In the 1980s, R. Crumb produced a set of trading cards called The Heroes of the Blues. [more inside]
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. [more inside]
“Honeyboy” Edwards, the last of the original American delta bluesmen, died last night. [more inside]
Tim Hardin : underrated singer-songwriter of the '60s and '70s, or the most underrated singer-songwriter of the '60s and '70s? Known mostly for more famous singers covering his work, his songs were sung by a plethora of people, from Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Rod Stewart to Astrud Gilberto, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and Echo & the Bunnymen, while he remained a very little-known but widely loved figure in folk music. He music could be painfully honest (Reason to Believe, Don't Make Promises), or slow and hypnotizing (Misty Roses). Sadly, 6 days after his 39th birthday, he died from a heroin overdose in 1980. [more inside]
John Hammond Jr. has been keeping classic blues alive through nearly 5 decades of expressive performing and recording. He was named to the Blues Hall of Fame this year - here's a sampling why: Walking Blues performed in Paris, 2004; Come Into My Kitchen performed at at Fur Peace Ranch, 2009. [more inside]
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"
Jimmy Murphy was a great country musician who has had less recognition than this MeFi'r feels is justified. Some of his songs are irreverent (but with precedence). Others a bit poignant, if in his signature upbeat kind of way. The man cooks. "When you get salvation you'll know it by it's tone"
Say, you wanna hear a sad song? Eddie Hinton was a guitar player, vocalist, and songwriter from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Co-writer of one of the tenderest, sexiest hits of the late 60s, Dusty Springfield's Breakfast in Bed, Hinton was a key member of the world-famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971 (turning down an invitation from Duane Allman to be a member of the Allman Brothers Band) who worked as a studio musician on albums by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, the Staples Singers, and Toots Hibbert, but his early success was sidetracked by mental problems, booze, and drugs. [more inside]
Benjamin Darvill, a.k.a. Son of Dave, is a one-man band of sorts, combining harmonica, vocals, beat-boxing, a rattle and foot-stomping to create his own infectious form of blues. Darvill, a Canadian formerly with Crash Test Dummies, has released four albums to date as Son of Dave, his latest and best being 'Shake A Bone', recorded and mixed by Steve Albini in Chicago, the title track used briefly in an episode of Breaking Bad. [more inside]
RIP Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins - "It is with deep sadness that we announce Pinetop Perkins passed away peacefully at home on Monday, March 21, 2011 in Austin, TX at the age of 97." One of the last great Mississippi bluesmen, having played with Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, and for a number of years, the great Muddy Waters. Pinetop & friends at his 95th birthday; Pinetop Perkins with Willie Big Eyed Smith; Muddy Waters with Pinetop Perkins, 1970s [more inside]
Mississippi Bluesman Big Jack Johnson has died. His performances in the documentary Deep Blues are brilliant. He was last surviving major performer featured in the film.
The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins A 1967 Les Blank film of Lightnin Hopkins visiting his hometown of Centerville, TX "…a gorgeous 31-minute poem of a movie, a series of snapshots from his life as well as a look at an era fast disappearing…Watching the film is something of a revelation, at least if you ever had a doubt where the blues came from." [more inside]
He began his musical career as Georgia Tom, playing barrelhouse piano in one of Al Capone’s Chicago speakeasies... [more inside]
Nabokov Butterfly Theory Is Vindicated "Nabokov came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves. Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right."
An elderly woman, not famous, just someone on the street in Belarus, playing her own unique brand of blues. With a light bulb.
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]
Originally published in Guitar Player magazine in 1990, here is Jas Obrect's interview: Ry Cooder – Talking Country Blues and Gospel -- I only wish it was online when I made my Dark was the Night post. Now is it is part of the Jas Obrect Music Archive, where you can also find ''Rollin’ and Tumblin' '': The Story of a Song (See also Hambone Wille Newbern - Roll and Tumble Blues for the first recording of those lyrics) -- not to mention Jerry Garcia: The Complete 1985 Interview and Bob Dylan’s ''Highway 61 Revisited'': Mike Bloomfield v. Johnny Winter and Blues Origins: Spanish Fandango and Sebastopol among many, many others. There is quite the cornucopia of interesting, informative music articles there. Check it out--you will dig it.
