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Author Topic: Blues And The Old Left  (Read 11384 times)

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bighollowtwang

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #60 on: January 27, 2008, 01:29:13 PM »
My dad was a jazz snob...he had a few "jazzy" blues records in his collection, T-Bone, Big Joe Turner...but I don't think he thought very highly of them, and when I was a teenager in the 80s they were too slick for me anyway, I was into punk rock (still am, too).
I didn't even associate that sound with "blues" at the time - my concept of "blues" (aided by crappy FM radio) was long-haired white guys from England singing in "I'm passing a kidney stone" voices and playing interminable pointless guitar solos...

I had a friend who had an older brother that ended up turning me on to a lot of cool music later on, but one day when I was 14 or 15 I was over at his place and heard this incredible sound coming out of his room (along with copious pot smoke).
It didn't just sound like it came from another era, it sounded like it came from another planet!
It was some Howlin' Wolf one-chord song, maybe Moanin' At Midnight or Smokestack Lightnin' or Mr Airplane Man, one of those hypnotic Wolf things - totally alien and fascinating and scary to my teenage brain.
I was completely mesmerized.
I asked my friend's brother what he was listening to and he looked at me with total bewilderment, as if I'd asked him where babies came from or something. "That's blues" he said, and I've been hooked ever since. It wasn't long before I found John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins, and that led to earlier stuff...then I found a Yazoo Records mail order catalog!

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #61 on: January 27, 2008, 01:37:24 PM »
So Leadbelly was a laundry. They could feed PD material to him and out would pop a copyrightable song. Nice. Jimmie Rodgers / Ralph Spier, same thing. The perfect victimless crime.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #62 on: January 27, 2008, 01:59:52 PM »
A copyrightable arrangement. You can make a copyrightable arrangement of any song. Anyone else could make their own copyrightable arrangement of the same PD songs Leadbelly and the Lomaxes used and not have to pay anyone. The only time they get money is when someone copies their arrangement. I doubt any of them made a whole lot of money from these arrangements so I think this is a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill.

And it's not like Leadbelly was putting a lot of effort into these arrangements. We're talking things like all those children's songs (which I'm sure he didn't learn on Fannin St.) and such. Mostly simple boom-chuck with maybe a tried and true bass run here and there. It's not like the Lomaxes were ripping Lead off for his entire repertoire.

When I first learned to play guitar, around '65, The first book I had was a collection of folk songs by Alan, I think. Simple folk songs with simple arrangements, all created by him. They were musicians of some sort, after all. And they did contribute to the Leftist cause.-G-

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #63 on: January 27, 2008, 05:50:44 PM »
So Leadbelly wasn't actually a person at all, he was a conglomerate.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #64 on: January 27, 2008, 06:18:06 PM »
Well, to some extent, that's true, but it sure is an overstatement. He was like any "star", there was more than one person involved in creating the "act". Once he was involved with the Lomaxes, Leadbelly was in an entirely different field than even the studio guys in Chicago, like Broonzy and Tampa Red. I think he knew very well that they were creating an image for him and he was very ready and willing to play the part. He was very disappointed that he was rejected by Hollywood because he saw himself as a 'personality'. And when he split from John Lomax he was still very clear about what the image he wanted to present was. He even instructed Terry and McGee about dressing correctly (suits) as professional musicians. This is a very complex story and not one that really lends itself to quick analysis and polarized statements. I would very much recommend reading the autobiography being discussed on another thread, the Life and Legend of Leadbelly.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #65 on: January 27, 2008, 07:50:45 PM »
Quote
This is a very complex story and not one that really lends itself to quick analysis and polarized statements. I would very much recommend reading the autobiography being discussed on another thread, the Life and Legend of Leadbelly.

I was sorta kidding. Thanks for the Bio tip. They're all more complex stories than we were lead to believe. Shucking Big Bill out of his silk suits and putting him in overalls for the spirituals to swing concert was sort of a red flag that there was some hoodoo goin' on. All in the name of the "cause' I hope.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline Johnm

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2008, 09:56:55 PM »
Thanks very much, Bricktown Bob, for your very illuminating post on the copyright and publishing issues around songs copyrighted by the Lomaxes with Leadbelly.  That is really interesting information and I'm sure I would never have come up with it.  Great work!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #67 on: January 28, 2008, 05:11:23 AM »
Thanks, John.  Now if only I can find a good reason for the Biharis to have copyrighted "Catfish Blues."  And by "good" I mean more or less unrelated to theft.

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #68 on: January 29, 2008, 10:17:41 AM »
In 'The Mayor of McDougal Street' there is some pointed commentary by DVR about copyrighting etc.  I remember one great quote that I think was attributed to Oscar Brand (but not sure), "If you can't write, copy.  If you can't copy copyright!"

