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Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James

Big Al Whittle 27 Aug 17 - 03:42 AM
GUEST,jackaroodave 27 Aug 17 - 04:36 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 27 Aug 17 - 07:09 AM
gillymor 27 Aug 17 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 27 Aug 17 - 08:20 AM
Big Al Whittle 27 Aug 17 - 08:33 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 17 - 10:14 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 27 Aug 17 - 04:11 PM
Big Al Whittle 27 Aug 17 - 05:41 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 27 Aug 17 - 08:19 PM
GUEST,CJ 28 Aug 17 - 02:55 AM
Big Al Whittle 30 Aug 17 - 06:29 AM
gillymor 30 Aug 17 - 07:03 AM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 30 Aug 17 - 04:09 PM
GUEST 30 Aug 17 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 30 Aug 17 - 04:43 PM
GUEST,matt milton 31 Aug 17 - 07:39 AM
GUEST,matt milton 31 Aug 17 - 07:53 AM
gillymor 31 Aug 17 - 08:12 AM
GUEST,matt milton 31 Aug 17 - 08:28 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 31 Aug 17 - 01:22 PM
GUEST,Mike Yates 01 Sep 17 - 03:39 AM
Will Fly 01 Sep 17 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 01 Sep 17 - 04:51 AM
Big Al Whittle 01 Sep 17 - 08:27 AM
The Sandman 01 Sep 17 - 02:06 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 01 Sep 17 - 03:49 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 01 Sep 17 - 05:20 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 01 Sep 17 - 07:51 PM
The Sandman 02 Sep 17 - 07:34 AM
Big Al Whittle 02 Sep 17 - 11:57 AM
meself 02 Sep 17 - 06:21 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Sep 17 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 05 Sep 17 - 04:33 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 05 Sep 17 - 04:47 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 05 Sep 17 - 09:30 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 06 Sep 17 - 01:28 PM
The Sandman 06 Sep 17 - 01:51 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 06 Sep 17 - 02:24 PM
The Sandman 06 Sep 17 - 04:37 PM
meself 06 Sep 17 - 05:59 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 06 Sep 17 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,guest 06 Sep 17 - 10:56 PM
meself 07 Sep 17 - 01:18 AM
Will Fly 07 Sep 17 - 03:21 AM
The Sandman 07 Sep 17 - 03:30 AM
The Sandman 07 Sep 17 - 03:40 AM
Big Al Whittle 07 Sep 17 - 07:50 AM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 07 Sep 17 - 09:14 AM
The Sandman 07 Sep 17 - 09:47 AM
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Subject: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 03:42 AM

Only recently I've got into the singing and guitar playing of Skip James.

Naturally I started looking for a biography of this amazing artist.

Stephen Calt's biography is universally acknowledged as the best researched.

However many of the people who have read and reviewed it on Amazon, describe Calt as a spiteful, malicious man with no good word to say for anyone.
Has anyone read this book and formed an opinion?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,jackaroodave
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 04:36 AM

As I recall, he did have some good words for Snooks Eaglin, by way of sneering at B B King. Otherwise, I'd agree with both those evaluations.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 07:09 AM

Big Al, only recently got in to Skip? That's amazing!
I thought anybody who was aware of Robert Johnson and Son House would have been aware of the amazing Skip James since his "rediscovery" in the 60s. ( if you go back that far!)


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: gillymor
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 07:53 AM

In his biography of Charley Patton (written with Gayle Dean Wardlow) Stephen Cal(t) and Wardlow constantly dissed blues artists and Patton contemporaries Willie Brown (the one who did Future Blues and M&O Blues) and Son House in an attempt to elevate Patton, I suppose. Patton is my favorite Delta Bluesman but this seemed odd coming from what you hoped would be at least a fairly objective biography. With all that I immensely enjoyed the book and go back to it now and then.
I'm looking forward to reading the Skip James bio, thanks for the heads-up.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 08:20 AM

Patton was far too over the top for me.
I know that he was Bob Brozman's favourite, and that makes sense because, vocally, Bob was over the top, as well.
Skip and Son are my two favourites.
I love Son's barely controlled intensity and Skip is just so amazingly different and any other blues singer.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 08:33 AM

well i was aware of Skip as a songwriter. i knew the Cream's I'm so glad. I knew Joanna Kelly's version of Hard Time Killing Floor.

i've never really got Son House - although Mick Stewart, Coventry blues singer said he was the best he'd ever seen.

