Very little information seems to be available concerning blues woman
Mattie Delaney. All that is known is that she recorded
a few sides in 1930, including "Down the Big Road Blues". She was said
to have been about 25 years old in 1930, and possibly had only been
playing guitar for about 3 years when she made the recordings (source
unknown & therefore unverified). The recording provides evidence of a
very adept blues guitar player but after these few sides were recorded
she disappeared and faded into obscurity.
By Susan Sliwicki
It isn’t often a blues Collector like John Tefteller is at a loss for
information about an artist. But when it comes to Mattie Delaney,
Tefteller finds himself with far more questions than he has answers.
Here’s what he does know: Mattie Delaney wrote and recorded
“Tallahatchie River Blues,” with guitar, for the Vocalion label in the
early 1930s. He feels it’s the better song of the two sides she put
down. After that, he’s hoping other collectors, fans, readers or even
Mattie’s family might have some answers to share.
Tefteller, who owns Blues Images and Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records,
has even challenged a researcher friend of his to find out more about
Mattie Delaney, to no avail.
“It’s like one of the ultimate blues mysteries,” Tefteller said. “She
was a totally obscure person that nobody knew anything about, and all of
a sudden, she had a record out.” And what a record it is. “I don’t even
know how to describe it than to say it speaks for itself, and it’s an
incredible record that comes from such a young girl who’s singing and
playing the guitar. She had it so polished and so down,” Tefteller said.
“As far as I know, that song has never been covered by anyone, and
actually, it should be.”
The blues revival of the 1960s helped unearth many long-lost blues
Unfortunately, Delaney wasn’t among them. At best, the trail leading
back to her is long since cold. To date, there’s no advertisement for
the record that Tefteller has found. Beyond a side note that Delaney was
born in 1905 — no date or city — the entire article about Delaney at
allmusic.com, written by Joslyn Layne, reads as follows: “Mattie Delaney
was an obscure blueswoman of the 1930s who accompanied herself on guitar
and sang topical songs, both rare attributes for a woman performer at
Tefteller hopes someone will find out more about Delaney.
“There’s a lot of things in blues that have just fallen through the
cracks to the point that I don’t know the real truth about who she was
will ever come out,” Tefteller said.
Delaney’s “Tallahatchie River Blues” was inspired by severe flooding in
the region, and it is typical of blues records from the period,
“It was very, very obscure,” Tefteller said. “It was a small, targeted
audience of African-Americans. I don’t think that anybody outside of the
Mississippi area would probably have wanted to buy this record, because
it’s talking about a flood that happened in Mississippi. Unless you were
in that flood or had relatives in that flood, you might not have even
known it was out there.”
Delaney’s record is the type of rarity that only the hardest of
hard-core blues collectors know about, and it’s incredibly tough to
“There are about five copies known to exist,” Tefteller said. That tally
includes Tefteller’s copy; the copy Yazoo Records used when it created
the CD “Mississippi Masters Early American Blues Classics 1927-1935”; a
battered copy believed to be in Ohio; and the possibility of one in
And then, of course, as in any good collecting story, there is the
rumored Holy Grail.
“There’s this legendary one kicking around in nice shape in
Philadelphia, Penn.,” Tefteller said.
It’s believed that a collector has had Delaney’s record for quite some
time, and that the collector was hoping to get a good trade for some
rock and roll records. Tefteller hopes the mysterious owner might come
forward and be willing to part with the record.
Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy of “Tallahatchie River Blues,” which
he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a
like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000.
Though it’s darn tough to get your hands on Delaney’s 78, you can still
enjoy both “Tallahatchie River Blues” and the flip side of the 78, “Down
The Big Road Blues,” as both appear on the “Mississippi Masters” CD from
Yazoo Records. The CD also features performances by Garfield Akers,
William Harris, Otto Virgial, Geeshie Wiley, Joe Calicott, William
Harris, John D. Fox, Elvie Thomas, Blind Joe Reynolds and
“It’s one of the essential CDs in blues,” Tefteller said. “If I had to
pick 10 CDs to take with me to a desert island, that particular CD would
be one of the 10. It’s an incredible compilation.”