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Who started the Delta blues myth?

GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 May 15 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 May 15 - 05:45 PM
Wesley S 27 May 15 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 May 15 - 05:53 PM
GUEST 27 May 15 - 06:08 PM
Jack Campin 27 May 15 - 06:10 PM
Lighter 27 May 15 - 06:44 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 May 15 - 07:25 PM
Richard Bridge 27 May 15 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 27 May 15 - 08:05 PM
Stanron 27 May 15 - 09:32 PM
GUEST 27 May 15 - 09:59 PM
Richard Bridge 27 May 15 - 11:43 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 15 - 01:59 AM
Mr Red 28 May 15 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,Phil 28 May 15 - 05:35 AM
GUEST,Dave 28 May 15 - 06:04 AM
GUEST,gillymor 28 May 15 - 08:22 AM
GUEST 28 May 15 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,leeneia 28 May 15 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 May 15 - 12:36 PM
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Subject: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 May 15 - 05:40 PM

The title "Who started the Delta blues myth?" is shorthand for the real title of this post, which is "Who is to blame for the myth that we have evidence that blues music originated in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta?"

Short answer: Alan Lomax, it seems. (I found out today that that's a conclusion Vic Hobson and I have both come to independently. So maybe we're both right.) But it's interesting to look at who else has participated in popularizing the myth.

Hobson has written, "[T]he belief that the Mississippi Delta is the birthplace of the blues is so pervasive that we rarely if ever question why this is popularly believed. With the exception of Alan Lomax in the _The Land Where the Blues Began_ (1993) there are few authorities on the blues who have... openly stated this belief...." I don't know who Hobson believes are "authorities on the blues" rather than just writers on the blues whom Hobson personally does not consider "authorities." And Hobson apparently believes that Alan Lomax was an "authority" on blues music (whatever that quite is), a belief that I wouldn't say I share!

In any case, it's fair to say that it is the "blues writers," not their readers, who _are_ to blame for this myth. (Contrast, say, the myth current among many people -- if you read youtube comments, for instance -- that Robert Johnson was one of the earliest blues recording artists. That's an example of a myth for whom "the people" at large trying to share notes with each other _are_ squarely to blame, not "the blues writers," who know about Lemon Jefferson, etc.)


Robert Palmer, the rock writer who decided to write a book about blues -- and it sold and influenced other writers -- wrote that "Blues in the Delta... certainly is the first blues we know much about." That was a FALSE CLAIM when he wrote it. There had been a lot written even before 1935 about blues, some by keen-minded writers such as Newman White. Howard Odum had written about blues he'd heard before 1909, for example (in 1911, and again in the 1920s). Abbe Niles had written articles encouraging educated people to buy records by the likes of Rabbit Brown because they were terrific. George Washington Lee had published the successful book _Beale Street, Where The Blues Began_. Etc. Those writers all had NOT written that blues had a special relationship to the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, because Alan Lomax hadn't started popularizing that myth yet, because it wasn't the 1940s yet (Alan had never even heard of Robert Johnson yet in 1935).

When Palmer published his book
-- Willie Cornish's claim that Buddy Bolden played any blues in Louisiana by the time he stopped playing in 1907 had already been publicized
-- Roy Carew had already written about hearing a different blues in Louisiana in 1906
-- Tichener had recently republished "I Got The Blues" from 1908 by Maggio, of Louisiana (which Maggio had already said was based on a third Louisiana blues)
-- "Joe Turner" was already known to be an early relative of the folk songs about having the "blues" and known to be about events in Tennessee
-- Archie Green had already written in his well-received book that Elbert Bowman had heard blues in Tennessee by 1905
-- Handy had already written in a famous blues book about "blues" he'd heard in Indiana before 1900 and "all over the South" early on
etc.

So Palmer was just being sloppy and playing along with a myth he'd encountered somewhere -- ultimately thanks to Alan Lomax, best we know.


Sam Charters wrote in his 1959 book, "the delta has always been blues country...." Nope. And wrote "[I]f any one place could have given birth to the entire variety and richness of the blues, the delta could have done it." Compared to what a bunch of black Tennesseeans, or a bunch of black Louisianans, or a bunch of black non-Delta Mississippians (such as Crying Sam Collins, who was four years older than Charlie Patton and used a slide, or George Hendrix, who was also older than Patton, and taught Rube Lacy, who taught Son House slide), or a bunch of black Alabamans or Georgians, or... "could" have done? Is is this what we accept as passing for history, telling us what "could" have happened? Ross Russell's claim "Serious writing about the blues began in 1959 with the publication of Samuel Charter's _The Country Blues_" is ridiculous; read Newman White's footnotes before you read Charters. (Charlie Patton expert John Fahey was asked in 1979, "In your studies, did you find anything to dispel the theory that blues began in Mississippi and worked its way up to Memphis...?" "That's Sam Charters' idea, but it depends on your definition....")


Palmer was likely influenced by Giles Oakley's 1976 book, and Oakley was influenced by Charters (and likely by Oliver, see below). Oakley: "[M]any blues historians... are convinced that the blues actually originated [in Mississippi].... One of these writers is Samuel Charters who concludes that, despite the conflicting evidence, 'it was in the Mississippi delta counties that the first blues were sung.' ... By the 1890's there was a greater concentration of black people in Mississippi than in any other part of the country." So what? Is who invented jazz or rock and roll or hip hop going to magically have to do, for our convenience, with whichever state had the most black people in it?


Examples of people in general passing on the myth (or related myths):
"Indications point to MISSISSIPPI as the place where the blues began...." Foreword by Craig Morrison to _Blues_ by Dick Weissman (associate of Gary Davis, Sonny Terry, etc.), 2005.
_Deep Blues_ by Winborn quotes Son House's account of "how the blues began" as if House wasn't five years old at the most when Elbert Bowman heard blues in Tennessee, and makes the claim that "most evidence" points to blues starting in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, which is a false claim.
"The blues style was originated in the early 1900s by African Americans from the Mississippi Delta." -- _Hal Leonard Guitar Method_, 1980.
"He uses a bottleneck to slide over the guitar strings to give a distinctively blues sound. This 'bottleneck style' of guitar playing originated years ago in the backwaters of the Mississippi Delta." -- ad in _Living Blues_ for a film produced by Yale University Films, 1987.
John Giggie has written in a book with "Jim Crow" in the title: "Charles Peabody [in his 1903 article]... offered evidence of blues style of music performed by Delta blacks in Clarksdale, Mississippi." It would be interesting to know which tune(s) in Peabody's article Giggie thinks were "blues" songs and why.
"Howlin' Wolf... grew up in the Delta area where the blues originated." -- Howard DeWitt (author of numerous books), 1985.
Actor Morgan Freeman, usually a virtuously sober thinker, co-owns a blues club in Clarksdale called "Ground Zero" because, according to promotional material, "it all started here." This brings to mind a quote from W.C. Handy about his time living in Clarksdale: "Clarksdale was eighteen miles from the river, but that was no distance for roustabouts. They came in the evenings and on days they were not loading boats. With them they brought the legendary songs of the river." (Handy immediately follows that with an AAB lyric about steamboats.)
"This is the state where the musical style known as the blues began." _Mississippi_ by Rich Smith, 2010.
"Despite its proximity to the Mississippi Delta, where the blues began, New Orleans never..." _New Orleans_ by Downs and Edge, 2003.
"... Mississippi... is... the land where the blues began." Book by David Yaffe about Bob Dylan.
Etc.


Let's look at an attempt at a weaker claim (obviously motivated by the fact that the writer was working on a book with "Delta" in its title): Ted Gioia, who is primarily known for his books about jazz, wrote in his 2009 blues book, "the Delta's claim as [the blues'] birthplace is as strong as any other region's." Oh, is it, if Emmet Kennedy, Willie Cornish, and Antonio Maggio all said they had (independently) encountered three blues tunes in Louisiana before 1908?


Is Paul Oliver capable of doing pretty much the same sorts of things we just saw Gioia and Oakley do? Oliver: "Though its reputation is not unassailable, Mississippi has had the most advocates[*] as the source of the blues. Undoubtably the origins of the blues are far more complex but the 'Mississippi Blues' remains axiomatic as the essence of blues feeling...." There's no evidence at all that blues music originated in Mississippi -- but look at this shiny object over here, the "axiomatic" (as if any of our subjective tastes regarding Hacksaw Harney, Charlie Patton, Bill Gillum, Charley Jordan, Crying Sam Collins, John Hurt, John Estes, Peg Leg Howell, etc. really has anything to with the concept of the "axiom")?

*Argumentum ad populum fallacy. If Oliver knew of evidence that _he_ considered reliable (and plenty of other times he has shown interest in working from evidence he knew of himself), he could just present that evidence rather than handwave about what others had claimed.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 May 15 - 05:45 PM

"as if House wasn't five years old at the most when Elbert Bowman heard blues in Tennessee"

This should read "three years old at the most."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Wesley S
Date: 27 May 15 - 05:45 PM

Where was this article cut and pasted from?

Or are you saying you wrote it yourself?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 May 15 - 05:53 PM

I wrote that myself today.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 May 15 - 06:08 PM

The way I heard it was not that the Delta was the only source of the blues, but that it was the first source that caught the attention of mainstream culture, when rural singers from the Delta started moving into New Orleans in large numbers to work on the docks. Once it got their attention, people looked around and found there was a lot more of that kind of music and in a lot of locations.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 May 15 - 06:10 PM

It would be rather easier to follow what you're saying if you stated your own ideas about how blues started and relegated the refutations of other theories to footnotes. As you're presenting it, it's not easy to see the point.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 27 May 15 - 06:44 PM

No worse organized than what I write.

And Joe's point is clear: there's no more evidence to attribute the "birth of the blues" to the Mississippi Delta than to places as far afield as Indiana and Tennessee.

In fact, whatever the truth may be, there seems to be little enough evidence (as distinct from assertion) to locate the birthplace of the blues in any region narrower than the American South and the Ohio Valley.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 May 15 - 07:25 PM

The post is about trying to figure out who popularized a particular myth, the myth that we have evidence that blues music started in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. And, basically, it seems that Alan Lomax did, starting in the 1940s and 1950s, and still actively in the 1980s and 1990s, but he had plenty of help from others.

Writers since roughly Charters 1959, while discussing blues origins, have often remembered to throw the Yazoo/Mississippi Delta a bone, choosing to throw that bone illogically rather than not throw it at all (Charters, Oliver, Palmer, Oakley, Gioia), because none of them could do so logically, because they had no actual evidence that blues music started in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. And, given when they were writing, it apparently only occurred to them to do throw that bone _at all_ (rather than throw that same bone to Alabama or wherever) because Alan Lomax had already popularized the idea that early blues music had a special relationship to the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, an idea Alan couldn't support with evidence either, but liked the sound of as of about 1947, and as of about 1993.

In contrast, early writers interested in blues all bear the signs of not being influenced by or independently hitting on the same idea there as Alan did.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 May 15 - 07:52 PM

This could be interesting.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 May 15 - 08:05 PM

"The way I heard it was not that the Delta was the only source of the blues, but that it was the first source that caught the attention of mainstream culture, when rural singers from the Delta started moving into New Orleans in large numbers to work on the docks."

