Entries tagged with “Joel Hopkins”.



ARTISTSONGALBUM
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.

Share


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lightnin' Hopkins Look out Settegast Here Me and My Partner Come Blues from East Texas
Jack Johnson & Lightnin' HopkinsThe SlopTreasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Texas Alexander ? Boar Hog BluesThe Unexpurgated Folk Songs Of Men
Buster PickensYou Got Good BusinessThe Unexpurgated Folk Songs Of Men
Lightnin' Hopkins Tim Moore's Farm Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Mance LipscombTim Moore's Farm Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Lightnin' HopkinsHello England The Rooster Crowed In England
Lightnin' HopkinsBeggin' Up And Down The Street The Rooster Crowed In England
Lightnin' HopkinsChildren's BoogieThe Rooster Crowed In England
Henry ThomasTexas Worried BluesTexas Worried Blues
Henry ThomasDon't Ease Me InTexas Worried Blues
Henry ThomasRailroadin' SomeTexas Worried Blues
Joel HopkinsI Ain't Gonna Roll For The Big Hat Man No MoreRural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962
Joel HopkinsGood Times Here, Better Down The RoadTreasury of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Robert ShawPeople, PeopleTexas Barrelhouse Piano
Robert ShawPut Me In The Alley Texas Barrelhouse Piano
Robert ShawThe Ma Grinder Texas Barrelhouse Piano
Mance Lipscomb Jack O' DiamondsTexas Sharecropper & Songster
Mance Lipscomb FreddieTexas Sharecropper & Songster
Mance Lipscomb Big Boss ManTexas Sharecropper & Songster
Gozy Kilpatrick Goin' To The River Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Dennis GainusYou Gonna Look Like A MonkeyTreasury of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Jealous James StanchellAnything From A Foot Race To A Resting PlaceTreasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Lightnin' Hopkins That Gambling LifeAutobiography in Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins Baby!Country Blues
Buster PickensSanta Fe TrainEdwin 'Buster' Pickens - 1959 to 1961 Sessions
Buster PickensJim NappyEdwin 'Buster' Pickens - 1959 to 1961 Sessions
Buster PickensThe Ma Grinder No 2Edwin 'Buster' Pickens - 1959 to 1961 Sessions

Show Notes:

1024x1024
Mack McCormick, 1986. Photo: Carlos Antonio Rio

The blues, particularly the early history, has an air of mystery and myth that's accrued over the years and is a big part of what draws people to the music. You need look no further than the mythic status attained by Robert Johnson. Johnson was also one of the subjects pursued by Mack McCormick, to be the subject of his decades-in-the-making book, Biography of a Phantom (in 1977 McCormick's said the manuscript was 12 chapters and a 150,000 words). McCormick has also been long in the possession of the third Robert Johnson photo which he got from Johnson's relatives. That project along with numerous others were started and never completed leaving McCormick's legacy frustratingly incomplete. One bright spot is his book on the history of Texas blues, done in collaboration with Paul Oliver, will finally be released after decades in limbo. “Da Vinci never finished his paintings,” he told The Houston Press in 2008. “He got bored by the time he got to the corners.”

That title to the Robert Johnson book can also been seen as metaphor for McCormick himself, a man wrapped in a myth of his own. Robert Burton "Mack" McCormick passed away on Nov. 18 at the age of 85, remaining something of an enigma to the end. As Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records said: "Mack is one of the most important Texas vernacular-music historians. McCormick discovered and recorded living musicians, like Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, and re-imagined the lives of dead ones, like Robert Johnson. He’s written dozens of magazine articles and album liner notes. He’s worked for the Smithsonian Institution." Writer Peter Guralnick noted that "Mack set out to live his life on his own terms with all the passion of someone who has made a vocation of his avocation. He pursued it in territories where there were no maps and no rules.”

McCormick's fame, or infamy depending on who you ask, to tied to his massive archive of blues research amassed after a lifetime of mostly lone research. It's an archive few have seen. In 1977 McCormick wrote an open  letter to Blues Unlimited in which he said as much: "…I realized that there is a general feeling, particularly in England, that Mack McCormick is sitting on top of a mountain of material that he won't publish. I learned too that I'm regarded with some grumpiness. To reply to this, let me first of all admit that it is true. In 1958 when I began serious documentary recording and field research it was not my plan to acquire such a mountain." And as Michael Hall wrote in in Texas Monthly in 2002: "McCormick calls his archive the Monster, a term of both affection and fear. Inside the Monster are secrets—on the origin of the blues, on the story of Texas music, and on the lives of some of the greatest musicians in American history. …Much of the archive sits in storage in Houston, much more at a place McCormick owns in the mountains of Mexico. And it’s in danger. The pages are fading, the tapes need restoring, and McCormick is sufficiently hoary to worry about dying suddenly with no home for it all." Now that McCormick's gone, blues collectors are once again asking what's to become of his life's work. As of now that question is very much up in the air.

Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 1 Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Read Liner Notes Pt.1 / Pt. 2 (PDF)

Today's show is one that I had planned for awhile but kept putting it off hoping that I would get around to interview McCormick. Unfortunately hat never happened. While we don't know what recordings lie in McCormick's vast archives there's a sufficient amount of material he did release which is what I've drawn on for this program,  a good chunk from long-out-of-print albums.

Among the earliest recordings McCormick released were two anthologies: two volumes that comprise A Treasury Of Field Recordings and The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men. Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2 were compiled by McCormick and issued on the British 77 label in 1960. Sponsored by the Houston Folklore Group and the Texas Folklore Society, these field recordings were collected around Houston by McCormick and other collectors like Ed Bradeux, Pete Seeger, John Lomax and others. The 36 selections contained in this set were drawn from over 400 items recorded over a nine year period. The original recordings are housed at the University of Texas and the Library of Congress. As the notes state it portrays "A panorama of the traditions around Houston – the city and its neighboring bayous, beaches, prisons, plantations, plains and piney woods…” And as John Lomax writes about this collection “This is one good, long look at the guts of America – songs sung by those who make them up and pass them along, showing the character of themselves, the flavor and spirit of their lives.”

From the the A Treasury Of Field Recordings we spin two versions of the song "Tom Moore's Farm" by Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins. Tom Moore was a powerful plantation owner who farmed land along the Brazos river in Texas. Asked about the song, sung on this collection by Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, he replied: "They're happy people – they don 't always mean what they sing. He laughed deprecatingly, 'Only I best never catch one of them singing that song.'" As McCormick notes: “In order to protect him [Mance Lipscomb] and his family, his name is withheld from his recording of 'Tom Moore's Farm'. …The simple fact is that the singer and Tom Moore are neighbors, the one a poor laborer, the other a powerful and vindictive man who has long felt the song to be a thorn in his side.”

The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

The anthology The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men was collected and recorded by McCormick. The contents were described in the notes as "…An informal song-swapping session with a group of Texans, New Yorkers, and Englishmen exchanging bawdy songs and lore, presented without expurgation…" The album was originally issued in a generic white cover without any printing. Song titles are listed on the disc labels, but none of the many performers are credited anywhere on the release. Included inside the cover sleeve was a large, 14-page booklet explaining the history of the songs, as well as a large disclaimer presenting the recorded material as a scholarly document which, along with the generic white sleeve and anonymous performers, were evidently measures taken against possible charges of obscenity. Some of the performers have been ostensibly identified by researchers. The album was later reissued with a cover as Raglan R 51.

In Alan Govenar's book Lightnin' Hopkins: His Life and Blues, he writes: "Lightnin’ Hopkins first met Mack McCormick around 1950 through McCormick’s mother, who was then working as an X-ray technician at the Telephone Road office of a doctor whose patients included Bill Quinn of Gold Star Studios. …During the fall of 1958, [Sam] Charters heard about McCormick from Frederic Ramsey at Folkways, who suggested that Charters contact McCormick in Houston and Asch in New York about recording Lightnin’. …McCormick was interested in getting to know Charters and invited him to stay at his house in January 1959. Together they went looking for Lightnin’." Recordings were made in Hopkins' apartment with the recordings released on Folkways in August of that year. "Once Charters left Houston, McCormick went and recorded Hopkins himself. Between February 16 and July 20, 1959, McCormick, somehow overcoming the difficulty Charters had encountered, recorded forty-six songs with Lightnin’ in six different informal sessions." Around twenty sides remain unissued. The recordings from these sessions resulted in four albums released in early 1960: Country Blues and Autobiography In Blues issued on the Tradition label, Blues from East Texas was issued on Heritage (a split LP with Joel Hopkins on one side and Lightnin’ on the other) and The Rooster Crowed In England issued on the British 77 Records label. As McCormick wrote in the notes to the latter album: “This album was prepared with the frank intention of arousing interest among the public and agencies who govern the European concert halls. …Until only a few months before making these recordings, Sam Lightnin' Hopkins knew of England only vaguely as a place 'over across the water' …a place he'd heard of thru friends who visited there while in the army. He was startled and dubious when I told him that some of the greatest enthusiasm for the blues was centered in places 'over across that water.'” Apparently this issued on a Document CD circa 1998 which was strictly limited edition of 100 copies, never sold, but given away at Document wrap party in Vienna. That release was titled Lightnin' Hopkins 1954 & 1959 with extra tracks from other places. McCormick also wrote the notes and produced several of Hopkins' Bluesville albums.

