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Who started the Delta blues myth?

Miles 11 Jun 21 - 07:50 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 10 Jun 21 - 05:55 PM
Miles 03 Jun 21 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 02 Jun 21 - 02:56 PM
DonMeixner 02 Jun 21 - 10:02 AM
Lighter 01 Jun 21 - 02:40 PM
Miles 01 Jun 21 - 01:48 PM
Brian Peters 01 Jun 21 - 08:50 AM
Lighter 31 May 21 - 01:45 PM
Lighter 31 May 21 - 01:43 PM
meself 31 May 21 - 10:40 AM
Lighter 31 May 21 - 07:06 AM
Miles 31 May 21 - 04:30 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 15 Feb 19 - 02:45 AM
Big Al Whittle 14 Feb 19 - 08:59 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Feb 19 - 05:53 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Feb 19 - 05:42 PM
Neil D 13 Feb 19 - 05:36 PM
GUEST,Charles Wayne 13 Feb 19 - 03:33 PM
meself 13 Feb 19 - 03:05 PM
GUEST,Charles Wayne 13 Feb 19 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 11 Feb 19 - 07:31 PM
GUEST,Anton 11 Feb 19 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 06 Feb 19 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,Winston Hall 05 Feb 19 - 04:21 PM
GUEST,Guest 01 Feb 19 - 02:29 PM
GUEST 30 Jan 19 - 08:07 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 30 Jan 19 - 08:04 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 30 Jan 19 - 07:12 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 27 Jan 19 - 05:09 PM
GUEST,Guest - Jackson 27 Jan 19 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Oct 18 - 09:01 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Oct 18 - 08:54 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Oct 18 - 08:49 PM
GUEST,Elijah Wald 14 Oct 18 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Sep 18 - 09:08 PM
KarenH 28 Sep 18 - 06:29 PM
medievallassie 28 Sep 18 - 05:57 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 28 Sep 18 - 05:01 PM
medievallassie 28 Sep 18 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 28 Sep 18 - 03:33 AM
leeneia 27 Sep 18 - 09:03 PM
GUEST,Vestapol 26 Sep 18 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 20 Sep 18 - 02:58 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 20 Sep 18 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 20 Sep 18 - 06:34 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 20 Sep 18 - 01:46 AM
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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Miles
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 07:50 PM

Yes, it is not even close, I agree (based on my limited investigation of Morton, likely a fraction of yours, I fear).

What they do share, however, with many other musicians who gave inaccurate birthdates, is chronological unreliability, obviously.

And what Morton, in his “bad half,” shares with some of said musicians, and others, is an acute “I created Jazz” syndrome. With a “My friends and I actually composed such and such famous song, and we were ripped off” complication.

One might argue, as Morton did, that Handy himself accepted the rather ambiguous “Father of the blues” title, but Handy literally spent decades explaining that the genre he popularized was the “polished” version of a pre-existing form.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 10 Jun 21 - 05:55 PM

I'll take Morton over Broonzy as an informant. Roughly half of Morton's stories check out when treated as leads, whereas I don't recall ever learning anything from Broonzy other than that "See See Rider" was around before 1920, which we know from other sources anyway.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Miles
Date: 03 Jun 21 - 10:37 AM

And his being 12 years older than Jelly Roll Morton (in fact 17 years), 20 years older than Broonzy (in fact 30 years), and about 40 years older than Memphis Slim, seems to have somehow made him a less exciting informant to A. Lomax than said others, instead of more.

Handy’s being articulate, well-spoken, consistent, and making reasonable claims 99% of the time seems to have bored A. Lomax to death, when the latter would avidly listen to, and quote, and broadcast, and release the recordings of Morton and Broonzy’s stories, some of which he knew to be utter nonsense, regardless.

In his first letter to John Hammond in June 1938, A. Lomax writes: “[Morton], himself, is extremely bitter because of the neglect he suffered for a number of years and tends to run down other musicians and boast of his own achievements more than is fair to either, I suspect.” Morton had indeed fiercely “ran down” Handy in the press, soon before.

A BBC listener in 1951 would have first heard a recording of Big Bill Broonzy telling an insane story, and then A. Lomax commenting: “What is there to do but laugh, for Bill has now passed beyond the region of fact into the tall story, onto the big lie (…), onto the satire (…).” A record buyer in the late 1950’s would have heard the same story, listening to Blues in the Mississippi Night, and seen it transcribed in the liner notes, but without AL’s comments in either case.

He was a storyteller.

One could argue that he did not make that very clear (at all), that he used the authority (and funds) of a historian to make the claims of a novelist, and yet I fail to dislike him completely, even for doing that.

And I think it is partly because he does not write like a historian. My thought would broadly be: “How could one not see that these are the words of a poet, a lover, an advocate?”

But then, it would be easy for me to think that, now that we know so much more.

Also, due to my not being an American citizen in the 1940’s, he did not use my funds to do that.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 02 Jun 21 - 02:56 PM

"probably no one knew more about 'blues history' in the 1950s than AL" W.C. Handy was far more reliable on early blues history than AL was and he granted interviews for decades and put out books.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 02 Jun 21 - 10:02 AM

I don't know much about the blues other than there are many varieties. Mississippi John is probably my favorite of the many styles. It connects with my ear quite well and affects they way I play when just sitting around. I remember sitting in the Expensive Guitar room at The Guitar Center in Syracuse, NY just noodling while my wife shopped next door. The store manager stuck his head in and after awhile said "We don't hear much Piedmont around here." I hadn't a clue what he was talking about. It is a genre I need to look into further.

Don


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Jun 21 - 02:40 PM

Miles, exactly.

Great research.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Miles
Date: 01 Jun 21 - 01:48 PM

Hi Lighter,

Thanks for the kind words,

“It’s hard to believe that AL didn’t know what the ‘Mississippi Delta’ was.” I believe that on this matter like on many others, he “knew,” and then sometimes “forgot,” and then sometimes “remembered” an altered or blurry version of the original thing, depending on what exactly he was writing, how nice it would sound, how helpful it was to the point he was trying to make; all of this without very consciously crossing the borders of honesty, I would guess. It seems established to me that he was, and aimed to be, a storyteller more than a true historian, sometimes proceeding with blues history the way folk musicians proceed with folk songs.

