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!"


The Fonotone catalog

Pages from two Fonotone catalogs listing the Fahey material Joe Bussard had to offer at that point. Joe Bussard, as always at Fonotone, typed these with an elderly typewriter. The 10" and 12" Guitar Solo's - titles unknown are no longer available on the second list.



I must apologise for my relative silence here over the Summer although I have certainly not been ignoring the blog, rather giving my time to research. As a consequence I should shortly be posting both Mystery of the Turtle II and Blind Joe Death Transfigured III - they will contain a lot of additional information, particularly the post related to VOTT. I also have a biography of Riverboat Ralph nearing completion.

Due to internet access problems I am not in a position to add further downloads at present. Hopefully this will be resolved soon and normal service will resume. In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me.


Death Chants: the 1967 recordings.

When Fahey re-recorded his first two albums in 1967 it was because of dissatisfaction with various aspects of the recording quality with the earlier versions rather than any intention to release them in stereo, although the commercial realities of the record market meant that stereo mixes were made the following year.

One does not have to be a purist to recognise the inadequacies of the stereo versions with their absurdly exaggerated separation; on headphones they sound less like one exceptional guitar player than two decent ones engaged in some bizarre guitar playing equivalent of synchronised swimming. Possibly intentionally, they mock the audiophile pretensions of the record buyer only prepared to buy 'stereo'.

Those 1967 mono versions were of course withdrawn after scarcely a year, and have never been available since. Given that they sound so considerably superior to the stereo mixes, it is disappointing that Fantasy didn't elect to use the mono masters when they put out their CD reissue. It was not for nothing that those 1967 records had stickers boasting that they had been recorded in 'Magnificent Mono', so here are those 1967 mono recordings for Death Chants.

Note: The titles 'Spanish Dance' and 'Take a Look at That Baby' had their respective tunes swapped between the 1963 and 1967 releases. I have left the titles (and music) here as they appear on the record in the interests of historical truth; you can of course reverse the titles (and maybe the sequence) if you prefer. As with the later 1968 cover, the sleeve reverses the sides for the listings, and omits 'Take a Look at That Baby' entirely.


Mayne Smith

Mayne Smith, who contributed banjo and kazoo at Fahey's Delta sessions in 1965, has a new CD about to be released - Places I've Been: a Songmaker's Retrospective.

To mark the event, he is appearing at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Friday June 20th. I get quite a few visitors from the Bay area, and you may well want to get tickets for what looks like a good night.

Blind Joe Death Transfigured II: L Mayne Smith

I like to think that one or two regular visitors here still have an interest in my Transfigured piece, even if it may appear to have stalled (it hasn’t, it just seems to have a mind of it’s own and keeps on growing). I have recently been in touch with Mayne Smith who of course played (as L Mayne Smith) at what are known as the ‘Delta’ sessions, and he has been very patient in answering all my questions. While his comments will obviously feed into my own analysis, I know that they will be of broader interest, so I’m posting them here largely ‘as is’.

Fahey and I and Barry Hansen, popularly known today as Doctor Demento to LA radio fans, used to hang out together occasionally. We were all students at the Folklore Center at UCLA.

Mark LeVine (on guitar) and I (on dobro) were part of a band we called, creatively, The Bluegrass Band, which also contained three members of the Dry City Scat Band, then recently dissolved. These others were Dick Hargreaves (bass), Richard Greene (fiddle, and soon to join Bill Monroe’s band) and David Lindley. This band performed once or twice at the Ashgrove in the summer of 1965; I have a photo of us on stage there. Then the band dissolved.

I do have vague memories of a recording session at Bob Riskin’s house. Bob was a person of some authority at McCabe’s Guitar shop in Santa Monica, and he had a cool place up in one of the canyons in the Santa Monica mountains --- it may have been Topanga. Riskin, I learned later, was the son of Fay Wray who played the pretty blonde befriended by the original King Kong. Bob also recorded a demo session for me around this time, playing a few of my own new compositions accompanied by Ry Cooder who was about 18 years old at the time. I may also mention that I had taken myself somewhat seriously as a banjo player (Seeger-style, then old-time two-finger and three-finger styles) before gravitating to the role of lead and tenor singer and flat-pick rhythm guitarist in the bluegrass pattern; In the year of 1965, my article “An Introduction to Bluegrass,” appeared in the Journal of American Folklore (vol. 78, 1965, 245-256) --- the first bona fide academic treatment of bluegrass music. The author credit was to L. Mayne Smith; my legal first name is Loyd, which I dropped entirely after I left academia a few years later.

