The one and only “Elmore James”


King of the Slide Guitar and a leading influence on the Delta Blues, Elmore James was born on this day in 1918.  He died the year I was born, aged only 45.

After leaving the US navy at the end of WW2 he worked in his brothers electrical shop.  While there he experimented with electrical equipment and built his own unique electric guitar in a hollow body acoustic and his playing was described as “violent” by George Adins.  James used the bottleneck slide technique, which in those days usually meant the bottle was attached to the neck!

If you cleaned up his recordings a bit to cut the crack and hiss this stuff sounds fresh today.

Scratch the surface of any later blues act such as John Mayall or the Rolling Stones and you will find the bones of Elmore James in there.

Shake your Moneymaker

Capture of Ned Kelly


On this day in 1880 the famous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was captured at Glenrowan.  What immortalized Kelly above other outlaws was the suit of armour he cobbled together from bits and pieces of metal.  All his gang were dressed in the armour but only Kelly survived the shootout with the police at Glenrowan.

Son of Irish convict Red John Kelly a man from Tipperary , the County where I live, Ned Kelly won the hearts of the ordinary people.  They represented smallholders, the downtrodden, victimized by the police and all that was wrong with the British Imperial system.  Kelly was already a folk hero before his capture and there was a groundswell of opinion to pardon him.  The crown saw the world differently and Kelly was hanged.

He represents the Australian psyche, a rebel spirit, a frontier mindset, a reluctance to slavishly bind to rules and laws, a desire to kick at the traces of British overlordship.  Many of the original Australian settlers were convicts and their descendants who had more in common with Kelly than with the Crown.  He ranks with other Aussie heroes like Jack Duggan the “Wild Colonial Boy”, and those of song and story like Clancy of the Overflow and the Man from Snowy River.

This brings me to a funny association, because one of my favourite poets is Shel Silverstein who also wrote some great songs.  Here is “Blame it on Ned Kelly” from the 1970 movie starring Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.  Lots of people I love all involved in the same project.