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Opinion: Baseball & Blues Bound by the Seams

Hope springs eternal for every team.

Hope springs eternal for every team.

This past week was quite the roller-coaster for baseball fans. While we had spring training in full bloom and the news wires and internet world alive with box scores and bits about each team, we also suffered two major loses.

Carmen Berra,  wife of the much loved and mal-apropped person to ever misspeak the English language, Yogi Berra.  They had a love affair that spanned parts of eight decades, and the couple just celebrated their 65th anniversary this past January 26th.
At one point a few years ago, Carmen Berra related how her husband once sent her an anniversary card signed, “Yogi Berra.” She said she was glad he signed it that way because it eliminated any confusion about all the other Yogis she knew.

The second, somewhat less personal to me, but overall more relating to baseball as we know it was the passing of Dr. Frank Jobe. Who was this guy, read on.

On a July night in 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe, the orthopedist for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium watching the ace left-hander Tommy John face the Montreal Expos. In the third inning, John threw a pair of wild pitches and heard the sound of a “collision,” as he put it, coming from his arm. He had torn an elbow ligament, which almost certainly meant the end of a pitcher’s career. But Dr. Jobe performed a pioneering operation, transplanting an unneeded tendon from John’s right wrist into his left elbow, where it functioned as a new ligament. John went on to win another 164 games over 14 seasons, retiring from the game at age 46. Dr. Jobe, who died on Thursday, March 6,  in Santa Monica, Calif., at 88, was renowned as the father of Tommy John surgery, a landmark in sports medicine that has been duplicated thousands of times and has saved the careers of numerous athletes, most of them pitchers.

Scrappy guitarist dons uniform for other love besides music.

Scrappy guitarist dons uniform for other love besides music.

So I have been working on the idea of the baseball & blues tie in since I first interviewed George Thorogood back in 2010. George and I discussed baseball and it’s relation to his career in the blues. He liked to think of himself as that pesky utility infielder who always made the play when needed, may not get the big headlines but has a long career and several World Series rings on his fingers. Here is the link to that interview because if I were to pull out a few quotes, one would lose the overall effect of the relationship that we established there. George Thorogood interview.

Purists vs. Modernists:
Baseball & the Blues have certain things that link them together, both have ‘Purists v. Modernists’ – we really don’t need to go too deep there. We know the Blues purists are staunchly in their corner, reinforced by their belief that the blues world is going to wrack & ruin and its just not the same anymore. In baseball we have the DH (Designated Hitter) and non DH camps, plus I am sure expansion freaks and wanting to cut back the playing in foreign countries and all.

Dilution of Talent Pool:
The dilution of the talent base is an interesting one, we see that in both of these endeavors, In baseball the opponents claimed that the dilution of talent has lessened the entire field of it’s high quality level. In the blues we hear much about the same effect happening in certain circles.

Okeh Records

Okeh Records

Segregation:
The initial segregation of these art forms is also a common thread, in baseball it took Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson to break the color line. In the Blues it was basically ‘colored music’ and the white establishment would actively seek to ban or discourage their audience (white) from buying or listening to ‘race records‘. Yes they were specifically marketed to black audiences, but there was no interest in assimilating them into the broader market by the white record labels or producers because it would then cut into their part of the pie. I think that with any ‘institution’ that has been around for so long we can see these fissures occurring. But to see them side by side makes for interesting observations. Hopefully this will open up some thought and conversations between us.

So with Spring training well into it’s very own special season, and the weather turning sweetly warm I figured I would ask around and get some input on what if any baseball and the blues has. So enjoy these comments and insights from some folks ya know and others ya might not have heard of, they range from artists to fans, to friends – but we all love the blues and baseball…

Pedal Steel and Baseball Blues

Pedal Steel and Baseball Blues

Sterling Koch:
I asked Sterling Koch about the relationship between baseball and the blues and how they seem to be similar in many ways. Purists v. modernists, what appears to be a very simple endeavor to take on but most difficult to master….

