78 Quarterly – Where Art Thou?

78 Quarterly – Which Never Actually Was Released Quarterly – Is Still Going (Strong?) Today.

78 Quarterly is considered one of the top magazines not only for collectors of 78s, but for blues fans as well.  Why?  Because many of the blues researchers we follow today, including some of the most prolific in the field, have been published or featured in this magazine.  Mack McCormick, Gayle Dean Wardlow, and Steve LaVere are some of the  greats who have had feature articles in this magazine.

78 Quarterly was started around 1967 by Pete Whelan.  Pete Whelan is a legendary figure amongst country blues record collectors.  His first collection was sold many years ago, but his new collection is again reaching legendary status.  In 1960, Pete started his own label, the Origin Jazz Library label, in an attempt to reissue country blues 78s.  Many, including myself, credit Pete with bringing the early blues to a much wider audience.

Anniversary Issue of 78 Quarterly

Soon, after the label, Pete decided to start 78 Quarterly, a magazine dedicated to early blues and the collecting of those records.  The magazine though, seems to have its own rich history.  Though issues 1 and 2 came out in 1967, issue 3 was released 25 years later.  Issues 4 through 9 popped up at one year intervals.  Anytime a new issue of this magazine is released, it is highly welcomed news in the world of Jazz and Blues.  The thing is, 78 Quarterly is a one man operation – Pete does it all himself.   He got the idea after subscribing to The Record Changer, a magazine devoted to Jazz record collecting that ceased operations in 1957.

What’s more interesting, is that Pete Whelan – and in turn 78 Quarterly – sees large institutions as the enemy of record collecting.  Why?  Because the records just get filed away.  Forever.  As far as collecting goes, they are gone.  Off the chart.  Lost.  The thing is, too, you have a better chance of hearing a rare record by approaching a private collector than you would if you approached the Library of Congress.

Still 78 Quarterly’s rare record section contains some of the top-of-the-list, rarest records being sought after.  And, astonishingly, 78 Quarterly is still going strong today.  In a way.  Pete Whelan now lives in sunny Florida, is claims that a new issue is in the works.  Still, some find it hard to believe.  Issues 11 and 12 were published earlier this decade, but it seems to most that the magazine has ceased publication.  However, some say this magazine makes Living Blues (and other blues periodicals) look like People magazine.  Though I tend to disagree with that statement, I will say that 78 Quarterly is not for people who love Kenny Wayne Shepherd, or think BB King was the first man to play the blues.   This rag is purely for the extreme blues lover.

The original 2 issues, numbers 1 and 2, are as rare as some of the records these collectors are after.  However, Pete did put out a reissue of issues one and two combined in 1992, which is widely available.  As a matter of fact, contact Pete down in Key West and he will still sell you the issues you need for your collection.

So there are 12 issues out in total since 1967.  However, every single word in every single issue is worth the read.  There are very few – if any – ads in the magazines.  The writing is excellent.  The amount of information they contain is brilliant.  And – to boot – you can literally read through the progressions of blues research as they learn more and more about the lives of the artists.  Amazing.

Below is a gallery showcasing some of the issues and articles from 78 Quarterly.

To learn more about 78 Quarterly, you should check this site out.

5 Comments to “78 Quarterly – Where Art Thou?”

  • Jason: I’ve been lucky to write a couple of articles for Pete Whelan over the years, and the guy is an absolute delight. The word “arcane” comes to mind when describing 78 Quarterly. The publication is also laced with some naughty little photos as an added bonus, if you know what I mean. Stephen Calt, Gayle Dean…all of the original blues researchers contributed. Also, the late Tom Totsi wrote a wonderful series on the obscure blues 78-rpms on Gennett. The best section of each edition is the listing of rarest blues 78-rpm discs. Pete will write “15 copies in existence.” How does he know? Don’t ask! As with every funky nugget of data in 78 Quarterly, you simply BELIEVE!! Thanks so much for profiling one of the most entertaining Delta blues resources out there.

  • Back in their day those first two issues of 78Q were as indispensable to blues fans as Blues Unlimited (1963-87) and Blues World (1965-1973). The 25 year wait for the third issue of 78Q was well worth it.

  • nice article, keep the posts coming

  • Thanks for the info

  • To the best of my knowledge, this is December 2010, Pete has stopped publishing 78 Quarterly and there will be no more issues. Frog Records in Europe, however, has begun publishing the Frog Blues and Jazz Annual, an elegant, if somewhat expensive, publication that picks up where 78 Quarterly left off. There is a link to them on my BLUES WORLD web site.

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