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Thread: Early Blues Mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User misterstormalong's Avatar
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    Default Early Blues Mandolin

    Could anyone point me to a technical description (online/books) of how the mandolin was actually used in early Blues?

    Yes, I could just listen to recordings, but I'd appreciate an introductory shortcut.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Two words: Rich DelGrosso.
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    Registered User Scotter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Two words: Rich DelGrosso.
    Two words: Yank Rachell

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by misterstormalong View Post
    Could anyone point me to a technical description (online/books) of how the mandolin was actually used in early Blues?

    Yes, I could just listen to recordings, but I'd appreciate an introductory shortcut.
    Steve James has a couple of video instructionals on blues mandolin styles over at Homespun.
    Play that which you feel is groovy, get down with your bad self, and shake your money maker if it makes sense for you to do so.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    The above resources (James & delGrosso are very good), though Joe Carr's School of Mandolin Blues is a good resource for beginners, with more emphasis on rhythm and scales -- the basics -- than the others.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User misterstormalong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Thanks for the responses. The Steve James material looks very helpful and I've ordered the Joe Carr book despite the strangely mixed reviews.

    I'm collecting instructional material, but I'm particularly looking for descriptive data like this https://www.earlyblues.com/Essay%20-...20Shoulder.htm

    Since yesterday I found this YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/67rene/videos with live recordings of Yank Rachell. Having video (rather than just audio) makes everything much clearer and has provided exactly what I'm looking for.
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    The Steve James is good stuff, the Rich DelGrosso is better, but the best stuff is what you will hear on the old recordings. Johnny Young is a personal favorite to add to the list. Lots of the best old recordings may be available for download don't know is still in print. If you know blues scales it is not that hard to figure out what these guys are doing, most of the time.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    If it's actual history, rather than technique you're after, I have to quote "mrmando" (post #2 above): "Two words: Rich DelGrosso" -- not that you won't learn plenty of technique from him as well. Also read Blues Mandolin Man: The Life and Music of Yank Rachell by Richard Congress. I hope I didn't steer you in the wrong direction with the Carr book. You will learn plenty from it though. For videos of blues mandolin playing, see my 48 entires under "Jazz, Swing, Blues..." entitled "Blues, Stomps, & Rags." See also postings by others in the Blues Mando social group: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/group.php?groupid=99
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User misterstormalong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    I was after 'historical technique' rather than technique or history per se, but it's all of course of interest.

    Your "Blues, Stomps, & Rags" series is inspirational.

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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by misterstormalong View Post
    I was after 'historical technique' rather than technique or history per se, but it's all of course of interest.

    Your "Blues, Stomps, & Rags" series is inspirational.
    What type/style of blues are you aiming for? Country blues, city blues..?
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    Registered User misterstormalong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    I'm looking at the options.

    I play mandolin in an Oldtime/crossover stringband but occasionally have to do something solo. I was looking at Blues guitar but I think it would take too long to develop.

    Blues mandolin was a more obvious choice as it would be based on what I can do already and feed back into it. On the other hand, it seems to benefit from guitar accompaniment, so maybe it's not quite solo enough...

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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by misterstormalong View Post
    Blues mandolin was a more obvious choice as it would be based on what I can do already and feed back into it. On the other hand, it seems to benefit from guitar accompaniment, so maybe it's not quite solo enough...
    On the other hand:



    If link doesn't work, search YouTube for "Minglewood Blues/ Ken Whiteley (feat. Julia Naverson".

    (Still, I get your point, Ken does have a washtub bass accompanist, I think it would be hard to do a whole show on blues mandolin without a fellow musician, though you could pull off a ten-minute set at an open mike.)
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    On the other hand:

    If link doesn't work, search YouTube for "Minglewood Blues/ Ken Whiteley (feat. Julia Naverson".

    (Still, I get your point, Ken does have a washtub bass accompanist, I think it would be hard to do a whole show on blues mandolin without a fellow musician, though you could pull off a ten-minute set at an open mike.)
    -now that performance is just plain inspiring!
    Last edited by atsunrise; Jul-21-2019 at 10:39am.

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    Registered User misterstormalong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    People tell me the mandolin is too thin and/or harsh on its own unless in the hands of a virtuoso. Ken Whitely’s performance is certainly interesting, energetic and very full.

    Although I’ve only recently thought about attempting some Blues mandolin myself, I’ve long admired Ry Cooder’s ‘Goin' To Brownsville’.
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    How did Ry play mandoleen without a pick?

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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by mandolinstew View Post
    How did Ry play mandoleen without a pick?
    Just watched Ry on YouTube Going to Brownsville.He is using a pick.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    I recommend lessons by Mike Compton - he is an encyclopaedia of all American styles. I can play decent blues thanks to him. (Rich Del Grosso and Joe Carr are also great.) But Mike's lessons can be sourced through here.
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Guy Tortora plays mando without a pick but he is a very strong guitar player. https://youtu.be/Xw9lZCimlOA

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    Registered User misterstormalong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    I recommend lessons by Mike Compton - he is an encyclopaedia of all American styles. I can play decent blues thanks to him. (Rich Del Grosso and Joe Carr are also great.) But Mike's lessons can be sourced through here.
    Thanks for the suggestion. I've started on the Steve James DVD and some other bits and pieces.

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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    I just took a Blues Mandolin course from Steve James at 2019 Swannanoa, Mandolin and Banjo week. He was very good and a real encyclopedia of the early blues mandolin players. Another guy I can think of, is Johnny Young. He played a lot of stuff with Otis Spann, Big Walter Horton, Little Walter Jacobs, etc. I've got a CD by him where he does a lot of Mandolin stuff. Of course as mentioned there is Yank Rachell and his Harmony Batwing. I also have a book/CD by Rich Del Grosso.
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    Registered User Scotter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by willkamm View Post
    Another guy I can think of, is Johnny Young.
    Howard Armstrong too!
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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    For most Australians of a certain age, Johnny Young conjures up 'Young Talent Time', which was a show which featured child performers - some of whom went on to significant careers here and overseas (Dannii Minogue, Kylie's sister, springs to mind). Australian talent shows - about as far from the blues as you can get.

    But Young the mandolinist is superb blues.
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by willkamm View Post
    I just took a Blues Mandolin course from Steve James at 2019 Swannanoa, Mandolin and Banjo week. He was very good and a real encyclopedia of the early blues mandolin players. Another guy I can think of, is Johnny Young. He played a lot of stuff with Otis Spann, Big Walter Horton, Little Walter Jacobs, etc. I've got a CD by him where he does a lot of Mandolin stuff. Of course as mentioned there is Yank Rachell and his Harmony Batwing. I also have a book/CD by Rich Del Grosso.
    Which CD is that, willkamm?
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  34. #23
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Which CD is that, willkamm?
    I mean which Steve James CD?
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    I mean which Steve James CD?
    Not by Steve James. The CD is by Johnny Young. Called Johnny Young and friends.
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    Default Re: Early Blues Mandolin

    Well, I'm a new player, and thanks to this thread, I picked up some of the stuff mentioned here. I am working through the Steve James videos, and it's just what the doctor ordered. When he presents a tune I don't know, I go out and find the original, listen, work out the differences; and that leads me somewhere else ... blues suits me better than other forms, I'm having fun with it, I'm having fun with my new instrument, and I hope to actually inflict myself on stage on live humans soon. Thanks guys.

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