In his defense, one could hardly say that the “Mississippi Delta” has always been, or is even today, an absolutely consensual concept, as this thread shows. Besides the obvious “Yazoo-Mississippi Delta” vs “Mississippi River Delta” confusion, there have been other conceptions.

In 1846, the Vicksburg Daily Whig (Vicksburg, MS) would state that “the Delta of the Mississippi River extends from the Balize [present day Redfish Bay, LA] to near Cape Girardeau [MO],” encompassing a huge tract of land, of about six times the size of the “Yazoo-Mississippi Delta” as it is roughly understood today. Such a conception is still found in newspapers, well into the 1880’s, sometimes even in the 1910’s.

On the other hand, as early as 1880, such a northern newspaper as the Chicago Tribune (10/23/1880 p. 16) describes the “Mississippi Delta” as “that large section of Mississippi lying between the river and the range of hills, or ‘high lands,’ running south from the line of Tennessee, near the centre of the State, and cropping out at a point in the bluffs at Vicksburg,” adding that “it comprises the ‘low lands’ bordering the Mississippi, the Big and the Little Sunflower, the Black, and the Yazoo Rivers,” that is, roughly the definition one would give of the “Yazoo-Mississippi Delta” today.

If we skip to an era A. Lomax would have known, a 1940 article locates Blytheville, Arkansas in the “Mississippi river delta,” and describes Mississippi county, Arkansas, as having “the richest soil of the Delta.” In another one, the same year: “the real remains of both men lie on the Mississippi delta, 25 miles south of New Orleans.” Another one: “a government drainage project on the Mississippi river delta below Memphis, Tenn.” A trifle confusing imo.

But yes, at least sometimes, A. Lomax knew “the Mississippi Delta” to be what we call so today:

Vic Hobson, for instance, quotes correspondence between A. Lomax and Charles Johnson of Fisk University, in early 1941. Both of them seem at least clear at this point that the southwestern Tennessee counties of Shelby (that is, Memphis’ county), Fayette and Haywood do not belong to the Delta, while northwestern Mississippi counties, such as Coahoma and Bolivar, do.

When A. Lomax mentions the “Yazoo Delta Country, south of Memphis” in liner notes, in 1957, it is likely that he refers to our roughly consensual definition of the Delta.

When he mentions that Parchman is “in the heart of the Mississippi Delta,” in other liner notes the same year, and Parchman happens to be right at the center of what we call the Delta today, I believe he and we are talking about the same thing.

And yet, sometimes in his writings, (at least east) Arkansas belongs to the Delta, which I find convenient since many Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Slim stories happen in Arkansas.

And yet, sometimes the Delta is a “great valley.”

And yet, I fail to feel 100% sure that when A. L. describes New Orleans as “where the Mississippi Delta washes its muddy foot,” he only refers to the “Mississippi River Delta,” as we conceive it today, that is, the mouth of the river, south of Baton Rouge, and not to a very broad conception of the “Delta.”

What I am trying to say is not that A. Lomax did not know what the “strictest definition” of the (Yazoo-Mississippi) Delta was. What I am trying to say is that he did not mind using events or stories happening outside of these strict boundaries as general support that the blues was born “in the Delta” (vague definition) (and sometimes stricter definition), which is ironic since none of said events or stories were actually evidence that the blues started anywhere anyway.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 01 Jun 21 - 08:50 AM

'People have pointed to a widely sung folksong, "Pretty Polly," as exemplifying the form, if not the scale or lyrical subject matter, in white tradition.'

I'm interested in the history of 'Pretty Polly', and in particular its evolution from the English broadside ballad 'The Gosport Tragedy' / 'Cruel Ship's Carpenter'. Sharp collected the song in both its archaic and more modern form during 1916-18, and my impression is that it was usually younger people who sang the 'Pretty Polly' version, possibly because it was new and fashionable. Josiah Combs wrote in 1925:

'One of the best examples of the harrowing of the folk-song in the hands of the banjo picker is ‘The Gosport Tragedy’, commonly known as ‘Pretty Polly’. The traditional airs of this song are strangely beautiful, but are hardly to be recognized when played on the banjo.'

Combs put the transformation of the song down to its adaptation for the banjo, but that alone would not explain its transformation from a standard 4-line stanza folk song to the AAAB and AAB versions that superseded it. Which makes me wonder - is it possible that the change of form was brought about by African-American musicians, and are there any examples of members of that community having sung it?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 31 May 21 - 01:45 PM

Consider Gibb's discoveries about the evolution of chanteys.

The genre might have been "invented" by a shipboard genius, but it clearly evolved instead over many years.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 31 May 21 - 01:43 PM

It could have happened in weeks.

Or it could have taken decades.

I suspect it was an evolution, not an invention.

People have pointed to a widely sung folksong, "Pretty Polly," as exemplifying the form, if not the scale or lyrical subject matter, in white tradition.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: meself
Date: 31 May 21 - 10:40 AM

'And once "born" or "invented," how long the blues might have taken to spread and become a "genre" is likely unknowable.'

All it takes is one influential creative(genius?) musician to come up with an innovation and another influential musician - or the same one - to take it a few hundred miles away - which can happen in weeks - and after fifty years, it's going to be pretty hard to pin down its place of origin.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Lighter
Date: 31 May 21 - 07:06 AM

What an informative posting, Miles! Thank you.

It's hard to believe that AL didn't know what the "Mississippi Delta" was. Without putting too fine a point on it, some of the texts and even some documentation in his Folk Songs of North America (1965) suggest to me that he wasn't as wed to absolute accuracy as academic standards would now require.

Because the Mississippi is the major waterway of the South, it certainly makes sense that river traffic played a significant role in spreading the blues, especially if its origin was in a city like Memphis or Vicksburg (or even St. Louis).

Influenced by unreliable or (necessarily) partially informed sources sources (who provided the only evidence he had), and by his personal experiences in the Delta, AL might easily have jumped to the conclusion that the Delta was the birthplace - especially since blues were very widely played there. And the phrase "the Delta" is so much punchier and more colorful than "somewhere in the lower Mississippi Valley."

