Arizona-based Canyon Records has been distributing, producing and spreading Indigenous music for 60 years. They are one of the oldest independent record labels in the industry and remain one of the largest dedicated to music of Native Americans.
Currently their roster includes over 250 artists and they’ve released over 600 titles, many of which retain a traditional influence though also includes world, new age, classical, church music and even a few rock albums.
From Navajo Times’ Canyon Records celebrates 60 years:
“The reason we’ve lasted goes back to the founders of this company and that is, we’ve always listened to the Native community and what they want instead of dictating what they should do,” said Robert Doyle, Canyon Records president.
“It’s putting the artist first, the community first and that keeps us from losing touch with the vitality of the culture,” he said. “Our job is to help people in expressing their artistry, traditions and keeping ourselves invisible as collaborators in the process.”
Canyon Records was founded in 1951 by Ray and Mary Boley, music engineers who operated a local recording and film production studio.
The couple was introduced to Native American music at the request of the Phoenix Little Theater, which asked them to record Navajo singer Ed Lee Natay, a drummer and singer who was working on a musical soundtrack for the theater company.
Attracted by Natay’s voice and singing style, the Boleys decided to record a collection of his singing. That recording became “Natay, Navajo Singer,” which today remains one of Canyon Record’s bestselling albums.
The label has been celebrating their anniversary since October of last year with a series of concerts, festivals, and artist meet-and-greets.
From Arizona Republic, Canyon Records marks 60 years of preserving, promoting Native heritage:
“This is about saying thanks to the Native community for working with us and trusting us with their music,” says Robert Doyle, who worked with Canyon’s founders in 1980 before buying the label in 1992.
“These are artists who reflect the Canyon values and philosophies of music, people who respect their traditions but are also willing to explore new personal and cultural visions.”
…Jack Miller, who has recorded sessions for the label since the 1960s, says Canyon — the largest Native American label — has a tight relationship with its acts.
“Canyon goes after special people, people who are involved in their (Native) community and then grow into a community that appreciates their culture from another side,” says Miller, now semi-retired in Sun City.
Hopi singer and carver Clark Tenakhongva says, “Canyon has been there for all artists, regardless of which Native tribe they belong to. They are helping to keep our languages, our songs alive.”
Congratulations Canyon Records on your 60 years not only in the business, but in the beauty of sharing Indigenous music with the world!