|Son Sims Four||Joe Turner||Complete Plantation Recordings|
|Son Sims Four||Rosalie||Complete Plantation Recordings|
|Nathan Frazier & Frank Patterson||Corinne||Altamont: Black Stringband Music|
|Sidney Hemphill, Lucius Smith, Will Head & Alec Askew||John Henry||The Devil's Dream|
|*Son House||Walking Blues||Field Recordings Vol. 17: Son House 1941-1942|
|Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Jelly Roll||Country Negro Jam Session|
|Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Brown Skin Woman||Country Negro Jam Session|
|Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards & Butch||Stack O´Dollars||Country Negro Jam Session|
|Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas||Called For You Yesterday||Country Negro Jam Session|
|Chicago String Band||The Sun Is Sinking Low||The Chicago String Band|
|Chicago String Band||Railroad Blues||The Chicago String Band|
|Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||44 Blues||Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1|
|Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Butch's Blues||I Have To Paint My Face|
|Clarence & Cornelius Edwards & Butch Cage||Goin' Back to New Orleans||The Country Blues|
|Charles Henderson, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas||Jesus On The Mainline||Country Spirituals|
|Blind James Campbell||I Am So Blue When It Rains||Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band|
|Blind James Campbell||I'm Crazy About You Baby||Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band|
|Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Tomorrow Gonna Be My Trying Day||Raise a Ruckus Tonight|
|Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Raise a Ruckus Tonight||Raise a Ruckus Tonight|
|The New Mississippi Sheiks||Stop And Listen||The New Mississippi Sheiks|
|The New Mississippi Sheiks||What is it Tastes Like Gravy||The New Mississippi Sheiks|
|Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong||In The Bottom||That Old Gang Of Mine|
|Carl Martin||State Street Pimp #2||Crow Jane Blues|
|*Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Sneaky Ways||Old Time Black Southern String Band Music|
|*Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage||Bugle Call Blues||Old Time Black Southern String Band Music|
|*Howard Armstrong; Tom Armstrong; Ted Bogan; Ikey Robinson||Railroad Blues||Louie Bluie|
|*Leonard Bowles and Irvin Cook||I Wish To The Lord I'd Never Been Born||Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music|
|*Joe Thompson||Careless Love||Family Tradition|
|*Odell & Joe Thompson||Georgia Buck||Eight-Hand Sets & Holy Steps|
|*Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson||Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad||Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson|
*Due to the pledge drive several tracks (marked with an asterisk) were not played today. We will play these tracks on next week's program.
As collector Marshall Wyatt wrote, “the violin once held center stage in the rich pageant of vernacular music that evolved in the American South… and the fiddle held sway as the dominant folk instrument of both races until the dawn of the 20th century.” Today, outside of a few exceptions, African-American music has mostly abandoned the violin and fiddle to white country performers. Many black musicians active during the 1920's and ’30s came from a string-band tradition, an era predating the blues when fiddles and banjos were the predominant instruments, and guitars a rarity. Black fiddlers and string bands were still common in the South throughout the 1920's, were not entirely ignored by the record industry, but were they were certainly under-represented. Some black string bands incorporated blues into their repertoires in order to keep abreast of trends such as the popular Mississippi Sheiks. As the record business began to rebound in the mid-1930s, musical trends became rapidly modernized due to the spreading influence of mass media, and black fiddlers found even fewer recording opportunities.
|Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas (Front cover Conversation With The Blues, Decca LK 4664)|
Several years back we spotlighted some of the black string band who got on record in the 20's and 30's and today is a sequel of sorts, featuring the few string band who recorded from the early 1940's and throughout the post-war era. The black string band tradition mostly faded away during this period but today we play some of the groups who got on record including excellent sides recorded by the Library of Congress in the 40's, a batch of sides by Butch Cage & Willie Thomas, Blind James Campbell, Carl Martin, Howard Armstrong, Joe Thompson and others.
We open the show with sides recorded for the Library of Congress in 1942. That year John Work, a folklorist at Nashville’s Fisk University, captured the music of fiddler Frank Patterson and banjoist Nathan Frazier and Alan Lomax recorded Son House, Muddy Waters and Son Sims.
Sons Sims was born in Anguilla, Mississippi and learned to play the fiddle from his grandfather. Sims went on to be the leader of the Mississippi Corn Shuckers, a rural based string ensemble and played with them for a number of years. In 1929 he went up to the Paramount studios in Grafton, Wisconsin with Charlie Patton where he cut four sides under his own name and backed Patton on several numbers like "Running Wild Blues" and "Elder Greene Blues."He backed Patton again in 1930 for Paramount. On August 28, 1941, Sims accompanied Muddy Waters on a recording session under the direction of Alan Lomax, as part of his recordings for the Library of Congress. In the 1940's Sims also accompanied Robert Nighthawk on several joint appearances, and continued a solo career in to the 1950's.
