ARTISTSONGALBUM
Bobo JenkinsBad Luck and TroubleJuicy Harmonica
Bobo JenkinsTen Below ZeroA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 1
Bobo JenkinsBaby Don't You Want To GoA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 1
Baby Boy WarrenMy Special Friend BluesDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Baby Boy WarrenNervy Woman BluesDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
T.J. Fowler Got Nobody To Tell My TroublesT.J. Fowler 1948-53
T.J. Fowler Yes I KnowT.J. Fowler 1948-53
T.J. Fowler Red Hot Blues T.J. Fowler 1948-53
Bobo JenkinsWhen I First Left Home The Life of Bobo Jenkins
Bobo JenkinsI Love That WomanThe Life of Bobo Jenkins
Bobo JenkinsYou Will Never Understand The Life of Bobo Jenkins
Baby Boy WarrenSanafeeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Baby Boy WarrenHello Stranger Detroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Baby Boy WarrenChuck-A-LuckDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
T.J. FowlerLittle Baby ChildT.J. Fowler 1948-53
T.J. FowlerBack BiterT.J. Fowler 1948-53
Calvin FrazierGot Nobody To Tell My TroublesVintage Toledo Blues 1950-1980
Calvin FrazierRock House The Travelling Record Man
Calvin FrazierSweet Bread Baby Gerard Herzhaft's Blog
Boogie Woogie RedSo Much Good FeelingConversation With The Blues
Boogie Woogie RedBlues For My BabyDetroit After Hours - Vol. 1
Bobo JenkinsWatergate BluesHere I Am A Fool In Love Again
Bobo JenkinsHere I Am A Fool In Love AgainHere I Am A Fool In Love Again
Baby Boy WarrenBaby Boy Blues Detroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Baby Boy WarrenSomebody Put Bad Luck On MeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Baby Boy WarrenStop Breakin' DownDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
T.J. Fowler Say Baby SayT.J. Fowler 1948-53
T.J. Fowler Wine CoolerT.J. Fowler 1948-53
Calvin FrazierLillie MaeVintage Toledo Blues 1950-1980
Calvin FrazierWashboard Blues Pt 1Blues Rarities Vol. 3
Calvin FrazierSpecial I & IIGerard Herzhaft's Blog
Boogie Woogie RedHooty Blues Live At The Blind Pig
Boogie Woogie RedGot To Find My BabyLive At The Blind Pig
Boogie Woogie RedRed's BoogieLive At The Blind Pig

Show Notes:

Bobo JenkinsDuring and after World War II a second wave of migration took place with many people leaving the South to work in the industrial North, and Detroit became the home to many fine blues artists. While earlier artists such as Big Maceo Merriweather had to travel to Chicago to record, new record companies such as Sensation, Holiday, JVB, and Fortune had established themselves in Detroit. They became important by recording Detroit blues artists but often leased material to other labels in order to gain distribution. Today we spotlight a quintet of excellent Detroit artists who aren't particularly well known: Calvin Frazier, Bobo Jenkins, Baby Boy Warren, Boogie Woogie Red and T.J. Fowler. These artists were active from the late 40's through the 70's and all these artists worked together in different combinations over the years. Calvin Frazier played in every blues or R&B act in Detroit, playing behind today's featured artists Baby Boy Warren and T.J. Fowler and taught guitar to Bobo Jenkins. Jenkins, Warren cut scattered sides for numerous labels in the 40's, 50's and 60's, after scattered singles Jenkins formed his own label and issued his own records in the 70's. Pianist Boogie Woogie record backed Baby Warren and Clavin Frazier on record among others but recorded sparingly under his own name until the 70's when he cut two full-length albums.

Bobo Jenkins had sung in a gospel quartet and played harmonica in Mississippi, and after serving in the army decided to move to Detroit in 1944. He was befriended by John Lee Hooker, who helped Jenkins get his first song recorded with Chess Records—the politically themed "Democrat Blues" of 1954. After Chess he recorded two songs for the Boxer label in Chicago and a few for Fortune Records in Detroit but vowed that one day he would have his own recording studio, and in time, he did. “Democrat Blues” did establish him as a member of the Detroit blues scene, and he formed a band which worked regularly at the Apex Bar on Oakland, the Club Caribbe on East Jefferson and the Black Velvet in Mt. Clemens, to name a few. In addition, he played in shows along with such great national artists as Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Reed, Mahalia Jackson, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Jordan. The first record released on Jenkins' Big Star label was his own: "You"ll Never Understand" and "Tell Me Where You Stayed Last Night." He was living in the area of Detroit that was known as "Black Bottom" and on the weekends, his house was "open" and was filled with musicians playing the blues all night long.

Baby Boy Warren
Baby Boy Warren

In 1970, Jenkins promoted the first Detroit Blues Festival on the steps of the Rackham Building stretching onto the lawn of the Detroit Art Institute. In 1972 he put out his first album on his Big Star label called The Life of Bobo Jenkins. The 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival featured a special Detroit Blues Review and Jenkins was one of the stars. The next album by Jenkins came out in 1974, called Here I Am a Fool in Love Again on Big Star. In 1977 he issued an album called Detroit All Purpose Blues. In 1982, he went to Europe for his first tour, but due to poor health he returned home after the first concert. A long illness ultimately led to his death on August 14, 1984.

