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"Robert was supposed to change the lyrics, and he didn’t always do that"

ZEPPELIN TOOK MY BLUES AWAY Trading Cards – An Illustrated History Of Copyright Indiscretions!
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jun 25, 2014 - 30 comments

the generations and the blues

Elijah and Jeremiah
posted by flapjax at midnite on Feb 21, 2014 - 5 comments

feel so good this mornin' ... gon' be downloadin' all night long

"Folk Music in America" is a series of 15 LP records published by the Library of Congress between 1976 and 1978 to celebrate the bicentennial of the American Revolution. It was curated by librarian/collector-cum-discographer Richard K. Spottswood, and funded by a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. It's absolutely fantastic. And here it is.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Aug 10, 2013 - 21 comments

So long, Bobby 'Blue' Bland

It's time to say farewell to one of the great and legendary voices of American music. Mr Bobby 'Blue' Bland has died. With the perfect combination of muscle and tenderness, grit and sweetness, he gave us so many stellar performances over his long career. Here are but a few: Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City, The Way You Treated Me, Stormy Monday, Further Up the Road, St. James Infirmary, I'll Take Care of You, I Stand Accused, That's the Way Love Is, Ain't Nothing You Can Do... and the list goes on. Thanks for the music, Bobby Bland.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jun 23, 2013 - 44 comments

Let's take it back to the source

You might have heard at one time or another a 60s band called Canned Heat, who made a wee bit of a splash way back when with a little number called Going Up the Country. The song featured a simple but very catchy little flute riff between verses. If you ever wondered where that riff came from (not to mention the melodic contour of the tune itself) you need look no further than a 1928 recording by Henry Thomas, who played the flute melody on his quills, or, panpipes. The song was called Bull Doze Blues. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 24, 2013 - 37 comments

Before the world knew his name

In 1965 guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was doing the chitlin circuit with R&B acts, where he honed some of the guitar artistry as well as the showman skills that would soon set the world on fire. Here's a taste of that pre-rock star Jimi, as a member of the Buddy and Stacy revue, doing the Junior Walker classic Shotgun. If you want more pre-rock star Jimi, well, there's... [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 6, 2013 - 38 comments

Now the blues pile up on me, I brought it all on myself

Hey y'all! Here's your waaaaay laid back, deeeep Southern blues for the day, and contrary to the title, it's an easy pill to swallow. You dig that? OK, then, there's... [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 5, 2013 - 8 comments

Lookee here woman, what's the matter now?

Let yourself be carried along, floating nice and easy down that slow, lazy river of American collective unconscious, when you hear Jack Owens singing Jack Ain't Had No Water.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Apr 29, 2013 - 10 comments

3 examples of great African-American music, with commentary and analysis

Listening Guide to West End Blues by Louis Armstrong - Listening Guide to Backwater Blues by Bessie Smith - Listening Guide to Salt Peanuts by Dizzy Gillespie and His All Stars
posted by flapjax at midnite on Apr 11, 2013 - 6 comments

I believe, I believe my time ain’t long...

“Dust My Broom”: The Story of a Song
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 2, 2013 - 13 comments

Excello Records roundup

From the early fifties to the mid-seventies, the Nashville based Excello Records released the kind of raw blues, R&B, and rock & roll that maybe wasn't ever going to make it to the Top 40, but was full of grit and sweat and soul, for those who liked their American roots music unadulterated. Their most well-known release was probably Slim Harpo's Baby Scratch My Back, but rocking blues like Lazy Lester's I Hear You Knockin' and Leroy Washington's Wild Cherry are little unpolished gems which deserved their place on any self-respecting cheap bar's juke box. Lowdown blues like Lonesome Sundown's My Home Is a Prison also found a welcome home at Excello, as did tunes that blurred the distinctions between country/rockabilly and R&B, like Lazy Lester's I'm A Lover Not A Fighter, and latin-tinged swamp-rock chuggers like Charles Sheffield's It's Your Voodoo Working. Then there were the straight up country tunes (reminiscent of that classic early Johnny Cash sound) like Al Ferrier's I'm the Man, or rough-hewn, raucous rockabilly like Johnny Jano's Havin' A Whole Lotta Fun. In short, Excello Records was a microcosm of the sound of the South, and though their artists mostly never achieved much in the way of wider national fame, they are an important part of the patchwork quilt of American pop music history. The tunes included in this post are just the tip of the iceberg: there's so much to explore from this one amazing little label. Happy searching!
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 26, 2012 - 7 comments

