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Author Topic: Hillbilly Blues  (Read 4971 times)

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Offline Bill Roggensack

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Hillbilly Blues
« on: November 10, 2003, 03:50:42 PM »
I've been listening (after about 2 years on the shelf) to an album titled 'Hillbilly blues' released by ASV Ltd. (London UK) in their Living Era series:

http://www.asv.co.uk/  (follow the link to Living Era)

It's a good compilation of 'white country blues', and some of the tunes have caught my ear. The first is Bill Carlisle's spirited performance of "Bell Clappin' Mama" (note: lyrics may offend modern sensibilities!) and the second is "Times Ain't Like They Used to Be" by Clarence 'Tom' Ashley and Gwen Foster. Also of interest is Dick Justice's tribute to BLJ (by borrowing lyrics?) titled "Brown Skin Blues" - it's historically interesting in that the song features a white player making reference to the Afro-American skin color grading system that included such terms as 'high yellow'.

Tony Russell (Pre-War Blues listmember?) did the brief liner notes and provided  the recording information.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2003, 03:03:12 PM by FrontPage »
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline Johnm

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Re:Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2003, 12:49:28 AM »
Hi Bill,
The Hillbilly blues anthology sounds excellent.  I'm a big fan of Dick Justice, who seems like he must have met up with Luke Jordan at some point.  A couple of the guitar solos on "Brown Skin Blues" seem lifted, more or less intact, from "Churchbell Blues", and his version of "Cocaine Blues" is essentially identical to Luke Jordan's version, as well.  His (Dick Justice's) complete titles have been re-issued on Document DOCD-8004, "Old time Music From West Virginia".  He only had ten titles, on four of which he is backing a fiddler.  It's a shame he was so under-recorded.
All best,
John

Offline Johnm

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2006, 10:42:49 AM »
Hi all,
One of my favorite hillbilly blues recordings is Clarence Green's "Johnson City Blues", a terrific piece he played out of A in standard tuning with great (and funny) lyrics.  Green was more often recorded as a fiddler, notably with Byrd Moore and His Hot Shots.  It occurred to me this morning that while I have been listening to "Johnson City Blues" for over thirty years, I have never heard another song by Clarence Green on which he plays guitar.  My questions are for anyone who knows or has access to the information in the Tony Russell tome on Early Country Music:  Did Clarence Green record any more songs on which he accompanied himself on solo guitar?  What was on the B side of "Johnson City Blues"?
All best,
Johnm

Nawahi

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2006, 01:20:31 PM »
Hi everyone

the flip for for Johnson city Blues is Nighty-Nine Years in Jail released on columbia 15461,he recorded with solo guitar for Victor in 28 Good-night Darling and Little Bunch of Roses,also did a session in 27 with Will Abernathy doing a fine version of On The Banks Of the Ohio
« Last Edit: December 02, 2006, 01:23:35 PM by Nawahi »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2006, 03:04:15 PM »
Hi Nawahi,
Thanks very much for this information.  Do you know if the other tracks you named by Clarence Green are available on any currently available re-issue CD?  Thanks.
All best,
Johnm

Nawahi

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2006, 03:15:24 PM »
i Don`t Think they ever made it to a reissue yet.i just know them though the 78`s,there is so much great hillbilly that has not made it to c.d yet

Offline Johnm

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2006, 03:18:09 PM »
Thanks very much for the information, Nawahi, and welcome to Weenie Campbell!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2006, 08:38:38 AM »
Tony Russell (Pre-War Blues listmember?) did the brief liner notes and provided  the recording information.
In 1970 Tony compiled an LP to accompany his booklet Black Whites And Blues (now a chapter in Yonder Comes The Blues, Cambridge UP 2001). About a decade back I was asked to scan the sleevenotes to this compilation so, despite the passage of time, I thought the choice of material (obviously only that available to CBS) and what he had to say about it might be of interest here:

Black Whites And Blues CBS 52796
Side One
1. DALLAS STRING BAND: probably Coley Jones and another (mandolins);
Sam Harris (guitar); Marco Washington (string bass); unknown jug
Dallas, Texas. December 6,1927
           145343-2 Dallas Rag (Columbia 14290-D)

