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You got Jordan River in your hips, mama, Daddy's screaming to be baptized - Clifford Gibson

Author Topic: Broonzy in Edinburgh  (Read 1501 times)

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Offline Prof Scratchy

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Broonzy in Edinburgh
« on: March 06, 2006, 02:56:31 PM »
Seems we can all turn in a duff gig! ...Thought some of you might be interested in this note to the Scottish Blues Forum from regular contributor George Anderson:

"I was on a wee while back about looking for info about Big Bill Broonzy in Scotland, because I am writing something about him.

Thought some people might be interested in some updates.

Found a couple of reviews of his 1952 gig at the Usher Hall, which make interesting reading in light of today's discussion on what is and isn't blues.  Seems in 1952 they talked about "negro ballads" and folk music. Anyway, from the Evening Dispatch:

Folk Singer Struck a Bad Patch - Is near 60-year-old negro folk singer Big Bill Broonzy, another Mississippi myth? He visited the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Saturday night - practically unheralded by the lay press but with glowing reports from British and continental jazz sources - and had sections of a mediocre attendance leaving long before the end.

Whilst realising that each and every folk-song artist today is set the rather difficult, and in many respects, impossible task of reincarnating a period now dead, there was no excusing a performance which for the most part was devoid of feeling, programme arrangement, and the high standard of artistry we have come to expect from negro musicians.

On the other side of the picture, there was a comment heard outside the hall - ?I never imagined an Edinburgh audience could be so completely lacking in good manners.? - Agreed! - laughter, noisy exits, and at least one call to ?Get on with the singing? were in bad taste - but this display came from a comparatively small section of the audience. For the most part the singer was accorded what seemed an unusually good reception, in light of his performance.

Broonzy was introduced as ?the greatest living folk-song artist.? There are at least two other names - one a recent visitor to the city - which would seem to fit this bill more appropriately. If Broonzy is indeed the greatest then he struck a particularly bad patch on Saturday night.

?John Henry? however, presented a different picture. Here was the negro ballad as it should be. The same could be said for ?White, Brown and Black? and ?Keep Your Hands Off Her?. Had Broonzy stuck to this type of number - they came mostly in the second half of the bill when the evening was already a lost cause - and cut out his lengthy anecdote introductions it might have been a different story. The singer incidentally gave ten numbers from a programme which listed 24.

Bright spot of the evening was provided by Sandy Brown?s jazz band.....

(there follows a largely favourable mention of the local jazzers before the piece concludes....)

An ?all-in? session with Broonzy and the band which was billed did not materialise.



From the Scotsman:

American Jazz Concert - A concert was given in the Usher Hall on Saturday night by Big Bill Broonzy, the American negro singer, and Sandy Brown?s Jazz Band. Mr Broonzy, who has been billed as an American folk-singer, might well have appealed to his audience as much as did Josh White, had he spoken less by way of introduction and played more by way of illustration. But the evening wore on and the audience began to depart before an opportunity had really been given to sample this Mississippi singer?s style. Certainly there was little chance to assess him as a folk singer, since he sang no more than a couple of these songs. The most appealing aspect of his performance was his guitar playing, especially his one solo, ?House Rent Stomp?. Mr Broonzy also played and sang one negro spiritual. Sandy Brown?s jazz band warmed to their task later in the evening and there was some neat solo work by Bob Craig, trombone, and Sandy Brown, on the clarinet".

------

George adds:
"Now, before you get all upitty about critics knowing nothing, I have got hold of a recording of the evening and Big Bill really was on pretty tragic form. In fact its pretty clear he was pissed. He picked the wrong tempo for a lot of numbers and havered a lot of pish, at length, between songs. Its a real pity, because the recording comes with material recorded the same year in Hove, which has poorer sound quality, but its clear Broonzy played magnificently and had them eating out of his hand with witty patter".






Keep it Live and Blue.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ScotBluesCo

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Broonzy in Edinburgh
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2006, 11:36:30 PM »
Seems we can all turn in a duff gig! ...Thought some of you might be interested in this note to the Scottish Blues Forum from regular contributor George Anderson:

"I was on a wee while back about looking for info about Big Bill Broonzy in Scotland, because I am writing something about him.

Thought some people might be interested in some updates.

Found a couple of reviews of his 1952 gig at the Usher Hall, which make interesting reading in light of today's discussion on what is and isn't blues.  Seems in 1952 they talked about "negro ballads" and folk music.
That entire concert - together with one at Hove Town Hall, Brighton -  can be heard on the Jasmine double CD "Big Bill Broonzy On Tour In Britain 1952" (JASMCD 3011/2, 2002). It has a 14 page booklet by Robert Riesman in which selected quotes from the Dispatch article are used. So fans today can make their own judgements. :)
« Last Edit: March 06, 2006, 11:37:36 PM by Bunker Hill »

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