That overconfidence would also give him the satisfaction of making a significant ethnomusicological discovery.

And let's face it, probably no one knew more about "blues history" in the 1950s than AL.

It may be impossible to determine with any precision just where or when the blues originated, because the evidence is necessarily scanty. To say, for example that the blues was known in Arkansas before 1910 and maybe existed by 1895, isn't saying much.

Nor is the issue isn't helped by the fact that, except for spirituals and the occasional banjo/fiddle tune, African-American musical culture was of little interest to the wider world in the nineteenth century.

Absence of evidence here is not evidence of absence - because before Lomax, virtually nobody was looking for the evidence.

And once "born" or "invented," how long the blues might have taken to spread and become a "genre" is likely unknowable. There are simply no records.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Miles
Date: 31 May 21 - 04:30 AM

Great discussion (the good faith posts, I mean).
A few comments and a few questions (not a native speaker but I'll try):

Like Joseph, I am quite convinced Alan Lomax initiated this claim, and at least do not know of anyone making it before him, let alone anyone this influential.

Also like Joseph, it would seem natural to me that the field recordings A. Lomax had made in the Delta would have played some role in his focusing on this specific area.

By the time A. Lomax first made the "Delta claim" (which, to my knowledge and to Joseph's it seems, would be 1947), he had been to the Delta at least three times (his father, five times): once with his father in August 1933, and twice with others, in the summers of 1941 and 1942. On these last two trips, of course, he had recorded Son House, Muddy Waters and illustrious others. Needless to say, though, that by 1947, none of them was even close to being a "blues legend."

One could also go back to A. Lomax’s epiphany, when John Hammond “put [him] on to Robert Johnson,” – “Johnson’s recordings stood out as the finest examples of the blues along with those of the great Blind Lemon Jefferson in the twenties” – at some point between June 1938 and March 1939, at which time A. Lomax was planning to make an album on Johnson with Hammond, and was urging his father to “investigate one Robert Johnson of Robinsville [sic], Mississippi.”

Why “investigate” Robert Johnson as of March 1939, and why A. Lomax would repeatedly claim he went to the Delta in the early 1940’s “to look for Robert Johnson,” when Hammond had announced Johnson’s death (though dating it inaccurately) by December 13, 1938, is unclear to me. Be that as it may, that Hammond replaced Johnson with Big Bill Broonzy for his historic and historical “From Spirituals to Swing” concert, attended by A. Lomax ten days later, may not have been without consequences on the latter’s then forming blues mythology.

Among other factors that may have contributed to A. Lomax’s “Delta birth claim,” one could think of his self-admitted romantic nature, his general aspirations and political views.

But regarding a more immediate trigger, I find it hard to think that Big Bill Broonzy, and more specifically the conversation that A. Lomax recorded on March 2, 1947 in NYC of Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim and Sonny Boy Williamson (I), could have had nothing to do with A. L’s taking the leap to make the "Delta claim" a few months later, nor with providing support to said claim in the following years. (I now see that Vic Hobson, who often makes good connections, mentions this recording, but he strongly underestimates its impact on A. Lomax, imo, as well as Broonzy’s specific influence. Also, and it might be related, Hobson is factually mistaken about the Common Ground article)

Chronology is not causality, yet, the following seems quite striking to me:

March 1946: An article by Big Bill Broonzy, "Baby, I Done Got Wise," is published in The Jazz Record, in which Broonzy starts to claim that he used to know a "blues singer"/ fiddler in Arkansas, in the 1910’s, known as “See See Rider” because he used to sing the eponym song.

July 1946: Big Bill Broonzy appears for the first time in a People's Songs hootenanny, in NYC.

October 1946: BBB gives Alan Lomax a nine-page handwritten biography in which he again mentions the alleged Arkansas fiddler called “See See Rider.”

November 9, 1946: BBB is for the first time on the bill of a concert organized by A. Lomax (with People's Songs), at Town Hall, NYC - Great success, for the event and for BBB.

March 1, 1947: BBB, Memphis Slim and Sonny Boy Williamson are on the bill of another A. Lomax / People's Songs event in NYC. The same evening, they have dinner and sleep at A. Lomax's place in Greenwich Village.

March 2, 1947: The next day, A. Lomax brings the three musicians to Decca Studios, and records them in what is partly a collective interview, partly a conversation, interspersed with performances. Among other subjects, they evoke the origins of the blues, which they do not say was specifically born in the Delta, though, but more generally "not (…) in the North," "not (…) in the East," but "in the South" and at one point "Down South." On or near this date, Lomax also records BBB alone, for an oral biography.

December 23, 1947:
Folk Song USA, edited by Alan Lomax, is copyrighted. It is specifically in notes to "See See Rider" - the song - that A. Lomax, for the first time, it seems, makes the claim that the blues was born in the Delta. Just a few paragraphs before stating that “See See Rider” is “said to have been composed by an Arkansas Negro in the early part of this century” (cf BBB’s story), Lomax writes: “A folk blues has a simple tune (…). No Tin Pan Alley sharpie had anything to do with this blues, (…). It came out of the great valley of the blues, the Mississippi Delta, where the earth and the people are equally fertile and burdened with troubles.” A few lines later, he concludes a very brief attempt at a history of the blues with “Now this lonesome melody of the Mississippi has uncoiled in the ear of the whole world.”

Incidentally, he also mentions that “[W. C.] Handy, traveling through rural Arkansas, heard this music [the blues],” which, given that Handy almost never mentions Arkansas specifically, much less as a place where he would have first heard blues songs, and given that A. Lomax had likely read both Handy’s Blues: An Anthology (1926) and Handy’s autobiography (1941) by 1947, on top of making a recorded interview of him for the Library of Congress in 1938, seems indicative to me, but some may find it far-fetched, that A. Lomax had clearly decided at this point to prefer Broonzy’s claims over Handy’s, against all common sense. While not stated clearly, it also seems to indicate that Lomax’s conception of the Delta was not so rigorous here as to exclude Arkansas, or at least eastern Arkansas. Could the fact that he conflates the Delta with a “valley” also imply that by 1947, his conception of the “Delta” was even broader than that? Implying that pretty much any place at least two of his new informants, namely BBB and Memphis Slim, would mention, whether in Mississippi or Arkansas, or even maybe West Tennessee could then conveniently be included into this fascinating “Delta” concept?

