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I got myself a mamma, she's always got me feeling blue. She acts just like the weather, I don't know what she's going to do - Lonnie Johnson, "Fickle Mamma Blues" (1927)

Author Topic: Lightnin' On Recording  (Read 2626 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Lightnin' On Recording
« on: January 29, 2006, 02:01:45 AM »
Re-acquainting myself with the Jazz Journal McCormick three-part interview with Hopkins in 1959, I thought what follows worth passing on:

M: One of the people who's heard these tapes of yours ? the songs that are being released on Tradition, 77 and Heritage ? said he felt they were among the finest blues ever recorded. Do you go along with that?

S: Well; you know self-praise will scandalize me?but I do believe it. Sure I think it's so. I do know that here lately I've made better records than ever before.

M: One reason for that I'm sure is the fact that you haven't had any limitations put on you.

S: Yeah, like about the time. Now when I go into the studio, most often they want me to stop after two and a half minutes in each song. Oftentimes, that ain't enough.

M: Taking an average of the 46 songs you've recorded for me, you seem to prefer about four or five minutes for a song.

S: That's why, see, when I made That Mean Old Twister and then too Tom Moore's Farm ? I got a chance to put in verses to the song that I had to leave out when I made those songs the first time.

M: Do you suppose that's been true of most blues singers? That they've usually had to leave out parts of a song when making records?

S: I suppose it could be. Now Blind Lemon used to sing em longer than what they was on record. That song about 'I walk from Dallas, I walk to Wichita Falls, when I lost my sugar it weren't hardly no walk at all' ? now that was longer than any two records. Sometimes they do this ? like they did me once ? they let a song be on both sides of a record. Now that'd give you time enough. But usually they want you to stop or, lots of times, they'd just turn it off. Then when you heard the record back it was only the first part of that song. You see that's what got me in the habit of just singing what ever come to me?what I mean, it'd be just different verses put together but it wouldn't really be a song about any one thing. It'd kind of ramble around about different things.

M: I know, too, you tend to do that when you're in a bad mood?or when you feel under pressure. Of course a completely free, improvised song can be among the best? but I personally prefer those where you stick to one train of thought. Rainy Day Blues and Hard Headed Children are good examples of those sudden impulses?but I prefer That Mean Old Twister or Beggin Up and Down The Streets.

S: It depends, a lot of it, on how much I had in mind when I started off. Now sometimes I don't know what it'll be until I open my mouth. Sometimes I have most of it in my mind to sing and then it all falls together as I'm going along.

M: I've noticed on some of your records, you often start off singing about one thing, then change and sing about something else.

S: Because I was worried about something. Didn't have it good in my mind what I wanted to do?lots of times I'd have to be worried about the clock or I'd be worried about my money?be worried about lots besides just making the song. It ain't no good that way. That's to say, it ain't the best.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Lightnin' On Recording
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2006, 08:38:47 PM »

S: I suppose it could be. Now Blind Lemon used to sing em longer than what they was on record. That song about 'I walk from Dallas, I walk to Wichita Falls, when I lost my sugar it weren't hardly no walk at all' ? now that was longer than any two records.

Lord, what I wouldn't give to hear that...

Online Johnm

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Re: Lightnin' On Recording
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2006, 02:44:56 PM »
Hi all,
Lightnin's comments about losing the thread in the course of singing a song and ending up somewhere other than where he started are interesting and may go to explain records like Lemon's "Balky Mule", where he starts out singing about a balky mule, but has switched to a "bearcat" by the end.  I think I disagree with Mack McCormick a little bit--my lyrical preference is for the songs that go from pillar to post rather than sticking to one theme throughout.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Hamhound

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Re: Lightnin' On Recording
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2006, 06:36:27 PM »
Thanks for posting that - I found the interview and Lightnin's 'blindfold test' most interesting
Quote
the songs that go from pillar to post
- reminds me immediately of the oft-quoted comment of Son House's re. Charley Patton along the lines of
"Charley, he could start singing of the shoe there and wind up singing about that banana."

On a kind of a side note - Has anyone ever met the famous Mack McCormack? Or corresponded with him?

From here (admittedly a long way away from the US), he seems a mysterious an inscrutable figure....

Best to all,
H

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Lightnin' On Recording
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2012, 06:28:52 AM »
In recognition of what would have been Lightnin's 100th birthday today "I was born March15th the year was nineteen hundred and twelve. Ever since that day poor Lightnin' ain't being doing so well" (Going Back And Talk To Mama), I though I'd bump this ancient topic.

Offline CF

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Re: Lightnin' On Recording
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2012, 09:17:35 AM »
Thanks for the reminder Alan . . . it'll be Lightnin' in the car today   8)
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

 


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