Search Results for “garon”.

Skip JamesFour O'Clock BluesThe Complete 1931 Session
Robert JohnsonFrom Four Until LateThe Centennial Collection
Memphis Piano RedStanding At The CrossroadsBlues At Home 4
Memphis Piano RedBarrelhouse Blues (Take 2)Blues At Home 4
Geeshie WileyEagles On A HalfI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Elvie ThomasMotherless Child BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Lee KizartI Got the World in a Jug, Baby, and the Stopper in My HandThe Blues Are Alive And Well
Otis Spann & Walter HortonBloody MurderThe Story Of The Blues Vol. 1
Little Brother MontgomeryCow Cow BluesVocal Accompaniments & Early Post-War Recordings 1930-1954
Memphis SlimFour O'Clock BluesMemphis Slim and the Real Boogie-Woogie
Priscilla Stewart P. D. Q. BluesPriscilla Stewart 1924-1928
Hilda Alexander & Mamie McClureHe's Tight Like ThisGeorge Williams & Bessie Brown Vol. 2 1925-1930
Lil JohnsonI Lost My BabyWhen The Sun Goes Down
Billie HolidayBillie's Blues (I Love A Man)Complete Billie Holiday Lester Young 1937-1946
Floyd JonesPlayhouse1948-1953
John Lee HookerMy Baby's Got Somethin'The Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3
Eddie Shaw I've Got To Tell Somebody (2nd version)Have Blues, Will Travel
Texas AlexanderBoe Hog Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 1 1927-1928
Bumble Bee SlimSmokey Mountains BluesBumble Bee Slim Vol. 4 1935
Willie DukesSweet Poplar Bluff BluesMale Blues of the Twenties Vol. 1
Shorty Bob ParkerSo Cold In ChinaKid Prince Moore 1936-1938
Jimmy Lee HarrisRabbit On A LogGeorge Mitchell Collection Volume 5
Big John Henry Miller, Jimmy Lee MillerDown Here By MyselfBluesScene USA Vol. 4 Mississippi Blues
Big Joe WilliamsNorth Wind BluesBig Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-1941
Little Buddy DoyleHard Scufflin' BluesMemphis Harp & Jug Blowers 1927-1939
Ellis WilliamsSmokey BluesGreat Harp Players 1927-1936
Minnie WallaceField Mouse StompMemphis Harp & Jug Blowers 1927-1939
Charlie SangsterMoaning The BluesBlues At Home 9
Charlie SangsterHesitation Blues (Take 2)Blues At Home 9
Kid Brown And His Blues BandBo-lita American Primitive Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants
Birmingham Jug BandKickin' Mule BluesJaybird Coleman & The Birmingham Jug Band 1927 - 1930

Show Notes:

Memphis Piano Red: Blues At Home 4While the heart of this program is our weekly theme shows, where I get to dig deep into a particular theme or topic, the monthly mix show give me a bit of a breather and the opportunity to tackle things that don't fit in to our theme shows. The mix shows also usually feature an artist or theme that I plan to feature more in-depth at a future date. One of the things I plan to explore in a series of shows later this year is the remarkable field recordings captured by Giambattista Marcucci in the South in the 70's and 80's. From those recordings we spotlight terrific sides by Memphis Piano Red and Charlie Sangster. Also on deck are some knockout pre-war blues including recordings by Skip James and Robert Johnson that share a common theme, and two ladies, Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thoms, who were recently the subject of an extraordinary article in the New York Times of all places. Along the way we spin a set of fine piano blues, hear from a batch of strong blues women and several fine early bluesmen, both well known and utterly obscure.

One of my favorite Robert Johnson songs is "From Four Until Late" which has a very appealing melody. The song always felt to me like it was related to other songs and it all clicked while skimming through Elijah Wald's fascinating Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Wald had this to say: "Paul Garon points out that "From Four Until Late" has exactly the same melody as Johnny Dunn's "Four O'Clock Blues," an instrumental recorded in 1923. …David Evans notes that Son House or Skip James (House, probably) in the 1960s referred to this melody as the 4 O'Clock Blues." Charley Patton's "Tom Rushen Blues" and "High Sheriff Blues" (both influenced by Ma Rainey's "Booze and Blues") use variants of the melody. So does Skip James's "Yola My Blues Away," which is a 'harmonized' variant, and related pieces include James's "Four O'Clock Blues" and the 1941 version by Fiddlin" Joe Martin under the title "Fo' Clock Blues." Evans points out that Martin may have gotten the tune from Son House or Willie Brown, and Johnson could have learned it from any of these sources." Today we feature the Robert Johnson number, Skip James' "Four O'Clock Blues" and a version later in the show by Memphis Slim.

Geeshie Wiley recorded "Last Kind Word Blues" and "Skinny Leg Blues" in Grafton, Wisconsin for Paramount Records in March of 1930, with Elvie Thomas backing her on second guitar. Thomas also recorded two songs for Paramount at the session, "Motherless Child Blues" and "Over to My House," Wiley, providing second guitar and vocal harmonies. In 1931 Wiley and Thomas returned to Grafton to record two more sides for Paramount, "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Eagles on a Half." Nothing was known about either woman until recently when John Sullivan, based on the research of Mack McCormick, published a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine titled The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie that sent shock waves through the small group of blues scholars and collectors who care about this kind of thing.New York Times Magazine

As Sullivan wrote: "Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie…" It's an amazing piece of research, although, ethically the author is on shaky ground. Matt McCormick's daughter wrote a scathing retort published in the New York Observer. For his part, Sullivan wrote a defense in the same magazine. Like many blues collectors, I would love if McCormick's massive archive was made available, I imagine it holds the clues to many blues mysteries and would add immeasurably to out knowledge of blues history. But the bottom line is that it's his research, acquired painstakingly over decades with no outside assistance and he can do what he pleases with it. Sullivan's comment that “You’re not allowed to sit on these things for half a century, not when the culture has decided they matter” and that "Mack McCormick committed a theft—through negligence or writer’s block or whatever reasons of his own—far graver than my citation of interviews L.V. granted him decades ago" is self serving and simply wrong. What culture demands it? There's a handful of collectors and blues fans who care at all about this. I would hardly call that a demanding culture. Sullivan showed a self serving lack of integrity as far as I'm concerned.

