Inquiries into the early years of SJI

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Porter Grainger on film?

Porter Grainger pops up frequently on this blog, partly as the composer of "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," partly because so little is known about him, and I hold hope that someone will come forward with more information.

I am aware of only two photographs of Grainger - in one of them he is part of a large group of black composers in the 1930s, including Jelly Roll Morton and W.C. Handy. It is likely that he also appeared in a short film.

Yesterday I was reading an updated Wikipedia entry on Grainger which included these words: "He was also Mamie Smith's accompanist in the 1929 film short Jailhouse Blues." I found the video on YouTube, as an Italian upload. The pianist is briefly visible at the beginning of the film. So ... what do you think? Is this Porter Grainger?

The film lasts just over one minute. Smith was forty-six when this film was made. She was one of the pioneers of early blues recording; in her heyday she was immensely popular, appearing on stage in extravagant dresses while dancers and acrobats spun around her. Grainger was thirty-eight, and at the height of his career.