January and February 1948*: On January 23, A. Lomax and his father meet in the Delta for a recording / common conferences trip. A few hours later, John A. Lomax has a heart attack and dies three days later in Greenville, MS, on the day recordings had been planned at Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State penitentiary. Father and son had made recordings there together, more than 14 years before, during Alan’s first field trip, and John had returned three times in the late 1930’s. After John’s funeral in Austin, TX, Alan comes back to the Delta and makes the planned recordings at Parchman, on February 9, 1948. The idea of this 1948 trip had formed at least by January 1947, likely in John’s mind more than Alan’s, and therefore cannot be – or not totally be – imputed to Parchman and chain gangs being mentioned in the March 2, 1947 conversation. It is likely, however, that Alan had said conversation in mind when making these recordings, which he would use almost ten years later, both as illustrations to the same conversation in the Blues in the Mississippi Night LP, and in a dedicated LP: Negro Prison Songs. (*I have yet to see strong evidence that any Lomax went to the Delta at any time in 1947, let alone in late 1947, as is often claimed. More than unlikely imo. Glad to share evidence if asked)

March 1948: Folk Song USA is published.

Summer 1948:
An article by A. Lomax, “I got the blues,” is published in Common Ground. It is structured around the March 2, 1947 conversation, including many extracts verbatim, but set in East Arkansas, close to Memphis, and not NYC, with a fully invented story about Lomax and the three musicians first meeting in and then being chased from Beale Street (Memphis) that same evening, and with the musicians’ names changed, in order, Lomax would explain, to protect them and their families.

In this article, A. Lomax, once again (contrary to what Hobson strangely claims), in fact three times, makes the claim that the blues was born in the Delta / Mississippi. He first writes: “Child of this fertile Delta land, voice of the voiceless black masses, the blues crept into the back windows of America maybe forty years ago and since then has colored the whole of American popular music.” He then adds, using almost the exact same words as in Folk Song USA: “Now the blues is a big, lonesome wind blowing around the world. Now the whole world can feel, uncoiling in its ear, this somber music of the Mississippi.” The last one: “Here was Natchez [Big Bill Broonzy], who had helped to birth the blues forty years ago in this same Delta country” – that is, as late as 1907 / 1908, at age 3 to 5, when he himself would repeatedly claim the blues existed before he was born (true or invented birthdate).

Finally, regarding BBB and Memphis Slim’s influence on A. Lomax’s claims: after stating that the blues was an evolution from work songs, A. L. writes, “Here, from the experience of Leroy [Memphis Slim] and Natchez [BBB], had come confirmation for my own notions about the origins of the blues.” If Broonzy and Chatman’s “musicological” insights regarding the birth of the blues - however young they were, and no matter that they did not even claim that their stories actually informed the birth of the blues - were so relevant to Lomax, couldn’t it have been that their geographical accounts were also likely to influence him? Not that any of them, ironically, had been born nor raised in the Delta (strict definition) by the way. But their mentioning names like Parchman, or Merigold, or Scott, MS, or the “Loran [Lowrance] brothers’” levee camps “all around Memphis,” or even Arkansas surely must have had some kind of impact – the latter since, here again, A. L. seems to consider at least East Arkansas as part of the Delta (e.g., “Now we sat together in the Delta night”).

1950: Still on A. Lomax’s geographical conception of the Delta, I am not exactly sure what to make of the following in Mister Jelly Roll: A. L. describes New Orleans as “where the Mississippi Delta washes its muddy foot in the blue Gulf.” Isn’t something’s foot part of said thing? Is he here referring to the “Mississippi River Delta,” in which case the “foot” image does not make much sense? Or is there such a thing as a “leg” let’s say, in A. L.’s mind, corresponding to a very broad conception of the Delta, something like a “Natchez – Little Rock – Memphis” triangle, and then South Louisiana that would be a “foot”?

September 21, 1951: While on his first European tour, BBB records “Blues in 1890” in Paris, France, for Vogue. This is the first of several recordings he would make of a half-spoken half-sung version of “Joe Turner,” which, for instance, Abbe Niles says was “quite likely” “the grandfather of (…) all [blues]” in W. C. Handy’s Blues: An Anthology (1926). Handy, who claimed to have heard it in his youth, had performed it for A. Lomax, giving a clear and credible account as to its Tennessean origins during their 1938 recorded interview, consistently with the countless other times he mentioned the song throughout his life. BBB, on the other hand, would connect it to Mississippi in an interview with A. Lomax a few months later, and still later claim it was the first blues he had ever heard.

September 22, 1951: The next day, BBB gives his first two concerts ever in the UK (on the same day), at Kingsway Hall, London. Alan Lomax, then residing in Scotland, comes to London to introduce the evening show, later described as “largely a conversation between old friends, Alan Lomax and Big Bill, with songs from both.” While the attendance is not strong, the press is ecstatic.

September 29, 1951: In a Melody Maker interview, BBB makes the connection between the blues and Mississippi, though not as clearly as A. Lomax would: as for learning the blues, BBB says, “you got to be born a Negro in Mississippi and you got to grow up poor and on the land.” At this point, the only American “guitar / non-jazz” bluesmen to ever have performed in the UK, it seems, were Lead Belly and Josh White, so that BBB’s words seem to have made quite an impression and been taken as valuable testimony. Regarding Arkansas’ association with Mississippi into a great “whole,” again, Broonzy does not claim that Arkansas belongs to the Delta but says “The blues, they’re field hollers way down in Mississippi and Arkansas,” which happens to also be perfectly in line with Lomax’s insistence on the role of hollers and work-songs in the emergence of the blues.

