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Tin Pan Alley, baby, must be your home, when it ain't nothin' down there, honey, but blood and bones - Curtis Jones, Tin Pan Alley

Author Topic: Leadbelly  (Read 16271 times)

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Offline Cambio

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2004, 09:17:11 AM »
I did some work for a family who moved out here (Wisconsin) from the DC area.  The wifes grandfather had been an influential civil rights judge in Washington during the 20's and 30's and friends with Allen Lomax.  Apparently Lomax would bring his new talent around to the judges house when he returned from field recording trips, in an attempt to raise money.  The judge had a machine that cut homeade records  (I think that they were called Recordios) and during one occasion made a couple of records of Leadbelly.  He had also made some records of Woodie Guthrie during another occasion.
Being a record collector and twelve string junkie, I was all over it, trying to find out what had become of the records.  "Oh they're up in our attic somewhere."  Try as I might, I could never persuade the fellow to dig through his attic to find them, apparently he didn't think that they were that important.  He did manage to get me a tape of a tape.  Leadbelly does a off the cuff version of Bourgeois Blues on one side, in which he mentions the judge by name.  On the other record he sings a song to the judges son who's name is Sandy.  The song goes, "His name is Sandy. Ain't he a dandy?  He likes his candy.  His name is Sandy."  The whole while you can hear the kid squealing with glee in the backround.
Sandy's in his 70s now.  He came over to my house for dinner when he was in town.  He was pretty amazed that there were CDs of Leadbelly's music, as well as a biography.  Still can't find those records.... Oh well.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #31 on: December 05, 2004, 09:47:03 AM »
Hi Montgomery,

I have the Private Party disc on Document. It's very good, IMO, and in a way has similarities to the Last Sessions in that Leadbelly talks quite a bit introducing songs and such. Sound is not bad too for a home recording. It's quite something to hear him do an explosive version of Gallis Pole and think of those Minnesotans sitting around watching him do that (when their tastes no doubt ran more to "Irene" and sing-alongs). I like Jean Harlow and numerous others on this disc as well. Leadbelly sounds very relaxed on this recording and seems to me to be having fun. It would be great to have more recordings like this and Last Sessions of other CB players. Alas...

Todd, all I can say is !!!.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2004, 09:48:06 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Montgomery

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #32 on: December 05, 2004, 10:10:59 AM »
Here's the mp3 of Irene w/ little girl as promised.
Also, I'm from Minneapolis originally (where the private party was), and I can't help but wonder where this actually took place.? It's impossible to imagine that in someone's house, possibly near mine, Leadbelly was playing.? Of course, it's hard these days to imagine anyone of note being hired to perform at someone's house.? He didn't even have a website!

It's also hard to imagine parents letting their kid sing "...I'll take morphine and die..." with a stranger.? Lots of old childrens songs seem to have morbid lyrics, but political correctness has pretty much wiped that out.

[attachment deleted by admin]
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:45:29 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #33 on: January 08, 2006, 02:40:31 AM »
I was consulting the Wolf & Lornell Leadbelly biography when I noticed a reference to the booklet A Tribute To Huddie Ledbetter (Jazz Music Books, London, April 1946). Wolf & Lornell quote various items from this (p. 240-2) but nothing of the lengthy personal rememberance by Mike Algeria, which in my opinion is honest and insightful:

Leadbelly As I Knew Him In New York
By Mike Algeria

MY ACQUAINTANCE WITH Leadbelly was rather slight. I knew him well enough to speak to and we knew each others' names. On the other hand I used to go at least two or three times a week to listen to him when he was holding down what I remember as his only really steady job?at the Village Vanguard, Max Gordon's place in Greenwich Village.

Huddie is, personally, a strange man; a combination of ferocity and folk-talent if we can believe what?s been written about him, and if we can believe him as we know him, a sweet old boy who wouldn't hurt a fly. He is a striking man, with his dark skin in contrast to his white hair, and as a singer of folk songs an absolute wonder. His repertoire seems to be inexhaustible and includes a great many folk songs of white origin as well as the more "native" Negro songs. Many of his most famous and most popular numbers are white in origin, such as Midnight Special, which I have heard sung by many white boys in the army, and the obviously English-derived Irene.

