Friday, December 18, 2009

Bob's beats

To add to my Hanukka tunes, here's Some Lost, Some Found's seasonal contributions: the Sounds of Raj, Yehuda Ovadya Ftyad & the Ha'Yonah Ensemble, and John Zorn's Masada project. It's all good!

A couple of blips from Flesh is Grass:
I've been regularly reporting on Locust St's wonderful history of the 20th century. 1924 is now out, but I realise I missed 1923. I particularly enjoyed these, having just finished reading the superb 1923-set Carter Beats The Devil (my third huge book in a row, after Hilary Mantel's wonderful Wolf Hall and Ma Jin's Beijing Coma). Here's an extract from 1923 (hyperlinks added to the mp3s - you'll need to be quick to catch them):
I.J. Hochman's Jewish Orchestra offer a version of the "Russian Sher" on disc. A sher is a "scissors dance," basically a type of square dance popular among Eastern European and Russian Jews in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. As with much early klezmer, the melody is carried by fiddle and clarinet, bass by tuba, rhythm by trombones. It's the Yiddish blues, straight from the shetl. This was one of Hochman's rare instrumental cuts--he was mainly an accompanist to singers like Jenny Goldstein. Recorded in December 1922 and released as OKeh 14059 c/w "Kamenetzer Bulgar."(On Klezmer 1910-1942.)


Harold Lloyd, social climber

Fiddlin' is like salvation--free and without price.

Attributed to Fiddlin' John Carson.

Fiddlin' John Carson, born in Fannin County, Georgia, three years after the Civil War ended, was a wildcat fiddler, a one-man song and dance band, a storyteller, a professional hayseed, "a defiler of tradition" (Allen Lowe) who kept 19th Century music alive. He was one of the first professional "hillbilly" musicians to record. A track from his first session, "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Gonna Crow," is a fine example of his sound--both archaic, with the music broken up by Carson's barn dance calls, and modern (the occasional dissonance when he plays "double stops," holding down two strings at once).

You may recall this story: In 1913, a 14-year-old girl named Mary Phagan was killed at her workplace, an Atlanta pencil factory. Her supervisor, a Northern Jewish man named Leo Frank, was convicted of the murder, mainly due to testimony by janitor Jim Conley (who likely was the real killer--he had been found washing stains off his shirt and he had given a series of contradictory statements). Georgia Gov. John Slaton eventually commuted Frank's death sentence.

So Fiddlin' John Carson wrote "The Ballad of Little Mary Phagan," a story of a poor girl murdered by cruel Leo Frank. He sang it at every Frank-related protest rally in a 30-mile radius of Marietta, which were many. After Frank's sentence was commuted, Carson changed the lyric to suggest that a "New York bank" had paid Gov. Slaton off.

One August day in 1915, an armed mob hauled Frank out of prison, drove him 175 miles to Marietta and lynched him. "For audacity and efficiency, it was unparalleled in southern history," C. Vann Woodward later wrote of the Frank lynching. All the day long, while Frank's corpse hung from an oak tree, Carson stood in front of the Marietta courthouse, playing his "Little Mary Phagan" over and over again, while the assembled crowd "cheered and applauded him lustily," according to a contemporary newspaper account.

Carson cut records throughout the '20s and died a happy old man in 1949.

Recorded in Atlanta ca. 14 June 1923 and released as OKeh 4890 c/w "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane."
To finish, from the Southside. This is possibly the only song I know to namecheck my postcode (although I imagine Transpontine can tell me otherwise).

1 comment:

Allen Lowe said...

hello, Bob from Brockley. Sorry, no comment, just wanting to contact you; I have a few projects related to your interests (Jewish Culture; music) that I would like to send you or tell you about - my email is alowe5@maine.rr.com