Entries tagged with “Jimmy Rogers”.

Joel HopkinsGood Times Here, Better Down The RoadJoel & Lightnin' Hopkins
Joel HopkinsI Ain't Gonna Roll For The Big Hat Man No MoreJoel & Lightnin' Hopkins
Lightnin' HokinsLook Out Settegast, Here Me And My Partner ComeJoel & Lightnin' Hopkins
Lightnin' HokinsWhiskey, Whiskey Joel & Lightnin' Hopkins
Snooks Eaglin Give Me The Old Box-Car Message From New Orleans
Snooks Eaglin Every Day Blues Message From New Orleans
James BrewerI'm So Glad Good Whiskey's BackBlues From Maxwell Street
Arvella Gray Have Mercy Mister PercyBlues From Maxwell Street
Daddy StovepipeMonkey and the Baboon Blues From Maxwell Street
King David Fanny MaeBlues From Maxwell Street
The Black Ace'Fore Day Creep The Black Ace
The Black AceYour Legs' Too Little The Black Ace
Buster PickensJim Nappy Buster Pickens
Buster Pickens The Ma Grinder No. 2Buster Pickens
Joe Carter Treat Me The Way You Do Mean & Evil Blues
Big John Wrencher Special Rider BluesMaxwell Street Alley Blues
Blind Joe Hill Boogie In The Dark Boogie In The Dark
Jimmy s & Little Walter Little Store Blues (Take 1) Chicago Boogie
Sleepy Johnny EstesHarlem Hound Chicago Boogie
Billy BranchHoochie Koochie ManBring Me Another Half-A-Pint
Kansas City Red K.C. Red's In TownBring Me Another Half-A-Pint
Robert RichardMotor City BluesBanty Rooster Blues
Easy Baby So Tired Sweet Home Chicago Blues
Lyin' Joe Holley So Cold in the U.S.A. So Cold in the U.S.A.
Coy “Hot Shot” LoveHot Shot Boogie45
Boll Weevil Blues TrioThings Ain't What They Used To BeSouthside Screamers! Chicago Blues 1948-1958
Dixie Boy & His Combo One More DrinkSouthside Screamers! Chicago Blues 1948-1958
Birmingham Jones I'm GladBirmingham Jones / Kid Thomas: Blues! Harp! Boogie! 1957-1965
Wooddrow AdamsSeventh Son Down South Blues 1949-1961
Little SonnyI Hear My Woman Callin' Harp Suckers: Detroit Harmonica Blues 1948
Elder R. Wilson Better Get Ready Harp Suckers: Detroit Harmonica Blues 1948

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

Just about all the artists featured on this program have passed, so it's not often I do tributes of that kind anymore. Lately the notable passings have been the early generation of blues historians, writers, scholars, label owners, producers and promoters who added immeasurably to our knowledge of the blues. We have lost several such men recently including Mack McCormick and Steve LaVere who I paid tribute to last year. This time out we pay tribute to two more, Tony Standish who passed  December 17th of last year and belatedly, George Paulus who passed on November 14, 2014. I never had any interaction with either men, but their recordings on their respective labels were certainly and influence on me and have been featured on several past programs.

Standish ran the short-lived, but influential, Heritage label in the late 50's and early 60's. The label was groundbreaking in being one of the earliest reissues outfits, making available recordings by Papa Charlie Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charlie Patton among others.  These recordings have been reissued countless times since and are not the ones we will feature today. Heritage was also groundbreaking in releasing some fantastic field recordings captured by Paul Oliver, Mack McCormick and Henry Oster and those are the recordings we will spin today.

George Paulus was a noted record collector who ran the Barrelhouse label from 1974 through the early 80's as well as it's successor, the St. George label which operated from the early 80's through the early 2000's and issued primarily modern blues and rockabilly. He also released a few bootlegs and one off labels that issued a single releases such as Delta Swing, African Folk Society, Floatin' Bridge and Negro Rhythm. All the labels had an emphasis on spotlighting unheralded Chicago and Detroit blues artists. Both Standish and Paulus were also writers (Standish was the assistant editor of Jazz Journal), not only writing the liner notes to their own releases, but contributing liners to others sets and articles in various periodicals. Some of their writings can be found at the bottom of today's show notes.

Heritage 1001, the first full-length album, was a self-titled split album between Joel Hopkins and Lightnin' Hopkins. The recordings were made by Mack McCormick in 1959 in Houston. Joel was Lightnin's older brother and first gave him a guitar. Joel traveled the south with tent shows and traveling caravans. Lightnin's other brother, John Henry also played guitar. The three were recorded together in Waxahatchie, TX in 1964. The results were issued on Arhoolie under the title Hopkins Brothers: Lightnin', Joel, & John Henry.

