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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Showing posts with label Martin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martin. Show all posts

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do You Call That A Buddy - Martin, Bogan and Armstrong

Carl Martin was part of a rich musical tradition in Appalachia - a tradition that saw blues and ragtime mesh with pop and the styles of white musicians from rural mountain communities... a tradition that defies most conventional images of music from Appalachia... a tradition that produced some of the finest American music that you can find anywhere. Martin was born near Big Stone Gap, Virginia on April 15, 1906. The town recently memorialized his musical contributions with a historical marker. Click here to read more about the memorial and Martin himself. He is said to have been able to play any instrument with strings, and his career spanned several decades playing solo and in bands including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, the Wandering Troubadours and Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong. Martin moved to Knoxville, TN with his family when he was twelve. His older brother taught him to play guitar and he soon learned other stringed instruments and began playing regularly around the Knoxville area. In the late 20s he formed his own band with Howard Armstrong. They called themselves the Tennessee Chocolate Drops. During these early years, they developed a repertoire that included not only blues, ragtime and jazz, but also hillbilly styles and Tin Pan Alley pop songs. They debuted in 1930 on WROL in Knoxville. They proceeded to make their first record on the Vocolian label. Soon after, they teamed up with guitarist and singer Ted Bogan. They migrated to Chicago where they found themselves often playing in white immigrant neighborhoods. They drew heavily upon Howard Armstrong's experience growing up in LaFollete, TN where early industry had created an ethnically diverse community. In this atmostphere, Armstrong had learned several languages and styles of music that served the band well when they started "pullin' doors" in the big city. Martin began recording under his own name in 1934. Over the years he recorded with a number of labels including Vocolian, Decca, Bluebird and Champion. In 1941 he joined the army and did not really return professionally to music until 1966 when he was swept up by the folk revival and recorded an album for Testament called Crow Jane Blue. Then, after more than thirty years, he was reunited with Bogan and Armstrong. As "Martin, Bogan and Armstrong," they toured folk and blues festivals, coffeehouses and college campuses. They recorded three more albums for Rounder and Flying Fish. Martin died in 1979 at the age of 73. Bogan and Armstrong continued playing and were the subjects of a feature-length documentary by Terry Zwiggoff in 1985. The documentary is entitled Louie Bluie (after Armstrong's stage name). You can hear some of Carl's story in his own words by listening to the interview posted above. There's also a short interview and some music in the video to the left.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't Open the Door - Martin, Bogan & Armstrong


Ted Bogan was one of the greatest musical artists to ever emerge from Spartanburg, SC, or "South Cackalacky," as the natives would describe it. Bogan was something like a growth from a massive tulip bulb, a bloom that for some reason was never allowed to fully open. He performed and recorded beautifully throughout a career that spanned more than half a century, but was mostly known as a member of the string bands variously known as Martin, Bogan & Armstrong or Martin, Bogan & the Armstrongs. The various members played in many other formations, including the New Mississippi Sheiks, over the years, but at the crux of it all was a strange relationship between Bogan and Howard Armstrong that seems to have rivaled the hate-fest of Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. Most important, however, is that Bogan was not just a country bluesman, but a skilled and versatile purveyor of a variety of classic styles who apparently held his own up against no less a genius guitarist than Les Paul. Bogan wasn't just a fancy picker, though he could do that, but an interpreter of songs who apparently should have known much greater glory from this aspect of his talent. The many new fans Bogan played for during this period may not have realized the man could indeed outdo Janis Joplin, Jimmy Stewart, and Ethel Waters in his rendition of "Summertime." Bogan learned guitar as a child, beginning with fingerpicking. His early efforts were in humble imitation of Leroy Carr and Blind Blake, artists he had heard on records. A Canadian huckster who called himself Dr. Mines hired Bogan to play in his medicine show, the story goes, and like all the details involved with Martin, Bogan & Armstrong, there is also the possibility of fiction baked in with fact. Bogan in his later years was always happy to explain the many inaccuracies or outright lies in the details of Armstrong's life story, as Armstrong was always telling it. He criticized the flamboyant Armstrong to concert organizers, backstage help, and hipsters who happened to be standing around, all part of a relationship that lasted for almost 70 years. Armstrong also would have been happy to talk about Bogan, but never found the time in his full schedule of talking about himself. Bogan's performing experiences were from the beginning ones in which diverse music played a strong part, as the medicine show also featured comedians and dancers, including historic early performers such as Ham Bone and Leroy and Bozo Brown. Dance music of the era included themes associated with the "Bucking Wing" and the "Possum Walk." Bogan's flair with this material led to live broadcast exposure in Spartenburg, traditionally a strong border location with access to North and South Cackalackears, as well as Georgians. Hooking up with fiddler and guitarist Carl Martin, Bogan relocated to Knoxville, TN, where he would become such a local institution that when it came time to paint the Knoxville Music History Mural, there was no question that Howard Armstrong, Ted Bogan, and Carl Martin would be included; after all, the trio had performed for years on Knoxville street corners as well as on radio and local television. It was during the extended Knoxville stay that Bogan strongly advanced his guitar technique, including the development of a system he called "octahaves," basically doubling one or both of the chord's lowest notes on the high strings. Bogan's style also shifted to flatpicking during this period, part of the sonic demands of playing in a group and projecting in venues such as street corners. One of the groups these players had in the '40s was the Four Keys, which toured throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. In Chicago, the group recorded as a backup unit for bluesman Bumble Bee Slim and this enjoyable material has been reissued in a series of three volumes or a complete box. The group then changed its name to the Tennessee Chocolate Drops in a shrewd move that cashed in on both the race record market as well as the fanatic interest in hillbilly music on radio and records. For many years, the group worked quite successfully until the advent of jukeboxes and amplified bands eroded public support for traditional acoustic string bands. The revival of the band began in the late '70s, with Bogan and Martin still based out of Chicago. Louie Bluie, a film based on one of Armstrong's stage and recording pseudonyms, features plenty of footage of Bogan in action. by Eugene Chadbourne
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