Johnnie HeadFare Thee Blues Part 1 Country Blues Collector's Items 1924-1928
Johnnie HeadFare Thee Blues Part 2Country Blues Collector's Items 1924-1928
Pigmeat Terry Black Sheep Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Pigmeat Terry Moaning The Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Rube Lacey Ham Hound CraveScreamin' and Hollerin' The Blues
Rube Lacey Mississippi Jailhouse Groan Blues Images Vol. 5
Otis Hinton EmmalineThe Blues Keep Falling
Otis HintonWalking Down HillBlack Cat Trail
Henry Spaulding Cairo BluesSt. Louis Country Blues 1929-1937
Henry Spaulding Biddle Street Blues St. Louis Country Blues 1929-1937
FreezoneIndian Squaw Blues Rare Country Blues 1928-1937
Raymond Barrow Walking BluesMama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here
Ole Sonny BoyBlues and MiseryBlues Hangover
Ole Sonny BoyYou Better ChangeBlues Hangover
Ollis Martin Police and High Sheriff Come Ridin' DownThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Jim Thompkins Bedside BluesBlues Images Vol. 11
George Torey Lonesome Man Blues Trouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
George Torey Married Woman Blues Blues Images Vol. 3
Lonnie Clark Broke Down Engine Blues Down In Black Bottom
Lonnie Clark Tennessee Blues Down In Black Bottom
Luther Stoneham January 11, 1949 Blues Water Coast Blues
Luther Stoneham Sittin' Here Wonderin' Water Coast Blues
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River Blues Blues Images Vol. 3
Mattie Delaney Down The Big Road Blues I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Marshall Owens Try Me One More Time Blues Images Vol. 4
Marshall Owens Texas Blues Blues Images Vol. 4
Wesley Wallace No. 29 Down On The Levee
Wesley Wallace Fanny Lee Blues Down On The Levee
Kid Bailey Mississippi Bottom Blues Masters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Kid Bailey Rowdy Blues Masters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Sly Williams I Believe In A WomanWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 2
Sly Williams Boot HillWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 2
Rudy FosterBlack Gal Makes Thunder Juke Joint Saturday Night
Rudy FosterCorn Trimmer Blues Juke Joint Saturday Night

Show Notes: 

Johnnie Head: Fare Thee Well BluesToday's show spotlights a slew of mysterious blues singers sole recorded legacy rest on one 78 or 45 issued and in some cases leaving behind just one song. The emphasis is on pre-war blues, with most titles from the 20’s and 30’s, but there’s also some great post-war gems as well. Many of the pre-war 78’s are extremely rare. Virtually nothing is known about these artists outside of a few like Rube Lacey who was interviewed by David Evans and St. Louis artists Wesley Wallace and Henry Spaulding who Henry Townsend recollected in his autobiography.

Johnnie Head "tentatively" was born in Georgia in 1887. His two-part "Fare Thee Blues" is a variant of the "I'll See You In The Spring, When The Birds Begin To Sing" that the Memphis Jug Band recorded in 1927. Head's sides were recorded for Paramount in 1928 and he cut two other sides for Vocalion that were never issued (“Johnny Head's Blues b/w Gonna Lay Down and Die Blues”).

Pigmeat Terry only cut one 78, for Decca "Black Sheep Blues b/w Moaning The Blues" in 1935 and possessed a high, whispery, moaning voice, a bit reminiscent of the popular Joe Pullum who made his debut the prior year.

My mother's gone to glory, my father's dyin' of drinkin' in his sin (2x)
My sister won't notice me, she's too proud to take me in
I'm a black sheep in my family and how they dog me around (2x)
Someday I'll get lucky and won't be found around

Rube Lacey was a well-known blues performer in the Jackson area and the Delta until 1932, when he became a preacher. Lacy played in a circle that included Son Spand, Ishmon Bracey, Tommy Johnson, Charlie McCoy, and Walter Vinson. He later moved to the Delta, where he formed his own group, performed with Charley Patton, and inspired artists including Son House, Tommy McClennan, and Honeyboy Edwards. Lacy made four recordings for Columbia Records at a session in Memphis in December 1927, but none were released. The following March he traveled to Chicago, where he recorded two songs for the Paramount label, “Mississippi Jail House Groan” and “Ham Hound Crave." Four years later he became a minister, and was later found living in Lancaster, California by blues researcher, David Evans, who recorded him with his congregation. He died there on November 14, 1969

We hear form a pair of fine piano players today, both biographical blanks. Lonnie Clark only left behind two recordings that were made in 1929 for Paramount backed by an unknown mandolin player. Rudy Foster cut one 78 for Paramount in 1930.

