Here we have an interesting point in American music history:
I have been doing some reading on West TN Blues and have known this but am just know realizing how seminal many artists from West TN were on the blues at large. Exhibit number one: Roll and Tumble Blues. Though not the first to record this tune (Gus Cannon Jug Stompers whose Noah Lewis was from Henning, TN) his arrangement was used by Robert Johnson for his “Possession Over Judgement Day” and Muddy Waters’ version by a similar title. So here is where I am right now. Are the Delta Blues really just West TN Blues morphed into something else due to the artist’s own take on the originals?
Obviously there were songs floating about all over America’s South, specifically along the areas on the East and West of the Mississippi River. What I find particularly interesting is the attention paid to the more “noted” performers (Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, etc.) and the assumption that they were the seminal influence on the music’s coming of age. When in reality they were an early link in the chain with other links preceding them, if not simply in a historical context. Of course the tunes played by Hambone Willie Newbern and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers had to have come from somewhere also. Yet is it possible that West Tennesse can lay as much a claim to being grandfather’s of “the Blues” as anyone else?
More about Hambone Willie Newbern Below.
Little is known about blues songster Hambone Willie Newbern; a mere half-dozen sides comprise the sum of his recorded legacy, but among those six is the first-ever rendition of the immortal Delta classic “Roll and Tumble Blues.” Reportedly born in 1899, he first began to make a name for himself in the Brownsville, TN area, where he played country dances and fish fries in the company of Yank Rachell; later, on the Mississippi medicine show circuit, he mentored Sleepy John Estes (from whom most of the known information about Newbern originated). While in Atlanta in 1929, Newbern cut his lone session; in addition to “Roll and Tumble,” which became an oft-covered standard, he recorded songs like “She Could Toodle-Oo” and “Hambone Willie’s Dreamy-Eyed Woman’s Blues,” which suggest an old-fashioned rag influence. By all reports an extremely ill-tempered man, Newbern’s behavior eventually led him to prison, where a brutal beating is said to have brought his life to an end around 1947. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi