An Extensive Encyclopedic Music Dictionary

An Extensive
Traditional and Folk Music
Encyclopedic Dictionary

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(Section B3)

blackleg (from coal mining) workers hired by management to substitute for striking workers; scabs. "Blackleg Miner" is one of many popular worker songs.

blacklist the anti-communist paranoia in the US in the late 40s and the 50s led to the creation of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, with the proscribing of many writers, actors, musicians, etc., because they seemed a little too left of center for the Powers That Were. Almost any connection at all to a communist organization might get a performer subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC. Even if nothing came of it, the performer’s name could be entered on the somewhat secret blacklist. Blacklisted performers were banned from TV and radio, and might have had trouble getting work in clubs. Banned folk musicians included the Weavers, Robeson, Paul, Seeger, Pete, Guthrie, Woody, Dyer-Bennett, Richard and many more (see also People’s Songs). Although the blacklist eased off in the 70s, to this day performers like Pete Seeger are rarely if ever seen on commercial television (but see Rainbow Quest).

Blackwell, Scrapper (?-1962) a guitarist best known for accompanying other musicians, such as Carr, Leroy. He did make some solo recordings for Yazoo in 1928-32 ("The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell").

Blake, Norman a Georgia musician who plays guitar in both flatpick and finger-style, mandolin, fiddle, and Dobro. He has recorded for Flying Fish and Rounder, and is a successful songwriter.

Bland, James (James A. Bland) a songwriter in the 19th century US minstrel tradition. Songs of his that are still around include "Golden Slippers", "In the Evening by the Moonlight", and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny". The latter was the state song of Virginia from 1940 to 1997, when it was retired for "offensive terms" ("massa", "darkey").

bleed (also "spill") the sound from one festival stage interfering with the sound of another. Also, in a recording studio, one instrument being picked up on the track of another.

Blind Blake (?-~1940) (Arthur Blake) a blues singer and guitarist from the 20s and 30s. He is mentioned as being a companion of various other blues legends (such as Davis, Rev. Gary), and influenced them greatly with his ragtime finger-style guitar playing. He recorded for Biograph records from 1926 to 1931. Not to be confused with Blind Blake Higgs.

Blind Blake Higgs a calypso singer and instrumentalist; he is said to be the author of the song "Run Come See, Jerusalem", recorded in the 1950s by the Weavers.

Blind Boy Fuller (1908-1941) (Fulton Allen) country blues guitarist and singer. He learned guitar in the 1920s, and played the streets of North Carolina after losing his sight in 1928. During the 30s and 40s, he had a number of hits in the race records market. He travelled with Davis, Rev. Gary, and also Terry, Sonny and McGhee, Brownie. His recordings became an influence on modern guitarists interested in the roots of the blues. Songs of his that are still being played include "Step It Up and Go", "Truckin’ My Blues Away", and "Mama, Let Me Lay It On You".

Blind Boy Grunt a pseudonym, along with "Tedham Porterhouse" and "Bob Landy" (and others), used by Bob Dylan when he was making non-Columbia recordings in the 60s.

Blind Lemon Jefferson (~1895-1930) born in Texas, Blind Lemon played guitar and sang in the streets to earn a living. Little is known of his early history, and the few later facts are anecdotal from musicians he played with or taught ( White, Josh, Walker, T-Bone). He was born into a family named Jefferson, Banks or Bates (depending on your sources), and his first records were issued with the pseudonym "Reverend L. J. Bates". Blues author Paul Oliver implied in the index to his book "Screening the Blues" (Cassell, 1968) that Jefferson’s name was "Deacon L. J. Bates", though this could have been merely a reference to the recording pseudonym. He met Leadbelly and the two toured together, with Blind Lemon teaching Leadbelly the blues, and Leadbelly immortalizing the duo in his song "Silver City Bound". He made a number of Paramount recordings in Chicago in the 20s, including "Black Snake Moan", "Hangman’s Blues", "Matchbox Blues", and the famous "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" (the tune of which is related to "Careless Love", also recorded by Lemon). The recordings were popular enough that his labels were a distinctive lemon colour, and he even had his photo on some of them. He was no doubt the first nationally popular country blues artist, the first star. His vocal and guitar stylings influenced all the blues players of the folk revival.

Blind Sammie pseudonym used by Blind Willie McTell.

