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In a blog essay posted on the Web site of The American Scholar before Mr. Mitchell's death, Mr. Zinsser said Mr. Mitchell's approach to broken-down pianos (which musicians sometimes encounter on tour) illustrated his approach to life. "I learned long ago that it does no good to complain," Mr. Zinsser recalled Mr. Mitchell telling him. Instead, listen to the keys and put their flatness or sharpness to use. "You say, 'What does it do?' " said Mr. Mitchell, sounding an imaginary clinker on a piano. " 'Will it do anything? Let's check it out' - NY Times obit, reference to http://theamericanscholar.org/what-does-it-do/#.Uj3ivWR4ZEu

Author Topic: Trix is walkin? some more?  (Read 6839 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Trix is walkin? some more?
« on: April 05, 2006, 12:11:04 PM »
I've been asked by somebody researching 70s specialist blues labels to excavate and scan this, so thought it might find an audeince here (From Blues-Link 3, Jan/Feb 1974, p.31-33):

Trix is walkin? some more
an Interview with the indefatigable Pete Lowry
by Valerie Wilmer

To some blues fanciers, the idea of devoting all one's time to running around the South with a tape-recorder and an ear for the righteous sounds, might well seem like a dream existence. It's hardly a way of making a living, though. To make a viable proposition of such activity, needs determination and stamina, qualities that Pete Lowry has in abundance.

Shortly, the first batch of Lowry's Trix LPs will be on the market. Eddie Kirkland, Peg Leg Sam, Frank Edwards and Henry 'Rufe' Johnson will be featured and, says Lowry, "The advertising accompanying these issues will be aimed to capitalise on the popularity of such as Fahey, Kottke and Taj Mahal. Essentially it'll say, 'If you happen to be listening to these people why don't you buy my records because these are the people they're stealing from'. I reckon that anything's fair in love, war and advertising!"

Lowry's activities in the Carolinas and Georgia have been well publicised in BU and Living Blues, but his special interest in the Piedmont area and style is relatively recent. It started when he was driving Bruce Bastin around the area in 1970 while the latter was collecting material for his Crying For The Carolines. Lowry felt that he ought to do a little more than act as a mere chauffeur and general sightseer.

"I think without realising it, too, I'd been into that region. I'd always liked Willie McTell's stuff, Curley Weaver and Blind Boy Fuller, so I bought a tape-recorder and a couple of microphones and was fortunate in getting a good match."

The first Trix singles appeared just over a year ago and Lowry anticipates his second batch of four albums in six month's time. They will feature Robert Junior Lockwood, Willy Trice, either Guitar Shorty or Tarheel Slim, and the first volume from some extensive taping he did at an after-hours piano joint in Detroit last year.

Lowry, who gave up a secure teaching job in order to pursue his first love, claims he was never surprised at the amount and quality of blues that the South continues to yield with a little exploration. "I never really believed all that stuff about the blues being dead," he said, "As with other celebrities who said 'my death has been greatly exaggerated', so the blues. I think it's been submerged beneath the overlay of modern black pop music, but hell?you go down through Georgia and the Carolinas and there's still country-suppers. Peg Leg Sam still goes around busking in the streets, blowing his harp and collecting quarters and dollars."

One of the Trix singles artists was the little known Roy Dunn, who lives in Atlanta. "Just to show you how the music has been submerged, I've given Roy Dunn 200 copies of his 45 and he's sold damn near all of them, just around Atlanta. And people have said 'gee, that's kind of nice?I always wondered why I couldn't buy records like I used to'. "

Lowry will be back from his third field trip in 12 months at the end of the year. He does all his travelling by Volkswagen bus, accompanied by a faithful hound and no less than eight guitars. One such trip lasted five months and netted enough material for 20 albums, all of which he will be processing himself. "I said, 'Christ, I've got an awful lot of stuff here?there's no sense in farting around with other people, I'll do it myself."

