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Gee, I'm always hungry, can't get enough to eat. I'm just like a savage, I could eat a barrel of meat - Me And My Tapeworm, Sylvester Weaver 1927

Author Topic: Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings  (Read 369 times)

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Online Johnm

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Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings
« on: July 21, 2023, 12:54:41 PM »
Hi all,
I've been noticing and remarking Sylvester Weaver's playing for a number of years now and have thought that he was a good candidate for analysis of the various playing positions and tunings in which he recorded. He was one of the earliest fingerstyle Blues guitarists to be recorded, and in the '20s ended up recording a lot of titles, both under his own name and as an accompanist for singers or other players. Here is a listing of  the recordings he made that were issued. They come in four categories, for the main part: Songs released under his own name, songs on which he accompanied Sara Martin, songs on which he accompanied Helen Humes and songs on which he accompanied Walter Beasley. There is one instrumental track on which he accompanied violinist E. L. Coleman and banjo player Charles Washington, and a single cut for which he may have supplied the accompaniment for Virginia Liston. For all of these recordings you will find the title of each track listed, along with Sylvester Weaver's playing position/tuning, the key at which the rendition sounded and the date it was recorded. For the tunes on which he was joined by Walter Beasley on slide guitar, I included Walter Beasley's tuning as well. A plus sign following the key in which a song was recorded indicates that it was slightly sharp of that pitch, a minus sign indicates flatness. I'll add a few notes today, but will edit in further ones later.

Sylvester Weaver-Playing Positions/Tunings

Sara Martin Tracks:
1. Longing For Daddy BluesE, standard tuning at E-10/24/23
2. Iíve Got To Go And Leave My Daddy BehindA, standard tuning at Ab+10/24/23
3. Roaminí BluesC, standard tuning at Bb11/2/23
4. Goodbye BluesG, standard tuning at F11/2/23
5. Everybodyís Got The BluesF, standard tuning (banjo-guitar) at F-3/19/24
6. My Man BluesD, standard tuning (banjo-guitar) at Eb3/19/24
7. Pleading BluesE, standard tuning at F (speed?)3/19/24
8. Every Woman Needs A ManC, standard tuning at C3/19/24
9. Got To Leave My Home BluesE, standard tuning at E3/21/24
10. Poor Me BluesC, standard tuning at Db-3/21/24
11. If I Donít Find My Brown, I Wonít Be Back At AllE, standard tuning at E+5/29/24
12. Canít Find Nobody To Do Like My Old Daddy DoG, standard tuning at Gb3-4/25
13. Iím Sorry BluesC, standard tuning at B3-4/25
14. Daddy, Ease This Pain Of MineA, standard tuning at Ab3-4/25
15. Strange Loviní BluesSpanish, w/slide at G3-4/25
16. I Can Always Tell When A Man Is Treatiní Me CoolA, standard tuning at Ab3-4/25
17. Where Shall I Be?E, standard tuning at E4/6/27
18. I Am Happy In JesusC, standard tuning at C4/6/27
19. Gonna Ramble BluesC, standard tuning at B4/7/27
20. Teasing Brown BluesE, standard tuning at Eb4/7/27
21. Loving Is What I CraveE, standard tuning at Eb+4/30/27
22. Useless BluesG, standard tuning at G-4/30/27
23. Black Hearse BluesC, standard tuning at B4/30/27
24. Orníry BluesA, standard tuning at Ab+4/30/27

Sylvester Weaver Tracks:
1. Guitar BluesVestapol, w/slide at E11/2/23
2. Guitar RagVestapol, w/slide at D+11/2/23
3. Weaverís BluesA, standard tuning at Ab5/28/24
4. Smoketown StrutC, standard tuning at B-5/28/24
5. Mixing Them Up In CC, standard tuning at B+6/1/24
6. Iím Busy And You Canít Come InC, standard tuning at B+6/1/24
7. True Love BluesC, standard tuning at B-4/12/27
8. Poor Boy BluesE, standard tuning at Eb4/12/27
9. Six-String Banjo PieceC, standard tuning at C+4/12/27
10. Damfino StumpC, standard tuning at C#-4/12/27
11. Guitar RagVestapol, w/slide at D+4/13/27
11. Dadís BluesC, standard tuning at B-8/31/27
12. What Makes A Man BlueA minor, C, standard tuning at G#/B8/31/27
13. Canít Be Trusted BluesE, standard tuning at Eb8/31/27
14. Penitentiary Bound BluesA, standard tuning at Ab8/31/27
15. Soft Steel PistonOpen C, w/slide at C8/31/27
16. Chittlin Rag BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at C-11/26/27
17. Railroad Porter BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at C11/27/27
18. Me And My TapewormWeaver, G, standard tuning, Beasley, Spanish at G#11/27/27
19. Rock Pile BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at C11/27/27
20. Devil BluesWeaver, E, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at F-11/27/27
21. Polecat BluesWeaver, D, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at D11/27/27
22. Bottleneck BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at Eb11/27/27
23. St. Louis BluesWeaver, C minor, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at Eb11/27/27
24. Black Spider BluesWeaver, E, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at E11/30/27

