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Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?

DigiTrad:
ALABAMA BOUND
BILL MARTIN AND ELLA SPEED
BRING ME LITTLE WATER, SYLVIE
COTTON FIELDS BACK HOME
DUNCAN AND BRADY
DUNCAN AND BRADY (2)
GOOD NIGHT IRENE
JUMPIN' JUDY
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF HER
KISSES SWEETER THAN WINE
LININ' TRACK
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
ROCK ME ON THE WATER
SKEWBALL
SO LONG IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YUH
SONG TO WOODY
TAKE THIS HAMMER
THE GRAY GOOSE
THE ROCK ISLAND LINE (is a mighty fine line)
WE SHALL WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY
WHOA BACK BUCK
YOU DON'T KNOW ME


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chris nightbird childs 14 Nov 04 - 11:26 PM
Blissfully Ignorant 14 Nov 04 - 11:31 PM
GUEST 14 Nov 04 - 11:33 PM
chris nightbird childs 14 Nov 04 - 11:37 PM
Peace 14 Nov 04 - 11:41 PM
Bill D 14 Nov 04 - 11:46 PM
chris nightbird childs 14 Nov 04 - 11:46 PM
Peace 15 Nov 04 - 12:01 AM
Bobert 15 Nov 04 - 12:02 AM
chris nightbird childs 15 Nov 04 - 12:04 AM
chris nightbird childs 15 Nov 04 - 12:07 AM
Blissfully Ignorant 15 Nov 04 - 12:20 AM
chris nightbird childs 15 Nov 04 - 12:22 AM
Blissfully Ignorant 15 Nov 04 - 12:36 AM
chris nightbird childs 15 Nov 04 - 12:41 AM
Nerd 15 Nov 04 - 01:01 AM
RWilhelm 15 Nov 04 - 01:24 AM
GUEST 15 Nov 04 - 07:38 AM
greg stephens 15 Nov 04 - 08:51 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 15 Nov 04 - 09:55 AM
alanabit 15 Nov 04 - 11:14 AM
Terry Allan Hall 15 Nov 04 - 11:16 AM
SINSULL 15 Nov 04 - 11:43 AM
Uncle_DaveO 15 Nov 04 - 11:59 AM
PoppaGator 15 Nov 04 - 01:41 PM
Nerd 15 Nov 04 - 02:32 PM
Tannywheeler 15 Nov 04 - 02:48 PM
chris nightbird childs 15 Nov 04 - 02:49 PM
Big Al Whittle 15 Nov 04 - 04:39 PM
The Shambles 16 Nov 04 - 08:08 AM
Roger the Skiffler 16 Nov 04 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,Lighter at work 16 Nov 04 - 12:26 PM
PoppaGator 16 Nov 04 - 01:56 PM
GLoux 16 Nov 04 - 02:51 PM
Big Al Whittle 16 Nov 04 - 03:02 PM
Nerd 16 Nov 04 - 03:54 PM
GLoux 16 Nov 04 - 04:57 PM
Roger the Skiffler 17 Nov 04 - 03:33 AM
chris nightbird childs 17 Nov 04 - 03:41 AM
Big Al Whittle 17 Nov 04 - 04:48 AM
chris nightbird childs 17 Nov 04 - 12:16 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 17 Nov 04 - 12:45 PM
Mark Ross 17 Nov 04 - 12:57 PM
GLoux 17 Nov 04 - 01:04 PM
PoppaGator 17 Nov 04 - 01:05 PM
Nerd 17 Nov 04 - 02:05 PM
Mark Ross 17 Nov 04 - 02:46 PM
GUEST,Hotenanny 17 Nov 04 - 03:01 PM
PoppaGator 17 Nov 04 - 05:43 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 Nov 04 - 01:54 PM
Little Hawk 18 Nov 04 - 01:56 PM
Tannywheeler 18 Nov 04 - 07:03 PM
Mark Ross 19 Nov 04 - 11:20 AM
Tannywheeler 19 Nov 04 - 04:14 PM
Nerd 19 Nov 04 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,Elijah Wald 06 Dec 04 - 01:11 AM
GLoux 08 Dec 04 - 10:45 AM
GUEST,montymarsh@earthlink.net 10 Dec 04 - 10:38 PM
GUEST,London,David 13 Mar 05 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 13 Mar 05 - 09:49 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Jul 07 - 09:37 PM
toadfrog 20 Jul 07 - 10:11 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 21 Jul 07 - 02:45 AM
Cool Beans 21 Jul 07 - 09:55 AM
Leadbelly 21 Jul 07 - 12:34 PM
PHJim 11 Mar 10 - 12:20 PM
PoppaGator 11 Mar 10 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Gerry 11 Mar 10 - 05:26 PM
Mark Clark 11 Mar 10 - 10:59 PM
MikeT 12 Mar 10 - 01:02 PM
tenn_jim 30 Oct 11 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,josepp 31 Oct 11 - 12:28 AM
GUEST 31 Oct 11 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,999 31 Oct 11 - 01:54 AM
tenn_jim 31 Oct 11 - 01:08 PM
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Subject: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:26 PM

