Every once in a while we hear about how a long-lost recording by a famous artist (John Coltrane, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) has been discovered and then restored. What’s the story behind these discoveries and reissues? Let’s take a look at this article from Reverb.com.
A young boy, fishing with his father on the banks of the Milwaukee River, spies a glinting object in the dirt. It is round, metal, and old. It could be any number of things: a hubcap, a large lid, the flat side of a pie pan. The boy thinks it looks like a record though. He and his dad go to take a closer look—and just like that, a piece of history is uncovered. They had found a metal master for Coot Grant and Socks Wilson’s “Uncle Joe,” originally released by Paramount Records in 1929. How could such an important label have been so careless with its own legacy?
When you start to dig into the history of lost records, you realize quickly that Paramount was not alone in its carelessness. Ever since recordings have been made, they’ve been misplaced, cast aside, or intentionally erased—sometimes because the labels simply needed more tape, and other times for more nefarious or foolish reasons.
To learn more about how recordings are lost and what has been done to ensure we don’t lose them forever, I recently spoke with Grammy-winning mastering engineer Michael Graves, world-renowned collector and producer John Tefteller, and Resonance Records executive vice president and general manager Zev Feldman. Each in his own way is an archaeologist of lost music. While many songs have gone missing over the century-and-a-half since audio recording was made possible, every year diligent researchers recover more and more of our nearly lost past.