Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Once You Start Sliding...

You don't go back. At least that's what Bluesman Brownie McGee said his farther told him in regard to how to play the guitar. Despite the fact that Brownie started out on a guitar made from a marshmallow tin he did not continue playing slide guitar but developed a complex picking style. I saw Brownie with harp player Sonny Terry twice in the late 70s/early 80s and it was a really great show and a lesson in American folk blues.

 Myself I have pretty much gone to playing slide all the time on whatever instrument except for bass, baritone guitar and tuba but that could change anytime a burst of creativity overtakes me. In this photo Warren knows old Pop Pop does something on the strings with this thing and he is trying to figure it out.

Composer W.C. Handy, born in 1873 was an educated and trained musician who is known as the father of the blues. He is given credit for evolving the blues from a regional folk music to one of the strongest elements of American popular music. In was in 1903 while waiting for a train in Tutwiler, Mississippi that Handy spotted a man in the station playing the guitar. This is what Handy said about it:

"A lean loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept... As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars....The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard." 

This is one of the first mentions of slide guitar. After their meeting in the train station the slide guitar man wandered off into the mist of history. I often wondered what happened to him. It would not be until 1923 that two recordings were made by Sylvester Weaver called "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag." "Guitar Rag" eventually morphed into "Steel Guitar Rag" for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. 

Speaking of western swing and lap slide Hawaiian players Warren seems to prefer the guitar on his lap for playing. This is Cathy's soprano uke which he used in our jamming this weekend. Warren seems to do somethings that indicate he's a lefty but he always flips the guitar right handed. Here he works on his sitting playing in a train station posture. Don't look like he will be going back from here. 

As I sell my cigar box guitars I think I might not be making it real clear about the slide part. Takes something different to play slide. You got to leave those fingers behind and never go back. It's the mist of history, trains, old souls, turning off the music channel on your TV, chance meetings, limitations, imagination, ear training and of course a couple of music theory courses never hurt anything. 

Slide on. Don't go back. 



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