The familiar myth that blues moved from the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta to New Orleans at some point was apparently based on the preexisting myth that we ought to think blues was in the Delta particularly early relative to e.g. Louisiana, for no reason anyone can actually give.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Stanron
Date: 27 May 15 - 09:32 PM

Is this a straw man incident? You set up a false premise and demolished it with vigour. Why?

If, as I have always supposed, that blues was an amalgam of remembered African cultural heritage and taught western hymnal stuff on plantations, then blues will have originated wherever there were plantations.

Before the start of the 20th century the only records of this will be in written material. Letters from people who visited plantations and heard music being played, maybe travelling ministers keeping personal records or diaries kept by literate people who lived nearby.

The first slaves were in America in the 17th Century. I would expect that the music we now call Blues has been brewing ever since then.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 May 15 - 09:59 PM

And the recently deceased Mr. B.B. King....

falls within what area of your Delta Blues scale?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 May 15 - 11:43 PM

At risk of causing widespread depression, should we not first ask "What is Blues"?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 15 - 01:59 AM

At the top of this Mississippi Delta map is the city of Memphis, 181 miles north of Yazoo City, Mississippi. Seems to me, that one could easily say that Memphis is the "Gateway to the Mississippi Delta." The map delineates a relatively small area of Northwestern Mississippi as "the Delta," but I think many people rightly think of "the Delta" as extending from Memphis down into Louisiana - I think that would be an apt definition of the Delta as a cultural area. I worked much of that area as a federal election observer in the 1980s. It's beautiful country and the people and the food are wonderful - but the whole area feels like it's The Delta, not just that one corner of Mississippi. Can't say I had time for music then, though. I was working 16-hour days.

But nonetheless, it's an interesting article, Joseph. I just think you define the Delta a bit too rigidly.

-Joe-

P.S. to Joseph: If you'd like to be a member of Mudcat, we'd love to have you. Just send me an email at joe@mudcat.org


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Mr Red
Date: 28 May 15 - 04:20 AM

Well!
& I always thought of "Delta Blues Music" as a style.

Methinks this comes under the same banner as "What is Folk Music?".

As the original editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, James Murray (1837-1915), said of language (apt here) it has a firm centre, with certainty stretching a distance therefrom but a periphery increasingly vague & ill defined. Or he might have opined "a circumference defined by the listener".

FWIW IMNSHO Leadbelly was Folk-Delta Blues, Muddy Waters played Blues, and not "Folk".

As for perpetrating a myth. History is made by the winners, and the Lomax's did a lot of winning. When few others were.

Labels are one way language communicates. It gives you something to argue about at least.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 28 May 15 - 05:35 AM

"The first slaves were in America in the 17th Century." is just another myth as well.

The first slaves to make the Atlantic crossing to North America were most likely Irish. They began arriving in the late 10th century and remained in the general area of the Davis Strait and Labrador Sea for the next four hundred+ years or until just a century or so before Columbus.

They were called thralls by the their Norwegian and Icelandic masters. They (almost certainly) had the blues but no music remains, so... nevermind.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 28 May 15 - 06:04 AM

Phil, I would think its quite likely that slaves were brought across the Bering Strait as long as 25,000 years ago.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 28 May 15 - 08:22 AM

Joe Offer, I seem to recall that the locals referred to the Yazoo River basin as the "Delta" back in Charley Patton's day. I probably read that in Steve Calt's and Gayle Dean Wardlow's biography of Patton.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 May 15 - 09:13 AM

Mike Yates wrote an article - Blues Jumped a Rabbit - a couple of years back, which deconstructs the Lomax idea that the Blues began in the Delta. You can read it online at www.mustrad.org.uk


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 May 15 - 10:34 AM

From the OP "Who is to blame for the myth that we have evidence that blues music originated in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta?"

I have been interested in music all my life, and this is the first time I have heard this idea. Actually, the blues began in a lot of places as musicians picked up the musical concepts, shared and enlarged them.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 12:36 PM

Stanron wrote: "You set up a false premise..." No, I gave "Examples of people in general passing on the myth" in that post.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 12:42 PM

"And the recently deceased Mr. B.B. King.... falls within what area of your Delta Blues scale?" I don't understand what relevance you think B.B. has to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 12:54 PM

Richard wrote: "should we not first ask 'What is Blues'?"

The black folk songs that had the word "blues" in them as of about 1909, the existence of which caused anyone to start talking about "blues songs," in about 1909, were apparently generally first-person sad songs with repetitive lyrics within the stanza, and chord progressions similar to I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-V-I-I or I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-V-I-I, rather than the quite different chord progressions found in countless black folk songs of the era. Songs with those characteristics that were reported to predate 1909 include "Got No More Home Than A Dog," the "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" family, and the "K.C. Moan" family.

For anyone who wants to define "blues music" broadly, to include the likes of "John Henry"... we don't have evidence that that broadly defined "blues music" started in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta either.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 01:16 PM

"down into Louisiana" The map you linked to shows the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta aka "Mississippi Delta" ("the distinctive northwest section of Mississippi between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers") as ending about 25 miles from Memphis (and not including e.g. Plum Point, Mississippi, where Memphis bluesman Jim Jackson was reportedly born, or Hernando, Mississippi, where Memphis bluesman Robert Wilkins was born) and being immediately on the other side of the Mississippi River from part of Arkansas and part of Louisiana (ending about 200 miles from New Orleans).


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 01:33 PM

"I always thought of 'Delta Blues Music' as a style." Son House learned slide from Rube Lacy, who had learned slide outside the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta; Robert Johnson learned to play guitar well from Ike Zimmerman, who wasn't from that Delta, and emulated the records of Kokomo Arnold, who wasn't either; Hacksaw Harney in that Delta played the way he did; Crying Sam Collins outside that Delta played the way he did; "Mississippi" Fred McDowell learned to play guitar in Tennessee not knowing anyone would later care whether he ever lived in that Delta; Chicago welcomed Tampa Red and John Lee Williamson to the blues fraternity; etc. because the '20s-'30s blues musicians hadn't got the memo about what Alan Lomax would imagine in the '40s any more than the '20s-'30s blues writers had.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 01:36 PM

"... Leadbelly was Folk-Delta Blues..." What does the "Delta" mean there?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 28 May 15 - 01:50 PM

Speaking of John Henry, it was long asserted as fact that he raced the stream drill at the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia in the 1870s.

Mudcatter John Garst has recently shown, on the basis of extensive new research and re-evaluation of the evidence, just how unlikely that claim really is.

Many songs, including "John Henry," can be called "blues" in the broadest sense if they include "blue notes."

But the "blues" proper also have the three-line stanza form that Joe describes.

Though rare elsewhere, the form is not unknown in Anglo-American folksong, particularly in the South. I'm thinking especially of Dillard Chandler's "The Sailor Being Tired":

www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrVr5TpkfWE

Maybe he got it from Afro- rather than Anglo-American tradition, but the question of just how the form originated remains open.

Chandler's song, however, has no blue notes and is unlikely to be considered a "blues."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: meself
Date: 28 May 15 - 02:23 PM

'Blues' ain't nothin' but a good gal on your mind, according to at least one authority (forget who, though).


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 02:33 PM

"Mike Yates wrote an article - Blues Jumped a Rabbit - a couple of years back, which deconstructs the Lomax idea that the Blues began in the Delta."

Or expresses healthy skepticism about it, anyway. Anyone who wants to deconstruct that idea shouldn't bring up the Tutwiler musician (_Father Of The Blues_ p. 74) while not bringing up the similar, years earlier, and more clearly mournful "Got No More Home Than A Dog" (_Father Of The Blues_ p. 142).

Patton's friend Booker Miller recalled Patton telling him that he began playing guitar when he was about 19, which would be in about 1910.

Yates' "We don't know what the [Tutwiler] singer was singing" is inaccurate.

Handy's _Father Of The Blues_ does not claim he heard the Tutwiler musician as early as "1903." Norm Cohen's research has suggested that the individual lyric "Going where the Southern cross the Dog," sung by anyone, logically should probably -- not necessarily in what we'd call a blues song -- predate 1903, because of when various railroad lines were built.

What Yates calls "Rag Ditties" were widely known to black musicians of the times as "reels."

Henry Thomas's "Lovin' Babe" is a variant of the "All Out And Down" that was known to Freeman Stowers, Mance Lipscomb, etc.

Spottswood's theory that blues began in the Piedmont is based on the existence of songs in the Piedmont that were also well known outside the Piedmont.

Black musicians of about 1911 apparently didn't share Spottswood's perception of the 12-bar blues (with e.g. AAB lyrics) as somehow especially "blues" relative to the 16-bar blues (with e.g. AAAB lyrics). Handy popularized the use of 12 bars in blues relative to 16 bars in blues a lot starting in about 1914.

Yates' mention of Max Haynes's article (which is very valuable) is misleading. If Jim Jackson knew both "I'm A Bad Bad Man" and blues songs, and Blind Blake knew both "Champagne Charlie" and blues songs, that does not somehow mean that "I'm A Bad Bad Man" or "Champagne Charlie" was a blues song.

When does Wardlow think Lem Nichols began playing Pearlee?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 02:47 PM

"Many songs, including 'John Henry,' can be called 'blues' in the broadest sense if they include 'blue notes.'" Black musicians about Frank Stokes' age did not use "blues" to refer to anything with a bent note in it, or even close, and there is no evidence that any black musician used the expression "blue note" about the earliest blues music. (White writers of the 1910s did.)

Blues with four-line stanzas appear in Howard Odum's pre-1909 material, four-line stanzas are common in the blues song families that can actually be traced to before about 1910, and blues with four-line stanzas were known to the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, Rev. Gary Davis, Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, Peg Leg Howell, Skip James, William Moore, Henry Thomas, Jesse Fuller, Charley Jordan, etc.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 02:51 PM

Some Child ballads have AAB lyrics in Child. Jess Morris heard AAB from the black singer Charley Willis (born 1847) in "Old Paint" before 1900.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 May 15 - 02:52 PM

"there is no evidence that any black musician used the expression 'blue note' about the earliest blues music" At the time, I mean.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 May 15 - 02:55 PM

"At the time, I mean." Although it would be interesting to try to find examples of blues musicians about Mance Lipscomb's age bringing up the concept of the "blue note" in interviews even in about the 1960s.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 15 - 07:30 PM

So, Joseph, if the Blues did not begin in the Delta, where did it begin - Arizona? Las Vegas? Boston?

And what do you define as the Delta? Certainly, one legitimate geographical definition is the northwest corner of Mississippi, between the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers, with Greenwood and Yazoo City at the approximate center. That seems to be what you consider to be the Delta. Yazoo City, by the way, is one of the most miserable towns I have ever seen. I hope it has cleaned up since I last saw it in 1985.

But as a socio-economic-cultural area, the Delta is much, much larger. I'd venture to say that from that point of view, the Delta extends from Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans and even farther south - and perhaps up to 200 miles wide in places. The terrain, vegetation, industry, people, language, customs, and culture are interrelated throughout that entire area. It's a wonderful area to explore - stay off the Interstate and drive the two-lane roads and get out and walk when you get to towns. Go to cheap restaurants and taverns, and seek out people to talk to.

