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Author Topic: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?  (Read 1296 times)

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Offline frailer24

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Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« on: July 21, 2012, 04:53:18 PM »
I often wonder, did Blind Willie McTell use finger and thumbpicks, or just bare fingers? I play plenty of his numbers (using thumb and 2 fingerpicks), but cannot tell from the recordings one way or the other. Hopefully my fellow Weenies can help me with this answer. P.S. If you have ideas on any other pre-war pickers, feel free to add them in.

Larry

-That's all she wrote, Mabel!
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2012, 09:10:12 AM »
Good question...what do the photos show?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2012, 10:36:09 AM »
Most of the pics seem to show no picks, although it's hard to tell in some, the thumb is hidden etc. The very blurry Lomax photo looks like it may show fingerpicks, but again very hard to tell. I can't recall if this is addressed in the Michael Gray biography. Of course, for photos which were posed and outside of a real playing context, he could just be holding the guitar, why bother putting picks on.

BTW, welcome to WC, Larry.

Offline dj

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2012, 10:44:40 AM »
The Sony "Definitive Blind Willie McTell" has the sharpest print I've seen of the photo taken by Ruby Lomax in 1940.  Definitely no thumb pick there.  In the 1955 photo of McTell with his second wife, Helen, from the same set it's harder to see his thumb, but his fingers are nice and sharp and show no sign of picks.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2012, 03:20:06 PM »
Concur, no picks. And from personal experience when I used to have a Dell'Arte 12 string, the only way I could come close to McTell's tone was playing without thumb or finger picks.

Offline CF

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2012, 05:52:45 PM »
Wow, really? I think I always was hearing picks with his playing, probably because it can be so aggressive. If I attacked a guitar bare fingered like that I'd be nothing but blisters, as they say.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2012, 07:19:30 AM »
Quote
when I used to have a Dell'Arte 12 string


Whaddaya mean USED TO?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2012, 07:55:57 AM »
I believe Willie McTell played without picks, and remember people noting that his right hand position when playing was unusual, almost a classical position, without anchoring.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2012, 09:03:59 AM »
Quote
when I used to have a Dell'Arte 12 string


Whaddaya mean USED TO?

I sold it to get my National, because I got to the point where I could barely play it. One of the "improvements" they made to the original Stella design was to make a lower-profile, more modern neck, which is ridiculous. After about 20 minutes it would kill my left hand because I couldn't really grip the thing properly -- there was nothing to hold on to.

One of these days I'll get a Fraulini...

Offline frailer24

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2012, 06:40:23 PM »
Quote
when I used to have a Dell'Arte 12 string


Whaddaya mean USED TO?

I sold it to get my National, because I got to the point where I could barely play it. One of the "improvements" they made to the original Stella design was to make a lower-profile, more modern neck, which is ridiculous. After about 20 minutes it would kill my left hand because I couldn't really grip the thing properly -- there was nothing to hold on to.

One of these days I'll get a Fraulini...

One day, I shall also have a Fraulini. But for now, my old all mahogany Johnson 12 will have to suffer through my butchery.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Shovel

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2012, 05:28:43 AM »
Are there really that many prewar acoustic blues pickers that used fingerpicks?  It would seem likely to be a rare occurrence?

Quote
Wow, really? I think I always was hearing picks with his playing, probably because it can be so aggressive. If I attacked a guitar bare fingered like that I'd be nothing but blisters, as they say.

 Fingernails (not blistery fingertips) would be the common way to go for a lot of these guys, I would imagine.. 


Offline CF

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2012, 05:48:05 AM »
I can't see some of those fully-brushed sounding riffs being confined to fingernails. I hear meat in them there chords.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2012, 07:59:06 AM »
Rev. Davis used picks.

Mike

Offline Shovel

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Re: Blind Willie McTell: Picks/no picks?
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2012, 08:46:19 AM »
Rev. Davis used picks.

Mike

Yeah exactly.  Of the bluesy artists that recorded in the 20s/early 30s and survived long enough to be confirmed, it seems to have been exceedingly rare.   Off the top of my head Skip James, Son House, MS John Hurt, Bukka White, seemed to have not done it.

I can't see some of those fully-brushed sounding riffs being confined to fingernails. I hear meat in them there chords.

Yeah there's perfomrances where I could be convinced he's just flat out strumming with a single pick or nail a lot of the time, hearing the way his runs fit in between the main more chordy riffs.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 08:47:42 AM by Shovel »

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