Gianni Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some exceptional field recordings in the 70's and 80's in Tennessee and Mississippi. The original albums that collected these recordings are long been out-of-print. All these recordings will be issued as 15 volume series both digitally and on CD on his Mbirafon imprint. I've been corresponding with Marcucci and with his help will be doing an in-depth series of shows on these recordings. At Marcucci's prompting I've pushed this show back until he completes his issuing of the Blues At Home series.In the meantime we play great sides by Memphis Piano Red and Charlie Sangster.

John Williams (a.k.a. Memphis Piano Red) was born an albino in Germantown, Tennessee, in 1904 in a family with 11 children, six of whom played musical instruments. He learned how to play piano at the age of 13 from one of his sisters and was influenced by local Germantown piano blues players. In 1930 he moved to Memphis where he started his musical activity, playing often in Beale Street bars. He hoboed and rode freight trains for more than 25 years, visiting various states, developing a solid barrelhouse piano technique coupled with strong, heartfelt singing. He never had the chance to record 78 rpm race records, and was discovered in the late '60s during blues revival . He recorded sparingly, with scattered sides on various anthologies. These recordings were recorded during two long sessions held in 1972 and 1978 at his home in Memphis. These sessions are now available digitally as Blues At Home 4.

Charlie Sangster' sides come from the ninth volume of the Blues At Home series, featuring this little known artist of Brownsville, Tennessee. Charlie Sangster, born in this small Tennessee town in 1917, earned his living as a farmer. Belonging to a musical family, he learned how to play mandolin and guitar at the age of twelve. 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. With only the exclusion of five years in Indiana and a period of time in Europe serving with the U.S. Army during World War II, he spent most of his life in Brownsville, living in the house where he was born, where Marcucci discovered him through referral by Hammie Nixon. Marcucci recorded eight sessions between 1976 and 1980, plus an interview in 1982, just one year before his death. He was recorded in 1980 by Axel Kunster.

Priscilla Stewart: PDQ Blues
Ad in the Chicago Defender, Feb 19 , 1927

We spin several forgotten blues ladies today including Priscilla Stewart and Lil Johnson. Stewart is considered a second tier blues singer I suppose but here's something about her singing I find very appealing. Virtually nothing is known about her other than she recorded 25 performances between 1924-1928. In the majority of the cases, she is accompanied by pianist Jimmy Blythe. Unlike many of the other blues ladies from the period, 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 writes in the notes to Document's collected CD of her recordings: "'P.D.Q.' was originally an instrumental recorded in November 1926 for Victor by cornet player Thomas Morris. The following month the copyright holders ran a competition to find lyrics for the tune, even offering a prize of a Radiola. On February 12th, 1927 the Chicago Defender announced that the winning lyricist was John Simson. Given the subject matter of the song, Mr. Simson must have misunderstood P.D.Q. to be a railroad (like P.P.B. for Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & Boston), rather than the common abbreviation for 'pretty damn quick' ! Nevertheless, in March Vocalion recorded the song with Clarence Lee fronting the Clarence Williams band and Paramount followed shortly afterwards with Priscilla Stewart’s rendition. Paramount undoubtedly hoped such topicality would bring vast sales but it is unlikely that the recording achieved such – it certainly didn’t bring the singer any fame. Priscilla 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."

Lil Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. From her second session onwards, she had a partnership with the ragtime influenced pianist "Black Bob" Hudson, who provided ebullient support to Johnson's increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Our selection, "I Lost My Baby", is a swinging number most likely featuring Black Bob and Big Bill Broonzy.

Several fine male blues singers spotlighted today including sides by the well known Texas Alexander and Bumble Bee Slim and the obscure Willie Dukes and Shorty Bob Parker. Alexander delivers a fine performance on "Boe Hog Blues" featuring impeccable guitar from Lonnie Johnson while Bumbe Slim sings "Smokey Mountain Blues" in his best Leroy Carr manner backed the superb guitar work of Scrapper Blackwell, Carr's longtime partner. Nothing is known of Dukes and Parker who both waxed six sides in 1930.



Sparks BrothersLouisiana BoundThe Sparks Brothers 1932-1935
Sparks Brothers East Chicago Blues Twenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
Sparks Brothers4-11-44 Twenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
Peetie WheatstrawThird Street's Going DownThe Essential
Peetie WheatstrawMeat Cutter Blues Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 3
Peetie WheatstrawShack Bully StompThe Essential
Andy BoyEvil BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Andy BoyToo Late BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Andy Boy House Raid Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Black Boy ShineSugarland BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy ShineDog House BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Black Boy ShineBack Home BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Jesse JamesSouthern Casey JonesPiano Blues Vol. 1 192 -1936
Jesse JamesSweet PatuniPiano Blues Vol. 1 192 -1936
Sparks BrothersDown On The LeveeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis Vol. 2
Sparks BrothersChicago’s Too Much For Me Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis Vol. 2
Sparks BrothersTell Her About MeThe Sparks Brothers 1932-1935
Peetie WheatstrawGangster's Blues Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Peetie WheatstrawWorking On the ProjectThe Essential
Peetie WheatstrawPeetie Wheatstraw Stomp The Essential
Andy BoyChurch Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Andy BoyJive Blues Joe Pullum Vol. 2 1935-1951
Black Boy Shine Married Man BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-193
Black Boy Shine Dallas Woman BluesLeroy Carr & Black Boy Shine: Unissued Test Pressings & Alternate Takes 1934-37
Black Boy Shine Brown House BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Jesse JamesHighway 61Piano Blues Vol. 1 192 -1936
Jesse JamesLonesome Day BluesPiano Blues Vol. 1 192 -1936
Sparks BrothersI.C. Train Blues The Sparks Brothers 1932-1935
Sparks BrothersEveryday I Have The BluesThe Modern Recordings Vol. 2
Joe Pullum w/ Andy BoyDixie My HomeJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Walter ''Cowboy'' Washington w/ Andy BoyIce Pick MamaThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937

Show Notes:

On today's show we spotlight five superb blues pianists active in the 1930's and who remain largely forgotten today. Peetie Wheatstraw is by far the most well known artist featured today and one of the most popular and influential artists of the 1930's. Wheatstraw recorded in every year of the 1930's save 1933, cutting over one hundred and sixty sides. The Sparks brothers were based in St. Louis, Aaron on piano and Marion on vocals, and cut four sessions between 1932 and 1935. Andy Boy was a terrific pianist and expressive singer from Galveston, Texas who cut only eight sides under his own name as well as backing singers Joe Pullum and Walter 'Cowboy' Washington. Almost nothing is known of fellow Texas pianist Black Boy Shine, aka Harold Holiday, except that he was based in a section of Houston (which may have been his home) called West Dallas. In 1936 and 1937 he recorded for Vocalion in San Antonio and Dallas, and left behind 18 sides. Jesse James was a rough, two-fisted barrelhouse pianist probably based in Cincinnati. His legacy rest on four sides he cut in 1936.

