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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: tinpanallygurl on April 07, 2014, 11:38:17 AM

Title: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: tinpanallygurl on April 07, 2014, 11:38:17 AM
I met Stephen Calt several years ago, before his COPD got real bad and he opened up on several occasions about the rediscovered talent from the 60s.  He had a jaded opinion of many of the rediscovered musicians.  He said and I quote "they were generally an ungrateful bunch of alcoholics that were self centered.  They would lie to your face over and over and often cared more about getting drunk than singing." I pressed him further and he again said that most of them were "ungrateful bunch of phrase i would prefer not write

This was a  heartbreaking experience for me.  First of was it true and if so why?  Second of all, I knew no one who liked this music and knew nothing of online sites like this one.  After all this time of listening to artists like Roosevelt Sykes, Papa Charlie Jackson, and Willie Brown by myself the only person I had ever found to discuss it was a jaded quasi-racist/anti-smite.  I am Jewish and he didn't know and damn the things he said to me.  Enough about that.

Did anyone else find the rediscovered artists to be less than appreciative of their new found fame, or anything else I brought up?
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Prof Scratchy on April 07, 2014, 12:13:59 PM
Take any ten people from anywhere on the planet, and you're likely to get some real gems and some real shockers. Just the way it is. Sounds like Mr Calt may have been in the shocker category.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Slack on April 07, 2014, 12:40:59 PM
Why would we want to open up a topic specifically to throw down on and complain about rediscovered blues musicians, who are all dead now, and cannot defend themselves?  The history of how blues musicians were treated by the recording industry, white society, political process etc etc are well known and documented.  This forum is for discovering the many wonderful songs these blues musicians have left us.  Cannot we not find the positive aspects to focus our attention on?

I have a problem with topics devoted to sour grapes.  Anyone else?
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: tinpanallygurl on April 07, 2014, 12:48:30 PM
Cut me some slack, Slack.  Really it is possible as adults for us to discuss this topic without disparaging the artists that we all love to listen to.  I can easily understand why someone might be less than elated to have white kids come down and put me on the road when their usual dealings with white people was not a positive situation.  I can understand how someone might appear to be unenthusiastic when they might just have a humble personality, natural humility, and a gentle nature like Son House.  I can think of others but I wasn't there and many many many people here were there and know first hand what was going on at that time.  Life isn't always sunshine and the warts of life are often the reason for living.  This isn't sour grapes!  This is about these people at the ends of their lives playing music in a foreign environment to a foreign audience and their reactions to that is worth something, even if you Slack refuse to open your eyes to acknowledge that.  Being a administrator shouldn't give you the right to be a bully!
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Johnm on April 07, 2014, 12:54:44 PM
What bullying?  An opinion was expressed, that's all.  I would say one's experience with other people, not just older blues musicians, but anyone in any walk of life is most heavily colored and affected by one's attitude towards Life, oneself and other people.  If you're not happy or content with yourself, it is hard to enjoy and value other people.  As Dostoyevsky said, "Everybody has his reasons, and that's the pity of it."
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Slack on April 07, 2014, 01:12:13 PM
Quote
Being a administrator shouldn't give you the right to be a bully!

Being an administrator shouldn't prohibit me from giving my opinion --- which, as Johnm observed, is all I was doing.  It seems a fruitless topic to pursue IMO :) .... along the lines of discussing Justin Bieber's legal problems.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: wreid75 on April 07, 2014, 01:20:14 PM
Slow your roll girl, don't want you getting banned from here.  A woman's perspective is a good thing, more emotional than the just listen and love it attitude many men may have.  This topic is likely a touchy one depending on how it is broached.  Many of the young kids that dug up these old blues men are older men themselves, and several are no longer with us.  I can't imagine the ones that are still going strong want to feel like their efforts were not on the up and up.   Gayle Dean Wardlow wrote in Chasin' that Devils music about the distrust of young white people asking questions.  Alan Lomax wrote about how his researchers were viewed by law enforcement.  There might be some people here who have some insight into your topic but may never post.  I think your topic is a good topic and I hope others jump in with their thoughts.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: bnemerov on April 07, 2014, 02:44:59 PM
Hi tinpan (may I call you tinpan, for short?)

