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The best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced - Dr. John on James Booker

Author Topic: Peg Leg Sam  (Read 244 times)

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Offline Lignite

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Peg Leg Sam
« on: March 27, 2021, 08:57:17 AM »
While doing some research for another music related project, I recently got a library card which allows me to have access to old local newspapers on file. I began to think of blues musicians who used to frequent this area of North Carolina and remembered Peg Leg Sam the medicine show harmonica player who I heard always paid a yearly visit to Rocky Mount, N.C. during tobacco season. I found lots of mention of Peg Leg Sam in the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram dating from a number of years. It seems he was a familiar face and a community favorite performing his act yearly busking at the tobacco market and at the County Fair often playing before or after a local country music act. What surprised and shocked me were these two articles about problems Sam ran into while staying in the area. The first one dates from Feb. 17, 1951 and the second from Jan. 15, 1963, a whole decade later. The reporting seems very racist to me with the reporter presenting the unfortunate events in an almost comical slapstick fashion. This area of the south has changed much since this time (at least on the surface.) In advertisements for the County Fair in Rocky Mount during the 1950s and early 60s, for instance, the management reserved Tuesday for white city children, Wed. for negro children and Thursday for county children!

Online Johnm

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Re: Peg Leg Sam
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2021, 09:15:08 AM »
Thanks very much for posting the articles, Lightnin'. It's good to be confronted with what kind of lives many of the musicians we admire experienced. It wasn't all a musical celebration.
One telling detail in the earlier article that is kind of an aside--the man who got two months (!) on a chain gang for driving a car with insufficient brakes! How the hell did the cop know his brakes were insufficient by watching the car go by? Do you reckon that particular infraction was selectively enforced?
All best,

Offline waxwing

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Re: Peg Leg Sam
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2021, 12:04:19 PM »
I think the officer probably saw the car failing to stop and drifting into the intersection with the driver obviously pumping the breaks to get more pressure. Having been in that position myself (driving and barely avoiding a collision) I can attest that it is pretty obvious. I think the offense of "driving while black" can use pretty much any infraction the officer chooses. What struck me was how the person's race was the first peice of information in each case description in that article.

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Offline eric

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Re: Peg Leg Sam
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2021, 12:30:10 PM »
Lest we think things might have changed a lot over the years, this happened last week. The Governor of Georgia signed a 98-page voting restriction bill:

"Kemp sat at a polished table, with six white men around him, under a painting of the Callaway Plantation on which more than 100 Black people had been enslaved. As the men bore witness to the signing, Representative Park Cannon, a Black female lawmaker, was arrested and dragged away from the governor’s office".

Offline Slack

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Re: Peg Leg Sam
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2021, 12:44:13 PM »
Thanks for posting Lightin'!  Fascinating glimpse into past southern culture.

Do you reckon that particular infraction was selectively enforced?

My guess is that all those infractions were a way to recruit a road crew - A $19 fine I'm sure was a lot of money.  Also, the detail provided on the 'squabble' is pretty amazing as well... another form of oppression... you wonder if white folks got the same level of detail. 

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Peg Leg Sam
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2021, 08:10:28 AM »
Wow really cool. My Uncle recorded Sam at a folk festival in Virginia in the 70's doing Froggy Went A Courtin'. I don't know if he still has the tapes.
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

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