Part 2: Blood and Soil Arena


Part 2: Blood and Soil

Series telling the stories of the pioneers of American roots music. The second episode explores gospel, the songs of the coal mines and the Mississippi Delta blues.


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Transcript


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In the 1920s, record companies went out into America

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and, for the first time, recorded music of everyday working people.

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Some of those artists, like The Carter Family

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and The Memphis Jug Band, became popular stars

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and are remembered as pioneers of blues, country and R&B.

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Others are remembered only as names on old record labels.

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Here are some of THEIR stories.

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# Up above my head I hear music in the air

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# Up above my head

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# There is music in the air

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# Up above my head

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# Music in the air

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# And I really do believe really do believe joy somewhere

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# All in my room Music everywhere

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# All in my home Music in the air

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# Up above my head there is music in the air

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# And I do believe I do believe joy somewhere

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# Well, well, well above my head

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# Thank God Almighty music everywhere

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# Music everywhere up above my head

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# Don't you know Music in the air

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# Up above my head There is music in the air

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# You know, I really do believe I really do believe joy somewhere. #

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African-American Spirituals and gospel have shaped

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every style of American music.

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In the 1920s, the first wave of black recording stars included

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dozens of religious singers and fiery preachers who inspired

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listeners to uplift their spirit and find freedom in song.

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One of these pastors was an obscure figure named Elder Burch,

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who brought his church choir to Atlanta in 1927

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and, in a single session with Ralph Peer,

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recorded nine passionate sermons and one haunting hymn.

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WOMAN: # Ever since my sin... #

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-CHOIR:

-# Ever since my sin

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-# Been taken away

-Been taken away... #

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ALL: # My heart keeps singing, singing, singing

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# Lord, all the time

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-# Then Jesus wants

-Then Jesus wants

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-# Me in his love

-Me in his love... #

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ALL: # My heart keeps singing Singing, singing all the time

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-# I'm sanctified

-I'm sanctified

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-# By the Holy Ghost

-By the Holy Ghost

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# My heart keeps singing, singing, singing all the time

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-# Then Jesus wants

-Then Jesus wants

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-# Me in his arms

-Me in his arms

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My heart keeps singing

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# Singing, singing Lord, all the time. #

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VOICES PRAISING, OVERLAPPING

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The power of those voices captured our imagination...

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..and set us on a quest to solve the mystery - who was Elder Burch?

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Our first stop was the current home of Victor Records,

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the basement of the Sony Building in New York City.

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We just wanted to try and find anything about Elder Burch.

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We knew he had been recorded by Victor, so Sony, who own that label,

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allowed me to come down into this basement here and look

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through their records, which have every Victor recording from

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the turn of the last century to the present day.

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And these are the sheets that the recording engineers would

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type up, listing what songs were played, what instruments were used.

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You can see here Edith Piaf, Elvis Presley...

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I mean, every act you can think of.

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Here it is - BU.

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And in it, the folders are filled with these smaller brown folders.

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Julie Budd, whoever she was.

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The Buffalo Bills, Bumble Bee Slim...

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..The Bummers.

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Here he is. Elder JE Burch.

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Here is the original sheet from 1927 that was recorded when

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Ralph Peer went to Atlanta, Georgia to make this record.

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So this is the actual thing that was in the engineer's typewriter

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the day of that recording session.

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And these are all the songs that Burch recorded on this day -

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look at the number of them here.

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Address - Cheraw, South Carolina.

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Maybe that's where he was from.

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So we travelled to a town we had never heard of,

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known as the Prettiest Town In Dixie.

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It was springtime as we drove through Cheraw with its

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historic old houses and quiet roads dappled with blossoming trees.

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Apparently little had changed over the past century.

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We talked to many people in Cheraw,

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but none of them remembered Elder Burch.

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Eventually we were told to cross the tracks and visit one of

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the town's elders, Ted Bradley.

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Very few people know anything about Elder Burch.

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He was a tall, good-looking man, I would say.

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He would stand there kind of rocking respect,

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someone whose shoes were always shined,

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he was well-dressed, vest, gold chains.

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MAN: # I'm gonna sing Lord, can you hear?

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# Right down here

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# I'm going to sing, Lord God, can you hear?

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# Right down here, Lord...#

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His voice was not... It wasn't one of those hard...

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It was more...a little soft, so to speak.

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MULTIPLE VOICES SINGING AND PRAISING

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And I just wanted to be like him!

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Elder Burch was born in 1876 just outside Cheraw.

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He became a turpentine harvester, travelling to Mississippi

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where he became a minister and a disciple of ED Smith,

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founder of the Triumph Church movement,

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whose congregations channelled the word of God

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in a rapturous frenzy known as speaking in tongues.

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Charismatic preachers like Elder Burch rose up at a time when

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popular movements for civil rights were spreading across the South.

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Triumph in the other African-American churches were

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at the heart of the struggle for equal rights,

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dignity and self-respect.

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And music became a vehicle for liberation.

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At the library of Congress, we found a panoramic photograph of

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the 1919 gathering of Triumph Churches.

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We asked Ted Bradley if he recognised Elder Burch

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in the photograph.

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Bradley searched for a face he last saw as a child.

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Oh, man...

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Mm...

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Man, you know how long that's been?

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70 years ago!

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70 years ago.

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When Burch returned to his hometown, he bought land and

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opened a store, a boarding house, a barbershop and a restaurant -

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all remarkable achievements

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for an African-American in the South at that time.

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In 1924, he built a church in Cheraw with his own hands,

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gathered a fervent congregation, and formed a thunderous choir.

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CHOIR SINGS

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We find the Triumph Church still standing,

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and meet Elder Burch's modern successor, Pastor Donnie Chapman.

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In the '20s, Triumph Church -

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church in general, period - was everything.

