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Author Topic: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson  (Read 6664 times)

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Online Johnm

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The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« on: May 19, 2011, 09:32:51 AM »
Hi all,
We have a thread focusing on "The Influence of Lonnie Johnson", and I thought it might be interesting to have a similar thread devoted to Lemon Jefferson's influence on other musicians in the blues.  I'm not talking necessarily about obvious influences, like covers of his songs, though they're fun to mention, but less obvious instances of his musical ideas, riffs, melodies and lyrics creeping into the shared language of the blues.
Just to get the ball rolling, a Lemon-influenced performance that struck me yesterday is Tommy Johnson's "Lonesome Home Blues, Takes 1 and 2", which is the song Tommy played in A, rather than the the "Lonesome Home" he played in E.  Tommy Johnson was not a player I think of as sounding at all like Lemon, but the opening phrase of this "Lonesome Home" comes right from Lemon's "Matchbox Blues".
Any other Lemon-influenced performances out there that folks would care to mention?  Confining ourselves to one or two instances per post will allow more people to participate.  What do you have, folks?
All best,
Johnm

Offline LD50

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2011, 10:09:45 AM »
Hi all,
We have a thread focusing on "The Influence of Lonnie Johnson", and I thought it might be interesting to have a similar thread devoted to Lemon Jefferson's influence on other musicians in the blues.  I'm not talking necessarily about obvious influences, like covers of his songs, though they're fun to mention, but less obvious instances of his musical ideas, riffs, melodies and lyrics creeping into the shared language of the blues.
Just to get the ball rolling, a Lemon-influenced performance that struck me yesterday is Tommy Johnson's "Lonesome Home Blues, Takes 1 and 2", which is the song Tommy played in A, rather than the the "Lonesome Home" he played in E.  Tommy Johnson was not a player I think of as sounding at all like Lemon, but the opening phrase of this "Lonesome Home" comes right from Lemon's "Matchbox Blues".
Any other Lemon-influenced performances out there that folks would care to mention?  Confining ourselves to one or two instances per post will allow more people to participate.  What do you have, folks?
All best,
Johnm

You mean the Victor 'Lonesome Home', not the Paramount one, right?

Online Johnm

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2011, 10:33:45 AM »
The one played in A, of which there are two takes.  Not the one played in E, of which there is only one take.

Offline dj

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2011, 10:46:01 AM »
Quote
The one played in A, of which there are two takes.

That's the 1928 Victor recording.

Offline Blind Arthur

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2011, 11:10:32 AM »
Otis Harris

His singular 78PRM disc, sounds like a fast (more danceable) version of a typical BLJ theme.
You canīt trust your baby when the ice man comes hanging around :D

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2011, 02:58:53 PM »
That's interesting about Lonesome Home Blues -- I don't think I'd noticed that before but it's clear as day.

King Solomon Hill took Lemon in some interesting directions on things like "Gone Dead Train" and "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon". Despite playing with slide in an open tuning, there's still a fair amount of Lemony characteristics, in the vocal and the complex, free quality of the phrasing. The opening line -- "Mmmmm-mmm, said mailman brought misery to my head" -- from "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon" is a quote from Lemon's "Gone Dead On You Blues", employed to sing about his death.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2011, 08:27:54 AM »
Ramblin Thomas's Little Old Mama Blues?

Online Johnm

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2011, 09:00:23 AM »
That's a great one, Professor.  Ramblin' Thomas is so interesting because he has a number of licks there that come right out of Lemon's playing, but then a whole lot more, that based on the recorded evidence, at least, were his own.  Ramblin' Thomas had such a distinctive sound, it's a shame he stopped recording so relatively early.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2011, 11:14:58 AM »
Ramblin' Thomas is also in Lemon territory on No Baby Blues. What's so cool about Thomas is how he both sounds like Lemon but brings new ideas and licks to the overall sound, integrates a little Lemon here (like those descending octaves in the solo), throws in something completely new there. He's always a rewarding listening experience for me.