The guitars are needed because often the people he encounters have not played for a while or else their existing instrument may be in bad shape, rattling or buzzing. "I've always tried to keep a clean sound on my recordings unlike most of the so-called field work," said Pete. "I'm sort of in-between. I'm not just an out-and-out field recorder, nor do I use a studio as such. I usually say that the best sound-quality stuff I do is sort of in a Holiday Inn recording studio in whatever town I happen to be staying. You know, if it's not too cool where they're living or something, we go back to the hotel room. There's a beautiful Baby Tate tape I've got that's got a bloody dog barking in the middle for about a minute. It's an exquisite piece, too."

Of all the artists he has recorded, Eddie Kirkland impressed his as the most dynamic on stage. From Frank Edwards, who recorded for Savoy in 1950, he derived enormous satisfaction, because of the rapport they were able to build up. "He believes that I am what I am. The LP I'm going to put out is70-80% new stuff he's written for me. Chris Strachwitz sent him some royalties from the two cuts that were on Blues Classics, he bought a guitar with it and spent three months writing songs for me."

Lowry has the talent for inspiring that kind of respect in Black singers and musicians. He is obviously in their corner and not trying to steal from them. He pays everyone, very fairly for whatever he records and whatever the records sell, and from talking to 'his' artists I have discovered any number of great personal kindnesses.

Baby Tate was one of his closest musician friends and his untimely death last year grieved Lowry considerably. "My plan last Summer was to really record him in depth," he explained. " He was just an incredible person and a wonderful person to deal with. I can't say I'm satisfied with what I've got on tape because I know he could do three times more and a lot better. But just having been around him and dealt with him and lived with him, there's a degree of satisfaction."

Of the other artists he came across in the South-East, Henry 'Rufe' Johnson he describes as providing the biggest surprise. "I feel he's the best finger-picking blues artist I've heard in five or ten years. He's from Union City, S. Carolina. Peg Leg Sam had mentioned him and I figured that if so, he can't be bad because normally he's pretty choosy about who he works with."

And Peg Leg Sam he taped at a medicine-show in Pittsboro, North Carolina, which was also video-taped by the folklore department of the University of North Carolina, courtesy of Bruce Bastin. "Most of the artists we have been recording have been put on video-tape, too, which I think is helpful. And Flyright's going to be putting out my tapes of the medicine show as well as tapes of the concert that Bruce put on in March. " (This concert, incidentally, featured Guitar Shorty, Willy Trice, Henry Johnson, Elester Anderson and Eddie Kirkland amongst others and can be heard on Flyright's "Blues Came to Chapel Hill").

Lowry explained that all his Trix albums will be solo efforts by the artists concerned because anthologies are the worst selling type of LP to put out. "I don't know why this is but it is a reason why I'm not bothered about putting out an album by a relatively unknown artist. It just doesn't make any difference in terms of sales."

Even given the positive flood of blues albums available, he feels that Trix has a better than average chance of succeeding by virtue of the area in which his interest is currently concentrated. "This slightly ragtime-based kind of guitar is what a lot of white people are playing and listening to," he explained. "I'm trying to hook on to that because it is the essence of the Piedmont style."

Lowry described himself as a strange mixture of realism and altruism: "Realism in that I know I'm not going to get rich. I'll be lucky if I break even, but I've met an awful lot of good people, a lot of good musicians, and dammit?they should be heard. It's that simple."

"I'm in a position now where I've got the money to put out material and push it a bit, and hopefully I'll realise enough sales to keep the whole thing going. But it's just criminal that say, Eddie Kirkland is wasting away in Macon, Georgia, and that Baby Tate had to work as a bricklayer?you know?"

So?Trix is walking some more and if you want to support the effort or find out more about what's going on, write to Pete Lowry at P.O. Box 750, New Paltz, N.Y. 12561, USA. Albums are expected to be around $6 (post paid), plus another 50 cents or so for overseas, and you can grab hold of the six introductory singles for a mere 5 bucks.

Offline dj

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2006, 02:15:59 PM »
Thanks for the post, Bunker Hill. 

