An American Songster Part Two… Howard & Jimmy:

 

As a follow-up to my 7/29/11 blog featuring Howard Armstrong, I’d like to take a closer look at Jimmy Borsdorf, Howard’s frequent West Coast accompanist.

Howard Armstrong, Jimmy Borsdorf and Brian Williams/bb

Howard Armstrong, Jimmy Borsdorf

and Brian Williams

Port Townsend Blues Fest – 1994

 

Roughly the last 15 years of his life, Howard Armstrong became something of a regular – certainly a favorite – at Port Townsend, Washington’s Centrum Country Blues and Fiddle Tunes workshops and festivals.

When appearing at Port Townsend, away from his home base of Detroit, (later, Boston), Howard would perform – as well as give workshops – with other workshop staff musicians.

In the 1990s he was paired several times with Jimmy Borsdorf, a legendary fiddler, singer, and multi-instrumentalist… famous for playing what her called “cowboy gypsy music.”

Playing with Howard at Port Townsend Jimmy mainly performed Jimmy Borsdorf (far right) with R.Crumb’s DeLuxe String Orch./bbon guitar, leaving the fiddle and mandolin duties to Howard.  In 1994 Brian Williams supported Howard and Jimmy on bass and they were billed as “Howard Armstrong and the Vanilla Chocolate Drops.”

Armstrong had worked with Borsdorf previously   at Port Townsend and their musical rapport was excellent.

 

Jimmy Borsdorf (far right) with R. Crumb’s DeLuxe String Orch. – 1974

 

 

Hawks & Eagles promotional drawing by R. Crumb/bb

Jimmy and Nancy by R. Crumb — 1978

 

Borsdorf, from Chico, California also performed regularly in Northern California, with his wife Nancy, as one half of the duo, Hawks and Eagles.  He had also performed with R. Crumb’s DeLuxe Orchestra.  To complete the circle… it is said that Jimmy gave his cello to Terry Zwigoff (prior to Zwigoff’s production of Louie Bluie) who took his place in Crumb’s group.

             Jimmy, Suzy Thompson and Howard 1994/bb           Jimmy, Suzy Thompson and Howard 1994/bb

Howard Armstrong leading workshops with Jimmy and the incomparable Suzy Thompson

– another Vanilla Chocolate Drop emeritus –

Centrum Country Blues week, 1994

 

In the mid-90′s Jimmy contacted me concerning a Carl Martin recording I was selling and we corresponded a number of times, trading a number of recordings in the process.

To give a sense of Howard and Jimmy’s relationship, I’m including an audio file, below, of one of the songs Jimmy sent me. The song is captured on a decidedly lo-fi recorder, in Jimmy’s room.  Howard is teaching Jimmy a song he had recently written… a song he was wanting to perform in concert.

With Howard on guitar and Jimmie playing fiddle, the song is a novelty number, titled “Ain’t Gonna Throw This Away.” 

Lyrics follow.

 

Ain’t Gonna Throw This Away

Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong

Howard Armstrong, guitar, vocal; Jimmy Borsdorf, fiddle

 

 

Spoken: Howard “You want to do, ah… “Ain’t Gonna Throw This Away?  This is one I wrote.  It (goes) something like?) … yeah”

——————————————————————————–

You know, a little boy was eatin’ an apple.

He started to throw that core away. 

Then he took, one more look, somebody, heard him say:

I ain’t gonna throw this away, (not me). Ain’t gonna throw this away.  There’s a whole heap more apple on this old apple core – I ain’t gonna throw this away.

Ain’t gonna throw this away, ain’t gonna throw this away.

Whole heap more apple on this old core – I ain’t gonna throw it away

——————————————————————————–

You know, a blind man was eating in the county house, he found a rat tail in his stew.  He heard somebody shout: “you better throw that out.  I’ll be gosh durned iffin’ I do.

Ain’t gonna throw this away, (not me). Ain’t gonna throw this away.  You know when we eat, they don’t give us much meat – I ain’t gonna throw this away.

