Meet Blind Teddy Darby, the Cyrano de Bergerac of blues music

By Susan Sliwicki

It’s no surprise that blues musicians of the 1920s and ’30s recorded under more than one name, whether it was to stay one step ahead of the law, to help secure contracts with multiple record labels or just because a moniker stuck.

Blind Teddy Darby was no exception. He answered to the nicknames Blind Darby, Blind Blues Darby and Teddy Darby, according to “Blues Who’s Who.” But Darby’s most amusing professional alias may be that of Blind Squire Turner, the name he allegedly used in December 1933 to help out a friend with that surname; said friend tried to impress a member of the fairer sex by saying that he had made a record, according to Allmusic.com. Darby, aka Blind Squire Turner, is credited along with Tom Webb for a pair of songs issued on Bluebird B5307 and Sunrise S33388: “She Thinks She’s Slick” and “Don’t Like The Way You Do.”

Blind Teddy Darby Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues

Teddy Darby’s “Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues” on Paramount 12828 is not his most valuable. That honor goes to Paramount 12907. Photo courtesy Blues Images.

Using his own name, Darby recorded several songs for Paramount: “Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues” b/w My Laona Blues”  (Paramount 12828) and “What Am I To Do?” b/w “Lose Your Mind” (Paramount 12907).

Copies of Paramount 12828 turn up occasionally. A G to G+ copy of the 78 missing a chunk from its edge sold online for $87 in 2010 ; an E/E- copy brought $1,009 in a 2007 online auction, according to Popsike.com.

However, copies of Paramount 12907 are very few and far between.

“It’s extremely rare. I think there’s maybe one other copy besides the one I bought,” said John Tefteller of Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records. “It was in a collection in St. Louis for years. The guy that had it had no clue it was as rare as it was. He knew it was a Paramount, but he wasn’t that enamored with it once he heard it and gave to another guy to sell on consignment.”

When the opportunity arose to buy the record, Tefteller didn’t hesitate. After he bought it, he wondered if he should’ve.

“I had such high hopes for this. I made a stupid offer when it was found, and I didn’t even bother listening to it. I got it and went, ‘Oh … not as good as the other one,’” Tefteller said. “I was kind of disappointed when I finally got it, and it was like, ‘Why couldn’t this sound like ‘Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues’?”

It’s not that the record is so bad, he said. It’s more that “Lawdy Lawdy” is so good.

“I’m spoiled. I like them really good, and when you get these things where it’s not country blues anymore — the second one has a cornet, a trombone and Roosevelt Sykes on it — it’s almost like a bluesy, jazzy thing,” Tefteller said. “They were messing around with other types of instruments to see if they could sell things, and they’d bring in instruments and try to mold together jazz and blues to make something that would sell.”

Tefteller has thought back about the purchase and wondered whether he should have offered the amount of money he did.

“But, it is rare, and somebody else would probably buy it for close to the same amount of money — several thousand dollars — as it would be with any rare Paramount,” he said.

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