The Unwound Third => Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards & Kazoos => Topic started by: Johnm on December 30, 2016, 06:59:36 AM

Title: Imitation bass?
Post by: Johnm on December 30, 2016, 06:59:36 AM
Hi all,
In the session information for a fair number of blues records from the late '30s and early '40s, "imitation bass" is listed as being among the instruments being played.  Does anyone know what exactly is being described by that designation?  Washtub bass?  Vocal imitation of a bass?  It's not a jug, judging by the sound.  I would love to know what they're talking about when they say "imitation bass".  Thanks for any clarification.
All best,
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: blueshome on December 30, 2016, 07:42:54 AM

It might be worth asking this on the Real Blues Forum.

My assumption and my ears tell me that it refers to both vocal effects and homemade instruments. It's normally Alfred Elkins if I remember correctly.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Mike Billo on December 30, 2016, 07:52:48 AM
 Yes, Alfred Elkins is the guy, most commonly associated with "imitation Bass"

 What I've been able to do, to imitate Elkins, is, fret the notes,  with the left hand, on the low E string of the Guitar and pluck the string, in upstrokes, with the index finger of the right hand, with the right hand positioned at the 7th-10th frets.
 To my ear, this produces the exact same sound Elkins acheived.
As to whether or not that was what Elkins was doing, we may never know, but I think that if you give it a try, you'll conclude, as I did, that it's almost certainly, what "imitation Bass" is   
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: frailer24 on December 31, 2016, 02:45:07 AM
I believe Elkins may have been using a modified washtub bass with a fixed neck, as the notes to my ear are lower than a guitar.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on December 31, 2016, 03:41:53 AM
Some other info that can be gleaned from B&GR. No theories attached, only questions.

on page xlv, in the section  "Abbreviations", "Instruments and General":

       "imb          imitation bass (tub-bass)"

Whether this explanation comes from session records or aural interpretation on the part of the editors is one question, the variability of which is discussed in the "Introduction".

on page 1348 in the "Index to Accompanists" Alfred Elkins entry states:

       "imb/sb/vocal bass/bass cano"

One question might be, aside from the double bass (sb), what are the chances that the other three are the same thing, described by different studios or A&R guys? But then again, the fact that he does play that double bass in some sessions indicates that he was adept at fretless fretting, and other than the "vocal bass", they might be a single string bass instrument (bass diddley bow?).

In fact Pan started a thread here (http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=8779.0) discussing the bass cano. There is some indication/speculation that it is a single string instrument and further that in may have been held by a long length of cane. One such instrument exists in the Smithsonian, but no online pics. (Mods: neither this topic nor that one have "Alfred Elkins" tags)

Someone with more time and obsession than me (and maybe you already have Mike B.) could run down the 2 dozen or so recording sessions he performed on and see how different the various designations sound. And whether there was maybe a correlation between labels and instruments, which wouldn't really mean too much but... Given the list of artists he backed, that would be an interesting couple days/weeks of listening.

Does anyone know any other accompanists listed playing the "imitation bass"? It wouldn't take too much time to scan through the "Index to Accompanists" to look for "imb" in every entry.... is there a plan to digitize B&GR?


Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Mike Billo on December 31, 2016, 06:56:45 AM
 To my ear (Which has proven to be flawed in the past ;)) the sonic properties of the Upright Bass and the Washtub Bass are both very different than what Elkins', imitation Bass, sounds like.
   The experiment, I've described, above, reproduces the sound of what Elkins was doing, pretty closely
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Chezztone on January 01, 2017, 08:30:21 AM
I've always thought he did it with his voice.

Sent from my Nexus 5X using Tapatalk

Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Rivers on January 19, 2017, 06:34:23 PM
is there a plan to digitize B&GR?

Only in my head. I tried once and quickly realized consumer grade OCR software and my scanner weren't up to it. That was about 10 years ago; I'd be up to page 27 by now if I'd stuck with it. Then take another few years to plug it into a database for really good searchability.

You can buy dedicated book scanners & software though. The key is to be able to hang the book off the edge and scan right up close to the spine. Most (all?) consumer scanner hardware has a big bezel around the scan area making them useless for scanning books, especially big fat ones like B&GR. You would have to destroy the book to scan it on the cheap.

And you need pro software to go with it. It has to be really smart, if you think about how B&GR is laid out, blocks of text columns, white space, all splattered around. A lot of OCR s/w doesn't handle columnar formatting very well.

Which is to say this would not be cheap, but it would be killer. And, of course, just as you get finished, a new edition comes out. It would be better to offer OUP a million quid for a digital copy; they have it.

