ARTISTSONGALBUM
Texas Alexander Days Is LonesomeTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928 - 1930

Bo Carter Tellin' You 'Bout ItGreatest Hits
Mississippi SheiksIt's Done Got WetBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Lindberg Sparks I.C. Train BluesSparks Brothers 1932-1935t
Dorothy Baker Steady Grinding BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Ernest RogersBaby Low Down, Oh Oh Low Down Dirty DogField Recordings Vol. 16 1934-1940
Blind Pete & George RyanBanty Rooster Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
John BrayTrench BluesDeep River Of Song: Louisiana
Bumble Bee SlimSail On Little Girl, Sail OnWhen The Sun Goes Down
Leroy CarrBlues Before SunriseWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Scrapper BlackwellMorning Mail BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Lucille Bogan Pig Iron SallyShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Walter Roland Big MamaWalter Roland Vol. 2 1934-1935
James “Iron Head” Baker Black BettyDeep River of Song: Big Brazos
LeadbellyTake A Whiff On MeLeadbelly: Important Recordings 1934-49
Joe PullumBlack Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossSomeday BabyThe Essential Buddy Moss
Son BondsTrouble, Trouble BluesSon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Bertha LeeMind Reader BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
Charlie Patton'34 BluesPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Mary Johnson Peepin' At The Risin' Sun Mary Johnson 1929-1936
Peetie WheatstrawThrow Me In The AlleyFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Bob CampbellStarvation Farm BluesA Richer Tradition
Memphis Jug Band Jug Band QuartetteMemphis Shakedown

Big Bill Broonzy Serve It To Me RightAll The Classic Sides
Alfoncey Harris Absent Freight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe
John OscarOther Man BluesChicago Piano 1929-1936
Lee GreenMemphis FivesThe Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes & Lee Green
Joe McCoyI'm Going Back HomeThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Charlie McCoy Charity BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Moses Clear Rock PlattThat's All Right, BabyBlack Texicans
Wilson Jones (Stavin' Chain)Can't Put On My ShoesField Recordings Vol. 16 1934-1940

Show Notes:

Charlie Patton: 34 Blues

Today’s show is the eighth 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. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. 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 in 1934, and in addition to labels like Gennett and Columbia a new label emerged that year. Decca Records began recording in New York and Chicago in August and by the end of the year had issued dozens of race records. During this period it was the urban style of blues that dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. Still some down home blues artists were recorded such as Texas Alexander and Charlie Patton. In parallel to the commercial recordings were some remarkable field recording made by John Lomax for the Library of Congress. All those and more can be heard on today's program.

From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling for 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. Whereas Decca had a special race series, Bluebird and Vocalion numbered blues and gospel material in their general series. Although the Gennett label went under at the end of 1934, Decca bought the Gennett material and bought the Champion trademark. Later that year they started their second race series, the Champion 5000s; it feature some reissues of Gennett blues, some reissues from Paramount as well as some material recorded by Decca. The Brunswick Record Corporation bought Columbia issuing records by Papa Charlie Jackson and the Memphis Jug Band. They also operated five "dime-store labels" – Perfect, Oriole, Romeo, Banner and Melotone which sold for 25 cents.

A sign that the market was reviving was the fact that the labels were once again sending out field recording units. Much of the activity was in Texas where Brunswick-ARC recorded Texas Alexander in San Antonio and Fort Worth, Bo Carter and the Mississippi Sheiks in San Antonio and a new artist called Joe Pullum. Texas Alexander cut sessions in 1934 in the company of the Mississippi Sheiks, the jazz band His Sax Black Tams, the guitar duo of Willie Reed and Carl Davis for a total of two dozen sides. These were his last sides until 1950 where he cut a lone 78 for the Freedom label.The popular Mississippi Sheiks cut fourteen sides on March 26 and 27th. "Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” was a huge and influential hit in 1934 for Joe Pullum. After Pullum recorded it in April 1934 it was covered by Vocalion by Leroy Carr, for Decca by Mary Johnson and Jimmie Gordon (under the pseudonym of Joe Bullum!), and by Josh White—all within ten months. Pullum went on to cut four sessions in less than two years which produced thirty songs including two sequels to "Black Gal" , yet few sold very well.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. Slim waxed around fifty sides apiece in 1934 and Carr even more.  Slim cut sides for all three major labels in 1934. Carr cut some iconic songs in 1934 including blues classics like “Blues Before Sunrise” and “Mean Mistreater Mama” among others, most with his partner Scrapper Blackwell.

Thanks to a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, John Lomax was able to set out in June 1933 on the first recording expedition under the Library of Congress' auspices, with his son Alan in tow. John and Alan toured Texas prison farms recording work songs, reels, ballads, and blues from prisoners such as James "Iron Head" Baker, Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, and Lightnin’ Washington. In 1934, Lomax was named Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song, and he secured grants from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, for continued field recordings. In September 1934, Lead Belly, who was out of prison, wrote to Lomax requesting employment, since he needed to have a job in order not to be sent back to prison. At the urging of John, Jr., Lomax engaged Lead Belly as his driver and assistant and the pair traveled the South together collecting folk songs for the next three months. We spin some remarkable sides today by James "Iron Head" Baker and  Mose "Clear Rock" , who Lomax had recorded the previous year, plus new discoveries like Wilson Jones (Stavin' Chain).

Leadbelly was "discovered" by folklorists John Lomax and his then 18-year-old son Alan Lomax during a visit to the Angola Prison Farm in 1933. They recorded him on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress. Those recordings are very poor quality. They returned to record with new and better equipment in July of the following year (1934). From those sessions we hear Leadbelly deliver a powerful version of "Take A Whiff On Me."

Stavin' Chain playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," (fiddler also in shot), Lafayette, La, 1934.
Photo by Alan Lomax.

Notable this year were the last recordings by Charlie Patton. Patton's last recording sessions were in New York where he cut twenty-six sides for Vocalion between January 3oth and February 1st. Seventeen of those sides were unissued. On January 31st Patton backed his common-law wife Bertha Lee on three sides, one of which was unissued.  On the morning of Saturday, April 28, 1934, Charlie Patton was buried the following day at Longswitch Cemetery, less than a mile from his last home at Holly Ridge. He was 43. Patton was a popular performer among both whites and blacks, and at Dockery's Plantation he often played on the porch of the commissary and at all-night picnics hosted by Will Dockery for residents.. In “34 Blues” Patton sang of being banished from Dockery by plantation manager Herman Jett, apparently because Patton was running off with various tenants’ women.

There were some notable piano blues recorded in 1934. St. Louis had an abundance of talented blues pianists including Henry Brown, Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosevelt Sykes, Lee Green, and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks all who were recorded during the year. Also notable were pianists Alfoncey Harris who was recorded in Texas and John Oscar who was recorded in Chicago.

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