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The words was the hardest thing to get and make 'em stick. Sometimes you'd sit down at night and write two or three songs, but they had the same tune to mostly all. All the blues pretty near sound alike unless you got a rare voice and put turns and trills in it - Thomas A. "Georgia Tom" Dorsey interviewed by Jim O'Neal and Amy van Singel, The Voice Of The Blues

Author Topic: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved  (Read 1576 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2022, 02:53:37 PM »
A word about vocal production. Everyone has a vocal apparatus that is capable of producing vastly different sounds, depending on how they utilize what are known as resonators. Virtually any cavity in the body can be utilized to add volume, timber and tone to the vocal sound, whether spoken or sung. The resonator cavities of the body include the lung cavity, the glottal area at the top of the throat, the mouth, the sinuses and nasal passages, the forehead and the top of the skull. By specifically energizing these resonators in different combinations one can naturally make one’s own voice sound anywhere from Charley Patton to Ishmon Bracey. There is no voice that we are individually trapped into using, and blues singers are a good example of how singers can morph their voice for the specific reason of amplification and also the quality of cutting through a crowd, in a jook joint or on a street. The concept of “singing in your own voice” is entirely a misconception. Any noise you can make with your vocal apparatus belongs to you. Likewise, the idea that because a singer on one record sounds, to one person, like another singer, no matter how close, is no “proof” of anything.

The idea that we each have a specific voice and that it is the only voice we can use for speaking or singing is, well, silly. We have the capability, with practice, of creating any voice we care to use. And we own that voice. If we are inspired to sing in a voice which uses similar resonators and other qualities as an artist we admire, that is a natural progression. Howling Wolf specifically stated that he got “his voice” from Charley Patton, and Tom Waits stated that he got “his voice” from Howling Wolf. That’s called artistic lineage.

I would also point out that there is no population wide difference between the vocal apparatus of black people and that of white people, aside from normal individual variance of size and muscularity. Only the genetics of their skin color is different. Both populations have all the same vocal capabilities. Most people grow up imitating their family and those people they spend most of their time with, both in pronunciation and vocal qualities, i.e. resonators. This may create cultural differences in the way people utilize their vocal apparatus, but does not limit them from making rather drastic changes to the way they use the apparatus if they wish. It seems obvious that out of necessity, the singers from a pre-amplification era would experiment and learn about these different resonators and how they affect their voice.

If anyone is interested in learning more about resonators and other aspects of natural vocal production, I would recommend the book Freeing The Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater, now head of the theatre department at Columbia in NYC. Anyone who is inspired to perform the old blues would really step up their performance level if they gave their singing as much thought and practice as their guitar playing.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline Stuart

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2022, 04:00:27 PM »
Well written, Wax. Your expertise in this area is always appreciated.

Offline Blues Vintage

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2022, 10:55:58 AM »
Great post, Wax.  For a while there was speculation that "There're Red Hot" was not recorded by Robert Johnson.

Offline Hardluckchild

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2022, 03:50:08 AM »
Considering how I've taken the time to post detailed evidence in support of my hypothesis, but have received little to no response to said (specific) material, I've decided to take my findings elsewhere. It's disheartening to see that nobody has mentioned going to the 50 second mark or at least acknowledged that looking at vocal characteristics is just as valuable a tool for identifying a performer as his guitar work. The soft voice that you hear on "Mississippi Bottom Blues" is Brown's natural voice, and it is with this voice that he begins "Rowdy Blues," which morphs into a gruff growl at the 50 second mark of "Rowdy Blues," and is the same coarse tone that we hear on the two songs attributed to Willie Brown. If anyone decides to take these findings to a vocal coach, he or she will confirm this. Good day.

Offline Devils Son Inlaw

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2022, 06:54:14 AM »
It's your hypothesis, why don't you take it to a vocal coach or two?

We've all listened to the songs mentioned, not only the infamous 50 second mark but the whole song. But as mentioned many times before, it's not breaking news and has been a topic of discussion for years.


Offline Stuart

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2022, 10:34:58 AM »
Your toughest critics are your best friends. You should not come here and expect everyone to support your foregone conclusions and/or preconceived notions. As I wrote previously, what you have put forth is impressionistic and is not irrefutable proof. And as I also wrote, this does not necessarily mean that your identification is incorrect, it is simply that there is no hard evidence to support it.