And now back to Alfred Elkins, sorry for the hijack.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Stuart on January 19, 2017, 08:21:53 PM
is there a plan to digitize B&GR?

The hijack continues...

The UW Music Library has a copy of B&GR, so no need for me to shell out the bucks for my own copy or go through the rigamarole of scanning it. Anyway, doing so would be in violation of copyright laws unless it was done in accord with the terms of "fair use."

Adobe Acrobat 11 has a function that makes scanned texts searchable ("Text Recognition"). The way to do it is to go to a copy center with quality copiers--and inexpensive prices. Using a "mask," "edge erase," and "enlarge/reduce," you first make copies of the pages of the journal or book so each page proportionally fills an 8 1/2" x 11" page (as it comes out of the copier). Then you run the pages through your scanner using autofeed and save them as a single PDF file. Then you open the file in Acrobat 11 Pro and run the "Text Recognition" function that turns it into a searchable PDF file.

I've done this a few times for articles in old journals that aren't available as searchable text online. It's definitely handy to have the finished product, but requires an investment in time and copy costs to get there--Time and money you will never get back.

Edited to add: I just tried the "Text Recognition" function on the scan of the liner notes to the Herwin "Henry Thomas" LP that some of you are familiar with. Appears to work like a charm.

And some copy machines now have a scan to PDF and save to USB function that could be used to save a few steps.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Rivers on January 21, 2017, 01:33:55 PM
1424 pages!
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Rivers on January 21, 2017, 04:15:39 PM
I just discovered something quite good. You can, in fact, search for all the imb accompanists listed in B&GR

1. Go to the Amazon page for B&GR https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Gospel-Records-Robert-Dixon/dp/0198162391

2. Click on the LOOK INSIDE! link, top left, the book cover image

3. On the Look Inside popup find the 'Search Inside This Book' input box at bottom left and type 'imb'. A list appears under the search box.

It does not seem to be restricted to just the pages available when you scroll through the body of the book. Heres what I got listed. It's not terribly helpful in this form but on the amazon popup you can click on the item and it takes you to the page, or close to it, I had to scroll to find the few references I checked:

?Shine On Moon (Shine On Shine On) De 7390 Acc. own g; unknown, sb or imb-1?
?recorded 15 October 1945. Acc. own p; Tampa Red, g; Alfred Elkins, imb ...
?BOONE 93 Son Bonds, \fig; Sleepy John Estes, g; Raymond Thomas, imb&b?
?BB B8784 064004-1 Me, Myself, And I BB 88784 Acc. own p; Alfred Elkins, imb.
?Streamline Love Doctor Clayton, v; acc. Blind John Davis, p; Alfred Elkins, imb.
?"BIG BOY" CRUDUP Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup, v; acc. own g; Joe McCoy, imb. C?
?Boys: John Estes, givilead v-1; Son Bonds, &had v-2; Raymond Thomas, imb. C?
... prob. Bob White, p; unknown, imb. Chicago 053397-1 That's All Right?
?De 7420 Acc. prob. Edgar Saucier, as-1; Honey Hill, p; own g; unknown, imb-2?
... v; acc own h; Big Bill Broonzy, g; Alfred Elkins, imb; Amanda Sorter, wb.
?The Blues TONY HOLLINS Tony Hollins, v; acc. prob. own g; unknown, imb; ?
?BB B8338, MW M8791 Acc. own g; unknown, 2nd g; prob. Alfred Elkins, imb ..
?Blues ROBERT LOCKWOOD Robert Lockwood, v; acc. own g; Alfred Elkins, imb.
?Minnie BB 88704 053743-1 Elsie Blues BB B8725 Acc. own g; Joe McCoy, imb ...
?v/g; Charlie McCoy, md; poss. Ransom Knowling or Alfred Elkins, imb; Ama?
?of this name, comprising Dick, Leo, h; Tony, cl; Sam, g; Smokey, imb; J?
... Blind John Davis, p; Lonnie Johnson, gisp-1; Willie Mitchell, imb. Chi?
... Roosevelt Sykes, pisp-1; Alfred Elkins, imb. Chicago. Tuesday, 11 November 19?
?Jimmy, v; acc. Roosevelt Sykes, p; Big Bill Broonzy, g; Alfred Elkins, imb. C?
... ROBERT PETWAY Robert Petway, v; acc. own g; prob. Alfred Elkins, imb.
... own p; unknown, imb-I; unknown, vb-2. Chicago. Friday, 30 April 1937 912?
... Robert Lee McCoy, h; own g; Alfred Elkins, imb. Chicago. Friday, 1 August?
... imb-3; Washboard Sam, wbiv. Monday, 14 March 1938 Revs: Bluebird B?
?MW M8803 BB B8500, MW M8805 BB B8500, MW M8805 g; unknown, imb?
... Leroy Bachelor, imb; Washboard Sam, wb/v; Josephine Kyles, sp-1.
... BOB WHITE Bob White "The Woogie Man", v; acc. own p; unknown, imb. Ch?
... own g; William Mitchell, imb. Chicago. 053989-1 Crawlin' King Snake 053?
... own h; Blind John Davis, p; Big Bill Broonzy, g; prob. William Mitchell, imb. Chic?
... Acc. own h; Blind John Davis, p; Charlie McCoy, g; Alfred Elkins, imb-1; Was?
?1008; Sonny Boy Williamson, 1046 *McCoy, Joe (Kansas Joe), g/imb A?
?Louis, d Ciro's Club Coon Orchestra, 160 Mitchell, William 'Willie', imb Clara?
?111 Thomas, Percy, g McKinley Morganfield, 663 Thomas, Raymond, imb?

