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Home » blog » Furry Lewis: “When I Lay My Burden Down” and “Kassie Jones”
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Furry Lewis: “When I Lay My Burden Down” and “Kassie Jones”

I am not a guitar player, but to me Furry Lewis’ technique seems unique. “Kassie Jones” is a song about a conductor, but doesn’t sound anything like the Grateful Dead song of the same — though differently spelled — name. It is quite possible that the later song was a tribute.

Wikipedia notes that Lewis was one of the first of the older African American blues players whose careers were given a second lease on life by the explosion of interest in their music in the 1960s

Smithsonian Folkways has a nice profile of Lewis. Here is the start:

Walter “Furry” Lewis (1893– 1981) personified the relaxed and intimate character of the early blues. A master of multiple guitar techniques, he was most notably an impressive bottleneck guitarist who echoed his vocal phrasings with an expressive set of sliding notes. He was able to give his performances a spontaneity, subtlety, and feeling that made him, in the words of blues historian Sam Charters, one of “only a handful of singers [of his era] with the creative ability to use the blues as an expression of personal emotion.” (Continue Reading…)


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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.