   ” Jimi I think you hit it right on the head there. Simple to play yet difficult to master. Only as I’ve gotten older have I had an appreciation for the intricacies of baseball. Hitters working the count, pitchers throwing a pitch to set up the next pitch, etc. The blues may be only 3 chords and 12 bars but there IS a particular way to play them and the subtleties and intricacies of the blues are what separate the wanna be players from the true blues musicians.
     I’ve always loved the blues and wanted to play them even back in the 80′s when I was doing the hair metal thing I wanted to play blues but I felt I was too young at the time. I didn’t understand them or appreciate how to properly play them. I’m not sure it works this way for everyone but I only fully understood playing the blues as I got older and more experienced as a musician. When I was younger I played baseball too. I was a pitcher and was quite good in my area. My last year of Teener ball I had a 10 and 1 record as a starting pitcher. Yet I didn’t understand all the ins and outs of pitching. I just basically rared back and “let her fly.” Much in the same way I would solo on my guitar back in the 80s. Just let it rip. Now I have come to realize that there’s SO much more to both pitching a baseball and playing the blues than just rearing back and “let it fly.”
    The subtleties and nuance of both, things that escape the novice or inexperienced baseball enthusiast and blues enthusiast, are what makes playing the blues and following baseball now for me so much more rewarding. Hope any of this will help Jimi and thanks for asking.”

Helena, Arkansas. King Biscuit 2012.

Helena, Arkansas. King Biscuit 2012.

Ricky Stevens:
Making it a habit to check out Ricky’s post about baseball and his keen insights into just about everything, I asked him for his thoughts on Blues and baseball.

   ”This hit me as I was driving to work this morning. Here is the link between blues and baseball. Specifically, hope in the midst of failure. The best blues songs have an element of hope; the hope that things will be better no matter how bad they may seem today. A ballplayer who fails to get a hit 70% of the time is a .300 hitter and has a chance to be an all-star. That same player may get on base 200 times in the course. If he scores 100 runs, 50% of the times he is on base, he has had a great year. Despite knowing he’s more likely to fail than succeed, every ballplayer walks to the plate with an element of hope. Want more evidence? Look at Chicago, one of the great blues towns. Every year, the folks there maintain hope that THIS year, the Cubs will win it all.”

Self proclaimed slap-hitter who can clear the bases with his power.

Self proclaimed slap-hitter who can clear the bases with his power.

Watermelon Slim:
Having spent many hours talking about any, and everything under the sun with Slim, I knew he was the go-to guy. Now ya just don’t get a simple answer from someone as loquacious as Slim. The man sent me an entire article on his growing up, and feelings about baseball, the DH, plus other insights that I have yet to publish here. So please allow me to selectively edit a few things in relation to his wonderful song ‘Max The Baseball Clown‘, which can be found on the “No Paid Holidays” release.

   ”I grew up in a Class A minor-league town, Asheville, NC, and refer to that upbringing in my song, Max the Baseball Clown. Max Patkin was the Clown Prince of Baseball. Some will say Al Schacht, a former major-league pitcher, was the King, because he clowned in major-league ball parks, including 28 years as an entertainer for the World Series, from 1927 to 1952, and 18 at the annual All-Star Game.
   But Patkin’s career of clowning, after a minor-league career cut very short by injury, spanned 51 years, from 1944 to 1995. I watched Patkin twice in Asheville. Patkin’s clowning career partly overlapped Schacht’s, but Patkin never clowned for the major leagues, instead barnstorming around the country in minor league ballparks.