It's a hack, and flakier than upstate NY in December, but better than nothing. It also indicates Amazon or a third party have the whole book scanned.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 11:47:42 AM
Well Riv, I just put some good old hard work into it and spent some down time over the last few weeks copying info by typing into a Word doc, and my results look a lot more useful. Here's the list of imb players I came up with by just visually scanning the Index to Accompanists (about 45 pages). At first I was going to include sb (double bass) and bb, (brass bass or tuba) but that was way too much. I did include j (jug) due to my own personal interest, and any other instrument that seemed like a string or aural bass sound. The Index to Accompanists doesn't include those players who's name appears only on recordings as a primary artist, so I added Gus Cannon who only appears on the list as a banjo player since all his jug work was for the band bearing his name. Those artists who also recorded as primary artists are marked by an asterisk, altho they may or may not have played the instrument designated in their own recordings. If anyone can think of another imb or j player who only recorded as a primary artist please let me know. Bands and page numbers of entries in B&GR are given.

AccompanistInstrumentsPrimary Artist & B&GR Page Number
Leroy Ba(t)chelorimbWashboard Sam 987
Thomas James Carrolltin-can bull-fiddleNashville Washboard Band 672
*Gus CannonjCannon?s Jug Stompers 136-7
ClaybornjCharles Griffin 329
Henry CliffordjDixieland Jug Blowers 218
Al CollinsimbJazz Gillum 299
Willie Dixonbass canoThe Five Breezes 262
Alfred Elkinsimb, sb, v bass, bass canoSee full discography below
*D.M. ?Doctor? HiggsjJack Kelly 505
HoneycupjBirmingham Jug Band 73
*Jab JonesjCharlie Burse 125; Memphis Jug Band 612-5; Picaninny Jug Band 720; Will Shade 788; Minnie Wallace 978
*Sam Jones (Stovepipe No. 1)stovepipeKing David?s Jug Band 508
Ham(bone) LewisjKaiser Clifton 165; Noah Lewis 544; Memphis Jug Band 613-4
*Joe McCoyimbArthur ?Big Boy? Crudup 188; Tommy McClennon 558
*Earl McDonaldjDixieland Jug Blowers 218-19; Ben Ferguson 256; John Harris 357; Clifford Hayes 366; Sara Martin 604; Old Southern Jug Band 691; Jimmie Rodgers 767
Jonesie MackwashtubPlantation Echoes 723
Mississippi SarahjTampa Red 887
William ?Willie? Mitchellimb, bass canoClara Morris 664; Yank Rachel 737; Washboard Sam 987; Joe Williams 1039; Sonny Boy Williamson 1045
Hammie NixonjSon Bonds 92; Leothus (Lee) Green 327 (poss)
Charlie PolkjMemphis Jug Band 611-12
Roosevelt PursleyjTommie Bradley 99; James Cole 166-7
Raymond ThomasimbSon Bonds 93; Sleepy John Estes 248
Rudolph J ThompsonjWhistler And His Jug Band 1013
B.D. TitejWhistler And His Jug Band 1012
James WardjFour Southern Singers 271
Sarah WatsonjDaddy Stovepipe And Mississippi Sarah 192
Clarence WilliamsjSeven Gallon Jug Band 787

Well, no matter what I do, the formatting wrecks havoc on my nice columns. I'll post Alfred Elkins expanded discography in a new post.


[wax, I reformatted the list using table markup to get you a nice column format - rivers]
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 01:09:49 PM
So here is Alfred Elkins complete discography in chronological order, except on days when he did sessions with two different bands I wasn't able to assess which came first. This was a really interesting project so thanks much, Johnm for bringing this up. It is amazing to see all the artists he accompanied and also played along side of.