Also, mentioning that early blues songs were not initially called blues, Broonzy adds “That’s one thing Handy’s tellin’ the truth about,” which – besides being a good laugh – is the confirmation of two things imo: that Broonzy was fully aware of Handy’s claims at this point, possibly helped in this by A. Lomax, and that there was a clear, if not wholly explicit, opposition, by then, between two sides of (alleged) “blues witnesses” – the supposedly “authentic” “Big Bill Broonzy and A. Lomax” side, all about rough field work and hollers, and the supposedly “middle-class / Broadway / Tin Pan Alley” side, according to the caricature that was being made of Handy. Handy and Broonzy’s antagonist accounts on the genesis of “Joe Turner,” which Broonzy briefly mentions again in this interview, is a good indicator of this opposition imo – and of who is to be taken seriously.

November 28, 1951: A. Lomax broadcasts parts of the March 2, 1947 conversation in the third episode, “Blues in the Mississippi Night,” of his BBC program, “The Art of the Negro.” According to the manuscripts, in the intro, Lomax says: “The blues is a Mississippi of song that pours out of the central dark valley in America and uncoils in its sadness in the ear of the whole world” - in which we find the same image as in Folk Song USA and the Common Ground article, as well as the fact that Mississippi “Delta” and Mississippi “valley,” are alternatively, if not interchangeably, used by Lomax as the region where the blues was born. He also mentions and broadcasts in the same program “songs of the penitentiary” in “Mississippi,” in other words, Parchman, in connection with the three musicians’ accounts on the “background of the ‘blues.’”

May 13, 1952: Back in Europe, BBB is interviewed by A. Lomax, in Paris, France. He performs “Joe Turner,” after which they evoke the song, which BBB connects to his legendary uncle Jerry (the one still living at age 103 by 1952 but who had been killed by 1947). In this account – one of many contradictory and sometimes self-contradictory accounts by BBB on the song’s genesis, some of which are offered as evidence in many influential blues books, regardless – Big Bill’s mother, it seems, told him that Uncle Jerry used to play the song in 1892, in Mississippi, we infer, since according to BBB, his family was living there at the time. BBB would later “confirm” that he first knew it to have been sung in Mississippi.

In or just before July 1957: A. Lomax releases the LP Blues in the Mississippi Night in the UK, made of extracts of the March 2, 1947 conversation, intertwined with musical sequences, some by the three musicians, some by others, including prisoners recorded at Parchman in 1948. In the liner notes, evoking the blues, Lomax writes: “So in the Yazoo Delta Country, south of Memphis, where the conditions described on this record were typical, there emerged this new dance music, the work of many hands and voices.” Then he proceeds to explain how, according to him, work-songs and hollers evolved to finally become the blues, and adds: “But it must be remembered that all these blues were for dancing.” Of the record, he says: “This, then is the story of the blues told by men who have lived the blues and created the blues.” While none of them, obviously, “created the blues,” stating so regardless, in addition to overstating these men’s connection to the Delta – especially when defined as strictly as above, surprisingly – certainly did its share to spread the Delta birth theory.

October 1957: A. Lomax releases the LP Negro Prison Songs from the Mississippi State Penitentiary in the US and the UK (where it is titled Murderer’s Home), documenting the Parchman recordings of February 1948. In the liner notes, he writes: “Here is the dark, fertile soil which gave rise to the blues. Indeed, this recording, made in the heart of the Mississippi Delta where the blues took shape at the turn of the century, provides the background for America’s most important song-form.”

May 1959: Blues in the Mississippi Night is released in the US.

(Many BBB facts listed above can be found in Bob Riesman’s seriously sourced BBB biography: I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy. Will gladly give sources for other facts if asked, this post is already long).

Six months later, two books are published almost simultaneously (Nov. and Dec. 59, respectively): The Country Blues by Sam Charters and Jazz, a collection of essays, edited by Nat Hentoff and Albert McCarthy.

In the (obviously very influential) former, as mentioned by Joseph, Charters strongly reenforces the Delta birth claim, while in the latter, Paul Oliver, in his essay "Blues to drive the blues away" is far more cautious and while acknowledging that among states where the blues might have been born, “Mississippi is perhaps most frequently cited,” suggests polygenesis as a strong possibility – not a very reasonable theory either, imo, but at least not subjected to Lomax’s claim.

Which brings me to my questions:

How do you feel both mainstream and “scholar” adhesion to the “Delta claim” evolved over time?

I have a general feeling, but did not investigate this and might be totally wrong, that the claim’s popularity grew from 1947 on, to reach a climax between the late 50’s and the late 60’s, let’s say, even in supposedly “informed” circles, and that while Lomax and Charters never ceased promoting it and mainstream publications kept capitalizing on a selling concept, it still slowly declined ever since, as shown imo in Paul Oliver’s Story of the Blues (1969), Jeff Todd Titon’s Early Downhome Blues (1977), David Evans’ Big Road Blues (1982) etc.

Also, I would tend to judge Oliver a bit less severely than you do on the matter, Joseph. I hear you on “axiomatic” – Charley Patton was certainly axiomatic of Charley Patton – but among post-1947 influential authors, it seems to me that Oliver did much to (politely) reject the idea that there was evidence for the Delta claim.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 15 Feb 19 - 02:45 AM

1933


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Feb 19 - 08:59 PM

What year did Jimmy Rogers write Mississippi Delta Blues?

Must have been a legend by then.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Feb 19 - 05:53 PM

Neil, on black cowboys and blues it's worth noting that Floyd Canada (1915 article with tons of blues lyrics he knew) was a cowboy, and that "Goodbye Old Paint" as Jess Morris knew it (learned from black cowboy Charley Willis) was partly AAB and as Harry McClintock, born 1884, knew it was ABB, which is associated with early blues too.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Feb 19 - 05:42 PM

"As it is, I have no idea what your point 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.

"trying" straw man, didn't write it
"maliciously" straw man, didn't write it


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: Neil D
Date: 13 Feb 19 - 05:36 PM

First of all, I think we sometimes are too narrow in our definition of blues music. I remember having a conversation on the patio of my local watering hole. My friend Joe said "Imagine if the guitar had never been invented. What would we do for blues music?" I said "We'd be playing it on banjos." A guy sitting nearby who had just been onstage singing "Maggie's Farm", chimed in with "There's no banjos in Blues music'" repeating it over and over like some kind of mantra. I could only respond "Well, I know a guy named Gus Cannon who might have something to say about that." You wouldn't think the fife was a blues instrument either, till you heard Otha Turner.

