Virginia Blues


*Due to a technical glitch we just have the music for this show, no set breaks*

ARTISTSONGALBUM
James Lowry Tampa BluesVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
Dave Dickerson The War is OverVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
James Henry Diggs Poor Boy Long Way From HomeVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Marvin FoddrellReno FactoryVirginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
Turner FoddrellSlow DragVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
"Cowboy" T. Burks Going Down That Road Feeling BadVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Clayton Horsley Don't The Moon Look PrettyVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
Irvin Cook & Leonard BowlesWist to the Lord I'd Never Been BornVirginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
John Cephas & John WoolforkRichmond BluesVirginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues
John CephasNaylor RagUnissued
Archie EdwardsThe Road Is Rough And RockyClassic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
Archie EdwardsBear Cat Mama BluesLiving Country Blues USA : Introduction
William ThompsonEvery Mail DayVirginia Traditions: Virginia Work Songs
Earl GilmoreI Went Down In VirginiaVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
John JacksonPoor BoyBlues & Country Dance Tunes From Virginia
John JacksonGoodbye BoozeDon't Let Your Deal Go Down
Alec Seward & Louis HayesBig Hip Mama The Back Porch Boys
Alec SewardSweet Woman BluesCreepin' Blues
John Tinsley & Fred HollandKeep Your Hands Off 'ErDown Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
John TinsleyRed River BluesVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
Rabbit MuseJailhouse BluesVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
Rabbit MuseHaunted House BluesMuse Blues
Carl MartinCrow Jane BluesCrow Jane Blues
Carl MartinState Street Pimp #2Crow Jane Blues
The Foddrell BrothersBoogie In The MorningPatrick County Rag
The Foddrell BrothersLonesome Country Boy BluesThe Original Blues Brothers
Howard Twine Take Care Of My Wife And My BabyVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Herbert & William Richardson Tell Me BabyVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
Richard Wright Peakesville BoogieVirginia Traditions: Western Piedmont Blues
Pernell Charity War BluesVirginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues
Pernell CharityI'm Climbing On Top Of The Hill The Virginian

Show Notes:

BRI00003 BRI00008
Read Liner Notes Read Liner Notes

Today's show is a sequel to our show on pre-war Virginia blues we aired a couple of weeks back. The only artist who recorded blues in the pre-war era and also in the post-war was Carl Martin who recorded an album under his own name and with various groups. However, there is a strong possibility that James Henry Diggs who recorded in 1962 was the same man who recorded under that name in 1936 for the Library of Congress when he was an inmate at the State Penitentiary in Richmond. In the immediate post-war years little was recorded by Virginia artists outside of Alec Seward, working with partner Louis Hayes, who recorded a number of excellent down home sides in the 40's and later under his own name, and obscure sides by James Lowry and John Tinsley, the latter recording again in the 70's. Among the most prolific and successful Virginia artists were John Jackson who began recording in the 1960's and John Cephas who became well known with his partnership with Phil Wiggins (Cephas and Wiggins). Several other artists achieved modest success and recorded at least an album or two including the talented Foddrell Brothers, Archie Edwards, Pernell Charity, John Tinsley and Rabbit Muse. Kip Lornell did much to promote traditional Virginia music including making recordings in the field as well as producing, writing liner notes and compiling tracks for the groundbreaking Virginia Traditions series of albums.

A good chunk of today's show is drawn from the Virginia Traditions albums. The series consisted of nine albums issued between 1978 and 1988 by BRI Records, a label operated by the Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College. The recordings, made in various settings between the mid-1920's and the mid-1980's, range from African American work songs to Anglo American ballads to acappella sacred music and stringband tunes. As the Blue Ridge Institute's staff folklorist, Kip Lornell was involved with the series, producing, writing liner notes and compiling tracks which included some of his own field recordings. He was most deeply involved in the volumes Non-Blues Secular Black Music and Tidewater Blues. Smithsonian Folkways has made the entire series available via their website.

