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Author Topic: Record Collectors  (Read 844 times)

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Offline Stuart

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Record Collectors
« on: December 30, 2015, 04:23:29 PM »
(Starting A New Topic)

I agree Suzy. I've divided the white people playing old rural Blues movement into two epochs, Before Yazoo and after Yazoo. I am decidedly from the before Yazoo tribe though I was certainly an early beneficiary of Yazoo.
Before Yazoo there was perhaps a 10th of the material that Nick Perls, then Robert Nevins, and other collectors subsequently uncovered and re-released. There was of course Harry Smith's great effort, which while important has become overblown in reputation compared to what someone like Lomax did.
We had Sam Charter's great RBF series, in my opinion among the finest curations of the material, along with whatever Allen Lomax put out on Folkways, Prestige and Atlantic most of which while not necessarily guitar centric remains a high water mark in the field, particularly his recordings of rural work and Church music. There were also all the great Prestige records of some of the last surviving Bluesmen, like Gary Davis, Scrapper Blackwell, Smokey Babe etc., recorded by people like Harry Oster, Kenneth Goldstein, Art Rosenbaum, Gale Dean Wardlow, Dick Spottswood, Pete Lowry, Peter Siegel and other's I'm forgetting, all had the foresight to put together. Also Strachwitz's Arhoolie.
Honorable mention to Mamlish, Biograph, Vanguard, Adelphi, Rounder,  Much gratitude is owed all of these strange people infected by all this strange music.

Much gratitude, indeed! However, I disagree that it is "strange music." IMHO, it was mainstream music sung and played by mainstream artists within the context that the artists and their audience lived. It's only when the social and historical context shifts to "the historical present" (bringing with it the arrogance of the present) that it is considered strange and/or a historical curiosity by some, which, IMHO says more about the limited understanding of those who hold the view that it is strange.  I doubt that the people who went to be entertained by our heroes back in the day went to experience "strangeness."

I didn't--and don't--know any of the collectors, so I can't comment on personalities, but suffice it to say that they heard and placed a value on  music that the vast majority in the mainstream was unaware of--or heard, but just didn't listen to, if you catch my drift.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2015, 11:03:48 AM »
It is in no way strange to me nor are the collectors themselves (or the ones I know) particularly strange It was by way of attempting to be humorous.
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Offline Suzy T

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2015, 01:19:44 PM »
Here's my original post, and to that, I would like to add that, in my experience, nearly all the record collectors I have known have been kind of odd, like most obsessive people, but generally in an endearing way! It's funny, very few of them are women.

Hearing the news about Steve LaVere's passing reminds me of how much I personally - and so many other musicians too, especially those of a certain age - owe to the record collectors. Some of them I visited, like Steve LaVere and Dick Spottswood, and the precious tapes I carried away from those visits changed my life - giving me songs that remain the cornerstones of my repertoire nearly 40 years later. Others, like Chris Strachwitz, I got to know well and have been lucky to work with for many decades. And some, like Charles Faurot, were only names on the back of LPs that I listened to over and over and over and over again.

I visited Steve LaVere twice, in spring of 1976 when I was 21 years old, during the most eventful period of my entire life when my future was being shaped in many different ways (some musical, some not). He was the first one who played me the music of the Mississippi Sheiks, which changed my arc as a fiddler, in a big way. I always hoped to see him again, to thank him, but I never did. I emailed but never got a response.

So, here's to the record collectors! I'm not one myself, and I know I sound like a geezer when I write this, but young people today, who have access to nearly everything at their fingertips, can't quite understand how important the record collectors were. They opened the door into the arcane world of the old music and changed so many people's lives.

Offline StoogeKebab

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2015, 05:48:49 PM »
I personally cannot begin to comprehend how much I owe to record collectors. Being of an obsessive nature myself (the completist within me has appeared on these forums a few times), I was able to calculate that I have spent 15% of my life (note: life, not just waking hours) listening to music since September 2013.

Without the record collectors, I wouldn't have had a chance in hell at this. Roughly a half of my blues collection is pre war or made up from personal collections (small labels postwar without masters etc.) - that's 7833 songs now at my fingertips that would not have been possible without the immense effort undertaken by all these people. I once rode a train for 8 hours each way to visit one old woman who told me she had Paramounts - a rare sighting in Australia. That was once. I can't imagine the effort and work required to acquire such immense collections across the USA and now the World that has resulted in what I have at my fingertips. I feel eternally grateful to these people, yet as Suzy said, and I agree, there is no way being 16 and who I am and where I am that I can fully understand how important these people are. I guess in an open letter kind of way, I should merely be saying "cheers, thanks for every wonderful moment"
Confident that I'm probably almost definitely the youngest record label owner in my street

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Offline dj

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2016, 08:24:25 AM »
O'Muck may have been trying to be humorous when he said "strange", but I think he was being pretty accurate.  Almost anything, at the moment of discovery is strange.  I can still vividly remember being 15 years old, getting my first two country blues LPs out of the Fishkill Plains library, and dropping the needle on the first song of side one of each LP.  I'd been sort of prepared - I'd heard British bands play the blues on record and heard folkies like Tom Rush and Pete Seeger do acoustic blues, and had heard my first Chicago blues, Sonny Boy Williamson's "Real Folk Blues" LP on Chess.  But hearing Blind Boy Fuller doing "Shake It baby" and Booker White playing "Panama Limited", well, the performances were strange indeed, though strange in a good way.  They sounded like music from another world, and opened up a door to music that I would enjoy for the rest of my life.

