Sun 30 Oct 2016
|Tampa Red & Mary Johnson||Dawn of Day Blues||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|Tampa Red & Lucille Bogan||Coffee Grinding Blues||The Essential|
|Tampa Red & Madyln Davis||It's Red Hot||Tampa Red: Bottleneck Guitar|
|Big Bill Broonzy & St. Louis Jimmy||Back on My Feet, Again||Jimmy Oden Vol. 1 1932-1944|
|Big Bill Broonzy & Famous Hokum Boys||Black Cat Rag||Famous Hokum Boys Vol. 1 1930|
|Lonnie Johnson & Peetie Wheatstraw||304 Blues||Broadcasting The Blues|
|Lonnie Johnson & Keghouse||Keghouse Blues||Lonnie Johnson Vol. 3 1927-1928|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I & Henry Townsend||A Rambling Mind||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 1|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I & Elijah Jones||Only A Boy Child||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 1|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I &Yank Rachell||Lake Michigan Blues||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 1|
|Tampa Red & Ma Rainey||Leaving This Morning||Mother of the Blues|
|Tampa Red & Bertha "Chippie" Hill||Some Cold Rainy Day||Baby, How Can It Be?|
|Big Bill Broonzy & Washboard Sam||Flying Crow Blues||Rockin' My Blues Away|
|Big Bill Broonzy & Sonny Boy Williamson I||Good Gravy||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 1|
|Big Bill Broonzy & Famous Hokum Boys||Pig Meat Strut||Famous Hokum Boys Vol. 1 1930|
|Lonnie Johnson & Victoria Spivey||Idle Hour Blues||The Essential|
|Lonnie Johnson & Victoria Spivey||Murder In The First Degree||The Essential|
|Lonnie Johnson & Merline Johnson||He May Be Your Man||Merline Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1938|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I & Big Joe Williams||Highway 49||Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935 - 1941|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I & Big Joe Williams||Someday Baby||Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935 - 1941|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I & Big Joe Williams||King Biscuit Stomp||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.2|
|Tampa Red & Lil Johnson||House Rent Scuffle||Tampa Red: Bottleneck Guitar|
|Tampa Red & Big Maceo||Texas Stomp||Big Maceo Vol. 2 1945-1950|
|Lonnie Johnson & Clara Smith||You're Gettin' Old On Your Job||The Essential|
|Lonnie Johnson & Clara Morris||Cry On Daddy||Female Chicago Blues 1936-194|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I Joe Williams||Peach Orchard Mama||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.1|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I &Yank Rachell||I'm Wild And Crazy As I Can Be||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.1|
|Tampa Red & Georgia Tom||Grievin' Me Blues||The Essential|
|Tampa Red & Papa Tadpole||Have You Ever Been Worried In Mind? Part One||Tampa Red Vol. 4 1928-1934|
Some time back I did a couple of show called “Sideman Blues” where we shined the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. On today's sequel to that show we focus on some of the stars of the pre-war blues era who were also active session artists. Artists featured today include some of the era's big names such as Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson I. These artists backed dozens of artists, both well known and obscure on record. Many of these artists also acted in the role as talent scouts for the labels.
During his heyday in the 1920's and 30's, Tampa Red was billed as "The Guitar Wizard," and his stunning slide work on steel National or electric guitar shows why he earned the title. His 25 year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions "Anna Lou Blues," "Black Angel Blues," "Crying Won't Help You," "It Hurts Me Too," and "Love Her with a Feeling"). Jim O'Neal neatly summed up Tampa's place in blues history when he wrote the following in 1975: "Few figures have been as important in blues history as Tampa Red; yet no bluesman of such stature has been so ignored by today's blues audience. As a composer, recording artist, musical trendsetter and one of the premier urban blues guitarists of his day, Tampa Red remained popular with black record buyers for more than 20 years and exerted considerable influence on many post-World War II blues stars who earned greater acclaim for playing Tampa's songs than Tampa himself often did."
Tampa was a very busy session guitarist mainly in the early years of his career, circa 1928-1929. Among those he backed include Big Maceo, Lucille Bogan, Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Lil Johnson, Frankie Jaxon, Victoria Spivey, Romeo Nelson, Ma Rainey, Mary Johnson and many others. Tampa's work behind underrated singer Mary Johnson has always been among my favorites. Johnson cut six sides at two sessions in 1930. The April 8, 1930 was outstanding do in large part to the shimmering slide guitar of Tampa and the excellent piano of the under recorded Judson Brown. The two work beautifully behind Johnson on the mournful "Three Months Ago Blues" with Tampa shinning on "Dawn Of Day Blues" and the magnificent "Death Cell Blues."
