Guide to the Brownie McGhee Papers

Sean Heyliger
African American Museum & Library at Oakland
659 14th Street
Oakland, California 94612
Phone: (510) 637-0198
Fax: (510) 637-0204
Email: aamlo@oaklandlibrary.org
URL: http://www.oaklandlibrary.org/locations/african-american-museum-library-oakland
© 2013
African American Museum & Library at Oakland. All rights reserved.

Guide to the Brownie McGhee Papers

Collection number: MS 180

African American Museum & Library at Oakland

Oakland, California
Processed by:
Sean Heyliger
Date Completed:
10/09/2015
Encoded by:
Sean Heyliger
© 2013 African American Museum & Library at Oakland. All rights reserved.

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.


Collection Contents

 

Brownie McGhee

Physical Description: 3 boxes

Series Scope and Content Summary

Cassette tapes of interviews conducted with Brownie McGhee between 1990-1995, funeral program, recordings of musical performances, photographs and a tribute to Brownie McGhee.

Arrangement

Arranged by format and chronologically thereafter.
 

Interview tapes

Physical Description: 83 cassette tapes
Box 1

Tape 001 1990-01-01

Physical Description: Run Time: 24 (min): 21 (s)

Description

Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Les Paul and Mary Ford [00:07]; First time in Chicago [02:36]; Father as a songwriter and previous hit musician next hit [03:00]; Father leaves for work [04:02]; Brownie goes to Kingsport, Tennessee and begins selling liquor [05:20]; Recuperation after polio operation [05:50]; Father shoots wife [06:01]; Father released from prison and return home [07:50]; Learns to play father's guitar in hospital [08:20]; Aunt prohibition against stringed instruments, believes they are the "devil's music" [09:10]; Secretly making his own banjo [10:05] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Love of music from mother [00:29]; Dealing with handicap as a child [01:07]; Learning hobbies from mother [01:40]; Learning to play guitar, 1936 [02:23]; Father fighting with women [02:58]; Return to Kingsport, Tennessee [03:34]; Mother's affair [04:25]; Mother beats father with brick [04:55]; Father's life [06:00]; Discharge from hospital, meeting his father's girlfriend Mattie [07:15]; Hustling and playing music, 1938 [09:44]; Breakup with Mattie [10:42]; Playing music and selling liquor [13:00]
Box 1

Tape 002 1991-12-07

Physical Description: Run Time: 62 (min): 00 (s)

Description

Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Living with the Almanac Singers in New York City [00:05]; Josh White [01:10]; Pete Seeger learning to play banjo [02:10]; Meeting Lead Belly in New York City and Washington D.C. [03:32]; Concert with Paul Robeson and recording at the Library of Congress [04:00]; Partnership with Sonny Terry [04:20]; Conversion with Lead Belly about being called a "nigger" [07:35]; Performing at Paul Robeson concert [08:10]; Asked to meet Josh White in New York City [09:10]; Return to Kingsport, Tennessee, confusion with train ticket [10:00]; Arrival in New York City, cheated by taxi driver [13:30]; Living with Almanac Singers, food [14:40]; Millard Lampell [16:09]; Lead Belly's address [17:00]; Food living with the Almanac Singers [17:18]; Moving in with Lead Belly at 604 E. 9th St., living with Lead Belly, 1941-1942 [17:52]; Performing with the Almanac Singers [20:35]; Woody Guthrie in trouble for saying "nigger" on radio [22:00]; Never see Lead Belly drink alcohol [22:46]; Playing music and drinking at Woody Guthrie's apartment at 10 E. Charles St. [23:24]; Brownie begins to sing "Rock of Ages" [25:24]; Song "This land is your land" [26:04]; Contract and pay performing with the Almanac Singers [26:40]; Songs performed by the Almanac Singers [27:30]; Introduction by Paul Robeson at first concert [28:20] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Introduction by Paul Robeson at first concert [00:05]; Discrimination in Washington D.C., origin of the song, "Bourgeois Blues" [05:09]; Mary Travers, union songs [07:05]; Writing his own songs [08:04]; Writing blues songs about whiskey, women, and money [08:21]; Political songs and sharecropping in the South [08:59]; Whiskey, women, and money as euphemisms about racial oppression [10:10]; Bessie Smith [11:44]; Discrimination playing with the Almanac Singers [12:27]; Woody Guthrie demanding to eat with Brownie and Sonny at concert in Baltimore, Maryland [13:20]; Song, "This land is your land" and "Rock of ages" [19:45]; Woody Guthrie selling 10 songs for $25 [22:00]; Woody Guthrie stealing his child back [23:00]; Mary Travers playing with People's songs at hootenanny [23:36]; Final song at hootenanny "When the saints go marching in" [25:50]; Union songs [27:05]; Lead Belly working at the Village Vanguard [28:05]; Josh White's career [29:48]
Box 1