Bluesman Tommy Johnson gets some respect

Legendary Mississippi Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson is finally getting a headstone on his grave, more than a half century after his death. Recommended celebratory listening, then, is this 9-song YouTube playlist, which starts out with "Cool Drink of Water Blues" (a shining example of Johnson's quavering falsetto - "looooooord, lordy looooord") and continuing with pre-war blues classics like his "Big Road Blues", "Big Fat Mama Blues", "Canned Heat Blues" and more.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Oct 25, 2012 - 9 comments

kickass Jesus music, y'all

The Rev. Charlie Jackson of Louisiana (1932–2006) was a purveyor of some of the rawest, grittiest blues music about Jesus that you've ever heard. In a TV variety show appearance on his one and only concert tour of Europe, the Reverend maintained a warm and friendly manner through a somewhat condescending interview, and went on to perform Wrapped Up, Tangled Up in Jesus with some backing vocal help from the legendary El Dorados.
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 19, 2012 - 11 comments

The Treniers

Do you know The Treniers? Back in the 40s and 50s, they straddled the lines between jump blues, swing, early rock'n'roll, jazz dance, hep jive and comedy. They were a whole hella fun, and they happened to be the backing band for what must be the best dance performance Jerry Lewis ever gave the world. That particular clip, BTW, from a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis "Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1954, is purported to be the first rock'n'roll performance on national television, and it may well have been.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 28, 2012 - 14 comments

RL in '78, TJ in '83

Oh yeah. There he is, Mr. RL Burnside, in the year of nineteen and seventy eight, Independence, Mississippi, porch fulla kids, singin' about when his first wife left him, million-dollar smile on his face. And there he is again, with his guitar and amp, out by the barb wire fence, a poor boy a long way from home. These two little gems just added to the Alan Lomax Archive YouTube channel, where you'll also find some wonderful newly-uploaded clips (filmed in 1983) from fretless banjo plucker Tommy Jarrell, the toast of Toast, North Carolina.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 15, 2012 - 9 comments

Etta Baker, American musician

Guitarist Etta Baker worked in a textile mill, raised nine children, and didn’t take her music to the stage until she was 60 years old. Fortunately for all of us, she continued to play and record right up until her death in 2006 at the age of 93.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 12, 2012 - 11 comments

Drink up, y'all!

New Year's Eve is fast approaching, and for lots of folks that means... drinking. Plenty of drinking. And since there's no shortage of singers and songwriters who've had a little something to say about that particular topic, maybe some of the following tunes can serve as an appropriate soundtrack to your own joyous (or not?) imbibing of spirits. For example, there's... Jimmy Liggins with his succinct rendition of Drunk, and there's... [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 30, 2011 - 67 comments

my baby left me, start'd me drinkin' on christmas day

When most folks think of "Christmas music" it's doubtful that their next thought will be "the blues", but along with "my baby" or "bad luck" or "leavin' in the morning", bluesmen have long included Christmas as lyric inspiration. Which bluesmen? Well... Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddie King, Blind Blake, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Little Milton, B.B. King, Smokey Hogg, Charley Jordan, and last but certainly not least, one of the most influential early bluesmen, Blind Lemon Jefferson.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 20, 2011 - 23 comments

Noah Lewis, blowin' that harp

The year was 1929, and Noah Lewis was blowing the hell outta the harmonica. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 19, 2011 - 7 comments

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hooker!

Happy birthday John Lee Hooker! Let's celebrate by listening to some of your older tunes! "Gonna take you down by the riverside, gonna tie your hands, gonna tie your feet, got the mad man blues" ... "Now the war is over, and I'm broke and I ain't got a dime" ... "You know I'm a crawling king snake, baby, and I rule my nest" ... "Gonna get up in the mornin', goin' down highway 51" ... "Well I rolled and I tumbled, babe, I cried the whole night long" ... "I feel so good, let me do the boogaloo"
posted by flapjax at midnite on Aug 22, 2011 - 19 comments

from hoodoo to voodoo

The hoodoo lady and the hoodoo man had a voodoo child. Uh huh, yes, yes, voodoo voodoo.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jul 18, 2011 - 34 comments

she's got her own thing

An elderly woman, not famous, just someone on the street in Belarus, playing her own unique brand of blues. With a light bulb.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jan 6, 2011 - 39 comments

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

back in the day...

Blues Houseparty is a fun, entertaining and highly recommended 57 minute documentary that takes us into a Virginia houseparty of 1989, where the assembled Piedmont blues and gospel musicians and their friends pick guitars, sing, dance and engagingly reminisce on the houseparties of old. Amidst hearty laughs, barbecue and general good times, the guests recount personal memories of fun and rowdiness, corn liquor, 500-pound hogs, the devil's music and the Lord's music. There's a whole lot of cultural history on display here, a slice of black American life that is all but gone now. The mood is infectious, to say the least, and the music just keeps getting better and better throughout the film. The next best thing to being there!
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 10, 2010 - 13 comments

the devil's music

Happy Halloween, y'all! The Devil has some music he'd like you to hear today... Me and the Devil Blues - Devil Is Watching You - Devil's Got The Blues - The Devil's Woman - The Evil Devil Blues - Devil Got My Woman.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Oct 31, 2010 - 24 comments

Happy 100th to the Wolf!