Alfred Elkins appears to be a pretty popular studio player, late in the pre-war era, for Bluebird and some for Vocalion, both recording in Chicago. He starts out in '38 with Vocalion playing sb (double bass) behind Blind John Davis' piano with George Barnes playing an eg (electric guitar!). The following year he has three sessions performing v bass, the first with Merline Johnson, (The Yas Yas Girl) and two more with Jesse Coleman (Monkey Joe) and then Roosevelt Scott. Having listened to some of the Yas Yas Girl sides, he is very clearly just singing do do doo do do do doo basslines. (I'll present some example from YouTube in a later post)

In 1940 he has moved over to Bluebird and is recorded playing imb for the first time. He is first heard as part of a vocal quintet, the Lewis Bronzeville Five, in which he sings the baritone harmony and plays imb at the same time. The second session is on the same date as a Jazz Gillum session. The listing is "prob Alfred Elkins or Al Collins, imb;". Elkins went on to play several Jazz Gillum sessions in the next few years, and this could have been his big break. A couple weeks later he was brought in to back Lonnie Johnson.

I'll post these years and hope they fit within the limit, Wherever (poss....) or (prob....) appears it read "poss Alfred Elkins" in the entry, with the instrument listed after.

Alfred Elkins Discography 1938-40

38.04.07   sb   Blind John Davis v,p; George Barnes eg,       Chicago   Vo
   Jersey Cow Blues
   Booze Drinking Benny

38.05.19    sb   Blind John Davis v,p; George Barnes eg,       Chicago   Vo
   Alley Woman Blues
   Got The Blues So Bad

38.11.10    sb   Blind John Davis v,p; George Barnes eg-1,       Chicago   Vo
   I Love My Josephine -1
   Anna Lou Breakdown

39.08.31   v bass      Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) v;      Chicago   Vo
         And Her Jazz Boys: Lee Collins t; Buster Bennett as;
         prob. Joshua Altheimer p; unknown g;
   Fine And Mellow
   Nobody Knows How I Feel
   I Need You By My Side
   You Can?t Have None Of That
   I Got To Have It Daddy
   Don?t Have To Sing The Blues
   You?re A Pain In The Neck To Me
   I?d Rather Be Drunk
   I Just Keep On Drinking

39.09.13   v bass      Monkey Joe (Jesse Coleman) v, p;      Chicago   Vo, OK-1
          And His Music Grinders: Buster Bennett as,
         Big Bill Broonzy g;
   You Don?t Have To Tell Me
   Carry My Business On
   Mountain Baby Blues
   Just Give Some Away
   Bad Luck Man Blues -1
   Bitin? On Me
   Old Man Blues -1
   McComb City Blues -1
    Same Cat
   We Can?t Get Along -1

39.09.13   v bass (prob?.)   Roosevelt Scott v;         Chicago   Vo
         prob. Jesse Coleman p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   Black Gal Blues
   Send Me An Angel Down
   Do You Call That Right?
   Brown Skin Woman Swing

40.04.11   bar v,imb   Lewis Bronzeville Five (Mabel      Chicago   BB
         Sanford Lewis mngr.) Royale Brent lead v;
         Arthur Butler tenor v, tiple; Benny Holman tenor v,g;
         Clyde Townes bass v,g;
   Laughing At Life
   Linda Brown
   Cotton Blosom Blues
   Low Down Gal Blues

 40.05.09   bar v,imb   Lewis Bronzeville Five (Mabel      Chicago   BB
         Sanford Lewis mngr.) Royale Brent lead v;
         Arthur Butler tenor v, tiple; Benny Holman tenor v,g;
         Clyde Townes bass v,g;
   Mississippi Fire Blues
   Natchez Mississippi Blues
   Oh! Mabel, Oh!
   It Can Happen To You

40.05.09   imb (prob?. or Al Collins) Jazz Gillum v,h;      Chicago   BB
         Big Bill Broonzy g;
   I Sure Had A Kick
   She Belongs To Me
   Longest Train Blues
   Key To The Highway

