Archive for the ‘Blues Revival 60s’ Category

Author: Scott Wilkinson
A Thesis Presented for the Master of Arts Degree University of Mississippi – August 1998

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“This thesis attempts to demonstrate how white involvement affected the blues revival in America from 19s1 to 1970. Although the blues is a product of African-American culture, the music and its performers did not receive wider recognition until a coterie of white enthusiasts assisted in attracting a larger audience. In order to determine the impact that these revivalists had in interpreting the blues for other devotees, the thesis analyzes the movement from five different perspectives. First, the study of earlier revival movements where whites had taken interest in older black musical styles suggests that the blues revival is merely another example of a

recurring historical phenomenon unique to America. Second, the differing interpretations of the blues by the two largest groups of white enthusiasts involved in the movement demonstrates that their differing analyses of the music were not purely objective. Third, the recording of the blues before and during the revival reveals that whites have always been involved, to one degree or another, in the production of the music. Fourth, analysis of the discovery and

rediscovery of blues singers makes evident that the whites involved in such expeditions did not always find what they had expected. Fifth, an assessment of the venues at which discovered or

rediscovered bluesmen appeared shows that such environments had an effect on how they performed and how the audience reacted to them.”

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Author: Michael Bloomfield
Scan of 1980 publication by RE/SEARCH PUBLICATIONS

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Michael Bloomfield’s retelling of his travels with bluesman Big Joe Williams, first  published in 1980.

“The drive to St. Louis was real nice. Wonderful, in fact. Joe  talked… about things that happened thirty years ago as though they’d  happened that morning. He reminisced about Robert Johnson and Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller; he told how Sunnyland Slim had helped  Muddy Waters get a record contract; he explained how Big Bill had  gotten rich. Being with Joe was being with a history of the Blues – you could see him as a man, and you could see him as a legend. He  couldn’t read or write a word of English, but he had America  memorized. From forty years of hiking roads and riding rails he was  wise to every highway and byway in the country, and wise to every city  and county and township that they led to. Joe was part of a rare and  vanished breed – he was a wanderer and a hobo and a blues singer, and  he was an awesome man.

 …here was a man of stature. There was a great pride in this man, a  great strength in this man. And there was poetry. He was a poet of the highways, and in the words of his songs he could sing to you his life.  And to hear him talk about Robert Johnson or Son House or Charlie  Patton, to hear life distilled from fifty years of thumbing rides and  riding rails and playing joints – to hear of levees and work gangs and tent shows; of madams and whores, pimps and rounders, gamblers, bootleggers and roustabouts; of circuit-preachers and medicine-show  men – well it was something. Because to know this man was to know the  story of black America, and maybe to know the story of black America is to know America itself.”

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Author: James McKune
Source: VJM/Palaver (1960-65)

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James McKune, a social isolate, closeted homosexual and alcoholic, born around 1910, after having worked as a re-write man on the New York Times, drifted into an itinerant life, before finally being murdered. If we remember him now, it is because McKune was a passionate pioneer blues collector, who is very much at the basis of the blues revival in the 60s.

He was an obsessive collector of rare recordings, scavenging in junk-shops, but whose collection, stored in his room at the YMCA, contained only some 300 discs, none of them having cost him more than $3 – it was a point of principle.

McKune is said to have unearthed in 1944 a recording made in 1929 by an obscure Mississippi songster by the name of Charlie Patton.

When in 1959, Samuel Charters published his famous “The Country Blues”, James McKune started to write a number of columns in the British-based collector’s magazine VJM Palaver. The series was called “The Great Country Blues Singers” appearing in the early 1960’s, and is largely a reaction to Samuel Charters’ publication that paid more attention to popularity and sales than to what McKune considered to be the “real”, unadulterated folk blues.

Integrated here is a collection of essays: 1, 3-9. The text of number one is reproduced from Marybeth Hamilton’s “In Search of the Blues” (2007, 182-183). (see also here)

Thanks to Raymond Astbury for the scanning.

