Lead Belly: How many versions of „Easy Rider“ (See See Rider, C.C. Rider) did Lead Belly record?

Answer: Probably about five.

But aha! This is another update to my Complete Discography of Lead Belly recordings. This time, a contradiction was spotted by Bernard Sigaud.

My list used to have a take of „Easy Rider (See See Rider“ for the session of May 1944 (appearing on DOCD-5310 and SFW40045) and another take, „Easy Rider“, for June 1946 (appearing on DOCD-5311 and SFW40201). Bernard noticed that these two takes seem to be the exact same take.

And he’s right!

When I went throught the available documentation, there seems to be an uncertainty or a mistake for the May 1944-session (and its following documentation) that goes something like this:

The take certainly stems from some mid-1940s session Lead Belly made for Moses Asch – this much was always known, but the details of those sessions seemed to be unclear for a long time. The title „Easy Rider (See See Rider)-1“ does show up in the discography by Wolfe/Lornell (1992) for the session in May 1944, but this session does have the Wolfe/Lornell disclaimer „[It is uncertain if these selections were recorded at the same session]“. Wolfe/Lornell give the 1950-Folkways LP 4 (or 2034 or FP34) as the first appearance of this track. They note the title „Easy Rider-2“ for June 1946, with an non-label „Disc 5501“ as first source.

These two takes mentioned separately by Wolfe/Lornell are the same take in question.

The liner notes of the first big CD-reissue of Folkways FP34, which is SFW40045, follow Wolfe/Lornell and also note the „Easy Rider“ take as from May 1944.

Liner notes Bourgeois Blues – Lead Belly Legacy Vol. 2, Smithsonian Folkways 40045

The Document Records CD DOCD-5310 also reproduces this and puts the take at May 1944. Now, as Wolfe/Lornell noted, there was always doubt about the tracks of this May 1944-session: „[It is uncertain if these selections were recorded at the same session]“. As it turns out, the discography by Fancourt/McGrath (2006) does list a number of songs from FP34, but „Easy Rider“ is not to be found there. But the title „Easy rider (See see rider)-1“ does show up for June 1946, with „Disc 5501?, Fw FP 34“ as source. The later Folkways Collection SFW40201 notes „Easy Rider“ as from June 1946 with Folkways 2034 (FP34) as the first appearance.

Liner notes Lead Belly – The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, Smithsonian Folkways 40201

So in both instances, this would be the take that Wolfe/Lornell had placed for May 1944. The Document Records DOCD-5311 simply works with this information and uses the take as from June 1946.
The mistake seems to be simple: Folkways mistakenly placed the take in 1944 for its first issue in 1950 and there was contradictory information in Wolfe/Lornell with an „Easy Rider“-take for May 1944 and for June 1946. As this turned out to be the same take, it was obviously concluded at some point (I don’t know anything about the specifics) that there was no „Easy Rider“-take for May 1944 after all.
The placement of the take on DOCD-5310 is therefore misplaced and outdated – at least that’s what the documents say now. It would be interesting to have a look at the documentation to find out when the knowledge arose that this mid-1940s Asch-recording of „Easy Rider“ wasn’t from 1944 but from 1946. But I have no idea.

Short take away:

  1. There is (as of now) no „Easy Rider“-take from May 1944.
  2. DOCD-5310 and SFW40045 mistakenly list an „Easy Rider“ -take from May 1944.
  3. DOCD-5311 contains the same take, listed for June 1946.
  4. SFW40201 contains the same take, listed for June 1946.

I deleted the „Easy Rider“-entry in my list for May 1944 and put a note for the version of June 1946.

Thanks, Bernard!