This week’s video feature begins with Jack White’s mention of Cab Calloway and improvisational performance of St. James’ Infirmary Blues on BBC2’s Later with Jools Holland:
Before doing his northern Detroit version of St. James’ Infirmary Blues, White mentions that he first heard it performed by Cab Calloway as part of a Betty Boop cartoon. This great version of the song along with the original cartoon is also available online and posted below. Calloway’s performance comes about 4 minutes 20 into the cartoon and it’s not only Calloway’s voice you can hear but also his dance moves you can see too, as performed by Koko the clown. Calloway’s performance was in fact recorded and then transferred into the animation using the rotoscoping method so that frame-by-frame Koko would mimic Calloway’s unique moves. This method was also used to transfer Calloway’s move onto the screen in the Betty Boop cartoon Minnie the Moocher that we used as our first video of the week post.
Of course White has always been influenced by earlier blues artists and this continues on his first solo album, Blunderbuss, which was released last week. Track 8 – I’m Shakin’ – features a great guitar riff and sees White covering “The Prince of the Blues” Little Willie John.
Earlier in his career as one part of the duo The White Stripes live performances often included covers of various Delta Blues artists including: Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson and as shown here below the fierce voice and guitar bashing sounds of Son House.