[Joe Bussard in motion.]
Desperate Man Blues (dir. Edward Gillan, 2003) is a portrait of record-hunter Joe Bussard, whose collection of 78s — blues, jazz, and old-timey music — may be the largest in the world. Bussard is enthusiasm itself, a then-sixty-something man of astonishing energy and excitement. Playing a record in his basement, he is all fluttering hands and pumping legs. What he must have been like when younger? Says Elaine, “Exactly the same.”
Like any true enthusiast, Bussard has made his own deeply idiosyncratic map of the world. Among its key elements: Jimmie Rodgers (the greatest singer of all time), the year 1933 (the year jazz died), and the Barbara Fritchie Restaurant. And the map is dotted with the sites of Bussard’s finds — of records that in many cases would otherwise have remained unknown. “One of two known copies,” “the only known copy”: that’s Joe Bussard’s territory. Anyone who loves indigenous American music of the 1920s and ’30s is in his debt.
The DVD release of Desperate Man Blues is packed with extras: outtakes, photographs, a second shorter Bussard documentary, and some great footage of Son House.
[“Enthousiasmos, from enthous ‘possessed by a god, inspired’“: New Oxford American Dictionary.]