All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘bio’

Evan Valentine – Complete Discography

I mentioned some time ago that a lot of my music is hosted on archive.org, and that I would get to the details later. Well, later is now. Or.. now is later. I’m confused.

Netlabels release material under Creative Commons licenses. This means that the author can determine how his music (or video, or book) is licensed. Typically it is released as “Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative” which means you are free to share the music–spread it far and wide as long as you give the author credit and do not use it for commercial purposes. This means that people can take my songs and burn 100 copies to CD if they like, as long as they do not sell the CDs for profit or use them for commercial gain (use them as the soundtrack to a film, for instance). In the unlikely event that someone ‘stole’ my songs for commercial use, I could sue and it would be upheld in court, even though I have not pursued an actual copyright. Not to mention, I have the source material for all my songs and could prove that I composed them.

I followed the custom of releasing material as albums, though they are not actual albums. I will list them here in chronological order, with a bit of explanation. All the following music is non-dance electronic music. The whole genre is really esoteric and not for everyone. Although I started making music in 1996, all of this “released” material is from 2001 and beyond (there’s good reason for that).

Ekiv EP – several short, intense tracks from my first year living with Jaime in Athens. Most of the percussion sounds on here were sampled by me (smash two things together and call it a snare drum)

Fish Food EP – more laid back, more lush sounds

Safety Glass EP – back to rough, harsh sounds. I think this is my best release

Sinister Device LP – full-length (about 50minute) release that has over 15,000 downloads. “The public’s” favorite release of mine. Lots of help from friends on this one.

Millions Never Tried EP (with e-sin) – cooperative album with a friend of mine. The latest (and most mature) of my releases. I love the first two tracks, along with “Seren.” (The link below plays the songs out of order, so scratch that previous statement)

Plus there are several more songs (of different types) on my personal music page, and several “leaked” tracks on different file-sharing networks.

Monkee Business

The Monkees were one of the most popular bands in the world, but weren’t
allowed to play on their own records–until they went on strike. Here’s the inside
story, from
Behind the Hits, by Bob Shannon and John Javna (out of print).

The Monkees in 1967. In one year they had leaped from semi–or total–obscurity to overnight superstardom. They had a hit TV series, two #1 singles (“Last Train to Clarksville,” and “I’m A Believer“), and two #1 albums (“The Monkees,” and “More of The Monkees“). The only problem was the Monkees weren’t allowed to play on their own records. Why not? Because Don Kirshner, the musical supervisor of The Monkees, said so. It was… well… embarassing. Here they were, pretending to be a real group, when in fact they had almost nothing to do with “their” music. Critics made fun of them. Even worse, teenyboppers idolized them for something they weren’t doing. And to add insult to injury, Kirshner made more money from their records than they did. They each got a 1.5% royalty, but Kirshner go 15%! They had their pride, after all.

Trouble had been brewing for some time between Kirshner and the group, particularly Mike Nesmith, who wasn’t even allowed to play guitar on the songs he wrote. That was Kirshner’s studio policy, The Monkees just sang vocals while studio musicians played on the tracks. But what the hell, Kirshner reasoned, he was getting results–hits–and that was his job. So what if Nesmith had to stand by and watch Glen Campbell put the guitar licks on his own song, “Mary Mary“? This was the only way management could be sure it was right. The bottom line was what counted, after all. Nesmith, a genuinely creative individual, just stewed.

“Essentially, the big collision I had with Don Kirshner was this,” said Nesmith; “he kept saying, ‘You can’t make the music; it would be no good, it won’t be a hit.’ And I was saying, ‘Hey, the music isn’t a hit because somebody wonderful is making it, the music is a hit because of the television show. So, at least let us put out music that is closer to our personas, closer to who we are artistically, so that we don’t have to walk around and have people throwing eggs at us,’ which they were.”

Eventually the feud came to a showdown in early ’67 at Kirshner’s suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Kirshner had just handed the four Monkees some new demos (including “Sugar, Sugar,” a bubblegum hit later for Kirshner’s Archies) that they would be putting vocals on. Nesmith stepped forward and demanded that musical control be given to The Monkees. When Kirshner refused, Nesmith angrily smashed his fist through the wall, declaring, “That could have been your face!” Then The Monkees went off to record some original material without Kirshner’s approval.

