To any regular Tom, Dick, or Harry this picture isn’t particularly special. To a 78’ fanatic, this is a picture of sixty-thousand dollars.
You’re looking at a picture of a 78’ shellac record recorded in Chicago in May of 1927 by Long Cleeve Reed and Little Harvey Hull (The Down Home Boys). The A-Side of the record is home to “Mama You Don’t Know How”, the B-Side - “Original Stack O’ Lee Blues”. There is only one known copy of this record, owned today by Joe Bussard, a fairly famous 78’ collector (as well as the founder of the Fonotone label) who started collecting sometime between 1950 and 1960 . The record is not currently for sale. Although the Delta Blues music on this record is not particularly special, the record has been valued at thirty to sixty thousand dollars by Rateyourmusic.com. Joe Bussard was once offered seventy-thousand dollars for the record, but he declined.
You may be wondering, why on earth is a little record by some musicians I’ve never heard of so expensive? Well, first let’s start with the label. Black Patti Records are famously rare among 78’ collectors for a couple reasons. The first reason being how incredibly hard to find they are. The label was only up and running for about twelve months, releasing about fifty records with less than a hundred copies per record. Very few copies of each record have been found, and some known to have been released on the label have never been found at all. This particular Black Patti falls under the latter category, being the only known copy of its kind. The second reason is the pure aesthetic of the records. As seen in the photo above, the label is quite beautiful. The lavish gold and purple, with the majestic peacock spreading its feathers makes the record feel luxurious and grand. To avid record collectors, it does just that. Many collectors search for years just to find a single Black Patti record, and when they do they may never let it go. A combination of the rarity and the demand collectors have created, makes finding a Black Patti 78’ like finding pure gold.
Now, what’s the story behind the record? How did Joe Bussard get his seasoned record collecting hands on such a fine specimen? The year is 1966, and Bussard is in Virginia looking for, you guessed it, rare 78’s! He’s on his way to a flea market to check their selection out, when he makes a wrong turn and finds himself completely lost. He spots a man walking down the road and stops to ask for directions. The man gives Joe directions, and Joe, being the nice guy he is, offers the stranger a ride. So off they go, headed for the flea market. In the car, the man asks Joe about the music playing. They get to talking… What’s Joe doing in the middle of nowhere Virginia? Why is he going to this flea market? When Joe brings up his record collection and his love of 78’s, the stranger mentions he has some at home. Joe perks up and asks if he can look at them after the flea market. The man agrees.
The flea market proves to be uneventful, so the pair head to the man’s house in the rolling hills of Virginia’s countryside. In recountings of the story, Joe mentions how incredibly run-down and ramshackled the house was, how stuff cluttered the insides of the house. The man brings Joe a box, and the contents completely baffle the vinyl enthusiast. As Joe combs through the box, he finds not one, not two, not three, but fifteen Black Patti records! The man explains to Joe that the records were given to his sister in 1927, but neither he nor his sister thought they were any good, so they placed them in a dark corner for dust to settle on the unsuspected treasures. Bussard bought all fifteen Black Pattis for the low price of ten dollars, securing his coveted record-collecting status, and walking away hundreds of thousands of dollars richer.
So, if you ask us, we recordmend picking up hitchhikers. You never know what treasures they may have tucked away!