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Mercer Ellington has stated that Juan Tizol conceived the melody to "Caravan" in 1936 as a result of his days studying music in Puerto Rico, where they couldn't afford much sheet music so the teacher would turn the music upside down after they had learned to play it right-side up. This "inversion" technique led to a modal sound throughout Tizol's work - wikipedia entry for "modal jazz"

Author Topic: Broonzy autobiography?  (Read 7621 times)

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Offline outfidel

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Broonzy autobiography?
« on: September 02, 2005, 10:22:55 AM »
Does anyone know where I can find a copy of Broonzy's autobiography, Big Bill Blues?

Doing a web search, I've only been able to find expensive collector's editions like this one.
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2005, 10:30:04 AM »
$1500?! Big Bill would sure get a kick outta that...

Offline Stuart

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2005, 12:03:15 PM »
Outfidel:

Try this link:

http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?ac=sl&st=sl&qi=MWxwc2SM804C.TW55LgLLJpLjNo_1516438571_2:1:1

Go to Bookfinder.com and search for "Big Bill Blues" if the above link doesn't work.

I have a copy, but it's out in Washington and I'm in NJ. If all else fails, send me an e-mail off site and we'll see what we can do.

Stu

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2005, 12:56:56 PM »
Hey Out:

I have a copy of this here in Calgary. It's not a very long book. If you can't get a copy of it for yourself, I will lend you mine.

Alex

Offline Richard

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2005, 03:59:54 PM »
I've got a copy as well, maybe I could sell it and retire   ;)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline dave stott

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2005, 06:23:37 AM »
check out E-bay as well.... the book sells for around $30 - 60 US dollars....

I see about 2-3 a month listed.

do the search using Broonzy as the keyword...

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2005, 12:20:26 PM »
The $1,500 copy is evidently a first edition with an inscription by Big Bill himself.  I can't believe that the Da Capo reissue of the book is out of print, but from a websearch, it looks like it may be.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2005, 01:41:03 PM »
When I put the Bookfinder.com link up yesterday (9/2/05) there was a copy available for  $26.00, but now it's gone--probably sold. However, as the book is out of print, and several of us own copies, I believe (as I understand copyright law as it applies to academic institutions at least) that we could photocopy individual chapters (not the entire book) and legally make them available under the terms of "fair use" Let's see how things go.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2006, 11:17:10 AM »
Just stumbled upon this thread whilst searching for something else. In the absence of copies of the book in which Broonzy told his story to Yannick Bruynoghe here follows some autobiography he gave pianist/writer/broadcaster Art Hodes in 1946 and first published in the magazine The Jazz Record (issue 42, March 1946). It's rather lengthy and trust it won't put folk to sleep:

"Baby, I Done Got Wise"
By WILLIAM "BIG BILL" BROONZY

The first time I tried to play anything was in 1914. It was a home-made fiddle and I couldn't play it right away. That was in Arkansaw near where the Mississippi and Arkansaw rivers come together. I had first heard a home-made fiddle played by a blues singer we knew as See See Rider. Don't know his name-everybody called him just See See Rider, because he used to sing a blues by that name. Later on Ma Rainey made a record of that tune, but I first heard it down around my home. I never saw anyone else play a home-made fiddle - except See See Rider. He was born and raised in Redale, Arkansaw, and he played for everybody around there. Hearing him made me want to do something too.

Me and a boy named Louis made a fiddle and guitar from wooden boxes we got from the commissary. The neck was a broomstick and we'd get broken strings from See See Rider and patch them up. I made me a bow out of hickory wood by bending it and leaving it to dry. We'd cut a tree with an axe and go back the next day for rosin. I kept the fiddle hid because my old man and woman didn't want me to play it. Me and Louis would play every chance we got and one day a man heard us and took us to his house to play a piece. He liked it and said he'd get us a good fiddle and guitar. He sent to Sears-Roebuck in Chicago but it was a long time before I could play a regular fiddle. My home-made fiddle had only two strings and I played two strings on the new one fine, but it took a while to learn to use all four strings. After I could play it, I couldn't tune it. We used to go on picnics and barbecues and I'd play my fiddle, with Louis on guitar and a bass player named Jerry Sanders. But my brother-in-law would have to go along to tune the fiddle.