2. CHARLIE POOLE WITH THE NORTH CAROLINA RAMBLERS: Posey Rorer
(fiddle); Charlie Poole (vocal, banjo); Roy Harvey (guitar)
New York City. July 25, 19Z7
            1445l2-2 Coon From Tennessee (Columbia 15215-D)

3. LIL MCCLINTOCK (vocal, guitar)
Atlanta, Ga. December 4, 1930
            151017-z Don't Think I'm Santa Claus (Columbia 14575-D)

4. FRANK HUTCHISON (guitar, speech)
New York City. July 9, 19Z9
            4025I3-B K.C. Blues   (OKeh 45452)

5. MACON ED AND TAMPA JOE: Eddie Anthony (vocal, fiddle); unknown fiddle; 'Tampa Joe'(vocal, guitar)
Atlanta, Ga. December 9,1930
            404633-B Tickle Britches (OKeh 8877)

6. AUSTIN AND LEE ALLEN: probably Austin Allen (vocal, banjo); Lee Allen
(guitar, kazoo)
Atlanta, Ga. November 4, l927
             145112-l Chattanooga Blues (Columbia 14266-D)

7 MISSISSIPPI SHEIKS: probably Bo or Lonnie Chatman (fiddle); Walter
Vincson (vocal, guitar)
San Antonio, Texas. June 12, 1930
            404146-B Yodeling Fiddling Blues (OKeh 8834)

8. 'RAMBLIN RED LOWERY (vocal, guitar)
New York City. January 15, 1934
              14601-1 Ramblin' Red's Memphis Yodel - No. 1 (Vocalion 02631)

Side Two
1. TOM DARBY (guitar) AND JIMMIE TARLTON (vocal, guitar)
Atlanta, Ga. April 15, 1929
             148308-2 Sweet Sarah Blues (Columbia 15436-D)

2. TOO TIGHT HENRY (guitar, speech)
Atlanta, Ga. October 27, 1928
             147318-1 Charleston Contest - Part 2 (Columbia 14374-D)

3. CLIFF CARLISLE (as BOB CLIFFORD) (vocal, guitar)
New York City. September 29, 1932
             12388-l Ash Can Blues (Vocalion 02910)

4. THE GEORGIA BROWNS: Buddy Moss (harmonica), Fred McMullen and
Curly Weaver (guitars)
New York City. January 19, 1933
             12952-I Decatur Street 81 (Vocalion 1740)

5. PRAIRIE RAMBLERS (as BLUE RIDGE RAMBLERS): Shelby Tex Atchison
(fiddle); Charles 'Chuck' Hurt (mandolin); Floyd 'Salty' Holmes (harmonica, guitar, jug); Jack Taylor (string bass)
New York City. February 14, 1935
             16862- Jug Rag (Conqueror 8754)

6. HOKUM BOYS: Casey Bill Weldon (vocal, guitar); Big Bill (guitar); Bill
Settles (string bass); Teddy Edwards (speech)
Chicago, 111. December 16, 1935
             C-1187-2 Caught Us Doing It (Vocalion 03156)

7. BOB WILLS AND HIS TEXAS PLAYBOYS: Bob Wills or Jesse Ashlock or Joe
Holley (fiddle), Herb Remington (steel guitar), Junior Barnard (electric guitar); Jimmy Widener (banjo); Millard Kelso (piano); Billy Jack Wills (string bass); Johnny Cuviello (drums); Tommy Duncan (vocal); with speech by Wills
Hollywood, Calif. September 6, 1946
            HCO-2010-l Brain Cloudy Blues (Columbia 37313)

8. EARL HOOKER (guitar); Mack Thompson (bass-guitar); Robert St Julien
(drums) Royal Albert Hall, London. October 3, 1969
            Walking The Floor Over You/Steel Guitar Rag (unissued)


Interaction between black and white musicians has been one of the most stimulating forces in American folk music. Nowadays, for social reasons, exchanges are rarer; but in the 'twenties and 'thirties they were frequent and fertile. Why it should have been so was well explained by Frank Walker, a Columbia A&R man who recorded many musicians from both races.

