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Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors

Rolfyboy6 01 Feb 02 - 12:18 AM
Rick Fielding 01 Feb 02 - 12:54 AM
van lingle 01 Feb 02 - 08:32 AM
Fortunato 01 Feb 02 - 09:04 AM
Rick Fielding 01 Feb 02 - 12:09 PM
catspaw49 01 Feb 02 - 12:54 PM
M.Ted 01 Feb 02 - 01:08 PM
UB Ed 01 Feb 02 - 01:53 PM
M.Ted 01 Feb 02 - 02:25 PM
CraigS 01 Feb 02 - 04:43 PM
Stewie 01 Feb 02 - 08:55 PM
Rick Fielding 01 Feb 02 - 09:17 PM
Justa Picker 01 Feb 02 - 09:54 PM
catspaw49 02 Feb 02 - 11:03 AM
Rolfyboy6 02 Feb 02 - 11:06 AM
TinDor 09 Sep 09 - 08:21 PM
Peace 09 Sep 09 - 08:31 PM
Janie 09 Sep 09 - 10:31 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 10 Sep 09 - 05:59 AM
Bobert 10 Sep 09 - 08:07 AM
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Subject: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Rolfyboy6
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 12:18 AM

The area of the blues about which I know the least is the Piedmont blues. I see the Piedmont label as covering way too much ground. I'm aware of the Atlanta group (Pegleg Howell, Barbeque Bob, Willie McTell, several others) of great players, and of the North Carolina group loosely associated around Durham and Blind Boy Fuller (Fuller, Rev. Gary Davis, Sonny Terry, others), The South Carolina Medicine Show performers (Pink Anderson, Peg Leg Sam, others), and the Variginia/D.C. performers (John Jackson, Big Chief Ellis, Cephas and Wiggins, Archie Edwards, others). In many cases these are just names to me as yet. I sure would like to know more about these folks.

Who was Willie Walker? I see him mentioned as a teacher of Gary Davis and others.

Does anybody know anything about Curley Weaver of Georgia?

I have Blind Boy Fuller songs on several old vinyl compilation albums. What are the Blind Boy Fuller CDs to get now?

What effect did Blind Blake have on the other east coast blues people? Does his style show up in their work?

How much is the smoother old timey style of Piedmont blues related to earlier African-American string band music and earlier Anglo American string band music. Virginia is long settled in comparison to the Yazoo Delta and Central Texas. How much does this contribute stylistically?

Other questions as I think of them. I really look forward to what folks can tell me about this, or give me leads about where to look.


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 12:54 AM

Wow...a LOT of questions. Good ones though. A real good start would be to get a few CDs. Fortunately they're easy to find these days. Actually I'd be surprised if CAMSCO (Mudcatter Dick greenhaus' company) can't get everything you need in one gulp.

My suggestions:

Blind Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, Buddy Moss, Rev. Gary Davis.

Each of those players used an opposing Thumb/index (or thumb/index and middle) style and are highly rhythmic.

You might also check out the best of the white players who worked in that style.

Sam McGhee, Roy Harvey, Dick Justice, Leonard Copeland.

Hope that helps for part of it.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: van lingle
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 08:32 AM

yazoo put out a compilation quite a while ago called east coast blues which contains songs by many of the artists you cited including two by willie walker which were, i believe, the only sides he ever recorded. i think one generality you could make about the piedmont style is that musicians from that region seem to have been more influenced by ragtime than bluesmen from other areas. dave


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Fortunato
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 09:04 AM

Check out the Archie Edwards Blues Foundation website. If you live near us in DC you can come to the Barbershop. Unfortunately John (Jackson) has just died and Archie died some time ago. But their influence lives in their proteges. I've lost my blue cliky notes, but heres the website below. http://www.acousticblues.com/

I'm only a dabbler in piedmont blues, but I have wound up in workshops a few times with John and Archie over the years. For these two men (IMHOP)I heard the influence of southern string bands, minstral show tunes, tin pan alley and, yes, plain old 'hillbilly' music in their blues.

