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'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.

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Rick Fielding 30 Jan 03 - 06:53 PM
Tweed 30 Jan 03 - 08:50 PM
Bobert 30 Jan 03 - 09:15 PM
Tweed 30 Jan 03 - 09:20 PM
katlaughing 30 Jan 03 - 10:07 PM
M.Ted 30 Jan 03 - 11:11 PM
Steve Latimer 30 Jan 03 - 11:56 PM
rangeroger 31 Jan 03 - 12:00 AM
Mudlark 31 Jan 03 - 01:12 AM
Art Thieme 31 Jan 03 - 01:30 AM
Steve Latimer 31 Jan 03 - 12:12 PM
Rick Fielding 31 Jan 03 - 06:16 PM
GUEST,Anne 01 Feb 03 - 01:55 AM
katlaughing 01 Feb 03 - 02:21 AM
Richie 01 Feb 03 - 07:16 AM
Steve Latimer 01 Feb 03 - 08:26 AM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Feb 03 - 10:02 AM
katlaughing 01 Feb 03 - 11:15 AM
Rick Fielding 01 Feb 03 - 11:25 AM
Steve Latimer 01 Feb 03 - 11:37 AM
Frankham 01 Feb 03 - 12:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Feb 03 - 02:00 PM
katlaughing 01 Feb 03 - 02:02 PM
Rick Fielding 01 Feb 03 - 02:11 PM
fat B****rd 01 Feb 03 - 03:51 PM
Rick Fielding 03 Feb 03 - 11:53 AM
M.Ted 03 Feb 03 - 12:54 PM
Frankham 03 Feb 03 - 09:33 PM
GUEST 03 Feb 03 - 10:00 PM
belfast 04 Feb 03 - 03:00 PM
katlaughing 04 Feb 03 - 06:47 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Feb 03 - 12:58 AM
Brian Hoskin 07 Feb 03 - 04:00 AM
Peter T. 07 Feb 03 - 09:15 AM
M.Ted 07 Feb 03 - 10:23 AM
Rick Fielding 07 Feb 03 - 11:32 AM
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Deckman 08 Feb 03 - 01:29 AM
Deckman 08 Feb 03 - 01:43 AM
Tinker 11 Feb 03 - 11:02 PM
pattyClink 12 Feb 03 - 10:45 AM
Art Thieme 12 Feb 03 - 12:01 PM
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Rick Fielding 12 Feb 03 - 04:21 PM
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Subject: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 06:53 PM

I've just finished the amazing book by the late Alan Lomax "Land Where the Blues Began". It's a document of several trips to the deep sunny South (with a few visits to Chicago) and the writing is superb.

Some of the blues singers that he talks to (and records) are very famous indeed...Muddy Waters, Fred MacDowell, Bill Broonzy, Little Walter, Son House, and about a dozen others. But at least an equal number are pretty obscure unless you're a nurd about this kind of thing. I am, and was very pleased to have the stories of Scot Dunbar, Sid hemphill, Napoleon Strickland and especially Forrest City Joe, fleshed out.

But ohhhhhh.....the sadness of this book is at times overwhelming. Lomax is constantly having to explain why he wants to be around 'niggers', and he's almost arrested several times. The sheer terror at realizing that a white man may have seen Lomax shaking a black man's hand....it's not just Lomax who'd be in big trouble....despite his credentials, books, recordings, and reputation, he was still just an outside agitator and 'nigger lover'. I'm not talking about his field trips with his dad in the thirties......this is in 1959-1960!

Most of the Southern interviews take place near Memphis, or in parts of Mississippi, and I found myself getting angrier and angrier at how these men and women were threatened and brutalized if they got out of line.........

...........but.....I absolutely LOVE old time white country music, and have hundreds of recordings by people who glady perpetuated that system.

Bill Broonzy talks about his Army experience in World War One, and it's hard to understand how he or ANY black man would want to call themselves "American' after such treatment. British Rockers (I seem to recall) often asked quizzickly how the inventors of American music could be treated so badly.

OK OK, I know that Free labour was absolutely needed to keep things percolatin', and without it there simply wouldn't have been a Southern economy.....maybe that's simply it, in a nutshell. But Gawd, it's hard to read about the humiliation that these great musicians were forced to endure. Bravo Alan Lomax.

Perhaps there were some Mudcatters, who lived through some of this.....(much of the book was written about stuff 40 years ago) what was it like from your point of view?

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Tweed
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 08:50 PM

I read it three or four years ago Rick, and to me it was like going back in time. Lomax has been derided by critics, but he wrote just exactly what was happening out there in the late fifties and early sixties.
That book made as big of an impression on me as nearly all the blues I'd ever listened to. It's THE Book of Blues and I think it illustrates the conditions that made the music happen.

Another one, if you haven't read it yet, is Robert Palmer's "Deep Blues".

Yerz,
Tweed


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Bobert
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 09:15 PM

Hey, Lomax wasn't pefect. He was condesending to folks when he interviewed them. Listen to him work over Muddy Waters on the "Plantaion Recordings' and it's, by today's standards, purdy rude and borderline abusive.

But, with that said, we owe *so* much to him for what he was able to record. He is the most important person in the history of recording blues music.

So, perfect or not, thank you, Alan....

Bobert


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Tweed
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 09:20 PM

Aghhhh, missed yore query completely....
Okay here's what I remember about a trip to Arkansas about 1965 or '66....When I was about 13 I went with a friend of mine and family down to see their grandparents, who were white sharecroppers.

We passed through Tennessee and heard the Opry on the radio and at the filling stations I was amazed to see colored only drinking fountains and three bathrooms. Men,Women, and Blacks.

In Arkansas there was flat red earth and it was hot and humid. Grandma and Grampa's house was small and filled with cousins and I remember somethin' about us killing a sizeable black snake that day.

We all went in to town and I got off the sidewalk to let some elderly black women pass. They got off the sidewalk to let ME pass and we about ran into each other. My buddy's dad grabbed me by the arm and leaned close and said, "You don't do that down here. THEY get out the way." I asked why and he told me "Cause they is niggers."

