knocking the socks off the nattering naysayers

Es­ti­mated reading time is 4 min­utes.

MY BLUES AND R&B 45s BOOK was be­hind schedule and com­pleting it was get­ting dif­fi­cult. My plans in­cluded a full-color cover de­signed by a local artist that used la­bels from sev­eral highly col­lectible records from the ’50s and some re­ally cool ty­pog­raphy. There were over a hun­dred high-resolution black-and-white photos set for the book’s interior.

These photos in­clude both rare records and fa­mous and not-so-famous recording artists. I wanted it to knock the socks off the naysayers. The text pieces in the front and back of the book con­sisted of more than 40,000 words! Aside from such basic back­ground in­for­ma­tion as a guide for grading records and a how-to for using the book, this included:

1. a list of the 100 most valu­able vocal group 45s of the ’50s
2. an ar­ticle on record com­pany fac­tory sleeves by Doug Hanners

3. a 29-page di­rec­tory to record com­pany label variations
4. an essay on col­lecting these records in lesser con­di­tions by Steve West

The first com­mer­cial printing was to be a lim­ited, num­bered, and signed hard­cover edi­tion. It was to have been a beau­tiful, high-quality book, un­like any­thing the record-collecting world had seen up to that time,

It never happened.


Socks: cover of the BLUES AND RHYTHM & BLUES 45s OF THE '50s book.

I had the printer blow up text that I had printed out at home so that the ty­pog­raphy would have an in­com­plete look and feel to it. I had a stamper made with AD­VANCE COPY and I hand stamped each copy of the book, adding to its rough appearance.

The intended book

In the first years of this cen­tury of the Roman cal­endar, the con­cept of print-on-demand—what is now com­monly called POD—was very real, but very ten­ta­tive. I was re­searching it but un­pre­pared to commit to what seemed like an en­tire process that was in the beta stage. So I went with ex­isting tech­nology and en­gaged a printer in Seattle to print books the old-fashioned, tried-and-true method—on a printing press.

With the manufacturing/printing of books, quan­tity is para­mount: the cost of set­ting up the equip­ment for the ini­tial run of books, and the cost of simply turning the ma­chines on and starting the process of printing the book is such that the more copies one prints, the less each copy costs to man­u­fac­ture. The book’s specs looked like this:

8⅜ x 11 inches (213 x 280 mm)
532 pages
per­fectly bound

I used rea­son­ably good, white paper (I forget the weight of the paper stock but the ac­tual book weighs 2 pounds 11 ounces). Due to the enor­mous ex­pense of doing the book with a stan­dard offset press, I de­cided to do a very small run of “ad­vanced copies” to get some much-needed capital.


Socks: a photo of Sun 183, D.A. Hunt's 'Lonesome Old Jail' / 'Greyhound Blues.'

Sun 183, D.A. Hunt’s Lone­some Old Jail / Grey­hound Blues, is one of the rarest Sun sin­gles. At the time I com­piled the blues book, the 78s rpm single was a very rare record, but it was be­lieved that Sam Phillips hadn’t pressed any 45s as none were known to exist. Con­se­quently, this number was listed in our book without a value but with a warning: “This record was is­sued le­git­i­mately only as a 78 RPM single.” All that changed in 2009, when an au­thentic Sun 45 in VG- con­di­tion turned up for auction—which John Tefteller pur­chased for just over $10,000!

The advance copies

These books would in­clude all the text pieces sched­uled for the front of the book along with all the list­ings and values, but would not in­clude the text pieces sched­uled for the back of the book, nor any of the in­te­rior photo il­lus­tra­tions. Worse, it would be a pa­per­back edi­tion that would not fea­ture the killer cover de­sign that I had paid for.

But with a plain front cover, I was able to af­ford a printing of 500 copies.

By now, everyone who col­lected blues or rhythm & blues 45s, or who bought and sold rare records, knew about this book. The buyers of this printing knew that they were get­ting an in­com­plete book.

They also knew they were get­ting price­less in­for­ma­tion well in ad­vance of the thou­sands of buyers and sellers of rare records who did not buy this ad­vance printing!

Priced at $50, I ex­pected a quick sell-out of the 500 ad­vance copies. I would then have the money from these to go back to the printer and do the run of 1,000 “lim­ited edi­tion” copies.

Then some­thing happened . . .


PhillipsDewey WHBQ studio 1500

FEA­TURED IMAGE: In 1949, leg­endary disc jockey Dewey Phillips started at WHBQ/560 in Mem­phis with his Red, Hot & Blue show, where he aired music by black and white artists. He was the city’s leading radio per­son­ality for nine years, an amazing streak for the time in any city. Phillips played a lot of the records by local artists, in­cluding those on Sun Records. 

The photo at the top of this page is his ac­tual broad­casting booth, which was res­cued and re­built and is now a part of Sun Records building in Mem­phis. It’s pos­sible that he was one of the few jocks to play D. A. Hunt’s record.





Leave a Comment