This CD covers three areas covered by Paul Oliver’s book Yonder Come The Blues; Savannah Syncopators; With African musical retentions in the United States, the meeting of White and Black traditions, and the development of sound recording, we witness the evolution of a genre. one would argue that the spirituals, gospel songs, work songs, jazz and blues which have flourished during the past century are American music forms, and most authorities would contend that they owe their existence to the presence of the black population. All these types of music have been influenced to some extent by white traditions of European origin but it seem generally accepted that the descendants of the slaves who were imported from Africa combined them with elements of musical traditions that they had brought with them.
Blacks, Whites and Blues; Interaction between black and white musicians has been one of the most stimulating forces in American folk music. Nowadays, for social reasons, exchanges are rarer; but in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties they were frequent and fertile. The aim of this part of the collection is to show something of this cross-fertilisation.
Recording The Blues; Blues recording began by accident. In February 1920 the General Phonograph Corporation in New York happened to record two popular songs by a black woman, Mamie Smith. The demand for these made the record companies aware that there was a black record-buying public eager for material by singers of their own race. Soon every black cabaret and roadshow singer had taken her turn in the studios. Many of their records were numbered in special series that came to be known as ‘Race Series’ Each label had its established stars in the early ‘twenties: there was Ma Rainey at Paramount and the great Bessie Smith at Columbia. But it was OKeh who led the field; of the 250 race records released in 1925 more than a third were in their 8000 series, including such masterpieces as Bertha “Chippie” Hill’s Kid Man Blues featuring the young Louis Armstrong on cornet. These were the days of the Classic Blues singers, women whose accompaniment was usually a piano or a small jazz group. Then, early in 1926, Paramount introduced a new type of blues record, by Blind Lemon Jefferson, an itinerant guitar-picker from Texas who sang poignant songs about the style of life he led. Rabbit Foot Blues was one of Lemon’s finest numbers, his expressive guitar complementing the slurred vocal as he sang of ‘those meatless and wheatless days’.