I think I got into blues from an anglicised direction - albeit American anglicanisation - THe Blues Project album was my bible!


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 10:14 AM

Well, yet another of those wonderful threads where you hear about an artist that you have heard of but have never heard. So I was off on you tube listening to skip James..wow. Thank you Bill Al, this thread opened my ears to some great stuff.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 04:11 PM

Big Al mentioned the Blues Project album and. I assume he is referring to the Electra album.
In retrospect, too many of those white boys " singing black" is difficult for me to take.
Strangely, Mark Spoelstra is possibly the only singer who comes across as his own man.
But! I really loved the album as a kid and in particular Dave Ray's contribution.
Oh, wasn't there a great cover of Skip's "Devil got my woman" on the album?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 05:41 PM

yes Geof Muldaur did i'd rather be the devil.

there wasn't much i didn't like....Bad Dream Blues by Dave Van Ronk. France Blues by Spoelstra, Winding Boy by Ian Buchanan, Southbound Train and My Little Woman by Spider John Koerner.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 08:19 PM

The late Mr. Calt's biography of Skip James is a truly appalling piece of work, among the most off-putting books I've ever read, certainly on the subject of blues and blues artists. It reads like an endless settling of scores, a fevered effort to detail how many people are inferior, intellectually and morally, to Calt. One has the impression of a deeply unhappy man. It could not have been easy being him.

At least I survived the experience and still listen to James with pleasure. Not so with Barry Mazor's tediously quarrelsome Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, which is nearly as charm-deficient as Calt's effort. Arguably worse, since while purporting to celebrate Rodgers it made me never want to hear him again, and I haven't.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,CJ
Date: 28 Aug 17 - 02:55 AM

Another vote here for leaving Calt's book on the shelf. I found it bitter and unreadable. Listen to the music though, oh yes. Skip's piano songs are worth hunting down too, although a curiosity, his timing is perculiar.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 06:29 AM

its very interesting really.

i'm really consumed with interest.
i started off with the 1960's recordings.
on hearing the 1931 recording -cleaned up version - you have to be struck by the similarities.

was he pressured to reproduce the 1931 recordings.

put this into perspective.

Bix Beiderbecke to The Beatles. you're a musician. nothing changes.
doesn't that seem odd?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: gillymor
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 07:03 AM

A lot of the posters at Goodreads seem to share CJ's and Jerome's attitude toward Calt but the book does rate a 3.8 there which is respectable. Judging from his articles on country blues and his Patton bio Calt does his research and writes pretty well if you can live with the snark.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 04:09 PM

I take it you haven't read the book yourself.

Having spent my professional life as writer and editor, I don't think of "writes pretty well" as any particular recommendation. Yes, Calt was able to frame more or less coherent sentences and get his punctuation marks mostly in the right places. He did possess some musical knowledge (albeit largely squandered in personal vendettas).

The problem is twofold: (1) Calt's manifest loathing of his ostensible subject, Skip James, and (2) the distressing truth that the book actually is about Calt, not about James. It turns out, in other words, to be more autobiography than biography, and not an interesting one at that. There are plenty of excellent books on American blues, folk, and country musicians, written by informed, balanced scholars, critics, and journalists. Names like Paul Oliver, Ted Gioia, Robert Palmer, David Evans, Peter Guralnick, Jeff Todd Tilton, and others come to mind, just off the top of my head. Colin Escott (more concerned with country than blues) delivers his abundant snark with wit and humor. Nobody would ever say that of Calt, who had all the nuance and comic sense of a sledgehammer.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 04:29 PM

Er, that's Jeff Todd Titon, not "Tilton," as a slip of the typing fingers has it.

And while I'm here, I might mention two outstanding blues biographies, very much in contrast to Calt's: Robert Gordon's Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters and Bob Riesman's I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Bronnzy, They're not the only ones, of course, just two that I happen to have in my personal library and enjoyed when I read them.

