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Author Topic: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings  (Read 10416 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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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 »

Offline Johnm

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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

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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

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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

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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 »

Offline Johnm

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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

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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

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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

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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

Offline Johnm

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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Offline Johnm

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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

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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.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2008, 09:48:13 PM »
And there I went. I know I'm gonna regret this but, I actually do find this particular aesthetic backwater (recording "enhancements") to contain some interesting issues, concerning perceptions of reality, ideas about fidelity and a listeners ideas of responsibility to same. I used to berate myself for digging the reverb on exactly those two records while knowing that it violated not only the "truth in Blues" mandate but also the never foul the source mandate issued by the recording and stereopheliac geekazoid council with whom I've also had some dealings. Interestingly it was a Glenn Gould record of Sebelius Piano pieces that helped me to embrace my secret depravity. I figured if as great an artist as Glenn Gould thought it was OK to artificially fuck around with the sound and soundspace of his performances then it was all fair game. Arguably him doing it for his own aesthetic reasons on his own recordings is a horse of a different color than imposing it on someone else's work, but did they object? There is a quality that the reverb lends to the performances on those two records which I would describe as heroic and mythologizing. The music seems to emanate out of some supra-normal oracular Blues Dephi. Part of this is a result of the time delay, echo-ish quality by which we hear the music in effect twice in the same instant. Rather than distancing me from the experience it seems to make it almost more urgent and haunting. Has anyone had similar feelings or should I go hide now.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2008, 10:29:38 PM »
Quote
The music seems to emanate out of some supra-normal oracular Blues Dephi

...or a rather large bathroom.  :P I started to think there was something good about it when I heard Scotty Moore was responsible! Call me superficial.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2008, 06:00:48 AM »
..or a rather large bathroom. 

HEEyaaawwwk!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2008, 08:10:19 AM »
Rivers beat me to it.

I was once at an event in a private club (not a regular haunt of mine, they undoubtedly wouldn't let me in normally - it was a work event) with one of those very large gents' rooms done up in marble and tile and mirror. There was some distant Scots connection to the event and so they were going to have a bagpiper piping people into the dinner hall. After my third complimentary cocktail, I decided to pay the marble emporium a visit. Turns out bagpipes really need to be warmed up for awhile before they are "in tune" (hah) and the musician had chosen the bathroom to do so. Wow. Talk about supra-normal Delphic reverb experiences.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2008, 09:31:44 AM »
Hi O'Muck,
I think I know what you were talking about.  I remember hearing a Stanley Brothers recording of "The water rolls by, on the river at midnight" from the '50s with really dire "Help! We've fallen in a well!" reverb, and there was something about the whole soundscape, with their tense harmonies and the banjo and fiddle rolling along and seemingly unending echo that just sort of nailed, not only the sound of the recording, but where I was when I heard it, whose house I was in, who else was there, the interior decor of the room where I heard it, et al into my mind forever, I think.  And this was over thirty-five years ago.  Something about that crappy sound went a long ways toward establishing the particularity and "thing-ness" of that piece of music for me. 

For better or for worse, I find that for me, such responses diminish with age.  It helps to be young when you first hear it and to have a vivid imagination and not to have heard as much music.  If I heard the same recording for the first time now, I expect my response would be, "Oh man, that reverb is brutal.  What were they thinking?"
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 04, 2008, 02:48:46 PM by Johnm »

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2008, 04:47:10 PM »
I have the feeling that Furry played some things in Spanish in the '60s that he had played in Vestapol on the early recordings. "Turn Your Money Green," for one.
And while we're on this timely topic -- make sure to celebrate the birthdays of Furry Lewis and Steve Cheseborough this Thursday (March 6)! Honor to share a birthday with the great Mr. Lewis. Cheers, Chezz

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2008, 04:50:40 PM »
Hi Chezz,
The original of "I will Turn Your Money Green" was in Spanish too.  Have a happy birthday.
all best,
Johnm

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #22 on: March 16, 2008, 01:12:02 PM »
I don't think so. Try listening to the original and playing along with it both ways. Thanks for the birthday wish! I did play a couple Furry songs at my restaurant gig that day, in case anyone cared (it didn't seem like they did). SC

Offline Steve Pajik

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #23 on: December 27, 2010, 09:49:38 PM »
I'm two years late joining this message thread, but better late than never, eh?  :D For what it's worth (admittedly, not a whole heckuva lot), I love the reverb on Shake Em On Down. To me, it gives the album a sacred, bigger-than-life sound, like Furry's performing in a cathedral. SEOD is one of my favourite blues albums of all-time -- definitely one of my stranded-on-a-deserted-island albums. In fact, SEOD was one of the primary catalysts for my getting into country blues one year ago. I realize that the reverb makes the album kinda anomalous as far as country blues recordings go (although I find Skip James' 1960's albums kinda "verby" too!), but whatever. I like it. I love unreverberated country blues, too. (sounds more earthy and front porch-y). But the ethereal quality of SEOD really strikes a chord with me.