Max The Baseball Clown

Max The Baseball Clown

   Patkin accomplished (and not just once, but every time he did it) the greatest baseball feat I have ever watched, or have any knowledge of. One of his highlights involved an air-gun that shot baseballs. To demonstrate the power of this gun, Patkin would first shoot a baseball from the pitcher’s mound of Tourist Stadium (also known as McCormick Field) all the way into the Asheville High School football stadium, somewhere between a quarter and a half mile away.
   Then, he would turn the gun straight up, and fire a ball into the night above him (I never watched him in a day game, though I assume he also clowned for day games). There is no telling how high that airgun shot the ball into the air, but I never saw that he had adjusted the gun for a shorter shot. The report of the gun sounded the same as when he shot the ball for near a half a mile.
   Researchers have determined that the highest that any batter ever hit, or ever could hit, a pop fly is a little over 200 feet. The balls Patkin fired into the sky took far longer than the time for even a very high pop fly. Might have been 15-20 seconds in the air. Surely the air-gun had fired the balls at least hundreds of feet into the dark sky. It is a mystery how Patkin could know where that ball was going to come down. But when it finally did, Patkin would turn his back to the ball and catch it in a way-oversized back pocket of his uniform! I saw him do it twice, in the early 1960s.
   I never watched Al Schacht– he was before my time– and I am sure that he was a hilarious baseball clown, by the fact of his own long major-league clowning career. But I doubt that he ever performed anything like what I must now consider the miracle of baseball skill that was a regular part of Patkin’s clowning show. My song, ‘Max The Baseball Clown’, which I recorded for my CD No Paid Holidays in 2008, is my tribute to the greatest baseball entertainer I ever saw, and perhaps– probably–  that ANYONE ever saw. In 1988, Patkin was named King of Baseball at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Atlanta, GA.”

Mysterious man of Facebook.

Mysterious man of Facebook.

Gerry Lo:
Gerry is a great supporter of the Blues. We met on Facebook (where else), and he has always had a pointed insight on almost any topic. A master crossword puzzle cat, I instinctively knew he would have some golden insight for us here. Enjoy…

   ”Well, I will be very much obliged to you for any excuse for playing more of Miss Julia Lee, who was wed to Mr Frank Duncan for a while. Julia Lee, of course, was the Empress of the “Songs Her Mama Taught Her NOT to Sing” and Frank Duncan was a Negro Leagues star. 
   Baseball, like the blues, is something to be taken in and not merely observed. We absorb and are absorbed by only a few aspects of existence, and to me these two schools represent not only the quintessence of America but the respective tops of their forms.
   Sure, jazz and football might claim to appeal to greater numbers, and I like them both just fine, but they seem to me to lack that essential quality that demands a greater level of emotional investment and appreciation that comes from baseball and the blues.”

Gerry and I also talked about the Single A Short-Season baseball that goes on in Savannah and many other cities around the country. These folks play for the love of the game. Gerry pointed out that they were akin to gladiators in caps, playing for nothing but for their own personal reasons, it was something they had or wanted to do. This is much like the local blues musicians who play to nearly empty clubs at times, but they return every night lugging their equipment to and from the car. In both these cases there may be no truer expression of commitment to either art.

So to bring this around to the heart of the matter, baseball and songs about baseball have a section in the American Treasuries of the Library of Congress. No these are not blues songs but the fact that they exist shows the connection between the sport and music.  This alone is pretty cool.

Sonny & Brownie

Sonny & Brownie

So here are some links to some blues music about baseball. Check them out, find some more and go down this path that we have set before you.

The Robby-Dobby Boogie - recorded by Brownie McGhee about the first two black players in the major leagues – Larry Doby, Cleveland (AL) and Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn (NL)

Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? - performed by Buddy Johnson, also done by Count Basie Orchestra. Here is a link to the Baseball Almanac’s  listing of lyrics.

Say Hey – The Treniers, their tribute to Willie ‘Say Hey ‘ Mays. Willie appears on the recording to settle a dispute on who’s ball it was!

Life Is A Ball Game - Sister Wyn0na Carr, a gospel singer works the path to righteousness into a baseball song. This song was featured in the movie ‘42‘ about Jackie Robinson. Personally I love this one!

The First Baseball Game - similar to the Wynona Carr tune, but more biblical references, by golden voiced Nat King Cole.
Catfish - While not technically the Blues, Bob Dylan doffs his cap to Jim ‘Catfish ‘ Hunter. This version is by Joe Cocker  with guitar solo by Eric Gale.

Baseball Boogie - Mabel Scott in a classic double entendre baseball song, it’s the blues baby!

Baseball Blues - Toby Walker’s double entendre where a Louisville Slugger is more than just a bat!