40.05.22   imb (prob?.)   Lonnie Johnson v,g;   unknown g;      Chicago   BB
   Be Careful
   I?m Just Dumb
   Don?t Be No Fool
   Get Yourself Together
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Johnm on January 22, 2017, 01:28:37 PM
Thanks very much, Wax, for pursuing this issue so vigorously, and spending so much time compiling this information in a digestible format.  What you've discovered so far would seem to indicate that "imitation bass" was not a single thing, even for Alfred Elkins, since on some recordings he supplied it vocally, and other others he could not possibly have done that, since he was singing a baritone part simultaneous with providing the imitation bass.
I guess I would be interested to know if for imitation bass players/singers other than Alfred Elkins, if the effect was achieved a variety of ways, or was most often achieved via a specific means, e.g. vocally, washtub bass, or something else.  Probably many or most of the recordings by imitation bass players other than Alfred Elkins have not widely been heard, but maybe they have been.  Thanks again for your industry and diligence, Wax.
All best,
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 01:49:32 PM
1941 was Elkins biggest year, and the list of performers he backed and played with is amazing. He was particularly busy toward the end of the year. The first session, in March, was another with Jazz Gillum and is Elkins first listing as playing bass cano. The B&GR listing states "prob. Alfred Elkins, bass cano [sic, per Bluebird files];". Broonzy and Washboard Sam rounded out the group. The bass cano is very audible on most of the 4 titles recorded and I'll post YouTube versions in a later post. A week later he backs Robert Petway's first session on imb.

Then in July he backs Willie ?61? Blackwell for a set (imb), a couple weeks later possibly plays with Big Joe (Joe McCoy) And His Rhythm. The listing states "prob. Ransom Knowling or Alfred Elkins, imb;" and also playing were Robert Lee McCoy, h, Charley McCoy, md, and Amanda Sortier, wb. The next day he was back in with Gillum on imb along with Broonzy and Amanda Sorter. A week later he backed Robert Lockwood for 4 sides and a couple days after that Walter Vincson (imb)

His output in the last two months of '41 are amazing: 12 different sessions and 70 sides recorded. I won't bother to list all the artists, but it's a veritable who's who of late pre-war era recording artists. on 12/12/41 he backed Joe Williams on bass cano for 6 sides (inc. Baby Please Don't Go) for Bluebird and also backed Memphis Minnie on sb for 8 sides with Little Son Joe and then backed Little Son Joe on sb for a couple sides.
Minnie and Joe were recording for OK/Columbia. A week later he finished the year backing Big Maceo next to Tampa Red. Musta had a good Christmas that year.

Alfred Elkins Discography 1941

41.03.20   bass cano [sic, per Bluebird files] (prob?.)         Chicago   BB
         Jazz Gillum v,h; Big Bill Broonzy g; Washboard Sam wb;
   I?m Still Walking The Hi-Way
   Get Your Business Straight
   Muddy Pond Blues
   Little Woman

41.03.28   imb   Robert Petway v,g;               Chicago   BB
   Catfish Blues
   Ride ?Em On Down
   Rockin? Chair Blues
   My Little Girl
   Let Me Be Your Boss
   Left My Baby Crying
   Sleepy Woman Blues

41.07.03   imb   Willie ?61? Blackwell v,g;            Chicago   BB
   She?s Young And Wild
   Noiseless Motor Blues
   Don't Misuse Me, Baby
   Bald Eagle Blues
   Four O'Clock Flower Blues
   Chalk My Toy
   Machine Gun Blues
   Rampaw Street Blues

41.07.23   imb (prob. Ransom Knowlings or?)          Chicago   BB
         Big Joe (Joe McCoy) v,g; And His Rhythm:   
         prob. Robert Lee McCoy h; Charlie McCoy md;
         Amanda Sortier wb;
   What Will I Do?
   Oh! Red?s Twin Brother
   We Can?t Agree
   Let?s Try It Again

41.07.24   imb    Jazz Gillum v,h; Big Bill Broonzy g;      Chicago   BB
         Amanda Sorter wb;
   Riley Springs Blues
   That?s What Worries Me
   I Got Somebody Else
   Maybe You?ll Love Me Too
   It Looks Bad For You   
   Me And My Buddy

41.07.30   imb   Robert Lockwood v,g;            Chicago   BB
   Black Spider Blues
   I?m Gonna Train My Baby
   Little Boy Blue
   Take A Little walk With Me

41.08.01   imb   Walter Vincson v,g; Robert Lee McCoy h;      Chicago   BB
   Every Dog Must Have His Day
   You Know What You Promised Me
   Gulf Coast Bay
   Rosa Lee Blues
   Can?t Get A Word In Edgeways
   She?s Leaving Me

41.11.04   imb   Washboard Sam v, wb; And His Washboard   Chicago   BB
         Band: Memphis Slim p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   Let Me Play Your Vendor
   Broadcast Blues
   Gonna Hit The Highway
   I?ve Been Treated Wrong
   Evil Blues
   Get Down Brother
   Lover?s Lane Blues
   You Stole My Love

41.11.11   imb   Peter J. ?Doctor? Clayton v,         Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p
   Doctor Clayton Blues
   Watch Out Mama
   Cheating And Lying Blues
   Gotta Find My Baby

