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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nobody's business but my own

I'm reading "Faking It: The Quest For Authenticity In Popular Music" by Yuval Taylor and Howard Barker. They blog about it here. It begins with the story of Mississippi John Hurt, which has held a strange fascination for me for years. John was a farm hand in Avalon, Mississippi who played a little at weekends. He made some recordings for the OKeh label in 1928 during the brief window when it was worth the company's while to market records to black people. They didn't sell and he forgot about it until 1963 when some record collectors appeared at his door and asked if he was "the" Mississippi John Hurt. This "rediscovery" resulted in him starring at the Newport Folk Festival and playing concerts and coffee houses for the last few years of his life. He died in 1966. Taylor and Barker use him as an example of someone who actually played a wide rage of music but found himself placed in the blues bracket because that's what suited the market. Their argument is that "authenticity" is just a construct. Anyway, it's wonderful music.
Mississippi John Hurt: Nobody's Dirty Business


  1. Isn't it the case that artists like John Lee Hooker had atleast two sets, an acoustic "real" Blues set for the white college folk fans and electric blues sets for a mainly black crowd

  2. Kerry Shale5:47 pm

    May I recommend the terrific 2001 Vanguard CD "Avalon Blues - a tribute to the music of Mississippi John Hurt"?

    From the liner notes by Dick Waterman:

    "I brought John to play a concert at Oberlin College back in the 1960's. After Son House had played, I went to the microphone and started my introduction of John. I talked about him being rediscovered in Avalon and his sensational appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. As I talked on and on, I kept glancing from side to side expecting John to appear. I finally looked up at the balcony and there he was, sitting in the front row, with his face in his hands, looking down at me.

    After he came down and played, I asked him why he had sat up there while I was talking. "Well now, Dick", he said. "You got to be saying such nice things about me that I didn't want to do nothing to cause you to stop."