Thursday, January 23, 2020

Decontructing the Dockery Myth

B.B. King at Dockery Farms in the 1970s
In their “Response” (vol. 50, no. 1, Spring 2019) to T. DeWayne Moore’s article “Revisiting Ralph Lembo” (vol. 49, no. 2, Fall 2018), Edward Komara and Gayle Dean Wardlow cite my research and publications as the primary endorsement of their position that famed Mississippi blues artist Charley Patton was “discovered” and sent north to record for Paramount Records by H. C. Speir, as Wardlow has long claimed, rather than by Ralph Lembo, as suggested recently by Moore. I would like to clarify my position on this matter in the light of recent research, including Moore’s article. In the interest of full disclosure, let me state that I provided advice and information to Moore in the preparation of his article, although its conclusions are his own. I regret that this matter of who “discovered” Patton may be currently overshadowing Patton’s own greatness as an artist, but the controversy is not trivial and actually has importance beyond Charley Patton. It speaks to issues of research methodology and the “established facts” that researchers accept and perpetuate, sometimes for decades.

By way of background for readers, Charley Patton first recorded for Paramount on June 14, 1929, at the Gennett studio in Richmond, Indiana. He made two subsequent recording sessions for Paramount in its new studio in Grafton, Wisconsin, in late January/early February 1930 and August 1930, and one session for American Record Corporation’s Vocalion label in New York City on January 30-31 and February 1, 1934. At the time of his first session Patton’s home was somewhere in the Delta in the northwestern part of Mississippi. Speir was based in Jackson, Mississippi, a hundred miles or more from Patton’s home. Lembo was based in Itta Bena, Mississippi, in the Delta. Both Speir and Lembo were the owners of music/record stores in their respective locations and had already sent or brought other African American musicians to recording studios. 


Ralph Lembo in the late 1920s inside his store
Ralph Lembo died in 1960 and was never interviewed about his recording activities. Little was known about him prior to Moore’s article, except for the fact that he was active at least between 1927 and 1930 and was instrumental in the making of the first recordings by Mississippi blues artists Rube Lacy and Washington (“Bukka”) White as well as some sermon recordings by preachers. Speir lived until 1972 and was first contacted by Wardlow in 1964 after recently rediscovered Mississippi blues artists Son House and Skip James mentioned making test recordings for Speir at his store in Jackson. James’s session was in December 1930 or early January 1931, while House’s session was in late 1933 or early 1934, when he came to Jackson with Willie Brown, Charley Patton, and (possibly) Patton’s wife Bertha Lee. In 1941 House told Alan Lomax that he had recorded in 1934 for W. R. Calaway [an agent of the American Record Corporation] at H. C. Speir’s store at 111 N. Farrow [Farish] Street in Jackson (Lomax field notes). House had earlier recorded with Patton and Brown for Paramount at Patton’s third session for that company in August 1930, a session that Speir was not involved with. House had only met Patton a few days or weeks before this 1930 session and knew nothing about the circumstances of Patton’s two previous sessions. He did state that Patton made arrangements with Speir for the later Jackson test session. House also stated that the artists were present at Speir’s store for about five or six hours. (See David Evans, “An Early Interview with Son House,” The Frog Blues & Jazz Annual 5 [2017], 29-44, 176-94.) 

Wardlow began to publish information about Speir in March 1966 in a series of articles in Blues Unlimited magazine titled “Legends of the Lost (The Story of Henry Speir)” (reprinted with revisions in Gayle Dean Wardlow, Chasin’ That Devil Music: Searching for the Blues, edited by Edward Komara. San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1998, pp. 126-30). Wardlow had not recorded his interviews with Speir but wrote his series of articles from memory of his conversations with him, as he told me later in 1966. He wrote that Speir “does not remember many of the artists he recorded.” Nevertheless, Wardlow printed lengthy statements from Speir in quotation marks, including the statement that Patton “was the best I ever seen.” Wardlow painted a portrait of Speir as a man who “for nearly a quarter of a century searched the entire Southern area from Virginia to New Mexico for talent to send to the various recording companies.” In a section later deleted from the revised reprinted version Wardlow listed twenty-five blues artists, beginning with Charley Patton, that Speir “found” and “sent to Paramount.” The list even includes Rube Lacy, who was rediscovered in 1966 right around the time of the publication of this list and who stated that he was brought to his 1927 and 1928 sessions by Ralph Lembo. 

Subsequent research has shown that about three-quarters of the artists in Wardlow’s list were not actually found by Speir.


