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Louie Bluie

josepp 01 Mar 11 - 12:26 PM
pdq 01 Mar 11 - 02:58 PM
josepp 01 Mar 11 - 04:37 PM
josepp 01 Mar 11 - 04:44 PM
Art Thieme 01 Mar 11 - 11:54 PM
Fred McCormick 02 Mar 11 - 02:19 PM
josepp 02 Mar 11 - 04:46 PM
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Subject: Louie Bluie
From: josepp
Date: 01 Mar 11 - 12:26 PM

A bio-documentary of Howard Armstrong known as Louie Bluie. This was made around '85 by Terry Zwigoff who did another one on Robert Crumb which I loved.

I love this one even more. Of course, it's right up my alley of American roots music. Armstrong recorded for Bluebird--RCA's race record division which specialized in light blues and hokum. He's not well known but he played with all the greats--Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, Washboard Sam (Big Bill Broonzy's brother-in-law, I believe).

What struck me about Louie was his downhomey-ness offset by his intellect. You always read about bluesmen being illiterate like Muddy and Hooker but Louie was completely literate, acutely so. Very smart man. He wrote freehand in the most beautiful calligraphy and was also a great painter and illustrator. He wrote his own books and when I say he wrote them I mean he wrote them. He'd take these books with blank covers and blank pages and fill them in with his own stories and memories illustrated in ink and various colors of magic markers. He'd paste in photos also and decorate the borders.

One book was simply titled "Pornography" and was full of erotic photos and his own illustrations and very dirty stories for which Armstrong is unapologetic (ah, a man after my own heart!). He and the guitarist of his band talk very frankly about sex and the female body as they leaf through the book. Although he went to church as a boy, he had a dirty sense of humor and got chastised. He also refers to clergymen as pimps. I love this guy!

Louie played both mando and fiddle. His fiddle was so beat up, it looked like it was held together with old shoestrings and rubber bands but, boy oh boy, could this guy play!! In one scene, he is playing with an older white couple, country dance music, and he just tears it up on that fiddle.   Plus you get to see him and his band play old hokum at clubs and streetcorners. What amazing music that is!

My only complaint is that the doc only lasts an hour. that should have been 3 hours easy and I would have watched it all without blinking. It was over way too fast. It's also full of neat old photos and films clips of black jug bands and string bands. A must-see for anyone who considers him even a moderate folkie.


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Subject: RE: Louie Bluie
From: pdq
Date: 01 Mar 11 - 02:58 PM

Howard Armstrong has been discussed several times on Mudcat, usually in connection with Carl Martin and Ted Bogan. They worked folk clubs in Chicago in the 60s and 70s.

It is not really fair to call Bluebird a "race record" label. It was "budget" label started in 1932 by RCA, probably an excuse to lower record prices in the Depression.

By WWII, such recording luminaries as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Dinah Shore, Tony Pastor and Freddie Martin all recorded for Bluebird and sold tons of records.

Trivia: Louie Bluie was named after a president, his full name being William Howard Taft Armstrong.


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Subject: RE: Louie Bluie
From: josepp
Date: 01 Mar 11 - 04:37 PM

I'd have to watch it again to know if Carl Martin was in it. Ted Bogan is. He's the guy Louie is talking to when they're leafing through his pornography book. In fact, Bogan has a major role in this film. The band featured is Howard Armstrong, James "Yank" Rachell, "Banjo" Ikey Robinson, Ted Bogan and Tom Armstrong. The DVD also comes with a booklet featuring some of Howard's art and writing. I wonder who has those books now.


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Subject: RE: Louie Bluie
From: josepp
Date: 01 Mar 11 - 04:44 PM

/////It is not really fair to call Bluebird a "race record" label.////

Were any black artists recording on RCA's mainstream label at that time?


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Subject: RE: Louie Bluie
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Mar 11 - 11:54 PM

Long ago I drove Howard and Ted home to Chicago after we (I opened for them) in Dekalb, Illinois--a club called Juicy John Pink's. It was a great ride home. Non-stop stories and B.S. A good memory. Carl Martin rode home in a different car.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Louie Bluie
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 02 Mar 11 - 02:19 PM

PDQ. According to the notes for the Louie Bluie album, he acquired the nickname when a drunken woman at a party caught his surname and thought she was addressing ol' Satch hisself. When the woman realised her mistake she said something to the effect the "You're not Louis Armstrong at all. You're just plain old Louie Bluie."

Martin, Bogan and Armstrong made one or two superb records in the 1970s. I've no idea whether they're still available, but they sure are worth hunting down.


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Subject: RE: Louie Bluie
From: josepp
Date: 02 Mar 11 - 04:46 PM

I read an interview on the net with Zwigoff and he said Carl Martin died just before filming started wich was hirrible because he and Louie would trade barbs back and forth endlessly and he'd planeed to make that the linch-pin of the whole film. He said Bogan wasn't nearly as good as Martin mainly because he was on meds. So he found Yank Rachell and got him to sit in with the BS sessions and it was better.

Ikey Robinson didn't even know any of these guys before the filming started. Zwigoff met him somewhere and talked him into appearing in the movie which Ikey initially didn't want to do because he was more a jazz guy than a hokum guy and he had never heard of any of these other guys. But after meeting them, he changed his mind and wanted in on the project.

Zwigoff also said Ted was the first guy he found. Just looked him up in the telephon book and the first call he made, he found him. He couldn't believe his luck. He said Ted gave him info that enabled him to track down Louie in Detroit.

In the outtakes of the film, Louie and Ted do a song and then start talking about Memphis Minnie. Louie asked Ted if he remembered how she used to rag on him all the time. Minnie specialized in "dozens" where you something like "Your mama so fat..." and follow it up with something like, "...that when god said Let there be light, he had to tell her to get her big ass the hell outta his way." Louie said she got so bad with him they needed two cops to keep him off her--although I think he was exaggerating a bit. I love those kinds of stories about these great old musicians. All you hear is their music but I'd like to know what they were like as people.

Howard Armstrong is one of those guys you can talk with long into the night. By the way, if you can find the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, he was in that band, If you have Yazoo's "Before the Blues, Vol 2" it has their hit song "Vine Street Drag" on it and Howard is on that song.

Shit, if I gave the man a ride home, I'd have kept driving round and round the same block talking and talking. I wouldn't have let him out of my car.


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