selection from the cover of Mississippi Records' recent Abner Jay release
Folk music is high class music--of course a lot of low class people singin' it. Matter of fact, most so-called folk singers don't even look like folk. Folk songs tell true stories, but terrible stories--'cause folk are terrible. Terrible songs make big songs. Why do you think kids like rock 'n' roll ? Because it's terrible. You think they're gonna listen to the Philadelphia Symphony, 101 Strings? Why do you think I like cocaine?
Tomorrow we will write more extensively about Abner Jay (1921-1996), a multifaceted musician and artist--and the self-proclaimed "last great Southern black minstrel show." His music (and his life story) was complicated and unconventional, but also singularly brilliant.
Here Chris Campion of the Guardian writes of Mr. Jay:
Rather than cocaine, he used to claim that the secret of his eternal youth and vitality was lying on his belly drinking water scooped out of the Suwannee River in his home state of Georgia. And at least two of his albums (privately-pressed and released on his label Brandie, named after his wife) feature a photograph of him doing just that, along with the tracklisting, which he customarily scrawled over it in marker pen.
Jay was himself born near the source of one of the tributaries of the river in Irwin County, Georgia (in 1921). He started performing in medicine shows at the age of 5. In 1932 he moved on, to the Silas Green show, a travelling minstrel show and vaudeville revue that had also once employed Bessie Smith. Aged 14, he became a one-man band.
Enjoy these two selections from The True Story of Abner Jay, an earlier record re-released by Mississippi Records: