Archive for April, 2014

Behind Discovering Elvie

Since my last post on “The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie” by John Jeremiah Sullivan in The New York Times Magazine, several posts providing background have come out. Most of the good ones have been on the blog The 6th Floor: Eavesdropping on the Times Magazine. Under Cover: In Pursuit of an Unearthly Record by Jeannie Choi tells the tale of the quest by 78 record collector Christopher King of Long Gone Sound for the actual 78 featured in the magazine piece. Caitlin Rose Love, featured in the magazine piece as well as being one of its reporters, posted On Geeshie Wiley’s Trail on the as yet unsuccessful attempt to learn more about Geeshie Wiley. Finally, Rachel Nolan reported on Sullivan’s back story in Behind the Cover Story: John Jeremiah Sullivan on the Search for Geeshie and Elvie.

The Story Behind John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Times Magazine Cover Story by Matthew Kassel at the New York Observer raises the questions about how Love secretly copied blogged Robert “Mack” McCormick‘s notes. That question of stealing does not interest me. The assertion that the magazine piece was edited to 14,000 words from an original 35,000 does interest me. I would like to read the even longer form.

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Michael M. on April 18th 2014 in General, Music, Recorded

Geeshie and Elvie

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie” by John Jeremiah Sullivan in The New York Times Magazine is a piece of wonder. It tells the detective story of uncovering the lost identities of pre-war musicians Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. It has fantastic multimedia, weaving text with photography, sound and video. I cannot recall any piece doing so nearly as well. It all centers around my current home of Houston, Texas!

Some familiar names figure prominently. Blogged Robert “Mack” McCormick is a 78 record collector and music historian living in a Houston suburb. Previously mentioned Amanda Petrusich was interviewed as chronicler and fan of that world, and mentioned Greil Marcus has research credit.

I knew a little, very little, about Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas from the music compilation Mississippi BluesRare Cuts 1926-1941. Despite the compilation’s title, Elvie Thomas turns out to have been L. V. Thomas of Houston, Texas! The Blues Trail identifies them as Mississippians, in apparent conflict with McCormick’s research. While I would like to claim them as fellow Mississippians, I am happy to know the truth. McCormick has held detailed knowledge of the truth for years, but his research had not made public until now.

The work also revived my interest in finding more about local music here in Houston. H and I have found just a few old-time or country blues musicians here. Now there is a prominent article about Houston’s role in some great recordings and their history. I made a few inquiries about music here with people involved in the article, and I hope they bear some fruit.

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Michael M. on April 13th 2014 in General, Music, Recorded

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.