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Today a guy can go into a studio and make a record, just any guy. Today you are judged by your records. You make a record overnight. A guy makes a record and overnight he's a big recording star and you can't say anything to him. And most of the time he can't even carry his instrument - Sam Price, to Paul Oliver, 1960

Author Topic: Fiddle Blues  (Read 8310 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2007, 05:59:56 PM »
Thanks, Bunker Hill and Rivers, for the information on Sugarcane Harris and Papa John Creach.  I wish I could remember the album and title of the particular cut I remember Sugarcane Harris playing with Zappa, because it was just sensational playing.  We could use some help from a Zappa freak, I think.  Are you out there, John C.?
Another blues fiddler I've been enjoying recently who (surprisingly) has not generated any comment in this thread thus far is Charlie Pierce, who recorded with the Memphis Jug Band on Novemember 7-8, 1934, at their last pre-rediscovery session.  He was a smooth player and unusually nifty with the bow.  He shines throughout the tunes recorded on those two days, but most particularly on "Bottle It Up and Go" and his three instrumental features, "Memphis Shakedown", "Rukus Juice and Chittlin'" and "My Business Ain't Right".  "Rukus Juice And Chittlin'" is probably the strongest tune of the bunch, and hits a really pretty change part of the way through when, instead of resolving to the IV chord, G, as it has up to that point, it makes a surprise move to the II7 chord, E7.  It repeats the change for a couple of times through the form and then reverts to the original progression, a standard 12-bar blues in D.  According to the notes of the "Memphis Shakedown" JSP set where I heard the tune, Pierce was older at the time the band recorded, born around 1870, and had once been a dancer in medicine shows and a member of W. C. Handy's band.  In any event, he was a fine fiddler, and one of the strongest on early Blues recordings.
All best,
Johnm

Muddyroads

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2007, 06:27:21 AM »
Butch Cage comes to mind when you speak of fiddle blues. The two Arhoolie recordings taken from the Dr. Henry Oster, Country Negro Jam Session, Arhoolie CD372 and Old Time Black Southern String Band Music , Butch Cage and Willie B. Thomas, Arhoolie 9045 are from the same field recordings with little overlap on cuts.  This primordial swamp blues from Louisiana.  Great stuff.  Butch will let loose with some trumpet swing line in the middle of a solo that is so incongruous it works!

Another great blues fiddle recording IMHO is Goin' To Louisiana featruing the young fiddler Cedric Watson and the piano accordion of Corey Ledet.  This Zydeco team plays some great blues with the real feeling.

When Pete Welding did the Chicago String Band record back in the 1960's it was apparent that the fiddle was or had been replaced by the harmonica.  The harp is easier to play and  a lot less maintenance.  But the fiddle sings like no harmonica ever could.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2007, 01:20:34 PM »
When Pete Welding did the Chicago String Band record back in the 1960's it was apparent that the fiddle was or had been replaced by the harmonica.  The harp is easier to play and  a lot less maintenance.  But the fiddle sings like no harmonica ever could.
Carl Martin's fiddle playing makes that LP. Pete Welding made no bones about the motivation for the session:

"The four men were brought together in the late spring of 1966 with the express purpose of recreating for recording the raucous, exuberant sound of the string band. The reason for doing this was a simple one: such an ensemble, while apparently a frequent and familiar phenomenon over wide areas of the South in the years prior to World War II, had been inadequately represented on recordings and here was a unique opportunity thanks to the availability of several fine bines musicians with string-band experience as an integral part of their musical backgrounds, of documenting this aspect of country blues performing practice Beyond that, it was felt that the four would produce at the very least some interesting and enjoyable music which, as the record reveals, they did.

