Saturday, July 10, 2010
Jango Song Of The Day-Henry Thomas
Album:Texas Worried Blues: Complete Recorded Works 1927-1929
Most blues fans are probably familiar with Taj Mahal's recording of Fishing Blues. But you're probably not aware of the source of that song. Henry Thomas may have been the first blues musician and he recorded Fishing Blues in the late 1920s when he was in his fifties. So he's a pioneer but not a well known one. He was born in Big Sandy, TX in 1874 and was known as Ragtime Texas. That would make him 17 years older than Charley Patton. Thomas was a hobo who was also a musician. He would ride the rails all over Texas and other places. He played the guitar in a very unique style very similar to a banjo. Maybe he couldn't find a banjo. He also played quills which sound a lot like panpipes. Apparently quills made out of sugar cane reeds were used as a musical instrument in the south but were rarely recorded. So here was a guy who was a traveling minstrel mostly playing at dances. So how did he get recorded? The late 1920s was a time when blues became popular so record companies started looking to exploit that. This CD from Yazoo has recordings that Thomas did for Vocalion from 1927-29. Because of Taj Mahal, Fishing Blues is Thomas' best known song though a couple of his other songs have been covered too. Thomas never recorded again and he returned to riding the rails for many years. He apparently died in the 1950s though his exact date of death is not known. Such is the life of a hobo. Henry Thomas was an important bridge between the indigenous music of the late 19th century and what became known as the blues. Here's a video of Fishing Blues by Henry Thomas.