Archive for the ‘Atlanta’ Category

Author: Jas Obrecht

Source: http://jasobrecht.com/blind-willie-mctell-life-music/

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“Among Atlanta’s early bluesmen, no one surpassed Blind Willie McTell, who had it all – a shrewd mind, insightful lyrics, astounding nimbleness on a 12-string guitar, and a sweet, plangent, and slightly nasal voice. Sensitive, confident, and hip-talking, he was a beloved figure in the various communities in which he traveled. He played sublimely, a result of both natural talent and from performing hours a day for people from all walks of life. McTell’s records reveal a phenomenal repertoire of blues, ragtime, hillbilly music, spirituals, ballads, show tunes, and original songs. His records seldom sound high-strung or harrowed, projecting instead an exuberant, upbeat personality and indomitable spirit.

Blind since infancy, Willie Samuel McTier was born in 1901 in the Georgia cottonfield country nine miles south of Thomson and 37 miles west of Augusta. His mother was Minnie Watkins, and his father has been variously identified as Eddie McTier and McTear. (Evidently Willie adapted the phonetic “McTell” spelling taught him in school.) One of McTell’s earliest remembrances was of his mother singing hymns and reading books to him. During his 1940 Library of Congress session, McTell introduced his performance of “Just As Well Get Ready, You Got to Die” by saying, “I will demonstrate how my mother and father used to wander about their work. When they used to sing those old-fashioned hymns. . . . Then you’d see ’em wanderin’ around the house, early in the mornin’, cookin’ breakfast, tryin’ to get ready to go to the fields, tryin’ to make some of the old country money. And way back in them days, I hear one my own mother singed.” Relatives described Minnie Watkins as an outstanding blues guitarist who began teaching her son 6-string guitar when he was young. McTell may have played harmonica and accordion first, and according to his first wife, Kate McTell, he was “also very good on violin, but he didn’t like it. He just loved his guitar.” When Willie was young, his father left the family.”

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Author: Jas Obrecht

Source: http://jasobrecht.com/atlanta-blues-curley-weaver/

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“Curley Weaver was one of Atlanta’s most beloved bluesmen and, for decades, Blind Willie McTell’s close friend. He was an exceptionally skilled guitar soloist, with a slide and without, and recorded many records on his own and as a sideman to Blind Willie McTell, Fred McMullen, Buddy Moss, Ruth Willis, and others.  He was also an essential part of two of the best string bands of prewar blues, the Georgia Cotton Pickers and Georgia Browns.

Born on March 25, 1906, Curley James Weaver was raised around Walnut Grove, Georgia. He was childhood friends with Robert and Charlie Hicks, who would make records as Barbecue Bob and Laughing Charlie Lincoln. Weaver’s mother, Savannah “Dip” Weaver, played guitar and taught the three youngsters frailing techniques and open-G tuning. After the Hicks brothers moved to Atlanta, Weaver played house parties and dances with Eddie Mapp, a gifted young harmonica player who excelled at everything from slow, mournful blues to rollicking train imitations. ”

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Author : Jas Obrecht

Source : http://jasobrecht.com/atlanta-bluesmen-barbecue-bob-laughing-charley-lincoln/

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“While Peg Leg Howell and His Gang tended to sound countrified, Barbecue Bob, his brother Laughing Charley, and Curley Weaver pushed Atlanta blues in new directions. The three had grown up together in the cottonfield country around Walnut Grove, Georgia. Charlie Hicks, often identified as “Laughing Charley” on records, was born in 1900. His brother Robert was 18 months his junior. They were sons of sharecroppers, as was their neighbor Curley James Weaver, four years younger than Robert. Curley’s mother, Savannah “Dip” Weaver, played guitar and piano in church. Old neighbors told researcher Pete Lowry that Dip taught the boys some guitar, showing them the frailing techniques and open-G tuning used by the area’s banjo players. They may have been introduced to slide guitar from unrecorded local guitarists Robert Lee “Sun” Foster and George White, who were known to have tutored Weaver.

By 1918, the Hicks brothers were performing on 6-strings at fish fries and country balls, playing songs like “John Henry” and “Poor Boy.” In the early 1960s, their sister, Willie Mae Jackson, told George Mitchell that Robert was the better guitarist, while Charlie had a stronger voice. Around 1923 Charlie moved to Atlanta, got married, found work, and acquired a 12-string guitar with money he’d earned picking cotton. Robert followed him there about a year later. He worked various jobs – as a yardman, at the Biltmore Hotel, as a car hop – before becoming a barbecue chef.”

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Author : Jas Obrecht

Source : http://jasobrecht.com/atlanta-bluesmen-peg-leg-howell-gang/

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“Columbia Records came to Atlanta in November 1926 and recorded a variety of spiritual acts and blues guitarist Peg Leg Howell. Born in 1888 in Eatonton, Georgia, Joshua Barnes Howell was a generation older than most of the prewar Atlanta bluesmen. Like Lead Belly and old Henry Thomas in Texas, his repertoire extended to country reels, field hollers, ballads, and other pre-blues styles. He attended school through ninth grade and learned how to play guitar in 1909. In an interview with George Mitchell, the researcher who rediscovered him in 1963, Howell explained, “I learnt myself – didn’t take long to learn. I just stayed up one night and learnt myself. . . . I learned many of my songs around the country. I picked them up from anybody – no special person. Mostly they just sang, did not play anything.” Over time, Howell learned to play guitar in standard tuning, as well as in Spanish, open C, and Vastopol, which he used for slide. (For more on the Spanish and Vastopol tunings, see Blues Origins: Spanish Fandango and Sebastopol, http://jasobrecht.com/?s=vastopol.)  ”

 

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Author : Jas Obrecht

Source : http://jasobrecht.com/atlanta-bluesmen-setting-stage-1910-1924/

“During the Roaring Twenties, Atlanta, Georgia, was home to a thriving community of bluesmen whose styles were as just distinctive as those of their counterparts in Texas and Mississippi, Memphis and Chicago. Peg Leg Howell and His Gang specialized in countrified juke music set to guitar and violin. Barbecue Bob, who became Columbia Records’ best-selling bluesman, framed his songs with zesty bass runs and rhythmic slide played on a 12-string guitar. His older brother Laughing Charley Lincoln was a less flashy 12-stringer whose dark personality belied the “laughing” shtick on his 78s. Their childhood friend Curley Weaver expertly played 6-string slide guitar as well as the old-time frailing and more recent fingerpicked, ragtime-based “Piedmont” styles. Their associate Buddy Moss, a talented harmonica player and guitarist who came to commercial prominence in the early-to-mid 1930s, drew from their sound, as well as what he’d learned from records by Blind Blake and others. Blind Willie McTell, truly in a class of his own, blended religious material, ragtime, and country blues, emerging as one of the greatest bluesmen of any era.”

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