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A room without a woman is like a heart without a beat - Curtis Jones, Lonesome Bedroom Blues

Author Topic: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues  (Read 1987 times)

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Offline Randy Meadows

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SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues

Reel Image, Inc. began work on the documentary on Son House in March 1974. Producer Ron Mix and I went up to see Mr. House and his wife Evie the other day. He sat and chatted about plans for the film, the money problems we were starting to have with it, and the upcoming negotiations with B.B. King for the narration track. Mr. House said of B B.'s music, "Yeah, I like what he plays ... it gets into my head. "B.B. watched our conversation from his poster on the wall.

We asked how the old man was feeling, for he'd had several seizures in the past few weeks. Evie was concerned about it. Since moving, they hadn't been able to get any of his medication. Some mix up somewhere or other. Evie had called but there had been no response.

On that day he was complaining of yesterday's stiff neck. It was better when we saw him. He's an old man now, and he has old man's problems. Evie put it succinctly. "I raised ~ children, 3 of my own and one that was given to me, and he's more trouble than all of them put together". And then she laughed. For all the trouble, she must still feel it's worth it.

Like other musicians, Son House is a strange man. He's hard to fathom, at once very complex and yet all there on the surface; hiding nothing, seemingly unconcerned about what's happening around him except where it infringes on his personal comfort. If you get him started, he'll warm up and deliver little theoretical bits he's worked out, ways of dealing with life and with people, his little survival tricks.

On one occasion there was an interesting exchange. I was talking to him, asking him about his health, etc., when I suddenly realised that he was only sitting there in his leather chair, nodding his head up and down and agreeing with everything I was saying. Confronting him, I said, "You sure are agreeable, aren't you?" Again he agreed, saying, "Yeah, uh-huh. You see, it doesn't pay to make a fuss. I always try not to stir up any trouble." He leaned forward, as if to confide something to me so that Evie wouldn't overhear from the next room. "Sometimes my old gal starts getting mad at me about something, I don't know what, and I just grab my hat and say, 'I've got to go out now.' I stay away a while and when I come back it's quietened down again and everything is okey-dokey. If I'd stayed around, she'd have said something, and I'd have answered her and before you know it, there's a big fight and everybody's mad. I like to keep things nice and quiet around here. I'm like that with everyone."

On the day Ron and I went up, they talked about the time he'd gotten his hands frozen. You have to understand what it means to a guitar player to freeze his hands. The music is in the fingers, in how limber they are. As a guitar player, you have to be aware of your hands, aware of the damage that can be done by a slammed car door or a misplaced hammer blow. Here was a great musician whose hands had been ruined.

He had gone out late that night in 1967, gone out in sub-zero weather to find a drink. No one knows what happened. Someone found him unconscious in a snow bank, his hands already frozen, and they took him to Emergency at the Genesee Hospital, Evie: "His hands got ail black, just like they'd been burned. I didn't know that happened when you got frozen." Mr. House sat contemplating his hands, comparing one to the other. His left pinky stood out from the rest of his fingers, as if it had been broken to the side and healed badly. Son: "You see what the problem is ... this little one here (he held out the left pinky) don't work right. It's not as good as it was."

Evie: "They gave him a little rubber ball, the kind you squeeze, you know ... I don't know what happened to that. My husband did something with it, I just don't know where that got to."

Old Son sat there looking at his mis-shapen hands, wishing things were different. He jammed his copper slider down on his ring finger. "Now this one's not so bad, but I wish I had the other one."

MICHAEL F. ROTHMAN
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Offline jostber

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2013, 10:51:25 AM »
Interesting, thanks! Was this a film that never materialized in any way?

Offline jrn

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2013, 01:20:20 PM »
That was interesting! Thanks for posting Randy. I'd never heard about his hands being frozen before.

Jason
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2013, 04:42:54 PM »
(Anyone with material, especially stills or film, on Son House, please contact Reel Image IBC., 907 Culver Rd., Rochester, New York 14609. Tel. (716) xxx-xxxx

(From Talking Blues 1, April/May/June 1976, p 5-6)
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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2013, 11:20:18 PM »
I still have the two 10x8 "one use only" photos Rothman sent us to accompany the article.

One was taken by Michael Rothman of House "practicing" in his hotel room prior to appearing at the Toronto Island Blues Festival and the other, by Gail Rothman, of Son performing at the event. The latter was used on the inside cover of Talking Blues.

This event is discussed in Dan Beaumont's excellent SH biography (p.172). As I recall Dan did try to locate the Rothmans but drew a blank.

Offline Cleoma

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2013, 08:29:44 AM »
It would be fabulous to be able to see the film footage -- I found on the web:

RON Mix Images (video production services)

(585) 342-4567

2669 Titus Avenue Ext

Rochester, NY 14622

This seems like it could be the same Ron Mix mentioned in the article (as the "producer".)
I haven't had any luck finding the Rothmans but will keep looking.  I know that there are other Weenies who are expert at this sort of stuff and perhaps they will look, too.  Seems like these folks would be getting on in years if they are still alive.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2013, 09:06:28 AM »
Re. Rothwell, the odd thing was that two years later I received a letter (dated Nov 16, 1976) from Michael wanting advice from me as to who he should approach in UK concerning booking and promo agencies. Apparently he'd been playing blues for 14 years with little commercial success in the US and thought he'd try out the UK with a "six month to one year" tour in the "fall of 1977". I replied at length and pointed him in the direction of potential booking/promo agencies. Never received so much as an acknowledgement.

B-U-T, the interesting thing was that he no longer used the surname Rothwell but Havelin(!) and had moved to Scottsville, New York.

Make of that what you will....


Offline Cleoma

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2013, 09:20:55 AM »
That is a bit weird -- but there's plenty of anti-Semitism in the folk music world so maybe he didn't want to be Rothman.....or maybe, just a new start. 

Offline Cleoma

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2013, 09:21:49 AM »
That means he would be in his 70s or maybe 80s by now.

Offline Cleoma

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2013, 09:35:54 AM »
I found Michael, once I had the correct name it was super easy:
michaelhavelin.com/

I have written to him to ask what became of the footage and I hope he'll show up here on Weenie Campbell.  He is still playing blues and lives in Asheville, NC.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2013, 11:01:35 PM »
Well done Cleoma. The Weenie detective agency strike again.

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2013, 11:13:52 AM »
Any response about the footage? I wonder...
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Offline jostber

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2013, 03:30:50 AM »
Would be great to hear more on this footage. :)

Offline StoogeKebab

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2014, 03:36:40 AM »
I just signed up on the forum and am very interested in the whereabouts of this and other footage of Son House. I am a blues musician myself and I plan to use the money from my recent successful record signing (my cover of death letter actually got me the deal coincidentally) to acquire access to film and interviews and such and make a documentary on Son House, featuring a variety of different performances and also, through this gain access to full films, and in the event of access to physical film, have it scanned professionally in HD or even 4K (my other primary source of income is doing this) for the future. Really looking forward to any potential developments on the subject of this film.
Confident that I'm probably almost definitely the youngest record label owner in my street

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Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: SON HOUSE NOW: An Afternoon With The Father Of Country Blues
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2014, 07:08:28 AM »
Wow! I didn't know record companies were still signing people who play blues and other minority-interest genres of music.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
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