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If Clapton is god, what title does Blind Joe Reynolds get?

The modern guitar hero was inspired by Reynolds' 'Outside Woman Blues,' which Cream covered for its 'Disraeli Gears' album — and which is next to impossible to find on an original Paramount 78 RPM record.

By Susan Sliwicki

if you’ve ever wondered just what it takes to inspire a guitar god, look no further than Blind Joe Reynolds’ “Outside Woman Blues.”

“In the ’60s, the first blues 78s were being reissued on LP. One of those LPs containing that song got over to England, and Eric Clapton heard the song and created his own version of it for Cream, which then appeared on ‘Disraeli Gears,’” said John Tefteller of Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records. “That began the big resurgence of Blind Joe Reynolds.”

If listening to Cream’s version of “Outside Woman Blues” has given you a hankering to hear Reynolds’ work on the original Paramount 78 RPM recording, well, good luck with that.

Blind Joe Reynolds Nehi Mama Blues Paramount 12927

Copies of Paramount 12927, featuring Blind Joe Reynolds' "Nehi Mama Blues" and "Outside Woman Blues" — which inspired guitar guru Eric Clapton — are incredibly rare. Only three copies are known to exist, according to John Tefteller of Tefteller's World's Rarest Records. Photo courtesy Blues Images.

“It’s insanely rare,” Tefteller said. “There are exactly three of ‘Outside Woman Blues.’” Originally issued as the B-side of Paramount 12927, “Outside Woman Blues” was recorded at Paramount Records in Grafton, Wis., and backed “Nehi Mama Blues,” which gets top billing in the vintage advertisement for the record that has been featured in the Blues Images calendar series.

And just what might a Nehi Mama be? Well, Tefteller’s pretty sure Reynolds’ definition doesn’t match up with that of Paramount’s staffers.

“The engineers at Paramount assumed that ‘Nehi’ was Nehi soda, thought that’s what it was. But if you listen to the lyrics of the song, it has nothing to do with Nehi soda. It has to do with the length of their skirts being knee high,” Tefteller said.

Tefteller hopes to someday add a copy of Paramount 12927 to his collection. He says he knows who owns each of the records, and he respects the fact that those owners are still loving and cherishing the music.

Blind Joe Reynolds biography

For now, he is content to enjoy the version on Victor 23258: “Third Street Woman Blues” b/w “Married Man Blues,” songs that are credited to one of Reynolds’ other pseudonyms: Blind Willie Reynolds. Just be prepared for a bit of sticker shock.

“The only one anyone would have a prayer of getting is the Victor, because Victor was a major company,” Tefteller said. “I bought my own relatively reasonably, and I bought a duplicate on eBay a while back for $8,000, $10,000 — some stupid amount of money … it was a lot. And there’s been one or two more. If you think the prices you see on eBay are incredible ... if you only knew what they went for off eBay.”

The downside of the Victor pressings is that many of them have reversed labels, where either the wrong label is on the wrong side, or there are two of the same labels on the record.
“The one I have is actually in perfect shape but has two B-side labels on it and no A-side,” Tefteller said.
Of course, your odds of snagging either Victor 23258 or Paramount 12927 are still far superior to those of getting your hands on a pressing of Paramount 12983, Reynolds’ recording of “Ninety Nine Blues” b/w “Cold Woman Blues.” Tefteller has the only known copy.