Entries tagged with “Big Joe Turner”.

Blind Willie & Curley Weaver Georgia RagThe Classic Years 1927- 1940
Blind Willie & Curley Weaver Warm It Up To MeThe Classic Years 1927- 1940
Lucille Bogan & Walter Roland Groceries On The ShelfShave 'Em Dry: The Best
Lucille Bogan & Walter RolandBaking Powder BluesShave 'Em Dry: The Best
Big Joe Williams & Sonny Boy Williamson IIThrow a Boogie Woogie Big Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Big Joe Williams & Sonny Boy Williamson IIDon't You Leave Me HereBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Big Joe Turner & Pete JohnsonLow Down DogRadio Broadcasts 1939-1947
Big Joe Turner & Pete Johnson Roll 'Em PeteRadio Broadcasts 1939-1947
Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonDown South BluesI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonNeed More BluesJailhouse Blues
Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonStop That Thing I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
The Sparks BrothersLouisiana BoundDown On The Levee
The Sparks BrothersEast Chicago Blues Twenty First. St. Stomp
The Sparks BrothersDown On The Levee Twenty First. St. Stomp
Willie Ford & Lucious Curtis High Lonesome Hill Mississippi Blues 1940-42
Willie Ford & Lucious Curtis Times Is Getting HardDeep River Of Song Mississippi: Saints & Sinners
Butch Cage & Willie B ThomasMean Old FriscoRaise A Ruckus Tonight
Butch Cage & Willie B ThomasBugle Call BluesOld Time Black Southern String Band Music
Butch Cage & Willie B ThomasForty Four BluesI Have to Paint My Face
Skoodle Dum Doo & SheffieldWest Kinney Street BluesPlay My Juke Box
Skoodle Dum Doo & SheffieldBroome Street BluesDown Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
Nugrape Twins The Road Is Rough & RockySinners & Saints 1926-1931
Nugrape Twins Got Your Ice Cold NugrapeAmerican Primitive Vol. II
John Cephas & Phil WigginsReno FactoryLiving Country Blues USA: Introduction
John Cephas & Phil WigginsPony BluesLiving Country Blues Vol. 1
John Cephas & Phil Wiggins Ain't Got No Lovin Baby NowLiving Country Blues Vol. 1
Big Joe Turner & Pete JohnsonJohnson & Turner BluesHave No Fear, Big Joe Turner Is Here
Big Joe Turner & Pete Johnson Rebecca Big Joe Turner 1941-1946
Big Joe Williams & Sonny Boy Williamson II King Biscuit StompBig Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Big Joe Williams & Sonny Boy Williamson II I'm a Highway ManBig Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Lucille Bogan & Walter RolandShave 'Em DryShave 'Em Dry: The Best
Lucille Bogan & Walter RolandJump Steady DaddyShave 'Em Dry: The Best
Blind Willie & Curley Weaver Good Little ThingThe Classic Years 1927- 1940
Blind Willie & Curley Weaver Don't Forget It Don't Forget It: The Post War Years

Show Notes:

Today's show is part two of a spotlight on some great blues partners that made commercial and non-commercial recordings between the 1920's on up. On part one we spotlighted some of the more famous partnerships such as Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Tampa Red and Georgia Tom. Big names this time out include Big Joe Turner and  Pete Johnson who first partnered in Kansas City in the 1920's and made some great sides together starting in the 30's and ending in the 1950's.  Blind Willie McTell and Curley Weaver also had a long partnership, with Weaver and McTell backing one another on many sessions in the 1930's, with a final batch of recordings in 1950.  Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon recorded prolifically together in the 1930's, resuming recording again in the 1960's during the blues revival.  Butch Cage and Willie Thomas had been playing together for some time before Harry Oster began recording them in 1959. He continued to recorded them in the 1960's and the duo performed together until Cage's death in 1975. We hear from some talented siblings today including the wonderful Nugrape Twins and the Sparks Brothers. Others heard from today include Lucille Bogan and pianist Walter Roland who recorded extensively together between 1933 to 1935, and the team of Big Joe Williams and Sonny Boy Williamson, stars in their own right, who cut some great records together particularly in the 1940's. Other heard from today include Willie Ford and Lucious Curtis who recorded together and individually for the Library of Congress, the under-recorded Skoodle Dum Doo and Sheffield and John Cephas and Phil Wiggins who performed and recorded together for three decades.

