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...back in the days when you recorded performances instead of performing recordings - Willie Dixon, autobiography

Author Topic: Imitation bass?  (Read 1295 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2017, 02:00:03 PM »
Not done yet, Johnm. I'll finish off 1942 and then post some YouTube selections in which the various instruments are quite audible. I think it is labelled "v bass" in the sessions where he used his voice, "sb" when he was playing a standard double bass, and either "imb" or "bass cano" is when he was playing a washtub bass. I'll discuss this with the samples. Most of his recordings are available on youtube, and if good audio equipment is used, ie headphones, his playing and tonal characteristics are quite audible in many cases.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2017, 02:16:07 PM »
Elkins career seems to wind down a bit in 1942, ending at the end of July. As the war effort was starting up the recording industry itself may have been winding down. B&GR covers through the end of 1943 and Elkins has no recordings in the final pre-war year. Many of the artists he backed continue to record post-war but I have no reference to that era to know if Elkins continue to record, and if so on sb or imb. He does finish strong with another session with Petway, a session each with St Louis Jimmy and Doctor Clayton, possibly one with Roosevelt Sykes, another with Sonny Boy Williamson and a final session with Gillum. Interestingly Blind John Davis, whom Elkins was first recorded with in '38, plays piano on these last two sessions, recorded on the same day.

Alfred Elkins Discography 1942

42.02.20   imb   Robert Petway v,g;               Chicago   BB
         poss Tommy McCennan v-1,sp-1
   Bertha Lee Blues
   Hard Working Woman
   Ar?nt Nobody?s Fool
   Boogie Woogie Woman -1
   Hollow Log Blues
   In The Evening
   My Baby Left Me
   Cotton Pickin? Blues

42.03.25   imb   St Louis Jimmy (Jimmy Olden) v;         Chicago   BB
         Roosevelt Sykes p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   St Louis Woman Blues
   Poor Boy Blues
   Back On My Feet Again
   Nothing But Blues
   Soon Forget You
   Can?t Stand Your Evil Ways

42.03.27   imb   Peter J. ?Doctor? Clayton v,         Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p, Ransom Knowling bb
   Honey Stealing Blues
   My Own Blues
   On The Killing Floor
   Moonshine Woman Blues
   Pearl Harbor Blues
   Ain?t No Business We Can Do

42.04.16   sb (poss?)   Roosevelt Sykes (The Honey Dripper) v,p;   Chicago   Co, OK-1
         unknown eg;
   Sugar Babe Blues -1
   The World Is Upside Down
   I Got You Figured Out
   Are You Unhappy?
   You Can?t Do That To Me
   You Done Got Hip
   Love Has Something To Say
   The Old Hog Pen

42.07.30   imb   Sonny Boy Williamson v,h;            Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   Love Me Baby
   What?s Gettin? Wrong With You
   Blues That Made Me Drunk
   Come On Baby And Take A Walk

42.07.30   sb or imb         Jazz Gillum v,h-1;            Chicago   BB
         Blind John Davis p; Big Bill Broonzy g;
   I?m Gonna Leave You On The Outskirts Of Town -1
   I Couldn?t Help It Blues -1
   My Big Money -1
   Woke Up Cold In Hand -1
   Water Pipe Blues -1
   Tell Me, Mama
   Deep Water Blues
   You?re Tearing Your Playhouse Down-1

Wax
« Last Edit: January 22, 2017, 02:17:08 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2017, 05:52:54 PM »
Okay, so now it's listen and decide for yourself time. It is remarkable how much of Elkin's music is available on YT and much thanks to people like Nico Fornier and randomandrare for making high decent sound files available. Elkins playing is well represented in the recordings and benefitted from microphone technology's constant improvement.

So first is from Elkins original session and he is playing sb, the double bass. Included for comparison, note the rich tone and sustain the instrument has.



