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Review: Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Seeger

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Little Neophyte 18 Apr 00 - 09:55 AM
WyoWoman 18 Apr 00 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,Peter T. 18 Apr 00 - 11:04 AM
Amos 18 Apr 00 - 11:36 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Apr 00 - 11:43 AM
Mike Regenstreif 18 Apr 00 - 04:33 PM
Amos 18 Apr 00 - 04:39 PM
Art Thieme 18 Apr 00 - 04:39 PM
Little Neophyte 18 Apr 00 - 06:50 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Apr 00 - 02:27 AM
Jeremiah McCaw 19 Apr 00 - 02:49 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 19 Apr 00 - 07:31 AM
Rick Fielding 19 Apr 00 - 01:07 PM
Hollowfox 20 Apr 00 - 09:41 AM
simon-pierre 21 Apr 00 - 02:20 AM
The Shambles 21 Apr 00 - 05:35 AM
Rick Fielding 21 Apr 00 - 03:00 PM
quokka 30 Oct 08 - 11:13 PM
the pom 31 Oct 08 - 08:44 AM
The Sandman 31 Oct 08 - 08:58 AM
The Sandman 31 Oct 08 - 11:11 AM
john f weldon 31 Oct 08 - 11:59 AM
PoppaGator 31 Oct 08 - 06:06 PM
Mark Ross 31 Oct 08 - 06:40 PM
Charley Noble 31 Oct 08 - 09:34 PM
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Subject: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 09:55 AM

Well guys I am just following up on Shambles idea about creating New Thread Ideas, though this is not a new concert review, it certainly something I would like to learn more about.
Thanks to Rick Fielding, I got the opportunity to watch Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest with Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee.
These guys were unbelievable! Brownie McGhee is a pleasure to watch perform. His facial expressions just capture the feel of the lyrics. And I could not believe Sonny Terry on the harmonica.
These boys don't play music they ARE music.
I also appreciated Pete Seeger's ability to generated a flow of story telling about the good old days when they would have sessions together with Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives and others. Charge .35 admission and have a whole crowd show up for an afternoon on songs.
I have never had an opportunity to hear Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee before. It was a real treat for me and I would like to find out more about these incredible performers.
So this isn't much of a review, but rather a request to learn more about Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee from the other Mudcatters.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: WyoWoman
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 11:00 AM

One of my favorite songs is their "You Bring Out the Boogie in Me."

This thread reminds me that, before I move, I have to get my Terry/McGhee CD back from the friend to whom I loaned it in a vain attempt to find out the chords in that song.

If anyone knows them, it would make my heart sing to learn them (although I probably won't be able to actually play the chords until I'm 60!)

The CD I have, Lil Neo, is "Sonny & Brownie" and it has "Bring It on Home to Me," "People Get Ready" "White Boy Lost in the Blues" -- and others. On the A&M label, and it should definitely find its way into your collection.

Best, WyoWoman


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: GUEST,Peter T.
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 11:04 AM

That didn't take you long, LN. What happened to all that heavy shopping?
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Amos
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 11:36 AM

I am soooo jealous! They were my first introduction to the Real blues, over forty years ago. I am amazed to hear they are still performing.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 11:43 AM

Those "Rainbow Quest" shows from 1965 are truly remarkable. I managed to get a number of them from the library and though they are quite uneven, I'm so glad I've finally gotten to see them.

Pete often seems quite hesitant about "where to go next" and the relaxed atmosphere is at times a bit strained. The music is often wonderful and when Pete, Sonny and Brownie play together it's magic. Another thing about the particular show that Bonnie mentioned is that Sonny and Brownie are still "talking to each other!!". Their famous unresolved feud had obviously not started yet, and they seem quite affectionate.

The other one I lent Bonnie has an amazing appearance by Buffy St. Marie. Her playing is exceptional for one so young and she sings "My Country t'is of thy People You're Dying" so emotionally that Pete seems completely stunned...me too.

His banjo work on the 6 shows that I've got is top level. He switches from 2 and 3 finger playing to frailing effortlessly and does some left hand work that is nothing short of brilliant. I've heard sooooo many traditional drop thumbers denigrate his banjo playing as being unimportant, and use the term "Seeger style" to mean "commercial" or not "authentic", but boy, I love it!

One of my favourite bands "The Greenbriar Boys" are on one of the tapes, and I'm afraid my hero just doesn't know what to do with them. Rather than just let them play bluegrass he keeps trying to involve them in stuff they're unfamiliar with. Also asks some really "dumb" questions, regarding Alan Lomax. Lomax discovered bluegrass during it's city revival and wrote about it extensively (and got it all wrong!) The Greenbriars just seem puzzled at Pete's questions. When they are allowed to play (without Pete trying to keep up with the super-fast tempos) they sound great. Reminded me what it must have been like for Bill Monroe to have the frailer Stringbean, as his banjoist (String was primarily hired to pitch on Monroe's baseball team).