The Last Home Run 
a tribute song to Hank Aaron’s breaking of Babe Ruth’s home run record. Written by Willie Dixon,   recorded by McKenley Mitchell, with Billy Branch on harp. Could not find a video of this, but there are some copies around of release.
These are just a few samples of Blues songs that are about baseball and easily found. There are a bunch more around.
Plus we did not even touch all the bases on just plain ol’ baseball songs. John Fogerty’s ‘Centerfield’, Terry Cashman’s ‘Talking Baseball’ and many many others.

So batter up! Pick up that bat or guitar and feel the thread that runs thru our National pastime and what should be our National Music. Thank you Sterling Koch, Ricky Stevens, Watermelon Slim,Gerry Lo for your time and contributions to this little bit of passion that we share.

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2014
Where Blues Thrives

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Online Blues Survey – Researching The Relevance of The Blues

Fans at a festival

Fans at a festival

You know, these days everyone and their cousin has an opinion on the blues, and what it should, or, shouldn’t be. So here is a great opportunity to get your voice heard about it’s relevance in these digital and modern times.

A good friend is conducting this as work on their PhD thesis, might be a book…might be earth shattering. Might even be a keen insight into the minds of blues fans around the world.

So, if you are a fan of the blues, you can help us all find out more about what it is that makes the blues unique.

Lonesome backstreet Blues

Lonesome backstreet Blues

A  good friend of mine is conducting research around the relevance of the blues in the 21st century. You can help by following the link below and taking the online survey.

Afterwards, please share with friends, who also might be blues fans. This survey will run through February so get on it and spread the word.

Blues Survey

Thanks for your help, 

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi

©Blues411.com 2014
Where Blues Thrives

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Interview: ‘Uncle’ Guy Davis Part2

 

Guy & Chef going boldly where no one has gone before...

Guy & Chef going boldly where no one has gone before…


continuing on with my conversation with Guy Davis aboard the 2013 October Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. We start talking about his one man play ‘Fishy Waters’ and then take a few twists and turns that will, undoubtedly, leave some people uncomfortable….
Part One can be found here.

———–
GD
……And that’s what I’m looking for when I get on the radio and start singing the blues and carrying on. It’s fun. I want people to believe that magic is found in the human heart. In the human psyche. And blues is a part of that for me. The blues is my way of digging up magic.

B411: You were saying that you like to tell stories, and you enjoy it. Tell me a little about “Fishy Waters” (his one-man play).
GD: “Fishy Waters” – that is hobo. And he’s a man of the old cloth. The story I tell takes place in 1959, so he’s talking about things that have gone on in his life from years before that. “Fishy Waters” is a reflection, to some extent, of people in my life. I had an uncle named Tommy, who was my mother’s brother. And he told me one time that he could live out in the woods, and that he could catch a wild turkey and kill it and wrap it in tin foil, and dig a hole in the ground and fill it with charcoal and throw that turkey in there in the tin foil and cook it in the fire pit and have it come out of there tasting just as good as the turkey my momma pulled out of the oven on Thanksgiving. And I was there for every word that he spoke. And he had all kinds of other stories too. About traveling thru Central America and South American in this old Rambler and running the odometer around completely back until it zeroed out and then kept going. And these stories are in me. So much of what I sing about, what I talk about are not things that I’ve necessarily lived, I think my gift, if you want to call it that, is for dialogue. For hearing words and speaking words that affect myself, affect the people that hear them. Words that appeal to the senses, the site, sound, taste ,touch, smell, that kind of thing. So “Fishy Waters” I say is a teller of tales and singer of songs. And there’s no tale so tall that he can’t tell it, nor song so sweet that he can’t sing it.

