Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grey Ghost

For those of you who have read the opening  introduction piece here, the name of the Grey Ghost may be vaguely familiar. I was curious to figure out the reference and then suddenly Cliff was chortling about finding this rarity cheap. If you want the full  excellent story and obituary from the Austin Chronicle please visit this link.

http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/1996-07-26/532322/

Here is the abbreviated version:
" Pianist Roosevelt T. Williams, better known as "Grey Ghost," entertained Central Texas audiences from the 1920s through the 1990s with his jazz-tinged barrelhouse blues. Once called the "Thelonious Monk of Blues," Williams was born Dec. 7, 1903, in Bastrop. Armed with basic musical training as a teen, he used his good ear to absorb African-American, Anglo, Mexican, and Eastern European styles pouring out of area dances and roadhouses. Williams often traveled to and from gigs by slipping onto empty boxcars, which earned him the Grey Ghost appellation. In 1940, folklorist William Owens made a field recording of Grey Ghost singing "Hitler Blues" after hearing him perform at a Navasota skating rink. The song was mentioned in Time magazine and ultimately broadcast over BBC radio in an Alistair Cooke story about the American musical response to World War II. Although the notoriety of "Hitler Blues" did not make Grey Ghost a star, he became a familiar figure in East Austin clubs like the Victory Grill and Fat Green's during their postwar heyday. In 1965, local music historian Tary Owens recorded several Grey Ghost songs, which led to festival appearances alongside Mance Lipscomb and Janis Joplin. After years of relative obscurity, Owens tracked down Grey Ghost again in the mid-Eighties, introducing him to a new generation of blues fans via regular gigs at Antone's and the Continental Club. The city proclaimed Dec. 7, 1987, as Grey Ghost Day, and he was voted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame the following year. Grey Ghost's one eponymous solo album was released in 1992 on Owens' Spindletop label. He also appeared on Catfish's Texas Piano Professors compilation alongside Erbie Bowser and Lavada "Dr. Hepcat" Durst. Grey Ghost passed away on July 17, 1996, at age 92. – Greg Beets

23 comments:

bruce said...

My loss-- I guess I arrived here too late.

Would love to hear this!

Thanks for all your hard work, KingCake.

-- Bruce

flatspin said...

Great to hear Grey Ghost's Texas piano blues (particularly the unaccompanied tracks). Downloaded this before, didn't have the time to comment until now! Thanks.

the doc said...

just arrived but I guess I'm a bit late. Send me the link, please KC

GuitarGus said...

KC didn't d/l this (I'm getting fuller on my hard-drive) but I do like to read the comments however brief - But I'm amazed that you've had that many d/l with NO comments - Come on guys are you too lazy or shy? Realise it's basically the only reward you get for all the effort it takes to prepare the uploaded material - And it makes the blog a lot more entertaining and sociable - MAKE THE EFFORT !!
Or possibly lose the blog !

Preslives said...

OK, I confess to being one of the guilty 55. :) I was waiting to have to opportunity to listen to it before commenting. I heard some Grey Ghost previously, but not this album. So I am grateful for the download.

As for the music, I find it very enjoyable. And Crack Shack Boogie is riot!

On the other hand, I am not sure that I understand why he would be called the Thelonious Monk of the blues. First of all, I consider Thelonious himself to be the Thelonious Monk of the blues. :) Second (question), it there something profoundly original and creative in Grey Ghost's music to warrant that title? He strikes me as a top notch and very authentic practicioner of a great tradition, but not so much an original creative artist. But I would be interested in other opinions.

Mutha Klanger said...

i'm another of the Bad Boys :-) only just got around to unwrapping this and having a listen. i'm liking it lots, especially with the violin in the mix too. i didn't get the Monk comparison either, but maybe it is less to do with sound and technique more to do with a similarly eclectic set of ingredients going into the Ghostly Gumbo? either way, a belated thanks KC

KingCake said...