Bob Riskin had a good reel-to-reel Ampex tape recorder (model 600?) that would record at 15 ips – a step or three up from my Wolensak. We played in a wide-open livingroom area with no acoustic padding or anything else to keep out dog-barking, etc. My mental image says it was dark outside. Although I knew that some tunes from the Riskin sessions were released on Fahey’s records, I don’t recall the specific music we played, except that I played the banjo with a flat pick in what I thought of as a simple early New Orleans style. I had forgotten about any use of kazoos, and that Mark LeVine was also involved.

I asked about Fahey’s description of the session in the Voice of the Turtle notes

There is some relation to my memories in what Fahey says about Topanga Canyon and Riskin. “Barrett Mansen” is clearly Barry Hansen. Barry identified himself to the world as a collector of obscure records – particularly 45 rpm rhythm and blues – and was emphatically not an entrepreneur or brewery owner. Mark’s interest in bluegrass does have a tinge of reality about it. The “lacy filigree” comment is wholly gratuitous, particularly in relation to the ultra-simple style I was playing on that session. LeVine and I, on the other hand, were deliberately studying how to play rhythmic back-up, and may deserve some credit for that.

I asked about the ‘Delta Haze Recording Company’, and any possible involvement of ED Denson

I have no memory of any talk about specific record labels. I don’t think I would remember if there had been any. I don’t think I knew that Fahey had anything to do with Ed Denson, and I’m not sure I knew anything of Denson at that time. Four or five years later, Mitch Greenhill and I were in a band called “Frontier,” which was managed for a while by Denson (who also, at the time, managed Country Joe and the Fish, and The Joy of Cooking); we were all centered about the SF Bay Area at that time.

After listening to ‘Texas and Pacific Blues’ and ‘Train’

The “Texas” cut is a blatant re-hash of the well-known blues, “Corrina, Corrina,” and if that’s me on lead kazoo, I hear nothing original in it. That does sound like me on the banjo, pretty much in the style I remember playing, at John’s request.

On learning that he had been given a composer credit for ‘Beautiful Linda Getchell’:

If I deserve any composer credit for “Getchell” I don’t remember the tune or my contribution to it.

After hearing "Getchell" and "Come Back Baby"

“Linda Getchall” immediately struck me as a variant of the fingerpicked waltz I knew as “Spanish Fandango.” The flat-picked banjo was probably me; it would have been easy for me to do, since I was thoroughly familiar with the tune. Incidentally, the banjo has a suspended-4th figure in it that reminds me that Fahey and I, on opposite sides of the USA, shared exposure to the hymnody of the Episcopal church, which is quite evident in his improvisations.

“Come Back Baby” has a similar rhythm banjo sound, so it may have been me. On the other hand, the single-string work up the neck is so good I have some doubts that it was me. But I may have been better back then than I recall, so if Fahey credited me I’ll take his word for it. The melody and modality of this blues tune was also familiar to me at the time. (“ . . . let’s talk it over one more time.”)

Obviously, my thanks to Mayne for patiently answering all my questions; this provides another picture of a session that still arouses a lot of interest. I was amused to see that barking dogs had obviously left some sort of impression even after all these years, since Mayne had never heard 'Transfiguration' so wouldn't have known about the dog's cameo on the record .


Voice of the Turtle: the earliest pressings

Since it settles quite a few debates, here are pictures of the original 1968 black & silver labelled copies of Voice of the Turtle; these show that both the eleven and twelve track pressings existed from the off. Neither of these is easy to find, although I suspect that serious collectors will want both.

Original 11 track pressing, side 1 has 5 tracks:

Original 12 track pressing, side 1 has 6 tracks:

For more discussion of the complex history of this album, or to add any comment, please see my earlier post, The Mystery of the Turtle. These pictures have been included in that post; I've put them here as well to highlight the update.

Please add any comment to the 'Mystery of the Turtle' post, rather than here.


Takoma Records 1968 Catalog

This catalogue was routinely packaged in with albums for a while. It is worth noting that the One String Blues album (shown as B1020) was not actually available when this catalogue was published; it eventually appeared as B1023. With the exception of the Phil Yost album, none of those listed as 'in preparation' ever made it to release.


Three Day Band

It's not too often that CDs get mentioned here (other than to complain that Fantasy could have done better) but sometimes needs must, as it were.

