Leadbelly

Leadbelly had quite a life of murder and rape. There was another side to him. But I guess they were hard times.
The Bourgoise Blues really does it for me.

Every Day Another Story

Together with Woody Guthrie, Hudie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, is considered a founding father of the American folk music movement. The “king of the 12-string guitar” was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in the year of 1888. By age 12 he was playing “professionally” in the Shreveport red light district. By age 20 he had already served several terms in prison. Legend has it that the folklorists John and Alan Lomax recorded Leadbelly in prison, and attached a phonograph record of Leadbelly’s Irene Goodnight to his parole petition – which indeed was granted in 1934 by Louisiana governor Oscar K. Allen. Such is the legend for what it’s worth.

Certainly, Leadbelly’s powerful voice and 12 string guitar style were charismatic. Rooted in the blues, Leadbelly’s repertoire included ragtime, traditional folk songs, and the pop music of his time. He penned, or is credited with writing such folk favorites as  Midnight…

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17 thoughts on “Leadbelly

  1. Yep – I’ve seen it done both ways-

    Leadbelly ‎– Leadbelly’s Last Sessions Volume One
    Genre:
    Blues, Folk, World, & Country
    Style:
    Country Blues, Delta Blues, Folk
    Year:
    1953

    Real Name:
    Huddie William Ledbetter

    1. Yes you have. But not at the same time. They used to use Leadbelly. However, some ten years ago at least the Lovelace Fellowship people called time on that as it had always been a typo, and clarified – for those that were paying attention – and you weren’t! – that it should be Lead Belly.
      That’s how Lead Belly himself wrote his name and it’s also what’s written on his tombstone.

      1. Well Neil – that, to me, is not the most important thing – the music is.
        As Lead Belly was largely illiterate I don’t suppose it really matters, do you?

  2. Well, no, not really if you don’t care what’s in the Smithsonian Institute.
    It does though if you do care. Was the man that gave him that name illiterate?
    I was just contributing a point, not making for an argument.

    1. I don’t know Neil. I’ve seen his name presented in both forms. Why should what is in the Smithsonian be important? I mean, I do like the Smithsonian but whether it is Lead Belly or Leadbelly seems immaterial to me. Looking at the albums nearly all of them have it down as Leadbelly – even the Moses Asch. If you put Leadbelly in the few that are labelled Lead Belly come up as well. It was only a prison nickname anyway wasn’t it?
      For me it is a question of do you like his songs or not and can you find his music. Isn’t that really what is important?

      1. There’s no debate about the music, I was simply making correction on the use of the name.
        The Smithsonian is important in terms of American culture. Whether it’s liked is subjective don’t you think?
        Moses Asch died back in 1986! ffs, years before the revision clarification.
        Yes it goes without saying that his albums that you own use Leadbelly because of the age when made which was many years before 2000. What you don’t seem to want to take on board is the fact that the entire Blues world accepted this correction and didn’t regard this as immaterial. I can’t see why you have any problem here.
        I’ve never come across any obstruction to this revision before.
        It was all over the music press at the time in every magazine/paper in print, Record Collector, NME, Q, Vox, Mojo, The Wire, Uncut, Rolling Stone, Guitar Player, Guitar.
        You’ll also hear Paul Jones on his BBC Radio Two show making a point of mentioning it . Why don’t you email him for clarification? These BBC Blues film compilations also make the correction.
        A few clicks of your mouse will inform you. See The Lead Belly Foundation and even Wikipedia joined in with the correction as well.
        Of course, I like Thebeetles as well, especially Johnlemon and also Ledzeppelin.

      2. As with all stories about Leadbelly, there are several versions: 1. The obvious play on his real name, 2. The bullets he carried in his belly 3. A prison nickname. A larger than life man and larger than life talent who was able to distill several streams of folk music into one and brought these folk traditions to us all.

    1. I think it was hard times back then. I wonder how bad he really was?
      It does bring to mind the dilemma over other musicians and film stars who have done nasty things but are brilliant. Should we ignore their art? Spurn it?

    1. I think it does matter that his name is written properly as such nonchalant apathy doesn’t make for good copy. My editor at …. would boot my goolies for that.
      Let me offer an example, were you a historian of the Celtic Warriors, would you still be writing her name as Boadicea or as the scholars have come learn as Boudica?
      There you go, I rest my case.

  3. Thank you.
    I should of course have written as ‘an historian’. tsk tsk.
    I mean, who doesn’t know that the emphasis on historian is on the second syllable?

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