Blind Willie McTell was a major figure with a local following in Atlanta from the 1920's onward, recording dozens of sides throughout the 1930's under a multitude of names — all the better to juggle "exclusive" relationships with many different record labels at once — including Blind Willie, Blind Sammie, Hot Shot Willie, and Georgia Bill, as a backup musician to Ruth Mary Willis. McTell's recording career began in late 1927 with two sessions for Victor records, eight sides including "Statesboro Blues." McTell's sometime partner, Curley Weaver, was a younger contemporary who made his debut for Columbia in 1928. Weaver and McTell first recorded together in 1931, recording extensively together in 19333 with McTell backing Weaver on some 1935 sides. The two didn't record together again until a 1950 session for the Regal label where they recorded as a duo and solo.

Lucille Bogan got off to a rather shaky start on her two 1923 sessions. The feisty, boisterous singing she became known for came into much better focus when she returned to the studio in 1927 backed by papa Charlie Jackson on fine numbers like "Sweet Patinua", "Jim Tampa Blues" and "Cravin' Whiskey Blues." As Tony Russell writes in the Penguin Guide To Blues: "Over the next few years she constructed a persona of a tough-talking narrator – 'They call me Pig Iron Sally, 'cause I live in Slag Iron Ally, and I'm evil and mean as I can be,' she sings in 'Pig Iron Sally' – who knew the worlds of the lesbian and the prostitute. She reports from the former in 'Women Don't Need No Men' and 'B.D. Woman's Blues', and the latter in 'Tricks Ain't Walking no More' – best heard in the affectingly somber version titled 'They Ain't Walking No More' …and 'Barbecue Bess.' Other notable recordings are 'Coffee Grindin' Blues' …and the first recording of  'Black Angel Blues,' which after a great change became a blues standard." On these recordings she finds strong backing from pianists Will Ezell and Charles Avery. "…Thanks to the generally better sound quality and the ever sympathetic accompaniment of Walter Roland, her mid-30s recordings …are the most approachable." Roland backed Bogan on dozens of sides between 1933 and 1935 and cut over forty sides under his own name during this period.

Both Big Joe Williams, who made his debut in 1935, and Sonny Boy Williamson I, who made his debut in 1937, had successful recording careers of their own, but teamed up on several occasions until Sonny's untimely death in 1947. Big Joe backed Sonny Boy at his first Bluebird session in 1937 and Sonny Boy backed Big Joe at the same session. Big Joe also backed Sonny Boy on sessions in 1938. As a team, their  best collaborations were in the 1940's; trio sides in 1941 backed by Alfred Elkins on bass, another trio session in 1945 backed by drummer Jump Jackson and a final session in 1947 with Ransom Knowling on bass and Judge Riley on drums.

Pete Johnson began his musical career in 1922 as a drummer in Kansas City before switching to piano. From 1926 to 1938 he worked as a pianist, often working with Big Joe Turner. An encounter with record producer John Hammond in 1936 led to an engagement at the Famous Door in New York City. In 1938 Johnson and Turner appeared in the From Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall. After this show the popularity of the boogie-woogie style was on the upswing. Johnson worked locally and toured and recorded with Turner, Meade Lux Lewis, and Albert Ammons during this period.  In 1945 Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson established a bar in Los Angeles, The Blue Moon Club. That same year Turner contracted with National Records cutting some of their finest sides for the label through 1947. Johnson wasn't as active in the 1950's although he did some recording with Big Joe, notably the 1956 Boss of the Blues album for Atlantic.

Hammie Nixon, born Hammie Nickerson in Brownsville, Tennessee, began his music career with jug bands in the 1920's. He is best known as a harmonica player, but he also played the kazoo, guitar and jug. He played with Sleepy John Estes for half a century, first recording with Estes in 1935 for Decca Records, recording again with Estes in 1937. During the blues revival period they began performing  and recording again starting with a 1962 session for Delmark.. They cut numerous recordings together until Estes passing in 1977. In 1964 they played both the the Newport Folk Festival and the American Folk Blues Festival.

Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas, photo by Harry Oster

The Sparks brothers, Aaron and Marion (he changed his name to Milton in 1929), were twins born to Ruth and Sullie Gant in Tupelo, Mississippi. Both brothers were fine singers, and Aaron learned piano at school, becoming an exceptional accompanist in the St. Louis tradition.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. Their recording careers ended in 1935, and Aaron died soon after, though Marion lived  until 1963.

In October 1940 John Lomax and his wife came to Natchez, Mississippi from Baton Rouge to look for musicians to record. During that trip they recorded Lucious Curtis, Willie Ford and George Bolwdin. Between Curtis and Ford ten songs were recorded. "When Lucious Curtis was there, Willie "followed after" him, but he did it skillfully, watching the leader carefully." So reads the first paragraph of John Lomax's notes for the recording session. He went on to write that "Lucious Curtis is a honky-tonk, guitar picking Negro, living on a precarious income from pick-ups at dance halls. His 'complementer" Willie Ford has a regular job at a big saw mill but had a 'sad-day' off." Curtis claimed to have made commercial records with Bo Carter but this hasn't be verified.

Fiddler James "Butch" Cage was one of the last artists in the black string band tradition. Born on March 16, 1894, in Hamburg, Mississippi, Cage's first real instrument was a cane fife. He moved to southwest Louisiana following the devastating Mississippi floods of 1927, eventually settling in Zachary, where he worked a succession of menial jobs while playing string band music at house parties and church functions, often in conjunction with guitarist Willie B. Thomas. Musicologist Harry Oster heard Butch Cage and Willie Thomas playing in Zachary in 1959 and recorded them extensively. The duo was also a huge hit at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival.

Both men were born in Washington D.C. John Cephas, who was 24 years older than Phil Wiggins, grew up in Bowling Green, Virginia. They first met at a jam session at the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife in 1976 and played together with "Big Chief" Ellis appearing together an album on Pete Lowry's Trix label. Lowry was the first to record Cephas, although those recordings were never issued. When Ellis died, they decided to continue as a duo. They were first recorded in 1980 by Siegfried Christmann and Axel Küstner for the German L&R label. Their first U.S. release, the album Dog Days of August, was issued by Flying Fish Records in 1986. They cut their final album in 2008, with Cephas passing the following year.

Phil Wiggins & John Cephas, photo by Axel Küstner

Seth Richards, possibly from Virginia, recorded a couple of 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. John Sheffield played harp while Seth Richard played guitar and sang.

It’s possible the Nugrape Twins were Matthew and Mark Little, born September 16, 1888, in Tennille, Georgia. Matthew died in 1962 and Mark in 1965. The Nugrape Twins recorded six tracks for Columbia Records between 1926 and 1927; four gospel numbers and two versions of "I Got Your Ice Cold NuGrape." The latter song was mentioned in a 1926 Columbia catalog.


Blind Leroy GarnettChain 'Em DownBlues Images Vol. 14
Joe WilliamsMr. Devil BluesBlues Images Vol. 14
Mobile StrugglersMemphis BluesBlues Images Vol. 14
Big Joe Turner & Pete Johnson Been To Kansas CityBarrelhouse & Rockin' Blues
Pete Johnson Kaycee FeelingMaster Of Blues and Boogie Woogie
Big Duke Henderson Beggin' And Pleadin'Barrelhouse & Rockin' Blues
Freddy ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946
Freddy Shayne & Bertha 'Chippie' HillHow LongMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946
Charles Lacy Rampart Street BluesHollywood Blues
Martee BradleyNow I'll Have To Sing The BluesDown Home Blues Detroit: Detroit Special
L.C. Green Remember Way BackDown Home Blues Detroit: Detroit Special
Big John WrencherNow Darlin' Harpin' on It
Black Ace Whiskey and WomenBlack Ace: I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
Black Ace Golden SlipperBlack Ace: I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
Eva Taylor Sara Martin Hesitation BluesSara Martin Vol. 1922-1923
Sam Collins Hesitation Blues Sam Collins 1927-1931
Jim Jackson Hesitation BluesJim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Smith Casey Hesitating BluesTwo White Horses Standin' In Line
Cootie Williams & Eddie Vinson Red BluesCootie Williams And His Orchestra 1941-1944
Eddie Vinson Kidney Stew Is FineKidney Stew Is Fine
Ishman Bracey Woman Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 14
Charley Patton I'm Going HomeBlues Images Vol. 14
Memphis Minnie I'm Talking About YouBlues Images Vol. 14
Muddy Waters Canary BirdThe Complete Aristocrat & Chess Singles
Leroy Foster Locked Out BoogieLeroy Foster 1948 - 1952
Ma Rainey Hellish RagMother Of The Blues
Mae Glover Shake It DaddyI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Madlyn Davis Winter BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 2
Blind Gussie NesbitPure ReligionWhen I Reach That Heavenly Shore
Boyd Rivers When I Cross OverYou Can't Make Me Doubt
Ruby Glaze Lonesome Day BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Blind Willie McTell Mama, Let Me Scoop For YouBest Of
Issac Youngblood & Herb Quinn Hesitating BluesSouth Mississippi Blues

Show Notes:

Our final mix show of the year as we cover a wide swath of blues history. On deck today are a whole batch of vintage blues from the the collection of John Tefteller, some excellent Detroit blues, several fine blues ladies as, a history of the "Hesitation Blues" as well as twin spins by Freddie Shayne, Eddie Vinson and the Black Ace.

