Tuesday, May 31, 2011

“Another Legend Without a Red Convertible In It”

[I’m jumping into the breach on Poetry Tuesday here as L.E. Leone seems to be MIA.  This is an old poem of mine that I’ve never posted here—it was probably written ’94 or ’95.  I’ve occasionally been asked where I got the phrase “a celestial roadmap no one folded” from the masthead—the answer? Here it is, straight from my collection The Days of Wine & Roses.  Enjoy!]

Another Legend Without A Red Convertible In It

There was something like snow I think the sky spit
out it could have been postage stamps steamed off envelopes
it could have been candy kiss wrappers
too bad it wasn't Though someone says
Alcoholics Anonymous it's No Exit's sentences reflected in a gin
gimlet's remains make Victor's head swim like that
but it could have been
frosted artificial fingernails Nuncle Artie'
d like to gnaw he feels toxic caustic metastatic
as if he were lost in deep space nebulae above
Las Vegas As for the sky
it could have been diet pills it could have been the fizz
's 1000 fisheyes as if this were just another evening
Dixie spent drifting through the bathtub speedread-
ing Schopenhauer & the Personals & bubbles that could have been
snowdomes if they weren't soapsuds if they weren't thought
balloons there was something inside them if it wasn't plastic
roses it was homunculi chirping snatches of
Blue Velvet & asinine Schubert lieder
& Judy Garland's mouth was there someplace a taste of
eucalyptus coughdrops & butibarbitol melting under her
tongue don't ask me why she does that those bubbles exploded off
the Rum & Coke Dixie sipped washing them down there were 250
miles left to travel through the known world including
all the horrors and hoo-rahs of Utah the
Great Salt Desert's white skin's a car crash waiting
for Jayne Mansfield to happen it had that same sense of tragic
preposterous happenstance as The National Enquirer & was
as flat Let's go mumbled Victor like the reincarnated
Jean-Paul Belmondo he felt like just then & in general
as hooked on Lucky Strikes too Back to the sky
it could have been nickels the one-armed bandit
coughed up the sun at the vanishing point of Winnemucca's
main drag seemed no more no less blonde rising that morning than
Miranda her hair could have passed for Pernod merging with smoke
or some equally poetic vapor she was someone Nuncle Artie wanted
          desperately to
drink there were never any other tomorrows he could walk in on
there were checkered tablecloths & horoscopes
& copulating ice cubes whatever that
meant She tells him Get a life
that moment she felt she could understand Elsa Lanchester's
dilemma everything's alive including herself
everything began with an F
as in Felix Culpa who's staggered clear from
the innards of a Holiday Inn sign in Needles the one
Victor & Dixie'd eaten Coconut
Cream Pie scribbled exquisite cadavers on napkins drunk Coc-
a Cola smoked dope in the parking lot at They were looking for
junk supposedly stashed in the bronze
Impala's glove compartment turgid as Bangkok & looked for
spaceships zooming westward like postcards through the
pink cellophane sunset stretched above the Kingman MacDonald's
Dixie chewing Bazooka
Joe Bubblegum read aloud The Poetics of Space & Dear Abby looking
for answers no one knew the questions
to the news-
print's Baskerville typeface was something else the sky spit
out another tragedy on the rose-pink
horizon another mov-
ie Nuncle Artie's masticating phone numbers during like
popcorn actually he's choking on raw
stockings this is the way the world ends he quotes he didn't look
anymore like TS Eliot sporting a Stetson than
any other compulsive masturbator he keeps his false
teeth his ballerinas his fugitive numerals in the water-
spotted glass on the dresser steeping in Polident his hands
are Raggedy Ann dolls his body's a doubleknit
suit hung-up undrycleaned in the Oldsmobile's
backseat window viewed in passing like a late night TV commercial
the sort the frolicking goddesses of banana splits
whisper true love throughout he doesn'
t think Hegelian suicide in so many words it's
a fact of life like scads of pink paper parasols scattered
across the polyurethane bar that thinks it's a mirror
of course there's not much hope for
Nuncle Artie in any purple kimono sky good-bye
I can't say I knew him that well everybody'
s alone in this world & so forth Victor for instance whose favorite
words are laughing bones fedora dope & void he does-
n't look like Robert Frost he feels like him sometimes meantime
the lounge's Bride of Frankenstein Motorola's blue
capillaries rippled the picture
tube's screen it was someone's face Dixie
couldn't place though she wants to kiss it if it wasn't
Proust it could have been any drag queen crooning
Over the Rainbow which gives her the strength to live
the next five minutes She feels like a Vivaldi violin
concerto about as labile
like a string of bubble lights
love's everywhere then for a millisecond it
reminds her she once saw Carmen Miranda's
plastic grapes plastic apples plastic
apricots spilling hopeful though bruised through Lodi's clear blue sky
the taste of amyl nitrate
urgent she thought on her palate that was last August
so many temblors ago
hello it's Felix Culpa reduced after
25 hours of doubling down at the Blackjack
table to Patsy Cline's bolo tie a seashell a tarnished angel
hood ornament the sheet music to Roy Orbison's
It's Over & a state map placemat He'll never plant
a wet one on Miranda like a
fallen star floating on top of a cocktail
& as for the sky it could have been
snow swirling out from one of any number of luminous
TV's descending incandescent just then through spheres
of fire above Nevada Victor thinks
you can look for love in all the wrong places for instance the
lobby amongst the smoldering carnations ditched in the sand
ashtray Miranda's
exasperated with this poem already she tells me point-blank
she expected No Exit except in a
Motel 6 in Tucumcari one of those Hope-Crosby Road
extravaganzas gone wrong
like everything else she's been put together
Tyrone Power's soul in a zaftig Clara
Bow body the Katzenjammer
Kids on the loose in her head that's where they vanished
to from the contemporary desolation of the Sun-
day comics page the sky spits
out in the midst of a jazz
radio station's confusion having taken a wrong turn off I-
80 west of Provo in this snow-
storm Some people are rushing east as if their veins ran
crystal meth & memories of the good old days when Albrecht Dürer
painted himself as Christ ev-
erybody's Christ
nowadays this is a problem while
the sky spits out Jean-Paul Sartre's spectacles Miranda's
vodka & orange juice manifesto Felix Culpa's genuine Navaho
barbed wire necktie & bad luck a ticket parts
unknown the sky for instance Victor & Dixie wish
they could move there like all the other test tube radioactive
effervescent infants hooked on
Tosca & all-purpose cleaners what
do I care I'm a celestial road map no one folded they've got
miles to go before they sleep & miles to go before they sleep

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Monday, May 30, 2011

10 Essential Delta Blues Songs – Candy Man Blues

Happy Monday, folks!  We’re coming at you with the Monday Morning Blues & a really great song as part of the 10 Essential Delta Blues series.

Now, some may think it odd to see Mississippi John Hurt featured in this series—after all, when people think of the Delta “sound,” they usually think of what music critic Robert Palmer called “the deep blues” (from his book of the same title)—music  by players like Charlie Patton, Son House & Robert Johnson.  But after all, the Mississippi Delta is a place, & not all the people who lived in that place played music that can be traced back to Patton & his circle. 

