The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310 Message #3888714
Posted By: Brian Peters
15-Nov-17 - 10:15 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
"I stand by my view that A L Lloyd's song was the first *actually titled* 'The Unfortunate Rake' which included the words 'St James', and though the link to Co Clare is interesting, it does not as far as I can see challenge that view."
I'm not arguing with that, particularly - the title is of less interest to me than the links - if any - between British tradition and jazz standard.
"I cannot find precisely where I gave the impression that I thought a farmer in Co Clare actually heard a Louis Armstrong version: of course there were hundreds of version, the song was a worldwide hit. This is my point, a general one."
It was your direct comparison with the African singer who'd learnt his repertoire from John Lee Hooker that gave that impression. So is your theory now that the 'St James' reference had passed somehow from the "worldwide hit" into local tradition in Co. Clare, and that Tom Lenihan heard it down the pub? Even if this were true, you haven't answered why TL's version is nothing at all like the jazz hit, or why - alternatively - he might have inserted a different location into a song he already knew.
"I am afraid that I do not really believe that County Clare was cut off from the rest of the world in some sort of rural isolation and independence whereby a pure oral tradition was maintained."
I'll let Jim deal with that one. He knows the area (and the singer) much better than I do.
"As it happens, the record industry folk-arm had international sales, so the fact that Goldstein was American is not so important as it might appear."
I don't understand where this is going. Creighton and MacKenzie collected 'St James' versions in Nova Scotia in the late 1920s, decades before the Goldstein LP. And Sharp found one (which you referenced above) in Virginia in 1918, before either Goldstein or Armstrong. Where did the text of that version spring from? Just for interest, Sharp's Appalachian 'St James' is melodically and textually quite similar to variants collected in England in the 1900s.
If you'd only stuck to exposing another dodgy Bert song you'd have had no argument from me!