Both Henry Spaulding and Wesley Wallace were St. Louis artists who were remembered by Henry Townsend. Spaulding was a blues singer who played in St. Louis though he most likely was born in Illinois. His song "Cairo Blues" has really outlived his career as it was covered by almost every blues singer who stepped foot in St. Louis, most notably Charley Jordan and Henry Townsend. The other side was "Biddle Street Blues." Townsend claims the song was originally "by a fellow named Martin" but he first heard it played by the unrecorded Son Ryan. Wesley Wallace left behind only "Fanny Lee Blues" b/w "No. 29," both recorded for Paramount in Grafton, WI, in February of 1930. Townsend said "Wesley Wallace and I was never around a whole lot together. …I heard he lived in Alton, Illinois." Townsend saw him around different places in St. Louis and said he was an a friend of Peetie Wheatstraw.

A couple of today's artist only left behind one song. The mysterious Freezone left behind only one number, "Indian Squaw Blues." The other side of the issued 78 featured a piano solo, "Walking Blues", by Raymond Barrow. Jim Thompkins (credited in the Brunswick ledger as Peg Leg Jim Thompkins) cut two songs in 1930, “Bedside Blues” and “Down Fall Blues”, the latter never issued. When issued on 78 the flipside of “Bedside Blues” was "We Got To Get That Thing Fixed" by Speckled Red. Like Jaybird Coleman, blues harpist Ollis Martin was from Alabama. Where Coleman made several recordings, Martin only recorded one song, "Police and High Sheriff Come Ridin' Down" in 1927. The reverse side of this disc is "I'm Leavin' Town (But I Sho' Don't Wanna Go)" By William Harris

The names Mattie Delaney and Kid Bailey loom large in blues mythology. Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie Marshall Owens AdRiver Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist.

Marshall Owens cut  two 78 s 'for Paramount in 1932, "Texas Blues b/w Try Me One More Time." One 78 has never been found, "Texas Blues – Part II b/w Seventh St. Alley Strut." Collector Don Kent unconvered information about Owens and tracked down his nephew in the 1970's. Kent's discoveries were published in 78 Quarterly which you can read below.

Nothing is known of Kid Bailey outside of his lone 78 "Mississippi Bottom Blues b/w Rowdy Blues." These were recorded on September 25, 1929 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Research by Dr. David Evans, professor of music at Memphis State University, has concluded that Kid Bailey may have been a pseudonym for Willie Brown. Son House on hearing this recording instantly recognized his partner Willie Brown. Others dispute that Brown and Bailey are the same person. Gayle Dean Wardlow has said that he "found 5 different source who all saw Kid Bailey in person in Mississippi–3 of them on taped interviews including [Ishman] Bracey who saw him across the river from Jackson and talked to him in person." It seems Wardlow changed his view because in The Life And Music Of Charle Patton he and his co-author, Stephen Calt, point out that  no one interviewed in the post-war period ever knew Kid Bailey well enough to know his real name or where he was from.

We spin a few post-war sides today by Ole Sonny Boy, Luther Stoneham, Otis Hinton and Sly Williams. It is theorized that two songs cut by "Ole Sonny Boy" for Excello in 1956 were actually by Papa Lightfoot, although no existing label documentation verifies

Luther Stoneham was born in Phelps, TX. on September 28, 1913. Relocating to Houston later he backed pianist Wilson "Thunder" Smith in 1947 for Gold Star Records. The next year he backed Andrew "Andy" Thomas & Sunny James on recordings and returned again as a sideman to Thunder Smith on discs for Down Town where he assumed the pseudonym of "Rockie". 1949 saw his last tracks as a sideman, playing on two sides with Thomas on the tiny Swing With The Stars label, where he was billed as Luther Stoner. In 1951, he waxed three sides for Mercury under his own name, with one being unissued. Stoneham passed away in Houston on February 25, 1973.

