Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heroes (The Wonder of Youtube)

Youtube is a miracle-- a time machine, and a chance to see people and things I only dreamed about when I was a kid. 

Blues is a journey that's different for every person.  Mine started with Chuck Berry and B. B. King, who took me first to T-Bone Walker, and then further into the blues racks to find my first few dozen records.  As a kid I "discovered" Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins, and many of the usual suspects.  It was a good time to become a blues fan.  I remember one record that I bought new for 44 cents with two songs each by James, Howlin' Wolf, Ray Charles, B. B. King, John Lee Hooker, and Bobby Bland.   How's that for a bargain?

It's actually just about as good-- or bad-- a bargain today.  I just read B. B. King's autobiography.  He talked about how his early records were in the 99 cent bin.  It didn't thrill him.  There wasn't much profit in it.  It must not thrill anyone these days, either, at least if they're living-- but right now, for better or for worse, I've been concentrating on the records of departed saints, buying more old music that's new to me, and often finding it, new and used, at rock bottom prices.  There are a lot of particularly good collections from Chess-- Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, etc., and I've been finding great old acoustic stuff as well.  I drive girls to soccer practice and we bounce along to stuff neither of us have ever heard, with mandolins and guitars or maybe electrified harmonicas and a deadly slide (and Leaonard Chess pounding away on the bass drum!)

I forget how I first "found" Mississippi John Hurt.  (I "found" him about 80 years after his mom did, and 40 or 50 years after Okeh Records).  I think I probably just liked his face smiling out of the blues bin, and read the liner notes, and bought the record.  It was recorded when he was old, after he'd been rediscovered.  A little history here.  He has such a gentle sound-- part of the miracle of what we call blues.

A few weeks ago I found a collection of Hurt's oldest recordings, made in 1928, by Okeh.  What amazed me is that he sounds just the same in the twenties and the sixties.

For a few days I'm going to search out some of my old heroes.  I start, randomly, with Mississippi John Hurt, whose appearance on youtube I bumped into almost by accident.  Here he is with Pete Seeger, and a woman I can't identify. 

Like our man, he's got his own website, too. You can check it out here.

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