Blind Willie Johnson (~1902-1949) a Texas bluesman (vocals and slide guitar), who teamed with McTell, Blind Willie in Georgia. He’s known only from a few records made for Columbia in 1927-30, but he seemed to favor sacred songs done in a blues style. His songs included "Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed" (recorded by Dylan, Bob as "In My Time of Dyin’"), "Motherless Children" (recorded by Van Ronk, Dave), "You’ll Need Somebody on Your Bond" (recorded by Donovan), and "If I Had My Way, I Would Tear This Building Down" (probably the foundation of "Samson and Delilah", recorded by Davis, Rev. Gary, PP&M, and Dave Van Ronk). Others of his songs were recorded by Cooder, Ry.

Blind Willie McTell (1901-1959) an Atlanta 12-string guitar bluesman. He recorded for Victor, Columbia, Atlantic, Melodeon, Biograph, and Yazoo, occasionally using the names "Blind Sammie" or "Georgia Bill". One of his best-known and most-recorded songs is "Statesboro Blues". In the 30s he partnered with Johnson, Blind Willie as street singers in Georgia, and in 1940 he recorded a number of blues and sacred songs for Lomax, Alan. His last name was taken as a stage name by McTell, Ralph.

blint (Scot.) blinded.

block-chord. an unbroken chord.

Bloomfield, Mike (1944-1981) a guitarist who did both acoustic and electric accompaniments for Butterfield, Paul and Dylan, Bob. His work stands out on Dylan’s "Highway 61" and "Blonde on Blonde" albums. He left the Butterfield Band in 1966 to form a group called Electric Flag.

blow 1. (from jazz argot) To play, usually in a fast and complex style, really strutting your stuff. "Let’s blow, man!" This applies to any instrument, not just horns or woodwinds. 2. As in the popular sense: to blow it, make a complete mess, utter failure. "How could he play a simple three-chord song and still blow it?"

Blowin’ in the Wind the famous song by Dylan, Bob. Its authorship was in doubt for a while - see Wyatt, Lorre. Some "Wind" trivia: although Peter, Paul & Mary had an enormous hit with the song after its release in June of 1963, they were not the first to record it. The Chad Mitchell Trio recorded their version on an album in late 1962, and Traum, Happy recorded it at about the same time for Folkways with Vince Martin.

blue note 1. In general, any or all of flated thirds, fifths, or sevenths, used to give a blues sound to a melody; any accidental used for the same purpose. 2. Any note that has been bent to change its pitch for a decorative effect. See also microtone. (A blue note that has been modified right out of our scale and can be retrieved for experimenting is described under harmonic series.

Blue Sky Boys Bill Bolick (1917- ) and Earl Bolick (1919- ) were popular radio and recording artists in the 30s and 40s. Their old-timey sound, mixed with a high harmony, influenced the development of bluegrass. They recorded occasionally in the 60s and 70s, but never played music full time after the 50s.

bluegrass based on the rural music of Appalachia and environs. Characterized by rather fast playing and high-pitched harmonies. Most bands worth their salt have virtuosos playing the mandolin, fiddle and banjo. The guitarist is expected to have at least a few show-stopping fiddle tunes. People who brought the bluegrass sound to a wide audience in the late 40s include Monroe, Bill, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, and the Country Gentlemen. A common complaint from non-fans is the sameness of the arrangements. A little virtuosity is a buzz, but everything quickly begins to sound like everything else. To the fans, it could go on forever. See also newgrass.

blues when the English, Scottish and Irish folksong and pop song structure of the US south met with the African rhythms, modes, and work songs brought over by slaves, one result was the blues, now enormously popular everywhere. There are a number of different styles, from the acoustic country blues to the electrified city blues that started in places like Chicago and New York. The blues format is a very tight one. In one of its basic forms, a 12- bar blues would consist of two repeated lines and a final line that nicely makes a statement about the first two (the brackets indicate the chords in the key of C that would be used to harmonize with the lines): © Feel like a brokedown engine, mama, I ain’t got no drivin’ wheels,(F) I feel like a brokedown engine, mama, ain’t got no drivin’ wheels, (G) I want to hijack people, (F) you don’t know how I feel. © Blues today don’t always contain themes as agonized as that one, but misery is so common in the early, or country blues, that the songs stand as a sad testimony to one race’s treatment of another. In the melody, which is usually simple but powerful, the seventh note of the scale is often flatted (that is, B becomes Bb in the key of C). Flatted thirds and fifths turn up as well. These, and notes that are bent, are called blue notes".

