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Man, this is the weirdest. Talk about an evolutionary cul-de-sac lick - Ari Eisinger, teaching Blind Blake's Walking Across the Country

Author Topic: Imposters  (Read 4830 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Imposters
« on: November 19, 2009, 04:35:19 PM »
Hi all,
The first year at Port Townsend, Henry Townsend told a story about how he and Walter Davis were performing out in the country away from St. Louis at some point in the 1930s or 1940s, and saw posters for a recent performance by Walter Davis and Henry Townsend in a neighboring town that was definitely not played by the Walter Davis and Henry Townsend we know from records.  In other words, there was a duo of imposters performing under their names.  
I've been thinking a lot about this story recently as it might pertain to the various tales of Blind Lemon Jefferson passing through the Mississippi delta, or playing in southwestern Virginia, or Lightnin' Hopkins playing in Waverly, Virginia, or Blind Blake hanging out in Greenup, Kentucky.  I suspect that during the years Blind Lemon was a popular recording artist before he passed, there may very well have been more than a couple of different imposters performing throughout the South and passing themselves off as "the" Blind Lemon Jefferson.  I think such an explanation is far more plausible than the itinerary Lemon would have had to have traveled to have gone everywhere he was supposed to have gone.

There is precedent for imposters turning a famous name to their advantage in American culture.  In the fairly recent past, former NBA great Bill Russell and NFL player-turned-movie star, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson were greatly inconvenienced by frauds running up considerable debts using their names.  John Guare's play, "Three Degrees of Separation" tells the story of a glib young hustler who passes himself off as Sidney Poitier's son.

Any other ideas on this topic?  Of course, the most difficult aspect of impersonating Lemon would be delivering the musical goods, but people might want to believe that they had seen and heard Lemon Jefferson, despite the evidence their ears supplied to the contrary.
All best,
Johnm      
« Last Edit: November 19, 2009, 10:03:54 PM by Johnm »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2009, 05:39:13 PM »
Well there is the obvious Sonny Boy Williamson phenomenon.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline banjochris

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 08:25:27 PM »
There's a story in Kinney Rorrer's "Rambling Blues," the book about Charlie Poole, which talks about Poole running up against a Poole imposter, whom Rorrer describes, IIRC as a "recording artist" (he might say "Columbia" too, but I'm not sure about that). Poole went up to him after a show and demanded (and got) all the receipts.
Chris

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2009, 01:00:59 AM »
In recent times there were allegedly several "Drifters" performing concurrently.  Maybe each included an original member, meybe not - I really don't know.

Going back to John's point, of course with communications not being what they are today, I suppose it would have been sllightly easier for imposters to pass themselves off as the greats of the day, whom the audience had only heard on records.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Pan

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2009, 02:48:53 AM »
Not exactly an imposter case, but still stretching the truth; I believe I've read somewhere that Robert Johnson didn't mind if someone thought that he was a relative to Lonnie Johnson, whom he obviously greatly admired.

Cheers

Pan

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2009, 04:34:03 AM »
Hey:

In Big Bill Broonzy's autobiography he recounts confronting a Tampa Red impersonator.

Alex
« Last Edit: November 20, 2009, 04:42:40 AM by GhostRider »

Offline dj

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2009, 04:36:26 AM »
My favorite story in this line is the young white guitar player (Jimmy Vaughan, if my memory is correct) who was hired in the early 60s to tour as Freddie King!

Besides out-and-out impersonation, there's "impersonation by close association", which was perpetrated by record companies and managers perhaps more often than by the artists themselves.  Hence Blind Boy Fuller Number 2 (Brownie McGhee), Leroy Carr's Buddy (Bill Gaither), Peetie Wheatstraw's Buddy (Harmon Ray), Peetie Wheatstraw's Brother (Jimmy Gordon), etc.

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2009, 05:10:36 AM »
Maybe all those blues players who, when they were young, led Blind Lemon around were really leading impersonators. I'd always enjoyed the image of BLJ being led around by a dozen or so acolytes.

Lyle

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2009, 05:59:43 AM »
Now some enterprising type could have turned this into a lucrative business. Sending out musical clones to appear simultaneously in different locations. Maybe Blind Lemon sat behind a desk in Houston directing a troop of impersonators to various gigs around the country. The true untold story of the Blues.  :P

Cadillac records contained a chilling scene of Little Walter catching up to and dispatching an impersonator. Don't know if it was based on fact.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline jpeters609

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2009, 08:02:44 AM »

Cadillac records contained a chilling scene of Little Walter catching up to and dispatching an impersonator. Don't know if it was based on fact.

In the Earl Hooker biography, "Earl Hooker, Blues Master" by Sebastian Danchin, it's reported that Earl brazenly used a harmonica player throughout the south whom Earl knowingly and falsely called "Little Walter." Even advertised him as such on posters, etc. Don't know if the real Little Walter ever found him, though.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2009, 10:36:42 AM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

Offline Johnm

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2009, 08:45:51 AM »
Hi all,
If you enlarge this topic to include commercially created associations, as dj suggests, or false lead boys, as Lyle suggests, and add in garden variety "this famous dead musician was my best friend" fibs, you have a pretty enormous pool of mendacity, all of which is understandable, I suppose, given the times and the economic climate people were living in.  I think a lot of present-day interlocutors of older musicians bring a lot of this stuff on themselves, by constantly trying to establish connections between the person they are talking to and some long-dead hero.  One musician who I think is absolutely straight up in this regard is Robert Belfour.  If he never met or heard of somebody a questioner is eagerly querying him about, he'll simply say he never met the man.  
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: November 21, 2009, 08:06:19 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2009, 08:59:28 AM »
My favorite story in this line is the young white guitar player (Jimmy Vaughan, if my memory is correct) who was hired in the early 60s to tour as Freddie King!
Blimey, I know 1951 born Jimmie boasted he started gigging when an adolescent but...... :o

Offline dj

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2009, 11:07:43 AM »
Quote
Blimey, I know 1951 born Jimmie boasted he started gigging when an adolescent but...

I stand corrected.  Dang, I wish I could think who that was...

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2009, 12:25:27 PM »
Quote
Blimey, I know 1951 born Jimmie boasted he started gigging when an adolescent but...

I stand corrected.  Dang, I wish I could think who that was...

Perhaps someone impersonating him...

Offline unezrider

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Re: Imposters
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2009, 01:43:05 PM »
hello friend,
weren't the mississippi sheiks known for having a few variations on their personal so they could gig more? i believe i have read the same was said about the memphis jug band.
the difference here, the musicians aren't acting in secrecy ? at least as far as the recorded act they were performing as was concerned.
i've often wondered about lemon's leads, as well. i'm not sure if time really substantiates some claims. t-bone walker seems the most likely to be true. lead belly's story probably did more good for him & his standing in prison amongst his room mates. but wouldn't his prison time interfered with him really being a lead to lemon? & i always felt lightnin' would have been too young. but perhaps, if i had led blind lemon around once, i would have led him around a whole bunch in my recollections! & how much time did lemon spend in chicago, & elsewhere? did he relocate himself like blake?
chris
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

 


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