Read Liner Notes

After releasing a series of EP's devoted to reissuing artists like Papa Charlie Jackson, Memphis Minnie and Charlie Patton, Heritage issued new recordings by Snooks Eaglin; there was an EP titled Snooks Eaglin's New Orleans Blues with all these track appearing on the full-length album, Message From New Orleans. These were field recordings  made by Harry Oster circa 1961 in New Orleans. As far as I know these recordings have never been reissued on LP or CD since.

Heritage 1004 was titled Blues From Maxwell Street. Back in 1960 Bjorn Englund, Donad R. Hill and John Steiner documented the blues on Maxwell street by recording some of the street's stalwarts including Arvella Gray, Daddy Stovepipe, King David and James Brewer. The sessions were organized by Paul Oliver who wrote the notes to the original album. The recordings were reissued a few years back on the Document label.

Heritage 1006 was titled The Black Ace with these sessions stemming from two sessions at his Fort Worth home in 1960.The recordings were subsequently issued on Arhoolie. The Ace's real name was Babe Kyro Lemon Turner. "I throwed the 'Lemon' away", he told Paul Oliver," and just used the initials of Babe Kyro – B.K. Turner." Back in the the 1930's and 40's he was well known, at least among black audiences, in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma for his regular slot on station KFJZ out of Fort Worth. 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.

In the summer of 1960 Paul Oliver came to the United States with the aid of a State Department grant and BBC field recorder to record blues. As Oliver's journey progressed west he teamed up with Chris Strachwitz and Mack McCormick who had been roaming around Texas looking for blues singers. The recording of Buster Pickens was a result of this collaboration. Pickens lone album for Heritage, the self-titled Buster Pickens, was recorded over several sessions in 1960 and 1961 and released in 1962. It was reissued on album by the Flyright label in 1977. Three years ago I persuaded Document Records to reissue the album (Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961) and I had the pleasure of writing the liner notes.

Read Liner Notes

George Paulus released the first two Barrelhouse albums in 1974: Washboard Willie's Whippin' That Board and Big John Wrencher's Maxwell Street Alley Blues. By the mid 1940's Wrencher had arrived in Chicago and was playing on Maxwell Street and at house parties with Jimmy Rogers, Claude "Blue Smitty" Smith and John Henry Barbee. In the 1950's he moved to Detroit. In 1958 Wrencher lost his left arm as a result of a car accident outside Memphis, Tennessee. By the early 1960's he had settled in Chicago, where he became a fixture on Maxwell Street Market. During the 1960's Wrencher recorded for the Testament label backing Robert Nighthawk, and as part of the Chicago String Band. In 1969 he was recorded by George Paulus and Dick Shurman, backed by guitarist Little Buddy Thomas and drummer Playboy Vinson, who formed his Maxwell Street band of the time resulting in his Barrelhouse debut.

One of the truly great unsung heroes of the Chicago club scene of the 1950's, Joe Carter was a slide-playing disciple of Elmore James. Arriving in Chicago by 1952 it was Muddy Waters who lent Carter the money to purchase his first electric guitar. Shortly thereafter, Joe started up his first group with guitarist Smokey Smothers and Lester Davenport on harmonica, quickly establishing himself as a club favorite throughout Chicago. Carter didn't end up being documented on record until he returned to active playing in the '70's, recording his lone solo album, Mean & Evil Blues, for Barrelhouse in 1976.

Robert Richard learned the guitar and the harmonica with his uncle. Like a lot of other southerners, came to work in the automobile industry in 1942. With his brother Howard he began playing the  Hastings Street clubs. He recorded with Walter Mitchell and pianist Boogie Woogie Red in 1948, then as a sideman on many Detroit recording sessions, particularly with Bobo Jenkins. He waxed some sides under his name for Chess in Chicago but those titles were never issued. Richard gave up music but was rediscovered by George Paulus who recorded him in 1975 and 1977 for the album Banty Rooster.

Alex “Easy Baby” Randle was born in Memphis in 1934. Both his grandmother and uncle were harmonica players. Easy Baby began playing professionally around Memphis as a teenager while doing odd jobs. Playing in the gambling houses and juke joints he befriended Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Joe Hill Louis and others. In 1956 he moved to Chicago and throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's played all over the Windy City while working as a mechanic. Easy Baby’s first recording appeared on the anthology Low Blows: An Anthology of Chicago Harmonica Blues with another track appearing on the anthology Bring Me Another Half-A-Pint. His full-length debut was Sweet Home Chicago issued on  Barrelhouse in 1977 (another full-length, Hot Water Cornbread and Alcohol, recorded for St. George in the late 90s, was never released).

Read Liner Notes

We featured a pair of tracks from the aforementioned Bring Me Another Half-A-Pint by the under-recorded Kansas City Red and early cut by Billy Branch. Also featured are some fine sides by little known artists such as Nate Armstrong, Sonny Boy McGhee and Earl Payton.

Blind Joe Hill was a one-man-band who recorded two albums under his own name: one on Barrelhouse (Boogie In The Dark) and one on the L+R label. Hill was part of the 1985 American Folk Blues Festival touring Europe.