Peetie Wheatstraw

Peetie Wheatstraw was born William Bunch and during his recording career was also know under the colorful sobriquets the Devil's Son-in-law and the High Sheriff from Hell. In fact he may have been one of the key links in the identification of the blues singer and the devil. He recorded over 160 songs, usually accompanied by his own piano and provided accompaniment on records to numerous others. Between 1930 and his death in 1941 he remained immensely popular for buyers of race records and was a fixture on the vibrant St. Louis blues scene of the 30's. St. Louis chronicler Henry Townsend emphasizes this point: "Around town he was pretty well busy; his name was ringing." Popularity is one thing but influence was another and his biographer Paul Garon makes no bones about Wheatstraw's enormous influence: "His style of blues singing was magnetically influential… It is no exaggeration to say that blues singing in the late 1930's bore the mark of Peetie Wheatstraw." Those cited as being influenced by Wheatstraw ("oooh, well, well" being his signature phrase) were a diverse lot including Robert Johnson, Champion Jack Dupree, Smokey Hogg and Big Joe Williams among others.

Wheatstraw died in 1941 when the car he was riding in slammed into a standing freight car. He was virtually ignored by blues researchers after his death (prior to Garon's book, The Devil's Son-In-Law: The Story Of Peetie Wheatstraw & His Songs, the only substantial writing on him was an article by Paul Oliver in Jazz Monthly from 1959) . Garon's insightful book makes an eloquent case for Wheatstraw' place in blues history. He was perhaps the most popular urban bluesman of his era and as Garon sums up "should be judged by the majesty of his own performances…"

Wheatstraw was a solid piano player who uses his playing to adorn his songs, usually not stretching out much outside of a few more boisterous pieces such as "Shack Bully Stomp" and "Peetie Wheatstraw Stomp", both featured today. On other numbers he gives plenty of room to his talented guitarists, most notably Kokomo Arnold and Lonnie Johnson. He was also an imaginative lyricist  as we hear on some fine topical numbers such as "Working On The Project" and "Third Street's Going Down" (the street, which was being torn down, ran through a tough section of East St. Louis called the "Valley" known for its gambling houses, saloons and brothels and was also where Wheatstraw lived):

We used to have luck in the Vally, but the girls had to move out of town (2x)
Some moved in the alley, oooh, well, well, because Third Street is going down

The city hired Mr. Keeler to put a highway through that part of town (2x)
And the law told the girls to move, oooh, well, well, 'cause we're tearing Third Street down

Aaron and Marion (he changed his name to Milton in 1929) were twins born to Ruth and Sullie Gant in Tupelo, Mississippi. Soon after the twins were born Ruth married Carl Sparks. According to Cleveland Sparks, uncle of Aaron and Marion: "Piano player Aaron he learned how to play piano before he could holler and shout…it was a coloured fellow teaching him. He had a joint y'know selling bootleg whiskey back in the corner. He just had a crowd there all the time and he just learned to play." Henry Townsend, who often accompanied Marion, had this to say: "He just kept getting better and better and got to playing for illegal joints y'know. …Pinetop was doing a lot of house-party playing and uh 'cause this was a trend then. We would go from house-party to house-party and make some money to pay the rent. …Now at that time Milton wasn't singing, Pinetop was the star when it come to singing. And so just out of nowhere Milton decided he was going to sing and he'd start. …Aaron got the name Pinetop because "He was very good at the number that Smith made [Pinetop Smith's "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie"]. Yeah he was very good with that number and as most guys do he just started to call himself Pinetop himself y'know. The nickname "Lindberg", Townsend suggests, was probably due to Milton's prowess in dancing the Lindberg or Lindy Hop.

The brothers cut four sessions, the first for Victor and the other three for Bluebird, between 1932 and 1935. Milton cut two songs for Decca in 1934 under the name Flyin' Lindberg. Aaron backed a number of St. Louis artists at their second session: Elisabeth Washington, Tecumseh McDowell, Dorotha Trowbridge, James "Stump" Johnson and Charlie McFadden. The brothers' led rough and tumble lives reflected in songs that dealt with gambling, jail, alcohol, woman, hoboing and railroads. In spite of their lyrics and rough background, the music the brothers made was surprisingly tender and wistful. They excelled at thoughtful, mid-tempo blues such as "East Chicago Blues", "Down On The Levee" and "4X11=44" a reference to number combination for playing policy.

Milton possessed a strong, nasal voice that is extremely appealing while Milton had a warm, sensitive vocal that occasionally dips into a mellow falsetto. Aaron was an exceptional and versatile piano player as Chris Smith appraises: "Aaron's playing features the steady chordal basses typical of St. Louis, and a very inventive right hand, endowed with melodic grace and propulsive energy. He was also a capable boogie player, with a singing line and a fondness for medium tempos." Aaron's fine abilities as an accompanist extend to his backing a trio of St. Louis ladies. Elisabeth Washington was an appealing, slightly nasal singer with a good sense of delivery; "Riot Call Blues" and "Whiskey Blues" (1933) are particularly tough blues with the latter opening with the line "Everyday I have the blues" a song that the brothers would debut two years later.

