Strange Country Blues
July 25, 2010 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Do you know where I can find other great, strange blues and vaudeville artists like Abner Jay (previously on the blue) and Peg Leg Sam Jackson? I like rich, old, authentic country blues like Blind Willie McTell and Mississippi John Hurt and John Lee Hooker (and you know what I mean), but am looking for stuff that is more . . . unique. Looking for either really interesting music (Abner Jay) or incredible stories (Peg Leg Sam) from that era/place. Both artists considered themselves part of the last great Southern black minstrel shows. Where can I find more stuff like that?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You check out Mance Lipscomb yet?
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:41 AM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Luckily for you, one of the world's most renowned record collectors - Joe Bussard has put together a couple of AMAZING compilations that should start you down this wonderful past:

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937

Down In The Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s 1926-1937

Once you've digested those, I would suggest that you start checking out the wonderful compilations that are available on Yazoo Records or JSP Records.
posted by drgonzo2k2 at 7:21 AM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ok, let's try this again, now with links ;)

Joe Bussard

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937

Down In The Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s 1926-1937

Yazoo Records

JSP Records

Oh, and when you start with Yazoo, I recommend getting this compilation first:

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
posted by drgonzo2k2 at 7:29 AM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't specifically know about the kinds of artists you're looking for, but I have come across some good Vaudeville-related places on the web to do some research:

From the Library of Congress: Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

The Virginia "XRoads" site has so much cool stuff on it, including Vaudeville: A History

Finally, here's a good page with Vaudeville Links.
posted by Miko at 7:56 AM on July 25, 2010

James A. Bland, Ma and Pa Rainey, Thomas A. Dorsey, Bessie Smith. I'm not sure if you'll like vaudeville but I worked backwards from country blues to pre-blues to the black music hall circuit when I was first listening to this stuff. Bessie Smith is very accessible to anyone who started out country blues. If you hate it you might prefer to go the dirty blues route.

I'd recommend reading about it first, try Charles Shaar Murray's book on the blues to give it context.

One important thing with storytelling/music hall is don't ignore the women, whatever you do. This was their territory and they rocked it.
posted by shinybaum at 8:04 AM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's not anywhere near you, but Down Home Records in El Cerrito, CA is a great place for this stuff. Their website isn't too functional, but they have an eBay page that has some nice things.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 8:28 AM on July 25, 2010

Similar but different - check out Frank Fairfield, a 20something kid currently touring and recording.

Also, Dock Boggs, Darby and Tarlton.
posted by chez shoes at 9:16 AM on July 25, 2010

The John-Fahey-curated American Primitive compilations, on Revenant Records, might be up your alley.

I imagine you already know Alan Lomax and Harry Smith, but I'll mention them just in case.
posted by box at 9:18 AM on July 25, 2010

seconding the JSP Mountain Blues & Richer Tradition box sets. They're cheap, and filled with stuff like "Beans" Hambone and teh South Georgia Highballers.
posted by scruss at 9:30 AM on July 25, 2010

Henry Thomas is a transitional blues musicians who performed in
minstrel shows and later helped define the country blues style.
He also plays a mean pennywhistle.
posted by domographer at 9:50 AM on July 25, 2010

Response by poster: Hey everybody: thanks for all of the responses. This is exactly what I was looking for.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:54 AM on July 25, 2010

Also check out people referenced as TOBA - this was the Theater Owners Booking Agency and was pretty much mature music hall for Black performers and audiences, some of them started and stayed bluesy, some were more like acts.

A dirty search of my music hard drive suggests: Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, Clara Smith, Ethel Waters, Mamie Smith, Josephine Baker, Ma Rainey, Lucille Bogan (Bessie Jackson), Bessie Smith, Valaida Snow, Victoria Spivey, Bert Williams.

To try before you buy, this site has many, many of these singers despite the name. Full songs for free, search page is here.
posted by shinybaum at 3:40 PM on July 25, 2010

"One String" Sam Wilson
Fife maestro Otha Turner
posted by hydrophonic at 5:04 PM on July 25, 2010

(domographer, Henry Thomas played quills, aka a home-made panflute.)
posted by scruss at 2:02 PM on July 26, 2010

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