ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jenni WernerLiterary Director, Geva TheaterInterview
Dan BeaumontAuthor of Preachin'
the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House
Interview
Steve GrillsMusicianInterview
Son House Levee Camp Moan Son House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965
Son House Don't Mind People Grinnin' In Your Face Son House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965
Son House My Black Mama, Pt. 1Blues Images Vol. 2
Son House My Black Mama, Pt. 2Blues Images Vol. 2
Son House Death LetterFather of the Delta Blues
Son House Mississippi County Farm Blues Blues Images Vol. 4
Son House Walkin' Blues Legends of Country Blues
Son House Louise McGee Father of the Delta Blues
Son House Empire State ExpressSon House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965
Son House Pony BluesLegends of Country Blues
Son House Preachin' The Blues Part 1Legends of Country Blues
Son House The Jinx Blues Part 1 The Real Delta Blues
Son House Delta Blues Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues

Show Notes:Son House Geva Banner

This week Geva Theatre presents Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House from August 26 through August 29th. The four-day festival weaves together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures to celebrate the life of Son House. There will be musical performances by John Hammond, John Mooney, Chris Thomas King, Joe Beard, Steve Grills as well as musical workshops. Another highlight will be the dedication of an official Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Friday, August 28 near the site where Son House resided in the Corn Hill Neighborhood of Rochester. There will also be the debut of the play, Revival: The Resurrection of Son House, by Keith Glover. In addition there will be lectures by author Dan Beaumont, Son's old manager, Dick Waterman, and Jim O'Neal founder of Living Blues magazine. On today's show we  have several folks involved in this event in the studio including Geva's Literary Director Jenni Werner, Dan Beaumont author of Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House, and musician Steve Grills.

When I was a teenager discovering the blues one of the first albums that really captivated me was Son House's Death Letter – I still have it – (the UK equivalent of Father of the Folk Blues), his stunning return to the studio after dropping out of sight for nearly twenty-five years. As author Dan Beaumont wrote: "In 1943 Son House left Mississippi, and, for all that is known of his life over the course of the next twenty-one years, he may well have fallen off the face of the earth. But this he did not do-instead he did the next best thing. He moved to Rochester, New York." As a teenager living in the Bronx I too knew nothing of Rochester outside the fact it was in some nether region of New York State – the farthest I had been was the Catskills, one hundred miles upstate. But as I read Dick Waterman's liner notes, Rochester and the address 61 Greig Street was burned in my memory. That was where Dick Waterman, Phil Spiro and Nick Perls finally tracked Son down on June 23rd, 1964. Waterman became Son's manager and the following year he was signed to Columbia and played the Newport Folk Festival. Son had several good years on the comeback trail; he toured the US playing folk festivals and the coffeehouse circuit and did tours of Europe as well. He also performed locally in Rochester at several different venues, all of which are long shuttered. Memories of Son's local performances are vividly burned into the memories of all who had a chance to witness him in action.

Son House rediscovery
The men who found Son House: Nick Perls, Dick Waterman, Son House, Phil Spiro.
Photo taken June 23, 1964 in front of 61 Greig Street.

Son's rediscovery in Rochester was newsworthy, making it into Newsweek, Downbeat and the May 29, 1965 edition of the Rochester afternoon newspaper, The Times-Union, with a story titled Son House Records Blues Again and a follow-up article and interview in July titled Hunt for 'Blues' Singer Of Thirties Ends in City. It must have been a bit bewildering to Son who was living a very low-key life in Rochester as Dan Beaumont notes: "There for twenty one years he lived amidst almost total obscurity. Indeed, what is known of his life in that city from 1943 to 1964 is so slight, so slender, that his biographer's task becomes well nigh impossible."