What happened next is a little unclear. While The Monkees were working out their own songs, Kirshner appears to have approached Davy Jones, one of the members of the group, and talking him into going into the studio without the rest of The Monkees. Jones put the vocals on several tunes, one of which was “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” But The Monkees weren’t doing the backing vocals. Who was it? Eric Lefcowitz, author of The Monkees Tale, speculates “Kirshner was quoted once as saying that Neil Diamond and Carole King had sung back-up vocals on some Monkees songs, and I think that if you listen closely to ‘A Little Bit Me,’ you can hear them. It sounds like Neil Diamond to me.” And why would Jones record without the rest of the group? “I don’t know, of course,” Lefcowitz says, “but Davy Jones hadn’t ever had the chance to sing lead before. This was his session. Maybe that had something to do with it.”

Maybe, maybe not. The important thing is that in a power play, Kirshner recorded and released “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” without even telling The Monkees he was doing it! That was the last straw. Monkees’ producers Bob Rafelson and Bart Schneider wanted hits, but they weren’t going to put up with that from anyone. They fired Kirshner, and yanked the single out of American record stores. Then they re-released it with a Monkees original–Nesmith’s “The Girl I Knew Somewhere“–on the B side. Finally The Monkees could smile. They were out from under Kirshner… and a song they’d actually played on made the Top 40–“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” reached #39 on the charts.

Leon Redbone

Leon Redbone is a fringe performer with a dedicated following. I have seen him 8 or 9 times in concert.. if that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. I have traveled to different states on more than one occasion to see him. I was literally the only one left to see his last 3 songs during a hurricane in Chattanooga at an outdoor concert. Leon Redbone strikes a chord with some people, and I am one of them. I am seeing him again next Friday, and I’m already excited.

Redbone’s history begins at the beginning of his career because virtually nothing is known about his background or personal life. His real name, birthday, country of origin and ethnicity are all unknown, though people have speculated about these things for 35+ years now. He has claimed to have been born in Bombay during a monsoon to parents Niccolò Paganini (a composer and violinist who died in 1840) and Jenny Lind (a singer who died in 1887), which contributes to the mystique about his age. He has also listed his date of birth as October 29, 1929, the day of the stock market crash that sent America into the Great Depression. He often claims (erroneously, of course) that songs written well before his time were “stolen” from him. It hearkens back to the days before information was so readily available about celebrities’ personal lives and upbringing. It appears he has worked very hard to create and maintain this mystique.

Leon Redbone has made a career out of arranging and performing songs that originated before my grandparents’ time, though he attracts a wide and varied audience, ranging in ages and musical tastes. His style is hard to pin down as it is a mix of old-time blues, ragtime, jazz, country, and vaudeville. If it were necessary to sum up his style, one might say he does cleaned-up renditions of Tin Pan Alley classics from the 1920’s and 30’s. He has a very unique voice and is able to pull a lot of yodel-style octave jumps. He is also an excellent acoustic guitarist, which is often obscured by his interesting baritone vocal stylings. He is somehow able to emulate all the counterpoint of ragtime on a six-string acoustic guitar–a feat not attempted by many. Upon his arrival to the music scene, Leon Redbone was rumored to be an alter-ego of Bob Dylan, Andy Kaufman and even Frank Zappa.

He composed/performed the theme song to Mr. Belvedere (and apparently composed/performed the theme song to the sitcom version of Harry and the Hendersons, which I did not know existed). He voiced the character Leon the Snowman in the 2003 film Elf, where he was also featured heavily in the soundtrack and film score.

Seeing Leon Redbone live is akin to stepping in a time machine. His fedora hat, dark sunglasses and cane contribute to the mystery and timelessness of the act. The stage versions of his songs are stripped down to the bare essentials. For the past ten years or so, he most often performs with just a trumpet player and pianist. His act is peppered with banter and jokes that feel over a century old. He often shuffles through papers and proposes “a sing-along” to his instrumentalists; the suggestion is met with a sigh and eyerolls as Leon breaks into song (usually “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” or “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”). At the end of nearly every show, he re-emerges on stage to take a picture of the audience. If I were to ever develop a stage presence, I often wonder which of Leon Redbone’s stage gimmicks I would “borrow.”