41.11.11   imb   St Louis Jimmy (Jimmy Olden) v;         Chicago   BB
         Roosevelt Sykes p,sp-1;
   Monkey Face Blues -1
   Come Day Go Day
   Lost Ball Blues
   Going Down Slow

41.11.21   sb   Roosevelt Sykes (The Honey Dripper) v,p;      Chicago   Co, OK-1
   Mellow Queen Swing
   Floating Power Blues
   Make Up Your Mind
   Training Camp Blues -1
   Back Biting Snitchers
   You Got To Run Me Down
   From The Cradle To The Grave
   Motherless Child

41.12.04   imb   Peter Chatman v,p;               Chicago   BB
   Whiskey And Gin Blues
   You Gonna Worry Too
   This Life I?m Living
   Caught the Old Coon At Last
   Don?t Think That You?re Smart
   Lend Me Your Love

41.12.05   sb or imb         Jazz Gillum v,h; Horace Malcom p;      Chicago   BB
         Big Bill Broonzy g;
   It?s All Over Now
   War Time Blues
   You Are Doing Me Wrong
   One Letter Home
   Down South Blues
   You Drink Too Much Whiskey
   No Friend Blues
   From Now On

41.12.11   imb   Sonny Boy Williamson v,h;            Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p; Charlie McCoy g;
   Ground Hog Blues
   Black Panther Blues
   Broken Heart Blues

41.12.11   bass cano   Yank Rachel v,g;             Chicago   BB
         Sony Boy Williamson h, sp-1;Washborad Sam wb;
   Yellow Yam Blues
   Tappin?That Thing
   Rainy Day Blues
   Peach Tree Blues
   She Loves Who She Please
   Bye Bye Blues
   Loudella Blues -1

41.12.12   bass cano   Joe Williams v,g; Sonny Boy Williamson h;   Chicago   BB
   Throw A Boogie Woogie
   North Wind Blues
   Please Don?t Go
   Highway 49
   Someday Baby
   Break ?Em On Down

41.12.12   sb   Memphis Minnie v,g; Little Son Joe g;      Chicago   OK, Co-1
   I?m Not A Bad Girl
   You Got To Get Out Of Here -1
   Don?t Turn The Card -1
   Looking The World Over
   It Was You Baby
   You Need A Friend -1
   I Am Sailin? -1
   Remember Me Blues -1

41.12.12   sb   Little Son Joe v,g; Memphis Minnie g;      Chicago   OK, Co-1
   Black Rat Swing
   Just Had To Holler-1

41.12.19   imb   Big Maceo v/p, Tampa Red g            Chicago   BB
   Tuff Luck Blues
   I Got The Blues
   It?s All Up To You
   Bye, Bye, Baby
   Why Should I Hang Around?
   Poor Kelly Blues


Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 02:00:03 PM
Not done yet, Johnm. I'll finish off 1942 and then post some YouTube selections in which the various instruments are quite audible. I think it is labelled "v bass" in the sessions where he used his voice, "sb" when he was playing a standard double bass, and either "imb" or "bass cano" is when he was playing a washtub bass. I'll discuss this with the samples. Most of his recordings are available on youtube, and if good audio equipment is used, ie headphones, his playing and tonal characteristics are quite audible in many cases.

Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 02:16:07 PM
Elkins career seems to wind down a bit in 1942, ending at the end of July. As the war effort was starting up the recording industry itself may have been winding down. B&GR covers through the end of 1943 and Elkins has no recordings in the final pre-war year. Many of the artists he backed continue to record post-war but I have no reference to that era to know if Elkins continue to record, and if so on sb or imb. He does finish strong with another session with Petway, a session each with St Louis Jimmy and Doctor Clayton, possibly one with Roosevelt Sykes, another with Sonny Boy Williamson and a final session with Gillum. Interestingly Blind John Davis, whom Elkins was first recorded with in '38, plays piano on these last two sessions, recorded on the same day.

Alfred Elkins Discography 1942

42.02.20   imb   Robert Petway v,g;               Chicago   BB
         poss Tommy McCennan v-1,sp-1
   Bertha Lee Blues
   Hard Working Woman
   Ar?nt Nobody?s Fool
   Boogie Woogie Woman -1
   Hollow Log Blues
   In The Evening
   My Baby Left Me
   Cotton Pickin? Blues

42.03.25   imb   St Louis Jimmy (Jimmy Olden) v;         Chicago   BB
         Roosevelt Sykes p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   St Louis Woman Blues
   Poor Boy Blues
   Back On My Feet Again
   Nothing But Blues
   Soon Forget You
   Can?t Stand Your Evil Ways