Mississippi John Hurt, who lived in Avalon, Mississippi, in Carroll County, which lies in the southeastern section of the Delta region, was certainly one who followed a much different musical path.  Avalon, which no longer exists as a town (tho it does serve as a location for the Mississippi John Hurt Musem, housed in Hurt’s old sharecropper’s shack), was small & isolated even at the turn of the 20th century when Hurt was a boy.  This isolation may have been the reason Hurt developed a repertoire that may have been somewhat “old-fashioned” in his day, & may also have contributed to his unique guitar-playing style.  We do know that Hurt taught himself his highly syncopated style of guitar picking.  This style does have a lot of similarities with the so-called “Piedmont style” of picking, tho that style is generally associated with players from Georgia, the Carolinas & Virginia.

After determining that I wanted a Hurt song on the list, I had to pick one—the tough part, as he had so many classics in his repertoire.  Although I gave serious consideration to his “Stackolee,” I finally decided on “Candy Man Blues,” certainly one of his signature tunes, & one that showcases his playing very nicely, with its up-the-neck break.  Lyrically, the song is ribald & suggestive to say the least—more so than the Reverend Gary Davis tune of the same name, tho the ultimate subject matter is the same.  But the ribaldry of“Candy Man Blues” is humorous & without any sort of macho posturing—there’s a genial humor that suits John Hurt’s voice perfectly.

This version of “Candy Man Blues” comes from an Okeh recording made in New York in 1928; Hurt recorded a dozen songs for Okeh but—surprisingly from our persepctive—the songs weren’t commercially successful & Hurt returned to Avalon, Mississippi to work as a sharecropper, while keeping his musical hand in by playing locally at parties & dances.  He was “re-discovered” in 1963 & had a brief but very successful career from then until his death in November 1966—Hurt made five albums, including a couple from live performances, & also appeared at the Newport Folk Festival & at many other venues.

Hope you enjoy “Candy Man Blues!”

Photo at the top of the post shows the Mississippi John Hurt Museum in Avalon, MS.  The photo is by Flickr user Matt Lancashire & has been posted to Wiki Commons under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo of the Week 5/29/11

White Pelicans & Western Grebe
North Fork of the Payette River
Cascade, Idaho
Wednesday 5/25

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil-Scott Heron, RIP

I’d be remiss if I allowed Gil Scott-Heron’s passing to occur without a post to commemorate him—at one time, his music was extremely important to me, & I still hold his position as songwriter/musician/poet/philosopher in high regard.  So, although this is a bit belated & more brief than it should be, here are some thoughts to mark the fact that this remarkable man made an impact in my life.

I was fortunate enough to see him perform twice, both times in the 1970s; & oddly, both times he was the opening act.  Talk about a tough act to follow!  When he opened for George Benson, the first time I saw Scott-Heron, Benson’s performance just couldn’t come up to the energy level to which Gil Scott-Heron & the Midnight Band had risen; & the only reason he didn’t steal the show the second time was that Rahsaan Roland Kirk was the headline act.  What a privilege to have seen such amazing performers!

Back in the 1970s & early 80s, I listened to the Winter in America & It’s Your World albums a lot—songs like “The Bottle,” “Home is Where the Hatred Is,” “Tomorrow’s Trane,” & others were a soundtrack.  As a songwriter, Scott-Heron was literate but also able to convey direct meaning & emotion, as a singer, he was blessed with a remarkable voice; & the Midnight Band could really play—what a foundation, with three drummers!  & atop that drumming, they could swing out uptempo or play lush & lovely ballads.  His frequent collaborator Brian Jackson is a soulful flautist & keyboard player—Scott-Heron also played piano, & he employed various talented horn men.  His main bassist was the rock-solid Danny Bowens, tho he also recorded with Ron Carter.

Gil Scott-Heron is justifiably remember as one of hip hop’s fathers; he did a number of spoken word pieces with rhythmic musical settings, the most famous being “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”  He should also be remembered as both a talented jazz artist & as a social commentator of great depth—& as a man who struggled with his own demons.  His 2010 album, I’m New Here was his first release of new material in 16 years.  It met with critical acclaim & even had one successful single, “Me & the Devil,” which is an adaptation of Robert Johnson’s “Me & the Devil Blues.”

It was difficult for me to pick just two songs to feature with this post, but I decided on “It’s Your World,” the title track from his 1976 Arista live album & one of his real masterpieces, “Winter in America,” the title track from the 1974 album that may well be his best.

Fly high, Gil Scott-Heron.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Little Birdie"

Happy Friday, & welcome to a brand new Robert Frost’s Banjo series, one that features—not unsurprisingly!—the banjo.

I’ve often said that the banjo in the blog’s title is a bit of a joke, since I’m a better guitarist than a banjo player.  But I love the instrument & the music it makes, & I’ve been playing more banjo these days with the Motherland & churchmouse bands; as a result, thinking about the instrument more, or perhaps in new ways.  So every other Friday, alternating with the new Platypuss in Boots series, I’ll be posting a favorite banjo song of mine & writing a bit about the song & the performer.

Today’s song, “Little Birdie,” is a standard of old-time banjo music.  In fact, there’s even a banjo tuning named after it.  Art Rosenbaum, who’s written some wonderful books about old-time banjo, mixing instruction & history, said in his Old-Time Mountain Banjo that Kentucky banjoist Pete Steele told him “Little Birdie” cannot be played in any other tuning, & that no other song can be played in “Little Birdie tuning.”  However that may be (& I have seen the song arranged in the better-known “double C” banjo tuning), the “Little Birdie tuning” is an interesting affair.  The strings are tuned ECGAD, which gives us is something called a 6/9 chord—a chord I typically associate with jazz songs!  The song is in C, so the open strings give the C major chord (C, E & G, or if you will, Do, Mi, Sol), but adds A (or La) & D or (Re.)  The open A & D strings are quite important in the song.

Roscoe Holcomb was one of the most renowned old-time banjoists from eastern Kentucky, an area that has been rich in banjo players.  Holcomb favored what is called “two-finger picking,” a style of playing that uses only the thumb & the index finger in alternating patterns.  Although people nowadays associate clawhammer style, AKA frailing, with old-time banjo playing, in fact there were a number of old styles in which the strings were plucked up as would be done on a guitar rather than struck with a downward motion as in frailing.  Two-finger picking was one of the most common of these.

Hope you enjoy “Little Birdie!”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Ballad of a Thin Man”

We’re in full miscellany mode for the next few days, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a bit of recording—hadn’t done any since February when I finished up a winter-long project.  There are some new songs I’ve been working on as contributions to the bands Motherland & churchmouse; contrary to expectations, I haven’t had a solo performance outing yet this spring, but it’s still early days, especially up in the mountains where the tourists will be arriving next month!

As it happens, a few of those songs are by Bob Dylan, & I also found out that yesterday was Bob Dylan’s birthday.   So perhaps you could consider this posting a belated birthday tribute to a musician/songwriter who’s been important to me both as a musician & as a poet for many years—but in all honesty, I didn’t originally conceive it as such.