In the same way I wouldn't be too narrow when it comes to where the blues originated. Some people like to see history as specific points in time. These people will tell you that Ike Turner "invented" Rock and Roll or that Buddy Bolden "invented" Jazz. In my mind however, Turner's recording of "Rocket 88" with the Brenston band was the culmination of an evolution over time. Same with Bolden's "Funky Butt." I don't deny the Delta's importance in the development of Blues. It may be the most important springboard for the music's spread and growth into an international popularity, from the '20s on. But as to origins, it seems to pop up simultaneously in many places at approximately the same time: the Tidewater; Northern Missippi hill country; even Southern Indiana. East Texas in particular.

Blues music did indeed evolve from field hands, as well as dockworkers and almost entirely overlooked, black cowboys. East Texas was full of them. As many as one quarter of all cowboys were African-Americans who had a major influence on both blues and country music. Dom Flemons from the Carolina Chocolate Drops recently released an important album called "Black Cowboys" featuring some of this seminal music. Leadbelly himself had been a cowhand in his youth and reflected this in some of his songs. I don't want to overstate this influence, I'm not saying that the first ears to hear Blues music belonged to cattle, bedded down after a day on the trail. I'm just pointing out that the music evolved from many sources in many regions. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned the importance of the railroad in communicating the music from region to region and remember, every cattle drive ended at a railhead.


There are a handful of articles exploring these connections. To read one of the more informative ones type into your search engine: Cowboy Blues: Early Black Music In The West.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Charles Wayne
Date: 13 Feb 19 - 03:33 PM

Yes, you did miss something......Post #1 from Joseph Scott........

"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."

Just a blatant 'hit-job' on Robert Palmer.... His book may not be perfect, but I doubt he was trying to maliciously make a "FALSE CLAIM", as Scott accuses him.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: meself
Date: 13 Feb 19 - 03:05 PM

Out of idle curiosity, I took a quick scroll back through five pages and four years of posts - and in all Joseph Scott's many posts, I couldn't find one in which he said anything in ALL CAPS. Did I miss something?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Charles Wayne
Date: 13 Feb 19 - 01:02 PM

Mr. Scott.....

I'd suggest you learn how to talk to people, instead of using ALL CAPS, "that's a FALSE CLAIM" antics against hard working researchers, insinuating that they had malicious intent.

Take note of the old adage... "we can disagree without being disagreeable" .... and you might get your point across better.

As it is, I have no idea what your point is. I couldn't get past your contempt.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 11 Feb 19 - 07:31 PM

"seems to have no interest in learning anything" Bad call.

"he does in a cartoonish imitation of a scholarly work" How so?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Anton
Date: 11 Feb 19 - 02:24 PM

Winston Hall: I agree. Joseph Scott, who started this thread, seems to have no interest in learning anything or sharing the discussion. In fact, he seems to have no interest in anything other than defending his original thesis, which he does in a cartoonish imitation of a scholarly work. But if you simply skip his posts it's a pretty interesting thread.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 06 Feb 19 - 01:27 PM

"sure has an ax to grind against the Delta Blues" No, love blues from the Delta. Against a particular myth, and I haven't been vague.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Winston Hall
Date: 05 Feb 19 - 04:21 PM

Geez, who is this Hatchet Man? The Blues Police on the scene.
someone sure has an ax to grind against the Delta Blues.
write your own book buddy, and back it up with something more than your vague 'opinions' next time.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 01 Feb 19 - 02:29 PM

"You can't rely on where the most black people were to tell you were a black style originated, it doesn't work. Did ragtime come from wherever the most black people were? Hip hop?"

Ouch, and yes... black music did generally originate in black communities. Not in white, Mexican or Asian communities.... duh.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 19 - 08:07 PM

"that the Delta was special with regard to blues music" That's including influences on blues music, which you mentioned. No real evidence of that at all.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 30 Jan 19 - 08:04 PM

"Charles Peabody was astounded by how much 'early blues' music he heard in the Delta in his 1901 and 1902 visits." There is no blues music in his 1903 article:
https://ourblues.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/charles-peabody.pdf
When did Peabody say he was astounded by what, specifically?

I don't know why you refer to pro blues as "blues as we know it." We have countless recordings of folk blues. We know both.

"Musicians were able to transfer... folk 'blues' into a familiar blues form and common structure" No, the familiar blues form was used by the folk musicians and adopted by the pro musicians. Pro musicians who copied folk blues deserve no credit for inventing what they copied, only whatever they didn't copy (such as Enrique Smith's beautifully original "Wandering Blues" and W.C. Handy's beautifully original "Harlem Blues").

Alan Lomax loved to talk about "hollers" -- defining them remarkably inconsistently over the years -- and fields, far more than he loved to present plausible evidence connecting "hollers" to blues music.

Booker White was relatively young. W.C. Handy heard "Got No More Home Than A Dog" about 10 years before Booker was born, in Indiana, so if Booker honestly didn't know that, so what.

"HUGE 90% Black population there, therefore there were more field workers and field hollers, so more 'Blues Influences'" You can't rely on where the most black people were to tell you were a black style originated, it doesn't work. Did ragtime come from wherever the most black people were? Hip hop?

"What myth? Other than Alan Lomax's book title 'The Land Where the Blues Began', I don't think I've ever heard any blues researcher say that blues music was exclusively 'born' in the Mississippi Delta." Then you didn't read the whole OP. Sam Charters is quoted there: "it was in the Mississippi delta counties that the first blues were sung."

I appreciate your mention of 1905 to 1910 and folk to non-folk, because that's an issue Elijah doesn't get or has written about as if he doesn't get -- and the latest Abbott and Seroff book is also painfully misleading about, although their earlier Ragged But Right wasn't at all, which makes me think one of them finished up one book and the other the other.

You presented zero actual evidence that the Delta was special with regard to blues music as of e.g. 1905 because no one has any.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 30 Jan 19 - 07:12 PM

Everyone uses words to mean things. "Wald has a point." How so?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 27 Jan 19 - 05:09 PM

Sorry Joseph, your position is also one based on semantics ie your definition of what the term 'means'. Wald has a point.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Guest - Jackson
Date: 27 Jan 19 - 04:50 PM

Pardon me, but I find the premise of this thread to be a bit strange.

