collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

Now I am going to make a statement here. I don't know whether it fits into the category of other people's statements or not. But whether it fits into their category or whether it doesn't, it obviously fits into some category. So in that respect, it is no different from their statements. However, let me try making my statement... - Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, Translated by Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964)

Author Topic: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings  (Read 10120 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
These are Furry?s complete prewar recordings, made between April 1927 and September 1929. The first three titles have Furry singing over Landers Waller on guitar and Charles Johnson on mandolin. Given these were all recorded at the same session, I wonder about the pitch variance: all songs were played out of C position but pitched all over. Perhaps they had trouble and kept retuning, or perhaps some of the transfers or recordings are off.

I have used the JSP Masters of Memphis Blues for these recordings. I should compare the pitches with the Yazoo release (which covers most, but not all, of Furry?s prewar titles).

Once Furry starts playing solo, it?s not like he?s a stickler for concert pitch anyway. He?s frequently tuned low, and then a bit sharp or flat. Where this is a marked pitch difference, I?ve indicated it with a (+) for sharp and (-) for flat.

Furry was rediscovered in 1959 by Sam Charters, through Will Shade, and Charters recorded him in several sessions over the next couple years. Furry?s fondness for open tunings apparently caught the attention of Scotty Moore (Elvis?s guitar player in the early years), who was the engineer at Sun Studios when Furry recorded there in 1961. Charters recounts that "The sessions with Furry were a long series of discussions between the two guitarists about Furry?s Mississippi tunings. We would begin a song and I would hear Scotty?s voice over the studio loudspeaker, 'What?s that tuning you?re using, Furry?' and I would sit waiting while Scotty came into the studio and sat with Furry until they?d figured it out."

Sun Studios, it turns out, is also to blame for the objectionable reverb on Furry?s records from the Prestige Bluesville sessions, more recently issued on the CD "Shake ?Em On Down" (which may or may not be available now thanks to Concord Records' buyout of Fantasy). According to Charters, there was an echo chamber built into the studio in the form of a closet with a cheap microphone picking up sound from a speaker in the ceiling. I?ll hopefully get to the keys for most of Furry?s postwar recordings one day.

TitlePosition/TuningPitch
Everybody?s BluesCBb
Mr. Furry?s BluesCA  (+)
Sweet Papa MoanCB  (-)
Rock Island BluesSpanishG
Jelly RollEAEGBEEb
Billy Lyons and Stack O?LeeCB  (-)
Good Looking Girl BluesSpanishAb  (+)
Why Don?t You Come Home BluesSpanishAb  (+)
Falling Down BluesVestapolD
Big Chief BluesVestapolD
Mean Old Bed Bug BluesEAEGBED  (+)
Furry?s BluesSpanishF#
I Will Turn Your Money Green [Take 1]SpanishF#
I Will Turn Your Money Green [Take 2]SpanishF#
Mistreatin? MamaEAEGBED
Dry Land BluesED
Cannon Ball BluesSpanishG
Kassie Jones, Part 1SpanishG
Kassie Jones, Part 2SpanishG
Judge Harsh Blues [Take 1]VestapolD
Judge Harsh Blues [Take 2]VestapolD
John Henry (The Steel Driving Man), Part 1VestapolEb
John Henry (The Steel Driving Man), Part 2VestapolEb
Black Gypsy BluesSpanishAb  (+)
Creeper?s BluesEAEGBEEb


New Note: As per Johnm's post later in this thread, most of Furry's songs played out of E most likely use the EAEGBE tuning, with the exception of Dry Land Blues.

Old Note: There?s been some speculation in the Weenie forum as to whether Furry played some of his songs in E position using a tuning in which the 4th string is tuned up a whole step from D to E: EAEGBE. I haven?t explored this to any degree but it?s an interesting proposition. If anyone fools around with it, let us know what you think.