I spent as much time as I could, 1962-1970, around the musicians you're interested in. Booker White, Son House, Mance Lipscomb, John Hurt, Furry Lewis and others came to the Berkeley Folk Festival and played additional gigs at folk clubs like the Jabberwock (Berkeley) and the Ash Grove (L.A.) while out on the west coast. Every summer we had a few weeks to listen and talk with these musicians.

Without exception they were genial and generous with their time and knowledge. They seemed to enjoy the attention they received from large audiences (especially the concerts at the Univ. of California's folk festival). They also gave workshops where they were treated as artists, again which they seemed to appreciate.

Now, Booker White was not gushy-friendly; he was a dignified presence which some could mistake for stand-offish. Lightnin' Hopkins was also like this, but they very much enjoyed the status given them by the young white kids. Myself included.

But the leaders of the outgoing, "friendly brigade" were Hurt and Lipscomb. They were doing nothing but enjoying every experience that came their way and so were a joy to be around.

I never met Calt, but, as johnm implied (if I understand his remarks correctly), Calt's "take" on these musicians says more about him than them.

best,
bruce
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: harriet on April 07, 2014, 03:00:23 PM
Calt's "take" on these musicians says more about him than them.

That's my opinion as well.

Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: pkeane on April 07, 2014, 04:24:04 PM
Hi tinpanallygurl -

Good question! Also, I hope you are not made to feel unwelcome here. I work in an area (software technology) where women are bullied all the time (and often not really consciously by the "bulliers") - it's something we (as an industry) are trying to address. It's difficult, but a really important task. Something I like to be really aware of esp. when (for whatever reason) there is a big gender imbalance.

Anyway, re: your question.... It's one I have been thinking a lot about lately as I have been immersing myself in Skip James's 60s work. I'd come to regard it as somehow less powerful that his 1931 recordings, but was really inspired by conversations here (esp some excellent posts from John Miller) to go back and listen.  Well, I actually think his 60s work is brilliant and actually more fully realized (as artistic works) than his 1931 recording (as technically brilliant as those could be).  I have the Calt book, but have not read it through.  Dipping in, I was indeed *very* disappointed in his portrayal. He (and we) as historians have, I think, a responsibility to take into account our own biases, etc. and obviously, the writer (I don't want to make it personal) was not very effective. He takes Skip's own word that he "sure can't play the way he used to" and thus declares his 60s work subpar. Huh?  A perfectly reasonable response would be "geez Skippy (as he was called) I think you playing sounds every bit as good as it did on those old recordings."

Anyway here's the thing (in my opinion): the country blues masters created indisputably great art and it should be evaluated on its own merits.  That there are wonderful personalities like Mississippi John Hurt to greatly admire as a person is all the better, but it's not what we are (primarily) here for.  As much as I love, say, Charlie Parker's or Ben Webster's music, I've heard terrible things about how they treated people around them. It's a conundrum.  I'm not sure how to weigh those factors into my opinion. Certainly I have absolutely no idea what it was like to be African American in the early and mid 20th century America (or of course *any* time) so I don't want to pass judgments lightly.  So for me its a tough question and one I struggle with. I can tell you, though, I have a very deep seated curiosity about what all went in to the mix to create this great art.  And I know a big piece of that puzzle is an astounding and overwhelming set of injustices.

One more thing I should mention.... Anyone who wants to get a sense of Skip James the man & the artist could do no better than to listen to this interview that Phil Spiro did with John Hurt and Skip James in 1964:

Mississippi John Hurt & Skip James on WTBS-FM 1964 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX908Qi-7DE#)

 
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Slack on April 07, 2014, 04:51:18 PM
tinpanallygurl,

Let me apologize for coming off as short with you.  We've had discussions around Calt before, and it never seems very satisfying (to me at least and to put it mildly), but you may not be aware of these discussion, of course. 

Bruce, thanks for taking the time and having more patience than I -- good post.

and by all means, carry on...
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: mr mando on April 08, 2014, 03:14:25 PM
"they were generally an ungrateful bunch of alcoholics that were self centered.  They would lie to your face over and over and often cared more about getting drunk than singing."

Certainly I have absolutely no idea what it was like to be African American in the early and mid 20th century America (or of course *any* time) so I don't want to pass judgments lightly.

