Big Bear Records was founded by promoter and band manager Jim Simpson in 1968, taking its name from the nickname given to Simpson by Radio 1 DJ John Peel. At the time, Simpson was managing The Locomotive, who had just scored a top 40 hit with "Rudi's In Love". After Parlophone, the band's existing label, declined to release the planned follow-up recording "Rudi The Red Nosed Reindeer", Simpson decided to set up his own Big Bear Records label to release the single (with the band renamed Steam Shovel for contractual reasons), with initial distribution from Island Records.
During 1968, Simpson established the weekly Henry's Blueshouse club night at The Crown Hotel on Station Street in Birmingham. Early members of the club included Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi, who one week approached Simpson to request a support slot at a future gig for their band, then known as Earth. Simpson would go on to manage Earth, who soon changed their name to Black Sabbath. Under Simpson's management, they reached number one on the album chart with Paranoid, before leaving him in 1970.
Following this, Simpson began to focus his attention on recording and touring American bluesmen, under the billing American Blues Legends. Featuring musicians including Tommy Tucker, Willie Mabon, Homesick James, Doctor Ross, Snooky Pryor, Cousin Joe, Eddie "Guitar" Burns, Champion Jack Dupree and Eddie Playboy Taylor, Big Bear released a total of 21 albums of American blues during the 1970s.
Links to Peel
Although Peel inspired Jim Simpson to call his record label Big Bear Records, it seems that none of the acts from the label were regularly played by JP, except for the new wave group The Quads, who had substantial airplay on his shows. In 1999, Peel selected "There Must Be Thousands" by the Quads in his four choices for the Peelenium 1979.
Big Bear artists who recorded Peel sessions. List includes sessions when the artists were not on Big Bear.
- Quads: (1 session, 1979)
(2xLP - Brum Beat Live At The Barrel Organ) Big Bear
- 01 December 1999: Quads: When Everything Is Said And Done
- 09 December 1999 (Radio Eins): Quads: When Everything Is Said And Done