A Great Day in San Antonio And London

Rifftides reader Harris Meyer called my attention to a National Public Radio story about major musical achievements of two men on this date in 1936. In their genres, they could hardly have been more different. What they had in common was greatness.

Here is the lead paragraph of the NPR item:

Nov. 23, 1936, was a good day for recorded music. Two men, an ocean apart, each stepped up to a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the queen of Spain; the other was a guitar player in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta. But on that day, Pablo Casals and Robert Johnson each made recordings that would change music history.

The story incorporates audio of Johnson’s blues and Casals playing Bach. You will find it here.

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  1. Mike Harris says

    Still have the old Angel vinyl box-set of Casal’s recordings of the Bach Suites, and despite the many improvements in recording-techniques and hardware over the ensuing 8-odd decades, nothing and nobody has come close to the magic contained in these performances. Historically, certain musicians seem somehow to have the ability to penetrate right down to the core of whatever musical form they are involved with (think Bill Evans with jazz)in a manner which defies explanation or replication.

  2. says

    It took me until the Eighties to discover the emotional miracles recorded by Casals, but 20 years earlier, at the height of the “rediscoveries” era, when all the surviving elders of the Blues (Son House, Skip James, Bukka White, Mi’sippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, and co.) were being tracked down and encouraged to play again, I bought a copy of that astonishing first album collecting 78s and unissued tracks cut by Robert Johnson. I was floored. But I got up vowing to write a screenplay about the Blues life centered on Johnson and his running buddy Johnny Shines.

    By 1969 I had written and rewritten, polished and copyrighted, and was beginning to circulate in Hollywood, that feature film script titled Hellhound on My Trail. Got lots of praise, some slight serious interest, a couple of options, and all the folderol, but no production ever resulted. Over all the intervening years there still has not been a feature film on Johnson–tributes, documentaries, other variations and knowing mentions, script attempts by others, all that, yes, but nothing yet to portray fictionally his tragic story.

    My small claim to a minute of fame: I apparently wrote the first screenplay about Robert Johnson.