Tag Archives: MUSIC

Hobo 63 with Delbarjo

My French cigar box guitar friend, Ludovic Fonteraud (aka Delbarjo), recently received a great new three-string from another CBG friend in Finland who builds under the name, Hobo 63. Here’s a great demo Delbarjo posted on YouTube demoing his latest instrument. It is just so smooth!

Me and My Guitar

I bought my first guitar in the early 1960s and have owned at least one for most of my life. I love guitars and just enjoy having one sitting in the corner to stare at occasionally. I know lots of chords and can “noodle” out melodies to myself but I don’t speak music.

Several years ago I broke my left shoulder and the result was greatly reduced range of motion making it painful to play an ordinary instrument. That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my love of these things or that I don’t own one. Matter of fact, just last fall I bought a new Gretsch acoustic resonator guitar in the hope that it having a shorter neck I’d be able to play it more comfortably.

gretsch g9200
My guitar!

My new axe is a Gretsch G9200 and it both looks and sounds wonderful. I have a friend in France, Delbarjo, who is a great guitarist and he recently posted a version of the G9200 on Facebook along with a video of one being demonstrated. Looking for other videos I came across one by Toby Walker playing my Gretsch version and decided I’m going to watch this over and over and imagine it’s me playing if only I’d been born into a musical family, had an entirely different brain,  and higher level of coördination.

In other words this will never be me in a video.

The Essence of Popular Music Genres

punk

Since I’m on a sort of music jag I’ll continue with this bit of fun. Ever wonder what the essence of popular musical styles consist of? Well, visit this link and check it out. Bet you’ll smile at least once!

10 Music Genres Perfectly Explained – Dose – Your Daily Dose of Amazing

The King of Guitar Slingers is Celebrated

les paulSpeaking of guitar slingers the all pretty much stand on the shoulders of Les Paul, the man credited with inventing the solid body electric guitar and multi-track recording. Take either away and rock ‘n roll as we know it disappears.

Les Paul was born on June 9, 1915 and this June marks the one-hundredth year of his birth. Across the nation a year-long celebration is taking shape and it began in New York City with a concert featuring many of today’s best guitarists.

Continue reading The King of Guitar Slingers is Celebrated

A Smokin’ 12-Bar Blues Number by Tommy Emmanuel

tommy emmaneul

Tommy Emmanuel is an Australian guitar slinger who’s almost unequaled in his versatility with the instrument. I came across this video of him playing a “twelve bar blues tune in the key of E.” To my ear it’s more of a boogie than a traditional twelve bar blues tune but it makes no difference, the man’s fingers are smokin’!

Johnny Paycheck and CW Friends Photo

Someone on Facebook posted this photograph and I thought it was worth sharing. That’s Greenfield’s Johnny Paycheck on the left, and the others from left to right are; Moe Bandy, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie McDowell, Joe Stampley, and Rick Blackburn of CBS Records.

paycheck and friends

The Day the Blues Cried

bbkingAs lots of blues songs begin, I woke up this mornin’. Well, I woke up this morning to the news that the King of the Blues had passed away. B.B. King left the building during the night and the world was left with a void. Years ago I had written a story about B.B. and went looking for it. For the moment it remains lost in several terabytes of stored data but I did come across a story I wrote in 2005 about a trip I made to Mississippi and the home of so many great bluesmen like King. This story first appeared in the Times Gazette and sometime later Ron Coffey asked me for a copy but I couldn’t find it. So for Ron, and in homage to King and all those who gave the world Blues, here it is.

Published August, 2005
For many years I’ve been interested in Southern culture and food. About fifteen years ago this interest evolved into a love of blues music and blues history. The blues that most people are familiar with is probably that performed by such greats as Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King. The blues that I’m most interested in is far more raw and basic. It’s the blues that was born in the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta and came out of hard times and hard living.

This blues is called country blues or Delta blues. It is acoustic music played on cheap instruments by people with no formal musical training and only the most basic vocabularies. It is rough, and crude, and unrefined, but the lyrics tell great stories of life, be it hard times or good, love gone wrong or love at its best. It’s the music that reinforced how tough life could be and it is also the music that swept away reality on Saturday night when a few dollars could buy you some beer at a local juke joint.

There are lots of places that lay claim to being the birthplace of something. Memphis claims to be the home of rock and roll and Jackson, Tennessee, claims rockabilly. But, if any town has a valid claim, it’s Clarksdale, Mississippi. The proof is in drawing a fifty-mile wide circle on a map with Clarksdale at its center. Then create a list of bluesmen that were born, raised or spent much of their adult lives inside that circle. The list will include such names as Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, Charlie Patton, Bukka White, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Besides these who became famous, there are dozens more who achieved little or no fame. The musicologist Alex Lomax once said that Clarksdale was responsible for more bluesmen than any place on earth.

The Clarksdale area is filled with historical icons of Delta blues history. The nearby town of Tutwiler is where W.C. Handy (considered the father of the blues) first observed a black itinerant musician singing about a place where two railroad lines cross and accompanying himself on a cheap guitar using a pocketknife as a slide. According to Handy, “It was the weirdest music I’d ever heard.” Because of this historical occasion, Tutwiler also lays claim to being the birthplace of the blues and proclaims such high on its water tower.

