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Wen he gets (up) in de mornin' he feels bad, and wen (he) goes to bed at night he feels wusser. He tinks dat his body is made ob ice cream, all 'cept his heart, and dat - dat's a piece ob lead in de middle. All sorts ob sights are hubbering around, and red monkeys is buzzing about his ears... (D)em's what I calls de bloos - Sam Jonsing, in an 1839 New Orleans newspaper

Author Topic: Native American influence in Blues  (Read 8643 times)

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Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2009, 10:02:28 AM »
I believe a synthesis was occurring. Patton's ranting, hollering, growling, mumbling and percussion could have at least gained support from something much older.

Patton's the obvious example. Who else can we include in this? Maybe Robert Pete Williams, much later but he sometimes seems to me to be like a shaman, chanting and intoning, playing the guitar mostly for its sounds and with no unhealthy interest in any unnecessary technical stuff. Maybe they were all bombed out of their gourds on peyote.

I think Patton's sound was a personal choice to play as many parts at once as he could.  I don't hear any native influence in his work -- native singing styles, at least those of the southern folks that I have heard, as very different.  I also don't think that Robert Pete Williams' sound has anything to do with American Indian influence:  mostly he was just telling a story with music, in a dreamy, trancy way that sounds very African to me.

As for "shamans" -- medicine people aren't exclusive to American Indians (the word "shaman" itself comes from some people in Siberia, I've never heard of any legitimate medicine person here called a shaman.)

I've yet to hear an explanation of American Indian musical influence on blues that can't be easily dismissed.  I'm not saying the influence isn't there, it's just much harder to show than the influence of African and European musics.  But there may be an influence in the general attitude and culture in America -- most American Indian groups didn't have strict hierarchical systems as in Europe or Africa and every individual was valued for his or herself.  The European colonists, even though they were fleeing European systems which often persecuted them for religious reasons, were absolutely shocked by American Indian groups who had no kings or nobles and each person was "a king to himself" (of course they didn't even notice the women had more rights as well).  The African slaves must have gone through quite a shock as well -- torn out of their homeland, often sold by powerful Africans to the Europeans, and made to work in a land where they had no power over themselves.  But right next door were independent Indian nations, some of whose customs and beliefs were similar to tribal African beliefs, but who usually lacked a caste system which wouldn't allow people to change their social status through diligence.   So I think American individualism -- a huge part of blues -- came from here.

Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline Chezztone

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2009, 03:39:32 PM »
Very interesting question with a lot of room for research (anyone looking for a thesis or dissertation topic?)
Many ostensibly "black" people in Mississippi (and probably in other parts of the South but I know the most about Mississippi) are partly or mostly Indian. James Meredith, famous for being the first "black" student at the University of Mississippi, considers himself a Choctaw. Charley Patton and Bo Carter were at least 1/4 Indian, and both sang about "going to the territory" (Indian reservation) in their recordings, so the influence might be more than just genetic, and be part of their life experiences. The late Jessie Mae Hemphill, a North Mississippi blueswoman, was proud of her Indian heritage and often dressed the part and included Indian elements in her music. I know one graduate student who was interested in this topic, but his way of approaching it was to track down blues artists to ask if they had any Indian ancestors. Unfortunately though I don't think that it means much if Honeyboy Edwards' grandmother was Choctaw. It would mean something if he grew up listening to Indian music (since there was none of that music available in commercial recordings, any influence would have had to come directly, from the relatives' singing or playing). And it also would mean a lot if someone analyzed the music and found real similarities, not just apparent similarities. There are ways of doing such analysis -- see Origins of the Popular Style: the Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music by Peter van der Merwe for excellent examples, although I don't think he gets into the Indian music-blues question (he does talk a lot about blues and makes some very unusual connections between it and other musics including Celtic and Arabic, if I remember well).
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Offline doctorpep

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2009, 08:50:03 AM »
Were the Seminoles in Florida one of the best examples of escaped slaves inter-marrying with Native Americans? From what I understand, there was a great deal of this inter-marriage and cross-cultural influence going on, perhaps even more so than with the Choctaw or Cherokee. Then again, even here on Long Island, many Native American tribes' members strike this Caucasian as looking "black". When we consider Mr. O'Muck's 1421/Genghis Khan/Chinese music discussion + the influence of Native American music on early Blues, we're really opening up the gates to a whole new way of looking at American music. This is truly fascinating!=)
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

