seems only yesterday that the esteemed blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, Bonnie
Rait, forked out the cash to put a headstone on the unmarked grave of an equally-esteemed
female blues artist from earlier times. This was the great Memphis Minnie (1897
– 1973), that pioneering singer-songwriter who Big Bill Broonzy once said could
play the guitar as well as any man, and better than most. And Bill should know.
Minnie once beat him in a guitar playing competition.
|Some say this is Casey Bill Weldon also|
Rait paid for Minnie’s gravestone nearly 20 years ago, back in 1996? Come to
think of it, Janis Joplin did the same for Bessie Smith (1894 – 1937) in 1970,
and that seems like only yesterday to some of us, too.
|A rare image of Bill Weldon|
of Kansas City are doing the same for Memphis Minnie’s first husband, Casey
Bill Weldon, one of the pioneers of the slide guitar. One of the organisers is
Jason Vivone, leader of the renowned Kansas City blues and roots band, the Billy
Bats, who will be appearing at a special benefit concert in Kansas City on Friday, 4 April 2014.
event is part of the Killer Blues Headstone Project which has put headstones on the unmarked graves over some 25 blues pioneers. and they’ll be raising funds to
provide Casey Bill Weldon’s unmarked grave with a headstone, so if you’re in
the area, don’t miss it.
Friday 4 April 2014.
Bar & Grill
at www.killerblues.net but be sure to write Casey Bill in the message line when
making your contribution. So who
exactly was Casey Bill Weldon? The name Casey is said to stand for K.C. – Kansas
City – even though Bill was thought to be born in Arkansas in 1909. His confusing story has recently been brought to light by Kansas City blues historian, Jim O’Neil who founded Living Blues magazine. Apparently, Weldon had two legal names, the other being Nathan Hammond, and also claimed to have been born in Kansas City, such were his connections with the area.
Like many early bluesmen, Bill Weldon/Nathan Hammond started playing in America’s travelling medicine shows, first recording in
1927, with what would become the Memphis Jug Band. Known as the Hawaiian Guitar
Wizard, Weldon played, unusually, with a blues-style National steel resonator guitar on his
lap rather than a traditional Hawaiian guitar. As well as recording more than
60 sides solo, he also cut records with the Hokum Boys, formed by Tampa Red and
Georgia Tom and produced by Lester Melrose in Chicago. Here’s a great track by
Casey Bill Weldon from 1937.