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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Brownie McGhee papers
    Dates: 1990-1996
    Collection number: MS 180
    Creator: McGhee, Brownie, 1915-1996.
    Collector: Twomey, Michael
    Collection Size: 3 linear feet (4 boxes)
    Repository: African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
    Oakland, CA 94612
    Abstract: The Brownie McGhee Papers consist of audio cassettes, photographs, programs, and VHS videotape documenting the life and musical career of blues musician next hit Brownie McGhee. The collection is arranged into three series: I. Brownie McGhee, II. Blues is Truth Foundation, III. Interviews with Styve Homnick. A majority of the Brownie McGhee series consists of 83 audiocassettes of interviews with Brownie McGhee conducted by Leslie Ann Wright and her partner Mike Twomey in preparation of his autobiography. The interviews document McGhee's musical career including his experiences living with blues previous hit musician next hit Lead Belly and performing in New York City in the 1940s, traveling internationally as a blues previous hit musician next hit , the West Coast Blues scene in California, and his long career in film and television. The collection offers a detailed first person perspective of a blues-folk previous hit musician next hit whose career spanned most of the 20th century.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Access

    No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.

    Access Restrictions

    Materials are for use in-library only, non-circulating.

    Publication Rights

    Permission to publish from the Brownie McGhee Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum and Library at Oakland.

    Preferred Citation

    Brownie McGhee papers , MS 180, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The Brownie McGhee Papers were donated to the African American Museum & Library at Oakland by Beth Twomey on June 23, 2008.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Sean Heyliger, October 9, 2015.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Blues previous hit musician next hit Walter B. "Brownie" McGhee (1915-1996) was born on November 30, 1915 in Knoxville, Tennessee to George Duffield McGhee, a construction worker, and Zella Hennley. He learned to play guitar from his father and started his musical career performing at the Solomon Temple Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee and as a member of the Golden Voices Gospel Quartet. After contracting polio as a child, he suffered a walking disability until he underwent surgery funded by the March of Dimes to correct his ailment in 1937. By the late 1930s, he was traveling throughout the South performing as an iterant blues previous hit musician next hit at churches, carnivals and briefly as a member of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.
    Fellow previous hit musician next hit George “Bull City Red” Washington introduced McGhee to J.B. Long, a talent scout for Okeh Records, who arranged his first recording session in Chicago in 1940. He was initially marketed as Blind Boy Fuller No. 2 before teaming up with his long-time musical partner Sonny Terry in 1942 at a civil rights benefit organized by Paul Robeson in Washington D.C. While in Washington D.C., they made a Library of Congress recording for musicologist Alan Lomax. Shortly thereafter, McGhee moved to New York City where he was part of the folk scene living in the communal house of the Almanac Singers and roomed with fellow blues previous hit musician next hit Lead Belly. When Terry was cast in the Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow in 1947, McGhee formed the trio The Three B’s, which eventually added a saxophonist and was re-named the Mighty House Rockers. In 1955, McGhee and Terry were cast in Tennessee Williams’ Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, while continuing to record blues albums together. By the 1960s, McGhee and Terry gained a following as part of the blues-folk revival movement recording albums under the Smithsonian/Folkways, Choice, World Pacific, Bluesville, and Fantasy record labels. They toured both in the United States and in Europe making rounds on the folk and music festival circuits throughout the 1960s. They ended their musical collaboration in the 1970s, but McGhee continued to perform and appeared in a number of film and television roles, including The Jerk (1979), Angel Heart (1987), and episodes of Family Ties and Matlock. He performed and continued to record music through the 1990s until his death in 1996 in Oakland, California.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Brownie McGhee Papers consist of audio cassettes, photographs, programs, and VHS videotape documenting the life and musical career of blues previous hit musician next hit Brownie McGhee. The collection is arranged into three series: I. Brownie McGhee, II. Blues is Truth Foundation, III. Interviews with Styve Homnick. A majority of the Brownie McGhee series consists of 83 audiocassettes of interviews with Brownie McGhee conducted by Leslie Ann Wright and her partner Mike Twomey in preparation of his autobiography. The interviews document McGhee's musical career including his experiences living with blues previous hit musician next hit Lead Belly and performing in New York City in the 1940s, traveling internationally as a blues previous hit musician next hit , the West Coast Blues scene in California, and his long career in film and television. The collection offers a detailed first person perspective of a blues-folk previous hit musician next hit whose career spanned most of the 20th century. Also included in the collection is a funeral program and recording of Brownie McGhee's memorial service, an audio recording of a birthday celebration held for him at Yoshi's, photographs and publicity stills, and a video tribute to Brownie McGhee following his death. The Blues is Truth series includes a brochure and five audio cassettes from the Blues is Truth Foundation meetings. The interviews of Styve Homnick consists of three cassette tapes of interviews with drummer Styve Homnick conducted in preparation of Brownie McGhee's autobiography.

    Arrangement

    Collection is arranged into three series: I. Brownie McGhee II. Blues is Truth Foundation III. Interviews with Styve Homnick

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    McGhee, Brownie, 1915-1996.
    African American previous hit musicians next hit .
    Blues previous hit musicians next hit --United States--Biography.
    Blues previous hit musicians next hit --California--Oakland--Interviews.
    Blues (Music)--California--Oakland--History.