Sun 3 Oct 2010
|Chuck Norris||What's Good For One's Good For All||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Chuck Norris||Kinda Sick Mostly Worried||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Dinah Washington||Fine Fine Daddy||Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury Vol. 2|
|Johnny Otis Orchestra||Doggin' Blues||Midnight At The Barrelhouse|
|Alma Mondy||Baby Get Wise||Mercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953|
|Professor Longhair||Been Foolin' Around||Mercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953|
|George Miller & His Mid-Driffs||Bat-Lee Swing||Mercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953|
|Memphis Slim||Train Is Comin’||Long Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Memphis Slim||No Mail Blues||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Big Bill Broonzy||Willie Mae||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Big Bill Broonzy||South Bound Train||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Big Bill Broonzy||Get Back (Black Brown And White)||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Robert Lockwood & Sunnyland Slim||Glory For Man||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Robert Lockwood & Sunnyland Slim||My Daily Wish||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Robert Lockwood & Sunnyland Slim||(I'm Gonna) Dig Myself A Hole||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Sunnyland Slim||Brown Skinned Woman||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Sunnyland Slim||Hit The Road Again||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Luther Stoneham||Sittin' Here Wonderin'||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Elmore Nixon||Playboy Blues||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Lee Graves||I'm From Texas||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||Sad News From Korea||Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury Vol. 1|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||She's Almost Dead||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||Gone With The Wind||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|John Hogg||Got A Mean Woman||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Smokey Hogg||She's Always On My Mind||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Smokey Hogg||Dirty Mistreater||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|L.C. Williams||I Don’t Like To Travel||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|J.D, Edwards||West Coast Lover||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Violet Hall||Six Foot Papa (I'm A Whole Lot Of Woman)||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Ike Lloyd||Boogie On The 88||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Johnny Otis & His Orchestra||Goomp Blues||Eddie Mack 1947-1952|
|Big Jim Wynn||West Coast Lover||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Joe Houston||Worry Worry Worry||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Junior Tamplin||Love Is A Sin||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Joyce Jackson||Lonely Blues||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
|Dinah Washington||New Blow Top Blues||Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945-1955|
From the booklet to The Mercury Blues 'N' Rhythm Story 1945-1955: "No other record label to come our of Chicago has ever had as many hit records, or become such a major power in the recording industry, as Mercury Records. Mercury covered a broad musical base, encompassing blues, pop, jazz, country, polka and gospel (and, in the years to follow, rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, doo-wop, soul, funk, and other genres). Housed in small offices in the famed Jeweller's Building on 35 East Wacker Drive, it was the first record label based in Chicago. (The famed Chess label was formed in late 1947 as Aristocrat Records. Vee-Jay, Chicago's other bygone independent, started in 1953.) Mercury ranks among the all-time top four in the number of hist to reach Billboard magazine's R&B charts, far ahead of its Windy City peers.
…"It's just The Blues," by Willie Dixon's Four Jumps Of Jive, was the company's debut release. Forming the Mercury Radio and Television Corporation were Berle Adams, Chicago agent-manager for the General Amusement Corp., and Irving Green of Olsen and Tilger Manufacturing Co., Inc. …'The big thing about Mercury was: we were an economy company,' Adams recently recalled with great enthusiasm. 'We had no money. The other companies were well financed. we couldn't compete with the big boys, so we chose R&B and country & western. You didn't need arrangers, copyists, big orchestras. It was easier to finance that kind of operation. I had come out of the cocktail lounge business in Chicago, I used the talent that I had worked with previously.'
The October 13, 1945 issue of Billboard reported: 'Chicago's potential as a recording center got a big shot in the arm with the announcement this week by Irving Green, local plastics expert, that he is a heading a new firm, Mercury Records, which will eventually reach 250,000 disks per month… Thus far the new label has inked only Negro artists, with its catalog including sides by June Richmond, ex-andy Kirk rythm singer; Bill Samuels and His Cats 'n' Jammers, and the Four Jumps of Jive, both cocktail units; Sippie Wallace and Karl Jones, blues shouters; Al Ammons, boogie pianist and half the team of Ammons and Johnson, and Bob Shaffner And His Harlem Hot Shots."
