By Susan Sliwicki
Twelve months, 12 images. Making a wall calendar is a pretty simple process, right? Heck, the days, weeks and months are already figured out.
That may be the case if you’re talking about a run-of-the-mill calendar featuring kittens or lighthouses. But it’s a different story for John Tefteller’s annual Blues Images calendar; packed with historic information, dates in blues music history and a sampling of vintage blues advertising artwork, his yearly labor of love is more like a coffee table book. This is the ninth year Tefteller has produced the calendar, which focuses on prewar blues music and features vintage images, the majority of which came from the actual Paramount Records files.
“Almost all of them need some kind of restoration work,” Tefteller said of the images in his archive. Those efforts can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of years to complete, depending on the piece, he said.
But as interesting as the images are for 2012’s calendar, the CD has the biggest surprises.
“My favorite song on this particular CD is ‘Hard Time Blues’ by Lane Hardin,” Tefteller said. “This is a record that I personally was not familiar with, mainly because it hasn’t had much reissue activity over the years, and I never owned an original, never saw an original, didn’t know anything about an original. But a copy of that record came up for sale earlier this year, and I wanted to hear it before I decided if I wanted to buy it. I heard it and thought it was a stunning record.”
Tefteller was so blown away by Hardin’s song that he decided it needed to be part of the 19-track CD that accompanies the 2012 Blues Calendar.
“And as I’m going through the process of including it in the CD for this year’s calendar, I found out that Eric Clapton had covered it, so that made it a real special thing to include,” Tefteller said. Clapton’s cover of the 1935 song is on his 2010 album “Clapton.”
When blues collector Steve LaVere heard of Tefteller’s plans to feature “Hard Time Blues” with the Blues Calendar CD, he challenged Tefteller to up the ante.
“He said, ‘If you’re gonna put out ‘Hard Times’ by Lane Hardin, you’ve got to put out the B-side, ‘California Desert Blues,’ which is equally good,’ which it is,” Tefteller said. “But then he said, ‘I’ll go you one further. I have a record by Lane Hardin that nobody’s ever heard.”
LaVere then played “Cartey Blues” for Tefteller. The song was released on Pacific and is credited to “Harden Lane” on the label.
“I knew nothing about that, either. And it’s really good, too,” Tefteller said. “It was apparently some sort of vanity pressing from 1948. He’s only on one side of the record, and it was just like there’s something that everybody who likes the early prewar blues will get excited about it. Now we have his masterpiece from prewar and a great one from the postwar period.”
Also of interest are a pair of obscure Blind Joe Taggart tracks: “Little Black Train” and “Precious Lord.” One of Taggart’s elderly cousins also loaned a rare photo of the musician to be included in the calendar, which appears with the ad for “In That Pearly White City Above.” All three songs are featured on the CD.
“He’s one of those guys out of the 1930s who nobody knew,” Tefteller said. “What we have are two tracks that were recorded on an acetate at some home recording studio in Chicago. They were never officially released on any record. It was a demo that he made in the late 1940s trying to get re-signed to a label, and it never went anywhere. All of asudden, somebody found that demo in a box of LPs in Chicago.”
Tefteller missed the acetate’s appearance on eBay — apparently, plenty of other blues collectors did, too, as no one bid on it — but he later caught up with the owner and bought the piece.
Tefteller is already thinking about next year’s Blues Images package, which is the 10th anniversary edition. He has only one concern: “How can I top this one?” he asked.