IMO, the keyword here is "alcoholics". If you ever worked with alcoholics, you know that they would lie to your face over and over and mostly care more about getting drunk than anything else, no matter if they're black or white.

I seriously doubt that many of the rediscovered musicians were alcoholics, though.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Bed Bug Bill on April 09, 2014, 09:54:47 AM
I cannot,for the life of me,find anything wrong with tin pan ally gurls original post.
Most musicians that I've had personal dealings with,had huge egos, an unhealthy occupation with self promotion,and many other faults, regardless ,of any musical ability.They are people,some are bigoted,some are not,some are nice,some are peadophiles.....surely this is a discussion forum for all aspects of country blues,and not some sanitised fan site.
Her question was, how did anyone out there,who actually had dealings with these people, find them.
Calts always had bad press,probably for good reason.The Lomax clan seem to be getting hammered lately,
for upsetting our delicate sensibilities.Jesus,think what our record collections and understandings of the idiom would be without them.......Come on folks...this sites getting as sticky as the banjo hangout.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Gumbo on April 09, 2014, 01:22:53 PM
thanks for posting the interview with Skip James and John Hurt, pkeane. I haven't seen the whole thing before, only clips.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Randy Meadows on April 09, 2014, 06:12:10 PM
Steve Calt is not here to defend himself so I don't take it as a discredit to Calts Blues contribution.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Johnm on April 09, 2014, 06:18:21 PM
You make a good point, Randy, and as far as that goes, nobody under discussion here is around to defend themselves. 
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: uncle bud on April 09, 2014, 07:26:33 PM
Bill, perhaps you did not read Slack's apology and his explanation for his original responses.

As for the site being merely a sanitized fan site, perhaps you have not browsed it much.

Tinpanallygurl - your description of your initial discussions of country blues with another person being with Stephen Calt puts you in a truly weird position. On the one hand, it puts you in the company of one of the most prominent blues researchers to work on the history of this music. On the other, as you probably know better than a lot of us, it puts you in the company of a very difficult man, with controversial opinions (to put it mildly), who is himself the subject of much controversy, and much animosity. What you've described is a toxic environment for anyone beginning an appreciation of country blues.

Here's the problem for me. By starting the thread with all of the focus on Calt and his racist bluster, you've left yourself open to exactly some of the reaction you received. Calt and his opinions have been the subject of interminable discussion here and in many other places online, so the prospect of going through it all again is bound to rub any number of people the wrong way, whether you are aware of this history or not. Like I said, you're in a weird position given your own history with him and acknowledgement that you were initially unaware of sites to discuss the music.

Then at the same time as you note your understandable discomfort with his description of the blues players he knew as "ungrateful _________", and we have to assume this means n***ers, you go and make that the subject heading of the thread.

So we've got a toxic beginning for your own initial blues conversations, a toxic start to this thread, a toxic subject heading and basically a toxic premise. Add to that the fact that most of the people who discuss this music are sick of discussions about Stephen Calt -- whether it's the mean-spirited opinions about players, the accusations of bigotry and anti-semitism, the lawsuits, or for that matter the desperate search for his books -- then maybe you can understand how some people might not respond so positively to your original post.

I don't think Slack was bullying at all, and let's leave that word for the real bullying that goes on in the world and online, even if he did apologize as a courtesy.

After years of running internet forums -- some of us like Slack since before the Internet had pictures -- you develop some instincts for trouble. I had the same reaction as him initially. Where was this thread going, given its beginnings and its subject heading? Most of the time, you're right. Sometimes you're not.

As for what these musicians may have been like, can't get much better than Bruce's response, including this: "Calt's 'take' on these musicians says more about him than them."
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: pkeane on April 09, 2014, 10:09:35 PM
I'm really surprised and disappointed by this thread. I too saw nothing in the least wrong with the initial post/inquiry (and found much to be disturbed by in the responses).

I think I'll take a break from participating here.

-Peter
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: oddenda on April 10, 2014, 12:08:48 AM
Yes, Calt "did" much for "the blues" and our knowledge regarding the music and its past, not all good. He just wasn't a very nice person, as his Skip James book attests, and he had his own psycho-sexual axes to grind. He lost me with his liner-note comment on a Yazoo Fuller LP that Blind Boy Fuller's record "Black & Tan" being about a "sexual perversion performed by Fuller and his wife". Cora Mae Allen should have sued his ass off, and Nick Perls should never published those liner notes. Looking back, I should have become a typical "America" and hired a lawyer for Cora: I did not partly because I was so taken aback by it all that I slunk away from it all. My bad.

