Saturday, May 3, 2014

Geechie, Elvie, and Me

L.V. Thomas
20" x 16"
oil on board, 2014
★Last Kind Words Blues by Geechie Wiley, accompanied by a certain Elvie Thomas, was the #1 in the Top 100 of 1999.
★The 1994 documentary film Crumb, by Terry Zwigoff introduced me to the song. 
★Robert Crumb owned a 78 disc of the song, one of only 10 discs known to exist of the duo that recorded only six sides.
★Like many others, and myself, the journalist John Jeremiah Sullivan became fascinated with the song after seeing the movie.
★Last Kind Words Blues was recorded in 1930 and is considered a masterpiece. 
★Wiley and Thomas were as obscure as obscure gets. 
★50+ years of researchers' efforts yielded very little information, not even the real names of the two performers.
★John Sullivan set out on a fifteen year journey to uncover the identity of the two women.
★The journey saw the first results when Sullivan met Mack McCormick, a veteran in the field of blues research.
★In McCormick’s files Sullivan found a mention of a woman guitar player “as good as any” named L.V. Thomas.
★Miss Thomas was still alive when McCormick did research on her, this was in 1961. 
★Eventually Sullivan identified the two women. Geeshie (as he spells it) was Lily Mae Wiley, nee Scott, and Elvie was L.V. Thomas, nee Grant.
★Lily May Scott was born in 1908 in Natchez, MS, while L.V. Grant was born in 1891, in Houston, TX.
★L.V. Thomas died in 1979 (in Houston), when Lily Mae Wiley died is not known.
★Lily Mae Scott killed her husband, Thornton Wiley, in 1931.
★Wiley and Thomas were likely involved in a lesbian relationship.

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