The folk era of the ’60s owes a monumental debt to Harry Smith’s groundbreaking collection “The Anthology of American Folk Music“. This is the collection of 78 RPM recordings from the ’20s and early ’30s that influenced Bob Dylan and practically everybody who picked up a guitar in the early folk era. (For you youngsters, 78s were hard shellac recordings that held maybe 3 minutes of music per side, spinning at 78 revolutions per minute, compared to 45 RPM of singles and 33 RPM of record albums). Performers include Dock Boggs, Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Uncle Dave Macon, Charley Patton, the Memphis Jug Band — an amazing treasure trove. And there’s just some fun songs! Give a listen to Chubby Parker singing “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O”.
Another fine collection of 78s is “The Return of the Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of“. (The first volume, “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of“, is compiled of the rarest collectible 78s; stick with “The Return” for better music.) “The Return…” runs the gamut from blues to bluegrass, Cajun to Celtic. And the band names! The Fruit Jar Guzzlers! Mississippi Possum Hunters! George Edgin’s Corn Dodgers!
“Imaginational Anthem Volume 6: Origins of American Primitive Guitar” was really fascinating to me; I’m a big John Fahey fan, and this album is a peek at John’s early influences (Sam McGee, Riley Puckett and especially Lemuel Turner — more on John Fahey in a later post.) Faulkner famously said “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” These collections of music from almost 100 years ago are still vital, stirring and entertaining.