Now if you live near the DC Area, you might want to look up Warner Williams and Jay Summermour. Guitar and Harmonica, blues in the piedmont style, IMHOP, but yet unheralded. Fortunato


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 12:09 PM

For what it's worth, the only two guitarists that Gary Davis complimented (publicly) were Blake and Willie Walker.

Gee, I wonder why this thread has only five posts, and all the silly ones have hundreds? Could we be in the minority? Gosh.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: catspaw49
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 12:54 PM

First, I think Rolf is a pretty well educated and experienced blues guy and I'm sure I know far less than he does, but his question regarding the three flavors does intrigue me and Fort did a good job in answering a good bit of it. To tie in and ask perhaps another, does it seem that Piedmont Blues is, for lack of a better term here, less defined/distinct than others? Again, the geography that's attached to it would seem to indicate that you could have some things that are definitely in all "three falvors" and others that are more associated with something else or distinctive to a particular place.

It would be natural for those at the northern end to have included a lot of New York/Tin Pan Alley tunes in their playing and as you move south these are somewhat more dilluted in favor of minstrel show music.

Damn....I had a point here, but I'm already rambling.....The hard rhythm style covers the region and helps to mark the sound of Piedmont Blues, but the type of song and how that translates seems to me to be a lot different north to south, urban to rural.

I'll shut up now........Sorry..........Actually, I won't. I also notice that it sounds to me (and probably only to me) that somewhere along the line, the style of MJH kinda' crosses over the lines between the Piedmont and the Delta. Okay, NOW I'll shut up.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: M.Ted
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 01:08 PM

I think we are in the minority, after all, it isn't as if this was a music forum--and especially not one that makes a special point of mentioning the Blues--

Anyway, am with you, Rolfyboy6, on the idea that "Piedmont" is oftem used in a way that is too broad a term to have a lot of meaning--it helps to remember which side of the fence you are on--as a musician, not a folklorist, so Rick's thumb and index finger definition above is way more useful--

The Piedmont blues thing also often included a washboard, and the harp player, particularly, might do some dancing--as Rick says, rhythmic, and uptempo--I hear the roots of rock'n'roll really strongly in something like the Blind Boy Fuller run of"Step it up and Go", and of course, lets not forget "Sticks" McGee--some of us, anyway think of him as one of the pioneers of Rock'n'roll--

Rev Gary Davis was a great creative player--I never can get enough of him--and I think that he often gets pigeonholed with that "Traditional Bluesman" image, so that people don't hear the freshness and sponteneity in what he was doing--to me, he wasn't recreating an older music when he played, he was developing new ideas and new music, using older devices maybe, definitely in the moment--


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: UB Ed
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 01:53 PM

I first heard of "Piedmont Blues" a couple of weeks ago when a friend of mine was lamenting the passing of John Jackson (Chance, he lived in Northern Va and apparently got to see Jackson a great deal). Anyway, its great to check back into the 'Cat and see a music thread.

Rolf, you know so much more than I. I am familiar with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Robert Johnson and T Bone Walker. How would those styles compare to the Piedmont?

Ed


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: M.Ted
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 02:25 PM

Commercial music from ragtime on, drew from regional music, and then fed back into it--Blind Blake played a lot of what was basically piano style ragtime, but on a guitar--I don't think that he was as much influenced by regional and ethnic music(notice that I never say the word "folkmusic") as he was by the popular music of the time--but he was an incredibly powerful and inventive player--

The Thumb and finger guitar style, and that bouncy shuffle rhythm, on the other hand, seem to have a feel of the old time jug bands, and, even when they were recorded in the 20's they were a recreation of regional music that had been popular around the turn of the century--

Even that music was probably influenced a lot by popular music, though, and popular recordings, particularly of banjoists, such as Vess Ossman, were widely heard and imitated even before the turn of the century--


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: CraigS
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 04:43 PM

Curley Weaver played second guitar on a lot of recordings, notably with Blind Willie McTell


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Stewie
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 08:55 PM

There is a short piece with some links here:

Click

Bastin's 'Red River Blues' is the definitive work on the subject. Also his essay 'Truckin' My Blues Away: East Coast Piedmont Styles', which is chapter 6 (pp 205-231) in Lawrence Cohn (Ed) 'Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians' Abbeville Press, is a wonderful overview.

