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The blues is the roots. Everything else is the fruits. - Willie Dixon

Author Topic: Lightnin' Hopkins  (Read 5065 times)

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Offline dave stott

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Lightnin' Hopkins
« on: November 06, 2006, 01:26:08 PM »
Does anyone have an idea as to when Lightnin Hopkins switched from acoustic guitar to electric?

I am trying to find the recordings in which he plays acoustic guitar....

Most of the CD's I have have so much "twang" in the guitar, it is tough to determine if it is an electric guitar causing it or if he is playing close to the bridge to get the "twang".



« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 07:26:30 AM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2006, 05:25:35 PM »
Probably that DeArmond pickup he stuck on his Gibson at some point. I'd also like to know where the definitive Lightnin' acoustic recordings are collected all in one place. I have smatterings spread over a few CDs. I've come to accept that I have to put on my Sam Hopkins sunglasses when I listen to him and just ease into it.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2006, 11:48:12 PM »
The sixty-five "rediscovery" recordings done for Mack McCormick between 16th February 1959 and 8 December 1959 were all with acoustic guitar. I think some of the Prestige/Bluesville sessions were too.

Three or so months back in another thread I did offer up a chronological 1946-80 LH session discography (i.e role of accompanist too) which I cobbled together a few years ago. I only had two takers. Whilst this obviously doesn't show which guitar was in use at any particular time it is useful at identifying the McCormick or Prestige sessions.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2006, 11:44:15 AM »
The following few paragraphs come from Charlotte Phelan's lengthy feature "Song Maker" in the Houston Post, 23 August 1959. She attended some of the recording sessions that McCormick held at Sam's home:

In the light of day, Hopkins is a quiet, self-contained man with deep-seated dignity. The other day he was pensive, remote, reluctantly responsive, even after his regular breakfast of two bottles of beer, which are always supported during the day with similar sustenance.

Sitting on the chenile-covered bed in the simple room he rents in a private home just off Dowling Street, Lightning's slender, strong fingers with their thorny, calloused tips worried aimlessly at the steel strings of his guitar.

Finally, acceding to McCormick's prodding, he began, "The day is dark and cloudy...old Lightning gonna get rich againand go on and shake hands with all my friends..." Complex figurations on the guitar were minor, somber-hued, penetrating.

But at night, in the magic milieu of one of his dance halls where he is surrounded by a crush of intense and voluable admirers, Lightning becomes vitalized, frenetic. Audience and performer float up on a expanding bubble of mutual joy.

For such engagements, Hopkins rejects a standard guitar in favor of an electrically amplified instrument, and blandly ignores the expressed objections of McCormick and other purists. Lightning makes his point about needing amplification: "It gets so noisy, my sound is taken away from me. I can't hear myself."

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2006, 12:06:17 PM »
This is just one of a series of photos taken by Andrew Hanson at the Houston Folklore Group's "Hootenanny" in the Summer of 1959. This was LH's first experience before a concert audience or before a predominately white audience of any kind.


Online Johnm

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2006, 04:07:19 PM »
Thanks very much for the photo and the additional background, Bunker Hill.  One excellent CD program of Lightnin' playing acoustic that I know of is the one recorded by Samuel Charters for Folkways which is now available from Smithsonian Folkways on CD.  It is a tremendous program with Lightnin' in excellent form, featuring, among other songs, "Penitentiary Blues", "One Kind Favor", "Goin' Back To Florida" and "Fan It".
All best,
Johnm

Offline dave stott

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2006, 04:22:22 AM »
thanks folks,

I just placed my order for the lightnin hopkins CD via folkways as well as for the Brownie Mcghee CD...

Dave

Offline Dr. G

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2006, 07:13:08 AM »
Any Lightnin' Hopkins fan who has not heard his Prestige Bluesville (BV 1019) LP entitled "The Blues of Lightnin' Hopkins" -- and can get hold of it one way or another (I have no clue as to whether it has been reissued) is in for a huge treat.

IMHO, it is head and shoulders better than anything else he ever issued (at least what I have heard) on any label. The (acoustic) guitar playing is superb, the vocals are sublime, and the performances "in the zone".

Although backed by very tasteful (stand up) bass and brushes, these instruments are very restrained, unobtrusive, and complementary.