There were two tantalizing albums that were titled with cover art completed by Robert Crumb but were never issued: Unknown Detroit Bluesmen Vol. 1 (BH-003) and Ain't No Stopper On My Faucet, Mama! Unknown Detroit Blues (BH-006).

Paulus had  a massive record collection (currently up for auction) filled with rare pre-war and post-war blues. Some of these rarities were issued on Barrelhouse and St. George. In 1969 Paulus, who had been a regular customer at Maxwell Street Record and Radio for several years, bought the surviving lacquers from the Bernard Abrams and his family. He subsequently released all 14 sides on an LP on his Barrelhouse label (in 1974) as Chicago Boogie, then, in improved sound, on his St. George label (1983). In the 1990's, P-Vine licensed the material for release in Japan, leading to an LP and a CD. There were also four albums of rare Detroit blues and gospel form the vaults of record producer Joe Von Battle that were issued on Barrelhouse, St. George and P-Vine..

In 1977-78 Paulus issued four various artist compilations on four different labels: After Midnight: Chicago Blues 1952-1957 (Delta Swing), Down South Blues 1949-1961 (African Folk Society), Birmingham Jones/Kid Thomas Blues! Harp! Boogie! 1957-1965 (Floatin' Bridge) and Going To Chicago: Blues 1949-1957 (Negro Rhythm). In addition there were also some similar unofficial recordings Paulus issued including an unnamed and unnumbered LP of Muddy Waters rarities that became the basis of Vintage Muddy Waters issued on Sunnyland in 1970, an album of Baby Boy Warren's complete recordings (BBW 901) and a 45 by Coy "Hot Shot" Love recorded  at Steve LaVere's Record Shop in Memphis in mid August 1973 ("Hot Shot Boogie, Foxchase Boogie b/w Freight Train Blues" issued as a 45 under the  Mr. Bo Weevil imprint). One other record Paulus produced was by Lyin' Joe Holley in 1977 titled So Cold In The USA issued on the JSP label with four other tracks from the sessions appearing on the JSP anthology Piano Blues Legends.

Related Articles

-Standish, Tony. “Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee.”Jazz Journal 11, no. 6 (Jun 1958): 1–5.

-Standish, Tony. “Muddy Waters in London. Pt. 2.” Jazz Journal 12, no. 2 (Feb 1959): 3–6.

-Standish, Tony. Speckled Red: The Dirty Dozen. Denmark: Storyville SLP-117, c1960; Denmark: Storyville SLP 4038, 1985.

-Standish, Tony. “Champion Jack Dupree Talks to Tony Standish.” Jazz Journal 14, no. 4 (Apr 1961): 6–7, 40.

-Paulus, George. “Motor City Blues & Boogie.”Blues Unlimited no. 85 (Oct 1971): 4–6.

-Paulus, George. “Will Hairston: Hurricane of the Motor City.” Blues Unlimited no. 86 (Nov 1971): 21.

-Paulus, George. Robert Richard: Banty Rooster Blues. USA: Barrelhouse BH-010, 1977.

-Paulus, George. Blues Guitar Killers: Detroit 1950s. USA: Barrelhouse BH-012, 1977.

-Paulus, George. Easy Baby and His Houserockers: Sweet Home Chicago. USA: Barrelhouse BH-013, 1978; Japan: P-Vine PCD-5206, 1997.

-Paulus, George. Harp Suckers! Detroit Harmonica Blues 1948. USA: St. George STG-1002, 1983.

-Paulus, George. Southside Screamers: Chicago, 1948–58. USA: St. George STG 1003, 1984.

-Paulus, George. “Late Hours with Little Walter.” Blues & Rhythm no. 133 (Oct 1998): 10–12.


Lee JacksonFishin' in My Pond Chicago Blues of the 1950's
Lee JacksonI'll Just Keep Walkin Chicago Blues of the 1950's
Lee JacksonChange of LoveBlues Party at Jump Jackson’s
Sunnyland Slim Depression Blues Blues Party at Jump Jackson’s
Roosevelt SykesYour Will Is MineSings The Blues
Roosevelt SykesGone With The WindSings The Blues
Little Johnnie Jones Prison Bound45
Little Johnnie Jones Don't You Lie To Me45
Lee JacksonJuanitaChicago Blues from C.J. Records Vol. 2
Lee JacksonPleading for LoveChicago Blues from C.J. Records Vol. 2
Lee JacksonWhen I First Came to ChicagoLonely Girl
Lee JacksonLonely Without LoveLonely Girl
Jody Williams Groan My Blues AwayCool Playing Blues
Otis SpannFive SpotBlues From The Checker Vaults
Howlin' Wolf I'll Be AroundSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Howlin' Wolf EvilSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Howlin' Wolf I Have A Little GirlSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Jody WilliamsEasy LovinCool Playing Blues
Billy Boy ArnoldDon't Stay Out All NightThe Very Best of Blues: Vee- Jay Vol. 2
Dennis 'Long Man' BinderI'm A Lover Long Man Blues
Jody WilliamsI Feel So All Alone Cool Playing Blues
Jimmy WitherspoonAin't Nobody's BusinessSpoon So Easy
Billy StewartBilly's Blues (Part 1) The Unbelievable Billy Stewart
Bo Diddley I'm Looking for a Woman Bo's Blues
Bo Diddley Who Do You Love Bo's Blues
Jimmy Rogers One KissComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers I Can't Believe Complete Chess Recordings
Jody WilliamsYou MayChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Jody WilliamsLucky LouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Jody WilliamsWhat Kind of Gal Is That Chess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Otis Rush Groaning The Blues Cobra Records Story
Harold BurrageMessed UpMessed Up ! The Cobra Recordings 1956-58
Bobby Davis Hype You Into Selling Your HeadBandera Blues And Gospel
Jody Williams Moanin' for Molasses The Chicago Years: Blues