Otis Hinton is believed to have possibly been from Shreveport, LA., close enough to Texas to pick up the country Luther Stoneham - January 11, 1949 Bluesblues guitar styles from there. He made four recordings for Apollo Records in New York City in the early 50's that were never issued. It wasn't until he recorded for the small Timely label in NYC that he could call one record his own ("Walking Down Hill b/w Emmaline").

Nobody knows who Sly Williams was although several theories have been proposed . The authors of Blues Records 1943-1970 Mike Leadbitter, Leslie Fancourt & Paul Pelletier stated that the artist was aurally similar to Clarence Samuels while others have thought he might be Cleo Page or Jesse Allen. He cut two sides: "Boot Hill" and "I Believe In A Woman." The tracks appear to have been recorded in the late 1950's.

Related Articles

-Tuuk, Alex van der. “Try Me One More Time (Marshall Owens Spiced with a Bit of Curry).” 78 Quarterly no. 12 (2005): 47–58.58.

-Evans, David. “Ramblin’.” Blues Revue no. 8 (Spring 1993): 14–17.


Show Notes:

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

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

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

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

Piano players never seem to get the recognition of the guitarists but that won't stop me form playing them whenever I can. Among those featured today are Will Ezell, Barrelhouse Buck, Little Brother Montgomery, Lyin' Joe Holley, Fats Jefferson and several others. Born in Texas, pianist Will Ezell played in the jukes around Shreveport before moving to Detroit and Chicago. He was a frequent accompanist for Paramount Records and even took Paramount’s star, Blind Lemon Jefferson's body back to Texas for burial. Ezell cut sixteen sides for the label between 1927 and 1929 and backed artists such as Lucille Bogan, Elzadie Robinson, Bertha Henderson and others. In 1929 he backed Blind Roosevelt Graves and his brother on several songs and they returned the favor; the brothers back Ezell on our featured track, the infectious "Just Can't Stay Here." We hear the brothers on a later session as we spotlight "Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)" one of my favorite religious songs of all time.

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

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

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



Lionel Hampton With Illinois Jacquet Flying HomeFlying Home
Duke Henderson w/ Wild Bill Moore Boogie Man BluesGet Your Kicks
Big Jay McNeelyCalifornia Hop Big Jay McNeely 1948-1950
Joe Liggins The HoneydripperJoe Liggins & the Honeydrippers
Little Willie JacksonThere'll Be Some Changes Made Jazz Me Blues
Joe Liggins Little Joe's Boogie Joe Liggins & the Honeydrippers
Jim Wynn West Coast LoverJim Wynn 1947-1959
Jim Wynn Wynn's BoogieJim Wynn 1945-1946
Buddy BanksBank's Boogie Buddy Banks 1945-1949
Buddy BanksFluffy's DebutBuddy Banks 1945-1949
Jack McVea Inflation BluesJack McVea: With Alton Redd and George Vann
Jack McVea Fightin' Mama Blues Jack McVea: With Alton Redd and George Vann
Jack McVea WinoJack McVea: With Alton Redd and George Vann
Big Joe Turner w/ Wild Bill Moore My Gal's A Jockey Have No Fear Big Joe Turner Is Here
Wild Bill Moore Rock 'N' Roll Let Me Tell You About The Blues; West Coast
Joe Houston Jay's Boogie Rockin' 'n' Boppin'
Chuck Higgins Motor Head Baby Blows His Wig
Chuck Higgins Wet Back Hop Honk! Honk! Honk!
Chuck Higgins Big Fat Mama Pachuko Hop
Johnny Otis w/ Big Jay McNeelyBarrelhouse Stomp Johnny Otis 1945-1947
Big Jay McNeely Roadhouse BoogieBig Jay McNeely
Jimmy Liggins & His Drops Of Joy Teardrop BluesJimmy Liggins and His Drops of Joy
Jimmy Liggins & His Drops Of Joy Cadillac BoogieJimmy Liggins and His Drops of Joy
King Perry King Perry BluesKing Perry 1945-1949
King Perry Going To California Blues King Perry 1945-1949
King Perry Everything's Gonna Be Alright King Perry 1950-1954
Little Willie Littlefield Happy Pay DayKat On The Keys
James Von StreeterChitlins Jumpin' the Blues
Joe Lutcher No Name Boogie Joe Lutcher 1947
Joe Lutcher Rockin' Boogie Joe Lutcher 1947
Joe Lutcher Joe Joe Jump Joe Lutcher 1947
Joe Houston All Night LongHonk! Honk! Honk!
Joe Houston Joe's Hot HouseRockin' at the Drive-In
Big Jay McNeely Nervous Man Nervous Big Jay McNeely 1953-1955

