"Chimpin' the Blues"

The lovely and talented Liz Wyckoff sent this item across my desk yesterday straight from the Penn State Newswire, and this morning I finally had a chance to hear “Chimpin’ the Blues”, a recording of an hour-long radio show between two old-time record collectors: Jerry Zolten, an American Studies professor at Penn State Altoona, and Robert Crumb, the legendary cartoonist. (The name of the album comes from Crumb: “It’s a couple of monkeys just chattering to each other about their little cultural interests.”)

Crumb and Zolten each have a knowledge of 1920s and 30s blues and jazz that developed alongside their deep personal record collections, and over the course of 60 minutes they proudly drop the needle on 11 of their rarest 78s. I had never heard a single track on here, and, as you might guess, I was blown away by all of them. To use the parlance of our times, you might say the collection is “expertly curated.” Blech.

Of course, some of the real gems here are in the banter between Crumb and Zolten, including this exchange from the opening:

Zolten: I think a lot of people assume that since you, for example, drew the cover for the Big Brother and the Holding Company album [Cheap Thrills], that you love it the music of the 60s…

Crumb: Damn it with that music of the 60s. Nope. Hate it. Can’t stand it.

Zolten: You draw the line around what year?

Crumb: I draw the line around 1936. It was seven years before I was born, but… You know, I like some of the music of the 50s, but I’m in love with the music and time before I was born.

This might get my vote for reissue of the year, if I had a vote in things like that. You can get the album digitally or try to grab one of the 500 limited edition vinyl copies at your local independent record store. I’ll probably be playing it again this afternoon on my drive to Boston for the NMALH symposium.

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