Have you ever been there?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 May 15 - 08:05 PM

That Yates article (http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/blues.htm) makes what seems to me an extraordinary statement about blues origins and the concept of the blue note, but without footnoting it or even mentioning where he got the idea. He makes it sound as if it's common knowledge. Am I just not in the loop on this? Here's the statement:

African slaves, it seemed, had taken their own musical scales to the Americas. These were different from Western scales, and when the two scales met there were sound clashes, which produced so-called 'blue' notes.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Stanron
Date: 28 May 15 - 08:35 PM

Here's an article about African music. The author discusses how African scales differ from European and American conventions.

EXPLORING AFRICAN TONE SCALES


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: pattyClink
Date: 28 May 15 - 09:41 PM

Let's clarify the area that we call The Delta. I'm a geologist who has spent years mapping and dealing with water and topographic issues in that area so I'm claiming authority on this point.   On the map Offer linked, the boundary of the Delta is in fact the green line. On the right the line exactly follows the low 'bluffline' which is the edge of the flat alluvial plain. And of course on the left, the boundary is the Mississippi River.   

The citation text on that map has used unfortunate and incorrect wording 'the land between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers', this is not correct. Other smaller subbasins are included and the boundary of the Delta is not the Yazoo but the bluffline.

So Memphis is right at the north tip of the Delta plain, though most of town sits up above the bluffline. Same deal with Vicksburg, it is a bluff town which overlooks the point where the Mississippi, the Yazoo, and the bluffline converge to form the southern 'point' of the Delta.   As the author said, the Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends on Catfish Row in Vicksburg.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 15 - 10:29 PM

So, Patty, the blues stops right there at the bluffs?

Seems to me, that music genres are more likely to come from socio-economic-cultural regions, rather than specified geographic or geological areas. Oceans form rather distinct borders of cultural areas, but not river bluffs.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 May 15 - 12:19 AM

Very interesting! But why is that area called the Delta? It's not shaped like the Greek letter delta, and it's not a river delta.

I always assumed that when people spoke of the Delta or the Mississippi Delta they were speaking of the Mississippi River delta.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 May 15 - 12:43 AM

...and I thought it was both of 'em together, starting at Cairo and going all the way south. Driving the area, that seems to be the case. It's all low-lying wetlands.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 29 May 15 - 05:55 AM

Re Joe Offer above;

Joe the last time I was in Yazoo City compared to when I was there in 1976 it was looking great down town, nice old shop fronts and advertising signs all looking very spruced up and interesting. Then I noticed a number of builders and decorators everywhere painting and then giving an "antiqueing process" to it all plus the shop fronts were facades placed temporarily over the existing ones. Result the backdrop for some scenes in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou".

The posting from Patty Clink above is surely irrelevant here for the reasons you have stated.

I tend to agree with you re the socio-economic-cultural area. But among those of us "blues collectors" for want of a better description The Missisippi Delta is understood to be that area up in the north west corner.

You ask the original poster if he has ever been to the Delta. I get the feeling that he hasn't met many blues musicians either. Taking a guess from his postings I doubt if he has ever left the reading room of his public library but I could be wrong. He seems to enjoy making lists of names. Perhaps he will clarify things by informing us what his qualifications and experience are. I don't ever recall coming across his name anywhere in my years of collecting, listening and reading.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 15 - 11:43 AM

The relevant question isn't geological terminology, it's what non-geologist commentators on the blues mean when they say "Mississippi Delta."

As a layman, my perception (and that's all it is) is that what Alan Lomax and others called "the Delta" was restricted to southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, much as Guest suggests. In that case, if the blues began in Memphis, for example, Lomax would be in error.

Did Lomax ever define the area he called "the Delta"? (I suspect that if he'd meant the geological "Mississippi Delta," he'd have said something plainer, like "the banks of the Mississippi from the Ohio down." Did he? A "delta" is usually taken to mean the area where a river obviously diverges in a delta-like pattern close to its mouth.

There seems to be inevitable confusion between the technical "Mississippi Delta" and the easily understood "Mississippi River Delta."

I don't know Joseph Scott, but I do know an ad hominem argument when I see one. The issue is the comparative reliability of the cited sources. If you have reason to doubt his conclusions, go back to the sources and show why he's wrong.

It seems rather obvious that given the early obscurity of the blues among writers, and the inability of anyone in the 1920s to carry out extensive ethnomusicological studies across the South - or anywhere - any claims about where the blues began must have been based on limited evidence and mere impressions.

Even W. C. Handy's testimony, while extremely valuable, is inconclusive. When he heard the blues in Indiana for the first time, they might already have been common in Florida, or Oklahoma, St. Louis, or (even) Louisiana. Who knows? Nobody was looking for them.

Questions about place of origin of folk-music characteristic are generally unanswerable in any detail. The historical information is rarely sufficient.

The farther back you go before the first known mention, however, the less likely the phenomenon is to have existed. I think that saying the blues seem to have existed in parts of the South some years before the First World War, almost solely among African Americans, is about as far as one can go.

It would be interesting to know who first commented on "blue notes," however they might have been described, and when. The Oxford English dictionary's earliest example of the sense we mean is from so late as 1915, suggesting the influence of Handy's compositions. Earlier than that it simply meant "an incorrect or off-pitch note."

So it's easy to see how the secondary sense of the word developed - from a theoretically "wrong" note to a perfectly acceptable one.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 15 - 11:56 AM

Two more points.

As I understand Scott's argument, it's not that the blues *did not* or *could not have* originated in "the Delta," only that the evidence for the claim is not very strong, even if it has been repeated so often as to be taken as fact.

Also, it seems likely that in the days before radio and blues recordings," an innovation in musical style like the blues must have taken some time to circulate over a wide area.

Here's a contrary suggestion: Did the success of "Memphis Blues" trigger a blues-making craze?

It certainly mainstreamed the style in an unprecedented way.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 29 May 15 - 12:52 PM

I am not saying that the guy is wrong and am not looking for an argument. I don't quite own all the sources which he quotes and don't have the time or interest in pinpointing when and where a particular chord sequence was used or who first used the term blues. We will never know for sure it's all so long ago.
As I stated above the region generally referred to among non-laymen blues followers as the Delta in Mississippi is that north west corner, some people would also include that part of Arkansas just across the bridge.

As a non-American I am surprised to hear that the geological Mississippi Delta starts in Ohio. But I am more interested in music than geology.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 29 May 15 - 01:04 PM

quote: Earlier than that it simply meant "an incorrect or off-pitch note." So it's easy to see how the secondary sense of the word developed - from a theoretically "wrong" note to a perfectly acceptable one.

Lighter: In another thread (Earliest jazzers how blues-interested?), Joseph Scott argued against that, because the earliest evidence of the use of the expression "blue note" is from several years after the earliest evidence of the idea of "blues" music.

I'm not convinced. I think a slang term can exist for a long time before it appears in print, especially if it describes part of a musical form practiced by a rural culture of a poor and oppressed minority, a form that hadn't yet come to the attention of the mainstream. And I think it's more plausible that the term "blue note" came first. It sounds like you agree. If so, do you have any evidence?

The Yates article also seems to agree with that order, suggesting that the blue note was something from an African scale that didn't appear to fit into the European scale, i.e. not a blue note simply because it was used in the blues style.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 29 May 15 - 01:20 PM

To be fair I should point out that the O.E.D. agrees with Scott:
Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the playing or singing of the BLUES. So blue note: a minor interval occurring where a major would be expected; an off-pitch note.

Of course they too would be basing it solely on published works.

I think the O.E.D. mentioned that "blue" has also been used in place of "black" to describe people whose skin is brown, though I think the only instances they cited were in the mid 20th century. If it occurred much earlier it might be grounds for calling a note from an African scale a blue note.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: pattyClink
Date: 29 May 15 - 01:45 PM

I was just trying to clarify what people mean when they say "The Delta" because an earlier description wasn't on point.

No, of course the music doesn't stop at the bluffline. But the alluvial plain is a special place because of its geography and fertility, and that influenced its demographics, and that influenced the music.   It is 5 million acres of rich flat land that required massive amounts of human labor to farm. Most of that labor was African American. If you look at old aerials of it, you can see that about every 10 acres was a house where a tenant farmer lived, because it took a family for about every 10 acres. Never mind men to work the mills, clear the timber, and build the levees.

There are lots of small towns, and a few cities including Greenville and Memphis and Greenwood, and back in the day there were lots of juke joints and houses that sponsored music on weekend nights, and there developed a culture of musicians gathering locally, and as they got more professional, traveling around to other towns. This is the scene described by David Honeyboy Edwards in his book.

Certainly similar things were going on on the Arkansas and Louisiana side and in spots up in hill towns, but I think there was a dense concentration of people and talent here that of course Lomax thought was the central cradle of the music.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:14 PM

"So, Joseph, if the Blues did not begin in the Delta, where did it begin" Quoting Lighter, "there seems to be little enough evidence (as distinct from assertion) to locate the birthplace of the blues in any region narrower than the American South and the Ohio Valley."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:16 PM

"Seems to me, that music genres are more likely to come from socio-economic-cultural regions, rather than specified geographic or geological areas." Of course, but Alan Lomax didn't bother himself with such logic.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:19 PM

"The posting from Patty Clink above is surely irrelevant here for the reasons you have stated." No, it's exactly relevant to Alan Lomax's choice to starting throwing the words "Delta blues" around in the 1940s as if they meant something special, when black and white musicians and listeners had not seen reason to do so in earlier decades.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:26 PM

Hootenanny, if you think my posts about blues music contain errors of fact, your time would be better spent pointing them out than speculating about where I spend my time.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:28 PM

pattyClink: Any idea why it's called the Delta when it begins 600 miles upstream of the mouth? Even if it extends all the way to the Gulf, as Joe suggested, it's still a far cry from what is normally called a delta. Were the people there so isolated and ill-informed that they thought they were living on a river delta?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:32 PM

"It seems rather obvious that given the early obscurity of the blues among writers, and the inability of anyone in the 1920s to carry out extensive ethnomusicological studies across the South - or anywhere" Well, I think what people like Newman White, Howard Odum, Thomas Talley, E.C. Perrow, Abbe Niles, Dorothy Scarborough, Charles Peabody, and Gates Thomas did before 1930 is generally overlooked and underrated these days by blues fans.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 May 15 - 03:33 PM

Joseph, don't take offense. You worked hard on your piece, and you brought up some interesting points for discussion. That's what it's all about. We're all here in this world to learn and to share ideas.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 15 - 04:41 PM

> I think what people like Newman White, Howard Odum, Thomas Talley, E.C. Perrow, Abbe Niles, Dorothy Scarborough, Charles Peabody, and Gates Thomas did before 1930 is generally overlooked and underrated these days by blues fans.

All very true, but they couldn't be everywhere. But I acknowledge that I haven't studied these sources, and their import may be stronger than I think.

