By Mike Greenblatt
The jaunty, happy-go-lucky (and irresistibly catchy) “She’s A Long Tall Disconnected Mama” by Washboard Walter starts with the sound of a kazoo and guitar before the singer starts rhapsodizing sweetly about making love with his sweetheart.
“She’s got great big legs and pretty good thighs/
She’s one of those womens that will tantalize/
She makes good jelly roll every day/
But boys I swear, she will give it away/
She’s a long tall disconnected mama ... but she’s my gal.”
Later in the song, Walter even sings that his gal “smells like a billy goat.” This extremely rare song was recorded for Paramount Records in Grafton, Wis., in April 1930. There are only two known surviving copies of Paramount 12991. John Tefteller of Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records owns one. A Chicago acquaintance of his owns the other.
“The problem with that record is that both existing copies are so battered and worn,” Tefteller admits. “I had to think long and hard about even putting it on the CD [that accompanies the 2014 Blues Images calendar title="Blues Images 2014 calendar" href="http://bit.ly/1qzpz7H"].”
“She’s A Long Tall Disconnected Mama” is so catchy and instantly memorable, though, that it doesn’t even matter how battered it is. Before the song is over, you’ll find yourself singing along. It stuck to this reporter’s brain like a tattoo, and I found myself singing it later that afternoon at the food store and the bank. It’s a hit waiting to happen if some roots act of today, like Hot Tuna, would discover it and add it to their repertoire.
Not much is known about Washboard Walter other than his real name: Walter Taylor. His one famous record, a tribute song to Blind Lemon Jefferson, (“Wasn’t It Sad About Lemon,” Paramount 12945) was recorded under the name of Walter & Byrd. John Byrd, who harmonizes with Walter on “Disconnected Mama,” went on to make records under his own name for various labels, but none of those were successful.
“That one sold quite well,” Tefteller says, “and it turns up now and again today. That was how Walter probably garnered his Paramount recording contract. It sold so well, they let him record some more stuff. Most of his tunes didn’t sell at all.”
Tefteller does have another song by the Washboard man, “Insurance Man Blues” (Paramount 12954), that might make the 2015 calendar. (The flip side of “Disconnected Mama,” “Overall Cheater Blues,” is on the CD as a bonus track.)
Legend has it that Walter also recorded something called “Wuffin’ Blues” backed with “I Don’t Care What You Do,” but hardly anybody has ever even heard it. It is generally thought of to be one of the all-time important “missing” early blues recordings in music’s history. Tefteller harbors hope that one day it will be discovered collecting dust in somebody’s attic somewhere. It very well may happen, as “Dissatisfied Blues” by Blind Blake was recently discovered at a North Carolina flea market. You never know. The Blake record had been one of the top “missing” Paramount Records recordings. So there’s hope for “Wuffin’ Blues” yet.
Tefteller, who is the kind of individual who goes to bed at night dreaming of what “Wuffin’ Blues” might possibly sound like, is constantly on the lookout for the missing Paramounts. He paid $1,200 for his copy of “Disconnected Mama,” and he considers that a bargain.
“There’s no amount of money that could pry that record from me,” he says, “and I’ve been offered a stunning amount numerous times. I’ll tell you this: If a clean copy of it ever turns up, I’d pay five grand for it.” GM