John Fahey was born in Washington, D.C. in 1939. He took up the guitar in his early teens, and also began collecting records, his interests being in early blues and country music. He developed a unique guitar style, which blended blues picking with classical influences. He made his first recordings in 1958, and the next year issued his first album all by himself, one side credited to John Fahey and the other to 'Blind Joe Death'. Only 100 copies were made, and he got rid of them over the next few years by sneaking them into record stores, giving them away and sending them to folk scholars, some of whom were fooled into thinking Blind Joe Death was a real undiscovered old blues singer.
The album featured twelve solo acoustic guitar compositions, which were really quite avante-garde for their time with their blend of blues, folk and classical ideas, resulting in something quite strange and eerie. Coming from an independent twenty-year old musician, it was a truly impressive feat - Fahey put the Takoma label on the record, named after his hometown, but it would be a few years before Takoma Records became an actual business.
The album was actually re-recorded and re-issued twice, first in 1964 when Fahey re-recorded four of the songs as he felt he had become a better guitar player. This version left out "West Coast Blues" and extended "The Transcendental Waterfall" to over ten minutes.Then in 1967 the whole album was re-recorded again, with a new song and a shorter version of "The Transcendental Waterfall". I have got two versions for you here - the original 1959 version, and the re-recorded '67 version (though the take of "The Transcendental Waterfall" is actually the long '64 one). The re-recordings actually make for a far more enjoyable listening experience, though the original recordings are of course interesting from a historical perspective.
|> Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes (1963)
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