Show Notes:

Big Jay McNeely, Los Angeles, 1951


Today's show is a sequel to our tribute to L.A. sax blower/arranger Maxwell Davis who we spotlighted several weeks back. By the 1940's the saxophone was a well established and very popular instrument in both classical and jazz music. As the 40's brought more musical styles like jump blues, rhythm and blues and rock and roll the instrument would play a major roll in the new sound. Illinois Jacquet was a very good swing jazz player and like many others he was drawn to the new sounds. He was only 19 years old when he worked with Lionel Hampton's band and recorded his famous solo on "Flying Home" that jump started the era of the honkin' saxophone. One person he inspired was Big Jay McNeely who took the honkin' over the edge and made a show of it… laying on his back, strolling into the crowds and walking on top of bars. As McNeely said of "Flying Home:" "Every time we picked up our horns we were just elaborating on that, trying to make it bigger, wilder, give it more swing, more kick. If you want to know where rhythm and blues began, that's it brother." This new sound of the 40's rhythm and blues produced many honkin' saxophone stars. Today we spotlight several L.A. based sax blowers including Big Jay McNeely, Joe Houston, Chuck Higgins, Buddy Banks, Jack McVea, Joe Lutcher, Little Willie Jackson, Wild Bill Moore and others.

Cecil McNeely grew up in Los Angeles, where jazz reigned on Watts' bustling nightlife strip. Inspired by Illinois Jacquet and tutored by Jack McVea, McNeely struck up a friendship with Johnny Otis, co-owner of the popular Barrelhouse club. Ralph Bass, a friend of Otis, produced McNeely's debut date for Savoy Records in 1948. McNeely's raucous one-note honking on "The Deacon's Hop" gave him and Savoy an R&B chart-topper in 1949, and his follow-up, "Wild Wig," also hit big. From Savoy, McNeely moved to Exclusive in 1949, Imperial in 1950-1951, King's Federal subsidiary in 1952-1954 and Vee-Jay in 1955.

Wild Bill Moore was a honking tenor sax player, influenced by Chu Berry and Illinois Jacquet. He was first noticed in Chicago in 1944, the year he made his first recording with Christine Chatman (Decca). The next year he first recorded under his own name, for Apollo. He relocated to Los Angeles, where he gradually began to build a name for himself, recording with Jack McVea, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes (Moore blows the solo on "Be-Baba-Leba"), Slim Gaillard, Dexter Gordon, and Wardell Gray.
Joe Houston Blows Crazy
Between 1943 and 1946, Joe Houston toured with King Kolax's band through Kansas City and Chicago and throughout the Mid-West. After World War II Houston returned to Texas, and recorded with the pianist Amos Milburn and singer Big Joe Turner. Initially playing alto sax, he switched to tenor in the wake of such "honking" saxophonists as Big Jay McNeely and others. Turner got Houston his first recording contract on Freedom Records in 1949. Houston moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and played with Betty Roche and Wynonie Harris. Eventually, Houston formed his own band The Rockets, and moved to Los Angeles in 1952. He scored his only two chart hit singles in 1952 with "Worry, Worry, Worry", and "Hard Time Baby." He recorded for many record labels, including Modern and Crown, and contributed vocals as well as saxophone on some of his records.