(Jackson, MS) Clarion-Ledger, Oct 31, 1926.

Wardlow gave no details about the circumstances of Speir’s “finding” of Patton in his 1966 series of articles. But on the opening pages of his co-authored 1988 biography of Patton (Stephen Calt and Gayle Wardlow, King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charley Patton. Newton, NJ: Rock Chapel Press, 1988), a book that Edward Komara is currently editing for publication in a revised version, there is an elaborate and detailed account of how Speir, wearing a blue business suit, drove about a hundred miles from Jackson to Dockery Plantation in the Delta in response to a letter that Patton had sent him requesting an audition for the purpose of making records. The authors contrast Speir’s beating the bushes for blues artists to Ralph Lembo, who they declare “almost never left his native Itta Bena to look for them.”


Komara and Wardlow, in their response to Moore’s article, cite my essay on Charley Patton, published in three versions in 1987, 2001, and as recently as 2018, as support for their assertion that Speir “found and sent” Patton to Paramount. They quote my statement printed in all three versions that “H. C. Speir, who owned a music store in Jackson and first recommended Patton to Paramount Records, enjoyed being entertained by Patton.” They quoted me accurately, and I did believe that Speir had “found and sent” Patton as late as 2017, when the most recent version of my essay went to press (David Evans, “Charley Patton: The Conscience of the Delta,” in Charley Patton: Voice of the Mississippi Delta, ed. Robert Sacré. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2018, pp. 23-137). Shortly thereafter, when changes to my essay could no longer be made, I began to have doubts, as I came to rethink the matter and to communicate with Moore about his research into the recording activities of Ralph Lembo. I have continued my research on Patton, and with the help of colleagues I have found further information about him and his activities that sheds light on the matter of his “discovery.”

After Wardlow began to publish his accounts of Speir’s recording activities in early 1966, no alternative or competing narrative emerged about the “discovery” of Patton and other Mississippi blues artists of the 1920s and 1930s until the publication of Moore’s article more than fifty years later. In his many publications and interviews, Wardlow along with his editors and collaborators Stephen Calt, Edward Komara, and Bruce Conforth, has consistently boosted the role of Speir and diminished the role of Lembo, as Moore’s article points out. In this period of time Wardlow’s narrative about Speir’s activities has inevitably become “established fact” and has simply been accepted and restated by other writers, including Ted Gioia, Alex van der Tuuk, Brian Ward and Patrick Huber, and myself in various books on Mississippi blues, Charley Patton, Paramount Records, and Artist and Repertoire (A&R) agents of the record companies. Moore’s article challenges the scenario that Wardlow and his collaborators created and demonstrates the need for a comprehensive rethinking of the activities of Speir as well as specifically his relationship to Charley Patton.


Let us begin with Patton and the letter he allegedly sent to Speir in 1929 that resulted, according to Wardlow, in Speir sending Patton expense money to come to Jackson for an audition and/or Speir driving to Dockery Plantation to hear Patton in person. Surprisingly, the absurdity of both of these scenarios has never been recognized, or at least not until Moore began to dissect them. In the first place, the two scenarios contradict one another. Patton would have needed only one audition. And would any agent of a record company send travel money to a musician he had never heard or heard of on the strength of nothing more than a letter? 

Or would he drive a hundred miles over bad roads to a Delta plantation to find and listen to that same musician? Certainly not. 

If there was a letter that provoked Speir’s interest in Patton, it could only be because Speir already knew about Patton. Logically, any letter would have been in connection with Patton’s 1933/1934 test session for W. R. Calaway and Speir. Patton had established himself as a successful artist who had recorded forty-two issued sides for Paramount Records in 1929 and 1930. As a record store owner, Speir would have been well aware of Patton’s reputation and potential for further commercial success as a recording artist. On this basis, it is certainly conceivable that Speir could have sent Patton some expense money to come to Jackson. And even if Speir had driven to Dockery Plantation in 1929 to follow up on Patton’s letter, it is highly unlikely that he would have found Patton there. Patton’s family settled on Dockery around 1901 when Charley was a teenager. By 1918, if not earlier, Patton was well established as an itinerant musician in the Delta and had moved away from Dockery to nearby Renova. At least, that was a home base for a time, as actually he moved about, staying here and there with friends and employers. His parents also moved off Dockery around this time, leaving only his sister Viola, who stayed there with her husband and family, and perhaps Charley’s younger brother Will, but he too was gone from Dockery by the time Patton recorded in 1929. Patton visited and played at Dockery from time to time, but it was not his home in 1929. In fact, on March 10, 1929, just three months before his first recording session, Charley Patton signed in his own hand an application to marry Magnolia Hill (alternatively written as Hills) at the courthouse in Tunica, Mississippi, and the couple was married that same day. (This incidentally probably accounts for the title of Patton’s “Magnolia Blues,” Paramount 12943, recorded at his second Paramount session in early 1930.) Patton’s address on the Marriage Record is listed as Penton, Mississippi. This town in the northern part of Tunica County is close to Memphis and almost two hundred miles north of Jackson where H.C. Speir was located. Although Patton left six other marriage records and had at least three additional relationships with women that produced children, it seems likely that he would have stayed around Penton for at least a few months and perhaps into 1930 when he recorded “Magnolia Blues.” He is also well remembered in the nearby towns of Lula and Clarksdale in 1929 and 1930, both a bit south of Penton but still over 150 miles from Jackson.