Is "unreverberated" even a real word? No? Well, gosh darn it, it should be!  ;)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2012, 09:09:34 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

Maybe I'm losing my couth, but I was kind of digging the Furry reverb tonight.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2012, 09:35:49 PM »
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

I know this quote is old, but...

I taped this off cable quite a few years ago -- I should transfer the Furry part and upload it to YouTube. It is, indeed, a terrible movie, but the part with Furry is great.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2012, 10:35:56 PM »
I listened to the reverberated Furry album a dozen or so times back-to-back once. I can report that after a while you tend to adjust and don't notice the reverb so much. It's a class piece of work from Furry, if you can get past the 'steely sided slabs of sound', snuck in later by the studio guys playing with new toys no doubt.

Still, they (who are they, anyway?) would be doing the planet a great service if they found the masters and kind of, um, slightly remixed it. Still a great record though.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2014, 10:49:35 AM »
Hi all,
I've been doing a lot of listening to Furry Lewis recently, both his early recordings and his post-rediscovery recordings, and have come to the conclusion that of all of his songs that sound as though they're played out of E position in standard tuning, the only ones that are, in fact, played out of E position in standard tuning are his 8-bar blues.  For his early recordings, this would put "Dry Land Blues" as his only song played out of E position in standard tuning, and similarly on the Sam Charters-produced "Shake 'Em On Down", originally issued as two LPs on Prestige Bluesville, the only song played out of E position in standard tuning would be "Done Changed My Mind", another 8-bar blues. 
All of Furry's other songs that had an "E position, standard tuning" sound were played out of the EAEGBE tuning, moved down in pitch, generally, to accommodate Furry's vocal range.  Thus, of his early recordings, "Jelly Roll", "Mean Old Bedbug Blues", Mistreatin' Mama" and "Creeper's Blues" were all played out of the EAEGBE tuning.  Interestingly enough, he had four early recording sessions and he recorded exactly one of these EAEGBE tunes at each of those sessions.  For the "Shake 'Em On Down" sessions for Prestige Bluesville, the following songs were played out of EAEGBE tuning:  "Shake 'Em On Down", "White Lightnin'", "Goin' To Kansas City", "I Will Turn Your Money Green", and "Long Tall Gal Blues".
One of the interesting things about Furry that is a bit unusual as compared to other Country Blues musicians who had early recordings and post-rediscovery recordings is that Furry often changed tuning or playing position for a given song between the position he used for his early recording of that song versus the tuning or playing position he chose to play it out of in his post-rediscovery period.  A couple of examples:  Furry's early recording of "I Will Turn Your Money Green" was played out of Spanish tuning, and his "Shake 'Em On Down" recording of "I Will Turn Your Money Green" was played out of the EAEGBE tuning, with an altogether different melody.  Similarly, his early recording of "Big Chief Blues" was played out of Vestapol tuning, but his "Shake 'Em On Down" version was played out of Spanish tuning, with a different melody.
We are fortunate that Furry was recorded so much in his post-rediscovery period, for his music stayed very strong into that period, with great singing and always terrific lyrics.  This is in addition to his personality, which makes so many of his performances unforgettable.  With the late-period Furry recordings, I always feel as though I'm hearing so much more than a rendition of a song--I'm hearing a life.  If you haven't heard the late-period Furry recordings, I encourage you to seek them out, they're really stellar, and a lot of his playing in the EAEGBE tuning is so intricate and so greasy, it is a joy to hear.
All best,
Johnm   
« Last Edit: March 03, 2014, 10:51:13 AM by Johnm »

Offline pkeane

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2014, 08:57:20 PM »
John -

Thanks so much!  Super-helpful.  Mean Old Bedbug is making a lot more sense now :-).

