Posts Tagged ‘Pat Conte’

Secret Museum of Mankind: the Book

July 31, 2012

edited from

“The Secret Museum of Mankind: Ethnic Music Classics 1925-1948” (CD series edited by Pat Conte) takes its title from the book shown above.  Published in 1935, the Secret Museum is a mystery book. It has no author or credits, no copyright, no date, no page numbers, no index. Published by “Manhattan House” and sold by “Metro Publications”, both of New York, its “Five Volumes in One” was pure hype: it had never been released in any other form.

The assumption is that this was a get-rich-quick scheme: copy “1,000” (actually 994) photos and captions verbatim from various sources with no credit, print them badly on cheap paper, sell thousands of copies for $1.98, make a bundle, then take the money and run. Yet, it was still for sale in 1942, seven years after first being released. Why wasn’t it shut down by the parties who were infringed? Were they involved? It’s a mystery.

View entire book here.

Listen to The Secret Museum of the Air radio show, with Citizen Kafka and Pat Conte, here.


Secret Museum of Mankind on Vinyl

July 20, 2012

Outernational Records

alt Artist:
Various Artists
Secret Museum of Mankind, Vol. 1
Outernational Records
“This series of archival 78 transfers by Pat Conte was originally released in 1995 on CD only. Now for the first time on vinyl, a deluxe gatefold presentation and limited edition pressings. Produced by Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies) in conjunction with Yazoo Records.


“Compiled here are many of the greatest performances of world and ethnic music ever recorded. This volume represents a trip around the world, stopping at each port to sample one of that country’s finest recordings of its indigenous music. Each of these recordings was captured at a period during the golden age of recording when traditional styles were at their peak of power and emotion. Included inside are extensive notes and beautiful period photographs that work together with the music to communicate an exciting sense of discovery.”


“One of the most consistently rewarding world music compilations in years, the cuts range from Macedonian fiddle jaunts to Puerto Rican Christmas tunes, from Abyssinian religious chants to ominous Japanese court music. The instruments include Ukrainian sleigh bells, Sardinian triple pipes, Vietnamese moon lutes and Ethiopian one-string violins…a profound artistry lurks beneath the alien vernaculars.” — Village Voice;

Vol. 1 contains music from Nigeria, Sardinia, Russia, Ceylon, Rajahstan, Cuba, Rumania, Vietnam, Macedonia, Morocco, and more.

Available here.


American Songs with Fiddle and Banjo

November 5, 2011

Pat Conte was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1956, grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens and now lives on Long Island, NY. Conte is best known for his 8 volume collection of rare ethnic recordings, The Secret Museum of Mankind. This music became the basis of his long-running radio show The Secret Museum of the Airwaves, co-hosted by the late Citizen Kafka. Conte has performed with dozens of bands, most notably The Otis Brothers, Major Contay and the Canebrake Rattlers and The Empire State String Ticklers. As a painter, Conte’s work can be seen on the cover of Washington Phillips “The Key to the Kingdom” album on Yazoo Records.

Mr. Conte’s latest LP contains fourteen tunes, arranged for the fiddle and banjo. The record spans old-time, primitive blues and archaic songs to celebrate the harmonious and traditional pairing of these instruments in American music. “American Songs with Fiddle and Banjo” was recorded by Conte at The Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY using instruments dating back to the 19th Century. “Make Your Belly Grow” and “Half Shaved”, (played on a pre-Civil War Minstrel Banjo) showcase Conte’s lifelong understanding of the sound and nature of early American music.  (from

Available here.

“A Guitar Does Not Build a Homestead”: Pat Conte in Natural History

November 4, 2011

(edited from Pat Conte’s notes for “The Secret Museum of Mankind      vol. 1, Ethnic Music Classics: 1925-48”

“All this universe is but the result of sound.” (Vakya Paduka)

“A god can be simultaneously in two places, like a melody.” (Joseph Campbell)

“Music hath the power of making heaven descend upon earth.” (Chinese proverb)

“It is therefore, really in barbarous nations, that we may, reasoning by analogy, find in what state music existed when our own ancestors were in a state of nature.”(Louis Elson)

“A guitar does not build a homestead.”  (Zulu saying)



Maestro of the Secret Museum (Natural History, June 1997)

by Mark Jacobson

Attired in a baggy black T-shirt, purple velour shorts, and fluffy blue slippers, the curator of the Secret Museum appears at the screen door of his ranch house in Long Island and squints into the foggy gloom of the suburban afternoon. It is a little early for Pat Conte, noted collector of ethnic music and “world traveler who’s never been anywhere — except Canada, for ten minutes.” The caffeine level hasn’t yet peaked in his decidedly hefty body, nor has he smoked enough cigarettes, so he feels “like crap.” But then again, Conte, a man with a fierce sense of beauty, is always a bit out of sorts in the “ugly world.”

This isn’t to say that Conte, who’s in his early forties and wears his graying hippie hair in a haphazard ponytail, is particularly distressed to be living in the midst of “Wrong” Island’s National Enquirer belt, habitat to serial killers, Satanists, and such notables as Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco. “It’s a cultural wasteland, but so what,” shrugs Conte. “When you’re a hermit, it doesn’t matter where you live.” Indeed, Conte is happy enough to share his smallish house with his aged mother (a friendly woman and big Sarah Vaughn fan) and his younger brother. He doesn’t even mind working in the post office, as he has for the past decade — first sorting letters until it drove him “nuts” and now as “a slob mail handler” — because for Pat Conte, the “beautiful world” is in the basement.

To explain how he went from Hank Williams and field hollers to acquiring vintage disks from such places as Uzbekistan and the Simbo Islands, Conte says:

Some of it was self-interest, about beating out other collectors, making my mark. I was younger than a lot of the blues freaks; they’d already been to Mississippi, found most of the great stuff. Ethnic records were a totally open field. Besides, I lived in New York, an immigrant culture. The attics and thrift stores of Queens and Brooklyn were a treasure trove.

While still in his teens, Conte aquired a shortwave radio:

On WABC, “Monday, Monday” was number one, but on the shortwave there were Eskimos, Laplanders, Sultans. I’d get names from the radio, write blindly to people everywhere: “Do you have any old records? Send them to me. ” That’s how I got 10,000 records from 100 countries without hardly ever going out of my room. (more…)

Listen to a recent Pat Conte interview and radio show

August 19, 2011

Pat Conte, by Robert Crumb

The site below lists audio files that you can download to your computer of John Heneghan playing and talking about records from his 78rpm record collection.  This link will take you to Old Time Radio Show #3, featuring Pat Conte talking and playing some of his favorites recordings.