Monday, October 02, 2017

Pipeline's greatest hits

Songwriters have added their voices to the campaign against natural-gas pipeline construction in the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

Since they have put copies of their songs on YouTube I've started this page to bookmark them...

This first draft was made with my phone. When I get to a real computer I'll add more text and links.

Carol Denney

https://youtu.be/ezBUJoL0J4s

https://youtu.be/Qx2wFZS5YWM

Leslie Brooks

https://youtu.be/De-sT8gT0qQ

Michael Kovick

https://youtu.be/IWdcQML6xyA

Douglas Hendren

https://youtu.be/AtPxTA2zqRM

Non-musical pipeline videos

Appalachian Trail Conservatory

https://youtu.be/yk6VLexz4-U

Dominion Energy (maps and "view simulation")

https://youtu.be/9xf8_dFICHs

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Alcyone, Dr. Bate' s ukulele-playing daughter

How many biscuits can you eat this morning?

https://youtu.be/SKBG1DaN3Fg

Terrific breakfast music...  making me wonder whether the steel resonator I recently saw on a picture of an old banjo ukulele could be used as a biscuit tin... or vice-versa.

Meanwhile, I have just been reading up on Dr. Humphrey Bate's daughter, Alcyone Bate Beasley, who played the ukulele (and piano) with Dr. Humphrey Bate & The Possum Hunters. I'm going back through YouTube videos made from their old records, trying to find some where I can actually hear her ukulele.

  I don't hear one on this recording, but I'm playing along on my own banjo-uke here at the breakfast table, so maybe I'm drowning her out. For anyone else who wants to play along, the tune is in C, a great key for the uke in clawhammer banjo style!

(This blog post is actually copied from a series of Facebook posts I made this morning, gradually becoming aware that I'm spending a lot of time writing things that get lost in the great Facebook Empire instead of being out here on the open web supported by applications and hosting services like Blogger and WordPress.)

Anyone have any suggestions of records where you can actually hear Alcyone's four-string?

Here's what All music says about Ms. Bate, who was part of the show at the age of 13.

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/dr-humphrey-bate-mn0000805386

"Bate’s daughter, Alcyone (b. 1912, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 14 October 1982, Nashville, Tennessee, USA), first sang with his band as a four-year-old and by 1926, at the age of 13, she was the regular pianist who could also play ukulele. She is reckoned to be the first woman both to appear on and sing on the Grand Ole Opry."

Maybe my ukulele playing friends Marcy A. Marxer or Terri McMurray or Lightnin Wells will see this on Facebook and know the answer!

Speaking of Dr. Humphrey Bate & The Possum Hunters, I have two questions about this YouTube posting.

First, I think I actually might hear a ukulele in the background, but it's hard to separate out from the banjo.

Second, the picture accompanying this clip includes a gentleman in a cowboy hat holding what looks to be a tiple, my favorite 10 string member of the ukulele family, or perhaps a taropatch, the eight string version.

It's  too nice outside to stay online searching for a higher quality copy of the photo and some written histories of the band, but maybe I will get back to this.  https://youtu.be/SRmxKiC07SY

Friday, May 19, 2017

How many times did you leave heaven?

A friend has been singing the song "When Did You Leave Heaven?" at a local jam session off and on for a year or so, and while he is on vacation another friend gave it a try last week, so I decided to let Google and YouTube show me who has recorded it over the years. Amazing.

One of the YouTube comment threads claims it was the first song ever broadcast on television, from a 1937 recording by Lilly Fryer, which I did not find on YouTube. From various web posts, it looks like the song was introduced by Tony Martin in the movie "Sing Baby Sing" in 1936.

I composed this blog post on my phone with the latest version of the Blogger app, a rather clumsy editing process that I belatedly discovered did not make links automatically. I finally came back with a  computer to make YouTube addresses actual links.  (I did make a few of significant names direct links until I started going cross-eyed from doing it on the phone.) Stauffer & Toffel's 1936 German-accented version on Telefunken is culturally and historically fascinating. The song certainly has a way of jumping back and forth across cultural lines.

The dates are according to whoever posted the item at YouTube, or from a Discogs.com search, but may not be the first -- or last -- time the person recorded the song. 

Tony Martin -- 1936
Guy (& Carmen, vocal) Lombardo -- 1936
https://youtu.be/SiOQjPpmQLI
https://youtu.be/JiJsd0QVd9E

Red Allen -- 1936
https://youtu.be/JH6lx6E9Ut4

Frances Langford -- 1936
https://youtu.be/wUf9QqPM3RQ

Teddy Stauffer (Billy Toffel, vocal) -- 1936
https://youtu.be/AozkMu5DHHY

Mel Powell orch. (w. Benny Goodman) -- 1942
https://youtu.be/l3M7ojzaoxI


Louis Armstrong -- 1957
https://youtu.be/Gz1msJyXY5A

Hank Crawford -- 1967

Eric Clapton -- 1978
https://youtu.be/qDrMKfYdF-A

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Four Virginians with a Tiple

Recordings from the days of 78 rpm phonographs continue to find their way to YouTube, where my latest discovery touches three issues that interest me:  Old time string band music from Virginia (where I've lived for the past decade); the "Martin tiple," a 10-string instrument I have been playing for a few years, related to the ukulele and South American instruments, made in America for half a century and used for a variety of musical styles; and the black and sometimes racist minstrel-show roots of some one-time music. In this case, the latter is only in the form of a fiddle tune title, without offensive lyrics.

