Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz

Blues Feedback Number 1

Blues Feedback Number 1

Steven C. Barr

Here is the first response from customers who tell us how they got into the blues:

Okeh, since you asked...

First, this is Steven C. Barr, partially-famed shellac-o-phile and VERY part-time blues artist/songwriter/hamonicist...who shares his c.1869 abode with about 50,000 78rpm discs and (currently) one cat. I am also the creator and compiler of "The (Almost) Complete 78rpm Record Dating Guide" (intentionally so titled, but still winds up being listed with the OTHER sort of "dating guide" which is intended to improve the love life of its readers...!) as well as expert on the phono records issued by the Grey Gull Record Company, of Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. Of A. tale first takes our listeners back to Highland Park, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) in the early forties (yup, that's right...I was "born in Chicago, 1942" or a year later than what Paul Butterfield musically claimed...!). My father had a "collection" of about 300 or so 78 records (the only kind there WAS back then)...which I was allowed to play, as long as I was VERY careful. He had no "rarities"...but did have reissue sets of the Boswell Sisters and well as a number of discs by Louis Jordan and Lionel Hampton, which include some of my then - (and now) favourite "boogie woogie" numbers...!

During my high-school years (1955-60), when I, like all my schoolmates, listened to the "Top Twenty" on WPEO (Peoria) ears had been caught by the occasionally played sides by Jimmy Reed (as well as the harmonica introduction to Roy Orbison's "Candy Man"...!). While fooling around with an old Philco 37-9 console radio, I ran across the nightly broadcasts of WLAC in Nashville...which, after sunset, served the Black radio listeners in the southern U.S., as well as a few "honky" blues fans, by broadcasting current blues and gospel records (as well as selling them over the radio... sadly, I never bought any...!) So...I became a blues lover...and quickly learned that NOBODY in Bloomington, Ill's. (our closest good-sized town, where we usually shopped...) sold blues records...except for two or three LP's by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and Robert Johnson's "King Of the Delta Blues Singers!"

Now, "fast-forward" a few years to 1973. My father had died of lung cancer, and I had inherited all his 78's (basically because nobody wanted the darned things! Then, an acquaintance of mine bought several thousand 78's at a local auction sale, and offered me as many of them as I might want if I would sort them out for him and identify any that he could easily sell at his flea-market setup. That gave me about a thousand 78's (I added a few more with visits to "flea markets" and thrift stores...) and that is what I brought with me when I moved up here to Canada. I had also found a couple of dozen blues 78's (mostly of the forties...unused RCA Victor discs, apparently from a jukebox operator...?). That was 1977...

Well, thereafter I bought "a few" 78's via mail-auction lists (try about 40 thousand or so...!) fact, I used to get a list from a Texas dealer which was mainly aimed at c&w collectors...but always included 100-150 blues 78's (of which I regularly won fifty or more...!). I also had a good sized accumulation of reissue LP's (which I lost in 1997...long, and SAD, story...!)...

Oh, the playing...? Well, back in the early eighties, I was a close acquaintance of one Jeff Healey...who was just starting his career in the blues-rock field. In late 1985, Jeff re-formed his band as a trio (the group that made all the hits!)...and there was a very talented guitarist, Rob Quail, who was sort of "left over." Rob and I assembled a blues band, and hosted an open stage jam for almost a year, being paid 10% of the bar receipts and three free beers per each. The next year, Rob temporararily left music (he had graduated university...!) for a "real job" I added a couple of VERY talented guitarists...Mike Tabares and "Madagascar Slim"...a series of bass players (eventually Peter Novar)...a sort-of-drummer...Cameron "Cam" Cathcart (long story here) and a really talented "sometime sax player" who has since moved to Indianapolis. We had the house gig at "Chicago's Diner" (recently closed and the building demolished, after two decades and a bit as a "blues joint"...) for almost two years...

Thank you for that piece of feedback Steven.



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