If you can get these from your library...do. They're worth it. And don't let my pickiness put you off, I can be a real "folk nurd" at times.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 04:33 PM

Amos, both Sonny and Brownie are now deceased. Brownie died in 1996, Sonny in '86.

Rick, their feud came much later. When I first met them in 1969 or '70, they seemed to be getting along fine. By 1977, the last time I produced shows for them, they were at each other's throats.

I had a chance to to spend an hour or two talking with Brownie back at the hotel during the Winnipeg Folk Festival a year or two after Sonny died. He seemed truly sorry that things ended with Sonny the way they did. He wasn't sure (or wouldn't say) what led to the feud. He just said they both should have known when to move on.

There are lots and lots of their recordings available. In my opinion, the best ones are from the mid-late-1950s until the early-1960s. Any of their stuff reissued by Fantasy (including the Prestige, Bluesville, Riverside labels) or Smithsonian Folkways is very good to excellent.

Their 1958 "in London" sessions have been reissued on a couple of labels. Fantastic stuff.

Mike Regenstreif


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Amos
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 04:39 PM

Right...I got confused cuz I missed Bon was watching a tape and my sense of time got hornswoggled. Thanks for the detangling!


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 04:39 PM

Sonny & Brownie were great musicians---and Brownie was a fine singer. I was lucky enough to open several shows for them over the years........but those last years, it was very difficult just to be in the same room with them...

I've never felt there was anything uneven about the Seeger programs. Pete did 'em without a carefully prepared script on purpose. He wanted the naturalness of a homey setting---like friends talking and singing off the cuff, on the porch or in the livingroom. And his shows were/are always the same way.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 18 Apr 00 - 06:50 PM

Captain Art, I kind of thought the same way about Pete Seeger.
I like the way Pete set the atmosphere and his sincere approach to facilitating the show. It was far from polished which offers an honesty you just don't get to experience these days.

Though I haven't seen The Greenbriar Boys session with Pete Seeger. I can also understand what Rick was saying. Maybe those things just happen sometimes. Where you are off track with others and you have no opportunity to correct it.

Just finished watching the Buffy Sainte-Marie tape too. Buffy had an important message, and she made sure you would feel it.

I am going to find this entire series at my local library.
Rick, thanks for introducing it to me.

Peter T., I got my shopping done too. Bought my matzoh, horseradish, walnuts, apples and parley but passed on the chicken neck for the Passover plate.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Apr 00 - 02:27 AM

The other shows I rented were with Theo Bikel, Addis and Crofut, Pham Dui, and a Palestinian poet who's name escapes me. I love Pete of course, but the difference between the other shows and the one with the Greenbriar Boys was really striking to me.

I had one "behind the scenes" folkie tell me that Sonny and Brownie's feud was because of a woman. Another said it was because of money. I believe the "money" story. Seems one of them started to ask for more (even one dollar more) than the other, and it caused huge resentment. They always did work with separate contracts. The really troubling thing is that because of their success as a duo they couldn't economically split...which must have been very stressful. For what it's worth, in several interviews, Brownie talked very specifically about HIS trips to Europe, HIS audience response, HIS recordings etc. When the interviewers would refer to their partnership, Brownie would continue to answer in the first person. When queried directly about "the feud" he would deny it emphatically, but not very convincingly. No question their music suffered greatly because of it. I saw a couple of concerts they did on TV in the eighties, and Brownie made no attempt to back up Sonny the way he had in earlier shows. He would doodle around while Sonny sang and use really haphazard timing and changes. They NEVER sang together once in the two shows I saw. Too bad.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 19 Apr 00 - 02:49 AM

Sad they're no longer with us. I saw them at least a half dozen times at the old Riverboat Coffee House in Yorkville, and once at Con Hall. Just great stuff. Got an old vinyl LP, "Live at the Bunkhouse". One of the best photographs I've ever taken was of Brownie at the Riverboat during a performance. Gotta reprint that sucker real soon. Even came across Brownie doing a guest episode of "Family Ties". They were a wonderful pair.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 19 Apr 00 - 07:31 AM

I think that Rainbow Quest program is Sonny and Brownie at their best!

By the way, you can get Rainbow Quest video tapes from http://www.mabels.com/video.html I got that one and the one with Mississippi John Hurt and Heddy West. Those two and the one with Doc Watson, Clint Howard and Fred Price are my three favorites.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Apr 00 - 01:07 PM

I love the music of Clint Howard and Fred Price. Murray do you know if they did any independant recordings sans Doc?

