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Hurt would introduce 'Coffee Blues' by declaring that his favorite coffee was Maxwell House because it was 'good till the last drop.' This is the kind of song that comes with a wink and a nudge. At the Gaslight, the mug Hurt would bring to the stage was not filled with coffee, but with a spot of whiskey. - John Milward, notes from Mississippi John Hurt, The Complete Studio Recordings

Author Topic: Guitar Duets in Country Blues  (Read 12983 times)

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Offline GhostRider

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Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« on: February 03, 2005, 04:02:52 PM »
Hi All:

Some of my favorite?country blues tunes are guitar duets. I've just got a new favorite, Little Rock Blues by Pearl Dickson (I don't know who the guitarists are). This tune got me to thinkin' about the styles of CB guitar duets.

In songs like Little Rock Blues and Unknown Blues by Tater and Gay the two guitars are very musically seperate, one doing intricate treble string runs and the other ornate bass notes and patterns. The arrangements weave back and forth with one guitar then the other taking the lead. Hardly a chord is played.

Then there's the "Boom-Chang" type, like Dan Sain and Frank Stokes, Frank Brasswell and BBBroonzy and Memphis Minnie and Little Son Joe. . In these the lead guitar plays a normal sort of tune while the other adds supporting bass notes and runs and strummed chords. In this type the lead guitar part can be played as a arrangement by its self, which is not the case with the case mentioned above where neither part played alone would.

Another is the sort of arrangement is Johnnie Temple and Charlie McCoy's Lead Pencil Blues. Here the singer (Temple) plays a boogie pattern a la' Robert Johnson on the bass string with intersperced treble runs. The McCoy part consists of treble notes and runs. Here, unlike the Boom-Chang type, it's the bass part that can be played seperately not the treble part.

Delta guitar duets like Patton-Brown and Bracey-Tommy Johnson are sort of like two guitarists playing the same song together. Different parts, but either could probably make an adequate accompanyment by its self.

Another is the "Together" style, like Joe Callicott and Garfield Akers. Often in their duets, like the great Cottonfields Blues, it doesnt sound like two guitars, only one. Now thats tight.

Anyway, just some thoughts. What are your favorite guitar duets in CB? I remember hearing one with two slide guitar parts but I have forgetten the name.

Later,
Alex
« Last Edit: December 15, 2005, 10:30:37 AM by Pyrochlore »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2005, 09:11:25 AM »
Hi Alex,
I like this topic you've proposed.  I'll get the ball rolling--
   * Dennis Crumpton & Robert Summers--"Go I'll Send Thee" (this may be the double slide number you spoke of)
   * Big Joe Williams and Henry Townsend--"Somebody's Been Borrowin' That Stuff"
   * Mississippi Bracey and Charlie McCoy--"Cherry Ball"
   * Fred McMullen & Curley Weaver with Ruth Willis--"Man of My Own"
   * Charlie Patton and Willie Brown--"Moon Goin' Down"
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2005, 11:14:24 AM »
Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe did a nice 2 slide duet called My Wash Woman's Gone.  Joe sang lead, so unfortunately it's not on the JSP Memphis Minnie set.  But the Juke has 2 copies of it..

Offline waxwing

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2005, 11:29:42 AM »
John touched on a whole area where the guitar duet was very popular with his listing of Fred McMullen & Curley Weaver. All those Atlanta guys loved to have a second guitar going. Much of McTell's catalogue is backed by Weaver. Most of Buddy Moss' releases had either Weaver or McMullen seconding. There were others I'm less familiar with. These guys had a pretty tight style worked out, for the most part falling into Alex's category where the first guitar was playing a stand alone arrangement and the second guitar was playing bass runs sometimes switching to treble fills. Don't really have any favorites, but the Atlanta scene seems to have been very tight-knit and created a lot of great duets.
All for now.
John C.



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Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2005, 02:19:27 PM »
Hi all,
I've been thinking of some more of these that I particularly like.  They include:
   * "Bottleneck Blues" by Sylvester Weaver and Walter (?) Beasley.  This was on the first Yazoo anthology devoted to Bottleneck guitar.
   * "Just Pickin'" by Roy Harvey and Leonard Copeland.  This was on the old Yazoo release, "Mr. Charlie's Blues", and it is really an amazing number, the way they have things worked out.
   * "Last Go Round" by Frank Stokes and Dan Sane.  One of their wilder numbers.  On it, Dan Sane is tuned about a step-and-a-half low, and the two of them just rock out.
It's fun to try and remember these.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Buzz

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2005, 04:20:52 PM »
Hi, all!
John M: You introduced us to several of these duets in PT...but  I have yet to get to that MD! And Del and you have showed us Minnie/McCoy Piledriver Blues, which has a cool twangy riff seconded by Joe, as I recall. Got to put some of these duets on my "to do" list! :P