Huddie Ledbetter, writer/or presenter of such classic ( and traditional) songs like Rock Island Line (that gave Lonnie Donegan a career), Midnight Special (big Creedence Clearwater hit), and C.C. Rider (which Dylan was singing before he attempted sounding like Guthrie). Sadly enough, there are still Americans who haven't heard of him.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Blissfully Ignorant
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:31 PM

I'd rather listen to him....:0)


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:33 PM

There are 1400 posts referring to the name, Leadbelly.

Lots of stuff of his on the digitrad.

There are 106 posts that mention Huddie Ledbetter.

Good to see his name again though, Chris.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:37 PM

I'm just saying that lately (as stated in the 'American Folk' thread) people from the U.S. have been ignoring the only real form of American music we have here. Instead choosing to go on about our President and their opinions of politics...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Peace
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:41 PM

True. But that's partly the function of BS as opposed to the site having just 'music' places to post. Politics is in the music, too, and that's a way to keep the acrimonious remarks outta the music threads. Hell, maybe it's the difference between going to a bar and going to a pub.

To answer your question, it beats me.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Bill D
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:46 PM

People who think they are interested in politics don't study Martin Van Buren or the Know-Nothings or Tammany Hall much either...like Leadbelly, they find it all too plain or boring or something.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 14 Nov 04 - 11:46 PM

Well, I don't expect you to answer for everyone Bruce. Just putting it in and seeing what bites...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Peace
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:01 AM

I did. He's great. I love "Goodnight Irene." Always have.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Bobert
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:02 AM

You know, and I hate to say it, is that Leadbelly never got any real respect from Massa Alan Lomax... Not that Alan Lomax "respected" too many of the folks he recorded but at least he did record them...

Leadbelly was thought to be Lomax's "boy"... This didn't help Leadbelly's reputation with the black music appreciaters...

Well, that's the word on the street...

Plus, there were some guys out there who, IMO, were better bluesmen, like Muddy Waters, Son House was still playin'( up to '48 when Willie Brown died), youngins like Elmore James and Lightin' Hopkins comin' up...

Bad timing and bad associations...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:04 AM

I was surprised when Kurt Cobain did his version of "In the Pines/Where Did You Sleep Last Night". Didn't know he was into Leadbelly...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:07 AM

Son probably influenced me more than Leadbelly did actually. I do a version of his "Grinnin' in Your Face". No accompaniment...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Blissfully Ignorant
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:20 AM

I recently heard someone do a cover of 'Where did you sleep last night' and they introduced it as being a Nirvana song!

It was the Nirvana cover that got me into Leadbelly in the first place, on the 'unplugged in new york' cd Kurt Cobain said Leadbelly was his favourite performer...and me, of course, being in the 'Oh, look! A dead rock star! Must be cool!'phase decided he was my favourite performer too.

Maybe if one of these lip-synching teeny bands did a cover of 'Goodnight Irene'(probably my favourite song ever), there'd be a renewed interest..


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:22 AM

Nice, Bliss. I'm also a fan of Cobain's. He was almost the John Lennon of this generation as far as pop music goes...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Blissfully Ignorant
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:36 AM

Yup...and even Nirvana were before my time. What do i get? Britney effin' Spears...or Blink 182...or, if i really want to prove how hard i am, Slipknot....*sigh*...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 12:41 AM

hahaha... I remember first seing Nirvana on MTV here in the states!


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Nerd
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 01:01 AM

I was just talking about Leadbelly the other day at work. One of my colleague was looking for that "Pines" song that Robert Johnson sang. I didn't know which one he meant. Finally it dawned on me: he meant Leadbelly, not RJ! He went online to look at the lyrics, and said "Oh, I didn't know he wrote 'Goodnight Irene.'" "

"he didn't, really," I said. "It's probably descended from an old popular Tin Pan Alley song published as sheet music. Leadbelly always said he learned it from his uncle Terrell, and his Uncle Bob confirmed that, but when they copyrighted it, he and John Lomax shared the credit."

At that point everyone's mouth was hanging open, because why did I know all this trivia? Most people just don't care that much.

Bobert, it was mostly John Lomax who made the business arrangements with Leadbelly and employed him as a servant, not his son Alan. He was much more paternalistic, much more the "Massa," than Alan was. I think Alan sometimes gets a bad rap because people don't distinguish between him and his father. Alan was a great promoter of Leadbelly's talent, arranging recording sessions with everyone from RCA Victor to Folkways, etc. In fact, in 1939 when Leadbelly got in trouble with the law for stabbing another man in NYC (probably someone trying to molest his wife, though Leadbelly was tight-lipped about it), Alan Lomax took a semester off from Columbia University just to raise money for Leadbelly's defense. Most accounts make him a true believer and loyal friend of Leadbelly's, if a little paternalistic in his old-fashioned Texas way.