Now this doesn’t mean that I have one of those sweet Ronnie Isley kind of voices, but I’ve got the voice I have. And this is the voice I sing with and the voice that I tell stories with. And so Fishy goes from town to town and he shares the stories that he’s heard and he tells about his adventures on the road. And this reflects a lot of the magic that I’ve had in my life as a kid meeting people who’ve come thru town and maybe sitting in my dad’s living room. I’m talking about writers and actors and various kinds of craftsmen and union organizers and some celebrities, and lots of non-celebrities. And I would hear things and I would see things and I would observe things. And they’ve all become a part of my life. They’ve become part of who I am. And I think maybe I just wrote the Fishy Waters stories so that I could be everyone’s Uncle Guy. And everyone would want to invite me over for Thanksgiving. They’d just sit and listen to me tell stories while I stuff my face with their Turkey and slap yams on my tongue and swallow them down. Cause I’m a yam eatin’ kind of guy.

Live on stage with Fishy Waters.

Live on stage with Fishy Waters.

So Fishy Waters, he is fiction and thru the entire work, with the exception of some legitimate blues songs like “Dust My Broom” and “Candyman” and stuff that I’ve included, it’s fiction. But it’s meant to tell a kind of truth. Fishy Water’s biggest story is of him leaving home and wandering into a hobo camp. And how that changed his life. But on the way to that story, he tells lots of tall tales that feature giant flies, talking silk worms, and all sorts of fantastical little creatures there. The kind of creatures that probably in the Christian religion, they talk about turning water into wine, and all the miracles that Jesus did, well if you can turn water into wine, I can tell you it makes all those other miracles so much more possible. Like raising the dead, curing the lame and the deaf and the blind. Oh yeah. You drink enough of that hooch, man, you’re going to be all over with those miracles.

So there is Fishy Waters. He’s there to bring that magic. And he tells tales that tales that have to do with horror and death and lynching. And the first talk he tells, having to do with lynching is a very poignant and deep and raw kind of story. And I think it’s told on very human terms. So that audiences of all races and ethnicities and communities can relate to it. Because it’s told on very human terms. But then the next stories, that have to do with lynching or threats of beatings – are told from a humorous prospective, like the guy who is going to out run a train to get away from an ass whoopin’. And you know, out run various speeding objects. This is just another way of saying that a human being will do anything to survive. You can say it seriously or you can say it with humor. But the message is the same. There is no speed that I could not obtain to get my ass away from a bullet coming my way. That kind of thing.

Sweet lullaby

Sweet lullaby

B411: Sometimes humor works better. It relaxes you. It releases the endorphins and all that stuff they say happens when we laugh and smile.
GD: Brother – endorphins are good! To those reading this, endorphins are wonderful. And humor – I highly recommend it because there is so much going on in the world, it make you want to cry and bury your head somewhere. And you can’t tell stories about the evils of racism and lynching and continue to tell those stories and try to point your finger at one whole group of people and expect them to be able to sit there without squirming and trembling and wanting to be elsewhere. It’s got to be laid out in human terms and sometimes humorous terms. Because life is like that. I had a teacher once who said that suppose you were feeling great sadness, and that sadness was represented by a puppy, in a little tiny room with a closet with a glass panel. So you’re looking there and you could see a little brown puppy and the little black one and the white one and the red one and the spotted one and the gray one. And there are puppies all in that room. And the sad one is the one in the corner. But if you open the door, they all come out. All the sadness, all the humor, everything comes out. That’s what makes it human. That’s what I’m after as a story teller. It doesn’t make me a great one or an expert, but it makes me who I am. It’s the path that I’m on. And I recommend that people tell their stories to each other. Find ways to tell them. I recommend that students in schools when it comes to write a paper, write about something that you know. Write about your life, or if your life is too sensitive, make up a fictional one. But write it as if you wanted people to visualize it as you were writing it. Write in terms of sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. And then ask your teacher for help when it comes to grammar and sentence structure and paragraph structure. All that kind of stuff. But you’ll be motivated. You’ll find you’ll really be communicating.

Notice that I went to school, and they just had us writing about the periodic table of elements. What is aluminum? Anybody see aluminum? AL, are you here?

