The name Blind Joe Death will always be linked
to the American Primitive Guitarist John Fahey. Blind Joe Death's real name is
unknown, and is only remembered today as the alter-ego of the young John Fahey,
who so completely hijacked the name, that Blind Joe Death faded into the realm
A young John Fahey with
famous Bacon & Day Guitar.
Here is what is known of this obscure, but
influential, blues guitarist:
He recorded only one 78rpm record in 1927 on the Paramount
Label, which also issued recordings by Charlie Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind
Lemon Jefferson in the late 1920s. The only remaining copy of the recording is
included on the 2006 John Fahey Tribute Album on Takoma Records - released
through Fantasy Records. The original 78 record was in Fahey's
collection, but now is lost. Here is an image of the label:
on the label to hear
a sample of the song.
Track: John Henry
Paramount Catalog Number 12522-B
Matrix Number - P4805
Recording Date - 8/??/27.
is speculated that John Henry by Blind Joe Death only sold a few copies, or
perhaps it was never commercially released, as it is not listed in some catalogs
titles. The artist died shortly after making this, his only known recording.
He was thought to have influenced Charlie Patton and other blues guitarists on
the label who recorded later.
wrote that the old 78 was so beat up that only the B side was playable. The A side had been
played so much that very little could be heard, despite modern recording restorative
techniques. Must have been a great tune.
In any case, Fahey never handed
over a recording of the A side.
name Blind Joe Death would have remained lost to blues lovers forever had it not been
for Fahey, who recorded his first album of solo guitar music in 1959 with a cryptic album
cover that just had the name John Fahey on one side and Blind Joe Death on the
other. It's rumored that Fahey lifted his early playing style from the Blind Joe
first Fahey album released on
the Takoma label. C-1002
were no liner notes and no clue as to the identity of the musician (or
musicians). A few serious
blues collectors who knew the name Blind Joe Death speculated that the artist
was "re-discovered" by either Fahey, ED Denson, Bill Barth, or Barry
Hansen, while on 78rpm record collecting expeditions to the Deep South, as had been done with Skip James and Bukka White.
Hansen (aka Dr. Demento)
finding 78s in the Deep South.
continued borrowing the Blind Joe Death persona throughout the sixties, even
providing tantalizing clues about his existence. The line between fact and
fiction became so blurred that it was impossible to sort out the real story.
photograph is known to exist of Blind Joe Death, but on Fahey's Riverboat album
titled, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, he included a drawing of
Records - RB1
Contact - info@BlindJoeDeath.com