Life on the Underground

by Raymond Johnson

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"Life on the Underground" is a recording of saxophonist Raymond C. M. Johnson and conguero Raymond Johnson Sr. The impromptu recording session of the father-son-duo was produced using a field recorder on an outdoor backyard patio and later mixed and treated in Raymond's project studio. The concept of the album signifies humanity's journey toward truth and knowledge which is often partaken under great duress. Each track marks various metaphors, events, and figures of the US Abolitionist era - a time reflected upon by the need to forge another Underground Railroad to flee the clutches of violent regime. The joy and apprehension of such a journey is marked by the emotional ebb and flow of the music.


released August 1, 2011

Raymond C. M. Johnson - tenor saxophone, flute, shakers, tambourine, and programming
Raymond Johnson Sr. - congas

Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Raymond C. M. Johnson.
Album artwork by Aaron Warner of Narrow Arroe.
Track artwork by Raymond Johnson.

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Raymond Johnson Austin, Texas

Musical sounds for your Being of body, mind, and spirit.

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Track Name: Northern Sun
"People trying to escape slavery had many clues they could rely on to find out where "north" actually was. They knew moss usually grew on the north sides of trees. They also observed that migrating birds flew north in the summer.

One of the best clues they could use to find north was to locate the North Star. The North Star is also called Polaris. Unlike other stars, it never changes position. It always points to the north."


More Information

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" Music Video

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" Wikipedia Article'_Gourd
Track Name: Boxy Brown
"Henry Box Brown was an abolitionist lecturer and performer. Born a slave in Louisa County, he worked in a Richmond tobacco factory and lived in a rented house. Then, in 1848, his wife, who was owned by another master and who was pregnant with their fourth child, was sold away to North Carolina, along with their children. Brown resolved to escape from slavery and enlisted the help of a free black and a white slaveowner, who conspired to ship him in a box to Philadelphia. In March 1849 the package was accepted there by a leader of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.

As a free man, Brown lectured across New England on the evils of slavery and participated in the publication of the Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849). In 1850, a moving panorama, Henry Box Brown's Mirror of Slavery, opened in Boston. That same year, Brown, worried that he might be re-enslaved, moved to England, where he lectured, presented his panorama, and performed as a hypnotist. In 1875, he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter Annie and performed as a magician. Brown's date and place of death are unknown, but his legacy as a symbol of the Underground Railroad and enslaved African Americans' thirst for freedom is secure."


More Information:
Track Name: Tombigbee's Peg Foot
"A one-legged sailor, known as Peg Leg Joe, worked at various jobs on plantations as he made his way around the South. At each job, he would become friendly with the slaves and teach them the words to the song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd." ...

The first verse instructs slaves to leave in the winter ... The second verse told slaves to follow the bank of the Tombigbee River north. They were to look for dead trees marked with the drawings of a left foot and a round mark, denoting a peg leg. In the third verse, the hidden message instructed the slaves to continue north over the hills when they reached the Tombigbee’s headwaters. From there, they were to travel along another river—the Tennessee. There were several Underground Railroad routes that met up on the Tennessee."


More Information

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" Music Video

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" Wikipedia Article'_Gourd
Track Name: Salem and Pearl
"On April 15, 1848, 76 freedom seekers escaped from owners in Washington City, Georgetown, and Alexandria; these African Americans were workers in homes, boardinghouses, hotels, and perhaps even the White House. Organizers of the escape included: free men like Paul Jennings (a former slave of James Madison and butler of Daniel Webster) and Daniel Bell, enslaved African Samuel Edmonson, and white abolitionists Gerrit Smith and William Chaplin.

The intended means of escape was a 54-ton bay-craft schooner called the Pearl, moored at the 7th St. Wharf on the Potomac River and chartered by Daniel Drayton. To succeed, the schooner needed to reach the Chesapeake Bay, 100 miles away, and continue 120 miles to Frenchtown, NJ. Free African American Judson Diggs betrayed the secret, and the steamboat Salem overtook the schooner."


More Information

"The Pearl: A Failed Slave Escape Attempt on the Potomac" by Josephine F. Pacheco

"Escape on the Pearl:The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad" by Mary Kay Ricks

Daniel Drayton's Personal Memoir

Antislavery politics and the Pearl incident of 1848 by Richard C. Rohrs, "The Historian", 1994

The Saga of the Pearl, Mary, and Emily Edmondson (incomplete)

Wikipedia Article

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