Chester Arthur Burnett , better known as Howlin' Wolf, was born 100 years ago today. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jun 10, 2010 - 34 comments

Old-time songster, Henry Thomas

Born in Big Sandy, Texas in 1874, Henry Thomas was one of the oldest black musician who ever recorded for the phonograph companies of the 1920′s and his music represents a rare opportunity to hear what American black folk music must have sounded like in the last decade of the 19th century. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 11, 2010 - 21 comments

Ishman Bracey, Delta bluesman, 1901-1970

The Victor Talking Machine Co. of Camden, New Jersey is proud to present the following Orthophonic Recordings by bluesman Mr. Ishman Bracey: Leavin' Town Blues - Trouble Hearted Blues - Brown Mamma Blues and Saturday Blues. And remember, for best results, use Victor Needles. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 6, 2010 - 1 comment

Tampa Red

Hey kids, let's go way back, and spend a little quality time with Tampa Red, shall we? Cause, you know, you can't get that stuff no more, and if you missed him, you missed a good man.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 20, 2009 - 7 comments

Just three old blues tunes, that's all.

Ramblin' Thomas: No Job Blues (1928), J.D. Short: Lonesome Swamp Rattlesnake (1930), Bo Carter: My Baby (1940). [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Nov 28, 2008 - 3 comments

John Lee Hooker and the fine art of translation

You know, I want you to pick up on this. You know, these lyrics are something else. Just dig this. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Nov 21, 2008 - 20 comments

Martha Copeland, 20s-era blues singer

Though Bessie Smith is regarded as the queen of the early blues singers, Martha Copeland was singing the blues and its variants (and doing a fine job of it) back in the 20s as well. Head over to Internet Archive to hear Martha sing her versions of two of the tunes that made Bessie so famous: I Ain't Got Nobody and St. Louis Blues, the latter with backing vocal chorus from the Hall Johnson Choir. Check out her Dying Crap Shooter's Blues and Sorrow Valley Blues. And there's plenty of Martha Copeland goodness for your ears (RealPlayer) here and here. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Oct 26, 2008 - 9 comments

Mississippi Fred McDowell

When the Rolling tones recorded an old blues tune called You Gotta Move on Sticky Fingers back in 1971, it was another instance of a tune by an old black man, known only to blues aficionados, suddenly becoming part of the consciousness of a gazillion people who probably never would've heard it otherwise. But let's pay a little visit to the man who originally wrote and recorded the song, Mississippi Fred McDowell, shall we? Here's a jumping version of Shake 'em On Down, his haunting Going Down to the River, the gospel blues of When I Lay My Burden Down, Highway 61, My Babe (you'll note the similarity to "This Train"), Louise, and his version of the American folk/blues standard John Henry. And don't miss the beautiful 1969 documentary featuring McDowell at Internet Archive, Blues Maker, which features some superlative acoustic performances, and footage of the people and environment of the Mississippi delta country.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 23, 2008 - 40 comments

Lookin' for a home...

In the little town of Enterprise, Alabama, there stands a bizarre statue that would make any card-carrying surrealist proud: an archetypical Greek goddess raises her arms toward heaven and holds high above her head... an enormous insect. Of course, it's the boll weevil. That cotton-eatin' critter inspired not only the world's only monument to an agricultural pest, but some great tunes as well, from a wide range of artists. [note: see hoverovers for link descriptions] [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jul 15, 2008 - 35 comments

Johnny Temple

Those familiar with the plaintive falsetto of Delta blues great Skip James will surely hear Skip's influence in the much lesser-known Johnny Temple's Evil Devil Blues, recorded in 1935, which features some delightfully unexpected melodic twists. And though Johnny Temple "never achieved stardom", he does have a Wikipedia page. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jul 5, 2008 - 9 comments

BPDG

Baby please don't go, baby please don't go, baby please don't go down to New Orleans, I love you so, baby please don't go.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jun 12, 2008 - 24 comments

A tale of two Sonny Boys

It's just gotta make you feel so good to hear (and see) Sonny Boy Williamson sing and blow the harp. Keep in mind, of course, this is Sonny Boy Williamson II we're talking about here. Yes, there were two harp-blowing Sonny Boys, and here's a documentary on the legendary Sonny Boy the first: Part 1 and Part 2. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jun 3, 2008 - 11 comments

Hey, one string's all you really need.

