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And that low-down dirty Deacon done stole my gal and gone - Luke Jordan, Church Bell Blues

Author Topic: Blues of St. Louis  (Read 13515 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2004, 01:18:33 PM »
Good work John M., and John D. for getting it posted. I'll probably start working on it in a couple weeks, and I'll let you know how it sounds on the Style O. I'm practicing up this week for my monthly Third Thursday and then a weekend workshop with Woody Mann and Mary Flowers. I'm looking forward to connecting with our new PT faculty member, both a fine picker and, I hear, she plays a particularly nice L-00. You're right about that great turnaround, Slack. I guess we won't have much of a lyric fest on this one as Lane is pretty clear, eh?
Well, I'm really starting to look forward to playing with everyone this summer, now that we're in the new year.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Buzz

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2004, 08:45:48 PM »
Yo! Slack! Heah I is!

Just bought the Buddy Moss, I've tried 3 times , even with reboot, and "Buy" window won't let me buy Hard Times lesson! HELP!

I have 2 St Louis Blues CDs that are great to listen to:
1. Wolf Records: WSE110CD: St. Louis Blues:Henry Townsend, Henry Spaulding/ Charley Jordan. 2 cuts by Spaulding: Cairo Blues and Biddle Street Blues, 13 cuts by Townsend, 8 by Jordan, including Big Four and Keep It Clean, which I think is a real hoot. Makes me smile when I hear it. Would like to play it, and jam with someone on a washboard and ukelele.

2. Yazoo:1030= St. Louis Blues 1929-1935: The Depression.:Townsend's Sick with the Blues, Mistreated Blues, Poor Man Blues, Henry's Worried BLues. Also has duplicate Jordans, Big Four and Kepp it Clean, but has also:
Ho Henry Brown's Preacher's Blues, Titanic Blues, Georgia Boyd's Never Mind Blues, Peetie Wheatstraw's Sleepless Night Blues, Joe Stone's Back Door Blues. 14 cuts in all.

Ciao!
Miller

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

Buzz

Offline lindy

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2004, 11:34:55 AM »

I may be posting something that most of you already know about, but there's a site called St. Louis Blues-dot-net that has the following two pages:

Lots of pictures of Henry Townsend's 94th birthday party last October; several pics of Alvin Youngblood Hart included:

http://stlblues.net/henry_94.htm

Here's an interview conducted before Henry's 92nd birthday:

http://www.stlblues.net/henryinterview.htm

Enjoy!

Lindy

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2004, 12:55:22 PM »
Hi Lindy,
Thanks for the links on Henry's birthday party and the interview with him.  The interview was fascinating, especially the part where he said he ad libs everything--amazing!  I remember when he was at Port Townsend the first year he said that he did not know a single song as a set piece, that he would play the same way every time with the same lyrics.  The ad-libbing may also go toward explaining how great a lot of his lyrics are, including those on his recent recordings.  He is a thoughtful, philosophical sort of guy, and he has the rhythms and language of blues phrasing so well internalized that he can make up great lyrics on the spot.  Not a bad way to go if you can swing it . . . .
All best,
John

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2005, 08:43:25 AM »
Hi all,
Last week I read a book that some of you may want to check out if you have an interest in St. Louis blues in the Pre-War and immediate Post-War periods.  It is "A Blues Life", by Henry Townsend as told to Bill Greensmith, and it is published by University of Illinois Press, 145 pages.  It is a very quick and fascinating read, not only for its mention of various musicians, famous and less so, that Henry Townsend has encountered over the course of his life, but also for its depiction of times gone by and how the Black population coped with the injustice and violence they were often arbitrarily subjected to by the St. Louis police force of that era.

Henry Townsend has a great way of expressing himself and some wonderful turns of phrase.  He left home at the age of 9 (!) to avoid physical punishment for blowing snuff into the eyes of a younger cousin.  Of the episode, he says,
   "And so my daddy was gonna get me for that, and that's when I first left home.  You don't know how bad it hurts my feelings for me to think that somebody is gonna physically interfere with me, like hitting on me.  You don't know how bad it hurts me.  My heart jumps and tears in two like busting a string.  I can't stand that.  I don't dish it out and I can't stand it.  I've been whipped but it wasn't a pleasant thing for the man that whipped me--or me--I'll tell you that."
Speaking of his early days learning to play guitar, he says,
   "But now David [Pearchfield]  had got me kicked off to playing a couple of little things that indicate to me that I would learn to play the guitar someday.  It wasn't anything that I was really playing, but I had some zeal on the guitar."
Henry's thumbnail sketches of musicians, many not more than a sentence or two are priceless, and there is a tremendous temptation to quote him at length.  Here's a taste of one.
   "Lee Green really played the "44 Blues", but it was a different style from Roosevelt's, though.  He had his own style.  The truth is, personally I liked his style better than I did Roosevelt's, his little funny riffs and things--it amused me.  The similarities were there, but Roosevelt's was a little more bold than his, and I liked the little unbold."