The first job I had playing music in a public place was in Little Rock. That was after I got out of the Army in March, 1919 and lasted until February, 1920. Then I went to Chicago and got a job as yard-man for the Pullman Company. I didn't play any for a few years until I met Charlie  Jackson in 1924. He found out I could play a fiddle  and had me come around.  John Thomas, Theodore Edwards and Charlie were all playing then on the West Side. Later on I played guitar on a record for Teddy Edwards and the tunes were Barbecue Blues and Louise Louise Blues.

Charlie first got me started on guitar at that time and showed me how to make chords, and I played around a little with John Thomas. Charlie was a well-known recording artist at that time and he got me to go to Mayo Williams, who was working for Paramount then. John Thomas and I auditioned two numbers for Williams - Big Bill Blues and House Rent Stomp - but he said we didn't play well enough. I guess it wasn't very good because I was just starting on guitar. I had my job for the Pullman Company and only played once in a while at house parties. We made those two numbers for Williams later on though.  That was in 1926 and when we got to the studio, Aletha Dickerson, who was William's secretary, asked me my name. I told her, "William Lee Conley Broonzy," and she said, "For Christ's sake, we can't get all that on the label." She said she'd think of a name for me and later on when she wanted me for something, she said, "Come here, Big Boy." That gave her the idea to call me Big Bill and that's the way I've been known ever since. I think I recorded six sides for the Paramount Company, but the first was Big Bill Blues and House Rent Stomp.

There were a lot of good guitar players and blues singers around Chicago in those days and I knew all of them from playing around at different places. Shorty George recorded the first guitar blues of my knowing. Barbecue Bob was one of the first too - I met him around Chicago. I worked with Georgia Tom about that time - he was the leader of the Hokum Boys and wrote all their tunes, and when we made a record, we'd use a tune that they made, like Somebody's Been Using That Thing.  One day in 1930, we all piled into a Ford and drove to New York. There was Georgia Tom and I, a girl named Mozelle, Lester Melrose - he was the manager of the record company -  and two members of the Hokum Boys, Arthur Pettis  and Frank Bradswell. They sang but they didn't play and we made records like Come On In, where Mozelle, Tom and I sang and Tom played piano and I played guitar.  We also made records for the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana with Georgia Tom on piano. Later on I made records there with Black Bob on piano. Georgia Tom's name was Thomas A. Dorsey and he was on a lot of records, including all of Tampa Red's, until he quit for the church about 1933.

All this time I was working during the day and they'd pay me to play at night. I was making records too and we'd all get together in the recording studio. I always went around to watch when Ma Rainey was recording. Maybe I'd be making records in one studio and Ma in another and others would be there, like Blind Blake, Charlie Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Leroy Carr. I never worked with him but I think Leroy Carr was the greatest blues singer I heard in my life. I knew him from seeing him around and listening to him and he was the best guy you ever met. He played piano on all his records and usually worked with Scrapper Blackwell. He really could sing the blues and he couldn't have been more than 30 when he died.

My first personal appearance in Chicago was in 1932. I mean in a public place and playing music for a living. None of us would ever make enough money just playing music. I had to have my day job and play music at night. Friends who were interested in us would pick us out for jobs for parties and maybe in small taverns, like Ruby Gatewood's and Johnson's Tavern. The biggest was in theaters. I played off and on at the Regal, Savoy and Indiana Theaters and once for four nights at the Morson Hotel. One fellow had sort of a political job but I don't remember his name. They treated us swell but it never lasted long. I had my family in Chicago to take care of and bought a home for my mother in Arkansaw. I couldn't do that on music alone.