The blues were first popularized by Handy, W.C. who published "St Louis Blues" and "Mamie’s Blues" at the turn of the century. Certain styles of blues are associated with specific areas, such as country blues from the Mississippi delta and environs, and the harder-edged city blues from Chicago and New York. It was the country blues of the southeastern states that really led to the music we think of as blues. It’s difficult to pin down "the birth of the blues", since there are a number of different styles, but a reasonable dating for the folk-blues or country blues artist would be the beginning of the success of commercial recordings of the style (see race records), which was about the 20s. Patton, Charlie was said to be the first blues artist to sell widely. See also Blind Lemon Jefferson, perhaps the first country blues star.

For a few other blues greats, see Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, Broonzy, Bill, Davis, Rev. Gary, Johnson, Robert, McGhee, Brownie, Terry, Sonny, Waters, Muddy. There are also musicians who aren’t thought of as mainly bluesmen, but who contributed a great deal, such as Hurt, John and Leadbelly.

Arnold Shaw, author of "Black Popular Music in America" (1986), wrote that dating the birth of the blues is "an exercise in conjecture, since its origin is shrouded in the distant days before recording might have provided documentation. Moreover, as a folk art transmitted orally, the blues attracted musicologists later than the spirituals, which began to be notated during the Civil War." The country blues are at the root of the electric big-city blues, which are at the root of all the different styles we label as "soul", "Motown", "rap" and so on.

blues-progression. a twelve bar sequence of seventh-chord changes in jazz based on I, IV, and V chords (there may be three or more chords). Two common progressions are I, I, I, I, V, V, I, I, IV, V, I, I and I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, IV, I, I (all the chords add the seventh). However, other variants are possible.

blues-scale. normally C, D, E-flat, E, F, F#, G, A, B-flat, C. This scale is very common in jazz.

Bluetail Fly a song from the US minstrel show tradition. There are early versions from the 1840s that lack the "Jimmy" chorus; it’s said to be the work of Emmett, Dan, but might also be a song he learned from others of the tradition. It was arranged and popularized by Work, John and later collected by Lomax, John and Lomax, Alan. Alan taught it to Ives, Burl. The refrain is a snippet of a plantation song. Aka "Jimmy Cracked Corn", which is said to refer to the opening of a bottle of corn liquor.

board-end (Scot.) head of the table.

bob in British slang, a shilling.

bobbit (Scot.) bowed, curtsied.

bodhran an Irish Gaelic word, pronounced "borrun". It’s a drum 18" to 24" in diameter, more or less, with a body just large enough to stretch the drumhead (maybe 2"-4" deep). It’s held in one hand and played with a double-headed drumstick in the other. Although it would seem limited, a good bodhran player can get remarkable effects with the special drumstick, and can change the sound of the drumhead by pressing on it with the fingers of the hand doing the holding.

Boggs, Doc (1898-1971) (Moran Boggs) Kentucky banjoist specializing in old-timey music. He recorded in the late 20s, but was unknown in the folk revival until Seeger, Mike introduced his unique three finger picking banjo style to the public. He then played major festivals and recorded for Folkways, influencing many modern banjo players.

Bogle, Eric (1946- ) A Scottish singer-songwriter living in Australia, Eric is best known for "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda", "William McBride" (aka "No Man’s Land"), "Now I’m Easy", and "Safe in the Harbour" (written for Rogers, Stan).

Bogtrotters a Virginia old-timey string band. They recorded for Biograph and the Library of Congress in the late 30s and early 40s. The original members included Ward, Wade and his nephew Fields Ward.

Bojangles (1878-1949) (Bill Robinson) "Mr Bojangles" was probably the most famous tap dancer of all time. He danced in vaudeville, theatre, clubs, and several films. The song by Walker, Jerry Jeff may have been inspired by him, but since Bojangles died when J.J. was about seven years old, it’s obviously a well-crafted fantasy.

Bok, Gordon singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Maine. He has written many songs about the sea and sailing, and has composed story songs about seal legends. Popular at folk festivals in the US and Canada, he has a number of albums on Folk-Legacy.

