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Author Topic: Son House 1970  (Read 3642 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Son House 1970
« on: June 24, 2006, 12:29:18 AM »
As there appears to be one or two out there who like this sort of thing here's a scan (dated 1992!) which I found lurking on a floppy disk. It's from Jazz Monthly, October 1970:

Son House
In Person And In Retrospect

THE APPEARANCES of Son House in England in June and July this year were almost certainly our last chances to see this figure so important in blues history. It's extraordinary to reflect that not so many years ago very few people in England would have heard of Son House, and fewer still would have heard his records. Reissue of his Paramounts and issue of most of his Library of Congress material led to awareness of his importance; his rediscovery soon followed (1963), seeming to those of us who lived and waited through that time like finding Buddy Bolden playing in a pit orchestra. The Columbia LP was recorded in 1965 and in 1967 we had our first chance to see him in Europe. This year's tour was preceded by the issue of a Roots LP which provoked mixed critical reception, as indeed had the Columbia.

IT IS DIFFICULT to analyse the effect of these concerts. His appearance at St. Pancras Town Hall on July 10 was, viewed with detachment, short, badly managed and not easy to commend for musical quality. Yet it was greeted with two standing ovations. It is hard to believe that all, or even the majority, of those present were acquainted with his earlier work and its implications, and it's equally hard to believe the performance itself occasioned the response. For those familiar with his earlier work it was all but impossible to obtain any detachment, the emotional impact was too great. There had been a noticeable deterioration since his 1967 tour, but this is not unexpected in a man nearly seventy years old. His performances through the tour were variable; for example, the recording for Radio 1 [see note-BH] was much better than the first St Pancras concert. The effect of that hollering voice was still spine-chilling, and if one could ignore the fumbled guitar licks an impression of the power of Mississippi blues could be obtained.

MENTION has been made of Son's earlier career and recordings, and perhaps now is an appropriate time to consider the legend of Eddie James House Jr. Dockery's Plantation, Cleveland, Mississippi, must have been the place to be in the late '20s in the Delta, for there could be found Son House, Charley Patton and Willie Brown. Fortunately all three got to record, although Patton's popularity and versatility resulted in an earlier start and more sessions for him. Only six of the sides Son recorded for Paramount in his late twenties have been discovered, all similar, so it is difficult to form a comprehensive opinion of his talents at this time. He next recorded for the Library of Congress in 1941 and 1942, solo and with his old partner Willie Brown and others. These sides are more varied in content and perhaps represent the peak of House's career as it is available to us on record. Son was then out of the eye of the world until his rediscovery. His reputation, then, rests on a comparatively small recorded output, and also on his seemingly great influence on subsequent developments in blues history. It's easy to point to a direct line, House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and so on, but it's certainly more complex than that. Although Mississippi blues has been more extensively researched than any other area of the field, there are still many unanswerable questions many, indeed, that will never be answered. BOB YATES

*BH note: The BBC Radio 1 session was recorded 6th July at the Playhouse Theatre, London (producer John Walters) and broadcast on John Peel's Top Gear show July 11 1970. Mike Raven's R&B show re-broadcast it on 9th August. There was a bit of chat introducing each number which were My Good Gal, Death Letter and Don't You Mind People Grinning In Your Face. (Now where the heck did I put that cassette?)

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2006, 02:19:06 AM »
I saw Son House in concert in London in the early 1970s.  Can't remember the venue - maybe it was the St. Pancras Town Hall, but I thought it was a theatre in a hotel or something similar.

Memories of the gig are that it was punctuated by a drunken Scot in the audience who kept shouting out comments like "Come on Eddie!" and the fact that Dick Waterman (in leather trousers as I recall - not that that's really relevant!) pulled House off stage after only 20 minutes.  The impression that House left was just how powerful a performer he was.  He hit the guitar strings on his National from virtually head height, but (as far as I could tell) seemed to always hit the right string.  He had lost some of the pigment in the skin of his hands, due to falling in a snowdrift whilst drunk.  This left patches of albinism on his hands and fingers.

