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My little woman she shaped like a frog. Every-time I hit it she yells HOT DAWG - Memphis Willie B., The Stuff's Right Here

Author Topic: Robert Petway  (Read 3164 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2011, 06:17:56 PM »
Hi all,
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the extent to which Robert Petway is remembered now is roughly appropriate, given what he did in the studio.  There's really only the one session (two days?), and in that program of tunes, "Catfish" is definitely the odd man out.  All but one of the other tunes are played out of G position in standard tuning and are fundamentally the same song with different lyrics; to be fair, played amazingly well and sung really well, too.  I remember listening to Petway's entire recorded repertoire in one sitting recently and coming away feeling that for a guy who could play and sing so well, he had almost no variety in his repertoire.  The excitement that one listen to "Bertha Lee" provides palls reasonably quickly for me when I hear the same licks and vocal approach recycled over and over again on his other numbers.  This brings to mind an observation O'Muck made here once to the effect, I think, that anyone's work suffers when it is experienced unrelievedly.  It is one reason anthologies in this style make for much better listening than do "Complete Works" type CDs.
All best,
Johnm

Offline LD50

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2011, 08:52:02 PM »
Hi all,
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the extent to which Robert Petway is remembered now is roughly appropriate, given what he did in the studio.  There's really only the one session (two days?), and in that program of tunes, "Catfish" is definitely the odd man out.  All but one of the other tunes are played out of G position in standard tuning and are fundamentally the same song with different lyrics; to be fair, played amazingly well and sung really well, too.  I remember listening to Petway's entire recorded repertoire in one sitting recently and coming away feeling that for a guy who could play and sing so well, he had almost no variety in his repertoire.  The excitement that one listen to "Bertha Lee" provides palls reasonably quickly for me when I hear the same licks and vocal approach recycled over and over again on his other numbers.  This brings to mind an observation O'Muck made here once to the effect, I think, that anyone's work suffers when it is experienced unrelievedly.  It is one reason anthologies in this style make for much better listening than do "Complete Works" type CDs.
All best,
Johnm

I dunno, 'Boogie Woogie Woman', his duet with Tommy McClennan, is pretty damn hot:



(probably my 2nd favorite Petway cut.)

'Rocking Chair Blues' also has a really interesting guitar solo.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2011, 09:26:46 AM by LD50 »

Offline Michael Cardenas

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2011, 11:12:01 AM »
Bertha Lee always does it for me, he's bangin' on it puts me in the mind of Garfield Akers. I dig Petway because he and Kokomo Arnold give me an idea of what the down-home approach was still like going into the 40's. For lack of a better desciption there is a hyper-traditional sound going on which I get the feeling has nothing to do with nostalgia, but comes from possible mindset saying, "This is how we know, this is how you do it and there is no other way."
LISTEN TO BLUES MUSIC

Offline jostber

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2011, 01:47:25 AM »
An old link, but there are some interesting stories on McClennan and Petway for those who have not seen it:

http://www.cascadeblues.org/History/TommyMcClennan.htm


Offline Pontius2000

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Robert Petway
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2017, 11:20:36 AM »
I don't see how Petway isn't more "famous" than what he is. I understand why he wasn't more popular at the time since his style in 1941 may have seemed "old fashioned", but I don't understand how he hasn't achieved "legendary" status.

We have the "rediscovered legends of the 60s" like John Hurt, Skip James, Son House, Bukka White, etc.

Then we have the "legends of mythical proportions" like Patton, Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, etc.

It would seem that Petway would belong in that latter group, but he never gets mentioned amongst them. He had one landmark song, "Catfish Blues", much like many of the other "legends". All his songs were, to my untrained ears, very technically sound. what I mean, lots of people seem to place on Robert Johnson godlike guitar skills. to my ears, Johnson's songs don't sound any more musically proficient than Petway's. And then, there is just as much "mystery" surrounding him, as very little known about him before his recordings or his fate afterwards. In fact, there is probably MORE known about Robert Johnson than about Robert Petway.

So why is it that he seems to be overlooked and not placed on the same pedestal as others?

