Sun 15 Apr 2012
|Robert Nighthawk||G-Man||Prowling With The Nighthawk|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I||Blue Bird Blues||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1|
|Big Joe Williams||Rootin' Ground Hog||Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues|
|Little Brother Montgomery||Santa Fe Blues||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936|
|Sonny Boy Nelson||Low Down||Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues|
|Bo Carter||The Ins And Outs Of My Girl||Bo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938|
|Robert Nighthawk||Prowling Nighthawk||Prowling With The Nighthawk|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I||Jackson Blues||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1|
|Walter Davis||Good Gal||Walter Davis Vol. 3 1937-1938|
|Sonny Boy Nelson||Long Tall Woman||Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues|
|Mississippi Matilda||Hard Working Woman||Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues|
|Robert Hill||Lumber-Yard Blues||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Walter Davis||Fifth Avenue||Walter Davis Vol. 3 1937-1938|
|Big Joe Williams||Brother James||Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I||Got The Bottle Up And Gone||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1|
|Little Brother Montgomery||The First Time I Met You||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936|
|Bo Carter||Bo Carter's Advice||Bo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938|
|Sonny Boy Nelson||Pony Blues||Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues|
|Chatman Brothers (Lonnie And Sam)||Jumping Out Blues||Mississippi Sheiks Vol. 4 1934-1936|
|Chatman Brothers (Lonnie And Sam)||If You Don't Want Me Please Don't Dog Me 'Round||Mississippi Sheiks Vol. 4 1934-1936|
|Bo Carter||All Around Man - Part 2||Bo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938|
|Bo Carter||Pussy Cat Blues||Bo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938|
|Bo Carter||Your Biscuits Are Not Big Enough For Me||Bo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938|
|Sonnyboy Williamson I||Sugar Mama Blues||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1|
|Sonnyboy Williamson I||Good Morning School Girl||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1|
|Tommy Griffin||On My Way Blues||Country Blues Collector's Items 1930-1941|
|Walter Vincson||Rats Been On My Cheese||Rats Been On My Cheese|
|Annie Turner||Black Pony Blues||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1954|
|Annie Turner||Workhouse Blues||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1954|
|Little Brother Montgomery||A. & V. Railroad Blues||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936Remastered|
|Mississippi Matilda||Happy Home Blues||Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues|
|Sonny Boy Nelson||Street Walkin'||Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues|
|Robert Hill||Tell Me What's Wrong With You||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Little Brother Montgomery||West Texas Blues||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936|
|Little Brother Montgomery||Louisiana Blues, Pt. 2||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936|
|Little Brother Montgomery||Farish Street Jive||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936|
Today's show is the first installment spotlighting great recording sessions. Today we select two sessions conducted by the Victor (issued on Bluebird) label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans. In the pre-war era the record companies used mobile recording units to visit southern cities and capture the music of regional performers. For example, between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. During and after the Depression field trips dropped off precipitously. We play recordings today from remarkable field sessions cut by Louisiana and Mississippi artists on October 15-16, 1936 at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans. Dozens of titles were cut by Lonnie and Sam Chatmon, Bo Carter, Eugene Powell (as Sonny Boy Nelson), his wife Matilda Powell (as Mississippi Matilda), Walter Vincson, Little Brother Montgomery, Annie Turner and Tommy Griffin. The other session we spotlight was conducted in Chicago on May 5, 1937 resulting in two-dozen sides by Sonny Boy Williamson I and Robert Lee McCoy (Robert Nighthawk) who were making their recording debuts, plus sides by Big Joe Williams and Walter Davis.
Henry Townsend recalled driving Sonny Boy Williamson I, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Davis and Big Joe Williams to Aurora, Illinois, in his 1930 A Model Ford for their 1937 sessions: "I transferred them to Aurora, Illinois. There was about eight or nine of us …we stacked them in the car like sardines." This led to a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits. Sonny Boy would go on to cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947.
Robert Nighthawk cut six sides at this session all of which were released at the time. The popularity of the song "Prowling Night-Hawk" was the basis for his changing his surname in the early 40's. At the time of these recordings he was going by Robert Lee McCoy.
Walter Davis was among the most prolific blues performers to emerge from the pre-war St. Louis scene, cutting over 150 sides between 1930 and 1952. Davis enjoyed a fair amount of success before a stroke prompted him to move from music to the ministry during the early '50s.
