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Author Topic: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama  (Read 548 times)

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Offline arlotone

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Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« on: November 28, 2020, 04:05:47 PM »
The main guitar part of Blind Boy Fuller's "Rag, Mama, Rag" is well known, but I haven't found any discussion of Gary Davis's second guitar part, beyond simply acknowledging that it exists. It's hard to hear, but as far as I can tell, it consists of several fast single-note phrases, plus a brief rhythm part in the solo section. Most interestingly, he seems to only play the last measures of some verses and sit out completely on other verses, so he ends up playing less than half the song overall.

I tabbed and recorded what I hear:

http://jugtracks.arlotone.com/song/rag_mama_rag

It's possible he was playing throughout the whole song and the rest is inaudible. But as quiet as he is in the mix, it seems fairly clear when he's playing and when he isn't.

Have you heard other recordings of Davis, or anyone of this era, playing an intermittent part like this?

And are there other examples of Davis focusing on single-note lines like this? That's not what comes to mind when I think of him, but I don't really know his repertoire.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2020, 09:49:07 AM »
Hi arlotone,
Fuller starts "Rag, Mama, Rag" with a two-times-through of the 8-bar form's solo, and Rev. Davis enters with a bass run leading into the fifth bar of the second time through the form. He does not play intermittently after that, but is in for the entire remainder of the track. Rev. Davis is playing out of F position in standard tuning, and Fuiller is playing out of C position capoed to the fifth fret (these are relative positions, the pitch may be higher or lower, I haven't checked it). For several portions of the remainder of the track it's hard to hear the pitches that Rev. Davis is playing but if you listen hard, you can hear his attacks and the articulation of what he is playing, he's pretty much non-stop.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 01:20:57 PM by Johnm »

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2020, 03:06:45 PM »
he plays a similar accompaniment on Baby You Gotta Change Your Mind

Offline arlotone

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2020, 03:37:22 PM »
Quote
He does not play intermittently after that, but is in for the entire remainder of the track

Hmm. Would you agree that for each 8-bar verse form, he often comes in on the third bar, and sometimes not until the pickup to the fifth bar? I can clearly hear licks on most verses starting at those points, but I don't think I hear him on measures 1-2 of any verse (except the stop time section, where I think he switches to a rhythm part instead of single notes). An example of the fifth bar entry would be verse 12, at 1:33. (I'm using verse here in the sense of a chord progression, not a vocal section.)

On some of the verses where I don't clearly hear anything, I can half-hear, half-imagine a note here or there, so it makes sense there would be a more complete part buried in there. An example of where I still can't hear anything at all is verse 20, at 2:38.

Quote
he plays a similar accompaniment on Baby You Gotta Change Your Mind

Cool, thanks.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2020, 03:54:56 PM »
Hi arlotone,
No, I wouldn't agree with that--I hear him in for the whole time following his original entry. A lot of the time in the first two bars of the form he's living on the open D string and then breaking out to do a florid run into the G chord, in which he often ends up walking up to the B note at the second fret of the fifth string.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2020, 07:17:55 PM »
It's almost criminal how far off mike the Rev. is on those Fuller tracks! He's probably most audible on "Ain't It a Crying Shame." On "Rag Mama," you can also hear him at the end of some of the verses doing his "Good God" slide effects, for lack of a better way to describe them. It's really weird they didn't move him closer in.
Chris

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2020, 01:30:10 AM »
I know! Maybe the engineer thought Rev Gary Davis's playing was too busy and getting in the way.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2020, 09:35:05 AM »
Isn't it reported that Davis was being difficult, wanting more money, feeling he should be the primary artist at the session, refusing to play blues after the first day, etc.? He was pretty prideful. He later dissed Fuller strongly (as he did many others). Pulling back from the mic may have been his way of giving them what he thought they were paying for? Not sure we need to be speculatively pointing fingers? Seems like it was a tense Gestalt and who knows who was reacting to what? Davis never had another pre war session after this multi day session in July of 1935, which was Fuller's and Bull City Red's first of many.

Sad that he wasn't recorded more clearly, but fortunately, as mentioned by others, the same licks are well recorded elsewhere.

Wax
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George Bernard Shaw

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Offline banjochris

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2020, 01:19:09 PM »
Who knows, but his playing certainly sounds enthusiastic enough, just way off mike. Maybe the two steel guitars gave them trouble.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2020, 02:33:35 PM »
I've read other quotes from Rev. Davis on Blind Boy Fuller, too, where he was generous and magnanimous, so I don't think he categorically trashed Fuller. I suspect his responses reflected his mood at the time the questions were asked or possibly the manner of the interviewer.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2020, 10:48:57 AM »
I've only read Davis criticizing Fuller's guitar playing ability, not him as a person. I think they were pretty close friends.

Offline arlotone

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2020, 12:17:49 AM »
No, I wouldn't agree with that--I hear him in for the whole time following his original entry.

Okay, thanks for your input. I listened one more time and I heard a lick on verse 10 that I hadn't heard before, but I couldn't hear anything else beyond what I already tabbed out.

If anyone with a better ear would like to help me document this part, you could take my tab and fill in the missing pieces:

http://0286aedf204cc8ec63b7-a59b74eaec8ad4ebb7266379efa813c1.r1.cf2.rackcdn.com/18_guitar_2.pdf
« Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 04:01:17 PM by arlotone »

Offline arlotone

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Re: Gary Davis's second guitar part on Rag Mama
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2020, 04:23:45 PM »
I just realized the source recording I was using, from the CD collection "Blind Boy Fuller - The Essential," is take 1, and it looks like take 2 is what was originally issued. Listening to a version of take 2 from YouTube, I can hear Davis playing in more sections, although still not everywhere.

Ugh, now I regret all the work I put into documenting what is probably not the canonical version.

 


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