Lomax found Sid Hemphill in Senatobia, deep in Mississippi’s Hill Country. He’d driven across a crumbling bridge and approached a “sagging, unpainted door on a weathered-gray, warping house.” Before he could knock, Hemphill, then 65, swung it open. “No one had told me that Sid Hemphill was blind, but it was the last thing you’d recall about him,” Lomax explained. “His face blazed with inner light.” On August 15, 1942, Lomax committed 15 tracks by Hemphill and his backing band (Lucius Smith, Alec “Turpentine” Askew, and Will Head) to acetate disc.
Lomax first recorded Son House for the Library of Congress in 1941. Lomax returned to the area in 1942, where he recorded House once more. Willie Brown, mandolin player Fiddlin' Joe Martin, and harmonica player Leroy Williams played with House on these recordings including the rollicking six minute version of "Walking Blues" featured today.
Fiddler James "Butch" Cage was one of the last artists in the black string band tradition. Born on March 16, 1894, in Hamburg, MS, Cage's first real instrument was a cane fife. He moved to southwest Louisiana following the devastating Mississippi floods of 1927, eventually settling in Zachary, where he worked a succession of menial jobs while playing string band music at house parties and church functions, often in conjunction with guitarist Willie B. Thomas. Musicologist Harry Oster heard Butch Cage and Willie Thomas playing in Zachary in 1959 and recorded them extensively. The duo was also a huge hit at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival. The duo can be heard on several fine anthologies including: Country Negro Jam Sessions (Arhoolie), I Have To Paint My Face (Arhoolie), The Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1 (Folkways), Country Spirituals (Storyville), Country Blues (Storyville), Raise A Rukus Tonight (Flyright) and Old Time Black Southern String Band Music (Arhoolie).
Fiddler Joe Thompson died in 2012 at the age of 93. Born December 9, 1918 in Orange County, North Carolina, Thompson grew up in a family where fiddle and banjo music was heard on nights and weekends after farm work was completed. Joe’s father and uncle played fiddle and banjo and were sought after by neighbors, both African American and white, to provide music for local square dances. Joe has received many honors since the 1970s, when he began performing his music outside of his home community. Kip Lornell, then a graduate student in ethnomusicology, heard him perform in 1973 and urged them to look into performing at folk music festivals that were springing up. In 1989 Joe and Odell recorded Music for Global Village Music and Joe was featured on the album Family Tradition, released by Rounder Records in 2000. Folklorist Alan Lomax included the three Thompsons' in his American Patchwork documentary film series. His music is also included on various anthologies. The Carolina Chocolate Drops became Thompson’s most well known protégés, learning from him at his home in Mebane and eventually recording and performing with him at festivals like Merlefest and even local dances.
The Chicago String Band was a studio group put together by Pete Welding to emulate the old time string band sound. The group cut one self-titled album for Welding's Testament label featuring Big John Wrencher, hca,voc; John Lee Granderson, voc, g; Carl Martin, voc, vl, mand; Johnny Young, voc, mand; Bill Foster, g.
Ted Bogan and Tom Armstrong.
Two original members of the Mississippi Sheiks, Sam Chatmon and Walter Vinson, partnered with two members of the string band Martin, Bogan and Armstrong to form The New Mississippi Sheiks. The group cut the album The New Mississippi Sheiks for Rounder in 1972.
Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band were a group of street musicians from Nashville, Tennessee who played a hybrid of hillbilly, jazz, blues, old time popular, skiffle, and jug band music. James Campbell, a Nashville native, on guitar and vocals is joined by Beauford Clay on fiddle, Bell Ray, on second fiddle and guitar, George Bell on trumpet, and Ralph Robinson on bass horn/tuba. This group was originally recorded in 1963. The band worked road houses, on the streets of Nashville, at parties, as well as other social functions. They recorded a self-titled album for Arhoolie issued in 1963. The group members had links to an earlier group, called the Nashville Washboard Band, who were recorded for the Library of Congress by John Work.
Carl Martin's main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar, and according to those who saw him perform, could play anything with strings. Carl Martin not only performed solo, but also spent much of his career in a trio featuring Ted Bogan (guitar) and Howard Armstrong (violin). The trio enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and was known under several different monikers, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. In the late '30s, they followed the great migration to Chicago where they would eventually go their separate ways, occasionally playing together. Martin cut sides under his own name in the 30's as well as backing Tampa Red,Bumble Bee Slim, Washboard Sam and others. He recorded again in the 60's for the Testament label, resulting his only full-length album. Following years of playing solo, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong reunited in the early '70s and played the folk and blues festival circuit all over the country.
Howard Armstrong proved to be a true renaissance man, excelling in a variety of artistic endeavors during his amazing 80-career including storytelling, poetry and painting. He managed to conquer nearly every genre of music, learned to play multiple instruments and spoke several languages.