Mis à jour : 26 nov. 2018
Listen to Yazoo Basin Boogie: https://youtu.be/Nii0JLVC2b4
Stefan Grossman was born in 1945 in New York City where he lived until 1967. Acoustic Folk-Blues guitarist, he is co-founder of Kicking Mule records. He began playing at the age of nine, taking lessons and learning to read music. At the beginning, he learned to play tunes such as Tea for two or Autumn leaves, but wasn’t really interested in this style of music. For a few years, he even gave up playing but resumed again at the age of 15, when he met reverend Gary Davis.
This old and almost blind Guitarist lived in the black ghetto of Harlem, on the 169th Street. At that time, it was considered as one of the most dangerous neighborhood in the USA. Gary had many pupils and Stefan was the most regular of them. He taught him music from Caroline and the deep south of the USA:
“He was an incredible genius as a teacher. He was great if you were a good student. Musically, we really hit it. Emotionally, I’d never had met my grandfathers as they died before I was born and Rev. Davis very much substituted for them. I went out there every Saturday, also every Friday, Sunday, and every school holiday that I could. I’d stay up there for 12 hours at a time. Rev. Davis was a patient, exacting teacher. He would go over everything and help you with the accenting, the notes and variations. Man, he was always practicing! He always said he wanted to keep one or two steps ahead of his students, and he always did.”
While he was learning with reverend G. Davis, Stefan used to go to the Folklore Center or the Washington Square on Saturdays, where musicians such as Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Doc Watson… were playing. “It was a great atmosphere to get started in music. After the park closed, you’d go to one of the kid’s houses in Brooklyn to pick. You’d meet people, some of them bluegrass people, some blues and ragtime people... we got to be friends and would play.”
Since the end of the 60’s, Stefan has published several Guitar books: Country Blues Guitar, Delta Blues Guitar, Ragtime Blues Guitar, The blues guitar of Reverend Gary Davis, Contemporary Ragtime Guitar…
Among his records is How to play the Blues, Aunt Molly Murray's Farm, Yazoo basin boogie (1970), Memphis Jelly Roll… He also composed the soundtrack of Joe Hil.
However, most of pieces from Yazoo basin Boogie are arrangements from Dave Laibman, a Ragtime Guitarist (one of his records is The new ragtime Guitar).
Among other guitarists who may have influenced S. Grossman, we can quote: Willie Brown, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Fred McDowell, Skip James, Bukka White, Big Jim Sullivan…
Some quotes from S. Grossman:
About Guitar playing:
“Concerning the right hand, the best guitarists I know (Dave Laibman, Gary Davis, Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch…) all press their little finger on the sound board. This position produces more sound volume on Folk Guitars.”
About Guitar models and strings:
“Gary used to play on a J. 200 Gibson with Medium Gauge strings, which were relatively spaced apart from the fretboard. It’s difficult to play Folk Music when strings are too close to the Guitar neck.”
“My first Guitar was a Harmony with nylon strings. Then I bought a Gibson ES 335, and next an old Martin 0021 which first belonged to Gary. I also bought a J. 200 Gibson, another model on which Gary used to play. I think the best Guitars where produced between 1900 and 1945 because those of the XIXth century were too weak and post-war Guitars remain too shoddy. For example, on the first Martin Guitars, the sound board was relatively thin and eventually bowed because of strings tension, but it was something good for the sound! Unfortunately, Martin then decided to reinforce the sound boards of their Guitars to comfort their customers. Most of my records were made with an Orchestra Model 00045 Martin. I bought it at John Lundberg’s Guitar shop in Berkeley, California.”