Folklorist, ethnomusicologist and musician Alan Lomax once said, "You can't kill off a culture until you kill the last person who carries it." That statement resonates deep within Tom Feldmann as for nearly half his life he has carried on the traditions of the acoustic country blues and gospel music recorded in the 1920's and 30's.
Minnesota native Tom Feldmann taught himself to play guitar at age 17 after hearing the recordings of the pioneers of acoustic country blues and states, "Mississippi John Hurt taught me to pick, Fred McDowell taught me to play slide and the mighty Son House taught me to sing." His debut solo album was released in 1999 and Tom has since spent the years writing, touring and recording his own original gospel compositions as well as carrying on the tradition of solo acoustic country blues.
Over the last few years, Tom has shifted the focus of his attention from his own writing to the music of the many legendary bluesmen that inspired him to pick up the guitar all those years ago. This journey has resulted in a series of CD's, starting with Tribute (2010) and now continues with Lone Wolf Blues (2012). It also resulted in a string of instructional DVD's for Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop that have received rave reviews and distribution around the world.
Frank Stokes grew up playing the Blues before WWI, when it was just an obscure local folk music from the north of the Mississippi Delta. His tremendous voice and skillful guitar work helped to popularize the Blues as he toured all over the South in Doc Watts Medicine Show, provided entertainment at parties and fish-fries where he was invited to play, and 'busking' in the streets for spare change. Before recording or broadcasting, wandering players like Frank were the only way the Blues could be heard outside its home environment, and when he did get a chance to make records, the quality of his work shone through.
Frank played in Jack Kelly's Jug Busters, as the Jug Band craze took hold in the 1920s. Together with Dan Sane they became known as 'The Beale Street Sheiks', sometimes adding Will Betts on fiddle, and often being invited to play for white audiences. He recorded 38 sides for Paramount and Victor, including his blend of blues, ragtime, minstrel tunes, and popular songs which made his repertoire one of the most interesting of its time. He possessed a remarkable voice and was an skillful guitarist. His recordings influenced guitarists and blues singers across the South. With the arrival of the Great Depression and the decrease in recording opportunities, Stokes and Sane went back to playing street corners, occasional circuses, and traveling shows. He passed away September 12, 1955.
In this lesson Tom Feldmann teaches the ins and outs of 10 classic Frank Stokes arrangements in C, D, A, G and E positions. This a great lesson for players of all levels looking to build a repertoire of blues and good-time tunes.
A detailed tab/music booklet is included as a PDF file on the DVD. In addition the original recordings of all the tunes are included.
Titles include:Take Me Back, Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do, I Got Mine, How Long, Mr. Crump Don't Like It, Stomp That Thing, Memphis Rounders Blues, Bedtime Blues, Sweet To Mama, Mistreatin' Blues
83 minutes - Level 2 - Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: For being the crowned "Creator of Memphis Blues," Frank Stokes never really gets his rightful ovation. His fame is not of the everybody-knows-your-name kind. Nevertheless, he was dutifully there, already hustling on the city's streets and back-country fish fries not long after the 1900s dawned. Then helping Doc Watts Medicine Show whoop it up, and eventually beating the Mississippi Sheiks onto record, by three years, with his own Beale Street Sheiks, the fruitful partnership with second guitarist Dan Sane. That was all prior to 1930. Having died by 1955, however, meant missing out on any firsthand chances to fire up folks during the blues revival, to be a comeback darling of the 1960s festival circuits, much as did the subsequently more recognized Furry Lewis. Fortunately though, Tom Feldmann studiously caught Stokes Fever. And it's such an easy one to catch - given the music's straightforwardness, easily managed chord progressions and overall goodtime contagiousness - that you and he breeze through "Stomp That Thing,""Mr. Crump Don't Like It," and eight other zoomers. And zoomers they are: Stokes' lively approach typically relies upon three chords and a cloud of dust. Even stuffed to the brim with creatively aching lyrics, no amount of emotional burden is going to derail their sweeping sense of linear motion. So let "Mistreatin' Blues" coil its worrying grip. Allow "Take Me Back" to desperately plead away. Because beneath, pick and pluck campaigns rally so undeterred that you're shielded by strings that zip and hop along without a hint of worry. - Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag
Review: "One of the great things about learning Frank Stokes's music" says Tom Feldman in his introduction, "is that once you've learned the first verse and the intro, then you've pretty much got the song well learned." Ten songs are taught in this 83-minute DVD , including Take Me Back, Stomp That Thing, Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do, Memphis Rounders Blues and (surprising recent McDonalds advert soundtrack) I Got Mine. Standard tuning is deployed throughout, with frequent use of a capo in the C, D, G, A and E fingering positions. Stokes's music, while relatively simple, has an inherent swing and bounce that Feldman captures and transmits perfectly. The Frank Stokes DVD is eminently suitable for all ability levels. The DVD features the usual Guitar Workshop high-standard split-screen camera angles and includes a PDF booklet of the tablature and notation, plus bonus audio sections with all the original recordings. - Steve Hunt/fRoots
Review: This Tom Feldman DVD furthers the cause featuring the guitar work of Frank Stokes, whose songs with The Beale Street Sheiks qualify as Jug Band style material too. They were just a two guitar duo, and Tom is teaching Frank's parts, I guess Dan Sane would be another lesson, and not so many guys are trying to learn second guitar. Feldman is a really good teacher! Stokes' playing reminds me of Mississippi John Hurt's, but maybe a little simpler, at least on the first song taught, "Take Me Back." One of Frank's tunes taught here, "I Got Mine," is a stone classic top of the line Country Blues/Ragtime piece. Actually, he may have others, it's usually a mistake to assume a guy only had one really good song in him! In fact Geoff Muldaur remodeled another of his pieces (not taught here), "Downtown Blues," and recorded it at least a couple times, once with the Kweskin Jug Band. The same pattern is followed as all the others we've reviewed by Tom Feldman. This time I went and listened to the original Beale Street Sheiks tracks first - Tom encourages folks to go listen to them before getting to his split screen slow play of the songs, so they could aim for the feel on the original track in their own playing. If you're learning to play Country Blues, you really should have already picked up one of Tom Feldman's DVDs, or others from the Guitar Workshop! Never too late to start, if you haven't! On this one you can learn licks in 5 different keys - C, D, A, G and E. It bears repeating that this DVD also includes a PDF file with the tablature for the guitar parts, and the lyrics to all the songs. Another of the songs, "Mr. Crump Don't Like It," is really ripe for a contemporary rewrite with the name of a certain Republican Presidential candidate. Considering he owns (or did own) a Casino, it needs new words. You'd think someone would have attempted this already, but I haven't heard it. Check this stuff out! - Marc Bristol/Blue Suede News