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January 31, 2009 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Desperate Man Blues Edward Gillen's documentary about Joe Bussard, renowned collector of 25,000+ blues, folk and gospel 78rpm records from the 20s and 30s. It's about the hunt and the hunter, as much as what he found. One week only on Pitchfork TV

As plugged by UbuRoivas previously.
posted by msalt (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Shellac attack!
posted by The White Hat at 12:16 PM on January 31, 2009

This guy reminds me of John Laroche in "Adaptation".
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 12:16 PM on January 31, 2009

Speaking of desperate men, also of interest is Vinyl, a 2000 documentary about those sad sad fellows known as record collectors. The whole movie is available to watch here and is well worth your time.
posted by dydecker at 1:01 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

This guy is neither pretentious nor an asshole. And he doesn't collect hardcore punk for good reason.
posted by ageispolis at 3:19 PM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks a million for this post, msalt. Bussard is an American original, the man who first recorded John Fahey, among other things. A wonderful tribute to a man who has saved so much irreplaceable musical history.
posted by rdone at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2009

New Yorker profile of Bussard.
posted by roombythelake at 4:03 PM on January 31, 2009

Thanks. The Fonotone boxset that Dust to Digital released a couple of years ago is well worth the price. It has the early Fahey recordings on it.

Bussard is a bit of an asshole, apparently, but still very worthy of tribute.
posted by OmieWise at 4:03 PM on January 31, 2009

I've been digging through the crates at the Salvation Army and bumped into the main guy from Vinyl. A surreal moment.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:19 PM on January 31, 2009

This guy is neither pretentious nor an asshole. And he doesn't collect hardcore punk for good reason.

I think you're missing the gag. I had Poison Idea on my public access TV show (Wasted Talent) back in '83. They're omnivorous music collectors of all genres, and the cover is the late guitar player's own record collection.

Anybody in Portland know a good, cheap 3/4" to digital conversion house?
posted by msalt at 8:25 PM on January 31, 2009

y'know, with p2p, you get the fun of the hunt plus the reward of listening to the music (which, to me anyway, was always the goal rather than the possesion of the artifact) without the expense (which made the hobby prohibitive and thus truly elitist for a lot of people).

This is not to demean what people like Joe Bussard do for preserving great music, I own a copy of Down In The Basement, I'm just saying that if it's the music that matters, then...
posted by jonmc at 9:05 PM on January 31, 2009

You're right, jonmc. The music is the most important thing, but posession of the artifact often goes far beyond bragging rights. The problem with p2p is that (necessarily) only digitized music floats around on the networks. Bussard and other 78-hounds have scads of recordings whose masters are either long since destroyed or sitting neglected somewhere in one of Columbia's catalog archives, never to see the light of day or the ears of new listeners. This is especially true for one-off, ephemeral, and small-run recordings from forgotten studios.

For Bussard and others, the work of the collector doesn't stop at ownership, there's a responsibility to disseminate the music. Bussard and Nick Spitzer both have radio shows. I had my own for awhile, and I hope to start digitizing my 78 collection this summer for p2p distribution. Anyway, p2p can only sustain the current body of digitized music. Without collectors and archivists, there's little hope of adding to the catalog.
posted by The White Hat at 9:03 AM on February 1, 2009

P2P (and now, licensed electronic sales online) can have some curious gaps, too.

I've been looking for the original 1961 Howling Wolf single "Do the Do" for years. Got it on vinyl 20-30 years ago in a greatest hits collection, lost it somewhere. All you can find online is the (inferior, I sez) London Sessions recording from 1968 -- even on music blogs. I was willing to pay, but there must have been some licensing issue. FINALLY found it last month but it was a ridiculous amount of work to do so.
posted by msalt at 9:53 AM on February 1, 2009

Self link: I produced an interview with Joe Bussard several years ago, which you can hear here. We spent almost four hours down in the basement with ol' Joe-- he wouldn't let us go until he'd played us JUST ONE MORE RECORD, and he knew to a millimeter where all of them were on his endless shelves of unlabelled green record sleeves. He also showed us a tie alleged to be the one Hank Williams was wearing when he keeled over and died in the back seat of a Cadillac. It still had sweat stains on it.

The Washington City Paper ran a good profile of him too, also called Desperate Man Blues.
posted by speedlime at 11:21 AM on February 1, 2009

I caught this on BBC Four recently and I loved it. Apart from all the great music (and it is great), Bussard is so charming and his enthusiasm is so boyish and infectious...well it makes you feel like you're wasting your life unless you're going door to door in Mississippi hunting down old records. Also, the footage of him dancing as a boy is just wonderful.
posted by tiny crocodile at 2:59 PM on February 1, 2009

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