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Negros must stop the deluge of filth, which makers of records are marketing among them. The music of the 'Blues' is one thing, but whether good or bad, it is indefensible to put to it all the stench which ingenuity can drag out the under-world and camouflage with words of double meaning. Don't buy them! Don't go to people's houses who do buy them! Don't permit your race newspaper to bear that name and at the same time advertise flagrant immorality set to music. Do anything, do everything, filthy records must go. - Roy Wilkins, (attrib.) editorial in the December 31 1926 edition of the Kansas City Call, probably written by the man who ironically went on to head up the NAACP

Author Topic: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook  (Read 9092 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« on: November 16, 2006, 01:15:11 AM »
Elsewhere John M has been doing herculean work in bringing to our attention the wonderful lyricism of Sylvester Weaver. I thought I'd post here how Paul Garon tracked down Weaver's "scrapbook". The following is the introduction by Garon to "Kentucky Blues. Pt 2: The Sylvester Weaver Scrapbook." (Living Blues 52, Spring 1982, p 15-25)

On The Trail of SYLVESTER WEAVER

By 1960 I was nearly 20 years old, and I had lived in Louisville, Ky., all my life. My interest in blues had already been stirred, and I was quickly reaching the stage where I thought of little else. It was around that time that I received a helpful and providential letter from Paul Oliver. Did I know a Lemon family in Louisville? It was said that Sylvester Weaver worked, or had worked, for them. My first piece of fieldwork started that day; I wrapped it up 16 years later.

There were a number of Lemon families in Louisville, but only one that might have been called the Lemon family; they knew nothing. None of the other Lemon families knew anything about Sylvester Weaver either, and my first lead evaporated. But with the persistence of the truly obsessed, I kept asking my questions. Sylvester Weaver? Walter Beasley? Sara Martin?" No one had heard of Walter Beasley, few had heard of Sylvester Weaver, and none of these few knew anything about him, but I kept getting leads about Sara Martin. "She sings in the church now." "I saw her in Toronto about 10 years ago." "I don't think she's still in Louisville." And finally, "Sylvester Weaver? I think he's dead, but his wife Dorothy is still here somewhere. "

This led to a new line of inquiry, and I eventually located Dorothy Weaver's home/beauty shop in a rural suburb of east Louisville. For nearly a year, no one answered the door when I rang, but in early 1963, I had my first conversation with Dorothy Weaver. She identified herself as the widow and second wife of Sylvester Weaver, but she had been seriously ill; she didn't want to talk about anything for a while. I returned many times, usually getting no response to my knocking, occasionally being asked to leave by a gentleman who remained unidentified. Before I moved to Chicago in 1%7, Dorothy Weaver had come to the door a second time. "I have his records; I have all his records and his papers, too." But she wanted neither to sort them out nor sell them.

Whenever I returned to Louisville throughout the next seven or eight years, I knocked on Dorothy Weaver's door. She never answered again, and finally a neighbor told me she had moved to the West End; no forwarding address, no listing in the phone book; the trail was cold. In 1976 it warmed up again.

I was talking with some Louisville friends about how I'd found old 78's in Louisville, and I told them the Dorothy Weaver story (as it had come to be called). "Do you know Annie Jackson?" one asked. "She knows everybody in the West End." I called .Annie Jackson, and while she might not have known everybody in the West End, she certainly knew Dorothy Weaver, now Dorothy S.; she also knew her address and her telephone number. Best of all, she called Dorothy S. first and explained my mission to her in such a way that she agreed to see me. I called her immediately and set up an appointment for the next evening.

The next night, as I said hello to Mrs. S., I could hardly  believe that 16 years of searching were going to finally come to an end. I first found out that Sylvester Weaver's musical career had ended well before he married his second wife, and she was unable to supply any details about that part of his life. But she did have his records, and his scrapbook! She agreed to sell me the records and all items in the scrapbook pertaining to his musical career. This business was quickly concluded, and for the benefit of the record collectors who are reading this, I will mention right away that the records that I found were not as exciting as they could have been. There were four Sylvester Weavers, three by Sara Martin (with Weaver), and five or six assorted blues. there were no great rarities, but they were nice records nonetheless.

The scrapbook was another story. The music items alone represented a veritable Sylvester Weaver archive, unparalleled in scope, as far as I know, by any such material bearing on the life of any one blues artist of Weaver's time. The archive gives most of us an unprecedented look at usually obscure aspects of the life and career of a major blues artist, and thus we have chosen to reproduce a number of the Weaver documents here. As usual with documents in or available to the archives maintained by Living Blues, all these materials are available for serious research.

