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Buster Keaton - vaudeville songs, blues

Thomas Stern 14 Aug 16 - 04:05 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 15 Aug 16 - 01:08 AM
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Subject: Buster Keaton - vaudeville songs, blues
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 14 Aug 16 - 04:05 PM

I recently became aware of a "party tape" of Buster Keatom, recorded at a party in 1962. Buster Keaton sings with ukulele and talks about vaudeville (19teens), blue material, and sings a bit of a blues with mention of "high yeller gal".
The recording is an extra in the new UK blu-ray Keaton Shorts 1917--1923 BD set, but has been issued previously on a Masters of Cinema DVD set, and there was an NPR show (seems sound file now deleted). I have difficulty understanding a good part of this - not a great recording, but also my diminished hearing.

1. Does anyone know of a transcript of this recording ??

2. Is there a better sound CD or other source for this recording ??

3. Has there been any discussion of the tape and the sources for the songs Keaton performs ?? I am particularly curious about the HIGH YALLER verses which I associate with blues performers and wonder where Keaton would have heard this material ??

The songs mostly date from popular music of the early part of
the 20th century "tin pan alley" and vaudeville. I wonder if
the 'high yeller" verses travelled from black tradition into
white popular music, or from vaudeville/tin pan alley into black tradition ???

If anyone has access to this recording, do you know the source,
authorship, title, origin, etc. of this song sung by Buster Keaton???


Best wishes, Thomas.

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Subject: RE: Buster Keaton - vaudeville songs, blues
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 15 Aug 16 - 01:08 AM

I don't have this recording. "High yellow" was well-known black slang. John Hurt, who was about three years older than Keaton, and Sam Butler, who was roughly the same age as Hurt, sang "Some crave high yellow..." or "Some scream high yellow..." in variants of the same blues song. Steve Tarter, about six years older than Hurt, sang (and we shouldn't assume he wasn't trying to be funny)
"Jet-black is evil, so is yellow too
Jet-black is evil, so is yellow too
I'm so glad I'm brown-skinned, don't know what to do."

Vaudeville blues was a mishmash of black folk blues with just about anything else; pretty often real folk blues lyrics were used. Blues music became popular nationally in about 1916, so Keaton most likely would have taken an interest in it roughly then, but some entertainers, such as Sam McGee of the Grand Ole Opry, got interested in folk blues music in roughly 1910 or even earlier.

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