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Use your instrument to play the blues. Don't use the blues to play your instrument - James Harman

Author Topic: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?  (Read 2110 times)

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Mister Steve

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Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« on: February 06, 2011, 01:52:16 AM »
I've seen photos of Sleepy John with a thumbpick and no thumbpick (and maybe he even used a flatpick here and there).  Did he also use his index finger?
« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 02:11:07 AM by stevej »

Offline frankie

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 04:28:33 AM »
Probably 99% of all the country blues players recorded on 78 were thumb + index players.  From this video (0:41 - 0:53), it's pretty clear that this also describes Sleepy John's picking approach (although that's just the beginning - the rest of your life you can spend trying to imitate his touch and timing).

This is probably one of my favorite video performances.  It's just miraculous that something like this was captured on film.


Mister Steve

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 04:39:18 AM »
frankie:  Thanks for posting that great video.  Yes indeed, the "easy stuff"...almost no way to teach that because it's too much like breathing.

I do think (as discussed in some of the threads on the forum) that putting the song and the voice and yes the breath/breathing at the head of the line can activate that...and this sense of playing as listening...gonna watch and love that video again!

Thumb plus index...a great tradition.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 04:50:34 AM by stevej »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 03:03:42 PM »
That video never gets old. Interesting to see also how much Yank Rachell really does use upstrokes on the mandolin.

Sleepy John's playing is one of life's great mysteries to me. It sounds so simple, then you try to do it and fall on your face.

Does anyone have opinions on whether the June 1940 session Estes did with Robert Lee McCoy has Estes on guitar at any point? The Document notes suggest McCoy as a possible replacement on Mailman Blues, Time Is Drawing Near and Mary Come On Home. B&GR says it's McCoy on those tracks, but it sounds like the same guitar and possibly same player to me for the following recordings as well - Jailhouse Blues, Tell Me How About It, and Drop Down.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2011, 04:24:40 PM »
Not sure who it is exactly, but it don't sound like Sleepy John. Especially with Mailman and Jailhouse played out of E -- I get the impression John played out of C and G and that was about it.

Offline Jimmy J

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2011, 02:51:22 PM »
Hey Frankie,

Thanks for posting that!

Is there any video of Sleepy performing his Drop Down, Mama? I'd really like to see it, if it exists.

Cheers, jj
I ukulele, daily.

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2011, 05:49:31 AM »
there's another clip of Sleepy John Estes' playing here with Hammie Nixon (and John Henry Barbee joining for the second song)
1967? I love Nixon's jug technique during Barbee's song. And Estes really looks Sleepy there too!

it's a bit blurry but Hey!

« Last Edit: March 31, 2011, 05:51:55 AM by Gumbo »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2011, 06:37:08 AM »
there's another clip of Sleepy John Estes' playing here with Hammie Nixon (and John Henry Barbee joining for the second song)
1967? I love Nixon's jug technique during Barbee's song. And Estes really looks Sleepy there too!
Barbee died in November 1964 just after arriveing home from that years AFBF. I'm guessing the footage is from one of those 1964 European shows.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2011, 06:50:10 AM »
This has brought to mind something about Barbee that may be of interest. I've scanned and put in Books & Articles.

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2011, 08:44:40 AM »
Thankee - i was guessing from the discography
http://www.wirz.de/music/estesfrm.htm
a (posthumous) record came out in '67 where they had a side each.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2011, 08:59:21 AM »
Thankee - i was guessing from the discography
a (posthumous) record came out in '67 where they had a side each.
Ah yes Karl Emil Knudsen was very prompt to get the 1963 & 1964 AFBF participants into his recording studio and release them in his Portraits In Blues series see http://www.wirz.de/music/storyfrm.htm (SLP 157 onwards)

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2014, 10:40:10 AM »
here's another clip I'd never seen before:

Offline harriet

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2014, 12:48:32 PM »
Thanks I loved those clips - here's Corrina, same performance before its pulled:

Offline daddystovepipe

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2014, 03:44:44 PM »
There's a whole album with 21 tracks of Sleepy John playing alone so you get a very good idea of his guitar style.
http://www.allmusic.com/album/goin-to-brownsville-mw0000034276

You can listen to it on Spotify for free
It also has an 18 minute interview

Offline harriet

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Re: Sleepy John Estes: Thumb and Index Finger?
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2014, 04:50:22 PM »
Thanks Daddystovepipe, I love to listen to him. You can get the album on amazon as well

 


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