Acoustic Blues Guitar Video Lesson Preview - Weeping Willow by Blind Boy Fuller
Blind Boy Fuller was something of a recording super star in his day and cut around 120 tracks during his career.He had different partners at different times, such as Sonny Terry and Bull City Red. Of course, we all know of Sonny's work with Brownie McGhee, and he also had a very stable solo career, playing harmonica, whooping and singing almost at the same time! Sonny's voice was really good and very bluesy.
Bull City Red can also be heard singing on a few tracks on which Gary Davis plays guitar (I Saw The Light) and gives us a hint and some insight into the scene around South Carolina in those times. Fuller and Davis had other links besides the fact that Bull City Red performed with them both. Gary Davis took Fuller under his wing musically and taught the younger man many tricks and techniques, which he in turn learned from Blind Willie Walker - the best there ever was, by all accounts.
It's a great shame that Davis never received the same accolades and financial rewards that Fuller enjoyed. Davis was clearly the better guitarist - his range and repertoire covered everything from gospel to country to ragtime to delta type blues.
Of course, Fuller was no slouch either. His picking style was not as complicated as the older man's, but his finger picking technique was slick, accurate and had a great appeal. Add his bluesy, matter of fact voice and it became a recipe for success with records buyers in the 20s.
Story goes that Davis did have some recording sessions at the same time, but maintained that he was cheated by the record company, so parted company with them. At that time, it was common for blues men to get paid for each session and then get nothing for record sales afterwards. Perhaps he wasn't paid for a session, and that soured his attitude to making records.
Pretty soon he was ordained as a minister and refused to play anything but Gospel, which he performed on the street in Harlem where he lived. the money he made became of little interest, as long as he had enough to eat and put a roof over his head.
IT WAS QUITE OBVIOUS IN FULLER'S LATER RECORDINGS THAT HE WAS AFFECTED BY DRINKING- his voice was slurred and it is probable that, like most alcoholics, he started drinking in the morning and carried it on through the day. However, throughout his career, he laid down some classic songs that can be considered standards.
Often, he would interpret old traditional standards, such as Weeping Willow, and give it a particular Piedmont guitar flavor that was quite unique. His song 'Truckin' Little Baby' has been performed in many forms by many ragtime guitar players, but with the exception of 'Diddie Wah Diddie' by Blind Blake, it hasn't really been beat as an example of that style of ragtime picking in the key pf C.
UNTRUE BLUES IS CHALLENGING BECAUSE OF THE ASYNCHRONOUS TIMING THAT FULLER BRINGS TO THE PIECE,and also, the picking pattern is not typically Piedmont. His thumb is especially inventive in this song, and it carries on it's tricks while he sings the lyrics, which is tough to copy - it's to sing and play as though the guitar timing is asynchronous to the melody of the lyrics.
The song starts with a long A, that is, using the forefinger as a bar and the pinky holding down the high E string on the 5th Fret, and follows the standard chord progression of A-E/E7-D7-A-E/E7-A , but and inversion is used for the D7, which is basically the C7 shape with the root on the 5th fret.
It's not the left hand that is so difficult, but the way that the right hand picks the pattern that brings this song it's special flavor. Be very careful with the way in which the thumb and forefinger pick the bass strings as they really help to syncopate the rhythm. If it feels tricky, play it really slowly and get that style under your belt before you try to sing.
Author: Jim Bruce