Perhaps anticipating problems with the “letter” and “drive to Dockery” scenarios touted by Wardlow for over half a century, he and Komara offer yet a third scenario. In their “Response” to Moore they point out that Patton’s first recording session was shared with another blues artist, Walter “Buddy Boy” Hawkins. Hawkins is known to have been in Jackson less than two weeks before the June 14, 1929, recording session, as confirmed by two articles in a Jackson newspaper about his arrests there on vagrancy charges. This evidence, they believe, suggests that Hawkins went by train from Jackson to his recording session in Indiana and that Patton likely rode with him. Furthermore, in Jackson they likely would have been in contact with Speir, who would have sent them to Indiana. This is certainly a possibility, but there are several problems with this scenario. In the first place, there is no evidence that Patton knew Hawkins before the June 14 recording session. Little, in fact, is known for certain about Hawkins beyond his recordings and the two newspaper articles about his arrests and trials. He did, however, make two recording sessions for Paramount in 1927 in Chicago, and on one song from the first of these sessions he mentions that he had just come from Birmingham. All this means that he was a well-traveled musician, was already in contact with Paramount, and didn’t really need H. C. Speir to intercede for him. It also means that there is the possibility that Hawkins was actually the one who “discovered” Charley Patton and introduced him to Paramount.

The solution, at any rate, to the problem of Speir’s involvement with Patton is actually found in Wardlow’s own taped interviews of Speir made in 1968-1970. These are available for listening at http://popmusic.mtsu.edu/archives/inventory/wardlow.htm. Wardlow’s earlier interviews with Speir, beginning in 1964, were not recorded. Komara and Wardlow in their “Response” state that Wardlow “handwrote his notes to paper,” but this statement contradicts what Wardlow told me in 1966, that he kept all of his information in his head. Komara and Wardlow call the later taped interviews “look back” interviews. They also claim that “during one of those taped interviews, Speir remembered that he received a letter from Patton and paid his expense to come to Jackson, from where Patton then went to Richmond, Indiana, for his first recording session. He also spoke of making at least two trips to Dockery Farms to hear Patton in person.” 

In fact, Speir said nothing of the sort. 

What he did say is “Those days have passed. I can enjoy looking back, but still I don’t remember too many of the talent as far as that goes” (May 18, 1968, track 3). In fact, the only African American artists that Speir claimed to have been involved with and actually named are Rev. C. D. Montgomery, Charley Patton, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, Ishman Bracey, Skip James, Bo Chatmon, and Jim Jackson. His most vivid memories were of Tommy Johnson. Of Patton he said rather little and only claimed to have had two encounters with him. It is only Wardlow who mentions Dockery. Throughout the taped interviews Wardlow describes various scenarios to Speir, allegedly discussed in previous unrecorded interviews, and asks Speir to confirm them. Most of Speir’s responses are grunted “yeah’s” and “that’s right.” One segment (May 18, 1968, track 10) goes as follows:

GDW: Of course, Patton came off of Dockery’s Plantation, didn’t he?

HCS: Yeah, that’s right.

GDW: You visited Dockery’s, I think you told me?

HCS: Oh yeah.

GDW: Dockery’s Plantation.

HCS: Uh huh.

GDW: Of course, he moved up to Lula on up there above Clarksdale.

HCS: Yeah.

Earlier in the same interview (track 4) there is this dialog:

GDW: What did you tell me about Patton? I think you mentioned one time that Patton had written you a letter to come up, and he wanted to talk to you about making records.