Chuck Higgins relocated from his birthplace of Gary, Indiana to Los Angeles in his teens. He penned the single "Pachuko Hop" (1952), which became popular among American Latinos on the West Coast. The "Pachuko Hop" single's B-side, "Motorhead Baby" featured vocals by Johnny "Guitar" Watson. He recorded for Aladdin Records, Caddy Records, Lucky Records, Specialty Records, and Dootone Records.

Born in Oklahoma, Jimmy Liggins moved to San Diego in 1932. He moved to Los Angeles in 1939 and played with various outfits. Liggins cut "The Honeydripper"for Leon René's Exclusive label which was an R&B chart-topper. Nine more hits followed on Exclusive over the next three years. In 1950, Joe joined his brother Jimmy at Specialty Records. More hits immediately followed: "Rag Mop," the number one R&B smash "Pink Champagne," "Little Joe's Boogie," and "Frankie Lee." During this period, the Honeydrippers prominently featured saxophonists Little Willie Jackson and James Jackson, Jr. Liggins stuck around Specialty into 1954, later turning up with solitary singles on Mercury and Aladdin. Little Willie Jackson cut some sides under his own name for the Bihari Brothers in 1947. Jackson's band was actually the Honeydrippers and Joe Liggins is believed to be featured on piano on several of these tracks. The Ace label has issued two-dozen of these sides on the CD Jazz Me Blues.

Inspired by the success of his brother Jimmy, Joe Liggins jumped into the recording field in 1947 on Art Rupe's Specialty logo. His "Tear Drop Blues" pierced the R&B Top Ten the next year, while "Careful Love" and "Don't Put Me Down" hit for him in 1949. His last his was "Drunk" in 1953. His roaring sax section at Specialty was populated by first-rate reedmen such as Harold Land, Charlie "Little Jazz" Ferguson, and Maxwell Davis. Liggins left Specialty in 1954, stopping off at Aladdin long enough to wax the classic-to-be "I Ain't Drunk" (much later covered by Albert Collins) before fading from the scene.

Jack McVea will always be most famous for his big hit "Open the Door, Richard." McVea mostly gigged in the Los Angeles area until joining Lionel Hampton in 1940 as a baritonist. He was with Hamp for three years and played with Snub Mosley, but McVea made a much stronger impression when he played on the first Jazz at the Philharmonic Concert. From 1944 on, McVea led his own group most of the time.

Chuck Higgins
Joe Lutcher

Buddy Banks played in Charlie Echols's band in Los Angeles from 1933 to 1937 and remained in the group after it was taken over by Claude Kennedy and then by Emerson Scott after Kennedy's death. The group then scored a gig at the Paradise Cafe, and Cee Pee Johnson became its leader; Banks played in Johnson's ensemble until 1945. Following this Banks led his own group. The ensemble played throughout southern California and recorded until 1949. Banks led a new group in 1950, but disbanded it quickly. In 1950 he began playing piano, and though he accompanied Fluffy Hunter on tenor saxophone in 1953, he spent most of the rest of his life on piano.

In 1945 King Perry went to Los Angeles, appearing in a show with Dorothy Donegan and Nat King Cole; while there he made his first recordings as a leader. He led a band called the Pied Pipers through the middle of the 1950s, making many records for labels such as Melodisc, United Artists, Excelsior, De Luxe, Specialty, Dot, RPM, Lucky, Unique, Look, and Hollywood during this period.

Taken as an infant to live in Los Angeles, Jim Wynn began he began playing piano and clarinet, switching to tenor sax in his early teens. By the mid 1930s, Wynn had formed his own band and was playing tenor sax at a Watts club called Little Harlem where he first met T-Bone Walker. Walker began sitting in with the Wynn band; the beginning of an association that was to last for over 17 years. Wynn, with his band made their first recordings in late 1945 for the 4Star and Gilt Edge Records, leaving to join the Bihari's Modern label the following year. The Wynn band recorded sporadically thereafter for Specialty, Supreme and Modern again, Peacock, Mercury and Recorded In Hollywood and Million recording a final single in 1959. By the late 1940s, Wynn's innovative performance style, involving dancing, stomping and other on-stage histrionics, was being widely copied by the next generation of L.A. tenor wild men and in an effort to maintain variety in his act he began playing the more cumbersome baritone saxophone. Wynn disbanded his regular combo in the mid 1950s', becoming an indispensable session saxophonist on many of the blues, r&b, pop and soul recordings commissioned by the myriad California independent labels through the late 1950's and 1960's. During the same period, Big Jim Wynn was also an integral part of Johnny Otis' big r&b revue band, a post he would maintain until the mid 1970's.

