Back in the earliest days of recording Blues music, the 1920's, the most famous
and desirable records were recorded by the Paramount label of Port Washington,
Wisconsin. All the classic songs from Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake,
Charlie Patton, Skip James and the legendary Son House were recorded and
released by Paramount. In many cases very few copies were sold as this was a
time in history in which Blues was not popular with the majority of Americans
and a raging Depression prevented even the targeted African American audience
from having the money to buy them. Today these Paramount recordings remain some
of the best performances of all time and some of the hardest and rarest records
in the world to find.
In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four
songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard
who, on the run from the law, used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. Within a year,
the four songs were released on two records. Neither record sold well, but
almost 40 years later, one of the two attracted the attention of Eric Clapton
who heard the song "Outside Woman Blues" on a reissue album produced by Blues
collectors. In 1967, Clapton and his Cream band mates Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce
recorded a more modern day version of "Outside Woman Blues" on their classic LP
The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that November day, "Ninety Nine
Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released
in October of 1930. Blues historians and record collectors have been searching
for that second Paramount recording since the early 1940's and it is considered
priceless. No copies in any condition were ever located . . . until recently.
Bruce Smith, a school teacher from Ohio with an appreciation for old Blues
records, was attending a teachers' conference in Nashville.With an hour to kill
before catching a flight home from a school conference, he wandered into the
Nashville Flea Market and found the record in a stack of old 78's. The records
were without sleeves and not in particularly good condition, but the price was
right at $1.00 each. He purchased three records-two were common Blues records of
the 1930's and the third was the long lost Blind Joe Reynolds (Paramount Release
#12983.) Unaware of its value, he purchased it simply because it "looked
Not realizing quite what he had, the teacher began searching the internet to
figure out exactly who Blind Joe Reynolds was and if this record might be of
some significance. One site referred him to Gayle Dean Wardlow's book "Chasin'
That Devil Music" published by Miller Freeman Books in 1998. A chapter in that
book called "A Devil of a Joe" tells the story of Blind Joe Reynolds and the
significance of his recordings. It also said that there was a missing Blind Joe
Reynolds recording, which turned out to be the one purchased at the flea market.
Realizing he had stumbled upon a rare find, Smith contacted Tefteller for an
appraisal, but ended up selling it to him for an undisclosed amount. As it is
the only known copy to exist, Tefteller now refers to "Ninety Nine Blues" as the
"crown jewel" of his collection.
Richard Nevins of the Yazoo label (the largest distributor of reissues of
classic Blues and Country music from the 1920's) called "Cold Woman Blues" a
"masterpiece." Both sides of the recording have now been remastered and will
soon appear on a Yazoo label compilation CD. Pete Whelan, publisher of the bible
for Blues 78 collectors, "78 Quarterly," pronounced the newly discovered record
"better than 'Outside Woman Blues.' "
"Sometimes songs can be long lost for good reason-they are not very good and
didn't sell well because of it," Tefteller explained. "But not so in this case-
this is a GREAT record. Reynolds plays a mean slide and really mumbles his way
to immortality on 'Cold Woman Blues.' The significance of this record is mind-
boggling! It may not be as important to Blues history as finding the long lost
Son House Paramount recording of 'Clarksdale Moan,' but it's real close!"
Tefteller predicts that the record will become a favorite of Blues fans
worldwide and that someone, maybe even Clapton, will record a new version of it.
He has uploaded both sides of the record onto his website (tefteller.com) and
they can be heard there. Blues lovers all over the world are encouraged to log
on and listen. He said, "I'm just glad to be able to share it with the world