A couple years ago when Miles To Go was relatively new, I posted a reflection on Geeshie Wiley’s “Last Kind Word Blues” that included the following speculation:
What brought “Last Kind Words Blues” back into the spotlight was the movie Crumb, his old pal Terry Zwigoff’s bio-documentary of the underground-comix master and avid old-roots-vinyl collector. You have to think Zwigoff knew what he had on his hands. “Last Kind Words Blues” begins to play at a crucial moment when Crumb slips an ancient platter on the turntable and I remember my response at the screening: I waited for a few seconds to recognize the number then realized “Jaysus, this has got to be one of the finest old blues tunes I’ve never heard!” A Delta hook that would not stop. A flawless momentum.
I interviewed Zwigoff as part of my article on the movie, and what I’ve most regretted over the years is that I did not ask him where he dug up “Last Kind Words Blues.” Thanks to the miracle of the internets, I’m pretty sure I can find out. Here’s a convincing list of the times Wiley has been reissued:
It’s possible that Zwigoff picked up the number from the pricey Austrian-LP obscurity, The World’s Rarest Country Blues Records (1972), but I’m betting the impoverished guy found it on the anthology Mississippi Girls (1928-1931) from 1988, and could hear the greatness.
Why on earth did I not apply Occam’s Musical Saw to the question and simply conclude the Wiley song was in Crumb’s record collection??? This ultimate music-nurd release confirms that it is and that’s obviously where Zwigoff heard it. Truly a moment of my stupidity to think the musical apex of the docu-bio would be something that Crumb did not own himself.