So far this year there has been much written and published about the Public Domain. The concept of copyright expiration for the good of mankind has been around since the advent of copyright protection. This might be an old concept, but it has only come to being this year in the U.S. There have been many articles. This is a good one, about why and what comes into public ownership this year, so the public can use or enjoy the content without copyright restrictions. I try to make some of this music known. I’ve become interested in the roots of rock and roll, the Delta Blues. Son House, born in 1902. He was in his 20s when his songs were recorded by Alan Lomax.
Son House was discovered and promoted as a young man by reigning Delta Blues king, Charley Patton. House’s style would greatly influence Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and later Bonnie Raitt, John Hammond, Jr. and The White Stripes. Released in 1930, the 78 RPM vinyl of “Clarksdale Moan” was long considered a “Holy Grail” of lost blues recordings. Here’s an mp3 from an original copy found by an ecstatic collector in the 1990’s. An absolute treasure.
I first heard a Theremin used in rock music by Rev. Paul Jackson of The Uptones. The instrument was easy to record, but you looked lame playing it. Not much later I saw Aron Mardo not looking lame using this all electronic instrument in an inspired performance with his brother in their band Mardo. I fell in love with the unlimited possibilities of this electronic instrument. As I looked further, into this instrument’s roots, I also found some Public Domain music using all electronic music instruments. As you guessed, it wasn’t made before 1925, it was made in 1960 in a no-copyright-law USSR! This video features Russian Thereminist Konstantin Kovalsky, performing with Vyacheslav Mescherin’s ensemble of electro-musical instruments. I find this a mind-boggling display of electronic instruments. Konstantin makes the theremin sound almost human in his solo. I found this video fascinating.
Everybody listen to this man, listen to the depth of sorrow in that harmonica. A real blues player cannot cheat the feeling of grief on any topic. It comes from within. Bad water wasn’t a modern problem. When the river runs dry on land and in the heart, the music must replenish the soul for hope to be replenished. I’m proud to link to this song by Jaybird Coleman.
Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars recorded “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” in Chicago, Illinois on December 9, 1927. The moment was captured in a crisp recording that is as impressive as it is pure fun. Armstrong’s inspired composition and tight arrangement are brought to life by one of the hottest big bands of all time. Ripped to mp3 from a well preserved 78 RPM vinyl side, this ebullient instrumental classic is free to enjoy and share, hosted by the good folks at archive.org.
Kokomo Arnold’s left-handed slide guitar playing and vocals, delivered with the same intensity and conviction as a sermon from a Sunday preacher, made his records sound 20 years ahead of their time. From 1934, “Sissy Man Blues” has a place in gay music history, with the famous, and perhaps the most lucidly sung phrase on the record, “Lord if you can’t send me no woman, please send me some sissy man.” This is evidence of the presence of a queer vibe in 1934, when this song was written.
The Empress Of The Blues, Bessie Smith, got her start busking with her brother in Chattanooga as a young girl. Still a child when she auditioned for the Stokes troupe, she won the gig as a dancer, not a singer, because that chair was already filled by none other than Ma Rainey, The Mother Of The Blues! Both singers became major stars, enjoying long and prolific performing and recording careers. Bessie Smith’s “Thinking Blues” is a great intro to this magnificent and hugely influential American music legend. I found a very good sonic version at YouTube.com
Backed by her Georgia Jazz Band, here is the great Ma Rainey, reflecting on the joy and consequences of “Booze and Blues.” So good. This Youtube post “show more” is a great biography of this talented woman who was truly a force in the Blues.
Ida Cox – also known as the “Uncrowned Queen of the Blues” – worked her way up through the early blues circuit to become a popular headliner. A versatile artist, Cox also achieved fame as a successful vaudeville performer. Check out her powerful and evocative vocal on the classic, “Mojo Hand Blues”. A hard-to-find 78 RPM vinyl, here to enjoy as a video.
This scratchy copy of a Son House classic is pure gold. A master at creating unusual chord structures, Son House uses his vocal and guitar to create moving double-harmonies. Jack White of White Stripes fame dedicated the White Stripe’s first album to Son House.
This song is personal favorite of mine. Carl Martin’s humorous admonition to all prize fighters, telling them to stay off Joe Louis’ beat is a classic. There isn’t a wasted word in this song, and Martin’s delivery is as solid as a punch from the champ himself. It’s a shame the 78 has the snap, crackle, pop of an old recording.