Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Not But It Should Be

Fifty years ago, on August 19, 1959, the life of Blind Willie McTell came to an end in Milledgeville, Georgia. McTell's date of birth is a matter of debate; though it is generally accepted his birthday was the 5th of May, the exact year he came into the world remains sketchy. Some sources say 1898, others 1901, and very occasionally a date of 1900 is given.

Today ought to be Blind Willie McTell Day in the United States, if not throughout the world. His story is as rich and fascinating as any blues legend, and that's saying something considering the legendary lore surrounding the likes of Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson, Huddie Ledbetter, and Sonny Boy Williamson, among scores of others.

Among the most interesting, if unlikely, tales about McTell is the claim he once shot a marauding dog with a pistol. More plausible, though still remarkable, are anecdotes about his exceptional navigational skills in Atlanta, Georgia, where he assisted lost travelers in finding their way. What is known for certain about Blind Willie McTell is that he recorded under a variety of names--including but not limited to Barrelhouse Sammy, Georgia Bill, Pig and Whistle Red--and played the 12 string guitar with rare grace, speed, and beauty. He also had a distinctive voice and wrote pheonomenal songs. The best known of these is probably "Statesboro Blues", but a number of others are equally timeless, such as "Georgia Rag", "Stomp Down Rider", "Atlanta Strut", "Warm It Up To Me", "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues", and the offensive but irresistible "Southern Can Is Mine."

"...mama died and left me restless; Daddy died and left me wild, wild, wild
No I'm not good looking, but I'm some sweet woman's angel child."
(from "Statesboro Blues")

"Went up the Kennesaw Mountain, gave my horn a blow
Prettiest girl in Atlanta came stepping up to my door
Hugged me and she kissed me, called me sugar lump
Throwed them sweet arms around me like a grape vine 'round a stump."
(from "Atlanta Strut")

"Boll weevil, he told the farmer, don't buy no Ford machine
Ain't gonna make enough money to even buy gasoline."
(from "Boll Weevil")

Don't deny it. Anyone who writes lyrics like this deserves his own day.