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A musicianer, he's not got as many men friends as he has women, and sometimes the only men friends he has is other musicianers, or a man who ain't got no woman - David Honeyboy Edwards, from his bio

Author Topic: Jesse Fuller  (Read 6643 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Jesse Fuller
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2006, 01:05:45 PM »
"As a boy, he heard his first guitar blues - "frailing blues", perhaps like the Hicks brothers - in Stockbridge (Henry County), adjoining Newton County.  Moving to Red Oak in the southwest outskirts of Atlanta, he learned to play banjo from a brother-in-law, Melvin Moore.  He used to travel to McDonough (Henry County) to hear blues, where many others recalled fine musicians from the past, but eventually took off on his travels, which modified his style.  By no means a Georgia bluesman as such, he plays a twelve-stringed guitar."
In 1958 a 16 year old Valerie Wilmer of South London struck up correspondence with Fuller in which he detailed his early life for her and enclosed photos of he and his wife. The following year Jazz Journal's editor encouraged her to turn the contents of the letters into a feature which they published in May 1959.

In 1971 I had correspondence with Val concerning what JF told her about his date of birth (He was born in Jonesboro, Georgia but ask him when and he'll tell you, "1896, March 12. I really don't know my age but I had to give myself a date"). Here's part of her reply to me:

"Do you want to make me feel ancient or something? May 1959? Well, that's where it all started, with payment for Jazz Journal articles being a couple of records (or probably only one in those early days) that Sinclair T[raill]got from Decca's distribution as freebies! Those were the days....

I have absolutely no idea why Jesse F. gave himself that particular birth date. If you recall, I wrote that article when I was still at school, using Jesse's letters to me as my only source. In my experience, people often give the wrong age when marrying, making themselves either older or younger to give a particular impression. But I imagine Jesse knew roughly the year he was born, despite the circumstances of his early life. Later on in life, it often suits people to claim an earlier birth date when it can't be proved through the existence of a birth certificate. This is in order to be eligible for pensions, etc. I still have that old snap of Jesse and his second wife, etc., plus one taken outside his shoeshine parlor and -- believe it or not, 3 stills from films (names escape me), one being with Mary Pickford/Harold Lloyd(?), the other with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. I've never done anything with these because they were tattered and torn when Jesse lent them to me. I copied them at the time but now they could be retouched with a bit of effort."

Haven't yet check on the current received wisdom as to when he was born but maybe our Jonesboro resident maybe moved to investigate.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Jesse Fuller
« Reply #16 on: July 29, 2006, 09:36:31 AM »
I've been a fan of Jesse Fuller eversince seeing him perform at Cecil Sharp House, London, 1965. The charisma he exuded was astonishing, so much so that I just had to have everything and anything he recorded. Here are the notes that accompanied an album he recorded that year in London.
(Oh yes and don't forget Stefan's page http://www.wirz.de/music/fullefrm.htm)

A SESSION WITH JESSE FULLER
Fontana TL5313
Recorded in London, October 26, 1965

For the ordinary busking one-man band, the biggest problems are presumably the plain mechanical ones of getting dressed ('Just straighten my tambourine for me dear.') and staying upright. No man who earns his living by clashing a cymbal with one elbow, nodding his head to ring a bell, squeezing a concertina, blowing a kazoo, and carrying on his back a bass drum worked by a string tied to one ankle, is going to bother all that much about purely artistic standards.

Jesse Fuller is different. He is one of the only two one-man bands I can think of - the other is Roland Kirk - whose whole elaborate layout is directed to primarily musical ends. He may spend a great deal of time getting ready, but this is a true act of setting up. in the recording engineer's sense of the term.

That famous fotdella, the toe-operated double bass made from parts of an upright piano, has to be tuned and positioned: the home-made hi-hat cymbals have to be assembled: the big black 12-string guitar has to be tuned, the harness holding mouth-harp and kazoo adjusted. And when all this has been done to Jesse's satisfaction, the entire improbable assembly has to be plugged into his amplifier and meticulously balanced.

That amplifier, of course, is another thing that makes Jesse different. Folk performers are generally expected to scorn electricity the way an eremite scorns soap and water. Not Fuller. He is not troubled by irrelevant notions about 'authenticity': he just plays and sings. And in any case, he's a man with some basic skills. He can weld, steam wood into shapes (he made staves in a barrel factory as a kid) and can repair most mechanical things: he could hardly be expected to resist an opportunity to tinker with electricity.