BRI00001 BRI00006
Read Liner Notes Read Liner Notes

Marvin and Turner Foddrell were born into a musical family near Stuart in the Virginia Piedmont and for the major parts of their lives played regularly only at community gatherings, never professionally. Marvin and Turner were sons of a regionally renowned multi-instrumentalist, Posey Foddrell, who was proficient on fiddle, mandolin, piano, banjo, and guitar and played both with black and integrated groups. The family had lived in the Stuart area for several generations and they rarely ventured any significant distance from their home, where Turner ran a grocery store on Highway 8, and where the brothers were "discovered" by a local deejay during one of their impromptu jams. The Foddrells became a regular fixture at the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at nearby Ferrum College (the college's Blue Ridge Institute recorded the brothers extensively as well as some of the other artists featured today) and were also featured at many other festivals including some in Europe. The Foddrell Brothers recorded only two commercial records: The Original Blues Brothers (1981) on Swingmaster and Patrick County Rag (1983) on Outlet. They also appeared alongside more famous traditional musicians on a number of anthologies. Both brothers have since passed away. Pete Lowry recorded them extensively in 1979 but none of these recordings were ever issued. Turner’s son Lynn joined the brothers on the 1982 and 1983 performances at the Celebration of Traditional Music. After Marvin’s death, Turner had continued to perform with Lynn. With Turner succumbing to lung cancer on January 31, 1995, the baton was passed onto Lynn.

Pete Lowry was the first to record John Cephas and Phil Wiggins but the results were not released although Cephas did appear on an album by Big Chief Ellis released in 1976. He recorded the duo extensively in 1980 (his last field recordings) and recorded Cephas in-depth in 1976. Kip Lornell recorded Cephas in 1977 with some of the recordings appearing on the Virginia Traditions series. In 1980, Cephas & Wiggins were recorded by Siegfried Christmann and Axel Kustner as a part of the Living Country Blues USA series. The duo's first full-length album was issued on Flying Fish in 1986. Cephas passed away in 2009.

R-6088690-1410773890-9300.jpegArchie Edwards was born on a farm near Union Hall in rural Virginia in 1918. In the 1930's, he and his brother got a job at a nearby sawmill. Archie played guitar in his spare time and went home on weekends to play for parties. After serving in the the war, he went to Richmond, Virginia, to become a barber. He set up a barbershop in Washington D.C. His barbershop became a musical hangout spot for many local musicians. Through the barbershop, Edwards met Mississippi John Hurt. The two started playing together and joined up with Skip James and played around the city for the new white audience. He died in 1998. His first recordings appeared on the  Living Country Blues series with subsequent albums for Northern Blues and Mapleshade.

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 (recorded under that name for Vocalion in 1930), 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.

John Jackson was born in Woodville, Virginia into a musical family, he learned to play as a boy before moving in his twenties to Fairfax, where he had a day job as a gravedigger, one of many jobs he performed. In the early 1960's he cut several albums for Arhoolie. He visited Europe several times, played at folk festivals, and also recorded for Rounder and Alligator Records. Jackson died in 2002.

Read Liner Notes

Alec Seward was born in Charles City County, Virginia and relocated to New York in 1942 where he befriended Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. He met Louis Hayes and the duo performed variously named as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly, or The Back Porch Boys. The duo recorded sides in 1944 and another batch in 1947. During the 1940's and 1950's Seward played and recorded with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, McGhee and Terry. Creepin' Blues (with harmonica accompaniment by Larry Johnson) was released by Bluesville in 1965 and never issued on CD. Later in the decade Seward worked in concert and at folk-blues festivals. He died at the age of 70, in New York in May 1972.

Rabbit Muse, was in born 1908 and learned soprano ukulele from a childhood friend before transferring to baritone and setting out on a career that spanned seven decades. Despite this long career he recorded only two albums: Muse Blues (1976) and Sixty Minute Man (1977) both on the Outlet label.

John Tinsley played local house parties before waxing a single for the Mutual label in 1952. He quit playing until coming out of retirement in the 70’s playing several festivals and making a few recording including Country Blues Revived (1978) for Outlet and Sunrise Blues (1981) for Swingmaster.

