References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Joseph E. Bussard, Jr.. "Jolly Joe" owns Fonotone Records, now Fonotone Tapes. A musician and collector, he continues to offer the early Fahey recordings as well as collections of old timey music like 'The Georgia Jokers', 'Jolly Joe's Jug Band', 'Good Old Gospel', and 'Music from the Mountains' among others. Reputed to have one of the "best", if not the "best" collections of early folk, blues, Gospel, Cajun, and jazz music on 78 rpm records.
From Mr. Bussard: "The first Fonotone records were recorded and issued in 1956. John Fahey first recorded in Nov. of 1959. The last Fonotone record issued was in 1970, cost got so high I had to give it up. Many Fonotone's were sold over the radio. I always had some with me and would stop and sell them to anyone who was around. Backward Sam Firk...made a good many records for me. In all I guess there were over 400 different Fonotone records issued. Many people would stop by and play music, if I liked them I would say, Wanta make a record?" [2/25/99]
Joe's Vintage 78 Site: www.vintage78.com
References: 1, 2, 3
"I'd be happy to contribute by answering questions (note by the way that John doesn't like for other people to remember him since he feels we never understood him). I have never recontructed the 60s in my own past and I'm not really clear on what happened when. Now I know what those people down south felt like when someone knocked on their door in 1965 and asked them questions about obscure events in 1928." [ED Denson, circa 2000]
The ghost writer for the notes to that most fabled of albums The Voice of the Turtle. Dr. Gardner discovered the Not The Gas Station Tape in 1999. The 7" acetate reel-to-reel tape was originally identified as The Gas Station Tape. The tape found its way to Sidney, Australia, where Chris Downes restored it and correctly identified it as Not The Gas Station Tape. 18 tracks are attributed to Fahey, Nancy McLean, and Fran Vandiver.
"John took up the guitar before I met him. I remember him saying a little about playing the clarinet in the school band or something similiar--meanwhile he had gotten a mail-order how-to guitar book (Chet Atkins?). I think the rendition of St. Louis Blues on one of the early Fonotones is a relic of that early experience. How he came to delta blues from there I'm not sure; by the time I met John he already knew Dick Spottswood well, who had (and still has) a very extensive 78 record collection." [David Gardner, circa 2000]
See Nancy McLean and Fran Vandiver.
Barry (Dr demento) Hansen
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Dr. Demento (aka Baret Eugene Hansen, aka Barry) graduated from Oregon's Reed College in 1963, but went back for a master's in folk music. While in college Barry Hansen began reviewing records for Rolling Stone Magazine.
The good doctor supposedly got his name when Barry was playing "Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus on the radio one day, and someone said, "You've gotta be demented to play that!" Shortly thereafter, the DJ before him announced, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, here's... Dr. Demento!" A star was born.
Dr. Demento owns 200,000-odd records (some very odd indeed). The Dr. Demento Show is heard on 200 stations in the U.S. and on the Armed Forces Radio Network. He has collected many of the weirdest and wildest songs from his show on numerous compilation albums.
References: 1, 2.
Nehemiah James was also born in Mississippi (June 9, 1902) near the town of Bentonia. His father's disapproval of secular music would be a constant part of Skip's life as he went back and forth between the church and "the world." In early 1931, he recorded at least eighteen side for Paramount label. After the sessions, James mainly left secular music, performing with quartets or preaching (having been ordained in 1946). In 1964, Henry Vestine and John Fahey located Skip James in the town of Tunica. They encouraged him to play blues guitar again and succeeded in getting him into the folk circuit and back into the recording studio.
His singing is a gentle near-falsetto with very intricate guitar picking. His lyrics were worked over carefully, and he created guitar accompaniment specific to each song - often he had a specific guitar tuning for a specific song.
James died in Philadelphia in 1969.
Glenn Jones (and Cul de Sac)
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Earworm Records (UK) released the Cul de Sac 7" single "The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, California" (Earworm 39, b/w "Hagstrom") this last spring. Glenn Jones' notes detail the history of the cement plant in the now defunct town of Monolith, California. [See Glenn's liner notes]
Go to Cul de Sac
References: 1, 2, 3, 4
The discovery of a 7" reel-to-reel acetate tape by David Gardner in 1999 lead to the circulation of 28 tracks of music attributed to John Fahey, Fran Vandiver & Nancy McLean. Originally thought to be The Gas Station Tape, it was misidentified and is currently believed to be Not The Gas Station Tape.
