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Hammy Nixon: Well I know you can see better than I can. Sleepy John Estes: I'll ask Rachell, how do you feel Rachell? Yank Rachell: You don't need to see to play music. Sleepy John Estes: Well, now that's what I'm talking about...when I'm coughin' I create it out of my soul...Delmark records say, "We don't want any of that..good, right?...spoil it" - Yank Rachell's Tennessee Jug Busters conversation before Shout Baby Shout

Author Topic: Ungrateful bunch of __________________  (Read 2527 times)

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Offline tinpanallygurl

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Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« on: April 07, 2014, 11:38:17 AM »
I met Stephen Calt several years ago, before his COPD got real bad and he opened up on several occasions about the rediscovered talent from the 60s.  He had a jaded opinion of many of the rediscovered musicians.  He said and I quote "they were generally an ungrateful bunch of alcoholics that were self centered.  They would lie to your face over and over and often cared more about getting drunk than singing." I pressed him further and he again said that most of them were "ungrateful bunch of phrase i would prefer not write

This was a  heartbreaking experience for me.  First of was it true and if so why?  Second of all, I knew no one who liked this music and knew nothing of online sites like this one.  After all this time of listening to artists like Roosevelt Sykes, Papa Charlie Jackson, and Willie Brown by myself the only person I had ever found to discuss it was a jaded quasi-racist/anti-smite.  I am Jewish and he didn't know and damn the things he said to me.  Enough about that.

Did anyone else find the rediscovered artists to be less than appreciative of their new found fame, or anything else I brought up?

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2014, 12:13:59 PM »
Take any ten people from anywhere on the planet, and you're likely to get some real gems and some real shockers. Just the way it is. Sounds like Mr Calt may have been in the shocker category.

Offline Slack

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2014, 12:40:59 PM »
Why would we want to open up a topic specifically to throw down on and complain about rediscovered blues musicians, who are all dead now, and cannot defend themselves?  The history of how blues musicians were treated by the recording industry, white society, political process etc etc are well known and documented.  This forum is for discovering the many wonderful songs these blues musicians have left us.  Cannot we not find the positive aspects to focus our attention on?

I have a problem with topics devoted to sour grapes.  Anyone else?

Offline tinpanallygurl

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2014, 12:48:30 PM »
Cut me some slack, Slack.  Really it is possible as adults for us to discuss this topic without disparaging the artists that we all love to listen to.  I can easily understand why someone might be less than elated to have white kids come down and put me on the road when their usual dealings with white people was not a positive situation.  I can understand how someone might appear to be unenthusiastic when they might just have a humble personality, natural humility, and a gentle nature like Son House.  I can think of others but I wasn't there and many many many people here were there and know first hand what was going on at that time.  Life isn't always sunshine and the warts of life are often the reason for living.  This isn't sour grapes!  This is about these people at the ends of their lives playing music in a foreign environment to a foreign audience and their reactions to that is worth something, even if you Slack refuse to open your eyes to acknowledge that.  Being a administrator shouldn't give you the right to be a bully!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2014, 12:54:44 PM »
What bullying?  An opinion was expressed, that's all.  I would say one's experience with other people, not just older blues musicians, but anyone in any walk of life is most heavily colored and affected by one's attitude towards Life, oneself and other people.  If you're not happy or content with yourself, it is hard to enjoy and value other people.  As Dostoyevsky said, "Everybody has his reasons, and that's the pity of it."
All best,
Johnm

Offline Slack

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2014, 01:12:13 PM »
Quote
Being a administrator shouldn't give you the right to be a bully!

Being an administrator shouldn't prohibit me from giving my opinion --- which, as Johnm observed, is all I was doing.  It seems a fruitless topic to pursue IMO :) .... along the lines of discussing Justin Bieber's legal problems.

Offline wreid75

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2014, 01:20:14 PM »
Slow your roll girl, don't want you getting banned from here.  A woman's perspective is a good thing, more emotional than the just listen and love it attitude many men may have.  This topic is likely a touchy one depending on how it is broached.  Many of the young kids that dug up these old blues men are older men themselves, and several are no longer with us.  I can't imagine the ones that are still going strong want to feel like their efforts were not on the up and up.   Gayle Dean Wardlow wrote in Chasin' that Devils music about the distrust of young white people asking questions.  Alan Lomax wrote about how his researchers were viewed by law enforcement.  There might be some people here who have some insight into your topic but may never post.  I think your topic is a good topic and I hope others jump in with their thoughts.

Offline bnemerov

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2014, 02:44:59 PM »
Hi tinpan (may I call you tinpan, for short?)

I spent as much time as I could, 1962-1970, around the musicians you're interested in. Booker White, Son House, Mance Lipscomb, John Hurt, Furry Lewis and others came to the Berkeley Folk Festival and played additional gigs at folk clubs like the Jabberwock (Berkeley) and the Ash Grove (L.A.) while out on the west coast. Every summer we had a few weeks to listen and talk with these musicians.

