Archeophone’s 4 Banjo Songs, 1891-1897 by African American recording pioneer, Charles A. Asbury, is nominated for Best Album Notes, written by myself (Richard Martin) and Ted Olson. We’re very appreciative for this recognition, but there is a misapprehension floating around out Asbury’s background that needs addressing.
Some reviewers have summed up the notes by saying that there is uncertainty about Asbury’s race, and that I take the position he was black. Let me be perfectly clear: there is no uncertainty. Asbury was a light-skinned African American of Spanish origin. From the records we have found, he lived his entire life as a black man, in the company of other 19th-century blacks, and there is no evidence whatsoever that he ever tried to pass for white.
Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields. This union is how most people remember Blossom, but it’s only a quarter of the story of her marriages and professional partnerships (Adam Swanson Collection)
A while back we announced that we were working on a CD compilation of the recordings by Blossom Seeley, one of the most successful vaudeville artists of all time. Some of you have wondered what ever happened to the project, and we have an answer for you.
After doing a little poking around into the life and career of the entertainer, we realized what a remarkable figure she is—and that pretty much everything that is known about her early years is untrue. So we decided to do a thorough research job and to publish a much more detailed biography than ever before attempted or contemplated. This just requires time, and so that’s the reason for the delay.
Blossom made her first record in 1911 and then didn’t make another until 1921, but she did a lot of living on and off-stage before and in between those two visits to the Columbia studio. Going through trade magazines, newspapers, and other primary sources shows the extent of this woman’s drive, the ecstatic praise she received over years of performing, and the reach of her influence. Behind it all was a trail of tears: a lost childhood, three wrecked marriages, two abandoned children, an assault case on a famous paramour, an attempted suicide, jealously and manipulation of colleagues and competitors, and enough gossip to make Britney Spears raise an eyebrow.