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Author Topic: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?  (Read 11307 times)

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Offline outfidel

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Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« on: May 17, 2005, 03:05:23 PM »
Below is a bit of info on the relationship between Frank Stokes & Jimmie Rodgers. Is there any more specific knowledge known about their relationship, e.g., year(s) & locations where they performed together, songs that they performed/swapped, etc.

It would've been fascinating to see these two together in their prime!

"Medicine shows were extremely popular in America around the turn-of-the-century. Many white country blues performers started out as traveling songsters. Among these are Roy Acuff, Dock Boggs, Fiddling John Carson, Frank Hutchinson, and Uncle Dave Macon. These shows influenced race relations because they featured and entertained blacks and whites. One of the most famous medicine show songsters was Jimmie Rodgers, also known as the father of hillbilly or country and western music. Rodgers's career began in medicine shows where he occasionally put on blackface and frequently played with Frank Stokes, a black songster of Memphis from whom he is thought to have acquired much of his song collection."

source: How the Blues Affected Race Relations in the United States
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Offline Cambio

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2005, 04:14:16 PM »
I've never heard that before.  It seems a little odd to me.  First of all, I can't think of any overlap in their repetoire.  Usually when people had a working relationship they share some songs in common.
 Second, in the Nolan Porterfield biography of Jimmie Rodgers there is no mention of a relationship with Frank Stokes.  That's a pretty thorough review of Rodgers life and it doesn't seem likely that he would have missed what would have been such a monumental influence during Rodgers formitive years.   Rodgers did medicine shows during the early part of his career, but from all accounts he wasn't much to listen to.  That would have been in the early 20's.  During that time Stokes would have been smoking.
Do they site a source for that statement?
Can anyone think of songs that the two share in common?
I could be totally wrong on this, but it just seems a little funky to me.

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2005, 06:36:37 PM »

 I have to agree with Cambio. This sounds very suspect to me.

 Like most on this forum, I'm familiar with Stokes' repertoire, but I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable on Rodger's repertoire and I'm at a complete loss to think of even one song that overlaps, much less "much of his song collection." as claimed by the author of that piece, (who fails to cite their source).
  From the biographical details of Rodgers' life that I do know, I think it highly unlikely that their paths ever crossed at all.

  For an example of someone who *did* have a direct influence on Rodgers, check out Emmett Miller, who has been discussed this forum before.

   

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2005, 07:03:37 PM »
I can't think of any either. A quick scan of JR's titles doesn't suggest any overlap, though obviously song names can change. The author is paraphrasing this from Francis Davis's The History of the Blues, where, on page 88, Davis writes, "There were white songsters, though we might not think of them as such. The most obvious example is Jimmie Rodgers, the man frequently hailed as the father of 'hilbilly' or country-and-western music. Rodgers started his career with the medicine shows, sometimes performing in blackface and often paired with Frank Stokes, the black Memphis songster (and professional blacksmith) from whom he is suspected to have learned much of his repertoire."

Davis doesn't say where he gets his info either.

 :P

Offline outfidel

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2005, 08:46:40 PM »
Thanks for the info everyone. Yes, I had first read about Stokes-Rodgers in Francis Davis's book, then stumbled across the web page above.

Perhaps Francis Davis was confusing Jimmie Rodgers with Dan Sane???
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2005, 06:35:57 AM »
Another fellow named Don Santini seems to be cribbing from the same odd info at a site called politicalaffairs.net "Marxist Thought online" (ahem) ....

http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/750/1/81

Offline Cambio

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2005, 07:28:02 AM »
Perhaps Francis Davis was confusing Jimmie Rodgers with Dan Sane???

Ah yes. ?Well in that case, it all makes perfect sense. ;D

Offline waxwing

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2005, 09:54:59 AM »
Is that the same Don Santini that you sometimes play bass for, Mike B.? Mike Dingle told me he was playin' Third Thursday tomorrow so I'll ask him about it.Any chance you'll come by?

I can't get that link to go, UB.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2005, 10:27:16 AM »
Oops, it seems that should be Don Santina, with an a. The link won't work for me right now either, nor does the original Google search result link work. It is also available here http://www.counterpunch.org/santina02192005.html

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2005, 10:49:52 AM »

  Yes, John. That's the same Don Santina that I play with. We've been the best of friends for  about 25 years. As you may have gathered, Don has some rather strong political opinions. :)     

   I'll ask him what his source of information is.