Read Liner Notes (PDF)

McCormick also recorded Lightnin's brother, Joel. 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. Joel was first recorded in 1959 by McCormick.

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. Two 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.

In August 1960 Chris Strachwitz, Mack McCormick and Paul Oliver were in Navasota, Texas. Oliver recalls the events vividly: "'Just wait. We've got something for you to hear that will set you back on your ears! Exasperatingly, Mack McCormick and Chris Stratchwitz would say very little else, about their new-found 'discovery' but their ill-suppressed excitement was assurance enough that we were soon to hear something special. …A few weeks before, Chris and Mack had been on a search for songsters and blues singers in East Texas. A man named 'Peg Leg' had told them that the best guitar picker around was Mance Lipscomb an opinion that was confirmed by others in the area”. …Much of the music that Mance played for them that evening was recorded and issued on Arhoolie F 1001 'Mance Lipscomb – Texas Sharecropper and Songster'; the balance of the record was taped when Mack and Chris took my wife and me to visit him on 11 August." Other recordings McCormick made of Lipscomb appear on the album Trouble On Mind on the Reprise label.

Also during this trip Robert Curtis Smith met by chance Paul Oliver and Chris Strachwitz in Wade Walton's Big Six barber shop in Clarksdale, Mississippi. This led to him recording some tracks that year and in 1961, which in turn saw the release of The Blues of Robert Curtis Smith: Clarksdale Blues in 1963 for the Bluesville label. Liner notes were written by Mack McCormick. Curtis also appeared on an anthology of recording that Strachwitz and Oliver made in Mississippi during this trip originally titled I Have To Paint My Face: A Random Collection Of Mississippi Delta Blues and issued on Arhoolie. Original notes were by McCormick but these were replaced by notes by Strachwitz when this was issued on CD in 1995 with the title I Have To Paint My Face: Mississippi Blues.

Read Liner Notes (PDF)

One of McCormick's lesser-known accomplishments involved the documenting and recording of barrelhouse Texas piano players. In 1963 McCormick recorded a pianist by the name of Robert Shaw in Austin and released Shaw's Texas Barrelhouse Piano album on McCormick's short-lived Almanac label. Shaw came from Houston and his style was not only a Houston style but a specifically Fourth Ward style, one similar to but distinct from the Fifth Ward style. Through dogged interviews, research, and a little luck, McCormick was able to piece together how this style began. In 1960 McCormick took a job as a census taker in Houston, asking to be put in the Fourth Ward. During this assignment, he discovered more than 200 professional barrelhouse piano players, all of whom, he learned, got their chops from a man named Peg Leg Will.

As some point McCormick became obsessed with Henry Thomas, known as Ragtime Texas, and one of the oldest singers recorded, having been born in 1874. McCormick thinks he may have met Thomas in downtown Houston in 1949 although he was well past his prime. Thomas' music gives us a glimpse of black music before the blues. Thomas cut 23 sides between 1927 and 1929 for Vocalion. By visiting the towns mentioned in a railroad song of Thomas’s, "Railroadin’ Some," and analyzing his accent, Mr. McCormick found his way to Upshur County, Thomas’s birthplace, and, interviewing people who had known him, put together a rich, evocative history of his life and times. The research formed the liner notes he wrote for Henry Thomas Completed Works 1927 to 1929 issued by Herwin in 1974. The album's booklet includes an authoritative biography on Thomas and complete lyrics for all of the songs. These notes rank among the all-time best in the field of blues research.

Related Articles

Mack McCormick Bibliography (excerpted from A Blues Bibliography Second Edition by Robert Ford) (PDF)

A Who's Who of the Midnight Special (By Mack McCormick, Caravan 19, 1960) (PDF)

Lightnin' Hopkins: Blues (By Mack McCormick, Jazz Review 3, no. 1, Jan 1960, 14–17) (PDF)

The Houston Record Men (By Chris Strachwitz, Jazz Report 2, no. 8, May 1960, 9–10) (GIF)

Liner Notes (Mance Lipscomb: Texas Sharecropper and Songster, Arhoolie, 1960)

Liner Notes (I Have To Paint My Face: A Random Collection Of Mississippi Delta Blues, Arhoolie, 1960))

