Monday, June 11, 2012

1930 and the Blues


1930 blogging, part 5 of 5
Country Blues of 1930

In these long breaks between the signature 21 Essays series, I’m running a new feature where I randomly select a year or set of years, and then brainstorm on some possibilities for 21 Essays series that could emerge from the assigned time.   For the current round, the roulette wheel has spun, gradually slowed, then clicked to a stop, pointing at:  1930.

The Mississippi Sheiks, circa 1930.

So here’s my fifth and final 1930 series possibility:  21 essays on the Mississippi Sheiks and their popular 1930 blues recording “Sitting on the Top of the World.”

While southern country blues had been around for many decades, the Mississippi Sheiks were among the very first groups to successfully get their music preserved on vinyl, hear it played on the radio, and to scratch out a brief career playing the blues live.  They were a guitar and fiddle group, with Bo Carter frequently singing lead supported by Lonnie and Sam Chatmon and Walter Vinson.

“Sitting on Top of the World” was written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon and it swiftly became a standard, covered not only by blues artists but eventually by top-selling mainstream artists such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Harry Belafonte.  Two decades later, this type of blues began to merge with country to create the new rock and roll sound.  Numerous rock musicians and groups—including Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Cream, and Jack White—have paid their respects with covers of “Sitting on Top of the World.”

Here’s the original Mississippi Sheiks version:



Here’s legendary bluegrass guitar player “Doc” Watson paying his respects:



And here’s contemporary rock star Jack White banging out a great version on piano from the movie It Might Get Loud (2009).



This is the last of my official 1930 ideas (with no promises that I’ll necessarily be getting to any of them…) but I’ve got one more bonus entry of some classic 1930 movies that I’ve saved for last.  I’ll post it tomorrow.

Next up on the random year(s) generator:  1856-1860.  (Coming soon…)

© 2012 Lee Price

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