That NY Times Story today

Tom Freeland Skipjames@AOL.COM
Sun Nov 26 16:09:14 EST 1995

The feature story on the front of today's Sunday times is as interesting for
what it gets wrong as what it gets right.  Its headed "Who Owns The Blues."
 One interesting little irony-- following the jump page is an article titled:
"A Still-Stompin', Still-Fildllin' 70-Year-Ole" about the 70th anniversary of
the Grand Ole Opry.  No mention in that article about who owns the Opry
(which pays performers scale), much less note of the fact that the Opry
owners even own Bill Monroe's home place now....

BUT back to the blues story.  There's a performance photo of noted blues
performers Tom Jones and Dwight Yoakum at the L.A. HOB.  There's a photo of a
drawing by folk artists Bill Traylor (labelled a painter, he drew but did not
paint) and one of the Robert Johnson photos (credited, of course, to LaVere).
 There's a Birney Imes photo of a juke joint, and the story says that Imes'
book JUKE JOINT (although the article gets the title wrong), given to Isaac
Tigert by Bill Ferris, provided Tigert the inspiration for the interior
design in the various HOBS.  The article does note that the HOB is also
heavily involved in buying and collecting African American folk art, an area
where the art business buys work from artists in the hundred-dollar range and
then resells them for ten or more times that.  It quotes at length Tigert's
(INMHO patently false and racist) rationalization that preservation of the
blues has required white intervention, and note that white interest in blues
revival has "left out those artists who still had black audiences." quoting
Francis Davis.

It has this to say about Alan Lomax:

"Mr. Davis criticizes folklorists like Alan Lomax, who visited prisons to
find traditional songs, while ignoring individual innovators nearby like
Charley Patton. 'They went into it with the wrong mindset -- a noble one but

There are critical things to be said of Mr. Lomax, but this seems wildly
off-beam.  In the first place, when Lomax went down there, Patton was dead.
 In the second place, Lomax *sought* one of the great innovators (Robert
Johnson) and *found* three other greats and recorded them (Muddy Waters, Son
House, and Bukka White, the last in prison).  This statement is both wrong
and unfair.  The next paragraph ties the criticism to Steve Calt and Gayle
Dean Wardlow (who gets the honorific Ms. Oops!) and their book about Patton.
 This is far from the only thing wrong in that book, much of which consists
of ill-considered side-swipes at people only marginally relevant to a
biography of Patton.

There's a note that Robert Johnson played "Tumbling Tumbleweed" and Memphis
Minnie played the Woody Woodpecker theme.  I would *love* to know the
original source for that one!

The article closes nicely with the W.C. Handy story about how he discovered
"the beauty of primitive music."  Its not as little noticed a story as the
article claims.

I'd like to hear what Dick Waterman has to say about the articles statement
that Arthur Crudup "recieved nothing" from Elvis' recording of "That's All
Right."  Didn't you fix that, Dick?  Or was that other recordings of other
Crudup songs?

Anyway, its an interesting story.  What do ya'll think?

Tom Freeland

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