Re: [Harp-L] plagarism

On Jun 30, 2007, at 3:55 AM, Joe and Cass Leone wrote:

On Jun 30, 2007, at 3:10 AM, Ken Deifik wrote:

Early in my Nashville tenure I played at a small gathering of musicians, one of whom was a well-known harp player, not Charlie McCoy. A guy who had some choice accounts, but was an inferior musician who, let's say, went to the right church. I chatted with the guy for a while, but he sounded ridiculous playing after I did, so the guy who brought him there finally told him he might just shut up and listen.

A few weeks later I heard some of my licks on a record, played by this guy.

First of all, while I agree with Mr. Weiser in spirit, It occurs to me that a person can get carried away with this plagarism and copy right business. For one thing, I (personally) feel that ANYONE who can do another persons solo note for note would have to be better technically than the person who DID said solo. Why do I feel this way? Let me count the ways.

1... There is a word in the pool/billiards game called 'ass'. This covers situations where a player seems to be making nearly impossible shots incongruous to his actual skill level. While it doesn't take into consideration that the player has been shooting for much years and FINALLY one night everything is clicking, it assumes that the player is 'Assing IN' his shots. It sort of means the same as luck. DUMB luck.

2... I (personally) feel that these players who originated these licks, were doing an arrangement. Their OWN arrangement, so to speak. As such, I don't see how you can copy right this as everyone is entitled to play these notes AND the combinations are YOUR prerogative.

3... What I believe happened is that these Sonny Boys and Walters were NOT playing from a chart and were (for lack of a better term) 'Assing IN' these riffs and runs. Just off the tops of their heads (or mouths). That's it, plain & simple. There was no space cadet rocket surgery to this. These guys LIVED harp. They WERE harp.

Ergo, the originators don't have a right to these note combinations and therefore they don't have the right to 'NON copy' (or copy right). Me? I wouldn't do it. He!!, let's be real; here..I COULDN't do it. That kind of thing takes real commitment.

I wish I could have sued that guy, but that ain't the way it works.

I can dig it. 9/25/59 I came up with what I thought was a NEW tuning. Until the mid-late 70s I don't believe I ever heard any one else using that tuning. In the mid-late 70s just before the Ryman shut it's doors I played on their last Christmas party. I was the guest of Ernest Tubb for ONE tune. Frosty the Snowman. I Played it in the Don Les style (I was told)

A.. Another harmonica player named Jim Rydell or Raydell or something was very interested in my playing without switching harps on the bridge. I explained my tuning. I suppose the word got around after that. I don't care.
B.. I never knew who Don Les was till 1991 when I met him at Buckeye or SPAH. Sooo, my style was my OWN, and not a copy of anyone else's. So what looked like a copy cat act..wasn't. I don't care.

Until recently you could not copyright an arrangement, and it's certain that most harp solos recorded in the, say, 1950's were not copyrighted. The recordings were copyrighted, but you could copy the record exactly in the studio and put it out all over again if you could find a way to make it pay, which was not easy, as you could obviously not say it was an Elvis Presley record if he didn't actually sing it.

Copy righting an arrangement is another catch 22. You would have to play YOUR arrangement note for note each and every time out. If you changed a few notes here or there, you may be doing someone ELSE's copyrighted arrangement. See how ridiculous all this gets.

Yesterday Mick Zaklan submitted an URL of Damien Masterson soloing on one of my favorite tunes 'Little Sunflower'.
I happen to do the solo fairly close to what Freddy Hubbard (himself) did. Since Fred IS the composer and trumpet player on this tune, I figured he knew the tune better than anyone and who am I to mess with a good thing. Sooo, the question is..If I do the same solo but use a chromo INSTEAD of a trumpet, is that plagerizing?. Jeez, I don't know. It all gives me a headache. I thought this was supposed to be fun.

When I do 'Sidewinder' I try to be close to the Lee Morgan trumpet solo. I thought everyone did this. I thought everyone tried to be at least true enough to the tune that people would recognize it. Some people go so far out into space, they loose the tune and can't redock the shuttle. And THAT sucks. I always try to do a tune as close to the person who made it famous would do it. Then on the improv portion, that's a zebra of different stripes.

BTW: on the above mentioned tune, Damien dropped in a few bars of 'Mona Lisa' into the solo. Is THAT legal?

smokey-joe's opinion

But it DID pay. There was a farily healthy soundalike recording business in Nashville back then. Scotty Moore had a business doing it. I worked for him a few times. Most of the time he could get the exact same cats who had played on the original to come in and do the soundalike. I never got called to soundalike Charlie McCoy, as the real guy was available. The stuff I worked on had harp that was played by some studio guitarist or other who did a second on harp, badly. It's harder to soundalike those guys than it would have been to do it to McCoy, though not by much. (Those records sold for way cheap at truck stops.)

None of this is exactly similar to a guy who drops a famous solo of someone else's into a different tune.

I'm embarrassed for anyone who would do that.


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