In early 1946 Mercury inaugurated their race series and would soon produced an impressive body of blues and R&B recordings which would make them rivals to Atlantic during the late 40's and 50's. As writer Jim O'Neal points out "today's listenership might be easily mislead because of the preponderance of Delta-based Chicago blues recordings from this period selected for reissue by collector's labels, but in truth a large portion of the blues records coming out of Chicago in the Forties and Fifties were decidedly more urbane, owing more to jazz and jump than to jukes and John the Conqueror roots. …In this field the most prolific of all the Chicago labels was Mercury,which released some 300 records in its 'Race' series from 1946 to 1952, in addition to several released in 1945-46 before the catalog was subdivided into different series."
In part one we spotlighted the years 1945 through 1949 with the style of most of the recording a more urbane jump blues. In our second installment that style is eclipsed by a more down-home style as Mercury spread its tentacles to New Orleans, Texas and Los Angeles. From a Billboard notice from the period: "CHICAGO, May 12-In a renewed effort to see what makes the rhythm and blues segment click, Art Talmadge, Mercury Records' executive vice-president in charge of artists and repertoire, left Friday (11) for a fast sweep thru the South, searching for new artists and material. Morry Price, sales manager, will meet Talmadge in Atlanta. In addition, the label's Southern distributors have been alerted to keep their eyes open for potential r.&b. waxers."
One of the label's destinations was New Orleans. The Mercury label cut some fine sessions in there between 19490 and 1953. The Mercury New Orleans sessions began with William B. Allen, who owned a radio supply store at Orleans and North Robertson streets and also distributed Mercury records in New Orleans. In late 1949 Allen talked to Mercury's main office about recording black artists in New Orleans. Among those recorded were Professor Longhair, Alma Monday, Little Joe Gaines, George Miller & His Mid-Driffs, Ray Johnson and Herbert 'Woo Woo' Moore among others.
From the West Coast the label recorded Chuck Norris, Johnny Otis, J.D. Edwards and Big Jimm Wynn among others. Chuck Norris worked in Chicago until the mid-’40s, when he moved out to the West Coast. He soon became one of the most-called musicians in Hollywood. He did sessions on his own between 1947-1953, including singles for Coast, Imperial, Mercury, Aladdin, Selective and Atlantic. Some of the guitarist’s best playing was on records by artists such as Percy Mayfield, Roy Hawkins and Floyd Dixon. Norris had a live record released in 1980 on the European Route 66 label.
Norris also backs Big Jim Wynn on our track, "West Coast Lover." Wynn was born June 21, 1912, in El Paso, TX, but grew up in Los Angeles, where his first instrument was the clarinet. Switching to tenor saxophone, he began his professional career with Charlie Echols and was a sideman on hundreds of West Coast recordings, including a long association with Johnny Otis. As a bandleader (often billed as Big Jim Wynn), he recorded sporadically from 1945 to 1959 with a dozen different labels, including 4 Star/Gilt Edge (which issued his best-known side, "Ee-Bobaliba"), Modern, Specialty, Supreme, and Mercury.
After a lengthy stint with Savoy, Johnny Otis jumped to Mercury, cutting four sessions for Mercury in 1951 and 1952.From those sessions we spin "Doggin' Blues" sporting a terrific vocal from Linda Hokpkins and the rocking instrumental "Goomp Blues" a spotlight for the whole band but particularly Pete "Guitar" Lewis who really tears it up.
Quite a number of Houston artists were recorded no doubt due to Bob Shad who was brought on in 1951 to handle its rhythm & blues productions. Shad already recorded a number of Houston blues artists for his Sittin' In label as he related to Arnold Shaw in his book Honkers And Shouters: "Went down South and did a lot of recording with Peppermint Harris, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smokey Hogg. Recorded in Texas, mostly Houston."