“Ballad of a Thin Man” is from Dylan’s 1965 Highway 61 Revisited album, which I’ve mined for material in the past—at various times I’ve performed & recorded “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” “From a Buick 6” & the title track from this record, & I’ve also played around extensively with “Queen Jane Approximately” & “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”  I certainly consider this album one of Dylan’s very best—interestingly enough, he did too.  He told biographer Anthony Scaduto:

"I'm not gonna to be able to make a record better than that one. Highway 61 is just too good. There's a lot of stuff on there that I would listen to."

I’ve always been drawn to “Ballad of a Thin Man” not only by the quality of the lyrics, but also by the music—keyboardist Al Kooper, who played organ & piano on the album (organ on this song), called it "musically more sophisticated than anything else on the album."  I love the descending bass line, & played in E minor as I’m doing, the bass line is also a lay down on a guitar fretboard.  The guitar in this case is my Regal single cone resonator.

So here’s my humble version—it has its moments, I think—hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Ode to the Incarnations"

[Barbie Dockstader Angell, our rockstar poet in residence, knows just how she's like to interact with the big concepts - the illustration, entitled "Mother Nature" is hers as well.  Enjoy!] 

Ode to the Incarnations

i’d like to shake the hands of Time
     and see the face of Death.
Cover myself in the tapestry of Life
     as i take my final breath.

i’d like to make the rain begin
     and see the silence end.
i’d like to live my life again
     with Chaos as my friend.

i’d like to have a talk with God
     and see just how She feels
about the devil of a mess we’re in
     and maybe strike a deal.

i’d like to wield the sword of War
     and feel the Nature of Peace.
i’d like to talk with the Wizard of Sand
     to find out why i can’t sleep.

i’d like them to create me a dreamland
     and take all the terror away.
i’d like to, but last time i met them
 i just couldn’t decide what to say.

Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-present

Monday, May 23, 2011

Any Woman’s Blues #10 - Elvie Thomas

Happy Monday, all.  I’m making this installment of Any Woman’s Blues short for two reasons—first, as I mentioned yesterday, I don’t have a reliable computer at this time, & the one I can use is powering off without warning; this rewards circumspection!  Second, there simply isn’t much known about today’s featured artist, Elvie Thomas.

What we do know about Elvie Thomas is that she is credited with two recordings, both made in Grafton, Wisconsin in March 1930.  Both of those recordings, “Motherless Child Blues” & “Over to My House” are found below in Youtube videos.

We also know that Thomas was accompanied on these recordings by Gereshie Wiley, another woman who sang the blues & played guitar.  In fact, based on their small recorded output, it seems likely that Wiley & Thomas were musical partners, as Thomas backed Wiley on the latter’s four extant recordings, two of which were made at the same Grafton session.

Based on this, I wondered if I should write up Thomas & Wiley in one post.  I decided against that based on the following rhetorical question: if I were writing up a series on men who played blues guitar, would I combine Charlie Patton & Willie Brown (or for that matter, Son House & Willie Brown) in one entry?  After all, Brown backed Patton on a number of recordings & only has two existing recordings of his own; in addition, not much is known about Willie Brown’s biography, despite his association with Patton, House & Robert Johnson.  But the fact is, Willie Brown is generally acknowledged as one of the best guitar players from the pre-War Delta region, & his two recorded songs are considered seminal.  Tho his reputation may be greater, I think that Thomas & Wiley deserve similar treatment, so next month’s featured artist on Any Woman’s Blues will be Geeshie Wiley; actually, a bit more is known about her biography than about Thomas’. 

There are various forms of “Motherless Child Blues,” from Thomas’ version to Barbecue Bob’s & Blind Willie McTell’s & on to the Carter Family’s.  The versions vary a lot both musically & lyrically.  In the case of Thomas’ rendition, the song is played in E in standard guitar tuning, tho with some unusual chord voicings.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Photo of the Week 5/22/11

Quince Blossoms
Indian Valley, ID
Saturday 5/21
As a quick update: computer woes seem to have gone from bad to worse over the weekend, as the laptop now refuses to boot.  The PC works intermittently, but powers off as it sees fit, without any warning.  Not sure when this will be resolved, but I can tell you that Any Woman's Blues will post tomorrow, & that one of Barbie Dockstader Angell's poems will definitely post on Tuesday.  Thanks for hanging in there with me. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011


[The next in my series of translations from Blaise Cendrars’ Deux-Neuf poèmes élastiques (19 Elastic Poems)]

I was eating an orange in the shade of an orange tree
When, all of the sudden…
It wasn’t the eruption of Vesuvius
It wasn’t the cloud of locusts, one of Egypt’s ten plagues
Nor Pompeii
It wasn’t resuscitated shrieks of giant mastodons
It wasn’t the Last Trumpet
Nor Pierre Brisset’s frog
When, all of the sudden,
Sparks of simultaneous horizons
My sex

              O Eiffel Tower!
I haven’t shod you in gold
I haven’t made you dance across crystal flagstones
I haven’t pledged you to Python like a Cartheginian virgin
I haven’t clad you in Greek peplum
I’ve never had you straying into the circle of menhirs
I haven’t named you Staff of David or Wood of the True Cross
Lignum Crucis
              O Eiffel Tower!
Giant fireworks of the World’s Fair!
On the Ganges
At Benares
Amongst the onanistic toy tops of Hindu temples
And the florid cries of the Orient’s masses
You’re leaning, graceful Palm tree!
It’s you who in the legendary epoch of the Hebrew people
Confounded the tongues of men
O Babel!
And several thousand years later, it’s you who descended in tongues of fire upon
        the Apostles gathered in your church
In the open sea you’re a mast
And at the North Pole
You dazzle with the magnificenceof the aurora borealis from your wireless telegraph
Lianas entangle the eucalyptus
And you’re floating, old trunk, on the Mississippi
Your yap opens
And a cayman snatches a black man’s thigh
In Europe you’re like a gibbet
(I would like to be the tower, to hang from the Eiffel tower!)
And when the sun sets behind you
Bonnot’s head rolls under the guillotine
In Africa it’s you who are roaming
In Australia you’ve always been taboo
You’re the boat hook Captain Cook used to steer his boatload of adventurers
O celestial probe!
For the Simultaneist Delauney, to whom I dedicate this poem
You’re the brush he dips in light

Gong tom-tom Zanzibar jungle beast X-rays express lancet symphony
You are all
Ancient God
Modern Beast
Solar specter
Subject of my poem
Global tower
Tower in motion

Blaise Cendrars
translation by Jack Hayes © 1990-present

Friday, May 20, 2011

Meet the Animals

The truth is that if Platypuss hadn’t arrived in Big Bed Land, these communications with the outside world would not be taking place. Although the animals who began making their home with me many years ago have developed a sophisticated communications system among themselves, they never seemed to consider a dialogue with the general public as a possibility- or even as a hobby. But it’s turning out that Platypuss has an unusual approach to many things.

First of all, Platypuss is the only animal who arrived in Big Bed Land via the internet. That might be why she has the abilities that she does. (POCKETNOTE from BINK: You will no doubt notice that in Big Bed Land, some animals are called “she” at certain times and “he” at other times. This is probably too complex for anyone to understand fully. Suffice it to say that some animals are usually “she” but sometimes “he,” some are both pretty much equally “she” and “he,” some are always “he,” some are always “she,” and some are either sometimes or always or usually neither. There are many of these interesting difficulties in translating how animals talk—I am making a study of these in my Dictionary- the dictionary is called “Bink’s Dictionary” for this reason.)

