Muddy Waters - Got My Mojo Workin'
Uploaded by ragbagken on Jan 11, 2007
"Blues Masters" 1966 Canadian TV
John W. Work III and not Alan Lomax was who actually discovered Blues legend McKinley Morganfield, better known as "Muddy Waters".
This post consists of excerpts of several online articles about African American composer, ethnomusicologist, collector, and educator John W. Work III (1901 - 1967). My editorical comment is given at the end of those quotes.
These excerpts are re-published to help disseminate information about John Wesley Work III. My thanks to all those who wrote these featured articles.
Composer, educator, choral director, and ethnomusicologist John Wesley Work, III was born on June 15, 1901, in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to a family of professional musicians. His grandfather, John Wesley Work, was a church choir director in Nashville, where he wrote and arranged music for his choirs. Some of his choristers were members of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers. His father, John Wesley Work Jr., was a singer, folksong collector and professor of music, Latin, and history at Fisk, and his mother, Agnes Haynes Work, was a singer who helped train the Fisk group. His uncle, Frederick Jerome Work, also collected and arranged folksongs, and his brother, Julian, became a professional musician and composer...
His book, American Negro Songs and Spirituals (1960) contains 230 folk songs, and describes the origin and nature of various types of folk songs.
During the summers of 1941 and 1942, Professor Work, along with Charles S. Johnson, then head of the Fisk Sociology Department (later the University’s first black president), and Lewis Jones, also from the Sociology Department, collaborated with the Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress’ Archive of American Folk Song in a joint field study to record the music of the rapidly urbanizing Coahoma County, Mississippi. Some of the findings have been recently published in the book Lost Delta Found (Vanderbilt UP, 2005) and the album John Work III: Recording Black Culture won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes, 40 years after Dr. Work’s death.
From "John Work III: The Man the Blues Forgot" by Joe Kloc http://motherjones.com/mixed-media/2011/04/john-work-alan-lomax-blues
John Work III, born in 1901 in Tullahoma Tennessee, was a folklorist at Fisk University for almost 40 years. He attended Julliard and held music degrees from Yale and Columbia. According to music writer Dave Marsh, Work was Lomax's partner and guide in the early 1940s. He led Lomax first to Son House and later to Muddy Waters, where Lomax recorded part of what would later be released as Down on Stovall's Plantation. "Lomax never credited Work, but recent research has established him as at least Lomax's equal in the study"...
The omission of Work from the history of folklorists who traveled the south has had a significant impact on the way we understand delta blues music. The fact that Lomax and his father were white has led many to contend that the mythology of the blues was created by white record collectors.
From http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/books/review/Marsh-t.html?ref=alanlomax Out on Highway 61 By DAVE MARSH Published: February 24, 2008 [A review of the book “In Search of the Blues” by Marybeth Hamilton]
One of the distinguishing characteristics of “In Search of the Blues” is that virtually no black voice is heard. (The page-and-a-half exception is a characteristically vituperative letter written by Zora Neale Hurston to John Lomax.) John Work III is not a figure in this tale, even though as a second-generation black musicologist, he was Alan Lomax’s partner and guide in a project to record blues in the Delta in the early 1940s. Lomax never credited Work, but recent research has established him as at least Lomax’s equal in the study. Hamilton gives him but two passing mentions, neither of which even alludes to Lomax’s dishonesty.
From http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jan/09/alan-lomax-biography-szwed-review The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax by John Szwed – review
...the combative American music critic Dave Marsh was having none of it; he described Lomax as "a dubious figure" who "believed folk culture needed guidance from superior beings like himself".
Marsh also claimed that when representatives of the Ledbetter family approached Lomax regarding the formal copyrighting of "Goodnight, Irene", "he adamantly refused to take his name off the song, or surrender income from it, even though Lead Belly's family was impoverished in the wake of his death two years earlier". More damning still is the more recent discovery that Lomax appropriated research done by the likes of the black scholar John W Work, who was his conduit to pioneering blues artists like Muddy Waters and Son House. "Sometime soon," Marsh concluded, "we need to figure out why it is that, when it comes to cultures like those of Mississippi black people, we celebrate the milkman more than the milk."
