Anonymous just dropped me a line, reminding me that Porter Grainger was born on this day, October 22, in 1891 (a birth date, by the way, that was discovered right here, at I Went Down to St. James Infirmary).
Investigations in the shadowy world of early jazz-blues in the company of Blind Willie McTell, Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, Irving Mills, Carl Moore, and a host of others, and where did this dang song come from anyway.
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To read the intro - click below, then scroll down:
Also available (although, of necessity, at higher cost) through amazon.com
“A goldmine of information, with an amazing cast of characters. The definitive statement on the subject — and a very entertaining read to boot.”
Rob Walker, author of Buying In and Letters from New Orleans
"No biography of Irving Mills has been written. The best short treatment of his life and work is in Harwood (I Went Down To St. James Infirmary)."
Terry Teachout, author of Duke, A Life of Duke Ellington
"Harwood is a rara avis. That this Irish-Canadian finds within him the inspired doggedness to try and unravel this massive ball of tangled yarn not just once, but now for the third time in a decade and a half is an enigma in itself. He does it in amazing detail ... This work is unique, so if you don’t have it, get it." Malcolm Shaw, Vintage Jazz Mart Review, Summer 2016
The purpose of this site:
This blog is an outgrowth of my book I Went Down to St. James Infirmary. It is an invitation for further discussion about the song, the times, the players, and the business of music as they relate to "St. James Infirmary," especially in the early days. Some years ago I set out to unravel what I could of the mystery surrounding the song "St. James Infirmary." There were obvious questions, such as: How old is the song and where did it come from? How, when the first recording was credited to "Moore-Baxter" and the second to "Redman," did Joe Primrose wind up with credit for the song's composition? Who were all these people? But more fundamental questions also emerged. Questions about the nature of song-writing, about the business of selling songs, about music as merchandise. I wrote a book about all this. You can find out more about the book at: http://www.stjamesinfirmary.ca/
And so here, on this blog, I hope to bring together some of the threads woven into the book. Also, to explore anything else of interest as related to the song, to the period of its initial popularity, and to the divide between the art and the business of song-writing.