The first Sun Ra discography
The up to now last and most complete (it can NEVER be totally complete as the universe has endless possibilities) attempt to write a discography of the recorded works of cosmo-music master Sun Ra, is still “The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra” by Robert L. Campbell. Be sure to get the 2nd edition though, cowritten by Chris Trent. It’s still available through Cadence or at Amazon.
Of course Robert and Chris did not start from scratch. Over the years there have been many Sun Ra discographies written by such knowledgeable people as Julian Vein, Bert Vuijsje, Erik Raben, Vlad Simosko, Tilman Stahl, Jean Buzelin & Alain-René Hardy, Mark Webber, Hartmut Geerken.
But the first person to be as fascinated by Sun Ra’s mixture of the very old and the very tomorrow as to publish a listing of his work seems to have been Otto Flückiger whose Sun Ra discography appeared in the March 1961 issue of “jazz-statistics”.
I once asked Otto how he got to know Ra’s music, he surely must have been the first person who had heard this music in switzerland. Unfortunately I did not write down what he told me, but I seem to remember that in the late fifties a friend of his brought a Sun Ra LP back from a trip to the USA as a present for Otto: “Jazz In Transition” on the Transition label. And the music fascinated him right away. I especially remember Otto mentioning “their enthusiasm” as a reason. Otto then somehow managed to find out the address of Saturn Records. And I guess he send them some money in exchange for records he might get for the amount . That is how he got his “Jazz In Silhouette” LP -it was a true first pressing, he traded it later – as well as some 45rpms and a Saturn Records catalogue.
“jazz-statistics” was a homemade discographical magazine published by Otto himself. Jazz fans interested in discographical data could subscribe to it and received from 12 to 24 pages of discographical data four times a year. Kurt Mohr, the father of r’n’b discography, french collector Marvel Chauvard and others also published their listings there. There were comparable magazines all over europe, and they were of great help to the compilers of complete multi-volume jazz discographies like Jorgen Jepsen, Walter Bruyninckx and Tom Lord.
I do not exactly know for how long “jazz-statistics” lasted, I will look that up some time (I do also not know, when this project started, if you do the maths you get around 1956, but this may not be true).
I decided to scan the first few pages of “jazz-statistics” from March 1961 so you can see what the first ever Sun Ra discography looked like. The complete issue has sixteen pages all in all. As you see Otto made a handwritten addition on one of the pages. According to Robert Campbell, “jazz-statistics” no 22 (june) had Sun Ra additions by Michael Vogler. Otto probably wrote this addition into issue no 21. I have to look If I find issue no 22 in the archive
While regarding it, (click to enlarge), you should keep in mind, that this is more than fifty years old. If you want to get the actual state of science regarding the years in question, go to Robert Campbell’s page “From Sonny Blount to Sun Ra: The Chicago Years”. But still this discography solved an old riddle: Why Otto’s copy of the booklet that came with the Transition LP is cut up and missing most of the photographs. They ended up in “jazz-statistics”!