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November 14, 2010

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Jesse Fuchs

Listener Kliph Nesteroff is too good and too prolific to be human. I think he's whatever species Winsor McCay was.

Nat

You're in a class of your own, bud. This is great for my "work" day today.

Jesse Fuchs

Other theory: a collective pseudonym, a la Nicolas Bourbaki.

P.S. The only thing missing from this otherwise exhaustive article: a link to my favorite Pigmeat song!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gErIpuANod4

If this sounds a little familiar, it's probably because it was sampled to good effect in DJ Shadow's "The Number Song".

Tony

Thanks SO much for this, was reading a piece on Bert Williams and this seemed a natural follow-up, a welcome taste of history.

furrball

Re The Magistrates' "Here Comes The Judge": Hands up all those of you who knew "the Magistrates" was the nom de vinyl of The Dovells ("Bristol Stomp").

Vic

It's just way too easy to sit comfortably in the 21st century and call some long-gone people Uncle Toms. No cultural critic in America today is regularly presented with the prospect of imminent violent death for just speaking up, so it takes extra gall to sit in judgment of the choices made by individual Negroes of 60-100 years ago.

The one thing I'm sure of is that it's a lot more complicated... A fictional incident that nicely sums up the contradictions around racist imagery AND economic class divisions among Negroes (the forgotten element here) is that section of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man where the main character finds, breaks, and attempts to dispose of the racist knick-knack in his black landlady's house. Try to get to the bottom of that one...

Best wishes on more great articles (including this one!), Kliph!

Michael Powers

Can't resist chiming in that I imagine it wasn't being Uncle Toms that persuaded Bert Williams and George Walker to don blackface, it was daunting economic necessity coupled with a substantially different view of blackface itself than what we harbor today. Believe it or not, this was a time, lasting in the south all the way up until the Civil Rights Act in 1965 and slightly beyond, in which black people really were viewed as being less than human, with separate bathrooms, eateries, water fountains, and so on. The times in which Williams and Walker lived were so dreadfully desperate, terrifyingly dangerous, and comprehensively different from anything that we even remotely know today that we are simply unable to conceive of what it must have been like for these daring trailblazers, despite Williams' stunning talent, to attempt to break into show business' upper reaches.

Also, we should factor in that blackface was probably widely regarded at the time as being something closely akin to today's white clown makeup, which matches some of the descriptions noted in this superbly valuable article pretty closely. If we start to perceive it that way, we're probably veering much closer to the mainstream perception of the time despite the existence of some newspaper and magazine articles sensibly objecting to the practice. (Don't misunderstand, of course I'm certainly not approving of or advocating blackface, I'm merely trying to imagine the tenor of that time.)

This is another fine article that will become definitive because of the way it's written. Writing this diverting to read is always hard to find anywhere (another consistently stellar online example remains Mark Evanier's website), and that goes quintuple for online.

Brian Phillips

Absolutely wonderful article, as always from Mr. Nesteroff. However, there needs to be some clarification to the third footnote.

Here Comes the Judge by Pigmeat Markham, Here Come Da Judge by the Buena Vistas, Here Comes the Judge by Shorty Long and Here Comes the Judge by the Magistrates (The Dovells) all have Markham to thank for their inspiration. They are four different songs by four separate sets of writers. The Ventures' song is a cover of the Shorty Long song, so in that list, there is one cover and three knock-offs. No one in that list directly covered Markham's song.

By the way, one thing that should be mentioned is Markham's act certainly would not play now, however, does anyone else see a connection between Markham hitting people over the head with a bladder and Homey D. Clown from "In Living Color" whacking folks over the head with his sock?

- Brian Phillips, "The Electro-Phonic Sound of Brian Phillips"

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