A YouTube film clip of legendary twelve- string country blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell performing his classic “You Gotta Move.”
Mississippi Delta Blues, Fred McDowell, Arhoolie Records, 1989
Recently I explained (and went mea culpa on and on about it) in a review of Elvis56 (no need for last names, right), his and our, my generation of’ 68 , break-out red scare cold war 1950s be-bop doo wop rock and roll creation time, that I listened to (and preferred) black -centered blues at that young age time. Reason: I was able via “magic” midnight airways to get a blues program, The Big Bopper Show, out of Chicago late at night, late weekend nights, on my transistor radio. (As I pointed out in that previously cited review for those too young, or those who have forgotten, look up that ancient communications transistor radio reference on Wikipedia. Basically though it was a small compact battery-driven unit that had the virtue, the very big virtue, it could be taken up into one’s bedroom, placed close to young ears and one’s parents would be blissfully unaware of the “subversion” until, well, until the big break-out came in 1956 and then they were caught flat-footed. At least at first.)
Now The Big Bopper Show (no relationship, as far as I know, to the rock performer who crashed out in a famous rock history plane crash with Buddy Holly, et. al), was mainly about rhythm and blues with the likes of Big Joe Turner and Ike Turner (pre-Tina) holding forth and about that post-World War II emerging big city, big Midwestern city, up river, up Mississippi River, black migrations to jobs and freedom, well, a little freedom anyway out of the Jim Crow South. Those electrified blues, taking country urban, were wailed by the likes of Muddy Waters (and his various famous band combinations) and Howlin’ Wolf (ditto on the bands).
However, intermingled with those genres was roots, black roots, Africa roots, Mother Earth primordial roots music, country blues, mainly from homeland Delta slave farms (pre-and post -slavery abolition) with some ‘Bama, Carolina Piedmont, Cajun swamp music mixed in. And that is where the performer under review here, Mississippi Fred McDowell, comes in, comes in almost accidentally. See the Big Bopper would play something like
Kokomo Blues or 61 Highway, serious classic blues, by various artists, electric and country, and more likely than not when twelve -string time came it was Brother McDowell whose recording was being used.
But here is the real revelation about black roots music, our Mother Africa transposed, disposed, reposed roots. In the early 1960s, after a bout with serious rock and roll (now called the classic age of rock, ouch) with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, that genre turned to dust (for a while) with the vanilla-ization (nice, huh) of rock. You know Fabian, Ricky Nelson, Booby (oops) Bobby Darren, Vee, all the Bobbys, okay. I turned away from rock and headed back to roots, or what I thought was roots, with the folk revival minute of the early 1960s (Baez-Dylan-Von Ronk-Paxton-Ochs, et. al time). Who do you think, among others, got “discovered” (really re-discovered) in that minute? Yes, Brother McDowell. And later in an effort to put paid to those discoveries when rock “discovered” it blues roots who do you think got his famous classic song “You Gotta Move” covered? Yes. By whom? The Rolling Stones. Like somebody said the roots, the roots is the toots. Let another generation “discover” that fact.