Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Rolling Jelly Series (3): More On Songwriting

In the first -- and admittedly way too long -- installment of the Rolling Jelly series, I recounted some of what Jelly Roll Morton had to say about authorship and intellectual property issues. There is one footnote on that from Alan Lomax's 1949 interviews with other New Orleans musicians who knew Morton and his mileu.

Lomax asked Johnny St. Cyr about Morton's songwriting. St. Cyr says that, yes, Morton wrote "Wolverine" and was playing it way back in 1906, well before it was published, as well as "Whining Boy." Lomax also asked about "Tiger Rag:" “Jelly Roll seaid that he developed that tune.”

St. Cyr replied a little evasively that the Dixieland Jazz Band and was the first outfit he heard playing it, supposed to be there number. Lomax pursued this and St. Cyr said:
Well, I’ll tell ya. Those boys, they learned their instruments down here, and they picked up pretty much, their numbers from parts from differetn numbers down here, made up thee tunes. That Tiger Rag was nobody’s particular melody. It was a combination of several different melodies they picked up and just put ‘em together.
Kind of remind me off Blind Willie McTell explaining that for "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," which he suggested he'd written over a few-year period, "I had to steal music from every which a-way to get it, get it to fit."

<-- Part 2 / Part 4-->