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BluesMuse 7. Sylvester Weaver and Sebastopol tuning

If you think blues is purely African American, think
again. Influences on the genre come from many countries and many creeds. Take
the first two blues guitar recordings ever made, for example,‘Guitar Blues’
and ‘Guitar Rag’. These instrumentals were recorded in New York in 1923 by a
26-year old African American from Kentucky called Sylvester Weaver. According
to the former editor of America’s Guitar Player magazine, Jas Obrecht, Weaver’s bluesy Guitar Rag
was played, “with gusto in Vastopol tuning”.
The term Vastopol tuning is said to have been coined in New Orleans after musicians there heard Russian sailors from the
Black Sea port of Sebastopol playing guitars in open D tuning. ‘Sebastopol’, now
in the Ukraine, was also the name of a popular nineteenth century guitar instrumental in open D
which inspired the tuning’s bastardised American name.
Sarah Martin and Sylvester Weaver.

As for Sylvester Weaver, he was discovered by blues
diva Sarah Martin. As their record label, OKeh, put it in a press advertisement
back in 1923: “Sara Martin discovered the clever idea of making recordings with
a guitar accompaniment, and the first records of this kind put out have made
remarkable impressions in all parts of the country. Sylvester Weaver plays his
guitar in a highly original manner, which consists chiefly of sliding a knife up
and down the strings while he picks with the other hand. His guitar solos, No.
8109, are having wide sales.”

Weaver recorded his solo tracks a month after
accompanying Sarah Martin on ‘Longing for Daddy Blues’. Also recorded in New
York, the record was a milestone in blues recording for other important
This was the first time any singer had
been backed solely by a guitarist;
and also the first ever recording of an acoustic guitarist playing blues.
Weaver’s solo tracks soon afterward
also have the distinction of being
the first unaccompanied recording by a black artist and the first to feature
bottleneck guitar playing.
Listen now to the first guitar blues record ever recorded, Guitar Blues, on the link below. 


Now, here’s Sylvester Weaver with Guitar Rag, a song that was covered as Steel Guitar Rag by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in the 1930s. 


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