B411: Al U. Minum probably lives over 127th and Lenox Avenue.
GD: Yeah, bring him down. Send for him. It was quite dull. I guess they were trying to teach us ultimately how to organize our thoughts into words, into coherent, cohesive messages that we would write or create. And that takes time. And that’s not everybody’s strong suit. But if you write about something you’re interested in, you can have more fun with it. And then on top of writing, you have got to read it to each other. People need to communicate more without the internet. Maybe use the computer to write it up. People, especially young folk, have got to learn how to communicate without the mechanical aids. Not that you should never use them, but someday, man, if the NSA gets its way, they will pull the plug on the internet and everything else, what you gonna’ do when they come for you bad boys.

B411: You need the personal experience because we all share that. That’s in us, that the “one note”. The John Lee Hooker, that’s the E – boom, boom, boom. You take that away, it gets removed thru daily life and now thru internet – which I use a lot of – but this (I didn’t touch you!) this conversation.
GD: There’s not a camera in this recorder is there?
B411: Ahh, no what camera, that’s the power indicator…ahem. The further we’re removed from each other, the more isolated we become, the more mistrust. We become all foreigners. We’re not part of the world community; we’re part of our own community. I don’t know why we’re going so deep here.

Potent & veristile as an artist.

Potent & veristile as an artist.

GD: It’s all right. You say the word community – on this ship there’s community, there’s blues community. Some are performers, some are listeners. And the performers must continue to humbly realize that we need listeners. I mean yes, it’s great to jam. It’s great for us great professionals to sit amongst each other and play. Play like geniuses. If I was Watermelon Slim, [Guy says talking like Slim] “you could have Sonny Sharrock, you could have Jimi Hendrix, have Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton all sitting there playing, and they would play like geniuses. But you let one woman walk up in that room, why they’d tear those guitars to pieces. I tell you they rip them. They’d bite the strings off. Where’s that bourbon?” If I was Watermelon Slim, that’s how I would have said that.
B411: Absolutely. He probably would have thrown a few more $5 words in there.

GD: It’s about community. You just brought up that word. We gotta start thinking in terms of the whole world as a community. We’re getting semi-deep as we speak here.
B411: That’s what attracted me to the blues. I grew up listening to Sinatra to Little Richard. I had a fairly broad rock and roll base of knowledge. Then The Beatles, Stones, Yard Birds, Animals,
GD: It’s a wide pallet.
B411: Indeed, and a wide pallet can hold a heavy load! Yea, so all this stuff starts to come in. And then Rock and Roll and music sort of died. There wasn’t anything to listen to. To me, past that, I found XM radio. And there’s Bluesville. The first thing I turned on, it happened to be a show called “Front Porch” with acoustic music.

Guy talkin' the straight talk.

Guy talkin’ the straight talk.

GD: Speaking of XM and Sirius, they better get Bill Wax back on that show. I’m gonna kick down the door and knock…I’m sorry. I’m back.
B411: But that, I started writing to Bill. Instead of saying “Bill, play Guy Davis”, it would be “Bill, I heard you interview Guy Davis. He’s an incredible story teller, I loved it. He did a song that was about something, and I related to it. And could you play that song because I really didn’t catch the whole thing.” Then Bill starts to respond. He starts writing me back. He says, “Wow, that’s…” A relationship developed from that. And I don’t know this man from Adam. He embraced me. I go to the BMAs. I go on the Blues Cruise. I’m overwhelmed by the talent, the humbleness. And that community. And I said that’s what I’m doing. That’s my calling baby.
GD: Let me tell you about the first time I met Bill Wax. A human being who I think deserves a lot of credit when it comes to keeping the blues alive. Who’s no longer employed by Sirius/XM, and I think it’s a big mistake. When I walked into the Sirius/XM building in Washington, DC, it’s like being inside the Starship Enterprise. It’s like very long corridors with few pictures on them. And these huge open windows, Plexiglas windows on each side, inside of each was sort of a studio a kind of table area and maybe a little bit of recording equipment here and there. Mostly there were laptops in there. There was one sort of grand preforming area, but it looked like you were just walking along in a space ship and wondering where the Klingon lived. You’re there and you’re looking around. Bill made it human. He showed me this laptop. He didn’t even have to come in to work. He could just email himself tapping one button, it had this pre-programmed list of songs to play. And Bill could just sit home and sniff his flower pots. But no, he liked to be there. He liked to interview people. He liked to ask questions much like yourself. He liked to get some human feeling cooking. Finding out where he’s at with the community and stories. He invited me to do that. He recorded me doing “Going Down Slow”, a version that I didn’t think I did very well with. And years later, I heard that interview played on XM and the “Going Down Slow” sounded good! I said damn man, I didn’t realize it was that good. Because I was connected and I didn’t realize it at the time. Maybe it’s a performers job to be in the moment.