Peter B.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: uncle bud on April 10, 2014, 04:49:40 AM
I'm really surprised and disappointed by this thread. I too saw nothing in the least wrong with the initial post/inquiry (and found much to be disturbed by in the responses).

I think I'll take a break from participating here.

-Peter

Hi Peter - I'm really sorry you feel that way and assume that my post is part of that disappointment. I'll just say it was not at all meant in any recriminatory way or as a put-down of tinpanallygurl. She asked why we can't we have an adult discussion. I was acknowledging the awkwardness of her position given her experience with Calt as a filter for discussions about blues players, and giving a frank explanation of why the thread set off alarm bells. I was saying if a thread begins with him and a quote from him that I think we can all agree is offensive, it is likely to remain about him, regardless of the original intent. And that because of those things, she might get some negative responses or opinions, since a bunch of us have been down that ugly road before. It's not her road and not her fault. It's Calt's road.

I think it's great that you recognize the difficulties women can have in your industry and you work to confront that, I really do. I am lucky and happy to work in a field with a majority of strong women, so maybe my own approach is coloured by that. I'll certainly keep that in mind.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Slack on April 10, 2014, 07:01:33 AM
Peter, I'm also sorry you feel that way.  But I must say I'm also disappointed that I cannot express a strong opinion about a proposed new topic without it being taken "bullying".

tinpanallygurl had a "heartbreaking" experience with Calt.  The topic is about Calt.  Been there, done that. Why would I be disappointed (regardless of if it is I who is an administrator)?... because the topic can go nowhere but down.  And the topic takes the discussion away from talking about music - which is what this site is all about.

tinpanallygurl did indeed get her adult discussion, so much so, that she has bailed out of the conversation.  And she also got the answer to her question as well.  And where has that gotten us? 

Well, it has alienated members for starters.  Inevitable. 

(edited to correct my misreading of who the anti semite/racist tinpanally was referring to and perhaps a premature declaring of a hit and run.)

Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: jrn on April 10, 2014, 08:54:20 AM
 I don't see any evidence of bullying. Tinpan wanted an adult conversation, and that's what she got, a civil adult conversation where opinions were expressed.  The powers that be wanted to make sure the conversation stayed civil, that's what we all want right?

Who cares if Calt might be racist? If so, its his hang up, not ours. As far racism goes, it's a fact of life unfortunately. Anybody who's been out and about in this world has seen it. Nothing new there. Nothing to add.

Jason
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: RobBob on April 10, 2014, 10:06:51 AM
I met some of the older blues giants as a very young man.  Never spent much time with many, and did with lesser known but good blues players.  They were bemused by the young white boy's interest in them but for the most part quite polite and helpful.  Some of them could drink but mostly they played and spoke and I listened.  With one fellow, Moses Rascoe, of little fame really, I became a fast friend and we played music in his kitchen, in bars and in concerts over several years.  Like all of the older folks I have known, he had far more to teach me than I had sense to learn.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: tinpanallygurl on April 10, 2014, 10:02:29 PM
Thank you Slack for the apology and to Uncle Bud for your insight.  No I didn't really get the answer to the question I asked but that hardly matters now.  Sorry for taking the focus off of music like our administrator and focused it on their a possible aspect of their life.  To those of you that read my little tid bit for what it was and responded likewise I appreciate it.  I do know my place now.  Before posting in the future I will make sure to search the weenie first.  I have learned my lesson well, and I hadn't responded not because I got my answer but because I am a bit heartbroken again thinking I had found a community to talk about these things without all the negatively I was warned about.  That is my fault for not listening.  I wont be posting toxic subjects or toxic topics, wont be alienating members anymore.

Weenie Campbell is also a reminder that, no matter how much of an enthusiast one might be, it is difficult to adopt an overly serious attitude if you call yourself a Weenie  (RIP) :(
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: jostber on April 11, 2014, 03:46:19 AM
I would check out Waterman's book which gives a respectful and balanced view from meetings and friendships with several of the great blues artists.

