Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Chapter 4, page 2 of 10)

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Chapter 4

In addition to his blues, Lewis enjoyed playing folk ballads. Three of his favorites were, "John Henry," "Kassie Jones" and "Stack O' Lee." His recording career lasted only three years from 1927-29 and turned out hits that included "I Will Turn Your Money Green" and "Pearless." However, in 1959 he was rediscovered by Sam Charters and began a new recording career until his demise in 1980 at the age of 88. During his lifetime he performed as a medicine-show songster traveling with the medicine show.

Jim Jackson did much of his work traveling with the medicine shows. Born in Hernando, Mississippi close to Memphis, Jim recorded "He's In the Jailhouse Now," "Traveling Man," "I'm a Bad Bad Man"and "I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop." His biggest hit was, "Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues" recorded in two parts for the Vocalion Label.

The issue now at hand was, who were the songsters and who were the bluesmen. It was axiomatic at those times that if you were black and you sang you were inevitably a bluesman. But the songsters took offense to that theory, contending that bluesmen sing only the blues, whereas, the songsters sang a variety of songs that included the blues. Papa Charlie Jackson admits to being a songster even though he sang the blues as did Mississippi John Hurt. John made several successful records for the Okeh Label in 1928 and was comfortable with the identity of being a songster.

Leadbelly on the other hand stopped calling himself a songster and wanted to be identified as a bluesman. So, the question came up, who were the songsters and who are the bluesmen. Blind Lemon Jefferson, a constant companion with Leadbelly, wanted to be remembered as a country songster.

Charley Patton was born on May 1, 1891 in Edwards or Bolton, Mississippi. In his early teen years he learned how to play the guitar. He was fascinated with the blues and enjoyed singing them as he accompanied himself with the guitar He had cornpassion for the blacks and sang about their brutal and unfit conditions they had to endure in the south. "Down the Dirt Road Blues," was one such example of how he felt.

Charley was a very difficult man to get along with. He had drinking problems, an uncontrollable temper and was married eight times. Putting his personal lire aside however, it was his music that influences such great artists as Howlin' Wolf, Big Joe Williams, Bukka White, Tommy Johnson and his musical partner Willie Brown. Charley Patton was known to be the first great bluesman that came out of the Mississippi Delta. He died of heart failure on April 28, 1934. He was 43 years old. On his tombstone it reads; "The voice of the Delta." The foremost performer of early Mississippi blues whose songs became cornerstones of American music.

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