Song:Sunflower River Blues
Album:The Best Of John Fahey 1959-1977
Though the average music fan shouldn't be familiar with John Fahey, most guitarists are well aware of this acoustic guitar innovator. He was influential and also a major league eccentric who recorded on his own label until he sold it in the late 70s. Health problems slowed him down in the 80s. But he had a career renaissance in the 90s until his 2001 death. He was born Feb. 28, 1939 in Washington, DC and grew up in Takoma Park, MD. He got interested in country and bluegrass music and bought his first guitar from the Sears Roebuck catalog in 1952. Then he got into acoustic blues and he developed his playing style listening to old blues records. Fahey first recorded in 1959 as Blind Joe Death. He pressed a hundred copies of the record. The idea was to make people think the record was by an old blues guitarist. He moved to California to study philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. But then he tracked down blues legend Bukka White in Mississippi and recorded him. He released the recordings on his own label Takoma and then decided to record himself. His partner and manager was ED Denson who he knew from the Maryland folk scene. The 1963 album was called Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes and Sunflower River Blues was the first track. The odd thing was Fahey re-recorded the album in 1967. Both versions were released on one CD in 1999. While Fahey recorded in the 60s, he started to expand Takoma by signing other acoustic guitarists. The big name in this story is Leo Kottke and this eventually led to Fahey selling Takoma to Chrysalis Records in 1979. Kottke recorded for Chrysalis. Chrysalis sold Takoma to Fantasy in 1995. Fahey started to have health problems in the 80s and was living in poverty when he was rediscovered in the 90s. Rhino released a 2CD John Fahey comp that is no longer in print. This comp was first released in the 70s and then released on CD in 1992 with bonus tracks. When his father died in 1995, Fahey used his inheritance to start a new label and he started touring again. After a coronary bypass operation, John Fahey died on Feb. 22, 2001 at age 61. He had a big influence on acoustic guitar techniques. Here's John Fahey performing Sunflower River Blues 1997.