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Johnny Shines

HACKSAW

Richard "Hacksaw" Harney- Sweet Man



Biography:
"Richard 'Hacksaw' Harney was born in Money, MS, on July 16, 1902. He passed away on Christmas morning in 1973 of stomach cancer.
Hacksaw was regarded by many musicians as the best guitarist in the Delta.
--Robert Palmer, Deep Blues

 I really think that Hacksaw was a big influence with Robert [Johnson]. He was the only somebody who could compete with him... He played the guitar very, very well. --Robert Lockwood, Jr., Living Blues
       
His talent, virtuosity and flair rank him with the likes of Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, Reverrend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson. And yet, if it were not for these Adelphi/Blues Vault tapes, he would be a blues equivalent of Buddy Bolden, the unrecorded giant whose mysterious legend enlivens early jazz lore. --Larry Hoffman.

Adelphi Records is pleased to present this ten song collection demonstrating the guitar wizardry of Richard Hacksaw Harney, the musician's musician from the motherland of American Music. Hacksaw was sought out by blues researchers in the 1960's because of the high esteem with which his contemporaries regarded him, many of whom were still awed by recollections of his occasional, impromptu appearances in Delta jukes or on the legendary King Biscuit Time radio show in Helena, Arkansas. In 1969, Adelphi's traveling studio followed the Harney reputation from Chicago to Jackson and back to Memphis, where Hacksaw was finally located, with the assistance of a posse of aging but enthusiastic blues musicians. Their persistence was amply rewarded by his sparkling and complex finger-picking playing.

Errata: In the liner notes, we mistakenly attribute the nickname 'Hacksaw' as originating during the artist's brief career in boxing. Pinetop Perkins set the record straight by reminding us that this outstanding musician (equally stunning as a piano player) supported himself by tuning and repairing pianos. "He always carried a little hacksaw with him, and he could grab a piece of anything and make a new key with that hacksaw. He taught me how to repair a piano."
-Adelphi Records

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/16015093
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Comments

12 lb rag is impressive.
I wonder if he thought of himself as a guitar player rather than a singer. There is some overlap with Mississippi John Hurt, more so than Robert Johnson, in my opinion. Then again, I have not listened to all the tracks, yet. But you do get the idea that the base line was could just take care of itself -- he wasn't just learning a lick or two and fashioning a tune around it. He really is playing duets with himself.

Wouldn't you love to hear a recording of this guy from the 30s.

You listen to this stuff and begin to appreciate why some of the old guys didn't like the phrases Piedmont blues or east coast, preferring instead 'country blues'. East coast didn't have a monopoly on this stuff.
Hello=) He absolutely thought of himself as a guitar player and not a singer. I read about it elsewhere on the net. I think that there is a little overlap with Johnson, not much with Hurt, and a lot with Blind Blake. There are also (pseudo) Classical music bits here and there, especially on "Sweet Man", in my opinion. I would love to hear a recording of his from the '30s; it's too bad that there aren't any.

As far as I understand, "Country Blues" was a term that was coined by Samuel Charters around 1960, or maybe by Lomax at an earlier date. I think that many of the guys we think of as "Country Blues" just thought of themselves as musicians, and they had to think that way in order to make a living. I recall Johnny Shines saying that Robert Johnson was "a polka hound"!! Perhaps an exception to this rule is Son House, who pretty much sang straight-ahead Blues and spirituals, and that's it.
I'll have to listen to my Blind Blake CDs -- it has been a while. What got me thinking about John Hurt was the first tune I listened to: Home Skeen Ball. (Which means what??) I listened to that one a couple times before I heard anything else on the CD. I would agree that nothing else on the CD resembles Hurt in any way.

You make a good point on country blues. One of my local favorites is a guy named Warner Williams, who has recorded some with a fine Harp player named Jay Summerour. Warner has his own way of doing everything and a lot of what he plays is popular music from 1900 to -- well, probably there are some top 40 in his rep these days. Who knows.

Some folks are not happy to see Warner at an acoustic jam because he tends to play just two or three verses of each tune, occasionally snaps "guitar solo" and takes it himself, and runs through at least 50 tunes in an hour, never letting anyone else do more than supply a fill. The better guitar players simply watch and learn, but the beginners feel boxed out.

I once heard someone in the middle of his run say "Hey Warner, know any North Carolina tunes" and Warner proceeded to play maybe 30. My fantasy is to do a CD called "The Warner Williams Fake Book" and ask him to play 70 tunes in 70 minutes -- no breaks, no list, just record him straight up in one take. Then, I'd get everyone I know to pick a few tracks and dub fills & back up parts. Of course, even if half the stuff turned out to be public domain, the rights for the rest would still end up costing 10 bucks a CD.

I know he has been featured on the Nick Spitzer show -- so maybe there is a recording on the web, if you are interested.

Speaking of CDs, did you ever listen to the latest barbershop CD? You can hear samples on CD baby. Search AEBHF If you want one, I'll mail it to you. Just send a snail mail address to my home email (lande_family (at) verizon.net)
I'm not sure what "Home Skeen Ball" means. Maybe it's a ball of rubber bands that poor kids would put together in order to make a toy? Maybe it has something to do with sewing?

The Warner guy sounds very interesting. Would you say that he's a good musician? I just saw "M for Mississippi", which is amusing and interesting simply because we can see Mississippi. The music, however, is laughably bad. I mean, BAD! I'm only halfway through the documentary, but all of the musicians sound like guys who are barely competent on guitar and don't know how to make, or even borrow, a simple Blues verse that rhymes. It was quite pathetic to see, and makes me think that the Blues is dead and has been dead since the mid-'70s, when the last of the Country Blues greats died off.

However, when I read your words about Warner, I became curious. I thought, "Are there still black musicians out there who can sing and play this music? What about writing original songs?".

In New York, I have no way of finding the answer to my question. Blues clubs here feature middle-aged black guys and young white guys who do covers of "Mustang Sally", Allman Brothers songs and Robert Johnson stuff. They are clueless, to be honest.

Perhaps this music is alive in one form or another in the Carolinas and Virginia? I wish I had time to go down to your neck of the woods and get the answer to my question for myself.

Just to let you know, some of the names in the documentary are Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, T-Model Ford and Wesley "Junebug" Jefferson.
Can't find anything good on Youtube showing warner. Most of what is there isn't really blues. Check the last 20 seconds or so.



Speaking of locals and originals, here is Eleanor Ellis doing a Flora Molton tune. Flora came up in the gospel street tradition. I want our band to do this one.




And just for fun, John Cephas showing a room full of guitar players how to do skip james stuff. John is sorely missed.




We'll have to have more discussion on 'originals'. Seriously, I'd be delighted to snail mail you the latest barbershop CD. (I will pay for it.)
Johnny Shines

July 2009

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