NOTE: Dorothy S. asked that she not be mentioned by her married name if any part of our meeting was publicized.?Paul Garon

INVENTORY of the ARCHIVE                                    Items Present

Telegrams from OKeh to Sylvester or Anna Weaver (1927)      4

Royalty statements from Clarence Williams Music Pub. Co. (1924-28)    9

Letters on letterhead from Clarence Williams Music Pub Co. (1924-25)    2

Letter to Sara Martin, on T.O.B.A. letterhead, from Sam E. Reevin, Treas. and Mgr. of T.O.B.A. ( 1925)    I

Letters on letterhead from Eli Oberstein, T.C Rockwell and other OKeh personnel ( 1925-28)    9

Four-page handwritten letter to Sylvester Weaver from Helen Humes ( 1927)    I

Short letter from Olivette Cannady (typist) to Sylvester Weaver ( 1928)    I

Handwritten letter to Sylvester Weaver from J.C. Johnson (c. 1927)    1

Fragments of a letter to Sara Martin from Ralph Peer( 1924) 2

Advertisements from various newspapers for Weaver's and Martin's records including one picture of Sylvester Weaver and one of Sara Martin    8

Small advertisement cards, one for Sara Martin with her picture, and one for Butterbeans and Susie with their picture    2
Newsclipping on Sara Martin's wedding ( 1929)    I

Newspaper review of vaudeville show at Lafayette Theater, N.Y., featuring Sara Martin and others (white acts as well as black, per forming for a black audience) (c. 1923)    I

Four-page special Music Section of the Chicago Defender, 6/ 1/26, the section taken over entirely by OKeh, incl. another (different) photograph of Sylvester Weaver and photos of Lonnie Johnson, Hociel Thomas, Sara Martin, and others

Single sheet from the Chicago Defender of 12/19/25, with large OKeh Christmas advertisement featuring pictures of Weaver, Martin, Sippie Wallace, Laura Smith, Irene Scruggs, Virginia Liston, Clifford's Louisville Jug Band, Margaret Johnson, "Sloppy" Henry and others     1

Newsclipping on Mamie Smith's death ( 1946)    I

Magazine article on Boogie Woogie by William Russell, with photo of Meade Lux Lewis I
« Last Edit: November 16, 2006, 01:18:12 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline dj

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2006, 03:55:54 AM »
Very interesting stuff!  Did Garon ever publish any biographical article on Weaver?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2006, 04:27:20 AM »
Surprisingly no, but I guess he considered that issue of Living Blues, containing letters, contracts etc, etc spoke for themselves.

I have a note that in 2001 and 2003 there were discussions at Mary Katherine Aldin's prewar discussion group concerning whether there was any mileage in pursuading the current Living Blues "regime" to republish. I think both O'Neal and Garon thought it unlikely they would but seem to recall that Garon was of the opinion it should be brought up to date and expanded.

I haven't time visit the PWB web interface and perform a search in the messages for "sylvester weaver" but should you still be a member DJ perhaps you'd report back the discussion thread.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2006, 04:34:12 AM »
The following is the Weaver entry from the forthcoming revised edition of Robert Ford's "A Blues Bibliography" due to be published April 2007, used with permission. Interesting to note that someboy was actually compiling a discography in 1951!:

BW861.   Briggs, Keith. Sylvester Weaver: Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order. Vol. 1. Austria: Document DOCD-5112, 1992. Vol. 2. Austria: Document DOCD-5113, 1992.

BW862.   Garon, Paul. ?On the Trail of Sylvester Weaver.? Living Blues no. 52 (1982): 15-17.

BW863.   Larkin, Colin (ed). ?Weaver, Sylvester.?, in The Guinness Who?s Who of Blues. 2nd ed., p. 372 (E166). Reprinted in The Virgin Encyclopedia of the Blues, p. 366.

BW864.   Obrecht, Jas. ?Sylvester Weaver.? Victrola and 78 Journal no. 11 (1997/98): 15-17.

BW865.   O?Neal, Jim; Garon, Paul. ?Kentucky Blues. Pt 2: The Sylvester Weaver Scrapbook.? Living Blues no. 52 (Spring 1982): 15-25.

BW866.   Parry, William Hewitt. ?Sylvester Weaver: A Provisional Discography.? Discophile no. 18 (Jun 1951): 11-13; Discophile no. 19 (Aug 1951): 12.

BW867.   Rijn, Guido van; Vergeer, Hans. Sylvester Weaver: Smoketown Strut. Holland: Agram AB 2010, 1983.

