Mamie Smith Crazy Blues Crazy Blues: Best of
Mamie Smith Kansas City Man BluesCrazy Blues: Best of
Sam Jones (Stovepipe No. 1) A Woman Gets Tired Of The Same Man All The TimeCincinnati Blues
Sam Jones (Stovepipe No. 1) A Chicken Can Waltz The Gravy AroundGood for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows
Kid Cole Sixth Street MoanCincinnati Blues
Kid Cole Hey Hey Mama BluesCincinnati Blues
Kid Cole Niagra Falls BluesCincinnati Blues
Cincinnati Jug BandNewport BluesRuckus Juice & Chittlins, Vol. 1
Bob ColemanTear It Down Cincinnati Blues
Bob ColemanCincinnati Underworld MamaCincinnati Blues
Sweet Papa TadpoleHave You Ever Been Worried In Mind? - Part OneCincinnati Blues
Sweet Papa TadpoleBlack Spider Blues
Cincinnati Blues
Sweet Papa TadpoleKeep Your Yes Ma'am CleanCincinnati Blues
Sam Jones (Stovepipe No. 1)Court Street BluesCincinnati Blues
Sam Jones (Stovepipe No. 1)Bed SlatsCincinnati Blues
Walter DavisM&O BluesCincinnati Blues
Leroy Carr George Street Blues Cincinnati Blues
Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport Cincinnati Southern BluesCincinnati Blues
King David's Jug Band Rising Sun BluesRuckus Juice & Chittlins, Vol. 2
King David's Jug Band Tear It Down Ruckus Juice & Chittlins, Vol. 1
King David's Jug Band Sweet Potato BluesRuckus Juice & Chittlins, Vol. 2
Frances WallaceI Had To Smack That ThingCincinnati Blues
Clara BurstonCan't Get Enough Cincinnati Blues
Walter ColeEverybody Got Somebody Cincinnati Blues
Walter Coleama Keep Your Yes Ma'am CleanCincinnati Blues
Kid ColeTricks Ain´t Walking No More Cincinnati Blues
Kid ColeWar Dream Blues Cincinnati Blues
Jesse JamesLonesome Day Blues Piano Blues: The Essential
Jesse JamesSouthern Casey JonesCincinnati Blues
Walter ColemanSmack That Thing Cincinnati Blues
Walter ColemanCarry Your Good Stuff HomeCincinnati Blues

Show Notes:

While the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, does not have its own blues style, it is notable for a large degree of blues activity since the 1920's. The major African American community where blues was performed in the 1920's was the West End, where individual blues performers, jug bands, and larger units played on streets such as Court, Cutter, George, or Sixth, or at joints and clubs such as Mom’s, the Bucket of Blood, or, later, the Cotton Club. The patriarch of the scene was Sam Jones, ‘‘Stovepipe No.1,’’ a songster who recorded between 1924 and 1930. Then there was Bob Coleman and Walter Coleman, who were likely brothers, who recorded under various pseudonyms—Kid Cole, Sweet Papa Tadpole, Walter Cole, and Kid Coley among them, as well as with the Cincinnati Jug Band—between the years 1928 and 1936. Cincinnati was also the birthplace of Mamie Smith and hosted performers such as Walter Davis, Jesse James, Clara Burston, and Leroy Carr. Other longtime residents who have been on the scene since the 1920's and 1930s', such as James Mays, Pigmeat Jarrett, and Big Joe Duskin, were ‘‘rediscovered’’ in the 1970s and have had successful performance and/or recording careers. Our focus today will be on the pre-war era.None of these artists were major blues stars in terms of record sales or influence but they left behind an impressive body of work sprinkled with more than a few blues classics.  All the information for today's show comes from Steve Tracy's superb book, Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City.

Based on the recorded evidence from the 1920's and 1930's, Cincinnati had a variety of distinctive performers that reflected a diversity of performance, and this recorded evidence is verified by contemporary accounts of an active street and speakeasy scene during that period. Blues activity seemed to be especially spirited in the West End, an African American community with its share of bars and brothels attracting a clientele eager for entertainment both indoors and out. Additionally,musicians "on every street corner" according to pianist Pigmeat Jarrctt and harmonica player James Mays, provided a raucous soundtrack for daily community activities and conversations, emphasizing the, music's practical and aesthetic uses and value.