best-
Peter

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #29 on: March 04, 2014, 03:23:33 PM »
You're welcome, Peter, and I look forward to hearing you sing and play one of Furry's EAEGBE tunes one of these days.  I'm glad the songs are making more sense.
All best,
Johnm

Offline pkeane

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #30 on: March 06, 2014, 09:08:26 PM »
Oh yes -- working up to post "Mean Old Bed Bug" (it's going to take a bit more work) :-).  Also, John, your Furry Lewis video proved invaluable -- the Mistreating Mama lesson (although demonstrated in standard E) is really textbook of Furry Lewis's raised-E pieces.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #31 on: March 07, 2014, 04:55:34 PM »
I have played Mistreatin' Mama for some time in EAEGBE tuning, and it sure does make a difference. It is not like it is impossible to play in standard tuning, it's totally doable, but it is so much more loose in this tuning. And to me, Furry was all about loose.

People new to this thread may want to look back to earlier posts speculating about this tuning and David Evans documenting Furry's use of the tuning.

(I haven't checked back to the original tunings post yet, John, but will edit accordingly if you haven't already.)

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #32 on: March 09, 2014, 10:48:33 AM »
Uncle bud, I sure agree with you about the extent to which EAEGBE tuning makes a looseness in playing these tunes of Furry's possible that is not really available in E position in standard tuning.  One of the most telling places is in "Mistreatin' Mama", a fill that I did not transcribe for the Furry Lewis video I did, where Furry goes up the neck to the seventh fret of the first string and seventh fret of the second strings doing bends which he then releases; there's a freedom with which you can handle that passage in the EAEGBE tuning that can't be matched in standard tuning.
Also, in "Creeper's Blues" he anticipates some of the playing of Guitar Shorty, using EAEGBE tuning in a single song to do conventional fretting while interjecting occasional slide leads.  It's a great sound, and the EAEGBE tuning really lends itself to doing that.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 14, 2014, 06:44:42 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #33 on: March 12, 2014, 10:57:05 PM »
Hi all,
I thought it might be fun to look at the playing positions/tunings for some more of Furry's post-war recordings, to see if we could spot any trends or interesting anomalies.  We can start with Furry's first post-rediscovery recording, Samuel Charters' recording of him for Folkways on October 3, 1959, "Furry Lewis", Folkways Records FS 3823

SongPosition/TuningPitchSlide?
Longing BluesSpanishF#Slide
John HenryVestapolC#Slide
I Will Turn Your Money GreenEAEGBEC#No slide
Pearlee BluesSpanishF#Slide
Judge Boushay BluesVestapolDSlide
I'm Going To BrownsvilleSpanishFSide
Casey JonesSpanishF#No slide
East St. Louis BluesE, standard tuningDNo slide

Edited 5/26/16 to pick up addition from MartyW

Here are Furry's playing positions/tunings for "Furry Lewis-Good Morning Judge", Fat Possum FP80374-2, recorded by George Mitchell in 1962 and 1967.

SongPosition/TuningPitchSlide?
Good Morning JudgeVestapolD-Slide
Worried BluesSpanishENo slide
Blues Around My BedEAEGBED-No slide
Why Don't You Come Home BluesSpanishGSlide
Don't You Wish Your MamaSpanishAbSlide
Furry Lewis RagC, standardC-No slide
Roll And Tumble BluesSpanishAb+Slide
Old HoboG, standardEb-No slide
Farewell I'm Growing OldSpanishFSlide
Furry Lewis Careless LoveVestapolC-Slide

Here are Furry's playing positions/tunings for his Blue Horizon sessions, available on "Furry Lewis & Mississippi Joe Callicott-The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions".

SongPosition/TuningPitchSlide?
Judge Harsh BluesVestapolEb-Slide
Let's Shake Hand In HandG, standardF#-No slide
Waiting For A TrainG, standardGNo slide
Let Me Call You SweetheartSpanishG+Slide
Big Chief BluesSpanishAb--Slide
Casey JonesSpanishAb--No slide
Take Your Time RagC, standardCNo slide
John HenryVestapolC#-Slide
Skinny WomanSpanishAb--No slide
See That My Grave Is Kept CleanVestapolEbSlide
Glory Hallelujah, When I Lay My Burden DownSpanishG+Slide
Furry's Monday Woman BluesE, standardENo slide
Furry Lewis BluesE, standardEbNo slide