Tape 003 1992-01-01

Physical Description: Run Time: 63 (min): 37 (s)

Description

Side A description: Sister working for family [00:00]; Sister moves to live with mother in New York [00:33]; Brownie's alley [01:08]; Graduation from high school [01:32]; Participation in church activities, religious schooling [02:27]; Leaves the Baptist church [06:50]; Fulbright program and polio surgery [07:48]; Brownie and brother move in with aunt in 1929 [09:36]; Mother's death [10:41]; Living with aunt [11:22]; Aunt and uncle farming and sharecropping [12:40]; Timber harvesting, shingle making, learning to hunt and fish [13:43]; Disability and walking with a crutch [17:13]; Aunt teaches him to cook, iron, and sew [18:45]; Attending school in Vonore, Tennessee [20:40]; Sings graduation song, "I promise you" [23:40]; Built smokehouse, water from the Henley family [24:42]; Henley and McGhee families [27:04]; killing and butchering pigs [28:15]; Salt curing meats underneath house [31:30] Side B description: Canning and storing food, trading tobacco [00:00]; Tobacco and cotton farming [01:25]; Return to Kingsport, Tennessee [05:20]; Polio and insecurity fueled his hatred of women [05:40]; Girls coming to his house as a teenager [07:55]; Aunt encourages him to visit man with no legs [09:03]; Other people in town with polio [14:28]; His desire to learn to become a carpenter or lawyer [15:18]; Reading books [16:20]; No first girlfriend [17:24]; Aunt's belief that all stringed instruments were the devil's music [18:09]; Uncle John helped him to build a banjo [18:29]; Aunt hides his banjo in attic [20:30]; Starts to play guitar [21:19]; First guitar and first recording [24:21]; Father's musical style and traveling [25:45]
Box 1

Tape 004 [two copies] 1992-01-10

Physical Description: Run Time: 63 (min): 36 (s)

Description

Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Piano playing [00:06]; Singing negro national anthem, "Lift every voice and sing" [08:44]; Father's claim that Columbus did not discovery America [10:55]; Father's cursing [11:42]; Father's claim that most Black folk songs are not Black [12:06]; Discusses song, "Careless love," old brothel ballad [12:57]; Discusses song, "Easter parade" [15:03]; Discusses song, "This land is your land" [19:06]; Performing as the Streamline Singers [20:32]; Sings UAW song [21:18]; Spirituals [21:55]; Discusses song, "Motherless children," his mother and father's infidelities [22:30]; Father's guitar playing style [30:10]; Song, "Sentimental journey" [32:00] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Spirituals as future tense and blues as the past tense [00:11]; Blues lyrics and whiskey, women, and money [02:30]; Discusses song, "I shall not be moved" and "Hang low sweet chariot" [03:00]; Spiritual idiom developed because Blacks could not speak freely [04:50]; Blues is truth [07:40]; Uses "women" as a crutch for the white man [08:10]; Motivation to write songs [12:10]; Resentment against Jim Crow in his songs [12:30]; Blues as an American musical form [17:00]; Unnamed transgendered women's suicide on Golden Gate Bridge [21:27]; Early childhood with father, Solomon's Temple, McGhee's Station [23:20]; Maryville, Tennessee, Hale High School [27:10]
Box 1

Tape 006 / 007 1992-05-08

Physical Description: Run Time: 126 (min): 44 (s)

