16 October 2022

Tony Friel remembers Joe Bussard (1936-2022)

Jolly Joe's Jug Band

BIB editor's note: Two weeks ago Richard Thompson posted on Bluegrass Today an obituary of the 'king of record collectors', Joe Bussard. The sad news inevitably brought to mind Ireland's own world-class collector of country music records, books, and memorabilia, the late Rodney McElrea of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, who died five years ago. At that time Tony Friel - record collector, radio presenter, and friend of Rodney for forty-seven years - recalled his memories of Rodney for the BIB. We asked Tony whether he or Rodney knew Joe, and he replied:

I never met Joe but we were Facebook friends and we used to have the wee odd FB chat. He told me some interesting stories about record collecting. He said he would in his younger day go on record-collecting tours across the country, asking everywhere he went if people had records for sale.

He told me one time that he went to this old farmhouse in the hills of Virginia to look at records. He said that there were so many he was walking on them, scattered across the floor, to get to a shelf where the unbroken records were. He often went collecting with David Freeman of County Records fame. He also knew Rodney, as he recalled Rodney was on one record-collecting trip with him and Dave Freeman.

I have known over this past two years that Joe's health was fading, and he cut back from letting people visit his home for record sessions. I often wished I had made that trip. I have some of the old Fonotone 78rpm records that he sent me. He had a cutting lathe in his den and he would cut 78s for sale. Joe also had his own band called 'Jolly Joe's Jug Band' [photo above] and I have some recordings of them somewhere which I must dig out. Also for your information, which you might already know about: Joe put out a 5-CD box set of rare music and featuring the Jug Band. The box set is packed with postcards, record labels, a bottle-opener, and a 164-page booklet telling us a brief history of the music enclosed.

© Richard Hawkins

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