Andy Boy, from Galveston Texas, was part of a group of Texas pianists dubbed the Santa Fe group who acquired their name not only because they rode the Santa Fe from job to job, but also because, according to the Houston Pianist Robert Shaw, "anyone inquiring the name of a selection was invariably told, "that's the 'Santa Fe'." As blues scholar Paul Oliver wrote: "…There is a broad stylistic and thematic similarity in the music of the pianists who followed the Santa Fe through the barrelhouses of Ford Bend, Houston and Galveston counties, and down in the Brazos Bottoms. …Immediately recognizable with its rolling basses, its often ragtimey blues accompaniments, its anticipatory beat—this is the Santa Fe group." This group travelled the branches of the Santa Fe line to the lumber camps, oil fields and towns. In the cities "they were to be heard in the red light district of Galveston's Post Office Street or Church Street, on Houston's West Dallas Street or in Richmond's Mud Alley."

Among the best of the Santa Fe group were Rob Cooper of Houston, and Andy Boy of Galveston. Both men show the influence of Hersal Thomas and both men's style share strong ragtime elements. Stylistically, Oliver notes, "Andy Boy (Boy was his surname) and Rob Cooper were a few years older than Hersal Thomas" and "careful listening to the playing of Andy Boy reveals hints of the connection between them; in spite of the themes that he sang and played with their somewhat more modern sound, Galveston born Andy Boy was a pianist whose formative years were spent in the company of Hersal and his fellow pianists."

Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. Andy Boy's songs are filled with vivid imagery, humor, clever wordplay and a times a deep pathos. Along with pianist Rob Cooper, Andy Boy plays prominently on the records of Joe Pullum, one of the era's most distinctive and imaginative vocalists. Andy Boy cut only eight sides under his own name as well as backing both Pullum and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington.

One of his most memorable numbers was the rollicking "House Raid Blues"  (a close cousin to Little Hat Jones' "Kentucky Blues") as Andy Boy wittily describes a police break-in at Charlie Shiro's Galveston club: "

Then out the widow I did hop
Followed closely by a cop
Then around the corner I did run
I heard the shot from some law's gun
Said it ain't no use in shooting, ‘cause I ain't gonna be here long

Then I was long gone, from Kentucky, long gone
Got away lucky and I left so keen
I left like a submarine, couldn't hardly be seen

The vigorously sung "Church Street Blues" was perhaps his finest number where he evocatively sang: "Going down to the Gulf/Watch the waves come in . . ." and "I was born and raised in that good old seaport town/Where we all had fun and stomped The Grinder down." In the sombre "Evil Blues" he sang: "I got the evil blues, prejudicy on my mind" and was in quite a different frame of mind on the bouncy "Jive Blues" where he sings "Now the good book says thou shall not break the ten commandment law/I'm gonna break the ten commandments on you're jaw."

Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine, was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937 as well as leaving a batch of unissued sides in the can. As Paul Oliver noted: "He played in a mellow style, with a subtler release than the sharp snap favoured by several of the piano men, and he sang in a slightly world-weary voice of the days when the "Chophouse" operated on West Dallas Street. It was a haven for pianists down on their luck, where the proprietor would prepare soup and sandwiches for them, and cook any rabbits they'd managed to club on the waste lots that still dotted the black wards of the city." He describes this vividly in one of his best numbers, "Dog House Blues: "

Well I'm going to the Dog House, down On West Dallas Street (2x)
When I get broke and hungry, I know I can get a feed

"When times were better", Oliver wrote, "and the barrelhouses were open again, Shine was to be found at Sugarland, near the sugar refineries and the State Farm Unit, or way out at Richmond. The latter is a run-down, predominately black township still, an unlovely place of old buildings fronting on the railroad tracks close to the Brazos River. Behind the tracks the roads fall back steeply for a couple of blocks to the old haunt of hustlers and whores, Mud Alley. There on Mud Alley was the Brown House, Shine's base when he wasn't travelling…" Both places feature in Shine's songs; In "Sugarland Blues" he sings "I dump sugar all day/Clean until broad daylight/I done everything for that woman/Still she don't treat me right" and in "Brown House Blues" he sings "Woke up this morning with the muddy alley blues/ I lost all my money and my alley shoes/I was playing boogie-woogie and having my fun" and then goes on describe a raid in detail, obviously a common occurrence in these kind of joints. In general his lyrics vividly reflect the harsher side of black life such as songs like "Hobo Blues" and "Ice Pick and Pistol Woman Blues.”

It was once believed that Jesse James was a convict, brought to the studio under guard to make his four recordings in 1936. This "information" was originally given to Paul Oliver by Sammy Price in 1960 who was a member of Decca's A&R staff in the 30s. This romantic idea probably came from the lyrics of "Lonesome Day Blues:"

I'm going to the Big House and, I don't even care
Don't you hear me talking to 'em, scolding to my death
I'm going in the morning and I don't even care
I might get four, five years, Lord and I might get the chair

Some got six months, some got a solid year
You hear me talking to ya buddy what made you stop by here
Some of them got six months partner, and some got a solid year
But I believe my partner, Lord got lifetime here

James was probably Cincinnati-based, as he accompanied titles by Walter Coleman on the same date as his own session, June 3, 1936. James was a rough, two-fisted barrelhouse pianist, with a hoarse, declamatory vocal delivery, equally suited to the anguished "Lonesome Day Blues", a robust version of "Casey Jones" as "Southern Casey Jones", "Highway 61" and the ribald "Sweet Patuni", which was issued much later on a bootleg party single.

