FEATURED ARTIST / S
|E L Coleman|
Sylvester Weaver Vol. 1 (1923-1927)
Sylvester Weaver, vocal, guitar, bottleneck-slide guitar, banjo.
With contributions by:
Sara Martin, vocal.
E.L Coleman, violin.
Charles Washington, banjo.
Harry B Withers, vocal
Genres: Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, Louisville Blues.
Informative booklet notes by Kieth Briggs
The term 'Guitar Hero' only came into vogue during the nineteen sixties and was used to describe blues guitarists or pop guitarists with a blues oriented style. Although blues have been played on, and accompanied by, a variety of instruments their relationship with the guitar has been pre-eminent in the mind of the general public since the nineteen twenties. From Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson through Robert Johnson to Elmore James and B. B. King the list of influential blues guitarists is a long one; it begins with Sylvester Weaver — the first guitar hero!
He began his recording career in 1923. That began with an accompaniment he lent to a recording by Sara Martin in October 1923. It was the first time a coloured guitarist had appeared on a blues recording. The record was successful and Martin, already an established star, continued to feature Weaver on her blues and gospel recordings for the next four years. Sara's record company, Okeh also took the opportunity to record Sylvester performing two numbers on his own and Guitar Blues and Guitar Rag. "Guitar Rag" was to prove one of the most influential guitar display pieces ever recorded. Sylvester cut it again in 1927 and it was picked up by the white duo Harvey and Johnson who recorded it in 1930. As "Steel Guitar Rag", played by Leon McAuliffe, it was recorded under Bob Wills name during the thirties to become a western swing standard. The loop was completed when Earl Hooker, who'd probably never heard of Sylvester Weaver, brought the number home to the blues with his 1953 version.
As a guitarist and banjo player he was extremely versatile; capable of supplying sympathetic backings for his own and other's vocals and producing instrumental fireworks, both alone and as part of a duet, either finger-picking or using his smooth, but not too sweet, slide style. Still working with Martin he returned to New York in 1924 and produced four more instrumental. Smoketown Strut was named after one of the black areas of Louisville while Mixing Them Up In C sounds like one of the titles Lonnie Johnson would have used. Johnson was one of the few well-known guitarists to remember Weaver personally and remarked that he was always impressed by his ability.
E. L. Coleman, “The Fiddling Sheik”, remains an obscure artist whose one appearance in a recording studio, in 1925, was probably arranged by either Weaver or Martin. It was during a session spread over several days in April 1927 that Weaver cut his first vocals, initially as part of a religious trio centred around Martin and later as a blues singer in his own right. At the same session he illustrated his versatility by performing two banjo numbers Damfino Stump — a damn fine stomp — and a further piece that had to wait until the 1970s before seeing release as “Weaver's Stomp” or Six-String Banjo Piece. His last recorded collaborations with Sara Martin took place during these same sessions resulting in one of her best numbers Black Hearse Blues which was issued under the name Sally Roberts.