Those who have been with me for a bit may have noticed that some of my best writing comes when I take to my keyboard and obsess over historical minutiae. I mean, I consider it my best writing, but that could well be in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it’s just that it’s so much fun when I zero in on dusty factoids that I feel as if I am doing my best writing.
I marvel at obscure facts. I could while away half a day on the internet researching a person no one has ever heard of before. Or reading up on the history of some long-forgotten event. Exploring an old magazine, a greasy cookbook, an antique toaster, for Heaven’s sake…it all makes me just a tad giddy.
It turns out, there is a specific term used to describe this very finite subject matter which is often the subject of my OCD-fueled research: Microhistory. There is actually such a thing as a microhistorian. I, as an amateur, might be classified as an armchair microhistorian. I like the sound of that.
And on that note…I thought I would introduce you all to a phenomenal – and phenomenally underrated – song by a phenomenally underrated performer, Eskew Reeder.
Eskew Reeder was born in North Carolina in 1935, began a music career in his teens as a gospel singer, and soon became a pianist in rock-n-roll bands. He also backed some well-known artists (including Jimi Hendrix), cut some demos, traveled, and performed throughout the late 50’s and 60’s. At some point he adopted the stage name Esquerita.
What is especially interesting about Esquerita, though, is the fact that history cannot agree on whether he influenced the distinctive style of Little Richard, or whether Little Richard influenced his. (The two did meet and play together.) There is evidence that Reeder’s style – with the pompadour, make-up, shades, and over-the-top stage show – was developed when Little Richard was still recording singles which now reveal a conspicuous absence of the outrageous performance style for which he is known.
One thing is for sure… Esquerita was an unrecognized musical diamond in the rough, one of many who passed into obscurity throughout the 50’s and 60’s. And this song right here? I’ll bet you can’t listen to it just once.