Here is a video of Leon performing Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, originally released in 1930:

Some of those guitar licks are extremely difficult. It is very laid-back and does not give that impression, but do not be fooled. This is the magic of Leon Redbone. It sucks that his left hand is obscured in this particular camera angle. Here are some more videos…

On Alf’s talk show
I Ain’t Got Nobody
Walking Stick
Harvest Moon (better version than the Alf one)
Leon Redbone can certainly whistle

Kurt Warner Retires

If you believe what he just said in his press conference, Kurt Warner has officially retired (See, Favre? That’s how it’s done! None of this wishy-washy retiring business). His is one of the greatest and most improbable stories in NFL history, to say the least.

After playing in college, he was not drafted by an NFL team. He then tried out for the Green Bay Packers in 1994 but did not make the team. He (now-famously) stocked shelves at a grocery store for $5.50/hr until he signed with an AFL team in 1995. He was eventually signed as a third-string quarterback to the St. Louis Rams in 1998. Teammate’s injuries forced the coach to use Kurt Warner as a “temporary” starting quarterback. In his first four games as a starting quarterback in the NFL, Warner threw a total of 14 touchdowns. He led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory that same year, throwing for 414 yards in the big game (still the most ever in a Super Bowl game). He received league MVP as well as Super Bowl MVP awards in the same season. He had a few more good seasons–including a second Super Bowl appearance–followed by a couple of shaky seasons, and the Rams released Warner in 2004.

He immediately signed a two-year deal with the Giants. After starting the 2004 season with a 5-4 record, the Giants benched Warner in favor of the rookie Eli Manning, who finished the remainder of the season with a 1-6 record. Warner signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2005 and had two tumultuous years in which he was benched and replaced with untested quarterbacks several times. In 2008, the Kurt Warner of old was back. He made all his former teams and coaches look silly for benching (or releasing) him in the past. With the exception of losing the Super Bowl, his 2008 postseason was the best on record. He set the yardage record and tied the postseason touchdown record. The 2009 season saw him break more records and reach career milestones (such as reaching 200 career touchdowns). He had a playoff game with 5 passing touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers but was nearly shut out by the New Orleans Saints the following week. After enduring several sacks and a brutal block-from-behind following an interception, Warner left the game for a time. The Cardinals suffered a 31-point defeat to end the season (and Warner’s career).

Now the talk has shifted to “does Kurt Warner deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?” Some rankings and records in favor of Warner:

  • Career pass yards in Super Bowls: 1,156 (1st)
  • He owns all three of the highest yardage performances in Super Bowl history.
  • Pass yards in a single postseason: 1,147 (1st)
  • Career MVP awards: 2 (T-3rd)
  • Career Pass Yards Per Game: 258.8 (2nd)
  • Career completion percentage: 65.4% (2nd)
  • Pass Touchdowns in a single postseason: 11 (T-1st, Joe Montana)
  • Highest completion percentage in a single regular-season game: 92.3% (1st)
  • Consecutive 300+ yard passing games: 6 (T-1st)
  • Number of games to reach 30,000 total yards: 114 (T-1st, Dan Marino)

The common arguments against him are his refusal to rush for yards and his tendency to be very streaky (in both the negative and positive aspects of the word), but the general feeling has shifted and most experts now believe he belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Bye, Kurt. Now who will be my wife’s fantasy quarterback?

Emmett Miller

Though Emmett Miller is little remembered today, his influence was far-reaching during the dawn of country music. He was born in 1900 in Macon, Georgia, and was performing in minstrel shows as early as 1920. His backup band The Georgia Crackers included noted jazz musicians Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Eddie Lang. Some of his earliest recordings have been “lost,” but his was the first voice to utilize yodel-style vocals in popular music. He performed in blackface into the early 1960’s, long after it had fallen out of fashion/favor with the public. His influence on early country vocalists is most evident in early Jimmie Rodgers recordings, and Hank Williams’ recording of Lovesick Blues is nearly identical to Emmett Miller’s recording. Most of his recordings and performances open with skits that feature African American stereotypes and voices (such as I Ain’t Got Nobody), making him a polarizing figure in the history of music.

Leon Redbone‘s version of “Big Bad Bill” is very similar to Emmett Miller’s original recording. The same can be said of “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Sweet Mama (Papa’s Getting Mad),” and many others. It seems that Miller is Leon Redbone’s most direct influence, particularly in singing style and song selection.