Every year around this time collector John Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. These year we get a pair of Big Bill Broonzy sides not heard since the original 78's were released. As usual sound quality is superb using a new restoration process first used last year. This year marks the 14th year of the calendar and CD's. Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously and has been reprinting the artwork in his annual calendars.

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.

During the 30's and 40's the Black Ace was well known, at least among black audiences, in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. He had a program that aired out of KFJZ, Fort Worth, Texas. He cut two sides for the ARC label in 1936 which were never issued but had better luck the following year cutting six sides for Decca in 1937 all of which were released. It was these sides that would later garner him notice among blues collectors and which led to a fleeting comeback. Comeback is probably not the right word as Turner had no interest in playing blues full time again although thankfully he was persuaded to record two sessions at his Fort Worth home in 1960 which were issued as The Black Ace on Arhoolie (reissued on CD as Black Ace: I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand which includes his 1937 sides plus a few other tracks that appeared on Arhoolie compilations). He was also captured on film for the 1962 documentary The Blues.

Read Liner Notes

"Hesitation Blues" is a popular song adapted from a traditional tune. One version was published by Billy Smythe, Scott Middleton, and Art Gillham and published in 1915. One of the first popular recordings was an instrumental version by the Victor Military Band, made on 15 September 1916. The same traditional tune was also arranged by W.C. Handy and published in 1915 as "Hesitating Blues". Handy's version shares the melody, but the lyrics are different. The son was popular among country and blues artists. Sara Marti and Eva Taylor recorded the song together in 1923, Sam Collins recorded it in 1927, Jim Jackson in 1930 and Smith Casey for the Library of Congress in 1939.  We close our show with one more version, this one done by Issac Youngblood and  Herb Quinn and recorded by David Evans in Tylertown, MS in 1966.

One of the things I've tried to do on this show is play a wide variety of blues, from commercial recordings to filed recordings, spotlighting all facets of the music from string bands jug bands, to piano blues and classic and down home woman singers who seem unjustly neglected. Today we we hear from some wonderful woman singers, some well known like Ma Rainey and Mephis Minnie, to the once famous who are now forgotten like Sara Martin, and Bertha "Chippie" Hill, to the obscure such as Madlyn Davis and Mae Glover. Rainey was right there when the blues was spreading through the country at the beginning of the 20th century. She began performing as a young teenager and became known as Ma Rainey after her marriage to Will Rainey, in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Comparatively speaking, she was bit late to recording, making her debut in 1923. We pin her "Hellish" rag cut in 1928.

Sara Marin was singing on the Vaudeville circuit by 1915 and made her debut for Okeh Records in 1922. She cut close to one hundred sides through 1928. We hear her on "Hesitation Blues" from 1923 a duet with Eva Taylor.Taylor also made her in 1922 but for the Black Swan label, cutting around seventy sides through 1932. In 1919 Bertha "Chippie" Hill was working as a dancer with Ethel Waters in New York and toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. She cut some two-dozen sides between 1925 and 1929 and made a brief comeback in the 1940's.

wnrcd5095Little is known of Mae Glover who or Madlyn Davis. Glove cut fourteen sides at two sessions; four for Gennet in 1929 and the rest for Champion in 1931. Her best sides are from the first session where she backed by guitarist John Byrd. The two turn in a driving, sexy performance on "I Ain't Givin' Nobody None" and "Shake It Daddy." Madlyn Davis made ten recordings in Chicago, for Paramount Records, with her first session taking place in June 1927. In October 1928, Davis had her final recording stint, with her backing musicians including Georgia Tom Dorsey on piano and Tampa Red on guitar.

We spin a couple of sides from Down Home Blues Detroit: Detroit Special a terrific recent 3-CD collection of vintage Detroit blues recorded between the 1940's and 1960's. The set was compiled by blues scholar Mike Rowe and includes some unissued recordings unearthed from rare acetates and comes with an informative 48 page booklet with some truly great photos. One of the earliest show I aired for Big Road Blues was one on Detroit and I did a follow-up a couple of years ago. Despite that, this set has inspired me to do comprehensive series of shows on Detroit to be aired the beginning of next year.


