Hambone Willie Newbern: Roll and Tumble Blues (1929)

 |   |  1 min read

Hambone Willie Newbern: Roll and Tumble Blues (1929)

The provenance of some blues songs is so obscure as to be impenetrable. Many would know Rollin' and Tumblin' from the rock version by Cream in the late Sixties where the credits simply had it as "Trad".

The song -- in various versions -- dated back four decades prior to Cream when Roll and Tumble Blues was recorded by Willie Newbern during his sole recording session in 1929. He only put down six songs.

He and Joe Jose got songwriting credit, although other sources suggest it was also recorded around that time -- if not earlier -- by Gus Cannon aka Banjo Joe. His version, known as Minglewood Blues, was slower.

Newbern was an interesting guy: He worked at dances and on the medicine show circuit around Tennessee and Mississippi, taught Sleepy John Estes guitar, was a troublesome cuss and was apparently arrested more than once (one of his songs is Shelby County Workhouse) and according to Estes he was killed in prison in '47 when he was about 48.

Another source has him dying at home in Memphis in '65.

The man's life was as mysterious as the blues itself.

71qHzcv0ffL._SL1418_This song comes from an excellent 24-song collection The Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues (through Southbound in New Zealand) and each and every singer has a story just as strange, wire-thin or dramatic.

Sometimes all of those.

The brief liner notes start, "Very little is known about many of these featured early blues artists other than the simple fact that their classic recordings are like arrows through time . . ." 

Among these blues archers are the aforementioned Gus Cannon (with Poor Boy Long Ways From Home), Sam Collins, Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas (Geeshie appeared at From the Vaults previously here), KIng Solomon Hill, Kokomo Arnold, Lottie Kimbrough . . . 

Hardly household names, but the music often sounds eerily familiar because so much of it was adopted and adapted by rock musicians in the Sixties.

An excellent collection which will have you searching blues internet sites for more information about these voices from so long ago. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

The Pretty Things: Don't Bring Me Down (1964)

The Pretty Things: Don't Bring Me Down (1964)

Most people lie about their school days: no one wants to admit they were ordinary. Better to say you hung around behind the bike shed, that teachers and kids hated you for your music, clothes or... > Read more

John and Jackie: Little Girl (1958)

John and Jackie: Little Girl (1958)

Simulated female orgasm on records isn't overly common, but there are certainly a few high profile examples. Counting back from Vanessa Daou's Zipless album (1994) and Donna Summer's Love to... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

LILA DOWNS INTERVIEWED 2007: Singing the politics and heritage of Mexico

LILA DOWNS INTERVIEWED 2007: Singing the politics and heritage of Mexico

Lila Downs admits she is surprised her music has become internationally successful. After all, much of what she sings is in Spanish, it speaks of the pride and plight of the Mexican and Indian... > Read more

Charley Pride: Lawyers, sums and money

Charley Pride: Lawyers, sums and money

The phone call was going to be a simple one. The gentleman in question was truly one of country music's real gentleman, Charley Pride, the black singer who had conquered the whitest music genre... > Read more