS presentations.
Its releases have been featured on NPR and in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal — WSJ critic Terry Teachout once described Archeophone as "a wonderfully adventurous Illinois-based label that specializes in exhuming long-forgotten but fascinating sound recordings of the past."
In 2011, Slate.com included Martin and Hennessey on its list of 25 cultural innovators of our time.
Here in C-U, Archeophone Records is under the radar of many — Hennessey is sometimes asked about the "Emmy" awards she and her husband have received.
And the 2014 Grammy nominees for Best Historical Album are ...
"Black Europe: The Sounds and Images of Black People in Europe Pre-1927"; Jeffrey Green, Ranier E. Lotz and Howard Rye, compilation producers; Christian Zwarg, mastering engineer (various artists); label, Bear Family.
"The Garden Spot Programs, 1950"; Colin Escott and Cheryl Pawelski, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer (Hank Williams); label, Omnivore Recordings.
"Isham Jones, Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides"; Meagan Hennessey and Richard Martin, compilation producers; Richard Martin, mastering engineer (Isham Jones Rainbo Orchestra); label, Archeophone Records.
"Longing for the Past: The 78 RPM Era in Southeast Asia"; Steven Lance Ledbetter and David Murray, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer (various artists); label, Dust-To-Digital.
"There's a Dream I've Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971" (deluxe edition); Hunter Lea, Patrick McCarthy and Matt Sullivan, compilation producers; John Baldwin, mastering engineer (various artists); label, Light In The Attic Records.
And the 2014 Grammy Award nominees for Best Liner Notes are ...
"Isham Jones, Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides"; David Sager, album notes writer; label, Archeophone Records.
"I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70"; Alec Palao, album notes writer (various artists); label, Light In The Attic Records.
"Offering: Live at Temple University"; Ashley Kahn, album notes writer (John Coltrane); label, Resonance/Impulse.
"The Other Side of Bakersfield: 1950s & 60s Boppers And Rockers From 'Nashville West,' Vol. 1"; Scott B. Bomar, album notes writer (various artists); label, Bear Family.
"Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound"; Jon Kirby, album notes writer (various artists); label, The Numero Group.
"The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917-27)"; Scott Blackwood, album notes writer (various artists); label, Third Man Records/Revenant Records.
Grammy nominations for Archeophone Records
— "Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922"; winner, Best Historical Album, 2006; nominee, Best Album Notes, 2006.
— "Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings from the 1890s"; nominee, Best Historical Album, 2007; nominee, Best Album Notes, 2007.
— "Debate '08: Taft and Bryan Campaign on the Edison Phonograph"; nominee, Best Historical Album, 2008; nominee, Best Album Notes, 2008.
— "Sophie Tucker, Origins of the Red Hot Mama, 1910-1922"; nominee, Best Historical Album, 2009; nominee, Best Album Notes, 2009.
— "There Breathes a Hope: The Legacy of John Work II and His Fisk Jubilee Quartet, 1909-1916"; nominee, Best Album Notes, 2010.
— "Isham Jones, Happy: The 1920 Rainbo Orchestra Sides"; nominee, Best Historical Album, 2014; nominee, Best Album Notes, 2014.