Next is the session with Merline Johnson in which he is credited with "v bass" and you can pretty well hear him sing a do do do doohdo doohdo bass line. This and the other two sessions in 1939 are the only sessions credited as v bass.



From the first session in which Elkins is credited with playing the imb, while also singing the baritone part. You can clearly hear the quick decay thinner tone. In the stop time section around 1:05 you can hear the bass well and I think he strikes hard for volume causing that metallic rattle that is distinctive of a washtub.



At about 1:50 Lonnie calls Alfred out for a solo. Yup!



Elkins is first credited playing "bass cano" in his second session with Jazz Gillum, and his playing has the boldness of being more rehearsed. His technique seems to have improved, slightly softer decay, just grazing the metallic rattle nicely. Or is it a slightly different instrument? Why wouldn't he experiment with different washtubs or substitutes, or different string material? Or were they just having a laugh? Well, the only other players credited playing a bass cano were a William "Willie" Mitchell and a Willie Dixon. (Don't know if this is the famed post-war bass player, but this is his only pre-war credit.) All three were recorded by Bluebird in Chicago, in a little over a year, and the first was Willie Dixon who was backing The Five Breezes, a vocal group, on 11/15/40 (sorry, US style). Next was Elkins at this session on 3/20/41, then, a couple weeks later, Mitchell played the bass cano backing Yank Rachel on 4/03/41. The "instrument" seems to have lain dormant for a while, until Rachel came back into the studio on 12/11/41 and it was resurrected in Elkins hands. He then used it the next day backing Joe Williams and it hasn't been heard since. My money would be on it being a joke. Maybe a new tub or something, so it was christened with a special name. Or maybe it is a long piece of hollow cane with a single string? Sounds pretty similar to Elkins playing the imb, particularly as through '41 his technique and tone got much better.



And here is Elkins behind Robert Petway in Petway's first session.



And here with Willie ?61? Blackwell. Elkins stays out of the way of Blackwells soft playing but comes in nicely in places.



Had to put one in from the Big Joe (Joe McCoy) And His Rhythm: session, even if B&GR says "prob. Ransom Knowlings or Alfred Elkins, imb;". It's just fun to hear Joe, Charley and Robert Lee McCoy. If it is Knowlings it's his only imb credit.



That's about half of the selections I found. I'll post now and not sure if I'll finish tonight.

Wax
« Last Edit: January 22, 2017, 10:48:56 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
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Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline waxwing

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2017, 09:06:31 PM »
Looking now at the last year of Elkins recordings. At the end of July, 1941, he is backing Robert Lockwood. Elkins bass seems to keep right in unison with Lockwood?s bass drone, an octave lower, and together the make a powerful beat, yet he steps out with fills here and there.



The next day he is playing behind Walter Vincson with Robert Lee McCoy. Terrific guitar, harp washtub instrumental around 1:35



A few months later he is back with Washboard Sam, Broonzy and Memphis Slim. Instrumental around 1:20.



Skipping forward a bit we find Elkins backing Sonny Boy Williamson, with Blind John Davis and Charley McCoy. Elkins is kind of in the mix, but comes out at times, particularly during instrumental around 1:35



The same day Elkins was backing Yank Rachel with Sonny Boy and Washboard Sam Now there?s a group. Someone seems to have found the bass cano for Elkins to play and he is very relaxed on this hot version of Tappin? That Thing. Instrumental around :55 and again at 1:45



Elkins is back the next day playing the bass cano for the last time behind Big Joe Williams, with Sonny Boy Williams joining in too. Another super group.

I think the bass cano thing was a joke, either between the musicians or one of the A&R guys and the players. I thinkit has pretty much the same aural qualities as the imb.



Elkins last session in 1941 was behind Big Maceo with Tampa Red. When he gets out from behind Maceo?s left hand Elkins is playing in top form.



My last selection is from Robert Petway?s second session, which has Elkins listed as playing imb, and tone and decay wise it sounds like other sides from the era, but at about 1:15 he pulls off a ?slap bass? solo that I cannot imagine could be done on a washtub bass, unless possibly he used a fixed neck washtub.