Then, too, according to most accounts (including the authoritative Wolfe and Lornell book) Leadbelly begged John Lomax pretty obsequiously for a job as driver/cook/servant, sending him four letters in August and September of 1933; Lomax did not seek out such services from Leadbelly. So it may be true that John Lomax treated him as a servant, but he invited and even begged for such treatment. He seems to have grown to resent it later, after John Lomax's attitudes toward him were pretty well set.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: RWilhelm
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 01:24 AM

I am really embarrassed by this new round of American whining. As Guest pointed out, there have been literally thousands of postings here about Leadbelly. He has been the subject of a major motion picture (sort of accurate). Anyone who takes a step beyond pop music is going to run into Leadbelly right away. I think it's fantastic how much we know about Leadbelly, his life and work (and all those Lomax songs he sang).


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 07:38 AM

Hey, I'll talk about Leadbelly: he was a giant of 20th C music and his influence has been pervasive and global. Every syllable and every note of his recorded performances ring out with committment, his presence in his recordings is awesome, his voice jumps out at you from the speakers from 50-60-70 years ago and grabs you by the lapels and says "you WILL listen to this." One of the finest performers the world has heard, what a voice, what a guitar picker, what Soul that man had! When comes such another?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: greg stephens
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 08:51 AM

Well, Bobert, you may be right that Leadbelly wasnt the very greatest of the great blues singers(but he's up in the top ten in my opinion). But what all the rest of his output, the blues stuff if just a little fraction of his output. Hw wqas a Luoisiana/Texas folk-singer, not a delta bluesman. As far as I am concerned, Leadbelly was the GREATEST( without defining too accurately what he was the greatest at).


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 09:55 AM

Wasn't it Leadbelly with an amazing amount of foresight during his stay in Washington DC that wrote The Bushwar blues ?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: alanabit
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 11:14 AM

I am with Greg on this one. I never thought of Leadbelly as a bluesman in the way that Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson or Son House were. I think of him more as an American folk singer, who covered a number of styles. "Irene" is actually a waltz - about as un blues sounding as you can get. I feel rather the same way about Mississippi John Hurt, although there is also plenty of blues and ragtime in his picking along with some fine slide playing. I think we have a tendency to lump any black folk singer of those times along with "other" bluesmen. I don't think they saw themselves that way at all.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Terry Allan Hall
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 11:16 AM

LOL @ Guest/Hootenanny...very good!

I feel a parody coming on! ;)


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: SINSULL
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 11:43 AM

Odetta gave a concert introducing her new blues CD at the Chocolate Church last weekend. 80% of it was Leadbelly adaptations and the audience - all middle class and white - knew them all.

Re: Robert Johnson. Has anyone read Reservation Blues? Just started it. Strange tale of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the "Gentleman" so that he could be the greatest guitar player of all time.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 11:59 AM

chris nightbird said, in part:

lately (as stated in the 'American Folk' thread) people from the U.S. have been ignoring the only real form of American music we have here.

I'm not sure just what you mean by "ignoring the only real form of American music"; but given the context of this thread I have to protest. There's Leadbelly's singing which is surely part of what you're speaking of, which is asserted by some in this thread to be ignored, but how about Dixieland jazz, soul, bluegrass, and on and on? These are real forms of American music, which "people from the U.S." have NOT been ignoring. In any case, Leadbelly is far from "the only real form of American music we have here," great as he was.

Or am I totally misunderstanding your meaning? If so, it may just be an unclear statement on your part.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 01:41 PM

"Only real form of American music..."

Many more people, both in the US and overseas, would apply that definition to jazz than to Ledbelly-style folk music. The usual wording describes jazz as "America's only native art form."

Of course, the common element in (if not the common source of) both jazz and American folk music is the blues.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Nerd
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 02:32 PM

Well, actually the common elements are blues and other African-American music but also tin pan alley and other white popular music, including ballads and other folk music. In other words, what makes these forms "American" is by and large the combination of European and African roots on American soil. Pretty easy to see why, no?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 02:48 PM

