The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162706   Message #3875718
Posted By: GUEST,Jerome Clark
07-Sep-17 - 02:59 PM
Thread Name: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
I confess I don't understand the need to pigeon-hole any African-American musician whose principal instrument was guitar as a "blues singer." I certainly don't expect it among persons, as here, who I would presume knew better.

Hurt and Lead Belly, who had broad repertories drawing from folk ballads, pop tunes, hymns, work chants, the occasional blues, and more, routinely get labeled "blues" musicians, usually by persons who've never actually listened to their records. A songster, on the other hand, was somebody who sang songs, period. According to no less than Johnny Shines, who would know if anybody did, Robert Johnson sometimes sang Sons of the Pioneers tunes and others learned from the radio. Maybe the phrase "bluesman" (or -woman) should be retired from discussion of pre-war vernacular performers.

The phrase "blues singer" surely has more to do with the early recording industry, which employed it as a marketing category, than with ground-level identification of local singers and players.