Grateful for Robert Hunter

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter at Miller Hall, PA on September 28, 2013.

June 23, 1941 – September 23, 2019

As we go through our daily routines, having someone else’s words as companions is comforting.

Robert Hunter’s lyrics have been that faithful companion.

Rolling Stone magazine said of himConsidered one of rock’s most ambitious and dazzling lyricists, Hunter was the literary counterpoint to the band’s musical experimentation. His lyrics — heard in everything from early Dead classics like “Dark Star” and “China Cat Sunflower” and proceeding through “Uncle John’s Band,” “Box of Rain,” “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Touch of Gray”— were as much a part of the band as Jerry Garcia’s singing and guitar.

Here is a taste of just a few.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Althea

I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction
Althea told me upon scrutiny
my back might need protection

I told Althea that treachery
was tearin me limb from limb
Althea told me: now cool down boy –
settle back easy Jim

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Black Muddy River

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can’t hear the song for the singer
And I 
can’t tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Box of Rain

Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky –
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
this is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Brokedown Palace

Fare you well my honey
Fare you well my only true one
All the birds that were singing
Have flown except you alone

Goin to leave this Broke-down Palace
On my hands and my knees I will roll roll roll
Make myself a bed by the waterside
In my time – in my time – I will roll roll roll

Grateful for Robert Hunter

China Cat Sunflower

Look for awhile at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
Copper-dome Bodhi drip a silver kimono
like a crazy-quilt stargown
through a dream night wind

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Days Between

There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
on black infested trees
the singing man is at his song
the holy on their knees
the reckless are out wrecking
the timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
than anyone can see anyone can see

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Ripple

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Scarlet Begonias

I ain’t often right
but I’ve never been wrong

It seldom turns out the way
it does in the song
Once in a while
you get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Friend of the Devil

Got two reasons why I cry
away each lonely night
First one’s named sweet Anne Marie
and she’s my heart’s delight
Second one is prison, baby
the sheriff’s on my trail
If he catches up with me
I’ll spend my life in jail

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Sugar Magnolia

Sugar Magnolia blossom’s blooming
Head’s all empty and I don’t care
Saw my baby down by the river
Knew she’d have to come up soon for air

Sweet blossom come on under the willow
We can have high times if you’ll abide
We can discover the wonders of nature
Rolling in the rushes down by the riverside.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Touch of Grey

Must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by number morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere
Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains
I don’t care ’cause
It’s all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Greatest Story Ever Told

Moses came riding up on a guitar
His spurs were a-jingling, the door was ajar
His buckle was silver, his manner was bold
I asked him to come on in out of the cold
His brain was boiling, his reason was spent
He said if nothing was borrowed then nothing was lent
I asked him for mercy, he gave me a gun
Said Now n’again these things just got to be done

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Terrapin Station

Let my inspiration flow
in token lines suggesting rhythm
that will not forsake me
till my tale is told and done

While the firelight’s aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we’ve never seen
will seem familiar.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

August 27, 1934 – August 22, 2005

I often entitle my little bios of Woodstock performers by including the word “Woodstock” before or after their name. An SEO strategy.

In the case of Teddy Harris, the word Woodstock, however  much apropos, is far too limiting because his roots and branches are  Detroit.

As he says above, “Nobody swings as hard as Detroit.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit

Theodore Edward Harris Jr. was born in Detroit on August 27, 1934.

His first music teacher was his father, jazz organist Theodore Harris Sr.

A Metrotimes article recounts his early musical milestone: as a precocious 7-year-old, [Harris] had a musical epiphany…at the Paradise Theatre. As recounted in Harris family lore, the curtains opened, the youngster jumped up on his seat, pointed at Duke Ellington on stage and pronounced, “That’s what I want to be.”

Harris himself talked about his home’s musical atmosphere: “I came up in a house full of music. I had uncles that sang; they sang like birds. They had a trio called the Cosmopolitan Trio, and they sang in churches throughout the area. My father was their accompanist. Every Saturday my father would give me a haircut, and after I would listen to the guys sing and rehearse.”

In high school, he served as student band director.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

New England

In 1955 Harris attended the New England Conservatory for a time before being drafted in 1956.  Before he left he  was part of Jackie Wilson’s first hit “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet).”