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Because everything was segregated,

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and the blacks went to THEIR churches,

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whites went to THEIR churches,

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and black people back in that day didn't have much.

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The only thing that they had was...

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by the church, was hope for the future,

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hoping that there would be a better day coming than what they were

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experiencing at that very present time.

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But Elder Burch really did a very important thing for Cheraw.

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He started their local branch of the NAACP with Mr Levi Byrd.

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And every day they put their lives on the line for the black community,

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and Elder Burch tried to make this world

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a better place for all of us to live.

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We sang those old gospel songs to get relief from the burdens

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of the day, from the cotton fields, from cropping tobacco,

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from all of those hard tasks.

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And when you hear one singing a song across the field,

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the whole field would take it up.

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It would go across the field just like a wave, you know?

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# Amazing grace. #

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Then you hear it picked up on that side...

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# How sweet... #

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Then after they sing, they hum.

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HE HUMS

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And that just makes you just forget about that hot sun on your back.

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Down on your knees, in that 85 degree weather,

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picking that cotton.

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-VOICE ECHOES:

-# Amazing grace

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# How sweet... #

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At the Triumph Church, we find another of the town's elders,

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Ernest Gillespie.

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In Cheraw at that time, the Triumph Church started their

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services on Sunday nights.

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Sunday nights was the big service time.

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You could hear it a number of blocks away.

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Elder Burch was just one of those people that attracted people

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because of the music that he played,

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and a lot of people would go by just to see people being

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really spiritually moved and dance or shout, if you will.

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And we would just listen to the singing,

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the music and everything else, and enjoy it.

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A lot of people looked down on the Sanctified church cos

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they just were getting loose. You could hear the sensuality and

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the fervour happening in what they were doing.

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They wanted those churches to be more staid and steady and,

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you know, it was like...

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Well, yeah, but boring.

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MAN LEADS CHOIR: # Yes, love is my wonderful song

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# I'm singing it all day long

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# Since the family came in

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# Yes, love is my wonderful song. #

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When night come, and during the service,

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all of those people would come so they could hear that music,

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hear that singing, hear that stomping,

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hear those people jumping and praising the Lord and

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having a wonderful time.

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# Yes, love is my wonderful song I'm singing it all day long. #

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The fervour of Elder Burch's congregation

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inspired local youngsters,

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one of whom became a giant of modern jazz -

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Ernest's cousin, Dizzy Gillespie.

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Let me read you this out of Dizzy's autobiography.

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"Like most black musicians, much of my early inspiration,

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"especially with rhythm and harmonies, came from the church.

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"Not MY church, though.

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"The Sanctified church stood down the street from us.

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"The leader of the church's name was Elder Burch,

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"and he had several sons.

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"Johnny Burch played the snare drum,

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"his brother Willie beat the cymbal.

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"Another one of the Burch brothers played bass drum.

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"They used to keep at least four rhythms going,

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"and as they congregation joined in

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"the number of rhythms would increase,

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"with foot stomping, hand clapping

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"and people catching the spirit

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"and jumping up and down on the wooden floor,

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"which also resounded like a drum.

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"Even white people would come down and sit outside in their cars

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"just to listen to people getting the spirit inside.

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"Everyone would be shouting and fainting and stomping.

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"The Sanctified church rhythm got to me

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"as it did anyone who came near the place.

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"People like Aretha Franklin and James Brown owe everything

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"to that Sanctified beat."

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HE SCREAMS

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# Please...#

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"I received my first experience with rhythm and spiritual transport

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"going down there to Elder Burch's church every Sunday,

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"and I have just followed it ever since."

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If you listen to Diz's music you hear Triumph.

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They lived right up the street from the church, and he heard every note,

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every downbeat, every drumbeat, he could hear it from his bed.

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If you walk up the street from Elder Burch's church a few houses,

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you'll arrive to where Dizzy lived.

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They made it into a park now.

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Standing in the park, you can still hear the music

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from Elder Burch's church.

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It's amazing that the music on this record,

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recorded in the '20s by Elder Burch,

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influenced so many people around Cheraw.

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It's a thrill to see the members of the Triumph Church choir,

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composed of people throughout the United States, arriving here in

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Cheraw to sing, all in tribute to Elder Burch.

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We would like to welcome you to our wonderful city of Cheraw,

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South Carolina, to a church that Elder John Burch built

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back in the 1920s.

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-Amen. Amen

-ALL: Amen.

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You know, in Psalm 149, it says, "Sing a new song unto the Lord."

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Sing a new song, and that song that he sung,

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I will sing unto the Lord.

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My heart just keeps right on singing and praising

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Almighty God. Amen. All right.

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APPLAUSE

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-MAN: # Come sanctify... # CHOIR:

-# Come sanctify

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-# With the Holy Ghost

-With the Holy Ghost

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# My heart keeps

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# Singing, singing, singing all the time... #

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BAND STARTS

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-# I'm singing

-I'm singing

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-# Because I'm free

-I'm singing

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-# You help me

-I'm singing

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-# I'm singing

-I'm singing

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-# Oh...

-Singing, singing all the time

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-# I'm singing

-Cos he brought me

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-# I'm going to sing

-I'm singing

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# I'm going to sing I'm going to sing, I'm going to sing

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-# Oh, yes, I'm singing

-I'm singing

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-# Can you help me sing?

-I'm singing

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-# I do for him

-I'm singing

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# I sanctify God All the time. #

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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BAND PLAYS

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MUSIC FADES

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MAN: # Get down, get down little Henry Lee

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# And stay all night with me

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# The very best lodging I can afford

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# Will be fare better'n thee

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# I can't get down and I won't get down

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# And stay all night with thee

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# For the girl I have in that merry green land

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# I love far better'n thee...#

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Some of the more striking music of the early recording era

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came from the coal mines of Logan County, West Virginia.

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These gritty songs capture stories of hard lives, hard deaths,

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hard luck and hard labour.

