Fonotone Records, Frederick, Maryland

Author: Colin | Published: 8/2/09
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Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Fonotone Records

Artist:Various including Joe Bussard, Tennessee Mess Arounders, Jolly Joe’s Jug Band and Blind Thomas
Title: Fonotone Records, Frederick, Maryland
Label: Dust to Digital
Year: 2005
Designer: Art, direction and design: Henry H. Owings, Chunklet Graphic Control, hue, tint and brightness: Susan Archie, World of Archie
Type of music: Bluegrass, backwoods country
Notes: I was very happy to receive this as a review copy a few years back – quite apart from the music, it comes with a bottle opener! Fonotone Records was the last label to release 78s (not sure whether that’s worldwide or just in the States). The label was run by the inimitable Joe Bussard, avid/infamous record collector. This is a classic reissue, the cigar box containing treasures like a whole wad of postcards, record labels, a big book overflowing with details, pics, etc and of course the aforesaid bottle opener. Not forgetting the five CDs.

Oh and anyone who knows who the star was behind Blind Thomas gets a gold star. I’ll give you a hint in case you’ve no idea – he’s been featured before here in the early days of Hard Format. Answer’s at the bottom of this post…

The tone of the notes is playful and affectionate throughout:

I climbed the brick steps of a visitor centre and made my initial enquiries. Behind the counter stood two elderly matrons of the town, Luella and Darlene. At first they serenaded me with well practiced “Welcome to Frederick” greetings, but upon my mentioning the name Fonotone, their singsong chatter stopped, and their faces underwent a transformation into twin visages of what William Burroughs once described as “the mean, pinched, bitter evil faces of decent church goin’ women.”

Fonotone Records: for the best in old time playing and singing…

Blind Thomas was the one and only John Fahey and Fonotone released his first recordings.

Last and probably least, here’s my review, written for Signal to Noise magazine.


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