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Feel so bad, feel like a ballgame on a rainy day - Chuck Willis, I Feel So Bad

Author Topic: Blind Blake shooting craps?  (Read 2309 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Blind Blake shooting craps?
« on: September 23, 2006, 12:28:22 AM »
In 1972 Jim O'Neal extensively interviewed J. Mayo Williams. About fifteen years back Jim kindly offered up the following vignette for possible use in something I was doing. Make of it what you will:

"But this story I'm going to give you on Blind Blake, you wouldn't believe it. Now listen to this. Blind Blake, I got him down there in Florida, some place in Florida. I was down there. And he would come up here and stay two or three weeks at a time and I'd record him. One morning Blind Lemon [sic: Blake] walked into the office all beat up, his eyes black and blue, and scars and everything, and I says, "What's the matter?" Blind Blake. He says, "I been shootin' craps." I says, "What do you mean, shootin' craps? A blind man shootin' craps?" He says, "Yes, and I got in a fight in the crap game." And I says, "Well, how can you be shootin' craps when you're blind?" And he says, "We takes the dice,  and roll 'em out, and nobody touched them until I, being blind, would put my fingers on them." And that's the way they read the craps. Well, I said, "Well, that's strange to me." "No," he said, "we not only shoot craps, but we play cards, too, Mr. Williams." I says, "What do you mean, play cards? How are you gonna play cards when you can't see?" He says, "We have a deck of cards, and in having this deck of cards, we take pins and prick holes in the corner of each one of them and then put a hole in the center of a card and one near the edge, which would indicate the suit that it is. [laughs] And in that way we just feel and know how to follow and play, discard, and so forth and so on." Now that was the strangest thing that I had ever heard, of blind men playing cards and shootin' craps, you see. But now, in that day, there were all kinds of blind men around all of these corners, you see. And being around all of these corners, you could walk out here and pick up a blind man and take him down to the studio and record him, and you might get a record that would sell 15, 20 thousand, just like that, with him and his guitar, you see. But you can't do that now, you see."

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Blind Blake shooting craps?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2006, 01:24:48 AM »
Fascinating stuff, Alan.

Nothing to do with blues directly, but I knew an older blind man in London when I lived there in the early 1970s.  He had been born with no eyes, but his abilities were astounding.  Like so many of his generation, he worked as a piano tuner and his work took him all over the place. He could have guided you around London by bus or tube (subway to you Colonial Weenies) and strode along the street, turning at exactly the right spot when he had to divert down another street.  He would greet me by name when I approached him.  The most poignant thing was his way of saying "goodbye" which was invariably, "See you later!".  Using the Braille system, he could read as fast as a sighted person.

Most blind bluesmen did not have the education, except apparently Wille McTell, who had attended a school for the blind and read Braille.

Apologies if I have gone off the topic a bit here.

"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 Prof Scratchy

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Re: Blind Blake shooting craps?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2006, 03:22:13 AM »
Still off topic slightly - Humphrey Littleton recently did a Radio 4 series in the British dance bands. Nat Gonella related how, during the wartime blackout in London, he'd been taken home from gigs by George Shearing..

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Blind Blake shooting craps?
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2006, 08:46:51 AM »
Blind Blake, I got him down there in Florida, some place in Florida. I was down there.

I read several years ago that Gayle Wardlow said his next project was going to go to Florida to find traces of Blake.  Does anyone know if he undertook that project or, if he did, whether he came up with anything?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Blake shooting craps?
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2006, 09:40:28 AM »
I read several years ago that Gayle Wardlow said his next project was going to go to Florida to find traces of Blake.  Does anyone know if he undertook that project or, if he did, whether he came up with anything?
I too recall reading that and, relatively speaking, it wasn't too long ago.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Blake shooting craps?
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2006, 10:40:17 AM »
I read several years ago that Gayle Wardlow said his next project was going to go to Florida to find traces of Blake.  Does anyone know if he undertook that project or, if he did, whether he came up with anything?
I too recall reading that and, relatively speaking, it wasn't too long ago.
It was alluded to by Paul Swinton in a letter to Blues & Rhythm (171, Aug 2002) however I'm sure Wardlow himself reported his findings - such as they were - to a magazine more recently, say in the past couple of years. From memory what Wardlow came up with was very sketchy, but I could be doing him a great disservice...

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Blake shooting craps?
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2006, 01:36:54 PM »
An informant tells me that what I'm probably thinking of is an article entitled Recording Blues In The South 1923-1940 (Blues & Rhythm 192, Sep 2004) in which Wardlow briefly discusses Blake's Florida connections. Unfortunately I don't have said issue.

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