“The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter (1925-1930)”: the true fabricated history of Hezekiah Procter

Let’s be transparent because Andrew McClelland, known as Li’l Andy, is. Hezekiah Fortescue Procter never existed, it was Li’l Andy who invented him, who tells the story of him and embodies him. It is Li’l Andy and his band who interpret and play his songs, almost all written and composed by Li’l Andy himself, in the style of the time. That said, if Li’l Andy had wanted to do it to us, we’d have every reason to believe that a great pioneer of American popular music was miraculously plucked out of limbo.

“I thought about it,” smiles Li’l Andy at home. go after a joke ? No doubt she would have resisted, at a time when truth and falsehood are just a click away on the Internet. No one would have suspected such investigative work. I spent almost 10 years on it! — with footnotes and an absolutely truthful context, no more than the recordings made with the technology of the time. But I found it more interesting to clearly show my approach. It becomes a commentary on the time, today and then, we measure the credible in relation to the verifiable.

Hezekiah Procter in crisis

Tout est vrai dans le roman de Li’l Andy qui accompagne l’album, y buy l’incroyable histoire du soulèvement ouvrier de 1929 à la filature Loray Mills de Gastonia, in Caroline du Nord, seule et unique grève nommément communiste, réprimée dans the blood. Li’l Andy involves the Procter family. “Let a Hezekiah assume the role of a committed minstrel, having sung the Roebuck catalog and the virtues of the automobile [Get Behind the Wheel of an Auto-Mobile !] nothing extraordinary. Even a staunch Woody Guthrie trumpeted to the government the great progress the Hoover Dam represented. You had to earn a living.

Contrary to the impression one gets when looking Jazz WhereCountry, Ken Burns’ documentaries on American music, not everything has been said, shown, heard. There is no definitive story. There are common threads in many stories, that’s all.

In truth, Hezekiah have existed everywhere. There are many musicians who have carried their little joy with them and have gone through many misfortunes, with some popular songs and some of their own as luggage, a guitar, a banjo, a violin, an accordion on their shoulders, in the ” medicine shows and other forms of popular amenity throughout the United States in the 1910s and 1920s. Some even had the opportunity, like Procter, to immortalize a handful of melodies, choruses, anthems, even blues, ragtime: this was done at the discretion of collectors tours of new talent, sent by industry newcomers to the record with their makeshift crew, beginning with the ” wire recorder “, small device whose prospectus praised the “electronic memory”.

composite portrait

So we get The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter (1925-1930)), or all the “rediscovered” recordings of this great forgotten artist: 18 titles on steel wire. A bit of everything: religious and secular, happy and vindictive, melancholic and… advertising. The 128 pages of the documentary novel are as exciting as those, official and famous, dedicated in other works to Jimmie Rodgers, Robert Johnson or Hank Williams. And no less true, we see. Contrary to the impression one gets from looking Jazz WhereCountry, Ken Burns’ documentaries on American music, not everything has been said, shown, heard. There is no definitive story. There are common threads in many stories, that’s all. »

His Hezekiah is in this an archetype, or better, a crossroads of destinies. “In all of these stories, there are collections of 78 that resurface and reveal recordings and artists that we didn’t know existed. There is almost always a disease in the narrative thread, which justifies a bad musician making songs because he can’t do anything else. There is almost always a passage through the church. Invariably there comes a time when a certain amount of success leads to exploitation of the artist by the record industry and promoters. There is almost always a tragic ending, or a moment where you lose track of the artist. It’s the investigative side that comes back. So there are only four “photos” of Procter, almost as rare as the three of Robert Johnson. Photographer Paul Elter has created true ” tintypes », unique photos on metal, to transform Li’l Andy into Hezekiah.

To all the forgotten musicians…

None of this would interest us for long if the songs weren’t so perfectly done: we want to learn more because the melodies really do seem to spring from the past. The box also offers analog versions, on magnetic tape, in stereo. We can compare, for fun, and then hit the road with a “beautiful” sound. ” The wire recordings they’re not cut out for travel…” agrees Li’l Andy. “I did all this to get out of myself, and it also allowed me to live through the pandemic without realizing it too much: I was Hezekiah Procter, I was somewhere else. Realize that the artist’s destiny has not changed that much. That is why the novel is dedicated “to all the forgotten musicians, of yesterday and tomorrow”. Him included.

The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter (1925-1930)

Li’l Andy albums and novel, available in various formats

to see on video

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