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!
I lost my little [noun]
I lost my [adjective] girl too
I [verb] just everything
So [adjective] I messed with you
Create your own song of sadness and regret with the Blues Maker.
I lost my [adjective] girl too
I [verb] just everything
So [adjective] I messed with you
Create your own song of sadness and regret with the Blues Maker.
A sweet pair of vintage clips from blues greats, both born on this day: Robert Nighthawk playing on a Maxwell Street stoop, c. 1964; and Brownie McGhee playing with his partner Sonny Terry at Newport Folk Festival, 1963. [more inside]
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.
His first recording of it from the late sixties. A video filmed in 1978 of Burnside playing Jumper on the Line outside his home in Independence, MS. It's part of the Alan Lomax Archive. R.L. plays it acoustic in 1984. R.L.'s son Duwayne plays it this summer with Kenny Brown, R.L.'s former sideman.
In 1969 Boz Scaggs released a self-titled album featuring a performance of "Loan Me A Dime". The only problem was the song credited as Scaggs' was writen by blues man Fenton Robinson, resulting in legal battles. The nationwide distribution of Robinson's own version of the song was aborted by a freak snow storm hitting Chicago "It became a big hit for Boz, but Fenton was being robbed of his moment of fame, as well as the dollars that should have gone along with it. It resulted in a big legal battle, which Fenton eventually won." [more inside]
Performances [MLYT] from the 2010 Old-Time Piano Championship in Peoria. Featuring early March, Cakewalk, Ragtime, Boogie, Stride, Blues, Novelty, Jazz, Classical, and popular song styles from before 1930.
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]
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]
Folk America: Excellent BBC 3-part documentary tracing folk music from the '20s to the folk revival of the '60s, encompassing the depression and the civil rights era. part 1: Birth of a Nation (59.21) part 2: This Land is Your Land (59:30) part 3: Blowin' in the Wind (58:49) [more inside]
Truckin' My Blues Away is an hour long audio documentary on older Southern blues singers featuring Little Freddie King, Captain Luke, and others. It promotes the work of the Music Maker Relief Foundation which supports traditional musicians (previously). There is an accompanying slide show and the producers are working on another documentary, Still Singing the Blues.
Bobby Charles 1938-2010. Songwriter, musician's musician and cultural treasure, he died on last Thursday in Abbeville,Lousiana. In the 1950s, he wrote Fats Domino's Walking to New Orleans, Bill Haley and the Comet's See You Later, Alligator and recorded for Chess records. His eponymous Bearsville album recorded in Woodstock in 1972 has been described as the best Band album released under another name.(Check out Small Town Talk there.) He appeared as well in the Band's farewell concert filmed as The Last Waltz. He made an enormous contribution to American popular music. [more inside]
B.B. King plays to a New York prison audience on Thanksgiving Day 1972 "How Blue Can You Get." Plus, bonus SRV inside. [more inside]
Voice Throwin' Blues: On June 14, 1929 in Richmond, Indiana, Walter "Buddy Boy" Hawkins recorded the first, best and possibly only ventriloquist blues song.
Jerry Jazz Musician is "a website devoted to jazz and American civilization." Individual pages have been linked a few times on MeFi, but it's high time this terrific site got its own post. Anyone interested in jazz (or blues, or any of the related topics they frequently cover, like Ralph Ellison or Romare Bearden) should bookmark it pronto. A sample, more or less at random: the life and photography of Milt Hinton. (Via The Daily Growler, itself an excellent source for informed and passionate discussion of music, NYC, and life in general; the linked post finishes with a tribute to that fine pianist Terry Pollard.)
