Horrible documentation (like, zero, in fact), but still, 200 jazz and blues tracks on 10 CDs for around $20 US is a pretty good deal if you are into such things (“original masters” btw) . Artists range from Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Artie Shaw, Louis Jordan, Champion Jack Dupree, and all points in between.
One of the albums I got for next to nothing as mentioned here, but it is surprisingly listenable. A couple of dud tracks, some silly songs, but some good funky, R&B-based slinky blues contained herein too. I bet you could find a used copy for next to nothing…
An all time favorite blues. But what does the spoonful refer to? Heroin? or…
Howlin’ Wolf favored a sexual metaphor—or rather, he literalized one when he played the song in his shows. He’d grab a big cooking spoon that drummer Sam Lay bought him at a flea market and brandish it at crotch-level, engaging in blatantly phallic monkeyshines. Wolf would work this raunchy shtick no matter the crowd. On two occasions—a benefit for a black Little League team, the other the International Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C., before an audience of gowned and tuxedoed dignitaries—many were not amused. At the benefit, someone closed the stage curtains on Wolf to spare the kiddies the sight of him getting busy with a kitchen utensil.
Howlin’ Wolf recorded “Spoonful” in 1960, backed by a top-notch studio band comprising the guitarists Hubert Sumlin and Freddie Robinson, pianist Otis Spann, Fred Below on drums, and Dixon on the double-bass. But its origins, like those of several other Dixon compositions on Rocking Chair, go back several decades further. It’s adapted (loosely) from Charley Patton’s 1929 “A Spoonful Blues”, which derives from Papa Charlie Jackson’s 1925 recording, “All I Want Is a Spoonful”. The song’s tailor-made for Wolf; like his own “Smokestack Lightnin’” and “I Asked Her for Water”, it’s the kind of modal chant with which he crafted his incomparable brand of gripping drama.
Heard this song today and thought, gee, these lyrics sound quite familiar. I was right, but had never heard why. I have listened to Beggar’s Banquet thousands of times, and never realized they lifted the song, its style, its lyrics, its mood, from Robert Wilkins. I hope they sent him flowers or something…
Eugene Chadbourne reports:
It is quite obvious to anyone with functioning ears that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had heard the late-’20s song entitled “That’s No Way to Get Along” by the Reverend Robert Wilkins, because the Rolling Stones album track “Prodigal Son” is a direct copy, at least to the point in the road where the imitation of Wilkins’ guitar style hits a technical roadblock. Yet the early pressings of the Stones’ cover listed the writers as Jagger and Richards, a deception that was only corrected following legal action. According to the Stones, the mistake was inadvertent and happened because the original artwork for the Beggars Banquet album had to be redone. Because a publisher connected with the original Vocalion label had nabbed the actual collecting rights to the song, this unfortunately did not result in a financial windfall for Wilkins. And although he took great advantage of the ’60s roots music revival and performed both concerts and new recordings in the absolute prime of his musical power, there is no way that every pimply high school kid who sat around listening to the Stones’ “Prodigal Son” actually was lucky enough to get a taste of the real thing.
A mix of Afro-American and Cherokee Indian, Wilkins hailed from De Soto County, MS, famous stomping grounds for Delta blues.
Took me a moment to get used to Wim Wenders utilizing Chris Thomas King as a stand-in for Blind Willie Johnson, but eventually warmed to the idea of reenactment filmed in black and white stock. The film covers three of my favorite blues musicians: Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James and J.B. Lenoir, and there is some actual historically significant footage later in the movie which is worth renting just to watch this, especially if you are a J.B. Lenoir fan1.
This disc includes the film “Soul of a Man,” in which director Wim Wenders delves into his personal music collection and takes a look at the histories of some of his favorite artists — including Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir — as told through music (what else?). Footage of James, Lenoir, John Mayall and inspired covers by contemporary artists such as Eagle-Eye Cherry, Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt and Lou Reed are featured.
There is apparently a audio CD containing 20 songs from the movie
The DVD would have been better if the full performances were also available as an extra feature: with so many interpretations of these seminal blues songs by well-known artists, it is a shame that most clips only last a verse or less. I would have enjoyed watching the student film recording of J.B. Lenoir in their entirety as well.
Cassandra Wilson’s Vietnam Blues, Lucinda Williams’ Hard Times Killing Floor Blues, and Bonnie Raitt’s Devil Got My Woman were2 quite good, as was a trio consisting of Eagle-Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James “Blood” Ulmer performing a version of Down in Mississippi.