Online Johnm

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2011, 10:29:24 AM »
Hi all,
Lemon Jefferson's recording of "Rabbit's Foot Blues" was epoch-making in terms of its effect on the language of blues guitar.  If we look just at his up-the neck accompaniment to his verse two (and several subsequent verses), we can find two licks that were widely borrowed and used by other players.

The first lick is Lemon's rocking motion between his I chord and IV7 chords.  At this point he is playing his A chord out of a D shape on the first three strings at 9-10-9 (third string to first string).  When he goes to his IV7 chord in the second bar, he pivots on the common tone A note on the second string and fingers the IV7 chord on the first three strings:  11-10-8.  This move really caught musicians' ears, and was subsequently utilized by the following players, among others, who in many instances, transposed the move to other keys:
   * Walter Vinson used it in dropped D for "Stop And Listen Blues"
   * Bo Carter used it in his G tuning, DGDGBE, for "I Want You To Know", "I Get The Blues", "Arrangement For Me Blues" and a host of other songs.

The second move of Lemon's in his verse two accompaniment to "Rabbit's Foot Blues" that was picked up by a lot of players immediately follows the rock from I to IV7.  In this move, the I chord rocks back and forth between a I triad and a I6 chord, utilizing these two shapes, respectively:  I chord: 9-10-9 I6 chord: 11-10-9.  This move was utilized in the following later recordings:
   * Tommy Johnson used it in D for "Canned Heat Blues".  Tommy added a move from the flat III to the III on the fourth string that Lemon had not used in "Rabbit's Foot Blues", so he expanded on Lemon's idea.
   * Bo Carter used the riff intact for the signature lick to "Bo Carter's Advice", which he played in A, and for the intro and solo to "Shake 'Em On Down", which he played in his G tuning.

One of the interesting things about the way that these other players worked with Lemon's musical materials was that in every instance, the player expressed the idea in accordance with his own sense of time and phrasing, rather than trying to copy Lemon's timing.  Perhaps there are two reasons for this--Lemon's timing being so individualistic that it was unduplicable with any comparable degree of fluidity, and a sense that expressing the lick in one's own sense of timing made it one's own.

All best,
Johnm


Offline LD50

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2011, 05:02:50 PM »
Seems to me I can sense a BLJ influence in Kid Prince Moore's Bite Back Blues. Anyone else see this?

Offline Rambler

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2011, 07:21:03 AM »
This from Ernie Hawkins: Lightnin' Hopkins Bad Luck and Trouble (G) incorporates several Lemon moves from tunes like Crawlin' Baby.  The licks off the Gm chord at the 8th-10th fret on the intro and breaks, and the 3b-2nd pull offs in first position in the verse.

Also, when playing in A, Lightin's 4-chord licks off the 5-7th fret A-form D are pure Lemon.   

Offline pkeane

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2011, 08:42:29 AM »
I was just listening to Mance Lipscomb yesterday and came across "Mr. Tom's Rag."  Not sure if it is so much influenced by as it is a straight cover of BLJ's "Hot Dogs".

Another example that comes to mind (and there are lots) is Clarence Greene's "Johnson City Blues."  Not exact riffs, but I do think the influence of BLJ is there.  (It is reported that Clarence Greene and Walter Davis spent lots of time watching Blind Lemon Jefferson play on street corners in their town, although whether that was THE Lemon Jefferson or someone using the name (?) is, I guess, a reasonable question).  I do think BLJ had a massive influence -- I'd like to think Jimmie Rodgers got some of those crazy bass runs from listening to Jefferson. 

--peter

Offline Alexei McDonald

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2011, 10:34:18 AM »
I was just listening to Mance Lipscomb yesterday and came across "Mr. Tom's Rag."  Not sure if it is so much influenced by as it is a straight cover of BLJ's "Hot Dogs".

There's another version of the same tune recorded by Leadbelly under the name "Easy Mr Tom".

Online jostber

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Re: The Influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2011, 04:51:49 AM »
Another interesting question is how many early blues songs refer to Blind Lemon in the lyrics and/or are dedicated to him. I know of these:

Lead Belly - My Friend Blind Lemon
Lead Belly - Silver City Bound
King Solomon Hill - My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon
Rev. Emmet Dickenson - The Death of Blind Lemon

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