Tefteller MobileBay 1500 crop 1

damn the naysayers! full speed ahead!

I’M GETTING OLDER and a wee bit foggy be­tween the ears, so I don’t re­call when John Tefteller and I first met. I’d guess it was at the twice-yearly record con­ven­tion in Austin, Texas, prob­ably after we’d spoken on the phone. But I be­lieve that I met him years ear­lier at a swap meet in Cal­i­fornia. When­ever it was, I liked John im­me­di­ately: he was in­tel­li­gent, ap­proach­able, af­fable, gen­erous with his time—and he was not one of the naysayers!

And he was in­ter­ested in seeing an ac­cu­rate price guide in the field of record col­lecting, at least for blues and rhythm & blues 45s. Need­less to say, he was ready, willing, and more than able to co-author such a book with me.

While John’s name is al­most uni­ver­sally known in the field of record col­lecting today, he was not known that well then. He spe­cial­ized in buying and selling 78s and 45s of the pre-rock & roll era, and that was a rel­a­tively small and spe­cial­ized market. But even be­fore I was in­volved with editing the price guides, I knew who he was. Still, the myth­ical figure that he is today was still forming then.

 

Naysayers: cover of BLUES AND RHYTHM & BLUES 45s OF THE '50s price guide.

Nay to the naysayers

John and I mapped out a project: I would com­pile the basic discog­raphy and as­sign values to the records. These would be ten­ta­tive values at best—I was out of my normal stomping grounds dealing with these records. In fact, the naysayers—and shake rattle and roll me, but there were lots of them!—thought I was so far afield that I would never get the book done, let alone get it right. 1

But having any value as­signed to an end­less list of col­lec­tables makes the job of placing values on them easier be­cause you’re cor­recting some­thing al­ready there in­stead of con­ceiving of values and num­bers from nothing but a memory. That is, looking at a list of col­lec­table records with in­cor­rect values is easier to cor­rect than looking at a list of the same records with no values and having to think of an item’s value from scratch.

For ex­ample, here are the first five records by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup that RCA Victor is­sued as 45s, both without as­signed values and with them:

RCA Victor 50-0000 That’s All Right / Crudup’s After Hours
RCA Victor 50-0001 Katie May / Boy Friend Blues
RCA Victor 50-0013 Shout, Sister, Shout / Crudup’s Vicks­burg Blues
RCA Victor 50-0032 Tired Of Worry / Hoodoo Lady Blues
RCA Victor 50-0046 Come Back Baby / Mercy Blues

RCA Victor 50-0000 That’s All Right / Crudup’s After Hours                             ___
RCA Victor 50-0001 Katie May / Boy Friend Blues                                               ___
RCA Victor 50-0013 Shout, Sister, Shout / Crudup’s Vicks­burg Blues               ___

RCA Victor 50-0032 Tired Of Worry / Hoodoo Lady Blues                                 ___
RCA Victor 50-0046 Come Back Baby / Mercy Blues                                            ___

RCA Victor 50-0000 That’s All Right / Crudup’s After Hours                             100
RCA Victor 50-0001 Katie May / Boy Friend Blues                                                100
RCA Victor 50-0013 Shout, Sister, Shout / Crudup’s Vicks­burg Blues               100
RCA Victor 50-0032 Tired Of Worry / Hoodoo Lady Blues                                 100
RCA Victor 50-0046 Come Back Baby / Mercy Blues                                            100

Can you see how dif­fi­cult it is to look at the first two lists, see no num­bers in the value column, and have to think the whole process through? As you can see, it is so much easier to look at the third list: if you know your stuff, you al­most im­me­di­ately know whether the values are cor­rect.

But a list of records with the same value typed after it can be mind-numbing, so I made cer­tain to break the num­bers up so that John wasn’t looking at a list of the same figure over and over again:

RCA Victor 50-0000 That’s All Right / Crudup’s After Hours                        100
RCA Victor 50-0001 Katie May / Boy Friend Blues                                          100
RCA Victor 50-0013 Shout, Sister, Shout / Crudup’s Vicks­burg Blues          100
RCA Victor 50-0032 Tired Of Worry / Hoodoo Lady Blues                            100
RCA Victor 50-0046 Come Back Baby / Mercy Blues                                       100

RCA Victor 50-0000 That’s All Right / Crudup’s After Hours                       300
RCA Victor 50-0001 Katie May / Boy Friend Blues                                         200
RCA Victor 50-0013 Shout, Sister, Shout / Crudup’s Vicks­burg Blues         100
RCA Victor 50-0032 Tired Of Worry / Hoodoo Lady Blues                           300
RCA Victor 50-0046 Come Back Baby / Mercy Blues                                       150

As you can see, it is much easier to look at the second list and al­most im­me­di­ately know that the values are cor­rect or in­cor­rect than having to look at the first list and think the whole process through.

 

Naysayers: photo of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup in the recording studio.

“Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup was one of the top-selling blues recording artists of the 1940s. Like many other per­formers who had little ed­u­ca­tion and little fa­mil­iarity with the music busi­ness or copy­right law, Crudup was never fairly paid for the music he com­posed and recorded, and had to work as a la­borer or bus driver to sup­port his family. After Elvis Presley recorded three of his songs in the ’50s (That’s All Right, My Baby Left Me, and So Glad You’re Mine), Crudup be­came known as the Fa­ther of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” (Mis­sis­sippi Blues Trail)

Working drafts

For me, the first draft was the eas­iest, as it pri­marily con­sisted of manual labor: finding the data and as­sem­bling it. Here that was finding lists of artists and records from books and mag­a­zines and copying them into Word. Then as­sign each record an ap­prox­i­mate value.

