always check your source’s sources!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 7 minutes.

AL­WAYS CHECK YOUR SOURCE’S SOURCES! If you are not hip to the fact that bil­lions of “facts” cir­cu­lating on the in­ternet aren’t re­motely factual—even when found on oft-quoted web­sites or from well-known authors—then con­sider this your wake-up call. Many writers don’t know enough about their topics to know when a source is unreliable.

And by un­re­li­able I am not re­fer­ring just to “fake news” or the many pur­veyors of disin­for­ma­tion, such as the count­less nabobs nat­tering away on the com­ments sec­tion of news sites or blog­gers drudging up dis­in­for­ma­tion on their blogs. I am in­stead re­fer­ring to misin­for­ma­tion, which is usu­ally based on a lack of knowl­edge con­cerning the topic that someone is writing about.

Many writers on the in­ternet don’t know enough about their topics to know when a source they are using is unreliable!

This can be found on any and all types of web­sites. On my Rather Rare Records blog, I have posted sev­eral ar­ti­cles taking to task the laugh­ably in­cor­rect “in­for­ma­tion” about pop­ular music on Wikipedia. And as Wikipedia be­comes the first op­tion for in­for­ma­tion for more and more in­ternet re­searchers, this mis­in­for­ma­tion con­cerning pop­ular music is end­lessly recirculated.

So, when using any web­site as a source of in­for­ma­tion, please check their sources of in­for­ma­tion. But the re­li­a­bility of each writer’s quoted sources de­pends upon the level of knowl­edge that each writer brings to their search for re­li­able sources. 1

Keep in mind, that I am speaking about facts, not opin­ions. For ex­ample, here are two opin­ions of mine:

•  Hound Dog / Don’t Be Cruel is the greatest single of all time.
•  G. I. BLUES is the most dis­ap­pointing album of all time.

If you want to cite ei­ther of these in an ar­ticle or ar­gu­ment of your own, go for it! You do not need to fact-check any sources (al­though men­tioning my back­ground would make your citing of those opin­ions carry a little more weight).

This ar­ticle is a follow-up to the ar­ticle, “Arthur Crudup Might Just Be For­gotten If Not For Elvis.” To read that ar­ticle, click here.

 

Sources: photo of Arthur Crudup from the early 1970s.

I don’t know when this photo of Arthur Crudup was taken a few years prior to his death in 1974.

The report

In the ar­ticle “Arthur Crudup Might Have Been For­gotten If Not For Elvis” that I just pub­lished here on A Touch Of Gold, I ad­dressed the re­cently pub­lished in­terim re­port by Cal­i­for­nia’s Task Force to Study and De­velop Repa­ra­tion Pro­posals for African Americans.

I took to task the au­thors of that re­port for sev­eral state­ments about the music busi­ness in gen­eral and spe­cific state­ments about Arthur Crudup and Elvis Presley. I quoted three sen­tences that ap­peared con­sec­u­tively in one paragraph:

During the 1920s and 1930s, Black mu­si­cians were sub­jected to con­tracts where the copy­right for their work would be as­signed to their em­ployer, while being paid less than white musicians who had sim­ilar con­tracts.

For ex­ample, Elvis Presley im­i­tated Black blues and R&B singers, and due to these ex­ploita­tive con­tracts, the orig­inal song creators whose work he ap­pro­pri­ated were not even paid for the use of their music.

One of Elvis’ hit songs, That’s All Right Mama (sic), was orig­i­nally written and recorded by Arthur Crudup, a Black man who was paid so little for his record­ings that he had to work as a la­borer selling sweet pota­toes.”

I sep­a­rated the three sen­tences and turned them into three para­graphs above for ease of reading. The con­tent of these sen­tences is dis­cussed in the afore­men­tioned ar­ticle. Here, I want to call at­ten­tion to the second sen­tence, which has a foot­note fol­lowing it on the task force report.

 

Elvis 1969 LasVegas press conference FatsDomino 800 crop 1

Fats Domino (left) and Elvis Presley (right) at the press con­fer­ence held at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel in Las Vegas on July 31, 1969.

The report’s source

The task force’s foot­note leads the reader to page 485 of “Black Mu­sical Tra­di­tions and Copy­right Law: His­tor­ical Ten­sions,an ab­stract by Can­dace Hines pub­lished in The Michigan Journal of Race & Law. This is what Ms. Hines wrote:

“Elvis Presley, an ad­mitted im­i­tator of Black blues and R&B singers [em­phasis added], is a prime ex­ample of the preva­lence of this prac­tice [of. In many cases, a work-for-hire con­tract ex­isted, so the Black artist of the orig­inal song not only did not own the copy­right but was not even paid for the use of the orig­inal mu­sical work.

One of Elvis’ hit records, That’s All Right Mama [sic], was ac­tu­ally orig­i­nally written and recorded by bluesman Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, who was paid so little for his record­ings that he bal­anced his work as a rural laborer—sometimes selling sweet potatoes—with his recording ses­sions throughout his ca­reer.”

It ap­pears that the task force au­thors imitated—excuse me, I mean they adapted—several of Ms. Hines’ con­clu­sions and pub­lished them as their own in their re­port. But Hines’ words that Elvis was an “ad­mitted im­i­tator” imply that some­where Elvis had ad­mitted to someone that he had, in fact, im­i­tated artists who had pre­ceded him.

