Making a Scene Presents an interview with Andy Cohen!
Andy Cohen grew up in a house with a piano and a lot of Dixieland Jazz records, amplified after a while by a cornet that his dad got him. At about fifteen, he got bitten by the Folk Music bug, and soon got to hear records by Big Bill Broonzy and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, both of which reminded him of the music he grew up to. At sixteen, he saw Reverend Gary Davis, and his course was set. He knew he had it in him to follow, study, perform and promote the music of the southeast quadrant, America’s great musical fountainhead. Although he’s done other things, a certain amount of writing and physical labor from dishwashing and railroading to archeology, playing the old tunes is what he does best.
He has given support when he could to deserving players, and arranged work for many more; organized festivals and small venues for them and others to play in; written about several of the old guys and studied their work in a systematic way; and taught a couple of dozen players who are now professionals.
What he does is Country Blues 101. It’s broader than that, of course, covering material from before the twenties to about the fifties, and ranging over the several states to which Memphis is adjacent. He grew up during the Sixties Revival in Massachusetts, but he is a Southern boy at heart. He made a point of acquainting myself with all the blues players he could, on record and in person. In his shows, he does material by Reverend Davis, John Hurt, Big Bill, Gus Cannon, Frank Stokes, Memphis Minnie, Bukka White, Barbecue Bob, Charlie Patton, Ted Bogan, Henry Spaulding, and any of a hundred other blues people.
A major purveyor of what historians call the ‘Social’ Gospel (think of Dr. King) was Washington Phillips. He made 78s back in the twenties, playing on a pair of zither-form contraptions called Celestephones. He play his music and a good deal more on a Schroeder-sized grand piano called a Dolceola, made in 1905. He Carries it everywhere with him, wouldn’t leave home without it.
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