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Author Topic: The rarest 78s  (Read 612 times)

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Offline Devils Son Inlaw

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The rarest 78s
« on: April 13, 2022, 07:00:18 AM »
A topic came up recently at work about records we had as kids and of course everyone wished they had their favorite pop record today because it would be worth a "fortune". 

I kept my comments to myself and wondered about how many of the songs we enjoy have come from that one single copy a collector has and decided to share it with the world.

Does anyone know of a website that lists the rarest of these blues recordings or if anyone wants to start a list here that would be fun and interesting.  Of course I've read articles of collectors like John Tefteller who have been lucky enough to find that one record that everyone thought would never turn up.

I don't collect 78s but I'm grateful for these fanatics sharing these records with the rest of us. 
« Last Edit: April 13, 2022, 08:56:33 PM by Devils Son Inlaw »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Single copy 78s
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2022, 09:25:57 AM »
There's a "The Rarest 78s" group on Facebook that folks might want to join – lots of great label pics and good information exchanged in there sometimes. Good mix of blues/jazz/world/old-time country.

Years ago the magazine 78 Quarterly had a list of the rarest records, but I know those lists have been superseded – I don't know of one place that information is gathered, so maybe this would be a good place for a list.

Ones I think only exist in one copy (and I'd be very happy to be corrected!) include:

Son House
Pm 13096 Mississippi County Farm Blues/Clarksdale Moan
Pm 13013 Preachin' the Blues Parts I & II

William Harris
Ge 6752 Bad Treated Blues/Electric Chair Blues (Electric Chair is on other issues)

Jaydee Short
Pm 13091 Tar Road Blues/Flaggin' It to Georgia

Charlie Patton
Pm 13133 Joe Kirby/Jim Lee Blues Part 2

I think a couple of the Skip James might be one copy also, like Drunken Spree/What Am I to Do but I'm not sure and I'll let others post – there are a bunch that are only one or two copies.

Chris

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Single copy 78s
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2022, 11:20:29 AM »
Here's another:

Blind Joe Reynolds
Pm 12983 Ninety Nine Blues/Cold Woman Blues
 
Jeff

Offline Johnm

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Re: Single copy 78s
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2022, 12:50:43 PM »
I think I recall Gayle Dean Wardlow telling me that there was only one known copy of J. T. Smith's cross-note tuning song, "Whiskeyhead Blues".

Offline Devils Son Inlaw

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Re: Single copy 78s
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2022, 08:55:01 PM »
Very interesting gentlemen, thank you.  Feel free to include other rare recordings that have turned up if you'd like.  If there are 2, 3, 4 known records out there that's still remarkable that they have survived and shared with the world.

I changed the topic to "Rarest 78s"

Offline Blues Vintage

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2022, 04:03:24 AM »
I thought we already had a topic about this. But after a long search it was a slightly different thread started by Chris;

Missing 78's

https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=8918.0


I remember a NY Times article mentioning a only known copy 78. Tracked that down also, it was;
King Solomon Hill - My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon/Times Has Done Got Hard

They’ve Got Those Old, Hard-to-Find Blues

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/arts/music/12petr.html

Offline eric

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2022, 07:25:53 AM »
At one time, I had a second take of George "Bullet" Williams' Frisco Leaving Birmingham. Beat but playable. As far as I know, it was the only copy at that time. I found it at a southern Ohio flea market for 50 cents.
--
Eric

Offline ZigZagWanderer

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2022, 10:09:00 AM »
The Stefan Wirz Skip James discography (https://www.wirz.de/music/jameskip.htm) lists the number of known 78 copies, sourced from 78 Quarterly #6, although these figures may be out of date by now as banjochris mentioned above.  Drunken Spree/What Am I To Do is indeed listed as one known copy.

I have always wondered how these 78s end up on vinyl or CD compilations.  For example, I have three different versions of Skip's Paramount sessions (Yazoo, Document, and one other that I can't remember).  While the mastering sounds different, I'm pretty sure all three versions are sourced from the same 78s.    Are collectors usually willing to let their copies be used for this purpose or otherwise be made available to the public for listening?  Suppose someone discovered another copy of Illinois Blues that is noticeably cleaner sounding than the scratchy version on these compilations.  How likely would it be for that 78 to be transferred and made available on a commercial release or even YouTube? 

Also, based on the discography linked above, the first full set of James's Paramount recordings didn't come out until 1982 on the Matchbox label.  Some individual songs appeared on earlier compilations, which appear to be those that have more surviving 78s.  Does this mean all of James's 78s were not located until the early '80s?  And finally, when we buy CDs or vinyl copies of these recordings--not just Skip, but all of the pre-war artists--how confident can we be that we are listening to the best-sounding 78s? 

I would be interested to hear any insights about this subject if anyone has any, and I hope this fits within the thread topic.

