ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

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BLUES
271
dollars, what do I do? The white man would go to his landlord, offer him the ten, and maybe get the time extended. But what do I do? I go right out and blow in that ten dollars I have and have a gay time. Anybody seeing me would think I was the jolllest darky in town, but it's just because I'm miserable and can't help myself.
"Now, if a Negro were making a song about an experience like that, it would be a genuine specimen of blues."
Handy said that the blues were different from conventional com≠posed music, but like primitive folk-music in that they have only five tones, like the folk-songs of slavery times, using the pentatonic scale, omitting the fourth and seventh tones. He says that while most blues are racial expressions of Negro life, the form has been imitated nowadays in songs that are not racial. While practically all the music publishers refused to bring out his compositions at first, now most of them publish blues.
He says that the blues represent a certain stage in Negro music. "About forty years $go such songs as Golden Slippers were sung. That was written by a colored man but is not a real folk-song. At about that time all the songs of the Negro liked to speak of golden streets and give bright pictures of heaven. Then, about twenty years ago, the desire was all for 'coon' songs. Now the tendency is toward blues. They are not, as I have said, a new thing, for they were sung in the South before the piano was accessible to the Negroes, though they were not so well known as now."
I asked Handy to tell me some$iing£,bout Beal Street Blues, one of his best-known expressions of life in the South.
"Beal Street is the colored thoroughfare in Memphis," he at\-swered. "There you will find the best and the worst of the Negro, life. There are banks there, and also saloons and dives. At the time the piece was written, Memphis was the most murderous city in th^ world. As the song says, 'Nothing ever closed till somebody had been killed.'"
"Is that true of Memphis now?'"' I inquired.
"Not so much so," he said slowly. " Since then an appeal has been made to the Negroes to close the saloons, and many of them com≠plied. But the Monarch Saloon, the biggest there, is still open. It is owned by one of the three councilmen who control Memphis. It is a Negro saloon, and no white man is allowed to enter. It.'s caged about, so that no policeman can get in."
"Do you mean that that condition exists to-day?"
"Exactly!" he said with emphasis.
Handy spoke of a specimen of blues he had written which shows







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