Last year the Newburyport MA based indie Important Records re-released The Mill Pond as a limited edition CD. They still have it (as do the big online retailers) but those among you who collect Fahey's CDs may not be aware that it comes in two different sleeves - one white board, and one brown chipboard. It's well presented, with a booklet of John's paintings, and if it passed you by you should seek it out before it's gone. If you order directly from Important, you can specify which sleeve you prefer, or there's a $1.98 discount if you order both.

Now they've followed that up by releasing Three Day Band, a collaboration between Fahey and Ayal Senior recorded in John's hotel room in 1999. There are a couple of improvised music pieces, and 15 recordings of John reading excerpts from his writings. They've got some lengthy mp3s up, so you'll know what you're letting yourself in for - I think it's enjoyable, not just one for the completists.

If you'd far rather look at pictures of cats than even contemplate ownership of a CD (there'll be some, I know) they have a rather nice cat page .


New labels

Once again this is here to flag up some additions to long-standing posts. Glenn Jones has very kindly photographed some of his rarest Fahey records, in particular the original 1959 Blind Joe Death and the limited edition of Transfiguration (shown above to catch your attention).

You can see all the new labels by clicking on the Record Labels link in the sidebar, then scrolling down the page.

My thanks to Glenn who has put in a lot of work on this. He's sent me more, and I'll be getting that posted in due course.

Please add any comment on the labels to the original posts, rather than here.


The Bastrop Waltz

Another terrific recording, probably left over from sessions that contributed to The Voice of the Turtle. Considerably longer than the recording mentioned on the Fahey Files, and with the usual thanks to the provider, here is The Bastrop Waltz.


The Eye of the Turtle

It has long been said that there were two different eye variations for the turtle that presides over the front cover of Voice of the Turtle. After I had an email from Glenn Jones confirming their existence, I thought I'd better check my own copies with a magnifying glass, and yes, there are indeed two versions. All the early sleeves (at least until circa 1974), the ones that have the outer pasted wrap-round, have a plain pupil. However, when the sleeve switched to the later and more standard construction, printed to a higher standard off new plates, cross-hatching substitutes for the colour of the earlier ones . I've seen it suggested that there is more than one variant of hatched eye; however the two examples of cross-hatched eyes I show here (from the two batches of the last gatefold sleeves manufactured) appear different only in that the printing plate has been more heavily inked in the earlier than the later example, so ink has flowed into the hatching at some points. I suspect that the hatching was added by the person who made up the new printing plates for the later sleeves, possibly to cover up a flaw or error in the photo-etching, but probably damage to the original artwork. Further plates were made up when the switch was made to the single sleeve around 1977; this added a second turtle (copied from the first but slightly smaller) to the bottom right-hand corner of the sleeve, replacing the promise of a book within. The hatching in the eye remained although it is difficult to tell whether it is the same, given the considerable difference in print quality. The smaller of the two turtles has clearly had its eye reworked, probably because the hatching wouldn't reduce easily (the pictures below are shown in scale to show the relative size of the smaller turtle).

As always, click to enlarge the pictures.

Early eye 1968-Circa 1974, 3rd sleeve, original plates:

Later eye, Circa 1975-1977, 1st printing, second plates:

Later eye, Circa 1975-1977, 2nd printing, second plates:

Last eye, main turtle, Single sleeve, Circa 1977

Eye of second turtle, Single sleeve, Circa 1977

For more details on the various sleeves for this album, or to add any comment, please see my earlier post, The Mystery of the Turtle. This new information has been included in that post too; I've put it here as well to highlight the update. If you own another variation, get in touch.

Please add any comment to the 'Mystery of the Turtle' post, rather than here.


The Roots of John Fahey

In my 'to do' box, as it were, has been the intention to start uploading the original source material that Fahey drew from and used to shape his own music; I had very kindly been sent a copy of the wonderful VrootzBox and had found that a lot of the material on it opened up Fahey's work more than I anticipated. I had got as far as ripping an initial selection of recordings, but now I find that I have been beaten to it by the Irate Pirate over on Wrath of the Grapevine, who has produced his own 5 CD selection of material (plus a bonus disc). He's put a lot of time and effort into a very substantial project, and it's well worth taking advantage of all his work.

Here's the link to the Pirate's specific post - The Roots of John Fahey

Dick Waterman's wonderful photo is of JF with Son House; I've appropriated it from the Irate Pirate but only to catch your attention!


