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Author Topic: Is Mamie Forehand the singer of both Honey in The Rock and Wouldn't Mind Dying?  (Read 804 times)

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Offline DonRocin

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As a first time poster on this forum I apologise, in advance, should this question have already been asked, answered and/or dismissed. I meant to ask it years ago when I first joined ? in fact it was my reason for joining; but I forgot.

I have listened to Blind Mamie Forehand?s Honey in the Rock thousands of times, its that kind of track.
I was keen to hear her one other track ? Wouldn?t Mind Dying ? and unfortunately did.  It was a rude shock: the crystal, soprano, innocence of her voice had been replaced by a much older woman?s, even though it was recorded on the same day in 1927.

Can anyone tell me, seriously, that these songs were sung by the same person?

There are two takes of Wouldn?t Mind Dying. Take 2 is slower and subsequently runs 3:23 to Take 1?s 3:12. I mention this because the voice in both is identical thus dispelling any concern that the difference in voice timbre between Honey and Dying is due to an anomaly in the recording process.

The voice on these takes is one of a mature singer, one who has spent 10-15 years belting out gospel songs from a thousand street corners.

A bizarre twist to all this is that if the voice on both takes of Wouldn?t Mind Dying sounds similar to any other voice, its that of the accompanying singer to Reverend I.B. Ware?s version of the same song, accredited, in the notes of American Primitive, as that of his wife.

The voice on Honey in The Rock is young and inexperienced; it nervously trembles and the singer stumbles on the first line of the second chorus. In addition, during the second verse she sings: what the lord has did for me. This would seem an odd mistake for a mature gospel singer irrespective of her level of education.

Is it possible that Honey in The Rock was actually sung by the Forehand?s young daughter Rideth Mae? Admittedly only 10 at the time of recording but it makes more sense to me than reconciling the voices of both tracks being by the same woman. A second Take of Honey in The Rock was recorded but was unfortunately destroyed.

Another explanation could be that the incredible voice on Honey in The Rock is Mamie Forehand?s but the voice on Wouldn?t Mind Dying is someone else's.

Is the voice on Honey in The Rock the same as I Wouldn?t Mind Dying? I don?t think it is.

Of course, there may be a plausible explanation as to why the timbre and pitch of the voices are so different and I?ll look forward to hearing it along with other views from the members of the forum.

Offline Stuart

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Hi Don:

The problem, obviously, is that we are working with a very small sample here. We have two songs (three cuts) attributed to Blind Mamie Forehand, not 20 or 200, so there's nothing else to reference. And there's nothing that I could find about her vocal range or how she sung from people who heard her sing or other contemporaneous sources. Since the voices sound different, the impression is that they are by two different singers. But what is a possible explanation if in fact they are by a single singer?

This is just a guess, but sometimes people sing in higher registers for (a different) emotional effect. Perhaps the strain to hit the higher notes is what they were after. Another guess is that she had a vocal range that allowed her to sing in various registers and she did the songs in different registers.

Edited to add: As for stumbles, think "Minglewood Blues" at about 1:45. Those guys were anything but inexperienced. AFAIK, it was her first time in a recording studio, so a case of first time jitters just might have been a factor.

However,  these are not definitive answers, just guesses.

http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/800012218/BVE-37961-Honey_in_the_rock

http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/800012219/BVE-37962-Wouldnt_mind_dying_if_dying_was_all

Welcome to Weenie Campbell!
« Last Edit: March 17, 2016, 03:50:26 PM by Stuart »

Offline Lignite

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Try singing along with her. A male can reach the notes on Wouldn't Mind Dying. She is singing in a lower register and singing with a harder attack (as AC is also playing with a harder attack on the guitar). The subject is death and this is a heavy serious piece. Try singing along on Honey In The Rock. There ain't no way. She's raised her pitch up to another octave and is singing in a sweet head voice to befit the different subject matter of this song. Although they are using the same instrumentation on both songs, they are approaching them differently; one driving and one sweet.

Offline oddenda

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Apropos of nothing asked here, one should listen to "Sweet Honey in the Rock" by the Selahs with Tarheel Slim lead vocal for a great experience!

Peter B.

Offline DonRocin

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Hi Don:

The problem, obviously, is that we are working with a very small sample here. We have two songs (three cuts) attributed to Blind Mamie Forehand, not 20 or 200, so there's nothing else to reference. And there's nothing that I could find about her vocal range or how she sung from people who heard her sing or other contemporaneous sources. Since the voices sound different, the impression is that they are by two different singers. But what is a possible explanation if in fact they are by a single singer?

This is just a guess, but sometimes people sing in higher registers for (a different) emotional effect. Perhaps the strain to hit the higher notes is what they were after. Another guess is that she had a vocal range that allowed her to sing in various registers and she did the songs in different registers.

Edited to add: As for stumbles, think "Minglewood Blues" at about 1:45. Those guys were anything but inexperienced. AFAIK, it was her first time in a recording studio, so a case of first time jitters just might have been a factor.

However,  these are not definitive answers, just guesses.

http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/800012218/BVE-37961-Honey_in_the_rock

http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/800012219/BVE-37962-Wouldnt_mind_dying_if_dying_was_all

Welcome to Weenie Campbell!

Hi Stuart,

Thanks for the welcome.

I agree there is a minute frame of reference for this singer and therefore we do not know her vocal range. Short of undertaking some audio forensics it is difficult to make a case either way. It ends up a subjective judgement which counts for very little.