Ain’t gonna throw this away (no way), ain’t gonna throw this away.  When we eat,they don’t give us much meat – ain’t gonna throw this away

—————————————————————————————

You know Uncle Ben, was sippin’ gin, layin’ out thar, in the shade.  Great big bug dropped in his jug, you outta heard the splash it made.

He says, I ain’t gonna throw this here away. I just ain’t gonna throw this here good stuff away.

This alcohol, ain’t hurt a’tall – I ain’t gonna throw it away

Ain’t gonna throw this away, ain’t gonna throw this away

This alcohol, ain’t hurt a’tall – and ain’t gonna throw it away

….. [Howard, direction to Jimmy… “now you adlib it a little” ]

—– Instrumental break  ———————————————-

You know, Old Reverend Jones went hunting, tramped through the woods all day.  Now, what ol’ Rev. shot, wasn’t so doggoned hot, but somebody heard ol’ Rev. say:

What did he say?  He said: I ain’t gonna throw this here away. I just ain’t gonna throw this here good fowl away. Buzzard stew will have to do – but I ain’t gonna throw it away.

Ain’t gonna throw this away, ain’t gonna throw this away

Buzzard stew will have to do – ain’t gonna throw this away.

…Let’s go to England…

—————————————————————————————

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her muckets and her huckets.  Along came a great big spider, and dropped… right in her bucket.

She says: I ain’t gonna throw this away. Can’t afford to throw this away.  I’ll have this jerk for my dessert – but I’m not gonna throw it away.

I’m not gonna throw this away, ain’t gonna throw this away

I’ll have this jerk for my dessert – but I’m not gon’ to throw it away.

I’m not gonna throw this away, ain’t gonna throw this away

I’ll have this jerk for my dessert – but I’m not gon’ to throw it away.

   

Spoken:

Jimmy: “That’s a great song… I never heard that!”

Howard: “I know you didn’t, I wrote the crazy thing!”

 

Howard and Jimmy 1994 workshop - Port Townsend/bb

Jimmy and Howard in workshop,

Port Townsend Blues Week, 1994

 

Hawks & Eagles CD/bbHawks & Eagles CD/bb

Hawks & Eagles CDs

Sad to say, Jimmy was lost to colon cancer — much too young, at the age of 55 — in January of 2005.  He is missed by those who knew him… Jimmy was a gifted musician, a force of nature with a “larger-than-life” personality.

I don’t believe any of Jimmy and Nancy’s music as Hawks & Eagles is currently available, nor is any of Jimmy’s work with Howard Armstrong available.  Unfortunately, my efforts to contact Jimmy’s wife, Nancy Bray Borsdorf, for further information have failed.  It is believed that she has recently been performing as a member of Horse Sense with veteran performer Justin Bishop.

Please check them out at: http://www.horsesensemusic.com/index.php

And take a look at the article profiling Horse Sense at the Sacramento News Review Online website:

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/horse_sense/local/band?oid=287311

 5/31/2012 update:

I have received word from Jimmy’s wife, Nancy Bray Borsdorf, who kindly sent the posters below, and the following:  

”When Jimmie joined up with Howard Armstrong it was the height of his happiness and the prime of his musical career… thank you for keeping the musicians’ stories alive.”

Love, Nancy Bray Borsdorf

Borsdorf Hawks7

Above: Hawks & Eagles promo sheet…

Illustration/Lettering by R. Crumb

Borsdorf Hawks8

Variant of Hawks & Eagles illustration by R. Crumb, including Chris Loizeaux, right

 

The fine print…

Images and media content: The large majority of images and media content are from my personal collection, these are noted with a “/bb” at the end of the title when hovering over the image.

Other images and/or media content are deemed “open access” and will be duly credited whenever possible. Notice of copyright protection in any Vernacular::Shellac blog does not and will not apply to open access images or media.  If I have used any images or content that is copyright protected, please advise and appropriate credit will be given.  All Vernacular::Shellac content, excepting that excluded above is ©2011 by Bill Boslaugh

Inaccuracies, corrections, feedback or additions?  Please let me know!

Bill Boslaugh

okeh78@msn.com

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