Liner Notes (Lightnin’ Hopkins: Country Blues, Tradition TLP 1035)

-Liner Notes (Lightnin’ Hopkins: Autobiography in Blues, Tradition TLP 1040, 1960) (PDF)

Liner Notes (Mance Lipscomb: Trouble In Mind, Reprise, 1961) (GIF)

-The Sound of Houston (By Pete Welding,  Saturday Review 44, Jan 14, 1961, 54–55) (PDF)

L.C. Williams (By Paul Oliver and Mack McCormick, Jazz Monthly 7, no. 1, Mar 1961,  15) (PDF)

Liner Notes (Robert Curtis Smith: Clarksdale Blues, Bluesville, 1961) (GIF)

Liner Notes (Lightnin’ Hopkins: Walkin’ This Road by Myself, Bluesville BV-1057, 1962) (PDF)

Liner Notes (Robert Shaw: Texas Barrelhouse Piano, Almanac, 1963) (PDF)

The Damn Tinkers (By Mack McCormick, American Folk Music Occasional no. 1,1964: 5–13) (PDF)

An Open Letter from Mack McCormick (By Mack McCormick, Blues Unlimited 117 Jan./Feb., 1976, p.17) (PDF)

A Case of the Blues (By Gregory Curtis, Texas Monthly May, 1977) (PDF)

The Search for Robert Johnson (UK television documentary film, 1991  – features Mack McCormick) (link)

Mack McCormick Still Has the Blues (By Michael Hall, Texas monthly, April, 2002) (PDF)

Mack McCormick Interview (By Andrew Brown, Jan., 2006) (PDF)

The Collector: Mack McCormick's Huge Archive of Culture and Lore (By John Nova Lomax , Houston Press, Nov. 19, 2008) (PDF)

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie (By John Jeremiah Sullivan, New York Times, April 13, 2014) (link)

Finding Mack McCormick (Lecture by Alex LaRotta, 2014) (link)

Mack McCormick, Student of Texas Blues, Dies at 85 (By William Grimes, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2015) (link)

Remembering Mack McCormick (Observer, Nov. 25, 2015) (link)

Historian Mack McCormick Made an Impact on Texas Blues (By Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, November 27, 2015 ) (link)

Share


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Little Willie LittlefieldTrouble Around MeKat On The Keys
Little Willie Littlefield Mello Cats The Modern Recordings Vol 2
Little Willie LittlefieldJim Wilson's BoogieGoing Back To Kay Cee
Mooch Richardson Big Kate Adams BluesCountry Blues Collector's Items 1924-1928
Blanche Johnson2.16 Blues Elzadie Robinson Vol.1 1926-1928
Jazz GillumBig Katy AdamsBill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 2 1938-41
Joel Hopkins I Ain't Gonna Roll For The Big Hat Man No MoreRural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962
Leroy ErvinRock Island LineDown Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
John HoggGot A Mean Evil WomanTake A Greyhound Bus And Ride
Willie CarrOutside Friend The Sun Blues Box (Bear Family)
Shy Guy DouglasHip Shakin' Mama (Shy Guy's Back In Town)The Sun Blues Box (Bear Family)
Joseph Dobbin & The Four Cruisers On Account Of YouThe Sun Blues Box (Bear Family)
Walter VincsonThe Wrong ManWalter Vincson 1928-1941
Joe McCoyWell, WellCharlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1
Two Poor BoysDown In Black Bottom The Two Poor Boys 1927-1931
Arthur GriswoldWhat The Judge Did To Me Vintage Toledo Blues
Calvin Frazier & Barbara BrownI Need Love Vintage Toledo Blues
Edmonia HendersonBrownskin ManMeaning In The Blues
Alberta Jones Wild Geese BluesGennett Jazz 1922-1930
Lizzie WashingtonFall Or Summer BluesGennett Jazz 1922-1930
Buddy Guy Buddy's BluesBuddy And The Juniors
Arlean BrownI Love My Man Sings The Blues In The Loop
John BrimGo AwayChicago Downhome Harmonica Vol. 1
Furry Lewis Why Don't You Come Home BluesGood Morning Judge
Cat IronGonna Walk Your LogCat-Iron Sings Blues and Hymn
Lost John HunterY-M And V Blues The Sun Blues Box (Bear Family)
Unknown ArtistGot Me A Horse And WagonThe Sun Blues Box (Bear Family)
Billy “Red” Love It Ain't No More The Sun Blues Box (Bear Family)
Irene Scruggs You've Got Just What I wantGennett Jazz 1922-1930
Barbecue Bob With Nellie FlorenceJacksonville BluesChocolate To The Bone
Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker & Otis SpannBlues JamSuper Black Blues

Show Notes:

Little Willie LittlefieldAnother mix show chock full of great and rare records. We kick off with a trio of sides from the recently passed Little Willie Littlefield, a great pianist and vocalist who emerged when the West Coast was jumping in the late 1940's. Also featured today are two sets from Bear Family's epic 10-CD box set, The Sun Blues Box 1950-1958, a set devoted to songs about the Kate Adams steamboat, some fine pre-war blues, excellent down-home tracks from the post-war era, several fine blues ladies and close with a long jam between some blues greats.

