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Hundreds of 'race' singers have flooded the market with what is generally regarded as the worst contribution to the cause of good music ever inflicted on the public. The lyrics of a great many of these 'blues' are worse than the lowest sort of doggerel - Talking Machine Journal, February 1924, plucked from Stephen Calt's Barrelhouse Words

Recent Posts

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31
Books and Articles / Re: In Search of the Blues - Marybeth Hamilton
« Last post by DavidCrosbie on June 19, 2019, 08:47:51 PM »

     Where the book goes way out into silly and false territory, though, is when it confuses these people's activities with the creation of the music. According to Hamilton, Delta blues was born in a Brooklyn YMCA room in the 1940s, as McKune listened to a Charley Patton record. In case we think she's joking, she physically goes to the site and describes the building and the room, the holy site where the blues was born. She is not kidding.

Marybeth Hamilton freely admits that the description of McKune discovering Patton is a fantasy.

Quote from: note to page161
if you had been walking past the building: In this opening section I have tried to imagine a pivotal event from three sentences. James McKune wrote in 1961 "I first heard Charley Patton in a beat [battered] record early in 1944. At first he seemed too primitive to me. By the end of that year I told a few friends that he was the greatest blues singer I have ever heard". In 1944 McKune had not yet attached his circle of acolytes, and so far as I know he never told anyone  about how he came to collect race records, Yet while much of this section is by necessity imagined, throughout I have tried to build upon facts, playing around with chronology where necessary.

Moving from fantasy to certainty, she writes

Quote from: page 167
...It was there at the Williamsburg YMCA, in a single room sometime in th mid-1940s, that the Delta Blues was born.

Born, that is, in the imagination of one of the YMCA's long-term residents, an impassioned record-collector named James McKune.

This is not in the least bit silly or false. She is arguing that the Delta Blues as an aesthetic concept derives from the imagination of McKune.

In Escaping the Delta Elijah Wald made a similar claim — except that he derives the concept from John Hammond listening to Robert Johnson in 1937. He'd intended to feature Johnson in the ground-breaking Spirituals to Swing concert at e the end of 1938, only to learn of Robert's recent sudden death.

Quote from: Elijah Wald
Unwilling to give up completely on his original choice, he played two Johnson records for the Carnegie Hall audience: "Walkin' Blues" and "Preachin' Blues". Since, aside from the African field recordings, the rest of the concert was devoted to live music, this demonstrates the extent to which Hammond considered Johnson a uniquely great artist, for whom there was no substitute.

At the time, this was an extremely unusual position—indeed, I am tempted to suggest that Hammond was the only man on earth who held it. Not even Johnson's friends and playing partners would have described him as America's greatest blues singer; they were proud enough to consider him the greatest young player in the Delta. Furthermore, had they been inclined to make a broader case for his supremacy, they would never have based it on two Son House covers that were among the most archaic numbers in his repertoire. Hammond, though, was specifically looking for a "primitive" blues sound, and the tracks he played at "Spirituals to Swing" defined what several decades later would become known as the Delta blues style.

More generally, Wald identifies a perception among white urban listeners to Blues

Quote from: Wald
In the process, blues would come to be classified as a black folk form, and a new aesthetic developed that defined 'true' or "deep" blues by its resemblance to the traditional hollers.

In the 1920s, most white people still thought of blues as racy pop music, but this new aesthetic would gain more power with each passing decade, and has helped shape the modern perception of blues as a black folk style, nurtured not in the publishing houses and studios of New York and Chicago, but in the most isolated regions of the deep South. This is the process by which Mississippi has come to be singled out as the music's unique heartland, and a handful of unquestionably brilliant but relatively obscure Delta artists were crowned kings of the blues pantheon.

Neither Wald nor Hamilton are denying that there were people (men mostly) singing and playing blues in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta in the first half of the last century. Wald says how brilliant some of them were, because that's what he's writing about. Hamilton doesn't tell us whether or not she became a fan because that's not what she's writing about.

Both of them are saying that an actual group of actual musicians in an actual geographical region is not the same as the mythical abstraction The Delta Blues.

As BB King said (quoted by Wald)

Quote from: BB King
Scholars ... like to talk about the Delta bluesmen and how they influenced each other. They break down the blues according to different parts of Mississippi and say each region gave birth to a style. Well, as a Delta boy, I'm her to testify that my two biggest idols—guys I flat-out tried to copy—came a long way from Mississippi. Blind Lemon was from Dallas and Lonnie [Johnson] from Louisiana. I later learned about  Delta bluesmen like Robert Johnso and Elmore James and Muddy Waters. I liked them all, but no one moulded my musical manner like Blind Lemon and Lonnie.
32
Performance Corner / Re: "Augie Jr." street musician in New Orleans
« Last post by jimbo on June 19, 2019, 06:45:30 PM »
Just found the house on google maps... 939 Montegut in the Bywater.
33
Books and Articles / Re: In Search of the Blues - Marybeth Hamilton
« Last post by DavidCrosbie on June 19, 2019, 06:32:51 PM »
Well, I think it's a terrific book!

Sixty years or so ago, I discovered Blues, Jazz and Folk Music. With the acquisition of a record player, I stared buying LPs and reading what i could find to help me understand. Marybeth Hamilton explains why people like Alan Lomax and  Rudi Blesh and Frederick Ramsey were writing as they did, and how much journalists and sleeve-not writers were drawing on the pronouncements of William Russell and Charles Edward Smith.

By the time I read Sam Charters' The Country Blues, I' d been indoctrinated with the doctrine of the timeline Field Hollers⇒Country Blues⇒Classic Blues⇒Jazz⇒Swing.  Over subsequent years, I read more informed and informative books and articles — but always with that early mindset as a reference point.