HCS: Yes, he wrote me a letter. Someone had given my name, and, of course, I told him I’d pay his expenses down here for him to come down, and which he did, and I accepted it.

GDW: Didn’t you go up to the plantation and his house?

HCS: Later. Yes, I went on up there later.

GDW: And you listened to a number of his songs. And he sung four or five or so for you.

HCS: That’s right.

GDW: You said one time you might have made a test record of Patton, but you weren’t sure whether you did a test.

HCS: Yeah, I believe I did make a test of him. I made a test for Patton and a fellow named – I done forgot his name – Brown, I believe it was.

GDW: Willie Brown.

HCS: Willie Brown. Yeah, that’s right.

In a 1969 interview (track 3) Speir describes a specific incident:

GDW: Let me ask you, did you ever have to get Charley Patton out of jail? Did you ever have to get Patton out? Did he ever come ask you for any money?

HCS: Yeah, Charley got into something somehow. I forgot what it was. And I gave him a letter of recommendation. And I don’t know what it was he got into. Seemed like it was a family affair though, or something. I don’t remember now.

GDW: He got in jail someplace?

HCS: Up there in the Delta.

GDW: He wrote a letter to you asking you to write the jail back, the people in the jail?

HCS: Uh huh. Give a reference or something to that effect. I done forgot what Charley got into. It might have been a debt or something. I done forgot.

GDW: Did you end up loaning him some money, or was it just a letter?

HCS: No, just a letter.

Later in the interview (track 14) there is this dialog:

GDW: Now the first time you saw him up there, you know, you went to Will Dockery’s on the plantation. Didn’t you say he just started playing for you right there in the field, just kept on playing one after another?

HCS: Well, I . . .

GDW: He surprised you that he knew so many songs, you know?

HCS: Yeah, you know, in other words, we went to the house, and he really had a lot of songs, and I knew that he was okay.

GDW: You knew real quick that he stood out.

These interviews reveal that it is Wardlow who was eager to establish that Speir went to Dockery, under the belief that Dockery was Patton’s home in 1929. 

Speir’s responses, however, merely state that he received a letter from Patton expressing interest in making records, that he made a trip to visit Patton and audition him at his house on a Delta plantation, that he provided some travel expense money, that Patton came with Willie Brown to a test recording session in Speir’s Jackson store, and that Speir provided a letter of recommendation to get Patton out of jail. All of this is consistent with a late 1933/early 1934 scenario, not one from 1929. As noted earlier, it is absurd to think that Speir would have provided travel money or driven a hundred miles over bad roads to listen to an unknown blues performer merely on the basis of a letter, not to mention the fact that Patton was actually living in 1929 almost two hundred miles north of Jackson. Speir would have only done these things if he already knew of Patton’s success and commercial potential as a recording artist. This is something he would have been well aware of at the end of 1933 based on Patton’s earlier recording career for Paramount. Patton was living in 1933 and 1934 at Holly Ridge, about ninety miles northwest of Jackson. Speir probably drove up there in response to the letter to see whether Patton still sounded as good as he did a few years earlier. Pleased with what he heard, he probably gave Patton expense money to come to Jackson for a test recording session and notified W.R. Calaway that he could supply Patton for recording purposes with American Record Corporation. Calaway came to Jackson for the test session, and Patton arrived with Willie Brown and Son House (and possibly Patton’s wife Bertha Lee) in tow. Callaway was evidently pleased and set up a recording session in New York City at the end of January 1934. House stated that he and Brown were unable to make the trip because of work obligations, and only Patton and Bertha Lee traveled to New York for the session. Meanwhile, sometime after December 20, 1933, Patton and Bertha were witnesses to an axe murder at a party where they were performing in Humphreys County. When the authorities arrived, all of the witnesses who had not fled, including the Pattons, were arrested and held in the Belzoni jail, with the trial of the alleged perpetrator scheduled for mid-March when court reopened. (See Evans, “Charley Patton: The Conscience of the Delta,” pp. 119-20.) This situation clearly jeopardized the scheduled recording session and was something that required Speir’s letter of recommendation, along with Calaway’s personal intervention, to relieve. We can conclude then that H. C. Speir likely interacted directly with Charley Patton on only two occasions at the end of 1933 or beginning of 1934, lasting only a few hours altogether. These were his visit to audition Patton at Holly Ridge and Patton’s visit to Jackson for the test session.