It was also the longest, re­quiring thou­sands of hours of te­dious work that took place over a pe­riod of more than ten years.

The first draft of Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s con­sisted of ap­prox­i­mately 13,000 en­tries and in­cluded disco­graph­ical and pricing input from sev­eral con­trib­u­tors who had agreed to work with me. 2

This draft was shipped to Tefteller, who went made cor­rec­tions, ad­di­tions, and sug­ges­tions. He also called in sev­eral knowl­edge­able con­tacts to as­sist in this process, none of whom wanted any public credit for their con­tri­bu­tions. 3

Then he sent it back to me.

I added the new data to my man­u­script (now ap­prox­i­mately 14,000 en­tries), printed out a dozen copies, and shipped these to var­ious other ex­perts for cross-checking. This second group of con­trib­u­tors in­cluded a few well-known ex­perts who wanted nothing to do with me but agreed to co­op­erate be­cause of their re­spect for Tefteller. 4

None of this second group had seen the man­u­script be­fore this, so they looked at the pages with a fresh per­spec­tive. They, too, made cor­rec­tions, ad­di­tions, and sug­ges­tions and sent their man­u­scripts back to me.

I en­tered the new data, made an­other copy, sent it Tefteller, etcetera.

 

Naysayers: photo of John Tefteller surrounded by his record collection

John Tefteller of the World’s Rarest Records holding up one of the world’s rarest records, Tommy John­son’s Al­cohol and Jake Blues / Ridin’ Horse, re­leased in early 1930 as Para­mount 12950.

Final draft

The final draft of my man­u­script was 15,000-16,000 en­tries (I wasn’t using a data­base and Word was fairly un­so­phis­ti­cated then so I didn’t get an exact count), printed out a dozen copies, and shipped it to Tefteller. John made more cor­rec­tions, ad­di­tions, and sug­ges­tions, and shipped the man­u­script back to me. 5

This was es­sen­tially the book.

The final as­signed values were ap­proved by Tefteller. Even though most of the as­signed values rep­re­sented the con­sensus opin­ions of a few dozen people, Tefteller had the right to over­ride any con­sensus value and as­sign his own.

The final man­u­script as a book (its overall look in­cluding the layout, text, il­lus­tra­tions, etc.) was my re­spon­si­bility. The Umphred Guide to Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s was the re­sult of this col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween John Tefteller, a few dozen dealers and col­lec­tors, and my­self. 6

 

Tefteller MobileBay 1400

FEATURED IMAGE: On Au­gust 5, 1864, at the Battle of Mo­bile Bay, Union Ad­miral David Far­ragut led his flotilla through the Con­fed­erate de­fenses to seal one of the last major Southern ports. The fall of Mo­bile Bay was a major blow to the Con­fed­eracy, and the vic­tory was the first in a se­ries of Yankee suc­cesses that helped se­cure the re-election of Pres­i­dent Lin­coln later that year. (His­tory)

It was at this battle that Com­mander Far­ragut leg­en­darily com­manded, “Damn the tor­pe­does! Full speed ahead!” This phrase has passed into the pop­ular lex­icon as meaning that one should forget risks and the ob­sta­cles in one’s way and per­se­vere and get on with it.

In one of the great co­in­ci­dences in Amer­ican history—that is rarely taught in his­tory courses—a Grant’s Pass was in­volved in Far­ragut’s en­deavors, while a Grants Pass was in­volved in Tefteller’s and mine. (Maybe I should see if Alex Jones is in­ter­ested in this co­in­ci­dence.)

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   While I am an often over-the-top ex­tro­vert while Jon is a rel­a­tively re­served person, he was con­stantly as­suring me and boosting my con­fi­dence during stressful mo­ments!

2   I don’t re­member when I de­cided on the title, but I al­ways wanted it to be simple and to the point, and Blues and Rhythm & Blues 45s of the ’50s cer­tainly qual­i­fies.

3   I usu­ally refer to Tefteller in the third person when writing be­cause everyone—and I am only ex­ag­ger­ating a wee bit when saying everyone—who col­lects rare records knows the name Tefteller. Plus it’s a neat name!

4   They also saw that the values I had as­signed the records were ac­cu­rate. I men­tion this be­cause some of thee con­trib­u­tors had been vocal naysayers who didn’t think it could be done—especially by a non-blues/rhythm & blues col­lector such as my­self.

5   I used the in­exact 15,000-16,000 figure be­cause I wasn’t using a data­base and Word was fairly un­so­phis­ti­cated then, so I didn’t get an exact count and re­ally don’t feel like counting them all man­u­ally now.

6   Fi­nally, The Umphred Guide To Blues And Rhythm & Blues 45s Of The 50s was not so named be­cause of any in­se­cure ego of mine. (Hah!) I fea­tured my name in the title to es­tab­lish im­me­diate name-recognition with my past work for O’­Sul­livan Wood­side and Gold­mine.

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