Much of Emmett Miller’s material from the 1920’s can be found on archive.org if one searches his name.

Blind Blake

Virtually nothing is known about Blind Blake‘s life. His real name, his birth year, his birth location, and the circumstances surrounding his death are all educated guesses and hearsay. Only one picture survives of Blind Blake. He recorded about 80 sides between 1926 and 1932, though some of “his” final sides are believed to be someone other than Blind Blake. Though his singing voice wasn’t as passionate as other blues singers, his guitar playing is inimitable. He was advertised as “Blind Blake and his piano-sounding guitar” and is considered by most to be the king of ragtime guitar. He was able to emulate counterpoint ragtime, including full chords and melodies, on one six-string guitar. In my mind, he was one of the best guitarist ever. It is very difficult to believe that some of his songs are played on one guitar.

His heavy drinking, along with Paramount Records‘ bankruptcy, led to his career (and life) ending early. Some say he was killed by a streetcar during a drinking binge at age 40.

Too Tight Blues No. 2 (1929)
Blind Arthur’s Breakdown (1929)
West Coast Blues (1926)
Police Dog Blues (1929)

This article contains much more information (in the way of quotes and opinions of more recent performers) about Blind Blake and his influence.

Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt (born Jean Baptiste Reinhardt, 1910) may not be the best guitar player ever, but he did more to promote the instrument than anyone thought possible. Django spent nearly all of his youth in gypsy encampments, and played several instruments professionally from an early age. When Django was 18, his home caught on fire while he lay sleeping, severely injuring him. He was pulled from the fire, but the burns paralyzed one of his legs and made his third and fourth fingers on his left hand inoperable. Doctors wanted to amputate his left leg, but he refused the surgery, and left the hospital against all doctors’ orders. His brother bought him a guitar, and he slowly learned to play the guitar again, without the use of his ring finger or pinky. Losing the use of those fingers on the right hand would not have been such a big deal for a right-handed guitarist, but the left hand generally uses all fingers for nearly every task. Within a year, he was able to walk again with the aid of a cane.

In 1934, Django formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Stéphane Grappelli, violinist extraordinaire. This would become one of the only successful all-string jazz bands ever formed (though there are many copyists around today who have this same arrangement). The setup was typically three guitars, a violin, and a double bass. Some video of them playing shows the style very well. Only a few minutes of Django playing on video have survived, but this video shows off his two-finger style in an up-close segment, along with showing the whole band in action on stage.

Before Django Reinhardt, the guitar was never thought of as a lead instrument. In jazz bands of the 20’s and very early 30’s, the guitar was only used for chords in the rhythm section, never for leads. Blues musicians used the guitar merely as a way to accompany their voice. In the Quintette du Hot Club de France, however, guitar and violin shared equal time as lead instruments, without even a hint of horns. Like most musicians of that time period, Reinhardt’s repertoire was mostly reinterpretations of famous songs from the day (Charleston-my favorite | Ain’t Misbehavin | Sweet Georgia Brown | Limehouse Blues | Dinah). He was also responsible for making the Selmer Modèle Jazz guitar famous. This was the first guitar to feature a cutout, making higher frets much more accessible to the solo guitarist.

This is definitely my favorite jazz music. The style, the pace, and the instrumentation are all right up my alley. Not to mention, Django could do amazing things with only two fingers on his left hand (technically, he sometimes used his crippled fingers for chords, but never involved them in his lightning-fast solo style). Being a French band, this was the first proof that jazz had exported. A French group was not only playing jazz, but playing it well.

Reinhardt was a very eccentric fellow, sometimes skipping out on high-paying shows (unannounced) to take a stroll through town or walk the beach. Stéphane Grappelli told stories of Django throwing a fit on stage because his name was not introduced first. I found out about Django Reinhardt because of the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown (1999). The movie follows a fictional guitarist in the 1930’s and his obsession with Django Reinhardt (after seeing the movie, I was delighted to find out that Django was not fictional).

This video shows one of Django’s guitar solos in both sheet music and guitar tab form, real-time as they are played. Pretty interesting for guitarists to look at. Much of Django Reinhardt’s material can be streamed or downloaded for free if you search his name on archive.org.

earsauce, A Proper Introduction

earsauce (no majuscules allowed) is a studio music project involving only Steve Bower and myself. We have focused solely on the recording of songs. We make something up, slowly record the parts in my basement (over a period of weeks or months), then forget how to play them. On to the next song. Don’t look back. We have begun well over 50 songs using this method, and finished about 60% of them so far.