Bolden, Buddy (1877-1931) (Charles Bolden) New Orleans jazz bandleader and cornet player. Since he never recorded, anything known about him survives only through his influence on traditional jazz, plus the stories his colleagues told about him. He never played again after 1907. At least one of the songs he arranged is often played in folk ("Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor", recorded by, among others, Rush, Tom), and a song written about him ("Buddy Bolden’s Blues") was recorded by Von Schmidt, Eric.

Bolero-The bolero is a Spanish dance, popular in Paris in the time of Chopin and in Latin America. One of the best known examples of the dance in art music is Ravel's ballet music Boléro, music of mounting intensity described by the composer as an orchestrated crescendo.

bones Two bones held loosely in the hand produce a loud rhythmic clacking noise when the hand is shaken or the bones are passed along the fingers of the open hand. Suitable for rapid dance tunes and much favored by Irish bands. Compare with spoons.

bongos a pair of small drums fastened together, held in the lap or between the legs, and played directly with the hands.

Bonny Prince Charlie (1720-1780) Charles Edward Stuart, aka "The Young Pretender", grandson of James II of the House of Stuart. Perhaps no other member of royalty caused so many songs to be written. In 1745, he attempted to rally the Scottish clans with the aim of returning the House of Stuart to the throne (Britain was by this time ruled by the Georges of the House of Hanover). He and his supporters ("Jacobites") fought a number of battles, but never had the numbers to overthrow the English. They were defeated at the Battle of Culloden (1746), the last Jacobite uprising. After Culloden, the English came down hard on the Scots, banning the kilt and outlawing the clan system. Charlie fled to France, where he remained in exile with some of his followers. The remaining Jacobite sympathizers began making the songs, which usually had the theme of Charlie returning triumphantly from France: "Over the Sea to Skye", "Wha’ll Be King But Charlie", "Will Ye No Come Back Again", "Wae’s Me for Prince Charlie" and many more. See also Jacobite songs.

boogie (also "boogey", "boogy", etc.) an imprecise term generally referring to an up-tempo performance, usually of rock, blues, ragtime, and so on. It can also mean to party seriously, or to dance vigorously - in fact, it seems to mean whatever the speaker intends. It started life as "boogie-woogie" some decades ago, that time with the meaning of an up-tempo, lively tune or song, almost always associated with blues piano. Many tunes said to be boogie contained a walking bass.

Bookbinder, Roy (1943- ) a blues and ragtime singer and guitarist from NYC. His influences were Anderson, Pink, Davis, Rev. Gary, and Van Ronk, Dave. He played clubs and festivals in both the UK and US, and has recorded for Blue Goose and Kicking Mule records.

Bookbinder, Roy (1943- ) NYC singer-guitarist who specialises in blues and ragtime. He has toured widely and has recorded for Kicking Mule records.