There were several strains of blues that rose to prominence on the West Coast in the 40's including a moody, after hours brand of piano blues popularized by the inimitable Charles Brown who himself was influenced by Nat King Cole. Brown’s influence was profound, setting the stage for fellow pianists like Amos Milburn, Floyd Dixon, Ivory Joe Hunter, Cecil Gant, Roy Hawkins and Little Willie Littlefield.  Littlefield possessed a distinctive smokey voice and was equally at home on moody numbers like "Trouble All Around Me" to romping piano pieces like "Jim Wilson's Boogie." While Littlefield remained  active in Europe he never got the high profile comeback treatment his contemplates Charles Brown received or to a lesser extent Floyd Dixon. Littlefield has been well served on reissues by the Ace label which has released three collections of his vintage sides: Kat On The Keys, Going Back To Kay Cee, Boogie and Blues And Bounce: The Modern Recordings Vol. 2.

Little Willie Littlfield died on June 23 in the Netherlands at the age of 81. He was already a veteran when he waxed "K.C. Loving" in 1951, the original version of "Kansas City" although it only charted when Wilbert Harrison picked it up seven years later resulting in a huge smash. After a few sides for Eddie's and Freedom, Littlefield moved over to the Modern label in 1949, scoring with two major R&B hits, "It's Midnight" and "Farewell." Littlefield proved a sensation upon moving to L.A. during his Modern tenure, playing at area clubs and touring with a band that included saxist Maxwell Davis. After a few 1957-58 singles for Oakland’s Rhythm logo, little was heard from Little Willie Littlefield until the late 1970’s, when he began to mount a comeback at various festivals and on the European circuit. He eventually settled in the Netherlands, where he remained active musically.

The Kate Adams, actually the third riverboat with that name, was built in Pittsburgh in 1898. The big sidewheeler was 240 feet long, with a pair of tall smokestacks, three grand decks, and a main cabin stretching more than 175 feet, that was lighted with newfangled electric chandeliers. Workers along the river swore they could recognize that distinctive clang 14 miles away. Some 2,000 people greeted the Lovin' Kate, as the boat came to be known, when she first arrived to join the Memphis and Arkansas River Packet Company. The Kate ferried cotton, cargo, and passengers up and down the Mississippi river. The Kate Adams burnt to the ground on January 8, 1927. Several songs reference the steamboat including the three we feature today: Mooch Richardson "Big Kate Adams Blues",  Blanche Johnson  (Elzadie Robinson) "2.16 Blues" and Jazz Gillum's "Big Katy Adams." The Gillum song imagines a race between the Kate Adams and the Jim Lee which was another Mississippi steamboat. The Jim Lee was immortalized in Charlie Patton's "Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1 & 2."


Nearly 30 years after the original Sun Blues Box was released on LP, it's back as a 10-CD set on Bear Family with much more than was on the original set. The Charley label originally issued this as a 3-LP set in 1983, then as a 9-LP set in 1985 then in 1996 as an 8-CD set. From the Bear Family press release: "Recently discovered music from well-known artists … and incredible artifacts like Sam Phillips narrating a radio commercial for a West African herbalist who would soon be jailed for selling bogus patent medicine. Recordings produced by Phillips but issued on Chess, RPM, Trumpet and other labels were unavailable in 1983, but are now included. Researcher Steve LaVere finally allowed the world to hear the Sun audio and see the Sun-related photos he collected back in the late 1960s. In fact, the entire blues research community came together to make this a once-in-a-lifetime blues experience!" The set come with an exhaustive, illustrated booklet that I have only had a chance to glance at so far. After thirty years of reissues this should be the last word on the Sun blues story. Included today are tracks that have not appeared on the previous box sets.