On the other hand, a few performances were cringe-worthy, including Beck’s version of I’m So Glad, and Lou Reed’s Look Down the Road. Beck released a pretty good album, One Foot in the Grave, recorded before he got famous that included a good cover of “He’s A Mighty Good Leader”, unfortunately Beck phoned in his performance on The Soul of A Man, I couldn’t listen to even the portion excerpted.
From the Wim Wenders website:
In “The Soul of A Man,” director Wim Wenders looks at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three of his favorite blues artists: Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Part history, part personal pilgrimage, the film tells the story of these lives in music through an extended fictional film sequence (recreations of ’20s and ’30s events – shot in silent-film, hand-crank style), rare archival footage, present-day documentary scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Shemekia Copeland, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Garland Jeffreys, Chris Thomas King, Cassandra Wilson, Nick Cave, Los Lobos, Eagle Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James “Blood” Ulmer, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Marc Ribot, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Lucinda Williams and T-Bone Burnett.
Says Wenders: “These songs meant the world to me. I felt there was more truth in them than in any book I had read about America, or in any movie I had ever seen. I’ve tried to describe, more like a poem than in a ‘documentary,’ what moved me so much in their songs and voices.”
The rasping voice of Blind Willie Johnson, who earned his living on street corners and sang the title song, was sent into space on the Voyager in 1977 as part of the CD recording The Sounds of Earth, which had been placed onboard for posterity and/or examination by extra-terrestrial beings.
With the voice of Laurence Fishburne – Morpheus in the Matrix films – narrating, the film recounts the lives and times of the three using both old recordings and archive footage as well as fictional scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Beck.
Because there was no archive footage in existence of either Blind Willie Johnson or Skip James, Wenders used actors to play their roles but shot the scenes with an old 1920s black-and-white camera that lends realism, later using digital technology to fit the music to the pictures.
“I had to use old techniques but new technology,” Wenders said at Cannes. “This would have been impossible in the past.”
In the film, Wenders recounts that he first heard the name JB Lenoir when John Mayall in the late 1960s sang The death of JB Lenoir, a song that impacted a generation at the time.
“I wanted to know who this person was,” Wenders said, who crossed oceans to find information on Lenoir.
Music has long been a mother of cinematic invention in Wenders’ career. The title of his debut 1971 Summer In The City was from a hit by Lovin’ Spoonful and The Million Dollar Hotel was inspired by Bono of U2.”
Aberdeen is a city in Monroe County in the U.S. state of Mississippi. The population was 6,415 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Monroe County.Located on the banks of the Tombigbee River, Aberdeen was one of the busiest Mississippi ports of the nineteenth century. Cotton was heavily traded in town, and for a time Aberdeen was Mississippi’s second largest city. Today Aberdeen retains many historic structures from this period, with over 200 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. In the spring of each year, Aberdeen hosts pilgrimages to its historic antebellum homes. The most prominent of these antebellum homes is The Magnolias, which was built in 1850.
can’t be as cool as the former Antone’s location on Guadalupe1 where I witnessed Otis Rush and Stevie Ray Vaughan have an extended guitar duel (SRV won, even though Otis Rush was the headline act), or John Lee Hooker delve into grunge2
Too bad Clifford Antone has passed on. RIP.
Antone was like the music scene’s maitre d’, greeting friends and strangers warmly, always ready to help in any way he could. He was known for paying acts more than they took in at the door, dipping into his own wallet to help both aging bluesmen and young, broke enthusiasts who moved to Austin from all over the world because they had heard that the world’s greatest blues club was here.
One by one, Antone’s heroes passed away — Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, Jimmy Reed, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown — but not before they played the club Antone opened as a 25-year-old in 1975 on Sixth Street, back before Sixth Street was known as an entertainment district. At that first of four locations, he’d often book them for a week at a time so the original electric blues cats wouldn’t have to travel between gigs. Every night, Antone would stand at the side of the stage with a broad smile. His gushy introductions were almost as legendary as his club.
While much of the Austin population became aware of Antone mainly through two high-profile marijuana busts — in 1984 and 1997 — for which he served two stints in federal prison, those who knew him personally describe a warm, big-hearted blues encyclopedia who truly did it all for the music more than the money. “He loved to book the big names, but he also liked to turn folks on to the great sidemen,” said Connie Hancock of the Texana Dames. Eddie Taylor, Wayne Bennett, Hubert Sumlin, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Luther Tucker may have been better known for backing others, but at Antone’s they were superstars. “Playing at Antone’s for the first time was an incredible thrill,” said guitarist Eve Monsees, who was called up to join a blues jam when she was just 15. “Clifford had never heard me play, but when he asked me who I liked and I said ‘Magic Sam’ he figured I’d be OK.” “He was a giant,” said blues musician Jon Blondell. “He lived for the music, and if you were a musician, that meant he existed for you.”