I came to Rochester in the late 1980's for college and have been up here ever since. Over the years I met numerous people who fondly recalled Son House and when I started doing my yearly radio birthday tributes to Son, it brought more people out of the woodwork who gladly shared their memories with me. So it's puzzling that the City has never honored Son in any way. At least Cab Calloway (born in Rochester in 1907) has a plaque honoring him, albeit tucked away on a nondescript side street in an equally nondescript park. For years myself and others thought someone should rectify this sorry state of affairs; a plaque, a statue or something to honor one of the pivotal figures in blues history, a major influence on both Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and who's recordings are among the most powerful in blues history. It would be a shame to let Son's memory slip back to the years before he was rediscovered in Rochester, but the sad fact is there was nothing tangible that shows he ever made this city his home for a good part of his life (1943-1976). This year finally marks a change as a Mississippi Blues Trail marker (only the 13th outside of Mississippi) will be dedicated to Son at the Corner of Grieg and Clarissa St., close to the spot where he was rediscovered. Son's actual residence at the time, 61 Grieg Street, no longer exists, a causality of urban renewal.

Son House Times-Union
Article from Rochester's Times-Union, July 14, 1964

Back in 2007 myself and others launched the modest Hot Blues For The Homeless concert which evolved into Hot Blues For The Homeless …A Tribute To Son House. The concert was successful, raised a good amount of money for the Rochester homeless and raised some local awareness of Son House with good coverage in the local media. Out of the concert rose the Son House Apartments which provide housing for the homeless. After a few years I got burned out on the project but I'm glad a major institution like the Geva is picking up the torch.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
James Son Thomas & Eddie CusicLittle Red CarBlues At Home Vol. 10
Eddie CusicGonna Cut You LooseLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 2
Skip James Sick Bed BluesGreatest Of The Delta Blues Singers
Napoleon Strickland & Fred McDowellShake 'em on DownShake 'Em On Down
Lemon NashPapa Lemon's BluesPapa Lemon
Lemon NashGravedigger's BluesPapa Lemon
Lemon NashBowleg Rooster, Duckleg Hen / Sweet Georgia BrownPapa Lemon
Blind Willie JohnsonLord, I Just Can't Keep from CryingBlind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Son HouseThis Little Light Of Mine The Real Delta Blues
Peg Leg Sam I Got A Home Joshua
Roy Brown Butcher Pete Part 1Pay Day Jump The 1949-51
Roy Brown Butcher Pete Part 2Pay Day Jump The 1949-51
Tampa RedIf I Don't Find Another True LoveDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues
Tampa Red
I Got My Habits On
Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues
Tampa RedEvalenaDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues
Scrapper BlackwellD BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellBig Four BluesWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Charlie PattonHigh Water Everywhere Part 1Blues Images Vol. 7
Charlie PattonHigh Water Everywhere Part 2Blues Images Vol. 7
Elmore JamesI Need YouKing of the Slide Guitar
Guitar SlimStory of My LifeSufferin' Mind
James WaltonLeaving BluesA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 2
Ma Rainey Log Camp Blues Mother of the Blues
Bertha ''Chippie'' HillHard Time Blues Bertha 'Chippie' Hill Vol. 1 1925-1929
Funny Papa Smith Seven Sisters Blues Part 1The Original Howling Wolf Sessions
Funny Papa Smith Seven Sisters Blues Part 2The Original Howling Wolf Sessions
Blind Boy FullerTell It To Me Blind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
Leroy JohnsonNo One to Love MeTexas Country Blues 1948-1951
Howlin' Wolf Bluebird BluesSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Robert Johnson Traveling Riverside Blues The Centennial Collection
Robert NighthawkFriar's Point Blues Prowling With The Nighthawk

Show Notes:

A mix show today as we travel through the 1920's up to the 60's touching on a wide variety of blues styles. On deck today are several two part blues songs including records by Charlie Patton, Funny Papa Smith and Roy Brown. Also featured are a some tracks by Eddie Cusic who recently passed away, a trio of tracks from the obscure New Orleans musician Lemon Nash, three sides by Tampa Red from a new reissue, some fine down-home blues, a pair of songs that share a similar geography and much more.

cusictho2
Eddie Cusic & James 'Son' Thomas 1976 Back cover of Albatros
album Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues (photographer: Enzo Castella)

Eddie Cusic passed away on August 11th. Cusic was born in 1926 south of Leland, Mississippi. In the early 1950's, he formed a group called the Rhythm Aces that featured Little Milton. The group played the clubs in Greenville, Leland and in juke joints throughout the Delta. In the 1960's Cusic frequently teamed up with fellow Leland guitarist James "Son" Thomas, playing with him at picnics and other social events throughout the state. He stopped performing for awhile to provide for his family, returning to active performing after retiring from his quarry job in 1989. He became a mainstay at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival and at the Sunflower River Festival. Cusic left behind a small recorded legacy that includes one full-length album, I Want to Boogie cut for Hightone in 1997 and reissued on the Wolf label with extra tracks, plus field recordings made by Gianni Marcucci in the 1970's and Axel Küstner in the 1980's.