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The men of Logan County spent their days underground,

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scratching a living out of solid rock.

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Three of them were also exceptional musicians.

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Frank Hutchison, Dick Justice and Ervin Williamson.

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My father was a musician, Ervin Williamson,

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who founded the group the Williamson Brothers & Curry

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back in the '20s.

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They were very, very good

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and they had a good following,

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but he chose to come to Logan County

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and have a family and to work in the coal mines and make money that way.

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They went in the coal mines at daylight

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and they didn't get out until after dark,

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and I remember my dad telling me that they

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hand-loaded coal with a shovel,

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and they got paid 0.50 a carload.

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And the only people who prospered and got better off

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were the coal companies themselves.

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That's what my dad told me the way it was, you know.

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My name is Eugene Justice, my father was Dick Justice.

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Dad worked in the coal mines all his life,

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and what I heard, he started,

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like, when he was 13 years old.

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One time Dad took me down in one, maybe two miles,

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and I didn't want no more.

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I said, "Get me back out of here."

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It's an eerie feeling, man, all that dirt overhead.

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# Old black dog when I'm gone, Lord, Lord

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# Old black dog when I'm gone

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# When I come back with a 10 bill

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# And it's Honey, where you been so long?... #

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It was dangerous just to go in, let alone work in it, you know.

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There was a lot of mining accidents back then, my dad told me

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that every time you go down - at that time -

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you were just taking your life in your hands.

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There wasn't very much to do, really.

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Dad, he'd work all week,

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and on the weekends he'd have his beer, play his guitar.

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It was just to get together and play their instruments.

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Dad loved music, and people done a lot back then, like a hobby.

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They just had the music in them and they enjoyed it.

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They didn't plan on making a career or making big-time money

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like they do now with music.

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It was just something that neighbours and people got together

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and they done. But that's the way it was.

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That's the way life was back then.

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It was pretty rough on people working in the coal mines,

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half killing themselves,

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and the coal companies taking most of their money back.

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That's what Dad did - every penny he got went right back to them.

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Back in 1921, miners started marching,

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and they was trying to get unions formed.

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The coal companies didn't want the union to come in, because if

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they did, that meant the coal miners would get better pay and everything.

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Well, the sheriff back at the time had an army of deputies

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to meet him at the top of Blair Mountain.

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They had guns all over the place, you know.

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Of course, the coalminers, they were armed too, but they were outnumbered

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by five or ten to one, and several people were killed.

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It's believed that some people's remains might still be

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laying on the mountain up there.

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The mine wars and the hellish working conditions inspired

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the Logan musicians to find a way out through music.

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Back then Dick Justice and Frank Hutchison, they were very good,

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and they all knew each other, they played music together many times.

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Frank Hutchison was the first Logan County artist to make a record.

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He travelled to New York in 1926 to record for the Okeh company,

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and when they invited him to another session in 1927, he arranged

0:23:490:23:53

for some friends to secretly audition on their lunch break.

0:23:530:23:56

Now, when Dad made some recordings,

0:23:570:23:59

Frank Hutchison and him, they helped him set up an audition,

0:23:590:24:03

and they auditioned over the telephone.

0:24:030:24:05

The Okeh scouts liked what they heard,

0:24:050:24:07

and they wired the Williamson Brothers & Curry train fare

0:24:070:24:11

to come record in St Louis.

0:24:110:24:13

They went on down, and they went down on the train.

0:24:130:24:17

It was in 1927, during the biggest floods

0:24:180:24:21

on the Mississippi River ever,

0:24:210:24:23

and Dad had told me stories about when he would look out the train

0:24:230:24:26

all he could see was water and see housetops sticking up

0:24:260:24:29

out of the water, it was that bad.

0:24:290:24:31

When you made recordings back then, you recorded one time.

0:24:320:24:35

You didn't get that take one, take two and take three

0:24:350:24:37

and take four until you got it right.

0:24:370:24:39

Whatever happened on the first recording, that is what went out.

0:24:390:24:42

# I'm going down this road feeling bad

0:24:580:25:02

# Oh, I'm going down this road feeling bad

0:25:020:25:06

# Oh, I'm going down this road feeling bad, Lord, Lord,

0:25:060:25:10

# And I ain't going to be treated this a-way... #

0:25:100:25:14

They recorded six songs and they got paid 25 a song,

0:25:180:25:23

and that was all, no royalties or anything,

0:25:230:25:26

they just got paid 25 a song and that was it.

0:25:260:25:29

That's a lot different from getting paid 0.50 a coal car, you know.

0:25:290:25:34

Dick Justice was the third Logan mine worker

0:25:340:25:36

to win a recording contract.

0:25:360:25:38

Brunswick Records paid his fare to Chicago to record in their

0:25:380:25:42

brand-new studio on the 21st floor of the American Furniture Mart.

0:25:420:25:45

# Some take him by his lilywhite hand

0:25:460:25:51

# Some take him by his feet

0:25:510:25:56

# We'll throw him in this deep, deep well

0:25:560:26:00

# More than 100 feet

0:26:000:26:05

# Lie there, lie there loving Henry Lee

0:26:050:26:09

# Till the flesh drops from your bones

0:26:090:26:13

# I'd fly away to the merry green land

0:26:130:26:18

# And tell what I have seen. #

0:26:180:26:23

After his recording session, Dick Justice returned to the mines

0:26:260:26:29

and waited for a phone call that never came.

0:26:290:26:32

He never spoke a word about his recordings, even to his own son.

0:26:330:26:37

He never talked about it.

0:26:390:26:42

I never heard him mention ever recording songs.

0:26:420:26:46

You would think if he recorded songs at one time or another,

0:26:460:26:51

I would have heard him sing one of them. I never did.

0:26:510:26:54

The Logan musicians received little recognition for their records.