Richard P. Feynman often said, "The easiest person to fool is yourself." I like to follow it with an anonymous quote, "So don't believe everything you think." And here's another one (I paraphrase), "It is not what people do not know that gets them into the most trouble, it's what they know with absolute certainty that just isn't true." (Samuel Johnson / Boswell, IIRC) Stop and think.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2022, 11:58:12 AM »
Considering how I've taken the time to post detailed evidence in support of my hypothesis, but have received little to no response to said (specific) material, I've decided to take my findings elsewhere. It's disheartening to see that nobody has mentioned going to the 50 second mark or at least acknowledged that looking at vocal characteristics is just as valuable a tool for identifying a performer as his guitar work. The soft voice that you hear on "Mississippi Bottom Blues" is Brown's natural voice, and it is with this voice that he begins "Rowdy Blues," which morphs into a gruff growl at the 50 second mark of "Rowdy Blues," and is the same coarse tone that we hear on the two songs attributed to Willie Brown. If anyone decides to take these findings to a vocal coach, he or she will confirm this. Good day.
I felt I did respond to your hypothesis directly when I pointed out that, due to the vast variability of any individual's voice, a few recorded lines slightly gruffer than another just cannot be considered proof of identity. Because something seems like it "might' be what you are wanting to hear does not mean that it is proof. I think the most you could say with some certainty is that it is very likely that these two singers grew up in relatively close proximity to each other. They certain "might" be the same person, but as pointed out by Tony Gilroy, also providing evidence directly concerning your hypothesis, it does not seem that Willie Brown was under a recording contract at the time that Kid Bailley was recorded, so there is no known reason for him to record under an assumed name. And again, as Tony pointed out in his second post, if WB had already recorded why would he not have revealed this to his close friend, Son House.

I might point out that the fact that you felt that you had to indicate your knowledge that William Brown is a different person than Willie Brown indicates you probably haven't been studying this period of musicology for very long. These two players are very well known to those who have been involved in this music for any substantial amount of time. You will learn that there are many points of contention, many involving identity, that we all may have theories about, but we have to accept that there is no actual "proof" available.

I, too, have listened to these recordings and pondered these questions many times. I think the slight variance you speak of at .50 is inconsequential, given my knowledge of the human voice. It is very possible that they are the same person, sure, but vocal qualities from a short, poorly recorded song, cannot be proof. So it is just as possible that they are not the same person, but two singers from the same extended family or plantation.

Take it over to the Real Blues Forum on FaceBook and see what kind of response ensues.

Wax
« Last Edit: October 31, 2022, 12:26:13 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #22 on: November 05, 2022, 04:44:55 PM »
I still think that Bailey is a younger student of Brown and they made the record together. I feel that "Bailey's" voice is just different enough for it not to be Brown, but someone who learned his singing style directly from him. Brown's vocals have more authority. The singer sounds young to my ears and Brown was known to not take center stage with lead vocals often, but his guitar licks are obviously present. Also just my opinion.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2022, 04:52:35 PM by btasoundsradio »
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Offline rein

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #23 on: November 06, 2022, 11:17:56 AM »
And yet those guitars licks were not just limited to Willie Brown either. Tommy Johnson used the same in 1928, as did a number of musicians David Evans would record in the 1960s. I don t think we will ever really find out who taught who, who Kid Bailey was or even who Willie Brown was, because information on him is also scarce and sometimes contradicting. But I think we can say there were a number of musicians that shared a common guitar vocabulary.
 

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2022, 10:27:12 PM »
Considering how I've taken the time to post detailed evidence in support of my hypothesis, but have received little to no response to said (specific) material, I've decided to take my findings elsewhere. It's disheartening to see that nobody has mentioned going to the 50 second mark or at least acknowledged that looking at vocal characteristics is just as valuable a tool for identifying a performer as his guitar work. The soft voice that you hear on "Mississippi Bottom Blues" is Brown's natural voice, and it is with this voice that he begins "Rowdy Blues," which morphs into a gruff growl at the 50 second mark of "Rowdy Blues," and is the same coarse tone that we hear on the two songs attributed to Willie Brown. If anyone decides to take these findings to a vocal coach, he or she will confirm this. Good day.
Thank you, thank you, oh wise one, for your unerring insight into the recording studios and song stylings of the early bluesman. When are going to publish your findings, so that all the world may hail your genius?

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #25 on: January 05, 2023, 11:02:25 AM »
The Calt Patton bio has way more info about Kid Bailey from direct sources than I recalled. I reread it again after about 20 years. Several pages of recollections about Kid Bailey. According to the book, he definitely existed.
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Offline Hardluckchild

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #26 on: January 14, 2023, 12:04:36 AM »
Considering how I've taken the time to post detailed evidence in support of my hypothesis, but have received little to no response to said (specific) material, I've decided to take my findings elsewhere. It's disheartening to see that nobody has mentioned going to the 50 second mark or at least acknowledged that looking at vocal characteristics is just as valuable a tool for identifying a performer as his guitar work. The soft voice that you hear on "Mississippi Bottom Blues" is Brown's natural voice, and it is with this voice that he begins "Rowdy Blues," which morphs into a gruff growl at the 50 second mark of "Rowdy Blues," and is the same coarse tone that we hear on the two songs attributed to Willie Brown. If anyone decides to take these findings to a vocal coach, he or she will confirm this. Good day.
I felt I did respond to your hypothesis directly when I pointed out that, due to the vast variability of any individual's voice, a few recorded lines slightly gruffer than another just cannot be considered proof of identity. Because something seems like it "might' be what you are wanting to hear does not mean that it is proof. I think the most you could say with some certainty is that it is very likely that these two singers grew up in relatively close proximity to each other. They certain "might" be the same person, but as pointed out by Tony Gilroy, also providing evidence directly concerning your hypothesis, it does not seem that Willie Brown was under a recording contract at the time that Kid Bailley was recorded, so there is no known reason for him to record under an assumed name. And again, as Tony pointed out in his second post, if WB had already recorded why would he not have revealed this to his close friend, Son House.