I was toying around withe idea of doing a show revolving around two-part songs which in the context of this show would mean both sides of the 78. We spin perhaps one of the greatest two-part 78's, Charley Patton's "High Water Everywhere", his epic about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Paramount devoted an advertisement for the record with an illustration depicting a family sitting dejectedly on the porch of a shack, looking at the rising waters. The caption reads: "Everyone who has heard this record says that 'HIGH WATER EVERYWHERE' is Charley Patton's best and you know that means it has to be mighty good because he has made some knockouts."

cdtop-1423a_383_383

Other two-parters  featured today include "Seven Sisters Blues" by J. T. "Funny Papa" Smith recorded in 1931. The Seven Sisters of New Orleans were said to be a family of hoodoo women who lived and practiced in the Crescent City in the 1920's and 30's. We also spin Roy Brown's salacious tale of "Butcher Pete" from 1949:

Hey everybody, did the news get around
About a guy named Butcher Pete
Oh, Pete just flew into this town
And he's choppin' up all the women's meat

[Chorus]
He's hackin' and wackin' and smackin' (3x)
He just hacks, wacks, choppin' that meat

Tampa RedTampa Red
Read Liner Notes

I have been a huge fan of Tampa Red ever since picking up the wonderful 2-LP gatefold album, Guitar Wizard, which RCA released in the mid-70's. The album had a selection of sides from the 1930's through the 50's and a terrific set of notes by Jim O'Neal. O'Neal has provided another set of excellent notes to ACE's 2-CD Tampa Red reissue, Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues. This set focuses on Tampa's final commercial period, the years 1945 through 1953, a period I've always been a fan of particularly the sides with pianist Little Johnny Jones who recorded with Tampa from 1949 through 1953. The tracks here have never sounded better, having been taken from master tapes and the original metal masters. The collection also contains four unissued sides including "I Got My Habits On", "Mary Lou Blues", "I Don’t Find Another True Love" and "Evalena", the latter two from his final session in 1953. I think this version of "Evalena" is superior to the issued take, showcasing magnificent playing from Walter Horton. Later in the program we hear from Tampa again, this time in a supporting role, backing Bertha "Chippie" Hill  on "Hard Time Blues" from 1928.

Friars Point is a small town in Coahoma County, Mississippi with an outsized role in blues history. Mississippi was one of only three states that continued prohibition after 1933 making Friars Point a popular weekend hangout because it was across the river from Helena, Arkansas where liqueur was legal and hence became an active bootlegging center. Another reason was there was curfew in Clarksdale, one of the Delta's main towns. Muddy Waters recalled: "Twelve O'Clock, you better be out of there, get off the streets. The great big police come down Sunflower street with that big cap on, man, waving that stick…That's why all this country stuff, people go out in the country. Friars Point'd go up to four o'clock in the morning, sometimes all night." Muddy Waters also said that the only time he saw Robert Johnson play was on the front porch of Hirsberg's Drugstore in Friars Point. In "Traveling Riverside Blues" Robert Johnson sang: "Just come on back to Friars Point, mama, and barrelhouse all night long/I got womens in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee (2x)/ But my Friar's Point rider, now, hops all over me." Friars Point seems to have been a regular stop on the circuit Delta bluesmen would travel from town to town through towns like Rosedale, Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville and others. The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a Blues Trail marker in Friars Point in recognition of musician Robert Nighthawk, who at various times called Friars Point home and where one of his marriages took place. In 1940, Nighthawk recorded "Friars Point Blues", singing of "going back to Friars Point, down in sweet old Dixie Land." Nighthawk's son, drummer Sam Carr, was born in Friars Point.

