John Prine’s Family Carries on His Legacy as Oh Boy Records Celebrates 40th Anniversary
Oh Boy Records -- the label John Prine co-founded with his manager, Al Bunetta, in 1981 -- is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021. The record label has been independent and family-owned since its start, and in the wake of the folk icon's death from COVID-19 in April of 2020, his family members have continued to see that vision through.
Prine's widow, Fiona Whelan Prine, is the president of Oh Boy Records, and the singer's oldest son, Jody Whelan, is managing partner of the company. In the virtual press room at the 2021 Grammy Awards on Sunday night (March 14), both Fiona and Jody appeared to discuss Prine's two posthumous wins for his final recording, "I Remember Everything," as well as to speak to the legendary singer-songwriter's enduring legacy, including the label.
"You know, [Oh Boy Records] was started mail-order only in 1981, and John was a postman [before finding success as a musician], and so we still use USPS every day and we take care of folks the old-school way," Jody Whelan explained, speaking about the everyday ways that the label continues to honor Prine's memory.
"We wanna continue to support his music, and then also the next generation of singer-songwriters," he adds. "We've released a few great things over the last couple years, but we've got some more surprises coming."
"More to come," Fiona Prine chimes in.
So far, Oh Boy Records has revealed a couple of exciting 40th anniversary plans that are in the works, including a documentary that features interviews with the Prine family members currently running the label as well as archival footage from the singer himself. Per Rolling Stone, the film will premiere in a series of short sections on the label's YouTube channel.
Additionally, Oh Boy Records will issue a new edition of Prine's self-titled debut album from 1971, and other commemorative materials are in the works as well. A compilation album dedicated to Prine, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2, is also slated for release in the fall; it's a follow-up to 2010's Vol. 1, which features contributions from the Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Sara Watkins, Drive-By Truckers and more.
While few details of Vol. 2 have been announced, Brandi Carlile will contribute a rendition of "I Remember Everything," which won two Grammys on Sunday night. She performed the song during the 2021 Grammy Awards telecast, as part of the show's tribute to the musical legends who died in 2020.
In addition to celebrating 40 years of Oh Boy Records, Prine's family is hoping the year ahead will provide an opportunity for an in-person, public celebration of the singer-songwriter's life. If the threat of the pandemic declines sufficiently, Jody Whelan says, the family will plan an event that will include as many fans as possible.
"As long as it's safe and we keep getting good news, we hope to bring in as many people [as we can] to celebrate this, and his career, and everything," he explains.
"And to remember him," Fiona Prine adds. "... I always tell people: If you want to know the story of John Prine, start reading the lyrics of the first song and go all the way to "I Remember Everything." We're so grateful to the fans, really."
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