Blues From The Avon Delta - The Matchbox Blues Story Mark Jones The Record Press In 1967 the Bristol based Saydisc label released its first country blues record, a 7" EP by the local trio, Anderson Jones Jackson. By 1968 it was helping three other blues labels, Sunflower, Kokomo and Highway 51 get to market. Today the company, having released well over a hundred blues LPs in its first twenty years, has been re-releasing some great country blues recordings and has now become epicentre of the U.K.'s DIY blues record label industry. The book covers this wonderfully creative period of blues in Britain with some familiar names like Jo Ann Kelly, Dave Peabody, Mike Cooper, Ian Anderson and Dave Kelly who, alongside some lesser known ones, brought the blues to the U.K. in those early years - a small record label making ends meet on a limited budget, including visits to a local photo booth to take passport photos for its record sleeves. A Research Fellow at University College Dublin, Mark Jones's book chronicles the history of the Saydisc label and its series of 1920s and 1930s blues music CDs, itemising who did what and when, through the manufacturing process, the artists, the tracks and the sleeves. This is a hugely informative book that's been made possible with the help and input of the people who were there. Pete Clack
BLUES & RHYTHM July 2021
BLUES FROM THE AVON DELTA: The Matchbox Blues Story
The Record Press; ISBN 978 1 909953 76 5; £19.99
Thoroughly researched, nicely written, profusely illustrated and well
presented on quality glossy paper this, as well as providing a very useful
discographical reference, is a lot of nostalgic fun, even for those of us
who weren't around in the time and place it records. It effectively draws
together the separate but linked stories of the folk/blues scene of the
Bristol area in the 1960s with the history of Saydisc Records. Saydisc is
best known to blues fans both for issues of its own and for the fact that
it was producing UK releases of LPs on the Roots label, from Austria. If
you've ever wondered why its catalogue also seemed to feature rather
a lot of albums of recordings of mechanical music, the answer is here.
The Bristol folk/blues scene is more of a specific, localised interest, but
the author makes a reasonable case for it having wider historical
relevance: ' ... outside London it was Britain's most important centre for
homegrown country blues ... (with) the first dedicated country blues club
In the country.'
Quite a lot of the content is discographical - each relevant Saydisc and
related album is illustrated, with release details, track listing and a short
passage describing the content and its background, sometimes with
quotes from reviews etc. Saydisc's own Matchbox label released several
valuable reissue collections and anthologies, including sets by Blind Boy
Fuller and the first ever full LP releases by Peetie Wheatstraw and
Kokomo Arnold. They provided printing and pressing for Pete Moody's
Sunflower label (see B&R 321 ), as well as the Highway 51 and Kokomo
series. Most substantially, they provided UK release for Roots and
related labels from Austria thus, as is set out in detail here, saving UK
consumers import tax and postage costs amounting to no less than the
pre-decimal equivalent of 57.5p. (If this doesn't seem like a big deal, I
can testify that in 1969, you could get sloppy drunk for that, and still get
the bus home).
Partnership with Flyright produced the early volumes of the Library of
Congress series edited by John Cowley (later ones were produced by
Flyright alone)- truly wonderful albums that I still listen to with enormous
pleasure. Saydisc also had a partnership with the short-lived US label
A.hura Mazda, giving UK release for their great Scott Dunbar and Robert
Pete Williams albums (and who knew that Ahura Mazda reciprocated
with a US release for 'The Golden Age of Mechanical Music'?). In due
course, it would be the Matchbox Bluesmaster imprint that would kick off
the unstoppable 'complete chronological' boom, eventually culminating
In the Document 5000 series.
In parallel with all this activity in getting original, mostly pre-war blues
recordings into the hands of avid fans, Saydisc were also providing
outlets for the rather different kinds of blues-based recordinos made bv
FRoots editor, Dave Peabody, Al Jones and others, first under a
Saydisc imprint, then on Matchbox, then through a partnership
arrangement, on Village Thing. A good account of the background to all
this local activity is given, well-illustrated with photos, labels, posters,
family trees and other ephemera, a story that well deserves to be told.
