This recording actually sounds like a duet with Willie Brown
This film shows Robert Johnson singing and playing banjo with Hayes McMullan, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Petway and someone else unidentified The identifications were made by the publisher of the blues music news service kingbiscuitblues.com Johnson sings McDowell's verse then stops and covers his mouth laughing and a voice behind the camera says "finish the song" Petway gives McDowell a consolling look over his shoulder The laughter scene at the end probably refers to Johnson guzzling a bottle of whiskey nearby
There was a time, in the 1890's when guitar blues was purely instrumental and very advanced and there were many significant styles specific to their practitioners including St. Louis and Kansas City style blues The source of this information is Jelly Roll Morton's 'Guitar Blues' recording from the Complete Congress Recordings which were made sometime around 1938 Morton was born Ferdinand LeMoth in 1884 and began playing piano personally sometime around 1896 and professionally around 1898 Before that, he had played guitar, and in the recording Morton plays guitar blues as he played it in the 1890's and informs us that there were countless blues guitarists playing their own styles including New Orleans blues, Kansas City blues and St Louis blues
Before the civil war, John Brown (no known relation to delta blues singer Willie Brown) had struck his first blow against slavery in Kansas which was a free state, bordering Missouri, a slave state and in 1872 Frerick Douglas called on freedmen to move to Kansas and later during the Exodusters migration which included St Louis as a destination as well, blacks would try to move to Kansas That meant a ride on a river boat up the Mississippii river to St. Louis and then they would have needed to board a second river boat to travel further northwest up the river to Kansas Many couldn't and would have to remain in St. Louis This is why there was New Orleans blues, Kansas City blues and St. Louis blues So what happened to St Louis, New Orleans, Kansas City acoustic guitar blues? It would be eclipsed by the migration of ragtime to the piano and ragtime piano would become the super money making genre beginning with the premise that the dance halls of New Orleans needed pianists to entertain their patrons all night long and ragtime piano would give rise to a huge sheet music publishing industry Towards the end of the ragtime era, WC Handy would publish some ragtime blues sheet music
What made Robert Johnson so great? Is it some kind of mystery? Johnson was the first Honkey Tonk guitarist Nearly all of the Johnson recordings are very strong representations of Honkey Tonk guitar and and he's playing them with a thumb pick giving it that super strong rythym Nobody's done it since He was also the first and only acoustic blues guitarist to combine 7th chord rythms with slide guitar If you listen to other acoustic slide guitarists of the day like Charlie Patton, you'll notice they're not playing any 7th chord rythms, they're just playing basic chords Here's a video of Robert Johnson singing and playing banjo with Robert Petway, Mississippi Ferd McDowell, Hayes McMullan and someone else unidentified
- What is Blues?
- The pre-ragtime piano and guitar 7th chord music of the Southern and Gulf Coast regions of the United States