William Brown was a man who recorded a handful of blues on Sadie Beck's Plantation on July 16, 1942 for Alan Lomax
. Once thought to be the same man as the Willie Brown who played with Son House and Charley Patton--and was immortalized in Robert Johnson's Crossroad Blues
--the consensus now is that William Brown was a different man, about whom
we know next to nothing. Certainly, the handful of recordings we have that feature him supports this. The Willie Brown who recorded Future Blues
and M & O Blues
was an archetypal Delta bluesman, with both songs being stripped down versions of Charley Patton's Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues
, among others, and Pony Blues
, respectively. The William Brown
who recorded Mississippi Blues
, Ragged and Dirty
and Make Me a Pallet on the Floor
plays and sings nothing like that Willie Brown. That we know nothing about him and never heard any more of his music is one of the many tragedies of recorded blues.Mississippi Blues
was tabbed early on by Stefan Grossman, resulting with it being the Stairway to Heaven
of Mississippi blues, according to John Miller
at Weenie Campbell, and, by a variety of sources, it is a song regarded as one Delta blues everyone must learn.
But, although, recorded in the Delta, it is in fact the least Delta blues of all Delta blues, being based on a piano instrumental
, Hard Times
by Charlie Spand or , possibly, Sunrise Serenade
by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, depending upon who you read. Weenie Campbell's forum leans toward Spand, for what it is worth.
And, as for his Ragged and Dirty
, that seems to be based upon Sleepy John Estes Broken Hearted, Ragged and Dirty, Too
. Which is a masterpiece in itself.
Whoever, he was, and which song inspired him, Mississippi Blues
is a wonder, far more sophisticated and jazzy than anything else Lomax recorded. So, who was William Brown and where did he learn to play like that ? We will likely never know. But, at any rate, almost all of his recorded output can be found at The Roots Music Listening Room Listener's Request page
, along with one Worried Life Blues
by David Edwards--that is, the late David "Honeyboy" Edwards.
(By the way, because of Willie Blackwell and William Brown'sFour O'Clock Blues
, I came to be a grower of Four O'Clock Flowers
Tabs for Mississipi Blues
can be found at Olav Torvund's Guitar Site
and SteveMcWilliams tab section at Acoustic Finger Style
On CD, it can be found on the Library of Congress lp Negro Blues and Hollers
, reissued by Rounder Records as well as on Document Records' Mississippi Blues & Gospel 1934-1942
. Both of which seem to have gone out of print for the time being, alas. So, get thee to a used record store for those. Both are well worth having.