Mamie Smith notched her place in American music as the first black female singer to record a vocal blues. That record was "Crazy Blues" (recorded August 10, 1920), which sold a million copies in its first six months and made record labels aware of the huge potential market for "race records"; thus paving the way for Bessie Smith and others. mith toured as a dancer with Tutt-Whitney's Smart Set Company in her early teens, and sang in Harlem clubs before World War I. Soon thereafter, Smith began touring and recording with a band called the Jazz Hounds, which featured such jazz notables as Coleman Hawkins, Bubber Miley, Johnny Dunn, and more, and she toured with the bands of Andy Kirk and Fats Pichon in the 1930s. She also appeared in several films.

Sam Jones is remembered by elderly Cincinnati residents as a wanderer whose distinctive look (a stovepipe hat) and sound (one man band guitarist, harmonica and kazoo player blowing through a stovepipe to achieve a unique sound) made him a popular street performer. He cut sessions in 1924 and in 1927 with guitarist David Crockett. “Court Street Blues” refers to a street in the city's West end where Stovepipe reportedly performed. “Bed Slats” was recorded later by Cincinnati artists Bob Coleman and King David's Jug band. On December 11, 1930 Stovepipe with David Crockett went into the studios with a group who called themselves King David's Jug Band. They cut six sides for the Okeh label.

The moniker Kid Cole masks the identity of a singer/guitarist who recorded under seven names during his career. At his first session he was accompanied by Sam Jones on harmonica. He recorded another session under the same moniker in 1931. His "Sixth Street Moan"is a reference to a street in the city's West End and and is also mentioned in two songs recorded by Stovepipe Pipe No. 1. "Hey Hey Mama" also mentions the city by name:

And it's when I die lay a deck of cards on my grave (3x)
And it's no more browns in Cincinnati that I crave

On June 13 and 15, 1931 a Kid Coley recorded four songs for Victor in Louisville, Kentucky. "He had the high pitch and quavery voice of Kid Cole, but his voice was somewhat huskier and older-sounding (more than would be explained by the three years that separated the two recording sessions) than Cole's, though this may be due to a more dramatic theatrical approach to the lyrics… …Coley does not sound much like Kid Cole" but "combined with the vocal sound and the similarity of the name, a tentative case can be made that Kid Coley either was or knew Kid Cole/Bob Coleman." The three songs from the first session are accompanied by piano and possibly Clifford Hayes of the Louisville Jug Band. One of the songs, "Clair and Pearley Blues", has been suggested by Paul Oliver as being based on the murder in Cincinnati of Pearl Bryan by her lover Scott Jackson and his accomplice Alonzo Walling in 1896.

The Cincinnati Jug Band recorded only one session in January 1929, yielding two songs.  They accompanied Bob Coleman on two others. “Newport Blues” refers t a city across the Ohio river from Cincinnati that had a reputation as a wide open town in terms of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution. Their other song, “George Street Stomp”, refers to a central street in Cincinnati's red light district, a street that in the 20's and 30's that housed a number of Cincinnati blues figures. Pigmeat Jarrett has verified that Kid Cole and Bob Coleman were the same person and Patfoot Charlie Collins, leader of the Cincinnati Jug Band, recalled his name as Bob Cole, not Coleman. After the Cincinnati Jug Band recorded, Coleman cut two sides under his own name, "Tear It Down b/w Cincinnati Underworld Woman." Paramount ran an advertisement for the record with a photo of Coleman. In June he cut one more song, "Sing Song Blues."