I didn't get it then, when I was 13, and I still can't grasp the logic of his statement.

Yerz,
Tweed


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 10:07 PM

Rick, thanks for the review. Sounds like one I will have to read. I don't have a lot of personal experience, except that I know it was not exclusive to the South. I came across newspaper archives in Casper which showed a cross being burnt, courtesy of the WY KKK, in the 1950's, either near or on the college property, can't remember the exact details.

It was a Casperite by the last name of Reeb who was one of the three white kids killed in one of the protest marches in the early 60's down south. They still have an annual dinner in his honour.

I also had a boss who grew up in Kansas. He was older than me and remember several things including a sign which literally did say "Nigger don't let the sun set on your ass in this town." He told an ungly story about a black man's testicles being nailed to a stump, attached, and set on fire, when my boss was a teen. As you can imagine it left quite an impression on him.

Personal experience, I do remember a very blind blonde woman married to a black man when I was a young mother. Her children and mine played in teh community pool together. I remember a lot of dirty looks towards her and people taking their kids out of the pool. She and I never spoke; I think she was too private and protective and I was, believe it or not, too shy.

kat


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: M.Ted
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 11:11 PM

Surprised you hadn't read this book before, Rick--it is a barnburner--
Many things told that haven't been told straight out before. Especially interesting are the stories about the muleskinners--Now you know why Phil Ochs sang, "Here's to the land you've torn out the heart of, Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of."


Meanwhile though, don't make the mistake, as some do, of assuming that all the white folks were bad, or, especially of assuming that country and old time musicians were all racists--the folks on the bottom, black and white, were treated equally badly, and often stuck beside each other--

There is a glistening bit of truth in the movie "Sullivan's Travels" where the white convicts are taken into the poor black church--

Those back woods Baptists and such had a tendency to believe that all were equal before the Lord, and then, as now, in the Holy Roller churches, black and whites held hands, sang, prayed together, and did
all of those "creepy" religious things, like speaking in tongues, being Slain by the lord, and even snake handling, for his glory--They sang gospel harmonies and invented rock and roll together, too--


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 30 Jan 03 - 11:56 PM


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: rangeroger
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 12:00 AM

From 1955 through 1959 I lived just outside Quantico, Virginia.Our family had moved there from San Diego as my father was in the Navy and was transfered to Quantico.

It was a real change for a 10 year ld to experience the culture difference.I was used to blacks just being differently colored playmates.Now I couldn't mix with them.

Didn't stop me though.Our house was at the end of a dirt road,deep in the woods, about a mile off the main road leading into the Marine base. It wasn't quite the end of the road,however.It main a sharp turn at our house,dropped into a little draw,where across a creek was a Negro shanty town. Four or five houses and a hog farm. Spent most of my time there as most of those kids were as crazy about baseball as I was and I knew I could always get into a game there. The rest of the white kids thought I was crazy but I didn't care.

One of my fondest memories was of an old black woman who had a wurlitzer juke box in her house. She had next to nothing else, her floors were bare but very clean. We used to go there on Saturdays and listen to that juke box for hours,watching the bubbles and pretty lights.

Of course, there was also the night the revenuers came in and busted up the still. That made for an exciting evening.We had wondered what all the traffic was about before that.A few days later I walked through the woods to the still(what was left of it) and can still ssmell the piles of mash.

Tweed's story about the sidewalk incident reminded me of the time my mother took me wth her shopping in Fredricksburg,Va. I had just walked out of a store when I saw a 10 dollar bill fall out of a man's pocket as he went past. I picked it up and ran after him, trying to give it back. He never stopped,turned around,or acknowledged me. I was stunned. My mother came out soon after and by this time he was around the corner and gone. She said that was the way it was in Virginia and no black man was going to acknowledge a white kid running after him.

I got to keep the 10 but it didn' feel good.

rr


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Mudlark
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 01:12 AM

We moved from a multi-racial work and social life in LA to a backwoods 160 a. farm in NW Ark. in 1970. Race was still very much an issue there then and we had a difficult time of it in the beginning, until neighbors accepted that we wouldn't go along with the bad-mouthing of blacks. This was in Madison County...in next door CArroll county the "negro curfew" had been abolished a scant 10-15 years ago. Until then there had been big banners across the entrance/exit roads to the towns saying something to the effect that blacks would be run out of town on a rail if they lingered after dark.

NW Arkansas was too poor, for the most part, to ever have had any truck with slaves, but that didn't change the racial bias. We came in 1970, left in 1982 and in all that time there were no registered blacks in either county (no Asian/Latino/whatever either for that matter...). It was very strange, living in such a monoculture, after LA.

Those country people were good folk,good neighbors, good friends. Their bigotry was a product of their time and place and despite it I found it hard to demonize them...but then, there were no overt acts of racial violence either.

I did an art fair by myself in Atlanta, and remember with what fear I travelled alone through Mississippi...sure I was going to run into brutality and violence at every hand. When I arrived safely in Atlanta there was a girl from Miss. staying at the same apartment I was crashing in...we played music together late into the night, and she was as dispairing of the image of her state as I am of my own country right now.

Reading again Rick's starting thread, I think of all I've read of the humiliation and degredation black jazz and big band artists had to put up with, again well into the 50's, even 60's; likewise the treatment of "Okies" in California, and earlier, the Chinese...

As Ghandi said re Western civilization...it would be a good idea.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 01:30 AM

Alan Lomax tried to make himself into a better person while doing his absolutely important collecting work. His family were victims of that sad system and those sad times too. The book was telling it the way it was and also telling it the way Alan wanted those years to be seen. It IS the way it was----combined with the way he wanted it to be viewed. It's the stuff of fantasy and reality all formed into one snowball. Truth, as always, is elusive, relative, and a bit self-serving. And that's O.K.-----Just the way it is. But it did take A.L. a long time to get this book written---these "facts" out. All that said, Alan Lomax was a great man. And he was imperfect, like all of us.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 12:12 PM

I can't believe the number of times I hear "nigger" as acceptable conversation when I visit New York.