Vol. 6 Days Have Gone By

The original 1967 release:

Second sleeve, probably 1968:

Final sleeve, probably circa 1976:

This album has four sleeves that I know of. The first three have a simple paste-around over a black cover, the final sleeve is of standard manufacture.

The earliest sleeve credits Chester Burnett as the photographer for the front cover, and has Takoma's Box 2233 address in Berkeley. The colour of the front cover has an orange tinge to the brown.

The second sleeve appears to have replaced the first quite quickly. The colour is now a far darker brown, with no hint of orange whatever. The photographer is now correctly credited as Jeff Lovelace. The Berkeley address remains, with the addition of the zip code 94711.

The third sleeve removes the address, and the brown reacquires its orange tinge. I hope to be able to add photos for this variant very shortly.

The final sleeve, of conventional construction, obviously lacks the black border of the earlier ones, instead the yellow area extends round the edge. The brown is now quite distinctly orange.

To help with colour comparisons between the sleeves, here is a photo of the three sleeves photographed above shown together; the oldest sleeve is on the right just to add a touch of confusion.

Original 1967 booklet, inside back cover:

Second edition 1968, inside back cover:

Note the wonderful Pre-Raphaelite styled 'T' graphic in the original 1967 booklet, Tom Weller's first tentative design for a Takoma logo. The booklet was changed in 1968, updating the discography inside the back cover and using the newly introduced Takoma logo. The 1967 booklet is printed on paper with a more pronounced beige colour than the later one, although the paper for the later one is clearly of poorer quality and has faded despite being stored inside the record sleeve.


'The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death'

The 1967 Riverboat release:

The second Riverboat sleeve, circa 1970:

The final Riverboat sleeve, circa 1972:

The 1973 Takoma re-issue:

The 1980 Chrysalis re-issue:

Prior to the commercial release of this album, Riverboat pressed a limited edition of fifty numbered copies. These simply came in a plain white sleeve. Copy #1 was sent out as a promotional copy, and here is the card that accompanied it:

Riverboat's 1966 sleeve names the company as 'Riverboat Records', shows their address as 12 Noyes Place, Boston, Mass 02113, and quotes a price of $5.00. The second marks the company's relocation to Cambridge around 1970; the rear paste-over now shows the address as 141 Columbia Street, Cambridge, Mass 02139 and the price remains at $5.00; the front of the sleeve is unaltered. Incidentally, the remaining stock with the Boston address were cleared as cut-outs, which is why they are sometimes found with a corner missing. The final sleeve names the company as 'Riverboat Enterprises', uses a different steamboat logo, and abandons the $5.00 price. Takoma inherited the bulk of these on acquiring the 'Transfiguration' rights in 1973 and continued to use them for some time before bringing in their own variant (dated as 1973 above, but probably not actually in use until 1975). Here are enlargements of the two Riverboat logos:

The original Riverboat graphic:

The later Riverboat graphic (circa 1972):

An unusual back cover for the first Takoma sleeve is shown above, with no credits. The one here has subsequently been signed by John. I do not know how many were printed like this.

Use of the Chrysalis era sleeve carried over to the Allegiance release, and I have not yet seen an Allegiance sleeve

Original 1965 booklet, back page:

Second edition, 1970, back page:

It is interesting to see from the card that accompanied the pre-release edition of 'Transfiguration' that although the subsequent sleeve was not yet ready, the booklet was (I'm presuming that they didn't come with hand-written ones). Early booklets appear to have been printed 'in-house' and are much more attractive than later ones, using an ivory coloured paper and a less harsh black ink. Later booklets are on whiter, and finally white paper, with hard black lettering, suggesting fairly cheap lithography. The printing quality of the later booklets is variable, and some have unwanted black ink stripes across the pages (like those from misfiring photocopiers).

I have posted pictures of the backs of the booklets because this is where one is able to determine definitively whether a booklet is an early one; in the bottom right-hand corner are the printer's details:

12 Noyes Place was of course the address of Riverboat Enterprises at that point. Following the move to Cambridge, the printing credit was removed. These later booklets were printed in very considerable quantities, and Takoma inherited sufficient to be able to use them until the end. Even then there was a significant quantity remaining, and Fantasy were happy to post them out to owners of the CD. This very generous supply of booklets means that many early Riverboat records have subsequently acquired booklets that date from later. I can say with considerable certainty that all those first albums that show Noyes Place as the Riverboat address have the Gringo Press credit on the back of the booklet; this means that comparisons of paper colour are thankfully unnecessary given that paper tends to discolour with age anyway.

