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Lane Hardin

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Accounts of names concocted so that publishers could collect extra money as songwriters run rampant in this database, yet in the case of Lane Hardin this is just one strand matted into the type of hair brush someone might find snooping around a vacation cabin that has been boarded up for 25 years. True, as indicated by author Bruce Bastin in his superb biography of Joe Davis, that conniving publisher and A&R man did publish some songs under the pseudonym of L. Hardin. While the Davis stylistic domain was not just country blues, he did have enough involvement with the genre to promote speculation that Lane Hardin is Joe Davis, which he isn't. Coming to conclusions about who Hardin wasn't is apparently easier than finding out who he really was. Country blues buffs love their Lane Hardin tracks and would subsequently love to figure out this puzzle of a discography brief enough to be missed entirely by someone slipping out for doughnuts but artistically liberated enough to be classified by some as hillbilly music. That's a key indicator to one of the grand mysteries of this artist -- the fact that no one is even sure what race he is, a stomach-churning debacle indeed in the highly racist environments of blues and old-timey music. Perhaps the performer who created a pair of tracks for Bluebird in the mid-'30s used an alias to dodge such stylistic controversy. These songs, the best known of which is "California Blues," represent the entire Lane Hardin catalog. Records of Davis' various enterprises indicate he bought an additional title by this artist from Bluebird, but nobody claims to have ever heard it -- the title, wonderfully enough, is "I Don't Know." Perhaps the accountant was simply making a note that he didn't know who Lane Hardin was, either. Speaking of which, the St. Louis bluesmen Henry Townsend has speculated that these Hardin tracks were actually the work of a performer known as Hi Henry Brown. The same source indicates that this bluesman was regularly employed in a steel mill and made some later recordings in the '40s under the name of Leroy Simpson. ~ Eugene Chadbourne