Rick


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Hollowfox
Date: 20 Apr 00 - 09:41 AM

As I understand it, the Rainbow Ques shows were recorded at a high school in Schenectady (I used to live there). Since Pete was blacklisted from national television when these shows were done, it makes the shows all the more amazing. It also explains the low-tech ambiance of some of the shows. The shows are amazing, and in a way, the fact that we can watch them at all, given the circumstances of production, the politics of the time, etc., is a lttle like seeing the Book of Kells. If the book hadn't beed dropped/hidden in a bog, it would have probably been lost to us. I'd be interested to know how the Rainbow Quest tapes escaped loss, degeneration or destruction over the years.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: simon-pierre
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 02:20 AM

I have what I think is the last Terry/Mcghee's album (called Sonny&Brownie, A&M, 1973), with a band. Very bad. Sonny Terry plays like he's waiting to go. No soul at all, from both, and neither John Mayall or Arlo Guthrie can save the album.

SP


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: The Shambles
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 05:35 AM

I don't think they ever really knew their own worth (as a duo), or the inspiration they were for many others. It's a bit late to tell them now. I count myself that I was very fortunate to see them play live and they were great. It would have been around 1970).

The answer to this may be on the video but I have not seen it yet. Was the 'whooping', that we associate with Sonny, his invention?

The feud was sad. It reminds me of the movie with Walter Matthau and George Burns, called 'The Sunshine Boys'. They played an old comedy duo, rather than musicians, but that feeling of 'being stuck' together stikes a chord.

I am trying to think of the title of a video, that Brownie played on and was interviewed in. He was talking to Bert Jansch, who had gone to the US to see his 'hero'. For Sonny, I think had gone by then? But it was Brownie's, somewhat underrated guitar style that was Bert's inspiration? The video was about the early UK folk/blues scene and had Billy Connelly talking about and seeking out people like Bert, Davy Grahame and their influences.

Can anyone help?


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 Apr 00 - 03:00 PM

Glad to Sham. Duckboots' sister "Mcknees" sent me a copy and I've lent it so many times.....Damn, I've forgotten the name of the program!! AND it's on loan right now!

Oh well, I've started this now so I better continue. The program (hosted by Billy Connoly) visits a lot of the early songwriter and picker folk clubs and has great bits by Al Stewart, Archie Fisher, Bert, Hamish Imlach, and a VERY telling chat with Martin Carthy who in a mild way expresses his disgust for Paul Simon. It ends with Bert visiting Brownie in San Francisco, and a sad note is where Brownie tries to explain why there was "no need" for him to go to Sonny's funeral. It didn't wash, and was very awkward. I think the hatred had become so deep that it hurt both men tremendously. Perhaps if one or both of them had tried harder it might have been resolved.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: quokka
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 11:13 PM

This sounds like it would be well worth watching...anyone know the name of this program, or if it's available...


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: the pom
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 08:44 AM

Well Ive been an admirer of mississippi john hurt for nearly fifty years. I learned to play following his style,so I always
considered him my mentor so to speak.
I did a search on the net a few weeks ago and found the rainbow quest dvd's at amazon.
I now have 3 dvd's with mjh judy collins brownie and mcghee
doc watson and others. what a great show why doesn't some-one revive it?
I thought peter seeger was a real decent bloke too. must get some more
but the postage is horrific to oz.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 08:58 AM

john pearse,analysed Browmnies guitarstyle in one of his books,he used a fingerstyle pattern,that pearse described thus;Agreat deal of fingerpicking uses pattern picking.this means that a particular rhythmic syncopation recurs throughout the tune.Brownie Mcghee is adept in this technique
one and- two[index thumb pluck together,middle then thumb]this is probably an over simplification.
sonny, played harmonica wrong way round.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 11:11 AM

mjh,played in a style,using thumb on every beat[in 4 /4]like piedmont style.


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: john f weldon
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 11:59 AM

They played a few times at the Fifth-Amendment-Dimension in Montreal in the early sixties and were totally "in sync" musically and seemed to get along just fine. They were amiable and approachable. The difference in personality was evident on and off stage; Sonny being jolly and gregarious while Brownie was a bit of a brooder.

Too bad if they feuded, but that is sooo common in long relationships of any sort!


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: PoppaGator
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 06:06 PM

Quite a few Rainbow Quest videos can be found on You Tube. Worth searching out. I haven't seen the Sonny-and-Brownie episode, so I don't know for sure if that one is available, but I have seen John Hurt, Rev Gary Davis, and others.

And then there's Netflix, which has at least six different Rainbow Quest DVDs available for rent, including one featuring both Mississippi John Hurt and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee:

Netflix search results for "Rainbow Quest"


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Subject: RE: Review Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee Seeger
From: Mark Ross
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 06:40 PM

My first professional gig was as opening act and MC for them at Gerde's Folk City in 1967. Mike Porco paid 5 bucks a night, a bottle of beer and a sandwich! The education I got from working with them was the real pay.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Review: Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Seeger
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 09:34 PM

I have memories of heading down to Boston (from Maine)in the early 1960's to attend a real blues concert with Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Lightning Hopkins. It was heaven for me!

Charley Noble


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