BW868.   Rijn, Guido van. ?Weaver, Sylvester.?, in Encyclopedia of the Blues. Vol. 2: K-Z, ed. E. Komara, pp. 1061-1062..

BW869.   Shadwick, Keith. ?Sylvester Weaver.?, in Blues: Keeping the Faith, p. 328 (Item E204).

BW870.   Walamies, Vesa. ?Bluesin Hahmoja Levyjen Valossa: Sylvester Weaver.? Blues News [Finland] no. 88 (1984): 22-23.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2006, 08:49:20 AM »
Wow, Bunker Hill, thanks so much for this fascinating information.  Just from his sound on the guitar and his enunciation and the photos of him, Sylvester Weaver would seem to be a good candidate for keeping a scrapbook.  He sounds and looks like a neat, organized individual.  According to the notes of the Document CD (Volume 2), he worked as a chauffeur in the later years of his life.  I always find it interesting to read of the career paths that different blues players took upon leaving the music-making profession.  Congratulations and thanks to Paul Garon for his persistence.  I'm glad it was rewarded.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2006, 09:02:48 AM »
I've extracted from the feature the interview Jim O'Neal conducted with Helen Humes concerning Weaver:

LIVING BLUES: You made some records with Sylvester Weaver.
HELEN HUMES: Yes, he was the man, he had heard me play with a little band?we had a little Sunday school band and we would go out and play for little dances, you how, and play at the theater and what have you. And Mr. Weaver heard me and he brought Mr. Rockwell out to my house to hear me sing and play. I used to play the piano. So I played and sang for Mr. Rockwell, and he wanted me to come to St. Louis to make this tape. And so 1 went, he tool; my mother with me because I was a little young to travel by myself. So then after I made that, well, he wanted me to call my mother to ask her if I could join a show. And my mother told him no, I'd have to finish school first, and then after I finished school, than whatever I wanted to do, she would go along, you know, if it was something nice.

Was Sylvester Weaver involved with your work very much?
No, no, on that just that particular thing.

Mrs. Weaver, his widow, had a letter that you had written to Sylvester Weaver in 1927.
Oh, my goodness!

It was asking him if he was going to help you record for OKeh, or why he hadn't helped you.
Yeah. Well, that's because I didn't know nothing about it, and he's the one that brought Mr. Rockwell there and I just, well, I was looking for him for help! [Laughs.] Yeah.

Did you keep in touch with him after you made the record?
Yes, uh-huh, I kept in touch.

Did you hear him play very much?
Well, no, I didn't hear him play very much. I didn't even know, I didn't know anything about him. But he had heard me somewhere, and, well, I was glad. [Laughs.]

When you recorded for OKeh, you recorded once in St. Louis and once in New York.
And once in New York. I don't remember any of the songs I did in New York.

In St. Louis you did Black Cat Blues and A Worried Woman's Blues. That was with Lonnie Johnson on guitar?
 Yeah, I guess. If that's what they say, well, they know more than I do, 'cause I don't know who it was with.

And then on one session in New York, it was J.C. Johnson and Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley on guitars.
Yeah, Walter Beasley. Umm.

You don't remember him at all?
No, I don't know anything about him. Don't you know I don't know who was on 'am? Don't know a thing about 'em. I knew Victoria Spivey. Well, she was there at the session. And outside of that, I don't. I know James P. Johnson, and then I think I did one time with James C. Johnson. You know, it's terrible I don't keep up with things like that, but well, I was a kid then. What was I thinking about keeping up [laughs] with something? 'Cause 1 never thought I'd be singing like I am now. Yeah.

Did the producers or the A&R men give those songs to you, or did you have some songs already?
No, they gave 'em to me. Yeah. There, boy, here I am, a little 14-year-old, singing Do What You Did Last Night, [laughs] and If Papa Has Outside Lovin', Mama Has Outside Lovin' Too. You know I didn't have that. [Laughs.] Yes.
When you were growing up in Louisville, do you remember other blues singers around there?
Well, there was somebody around there. Let me see, what were their names? Sara Martin. But I never did hear her. But when I got a little older, well, I would go to the theater, you know, where they would have the vaudeville, and I heard Bessie Smith one time, and I heard another singer, Ma Rainey, one time. And I heard, was it Clara Ward?

Clara Smith?
Maybe it was Clara Smith, yeah. But there was somebody named Ward. Well, anyway, I was in school when I heard that. And I enjoyed the vaudeville show.

Did you hear any of the jug bands in Louisville?
Oh, yeah, they used to have jug bands everywhere. Um-hum. Just on the corners.