He backed his affinity with an unmatched knowledge of the blues and taught a class on the subject at the University of Texas for the past two years. “How many other teachers at the University of Texas got their name in the title of the course?” said Kevin Mooney, the music professor who organized “Blues According to Clifford Antone.” “He adored the students and loved giving back to them. He didn’t want that class to end every day; there was so much material he wanted to share with them.” If you liked the music of Lightnin’ Slim, Snooky Pryor or Sunnyland Slim, you had a good friend in Antone, the cherubic Lebanese American with the askew hair, who grew up in Port Arthur and came to love the blues when he traced the roots of acts such as Cream and Fleetwood Mac.
A few interesting links collected July 28th through July 29th:
George Bush’s Book Will Shape the 2010 Campaign – The Daily Beast – Still, that has not stopped some Republicans, traumatized over the last two election cycles, from fearing the worst. “Monumentally bad timing” was the reaction of one former Bush aide who learned of the book release date. Another prominent conservative compared the Bushies’ public-relations savvy to LeBron James. “Selfish and stupid” was another noted right-wing columnist’s reaction. Democrats, meanwhile, are gleeful.
Hail, Hail, Rock’n’Roll | Laura Barton – Walk around the streets near my home in east London and the area’s past will soon rise up to meet you – carved above door-frames, etched into glass and painted on awnings and the sides of buildings are the ghost-signs of former industries: shop-fronts and faded adverts for Blooms Pianos and Gillette Razors; fountain pens, glass, stoves and whisky; Strongs Meat and Donovan Brothers’ Paper Bags. This was once an area famed for furniture and shoemakers, matches and model-makers, but as the industry moved elsewhere many of the names drifted into obscurity, too: Lesney, Bailey & Sloper, Bespoke Shoes, Berger, Jenson & Nicholson, Batey & Co, F Puckeridge & Nephew. As the area reinvents itself with luxury flats and new train lines, galleries and delicatessens, the few names that remain serve as faded, barely noticed reminders of the vibrant history of this part of the city.
New Documentary Explores History Of Jews and Basketball : NPR – todays Golden State Warriors were the Philadelphia Warriors. They started from the Philadelphia Sphas, the South Philadelphia Hebrew All-Stars. That team was founded by Eddie Gottlieb in the 1920s at the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association. He formed a league as a kid and the team as a kid. And that team went on to become an NBA team, in essence. And he was one of the original NBA owners.
When Mr. Guy arrived here in 1957, it was the heyday of Chess Records, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and there seemed to be a blues venue — like the 1815 Club, Theresa’s, the Blue Flame Lounge — on every other corner. Some were no more than tiny rooms that could fit 35 people if no one took a deep breath.
There were so many clubs, Mr. Guy said, “you couldn’t count them all.”
One reason the clubs thrived, he said, was because “back then, everybody had a job.” People could afford to go out, and everybody wanted to hear the famous Chicago blues.
“When the Beatles started, they came here,” Mr. Guy said. “When the Rolling Stones started, they were on 21st and Michigan, trying to find Chess Records.”
Those days are long gone. The relocated Legends, which opened its doors on May 28 at 700 South Wabash Avenue, is one of the city’s few remaining venues dedicated to live blues. Mr. Guy hopes his club will provide emerging blues musicians with the kind of exposure he got playing at the 708 Club and the Blue Flame.
“If there wasn’t a club when I came here, nobody was going to see me walking down 47th Street and say: ‘There goes Buddy Guy. One day he’s going to be a guitar player,’ ” said Mr. Guy, an energetic 74. “I had to go into those clubs and play.”
Lincoln T. Beauchamp, known as Chicago Beau, is a musician, magazine publisher and author of a book about the city’s blues history. The blues community that once flourished on the South and West Sides, Mr. Beauchamp said, fell victim to changing social and economic conditions.
“Pre-integration, the black community was a lot more vibrant,” he said. “Along 47th Street and Cottage Grove, you had a community that was able to sustain itself, and the blues and jazz clubs were part of it, not just socially but also politically.”
Ooh, I’m getting a copy of this dictionary. Sounds fun…
Enter Stephen Calt, a blues historian and amateur linguist whose new book, “Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary,” published by the University of Illinois Press, is an impeccably scholarly, irresistibly readable guide to the language heard on the recordings of the great blues singers who were active in the first half of the 20th century. If there was ever a time when you found yourself wondering what it means to get a “stone pony” or “make a panther squall,” Mr. Calt is your man. As far back as the late ’60s, he was interviewing aging blues singers and sifting through arcane printed sources in the hopes of untangling the verbal mysteries of the music he loved.
