For Your Thursday Listening Pleasure: 1917's "Dallas Blues," From the Library of Congress
So. Funny thing. A couple of weeks back, while writing about 508 Park Ave. and Robert Johnson's 100th, I pulled down a few blues histories-of to dig a little deeper. Among the stacks: Elijah Wald's essential Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, published in 2004, where, on Page 19, there's a reference to the immortal "The Dallas Blues" -- specifically, a 1917 recording by Marie Cahill, which I'd never heard. Because, as it turns out, it's been commercially unavailable for close to a century.
Then, about an hour ago, the striking Matt Kellum shot me an e-mail with the subject heading "National Jukebox," which, as it turns out, is this just-launched Library of Congress repository of what The Los Angeles Times described this week as "a joint venture between the library and Sony Music that will give free access to thousands of Sony-controlled recordings long out of circulation because of commercial or copyright issues." Matt says his brother's been working on it at the LOC. Amazing.
Of course, first thing I do it type in "Dallas," and there's but one recording listed. Which is why you see Cahill's recording below. It's an important one too -- a song Wald writes was "one of the first pure twelve-bar blues on record," despite the fact Cahill may have been more "vaudeville minstrel" than "blues enthusiast," and one that "gives an idea of how blues first came into many homes." Wald also notes: It's got close to the same melody as the "Dallas Blues" written by Hart Want in 1912 and made famous by Louis Armstrong and others, but its lyrics (or close to) were "registered for copyright in 1912 by a white minstrel, Le Roy 'Lasses' White, of the Happy Hour Theater in Dallas." Which I believe was owned by ... the Dalton Brothers.
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