Last year Arhoolie released a terrific CD by the little known Lemon Nash titled Papa Lemon. Born in 1898, Nash started on guitar, then violin, before turning to ukulele in his late teens. In the 1920's he signed on with a medicine show shilling blood tonic for an Indian chief and a legless cowboy where he honed both his music and comedy routines. Somewhere in these early years he played with the mysterious Richard "Rabbit" Brown (of whom he says: "Rabbit played so bad I had to let him go") who cut six sides for Victor in New Orleans in 1927. Nash's recordings were captured between 1956 and 1961 by both New Orleans jazz archivist Richard B Allen and folklorist Dr Harry Oster. Outside of these sides only a few other sides by Nash have been issued on the 504 record label which specialized in New Orleans jazz. Nash passed away in 1969, a virtual unknown outside his small circle of family and friends. Nash was a true songster playing a charming variety of traditional numbers including blues, pop and gospel.

Lemon NashWe play several heavy hitters on today's show including Son House and Skip James who both recorded legendary sessions for Paramount in the 1930's; House in 1930 and James in 1931, and both were rediscovered in 1964 and soon hit the blues revival circuit. In a couple of weeks I'll be doing a feature on Son House as our local theater is celebrating his legacy with an ambitious four-day event. Today's Skip James recording was recorded in 1964 in Falls Church, VA at the home of musicologist Dick Spotswood. These were James' first recordings since 1931. The sessions were completed the following year, issued in 1965 as Greatest Of The Delta Blues Singers, first on on Spotswood's Melodeon label then on the Biograph label which acquired Melodeon in 1970.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Van HuntLonesome Road BluesBlues At Home Vol. 1
Van HuntCorinna Corrina Blues At Home Vol. 1
Sweet Charlene Sitting Here Drinkin Blues At Home Vol. 1
Sam ChatmonGo Back Old DevilBlues At Home Vol. 2
Sam ChatmonProwling Ground HogBlues At Home Vol. 2
Sam ChatmonOpen Your BookBlues At Home Vol. 2
Sam ChatmonStoop Down Baby, Let Your Daddy SeeBlues At Home Vol. 2
Eugene Powell Poor Boy Blues (Take 1)Blues At Home Vol. 3
Eugene Powell Discusses His MusicBlues At Home Vol. 3
Eugene Powell Old Home BluesBlues At Home Vol. 3
Eugene Powell Blues At Home Vol. 3Blues At Home Vol. 3
Memphis Piano Red Baby Please Come Back To MeBlues At Home Vol. 4
Memphis Piano Red I Need Love So BadBlues At Home Vol. 4
Memphis Piano Red Barrelhouse Blues (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 4
Alonzo BurksTrain I RideBlues At Home Vol. 5
Carey TateDiscusses The Meaning Of The BluesBlues At Home Vol. 5
Carey TateBlues All In My Bread (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 5
Big Jack Johnson Catfish Blues (Take 1)Blues At Home Vol. 6
Pinetop JohnsonSee What You Done DoneBlues At Home Vol. 6
Pinetop JohnsonTommy Dorsey Boogie Woogie (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 6
Bukka WhiteBooker T.'s Doctor BluesBlues At Home Vol. 7
Bukka WhiteI'm Getting Ready, My Time Done ComeBlues At Home Vol. 7
Bukka WhiteThe Aberdeen Blues Blues At Home Vol. 7
Dewey Corey Dresser Drawer BluesBlues At Home Vol. 7
Dewey Corey Fishing In The DarkBlues At Home Vol. 7
Laura DukesLittle Laura's BluesBlues At Home Vol. 7
Laura DukesBricks In My PillowBlues At Home Vol. 7
Jack Owens Cherry Ball (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 8
Jack Owens The Devil (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 8
Charlie Sangster Moaning Blues Blues At Home Vol. 9
Charlie Sangster The Dirty Dozen (Take 2) Blues At Home Vol. 9
Charlie Sangster Selling That StuffBlues At Home Vol. 9

Show Notes:

Blues At Home Vol. 1As anyone who's listened to this program knows, I have a huge interest in field recordings devoting several shows to the topic and interviewing several of the men who made the recordings.  The 70's and early 80's were a good period for field recordings with men like George Mitchell, David Evans, Pete Lowry, Begnt Olsson, Axel Kunster and others (all who have been featured on past programs) making recordings throughout the south.

