He was very popular in Memphis in the early twentieth century and some see him as the father of the Memphis blues guitar style. He made fame alongside Dan Sane with his band the Beale Street Sheiks, but also as a solo artist. His last recording dated from 1929. In “How Long” Frank Stokes show his enormous guitar talent en soulful vocals.
Memhis Ragtime Guitar Blues Song
Frank Stokes played mostly ragtime guitar blues with his deep forceful voice Frank knew how to reach people. You will recognise that in “How Long”. His perfect guitar melody gives this song a soft touch. On the other hand the lyrics are rhythmic and strong: I never never : baby I can’t see anymore, When you called me baby : how long how long,
Song Of the Day: Tampa Red & Georgia Tom – Its Tight Like That
The music of Tampa Red is timeless and everytime I’m amazed how great the composition of Tampa’s songs are. For the recording of “It’s Tight Like That” Red worked together with Georgia born blues and gospel musician Georgia Tom.
‘ It’s Tight Like That’ is a Jam between Tampa and Georgia Tom. The catchy vocals and guitar really make this song spin through your head.
Collaboration between Tampa Red and Georgia Tom
Georgia Tom born as Thomas Andrew Dorsey was known as “the father of black gospel music”, he studied music in Chicago and after he became an agent for Paramount Records he soon put together a band for Ma Rainey. By that time Tampa Red also lived in Chicago and was hired to accompany Ma Rainey. Through that collaboration Tanmpa met Georgia Tom. They began recording in early 1928. “It’s Tight Like That was one of their first collaborations. Eventually Tom and Tampa would record over 90 sides. Together they became known as ‘ the Hokum Boys’.
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.