The Early Sessions

A plea for help! I am seeking information on Fahey's Takoma album 'The Early Sessions'. If you own or have ever owned a copy of this rare record, please could you email me via the link on the right. Many thanks.


Fahey Live 1972

This is material that has been around on bootleg for some time, and is credited as having been recorded in 1968 at the Worcester MA Polytechnic in 1968.

That date at least is wrong; Fahey talks (in slightly less than glowing terms) about Vanguard; he has signed with WEA in order to record 'Of Rivers & Religion', so it must be 1972. Fahey believes it is going to come out on Elektra, but of course it was finally assigned to Reprise. There's a lengthy 'Voice of the Turtle', and two medleys. The sound quality is somewhat variable but entirely listenable; John's repartee is entertaining as always.

Get the download here.

Thanks to ejg who gave me this.


More 'Voice of the Turtle' and 'Dance of Death' outtakes

Finally, some more unreleased material. It's in zipped folders, so it won't require nearly as many downloads as normal.

From 'Turtle', there's 'A Raga called Pat Part III' with no sound effects, then a recording believed to be 'A Raga called Pat Part V'. Finally, an alternative recording of 'The Story of Dorothy Gooch'
Download the file here.

From the 1964 Adelphi sessions that produced the 'Dance of Death' album , a collection of short recordings, often incomplete - Be present at this table Lord, C Tuning parts 1 and 2, Camptown races takes 1 2 and 3, intro to Portland Cement Factory, Last thing # 1, Revelation take 1, a fragment of Sevastopol, and Steel guitar rag take 1.
Download the file here.


Paul Bryant: Blind Joe Death. The different editions of Volume 1

I am very grateful to Paul Bryant for letting me have this analysis of the various editions of the Blind Joe Death album.


NV = new version1959.........1964.........1967
(1996 CD)

On Doing an Evil Deed Blues 4.37……..NV 5.07 (1964)……..NV 3.56 (1967)

St Louis Blues 5.29…………………… edited to 4.56 (1964)……NV 3.15 (1967)

Poor Boy Long Ways from Home 3.12…….………………………NV 2.23 (1967)

Uncloudy Day 3.12 ……………………....………………………………..NV 2.22 (1967)

John Henry 3.20 ……………………….....………………………….……. NV 2.05 (1967)

In Christ there Is No East or West 2.37…NV 2.21 (1964)…NV 6.30 (1967)

The Transcendental Waterfall 6.34……NV 10.35(1964)……NV 6.30(1967)
(CD has 1964 version only)

Desperate Man Blues 4.04…………………………………………….NV 3.58 (1967)

Sun Gonna Shine in my Backdoor &c 3.32……………..………. NV 4.36 (1967)

Sligo River Blues 3.05………………………………………………….. NV 2.23 (1967)

West Coast Blues 3.12………………………Omitted (1964)…… Omitted(1967)
(CD has 1964 outtake)

I'm Gonna do all I Can for my Lord - 1967 only

Notes:It seems strange to have included the incongruous 1964 outtake of "West Coast Blues" on "Legend" - copies of the first edition were readily available.

See Legend Notes p6 : on the reproduced back cover of BJD II it clearly states that 4 songs were rerecorded in April 1964: On Doing an Evil Deed Blues, The Transcendental Waterfall, In Christ there is no East or West, and Uncloudy Day. This is untrue - Uncloudy Day was not rerecorded. (Legend Notes confirms this.) Legend Notes incorrectly state that the cover lists 5 rerecordings, adding Desperate Man Blues. That song was also not rerecorded.

Legend Notes also say "the recording of The Transcendental Waterfall used on BJD III was the one recorded for BJD II with about 4 minutes lopped off". This is untrue, TW was rerecorded in 1967. That rerecording is omitted from Legend.

Legend Notes say "what of the six missing tracks from BJD I?" In fact there are four - In Christ, Evil Deed and Waterfall, which Fahey rerecorded, and West Coast Blues, which wasn't reissued at all. The full take of St Louis Blues is presumably being counted as the fifth and Glenn's misplaced conviction that Desperate Man Blues was rerecorded makes up the six.


John Fahey: official Takoma 1972 biography by Barry Hansen

I am very grateful to Vincent Smith, who has spent some time scanning copies of two US Takoma catalogues, a selection of UK press clippings, and particularly this 'official' biography written by Barry Hansen for Takoma in 1972. As with the other posts from Vincent's archive, all these images can be enlarged by clicking on them.