Around July 29, 1930 at the Vocalion studios in Chicago, Tampa Red and possibly his regular partner Georgia Tom backed a singer who called himself Sweet Papa Tadpole on six sides. It's likely this artists was the same person as Bob Coleman who also recorded as Kid Cole. As Steve Tracy notes: "Tadpole's two-part 'Have You Ever Been Worried In Mind', a sixteen-bar AAAB blues like Kid Cole's 'Hey Hey Mama Blues' and Bob Coleman's 'Sing Sing Blues', features the characteristic light, high-pitched singing we've come to expect from Bob Coleman, though the guitarist is replaced by the smooth and expert slide guitar of Tampa Red… …The Bob Coleman who emerges from the Tadpole session is less folksy than the man of the Kid Cole session, a bit smoother and more urbane than the man of the Bob Coleman session with the Cincinnati Jug Band, but unmistakably the same person."

Bob Coleman cut four sides were cut as Walter Cole on September 4, 1930, two were unreleased, "all of which bore a striking resemblance to the sound of Sweet Papa Tadpole incarnation of our man Bob." The backing on these sides was possibly Sam Soward on piano and James Cole on violin. As to "why the name changes?", Tracy observes, "possibly there was a fearon Coleman's part that he was breaking a contract-every time he changed recording companies, from Vocalion to Paramount to Vocalion to Gennett, he changed his name.

“Some of the most spectacular recordings made by a Cincinnati artist are yet by another artist named Coleman, this one Walter Coleman. His February 6, 1936 recordings feature high powered, Piedmont influenced guitar duets, of the first rank; intricately intertwined guitar parts fairly bursting from the grooves during solos and providing wonderfully solid support for Coleman's light, high pitched, effervescent vocals.” His “'I'm Going To Cincinnati" gives many references to local landmarks and people. Most likely Walter Cole and Walter Coleman are the same person although there may have "been two separate people who recorded under the variety of Cole/Coley/Coleman/Tadpole names… “"I'm Going To Cincinnati' is undoubtedly the most fascinating of all Cincinnati blues recordings…" but "it can rank as a bona fide classic of recorded blues."

 Now I'm going to Cincinnati, I'm going to spread the news
The fanfoot in Chicago sure don't wear no shoes

Because I'm going to Cincinnati, the times is good
I'm going to Cincinnati where they eat fried food
And I'm going to Cincinnati, boys, where the bottle is good

Now when you come to Cincinnati don't get too full
You're liable to meet the cop they call Stargel Bull
Now when you come to Cincinnati stop on Sixth and Main
That's where the good hustlin women get the good cocaine

Walter Coleman cut three more sides in June (two were unissued) backed by pianist Jesse Coleman and an unknown jug player.

It was once believed that Jesse James was a convict, brought to the studio under guard to make his four recordings in 1936. This "information" was originally given to Paul Oliver by Sammy Price in 1960 who was a member of Decca's A&R staff in the 30's. This romantic idea probably came from the lyrics of "Lonesome Day Blues." James was probably Cincinnati-based, as he accompanied titles by Walter Coleman on the same date as his own session, June 3, 1936. James was a rough, two-fisted barrelhouse pianist, with a hoarse, declamatory vocal delivery, equally suited to the anguished "Lonesome Day Blues", a robust version of "Casey Jones" as "Southern Casey Jones", "Highway 61" and the ribald "Sweet Patuni", which was issued much later on a bootleg party single. There's conflicting information regarding James; Karl Gert zur Heide collected information that James lived in Memphis in the postwar years and worked and even broadcast out of Little Rock, Arkansas while Pigmeat Jarrett claims he stayed in Cincinnati on Fourth Street, moving to Kentucky around 1955.

We spin a trio of songs by artists not from Cincinnati , but connected to the city: "M&O Blues" comes from Walter Davis' first session recorded in Cincinnati at the Stinton Hotel and spin "Cincinnati Southern Blues" with singer Ivy  Smith and pianist Cow Cow Davenport (the song refers to the Cincinnati Southern railroad which ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga). We also hear “George Street Blues”by Leroy Carr, who according to Pigmeat Jarret, visited Cincinnati, playing at Babe Baker's club at sixth and Mound. The song refers to the city's tenderloin district.


Related Items:

Notes to Cincinnati Blues by Steve Tracy (2-CD set on Catfish Records): Part 1 / Part 2