Gabriel Brown and His Guitar
June 23, 2009 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Two 78 sides by Gabriel Brown (yt)

Gabriel Brown is one of those great unknowns of the blues whose story seems way too odd to be ignored, but he garnered only a scant paragraph in Edward M. Komara's otherwise excellent Encyclopedia of the Blues:
    A strangely anonymous artist with no real discernible roots and a sophisticated background that that belies his concentration on slick country blues. Brown won first prize in the St. Louis National Folk festival of 1934 and was recorded for the Library of Congress. He became an actor, working with Orson Wells, among others and was taken up by record company owner Joe Davis. who recorded him extensively from 1943 to 1953 before he reportedly died in a boating accident.
He achieved the notice of such famed field recorders as Alan Lomax and Zora Neal Hurston1, no tin ears themselves. His professional association with the formidable character of Joe Davis2 alone should have made him more visible to the legions of blues collectors out there, but sadly, he still languishes in the shadows as an unknown sideman. Collections of his music, a scant two records on the UK labels Flyright and JSP, do little to give him the respect he deserves. His loping guitar work brings to mind the work of Pink Anderson, and Lightning Hopkins, and his original songs have lyrics that compete with the best of the Delta Musicians.

1: Some of her recordings are available here (previously), and it should be noted he worked with her and Orson Welles in the controversial Federal Theater Project in Harlem.
(object OP10, on this page is a photo of him in costume, sadly not online, and here is a poster of the production.)

2: An example story of the exploits of Joe Davis here
posted by 1f2frfbf (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Two more sides here and here, on my personal YouTube account.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:01 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

A magnificent post, with style and imagination and lots of research. And some truly obscure blues, which makes my day. Thank you!
posted by MinPin at 11:30 AM on June 23, 2009

Excellent post, thank you!
posted by OmieWise at 12:01 PM on June 23, 2009

1f2frfbf, I know the number of recorded early blues artists is finite, and I've heard a helluva lot of 'em, but a new discovery is still possible every now and again. I'm happy to say that this is one such discovery, and thanks so much for putting this post together.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:34 PM on June 23, 2009

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