collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

[Bull City] Red pulled his hat down over his eyes and said to her, "Cora Mae [Fuller's wife], I didn't get but one letter from you when I was in Virginia." To which [Blind Boy] Fuller replied, "Well, that was one too many." - Bull City Red, from an article about Richard Trice by David Menconi in the Raleigh [NC] News and Observer, 24Jun98

Author Topic: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life  (Read 348 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline cjblues04

  • Member
  • Posts: 12
  • Howdy!
Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« on: August 30, 2021, 11:41:09 AM »
Is anybody else fascinated by the life of Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter? He killed a man, attempted to murder another one, and spent his life in and out of prison. Man must have had some major temperamental issues for real. R.I.P.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2021, 06:58:49 AM by cjblues04 »

Offline banjochris

  • Member
  • Posts: 2266
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2021, 11:17:22 AM »
I'd recommend giving this a read:
https://www.amazon.com/Life-Legend-Leadbelly-Charles-Wolfe/dp/030680896X

I never got the impression that Leadbelly was an especially violent person, but that he grew up in a milieu where violence was sadly very common.

Online dj

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 2823
  • Howdy!
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2021, 11:20:12 AM »
Quote
Man must have had some major temperamental issues for real.

I think you're misreading both the man and the world he lived in, cjblues.  Certainly Leadbelly was no angel, but remember that he lived in a certain time and place, and had to deal with things that we can barely imagine today.  While various accounts differ, Leadbelly's "attempted murder" conviction apparently was due to several white men attacking him for being seemingly irreverent when a Salvation Army band was playing a religious song.  In a fairer world, it might have been excused as self-defense, but at the time having a black man injure a white man was an unforgivable sin - Leadbelly was almost lynched by an angry mob for it.

Also remember that we just don't know a lot of biographical information about a lot of pre-war blues musicians, so we have a very partial view of what was "normal" in their lives.  We do know that Booker White did time for shooting an attacker in the leg, and Son House killed 2 men, one during an incident at a juke in 1928, and one, in self-defense, at a migrant labor camp in Cotchogue, NY in 1955.  No one who knew either man after their rediscovery has ever suggested that either of them had "some major temperamental issues".

To me, what's more impressive was Leadbelly's ability to navigate through and thrive in seemingly whatever situation he found himself, from Texas jukes to prison to New York City salons to children's concerts.

For anyone who's interested, I'd highly recommend The Life and Legend of Leadbelly by Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell.  It gives a pretty well-rounded picture of the various phases of Leadbelly's life.   

Online dj

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 2823
  • Howdy!
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2021, 10:40:33 AM »
For those interested in Leadbelly, the 2022 Blues Images calendar has a picture of him on the January page, and the accompanying CD has 2 radio broadcasts of his, one from 1945 (4 songs), and one from 1949 (5 songs).  https://bluesimages.com/


Offline Blues Vintage

  • Member
  • Posts: 1133
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2021, 12:11:14 PM »
Thanks dj.

I always thought that Leadbelly was more a songster/folk musician than a bluesman. Not sure if that's true.

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11899
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2021, 02:09:52 PM »
Hi Harry,
I know that Leadbelly was first presented to Northern Folk audiences as a Folksinger, but I don't know how helpful or valid the distinction between "bluesman" vs. "songster or folksinger" is. When you think about it, of the early players in the style who were recorded and recorded a decent number of titles (more than two to five as a rough estimate), ones who recorded only blues are a very small minority. Henry Townsend is one of the very few players I can think of who never recorded a Folk or Pop song or any religious material (though "Jack of Diamonds/Georgia Rub" certainly had folk origins). Based on what they did record, I think you'd have to consider both Charlie Patton and Lemon Jefferson songsters. And the musicians who did record material other than blues were no less convincing when singing and playing blues than were players who only recorded blues. So if the idea is that a songster's blues are necessarily less "blue" than those played by someone who only played blues, I don't think the music itself supports that notion.
All best,
Johnm

Online dj

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 2823
  • Howdy!
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2021, 04:08:26 PM »
I think that Leadbelly, as a working musician in the first half of the 20th century, played whatever his audience at the time wanted.  We have a skewed picture of most "blues" players repertoire, because they played whatever their record company wanted them to play.  For most of the musicians that we listen to today, the record companies didn't want to hear their version of The Beer Barrel Polka, or O Sole Mio, or Red Sails In The Sunset, or She'll Be Comin' 'Round The Mountain, they wanted blues.  So that's what we have on record.  For musicians who were discovered by white audiences in the 1940s and 1950s (Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White), audiences wanted "folk music", and that's what the performers gave them.  For the McCoy brothers, playing for gangsters in Chicago, the audiences wanted Italian songs, and that's what they got.  Lonnie Johnson always wanted to play pop music, but the record companies and his rediscovery audience wanted blues, so that's what he played. 

So yes, a lot of our heroes really preferred playing the blues, but when it comes right down to it, they played whatever would pay the rent.

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 11899
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Leadbelly's (1888-1949) hard life
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2021, 09:40:30 AM »
Hi all,
It's worth noting that for much of its history, Blues was itself Pop music of a sort, just as are and have been Doo-Wop, Soul, and Hip-Hop. It's only in the relatively recent past, when the original audience for Blues has died off or moved on to other musical interests and tastes that it has become a sort of esoteric, specialty-audience music. To the extent that it survives, it survives mostly for people who play it. Like Jazz, it's a music in search of an audience in the present-day world.
All best,
Johnm   

Tags: Leadbelly 
 


anything
SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2021, SimplePortal