Maybe one day a more temperamentally suited writer will provide us with the biography that Skip James deserves.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 04:43 PM

Okay, one last time. Lest there be any confusion, I wrote the follow-up to the posting about blues writers, correcting my misspelling of a last name. I managed to forget to type my own name in the box. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 31 Aug 17 - 07:39 AM

I've read it. Well, I stopped about 3/4 of the way through.

It is a truly bizarre book. The best reason I can give for buying it would be for the parts of the book that are direct quotes from Skip James. They do at least give an insight. And, to be fair, it becomes pretty clear that Skip James is an unpleasant guy: a misogynistic, narcissistic, self-centred and rather lazy man.

But, really, the main reason it's a car-crash of a book is that Calt, having realised he doesn't like his subject, doesn't just... stop writing the book!

What's most weird about the book is Calt doesn't even seem to like Skip James' music?! He's always dismissing it and putting it down. Just seems a bit pointless. If someone could just somehow extract all the direct quotes from Skip James and place them in a book, that would be a much better read.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 31 Aug 17 - 07:53 AM

Whoops, noticed I called him Calt above, meant to say Calf obvs...


...one other bizarre thing about the book I remember is that Calf is quick to call Skip James a liar and a fantasist (which he probably was) but at the same time is perfectly happy to accept all the nasty things Skip James says he has done completely at face value.

So Skip James is a liar, and a fantasist who likes to self-mythologise himself as a Big Bad Man. Except when he says he's murdered someone or hit someone or stolen something. Then he is a violent murdering criminal. Now he may well have been, but the fact that Skip James may simply be talking bollocks doesn't seem to have occurred to Calf, because Calf is determined to think the worst of everybody.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: gillymor
Date: 31 Aug 17 - 08:12 AM

Calf? We're talking about Stephen Calt, right?

Reading opinions here and reviews at Goodreads I'm starting to think Calt went around the bend since the time I used to enjoy his writing on country blues. I've got the ebook in my reading queue but fortunately it's a loaner.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 31 Aug 17 - 08:28 AM

Oh yes, my mistake (and others')...

Stephen CALT not Calf.

I've no doubt he's written some worthwhile stuff in his time, but this one is almost like a nervous breakdown of sorts. It's not a hatchet job exactly, because Skip James is enough of a git not to need one, but it's just not a book that Calt really should have persisted with.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 31 Aug 17 - 01:22 PM

Yes it is CALT as I guess you should know if you have read his book(s).
He contributed sleeve notes to a number of Belzona/Yazoo albums over the years mostly not of great ineterest if you did not play a guitar. I believe his last book before his demise was the very useful reference book "Barrelhouse Words". He also c0-authered a book on Charlie Patton.

Re the man Skip James I had the pleasure of meeting him very briefly and found him to be a pleasant and polite man.

If Skip was "talking bollocks" it is not surprising. The man during his "rediscovery" period was suffering from cancer and often in great discomfort. How do you think he felt when he was constantly pestered by young guys wanting to interrogate him about his life and music. I have met a number of bluesmen over the years and I am sure that many of them enjoyed having a quiet laugh at our expense. I remember in conversation with Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim at one time Slim turned to Willie and laughingly said "You know all blues men are liars except you and me, and sometimes I ain't so sure about you".

If Skip had been a violent man then he was not alone among blues men. Trying to survive down south was never easy believe it or not.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 03:39 AM

I have always found Calt's book "Barrelhouse Words" to be very valuable. And I enjoyed reading "King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton", a book which annoyed at least one academic! As to his Skip James book - it is a very odd tome indeed.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 04:20 AM

"You know all blues men are liars except you and me, and sometimes I ain't so sure about you".

Reminds me of the old northern saying, "All the world's queer, save thee and me - and I'm none so sure about thee."

I do think that biographers should start at least with a basic sympathy for the person whose life they're describing. There may be discreditable aspects to a person, but there's a big difference between showing all sides of someone fairly and doing a hatchet job.

I recall buying Albert Grossman's book "Elvis" - which was full of sneers and jibes - and thinking, "Why did you bother?"