We have some excellent Chicago blues featured today including a great album I picked up recently by Arlean Brown called Sings The Blues In The Loop and one by Buddy Guy. Brown's album was issued sometime in the early 70's and feature an all-star Chicago band including Little Mack Simmons, Detroit Junior and Lonnie Brooks. Brown was a Chicago singer who, in addition to the album, also released some 45's. Brown was 51 when she recorded the 45 "I'm a Streaker.” It launched her career in music after selling a purported 78,000 copies, and the former cab driver and corner-grocery owner became part of a revue run by harmonica player Mack Simmons at Pepper's Hideout — and eventually broke out with her own Arlean Brown X-Rated Revue. It appears her album was self-pressed and reissued in 1977 on the Black Magic label. I have been unable to find out much else about her or what happened to her after the 70's.

Arlean Brown: Sings The Blues In The LoopBuddy Guy had reportedly come to the end of the road with Vanguard Records, which had released his previous three albums, including 1968's acclaimed A Man and the Blues. Guy had asked Michael Cuscuna, a 20-year-old college student he'd befriended, to help produce his final Vanguard album, but when that project ran into problems, Cuscuna went to Blue Thumb. That label provided a meager budget for the album that bought a day of studio time, but didn't allow for a band beyond the three stars and drummer Fred Below. Guy played acoustic guitar, Junior Mance added jazzy keyboard flourishes, and Wells laid down some fine harp. The all-acoustic Buddy & the Juniors was recorded on December 18 of 1969, and on December 19 they mixed this album.

Another collection I picked up recently was a 4-CD set on JSP called Gennett Jazz 1922-1930All the 78's come from collector Joe Bussard's collection – if you haven't seen the documentary on him, Desperate Man Blues, it's well worth checking out. There's blues interest here with several fine, lesser known, blues ladies included. Today we feature selections by Lizzie Washington, who cut fourteen sides at session in 1927 and 1929, Edmonia Henderson, who cut just over a dozen sides between 1923 and 1926 and Alberta  Jones who cut sixteen sides, other sides were unissued, between 1923 and 1930 all for the Gennett label.

We conclude the show with a lengthy blues between jam between Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and Otis Spann. In 1969, Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker and Otis Spann got together and did a jam session that was released as Super Black Blues in 1969 on the Bluestime label. Also on the record in a supporting role is the great George “Harmonica” Smith. A second volume was recorded live at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1970 featured Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson instead of Otis Spann. As blues jams go, this is a very good one. Big Joe did a number of these type of things in the 70's for Pablo with mixed results – the one with Pee Wee Crayton (Everyday I Have The Blues), though, is worth checking out.

Share


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Stephen WadeInterview
Kelly PaceRock Island Line The Beautiful Music All Around Us
LeadbellyRock Island Line Leadbelly Vol: 4 1944
Nashville Washboard Band Soldier's JoyThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Nashville Washboard Band Kohoma Blues Too Late, Too Late Vol. 10 1926-1951
Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band Buffalo GalBlind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band
Vera Hall Another Man Done GoneThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Willie TurnerNow Your Man Done Gone Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 1: Secular Music
Big Joe Williams Please Don't Go Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-41
Baby Doo Caston I'm Gonna Walk Your LogChicago Blues Vol. 2 1939-1944
Leadbelly & Golden Gate Quartet Alabama BoundAlabama Bound
Dennis Gainus You Gonna Look Like A Monkey A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Grover Dickson & Group Grizzley Bear A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Dudley Alexander and Washboard Band Baby, Please Don't Go A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Joel HopkinsBetter Down The Road A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Jack Jackson & Lightnin' Hopkins The Slop A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Mance Lipscomb Tom Moore's Farm A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
R.C. Forest & Gozy Kilpatrick Tin Can Alley A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
R.G. WIlliams & Group Hammer RingA Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Prisoners Chopping In The New Ground Negro Prison Camp Worksongs
Prisoners Go Down Old HannahNegro Prison Camp Worksongs
Jesse "G.I. Jazz" Hendricks and groupRattlerNegro Folklore from Texas State Prisons
Johnny Jackson & Group Raise 'Em Up Higher Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons

Show Notes:

The Beautiful Music All Around UsOn today’s program we spotlight some great field recordings captured between the 1930’s through the 1960’s. In the first hour we talk with Stephen Wade about his new book The Beautiful Music All Around Us which presents the fascinating back stories of thirteen performances captured on Library of Congress field recordings between 1934 and 1942. Through prodigious research, Wade sought out the performers on these recordings, their families, fellow musicians, and others who remembered them and reconstructs their lives and how the music was tied to the larger community. Wade is also known for his long-running stage performances of Banjo Dancing and On the Way Home. He also produced and annotated the Rounder CD collections A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings and Black AppalachiaIn the second hour we spotlight field recordings made by Mack McCormick and others around Houston plus recording made Texas prisons  by Bruce Jackson in the 1960’s and  Pete & Toshi Seeger, John Lomax Jr., Chester Bower and Fred Hellerman in 1951.

