Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country

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R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country (Abrams Books, 238 pages, CD incuded))

by Terry Zwigoff (excerpt from R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz, and Country):

Robert’s original idea was to include a single music card with each Yazoo LP, in much the same spirit as the established trading card tradition that dates back over a century.  It was Nick Perls [Yazoo Records founder] who wanted to package the cards as a thirty-six-piece boxed set.  That gave Nick an additional item to sell rather than a bonus premium to give away with his paltry LP sales.

He also had Robert design beautiful point-of-purchase store displays for the card sets, which are rare and collectible items today.  I remember walking around the West Village with Nick as he tried to talk the local merchants into carrying the card sets.  He was pretty successful.  The cards were appealing and colorful and sold well right from the start.

Numerous printings were done over the years, and the rights passed from Nick to other publishers.  After Nick died, the original artwork for the cards was sold and today is owned by a successful film director in northern California.

Initially, Robert wanted to draw only the country string bands for the country set, but he was persuaded to include Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, and a few more well-known entertainers.  Robert liked these artists, but he seemed to get a bigger kick out of celebrating the lesser-known bands.  Perhaps he wanted to give them a well-deserved bit of recognition after all their years of obscurity.

The existence of available photographs partly determined the musicians he chose to include.  It’s a minor miracle that someone had a photo of Mumford Bean and His Itawambians, a band so obscure that their one existing 78 has only been heard by maybe  dozen hard-core country collectors, and has never been reissued.

 

 

 

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