Come And Go

By: sonofabeach96

Jan 27 2016

Category: Uncategorized

4 Comments

On this date, 96 years apart, one legend was born, and one was lost.  Both were influential and important in evolution of each of their respective genre, but more importantly, on music and society in general.

On January 27, 1918, Elmore James was born in Richland, MS to his 15-year-old mother Leola Brooks.    James began making music at the age of 12, playing a one-string instrument called a “diddly-bow” or “jitterbug”.  He was strongly influenced by Robert Johnson, of course, and there’s even some dispute about who wrote what would become James’ signature song, “Dust My Broom”: James or Robert Johnson.   Eventually though, Elmore James became an inspiration to future generations of blues and rock guitarists and vocalists in his own right.

He began recording in 1951, after a stint in the US Navy during WWII, with Trumpet Records in Jackson, MS.  His first gig was as a sideman to the great Sonny Boy Williamson.  In 1952, he debuted the surprise hit “Dust My Broom” that crossed over from blues onto the R&B charts.  He had another hit the following year in “I Believe” the Bihari brothers’ Flair Records.  He recorded in several other studios over his career that ended with his death in 1963, including Modern, Chess, and Chief Records.

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Just about any slide guitar player will admit to being influenced by James.  There’s too many to list that have cited him as a predecessor that they emulate.  Those names include the likes of John Littlejohn, Hound Dog Taylor, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Rock guitarists’ such as the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, Fleetwood Mac’s Jeremy Spencer, John Mayall, and Duane Allman all state they were influenced by James.  James’ most famous understudy is likely Jimi Hendrix, who was photographed holding James’ LP The Best of Elmore James, something Hendrix frequently did with LP’s of those who’d influenced his musical style and sound.

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Just as one comes in, one goes out, in this post at least, on this date, in 2014, the beloved folk singer and activist Pete Seeger died in New York at the age of 94, and was still active in the music biz ’til that point.  He was a staple on 1940’s radio, working as an assistant to Alan Lomax, sorting through “race” and “hillbilly ” music at the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress.  Lomax hosted a weekly Columbia Broadcasting  show, and Seeger began to appear regularly, along with the likes of Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, and Lead Belly.

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Activism speaking, he was blacklisted in the ’50’s’ McCarthy Era along with the rest of his band mates in the Weavers for their anti-war/anti-draft tone.  And probably because he was a member of Communist Party USA from 1942-1949.  He re-emerged in the ’60’s and became a prominent fixture in the social-change movements of the era.  His song “We Shall Overcome” became the unofficial anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement.

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Musically speaking, he’s a master of the 5-string banjo, and one could say he wrote the book on it…literally.  His book, How To Play The FiveString Banjo, that he wrote in 1948, is considered the bible by many who play the instrument.  He then invented the Long Neck banjo or Seeger banjo that is 3 frets longer than a traditional banjo, and slightly longer than a bass guitar.  Seeger is credited with creating the perception of the 5-string banjo as the quintessential Appalachian folk instrument, and synonymous with the sound.  His songwriting and rapport with an audience created a new market and visibility for the largely regional folk and bluegrass of the era.

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Seeger was instrumental in not only influencing the folk artists’ of the ’60’s, but for launching some of their careers.  He helped get Bob Dylan recorded initially and helped get Dylan invited to play in the Newport Folk Festival, of which Seeger was a board member.  They clashed a bit though over Dylans use of over amplification vs. acoustic, and even once threatened to pull the plug on on the equipment while Dylan was playing.  they worked it out and collaborated frequently over the coming years.  In fact, he’s collaborated with or had his songs recorded by some of the biggest names in music.  His songs are American standards, that we all know and love.  He was the voice of a generation, a generation of rebels and brave souls, who rose up, revolted, and caused social change that had been ignored for decades.  His voice, and lyrics, blazed a path that not many other artists could compare to. Truly a legend.

In honor of these two trailblazers, rebels, and legends, my songs of the day are:

“Standing At The Crossroads” by Elmore James

“One Way Out” by The Allman Brothers Band (cover of Elmore James original)

“We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger

“Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” by Simon & Garfunkel (cover of Pete Seeger original)

“Blues Before Sunrise” by Elmore James

“My Bleeding Heart” by Jimi Hendrix (cover of Elmore James original)

“We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger

“Turn Turn Turn” by The Byrds (cover of Pete Seeger original)

“The Sky Is Crying” by Elmore James

“It Hurts Me Too” by Susan Tedeschi (cover of Elmore James original)

4 comments on “Come And Go”

  1. We heard Hendrix…OMG!

    Liked by 1 person


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