NOTES:
   * Which songs of Furry's show up on all three programs and can be considered to comprise the core of his repertoire?  Three songs only:  "John Henry", "Casey Jones" and the song Furry originally recorded in the '20s as "Judge Harsh Blues", called "Judge Boushay Blues" on the Folkways recording, "Good Morning Judge" on the Fat Possum CD and "Judge Harsh Blues" on the Blue Horizon session.
   * Which songs show up twice on the programs?  "Pearlee Blues" on the Folkways recording shows up as "Why Don't You Come Home" on the Fat Possum CD.  "Furry Lewis Rag" from the Fat Possum CD is called "Take Your Time Rag" on the Blues Horizon session.  "Old Hobo" from the Fat Possum CD is called "Waiting For A Train" on the Blue Horizon session, and "Furry Lewis's Careless Love" from the Fat Possum CD is called "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" on the Blue Horizon session.
   * The two earlier of the three sessions, on Folkways and Fat Possum, each include one EAEGBE song, "I Will Turn Your Money Green" and "Blues Around My Bed", respectively.  We know that the two albums Furry recorded with Samuel Charters for Prestige Bluesville both had several songs played in the EAEGBE tuning.  The Blue Horizon session had none.  It would be interesting to know if Furry had abandoned the tuning by that point or if it was just a coincidence that the Blue Horizon session included no songs played in that tuning.
   * Furry accompanies his spoken intro to "Farewell I'm Growing Old" on the Fat Possum CD in waltz time, but switches to 4/4 once the melody begins.  The song is a version of the Hawaiian song, "Aloha Oe".
   * Furry's post-rediscovery recordings, like Peg Leg Howell's include many more songs played in G position, standard tuning than he played in his pre-war sessions.
   * The two songs that conclude the Blues Horizon session, "Furry's Monday Woman Blues" and "Furry Lewis Blues" are two epic 8-bar blues played at very slow tempos in E position standard tuning.  One reason "Furry's Monday Woman Blues" is so long is that instead of singing an opening line over the first four bars of the form and answering with a tagline on the second four bars, Furry for this rendition chose to sing the opening line twice over a given pass through the form, then singing the tagline twice over the next pass through the form.  That, taken in combination with his very slow tempo, put him in a position where it took a hell of a long time to get through the song.

All of this music is worth seeking out, especially if you particularly enjoy Furry and his music.  There are always surprises, too, even if you're someone who has listened to a lot of Furry's music.

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 26, 2016, 01:16:19 PM by Johnm »

Offline Laura

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #34 on: March 13, 2014, 12:55:58 AM »
Wow..thanks for all the information, John.  Very interesting!

Offline ScottN

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #35 on: March 13, 2014, 10:44:57 AM »
Poster's note - please feel free to correct the tunings if I have them wrong,  they're not my strength

YouTube has 2 videos from the late 60s posted by folkseattle. 
Furry Lewis part 1 has:
Furry Lewis's Blues - Spanish
Brownsville - Spanish
Kansas City - Spanish
Unknown (to me) - Spanish

Furry Lewis part 2 has:
Kassie Jones - Spanish
Turn Your Money Green - Spanish
Then they cut away and come back in standard tuning
Baby Won't You Please Come Back (Furry Lewis's Rag) in C std
East St Louis Blues - 8 bar in E std

Interesting to see Kansas City in Spanish that is played elsewhere in E. Also interesting that he is back to Spanish for Turn Your Money Green.

Added - Johnm made the great observation in East St Louis Blues that he fingers the V7 chord 22x202 with index on strings 5 & 6, middle finger on 3 and ring finger on string 1.  With the 4th string not sounding, it is a usable form in either standard or EAEGBE - thanks John.


Thanks,
           Scott
« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 04:12:36 PM by ScottN »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #36 on: March 23, 2014, 11:11:38 AM »
Hi all,
Here are Furry's playing positions/tunings for the CD, "Furry Lewis, Bukka White & Friends, Party! At Home", Arcola, A CD 1001. 