The very first animal, Chinabeary, came from the land that was later discovered by the Mouse Fairies (you will be meeting these delightful and mysterious creatures on Platypuss-in-Boots as well.) The next generation came from a town in Bolivia called Tarija: Beatrice, Lucy, Old Bones and Roxy Mouse (who is very good at building things like underwater roller-coasters.) They’re called the Old Ones and were later joined by Sparky and Bear from Ancient Vermont. After that, there are so many animals that it’s better to keep track of them in any way you want—in many different ways rather than in just one way. You get more history that way if you like history, and if you don’t like history, you can ignore it altogether without missing anything.

The other animals came from stores in towns, gas stations, and an airport. Three are orphans. I mention this because the animals, after arriving in Big Bed Land, tend to forget where they came from. They get occasional flashes—Lefty will fall over laughing, suddenly, remembering a night of wild antics in Rite-Aid. Bit by bit, however, it becomes a mystery to them, the way our births become a mystery to us. That’s why I wanted to introduce them before handing the blog over to Platypuss. As scribe, he has the ability to type the words of the animals onto the internet. So from now on you’ll be hearing from Platypuss.

YOUR HOSTESS wants you to know that Platypuss will be posting every other Friday M.T. (Monster Time.) Check back in to hear the adventures of Goat and the plague of Lady Bugs! That’s what Platypuss has scheduled. Hope to see you here!

POCKETNOTE from BINK: It is seriously important that you achieve a clear understanding of the following: in Big Bed Land, all animals (loosely referred to as “stuffed animals” by some) are known as “animals.” Humans, cats, cows, dogs, etc. are all called “monsters.” It is a term of affection.

Eberle Umbach
© 2009-present

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mystery Animal Returns to Idaho Ranchette

Mystery animal, as in the fellow in the boots pictured to the right.  In fact, one might describe this animal as “Platypuss-in-Boots.”

If you are a long time follower of Robert Frost’s Banjo, you probably remember my wife Eberle Umbach’s wildly fun & imaginative blog that was—not coincidentally—called Platypuss-in-Boots.  Other writing projects have called Eberle away from blogging, but she has graciously agreed to make the content of the Platypuss-in-Boots blog available on Robert Frost’s Banjo so new readers can enjoy it & old readers can have some fun re-reading.  There may (or may not) be minor editing to the original posts so that they make sense in their new context, & there may be some jazzing up of the graphics, but overall, this will be Platypuss-in-Boots from start to….

From start to what?  Eberle has told me that as part of Platypuss appearing on Robert Frost’s Banjo, she may write some new episodes.  Oh frabjous day!

Platypuss in Boots will appear here on alternate Fridays!  Please check it out tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

8.75 Lives

The title refers to my old computer, which I recently referred to as the electronic equivalent of a '79 Pacer with rebuilt engine.  It apparently died the other day, but has since come back like the proverbial cat—& died again—& come back again.  Right now, I'm thinking of the machine more as a zombie than a cat, but if it is feline, I fear it's on life 8.75 at least.

I was using an old Compaq Presario laptop (which I described as a 79 AMC Gremlin, but with the original engine), but it turned out not to be a viable option—long story.  So what's the upshot for Robert Frost's Banjo?  

The good news is that even in the worst case, I'm pretty confident the blog will continue without many interruptions.  Eberle has a computer that I can use regularly enough to keep a regular post schedule.  However, depending on how things go with this machine, I may be more absent than usual on other blogs & social media.

The sad fact is I don't have money to replace the machine at least for a matter of weeks, so fingers crossed!  Hope to have a post up tomorrow, & there will definitely be a post on Friday!

P.S. It appears I spoke too soon, & that the final .25 life was used up shortly after this was posted.  I'm trying to make the laptop work, but one way or another, Robert Frost's Banjo will keep on keeping on!

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #31

The Adams County Leader        Published Weekly On Friday
Wm. Lemon Editor and Manager
Member State Editorial Association 
Member National Editorial Association
Official Paper of Adams County Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance

January 27, 1927

Last week, the editor of this family-fireside home-companion got back home and wrote about some matters right here in Council that deserved attention after a whole month or two of editorializings on general items far away and which would not tramp on anybody’s toes or antagonize the humdrum everyday uprisings and downsittings of our home folks.  We wrote our opinion about conditions in public halls and discussed high school athletics.  Then we reclined ourself curiously to watch reactions.  And there are some—reactions.  A lot of folks are talking about what we said “in the paper.”  Some have come to us and reported personally somewhat concerning their reactions.  All who came personally to report have reacted favorably, saying it was timely editorializing.  Those who think it was “bad business” to say anything about our beloved status quo are either keeping it to themselves or are talking to somebody other than this editor.

November 4, 1927

Dear Editor: I don’t know who reported our accident last Sunday evening a week ago but whoever did did an awful poor job.  I will try and tell you the truth about our auto accident.  We were getting up to Crooked River and just before we came to the Hornet Creek Ranger Station we met Bob Weddle driving hell-bent-for-election.  There was a curve in the road and the road was too narrow for us to pass so we pulled over as near the fence as we could and stopped, and Bob tried to stop, but he was going so fast he couldn’t.  So when he threw on his brakes his car skidded sideways and bumped into our car.  The front bumper on our car received the shock so it didn’t damage our car much.  It was not dark so we did not need our lights on.  Bob said he was driving fast so he could get to Council before dark because he didn’t have any lights.

Yours Truly,
O. B. White

November 4, 1927

During the past few weeks, several new fur animal breeders have located in Meadows valley.  Three years ago, Mrs. I. L. Keener, a trained nurse of Boise, bought a pair of foxes.  Her pair has developed to 14 and she and her husband have purchased what was known as the Lone Pine Fur Farm in lower Meadows valley.  They have built a new five-room bungalow and are doing a fine business in fur animals.  This farm was a going concern stocked with martin and mink and muskrats.  Now they have added foxes and have one of the most up-to-date fur farms of the Northwest. Then there is the Harrington fox farm with fifty pairs of silver gray and blue foxes.  The prediction for this territory is that within a very few years, the fur industry will rank among our foremost revenue producers.

January 20, 1928
The editor of the Leader has observed somewhat critically the public halls in Council where people are accustomed to assemble for entertainments, dances, socials, etc., etc., and we believe it is not untimely, not inappropriate, to say that these halls are entitled to complaint.  For dances, or any other public gathering, none of them are suitably equipped with such ordinary conveniences as would be expected at such assembly places.  Most of all, they are lacking in a lavatory for women.

