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Author Topic: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?  (Read 5700 times)

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Offline Dr. G

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Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« on: September 24, 2006, 07:45:44 AM »
I've been wanting to share some burning concerns about what I fear is a dangerously-neglected -- but vital -- component of that classic blues sound: the rhythm accompaniment.

For example (and I'm sure you all could cite another 100 of your own favorites)...

Can anyone shed light on the fabulous "rhythm" section on Roosevelt Graves' "I'll Be Rested"? I've nailed down the guitar part (not that difficult) -- happy to share it with anyone who wants it --, but it just ain't the same without that tambourine.

So I bought a tamborine for my washboard player, but who's got an instructional video for the under-appreciated "frame drum"? Does anyone know if brother Uaroy was playing it with sticks? Fingertips? It just sounds so much tighter, and more compact, than what one typically hears (nowadays) from your typical rocker slapping a tamborine on his/her thigh.

And what about those terrific, syncopated, "emphasis", woody-sounding "tocs" that are occasionally thrown in to the mix in this number to supercharge the whole performance? I can't imagine anything on a tambourine that would give such a full sound...sounds much more like taps on a wooden guitar body. But unless Roosevelt has three hands, I don't see how he can get those "tocs" in there (a la Reverend Gary Davis when he was really on a roll in concert) without dropping crucial guitar notes!

And...speaking of "rhythm" sections...do any other weenies out there agree that washboard technique is on the endangered species list (if not already gone the way of the dodo) -- and desperately needs to be rescued...or resurrected? I don't mean just clattering away on a rub board with thimbles the way most revivalist "jug bands" seem to have done over the years, or just scraping rhymically on a corrugated vest (a la Zydeco).

I mean playing the thing as if it were a Stradivarius, and with real "parts", ideas, sensitivity, and soul. I cannot imagine Blind Boy Fuller's "Shake It Babies" without washboard virtuoso Bull City Red's fabulous accompaniment...and would Bukka White's "Fixin' to Die" rank as one of the top 5 country blues of all time (top 2 in my own short list) if it were not for that delicate, sublime -- if driving -- washboard accompaniment? And anyone lately listened to Washboard Sam's jaw-dropping washboard technique on ""Dirty Mother for You"? (Who needs the rest of the band with that rythm part?!) Where are the great (present-day) washboard players? Who's keeping the art alive?

I would appreciate any and all thoughts on this matter, as I am sure some other weenies would.

Desperate for that CLASSIC blues washboard (and tambourine) sound,

Dr. G

Offline waxwing

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2006, 12:37:49 PM »
Hey Dr. G.

Try Googling either washboards or jugbands. You'll be surprised what's out there. Like Washboards International. Granted a lot of these washboards and jugbands are not really playing much country blues.

Some of us Weenies have a jug band, the Hohoppas Jug Band, started by Steve Cheseborough, in which both Steve and I play washboard at times. Actually we use 3 different washboards in our performances. Mine, a blue enameled National no. 199, is rigged out with a cowbell, woodblock, an old trowel and a service bell. Steve has a standard size galvanized, and a lingerie size, with a small measuring cup attached, which he plays on his lap. Steve sometimes plays harp in one hand and washboard with the other, and uses thimbles on both washboards. I play an oil can jug on a rack and work the washboard with some brushes I made from bamboo twigs and a small round mallet sticking out the other end of each. We work fairly close to the old recordings, but also add washboard to some tunes. You can read more about the Hohoppas elsewhere on Weenie Campbell.

I have heard quite a few good washboard players at various jug band get-togethers. Recently at the San Franciso Jug Fest I heard a young woman from Oakland in a band called the Blues Roots and she had quite a feel for the fast raggy rhythms.

Personally, I consider myself a rank beginner on the washboard and I am blown away when I listen to Washboard Sam, Bull City Red or Chasey Collins, playing behind Big Joe Williams. The guitar being my primary instrument, I don't have time to concentrate on really learning the great rhythms of these players. But there are folks out there who think of the washboard as their one instrument, so I think if you look around, you'll find that the art is not quite dead.

You can also find some discussion on washboards in the  Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards & Kazoos board.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Richard

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2006, 01:45:57 AM »
Dr G please post a track of  "I'll be rested" thing as I'd like tol have a listen.

With my drummers hat on, I thought I did post something on washboard playing here once, that is how the basic rhythm patterns relate to playing snaredrum New Orleans style with the four to the bar and initation press rolls. 

Uuumm, I could get more into this topic if you want or dare!!! 
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2006, 07:21:32 AM »
Hey, John C. (Waxwing?) and Richard!

Very grateful for your extremely helpful -- and encouraging -- replies! I shall post "I'll Be Rested" for a good listen as soon as (1) I get home from my day job, and (2) my guitar-playing son (and my personal computer tekkie) tells me how to do it!

I much appreciate the various references to washboard sources, and the descriptions of your own styles and instruments.

