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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: Johnm on September 02, 2008, 10:41:40 AM

Title: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on September 02, 2008, 10:41:40 AM
Hi all,
It struck me recently that that skills involved in "seconding" a lead guitarist well have never been properly acknowledged, and are not encountered all that often.  It's a skill that is particularly rarely encountered nowadays, partially because there are so few working Country Blues guitar duos.  I thought it might be fun to list notably strong seconding guitarists of the past.  These need not have been people who only operated in that capacity.  The first one I'll name was also a stellar soloist.  Anyhow, I'll get the ball rolling with just a couple of people that come to mind.  More people will be able to participate if we add only one or two players at a time to the list.  Here goes:
   * Curley Weaver.  His seconding behind Blind Willie McTell, and especially Fred McMullen, on numbers like "Man Of My Own" and "Dekalb Chain Gang", could almost be taken as object lessons on how to approach the role of a seconding guitarist.  Whether playing flat-picked bass runs or providing chordal accompaniment, Curley just seemed to make everything around him sound better.
   *  Frank Brasswell.  I don't know anything about him other than the fact that he backed Bill Broonzy on several numbers.  If they had only ever recorded "Grandma's Farm", Brasswell would still have to be accorded staus as one of the greatest seconding guitarists ever, because that is "die-happy" stuff, just spectacular.
Do any others come to mind?
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: dj on September 02, 2008, 12:01:59 PM
Hi, John

This is a thought-provoking topic!  I'd like to mention Buddy Moss.  He recorded 8 titles seconding Josh White in New York City in August of 1935, and whether Moss is playing bass runs or leads, I think his playing never gets in White's way and always adds something to the song.  Interestingly, at the same session Moss recorded 9 blues titles with White seconding, and these, to my ears, are not nearly as interesting.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: blueshome on September 02, 2008, 12:04:49 PM
Joe McCoy with Minnie.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Slack on September 02, 2008, 12:06:37 PM
Dan Sane for Frank Stokes - who I believe influenced Joe and Minnie.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Prof Scratchy on September 02, 2008, 12:10:04 PM
... and Will Batts...?
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: waxwing on September 02, 2008, 12:29:12 PM
Scratch, I guess you're referring to Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band and various recordings under other names, such as the two with Will Batts singing. I think in all cases, including the Will Batts sides, Dan Sane (listed as Dan Sing) would be said to be seconding the guitar playing of Jack Kelly. Batts plays fiddle on all the jug band sides and sings his two sides to only Kelly's and Sane's accompaniment (probably according to BG&R).

It certainly is great seconding. We were looking at the "Highway 61" family of songs, where the lead guitar is in Spanish, before heading up to PT and Sane's second guitar (played in C tuned to standard at Db) really makes the sound.

All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: banjochris on September 02, 2008, 02:14:23 PM
Henry Townsend and Big Joe Williams together -- they trade off the lead in "Somebody's Been Borrowing That Stuff" but never get in each other's way. Also, I'm assuming that it's the two of them backing up Walter Davis on "Sloppy Drunk Blues," which is an amazing performance from all concerned.

Roy Harvey backing Leonard Copeland (I think that's the arrangement -- maybe someone knows different).

Also, although I don't think he made any recordings with another guitarist, I'd put Blind Blake in this category. His backup in bands as well as his accompaniments to Gus Cannon are excellent.
Chris
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: unezrider on September 02, 2008, 03:21:15 PM
hello friend,
i have always loved the duets of lonnie johnson & eddie lang, among others already mentioned.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: dugrougnard on September 02, 2008, 04:14:34 PM
don't forget Willie Brown with Charley Patton and Son House . Great
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Mr.OMuck on September 02, 2008, 08:50:58 PM
Predictably: Gary Davis' seconding of Blind Boy Fuller.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on September 03, 2008, 11:56:11 AM
Hi all,
I thought of another seconding guitarist whose work I particularly like:  Sylvester Weaver's playing partner, Walter Beasley.  Beasley is the only seconding specialist I can think of who routinely played slide.  His work behind Weaver was terrific, with especially strong use of the slide to play bass runs and exciting register changes between the bass and the treble.  I think the use of a slide for a seconding guitarist is something that might merit some examination for anybody out there who gets to play with another guitarist on a regular basis.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: jostber on September 04, 2008, 09:08:23 AM
Brother Uaroy Graves with Roosevelt Graves! F.ex. on the wonderful "Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)" and "I'll Be Rested (When The Roll is Called".
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on September 04, 2008, 11:47:28 AM
Hi jostber,
There is no second guitar on the songs you cite.  It's all Roosevelt Graves, which gives you an idea of how impressive his playing is, that it could be taken for two guitars.  Uaroy (actually Leroy) played tambourine, and he's a rocking tambourine player, on "Woke Up this Morning" and possibly, "I'll Be Rested", too.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: oddenda on October 18, 2008, 07:16:42 AM
While it was only a "studio" band, how about Josh White & Buddy Moss in '35(?); they met at the ARC studios and found that SC and GA melded well. FINE music resulted as one backed the other on each other's sides.

Peter B.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: lindy on October 18, 2008, 07:32:19 AM
I know that y'all are talking about seconding guitarists who regularly played that role over a long time, but I'll add another name of someone who, to my knowledge, only appeared as a seconding guitarist twice: Joe Callicott, behind Garfield Akers on "Cottonfield Blues" parts 1 and 2. When driving back to New Orleans a couple of weeks back my ears really locked into those two sides, I kept hitting the replay button on my CD player.

