Sun 20 Nov 2016
|Mozelle Alderson w/ Judson Brown||Tight Whoopie||The Piano Blues Vol. 5|
|Madelyn James w/ Judson Brown||Long Time Blues||Memphis Blues 1927-1938|
|Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother w/ Will Ezell||Crazy About My Baby||Blind Roosevelt Graves 1929-1936|
|Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother w/ Will Ezell||Bustin' The Jug||Blind Roosevelt Graves 1929-1936|
|Georgia Tom w/ Bob Call||Billie The Grinder||Georgia Tom Vol.1 1928-1930|
|James ''Boodle It'' Wiggins w/ Bob Call||Evil Woman Blues||Juke Joint Saturday Night|
|James ''Boodle It'' Wiggins w/ Bob Call||Keep A Knockin' An You Can't Get In||The Frog Blues & Jazz Annual No. 1|
|Mary Johnson w/ Judson Brown||Three Months Ago Blues||Mary Johnson 1929-1936|
|Mary Johnson w/ Judson Brown||Morning Sun Blues||Mary Johnson 1929-1936|
|Margaret Thornton w/ Blind James Beck||Texas Bound Blues||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|Margaret Thornton w/ Blind James Beck||Jockey Blues||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|Mozelle Alderson w/ Blind James Beck||State Street Special||Piano Blues Vol. 9|
|Lil Johnson w/ Freddie Shayne||Hottest Gal In Town||Lil Johnson Vol. 2 1936-1937|
|Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Freddie Shayne||Tee Rolller's Rub||Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932|
|Priscilla Stewart w/ Freddie Shayne||Switch It Miss Mitchell||Priscilla Stewart 1924-1928|
|Priscilla Stewart w/ Clarence Johnson||Walking And Talking Blues||Priscilla Stewart 1924-1928|
|Edna Hicks w/ Clarence Johnson||Walking And Talking Blues||Edna Hicks Vol. 1 1923|
|Monette Moore w/ Clarence Johnson||Sugar Blues||Monette Moore Vol. 1 1923-1924|
|John Oscar w/ poss. Eddie Miller||Whoopee Mama Blues||Chicago Piano 1929-1936|
|John Oscar w/ poss. Eddie Miller||Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here||Chicago Piano 1929-1936|
|Billie McKenzie w/ Eddie Miller||I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water||Female Chicago Blues 1936-1947|
|Mary Johnson w/ Henry Brown||Peepin' At The Risin' Sun||Mary Johnson 1929-1936|
|Mary Johnson w/ Henry Brown||Black Man Blues||Mary Johnson 1929-1936|
|Mary Johnson w/ Henry Brown||Deceitful Woman Blues||Mary Johnson 1929-1936|
|Jenny Pope w/ Judson Brown||Bull Frog Blues||Memphis Blues Vol. 4 1929-1953|
|Charlie "Bozo" Nickerson w/ Judson Brown||What's the Matter Now?, Pt. 3||Piano Discoveries: Newly Found Titles & Alternate Takes|
|Elzadie Robinson w/ Will Ezell||2.16 Blues||Elzadie Robinson Vol. 1 1926-1928|
|Lucille Bogan w/ Will Ezell||Nice and Kind Blues||Lucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929|
|Robert Peeples w/ Henry Brown||Fat Greasy Baby||Twenty First. St. Stomp|
|Peetie Wheatstraw & His Blue Blowers w/ Henry Brown||Throw Me In The Alley||Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!|
|Charlie McFadden w/ Eddie Mille||Harvest Moon Blues||Twenty First. St. Stomp|
|Charlie McFadden w/ Eddie Mille||Weak-Eyed Blues||Down On The Levee|
Today's show is part four in a series of shows spotlighting well known and obscure superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. Today we feature some terrific pianists, the best known being Henry Brown a fine St. Louis pianist who recorded in the pre-war and post-war eras. The rest are less well known: there's Will Ezell who recorded and acted as a talent scout for Paramount records, the others more obscure including Bob Call, Judson Brown, Clarence Johnson, Blind James Beck and Freddie Shayne.
In A Left Hand Like God: A Study of Boogie-Woogie Peter Silvester wrote: "Henry Brown was a living model for the qualities most apparent in the St. Louis boogie-woogie style. He employed an economic left hand of single notes or sparse chords for slow numbers and a rumbustious walking bass for faster ones." Brown learned to play the piano from the "professors" of the notorious Deep Morgan section of St. Louis. One of them went by the name of "Blackmouth," another was named Joe (or Tom) Cross. As Brown remembered him, "he was a real old time blues player and he'd stomp ‘em down to the bricks." "Deep Morgan Blues" was one of his signature pieces. By the age of sixteen Brown had acquired enough technique to be able to play the buffet flats in the 1920's and was soon in regular demand there. He was able to make enough money to survive, allowing him the sleep during the day and play all night. Brown worked clubs such as the Blue Flame Club, the 9-0-5 Club, Jim's Place and Katy Red's, from the twenties into the 30's
Brown recorded for Brunswick with Ike Rogers and Mary Johnson in 1929, for Paramount in ‘29 and ‘30, behind singer Alice Moore in 1929 and 1934 as well as backing others such singers as Jimmy Oden, Bessie Mae Smith and others. Brown served in the army in the early 40's, then formed his own quartet to work occasional local gigs in St. Louis area from the 50's, and worked the Becky Thatcher riverboat in 1965. In addition to his pre-war recordings, he was recorded by Paul Oliver in 1960 (Henry Browm Blues, 77 Records and reissued on CD by Southland), by Sam Charters with Edith Johnson in 1961 (The Blues in St. Louis Vol. 2: Henry Brown and Edith Johnson), cut some sides for the Euphonic label in the 50's (some appear on the Delmark reissue Biddle Street Barrelhousin') and some final sides for Adelphi in 1969.
