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I didn't like the way he sang. He was my brother, but he just had a way (Sings) 'Saddle up my pony, hook up my black maaaaare...' I didn't like that!... Now he picks good, but he just brings that song out, like there's somebody choking to death - Sam Chatmon on Charley Patton, from Giles Oakley's The Devil's Music, BBC

Author Topic: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing  (Read 895 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« on: October 10, 2021, 11:24:48 AM »
Hi all,
I was thinking about Sleepy John Estes and was wondering if anyone could think of another top-level Country Blues singer and guitarist who so completely relegated the guitar to a role in which it was used simply for time-keeping and providing chordal support. He was really rare in the extent to which he didn't use the guitar for instrumental responses apart from playing an occasional bass run, and that may be the reason he was so often joined by accompanists, whether Yank Rachell and Jab Jones, Hammie Nixon, or Charlie Pickett or Brownsville Son Bonds. Obviously, there were singers who only sang and did not accompany themselves, like Texas Alexander and many of the Classic Blues singers, but singers who accompanied themselves in such a non-showy way are really hard to think of for me, apart from Sleepy John Estes. Can you think of any others who shared his approach or sound?
All best,
Johnm

Offline Thomas8

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2021, 11:32:09 AM »
Maybe Jim Jackson?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2021, 11:37:29 AM »
Good one, Thomas. On his more folky and pop material, Jim Jackson did often adopt a pretty simple boom-chang sort of back-up for his guitar, but on a lot of his blues accompaniments, like "Kansas City Blues" and the innumerable covers he did of it, he had some pretty nifty playing, so I don't think his guitar-playing was quite so strictly accompaniment oriented as was Sleepy John's.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2021, 03:52:22 PM by Johnm »

Offline RichardW

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2021, 04:14:34 PM »
Howzabout Walter Vinson with the Sheiks?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2021, 06:38:56 PM »
Hi RichardW,
Yup, Walter played boom-chang back-up on many or most Sheiks cuts, but he also had a fair number, like "Stop And Listen" and "This World Is Going Wrong" where he was essentially playing fingerpicked lead guitar parts, so I don't see him as being so exclusively in a back-up role as Sleepy John was.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Forgetful Jones

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2021, 12:52:01 PM »
Not sure Iím adding much to the conversation here, but Sleepy Johnís ďSpecial AgentĒ is a favorite of mine, and Iíve always been a bit stumped as to what he was playing. Closest I ever got was Standard tuning, C position, but I wasnít overly confident in that. The signature riff is a pretty cool one in his repertoire.



Cheers!

Edited to add link to the song.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2021, 01:13:46 PM by Forgetful Jones »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2021, 01:50:31 PM »
Hi Forgetful Jones,
You're right, Sleepy John is playing in C position, standard tuning, as is his seconding guitarist, either Brownsville Son Bonds or Charlie Pickett, who is playing that great signature lick, also out of C position in standard tuning.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Blues Vintage

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Re: Sleepy John Estes' Guitar Playing
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2021, 03:00:58 PM »
It's my favorite Estes song. I never heard a cover of it besides Paul Geremia or Rainer Brunn & Willie Salomon (below).



 


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