I am not a guitar player, but to me Furry Lewis’ technique seems unique. “Kassie Jones” is a song about a conductor, but doesn’t sound anything like the Grateful Dead song of the same — though differently spelled — name. It is quite possible that the later song was a tribute.
Wikipedia notes that Lewis was one of the first of the older African American blues players whose careers were given a second lease on life by the explosion of interest in their music in the 1960s
Smithsonian Folkways has a nice profile of Lewis. Here is the start:
Walter “Furry” Lewis (1893– 1981) personified the relaxed and intimate character of the early blues. A master of multiple guitar techniques, he was most notably an impressive bottleneck guitarist who echoed his vocal phrasings with an expressive set of sliding notes. He was able to give his performances a spontaneity, subtlety, and feeling that made him, in the words of blues historian Sam Charters, one of “only a handful of singers [of his era] with the creative ability to use the blues as an expression of personal emotion.” (Continue Reading…)
There is no reason to link to a dull profile or biography of Charley Patton when the story is told by R. Crumb, the iconic, eccentric cartoonist responsible for Zap Comix and Fritz the Cat. Clearly, Crumb used the photo above and below for the image in the first panel of the graphic bio.
Crumb also is a musician with an interest in early American music. Here is the rest of the graphic bio. Above is Patton’s Shake It and Break It. Below is Big Jim, Part 1. Big Jim, Part 2 — which apparently is rare — is here. The recording is poor. One comment rightly pointed out that the song sounds like Skip James’ Crow Jane.
This profile of the great guitarist Freddie King seems to have been written by a family member:
Freddie was born in Gilmer Texas on September 3 1934 with the given name of Freddy King to Ella May King and J.T. Christian. My father’s mother told him that her grandfather ( who was a full-blooded Choctaw Indian) prophesied to her that she would have a child that will stir the souls of millions and inspire and influence generations. My grandmother and her brother Leon played the guitar. Freddie’s mother recognized early her first born interest in music. She and her brother Leon began teaching him to play rural country blues at the age of six. His early music heroes were Sam Lightnin Hopkins (who he credits his proficiency of the down home thumb-finger picken style) and Louis Jordan (the jump blues saxophonist). He told me that he would play Jordan’s record over and over again until he could match his horn, note for note. This discipline would have a major impact on his phrasing. (Continue Reading…)
The last section is quite interesting:
His spirits was soon lifted with the success of his first overseas tour in 1968. He was originally booked for a month and it was extended to three. He was amazed by his popularity in England, a new generation of young white musicians like Eric Clapton,MickTaylor, and others were trying to emulate Freddie King. In 1969 Freddie hires a new manager Jack Calmes. Jack is young, white and part of the “counter culture” that has discovered the blues. Jack helped orchestrate Freddie’s career into high gear with the 1969 Texas Pop Festival,there he shared billing with Led Zeppelin, Sly and the family stone,Ten years After, B.B. King, among others, ” Led Zeppelin’s guys were standing there watching him perform with their mouth open” Jack said. Calmes secured a contract deal for Freddie with Leon Russell’s new label Shelter Records . Leon had been a fan of Freddie’s sizzling guitar style for years. Leon was now creating the Oklahoma blues culture with the start up of his own label. Leon Russell record label included Joe Cocker and The Nitty Gitty Dirt Band. Leon spared no expense the sessions were top shelf he flew the studio crew to Chicago and recorded the first album “Getting Ready” at the old Chess Records studio. Freddie was allowed to showcase his showmanship, Leon wanted the listening audience to experience the brilliance and raw essences of Freddie King. Shelter was the perfect springbroad for Freddie’s style of blues, hard driving and, in your face. This collaboration put Freddie into the mainstream of the white blues /rock explosion. The release of “Getting Ready” produced Freddie’s signature blues/rock hit “Going Down”. (Continue Reading…)
It’s amazing how much of the great music of the that era somehow involved Leon Russell.
Above is Hideaway, which was a big hit for King. He seems to sample Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn towards the end. Apparently, the band was instructed to not stand still. Below is a blistering version of Ain’t Nobody’s Business, a blues standard most closely associated with Billie Holliday.
