Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Arrogance and the Proverbial Woodshed

This post is not about white males. But it is about a particular white male, recognizing that there others like him. Beyond him, it's about a subject that we really don't want to discuss--about black music and the people who straight-up stole it, about cultural innovators who were nothing less than geniuses, about cultural expropriators who,were, essentially, nothing more than thieves. Shall we?

A white male friend came up to the table where the daddy was having coffee with several other black guys. Now, this guy is like several white male “friends” of mine. They see me hanging out with a bunch of brothers, come over for coffee and conversation. That’s cool. It’s a public place. But instead of asking how people are doing joining in the conversation, they sit down and immediately change the conversation to a subject with which they are familiar, and about which is obscure or about which they think the rest of the group nothing or little. “Hey, have you guys heard of Bill Haley? He was into rock and roll guy. He was great! Man, the guy could play anything."

So what’s bothering the daddy about this? After all, in and of itself, sitting down at a table with folks you don’t know very well and promptly changing the subject is not so bad. The daddy can work with that. But to bring up something out of nowhere that you think others know little or nothing solely for the purpose of lecturing a discussion group strikes the daddy as dishonest and self-centered. But wait. There’s more.

This particular guy has done this before; and the daddy has noticed a pattern-- that he only "chats" to us black folks about sports or music, but some aspect of sports or music that he thinks we don't know about, usually sports or music before the sixties. You see, apparently, if a sports activity occurred before Michael Jordan, black people don't know about it. And, if music was played before James Brown, black folks don’t know about that either. So, as far as this guy is concerned, for the daddy and his homies, music begins with “I feel good” and ends with Fitty at the candy shop. And what a perfect opportunity for the white boy/expert to wax poetic to the maddening, unwashed, black crowd at the yuppie coffee shop.

School is in session, alright, because, you see, the daddy comes from a musical family (gospel, blues, and jazz) from way, and because the daddy, in no uncertain terms, took this arrogant white expert and homie-wanna-be to the inner-city, proverbial watershed.

Arrogant white boy expert:

“Have you guys heard of Bill Haley? He was great. Man, he could…”

The daddy:

"You’re talking about Bill Haley and the Comets. He was born in Highland Park, Michigan in 1925, the day my daddy was born, I think. He tried to play country and western and swing music in Michigan. But them folks said, “Man, get that shi out of here.

Before hooking with three other dudes to make the Comets, he was in a group called the Four Aces. Then, he met this dude that was a producer for the Decca label, who told him to cut that swing shit out, that young white teenagers were ready for what they called jungle beats but their parents didn’t want their daughters dancing around black men. But they'll go for the jungle beat, if a white guy does it. He told him to go find some black music.

That’s how he came to make “Man Crazy,” which was the first so-called rock and roll record to make the billboard charts. But it was straight-up black music. But after his success with Man Crazy, he went whole hog, so to speak, and did nothing but black music. That’s how he came to make “Shake, rattle, and roll,” “See you later, alligator, and “Rock around the clock tonight.” He faded rom the scene around 1957, when younger, more exciting guys came along like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lewis, and when racist, white American media finally let white girls go to shows where black men were performing like Little Richard and Chuck Berry. and Chubby Checker.

You know: Instead of talking about Haley, you should talk about the guy the main guy Haley got his music from: Big Joe Turner. Big Joe was the real thing. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, grew up singing in the church and on the streets for tip. He was the first one to make “shake, rattle, and roll,” “rock around the clock tonight,” “Flip, flop, and fly,” songs Haley recorded.

By the way, today is Big Joe Turner's birthday. He was born on May 18, 1925. You got anything to add?"

The white expert said he had to get going. Everyone at the table smiled and said, “Have a good one.”

The daddy will feel bad about this tomorrow…honest!


Anonymous said...

My only comment on this one....WE WHITE FOLKS need to get into our own cultures....Amazing what I/we do not know...Be grateful for the wealth of your lived experience, macDaddy....Sounds as if you got music breathed into you from a very early age....

Nun in the Hood said...

The above comment was from nun in the 'Hood....

MacDaddy said...

nun: It's funny, the more I study other cultures, the more I learn how much my own has been devalued except, of course, unless it has been used for commercial purposes...I'm trying to deepen my understanding of others so I would do to their culture what has been done to mine. I have a lot to learn. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


MacDaddy said...

Hi, anon: I checked Wilkipedia and All That Jazz, and they said Big Joe Turner died in November of 1985. There's a Big Joe Williams, a very good nine string blues guitarist. He died in 1903. And there's Joe Williams, a great blues and jazz singer. He died in 1999. So, unless I hear something different, I'm going to stick with November of 1985 date. But let me know if you find something different, okay?

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Hmmm. Not surprising. Ya gotta admit, the guy had balz. . . well, maybe he was just stupid.

Having an MA in Cultural Studies. . . and I don't mean classicla music and impressionist art (you'd be surprised ho many people think that), I have a certain appreciation for cultures that blend and produce new things. It all starts with someone ripping off something from the other culture I guess.
That being said, it is imperitive that culture thieves declare where they get their material. There is a local artist that does complete rips of southern Mexican and Guatemalan painting. He is hailed as an original locally and has been passing his hack bullshit off for years. . . but that's another long story I could rant about.
Yea, white people do that shit.. . also a lot of wannabes.

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: That word "wannabe" rings true about this guy. Maybe he was trying to fit in. If so, trying to prove one's vast knowledge of another people's culture, trying to prove he or she knows more about the culture than the people sitting with him or her is a strange way to do it. But you're probably right. In his own way, he was trying to fit in.

I know you've studied other cultures. In my anthropology and sociology classes, I and other classmates were told to approach other cultures with a question attitude, and not with a superior attitude. I think he missed those suggestions. Thanks for the insight.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Absolutely true MacD. I have learned to approach as an inquisitive observer and learner.
The trick is to be quiet and hear what they really think and feel, not just some bullshit in response to some lame question.
But damn I love hangin out with people that have a different view of the world from where I come from every day, be it folks who live down the road from me or across a continent. For some reason I always have been intrigued by people different or from different places than I. I even find white people from different parts of the country interesting. . . how's that for sick?

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: Well said. My friends are the true rainbow coalition: All colors, genders and sexual preferences.
Anon: The Big Joe you're talking about must be another person. The Big Joe Turner, the one out of Kansas City, the one they called "the boss of the blues," died in November of 1985. If you look again, you'll see a picture of his gravestone. But i'll ask a couple of my blues friends if they know of another Big Joe besides Big Joe Williams and Joe Williams. Stay in touch.