Early Blues, Hokum, Ragtime, and Jug Band songs of the 1920’s & 1930’sMike Ballantyne
Mike is a singer who formerly sang folksongs, folk–blues and blues, together with some country and jazz.
Now, with more than forty years singing experience behind him, and to the exclusion of all his previous repertoire, he is devoting himself exclusively to early blues and, for the most part, to their earliest documented lyrics as they were sung and recorded in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
These blues, for the most part, form a fun and varied repertoire of blues, hokum, ragtime and jug band songs, rather different from stereotypical, often slow and rather maudlin twelve-bar blues.
It is impossible to reproduce the songs exactly as they were originally sung, there are simply too many variables. The original singer’s speech patterns and ideosyncrasies, alone, preclude this but, as mentioned above, Mike’s purpose is the restoration of the words and the tunes (melodies) of the songs and (allowing for some flexibility) if he has achieved that, and the songs give enjoyment — while, at the same time, opening up the musical horizons of the listener — then his purpose has been achieved.
“I should point out that, when I learn a song, it is my intention to learn both the words and the tune faithfully but I don’t try to copy the accompaniment of the original singer. For me, the words and the tune are the important parts of learning a song. Few others who have recorded any of these songs follow this approach: they usually attempt to copy the original accompaniment to the detriment especially of the words. I think that, when learning these songs, they should be shown the same respect as any other songs. One would not dream of altering the words when learning, for instance, a Beatles song or songs of Hank Williams or Joni Mitchell and, just because these blues are old and the songwriters long gone, there is no reason to change any part of them either. The accompaniment, on the other hand, is a characteristic of the player rather than the song.”
Mike’s new blues CD is called “Papa Wants A Cookie”
In the promotional photograph above, however, Mike is holding his previous guitar, a Blueridge 000,
Model BR-143 *which is now for sale.
Blueridge guitars are an arm of Saga Instruments out of California.