All this and much, much more is made manifest in the pages of “Barrelhouse Words,” perhaps the only dictionary on my bulging bookshelf that can be read for pure pleasure from cover to cover.
Part of the pleasure arises from Mr. Calt’s donnish sense of humor. He must have been smiling quietly to himself when he defined “crying shame” as “an exceedingly lamentable occurrence.” No less enjoyable, though, are the examples of contemporary usage that accompany his definitions, all of them drawn from classic blues records. A few are genuinely poetic, while others are drop-dead funny. Look up “business, pork-grindin’,” for instance, and you’ll be confronted with this stanza from Kokomo Arnold’s 1935 recording of “Sissy Man Blues”: Lord, I woke up this mornin’ with my pork-grindin’ business in my hand / Now if you can’t send me no woman, please send me a sissy man. This is a family newspaper, so if you can’t figure the rest out for yourself, turn to page 42 of “Barrelhouse Words.” I haven’t laughed so hard while reading a reference book since the last time I consulted H.L. Mencken’s “New Dictionary of Quotations.”
I had not heard Kokomo Arnold’s version of this song, only these two, with similar lyric. Connie McLean sings: with my business in my hand, and Josh White sings what sounds like “pork grinding business“, but the words are a bit hard to make out:
There are certain songs that give you chills, no matter how many times you’ve heard them. John Lee Hooker singing, “I’m Bad Like Jesse James”, from the album, Live at Cafe Au Go Go is one such song for me.
It is one of those tracks you want to stomp your own foot to the relentless and insistent beat.
Simply one of the greatest live blues recordings ever. Hooker plays alone at Soledad, yet the real thrill is hearing him backed at Greenwich Village’s Café Au-Go-Go in 1966 by Muddy Waters and his band, including pianist Otis Spann, unsung harmonica giant George Smith, Francis Clay on drums, and guitarists Sammy Lawhorn and Luther Johnson. All are at the height of their abilities, but it’s Hooker who works like a hoodoo conjurer, making misery rain down in “Seven Days” and “When My First Wife Left Me.” This August night’s reading of I’m Bad Like Jesse James ranks among the most intimidating vocal performances ever taped. His guitar and baritone singing sink to rarely heard depths of the blues–that secret place in the music (known only to its absolute masters) where it becomes an elemental force.
the lyrics go something like this:
A little thing I’m going to do called
‘I’m Bad Like Jesse James’
Like Jesse James, uh-huh
I had a friend one time
Least I thought I did
He come to me
[I ] Said, ‘What man?’
I say, ‘Yeah?’
I taken the cat in
Get him a place to stay
And I found out
He goin’ ’round town
Tellin’ everybody that he
He got my wife
Then I gets mad
I goes to the cat
Like a good guy should
I said, ‘Look man
‘I’m gonna warn, you just one time’
Next time I warn you’
‘I’m gonna use my gun’
‘Cause I’m mad, I’m bad, like Jesse James
I’m so mad, I’m so mad.
I’m gonna ruin you this mornin’.
I’ve got three boys
Do my dirty work
Now, you don’t see me
I’m the big boss
I do the payin’ off
After they take care of you
In their own way
They may shoot you
They may cut you.
They may drown you
I just don’t know
I don’t care
Long as they take care of you
In their own way
I’m so mad, I’m bad this mornin’, like Jesse James.
They gon’ take you right down
By the riverside
Now four is goin’ down
Ain’t but three comin’ back
You read between the line
We’re gonna have a deal
‘Cause I’m mad, I’m bad, like Jesse James.
They gonna tie yo’ hands
They gonna tie yo’ feet
They gonna gag your throat
Where you can’t holler none
An cryin’ won’t help you none
Set you in the water
Yeah, the bubbles comin’ up.
Oh yeah, I’m so mad!
So intense. When I saw John Lee Hooker perform at Antone’s1 he stomped his foot to keep time. Hard not to when playing songs like this. When I saw him perform, he was playing solo, but surprisingly, turned up his distortion and played a little proto-grunge on a couple of songs. I’d say circa 19882
a 1986 solo version, not nearly as intense, but still, JLH!3
the famous blues club in Austin – I think it is closed down now – Clifford Antone had some problems with the law, sold drugs or something, and has since passed away [↩]
I remember being too young to drink, went by myself, and tried to tip the waitress $5 for taking her table and only drinking a coke. Of course, I had my bong in my car, but that’s another story [↩]
playing a guitar with BB King’s name on it for some reason. [↩]