Huddie's effect on New York audiences varies greatly. At times the entire place is silent while he sings and on the choruses of his "group" songs everybody joins in with tremendous gusto. I think the most popular of these on which everybody joins is an originally white folk song that Huddie always used to dedicate to the boys in the service because of the last verse:

Well my Baby say she love me and my, Mama love me too
If my Baby don't love me, Then I know my Mama do,

and then on the chorus everybody would repeat after him

Well I know she do
Yeah I know she do
Yes I know she do
Well I know she do

and would sing about four or five choruses of this with the band helping him out and everybody singing with him. Another song that always got a huge response from this type of audience was Irene, which everyone got a kick out of singing with him

On the other hand, at times he has no effect on the audience whatsoever. In some instances where the crowd is especially uninterested and overly drunk, the talking and general noise is so loud he can't be heard at all. Nobody seems the least bit interested in whether he sings or what he's singing about. There are always a certain number of people interested in folksongs or who just happen to know and like Leadbelly that will try to keep things as quiet as possible so as to hear him, but at times there's just nothing to be done.

I never tire of hearing him myself and I think that he is much more effective in person than on record. His voice seems to come out much better and I suppose the fact that he is apparent personally has a lot to do with it. I think perhaps another reason is that he isn't restricted as to time, etc., and can interpolate his own spoken remarks with much more freedom. The Village Vanguard, that is to say Max Gordon, has a policy of letting the people play or sing whatever they want with no interference from the management. In this respect it far outdoes places like Cafe Society that have a "policy" in relation to individual performances. Leadbelly has his own ideas on what the public likes. He has always sung when I made a request, probably because he knows that I have a genuine interest in what he's singing.

I've talked with Huddie a great deal about one thing and another, he has a tremendous spur-of-the-moment imagination, such as when I asked after the condition of a mutual friend of ours in the hospital and Huddie told me that he had "De Bleedin' Ulcers and T.B. and that his wife was making a baby." About half of it was true but apparently the rest of it appealed to Huddie's imagination and he was mournful as hell about it. Didn't really give the guy much of a chance to live at all.

I remember buying him a drink once in a while and he invariably drank claret, I've never seen him at all under the influence of liquor and when I have bought him a drink he'd make a glass of claret last all night. When I last spoke to him, just before going into the army over a year ago, he told me that he and Martha had Sonny Terry living with them in New York. Sonny is almost blind. From the way Huddie spoke it didn't sound like Sonny was working at all at the time.

Huddie was at the time holding down a full-time job with Max Gordon and was singing at private parties and meetings on the side. He was in great demand at the Leftist meetings, union rallies and similar functions, and apparently at smaller parties too. Around Christmas last year he offered to sing for me a whole night for ten dollars at a party because he said "It's comin' near Christmas, and I need the money". He is quite proud of his playing ability and is always introduced, not as a singer, but as the "King of the twelve-string guitar players of the World."

He once boasted to me in his own gentle way of his ability as a concertina player, and promised to bring it along some night to play for me. He told me he had just bought a new one. I've never heard him speak of his records at all, not a word, and when they are mentioned he more or less passes them over. Most musicians tend to emphasise their recording activities, Huddie on the other hand seems to have forgotten that he ever made any records. I think that this is just another indication of his very modest character in the company of people he is not well acquainted with: he is proud of himself as I have said, but he prefers somebody else tell the world about it. (pages15-16)

Offline Rivers

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #34 on: January 08, 2006, 11:31:20 AM »
Interesting and insightful indeed, thanks for posting that Bunker.

Striking to me was the snippet that even the great Lead Belly was ignored sometimes in noisy bars. Very hard for me to imagine how a crowd could not be blown away by such a force. It should make some of us who play out feel a little better about that particular experience.

The vignette of some audiences sitting silently and singing with gusto on the chorus is in tune with those times and is a folky thing. I played Irene once at a folk club in NZ and exactly the same thing happened. I was just grateful for the interest, up to that point I had no idea if anyone was listening!

