Zeke Schein’s discovery of possibly the 3rd known photo of Robert Johnson sent the Blues community into a tailspin. In SLN Podcast #21 he lays out the story in a most thoughtful and intriguing manner.
“Portrait of a Phantom”, Zeke’s book gives a detailed account of the acquisition of the photo and the story of it’s life altering effect. It is a literary achievement that more than tells the story of the 3.25 X 4.25 tattered photo. His descriptions of life in NYC in the early 21st century are a delight.
Matt Umanov”s Guitar Shop has been a Greenwich Village landmark for 53 years. Zeke occupied sales “first chair” just inside the door. Chatting with Zeke on any given day was always a Great Hang. For one thing you’d probably be leaning on the counter elbow to elbow with John Hammond, Jack White, Steve Earl, Vince Gill or John Sebastian. Here Zeke holds a period correct Gibson L 1 close to the make and model Robert Johnson holds in the Hooks Brothers photo used for the box set of his music. Matt’s store will close in 2017. Umanov’s and 48th St. may be gone but NYC still has great guitar shops. Among them, Rudys in Soho where Zeke now works.
Tom Crandall with his E Bay skills helped Zeke get the photo. Here is Tom at the repair bench at Umanov’s a few years ago. Tom now runs T. R. Crandall Guitars on 3rd St. in NYC.
Most of us first were exposed to The Delta Blues through Sam Charters “The Country Blues” and the accompanying L P for RBF a division of Folkways.
The hardcore blues collectors considered Charter’s selections too commercial and countered with OJL “Really the Country Blues”
However the squabbling was put to rest by CBS releasing “Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers” in 1961.
In 1970 CBS released Vol II of “Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers” containing reissues of 10 Vocalion 78s plus 6 additional tracks 0f alternates takes and unissued masters. Don Law produced all of Robert Johnson’s recordings.
If you like this podcast topic you’ll probably enjoy the following books that explore the fascination and history of American roots music and recordings of it. Keep the highlighter at hand. These are dense reads.
The writing of Peter Guralnick needs no explanation to music fans. His “Sweet Soul Music” is a top 5 books on music for sure. This a smaller book but he’s alway enjoyable.
Make up your own minds Here are Robert Johnson photos #1 Hooks Brothers photo, #2 photo booth cigarette photo, #3 Zeke’s photo. Use your own senses and tell me what you think in the “leave a comment” section at the beginning of the blog. hint: check the eyebrows and fingers.
©Courtesy of the Estate of Robert L. Johnson
Robert Johnson’s music finds a home in many places Here luthier Mark Simon creates a special resonator guitar that also has a pick up designed for this model,the Terraplane.
So that’s it for now. Take another look at the 3 images and make up your own mind. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Zeke’s book “Portrait of a Phantom” which lays out his odyssey.
For years mystery and rumors have surrounded the 1966 tour of Bob Dylan and The Hawks (soon to become The Band) bootlegs continually surfaced most often of the “Judas” concert mislabeled “The Albert Hall Concert” actually recorded at The Free Trade hall in Manchester England. Unknown to almost everyone Bob Dylan decided to have most of the concerts recorded by the audio engineer, Richard Alderson who Albert Grossman had commissioned to build a portable sound reinforcement system for the tour. Dylan had problems with the sound of electric accompaniment since his infamous concert at The Newport Folk Festival the previous July of 1965. Richard Alderson recorded almost all of the concerts and delivered the tapes to Bob after the tour where they were placed in the Columbia Records vault and forgotten. In 2016 Sony Legacy woke up and realized what they had and released a 36 CD box set , “Bob Dylan The 1966 Live Recordings”.Sidetrack Liner Notes is pleased to explore the story of these recordings and much more of Robert Aldersons story to date.
Richard on the right. Not every science guy in high school went on to tour with Dylan.
Spotify Playlist for #14
Richard lived in the heart of Greenwich Village at the height of the 50s-60s folk music scene as well as Jazz and comedy acts that were playing a proliferation of clubs at his doorstep
He was asked to install a sound system for The Gaslight one of the premier clubs on McDougal St.
Richard used this sound system to record 2 nights of performances of Bob Dylan performing some of his original material for the first time now known as “The Gaslight Tapes”.
Many bootlegs and copies of copies of these tapes have been released over the years but look forward to a new C D this year of a proper release from the Richard’s original recordings.
We fast forward to 1965 when Bob decides to add electric instruments to his act. The new “electric” recordings are well received but reaction to the live shows is mixed. Nevertheless Bob recruits a Canadian band, The Hawks plays some shows in the U. S. and prepares a “World Tour”. Albert Grossman, Bob’s manager commissions Richard Alderson to build a portable audio system and hires him for the entire tour. The following is a film put together by Sony Legacy to support the 2016 release of the 36 C D box set of the recordings Richard made of these shows “Bob Dylan The 1966 Live Recordings.”
Brisbane Australia, early in the tour: L to R; Richard Alderson, Unknown, Robbie Robertson, Unknown , Bob, Richard Manuel
Later in the tour below Mikey Jones, Bob, Robbie Robertson
You knew this was coming. Here is a rundown of the gear Richard used for the house sound (PA) and to make the recordings.
Microphones: Sennheiser 405 for Bob’s Vocals, Electro Voice 666 for guitar & bass amps, Piano,Organ & Drums, Neumann U-47 for drum overhead (cymbals) no direct feeds, all acoustic
Mixer: a pair of Altec 1567 A, Vocal Limiter: Teletronix LA-2A
Amplifier; 3 McIntosh 275, Stage Monitors: 2 Altec 604
House Speakers (PA): 4 Klipsch La Scalas, Recorder: Nagra III B
May 24, ’66,Bob sitting on a Fender speaker cabinet backstage at L’Olympia with Francoise Hardy holding a copy of James Brown’s LP “Think”. She I believe is sitting on one of the road cases made for Alderson’s audio equipment. A drum case for Mickey Jones can be seen as well as a stack of Fender guitar cases in the back.
©Barry Feinstein MOJO 5/08
The Offending Instruments probably shot at the same time as the above shot.
©The Bootleg Series Vol. 4, Sony Legacy