One fine old day in old LA, in the year of nineteen and sixty, one Frederick Usher met Eddie "One String" Jones, heard him lay down some deep blues on his diddley bow, and was so taken with Jones' monochord masterpieces that he ran home, grabbed his tape recorder and recorded Jones in the alley. One other recording session ensued soon thereafter, which was released as an LP in 1964. By that time, however, the mysterious Eddie Jones (if that was even his real name) was long gone, and was never heard from again. [NOTE: see hoverovers for link descriptions] [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on May 24, 2008 - 22 comments

Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old

Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old, a film by Alan Lomax, takes a loving look at the talents and wisdom of elderly musicians, singers, and story-tellers from southern American folk traditions. All the musicians featured in the film have soul and musical energy to spare: great, great performances and engaging reminiscences make this film a real treat. Please see the [more inside] for a collection of links to several of the outstanding performers featured in the film. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Mar 25, 2008 - 15 comments

The mysterious Kid Bailey

Kid Bailey was a Mississippi Delta bluesman blessed with the kind of slightly gravel-tinged voice that emanates authority. His recording career was a very short one, however, consisting of precisely one day, and yielding precisely two songs. Very little is known about Bailey himself, and the identity of the 2nd accompanying guitarist on his only known recording remains a mystery, though there has been some some speculation. I've been doing a little speculating myself, regarding some of Bailey's lyrics, and any of you blues linguists who might want to help fill in the blanks, please see the [more inside]. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Feb 21, 2008 - 16 comments

Got my mojo working.

Got My Mojo Working was written by the little-known Preston Foster and first recorded in 1956 by the only slightly better-known Ann Cole. It was, of course, the Muddy Waters version that became the hit and a signature song for him: he sang it throughout his entire career, and it has become one of the best-known blues standards of all time. The song itself just has a lot of mojo, you know, so naturally plenty of others have covered it through the years: a small sampling from the YouTubes would include Carl Perkins, Willie Dixon, Elvis Presley, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, JJ Cale, Pinetop Perkins and Louis Jordan. Hell, even Bobby Darin couldn't resist the mojo!. NOTE: Check hoverovers for link descriptions. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jan 6, 2008 - 19 comments

All the street's a stage.

Chicago's Maxwell Street Market wasn't just a market: it was a stage that played host to many an exuberantly ragged, hard grinding blues performance. It was lively, eccentric, ecstatic. You could get there on The Happy Bus. And of course, one of the greatest musicals in the history of American cinema paid homage to the street, as the setting for a fabulous performance by John Lee Hooker of his iconic "Boom Boom". (Note: See mouseovers for link descriptions.) [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jan 4, 2008 - 19 comments

Woke up this mornin', had those MySpace blues...

Each of the following MySpace Music pages features bios and/or photos and/or videos and/or miscellaneous related materials and/or up to four songs by each of the following Delta Blues (and related) artists: Ishmon Bracey, Mance Lipscomb, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Charley Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip James, Bukka White, Blind Willie McTell, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Johnson, Babe Turner, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Howling Wolf, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Tommy Johnson, Reverend Gary Davis, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi John Hurt, Ramblin' Willard Thomas, John Lee Hooker and Oscar Buddy Woods. And here's some general Blues pages, featuring various artists: Delta Blues, Pre-War Blues and Blind Blues. You see, Delta Blues lovers, I comb MySpace so you don't have to! [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Oct 18, 2007 - 22 comments

Furry sings. The blues.

A little over 30 years ago singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell had her limo driver conduct her to the humble home of bluesman Furry Lewis. Joni was out to cop a little inspiration, which she apparently did, as she subsequently named a song after him. At that point, the name of Furry Lewis was suddenly made known to millions of people who'd never heard of him before. Perhaps a few of those folks even sought out Lewis' recordings. Course, back then there were no CD reissues, no YouTube, no mp3s floating around in the ether. But you can check out Mister Furry Lewis now: no need to have your limousine take you to the ghetto! Oh, but as far as Joni's tune, well, Furry wasn't all that pleased about it.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 30, 2007 - 48 comments

Society Bluesman, Josh White

Somewhere along your musical journeys you might've heard something by Mr. Josh White (1914-1969). He was a bluesman, but one with the kind of smooth and polished delivery (and some charming novelty tunes) that made him a favorite on the wider, national pop/folk scene. He was pretty sexy, too. He didn't shy away from political/racial themes, either. Unsurprisingly, he ran afoul of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare years, and his name was placed on their Commie blacklist. Some few decades later his image graced a US postage stamp. Thanks for the music, Josh White.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 14, 2007 - 24 comments

You may not know the man, but you know the songs.

There's a whole lotta Mefiers interested in the upcoming Led Zeppelin reunion, and it got me to thinking, let's pay a little visit to the Poet Laureate of the blues, Mr. Willie Dixon. After all, without him, there wouldn't have been a Whole Lotta Love, or a Bring It On Home, or... hell, there might not have been any Zep at all... His music has been interpreted and reinterpreted by an astonishing number of musicians. The man wrote a whole lotta songs. Oh, and, he played a little bit of bass, too. He was a whole lotta great.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 13, 2007 - 28 comments

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