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 04:51 AM

I should have said that Calt co-wrote "King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton" with Gayle Wardlow.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 08:27 AM

could one of the moderators correct my stupid title mistake?

The man's name is Calt , not Calf.

Moo! And thanks!


Got it. Thanks gillymor! --mudelf


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 02:06 PM

Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: Will Fly - PM
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 04:20 AM

"You know all blues men are liars except you and me, and sometimes I ain't so sure about you".
not so, missippi john hurt


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 03:49 PM

Sandman,

You appear to be a little confused. I think you are referring to my posting.

If that is the case how can you correct a conversation which I had in my office a number of years ago when you could not have been present in any of your guises.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 05:20 PM

Sandman,

I think you have confused me. Can you clarify what you meant by the phrase "not so Mississippi John Hurt" ?

Not that it is particularly important.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 07:51 PM

Who is Stephen Calf? Never heard of him. I thought we were discussing Stephen Calt.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calf's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 02 Sep 17 - 07:34 AM

Hoot,I ws trying to say that John HURT who was a blues man was not a liar, and that The statement was a generalisation and stereo typing, even if it was meant as some sort of joke.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 Sep 17 - 11:57 AM

i've sent for the book - got it on my kindle. however - first Inspector Morse has to solve a murder, and he and Lewis are puzzled at the time of reading!

Sorry but I HAVE to find out what I can about this man and his incredible music.

I will bear your words of caution in mind.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: meself
Date: 02 Sep 17 - 06:21 PM

" ... even if it was meant as some sort of joke"

Is there any question that it was meant as some sort of a joke? In fact, I'd say it is some sort of a joke, and a pretty innocuous sort at that, made by someone who presumably has the right to make it.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Sep 17 - 12:28 PM

well so far - can't see what all the fuss is about. pages of speculation about the song models that Skip used.

speculation. speculation. where are the facts?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 05 Sep 17 - 04:33 PM

"Judging from his articles on country blues and his Patton bio Calt does his research" Gayle Dean Wardlow, coauthor of the Patton book, is a respected researcher. Calt wasn't a reliable source of information. E.g., it's Calt we have to thank for the myth of recent years that professional artists helped invent blues music, which has been taken up by other writers, none of whom can actually point to the supposed professional artists in question (including Abbott and Seroff whose recent book is less good on that issue than their earlier ones). Blues music was around among black folk musicians by 1905 as heard by e.g. Elbert Bowman ("K.C. ..." in TN) and Emmet Kennedy ("Poor Boy Long..." in LA), and none of the writers who pass on this myth of Calt's can point to any credible evidence of professional musicians helping invent blues music by 1905. Any. Abbott and Seroff telling us about professionals who were making blues music in e.g. _1910_, which they were, is not somehow that evidence at all. In Calt's case the psychology re folk musicians (who in this case were black) was that he had a huge axe to grind with folkies. At one point in the James book he claims folk music doesn't even exist, and elsewhere in the book he writes about folk music. That seems like a crazy contradiction because it is.

Skip James happened not to be a very reasonable or pleasant person, and he was a musical genius, and born too late to be historically interesting as the primal anything, and he didn't mind if his lyrics weren't personal, or whether he lifted them from non-folk sources. He's one of those artists you might as well not read a book about, just listen to as much '60s stuff as you can get and enjoy the song and singing and playing for how great they are.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 05 Sep 17 - 04:47 PM

My amazon two-out-of-five star review of the Calt/James book:

"There are many possible objections to this book. For instance, Calt called Skip James a 'darkey' in this book, without quotes.

Calt's real qualifications for writing this book were that he knew Skip James personally and, that's about it. (His liner notes were as erratic factually as this book is.) As the title says, the book has two subjects, Skip James and the blues. Calt had a lot of theories about blues music on offer in this book. He didn't bother to make sure they were historical. If he liked the idea that Leadbelly was the first black person presented to the public as a folk artist, then that's what you get, and you get to never mind that the artists The Afro-American Folk Song Singers were performing under that name in the 1910s. If on Calt's planet _no_ folklorists (in Calt's black-or-white world, exaggerations were more impressive than shades of gray) considered blues music to be folk music, then that's what you get, and you get to never mind that actually they routinely did, on our planet (e.g. Howard Odum did as of 1911 and John Lomax did as of 1912). And on and on it goes like that. I would have loved to see Calt try to tell Little Walter (fourteen top ten R&B hits between 1952 and 1958) or John Lee Hooker or B.B. King that actually blues _wasn't_ selling very well in the '50s, according to whatever angle Calt had in mind at the moment.