Share

ARTISTSONGALBUM
William MooreOne Way GalThe Great Race Record Labels vol. 1
William MooreMidnight BluesRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Jimmie Strothers & John LeeDo Lord Remember Me Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941
Jimmie StrothersGoing to Richmond Deep River of Song: Virginia and the Piedmont
Luke JordanChurch Bell BluesNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Luke JordanPick Poor Robin CleanNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
John Williams
'Twas On a Monday Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941
Willie WilliamsBoll Weevil Been HereDeep River of Song: Virginia and the Piedmont
Lemuel JonesPo' FarmerDeep River of Song: Virginia and the Piedmont
Carl MartinFarewell To You BabyGuitar Wizards 1926-1935
Carl MartinGood Morning Judge How Low Can You Go: Anthology Of The String Bass
Blues BirdheadMean Low BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
The Bubbling-Over Five w/ Blues BirdheadGet Up Off That JazzophoneFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
William MooreRagtime Millionaire Guitar Wizards 1926-1935
William MooreRaggin' The Blues Blues Images Vol. 12
George Goram Captain Got A Long ChainField Recordings Vol.12: Virginia and South Carolina
Big Boy Blues Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941
Ezra LewisTin Can Alley Deep River of Song: Virginia and the Piedmont
Tarter & Gay Brownie BluesRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Tarter & Gay Unknown BluesRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Luke JordanCocaine BluesNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Luke JordanWon't You be KindNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
James Wilson & GroupCan't You Line 'em Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941
James Henry DiggsFreight Train Blues Virginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Clifton WrightEverywhere I Look This MorningField Recordings Vol.12: Virginia and South Carolina
Carl Martin Let’ Have A New DealBroadcasting the Blues
Carl Martin Old Time BluesVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Rollie Lee JohnsonWhen The Train Comes AlongField Recordings Vol.12: Virginia and South Carolina
Jimmy OwensJohn Henry Red River Runs
Luke JordanTraveling CoonNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
William MooreOld Country RockRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Carl MartinCrow JaneThe Roots Of It All Acoustic Blues, Vol 1
Tennessee Chocolate DropsKnox County StompFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!

Show Notes:

 Old Country RockAs Kip Lornell writes in Virginia's Blues, Country, and Gospel Records 1902-1943: "Within its political and geographical boundaries, Virginia's diverse cultural landscape contains a rich treasure of traditional music that has been recorded by commercial companies since the turn of the century. …The first documentable folk music group to record for a commercial company [1902], the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, happened to be from Virginia. …Despite the recording activity, commercial discs did not accurately reflect all of Virginia's contemporary folk music styles. …Geographical bias favored recording of black gospel quartets and Anglo-American string band music. Important traditions such as black string band music and unaccompanied ballad singing were almost entirely overlooked by record company talent scouts during the prewar era. Nor were blues singers well represented on commercial discs. In Red River Blues Bruce Bastin writes: "Few Virginia bluesmen were recorded during the peak of commercial activity in the 1920s and 1930s, and only one recorded there on location. There were no portable studios set up regularly like Charlotte and Atlanta, and bluesmen like Carl Martin became known only after they had left the state and recorded elsewhere." While hillbilly music sold reasonably well, Virginia's black recorded music didn't sell in big numbers. Still, there were several fine Virginia blues artists who made commercial recordings such as William Moore, Luke Jordan, Carl Martin and the duo of Tarter and Gay. On the non-commercial side, there were some notable field recordings made like those captured by Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke for the Library of Congress in 1936 at the State Penitentiary in Richmond and the Virginia State Farm in Lynn.

Born in Georgia, William "Bill" Moore was a barber and farmer in Tappahannock, although he also worked across the Rappahannock River in Warsaw in Richmond County. In January of 1928, Moore traveled to Chicago, IL, to record sixteen sides for Paramount Records. Of those sixteen songs only eight were released, on four 78 records. The first coupling, "Barbershop Rag" and "Tillie Lee," was advertised in the Chicago Defender on May 5, 1928; the third coupling, "Old Country Rock" and its "Raggin' Dem Blues," was first advertised there on July 28 and for some reason, again in 1929. He passed in 1951 in Warrenton, VA.

Luke Jordan was born in November 1893, in Lynchburg, VA which was to remain his home base the rest of his life and where he was well remembered. Jordan recorded 12 tracks for Victor Records at two sessions in 1927 and 1929. His first records sold reasonably well, and are not hopelessly rare, but his last 78, "If I Call You Mama b/w Tom Brown Sits In His Prison Cell" was not discovered until the 1990's. Despite research efforts by Don Kent and Kevin Cleary little has been uncovered about Jordan's life other than the discovery of the only known photo of Jordan dating from the 1940's and the location of his grave. He died on June 25, 1952.