Skoodle Dum Doo & SheffieldBroome Street Blues Rare Country Blues Vol. 2 1929-1943
Skoodle Dum Doo & SheffieldWest Kinney Street Blues New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Alex Seward & Louis HayesBig Trouble Blues Downs BluesCarolina Blues NYC 1944
Alex Seward & Louis HayesUps And Carolina Blues NYC 1944
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Knockabout Blues (Carolina Blues) New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Brownie's Blues (Lordy Lord)Rub A Little Boogie: New York blues 1945-1956
Sonny Terry Dangerous Woman (with a 45 in Her Hand)Rub A Little Boogie: New York blues 1945-1956
Gabriel Brown Good-Time Papa Shake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Gabriel Brown The Jinx Is On MeShake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Boy Green Play My Jukebox Play My Juke Box: East Coast Blues
Big Chief EllisDices DicesNew York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Richard TriceBlood Red RiverCarolina Blues 1937-1945
Hank KilroyHarlem WomanPlay My Juke Box: East Coast Blues
Leroy DallasI'm Going Away New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Ralph WillisNeighborhood Blues Shake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Ralph WillisMama, Mama Blues Shake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Dan PickettBaby How LongShake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Dan PickettRide to a Funeral in a V-8Shake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Little DavidShackles Round My BodyDown Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
Tarheel Slim You're a Little Too SlowEast Coast Blues
Dennis McMillonPaper Wooden DaddyNew York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Curley WeaverSome Rainy Day The Post-War Years 1949
Curley Weaver Trixie The Post-War Years 1949
Blind Willie McTell Talkin' To You MamaThe Post-War Years 1949
Blind Willie McTell Talkin' To You MamaThe Post-War Years 1949
Carolina Slim Mama's Boogie Carolina Slim 1950-1952
Marilyn ScottI Got What My Daddy Likes New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Guitar Shorty I Love That Woman Play My Juke Box: East Coast Blues
Champion Jack Dupree Stumbling Block BluesNew York & The East Coast States 1943-195
Julius KingMississippi Boogie A Shot in the Dark:Nashville Jumps
Robert Lee WestmorelandHello Central Please Give Me 209New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Doug QuattlebaumDon't Be Funny BabyNew York & The East Coast States 1943-1953
Square Walton Bad Hangover New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953

Show Notes:

Today's is a sequel to a show we did a few weeks, Seaboard Stomp – East Coast Blues 1927-1941, devoted to East Coast blues from the 20's through the early 40's. Today's show takes the story through 1953. Today we emphasize the contribution to post-war blues made by singers from the Southeast and the Mid Atlantic states where many gravitated to New York. These performers tended to prefer a lighter and more melodic style than those from the Mississippi Delta who subsequently brought the blues to Chicago and Detroit. The bulk of these recordings, in fact, were recorded in New York. On today's program we spotlight well known artists like Blind Willie McTell, Brownie McGhee and Champion Jack Dupree as well as a slew of superb less remembered artists like Ralph Willis, Dan Pickett, Alec Seward and partner Louis Hayes among others. For an in-depth look at the Piedmont blues I recommend Bruce Bastin’s exhaustive study Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast which has been an invaluable resource for this show and its predecessor.

As on our first installment of East Coast Blues, the influence of the popular Blind Boy Fuller still looms large on many of these recordings. Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span (1935-1941). Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. His influence can be heard in the music of today's featured artists such as Boy Green, Carolina Slim, Richard Trice and Julius King.

Boy Green cut one 78, "A and B Blues b/w Play My Jukebox", in 1944 for Regis. Nothing is known of Green who possessed a fine voice and was an excellent guitar picker.

Carolina Slim was a Piedmont blues guitarist from North Carolina whose style was shaped as much by Lightnin' Hopkins as it was by Blind Boy Fuller evidenced on tracks like "Shake Boogie" and "Rag Mama." He was born Edward Harris in Leasburg, North Carolina, near the Virginia border. In 1950, Harris was dubbed Carolina Slim when he recorded for Herman Lubinsky's Savoy group of labels. He moved to Newark, the home of Savoy, after his first session. He recorded for King as Country Paul in 1951-52 before returning to Savoy in 1953.

Willie Trice and his brother Richard became close friends with Blind Boy Fuller and Fuller took them up to New York where they cut six sides together (two unissued) for Decca in 1937. Richard Trice recorded after the war for Savoy in 1946 as Little Boy Fuller as well as a couple of sides in 1948 and 1952/53. Richard Trice was later recorded by Pete Lowry but those recordings remain unreleased.

As Paul Garon writes in the notes to Down Home Blues Classics: New York & The East Coast States 1943-1953: "Julius King (1915-1970) was born and died in Tennessee, but his heaviest stylistic influence was North Carolina's Blind Boy Fuller, both in vocal inflection and in guitar style. "I Want A Slice of Yo~ Pudding" features a kazoo, as well as a fondness for raggy, Fuller-style pieces, and hokum material played a significant role in King's repertoire.  "One O'Clock Boogie" seems to draw inspiration from Pinetop Slim who recorded in Atlanta in 1949, and possibly  even from John Lee who recorded in Montgomery in 1951. While  "Mississippi Boogie" features King's kazoo playing, it also echoes Barbecue Bob tonally, especially the latter's flood blues." King cut a lone four-son session for Tennessee in 1952.

Several of today's artists get twin spins including the duos of Skoodle Dum Doo & Sheffield, Alec Seward & Louis Hayes and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, plus Gabriel Brown, Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver, Ralph Willis and Dan Pickett.

Gabriel Brown was discovered in Florida by folk music researchers Alan Lomax and Zora Neal Hurston in the '30's and launched his recording career with sides for the Library of Congress. He began making commercial recordings, starting in 1943, for A&R man, record label owner, and record producer Joe Davis and worked for him through 1952.

Seth Richards, possibly from Virgina, recorded a couple tracks under his real name in 1928 ("Lonely Seth Blues b/w Skoodeldum Doo"), which would be his last recordings until he recorded four songs as Skoodle Dum Doo & Sheffield in 1943 for the Regis label.

Alec Seward was born in Charles City County, Virginia and relocated to New York in 1924. Seward befriended Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, and retained his Piedmont blues styling despite changes in musical trends. He met Louis Hayes (who later became a minister in northern New Jersey) and the duo performed variously named as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly, or The Back Porch Boys. The duo recorded sides in 1944 and another batch in 1947. During the 1940's and 1950's Seward played and recorded with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, McGhee and Terry. Seward issued the album Creepin' Blues (1965, Bluesville) with harmonica accompaniment by Larry Johnson. Later in the decade Seward worked in concert and at folk-blues festivals. He died at the age of 70, in New York in May 1972.

