Jerry's Records, R. Crumb, And One Rare 78

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 06:06 AM Written by 

In today's PG, Tony Norman tells the story of the latest rare 78 rpm recording acquired by Jerry's Records: the 1928 Bogus Ben Covington recording of "Adam and Eve in The Garden" and the surrealistic gastronomic ditty "I Heard The Voice of the Pork Chop." Jerry Weber and son Willie traded the disc to legendary cartoonist and early roots music record collector Robert Crumb. who in turn created a custom drawing of the Webers they own and can use any way they wish. Not a bad deal, coming just months after they came across a rare Robert Johnson 78.

As you might expect, there's a bit more to the story.

Tony explained the mysterious Bogus Ben Covington, whose real name may be Ben Curry. According to the late blues great Big Joe Williams, who knew and performed with him, Covington was a street singer and medicine show performer who feigned blindness while performing on the streets, no doubt to bring in more money. He's clearly playing banjo. Some researchers credit the harmonica work to one Joe Holmes, whose 1932 records were released under the name "King Solomon Hill," but the truth isn't easily determined. Covington himself could be using a harmonica rack, Dylan style.

If you're curious, these are both sides of the record in question and whatever discs were used as sources here, the sound is likewise surprisingly good. Musically, both tunes hold up nicely 85 years later.

This is "Adam and Eve."  Note this appeared on a reissue of early medicine show music.  Neither of these tracks are what you call "blues" in the sense of Robert Johnson, Son House or Blind Willie Johnson.  This music differs considerably but is just as important to the African-American culture of that day.

And … "Pork Chop."

The versions here sound pretty good. The disc the Webers acquired, recorded for the now-defunct Paramount label, is clearly in good shape. And these discs are tough to find in anything resembling decent condition.

Record collector Jerry Zolten, who advised the Webers on the Covington disc, correctly pointed out that Paramount 78s weren't manufactured using the highest quality shellac. When played, the worst sounded like a record pressed on sandpaper.

I recall a 1968 blues LP I bought that included an early Charley Patton Paramount 78 in such bad condition Patton sounded as if were singing through static. Today, of course, the tech exists (inexpensively) to clean up and enhance old recordings.

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