The People’s Theatre may get along for theatre purposes without such ordinary conveniences as toilets and rest room, but as dances are often held there, and other public gatherings, it certainly should be properly provided in that respect.  The same can be said of the Legion Hall.  When women must leave the warm dance hall on the coldest of nights, clothed as they usually are in not enough to offer the least protection against the cold, even though wrapped in a cloak, there is grave danger to health, and it is a bad situation, to say the least.  The Odd Fellows hall is likewise lacking in the same way, so it might be said, and properly, that Council hasn’t a single suitable place for dances or public gatherings, except the school house, where now there is an assembly room with a stage in first class condition, while on the first floor there are toilets for men and for women, drinking fountains, and in fact all necessary conveniences.  This is not written in a spirit of censure on anybody, but with the thought that when the condition is thus presented, the public will demand that the condition be improved.

January 20, 1928

The first and greatest handicap that Council school athletics, particularly basketball, has to contend with is a lack of a gymnasium.  Under present conditions, only a very small number of students get the physical benefit of basketball or other indoor athletics, while a very large effort is put forth by the high school faculty to carry on the work.  That effort, properly apportioned through the school, could be lauded, but when it reverts to so small a number of pupils or students, it is a grossly unfair deal to a very large majority.  Those pupils who really need physical activity get absolutely none from this big effort and disposition of time. And no one can figure that while effort is being put forth, it is not being done to neglect of other school duties.

Without a gymnasium, it is a very questionable matter whether the school should undertake those athletic activities which require indoor facilities, and it would be well for school patrons to analyze this question and be prepared to express themselves should the school board and the faculty bring it to the fore for final decision.

January 20, 1928

Jim who?
Why, G-y-m-n-a-s-i-u-m.
Do we need one,
Can we have one?
Well, that all depends on how badly we need one.
New Meadows has one.
Cambridge has one.

New York has many according to her needs.  Council needs only one, and needs it as badly as Cambridge or New Meadows.

The cost would represent not over one per cent of our assessed valuation, and surely we can manage to set aside one per cent even if we have to drive the old car another season.

A Councilor.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


[A rhyming snapshot from L.e. Leone's world—enjoy!]


Kids in a bathtub. Cat
On a bed. Dog by the
Fire. Trucks on the road
Rain on a windshield. Lights
In the trees. You in my
Bed. Knee braces on knees
Chickens on roosts. Ducks
In a row. Roast duck in duck
Soup. Critics at shows
Band-aids on fingers. Snot
In a sneeze. A ring on a
Finger. Holes in Swiss cheese
Bad TV on TV. Teenagers
On phones. Cracks in the
Ice. Ice cream in cones
You in my kitchen. Bonnets
On bees. Under the
Gun. Me saying, "Please."

L.E. Leone
© 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

10 Essential Delta Blues Songs – Bye Bye Blues

Happy Monday, folks!  Hope you aren’t in the throes of the Monday morning blues, but if you are, we have something that might cure you.  Yes, we’re back to our 10 Essential Delta Blues Songs.

Now in case you missed the first installment, I do want to stress that this list is NOT presented as THE 10 essential songs—I don’t believe in those kinds of lists.  But these songs will all illustrate something important about blues played in the Mississippi Delta region, especially pre-World War II.

One thing that’s true about Delta blues—there were a handful of prototype songs that were re-worked by various artists, & I do want this list to illustrate that fact.  One of the most common prototype songs was “Pony Blues,” the most famous example of which is Charlie Patton’s “Stone Pony Blues” (tho Son House claimed the title really should be “Storm Pony Blues”).  I didn’t include “Stone Pony Blues” because one of my ground rules for the list is no more than one song per artist, & I have Mr Patton covered. 

But there were other songs based on the riffs & general structure of “Pony Blues,” & two in particular are real standards: Willie Brown’s “M&O Blues” & Tommy Johnson’s “Bye Bye Blues.”  I’m going with Tommy Johnson because, again, Willie Brown will make an appearance as the artist for yet another prototype song—& Tommy Johnson is a must for any list of this type!

At first listen, it may be difficult to catch the similarity between Patton’s “Stone Pony Blues” & Johnson’s “Bye Bye Blues” (& by the way, this is not the same song as the “Bye Bye Blues” of Les Paul & Mary Ford!)  But there is a characteristic riff involving the flatted third (or blue note) of the E scale played on the guitar’s 7th & 8th frets.  This also occurs in “M&O Blues” (discounting the fact that Brown played with a capo, making the actual key different, but Brown, like Patton & Johnson, was playing E “shaped” chords.)  The overall chord structures in Brown’s & Johnson’s songs are a bit more complex than Patton, but then both of them relied more on melody & harmony, while Patton was all about rhythm.  For those who want more blues this morning, you can listen to “Stone Pony Blues” here & “M&O Blues” at this link.

Tommy Johnson is a key figure in the pre-War Delta blues, & unlike his now more famous namesake, Robert Johnson, he was a popular performer in his day.  Johnson wrote a number of true country blues standards—in addition to “Bye Bye Blues,” he wrote & recorded “Big Road Blues,” “Maggie Campbell Blues,” “Cool Drink of Water,” & “Canned Heat Blues,” just to name the most well-known.  His guitar playing showed off intricate fingerpicking chops, & he possessed a truly amazing vocal range that could rise all the way from a husky baritone to an eerie falsetto. 

Hope you enjoy it!  Next Monday: Any Woman’s Blues takes a look back at a country blues guitarist you should know!

Cryin' bye an' bye, baby bye an' bye
It's bye an' bye, baby won't you bye an' bye
Cryin' bye an' bye, baby won't you bye an' bye

Says the good book tell you, reap just what you sow
The good book tell you, baby, reap just what you sow
Gonna reap it now or, baby, reap it bye an' bye

Well I'm going away, Lord, won't be back till fall
I'm going away, Lord, won't be back till fall
If I meet my good gal, then baby, won't be back at all

Says the good book tell you, reap just what you sow
The good book tell you, baby, reap just what you sow
Gonna reap it now or, baby, reap it bye an' bye

Well it's two trains running, running side by side
It's two trains running, and baby, running side by side
You've got my woman, babe I know you're satisfied

Pic at the top of the post is a photograph of Tommy Johnson - I believe it's the only one in existence.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Another Poem with Moon & You

i took the waxing half moon from the evening daylight & placed it inside this poem’s blue sky

last time i did this i said it was you

the meadowlark perched on electric wire singing liquid perfect fourths into the western sky

—we have to go back—

hardly the way to say goodbye

the quince is about to erupt crimson next to the trash cans & yellow picnic table & metal chaise lounge without any cushions

about to erupt whether you take notice or not

—we have to go back—

ok. the dogwood blossomed blushing crucifixes in the park.  the white tablecloth & napkins downstairs.  you strolled in folds of laughter & linen & henna— 

laughter’s nerves—blue cigarette smoke

a teddy bear left behind in an Italian restaurant

—we have to go back—

“don't want you to worry i'm angry or disturbed or anything like that meant what i said”

i took the waxing half moon from the evening daylight & placed it inside this poem’s blue sky

a voice singing. liquid western sky. a perfection of loss.

—we have to go back—

understanding again for the first time i won’t know you

Jack Hayes
© 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“Vain And Careless”

[A poem for today by British poet Robert Graves.  “Vain And Careless” has long been favorite poem of mine, & one that touches me deeply.  Be sure to listen to Natalie Merchant’s beautiful setting in the video—it’s from her Leave Your Sleep album]

Vain And Careless

Lady, lovely lady,
  Careless and gay!
Once when a beggar called
  She gave her child away.