My own washboard player, Nancy T. (in my own Dr. G's Good Medicine String & Washboard Band), is actually quite good -- for a modern-era musician -- , playing both a blue-enameled rig and a plain one, outfitted with a wood block and a double bell arrangement. She plays with fingerpicks for a gentler sound. For big gigs we have often attached a contact mike (!) But some of the country blues tunes really cry out for rhythms and attacks that to us seem as inscrutable as some of Charley Patton's lyrics or Blind Blake's thumb rolls.

Richard: your references to New Orleans rhythm styles make great sense to me, as I have always loved them -- without really knowing why (Huey "Piano" Smith was my favorite rock 'n roller). PLEASE tell me (and others following this thread) more! You will not bore me in the slightest! One of my brothers is a terrific drummer and roots music lover (the other one blows a mean harp) -- and he would be only too happy to explain (in language that even we guitar pickers can understand) the technical end of things in any exposition you care to favor us with.

Great to hear from you both,

Dr. G


Offline Richard

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2006, 02:26:59 PM »
Dr G, nice to have a willing student  ;D  I have had a sort of brainwave and I hope it will work... I'll try and find you some short snippets of typical NO type roll and thump (as it is rudely called here) snare work and then try to put it into a washboard perspective with (hopefully) the similar rhythm a la a washboard   :P

Might be bit ambitious, never know till you try do you  :-X and it will be an interesting exercise anyway, I will try and do it with original material if I can.

Class dissmissed  :)
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2006, 05:53:27 PM »
Hey Teach, er...Richard!

Happy to be your willing student! Unbelievably sporting of you to take the time to do this. I can't wait to see where your "brainwave" takes us!

I am trying to attach Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves' "I'll Be Rested", but my file type seems to be "m4a", and it isnt "allowed". I guess I need a lesson in computer skills too. (And when I try to use the italics button and the smiley faces, strange things happen! I have a Mac...do I need to switch to a PC?) I'll keep trying, though. Any tekkie advice would also be appreciated from anyone smarter about this than I (not very hard).

Dr. G

Offline waxwing

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2006, 08:18:31 PM »
Definitely a willing student here, Richard, even if the lessons aren't PC.-G-

Dr. G. you may want to read some of the Please Read! Guidelines for the Back Porch thread, which should clue you in on how to shrink your file down below the 800kb limit. You can do this by setting the mp3 encoder settings in iTunes. Go to Preferences under the iTunes menu, select Advanced and then select Importing. You importer will be set for Apple Lossless, so you have to change that to mp3 encoder. Under settings select Custom and set it at maybe 64 kbps and mono. You might have to play around with the kbps setting to get just under the 800kb limit. Close the Preferences window and select the tune in the iTunes library. Then select the Adcanced menu and select Convert to mp3. Select the new track and then selesct Get Info from the Files menu to see the size of the file. If no good, delete the file, reset the importer and try again. It'll become second nature if you continue to hang out here.-G-

As you can see, I don't use smilies -G-, but I haven't had a problem with italics, altho' I usually just key in the code.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2006, 08:23:53 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2006, 08:51:58 PM »
Hey John C. (aka Waxwing),

Very indulgent of you to walk me through the mp3 conversion process (especially if I could have looked it up elsewhere). I am excited about trying it out -- though I better wait until my brain is no longer mush (tomorrow, I hope). I have no doubt that it will indeed become second nature to me -- because I have no doubt that I will be hanging out with the rest of you country blues studs [of both genders; no bias intended here!] for a long. long time. WeenieCampbell.com is without any doubt in my mind the greatest thing since the invention of the phonograph!

Thanks for the after-school session for the freshman,

Dr. G    ???

Offline waxwing

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2006, 09:35:21 PM »
No problem, Doc. Someone did it for me once.

BTW I should have mentioned that you delete the file by selecting Clear in the Edit menu and Move it to the Trash when asked. Took me a while to find that.-G-

So, me for some washboard lessons!

Where are you at, Dr. G? I'm in the SF Bay Area (Oakland) and there are a few of us around here. You wouldn't be within a day's drive, would you?

BTW, you can PM (personal message) another Weenie by clicking on their name, which takes you to their Profile and then find where it says something like "send this member a message", click and post just like you do to the forum. Look above the login/out button, top of the left border, to see if you have any messages.

Actually, noone's asked in a while and its good to cue folks not accustomed to forums in to some of tools of the website. So, thanks for asking.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Willie Brown's Liquor at CD Baby

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2006, 05:48:48 AM »
Good Morning Waxwing,

Again, I enormously appreciate (as I am sure that some others following this thread do) your lending a kindly hand -- not only with the musical end of things but also with the technical and etiquette end of things. With such a huge discrepancy between the number of readers and the numbers of participants in any given thread, one has to believe that some of us are just...well...a little bit shy, or ever-so-slightly intimidated by the whole thing...especially we newbies.

One of the wonderful things (again, for me -- but I am sure that I speak for others here, as well) about Weenie Campbell is that it is soooooo inclusive, and sooooo non-judgmental, and sooooo obviously purely devoted to preserving the art, and networking with others who share similar arcane passions -- as opposed to ego-tripping by anybody. Who among us has never been intimidated by the supercillious, "it's-for-me-to-know-and-you-to-find-out!" demeanor of many of our otherwise-heros of art forms (or of whatever areas in which our passions lie).