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Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2009, 02:06:40 PM »
Were the Seminoles in Florida one of the best examples of escaped slaves inter-marrying with Native Americans? From what I understand, there was a great deal of this inter-marriage and cross-cultural influence going on, perhaps even more so than with the Choctaw or Cherokee. Then again, even here on Long Island, many Native American tribes' members strike this Caucasian as looking "black". When we consider Mr. O'Muck's 1421/Genghis Khan/Chinese music discussion + the influence of Native American music on early Blues, we're really opening up the gates to a whole new way of looking at American music. This is truly fascinating!=)

Yes, the Seminoles are great example, and yes other tribal groups often intermarried with Africans -- some of whom were escaped slaves (sometimes called "Maroons").  There were also many American Indians sold into slavery -- especially from the nations on the Eastern seaboard.  Often they were shipped to the West Indies.  And of course along the Caribbean coast of the Americas there are other groups of "Black Indians."
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline johngates100

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2012, 08:57:02 AM »
Native American Music is influenced in most of the states of the USA but this is getting remix now a days.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2012, 07:20:12 AM by johngates100 »

Offline jostber

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2012, 04:09:59 AM »
A link that mentions Charlie Patton and native american music again here:

http://blog.nmai.si.edu/main/2009/08/blues-concert-and-discussion-aug-22-in-washington-dc.html

« Last Edit: January 26, 2012, 11:33:56 PM by jostber »

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2012, 06:11:19 PM »
Seems like attitude gets mentioned more than any direct musical influence. . . 

Of course, there's lot of music throughout the world that sounds bluesy.   There's this Chinese dude I've seen around Oakland playing a weird-little one-string fiddle.  I told him I liked his sound, but I don't know if he understood me.  I've also heard some pretty bluesy Vietnamese music.  They make moonshine in the mountains of Vietnam, so I guess there's connection there.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline jostber

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2012, 05:24:50 AM »

Offline jostber

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2012, 05:26:57 AM »

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2012, 10:03:28 AM »
Max Haynes article "The Red Man and the Blues":

http://www.earlyblues.com/Essay%20-%20The%20Red%20Man%20and%20The%20Blues%20-%20Chapter%204.htm

Some good information and extensive research there, but man. . .  So typically academically lacking any input from Indians themselves! 


The creation of my friend Dr T is the Native American Blues Society.  We are getting off the ground now with a facebook page and will be having a website most likely this summer.

https://www.facebook.com/NativeAmericanBluesSociety
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 10:06:43 AM by Coyote Slim »
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline Shovel

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #25 on: May 24, 2012, 08:32:40 AM »
Seems like attitude gets mentioned more than any direct musical influence. . . 

That sounds .. kinda dismissive?

Attitude is an indispensable part of Charley Patton's music, and blues music in general, no?

I'd say it's arguably the most important .. or if not .. it is as indispensable as any other element. 

Attitude relates very directly to that authentic 'feel' that folks seem to search for in performing and listening to 'the blues'.  In fact, it's what is missing from most modern performances.  It's something that's difficult to notate, you know, how to sing 'Luuuuuuula, women lord, puttin the lula men down'.  It's 100% personality, imo.  Someone could get everything right musically timing and pitch wise, but without the attitude, it would be a hilarious wreck of a moment in the song.

I've got a lot of Native American music on compilations and old singles and what not, and it's obviously difficult to draw lines from point A to point B with regards to notes, progressions, etc.  As others have pointed out, there's plenty of research to be done. 

But I guess I'd just be hesitant to so quickly dismiss 'attitude' as an unimportant or incomparable musical element when looking at the influence of Native American music on other music around here.

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #26 on: May 24, 2012, 11:15:33 AM »
 You're drawing a false conclusion from what I said.  I agree with you about attitude.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline Stuart

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #27 on: May 24, 2012, 12:04:12 PM »

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #28 on: May 24, 2012, 04:28:42 PM »
Uh, thanks I guess.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Speling izn't impore tent on the innternett.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

Coyote Slim's Youtube Channel

Offline Stuart

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Re: Native American influence in Blues
« Reply #29 on: May 24, 2012, 04:42:54 PM »
You're welcome, I guess.

I wear at least one of their products almost every day (except in summer), so it caught my attention.

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