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Wasn't no use for anybody else to come up talkin' about playin' against him, 'cause they couldn't even do what he was doin' -- all they could do was look and wonder how in the hell he done it - Tom Shaw, speaking of Blind Lemon Jefferson

Author Topic: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet  (Read 3972 times)

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Offline Stumblin

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Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« on: May 04, 2010, 07:32:05 AM »
More on the Gullah/Geechee connection, I'm afraid.
A sentence on the wikipedia page for Blind Blake has got me very intrigued:
"On one recording he slipped into a Geechee dialect, prompting speculation that he was from the Georgia coastal region."
Now, I'm in the midst of all this work and simply don't have time to listen to every single known extant Blind Blake recording in time to write up & hand in.
Can some kindly soul amongst our congregation find it within themselves to let me know to which recording this wiki entry refers?
Also, any other pointers in re Gullah/Geechee blues, other music and any other distinctive cultural traits would be very greatly appreciated. Ta  8)

Offline 143TallBoy

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2010, 07:52:07 AM »
Southern Rag is the one I believe they are referring to.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2010, 09:18:47 AM »
Southern Rag is the one I believe they are referring to.
Indeed so. The note writer of the second volume of the Document Blake (DOCD 5025, 1991) makes the following observation. Make of it what you will:

"It is Blake's guitar playing abilities though that gives him his place in the development of a style that commentators now classify as "ragtime guitar". A dazzling display of this technique can be heard on "Southern Rag", a number which hints at his background and perhaps his influences. He begins a spoken commentary which suddenly moves into the vernacular of the Gullah and Geechie peoples of the Georgia Sea Island, underpinned by a demonstration of an African rhythm on his guitar ("I'm goin' to give you some music they call the Geechie music now"), finally lapsing back into his usual speech patterns. An intriguing insight and one which to this day has never been fully explored, despite Sam Charters's tantalizing suggestion that "he seems so natural with it (Gullah accent) that it could be that it's his other accent that's not natural to him"".

So it would seem that Sam Charters first pointed this out. Where? Probably one of his books The Blues Men or Sweet As Showers Of Rain?

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2010, 10:05:29 AM »
My theory? Blake had a brilliant ear for music. I bet he had an equally brilliant ear for accents. In his travels as a working musician he would have travelled widely in the South and would have encountered geechie or gullah speakers. Maybe he heard someone say "Hey maan, I want a maatch from you to light my pipe"! It certainly seems to be a phrase that stuck with him and he incorporated it into the spoken backdrop to Southern Rag. I bet if he'd travelled in New England he'd have come up with a Northern Rag with a line "Man I need some gasoline to fill up my cah"....just a theory:)

Offline lindy

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2010, 10:12:01 AM »

The second or third-hand story I heard was that Blake spent his early years in or near Jacksonville, Florida--set me straight if new evidence shows that to be wrong. If true, that's close enough to the Georgia Sea Islands to think that perhaps his family migrated from the islands, or that Blake lived in a community with a lot of Sea Island migrants.

For your listening pleasure, here's an NPR piece that has a few snippets of Gullah dialect. At the very end is the Lord's Prayer in Gullah.

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=5283230&m=5283231

Lindy

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2010, 10:39:14 AM »
Thanks to you all for your helpful responses. I have several "free" hours tomorrow afternoon, I'll listen to that NPR piece then. And, of course, I have the JSP complete Blind Blake box on my shelf, Southern Rag will be given a damn good listening to.

Offline lindy

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2010, 07:45:07 PM »

Wax:

I think the one point I would disagree with in your posting is the description of the Sea Islands as a "paradise". True, the residents there had it better in some regards than slaves and ex-slaves on the mainland, but they were still basically working as tenant farmers and laborers for miniscule wages and under primitive conditions. As far as human migration is concerned, there's that grass-must-be-greener-over-there thing that is the story of America, families and individuals making decisions to move based on rumors about better conditions over yonder. Whether any Sea Islander migrants showed up in an area where a young lad named Arthur Blake might have heard them conversing is anyone's guess. If he really was somewhat fluent in Gullah, he must have spent some quality time hearing and using it. If he just threw in a couple of phrases here and there on a recording or when joking with friends, he could've picked those up in a lot of places.

There's an interesting connection between the Sea Islands and West Africa, with Sea Island land holders specifically requesting slaves from that part of the world because of their rice growing skills. The pidgin English that emerged in West Africa shows remarkable similarities with Gullah in terms of syntax/grammar, despite the lack of interchange once the original slaves were taken away to North America.

