Delta Blues: The Mississippi Sheiks
Episode date - May 17, 2013
When American ‘roots music’ was rediscovered in the early ‘60s, a lot of misperceptions accompanied the rediscovery.
Blues music in particular was perceived as something mystical and 100% derived from African American culture. As a result, a denizen of ‘purists’ descended on the Mississippi Delta in a hunt to find ‘authentic’ blues musicians. These searchers had developed their own criteria about what a blues musician ought to be, and in so doing, they created a hierarchy of sorts, with ‘pure’ blues players rated more ‘valuable’ than players whose music was ‘tainted’ by outside influences. This thought process elevated Charley Patton to the top of the heap, while a band like the Mississippi Sheiks were placed much lower on the “rediscovered blues artist purist charts”.
The reason for this applied prejudice was relatively simple. While Patton displayed little influence outside of other blues players, the Mississippi Sheiks were open to everything. The most damning characteristic was that at least one member of the band could actually read music. How could you be ‘pure’ if you utilized the European method of musical preservation? They also played ‘hokum’ (pop songs) and white dance music as well as the blues.
In short, they were some of the most diverse musicians in the Mississippi Delta, and the ‘purest’ of the Delta blues players considered the Mississippi Sheiks to be the best musicians they had ever heard. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters both considered the Sheiks to be top-notch, and probably the best that the Delta had to offer.
This fact makes it plain that the ‘purist’ folkies got it wrong by trying to perceive blues as though it existed in a vacuum. Just like today, various styles intermingled and influenced one another. The Mississippi Sheiks might not play ‘pure’ blues, but they are a perfect representation of what music sounded like in the Mississippi Delta circa 1928-1932. This show features music of the Mississippi Sheiks and their counterparts.
Featured tracks include;
Stop and Listen
I’ve Got Blood in My Eyes
World Going Wrong
Vicksburg Stomp – Charlie McCoy
That Lonesome Train – Charlie McCoy
Banana in Your Basket – Bo Carter
Corinne Corinna – Bo Carter
Sitting on Top of the World