If this LP has not been re-issued somewhere, it is a crime. If this is the case -- and it were not another crime to do so -- I would convert my pristine, scarcely ever played, "backup" BV1019 to digital and make it available to Lightnin' fans everywhere.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2006, 10:11:23 AM »
Thanks very much for the photo and the additional background, Bunker Hill.  One excellent CD program of Lightnin' playing acoustic that I know of is the one recorded by Samuel Charters for Folkways which is now available from Smithsonian Folkways on CD.  It is a tremendous program with Lightnin' in excellent form, featuring, among other songs, "Penitentiary Blues", "One Kind Favor", "Goin' Back To Florida" and "Fan It".
I'll second that.

When S-F finally got around to releasing it as a CD in 1991 it passed by almost unnoticed (familiarity breeds contempt?), however Blues & Rhythm did give it a short review thus:

This is an extraordinary fine collection that delivers the range and expressiveness of Hopkins' music in 30 short minutes. Of all the recordings made for folklorists and/or the white market, this is perhaps unique in that Hopkins is patently singing for himself and his community, rather than for the man with the microphone.

Granted, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and his monologue on Blind Lemon are perhaps performed to order but his masterly control of voice and guitar on "Penitentiary Blues", without doubt, comes from within. Even slightly risque numbers like - "Come Go With Me" and "Fan It" have a certain infectious charm as he gurgles amusement at his own improvisations. This re-release is rounded out by sleevenote from Sam Charters (welcome back Sam, you've stayed away too long) who recounts how he located Hopkins in Houston and, on January 16, 1959, recorded Lightnin' at his home with a hand held microphone, moving it from guitar to voice as required. For such a primitive technique the end product is extremely well recorded and, at the risk of sounding sycophantic and in my first flush, I wish I'd been there for I'm sure Charters speaks the truth when he says "when I listen to these recordings again many years later, I still have the same sense of excitement I felt that day".

With the ever expanding quantity of Hopkins material available and endless other 'essential' items to be bought, this re-release will regrettably get lost in the "CD mountain".
« Last Edit: November 08, 2006, 10:13:37 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Stuart

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2006, 11:08:09 AM »
Any Lightnin' Hopkins fan who has not heard his Prestige Bluesville (BV 1019) LP entitled "The Blues of Lightnin' Hopkins" -- and can get hold of it one way or another (I have no clue as to whether it has been reissued) is in for a huge treat.

IMHO, it is head and shoulders better than anything else he ever issued (at least what I have heard) on any label. The (acoustic) guitar playing is superb, the vocals are sublime, and the performances "in the zone".

Hi Doc:

Concord (formerly FantasyJazz) has a Lightnin' Hopkins page:

http://concordmusicgroup.com/artists/?name=Lightnin%27+Hopkins

It appears that all of the Prestige Blueville LPs have been combined into a multi CD set--"Complete Prestige/bluesville Recordings." Perhaps you could take a look to confirm that 1019 is included.

Here's the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Prestige-Bluesville-Recordings/dp/B000000ZC4/sr=1-3/qid=1163012663/ref=pd_bbs_sr_3/002-1533654-2344864?ie=UTF8&s=music

A quick glance at FJ's print catalog tells me that 1019 was released as OBCCD-532-2 "Lightnin'"--here's the link:

http://concordmusicgroup.com/artists/album/index.php?id=1162

So maybe it is available as a single CD. We'll be awaiting your professional opinion, Doc!

« Last Edit: November 08, 2006, 11:26:14 AM by Stuart »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2006, 11:32:02 AM »
Any Lightnin' Hopkins fan who has not heard his Prestige Bluesville (BV 1019) LP entitled "The Blues of Lightnin' Hopkins" -- and can get hold of it one way or another (I have no clue as to whether it has been reissued) is in for a huge treat.

IMHO, it is head and shoulders better than anything else he ever issued (at least what I have heard) on any label. The (acoustic) guitar playing is superb, the vocals are sublime, and the performances "in the zone".

Hi Doc:

Concord (formerly FantasyJazz) has a Lightnin' Hopkins page:

http://concordmusicgroup.com/artists/?name=Lightnin%27+Hopkins

It appears that all of the Prestige Blueville LPs have been combined into a multi CD set--"Complete Prestige/bluesville Recordings." Perhaps you could take a look to confirm that 1019 is included.

Here's the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Prestige-Bluesville-Recordings/dp/B000000ZC4/sr=1-3/qid=1163012663/ref=pd_bbs_sr_3/002-1533654-2344864?ie=UTF8&s=music

A quick glance at FJ's print catalog tells me that 1019 was released as OBCCD-532-2 "Lightnin'"--here's the link:

http://concordmusicgroup.com/artists/album/index.php?id=1162

So maybe it is available as a single CD. We'll be awaiting your professional opinion, Doc!

