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Casual stroll ends a collector's 'Dry Spell' for a Son House rarity

A Thanksgiving day walk turns up an incredibly rare Son House 78 RPM record and reminds us we all need to keep hunting for history.

By Susan Sliwicki

It's no surprise that record collector and dealer John Tefteller is passionate about finding and preserving records, especially rare ones. Every chance he gets, he preaches about the need for everyone to keep an eye out at tag sales, thrift shops and record stores, as well as basements, attics and anywhere else records might be hiding.

Like many preachers, he wonders if the masses hear his messages or take what he says to heart. On Thanksgiving day, he got his answer.

“When I got back from the turkey dinner, there was an e-mail with the line saying ‘Found Son House Paramount 12990. Are you interested?” Tefteller said.

Son House Dry Spell Blues Paramount 12990

Record dealer and collector John Tefteller got a Thanksgiving day surprise with an out-of-the-blue e-mail about the rare Son House record "Dry Spell Blues" Parts 1 and 2 on the Paramount label.

Tefteller opened the message to learn that the writer had been out for a Thanksgiving day stroll when he came across an old abandoned cabin in the mountains near Appomattox, Va. After peeking through the broken windows and doorless entry, the walker decided to go inside for a closer look, where he found a lot of 78 RPM records strewn across the floor, many broken and without sleeves. But one record was left relatively unscathed.

“‘Dry Spell Blues’ Part 1 and 2 was apparently a very important and rare record, and I read on the Internet that you are the guy to talk to about this,” the e-mail read.

Tefteller wrote back, asked the finder — who revealed he doesn’t collect records — to give him a call and tell him more. Details emerged about the other Paramount records that were found, all of which were much more common, and none in particularly great shape. Regardless of the other records, the find in and of itself was a wonderful Thanksgiving Day gift for Tefteller.

“It’s just the point that somebody in 2011 is wandering in the woods and finds a cabin with a record of that caliber in it,” Tefteller said. “It was an extremely remote area, and it was very possible that it had sat there since the early ’50s.”

House’s songs have been heard before; they’ve been remastered, and you can find them on modern compilations. But getting one of the original 78s? That’s another story.

“It’s an extremely important record. There’s still potentially only three to four copies in existence. That’s the first Son House Paramount that’s turned up in the wild, so to speak, in a long, long time. Most of the other ones are in collections that have been accounted for,” Tefteller said.

Although this copy isn’t in perfectily pristine condition, it looks and plays well enough to earn a grade of V/V-.

“The labels are perfect, and it doesn’t look bad. You could at least say you’ve got a respectable copy of that title,” Tefteller said. “So I flew to the East Coast, met with this guy, handed him a big nice pile of hundred dollars and flew home with a record.”

But the find as a whole means more to Tefteller than the fact he got to add another record to his collection: It means people are out there looking, researching and not just tossing items out. And it means he may someday see long-missing records, like Willie Brown’s “Grandma Blues”/ “Sorry Blues” (Paramount 13001) and “Kickin’ In My Sleep Blues”/“Window Blues” (Paramount 13099), both of which carry a $25,000 bounty from Tefteller for anyone who can turn up an original pressing in playable condition. So collectors, let’s get on our walking shoes and keep hunting for history.