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Cross-Posted at THE DAILY MUSIC BREAK, the site that features good music regardless of era or genre. Visit for the music -- and a free daily or weekly email of links.

This site -- which appears to be maintained by a professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Essex in the U.K. -- has a nice bio of slide guitar player Mississippi Fred McDowell:

"Mississippi" Fred McDowell was born and grew up in Rossville, Tennessee (pop. 291), a small farming community just east of Memphis and just north of the Mississippi border. The "Mississippi" designation came later in life, after he moved down to Como, Mississippi (pop. 1,391), about 40 miles south of Memphis on the 51 Highway, in his late thirties. McDowell was born about 1904 or 1905, and worked most of his life as a farm laborer, mill worker, and tractor driver. He played music at country dances and juke joints, though as he says, "I wasn't making money from music... sometimes they'd pay me, and sometimes they wouldn't." In his late 50s he was 'discovered' and recorded by folklorists Shirley Collins and Alan Lomax, who wrote:

"Fred was surprised when I admired his music sufficiently to visit him for several evenings and record everything he knew. In true country fashion he kept telling me that he couldn't play nearly as well as other men he knew. In my estimation he is simply a modest man, for in him the great tradition of the blues runs pure and deep." Continue Reading...

It is interesting how some of these now famous musicians were plucked out of obscurity during the folk and British invasion period in the 1960s.

Above is McDowell's version of John Henry. Below is Goin' Down to the River. Peter Simonelli writes a loving review of a 1971 appearance by McDowell at the Gaslight in New York City. The review, posted at Ted Baron's website, offers five MP3s at the bottom.

Originally posted to cweinsch on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 06:13 AM PST.

Also republished by An Ear for Music.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Live at the Gaslight (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hollowdweller, texasmom, cweinsch

    2CD set is very worth it. Wonderful music and dialog as well.

    I'm a Bobby Kennedy Democrat

    by docstymie on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 06:45:52 AM PST

  •  Years ago (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zwoof, cweinsch, texasmom

    I posted an ad for trading Dead tapes in Relix magazine.

    There were not many Deadheads in WV at the time.

    However nearly every one in WV answered my ad, this was maybe 1984 and the majority wound up still being my close friends nearly 30 years later.

    Anyway, my one friend introduced me to another friend who loved the Dead and we traded tapes and went to some shows together and HE became my friend too.

    Well I did the most trading so I had the most live tapes.

    However this one friend was older and was a big music head so often in exchange he would make me tapes of bands that he had in his record collection that I might not know of, or at least did not have any of in MY collection!

    So he gave me this one tape.

    On one side was Captain Beefheart Clear Spot. That started me on a lifelong love of his music.  My house is a very old decrepit farm house and in the summer with very little insulation it gets sort of moldy and my wife will often look at me and sing "SLEEPIN IN THE BAYOU ON AN OLD ROTTEN COT"  from the song Clear Spot.

    On the other side was Miss Fred McDowell "I Don't Play No rock and Roll" which I also loved and played over and over.

    A few years back I wound up getting both on CD because my Nakamichi tape deck died.

    Anyway my friend above wound up having some hard core addiction problems and was lost to us for nearly a decade.

    Finally he defeated it and was back in town and in our circle of friends and it was so good to have him back.

    About a year ago he and a bunch of other deadheads we knew gathered and I had the honor of giving him and his daughter, now an adult, back both of those albums on CD, since he had sold his entire record collection and lost nearly every thing else during is period of addiction.

    Sadly at that time he had also been diagnosed as having a brain tumor but was in ok shape.

    We got to meet up again in July when he was feeling well and see and dance to The Dark Star Orchestra when they played our home town. It was general admission and in one row we had every single person who had answered that ad 30 years ago dancing and enjoying being with each other. It was great.

    Recently his dau emailed me and said the tumor had come back as well as liver cancer due to his Hep C status.

    This morning she told me he is in hospice and wont' be around much longer, so your choice of Miss Fred hits home for me and how much I appreciate my friend Monty and his part in broadening my musical horizons.

  •  PS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cweinsch, texasmom

    When we would go to see the Dead play every summer at Deer Creek in IN there was a sign on the interstate for Kokomo and we'd all break into Miss Fred's version of that song.

  •  I do not play no rock and roll ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 07:59:02 AM PST

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