Black Music In America - Thurs. July 12 - 8PM

Oddball Films brings you Black Music In America, an evening saluting the great contribution of African American artists to the musical and cultural landscape of the mid-20th century.  From Blues, to Jazz, to Motown, to Funk, with shorts, documentaries, performances and portraits.  Including a rare screening of Bessie Smith's only screen performance before her tragic death, St. Louis Blues (1929).  Then, Louis Prima and Keely Smith get a little rowdy at Lake Tahoe in The Wildest (1958).  Street-guitarist, singer and ordained minister, Blind Gary Davis (1964) plays us some blues and takes us around Harlem.  Learn about the men behind the music, in James Brown - The Man(1967) and Eddie Kendricks (1973), a portrait of the former Temptation.  With the comprehensive documentary Black Music in America: From Then Till Now (1971) that explores the roots and progression of black music, including footage of Nina Simone, Duke Ellington and Sly and the Family Stone.  It is sure to be one soulful and funky evening!

Date:Thursday, July 12th at 8:00PM
Venue:Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street, San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating, RSVP to or 415.558.8117


St. Louis Blues (B&W, 1929)
The rarely screened "St Louis Blues"(1929, B+W) stars the legendary Empress of Blues, Bessie Smith in her only film appearance. This short was written by Kenneth W. Adams and W.C. Handy and based on Handy's famous song "St. Louis Blues". It was directed by Dudley Murphy (director of the 1924 French avante garde classic "Le Ballet Mechanique") and shot in June of 1929 in Astoria, Long Island. The film features a top notch jazz band that includes James P Johnson on piano Thomas Morris and Joe Smith on cornet, as well as the Hall Johnson Choir. The film had an all African American cast co-starring dancer/actor Jimmy Mordecai and Isabel Washington Powell.

Black Music in America: From Then Till Now (Color, 1971)
Rare documentary provides us with an illuminating history of black music from the introduction of slavery in America to the recent past. It introduces renowned black musicians and their contributions to jazz, blues, spirituals, protest songs, swing and rock n' roll music. This film includes priceless performances of Louis Armstrong in Ghana swingin' with the natives, Bessie Smith from the film St. Louis Blues, Bandleader Count Basie, "Lady Day" Billie Holiday, BB King live on stage, song stylist Nina Simone, jazz legend Coleman Hawkins, American jazz genius Duke Ellington, horn legend Cannonball Adderly and group and a soul rocking psychedelic Sly and the Family Stone performance!

The Wildest (Color, 1958)
Filmed on the South Sore at Lake Tahoe, this super rare short features Louis Prima with Keely Smith and Sam Butera and the Witnesses.  A very loose plot serves to feature the high-energy band tearing through When You're Smiling, Birth of the Blues, Listen to the Mockingbird and more.  Crazy lakeside capris pants twist action!

Blind Gary Davis (B&W, 1964) 
Impressionistic profile of the great Black street-guitarist and singer, showing him in his home and on the Harlem streets, where he plays and sings several of his better-known blues and religious songs. An ordained minister, Davis has been blind since youth and has used his musical virtuosity to express his innermost feelings about his life, his race and his religion. A sensitive, moving portrait that succeeds in making a social as well as personal statement. Directed by Harold Becker (who went on to direct The Onion Field and Taps among other films).

James Brown - The Man (Color, 1967)
A rarely seen documentary focusing on the man, his career and his philosophy. From his own background as a drifter and convict to his many successful businesses-including his James Brown "Golden Platter" soul food restaurants to his "Brown and Black" trading stamp venture this film paints a portrait of Brown as black activist and community leader. Riveting performance clips are interspersed with Brown's message to youth: "Don't hate-communicate", still applicable today.

Eddie Kendricks (Color, 1973)
A punchy promo film produced by Motown Records featuring the funky former singer of the Temptations in action as well as interviews with Smokey Robinson and Mary Wells of the Supremes and a live performance of "Keep on Truckin" The film relates the man and his music to his audience. One of the first films to honestly bring the background, philosophy, and character of the rock star to the public, it is a portrait of the man behind the sound who is a man totally committed to what he loves. His audience knows it; his performance shows it.