Through the dilegence of a relatively small number of dedicated researchers we know an amazing amount of information about early blues musicians. I'm no expert on country music but I imagine the case is similar. For all our knowledge there are many gaps; a fair number of the blues artists were itinerant musicians, traveling from town to town, or state to state and the other factor comes down to the fact that the white establishment wasn't all that concerned with documenting African-Americans, and if they were listed on census records, court documents, etc. that information is often inaccurate. The artists and songs Wade covers in The Beautiful Music All Around Us were biographical blanks, leaving leaving behind little of their origins, and seemingly impervious to discovery after so many decades. Through dogged research Wade has been able to flesh out the lives of folks like Bozie Sturdivant, Ora Dell Graham and Kelly Pace and find the origins and stories behind iconic songs such as "Rock Island Line" and "Another Man Done Gone." Our show has always focused on African-American music but Wade's book covers much wider territory, and illustrates the cross pollination there was between white and black music. Our focus for the first hour plus is some of the African-American artists covered in Wade's book: Kelly Pace, Nashville Washboard Band and Vera Hall.

In October 1934 John Lomax set up his recording equipment at Cummins State Prison in Little Rock, Arkansas  and recorded a group led by Kelly Pace singing "Rock Island Line." The story of that song and its singer is one of my favorite chapters in Wade's book, fleshing out Kelly from those who knew him, he comes across as fascinating, talented man who simply could not stay out of trouble, spending half his life behind bars. "My brother," said Kelly's brother Lawrence, "was a songster. He sang all sort of songs – songs of the church, of the blues, dance songs, work songs …You couldn't beat him working. He didn't wait till the dew is off. He'd say 'I'm going to get 400 pounds of cotton.' And when you was done half-way, he done cut out and coming back. …Kelly, he was something else.'"

Handbill
Handbill from lecture given at the Library of
Congress (click to enlarge)

Wade also unlocks the origins of that famous song: 'Rock Island Line' begin its journey in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the repair shops of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Based on a traditional form and arising within a commercial setting, the song, like a trunk line whose branches radiate across the countryside, soon moved beyond this work site making new stops, shifting its contents, and streamlining its load. It migrated from a gospel quartet that the Arkansas prisoners performed to a rhythmic fable that Huddie Ledbetter created as he traveled with John Lomax as chauffeur, auto mechanic, and musical demonstrator. Eventually the song reached an incalculable number of players, singers, and listeners via skiffle, rock and roll, country, pop, and the folksong revival."

John Work IV recalled to Wade when his father, John Work III, welcomed a quartet of street musicians called the Nashville Washboard Band into his home in 1942. As Wade writes "the musicians faced them in a row, seated side by side, lodged between the Works' radio set on one end and their Steinway parlor grand on the other. One band member chorded his banjo-mandolin, and another the guitar, but Work IV fixed most on the string bass a third member of the band had cobbled together from a length of laundry wire, a broomstick, and a lard can. …[T]he band's fourth member, who was blind, sat between, who was blind, set between two washboards mounted on a sawhorse and hinged in the shape of a V. He had attached to them an assemblage of frying pans, tin plates, and a metal bell, each registering different tones. Wearing sewing thimbles on his fingers, he tapped, clocked, and hammered this clattering array of stove-top resonators and corrugated surfaces." John Work IV recollected "These people were the music. …They could just play on and on, and the house would reverberate." Twenty years after a group calling themselves Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band were recorded by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie Records. The group members knew the earlier group, linking the two in a long, if largely undocumented, tradition of black street bands.

Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 1 Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Read Liner Notes Pt.1 / Pt. 2