Show Notes:

Howlin Wolf, Jody Williams, Hubert Sumlin and Drummer Earl Phillips


Today's program is part two of series of shows devoted to lesser known Chicago blues artists, some session artists, others who cut a handful of sides under their own name, all who are little remembered outside of die-hard collectors. We spotlighted guitarists William Lacey and Lee Cooper last week and this time out we showcase two more guitarists: Lee Jackson and Jody Williams. In the mid-1950's, Williams was one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Chicago, yet he was little known outside the music industry since his name rarely appeared on discs. His acclaimed comeback in 2000 led to a resurgence of interest in Williams’ early work. In the 50's he was briefly a member of Howlin' Wolf's band, playing on a number of classic sides as well as backing artists like Bo Diddley,  Jimmy Rogers, Otis Rush, Billy Boy Arnold and others. He cut a handful of brilliant sides under his own name as well. In the late 1960's, he quit the music business in favor of a steady day job. Lee Jackson appears in many studio sessions as a guitarist and bassist but only recorded a handful of sides under his name. His first 45 was for Cobra and after that he would wax some very good tracks for labels run by Cadillac Baby and Carl Jones as well as laying down some fine session work. In 1970, Jackson was part of the American Folk Blues Festival's European tour. He cut his first full LP for Bluesway label in the 70's and cut another album in 1977 for the T.K. label that went unissued.

Jody Williams: Lucky LouBorn in Mobile, Alabama, Joseph Leon "Jody" Williams moved with his family to Chicago when he was just 5 years old.  It was an encounter with Bo Diddley at a talent show that convinced him he should put down his harmonica and pick up a guitar. Absorbing the guitar styles of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and Robert Lockwood, Jody become one of the first important string benders to work in Chicago, influencing such up and coming stars as Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. Williams’ solo career began in December 1955 with the upbeat saxophone-driven "Lookin' For My Baby", released under the name Little Papa Joe on the Blue Lake label. Williams also cut "What a Fool I've Been (I Feel So All Alone)" and "Easy Lovin'" for the label. The label closed a few months later, leaving his slide guitar performance on "Groaning My Blues Away" unreleased.

After touring with West Coast piano player Charles Brown, Williams established himself as a session player with Chess Records. At Chess, Williams met Howlin’ Wolf, recently arrived in Chicago from Memphis, and was hired by Wolf as the first guitarist in his new Chicago-based band. A year later Hubert Sumlin moved to Chicago to join Wolf's band, and the dual guitars of Williams and Sumlin are featured on Howlin’ Wolf’s 1954 singles, "Evil Is Going On", and "Forty Four", and on the 1955 releases, "Who Will Be Next" and "Come To Me Baby." By this time, Williams was highly sought after as a session guitarist, and his virtuosity in this capacity is well illustrated by his blistering lead guitar work on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?", a hit for Checker Records in 1956. In 1957, Williams released "You May" on Argo Records, backed with the instrumental "Lucky Lou", the extraordinary opening riff of which Otis Rush copied on his 1958 Cobra Records side "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)." Other notable session work from the 1950's include lead guitar parts on Billy Boy Arnold's "I Ain't Got You" and "I Wish You Would", Jimmy Rogers’ "One Kiss", Jimmy Witherspoon’s "Ain't Nobody's Business" and Otis Rush’s "Three Times A Fool." Also worth noting is Williams work backing Otis Spann’s storming 1954 release, "It Must Have Been The Devil b/w Five Spot", that features lead guitar work from B. B. King, one of Williams’ early heroes and a big influence on his playing.

Lee Jackson
Lee Jackson, photo by Don Peterson

The frequency with which Williams found his distinctive guitar phrases being copied without credit led to increasing disenchantment with the music business. When the distinctive riff he created for Billy Stewart's 1956 Argo release, "Billy's Blues", was appropriated by Mickey Baker for the Mickey & Sylvia hit, "Love Is Strange", Chess Records took legal action. At the conclusion of the case in 1961, Williams gained neither credit nor compensation.

