Forever on My Mind, the new album of previously unreleased Son House recordings from Easy Eye Sound, the independent label operated by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, is the first release from Dick Waterman’s personal cache of ’60s recordings by some of the titans of Delta blues. Waterman rediscovered House’s work and became his manager in House’s later years. Waterman’s collection of quarter-inch tapes, which are being restored to remarkable clarity by Easy Eye Sound, have gone unreleased until now. The collection is due out March 18, 2022.
I always knew that I wanted this body of tape that I had to come out together, as The Avalon Collection or The Waterman Tapes, as sort of my legacy. They were just here at my home, on a shelf. I had made a few entrees to record companies, but nothing had really come through. I thought that Dan Auerbach would treat the material with reverence and respect.
Easy Eye Sound makes blues records, and not many people make blues records anymore. This record continues where we started off, with our artists Leo Bud Welch and Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes and Robert Finley. It also is part of my history — some of the first blues music I heard was Son House. I was raised on his Columbia LP, Father of Folk Blues. My dad had that album and would play it in the house when I was a kid, so I know all those songs by heart.
Forever on My Mind is the earliest issued full-length House solo performance recorded after House’s rediscovery, at an appearance captured on November 23, 1964 at Wabash College, a small men’s school in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
In the wake of his rediscovery in Rochester, House, who had labored as a foundry worker, railroad porter and cook, among other jobs, after moving from Mississippi to New York in 1943, decided to make a return to music at the urging of his enthusiastic young fans.
Five of the eight songs heard on Forever on My Mind were later released in studio versions on House’s Columbia LP. Another two songs that he played at Wabash College, renditions of his Delta contemporary Charley Patton’s “Pony Blues” and the gospel blues standard “Motherless Children,” were recorded by the label but went unreleased until 1992.
The eighth number heard on the Easy Eye Sound release, the titular “Forever on My Mind,” was never attempted in a recording studio, but it would be essayed from time to time in House’s concert performances; there is film footage of him playing it at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival.
For more information on House and his music, see Preachin’ the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House by Daniel Beaumont (Oxford University Press).