Mr. Bussard, an enthusiastic talker and storyteller — as long as the topic was tunes — commenced collecting information immediately after listening to a Jimmie Rodgers song on the radio. “It was like a bomb when I heard that,” he instructed The Washington Submit this calendar year. “I preferred just about every Jimmie Rodgers history I could get.”
That raw, unadulterated seem of early American songs captivated him, and he used the relaxation of his existence seeking for recordings created prior to mass manufacturing and an increasingly homogenized tradition ruined music, in his check out.
About the decades, he took extended drives by means of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas, from time to time even farther South, stopping at gas stations, houses hidden deep in hollers and smaller-town basic retailers, all in search of 78s that quite a few folks were being more than delighted to unload at minimal or no price.
“I got to know just when to travel on by and when to halt,” he wrote in his entry in “The Encyclopedia of Collectibles,” a 1978 quantity released by Time-Daily life Publications. “I stopped if I observed a dwelling with not also considerably paint on it, with old-fashioned latticework, maybe a stained-glass window in the door or a lace curtain. To me that property just hollered, ‘Old information! Arrive on in!’ ”
He remembered the adrenaline spike when he arrived across an especially rare and useful recording, some of them worth hundreds or thousands of pounds. As he advised The Put up in May perhaps: “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I experienced to maintain my hands down to retain them from shaking.”
This yr, Mr. Bussard stated he experienced about 15,000 information remaining in his basement while he as soon as experienced far more than 20,000. The information filled just about every inch of the cabinets he had crafted for them in the 1960s. They ended up held in equivalent inexperienced paper sleeves and arranged in an get only he realized — and never divulged.
But considerably from getting a hoarder, Mr. Bussard needed any one who was interested to encounter the very same bliss he liked when listening to the documents. He performed the information on radio displays he hosted and designed recordings on tape, and sooner or later CDs, that he transported — for a selling price — all more than the nation and the earth. And he invited in anyone who wished to halt by for a pay attention.
The high-quality of Mr. Bussard’s collection, which has been compared with the Library of Congress’s holdings of standard American recorded new music in conditions of breadth and high-quality, astounded those who arrived in contact with it.
“It is just one of the fantastic glory holds, likely the greatest in the globe,” the late tunes researcher Tom Hoskins mentioned in a 1999 Washington Metropolis paper story about the documents Mr. Bussard had amassed. “He was canvassing earlier than most, and he’s been at it lengthier, and he took every little thing: He acknowledged things that he truly didn’t even like at the time, but he acknowledged it as becoming fantastic, and he stored it.”
“Almost mystical,” is how Ken Brooks, a 78 collector from Indiana who became friends with Mr. Bussard around the a long time, described his selection to The Write-up this calendar year. “It’s so deep and vast. He has blues documents that no one else has. Nation records that no one particular else has. Jazz documents that no 1 else has.”
Joseph Edward Bussard Jr. was born in Frederick, Md., on July 11, 1936, to a household that owned a farm offer company. He dropped out of Frederick Superior Faculty for the duration of his junior year, labored for the spouse and children business, clerked in a supermarket and held other small-lived work that authorized him time to spend untold several hours gathering tunes. He also spent eight many years in the Nationwide Guard before that, also, interfered with his fixation.
As a youngster, he instructed the Baltimore Solar, he experienced beloved Gene Autry westerns and state recordings but felt even then “something wasn’t pretty suitable, like there ought to be one thing much more.” He said an epiphany arrived all over 1948, when he read Rodgers and immediately felt a lightning-bolt link, a emotion of authenticity in a planet that had seemed to settle for the artificial.
At first, he was primarily interested in region music recorded in the 1920s and ’30s, but his tastes expanded to include things like early jazz, blues and gospel performers who recorded for Gennett, Vocalion, OKeh and any amount of now-obscure labels. In a West Virginia coal city, he discovered what he called “the rarest of all region blues documents,” “The Original Stack O’Lee Blues” created by Long Cleve Reed and Small Harvey Hull for the small-lived Black Patti label in 1927.
A savior of abandoned American tunes contemplates his selection
As enthusiastic as Mr. Bussard was about the music he cherished, he was even far more dismissive of the new music he didn’t, namely nearly anything immediately after 78s have been replaced by 45s, then LPs and eventually CDs. He scarcely tolerated significant bands led by Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman (“like watching ice melt”). And forget nearly anything recorded after 1950, specially Elvis Presley, the Beatles and “all that rock-and-roll crap.” He sneered at region stars these types of as Johnny Funds and Patsy Cline and rolled his eyes to the heavens at the mention of pop.
When rap came up, he pointed to a thing he felt outstanding: the Beale Road Sheiks’ 1920s blues recording of “It’s a Good Thing” — “They don’t get in touch with it rap, but it is,” he insisted to an Affiliated Push reporter.
In addition to collecting, he also formed a music group, Jolly Joe’s Jug Band, and for many several years had his individual label, Fonotone, recording musicians at his property, such as the influential guitarist and composer John Fahey.
Showcased in documentaries, guides and numerous posts, the generally-cantankerous Mr. Bussard was under no circumstances happier than when he had visitors in his basement and could astonish them with audio they may perhaps not have ever had a likelihood to hear.
His daughter believed that at minimum 150 folks a calendar year put in time with Mr. Bussard at dwelling listening to him participate in tunes and tell tales about how he found the records, how considerably (or how tiny) he paid for them, which musicians performed on them and what 12 months they have been introduced.
A several years in the past, Jack White, the guide singer and guitarist of the White Stripes, invested an afternoon with Mr. Bussard listening to outdated data — and listening to Mr. Bussard speak about them. He remembered Mr. Bussard pulling out a jazz document, participating in it on a fashionable turntable, and saying it would sound as if the band have been playing dwell in the basement.
“I was like, alright, what ever, eye roll, and then damn, if he was not correct,” White told The Article. “Thirty seconds into this track, l was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold out a minute. What is this? Who recorded this? What is the speaker we’re listening to this by means of? What amplifier are you working with? Simply because, damn, you weren’t kidding me, it seems like this band is in the area with us proper now.’
“I just imagined, wow, what a beautiful point he did for me.”
On a go to to Joe Bussard’s legendary basement earlier this 12 months I produced this quick movie of him participating in what he deemed a person of the biggest recordings of all time, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the night time, Cold was the floor.” RIP Joe pic.twitter.com/Gs1CNqzdGw
— Joe Heim (@JoeHeim) September 27, 2022
Mr. Bussard’s wife of 34 decades, the previous Esther Keith, died in 1999. Their relationship grew strained at situations by Mr. Bussard’s music obsession, she informed the Town Paper. His singular concentration, she reported, created him “very, incredibly hard to reside with.” She labored as a cosmetologist to guidance the spouse and children and her husband’s audio accumulating.
Survivors include things like his daughter, of Frederick, and three granddaughters.
Anderson suggests she has not made a decision however what to do with the recordings. For now she options to go away them be.
“I nearly can not even go into the place. It is like a museum or a sanctuary of kinds,” she claimed. “It’s a connection to him.”
For his portion, Mr. Bussard was not unique about the best destiny of the information other than that he didn’t want them to go to a university or library exactly where he considered they would just collect dust.
“I like to say I’ll get pleasure from them right until I croak,” he stated in May. “Then whichever they do with them is good.”