The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162706   Message #3875386
Posted By: GUEST,Joseph Scott
05-Sep-17 - 04:33 PM
Thread Name: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
"Judging from his articles on country blues and his Patton bio Calt does his research" Gayle Dean Wardlow, coauthor of the Patton book, is a respected researcher. Calt wasn't a reliable source of information. E.g., it's Calt we have to thank for the myth of recent years that professional artists helped invent blues music, which has been taken up by other writers, none of whom can actually point to the supposed professional artists in question (including Abbott and Seroff whose recent book is less good on that issue than their earlier ones). Blues music was around among black folk musicians by 1905 as heard by e.g. Elbert Bowman ("K.C. ..." in TN) and Emmet Kennedy ("Poor Boy Long..." in LA), and none of the writers who pass on this myth of Calt's can point to any credible evidence of professional musicians helping invent blues music by 1905. Any. Abbott and Seroff telling us about professionals who were making blues music in e.g. _1910_, which they were, is not somehow that evidence at all. In Calt's case the psychology re folk musicians (who in this case were black) was that he had a huge axe to grind with folkies. At one point in the James book he claims folk music doesn't even exist, and elsewhere in the book he writes about folk music. That seems like a crazy contradiction because it is.

Skip James happened not to be a very reasonable or pleasant person, and he was a musical genius, and born too late to be historically interesting as the primal anything, and he didn't mind if his lyrics weren't personal, or whether he lifted them from non-folk sources. He's one of those artists you might as well not read a book about, just listen to as much '60s stuff as you can get and enjoy the song and singing and playing for how great they are.