The "All Music" (http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-four-virginians-mn0001387068/biography) and "Martin Tiple" (http://martintiple.blogspot.com/2011/12/four-virginians.html) history blogs both have pages about the band in question, The Four Virginians, from the Danville area. They were active from 1925 to 1935 and reportedly recorded only six tunes, all for the Okeh record label.

Accompanied by a picture of the band, with the tiple used as a rhythm instrument, YouTube has five of the recordings: three square dance tunes with dance calls (one of them with a nineteenth-century Minstrel show "coon song" title), and two sentimental songs.

You can hear the jangling treble sound of the tiple (not as high or clean as a bluegrass mandolin "chop") on most of the recordings. It plays full chords while the fiddle plays the melody and the two guitars play rhythm and bass runs. Unlike many old time string bands, the four Virginians did not include a mandolin, banjo or bass.

"Two little lads"
https://youtu.be/RInuYDVVIlU

"One is my mother"
https://youtu.be/yypYMo6Zm80

"Promenade all"
https://youtu.be/VOxIZ9FMOxE

"Swing your partner"
https://youtu.be/j0P82u-R42E

"New coon in town"
https://youtu.be/w0d7XNl8KoY

Jennings Leonard is identified as the tiple player by numerous websites, including a discography of historical records at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/talent/detail/99938/Jennings_Leonard_instrumentalist_tiple

The other published sources identify the remaining band members as:
Fiddle – Richard Bigger
Guitar – Fred Richards
Vocals and Guitar – Elvin Bigger

A Google search reveals several books that mention the band, including these:

Title one : Virginia's Blues, Country, and Gospel Records, 1902-1943: An Annotated Discography, by Kip Lornell

Title two : Linthead stomp: the creation of country music in the Piedmont South, by Patrick Huber

(The first draft of this post was made with an Android smartphone and its Blogger app. I should eventually get back to edit it and make the web links more attractive and functional.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oldtime Songs as Oldtime Radio Drama

While I've been using this blog for intermittent posts about folk, blues and old-time stringband music, over at http://jheroes.com ("Newspaper Heroes on the Air") I write about the portrayal of journalists in the radio dramatic series of the thirty-some years before television killed American radio drama.

Here's a crossover: One of the radio dramatic programs that sometimes had journalist characters in its plots also had a "folk song revival" theme in a group of 1950s episodes based on traditional ballads and blues. Posting a journalism-related episode of "Suspense" to jheroes reminded me that a few of its tales of death and disaster came from old songs.

"Suspense" was a highly rated and expertly produced series for 20 years, specializing in tension,  adventure and murder, from "Othello" and "Frankenstin" and "Leinengen vs. the Ants." As a result, the Old Time Radio Researchers Group has a substantial collection of episodes (more than 900 of them!), which it shares with the public through the Internet Archive (archive.org).

Below are direct links to the folk-song episodes I've noticed... Click to download the MP3s or open them in your browser.

The Wreck of the Old 97 (March17, 1952)

Frankie and Johnny (May 5, 1952)

Frankie and Johnny (Feb. 3, 1957)

The Death of Barbara Allen (Oct. 20, 1952)

The Saint James Infirmary Blues (Feb. 23, 1953)

Tom Dooley (March 30, 1953)

Tom Dooley (Dec. 7, 1958)

While it's not folksong-based, music fans also might be intrigued by the vaudeville title "Never Follow a Banjo Act," with Ethel Merman.

I'm particularly fascinated by the fact that "Suspense" put its dramatization of "Tom Dooley" on the radio long before The Kingston Trio's arrangement of the song became a national hit. (The story was rebroadcast in 1958, using their recording.) According to J. David Goldin's "RadioGoldindex" of "Suspense" episode information, Harry Stanton was the vocalist on both "Tom Dooley" and "Old 97." Louise Louis was vocalist on "Barbara Allen." Big band singing stars who crossed over to film and television were also part of the casts: Dinah Shore played the lead and sang the song in "Frankie and Johnny" and Rosemary Clooney was listed among the cast for "Saint James Infirmary." Margaret Whiting was Frankie in the 1957 broadcast.

Stanton was also among the cast members for another radio series' musical drama, the Lux Radio production of "Dixie," a Dec. 20, 1943, dramatization of the life of minstrel banjo pioneer Dan Emmet, based on the movie by the same name, with Bing Crosby in the lead. You can almost smell the blackface grease paint.