42.03.27   imb   Peter J. ?Doctor? Clayton v,         Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p, Ransom Knowling bb
   Honey Stealing Blues
   My Own Blues
   On The Killing Floor
   Moonshine Woman Blues
   Pearl Harbor Blues
   Ain?t No Business We Can Do

42.04.16   sb (poss?)   Roosevelt Sykes (The Honey Dripper) v,p;   Chicago   Co, OK-1
         unknown eg;
   Sugar Babe Blues -1
   The World Is Upside Down
   I Got You Figured Out
   Are You Unhappy?
   You Can?t Do That To Me
   You Done Got Hip
   Love Has Something To Say
   The Old Hog Pen

42.07.30   imb   Sonny Boy Williamson v,h;            Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   Love Me Baby
   What?s Gettin? Wrong With You
   Blues That Made Me Drunk
   Come On Baby And Take A Walk

42.07.30   sb or imb         Jazz Gillum v,h-1;            Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   I?m Gonna Leave You On The Outskirts Of Town -1
   I Couldn?t Help It Blues -1
   My Big Money -1
   Woke Up Cold In Hand -1
   Water Pipe Blues -1
   Tell Me, Mama
   Deep Water Blues
   You?re Tearing Your Playhouse Down-1

Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 05:52:54 PM
Okay, so now it's listen and decide for yourself time. It is remarkable how much of Elkin's music is available on YT and much thanks to people like Nico Fornier and randomandrare for making high decent sound files available. Elkins playing is well represented in the recordings and benefitted from microphone technology's constant improvement.

So first is from Elkins original session and he is playing sb, the double bass. Included for comparison, note the rich tone and sustain the instrument has.


Next is the session with Merline Johnson in which he is credited with "v bass" and you can pretty well hear him sing a do do do doohdo doohdo bass line. This and the other two sessions in 1939 are the only sessions credited as v bass.


From the first session in which Elkins is credited with playing the imb, while also singing the baritone part. You can clearly hear the quick decay thinner tone. In the stop time section around 1:05 you can hear the bass well and I think he strikes hard for volume causing that metallic rattle that is distinctive of a washtub.


At about 1:50 Lonnie calls Alfred out for a solo. Yup!


Elkins is first credited playing "bass cano" in his second session with Jazz Gillum, and his playing has the boldness of being more rehearsed. His technique seems to have improved, slightly softer decay, just grazing the metallic rattle nicely. Or is it a slightly different instrument? Why wouldn't he experiment with different washtubs or substitutes, or different string material? Or were they just having a laugh? Well, the only other players credited playing a bass cano were a William "Willie" Mitchell and a Willie Dixon. (Don't know if this is the famed post-war bass player, but this is his only pre-war credit.) All three were recorded by Bluebird in Chicago, in a little over a year, and the first was Willie Dixon who was backing The Five Breezes, a vocal group, on 11/15/40 (sorry, US style). Next was Elkins at this session on 3/20/41, then, a couple weeks later, Mitchell played the bass cano backing Yank Rachel on 4/03/41. The "instrument" seems to have lain dormant for a while, until Rachel came back into the studio on 12/11/41 and it was resurrected in Elkins hands. He then used it the next day backing Joe Williams and it hasn't been heard since. My money would be on it being a joke. Maybe a new tub or something, so it was christened with a special name. Or maybe it is a long piece of hollow cane with a single string? Sounds pretty similar to Elkins playing the imb, particularly as through '41 his technique and tone got much better.


And here is Elkins behind Robert Petway in Petway's first session.


And here with Willie ?61? Blackwell. Elkins stays out of the way of Blackwells soft playing but comes in nicely in places.


Had to put one in from the Big Joe (Joe McCoy) And His Rhythm: session, even if B&GR says "prob. Ransom Knowlings or Alfred Elkins, imb;". It's just fun to hear Joe, Charley and Robert Lee McCoy. If it is Knowlings it's his only imb credit.


That's about half of the selections I found. I'll post now and not sure if I'll finish tonight.

Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 22, 2017, 09:06:31 PM
Looking now at the last year of Elkins recordings. At the end of July, 1941, he is backing Robert Lockwood. Elkins bass seems to keep right in unison with Lockwood?s bass drone, an octave lower, and together the make a powerful beat, yet he steps out with fills here and there.


The next day he is playing behind Walter Vincson with Robert Lee McCoy. Terrific guitar, harp washtub instrumental around 1:35


A few months later he is back with Washboard Sam, Broonzy and Memphis Slim. Instrumental around 1:20.


