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Why should I worry about dying? It's not going to happen in my lifetime - Raymond Smullyan

Author Topic: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas  (Read 16624 times)

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Offline CF

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #75 on: April 20, 2014, 05:29:43 AM »
My rating of Blake as a giant & LV & Geeshie as minor characters was not a comment on the artistic integrity of their music, John, it was a response to the idea that this new info on these Blues artists was the find of the century (where I may have heard from other non-weenie sources). Nothing we'll find out about these two awesome & interesting & talented folks is as important, IMHO, than finally learning the real name & gravesite of one of the giants of 1920s Blues. We have a pic of LV & other info, family connections, etc . . . . MORE than we have about Blake.

LAST KIND WORDS is a very good song but saying it's deep music & Blake is lite music is an opinion & not necessarily fact. Blake's oeuvre & his heft, to me, are as deep as it gets.   
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline dj

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #76 on: April 20, 2014, 06:40:25 AM »
I certainly wish Wiley and Thomas had recorded more.  And they probably did.  L.V. remembered recording a dozen or so songs, and, looking at the Paramount Matrix numbers of their sessions, there are 7 untraced numbers between the numbers that appeared on issued records.  While it's possible that some of those numbers were used to record other artists while L.V. and Gitchee took a break, there's also the possibility that someone will someday find one or more test pressings by Wiley and Thomas.  We can only hope.

And I have one very minor quibble with the facts of the article.  One of the last things that Sullivan writes is that we "now know" that all of the Thomas/Wiley recordings were made in 1930, because Thomas was certain that they'd only made one trip to Grafton to record.  But people's memories are notoriously unreliable, and Sullivan completely ignores the evidence of the Paramount matrix numbers.  The 1930 numbers all range between 257 and 265, while the numbers of "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Eagles On A Half" are 824 and 826, respectively.  It's possible that in 1931 Paramount for some reason made new pressings of masters made in 1930 and renumbered the new masters to fit in with current recordings, it's much more likely that L.V. just collapsed two trips into one in her memory.  (Note:  It doesn't seem possible that Wiley made a second trip to Grafton in 1931 with a  partner other than L.V. because in the intro to "Pick Poor Robin Clean" the two call each other "Gitchee" and "Slack", and we now know that Slack was a nickname for L.V.)   

Online eric

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #77 on: April 20, 2014, 06:44:40 AM »
John Miller said:

Quote
Those cuts of that duo belong right up there at the top of the heap, with Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night", Henry Spaulding's "Cairo Blues", Charlie Patton's "Pony Blues", you name it.

That's worthy of a new topic, if you ask me.
--
Eric

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #78 on: April 20, 2014, 09:13:23 AM »
Surely the history voluntarily GIVEN him by the artists, and their acquaintances, is of more importance than his claim of a right as to its disposition. They are the ones who willingly participated, usually with the hope and understanding that their story would be told. To prevent its telling is a betrayal of the means by which it was obtained. VERY distasteful!

Hardly anyone has picked up on this.

Plenty on McCormack's interests (assumed not known) and ours but what were the motives of those who spoke to him and gave (sold?) him ephemera and photos?

Can they have wanted the information to remain buried in his personal archive? I recognise the possibility that they were merely answering the white man's questions but I'd like to think that they'd have some pride in the achievements of these great musicians receiving some recognition.

I agree that McCormick is hardly above criticism. We must assume most or all these interviews were arranged with the understanding that he was writing a book about the history of the blues. I believe the book was supposed to come out in 1968 or thereabouts. Why it didn't happen at that time, we cannot fully understand, but McCormick should have realized at a certain point that he owed it to the people he interviewed, at least, to get the information in print, and taken steps to make that happen. And he didn't do that. He may have been suffering from a mental illness, but he was functioning well enough when Guralnick visited him in the late 1980s to gather information for his RJ book. So he could have asked for Guralnick's assistance. He did not.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #79 on: April 20, 2014, 09:33:31 AM »
Quote
It brings to mind the case of Joshua Lehrer.

If this is the case it may be very hard to prove.  It would also be a multiperson fraud since multiple people were involved.  I will have to give benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise and if so I will add it to the long and expansive list of things I have been wrong about.

To be more specific, Lehrer was able to publish things that had problems that his editors didn't discover until after others pointed them out. His ethical lapses weren't picked up until after publication--that's the similarity I was thinking about.

As for Sullivan and Love committing fraud, like you, I'll wait until all the evidence is in.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2014, 09:45:47 AM by Stuart »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #80 on: April 20, 2014, 09:44:04 AM »
Gilgamesh: Mack did seek assistance with the material he had compiled in his 1976 letter to Blues Unlimited. This was mentioned in the article. I do not know anything about the details of the response(s) to his request, as well as how they were received, if in fact there were any serious and well intentioned ones.

Offline Fkeller

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #81 on: April 20, 2014, 09:51:13 AM »
A few have voiced concerns along the lines of "McCormick should..." fill in the blank.  Under normal circumstances I would agree but let's not forget the man suffers from bi-polar disorder and has admitted to having had a "small stroke."  Having known a few folks suffering from those issues, as no doubt have you all, no generally understood motives truly apply.  That may be one of the more tragic aspects of the situations.  It's entirely possible that no appeal may bear fruit.

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #82 on: April 20, 2014, 11:32:41 AM »
Gilgamesh: Mack did seek assistance with the material he had compiled in his 1976 letter to Blues Unlimited. This was mentioned in the article. I do not know anything about the details of the response(s) to his request, as well as how they were received, if in fact there were any serious and well intentioned ones.