Helen Humes Tracks:
1. Cross-Eyed BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at C11/26/27
2. Garlic BluesWeaver, A, standard tuning, Beasley, Spanish at A+11/26/27
3. Alligator BluesWeaver, E, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at E11/27/27
4. Nappy Headed BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at Db11/27/27
5. Race Horse BluesWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at Eb11/27/27

Walter Beasley Tracks:
1. Georgia SkinWeaver, C, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at Eb11/30/27
2. Southern Man BluesWeaver, A, standard tuning, Beasley, Spanish at Bb11/30/27
3. Toad Frog BluesWeaver, E, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at E-11/30/27
4. Sore Feet BluesWeaver, E, standard tuning, Beasley, Vestapol at Eb11/30/27

E.L. Coleman Track:
1. Steel String BluesSpanish w/slide at F-4/25

Virginia Liston Track
1. Jail House BluesC, standard tuning at C+1/10/24

Notes:
   * Sylvester Weaver's recording sessions spanned from November 24, 1923, a session on which he accompanied Sara Martin on two songs, to November 30, 1927, a day on which all of Walter Beasley's vocal numbers were recorded, along with Weaver's "Black Spider Blues".
   * The first six titles recorded by Sylvester Weaver were all instrumentals, none of which had spoken commentaries, as was to become popular later for instrumental numbers. It seems very likely that all of Sylvester Weaver's slide playing was done lap-style, since he never fretted the two-finger IV and V7 chords commonly played by slide players who hold the guitar in the conventional manner. I had never noticed before compiling this list how late in his recording career all of Sylvester Weaver's vocal numbers were recorded--they were all done in 1927, in between April 12, 1927 and November 30, 1927. Why might this have been so? Perhaps it was partially because his earliest sessions were so early, in the Classic Blues era, really, that the record company may have been dubious that records of a man singing would sell. By 1927, the popularity of Lemon Jefferson, Papa Charlie Jackson and Blind Blake may have made Okeh more willing to take a chance on Weaver's vocals.
   * Sylvester Weaver's accompaniments of Sara Martin, in particular, cover a lot of ground, both with regard to the number of playing positions he utilized and his approach to his accompaniments. He was an unusually sophisticated and inventive player, especially harmonically, and had a sort of "stealth" or non-obvious influence on a number of fingerstyle blues players, I think, among them Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, John Hurt and Libba Cotten.
   * For the Sara Martin sessions labeled 3-4/25, he was joined by Charles Washington on banjo on all five numbers and E. L. Coleman on violin for two of the songs. That same instrumental trio recorded "Steel String Blues" at the same time. I think the dates for these sessions are more nebulous than for the rest of the sessions because they were done in St. Louis, where it appears less detailed session information was recorded than in New York, where almost all of the rest of the sessions were done.
   * The Virginia Liston track lists, in DG&R, Sylvester Weaver as the "possible" accompanist. I'm dubious--the guitar on the track is out of tune and is a dirt simple boom-chang accompaniment with none of the nifty touches I would associate with Sylvester Weaver's playing.

All best,
Johnm     
« Last Edit: July 28, 2023, 08:43:33 AM by Johnm »

Offline Old Man Ned

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2023, 02:32:33 PM »
Hi John,

Thanks for listing the playing positions and tunings of Sylvester Weaver. What's the tuning of Open C used on Soft Steel Piston, C G C G C E from 6th to 1st string?

All the Best,
Ned

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2023, 02:39:31 PM »
Hi Ned,
Yes, that tuning is the one Sylvester Weaver used for that instrumental. Incidentally, DG&R show that as a duet between Weaver and Beasley and it is definitely just Weaver, with no second guitar.

Offline CF

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2023, 05:35:40 AM »
Great Work, John, Thanks.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Online Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2023, 08:31:48 PM »
Thanks, Mike.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Sylvester Weaver Playing Positions/Tunings
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2023, 03:07:51 AM »
Awesome work John, answers a lot of questions for me.

 


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