Born in  Lake Providence. Louisiana in August  1919, Baby Boy Warren (Robert Henry Warren) was one of eight children. Before he was one, the family moved to Memphis. His brothers Jack and Willie were good guirarists and  before he was ten Baby Boy himself showed aptitude.The brothers went to Church's (later Handy's) Park on Beaie Street to join the musicians who met up there." When I was a little kid, the man I most admired was a midget fellow," he told Mike Leadbitter and Mike Rowe. "'They called him Little Buddy Doyle. I got most of my style from  him. I admired him so much." Warren would take a train to Helena.Arkansas. to meet with the likes of Robert Lockwood, Willie Love, Peck Curris and Calvin Frazier. He a|so met Sonny Boy Williamson: "He was a hard guy to get along with: that's why Robert (Lockwood)  pulled out. Me and Peck and Sonny Boy. He'd wear the big belt with the harmonicas and when he'd get to blowing he'd have a big bath towel tied round his head…he'd perspire so much."

Baby Boy cut four records for Staff and one for Sampson (run by Idessa Malone's man, Sam Taylor, who ran Sam's Record Shop on Hastings) after which was a four year hiatus. Then in 1954, Baby Boy cut a momentous session for Joe Von Battle. Sonny Boy put on an ultimate demonstration of harmonica technique on "Chicken" (also titled "Chuck-A-Luck"). The same year, Baby Boy re-cut "Hello Stranger" as "Mattie Mae" and "Santa Fe" for Parrot subsidiary Blue Lake with the same band minus Sonny Boy and then "Somebody Put Bad Luck On Me" and Robert Johnson's "Stop Breaking Down" for the obscure Drummond label. But he was tiring of record companies: "I got messed up and screwed round and see my records changed round. I've had some tough 1uck." He quit music in 1961, partly because of a second marriage. His new wife Carrie took in the children from his first but with seven young mouths to feed, his General Motors job was more important. He belatedly toured Europe in 973 and died of a heart attack at his home on Yacama Street four years later.

T.J. FowlerAfter studying piano at home and at the Detroit Conservatory of Music, T.J. Fowler began providing musical entertainment for patrons at his father's pool hall. Fowler assembled his own hot little group in 1947 and accompanied saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams on that artist's first recordings for the Savoy label. T.J. Fowler began making records as a leader in 1948, beginning with small labels like Paradise and Sensation and landing his own contract with Savoy in 1952, sometimes featuring singers Freddie Johnson, Alberta Adams, and Floyd "Bubbles" McVay. Fowler's ensemble was also used to back vocalist Varetta Dillard and guitarist Calvin Frazier. Near the end of 1953 Fowler took his act to Chicago to wax what are believed to have been the only recordings he ever made outside of Detroit. Issued on the States label, these sides were presented as by "T.J. Fowler and the Band That Rocks the Blues." Back in Detroit, Fowler and his men served as the backing band for T-Bone Walker and spent the next few years gigging around the Motor City and southeastern Michigan. By the end of the 1950's, Fowler was living in the industrial city of Ecorse where he ran his tiny independent Bow record label and led a jazz organ combo. Hired in 1959 by the relatively inexperienced Berry Gordy, Fowler applied his music industry know-how and managerial expertise to help Gordy create and establish the Motown record label. Fowler continued gigging with his jazz band but eventually ceased performing altogether, operating a landscaping service and settling into semi-retirement as a businessman in Detroit, where he passed away on May 22, 1982.

Boogie Woogie Red
Boogie Woogie Red, photo by Peter Yates & Jerry Del Giudice

 

Boogie Woogie Red was born Vernon Harrison in Rayville, Louisiana in October of 1924, and his family moved to Detroit when he was very young. Under the influence of local musicians Big Maceo and Dr. Clayton, Red taught himself piano, developing his keyboard style. "My style is somethin' after Macey's style. He was playin' at Brown's club on Hastings for six years straight and I learn a lot from him." At age 18, he was drawn to the blues scene in Chicago, where he jammed with Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, and Memphis Slim. In 1946, Red returned to Detroit and for the next fourteen years played with John Lee Hooker. When the Motown sound took over and dried up the blues gigs, Red decided to give up performing. But in 1971 he did a well-received European tour and began performing regularly in the Detroit area, with occasional tours overseas. He recorded two albums for Blind Pig, both of which are now out of print: Live At The Blind Pig and Red Hot in 1977. A few other recordings appear scattered on various anthologies. He died in Detroit, in July 1992, at the age of 66.

The Frazier family. consisting of brothers Calvin and Lonnie, parents Van and Belie,arrived in Detroit from Memphis sometime late in 1936 (or early 1937). One of their cousins was Johnny Shines. Calvin met up with Robert Johnson in the mid-30's in Helena, Arkansas and, along with Shines, played and perhaps traveled around Arkansas with him. In 1938 Frazier was recorded by Alan Lomax and his playing bears the strong influence of Johnson.

FRAZIERCalvin-couv
Calvin Frazier

In the post-war era Calvin Frazier played with almost every blues or R&B act in Detroit and his guitar playing developed a more "modern" style, very influenced by the rising Californian guitar stars like T-Bone Walker. While associated with Big Maceo, Frazier should have recorded in Chicago for the Bluebird label but was ill and unable to make the trip. During 1946-47, Frazier toured with the Jungle Five Revue and played up to New York and Montreal. He is also worked during this period with Baby Boy Warren, T.J. Fowler'sband, the Jimmy Millner's Rhythm Band and  taught the guitar to Bobo Jenkins. Early in 1954, he bought himself a Stratocaster, probably one of the very first bluesman to play this type of guitar. Despite all this, Frazier recorded only sporadically under his own name and only for very small local Detroit or Toledo labels with poor distribution like Fortune, Alben and JVB. He died at the young age of 57 from a massive heart attack on September 23d, 1972, a well respected musician, with a strong reputation among his peers but largely unknown to the world.

Frazier has not been well served on record, there is no one collection of his recordings which are scattered on numerous anthologies and some have not been reissued at all. Blues scholar Gerard Herzhaft has done a great service on his blog by collecting all of Frazier's recordings in one place and is the source of some of today's featured sides.

 

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