Despite its later reputation as a race-record label, Paramount's early catalog was aimed at white middle-class consumers and featured ordinary popular and light classical material performed by New York area studio freelancers. Its first significant departure from the mainstream came with the pressing and release of several of Lucille Hegamin's Arto Universal Record masters in 1921. A new Race Series, numbered in a special block beginning at 12001, was introduced in August, 1922. A decisive shift toward this new market came in 1923, when J. Mayo Williams was brought in as talent scout and unofficial director of the Paramount Race Series. Recording operations shifted from New York to Chicago, and the number of releases in the Race Series increased dramatically. In all, between 1922-1932 Paramount would produce nearly 1,200 race record issues.
The Great Depression drove many record companies out of business, and the initial incarnation of Paramount closed down on Christmas Eve, 1932. It made a brief comeback in 1934 as a product of the American Record Corporation, with a handful of blues sides reissued in a new 9000 series. Decca Records, Inc. attempted to buy Paramount's masters in 1934-35, but discovered that they had been sold for scrap.
In 1942 the then-inactive Paramount Records company was purchased from Wisconsin Chair Company by John Steiner, who revived the label for reissues of important historical Paramount recordings as well as new recordings of jazz and blues. These latter-day Paramounts are numbered in a 14000 series using silver type and are easily distinguished from originals. In 1952, Steiner leased reissue rights to a newly-formed jazz label, Riverside Records, which reissued a substantial number of 10" and then 12" LPs by many of the blues singers in the Paramount catalog. Riverside remained active until 1964.
The rights to Paramount's back catalog were next acquired by George H. Buck in 1970. Buck continues to reissue Paramount recordings as part of his Jazzology Records group, but use of the name (not the catalog) "Paramount Records" was purchased from Buck by Paramount Pictures in the late 1960s, which led to the foundation of Paramount Records.