Sleepy John Estes with Yank Rachell - Mailman Blues & African African
April 5, 2009 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Sleepy John Estes with Yank Rachel - Mailman Blues
More about Sleepy John Estes
From Stephan Wirz - American Music: Illustrated Sleepy John Estes discography
See also The Tennesseean Encyclopedia - Sleepy John Estes

And here are 23 mp3s of Sleepy John Estes 1929-1940 from African African, an online encyclopedia of all things African-American, that for its Rare Recordings and Video page alone--featuring videos and mp3s of civil rights pioneers like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Angela Davis; vintage films about Negro life from the 1930s through the 1960s and leading to copyright free streaming mp3 pages of select vintage jazz and blues singers like John Adam Estes, which is but a tiny slice of all the African African site offers--is best of the web worthy in its own self.

See also Meeting Yank Rachel by Ron Hacker

In a similar vein, my friend Jack Cook took a trip down south when he was 19 and met everyone still alive who recorded a pre-war country blues 78. Jack's encounters with Furry Lewis and Sleepy John Estes on that trip are American Splendor style worthy of illustration by someone like R. Crumb.

When Jack meet Sleepy John, John was living in a shack, thought the boards of the walls of which could been seen daylight, with his wife and children, furnished with a bed, a color TV and a pile of clothes. No one in Brownsville at the time seemed to know who he was. He later was moved to a low income apartment with solid walls and indoor plumbing, which is now preserved as a historical monument.

Jack also stayed with Yank Rachel in Chicago on that trip and remembers Yank as one of the kindest and most generous people he ever met. He remembers bedding down on a sofa in the TV room and noodling on his National over Rollin' and Tumblin' on slide in open G.

Yank stopped in to check on Jack and his friend and allowed as to how he hadn't heard that one for awhile--Yank, who'd played with Hambone Willie Newbern, the song's originator, in his very younger days--and took the guitar with a 'please' and then meditatively ran through about five choruses, each a unique variation as different from the last as the one before, and all this done without a hint of showing off. Jack recalls it as a marvelous moment.

Jack also recalls Sleepy John as being exactly that--sleepy. He was narcoleptic, not there, dozing most of the time he wasn't playing. It would take him aawhile to respond to a question. But when he pick up a guitar and began to sing--one never heard the blues sung so deeply. That was when he came alive and more than that, a force of nature.

Son House was like this when he sang as well. It was like he became possessed.
posted by y2karl (9 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Marvelous post. Thank you, Y2Karl. A request for Skip James-only post next, perhaps?
posted by Haruspex at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2009

Y2karl is back!
posted by wheelieman at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2009

And he's got the goods! Nice stuff as always, y2karl.
posted by languagehat at 8:34 AM on April 6, 2009

Here are some more links about Yank Rachell.

From the The James ''Yank'' Rachell Tribute CD page:


Also, Yank was one of the best parts of 's first film, Louie Bluie, which introduced us to the musician and artist extraordinare Howard Armstrong

Upon review: Aw shucks.

Carry on....
posted by y2karl at 8:56 AM on April 6, 2009

He later was moved to a low income apartment with solid walls and indoor plumbing, which is now preserved as a historical monument.

I was wrong. They saved his original shack. Here is the ffront and inside of that shack where Sleepy John lived when Jack and Samuel Charters visited i 1974 and 1959, respectively. Jack said that it was furnished with a TV, bed, and a big pile of clothes on the floor.

There was a bit of family drama at the Estes' household when Jack was there. I am not at liberty to repeat it here but it is worthy of an American Splendor style treatment by the likes of, say, R. Crumb--I will say that.
posted by y2karl at 9:11 AM on April 6, 2009

Amazing post about one of my favorite obscure bluesmen.
Thank you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:18 AM on April 6, 2009

thought the boards of the walls of which

...through the boards of which one could see daylight.
posted by y2karl at 5:53 PM on April 6, 2009

Yank was one of the best parts of 's first film,


/looks significantly at the phrase

/shuffles feet a bit

(as you know i love this post, y2k, bless your giant yellow head)
posted by mwhybark at 7:24 PM on April 6, 2009

's first film,

OK, that should read

Terry--director of Ghost World and Bad Santa among others--Zwigoff's first film.

You have been corrected. My bad.
posted by y2karl at 4:51 AM on April 7, 2009

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