It’s not difficult to explain the appeal Blues music has had to me. These extraordinary communicators transform time and space. I never lived the life depicted by these Blues practitioners. I’ve never been flooded out, or lived in a southern rural region in the 1920s. BUT I can begin to understand`by listening to their narratives in song format. This school of art is simply known as the Blues.
BOGUS BEN CARRINGTON
Adam & Eve In The Garden
Not much is known about Bogus Ben, but it is suspected that he and Ben Curry, who recorded one of the earliest versions of the Dirty Dozens, were one and the same person. “Bogus” Ben Covington earned his living by pretending to be a blind man on the minstrel circuit. Covington was also known as “The Human Pretzel.” This song is so haunting and weird, I had to make it #1 on the list.
No list about American Blues would be complete without Charley, the “Father of the Delta Blues.” He inspired most Delta Blues musicians while creating a great body of music. I included “Poor Me” because it explains the Blues mindset.
KANSAS JOE McCOY & MEMPHIS MINNIE
When The Levee Breaks
This brilliant recording about the great flood of 1927 is Blues communicating at its best. Joe McCoy’s recounting of the flood, accompanied by Memphis Minnie’s guitar, makes a powerful piece.
You might recognize Minnie’s guitar influence in the much later Led Zeppelin version of this song.
PEG LEG HOWELL
Peg Leg Stomp
Peg Leg lived the Blues life to the max! He lost a leg and incorporated it into his act. I added this to YouTube after mastering it for streaming.
The early days of jazz spawned great women jazz pianists —
Sweet Emma Barrett, Billie Pierce, Jeanette Kimball, Mary Lou Williams, and Lovie Austin among them. These women were so talented some eventually became band leaders, and these ground-breaking women made some significant contributions to Jazz. Here are some:
Sweet Emma Barrett
She played with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, sometimes one-handed after a stroke. Here she is being interviewed by Art Duke and performing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Another member of the renown Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Here she is performing with her husband Dede. I appreciate the enhanced audio (by Konrad Klingelfus) on this track.
Jeanette Kimball was classically trained and played in “society bands” with Papa Celestin. Here’s an example:
She finally got to record on her own, and you can hear her piano chops:
Mary Lou Williams
This self-taught musician started her career at age seven in Pittsburgh as “the little piano girl of East Liberty.” She wrote, arranged and performed with the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.
Born in Tennessee, she established her musical career in Chicago, and Mary Lou Williams credits her as a major influence. I selected this song featuring Lovie’s piano playing with Ida Cox singing.
This version of a multi-recorded song was a standard in Texas prisons. This song has been recorded by many singers thru it’s century-plus history. There is so much unknown about this song, that was made a hit in 1977. Some suggest the song, written in the 1800’s, was about a gun with a black stock. Somehow I don’t think these prisoners in a Texas jail were singing about a weapon. Check out this cover version with Johnny Depp plus a kick ass video. Great music is timeless.