Description

Tape 6: Side A description: Silence [00:00]; First records, Recording with Sonny Terry for Alan Lomax at the Library of Congress [00:05];Paul Robeson asks him to perform at concert [02:22]; Paul Robeson introduces him on stage at Riverside Theater [04:24]; Millard Lampell invites him to come to New York City [08:59]; First recordings in North Carolina and Chicago, death of Blind Boy Fuller [10:14]; Receives Blind Boy Fuller's guitar, J.B. Long treated him differently because of his diploma, encourages him to form duet with Sonny Terry [12:32]; J.B. Long encourages him to go with Sonny Terry to record at the Library of Congress [19:04]; Meeting with Alan Lomax [20:07]; First meeting with Lead Belly [24:05]; Encouraged to move to New York City, telegram from J.B. Long [25:25]; Takes bus from Kingsport, Tennessee to New York City, arrival in New York City [30:50] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Taxi cheats him after his arrival in New York City [00:04]; Becomes member of the Almanac Singers [00:41]; Lead Belly invites him to live with him [02:16]; His desire to attend religious schools, college [03:37]; Gambling and bootlegging, Brownie's alley [06:29]; Run-ins with law enforcement [10:14]; Leaves town, hitchhikes to North Carolina [12:35]; Runs with group of thieves in Mt Ely [14:18]; Paid for performing, Blind Boy Fuller [14:50]; Performing at 11th St. Bottom in Winston-Salem, North Carolina [18:02]; Performing with harmonica player Jordan Webb [19:14]; J.B. Long asks him to meet him at his store [22:46]; Music he listened to as a child [27:04]; Buys a jukebox, problems finding electricity to run it [29:29] Tape 7: Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof production [00:06]; Marilyn Monroe on set during production [02:50]; Barbara Bel Geddes and Burl Ives [04:32]; Performing after shows, John Steinbeck [06:00]; Tennessee Williams' mother [06:33]; Marilyn Monroe [07:20]; Opening of play in Philadelphia [08:00]; Parties during production, Burl Ives, Huntington Hartford [09:47]; Marilyn Monroe on a pedestal [15:02]; Siblings born in house that straddles county line [17:35]; Born in Old Arc Church in Knoxville, Tennessee [19:30]; Father's travels to find road construction work [20:10]; Sisters born in Loudon and Monroe counties [21:05]; Brother born in Kingsport, Tennessee [22:10]; Father worked in dye plant during World War I [23:05]; Father's work in brickyard [25:11]; Rev. and Mrs. Whitely [?][26:45]; Stricken with polio, move to Walnut Alley [27:40]; Mother and father separate, father goes to prison [29:08] Side B description: Silence [00:00], Father gets out of prison, works in Kingsport, TN [00:11], Buying well water [00:51], Rats in the streets, open sewers [02:07], Father's work on construction projects [02:45], Oklahoma Grove [03:15], Schooling in Oklahoma Grove [04:00], Killing rats [06:43], Gym theater, first music contest [08:45], Father returns after prison, murder in house [10:40], Father moves, death of grandmother [12:40], Mother's family [14:15], Father leaves Kingsport, TN, Aunt Frankie's funeral [21:50], Moves in with his Aunt Maddie [24:43], Douglas High School [30:05]
Box 1

Tape 008 1994-05-25 [two copies]

Physical Description: Run Time: 92 (min): 45 (s)

Description

Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Moving as a child, jukebox [00:15]; Dancehall in house, bootlegging, Police chief Jim Broyles raid [02:11]; Bootlegging case dismissed by judge [06:00]; Judge convinces him to leave town [07:50]; Moves to North Carolina, New York [08:35]; Police confiscate his car because of bootlegging [10:38]; Travels to West Virginia to play music in the coal fields [15:15]; Moves to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, meets Jordan Webb and J.B. Long [17:09]; Outbreak of World War II, Blind Boy Fuller No. 2 [23:33]; Recorded with Big Bill Broonzy as Brother George and His Sanctified Singers [25:08]; Takes portrait with big black hat for album cover [26:53]; J.B. Long gives him Blind Boy Fuller's guitar [29:40]; Breaks with J.B. Long and Columbia Records, signs with Decca Records [30:20]; Never played in nightclubs in New York City [32:15]; Moves out of Lead Belly's apartment to Harlem, manager Nick Ray [33:28]; He was too rough to play in nightclubs [34:08]; Manager goes to war, moves in with cousin in Connecticut [35:40]; Woody Guthrie, Sonny and Brownie in play written by Guthrie [36:40]; Moves to Harlem, plays on the street and in liquor joints [39:47]; Sonny Terry joins him in Harlem, two play together on the street as a duet [41:00] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Sonny Terry starts singing, learning to play together [00:07]; Identity as folk-blues previous hit musicians next hit [06:10]; Sonny cast in Broadway play Finian's Rainbow, joins previous hit musicians next hit union [07:04]; Sonny records hit song, "Tuesday hoppin' n' hollerin'" [09:37]; Union previous hit musician next hit as member of Local 802 [11:36]; Performing with Jack Dupree, Brownie McGhee and His Jook Blockbusters [13:10]; Playing on Lennox Ave. night Franklin Delano Roosevelt died [15:08]; Jukeboxes and records hurting business for live previous hit musicians next hit [16:38]; Herman Lubinski, Savoy Records, drinking in recording studio [22:15]; Brownie McGhee and His Mighty Rockers [32:20]; Sticks McGhee's song, "Drinkin' wine spo-dee-dee", Atlantic Records [35:40]; Contract with Okeh Records, J.B. Long [45:00]
Box 1