Over two days on October 15-16, 1936 Bluebird conducted sessions at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. Little Brother Montgomery cut eighteen sides plus backed singer Annie Turner on her four numbers (two were unissued), Sonny Boy Nelson (Eugene Powell) cut six sides under his own name as well as backing Robert Hill, who cut ten sides, and his wife Mississippi Matilda on her three sides. In addition Bo Carter cut ten sides, the Chatman brothers (Lonnie and Sam) cut twelve sides, Tommy Griffin cut a dozen sides and Walter Vincson (as Walter Jacobs) cut two sides. As John Godrich and Howard Rye wrote in Recording The Blues: "The New Orleans session in 1936 was Victor's last substantial race field recording; in subsequent years they recorded a fair number of gospel quartets in he field, but only one or two unimportant blues singers."
Eugene Powell was born in Utica, Mississippi, December 23, 1908. He started playing the guitar at age eight. His mother ran a juke house so he grew up around music. He took the name "Sonny Boy Nelson" after his step father. His early experiences around Hollandale were with Robert Nighthawk, Robert Hill, and the great blues instrumentalist Richard "Hacksaw" Harney. In 1936 Eugene and wife "Mississippi Matilda" along with Willie "Brother" Harris traveled with the Chatmon Brothers to New Orleans to record for the Bluebird label. Bo Carter acted as agent for Nelson and Hill and received a fifth of the royalties for setting the session up.
In the 1930's Matilda Powell married musician Eugene Powell. She recorded four songs at the 1936 session, one of them, "Peel Your Banana", went unissued. In 1952, Matilda separated from Eugene, and moved to Chicago taking their one son and five daughters with her.
Interviews with Eugene Powell by Brett Bonner and Robert Eagle elicited that Robert Hill was from Sumrall, Mississippi, near Hattiesburg, and that in Hollandale he worked with guitarist Will Hadley. Paul Oliver noted that his harmonica playing was reminiscent of Jazz Gillum.
In late 1930, Little Brother Montgomery made his debut backing Minnie Hicks and on two songs, Irene Scruggs on four and recorded “No Special Rider blues” and "Vicksburg Blues" for Paramount. He cut four more sides for Bluebird in 1935. His next recording opportunity was in October 1936 in New Orleans where he waxed a remarkable eighteen song session. As Chris Smith writes he was "adept at blues, jazz, stride, boogie and pop which he synthesized into a personal style that ranged easily from the bopping earthiness of "Frisco Hi-Ball" to the pearl-stringing elegance of "Shreveport Farewell." His high voice and bleating vibrato are unmistakable, especially on his signature piece, "Vicksburg Blues", a polyrhythmic showcase for his acute but never pedantic timing. It's also an example of Brother's poetry of geography; many of his songs, and even the titles of his instrumentals, are rich evocations of places he knew and the railroads that carried him between them."
Nothing is known of fifteen year-old Annie Turner who cut four sides (two unissued) at this session backed by Little Brother on piano and Walter Vincson on guitar. As Chris Smith wrote: "…Turner projects a smoldering sensuality, triumphing over her low volume dicey pitch with help from Montgomery and Vincson's wonderfully attentive accompaniment."
Working in various configurations, Walter Vincson and Lonnie, Bo, and Sam Chatmon performed and recorded as the Mississippi Sheiks, a name inspired by a popular 1921 Rudolph Valentino film, The Sheik. A propulsive fiddler, Lonnie managed the band, while Bo, a strong, confident singer and gifted guitarist, became its biggest star. Bo made his recording debut in 1928, backing Alec Johnson. Carter soon was recording as a solo artist and became one of the dominant blues recording acts of the 1930's, recording over 100 sides. He also played with and managed the family group, the Mississippi Sheiks, and several other acts in the area. Bo Carter specialized in double entendre songs, recording dozens of risqué songs like "Banana in Your Fruit Basket," "Pin in Your Cushion", "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me", "The Ins And Outs Of My Girl", the latter two featured today. Carter's brothers, Lonnie and Sam, recorded as the Chatman Brothers, cutting twelve sides at this same session.
Walter Vinson rarely worked as a solo act, seemingly much more at home in duets and trios; towards that end, during the 1920's he worked with Charlie McCoy, Rubin Lacy and Son Spand before forming the Mississippi Sheiks. He cut two songs at this 1936 sessions in the company of pianist Harry Chatman. The year before pianist Harry Chatman cut ten songs under his won name across three sessions, two in New Orleans and a final one in Jackson, Mississippi.