In the early 70's through the early 80's Gianni Marcucci made five trips to the United States from Italy to document blues with several albums worth of material issued in the the 1970's. I've corresponded with Gianni regarding those albums and he wrote that these releases were "an abuse and an offense to my effort (10 years of field research, and 13 years of re-mastering and text editing), as well as an insult to the memory of the featured artists" and that his overall experience was a "nightmare." Furthermore, he wrote, "my research has been misunderstood with the result that I received some insults and defamation, both in Europe and USA, on magazines and books." The Blues At Home series is his "peaceful reply" to those critics. The recordings heard on this series were kept in Gianni's private archive. "In order to preserve these materials I transferred to digital those I thought were best, and by 2013 [2015]  the 16-volume Blues At Home CD collection was ready for release." The material is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music and CD Baby for digital download and streaming. There are plans to make these available as physical CD's as well.

"In 1972, Gianni wrote, "I worked with Lucio Maniscalchi. In 1976 Vincenzo Castella, assisted me and took the photographs. Lucio Maniscalchi  worked with me for 11 days (20-31 December 1972); Vincenzo Castella in July-August 1976. Both Maniscalchi and Castella were not interested in my research and documentary project. They left the project after the 2 field trips were done. They just randomly worked with me on those occasions. Their name was erroneously featured and emphasized on the" original LP's, "especially the name of Vincenzo Castella. I was the only responsible of the recordings, archiving, and LP edition (including, of course, all the typos, mistakes, etc.). In 1972 and 1976 Hammie Nixon helped finding some of the performers in Tennessee. In 1976 Mary Helen Looper and Jane Abraham helped in the Delta. …On December 1972, with the help of the Blues At Home Vol. 3legendary harmonica player Hammie Nixon, using a professional portable equipment, I had the chance to start recording blues in Memphis. The documentary research continued in July 1976, ending in July 1982. A series of informal sessions was held during the course of my five trips through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, featuring well known, but also little known, and unknown musicians."

On today's program we spotlight recordings from the first nine Blues At Home collections featuring the following artists: Van Hunt, Mose Vinson, Sam Chatmon, Eugene Powell, Memphis Piano Red, Big Jack Johnson, Pinetop Johnson, Carey Tate, Alonzo Burkes, Bukka White, Dewey Corley, Laura Dukes, Jack Owens and  Charlie Sangster.

The first volume of the Blues At Home Collection features singer Van Zula Carter Hunt. Around the late 1910's, she moved to Memphis and began her professional musical activity, traveling for several years with minstrel shows. She played with local blues artists such as Sleepy John Estes, Frank Stokes, Gus Cannon, and Memphis Minnie. In November 1930, she recorded “Selling The Jelly” (issued under the name of the Carolina Peanut Boys) in Memphis for Victor Records. She also recorded some gospel sides as a chorus member with Rev. E.D. Campbell for Victor in 1927. Hunt is backed on a number of tracks by pianist Mose Vinson ,who was also recorded solo, as well as Hunt's daughter Sweet Charlene.

The second volume is devoted to Sam Chatmon the brother Bo Chatmon (a.k.a. Bo Carter) who made numerous popular records in the '30s. Before World War II. the Chatmon brothers and their associate Walter Vincent founded the string band called The Mississippi Sheiks. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Chatmon recorded for a variety of labels, as well as playing clubs and blues and folk festivals across America.In 1972 he cut the album The New Mississippi Sheiks, reuniting with Walter Vinson, cut the excellent The Mississippi Sheik for Blue Goose in the early 70's as well as albums for Rounder and Flying Fish among others. Chatmon passed in 1983.

The third volume focuses on Eugene Powell. Born in 1908 in Utica, Mississippi, he took up the guitar at the age of seven and soon developed a formidable technique that won him the respect of contemporaries such as Charley Patton, Bo Carter, and Sam Chatmon. In 1936 he recorded six sides which were released on the Bluebird label under the name of Sonny Boy Nelson, including the original version of “Pony Blues” of which we Blues At Home Vol. 6hear an updated version on today's program.

