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Posts Tagged ‘bluegrass

From wailin’ to Waylon…

15 July 1972, Billerica, MA — Don Stover was a bluegrass banjo picker from White Oak, West Virginia. In 1952 he joined the Lilly Brothers from nearby Beckley, and headed for Boston, where they played together for over eighteen years at the (in)famous Hillbilly Ranch.  Stover had great influence on a generation of important young banjo pickers, from Bill Keith (who introduced chromatic scales to bluegrass as a member of Bill Monroe’s band) to Bela Fleck (the bluegrass and jazz-fusion star)

Courtesy of the always fascinating Selvedge Yard, a selection of photos from the archive of photographer Henry Horenstein, “Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981“– a time before CMT and “New Country,”  a time when country was…  well, country.

15 July 1974, Berryville, Virginia — Bluegrass music fans at the Berryville Bluegrass Festival

15 July, 1975, Cambridge, MA. Waylon Jennings began as his career as a Cricket (Buddy Holly’s bass player) and ended it as an Outlaw (a member of the group that also included Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Billy Joe Shaver). Along the way, he conspired with Johnny Cash in the addled 60s , then charted a series of hits that included the classic “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

See the rest of Horenstein’s arresting photos at The Selvedge Yard.

As we pine for a PBR, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that, in another corner of the music world, Chuck Berry’s first hit record, “Maybellene” entered the R&B chart. Piano player Johnnie Johnson recalls that he and Berry rewrote the song at the suggestion of Leonard Chess: “It was an old fiddle tune called ‘Ida Red’[recorded in 1938 by Bob Wills]. I changed the music and re-arranged it, Chuck re-wrote the words, and the rest, as they say, was history.  Leonard Chess asked me to come up to record it live. At that time, someone else already had a song out by the same name, so we had to change our version. We noticed a mascara box in the corner, so we changed the name to ‘Maybellene.'”

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So you wanna be a rock and roll star…

Q: How do you get a drummer off of your front porch?

A: Pay for the pizza.

In a recent interview, Mick Jagger (who studied, one might remember, at the London School of Economics) observed that the financial lot of a recording artist has been pretty dodgy since the beginning of the 20th century.  As the BBC reports:

“When the Stones started out they didn’t make any money out of records because record companies didn’t pay you,” he said. “Nobody got paid. I always wonder if Frank Sinatra got paid.

“Your royalty was so low. If you sold a million records you got a million pennies. It was all very nice, but not what you imagined you were going to get.”

However things changed as musicians became more adept at controlling their creations.

This came at about the time the Stones hit what many see as their peak, which included the 1972 release of the critically acclaimed Exile on Main Street.

Later the boom in music sales through the development of the compact disc bolstered the earnings of those on lucrative royalty deals.

“There was a small period from 1970 to 1997 where people did get paid and they got paid very handsomely,” Sir Mick said.  “They did make money but now that period’s done. If you look at the history of recorded music from, say, 1900 to now, there was that period where artists did very well but the rest of the time they didn’t.”

So how does a musician fare these days?  According to a recap in The Root…  well, You Can’t Always Get What You Want:

Read the whole sad story at The Root.

As we reconsider taking out a loan to pay for that additional floor tom, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that Sun Records released the first single by Elvis Presley, “That’s All Right (Mama)”/”Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

The tracks were covers that clued early listeners to the influences that Presley would marry with such power as he rose to royalty: “That’s All Right” is a blues song by Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup, while “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is a bluegrass ballad by Bill Monroe.

But that stardom was still in the distance; while Presley’s renditions became instant hits in Memphis, hometown of both Elvis and Sun, the 45 received mixed reviews in the rest of what would become Presley’s kingdom.

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