Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you don’t live it you don’t have it. Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things.

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Reading Dubb’s eloquently worded eulogy to Jay Dee made this blogger realise that he is surrounded by hip-hopsters. And, touched though I was by his words, I felt my voice needed to be sent out into the ether that is the internets. You see my readers, I am from the older school of music appreciation. This is not to say that I can’t appreciate modern music, but my heart lies in the somewhat quondam tones of the blues world.

And in ruminating on this post, trying to remember the musician that changed my perspective, I realised that it wasn’t so much one artist as it was the genre itself that defined my musical appreciation hitherto.

In continuing this theme, here is my somewhat belated eulogy to the great Lomax family.

For those of you who concern yourselves not with these things, the Lomax family is father John A. Lomax and son Alan Lomax. These two men are, in my opinion, the two most influential white people ever to have an effect on the world of blues music.

john_lomax

Big papa Lomax

John was born in September 1875, died January 1948. Alan, his son, was born in January 1915, and died in 2002. For this reason I believe that January should be considered a month of celebration in honour of the great Lomax gene pool.

Essentially, the Lomax’s were the most eminent musicologists and folklorists of their time. John was head of the Archive of Folk Music at the Library of Congress, and during the 30’s he travelled the South with his son recording everything from frontier ballads, fife and drum tunes, gospel hymns and field hollers to now famous blues artists such as Muddy Waters and Son House.

Whilst recording in prisons in the South, they stumbled across an inmate called Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. One of my favourite aspects of Blues music is the mythology, and this story is one of the best…

Leadbelly had been locked up for attempted murder in a prison in Louisianna where he was found by the Lomaxs. In the prison Leadbelly recorded more than 100 songs with the Lomaxs and developed a friendship with the two. Leadbelly asked if they would send one of his recordings to the Governor of Louisiana to try and swoon him and get a pardon, the Lomaxs agreed, and one of his most famous ballads ‘Goodnight Irene’ was recorded for the first time. The story continues that the Governor was so touched by the song that he released Ledbelly into the Lomaxs care, and he worked for them as chauffeur. The truth is probably much less interesting, but where is the fun in that?

Also definitely worth a listen are the versions by James Booker and Dr. John

After his pop’s retirement, Alan made a name for himself recording musicians such as Mississippi Fred McDowell and Jelly Roll Morton. Jelly Roll was probably one of the most gifted and influential piano players ever. He claims to have invented the genre of Jazz all by his lonesome despite being too young, and the fact that Buddy Bolden is widely accepted as the inventor of Jazz. But if you ask Jelly Roll, Buddy played Ragtime, not Jazz. In any case, Jelly Roll recorded for hours for Alan at the Library of Congress.

He actually played this fast…

So for all your good works, I thank you Lomaxs. Were it not for the music and musicians that you recorded and preserved, I perhaps would not have discovered blues music itself. Its also nice to know that a whitey like myself can aspire to blues greatness.

The post’s title is a piece of genius from the lips of Big Bill Broonzy

And for those of you interested my nom de plume is inspired by another legendary piano player: Fats Waller

Your feet’s too big!

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3 Responses to “Blues is a natural fact, is something that a fellow lives. If you don’t live it you don’t have it. Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things.”

  1. fresh Says:

    Not a whole lot to add to this, just wanted to say I thought this was a really good post. I’ve heard all of the names mentioned here but I can’t say I’ve taken the time to listen to any of their music prior to this.

  2. Henry Says:

    Amazing story well bloged Tubswaller!

  3. bigdubbs Says:

    nice one brothero

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