0:26:580:27:02

But decades later, three of their songs were revived on the

0:27:020:27:06

Anthology Of American Folk Music -

0:27:060:27:08

an album that became the Bible for a new generation of musicians.

0:27:080:27:11

The anthology opened with Dick Justice's Henry Lee,

0:27:130:27:17

and included Frank Hutchinson's Stackalee,

0:27:170:27:20

and the Williamson Brothers' Gonna Die With A Hammer In My Hand.

0:27:200:27:23

I'm holding in my hand here one of the original old 78 records -

0:27:250:27:29

Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand.

0:27:290:27:31

That was a story about John Henry.

0:27:310:27:34

Companies at that time, they brought in a steam machine

0:27:340:27:37

to beat the steel and whoop it in the ground, is what they called it.

0:27:370:27:40

But John Henry, according to the legend,

0:27:400:27:44

he was not going to be beaten by a steam machine,

0:27:440:27:47

that he could outdo it, and he just worked so hard trying to

0:27:470:27:50

beat the steam machine that he just laid down his hammer and died.

0:27:500:27:53

# John Henry told his captain

0:28:100:28:14

# Man ain't nothing but a man

0:28:140:28:18

# Before I'd be beaten by this old steam drill

0:28:180:28:21

# Lord, I'll die with my hammer in my hand

0:28:210:28:24

# Lord, I'll die with a hammer in my hand. #

0:28:240:28:27

I can listen to his songs, and get them on the computer,

0:28:330:28:36

on YouTube, and I listen to them sometimes and it chokes me up

0:28:360:28:40

because I know what it would do for him.

0:28:400:28:42

He wouldn't know what to think about it.

0:28:420:28:45

It would just be amazing to him that his music was being

0:28:450:28:49

recognised, him being gone since 1972.

0:28:490:28:52

He would have really been overwhelmed with it,

0:28:520:28:55

he really would have.

0:28:550:28:57

One, two...

0:28:570:28:59

One, two, three!

0:28:590:29:00

# John Henry, well, he told his captain

0:29:000:29:05

# "Captain, a man, he ain't nothin' but a man

0:29:050:29:08

# "Before I let your steam drill

0:29:100:29:12

# "Beat me down, I'm gonna die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord

0:29:120:29:18

# "I'll die with a hammer in my hand"... #

0:29:180:29:20

Come on!

0:29:200:29:22

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:29:270:29:30

BLUES MUSIC PLAYS, CROWD SCREAMS

0:29:350:29:40

# I'm the little red rooster, baby

0:29:490:29:51

# Too lazy to crow for day... #

0:29:530:29:56

I was in Chicago a little while ago and I found a chap singing

0:30:150:30:18

the blues and it turned out to be somebody you know about...

0:30:180:30:21

In fact, he's quite famous, isn't he, in Britain?

0:30:210:30:23

-Yes, well, he was the first one that recorded Little Red Rooster!

-Was he?

0:30:230:30:27

When did he...? Tell us something about him, Brian.

0:30:270:30:29

Well, when we first started playing together, we started playing

0:30:290:30:32

because we wanted to play rhythm and blues and

0:30:320:30:34

Howlin' Wolf was one of our greatest idols,

0:30:340:30:35

so I think it's about time you shut up and we had Howlin' Wolf on stage.

0:30:350:30:38

I agree, OK!

0:30:380:30:40

Howlin' Wolf!

0:30:400:30:42

INDISTINCT LYRICS

0:30:420:30:45

# You couldn't believe a word I'd say... #

0:30:450:30:48

INDISTINCT LYRICS

0:30:510:30:55

# You couldn't believe a word I'd say...

0:30:550:30:58

# And you'd better pray

0:31:010:31:04

# But I can't let you have your way. #

0:31:040:31:07

And I'm starting to make ready, it was ploughing -

0:31:090:31:13

ploughing four mule on the plantation.

0:31:130:31:17

And a man come through picking a guitar called Charley Patton

0:31:180:31:22

and I liked-ed his sound.

0:31:220:31:24

Every night that I'd get off of work,

0:31:250:31:28

I'd go over to his house and he'd learn me how to pick the guitar.

0:31:280:31:31

Then I went to playing from there.

0:31:320:31:34

# There's a little bo weavil keeps movin' in the evening, Lordie!

0:31:390:31:43

# You can plant your cotton and you won't get a half a bale, Lordie

0:31:490:31:53

# Bo weavil, bo weavil, where's your native home, Lordie

0:31:580:32:02

# Bo weavil meet his wife, "We can sit down on the hill," Lordie

0:32:060:32:09

# Bo weavil told his wife, "Let's trade this 40 in," Lordie

0:32:130:32:16

# Bo weavil, bo weavil, "Outta treat me fair," Lordie

0:32:200:32:24

# The next time I did you had your family there, Lordie. #

0:32:280:32:31

Patton was a mythic figure and his first three records were

0:32:350:32:38

released under three different names - Charley Patton,

0:32:380:32:42

Elder JJ Hadley and the Masked Marvel.

0:32:420:32:45

There is no film footage of him, and only one known photograph.

0:32:480:32:51

Patton lived in a plantation culture that had hardly

0:32:530:32:56

changed since the 19th century.

0:32:560:32:58

But a music store owner named HC Speir

0:32:590:33:01

in Jackson, Mississippi, was excited by Patton's raw sound and cut

0:33:010:33:05

an audition record in his makeshift recording studio.

0:33:050:33:09

Uh, this is HC Speir.

0:33:090:33:12

I opened up the first recording

0:33:120:33:13

station for making trial records.

0:33:130:33:15

That was in 1926

0:33:150:33:18

and I made a test for Charles Patton.

0:33:180:33:21

Patton was good.

0:33:210:33:22

As a rule, the best talent for the blues singing came from

0:33:230:33:26

the Mississippi Delta and that's due to hard times and

0:33:260:33:30

it gave them more incentive to put more into blues, you see.