SongPosition/TuningPitchSlide?
Going Away BluesVestapolC-Yes
John HenryVestapolC-Yes
Skinny WomanSpanishF#-Yes
Old Dog BluesSpanishF#-No
Let Me Call You SweetheartSpanishF#-Yes
Farewell To TheeSpanishF#-Yes
Mama's FishSpanishAbNo
When I Lay My Burden DownSpanishAbYes
Kassie JonesSpanishAb+No

Furry's portion of the CD's program was recorded at two different sessions in different locales, and the CD was recorded under very informal circumstances.  These factors may have contributed to the fact that Furry plays only in Vestapol and Spanish here, with no songs in standard tuning or EAEGBE tuning.  Despite what may look like a lack of variety, Furry's playing and singing are in top form on it, and the relaxation that comes from being recorded in a social situation results in a variety of spoken exchanges between Furry and his friends that are  worth the price of admission.  Booker White's portion of the CD's program is terrific, too.

All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: April 11, 2014, 09:32:27 PM by Johnm »

Offline mickser

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #37 on: March 20, 2015, 11:32:15 AM »
To my ear, Dry Land Blues was definitely recorded with the EAEGBE tuning. When he is resting on that E chord before singing a verse or playing the lick (not so much the first verse, better example just before the second and third verses), it seems to me that his quick slide up the A string to E pulls on to what sounds like an open E string, a sound which is hard/impossible to emulate if the guitar was in standard tuning.

What an amazing site this is...thanks to whoever is behind it.

Mick

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #38 on: March 20, 2015, 12:27:24 PM »
Hi mickser,
Welcome to Weenie Campbell!  You are mistaken about "Dry Land Blues" being played in EAEGBE tuning, it was definitely played in E in standard tuning (though tuned a full step low).  Every time Furry goes to his V7 chord in the sixth bar of the form, he hits the major third of the B7 chord on his fourth string, first fret, a note that is not available in EAEGBE tuning.  The roll up the E note on the fourth string that you refer to following the first and second verses is achieved by doing a double rolled hammer on the fourth string, with the index hammering at the first fret and the second finger hammering at the second fret,  thus getting up to E from D.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline mickser

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #39 on: March 20, 2015, 04:49:31 PM »
Ah yes, hear that 3rd now John, thanks for clearing that up. I thought I was hearing a fretted E note ringing with an open string, but it couldn't be that; the 3rd of the V chord can be heard as you point out. Thanks!

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #40 on: March 20, 2015, 04:50:16 PM »
Rivers, the engineer on the prestige records was non other than Elvis sideman Scotty Moore as I think has already been pointed out in some thread or other around here. As far as I'm concerned Scotty sets the standard! If it ain't got reverb it just don't glorify! Witness the two prestige memphis Willie B records, one with, one without, both good but the one with reverb attains the gravity of the eternal mythic. Just my taste, and obviously not for every kind of music in every situation. I am however only speaking through a megaphone with a reverb box from now on. :P
« Last Edit: March 20, 2015, 04:51:43 PM by Mr.OMuck »
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Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #41 on: March 21, 2015, 07:43:31 AM »
I wouldn't recommend trying to watch the whole thing, but WW and the Dixie Dancekings has been uploaded in varying quality to a couple different youtube accounts for anyone who wants to see the footage of Furry. I think he shows up in the last half-hour or a little earlier.

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #42 on: March 21, 2015, 10:01:44 AM »
Quote
Witness the two prestige Memphis Willie B records, one with, one without, both good but the one with reverb attains the gravity of the eternal mythic.

We'll have to agree to disagree on that, O'Muck.  I think just the opposite of you.

Offline eric

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #43 on: March 21, 2015, 02:26:56 PM »
Speaking of Furry Lewis and Sam Charters, my favorite Furry record is the Folkways one recorded by Charters in '59.  He recorded Furry in his home and the record has a relaxed feel and some cuts of Furry just talking and telling stories.  It just leaves you with an impression of Furry's engaging personality and warmth, and his skill as an entertainer.
--
Eric

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #44 on: May 26, 2016, 09:07:08 AM »
Hi John, 

I was wondering why 'I'm going to Brownsville' was missed off from the "Furry Lewis", Folkways Records
FS 3823 list of songs. was it because it was recorded at a different session on February 18th 1959. 
In any case he's playing in Spanish tuning using a slide.  I believe he's pitched at F. 

Just thought it was worth a mention.

regards, 

Marty

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings
« Reply #45 on: May 26, 2016, 11:54:54 AM »
Good catch, Marty!  It was omitted simply because I somehow missed it when I listed the tunes for that record.  I will add it to the list, as per your correction.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

 


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