Showing posts with label Jimmie Rodgers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmie Rodgers. Show all posts

Friday, February 9, 2018

SPOTIFY playlist for I Went Down to St. James Infirmary

Image by author, using sheet music for St. James Infirmary as background

All songs, all things, are connected.

While investigating the history of "St. James Infirmary," many other songs came into view.  Because of this I created a Spotify playlist of some of the songs mentioned in my book, I Went Down to St. James Infirmary. I couldn't find everything, though. Neither Daisey Tapley nor Florence Cole-Talbert are in the list. Aside from two or three women who were part of choirs, these were the first two black women to appear in recordings (1910 and 1919). I was able to include the first recorded solo black man (also, probably, the first solo male recording artist) - George W. Johnson with "The Laughing Coon" (c. 1894). Unfortunately, his first tune, "The Whistling Coon" (1891) is not on Spotify.

Neither are any of the songs by Carl Moore, aka "The Squeakin' Deacon." Moore was the first person, in 1924, to claim co-writing credit for SJI. From Arkansas, he adopted the persona of a hillbilly hick while fronting a smooth, swinging jazz orchestra. He recorded four catchy songs, but none of them migrated beyond their original 78 rpm discs. The only place you will find them today is on this site - enter "Carl Moore mp3" into the search box.

So far I have included 55 songs on the SJI playlist. You can hear Irving Mills introducing Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club on "Cotton Club Stomp." The Hokum Boys with their lost versions of "Gambler's Blues/St. James Infirmary." Gene Austin and "My Blue Heaven" (the best-selling song of all time ... until Bing Crosby's "White Christmas") - as well as his take on SJI. Bessie Smith. Blind Willie McTell's "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues." Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell." Cab Calloway. Alphonso Trent's 1930 SJI tantrum. Sophie Tucker. Hank Williams. Ward-Bergeman's 2011 gypsy version of SJI. Jimmie Rodgers. Victoria Spivey's 1926 "Black Snake Blues."

I shall add more from the book's song index as time goes on.

If you have a Spotify account, look for "I Went Down to St. James Infirmary" in the playlists, and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Illustration

A few years ago, while working on the first iteration of I Went Down to St. James Infirmary (which I had titled A Rake's Progress and of which perhaps a dozen copies are still in existence), I  created an illustration that brought together some of the principal characters in the SJI story. Albert Gleizes' 1913 painting "Women Sewing" was the inspiration for the underlying art work; onto this I layered photographs of various SJI personalities, and included myself and my wife (the book's designer) as, I guess, observers of the drama.

So here, in no particular order (the illustration should enlarge if you click on it), you can find Jimmie Rodgers, Porter Grainger, Dan Emmett, Mamie Smith, Irving Mills, Don Redman, Phil Baxter, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Carl "The Deacon" Moore, Bob Dylan, Bessie Smith, Emmett Miller, and Blind Willie McTell.

Speaking of Blind Willie McTell, he will be (part of) the subject of our next entry.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More gems from Lefty's Attic

We've finally finished much of the work on the photo website (you can see that here, although it has nothing to do with St. James Infirmary) and so here's another post. I had been planning something about the song collector Dorothy Scarborough, but in the meantime came across this.

By way of explanation, we tend to think first of John and Alan Lomax when we consider song collectors. There were others who preceded them - in North America these include Harry Odum and Dorothy Scarborough. Scarborough's 1925 On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs includes a song that contains a verse with the familiar, "Let her go, let her go / May God bless her, wherever she may be." Her book is a fascinating document, as she comments on the songs and her relationship to them - and interesting in that many of the "Negro songs" she includes obviously came from the minstrel stage.

And then we have Ralph Peer. Peer was a businessman, with little love for the types of songs he was hunting. Still, he went in search of talent, and was responsible for discovering such luminaries as The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. The records he made with them were profit-seeking ventures, and so we generally don't include them in the canon of discovered folk songs; we don't see them as equally representative of the non-commercial music of the period.

But here - now, this is a different story. When auditioning for Peer, the musicians would bring their own songs - the stuff they were playing and singing at home, or at the village barn dances. Eventually Peer would send A.P. Carter in search of Appalachian folk songs that he could "modify" and thereby declare as original compositions (all the better to copyright, my dear). But our friend, Lonesome Lefty, has made available some of the original 1927 Bristol Session recordings. Here are The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, The Tenneva Ramblers (Rodgers' band - they split up while arguing about auditioning for Peer), Ernest Stoneman and others, some of whom never recorded again. The sound quality is good, and the download includes the record covers and liner notes. A wonderful find - thanks, Lefty! You can download that album here.

(If you are interested in more detail about these sessions, I can recommend "The Bristol Sessions: Writings About the Big Bang of Country Music," published in 2005. Other highly readable resources include Nolan Porterfield's Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler and Mark Zwonitzer's Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?: The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music.)
Inquiries into the early years of SJI