0:33:300:33:35

In other words,

0:33:350:33:37

if he were sitting around at night and hear an owl sing,

0:33:370:33:40

then he would kinda feel lonesome,

0:33:400:33:42

and when they would sing, late in the evening,

0:33:420:33:45

it was a lonesome sound, too.

0:33:450:33:47

And that's what made those records sell better, too.

0:33:470:33:50

I have to say Charley Patton was one of the best talents I ever had

0:33:500:33:54

and he was one of the best sellers on record.

0:33:540:33:57

Charley Patton's songs were often intensely personal,

0:33:570:34:00

reflecting the harsh realities of his life.

0:34:000:34:02

In High Water Everywhere,

0:34:030:34:05

he recalls the devastation of the great Mississippi Flood in 1927.

0:34:050:34:10

# That water was rising up

0:34:100:34:13

# At places all around

0:34:130:34:15

# Waters all around

0:34:150:34:17

# It was 50 women, children

0:34:190:34:22

# Tough luck, they can drown

0:34:220:34:25

# Oh, Lordie

0:34:260:34:28

# Women groaning down

0:34:300:34:32

# Oh

0:34:350:34:38

# Women and children sinking down... #

0:34:380:34:41

Lord have mercy.

0:34:410:34:42

# I couldn't see nobody home and was no-one to be found. #

0:34:440:34:50

Well, the significance of Charley Patton...

0:34:570:35:01

cannot be understated.

0:35:010:35:03

Charley was just a force of nature.

0:35:030:35:06

Incredible voice.

0:35:060:35:07

It's kind of like a masking style, where you create

0:35:070:35:11

a character with a voice

0:35:110:35:13

and then you comment on what this character's doing.

0:35:130:35:17

You know?

0:35:170:35:18

# High water everywhere, baby drove poor Charley

0:35:180:35:22

# Drove Charley down... # "What you think of that?"

0:35:220:35:25

# Oh

0:35:260:35:29

# Women, children sinking down... #

0:35:290:35:32

Lord have mercy.

0:35:320:35:34

He was like, he was playing all the parts, everything,

0:35:340:35:38

it was almost like a musical play, you know?

0:35:380:35:41

Where he was singing all the different parts of the characters.

0:35:410:35:44

Or side comments.

0:35:440:35:46

And if you listen to the music, it always has that lope, you know?

0:35:460:35:50

You look at some of these guys and go, "OK,

0:35:500:35:53

"so what is this guy do all day long?

0:35:530:35:55

"All day long he's got two mules

0:35:550:35:58

"and they just go up and down the field, ploughing."

0:35:580:36:02

That was the only way they did it, they didn't have a tractor. But...

0:36:020:36:05

all of that's in the music.

0:36:050:36:07

# I'm goin' away

0:36:090:36:12

# To a world unknown

0:36:120:36:16

# I'm goin' away

0:36:190:36:20

# To a world unknown

0:36:220:36:26

# I'm worried now, but I won't be worried long

0:36:280:36:35

# My rider got somethin'

0:36:380:36:41

# She's tryin'a keep it hid... #

0:36:410:36:45

Charley Patton lived on a vast plantation known as Dockery Farms.

0:36:450:36:49

Like many black Delta dwellers,

0:36:490:36:51

his family would later leave for the North,

0:36:510:36:54

but we brought two young relatives back to explore their roots.

0:36:540:36:57

It was the first time they'd visited Dockery.

0:36:570:37:00

I'm Kenny Cannon.

0:37:010:37:03

My grandfather, John Cannon,

0:37:030:37:05

was born on this plantation and

0:37:050:37:08

told me I have a very famous uncle who invented blues.

0:37:080:37:11

My Aunt Bessie would say that...

0:37:130:37:15

Charley Patton was the ultimate showman.

0:37:150:37:17

I'll say it like she said it - he could pick the guitar.

0:37:170:37:20

With his mouth, with his hands, behind his back...

0:37:210:37:25

Crawling, laying on the floor,

0:37:250:37:28

simulating different acts on stage.

0:37:280:37:31

He was like a one-man band.

0:37:310:37:33

To come here to Dockery and look around

0:37:350:37:38

is a very humbling experience.

0:37:380:37:41

To know that a woman that I know and love,

0:37:410:37:44

as a child, picked cotton on this plantation,

0:37:440:37:47

to know that there were thousands of African-Americans enslaved

0:37:470:37:52

against their will, sharecropping for a meagre existence,

0:37:520:37:56

I get new insight, and I'm really grateful for the struggles

0:37:560:37:59

and the sacrifice that my ancestors made before me.

0:37:590:38:03

My name is William Lester.

0:38:050:38:06

I moved here over 40 years ago

0:38:060:38:08

-and I'm the Executive Director of the Dockery Farm Foundation.

-OK.

0:38:080:38:12

I am just tickled pink for you to be here and for me to get to meet you,

0:38:120:38:16

because I had no idea when I started my career that Charley Patton

0:38:160:38:21

would be so important to me.

0:38:210:38:23

Back then, the workers built a 12-mile long railroad from

0:38:230:38:26

Dockery all the way to Boyle, and so that train brought all that

0:38:260:38:29

food here and kept those people alive.

0:38:290:38:31

But what it did was, it brought all the blues singers here.

0:38:310:38:34

And back then, they had no fans,

0:38:340:38:36

no electricity, no running water,

0:38:360:38:39

no nothing, and so they wouldn't have heard anything all week long

0:38:390:38:42

while they were working except the wind in the leaves and

0:38:420:38:45

all of a sudden, these guys would show up,

0:38:450:38:47

they'd come in on the train, can you imagine what that did to them?

0:38:470:38:50

-Mm-hm.

-They'd been working so hard all week long, and wow!