I'll never forget one party I was on in Chicago. It was a musicians' party at 1112 South Washburn Street. It was free for musicians and the others had to pay. Pinkie Thomas gave the party - she was the landlady of the building - and I went over with Blind Percy. He was a guitar player and I picked him up at his house and took him over. He was really blind and had to be led up the stairs. There were eight rooms and all full of people and everyone cutting up. In those days we used to keep the front rooms dark and lamps in the other rooms. The front door was locked and the musicians used to be in the rear room nearest to the back exit if anything happened.  We all had a good time until about twelve o'clock when two guys got to fighting. Then everybody got into the fight and I headed for the door. I got out of there pretty fast but when I got down to the street I remembered about Blind Percy. I started back up the stairs. Somebody said, "You can't go back up there," and I said, "I can't leave a blind man up there in all that fighting," He said, "There's Percy sitting over there on the sidewalk." I don't know how he got out but he was the first one out when the fighting started. So then we headed for the alley-way to the courtyard in back of the apartment. They used to hang the whiskey out the window and we went after it. A couple of others had the same idea but when we went around, they thought we were the police and ran away, so we got the gallon. By the time the police came, everybody was out, even two guys who had their legs broken, but they picked them up later in a hospital. Windows and lamps were broken and they found a lot of knives laying around and they caught the landlady and her daughter. There was a deaf and dumb girl at that party and before the fight was over, she was talking that night. She is still in Chicago and now when I see her, I can get close and understand what she's saying, but not before that night.

The first big chance I had was in 1939, when John Hammond was down through Chicago and he wrote me a letter to come to New York. I played in Carnegie Hall and then Cafe Society for a week. Ida Cox was there and Josh White and Sonny Terry and everybody treated us very well. But I wanted to be with my family so after a  while I went back to Chicago. I had a job in a  foundry then. I came back to New York again in  1940 to play another concert at Carnegie Hall  and Cafe Society, but went right back home again.  I was home most of the time after that until 1945,  except for a couple of tours in 1941. 1 was on  the road then with Lil Green, playing guitar for  her, with a piano and bass player. We'd be on the  road for six weeks and home for two, until she  decided to make a change. It was on one of those  last trips that I met my wife and married her  sixteen days later, on June 7, 1941. We had lived  in Chicago ever since until this year, when I got  connected with Joe Glaser and he brought me to  New York.

I think I must have made about 200 sides under my  own name and many others with other artists. Robert  Brown - that's Washboard Sam - is my half-brother and I  played on all his records. I used to write some numbers, and arrange others, for him, and many times he'd play his washboard on my records. I  played guitar on all of Jazz Gillum's records, and he played his French Harp, which sounds like  a harmonica, on some of my numbers, like Key to  the Highway. I worked with many others, including  Sonny Boy Williamson, the Yas Yas Girl (Merline  Johnson), all of Lil Green's records before 1945,  and on some of Roosevelt Sykes.

My own records are on Banner, Melotone, Perfect,  two for Victor, and many on Vocalion and Okeh,  besides the Paramount and Champion. All my numbers  are ones I wrote out myself except a few, like  Shake 'Em On Down, which is Bukka White's number,  and My Gal Is Gone, which was written by Tampa Red.  On Key to the Highway, the tune is mine and the  words were written by Charlie Segar. I made a few  numbers like Mistreatin' Mama Blues and Oh Yes by myself, but on most of the records there are other  artists accompanying me. Buster Bennett played  tenor on a lot of them and sometimes there'd be  a trumpet or clarinet, or maybe piano and bass or  piano and washboard, besides my own guitar. I worked  with many fine piano players after the early records  with Georgia Tom. Aletha Dickerson played piano for  me and Black Bob played on some early Melotones and  Perfects, like Cherry Hill, Seven Leven and Match  Box Blues.

After that I worked with Blind John (John Davis), who I think is the best all-around piano player I ever recorded with. But my favorite piano player and the one who worked on all my records from 1936 until he died on Feb. 18, 1940, was Joshua Altheimer. He played a boogie woogie style and he seemed just right for me. I think he was the best blues piano player I ever heard. He wasn't very big and he couldn't have been very strong because he died when he was only 30. Josh played for other artists too, like Washboard Sam and the Yas Yas Girl. I know two numbers he made with Johnny Temple were Louise Blues and Beale Street Sheik. Of my numbers, he liked Looking Up At Down, but his favorite number, and also my favorite number with him is My Last Goodbye to You. Some other favorites of mine are, Your Time Now, Done Got Wise, Just A Dream and Truckin' Little Mama, all made with Josh. We made some that were never released, like Rock Me Baby and Hit the Right Lick, because the studio said they were too suggestive. I made them again later on with Memphis Slim on piano, and Rock Me Baby is now called Rockin' Chair Blues.

