Back Talk | Letters to the Editor | Indy Week

Columns » Letters to the Editor

Back Talk

Letters to the Editor


Re: Matt Jones' "Passion and Strife" [Sept. 6], I'm always glad to read about Durham's greatest cultural contribution to the arts, namely, the golden age of Piedmont blues, that jaunty jiving style of ragtime and blues that emerged in the 1920s and flowered in the '30s and '40s. I would've thought that The Independent--knowing what extensive cultural/historical resources we've got in the region, not to mention the pure soul of this place, would have sponsored a piece that could have made some fresh observations. But I never would have thought that there'd be such distortions and misstatements of music and cultural fact as there were in the piece.

In the first place, contrary to the popular stereotype, blues musicians were not the gimpy, blind, crippled and maimed lot that Matt Jones contends they were. Jones says, "Durham's Trice brothers ... were exceptions as blues musicians; they were not physically impaired." By far, the overwhelming majority were men and women who worked their 9 to 5 (or more likely, their 6 to 9) six days a week and played all night long on Friday, Saturday and often Sunday nights. The late Thomas Burt told me that, in his prime, he'd fall out for work on Monday feeling (and looking) "like somebody shot me."

In the second place, Matt Jones could've picked a far better example of Fuller's sexual wordplay than "Shake it Babies," which comes not from "Rag Mama Rag," but from "Jitterbug Rag," as I recall. (I knew a sweet little old widow woman in East Durham who would describe her husband's dilapidated workshed/garage as her late husband Roland's "honey hole." Blind Boy Fuller sang: "You heard about that sugar plum, and that jelly roll/Ain't nothin' compared to my sweet honey hole."

It's good to be reminded of the irony of Durham morphing from "Bull Durham (city of bad medicine)" to the "City of (good?) Medicine." However, Jones' promising start got lost in a muddle of miscellany, and the ending left me cold. What was the point of that? --Vaughn Clauson, Durham

Add a comment