Tutwiler is also the final resting place of Sonny Boy Williamson II. Williamson, also known as Rice Miller, is considered to have been the greatest blues harp player in history. His style set the standard for all who followed.

In the rural areas around Clarksdale were huge cotton plantations such as Stovall and Hopson. It was on these plantations that many of the greats were born, grew up, worked, learned the hardships of being poor, and later fled. Several plantations still exist and one, Hopson, is trying to keep its place in blues history by offering tours and converting its field hand housing into sleeping quarters for tourists.

In Clarksdale itself, you’ll find the Riverside Hotel on Sunflower Ave. Once a Negro hospital, it is the site where Bessie Smith died following an automobile crash in 1937. After World War II the hospital was converted into a hotel, catering to black travelers it became a haven for black musicians performing in the area. You name the artist and he or she has spent time at the Riverside Hotel. The hotel is still open and caters to blues fans from all over the world. The room in which Smith died is filled with mementos about her and open to the public.

Depending on which music historian you want to believe, the Riverside can also lay claim to being the birthplace of rock and roll. In 1951, in the hotel’s basement, Ike Turner cut a demo tape of Rocket 88, a number that many to consider to be the first rock and roll tune. The tape was later sent to Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis and turned into a hit for Turner.

Further down Sunflower, and across from the cemetery, sits Red’s Lounge. Red’s is probably the last true juke joint in Clarksdale. It’s only open when Red is in the mood and I was fortunate enough to be there when he was. Greenwood, MS’s T-Model Ford was the attraction that night. T-Model is nearing 80 but still plays a strong guitar. Testifying to the international popularity of the blues there were at least four Germans, an Englishman and a young man from Japan in the crowd that evening. The Germans and the Brit even picked up instruments and took a turn at the microphone between sets.

Doing much to keep alive the blues tradition of the Clarksdale area is the Delta Blues Museum. Located in the old railway station and adjoining warehouse, the museum is a major repository of blues history and memorabilia. It is the place where you’ll want to begin your visit to Mississippi’s Delta.

Located next door to the museum, in an old commercial building, is the Ground Zero Blues Club. It was founded in 2001 by Clarksdale homeboy and actor, Morgan Freeman. The attempt was to recreate the look and feel of a traditional juke joint and breathe new life into the area’s native music. Guessing from the Saturday evening I spent there, it is working. The place was packed with people from many backgrounds, races and nationalities; all sharing in the emotion of this thing called the blues.

A few miles out of Clarksdale I stopped along the roadside and walked a few feet into a cotton field. Standing there in the 105-degree temperature I reflected on what it must have been like to spend endless twelve-hour days chopping cotton in these fields, countless years of backbreaking toil for little money and even less chance of attaining a better way of life. It’s easy to see why Mississippi’s Delta became the birthplace of the blues.

Playing for Change Heals Winter Blahs!

playing for change logoIt happened once again. Sitting in my recliner looking out the window at a winter that just keeps on keeping on. I click on my Gmail icon and there it is, Playing for Change Project 112, Pata Pata. It opens up with Grandpa Elliot leading me into an up tempo rhythm straight from the tropical warmth of Africa. My foot gets to patting and my spirit begins to breathe fresh air. Just as I think it can’t get better guitarist Vasti Jackson bridges into oh so familiar musical comfort food, Wimba Way, and a huge smile comes to my face.

Just yesterday I was told by a middle age woman that kids today don’t like music. While I’m not going to argue with her obvious lack ignorance of young people I’ll simply say that I’m one ageing old man who still finds joy, comfort, and warmth in music. P for P is a gift that keeps coming down my Internet chimney. Thank you so much.

In Session

In 2000 I was taking a tour of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS and towards the end of the tour I noticed the background music contained sounds, riffs, and styles I could attribute to a couple of familiar blues players. I knew what my ears were telling me but my knowledge base just couldn’t make it real.

srv albert kingAs I walked into the gift shop at the tour’s end I ask a clerk what the music was. He said it was Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King playing together on a CD called In Session. So happened they had it in stock and I picked up a copy to listen to during the remainder of the fishing trip I was on.

Later I discovered The session had taken place in 1984 at a studio in Ontario, Canada and had been filmed. I learned of the film while channel surfing and coming across a PBS channel that was replaying the video during a fundraiser.

Continue reading In Session

Multitasking

Obviously some are better at multitasking than others. I’m one that’s not too good at it and getting worse as time passes. I can still walk and chew gum at the same time but don’t ask me to throw in scratching my hair or rub my belly, let alone playing a guitar, blowing a harp, singing, and playing drums with my feet.

Cottonfields & Smiles of Warmth

It’s March 5, 2015 and I’m looking out my window at a fresh five-inch coat of snow. This winter has turned into one of the coldest and snowiest in several years. Like a gift from on the wings of a snow-white dove, however, came a link to a Playing for Change video that brought sunshine and warmth into our living room. Sit back and enjoy a collage of P for C’s musicians, all located in warm places, playing Cottonfields.

The Swamp Drivers

swampdrivers

Since becoming  involved with cigar box guitars I’ve made a number of contacts in the world of these often weird homemade instruments. One of the newer friendships is with Ted Toscano who is a builder, musician, and member of a blues band named the Swamp Drivers. Ted and the band hail from Utica, New York and we are both members of a Facebook cigar box guitar group.

Continue reading The Swamp Drivers