All of Charleston is primping & preening, dance shoes on, ready for the Low Country Blues Bash February 3 -19. M Gallery will have a Blues Trio in the lobby Friday evening February 4th…as will most of the Broad Street Galleries. Bryce Cameron Liston’s romantic painting of this lovely woman in her 50’s slip and dancing shoes tying up her hair says it all: Let’s get ready to go out and shake the winter blues! The Low Country Blues Bash continues for 17 days and is the perfect excuse for everyone to come to our lovely city for some great art, great music, great food, great times. We have had a brutal winter, but today is sunny and 55 degrees; the remainder of the week slated for the high 60’s. Perfect gallery strolling weather. Imagine my delight when Shrimp City Slim showed up and summoned a full blues wail out of the grand piano we have in the lobby. It caused me to do a little research on the rich heritage the 21 year old Low Country Blues Bash Slim (aka Gary Erwin) and the Low Country Blues Society produces. I found this wonderful web site:
which has a concise history of the blues tradition of South Carolina; I’ve copied excerpts here but encourage you explore this content rich web site:
Influenced by ragtime, country string bands, traveling medicine shows, and popular song of the early 20th century, East Coast Piedmont Blues blended both black and white, rural and urban song elements in the diverse urban centers of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic region. In contrast, the Delta blues style of rural Mississippi is believed to have less of a white influence, as it was produced in a region with a higher concentration of African Americans.
Although it drew from diverse elements of the region, East Coast Piedmont Blues is decidedly an African American art form. The Piedmont blues style may even reflect an earlier musical tradition than the blues that emerged from the Mississippi Delta. According to Samuel Charters, the alternating-thumb bass pattern and “finger-picking style” of Piedmont blues guitar is reminiscent of West African kora playing and earlier banjo styles, also of African origin (Sweet as the Showers of Rain, Oak Publications, 1977, p. 137).
The Geography of Piedmont Blues
This style was principally found in the region between the Appalachian Mountains to the west and coastal plain to the east, stretching south to north from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. Most Piedmont bluesmen were associated with Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Bruce Bastin, probably the leading expert on Piedmont blues, has written that large numbers of migrating African Americans settled in the urban centers of the mid-Atlantic region during the 1910s and 1920s, principally on the main roads and railroad lines connecting the South to the Northeast. The Appalachian Mountains provided a physical barrier to a more westward expansion, and migration was generally rural to urban up the Eastern Seaboard. As a result, the urban centers along the way — Atlanta, GA, Greenville and Spartanburg, SC Durham, NC, Richmond, VA — became fertile areas for black musicians to both perform and influence each other. (For more information, see Bruce Bastin, Red River Blues, U of Illinois P, 1986.) See a complete list of East Coast Piedmont Blues Musicians by state.
When did Piedmont blues musicians record?
The heyday of the Piedmont blues sound was the 1920s and 30s, during the earliest days of commercial recording. 78 rpm records of African American musicians from this period — often marketed as “race records” — are highly collectible today. Document Records in Scotland and Yazoo Records out of Newton, NJ, are two companies that have done an excellent job in preserving many of these rare recordings on compact disc.
What distinguishes the Piedmont blues sound from, say, Delta blues or Texas blues (generally speaking)?
Generally speaking, the Piedmont blues sound incorporated ragtime piano rhythms and chord changes in guitar playing. The left hand piano rhythm is reproduced with the thumb and the right hand piano melody with the forefingers. This is often called “finger-picking style.” This type of playing has been described by some critics as being more “melodic” than other blues, with an alternating thumb bass pattern supporting the melody on treble strings.
South Carolina Blues Early Musicians of Note (Pun intended):
Pink Anderson, b. Feb. 12, 1900, Laurens, SC
Alvin “Little Pink” Anderson
Simeon “Simmie” Dooley
Reverend Gary Davis, b. April 30, 1896, in Laurens, SC
Willie Walker, b. 1896 in South Carolina
Josh White, b. Feb. 11, 1914 or 1915, in Greenville, SC (some sources incorrectly list his birthplace as Greensboro, NC)
Henry Johnson, b. December 8, 1908, Union, SC
Peg Leg Sam (Arthur Jackson), also known as “Peg Pete” in the Spartanburg area; “Peg Leg Sam” as he was known in Rocky Mount, NC; b. 28 Dec. 1908 in the Pauline section of Spartanburg, although sources differ)
Ted Bogan, b. May 10, 1910, Spartanburg, SC
Julius Daniels, b. 1902, Denmark, SC
Stark, Cootie, b. 1926, Abbeville, SC. Associated with the Greenville area.
So give us a call, pack your bags and come down to join in the fun (don’t forget your dancing shoes)
The Low Country Blues Bash Website is www.bluesbash.com and has a full list of events, venues, shows & musicians…