As for "blues" and "blue note," there really is no way of knowing for sure which came first. But if "blue note" in the relevant sense is first *known* to appear in 1915, and in an earlier sense 20 years before, all we can say is that, on the basis (again) of limited evidence, the "wrong note" sense appears to be prior to the "note typical of African-American blues" sense.

But perhaps "the blues" have nothing to do with blue notes. Since people have *had* "the blues" since the mid-18th century (see OED), some might have been "singing" "their blues" a century later, even if that simply meant singing sad, first-person songs (say, "Old Smoky") with or without "blue notes," AAB form, etc.

Of course, there's no evidence for an 18th or 19th century of "sing the blues." But since people who might have been saying it didn't leave written records, there's simply no telling.

Of course, such a usage would have nothing to do with the evolution of the blues or with the use of "blue notes." It's simply that the terminology can add to the uncertainty.

What we really need is a description of the blues written before 1912. But even that would be unlikely to tell us where the blues actually originated.

Clearly Lomax had reason to believe it really was the "Mississippi Delta." But he didn't arrive on the scene till the 1930s. Do we know exactly why he was so confident? Mississippi River traffic is certainly a plausible method of the music's transmission, but it could have spread either up from Louisiana, down from the Ohio River, or both ways from Memphis.

Just thinking out loud.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 29 May 15 - 05:25 PM

Lighter: Same here. Just thinking out loud. No way to ever prove anything, but it's fun to speculate. Folk etymology. (I hope that won't incite tirades about the 1954 definition of folk etymology)

I'm really interested in one thing you said:
But if "blue note" in the relevant sense is first *known* to appear in 1915, and in an earlier sense 20 years before...
Where did that latter information come from? And what was the earlier meaning of "blue note"?

With regard to "singing the blues": As a folk etymologist, I'm concerned with plausibility. It seems plausible to me that "singing the blues" and "crying the blues" could have been popular expressions before there was any music called blues, even if there's no written record of it. But that can't be said of "playing the blues." And a lot of the first compositions calling themselves blues were instrumental pieces that sounded more like ragtime than the moaning and complaining music we now think of as blues. It doesn't seem likely that those would have been called blues because of the connection blue=sad. Sad lyrics were in some cases added much later, but that could have been after a blue=sad connection had been tacked on. Perhaps there was earlier folk music that was sad and was called blues for that reason, and Handy and other early composers took something from that style but not the sadness, and also took the name that those folk musicians applied to their own music; but I haven't seen any evidence of that.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 29 May 15 - 06:40 PM

Joseph,
Please read the first nine words of my post above.

If you are unable to understand the meaning of those I wonder how you can understand the reading material that you endlessly quote.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 29 May 15 - 09:55 PM

I think the current myth is this thread has an identifiable and/or measurable subject. Myth-delta-blues or what?

Myth?
The thread title says we were done before we started.

Delta?
Why bother with any other definition than Lomax's? And then ignore it. Three great circus/minstrelsy producing dynasties of the 19th century, Rice, Robinson and Stickney all kept one foot in Cincinnati and the other in New Orleans. Why (other than Alan Lomax's personal outlook on life) would any one section of the river between be culturally isolated from any other during those decades of touring?

Blues?
It's not a static definition and revisions are both retrospective and obsolescent even as they are made.
"A blue note is a sour note....It's a discord-a harmonic discord. The blues are never written into music, but are interpolated by the piano player or other players. They aren't new. They are just reborn into popularity. They started in the south half a century ago and are the interpolations of darkies originally. The trade name for them is "jazz."
Gordon Seagrove, Chicago Tribune, 11 July 1915.

Joe: "Have you ever been there?"
Hoot: "...I doubt if he has ever left the reading room of his public library.... Perhaps he will clarify things by informing us what his qualifications and experience are. I don't ever recall coming across his name anywhere in my years of collecting, listening and reading."
Joe: "Joseph, don't take offense."
Me: [face palm]

It ain't the blues but I lived in the islands longer than the Lomax and Charters Bahamian summer vacations combined (200x.) As far as my family history goes it's not even close. Lomax produced a complete fabrication of static cultural isolation where none existed in the least. (My father honeymooned his 1st wife on Cat Cay the year before Lomax's so-called discoveries.)

The recently departed 'expert' Charters spent pretty much the entire summer of '58 behaving like a Mudcat troll. A real cool jerk and proud of it too. Zero respect for local customs and manners on both islands, NP & Andros.

I can think of no reason why the same 'methodology' applied to the elsewhere would produce better results. Keep the 'blues' recordings, as curios only. Bin the liner notes, books and 'facts' for the great steaming pile-o-drek they are.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 15 - 10:15 PM

OED online:

1895   Kansas City Times 10 Dec. 4/4   At the beginning of their career..they found difficulty in keeping their instruments out of ear-splitting mischief. In the language of the 'profesor' they struck many a 'blue' note.

1908   K. McGaffey Sorrows of Show Girl xiii. 157   He being a nervous party springs a blue note that got the musical director hysterical.

You're quite right about "playing the blues."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 29 May 15 - 11:32 PM

Thank you, Phil, for that quote from the Chicago Tribune! The article was cited by a guest in Joseph Scott's previous thread, but I didn't pay attention to it because the part that was quoted there didn't sound interesting. In fact, you have to read the whole article to understand it, and even then it takes some time because of the writer's jazzed-up writing style. It's a string of quotes the author heard in a night club.

It's also the first known (i.e. first published example that anyone has been able to find recently) use of the word "jazz" to refer to music. So it may not use that word in the same way we do. And it was written at a time when what was called "blues" was a new and very popular instrumental music sounding similar to ragtime but with some variations, including the use of blue notes. Much of it may not qualify as blues by today's definition, but clearly the instrumental pieces that included the word "blues" in the title then were using a very different definition. The word "jazz" at that early stage was also closely associated with the use of blue notes, as the article points out, so the people quoted in the article can be forgiven for confusing the two forms, if indeed they were then two different forms in the same way that they are today.

My favorite part is when the pianist who had been playing what the people in the club called both "blues" and "jazz" said the line that Phil quoted -- that a "blue note" is a sour note, a harmonic discord. And then in the next quoted sentence he went on to use the term "the blues" to mean "the blue notes."

The article is posted as a PDF file at:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ve
I'm going to try to post the entire two-page text here, which I think is permissible given the 1915 publication date. You really have to read the whole thing to understand it, and it's a document that should be preserved in any way possible.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Gordon Seagrove
Date: 29 May 15 - 11:33 PM

Seagrove, Gordon, Chicago Sunday Tribune, July 11, 1915.

Blues is Jazz and Jazz Is Blues

    She leaned across the table while the waiter slunk away and in a pleading voice said something to the Worm. The Worm was her husband. You may have guessed this before.
Anyway what she said was this:
   "Ortus," she murmured, looking into his tired eyes, "if you don't fox trot with me shortly, I shall bring suit for divorce. Our life cannot go on this way."
   "Don't I give you clothes – all you want?" the Worm returneed [sic]. "Huh? Don't I now? Don't I love –you —"
    "Stop!" she cried, deathly white. "You don't understand me.   Clothes – bah –! Coverings for the skin! –Love – a mockery! You do not realize that I have a shoul – that I have two feet – that I want fox trotting."
   "You know I can't dance. Why last wee –"
    "Enough!" she cried imperiously drawing a veil over her snow white shoulders which always appear in scenes like this. "You may consult my attorney tomorrow. You have failed me in the fox trot – I cannot go on –"
   She stopped. Te music had started. Suddenly from above the thread of the melody itself came, a harmonious, yet discordant wailing, an eerie mezzo that moaned and groaned and sighed and electrified, a haunting counter strain that oozed from the saxaphone.
   The Worm stopped. His eyes shone with a wonderful light – the light that lies in the eyes of a man who has had two around the corner. His mouth moved convulsively. The years fell away from his shoulders leaving only his frock coat.
    The Worm had turned – turned to fox trotting. And the "blues" had done it. The "jazz" had put pep into the legs that had scrambled too long for the 5:15.
   What mattered to him now the sly smiles of contempt that his friends had uncorked when he essayed the foxy trot a month before: what mattered it whose shins he kicked?
   That was what "blue" music had done for him.
    That is what "blue" music is doing for everybody – taking away what its name implies, the blues. In a few months it has become the predominant motif in cabaret offerings; its wailing syncopation i heard in every gin mill where dancing holds sway.
   Its effect is galvanic. Cripples take up their beds and one-step; taxi drivers willing suffer sore feet because of it; string halt become St. Vitus' dance in its grip.
   Maybe you, poor sol, in your metropolitan ignorance,, do not gather just what the "blues" are. Worry not; neither does the average person that plays them, and it was only after weks [sic] of toiling that the true definition was obtained.
    The first sortie after the definition was made in a song publisher's arena, where beautiful actresses try their voices and the manager's nerves.
   "Halt," cried the seeker after the definition, "fixing a dark haired piano player with a relentless eye. "What are the blues?"
    The young man recoiled and shuddered. "I don't know," he said. "All I can do is play 'em. A kind of a wail you might call it. Still I couldn't tell you positively. But, say! I can take any piece in the world and put the blues into it. But as for a definition – don't ask me."
   At the next place a young woman was keeping "Der Wacht Am Rhein" and "Tipperary Mary" apart when the interrogator entered.
   "What are the blues?" he asked gently. "Jazz!" The young woman's voice rose high to drown the piano.
   A tall young man with nimble fingers rose from the piano and came over. "That's me," he said. And then he unraveled the mystery of "the blues."
   "A blue note is a sour note," he explained. "It's a discord – a harmonic discord. The blues are never written into music, but are interpolated by the piano player or other players. They aren't new. They are just reborn into popularity. They started in the south half a century ago and are the interpolations of darkies originally. The trade name for them is "jazz."
    "There's a craze for them now.   People find them excellent for dancing. Piano players are taking lessons to learn how to play them."
   Thereupon "Jazz" Marion sat down and shoed the bluest streak of blues ever heard beneath the blue. Or, if you like this better: "Blue" Marion sat down and jazzed the jazziest streak of jazz ever.
   Saxophone players since the advent of the "jazz blues" have taken to wearing "jazz collars," neat decollete things that give the throat and windpipe full play, so that the notes that issue from the tubas may not suffer for want of blues – those wonderful blues.
   Try it some time – for that tired feeling – the blues.

There are two drawings, the first of an African-American saxophonist with "Wooo- ooo-ooo! emanating from the bell, captioned "A BLUE NOTE IS A SOUR NOTE." The second shows "The Worm" and his wife at the table. He cups his ear. "THE YEARS FELL AWAY FROM HIS SHOULDERS."

The article is in the first column of the last page of the eight-page entertainment section (Section VIII) of the Chicago Sunday Tribune for July 11, 1915.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 30 May 15 - 12:29 AM

And thank you doubly, Lighter, for the two quotes using the term "blue note" in 1895 and 1908! Neither of them appears to have anything to do with blues music. You and Phil have shown that Mudcat is a haven for true scholars, and not just a place for people to trade insults over their views on gay marriage. And thank you, Joseph Scott, for starting these fascinating threads and for keeping them high-brow with your very rigorous research on the subjects.

