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DeFord Bailey, American musician

Within that small and very specific sub-genre of musical Americana identifiable as the train imitation, there is one amazing performance, from 1926, that set the standard: Pan-American Blues. The man who recorded it did a fine and fanciful job of evoking the sounds of a fox chase as well, and his rhythmically compelling solo rendition of John Henry stands as testament to the potential for musical greatness achievable by one man and a humble harmonica. He was an African-American who was a founding member of the Grand Ole Opry, a musical institution that we rarely (as in, never) today associate with black people, and his touching and tragic story, documented here, is one that will be of interest to those concerned with the racial, economic and socio-cultural history of American popular music. He stands at one of its more unexpected intersections: his name is DeFord Bailey. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 30, 2010 - 15 comments

 
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