Lee Jackson was born Warren George Harding in 1921 in Arkansas. He was strongly influenced by his Uncle Alf Bonner and his Aunt Cora who led a jug band and also ran a café between Helena and Memphis in which about every bluesman of the neighboring States played regularly. After some years playing with the Bonners' Jug Band, he tried his luck,under the nickname of Lee Jackson, as an itinerant musician, playing in Memphis, Florida, Saint Louis and finally Chicago. As writer Gerard Herzhaft noted: "The guitar style of Lee Jackson, sharp, jazzy, with sparse but brilliant and bluesy notes was quite original for the immediate post-war Chicago blues scene, reflecting his years playing with swinging jug bands."

Read Liner Notes

In Chicago he made his debut with Cobra in 1956, with "Fishin' in My Pond b/w I'll Just Keep Walkin'." Jackson's sides under his own name were scant, cutting scattered singles for C.J. and Bea & Baby before cutting his first album, Lonely Girl, for the Bluesway label in 1973. In 1970, Jackson was part of the American Folk Blues Festival's European tour and two sides from that event were issued on the Scout label. Around this time Jackson was part of Willie Dixon's Chicago All-Stars group and a bootleg of him with the band has been circulating for some time. In 1977, he cut another album for Ralph Bass and the T.K. label that was never released, although tracks from that session popped up on several anthologies.

Another interesting session was one captured in 1960 by Joachim Berendt that featured Lee Jackson alongside Shakey Jake, Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim, Jump Jackson and others. These tracks were part of a 45 minute private recording circulating among collectors. Some of these tracks appeared on a German LP. From this session we play Jackson's on "Change of Love" and another track backing Sunnyland Slim. Jackson also backed pianist Little Johnny Jones on two sides that only saw the light of day years later. Jones' widow, Letha Jones, owned an acetate of  two 1964 titles and Jim O'Neal of Rooster Records licensed the rights from her to issue them on 45. Perhaps Jackson's best session work can found on the 1962 Crown release Roosevelt Sykes Sings The Blues which has been reissued by Ace. This short session was recorded in Chicago, and it features Sykes in the company a stellar band including Willie Dixon on bass, Jump Jackson on drums and Sax Mallard. By the late 70's Jackson was playing more and more in the Chicago North Side clubs and his reputation was growing among this new audience. Sadly it would be too late. Jackson was shot to death by the son of his new bride during an argument and died on July, 1st, 1979.

Related Articles

Lee Jackson Obituary. Blues Unlimited no. 135/136 (Jul/Sep 1979): 30.

-Stephenson, Mike. “The Jody Williams Story.” Blues & Rhythm no. 184 (Nov 2003): 22–26.


Jimmy RogersRound About BoogieDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Jimmy RogersLittle Store BluesChicago Boogie! 1947
Jimmy RogersLudellaEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Memphis MinnieDown Home GirlEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Johnny ShinesSo Glad I Found YouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Little Walter Muskadine BluesBlues World Of Little Walter
Little Walter Just Keep Loving Her Blues World Of Little Walter
Jimmy RogersGoin' Away BabyComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThat's All Right Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersMoney, Marbles And ChalkComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThe World Is In A TangleComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersBack Door FriendComplete Chess Recordings
Little WalterCan't Hold Out Much Longer The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Muddy WatersGone To Main Street The Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersOut On The Road Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Act Like You Love MeComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Left Me With a Broken Heart Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersMy Life Is RuinedThe Complete Chess Recordings
T- Bone Walker Papa Ain't SaltyT-Bone Blues
Jimmy Rogers Walking By Myself Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers If It Ain't Me (Who You Thinking OfThe Complete Chess Recordings
Sunnyland Slim It's YouSunnyland Special
Howlin' WolfDown In The Bottom The Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Jimmy RogersTricky WomanAmerican Folk Blues Festival '72
Jimmy RogersWhat Have I Done?Chicago Blues at Home
Jimmy Rogers & Muddy WatersThat's Alright I'm Ready

Show Notes:

Jimmy RogersAn under-sung hero of the blues, Jimmy Rogers played a a key role in creating the electrified, band-oriented postwar Chicago sound. He was a member of Muddy Waters’ first band in Chicago, and cut great sides for Chess under his own name  including blues standards like "That’s All Right," "Ludella", "Chicago Bound," and "Walking By Myself." In addition to playing on dozens of sides backing Waters, Rogers also backed numerous others including Memphis Minnie, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones and others. After a final Chess single in 1959, Rogers, outside o fa lone single  on the C.J. label, did not record again until the 1970's, when he cut the his first full-length album for Shelter Records. He rejoined Muddy Waters in 1978 for the I’m Ready album and tour and released several albums later in life before passing in 1997.