I remember the shock of the Origin Jazz Library LPs. Amazing tracks, scarcely any by artists that had been on reissues. One with the provocative title Really! The Country Blues. (Meaning 'Charters got it wrong!') Two whole LPs of the totally unknown Charley Patton. (Charters had been nagged into briefly mentioning his name, but nobody had dared put out a commercial reissue.)  Men and women we now see as giants. How did all this happen so suddenly? Hamilton makes sense of it with the chapter on James McKune and his 'Blue Mafia' acolytes.

For those who are interested, she also casts light on the professional career of Leadbelly, the study of Folk Music and the resulting Revival, as well as the record-collecting phenomenon and New Orleans Jazz Revival movement.

All the 'discoveries' were fuelled by and fed into intellectual debates on the music of 'the people', and a growing awareness of the true status of African Americans — whether in Harlem or the Delta. I think Marybeth Hamilton does a great job of tying together so many threads.
34
Performance Corner / Re: "Augie Jr." street musician in New Orleans
« Last post by jimbo on June 19, 2019, 06:29:25 PM »
Old thread but I was just watching some Son House videos and I started to reminisce about the times I lived in New Orleans in the mid and late 80's. I was lucky enough to live in a duplex on Montegut St with Augie and Lissa as my neighbors in the backside. This was when they were still lovers and fighting or fucking it always sounded like they were going to bust through the plaster. I played drums with them mostly on Saturdays out in front of the A&P, this was before Big Mess and the players were a loose group of whoever would show up can't remember names. Augie would always stop playing and run to the liquor store when he got enough money to buy his first hip flask of Taaka vodka and then the show blaze on all afternoon. I heard the Son House stories too but can't verify if they were true. Lissa was always a sweetheart and a very old soul. I new he wouldn't last forever, he always went at life double-fisted, my favorite saying of his was "fuck you, me" which he asked in the form a question.
35
SOTM - Song Of The Month / Re: Song of the Month Schedule for 2019
« Last post by Johnm on June 19, 2019, 01:57:22 PM »
Thanks, Ned!  Nice to have the next two months covered.
36
SOTM - Song Of The Month / Re: Song of the Month Schedule for 2019
« Last post by Old Man Ned on June 19, 2019, 01:52:02 PM »
I'll take August, John, if they are no other takers.
Cheers, Ned
37
SOTM - Song Of The Month / Re: Song of the Month Schedule for 2019
« Last post by Johnm on June 19, 2019, 11:14:26 AM »
Hi all,
We have no volunteers currently scheduled to select the Song of the Month for July--December this year.  Any takers?  The initial post may be, but certainly is not required or expected to be learned, (it may be brief) and should post only enough versions of the song to get the ball rolling, leaving other versions for other people to find and post.  It would be nice if we could get several of the remaining months in 2019 lined up, so that I don't have to keep posting these pleas for volunteers.  Thanks to the hearty volunteers!  I will take July to get us a little wiggle room.
All best,
Johnm
38
Country Blues Lyrics / Re: Barbecue Bob Lyrics
« Last post by Johnm on June 19, 2019, 09:22:53 AM »
Hi all,
"'Fo' Day Creep", recorded in 1929, is yet another Barbecue Bob song that he chose to accompany himself out of Spanish tuning, with a slide.  I used to look at the utilization of essentially the same accompaniment for so many songs as simply being repetitious; I've come to feel that it actually is more like a kind of branding of one's sound, enabling the listener or prospective purchaser to know instantly who has made the record.  Other musicians who engaged in a similar sort of branding of their sound would include Lonnie Johnson and Albert King.
It becomes apparent when transcribing the lyrics to several songs of Barbecue Bob's in a row that a good portion of his lyrics were original, and were not drawn from the common pool of blues lyrics.  "'Fo Day Creep" has several such verses.  Here is "'Fo Day Creep":



INTRO

You passed my door, brown, and you won't even look in
You passed my door but you won't even look in
You passed just like a whirlwind

You can pass me up, try to ignore me, too
You can pass me up, try to ignore me, too
Just like you ignore me, somebody's gonna ignore you

I lied down last night, I couldn't even sleep
I lied down last night but I couldn't even sleep
I was thinkin' about that gal might make that 'fore day creep, yes mama, you might make that 'fore day creep

It's a low-down fireman, dirty engineer
It's a low-down fireman, dirty engineer
Done took my gal and left me standing here

Then I asked the brakeman, "Let me ride your blind?"
Then I asked the brakeman, "Let me ride your blind?"
Say, "I'm sorry, buddy, but you know this train ain't mine."

Some people are happy and some are burdened down
Some people are happy, some are burdened down
Some are sociable and some are so low-down

I lied down last night, gal, and I couldn't even sleep
I say, I lied down last night, I couldn't even sleep
Thinkin' about that gal might make that 'fore day creep, Lord, mama, you might make a 'fore day creep

All best,
Johnm
39
Performance Corner / Re: Gig this Thursday- Somerset UK
« Last post by harry on June 19, 2019, 07:00:34 AM »
Good luck. Keep the blues alive.
40
Performance Corner / Gig this Thursday- Somerset UK
« Last post by Norfolk Slim on June 18, 2019, 01:19:02 PM »
Should anyone be interested and sufficiently local...   I am playing 2 full sets of crackly old numbers by the likes of Charley Patton, John Hurt and Blind Blake.  And that's just the mainstream stuff!

Kings Arms, Stratton on the Fosse, Somerset.  8pm start.

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