And not to forget our very own Stefan Wirz and his super duper, labour of love pictorial Prestige/Bluesville discography at

http://www.wirz.de/music/blvilfrm.htm

Offline Stuart

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2006, 01:19:50 PM »
And not to forget our very own Stefan Wirz and his super duper, labour of love pictorial Prestige/Bluesville discography at http://www.wirz.de/music/blvilfrm.htm

I clicked on Stefan's "Sam 'Lightnin' Hopkins" link, but the re-directed URL was gone...That'll teach me not to underestimate Stefan and to try to go the extra yard! Bunker Hill to the rescue once again...Thanks, BH!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2006, 01:21:48 PM by Stuart »

Offline Dr. G

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2006, 07:24:51 AM »
Hey Stuart and Bunker Hill,

You guys have nailed it!!!

Clicked on the link, and there was my beloved Lightnin' Prestige Bluesville LP ("OBCCD-532-2") in all its sepia glory -- Song #1 -- Automobile Blues/ Song 10. Down there Baby.

I am ecstatic. Promptly ordered 4 copies for Christmas presents (it has been a family favorite since the early '60's -- but our overplayed original vinyl copy sounds like a '20's 78 rpm).

Another Weenie miracle.

Speaking of miracles (on 34th Street?)...does any discography genius out there know of any possible reissue of
what IMHO is the greatest Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee LP of all time -- and one worth its weight in gold...

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee: "Blues is a Story" -- World Pacific Records (WP-1294) -- a division of Pacific Enterprises, Inc., Hollywood, CA -- c 1960

Thanks again to both of you

Dr. G

Offline Stuart

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2006, 07:37:09 AM »
Hi Doc:

All I could find was this:

WP 1294 mono, S-1294 stereo - Blues Is A Story - Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry [1960] Keys to the Highway/Lose Your Money/Louise/Sprotin' Life/New Harmonica Breakdown/Prison Bound/Livin' With the Blues/Blowin' the Blues/Baby Please Don't Go/12 Gates to the City/Pawnshop Blues/Brownie's Guitar Blues

at this link:

http://www.bsnpubs.com/underconst/pacificjazz.html

I doesn't look like the LPs were re-issued on CD.

I recently purchased a CD recorder which does a pretty good job of transferring LPs to CDs. If you want more info, send me a personal message and I'll send you info re: the recorder and recording process off-site.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2006, 09:00:02 AM »
WP 1294 mono, S-1294 stereo - Blues Is A Story - Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry [1960] Keys to the Highway/Lose Your Money/Louise/Sprotin' Life/New Harmonica Breakdown/Prison Bound/Livin' With the Blues/Blowin' the Blues/Baby Please Don't Go/12 Gates to the City/Pawnshop Blues/Brownie's Guitar Blues
A decade ago it was reissued by Capitol as part of a double CD set entitled Rediscovered Blues (829376-2). FWIW in 1965 Blues Is A Story was released in the UK titled Living With The Blues on Fontana. Three years later four tracks from it appeared on a British compilation entitled Dirt Blues, the bizarre cover of which can be viewed at Stefan's site thus:

http://www.wirz.de/music/milesfrm.htm

(Edit - After thought: Perhaps I should have mentioned that the other CD was World Pacific LP 1296 Down South Summit Meeting featuring S&B, Hopkins and Big Joe Williams.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2006, 09:15:19 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Stuart

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2006, 12:58:19 PM »
Thanks for the info BH (as usual!) re: the Brownie and Sonny WP CD. It appears that the original CD set is out-of-print stateside, but there are used copies available for around $10 via the usual sources.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #16 on: December 09, 2006, 01:45:25 PM »
Thanks for the info BH (as usual!) re: the Brownie and Sonny WP CD. It appears that the original CD set is out-of-print stateside, but there are used copies available for around $10 via the usual sources.
This "twofer" is well worth owning. The first track of the "Summit" session is a wonderful musical "badinage" between BMcG and Lightnin' Hopkins concerning BM's 1950s 78 "A Letter To Lightnin' Hopkins" (from memory a rework of Fuller's Jivin' Big Bill Blues) in which LH hilariously finally get's to respond to McGhee's recording.

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Re: lightnin hopkins
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2006, 09:32:17 PM »
eMusic.com has MANY of Lightnin's albums.  At least one is credited to an artist named "Lightning Hopkins", so that will show up on a different artist page.  The album cover actually printed it that way.  You may prefer to buy them elsewhere to get the covers and notes, but if you are looking for a selection of his albums along with 30-second song samples of each song, it's a good resource.

 


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