If he couldn't get the history of blues in general right -- and he literally could not accurately paraphrase what an individual folklorist had written when he was pointing right at it -- then when can we have confidence that his attempts to paraphrase what Skip James and others had supposedly said in the '60s are accurate either? On the plus side, he recorded some of his conversations with James, and on occasion we get to read actual direct quotes from those recordings. (Mostly they're uninteresting because James wasn't very interested in talking about music with Calt.)"


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 05 Sep 17 - 09:30 PM

I don't believe much of anything Calt says. He seemed to dwell in a universe of rage and resentment, with enough prejudices of various kinds to cause a normal human's brain to explode. Ultimately, he was a crashing bore.

In most contexts the term "greatest" is just so much empty hyperbole and subjective judgment, so I lay no claim to knowing who the greatest blues artist was. Still, I would not hesitate to place Charlie Patton close to the top of the heap. His recordings, while eminently moving and worth hearing, must be only a shadow of what he sounded like in person. Those who heard him live, both black and white, would recall him in awe. If only I had access to a time machine...


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 01:28 PM

I can think of a very good point Calt made imo (remembered roughly): the black folk blues songs with lyrics about I don't have a mother I don't have a sister what am I going to do were correlated with begging for money from white people on the street in contrast to the lyrics of a huge number of other black folk blues songs that had different topics, such as bragging that your woman would go your bail whenever you wanted. He was being cynical as usual, but in this case I think that cynicism led him to the wise, historical conclusion.

I can't think of a second one.

I love Patton's "Green River Blues," for instance, but I think Patton's overrated in general. I think Peg Leg Howell is one of the early-style greats, e.g. his '20s version of "Skin Game Blues."


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 01:51 PM

I am a great fan of Blind Blake[I do not mean the hawaian player] what afantastic guitrist way ahead of his time.
I like skip james too


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 02:24 PM

Wrong island, wrong ocean, I think.

Don't you mean Blind Blake, the Bahamian player?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 04:37 PM

no, the only Blind Blake, I am interested in is the one who recorded panther squall and early morning blues here
Arthur "Blind" Blake (1896 ? December 1, 1934) was an American blues and ragtime singer and guitarist. He is known for numerous recordings he made for Paramount Records between 1926 and 1932.
your blind blake called himself after arthur blind blake,and like you and other smart alecs of no interest to me, wherever he came from


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: meself
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 05:59 PM

You brought up the "hawaian guitar player" - I believe Jerome Clark's point was that you meant, or so he thought, a certain Bahamian guitar player (did he play Hawai'ian guitar?). You did not clarify that aspect of the matter.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 08:02 PM

Yes, precisely, There are two Blind Blakes, one from Florida, the other from the Bahamas. I have never heard of a Hawaiian guitarist named Blind Blake..


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 06 Sep 17 - 10:56 PM

So the Sandman calls Mr. Clark a "smart alec" for correcting him about the second Blind Blake's geographic location. The fact that you have no interest in the other Blake?your loss, by the way, he was actually rather interesting; not as interesting as the Florida Blake, but certainly not worthy of being dismissed as worthless by someone who has heard so little of his music as to not even know where in the world he was from nor the kind of music he did (Calypso). According to Elijah Wald, the Bahamian Blind Blake was probably the source for Johnny Cash's version of "Delia," Dave Van Ronk's "Yas, Yas, Yas," Paul Geremia's "Jones (Oh Jones)," and "Run, Come See Jerusalem," a tune that was done by many artists. Now that Mr. Calt is no longer with us, Mr. Sandman, with a little bit of schooling in the art of punctuation, capitalization and sentence construction, might be able to fill those shoes.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: meself
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 01:18 AM

Well - that's a little harsh ....