Hal Singer & Carl Davis I Feel So GoodHal Singer 1948-1951
Hal SingerDisc Jockey BoogieHal Singer 1948-1951
Wynonie Harris w/ Frank Culley & Hal Singer I Feel That Old Age Coming OnRockin' The Blues
Ruth Brown w/ Freddie MitchellI Would If I CouldI'm A Bad, Bad Girl
Eunice Davis & Freddie Mitchell OrchestraRock Little DaddyBaby, That's Rock 'n' Roll
Freddie Mitchell Rockin' With CoopFreddie Mitchell 1949-1950
Big Joe Turner w/ Sam Taylor In The EveningThe Rhythm & Blues Years
Bull Moose Jackson w/ Sam TaylorCherokee BoogieThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
Bull Moose Jackson w/ Red PrysiockBig Ten Inch RecordThe R&B Hits Of 1952
Wynonie Harris w/ Red Prysiock -Down Boy DownLovin' Machine
Red Prysock Jump Red, JumpHandclappin' Foot Stompin'
Willis JacksonGood To The BoneFire/Fury Records Story
Eddie Mack w/ Willis Jackson Mercenary PapaEddie Mack 1947-1952
Big Joe Turner w/ Al Sears Ti - Ri – LeeThe Rhythm & Blues Years
Nappy Brown w/ Big Al SearsWell Well Well Baby LaNight Time Is The Right Time
Big Al SearsMarshall PlanThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
King CurtisMovin' On King's Rock
Mr. Bear & The Bearcats w/ Sam Taylor & King CurtisMr. Bear Comes To TownHonkin' 'N' Hollerin'
Sammy Price w/ King CurtisRib Joint Rib Joint
Ruth Brown w/ Budd JohnsonI KnowRuth Brown 1949-1950
Mabel Scott w/ Budd JohnsonCatch 'Em Young, Treat 'Em Rough, Tell 'Em NothingMabel Scott 1951-1955
Edna McGriff w/ Buddy Lucas Edna's BluesI'm A Bad, Bad Girl
Buddy Lucas High Low JackStill Groove Jumping
Paul “Hucklebuck” WilliamsWomen Are the Root of All Evil Paul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Paul “Hucklebuck” WilliamsThe Hucklebuck (Hucklebuck)Paul Williams Vol. 2 1949-1952
Paul “Hucklebuck” WilliamsYoung Man BluesPaul Williams Vol. 2 1949-1952
Noble “Thin Man” Watts Jookin'Fire/Fury Records
Margie Day w/ Noble “Thin Man” Watts Take Out Your False Teeth DaddyJumpin' The Blues Vol. 2
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson w/ Buddy Tate Queen Bee Blues Honk For Texas
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson Bald Head Blues Honk For Texas
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson Mr. Cleanhead Steps OutHonk For Texas
Cousin Joe w/ Earl Bostic Fly Hen BluesCousin Joe Vol. 1 1945-1947
Earl BosticLet's Ball Tonight - Part 1Earl Bostic 1945-48
Earl BosticEarl Blows A FuseEarl Bostic Blows a Fuse

Show Notes:

Hal "Cornbread" Singer

Today's show is a part one of our look at some great New York based sax men who's honkin' sound was heard on hundreds of records in the 40's and 50's. This show is one of several sax based shows this year starting a few months ago with a two-part show of Chicago horn men , followed by two spotlighting some great L.A. Horn blowers. Illinois Jacquet is cited as the one who kicked off the era of honkin' sax in 1945 with his famous solo on "Flying Home" while working with Lionel Hampton's band. As Big Jay McNeely said of of the song, "every time we picked up our horns we were just elaborating on that, trying to make it bigger, wilder, give it more swing, more kick. If you want to know where rhythm and blues began, that's it brother."  Today we spin some great honkin' sax records, some cut by the horn men themselves and others featuring their raucous playing behind some great blues singers, both well known and obscure. The records were issued on a myriad of small New York independent labels labels such as Atlas, Derby, Coral,  Apollo, Groove, Fire/Fury, Savoy and bigger players such as King and Atlantic. Along the way we'll hear some exciting instrumentals and hear them back some terrific blues singers, both famous like Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown, to the obscure such as Eddie Mack, Mr. Bear and Edna McGriff. Among those featured today are legendary horn men such as Hal Singer and Freddie Mitchell who played on countless sessions as well as recording some exciting sides under their own names. Then there were sax men primarily know for their session work such as the prolific Sam “The Man” Taylor, Budd Johnson and Big Al Sears. There were the sax men who led their own bands and were stars in their own right such as Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams, Red Prysock, Earl Bostic and Bullmoose Jackson. Others heard today include the incendiary Noble “Thin Man” Watts, the rising star King Curtis, Willis “Gator” Jackson, Buddy Lucas, Frank Culley and others. On part two we'll spin more great tracks by theses sax men as well as hearing form others such as Sil Austin, Buddy Tate, Charlie Singleton and more. We'll provide some background on some of today's artists and fill in details about the rest next week.