Here is a rather odd line from Wikipedia’s bio of Leon Redbone:
According to the Toronto Star report in the 1980s, his birth name is Dickran Gobalian, he came to Canada from Cyprus in the mid-1960s and changed his name via Ontario, Change of Name Act. (Continue Reading…)
For some reason, it doesn’t seem surprising. I never really knew if Redbone was on the level. He is remarkably talented, but I never quite bought the shtick. But the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter.
Jon Niccum writes an engaging bio at Redbone’s site which, again unsurprisingly, doesn’t say anything about Redbone himself:
The careers of performers who reside in the limelight are usually short-lived and over-overexposed. So it’s refreshing to encounter Leon Redbone, who has for decades remained so musically resonant and personally elusive. Though his iconic guise of white fedora, jacket and sunglasses has been thoroughly satirized (anybody remember the “Leon Redbone workout” Far Side cartoon?), it’s easy to overlook what a genuinely gifted artist he remains – a role he inevitably tries to downplay.
“In some ways I’ve always been complacent in my approach to music,” Redbone says. “So in some ways maybe I’m the pure definition of consistent.”
At the core of his initial calling was the desire to simply honor songs from the past – a waltz with bygone days that established him as sole curator of the museum of 20th century music. Over the course of his 30+ year, 15+ album career, the bard has continued his love affair with tunes from the turn-of-the-century (as in the second-to-last century), flapper-era radio ditties, Depression-spawned ragtime and World War II folk-jazz. (Continue Reading…)
There isn’t a great deal of good video of Leon Redbone, but the 1991 clip from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson is excellent. Redbone performs Up a Lazy River and Mr. Jelly Roll Baker. The guy — whoever he really is — is very talented. Looking that relaxed and seeming to do so little as he does so much is unique. In a way, it’s reminiscent of Willie Nelson.
Check out the slide guitar player about halfway through the second song.
Wikipedia’s entry on Robert Cray contains a very interesting piece of movie trivia:
By the age of twenty, Cray had seen his heroes Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters in concert and decided to form his own band; they began playing college towns on the West Coast. In the late 1970s he lived in Eugene, Oregon, where he formed the Robert Cray Band and collaborated with Curtis Salgado in the Cray-Hawks. In the 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House, Cray was the uncredited bassist in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights. After several years of regional success, Cray was signed to Mercury Records in 1982. Two albums on HighTone Records in the mid-80s, Bad Influence and False Accusations, were moderately successful in the United States and in Europe, where he was building a reputation as a live artist. His fourth album release, Strong Persuader, produced by Dennis Walker, received a Grammy Award, while the crossover single ”Smokin’ Gun” gave him wider appeal and name recognition. (Continued Reading…)
Actually, it’s not a hard question if you look closely at their faces.
Rapper Shawnna — above performing Gettin’ Some — is Guy’s daughter. Below, Guy plays Long Way From Home at a memorial for Stevie Ray Vaughan. Since we are talking family here, note that Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie–a great guitarist himself–is playing rhythm.
Talent runs in families, and such connections are common.
Statesboro Blues, a song that of course is familiar to contemporary music fans, is credited to Blind Willie McTell.
McTell is an interesting figure in the history of blues. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
“Blind Willie” McTell was one of the great blues musicians of the 1920s and 1930s. Displaying an extraordinary range on the twelve-string guitar, this Atlanta-based musician recorded more than 120 titles during fourteen recording sessions. His voice was soft and expressive, and his musical tastes were influenced by southern blues, ragtime, gospel, hillbilly, and popular music.
At a time when most blues musicians were poorly educated and rarely traveled, McTell was an exception. He could read and write music in Braille. He traveled often from Atlanta to New York City, frequently alone. As a person faced with a physical disability and social inequities, he expressed in his music a strong confidence in dealing with the everyday world.
As the bio says, his voice was surprisingly soft. Here are Searching the Desert for the Blues, Lonesome Day Blues and Lord, Send Me an Angel. Here, for good measure, are versions of Statesboro Blues by Taj Mahal and The Allman Brothers.