In A4 format, the whole thing is a pleasure to look at and to read.
JAZZ JOURNAL Sept 2021
BLUES FROM THE AVON DELTA: The Matchbox Blues Story
The Record Press; ISBN 978 1 909953 76 5; £19.99
The story of the Bristol-based Saydisc label and its invaluable contribution to the promotion and preservation of country blues
There are ordinary books for collectors and there are extraordinary books for collectors. This book surely fits the latter category. This book traces in minute detail the birth of the Bristol-based Saydisc label and its subsequent role in the development of home-grown British country blues.
In 1967, Saydisc released its first country blues record, a seven-inch LP by local trio Ian Anderson, Alun Jones and Elliot Jackson. By 1986, it was helping three “pop-up” DIY blues labels – Sunflower, Kokomo and Highway 51 – to get to market. In 1968, Saydisc created the well-known and much respected Matchbox label with the objective of releasing material by contemporary British country blues artists as well as LPs of classic pre-war US country blues.
By 1968 the UK blues boom was in full swing, albeit with more attention given by the major labels to electric blues bands. In July 1968, Matchbox released the country blues album Blues Like Showers Of Rain to positive critical acclaim. It featured a collection of British artists including Dave Kelly, Mike Cooper Ian Anderson, Jo-Ann Kelly among others. John Peel played it on his Night Ride radio show and several of the artists showcased were subsequently invited to record BBC sessions.
The British blues phenomenon did eventually run out of steam and Matchbox folded in 1977. Thankfully, it returned in 1982 to concentrate on classic pre-WWII US blues and created the well-received Bluesmaster Series – which is still going strong today. This undertaking resulted in the release of 38 LPs and two double-LP sets. Many of these releases were transcribed from rare 78s (as frequently no better original source existed) or previously unreleased US Library of Congress recordings.
All in all, it is thought that Saydisc released over 100 blues albums between 1967 and 1987, as well as promoting home grown country-blues talent. In short it kickstarted the late 1960s country blues boom and made Bristol the epicentre of the UK’s DIY blues record label industry. No small achievement for a label that most music fans have never heard of and a fascinating story that continues today with digital reissues of the entire Bluesmaster Series of LPs.
This fascinating history of Saydisc is written and catalogued by music historian Mark Jones and a fine job he does. It is part book, part catalogue, part scrapbook and part memorabilia. The book contains information on every Saydisc-related blues record ever released (including track and artist listings) and images of all Saydisc’s blues record sleeves (including the Sunflower, Kokomo, Highway 51 and Ahura Mazda labels). There are also memorabilia from private collections and active input from those who were there.
The amount of detail is simply phenomenal. The book will appeal to all those with an active interest in the history of the British blues movement as well as those who lived and went to blues and folk clubs in the Bristol area at a time when it was probably the most important centre for homegrown country blues outside London.
It will also appeal strongly to those with musical interests on the other side of the Atlantic. Without the Matchbox label (and especially the Bluesmaster Series) many pre-war US country blues and gospel artists would simply have faded into obscurity. We would never have heard of blues musicians such Peg Leg Howell, St. Louise Bessie, Little Brother Montgomery and Blind Willie Davis. Nor would vast quantities of music from better-known artists such Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Skip James, Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie be available commercially.
In many cases it has simply been a case of an artist or a piece of music surviving obscurity by a record collector having the last surviving 78 record from which Matchbox have revived a copy. The hard work involved in sourcing, compiling and cataloguing these blues collections is never fully appreciated and this book shines a light on one small company that does it so well. It is a remarkable story and one that deserves to be told. (IAN LOMAX)
Blues from the Avon Delta: The Matchbox Blues Story by Mark Jones (The Record Press, 120pp., £19.99), an exhaustive survey of “how Blueswailin’ Bristol kick-started Britain’s late 1960s’ country blues boom and became the epicentre of the UK’s DIY blues record label industry”. A labour of love, this painstakingly researched work, as well as providing a history of the 1960s British blues boom, lists all Saydisc (and related companies’) releases (complete with sleeve images). Blind Boy Fuller and Kokomo Arnold jostle with Jo-Ann and Dave Kelly, Peetie Wheatstraw and Furry Lewis with Mike Cooper and Ian Anderson – the result is truly an aficionado’s dream.
