Lead Belly Fest

adhY2WnoIt was the promise of a Celebration of Lead Belly that brought us to Carnegie Hall last week for a one night “extravaganza.” But a more heinous example of a “bait and switch” has never been experienced.

There were photographs of the authentic Lead Belly projected on a screen behind the “orchestra.” He was a serious man with a deep love for his music and a willingness to pursue it from jail to public adulation and back. Just listen to the plaintive sounds of “The Boll Weevil” or “Poor Howard” and “Green Corn” and the temper of the ’30s rings through. (Perhaps jail was the safest place to be then.)

The evening, we realized, consisted of a collection of mostly British (white) performers who started off with simple guitars and historic music. But then it morphed into electric guitars and the big noise sound that so delights the soon-to-be-deaf young people of today.

One particular performer…young, randy and ready to trot…arrived on stage with his very small guitar and a long phallic protuberance which he happily strummed and rotated in hyper Elvis style. Poor Lead Belly, who took his musicianship seriously, would have felt violated by this assault on the music he held dear.

Next came a female performer who had as much subtlety as a pile driver, which is when we, among quite a number of other aficionados of “real jazz” melted away, with sadness in our heart.

The lesson here is: Guard your engineered old 78s; we now have a valued CD of the Great Man; would love to find more.

Barbara Tober

One Response to “Lead Belly Fest”

  1. If you like Lead Belly you may enjoy my uncle’s band, The Booglerizers. Uncle Richard (De Paolo) is the lead who sings, plays guitar, mouth harp and just about anything else that makes sound – mandolins, washboards, washtub. He considers it “ragtime blues” and has been at it for many years. Check out Ironbound Blues and other albums on ITunes. I remember when he was 16 and I was 12 or so he turned me on to rock and roll and gave me his The Who and Led Zep albums saying he didn’t listen to them any more. I think he was already onto blues and jazz. Anyway, the Boogs are talented guys making fun music. And if you travel to NJ you can see them in person!

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