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Monkey got his tail caught up on a street car line, honey. Didn't think about it till I started twistin' mine, honey. Run back to the track, lay his head on the rail, lose his head about a little piece of tail. Oh sail, oh sail away - Funny Papa Smith, Honey Blues

Author Topic: Robert Petway  (Read 3354 times)

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Offline 1894blues

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Robert Petway
« on: June 26, 2011, 01:53:09 PM »
I was recently reading up on Eddie Taylor and I noticed how both he and others referred to Robert Petway and Charley Patton as major inspirations.  I had heard Petway's version of 'Catfish Blues' but I always lumped him in with Tommy McClennan and never considered how important a figure in the lineage of the blues he is.  Then I noticed Petway had a song about 'Bertha Lee'.  I started to wonder if it was about old Charley's girl, but there just isn't too much info out there.  Considering he inspired Muddy, Honeyboy, Jimi and others you would think there would be something.  Any suggestions?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2011, 03:36:38 AM »
Then I noticed Petway had a song about 'Bertha Lee'.  I started to wonder if it was about old Charley's girl, but there just isn't too much info out there.
Interesting, can't believe somebody, somewhere, in years gone by won't have speculated in print about this.

In the meantime, if you click on the Robert Petway tag below you will find other posts concerning Petway.

Offline jostber

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2011, 05:13:50 AM »
Interesting article on Petway here:

http://www.tdblues.com/?p=1436


Offline JohnLeePimp

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2011, 12:39:09 PM »
Then I noticed Petway had a song about 'Bertha Lee'.  I started to wonder if it was about old Charley's girl, but there just isn't too much info out there.
Interesting, can't believe somebody, somewhere, in years gone by won't have speculated in print about this.

In the meantime, if you click on the Robert Petway tag below you will find other posts concerning Petway.

well... I mentioned it as a joke a while back

http://blindman.15.forumer.com/index.php?act=ST&f=5&t=14057&st=15#entry553304
« Last Edit: June 27, 2011, 12:45:13 PM by JohnLeePimp »
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

Offline LD50

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2011, 10:24:42 AM »
Paul Oliver mentioned the idea in his liner notes to Wolf's 1983 LP Robert Petway: Complete Recordings in Chronological Order:

"One can't help wondering if the subject of 'Bertha Lee Blues' -- "you sure been good to me" -- was in fact, Bertha Lee Patton."
« Last Edit: June 28, 2011, 05:54:14 PM by LD50 »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2011, 10:48:09 AM »
Hi 1894blues,
I don't know if you are a player, but if you click on WeeniePedia in the left-hand menu, then click on Musicianship when you're taken there, then click on Guitar, you can find a list which has been compiled of the positions/keys in which Robert Petway played his recorded repertoire.
All best,
Johnm

Offline jostber

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2011, 06:41:00 AM »
Here is a cite from Honeyboy Edwards on Catfish Blues on the Document Records web site:

Robert Petway made the first recording of Catfish Blues, and theres a good case for believing that he composed it.
'He just made that song up and used to play it at them old country dances. He just made it up and kept it in his head,' says Honeyboy Edwards who learned the song from Petway in person.


but on this site it says that the song was Tommy McClennan's signature piece. http://www.earlyblues.com/essay_catfish.htm
Any more information on this?

« Last Edit: July 04, 2011, 06:43:57 AM by jostber »

Offline JohnLeePimp

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2011, 11:24:24 AM »
It's probably Patways arrangement... but the earliest version of the lyrics to do with Catfish was in one of Jim Jackson's recordings of Kansas City Blues - Delta bluesman Willie Harris also covered Kansas City with the lyrics in question

... Harris' other songs is about Bullfrogs (which is the name of McClennan's "version" of Catfish blues)

It's more guesswork than academic, but yeah... that's where I think it lead off from

P.S. nobody has come half-close to doing a version on par with Petway's though
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2011, 12:45:06 PM »