If you pour through the session details of the hundreds of New York City R&B sessions that took place in the mid-40's through the 50's you'll run across several sax men time and again, including Hal Singer, Freddie Mitchell, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Big Al Sears  and Budd Johnson. Hal Singer played with the legendary South Western and Mid Western territory bands of T Holder, Ernie Fields, Tommy Douglas and Jay McShann. He lent his torrid tenor saxophone style to R&B hits from Wynonie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight" in 1947 to Little Willie John's "Talk To Me, Talk To Me" in 1958, and conducted his own successful recording career from 1948, kicking off with "Cornbread" – a title that would provide his nickname for the next several years. Singer formed his own quartet, which played on some blues sessions for Savoy Records eventually recording signing a contract with the label in 1948 which lasted until 1949. He would record again for the label for a longer term from 1952 to1956 – and in the meantime Singer recorded for Mercury (1950) and Coral (1951/52), as well as playing back-up on countless R&B and rock 'n' roll sessions. rom the late 1950s into the early 1960s, in addition to touring extensively with many jazz, R&B and rock 'n' roll package shows, Singer recorded for DeLuxe and Prestige and between 1958 and 1961 he played in the famous New York club Metropole with Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Shavers, Henry "Red" Allen, Cozy Cole and Claude Hopkins.

Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams

Born in Orlando, Florida, in 1918, young Freddie Mitchell became a blues pianist in nearby Tampa before moving to New York City with his family at about 13 years of age. Upon leaving high school he joined Benny Carter's Orchestra in late 1940 and in 1941 joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra and also briefly played with Hot Lips Page and Louis Armstrong.  By 1949 Mitchell was approached by Larry Newton, owner of Derby Records, to be a contracted artist and the in-house bandleader. Leaving Derby after three years, Mitchell recorded for Mercury (1952), Coral, Brunswick and Gem (1953), Jubilee (1954), Rock 'n' Roll (1955), ABC Paramount (1956-61) and a one-off session for Herb Abramson in 1959. y 1952 he had become a top New York session musician and can be heard on many hits, particularly those from Atlantic: Joe Turner's "Sweet Sixteen", Ray Charles' "It Should've Been Me", Ruth Brown's "Wild, Wild Young Men" and LaVern Baker's "Soul On Fire" to name a fraction.

Sam Taylor began working with Scat Man Crothers and the Sunset Royal Orchestra in the late '30s. He played with Cootie Williams and Lucky Millinder in the early '40s, then worked six years with Cab Calloway. Taylor toured South America and the Caribbean during his tenure with Calloway. Taylor began to get work as a session musician in 1952 and did work for Atlantic, Savoy, and Apollo Records. In November of that year he was signed by former MGM record man Joe Davis who has a stable of labels including Beacon, Joe Davis, and Jay-Dee. Taylor became the saxophonist of choice for many R&B dates through the '50s, recording with Ray Charles, Buddy Johnson, Louis Jordan, and Big Joe Turner, among others.

Al Sears had actually had his first important job in 1928 replacing Hodges with the Chick Webb band. However, despite associations with Elmer Snowden (1931-1932), Andy Kirk (1941-1942), Lionel Hampton (1943-1944), and with his own groups (most of 1933-1941), it was not until Sears joined Duke Ellington's Orchestra in 1944 that he began to get much attention. Sears worked with Johnny Hodges' group during 1951-1952, recorded a variety of R&B-oriented material in the 1950s backing artists such as Big Joe Turner, Nappy Brown, Piano Red, Cousin Joe and others. He cut two excellent albums for Swingville in 1960 before going into semi-retirement.

Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson

In the 1920's Budd Johnson performed in Texas and parts of the Midwest, working with Jesse Stone among others. Johnson had his recording debut while working with Louis Armstrong's band in 1932-33 but he is more known for his work, over many years, with Earl Hines. Johnson was also an early figure in the bebop era, doing sessions with Coleman Hawkins in 1944. In the 1950s he led his own group and did session work for Atlantic Records – he is the featured tenor saxophone soloist on Ruth Brown's hit "Teardrops from My Eyes."

Several sax men spent time leading their own bands and became quite famous during this era. Among those were Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams and Earl Bostic. Eddie Vinson first picked up a horn while attending high school in Houston. During the late '30s, he was a member of an incredible horn section in Milton Larkins's orchestra, sitting next to Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet. Vinson joined the Cootie Williams Orchestra from 1942 to 1945. His vocals on trumpeter Williams' renditions of "Cherry Red" and "Somebody's Got to Go" were big hits. Vinson struck out on his own in 1945, forming his own large band, signing with Mercury, and enjoying a double-sided smash in 1947 with "Old Maid Boogie" and  "Kidney Stew Blues." Between 1949-1952 he did a stint at King Records.  Vinson steadfastly kept one foot in the blues camp and the other in jazz, waxing jumping R&B for Mercury (in 1954) and Bethlehem (1957), jazz for Riverside in 1961 (with Cannonball Adderley), and blues for Blues Time and ABC-BluesWay.

Saxophonist and bandleader Paul Williams scored one of the first big hits of the R&B era in 1949 with "The Hucklebuck," an adaption of Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time." The song topped the R&B charts for 14 weeks in 1949, and was one of three Top Ten and five other Top 20 R&B instrumental hits that Williams scored for Savoy in 1948 and 1949. He was later part of Atlantic Records' house band in the '60s, and directed the Lloyd Price and James Brown orchestras until 1964.

Earl Bostic played around the Midwest during the early '30s, studied at Xavier University, and toured with several bands before moving to New York in 1938. In the early '40s, he worked as an arranger and session musician, and began leading his own regular large group in 1945. Cutting back to a septet the next year, Bostic began recording regularly, scoring his first big hit with 1948's "Temptation." He soon signed with the King label, the home of most of his biggest jukebox hits. In 1951, Bostic landed a number one R&B hit with "Flamingo," plus another Top Ten in "Sleep." Subsequent hits included "You Go to My Head" and "Cherokee." Bostic's bands became important training grounds for up-and-coming jazzmen like John Coltrane, Blue Mitchell, Stanley Turrentine, Benny Golson, Jaki Byard, and others.


Show Notes:

Big Joe Turner Blues On Central Avenue Coral Rhythm & Blues Vol. 1
Al Winter Central Avenue Blues Hollywood Boogie
Al Cake Wichard Sextette & Duke HendersonGravels In My Pillow Cake Walkin': The Modern Recordings, 1947-1948
Will EzellJust Can't Stay HereWill Ezell 1927-1931
Blind Roosevelt GravesWoke Up This MorningThe Frog Blues & Jazz Annual No. 1
The Palooka Washboard BandBack DoorCharlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 2 (936-1944
Jesse AllenAfter AwhileThe Best Of Duplex Records
Jesse AllenGoodbye BluesThe Ace Records Blues Story
Fats JefferonMarried Woman BluesGoin' Back To Tifton
Lyin' Joe HolleySo Cold in the U.S.A.So Cold in the U.S.A.
Barrelhouse Buck 20th Street Blues (Twentieth Street Blues) Backcountry Barrelhouse
Little Brother MontgomeryWest 46th Street BoogieBlues
Tommy JohnsonMaggie Campbell BluesMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Joe McCoy Look Who's Coming Down The Road Charlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1 1934-1936
Robert Nighthawk Maggie Campbell Prowling With The Nighthawk
Little Aaron East St. LouisDown On Broadway And Main
Earl HookerBlues In D NaturalBlue Guitar
Al King Wet Back Hop Honk! Honk! Honk!
Big Jack ReynoldsGonna Love SomebodyBroke and Disgusted
Doc TerryThings Can't Stay The Same38 Pistol Blues
K.C. Red K.C. Red's In Town Grab Me Another Half a Pint
J.B. Smith Poor BoyOld Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2
Bukka WhitePoor BoyLiving Legends
Papa Charlie JacksonLong Gone Lost JohnBroadcasting the Blues
Jim Jackson Long Gone Jim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Little Hat JonesKentucky BluesMy Rough And Rowdy Ways Vol. 1
Andy BoyHouse Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-193
Charlie Patton Lord I'm DiscouragedBest Of
Blind Willie DavisI Believe I'll Go Back HomeBlues Images Vol. 10
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Willie Guy RaineyJohn HenryWillie Guy Rainey
Mack Maze Makes A Longtime Man Feel Bad (Roberta)I'm Troubled With A Diamond

