Music from the West


"Hi Fred, Queuing to go into The Hall last October where one of the Paulin brothers and Orange Kellin where playing a storm I overheard this: A couple of corpulent Americans appeared.

She:- "Hey honey what's goin' on in there?
He:- "Oh just some old guys playin' some music".

Will the vast American public ever realise and appreciate the only original culture they have given the world?". - Jeff Roberts"

I was somewhat perturbed by Jeff Roberts' comment about the corpulent Americans in Preservation Hall. Granted, the vast American public should waken up to its own musical heritage, but does he seriously think that jazz is the only original music which came out of America? What about blues, bluegrass, country music, cajun, western swing, gospel, work songs, field hollers, jug bands, skiffle bands, ragtime, spirituals, sacred harp, or that most original of all native American musical cultures, the music of the Native Americans? 

Granted all of these, including the last one, have old world antecedants. But so too has jazz. - Fred McCormick

Re:  Fred McCormick's letter about the lack of appreciation of other music indigenous to America. Work Songs, Field Hollers, Jug Bands etc. even if any of these are still practiced, which I doubt, they cannot remotely compare to a music which took the first half of the 20th. century by storm. This is the tragedy of jazz. I recently heard a contestant on a quiz show who was faced with three answers to the question 'which of these persons plays the trumpet ? ' pick Louis Armstrong '' because he sings ' Hello Dolly ' but I don't know if he plays the trumpet '' R. I. P. 'West End Blues ' The fact is that most Americans equate jazz with waistcoats, straw hats and the Firehouse 5. But then we British should talk ! - Moe Green  


Hi Fred,   I'm surprised that Moe Green should have entered this debate seemingly unaware of the fundamental and contemporary importance of Gospel music in Black American churches. You can take it from me that Gospel music is still being practiced, and still exerting its influence, big time.   

Equally, Cajun music is alive and well in a lot of places apart from its home state of Louisiana. For that matter, bluegrass, which first conquered the ears of American listeners over 60 years ago, is still going strong, all over the world.  

In fact, with the exception of work songs and field hollers, which became redundant with improved prison conditions, all the musics I listed are still practiced and still in various states of splendid health.  

As for taking the world by storm, did Moe Green not notice the huge impact which the blues exerted, and continues to exert, on western popular music. Ditto for country music. I can't stand the stuff personally, but there is no doubting its enduring significance. Equally there is no doubting the extent to which rock 'n roll, that amalgam of blues and country music, took the world by storm, and continues to do so.  

The plain fact is that America gave a lot more music to the world to the world besides jazz. Granted not all the forms I listed were as popular. But that in no way decries their musical significance. After all, anyone who considers popularity as a measure of significance might care to remember the Beatles, and the extent to which they took the world by storm with their own mixture of blues, rock and country music.   .

Fred McCormick


Contrary to what Fred McCormick states I did not enter this debate unaware of gospel music. Many years ago I went to a gospel service at a church in Harlem and it was very moving. However how popular is it in the mainstream of music? Most people will only come across it in Hollywood movies like ' The Blues Brothers ' ( great film ! ) Fred says that Cajun and Blue Grass are in various stages of splendid health but I think that this music is listened to by a minority ( albeit a large one ) and I am certainly aware of the impact of the blues on western pop music although I would suggest that it was jazz that influenced Carmichael, Porter, Gershwin et al. ( I am not getting into the argument of how much jazz was influenced by the blues as this is a different basis for discussion )

I am rather upset that Mr. McCormick seems to infer that I equate popularity with significance. Nothing could be further from the truth How much of significance has occurred in the pop world in the last 50 yrs.? The Stones introduced blues to a huge white audience and the Beatles gave them the word psychedelic .Though for my money their lyrics were never a patch on Simon & Garfunkels' It is interesting to think that Robbie William's singing can be traced however circuitously back to Louis! Music is such a tapestry but it is depressing to think that after the likes of Louis, Bix, Hawkins, Ellington ( I could go on and on ) pop music has ended up banal, repetitive, clichéd and boring.

Moe Green.

Sorry to have worried you Fred, but as you point out all the genre you outline have their roots in 'Old World' cultures and therefore can't be classed as original. My hypothesis is that all these elements and more fused and gelled into a new and unique music that was singularly American, latterly to be known as jazz.

Jeff Roberts

Hello Fred, Please may I join in the American music debate. Country and Western was, and is, the most popular music genre in the USA, and that's not including variations such as Cajun, Bluegrass, Western Swing, etc, Be you brave to cross swords with Fred McCormick, a "World Music" Guru

Bert Schroeder


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