Did you ever sing with them?
Oh, no, no. No, that wasn't my bag. Because I didn't even know, you know, I used to just sing. I loved ballads, and I used to play piano for myself. Play and sing and, you know, just improvise, and I used to like to sit up and play the chords and then try to Sing pretty things to go with the chords. So I guess that's how I taught myself to sing.

You said you had a little Sunday school band?
No, I used to play in a Sunday school band. You go to this lady's Sunday school and she would teach you whatever instrument you wanted to play. You know, Jonah Jones went there, he learned trumpet there, and Dickie Wells learned trombone there, and Bill Beason, they were all in the band, he learned drums there. And oh, it was just everybody from Louisville used to go to Bessie Allen's Sunday school and play in the band. That was so nice.

Were you singing the blues then, or was that just something that the "cord company had you do?
Well, I'd sing some if I knew some, you know. Like, but I don't remember singing too many blues. You know, it's just here lately that I'm beginning to sing a lot of blues. People seem to like the blues so much! And I've got several little blues that I wrote, you know, long time ago. I better go back and get 'em out!
« Last Edit: November 16, 2006, 09:04:47 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2006, 09:37:00 AM »
Surprisingly no, but I guess he considered that issue of Living Blues, containing letters, contracts etc, etc spoke for themselves.

I have a note that in 2001 and 2003 there were discussions at Mary Katherine Aldin's prewar discussion group concerning whether there was any mileage in pursuading the current Living Blues "regime" to republish. I think both O'Neal and Garon thought it unlikely they would but seem to recall that Garon was of the opinion it should be brought up to date and expanded.

I haven't time visit the PWB web interface and perform a search in the messages for "sylvester weaver" but should you still be a member DJ perhaps you'd report back the discussion thread.

There was talk of putting it on the Living Blues website, but that never seems to have happened.

edited to add: Forgot to say thanks! BH, for posting this information.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2006, 09:38:19 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2006, 09:51:13 AM »
I haven't time visit the PWB web interface and perform a search in the messages for "sylvester weaver" but should you still be a member DJ perhaps you'd report back the discussion thread.
There was talk of putting it on the Living Blues website, but that never seems to have happened.
Now why aren't I surprised by that? ;D
edited to add: Forgot to say thanks! BH, for posting this information.
No problem. Familiarity of a subject is often said to breed contempt, but in my case familiarity just assumes that everybody else knows this stuff and am rewarded to find that perhaps they don't. :)

Offline dj

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2006, 11:15:32 AM »
Quote
There was talk of putting it on the Living Blues website, but that never seems to have happened.

This is such a shame, since there's such a wealth of information in those old magazines, and to most of us it's totally unavailable.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2006, 11:31:46 AM »
This is such a shame, since there's such a wealth of information in those old magazines, and to most of us it's totally unavailable.
Sadly so, a case of "what's bin did and what's bin hid" to borrow from the title of Donovan's first LP! Don't ask... ::)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2006, 11:48:27 AM »
Living Blues do have back issues for sale through their website, some of them dating back to the period in question, but alas, that Spring 1982 issue is sold out. In an ideal world, such things would be put online in pdf format once stock was completely gone.

Taking the ideal world one step further, I'm sure there are innumerable gems from the blues writing and publishing past that deserve to be collected in book form.


ddiehl

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Re: Eli Oberstein
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2008, 03:12:29 PM »
Hi,
I have been researching Oberstein's career for some time and notice that there is some correspondence from him included in the scrapbook. Could you provide details (or scans?)
Thanks,
David Diehl

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2008, 04:09:08 PM »
Doesn't the Library of Congress have all this stuff on old style micro film? Don't they archive every periodical?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Eli Oberstein
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2008, 12:18:03 AM »
Hi,
I have been researching Oberstein's career for some time and notice that there is some correspondence from him included in the scrapbook. Could you provide details (or scans?)Thanks,
David Diehl
Only one from Oberstein has been reproduced dated July 11th 1928. It's obviously a photocopy of an original but here's a scan plus, I'm afraid, lots of see through due to very thin paper. Click image to enlarge.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2008, 12:29:54 AM by Bunker Hill »

ddiehl

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Re: Sylvester Weaver's Scrapbook
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2008, 07:10:29 AM »
Doesn't the Library of Congress have all this stuff on old style micro film? Don't they archive every periodical?

Sadly, no. While LoC does have a lot of material, there is no single repository for everything.
As a former librarian, I suggest using Worldcat (http://www.worldcat.org/advancedsearch) to find out who holds this particular title.

 


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