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Blind Blues Singers

GUEST,Doc John 04 Jun 11 - 05:49 AM
Fred McCormick 04 Jun 11 - 06:12 AM
Big Al Whittle (closed) 04 Jun 11 - 06:55 AM
Fred McCormick 04 Jun 11 - 07:04 AM
open mike 04 Jun 11 - 11:41 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 04 Jun 11 - 12:24 PM
PHJim 04 Jun 11 - 12:49 PM
PHJim 04 Jun 11 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,A Chemist 04 Jun 11 - 01:41 PM
PHJim 04 Jun 11 - 07:38 PM
PHJim 04 Jun 11 - 07:42 PM
Allen in Oz 04 Jun 11 - 08:17 PM
Bobert 04 Jun 11 - 09:58 PM
PHJim 05 Jun 11 - 12:15 AM
Roger the Skiffler 05 Jun 11 - 03:24 AM
Acorn4 05 Jun 11 - 04:09 AM
Bobert 05 Jun 11 - 09:08 AM
PHJim 05 Jun 11 - 10:05 AM
The Sandman 05 Jun 11 - 01:23 PM
dick greenhaus 05 Jun 11 - 01:44 PM
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Subject: Blind Blues Singers
From: GUEST,Doc John
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 05:49 AM

The Journalist Peter Wilby in a recent Guardian article discusses the so called war on drugs, likening it to the Prohibition years in the USA and reasoning - quite rightly in my view - that drugs should be legalised.
However, he states that Prohibition and the adulterated alcohol that resulted was responsible for the blind blues singers of this period, although he does not give a reference for this statement. As far as I know the blind bluesmen where blind from birth or early childhood and anyway could not have been such superb guitarists if their central nervous system was so affected by alcohol.
What do other 'catters think?
Doc John
Joe, is it in order to publish Peter Wilby's e-mail on the Mudcat as he does publish it in the Guardian newspaper. It's: peter.wilby@gmail.com


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 06:12 AM

This sounds a bit far fetched to me, and I'd be interested to know how many blues singers Peter Wilby can name who were blinded through bootleg alcohol.

In fact, blind professional musicians are a feature of musical traditions the world over. EG., blind street musicians in Peru, Homer and doubtless other epic singers of the Balkans and, pre-famine at any rate, blind fiddlers and harpers in Ireland.

The reason why there is such a strong correlation between lack of sight and musicianship is, if you'll pardon the pun, blindingly obvious. Societies where orally transmitted musical traditions flourish are typically very poor and their only employment outlets are pretty well limited to manual labour, and they usually cannot afford the drain on community resources which an unproductive blind person would cause.

Therefore, the one way in which a blind person could make a living was by learning an instrument, and becoming a street busker, or playing at wakes and fairs or dives and juke joints.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Big Al Whittle (closed)
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 06:55 AM

I remember talking years ago to a lady who had been involved as a nurse in the Mediterranean theatre of war in WW2. She told me a lot of English sailors had been blinded by the effect of 'wood' gin which came from Spain.
She thought there was still something iffy about cheap Spanish gin.

So I suppose a relationship between blindness and bathtub gin from the prohibition era is possible.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 07:04 AM

But a large number of blues musicians were blinded before prohibition came in. Maybe the memory box is failing me, but off the top of my head, I can't think of a single bluesman whose blindness has been definitely attributed to bad booze.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: open mike
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 11:41 AM

My piano tuner was blind...perhaps there is truth to the concept that other senses compensate--blind people may have heightened sense of touch and hearing...


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 12:24 PM

There are of course various causes of blindness but I don't think I have ever heard of bad liquor beeing the cause for blindness among blues singers. I believe that most if not all of them were blind before they took up music this being one way they could attempt to make a living.
One of the most common problems that singers suffered during prohibition was Jake Leg and Limberneck caused by drinking adulterated Jamaican Ginger. There have been articles printed on this problem and a vinyl album of songs related to it.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 12:49 PM

Here are a few of the most well known blind country blues singers:

Blind Lemon Jefferson - born blind
Sonny Terry - farm injury at age 16
Willie McTell - born blind in one eye- lost his remaining vision by late childhood
Rev. Gary Davis - partially blind at birth- lost what little sight he had before he was an adult
Blind Boy Fuller - began to lose his eyesight in his mid-teens. According to researcher Bruce Bastin, "While he was living in Rockingham he began to have trouble with his eyes. He went to see a doctor in Charlotte who allegedly told him that he had ulcers behind his eyes, the original damage having been caused by some form of snow-blindness." However, there is an alternative story that he was blinded by an ex-girlfriend who threw chemicals in his face.
Blind Willie Johnson - blinded by an accident at age seven.
Blind Blake - No one seems to know much about Blake's blindness. The only photo is an "autographed" picture with "Cordially yours, Blind Blake" in the exact same handwriting as the "Cordially yours, Blind Lemon Jefferson" photo.
Blind Willie Dunn - was not blind, but thought it made him sound authentic. It was Eddie Lang's recording name when he recorded with Lonnie Johnson.

I could find no instance of blindness being caused by drinking home-made alcohol.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 01:00 PM

Blind Boy Grunt - was not blind, but was an alias of Bob Dylan, taken to avoid contractual difficulties.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: GUEST,A Chemist
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 01:41 PM

Drinking pure methanol can destroy the optic nerve, but the most common cause of blindness related to inebriation is walking into something one's drunken vision hasn't noticed.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 07:38 PM

http://www.last.fm/music/Blind+Lemon+Jefferson/+images/8345991


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 07:42 PM

http://toto.lib.unca.edu/sounds/piedmontblues/blindblake.html

Boy these guys had lovely, similar handwriting.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Allen in Oz
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 08:17 PM

I knew about Blind Boy Grunt (our Bob Dylan) but thought that the term " blind" for blues musicians came simply from the fact that they wore glasses.

An interesting thread indeed

AD


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Bobert
Date: 04 Jun 11 - 09:58 PM

I'm a blues singer and there have been a few nights were I was blind drunk.... But soundin' real good, too...

How do you spell, "Designated driver"???

I know how to spell "Designated drunk bluesman"... lol...

B~


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: PHJim
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 12:15 AM

Being blind drunk has made me THINK I sounded real good, but a couple of times I later heard a tape of myself and it was not as good the next morning.
I have also heard people whose music I loved on record, but who sounded pretty crappy when they had a few too many.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 03:24 AM

A letter in the Guardian yesterday made many of PHJim's points with a similar list.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 04:09 AM

Why did Blind Lemon Jefferson wear glasses?


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: Bobert
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 09:08 AM

Good question but he sho nuff did wear glasses...

B~


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: PHJim
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 10:05 AM

Excellent question Acorn4. I don't know why that never occurred to me. It seems so obvious. I should have mentioned where I got the information my first post about the blues singers and how they lost their sight. I simply googled biographies of each of the blind blues singers that I could think of.
People like Ray Charles and Jose Feliciano wear (wore) glasses, but it doesn't seem so odd for a blind person to wear shades. Perhaps Blind Lemon was blind in the legal definition of the word, with some vision.


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 01:23 PM

no,apparantly blind lemon needed someone to lead him around.
"As his fame grew, so did the tales regarding his life, often personally involving the teller. T-Bone Walker states that as a boy, he was employed by Jefferson to lead him around the streets of Dallas"
Blind rev gary davis was not made blind through drinking bootleg liquor either


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Subject: RE: Blind Blues Singers
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Jun 11 - 01:44 PM

How else could a blind person make a living? Some questions have really obvious answers.


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