Born James A. Lane, he was raised by his grandmother after his father was killed in a scuffle at a sawmill. She moved them often, living in several owns in several states: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. His first guitar was a diddley bow, a broom wire nailed to the side of a house and plucked,  next was the harmonica. Soon he was playing other people’s guitars. Meeting and watching Houston Stackhouse, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway, Robert Lockwood, and Joe Willie Wilkins, and listening to King Biscuit Time on the radio, Rogers developed a solid musical foundation and earned a reliable reputation as a player. Rogers had family in Chicago, and had been there several times before settling permanently in the mid-1940s. He found an apartment on the Near West Side, next to the Maxwell Street market, which is where he was living when he befriended a factory coworker who was Muddy Waters’s cousin. From the time Muddy and Jimmy first played together, they knew they had a good sound. Rogers understood how to play bass parts and how to play licks that complemented Muddy’s slide.harlem1021abjl

Initially, Rogers and Waters played with a third guitarist named Claude "Blue" Smitty. To keep the sound varied, Rogers often played harmonica instead of guitar, until Blue Smitty left and Rogers found Little Walter. Muddy, Rogers, and Walter began gigging together and, on their off nights, called themselves the Headhunters, roving the Chicago club scene of the late 1940s, sitting in on other people’s gigs and showing off their new, urban blues sound.

Rogers made his first solo recording in 1946 for the Harlem label, but Rogers' name did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of "Memphis Slim and his Houserockers" and Sunnyland Slim. Following that Rogers, with Little Walter at his side, cut the 1948 single “Little Store Blues” for the tiny Ora Nelle label. The legendary Ora Nelle label was run out of a record store by Bernard and his wife Idel, known as Red, operated for a year or two, managing just two releases. Another 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material make Ora Nelle's entire legacy. George Paulus, who had been a regular customer at Maxwell Street Record and Radio for several years, bought the surviving lacquers from the Abrams family. Paulus recalled: "I asked Bernie where he recorded Walter and Rogers. He matter of factly replied, “We had a little disc cutting machine in the front of the shop.  Recorded right about where you are standing. The boys just sat on chairs and played. Hell, Walter played harp on the steps when he was relaxing.” Red came over and said ,”Walter was a very nice talented fellow and we wished him all the best.” "Ora Nelle Blues," sung by Othum Brown, was named after one of Red’s relations. “We couldn’t get the distribution so we sold the records right out of the store.” Art Sheridan licensed Ora Nelle 711 "(Ora-Nelle Blues") for reissue on his Chance label. It was the only reissue from the label to take place before the blues revival of the 1960s. Part of his agenda is revealed by the retitling of this side, as "That's Alright." For "Ora Nelle Blues" was the same piece as "That's All Right," which in the meantime had become a hit for Jimmy Rogers—on Chess in 1950. Rogers teamed up with  Little Walter again on sides issued circa 1950 on the Regal and Herald labels; "Muskadine Blues", "Just Keep Lovin' Her" and "Boll Weevil" all of which featured Baby Face Leroy and Muddy Waters. Rogers hooked up with Walter again in 1952 classic "Juke b/w Can't Hold Out Much Longer" for Chess.

Muddy Waters, unknown (maraccas), Otis Spann, Henry Strong,
Elgin Evans, Jimmy Rogers (presumably from the early 1950s)

source: Mike Rowe: Chicago Blues – The City and the Music.- New York (Da Capo Paperback) 1975,
first published in 1973 as "Chicago Breakdown", p. 146 ("from Chess files")


In 1949 Rogers backed Memphis Minnie for the Regal label and cut an early version of ‘‘Ludella,’’ for the label which he recut in 1950 at his first Chess Records session. 1949 aslo saw some unreleased sides cut for Tempo-Tone and Apollo where he recorded a version of "That's Alright." That year he also accompanied Muddy Waters as a sideman on “Screaming and Crying,” which initially came out on the Aristocrat label, soon renamed Chess Records. For the next half-decade, Rogers was a mainstay of the Waters band onstage and in the studio. With "That’s All Right" on the other side, Rogers' first release became a two-sided hit. The full Muddy Waters band had yet to back Muddy on records, the label preferring the simpler sound of Muddy and an upright bass; however, Chess let the band record with Rogers as the leader, beginning in December 1950. A year later, they began regularly recording with Muddy. Rogers continued to perform and record with Muddy, even as his solo career took off. When "Juke" became a hit for Little Walter, Muddy’s band boasted a line-up with three stars. Through the early 1950's, Rogers was on nearly all of Muddy’s major hits: "Standing Around Crying," "She’s All Right," "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)," "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love To Love To You", I’m Ready," and more.

Jimmy Rogers: That's All RightAround late 1956, Jimmy departed the Waters band to go solo, but the two remained close friends. Beginning with 1950’s “That’s All Right” b/w “Ludella,” Rogers’ Chess 78's rank right up there with Muddy’s as some of the finest examples of postwar Chicago blues. Among the highlights are 1950’s “Goin’ Away Blues,” 1954’s “Chicago Bound” and “Sloppy Drunk,” with backing by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and 1956’s “Walking By Myself,” Rogers’ highest-charting record. After playing for about a year in Wolf’s band Rogers virtually retired from music for a time during the '60s, operating a Westside clothing shop that burned down in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King's tragic assassination. He did cut a single for Carl Jones' C.J. label in 1966.