Mike

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #69 on: February 12, 2008, 09:34:23 AM »
I am reading Elijah Wald's wonderful bio of Josh White at present. I'd skimmed a bit of it when it was in the bookstores, which it evidently ,sadly no longer is, and always meant to get back to it. Anyway, I always thought that a book on the odd and fortuitous symbiosis of Blues and the left would be a great idea and a much needed help in understanding the Blue's migration from a isolated southern phenomenon to a universally recognized part of world culture. Well THIS IS THAT BOOK! Its called Society Blues and it is an absolutely fascinating retelling of some of the most unlikely intersections of places, cultures and people imaginable. A truly great American epic story of triumph over ones circumstances and an almost Greek tragic cautionary tale about challenging the powers that be and getting caught in the ideological crossfire of ones times. I got my copy through ABE books. Highly recommended.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #70 on: February 12, 2008, 12:38:06 PM »
I am reading Elijah Wald's wonderful bio of Josh White at present. I'd skimmed a bit of it when it was in the bookstores, which it evidently ,sadly no longer is, and always meant to get back to it. Anyway, I always thought that a book on the odd and fortuitous symbiosis of Blues and the left would be a great idea and a much needed help in understanding the Blue's migration from a isolated southern phenomenon to a universally recognized part of world culture. Well THIS IS THAT BOOK! Its called Society Blues and it is an absolutely fascinating retelling of some of the most unlikely intersections of places, cultures and people imaginable. A truly great American epic story of triumph over ones circumstances and an almost Greek tragic cautionary tale about challenging the powers that be and getting caught in the ideological crossfire of ones times. I got my copy through ABE books. Highly recommended.
At the time of publication the majority of reviews were short and of the "this is a book and it contains" variety. However, Chris Smith devoted 2000 or so thought provoking and analytical words on the work and its subject. I recall towards the end of his review he made a comment along the lines of "I seem to have written more about politics than was my intention". If anybody is interested I could scan and post in the reviews board.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #71 on: February 12, 2008, 01:43:35 PM »
I would love to see it.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #72 on: February 13, 2008, 08:22:31 AM »
I would love to see it.
DJ has also requested to see the review of Society Blues. In a couple of hours I shall scan and and post in Books & Articles and tag accordingly.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #73 on: February 23, 2008, 07:36:44 PM »
I don't know all the details of Big Bill Broony's first European sojourn but I'll bet it was arranged by a lefty with an internationalist perspective. When Big Bill was too sick to make one of his tours he sent a substitute; Muddy Waters.
If I may I'd like to make an observation or two on this. I don't think Broonzy sent Muddy Waters as a substitute. Waters first came to Europe (England only) October 1958 but this was instigated by British jazz man Chris Barber and his then wife Ottilie Patterson who had been Muddy's house guests earlier that year. Muddy was so grateful to the couple for his European exposure that he displayed a photo of them on his living room mantle shelf. When Rae Flerlage visited Muddy to photograph him at home (9th January 1964) he couldn't resist snapping the contents of the mantle shelf too!

From Deep Blues by Robert Palmer:
Writing of Big Bill Broonzy ."Early in 1958 his health began to fail. Before he died he recommended to some of his English fans that they bring over Muddy Waters, and though Muddy was something of an unknown quantity there, a modest tour was arranged," So not a substitute but certainly brought over on the strength of Big Bill's recommendation.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #74 on: February 24, 2008, 12:33:21 AM »
From Deep Blues by Robert Palmer:
Writing of Big Bill Broonzy ."Early in 1958 his health began to fail. Before he died he recommended to some of his English fans that they bring over Muddy Waters, and though Muddy was something of an unknown quantity there, a modest tour was arranged," So not a substitute but certainly brought over on the strength of Big Bill's recommendation.
The following is from a lengthy interview conducted by Tony Standish the October 1958. Discussing with Muddy Big Bill's first European tour of September to December 1951 he tells Standish:

"Well, in 1952 they was talkin' about bringin' me over here an' I refused. I didn't think there'd be anything. Now I'm here? Oh, I think it's nice. I'd like to come back twice a year. But you know, I wasn't so surprised. I was just lookin' to be treated nice, y'know? After hearin' so much from Bill an' Brother John I wasn't so surprised. Seems it's just gettin' bigger 'n bigger, and I think Bill's the daddy for it though, huh? An' Chris Barber. He is a wonderful guy an' I mean, they should put him on top shelf because he's able to play the type of stuff we wanta hear an' he plays it, he's not up there . . . oh yes, I'm crazy 'bout that band, that's a wonderful band. I could work with him six months?those cats wail like coloured people. They're a bunch of wonderful guys and any way they can help you, that's what they wanta do. And I like that." (Jazz Journal February 1959, p. 4-5)

I reckon that over time this has become "embellished" either by commentators or Muddy himself. Robert Gordon's "Can't be Satisfied: The Life & Times Of Muddy Waters" (Little Brown 2002) reports it thus: "In 1951, Big Bill Broonzy had toured England. He's suggested Muddy make a simillar trip, but the idea seemed so preposterous that Muddy didn't even consider it." (p.157)


 


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