Dr. Hepcat Hattie Green Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951
Lonny LyonsDown In The GroovyHouston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951
Joe 'Papoose' FritzReal Fine GirlHouston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951
Lightnin' HopkinsHello EnglandThe Rooster Crowed In England
Lightnin' HopkinsBlues For Queen ElizabethThe Rooster Crowed In England
Lightnin' HopkinsGoin' To Galveston The Rooster Crowed In England
George Clarke Prisoner BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Vol StevensVol Stevens BluesMemphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper s
Joe Williams/Yank Rachel/ Sonny Boy Williamson I Haven't Seen No WhiskeyYank Rachell Vol. 2 1934-1941
Big Joe Williams Stella BluesBack To The Roots
Big Joe Williams Watergate Blues Back To The Roots
Brownie McGheeFour O'Clock In The MorningNew York Blues And R&B 1947-1955
Lane HardinKeep 'em DownModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Buddy Moss I Got a Woman, Don't Mean Me No GoodAtlanta Blues Legend
Andy BoyEvil BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport
Pinetop BurksSun Down BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe
Bill HayesI'm Just Another FoolHouston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951
Lee GravesCloudy Weather BluesHouston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951
Willie HolidayI've Played This TownHouston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951
Champion Jack DupreeJackie P. BluesChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
Turner Parrish The FivesMama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here
Jimmy RogersIf It Ain't Me (Who Are You Thinking Of)Complete Chess Recording
Sonny Boy WilliamsonWest Memphis BluesCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides
Peg Leg Sam & Louisiana RedGoing Train BluesJoshua
Papa LightfootJump The BoogieJuke Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues 1943-1956
Kid BaileyRowdy BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Ishman BraceyLeavin' Town BluesIshman Bracey & Charlie Taylor 1928-1929
Fiddlin' Joe MartinGoing To FishingMississippi Blues 1940-42
Sara MartinGot To Leave My Home BluesSara Martin Vol. 3 1924-1925
Berta "Chippie" Hill & Freddie ShayneHow Long BluesMontana Taylor & Freddy Shayne 1929-1946
Swamp Dogg Mama's Baby, Daddy's MaybeTotal Destruction To Your Mind

Show Notes

A varied mix show today spanning the mid-20's through the mid-70's. Quite a number of Texas bluesmen are featured today including two sets from the recent 4-CD JSP collection, Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951, which gathers many lesser known artists mixed with better known artists like Peppermint Harris and Smokey Hogg. In addition there's three from an excellent long out-of-print Lightnin' Hopkins album and some early Texas piano players. Also on tap are a pair of cuts by the prolific Big Joe Williams, several fine piano men, some terrific harp blowers and some excellent down home blues from the pre-war and post-war eras.

Read Liner Notes (PDF)

JSP's Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951 is a valuable collection pulling together numerous obscure Houston bluesmen who's output has been scattered on various anthologies; artists like Dr. Hepcat, Lonnie Lyons, I.H. Smalley, Willie Holiday, Conrad Johnson and Joe 'Papoose' Fritz among many others. After World War II several Houston independent labels were started. The earliest to record blues was Gold Star, founded by Bill Quinn in 1946 as a hillbilly label. In 1947 Quinn decided to enter the "race" market by recording Lightnin' Hopkins. By the early 1950's, competition among independent record labels in Houston was intense. Macy's, Freedom, and Peacock (as well as Bob Shad's New York-based Sittin-In-With label) were all involved in recording local and regional blues musicians such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Gatemouth Brown, Goree Carter, Lester Williams, Peppermint Harris and Big Walter Price. Of the Houston-based independent labels, Peacock emerged as the most prominent.

One of the artists I want to mention from the set is Dr. Hepcat, who's "Hattie Green" opens our show. Born in Austin, Texas, January 9, 1913, as Lavada Durst he learned to play the piano as a child and emulated the styles he heard growing up. "I was self-taught," he recalls "I used to slip across the street to the church house and one-finger that piano. I had heard Meade Lux Lewis and Pete  Johnson on record, and around Austin, I heard a lot of piano players, Baby Dotson, Black Tank, and Boots Walton." Durst worked  part time as a disc jockey from 1948 to 1963 on KVET radio in Austin. On the air, he used the call name “Dr. Hepcat.” He cut two sessions for Uptown in 1949 and another session for Peacock the same year. He made some final recordings in the 80's and passed in 1995.

Speaking of Houston, we spin a trio of sides by Lightnin' Hopkins which I don't think I've played before. The tracks come from the long out-of-print album The Rooster Crowed In England issued on the British 77 Records label in 1959. The bulk of these recordings were made in 1959 with a couple waxed in 1954. As Mack McCormick wrote in the notes: “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.'” We open the set with, "Hello England" a brief spoken introduction where he addresses the British people: "I'm Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, blues singer from Texas, singing the blues for 77 Records in England and I'm hoping that each and every one will enjoy em' if they hear them because I'm long wanting to come over there which I probably will come over there someday…" We also play his "Blues For Queen Elizabeth" where he states his hope to play for her and her husband some day and we conclude the set with a 1954 cut "Goin' To Galveston" backed by some rollicking piano. Apparently this issued on a Document CD c. 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.