Tape 010 / 011 1994-06

Physical Description: Run Time: 188 (min): 57 (s)

Description

Tape 10: Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Sonny Terry in Finian's Rainbow [00:09]; Goes into business with Horace Holmes, H & M Studios, Atomic Records [02:00]; Joins Alert Records, BM Studios [05:20]; Recording on Savoy Records [12:40]; Home of the Blues studio, teaching the blues [13:40]; Alert Records and blues scene in Harlem and Brooklyn [22:30]; Discovers Erskine Hawkins in sanatorium, forms band [27:00]; Joins Jack Dupree, first electric guitar [27:50]; Recording on Alert Records and Savoy Records [31:08]; Playing clubs in Brooklyn, Jim White's Virginia Tavern [32:57]; House parties in Brooklyn, his radio show on WNYC [37:00]; Jackie Robinson and the origins of the song, "Baseball boogie" [37:00]; Folk music scene, why he didn't switch to electric guitar [45:40] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Blues as folk music, multi-cultural hootenannies [00:07]; Blues at midnight in the village [02:04]; Stringline Singers and union halls [02:45]; Woody Guthrie says "nigger" on the radio [03:51]; Burl Ives' "Troubadour Plan" [04:31]; Hanging out with Woody Guthrie [04:53]; Alan Lomax presenting Lead Belly in prison stripes at the Apollo Theater [06:20]; Music sessions at Lead Belly's house [07:36]; First performance in a nightclub at the Village Vanguard [19:22]; Formed trio The Folkmasters [11:05]; The Three Bs, Bob Getty, Bob Harris, and Brownie McGhee, Felton's Lounge [14:18]; Blues scene in Harlem and New York City [17:05]; Leaves Alert Record after royalty check for "Baseball boogie" bounces [19:28]; Meets Ruth McGhee, Mary Hinds [21:50]; Relationship with Ruth McGhee [28:20]; Birth of children, move to 1984 Madison Ave. [32:50]; The Mighty Rockers, The Joot Blockbusters, Bill's Tavern [36:15]; Leaves band after Sonny Terry finishes Finian's Rainbow [38:16]; Amps, association with communists [39:25]; Performing at Bill's Tavern in Elizabeth, New Jersey [42:55]; Meets Langston Hughes [44:05] Tape 11: Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Langston Hughes [00:07]; Song, "Pawnshop blues" [02:05]; Cast as Gitfiddle in Langston Hughes' play Simply Heavenly [04:02]; Cast in production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof [05:01]; Family life while working on Broadway [19:00]; First visit with Langston Hughes [20:45]; Audition and cast in Simply Heavenly [24:20]; Meets and becomes friends with Andy Griffith, cast in A Face in the Crowd [27:15]; First time in California, on set of No Time for Sargent [43:20]; Bill Bill Broonzy [45:25] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Travels with Big Bill Broonzy to England [00:10]; Travels to France, Germany [09:55]; New York Times interview [11:10]; Second trip to England [13:50]; Move to California, performing at the Ash Grove, Idyllwild [17:05]; Death of Big Bill Broonzy [22:34]; Travels with Sonny Terry to India on State Dept. trip [23:12]; TB blues, Harry Belafonte's band [27:05]; Trip to the far east for State Dept. [28:25]; Gerde's Folk City [32:05]; Move to California in 1961 [33:30]; Touring with Harry Belafonte [35:30]; Signs with Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) [45:14]; Trip to Australia [47:45]
Box 1

Tape 012 1994-07-27

Physical Description: Run Time: 63 (min): 39 (s)