We can also reach a more general conclusion about Speir’s blues activities, and that is that he did not successfully place any blues artists with a record company before 1930, with the exception of Tommy Johnson, Ishman Bracey, Charlie McCoy, and Rosie Mae Moore, all of them based in the Jackson area, who were sent by Speir to Victor Records in Memphis in February 1928, with a follow-up session in Memphis by Johnson, Bracey, and McCoy in August of that year. In 1930 Speir began to deal with Paramount Records, and not surprisingly, the first artists he sent to Paramount were Johnson and Bracey, along with the New Orleans Nehi Boys, a duo that Bracey had introduced to Speir. In December 1930 Speir organized a session in Jackson for OKeh Records, and, besides his brief involvement with Charley Patton, he organized or was involved in sessions in Jackson and Hattiesburg for American Record Corporation in 1935 and 1936. In Wardlow’s recorded interviews of Speir there is mention, mostly in response to leading questions and scenarios offered by Wardlow, of Speir’s attending recording sessions for various companies in Birmingham, Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Houston, Nashville, Dallas, and Grafton, Wisconsin, as well as activities in various Mississippi locations that put him in contact with blues artists. No details of these encounters are provided, however, nor are any artists actually named, with the exception of Jim Jackson of Memphis, who Speir admits was not recorded through his own efforts. Ralph Lembo, in contrast, had brought blues artists to record companies as early as 1927 but ceased such activities by the end of 1930. Speir and Lembo, though, should not be viewed as competitors or rivals. Speir made no mention of Lembo in the recorded interviews, and they appear to have worked independently in different parts of Mississippi and with different record companies at any one time. Both men did important work in advancing the careers of Mississippi blues artists.

Besides Gayle Dean Wardlow, the only researchers to interview H. C. Speir were myself and Marina Bokelman. (See David Evans, “An Interview with H. C. Speir,” John Edwards Memorial Foundation Quarterly 8 [1972], 117-21.) This took place at Speir’s home on September 1, 1966. We were both graduate students in the Folklore and Mythology program at UCLA and were in Mississippi primarily to do research on blues artist Tommy Johnson (1896-1956) for what would become my M. A. thesis and eventually a short book (David Evans, Tommy Johnson. London: Studio Vista, 1971). I knew that Johnson, with his friend and partner Ishman Bracey, had been sent to Victor Records and later to Paramount by H. C. Speir, and for this reason I wanted to interview both Bracey and Speir about Johnson. We had been taught as graduate students that we should always contact and cooperate with other researchers if we wanted to record or interview “their informants,” and so I contacted Wardlow in advance and arranged for us to meet him and go with him to visit Bracey and Speir, even though the two men were public figures already known through Bracey’s early recordings and published reports about Speir.

Marina and I had only met Wardlow in person the day before, when I noted in my field diary for August 31, “He’s pretty disgusted with many of the other blues entrepreneurs poaching his research and dubs of his collection and giving him no credit.” Wardlow, in fact, wanted us to confine our research to Tommy Johnson’s career and music and not ask the informants about other matters. Because of Wardlow’s fear of “poaching,” we tried to keep the interview focused on Tommy Johnson and general matters of Speir’s recording standards and aesthetics. We didn’t ask questions about Charley Patton or other musicians, and it was only a few days later when we met Johnson’s older brother that we learned of the close connection between Johnson and Patton. By that time the opportunity to ask Speir about Charley Patton had passed.

Gayle Dean Wardlow has done much important work in blues research, has talked to many musicians and others involved in the music, often being the first or only researcher to do so, and has published many findings and interpretations. He was early on the scene and deserves credit for these accomplishments. 

However, the above accounts should be enough to indicate that any other researcher using his research and publications should proceed with caution and try to verify any “fact” with recorded testimony or other corroborating information. 

This goes also for Wardlow’s editors and coauthors. The problem, of course, is that after more than fifty years many of Wardlow’s statements of “fact” and interpretations, particularly those not supported by recorded interviews, can be neither proven nor disproven, and often they represent the only existing narrative on any given topic.

I have tried here to deconstruct Wardlow’s (and his collaborators’) narrative about the “discovery” of Charley Patton by H. C. Speir. This then raises the question of who actually did “discover” Patton and send him to his first Paramount recording session in 1929. I see several possibilities, which I place here in no particular order of importance or priority.

1. H. C. Speir. He was based in Mississippi, after all, though far from where Patton lived at the time, and had already begun to procure blues talent for Victor Records. There is also the indirect evidence of Walter “Buddy Boy” Hawkins, Patton’s recording session mate, being in Jackson some two weeks before the session. However, Speir said nothing about Hawkins or anything else that would support his being involved in Patton’s first session.