   I hadn't planned on playing at the Boathouse tomorrow because I have a gig at a Retirement party in Bolinas. Don broke his arm last month and yet, I just got an email from him asking if I'd play Bass with him at the Boathouse.
   That's some mighty quick healing!
    Perhaps Frank Stokes taught him how to heal broken bones ;D

Offline waxwing

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2005, 11:07:18 AM »
Wow, reading that article gives deeper meaning to the fact that Don is one of my biggest supporters, encouraging me to record a CD, and always commenting on the authenticity and honesty of my performances. Great guy.
Have fun in Bolenas, Mike, and I'll see you soon.
All for now.
John C.
"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 Cambio

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2005, 02:14:00 PM »
Wow!  Mr. Santina's article is so rife with inaccuracies, half truths and poor logic I had to stop reading it after he gave credit for the Carter scratch to Leslie Riddle.  The Rodgers / Stokes relationship is beginning to sound even more dubious.

Offline Slack

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2005, 03:00:48 PM »
Was wondering if that article was going to get discussed - we'll let Uncle Bud moderate.   :P

I agree the article has a few problems  :D -- had to chuckle at this line: "The beat goes on with continuing CD sales, blues festivals, blues documentaries, t-shirts, posters and even a sizeable internet market of instruction videos like "How To Play Guitar Like Blind Blake." (Hey wait a minute, I love my guitar videos! ... not to mention WeenieCampbell!)  Also, not sure the solution to centuries of discrimination is a National Foundation and a Board of Directors (let's form a committee!?) but I do like the sentiment of provding more opportunities to urban youth.

For every action there is a reaction, there are positive sides to exploitation  - we're darn lucky to have the music at all.

Cheers,
slack

Offline Buzz

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows? + Weenie himself.
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2005, 09:18:35 PM »
I think we at WeenieCampbell should sell little bracelets, kind of like Lance Armstrong's but with a "non-Christian message", a la those of several years ago. Del Rey and I considered producing some with "W W B D"' for " What would Bo (Carter) Do?"  >:D , to counter the self-rigtheous mood involved with those other ones. . Maybe we should also produce"WWWD" , "What Would Weenie Do?"  8) 

He'd spray a big raspberry at the authors of the article, bow to  original Black Southern Bluesmen, and then encourage all present to have a libation, light up their cigars if desired, ignore skin color, then get back to life and living, smiling, singing, ignoring curtain calls, and making and receiving love! Here, here!

May not be a big seller...
 
Here's to Weenie, Slack!

Buzz.
Do good, be nice, eat well, smile, treat the ladies well, and ignore all news reports--which  can't be believed anyway,

Buzz

lebordo

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Re: Frank Stokes, Jimmie Rodgers & the medicine shows?
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2005, 10:33:29 PM »
It seems a little odd to me. First of all, I can't think of any overlap in their repetoire. Usually when people had a working relationship they share some songs in common.

While we think of Stokes repetoire as his 38 or so recorded songs, that recorded repetoire would surely have been a small part of his performing repetoire.

Quoting from the National Park Service "Trail Of The Hellhound" website http://www.cr.nps.gov/delta/blues/people/frank_stokes.htm:

Quote
Possessed of a powerful voice and driving guitar style, Stokes busked on the streets of Memphis playing a variety of minstrel tunes, early blues, ragtime numbers, breakdowns, and popular songs of the day. His breadth of musical knowledge made him the embodiment of the rural black musical tradition up to the early twentieth century. Stokes joined forces with fellow Mississippian Garfield Akers as a blackface songster, comedian, and buck dancer in the Doc Watts Medicine Show, a tent show that toured the South during World War I.

Tiring of the road, Stokes settled in Oakville, Tennessee, to work as a blacksmith, an occupation that allowed him to play dances, picnics, fish fries, saloons, and parties at his leisure.

Clearly, Stokes played much that he did not record.  And clearly he did do blackface work in traveling show during and perhaps after WWI, which, if my fading memory is correct, ended in 1919.  And it wasn't until 1927 when Stokes was first recorded, so it's problematic how much of his recorded repetoire would even have been in his repetoire at the time he might have met/tutored Jimmy Rodgers.  It would be interesting to know if Jimmy Rodgers ever toured with the Doc Watts Medicine Show.

While black and white musicians may not have worked together on a daily basis in the south, from what I've read it was also not all that uncommon; and using "blackface" would probably have made it even more socially acceptable.

So whether or not they actually worked together may be subject to debate, an short of a photo or first hand witness, we'll probably never know for sure.  But clearly they could have worked together, and if the did, the older Stokes (born 1888) would likely have been the mentor to the younger Rodgers (born 1897).  So to me, the story is certainly believeable, and I wouldn't be so quick to discount the idea.

 


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