Lindy

Offline LD50

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2010, 10:15:02 PM »
A few of my own thoughts...

I think Blake once said on a record that he was from Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is the nearest big city to the Georgia Sea Islands. I've always suspected he was born in the Georgia Sea Islands and moved to Jacksonville when he was a child, as Lindy suggests. The Georgia Sea Islands are very isolated, and were even more so 90-100 years ago. I think it's likelier he heard Gullah as a child from relatives who were from there than that he just accidentally bumped into someone who spoke it in his travels.

Tho again, this is totally hypothetical, and will forever stay that way unless someone uncovers Blake's paper trail some day.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2010, 12:40:06 AM »
For what it's worth, the source for Blake being from Jacksonville is the Paramount "Book of the Blues." There doesn't appear to be a scanned copy of Blake's page on the net, but I've seen it reproduced in a book somewhere.
Chris

Offline oddenda

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2010, 02:17:18 AM »
There were guitars in the Sea Islands of GA in the mid-thirties when Alan Lomax and Zora Neale Hurston stopped by!

Peter B.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2010, 03:44:26 AM »
On the question of Jacksonville - I must have picked up that piece of information many years ago from an LP sleeve. Other LP sleeves said Tampa. Other LP sleeves suggested Blake's name had been Arthur Phelps. I can't remember any statement of documented sources for any of this information. Yet it's all passed into the realms of what we know - or rather, think we know- about someone of whom we actually know nothing! Which is a mystery, given how active and popular he was. I imagine that somewhere there'll be a birth certificate, a death certifciate, and maybe a census record? What's Michael Gray up to these days?

Offline LD50

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2010, 07:07:33 AM »
I read something about a year or so ago that indicated that Gayle Wardlow intended to go to Florida to do research on Blake. Tho at this late date, I can't imagine that anyone who knew him survives, so it'd all have to be archival work.

A pity no one did it 45 years ago, they might have found friends and relatives of his back then.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2010, 07:13:01 AM »
Gayle Dean Wardlow's lead(s) on Blake in Florida didn't pan out, as I recall.

I like the Perfesser's theory. Blake drops a mimicked line into a song, and it leads to a wild blue goose chase.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2010, 10:52:09 AM »
On the question of Jacksonville - I must have picked up that piece of information many years ago from an LP sleeve. Other LP sleeves said Tampa. Other LP sleeves suggested Blake's name had been Arthur Phelps. I can't remember any statement of documented sources for any of this information. Yet it's all passed into the realms of what we know - or rather, think we know- about someone of whom we actually know nothing! 
Dear Prof, these few sentences of yours had me rushing to my 1991 Document Blind Blake CDs again and in the booklet to volume four is the following:

Arthur Phelps has long been considered to be the real name of Blind Blake. Where this information originated has been lost, to this writer anyway, in the mists of time most likely having been eked out from the memory of a fellow artist. This lack of anything concrete concerning his name left researchers looking to his recordings for evidence. The microgroove reissue in the seventies of "Papa Charlie and Blind Blake Talk About it" conveniently provided such:

Jackson: Say Blake!
Blake: What is it boy, what you want?
Jackson: What is your right name?
Blake: My name is Arthur Blake!

Not necessarily proof positive, granted, but in the last decade, while researching their book on Chicago Music's copyright submissions, John Cowley and Howard Rye discovered that at least nineteen of Blake's recordings were copyrighted to Arthur Blake.


The most recent "commentator" on Blake's life and work has been Jas Obrecht and even he's been unable to unravel it.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2010, 11:12:57 AM »
Thanks BH as always - you've put your finger on the closest we'll ever know. You -like me- probably remember the LP sleeve that first revealed the Phelps theory, going on to say that 'blake' was a colloquialism meaning 'travelling musician', or somesuch. Now if only I could put my hands on that LP....!

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2010, 11:25:53 AM »
Thanks BH as always - you've put your finger on the closest we'll ever know. You -like me- probably remember the LP sleeve that first revealed the Phelps theory, going on to say that 'blake' was a colloquialism meaning 'travelling musician', or somesuch. Now if only I could put my hands on that LP....!
What a memory you have. Little wonder they call you the Prof. Hans R. Rookmaaker in the booklet which constitutes the gatefold sleeve of Blind Blake In Chicago (see Stefan W's Blake page) waxes lyrical thus:

A blake is a man of tough, unrelenting character, and such he must have been, not only because he was called it, but because otherwise he would have been unable to survive the hard life of a sightless blues singer

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2010, 12:09:49 PM »
Not to lean too heavily on wikipedia, but here's a portion of the wiki entry for "blake":

From a surname derived from Old English "black" or "pale." Interestingly, it can mean both and was originally a nickname for someone with hair or skin that was either very dark (Old English "blaec") or very light (Old English "blac").