My friend Kevin Brown (there's some of his recent stuff on the Weenie Juke) says he was busking in London at the time and was asked by an American if he played any Son House material.  Although doing things by Johnson, Bukka, etc., Kevin felt House's material a step too far.  It turned out the American was Dick Waterman and Son House was standing behind him.  They took Kevin off for a drink in a local bar!  Needless to say, Kevin was gob-smacked to say the least.

I remember Andy Kershaw repeated the BBC session on his show some years ago.  I have no idea if it was ever released commercially, like a lot of the BBC sessions for Peel and Kershaw.

I feel privileged to have seen such greats as House, Bukka White, Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi Fred McDowell play live back then.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2006, 07:12:46 AM »
I saw Son House in concert in London in the early 1970s.  Can't remember the venue - maybe it was the St. Pancras Town Hall, but I thought it was a theatre in a hotel or something similar.

Memories of the gig are that it was punctuated by a drunken Scot in the audience who kept shouting out comments like "Come on Eddie!" and the fact that Dick Waterman (in leather trousers as I recall - not that that's really relevant!) pulled House off stage after only 20 minutes. 
Probably the Mayfair Hotel. Certainly wasn't either of his 100 Club gigs they were both magical showing just how much he had gained in confidence since his St. Pancras debut. The second Club gig probably outshone the first - House's 15 minute "How To Treat A Man" was phenomenal.
[check out Stefan's Son House page for a description which obviously left an indelible impression on psyche of the CD booklet writer.] :)

norman

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2006, 12:09:20 PM »
I always enjoy the texts you post. Thanks very much for your time and trouble.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2006, 04:20:09 AM »
I always enjoy the texts you post. Thanks very much for your time and trouble.
If only "enjoyed" by one person it means that any time involved won't have be wasted. ;D

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2006, 01:38:15 AM »

Probably the Mayfair Hotel.

Mayfair Hotel - that's the one!   :) Thanks Alan. I've always had a good memory, but it seems to be fading a bit these days...

I'll check out Stefan's page as well.

Thanks again.

Michael
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2006, 09:42:31 AM »
Mayfair Hotel - that's the one!   :) Thanks Alan. I've always had a good memory, but it seems to be fading a bit these days...
The Mayfair was one of the venues where Fred McDowell appeared the previous year with Jo Anne Kelly. The performance was committed to tape, eventually finding its way onto a Red Lightnin' LP in the 80s!

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2006, 01:09:49 AM »

The Mayfair was one of the venues where Fred McDowell appeared the previous year with Jo Anne Kelly. The performance was committed to tape, eventually finding its way onto a Red Lightnin' LP in the 80s!

Yes - I was there.  I travelled down to London from Yorkshire with a couple of friends for the Fred McDowell gig.  Needless to say I got the Red Lightnin' LP when it came out as well.  Jo Ann was rarely captured in all her glory when recorded, but I think the track on that album is a rare and welcome exception.  Whilst still great, most other records do not capture the power of her performances.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Michael Cardenas

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  • traditional Blues singer & slide guitarist
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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2010, 11:28:11 PM »
A recording of his London concerts was released by Liberty Records, but is there audio or video from Montreux Jazz Festival 1970?
LISTEN TO BLUES MUSIC

Offline huge furry whipinstool

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2010, 02:30:44 PM »
I was at the gig in 'Mothers' club in Birmingham in 1970. He played only 4 songs - 'Levee Camp Moan', 'Death Letter Blues' 'Grinning in your face' and 'Let the light in'.

I remember he then did a short buck and wing dance before being carried of with the comment that if he played any more he would die!

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Son House 1970
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2010, 02:43:44 AM »
I remember he then did a short buck and wing dance before being carried of with the comment that if he played any more he would die!
Wow, love to have seen it. He certainly didn't do that at any of the London gigs I saw him at, not in 1967 or 1970.

The booklet ofthe 1990s Sequel CD reissue of the Liberty LP has an "I was there, golly, gosh, wow" recollection of a 100 Club gigs see   http://www.wirz.de/music/housefrm.htm

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