Most of the Trix LPs by Piedmont artists are on the Juke.  They're all good, but I'd have to say Henry Johnson's "The Union County Flash" is by far my favorite.  When the Trix catalog was reissued on CD in 1993, Pete Lowry added a short note to each detailing the artist's life after the original sessions had been completed.  In almost all cases, the note ends with a variation on "there's enough music in the vault for another release at a later date".  Sadly, none of this extra material ever saw the light of day.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2006, 04:38:13 PM »
Yes, thanks again for this. Very interesting. And there's that Baby Tate recording mentioned again, very positively I see. Dang, I'd love to hear that.

I agree about the Henry Johnson recordings. Excellent stuff.

Poking around about these, I notice that 32 Records (32 Blues) reissued some Trix stuff on CD fairly recently (2000). Their website seems defunct now. Does anyone know if they still exist?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2006, 10:01:29 AM »
The contents of the Flyright LP "Blues Came To Chapel Hill" which Lowry cites in his interview can be viewed in the 500 series (Fly 504) at http://www.wirz.de/music/flyrifrm.htm

Offline Doc White

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2006, 05:11:07 AM »
I'm not sue if it is still the case but Pete Lowry emigrated over here (Australia) in the mid 90's and was living in Sydney. Met him in 96 and 98. He still had an active interest in blues music then. Not sure what he is doing now.
Cheers,
Chris

Online Johnm

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2008, 06:48:39 PM »
Hi all,
i was up in Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island this week-end, playing some jobs with Ginny, and stopped at my favorite used CD/video shop there, "Fascinating Rhythm", where I found and purchased the Trix Willie Trice CD, "Blue and Rag'd".  I've only had a chance to listen to it once so far, but am really enjoying it.  Trice, who at the time of the recording in the early '70s had already lost both of his legs below the knees to diabetes, was nonetheless a vital and energetic singer and guitarist still.  He shows a marked preference for playing in E and A positions in standard tuning, even to the point of doing a cover of "Diddie Wa Diddie" in E!  It sounds great, and I don't think I would have thought of it in a million years.  He also does two outstanding instrumentals with spoken commentary--"Good Time Boogie" and "She's Coming on the C & O"; both very strong and the second sensational.  One of the happy surprises of the CD for me is how individual Willie Trice's treatment of time and phrasing was.  He is every bit as individualistic in his phrasing as were his East Coast contemporaries (both slightly younger men) Frank Hovington and John Jackson.  Kudos to Pete Lowry for recording such long takes, too.  The shortest performance on the CD clocks in at 3:24, and in a program of 12 songs, six clock in at between four and five minutes and two exceed five minutes in length.  This CD is very strong and I would recommend it highly to any Country Blues fan, but in particular those who favor East Coast blues.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2008, 07:29:55 PM »
Hi John,

I added a Willie Trice tag here which revealed a couple previous threads with content on him. Including a Weenie rarity - tab for Good Time Boogie.

I agree this Trice CD, which I discovered through the Juke (currently in a cryogenic chamber awaiting sanity from Congress or the Copyright Royalty Board), is a really good one. Along with the Henry Johnson disc dj mentions above, it is my favourite of the Trix CDs I have. Although the Pernell Charity disc is right up there.

Offline Slack

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2008, 08:36:21 PM »
Thanks for digging this up again Andrew, I love Good Time Boogie and had forgotten we'd done that tab -- I need to re-learn the tune from my tab! haha

I third the Trice CD, it is really good.  And those TAGS are handy!

