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Author Topic: Josie Bush?  (Read 2999 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Josie Bush?
« on: May 23, 2007, 11:24:28 AM »
Did someone say, "Who"? I certainly did when asked recently to look her up and then scan and send my findings - which I pass on here. Does anybody know of more contemporary discussions/references to her?

Josie Bush seems to have been first brought to our attention by David Evans in his 1971 monograph "Tommy Johnson" (p.25).  There's also some information concerning her in William Barlow's "Looking Up At Down" (1989) which seems to derive from Evans's 1970s interview with Mott Willis. The main body of work on Willie Brown and Josie Bush can be found in "Big Road Blues" (Calif UP, 1982 p 176-178) thus:

Brown's wife, Josie Bush, was also a very accomplished blues singer and guitarist. She was about seven or eight years older than her husband, to whom she was married by 1911. She was born in Florence, about nine miles southeast of Jackson, but spent much of her youth around Gatesville and Freetown, small settlements to the northeast of Crystal Springs, about twelve miles southwest of Florence. There she learned to play guitar from an uncle known as "Red." She was probably as good a musician as Brown when she married him. They stayed together until around 1922, when they quarreled and broke up. She is said to have died some years ago. Mott Willis, who was a distant cousin, recalls Josie Brown well:

Her home was in Rankin County, out there from Florence, but she'd be over across the river playing. She was a good guitar player to be a woman. She was playing guitar when I first knowed her, when I was a little old boy.... Used to give little old suppers, and we'd go down there. "Riverside Blues," that was her piece. Well, she sure could sing though. Man, she'd have the house rocking, you know. You see, everybody have a different way of playing, you know. But Josie could play better than any woman I ever seed play a guitar. And she could sing so, you know.

And after a while she went to the Delta and come back, and she told me about a fellow up there, he could play good. And he learned some of her pieces; she learned some of his'n. And she married this fellow named Willie Brown, but they didn't stay together long. They stayed at Drew. And he sure could play too. They used to play together just like two men, you know. He's a guy that sure could play some blues. He wasn't much on rags, but he sure could, you know, play a lot of blues. Here's a blues here. His first verse would be about--he know my good gal gonna jump and shout. He called it "Jumping and Shouting Blues." He had a good voice, he did. Old Josie'd hit him then when he say that. She thought he was thinking about some other gal. Well, both of 'em was jealous of one another. They'd fight, you know. Go to places that way and play and get to fighting. I used to laugh about it, you know. And I'd be playing with 'em, and I'd try to part 'em, you know. Them old things was mean. They both of 'em jealous of one another. Maybe some man would come up there and tell her, "Miss Josie, I want you to play me the 'Riverside'." She had a lot of places she played, you know. And if he [Willie Brown] didn't hear what the man said, you know, those things get mad as a white-mouthed mule. "Josie, what'd that nigger say to you?" It started just from that on, you know. They parted, and she went to Helena, Arkansas, and I ain't never heard from her sinced.

Then on pages 250-1 Evans states:

We know too that Josie Brown brought the "Riverside Blues" to Drew from her native Florence, where she had learnt it from Willie Love, a local musician. Her song took root at Drew and was learned by her husband Willie Brown and by Mott Willis. Tommy Johnson also learned it but changed the guitar part into the one he played on "Lonesome Home Blues" (Paramount 1300 which is printed below. Mott Willis says of Johnson's transformation:

Old "Riverside Blues," Tom Johnson just kind of changed it. That was her piece, you know, in E minor [sic]. Me and Tommy Johnson, we was raised up together. Tom, he's about a couple years older than me. And we'd get together and play, you know. He said, "I'm gonna play some of Josie." We called her Josie Bush, you know. Play some of Josie's pieces. [On page 214 is a notation of Riverside Blues as played and sung by Mott Willis on Advent LP 2815. BH]

Online dj

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2007, 06:47:05 AM »
Gayle Dean Wardlow mentions Josie Bush (unindexed) on pages 188 and 190 of Chasin' That Devil Music.  The source is an interview Wardlow did with Tommy Johnson's brother Ledell and his wife Maybelle.  There's not much information there, basically just a mention of her name and the fact that she was married to Willie Brown.

Great topic, Bunker Hill.  Thanks for posting it here.
 


Online Johnm

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2007, 09:12:05 AM »
Let me second dj's thanks for the information on Josie Bush, Bunker Hill.  We tend to think of the Country Blues that ended up being recorded as being the sum total of Country Blues that ever existed.  Of course, far more players, including very expert ones, never ended up being recorded at all.  Two in that category that I have most wanted to hear are "Happy", a water boy on a chain gang that John Jackson heard in his youth, who he said was the best guitar player he ever heard, and Big Joe Williams's cousin Jesse Logan, who Joe said beat him at his own style.  Josie Bush must have been a tremendous musician, based on what those who remembered her said about her.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2007, 10:05:38 AM »
I'm heartened to hear you guys benefited from the piece. I'm often hesitant about posting marginal material such as this, it's hardly required reading for all you musicians out there. ;D

Anyway, we may not know what Jesse Logan played like but we certainly know what Russ and Bert Logan (Big Joe's uncles and, I assume, one the father of Jesse) sounded like. They can be heard on a Testament compilation.  :)

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2007, 01:51:59 PM »
Josie seems to have a brief but intense burst of popularity every few years. I noticed "Bush" bumper stickers all over the country a few years ago, and the same thing about four years earlier.
Oh, also, I don't think she has recorded it, but Del Rey has written a song about Josie Bush, along the lines of her tribute song to Memphis Minnie.

eddie

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2007, 04:52:47 AM »
In an earlier post dj mentioned the Wardlow book.
Mr. Wardlow seems to think that this is a different Willie Brown to the one who recorded with Patten and House.

What is the current thinking on this please ?

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2007, 07:23:45 AM »
Hi Eddie,

Check the tags for Willie Brown below. The thread Two William Browns deals with this question.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2007, 07:27:11 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Adam Franklin

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2011, 11:26:39 AM »
Oh, also, I don't think she has recorded it, but Del Rey has written a song about Josie Bush, along the lines of her tribute song to Memphis Minnie.

Del recorded this tune with Steve James on 'Tonight'.

It's a great tune. Great album too.

Looking forward, Adam.

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Josie Bush?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2011, 12:50:28 AM »
Oh, also, I don't think she has recorded it, but Del Rey has written a song about Josie Bush, along the lines of her tribute song to Memphis Minnie.

Del recorded this tune with Steve James on 'Tonight'.

It's a great tune. Great album too.

Looking forward, Adam.

I would highly recommend that CD by Steve James & Del Rey as well.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
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