The Award for Distinguished Service to Historic Recordings is presented annually to an individual who has made contributions of outstanding significance to the field of historic recordings in forms other than published works or discographic research. The 2012 ARSC Distinguished Service Award was presented to Richard Weize. founder and CEO of Bear Family Records, probably the most important reissue label in the world for roots- oriented music. Richard began collecting records in 1956, with the purchase of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.” In the fifties he was fascinated by rock ‘n’ roll, but from 1960 on his interest shifted to country music. In the early 1970s, he started the Folk Variety label and started booking folk acts into German clubs.
Bear Family Records was launched in 1975. This first venture into leasing vintage masters and repackaging came in 1978 when he licensed “The Unissued Johnny Cash.” As a parallel venture, Bear Family mail order was started. Richard never looked to make money from Bear Family Records. As a result of this non-commercial orientation, Bear
Family was in a position to postpone a release until Richard was completely satisfied with the quality. The emphasis for Richard has always been on quality. Bear Family licenses the masters from the copyright holders and doesn’t take advantage of the current copyright laws that enable old masters to be issued without payment after a certain number of years. Bear Family takes special pride in its boxed sets. Some are complete career retrospectives, while others are complete within certain time periods.
Richard calls his work a passion, an obsession. He works sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. Love of music is his primary motivation. He wants to make sure that the old music is not forgotten.