Lighter's 1908 quote is posted at:
http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10508/pg10508.txt
And this is the full paragraph that it's in:
"I did all a human being could do to bring her to--rubbed her hands and slapped her face; but even then she was in no fit condition to appear. Go on she would, in spite of my prayers, and what does she do when she comes tripping on, blithe and gay as a school girl, but stumble and do a slide on her profile half way across the O.P. side, just as the tenor was starting the chorus to his song, 'Bevey in Little Children.' He being a nervous party springs a blue note that got the musical director hysterical and he forgot to give the bass drum man his cue and the whole thing went to blazes.
(It's interesting that the author passed up the chance to say it went to blue blazes. I wonder if blazes were already thought of as blue back then.)

I couldn't find the 1895 Kansas City Times article. Lighter, do you live in Kansas City? It's a great place to hear both blues and jazz, or at least it was when I was there in the 1970's and 80's. There were terrific local amateur blues bands playing at many little corner bars, and there was Milton's on Main, and the Grand Emporium, and an incredible blues club on the east side whose name I can't recall right now, and they were starting to re-develop 12th/18th and Vine. It was also a great place to dance to reggae and soca music, thanks chiefly to the Blue Riddim Band and SDI, and to hear and play folk music, thanks chiefly to The Foolkiller.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 30 May 15 - 12:49 AM

For what it's worth, I'm with you on this one Joseph--I've been reading John Fahey's "Charlie Patton". He does a very thorough analysis of music and lyrics, and points out that there is nothing musically, or lyrically that ties it exclusively to "The Delta", meaning that floating verses, rhythmic cadences and music figures are just like what was in music from everywhere else.

He also points out that Patton, who he says started performing prior to 1915, had a repertoire that included a lot of stuff that wasn't blues, where younger musicians, such as Son House and the Chatmons (who were his younger brothers) played mostly blues. This leads one to think that the blues might have become popular in Delta about the same time it became popular everywhere else--


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Mr Red
Date: 30 May 15 - 04:13 AM

just thought but if you take the analogy of fungi, they start from a centre and as they spread they can leave a centre bereft of fungi. Or take the phenomenon of rich and poor in cities. Rich folks living in the centre and as the city expands the rich want to be in "better" places so they migrate to the periphery, the centre is filled with the poor in the crumbling old buildings. But note, in a hundred years or so the centre becomes obscenely expensive again.

Now if "blues" had started in an urban environment like, say, New Orleans and spread from there, and fashion being what it is, "Jazz" came in to fill the foided centre...........................

we have that "delta" !

speculation can open eyes, but maybe not minds.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 15 - 08:32 AM

Possibly the question was laid to rest long ago, at least in the minds of specialists.

In a lengthy article in "American Folklore: An Encyclopedia" (J.Brunvand, ed., 1996), blues scholar David Evans writes:

"Blues first came to public notice around the beginning of the 20th century. The precise time and place cannot be identified. ...Blues was especially popular in ...the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana's Caddo Lake, and south Florida. ..."

While citing Lomax in his bibliography, nowhere does Evans assert that the Delta exclusively was the "land where the blues began."

It seems to me that roughly simultaneous popularity in New Orleans, southern Indiana, Memphis, and South Florida around 1910 would suggest many years of unnoticed development.

Presumably the intentional use of "blue notes" began ad lib, possibly to suggest a vocal moan. It would have taken a long time for that practice to become standardized into a new musical genre over a wide area.

It's been a long time since I listened to this album, recorded as late as 1974 to 1997, but I don't recall hearing anything bluesy - possibly because the banjo repertoire didn't lend itself well to blue notes:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/black-banjo-songsters-of-north-carolina-and-virginia/african-american-music-old-time/album/smithsonia

At any rate, while there's no suggestion that I'm aware of that the "blues" existed or spread during, say, the Civil War. But there's no way to know about the use of occasional "blue notes" during the 19t century. They would have gone unmentioned in print and would have originally been thought of as simply off-key.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 30 May 15 - 09:35 AM

I tried to post a message about this several days ago. Unfortunately, my computer crashed immediately afterwards and, on getting going again, I find the message hasn't landed.

The conversation has moved on quite a bit since then but, FWIW, here's a re-post. It might actualy land this time.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Despite having been an avid Blues fan for over fifty years, I have never come across the slightest scrap of evidence to even suggest that the blues was born in the Delta. Moreover, my feeling is that the Blues did not arrise directly as a result of slavery, or as a survival of African musical heritage.

Rather, the idiom emerged sometime around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, as a result of social alienation which had been brought on by the failure of reconstruction and by the withdrawal of the northern army in 1876.

IE., with no army to stop them, white southerners were free to terrorise the black population with an avalanche of fiery crosses, lynchings, burnings, beatings and what have you. The effect of that campaign was to mentally unsettle black people and the musical consequence of that unsettlement was the Blues.

Such alienation was by no means confined to Mississippi, but in fact was replicated to a greater or lesser extent all over the South. Hence , rather than seeing the Blues as a product particularly of Mississippi, we find the idiom emerging, more or less around the same time, pretty well everywhere below the Mason-Dixon line.

Against that, it's worth pointing out that the Blues often seems to be at its most emotionally intense in the Delta. However, one might speculate that social conditions in the Delta were probably worse than anywhere else. If so, we can also speculate that the musical consequences of those conditions would be somewhere around the extremes of emotional expression.

But emotional intesity and appalling treatment do not autmatically equate with origins.
----------------------------------------------------------------------


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 15 - 10:07 AM

Am in general agreement, Fred. It's been a long time since I even heard it claimed that the blues scale "must have" originated in Africa.

But I doubt that the blues as a genre can be ascribed simply to "social alienation which had been brought on by the failure of reconstruction and by the withdrawal of the northern army in 1876."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 30 May 15 - 10:48 AM

Lighter. What makes you say that? As I mentioned, the blues first emerged around the turn of the 20th century (see for example Paul Oliver , Songsters and Saints). If we're looking for social causes, such a late date would rule out the direct effects of slavery, and BTW it would also rule out the notion of the Blues as an African survival.

Therefore, the social conditions which produced the Blues must have arisen sometime during the last two decades or so of the nineteenth century. IE., precisely when the earliest Blues singers were growing up and suffering the effects, not of slavery, but of the White backlash.

If there was something else going on then, besides the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings etc., then I appear to have missed it. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

Just on the score of the Blues scale, I am not a musicologist and I don't know my way around the various mucial scales to be heard in Africa. However, it's worth pointing out that the Blues scale is in fact the Dorian mode with a extra flattened note. Please don't quote me, but wouldn't it be surprising if the roots of the Blues lay not in Africa, but in the sounds which Black singers heard their White neigbours making? The high lonesome sound and all that?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: pattyClink
Date: 30 May 15 - 11:46 AM

Guest who wonders why it's called the delta when it's not one:   

It's my understanding that in the 19th century, the low alluvial plain country that surrounds the Lower Mississippi had a topography which looked remarkably similar to the Nile Delta. This inspired the naming of Cairo, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee, etc. Ignorant? I guess it seems so, to those of us with instant access to Google Earth, and after the work done by Fisk etc. in the 1940s to unravel the story of the shifting river and its floodplains and deltas, which by the way it's hard to see as you travel where the plains stop and the deltas begin.

By the time there was greater scientific understanding the place had a name which was well ingrained in common use.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 30 May 15 - 11:55 AM

"It would be interesting to know who first commented on 'blue notes,' however they might have been described, and when. The Oxford English dictionary's earliest example of the sense we mean is from so late as 1915" "'Blue' Note melody" appears on p. 2 of the 1913 edition of "Memphis Blues" (whose copy Handy had nothing to do with).

"Earlier than that it simply meant 'an incorrect or off-pitch note.'" What's your source for that?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 30 May 15 - 12:08 PM

"> I think what people like Newman White, Howard Odum, Thomas Talley, E.C. Perrow, Abbe Niles, Dorothy Scarborough, Charles Peabody, and Gates Thomas did before 1930 is generally overlooked and underrated these days by blues fans.

All very true, but they couldn't be everywhere. But I acknowledge that I haven't studied these sources, and their import may be stronger than I think."

White, for instance, collected Alabama and North Carolina songs and carefully compared them to songs others had collected in Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, etc.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 30 May 15 - 12:18 PM

"What we really need is a description of the blues written before 1912."

http://ourblues.net/2012/09/27/folk-song-and-folk-poetry-as-found-in-the-secular-songs-of-the-southern-negroes/

Especially pp. 270-273, 361-364.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 30 May 15 - 12:24 PM

Fred and Lighter--One of the things that Fahey did in his book on Patton was to do a content analysis of the lyrics for for any sort of references social justice or oppression. He didn't find it--he says, "Patton was an entertainer, not a social prophet in any sense. He had no profound message and probably was not very observant of the troubles of his own people."

He goes on to say, "His lyrics are totally devoid of any protesting sentiments attacking the social or racial status quo."

Earlier on the same page, he says "if we search for verses of great cultural significance, depicting any historical trend or movement, of aspirations to 'improve the lot of the people', we search in vain. Such a search would not be fruitful with any blues singer."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 30 May 15 - 03:18 PM

Forwarded to Joe from a cousin still back in the islands:
"I know the South very well, I spent 20 years there one night"
Dick Gregory. Grouchy ol' St. Louis finally got his Hollywood Walk of Fame star last February ('bout damn time peoples!)

Fred: "If there was something else going on then, besides the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings etc., then I appear to have missed it. Perhaps you could enlighten me."

Stim beat me to Patton & Fahey so I'll take a schwang at Waters:

"Muddy Waters is remembered soley as a blues musician, but when he was discovered by the folklorist Alan Lomax on a plantation outside Clarksdale, Mississippi, he said his most popular numbers at local dances included "Chatanooga Choo-Choo" and "Darktown Strutters Ball," and in a later interview he recalled, "We had pretty dances then. We was black bottoming, Charleston, two-step, waltz and one-step."
McKee & Chisenhall, Beale Black and Blue, Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 1981, p.231.

We managed to shoehorn in a few semi-nonviolent activities and church on Sunday (or Saturday) so enough with hoary pigeonholes and sterotypes already. Somehow, someway, learn to process women wanting to dance and men wanting to be around women y'all.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 15 - 03:21 PM

> "Earlier than that it simply meant 'an incorrect or off-pitch note.'" What's your source for that?

See mine of May 29, 10:15 PM.

I.

Good find of "'Blue' note melody." I suspect it meant "melody based on supposedly incorrect notes that are actually correct here."

That would exemplify the way new word meanings can arise shift from possible ambiguity. Anyone who'd never heard of the earlier kind of "blue note" might easily think that use of the word was narrowly descriptive rather than broadly pejorative.

I've searched a number of vast newspaper databases without finding any earlier references to musical "blues" or blues-type "blue notes." There are a few more places I can look.

OED def.4b of "blue," adj., beginning in the 17th century, seems relevant: "Of a period, event, circumstance, etc.: sad, dismal, unpromising, depressing." It would not take too much of a shift to apply it to a sour note - though that it looks like that shift took a long, long time to appear and catch on, mostly among musicians American popular musicians. (The evidence is spotty.)