2. Ralph Lembo. Moore does not claim in his article that Lembo sent Patton to his Paramount session in 1929, although Komara and Wardlow in their “Response” assert that he does. Moore merely offers it as a “good possibility.“ Lembo was based not far from Dockery, where Patton had grown up and still had family, and he had been active in procuring blues artists for recording since 1927, among them Rube Lacy, who was acquainted with Patton. Wardlow and Komara, in fact, claim that Lembo was indeed the first recording agent to contact Patton, but that Patton turned down his offer and went with Speir instead. The information about the rejected offer from Lembo comes from a recorded interview done by Wardlow of a Reverend Booker Miller, a former blues performer and associate of Patton. It must be treated with the cautions described above, as Miller’s statement comes in response to leading questions and scenarios presented by Wardlow. Rev. Miller, in any case, did not claim that Patton later sought out H. C. Speir, only that he turned down Lembo. It is possible to imagine that Patton reconsidered Lembo’s offer (if there actually was such an offer) and decided to work with him, unbeknownst to Miller.

3. Someone else. I have already mentioned the possibility that Buddy Boy Hawkins, an established Paramount recording artist, introduced Patton to Paramount or simply brought him along to what was his third session for the label and Patton’s first. Wardlow and Stephen Calt mention an Oscar Livingston (King of the Delta Blues, p. 174), a merchant whose store sold records in Ruleville, Mississippi, close to Dockery. Livingston allegedly was instrumental in sending blues musician Walter Rhodes, a friend and associate of Patton, to his recording session for Columbia in 1927. It is conceivable that Livingston also worked with other record companies, such as Paramount, and that Rhodes’s success with his first record inspired Patton to aim for a recording career and led him to contact Livingston. All this is speculation, however, and there are problems with Wardlow’s information, for it comes from an unrecorded interview of a Reverend W. H. Buchanon. Other statements by Rev. Buchanon, as reported by Calt and Wardlow, are inconsistent with known facts about Walter Rhodes and his 1927 session. Just as Patton might himself have contacted Lembo, Speir, or Livingston, he might have contacted some other Paramount agent or associate or even contacted the company directly. There were other music and record stores in the Delta in places like Clarksdale, Tunica, Greenville, and Cleveland, and we don’t know whether some of their proprietors occasionally acted as talent brokers for record companies. Patton appears to have been living close to Memphis around the time of his first session and easily could have contacted a Paramount representative there. Memphis blues artists Frank Stokes and Gus Cannon had both already recorded for Paramount, and it is likely that Patton was acquainted with them. Patton’s older sister and her family had relocated to East Chicago, Indiana, and Patton is known to have paid visits to them and performed in the Chicago area. Paramount maintained an office in Chicago as well as its headquarters in nearby Port Washington, Wisconsin. It is quite conceivable that Patton could have taken the initiative and contacted a Paramount representative, as he would do a few years later with H. C. Speir, resulting in his recording for American Record Corporation.

There are probably other possibilities that can’t even be imagined. The question of who “discovered” Charley Patton and arranged for him to record for Paramount in 1929 is likely to remain forever a mystery. This should enable us to refocus our interest back on Patton himself and his music and not on his “discoverer.”

David Evans


Click HERE to download and read David Evans, "Letter to the Editor: Ralph Lembo, H.C. Speir, and Charley Patton," ARSC Journal 50:2 (2019). Reprinted with permission of the author and ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections)

Click HERE to download and read "Blues Scholars Give Up Integrity Clinging to Myths" by T. DeWayne Moore


Click HERE to download and read Revisiting Ralph Lembo by T. DeWayne Moore (published in the ARSC Journal in December 2018) 

Click HERE to download and read "The Response to Revisiting Ralph Lembo" by Gayle Dean Wardlow and Ed Komara in July 2019. 

1 comment:

  1. David Evans includes my name as one of Gayle Dean Wardlow's collaborators, saying that "In his many publications and interviews, Wardlow along with his editors and collaborators Stephen Calt, Edward Komara, and Bruce Conforth, has consistently boosted the role of Speir and diminished the role of Lembo... "
    Including my name is an obvious reference to our recent biography of Robert Johnson: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson.
    David, if you read our book you know that nowhere did we even mention Lembo, let alone attempt to diminish his work. We spoke about Speir only because it WAS Speir who helped get Johnson a recording deal. We made no mention of Lembo and I resent being drawn into the Lembo/Speir controversy for no reason at all. David, you should have known better.

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