Steve Tarter and his cousin Carson Anderson
Steve Tarter and his cousin Carson Anderson

Carl Martin was born near Stone Gap, VA, on April 1, 1906. His main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar, and according to those who saw him perform, could play anything with strings. 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. A field-recording team from Vocalion was in Knoxville twice between August 1929 and April 1930; setting up a temporary recording studio at radio station KNOX in downtown Knoxville’s St. James Hotel, where they recorded something approaching 100 tracks by several dozen musicians and musical groups from the region. It was during this session that a Vocalion record producer, looking for a memorable name that would spur sales, christened the Martin, Armstrong and Armstrong group, the “Tennessee Chocolate Drops.” They recorded one 78, “Knox County Stomp/ Vine Street Drag.” Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong initially traveled all over the south entertaining at medicine shows, county fairs, and on the radio. When they couldn't get an actual paying gig, they would play for tips in local taverns. In the late '30s, they followed the great migration to Chicago where they would eventually go their separate ways, occasionally playing together. Martin did session work during this period, backing Tampa Red, Bumble Slim and Freddie Spruell on record as well as cutting a batch of sides under his own name in 1935 and 1936. 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. The group recorded some albums together and Martin cut an excellent record for the Testament label in the 60's. He passed in 1979.

Stephen Tarter was born 1886 in Big Stone Gap, VA and passed way sometime in 1935. Harry Gay was born November 23, 1904 in Gate City, VA and passed away in 1979. The duo had one recording session in 1928. Two songs were recorded, resulting in one 78 ("Brownie Blues b/w Unknown Blues"). Their one recording session took place in Bristol, TN. and may have been produced by Ralph Peer. It was around the same time that the famed Peer-produced Bristol sessions resulted in Country music artists making their debuts such as Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family.

Named Blues Birdhead by the OKeh Company, James Simmons was a harmonica player living in Norfolk at the time he recorded his lone 78, "Mean Low blues b/w Harmonica Blues" recorded in 1929. He was also the harmonica player in the group The Bubbling-Over Five who recorded one 78, "Don't Mistreat Your Good Boy Friend b/w Get Up Off That Jazzophone" on the same date. These sides were recorded in Richmond amid vocal quartets and gospel groups and were the only pre-war blues recording session to take place in Virginia. In 1931 a publication called the Norfolk Journal and Guide mentioned "James Simmons, known known around and about as 'Birdhead' had made a name for himself with his performance on the harmonica. He makes it laugh, cry, smile or sigh." According to Eric LeBlanc and Bob Eagle Simmons was born in North Carolina but I think he he stills fits in within the scope of today's show.

Pick Poor Robin CleanBeginning in 1932, Arthur Kyle Davis, of the Virginia Folk-Lore Society, recorded 325 aluminum discs of folksongs and ballads, made possible by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. From 1937 to 1942, Professor Roscoe Lewis, of Hampton Institute, and members of the Negro Studies Project of the Virginia Writers' Project, Work Projects Administration, made approximately 200 recordings in and around Hampton, Newport News, and Petersburg. It doesn't seem if much of this material has been issued although a couple of sides Lewis recorded are applicable to today's show. As Guido Van Rijn  wrote in the notes to Document's Too Late, Too Late Vol. 10: "Nobody knows who was concealed by the nickname 'Big Boy' when he recorded two songs for Prof. Roscoe E. Lewis of Hampton Institute in 1941. …These were purchased by the Library of Congress from Roscoe Lewis." It's been suggested that Big Boy may be Jimmie Strothers who was recorded five years earlier by Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke.

Fortunately the recordings made by Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke have been issued and are readily available. Spivacke who was head of the Library of Congress's Music Division from 1937 until 1972. The duo captured some fine field recordings  during two trips for the Library of Congress in 1936 at the State Penitentiary in Richmond and the Virginia State Farm in Lynn. One of the most impressive artists was Jimmie Strothers. He was a blind banjo and guitar player from Virginia who recorded 15 tracks. Fellow inmate Joe Lee sharing vocal and guitar duties on some sides. Strothers was imprisoned for killing his wife, Blanche Green.

Related Articles

-Welding, Pete. “Interview with Carl Martin.” 78 Quarterly no. 2 (1968): 29–33.

-Lornell, Kip. “Tarter & Gay.” Living Blues no. 27 (May/Jun 1976): 18.

