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Author Topic: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?  (Read 5579 times)

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2bluetoes

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Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« on: April 22, 2008, 12:17:17 AM »
Hi all,
I'm new to this forum, and so far I've found the discussions fascinating. I had no idea this site even existed before I accosted banjochris on youtube to ask him about Sylvester Weaver. So this is my question: Do you think Weaver was an influential musician? Lots of "sources" mention that he was indeed influential, but they never specify the ways in which this is true. Perhaps he wasn't very influential. I'm not sure how to go about figuring this out.

I'm trying to see whether I can draw connections between Weaver and other guitarists (both among his contemporaries and successors).

Banjochris pointed out his chordal sophistication, which was unusual among other country blues musicians. There is a post somewhere that mentions his use of diminished chords in "Can't Be Trusted Blues," the same chords Snooks Eaglin uses in "Drifter Blues" and "One Room Country Shack" (I'm not sure if I'm accurate in naming these songs). Also, in an interview by Stefan Grossman, John Fahey mentions how he was greatly influenced by Weaver (http://www.guitarvideos.com/interviews/fahey/index.html). He tells an anecdote about meeting Elizabeth Cotten for the first time and finding out that she was learning the same Weaver song from the same record that he was.

I don't know, that's all I can think of, but I'm not even sure what constitutes as influence, or more aptly, how you can pick out one thing about somebody's playing and trace it to someone else. I find this kind of tricky.

Anyway, I'm really interested in your insights...

2bluetoes

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2008, 09:54:14 AM »
Oh, and I was wondering if anyone has the (now sold out) Agram album on Weaver, "Smoketown Strut" (it's the Guido van Rijn label). It's supposed to have the most extensive liner notes.

Offline dj

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2008, 10:31:53 AM »
Hey, 2blue, there's quite a bit of Sylvester Weaver discussion here on the various forums.  If you haven't found it already, you can click the Tags tab and look for Sylvester Weaver, or you can just click here
« Last Edit: April 22, 2008, 10:33:44 AM by dj »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2008, 10:52:25 AM »
Been listening to a fair amount of Sylvester Weaver myself lately, particularly the instrumentals.

Of course, Guitar Rag became Steel Guitar Rag for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and later Merle Travis. But perhaps you are referring more to specific influence with the blues.

Welcome to WeenieCampbell, 2bluetoes!
« Last Edit: April 22, 2008, 10:55:54 AM by andrew »

2bluetoes

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2008, 11:36:39 AM »
Thanks for the warm welcome,
Yes, I have scrutinized every post about Weaver on this site. The transcriptions were very helpful (thanks john m) and the info about his scrapbook was really interesting (thanks bunker hill).

Well, I'm not looking at his influence on the blues exclusively (since John Fahey kind of defies categories), but I guess I am looking for something more than the fact that Guitar Rag became a country standard (I mean, assuming there is more--that might be all there is to it in terms of influence). I mean he was no virtuoso, like his successor at Okeh, Lonnie Johnson, but there is "something" about his music that just "mmmhh." His sound is so distinct. It's very charming, cheeky, slick, energetic, mellow, mournful and witty all at once, and just full of personality. That not to say that others weren't, they were all personalities. I guess Weaver just seems to have a personality that stands out somehow. And since there's a dearth of biographical information about him, I'm trying to pinpoint it in his music.

It's funny, sometimes listening to his songs, especially his instrumental, I feel like they ring bells, but I can never put my finger on it. Like in "Six String Banjo Piece," there are certain phrases that almost remind me of something, but then everything escapes me.

Well, thanks again everyone.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2008, 11:47:19 AM »
Oh, and I was wondering if anyone has the (now sold out) Agram album on Weaver, "Smoketown Strut" (it's the Guido van Rijn label). It's supposed to have the most extensive liner notes.
I do and it does. However, the notes are only extensive in that they rely upon Weaver's amazing Scrapbook which was unearthed by Paul Garon and sections published in Living Blues (issue 52, Spring 1982, p.15-25). I think I scanned some of it for a discussion here not that long ago.

Online Johnm

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2008, 01:18:33 PM »
Hi 2bluetoes,
While the occasional Sylvester Weaver guitar lick turns up in the music of later players, I don't know that you could say he was influential in the epoch-making way that Lemon Jefferson or Lonnie Johnson or Leroy Carr or Blind Boy Fuller were influential.  Weaver recorded so early, though.  Perhaps you could say that his influence worked two ways:  For the record companies, his records must have generated enough sales and interest to make them feel as though it was worth taking the chance to record other men playing the guitar and accompanying themselves singing in the Blues style, and for his fellow musicians, there may have been the feeling, "Well, if he could make a record, maybe I could make one too."  Musicians tend to be very excited by any sense they get of commercial possibility, and who can blame them?  It's a really tough way to make a living.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2008, 08:05:29 PM »
I'm similarly fascinated by Sylvester I have to admit. He deserves a higher step on the podium IMO. What differentiates him? Something to do with 'chord melody' I think.

2bluetoes

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2008, 01:31:55 AM »
Yea, I think that's a big part of it. His melodies are quite captivating, even the simplest ones. What is it about them though...? I think it also has a lot to do with his delivery of the melody too. For example, compare the first cut of Guitar Rag compared to the second. Here you see that his decision to play slowly is deliberate (and very effective). He's giving himself more time to play with the slide and quiver around notes. This changes the entire mood of the song. The song is still in a major key, but somehow, when he plays slowly, there is a delicate touch of sadness, like a sweet lament...but it's still uplifting at the same time.

Offline dj

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2008, 03:11:17 AM »
You'd think that a Sylvester Weaver influence would be most apparent in the playing of other musicians in the Louisville/Indianapolis area.  Scrapper Blackwell and Bill Gaither come to mind.  But I don't hear anything of Weaver in their playing.  As Johnm said, "Weaver recorded so early, though".  It's entirely that people like Blackwell, who came along just a bit later, regarded Weaver as hopelessly old-fashioned.  Does anyone know if Blackwell ever mentioned Weaver after he was rediscovered? 

2bluetoes

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2008, 05:10:43 PM »
Does anyone hear Weaver in anyone's playing?

Offline banjochris

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2008, 05:22:54 PM »
I think Blind Blake may have listened to him a bit, but not in terms of complete style, just a couple of riffs. In a couple of his earlier tunes (either Dying Blues or Ashley St.) Blake plays that chromatic run from low E up to C that Weaver often plays, and I think some of the stop time on those tunes is similar to Weaver's style in C.
Chris

2bluetoes

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2008, 06:32:15 PM »
Thanks again.

How about Bayless Rose (Elizabeth Cotten reminds me of him a LOT)? Particularly "Frisco Blues"? Besides the tempo, is there something Weaver there? I really don't know... it may be a stretch... I'll leave it to the better trained ears.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2008, 06:43:45 PM »
I think Casey Bill was influenced myself. I have absolutely no basis for this statement other than my own ears so take it for what it's worth.

2bluetoes

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Re: Was Sylvester Weaver Influential?
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2008, 07:41:13 PM »
Hey Rivers,
Is there a particular song you had in mind?
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 10:59:47 PM by 2bluetoes »

 


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