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Old 13th Apr 2019, 11:30 am   #1
ms660
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Default Rock Island Line

For those that are interested in Folk Rock Blues (skiffle) introduction into the UK but might be unaware of this program here's a link to Iplayer, the program was on last night, there's an old record lathe shown in the footage:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episod...e-britain-rock

I think its Woody Guthrie next week.

Lawrence.
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 2:17 pm   #2
G4XWDJim
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Thanks Lawrence, I had missed it and have just enjoyed watching it from your link.

Interesting timing because only a couple of days ago quite unknowingly I played my original 78 bought at the time of the skiffle craze.

Jim
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 3:00 pm   #3
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Yes, I enjoyed it, watched it twice...! Shame they didn't show Elizabeth Cotten with respect to Chas McDevitt & Nancy Whiskey's Freight Train (unless I missed it) but then again the program was only an hour long and there was enough to cram in as it was.

Lawrence.

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Old 13th Apr 2019, 3:37 pm   #4
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

It's been covered on various BBC4 programs in the past [especially the Lomax/Leadbelly aspect] but this had new material. We got to see Rock Island, the rail network, an original recording machine etc. What a lucky congruence, Lomax as a bit of a gentle Diplomat, finding then being able to employ Leadbelly [of all people] as driver/front man with the rural musicians while they both picked up so many "new" songs. What were the chances. A repeat of Rock'n Roll Britannia was also shown and I'm sure that has early Lonnie Donegan etc in it as well. The guys from the Quarrymen have also been in quite a few programs recently. I've read that, apart from the powerful voice, Lonnie didn't really identify that much with the aims and values of the Folk Movement and was rather more to the right-grumpy and conservative with a small c! These BBC4 programs [sometimes 1 or BBC2 as well] will be very highly valued in the future having preserved the story of many historical and contemporary artists, in much the same way that Lomax pioneered it at the Smithsonian and The Library of Congress in his day.

I tried to explain to my daughter that before Oasis v Blur, Punk v Progressive Rock and Beatles v Stones there was Trad Jazz [mouldy figs] v Skiffle. I was a Lonnie fan, my brother Tommy Steele [Little White Bull].

Dave W

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Old 13th Apr 2019, 4:30 pm   #5
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Elizabeth Cotten was a remarkable guitar player. She was left handed and finger picked a right handed guitar so that her index finger produced the bass line. It looked upside down and quite amazing to watch.

Jim
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 5:57 pm   #6
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Hi

Still got the Chas McDevitt Freight Train EP (and the 78) somewhere,
but never get to play them these days.

It's much too easy to watch the video on YouTube!

Kind regards
Dave
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 7:34 pm   #7
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Quote:
Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post

I tried to explain to my daughter that before Oasis v Blur, Punk v Progressive Rock and Beatles v Stones there was Trad Jazz [mouldy figs] v Skiffle. I was a Lonnie fan, my brother Tommy Steele [Little White Bull].

Dave W
The War with the Mouldy Figges was waged by the Beboppers, not the Skifflers.
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 8:03 pm   #8
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

That's absolutely right Barretter [I knew I'd got it wrong somehow]. The new generation v the Jazz purists! George Melly mentions it in a number of his documentaries rolling the term "mouldy figs" with that expressive look of glee but also saying " We took things teribly seriously-which was a bit silly really."

Dave
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 8:09 pm   #9
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Elizabeth is on You Tube with upside down Guitar and singing Freight Train. It's the fragile wavery voice that fascinating as well. Maybe someone can link it? I have seen it before on earlier Docs but your right Jim, she' plays left handed on a regular guitar [like Hendrix] but the strings aren't reversed !

Dave W
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Old 14th Apr 2019, 10:55 am   #10
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

I enjoyed that program immensely, being a lifelong Lonnie Donegan fan. It mentioned his big concert at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool which inspired John Lennon, back in '56 or '57. My Dad took me & I was enthralled.
Then, just a couple of months ago, Lonnie's son was on "The Voice" & gave a brilliant performance. I hope he has a great career. I recall Lonnie mentioning years ago that he was inspired by Leadbelly, having acquired his records in Germany from American PX's, whilst he was on national service round about 1950-ish.
For us folk in the vintage electronics fraternity, what a boon to see that amazing American pre-war recording machine. I wonder if any Forum guys have ever seen one or acquired one ?
As a late 50's/early 60's young teenage skiffle & rock fan, the Liverpool dance hall scene was fantastic. The original Quarrymen were a decent enough band, whereas the re-invented Beatles(prior to their rise to fame - pushed by the NEMS shops) weren't thought much of. The best band was the Dennisons, then the Big Three, then Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, & several others. Venues such as the Orrell Park Ballroom, Litherland Town Hall, and the Mardi Gras in the city centre were favourites. The Cavern was a smelly dump. The Royal Iris ferry boat did a trip up & down the Mersey on a Saturday night with a Rock & Roll band on board for a few years.
I wonder if anyone on the Forum has attempted a restoration of a clapped-out "Scouse-Git's" Amp from those days ?

Ta Ra, wackers, David
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Old 14th Apr 2019, 10:35 pm   #11
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Quote:
Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
Elizabeth is on You Tube with upside down Guitar and singing Freight Train. It's the fragile wavery voice that fascinating as well. Maybe someone can link it? I have seen it before on earlier Docs but your right Jim, she' plays left handed on a regular guitar [like Hendrix] but the strings aren't reversed !

Dave W
Dave, I think this is the link you mean..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUK8emiWabU

More old footage showing her seemingly effortless style here..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pUdUX5Gagc

Marvellous!

