Joe Bussard is a man obsessed. While many of us can claim to be music junkies, not many of us can claim to be true musical anachronisms. Mr. Bussard collects records, not the now obsolete 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records we all grew up with, but the brittle old 78s your grandmother (or maybe great-grandmother) threw out years ago. Not impressed? He has over 25,000 discs in his posession. But, as you'll soon see, the records are not the true nature of his obsession.
Bussard wants more than a collection he can hide away in his own personal treasure trove. He wants to share this music with people like you. He wants to light a fire in the hearts of music lovers across the nation, he wants everyone to know how important this music is to the American culture. Bussard sees the music from the early part of the 20th century, from 1925-32, as the key to understanding today's popular music trends. Back then, Dixieland jazz, early blues, and country music was the rage across the land.
You can hear the passion in his voice as he talks about his favorite music, explaining why it is so unique. "Why I love this music...It was played uninhibited by mass communication or commercialism. It was just one time for this kind of music," he explained.
"Our country was (still) young, very isolated," he said, "and if you wanted music, you those days you had to play it (yourself)."
This is the true essence of independent music. This was before record companies were mega-conglomerates, before mass marketing, before television, before the internet, even before radio had fully established itself. People across the US were writing their own songs based on the tunes they learned from their parents, or as the country became an ever-growing melting pot, playing their own arrangements of traditional songs from abroad.
"People in different hollows and gaps, and from one state to another, music varied so differently," Bussard said. "They were proud of their music, it was a part of their lives. "
And if they were lucky, their music was actually documented.
"They just happened to be at the right place at the right time and got recorded," Bussard said.
Even so, they are now all in danger of being forgotten. That's where Bussard comes in. Can he be the savior of the music that's trapped on the dusty old 78s? Next month, we'll show you how Bussard is resurrecting the music of long ago.