*As Watermelon Slim would say again [Guy says talking like Slim] “In case your deciding that you want to perform, you’ve got to be in the moment. It means if you’ve got bourbon bottle in one hand and you’ve got to have a glass in the other and that’s being in the moment. Dag gummit’. Can you wrap brain pan around that?”
And Watermelon Slim is gone from the room now – he stepped out the door. I tease him because I love him.

B411: I love Slim also. He’s another storyteller. His music, his stories. There are some great stories. These are the guys that keep it alive. Cause the blues in essence is the spoken word. Well it was the chants. I don’t mean to get all educational with my history here, I’m just a baby. It was field chants, which then translated into stories and sounds that passed along to the children and into music. And you can correct this, but it’s sketchy, but it’s what I’ve learned

GD: You’re saying it fine. Field hollers, the blues came up out of that stuff. [Said in a field holler/sing song voice]

Ah, Rosie, o’lord care,

Ah Rosie, o’lord care when she walk she really rocks behind

When she walks she really rocks behind

Ain’t that enough to worry convicts mind.”

Yes, it is enough. These men on the chain gang were singing what they knew and what they wanted to know. To sing about them women.
Ah man, there are some aspects of the blues and the early blues and the pre-blues. And the use of the N word. I don’t think should be forbidden or outlawed as much as it need to be introduced by someone like Bill Wax who can give a context to the word and it’s use and the way things were sung about. There’s an aspect of the blues that I’ve heard reflected. Especially in work songs something “I don’t want no jet black woman, she’s too mean lord, lord, she’s too mean.” Such a line, is not considered politically correct because it’s hurtful. It’s like looking at a group of beautiful women and telling them, that you’re not on this list, you can’t get on this line kind of thing. But it was something that was going on, and being sung about in the prisons. I would love to know is there was some kind of research to indicate where that, who started that line? I imagine that it came post reconstruction. Back when they had the, I think they’re called the Black Laws, when slavery ended, they no longer had slaves as a source of labor to build this country. So they turned to prisons. And what I’m calling the Black Laws, I’m not sure if that’s the right term, ensured that if a Black man and a White man stood before a judge, charged with the same crime, the Black man would do more time. And his labor would be continued to be used to build the country, to hoe the fields and harvest the plants and to build the buildings and dig the ditches. So, these are the people that the blues is written about. Even if the blues didn’t come into its recognizable form to us until 19 what ever – WC Handy said 1907, but you know it’s somewhere back there. These are the people that the blues are being sung about. The dispossessed people, those people hijacked from the street, and thrown into prison.

B411: It’s the same horse, but a different color. You can call it what you want, it’s slavery. It’s indentured servitude.

Singing and teaching, the Blues is oral history.

Singing and teaching, the Blues is oral history.

GD: I guess I just wanted it to never be forgotten that I don’t want the word, the N word to necessarily vanish from the face of the earth and imprison anybody who uses it. It just has to be used with a certain clear understanding that it is a word that riots have been started over, blood has been spilled over. And rappers seem to use indiscriminately sometimes. I’ve even hear white rappers use it to each other. So the whole thing gets kooky.

B411: It’s morphed.
GD: It has morphed. But I don’t want it to morph so much that people forget where the blues came from.

B411: Well, do you want to end here?
GD: I think we about got to the end.

*Click here to listen to Guy impersonate Watermelon Slim & sing his “Oh Rosie” song….

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

chefjimi

©Blues411.com 2014
photos by: Leslie K. Joseph
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