I overheard a conversation a few years ago that floored me by it's absurdity. Someone was talking about somtehing that happened to them at work. He said "...and this big, fat, piece of shit nigger broad..". A woman sitting with him said "don't say broad". I went into convulsions laughing, nobody could figure out what I found so funny.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 31 Jan 03 - 06:16 PM

Jeez, thanks for the response friends. For a while I thought NOBODY was gonna have an opinion.

Yeah, this book has been out for quite a while and I just got around to it this week. A bit surprising considering the amount of music non-fiction I read.

Lomax's recordings of a long interview with Woody Guthrie are also a tad suspect, taste-wise. No question the guy was pushy and aggressive, but I gather he had to be to keep going on those trips. Damn, I appreciate what he did.

Thanks for the stories.....any others will be appreciated.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: GUEST,Anne
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 01:55 AM

Regarding the bithplace of the blues. Joel Mabus, who was born in East St, Louis, IL, says that East St. Louis was not the birthplace of the Blues, but that's where their mother got pregnant!


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 02:21 AM

Rick, I was looking for a used copy of this book, online, and ran across this description of it. Gee, do ya think they read it? (emphasis mine)

Winner of the US National Book Critics Circle Award, a rollicking memoir of the legendary folklorist's journey into blues country, with a new companion CD from Rounder Records.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Richie
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 07:16 AM

Just got through reading the Muddy Waters Story, Can't be Satisfied. Great book! It devotes a chapter to a Lomax recording trip to Mississippi arounf 1940. Muddy thought Lomax was a revenue officer trying to bust him for selling moonshine on the side.

Althought it's a bit critical of Lomax omitting some of the details of the trip, without that trip it's possible we would not have had Muddy Waters. It encouraged Muddy to follow his music and move to Chicago.

-Richie


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 08:26 AM

I need to read this book. I've looked for it many times in stores and the local library.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 10:02 AM

There's a story Shirley Collins tells of being on that field recording trip in the Sixties, and they'd been recording at some white church, lovely music and lovely people.

And afterwards she was talking to one of the ladies who'd been singing and she started saying how great it was that there weren't any niggers in their part of the world, and how something had happened when some tried to move in which would make sure there wouldn't be any more, and she was proud of that.

When I heard that story it sent a shiver up my back. Almost makes you feel frightened to listen to some music in case it draws you in to feeling too close to something unspeakable. And yet it's beautiful music, and I'm sure beautiful people most of the time and in most ways. It's a mystery.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 11:15 AM

Steve, here's a listing from www.abebooks.com which lists 16 copies available, one in Toronto: clickety-clack :-)


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 11:25 AM

McGrath! That's EXACTLY how it feels sometimes when I listen to this music. Look, it's not that I just ENJOY this stuff....it was absolutely crucial to me feeling any kind of 'belonging' when I was a kid.

I've talked to guys who picked in Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys during the sixties, and some of the stories were chilling. I kept thinking "HOW could someone who was jewish (or even urban, for that matter) stand being around that kind of atmosphere" One of those people said "If you were asked to be a "Bluegrass Boy", whould you have accepted?" The answer is of course..."yes".

Steve, the book is easily obtained at the Albert Campbell Library. Just go on line and ask them to send it to your local library. It'll be there in a few days.

"A ROLLICKING MEMOIR"??!! Jeesus! Some of it is very scary. The part where Broonzy and his Buddies are telling jokes is pretty rollicking, but the part where they're begging Lomax to not release it, ain't rollicking.

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 11:37 AM

Rick,

I think that only works with the Toronto Libraries. I tried the Whitby library a few years ago and they didn't have it. However if it back in print they might have it now.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Frankham
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 12:19 PM

Hi Rick,

Alan told me that he was "persona non grata" where he lived in Lubbock Texas. He was alienated from his father John who disapproved of Alan's efforts at promoting Leadbelly. Alan was outspoken as a proponent of Civil Rights for African-Americans. His mission was to bring forth the best performances he could from the people he recorded. This might be interpreted as being "condescending" by some but Alan had to pay the bills for doing his job.

Alan was a warm-hearted passionate man who loved folk music and the people who played it. He was so happy that Hobart Smith could sit down and play blues with (I think it was) Mississippi John Hurt knowing that Hobart used that awful term.

When I went to visit his apartment in New York near MacDougal Street he sat in the middle of walls of collected tapes. He looked around and said to me, "This is all I have to show for my life, these tapes."
He fought uphill battles to get this music recorded, heard and appreciated.

His sister Bess Lomax Hawes is still with us and is as important in my view as Alan was. She instituted the first folk music ensemble class that I ever heard of first in Boston, and then in Santa Monica, California. It was her method of teaching that influenced me and the basis for the beginnings of the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. She went on to receive her degree in anthropology and to galvanize the folk arts division of the Library of Congress funding research projects and folk musicians. She wrote the book "Step It Down" which tells of the songs and dances of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers.

The Lomaxes may have put folk music on the map. First, John Sr. at Harvard attempting to persuade Lyman Kittredge in the English Department that Cowboy Songs from the tradition had value and should be treated seriously. Alan, who promoted Leadbelly, Woody and Pete in the early days and was an outspoken defender of the rights of black people in America. Alan was passionate, sometimes to a fault when he would have a few too many down at the Village Gate in New York and yell at Bud and Travis for commercializing folk music. He didn't like the fact that I was singing a version of "All My Trials" with a jazzy arrangement. But he was a great lover of jazz as the wonderful interviews with Jelly Roll Morton for the Library of Congress attests.

There was also the publicized wrestling match with Al Grossman, the impresario over the electrified Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Newport Festival. I didn't see that but Alan's passion for folk music was well-known and Grossman represented a kind of commercialism that Alan would have found distateful.

