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The Seven Sisters sent me away happy, 'round the corner I met another little girl. She looked at me and smiled and said, 'Go devil and destroy the world' - J.T. Funny Papa Smith, Seven Sisters Blues Part 2

Author Topic: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax  (Read 3538 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« on: March 13, 2006, 12:20:54 PM »
I don't know if this is the appropriate situation for what follows (if not please relocate) but it was published in Blues & Rhythm 148 (April 2000, p.24) and was wondering what others thought of this particular 'rediscovery' recording. Is it still available, even?

CD OF THE MONTH
GUS CANNON Walk Right In
Stax SCD-8603-2
Narration/Kill It/Walk Right lo/Salty Dog/ Going Around The Mountain/ Ol' Hen/Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight/Ain't Gonna Rain No More/Boll-Weevil/Come On Down To My House/Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor/Get Up ln The Morning Soon/Crawdad Hole (31.33)

Some time ago I'd put this record into 'Ones I'll Never Hear', the mental file most of us tote around. I don't play Jug Stompers' records often but when I do I marvel at the (not so) young Gus's ability to encompass all five vowel sounds in one syllable in his vocal on 'Springdale Blues', a feat equalled only by the euphonious denizens of New Zealand.

When he recorded these songs at the age of 79, Gus was still in good voice but his fingers, though willing, couldn't always hit the lick he was attempting. The traycard tells us he's backed by Will Shade's jug and Milton Roby's washboard. In that case, who plays the guitar that churns away on most tracks? It could have been Sun Brimmer, but to do it he'd have had to wear the jug on a harness and at his age (he was then 65) it would've caused him to topple over. If not he, who?

Gus has lots to say, especially in the three minutes of 'Narration', of how he made his 'first banja out of a git-tar neck and a bread pan' and later went on the road with minstrel shows. Most of the songs are preceded by his humorous introductions. He prefaces 'Ol' Hen' with a bit of minstrel business with Shade: 'Say, Will!' Yeah? "If it takes a rooster three weeks to pick up two bushels of sawdust, how long will it take a Plymouth Rock hen to lay a sixteen-foot oak boat?' 'Man, you're out of my jurisdiction. I give up.' 'Well, so did the hen, otherwise she'da bin in the lumber business.' Aah, they don't lay tem like they use-ta. Snake oil, anyone?

All the named musicians do their best - not necessarily at the same time. From the grin on his face, the listener realises this matters not at all. Like listening to Pop Staples talk about his Mississippi childhood, being in the presence of such a venerable and good natured character is experience enough. When it all comes together it's fine and when it doesn't, hey, another good bit is surely on its way. By the time he reaches 'Get Up In The Morning Soon', Gus's fingers are ignoring his brain's orders but he and we can laugh it off. From the running time, you'll realise that these are fragments of a long dormant talent that can only hint at its previous riches.

'Come On Down' is only 1.20 and 'Make Me A Pallet' is the longest item at 3.03 The booklet reproduces Bob Altshuler's original sleevenote and a newer, longer piece by Bengt Olsson in which he writes, 'From what I can find out, Gus received nothing in royalties from (the Rooftop Singers' hit version of) Walk Right In' and he just knew he was being cheated out of a fortune! 'Well, let's blow that one out of the water, right now. Jim O'Neal researched the pages of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, in which he found several references to this album's production. On February 16, 1963 ('Walk Right In' hit the US No. 1 spot in the week ending January 26), it reports that Erik Darling and Willard Svenoe of the Rooftop Singers visited Gus, got his banjo out of pawn, paid him $500 and got him to sign a royalty agreement. How much he subsequently received is anyone's guess but this sounds like straight-arrow behaviour to me.

Jim Stewart read the first story and signed Gus to a contract on the strength of it. A warm-up session, at which Gus was backed by nephew Sam Lindsey on guitar and Milton Roby on violin, took place on March 23, the evening before the first recording date. Later on April 26, the Appeal notes that 'sessions were finished last week'. The album was then released on July 17 and Gus was shown '500 of the albums in a storeroom at Satellite Record Shop'. He wasn't to know these were the only 500.