Brownie McGhee worked in a partnership with Sonny Terry for most of his career and also recorded with many of today's featured artists including Leroy Dallas, Champion Jack Dupree, and Big Boy Ellis. McGhee began recording as Blind Boy Fuller No. 2, immediately after Fuller's death in 1941. He sung on one side from Fuller's last session, whereas Terry had been backing Fuller on and off since 1937. McGhee's manager, J. B. Long, suggested that Brownie take Sonny Terry to Washington DC where they played together at a concert with Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson. Afterwards, they recorded for the Library of Congress. They also recorded for Moe Asch, of Folkways, backing singers as diverse as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie, and in 1944 they began to record for Savoy. Wartime shellac restrictions had loosened and many small and independent labels were recording the new sounds of R & B, as well as the postwar blues. During the period of today's program, the 40's and 50's, the duo cut fine sides, both together and aprat, for Savoy, Gotham, Sittin' In With, Folkways, Capitol and others. McGhee can also be heard today backing Big Chief Ellis on "Dices Dices", Ellis and McGhee back Leroy Dallas on "I'm Going Away" and with Terry backing Champion Jack Dupree on "Stumbling Block Blues."

For years James Founty, known professionally as Dan Pickett, was a mystery man. Field trips in the early 90’s have solved most mysteries although most of the research remains unpublished. He recorded five singles for Gotham plus four unreleased tracks in 1949. Pickett's repertoire was derived almost exclusively from 30’s recordings synthesizing those styles into a unique sound of his own.

According to David Evans: "Around the end of 1949, or more likely early in 1950, Curley Weaver recorded four songs for the Sittin’ In With label. It’s not certain whether there were one or two sessions and whether the recordings were made in Atlanta or New York. Two tracks were not released until 1952 and may actually have been recorded that year." Weaver and McTell also cut a batch of records made in Atlanta for Regal Records in May 1950. Weaver's "Some Rainy Day" is a remake of "Some Cold Rainy Day" is a remake of a 1933 duet with Ruth Willis while "Trixie" is a rag version of the popular "Tricks Ain't Walking No More." Weaver can be heard again backing McTell on the bouncy, perfectly integrated "Talkin' To You Mama" while McTell takes it alone on

I want to say something about a few of the other artists featured on today's program including Big Chief Ellis, Leroy Dallas, Marylin Scott, Guitar Shorty and Doug Quattlebaum.

Big Chief Ellis was a barrelhouse pianist from Alabama who recorded behind many great Piedmont blues artists in the '40s and '50s in addition to making his own fine, if lesser-selling, records. Brownie McGhee got Ellis on record by phoning Bob Shad at Continental, who recorded Chief for the label and for the Sittin' In With label he later started. Ellis backed McGhee (and his brother Sticks) several times, including Sticks' one hit, "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee." Brownie backed Ellis on the latter's signature tune "Dices Oh Dices", a song about his lifelong profession as a gambler. Ellis became a fixture of New York's small blues scene, playing every weekend with Brownie and occasionally with Sonny Terry. He also recorded with/behind a large number of the city's R&B-flavored bluesmen, including Tarheel Slim, Leroy Dallas, Mickey Baker, and Ralph Willis. He cut his lone full-length album for the Trix label in the 70's.

Leroy Dallas was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1920 and moved to Memphis in 1924. Along his travels he played washboard behind Brownie McGhee and formed a band with James McMillan playing the streets and juke joints of Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. McMillan taught Dallas guitar and the two went on to tour the southern states working with Frank Edwards who made recordings in1949 and Georgia Slim who made records in 1937. By 1943 Dallas settled in Brooklyn New York. He made his first records for Sittin’ In With in 1949 consisting of six songs. He was accompanied by Brownie McGhee who was instrumental in setting up the session. Dallas was rediscovered by blues researcher Pete Welding and made a few recordings in the 60’s.

Mary DeLoatch, also known as Mary DeLoach, was a Norfolk, VA-based gospel singer who used the name Marylin Scott or Marylyn Scott the Carolina Blues Girl when performing blues. When performing gospel she sounded quite a bit like Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She switched to exclusively religious material after 1950 and her final recording appears to have been made in 1967 when she was photographed playing an electric guitar while wearing evangelical robes. Bruce Bastin wrote that our track, "I Got What My Daddy Likes", "is one of the finest postwar blues from the Piedmont."

Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the album Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) and his final album for Trix, Alone In His Field, before passing in 1975.

Born in South Carolina in 1927, Doug Quattlebaum came to Philadelphia in the early 1940's. In 1953 he cut three sides for Gotham records; two of them appeared on a Gotham 78, but the third was only rediscovered years later. In 1961 Pete Welding recorded Quattlebaum again, after hearing that he was still around. He was driving a Mr. Softee ice cream truck and performing for his patrons. Scheduled for issue on a Testament album, the sides remained unissued until the 90's. A few months later Welding recording him, few months later Quattlebaum recorded for Bluesville, the results issued on the marvelous Softee Man Blues with a picture of the artist in his ice cream uniform on the front cover.

Related Articles:

Carolina Slim: Blues Go Away From Me album notes by Pete Lowry

Guitar Shorty An Appreciation and Memory by Valerie Wilmer (Blues Unlimited 120 (1976), p. 20-21) ][PDF]

Doug Quattlebaum By Paul Sheatsley (Record Research No. 42, March/April 1962, p.12) [PDF]


Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Bumble Bee Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe 'Frisco Town Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe She Put Me Outdoors Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 2 1930- 931
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe What's The Matter With The Mill The Essential
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Frankie Jean That Trottin' Fool The Essential
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Let's Go To Town The Essential
Kansas Joe When The Levee Breaks Roots Of Rock
Kansas Joe That Will Be Allright Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Too Late The Essential
Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Drunken Barrel House Blues The Essential
Memphis Minnie Hustlin' Woman Blues Memphis Minnie Vol. 1 1935
Memphis Minnie Selling My Pork Chops Memphis Minnie Vol. 1 1935
Memphis Minnie I'm A Bad Luck Woman The Essential
Kansas Joe My Wash Woman's Gone Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Kansas Joe Joliet Bound Tommy Johnson & Associates
Memphis Minnie Out In The Cold Memphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Memphis Minnie Ice Man (Come On Up) The Essential
Memphis Minnie MoonshineMemphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Memphis Minnie Living The Best I Can Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1937
Memphis Minnie Down In The Alley Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1937
Memphis Minnie Hot Stuff Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1937
Memphis Minnie Ma Rainey The Essential
Memphis Minnie Nothing In Rambling The Essential
Little Son Joe Black Rat Swing The Essential
Memphis Minnie I Am Sailin'Memphis Minnie Vol. 5 1940-1941
Memphis Minnie In My Girlish Days The Essential
Memphis Minnie Me And My Chauffeur Blues The Essential
Little Son Joe A Little Too Late Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1944-1953
Little Son Joe Ethel Bea Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1944-1953
Memphis Minnie World Of Trouble Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1944-1953
Memphis Minnie In Love Again Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1944-1953
Memphis Minnie Kissing In The Dark Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1944-1953