In 1940, in Livingston, Alabama, Vera Hall sang "Another Man Done" twice into John Lomax's recording machine. The song became Hall's signature number and when Alan Lomax included the number for one of the Folk Archive's first releases the song entered the mainstream, recorded by Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, John Mayall, Odetta and numerous others. In the chapter on Vera Hall, Wade provides background on Hall, the conditions she grew up in and the meaning behind the song. "When Vera recorded "Another Man Done" she told John Lomax that she learned it from her guitar-playing husband. …When writer-collector Harold Courlander came to Livingston in February 1950, he recorded both Vera singing 'Another Man Done,' as well as someone she knew: Willie Turner, a twenty-seven-year-old  confined at Camp Livingston. With his two fellow inmates, he sang and recorded 'Now Your Man Done Gone,' a piece they otherwise sang on the county road gang. …Two days before Courlander recorded Willie Turner at Camp Livingson, he stopped forty miles away in Marion, Mississippi. There he recorded a singer identified in his notes "only as Cora, who sang 'Baby Please Don't Go' . . . the same song, but with some variance in the lyrics." That song was first recorded commercially by Big Joe Williams in 1935. These songs "fit within a larger family of songs that "fit within a larger family of songs that include 'I'm Alabama Bound,' 'Don't Ease Me In,' 'Don't Leave Me Here,' and 'Elder Greene's in Town.' This network of songs that arises by the late nineteenth century uses a consistent verse pattern and, largely, a recurring subject matter."

There is a connection between the albums featured in the second hour: A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2, Negro Prison Camp Worksongs and Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons. As Mack McCormick writes in the notes to A Treasury Of Field Recordings: "The various collecting projects which have funneled into this final selection were initiated in 1951 when Pete Seeger visiting Houston, bringing together Ed Badeaux, John Lomax Jr., Chester Bower and Harold Belikoff, resulting in the founding of the Houston Folklore Group. At that time recordings were made at two of the Texas prison farms." The recordings McCormick is talking about resulted in the album Negro Prison Camp Worksongs with some songs from that session appearing on A Treasury Of Field Recordings. The recordings Bruce Jackson made over a decade later for the album Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons were recorded at the same Texas prisons and it's likely some of the same prisoners were recorded.

Negro Prison Camp Worksongs
 Read Liner Notes

A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2 were compiled by Mack McCormick and issued on the British 77 label in 1960. Sponsored by the Houston Folklore Group and the Texas Folklore Society, these Fields recordings were collected around Houston by McCormick and other collectors like Ed Bradeux, Pete Seeger, John Lomax and others. The 36 selections contained in this set were drawn from over 400 items recorded over a nine year period. The original recordings are housed at the University of Texas and the Library of Congress. As the notes state it portrays "A panorama of the traditions around Houston – the city and its neighboring bayous, beaches, prisons, plantations, plains and piney woods…” And as John Lomax writes about this collection “This is one good, long look at the guts of America – songs sung by those who make them up and pass them along, showing the character of themselves, the flavor and spirit of their lives.” Below is information on some of the albums' performers.

Joel Hopkins 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 .

As Mack McCormick writes in the notes: "When his wife is away at church, Jack Jackson will sit down at his piano and sing "sinful" songs. Sometimes when she has an evening prayer meeting he'll invite someone like Lightnin' over to 'kick it around.' Lightnin' has ceased working with pianists (though he stills plays primarily in jook joints (for dancing) and Jack has established himself in business on the corner of Milam and Prarie in Houston's downtown business district."

Tom Moore was a powerful plantation owner who farmed land along the Brazos river in Texas. Asked about the song, sung on this collection by Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, he replied: "They're happy people – they don 't always mean what they sing. He laughed deprecatingly, 'Only I best never catch one of them singing that song.'" As McCormick notes: “In order to protect him [Mance Lipscomb] and his family, his name is withheld from his recording of 'Tom Moore's Farm'. …The simple fact is that the singer and Tom Moore are neighbors, the one a poor laborer, the other a powerful and vindictive man who has long felt the song to be a thorn in his side.”

Recorded by Pete & Toshi Seeger in the winter of 1951 at two Texas prison farms, Negro Prison Camp Worksongs, released on the Folkways label, represents some of the oldest and most traditional work songs found among African American prison communities in the southern United States. In 1951, when Pete Seeger as one of the successful Singing group, The Weavers, was booked to appear at a Houston hotel ballroom, he wrote John Lomax, Jr. suggesting that he ask permission for them to visit the nearby prison farms with recording equipment. The governor granted permission and the group, with Chester Bower providing the tape machine and assisting, visited Ramsey and Rechine farms on consecutive Sunday afternoons.

Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons
 Read Liner Notes

A couple of months back we devoted half a show to recordings made by Bruce Jackson in the 60's at Texas prisons. Today we feature selections from Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons (Elektra, 1965) which I omitted last time. Jackson wrote: “I started recording in Texas prisons in July 1964. I think Texas had about 12,000 prisoners in 14 prisons back then …My primary interest in Texas was the black convict worksongs, which seemed to me to be part of an unbroken musical tradition going back to West Africa….”

Stephen Wade Interview/Feature  (75 min,. mp3)

Share