Abner Jay
August 30, 2007 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Folks, don't worry about energy crisis. Because Standard Oil, Shell, Gulf, Mobil, Texaco, Amoco, Esso, Sunoco, Exxon, Nixon, Standard Oil, General Motors, Chrysler, George Wallace, and Ford is not the backbone of America. The backbone of America is a mule and cotton. [mp3] Bluesman, outsider artist, vaudevillian: Abner Jay was a real One Man Band and, as he put it, "the last great Southern black minstrel show". Some more mp3s: [Cocaine Blues, excerpt]; [I'm So Depressed, excerpt]; [The Reason Young People Use Drugs, full]
posted by billysumday (8 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
outsider artist how?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:34 PM on August 30, 2007

Less art brut and more artist-outside-the-mainstream, I suppose. He is often referred to as an outside artist, and though I suppose that doesn't make him one, the fact that collectors of outsider music have embraced his albums could be seen as justification. Also, "touring the country in his portable 'log cabin', complete with its own PA system, from where he would perform and sell cassettes and LPs, when not in residence at Tom Flynn's Plantation Restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia" sort of hints at his status, etiher perceived or justified, as an outsider artist.
posted by billysumday at 12:42 PM on August 30, 2007

I played "The Backbone of America" at one of our recent music nights, and one of the other guys there said, and I quote, "That's the hickest thing I've ever heard."
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2007

Standard Oil twice.
And it's Sunoco not Sunoco.

(Nifty tho.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:51 PM on August 30, 2007

billysunday, thank you so much for introducing me to this delightful musician - I really enjoyed this post.

WMFU's Beware of the Blog quoting liner notes from one of Abner Jay's LPs:

"Abner Jay, the first of the original black musicians. The only electric six string banjo you'll ever hear. Abner says the original thirteen are dead, and he is half dead. For forty two years Abner has been playing banjo, drums, harmonica, and singing all at the same time. Born in south Georgia. When Abner was born his Pa kept the birth records on the side of the house, the house burned down, the birth records were destroyed, and Abner hasn't been able to find out just how old he is. Abner is now enjoying his seventh wife, and he claims she is just about wore out too. His worst tragedy was the first time he got married. NOW ITS BUCK DANCING TIME!"
posted by madamjujujive at 4:06 PM on August 30, 2007

Standard Oil twice.
And it's Sunoco not Sunoco.

He says Standard Oil twice in the song. And I'm not sure what the difference between Sunoco and Sunoco is. This is the Sunoco I assumed he was talking about.
posted by billysumday at 4:53 PM on August 30, 2007

I picked up that Abner Jay CD ("One Man Band", seen in the "the last great Southern black minstrel show" link) a couple of years ago at a little used record store in Osaka. Recommended! It doesn't include the Standard Oil song, though, and I'm really happy to hear it now, thanks to your post, billysumday. I wasn't surprised to hear him break into the Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home", followed by "Oh Susanna", then "Old Folks At Home" and finally "Old Black Joe": it makes perfect sense, really. This man was a link to that distant era of American music: heck, he actually even uses the "gwine" pronunciation in "Oh Susanna".

His mellow banjo sound and rhythm really harken back to the earliest banjo styles of America, of the minstrel era: it's a really archaic style. Same holds for his singing style. And he was a no-nonsense one man band: not making a big splashy show out of it, just keeping a nice steady beat for himself to sing and play over.

And I think Dylan copped his whole harmonica style from Abner Jay.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:03 PM on August 30, 2007

A film portrait of the last Black medicine-show performer, Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson, with harmonica songs, tales of hoboing, buckdances, and a live medicine-show performance.
posted by hortense at 6:39 PM on August 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

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