Still, why go to the trouble of recording a musical idiom that is all but moribund and in which there is absolutely no contemporary interest? Well, first of all, because it was possible and, second, would probably be fun. But primarily because it, hopefully, would fill in some gaps in blues history by giving us an indication of the standard playing practices employed in ensemble music in the country blues so we could see how they carried over into the modern electric ensemble (and in this connection the musicians were asked to rehearse and to develop their own ensemble techniques and repertoire wholly on their own, without benefit of any "assistance" or guidance from the record's producer, me). Another consideration was that of testing the theory that the harmonica had taken over the functional role formerly held by the fiddle in blues ensembles, an assumption I feel has been fairly well validated by these recordings, particularly those on which the two instruments are heard together, You Know I Do and John Henry.

Modest goals perhaps but, I feel, well worth the effort. Whether or not the Chicago String Band pretends to any significant niche in blues history is conjectural. but one thing is sure: it has given us some spirited, joyously funky and totally unpretentious music which can be enjoyed wholly on its own terms. And that's reason enough for this album."

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2007, 01:53:45 PM »
John:

Some info on Sugarcane Harris (from http://www.united-mutations.com/h/sugarcane_harris.htm)

"Don 'Sugarcane' Harris

Born: June 18, 1938 in Pasadena, CA
Died: November 30th, 1999 in South Los Angeles   

In 1955 Dewey Terry and a couple of friends started doo-wop band The Squires. The band included Dewey Terry, Don Harris, Lee Goudreau, Bob Armstrong, Chester Pipkin, Leon Washington and Don Bowman. They recorded various singles on various labels.

 From 1957 on (until about 1967), Dewey Terry and Don Harris continued as a duo: Don & Dewey, releasing various singles on Specialty Records. 1970 saw the first Don & Dewey album release, compiling most of their singles from previous years.

In the late sixties, Don 'Sugarcane' Harris, started playing with and doing sessions for various artists, including Little Richard, Johnny Otis and John Mayall.

In 1969, longtime Don & Dewey fan Frank Zappa, got Don 'Sugarcane' to join his band. Zappa recorded "Hot Rats", "Burnt Weeny Sandwich", "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" and "Chunga's Revenge" with Sugarcane Harris in his band.

In the seventies, Sugarcane Harris recorded and toured with a.o. John Mayall, the Pure Food & Drug Act and made a couple of solo releases. In the early eighties, he played with Tupelo Chain Sex.

The last years of his life, Sugarcane toured with Dewey Terry again as Don & Dewey. In later years, several of Sugarcane's solo albums have been reissued on cd."

Alex

« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 01:57:55 PM by GhostRider »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2007, 07:49:19 PM »
Thanks very much for the information on Sugarcane Harris, Alex.  After reviewing the Zappa titles you cited, I'm pretty sure the cut I remember him playing so excitingly on was on "Hot Rats".  I will check it out.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2007, 08:12:44 PM »
There's some fiddle on Big Joe's first recorded version of "Baby Please Don't Go."

I really love the sound of blues on the violin.  When I get a craving for it I usually turn to Canray Fontenot.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2007, 03:39:10 PM »
Here's a link to a page on Sugarcane Harris. It contains a discography showing what albums he played on for Zappa as well as a couple he played on for John Mayall, both of which I was pretty familiar with in the early '70s.

Another fiddler who played with Zappa was Jean luc Ponty, but I think of him as more of a jazz musician. Interestingly, I notice both Ponty and Harris played on Zappa's Hot Rats LP, a hugely influential album.

I don't remember Papa John playing with Zappa, and the discography I found for him only shows him playing with Jefferson Airplane/Starship and Hot Tuna, as well as quite a few solo albums.

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 Johnm

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2013, 05:47:07 PM »
Hi all,
I had occasion to listen to the Jack Kelly cut, "R.F.C. Blues" today, and hadn't listened to him for a little while.  The cut has Will Batts on fiddle, as did many Jack Kelly cuts, and I was struck by how simultaneously simple and effective Will Batts' playing on the tune was.  He's pretty much just playing double stops that outline the chord changes, and occasionally going into tremolo with the same double stops.  As simple as it sounds when you describe it, it really sounds terrific in the context of the full ensemble, two guitars and fiddle.  It is definitely worth checking out if you are a fiddler, or even if you just like blues fiddling.  It's kind of nice to remember that the simple approaches can sometimes suit the music so well.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2013, 02:19:53 AM »
It's kind of nice to remember that the simple approaches can sometimes suit the music so well.

