Through my mother Ann Halling, nee Angela Jean Elisabeth Watt, I'm mainly lowland Scottish and Ulster-Scots. My mother was born in the city of Brandon, Manitoba, but while still an infant she moved with her parents and four siblings to the Grandview area of east Vancouver, Canada. Grandview's earliest settlers were usually tradesmen or shopkeepers, in shipping or construction work, and largely of British origin. My own grandfather James Watt was a a carpenter by trade who'd been born in the little town of Castlederg in County Tyrone, Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Grandview underwent massive change following the First World War when Italian, Chinese, and East European immigrants moved in, and still more after World War II with a second wave of Italian immigrants. It is still home to Vancouver's Little Italy centred on Commercial Drive.
Her mother was from Glasgow, Scotland, having been born there to an English father hailing either from Liverpool or Manchester, and a Scottish mother. My mother therefore was born with mixed lowland Scottish, Ulster-Scots and English blood. She was the only one of her family born in Canada, her elder sister Annie-Isabella, elder brother Robert, brother James Jr., sister Elizabeth, who died in infancy, all having been born in Scotland, while another sister Catherine had been born in Ireland.
Our Scots-Irish Roots
My paternal grandfather was probably a descendant of the planters sent according to the historical account by the English to Ulster, many of them originally inhabitants of the Anglo-Scottish border country, as well as the Scottish lowlands. Lowlanders are traditionally distinct from the highlanders, in so far as they are widely considered to be of Anglo-Saxon rather than Celtic extraction, although how true this is it is impossible to say. Sense dictates that they'd be a mixture in terms of blood, which is to say Celtic (or rather Celtiberian), Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Scandinavian and so on, not that I'm qualified to speak definitively on the subject. This is especially true given that according to recent findings, the inhabitants of the British Isles are uniformly between 59 and 96% Iberian.
Many of these Ulster Scots emigrated to the United States in the 1600s, and their descendants are to be found all throughout the US, but most famously perhaps in those regions of which the South is composed in a cultural sense. Indeed most of the original settlers of the Deep and Upland South were of British and especially English and Scots-Irish origin. Among those whites identifying as ethnically American today in the South, the vast majority are believed to be of English and Scots-Irish extraction. Additionally a sizable porportion of white southerners claim actual English, and to a lesser extent, Scots-Irish ancestry. The people of the mountainous regions of the South such as the Appalachian mountains are widely believed to be intensively Scots-Irish, with some insisting that that makes them Anglo-Saxon rather than Celtic. This is due to the fact that their first home was the region of Britain straddling the Scottish Lowlands and Anglo-Scottish Borderlands, one traditionally perceived as Sassenach. Sassenach or Sasenaig in Ireland being the Gaelic term for Saxon, or person of Anglo-Saxon origin.
From the Delta to the British Blues Boom
While the Southern gene pool has been reinforced over the centuries by successive waves of immigrants, including Germans, Scottish Highlanders, French Huguenots, French Canadian Acadians, and Irish Catholics, it remains significantly Scots-Irish and English. But it's also a deeply African-American area, despite the 7 million or more black people who emigrated from the South to the North, Midwest and West during the period 1910 to 1970 known as the Great Migration. In terms of their music, their most famous port of call was arguably the great Midwestern city of Chicago. As I discuss this subject I do so needless to say with imperfect knowledge. The same could of course be said of all my writings, indeed those of any would-be writer.
The Chicago Blues, which was an electrified version of the original Country Blues created through new developments in amplification, flourished in that city in the 1940s. It went on to inform the development of Rock'n'Roll, which was equally influenced by Country music and most especially the variant known as Rockabilly.
The most influential Rock phenomenon of all time the Beatles were not as I see it overly influenced by the Chicago Blues, unlike their closest rivals the Rolling Stones. Rather they looked for inspiration to more recent and commercial trends in Popular music such as Rock'n'Roll, as well as the musics which eventually became known as Motown and Soul, and which were to some degree a fusion of R&B, Gospel and Classic American Pop. This pop element, taken not just from watered down Rock'n'Roll and Tamla Motown, but traditional white Tin Pan Alley or Classic Pop, and grafted onto ingenious songs marked by complex and unusual harmonies almost certainly contributed to the Beatles' near universal appeal. And thanks to this appeal they became the chief architects of modern Pop Music which went on to form the basis of the entire Sixties social revolution.
Conversely, the prime movers of the British Blues Boom, who largely ignored Rock'n'Roll in favour of the rootsier Delta Blues, as well as their offshoots (Rythym and Blues, Chacago Blues and so on). Out of this British Blues Boom, Rock as opposed to Pop came into being, although it would not be called Rock until well into the sixties until which time it was seen as no less Pop than the Beatles. Pop survived as an alternative generic description, although from the late '60s it was used increasingly to describe commercial as opposed to Underground or Progressive Rock. Today, however, Pop is viewed rather as a strain within Rock or a sub-genre, or as a different form of music altogether.
Many of the groups forming part of the British Blues Boom jumped onto the Pop bandwagon created by the Beatles to form part of the British Invasion of the US Pop charts of 1964-'65 and beyond. They included the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, the Animals, the Yardbirds and the Who. Others were less successful, and it seems that was especially true of the first wave of such bands, who adapted less well to the growing Pop scene. Innocent at first from about the mid-1960s this same scene became increasingly associated with an anti-Establishment worldview reminiscent of that of the fading Beat Generation, by which time it was a massively successful commercial phenomenon with millions of followers worldwide. Its cataclysmic effect on the moral fabric of the Christian West cannot be underestimated. It was in effect the soundtrack of a World Revolution, although this was far from apparent in the early days of Beatlemania, when it seemed to have more in common with the golden age of Hollywood romanticism than the rebellious discontent of the Beats and Angry Young Men of the '50s. I grew up to this soundtrack. But I digress, as I will continue to do so as I make my own migration through the convolutions of my family history, and the the worlds in which they took place...
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