Offline eric

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2022, 11:50:37 AM »
When I was collecting such things, this was the go to place for 78 collectors:

 http://www.78online.com/
--
Eric

Offline jostber

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2022, 09:09:13 AM »

Offline jpeters609

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2022, 01:22:52 PM »
I have always wondered how these 78s end up on vinyl or CD compilations.  For example, I have three different versions of Skip's Paramount sessions (Yazoo, Document, and one other that I can't remember).  While the mastering sounds different, I'm pretty sure all three versions are sourced from the same 78s.    Are collectors usually willing to let their copies be used for this purpose or otherwise be made available to the public for listening?  Suppose someone discovered another copy of Illinois Blues that is noticeably cleaner sounding than the scratchy version on these compilations.  How likely would it be for that 78 to be transferred and made available on a commercial release or even YouTube? 

Hi ZigZag,
These days, there aren't many (any?) reissue labels consistently releasing pre-war blues recordings sourced from original 78's. Most of the newer releases are simply using existing CD's as their source material and repackaging them. To that end, your best bet is still the labels/releases that came out in the 90's and early 2000's on the following: the Yazoo label; the very early JSP releases that had John R.T. Davies doing the remastering from pristine 78's; the Frog (UK) label; the Old Hat label; the Bear Family (Germany) label; The Sony/Legacy "When the Sun Goes Down" series of CD's from their Secret History of Rock & Roll collection; the series of Bluebird recordings (Tommy McClennan, etc.) reissued by RCA; and very few others.* Many of these are out of print but can still be found.

For those "one off" discoveries of hitherto unheard and/or rediscovered gems, the only consistent source of reissue is collector John Tefteller's "Blues Images" label, which packages a CD compilation every year with a wall calendar featuring vintage ads from the Chicago Defender and rare photos. Blues Images sports state-of-the-art remastering, but I quibble (greatly) with their track listings, which seem guided more by the newspaper ads in the calendar than by any thematic or aural logic, resulting in some awkward juxtapositions of songs that don't necessarily flow naturally from one to the next. But the sound quality is great, and it is often the only place to hear the recently discovered rarities (when they turn up).

There are many cheaper options (or free, I suppose, if you are content with Youtube), but they are not likely going to be sourced from the original 78's and may in fact be using/copying/stealing tracks remastered by other labels. Collectors of the rare original 78s are not loaning out their records to these latter-day labels, and these labels likely would not have the means or equipment to properly remaster tricky old 78s. The current JSP label is known for inexpensive reissues of pre-war material (often with interesting thematic curation). They also seem to do new remastering for their releases. But I strongly suspect that they are remastering from already existing CDs that were originally transferred by other labels (see above), as the breadth of song titles included in their releases far exceeds the possibility that they are working from the original (and often exceedingly rare) 78 sources.

I think there have been other threads addressing this basic topic. Here's one that touches on it:

https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=1378.0

-Jeff

*I'll add to this list the Black Swan label (part of the Jazzology imprint) which has a number of reissues of Paramount material and which seems to use a very light hand when it comes to noise reduction, providing more of a straight-from-the-78 listening experience. I will also add the Revenant label, co-founded by John Fahey, which had a number of very interesting releases that were sourced from original records. Its Charley Patton box, however, along with its large "Rise And Fall of Paramount Records" collections (put together in tandem with Jack White's Third Man Records) both had to utilize secondary sources for a number of tracks that they were otherwise unable to obtain.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2022, 01:59:40 PM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

Offline jpeters609

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2022, 01:29:55 PM »
I remember a NY Times article mentioning a only known copy 78. Tracked that down also, it was;
King Solomon Hill - My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon/Times Has Done Got Hard

A second copy of that King Solomon Hill sold on Ebay in 2015, so it's now twice as common as it had been!
Jeff

Offline Blues Vintage

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2022, 03:05:50 PM »
Wonder who bought it. Tefteller still has it listed as a only known copy.

King Solomon Hill - Paramount 13125

https://www.tefteller.com/html/78_king_solomhillful2.html

Offline jpeters609

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2022, 03:45:21 PM »
Wonder who bought it. Tefteller still has it listed as a only known copy.

Not sure who bought it, but here is the link to popsike if you're curious. Apparently, it is quite beat up.

https://www.popsike.com/King-Solomon-Hill-My-Buddy-Blind-Papa-Lemon-78rpm-Single/191716898113.html
Jeff

Offline Blues Vintage

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Re: The rarest 78s
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2022, 04:21:13 PM »
Thanks.

It's cool to see that country blues commands some of the highest prices.
And that crazy Tefteller (good kind of crazy) bought the number one record too.


Top 50 most valuable records Popsike

https://www.popsike.com/php/quicksearch.php?top25=all

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