Imagine being able to hire the man to play at your Christmas party.

Offline Dave in Tejas

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #35 on: November 05, 2007, 07:46:56 PM »
I enjoyed this this evening.

I could drive to his grave from my house in 4 hours, anyone want to meet there and play?
Dave

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #36 on: November 09, 2007, 03:46:07 AM »
I can tell you what Leadbelly CD not to buy...

"King Of The 12-String Guitar" from Roots'N'Blues Records.

They usually put out great albums (Robert Johnson's Complete Recorded Works, Good Time Tonight- Big Bill Broonzy, Steppin' On The Blues- Lonnie Johnson, The Big 3 Trio, Etc.)

But I was very dissapointed in this collection.

But I WILL recommend to you "The Last Sessions" boxed set.

Offline CF

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #37 on: November 09, 2007, 05:46:48 AM »
Quote
I can tell you what Leadbelly CD not to buy...

"King Of The 12-String Guitar" from Roots'N'Blues Records.

I have to disagree. I think Leadbelly's 1935 commercial recordings are great. All killer & no filler in my opinion. Why were you disappointed M1928?
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #38 on: November 09, 2007, 12:54:51 PM »
Quote
I can tell you what Leadbelly CD not to buy...

"King Of The 12-String Guitar" from Roots'N'Blues Records.

I have to disagree. I think Leadbelly's 1935 commercial recordings are great. All killer & no filler in my opinion. Why were you disappointed M1928?

I just took out that album again, because I purchased it some years ago and haven't listened to it since.

I'm about half way through the album, and I can't imagine why I didn't enjoy it when I first purchased it...

It might have been because I didn't have as big of an appreciation for pre-war blues 4 years ago, I was more into R&B then.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #39 on: November 09, 2007, 02:17:15 PM »
Just to add my two cents, the one part of Leadbelly's music I often don't enjoy, and that is present quite a bit on those ARC recordings, are his vocal interpolations between verses. In later years, when I think he was more at ease while recording and performing for his new audiences, they're fine, but they can be somewhat strident IMO on those earlier sides.
Chris

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #40 on: November 09, 2007, 06:52:18 PM »
Just to add my two cents, the one part of Leadbelly's music I often don't enjoy, and that is present quite a bit on those ARC recordings, are his vocal interpolations between verses. In later years, when I think he was more at ease while recording and performing for his new audiences, they're fine, but they can be somewhat strident IMO on those earlier sides.
Chris

Ack! That's what I didn't and still don't like about it!

But fortunately, they don't occur too often.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #41 on: November 28, 2007, 12:50:03 AM »
So, I've been giving a listen to some Leadbelly recordings I have, thinking I really need to play more 12 string. There are about 4 songs that I've gotten interested in singing and was wondering which recordings of these songs folks thought were the most dynamic. They are, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Shorty George, Thirty Days in the Workhouse and Mr. Tom Hughes' Town (Fannin Street). Yeah, that last could take me months, years maybe, to get decent, but I can never resist the tough ones.-G-

So I have a pretty nice version of WDYSLT in Lead Belly The Essential from Document, which has the really tender little questions between lines. No discography on that so I don't know which recording it is, but I seem to have the exact same recording on a two CD set called Leadbelly Bluesman on Fuel 2000 Records, put out in 2005 So I think this may be the definitive one.

Shorty George he recorded twice for ARC on Feb. 5 1935, twice for the LoC in March of '35 and then in a WNYC radio broadcast Feb. 27 1941. I have the first of the two LoC recordings (149-B) on Document DOCD 5593 The Remaining LoC Recordings, Vol. 3 - 1935, which makes me think this is not he best recording.

Thirty Days in the Workhouse he seems to have only recorded once, for the LoC in Feb. '35. This song has a real Texas Blues feel with a dead thumb bass and bendy licks in the treble. Somewhat atypical to this novices ears.