Ap­par­ently, Hines and the task force took this as gospel: of course, Elvis must have ad­mitted that he im­i­tated other artists. Ergo, there’s no need to look it up. But I never read any­where that Presley said he con­sid­ered him­self to be an im­i­tator or copycat.

Nor could sev­eral knowl­edge­able fans that I asked re­member having heard such an ad­mis­sion from Elvis.

Nor could I find an on­line source where he ad­mitted such a thing.

He cer­tainly ac­knowl­edged being in­flu­enced by Black artists and often said they did what he did better than he did. For ex­ample, on July 31, 1969, Elvis held a press con­fer­ence at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel, Las Vegas. Fats Domino had just fin­ished a four-week stay at the Flamingo Hotel and was also at the press con­fer­ence. When Elvis was asked how it felt to be the king of rock & roll, he pointed to Domino and said, “No—that’s the real king of rock & roll.”

Make of that what you will.

 

Sources: cover of the book RIP IT UP by Kandia Crazy Horse.

This is the front cover to Kandia Crazy Horse’s Rip It Up: The Black Ex­pe­ri­ence In Rock N Roll.

The report’s source’s source

In Hines’ ab­stract, the sen­tence with the “ad­mitted im­i­tator” state­ment is foot­noted. That foot­note leads to en­tries 160-161 in Rip It Up: The Black Ex­pe­ri­ence In Rock N Roll, a book of ar­ti­cles and in­ter­views as­sem­bled and edited by Kandia Crazy Horse. This is what Ms. Krazy Horse wrote (and it is edited to focus on Elvis):

“Racist at­ti­tudes con­tinue to hamper in­tel­li­gent di­a­logue about rock’s ori­gins and black artists get­ting their due. While Presley [has] long ac­knowl­edged [his] debt to rock’s black pi­o­neers and vi­sion­aries, the music in­dustry and main­stream media are un­wa­vering in making them ride the back of the bus—as if every­thing Presley did man­i­fested for­tu­itously.” 2

So, Hines ap­par­ently based her in­sulting term “ad­mitted im­i­tator” on Ms. Crazy Horse’s “long ac­knowl­edged [his] debt to rock’s black pi­o­neers and vi­sion­aries.” Crazy Horse’s state­ment is not even in the same ball­park as Hines’ “ad­mitted im­i­tator”! Presley has ac­knowl­edged the ear­lier music of Black artists since the be­gin­ning of his ca­reer. In fact, he has made clear the debt he owes them sev­eral times during his ca­reer! 3

So, if I am reading all this ac­cu­rately, the task force au­thors chose to call Elvis an “im­i­tator” while ref­er­encing a source that called him an also called him an im­i­tator but which ref­er­enced a source that said nothing of the sort.

That’s a hell of a transformation!

Make of this what you will.

Many writers on the in­ternet don’t know enough about their topics to know when a source they are using is un­re­li­able! Share on X

Sources: photo of Arthur Crudup from the 1940s.

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of Arthur Crudup, prob­ably in an RCA studio, prob­ably in the late ’40s. This photo has been used on sev­eral al­bums, in­cluding the ARTHUR “BIG BOY” CRUDUP ROCKS com­pact disc col­lec­tion from Bear Family.

 

Elvis GoldSuit 1959

POST­SCRIP­TU­ALLY: Just as I was putting this ar­ticle to bed, the ar­ticle “Google Re­al­izes It Needs to Do More to Fight Mis­in­for­ma­tion in Searchesap­peared in my email. I am sur­prised and heart­ened to read the following:

“Google said they’re launching more ways to verify in­for­ma­tion found on sites. Nayak an­nounced they were in­cluding an ‘About this source’ fea­ture on any page in the Google app. It can be ac­cessed by swiping up on the nav­i­ga­tion bar, showing more in­for­ma­tion found on­line about the web­site from var­ious sources. It cer­tainly seems like a very handy tool for those looking to verify a page’s in­for­ma­tion without having to open an­other tab.”

Thanks again to Joe Spera for proof­reading this piece and making some valu­able suggestions.

Finally—and need­less to say—I have elim­i­nated the Cal­i­fornia Task Force to Study and De­velop Repa­ra­tion Pro­posals for African Amer­i­cans as a pos­sible source for any fu­ture research.

 

____________

 

FOOT­NOTES

1   Many sites use hy­per­links to their sources, which are easily checked. Some sites use foot­notes, but even these are usu­ally hy­per­linked to the source. 

2   Here is  Crazy Horse’s full para­graph: “Racist at­ti­tudes con­tinue to hamper in­tel­li­gent di­a­logue about rock’s ori­gins and black artists get­ting their due. While Presley, Haley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Bea­tles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, and others have long ac­knowl­edged their debt to rock’s black pi­o­neers and vi­sion­aries, the music in­dustry and main­stream media are un­wa­vering in making them ride the back of the bus—as if every­thing Presley, Haley, Perkins, Lewis, et al. did man­i­fested fortuitously.”

3   When quoting text from an­other source, I left “black” and “Black” as they ap­peared in the orig­inal text.

 


 

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