Perhaps a little more credence to "Blake" being a nickname. Or perhaps not.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2010, 12:19:49 PM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

Offline banjochris

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2010, 03:12:13 PM »
And to change the subject slightly, I wonder if any researchers ever looked for traces of Blake in later years in Detroit. I know you shouldn't read too much into lyrics of songs, etc., but he has the song "Detroit Bound" about getting a job at "Mr. Ford's place" and he seems familiar with the city on "Hastings St."
Chris

Offline oddenda

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2010, 06:20:44 PM »
"Phelps" comes from Willie McTell's interview in Melody Maker around 1959... someone spoke with him over the telephone(?) and wrote it up. If my failing memory serves me well. Arnie Caplin told me about the copyrights being to "Arthur Blake" decades ago. Remeber that McTell was known as "Blind Doogie" in Statesboro!

Peter B.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2010, 07:04:40 PM »
Hi all,
It is amazing how little traction there is when it comes to discussing Blind Blake's biographical details--there's barely anything even to push against!  It's really peculiar when you consider that he was a popular recording artist who made dozens of sides, but it's an indication of the paucity of hard facts when the majority of surmises about his life and where he lived derive from song lyrics and interviews with people who mention him in passing and may or may not have ever actually met up with him.  In a biographical sense, he's just barely more grounded in history than an absolute cipher like Gene Campbell.  Apart from his recordings and the photograph of him, I can think of no other evidence that he ever lived.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2010, 09:22:05 AM »
When Sam Charters interviewed and recorded Gus Cannon in 1956 Cannon told him that Paramount auditioned him, but brought in Blind Blake and told Blake to work something out with Cannon that they could record. The two of them apparently went to Blake's apartment to rehearse. which took three or four days. What did Cannon recall of this event? Not much. He told Charters "We drank so much whisky! I'm telling you we drank more whisky than a shop. And that boy [Blake] would take me out with him at night and get me so turned around I'd be lost if I left his side. He could see more with his blind eyes than I with my two good ones". (From The Country Blues p. 83-4)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2010, 05:24:52 PM »
I seem to remember somewhere reading Blake's address (or one of his addresses) in Chicago, with a hazier recollection that it was in connection with playing parties with Little Brother Montgomery. I wonder if Blake is listed in any Chicago city directories from then. And did Little Brother have any memories of him?
Chris

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2010, 11:36:43 PM »
I seem to remember somewhere reading Blake's address (or one of his addresses) in Chicago, with a hazier recollection that it was in connection with playing parties with Little Brother Montgomery.
Could it be this?

"Old Los Angelus building on 35th and Wabash. Blind Blake was there only he was a guitarist" (Karl Gert Zur Heide "Deep South Piano: The Story Of Little Brother Montgomery" (Studio Vista Blues Paperbacks 1970, p.45).

Offline banjochris

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #23 on: May 08, 2010, 12:38:31 PM »
It must have been, BH, although it was some other book quoting from there, because I haven't read that book (I would really like to, though). In Sam Charters' "Sweet as the Showers of Rain" (which I have as part of "The Blues Makers") he includes this, right after repeating the already-mentioned quote from Gus Cannon:

"What little that's known of Blake comes from these years from Chicago, though a relative in Patterson, Georgia, says that he came from Tampa and played in the southern Georgia-north Florida area. In Chicago he lived at 4005 S. Parkway, where his landlady, Mrs. Renett Pounds, tried to look after him as best she could, despite his heavy drinking. In 1929 the Chicago Defender reported that he'd gotten in touch with a friend, George Williams, who was managing one of the touring road shows called the "Happy-Go-Lucky" show, and he toured with them until late 1930 or 1931, when he may have gone back to Jacksonville."

Not sure what the sources were for this, and the last bit sounds like pure speculation on Charters' part.
Chris

Offline snakehips

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Re: Intriguing Blind Blake Wiki Snippet
« Reply #24 on: May 09, 2010, 01:41:46 PM »
Hi there !

Prof Scratchy wrote : "Now if only I could put my hands on that LP....!"

You gave me a Blind Blake LP (double LP ?) years ago - I wonder if that could be the one you have been looking for ?
I'll look it out !

 O0

 


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