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.