Description

Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Josh White, New York City in the 1940s [00:05]; Meeting with Duke Ellington at the Apollo Theater, learning to perform live [03:45]; Performing at clubs in Brooklyn, conflict with club owner [06:36]; Joining previous hit musician's next hit union Local 802 [08:32]; J.B. Long and Blind Boy Fuller No. 2 [13:27]; Turning down offer to perform with the Ray-O-Vacs at the Apollo Theater [14:26]; Brother's career problems, hit song, "Drinkin' wine spo-dee-dee" [17:48]; Reasons for initially not touring Australia, Peter Mann convinces him to tour Australia [28:50] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; His demands before touring Australia [00:05]; Australia importing labor, "keep Australia white" [00:50]; Touring Australia, changing his perspective of country [01:52]; Touring in Canada and England, Big Bill Broonzy [11:39]; Returns to US, New York Times interview [21:07]; Lawsuit over Duke Ellington's song "House rent party blues" [23:50]; Concerts in Canada [26:06]; California, trip to India and Africa [27:47]
Box 1

Tape 013 1994-09-03

Box 1

Tape 014 1994-09-05

Box 1

Tape 015 1994-09-05

Box 1

Tape 016 1994-09-05

Box 1

Tape 017 1994-09-05

Physical Description: Run Time: 85 (min): 54 (s)

Description

Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Brownie performing song "Good morning blues" [00:09]; Discussing unnamed pianist [06:03]; Discussing his Martin guitar [07:40]; Record labels he recorded on in 1940s-1950s [08:20]; Stories about recording in studio [09:48]; Poor quality of recordings [13:46]; Working for the Mafia [14:05]; "Baseball boogie" royalties [16:49]; Race music labels [19:42]; Investigated by FBI as a communist [20:55]; FBI and performing at Yankee stadium, "Stand up and be counted" [22:27]; Playing at NYU and Columbia University [25:26]; Big Bill Broonzy, Lead Belly, discrimination at Jack Dempsey's restaurant [26:25]; Playing table at hotel in New York City [28:12]; Performing under aliases [29:46]; Elmer Lee Thomas' band members [31:50]; Tomato Records, Blue Labor Records, Rondor Music, song "Rainy Day," Charles Brown's Christmas blues [40:09]; Performing at Lake Merritt [42:05]; Touring in England, Big Bill Broonzy [42:32]; Reception in the US after touring England [45:05] Side B description: Silence [00:00], Father's advice, getting a job with polio [00:10], Conversation with daughter, albums, Sonny and Brownie fight over hiring a backup previous hit musician next hit [02:01], Sonny and Brownie's Broadway work [15:10], Working on the movie, The Jerk [16:52], Relationship between Sonny and Brownie [18:45], Blind Boy Fuller [24:05], Learning to play guitar with a pick [27:25], Brownie shows his diploma to J.B. Long [28:16], Sonny's blindness [29:20], Phone call [30:47], Sonny's family, blindness [31:16], Sonny gets stiffed for work by boss [33:19], Making money playing on the street of New York City [35:18], First song Brownie and Sonny played together, "Stranger blues" [37:00]
Box 1

Tape 018 1994-09-11

Box 1

Tape 019 / 021 1994-09-11

Physical Description: Run Time: 143 (min): 53 (s)