I know that the two of them have been mentioned on this site regarding the "Hernando sound," but is there any evidence that Callicott did some other seconding?

Lindy
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on October 18, 2008, 03:52:59 PM
Hi all,
Another seconding guitarist who excelled in that role, despite very limited exposure (like Joe Callicott behind Garfield Akers, as Lindy cited), is Sam Brooks, the back-up guitarist for Willie Walker.  There were only three titles for Willie and Sam, I believe, two takes of "South Carolina Rag" and "Betty and Dupree", but in that very limited amount of time on record they create the impression of a smoothly operating unit, that sounded as though they could easily have done far more material than they had an opportunity to do.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: oddenda on October 18, 2008, 06:14:46 PM
Johnm -

          Good thinking... didn't mention them as thought it too obscure! They recorded four songs, only two released, in 1930 the one single's initial sales were 750 copies, if my memory serves me right. The two unreleased songs have not survived. Josh White described blind Willie Walker as the "Art Tatum of blues guitar". Baby Tate said, "He played in all the keys with all his fingers"! Tate also said that Brooks always had a tobacco chaw in his cheek, noticeable when he chimes in with background singing to Walker! Gary Davis admired Walker's playing, something he seldom did - Gary knew him from his Greenville, SC days before heading to NC and the reverence. Willie Walker was not a chops burner, but the stunning technique was there when he wanted it - simply amazing.

yrs,
     Peter B.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on November 05, 2008, 11:56:46 PM
Hi all,
I think Memphis Willie Borum was a very strong seconding guitarist.  His back-up behind Allen Shaw on "Moanin' The Blues" and with Shaw behind Hattie Hart on "The Coldest Stuff In Town" was just what the doctor ordered--very strong.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: dj on November 06, 2008, 07:13:02 AM
Whichever of the Two Charlies played the "second" guitar was first rate.  Chords and bass runs always beautifully complimented the vocals and the lead guitar.  Those guys must have practiced!
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: doctorpep on November 06, 2008, 08:01:58 AM
I agree that Willie Walker was fantastic. If there are two artists who I wish would've recorded more, they are Willie Walker and Richard "Rabbit" Brown. Anyway, on to the topic! I'll go with Dan Sane and Kansas Joe McCoy, seconding the the man with the voice from God, Frank Stokes, and the multi-talented Memphis Minnie, respectively.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on July 09, 2009, 10:11:27 PM
Hi all,
While listening to Julius Daniels I couldn't help noticing a very strong seconding guitarist indeed--Bubba Lee Torrence.  His accompaniments for Julius Daniels' lead playing are in a class with Curley Weaver's and Buddy Moss' work in that role.  For at least one of the numbers on which Torrence played, he was tuned quite low, a registration technique used on occasion by Curley Weaver and Dan Sane.  It certainly can give two guitars an orchestrated sound.
All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Gerry Clarke on July 10, 2009, 11:15:01 AM
What a great topic!  Yes, Dan Mahony's great Columbia monograph on the 14000 series gives 750 as the pressing quantity for the Willie Walker record and I guess that includes both takes.  I'm lucky to have a copy of the record (take 2) which I got from Frank Mare for $14 many years ago.

My vote for outstanding seconding goes to Charlie McCoy for his duet work with Tommy Johnson.

Gerry
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Lyndvs on July 10, 2009, 03:35:33 PM
I like the work Floyd Council did with Blind Boy Fuller.His solo sides aren`t bad either!.
lyndvs.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: oddenda on July 10, 2009, 08:11:47 PM
On a more recent note (relatively speaking), how about Marvin Foddrell's seconding to brother Turner, who was an absolute MONSTER on the guitar.

Peter B.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: hortig78rpm on July 10, 2009, 11:04:54 PM
dont forget the harney brothers. hawkshaw and marlon as I remember. they only did some sides in the 2o`s but listening to these and the 7o`s recordings of hawkshaw for adelphi indicate, that they must rank among the finest blues guitarists ever.

regards
mike
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on September 15, 2016, 07:01:24 AM
Hi all,
I'd add Dan Smith to this list for his work backing up Yank Rachell.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Surbhar on September 15, 2016, 10:38:15 AM
LV Thomas and Geeshie Wiley worked well in tandem. I also like the Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley duets from 1927.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: frailer24 on September 16, 2016, 12:12:04 AM
Not quite CB-related, but Roy Harvey with Charlie Poole, and Sara Carter was also a good second guitarist.
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on September 16, 2016, 06:56:24 AM
Hi all,
Roy Harvey is mentioned earlier in the thread, by banjochris, for his work with Leonard Copeland, as is Walter Beasley.  The thread focuses not on duos or strong back-up guitarists, per se, but people who excelled at backing a lead guitarist.  Sara Carter certainly qualifies in that regard.
All best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: wreid75 on September 16, 2016, 11:58:16 AM
I noticed at theme here, quite a few Willie's >:D
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Surbhar on September 16, 2016, 05:15:32 PM
I also like the Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley duets from 1927.

John, I was agreeing with your previous post. I actually have read all the posts in this thread. 
Denise 
Title: Re: Strong Seconding Guitarists
Post by: Johnm on September 22, 2016, 02:05:06 PM
Thanks for reading the thread before posting, Denise.  I mis-interpreted your previous post and I'm sorry for that.
All best,
Johnm