Joe Bussard, historian of old-timey music and legendary 78 RPM record collector, RIP

Joe Bussard, a legendary collector of 78 RPM records and historian of old-timey American roots music, has died at age 86. I learned of Bussard through the exquisite 2005 CD box set Fonotone Records: Frederick, Maryland (1956-1969) that he compiled in collaboration with the fine folks at the Dust-to-Digital record label. Also worth hunting down is the killer compilation Down in the Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s. From National Public Radio:

Bussard was born July 11, 1936 in Frederick, Md. From an early age, his passion was preservation. He sought out obscure 78-rpm records that otherwise would have disappeared: jazz, blues, bluegrass, country and folk recordings from the early 20th century — the history of America, pressed to shellac. In time, he amassed thousands of records all stored in his basement, none of them in any order except the one in his noggin[…]

"He loved people," [Dust-to-Digital's Lance] Ledbetter tells NPR. "He loved to connect people through music. He was a fountain of knowledge, but he loved to share." Even as late as this year, fans visited Bussard's basement to hear records from his collection — "that meant a lot to him," Ledbetter adds. You can see that giddy excitement in the 2003 documentary Desperate Man Blues, but even more recently in a short video posted by reporter Joe Heim, when, after placing the needle on a beloved record, Bussard's eyes just sparkle.

image: Dust-to-Digital