As usual, all comments and corrections welcome.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 09:57:16 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10538
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2007, 05:50:19 PM »
Thanks for posting this list, Uncle Bud.  It looks great to me.  I can think of two possible arguments for the altered standard tuning that some people are suggesting that Furry used on "Mistreatin' Mama", "Creeper's Blues" and "Mean Old Bedbug".
   * When Furry does the ascending octave walk-up in "Mistreatin' Mama", the altered tuning would allow for fingering the octaves at the same frets on the sixth and fourth strings.  It is not substantially more difficult to do the walk-up with a two fret off-set, as the same passage requires if played in standard tuning.  And tunes like Lemon's "Rabbit's Foot Blues" and Blind Boy Fuller's "Walkin' My Blues Away" show that determined guitarists did not shy away from playing octave passages in standard tuning.
   * Furry never hits the third of the V chord in the bass in his alternations.  He could be avoiding it simply because it is not available, as would be the case in the alternate tuning suggested, or he may just have chosen to hit his upbeats for the V7 chord on the third string, which is what he did in any event, and which is "tuning neutral", in the sense that it neither proves nor disproves the case for either E standard tuning or the suggested alternate tuning.  There are enough songs in which upbeats for a song played in E are all played on the third string (Lemon's "One Dime Blues", for one) that the simple fact that Furry played his upbeats for the V chord on the third string does not convincingly argue for the use of a tuning other than standard tuning.
Unless someone saw Furry play E tunes in this alternate tuning in his post-rediscovery period, I don't think the aural evidence is strong enough to suggest that he employed a tuning/position other than E in standard tuning for the songs in question.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 09:39:16 PM by Johnm »

Offline eric

  • Member
  • Posts: 543
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2007, 06:10:39 PM »
Hey Uncle bud,

That's great. Furry's my hero, I've always loved his music.  I've heard that he was an extremely funny raconteur.  He also appeared in the Burt Reynolds movie, W.W. and Dixie Dance Kings.  I believe it was Burt hisself that said, when they were driving around during the filming, that his stories were so hilarious they had to stop the car and get out, they were laughing so hard.  He tells a couple of good ones on his Folkways record.
--
Eric

Offline eric

  • Member
  • Posts: 543
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2007, 06:31:52 PM »
And here he is:

--
Eric

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2007, 11:18:06 AM »
Thanks John and EH. EH, Furry is a favorite of mine as well. I keep waiting for WW and the Dixie Dance Kings to show on late night television, so I can see it. My expectations are not high.  ;D

John, thanks for the thoughts on the altered E tuning. I haven't played around with it, though the octave passages certainly had me thinking about it. The story about Scotty Moore also had me wondering about it a little. While it's more than likely this story simply refers to Furry's use of Spanish and Vestapol tunings, these could also actually be familiar to a white Memphis musician; if Furry was playing in an altered E tuning, that would certainly get any guitarist's attention. "Hey, Furry, hold on a second, what the hell is that you're doing..."

The thing to do to explore this further (should anyone choose to) would be, I think, to investigate his postwar recordings. Those Prestige/Bluesville sessions seem to feature a significant amount of material in E that might yield more clues.

For now though, I'm sticking with standard tuning, E position.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2007, 11:19:20 AM by uncle bud »

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10538
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2007, 11:27:26 AM »
Thanks, Uncle Bud, for the info on the reverb from Charters' post-rediscovery recordings of him that came out on Bluesville.  I don't have those, but I do have the two Memphis Willie B. albums that Charters recorded for Bluesville in Memphis, and the reverb on those is just godawful, really a shame.  It could so easily have been avoided.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2007, 11:39:32 AM »
In Charters' defense -- sort of -- he does say of the Furry session, "I was upset with myself for not becoming aware that I was making recordings with what I thought was an unnatural sound, but I was the only one who seemed to notice."

The Memphis Willie B sessions were around the same time, same studio. Again, Charters discovered him through Will Shade.

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2007, 10:44:08 AM »
While reading David Evans' Big Road Blues recently, I came across a passage where he refers to Furry using the EAEGBE tuning we discussed above. He refers to Prestige/Bluesville recordings in reference to the tuning used for some songs in E. Evans has had tunings wrong before -- he has Lemon playing in Spanish tuning for some songs, like Rabbit Foot if I recall correctly -- but this reference might come from actually seeing Furry use it, since Evans would have seen him playing, I imagine. More food for thought.

