Son House Grinnin’ In Your Face
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Son House Death Letter – The Roots Of The Delta Blues
Eddie James House Jr., much better called “Son House,” was a prominent blues performer born in Lyon, Mississippi to Eddie House, Sr. and Maggie House. He was the middle kid of 3 brother or sisters, with an older bro, Rathel House, and a more youthful bro, Lee Jackson House. He was wed to Evie McGown and had 2 children, Beatrice and Sally. Born into a household of artists, Eddie had an early disposition towards the church and ended up being a dedicated gospel singer who at first avoided instruments and turned down blues music.
Son House Biography by Cub Koda
Son House’s place, not only in the history of Delta blues, but in the overall history of the music, is a very high one indeed. He was a major innovator of the Delta style, along with his playing partners Charley Patton and Willie Brown. Few listening experiences in the blues are as intense as hearing one of Son House’s original 1930s recordings for the Paramount label. Entombed in a hailstorm of surface noise and scratches, one can still be awestruck by the emotional fervor House puts into his singing and slide playing. Little wonder then that the man became more than just an influence on some white English kid with a big amp; he was the main source of inspiration to both Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, and it doesn’t get much more pivotal than that.
Even after his rediscovery in the mid-’60s, House was such a potent musical force that what would have been a normally genteel performance by any other bluesmen in a “folk” setting turned into a night in the nastiest juke joint you could imagine, scaring the daylights out of young white enthusiasts expecting something far more prosaic and comfortable. Not out of Son House, no sir. When the man hit the downbeat on his National steel-bodied guitar and you saw his eyes disappear into the back of his head, you knew you were going to hear some blues. And when he wasn’t shouting the blues, he was singing spirituals, a cappella. Right up to the end, no bluesman was torn between the sacred and the profane more than Son House.
He was born Eddie James House, Jr., on March 21, 1902, in Riverton, MS. By the age of 15, he was preaching the gospel in various Baptist churches as the family seemingly wandered from one plantation to the next. He didn’t even bother picking up a guitar until he turned 25; to quote House, “I didn’t like no guitar when I first heard it; oh gee, I couldn’t stand a guy playin’ a guitar. I didn’t like none of it.” But if his ambivalence to the instrument was obvious, even more obvious was the simple fact that Son hated plantation labor even more and had developed a taste for corn whiskey. After drunkenly launching into a blues at a house frolic in Lyon, MS, one night and picking up some coin for doing it, the die seemed to be cast; Son House may have been a preacher, but he was part of the blues world now.
If the romantic notion that the blues life is said to be a life full of trouble is true, then Son found a barrel of it one night at another house frolic in Lyon. He shot a man dead that night and was immediately sentenced to imprisonment at Parchman Farm. He ended up only serving two years of his sentence, with his parents both lobbying hard for his release, claiming self defense. Upon his release — after a Clarksdale judge told him never to set foot in town again — he started a new life in the Delta as a full-time man of the blues.
After hitchhiking and hoboing the rails, he made it down to Lula, MS, and ran into the most legendary character the blues had to offer at that point, the one and only Charley Patton. The two men couldn’t have been less similar in disposition, stature, and in musical and performance outlook if they had purposely planned it that way. Patton was described as a funny, loud-mouthed little guy who was a noisy, passionate showman, using every trick in the book to win over a crowd. The tall and skinny House was by nature a gloomy man with a saturnine disposition who still felt extremely guilt-ridden about playing the blues and working in juke joints. Yet when he ripped into one, Son imbued it with so much raw feeling that the performance became the show itself, sans gimmicks. The two of them argued and bickered constantly, and the only thing these two men seemed to have in common was a penchant for imbibing whatever alcoholic potable came their way. Though House would later refer in interviews to Patton as a “jerk” and other unprintables, it was Patton’s success as a bluesman — both live and especially on record — that got Son’s foot in the door as a recording artist. He followed Patton up to Grafton, WI, and recorded a handful of sides for the Paramount label. These records today (selling scant few copies in their time, the few that did survived a life of huge steel needles, even bigger scratches, and generally lousy care) are some of the most highly prized collectors’ items of Delta blues recordings, much tougher to find than, say, a Robert Johnson or even a Charley Patton 78. Paramount used a pressing compound for their 78 singles that was so noisy and inferior sounding that should someone actually come across a clean copy of any of Son’s original recordings, it’s a pretty safe bet that the listener would still be greeted with a blizzard of surface noise once the needle made contact with the disc.
But audio concerns aside, the absolutely demonic performances House laid down on these three two-part 78s (“My Black Mama,” “Preachin’ the Blues,” and “Dry Spell Blues,” with an unreleased test acetate of “Walkin’ Blues” showing up decades later) cut through the hisses and pops like a brick through a stained glass window.
