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[My mama] said, 'You and Elvis are pretty good, but you're no Chuck Berry' - Jerry Lee Lewis

Author Topic: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings  (Read 10417 times)

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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

Offline Johnm

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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!

Offline Mr.OMuck

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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 »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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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.

Offline dj

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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

Offline MartyW

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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

 


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