Lonnie Johnson was a true musical innovator who's remarkable recording career spanned from the 1920's through the 1960's. During that time his musical diversity was amazing: he played piano, guitar, violin, he recorded solo, he accompanied down home country blues singers like Texas Alexander, he played with Louis Armtrong's Hot Fives, recorded with Duke Ellington, duetted with Victoria Spivey and cut a series of instrumental duets with the white jazzman Eddie Lang that set a standard of musicianship that remains unsurpassed by blues guitarists. In Johnson's single-string style lie the basic precedents of such jazz greats as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, while being a prime influence on bluesman as diverse as Robert Johnson, Tampa Red and B.B. King. Thus Johnson enjoys the rare distinction of having influenced musicians in both the jazz and blues fields. Like Tampa, Johnson backed dozens of artists on record including Texas Alexander, Jimmie Gordon, Merline Johnson, Alice Moore, Victoria Spivey, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and a host of others.
As Bob Riesman wrote in his biography of Big Bill Broonzy: "…Bill's recording career took off in this era, and his prodigious output was nearly unmatched among blues musicians. From 1934 until 1942, when the combination of a musicians’ union ban and the diversion of shellac to the war effort halted virtually all recording for two years, Bill averaged better than thirteen double-sided 78 rpm records each year as a featured artist. In addition, he played on an average of forty-eight sides each year as a sideman. In other words, for nearly a decade, he averaged one new Big Bill record a month, and he appeared on two more as a studio guitarist. …As 'Big Bill,' he was one of the most productive and popular artists in the business, with a name that was familiar to his audiences and reinforced by his easily recognized singing style. At the same time, he became the first-call studio guitarist for dozens of recording sessions that Lester Melrose organized for several record companies, particularly Bluebird. In that capacity, he was an integral part of the distinctive sound of numerous musicians, including some of the most popular artists of the era. Two artists whose careers were interwoven with Bill’s were Washboard Sam and Jazz Gillum. Bill played guitar on a most every one of the more than 150 recordings that Sam made over a period of twenty years, as well as on many of the sides that Gillum recorded."
|Big Bill Broonzy|
Broonzy's 40's work with Washboard Sam really hit a high point with Big Bill laying down some lengthy, swinging amplified guitar on featured tracks like "Life Is Just A Book", "My Feet Jumped Salty" and "River Hip Mama." Washboard Sam recorded hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill. In 1932, Sam moved to Chicago, initially he played for tips, but soon he began performing regularly with Broonzy. Within a few years, Sam was supporting Broonzy on the guitarist's Bluebird recordings. Soon, he was supporting a number of different musicians on their recording sessions, including pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Ransom Knowling, and a handful of saxophone players, who all recorded for Bluebird. In 1935, Sam began recording for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs.
Broonzy was also prominent on the recordings of Lil Green who's "Just Rockin'" we feature today. Her professional career was launched around 1940, when the manager of a Chicago club hired her on the spot after a group of her friends had arranged for a bandleader to call her up from the audience to sing.By May 1940 Green had come to the attention of Lester Melrose, who brought her into the studio to record on the Bluebird label. He assigned a trio of musicians to back her, including Big Bill, Simeon Henry on piano, and New Orleans veteran Ransom Knowling on bass. That session produced her first hit, "Romance in the Dark." As Broonzy noted in his autobiography: "I played for Lil Green for two years as her guitar player. I wrote some songs for her, like "My Mellow Man" and "Country Boy," "Give Your Mama One More Smile" and some more that I fixed up for her.
Sonny Boy Williamson was already a harp virtuoso in his teens. He learned from Hammie Nixon and Noah Lewis and ran with Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell before settling in Chicago in 1934. Sonny Boy signed to Bluebird in 1937. Henry Townsend recalled driving Sonny Boy, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Davis and Big Joe Williams to Aurora, Illinois, in his 1930 A Model Ford for their 1937 sessions: "I transferred them to Aurora, Illinois. There was about eight or nine of us …we stacked them in the car like sardines." This led to a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits. Sonny Boy recorded prolifically for Victor both as a leader and behind others in the vast Melrose stable (including Robert Lee McCoy and Big Joe Williams, who in turn played on some of Williamson's sides). Sonny Boy cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947