Joe Lutcher was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana and moved to Los Angeles joining his sister Nellie who had relocated there in the mid-1930s. He led the house band at the Look Café in Los Angeles, before relocating to the more prestigious Café Society, where his band were renamed The Society Cats. He also worked as a bandleader for Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Mills Brothers. In 1947 he was heard by Art Rupe, who signed him to his new record label, Specialty. However, Lutcher was unhappy with Rupe's request that he only record slow blues, and at the behest of his sister Nellie also recorded (as "Joe Lutcher's Jump Band") for Capitol Records. Lutcher's first hit was "Shuffle Woogie" on the Capitol label, which reached # 10 on the Billboard "Race Records" chart in March 1948. "Rockin' Boogie", on Specialty, reached # 14 in September 1948. In 1949 he signed with Modern Records, where he recorded his own composition, "Mardi Gras". Lutcher's version reached # 13 on the R&B chart, but the tune became better known in later modified versions by Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. He later recorded for Peacock Records in Houston, Texas, and for several smaller labels, but with diminishing success.


Joe Green, Joe Battle...Rock Island LineLibrary of Congress Website
Gene Raymond, Jimmie Lee Hart, Hattie Ellis...Cap'n Don't 'low No Truckin' Rround in HereLibrary of Congress Website
Curtis Jones Private Talk BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 3 1939-1940
Bill Gaither Bloody Eyed WomanBill Gaither Vol. 4 1939
Cripple Clarence Lofton House Rent StruggleCripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 2 1935-1939
Tommy McClennan Cotton Patch BluesBluebird Recordings 1939-42
Alfred Fields '29 BluesChicago Blues 1937-1941
LeadbellyNoted Rider BluesLeadbelly: The Remaining LOCR Vol. 5 1938-1942
Smith Casey Shorty GeorgeTwo White Horses Standin' In Line
Roger "Burn Down Garnett Lighthouse BluesThe Frog Blues & Jazz Annual No. 1
Bukka White Po' BoyThe Complete Bukka White
Rosetta Howard Men Are Like StreetcarsMen Are Like Streetcars
Alberta Hunter Chirpin' The BluesAlberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-1946
Ida CoxOne Hour MamaThe Essential
Jimmy Yancey State Street Special Hey! Piano Man
Roosevelt Sykes Papa LowThe Essential
Albert Ammons Shout For JoyHey! Piano Man
Mattie May Thomas No Mo' freedom Women from Parchman Penitentiary: Jailhouse Blues
Ace Johnson & L. W. Gooden Mama Don't 'low No Swingin' Out In HereJailhouse Blues
Beatrice Perry I Got A Man On The WheelerField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Big Bill Broonzy Just A DreamBig Bill Broonzy Vol. 9 1939
Tampa Red Bessemer BluesThe Guitar Wizard: 1935-1953
Big Joe Turner Lovin' Mama BluesBig Joe Turner 1938-1940
Pete JohnsonClimbin' and Screamin'Pete Johnson 1938-1939
Mary James with Four Girls Go 'Way Devil Leave Me Alone Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Richard L. Lewis and Wilbert Gilliam Long Freight Train BluesTwo White Horses Standin' In Line
Unidentified performersWe Don't Have No Payday HereLibrary of Congress Website
Blu Lu Barker Lu's BluesBlu Lu Barker 1938-1939
Rosetta CrawfordI'm Tired Of Fattenin' Frogs For SnakesThe 30's Girls
Lonnie Johnson Why Woman Go WrongHe's a Jelly Roll Baker
Johnnie TempleJelly Roll BertThe Very Best Of Teddy Bunn
Merline Johnson Reckless Life BluesMerline Johnson Vol. 2 1938-1939
Memphis Minnie Bad Outside FriendsMemphis Minnie Vol. 4 1938-1939

Show Notes:

Library of Congress Note Cards

Today’s show is the thirteenth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need. From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. Race record sales were up around 15 per cent in 1937. Sales were a bit down by 1938 and by 1939 a quarter of of race releases were gospel, against an eighth the prior year. In the post-'37 years most releases were by established artists: Blind Boy Fuller, Big Bill, Washboard Sam, Tampa Red, Bill Gaither, Walter Davis, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sonny Boy Williamson and Sonny Boy Williamson (Kokomo Arnold and Bumble Slim had stopped recording in 1938).