In respect of Curley Weaver, there is a lovely CD available where he accompanies Blind Willie McTell and takes lead vocal on 4 songs: Blind Willie McTell and Pig'n Whistle Red 'Same' Biograph BCD 126. Curley's pseudonym was the name of the barbecue stand where McTell and Weaver played for tips.

As has been pointed out, there was considerable interaction between white and black musicians in the region. To Rick's list above, I would add the great Frank Hutchison. Also Dock Boggs' banjo playing was influenced by black sources.

In his 'Blacks, Whites and Blues', Tony Russell gives a beaut anecdote relating to the late John Jackson. A friend was talking to Jackson one day, recounting the story of DeFord Bailey and his unique position in the Grand Ole Opry. 'John was puzzled. The only black artist? What about Uncle Dave Macon?'

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 09:17 PM

Ahhh, the washboard players. If you can find an album of Washboard Sam (one of my fave musicians) you'll hear an interesting "piedmont tangent" at work. Sam often recorded in Chigago with his half brother Big Bill Broonzy...BUT... Broonzy Doesn't use the fingerpicking style. He plays flat pick leads. The "Piedmont" rhythm comes from (among others) Big Maceo on piano. These sides swing so much, even I would have learned to dance, if I'd grown up with that music!

As Catspaw alludes, we use all sorts of terms to describe regional music. Obviously some musicians tend to stick with familiar styles, and others go their own way. Here in Toronto we have quite a few players who've been so influenced by a man named Don Ross, that they could be said to play in "Toronto Style". Don does a lot of shows, has made some videos, and teaches...so his influence is constantly expanding. Don would give a great deal of credit to Michael Hedges and Bruce Cockburn.

Take Robert Johnson for example. The first Columbia album of his stuff was called "King of the Delta Blues Singers"...and certainly he was influenced by Charlie Patton and Son House...but listen to all the "Lonnie Johnson" in his playing and lyrics. Listen to "Hot Tamales and they're Red Hot" and tell me that ain't pure "Piedmont". His friend Robert Jr. Lockwood, carried on a lot of Robert's style...but at the time of his death it appears that Robert was already heading in a completely different direction. He was a sponge (they said he could hear a song once on the radio and it was HIS) and hugely creative. Had he lived another ten years, my guess is that his "Delta style" would hardly ever have even been mentioned.

Now Howlin' Wolf....what the hell regional style was he? A true original!

Cheers, and thanks for starting the thread Rolfyboy.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Justa Picker
Date: 01 Feb 02 - 09:54 PM

As Rev. G. Davis told it to Stefan Grossman (with he and Woody Mann being his "star" pupils) Blind Blake had a "sportin' right hand."


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 11:03 AM

Geez, I love it....."a sportin' right hand"............What a great line.

Interesting thread.......I keep thinking about how a style could migrate and the speed at which it would and then how a particular playing (or singing) style picked up the more regional music and the inverse of that....regional music moving to an area with a particular playing style. Obviously the "delivery" method was important....In an earlier era the transportation was so much slower and the hearing took longer. You passed along songs and styles up and down the Mississippi far faster than you did through the Piedmont and the Appalachian mountains.......Obviously both are overshadowed and almost forgotten in a world of MP3's.

My point (if I have one) is that perhaps because of the slower movement of what was there in the Piedmont versus the relative "quickness" of what passed along the river may have led to lumping together two or three styles or "flavors" under one title...Piedmont Blues......where others of the same amount of variation were given their own pigeonholes, ie, Delta, Memphis......