The fourth volume features an underrated and under recorded pianist John Williams (a.k.a. Memphis Piano Red). In 1930 he moved to Memphis where he started his musical activity, playing often in Beale Street bars. He never had the chance to record 78 rpm race records, and was discovered in the late '60s during blues revival times. These recordings stem from two long sessions held in 1972 and 1978 at his home in Memphis.

The fifth volume features the totally unknown Carey Tate from Henning, Tennessee, a very prolific area from which several outstanding blues artists came such as Noah Lewis, Charlie Pickett, Sleepy John Estes and John Henry Barbee. Tate was born in Henning, Tennessee, in 1905, and was discovered in the summer of 1976 in Humboldt, Tennessee, through the help of Hammie Nixon, and two sessions were recorded at Tate’s home there. Less than one year later, Tate was murdered under obscure circumstances and the recordings presented on this collection remain his last testament. This collection also includes six tracks by Alonzo Burks, another unknown artist discovered in Flora, Mississippi, in the summer of 1978, through referral of William “Do Boy” Diamond’s nephew Eugene.

The sixth volume features an underrated piano blues musician from the Delta, Wallace Bilbo Johnson (a.k.a. Pinetop Johnson). As Gianni writes, "he was discovered there in the late ‘60s by researcher Bill Ferris, who included the transcription of the entire 1969 session in his book Blues From the Delta. Wallace “Pinetop” Johnson was recorded during two relaxed sessions held in the summers of 1976 and 1978, the latter at a local piano supply store, the Gate Piano Company, on Issaquena Avenue in the heart of Clarksdale, where a piano in perfect condition had been made available for the occasion. This CD features his 1978 complete recording session in chronological order, plus some additional material cut in Clarksdale in 1978 by Earnest Roy, Big Jack Johnson, and Wade Walton."

The seventh volume features Bukka White, one of the major Mississippi bluesmen to be rediscovered during the blues revival of the '60s. Gianni writes "this CD features the complete relaxed session recorded at his private home in Memphis on December 22, 1972, in the stately presence of Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. …Also 107featured on this CD is some unusual material by former jug band members Dewey Corley on piano and Laura Dukes on ukulele, recorded on the same day, December 22, 1972."

The eighth volume features Jack Owens. In 1978, 1980, and 1982, Gianni writes, "I had the chance to meet Owens at his home in Bentonia and to record, during several informal sessions, the material finally released on this CD, which mostly had remained unreleased for over 30 years."

The ninth volume introduces Charlie Sangster , a little known artist of Brownsville, Tennessee. Belonging to a musical family, he learned how to play mandolin and guitar at the age of 12. His father, Samuel Ellis Sangster, was a blues guitarist who used to play with Sleepy John Estes and Hambone Willie Newbern; his mother, Victoria, was a gospel singer. Charlie played at the fish market and in other social situations with a circle of local musicians, including Charlie Pickett, Brownsville Son Bonds, Hammie Nixon, Yank Rachel, Sleepy John Estes, and Walter Cooper. He also knew and performed with Hambone Willie Newbern during the last part of Newbern’s life. Sangster was recorded at eight sessions between 1976 and 1980.