0:38:500:38:53

People would show up playing metal acoustic National guitars,

0:38:530:38:57

loud and brassy.

0:38:570:38:58

# He got a letter this morning

0:39:050:39:08

# How do you reckon it read?

0:39:080:39:11

# It said, "Hurry, hurry, yeah,

0:39:110:39:13

# "Your love is dead"

0:39:130:39:16

# He got a letter this morning

0:39:160:39:19

# How do you reckon it read?

0:39:190:39:21

# It said, "Hurry, hurry

0:39:240:39:27

# "Cos the gal you love is dead."

0:39:280:39:30

# He grabbed up his suitcase

0:39:340:39:37

# Took off down the road

0:39:370:39:39

# When he got there she was laying on the cooling board

0:39:400:39:44

# He grabbed up his suitcase... #

0:39:440:39:46

This Dockery commissary drew a lot of people like Son House,

0:39:490:39:53

all kinds of blues singers.

0:39:530:39:55

Almost all of them back in the '20s and '30s came here because of

0:39:550:39:58

the isolated group of people, and they could perform in front of,

0:39:580:40:02

-so they had a captive audience, almost.

-Mm-hmm.

0:40:020:40:04

-But then they could play their form of the blues.

-Yeah.

0:40:040:40:07

In that era, music was a break from reality.

0:40:070:40:10

The reality was you're a sharecropper,

0:40:100:40:12

you're working hard every day of your life.

0:40:120:40:14

And it gives you an opportunity to get a break from

0:40:140:40:18

that hard day-to-day work.

0:40:180:40:20

That's why it's so impactful, even to this day.

0:40:200:40:23

The reason Dockery is considered to be the birthplace of the blues

0:40:230:40:26

is because of all the education that went on here.

0:40:260:40:29

Howlin' Wolf came here as about a ten-year-old.

0:40:290:40:31

And, you know, I mean, Howlin' Wolf's a big bluesman.

0:40:310:40:34

He couldn't do anything when he came here with a guitar.

0:40:340:40:36

Charley taught him how to play the guitar.

0:40:360:40:38

When he was about 18, he left.

0:40:380:40:40

At the same time, Pop Staples came here, Willie Brown came here.

0:40:400:40:44

Tommy Johnson. Robert Johnson came here to play.

0:40:440:40:47

He's considered the best guitar player of the blues.

0:40:470:40:49

But Charley taught all of them how to play here,

0:40:490:40:52

and Honey Boy Edwards, he was probably one of the last

0:40:520:40:55

original blues singers to actually play here.

0:40:550:40:57

This previously unseen footage includes the earliest filmed

0:40:590:41:01

performance by a Dockery musician.

0:41:010:41:03

Honey Boy Edwards, playing on a street corner in 1942.

0:41:040:41:08

# ..when I'm down

0:41:120:41:14

# I'd be the same as when I arrive

0:41:150:41:17

# Cos I see my woman, baby

0:41:280:41:30

# Oh, she's standing on the side

0:41:320:41:34

# Lord, I'm working in New York City... #

0:41:420:41:46

HARMONICA PLAYS

0:41:470:41:49

When we interviewed Honeyboy, he was 91 years old,

0:42:020:42:06

one of the last musicians with direct links to Charley Patton.

0:42:060:42:09

This is Honeyboy Edwards.

0:42:100:42:12

I was born in Shaw, Mississippi, 1915.

0:42:120:42:16

And I played the guitar. My father played guitar and violin.

0:42:160:42:20

And my mother played harmonica. And my name is Honeyboy Edwards.

0:42:210:42:24

And that's, right, whatever. This is me.

0:42:260:42:29

Charley Patton, he was Indian.

0:42:310:42:34

He dressed clean.

0:42:340:42:35

Wore his hair out, curled to the side. He was Indian.

0:42:350:42:38

Yeah, he had some good-looking women.

0:42:400:42:41

I used to go with one of his women.

0:42:410:42:43

Well, he was attractive at the time because

0:42:430:42:46

he'd made calls that didn't too many people make.

0:42:460:42:50

With Charley Patton you called him the Father of the Delta.

0:42:500:42:53

He was a good blues player back at the time.

0:42:530:42:55

And his name was ringing all through the desert,

0:42:550:42:57

"Charley Patton, Charley Patton."

0:42:570:42:59

He played for all the country dances.

0:42:590:43:02

# I'm gonna move to Alabama

0:43:020:43:04

# I'm gonna move to Alabama

0:43:040:43:06

# I'm going to move to Alabama, make Georgia be your home... #

0:43:080:43:12

The 96-year-old guitarist Homesick James had vivid memories of

0:43:160:43:20

Patton's performances.

0:43:200:43:21

He...

0:43:330:43:35

HE LAUGHS

0:43:350:43:37

How did you manage to be heard with just guitar and voice?

0:43:550:43:59

HE LAUGHS

0:44:110:44:13

Well, Charley...

0:44:290:44:31

He drank a lot of whisky, a lot of white whisky.

0:44:320:44:36

And he'd break up his own dances.

0:44:360:44:38

Yeah, broke up his own, he'd fight. He'd get to play on the guitar

0:44:380:44:41

and somebody would say, "Do you want to fight?"

0:44:410:44:43

He'd break up his own dances.

0:44:430:44:44

Charley died in '34.

0:44:440:44:46

He had got to fighting at Holly Ridge and some guy had cut him here

0:44:460:44:50

on the throat.

0:44:500:44:52

Two years after Patton's death,

0:45:010:45:03

Robert Johnson blended his style

0:45:030:45:05

with the latest sounds from Chicago and St Louis,

0:45:050:45:07

and made the most famous Delta blues recordings of all time.

0:45:070:45:11

He too was discovered by HC Speir,

0:45:120:45:15

and is now considered a forefather of rock and roll.

