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Bill's a great promoter...instead o' voting once, the fool voted twice - Pink Anderson, does Jimmie Rodgers, He's in the Jailhouse Now

Author Topic: Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963  (Read 294 times)

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Offline cjblues04

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Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963
« on: August 17, 2021, 02:16:24 PM »
Peg-Leg was rediscovered at the age of 75 in march of 1963 by George Mitchell. He was living in extremely serious poverty, and he had no legs.

You would think that a successful musician such as him would be living the high life. What ever happened there?

Online Johnm

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Re: Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2021, 03:29:25 PM »
Hi cjblues04,
How are you determining that he was successful? He had not made any records since the early 1930s, and was certainly not receiving royalties on any of his early recordings. He'd pretty much stopped playing music for a living in the early '30s, or even busking. I'd venture to guess that even in the period when he was recording, his income from recording was negligible. There was absolutely no money to be made in the music that he could play or had played in the past, in 1963. Add to that the fact that he may well have not been receiving Social Security and had probably never received Disability benefits, and was Black and you have a pretty good recipe for living in extreme poverty. Have you ever known or heard of a Country Blues musician who ended up living "the high life"?
Johnm

Offline cjblues04

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Re: Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2021, 04:22:00 PM »
Hi cjblues04,
How are you determining that he was successful? He had not made any records since the early 1930s, and was certainly not receiving royalties on any of his early recordings. He'd pretty much stopped playing music for a living in the early '30s, or even busking. I'd venture to guess that even in the period when he was recording, his income from recording was negligible. There was absolutely no money to be made in the music that he could play or had played in the past, in 1963. Add to that the fact that he may well have not been receiving Social Security and had probably never received Disability benefits, and was Black and you have a pretty good recipe for living in extreme poverty. Have you ever known or heard of a Country Blues musician who ended up living "the high life"?
Johnm


Actually, no I never heard of a country blues musician who lived the high life. You're right, I don't know what I was thinking. Thanks for your answer, this cleared up some stuff.

Online dj

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Re: Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2021, 05:24:27 AM »
I've never seen sales figures for Howell, but we have some sales figures from Victor/Bluebird from the 1930s.  Their big-selling blues artists, people like Walter Davis, would sell several thousand copies of a given record.  That's not much - pop and jazz artists were selling in the tens of thousands.

A major blues artist, like Blind Boy Fuller in the late 30s, would receive a flat fee per side or per session several times a year, and in between sessions would play on the streets for tips, or in a juke for food, drinks, and tips.  You didn't get rich doing that.

Offline jostber

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Re: Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2021, 08:42:20 AM »
It's not quite correct to say that there were no profits for the blues men in the 20's. To quote from an article on Peg Leg Howell on the income from his recordings:

Shortly after his release, people from Columbia Records found Howell in Atlanta. Howell also told Mitchell, "The men from Columbia Records found me there in Atlanta. A Mr. Brown – he worked for Columbia – he asked me to make a record for them. I was out serenading, playing on Decatur Street, and he heard me playing and taken me up to his office and I played there.” Thus, by November 1926 Howell was one of the cohort of early blues musicians who were recorded, showcasing his steady hand style, as he'd play colorful bass movements, sprinkled with treble-side lines and luscious chords. The session earned him $50 plus biannual royalties.

With this newfound success, as Columbia had pressed around 10,000 copies of his initial records, Howell continued to sing around Atlanta, Georgia. The steady stream of income through music continued into the late 20s; Howell's records with Columbia continued to sell 1,000s of copies, although this stream ran dry with the Depression. Returning to selling liquor in the 30s, Howell stopped playing for the most part, taking up other jobs as a means to make a living.


Regarding his later poverty was most likely due to his illness from diabetes and losing his other leg from this in 1952. There was not too much social security for his social group in those times.

Another blues man who had quite a good income in the 20's:

Judging from reported sightings, Jefferson spent considerable time on the road.  In
between his recording sessions and rambles, Jefferson stayed in Dallas or at his
kitchenette apartment on Chicago’s South Side.  His financial success was such that he
could afford to travel in a chauffeur-driven Ford and at one time had $1,500 in the bank.



Online Johnm

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Re: Peg-Leg Howell's rediscovery in 1963
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2021, 09:20:43 AM »
Jostber, I did not say there were no profits, but rather that the income was negligible. I'd stand by that in the case of Peg Leg Howell. Biannual royalties for three or four years would have been nice to receive, but nowhere near enough to cover living expenses, let alone save money.

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