I get so tired of the criticisms of John A. and Alan Lomax. The Old Man died before I was born, but my mother and father knew him, and, of course Alan was a good friend to both my parents.
Respect is the issue. The Lomaxes respected the literary and musical merits of the wide range of "American Folk Music" when others did not. They respected the musicians who made that music. If they had not, we would not know the names of Huddie Ledbetter or Texas Gladden or many others, or know the music they made. Do you know what it took for properly raised white town dwellers to choose as life's work going into rural (black&white), poor(b&w), communities and ASK TO BE TAUGHT by those folks? Do you know the invective that was aimed at family members for following that line of work? (The 2 John A's and Alan were/are not the only family members so engaged, btw.) We have a world of music, recorded and on paper, that we would not have without the respect of the Lomax family for the musicians and the music. And without the inspiration of their work there are countless others who would not have followed their own interesting stars into the same field of work.
In re Leadbelly, himself: Mother knew and worked with him in several capacities for several years before his death. He visited in our home. He died when I was 5-and-a-half. Once, when we were reminiscing about those years Mama mentioned the criticisms she received from several women in the community for receiving a black man as a visitor in her home -- and an ex-convict/murderer, etc. Mama told one of the women to her face that she (Mama) wasn't afraid to be alone with Leadbelly, or to leave me (her daughter) alone with him -- but she couldn't say the same about the husbands of some of the women doing the criticising!!    Tw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 02:49 PM

I read Reservation Blues a year ago. Very interesting book. Nice take on Indian musician life. Of course, Leadbelly WAS more of a folk singer than a bluesman...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Nov 04 - 04:39 PM

When I was very new into folk music about 1964-5 - I loved peter Paul and mary (particularly Mary) and then Bob Dylan came along and they seemed sort of tame.

Then I remember one day I wandered into a friends room and he was playing a record of Fiddlers Dram by Leadbelly - I think Sonny Terry was in the mix somewhere as well. I thought, what the hell is this - it just sounded so African - like I'd come to jungle clearing, and found all these Zulus whooping it up. I confess I just didn't get it. neither did I get Robert Johnson for many years. these guys sounded so primitive to me.

theres still things I never really understand.... about Leadbelly. For example, they all say he was a great childrens entertainer. I always wondered how that worked. speaking as someone who has never had children, I 've always had difficulty relating to young folk, and these days I'm too grumpy and self obsessed, to give a stuff about the world kids inhabit.

As for the Lomaxes, we all owe them a big debt. they doubtless had the faults of their class and time - who doesn't. they will judge us all one day - if we are of the slightest interest. But just think of all those songs they have left us all. And what vision they must have had to see the songs and not just turn wawy from them as something alien - like I did as a dumb kid.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: The Shambles
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 08:08 AM

Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?

Perhaps because there's a man going round, taking names?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 08:32 AM

Well, I talk about him, all the time, usually complaining that modern blues players I hear, "do" Robert Johnson all the time and never Leadbelly (and they prefer Stratocasters to 12-string acoustics). On the rare occasions I "sing" other than to myself, I would always include a Leadbelly (and a Bessie Smith)number before the men in white coats (or blue uniforms) carry me away.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Lighter at work
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 12:26 PM

To follow up on Tannywheeler's post - at the risk of thread-creep - anybody who wants to know what Alan Lomax went up against just by trying to collect music in the Delta must read his book "The Land Where the Blues Began."

You won't forget it.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 01:56 PM

At the risk of thread-creep, let me follow up on Roger the Skiffler's comlpaint about the overly-pervasive influence of Robert Johnson:

Robert was a great artist of stunning intensity, but students and fans of blues guitar-playing should really take a close look at his contemporary LONNIE Johnson, who was much more popular and famous than Robert when they were both active, and justly so. Of course, Lonnie started earlier and lived longer, while Robert was like a comet blazing briefly across the sky.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GLoux
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 02:51 PM

Hmmmm...overly pervasive?

I think Lonnie Johnson was a much more sophisticated guitar player who didn't limit himself to just playing blues. He recorded jazz guitar duets with Eddie Lang.

RJ's music was raw, pure, and thoroughly unsuccessful in selling any records, completely the opposite to Lonnie Johnson. The fact that years after he died, John Hammond had the insight to spot RJ's genius and reissue his recordings that wound up becoming seminal recordings for many people in the 50s/60s while Lonnie Johnson's recordings were also available, speaks for itself.

I like Lonnie Johnson. I like Charley Patton. I like Son House. Oh, yeah, I like Leadbelly, too. (No thread creep here!!) People choose who resonates with them. RJ's recordings deeply resonated with a bunch of people. Lonnie sold a lot more records and made more money than RJ ever did. They each have their own legacy.

PoppaG and Roger the Skiffler, if Lonnie Johnson resonates more with you than RJ, great...start, or continue your own LJ crusade...go for it! That's what others have done with RJ (Elmore James, Eric Clapton, etc.)

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 03:02 PM

Hmm...not quite that simple, Lonnie J was one of the greats no doubt....but Robert johnson was something else again.