LINK TO COLUMNS:

– 1

– 3(1)

– 3(2)

– 4

– 5

– 6

– 7

– 8

– 9

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Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at The Other End, NYC 1970s
Photographer: Allan Tannenbaum

Author: Alan Balfour
Kindly put at disposal by the author.

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“The fifty-seven year history of recorded blues has witnessed many great partnerships; Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon, Georgia Tom and Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy and Jazz Gillum: men who were so intuitively aware of one another’s musical needs that they were not only the perfect team, but also created a complete fusion of feeling in their music. More contemporary examples have been Muddy Waters and Little Walter or BuddyGuy and Junior Wells but, famous as all these were, none have been more enduringly consistent, or given as much pleasure to so many, as have Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee during their forty year partnership.

The elder of the two, Sonny Terry, was born in Greenboro, Georgia on October 24, 1911, and was christened Saunders Terrell. When he was six his family moved to Rockingham, North Carolina where, at the age of eleven, he lost an eye during a children’s game. Five years later he was blinded in the other eye when a lump of iron was hurled at his face. This total blindness, coming as it did at a very impressionable age, caused him to become withdrawn, taking solace in “mocking” train and animal sounds on the cheap harmonica which he had learned to play as a child.”

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(photographed by Val Wilmer at The Marquee Club)

Author: Tony Standish
Source: Jazz Journal, June 1958, p-1-5

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“Before anything else is written I would like to thank Chris Barber, and I assume it was his idea, for allowing me to hear Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in person. I am sure that I speak for just about everyone.
It is really quite fantastic, and one doesn’t have to think back far to when the very idea would have been quite incomprehensible, that jazz enthusiasts in Britain are able to hear these minor giants of jazz (minor is not my word; it is one forced upon me by others who, unknowingly, are in charge of the labels). It is also a flattering indication of the European’s appreciation of jazz that Sonny and Brownie, two uncompromising, honest-to-goodness blues-singers, are able to undertake a nationwide tour and be assured of packed, enthusiastic and generally well-informed houses. This sort of reception must be both unexpected and gratifying to men such as these, whose contributions to their own country’s culture is largely overlooked at home.”

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Author: Alan Balfour

(with kind permission of the author)

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“On Friday 26th June 1970 shortly after 10pm, in the somewhat incongruous setting of St. Pancras Town Hall’s fading Victorian splendour, Mississippi bluesman
Eddie “Son” House took the stage for the first date of an intensive four week tour of Britain. He had been before, with the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival, but this
occasion was more momentous as the headlines in the Melody Maker tried to impress on its readership: “Your last chance to see the Son”. There had been a
certain loss of dexterity since his 1967 tour, perhaps to be expected in a man of nearly 70, but what his fingers lacked in precise picking was more than compensated
for by his spine chilling voice and eerie slide playing. House’s opening concert performance was greeted with standing ovations; which was to be the case wherever
he played during those four weeks.”

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Author: Paul Garon
Source: http://www.bluesworld.com/

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“Phil Rubio’s article “Crossover Dreams….” (Race Traitor No. 2, Summer 1993) provides an interesting perspective on the confrontation between white performers and black art forms. In many cases, he writes, white musicians are motivated by admiration and envy for the black performers they emulate. And he continues, we are seeing the “use of African-American
culture by whites to find the spirit, and hence the humanity, they feel they’ve lost.” But I would like to emphasize a totally different perspective. I will argue that for those interested in the support and study of African-American culture, blues as purveyed by whites appears unauthentic and deeply impoverished; further, it too often represents an appropriation of
black culture of a type sadly familiar. Finally, it can be economically crippling to black artists through loss of jobs and critical attention.
Whites have been playing black music for decades, and the tail-end of a constant source of friction–and interchange–should not be seen as the beginning. But the phenomenon of whites taking up the blues in great numbers is a fairly modern spectacle, indeed, one that finds its beginnings in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. We make no attempt to locate the
first white blues imitator, or performer, but one of the first objections to this phenomenon was  raised by Charles Radcliffe (writing as Ben Covington) in the UK publication”

 

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