II.
Acc. to the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "The rural blues developed in three principal regions, Georgia and the Carolinas, Texas, and Mississippi. The blues of Georgia and the Carolinas is noted for its clarity of enunciation and regularity of rhythm. Influenced by ragtime and white folk music, it is more melodic than the Texas and Mississippi styles."

And those are just the "principal" regions. Nothing there about the Delta as the ultimate source.

Mr Red's fungi analogy is worth keeping in mind, but it seems unlikely to relate the blues. If blues originated at point A, there seems to be no reason why they should disappear from A after spreading to points B-Z. Not that it *couldn't* happen; but there would have to be some special circumstance.

Let's say guitarist Joe Blue invents the blues as we known them in Blue City in 1880. Blue becomes an itinerant musician and travels all over the South. If his music had caught on at home, why would it die out there?

And if it hadn't caught on, saying it "began" in Blue City would pedantically miss the point. The effective point of origin would be the first place where it did catch on on and from which it began to spread, regardless of where it was, strictly speaking, first played.

As for "Blues is jazz." Jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet (1897-1959, from N.O.) frequently insisted that "Jazz is ragtime."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 May 15 - 06:29 PM

Please remember that Joseph Scott started this thread. I'm Joe, and I'm getting confused...


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 15 - 07:19 PM

High point of Odum's 1911 description:

"The 'musicianer' places his knife by the side of his instrument while he picks the strings and sings. He can easily pick it up and use it at the proper time without interrupting the harmony. In this way the instrument can be made to 'sing,''talk,'[or] 'cuss'.... It defies musical notation to give it full expression."

"Defies musical notation" is significant, but Odum never says anything specific about what was later called the blues scale.

On the other hand, every other feature of the blues that I can think of appears somewhere in the articles, which never mentions musical "blues" by name.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 15 - 07:44 PM

Fred, I think you misunderstood my point.

In the late '60s and early '70s it was frequently asserted that the blues scale "undoubtedly" came from Africa because it pretty clearly originated among black Americans.

Sounds plausible, but as you say there's never been any evidence of an African origin. Plus the scale would have had to have gone quite unnoticed since at least the early 19th century, when the U.S. got out of the international slave trade - or, in theory, since the beginning of the 17th, when slaves began to be imported.

Beyond that, I'm skeptical of any theory that a musical form or style can be generated simply by widespread social conditions. (Subject matter, sure; but form, no.) I see no connection between the two concepts. Did rock 'n' roll become popular in the early '50s because teenagers had to hide their fears of nuclear holocaust in a more frenetic, more sexually charged kind of music? I don't know, but I doubt it. Did swing become popular in the '30s because people needed something new to make them forget the Depression? I doubt that too. Parlor songs became incredibly saccharine in the 1840s or '50s for no obvious reason. Social causality isn't usually that simple.

More to the point, were day-to-day conditions for Southern blacks really more depressing after Reconstruction than they'd been under slavery? Would the very individual, supposedly depressive singers of the first blues have been any less depressed if Reconstruction had succeeded? Lynchings hit their peak in the early '90s, but as Stim observes, early blues seem to say nothing about them. Even if the singers were afraid to speak out, nothing would stop them from singing about something metaphorical like "devils" or something like that. But most early blues are about personal and domestic matters.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 30 May 15 - 09:48 PM

Lucy McKim Garrison, who was the first to collect, transcribe, notate and publish the music of African Americans said the following:

"it is difficult to express the entire character of these negro ballads by mere musical notes and signs. The odd turns made in the throat; and the curious rhythmic effect produced by single voices chiming in at different irregular intervals, seem almost as impossible to place on score, as the singing of birds, or the tones of an Aeolian harp. Their airs however can reached. They are too decided not to be easily understood, and their striking originality
would catch the ear of any musician. Besides this, they are valuable as an expression of the character and life of the race which is playing such a conspicuous part in our history. The wild sad strains tell, as their sufferers themselves never could, of crushed
hopes, keen sorrow, and a dull daily misery which covers them as hopelessly as got from the rice swamps...."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 30 May 15 - 10:37 PM

Joe: The text was addressed (and now confirmed) to "Mr. Offer." (To which she adds, if it's Joesphine or Joeslyn, no offense) Hope this helps.
FYI: Joseph (OP) you're "Dread" ;D

Blues is Jazz, etc:
I was tempted to follow Seagrove with that Bechet ragtime quote.
Bechet: "Jazz, that's a name the white people have given to the music."
Rosen, Critical Entertainment, Cambridge, Harvard U. Press, 2000. p.217
Note: Seagrove and everybody referenced in the Trib article were white.

And at the risk of blues drift I will add Armstrong on the same subject:
"At one time they was calling it levee camp music, then in my day it was ragtime. When I got up north I commenced to hear about jazz, Chicago style, Dixieland, swing. All refinements of what we played in New Orleans. But every time they change the name they got a bigger check. All these different kinds of fantastic music you hear today – course it's all guitars now – used to hear that way back in the old sanctified churches where the sisters used to shout until their petticoats fell down. There ain't nothing new. Old soup used over."
"Music" Putnam's Monthly, 1:1, January 1953, p.119-120

Lomax, a few decades on:
"I discovered to my consternation that the rich traditions which my father and I had documented had virtually disappeared. Most young people are caught up in TV and the Hit Parade... simply don't know anything about the black folklore that their forebears had produced and which had sustained and entertained generations of Americans. We resolved to try and do something about this situation."
(My tattered notes of) VHS "Land Where the Blues Began", Beverly Hills, Pacific Arts Video; PBS Home Video, 1990. No time stamp, sorry.

And Wald (back to ragtime)
"The pop music world that began with ragtime is fiercely democratic. Whatever its underlying commercial foundations, it claims to be the music of all America, rich and poor, country and city, black and white (and yellow, red, and brown, when it bothers to acknowledge such subtleties). The only gap it does not strive to bridge is age: Each shift of genre blazons the arrival of a new generation and threatens all doubters with the ignominy of hunching over their canes and mumbling impotent imprecations as youth dances by." (Brutal... but fair.)
Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'N' Roll, NY, Oxford, 2009, p.27


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 31 May 15 - 01:05 AM

It sounds like the words "blues" and "jazz" were first used by people who didn't initially create the music they referred to by those terms, and the meanings were not initially clear and unanimous among the people who used the terms.

That reminds me of when I first heard and heard of grunge music. When I moved to Seattle in 1989, a musician there said to me, "All this music that's around now that everyone's calling grunge, that's not grunge. Real grunge is all gone now."

I think the idea that blues is a musical form used to air grievances about a history of poverty and repression, and that it's called "blues" because it expresses the depressed feelings people have about that history, was probably something that was tacked on a little later. And it was probably tacked on because most people didn't understand why it was called "blues," and so they guessed that it had some connection to feeling blue, and that guess became attached to the music. Similarly, after the introduction of nylon fabric rendered obsolete the duck that was such a big part of WWII soldiers' lives, most people didn't understand the term and concluded that the tape made for those soldiers by coating duck with rubber and adhesive must have been created for sealing ductwork.

Even after the blue=sad meaning was attached to blues music, some people ignored that meaning and continued creating joyful dance music and calling it blues, in accordance with Gordon Seagrove's guess about the implication of the word "blue," i.e. that blue music takes away your blues. That's certainly what the blues musicians and fans in Kansas City were using it for when I lived there.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 31 May 15 - 03:16 AM

"Similarly, after the introduction of nylon fabric rendered obsolete the duck that was such a big part of WWII soldiers' lives, most people didn't understand the term and concluded that the tape made for those soldiers by coating duck with rubber and adhesive must have been created for sealing ductwork."

"Worm and parcel with the lay, turn and serve the other way!" We sailors and sparky's used linseed-cautchouc-duck tape (and varnish-cambric for the aero-nutcases) way before that WWII landlubber stuff came along. Posted a 'parcel' lately anyone? I hoped you 'wrapped' it well!

PS: I was in KC (renov on the Pershing Street P.O.) about same time as you. The five "W" of blues-jazz are pretty tame compared to the subject of best BBQ in those parts.

The impression one gets reading Lomax, et al is what they recorded "...had sustained and entertained generations of Americans." Yet his own life experience shows it to be blurry snapshot of transcience. Methinks if Lomax had recorded twenty years on either side we'd hear the exact same complaint about whomever's generation of music came after.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Mr Red
Date: 31 May 15 - 07:06 AM

it has already been said
the OP doesn't ask if the whole thing is a myth, it askes who started it.
Have we yet established that it is a myth?

Bad OP question is my opinion.

And as for bent notes, the violin has been around long enough for violinist to easily bend/glissando notes so the practice would have been around as artifice/humour since at least the days of Nicolò Amati. Lute players Like John Dowland would have known the technique, but how to notate it in tablature?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 31 May 15 - 08:19 AM

> the practice would have been around as artifice/humour since at least the days of Nicolò Amati. Lute players Like John Dowland would have known the technique, but how to notate it in tablature?

A significant point. Any lutenist, guitarist, violinist, etc., could have bent a note. But because they could have done it doesn't mean they *did* do it. And surely if they did in actual performance, a tablature would have appeared to indicate it. Or if not, references to the practice should be findable.

There are many instances of seemingly simple, even obvious, innovations, that have taken forever to be discovered. This is especially true in language.

Example: Large numbers of people have been saying "Whatever!" dismissively for only about 30 years. (Short for a sarcastic, "Whatever you say, idiot!") What took them so long? In theory nothing prevented George Washington or Elizabeth I from saying"Whatever!", but if lexical evidence is of any value, they clearly did not. But if in fact they did, informally, once or twice in their lives, no one would have noticed. It was not part of "the language," any more than blue notes were part of musical language before the 20th century.

Then there are blends like the gossip columnists' "Brangelina" referring to Bard Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a couple. It took the English language 1600 years to come up with that kind of a blend (abbrev. celeb name + abbrev. celeb name = name for both together). No single reason; it just did. And most potential examples of the same process still don't exist. (So far as I know, the Brits don't have an "Elizaphil" or a "Willikate" )

Of course, any clever coinage nowadays is likely to sweep the world in a way that would have been impossible two hundred years ago; but with note-bending and blues scales we're not talking about just an individual's musical eccentricity, we're talking about a widespread practice.

Stim, I can't help but be struck by Garrison's silence on bent notes, blue notes, seemingly off-key notes, odd scales, etc. It's hard to imagine why eloquent observers like her and Odum would not have drawn attention to the phenomenon if it was at all typical of the music they discussed.

Unless some new evidence turns up, one has to conclude that intentional "blue notes" were rarely used before about 1910.

Ety, what evidence we have (particularly that 1913 "'blue' note melody" suggests that it was the notes more than anything else that led to the names, "blues" being short for phrases like "blue-note compositions."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 31 May 15 - 11:54 AM

The term "blue note" has a folksie or low-brow sound. Classically-trained musicians would have used something like "tierce d'Orléans," or at least something without the word "note" in it.

