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Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life - Ludwig van Beethoven

Author Topic: Newton Gaines - 1920s Cowboy Singer and Physics Professor  (Read 648 times)

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Offline TenBrook

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Newton Gaines - 1920s Cowboy Singer and Physics Professor
« on: October 04, 2017, 08:24:17 AM »
Hi all,
After digging deep into old time music for the past 10 or so years (a drop in the bucket compared to the time spent by others here I'm sure) I'm always surprised when I make a new discovery. This time was more surprising as it was on an LP I owned but had never got around to listening to the B side. The record is 'Native American Ballads', an RCA Victor collection of mostly Anglo-American ballads/folksongs and not, as the name might suggest, ballads from the Native American tradition.

While listening to the B side yesterday I was struck by the song 'Wreck Of The Six Wheeler' by Newton Gaines, a take on the train wreck theme which also includes a variation of the 'gonna lay my head on the railroad track...snatch it back' line at the end. His delivery is fairly unique and I immediately checked the sleeve and was surprised I'd never heard his name.

It looks like Gaines only recorded 4 sides for Victor in 1929 (two were released under the name Jim New on the Timely Tunes label) but also made some cylinder recordings for John Lomax around 1908-10. While searching for info on him I was surprised to find he was a Professor of Physics at Texas Christian University but was also an avid singer of cowboy songs, hence his recordings.

Here's an article from TCU on Professor Gaines:

And here's a blog that has some more info on Gaines as well as two of his songs streaming, including the aforementinoed 'Wreck of the Six Wheeler', these examples taken from the record released under the name Jim New.

And thanks to youtube here's the song that drove me to make this post:

And here's the flip side of that record:
« Last Edit: October 04, 2017, 08:32:31 AM by TenBrook »

Online Johnm

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Re: Newton Gaines - 1920s Cowboy Singer and Physics Professor
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2017, 09:06:00 AM »
Thanks very much for posting those songs, Lew.  I'm always interested to hear and hear about your finds.
All best,

Offline Stuart

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Re: Newton Gaines - 1920s Cowboy Singer and Physics Professor
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 10:35:49 AM »
Thank you for posting this, Lew. It's a wonderful article about an extremely talented and interesting man who was responsible for building a department and teaching students at TCU.

Two people with three letter degrees that you may have heard of are Benjamin "Tex" Logan and "Woody" Paul Chrisman. I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of Tex's "birthday parties" at his NJ home in the early 70s which were bluegrass festivals in their own right. A few links:

I don't find this kind of thing surprising as many people are (multi-) talented at a very high level in several areas.

Offline TenBrook

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Re: Newton Gaines - 1920s Cowboy Singer and Physics Professor
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2017, 10:49:56 AM »
Stuart, thanks for the info on Benjamin "Tex" Logan and "Woody" Paul Chrisman. I had not heard of them but look forward to reading up and learning more. I suppose I should not have been surprised by Gaines' multi-talents/interests but I admit, though I've had my eyes opened many times, I'm still prone to hold to the stereotype that folk singers of the '20s were generally unlettered. That of course is a false view to hold as most of those who recorded folk songs in the '20s were far from fitting any stereotype you might try to pin on them which is a wonderful thing as there is always something new to learn.

And John, you're very welcome, I had a feeling you might appreciate Gaines.



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