Sorry Rolfy.....Don't mean to sidetrack the thread because it's a good one but I'm always a bit fascinated by what makes things change and our own often burning need to pigeonhole them.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Rolfyboy6
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 11:06 AM

Thanks for the responses. Stewie's posting of T-Bone's Piedmont Blues site is great. Almost the only good one. And thanks for the steer to "Red River Blues", I have to order a copy. I've seen the article in "Nothing but the Blues"--my library has it and it's great--fabulous pictures too. I''l look for that Weaver CD.

Fortunato, unfortunately I'm 3,000 miles away, otherwise I'd be there like a shot. Thanks for the responses Rick, looks like about three threads worth of stuff in those (Jug Band as string band, the sources of Robert Johnson, Washboard Sam, more). About the Wolf: I'm a four decade fanatic about him. And as to style, he was one of Charlie Patton's students, lived on the same plantation when he was a youth. All of Charlie's showmanship rubbed off on him. So he's sorta deepest Delta with a very origial twist. 'Course he had that voice like no other. Dick Justice huh? I'll hunt him. I'd heard Sam McGee (fabulous), and of Frank Hutchison, more stuff to watch for.

Van Lingle--Thanks, another CD I gotta get (like everybody else here I'm only 4,000 behind).

The first instrument I played was the five string banjo and I'm convinced that that african instrument and its fingerings are the direct ancestor of blues guitar playing (no I don't have 'evidence'). The 'three against four' 12/8 time of the blues seems to me to be descended from those sources. And all that 'lead index finger' too.

Wheee! Now I gotta go look at what you steered me to. More questions later.


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: TinDor
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 08:21 PM

speaking of Blind Boy Fuller, the song below of his (1935) sounds like early Rock and Roll

I'M A RATTLESNAKIN' DADDY (1935) by Blind Boy Fuller


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Peace
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 08:31 PM

BUT, I saw Bo Diddley on TV many years back and he said he (meaning himself) started the whole thing.


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Janie
Date: 09 Sep 09 - 10:31 PM

Google Piedmont Blues and there is some agreement about musicians who represent the style, and then all kinds of opinion and speculation about the origins of the style. The only agreement seems to be that to a greater or lesser extent, there are elements of ragtime piano adapted to the guitar, and the influence of earlier banjo techniques applied to guitar. There is lots of interesting speculation about African and anglo-folk influences, racism, and the transition of the middle south from share-cropping to rural industrial. There is a nod to string band music. What no one mentions is the heady cross-pollination that occurred all along the major rail routes between New York City and New Orleans, that ran through Richmond, Durham, Greensboro and Atlanta. (It was also why the essentially working class, backwater town of Durham has a major history in drug trafficking, dating to at least the late 20's.) In addition, while many African-Americans headed north for better work opportunities aboard the railroad, it tended (and still tends) to be sons and daughters with significant family remaining in the Piedmont, and closely connected extended family with much visiting, traveling, and moving back and forth, adding to the cross-pollination.


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 05:59 AM

Am I mistaken in thinking that the history of Durham's tobacco trade pre-dated the late 20's?

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Piedmont Blues, at least three flavors
From: Bobert
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 08:07 AM

Kinda hard to put Piedmont Blues into words... Kinda like someomne askin' you to define what is red ot green...

But I played "Piedmond" blues at Archie Edwards Barrber Shop for years with folks who learned from two of the more notable Piedmont blues players in John Jackson and John Cephas... The barbershop jams are/were notorius for promoting this style of more intricate finger picking tham either Chicago of Delta style blues...

Those of us who have played at the barbershop have had Piedmont style ingrained in us... I still can play that style but prefer to play a harder edged Mississippi style blues... My homies back in DC know that about me 'cause I used to set up in the back room of the barbershop and lead Delta/Mississippi style jams...

B~


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