It was those recordings that led Alan Lomax to his door in 1941 to record him for the Library of Congress. Lomax was cutting acetates on a “portable” recording machine weighing over 300 pounds. Son was still playing (actually at the peak of his powers, some would say), but had backed off of it a bit since Charley Patton died in 1934. House did some tunes solo, as Lomax asked him to do, but also cut a session backed by a rocking little string band. As the band laid down long and loose (some tracks went on for over six minutes) versions of their favorite numbers, all that was missing was the guitars being plugged in and a drummer’s backbeat and you were getting a glimpse of the future of the music.
But just as House had gone a full decade without recording, this time after the Lomax recordings, he just as quickly disappeared, moving to Rochester, NY. When folk-blues researchers finally found him in 1964, he was cheerfully exclaiming that he hadn’t touched a guitar in years. One of the researchers, a young guitarist named Alan Wilson (later of the blues-rock group Canned Heat) literally sat down and retaught Son House how to play like Son House. Once the old master was up to speed, the festival and coffeehouse circuit became his oyster. He recorded again, the recordings becoming an important introduction to his music and, for some, a lot easier to take than those old Paramount 78s from a strict audio standpoint. In 1965, he played Carnegie Hall and four years later found himself the subject of an eponymously titled film documentary, all of this another world removed from Clarksdale, MS, indeed. Everywhere he played, he was besieged by young fans, asking him about Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and others. For young white blues fans, these were merely exotic names from the past, heard only to them on old, highly prized recordings; for Son House they were flesh and blood contemporaries, not just some names on a record label. Hailed as the greatest living Delta singer still actively performing, nobody dared call himself the king of the blues as long as Son House was around.
He fell into ill health by the early ’70s; what was later diagnosed as both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease first affected his memory and his ability to recall songs on-stage and, later, his hands, which shook so bad he finally had to give up the guitar and eventually leave performing altogether by 1976. He lived quietly in Detroit, MI, for another 12 years, passing away on October 19, 1988. His induction into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1980 was no less than his due. Son House was the blues.
Article Source: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/son-house-mn0000753094/biography
Son House Downhearted Blues
After his household relocated to Louisiana, he ended up being a preacher at age 15. Later on he went back to Mississippi and ended up being pastor in the Baptist Church, and later on in the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1927 he got an enthusiasm for blues from James McCoy and Willie Wilson, whose slide guitar work motivated him to end up being a blues entertainer himself.
In a brief time he ended up being a skilled entertainer, with his own bottleneck guitar style and a singing method deeply affected by his experience in the church. The stress in between his church commitments and musical way of life led him to quit his pastorate. After a two-year stint in Mississippi’s Parchman Farm jail for murder (House specified that the murder remained in self-defense), Eddie was banished from Clarksdale, Mississippi, and discovered himself in the neighboring village of Lula, Mississippi. Coincidentally, Charlie Patton was living and carrying out there at the time with his musical partner Willie Brown, the previous having actually been momentarily banished from his base of Dockery Plantation.
Patton and Brown, who were both Delta blues stars, observed the reasonably unidentified however enthusiastic House and ended up being buddies and carrying out partners with him. When Paramount Records looked for Patton to tape-record extra sides in 1930, he chose to bring House, Brown, and pianist Louise Johnson with him to the sessions in Grafton Wisconsin.
Son House Pony Blues
The resulting recordings are thought of as blues classics. After Charlie Patton’s death in 1934, House kept a lower profile while continuing to carry out. He tape-recorded for Alan Lomax in 1941 and 1942, consisting of some tunes with Willie Brown, Fiddlin’ Joe Martin and Leroy Williams. In 1943, he transferred to Rochester, NY and all however stopped playing music.
In 1964, House was moved and gotten in touch with by blues and folk music lovers, and after relearning his music style he turned into one of the most renowned artists of the blues and folk revival of the 1960s and 1970s. He carried out for big audiences at significant folk celebrations consisting of Newport and somewhere else throughout the United States and explored Europe with other found Delta blues artists consisting of Booker “Bukka” White and Skip James.
House taped thoroughly throughout this duration and offered indispensable direct details about prewar Delta blues consisting of figures such as Patton and Robert Johnson, the latter having actually been affected by the older House. House put equivalent focus on blues and gospel music, and promoted the meaning of blues as mostly music of the heart, identified from “so-called” blues, which he viewed as possibly harmful.
Eddie House passed away on October 21, 1988 in Detroit Michigan, from issues brought on by laryngeal cancer. He was 86.