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If I'd a-listened to my second mind I wouldn't-a-been here, wringin' my hands and cryin' - Blind Lemon Jefferson, Corinna Blues

Author Topic: Woody & Leadbelly  (Read 572 times)

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Offline joebanjo

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Woody & Leadbelly
« on: August 24, 2016, 11:47:13 AM »
Dear Fellow Weenie Campbell-ites,

As some of you probably know, my love of "country blues" is intertwined with my awe and respect for Woody Guthrie. Following my love of Woody's writing and my search for Northwest folk music, I received a Woody Guthrie Fellowship from the BMI Foundation back in 2009. This allowed me to spend two weeks at the Woody Guthrie Archives (then in Manhattan) combing through Woody's manuscripts looking for documents pertaining to his work in the NW back in 1941 writing songs. Of course, I had already been seduced by country blues music at this point, so imagine my delight when I came across the following passage in one of Woody's 1941 letters! Woody is referring here to a show he saw in NYC where Leadbelly and Josh White both performed, he was musing on ideas for how to improve the show:

"Blind Lemon Jefferson is the great tradition about the whole thing, and there are lots of very good tales and anecdotes in his life that could be told by the MC to point the whole show up, give it a little more historical value, and prove the origin of this style of music by the Negroes and the spread and influence even amongst white hill country people, and even lumberjacks, gold chasers, cowboys, oil boomers, ect., somewhere in the show ? because Victor?s two biggest sellers, namely Jimmy Rogers, the Blue Yodeler, and the Carter Family, blues, ballad, and religious singers, have constantly used the two and three line repeat, with the last line the same. The westerners are singing almost a pure Negro style, while at work or celebrating, and lots of them haven?t stopped to think yet that the whole thing traces back to the slaves, the sharecroppers, the big town workers, the chain gangs, and the spiritual songs of the Negro people. This is the influence of Negro singing on everybody else in America, and it should be mentioned, and proven, somewhere on the bill, just as an interesting twist."

I probably don't need to tell all of you that Woody's anthem, "Roll On, Columbia" borrows the melody of "Irene Goodnight" as taught to Guthrie by none other than Huddie himself.

But that was not all, oh no, that was not all. Check out this addendum to one of the letters Woody wrote while living in Portland:

"Huddie - I am on the edge of playing them One Dime Blues - and if I spend 10 years on them I?ll figure the time pretty well spent. Who besides me in this centry has had the honor and priviledge of studying under the one and only Leadbelly. I?m really proud."

Clearly, Leadbelly was one of the people Woody looked up to the most. I am now undertaking a project to record all 26 songs that Woody wrote for the Bonneville Power Administration back in '41, and along the way trying to accentuate his debt to the blues as both a songwriter and a singer. So, right now we have a Kickstarter project going to get us there:

We have just a few days left and a long ways to go, so I'm hopeful that a few of you fine Weenie friends might be willing to pre-order a CD or--who knows--hire one of our groups for a house concert.

Thanks for even considering it, and long live the real folk blues,


Offline stunasty 55

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  • “KAYA AY-WOAH GEE BACKUP!” -Leadbelly
Re: Woody & Leadbelly
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2016, 07:32:44 PM »

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