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Lead Belly

 

Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter (1888-1949) is regarded as one of America’s greatest and most influential folk musicians. Lead Belly and his recordings have been the touchstone and inspiration for thousands of musicians, painters, sculptors, writers and just plain folk. Born before recordings,

Lead Belly’s career spanned the era of minstrel shows, the Blues craze of the 1920’s, and the dawn of the singer/songwriter. He was musically influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson, the most popular solo blues guitarist/vocalist of the 1920’s and his musical and personal influences on Woody Guthrie helped form the way in which all American singer/songwriters write and play to this day. Lead Belly’s repertoire was as varied as a solo musician could hope to encompass.

 

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Lead Belly Single Song Downloads


Bourgeois Blues
Level: 3
Tuning: Standard

"The Bourgeois Blues" is a blues song by American folk and blues musician Lead Belly. It was written in June 1937 in response to the discrimination and segregation that Lead Belly faced during a visit to Washington, DC to record for Alan Lomax. It rails against racism, the Jim Crow laws, and the conditions of contemporary African Americans in the southern United States.

The song was recorded in December 1938 for the Library of Congress and re-recorded in 1939 for commercial release. It has been covered by a number of artists including Pete Seeger, Ry Cooder and Billy Bragg.

Taught by Harry Lewman.

 



Fannin Street
Level: 3
Tuning: Standard

One of Lead Belly’s best-known songs. Also recorded under the title “Mr. Tom Hughes Town”. A tour de force of twelve string playing. Played in the key of E with a rolling bass figure and a strong dynamic right hand approach.

The story told is that Lead Belly went to Shreveport, Louisiana in his father's wagon - his father taking produce to sell in the city. Apparently, his father made Huddie lie down in the wagon while he was passing the houses of ill-repute that flourished on Fannin Street in the early 1900s. Tom Hughes was the Sheriff of Caddo Parish (Shreveport is the main town) from 1916 to 1940.Leadbelly's uncle,

Terrel Ledbetter, taught his nephew to play accordion and later guitar. Leadbelly was soon playing at local parties—as well as on Shreveport's Fannin Street, a notorious red-light district, despite his mother's protests.

Taught by Harry Lewman.




Good Morning Blues
Level: 3
Tuning: Standard

The song "Good Morning Blues" was written by Lead Belly and was first released in 1941. It has been recorded by many artists from Count Basie to Van Morrison. And in Lead Belly’s own words:

Now this is the blues
There was a white man had the blues
Thought it was nothing to worry about
Now you lay down at night
You roll from one side of the bed to the other all
Night long
Ya can't sleep, what’s the matter; the blues has gotcha
Ya get up you sit on the side of the bed in the mornin'
May have a sister a mother a brother n a father around
But you don't want no talk out of em
What’s the matter; the blues has gotcha
When you go in put your feet under the table look down
At ya plate got everything you wanna eat
But ya shake ya head you get up you say "Lord I can't
Eat I can't sleep what’s the matter"
The blues gotcha
Why not talk to ya
Tell what you gotta tell it

Taught by Harry Lewman.




Goodnight Irene
Level: 2
Tuning: Standard

This is a folk standard, meaning no one knows who wrote it. Leadbelly's version has become the most widely recognized. Most recorded versions are much tamer than Lead Belly's original, with the line "I'll get you in my dreams" replaced with "I'll see you in my dreams."

In 1950, one year after Leadbelly died, this was a #1 hit for the folk group The Weavers. Other artists to record the song include Ry Cooder, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, The Chieftains, Tom Waits and Peter, Paul and Mary.

Taught by Harry Lewman.


 




Midnight Special
Level: 2
Tuning: Standard

According to folk music historian Alan Lomax as documented in the book “Folk Song USA”, the “Midnight Special” was a real train: The Southern Pacific Golden Gate Limited. A traditional folk song, Lead Belly popularized it upon his release from Sugar Land prison in Texas, where he could hear the Midnight Special come through. In the song, the light of the train gives the inmates hope: if it shines on them, they take it as a sign they will soon go free.

Taught by Harry Lewman.


 

 




Silver City Bound
Level: 3
Tuning: Standard

Lead Belly first recorded “Silver City Bound” in 1948. It is played in the key of C with a descending treble line in the opening measures. Pete Seeger remembers Lead Belly also playing the arrangement in D position.

It has been covered by many artists from Nina Simone to Mance Lipscomb to Happy Traum.

Taught by Harry Lewman.





Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Level: 2
Tuning: Standard

"In the Pines", also known as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and "My Girl", is a traditional American folk song originating from two songs, "In the Pines" and "The Longest Train", both of whose authorship is unknown and date back to at least the 1870s. The songs originated in the Southern Appalachian area of the United States in the contiguous areas of Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia.
Versions of the song have been recorded by many artists in numerous genres, but it is most often associated with American bluegrass musician Bill Monroe and American Blues musician Lead Belly, both of whom recorded very different versions of the song in the 1940s and 1950s.

A version of the song performed by The Four Pennies reached the UK top-twenty in 1964. A live performance by the American grunge band Nirvana reinterpreted Lead Belly's version and was recorded during their MTV Unplugged performance in 1993.

Taught by Harry Lewman.

 



You Know I Got To Do It
Level: 3
Tuning: Standard

A full workout for your left hand. The arrangement is filled with piano boogie bass licks. Played in the key of A.

Taught by Harry Lewman.