The ability to sing in different registers would be a necessity for outdoor gospel singers where, in the days before amplification, singers would require the ability to find volume depending on their location and audience. Honey in The Rock is sung in a head register and Wouldn?t Mind Dying in a chest register. I find it difficult to believe that a singer?s voice would lose all its essential qualities due to singing from one to the other. Even Blind Willie Johnson whose voice could go from honey, to gravel, to flint could always still be recognised.

Good example that Minglewood Blues, Stuart, haha. Did Gus Cannon ever get through a track mistake free? I?m listening to Going to Germany right now. Love his stuff. And its pretty hard to miss Noah Lewis? playing? no matter what key he?s in.

Offline DonRocin

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Try singing along with her. A male can reach the notes on Wouldn't Mind Dying. She is singing in a lower register and singing with a harder attack (as AC is also playing with a harder attack on the guitar). The subject is death and this is a heavy serious piece. Try singing along on Honey In The Rock. There ain't no way. She's raised her pitch up to another octave and is singing in a sweet head voice to befit the different subject matter of this song. Although they are using the same instrumentation on both songs, they are approaching them differently; one driving and one sweet.

Can?t disagree with anything you say in regard to the possibility of synching the voice to its subject.

It is also possible that she affects a style in Wouldn?t Mind Dying which was more in tune with the times and might make some sales.

Its just that the voice on Honey in The Rock is extraordinary. Its more than just singing a variation on a hymn in a higher pitch, there?s a great tenderness, innocence and longing in the voice. Its as much to do with the way the song is approached as it is about register. The voice in Wouldn?t Mind Dying is not extraordinary, nor is it approached with any degree of feeling. It?s a voice from any row of a Baptist Church congregation, in my opinion.

Offline DonRocin

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Apropos of nothing asked here, one should listen to "Sweet Honey in the Rock" by the Selahs with Tarheel Slim lead vocal for a great experience!

Peter B.

I have Sweet Honey in The Rock by The Southern Harmonaires which I think was an aka for the Selah Jubilee Singers but I think it features Hadie Rowe.

Offline oddenda

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I'm relying on my suspect memory of the Apollo 78 by them.

pbl

Offline blind zippo

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Just noticed this after returning from a vacation. My thought is that it's likely that Mamie is the singer on both of her vocals. The ability to sing in" different voices" would be an acquired talent for a street singer. The use of the Blind Willie Johnson analogy I think helps to support this.
It is also interesting that Rev. Mrs. I. B. Ware is mentioned. She and husband (and son) recorded in Birmingham the following year (1928) for Vocalion. As Dixon and Godrich point out, this sounds suspiciously like a pseudonym. We may for example think that as A.C and Mamie recorded in Memphis in 1927 that they were then residents. However, we do know that the 1920 census places them in Birmingham, the same place that the Ware's were recorded.
Checking the census is of value too. The 1920 listing shows A.C. (name alternately given as Asey, Acie, Acey, Asay and A.C.) and Mamie (with daughter who's name appears actually to be Riddle Mae by my reading of the census page) living in the household of a Leo Moore that included his wife Rose and their children. We know that A.C. and Mamie were blind, and neither has an occupation listed. Isn't it likely that Leo Moore or his wife were  relatives to either A.C. or Mamie? While I can't trace the Moore's before, they were listed in 1930, then in Uniontown, Perry Co., AL. (about 95 miles SW of Birmingham) Leo's widow Rose was still there in 1940. There appears to be no listing for A.C and Mamie in 1930. A. C. as Acie Forehand age 18 does appear in the 1910 census in the household of an aunt, Fannie Rushing age 45, in Bozeman, Muscogee Co., GA(said to be just south of Columbus). Acie has no occupation, whereas Fannie was a cook and servant to a private family. Neither appears in the 1900 census and A. C. is not listed in the WW 1 draft registrations
Wikipedia suggests a death date for Mamie as approximately 1936 and states that A. C. remarried that same year to Frances Forest (born July 5, 1920). A search of records for Shelby County, TN neither lists a death for Mamie or a marriage to Frances at that time. An Asa Forehand age 77 did however marry a Frances Flora Dawson age 67 on April 10, 1968. Additionally there are listings in the Memphis City directory for A.C. Forehand  and wife NELLIE in 1938 and 1941! 

Offline Johnm

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Hi all,
I realize this thread has not been posted to for a while, but I would like to cast my vote for there being different lead singers on "Honey In The Rock" and "Wouldn't Mind Dying".  The tone of the singer is completely different on the two cuts, and since a singer's identity is tied up in his/her tone production, what would be the reason for someone to adopt an altogether different vocal tone for one rendition and maintain it throughout, unless it was some kind of novelty recording, which neither of these performances are.  I think the theory that it may be a child singing on "Honey In The Rock" is very plausible.  Whoever sang it, it is a celestial performance, whereas the other song, while fine, is sort of par for the course, just in my opinion.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lignite

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I know this is a really old thread but I was just struck by watching a live video of the Glorifying Vines Sisters of Farmville, N.C. of how black gospel groups seemed to frequently switch lead vocalists in the middle of a performance. It seems to be done in kind of a master and apprentice type way where most of the song is sung by the older experienced singer but they give up a verse or two for the younger inexperienced singer as part of their training. Eventually the mantel would be passed and the younger singer would be able to handle the lead vocal and sing on their own. Possibly Blind Mamie Forehand had a recording session and a younger sister from the church also attended as her young protege. The producers were so charmed by her unique young voice that they chose her as the lead vocalist for the record's B side with the blessing of Blind Mamie Forehand. Just a theory, but I also now think that they are two different vocalists.

Offline btasoundsradio

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After giving it a second listen, I think it's the same person. It's sounds to me like she's using falsetto on "Honey" and not on "Wouldn't Mind Dying"
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

 


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