He left a lot in his wake. Some might have found imperfections in his manner of handling people but there was a great pressure on him at that time in doing the work that he did because he didn't really get a lot of support for it in the early days. He has been criticized for his "copyrights" but they were used to finance his various projects and I never remember him as being especially wealthy as many who became "folk stars" in the popular music field and owed their livelihoods to his trail blazing efforts. Alan created a wealth for our country, though. He helped define our history.

Frank


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 02:00 PM

Last night I was watching a programme in a series on BBC 4, a digital TV station here which is putting out some first rate stuff around folk music.

Anyway this one was all about the Lambeg drumming tradition in Northern Ireland, and I had something of the same feeling there.

It was looking at it technically and musically, and as an aspect of a living and changing tradition. But one which has been bound up in a history of oppression and repression and segregation and sectarianism. And yet it was bringing out the truth about how superficial and petty and, please God transient, are these antagonisms in Northern Ireland.

And you had old men reminiscing about a time when the same drummers playing the same tunes might at times take part in marches of the Orange Order and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. And I wrote in anither thread "Some day there'll be marching bands from both traditions taking part in the same festivals".

Anyway, this thread set me thinking about this, and how you can have situations in which essentially decent people get twisted in their thinking and their feeling, and still retain so much that is still decent and wholesome.

How do we manage to break with the evil of the past, and still hold on to the "good", knowing that the "good" is interwoven through and through with evil? Sometimes I've felt critical of the way in which Germans who are into folk music often seem to turn away completely from their own traditions - and yet I can see how it could seem the only thing to do in face of history.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 02:02 PM

Wow, that's why I love Mudcat! Thank you for that, Frank!


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 02:11 PM

Jeesus, ME TOO!

Thanks EVERYONE!

I've just rented Robert Palmer's film "Deep Blues" and I'm dyin' to watch it. Maybe tonight. It's definitely related to the artists written about in Lomax's book.

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: fat B****rd
Date: 01 Feb 03 - 03:51 PM

For any County Durham 'Catters, it's available from your library and well worth the reservation fee.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 03 Feb 03 - 11:53 AM

Deep blues was wonderful. The co-hosts Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Robert Palmer, may be two of the most nurdy comperes ever assembled. Even with his omnipresent shades, tough biker boots, and bizarre 'Anton LeVay' beard and moustache, Dave practically falls down with awe upon meeting R.L. Burnside!! (I'll bet Annie Lennox scared the shit out of him!)

Napoleon Strickland, Annie mae Hemphill.....Big jack Johnson, and more. Palmer is the absolute perfect host. He's gangly, sort of inarticulate, looks like he got beat up a lot when he was a kid and has a Southern accent that you could cut with a knife. He simply LOVES this music, and has complete resepect for the musicians. It looks like they may trust him back, which makes it more comfortable than it could have been.

Ya know, Ted. You MUST be right of course about plenty of Southerners NOT feeding into the dynamic. It must have been very difficult for them, but had I been one of them I guess I would have kept my mouth shut. Being called "Nigger Lover" in the fifties sounds like it would have had very scary repercutions.

Obviously verbal insults know no specific areas (as Steve has pointed out)....but I guess we kind of drift into our own "crowd", so I heard very little overtly bigoted terms until I started playing in Rural Ontario ( a LONGGG way from the South)...I heard LOTS of it there.

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Feb 03 - 12:54 PM

Rick,


Music was important in breaking down the barriers in th South--You get some sense of this from reading "Deep Blues"--where many of the blues musicians who played on the radio were aware that that they had many fans in white homes and businesses--

Ruth Brown talks about rural dances where the rope that separated the races typically was breeched late in the evening while the powers that be looked the other way--And of course there were the growing numbers of whites, like Elvis, who attended black churches to hear those gospel quartets--

The backlash against rock and roll was, in a lot of ways, the white establishment fighting back against the spread of black music--


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Frankham
Date: 03 Feb 03 - 09:33 PM

M. Ted,
Also John Hammond of Columbia Records did a great service as well by booking integrated jazz acts into the South. The Benny Goodman Sextet is a case in point. Louis Armstrong toured the South always with an integrated band. True, the musicians may have stayed in separate hotel rooms but the fact that they appeared together and were accepted says something about the power of music.

Sam Phillips, of Sunn Records, saw Elvis as a way of promoting music that had been traditionally African-American with a cross-over of rural white country music. It was in fact a way to sell "race music" to white people.

When I was in New Orleans in the '53, there was a municipal ordinance that integrated musicians were illegal on the same stage. When I played in jam sessions on Bourbon Street, the drummer who was black just took his set off the stand and played in the audience to get around the ordinance. The musicians approached it with a resigned sense of humor.

Frank


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 03 - 10:00 PM

I enjoyed this thread and thought I'd mention Ray Charles. He may not be pure blues, but if not, it's as close as you can get. His Atlantic Recordings blew the doors off the racial barrier in American popular music, in my opinion. At a time when TV was pretty static, he sat more or less in one place for the camera, smiled all the time and was ALWAYS IN TOP FORM. And as a blind man, he could not possibly represent a threat to any sighted individual. So white America was willing to actually take a moment out to LISTEN to him, and fortunately for us he was and always will be the best. Listen to the Atlantic recordings from the fifties. Or his 'Modern Sounds in Country Music'. 'Born to Lose', 'You Win Again'...he brought a blues sound to those country songs, and he got away with it. Ray Charles paved the way for James Brown and those who came after, but he also pointed the way back to the older bluesmen y'all are talking about.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: belfast
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 03:00 PM

Thank you for drawing this book to our attention - even though some of your comments make it sound like very uncomfortable reading.   

When I was a very young child I heard a programme on the radio – it must have been the BBC Home Service, now Radio 4. Lomax was introducing some music from his field recordings and I recall most vividly a version of "The Golden Vanitee". In the middle of the song the singer paused, coughed and spit/spat. I was amazed and delighted. I don't think I had realized until that moment that human beings sang songs on the radio.