For all this, he is a true folk musician, totally unselfconscious. What he plays and sings has a chlidlike honesty and directness which has almost ceased to exist in other forms of entertainment. Indeed this particular form itself hardly exists elsewhere, for in Jesse Fuller certain kinds of American folksong seem to have become fixed just at the very moment when they were turning into jazz. His rhythms often have the charming stiltedness of classic ragtime: his voice sometimes suggests the earthy hollering of the earliest blues: his songs are a mixture of his own original words and reach me down lines from the common stock of the blues and the folk ballad: his approach is an odd mixture of the square and the hip. Spirituals, work songs, prison songs, rudimentary blues, all jostle each other in his extensive repertoire.

This record represents roughly one half of an extraordinary session held in London on October 26, 1965. After not merely posing, but actually playing, for photographers for half an hour, Jesse went into the studio, sat down, and in the space of less than an hour and a half, recorded 17 titles. There were no second takes: there was only one false start.

Terry Brown produced the session, though 'production' was really limited in this case to getting the sound balanced. After that he said: 'You just take your own time Jesse. And chat if you want to.'

'You'll have to ask me questions then' said Jesse. But before anyone could ask him anything, he was away. 'I think I'll do some spirituals today', he said, like a man deciding what to have for lunch, and went straight into Bye and bye. As it turned out, he only did one more spiritual in the entire session, but once he'd started it simply didn't matter. He moved easily and logically from one number to the next. The only time anyone said anything to him was to ask him to hold it while they changed the tape.

Somehow word got around the building that something out of the ordinary in the way of sessions was going on down in the studio. People manufactured excuses to look in, and at one point some dozen pairs of unauthorized eyes were gazing out of the control room in awe at this little old man, perched all alone in the studio on his stool (home made) and apparently having the time of his life.

He has recorded some of these numbers before. But the astonishing thing is that as he gets older (this session took place a few months before his 70th birthday) his approach actually seems to get freer. On this LP, for example, his rhythms and phrasing are often closer to the loose swing of the jazz musician than they've ever been in the past. His guitar figures this time seem to have quite a lot in common with early Muddy Waters, and his kazoo playing, once the least successful element in a Jesse Fuller performance, has here and there picked up a terse, trombone-like quality, particularly on How long blues, And his present version of his own hit, San Francisco Bay blues, must surely be the best he's ever done, with its tough, wailing harmonica.

In the course of the session (which, incidentally, is presented here almost exactly in the order in which it was done) he told two hilarious stories. The first of them, which has been given the title Reserved seat, is on this record. Now. Jesse's originally from Georgia. and although he's lived in Oakland, California, for close on 30 years, his speech is still Southern in texture and occasionally very rapid, so that it may be somewhat hard to follow at first. It's worth listening to carefully, however, for this episode, in which he has to take refuge under the bed to get away from the razor and gunplay during a country breakdown (dance) is a minor classic of storytelling. It ends where Jesse has a bucket of water slung at him, which, he says 'almost drowned me to death'. A perfect curtain line, springing from a nice sense of drama.

But then Jesse Fuller is a very great artist, even if the medium in which he works is a humble one. He's been playing guitar and singing on and off for most of his life. but I suspect he really developed quite late. This record was made during his third trip to this country. Each visit has presented us with a steadily improving, ever more confident Jesse. For once we are confronted, not with a frail performer resurrected from decent obscurity by some sudden boom, but with a genuine folk-jazz musician of great originality and power who is only now hitting his stride. PETER CLAYTON

Offline BlindSockeyeSalmon

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    • Sugar in the Gourd: Old-Time, All the Time
Re: Jesse Fuller
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2008, 08:10:51 PM »
Just wanted to bump this thread with a mention that the LP John M mentioned in his original post is available on emusic.com:

http://www.emusic.com/album/Jesse-Fuller-Jazz-Folk-Songs-Spirituals-Blues-MP3-Download/10591934.html

John
http://sugarinthegourd.com
Old-Time, All the Time

Offline BlindSockeyeSalmon

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  • Posts: 66
    • Sugar in the Gourd: Old-Time, All the Time
Re: Jesse Fuller
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2008, 08:39:18 AM »
I've been listening to "Jesse Fuller--Jazz, Folk Songs, Spirituals and Blues" on headphones & have to comment that whoever mixed this album in stereo made the very unfortunate decision to put Jesse's vocal, harp and kazoo on the left channel, and the guitar and fotdella on the right channel. (I suppose it was recorded with two mics, each panned hard to one channel in the mix.)

It gives a listener the odd impression of lying on his side while listening to an upright Jesse -- or perhaps, of standing upright while listening to a performer who's lying on his side. I like the album enough that I may have to remix it to mono!

John
http://sugarinthegourd.com
Old-Time, All the Time

 


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