There are obvious drawbacks to making music this way. With two albums worth of finished songs, we have no way to play most of the music live. No way to reproduce the layers and parts with just two people on stage. So now we’re going back and making stage versions of the songs (take the ‘album version’ and cut out the guitar/bass/vocals, and leave the rest as a fake backup band). Even still, we have to go back and re-learn most of our own parts.

My plan is to have a mastered album that we can promote sometime in the first half of 2010. That would still mean it took us five years to make one album.

I don’t know how to describe the style of music–not because it is unique, but because it is so varied. Between the two of us, there are many musical influences, and we try to let them all shine through. Some stuff is electronic (my department), some stuff is folksy (both), and some of it has a tinge of rock (Steve). We also split the duties pretty evenly:

    Songwriting – both
    Lyrics – both
    Guitar – both
    Vocals – both
    Bass – Steve
    Hand Drums – Steve
    Harmonica – Evan
    Piano – both (but mostly Evan)
    Banjo – both
    Violin – Steve
    Synthesizers – Evan
    Recording Engineer – both
    Production (beats, levels, etc) – Evan

At times we’re really interested in recording new stuff, and at times we’re not. That’s the beauty of the arrangement. We’re not ‘on the clock’ paying for studio time. No schedules. Nothing is forced. That’s the way it should be. Hopefully the relaxed attitude comes through in the music, because that’s what I like.

Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller

Most Jazz fans consider Art Tatum to be the greatest jazz pianist of all time (case in point). I suppose I am not a jazz aficionado (and I am not), for I always prefer Fats Waller. Waller and Tatum were contemporaries, but while Fats Waller looked backwards to a time of Ragtime, Art Tatum looked forward, taking hundreds of years of piano technique and throwing them out the window. I much prefer the styles of the first half of the 20th century, so I am drawn to the music of Fats Waller (though I do not deny that Art Tatum had extraordinary ability and, for better or worse, reinvented jazz piano).

Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller was born in 1904 and made his first recordings in 1922, at the age of 18. He was taught by the great James P. Johnson, who himself taught many greats including Duke Ellington. In my mind, the death of Fats Waller was the end of stride piano, which was an extension/modernization of Ragtime. He composed many songs each year and sold them for small sums (he was known to be short-sighted and wreckless). Because of this, his compositions were often stolen by other composers claiming to have written the songs themselves. It is not known how many jazz standards were actually written by Fats Waller, but it is believed that he penned over 400 new/original songs in his short career. He was also a master of improvisation, and his improv style was much-copied for many decades. Additionally, he was well-versed in classical music and performed a number of Bach organ pieces with regularity.

Waller’s real skill was on the piano and organ, but he was more than that–he was an entertainer. He was always calm and relaxed, and sang all of his tunes with levity, making sure never to take himself too seriously. All of his performances were punctuated with jokes and funny facial expressions (which was not uncommon, given the style and time period). Many of his songs had hidden meanings that were sexual in nature, such as All That Meat and No Potatoes. Many of his compositions have become jazz standards, such as Ain’t Misbehavin, Honeysuckle Rose, Your Feet’s Too Big, and Jitterbug Waltz.

Fats Waller led a fast life and is told to have consumed large amounts of food and alcohol at every turn. His chubby, happy persona contributed greatly to his genius never being recognized (in the opinion of this author). After all, he didn’t take himself seriously, so why should anyone else?

His playing once put him at risk of injury. Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in 1926. Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by gangster Al Capone. Fats was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realized he was the “surprise guest” at Al Capone’s birthday party, and took comfort that the gangsters didn’t intend to kill him. According to rumor, Waller played for three days. When he left the Hawthorne Inn, he was very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips.

I’m not sure if the above story is true or not; it’s from the book Fats Waller (1977). Stories like this contribute to Waller’s reputation as a fast-living boozer who often affiliated with the seedier side of New York and Chicago. He continued to rise in fame and visibility until he contracted pneumonia in 1943, and died on a train near Kansas City. His ashes were spread in the air over Harlem. Louis Armstrong cried for hours when he heard of the passing of Fats Waller, or so the story goes.

