Sun 7 Dec 2014
|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 Carter||Some Got 6 Months||Goin' Back To Tifton|
|C.D. Dobbs||Aberdeen Woman||Goin' Back To Tifton|
|Blind Donald Dawson||Rack 'Em Slow||Goin' Back To Tifton|
|Peg Leg Sam||Hand Me Down||The Last Medicine Show|
|Peg Leg Sam||Who's That Left Here Awhile Ago||The Last Medicine Show|
|Guitar Slim||Worried Blues||Greensboro Rounder|
|Guitar Slim||War Service Blues||Greensboro Rounder|
|Guitar Slim||Come On Down To My House||Ain't Gonna Rain No More|
|Pernell Charity||Come Back, Baby, Come||The Virginian|
|Pernell Charity||Find Me A Home||Pernell Charity|
|Pernell Charity||I'm Climbing On Top Of The Hill||The Virginian|
|Irvin Cook & Leonard Bowles||I Wish to the Lord I'd Never Been Born||Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music|
|John Cephas||Railroad Bill||Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music|
|Lewis Hairston||Bile Them Cabbage Down||Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music|
|Clayton Horsley||Poor Black Annie||Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music|
|Carl Hodges||Leaving You, Mama||Virginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues|
|Corner Morris||Going Down The Road Feeling Good||Virginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues|
|Jamie Alston||Goin' Away||Ain't Gonna Rain No More|
|Wilbert Atwater||Can't Get A Letter From Down The Road||Ain't Gonna Rain No More|
|Jamie Alson||Six White Horses||Ain't Gonna Rain No More|
|Joe & Odell Thompson||Going Down The Road Feeling Bad||Ain't Gonna Rain No More|
From 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."
|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.
|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)
-Kip Lornell Radio Feature (2 hours, 4 min., mp3)