Sylvester Weaver

Sylvester Weaver was a versatile guitarist of Louisville origin who made the first solo recordings of blues guitar playing. Information is lacking on Weaver's early years, though it is not unreasonable to assume that during this time he may have had some connection to the Louisville Jug Bands led by Earl MacDonald and Clifford Hayes. Sylvester Weaver first turns up in New York in 1923, where on October 23 of that year he accompanied vaudeville blues singer Sara Martin on two numbers, "Longing for Daddy Blues" and "I've Got to Go and Leave My Daddy Behind," for Okeh. Two weeks later, Weaver cut his first pair of solo recordings, "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag" for the same concern.

The Sara Martin selections represented the first time on records that a popular female singer had been backed up solely by guitar, and were an immediate success. Weaver would be assigned to cut 25 more selections accompanying Martin in the years through 1927. As to the fate of Weaver's own first recorded solos, they were equally well-received and would prove massively influential in the country market. "Guitar Rag" was later re-invented by Bob Wills into "Steel Guitar Rag" and became a country standard. Through the end of 1927, when Weaver decided to retire from music altogether, he recorded a total of 26 solo sides, and on some of the later ones Weaver was joined by another guitarist, Walter Beasley. In addition to his own solo selections Weaver made four recordings in accompaniment to Beasley. All of the issued records were avidly snapped up by customers in the rural mail order market, and both the Weaver solo items and the Weaver and Beasley records were well-known to string band musicians in the American south and west. Sylvester Weaver's work lies stylistically between blues and country music, and he had considerable impact on both musical fronts; among his recorded solos he made both a banjo record and several solos which make use of a bottleneck style slide (probably a pocket knife in Weaver's case). Although four of Weaver's pieces, including the banjo solo, were rejected by Okeh, all but one of these have been recovered and issued since.

After his heady days in New York had ended, Sylvester Weaver returned to Louisville and entered another line of work. Weaver was almost totally forgotten by the time he died in 1960. One player who still recalled Weaver was Lonnie Johnson, who remembered him as a good player, outstanding songwriter, and somebody who deserved a great deal more credit for his efforts than he would ever receive in his lifetime. In 1992 the Kentucky Blues Society raised enough funds to place a headstone on the grave of Sylvester Weaver, and this same organization presents its Sylvester Weaver Award annually to "those who have dedicated their lives to presenting, preserving, and perpetuating the blues." ~ Uncle Dave Lewis

  • ORIGIN
    Louisville, KY
  • GENRE
    Blues
  • BORN
    25 Jul 1897

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