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Will Fly
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 03:21 AM

Blind Blake, in the opinion of the Rev. Gary Davis - himself a consummate guitarist - was "alright", i.e. a good player. Woody Mann, who studied with Davis as a teenager (like many another) quotes Davis as having a poor opinion of many of the older blues players, such as John Hurt. "Old fashioned" was his description.

Davis himself had a superb knowledge of the guitar - as I saw for myself at the old Free Trades Hall in Manchester in '64 or '65. (Can't remember the exact year, but he was top of a bill which included Jack Elliott, Buffy Sainte Marie, etc.) - where he demonstrated an astounding technique and stage presence.

Davis was right - Blake played guitar like a pianist, alternating bass runs with treble melodic lines in a very sophisticated manner. I like other players such as Hurt, Patton, James, etc., but Blake and Davis are - for me - the giants.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 03:30 AM

"but certainly not worthy of being dismissed as worthless by someone who has heard so little of his music as to not even know where in the world he was from nor the kind of music he did (Calypso)"
I have listened to quite a lot of his music, the fact that i was ina hurry typing and made a mistake as regards his location, does not mean i am not familiar with his music [mr smart alec] i did not describe it as worthless, i said the other blind blake interested me, that does not mean anyone is worthless.
now kindly, stop making assumptions.not only is your comment harsh it is inaccurate bollocks


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 03:40 AM

what is also interesting about your comment, is that you claim i dismiss him as worthless [which i did not], however if i did claim he was worthless and you appear to get your knockers in a twist about this, and lose your rag, that might suggest that you value my[so called opinion], if you did not think that my comment that the original blind blake interested me more[ not the same as worthless]then why get your self in tiz was, why not just ignore the comment and treat my alleged comment with disdain, to respond in a hot headed manner that jumpss to inaccurate conclusions reflects your bad temper


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 07:50 AM

i really wish you would just call yourself your name. Sandman ...its Dick isn't it?

Americans don't really understand English musicians. the way we talk. the way we live. the way we exist and sustain our integrity in an environment that is largely hostile, and in a society about half as affluent as your own.

we are cuckoos and magpies - what attracts us makes up our styles, and what we reject and kick out of the nest is as important as what take to our hearts.

those who insist there is a living tradition in an island that has been overrun more times than an ant hill usually have some axe to grind - some bailliewick to protect.

Dick wasn't casting aspersions on you friend somewhere in the Pacific. He was just saying that it hadn't attracted him sufficiently for his work to have resonances in his style.

The much despised Mr Calt. I haven't read all of the book yet. But one thing is sure. He is what historians call a primary source. He was there in the important places in the 1960's. He knew and talked with that tranche of musicians that captured the imagination of the great flowering of English guitarists in the 1960's - Jansch, Martyn, Renbourn, Wizz Jones, Ralph McTell, Efic Clapton.

i haven't come across the parts of the book that offend you. It reminds me a little of the album notes of the Blues Project album - the writer says these songs are like Notes from the Underworld. THey speak of a world almost beyond our comprehension. Skip James was a citizen of that world. And he survived - long enough to give us his music, which makes him some sort of an idealist in my book.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 09:14 AM

I have to say that I have not only enjoyed this thread but found vindication in it.

Till now, I hadn't encountered anybody else who'd read Calt's strange book, though I had some sense that among hard-core blues types his reputation was not exactly stellar. It's good to know that others found the James biography as hard to take as I did. Maybe it will encourage those curious about blues scholarship to seek out the more worthy books, of which there are many, and also to hope that a more able chronicler of James's life, times, and music surfaces eventually.

I remember, by the way, reading a piece some years ago in which a New York Times music critic expressed dismay on learning that Calt planned to write a Robert Johnson biography. Calt died (at the relatively young age of 62, as I recall) before that happened,

On another matter I think it is a mistake to think of Mississippi John Hurt as a blues performer. Rooted in pre-blues Southern folk music, he is more accurately characterized as a songster, and justly celebrated as a unique and interesting figure.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 09:47 AM

he may have been categorised as a songster as was mance lipscomb, it does not alter the fact he sang blues songs as did lipsccomb, if scholars wish to categorise people with pigeon holes that is their weakness,hurt sang blues and occasionally gospel songs, everyone who sings is a songster, what a misleading category.


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