Description

Tape 19: Side A description: Silence [00:00]; The Gateway Singers, father's advice on segregation [00:08]; Playing with white previous hit musicians next hit in the South in the 1930s [01:25]; Brownie's Alley [03:27]; WNYC radio show [05:39]; Lead Belly, Josh White [08:07]; Alan Lomax, music brings people together [11:42]; His father, childhood, corporal punishment and obedience of children [13:52]; Father's aphorisms, "you don't know big wood from brush" [18:26]; Left home in 8th grade, The Depression, finishing high school [20:26]; Sisters [22:54]; No depression in rural Tennessee, food and canning at home [25:18]; Depression hits in 1934, high school graduation class [27:30]; Cleaning and laundry [30:30]; Father's iterant work and effect on the family's housing [33:48]; His father never wanted to work on August 8th [36:45]; Father's pay "$1300 in the bank" [38:25]; His mother babied him because of his polio [40:37]; Polio, John Hopkins Hospital surgery, playing sports, girls [42:15] Side B description: Silence [00:00]; Discussing photographs, concert tour [00:22]; Girlfriend's heart attack, tour of Australia and New Zealand [05:02]; Discussing photographs [09:18]; Blind Boy Fuller [12:30]; Discussing photographs [14:50]; Selling voodoo charms on street [16:55]; Working with medicine shows and con artist in West Virginia [17:36]; Traveling from town to town on bus [24:20]; Medicine shows [27:03]; Scotch and milk [31:30]; Blues is truth [35:58]; New York City as a con world, press coverage [39:00]; Sonny Terry's sickness, music touring business [40:10]; Performing for royal family in Nepal [47:15] Tape 21: Side A description: Silence [00:00]; Partnership with Sonny Terry [01:20]; Woody Guthrie dinner incident in Baltimore, Maryland [02:52]; Sonny gets into fight with man who pushed Brownie [09:47]; Sonny cast in Finian's Rainbow [11:40]; Jane Dudley's "Harmonica breakdown" [14:45]; Sonny's singing style, J.B. Long [16:36]; Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith [17:20]; B.B. King, problems keeping time [20:27]; Phineas Newborn Jr. [25:25]; Montreux Jazz Festival, refusal to let Styve Homnick take stage between he's white [29:05]; Quit traveling, fear of leaving house [33:17]; Brownie takes phone call [39:36]; Jimmy Rogers, Lonnie Johnson, Riverboat in Toronto, Canada [43:45]
Box 1

Tape 020 1994-09-11

Box 1

Tape 022 / 023 / 024 1994-10-02

Physical Description: Run Time: 221 (min): 38 (s)

Description

Part 1 description: Silence [00:00]; J.B. Long, Blind Boy Fuller, and the dog song [00:05]; Women and blues lyrics, slave society [01:49]; Salvation in religion, resentment in his blues lyrics [05:15]; Giving up on religion [12:19]; J.B. Long, Blind Boy Fuller, and Old Red [15:43]; Song, "Me and my dog blues," blues lyrics [18:00]; Stopped using dirty lyrics in his songs [19:25]; "Love, truth, and confidence had a talk one day" [21:11]; Origin of songs, "My fault," "Don't dog your woman" [24:15]; Origin of song, "Me and my dog" [30:07]; Hitchhiking, preaching, and singing spirituals in West Virginia [33:36]; J.B. Long recognizing the importance of Brownie's ability to read and write [37:26]; Recording on acetate records, J.B. Long's approach to making records [41:09]; J.B. Long not copyrighting his songs [44:25]; Columbia and Okeh Records [45:35]; Recording with Elmer Lee Thomas [46:12] Part 2 description: Silence [00:00]; Elmer Lee Thomas [00:03]; Finished performing on stage [03:20]; Hearing himself sing on records, voice training [08:49]; Childhood dream of growing up to be a lawyer [12:35]; Earning money making music, song "Death of Blind Boy Fuller" [13:40]; Elmer Lee Thomas [15:05]; Difficulty with fingers playing instruments [16:40]; Song, "Baseball boogie" used in Jackie Robinson documentary [22:06]; Brownie calls daughter on telephone [23:49]; [Elmer Lee Thomas enters][28:48]; Touring Australia with Sonny Terry [30:05]; Fly Fish Records, Arhoolie Records [32:30]; Recording on 78 vinyl records, recording in New York City, music business [34:20]; Prestige and Atlantic Records, blues scene in New York City [40:30]; Offer to perform with the Ray-O-Vacs at Apollo Theater [41:50]; Song, "Baseball boogie" [43:17]; Performing music on street and in clubs [45:57]; Blues as the only American music [47:50] Part 3 description: Silence [00:00]; "Baseball boogie," blues is truth [00:04]; Deal with Muddy Waters on song, "Blues had a baby and called it rock and roll" [03:00]; Arhoolie Records, price to perform [12:40]; John Lee Hooker [17:30]; Brook Benton [20:18]; Junior Parker [23:35]; Takes telephone call [25:07]; Silence, discussing photocopies in background [30:00]; Sticks McGhee song, "Globetrotter" [31:12] Part 4 description: Silence [00:00]; Guitar playing, Elmer Lee Thomas band, club owners [00:04]; Did not allow dancing during his performances [01:13]; Sonny Terry didn't like playing music with a microphone [02:40]; Performing with Sonny Terry [03:20]; First song played with Sonny Terry "Stranger blues" [04:07]; Elmer Lee Thomas playing guitar [daughter enters with groceries][04:52]; Fear of performing live [09:22]; Appearance on television show Family Ties, Bill Cosby opening for Sonny and Brownie at The Purple Onion [10:27]; Richard Pryor opening for him and Sonny [12:20]; Touring with Harry Belafonte, Bonny Raitt [13:52]; Josh White and Harry Belafonte [22:50]; Song, "Pick a bail of cotton" [24:36]; Favorite song, "Born and livin' with the blues" [26:56]; Songs, "Betty and Dupree," "Careless love," and "St. Louis blues" [29:05]; Blues is truth [31:30] Part 5 description: Silence [00:00], Recording of song, "The blues had a baby" [00:10], Inspiration for song, "When the wind blows" [01:15], Recordin for Herman Lubenski and Decca Records [06:55], Recording with Hal "Cornbread" Singer [10:25], B.B. King and blues previous hit musicians next hit touring Europe [12:12], Josh White [13:50], Josh White and Leadbelly at the Apollo, performing in prison cell at the Apollo [15:13], Lomax's presentation of Leadbelly to white and black audiences [16:40], Importance of J.B. Long and record managers in his music career [22:35] Part 6 description: Silence [00:00]; Playing guitar [00:02]; Son House [01:18]; Discussing his guitars [03:15]; Changes in recording technologies [08:45]; Muddy Waters last album, song "The blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll" [12:00]; Rap music [15:00]; Origin of song, "Auto mechanic blues" [15:50]; Robert Johnson's song, "Terraplane blues" [19:28]; Father though jazz was a dirty word [21:25]; Letter to record label asking Brownie to clean up his lyrics [22:00]; Singing song, "Wholesale and retail," censored on the radio [23:00]; Discusses song, "Dr. Brownie's famous cure" [25:44]; Tampa Red and Georgia Tom, rap music [27:12]; Janis Joplin letter asking for permission to cover song, "Go down slow" [31:11]; New Zealand Nescafe commercial [37:35]; Radio stations, chili [39:12]
Box 1

