DeFord's Playing Style
remembered Judge Hay once saying on air,
|"'I'm letting you know, DeFord Bailey
is the best harp player that was ever knowed out of four hundred
offered some thoughts on what made his style so unique.
|"My timing is different from theirs.
I play double. I got a double sound. I can't play single.
It doesn't sound
good to me."
" You can't x-ray it or do blueprints
like a doctor or engineer to understand it. It's just
in me. I can't
help it. I don't ask nobody to help me or show me how
to do it. I just do it. You hear something all the
my music. Other people's music is good, but it's missing
something, I think. I add time to vacant space."
playing on the Opry, DeFord often stood on a Coca-Cola crate in
order to reach the microphone. When out on the road, DeFord generally
carried a megaphone, which he designed himself and attached to his
harp to use as an alternative to a microphone or public address
system. DeFord usually held his harp with one hand while playing.
He made it look effortless, moving his wrist in a smooth, rhythmical
manner and never jerking his hand back and forth.
advice to other harmonica players:
|"Hold a harp like I do and then move
your hand like power steering on a car, not like standard steering.
to keep your hand smooth."
became the most successful artist to share the tradition of black
hillbilly music with a wider audience. Considered the leading harmonica
player in the first half of the 20th Century, DeFord influenced
other players such as Sonny Terry, who toured with Woody Guthrie
and who recorded "The Fox Chase" for Belafonte's black
music anthology set, The Long Road to Freedom. Terry once
said DeFord Bailey was his source and inspiration. Musicologists
and music historians have said that no one has ever played close
to his style and depth.
Historian Charles Wolfe said of DeFord,
"He was one of the first great
innovators. Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Elvis Presley,
these are all people who have taken
an older music and made it new again. DeFord tried to do
that and he did it very well but he wasn't allowed to finish
Source for the material
in this section, including excerpts:
David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star
in Early Country Music (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991)
| PLAYING STYLE | SONGS