4

For Your Thursday Listening Pleasure: 1917's "Dallas Blues," From the Library of Congress

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

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.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.