I could go on at some length about how much I have learned from and enjoyed his work. And this is from someone thousands of miles away from the USA. The people of America have reason to be grateful to him but so do the people in the rest of the world. Whatever failings he may have had is greatly outweighed by the great work he did.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 06:47 PM

As an interesting bit, from another angle of society, I came across this incredible information while loking at old newspaper microfilms, today:

1937
Atlanta (AP) -- Mrs. Jessie Daniel Ames said today white women of the south are rapidly forming opposition to "the use of their skirts as blinds for negro lynchings."

She said substantiation of her statement was gathered here this week at the first biennial session of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. Mrs. Ames is director of the association.

"Economic greed is the cause of more lynchings than the protection of the white woman's honor," Mrs. Ames declared.

She said 35,000 women in 13 southern states have signed pledges to fight lynching.

"For years crimes have been committed in the south in the name of women without cause," Mrs. Ames said. "White women of the south now are realizing this is a travesty of justice and a slur on their honor."

She said the days when "southern chivalry" can be used as the legal excuse for "summarily putting to death a negro that some person or group does not like" are numbered.

"The hush-hush system is outmoded," said Mrs. Ames. "We are letting white women know the truth about so-called attacks by negroes, since most of them are fictional."

The association does not favor anti-lynching legislation, Mrs. Ames said, because the organization is non-political. The association seeks merely to destroy "the fiction about the necessity for lynching."

Mrs. Ames came to Georgia seven years ago from her native Texas. She began the association for the prevention of lynching the following year. She is small of stature with greyish hair, is a widow and mother of three children.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 12:58 AM

Just bringing this back for Peter T who's read the book. Thanks again for all the good info.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 04:00 AM

Just like to say that it's threads like this one that have kept me lurking around the Mudcat for the last five years.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Peter T.
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 09:15 AM

Well, here's a true, relevant, story. When I was fourteen and living in Kansas City, Missouri (my father was transferred there for four years from the Canadian Air Force), I was in the boy scouts, and every summer we used to go a big jamboree camp in the middle of Missouri. A number of the troops were from the inner city of Kansas City and were all black. We were in segregated campsites, but since they were campsites, it never occurred to me what was going on. It got very hot that summer, and there were complaints that the schedule for the swimming pool was such that we only got to go every other day. They had a meeting of the scout masters one evening, and the chief of our troop, who also happened to be a buddy of mine (a Canadian adjutant) came back to our camp at the end of the evening, and sat down beside me at the campfire completely shaken. I said, what is wrong? And he said, you won't believe this, but there is a secret rule that they can't change the schedule to have us go every day, because they have to drain the pool every day after the black scouts swim in it, and refill it for the white scouts the next day, and it would take too long to keep doing it every few hours.
yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 10:23 AM

Swimming pools are particularly sensitive places, as far as racists are concerned--I remember a riot in Philly, not that long ago, when a black child swam in a pool in a white neighborhood--as a child, I remember hearing the reason: people were afraid that the color came off in chlorinated water--


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 11:32 AM

Wow...I guess in Montreal I was shielded from stuff like that (to a certain extent) but it's fascinating to know that little ol' me (58) grew up in a time when this DID happen. You wanna think that it was in the distant past rather than all around you.

When I first started going to Bluegrass Festivals in the South, (late sixties) I didn't notice a whole lot of disturbing stuff. Probably 'cause I was SO immersed in the music. 'Course I NEVER saw a dark face at a Bluegrass festival.....saw a lotta Japanese folks though. Now I may be wrong about this....but I gathered that many rural Americans forgave the "Japs" for WW2 more quickly than they forgave black Americans for integrating the schools. Thank Goodness for Music!

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Peter T.
Date: 07 Feb 03 - 01:42 PM

It is worth pointing out that towns that accepted Air Force and Army bases had to integrate their schools if they were going to accept students from the bases. (This is thanks to Harry Truman and later rules). It would be very interesting to have a taped conversation of some of the state and local meetings in the South when people were wrestling with the bonanza that having a military base nearby meant. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 01:29 AM

Rick ... you have again posted a very thought provoking subject. I've yet to read the book, but I will soon. I have been reading this thread but I have been avoiding posting to it. I now feel that I must.

By background, as I've mentioned on previous threads, I was blessed early on by acceptance into the black community in Seattle, Washington, USA. I was 18 and befriended by the black director of an all black theatre group. I was the "token white." As a white kid growing up in a very urban area, I knew little of black politics and issues. This was the mid 1950's.

However, it wasn't until the Summer of 1956 that I experienced, first hand, what racism was really about. I traveled that Summer to the South, visiting family before I went into the Army. I stayed with my cousin in Columbus, Georgia. While there, one evening they had a large dinner party. I found that I was a lot more comfortable with the black servants in the kitchen than I was with the dinner guests. I was sitting on a stool in the kitchen, trading songs with the black 'help', when my cousin came into the kitchen, and gave me to understand that MY PLACE was NOT with the house niggers, but with the guests. What impressed me most, was that the servants were very relieved when I left. I had made them uncomfortable.

Another indelible experience happened to me in Kentucky. It was a Sunday and I had stopped for gas. I asked for the restroom and was directed around to the back of the building. When I left the restroom, I decided to walk back to my car another way. I made a complete circle of the filling station. Coming around another side of the building I would not have seen otherwise, I was horried to see something. It was an old porcelain drinking fountain, squirting water. It was so dirty it was ghastly. On the wooden wall above it was a scribbled sign that read: "NIGGERS ONLY!" These are all true stories.

Back to your subject: I, as a whitey, will never be able to fully fathom the effects of this racism, and I don't want to. I well remember in 1956, when I had the privilege of hosting Pete seeger, J.C. Burrows, and Sonny Terry for a few days when they were in Seattle on a concert tour. Sonny needed a haircut. He gave me to understand that he needed a 'special' kind of a barber. I was so damned naive that I didn't understand what he was talking about. Finally he asked me to take him to "NIGGER TOWN" so he could find a barber! True story. I drove him to what's now called the "Central District" in Seattle while his cousin, J.C. Burrows, picked out the place. I wanted to come in and wait with them, but they suggested it would be better if I waited in the car.

