Label: Document Records.
Release Date: September, 1992.
Recording Time: 69 minutes.
Recording Date: November 1923 - August 1927.
Compilation Studio Recording.
Styles: Country Blues, Piedmont Blues, Pre-War Country Blues, Regional Blues.
Featured Artists: Sara Martin, E L Coleman, Sylvester Weaver.
Most of Sylvester Weaver's recorded works were reissued in his name by the Document label in the early '90s, and the first of two volumes covers most of his recording activity from November 1923 through August 1927. Weaver's initial appearance on records was as accompanist to blues singer Sara Martin, and while Document bundled most of their collaborations into Martin's four-volume Complete Recorded Works, she pops up here and there on this collection under the pseudonym Sally Roberts. "Where Shall I Be?" and "I Am Happy in Jesus" are sung by Weaver, "Roberts," and Hayes B. Withers. Two more gospel songs -- "I'm Going to Wait on the Lord" and "There's Plenty Room ‘Way in the Kingdom" -- were recorded by this vocal trio but do not appear to have been reissued anywhere. Six additional titles are Weaver/"Roberts" blues duets. "Steel String Blues" is an instrumental number played by Weaver, banjoist Charles Washington, and violinist E.L. Coleman, under whose name the record was originally issued. The rest of this collection is devoted to Weaver's solo guitar (with occasional vocal) or banjo ("Six-String Banjo Piece" and "Damfino Stomp"). Weaver was among the first blues guitarists ever to make records, and his slide technique is a marvel unto itself. Note that little or no remastering was employed to improve the sound quality of these historic OKeh sides. While some may bristle at having to hear this music exactly as it sounded when rising up off the surface of the original 78-rpm platters, that kind of authentic listening experience can and does have merit. Admittedly, it would be nice to hear the 1923 version of his famous "Guitar Rag" (later to become a staple of Western swing via the efforts of Bob Wills) in a slightly "cleaner" transfer using state-of-the-art noise reduction technology, but it is a fact that every technological advance has potential drawbacks and many early blues connoisseurs will swear by these authentic transfers, warts and all. Indeed, the way the tones emerge through a gentle mist of 78 rpm surface noise has a marvelous charm all its own, and for this reason, the strongest link to the atmosphere surrounding Weaver and his instrument when "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag" were cut on November 2, 1923 might well be the unmodified playback experience described here. Of course, the 1927 remake of "Guitar Rag" was recorded using the new electrical process, so it sounds clearer and less scratchy. Generally speaking, this is a fine collection of rare early blues with a bit of gospel in the mix. It may be enjoyed casually while relaxing at home with trusted friends or loved ones who are willing and able to absorb this kind of magic without worrying about impressing those whose elevated technocratic expectations deprive them of the patience or sensitivity necessary for an intimate brush with history.
by arwulf arwulf
Personnel: Sylvester Weaver - vocals, guitar, bottleneck-slide guitar, banjo; With contributions by: Sara Martin - vocals; E.L Coleman - violin; Charles Washington - banjo; Harry B Withers - vocals.
Informative booklet notes by Kieth Briggs
The term 'Guitar Hero' only came into vogue during the nineteen sixties and was used to describe blues guitarists or pop guitarists with a blues oriented style. Although blues have been played on, and accompanied by, a variety of instruments their relationship with the guitar has been pre-eminent in the mind of the general public since the nineteen twenties. From Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson through Robert Johnson to Elmore James and B. B. King the list of influential blues guitarists is a long one; it begins with Sylvester Weaver — the first guitar hero!
He began his recording career in 1923. That began with an accompaniment he lent to a recording by Sara Martin in October 1923. It was the first time a coloured guitarist had appeared on a blues recording. The record was successful and Martin, already an established star, continued to feature Weaver on her blues and gospel recordings for the next four years. Sara's record company, Okeh also took the opportunity to record Sylvester performing two numbers on his own and Guitar Blues and Guitar Rag. "Guitar Rag" was to prove one of the most influential guitar display pieces ever recorded. Sylvester cut it again in 1927 and it was picked up by the white duo Harvey and Johnson who recorded it in 1930. As "Steel Guitar Rag", played by Leon McAuliffe, it was recorded under Bob Wills name during the thirties to become a western swing standard. The loop was completed when Earl Hooker, who'd probably never heard of Sylvester Weaver, brought the number home to the blues with his 1953 version.
As a guitarist and banjo player he was extremely versatile; capable of supplying sympathetic backings for his own and other's vocals and producing instrumental fireworks, both alone and as part of a duet, either finger-picking or using his smooth, but not too sweet, slide style. Still working with Martin he returned to New York in 1924 and produced four more instrumental. Smoketown Strut was named after one of the black areas of Louisville while Mixing Them Up In C sounds like one of the titles Lonnie Johnson would have used. Johnson was one of the few well-known guitarists to remember Weaver personally and remarked that he was always impressed by his ability.
E. L. Coleman, “The Fiddling Sheik”, remains an obscure artist whose one appearance in a recording studio, in 1925, was probably arranged by either Weaver or Martin. It was during a session spread over several days in April 1927 that Weaver cut his first vocals, initially as part of a religious trio centred around Martin and later as a blues singer in his own right. At the same session he illustrated his versatility by performing two banjo numbers Damfino Stump — a damn fine stomp — and a further piece that had to wait until the 1970s before seeing release as “Weaver's Stomp” or Six-String Banjo Piece. His last recorded collaborations with Sara Martin took place during these same sessions resulting in one of her best numbers Black Hearse Blues which was issued under the name Sally Roberts.
Credits: Sylvester Weaver - guitar, primary artist, vocals.
Tracks: 1) Guitar blues - Sylvester Weaver; 2) Guitar rag - Sylvester Weaver; 3) Weaver`s blues - Sylvester Weaver; 4) Smoketown strut - Sylvester Weaver; 5) Mixing them up in C - Sylvester Weaver; 6) I`m busy and you can`t come in - Sylvester Weaver; 7) Steel string blues - Instrumental Trio: E.L.Coleman (violin), Charles Washington (banjo), Sylvester Weaver (guitar); 8) Where shall I be? - Martin, Weaver, Withers; 9) I am happy in Jesus - Martin, Weaver, Withers; 10) Gonna ramble blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 11) Teasing brown blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 12) True love blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 13) Poor boy blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 14) Six-string banjo piece - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 15) Damfino stump - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 16) Guitar rag - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 17) Loving is what I crave - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 18) Useless blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 19) Black hearse blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 20) Orn`ry blues - Sally Roberts (Sara Martin); 21) Dad`s blues - Sylvester Weaver; 22) What makes a man blue? - Sylvester Weaver.