alcohol and jake blues and collecting really rare records

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

THERE’S AL­COHOL & JAKE BLUES and there’s re­ally rare records and John Tefteller, who has been col­lecting those records for a long time. And he doesn’t col­lect reis­sues of great old music on great old LPs—he col­lects orig­inal, brittle-to-begin-but-even-brittler-with-age 78 rpm sin­gles. John has been tracking down 78s no matter where they may be, no matter how many other col­lec­tors as­sure him that copies of cer­tain records no longer exist. I’ve known John for a long time and he had a BIG col­lec­tion be­fore I met him.

Tefteller be­lieves he will find them—his at­ti­tude can be summed up with a play on Agent Mul­der’s theme: “The record is out there!”

Plus he looks for these im­pos­sible records in primo con­di­tion! If there’s a number out there where only two or three beat-up copies are known to exist, John be­lieves there’s a near mint copy out there waiting to be found.

By him.



You may be thinking, “What in tar­na­tion is a comic book doing in this ar­ticle?” Read on, dear reader.

Winning at any cost

One such record was the leg­endary Delta Blues by Tommy Johnson: Al­cohol And Jake Blues / Ridin’ Horse (Para­mount 12950). John al­ready had a copy in what he de­scribed as “ham­mered con­di­tion” (a not un­common con­di­tion for old 78s) that he had paid thou­sands for once upon a time.

In Sep­tember 2013, a copy of Para­mount 12950 was of­fered on an eBay auc­tion that the seller graded VG++. Of course John would have his way with that record. The auc­tion ended on Sep­tember 25, 2013, and in the final mo­ments of bid­ding, the high bid went from $16,000 to a win­ning bid of $37,100.

John Tefteller’s win­ning bid.

The quotes below are from an in­ter­view with Tefteller by Jason Newman for Fuse fol­lowing his win­ning the auc­tion. I’ve lifted a few of Teftellers’ rel­e­vant state­ments from the con­ver­sa­tion and con­ser­v­a­tively pruned them and ju­di­ciously re­arranged them for your pe­rusal below. 1

The idea here was to give you an ex­ample at the pas­sion and knowl­edge and in­tel­li­gence that Tefteller brings to his av­o­ca­tion, which he also brings to his vo­ca­tion of buying and selling the World’s Rarest Records.

“I trav­eled to South Car­olina the night be­fore the auc­tion was over. I was that con­fi­dent that it wasn’t going any­where else other than home with me. I checked into a hotel at 7 P.M. the night be­fore it was over and e-mailed the seller.”

He also brought this and more to the making of our Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s price guide.


Label of 78 rpm single Paramount 12950, Tommy Johnson's ALCOHOL AND JAKE BLUES.

The copy of Para­mount 12950 that Tefteller paid the record high price of $37,100 for a “used record” may be the world’s most beau­tiful copy of Para­mount 12950.

Tefteller on collecting really rare records

“These orig­inal Para­mount Delta Blues records have at­tained such a mythic status over the years that it just be­comes so leg­endary. When you go back to these 1920s and ’30s blues record­ings, the mas­ters were de­stroyed years ago and there’s no way to re­cover them. The only way anyone is able to hear this stuff now is to search out an [orig­inal] com­mer­cial pressing.

So when you find one of these blues records in re­ally super nice con­di­tion, that’s an earth-shaking event in the record col­lecting world.

When you ac­tu­ally see one for sale, which hap­pens once or twice in a life­time, you have to make a decision.

When someone is shocked or awed to see that a record sold for $37,100, be­cause that is a large amount of money in any­body’s bank ac­count. But when you think of the his­tor­ical im­por­tance of what this is, how do you put a price on it? It’s an amazing mas­ter­piece of a record that pre­vious to this copy, there was only one other, which I also had. 2

Records of this cal­iber are un­der­valued right now.When you com­pare the rarity, de­sir­ability and his­tor­ical im­por­tance of this to Su­perman No. 1 or a Honus Wagner base­ball card—the prices on those things are dra­mat­i­cally higher! 3

For the last thirty years, I’ve been as­sem­bling, very slowly and care­fully, the world’s greatest col­lec­tion of blues records. There are a handful of leg­endary records on the Para­mount label of which no copies ex­ists that we know of.

I be­lieve they exist and are sit­ting in the garage or the base­ment and the owners don’t un­der­stand how sig­nif­i­cant they are.

Those are my Holy Grail records and I will not lose them.

My chal­lenge to the world is, you go find those records, bring them to me and you’ll see how big the check will be.”


Jake blues: copy of Honus Wagner T206 baseball card.

Wagner had this card pulled from man­u­fac­turing be­cause he ei­ther 1) didn’t want kids buying to­bacco prod­ucts to ac­quire it, or 2) he wanted more money for the rights to use his image.

A little perspective

To get a wee bit of per­spec­tive here on col­lecting re­ally rare records, in the fifth para­graph above, John is re­fer­ring to the first ap­pear­ance of Su­perman in the 1938 comic book Ac­tion #1 and the 1909 base­ball card of Honus Wagner from the Amer­ican To­bacco Com­pa­ny’s T206 series.

Copies of both of these col­lec­tables in top con­di­tion have re­cently sold for more than $3,000,000 each! 3

Meaning that the record high $37,000 that John spent on one record is about 1% of what other col­lec­tors have spent on one funny book or one bub­blegum card.

Fi­nally, if you’re in­ter­ested in reading the en­tire con­ver­sa­tion be­tween John and Jason, click HERE.


JohnsonTommy AlcoholAndJakeBlues 1500 1

FEA­TURED IMAGE: Para­mount 12950: Tommy John­son’s Al­cohol And Jake Blues backed with Ridin’ Horse. ‘Nuff said?



1   I have nei­ther added words to Tefteller’s state­ments nor taken them out of con­text nor placed them in a new con­text that al­ters his intent.

2   The posting of what sounds like a 78 on YouTube (linked above) would seem to in­di­cate that there is at least one more copy in the hands of a knowl­edge­able owner.

3   Copies of both of these items in less than NM con­di­tion have sold for more than $1,000,000 in this still-reasonably-new century . . .


Tefteller photo

John Tefteller amidst his col­lec­tion of the world’s rarest records. Re­garding his copy of Tommy John­son’s Al­cohol and Jake Blues / Ridin’ Horse: “They can offer me $400,000 for it and I wouldn’t sell it!”


Leave a Comment