All I can say is look at any one of the great players around nowadays who can play the Robert Johnson songbook. There are two or three that approach genius standard..... Kevin Brown in this country, Scott Ainslie over in the states. Not just banging out a robert j blues and knowing the words, but guys who can get all the rhythmic complexity.

listen to their own songs and then listen to them doing one of roberts. And suddenly you get measure of the man - the first thing that strikes you is the economy and richness of his use of language. What he had was a vision.......a whole landscape in his head and his hands, and he got it out, got it down. Like Picasso or Shakespeare. there is a completeness about rj. Someone said that great artists create alternative universes - for me that was robert johnson.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Nerd
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 03:54 PM

Robert Johnson was primarily influential among white blues aficionados who comprised a much bigger market during and after the 50s/60s revival. When RJ's records were being primarily marketed to rural black folks, he didn't sell much. When Eric Clapton started saying Robert Johnson was godlike, THEN the record-buying public paid attention.

It becomes an interesting question: was Robert Johnson actually a great blues musician, in the sense of satisfying the aesthetic of the blues's primary community? An argument could be made that he wasn't. I wouldn't want to make that argument, though!

Leadbelly raises different issues; he was not so much a bluesman as a rural popular singer/folk singer who tackled everything from cowboy ballads to kids' songs. In that sense Woody Guthrie was very much a white counterpart. There's no shame in this; other great "bluesmen" like Mississippi John Hurt also fall into this category (MJH also did kids' songs, like "Chicken," as well as lots of gospel, though I never heard him do a cowboy ballad).


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GLoux
Date: 16 Nov 04 - 04:57 PM

When RJ's records were being primarily marketed to rural black folks, he didn't sell much.

Exactly...these were "race" records for the black market. The whole concept of a "delta bluesman" hadn't been fully developed yet, while the "blues lady" was quite sophisticated (Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, etc.)...I think that was why Lonnie Johnson sold more then (his sophistication). The record companies weren't out to record "blues"...they wanted to record stuff to make "race" records. Which is why they recorded MJH and Leadbelly doing country stuff as well as blues. That's what was going on in the delta at the time. Anytime either of them wanted to reach into those "blue places" and sing the blues, they could do it with the best of them. I think Leadbelly's Bourgeois Blues among others validates his position as a bluesman...

When Eric Clapton started saying Robert Johnson was godlike, THEN the record-buying public paid attention.

Yep, long after he was gone...

But the Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson influence was perhaps even more directly transferred (i.e., not on recordings, but first hand) to Muddy Waters long before Clapton heard his first RJ.   I think Muddy Waters went on to crystalize the concept of the quintessential "bluesman" and then retrospective looks at RJ got people to think "oh yeah, he was one, too"...One of my favorite delta photos is the one of McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) playing a resonator guitar with Son Sims, Charley Patton's fiddler (fiddler?).

The same retrospective look at MJH and Leadbelly causes the comments like "not so much a bluesman as a rural popular singer/folk singer ". I'm not being critical here...I'm just raising the issue that there's some "retrospective labelling" going on that runs the risk of missing what was really going on in Mississippi back then. The concept of a "bluesman" was still being formed, IMHO.

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 03:33 AM

I like Robert Johnson AND Lonnie Johnson as well as Leadbelly (and practically everyone else in the genre) but the thread creep has proved the original poster's point: we're no longer talking about Leadbelly! Of course Ledbelly was also a folksinger but his blues repertoire isn't done much by the blues singers I hear (but the skiffle groups do keep the flag flying!) while most blues bands do at least one Robert Johnson.
What really makes me depressed and very, very old are the young bands who do "an OLD Eric Clapton/Jimmy Hendrix/ZZ Top" number. I still think of them as the YOUNG guys!

RtS


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 03:41 AM

I think Son House is more of an influence on me than RJ. And he was also BEFORE Robert. Son had to shoo that pesky kid away, 'cause he couldn't play and he always INSISTED on sittin' in.
Then of course, he DID go away... and came back a Blues Virtuoso! HE was the first guitarist to epitomise the "guitar hero", while Son and Willie Brown were singer/guitarists writing or interpreting Blues...
Robert also stole a bit from them too...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 04:48 AM

I think he worked for himself. he probably had to play all kinds of crap to earn a living. ithink he saw the writing as something distinct and separate


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: chris nightbird childs
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 12:16 PM

Yes, a lot of Blues players/Folk singers had to be "entertainers" back then. Playing everything from ballads to the Pop of the day...


