Son House Interview - 1965
Tuesday, 15 November 2005 00:00
Son House Interview - 1965
SON HOUSE INTERVIEW 1965
|Son House photo|
Tape Ft 2809-tape 1
By John Fahey, Barry Hansen and Mark Levine
Son House (1902-1988) first became interested in playing guitar after seeing James McCoy and Rubin Lacy. House first paid attention to him in a place called Matson, MS, not far from Clarksdale.
Joe Kirby’s plantation was right above Robinsonville, along 61 Highway (Claxton, MS). Kirby’s plantation was our stomping ground. That’s where we drank all that bad corn whiskey. That’s where I got Louise Johnson at. She lived on that place. And that’s why she got to go with me, and Willie and Charlie to go to Grafton to make records, playing piano.
Charlie made up a song on Joe Kirby because he played there a lot and because of the corn whiskey.
DID YOU DRINK DURING RECORDING?
Oh-yes, we were as high as Georgia Pines.
A.C. Laibly gave Wheeler Ford $100 for the use for him and his car and gas and he gave Charlie $100 for him, me , Louise and Willie to buy cigarettes, sandwiches and get us drinks.
When we recorded for Paramount, A.C. Laibly, he had a girl there just like she was a waitress or something and anytime you ended a piece she gave you a cup of whiskey.
We came in the studio around 9 o’clock and ended around 12.30 or 1 p.m.
There was a two-story hotel for all the recorders and when you get there you get your key to your room and take you all around and show. None of your food, drinks and cigarettes cost nothing.
The girl who brought the drinks around was white.
Laibly asked you how many songs you had in mind. At that time they were paying $15 a side. When you told Laibly how many songs you had in mind he went into the other room and put on the mike stand. They were made kind like a watermelon, about that long. It was kind of long and about that wide. Something like here….. in diameter. The horn was on top of the house and you could let them down or raise them like that. It had one set along by your mouth and one on this side coming down near your instrument.
Then he tell you about the lights, just like traffic lights. Red light and green light and when he put the green light on he wanted you to start. Then you get a little busy and if he don’t like it then he switched it off and pressed the red one on, indicating you to stop. But if he likes it then he don’t push the red one on. You go on and he had a little buzzer, wanted you to jazz out.
Charlie, House and Willie Brown were offered a four-year contract with Paramount. After we went back, me and Willie went to farming, five miles north of Lake Cormorant (Lowell Cox?).
After we went to farming, he sent for us to come back for more recording, so he wrote me a letter saying "I ain’t got but a little of your stuff left on the shelves, we’re running out, we want you to come back to make some more". At that time I was farming. Now, I can’t go and if I GO I can’t come back.
They didn’t specify it, they’d leave it up to you. They asked you how many you gonna make. It always had to be 6 or 8 or 10 .. even. You could make as many as you wanted. The more you made the better they liked it, as long as he thinks it is wild. If it sounds like nothing they’d cut you off, put the red light on.
ABOUT BLIND LEMON
Art Laibly wanted the artists to do a version of a popular Jefferson song. "I want all of you, either one of you. I’m not gonna pick so much on the words and they don’t have to be the same words that he used on See That My Grave Is Kept Clean just let it be words that rhyme, pertaining to the title of the song but I want that BEAT in there that he had."
So we stayed up all night trying to find that beat. Me, Charlie, Willie. So finally before we started I finally tuned in Spanish and finally getting the feeling, picking on the g string…right down to the B and the E of first, carried it out. Oh, Oh Charlie I believe I got it! – Let’s hear it!…Yea man, that’s it!
After finding the beat, House and Patton worked on the lyrics. House wrote the lines down so h wouldn’t forget it and practised the song until 9 o’clock.
In the studio Son House said to Laibly: "Put your mike on see how you like this".
He said "You think you got the beat" – "I think so". House sang the first two verses that Lemon sang. The rest of the lyrics were made up by House.
Before I got halfway Laibly put the light on, Laibly came out of the recording room and said "Hold it, hold it, hold it, that’s it! Don’t whip another rock!".
He ran back in and put the wax on and gave the go ahead sign. House named the song Mississippi County Farm and Laibly approved of the title.
After I got back to Lula, MS then he mailed us the records, issued records, no test pressings. We could not bring them from Grafton as they did not have copies available.
Written by John Fahey, Barry Hansen and Mark Levine