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  • (slurps coffee)

  • Gangster.

  • (sniffs nose)

  • (groans)

  • That's the sound of a good interview starting.

  • (lively fiddle music)

  • Trouble started with my eyes when I was 16, 17

  • and by the time I was 18, I had to stop driving.

  • Doctor said, "You legally blind, you got 10/600 vision,

  • you can't be behind no wheel and be safe."

  • I have visual imparities, but Legally Blind Boy Paxton

  • is the stupidest stage name I could come up with,

  • so I just omitted the 'legally'.

  • (chuckles)

  • (mandolin picking music)

  • - [Chris] I'm Chris Funk.

  • I'm a musician in a band called The Decemberists,

  • and I'm on a journey looking for the most

  • surprising and extraordinary people in music.

  • My next stop takes me to New York City.

  • There, I will meet a virtuoso in his 20's

  • whose genius is playing music that's 100 years old.

  • You wanna play some piano?

  • - [Jerron] Alright.

  • (rolls keys on keyboard)

  • (lively piano music)

  • My name is Jerron Paxton.

  • Born South Central Los Angeles,

  • currently of New York City and a world traveler.

  • I'm a music physician.

  • Dr. Feelgood of music as it was.

  • - [Chris] Jerron is a master of forgotten music.

  • The first time I heard him play,

  • I thought I was listening to some old, obscure 45's.

  • He can pick up almost any instrument

  • and it sounds like he just stepped off

  • the Mississippi Delta.

  • (lively piano music)

  • (men chuckle)

  • I play guitar, banjo, harmonica, piano, fiddle.

  • (fiddle music)

  • And some other instruments that are

  • reserved for private pleasure.

  • (man chuckles)

  • What?

  • Get your mind out of the gutter.

  • (fiddle music)

  • People call this traditional music

  • and lot of people tend to think of me as a revivalist.

  • I don't tend to think of things in those terms

  • because I'm a musician.

  • This is music I always played and I always

  • played it for my family.

  • It's not old or traditional or throwback,

  • I'm just a dude that plays music that

  • my folks and I wanna listen to.

  • Play the melody with the right side.

  • No way.

  • And you play the harmony with the left side.

  • I've got insane oral skills.

  • (man laughs)

  • - [Chris] One of my favorite things about Jerron

  • is that he's on a historical mission of sorts,

  • rediscovering for the rest of us

  • the original black music of America.

  • People don't associate the banjo

  • with black people anymore and, you know, 200 years ago

  • that's all you associated with 'em.

  • (picks banjo)

  • Oh, baby.

  • (tunes down)

  • That's my direction, to find a music

  • that relates to my culture I had to go back.

  • I had to go back past recording history,

  • had to go back to the 1840s to hear

  • what that kind of music sounded like.

  • And seeing as their ain't no records of it,

  • I have to recreate it, you know?

  • I'm one of a handful of black banjo players

  • left in the world.

  • I figured to represent black banjo music

  • all I had to do was just act natural.

  • It may rain, it may snow, ♪

  • It may rain a whole lot more

  • Back home in South Central, I'd play the music

  • like my grandma taught me from the cotton field.

  • It don't have too much European overtones and influences.

  • The techniques and a lot of the melodies

  • are made out of whole cloth by the builders of America.

  • (laughs)

  • (crowd cheers and applauds)

  • Thank you so much, my gangster brothren and sistren.

  • - [Chris] After watching Jerron

  • at the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn

  • play songs that are 100 years old,

  • it's easy to see why he can captivate an audience.

  • (guitar picks jovially)

  • It takes me.

  • You know, it's my music, it's my culture and it's my passion.

  • And I don't watch TV and I don't have

  • too many other hobbies, so this is what I get into.

  • And I get into the history of it.

  • (harmonica cries)

  • It seems to be more entertaining than

  • any book and any story that you could read

  • because it's all real and there's more of it

  • to be discovered.

  • (crowd cheers and applauds)

  • Thank you, friends.

  • (gentle music)

  • (electronic beep)

(slurps coffee)

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B1 US GreatBigStory music banjo fiddle chris piano

The Blind Musician Preserving America's Original Black Music

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    Samuel posted on 2018/11/01
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