Wise words, John and so relevant in many quarters - especially where country blues is concerned.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2013, 11:11:37 AM »

Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Offline fat chance

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2013, 04:12:20 PM »
I have a CD "Violin, Play the Blues for me."  African American fiddlers 1926-1949.  Old Hat CD-1002.  24 cuts on it and I really enjoy it.  Most of these performers are seldom heard  on this site.
Fat Chance

Offline TallahatchieTrot

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #26 on: June 12, 2013, 02:04:56 PM »
Two great fiddle blues records were done by white groups in the mid 1930s. One is "Oxford (Miss) Blues" by Bill Nettles on the Vocalion label and recorded in Dallas at that famous June 1937 session. The vocalist sings a verse and the fiddler take a break, but it is great blues fiddling. One of Nettles sidemen was from Oxford, Miss., he told me in the 1960s when he lived in Monroe, Louisiana.  Has any WC member heard the reissue of it.? Oxford American magazine released it on a CD a few years back.
    Secondly, the Hackberry Ramblers under the Bluebird name of Riverside Ramblers did  "The Old Fiddle Blues" on Bluebird in 1937.  It is great blues fiddling by a Cajun group.
  Lonnie Chatman did some great fiddling on a 1935 Bluebird title "Fingering With Your Fingers." It is an instrumental and unusual that Bluebird put it on the flip side of a Mississippi Sheiks blues recording  with Walter Vincent singing "Lean To One Woman." Some Sheiks fans have probably heard that reissue.
    Finally. there was an amazing recording in 1937 in San Antonio by Don Law for Vocalion of the western  swing group, The Nite Owls. On one side a woman named Helen Hunt (listed as vocalist on the label) sang "Married Man Blues" that was written by Harold Holiday (AKA Black Boy Shine).
     Helen Hunt is almost definitely a BLACK woman singing with a white western swing band. I played the  song for a few collectors and Larry Cohn who did the Sony/Columbia reissue program.They agree she is black.  He had never heard of that side by Helen Hunt/ the Nite Owls.  It has NOT been reissued by any present day company that I know of. The title is listed in the western swing discography under the Nite Owls only.
 So how did this group get recorded?  I  believe Holiday brought her to record by herself with him playing piano behind her and instead Don Law placed her with the Nite Owls to see if it might sell. But she is one helluva  blues singer and belts it out with  intensity not heard by most white women blues singers.  Have any WC members heard this recording? It deserves to be reissued if it is not on some CD I have not heard of.  gayle dean wardlow

Offline Cleoma

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #27 on: June 12, 2013, 02:53:40 PM »
Thanks so much, Gayle, for posting about these records!  I never heard of Bill Nettles and am glad to know about him, it seems to be an early western swing group, contemporary with early Bob Wills, Milton Brown, etc.  There is something in the fiddling, a few licks here and there, that make me think the fiddler might have been listening to Eddie Anthony (there's some lyric content similar to Peg Leg Howell too, although that means nothing really) and Arthur Smith too. I looked him up in Russell and Bill Nettles was the mandolin player and vocalist. He recorded with several different fiddlers, the one on Oxford Blues (from his first session) is Doc Massey, who also recorded with Buddy Jones (another I never heard of).
You can hear Oxford Blues here:

Offline Cleoma

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #28 on: June 12, 2013, 03:05:57 PM »
Listening to Helen Hunt with the Nite Owls - with all due respect, I can't say that she sounds particularly black to me, any more than Cleoma Falcon does. I'm sorry there's not more of her singing to listen to!  Here is "Married Man Blues":

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Fiddle Blues
« Reply #29 on: June 12, 2013, 03:20:29 PM »
There's a Cattle CD from Germany of the Nite Owls with that track on it. Not a major label, methinks.
http://www.dagmar-anita-binge.de/ccd302-nite.owls.html

 


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