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Posts Tagged ‘Scrapper Blackwell’

Folk Blues- LeRon's Yellow Guitar -GC Myers 1994



This morning, I thought I would combine another old piece with this week’s Sunday morning musical selection. The painting above is one of my earliest pieces, completed in early 1994.

It was at a point before I had what I considered then and now to be a breakthrough with my work. I was still working with watercolors solely and using them in as close to a traditional manner as someone who is self-taught can. I still find the qualities of that medium really appealing and use many of them– in a manner that is adjusted to fit the way I think– in much of what I call my transparent work with inks.

This piece was titled which meant that I saw something in it that deserved a name. That’s one way I judge some of this earliest work. There are some pieces in my files that don’t have titles which means that while I may like the piece or see something of value in it, I don’t feel it is complete and whole.

I think I saw this piece as being whole even though at the time I didn’t feel it was good enough to exhibit. Maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t think it was good enough, maybe it was more that by the time I was showing my work a year after this my work had changed, moved away from this style.

It’s titled Folk Blues/ LeRon’s Yellow Guitar. It certainly has flaws but there is much in it that I like.

Anyway, thought this would pair up with an old blues tune written and first recorded in the 1920’s, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. This version is from early blues artist Scrapper Blackwell who is an interesting case.

Blackwell was born in South Carolina in 1903 and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana as a child. He built a cigar box guitar and taught himself to play, becoming a performer in the Indy/ Chicago areas as a teenager. Around this time he met and partnered with pianist Leroy Carr. In the late 1920’s until around 1935, the two were very successful as songwriting and recording artists. One of their best known songs was Kokomo Blues which was later transformed into the song most of us know as Sweet Home Chicago.

The duo lived pretty large at that time with lots of drink and partying. However, Carr died from physical complications from this lifestyle in 1935. Blackwell floundered for a couple of years before dropping out of the musical scene altogether. He settled into an obscure life in Indianapolis as a manual laborer in an asphalt plant for the next 20 years. In the late 1950’s he reemerged as a musician, recording several albums of his early blues over the next few years. The song below was recorded during this period and is pretty poignant in that at that time he truly knew the highs of stardom and the lows of poverty and obscurity.

His renewed career was taking hold at a time when the blues were undergoing a revival in the early 1960’s when he was shot and killed while being mugged in an Indy alley in 1962. He was 59. As a result, his influence in the blues revival never really extended out to the wider audiences that other blues artists were able to tap into in the mid 1960’s. Most of you have most likely never heard of Scrapper Blackwell.

This is a really nice recording of an old blues song. The kind of song LeRon at the top would feel right at home with. Give a listen to Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.



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