Pete
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Old 14th Apr 2019, 11:19 pm   #12
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

I just watched her doing two other songs Pete but yes, the second link is the one I started with. Thanks for the links. For those who don't play guitar [neither do I really] it's pointed out, on there, that her distinctive playing is because-dramatic pause-although she reverses the guitar, like other left handed players [Mcartney and Hendrix for example] she Doesn't reverse the strings! This requires keeping the thickest one on the top. It usually involves filing the top "nut" guide to suit the thickest string being [now] in the narrowest slot. Because she didn't do that, she is actually picking the bass line with her fingers [instead of the thumb] and playing the higher notes with her thumb [the opposite of "normal"]. It's suggested that this is what gives her sound a distinctive "ring". I'd not spotted that before

As an aside but not the same, I enjoy showing people the first Dylan album [with him in the fake fur jacket] and asking what's wrong with this picture? The answer is that it's reverse printed so the strings are the wrong way round That's when he was known as "Hammonds Folly" and it sold only 400 hundred copies. It's brilliant but he said he didn't like it because he'd already moved on. I don't think he ever met her but he would have got on well with Elizabeth! See the photo of him with the elderly Victoria Spivey on the back of the much later New Morning LP!

Dave W

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Old 15th Apr 2019, 8:23 am   #13
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

I enjoyed the 'Rock Island Line' documentary, too, and am looking forward to the Woody Guthrie One. Haven't seen the You Tube videos of Elizabeth Cotten yet, but will watch it sometime. As an aside I still have 'Freight Train. b/w 'Cotton Fields' by Chas. McDevitt on an American 45 (CHIC Records, Thomasville, Georgia-talk about 'coals to Newcastle!') Among my 78s I have Nancy Whiskey singing 'Ella Speed' & 'He's Solid Gone' on Oriole, and the Embassy 'Skiffle Session' EP, which includes the same two songs, which some say are the Nancy Whiskey versions. In more recent times I have bought 3 Skiffle CD's
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Old 15th Apr 2019, 10:37 am   #14
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Amongst others, another upside down lefty guitar player (strings not reversed) was Otis Rush, here's a link to an early live performance by him doing "I Can't Quit You Baby" on his electric guitar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy2tEP3I3DM

Lawrence.
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Old 15th Apr 2019, 11:39 am   #15
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Thanks for that Lawrence. Also done on John Mayall's Crusade with Eric Clapton on "straight" Guitar and JM singing-not quite the same. I thought Elizabeth Cotten was going to be a one off but clearly not! It's amazing how the brain can adapt to a challenge. Maybe some of the other left hand players could also have left the strings in place but perhaps felt "different" enough already. I knew two brilliant teenage guitarists at school. One played left handed [although he was actually right handed for most things] because child hood polio had weakened his left arm so much it was much easier to do the chords with his right! He did reverse the strings, as I recall! As everyone says, the next program should be very interesting.

"I'll sing you a song but I can't sing enough
Cause there's not many men
Have done the things that you've done!" Song To Woody B Dylan

[Who said "He was my first hero
and my last hero"]


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Old 15th Apr 2019, 12:07 pm   #16
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

It's funny how these things go round and connect, you mentioned Victoria Spivey on the back cover of Bob Dylan's...New Morning album, I have that album, I also have some footage of Victoria Spivey on a DVD doing a live performance of Black Snake Blues with Lonnie Johnson who played the guitar alongside her, apparently the soon to be Lonnie Donegan of Rock Island Line fame used Lonnie Johnson's first name as his own after seeing him at a concert.

Lawrence.
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Old 16th Apr 2019, 2:33 pm   #17
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

I came across a blog by Martin Colyer [son of Ken] "Five Things I Saw and Heard This Week" [27/10/17] yesterday. Michael Gray [Prof of Dylan] nice chap [Michael that is-I've not met Dylan] alerted him to an Australian review of a compilation featuring the Ken Colyer Skiffle Group doing "Down Bound Train". Far from being a "Traditional" tune it turns out to have been written by Chuck Berry!! making Ken the first person to cover a Berry tune in the UK well ahead of the Beatles or Rolling Stones!

Dave
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Old 17th Apr 2019, 8:54 am   #18
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

One that always get my feet tapping is: "Have A Drink On Me"

https://youtu.be/PqW6W82ykqI
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Old 17th Apr 2019, 2:54 pm   #19
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

Quote:
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'Michael Gray [Prof of Dylan] nice chap [Michael that is-I've not met Dylan] alerted him to an Australian review of a compilation featuring the Ken Colyer Skiffle Group doing "Down Bound Train". '
Ken Colyer was another left-handed guitarist. I have his album with 'Down-Bound Train' on it: never knew Chuck Berry wrote it!

I also have Colyer's autobiography: 'When Dreams Are In The Dust'.
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Old 17th Apr 2019, 6:10 pm   #20
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Default Re: Rock Island Line

'Thanks to all of you for this fascinating thread. Some of it has been a real education about music in the UK in the 1950's. Although I was born and grew up there, I was not born until the next decade.

I originally clicked on this thread because Minneapolis was one of the northernmost points of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. They used a station in Minneapolis belonging to the "'Milwaukee Road " (the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad). The station has not operated for years, but the building still exists. The Rock Island track south of the twin Cities is now owned by Union Pacific.

Over here the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has made many series of programs about the history of American music, whether they be about genres, or specific groups or artists, recording studios etc. To me they are fascinating.

73 John
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