Outside of the commercial recordings, 1939 was notable for some excellent field recordings captured by John Lomax and Herbert Halpert. Lomax made a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States beginning in Port Arkansas, Texas, on March 31, 1939, and ending at the Library of Congress on June 14, 1939. Some 700 recordings were made. In 1938 and 1939, folklorist Herbert Halpert traveled through the mid-Atlantic states recording  songs funded in part by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and Columbia University. Most notable were some remarkable recording in the notorious Parchman Farm in 1939.

1939 Decca Advertisement

The Lomax's first visited Parchman in 1933 and returned numerous times to record blues, work songs, spirituals, and personal interviews with inmates. One of the most famous bluesman the Lomax's recorded was Bukka White. In 1937 White recorded a minor hit, “Shake ‘Em On Down,” in Chicago, but that year he was also sentenced for a shooting incident to Parchman, where John Lomax recorded him performing two numbers in 1939. After his release White recorded twelve songs at a Chicago session in 1940. Among the songs he recorded were two songs about his time in prison: "Parchman Farm Blues" and "When Can I Change My Clothes?." Parchman isn't the only prison the Lomax's recorded at; other recordings were made at Cummins State Farm in Gould, Arkansas, Goree State Farm, Women's Camp, near Huntsville, Texas, State Penitentiary ("The Walls"), Huntsville, Texas and the Florida State Prison (Raiford Penitentiary).

One of the best performers the Lomax's recorded was Smith Casey. He was born in 1895, probably in Riverside near Huntsville, and learned music in San Jacinto and Jackson Counties.  While serving time in prison, he performed on a remote weekly radio program from the Huntsville Penitentiary called 'Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls'.  He was paroled in 1945 and moved to Huntsville, dying of tuberculosis in 1950." He was recorded by the Lomax's at Clemens State Farm, Brazoria in Texas on April 16, 1939.

I've always been fascinated by the females who recorded at Parchman and whom I first heard on the album Jailhouse Blues on the Rosetta label. These recordings were made in May and June 1939 by Herbert Halpert in the sewing of the Woman's Camp in Parchman. Camp 13 was the woman's camp where white and black women occupied separate wards. The women's primary work was making clothes for the prisoners, mattresses and bedding. The woman also did canning and helped out in the fields. The Parchamn women were asked to sing a song, any song they chose. There were no restrictions about length or subject, but most of the songs were short and some merely fragments. The best of those singers is the remarkable Mattie May Thomas. Thomas was a senior member at Parchman for she had served twice before. She recorded four sides.

Read Liner Notes

The most prolific artists of 1939 were those performing in the urban blues style such as Curtis Jones (18 sides), Bill Gaither (33 sides), Tampa Red (18 sides), Sonny Boy Williamson I (24 sides), Washboard Sam (16 sides) and Big Bill Broonzy (33 sides). A couple of down home blues artists were popular including Blind Boy Fuller, who had been recording since 1937, and newcomer Tommy McClennan who cut forty sides (at five eight-song sessions), every one issued at the time, between 1939 and 1942.

Some the classic women blues singers reappeared briefly including Trixie Smith (1938-1939), Alberta Hunter (1939) and Ida Cox (1939). Cox was invited to participate in the Carnegie Hall concert series From Spirituals to Swing, (the first concert was in 1938) produced by John Hammond in 1939. It gave her career a much-needed boost and she resumed recording, with a series of sessions for Vocalion Records in 1939 and Okeh Records in 1940. Several other woman singers made notable records including Blu Lou Barker, Memphis Minnie, Merline Johnson and Rosetta Howard among others.


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