A wide variety of blues styles today as we delve deep into the blues, spinning tracks from the 1920's to more modern times. We open the shows with some fine West Coast blues, spin a pair of tracks from the unsung Jesse Allen, play a batch of superb piano blues, examine some fascinating field recordings and spend a couple of sets exploring the history of classic blues plus much more.

Central Avenue was Los Angeles's main stem, where African-Americans enjoyed the chance to shop, relax, and go about their business by day, then see the great blues and jazz artists in the strip's myriad theaters, clubs and dives at night. We open the show with musical tributes to the strip including Big Joe Turner's "Blues On Central Avenue" backed by Freddie Slack's trio ("I'm in the land of sunshine, standin' on Central Avenue") and pianist Al Winter's rollicking instrumental "Central Avenue Blues." We also hear from Al Wichard. Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on August 15th, 1919 but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern’s first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks. The Ace label has issued a CD titled Cake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948.  which consists entirely of sessions made under his own name. Thirteen tracks have vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon while others feature vocalist Duke Henderson and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. All these sides were cut between 1945 and 1949.

We spin two numbers by the mysterious Jesse Allen today. Jesse Leroy Allen was born on the 25th of September, 1925, in Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida. He never learned to read music but was a self taught guitarist, playing by ear and learning licks from fellow musicians as he picked up work in small time clubs and bars starting in Dade and Broward counties, Florida. His first recording session was four sides for Aladdin Records in New Orleans on October 13th, 1951. On December 8th, 1951 he recorded two sides for the Coral label. His next recording session was for Bayou, a subsidiary of Lew Chudd’s Imperial label. In August 1953, Allen had his first recording session for Imperial. Imperial had enough faith in Jesse Allen to call him back to the studio for a solo recording session in early 1954. Backed by a line up of New Orleans’ finest session musicians, Jesse cut four sides and two more later in the year. His final sides were for Vin in 1958 and Duplex in 1959.

Piano players never seem to get the recognition of the guitarists but that won't stop me form playing them whenever I can. Among those featured today are Will Ezell, Barrelhouse Buck, Little Brother Montgomery, Lyin' Joe Holley, Fats Jefferson and several others. 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; the brothers back Ezell on our featured track, the infectious "Just Can't Stay Here." We hear the brothers on a later session as we spotlight "Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)" one of my favorite religious songs of all time.

Long Gone Lost JohnBuck McFarland was born in Alton, Illinois in 1903 in the same area as two other exceptional piano players, Wesley Wallace and Jabbo Williams, all three of which made names for themselves on the bustling St. Louis blues scene. McFarland was a member of Charlie Creath's Jazzomaniacs and Peetie Wheatstraw's Blues Blowers. He also led his own bands under a variety of names. Between 1929 and 1934 he made 10 records. Sam Charters recorded McFarland for a session for Folkways and there was an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released several years back on Delmark as Alton Blues. The recordings Charters made were released on Folkways as Backcountry Barrelhouse. He died just a few months afterward.

"Maggie Campbell Blues" was about Tommy Johnson's wife, Maggie Bidwell (or Bedwell) who he married in 1914 or 1915. They separated between 1917 and 1919. The song was recorded by Johnson in 1928. Joe McCoy cut it in 935 under the title "Look Who's Coming Down The Road" and Robert Nighthawk recorded a version in 1952 (he also cut a version in 1964). Other versions were recorded by men who knew Johnson including Shirley Griffith and Roosevelt Holts.

In 1920 W.C. Handy published "Long Gone" with words by black songwriter Chris Smith based on a Kentucky folk song, known variously as "Lost John", "Long John" or "Long John Dean." The sheet music claimed it was "Another Casey Jones" or "Steamboat Bill." Papa Charlie Jackson recorded the song early in 1928 followed shortly after by Jim Jackson's version the same year. Little Hat Jones cut the songs as "Kentucky Blues" in 1930 and Andy Boy refashioned it as "House Raid Blues"  when he cut it in 1937. The song was also used as a prison work song.