Decided to listen again myself and aside from the occasional odd phrase, I don't really hear it either. I think in the case of both Grey Ghost and Robert Shaw (aka Fud, not the choral director) you have guys who are lionized because they outlived everyone else from that tradition, and were the only people left playing the style. I really wish that they had recorded this without the band, I think we would get a clearer picture of the Piano Player. Of course he was 92 at this point and may not have felt up to playing alone.

The whole thought has gotten me to re-listen to Shaw now and he is a bit more interesting and unusual as a pianist, not to mention his songs are more entertaining. I don't think he was anywhere near as old when he was recorded tho. I'll post Shaw soon.

GuitarGus said...

OK - The power of the Comment! I'm trying to be selective re what I d/l and wasn't going to grab this - But I'm intrigued now that I've read these interesting remarks - So I've just d/l - Only Heard 4 tracks but it's better than I figured it might be - Re the Thelonious reference - probably quoted by one critic and stuck - He does add some odd chord phrasing in between the main chords a la Monk that are not the usual cliches - Anyway Thanks KC - Never heard of this guy before this post - I'd like to hear some of his earlier material - Anyone ?
Cheers

Mutha Klanger said...

yeah, the Monk thing may be a bit obtuse...and yet...listening to "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" i was wondering where I'd heard that lots? did Abbey Lincoln do it on one of her Verve Gitanes albums? or did Monk do it before that? whatever, would love to hear some earlier solo Grey Ghost :-)

while we're here...RIP Stan Greig (anyone rememeber hearing "Roll 'Em Pete" for the first time on Humph's BBC show? or was it Peter Clatyon's? damn those fading brain cells)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/nov/23/stan-greig




Preslives said...

Nat King Cole used to do that one. Dinah Washington also recorded it. I don't know about Abbey Lincoln. I don't have it in my collection. I am relatively sure that Monk never played it. Too bad! I'll bet Monk would have done something nice with it.

Feilimid O'Broin said...

Thanks for deciding to post the link. I lost my Internet access earlier this week and am still awaiting the repair. In the meantime, I confiscated my daughter's laptop today to try to catch up on posts. It goes without saying I miss the ability to check the blog daily and comment but until the computer god restores service I'm but a pitiful beggar for access, having to interrupt my daughter's incessant computer games, and relying on her generosity.
Not having daily access to the Net ain't much fun and I hope the situation is resolved next week, I guess I can't always get what I want but if I try sometime I get want I need or something like that. Thanks again.

Feilimid O'Broin said...

Thanks for deciding to post the link. I lost my Internet access earlier this week and am still awaiting the repair. In the meantime, I confiscated my daughter's laptop today to try to catch up on posts. It goes without saying I miss the ability to check the blog daily and comment but until the computer god restores service I'm but a pitiful beggar for access, having to interrupt my daughter's incessant computer games, and relying on her generosity.
Not having daily access to the Net ain't much fun and I hope the situation is resolved next week, I guess I can't always get what I want but if I try sometime I get want I need or something like that. Thanks again.

BlueNote97 said...

Thank you very much

beetee said...

great post. love all other players. the horn and the nice guitar. thanks for the effort

Mutha Klanger said...

to clear my own confusion above...

seems I was confusing another two songs with "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You".
one was Abbey Lincoln's version of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" from "You Gotta Pay The Band". the other was Alberta Hunter's version of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out"
on "Amtrak Blues".

i don't mind being this confused if it sends me back to listen to some good stuff :-)

bruce said...

i'm d/l'ing now.

THANKS!

moxnix said...

Just found this here and am intrigued, thank you for this, gonna give it a spin!

fluffyalbert said...

I was really pleased to see this posted, yet another gem on a gem of a site. Unfortunately your download traffic is exhausted so I will have to wait, thus I won't make a comment!

regards,
fluff

codeg said...

Hi KC, can you very kindly repost this link that is now dead?

KingCake said...

http://www56.zippyshare.com/v/KLSgbMGh/file.html

codeg said...

Many thanks KC, really kind of you!

codeg said...

Many thanks KC, really kind of you!

Brush&Stick said...

Thanks very much!

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