So I assume it was used either by itinerant musicians who didn't have a lot of technical vocabulary, or by trained musicians going for a folksy feeling, or both. Adding blue notes to any type of music, such as ragtime piano, or banjo tunes now being played on the new steel-stringed guitars that started to appear around 1900, would have given a visceral pleasure that might have prompted listeners or fellow jammers to exclaim "Ah... play those blues, man!" It could have been an exhortation to continue adding blue notes to the piece, and not a description of a type of music. The notes do seem to have been used with a variety of folk and popular musical styles.

But exclamations such as that might have confused the layman, who might have assumed that "those blues" was a reference to a name for whatever type of music was being played at the time, particularly if it sounded like it might be a new type of music for which the layman didn't already have a name. That would account for the people Seagrove quoted confusing or equating jazz with blues, and using both terms to describe what most people today would probably think of as ragtime.

If it was the other way around, i.e. the note taking its name from the musical genre, it should have been initially, or at least occasionally, called a "blues note."

Thanks, Phil, for evoking the happy memory of Arthur Bryant's and Gates & Sons' barbecued mutton.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 31 May 15 - 02:49 PM

If, by a blue note you mean the practice or dropping notes by a semitone or quarter tone, this practice is not new, it is used in medieval plainchant, for instance in various forms of the Kyrie Eleison. The twelve bar progression is what defines blues.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 31 May 15 - 09:39 PM

Dave: Thanks for that info. In a previous thread on this subject some people said that what we call a blue note is used in many genres of western music and in much music from other cultures. I think the only thing that's new, or relatively new, is that name, i.e. the idea of calling it a blue note.

Did they have a name for it in medieval plainchant?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 31 May 15 - 11:31 PM

Actually, Lighter, I posted that quote from Lucy McKim Garrison because it indicated that she and her associates were very aware of the bent and altered notes--a couple places in her notes in "Slave Songs" she gives the caveat that they were not able to accurately represent what was sung--at any rate, what she heard was probably sounded a bit like this:
Georgia Sea Island Singers Listen and tell me if you hear any blue notes.

Note:The Georgia Sea Island Singers were formed in the early 20th century and performed, preserved, and propagated their music, which reflects the Gullah traditions, which are generally considered to incorporate a lot of fairly undiluted African musical elements.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 31 May 15 - 11:57 PM

The Georgia Sea Island Singers link was from me.

A couple thoughts:

1) More likely that anything else, "The Blues" were called "The Blues" because so many of the songs made reference to having the blues--

Went to the river
The river was runnin' up and down
Went to the river
Had the blues so bad
Started to jump in and drown

2) It is true that many blues tunes use the 12 measure phrase--but a lot of blues, particularly early and folk blues, doesn't..

3) Though a lot of blues use a fairly standard I-IV-V chord changes, there are lot of others, and, in fact, there are blues that don't have any chord changes.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 03:44 AM

Etymologophile (hope I spelt that right), I don't know what it is called in plainchant notation (neume), but I think in general it is just an accidental which lowers rather than raises the note. I only used Plainsong as an example because it is the oldest form of music which is written down as far as I know, and if you look up Plainsong on Wikipedia, at the top of the page is a Kyrie in neume notation which has flats as accidentals.

I don't know of a notation for lowering by a quarter tone though.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 08:09 AM

Yes, Stim, I do hear some blue notes, but Bessie Jones wasn't born till 1902. By the time the Singers were recorded by Alan Lomax, blue notes had evidently been characteristic of African-American singing for at least 25 years.

Remember, I'm *not* saying that the blues scale developed only around 1910, only that there's no evidence for it before then. That's pretty much the established view among blues scholars.

Blues fans are more likely to assume romantically that the scale goes way back in African-American (or West African) history.

There are many reasons why a sung melody might defy transcription: irregular timing and syncopation, for example, or ad lib harmonies. These seem to feature in much African-American traditional singing as well. Early writers said that Anglo-American chanteys were "wild" and defied transcription, yet they don't feature a blues scale.

I'm just surprised that if theoretically "off-key" notes were central to the songs Odum and Garrison heard that they didn't say anything more specific.

On the other hand, blue notes are so characteristic of AA song for as long as we have recordings of it, their use must go back before ca1900.

It may be that the notes first became "standardized" (if that's the word) in so-called "field hollers," which tended to be spontaneously expressive and unbound by standard musical practice. Perhaps such "hollering" really is centuries old. It's exactly the sort of thing that *nobody* would have bothered to describe in detail before the twentieth century.

At some point, presumably, the vocal freedom of the "holler" began to be applied to songs and guitar runs.

That could have happened anywhere, and undoubtedly in more than one place over a period of years. (This is called "polygenesis": a repeated rather than a one-time invention from which everything later flows.)

As for "accidentals" in other music, I think we're talking about two related but different things. The accidentals are mere ornaments. Modern "blues notes" are intrinsic to the scale.

But any accidentals heard repeatedly by slaves in religious hymns might also have accustomed many singers to use them more widely and insistently.

Both the emotional "blues" and the independently named "blue notes" clearly influenced the name of the genre. It would be wrong to single out one or the other as "the" origin.

I tend to agree that the name most likely came from "outside," and that the earliest blues singers might not have used it to describe the music. They were musicians, not theoreticians. What we call a blues scale would just have been another technique. Why should a folk musician bother to categorize it differently from any other way of playing?

Again, just thinking out loud.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:16 PM

"Acc. to the Encyclopaedia Britannica: 'The rural blues developed in three principal regions, Georgia and the Carolinas, Texas, and Mississippi."

Reminiscent of David Evans in its random "precision."

"The blues of Georgia and the Carolinas is noted for its clarity of enunciation and regularity of rhythm. Influenced by ragtime and white folk music, it is more melodic than the Texas and Mississippi styles.'" Sigh. Ragtime started nearer the Mississippi River than the East Coast, and ragtime playing was popular among guitarists about John Hurt's age _across the South_ as of e.g. 1907, which was e.g. about 15 years before Charlie Patton learned "Pony Blues." Blues songs that can be confirmed as really early tend to correlate, when played by early-born musicians, with roughly speaking the playing styles of Robert Wilkins and Jesse Fuller (as heard _across the South_).


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:18 PM

"Let's say guitarist Joe Blue invents the blues as we known them in Blue City in 1880. Blue becomes an itinerant musician and travels all over the South. If his music had caught on at home, why would it die out there?" In areas where people try particularly hard to be modernistic, one thing after another (such as use of banjo) can die out there before dying out other places. But of course the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta doesn't qualify as one of those places.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:25 PM

"It sounds like the words 'blues' and 'jazz' were first used by people who didn't initially create the music they referred to by those terms, and the meanings were not initially clear and unanimous among the people who used the terms."

"Jass" or "jazz" was a name that caught on in Chicago to describe peppy music such as ragtime with collective improvisation by visiting bands from New Orleans.

What make you think there was relatively little consensus about what "blues music" meant as of about 1909-1911?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:34 PM

"And it was probably tacked on because most people didn't understand why it was called 'blues,' and so they guessed that it had some connection to feeling blue, and that guess became attached to the music." On all available evidence the vocal blues music of about 1908 was sung about having the blues which equalled being blue.

Dread


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:37 PM

"Even after the blue=sad meaning was attached to blues music, some people ignored that meaning and continued creating joyful dance music and calling it blues" What evidence do you have supporting your idea that the concept of joyful dance music was attached to what you consider "blues music" before the concept of sadness was?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:40 PM

"Bad OP question is my opinion." Only bad if anyone can show that "we have evidence that blues music originated in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta." We don't.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:45 PM

"'blues' being short for phrases like 'blue-note compositions.'" When among whom? People were talking about "blues" music in 1909-1910 well before that 1913 publication associated blues music with the "blue note."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:53 PM

"could have been" "could have been" "could have been" Reminiscent of Sam Charters.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:55 PM

"The twelve bar progression is what defines blues." No, 16-bar progressions were widely accepted in early blues.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 12:59 PM

"1) More likely that anything else, 'The Blues' were called 'The Blues' because so many of the songs made reference to having the blues--" Yes, e.g. in what Howard Odum collected before 1909 and in the lyrics from 1909 that E.C. Perrow published. Rock and roll and hip hop also got their names from lyrics used in them.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 01:02 PM

Without detailed and specific contemporary accounts, "could have been" is the best we can do. That is in the nature of most historical investigations of folk music.

Now if you could unearth such accounts, we'd know a lot more.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 01:04 PM

"Remember, I'm *not* saying that the blues scale developed only around 1910, only that there's no evidence for it before then. That's pretty much the established view among blues scholars." Which scale are you referring to? Even individual artists such as Lemon Jefferson didn't stick to the same scale in all their blues songs.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 01:05 PM

The idea that there is "the blues scale" is something that is taught to beginning guitarists so they will sound relatively funky quickly and their parents will keep paying. In early blues a lot of different scales were used.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 01:26 PM

Maybe this example will help explain my take on "could have been": my belief that "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" predates 1909 doesn't come from thinking about what sorts of lyrics I can best imagine as plausibly sung before 1909 (seems to me the imagination is largely the enemy of the fact), it comes from having encountered claims made by Emmet Kennedy, Gus Cannon, and Roy Carew.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 06:21 PM

Nice thread Dread.

I read what Armstrong and Bechet were talking about in rag-v-jazz-v-blues as "(re)packaging." It's been the standard process in American entertainment for centuries. Everybody, and I mean everybody, from John Durang & John Bill Ricketts to Mitch Miller did it.

So, at the risk of drifting back on topic... one more chimp who isn't here... Moe Asche. In packaging terms the "Sad Bluesman" is descendant of the abolitionist's "Sad Mulatto" and minstrelsy's "Sad Darkie."

The history of the "blue note" may go back centuries. But American variety artist and audience awareness of history will be limited to a few decades at best (as Lomax observed, liking it or not.)


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 07:40 PM

Black folk (or heavily folk-influenced) blues as packaged with white audiences directly in mind has been one thing.

Blues in general as packaged for music fans in general has included the likes of Wilbur Sweatman whom whites and blacks liked, Bessie Smith whom whites and blacks liked, Cab Calloway whom whites and blacks liked, Jimmie Rodgers whom whites and blacks liked, Woody Herman whom whites and blacks liked, Louis Jordan whom whites and blacks liked, etc.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 08:08 PM


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:05 PM

quote: Note: Seagrove and everybody referenced in the Trib article were white.

Phil, how do you know that? One of the drawings published with the article showed a black saxophonist. I was assuming that the two pianists quoted in the article were very likely to have been black.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:20 PM

"Phil, how do you know that?" If we take "Jazz" Marion, for instance, him pointing out that blue notes were used by "darkies originally" suggests that he wasn't black.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:24 PM

P.S. "Jazz" Marion claiming that "the blues are never written into music" (if he did and Seagrove wasn't just playing fast and loose) shows how much Marion had been keeping up with sheet music during 1912-1915. Abbe Niles lived in Connecticut and he first encountered blues on sheet music in 1913.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:34 PM

In those days, moreover, the journalist would certainly have said if they were black. The practice was to identify the ethnicity of anyone who wasn't a WASP, which was the default category.

