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

Mavis Rivers: Farewell Samoa (1950)

Mavis Rivers: Farewell Samoa (1950)

Because her career as singer was mostly in the United States -- where Sinatra apparently called her the purest voice in jazz -- Mavis Rivers was for many decades after 1953, when she made the first... > Read more

Leonard Cohen: Avalanche (1971)

Leonard Cohen: Avalanche (1971)

In the course of sometimes interesting, occasionally haywire Q&A session after the screening of the film 20,000 Days on Earth in Auckland, Nick Cave was asked if he'd ever met Leonard Cohen and... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

CHRIS KNOX, COLLECTED AND DONATED (2019): From Enemy to archive

CHRIS KNOX, COLLECTED AND DONATED (2019): From Enemy to archive

As some Elsewhere readers will perhaps know, for a couple of years I was one of the rostered caregivers for Chris Knox who suffered a stroke in June 2009. Although limited in physical... > Read more

Elsewhere Art . . . Frank Zappa

Elsewhere Art . . . Frank Zappa

I have done a few collages of Frank Zappa (one of Frank as the Mona Lisa) because his distinctive appearance lent itself to a kind of cut-up and refracted image . . . which I felt also reflected... > Read more