Born in Texas, pianist Will Ezell played in the jukes around Shreveport before moving to Detroit and Chicago. He was a frequent accompanist for Paramount Records and even took Paramount’s star, Blind Lemon Jefferson's body back to Texas for burial. Ezell cut sixteen sides for the label between 1927 and 1929 and backed artists such as Lucille Bogan, Elzadie Robinson, Bertha Henderson and others. In 1929 he backed Blind Roosevelt Graves and his brother on several songs and they returned the favor playing on some of his sides.
Bob Call cut one song "31 Blues" recorded in 1929, the flip of the 78 was by Speckled Red. Call also backed Georgia Tom, Elzadie Robisnon and James "Boodle It" Wiggins. Virtually nothing is known about Wiggins who cut eight sides at three sessions for the Paramount label between 1928 and 1929. Paramount placed two ads in the Chicago Defender on November 30, 1928. There were also two sessions on Nov. 13 and 14th 1928 that resulted in six unissued sides. Writer Mike Rowe wrote: "Call raises other questions; can the pianist of '31 Blues' be the same Bob Call after a gap of eighteen years crops up as a band pianist on records by Arbee Stidham, Big Bill, Jazz Gillum, Robert Nighthawk and who under his own name made a couple of jump blues? It would seem so. Call was known to have gone to school to learn to read music, presumably to expand his musical potential, and moreover the age seems right; his photograph from 1958 shows a man well into his fifties. Bob Call was shrewd enough to realize a change in style was necessary – those that wouldn't change retired or disappeared, and left as few traces as when they arrived.
Freddie Shayne is a shadowy figure who spent his life working in Chicago. He first time on record was backing singer Priscilla Stewart on “Mr. Freddie Blues.” Shayne also made a very rare piano roll of this song. In 1935 Shayne recorded a solo record, “Original Mr. Freddie Blues b/w Lonesome Man Blues.” “Mr. Freddie Blues” became something of a boogie standard covered by many artists including Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Jimmy Blythe, Art Tatum and others. In the 40's he made some recordings for the Circle label where he also backed singer Bertha “Chippie” Hill.
Clarence "Jelly" Johnson became an in-demand piano roll performer, cutting many performances in Chicago during the mid to late 1920's fory the Capitol Music Roll Company and issued as nickelodeon piano rolls. Johnson never cut any 78's under his own name but did back several singers including Edna Hicks, Sara Martin, Lizzie Miles, Monette Moore and others. Recently Delmark records release Low Down Papa, a collection of twenty of Johnson's piano rolls.
Johns Oscar cut a handful of sides for Decca and Brunswick between 1929 and 1931. He was and associate of singer Sam Theard and may have been the pianist for Oscar's Chicago Swingers and the Banks Chesterfield Orchestra. There is uncertainty if Eddie Miller or Cow Davenport plays on "Mama Don't Allow." Eddie Miller may play on some other sides by Oscar. Miller cut eights sides under his own name at sessions in 1929, an unissued 78 in 1936 and final sides in 1936. Miller backed Merline Johnson, Charles Pertum, Lizzie Washington, Ma Rainey and others.
Judson Brown made one solo recording, sharing the B-side of his only 78 with Freddie "Redd" Nicholson. He also backed several singers including Mozelle Anderson, Madelyn James, Charlie "Bozo" Nickerson, Jeny Pope and Mary Johnson.
Margaret Thornton cut one great 78 for Black Patti backed by great pianist Blind James Beck, "Texas Bound Blues b/w Jockey Blues." Nothing is known of Beck who also backed singer Mozelle Alderson.
It's worth singling out a few of today's singers inlcuding Mary Johnson, Priscilla Stewart and Charlie McFadden. Mary Johnson of St. Louis (sometimes billed as "Signifying Mary") made her debut in 1929, cutting just shy of two dozen songs. She achieved modest success and never recorded again after 1936 despite living until 1983. She recorded 8 selections in 1929, 6 sides in 1930, two in 1932, four in 1934, and two final numbers in 1936. All of the 1929 sides feature the fine piano of Henry Brown and trombonist Ike Rogers on five of the eight sides.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Priscilla Stewart doesn’t seem to have come from a stage background since no mention can be found of her appearing in stage revues of the time. As Alan Balfour wrote in the notes to Document's collected CD of her recordings: "Stewart’s recording career was brief and unspectacular and although she may not have been in the same league as many of her famous contemporaries, somebody at Paramount thought it worth the company’s time and investment to record her. That being the case she certainly deserves the belated recognition that this release will hopefully bring."
Charlie McFadden was a singer based out of St. Louis. Henry Townsend knew him and said that he could play piano a little bit, but preferred that someone else played it on his recordings. Roosevelt Sykes was the usual pianist, even though Eddie Miller and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks made a couple of appearances, each. He cut two-dozen sides between 1929 and 1937.