By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Jazz Emerges Part 7

with one comment


Sing Miller: This Little Light of Mine

Visible Roots of America’s Most Original Cultural Product

Photographs by William Carter 1970 — 1989

Born in 1914, pianist-vocalist Sing Miller was active on the New Orleans scene from the late 1920s until his death in 1990. If Sing didn’t like something, he’d let you know. “Man…that ball don’t bounce,” is a Sing-saying drummer Jeff Hamilton remembers.

Early one winter morning in Iowa in 1984, when I was traveling as a photojournalist with the Percy Humphrey band, Sing sat alone in the lobby for most of an hour, staring glumly out at the blustery weather. Finally he lumbered over and checked out. “Have a nice day,” said the lady at the desk. Sing: “How I’m gonna have a nice day when you took all my money?”

But he was also a bon vivant. When a reporter asked him, “Where did the blues begin?” Sing replied, “I’ll tell you where the blues begin. Blues begin with fish fries.”

Like many early New Orleans musicians, he had an alternate profession: as a paving contractor. On gigs he gave out business cards that read, “Let me pave the way for you.”

But Sing is best remembered for captivating audiences of five, or five thousand, with his vocals on blues and spirituals. After a performance one night at New York’s prestigious Lincoln Center, the famous folklorist Alan Lomax told me:

“The first note he sang, I began to cry.  That first note of Sing’s made me burst into tears.  This little, humble, crushed-looking man was in great big Avery Fisher Hall, and he knew it.  And the first note he formed was as beautiful as a garden of flowers. It was a sunburst of the soul.”

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CLICK HERE TO HEAR SING DOING “SING’S BLUES” WITH WILLIE HUMPHREY AND OTHERS AT PRESERVATION HALL.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR SING DOING “AMEN” ON TOUR WITH THE PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND.

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Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.

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Written by bywilliamcarter

September 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

One Response

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  1. A sunburst of the soul. That is a description a person can feel. Thank you.

    Like

    Medea

    July 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm


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