Award winning musicians from Eugene and Portland will present a specialty blues show November 9. “That’s Nasty” show is a presentation of songs from an era of plain talking blues. From Portland, exceptional guitar player and vocalist Sonny “Smokin’”Hess (the first woman nominated in a male dominated field as Lead Guitar by the Cascade Blues Association. She has opened for Etta James, Jr. Walker, Average White Band, and Bobby Womack), bass player Lisa Mann ( two times Blues Music Award winner for instrumentalist bass, has shared the stage with Paul DeLay, Lloyd Jones, Karen Lovely, Ben Rice, and many others), guitar player Jason JT Thomas (Lisa Mann, Franco & the Stingers), vocalist Lady Kat True Blue (Sonny Hess, Fiona Boyd, Linda Hornbuckle, Janice Scroggins), guitar player and vocalist Kathryn Grimm (Jeff Buckley, Bo Diddley, Michael Bolton, Blues Tools), drummer Kelly Pierce (Sonny Hess Band), and Eugene’s own award winning vocalist Joanne Broh (Joanne Broh Band). Www.JoanneBroh.com, www.SonnyHess.com, www.lisamannmusic, www.kathryngrimmmusic.com, www.reverbnation.com/ladykattrueblue:
The Dirty Blues is a bit of a cliché in some areas, and to many modern ears, it seems more a joke than a legitimate form. But the dirty blues has a long tradition in the blues, and it often resurfaces in modern blues and rock. During the early days of recorded blues, raunchy songs were recorded nearly as often as love songs and laments. These songs were distinguished by their often humorous double entendres and metaphors.
The dirty blues were country blues with taboo lyrics. The dirty blues thrived in the days before World War II. After the war, many record labels concentrated on records that were commercially viable, and the dirty blues faded away, only to be resurrected during the blues revival of the ’60s, when many white collegiates discovered the form.
The first blues record appeared in July, 1920: “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” by Mamie Smith. In 1924 the Gennett company issued the first rural blues recording, “Sundown Blues” by Daddy Stovepipe. This opened the floodgates and began what was to be known are the “race” recording industry.
Within the schools of classic and rural blues, artists soon began to push the envelope of “respectability. Ma Rainey recorded her version of “Shave ’em Dry” in 1924, at which time Bessie Smith’s “Nobody In Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine” had been selling well for a year. And the phenomenon was not limited to blues. As early as 1923 the FCC had already denied airplay to Gershwin’s “Do It Again” which, somehow, was found to be too lurid for airplay.
Meanwhile, the Vaudville tradition had always been far less than squeaky clean: “I’m a Bear In A Lady’s Boudoir” by Ukelele Ike, “Nellie The Nudist Queen” by Ross and Sargent, “A Guy What Takes Takes His Time” by Mae West, and virtually everthing recorded by Sophie Tucker.
Country and western music was also without it’s risque sense of humor: Jimmie Rodgers “What’s It?”, “When Lulu’s Gone” by Roy Acuff and the Light Crust Doughboys “Pussy, Pussy, Pussy” to name a few.
However, it is within the blues framework is the richest mother-lode of material. Elements of racism and denial of opportunity on the part of the white controlled record industry and class differences limited the venues where black artists could play. The low down “dirty blues” were played in local juke joints, fish fries, and dances. Due to the sometimes graphic subject matter, such music was often banned from radio and only available on a jukebox.
As the music became a nationally popular, lyrics composed in the language of barrooms, streets, and farms were censored and were supplanted by commercial style lyrics.
The records were then imitated by both amateurs and professionals, and the sanitized lyrics became so common that within a generation or so virtually everyone had forgotten that blues once used plain speech rather than the inventive euphemisms of of some of the most clever writing in the history of American music.