Tape 023 1994-10-02

Box 1

Tape 024 1994-10-02

Box 1

Tape 025 1994-10-02

Box 1

Tape 026 1994-10-16

Box 1

Tape 027 1994-10-16

Box 1

Tape 028 1994-10-16

Box 1

Tape 029 1994-10-22

Box 1

Tape 030 1994-10-22

Box 1

Tape 031 1994-10-26

Box 1

Tape 032 1994-10-26

Box 1

Tape 033 1994-12-04

Box 2

Tape 034 1994-12-04

Box 2

Tape 035 1995-01-01

Box 2

Tape 036 1995-01-01

Box 2

Tape 037 1995-01-01

Box 2

Tape 038 1995-01-08

Box 2

Tape 039 1995-01-09

Box 2

Tape 040 1995-01-22

Box 2

Tape 041 1995-01-22

Box 2

Tape 042 1995-01-22

Box 2

Tape 043 1995-01-25

Box 2

Tape 044 1995-01-25

Box 2

Tape 045 1995-02-05

Box 2

Tape 046 1995-02-05

Box 2

Tape 047 1995-02-26

Box 2

Tape 048 1995-02-26

Box 2

Tape 049 1995-03-26

Box 2

Tape 050 1995-03-26

Box 2

Tape 051 1995-04-02

Box 2

Tape 052 1995-04-08

Box 2

Tape 053 1995-04-13

Box 2

Tape 054 1995-04-23

Box 2

Tape 055 1995-04-23

Box 2

Tape 056 1995-04-30

Box 2

Tape 057 1995-04-30

Box 2

Tape 058 1995-05-02

Box 2

Tape 059 1995-05-07

Box 2

Tape 060 1995-05-14

Box 2

Tape 061 1995-05-14

Box 2

Tape 062 1995-05-14

Box 2

Tape 063 1995-05-21

Box 2

Tape 064 1995-05-29

Box 2

Tape 065 1995-05-29

Box 2

Tape 066 1995-06-01

Box 2

Tape 067 1995-07-02

Box 2

Tape 068 1995-07-02

Box 2

Tape 069 1995-07-02

Box 3

Tape 070 1995-07-09

Box 3

Tape 071 1995-07-09

Box 3

Tape 072 1995-07-16

Box 3

Tape 073 1995-10-02

Box 3

Tape 074 1995-10-08

Box 3

Tape 075 1995-10-08

Box 3

Tape 076 1995-10-22

Box 3

Tape 077 1995-10-22

Box 3

Tape 078 1995-10-29

Box 3

Tape 079 1995-10-29

Box 3

Tape 080 1995-11-05

Box 3

Tape 081 1995-12-10

Box 3

Tape 082 1995-12-22

Box 3

Tape 083 undated

 

