Archive for the ‘1928’ Category

‘Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me . . .’

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

It was ninety-three years ago today in Atlanta, on October 22, 1928 – according to the notes to the CD The Essential Jimmie Rodgers – that the Yodeling Brakeman recorded a song that I’d guess is one of his best-known: “Waiting For A Train.” The recording was released the following February as Bluebird 5163.

I imagine that my first exposure to the tune came with Boz Scaggs’ version, found on his 1969 self-titled album recorded in Muscle Shoals, a track highlighted by Duane Allman’s sweet work on dobro. (Also on the album, of course, is the epic “Loan Me A Dime,” which features Allman’s ferocious slide work.) I got the album in the spring of 1989, but I imagine I’d heard Scagg’s version of the tune long before, though I have no idea when.

Scaggs’ version is just one of more than eighty covers of the tune listed at Second Hand Songs. Three versions are listed from 1929, by Riley Puckett, by Ed (Jake) West, and by Carson Robison and Frank Luther, who recorded as the Jimson Brothers.

The most recent version of “Waiting For A Train” listed at the site was by Billy Bragg and Joe Henry. They recorded the song in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, the same room where Robert Johnson recorded twenty-three tracks during three sessions in November 1936. Bragg and Henry released their version in 2016 on the album Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad.

There was a surprise, though, waiting for me at Second Hand Songs. Listed with the versions of “Waiting For A Train” were thirteen versions of the song “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me,” with the words credited to Mississippi John Hurt. The website says that Hurt first recorded the song in 1966, a take that was included on the posthumous 1972 album Last Sessions.

I’ve noted here before that Second Hand Songs is a good place to start but not always complete. That’s the case here, as in the digital stacks here I find a version of “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me” that Hurt recorded in 1963 for the Library of Congress. That version was first released in 1982 on an album titled Avalon Blues: The Library of Congress Recordings, Vol. 2 and has been released on several anthologies since (as has the 1966 version) as shown by the photo in the video below.

Whichever came first, it’s a surprise and a delight to hear the same melody as Rodgers’ “Waiting For A Train” used as the basis for an entirely different song (as was frequently the case in the folk and blues tradition).

Digging In The Long-Gone Past

Friday, February 26th, 2021

One of the things I got for Christmas from the Texas Girl in December was a newly released collection of vintage music titled The Harry Smith B-Sides. Harry Smith, as most readers likely known, was the eccentric music collector who in the early 1950s. assembled from his collection of 78s an eighty-four-track mélange of music from the 1920s and 1930s.

That collection was released in 1952  on the Folkways label as The Anthology of American Folk Music, and it became a seminal artifact in the development of the folk scene of the 1950s and early 1960s.

There was an obscure logic to the way Smith arranged the collection, grouping the eighty-four songs in three categories, but listeners and musicians, or so said news pieces I saw last autumn, have often wondered what kind of collection would one find if one listened to the flip sides of the records Smith included in his anthology.

Well, that’s exactly what the folks at the Dust to Digital label did in the collection The Harry Smith B-Sides. And that’s some of the music I’ve been absorbing over the last two months. The whole thing is made more interesting because as the release date for the collection came near, Dust to Digital’s project found itself smack in the middle of last summer’s discussions of racial and social justice.

And not to be a tease, but I’m still working out the ideas for a longer piece on the new set and the issues it touched. That should show up here next week, I hope. In the meantime, here’s one of the funnier songs – but one that’s still imbued with some violent imagery – from Smith’s original 1952 anthology.

Here’s “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O” by Chubby Parker & His Old-Time Banjo, a retelling of the old tune “Froggie Went A-Courtin’.” The track was recorded in New York City on August 13, 1928, and was released on the Columbia label.

One From 12-28

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Well, as we edge closer and closer to the end of the year, we’re going to spend a few days listening to tunes recorded in late December over the years.

In New York City in December 1928, Mississippi John Hurt laid down a number of tracks for the Okeh label. (The question arises: How many tracks? Well, the 1996 CD in my stacks – subtitled The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings – has thirteen tracks. The YouTube page devoted to Hurt lists an album titled Spike Driver Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings released this year that includes nineteen tracks, which tells me that six tracks have come to light in recent years.) Okeh seems to have released six records from the sessions, but they didn’t do well on the market, and Hurt went back to farming in Mississippi. He was rediscovered in 1963 and went on to record several albums until his death in 1966.

Hurt’s often called a bluesman because he was rediscovered during the years when researchers, musicians, historians and just plain fans combed the southern states for artists who had recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. But Hurt’s music, with its light-fingered picking and lilting voice, has little of the blues in it, despite the titles of many of his tunes.

That’s the case with the track below, “Got the Blues (Can’t Be Satisfied),” recorded on December 28, 1928, eighty-eight years ago today. And I wish I had a tale to hang on the track – or any of Hurt’s work – but all I can say is that anytime I hear his nimble guitar work and his mellow voice, my day is just a little bit better.