Yes, the letter can be read in this forum if you search under Mack's name. It was not a public solicitation for help. Instead, MM states that he is seeking a grant:

"I'm presently seeking a grant for a research assistant to help organize what has now become an archive scattered in several locations and too often inaccessible even to myself."

I guess neither the grant nor research assistant materialized. That statement, you might notice, is depressingly similar to what he says in the NYT article. It's like nothing changed in 38 years.

Toward the end of the letter, MM also says that the 150,000-word RJ book is in the final phase of editing.  >:(


Offline wreid75

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #83 on: April 20, 2014, 07:57:14 PM »
Quote
Mack did seek assistance with the material

he also had someone set up www.mackmccormick.org with the page called the The Mack McCormick Archive Foundation.  His home address and home phone number are on his site.  Would post it but I got barked at for doing so a year ago.  He doesn't do email from what I have gathered.  It says,
Quote
Most of McCormick's archives remain unpublished, and thus McCormick welcomes serious inquiries that would result in the preservation and publishing of his archives so that the public could benefit from them.

I honestly believe he wants help with his archive of info.  Finding someone with the time, resources, and patience needed will be key, and it very may well have to come from someone that isn't yet a wennie ;)

Quote
let's not forget the man suffers from bi-polar disorder and has admitted to having had a "small stroke.
  The amount of patience it takes to work with someone with severe or untreated bi-polar is daunting in the best of circumstances and I only pray someone is up to the challenge.

Offline oddenda

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #84 on: April 21, 2014, 02:54:08 AM »
Come on, White folks, lighten up! All the records issued on Paramount 12000/13000 discs were intended for sale to African American record buyers, not for W.E. record collectors. Of the so-called "country blues" [a White folks'-created category] Blake and Patton sold, while Wiley/Thomas or Willie Brown did not: there are hundreds of examples of each category of "success" [record sales] could be listed. What W.E. think aesthetically about another culture's art doesn't mean shit except to us as reference points. No matter how I try and train my freckles to gather together, I will always be White and an outsider to African American musical cultures no matter how "accepted" I may have been by many of the practitioners.

e.g. - Apparently, I am responsible for the creation of the category of "Piedmont blues". It was nice of John Cephas to use it, but it was never common linguistic currency amongst Blacks, nor are any of the other categories W.E. utilize. They are words of convenience for us. For Blacks at those times, it was just "music" that was "consumed" at parties/dances/etc. Nothing more, nothing less. Ease up on the angels-on-a-head-of-a-pin shit, guys [and it's mostly men] and just enjoy the music.

I may never have been diagnosed as bipolar, but I fully understand Mack's feelings about his "monster" - I have my own, personal one regarding the SE material I have collected over a decade or so in the past. This sort of stuff is a heavy burden for folks like us due to our being probably the only conduit of the art's dissemination to the world at large. MOST OF THE USA DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT!!! So things are as they are. End of sermon.

Peter B.

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #85 on: April 21, 2014, 04:59:53 PM »
I may never have been diagnosed as bipolar, but I fully understand Mack's feelings about his "monster" - I have my own, personal one regarding the SE material I have collected over a decade or so in the past. This sort of stuff is a heavy burden for folks like us due to our being probably the only conduit of the art's dissemination to the world at large. MOST OF THE USA DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT!!! So things are as they are. End of sermon.

There's that, too. It probably isn't simply McCormick's intransigence that has prevented the Monster from being published; it's widespread public indifference. We must assume that neither academia nor the publishing industry took any notice whatsoever of the "Open Letter" of 1976. Why should they? The material pertained to a tiny, niche market that they hardly bother with anyway, even when writers bring polished manuscripts to their door and beg them to publish. They certainly aren't interested enough to devote the kind of time and money required to whip the Monster into shape.

Offline Fkeller

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #86 on: April 21, 2014, 05:29:51 PM »
Most of the US may not give a shit...now.  That's ok.  The same could be said for any number of now recognizably timeless works of art (e.g. that at one point nobody cared).  Those of us who know better have a duty to extol, to preserve, and to make it live.

Offline dj

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #87 on: April 22, 2014, 04:00:09 AM »
On Easter Sunday, April 20th, a week after it appeared in print and about 10 days after it first appeared online, Sullivan's article was among the top 10 in the "Top Stories " (i.e. most read) on the NY Times cell phone app.  This is the online version, with videos of the interviews and links to the songs. 

That L.V.'s story resonated with so many people, and that thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people heard L.V's and Gitchee's music for the first time is just totally cool. 

Offline Fkeller

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #88 on: April 23, 2014, 06:12:25 PM »
So, my wife--who's been working in Houston and knows me only too well--has set up a meeting with Mack for me next Wednesday.  I'll let you know all about it :).

Offline mr mando

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Re: Elvie (L.V.) Thomas
« Reply #89 on: April 24, 2014, 03:16:46 AM »
I enjoyed the (online version of the) article very much, despite some speculations I wouldn't have missed (e.g. the whole murder-lesbianism chapter). I'm also curious how the Houston saxophone player Don Wilkerson could have been found and interviewed despite his death on 18 July 1986. Maybe there were two artists from the same town playing the same instrument during the same period, but that's rather improbable I guess. Nevertheless, while there's room to improve, a well written article in a world famous newspaper about artists as obscure as Elvie and Geeshie is something to be happy about.

 


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