What myth? Other than Alan Lomax's book title "The Land Where the Blues Began", I don't think I've ever heard any blues researcher say that blues music was exclusively 'born' in the Mississippi Delta.

Like Bukka White once said "The Blues came from out of those fields....". The first blues 'influences' (different than the blues as we know it) likely came from field hollers, work songs, etc, from all over the south.

But the Mississippi delta was a very, very different place than other areas of the south. There was a HUGE 90% Black population there, therefore there were more field workers and field hollers, so more "Blues Influences" than other areas. Charles Peabody was astounded by how much 'early blues' music he heard in the Delta in his 1901 and 1902 visits.

I'd suggest folks read the book "The Most Southern Place on Earth" to understand what the delta was like around the turn of the century. It was a very vibrant black community around the turn of the century. You can't really understand blues in the delta without understanding the delta region itself.

But blues as early folk music, was not blues music as we know it. Sometime between 1905 and 1910 blues seemed to jump from the fields and folk music to popular music, because people wanted to make money playing it.

Musicians were able to transfer field hollers and folk 'blues' into a familiar blues form and common structure, and that's when the blues as we know it was 'born'.

The Mississippi Delta was certainly one of the places that transition happened, being the large African American community that it was. East Texas was another important area for the 'birth' of what we'd call modern blues.

P.S.... The Mississippi Delta is a well defined geographic region that runs north south from just below Memphis down to Vicksburg, and from the Mississippi river east beyond the Yazoo River to the hill country.... it does not run from Louisiana to Ohio.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Oct 18 - 09:01 PM

"... first [blues] was a black pop style, and it remained a black pop style until the 1960s. Then, it retroactively became a folk style..."

https://www.elijahwald.com/rjohnson.html

accessed 10/14/2018


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Oct 18 - 08:54 PM

"[T]he blues was pop music — it simply wasn’t folk music. It was invented retroactively as black folk music...." -- Elijah Wald to the New York _Times_, 2004. Complete nonsense. Bringing up definitions and semantics isn't somehow going to make it not complete nonsense.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Oct 18 - 08:49 PM

Elijah, calling the Tutwiler guitarist e.g. (about 1904) a blues guitarist has never been considered a live issue in the study of blues music -- except by you, you say.

People began talking about quote "blues" music in about 1907. Under your proposed definition of blues music in which people must have been talking about quote "blues" music by then in order for any so-defined blues music to exist, your repeated claims that blues music started out as pop music and later became folk music and the like* are _still_ wrong. Do you understand that that proposed definition doesn't somehow dig you out of that, at all?

Here's a quote from Elijah: "Blues is one of the great American popular music styles, not an obscure back-country folk art. There have been plenty of back-porch blues pickers, just as there have been plenty of garage rock bands, but they were never the music's driving force."* Wrong. And as I say, the unusual definition of blues music Elijah wants us to look at doesn't even succeed in _impacting on_ the fact that it is wrong.

(*Elijah posted this here, but the dispute Elijah and I have is about whether non-folk musicians helped invent blues music, as he's claimed over and over, and is not related to the Delta topic of this thread. Elijah claimed completely wrongly here what I claim about "field hollers," which isn't central to what we're talking about, but is notable.)


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Elijah Wald
Date: 14 Oct 18 - 02:28 PM

Joseph Scott keeps acting like I'm ducking the issue when I ask him to define his terms or explain that I tend to use different definitions.

To be clear: He believes that some of the music black people were singing non-professionally at the turn of the 20th century was blues, that there is no evidence they got that music from professional entertainers, and that later professional musicians based their compositions on that early material.

I agree with him on all points, except his insistence that "blues" is a tangible thing that can be identified in a period when the word was not used and from which no recordings survive.

I'm not saying he can't define earlier field hollers as "blues" -- he obviously can, and does, and I understand why: a lot of music people did not call blues in 1900 is clearly related to music they did call blues in 1920, so it is perfectly reasonable to argue that it was already blues even though that terminology did not yet exist.

I treat genre terms as historical artifacts, so don't use a term to describe music made in a period when the term didn't exist. But that's a semantic choice, made because as a historian I'm wary of anachronisms, and I understand why other people make other choices.

As for the argument that vaudeville blues affected rural blues, that's easily proved once we have recordings, because we have concrete (ok, shellac) examples of rural musicians imitating records by vaudeville singers. Of course, we also have lots of examples going back to the 19th century of rural singers performing versions of songs by professional minstrel composers -- but whether one wants to call some of those examples "early blues" is, again, a semantic choice.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Sep 18 - 09:08 PM

Medievallassie, I'm not sure what part of McCoy in Cleveland was after Handy settled in Clarksdale whereas "Got No More Home Than A Dog" was years before Handy settled in Clarksdale you don't understand, but it's true.

"I have mentioned that there is." You've claimed incorrectly that there is.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: KarenH
Date: 28 Sep 18 - 06:29 PM

Hello Medievalliassie

I followed the link about Handy's 'enlightenment' and that page does not claim that Handy first heard the blues in Cleveland, as you appear to assert.

The 'enlightenment' seems - if what Handy wrote in his draft and final autobiography is correct - to have been in terms of realising what audiences liked and would throw money at.

Moreover, this was dance music, which had the audience 'stomping' as well as throwing money at the performers, and how far this meets with a definition of 'blues' I am not sure, because I give up on definitions of 'blues'.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: medievallassie
Date: 28 Sep 18 - 05:57 PM

It's quite apparent that this is simply a game with you, Mr. Scott. You continue to state there is no credible evidence and I have mentioned that there is. Your premise isn't to actually learn what the other side has to offer but rather to dismiss it with repeating the same sources ad nauseum. I suggest that you go to the site I linked for the Blues Trail and actually read the information. Each marker lists sources and also mentions when things are not known for certain. The following is located on the page where the marker I linked is found "Special thanks to Handy scholar Elliott Hurwitz for sharing his research on the Handy manuscripts that identified Prince McCoy. Other research assistance: David Evans, Cheryl Line, Nancy Kossman, Yale University Library and the W. C. Handy Museum in Florence, Alabama. Images courtesy Jim O'Neal BluEsoterica Archives except as noted." Since your mind is made up, why did you ask the question?