Morning rain keeps on falling. Freddie King's classic performed by Joanne Shaw Taylor. [more inside]
Chanteur puissant à la voix rocailleuse. And here is bluestab's blog And here, via Babelfish is bluestab's blog in an English of sorts. Then, while, looking for mp3s to match the tabs, I came across the universe of African American history and culture that is AfricanAfrican aka NegroArtist.com, a site so big it has two URLs. [Billy Mays] But, wait--that's not all! [/Billy Mays] [more inside]
The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
Laura Mae Gross, founder and owner of Babe's and Ricky's Inn in Leimert Park (a gem of an artistic community in Los Angeles), died this past Saturday. [more inside]
Aurora "Rory" Block has staked her claim to be one of America's top acoustic blues women, an interpreter of the great Delta blues singers, a slide guitarist par excellence, and also a talented songwriter on her own account. - AllMusic
Amazing to see how differently Shakespeare's work has been dealt with in music: there is Jerry Lee Lewis doing a blues on Othello. David Gilmour, former Pink Floyd lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, turned Sonnet 18 into a touchingly beautiful ballad. The Metal Shakespeare Company wrote a heavy metal song about Hamlet (III/1), "To bleed or not to bleed". And yes, there is Shakespeare rap, too: William Shatner (the very same!) raps about Caesar and British rapper Akala thinks he is a reincarnation of the bard. Last but not least, the Beatles tried their luck at Shakespeare, too (no music this time): they did a skit on the famous Pyramus and Thisbe scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream (very rare footage!).
Sugar Pie DeSanto says, "I like to sing blues, R&B, and pop and I think I do them pretty well". [more inside]
John Campbell was a blues guitarist from Shreveport, Louisiana, mostly known for his skill with the slide guitar. His career was cut short in 1993, on the brink of national and international fame, when he died of a heart attack at the age of 41. Over on youtube, user louisianahaywire has uploaded some live footage from a 1986 performance: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.
Ahmet Ertegun was profiled by George W. S. Trow in The New Yorker in a classic piece back in 1978. Ertegun was the son of the Turkish ambassador to the US and he remained behind in D.C. studying medieval philosophy at Georgetown. Instead of devoting himself to his studies he founded Atlantic Records with his friend Herb Abramson. Trow charted how Ertegun moved from tramping through muddy, Louisiana fields in search of hot new sounds to the whirl of Studio 54. Below the cut are links to the songs mentioned in the article, as best as I could find, in the order in which they appear. [more inside]
...The narrative of the blues got hijacked by rock ’n’ roll, which rode a wave of youth consumers to global domination. Back behind the split, there was something else: a deeper, riper source. Many people who have written about this body of music have noticed it. Robert Palmer called it Deep Blues. We’re talking about strains within strains, sure, but listen to something like Ishman Bracey’s ''Woman Woman Blues,'' his tattered yet somehow impeccable falsetto when he sings, ''She got coal-black curly hair.'' Songs like that were not made for dancing. Not even for singing along. They were made for listening. For grown-ups. They were chamber compositions. Listen to Blind Willie Johnson’s "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.'' It has no words. It’s hummed by a blind preacher incapable of playing an impure note on the guitar. We have to go against our training here and suspend anthropological thinking; it doesn’t serve at these strata. The noble ambition not to be the kind of people who unwittingly fetishize and exoticize black or poor-white folk poverty has allowed us to remain the kind of people who don’t stop to wonder whether the serious treatment of certain folk forms as essentially high- or higher-art forms might have originated with the folk themselves.From Unknown Bards: The blues becomes apparent to itself by one John Jeremiah Sullivan. I came across it while browsing Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers On The Albums That Changed Their Lives. For Sullivan, that album was American Primitive, Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897 - 1939), which is my favorite CD of the year. Which came out in 2005 while I just got around to buying it this year. Foolish me. It is a piece of art in itself in every respect--all CDs should have such production values. [more inside]