So, a little controversy to end it. I still think that imb represents a washtub bass. That is certainly what B&GR states they mean and if it was used by discographers at the sessions, I think that?s what they meant, too. That doesn?t mean that mistakes don?t happen. But to me most of what I hear in the recordings where Elkins is indicated as playing imb or bass cano, are consistent with a washtub bass using a heavy steel core or steel cable string. This gives the best tone, I believe, and I think Elkins would have experimented to get the best tone.

Anyway, thanks again, Johnm for piquing my interest. I?m hoping to go ahead and take another pass through the Index of Accompanists to pull out players of various jug band instruments, but not right away. And now I?ve got an itch to make my own washtub.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Slack

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2017, 10:29:31 AM »
I haven't gone through all of it - but fabulous stuff Wax.  This is kind of the instrumental version of SOTM!

I don't know if you've ever talked to Washtub Jerry about washtub bass making, but he is always happy to tell you his process, even at the risk of telling you more than you want to know.  I thought he was kidding the first time he told me he used a porsche clutch cable.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2017, 11:31:46 AM »
Thanks for all the time and effort that you put into this, Wax. I haven't had  chance to get through all of it, but I'll keep working my way through as time permits.

Offline eric

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2017, 11:37:10 AM »
Wow, herculean effort Wax, great stuff.  Bonus points for Robert Petway.
--
Eric

Offline Rivers

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2017, 04:28:57 PM »
Nice one wax! Should be in Weeniepedia methinks.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2017, 11:37:08 PM »
Hey, thanks all. It was actually pretty fun, once I got going. It?s amazing how B&GR can really give you an insight into what was going on in these recoding studios once you start sorting things out by date.

Slack, a clutch cable is a brilliant idea. Since I?m still driving a 1971 VW Squareback, which has a very similar rear-situated ?pancake? or flat 4 engine to the early ?70s Porsche 911 (and the same D Jetronic fuel injection) I may already have just the thing. Can?t picture it at the moment, but I know one end has some sort of fixture swaged on, which might make for a very elegant means of affixing to the center of the tub. I had already sussed that the method of attachment is important in transmitting the vibration efficiently. Food for thought. Only saw Jerry one year at PT and never got to talking with him. Thanks for the tip.

I was already pretty aware that a twisted steel cable was an optimal string. Lloyd Elliot, who played with my old jug band, The Croker Sack Boys, used something around a 3/32? cable and got excellent tone. Here?s a version of Canned Heat we did at a garden party (in Piedmont CA would you believe?). I think you can hear how similar the decay and tonal qualities Lloyd creates are to the recordings of Alfred Elkins. And he?s bare handing the right hand, only using a glove for "fretting", so you know he doesn?t have to overplay to get volume. Lloyd and the harp player, Ben Burdick, were pretty new to the band, so you might want to jump in to the 1:00 mark where they?ve gotten settled in. Nice solo by Ben around 2:10. Totally recorded through a shotgun mic on the camera about 8-10 feet away. I just placed everybody to get a good mix. Worked out.



Weeniepedia away, Riv.

Wax
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 11:41:01 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Slack

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2017, 06:59:46 AM »
Yeah, that washtub bass really comes through - good recording.

Of course Washtub Jerry uses his own setup and technique, but I think there are some things you might learn from him.  He likes mexican galvanized tubs for example and he works the tops as smooth as possible to get rid of overtones.  anyway, keep us posted on your tub project. 

Offline Rivers

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #25 on: January 25, 2017, 10:17:58 AM »
Mexican galv tubs will be subject to a HUGE import tariff, as will Porsche clutch cables.

It's going to be GREAT, you'll absolutely love it, believe me.

Offline eric

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Re: Imitation bass?
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2017, 10:40:20 AM »
We'll just toss them over the wall.   ;)
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Eric