0:45:150:45:18

His most direct musical descendant was his stepson,

0:45:180:45:21

91-year-old Robert Lockwood Jr.

0:45:210:45:25

# The train left the station

0:45:300:45:32

# With two lights on behind

0:45:340:45:37

# When the train pulled away from the station

0:45:390:45:41

# With two lights on behind

0:45:430:45:44

# The blue light was my blues

0:45:480:45:50

# And the red one was my mind

0:45:520:45:56

# All my love in vain. #

0:45:560:45:59

Oh, that was one of Robert Johnson's tunes.

0:46:010:46:04

And the name of it is Love In Vain. Yeah.

0:46:060:46:09

-When did you learn that song?

-Oh, Jesus Christ.

0:46:100:46:14

I learned that song a long, long time ago.

0:46:140:46:16

Oh, I learned that song when I was about, er...

0:46:170:46:21

..about 16.

0:46:230:46:24

Who taught it to you?

0:46:260:46:27

Robert Johnson.

0:46:290:46:30

I was on his case.

0:46:310:46:33

Everything that I learnt from him at that time,

0:46:330:46:36

he showed me about twice.

0:46:360:46:38

I'm known as somebody who can play his material.

0:46:380:46:41

Everybody else messes it up.

0:46:410:46:42

The blues is supposed to be made to play slow like Charley Patton,

0:46:430:46:46

but a lot of the boys are playing the blues now and some of

0:46:460:46:49

them are playing their blues first, and it sounds all right.

0:46:490:46:52

And you'll be going over and over and not hitting on

0:46:520:46:55

nothing, you know what I mean?

0:46:550:46:58

Rab-rab-rab-rab.

0:47:040:47:06

There's a few can sing.

0:47:080:47:10

-Then you start out...

-HE WAILS

0:47:100:47:12

They can't sing, but they can play.

0:47:120:47:13

I'm not a doctor,

0:47:130:47:15

but what I think, their voice cords is not like ours.

0:47:150:47:19

Know what I mean? Their voice cord is not like ours.

0:47:200:47:23

That's when they can't control it.

0:47:230:47:25

They can play, but they can't...

0:47:260:47:28

You catch some...can sing good,

0:47:280:47:30

but just a few of them now, just a few.

0:47:300:47:32

THEY LAUGH

0:47:490:47:52

THEIR LAUGHS ECHO

0:47:520:47:53

Charley Patton was able to share his experience in his music.

0:47:580:48:03

And what it represented was one person on a platform,

0:48:030:48:08

representing a whole environment

0:48:080:48:11

of African-Americans being underprivileged.

0:48:110:48:13

African-Americans being disenfranchised.

0:48:130:48:15

African-Americans not having an opportunity,

0:48:150:48:20

an equal opportunity in this country.

0:48:200:48:22

So I think the translation from blues, all the way to rock,

0:48:230:48:28

now to hip-hop, was just a metamorphosis and

0:48:280:48:32

a culmination of the entire African-American experience

0:48:320:48:36

that was rooted in slavery.

0:48:360:48:38

And we've always found a way to scream through the music.

0:48:380:48:43

# I told my baby

0:48:430:48:45

# That you had never done me wrong

0:48:460:48:50

# Oh, I could tell you, honey

0:48:580:49:02

# Oh, you're going to take off from me some day

0:49:020:49:06

# I said, then you going to be sorry

0:49:130:49:16

# That you treated poor old me this way. #

0:49:160:49:19

In the years following Charley Patton's death,

0:49:260:49:29

the Mississippi Delta was transformed.

0:49:290:49:32

The mechanised machinery came in.

0:49:320:49:34

So instead of using mules and people, they just used tractors.

0:49:340:49:37

And one man on a tractor could do what 100 men with a mule could do.

0:49:370:49:41

It changed the whole labour workforce completely.

0:49:410:49:44

And the people all left.

0:49:440:49:46

Sharecroppers, mule drivers and cotton pickers

0:49:460:49:49

streamed up Highway 61 on the great migration north,

0:49:490:49:52

to industrial cities like Chicago and Detroit.

0:49:520:49:55

They took only a few possessions,

0:49:560:49:58

their stories and their music.

0:49:580:50:01

It's really hard to know how far-reaching

0:50:030:50:05

the influence of Charley Patton is.

0:50:050:50:08

I mean, he influenced the first generation of Delta guys.

0:50:080:50:12

You know, guys like Muddy Waters,

0:50:120:50:14

BB King and John Lee Hooker.

0:50:140:50:17

And the younger Delta guys, like Robert Lockwood.

0:50:170:50:20

But his big thumbprint is on Howlin' Wolf.

0:50:210:50:24

Wolf clearly states that he went over to Patton and sat down

0:50:260:50:31

and Patton showed him his tunes and the way that he played them.

0:50:310:50:34

You can't get that unless you were right next to him.

0:50:340:50:37

You had to be able to watch him play it every night.

0:50:370:50:40

For SEVERAL every nights.

0:50:400:50:42

# If you see me running

0:50:420:50:45

# I'll come streaking by

0:50:450:50:48

# You'd better run

0:50:480:50:49

# If you see me running

0:50:520:50:55

# I'll come streaking by

0:50:550:50:58

# She got a bad old man

0:51:020:51:05

# I'm too young to die. #

0:51:060:51:08

When you hear a lot of the early Wolf stuff,

0:51:150:51:18

you hear Patton in there.

0:51:180:51:20

But Wolf brought it to a new generation,

0:51:200:51:23

and then carried it forward.

0:51:230:51:24

# Allons a Lafayette

0:51:530:51:56

# C'est pour changer ton nom

0:51:560:51:58

# On va t'appeler, Madame

0:51:580:52:00

# Madame Canaille Comeaux... #

0:52:000:52:03

# Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind

0:52:040:52:08

# Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind... #

0:52:120:52:16

My name's AlyssaBeth K Archambault.

