Today is the birthday of the great blues guitar player/ singer/ performer Taj Mahal (Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr). What an interesting guy — he’s actually a college educated agriculturalist from Massachusetts, in addition to being a second generation musician. After his original band The Rising Suns proved short-lived in the mid 60s, he backed up the likes of Howling Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters. By the late 60s he was cutting his own records and has been doing so ever since.
Now, every day I find new cause to despair for humanity. This morning it happened when I went on Youtube where I saw several people (including several musicians) refer to “She Caught the Katy” as a “Blues Brothers song”. Yes, the Blues Brothers popularized the song by performing it in their 1980 movie and the soundtrack album….but, uh, you DO know they are a comedy band, right? They just covered music by other, actual, authentic musicians, whose original versions are invariably the definitive ones? I mean I enjoy the Blues Brothers as an entertainment entity, but that’s an excessive amount of validation to bestow upon them. It’s like, yeah, I was listening to that Homer Simpson tune, “Happy Birthday”. At any rate, here’s the real deal, recorded by Taj Mahal in 1968.
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
Alright! I finally get to name drop…I got to yakkin’ a bit with Taj Mahal (probably I yakked first and he was kind enough to reply) in a festival on a mountainside in B.C. in the early 1990s (or was it ’89?)…what he said was that he milked cows for 25 years before he played out at all. Very cool! That was a fun show – Taj Mahal was the special guest and the hippies were all at their hippiest. The very best of B.C….I am happy you wrote this and reminded me of the ‘bright side’ of B.C., because I was mired in a bleak situation there, later, and whooosh…you’ve puffed it away in a wisp of cloud. Thx!
Thanks, Leanne, you made my day! Hearing stuff like is my reward for doing this blog