This is an example of Fats’ showman style. My wife’s favorite:


Fats Waller – Your Feet’s Too Big

Not many videos of Fats Waller are around, and most of the videos he made were for gag type songs that don’t show off his skills. Some audio recordings that showcase his talent are ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do and I’m Crazy About My Baby (click the links to hear the songs, hosted on my server). If you like this style, you may want to look into this comprehensive list of Stride pianists. Also, the 1978 musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin uses the music of Fats Waller to give tribute to the Harlem Renaissance and all those involved in furthering the black cause in the 1920’s an 30’s. Many of Fats Waller’s recordings can be streamed and/or downloaded for free if you search his name on archive.org.

Mississippi John Hurt

John Hurt was born in Avalon, Mississippi in 1892 or 1893 (depending on what source is cited). He had 8 brothers and 2 sisters, and never finished the fourth grade. He never learned to drive a car and lived without electricity most of his life. He learned to play guitar at age 9, during the height of ragtime. The syncopation in ragtime forced him to learn a picking style different than the blues players that were born after him.

A race label, Okeh Records, agreed to record John Hurt in 1928 (they recorded and promoted him under the name Mississippi John Hurt). Starting his music career in his mid-30’s, he traveled to Memphis and recorded a few songs. During his last session in late 1928, John recorded a song he had just written called “Avalon Blues,” which was a tribute to his home town. Okeh would end up only releasing a few 78s of Mississippi John Hurt. They did not sell well at all, and Okeh went out of business entirely. John continued to play guitar for parties and dances until he sold his last guitar sometime around 1950. He continued farming as he had done all his life.

By the mid 50’s, the study of guitar and guitar techniques was becoming more mainstream. At the time, the university of California, Berkeley, had a collection of some of the best young guitarists in the world, many of whom were trading old 78rpm records with each other, trying to learn old blues techniques. Several of the students were enamored with Mississippi John Hurt’s complex fingering style and timid voice. A few of them showed one of Mississippi John Hurt’s old 78rpm sides to the head of the classical guitar department at Berkeley. Listening for a minute, the professor sort of shrugged and said something to the effect of “eh, pretty good, I guess. Who’s the second guitarist?” There was, of course, no second guitarist.

This story (more than likely based in legend and not in fact) made Mississippi John Hurt an instant legend among young guitarists, who assumed he was long dead and gone. Years later, a couple of young fans decided to go to Avalon, Mississippi on a gamble. John Hurt had released a song about Avalon being his hometown in 1928. Maybe he had returned there after his failed music career.

After arriving in Avalon and asking around town, they located John Hurt–on a tractor, plowing a field. It was 1962. John was in his late 60’s and said he had not played guitar in many years. One of the young men pulled out a guitar, tuned it, and handed it to John Hurt. Within a minute, it was proven that his musical skills were still intact.

Mississippi John Hurt lived out the last three years of his life making up for the music career he never had. 1962 was the beginning of the folk revival (the year of Bob Dylan’s first album, for example), and things could not have come at a better time for John Hurt. The Lovin’ Spoonful got their band name from a song of his called “Coffee Blues.” People who knew him in the 60’s said he was as gentle as his music–a perfect example for all.

Many people have tried to master John Hurt’s seemingly effortless fingerpicking style, but no one has even come close, in my opinion. To the novice, all of his songs sound like simple little diddies. I admit, I didn’t think much of his playing when I first heard him six years ago. It all sounds simple but then you pick up the guitar and you can’t even play the intro. His ability to play a syncopated melody on top of picking chords is unparalleled (not to mention that he sings on top of it. I can’t even begin to imagine.)

Every guitarist looks to someone as the best of all time, and that mostly has to do with what style of music you like. My vote goes for John Hurt. This style is called Piedmont Blues (or Country Blues) and it hearkens back to the late 19th century/early 20th century, before the time of recorded music.

Here he is playing a traditional hymn on Rainbow Quest in the mid-60’s. Look how gnarled and mangled his fingers are. You can tell he didn’t lead a charmed life. At first it sounds like a nice simple tune, but then it starts to set in that it really sounds like two guitars going at once. Keep in mind this is less than a year before his death, and he doesn’t miss a beat.


Mississippi John Hurt – You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley