Bob Geddins recorded most of the musicians of 7th Street, including Saunders King, Lowell Fulson and Sugar Pie DeSanto. He helped countless musicians get their start and wrote blues songs that topped the charts in the ‘50s and ‘60s. However, because Geddins didn’t copyright his work, he “got cheated out of all kinds of money,” as he said in a 1977 interview.
Geddins came to California from Texas in 1933. He lived in Los Angeles until 1943, when he and his large family (he had 13 children) joined his mother in West Oakland. Like so many Southern transplants, he found work in the Kaiser shipyards.
He saw a real need for the blues in the Bay Area. In an interview with Living Blues Magazine, Geddins recalled thinking that Oakland “could be record heaven,” when he first began recording local artists. He recorded Lowell Fulson, who left Geddins for a big contract with Swing Time Records and went on to become a commercial success. Years later, Fulson said that Geddins helped him develop his sound. “Bob really taught me how to phrase the blues. He knew what he wanted to hear, and that’s what the public wanted to hear,” he said.
In the beginning, Geddins recorded musicians in his living room and in the back of his radio and TV repair shop on 7th Street. At that time, in the mid-1940s, Geddins would press 100 or so records and either sell them from the back of his truck or fill his car with records and hit the road to sell them to record shops in Texas and Louisiana.
Later, he opened the Down Town Recording Studio, and a pressing plant, in East Oakland. Over the course of his recording career, Geddins started a handful of labels – Big Town, Down Town, Irma (named after his wife) and Veltone.