So yes, a big thanks to the record collectors who saved this music and made it available to the wider world.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2016, 10:31:09 AM »
"Strange" in the sense of being different from what we were used to hearing and familiar with, but that was exactly my point. I know what Phil meant--and what you mean--however, I was just bringing up a different POV.

Happy New Year!

(Another year, another Blues Classics calendar--and CD full of wonderful strangeness to the uninitiated. Thank you Mr. Tefteller!)

Offline Rivers

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2016, 08:34:52 AM »
It's all relative. Most people think we're pretty strange I would imagine. And they would be right!

Offline Stuart

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2016, 11:57:05 AM »
Yeah, but probably not just because of our taste in music.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2016, 12:38:34 PM »
Well, I hafta laugh. "Strange" is so over used these days. It is generally used as a positive attribute of someone or something with which the speaker identifies, like "special". In our modern culture, everyone claims to be "strange", who wants to be "normal"? Yet we rarely label something that we don't identify with as "strange" because, hey, we seen it all, eh? As a social worker I constantly hear people say,"Well, I'm kinda strange, I'm not like everybody else," and then go on to describe things that make them so human in all their complexity and wonderfulness, and utterly normal in their hopes and fears. Just a personal observation.

Happy new year all you strangers. The old blues are definitely "special".

Wax
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Offline Johnm

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2016, 12:53:44 PM »
One thing I particularly appreciate about the collectors is that while they may have had a degree of hoarding feelings about the records themselves, they have almost without exception been very generous about making the music on those records available to folks who would never have the time or energy to collect 78s.  Are there any known instances of a blues collector having a 78 of which there is only one copy, and choosing to keep the sound of that record solely for himself?  I've never heard of such a case, which is kind of remarkable.  Nick Perls was very generous about sharing the music in his collection, and I heard so many great records for the first time, just because he thought I should hear them and would enjoy them.  The fact that the collectors have been so open-handed about sharing the music has made it so that we don't all have to be collectors, for which I'm very thankful. 
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2016, 01:06:25 PM »
Elijah Wald makes a good point in another discussion fomented by Lavere's death (and Suzy's reposting of her message on a different forum). He points out that we owe as much to those who, tho' not collectors, promoted interest and "kept the music alive" by, researching (both academic and not), rediscovering, recording anew (both those still alive who had recorded in the era, and others unknown but still within the original heritage), producing festivals and the recordings, and finally writing the books that we pour over for insight into the lives and times of the music. I won't even attempt to list names, but they appear on the pages of this forum constantly and are even contributors here.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2016, 01:26:40 PM »
So wax, what I think you said is that people who are generally regarded as normal are, in fact, rather strange. :)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2016, 02:06:05 PM »
Heh,heh. Well, as Jim Morrison put it, about a half century ago, "People are strange, when you're a stranger." (and a "strange" half century it's been, but it's our half century)

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Suzy T

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2016, 08:37:33 PM »
One thing I particularly appreciate about the collectors is that while they may have had a degree of hoarding feelings about the records themselves, they have almost without exception been very generous about making the music on those records available to folks who would never have the time or energy to collect 78s.  Are there any known instances of a blues collector having a 78 of which there is only one copy, and choosing to keep the sound of that record solely for himself?  I've never heard of such a case, which is kind of remarkable.  Nick Perls was very generous about sharing the music in his collection, and I heard so many great records for the first time, just because he thought I should hear them and would enjoy them.  The fact that the collectors have been so open-handed about sharing the music has made it so that we don't all have to be collectors, for which I'm very thankful. 
All best,
Johnm
Yes, John, absolutely -- for the most part the collectors have been incredibly generous.  I definitely have known of 78 record collectors not sharing a super-rare record, though.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Record Collectors
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2016, 02:27:05 AM »
Santa brought me  a copy of 'Blues for Francis', a collection of Francis Wilford Smith's scripts for the radio programmes he did for BBC Radio 3 over many years. In the 1950s he amassed a huge collection of piano blues 78s, which formed the basis for the Magpie blues piano series. His radio programmes covered the piano blues, of course, but also gospel and guitar blues. Recommended.

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