Thursday, September 13, 2007
Watch the complete Alan Lomax doc Land Where The Blues Began HERE
Can someone please explain to me why the late great Lonnie Pitchford
doesn't have some sort of National Shrine by now?
Why do I have to work on Lonnie Pitchford's birthday (October 8th 1955)?
Master of the one string diddley bow and trained on guitar by Eugene Powell of The Mississippi Sheiks as well as Robert Lockwood Junior (whose stepfather was Robert Johnson) Lonnie Pitchford recorded only one full album before he passed away from HiV complications on November 8th 1998 at his home in Lexington Mississippi. He was 43 and left behind his wife Minnie (who is the daughter of Elmore James' girlfriend) and a daughter. He is buried near the grave of Elmore James in The Newport Community Cemetary near the town of Ebenezer. Lonnie Pitchford toured the world during his short life but worked as a carpenter when at home. He played slide on a John Mellencamp album and supposedly recorded with the New Africa String Band which included Eugene Powell and Big Jack Johnson, but I can find no information about an actual album. A more complete discography is available HERE. Writer Jon Pareles writes in his obit of Pitchford that "He played the diddley-bow, a one-stringed instrument he would assemble onstage from a two-by-four, two nails, broom wire and a crushed snuff can. Using a dime as a slide, he would play driving, wailing blues lines." Can yr little buddy Clapton do that? pfft. Pitchford also played the stratocaster, piano, acoustic, harmonica and bass. I first became aware of Lonnie Pitchford via the 1992 film Deep Blues. I'd been interested in the diddley bow for years and when I first heard Lonnie's album All Around Man I was stunned by the sound and groove he could make with just one string. But then I heard nothing else by him for years until my friend DJ HWY 7 shared some tracks from a National Downhome Music Festival album. This album was revelatory as i'd not hear Pitchford live before this. The man was a brilliant entertainer as well as a master musician which only drove home to me what a loss his early death was. The title of his album All Around Man is so fitting as Pitchford totally embraced the very early blues, particularly those of Johnson's and made them his own without straying from the original sound or sounding kitsch or antique. He became that sound. At the same time he was like Hendrix with the one string diddley bow but was also fully at home with a more urban blues sound yet his modern blues I found to be years ahead of his contemporaries. He threw down elements of jazz and soul while keeping it deep and thoughtful and forward sounding without straying too far from the sound of the mississippi grocery store jukes and dark woods 'tonks. Sure there will never be a National Lonnie Pitchford Day any more than there will be a NationalHowlin' Wolf day or Son House Week. A couple years back the government declared a Year of the blues and nobody came so i'm not gonna hold my breath. Hell even Robert Johnson gets his his cigarette photoshopped off his stamp. No damn respect. You ever hear of Lonnie Pitchford before now? Tell your friends about him. It's our job to keep the dead alive and well remembered.
Listen to tracks from All Around Man (sadly All Around Man is
Out Of fkn Print!)
Real Rock Music: Crawlin' Kingsnake
If I had Possesion Over Judgement Day
Jimbo Mathus' version of Drinkin' Antiseptic (also Out Of Print!)
Listen to tracks from National Downhome Blues Festival BUY iT!
That Train Comin' Round The Bend
One man who does keep the name and one-string spirit of Lonnie Pitchford alive
is Memphis luthier and bookstore owner John Lowe. John, who is better known to some by his stage name Johnny Lowebow, is internationally known for his amazing handmade one, two and three string Lowebow guitars. Each year John offers his own Lyon-Pitchford award. John explains:
Randall Lyon was a cohort of Robert Palmer who played a one string he called the Unochord or something like that. I knew him from back in my Fayetteville days. Lisa from the hellcats is doing a bunch of research on him. Randal died a year after Robert Palmer from Hepatitis. I've given the Lyon Pitchford Award since Richard (Johnston) won the IBC. The winners are Richard Johnston, Doug Beckman, Ben Prestage (twice), Slick Ballenger, John Alex Mason, and Roliie Tussing. Jay Kirgis got mention one year.It's for folks who get caught up in the IBC (International Blues Challenge)who add CBG (Cigar Box Guitar), Diddly bow and or One man band or Hill country content.
I'll be spieling on Johnny Lowebow soon. Thanks John!
Posted by RiCK SAUNDERS at 3:50 PM