-Lornell, Kip; Moore, Roddy. “Tarter and Gay Revisited.” Juke Blues no. 8 (Spring 1987): 21.

-Kent, Don. “First and Last Days in Lynchburg: A Last Look at Lynchburg Luke.” 78 Quarterly no. 7 (1992): 71–78.

Share


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Kip LornellInterview
Fats Jefferson Hard Luck Blues North Florida Fives
Elroy Hart North Florida Fives North Florida Fives
Fats Jefferson Married Woman North Florida Fives
Willie Morris Broke Down Blues Goin' Back To Tifton
Tom CarterSome Got 6 Months Goin' Back To Tifton
C.D. DobbsAberdeen WomanGoin' Back To Tifton
Blind Donald DawsonRack 'Em SlowGoin' Back To Tifton
Peg Leg Sam Hand Me DownThe Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg Sam Who's That Left Here Awhile AgoThe Last Medicine Show
Guitar Slim Worried Blues Greensboro Rounder
Guitar Slim War Service BluesGreensboro Rounder
Guitar Slim Come On Down To My HouseAin't Gonna Rain No More
Pernell CharityCome Back, Baby, ComeThe Virginian
Pernell CharityFind Me A Home Pernell Charity
Pernell CharityWoke Up On The HillThe Virginian
Irvin Cook & Leonard Bowles I Wish to the Lord I'd Never Been BornVirginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
Turner Foddrell Railroad BillVirginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
Lewis HairstonBile Them Cabbage Down Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
Clayton HorsleyPoor Black Annie Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
Carl Hodges Leaving You, MamaVirginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues
Corner MorrisGoing Down The Road Feeling GoodVirginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues
Jamie AlstonGoin' AwayAin't Gonna Rain No More
Wilbert Atwater Can't Get A Letter From Down The Road Ain't Gonna Rain No More
Jamie AlsonSix White Horses Ain't Gonna Rain No More
Joe & Odell Thompson Going Down The Road Feeling Bad Ain't Gonna Rain No More

Show Notes:

North Florida FivesFrom the 1960's through the 80's there were folklorists, researchers and dedicated fans such as David Evans, George Mitchell, Sam Charters, Chris Stratwichz, Mack McCormick, Bruce Jackson, Peter B. Lowry, Tary Owens, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Bengt Olsson, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, Axel Küstner and Kip Lornell who actively sought out and recorded rural blues. Over the years we have featured many of them and today we spotlight the field recordings of Christopher “Kip” Lornell who captured some remarkable, undiscovered musicians in the 1970’s. Lornell was gracious enough to let me talk with him a couple of weeks back which I've edited for today's program.

Lornell began conducting blues research while still in high school. As an undergraduate in New York and North Carolina he interviewed and recorded local blues artists, resulting in articles in Living Blues and other periodicals and albums on the Flyright, Trix, and Rounder labels. Lornell served for four years as the staff folklorist at Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute documenting music from Virginia on the groundbreaking Virginia Traditions series of albums which included some of his field recordings. Since 1992 Lornell has taught courses in American Music & Ethnomusicology at George Washington University and more recently works as a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1997 Lornell received a Grammy for his work on the boxed set The Anthology of American Folk Music for Smithsonian/Folkways. Lornell has published numerous articles, liner notes and books. His books include: Melody Man: Joe Davis and the New York Music Scene, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (coauthored with Charles Wolfe), Shreveport Sounds in Black and White (Editor), Happy In Service Of Lord: African-American Sacred Vocal Harmony, Exploring American Folk Music, Virginia's Blues, Country, and Gospel Records, 1902-1943 among others. Our focus on today's program is Lornell's blues field recordings from the 1970's which include the following albums:  Pernell Charity: The Virginian (some tracks recorded by Pete Lowry), Ain't Gonna Rain No More: Blues And Pre-Blues From Piedmont North Carolina, Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music, Virginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues, Goin' Back To Tifton, North Florida Fives, Guitar Slim: Greensboro Rounder and The Last Medicine Show where he assisted Pete Lowry.