Show Notes:

For nearly 30 years Memphis Minnie was, along with Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red, was one of the giants of the Chicago blues scene. Between 1929 and 1953 she recorded some 200 sides for a variety of labels. As Paul Garon and Beth Garon write in Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues: "Because Minnie began her recording career in 1929 and kept going for three decades, her presence  was written large across the whole history of recorded blues. Year after year, her style evolved, and by the time illness forced her to retire, she had recorded the country blues, the urban blues, the Melrose sound, the Chicago blues and the postwar blues." Unlike most female blues singers of the time, Minnie also wrote her own songs and played guitar. Starting in 1929, her records lead us through over twenty years of recorded blues and illustrate her life, as she moved from the rural South to urban Chicago.  Musically there were three basic phases to her style: the duet years with Kansas Joe, the "Melrose" band sound of the late thirties and early forties, and her later electric playing in the company of her third husband, guitarist Son Joe.

Many blues artists vividly recall their encounters with Memphis Minnie: Koko Taylor recalled: "the first blues record I ever heard was "Me An My Chauffeur Blues"by Memphis Minnie."Hound Dog Taylor, speaking of his early days in Chicago in 1943-1944, noted that "47th street was jumping on the South Side. When I first come up Memphis Minnie was playing at the old 708 club with her first husband." Baby Boy Warren recalled that "The other I admired the most respect was a woman-Memphis Minnie." And Bukka white reminisced "Memphis Minnie, Washboard Sam, Tampa Red, Big Bill they were my favorite 'cause they really would knock the cover off a house. They play in the nightclubs, would play house parties through the day." Johnny Shines recalled meeting Minnie and Joe: "It was an influence because I like what I heard, and I'd never heard anything like it before."

Born Lizzie Douglas in Algiers, Louisiana, Memphis Minnie was the eldest of Abe and Gertrude Wells Douglas’ 13 children. Throughout her childhood, her family always called her "Kid." When she was seven years old, the Douglas family moved to Wall, Mississippi, just south of Memphis. According to the authors of Minnie's biography she was "a wild youngster who never took to the farming life and she ran away from home at an early age. Her first guitar had been a Christmas present given to her in 1905 …She began to run away to Memphis' Beale Street with some regularity. When times were tough and nickels and dimes were hard to find, she returned to the farm to live, but rarely to work. …Minnie toured the South in the war years with a Ringling Brothers show she joined in Clarksdale, Mississippi." According to the authors of Minnie's biography she was "a wild youngster who never took to the farming life and she ran away from home at an early age. Her first guitar had been a Christmas present given to her in 1905 …She began to run away to Memphis' Beale Street with some regularity. When times were tough and nickels and dimes were hard to find, she returned to the farm to live, but rarely to work. "Guitarists Frank Stokes and Furry Lewis…both provided advice and inspiration to Minnie in her early days in Memphis. Minnie's duets with Kansas Joe drew as much inspiration from the guitar teamwork of Frank Stokes and Dan Sane, who recorded as the Beale Street Sheiks, as from her own early 'partnership' with Willie Brown." Robert Wilkins also recalled Minnie from these days and recalls teaching her a few things. On Beale Street she played with local musicians such as Jed Davenport, the Memphis Jug Band and Jack Kelly.

Her marriage and recording debut came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop in their distinctive 'Memphis style.' By around 1929 both Minnie and Joe were playing stell bodied National guitars. As Joe Calicott recalled:  "She and Tampa Red had the first steel boxes we ever saw." And Johnny Shines noted "…they all had the first steel guitars I had ever seen, they all had National steels. They was such pretty things." They went to New York City for their first recording sessions, and it was then that she changed her name to Memphis Minnie. The song "Bumble Bee" from their first session became a hit. It was supposedly a Columbia A and R man who gave the duo their names.The first side for Columbia, "That Will Be alright" b/w "When The Levee Breaks" had vocals by Joe alone. It was released in August or September and two months later "Bumble Bee" b/w "I Want That" was released. In upcoming sessions some numbers were rejected by the company but were eventually accepted and released even if they required several takes for an acceptable master.In 1930 Minnie recorded a pair of songs back by her friends, the Memphis Jug Band. She may also be on sides Jed Davenport and His  Beale Street Jug Band cut that year. Bukka White made his debut for Victor in 1930 and it may be Minnie's voice backing him on "I am In The Heavenly Way" b/ "Promise True And Grand." The duo's relationship with Vocalion began in February 1930 and would last nearly a decade with a few interruptions waxing dates for Okeh, Decca and Bluebird. Every two or three months Minnie and Joe would return to Vocalion studios to record; some session would result in sides by Kansas Joe issued under his own name, songs issued jointly or songs just issued under Minnie's name. Minnie and Joe would travel regularly to record in Chicago to record, finally moving there themselves in the early 30's. Between 1929 and 1934 Minnie and Joe cut around one hundred sides together. McCoy and Minnie recorded songs together and on their own for Decca Records until they divorced in 1934.

Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy

Joe McCoy was born in 1905, in Raymond Mississippi, located in the southwestern part of the state, just west of Jackson a bit North of Crystal Springs. His younger brother Charlie was born in Jackson five years later. The McCoys were close to the Chatmans, who hailed from nearby Bolton, and recorded as the popular Mississippi Sheiks. The McCoys and the Chatmans often played together and like many Jackson area musicians, ther were influenced in varying degrees by Tommy Johnson. In addition to the Chatmons and Johnson, Jackson, in the 1920’s was a city with a vibrant blues scene, teeming with artists such as Walter Vincson, Ishman Bracey, Johnnie Temple, Skip James and Rube Lacey. McCoy recorded under various pseudonyms; Georgia Pine Boy, Hallelujah Joe, Big Joe McCoy and His Washboard Band, and The Mississippi Mudder. Other names he used from time to time included Hillbilly Plowboy, Mud Dauber Joe and Hamfoot Ham. During his time with Minnie he took the lead on several memorable numbers, most famously “When The Levee Breaks” as well as fine numbers like "Preachers Blues", "Shake Mattie", "My Wash Woman's Gone" and "Joliet Bound" among others. If  McCoy is often overshadowed by Minnie on their recordings, these records showcase a singer with warm vocal, a superb guitar picker and a fine lyricist. Several of the songs have strong stylistic ties to Jackson, including "My Wash Woman's Gone", featuring Casey Bill Wledon, and "Joliet Bound" with stroong echoes of Tommy Johnson and and the Skip James reworking, "Evil Devil Woman Blues." After Joe and Minnie separated Joe occupied himself in small bands, singing with the Harlem Hamfats, working as a songwriter and working with his brother Charlie. oe McCoy died of heart disease in Chicago, only a few months before his brother Charlie.

There's a famous anecdote from this period regarding a guitar contest between Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy. In 1933, when Big Bill Broonzy was very popular in Chicago, a blues contest between him and Memphis Minnie took place in a nightclub. As Broonzy tells the story, in his autobiography Big Bill Blues, a jury of fellow musicians awarded Minnie the prize of a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of gin for her performance of "Chauffeur Blues" and "Looking the World Over".

Before renewing her contract with Vocalion in 1934 she recorded twenty sides for Decca and eight for Bluebird, her last session for Bluebird accompanied by Casey Bill Weldon. Minnie and Joe recorded recorded for the last time together in September 1934. According to several reports, McCoy’s increasing jealousy of Minnie’s fame and success caused the breakup. Minnie toured a great deal in the '30s, mostly in the south. It was during this period that Bob Wills and some of his Texas Playboys saw her playing in Texas; they would later make her "What's The Matter With The Mill?" a part of their repertoires. By 1935 Minnie had settled in under the supervision of Lester Melrose and was able to easily handle the transition from rural-downhome blues to a more sophisticated sound. Back on her own, Minnie began to experiment with different styles and sounds. She recorded four sides for the Bluebird label in 1935 in August of that year, she returned to the Vocation label. Minnie had teamed up with manager Lester Melrose, the single most powerful and influential executive in the blues industry during the 1930s and 1940s. By the end of the 1930s, Minnie had recorded nearly 20 sides for Decca Records and eight sides for the Bluebird label.

As Mike Rowe notes “it was a white businessman, Lester Melrose, who was really responsible for shaping the Chicago sound of the late 30's and 40?s.” Melrose had said “From March 1934 to February 1951 I recorded at least 90 percent of all rhythm-and-blues talent for RCA Victor and Columbia Records…” As Rowe further explains: “But Melrose had more than a large stable of blues artists under his control. Since only a few of them had regular accompanists most of them would play on each others records and thus Melrose has a completely self-contained unit… …The final stage of this musical incest was completed when they started recording each others songs.” The result was a consistent, sometime cookie cutter sound, although the best artists would consistently transcend these limitations.

Minnie and Son Joe (Ernest Lawlars) got together sometime in the late 30's and were married in 1939. They first recorded together in February 1939 where Son cut six numbers under his own name and Minnie cut seven. As Moody Jones recalled: "Her husband Son was the onliest fella…that knew more about them chords then I did." Joe had joined the Barber Parker band in the mid-forties, traveling throughout the Delta with Parker, Willie Love, and G.P. Jackson, and Jackson remembers Son as not only an excellent guitarist, but as a washboard player as well.

In 1939, Minnie returned to the Vocation label. Her recordings with Son Joe are in duet style, with piano, bass or drums added on some sessions. Minnie and Little Son Joe also began to release material on Okeh Records in the 1940s. The couple continued to record together throughout the decade. In May of 1941 Minnie recorded her biggest hit, "Me And My Chauffeur Blues." A followup date yielded two more blues standards, "Looking The World Over" and Son's "Black Rat Swing (issued as by Mr. Memphis Minnie)." At the dawn of the 1940's Minnie and Joe continued to work at their "home club", Chicago's popular 708 club where they were often joined by Big Bill, Sunnyland Slim, or Snooky Pryor. They also played at dozens of the other better known Chicago nightclubs. The forties treated Minnie and Son Joe well and they performed both together and separately depending on finances, (they could make more money playing separate gigs). Minnie, presided over Blue Monday parties at Ruby Lee Gatewood's Tavern playing an electrified National arch top in front of a band that included bass and drums. The poet Langston Hughes saw her perform New Year's Eve 1942, at the 230 Club, and was thoroughly overwhelmed by her "scientific" (i.e. loud) sound. He described the sound of her electric guitar as "a musical version of electric welders plus a rolling mill".  Clearly she had by that time embraced the next phase of the blues.

As Minnie's biographer's note: "By the end of the 40's Minnie had made the leap to post-war blues., and several of her last pieces were excellent examples of powerful , 1950's Chicago-style blues. Minnie's voice was still strong and vibrant, and she might have become a fine, post-war (style) performer."  In 1949 Minnie cut a session for the Regal label with Jimmy Rogers and Sunnyland Slim. The session was never released at the time. In 1952, Minnie recorded a session for the legendary Chess label, when it was just two months old. One side even featured Little Walter on harmonica. Singles from the session included "Broken Heart" and a re-recording of "Me and My Chauffeur Blues." The following year, she released her last commercial recording after 24 years in blues music, "Kissing in the Dark" and "World of Trouble" on the JOB label. On the Regal and Chess sides Minnie sounds a bit ill at ease but not so on the JOB sides. For example "in 'World Of Trouble', one hears the raw power of the era, with each component at last firmly integrated, and with Minnie's strong and forceful vocal evocative in the extreme."

Within the next few years, Minnie’s health began to fail. She retired from her music career and returned to Memphis. She performed one last time at a memorial for her friend, blues artist Big Bill Broozny in 1958. Periodically, she would appear on Memphis radio stations to encourage younger blues musicians. As the Garon's wrote in Woman with Guitar, "She never laid her guitar down, until she could literally no longer pick it up." In 1960, Minnie suffered from a stroke and was bound to a wheelchair. The following year, Little Son Joe passed away. Minnie finally passed in 1973.