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Sticks McGhee One Monkey Don't Stop The ShowSticks McGhee 1947-1951
Jimmy "Babby Face" LewisLet's Get Together And Make Some Love Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis 1947-1955
Lawyer Houston Lawyer Houston BluesTexas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A.
Lawyer Houston Dallas Bepop BluesTexas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A.
Lawyer Houston Western Rider Blues Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A.
Big Joe TurnerThe Chill Is On Rhythm & Blues Years
Big Joe TurnerBump Miss SusieRhythm & Blues Years
Jimmy YanceyMake Me A Pallet On The FloorChicago Piano Vol. 1
Jimmy YanceyMonkey Woman Blues Chicago Piano Vol. 1
Little Brother MontgomeryTalkin' BluesBlues Piano: Chicago Plus
Little Brother MontgomeryVicksburg Blues '51Blues Piano: Chicago Plus
Meade "Lux" LewisMr. Freddie's Blues Boogie-Woogie Interpretations
Meade "Lux" LewisRiff boogieBlues Piano: Chicago Plus
Frank 'Sweet' WilliamsSweet's Slow Blues Blues Piano: Chicago Plus
Sticks McGhee Meet You in the MorningSticks McGhee 1947-1951
Ray CharlesRoll With Me BabyPure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings
Ray CharlesJumpin' in the Mornin'Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings
Big Joe TurnerBaby, I Still Want YouClassic Hits 1938-1952
Big Joe TurnerSweet Sixteen Classic Hits 1938-1952
Chuck NorrisLet Me KnowMessing With The Blues
Chuck NorrisMessin' UpMessing With The Blues
Ray CharlesLosing HandPure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings
Ray CharlesMr. Charles BluesPure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings
Big Joe TurnerTV MamaRhythm & Blues Years
Big Joe TurnerMarried Woman Rhythm & Blues Years
Professor LonghairTipitina The Complete 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Professor LonghairBall The Wall The Complete 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
John Lee HookerGuitar Lovin' ManDetroit Special
John Lee HookerReal, Real GoneDetroit Special
John Lee HookerPouring Down RainDetroit Special
Little Johnny JonesChicago Blues Blues Piano: Chicago Plus
Little Johnny JonesDoin' The Best I CanBlues Piano: Chicago Plus
Little Johnny JonesHoy Hoy Blues Piano: Chicago Plus

Show Notes:

My two-part feature on Atlantic Records was partly inspired by a terrific reissue series that was originally issued in the early 1970's. In the early 70's Pete Lowry convinced Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun to reissue some classic and previously unissued blues from the vaults (read the article below for more background). The plan was to issue twelve albums although only six saw the light of day.I was first heard this series at my college radio station which luckily had the complete set and were much played. This was a great series featuring excellent recordings by Blind Willie McTell, Lawyer Houston, Professor Longhair, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Yancey, T-Bone Walker and others. The albums had excellent liner notes and packaged with wonderful photos in a gatefold album. We feature a number of these recordings on today's programs as well as a wealth of great recordings from Atlantic's, early years spanning the years 1950 through 1953. Our second feature on Atlantic Records focuses less on R&B and more on blues: featured today are several artists that appeared on those Atlantic reissue albums including Lawyer Houston,  Jimmy Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery, Meade Lux Lewis, Frank 'Sweet' Williams, Professor Longhair and John Lee Hooker.

I first heard Lawyer Houston on an Atlantic LP Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A. Until recently nothing was known about him. Sometime before June 7th 1950, when Atlantic bought them, he recorded eight titles at Jim Beck's studio on Ross Avenue, Dallas. Beck was also from Marshall, so that may have been a factor. He cut another session in autumn 1953 in L.A. Two songs were issued from the Dallas session, the first as by Lawyer Houston, the second as by Soldier Boy Houston. In “Western Rider Blues” he sings “My name is Lawyer Houston and I'm a Private First Class” which turns out to be true.

Houston was born in Marshall, Texas in 1917. He was inducted into the army in 1941 and served until 1946. He re-enlisted two months later and served until 1961. His songs “In The Army Since 1941” and “Lawton, Oklahoma Blues” are loosely autobiographical accounts of his time in the Philippines and Fort Sill near Lawton. As writer Neal Slavin notes: “Apart from their unusually informative lyrics, Houston's songs are notable for the springy rhythms with which he accompanies himself. In essence, his style is close to that of Lil' Son Jackson… …Two further songs,'Out In California Blues' and 'Going To The West Coast', were prophetic; in the former, Houston announces his intention of going to Los Angeles' Central Avenue to stay at the Hotel Dunbar, after which 'I'm going out to Hollywood and become a movie star'. The move took place but the Army intervened. They needed him in Korea, where war broke out on June 25, 1950. At his second and Iast recording session, “Far East Blues” and “Leavin' Korea” indicate a familiarity with Korea and Japan which in this artist's case is virtual proof of his presence there." Circa 1953/1954 Houston cut eight sides for the Hollywood label in Los Angeles with the sessions purchased by King Records. The sides were never issued and have been reissued for the first time, this year on the 2-CD Hollywood Blues on the JSP label. Houston's military service ended in December 1961 and he spent the rest of his Iife in various Californian communities, ending up in Lancaster, where he worked as a custodian at the California State Museum. He died of pulmonary disease on December 3, 1999. Houston's life story can be found in Blues & Rhythm magazine issue 215 written by Guido Van Rijn and Chris Smith.