It is sobering to read how close violence was to the surface at all times in the circumstances in which Henry lived, and indeed, he survived several attempts on his life  that were in deadly earnest, and was placed in the position of having to defend himself desperately.  His stint as the manager of a hotel exposed him to the seamier side of life, and reading about his experiences there you marvel at the life experience and ability to assess dangerous situations and respond appropriately that enabled him to make it through that period more or less unscathed.

The book is very well annotated, and in the acknowledgements thanks an anonymous source for making police records available for the project.  The information gleaned from them helps fill out the picture of the lives of the blues community in St. Louis in that period.

I don't know if the book is still available, but it was published recently, in 1999, so it may be.  It is worth tracking down.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #20 on: September 22, 2005, 12:18:18 PM »
Hi all,
Last week I read a book that some of you may want to check out if you have an interest in St. Louis blues in the Pre-War and immediate Post-War periods.? It is "A Blues Life", by Henry Townsend as told to Bill Greensmith, and it is published by University of Illinois Press, 145 pages.? It is a very quick and fascinating read, not only for its mention of various musicians, famous and less so, that Henry Townsend has encountered over the course of his life, but also for its depiction of times gone by and how the Black population coped with the injustice and violence they were often arbitrarily subjected to by the St. Louis police force of that era.
Henry Townsend has a great way of expressing himself and some wonderful turns of phrase.?
Indeed he does and it's a super book. It seems he's always had a way with words. Here is a snippett from an interview by Paul Oliver as published on p.106 of Screening The Blues (Cassell 1965). It was conducted in St. Louis in July 1960 when Townsend was working as a debt collector. His A1/Grade1 club explanation has always tickled me:

Then I joined up with Roosevelt Sykes and started playin' with his organization and from that to Walter Davis and I follered him through the entire course of his musical career. And then I was on my own again. So I work in these places in St Louis like at 14th and Cass. It's a fairly decent tavern, and I guess the capacity is about two-three hundred people?not to be seated of course, that's standin' room. And they have a small band in there and they have every week-end, Friday, Saturday and they do have Sundays, and it's I could say a Grade 1 place. It's not A1 but Grade 1. And now they have a decent crowd there, each week-end. Of course through the week you know how it go, people is workin' so they don't have too much of a crowd. And other places that I worked such as the Bolo Club and so on?that's a rental hall: it's for different organizations that have clubs and so forth and I have been booked by Masonics and other local organizations and well one or two times I was at the Western Waiters Club. An A 1 place it is. It's fireproof and everything, well?it's one of the outstanding clubs for coloured in the city of St Louis.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #21 on: September 22, 2005, 12:30:24 PM »
Quote
Indeed he does and it's a super book. It seems he's always had a way with words. Here is a snippett from an interview by Paul Oliver as published on p.106 of Screening The Blues (Cassell 1965). It was conducted in St. Louis in July 1960
Sorry, for the life of me can't think why I wrote Screening The Blues - meant Conversation With The Blues.
(Admin question from a newbie please - how does one edit after having posted? Or doesn't one?)

Offline dj

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #22 on: September 22, 2005, 01:27:34 PM »
John M,

   Thanks for reviving a great thread.  I've been driving around for the last few weeks with the St Louis Country Blues, Backwoods Blues, Volume 1 of Charlie Jordan, and Blind Teddy Darby CDs in the car while trying to learn to play Lane Hardin's Hard Time Blues (from your online lesson), some Charlie Jordan, and, most recently Henry Spaulding's Cairo Blues, and for the first time have begun thinking of St Louis Blues as a genre and not just a collection of different artists. 

   I've been rereading Henry Townsend's book as an accompaniment to my listening, and I must say I've been pretty impressed with it.  I love his description of Walter Davis's playing.  In your original post in this thread, you said :

Quote
Another quality encountered in some of the St. Louis blues is an expanded and sometimes contracted harmonic sense.  On the expanded side, you have Walter Davis, who was utterly distinctive...

Here's what Henry Townsend has to say about Davis:

"He crosses the tonic and I stay direct on the tonic.  Walter used G, B, and D - that's his chords for G, G is the tonic.  I use G, B, and D in another form, same key but mine is up.  His D is lower than the G.  He also added a C to his."

And Slack had this to say about Lane Hardin:

Quote
he sounds like an old man, but that may be just because of his wavering vocal style

According to Townsend, "Lane could have been slightly older than me, but not by much," which would put him in his mid to late 20s when he recorded.

By the way, the book is still in print.