0:52:360:52:40

And my great-uncle is Joseph Kekuku,

0:52:400:52:43

the inventor of the Hawaiian steel guitar.

0:52:430:52:45

He was only 11 years old, and that is pretty young to be

0:52:470:52:50

so devoted to creating something new

0:52:500:52:53

that didn't exist.

0:52:530:52:56

He felt so inspired, because he had a mission.

0:52:570:53:01

So he took the mainland, he took the world.

0:53:020:53:06

In the '20s and '30s,

0:53:060:53:08

up to the '40s, Hawaiian music was really kind of the rage.

0:53:080:53:12

It's an area that's kind of cut off to itself.

0:53:120:53:14

It has its own weather,

0:53:140:53:17

its energy, its moisture, its pace.

0:53:170:53:21

You know, its mixture, it's a totally different thing.

0:53:210:53:25

Cajun music has always been passed down through the families.

0:53:330:53:36

We learned it from our dad and uncles.

0:53:360:53:38

Our grandpa played music, his dad played music.

0:53:380:53:41

This music really resembles the landscape from which it's born.

0:53:420:53:45

The bayous are very crooked

0:53:450:53:47

and winding and slow,

0:53:470:53:50

just like the music can be very unconventional. It's not square.

0:53:500:53:54

We call it croche, it means crooked.

0:53:540:53:57

And it doesn't resemble any other music.

0:53:570:53:59

# Oh, but you can't move on

0:53:590:54:02

# Oh... #

0:54:020:54:05

There's definitely a sense of urgency in Cajun music.

0:54:050:54:07

From living where you love to live, but also a lot of suffering that

0:54:070:54:11

goes along with it, because it's a very intense, harsh landscape.

0:54:110:54:14

HE SINGS IN A THICK CAJUN ACCENT

0:54:140:54:17

# Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind

0:54:260:54:30

# Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind... #

0:54:340:54:37

-Dick Spottiswood. Dick?

-APPLAUSE

0:54:500:54:54

I've been asked to say a few words about John,

0:54:540:54:56

so I'll make it as brief as possible so you can hear him play himself.

0:54:560:55:00

When we found him this spring, he hadn't played guitar for years,

0:55:000:55:03

but he picks it up now and plays like a champ.

0:55:030:55:06

It's been quite a while since I did any of this.

0:55:060:55:10

And I'm very happy to be with y'all.

0:55:100:55:14

You know, I can't help but be happy.

0:55:160:55:17

Last I remember playing much of this, why,

0:55:180:55:23

I was with the Okeh company, records for them, '28 and '29.

0:55:230:55:26

So, Spottiswood discovered me down in Avalon, Mississippi.

0:55:280:55:33

There was one John Hurt title that none of the Hurt fans,

0:55:330:55:36

such as we were in the late 1950s, had ever heard.

0:55:360:55:39

And the first thing I heard was the lyric that says,

0:55:390:55:42

"Avalon's my hometown, it's always on my mind."

0:55:420:55:46

And so I extrapolated

0:55:460:55:48

from that that must be a place in Mississippi called Avalon,

0:55:480:55:51

and we went to the atlas to look it up, and there it was.

0:55:510:55:55

It was clear, by just looking at the map that it wasn't anything

0:55:550:55:58

more than a speck on the road.

0:55:580:56:00

# Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind

0:56:020:56:05

# Avalon, my hometown, always on my mind

0:56:100:56:13

# Pretty mama's in Avalon, want me there all the time... #

0:56:180:56:21

-WOMAN:

-People just knew him as Mississippi John Hurt.

0:56:220:56:26

But he was Daddy John.

0:56:260:56:27

When another friend decided that he was going to go down to the

0:56:280:56:32

Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1963,

0:56:320:56:35

I looked at the map again and said,

0:56:350:56:37

"It's not too far out of your way to stop by Avalon, Mississippi,

0:56:370:56:41

"and see if anybody has ever heard of John Hurt."

0:56:410:56:43

And so he did, and the first person he asked gave him directions

0:56:430:56:47

to John Hurt's house.

0:56:470:56:48

And he goes, "Are you the person that made this sound?"

0:56:500:56:52

He goes, "Yeah." And he said, "Can you play this song?"

0:56:520:56:55

And Daddy John responded, "I could if I had a guitar."

0:56:550:56:58

And the guy had a guitar, so he played this song for him.

0:56:580:57:03

And he goes, "Do you know how famous you are?"

0:57:030:57:06

And Daddy John was like, "No."

0:57:060:57:09

You know, it was just, no, he had no idea.

0:57:090:57:14

Why, I thought it was real funny. I said, "Why, what have I did?

0:57:140:57:18

"Is the FBI looking for me?"

0:57:180:57:20

So the first little number I might do is Stack O'Lee.

0:57:240:57:27

# Police officer, how can it be?

0:57:420:57:47

# You can 'rest everybody but cruel Stack O'Lee

0:57:470:57:51

# That bad man, oh, cruel Stack O'Lee... #

0:57:510:57:55

This episode takes a look at the stories of those early music pioneers whose names have largely been forgotten.

In the small South Carolina town of Cheraw, Elder Burch held lively church gatherings which inspired young musicians - including jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie's autobiography cites Burch and his sons as direct inspirations; it is no exaggeration to say that modern music would not look the same without Burch's early influence.

The programme takes a look at the gritty songs and musicians that came from the coal mines of Logan County, West Virginia - The Williamson Brothers, Dick Justice and Frank Hutchinson. The hellish conditions of the coal mines inspired them to find a way out, through their music.

Finally we head to the home of the blues - the Mississippi Delta, where Charley Patton captured the sounds and struggles of life in the cotton fields. Patton's significance cannot be understated; he is widely considered the most influential musician in the birth of blues, teaching some of the best blues artists that followed including Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson and Honeyboy Edwards.


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