Gospel, Blues and Street Blues:
Rev. Gary Davis and Pink Anderson
Side 1 - Pink Anderson:
1. John Henry (5:30)
2. Every day in the week (3:33)
3. The Ship Titanic (3:17)
4. Greasy Greens (3:00)
5. Wreck of the old 97 (3:30)
6. I've got mine (3:08)
7. He's in the Jailhouse Now (3:46)
Full running length: 25 Minutes and 44 Seconds
All tracks are traditional, except Track 7 written by Jimmie Rodgers
All songs played and sung by Pink Anderson, Track 2 features Jumbo Lewis on Washboard
Recorded on the 29th of May 1950 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Recording supervisor: Paul Clayton
Released on Riverside (Jazz Archives) LP, 1987
Cat# OBC-524 (Rpl-148) (Note:Cat. number"Obscured By Clouds!!!")
Foreword by Daniel G. Hoffman
The voices heard here give proof of the continuing vitality of an old tradition in American Negro music. Despite the vast changes in the Negro life of the past half-century - Huge migrations to the northern cities, industrialization of many southern towns, the widespread rise in literacy and education - itinerant street minstrels are still a common musical feature of the folk life if their communities, whether in back country Carolina or on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Their music has remained a living force because it had the eclectic power to change with the times in the world where it is sung.
Behind the minstrel songs and secular blues of Pink Anderson lies a long tradition of Negro folksong. Ultimately deriving from the tribal chants of West African forebears, this afro-American folk music developed distinctive genres: the holler of the field hand, the syncopated communal chanting of the work song, the reiterated verses and the haunting tonalities of the blues. At the same time, nineteenth century Negro song was receptive to the white influences: the hymnal, the hoedown, and the ballad. The resulting blend of influences resulted in a unique style of song, applied with imagination and vigour to subject and music forms from both the sacred and the secular sides of life.
This contemporary street singer reflects the several polarities of his own tradition: country vs. city and spiritual vs. Sinful songs. But they further suggest that these oppositions once distinct and clear are now interestingly mingled.
The old-time street and blues singers profoundly influenced Jazz and more than a few early Jazzmen began either as their accompanists or as their performers in the street bands that drew upon the resources of their vocal music.
The street singer naturally not only assimilates other kinds of music than his own, but also gathers thoughts languages, conflicts and aspirations from the audience to whom he sings and whose voice he becomes. That is why even today it is possible to record such good examples as these of a folk art that is historically the bridge between the jubilee songs of slavery days and Jazz.
Thus street singers not only has a valid place in musical history, but continues to in the pattern of it's own tradition to recreate the blues and the spiritual today, taking subjects and some facets of style from present day life and from contemporary popular music. As ever in the past, it ministers to sinners in their sin and calls the faithful to their faith. Street singers will probably be with us as long as there are distinctly Negro communities. And for an even longer time, the influence of their songs will have placed an indelible jazz-and-blues tinged mark on American popular music.
About Pink Anderson:
As a result of 40 years of street singing Pink Anderson's voice is strong and rasping, and anyone within several blocks would surely hear and be drawn to it. Once having gained attention, he would sing a varied program of old ballads, blues, and minstrel vaudeville and popular songs calculated to evoke memories, share experiences, and enable his listeners to laugh at themselves and the world. His is a folk voice, and his version of traditional material have all been tempered and changed by time and personal experience. He is also a highly sophisticated entertainer, for street crowds are in many ways the most critical of audiences, with no inhibitions about letting a performer know if they dislike or are indifferent to him. At the time of these recordings, Anderson (who calls Spartanburg, South Carolina his home, but recorded while playing his trade in Virginia) was about sixty years old. He accompanies himself here on a weather-beaten Martin guitar, which he plays with three finger picks.
These seven selections are typical of his street performance. John Henry is certainly the finest native American ballad of Negro origins, and one of the best known. (For this number, Anderson played the guitar with a half-closed Jack-knife, an almost-forgotten technique that creates unique sounds.) The ship Titanic and Wreck of old 97 are preoccupied with the drama of tragedy and disaster, based on rather amazing accuracy on actual occurrences, with Titanic placing special emphasis on the idea of the rich being chastised for belief in the non-destructibility of the ship. Every day in the week (On which a washboard player named Jumbo Lewis lends support) is one of the few traditional blues in Andersonís repertoire, although all of his songs have a basic blues tonality. Three songs from non-traditional sources show interesting changes in the hands of Anderson. Greasy greens is far removed from its minstrel show origins; I've got mine was a popular vaudeville song at the beginning of the century. To both, Pink has added his own stanzas and anecdotal folk humour. His unusual talent for social satire is also exhibited in the alternations made in country singer Jimmie Rodgers' I'm in the Jailhouse now.
Editors Note: The text has been edited down in length to suit the format. All notes concerning Rev. Gary David has been omitted from ths version.
This webpage was created by Alexander Ahlstrand on the 7th of January 2001.
Please respect the authors work and that of Pink and Floyd, God Bless!.
All photos on this webpage are taken from the book: Blues Who's Who by Sheldon Harris and Living Blues Magazine. Photographies by Kip Lornell.