So ... the more things change, the more they stay the same. Thanks for starting this thread. Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 03 - 01:43 AM

And, in response to the previous posting by "Peter T" ... it is well documented that it has been the armed sevices the really integrated our nation, at least as far as it's been integrated so far. I well remember the day I stepped off the troop train at Fort Ord, California, and become one of 200 lost souls at basic training. We were from all over America. And hey ... we even had niggers with us! Our differences did not last 24 hours! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Tinker
Date: 11 Feb 03 - 11:02 PM

Have put this book on our must buy list , but wanted to share part of the conversation my husband and I had after reading this thread the other night. He grew up on the other side of the story . Spent the first twelve years of his life ( 1954-1966) being raised by Grandma Emma in rural South Carolina. After being together 20 odd years I new there were experiences that didn't fit expectations. (He was the third generation of his family to go to college... ) So I asked about stepping off side walks and being looked down on....
What he remembers about meeting white folks in town was that they were grown ups and you had better treat all grown ups with deferance and respect. Never felt asked to treat the white grown ups any better. To the under 12 crowd the balcony was preferred seating anyway.

Now Newberry had one of the brand new Separate is Equal Elementary Schools from his very first day at school. In fact the white school was older. He was offered, at 10, the option of integrating, but chose not to. At ten the new library at his school was too hard to give up and Emma left the decision to him.
But his memory of white children??? Cousin Barbara Jean used to work at the Boys Farm ( for delinquent & orphaned boys) and sometimes Emma would send him off to bring a lunch or visit. His strongest memory is feeling sorry for how hard life was for all the white boys.

He left the south as he hit adolesence and I'm sure the memories would have changed if he had stayed. But his first and strongest experience was after moving up north when he was told he would have to be moved back a year at school, because southern blacks were always behind. (He actually talked his way to a three week trial and ended up at the top of his class)

There was alot of strength and community in the black towns of the south, as well as the more publicized problems.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: pattyClink
Date: 12 Feb 03 - 10:45 AM

I've been reading the book too, I ran across it in the Margaret Walker Alexander Library a day after seeing this thread. I read it on lunch breaks in a restaurant 100 miles from the Delta, surrounded by blacks and whites, in a city with a black mayor, black-majority city council, and majority black boards of supervisors. I like the book because it is a poetic blend of homemade history, sociology, music and lyrics. It tells me why a lot of things have come to be, their antecedents and traditions going back centuries. I wish it had been published sooner so it would have had more impact.

The saddest thing, though, is to read the unspoken words on this thread about 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. The horrors encountered were in the 40s and 50s and people keep speaking about them like they are still going on. If it makes you feel superior to talk about how horrible the South was and you assume it still is, go ahead. But know this. When you keep this black-and-white newsreel footage of the 50s foremost in people's minds when they think Mississippi, you're not helping the black folks you are so deeply concerned about. You are helping perpetuate old images that prevent companies from building factories and offices and branches in our state, and our biggest problem, black and white alike (lack of employment and entrepreneur base) continues.

Morgan Freeman puts his bucks where his mouth is, he lives in his beloved Delta and builds restaurants and invests there. I would request that if you want to help and you can't invest here, at least make some effort to separate history from current events.


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 12 Feb 03 - 12:01 PM

Yes, the other side of this coin is that the more things change, the more they get different. BUT---the other side of every coin is always there, lurking, either in the shadows or openly in the bright light of day once again. In the 1950s I KNEW the Nazi's were dead and gone and in the past. Then George Lincoln Rockwell and his American Nazi Party reared their ugly heads. And now, Mathew Hale and his stupid (and dangerous) Church Of Latter Day White Christian Bigots got tossed out of Chicago and Illinois----so where do they go but Lewiston, Maine, of all places, to set up again where they are the least expected----forcing those hibbits in Maine to confront the Dark Riders in their midst.

An old song from a Ladies Garment Worker's Union television documentary from a few decades ago went,

Freedom is a thing like a bird on the wing,
It doesen't come down like the summer rain,
You've got to work for it,
Fight for it,
Night and day for it,
And every generation's got to win it again.

Yes, I am glad things are better in the Delta that what they were. I'm glad that there is a Morgan Freeman as a reminding presence showing people that the way it is now is NOT the way it has been --- and not so very long ago. The ghost of Trent Lott and fellow travelers is still warm me thinks.

Yes, Mr. Fielding, it is a sad book. And, as you said, it's a fine one too.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 12 Feb 03 - 12:09 PM

Either by intent or by ironic happenstance the name FREEMAN reminds us of those sad, other-side-of-the-coin slavery and segregation times.

(And the word I intended to put in the previous post was HOBBIT)---but you knew that, right?

Art


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 12 Feb 03 - 04:21 PM

Thanks Patty. Sometimes it is simply too easy to forget that yes, HUGE changes have been made.

One of the most distrurbing (and moving) parts of the book was where Broonzy suddenly realizes that he ISN'T censoring himself and playing the pliant nigger.......and Lomax IS RECORDING! Obviously today neither he nor his relatives would be lynched from a tree......but when I think of how CLOSE that time was (in my lifetime) yah, it scares me.

...And when I think that only a few weeks ago the names Trent Lott and that revolting old remnant from the days when blacks WERE murdered for bein' uppity....were in the news.....well, sorry but even though I want to see the glass as half full, it's easy to see how empty it can be. And by the way, smug Canadians (of which I can be one at times) are NOT immune to stuff like this. The Black residents of Chatham Ontario have many horror stories to tell.

But yes.....things ARE a lot better....most of the time...if you've had some lucky breaks.

Cheers

Thanks again for keeping this thread going.

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 12 Feb 03 - 11:50 PM

The old LP called BLUES IN THE MISSISSIPPI NIGHT (on United Artist I think) was issued on cassette and is now on CD I've been told. On that old LP record from the 1960s, taken from Alan Lomax's tapes and including a lot of that "straight talk", the names of the participants were nowhere to be found. It was too dangerous then to speak openly and sign your real name to it. Some of us in Chicago then recognized the voices of Bill Broonzy and Memphis Slim. On the notes to the cassette and the CD re-issue all of the speakers are fully indentified.