'In those days, in the outskirts of a city like Atlanta, we'll say, you had your colored section . . . and you had your white, but they were right close to each other. They might be swinging around in an arc, the colored people being the left end of the arc and the white the right, but they would pass each other every day. And a little of the spiritualistic singing of the colored people worked over into the white hillbilly' and a little of the white hillbilly worked over into what the colored people did, so that you got a little combination of the two things there.... They (the hillbillies) adopted little things that a colored man might be playing on his guitar, but he (the colored man) heard the white fellow across the way ? and he adopted a little of that.'

The aim of this collection is to show something of this cross fertilisation.

One of the oldest threads in the fabric of country music was ragtime. Few sounds are more exhilarating than a rural group playing a rag, and Coley Jones's Dallas String Band offers one of the most delightful of such recordings. A commoner sort of string combination was the classic mountain trio of fiddle, banjo and guitar, exemplified here by Charlie Poole's North Carolina Ramblers. Coon From Tennessee, after its introduction, is nothing other than I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die, which was collected from black singers in Alabama and North Carolina about the end of World War I, and again by Alan Lomax, in Mississippi, in I959. It was one of the many songs, produced in the north during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which filtered down to the countryside; another such survives in Lil McClintock's Don't Think I'm Santa Claus, the refrain of which is pure 'coon song' of a kind hardly ever heard on race records.

These 'coon songs', children of the minstrel era, throw a peculiar but distinctive light upon the racial attitudes of the south. In much of his repertoire, however, the rural musician, whatever his colour, expressed a sort of desegregation; for there was an extensive body of shared songs and tunes, a common stock available to all. It included both social music - dance tunes and comic songs, for example - and 'musicians' music', displays of instrumental virtuosity like Frank Hutchison's breakneck K.C. Blues. In an altogether more light-hearted manner, that of the dance-hall, 'Macon Ed' and 'Tampa Joe' present Tickle Britches. These men were part of Peg Leg Howell's circle in Atlanta, and it is no coincidence that their line-up - and sometimes their playing - reminds one a little of such groups as Gid Tanner's Skillet-Lickers or Fiddlin' John Carson's Virginia Reelers, both of which were based in Atlanta.

The material mentioned so far has come from records which, whatever their shared elements, appeared in their correct places in the race and old-time catalogues of Columbia and OKeh. Chattanooga Blues, however, was issued in Columbia's I4ooo-D series - the race list. The Allen Brothers greeted this marketing innovation with some displeasure, and engaged in a costly - and unsuccessful - lawsuit against the company. Possibly someone at head office really thought that this was a black performance. Certainly lines like 'Thought I heard old 'Frisco blow - oh, it blowed like it never blowed before', and cries of' percolate, mama, percolate!', are standard in black blues.

On the other hand, a few black groups, including the Mississippi Sheiks, found themselves featured in old-time catalogues. Yodeling Fiddling Blues was a race issue, but its debt to a specific white artist is very plain: 'these yodelin' blues' of which Walter Vincson sang were the important contribution made to country music by Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers' popularity among blacks cannot be explained merely by sales figures; he had, and was seen to have, a persona] approach to the blues, one which his many followers never, in black eyes, succeeded in duplicating. Among those followers was 'Ramblin' Red' Lowery, who recorded four Memphis Yodels; the one in this collection was the first to be issued. The Rodgers influence need not be pressed - Lowery moves farther away from his model than did many of the man's devotees, and his salty, unemphatic delivery has a personal charm.

Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarlton began their recording career some months before Jimmie Rodgers, and offered blue yodels of a different sort. Sweet Sarah Blues is an excellent example of Jimmie Tarlton's steel guitar playing and blues-singing, emotionally one of the most powerful combinations in country music. On their previous trip to Atlanta, the winter before, Columbia had captured an eccentric 12-string guitarist called Henry L. Castle, 'Too Tight Henry'. During the 'thirties Castle was for a while a member of Will Shade's South Memphis Jug Band, but here he is on his own. Using two voices, he carries on a conversation with himself, talking about old-time musicians, imitating various stringed instruments, generally jiving. The performance makes interesting comparison with the white skits set in 'fiddling contest' surroundings, and with the talking blues of Chris Bouchillon and others.