For example, I personally love vintage instrument stores, but have found the inscrutable "professorial" demeanor of many a proprietor thereof so off-putting that I tend to stay away; same for many a guitar or banjo workshop, or jam session. And this from (1) a psychiatrist (!), (2) a guy who has comfortably negotiated professors at the snottiest, most-full-of-themselves, ivy-bedecked institutions in the world, and (3) a guy who has played and sung before crowds of up to 30,000 without cracking a sweat or a scintilla of stage fright.

If my own willingness (for once) just to stumble and bumble forward at this -- and your, and others', good-natured acceptance of, and assistance with, it -- encourages just one other similar "shybie" to join in the fun, then another good deed will have been done...as I am sure so many have been done before.

Alas I am 3000 miles away (greater Boston area) -- but if the invitation is for real (and it certainly seems so!), then wild horses could not keep me away from trying to connect the next time I am in the Bay area; if/when you're back east, the welcome mat would also be out. (BTW: thanks for the tip on emailing -- I had no clue; I am a rote learner, not a note learner. I shall take advantage of it. But I decided to "come out of the closet" on this particular message because I suspect that my voice may be speaking for others as well, and I want to contribute to what we in the medical field call this [wonderful] "see one, do one, teach one" culture!)

Dr. G


Offline Richard

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2006, 01:09:42 PM »
Boston. Ah, they have a tea party there once, lot's of old bags attended and didn't the bottleneck violin ensemble play at that one ;)

But to more important matters... washboards and drums, I'm working on it and even found my old washboard, but luckily no thimbles so I can't paly it  ;D

This is becoming quite facinating seeing how washboard players emulated drummers, I'm putting together a few short excerts of both plus a tiny bit by me which should point you in the right direction, I hope..

For your first assignment, can I assume that you being musicial type men, can (instantly) pick out the off-beat (ie beats 2 and 4 ) when you hear a tune? That is the hard part, the rest is just training your fingers  :-X
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2006, 01:22:45 AM »
Hi Richard,

Thanks for hanging in there with me on this...I was afraid maybe I had waxed too philosophical (and psychological) on my previous post, and actually inhibited followers of these threads rather than encouraged them!  Yes, that would be the same "AWWWW....Boston you're my home!" of more recent "roots" music.

Your comment about washboard players' emulating drummers never occurred to me before, but of course it makes perfect sense. I've always loved the reference in a Victor (?) ad to "Blind Blake and his piano-sounding guitar". (I have often admonished my piano player to emulate my own piano-sounding guitar...a rather silly "circle of instrumentation", one might say -- but one that can produce fresh, and unexpected, sounds!)

Yes, Teach, i think I can handle the first assignment: picking out the 2 & 4. Isn't this what we call the "back beat" -- as in "You can't lose it" of Chuck Berry fame? The "oom-PAH" of turn-of-the-century brass bands? That which makes Appalachian fiddle and clawhammer banjo so much sexier than Irish/New England styles? The emphasis of thumb notes on the 4th string -- as opposed to the 6th string -- when played in a typical raggy guitar "pattern picking" sequence...say, in "S.F. Bay Blues"? (Didn't you have a jackhammer operator out there who wrote a few '60's "folk revival" classics, and played a pretty mean fotdella?)

I think I'm with you so far....

Dr. G




Offline Doc White

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2006, 03:28:15 AM »
Hi Dr G,
I'm a washboard player too. I mostly play guitar and mandolin but I love the washboard. Mine is a custom made number by a guy called John McDowall here in Australia - native timber and all. He also invented these things called washboard wackers which are fantastic. There's a picture of me playing it on my myspace site www.myspace.com/bluefella . I also have a plastic cowbell which I hold on one hand and can use it to rub the washboard and make that toc sound at the same time.
I also play a hatbox which I use as a kickdrum with my right foot and bang a tambourine with my left. Pictures of that are on the site as well. I also have a video of that but it is yet to appear on the site.
David Holt has a video out on Homespun which is about folk percussion and includes the washboard and bones. Check that out as well.
Cheers,
Chris

Offline Richard

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2006, 03:55:34 PM »
The more on this the merrier! 

As you've gathered I'm looking at this from the drummer view, or at least the drummers ear!

But, the more I have listened over the last couple of days, the more I have realised just how close it is to early drumming styles and I have found a few more examples tonight - for instance, we have Wasboard Sam playing the early version of jazz "time".

Hopefully I'll post it a couple of days - it's not going to be a mega thesis so panic not, but it might help explain some of the basics. 
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Classic Rhythm Accompaniment -- A DYING ART?
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2006, 01:07:55 PM »
Hey Richard,

John C. (Waxwing)'s patient instructions on converting to mp3 appear to have worked like a charm!

I can now post (I think) a converted version of Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves' original "I'll Be Rested".

If you haven't heard it yet, I hope it knocks your socks off -- as it did mine [see first post in this thread]!

Dr. G



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