[A review of John Work III: Recording Black Culture]
[Work] argued that our appreciation of the black roots music of the era would have been greatly enriched had the writings of the researchers reached a wider audience. With the release of Recording Black Culture, an album consisting largely of newly unearthed acetates made by one of the collectors, John Work III, we now have the music itself to buttress this claim.
Mr. Work, the most eminent of the black folklorists, was not merely an acolyte of Mr. Lomax but clearly had ideas of his own. Where Mr. Lomax tended to treat black vernacular music as an artifact in need of preservation, Mr. Work sought to document it as it was unfolding. Thus on Recording Black Culture, instead of spirituals harking back to the 19th century, we hear febrile gospel shouting set to the cadences of what soon would become rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll...
Issued by Spring Fed Records, a label based in Woodbury, Tenn., Recording Black Culture demonstrates not only Mr. Work's understanding of the dynamic way vernacular music functioned in black culture but also his omnivorous musical appetite. In addition to dramatic examples of gospel singers anticipating rock 'n' roll, the selections include rare recordings ranging from black Sacred Harp singing to the virtuoso banjo playing of Nathan Frazier, performing as half of the banjo-and-fiddle duo Frazier & Patterson...
Some of the recordings that he had made with Mr. Lomax, largely the work songs and spirituals favored by Mr. Lomax, had been deposited in the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. The rest of the performances, which have gone unheard by the public for the better part of seven decades, give a more expansive view of the black vernacular music of the time.
In this supposedly post-racial United States, it says a lot that Alan Lomax usually receives accolades for his Delta Blues collection activities without any mention of his joint collaboration with African American composer, ethnomusicologist, collector, and educator John W. Work III.
I consider it to be very troubling that Alan Lomax never credited John W. Work III, his African American partner and guide in the collection of Delta Blues in the early 1940s.
This failure to credit the collection work of African American John W. Work III reinforces the idea that only White people collected African American music from the South.
Which collector’s work gets mainstream funding and public recognition determines what and how we think of the music that is collected. That funding and public recognition also determines what and how we think about the people who make the music that is collected.
Let's give John W. Work III the recognition and accolades he so very much deserves!
UPDATE: Here's a comment from a reader on 4/13/2012 that calls into question the information that I've included in this post:
Dear Ms. Powell,
It is not true that Alan Lomax didn't credit John Work. John Work's name appears on all the recordings that he made for the Library of Congress with Lomax and always has. Furthermore Alan Lomax mentioned John Work's folk songs book in the bibliography of his books. Not only that John Work was the first name to be credited on the acknowledgments of Lomax's book, "The Land Where the Blues Began" which covers 75 years -- contrary to what Dave Marsh and Robert Gordon (who are rock music critics not folklorists, mistakenly assert. Work was based in Nashville, not Mississippi. Son House led both both Lomax and Work to Muddy Waters.
Lomax worked with hundreds of people besides John Work and all of them are given proper credit on his recordings. Lomax obtained funding for the Coahoma Mississippi project from the Pan American Union's Music Division, which was headed by Charles Seeger (Pete Seeger's father). In 1942 congress voted to cut off all funding for the Library of Congress and stipulated that it would not restore funding if the LIbrary sponsored folk music collecting, which Southern legislators feared was a form of Civil Rights organizing.
John Work was a noted composer of classical music and is mentioned in all reference works devoted to classical music. He is not a neglected figure at all. His book on folk music has never gone out of print. It is available as a Dover paperback, or was last time I checked.
I appreciate anonymous' comment, and acknowledge my error if indeed the information that anonymous presents is correct. However, I still maintain that John Work has received very little recognition for his collection efforts and his other accomplishments. And I hope that even in a small way this post helps to shine a well deserved light on that great American.
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