Shad cut a number of fine sides for Sittin' In With and it was likely Shad who brought Lightnin' Hopkins to Mercury. Hopkins’ first decade of recording (1946-1956), was a prolific period which found him cutting close to 200 sides geared for the black market on a variety of different labels. Between 1946 and 1950 Hopkins recorded primarily for the L.A. based Aladdin label and the Houston based Gold Star label. After Gold Star he cut for RPM, Sittin' In With, Decca, Herald and a dozen sides for Mercury in 1951.
Elmore Nixon, L.C. Williams and Smokey Hogg also recorded for Sittin' In With and again it's likely Shad was instrumental in hooking them up with Mercury. Nixon was a Houston pianist who was a sideman on labels such as Gold Star, Peacock, Mercury, Savoy and Imperial between 1949 and 1955. In the 1960’s he backed Lightnin’ Hopkins and Clifton Chenier on sessions. He also cut over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1949 and 1952 for labels like Sittin’ In With, Peacock, Mercury Savoy and Imperial.
L.C. Williams was a singer/tap dancer who also occasionally drummed behind Hopkins. He arrived in Houston in 1945 and was one of the many characters who hung around in Lightning’s orbit, sitting on stoops drinking beer and wine, shooting the breeze with passers-by. He made his first record in 1947 with Hopkins on piano and guitar. Hopkins plays guitar on a four-song session for Gold Star in 1948 with Williams making some sides for Eddie’s, Freedom, Sittin' In With and a final session for Mercury in 1951. He died in Houston in 1960.
Andrew “Smokey” Hogg was born in Texas and in the 30’s and ran with guitarist the Black Ace playing for dances in small East Texas towns. In 1937 he waxed a solitary 78 and wouldn’t record again until 1947. Hogg only scored two R&B hits but was a consistent seller who cut hundreds of records for numerous labels through the late 50’s. He cut a four song-session for Mercury in 1951. He passed in 1960. His brother John Hogg cut two sessions in 1951, one for Mercury and one for Octive.
Two other Texas bluesman featured today are the obscure Luther Stoneham and Lee Grave. Stoneham cut only two sides in 1951 in Houston, both for Mercury. Lee Graves with Henry Hayes & His Rhythm Kings cut for sides in Houston for Mercury in 1951, his sole recorded legacy.
As Billboard noted: "Merc, which has had trouble getting an R&B catalog together, except for singer Dinah Washington, who has scored consistently, is giving Shad a free had, with a heavy budget set up for promotion and inking new artists." Back in 1949 Mercury tried its hand recording several previously successful Chicago artists such as Big Bill Broonzy, St. Louis Jimmy, Sunnyland Slim and Robert Jr. Lockwood. Except for St. Louis Jimmy, and with the addition of Memphis Slim, tried it hand again with Shad in charge.
As Big Bill Broonzy & His Fat Four, Broonzy cut nine sides for Mercury at two in 1949, two sessions in 1951 backed by a fine band that included Memphis Slim and a final session for the label backed just by bassist Ernest “Big” Crawford.
Robert Lockwood had backed Sunnyland Slim back in 1949 and cut a four-song session for Mercury in 1951 backed by Sunnyland Slim. Backed by bassist Ernest “Big” Crawford and drummer Alfred "Big Man" Wallace, Lockwood is in magnificent form on "(I'm Gonna) Dig Myself A Hole" a cover of the Arthur Crudup number, "Dust My Broom" which Lockwood learned from Robert Johnson, "My Daily Wish" and "Glory For Man", unissued by Mercury at the time.
Memphis Slim cut three sessions for Mercury in 1951 with singer Terry Timmons taking co-vocals on some tracks. Backed by riffing horns and rippling piano, Slim is at his elegant best on the brisk shuffle "No Mail Blues", the mid-tempo "Train Is Comin'" and the cocktail lounge tinged "Blue Evening" a sultry duet with Timmons.