The beggar took the baby,
  Wrapped it in a shawl,
“Bring her back,” the lady said,
  “Next time you call.”

Hard by lived a vain man,
  So vain and so proud,
He walked on stilts
  To be seen by the crowd.

Up above the chimney pots,
  Tall as a mast,
And all the people ran about
  Shouting till he passed.

“A splendid match surely,”
  Neighbours saw it plain,
“Although she is so careless,
  Although he is so vain.”

But the lady played bobcherry,
  Did not see or care,
As the vain man went by her
  Aloft in the air.

This gentle-born couple
  Lived and died apart.
Water will not mix with oil,
  Nor vain with careless heart.

Robert Graves

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

“Tea Party”

[Hey folks, how about a big Robert Frost’s Banjo welcome to our newest regular contributor, Rockstar Poet in Residence Barbie Dockstader Angell!  Barbie brings a unique poetic voice to the blog, & she’ll be paired with L.E. Leone on alternating poetic Tuesdays at least thru the summer.  The artwork is by Barbie as well.  Enjoy!] 

Tea Party

Welcome to my shell.

Please make yourself at home.
Hang your coat on my Insecurity.
Set your hat on that dusty old phone.

Wipe your feet on my Self-Esteem,
it’s lying in front of the door.
Sorry I can’t show you my Beauty,
I forgot to pick it up at the store.

There’s some Sanity there on the table....
not much, but take what’s left.
I’d show you my heart, but it’s out for repairs,
minor damage by my last guest.

Could you please hold this Grudge for a moment
while I check on the cake of Despair?
And let me know if you’re feeling cold,
I have plenty of Shame you can wear.

There’s fresh Wishes in the cookie jar,
I made them myself last nite,
or I can brew up a pot of Bitterness,
if you’re more in the mood for a fight.

I can’t offer intelligent chatter,
my Brain died while I was in school.
But if you’re hurting for some entertainment,
I’d be more than happy to play the fool.

Barbie Dockstader Angell
from And She Said… © 2009

Monday, May 9, 2011

“Weeping Willow Blues”

Happy Monday, everybody, & welcome to the Monday Morning Blues.  Truth be told, I had two other blues related posts in mind for today, but this weekend’s initial churchmouse gig just took up a bit too much time.  It was great fun, tho!  There was a nice bunch of folks coming to Sisters Four Tea Room to check out both the lovely space & our music, & it seemed as tho a good time was had by all.  Any gig where we can get people singing along & dancing is really good by me!

But although I had to scrap a couple of more elaborate post ideas (both of which will appear in the future), I do have a bit of blues for you on this Monday.  As far as I can tell, this is the last “keeper” track from the 14-song cd I recorded last winter—that cd is called RFD Blues, & while I can’t sell you a copy over the ‘net (you have to come see me either solo or with churchmouse for that!) you can download it for free right here.  How’s that for a deal?

The song is “Weeping Willow Blues” by Blind Boy Fuller, an excellent guitarist & singer from North Carolina who was extremely popular during a short career that lasted from about 1928 to 1941, when he died at age 33.  Fuller is known as one of the mjor exponents of the “Piedmont style” of blues guitar, a fingerpicking style that relies heavily on alternating bass notes played with the thumb & syncopated melodic notes played with the index & (sometimes) middle finger.  The style is associated with players from Georgia, the Carolinas & Virginia, & is typically contrasted to the “heavier” guitar styles from the Delta & Texas.  Besides Fuller, other well-known practicioners of the Piedmont style include Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Etta Baker & Elizabeth Cotton.  Also, just to confound geography, Mississippi John Hurt, who lived in Avalon, Mississippi in the heart of the Delta, played essentially in “Piedmont” style.

My fingerpicking style has some elements of the Piedmont style, but it’s certainly not a pure example of this—for one thing, it’s not as melodic as the typical Piedmont player’s.  I played this in E on my Regal single-cone metal resonator (Blind Boy Fuller played a National single cone resonator guitar).  The song is noteworthy to musicians because the chord progression is a bit unusual.  In a typical blues in the key of E, the A chord would be A major (or strictly speaking, A dominant seven); however, in “Weeping Willow Blues” the A chord is an A minor.  This is in large part responsible for the song’s unique sound.

Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011


[A new series for your reading pleasure—every other Saturday I’ll be posting my translations of Blaise Cendrars’ Dix-Neuf poèmes élastiques (“Nineteen Elastic Poems”).  Cendrars composed these between 1913 & 1919.  You can read more about Cendrars' work & life here.  In the meantime: enjoy!]


Here it's been more than a year and I haven't thought of You
Since I wrote my next-to-last poem Easter
My life has changed a lot since then
But I'm still the same
In fact I wanted to become a painter
Here are the paintings I've done they're hanging from the walls this evening
They opened me up to strange sights inside myself which made me think of You

Look what I've scraped up

My paintings hurt me
I'm too passionate
Everything has turned orange

I spent a sad day thinking about my friends
And reading the daily

Life crucified in the wide-open daily I'm holding arms stretched
They'll say it's an airplane falling
It's me.

It's pointless not to want to talk about yourself
Sometimes you have to holler

I'm the other
Too sensitive

Blaise Cendrars
translation by Jack Hayes
© 1990-present

The image of Cendrars is a portrait by Amadeo Modigliani

Thursday, May 5, 2011

“And She Said…”

Poetry has become quite the “serious” art from over the past 200 hundred plus years, hasn’t it?  I could trace these developments to fellows like Hölderlin & Hugo & Wordsworth, but this isn’t that kind of book review.  After all, Barbie Dockstader Angell, the poet who wrote And She Said…, has said she “writes poetry for people who don’t know they like poetry.”  & those people probably aren’t interested in the history of Romanticism!

But it’s worth noting that at other points in time, poets who relied on wit & humor were often highly esteemed.  That’s not to say there are no funny “serious” poets nowadays (an oxymoron, but presumably you follow my drift).  But it is to say that poets like Shel Silverstein, Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash & Dr Seuss tend to fall outside the current poetical canon, no matter how much folks are entertained by their works.  But these writers are Barbie Dockstader Angell’s true literary forebears—in fact, one reviewer stated,
if Shel Silverstein and Dorothy Parker had conceived a child, the result would have been Barbie Dockstader Angell.”

Barbie Angell’s collection And She Said… really is a delight.  It’s comprehensive & at 120 pages, longer than the average slim volume of poetry.  But make no mistake: And She Said… is a book—it’s coherent, largely consistent & all of a piece.  We find ourselves in the presence of a voice that describes disappointment & disillusionment, but who can find dark humor in the daily heartbreak to which we’re all prone.  & there are also moments of real light & optimism.

One way in which this optimism enters the book is thru a series of Barbie Angell’s own colored
pencil drawings—the drawings are crisp & colorful & well-executed in a “naïve” style that dovetails very nicely with the poetry—see the picture to the left, which is one of my favorites (Barbie Angell has shared with me that she may make the prints available for purchase in the future—here’s hoping!)  In addition, her use of various fonts & typefaces throughout the collection has a tendency to unify the collection—a bit counter-intuitive, but true.  The book is visually pleasing.

