By Bruce Sylvester
fThe coolest annual wall calendar I know of comes from the blues fanatics at Blues Images (www.bluesimages.com, phone 1-800-955-1326). Each month’s illustration on the 12×24” calendar is a reproduction of an ad for a 1920s-‘30s blues platter. The square for each day of the month gives significant events (if any) on that date – for example, on July 3, the birth of Mississippi John Hurt (1893) and death of Mississippi Fred McDowell (1972). (Darn. Nothing great happened on my birthday, but it’s only one day away from Skip James’s birthday.) We also get a paragraph of solid info about each month’s song.
R. Crumb, a vintage blues devotee, has clearly gotten inspiration from such ads’ art.
The calendar comes with a CD of the discs whose ads we see plus seven bonus tracks. True collectors’ finds, two of the bonuses are from an acetate gospel disc Blind Joe Taggart made for private use rather than commercial release. Among three bonus tracks from Lane Hardin, “Hard Times Blues” was recently redone by Eric Clapton and “Cartey Blues” is from the only known copy of the disc in existence.
For hokum music, we get two 1929 Tampa Red takes on “Mama Don’t Allow No Easy Riders Here,” which Doc Watson, J.J. Cale and countless others have redone. One take is a duet with Georgia Tom (who later left risqué blues to compose sacred music as Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey). The other version is by Red’s Hokum Band with Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon.
We also hear Furry Lewis, raw Charlie Patton (on a religious bent) and Blind Lemon Jefferson. A rarely heard ribald trio called Harum Scarum consisted of Georgia Tom, Big Bill Broonzy and Mozelle Alderson. Blues records didn’t get radio airplay back then so they could be as ribald as they wished.
Since the CD is mostly compiled from collectors’ original 78 RPM platters, some track have surface noise, though othBlers’ audio is impressively clean. A bit of crackle isn’t a big price for vintage blues lovers to pay to hear rarities such as these.