Of course those days when we must hide are gone FOREVER. Here at Mudcat we all use our real names.    ;-)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Frankham
Date: 13 Feb 03 - 06:25 PM

You know, Rick, that Big Bill ran into problems singing "The Black Brown and White Blues". The State Department at that time revoked his passport. ("Communist agitator") This was sad too. Because if Bill had been able to get back to Europe or had pressed hard to go, he might have been spared that "hatchet job" at county hospital which took his larynx. Big Bill was a hero over there and would have received better medical treatment I believe. Art, you probably remember that period.

Frank


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 13 Feb 03 - 09:23 PM

Frank, Yes, not first hand but Win told me about it---And Bill's death certificate, along with his guitar, hung on the wall of the Old Town School Of Folk Music on North Avenue for many years after you left there to join the Weavers...

Art


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Marion
Date: 09 May 03 - 01:24 PM

Please open your Bibles to The Levee chapter, under the subtitle Knee Deep in Six-Shooters, to the incident where people from Arkansas are caught trying to sabotage the levee. (It's page 220-221 in the copy I have.)

This is one story that really stuck in my memory after reading the book, probably because of its brief flash of rationality in the middle of the ugliness of the rest of the story, and the ugliness of the rest of the book. It's an awful story in so many ways: from Windy George's job of carrying out violence against other blacks, to all the bragging about murder, to the business of sabotaging other sections of the levee, to the vigilante justice in retaliation, and finally the whole business of making their black workers actually carry out the execution. But in the middle of the story there's this incongruent decision to punish only the guilty and spare the innocent - so unlike the rest of the book, which seems to largely be an account of punishing the innocent.

So I put the story into song form, using several phrases directly from Windy George's account of it.

THE BALLAD OF WINDY GEORGE

There wasn't nobody like me, Windy George
Down in the land where they say the blues began
I killed many a man, but it never was in anger
And I never pulled a pistol unless I shot a man.

I teched the trigger, told the hammer to hurry
All I shot um for was, their time had come to die
You better not be caught on the levee at night
On the levee at night when the water grows high.

I remember a time when the river was a-rising
We was watching out for people from the Arkansas side
River was so high it was bound to bust somewhere
So we laid low in behind the levee to hide.

Way later on, we see a skiff come a-rowing up
Two white men, two coloured boys too
They start to make a hole in the Mississippi levee
I said, "Don't ask no questions, just shoot."

After awhile they come out with the dynamite
So I stood up and let um see my gun
The boys held their hands up and said "Don't shoot
They'da killed us in Arkansas if we hadna come."

The white men start to move away, I told um,
"I'll kill your souls with these bullets, don't you doubt."
Old Eph rides up, and "What's all this?" he says.
"Step on that dynamite and you'll find out."

I said, "These coloured boys, they was forced to do this
You hurt em, I ain't gonna watch for you no more."
Old Man Eph was a blue hen's chick, he says:
"We'll leave em alone, if you say, Windy George."

The engineer took those white men from Arkansas
Two heavy plows round their necks he bound
Said "You're trying to bust the levee and drown somebody
Tonight you're gonna feel what it's like to drown."

He made their boys row them out into the midstream
And heave them in the river like a chunk of stone
So you better not be caught on the levee at night
On the levee at night when the highwater's grown.

Marion


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 09 May 03 - 01:41 PM

Sorry, that should have have been "brief flash of rationality".

Marion


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: GUEST,Guy C.
Date: 09 May 03 - 02:09 PM

"despite his credentials, books, recordings, and reputation, he was still just an outside agitator and 'nigger lover'. I'm not talking about his field trips with his dad in the thirties......this is in 1959-1960!"

It shouldn't surprise you that such attitudes exisisted in 1959-1960. The Civil Rights movement was underway, but there'd be many more years of singing "We Shall Overcome" before attitudes and laws changed. Most forms of racial segregation were still legal, and still enforced, in most of the South in 1959-1960.

Guy


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 May 03 - 03:33 PM

Guy,

It's so good to run into you here. We were talking here, a while ago in another thread, about you and Frank and Jack going to Lunsford's festival way back when. If you are the Guy C. that I think you are, give my regards to Candy.

By the way my remarks about "racism being past and gone", and that "we all use our real names here at Mudcat" were meant facetionly and with tongue in cheek.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 May 03 - 08:01 PM

Hello as well Guy and Candie from Heather and myself.

Good work Marion. You told the story.

I'm currently reading a compilation of interviews from "Living Blues". It's amazing the number of artists who after having played so many years in Chicago, preferred the (modern?) SOUTH to the North. They felt that without the threat of lynching hanging over their heads, they preferred to deal with Southerners.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Amos
Date: 29 Aug 05 - 04:11 PM

The New York Times today publishes a review of a counterpoint to Alan Lomaxes book, seeking to rectify a serious omission of due credit to several black scholars who accompanied him on two of his Mississippi research expeditions.

