Before Red Cross, before Fare Forward Voyagers, before The Yellow Princess and Requia, even before Blind Joe Death (his first self-released album from 1959), future fingerpicking master John Fahey made a series of recordings for his fellow record-collecting friend Joe Bussard’s budding Fonotone label. Issued on 78 RPM records (an unusual choice even in 1958) in extremely low numbers under his own name and various monikers (see “Blind Thomas” above), only the most obsessive Fahey scholars have heard even a fraction of these recordings, and even those who were lucky enough to order them by mail at the time have yet to hear the songs at the correct speed, as Bussard cut the 78s too fast (resulting in the records playing back slower than recorded). Now, after over 10 years of scavenging, compiling, EQing, and cursing from audio engineers, all the music sent to Bussard by Fahey from 1958 to 1965 is being released late September/early October in a deluxe 5CD set by the kings of deluxe 5CD sets, Dust-to-Digital.
Along with the rare Fonotone 78s, John Fahey: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You (The Fonotone Years 1958-1965) will include roughly three hours of music from Bussard’s master tapes that was never issued on any format and could only have been heard previously if you were hiding in the tree outside Fahey’s window at the time of recording. The sum total is 115 extremely rare recordings, all edited by steel-string sensation (and Fahey collaborator) Glenn Jones, with the full approval of the Fahey estate.
The set will also include an 88-page book with essays and analysis from Byron Coley, Malcolm Kirton, Claudio Guerierri, and Eddie Dean; reminiscences from close friends and associates; reproductions of all the original Fonotone record labels; and tons of unpublished photos direct from Jane C. Hayes — Fahey’s mother. Dust-to-Digital has an amazing track record with its compilations, and in 2005 it released a Fonotone retrospective that ended up earning a Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, so expect this one to be prettier than your sweetheart. For more details about the project (and its long history), check out this interesting recollection from Glenn Jones.