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 12:45 PM

As for playing "all kinds of crap". I think that this is something that many people overlook. Many performers in all fields of 'folk' music that I am familiar with play all sorts of material eg; Charlie Patton's attempt at "Running Wild", Skip James "So Tired" (I'm so Glad), Bill Broonzy "Shanty in old Shanty Town" etc etc etc. I once spent an evening with Buddy Guy playing around on an acoustic guitar when he went into "You Are My Sunshine" plus other later pop numbers and I still have the tapes to prove it.
Most musicians will play and enjoy many types of music but when it come to making your living - or attempting to make your living, you have to play what the customer wants or what you perceive that he wants.
I'm sure that the Carter Family may have a chosen an even wider range of material to record if Ralph Peer hadn't insisted that the material should all be non copyright in order that he could publish it. Likewise any black musician that played a guitar became a 'Blues Singer' when blues was being marketed. Broonzy reverted to playing acoustically when the European audience discovered him because that's what they wanted to hear and he did a great job and put on a great performance. Sadly he still gets some flak for giving the public what they wanted. Some writers still accuse him of 'going commercial' and even adopting overalls during his stage appearances, personally I believe this to be bullshit. Did anyone ever witness this??? I know there is a photograph of him with a mop and bucket but I believe this to be a publicity shot for his track "Moppers Blues". Whenever I saw him he was always dressed sharp as a tack.
Sorry Folks I digressed but Big Bill was one of my first heroes. My whole point is Leadbelly wasn't a blues singer, but he incorporated blues in his repertoire and I suspect that many other 'blues' musicians were the same.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 12:57 PM

As to Robert Johnson's record sales check out Elijah Wald's book ESCAPING THE DELTA. Johnson's sales were fairly slim in the market to which he was being marketed. By the way, he often claimed to be related to Lonnie Johnson, and imitated him quite well on a few cuts.

As to Lead Belly, I have a few leadbelly buttons for sale if anyone is interested.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GLoux
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 01:04 PM

With regard to Big Bill, I've often if blues would've evolved any differently if he didn't put down his fiddle.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 01:05 PM

I've been talking about Leadbelly the last day or two in

this thread ;

unfortunately, just like here, the discussion has veered off to concentrate on other peoples' renditions of Leadbelly songs. But at least it's *something*!

By the way: I didn't mean to imply that Lonnie J was in any way "better" than Robert J -- just that Lonnie is underappreciated today, and relatively few of us realize that he was more popular than Robert when both were alive, not only in the wider "crossover" market, but among black folks in general, and even among black folks in the Mississippi Delta. Anyone unaware of Lonnie (like I was for quite a while) should make a point of checking him out.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Nerd
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 02:05 PM

Gloux,

I agree with you all around. I didn't mean to imply that there was a well-developed concept of the "bluesman" in Robert Johnson's heyday, and that Leadbelly and Mississippi John didn't fit it. Merely that they sit uneasily within our modern concept of "bluesman."

I also agree with your question about Big Bill's fiddle, and extend that to Leadbelly's accordion, which was his first instrument. How cool it would have been if he'd played it more often in his professional career! As it is, you can hear it on a few tracks of the Folkways collection.

Hootenanny, I don't know if Big Bill ever adopted overalls for stage performances, but Leadbelly definitely did. He also preferred to dress sharply in double-breasted pinstripe suits, but for folk festivals and other appearances he sometimes affected overalls and sat on hay bales; I've seen the footage. In the same way, the Clancy Brothers wore their Aran sweaters and sat around a fake kitchen table placed on the stage. It was part of the festival scene then.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 02:46 PM

Actually, Lead Belly preferred to dress in a suit and tie. It was the Lomax's who had him dressed as a convict for performances. Hell, I read somewhere that when he was working on farm he would have his wife starch his overalls.
You're so right about Lonnie Johnson being underappreciated. For my money, maybe the best blues guitarist, at least he's my favorite.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Hotenanny
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 03:01 PM

Nerd,
You are correct about Leadbelly and overalls, in the film for Pete Seeger anyway and there was that awful reconstruction on the March of Dimes programme where he dressed in prison stripes.However I'm sure that left to his own devices he would always prefer to wear a sharp suit.
Broonzy however was coming at it from a slightly different angle having been a successful entertainer on the Chicago club scene and playing electric guitar in live performances there. When he came to Europe he was back to playing an acoustic (Martin 00028 herringbone for all you guitar freaks) instrument but still wearing sharp suits and was still a wonderful entertainer, story teller, singer, instrumentalist.

Greg, regarding Bill's fiddle playing I really like what little he did but however much I appreciate Bill he was after all only one of a very large number of musicians around the scene and I don't personally think that it would have had that much effect on the general development of the music if he'd stuck to the fiddle.
As a matter of interest Lonnie Johnson of course also played fiddle AND piano, Lightnin' Hopkins played piano and on one recorded track organ, Brownie McGhee also played piano. It's what the record companies chose to put on wax that has given us a skewed view of what was available.

Finally to get back to the origins of this thread Leadbelly, he also played piano in a primitive rocking style and if my memory is correct also used a six string guitar on accasion


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Nov 04 - 05:43 PM

I believe the term used by the players themselves -- those whose style was pretty much in the country-blues idiom, but who could play anything and everything to please a crowd -- was "songsters."

I know that Mance Lipscomb described himself as a songster, and the term as I understand it would apply equally well to John Hurt and to Leadbelly.

