Josh White

by Amanda Guyer, UNC Asheville Student

 


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White, Josh

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Full name: Joshua Daniel White

Other names: Tippy Barton; Pinewood Tom; The Singing Christian

Born: Feb. 11, 1914 or 1915, in Greenville, SC
(some sources incorrectly list his birthplace as Greensboro, NC)

Died: Sept. 5, 1969, Manhasset, NY

Instrument: Guitar (and vocals)

Biographical Sketch

His father, Dennis White, was a preacher, and his mother, Daisy Elizabeth Humphrey, sang in local church choirs. Josh was one of eight children, and as a child sang in the church choir (Church of God in the Saints of Christ Church). As he grew older, he dropped out of school to work with various street singers throughout the southeastern United States. He sang with Blind Blake, Blind Lemon, Willie Walker, and Blind Joe Taggart -- with whom he recorded with -- and these musicians were his major influences in music. White recorded blues, religious songs, and folk music. He was a great technician on the guitar, had a strong and dramatic voice, and exuded a great deal of sex appeal. During the first half of his life he was an important blues artist in the Piedmont style and played primarily in the South. As White's music began to progress and his musical tastes grew he felt the need to move to the northern urban areas. He loved show business, so the second half of his life he moved up North to play in coffee shops and enjoy the exciting life of the burgeoning folk scene. Although he lived the city life, he never lost touch with his roots and always used them to better his life and his experiences. Near the end of his life, he began writing protest songs dealing with racial discrimination and war. He is most remembered today for his songs of social activism including "One Meatball", "Jim Crow Train", and "Welfare Blues."

Books

Bastin, Bruce. Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast. Urbana: University of Illinois Press,

Cohn, Lawrence.  Nothing But the Blues.  New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1993.

Harris, Sheldon. Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers.  New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1979.

Jones, Leroi. Blues People.  NY: William Morrow and Company, 1963.

Oliver, Paul, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Blues Records. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Reference, 1989. (brief mention)

Shelton, Robert, and Walter Raim. The Josh White Song Book.  Quadrangle Books, 1963.

Wald, Elijah. Josh White: Society Blues. University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.

White, Josh. The Josh White Guitar. Ivan Maroints, 1956.

Articles

Denning, Michael.  "Radical Out of Carolina." The Village Voice 42:2 (January 1997): 55-57

"Josh White; a farewell."  Sing Out (Winter 1970): 9

"Max Jones on Josh White (Part 1)." Blues Unlimited 55 (July 1986): 16-17

"Max Jones on Josh White (Part 2)." Blues Unlimited 56 (August 1968): 15-16

McLean, Don.  "A Tribute to Josh White, Bluesman, Songster, and Activist Ahead of His Time." Acoustic Guitar 9 (August 1998): 70-76

Milkowski, Billl.  Screen Test: "Blues Up the Country: The Country Blues Legacy."  Jazz Times-America's Jazz Magazine 26:2 (March 1996): 75

Recordings on CD

White, Josh. Blues Singer 1932-1936. Columbia/Legacy

White, Josh. The Legendary Josh White. Collector's Edition

White, Josh. Free & Equal Blues. Smithsonian/Folkways

White, Josh. Complete Recorded Works, Vols. 1-6. Document.

Web Sites

All Music Guide <http://allmusic.com>

Illustrated Josh White Discography. Accessed 22 Nov. 2003.
<http://www.wirz.de/music/whitefrm.htm>

Elijah Wald's Josh White Page. Accessed 10 Dec. 2003. <http://www.elijahwald.com/josh.html>



Above stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service, June 26, 1998.


Josh White image (top) courtesy of Stefan Wirz's American Music Website <http://www.wirz.de/music/whitefrm.htm>


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Last updated 18 December 2003.