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Germany

The military did not interfere with his musical journey. He performed as guest saxophonist with the 7th Army Symphony Orchestra and Soldier’s Show Company

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Paris

After his discharge in 1959 he studied with  Nadia Boulanger in Paris before returning to Detroit.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Back in Detroit

Harris had known Berry Gordy, Jr and when Harris returned to Detroit in 1961, he became part of Gordy’s growning  Motown enterprise. He worked with Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Woodstock

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Bassist friend Rod Hicks got Harris to join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band,  which led to Harris’s presence at Woodstock. He described flying over the site as looking at “biggest Indian pow-wow in the world.

After Paul Butterfield, Harris spent 16 years as musical director for the Supremes.

Post Woodstock

In the early 1980s Harris formed the New Breed Bebop Society Orchestra while heading a summer arts workshop for economically disadvantaged youngsters.

During the mid 1980s, Harris led the house band at Dummy George’s, and led a big band often accompanied with The Detroit Voices.

Awards

Some of the awards he received were: Outstanding Contributions (United Negro College Fund) 1986; Distinguished Recognition Medal (City of Detroit) 1990; State of Michigan Special Tribute 1992; Legends of Jazz International Hall of Fame; Michiganian of the Year 1993; Jazz Masters Award 1993; 1993 Key to the City of Detroit; Spirit of Detroit Award 1994, Governor’s Michigan Artist Award 1995.

Teddy Harris died of prostate cancer at John D Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.

The Motown Forever site said of HarrisThere was always an elegance about Teddy Harris Jr., from the fluid caress of his piano and saxophone work, to the curlicue grace and bebop lyricism of his arrangements, to the hip presence with which he led his bands and mentored generation after generation of young jazz musicians.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Reverend Gary Davis

The discography of the Reverend Gary Davis is longer than the four albums he recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Much longer.

And there are recordings that some of his students did while they were trying to learn the guitar playing intricacies that Davis could do.

I will stick with the four recording sessions that he did at Van Gelder mainly because of that studio’s fame for so many classic recordings, particularly jazz.

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Gary D. Davis

Gary Davis was born on April 30, 1896 in Laurens, South Carolina. He was the oldest of eight children and the only one to survive.

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

In his 20s he moved to Durham, North Carolina and barely supported himself busking in its streets mainly the blues until he was ordained a minister in 1937. At that point, despite requests, he tried to get away from “secular” music, particularly when recording.

He moved to New York in the 40s where he continued busking and living in poverty. To supplement his income, he gave guitar lessons. $5 a lesson.

Van Gelder Recording Sessions

While he had been recorded several times earlier than his first Van Gelder session, the highest quality recordings came from those in Englewood Cliffs.

August 24, 1960

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder
Harlem Street Singer

Matt Fink in his All Music review says, “…Gary Davis laid down 12 of his most impassioned spirituals for Harlem Street Singer. Starting off the session with a version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “If I Had My Way I’d Tear That Building Down,” here renamed “Samson and Delilah,” Davis is in fine form. His vocals are as expressive as Ray Charles’ while similar in richness to Richie Havens’ work. Harlem Street Singer features his inspired country blues fingerpicking as well. Many moods color the selections, from the gentle “I Belong to the Band” to the mournful “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” only to be followed by the joyous shouting of “Goin’ to Sit Down on the Banks of the River.” Overall, the collection is well worth the purchase and should be considered essential listening for fans of country blues or gospel.”

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. Samson and Delilah” (Traditional) – 4:02
  2. “Let Us Get Together” – 3:08
  3. “I Belong to the Band” – 2:54
  4. “Pure Religion” (Traditional) – 2:57
  5. “Great Change Since I Been Born” – 4:03
  6. “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” – 4:41
  7. “Twelve Gates to the City” (Traditional) – 3:08
  8. “Goin’ to Sit Down on the Banks of the River” – 2:55
  9. “Tryin’ to Get Home” – 3:46
  10. “Lo I Be With You Always” – 4:17
  11. “I Am the Light of the World” – 3:34
  12. “I Feel Just Like Goin’ On” – 3:29