Musical performances

Physical Description: 13 cassette tapes
Box 3

Tape 090, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1994-09-05

Box 3

Tape 091, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1994-10-02

Box 3

Tape 092, Brownie McGhee on West Coast Live 1994-12-17

Box 3

Tape 093, Brownie McGhee on West Coast Live 1994-12-17

Box 3

Tape 094, Brownie McGhee on West Coast Live 1994-12-17

Box 3

Tape 095, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1995-02-05

Box 3

Tape 096, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1995-02-05

Box 3

Tape 097, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1995-02-05

Box 3

Tape 098, Brownie McGhee studio recording 1995-05-06

Box 3

Tape 099, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1995-06-24

Box 3

Tape 100, Brownie McGhee on NPR 1995-09-25

Box 3

Tape 101, Brownie McGhee and Elmer Lee Thomas 1996-02-05

Box 4

Tape 110, Sista Monica 1995-06-11

 

Memorial service

Box 1

Funeral program [two copies] 1996-02-24

Box 3

Memorial service recording, tape 84 1996-02-25

Box 4

Memorial service recording, tape 109 1996-02-25

 

Photographs

Physical Description: 23 photographs
Box 1

Brownie McGhee with eyes closed [001] circa 1990s

Box 1

Brownie McGhee publicity still [002] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee seated with concert posters in the background [003] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee with eyes closed [004] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee with eyes closed [005] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee performing in garage [006] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee and unidentified man performing in house [007] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee and women sitting at table in backyard [008] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee performing in garage with three other previous hit musicians [009] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee concert poster, Lloyd’s Music Hall, Newark [010] circa 1990s

Box 4

Man and woman leaving church [011] circa 1990s

Box 4

Church organ [012] circa 1990s

Box 4

Church organ [013] circa 1990s

Box 4

Band performing Eli's Mile High Club [014] circa 1990s

Box 4

Band performing Eli's Mile High Club [015] circa 1990s

Box 4

Band performing Eli's Mile High Club [016] circa 1990s

Box 4

Man playing pool at Eli's Mile High Club [017] circa 1990s

Box 4

Man playing pool at Eli's Mile High Club [018] circa 1990s

Box 4

Exterior of Eli’s Mile High Club [019] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee sitting in kitchen [020] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee seated in kitchen signing record album [021] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee and unidentified man performing in house [022] circa 1990s

Box 4

Brownie McGhee and unidentified man performing in house [023] circa 1990s

Box 1

Brownie “B.I.T.” McGhee publicity still [024] circa 1990s

 

Brownie McGhee birthday celebration at Yoshi’s

Box 3

Tape 085 1994-12-21

Box 3

Tape 086 1994-12-21

Box 3

Tape 087 1994-12-21

Box 3

Tape 088 1994-12-21

Box 3

Tape 089 1994-12-21

Box 1

Tribute to Brownie McGhee [VHS tape] 1996-03-04

 

Blues is Truth Foundation

Physical Description: 1 folder + 5 cassette tapes

Series Scope and Content Summary

Consists of brochure, flyer, and cassette tapes of meetings of the Blues is Truth Foundation.

Arrangement

Arranged by format
 

Meeting tapes

Box 3

Tape 102, Blues is Truth Foundation meeting 1995-10-08

Box 3

Tape 103, Blues is Truth Foundation meeting 1995-11-05

Box 3

Tape 104, Blues is Truth Foundation meeting 1995-11-12

Box 3

Tape 105, Blues is Truth Foundation meeting 1995-11-19

Box 3

Tape 106, Blues is Truth Foundation meeting 1995-12-10

Box 1

Blues is Truth brochure [two copies] 1996

Box 1

Free drawing for a Brownie McGhee cd flyer circa 1990s

 

Interview with Styve Homnick

Physical Description: 2 cassette tapes

Series Scope and Content Summary

Consists of two cassette tapes with drummer Styve Homnick.

Arrangement

Arranged by format.
Box 4

Tape 107, Interview with Styve Homnick 1996-01-31

Box 4

Tape 108, Interview with Styve Homnick 1996-01-31