It's the way I long conceived of myself as a streetsinging performer, too -- a kinda folk-blues stylist as a guitar fingerpicker, but able to play and sing a moderately wide variety of songs (requests) in my halfassedly blues-ish way.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Nov 04 - 01:54 PM

Another guy they used to get snotty about was Josh White, I've seen him referred to disparagingly as a night club entertainer. some people just have a need to look down on other people..

he was real inspiration to us in England. Apart from Elton Hayes (and the occasional bit of rocket science from John Williams)I think he was just about the only finger style player I saw up to the age of 15 or so.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 18 Nov 04 - 01:56 PM

I guess my main reason (for not talking more about Leadbelly) is that I keep getting distracted by Winona Ryder.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 18 Nov 04 - 07:03 PM

Josh White was a terrific singer/performer. Sad anyone had so little taste as to "get snotty" about him. His son is pretty good, too, if he's still going. Ke went more into blues and jazz than his dad did, so I'm not so aware of what he's been up to.    Tw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 19 Nov 04 - 11:20 AM

I just heard from Elijah Wald that Josh White Jr. was at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Shame conference on Lead Belly last week, playing with Oscar Brand. Any one out there go?

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 19 Nov 04 - 04:14 PM

Where is that -- the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Shame conference? Or Elijah Wald? Oscar's a good guy.    Tw


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Nerd
Date: 19 Nov 04 - 04:50 PM

PG: yes, songster was a common term for the leadbelly/MJH type of singer.

Mark and Hootenanny, I did say that Leadbelly preferred a suit and tie, didn't I? :-)


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Elijah Wald
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 01:11 AM

A couple of additions to the discussion......

"Songster" was a standard synonym for "singer" in the twenties, and while Mance Lipscomb indeed used the term Variety also used it for singers like Bing Crosby. It was only in the 1960s that blues historians reinvented it as a term for musicians like Lipscomb, John Hurt, and Leadbelly, who sang blues but also a wide variety of other material. However, it is important to remember that what really set those three apart was not the breadth of their repertoire, but rather the fact that they were "discovered" by people who were interested in documenting that breadth. Plenty of other musicians whose repertoires may well have been equally broad have been classed as pure blues singers simply because that was all that the people who recorded them wanted to record -- Robert and Tommy Johnson being prime examples. And this was not just because of the prejudices and fashions of the 1920s. One of the most prolific blues producers of the 1960s recently told me, in a discussion of Skip James's recording of Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy Bones," "I hate that stuff. All those guys always wanted to record their version of 'Honeysuckle Rose,' and I'd have to tell them to stick to blues."

On Josh White, he was a popular gospel and blues performer on "race records" in the 1930s before ever being discovered by the white folk audience. His son, Josh Jr., does indeed remain active and is a fine musician. However, he is in no sense more of a blues and jazz singer than his father. Josh Sr. recorded with accompanists like Sidney Bechet and Mary Lou Williams, as well as a final session with Sonny Boy Williamson. Josh Jr. is more of a sixties-style folksinger a la Harry Belafonte, though he also does nice versions of his dad's stuff.
(And for more on Josh Sr., I wrote a biography of him, "Society Blues.")


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GLoux
Date: 08 Dec 04 - 10:45 AM

Elijah Wald, welcome to Mudcat...I enjoy your writing.

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,montymarsh@earthlink.net
Date: 10 Dec 04 - 10:38 PM

It's good to hear that people are talking about Lead Belly. Yes, there was a major event at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame recently and our friend Tiny Robinson, Lead Belly's niece, was there. Tiny, who lives in Brentwood, TN, is the founder of the Lead Belly Foundation which is bent on educating kids about music of all kinds, but particularly Lead Belly's, which is practically the basis of all American folk music. Huddie learned to play music for house dances in the country between Mooringsport, LA and Karnack, TX and whatever songs got people up to dance and party, that's what he played.
Also he learned lots of gospel songs because most everybody in his family were church going members of the Shiloh Baptist Church near Mooringsport, where he is buried. He also played music at school closings, the end of year ceremonies at the black country schools. And if he was going to play at your house party you'd be guaranteed a crowd!


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Subject: Where can I get Lead Belly Newsletter?
From: GUEST,London,David
Date: 13 Mar 05 - 08:02 PM

I bought some newsletters years ago from Sean Killeen, meaning to buy the whole collection one day. Since he died I've contacted The Lead Belly Society but get no answer. Does anyone know where I might buy some?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 13 Mar 05 - 09:49 PM

Tannywheeler summed it up great I'm a-thinkin'!! The Lomax's did fine and extremely valuable work, and to diminish that with nitpicking using values of this century is not a good thing at all. If Leadbelly hasn't been mentioned lately, it's because we who venerated the man and loved his music have pretty much said what we felt about him already.