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

August 10, 1961

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

A Little More Faith

Again Bruce Elder from AllMusicGary Davis’ second album for Prestige Records is a confusing affair, at least as far as its title — Little More Faith is how it’s listed in lots of reference sources, but its front cover calls it A Little More Faith, while its spine (at least for the CD issue) calls it Have a Little Faith. But by whatever name it’s called, it’s a masterpiece: its dozen songs recorded on one day in August of 1961 are nothing less than priceless. Davis presents an easy virtuosity on his solo guitar, and runs his voice across a surprisingly wide range in what is mostly gospel repertory. Not that any blues fans will mind his approach: Davis was one of those figures where the sound and feel of blues becomes indistinguishable from those of gospel. He was just doing what came naturally on this record, laying down 12 songs he knew well from across decades of performing, including a raw and affecting “Motherless Child” and the upbeat, inspiring “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere.” And his easy, unselfconscious approach demonstrates that he never once thought twice about his contributions to an already classic body of music. Included among the jewels here are some of the roots of the blues revival of the next generation, including Davis’ rendition of “I’ll Be All Right Some Day,” a song that Jorma Kaukonen parlayed into a killer opening for his solo magnum opus, Quah, about 13 years later. And speaking of natural, the stereo mastering of this album works amazingly well, despite the fact that it puts Davis‘ voice on one channel and his guitar on another; mono sound might be more authentic, but this way you can fully appreciate his playing and his singing, each on its own terms.

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. You Got to Move” (Traditional) – 3:18
  2. “Crucifixion” – 4:57
  3. “I’m Glad I’m in That Number” – 2:58
  4. “There’s a Table Sittin’ in Heaven” – 3:28
  5. Motherless Children” (Traditional) – 4:12
  6. “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere” (Traditional) – 3:12
  7. “I’ll Be All Right Some Day” – 3:03
  8. “You Better Mind” – 3:26
  9. “A Little More Faith” – 3:40
  10. “I’ll Fly Away” (Albert E. Brumley) – 4:32
  11. “God’s Gonna Separate” (Traditional) – 3:35
  12. “When I Die I’ll Live Again” – 3:28

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Late 1961

Say No to the Devil

Bruce Elder in his AllMusic review states, “His second Prestige album of 1961 shows the Rev. Gary Davis not breaking stride for a second, even in the wake of the triumphant A Little More Faith. The repertory here is perhaps a little more traditional gospel in orientation, and the songs more cautionary in nature — but that doesn’t stop Davis from displaying some overpowering dexterity, and if anything his singing is even more exuberant here. And this time out, in addition to his six-string guitar, he treats us to his powerful 12-string playing on “Time Is Drawing Near” and “Lost Boy In The Wilderness,” the latter a shimmering five-minute showcase for the instrument that’s almost worth the price of admission by itself; and he also shows off his considerable harmonica dexterity — of a distinctly old-school style — on “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand” and “No One Can Do Me Like Jesus.” The stereo mix on this album, when compared to its predecessor, is also a bit more naturalistic, without sacrificing any detail in the finely nuanced playing or singing, and the result is an album as fine as its predecessor, and an equally worthy part of any serious acoustic blues collection.

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. “Say No to the Devil” – 4:01
  2. “Time Is Drawing Near” – 4:26
  3. “Hold on to God’s Unchanging Hand” (Traditional) – 4:35
  4. “Bad Company Brought Me Here” – 3:38
  5. “I Decided to Go Down” – 4:25
  6. “Lord, I Looked Down the Road” – 4:20
  7. “Little Bitty Baby” (Traditional) – 4:32
  8. “No One Can Do Me Like Jesus” – 3:40
  9. “Lost Boy in the Wilderness” – 5:01
  10. “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven in Due Time” – 4:24

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

March 2, 1964

The Guitar & Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis

From Richie Unterberger at AllMusicBecause this is an all-instrumental recording, it’s an offbeat entry into the catalog of a performer known both as an important guitarist and as a singer. Some might miss Davis‘ vocals on this 1964 recording, but on the other hand there are plenty of records with him singing around. This gives listeners a chance to hone in on his dexterous guitar skills, blending ragtime, folk, and blues, usually on guitar (though he plays banjo on a couple of songs, and harmonica on one). “Maple Leaf Rag” is a natural showcase for Davis’ talents, and “Candy Man,” which may be his most well-known song, is here presented without words, making for an interesting juxtaposition with more commonly heard versions on which he (or others) sings. As further evidence of his eclecticism, there’s a version of “United States March aka Soldier’s Drill” — not the best format for his strengths, certainly, but an illustration of his ability to adapt his style to unexpected material.

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. “Maple Leaf Rag” (Scott Joplin) – 2:58
  2. “Slow Drag” – 2:27
  3. “The Boy Was Kissing the Girl (and Playing the Guitar the Same Time)” – 2:42
  4. “Candy Man” – 2:54
  5. “United States March” (Traditional) – 6:31
  6. “Devil’s Dream” (Traditional) – 3:50
  7. “The Coon Hunt” (Traditional) – 3:32
  8. “Mister Jim” – 4:15
  9. “Please Baby” – 3:18
  10. “Fast Fox Trot” – 2:22
  11. “Can’t Be Satisfied” – 2:55

 

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

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