I might point out that the fact that you felt that you had to indicate your knowledge that William Brown is a different person than Willie Brown indicates you probably haven't been studying this period of musicology for very long. These two players are very well known to those who have been involved in this music for any substantial amount of time. You will learn that there are many points of contention, many involving identity, that we all may have theories about, but we have to accept that there is no actual "proof" available.

I, too, have listened to these recordings and pondered these questions many times. I think the slight variance you speak of at .50 is inconsequential, given my knowledge of the human voice. It is very possible that they are the same person, sure, but vocal qualities from a short, poorly recorded song, cannot be proof. So it is just as possible that they are not the same person, but two singers from the same extended family or plantation.

Take it over to the Real Blues Forum on FaceBook and see what kind of response ensues.

Wax

Various musicians (including Rory Block) have, at times, confused William Brown (Arkansas guy, Lomax) with the Willie Brown in question. This is why I felt it necessary to mention that the two are separate entities. I've been listening to and reading about this music for 26 years.

Your reference to Mr. Gilroy's comment about there being no need for a pseudonym on the part of Brown, is a very good point.

In my first two posts in this thread, I stressed the 50-second mark AND (forgive the Caps-Lock) the remainder of the song. Obviously, 1 second's worth of vocals can't reveal much. If I subsequently failed to stress the importance of listening to the remainder of the vocals in said song, it was my fault for not being specific.

Of course, we each have a variety of vocal stylings we can use. However, some come more naturally than others, with less risk of doing damage - however minor - to our vocal apparatus.

Has anyone ever been able to find information related to Luke Thomson, Clubfoot, or that clothing store that a YouTuber claimed Brown worked at?

I still stand by my certainty that Bailey is Brown, and am wondering if it's possible to isolate the vocals from the music on these early recordings. After all, Patton, Tommy Johnson, etc., had certain guitar techniques and songs under their belt, as shared material. For the purpose of this discussion only, I don't see a reason to focus on instrumentation. Vocal comparisons would be the most useful tool here.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #27 on: January 14, 2023, 01:57:36 PM »
Well, it was probably in the 1960s that Rory would’ve made that error and, her husband at the time, Stephen Grossman, probably corrected her. Continues to be good patter for her shows, I guess. It seems odd that you feel you need to school the folks here at Weenie Campbell.

Bottom line for me is, I don’t believe that poor recordings from the 20s of somewhat manipulated voices can, alone, prove anything regarding the identity of the singers. You need other factual evidence to corroborate.

 Also good to remember that the singers who were recorded in the 20s and 30s were likely the tip of the iceberg. There could have been several other singers who sounded very similar to Willie Brown. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking that the musicians that were recorded were the entire population of black performers.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline Stuart

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #28 on: January 14, 2023, 02:21:41 PM »
And for those who were recorded, what was recorded and released (determined by the A&R people) was not necessarily representative of their overall repertoire.

Offline Hardluckchild

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Re: Willie Brown Mystery, Solved
« Reply #29 on: January 15, 2023, 08:05:16 PM »
Well, it was probably in the 1960s that Rory would’ve made that error and, her husband at the time, Stephen Grossman, probably corrected her. Continues to be good patter for her shows, I guess. It seems odd that you feel you need to school the folks here at Weenie Campbell.

Bottom line for me is, I don’t believe that poor recordings from the 20s of somewhat manipulated voices can, alone, prove anything regarding the identity of the singers. You need other factual evidence to corroborate.

 Also good to remember that the singers who were recorded in the 20s and 30s were likely the tip of the iceberg. There could have been several other singers who sounded very similar to Willie Brown. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking that the musicians that were recorded were the entire population of black performers.

Wax

Yes, you are right about how truly under- recorded this music was.

As recently as 1996, a Block album credited "Mississippi Bottom Blues" to Willie Brown, and there might very well be guitar instructionals or other recordings by her that came out afterwards and credit that song (and "Rowdy Blues"?) to Brown.

It seems odd that you feel that I feel the need to "school" you and others about Brown/Bailey. I was simply trying to confirm if my posts had been read in their entirety by others. It's human nature to occasionally peruse and respond, without digesting all material (i.e., the details/what I call "evidence" in my posts) first. I never meant to harm anyone.

I hope that you and others will listen with fresh ears to the four songs in the order I mentioned, with only the vocals (and not HardLuckChild) on your minds.

I'm going to see if I can get my hands on the Calt book.

 


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