Skipping forward a bit we find Elkins backing Sonny Boy Williamson, with Blind John Davis and Charley McCoy. Elkins is kind of in the mix, but comes out at times, particularly during instrumental around 1:35


The same day Elkins was backing Yank Rachel with Sonny Boy and Washboard Sam Now there?s a group. Someone seems to have found the bass cano for Elkins to play and he is very relaxed on this hot version of Tappin? That Thing. Instrumental around :55 and again at 1:45


Elkins is back the next day playing the bass cano for the last time behind Big Joe Williams, with Sonny Boy Williams joining in too. Another super group.

I think the bass cano thing was a joke, either between the musicians or one of the A&R guys and the players. I thinkit has pretty much the same aural qualities as the imb.


Elkins last session in 1941 was behind Big Maceo with Tampa Red. When he gets out from behind Maceo?s left hand Elkins is playing in top form.


My last selection is from Robert Petway?s second session, which has Elkins listed as playing imb, and tone and decay wise it sounds like other sides from the era, but at about 1:15 he pulls off a ?slap bass? solo that I cannot imagine could be done on a washtub bass, unless possibly he used a fixed neck washtub.


So, a little controversy to end it. I still think that imb represents a washtub bass. That is certainly what B&GR states they mean and if it was used by discographers at the sessions, I think that?s what they meant, too. That doesn?t mean that mistakes don?t happen. But to me most of what I hear in the recordings where Elkins is indicated as playing imb or bass cano, are consistent with a washtub bass using a heavy steel core or steel cable string. This gives the best tone, I believe, and I think Elkins would have experimented to get the best tone.

Anyway, thanks again, Johnm for piquing my interest. I?m hoping to go ahead and take another pass through the Index of Accompanists to pull out players of various jug band instruments, but not right away. And now I?ve got an itch to make my own washtub.

Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Slack on January 24, 2017, 10:29:31 AM
I haven't gone through all of it - but fabulous stuff Wax.  This is kind of the instrumental version of SOTM!

I don't know if you've ever talked to Washtub Jerry about washtub bass making, but he is always happy to tell you his process, even at the risk of telling you more than you want to know.  I thought he was kidding the first time he told me he used a porsche clutch cable.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Stuart on January 24, 2017, 11:31:46 AM
Thanks for all the time and effort that you put into this, Wax. I haven't had  chance to get through all of it, but I'll keep working my way through as time permits.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: eric on January 24, 2017, 11:37:10 AM
Wow, herculean effort Wax, great stuff.  Bonus points for Robert Petway.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Rivers on January 24, 2017, 04:28:57 PM
Nice one wax! Should be in Weeniepedia methinks.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: waxwing on January 24, 2017, 11:37:08 PM
Hey, thanks all. It was actually pretty fun, once I got going. It?s amazing how B&GR can really give you an insight into what was going on in these recoding studios once you start sorting things out by date.

Slack, a clutch cable is a brilliant idea. Since I?m still driving a 1971 VW Squareback, which has a very similar rear-situated ?pancake? or flat 4 engine to the early ?70s Porsche 911 (and the same D Jetronic fuel injection) I may already have just the thing. Can?t picture it at the moment, but I know one end has some sort of fixture swaged on, which might make for a very elegant means of affixing to the center of the tub. I had already sussed that the method of attachment is important in transmitting the vibration efficiently. Food for thought. Only saw Jerry one year at PT and never got to talking with him. Thanks for the tip.

I was already pretty aware that a twisted steel cable was an optimal string. Lloyd Elliot, who played with my old jug band, The Croker Sack Boys, used something around a 3/32? cable and got excellent tone. Here?s a version of Canned Heat we did at a garden party (in Piedmont CA would you believe?). I think you can hear how similar the decay and tonal qualities Lloyd creates are to the recordings of Alfred Elkins. And he?s bare handing the right hand, only using a glove for "fretting", so you know he doesn?t have to overplay to get volume. Lloyd and the harp player, Ben Burdick, were pretty new to the band, so you might want to jump in to the 1:00 mark where they?ve gotten settled in. Nice solo by Ben around 2:10. Totally recorded through a shotgun mic on the camera about 8-10 feet away. I just placed everybody to get a good mix. Worked out.


Weeniepedia away, Riv.

Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Slack on January 25, 2017, 06:59:46 AM
Yeah, that washtub bass really comes through - good recording.

Of course Washtub Jerry uses his own setup and technique, but I think there are some things you might learn from him.  He likes mexican galvanized tubs for example and he works the tops as smooth as possible to get rid of overtones.  anyway, keep us posted on your tub project. 
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: Rivers on January 25, 2017, 10:17:58 AM
Mexican galv tubs will be subject to a HUGE import tariff, as will Porsche clutch cables.

It's going to be GREAT, you'll absolutely love it, believe me.
Title: Re: Imitation bass?
Post by: eric on January 25, 2017, 10:40:20 AM
We'll just toss them over the wall.   ;)
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