Peg Leg Sam Jackson: Born For Hard Luck

We open the program with selections from two long out-of-print records released on the Flyright label in 1974:  Goin' Back To Tifton and North Florida Fives. Lornell was just out of High School when he made these recordings following what would because a practice for him which is to look in your own backyard. He correctly assumed that since Albany had significant black population there would be some blues musicians. In hindsight he wishes he had done a similar exploration for religious singers but at the time it was blues that was his primary interest. Most of the musicians were probably rusty and didn't play much anywhere but there some fine performances including some piano players who were recorded far too infrequently during this period. Not all blues musicians from the south came to Chicago and in fact quite a number came to New York such as Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Rev. Gary Davis and others. It's not surprising some of them went farther into upstate New York.  The most famous, of course, is Son House who settled in Rochester in 1943.

Lornell eventually connected with Pete Lowry who was teaching at SUNY New Paltz. In his voluminous research, writing and recording Lowry has become perhaps the most renowned expert on the blues of the Southeast and is credited with coining the term Piedmont Blues. Between 1969 and 1980 he amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. He formed the Trix label in 1972 as an outlet to release his recordings. Around this time Lornell got an NEA Federal Youth Grant and hooked up with Lowry to do some field recording in the south. One of the artists Lornell recorded was Pernell Charity. Charity spent his whole life around Waverly, VA. The Virginian is his only album released on the Trix label. As Lowry told me: "Pernell is a Kip Lornell discovery, done during his Federal Youth Grant year – I was his mentor and supervisor for that! I did the first tapes for him, then got them back – then did a few sessions on my own later, when I got my NEA Folkarts grant." Lornell wrote the liner notes and noted that "the phonograph record has had an important effect in shaping the song repertoire of many blues musicians…such is the case with Pernell Charity… It was the records of Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, and Blind Lemon Jefferson that inspired Pernell to take up guitar."

 Guitar Slim: Greensboro Rounder
Read Liner Notes

Lornell was also involved with Lowry in recording one of the last medicine shows. The show was  presided over by Chief Thundercloud who was still hawking “Prairie King Liniment” from the tailgate of his station wagon at fairs and carnivals in the Southeast in the early 70’s. In his heyday he traveled will a full cast of comediennes, dancers, singers and musicians, numbering as many as sixteen. In later years his lone partner was Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, a medicine show veteran who learned the ropes back in the 30’s from Pink Anderson. The duo was recorded and filmed by Pete Lowry and Kip Lornell in Pittsboro, North Carolina in 1972. The recordings issued on a 2-LP set of music and spoken word issued on the Flyright label titled The Last Medicine Show.

James “Guitar Slim” Stephens was first recorded in the early 70's by Lornell who recorded him on several occasions in 1974 and 1975. His first LP, Greensboro Rounder, was issued in 1979 by the British Flyright label and are comprised of these recordings. Green also appears on the anthologies Eight Hand Sets & Holy Steps and Ain't Gonna Rain No More: Blues And Pre-Blues From Piedmont North Carolina. Green's final recordings were made in 1980 by Siegfried Christmann and Axel Küstner for the Living Country Blues USA series of albums. Other songs from 1980 appear on the album Old Time Barrelhouse Blues which also includes sides by Memphis Piano Red. Green passed away in 1991.

The Virginia Traditions series consisted of nine albums issued between 1978 and 1988  by BRI Records, a label operated by the Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College. The recordings, made in various settings between the mid-1920's and the mid-1980's, range from African American work songs to Anglo American ballads to a cappella sacred music and stringband tunes. As the  Blue Ridge Institute's staff folklorist, Lornell was involved with the series, producing, writing liner notes and compiling tracks which included some of his own field recordings. He was most deeply involved in the volumes Non-Blues Secular Black Music and Tidewater Blues which is where we draw our selections form. Smithsonian Folkways has made the entire series available via their website.

BRI00001 BRI00006
Read Liner Notes Read Liner Notes

The final record we look at today is the anthology Ain't Gonna Rain No More: Blues And Pre-Blues From Piedmont North Carolina. The album includes performances recorded in North Carolina in the mid 1970's by Dink Roberts, Joe & Odell Thompson, Jamie Alston, Wilbert Atwater, John Snipes,and Guitar Slim and it contains a mixture of banjo and guitar numbers. It should be noted that during the interview both Kip and I were under the impression this had not been issued on CD but it appears that Rounder did reissue on CD about eight years ago.

Related Listening:

Kip Lornell Radio Feature (2 hours, 4 min., mp3)

Share