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 28 Sep 18 - 05:01 PM

"I am a staunch proponent for the blues starting right here at Dockery Plantation and the surrounding area." There is no credible evidence supporting that idea.

"Handy first heard the blues on the courthouse steps here in Cleveland" Nope, the most famous book connected with him, _Father Of The Blues_, said he heard the blues "Got No More Home Than A Dog" back in the 1890s, years before he found a particular job in Clarksdale and while living in Clarksdale heard Prince McCoy's band in Cleveland, MS (in about 1904). When Jack The Bear Wilson borrowed "Joe Turner"-family melody and chord progression for an 1898 piece of sheet music, e.g., that was also years before Handy heard McCoy's band (or the Tutwiler guitarist).

"[L]iterally hundreds of true authorities" can provide and have provided zero credible evidence that blues music started in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta.

I agree with leeneia that the railroads have been underrated. They were often mentioned in early blues songs.

Boogie woogie is a style of playing non-blues material or blues material. So supposing the style was being used in the 1870s, that doesn't tell us anything about whether it was being used on blues material yet (apparently not).


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: medievallassie
Date: 28 Sep 18 - 04:37 PM

Well, I am not a blues authority by any stretch of the imagination but I am a staunch proponent for the blues starting right here at Dockery Plantation and the surrounding area. I live in the heart of the delta, Cleveland, MS, and worked for a while with the Delta Center for Culture and Learning which is largely focused on blues education. Here's what I can attest to:

W.B Handy first heard the blues on the courthouse steps here in Cleveland which is now marked by a marker "The Enlightenment of W.B. Handy" at http://msbluestrail.org/blues-trail-markers/the-enlightenment-of-w-c-handy

The marker is a part of an extensive amount of research which created the The Blues Trail in the delta which runs, as Joe Offer mentioned, from Memphis all the way to the Vicksburg. The research was conducted by literally hundreds of true authorities who have scoured letters, diaries, calendars, and all manner of authentic sources of information.

By the way, I wish this thread had been seen earlier because I would have invited all of you the International Blues Conference which began today, of all days. We'd love to have you. Come on down and see for yourself. The "proof" is all over this place and we don't find showing you the sites. http://www.internationaldeltabluesproject.com/conference/

P.S. Just north of here is Hopson Plantation which is home to the Shack-Up Inn. I wonder if the Hopson mentioned in the first post is any relation....


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 28 Sep 18 - 03:33 AM

Where does boogie woogie piano fit in to the "where the blues began" story because boogie woogie used to be described as speeded up blues BUT it is now claimed that boogie woogie piano was being played in Texas in the 1870s!


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: leeneia
Date: 27 Sep 18 - 09:03 PM

I bet that if you could really follow the early blues, you would find that wherever they began, they followed the railroads. Blacks were working on the railroads, and black musicians were spreading the tunes, riding to gigs on the railroads.

That's how blues spread so fast and so far.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Vestapol
Date: 26 Sep 18 - 02:35 PM

We're learning that there were so many styles early on, round about fin de siecle... all with African music & culture in common; regional styles, some of them "country" styles, some urban "Classic" styles; ragtime styles; and some we might call marching band styles like fife & drum and "second line".

A major Folklore Theory is called Spontaneous Generation. The theory claims that remarkably similar motifs might appear in places that had no communication with each other. The earliest generations of African Americans held close as they could to their African folkways. No matter whether they were in an urban or rural milieu, hill country or flatlands, House Servant or field worker, they all had African lore in common. The expressions of their similar (or identical) lore were influenced by their milieu, so we discover there are these various distinctive forms of African American "Blues" over time.

Before we discovered the variety of African-based Blues forms we know of today; before we could put together any sense of a timeline; before we realized many of these forms were contemporaneous; before we realized that some forms grew right out of an earlier form, that some forms may have been influenced by other forms, and that some forms developed "spontaneously" meaning with minimal external influence by other forms; before we could conceptualize Blues pre-history; it was easy to prematurely conclude that one dramatic Blues form found mainly in The Delta in the 1920s and 30s might be The Blues Ground Zero.

That error of enthusiasm is just part of human nature. We note it and move on more carefully.

Cheers,


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 02:58 PM

10 to 19 years, if I can subtract...


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 02:56 PM

"... early Delta blues... has a primitive sound..."

People have associated the (artificial) notion of Delta blues with Charlie Patton's growly voice because he happens to be the most notable blues singer from the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta born before 1895. But we don't have reason to believe his style was particularly representative of his Delta peers of 1910-1919, which was 10 to 20 years before he began recording. E.g., James McCoy was about the same age as Patton, Son House learned "My Black Mama" from McCoy, and House said McCoy sang similarly to Skip James.

We also don't have any better reason to say Patton sounded primitive than to say e.g. Henry Thomas (Texas) and Peg Leg Howell (Georgia) sounded primitive.

We can identify a significant link between work songs and blues songs, across the South, but Patton's repertoire isn't somehow special to identifying that and the Delta isn't somehow special to identifying that.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 06:34 AM

Well, I almost feel that early Delta blues sounds like it should be the oldest form. It has a primitive sound close to what we are told is one of the main predecessors of the blues i.e. the work song.
For example, imagine in the 1930s, somebody was enquiring where jazz originated and somebody said, "Well, I believe the most primitive form of jazz is to be found in New Orleans.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 20 Sep 18 - 01:46 AM

Some interesting origins discussion here: Songs of Mississippi floods.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: leeneia
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 10:07 PM

Yep, it does.

brooklyn is the height of civilization


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: leeneia
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 10:00 PM

Nice to hear. I bet it sounds better than a plastic pill bottle slipped over a finger.


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Subject: RE: Who started the Delta blues myth?
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 27 Aug 18 - 12:14 AM

Yeah, in about 1985 I was pretty good.


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Mudcat time: 20 June 12:27 PM EDT

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