Rogers returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell's Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more soli albums but he wasn't as prolific as he might have been. We close our show with Rogers and Muddy reuniting on a update of "That's Alright" from the album  I'm Ready, the second of Waters' Johnny Winter-produced albums for the Blue Sky Records label. I'm Ready was issued one year after he found renewed commercial and critical success with Hard Again. The album earned Waters a Grammy Award in 1978 and reunited Waters with Walter Horton as well. Muddy and Rogers did occasional gigs together thereafter, until Muddy’s death in 1983.


Tampa Red When Things Go Wrong With You Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949- 1951

Tampa Red It's A Brand New Boogey Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949- 1951
Tampa Red 1950 Blues Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949- 1951
Little Johnny Jones Big Town Play Boy The Aristocrat Of The Blues
Little Johnny Jones Shelby County Blues The Aristocrat Of The Blues
Muddy Waters Screamin' And Cryin' The Aristocrat Of The Blues
Muddy Waters Last Time I Fool Around With You The Aristocrat Of The Blues
Elmore James Late Hours At MidnightThe Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956
Elmore James Blues Before Sunrise The Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956
Little Johnny Jones I May Be WrongThe Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956
Little Johnny Jones Sweet Little Woman The Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956
Howlin' Wolf Tail DraggerComplete Chess Recordings
Albert KingBe On Your Merry WayDoor To Door
Tampa Red Early In The Morning Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949- 1951
Tampa Red She's Dynamite Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951 -1953
Tampa Red Rambler's Blues Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951 -1953
Little Johnny Jones Doin' The Best I Can Messing With The Blues: Atlantic Blues
Little Johnny Jones Hoy Hoy Messing With The Blues: Atlantic Blues
Billy Boy Arnold & Little Johnny Jones My Little Machine Live at the Fickle Pickle
Billy Boy Arnold & Little Johnny Jones Goin' To The River Live at the Fickle Pickle
Big Joe Turner TV MamaMessing With The Blues: Atlantic Blues
Jimmy RogersChicago BoundComplete Chess Recordings
Eddie TaylorI'm Sitting Here Big Town Playboy
Little Johnny Jones Worried Life BluesLittle Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny Jones She Wants to Sell My Monkey Little Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny Jones Chicago BluesMessing With The Blues: Atlantic Blues
Little Johnny Jones Wait BabyMessing With The Blues: Atlantic Blues
Elmore James Happy HomeThe Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956
Elmore James Make A Little LoveThe Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956
Little Johnny Jones Love Me With A Feeling Little Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny Jones Ouch!Little Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny Jones Prison Bound Blues 45
Little Johnny Jones Don’t You Lie To Me 45

Show Notes:

Little Johnny Jones
Little Johnny Jones and his wife Letha

Johnny Jones may never have made it past his 40th birthday but in that time he established himself as one of the finest piano players in Chicago. As perhaps the greatest of the post-war Chicago pianists, Otis Spann said of Jones: "My favorite piano player – I hate to say it, he was my first cousin, dead now and gone, we were two sisters' children – is Johnnie Jones.  I wind up teaching him, but he beat me at my own game." And as Bruce Igluaer wrote: "His fellow bluesmen remember him well, though, mostly as the pianist at Sylvio's, the huge tavern at Lake & Oakley that was the blues capital of Chicago's West Side during the 50's„ Johnnie played there with Elmore, with the Wolf, with second Sonny Boy Williamson, with Billy Boy Arnold, and with Magic Sam. Most nights Sylvio's had three bands, and Johnny would play with all of them! Dressed immaculately and with his hair and mustache perfectly groomed, he would open the shows singing his favorite risque classics, "The Dirty Dozens" and "Love Her With A Feeling." Billy Boy remembers, "He didn't sit there like a lot of piano players and just play– he rocked with the rhythm, he bounced. He used to sing "Dirty Mother F'or Ya" and that would just crack the house up! Johnnie and Elmore had Sylvio's sewed up five nights a week!"

Best known for his rock steady accompaniment in Elmore James’ band he also backed just about everyone else worth mentioning on the Chicago scene. The handful of times he stepped in front as leader produced a number of excellent sides and more than a few classics. We spin all of the sides Johnny cut as a leader, some superb live recordings by him and hear him backing artists such as Tampa Red, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, J.B. Hutto, Jimmy Rogers and Big Joe Turner.