As far as what happened to him later in life. What I've read is that most people seem to think he went to Chicago and then disappeared off the face of the earth. Have any blues researchers considered that at "approximately" 34 years old in 1941, Petway would've been prime age to have been drafted or volunteered for WWII? This may have even been desirable if he had no other skills but farming and through the military, could've ended up anywhere and not just Chicago.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #20 on: March 15, 2017, 11:38:07 AM »
Hi,
I merged the new post on Robert Petway with a pre-existing thread that raises many of the same issues.  I would say the biggest things going against Robert Petway in terms of achieving more recognition are:
   * Lack of variety in his recorded repertoire.  Although everything he did was very expertly played and sung, the vast majority of his songs share the same accompaniment, melody, and groove and are done at the same tempo.  Like many or most players, he wears better in small doses, unless you're already a huge fan and never tire of that accompaniment.
   * Lack of some writer to mythologize him.  This might be a more significant lack in terms of Petway's ever receiving much recognition.  Robert Johnson has all of the "crossroads" stuff, selling his soul to the devil, blah, blah, blah, which resonates with a lot of people and generates interest in him, almost independently of what he did musically.  Petway may also be hurt, in terms of getting recognition, by being closest musically to Tommy McClennan, who is probably even more under-rated and inadequately recognized than Petway.  Tommy McClennan, to my ears at least, had much more variety than Petway (though he didn't play as fast or clean), and was a much more exciting and expressive singer.

Who knows?  New information on Petway may surface yet, but it seems likely he'll remain a musician's musician rather than achieving more mainstream acclaim.

all best,
Johnm

Offline Pontius2000

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #21 on: March 15, 2017, 12:12:40 PM »
Hi,
I merged the new post on Robert Petway with a pre-existing thread that raises many of the same issues.  I would say the biggest things going against Robert Petway in terms of achieving more recognition are:
   * Lack of variety in his recorded repertoire.  Although everything he did was very expertly played and sung, the vast majority of his songs share the same accompaniment, melody, and groove and are done at the same tempo.  Like many or most players, he wears better in small doses, unless you're already a huge fan and never tire of that accompaniment.
   * Lack of some writer to mythologize him.  This might be a more significant lack in terms of Petway's ever receiving much recognition.  Robert Johnson has all of the "crossroads" stuff, selling his soul to the devil, blah, blah, blah, which resonates with a lot of people and generates interest in him, almost independently of what he did musically.  Petway may also be hurt, in terms of getting recognition, by being closest musically to Tommy McClennan, who is probably even more under-rated and inadequately recognized than Petway.  Tommy McClennan, to my ears at least, had much more variety than Petway (though he didn't play as fast or clean), and was a much more exciting and expressive singer.

Who knows?  New information on Petway may surface yet, but it seems likely he'll remain a musician's musician rather than achieving more mainstream acclaim.

all best,
Johnm

You are the John Miller from Stefan Grossman's GW right? Ever considered doing a Petway/McClennon DVD?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #22 on: March 15, 2017, 12:56:48 PM »
My guess is that Stefan would consider the demand for such a lesson to be too small for it to be economically feasible.  I would  prefer to do transcriptions and lessons on a few songs, and sell the lessons from my website, rather than do a whole DVD's worth, too.  I think with Robert Petway, "Catfish" and one or two of the G tunes would be plenty.
All best,
Johnm

Offline mtzionmemorialfund

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #23 on: March 15, 2017, 03:27:01 PM »

Who knows?  New information on Petway may surface yet, but it seems likely he'll remain a musician's musician rather than achieving more mainstream acclaim.

all best,
Johnm

Robert (Bert) Petway may have worked on the road crew in Yazoo County, Mississippi in the mid-1930s...
T. DeWayne Moore
Executive Director, Mt. Zion Memorial Fund

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Petway
« Reply #24 on: March 15, 2017, 10:37:30 PM »
My guess is that Stefan would consider the demand for such a lesson to be too small for it to be economically feasible.  I would  prefer to do transcriptions and lessons on a few songs, and sell the lessons from my website, rather than do a whole DVD's worth, too.  I think with Robert Petway, "Catfish" and one or two of the G tunes would be plenty.
All best,
Johnm

For what it's worth the huge Bob Eagle and Eric S. LeBlanc tome (2013) contains the following entries:

page 122 Robert Petway (apparently n?e Robert Pettiway) (v/g) (apparently Itta Bena, Leflore County, about 1902?unknown location, after 1942).

page 272 The "Robert E. Petway" who died on May 30, 1978, Chicago, age 59, was born in Tennessee and married in Chicago in 1935, and was not in Mississippi in about 1940.)

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