... Harris' other songs is about Bullfrogs (which is the name of McClennan's "version" of Catfish blues)
I can hear in my head McClennan singing  Deep Blues Sea a version of Catfish recorded later the same year as Petway. Not at home to check.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2011, 12:59:02 PM »
Yup, as you had it, Bunker Hill, Tommy McClennan's version of "Catfish" was called "Deep Blue Sea Blues".  I don't believe it suffers by comparison to Petway's version, either, though Petway's is sensational.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2011, 03:45:51 PM »
I had heard Petway's version of 'Catfish Blues' but I always lumped him in with Tommy McClennan and never considered how important a figure in the lineage of the blues he is.
I suppose this brings us to a couple of questions:
1) What features of the music of those "giants" who died before WWII and of those who had successful working careers either before or during the revivals (or even before and during) have made them such enduring and important figures?
2) Just why is Robert Petway so apparently overlooked & historically well attested, despite still having living acquaintances?
3) Is it that Petway's music did not share the requisite endurance affording qualities as the other "giants" amongst his contemporaries and, not sure if this is the right word, but, successors? If not, in what ways?
« Last Edit: July 04, 2011, 04:01:57 PM by Stumblin »

Offline blueshome

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2011, 12:17:25 PM »
Good questions Andy, but just how much were those we may call a "giant" (referring to "Delta" or downhome artists) today were really thought of as that in their own milieu? We know the names of those lucky enough to be recorded and a few others named be those "rediscovered" in the 60's, but with a few exceptions they may have had little more than local fame or influence, or even just been "hobby" players.

One may assume that McClennan and Petway had reasonable record sales from the number of cuts recorded in a period when country blues was not at the forefront of popular taste (if it ever was), or did they have friends with influence (eg Big Bill).

On the subject of Catfish Blues, I have a recollection of reading somewhere (probably David Evans) that this song was in Tommy Johnson's pre-war repertoire.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2011, 12:47:14 PM »
Good questions Andy, but just how much were those we may call a "giant" (referring to "Delta" or downhome artists) today were really thought of as that in their own milieu? We know the names of those lucky enough to be recorded and a few others named be those "rediscovered" in the 60's, but with a few exceptions they may have had little more than local fame or influence, or even just been "hobby" players.

One may assume that McClennan and Petway had reasonable record sales from the number of cuts recorded in a period when country blues was not at the forefront of popular taste (if it ever was), or did they have friends with influence (eg Big Bill).

On the subject of Catfish Blues, I have a recollection of reading somewhere (probably David Evans) that this song was in Tommy Johnson's pre-war repertoire.
Phil if you look at the liner notes to the Yazoo compilation Lonesome Road Blues http://www.wirz.de/music/petwafrm.htm there's some discussion of the topic there.

Stefan's discography brings to light the prevalence of early European reissues of Petway's material.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2011, 01:57:31 PM »
Written by our very own Mr.Miller. I have the lp and also the Document (I think) lp from the early 80's - just about the last vinyl issued by J.Parth. Remember having it on order at Tower St. when Les Fancourt was there.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2011, 04:10:45 PM »
Good questions Andy, but just how much were those we may call a "giant" (referring to "Delta" or downhome artists) today were really thought of as that in their own milieu? We know the names of those lucky enough to be recorded and a few others named be those "rediscovered" in the 60's, but with a few exceptions they may have had little more than local fame or influence, or even just been "hobby" players.
Yeah, I know. Of course you're right. Blues was just one, perhaps minority, strand amongst a whole lot of other popular musics. The survival of some cultural artefacts may not reflect the totality of the past cultural experience etc.
I guess I'm unable to shake off the incomprehension attendant upon the lack of information.
Incidentally, a beer fuelled concatenation of events resulted in me having a gig in Nottingham on Saturday night.
Here's my version of Catfish Blues from Saturday:
.
About halfway through, my shades got sweaty & slipped down my nose, constricting my breathing. There may be a slight rhythmic discrepancy as I push them back up my nose, whilst still attempting to play  ::)

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