Everyone is ‘rediscovering’ Florence Price. Leave it to the L.A. Phil to reveal her essence even as much of what we are seeing and hearing around her is a reflection of our own, self-referential, commercializing world. The L.A. Phil’s website has done what many other outlets haven’t: it’s gone to the source, back to one of the most legendary figures in the history of blues and a woman who was a visionary on multiple levels—not just a blues guitarist but a writer, teacher, performer, activist, businesswoman, philanthropist, and a champion of the poor.
Florence Price is one of the great blues female musicians. But it’s not just her music that makes her stand out. She was a writer and activist who wrote of her love of the blues, of the women who formed a “brotherhood of blues”—in other words, the women who learned and created in the same studio—and of how that led her to discover her own power as a musician. She was a political activist, who advocated for a number of causes, like prison reform, that directly impacted not only her fellow blueswomen, but the women of her own time as well—men, women, young and old.
But Florence Price was also a woman of her time. She was also a businesswoman, first and foremost, who ran a thriving recording studio, as well as managed other businesses. Most importantly, she was an icon of the female blues, a figure who embodied and carried the values of the early-60s movement. Indeed, Price’s presence in the L.A. area is not simply a coincidence, but a reflection of the movement and the values it represented.
In addition to being the first female blues guitarist to record with Chess Records (it was under the name Fanny Brice), Price was an entrepreneur first, and a musician second. In the early 1960s, Price started her own small music recording studio, called the Music & Arts Studio, in her hometown, Los Angeles. It was run by her husband, Gene Brown, and, according to the L.A. Phil, was a way for Price to support herself and their three sons. As Gene revealed in a 2015 interview with the L.A. Phil:
Florence Price was a person who—just as her husband Mike Brown was with his music business—loved being in the studio. We