After Josh died, I used Blind John, Memphis Slim (Peter Chatham), Horace Malcomb and on my last date on Feb. 19 and 24, 1945, Big Maceo played piano. None of the last ones have been released as yet.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2006, 12:50:01 PM »
Thanks for posting the Broonzy autobiography from 1946, Bunker Hill.  It's fascinating to get some insight into his perspective on his career at that point in time.  He's unusually self-effacing--simply by reading the piece you would never know that he had been a very popular recording artist for some time.  It's also kind of amazing how late he took up the guitar.
The piece makes me curious about some other aspects of Broonzy's life/career.  Did he ever make any recordings on which he played fiddle?  Also, I was wondering who was most responsible for him being picked up by the Folk Music crowd, recording for Folkways late in life, touring to England, etc.  Was it Studs Terkel perhaps?  I ask because in this piece from 1946 there is no indication that Broonzy thought of what he was doing as Folk Music, or that there were any advantages to be derived in his career from positioning it as such. 
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2006, 01:21:54 PM »
Thanks for posting the Broonzy autobiography from 1946, Bunker Hill.  It's fascinating to get some insight into his perspective on his career at that point in time.  He's unusually self-effacing--simply by reading the piece you would never know that he had been a very popular recording artist for some time. 
The piece makes me curious about some other aspects of Broonzy's life/career.  Did he ever make any recordings on which he played fiddle?  Also, I was wondering who was most responsible for him being picked up by the Folk Music crowd, recording for Folkways late in life, touring to England, etc.  Was it Studs Terkel perhaps?  I ask because in this piece from 1946 there is no indication that Broonzy thought of what he was doing as Folk Music, or that there were any advantages to be derived in his career from positioning it as such. 
Yes interesting isn't it. Someone as cynical as I would say that Broonzy hadn't yet got to the stage of giving folk what he thought they wanted to hear - or be bombarded by leading questions.;D

Bob Riessman, who has been researching Broonzy these five years for a biography, would probably say those responsible for the 'folk music crowd' interest were Terkel and/or Win Stracke.

BBB did record with the violin a couple of times - Frank Brasswell's 'Mountain Girl Blues' is one that comes immediately to mind. There's also some present on State State Street Boys recordings. Now if I only knew where I had put Chris Smith's indispensable "Hit The Right Lick The Recordings Of Big Bill Broonzy" booklet...

Offline Pan

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2006, 01:39:19 PM »
Ahem...

I've come across this record on the Amazon by accident:
Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow! Vintage Fiddle Music 1927-1935: Blues, Jazz, Stomps, Shuffles & Rags http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000058TAS/qid=1138137279/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-7024838-5055155?s=music&v=glance&n=5174

The editorial review claims that track 8: "Rustlin' Man"  by "State Street Boys" contains Broonzys violin. No audio clips though.

But it's on the Juke! I didn't request it, so that you could, if you like.

Yours

Pan

Offline dj

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2006, 01:43:14 PM »
Big Bill played violin on his own "C C Rider" from 1934, two takes of which are on the Juke.  With the State Street Boys, he played violin on "Sweet To Mama" and "Rustlin' Man" (both on the Juke) and "She Caught The Train" (not).

Offline Pan

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2006, 02:28:15 PM »
Hi All

You might want to check the Alan Lomax Database for an 1952 interview of Big Bill in Paris. You have to log in and get a password.
http://www.lomaxarchive.com/index.html

Pan

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Broonzy autobiography?
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2006, 08:09:10 PM »
Thanks very much for posting the bio. It was great to read, and I'm really rather astonished at his description of his learning to play guitar, as John mentioned. His playing is so smooth and technically sophisticated I would have thought it was the result of many years work before recording.

 


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