Without exception they were genial and generous with their time and knowledge. They seemed to enjoy the attention they received from large audiences (especially the concerts at the Univ. of California's folk festival). They also gave workshops where they were treated as artists, again which they seemed to appreciate.

Now, Booker White was not gushy-friendly; he was a dignified presence which some could mistake for stand-offish. Lightnin' Hopkins was also like this, but they very much enjoyed the status given them by the young white kids. Myself included.

But the leaders of the outgoing, "friendly brigade" were Hurt and Lipscomb. They were doing nothing but enjoying every experience that came their way and so were a joy to be around.

I never met Calt, but, as johnm implied (if I understand his remarks correctly), Calt's "take" on these musicians says more about him than them.

best,
bruce

Offline harriet

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2014, 03:00:23 PM »
Calt's "take" on these musicians says more about him than them.

That's my opinion as well.


Offline pkeane

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2014, 04:24:04 PM »
Hi tinpanallygurl -

Good question! Also, I hope you are not made to feel unwelcome here. I work in an area (software technology) where women are bullied all the time (and often not really consciously by the "bulliers") - it's something we (as an industry) are trying to address. It's difficult, but a really important task. Something I like to be really aware of esp. when (for whatever reason) there is a big gender imbalance.

Anyway, re: your question.... It's one I have been thinking a lot about lately as I have been immersing myself in Skip James's 60s work. I'd come to regard it as somehow less powerful that his 1931 recordings, but was really inspired by conversations here (esp some excellent posts from John Miller) to go back and listen.  Well, I actually think his 60s work is brilliant and actually more fully realized (as artistic works) than his 1931 recording (as technically brilliant as those could be).  I have the Calt book, but have not read it through.  Dipping in, I was indeed *very* disappointed in his portrayal. He (and we) as historians have, I think, a responsibility to take into account our own biases, etc. and obviously, the writer (I don't want to make it personal) was not very effective. He takes Skip's own word that he "sure can't play the way he used to" and thus declares his 60s work subpar. Huh?  A perfectly reasonable response would be "geez Skippy (as he was called) I think you playing sounds every bit as good as it did on those old recordings."

Anyway here's the thing (in my opinion): the country blues masters created indisputably great art and it should be evaluated on its own merits.  That there are wonderful personalities like Mississippi John Hurt to greatly admire as a person is all the better, but it's not what we are (primarily) here for.  As much as I love, say, Charlie Parker's or Ben Webster's music, I've heard terrible things about how they treated people around them. It's a conundrum.  I'm not sure how to weigh those factors into my opinion. Certainly I have absolutely no idea what it was like to be African American in the early and mid 20th century America (or of course *any* time) so I don't want to pass judgments lightly.  So for me its a tough question and one I struggle with. I can tell you, though, I have a very deep seated curiosity about what all went in to the mix to create this great art.  And I know a big piece of that puzzle is an astounding and overwhelming set of injustices.

One more thing I should mention.... Anyone who wants to get a sense of Skip James the man & the artist could do no better than to listen to this interview that Phil Spiro did with John Hurt and Skip James in 1964:



 

Offline Slack

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2014, 04:51:18 PM »
tinpanallygurl,

Let me apologize for coming off as short with you.  We've had discussions around Calt before, and it never seems very satisfying (to me at least and to put it mildly), but you may not be aware of these discussion, of course. 

Bruce, thanks for taking the time and having more patience than I -- good post.

and by all means, carry on...

Offline mr mando

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 03:14:25 PM »
"they were generally an ungrateful bunch of alcoholics that were self centered.  They would lie to your face over and over and often cared more about getting drunk than singing."

Certainly I have absolutely no idea what it was like to be African American in the early and mid 20th century America (or of course *any* time) so I don't want to pass judgments lightly.

IMO, the keyword here is "alcoholics". If you ever worked with alcoholics, you know that they would lie to your face over and over and mostly care more about getting drunk than anything else, no matter if they're black or white.

I seriously doubt that many of the rediscovered musicians were alcoholics, though.

Offline Bed Bug Bill

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2014, 09:54:47 AM »
I cannot,for the life of me,find anything wrong with tin pan ally gurls original post.
Most musicians that I've had personal dealings with,had huge egos, an unhealthy occupation with self promotion,and many other faults, regardless ,of any musical ability.They are people,some are bigoted,some are not,some are nice,some are peadophiles.....surely this is a discussion forum for all aspects of country blues,and not some sanitised fan site.
Her question was, how did anyone out there,who actually had dealings with these people, find them.
Calts always had bad press,probably for good reason.The Lomax clan seem to be getting hammered lately,
for upsetting our delicate sensibilities.Jesus,think what our record collections and understandings of the idiom would be without them.......Come on folks...this sites getting as sticky as the banjo hangout.

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2014, 01:22:53 PM »
thanks for posting the interview with Skip James and John Hurt, pkeane. I haven't seen the whole thing before, only clips.

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Ungrateful bunch of __________________
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2014, 06:12:10 PM »
Steve Calt is not here to defend himself so I don't take it as a discredit to Calts Blues contribution.
randymeadows@ymail.com
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