However, as delightful as the drawings & layout are, this is a book of poems, & this is how the book ultimately will be judged.  On that basis, the book passes muster very well.  Of course, if you are looking for another Mary Oliver or Elizabeth Bishop, Barbie Dockstader Angell is not your poet; but if you judge the book on its own terms & in terms of Barbie Angell’s poetic intentions, then it is a definite success.
As a poet, Barbie Angell has some very real technical gifts.  Her ear for meter is good & she rhymes with great facility.  Obviously, both of these are crucial attributes for a poet who’s inspired by the work of Shel Silverstein!  Let’s face it, free verse can be funny (my friend Jonah Winter has written some hysterically funny free verse, & I've been known to insert a punch line or two myself) but rhyme has always been a touchstone of witty poetry.  & Barbie Angell has a sharp wit that she wields poetically on a number of subjects—from “Life as a Girl,” in which she notes

I don’t want another sleazy ad by Hardee’s and Diet Coke.
All I’m offered is bodywork when it’s my engine that is broke.
Why does society do this to their women and their girls?
And what do you do as a rag doll when you live in a Barbie Doll world?

on to the futility of wishes and desires in “Wanting Nothing”:

I’m getting used to wanting nothing,
and it’s harder than I thought.
It’s made from unobtanium
and nothing can’t be bought.

Barbie Dockstader Angell is also adept at using personification in intriguing ways—it’s really a major strength of her poems, & again, as with her ear for meter & rhyme, very much fits with the type of verse she writes.  In her poems, abstract concepts take on apparent physical reality: she meets Truth in the subway & describes the way he is dressed; Paranoia becomes a detective who keeps “tabs on” the poet; Certainty & Uncertainty are companions that accompany the poet on walks; Love becomes a character in a murder mystery.

In several of the best personification poems, various abstract concepts become types of food, & I would say that poems like “Insatiable Appetite” (in which Angell writes: “I had a misunderstanding today/with relish on the side”), “Tea Party,” (which you can read right here next Tuesday—more on that in a moment!) & “Eat at Joe’s” are among my favorites.  In fact, I like “Eat at Joe’s” so well—& believe it illustrates many of the strengths of Barbie Angell’s writing—that I reproduced it at the bottom of the post.  It will give you some idea of this poet’s unique voice.

“And She Said…”is available at Barbie Angell’s live performances in & around Asheville, North Carolina.  For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live where we can see Barbie Angell perform, the book can also be obtained by contacting her thru her website at this link.  Also I’d recommend checking out Barbie Angell’s YouTube channel here; she’s a talented performer & really knows how to put her poems across live.

Finally, I’m very happy to announce that Barbie is joining my old friends B.N. & L.E. Leone in a powerful woman’s triumvirate of Robert Frost’s Banjo resident poets!  Yes, Barbie Dockstader Angell, AKA Rockstar Poet in Residence, is this blog’s newest regular contributor & her poems (with illustrations!) will be appearing every other Tuesday (alternating with L.E. Leone’s) at least thru the summer.  Please be sure to check that out & don’t be bashful about saying hello to Barbie Angell in a comment. 

Now, please check out Barbie Dockstader Angell’s “Eat at Joe’s”:

Eat at Joe’s

The menu is deceiving.
The descriptions are benign.
All the reasons that you salivate
are ringing in your mind.
Though it’s all well-represented
and the pictures are concise,
the problem with the menu
is that nothing’s that precise.
In reality it’s different.
Nothing’s ever that surreal.
And the menu doesn’t show you
how thing’s taste or how they feel.
A question doesn’t smell the same
if it’s smoked over a fire.
A grudge is bland without regret.
There’s no frosting on desire.
A slice of life is way too big
to eat all by yourself.
And nothing’s quite as tasty
as a piece of mental health.
This menu is a reference point
to help you decide
what makes the perfect entrée
or what you’d like on the side.
Our prices are fairly decent.
The portion size is good.
The diet plate is stir-fried lies
and a helping of “I don’t think I should.”
But don’t rely on what you read,
or the pictures that they show.
Just grab a menu and a seat,
because you can’t get it to go.

Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-present

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #30

The Adams County Leader   Official Paper of Adams County
Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance
Published Every Friday by E. E. Southard
Matter for publication should reach this office not later than Thursday noon – earlier if possible

February 12, 1926

Mrs. Ben Rapin, living a little ways north of Cambridge, got peeved at her Ben last Sunday night and blew his brains out.  It seems the couple had quarreled the day before and Mrs. Rapin claims her spouse choked her and did other playful little stunts like that.  When he got nicely to sleep the lady evened up the score, and perhaps even got a little the better of the argument.

The couple retired and went to sleep, but the old girl awoke about midnight, hunted up the old family fowling piece, placed the muzzle cozily against Ben’s head, and crooked her trigger finger.  “Boom,” went old Faithful and Ben’s brains went slathering around as promiscuous as shillelaghs at a Donnebrook fair.  The records show that she’d blown the “stuffin” out of her loving husband.

Rapin was about 68 years of age and the wife is 50.  There are three children, who, aroused by the shot, hopped out of bed and called the neighbors.  Mrs. Rapin was taken to Weiser where it seems the coroner’s jury failed to indict her.  But Mr. Feltham, prosecuting attorney of Washington County, is expected to file a charge of murder against the lady.

April 2, 1926

Mrs. Pearl Rapin of Cambridge was acquitted of all blame for the death of her husband in Judge Varian’s court in Weiser last Friday.  It was alleged that the woman placed the muzzle of a shotgun against the head of her husband while he slept and blew his brains out.  They jury acquitted her of all blame, arguing apparently either that she did not do what she admitted doing, or else that it was no crime to kill the late Mr. Rapin. 

The writer did not hear the trial, but persons who did hear it were scratching their heads last Friday afternoon in Weiser and wondering what it was all about.  Several were heard to remark that they hadn’t the faintest conception as to what the crime of murder consisted of any longer.  As the lady is now a widow, it would seem the logical things for the Washington county board of commissioners to grant her a pension.

May 14, 1926

Those Washington county people make me nervous.  Man in Weiser last week went home, hunted up the old wood choppin’ instrument and started in to chop the head off of his faithful helpmeet.  When the lady was as dead as he felt she ought to be, the gentleman started to carve his sister-in-law up in the same manner.  Then he hunted up a shotgun à la Rapin and placing the muzzle carefully up alongside his face, he pulled the trigger.  Most of the head was carried away, brains and other impedimenta being found scattered impartially over the floor, the walls, and the ceiling, and it is hardly necessary to add that the man died suddenly.  The sister-in-law was expected to live, but the man and wife, whose name was Leath, are no more.

LOCAL ITEMS, 1926 - 1927

Long Sought Result Has Finally Been Achieved
We have been given to understand that the Council high school is now accredited.  School patrons have much to be thankful for, that at least one thing we have worked and struggled for has come to pass.

