Four Unique Fonotone LPs

These are labels for four 12" Fonotone LPs, produced as a set and almost certainly entirely unique. Here's the original owner's account of how he obtained them:

"I wrote to Joe Bussard Jr. in the early 1980s, and I asked him if he still had the early John Fahey recordings for sale. He wrote back that yes, he was still offering them on cassette. I wrote again and told him I really would rather have records, and he wrote that he could make me a set of 78 rpm acetate singles. But I didn't want 7" records, and I certainly didn't want anything that played at 78 rpm! I asked him if he could cut me 12" LPs at 33, and he refused to do it. I waited a year or so, and I wrote him again. By then he had the "Guitar Solo's" LP acetate available, and I bought one. It sounded great, which made me want the other tracks on 12" LP even more, so I asked him again. He told me he'd never custom made 12" discs to order for anyone EVER, because cutting full LPs by hand was a lot of trouble. I wrote him back right away and told him that I'd pay him whatever he asked, but I had to have LPs. I think it was another year before we closed the deal, but finally we agreed on a price and he sent the four LPs. He enclosed a note with them that said, "I can't believe how difficult it was to make these, I will never do this again for any amount of money!"

So, are these discs unique?

Oh, I have no doubt that they are. I chose the songs that I wanted from his master list and the order I wanted them in, and he cut the acetates. He custom made these LPs for me and told me flat out that he would never do it again for anybody!"


rob in chicago said...

Oh, for fuck's sake, these acetates should be released on the web for free to all interested parties.

Fahey history here, not to be hoarded but shared in his memory.

A rehabilitated former collector

rob in chicago said...

By the way, my earlier comment is no swipe at you, sir.

Great site, wonderful information/music... Many thanks for your efforts!

Stephen said...

Dust-to-Digital have a CD set of all Fahey's Fonotone recordings ready for release as soon as rights issues are resolved, so hopefully early next year.
I don't put stuff up here which is (or clearly will be) commercially available; hence the absence of the Fonotone material from this blog.

rob in chicago said...

Thanks for this further info... I recall the Fonotone box on the schedule a long while back, but figured it was scrapped. Good to know it will see the light of day.

I am a bit curious who actually gets the proceeds (after production costs are recouped, naturally) from a posthumous release... Bussard only? Fahey's heirs?

I suppose I can investigate this myself rather than pestering friendly bloggers. ;)

Stephen said...

I don't know who it is that now holds the rights to Fahey's work (it's certainly not Joe Bussard). It's my understanding that the CD set is on hold until all the rights issues are resolved. How long that will take is not clear, but I like to be optimistic about such things.

Anonymous said...

Weren't those Fonotone promised us by Revenant records years ago?!

Concerning those releases from the eighties, my opinion is that the original Fonotone labels from the sixties kinda looked cuter.

Stephen said...

Yes the original labels looked more professional. On the other hand, they'd have left no room for listing the tracks, would they?

Hopefully no more than a little patience is required before we see all this stuff out on CD.

Anonymous said...


Any word on an actual release date? Found this on the Dust to Digital site:

Dust to Digital Newsletter
January 2009
Updates on Projects in the Works
The John Fahey Fonotone Years release, which was delayed in 2008, is shaping up as a collaboration between Dust-to-Digital and Revenant Records.

Also, did Fahey release 26 Fonotone 78's, or were there more (I have seen 7 others from various sources)?

Thanks - John (in Iowa)

chief karlsson said...

Of all the idiotic mistakes I made in my life, one of the biggest was when I thought that the Fonotone Records and Jolly Joe Buzzard was a joke from Fahey the same cathegory as "Blind Joe Death"
so I never ordered the complete recordings of John Fahey for Fonotone back in those days in the early 70s when it was fully possible to do so...and even not very expensive...
What a mistake!
Nowadays I have had the opportunity to hear some of these
things via internet and I am amazed how good they sound!
Especially when compared to the reissue of the 1959 BJD tracks!
So I can nothing but agree with rob in chicago and Anonymous in hope that the financial and contractual things can be settled so we can have the complete John Fahey Fonotone Sessions available
before too long on the Revenant or Fonotone label.
Just the same as we finally had the "lost Elektra session 1965" available awhile ago on the reissue of Yellow Princess!
I wrote a little piece on that in Amazon customer rewiev...if anybody is interested...
signed chief karlsson

p.s. Du hast hier eine schöne Heim-seite an Fahey...wunsch Dir alles Gut!

Anonymous said...

Latest update from Dust to Digital (August 2009)

"We are very excited to announce that John Fahey's Fonotone Years is in production, and we are doing everything we possibly can to have the title out by year's end. As we wrote in a previous newsletter, the set will be a co-release between Dust-to-Digital and Revenant Records. As for the music the set will feature, we are including every recording John made for Joe Bussard's Fonotone record label. The result will be a five-CD box set of music that was only available in the 1950s and '60s in limited pressings on 78rpm acetate records. We will be mastering the audio from the original, pristine reel-to-reel tapes."

Has anybody seen anything more recent about the release?

Thanks - John (in Iowa)

Anonymous said...

latest update (Feb. 2010 Newsletter) on the dust to digital site claims that "at the moment" it will be out by this Aug. 2010

lets pray!

matt b said...

oh yea! it also seems to state that it is also slated for an LP release!

"Enough looking back, let's take a look forward to what is in store for 2010. At the moment, everything is in place for having the following three releases out before the end of the August:"

"John Fahey's Fonotone Years:
A five-CD box set of John Fahey's earliest recordings available for the first time ever on CD and LP. Scholarly research and many never-before-published photographs will be included."

-matt b

Steve Wright said...
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