From all that, it appears there were several sessions, which given Gus's lack of practice might well have been necessary. And a June 10 session for these particular titles and these accompanists doesn't entirely preclude a mid-July release date. The phantom guitarist will probably remain unidentified. Whoever he is, he merely beefs up the rhythm and his anonymity in no way spoils appreciation. This isn't an essential record but it's definitely one to enjoy. As Alan Balfour remarked the other day, it's simply charming. A note on the traycard draws attention to the CD's brevity, rightly justifying its release because of its historical importance. None of the above information appears in Rob Bowman's Stax book, 'Soulsville USA'. Thanks should go to Jim O'Neal for his original research and to Alan for passing on the contents of Jim's 1997 email. Neil Slaven

Offline Rivers

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2006, 07:42:12 PM »
"...a feat equalled only by the euphonious denizens of New Zealand... "

Man I seem to have missed those euphonious denizens but then again I was only there for twenty years. What is he on about!?

Offline frankie

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2006, 08:54:37 PM »
was wondering what others thought of this particular 'rediscovery' recording. Is it still available, even?

I'm not sure how available it is in general, but it's available through eMusic.  I'll let you know what I think of it after my downloads refresh for the month.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2006, 12:00:12 PM »
Hi all,
I really like the Gus Cannon on Stax album, and I don't recall feeling as though Gus was noticeably out of shape on the banjo--he sounded pretty darn good to me.  He comes across as being tremendously likeable, and of an earlier era, certainly.  He has a really infectious laugh that reminds me of Scott Dunbar's.  This CD should not be that hard to find.  It was in the Fantasy catalog up until their recent sale to Concord Jazz.  It seems very unlikely Concord Jazz will keep it in their catalog, but I have seen copies of it from the Fantasy era in local Tower Records stores in the past couple of months.  Anybody who anticipates wanting it in the future would probably be wise to buy it on sight.  I wouldn't be surprised if Red Lick still had it.
All best,
Johnm

Offline frankie

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2006, 08:24:22 PM »
By now, I've listened a few times to 'Walk Right In' on Stax.  It's fair enough to say that Gus' banjo playing might be less ambitious than it is on his earlier recordings, but his musical sense is right on the money.  If this were your first experience with Gus Cannon, you'd come away with the impression of a musician who plays simply behind his own singing, and to great effect.  His time is wonderful, he's in tune and best of all, the songs are fantastic.  All the tunes seem to come from a space that would have been bisected by racial lines in the 20s and 30s, but here, the listener is in the fortunate position of being able to hear them mixed up, one after another, from the hands and heart of a musician with the wit and experience to pull them off and make them sound all his own.

Gus completely owns all the music on the album, from 'Walk Right In' to 'Crawdad Hole' - listeners of old-time music might recognize the latter and 'The Crawdad Song' or 'How Many Biscuits Can You Eat?'.  I loved hearing this song come from Gus!  The songs are also peppered with a few spoken introductions - as John says, Gus has a great laugh, and he takes you right along with him, whether you get the joke or not, laughing along with him, just for the pleasure of hearing his voice and the obvious joy with which he shares his story and music.

If you have even the slightest interest in what makes blues and old-time music tick, you owe it to yourself to pick up this CD.

Muddyroads

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2006, 04:22:49 PM »
I like the jig lick he hits in 6/8 time!

Mud

Offline zoner

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2006, 04:20:03 PM »
Gus Cannon Rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nawahi

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Re: Gus Cannon Walk Right In Stax
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2006, 06:45:43 AM »
This c.d is worth every penny,as gus was past his prime he still has much to offer and plays many great songs that he didn`t record in the 20`s,and his intros on each song are great and that jig lick that muddyroads mentiond is very much a old minstrel banjo tune from the 1850`s i came a cross it in a old banjo song book but forgot the title is was under
« Last Edit: December 03, 2006, 06:50:07 AM by Nawahi »

 


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