Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Strolling the beach at midnight

OLD SOUTH QUARTETTE "Oysters And Wine At 2 AM"

Listening to the excellent Document CD Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets 1894-1928, I realized I'd never paid much attention to this group of singers from Richmond, VA, aside from their restrained and strange, banjo-driven take on "What He's Done For Me." Not sure if I like this song (taken from a disc recorded in Long Island City in 1928) or hate it. I've certainly never heard anything quite like it before.

Turns out the group was originally led by a white druggist named Polk Milller(1840-1913), original source of the banjo element in the group. Mark Twain loved 'em; here's an article from the Victrola and 78 Journal about 'em. More about 'em here. He did not perform in blackface and appeared to show real affection for his bandmates, but some of this shit is definitely dodgy.


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