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When it all comes down, you gotta go back to Mother Earth - Memphis Slim, Mother Earth

Author Topic: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?  (Read 1199 times)

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Offline arg6442

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Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« on: March 15, 2016, 09:17:34 PM »
Hey guys,

I was recently thinking about the geography of pre-war blues, and found it interesting that while there is an abundance of players from Mississippi and Texas, and some from Arkansas, there are so few artists from Louisiana. In my searching I found about 3: Lead belly, Sam Collins, and King Solomon Hill (who was originally from southern Mississippi) is there a reason why so few artists came from Louisiana?
Wailin' and sailin', moving down that line.

Offline Slack

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2016, 07:18:39 AM »
Those three are big - so we'll give Louisiana a break.   :P

A guess would be, at least in south LA, that cajun music was the blues of choice.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2016, 08:41:46 AM »
Hi arg6442,
Slack makes a good point with regard to Cajun music.  One Louisiana native I'd add to your list--Richard "Rabbit" Brown, who lived in New Orleans.  I know Jesse Thomas and his brother Willard "Ramblin'" Thomas were both from Louisiana originally, and I believe Oscar "Buddy" Woods was, too.   Later on, Robert Pete Williams and Snooks Eaglin were from Louisiana.
One reason I've heard proposed for the dearth of early Louisiana blues musicians put out on record was that the state's population was so poor (much like Alabama), that the record companies despaired of being able to sell any records there, since no one could afford them anyway.  It may have been, too, that there was no local "scout", like H. C. Speir, to find and propose Louisiana musicians as possible recording artists.  Short answer--I don't know why more early Louisiana musicians were not recorded.  I don't know if anybody knows why exactly.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 16, 2016, 01:57:18 PM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2016, 08:49:33 AM »
I think it's partially to do with the local "scouts." In Mississippi you had Speir and Lembo, in Alabama (well, Birmingham) you had Harry Charles, in Texas you had the guy that referred Lemon (Ashford? the name escapes me). In Mississippi, you had folks like Bo Carter recommending other artists, plus the Mississippi folks often ended up in Memphis, like Atlanta a major recording center.

But also, rather than cajun music, surely the major music (from the record companies' point of view) coming out of Louisiana was New Orleans jazz, much of which was recorded in Chicago (or Richmond, Ind.) I think the focus on jazz may have obscured some of the state's country blues artists, and I don't think most jazz figures would have thought much of those kind of players in terms of recommending them.

Apropos of nothing, the Mississippi Sheiks' debut recordings were made in Shreveport and I think Bo Carter recorded in New Orleans a couple of times. Also add Memphis Minnie to the list of artists originally from Louisiana, and I believe Son House grew up there.
Chris

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2016, 03:10:39 PM »
Oscar Woods was from Louisiana, I think

One possible reason in that the local big city was of course New Orleans, where jazz was king. A musician would tend to gravitate that way if he wanted work?

Offline jrn

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2016, 05:10:53 PM »
Blind Joe Reynolds
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2016, 07:10:45 AM »
I think it's partially to do with the local "scouts." In Mississippi you had Speir and Lembo, in Alabama (well, Birmingham) you had Harry Charles, in Texas you had the guy that referred Lemon (Ashford? the name escapes me). In Mississippi, you had folks like Bo Carter recommending other artists, plus the Mississippi folks often ended up in Memphis, like Atlanta a major recording center.
I've been holding fire on Ashford but as there's been no response so far.

RT Ashford discoverer of BLJ in Dallas 1925 who was also proprietor of a record store and shoe shine parlour! Somebody, maybe David Evans or Alan Govenar, has written at length about Ashford. Damned if I can recall when and where. No doubt the little grey cells will eventually come to my rescue.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2016, 08:05:25 AM »
Ha!  Can you imagine finding Lemon and referring him to a record company?  "There's this guy who plays on the streets down here in Dallas, and I really think he's pretty good.  He might sell some records for you."  You think?
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lignite

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2016, 09:58:50 AM »
I dunno.... the whole of North Carolina Piedmont blues recording activity during the 1930s and 40s seem to be through the efforts of one such scout for ARC; John Baxter Long. Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Gary Davis, Bull City Red, Floyd Council, Sonny Jones, Sonny Terry and later Brownie McGhee and Buddy Moss (post incarceration) all owe their recording careers to JB Long who moonlighted as a talent scout but whose regular job was manager of the local United Dollar Store in Durham.The only other early NC blues recording artists not under Mr. Long's tutelage were the Trice Brothers who recorded unsuccessfully for Decca through their friend Blind Boy Fuller's aborted effort at recording on his own for a rival record label. The only other one I can think of is Julius Daniels who recorded earlier in Charlotte, NC but I think he was actually from South Carolina. There probably were lots of other country blues players in the state at the time but we are only privy to these ones who recorded commercially through the machinations of this one talent scout.

Offline oddenda

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2016, 03:01:04 AM »
In his autobiography, pianist Sammy Price on p.27 relates telling Ashford about Lemon and that he should be recorded. So, there seems to have been a Black originator to Lemon getting on records. Price mentions a number of times in the book of knowing Lemon and appreciating his artistry.

Peter B.

p.s.- Julius Daniel (note in the singular both on his death certificate and in his widow's name: I met her in the 70s and she was too church to be informatine about his prior secular life.)

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2016, 07:58:42 AM »
Excellent question. No doubt it was not for lack of talent. But the state of Louisiana was largely bypassed by the scouts and field recorders. Vocalion's 1937 Hot Springs session did record a couple of Shreveport-area blues singers, Three-Fifteen and his Squares and Tommy Settles. The latter also recorded for Paramount.

As far as I know, no one from Baton Rouge was recorded pre-war, whereas post-war you had a bunch of guys.

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2016, 12:13:10 PM »
Vocalion's 1937 Hot Springs session did record a couple of Shreveport-area blues singers, Three-Fifteen and his Squares and Tommy Settles. The latter also recorded for Paramount.

Are you referring to "Jazzbo" Tommy Settlers, or is there a separate blues singer named Tommy Settles?

Offline Shovel

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2016, 03:07:54 PM »
Also add Memphis Minnie to the list of artists originally from Louisiana
top of the list, imo.

Offline ScottN

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2016, 04:50:49 PM »
Was Lonnie Johnson already mentioned?  He lived in New Orleans until he was 22 when he moved to St. Louis in 1921. He was a professional touring musician before the move but it wasn't until 1925 in StL that he achieved his recording fame.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2016, 08:36:20 PM by ScottN »

Offline oddenda

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Re: Why are there so few pre-war blues artists from Louisiana?
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2016, 02:11:48 AM »
The act of being recorded back in the day was an act of pure dumb-luck serendipity. No reflection on a musician's ability, but just being in the right place at the right time with the right material... .

pbl

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