John Fahey [April 2000, upon hearing the tapes, taken to Salem from Sidney by Chris Downes] - "The Nancy McLean songs, they could sound ok with some editing."
Nancy McLean - "From your description of the tape, I would say you have the outtakes of a 9-hour recording session John and I did before he left the area for good. We spent the day at Buzzard's home recording studio in Frederick, Maryland. That must have been.....in 1965 or thereabouts [my! Time does fly!]. I would have to check my records and my recollection with Flea and Dave and Elaine and even Fahey if I could find out how to reach him."
Nancy McLean - "Yes, the CDs arrived. I have listened to them and I have some ideas but nothing concrete. The ones involving me, I think, were from that all-day session at Joe Buzzard's in Frederick, Maryland, before Fahey went off to Hawaii (I think). I am a little distressed that I have to realy think about this; I don't remember instantly the details of all what transpired those many decades ago. Have you asked Fahey if he can identify any of them? I'm pretty sure the tunes not involving me were from Fahey's time in California and/or Hawaii. What I do know is that I appreciate your sending the CDs; I've enjoyed listening to them, as has my husband, who is a clarinetist by training (we met at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, in our freshman week way back in 1963 (God! Time flies!)."
~ Notes to Chris Downes from Nancy McLean (circa 2000, from 'Not The Gas Station Tape')
Brazilian guitarist and composer. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 16 July 1923, died in Greenbrae, California, USA 14 February 1987. Read Bola Sete, The Nature of Infinity and John Fahey
For a near complete discography of Bola Sete's work Click Here.
"Fran Vandiver is (or was; I haven't been in touch with the Vandivers since the '60s) one of a couple of Kentuckians who went to Bera College in that state, where a strong emphasis on Appalachian culture and music was in place even before it was cool. She and her husband had a stock of ballads and Jack tales from Kentucky that they shared with the youth of St. Michael's parish (as you guessed). They were part of the great diaspora of Southerners who came north (or a little bit north in the case of DC) after the war to work for various government agencies.
[David Gardner, circa 2000]
References: 1, 2, 3
Booker T. Washington White was born November 12, 1906 in Houston, MS and learned guitar first from his father. By the time he was ten, he had begun the life of an itinerant, picking up work both in and out of music. His first recording session was in 1930 (in Memphis for Vistor), with later sessions in Chacago in 1937 and 1940 (Vocalion/Okeh).
In 1963 he was "discovered" by blues enthusiasts Ed Denson and John Fahey, and White was then introduced to a whole new (and mainly white) audience on the folk festival, coffee house, and concert circuit. From that year until his death in Memphis (February 26, 1977), Bukka worked as often as he liked, both here and abroad. He also recorded quite frequently in those years, maintaining a high level of consistent quality in his albums. Bukka White had a raspy voice for his songs, one that alternated with his other "voice", his guitar.
His slashing slide figures and pounding chords are capable of generating a high level of excitement, capable of leaving dancers joyously exhausted. Yet there is also a sensitivity and a sense of dynamics to this music of his - his lyrics ran the gamut from the perceptive to the surreal. The combination of White's two voices places him both squarely within the blues tradition, and in his own niche - that is the beauty of his music.
Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson - 2nd from left
Canned Heat producer and drummer, Fito de la Parra's autobiography, Living The Blues [(February 8, 2000) ISBN: 0967644909], provides "a wild ride in a world of Music, Drugs, Death, Sex and Survival." -
Nick Barks summarizes on Al Wilson: 'Pathologically introverted for sure. He never washed or had a bath and wore the same clothes every day. Whenever he could he slept outside even when the band were on tour, he'd sleep in the hotel grounds. He was obsessed with ecology and read botany encyclopaedias as if they were novels. His pockets were always filled with leaves, plant samples, even soil samples, which took his hygiene into uncharted territories.
He was always AWOL. The band would be ready to board the plane and they'd have to scout for him in the underbrush outside the terminal, haul him back and then extract his ticket for him from the soil samples in his pocket. As if this wasn't bad enough for the tolerant Heat, Al couldn't get laid,even when the Heat mamas were laid on a plate. Impotent physically and emotionally. He didn't even have any relationships or girlfriends at all. He couldn't even get a date. The closest he ever got was a date set up by the rest of the band where the chick turned up with 8 friends and spent the whole dinner ignoring Al and fleecing him for the bill and leaving him totally humiliated.
