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Saturday, December 22, 2012

DON'T HANG MY CLOTHES ON NO BARB WIRE LINE - PEETIE WHEATSTRAW

Peetie Wheatstraw (December 21, 1902 – December 21, 1941) was the name adopted by the singer William Bunch, an influential figure among 1930s blues singers. Although the only known photograph of Bunch shows him holding a National brand tricone resonator guitar, he played the piano on most of his recordings Wheatstraw is assumed to have been born in Ripley, Tennessee, but was widely believed to have come from Arkansas. His body was shipped to Cotton Plant, Arkansas for burial, and fellow musician Big Joe Williams stated that this was his home town. The earliest biographical facts are those of fellow musicians such as Henry Townsend and Teddy Darby who remember Wheatstraw moving to St Louis, Missouri in the late 1920s. He was already a proficient guitarist, but a limited pianist. By the time Sunnyland Slim moved to St Louis in the early 1930s, Wheatstraw was one of the most popular singers with an admired idiosyncratic piano style. Wheatstraw began recording in 1930 and was so popular that he continued to record through the worst years of the Great Depression, when the numbers of blues records issued was drastically reduced. However, he made no records between March 1932 and March 1934, a period in which he perfected his mature style. For the rest of his life, he was one of the most recorded blues singers and accompanists. His total output of 161 recorded songs was surpassed by only four pre-war blues artists: Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and Bumble Bee Slim (Amos Easton). Among the clubs of St Louis and East St Louis his popularity was outstanding, rivalled only by Walter Davis. Despite rumours of his touring, there is little evidence that he worked outside these cities, except to make records By the time Bunch reached St Louis, he had discarded his name and crafted a new identity. The name 'Peetie Wheatstraw' has been described by blues scholar Paul Oliver as one that had well-rooted folk associations. Later writers have repeated this, while reporting that many uses of the name are copied from Bunch. Elijah Wald suggests that he may be the sole source of all uses of the name. It would have been in character for Bunch to invent a name with a whimsical folkloric flavor. All but two of his records were issued as by 'Peetie Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son-in-Law' or 'Peetie Wheatstraw, The High Sheriff from Hell'. He composed several 'stomps' with lyrics projecting a boastful demonic persona to match these sobriquets.There is some evidence that the writer Ralph Ellison might have known him personally. He used both the name 'Peetie Wheatstraw' and aspects of the demonic persona (but no biographical facts) to create a character in his novel Invisible Man. Elijah Wald suggests that Wheatstraw's demonic persona may have been the inspiration for Robert Johnson's association with the Devil. African-American music maintains the tradition of the African "praise-song", which tells of the prowess (sexual and other) of the singer. Although first-person celebrations of the self provide the impetus for many of his songs, Wheatstraw rings the changes on this theme with confidence, humour and occasional menace. Blues singer Henry Townsend recalled that his real personality was very similar: "He was that kind of person. You know, a jive-type person." Blues critic Tony Russell updates the description: "Wheatstraw constructed a macho persona that made him the spiritual ancestor of rap artists. Wheatstraw was still riding the crest of his success when he met his premature demise. On December 21, 1941, his 39th birthday, he and some friends decided to take a drive. They tried to entice Wheatstraw's friend, the blues singer Teddy Darby, but Darby's wife refused to let him join them. Wheatstraw was a passenger in the back seat when the Buick struck a standing freight train, instantly killing his two companions. Wheatstraw died of massive head injuries in the hospital some hours later. There is a legend that his death drew little attention, but the accident was fully reported in St. Louis and East St. Louis newspapers and obituaries appeared in the national music press. Down Beat led the front page for January 15, 1942 with the story of the accident, and an appreciation of Peetie's career under the headline, Blues Shouter Killed After Waxing "Hearseman Blues" If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!

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