This kind of rural humour was smoothed down, during the 'thirties, to become the basis of the novelty blues. One of the best singers in this style was Cliff Carlisle, a prolific and versatile Kentuckian musician who played the dobro, a steel-bodied resonator guitar. The liveliest of his bawdy numbers were recorded under the pseudonym 'Bob Clifford'; Ash Can Blues is an unusually explicit example. The symbolism is very black, and one can find similar phrases in the blues of, say, Curly Weaver, Fred McMullen and Buddy Moss. But when these three artists gathered for a session in January I933, they were in another mood, and recorded some of the bounciest dance music of the decade. Decatur Street 81 was the address of the Atlanta T.O.B.A. theatre.

Dance music did not suddenly alter when one crossed the colour line; it is no great step, musically speaking, from the Georgia Browns to the Prairie Ramblers. Jug Rag, a spirited blues, is particularly reminiscent of the Memphis Jug Band's later (I934) recordings. Despite their 'western' name, the Prairie Ramblers were from Kentucky; no doubt they cultivated the image in order to match the success of the Western Swing bands. This success did not go entirely unnoticed by black musicians; its influence may be detected in the steel guitar styles of the mid'thirties, and perhaps in string-bass techniques too. The Hokum Boys, here led by Casey Bill Weldon, play with a gentle and somewhat Western swing. Their reticent, tongue-in-cheek lyrics make a novel contrast with Cliff Carlisle's low-down blues.

Foremost among the Western Swing bands were Bob Wills's Texas Playboys. Their approach to an urban blues embodied an odd conflict; while singer Tommy Duncan rather effectively united crooning and blues styles, and the band often gave him an authentic blues setting, Wills himself would burlesque the whole thing with a stream of comic asides, shouts of encouragement and cowboy yells. Brain Cloudy Blues, which neatly incorporates passages from Kokomo Arnold's Milk Cow Blues and other standards, is a perfect example of this fascinating sub-style.

The Playboys' first major hit was the I936 Steel Guitar Rag, based on a recording, then thirteen years old, by the black Sylvester Weaver. Another popular seller from Texas in the 'thirties was Ernest Tubb's Walking The Floor Over You. Here the two compositions form an instrumental medley by the late Earl Hooker, recorded at the London concert of the I969 Folk Blues Festival. Hooker's was a typical blues history. Born in Clarksdale, Miss., he came to Chicago as a young man and worked in the city's clubs for years, but his career was constantly interrupted by the tuberculosis which eventually killed hint, in April I970. For a time he played with a hillbilly band in Iowa, and he remained fond of the country songs of his youth.

The traditions, then, continue to nourish each other. Such interaction is intriguing and, in its way, important, for it must in some degree reflect the social interplay of America's black and white populations. And since there is now a widespread knowledge and appreciation of black blues, perhaps it is time to consider some of the traditions which developed with them - to look, in the words of the old song, at 'pictures from life's other side'.
TONY RUSSELL
Album compiled by Tony Russell.
Produced by Paul Oliver.
Recording engineers: Mike Stone and Peter Coleman.
Sleeve designed by November Books Ltd.
Original recordings from the collections of the compiler, the John Edwards Memorial Foundation, Paul Oliver, Chris Comber and Jack Parsons.
This album illustrates the book Blacks, Whites and Blues in the Blues Paperbacks Series, produced by November Books Ltd., and published by Studio Vista Ltd.

Offline Richard

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2006, 01:58:59 PM »
I bought that when it first came out  :-X nice LP with the book.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2011, 07:34:14 AM »
Hi all,
I've been listening to quite a lot of material in this category, having finally picked up the Old Hat release, "Gastonia Gallop", which has almost all of David McCarn's recordings and some excellent duo recordings including Gwin Foster.  There was a tremendous amount of variety in Hillbilly Blues, when you realize that Frank Hutchison, Dick Justice, Roscoe Holcomb, Hobart Smith, Dock Boggs, Sam McGee, the Dixon Brothers, the Allen Brothers, the Carter Family and a host of others (Merle Travis and Doc Watson) fit in this broad category. 
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Hillbilly Blues
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2011, 09:08:39 AM »
It's pretty hard to pick favorites among Old Hat releases, but boy do I love that Gastonia Gallop CD. There is so much great music in there. Everyday Dirt is totally nutty. Ditto Take Them for a Ride. What a shame McCarn recorded so little.

The CD is a must-have for harmonica players interested in prewar styles as well. And mandolin players get the Three Tobacco Tags. And banjo players get Wilmer Watts.

 


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