An Expat Life: Nicaragua Blues and Ruse
Monday, June 4, 2007
Monday Morning Blues # 9
(playing a little blues between cooking up some pulled pork sandwiches)
Hungry? Good, because I'm offering you some Barbecue........Barbecue Bob, that is. Robert Hicks, aka Barbecue Bob, was born in Walton County (Walnut Grove), Georgia in 1902. Famous for entertaining guests at Tidwell's Restaurant in the 1920s, Bob earned a great nickname, as well as a reputation for playing some of the finest blues in the Atlanta area. Bob's brother, 'Laughing' Charley Lincoln recorded some records as well, but never achieved the amount of notoriety, in life nor death. Both men probably learned their craft from the mother of Curly Weaver (Savannah 'Dip' Weaver) in Newton county in the late teens and early 20s, before heading to Atlanta.
Although I'm partial to McTell (see Monday Morning Blues #3 here) when it comes to the Atlanta sound, there is really no one that sounds like BBQ Bob. Like fellow Georgian McTell, Bob brandished a Stella 12-string, yet while McTell, and others (notably Leadbelly) utilized heavier strings, tuned down from concert pitch, Mr. Hicks went lighter. His tuning/guitar setup is truly mysterious, as some think he removed the 2 bass strings on the 5th and 6th course, to get the violent bass strum that harkens to the Delta sound, yet is altogether different.
10 or 12 strings, it's not really important. What is important is the unique rhythm and sound that Bob gets out of his Stella. Listen to 'She Shook Her Gin', basically his take on 'Shake That Thing', complete with his trademark guitar thump turnaround. My personal favorite though, has to be the self effacing ode, 'Barbecue Blues', a story of unrequited love from a man that 'ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls' to his 'brown' that done him wrong. His vocal delivery is particularly interesting and captivates the listener. A prime example of this is his clever use of metaphor in the 'Black Skunk Blues'. Listen as he explains the dangers of interracial, or 'mixed' dating in 1920s Atlanta.
Alas, fame was short-lived for the culinary bluesman from Newton county, as he contracted pneumonia brought on by influenza, dying shortly thereafter in 1931 before his 30th birthday. Fortunately for his music, it lives on today in his well-preserved sides, 65 of 68 have been preserved and can be heard for the most part on 'Chocolate to the Bone' and 'The Essential Barbecue Bob'. I gravitate back to his music for many reasons, but above all, for his expressive voice and unique 12 string setup/playing. It doesn't hurt that he's a fellow Georgian.....I guess I'm just sittin' here in Managua this morning with 'Georgia on my mind'