Between Midnight and Day

(https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fecx.images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FI%2F513UYXlL2HL._SX300_.jpg&hash=c53808966cab474305303e89ab181e5cdc84857e)

Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: jrn on April 11, 2014, 06:28:05 AM
Yep the Waterman book is really nice. I've got a signed copy. I found the parts about Bukka White particularly interesting.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: wreid75 on April 12, 2014, 06:58:10 PM
Well it think we lost another one.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: Bed Bug Bill on April 13, 2014, 03:29:59 AM



yes,  I've had enough too. Bedbug's been here and gone.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: JohnLeePimp on April 13, 2014, 12:45:41 PM
Moses Rascoe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDchVQdjNX8 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDchVQdjNX8)

It's always a fruitful discussion when people like that are brought to my attention :P He, like a lot of the bluesmen I've seen on film and heard on tape, seemed like a really cool guy, glad to be doing what he's doing.

I'm kind of befuddled by the cultural dissonance between the researcher guys and the rediscovered bluesman... I'd have thought a little patience was required when dealing with someone who's life you essentially plan to change  ::)
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: bnemerov on April 13, 2014, 02:30:01 PM
"I'm kind of befuddled by the cultural dissonance between the researcher guys and the rediscovered bluesman... I'd have thought a little patience was required when dealing with someone who's life you essentially plan to change "

Hi JohnLee,

If you are thinking of Calt, I'd say it's not so much cultural dissonance as personal disempathy (to coin a word).

And please keep in mind that there were fieldworkers (like our Oddenda, Geo. Mitchell, Ralph Rinzler, Art Rosenbaum, John Cohen and many others) who had no plans to change anyone's life. The good-hearted researchers I have known wanted only to disseminate art they liked to all who might find it interesting.

Of course you have some who exploited the artists in the copyright and booking/commercial recordings game. But I think these were fewer, if more visible.

best,
bruce
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: jphauser on April 13, 2014, 07:52:49 PM
But the leaders of the outgoing, "friendly brigade" were Hurt and Lipscomb. They were doing nothing but enjoying every experience that came their way and so were a joy to be around.


Great to hear that two of my favorites were leaders of the friendly brigade.   One of the great things about the blues is that the average fan has a chance to meet the stars.  I'll never forget a night at my favorite club when Floyd Dixon introduced himself to me and gave me an autographed picture of himself.  He was going around introducing himself to everyone.  Obviously, he was marketing himself but he was very genuine and having a great time.  Before that night I didn't know who he was, but now I've got several of his albums and still have that picture. 
Jim


Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: oddenda on April 13, 2014, 10:47:34 PM
The most effective and least damaging of "us" goes into the process with:

           A.) Some degree of knowledge regarding the person(s) and/or the music one is dealing with. [e.g. - having the Willie Walker on tape when Bastin and I met Baby Tate opened many doors for us];
           B.) A major degree of respect for the individual(s) one meets, not being aggressive and know-it-all;
           C.) Keeping an open mind and not being ruled by the so-called "accepted wisdom" floating about "our" community - letting things go where they may. This last is often the most difficult!

Today the process is greatly different from the '70s as there are "new" sources of information that were either non-existent when we were out and about, or banned to us as we were not family. [I tried to get my freckles to group together, but, alas...] The Wiley/Thomas piece demonstrates much of this info.

oddenda/Peter B.
Title: Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
Post by: wreid75 on April 14, 2014, 06:03:47 AM
Thanks Peter, James, Bruce, and others.  For those of us that stumbled upon this wonderful music after almost all of these great musicians died this is the kind of insight that makes us late to the party arrivals feel even closer to these musicians.  I for one am jealous of so man of you having the experiences you have had.  Not only were you born at the right time but you took the bull by the horns and sacrificed time and money to preserve and promote music that most people didn't know they wanted.  Just realize that sometimes new comer fans might ask some unusual questions because we will never have the opportunity for your experiences, and tid bits of your experiences that might not seem significant to you might be significant to us.  It could be for good reason too.  Randy just found out by asking lots of questions about a topic many feel is wore out that Willie Brown may have died in 1943 which would make him a different Willie than Willie Lee Brown.
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