The Moment
52 Guitars: Week 52

52 Guitars: Week 51

Mississippi Fred McDowell

I wish I could say that when I was growing up in rural Alabama I heard this kind of music alive in its native culture. But I didn't; I heard it on records in the living room of an aunt and uncle who had a great interest, very unusual for white people in that time and place, in the country blues. I was fifteen or so, and the love I soon felt for this music has never slackened. If I remember correctly, the first slide player I heard was Furry Lewis. I do remember feeling the same thing that B.B. King described on hearing the slide guitar of Bukka White: the sound "just went all through me." And beyond that immediate sonic appeal, I recognized the voice and the heart of people I knew, and was beginning to realize that I loved. 

I believe this was the first thing I ever heard by Mississippi Fred McDowell. It's among the many field recordings made by Alan Lomax. I think the woman singing with him is his wife.

"Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning": 


"You Got To Move": 


Don't be misled by the religious themes into thinking that McDowell was a purely religious writer; his work contains the mix of deep religiosity and profligate sexuality that was typical of rural black culture.

I don't know if Dylan had heard this before he wrote his famous song, but if it wasn't this, it was probably another version; it often seems that there are no original songs in the blues. "Highway 61": 


Here's more information about that highway.


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Nice way to conclude your recognition of guitarists.
Here is what is particularly poignant about the music and style of these blues musicians; Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Albert King, Huddie Ledbetter, Mississippi John Hurt, John Lee Hooker, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins.
They (guitarists/musicians) influenced some of the most recognizable rock musicians to write, play, and record music.
Jimmy Reed (great musician) impacted Elvis Presley, The Greatful Dead, The Yardbirds, Neil Young.
McTell claims a long list of disciples including, Dylan, Nirvana, Taj Mahal and others.
Albert King greatly impacted Jimi Hendrix, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Peter Green, and many others.
Howlin' Wolf was a huge influence on, The Doors, The Dead, Clapton, Eric Burden and others.
Even John Lennon and Paul McCartney were greatly influenced by several (i.e. Robert Johnson) of these aforementioned. As were Pete Seeger, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Robert Cray, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, Faces, Bluesbreakers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana, and one of my all time personal favorites, Dave Van Ronk.
Nicley done.

Thank you. Yep, massive influence, although in some cases not strictly musical (i.e. Robert Johnson on the Beatles--never heard of that particular connection before, btw).

This is not the last one, though. There'll be one more. You're right in supposing that it's signficant that Mississippi Fred comes at the end, and I did seriously consider making him the last. But I'll be posting #52 on New Year's Eve.

Rolling Stone ranked "Rubber Soul" number five on their 2012 list, "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
The British release slightly varied from the American version.
Lennon included, "Drive My Car" (old blues euphemism for sex) on the former. Both releases broke records (pun intended).
Lennon drew from Robert Johnson's “Terraplane Blues” songbook.
(Robert Plant later used it on Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” – equating sex with operating a vehicle, opting for the woman who’s enticing the man)

Yes, but those are lyrics--musically the Beatles were very un-bluesy for the most part.

I keep meaning to see Inside Llewyn Davis, which is supposedly partly based on Van Ronk.

For the most part.
However, as I put in parenthesis, both as guitarists and musicians (lyrics included). Rubber Soul was lauded as a multi-dimensional album; "pop, rock, blues, soul". It had soul and blues influences.

On the double-white album: "Unlike anything he’d recorded, 'Yer Blues' was powered with distorting Muddy Waters licks, tough-as-nails chords, and a heavily processed solo that just sounded other-worldly."

Abbey Road, the last album the Beatles recorded. “Come Together” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” were among the heaviest tracks Lennon recorded. Lennon cited “Come Together,” featuring his sleazy blues rhythms and solo, as a personal favorite. “It was a funky record,” Lennon remembered in 1980. “It’s one of my favorite Beatle tracks – or one of my favorite Lennon tracks, let’s say that. It’s funky, it’s bluesy, and I’m singing it pretty well. I like the sound of the record. You can dance to it. I’ll buy it!”.

Oh well, some influences take strange turns.

Yes, I really like this sound too. Thanks - I enjoyed listening to it. :)

I've got a lot of history with that highway. Aside from the fact that I've taken that bridge over the Mississippi a million time, we used to go to charismatic Masses at a little Catholic church in Walls on Hwy. 61. It's not there anymore, or at least it's not a Catholic Church.

And then, we've visited St. Genevieve, MO many times and been to the Bequette-Ribault Historic House that's pictured in the Wikipedia article.

Also, we took the highway part way once when we were going to New Orleans. One of my favorite memories from any trip is taking the ferry over the Mississippi in St. Francesville on that trip. I'm not sure how we got there since it's on some road between Hwy. 61 and I-10 soon after they split. We must have been lost and it was evening and we just caught the last ferry. We got out and stood on deck while everyone else sat in their cars and read their newspapers. It was lovely.


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