books there is a vast quantity of books available on all aspects of folk music, and no two folkies would have identical must-read lists. However, the following will shed light on many of the subjects covered far too briefly in this lexicon. Please note that many of them may be either special-order or out of print "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads", Child, F.J., Dover Publications. Five softbound volumes. For theserious traddie. See Child’s entry for more information. See also Bronson, Bertrand. See also "Oxford Book of Ballads", below. "Folk Music - More Than a Song", Baggelaar/Milton, Thomas Crowell Co., 1976. Capsule bios of just about everyone who ever had anything to do with folk music up until the publication date. This was also issued as "The Folk Music Encyclopedia". "Folk Song in England", Lloyd, A.L., Paladin Books. Superbly written discussion of folk music by one of England’s foremost researchers into the subject. "Folksongs of Britain and Ireland", Kennedy, Peter, editor; Oak Publications, 1975. A large, comprehensive collection, including Gaelic versions of songs and a huge amount of reference material. "Henscratches and Flyspecks", Seeger, Pete, Berkley Publishing. For those who would like to teach themselves to read music without an overload of music theory. Lots of song examples. "The Incompleat Folksinger", Seeger, Pete, Simon and Schuster. A collection of old and new writings (including much from Pete’s excellent "Appleseeds" column in Sing Out!), detailing the rise in popularity of folk music in the 50s and 60s, and stories about many of the people involved. A general view of the folkie philosophy. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", Seeger, Pete, 1993. A Sing Out! publication. Closer to an autobiography than the above book, and with lots of songs, including tablature as well as notation. The cover art is by Von Schmidt, Eric. Oak Publications, NYC, NY. An enormous catalog of books on every aspect of folk music and folk musicians. "Oxford Book of Ballads", Oxford University Press. For those who don’t want to pop for the full Child collections. A goodly selection of them are in this. "Oxford Book of Carols", Oxford University Press. A comprehensive selection of ancient carols, with some modern ones. Good collectiion of notes, even if the editors tend to be moldy figs at times. "Oxford Book of Traditional Verse", Oxford University Press. Though the title makes this sound like a book of poems, it’s actually a collection of traditional song lyrics. "Oxford Companion to Music", Scholes, Percy, ed., Oxford University Press. While this is primarily classical in content, it’s a huge compendium of musical definitions, and has many excellent entries on traditional music. "The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs", Penguin Books, Lomax, Alan, editor. All the favorites from the US, most collected by the editor and his father, Lomax, John. "The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs", Penguin Books, Fowke, Edith, editor. "The Canadian Book of Penguin Folk Songs". This is a joke. Traddie singers use it occasionally during intros. "Viking Book of Ballads of the English-speaking World", Friedman, Albert editor; published by Viking in 1956 and currently available from Penguin Books. A great selection of popular ballads, with wonderfully complete and superbly researched notes. "Woody Guthrie - A Life", Joe Klein, Ballantine Books, 1980. A superb biography, not just of Woody, but of the American folksong revival in general. Perhaps one of the best books ever written on folk music. "Guinness Who’s Who of Blues", Guinness Publishing, 1993. A well-researched set of biographies of blues performers from the beginning to the present. "The Folk Music Sourcebook", Sandberg/Weissman, Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. Capsule bios, selected discographies, and book lists for just about every folk and blues performer from the 20s to the publication date. "Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music", Hardy/Laing, Faber & Faber, 1990. An amazingly comprehensive book of biographies, not just of pop performers, but of folk, jazz, and blues types back to the turn of the century. "Introducing American Folk Music", Kip Lornell, Brown & Benchmark, 1993. Takes the musicologist’s approach, so you get an in-depth treatment, unlike most introductory works. A musical dictionary would be handy but not essential. "Musical Beliefs", Robert Walker, Teachers College Press, 1990. The physics of music from a music prof at Simon Fraser U. A basic knowledge of both subjects is advisable. A fascinating read, since it’s anything but a list of dry facts. "Measured Tones - The Interplay of Physics and Music", Ian Johnston, Adam Hilger publishers, 1989. One of the very best and most readable books on the physics of music. "Tuning and Temperament", J. Murray Barbour, Michigan State College Press, 1951, reprinted Da Capo Press, 1972. The history and theory of the various temperaments. See also Dylan, Bob for two Dylanology books.

borrowed-chord. a chord that is taken from the parallel major or minor key.

borrowing it goes on all the time. Musicians are never loathe to swipe a good tune from any source. Classical composers borrowed incessantly from folk tradition, although it was rarely the other way around, mainly because classical music wasn’t readily available to the masses (even now, when it is, there isn’t all that much borrowing - but see Purcell, Henry, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring). Vaudeville and music hall performers found a gold mine in folk music. Sometimes their rewrites ended up back in the tradition. Most folkie borrowing is from the tradition itself. See folk process, copyright. Bob Dylan is an unabashed borrower from the tradition, and rarely credits his sources. Just a few of his early songs using traditional tunes, and the usual titles of those tunes: Bob Dylan’s Dream - Lady Franklin’s LamentHard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall - Lord RandallGirl From the North Country - Cambric ShirtMasters of War - Nottamun TownFare Thee Well (Gulf of Mexico) - Leaving of LiverpoolBallad of Hollis Brown - Poor ManGod on Our Side - Patriot Game (Dominic Behan)Restless Farewell - Parting GlassFarewell, Angelina - Farewell to Tarwathie*I Pity the Poor Immigrant - Tramps and Hawkers For more on borrowings of "Tarwathie", see song family. The tune of "Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right" is said to be from a traditional song collected by Clayton, Paul, and called "Who’ll Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone". If you’re going to steal, steal good stuff - and Dylan did. Both Dylan and Woody Guthrie were past masters at revamping a borrowed tune into something unique; "Hard Rain" isn’tquite "Lord Randall", just as Woody’s "This Land is Your Land" isn’tquite "You Are My Sunshine" and "Hobo’s Lullaby" isn’tquite "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".