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mjzee

On the Midnight Special

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The term "chitlin' circuit" has congealed into showbiz cliché denoting a shabby, second-rate purgatory where oldies acts like Sam and Dave toiled before crossing over to mainstream success. As music journalist Preston Lauterbach discovered, the whole subject hasn't received much serious attention, never mind respect. In books that mention the circuit he noticed a denigrating trend: "Artists were relegated to the chitlin' circuit. Working it was a grind. Even its title is depressing, derived from what black people call a hog's small intestine."

It takes a former circuit star named Sax Kari, retired to a trailer on the edge of a Florida swamp, to set Mr. Lauterbach straight about a phenomenon so underground that it didn't appear in print, even in the black press, until a 1972 item in the Chicago Defender plugging an Ike and Tina Turner concert. Behind the color line was an intricate, wildly variegated underworld of entertainment and vice. Its venues ran the gamut from a converted South Carolina tobacco barn to the opulent Bronze Peacock Dinner and Dance Club in Houston, 8,000 square feet of wall-to-wall swank.

Full article here:

Wall Street Journal

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They're talking about it like it doesn't exist any more...

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Read the book-- the author is very clear about its contemporary existence; the book isn't about that, however-- it's about the ** business ** and culture of black road music from the early swing era (inc. terrible Natchez fire that killed Walter Barnes)* invention of hte circuit through electric r&b '60s or so, though picking up stories of folks who were on the circuit and are still around.

WSJ writer Eddie Dean is, at best, a well-intentioned schmoe; some people have very sound arguments for thinking he's at least part schmuck too, see esp. some of the crap he let Ralph Stanley get away with in Stanley's "as told to" autobiography. Folks who think Stanley is just some cuddly old coot who's gonna die on the road like the gods Willie and B.B. (a big character in Lauterbach) are sorely mistaken.

That "Chitlin'" was published by Norton and not 'just' some university press is both deserved and heartening; the only major gripe is it could have been longer, even sticking to the south. That x generations of frauds writing about "rock" and "blues" and "soul" have been allowed to get away with straight bullshitting is evidence of both Yankee ignorance (including Californian) and more trickster evasions, diversions-- the latter of which which I approve of.

The book is better than ALL the reviews I've seen; shows again what a po' faced trudger Peter Guralnick and though there's an argument that says Guralnick has gotten some decent interviews because of that doesn't make his books any more 'insightful' (there insights are modest at best) or poetic (which they ain't at all).

http://www.amazon.com/Chitlin-Circuit-Road-Rock-Roll/dp/0393076520/

* Howlin' Wolf The Natchez Burn

They're talking about it like it doesn't exist any more...

Edited by MomsMobley

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Am reading the book right now - once you've worked yourself through the longish prologue about Denver Ferguson's hustling businesses into the MUSIC side of the subject on hand, it's really colorful and insightful indeed, and fills a huge gap in the history of black territory swing bands and 40s & 50s "grassroots" R&B etc.

Strange though that the term "Chitlin Circuit" should appear to be THAT unknown (as the reviewer stresses). No doubt I've only seen a small part of this term's appearance in print but I cannot even recall how often I've come across it in earlier music literature on post-war Black music (some of it apparently printed not long after that alleged first-time??? use of the term in 1972) but it was very, very often ... Not an unfamilar term, then, but high time it is given some in-depth coverage.

Another inter4sting character evoked in that book is Don Robey - his Chitlin Circuit background somehow doesn't seem to be mentioned to any extent when his Duke/Peacock label career is discussed.

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