Offline banjochris

  • Member
  • Posts: 2012
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2007, 11:40:37 AM »
Uncle Bud, I'm glad you found that reference. I was thinking I had imagined it somewhere. Plus, I only ever read "Big Road Blues" browsing in a bookstore, so I don't have a copy to check.
Chris

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10538
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2007, 02:52:13 PM »
Yes, Uncle Bud, that is really interesting, since David Evans must have seen Furry play many times.  Certainly, of the pre-War recordings, "Mistreating Mama Blues", "Creeper's Blues", and "Mean Old Bedbug Blues" must stand as the outstanding candidates for having been played in the EAEGBE tuning (actually DGDFAD, if used for "Mistreating Mama", since it is a whole step low).  I don't think it is absolutely certain that Furry used this tuning for those songs, but is certainly aurally plausible and would make them easier to execute.  "Dryland Blues", which was recorded at the same session as "Mistreating Mama", if I remember correctly, immediately prior to it, is definitely NOT in the tuning, but is in E standard, a whole step low, just to muddy the waters a little bit.  Any of the songs could be played in either tuning, but the suggested altered tuning would make them easier to execute.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 09:37:52 PM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

  • Tech Support
  • Member
  • Posts: 6929
  • I like chicken pie
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2007, 11:05:38 AM »
Quote
The thing to do to explore this further (should anyone choose to) would be, I think, to investigate his postwar recordings. Those Prestige/Bluesville sessions seem to feature a significant amount of material in E that might yield more clues.

Since I'm having a Furry phase at the moment here's what I came up with for the Prestige/Bluesville as reissued on the Fantasy Shake 'Em On Down CD. Much tougher job than I thought, had to retune the guitar several times and I'm still not sure about some of them so please feel free to check.

Furry's tuned down most of the time and that confuses the ear, sounds 'open' but clearly is not sometimes. The reverb on the recording goes away after the 20th listen, thankfully.

The problem's compounded, or so it seems to me, by Furry's ability to play certain signature licks in both standard and open tunings.

Re. the altered E tuning discussed above I didn't play around with that since it took a while to get a basic list together. I will experiment.

SongPosition/TuningPitchSlide?
John HenryVestapolC(-)Slide
When My Baby Left MeVestapolC(-)Slide
Shake 'Em On DownEAEGBEC(+)No slide
Big Chief BluesSpanishFSlide
Old BlueSpanishE(-)No slide
I'm Going To BrownsvilleSpanishE(+)Slide
Back On My Feet AgainSpanishF(+)Slide
White Lightnin'EAEGBECNo slide
RobertaSpanishF(-)Slide
St. Louis BluesSpanishE(+)Slide
Baby You Don't Want MeSpanishE(+)Slide
Done Changed My MindE, standard tuningCNo slide
Goin' To Kansas CityEAEGBEC(+)No slide
Judge Boushay BluesVestapolC(+)Slide
Casey JonesSpanishE(+)No slide
This Time TomorrowSpanishE(+)No slide
I Will Turn Your Money GreenEAEGBEC(+)No slide
Frankie And JohnnieG, standard tuningD(+)No slide
Longing BluesSpanishE(-)Slide on intro only
Long Tall Gal BluesEAEGBEC(+)No slide

Note Turn Your Money Green is nothing like the early version. When My Baby Left Me is Falling Down Blues from the early stuff.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 11:28:42 PM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

  • Tech Support
  • Member
  • Posts: 6929
  • I like chicken pie
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2008, 04:48:26 PM »
Thanks, Uncle Bud, for the info on the reverb from Charters' post-rediscovery recordings of him that came out on Bluesville.  I don't have those...

Would you like a copy John? Found one in a second hand bin on the weekend. Let me know and I'll pick it up for you, it's OOP I believe. The reverb is, um, tangible, but it's still a great record.

Offline Mr.OMuck

  • Member
  • Posts: 2605
    • MuckOVision
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2008, 04:59:04 PM »
Quote
and the reverb on those is just godawful, really a shame.  It could so easily have been avoided.

Well maybe I ain't  gots no couth but I LOVE THE FREAKIN' REVERB ON MEMPHIS WILLIE B & FURRY"S RECORDS!

As a mater of fact I'm starting my own reissue company whose goal it will be to put reverb on every single blues 78 ever recorded! It will be a subsidiary of my Muck-O-Phone label called "Reverb'll Fix It" records
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10538
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2008, 07:50:42 PM »
Hi Mark,
Yes, I'd very much appreciate it if you could pick me up the Furry Lewis "Shake 'Em On Down", I would love to have it and I'm not in a hurry, so if you brought it along to PT, I could pay you for it then.  Thanks so much.

Mr. O'Muck, in a paraphrase of the great bluegrass fiddler, Kenny Baker, long with the Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, "If you like reverb, well, there you go."
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

  • Tech Support
  • Member
  • Posts: 6929
  • I like chicken pie
Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2008, 09:42:14 PM »
Hey it's only $7.99! You can buy me a beer.

 


anything