Early Blues Men - The Early Mens Blues American Blues Music...

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The Early Men’s Blues American Blues Music
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Henry “Ragtime Texas” Thomas Henry Thomas was born in Big Sandy, Texas in 1874 When he was still a young man he began a career in minstrel shows. He accompanied himself on guitar and quills (an African-American form of pan-pipe. His guitar playing was very banjo-like. Although he played pieces that were identifiable as the blues, he was playing before that genre emerged as such, and his earliest pieces are clearly indicative of what came before the fixed form of the blues. If the first “blues” by an African-American was recorded in 1920, Thomas would have already been 46 and performing perhaps for 35 years.
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His nickname “Ragtime Texas” was probably a reference to a hobo-style life, rather than to the musical form. Folklorists Howard Odum (white) and Guy Johnson (Black), in their 1925 collaboration “The Negro and His Songs” described the life of the Negro hobo as: “…seldom work(ing) a stroke since he left home, yet he always has plenty to eat and a place to stay… the singer loves idleness and shuns work… The assumption that the life of a hobo is an enviable one appears frequently. He boasts of his ability to live from the work of the community or some hard-working woman… his songs are the most pathetic and plaintive of all, for he depends upon them to arouse pity and to gain the favors which he desires.”
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Like many other blues musicians, Thomas hated cotton farming and used music as a way out. Like many of the artists we’ll study, the term “bluesman” is really inappropriate. Thomas was more of a songster: someone who would play a wide variety of things, including the blues, depending on what his audience wanted to hear. His songs were about traveling, trains, dancing (when he’d do a reel), spirituals, minstrel songs, etc.
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Leadbelly Huddie Ledbetter was born in 1889 in Louisiana His father was a sharecropper and his mother was half Cherokee. He was exposed to a lot of music: spirituals, jigs, schottisches (slower form of polka), field hollers and shouts, work songs, children’s game songs. He frequently played for dances on either guitar or accordion. After getting a girl pregnant (the second time) he was more or less forced to leave home and went to Shreveport, Louisiana to work on Fannin Street.
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Fannin Street was the Storyville of Shreveport. It was full of bars, barrelhouses, and brothels and even as a young man, when sent on errands to Shreveport Leadbelly would stop in the places, against his parents advice. His father did , however, give him a gun to protect himself. “My mama told me - my little sister too, Women on Fannin Street, son they gonna be the death of you. Ohhhhh ohh ohhh. (spoken) I don’t care.
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2011 for the course AMCULT 337 taught by Professor Bruceconforth during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.

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Early Blues Men - The Early Mens Blues American Blues Music...

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