Dick Spottswood’s Desert Island Discs

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Richard K. “Dick” Spottswood  is a musicologist and author who has catalogued and been responsible for the reissue of many thousands of recordings of vernacular music in the United States.  His masterwork, Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893-1942 (University of Illinois Press, 1990), is a nine-volume listing of sound recordings by minority groups issued in the U.S. until 1942. He also edited and annotated the 15-volume LP series Folk Music in America for the Library of Congress, and contributed to books including Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music LCCN 2002-22360 and Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919.  The following is a list of his desert island discs.

from http://www.bluesworld.com:

SKIP JAMES Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues (any version)
Best of all the hard times songs, and the compelling peak of a great perfomer’s art

STANLEY BROTHERS Will He Wait a Little Longer Mercury, 1955
Ralph’s composition for bluegrass quartet, with unexpected harmonies that make it glow

LOUIS ARMSTRONG King of the Zulus OKeh, 1926
After some inept comedy, LA plays one of the most memorably thoughtful solos of his career.

DENNIS McGEE Mon Chère Bébé Créole (My Creole Sweet Mama) Vocalion, 1929
Singing in Cajun French with twin fiddles–it’s a waltz drenched in the blues. Dennis McGee sang and played it for most of his long life.

DUKE ELLINGTON The Giddybug Gallop/Bakiff Victor, 1941
Two forgotten favorites back to back. “Giddybug Gallop” was a tour-de-force that served as overture to the short-lived musical Jump for Joy. “Bakiff” (like “Caravan”) was a piece of atmospheric orientalia that featured Ray Nance’s sweet, sweet violin.

SILVER LEAF QUARTET OF NORFOLK Lord I’m Troubled OKeh, 1930
My favorite acapella performance. William Thatch’s falsetto lead resonates with me in a deep place. I don’t have this and wish I did.

CLARENCE WILLIAMS BLUE FIVE New Orleans Hop Scop Blues OKeh, 1923
Hard core blues from composer George W. Thomas with an early boogie bass and Sidney Bechet playing his heart out on the soprano saxophone.

CARTER FAMILY In the Valley of the Shenandoah Bluebird, 1941
One of their least remembered and very best performances, with aggressive dissonances in the vocal hamonies.

WADE MAINER Look On and Cry Bluebird, 1938
Clyde Moody sings lead on another tragic favorite. One verse duplicates the epitaph:

Remember, friends, as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you will be
So get prepared to follow me

GEORGE TOREY Married Woman Blues/Lonesome Man Blues ARC, 1937
Another twofer, and my favorite voice & guitar blues record. Nothing we do is perfect, but either side of this disc comes close.

BOB WILLS Crippled Turkey ARC, 1936
Bob’s guitarist plays major chords to his minor key melody, and the tension builds. Some of my friends think this record is amateurishly bumbling, but others get it just fine.

This an arbitrary list, without any classical music or postwar country, r&b or jazz. Ask me again in a month and I might not make the same choices, but I’d make others like them.

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