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Folk styles tend to be conservative and one doesn't have to move the earth in order to express oneself within a tradition. A little personal innovation goes a long way in this music and one needn't go overboard in the direction of technical virtuosity, self-consciously weird harmonic effects, or jazz-inspired no-holds-barred improvisations on the theme... - Art Rosenbaum, Old-Time Mountain Banjo

Author Topic: Sylvester Weaver  (Read 4288 times)

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LoneWolf

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Sylvester Weaver
« on: February 07, 2007, 07:19:42 AM »
Why does everybody say that the first country-blues recordings were made in 1924 by Ed Andrews or Charlie Jackson? Didn't Sylvester Weaver record in 1923??

Offline outfidel

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2007, 09:46:02 AM »
Who is "everybody"?

"Another Kentuckian, Sylvester Weaver (1896-1960), is often credited as the first recording blues guitarist because of his 1923 sessions with singer Sara Martin." -- Steve James, Roots and Blues Fingerstyle Guitar
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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2007, 10:08:22 AM »
Back in the dark ages of the 1960s there once raged a magazine correspondence on this subject which went nowhere fast. The problem was that nobody could agree whether the term "first country blues recording" meant "vocal with guitar" or "guitar instrumental". In the 70s Tony Russell sort of kicked of the debate yet again with a feature on Ed Andrews in Jazz & Blues magazine (see Ed Andrews Tag).

I feel a case of deja vu coming on. :)

Offline outfidel

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2007, 11:34:01 AM »
nobody could agree whether the term "first country blues recording" meant "vocal with guitar" or "guitar instrumental"

Vocal with guitar: Sylvester Weaver & Sara Martin -- "Longing for Daddy Blues" and "I've Got to Go and Leave My Daddy Behind" (October 1923)

Guitar instrumental: Sylvester Weaver -- "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag" (November 1923)

Using either definition, isn't the answer "Sylvester Weaver"?
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Offline banjochris

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2007, 12:03:50 PM »
I seem to remember the definition, as applied to Ed Andrews, as being the first self accompanied guitarist/singer.
Chris

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2007, 12:45:12 PM »
Perhaps Ed Andrews was known as a popular blues juke joint and barrelhouse performer before 1923.

Offline dj

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2007, 01:38:24 PM »
Chris has it right.  The argument in favor of Ed Andrews says that Sara Martin properly fits into the "Classic Female Blues" or "Vaudeville Blues" category, so her recordings with Sylvester Weaver don't count as "Country Blues".  And Weaver's recordings from November 1923 were instrumentals, so Ed Andrews wins the prize for the first country blues singer to accompany himself on guitar. 

One could argue this several ways, and I'm willing to discuss it at great length.  But you'll have to meet me in a bar and buy me a pint before the discussion starts.   ;D

Cooljack

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Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2007, 11:29:23 AM »
I've been listening to alot of Sylvester Weaver recently and one thing that im trying to work out is why he ended his recording carear in 1927? it seemed to me when listening that throughout 1927 he was at his pinacle and then all of a sudden he disappears almost completely. Can anyone elighten me onto why he stopped here? also what do you others think about his music? :)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2007, 11:43:10 AM »
Here's a start:

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=114&topic=2797.0

In the meantime I'll look out that issue of Living Blues and see if there's anything in answer to your query.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2007, 12:57:53 AM »
Don't know if any research has since been done on the 1928-1960 period of Weaver's life but this is how Jim O'Neal summed it up in for the Living Blues feature:

The last letters and statements pertaining to Weaver's musical career in the scrapbook are from 1928. There are later clippings on Mamie Smith's death and on boogie woogie, indicating that Weaver maintained an interest in blues during the next 20 years, but there is no evidence that he continued to work as a musician. He was employed as a chauffeur by a white Louisville family in later years and may have been chauffeuring even during his recording career. Perhaps, like his friend Sara Martin, he also gave up the blues life for the church.

The scrapbook documents only one personal appearance by Weaver: Saturday, June 12, 1926, on a full bill of "OKeh Race Record Stars" at the Coliseum in Chicago?a "cabaret and style show" staged to benefit Chicago's black musicians union (Local 208). The Chicago Defender's special Music Edition for that date states: "Many of these artists have traveled from distant cities at their own expense and without any compensation whatsoever to aid in the success of this event." (Nice to know at least that benefits are nothing new in the blues world.) A clipping on Sara Martin gives biographical information on her, but unfortunately there is no similar piece on Weaver himself. Helen Humes remembers Weaver only in connection with her recording for OKeh and lost track of him not long aher that; Weaver's second wife, Dorothy, told Paul Garon that she never even heard her husband play. We can surmise that Weaver performed locally at the Lincoln Theatre and on Walnut Street in Louisville and occasionally traveled to play in other areas; possibly since he recorded in Atlanta, Yazoo Records tagged him as a Georgia artist when reissuing his Can't Be Trusted Blues, but that may have also been based on his style ? clean, finger-picked guitar in the general Southeastern blues mold ? rather than on knowledge of his geographical residence. Two Weaver sides were also reissued on Magnolia's Rough Alley Blues: Blues From Georgia 1924-1931, and Bengt Olsson wrote in the liner notes that Weaver was reputedly from Georgia and moved to Louisville around 1920; no source is cited for this assertion.

Back in the 1950s Lonnie Johnson gave Paul Oliver the tip that Weaver was from Louisville, and Oliver notes: "Lonnie told me that while he was working in St. Louis, playing both for Charlie Creath's riverboat band and also at the Booker T. Washington Theatre in 1925, he met up with Sylvester Weaver who was traveling on tour with Sara Martin." Other than Lonnie's expressed admiration for Weaver's musicianship, however, this is all the information on Weaver that Oliver could find in his files.

With little information forthcoming from his widow, that leaves a death certificate as the major biographical source on Sylvester Weaver. From it, we know that he was born in Louisville on July 25, 1897; his father was Walter Weaver; his mother's maiden name was Mattie Emery; he was in the chauffeuring business; and he died from carcinoma of the tongue at 2001 Old Shepardville Rd. in Louisville on Apr. 4, 1960.

[PS: Cooljack - if you are interested in reading other discussions about Weaver, click the tag at the foot of this page and it will display links to them]
« Last Edit: December 30, 2007, 01:03:37 AM by Bunker Hill »

Cooljack

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2007, 12:21:06 AM »
thanks for the info, very interesting :)

2bluetoes

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2008, 01:40:27 AM »
I was just wondering... How was the section on Weaver (in the Living Blues), split up? I'm aware that there are two parts, but what's being said in which part?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2008, 04:37:34 AM »
I was just wondering... How was the section on Weaver (in the Living Blues), split up? I'm aware that there are two parts, but what's being said in which part?
I'll need to unearth the issues to be certain but from memory the first issue was about the Louisville blues scene in general and the second devoted to Weaver. I'll list the contents in due course...

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2008, 08:39:05 AM »
Living Blues 51, Summer 1981 (p.25-36) contained features or interviews by Jim O'Neal on or with then contemporary singers, Will Moore, John Wesley Townsend, William 'Fess' Hamilton, Jack Gaines and a lengthy interview conducted by Burnham Ware in 1978 with Bill Livers. There's also a short interview from the same year with Earl MacDonald jug band survivor Henry Miles.

 


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