Little Johnny Jones: Big Town Playboy 78 Jones came to the city in 1946, at the age of 22, already an accomplished pianist. Friends recall his talking about his mother, Mary, who played piano in church in Jackson, Mississippi, and his father, George, an amateur guitarist and harp player. But Johnnie"s greatest influence was obviously the immensely popular Big Maceo Merriwether. When Johnnie first came to Chicago, he sought out Big Maceo and the other bluesmen 'who had put hit records for the RCA Bluebird label during the 30's and 40's – Tampa Red, Jazz Cillum, and the original Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson.  Big Maceo took Jones under his wing, honing Johnnie's piano technique and calling him his "son." In fact, it was Maceo who introduced Johnnie to his future wife, Letha Bethley. And it was Tampa Red who encouraged Johnnie to get a union card, and then hired him on his first gig, at the C&T Lounge at 22nd & Prairie, in 1947. After Big Maceo suffered a stroke, Johnnie took over the piano stool on Tampa's records, too.

Between 1949 and 1953 Jones and Tampa cut a number of sides together, including the popular "Early In The Morning", with Jones taking the lead vocal, and "Sweet Little Angel." By the time Johnnie Jones had taken over the piano chair in Tampa Red's band in March 1949 Tampa had been a recording star for twenty years. Outside of a national hit in 1949 Tampa's career was on the wane and his recording career essentially ended in 1953 outside of two disappointing albums for Bluesville in 1960. Certainly Tampa's partnership with Big Maceo from 1945 to 1947 has been justly praised pairing Maceo's rolling, thundering piano with Tampa's ringing slide ranking them in the upper ranks of great piano/guitar duos. Less celebrated is the teaming of  Jones and Tampa. Clearly the infusion of new blood, chiefly Jones' rolling two fisted-piano playing and insinuating, warm vocal refrains he supplied plus the addition of drummer Odie Payne added an exciting new charge to Tampa's music. Jones also played the clubs with Tampa often working at the Peacock and C&T.

During this period Jones also played piano behind Muddy Waters on a 1949 Aristocrat (soon to become Chess) session resulting in the tracks: "Screamin' and Cryin", "Where's My Woman Been" and "Last Time I Fool Around With You." At the tail end of this session Jones cut his lone 78 for the label "Shelby County Blues b/w Big Town Playboy” with Muddy Waters, Baby Face Leroy and Jimmy Rogers backing him up on both sides. Throughout the 50's and 60's Jones backed a who's who of Chicago artists including Howlin' Wolf, Junior Wells, Albert King, Lee Jackson, Jimmy Rogers, Magic Sam and  Eddie Taylor among others.

Jones' most famous association began in 1952 when he became the pianist for Elmore James and His Broomdusters. He remained with James through 1956 playing on classic recordings for the Bihari brothers’ Meteor, Flair and Modern labels as well as dates for Checker, Chief and Fire. The Broomdusters (with saxist J.T. Brown and drummer Odie Payne) held court on the West Side playing at Sylvio’s for five years. It was this association with James that resulted in his second stint as leader recording in 1953 for Flair. "I May Be Wrong" and "Sweet Little Woman" were issued as Johnny Jones and the Chicago Hound Dogs with backing from Elmore James and J.T. Brown.

Jones last official stint as leader came in 1953 when Atlantic Records came through Chicago and teamed Elmore and the Broomdusters behind Big Joe Turner resulting in the classic "TV Mama." Once again he recorded a couple of sides at the tail end of a session resulting in four songs: "Chicago Blues", 'Hoy Hoy', "Wait Baby" and "Doin' the Best I Can (Up the line)." Jones was backed by the full Broomdusters plus Ransom Knowling on bass.

Jones wasn’t caught on tape again until 1963 where he was working with Billy Boy Arnold in a Chicago folk club called the Fickle Pickle run by Michael Bloomfield. Norman Dayron recorded Johnny on portable equipment which has been released on the Alligator record titled Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold. A few additional sides appear on the Flyright LP Live At The Fickle Pickle. Jones last session was recorded in 1964 and is something of a mystery. Possibly backed by Boyd Atkins on sax and Lee Jackson guitar he cut three songs: "Prison Bound Blues", "Don't You Lie to Me" and "I Get Evil" the last being unissued. "Prison Bound Blues b/w Don't You Lie to Me" was subsequently issued on Rooster Records as a 45 in 1980. Letha Jones, Johnnie's widow, had an acetate of this and Jim O'Neal of Rooster Records licensed the rights from her to issue the 45.

Little Johnny Jones
Little Johnny Jones, Otis Spann & George 'Mojo' Buford, Chicago, late 1950's. Source: Living Blues 42 (1979), p. 24 ("Courtesy Letha Jones")

In 1964 Jones did some recording with Eddie Taylor and rejoined Howlin'Wolf's band who he was set to tour Europe with later in the year. Jones died from lung cancer November, 19, 1964 leaving a huge space on the Chicago scene. Mike Leadbitter wrote at the time of Jones death, "In a Chicago full of guitarists and with comparatively few top-rate pianists, the death of Little Johnny Jones is a great loss, as it is to us, who were never really given a chance to appreciate him."