Son House, John Hurt, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis, Bukka White, Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy, Wolf, Big Bill, Little Walter, Josh White, Sonny & Brownie, James Cotten, Gus Cannon, Skip James, Fred McDowell, Hammy Nixon, Walter Vinson, Jim Brewer, Gary Davis, Carl Martin, Ted Bogan, Howard Armstrong, Yank Rachel and many others were all still alive and waiting to be rediscovered in the 1960s. We got to hang out with, and hear, all of them. And many really could still do the music pretty damn well. We were there for that before these real roots experts, who truly had defined their art and their era, left this world behind. What great good luck it was to be there then!!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Jul 07 - 09:37 PM

The 96 sides on the JSP Box Set of 4 cds are listed in thread 72889:
Midnight Special

"Leadbelly Important Recordings 1934-1949," JSP Records, London, 2006. Five hours of his recordings.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: toadfrog
Date: 20 Jul 07 - 10:11 PM

Where is the rest of this thread?
Why does it break off on Nov. 14, 2004?
Am I going crazy?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 21 Jul 07 - 02:45 AM

I'm sure this has been covered, but one problem with Leadbelly's coverage/reputation is that he is seen as a folksinger not a blues singer. As a result, he's judged in a separate category. It's a bit like Blind Willie Johnson who was brilliant but is known as a gospel singer even though his music is drenched in the blues.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Cool Beans
Date: 21 Jul 07 - 09:55 AM

Also, he hasn't put out anything in years and is pretty much coasting on his reputation.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Leadbelly
Date: 21 Jul 07 - 12:34 PM

Wait and see, Coolie! I'm coming back next time...


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Subject: 61 years ago I was five and Lead Belly died...
From: PHJim
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 12:20 PM

Yup!
61 Years ago I was five, and Lead Belly died...


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Subject: RE: 61 years ago I was 5 and Lead Belly died
From: PoppaGator
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 12:32 PM

Same date? I.e., did Huddie die on March 11, on your fifth birthday?

FWIW, 61 years ago today I was 16 months and three days old.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 05:26 PM

61 years ago today, I wasn't.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 11 Mar 10 - 10:59 PM

As was mentioned, part of the problem is that Lead Belly is considered a folk singer while other black musicians are considered blues singers. In fact all of them were playing any music they could get people to pay money to hear.

If you read Elijah Wald's well researched book Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues you discover that most of the musicians we consider bluesmen today in fact performed a wide variety of music from pop and jazz standards to folk songs,d sukie jumps and even hillbilly music.

The reason we view them differently today is that Lomax was an academic ethnomusicologist trying to document folk traditions in the U.S. When he recorded Lead Belly, he was working in that context, not the commercial record industry.

The performers we regard as bluesmen are seen that way because they were recorded by commercial record producers who only recorded their blues numbers. All the other music they played was ignored in favor of the blues numbers. These commercial producers were selling “race” records to a predominately African-American market and they saw no value in recording the wide range of music the “bluesmen” actually played.

It took the folk music boom of the 1950s and '60s to interest people in Lead Belly's music and they soon discovered other blues players that seemed---because of the available recordings---to be much hipper than Lead Belly. When commercial interest in folk music subsided, so did interest in Lead Belly even though “the blues” escaped being labeled as folk music and reentered the popular music markets.

Lead Belly's legacy is really a victim of his times, the divergent goals of recordists and his untimely death from ALS.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: MikeT
Date: 12 Mar 10 - 01:02 PM

Wow, what a coincidence, I found this thread while listening to 'Kisses Sweeter Than Wine' from the Weavers at Carnegie Hall album. What a great record! So, why doesn't anyone talk about the Weavers?


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: tenn_jim
Date: 30 Oct 11 - 11:01 AM

Huddie Ledbetter aka Lead Belly was a "songster" and songwriter. Sure, some of his songs were "blues", some "folk" and some "Jazz" and he did them all well. Just look at the singers who have covered his songs.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 12:28 AM

Finally, a decent thread.

Huddie, by the way, is pronounced "Hugh-dee."

He led a troubled life but he was a fount of great old roots music. Imagine if he lived in the days before recording--our knowledge of roots music would be incredibly poor. Makes you wonder who we did lose before there was recording technology that we would have benefitted from tremendously.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 12:43 AM

Oh, sheesh. You white boys (note the lower case w) have soo much angst. He was a Black man selling his song to buck up some bucks. He never made no money from his songs.

He never sang blues. He also never sung the blues. He wrote songs he felt. And there were few who'd piss him off. Inside or outside. NOW, get yer 12-string GUITar and tell me about it. In music or words.


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 01:54 AM

That was me, again. Sorry . . . .


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Subject: RE: Why doesn't anyone talk about Leadbelly?
From: tenn_jim
Date: 31 Oct 11 - 01:08 PM

OK Guest ...I'm playing House of the Rising Sun.


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