TRIX 3312 – Roy Dunn: “Know’d Them All”

3312: Roy Dunn – “Know’d Them All”


Original LP and CD re-release

Atlanta, Georgia was always a major blues center, starting with Barbecue Bob or Peg Leg Howell in the ’20s, on to Curley Weaver, Blind Willie McTe|l, or Buddy Moss in the ’30s. Since then, blues musicians have continued to exist in the city, though the recording industry has mostly passed the area by (Billy Wright, and one or two others being the exceptions). The local country blues artists of the earlier era are remembered even today by the many unrecorded musicians in the city, as are a few others from outside the state (such as Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, and Lightnin’ Hopkins). One of the artists around Atlanta today is Roy Sidney Dunn, born April 13, 1922 in Eatonton, GA, a town in Putnam County, one of twelve children of Willie and Estelle Dunn. He moved to Kelly in Jasper County when near the age of nine – there he started messing around with the guitar, being first taught by one Jim Smith (the tunes being the expected “John Henry”, and later on “Move To Kansas City”). A later move to Covington put Roy in contact with Curley Weaver and Jonas Brown – it was the former that taught him to tune a guitar himself – who played at times then with fiddle-player Ollie Griffin and guitarist Cliff Lee. This was about 1935, and he stayed around Curley until 1938, when he left Newton Co. Music was definitely a part of the rather large Dunn family, and among the relatives so inclined were uncles Simon (gtr), Jerry (gtr, hca, pno, sax), Oscar (hca), and Steve (gtr), as well as his father and a few of his aunts. There definitely was some music around. Through the influence of his choir-leading father, a singing group was formed from the family, logically called the Dunn Brothers and made up of Roy, Fred, Oscar, and Edward. Quartet singing was to play an important part in Roy’s musical life, and its influence can be heard today in his excellent singing. On top of all this, there was the influence of the ubiquitous phonograph record – Blind Blake, Jimmie Rogers, Barbecue Bob, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Buddy Buy Hawkins, Willie Walker, and Lonnie Johnson are all older names well-remembered. More recently, the influences were the many Atlanta artists he heard, as well as records from Blind Boy Fuller, and Lightnln’ Hopkins. For some ten years, Roy traveled through the southern states, going into Alabama and Tennessee, and some further west – Atlanta was just a stopping-off place for these years. Much of the time on the road was with quartets, either traveling with a particular group or joining one in an area . . . among them were the All National Independents, the Victory Bond Spiritual Singers, the Rainbow Gospel Four (these two on guitar only), the Galilee Four, the Keystone Four, and the Golden Gospel Singers. When in Atlanta, he played often with Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver, or Buddy Moss (of the known artists) and he claims to have seen Blind Boy Fuller one time in the Atlanta area, a possibility pointed to by others. Among the “unknowns” that Roy has known or played with over the years are Paul McGuiness, Bunny Tiller, Glenn Gates (known as “Baltimore” and a cousin of the Rev.), Eddie Lee Johnson, Connie Jackson, Link Paul, “Bo Weavil”, “Popcorn”, William Jolly, Buddy Keith, R.W. Lawson, and Edward “Chicken” Knowles. One of the major talents of the man is not only his recall of the names of musicians, but also when and where he saw them last and often what kind of car they were driving! Rather an Atlanta encyclopedia with two legs. Roy settled back into the Atlanta area again about the time of the Korean War, staying with his parents who ran a cafe on the corner of Butler and Decatur Sts. He was there when Buddy Moss got back into town, but it was not too long afterwards that he [Roy] got into trouble and spent four years in jail for manslaughter, where he was made a trustee. In jail, he worked on his guitar technique, and also learned how to drive heavy equipment – this latter being useful after his release in 1960. Prior to this, he had been a peripatetic jack-of-all-trades, but now he was able to get steady work on the machines building highways through the central part of the state. Running the big stuff was the main thing, with music a weekend affair, until Christmas of I968 when a white lady plowed into the driver’s side of Roy’s car. He suffered a broken back, arms, collarbones, right leg and foot, and a skull fracture; his wife Myrtis had her jaw broken and her teeth knocked out, and their baby was killed. It took him a good year to recover from the damages, and since that time he and his wife (and four new children) have been subsisting on state disability payments and whatever else he can scrape from what light work that he can handle. Weak-limbed from all this, Roy has not been able to go back to construction work, though he has been able to play the guitar again – he still gets out to entertain his friends, often with some of these songs. Roy Dunn is an eclectic artist, a writer of a couple of good songs, a nice player of the guitar, and a marvelous singer. All his many influences show on this album, so give it a listen.  —————————————————————————————————————————————– SHE COOK CORNBREAD FOR HER HUSBAND – “And biscuits for her backdoor man”, to complete the phrase. A fine song about an unfaithful woman. (1) FURTHER ON DOWN THE LINE – Sort of an answer to the above tune. Note the percussive effects that Roy pulls on the guitar face. (3) EVERYTHING I GET AHOLD TO – This is sort of an auto-biographical protest song; you feel he means it. (5) C.C. RIDER – The classic song from the twenties, probably pushed through fellow Atlantan Chuck Willis’ hit of the fifties. (6) YOU’RE WORRYING ME – A Hopkins-like tale of that woman again. Giving further support to the chauvinism of blues! (2) LOST LOVER BLUES – A song from the Blind Boy Fuller song-book. He was one of the most popular artists in his day, and his songs survive in the hands of many. (4) STRANGER‘S BLUES – This one comes from the pen of Tampa Red, in all likelihood – it was also popular in its time. (4) MOVE TO KANSAS CITY – To finish the trio of “borrowed” material, this is from the late Jim Jackson‘s monster hit (as they say now). (1) RED CROSS STORE – I am not sure of the source of this one, though it may stem from Sonny Boy I; Roy has adapted this, especially with the reference to a southern chain of food stores. (2) DON’T TEAR MY CLOTHES – It was in Chattanooga that Roy met the great DeFord Bailey and learned this song from him – a harp solo with talk. (6) I CHANGED THE LOCK – She ain’t gonna make it back this time, brother! (6) PEARL HARBOR BLUES – An unexpected tune from the underrated Dr. Clayton (don’t tell that to B.B. King!) – a classic from the start of the Second World War. (1) MR. CHARLIE – What we have here is a re-make of Lightnin’ Hopkins ironically titled hit of a few years back. Roy has given it an original ending, though. (2) BACHELOR’S BLUES – This seems to have come from Atlanta great Buddy Moss, one of Roy’s friends and mentors. (2) MATCHBOX BLUES – A reworking of the old theme – it even survives the problem amp! (6) n.b. – Roy Dunn can also an heard on the following:                                                                                         Blues Come To Chapel Hill – Flyrlght 504 (1) Covington, GA – Aug 2, 1971                                                                                                       (2) Covington, GA – Aug 20, 1972                                                                                                    (3) Conyers, GA – Sep 20, 1972                                                                                                          (4) Conyers, GA – Oct 5, 1972                                                                                                            (5) Conyers, GA – Apr 10, 1972                                                                                                         (6) Atlanta, GA – Aug 13, 1974 Pete Lowry (1975)     contributor                                                                                                                                    Cadence =================================================================== After this album was released, Roy Dunn continued to live with his family in and around Atlanta, trying to fight off poverty with his disability payments. He recorded for Trix two more times (seven songs) since this album was released. Roy began to play coffee houses, festivals, and small clubs in Atlanta; he also moved onto the folk circuit a bit with the help of his friend Eric King. The musical jobs were sporadic, fulfilling to the soul if not the pocket. It was in a small club in Philadelphia that I saw him last, sometime in 1984 or so. He was his usual gregarious self, winning some more fans to his music. Roy died in March of 1988 in Atlanta and so went one of the few remaining ties to prewar Atlanta blues. This, his only album, is as complete a representation of the talents of Roy S. Dunn (a/k/a James Calvin Speed) as could be compiled, and his talents deserve another listening. Peter B. Lowry (1993)                                                                                                                        CD release                                                                                                                                      Cottekill, NY ———————————————————————————————————————— Roy was a very personable guy whose situation was in the region of poverty… not as severe as those in the rural areas of, say, Guitar Shorty in eastern NC, or Cecil Barfield (a/k/a William Robertson) in mid-southern GA… but he and his wife, Myrtis, and kids did not have it easy. Semi-frequent moves between Newton County and Atlanta often made it hard to track him down when I was in town. The handicaps that resulted from the injuries suffered in that car crash kept him from much meaningful work. Being poor in “America” is not fun and there are few safety nets available. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. The fifteen pieces on this album were taken from six sessions done over a four year span (1971-1974) at Roy’s home or that of friends in Covington, GA, or Atlanta, GA, or at my Holiday Inn room in Conyers, GA. There is one brief session later on. For more on Roy Dunn, see O & S #12. Trix 3312 Peter B. Lowry (2012)                                                                                                                             Sydney

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