Suffering from diabetes later in life, Jimmy Yancey and his wife held parties and jam sessions at their South Side Chicago apartment to raise money. Those sessions were well attended by Chicago jazz fans, and Yancey returned to the recording studio to make new records for the Paramount label in 1950 and his final for Atlantic in 1951 with his wife, Estelle Mama Yancey handling some of the vocal chores. He died on September 17, 1951. His final sides appeared on the album Chicago Piano Vol. 1.

The album Blues Piano:-Chicago, Plus featured sides by Little Brother Montgomery , Frank 'Sweet' Williams and Little Johnny Jones. In the 1950's there was sporadic recording activity, for Little Brother Montgomery even if there were few issued records to show for it at the time: a 1951 session for Atlantic with drummer Frank ‘Sweet’ Williams, two 1953 sides for JOB and two sessions in 1954 and 1956 only four tracks were issued, on a ten-inch LP on the Winding Ball label and five rare sides cut for the Chicago label, Ebony, in 1956. Frank 'Sweet' Williams was a minor Chicago blues musician who's only recordings were two songs cut for Atlantic in 1951 which remained unissued until the issued on the anthology Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus. It is assumed he was brought to the studio by Montgomery. He may be the uncredited drummer on Montgomery's session recorded on the same day. Meade Lux Lewis cut an album for Atlantic in 1951 titled Boogie-Woogie Interpretations with "Riff Boogie" reissued  on Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus.

Best known for his rock steady accompaniment in Elmore James’ band, Little Johnny Jones,  he also backed just about everyone else worth mentioning on the Chicago scene. The handful of times he stepped in front as leader produced a number of excellent sides and more than a few classics. Jones last official stint as leader came in 1953 when Atlantic Records came through Chicago and teamed Elmore and the Broomdusters behind Big Joe Turner resulting in the classic "TV Mama." Once again he recorded a couple of sides at the tail end of a session resulting in four songs: "Chicago Blues", 'Hoy Hoy', "Wait Baby" and "Doin' the Best I Can (Up the line)." Jones was backed by the full Broomdusters plus Ransom Knowling on bass.

Others heard from today include John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles and Chuck Norris. Hooker recorded twelve sides for Atco Records in 1953 which was a  division of Atlantic Records. These sides were issued on the album Detroit Special in in 1972. Hooker is backed by Eddie Kirkland on this session.

In 1951, while performing with the Count Basie Orchestra at Harlem's Apollo Theater Big Joe Turner was spotted by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, who signed him to Atlantic Records. Turner recorded a number of successes for them that climbed the R&B charts including "Chains of Love", "Sweet Sixteen, "Boogie Woogie Country Girl", "Honey Hush" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll." I first heard many of these sides on an excellent double album called Big Joe Turner: Rhythm & Blues Years.

John Lee Hooker: Guitar Lovin' ManIn 1950, Ray Charles' performance in a Miami hotel would impress Henry Stone, who went on to record a Ray Charles. After that he joined Swing Time Records, he recorded two more R&B hits under the name "Ray Charles": "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951), which reached number five; and "Kissa Me Baby"(1952), which reached number eight. Swing Time folded the following year, and Ahmet Ertegün signed him to Atlantic Records.

Chuck Norris worked in Chicago until the mid-'40s, when he moved out to the West Coast. He soon became one of the in-demand musicians in Hollywood backing artists such as Ray Agee, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon, Roy Hawkins, Duke Henderson, Helen Humes, Etta James, Pete Johnson, Little Willie Littlefield, Percy Mayfield, Johnny Otis, Johnny Watson, Jimmy Witherspoon and many others. From time to time he did sessions on his own for labels like Atlantic, Mercury, Imperial, Aladdin and others between 1947 and 1953.

Oddenda & Such No. 15 by Pete Lowry (Blues & Rhythm no. 138, Apr1l, 1999)

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