William "Poor Bill" White

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Bluesmen expected to be miserable might all benefit from a stage moniker denoting a sorry state. Nonetheless, by family relation William "Poor Bill" White may actually be linked to one of the…
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Bluesmen expected to be miserable might all benefit from a stage moniker denoting a sorry state. Nonetheless, by family relation William "Poor Bill" White may actually be linked to one of the merrier performers in this genre, folk-blues kingpin Josh White. If blues song titles can be judged on any kind of misery index, then a rare title for which the latter's sibling gets a songwriting credit does much to confirm the soft image of Josh White: "Bonbons, Chocolate and Chewing Gum." Of course, an important aspect of being considered poor or pathetic would be to have no idea about one's family background, so naturally the performer who recorded a few titles in the '30s as "Poor Bill" may not actually have been Josh White's brother after all.

The actual sound of these recordings does not make such a connection seem preposterous, Poor Bill performing in a similar folk-blues style as the much better-known maybe-sibling but also including guitar picking from outside the normal country blues realm itself, if there is such a thing. Researchers demand facts as well as aesthetic opinions when confirming identities, and are often forced to look at song titles themselves for clues. This may be the very source of the problem confirming the identify of this particular White. One team of musicologists went "Way Up on the Mountain" and never came back; meanwhile, a pair of private detectives hired by a large discographical firm seems to have been seriously distracted by "A Hundred Women."