Jefferson Blues Magazine (Sweden): The Swedish Blues Society
BLUES FROM THE AVON DELTA - The Matchbox Blues Story: Mark Jones
The Record Press, 2021: ISBN 978-1-909953-76-5
There aren't many of us. But we exist. We who are morbidly interested in discographies, listings, matrix numbers and alternative takes. And this 114-page paperback in A4 format is an excellent example of what we like. This is the story of the blues part of Saydisc Records. Author Mark Jones has written another book about the label, “The Saydisc & Village Thing Discography”. But here the focus is on the blues of this company that was a leader in the English blues releases of the late 1960s. Over 100 LPs were issued between 1967 and 1987. Perhaps not impressive if you're used to Ace, Charly or Jasmine, but Saydisc was the pioneer who started it all.
The company was based in Bristol (upon Avon), home of some of the earliest clubs dedicated to folk music/blues. This gave birth to interest and Saydic's first staggering step was as publisher of folk music. But soon the company became an outlet for early reissue companies such as Sunflower, Kokomo and Highway 51. Today, these names say nothing, but at the time it was records that caused wet dreams after seeing their ads in magazines like Blues Unlimited and Blues World. At the time, LP´s was regarded as luxury goods and taxed, but if it stayed below 100 copies, the tax was avoided. Therefore, only 99 ex were pressed, which meant that you did not have to pay "VAT" on them. Which makes them highly valued collectibles 50 years later. Saydisc pressed the records and printed labels and covers. Some copies of Sunflower's "The Chicago Housebands" were sold to such illustrious clients as John Peel and Billy Boy Arnold. This was 1968.
In the same year, the label Matchbox was started, where newly recorded British country blues were combined with reissues of American ones. The LP "Blues Like Showers of Rain" featured the likes of Jo Ann Kelly, her brother Dave (later in The Blues Band) and Mike Cooper. John Peel played it on his radio show and the album inspired a generation of young British musicians.
Matchbox also pressed the Austrian company Roots editions for the UK market. When that deal ended, there were a lot of records pressed that lacked cover. I remember a train ride to London in the 70's when these were sold out in neutral unprinted cardboard covers for 50 p/piece. And the pound was seven crowns. Guess if the backpack was filled? The label Matchbox ceased in 1977 but resurfaced in 1982 with its Bluesmaster series, 36 LPs in all. They are now in 2021 reissued as six-CD sets.
For me, perhaps the most interesting releases were the Flyright-Matchbox Library of Congress Series. Six LPs of unreleased LoC material in collaboration with Flyright. Two more LPs came under Flyright's direction alone. A real music treasure, available nowhere else.
Well, there is as much as you could wish for to tell about Saydisc, and Mark Jones does. Extremely interesting if you are morbidly interested in a breakthrough of a company's publications. But it probably assumes that you know how the music sounds, here it is mainly about number series, design, number of pressed ex and so on. And pictures of all editions. Like I said, invaluable information.
Finally, the LPs that were published as complements to some of the books in Studio Vistas Blues Paperback's series, as well as the two double LPs that were published for Paul Oliver's book "Songsters And Saints", are also discussed.
It should also be said in this context that there were other companies that were there alongside Saydisc, but which for various reasons did not survive that long. For the poor sound quality so infamous reissue company Python disappeared. While Blue Horizon, which began back in 1965 with single editions, reached success with Fleetwood Mac. But it was Saydisc that made an effort worthy of hero status in reissues. Max W Sievert