We go back to 1937 with tracks by Texas pianists Andy and Pinetop Burks. Andy Boy cut only eight sides under his own name in 1937 as well as backing both Joe Pullum and Walter 'Cowboy' Washington. Pinetop Burks cut six songs the same year. Both men were from the so-called “Santa Fe group” who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Here was where the music thrived and pianists could be found like Son Becky, Rob Cooper, Black Boy Shine, Big Boy Knox, Robert Shaw, Buster Pickens and the singers who worked with them.

We feature a pair of tracks from the Big Joe Williams album Back To The Roots (also issued as Watergate Blues). These recordings were recorded in 1973 in Berlin and 1978 in Crawford and Mashulaville, Mississippi by Siegfried A. Christmann and Axel Küstner. I was inspired to play these sides from a very nice letter I got from Axel Küstner which included some of his wonderful photos of bluesmen and the Williams CD. Küstner and his friend Siegfried A. Christmann were responsible for the remarkable Living Country Blues USA albums which were issued across 12 LP's (one double set) on the German L+R label between 1980 and 1981.In 1980 the duo came to America with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment they hit the dusty road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. In addition Küstner is a fine photographer and has taken thousands of photos of bluesmen through the years.

Several fine harp men are spotlighted today including George Clarke, Walter Horton, Peg Leg Sam and George Papa Lightfoot. From the pre-war era we hear Clarke's "Prisoner Blues", one of three songs he cut for Blue Bird in 1936. I don't know anything about Clarke but he was an engaging singer and fine harmonica player who plays in an assured down home style that reminds me a bit of the great Noah Lewis. Walter Horton gets plenty of room to cut loose on Jimmy Rogers' "If It Ain't Me (Who Are You Thinking Of)" and who cut it as "That Ain't It" on the Alligator album Big Walter Horton With Carey Bell. Peg Leg Sam was a member of what may have been the last authentic traveling medicine show, a harmonica virtuoso, and an extraordinary entertainer. Born Arthur Jackson, he acquired his nickname after a hoboing accident in 1930. His medicine show career began in 1938, and his repertoire -finally recorded only in the early '70s. Lightfoot cut Sessions for Peacock in 1949 (unissued), Sultan in 1950, and Aladdin in 1952 and a 1954 date for Imperial."  Singles for Savoy in 1955 and Excello the next year (the latter billed him as "Ole Sonny Boy") closed out Lightfoot's '50s recording activities. Producer Steve LaVere tracked down Lightfoot in Natchez, cutting an album for Vault in 1969 called Natchez Trace and issued on Ace on CD in the 90's.

Not everyone can be the main attraction and there are many talented blues figures who shined in supporting roles. Willie Brown, Joe Willie Wilkins and Lafayette Thomas come immediately to mind. In the vein we spin tracks by Vol Stevens and Fiddlin' Joe Martin. Vol Stevens played guitar, bajo-mandolin, mandolin,violin, jug and sang and cut just one record under his own name in 1928 for victor, "Vol Stevens Blues b/w Baby Got The Rickets." He also backed the Memphis Jug Band on many sides between 1927 and 1928, plus backing Will Weldon, the Mississippi Sheiks, Charlie Burse and the Picaninny Jug Band. Fiddlin’ Joe Martin played mandolin on Son House's, Alan Lomax recording sessions in 1941, taking the lead vocal on a couple of numbers. He also worked with Charlie Patton, Memphis Minnie, Howlin' Wolf and back Woodrow Adams, playing drums on all his sessions. He passed in 1975.

We play some interesting and mysterious down home blues from the postwar and pre-war periods. There's "Rowdy Blues" by Kid Bailey who cut one record in Memphis in 1929, "Rowdy Blues b/w Mississippi Bottom Blues." Bailey was remembered by (among others) Ishmon Bracey and Walter Vinson. Many believe Baily is actually Willie Brown, partner of both Charlie Patton and Son House. Then there's Arkansas Johnny Todd. In around 1950 a group of artists sent in a batch of unlabeled acetates that were discovered at Modern in 1970. These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since. When these sides were first issued on the Blues From The Deep South LP, so Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. It turns out that Todd is actually Lane Hardin who cut the classic "Hard Time Blues b/w California Desert Blues" in 1935. He also backs Leroy Simpson who still remains a mystery.

As a precursor to next week's show on Indianapolis blues we spotlight Turner Parrish and Champion Jack Dupree. In the pre-war era Indianapolis was a fine blues piano town and both Parrish and Dupree where part of that scene. Little is known of Parrish who cut eight sides between 1929 and 1933 and also backed singer Teddy Moss. Sometime in the early 30's Champion Jack Dupree left New Orleans and eventually found his way to Indianapolis here he found work at the Cotton Club (named after the famous one in Harlem) who's resident bluesman was Leroy Carr. In early 1940, he was seen by Lester Melrose who signed him up to record for Okeh in Chicago. The result was two-dozen recordings for the label through 1941. His Indianapolis residency ended when he was drafted at the end of 1941 and after his discharge he settled in New York.

We conclude the show with Swamp Dogg's "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe." Swamp Dogg's brand of bluesy soul and R&B usually falls outside of what I play but I couldn't resist playing this one as Swamp Dogg comes to town to perform next week. I happen to be a big fan and have never got the opportunity to see him so I'm looking forward to this one.