I recently received an email from an enthusiastic Porter Grainger fan. In fact, his first comment was to point out that “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” actually made it onto piano rolls! Readers of this blog – and of the book – will know that the composer of “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” was Porter Grainger. Grainger was one of those souls who disappeared almost completely from public consciousness, even though he left a significant mark on the music of the 1920s.
[Blind Willie] McTell himself said of his most strikingly original composition, “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” (1.9MB MP3): “I had to steal music from every which way you could get it to get it to fit.” Although the criminal’s mock testament has a history ranging from Villon to “Streets of Laredo” and “St. James Infirmary,” McTell’s three years of tinkering resulted in a structure part recitation, part theater — a three-act pop opera complete with opening fanfare.