Blind Willie Mc Tell – The Georgia blues documentary
David Fulmer made for Georgia Public Television a beautiful documentary about the life of bluesman Blind Willie Mc Tell. This documentary shows how blues music grew out of a desire for better jobs and a better life, how the guitar became a popular instrument and found its way into black hands. It shows how Willie Mc Tell heard the blues for the first time when he moved to Statesboro with his mother and how the blues gave him a life and legacy.
Blind Willie Mc Tell Ragtime Blues from Georgia
Fulmer explains that Blind Willie was the son of Eddie Mc Tier a gambler and moonshiner born in Thomson Georgia. Mc Tier wasn’t much of a father or an influence for Willie as a Bluesman. When Willie and his mother moved to Statesboro and heard that blues, he picked up the guitar and played it like a piano using a bass-rhythm and a melody. It is the Boom – Chick, Boom – Chick rhythm of a dance beat and a melody we know from a honky-tonk piano in the bar.
It is the Ragtime Blues Mc Tell learned in Statesboro. He ran off with the medicine show in Georgia to travel around and play the ragtime blues. He was a real talent and no one could reflect Atlanta’s patchwork energy like Willie Mc Tell. Ragtime is a great style of blues and unlike the delta blues a more melodic and harmonious style. You could hear it a lot on the East Coast in states like Georgia and the Carolinas.
Learning the Blues in Atlanta
In the mid twenties, when Blind Willie Mc Tell’s mother died he really went on his own. For a while he put down his guitar to make moonshine. But soon Mc Tell moved to Atlanta, a city where he could play the blues. The Georgia Rag! Atlanta was the biggest metropolis in the region. Atlanta became a place where entertainment centered and was a recording center for blues and country artist like Fred mc Mullin and Hot Shot Willie Mc Tell.
Atlanta is a great city and was the place where Blind Willie Mc Tell his dreams could grow, but it was also a place with a lot of racism during those days. The Klu Klux Klan was feeding on the fear of whites and they entered city hall. Blacks were forced into the ghetto’s of the city. But even in those roaring 20s Blind Willie Mc Tell kept playing blues. And in 1927 Blind Willie Mc Tell released his first recording at victor records. It would be the start of a marathon through different record labels like Okeh.
Blind Willie Mc Tell was influenced by other bluesman like Blind Blake and he also borrowed from Blind Boy Fuller and from Charlie Patton. But Willie never copied. He was a musician you would think he wrote his own music.
“He was the bob Dylan of his day. Mc Tell played very few covers like other blues musicians did.”
This video was created by David Fulmer for Georgia Public Television (year unknown) and is a part of the South Georgia Folklife Collection at Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections. This video has been uploaded for educational purposes only.