Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Desperate Man Blues

A person can only devote themselves to so many things in life and so, as a general rule, I do not keep up on nor collect films, even those about music related subjects. That all being stated, I must say that I highly recommend the DVD, “Desperate Man Blues”, a document about world renown record collector, Joe Bussard. For the past 50 years or so, Bussard has made it his life's work to collect and preserve blues, country, and jazz 78s, mostly from the 1920's and 1930's. Bussard was so obsessed with finding these forgotten gems of American cultural history, that he literally scoured the attics and basements of homes along the backroads of the Southeastern United States to amass what is generally considered to be the finest collection of blues, country, and jazz 78s in the world.

Bussard’s mania hasn’t been limited to merely collecting 78’s, as he has also helped keep these pre-World War II sounds alive via his long-running weekly radio show and promoted the efforts of a new generation (well, “new” at that time!) of like-minded keepers of the flame through releases on his own Fonotone record label. In fact, my only criticism of this documentary is that it doesn’t cover any of the amazing Fonotone story. In brief, Fonotone existed from 1956 to 1969 and was the last record label to issue recordings on 78s. Many excellent (and, for the most part, otherwise unknown) musician’s recorded for Fonotone, including John Fahey, whose first recordings were released under the pseudonym of Blind Thomas. A fascinating look at a man who has achieved the goal most people can only dream about - being able to meet the exigencies of life while fully immersing yourself in the pursuit of your passion!

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