Mr. Tom Hughes' Town he recorded at Angola in July of '34, then on Sept. 27 '34 and again Oct. 1 '34, all for the LoC. I have the second of these (236-B-3) on DOCD 5591, The Remaining ARC and LoC Recordings, Vol. 1 and it's not great. Then he recorded it for ARC, Feb 5 '35, which I also have on DOCD 5591 and this one is pretty great, with the intro about wanting to go to Shreveport as a kid (where he stumbles over the part about having to wear long pants to go to town). The guitar and vocal are both pretty strong. Then he recorded it twice more for LoC, also in Feb '35. The next time he recorded it he called it Fannin Street, April 1 '39 for Musicraft and finally for another WNYC broadcast in the Fall of '42. (dangerous what you can do with a B&GR-G-)

So, particularly for Shorty George and Mr. Tom Hughes' Town, any favorite takes and the best current CD's to find them on?

Thanks

All for now.
John C.

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline Stuart

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #42 on: November 28, 2007, 08:47:25 AM »
Hi John C:

Here's my non-answer to your question:

I skimmed through the discography in the Wolfe-Lornell bio, but I didn't see any other recordings mentioned of "Thirty Days in the Workhouse." However, it's 34 pages, so I may have missed something. (If there was ever a case for a searchable/sortable database, this is it.)

I picked up the JSP set "LeadBelly--Important Recordings" a while back. It contains both "Shorty George" and "Mr. Tom Hughes' Town." I'm not sure, but they are probably the same as the Document CD cuts.

I also have the three volumes (one CD each) of the Smithsonian-Folkways "Legacy" Lead Belly series. Good notes, as one would expect.


Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #43 on: November 28, 2007, 09:50:46 AM »
Hi Wax,

Coincidentally I've been listening to a lot of McTell and Leadbelly, thinking I need to revisit my 12-string playing.

Here's a few comments:

Shorty George - I have this song on two discs. One is the Folkways recording, "Lead Belly Legacy Volume 1: Where Did You Sleep Last Night" (quite a short version, no pun intended). A far better version is the ARC version on the Columbia release, King of the Twelve-String Guitar. This version of Shorty George is ARC 16814-1. Great! Out of print? Easily found online I suspect.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night - I have the same version as you on The Essential Leadbelly. The version on the Where Did You Sleep Last Night CD goes by the perhaps more familiar title "In the Pines" and is a lesser version IMO. This song also appears as Black Gal somewhere. The version on the Essential CD you have is really nice IMO.

On my copy of The Essential, Track 16 on Disc 2 labelled Thirty Days in the Workhouse is actually In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down, performed with Sonny Terry no doubt. On yours, is he singing Thirty Days in the Workhouse or In the Evening? I have Thirty Days on the Last Sessions CD set (you really need to get this IMO). There it goes by the title Jail House Blues and is stupendously great.

Fannin Street: the danger of B&GR cuts both ways. :) It only goes to 1943. So presumably it's missing a bunch of the Folkways recordings (3 CDs) and the 4-disc Last Sessions, which are both pretty stellar, as well as the 1948 Private Party Minneapolis recording on DOCD 5664 discussed earlier in this thread, and the Leadbelly Live New York 1947 and Austin 1949 CD (DOCD 5676). Anyway, I have Fannin Street from the Folkways recordings Lead Belly Legacy Vol 2: Bourgeois Blues. It's an excellent version. It's also on the Last Sessions twice, once as Cry for Me, and once as Fannin Street. The take called Cry for Me is truly smokin'. Just buy the damn disc. ;D Seriously, there will be lots to learn from these recordings and you can hear the guitar quite nicely. Another version of Fannin Street that I like is on the Private Party disc mentioned above. Also very impressive.



Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #44 on: November 28, 2007, 11:25:59 AM »
This song also appears as Black Gal somewhere.
Two versions recorded under this title, for Stinson 1944 (LP48) and Folkways 1947 (LP14).

As an amusing aside the Stinson version was recorded by a UK group named the Four Pennies who learnt it from a budget-priced reissue. They managed to get into the Top 20 on 29th October 1964! Am I full of useless information, or am I not? Did I hear someone mutter, "full of crap more like"?  ;D

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