Monthly Archives: September 2008

last of the killer Gs

Check out the amazing typography of the two ‘G’ characters (in “dog” and “rag”) in the headline of this sheet music title page:

cover page for 'Yellow Dog Rag'

That’s from 1914, right at the moment of change between 19th and 20th century musical styles. Scott Joplin was in the terminal stages of the syphilis that killed him, too sick to play, living on his wife’s earnings from running a whorehouse in the Bronx. The hot style had emerged but didn’t have a name yet. The Original Dixieland Jass Band’s watershed hit “Livery Stable Blues” was three years in the future.

W. C. Handy was around 40, an established musician who had made his mark as the bandleader for Mahara’s Minstrels, one of the biggest minstrel shows at the turn of the 20th century. The first formal “blues” song — also by Handy — had been published the year before, and had been a big hit. This rag didn’t sell well, and in 1919 it would be retitled “Yellow Dog Blues” and republished with a new title page that had neither of these killer ‘G’s.

livin easy @ Hyperion Tavern Thurs 9/25

I’ll do a solo set at 10:30 tomorrow night at the Hyperion Tavern at 1941 Hyperion Ave, in Silverlake, Los Angeles, California. Also on the bill: Dick and Jane (before me) and the Homebillies (after me).

There’ll be sheet music of my transcription of “Living Easy” by Irving Jones to give out to anybody who wants to learn the song, and of course I’ll play the thing myself. This song disappeared almost instantly on publication in 1899, was never recorded as far as I can tell, and has left only three impressions in the historical record:

1) Charles Ives recalled having heard it in the early 1890s, sometime around the birth of ragtime in 1893.

2) In the mid-1890s when Scott Joplin lived in Sedalia, Missouri there was a local band named after a line in the song — the “Pork Chops Greazy Quartette.”

3) Copyrighted and published in 1899.

And that’s it. It was a hot underground ragtime tune very early on, and as soon as it got a bit of commercial support it went *poof*. Until tomorrow night in Silverlake in the year 2008, 109 years later.

Musically I’ve been on a roll lately, and if I don’t break my streak it’ll be a fine night of hella old music, so c’mon by. If you haven’t done one of these Hyperion shows the thing to know is that it’s a tiny place with cheap beers, no cover, and no electricity to to amplify the music and drown out your conversation, which is better for you than me but what the hell.

The situation is low key to an extreme. Dick and Jane and the Homebillies and myself all play there regularly, and the crowd is generally heavy on musicians and people in the music business. Here’s review of the place:

Two outlandish chandeliers, a shelf full of legal tomes, and a bathroom marked “slave toilet” are all part of the casual punk rock aesthetic of this friendly, intimate tavern. There’s no sign outside, so the crowd tends to consist of scruffily hip creative types already in the know about the space. Only open late at night, the bar uses various themes like ’60s pop culture and “Guitar Hero” video game night as a draw for the inexpensive beer.

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Here’s Dick and Jane’s flyer:

Dick and Jane's flyer for gig at the Hyperion Lounge 9/25/2008

Deep River Blues

Under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 unported license as always, here’s my version of the Delmore Brothers / Doc Watson tune “Deep River Blues,” via YouTube:

Also available in MP3, Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Flac.

This is an old song but not 19th century by any means. I’m posting it because (1) it’s been too long since I posted new music and this was the nearest thing at the tip of my fingers and (2) it’s a great fit for my new 2007 National Estralita, which I bought because it’s loud enough for unamplified shows and love because the sound is so thick and warm.