And Bunker Hill:  At the top right of your post there's a button marked Modify.  Click that to edit your message.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2005, 01:36:59 PM by dj »

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #23 on: September 22, 2005, 02:52:35 PM »
I'm really glad to see the enthusiasm for St. Louis blues in general,? and Henry Townsend in particular, Bunker Hill and David, and you're right, Bunker Hill, the Grade 1/A-1 distinction is rich.? Honestly, Henry is so interesting and thoughtful a speaker that you can practically quote him at random and be perfectly entertained.? He is also candid enough to relate stories that don't always show himself in the best possible light, a very rare trait!?
I should mention, too, for folks who may have missed it, that a very strong CD of Henry was released recently on Bob West's Arcola label.? I posted a review of it in the Reviews section of the Forum.? If you are a serious fan of country blues, you'll want to have the CD.? It is excellent.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 22, 2005, 11:24:15 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #24 on: September 23, 2005, 09:09:38 AM »
Hi all,
Bunker Hill and Stefan, thanks for the links to the Teddy Darby and Henry Townsend discographies.  I've seen Henry's discography there before, but I had never seen Teddy Darby's.  Is that a recent addition to the site, Stefan?  You are right, Bunker Hill, it is quite interesting.  I was shocked to see the unreleased Testament recordings from 1960 shown there--I had no idea he had recorded anything that late.  Does anyone know the current disposition of those recordings?  I assume they were done by Pete Welding, who is now deceased.  If the performances are of a caliber that justifies it, it would be wonderful to have those recordings issued by somebody.  I'd be grateful for any information on the recordings made at that session.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #25 on: September 23, 2005, 10:45:57 AM »
Hi all,
Bunker Hill and Stefan, thanks for the links to the Teddy Darby and Henry Townsend discographies.? I've seen Henry's discography there before, but I had never seen Teddy Darby's.? Is that a recent addition to the site, Stefan?? You are right, Bunker Hill, it is quite interesting.? I was shocked to see the unreleased Testament recordings from 1960 shown there--I had no idea he had recorded anything that late.? Does anyone know the current disposition of those recordings?? I assume they were done by Pete Welding, who is now deceased.? If the performances are of a caliber that justifies it, it would be wonderful to have those recordings issued by somebody.? I'd be grateful for any information on the recordings made at that session.
All best,
Johnm
This will need a thumb through Blues Unlimited to confirm, but off the top of my head I think that Welding reported to BU in the mid-60s that the recording session with Darby (instigated by Big Joe Williams) was not suitable for release. I can't recall what reason he gave - technical quality or otherwise. I think he may have reiterated this when he wrote about Darby for Blues World magazine in 1970.
I'll see if I can hunt it down, but don't hold your breath! :)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #26 on: December 30, 2005, 05:19:27 AM »
This has made me realize that I have read little about the St Louis blues scene and the artists based there. At least, not that I remember.-G- Can anyone recommend a book which might cover this area, say, in the manner that Bastin covers the Piedmont? Thanks.
Very poorly served in published form but can't speak for the internet. Bill Greensmith's biography of Henry Townsend is good for reminiscences of personalities and music scene. Apart from Harriet Ottenheimer's chapter "The Blues Tradition In St. Louis." (Black Music Research Journal (Fall 1989 p135-151) and another in Popular Music And Society (Summer 1990, 87-96) which examined prewar blues in St. Louis, that's about it. Unless one takes in to account the copious notes accompanying two Mamlish St Louis compilations and the biographical data as collected on Clifford Gibson by Steve Calt and published on the 1972 Yazoo LP sleeve.
Perhaps when Mike Rowe, Bill Greensmith and Steve Franz have finished compiling their 'Best of Blues Unlimited" tome the latter two St Louis residents may care to consider one about their city's blues scene. ;D

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #27 on: December 30, 2005, 10:42:51 AM »
Thanks Bunker. Perhaps I need to start making better use of the San Francisco Public Library.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #28 on: January 17, 2006, 11:26:57 AM »
Hi all,
I've been thinking of a couple of sort of mysterious St. Louis blues figures:  Oscar Carter and Hi Henry Brown.  Carter accompanied Roosevelt Sykes on some of his early recordings.  Based strictly on his sound, Henry Townsend identified him as Clifford Gibson, many years later, though Sykes himself insisted that Oscar Carter was a real player and not Clifford Gibson recording under a pseudonym. 
Hi Henry Brown, who recorded a number of duets with Charley Jordan, is also a mystery, primarily because Henry Townsend can not recall having ever seen or met him.  And at this stage of the game, Henry Townsend not being able to remember an early St. Louis blues musician automatically qualifies such a musician for "mystery" status, since there is practically no one else remaining from that generation who could identify such players. 
Does anyone know of any recorded appearances by Oscar Carter apart from those on which he backed Roosevelt Sykes?  And has any additional information every surfaced on Hi Henry Brown?
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #29 on: January 17, 2006, 02:21:48 PM »
Oscar Carter recorded one title under his own name.  Deceitful Woman Blues, with Carter on vocal and guitar accompanied by Roosevelt Sykes on piano, was recorded on Friday June 14, 1929 at the same session as Carter's 4 accompaniments to Sykes.  The song was unissued.

It might be interesting to look at the 1930 census to see if we can find a record of either man.  I'll try to do that in the next few days.

 


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