He took his own life on Sept 3,1970 with anti-depressants and spirits in a sleeping bag outside The Bear's house,where he had spent his last night. Later that day the Heat flew to Berlin and were only informed of his death before going on stage. At this gig the band were followed by first Janis Joplin and then Hendrix,both of whom would be dead within a month. Strangely the Bear claimed he had searched the grounds of his house looking for Blind Owl to get him ready to fly. It later emerged that he hadn't and the narrator alleges he was too fat and lazy to climb up the bank to do this chore.'
See An Existential Guitarist Packs His Bags for a few words about Al from Fahey.
Volk Roots - Influences
References: 1, 2
The Carter Family band from Maces Spring, Virginia consisted of A.P. (Alvin Pleasant) Carter, Maybelle Carter, and Sara Carter. Sara did most of the lead vocals, Maybelle played guitar and autohard. Three generations of the Carter Family have recorded and performed. The current group includes a granddaughter. The extended Carter Family includes Johnny Cash and his daughter Roseanne.
|References: 1, 2, 3|
|Lord, I Just Can't Keep from Cryin' - Audio Clip|
Evangelist Blind Willie Johnson made some of the most popular Africian-American religious songs. He sang with a gravely and powerful voice. He died of pneumonia after being refused admission to a hospital in 1949.
A bottleneck guitarist who echoed his vocal phrasings with an expressive set of sliding notes, Walter "Furry" Lewis recorded 23 songs in the 1920's. A second career included an appearance in the movie W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings.
References: 1, 2
McGee made his recording debut with Uncle Dave Macon on guitar instrumentals like 'Buck Dancer's Choice' and 'Knoxville Blues.' He and brother Kirk (fiddle) played and recorded with Macon's Fruit Jar Drinkers and recorded together on a variety of labels. Sam died in a farm accident in 1975.
David Harrison Macon, vocal and banjo. The proprietor of a hauling company. Macon entertained folks passing by with his music. The first star of the Grand Old Opry. His music often dealt with social and political matters of the American south.
Fahey: Macon - the white Charley Patton. Made over 300 sides! Genius.
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Charley Patton was the first great Delta bluesman; from him flowed nearly all the elements that would comprise the region's blues style. Patton had a coarse, earthy voice that reflected hard times and hard living. His guitar style percussive and raw-matched his vocal delivery. He often played slide guitar and gave that style a position of prominence in Delta blues. Patton' s songs were filled with lyrics that dealt with more than mere narratives of love gone bad. Patton often injected a personal viewpoint into his music and explored issues like social mobility ("Pony Blues"), imprisonment ("High Sheriff Blues"), nature ("High Water Everywhere"), and mortality ("Oh Death") that went far beyond traditional male-female relationship themes.
Finally, Patton defined the life of a bluesman. He drank and smoked excessively. He reportedly had a total of eight wives. He was jailed at least once. He traveled extensively, never staying in one place for too
long. He was superstitious and flirted with religion. He was cocky and often belligerent.
In a sense, Charley Patton, in addition to being a bluesman of the highest caliber, might also have been the first rock & roller. Patton was far from passive when he performed in front of an audience. It was not uncommon for him to play the guitar between his knees or behind his
back. He also played the instrument loud and rough. Patton jumped around and used the back of his guitar like a drum. He was a showman who made histrionics a part of the music. One can begin with Patton's
protorock roots and see them extend through Howlin' Wolf, then into Little Richard and James Brown, and finally into Jimi Hendrix.
There would be one more recording session for Patton before he died. In
early 1934, despite failing health, Patton and his wife, Bertha Lee, traveled to New York City to record for the American Record Company. This session is generally judged by blues historians to be his least
fruitful, though one of the songs he cut, "Oh Death," was tragically prophetic. After the sessions, Patton and Bertha Lee returned to Mississippi. Just a few months later, Patton died of a heart condition. He was forty-three years old. Patton was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980.
"Uncle Bunt" Stephens
John L. Stephens entered a fiddle contest in 1926 and won playing "Cacklin' Hen" and "Sail Away Ladies". He won a $1000, a new Lincoln (he took the cash), and a new set of clothes.
|Preachin' The Blues - Audio Clip|