Online Johnm

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2008, 11:23:06 AM »
Hi all,
Yesterday I found the Trix CD Andrew mentioned a couple of posts back, "Pernell Charity--The Virginian", and as he said, it's excellent, a real find.  Charity, who was born in 1920 and died in 1979, apparently lived all his life in and near the small town of Waverly, near Petersburg, in eastern Virginia.  Like John Jackson, he learned much of his repertoire from recordings, and like many East Coast bluesmen of his generation, he shows the influence not only of Blind Boy Fuller and Buddy Moss, but also Lightnin' Hopkins.  Pernell Charity does some excellent playing on the CD.  His favorite playing position was E in standard tuning, and of the 15 song program, 10 songs are played in that position, but despite this heavy concentration, his sound does not become monotonous, partly because he employs a variety of rhythmic treatments and touches in the right hand.  Charity also shows himself to be a strong player in A in standard tuning, and has one tune each in G and D positions in standard tuning.  His singing was serviceable, but perhaps not as distinctive as his playing.  High points of the program include "War Blues", an original played in D, "I'm Climbing on Top of the Hill" (influenced by Edward Thompson?), a very quirky adaptation/cover of Blind Boy Fuller's "Pigmeat Is What I Crave" that Charity calls "Pig Meat Mama", a terrific cover of Fuller's "Mamie", and an original, "Blind Man".  In listening to the program, I found myself more and more impressed by Pernell Charity's poise; he sounds thoroughly comfortable being recorded, with spoken asides during his solos and other signs that he was unself-conscious in a recording environment.  This is a very nice CD that I would recommend to any of you who can find it.  It's a shame Pernell Charity wasn't able to achieve more recognition for his music during his lifetime.
All best,
Johnm

Offline NotRevGDavis

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2008, 12:29:18 PM »
Thanks for posting that article.
I feel pretty lucky that I found almost all the Trix CD's mentioned a few years ago. Willie Trice is by far my favorite artist (kinda reminds me of Scott Dunbar) on the Trix label. But I also enjoy Henry Johnson, Frank Hovington, Roy Dunn, Pernell Charity (the hardest CD to find) and Tarheel Slim. Tarheel Slim's rendition of "Weeping Willow" is something else.

Boy I miss The Juke.
Got the name, still workin' on the licks!

Online Johnm

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2008, 05:29:14 PM »
That's great that you have all those CDs, Gary.  I would be interested to know Roy Dunn's age at the time of the recording and where he was from, and the same information on Henry Johnson.  Are any of the musicians who made solo CDs for Trix still alive?
All best,
Johnm

Offline NotRevGDavis

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2008, 09:35:27 PM »
I dove in to my CD collection (and came out without calling search and rescue) I have transfered almost everything to my computer and iPod. All I could find tonight was Roy Dunn aka James Calvin Speed and Tarheel Slim (Alden Bunn). This is to the best of my knowledge Roy (Sidney) Dunn was 53 when he recorded the tracks on "No Time at All" in 1975 and it seems he spent most of his time in Atlanta working construction and playing music until he was involved in a serious auto accident on Christmas 1968. Roy died in March of 1988 in Atlanta. Tarheel Slim was 51 when he recorded the tracks on "No Time at All" in 1975 he was originally from the Carolinas but settled in NYC and died in August 1977.

The Trix recordings are fantastic and so are their liner notes. I'll look for Henry Johnson and Pernell Charity this weekend I have a feeling they are in my truck. Let me know if you would like me to make copies of the liner notes for you. Or if there are CD's you might like me to try and find, I'll be in SF next week or I can run to Santa Cruz where I found most of the Trix CD'S.

<on edit> I doubt that any of the Trix solo blues artists are still alive.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2008, 09:38:41 PM by NotRevGDavis »
Got the name, still workin' on the licks!

Offline Stefan Wirz

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2008, 11:49:25 PM »
... you can read at least some of the liner notes at http://www.wirz.de/music/trix.htm

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2008, 01:31:13 AM »
I know that Henry Johnson died of cancer shortly after his Trix LP was released. 

I had some correspondence with Pete Lowry at the time, helping with the source of a song he was unable to place and discussing the guitars used.  Apparently Lowry himself could not play, but was very adept at tuning the selection of guitars he carried, from which the performers could pick.  His reasoning behind this was that most of the blues musicians he met had no guitar or more likely one that was not good enough to record with.  I would have liked to hear more of "Rufe" Johnson on a wooden-bodied guitar, but he favoured the National himself, so Pete Lowry went along with that.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2008, 01:32:39 AM by Parlor Picker »
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Offline NotRevGDavis

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Re: Trix is walkin? some more?
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2008, 08:10:32 AM »
Thanks Stefan. I used your website as a resource when I was searching for Trix label artists.

Got the name, still workin' on the licks!