One reason was to make the story more interesting. There was also the mainstream WASP assumption that anybody not a WASP was intrinsically either amusing or threatening, and readers expected to be told who was who.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 01:53 PM

quote: If we take "Jazz" Marion, for instance, him pointing out that blue notes were used by "darkies originally" suggests that he wasn't black.
Then do the lyrics of "In the Evening by the Moonlight" suggest that James A. Bland wasn't black? Does the frequent use of the "N-word" by many singers and comedians today suggest that they aren't black?

quote: Abbe Niles lived in Connecticut and he first encountered blues on sheet music in 1913.
Do you mean that Abbe Niles encountered blue notes on sheet music, which is what Jazz Marion was talking about, or do you mean that he encountered compositions in the blues genre?

Lighter: The accompanying drawing identified the ethnicity of the musicians, if that was really necessary in a night club report by Seagrove as opposed to a news story.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 03:44 PM

"blue notes on sheet music, which is what Jazz Marion was talking about" To someone who was asking about the blues, "Jazz" Marion mentioned both the "blue note" and the "blues," and talked about the "blues" not being on the sheet music ("never written into music"). If the mellow-about-words Seagrove quoted him correctly.

Abbe Niles encountered the sheet music of Handy's "Memphis Blues" in 1913.

I don't think a song lyric from 1879 has all that much to do with how black people talked to white people about black people in conversation in the North in 1915.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 04:19 PM

> drawing identified the ethnicity

But if IIRC, not the pianist's. The link is down.

The sax players I took to be generic. But the pianist he was the one who did the explaining. Wasn't he working for a music publisher?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 04:27 PM

Found it.

One pianist was simply "dark-haired," the other "tall with nimble fingers." No one in 1915 would have assumed they were black, any more than they would the woman who was playing German and Irish songs.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 04:28 PM

Joseph: You're misreading the article. Jazz Marion isn't talking about a genre of music called blues. It would make no sense to say that 12-bar blues isn't written and is just interpolated by the performer. He's saying that about blue notes, which are not only sour and discordant but also often involve bent strings so that the note can't be represented in a conventional score.

The columnist may be talking about a type of music called "the blues," though that isn't clear. He definitely thinks there is a type of music called "blue music," and "jazz blues," but what he means by "blues" isn't clear. However, when he asks Marion about the blues, the latter replies in accordance with what the term means to him. Marion doesn't call the style of music blues; he calls it jazz.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 05:29 PM

"To someone who was asking about the blues, 'Jazz' Marion mentioned both the 'blue note' and the 'blues,' and talked about the 'blues' not being on the sheet music ('never written into music') [... if] the mellow-about-words Seagrove quoted him correctly" is not a misreading of

"At the next place a young woman was keeping 'Der Wacht Am Rhein' and 'Tipperary Mary' apart when the interrogator entered.
   'What are the blues?' he asked gently. 'Jazz!' The young woman's voice rose high to drown the piano.
   A tall young man with nimble fingers rose from the piano and came over. 'That's me,' he said. And then he unraveled the mystery of 'the blues.'
   'A blue note is a sour note,' he explained. 'It's a discord – a harmonic discord. The blues are never written into music, but are interpolated by the piano player or other players. They aren't new. They are just reborn into popularity. They started in the south half a century ago and are the interpolations of darkies originally. The trade name for them is 'jazz.'"

Whereas "... blue notes on sheet music, which is what Jazz Marion was talking about..." is a misreading of it.

We don't know what "Jazz" Marion was thinking, or even if he was quoted correctly. Seagrove acted in the piece as if being precise could be not as fun as being less precise.

"It would make no sense to say that 12-bar blues" Nothing was said about 12-bar strains in the article. As of 1915, 16-bar blues strains were considered blues strains, e.g. by the white composer Euday Bowman whose "Kansas City Blues" was published in 1915.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 05:32 PM

quote: I don't think a song lyric from 1879 has all that much to do with how black people talked to white people about black people in conversation in the North in 1915.

It shows that race was discussed in that era both casually and frankly and not necessarily in what we would consider polite terms. That song was still popular in 1915, and it shows that "darkie" was one of the more kindly words used, and it uses the term with respect and even affection. If you need more precisely concurrent examples, not necessarily as kindly, there are the "coon songs" or "coon shouts" that were still popular till 1920 and sung by both black and white performers (such as the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet's coon shout "Down on the Old Camp Ground"), and the pickaninny songs that were popular at least from Joplin's 1901 "Pickaninny Days" till Noble Sissle's 1921 "Pickaninny Shoes."

Do you have some evidence that a black person would not have described other black people as "darkies" in a conversation with a white person in 1915? I wouldn't be surprised if a black person today were to tell me that jazz was played originally by blacks in New Orleans, though 50 years from now "black" will probably have become a racist and insulting term. And in fact, about 25 years ago in Kansas City a black man I had just met told me the reason he doesn't like blues is because it's "nigger hillbilly music."


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Etymologophile
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 05:42 PM

Joseph: You're assuming that Marion uses the word "blues" to mean what you mean by it. But the context shows that he doesn't mean that and isn't thinking of a type of sad music called blues. Seagrove and the bar-flies he quotes are confused about that, and trying to sound like they aren't, but Marion, being a musician, was familiar with term "blue note" (other references cited above confirm that it was common slang among musicians) and he knew that the not-at-all-sad music that excited them was full of such notes.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 05:53 PM

Getting back to "Who started the Delta blues myth," from this

https://ia801007.us.archive.org/31/items/78QuarterlyNo3/78%20Quarterly%20No%203_djvu.txt

it looks like as of roughly 1952 James McKune was into a variety of blues singers, such as Jimmy Witherspoon, but also agreeing with a friend that they both valued "rough" singing (and also lyrics that seemed original, and lyrics that told a narrative, and singers who sounded unlike other singers, all which runs kind of contrary to the idea that they thought they were about knowing what "folk" blues was).

Of course Alan Lomax beats 1952 anyway, but others helped.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 05:55 PM

"You're assuming that Marion uses the word 'blues' to mean what you mean by it." Nope.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 06:04 PM

I may have been wrong about "nobody" mentioning field hollers in the 19th century. There is at least one mention of something like them, in Northerner Frederick Law Olmsted's "A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States" (1856). Several blues historians quote it:

"At midnight I was awakened by loud laughter, and, looking out [of my railroad car], saw that the loading gang of negroes had made a fire, and were enjoying a right merry repast. Suddenly, one raised such a sound as I never heard before; a long, loud, musical shout, rising, and falling, and breaking into falsetto, his voice ringing through the woods in the clear, frosty night air, like a bugle-call. As he finished, the melody was caught up by another, and then, another, and then, by several in chorus."

Olmsted describes the practice as "Negro jodling." He mentions hearing it in South Carolina in 1853. If he heard it anywhere else, he says nothing about it.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jun 15 - 06:14 PM

Another contributing factor to "blue" notes may have been the discordant sound of some traditional open banjo chords. While not strictly speaking "blue notes," that kind of "lonesome" banjo frailing would undoubtedly have accustomed people - white and black - to discords as a normal component of music.

Of course, maybe they developed the tunings because they already liked discords.

I've been looking for pre-1920s references to the sound of melancholy tunes (like "Texas Rangers") which, played on the fiddle, may have encouraged glissandos and blue notes, but such descriptions have eluded me. The practice is possibly post-1900 as well.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 12:29 PM

Singing a flatted third over an accompanying major I, for instance, was common among black and white folk musicians in the South, and I've heard examples of it from Europe and Africa. Suppose you think similar to 1b345b7 is a "normal" scale, among a lot of people you know, and a lot of those people are learning major chords as they learn to play instruments, and are combining a scale similar to that with accompaniment with major chords. Then that sounds normal to you.

Handy was proud that some people thought it was interesting when he threw flatted thirds into his scores in places an Abbe Niles wouldn't expect. But that was because Niles lived in Connecticut. When Richard M. Jones (born near Baton Rouge, LA) wrote about a tune with the same chord progression as "Bucket's Got A Hole In It" as "the oldest blues in the world," he was speaking from personal experience that Abbe Niles didn't have.

Blues notes only sounded like wrong notes to _some_ people.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 12:32 PM

And if you listen to e.g. Henry Thomas's quills playing, using similar to 1b345b7 as a scale rather than similar to 12356 as a scale wasn't considered essential to blues music by the earliest-born blues musicians anyway.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 06:03 PM

The best thing about music is playing it.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 08 Jun 15 - 01:15 PM

"The best thing about music is playing it." Not the way I play it.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 26 Jun 15 - 01:39 PM

"the blues scale"

"The Negro... expressed his musical scale 1-2-3-5-6." -- John Work Jr. (born about 1872), _Folk Song Of The American Negro_, 1915.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 31 Aug 16 - 10:17 PM

Ironically, Alan Lomax's own copy of _Father Of The Blues_ reportedly has "Got No More Home Than A Dog" (AAA blues from Indiana, before the AAA blues from Tutwiler) marked in pencil as of particular interest to him!


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Sep 16 - 08:28 AM

>I think the idea that blues is ...

Couldn't agree more with this whole paragraph.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: leeneia
Date: 01 Sep 16 - 08:41 AM

This is how the blues really began

They heard the breeze in the trees
Singin' weird melodies
And they made that, the start of the blues
And from a jail came the wail of a down-hearted frail
And they played that as a part of the blues

From a whippoorwill way upon a hill
They took a new note
Pushed it through a horn
Until it was worn into a blue note

And then they nursed it
They rehearsed it
And then sent out that news
that the Southland gave birth to the blues.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 01 Sep 16 - 10:09 PM

who put the bom in the bom! bom! bom!.....
i usually blame Ewan thingy....


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 02 Sep 16 - 02:19 AM

">I think the idea that blues is ...

Couldn't agree more with this whole paragraph."

The grievances in the early blues songs were personal. Typical were these stanzas Howard Odum collected by 1908:

"That woman will be the death of me
Some girl will be the death of me
Lord, Lord, Lord"

"So she laid in jail back to the wall
So she laid in jail back to the wall
So she laid in jail back to the wall
This brown-skin man cause of it all"

"I'm poor boy, long way from home
I'm poor boy, long way from home
Oh, I'm poor boy, long way from home"

"Well I woke up this morning, couldn't keep from crying
Well I woke up this morning, couldn't keep from crying
Well I woke up this morning, couldn't keep from crying
For thinking about that babe of mine"


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: leeneia
Date: 02 Sep 16 - 12:09 PM

Sorry, Joseph, but a man blaming his woman for all his troubles is hardly original. And the lines about waking up crying and being away from home are very common.

It's just so much safer to blame your woman or to hurt your woman than to go after your employer, the government, the taxman or the Klan.

One exception: "She laid in jail, back to the wall." Why was she in jail? We'll never know for sure, but experience suggests one of these:

for shoplifting
for attacking the man who had been beating her
for prostitution

In modern times, you can add writing bad checks to this list of common female offenses.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 02 Sep 16 - 05:45 PM

"a man blaming his woman for all his troubles is hardly original" Who said anything about "original"?

"And the lines about waking up crying and being away from home are very common." What do you have in mind?


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