Has the juke played Paul Rishell's/Annie Raines version of Kansas City Blues and Washerwoman Blues? On the latter Rishell overdubs his playing with slide and reso, sounds like. Do I hear this right?
I am working on KC Blues and Washerwoman these days, as a matter of fact. Love the beat and rhythym of KCB, kind of infectious. I  will learn it on mando, and start playing it with a harpist, to see how it goes.  :-\
Interesting thread...
Miller
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Buzz

Offline Rivers

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2005, 01:12:42 PM »
Minnie and her beaus were superb arrangers of guitar duets. My favorites would be Joliet Bound and Black Rat Swing.
Rag Mama Rag, Blind Boy Fuller and Gary Davis is a blisteringly tight piece of work, that must have been some session to have witnessed.
Cottonfield Blues 1 & 2, Akers & Callicott, are pretty amazing as they play around with the sound of the two guitars. To my ears they seem to be alternately dragging and pushing the beat, applying syncopated strumming patterns etc etc all of which adds up to something quite unique.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2005, 01:23:48 PM »
I couldn't agree with you more about "Cottonfields, pts. 1 and 2", Mark.  It is right at the top of the heap in this category, as far as I am concerned.  Had there only been a "Cottonfields", I think everyone would have agreed it was one of the greatest country blues ever, but then you have "Cottonfields, Part 2", and it is . . . better!  A miracle.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2005, 01:15:36 AM »
I remember we had a bash at the lyrics way back on the first version of the weenie list. I'll see if I can find the thread in the archives... Rivers wanders off into the archives...
« Last Edit: February 15, 2005, 01:27:22 AM by Rivers »

Tail Dragger

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2005, 07:28:45 AM »
There's also Eddie and Oscar: Eddie Schaffer/Chafer and Oscar Woods, two slide guitarists who actually accompanied Jimmie Davis.  It was Davis who arranged for Eddie and Oscar to record their own material.  The two tracks we've got by them are found on Document's 'Too Late, Too Late Volume Four: 1892-1937': "Nok-Em All" and the amazing "Flying Crow Blues," both recorded for Victor on February 8, 1932.  Eddie plays guitar while Oscar take the lead vocal and plays the steel guitar.

"Flying Crow Blues" has an interesting lyric: "Now she's gone, she's gone, boys, got that red and blue light behind, oh, the red light's for danger, blue light's for worried in mind".  The imagery, while slightly altered, later turned up in Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain," which, of course, was taken - melody-wise - from Leroy Carr's "When The Sun Goes Down," recorded for Bluebird on February 25, 1935, sadly the year of his early demise.

Of course, the above lyric/imagery is taken from Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Dry Southern Blues," recorded c. March 1926.  In it, Jefferson sings: "The blue light was my blues and the red light was my worried mind."

Tail Dragger

Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2005, 06:15:34 PM »
Hi all,
I just thought of another favorite in this category--Will Weldon and Will Shade doing "Turpentine Blues".  The companion piece, "Hitch Me To Your Buggy and Drive Me Like a Mule" is close to being musically identical, but somehow doesn't have the same oomph for me.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2005, 12:06:43 PM »
Hi all,
I was thinking about this topic and realized that some of my favorite country blues duets are the Hi Henry Brown cuts--"Preacher Blues", "Nut Factory", "Titanic", and another I can't think of right now.  They all follow a pretty similar mold, two guitars playing in E standard, more or less right on top of each other, but it works really well.  Of course, Hi Henry's great vocals do not harm the over-all effect.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2005, 12:34:09 PM »
The other one is Skin Man. You're right, these are great songs. And they're like bonus Charley Jordan material.

Offline GerryC

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2005, 11:34:56 PM »
Good thread. It would be interesting to investigate how much influence the duets of the 20s and 30s had on the development of electric blues with the 'lead and rhythm' guitar set up of most of them. Any way... My favourite duets:
- Minnie & Joe, What's the Matter with the Mill
- Hattie Hart [vocal] with Alan Shaw and Willie Borum (guitars), I Let My Daddy Do That
Big Bill & Frank Brassens, Saturday Night Rub
Charlie Patton & Willie Brown, Moon Goin' Down

Incidentally, the two guitarists on Pearl Dickson's Little Rock Blues, mentioned early in this thread, were (it says here) Maylon and Richard Harney, aka Pet and Can. I know nothing about them, apart from the fact that they were a couple of mean pickers, but I'm sure somebody will have their entire life stories and recording careers in detail...

Cheerily,

Gerry C
I done seen better days, but I'm puttin' up with these...

Offline waxwing

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Re: Guitar Duets in Country Blues
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2005, 12:25:08 AM »
That would be Richard "Hacksaw" Harney, a prodigious picker. I'm sure the juke has a tune or so of his and you can also see some amazing footage of him playing, in the '70s I think, on the Adelphi Records site. I think there is a link in a thread here somewhere. Search for "Hacksaw".
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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