Here's the article:

New York Times
August 29, 2005

Book Says Alan Lomax Neglected Black Scholars


By MARC WEINGARTEN

A new book asserts that the American folklorist Alan Lomax gave short shrift to the work of black scholars who accompanied him on now legendary trips to the Mississippi Delta to record seminal blues artists like Muddy Waters.
Lomax's recordings for the Library of Congress, made during his travels through the South in the 1930's and 40's, make up perhaps the greatest repository of American vernacular music ever compiled.
But he was not alone on some of those trips. Three African-American scholars from Fisk University in Nashville, a black college founded in 1865 to educate newly freed slaves, accompanied him on two pivotal trips to Coahoma County in Mississippi in 1941 and 1942. And they continued to work on the project after Lomax left the Library of Congress. But Lomax, in his critically praised 1993 memoir, "The Land Where the Blues Began" (Pantheon Books), gives the three only a few cursory mentions, one in the acknowledgments. In the memoir, Lomax, who died in 2002, also conflates the two Coahoma County trips into a single trip.
In the new book, "Lost Delta Found" (Vanderbilt University Press), the editors, Robert Gordon and Bruce Nemerov try to set the record straight by publishing the long-forgotten manuscripts of the Fisk scholars: John W. Work III, a composer and musicologist; Lewis Wade Jones, a sociologist; and Samuel C. Adams Jr., a graduate student. Mr. Gordon and Mr. Nemerov say these manuscripts provide a more balanced picture of the Coahoma County research as well as a more nuanced analysis of the Jim Crow South than is to be found in Lomax's memoir.
Published with the three Fisk manuscripts are 158 songs transcribed by Work, ranging from the familiar ("Shoo Fly," "Shortnin' Bread") to the whimsically obscure ("Stuball," "I Am a Funny Little Dutch Girl").
"Work's transcriptions show us that Mississippi wasn't only about the blues," said Mr. Nemerov, a former audio specialist at the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, who unearthed about two-thirds of Work's hand-written manuscript at Fisk University in 1989 and wrote about it in The Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin. "There are children's songs and other social songs that serve no purpose other than for neighbors to entertain each other."
According to "Lost Delta Found," it was Work, the leader of the Fisk research team, who initiated the Mississippi study when he applied to the Library of Congress for money to support a recording trip to Natchez. Alerted to Work's interest in Southern vernacular music, Lomax, who ran the library's Archive of American Song, entered the picture and, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Nemerov say, diverted the project to Coahoma. Once the team arrived in Coahoma, they were told of a blues singer who worked as a farmhand on Col. Howard Stovall's plantation. That farmhand turned out to be McKinley Morganfield, a k a Muddy Waters.
Lomax wrote extensively of the Coahoma Country trips in "The Land Where the Blues Began," published long after the fact, but the research was supposed to have been jointly published some five decades earlier by Fisk University and the Library of Congress. The Fisk scholars' manuscripts were somehow lost after they were sent to the Library of Congress in 1943 by Work, who died in 1967, and have been published for the first time in "Lost Delta Found."
"Lost Delta Found" is an outgrowth of Mr. Gordon's research for his 2002 biography "Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters" (Little, Brown). Tipped off in the late 1990's by Mr. Nemerov to Work's contributions, Mr. Gordon sifted through Lomax's vast archive at Hunter College in New York, where, after much burrowing, he found a manuscript stuffed in the back of a file cabinet in a powder-blue cover with Lewis Wade Jones's name on it. Also written on the cover were the words "Property of Fisk University." When Mr. Gordon matched up the document to the incomplete, hand-written manuscript that Mr. Nemerov had unearthed, he knew he had discovered a significant contribution to Southern folkloric scholarship.
The document was a revelation to Mr. Gordon, describing in vivid detail the ways Coahoma County's residents worked, played and practiced religion. He said Work's manuscript, in particular, is a crucial primer on the region's musical practices, from sermons to children's songs - his careful academic analysis leavened with interviews with the county's citizens.
"To me, Work is important because he's an academic who sees the value of homegrown, vernacular material," Mr. Gordon said. "Most academics were ashamed of that."
Work went into the Coahoma County project with an open mind, Mr. Gordon added. Unlike Lomax, Work took note of well-spoken blacks who owned land, and the fact that spirituals were already on the wane in certain parts of Mississippi - both of which ran counter to Lomax's assumptions about the Southern black man, Mr. Gordon said.
"That's the biggest difference between Work's assessment of the South and Lomax's evaluations in his own book," Mr. Gordon said. "One documented what was there, the other focused on what he'd expected to find. Lomax was disappointed to discover that blacks owned land, because it didn't conform to his vision of the South."
According to the book, Lomax used a photograph of a sharecropper's cabin in his book without giving proper credit to Work. The picture was found in the manuscript of Mr. Adams, the Fisk graduate student. Asked to comment on "Lost Delta Found," Ellen Harold, an editor and translator at the Alan Lomax Archive at Hunter College and Mr. Lomax's niece, said, "I feel the book makes claims and innuendoes that are ridiculous."
"Work wasn't neglected," she added. "Perhaps he would have been a greater folklorist had he had more support. But he had a tenured position at Fisk as chairman of the music department, and Alan never had an academic position. I just don't see him as much of a victim. Gordon and Nemerov claim that Alan used a photograph of Work's that wasn't credited, but I don't see how they can say with certainty that it was Work's."
Ms. Harold said she believed that Work had a copy of the manuscript all along, but never bothered to have it published. "My sense is that Work wasn't the most organized person," she said. "He requested the manuscript from the Library of Congress in 1958, and the correspondence from the Library doesn't indicate in any way that the manuscript had been lost or misplaced. He had 20 years to write about the project; he just never did."
Ms. Harold said she did not know how the Fisk manuscript wound up in Mr. Lomax's archive.
Regardless of the murky circumstances surrounding the mysterious loss and re-appearance of the Fisk research, Mr. Gordon said he hoped that "Lost Delta Found" would draw people to Work's scholarship.
"It's really beautiful work," said Mr. Gordon, "and there's a lot more of it." Mr. Gordon and Mr. Nemerov would like to publish a second volume of Work's essays and speeches.
As for Lomax and his legacy, Mr. Gordon is of two minds.
"I still believe that Lomax was a great folklorist," Mr. Gordon said. "But I do wonder why he had so much trouble acknowledging his peers, especially given the fact that they were African-American. Why would he miss that opportunity?"
...Article is here



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Subject: RE: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Aug 05 - 04:32 PM

Thanks for posting that, Amos. It illustrates the shortcomings of the Lomaxes that we seen posted here before. Still, I suppose the Lomaxes were products of their time - and their personalities. Despite the shortcomings, the Lomax books and recordings are a valuable resource.

It's good to see better recognition coming to the generations of the Work family, who contributed so much to the study of black American folk music.

-Joe Offer-


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