Indian Valley- Eighteen ladies of the Improvement League met at the home of Mrs. Edith Gray.  Roll call was answered by naming an educational toy.  Mrs. Ira Martin gave a paper on “Music in the Home,” Mrs. Frank Johnson gave a paper on “Schoolroom Decorations,” and Mrs. Albert McDowell gave a talk on flower culture, and urged all members to plant flowers in abundance for the flower show next fall.

The local hospital is being kept full this winter with so many cases of sickness among valley folks.

The last weekend brought in the last of the deer hunters with postmaster Prout and H. M. Purnell leading the van.  Among the rest of whom we have had report were Bert Hagar, John Bass, Alva Ingram, and Paul Schaff.  They all had been in the Warrens country and, delightful to report, they all had their venison.

Insist on Sunshine Bread.  It makes good toast.

August 27, 1926

With this issue of the Leader, the writer’s connection with the paper is expected to cease.  Next week, William Lemon of Middleton, Idaho, an experienced newspaper man, will take over the paper.  We are saying these words this week in order to leave Mr. Lemon entirely free to “say his own say” next week and thereafter.

I have made many sincere friends in Adams county during the past four years and bid these farewell with much regret.  I have enjoyed meeting and mingling with the good people of Adams County, and have found much enjoyment in the work here.  In other words, I have “had a good time.”  I even feel that much has been accomplished during these four years.  The Leader has stood for what it believed to be for the best interests of the public; I believe this has become generally understood and conceded.  It has not intentionally done a wrong to any man.  In short, the Leader has tried to keep faith with its people.

What Adams County needs is more irrigation and more cooperation—and more education.  There are natural advantages a-plenty here; develop them.  My last word of advice, then, is to keep up your schools, irrigate your land and develop it, and—love your neighbor.  There are no higher things in life for a section situated as this one is.

Whether I personally ever again have an opportunity to “scold” you, friends, is “in the lap of the gods.”  I have no such expectations.  The Leader will continue to be what you make it.  It will always be the greatest possible community asset if you give it your support.  Build it up and you will build yourself up.  Tear it down, and you will go down with it.  The paper really and truly has very great importance in this community; much greater than many realize.  It can help a lot, but you will have to help it in turn, as is only fair.

I am not much given to shedding tears; but I have feeling of sincere regret in severing my connection with the Leader.  The paper has become a part of me, and I love it.  And I realize that words of mine are far too weak to express a just appreciation of the many acts of kindness on the part of the people of Adams County toward myself and family.  Friends, adieu.

E. E. Southard.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


[A pray of sorts from L.E. Leone.  Which sort?  Maybe my sort.  I like it—hope you do too!]


The poem I will hear
tomorrow is already losing
thread, turning

into fear. Tonight:
who leads who, voice
into attics, out
windows, through frames

into paintings where flower
petals equal golf balls

It’s raining outside
leaking in. Take me

L.E. Leone
© 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

10 Essential Delta Blues Songs – Aberdeen Mississippi Blues

Ready for some Monday Morning Blues?  Great, because I’m kicking off a new series.  It’s called 10 Essential Delta Blues Songs, & it will appear on alternating Mondays thru the spring & summer.  If the series proves popular, I may consider future “Essential Blues Songs” series featuring other regions.

Before moving on to the first song, I want to make sure the ground rules I’m using are clear.  This series is not presented as THE Essential Songs—I don’t really believe in those types of lists.  I’m well aware that one could create any number of 10 song lists that would have as much right to be called essential as this one.  For my list, I wanted to include certain songs that were crucial to the “Delta” sound: there were a handful of prototype songs that were essentially re-worked by a number of performers, & I wanted to make sure these were well represented.  I wanted to make sure that the list not only included the musicians most associated with the “Delta sound,” such as Charlie Patton, Son House & Robert Johnson, but also performers from the Delta region who played in different styles.  To facilitate this, I made the arbitrary but useful rule of only one song per performer.  The songs will post in alphabetical order.

The first song is "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues," composed & performed by Booker White  (backed by Washboard Sam).  Booker White was born in Houston, Mississippi (which is near Aberdeen) in 1906, & got his musical start playing fiddle at dances.  He may or may not have known Charlie Patton—accounts differ on this—but he did live for a time in Clarksdale, Mississippi as a teenager when Patton was performing there.   

White’s first recordings were from a 1930s session for Victor in Memphis (recorded under the name of Washington White—his full name was Booker T Washington White), but the masters of some of these have been lost.  He recorded again in 1937 both for Vocalion under the name of Bukka White (this is a common variant, tho some sources claim he disliked the spelling) & as Barrelhouse White for Alan Lomax.  In 1940 he made a series of recordings in Chicago both for Vocalion & Okeh, & “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues” dates from that time.  In addition to being a professional musician, White at various times was a pitcher in the Negro Leagues & a professional boxer.  He also served time in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Prison Farm on a charge of assault.

Booker White’s slide style is vigorous, his voice—especially on the early recordings—relaxed & rich in tone, & his National Duolian guitar produces what could be considered the prototypical Delta blues sound (Son House also played a Duolian—amazingly enough, a relatively economical instrument in the 1930s, tho you’d never know it to see the prices on vintage Duolians these days.)  The lyrics (which appear below the video) tell a tale of sexual bravado mixed with longing in the sparse elliptical style common to many of the “country blues” songs.  There’s also a melodic similarity to White’s equally powerful song, “Parchman Farm Blues.” The 1940 recording of “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues” has a nice relaxed tempo, tho Washboard Sam’s percussive background lends excitement.  The stereotypical concept of the Delta blues musician is of a lone man with his guitar, but in fact playing in duos & larger combos was not at all unusual: Charlie Patton & Son House often played with Willie Brown on second guitar, & Robert Johnson performed as a duo with Johnny Shines; Big Joe Williams recorded with his first version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” with a fiddle back-up. 

Booker White was one of a number of southern African-American musicians who had a second career as a result of the 1960s folk revival.  In fact, it was this song that led to his “re-discovery.”  Guitarist John Fahey wrote a postcard addressed to “Bukka White, Old Blues Singer, c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, Miss,” & the card was forwarded to Memphis, where White had re-located.  

As you can see from the leadoff photo (background info on the photo at the bottom of the post), the song has merited its own marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.  Hope you enjoy it!

Aberdeen Mississippi Blues

I was over in Aberdeen
On my way to New Orlean
I was over in Aberdeen
On my way to New Orlean
Them Aberdeen women told me
Will buy my gasoline

Hey, two little women
That I ain't ever seen
They has two little women
That I ain't never seen
These two little women
Just from New Orlean

Ooh, sittin' down in Aberdeen
With New Orlean on my mind
I'm sittin' down in Aberdeen
With New Orlean on my mind
Well, I believe them Aberdeen women
Gonna make me lose my mind, yeah

Aberdeen is my home
But the mens don't want me around
Aberdeen is my home
But the men don't want me around
They know I will take these women
An take them outta town

Listen, you Aberdeen women
You know I ain't got no dime
Oh-oh listen you women
You know'd I ain't got no dime
They been had the po' boy
All up and down.

Photo Info: photo by Bill Parker (Flickr user slider5) from Wiki Commons but ultimately from his slider5's photostream on Flickr at this link.  The photo is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License (CC BY 2.0)

Sunday, May 1, 2011