Sun 4 Nov 2012
|Charlie Campbell w/ Robert McCoy||Goin' Away Blues||Uptown Blues: A Decade Of Guitar-Piano Duets|
|Guitar Slim w/ Robert McCoy||Katie May - Katie May||Alabama & The East Coast 1933-1937
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||West Texas Woman||Dallas Alley Drag
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Ice Pick Blues||Dallas Alley Drag
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Heart Wrecked Blues||Dallas Alley Drag
|Speckled Red||Speckled Red’s Blues||Speckled Red 1929-1938|
|Speckled Red||House Dance Blues||Speckled Red 1929-1938|
|Speckled Red||Interview "They Was Real Bad Words..."||Broadcasting The Blues|
|Speckled Red||Dirty Dozen||Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here|
|James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) w/ Robert McCoy||Eight Avenue Blues||The Piano Blues Vol. 10|
|James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) w/ Robert McCoy||Suicide Blues||Alabama & The East Coast 1933-1937
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Blue Bloomer Blues||Dallas Alley Drag
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Alex's Rag||From North Dallas To The East Side
|Speckled Red||Do The Georgia||Speckled Red 1929-1938|
|Speckled Red||The Right String, But The Wrong Yo-Yo||When The Sun Goes Down|
|Speckled Red||Wilkins Street Stomp||Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here|
|Robert McCoy||Let's Get Together||Bye Bye Baby|
|Robert McCoy||Gone Mother Blues||Bye Bye Baby|
|Robert McCoy||Bye Bye Baby||Bye Bye Baby|
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Sometime I Feel Worried||From North Dallas To The East Side
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Neglected Woman||The Modern Down Home Blues Sessions Vol. 4
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Lillie Mae Boogie||The Modern Down Home Blues Sessions Vol. 4
|Speckled Red||Early In The Morning||Speckled Red 1929-1938|
|Speckled Red||Specked Red Speaks||Blues Masters Vol. 11|
|Speckled Red||Four O'Clock Blues||Blues Masters Vol. 11|
|Speckled Red||Uncle Sam's Blues||The Barrel-House Blues of Speckled Red|
|Robert McCoy||You Got To Reap What You Sow||Bye Bye Baby|
|Robert McCoy||Church Bell Blues||Bye Bye Baby|
|Robert McCoy||Mr. Freddie Blues||Bye Bye Baby|
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||If I Lose You Woman||The Traveling Record Man
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||Going Back To Froggy Bottom||From North Dallas To The East Side
|Whistlin' Alex Moore||You Say I'm A Bad Feller||From North Dallas To The East Side
On today's program we spotlight three fine piano players who recorded in both the pre-war and post-war eras. Robert McCoy spent virtually his whole life in Birmingham, Alabama where he participated in a 1937 session as an accompanist and cut two fine, very rare records in the early 60's. Speckled Red cut several sessions between 1929 and 1938 and was rediscovered living in St. Louis, cutting fine sessions in the 50's and 60's. Alex Moore got his start in Dallas and waxed several sessions in 1929 and 1937. In fact Moore recorded in almost every decade from the 20's through the 80's.
Between March 3rd and April 7th 1937, ARC (The American Record Company) sent a mobile recording unit on a field trip firstly to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas and, then to Birmingham, Alabama in search of new talent that could be recorded on location instead of transporting the artists to their New York studio. Sometime between 18th and 24th March the unit arrived in Birmingham and, over a two week period set about recording a number of gospel and blues musicians. Among those were Charlie Campbell, Guitar Slim (George Bedford) and James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) all of whom were backed by the lively piano of Robert McCoy who did not record under his own name. Sherrill was heavily influenced by the then popular Peetie Wheatstraw.
McCoy was born in 1912 in Aliceville, AL but raised on Birmingham's North Side and by 1927 was a well-known local artist. Two of McCoy's six brothers, Johnny an Willie, played piano and used to run around with the great Jabo Williams. Cow Cow Davenport and Pinetop Smith played at McCoy's house whenever they were in town and had a profound influence on McCoy. In 1963 McCoy was recorded by Pat Cather, a teenaged Birmingham blues fan. Cather issued two albums on his Vulcan label: Barrelhouse Blues And Jook Piano and Blues And Boogie Classics. Both albums were cut in extremely small quantities and are very rare. Delmark has reissued some of this material on the CD Bye Bye Baby including some unreleased material. In 1964 Vulcan issued a couple of singles and the same year a couple of singles were issued on the Soul-O label (Robert McCoy and His Five Sins) with McCoy backed by an R&B band in an attempt to update his sound. In later years McCoy became a church Deacon. He passed in 1978. In 1983, McCoy was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Of Alex Moore, Paul Oliver wrote: "He is a true original, a folk blues singer of the city who can sit at the piano improvise endlessley piano themes and blues verses that are sometimes startling, sometimes comic, sometimes grim, and very often pure poetry. …When I first heard his records, a dozen years ago, I was attracted by their unique quality and hoped that I one day meet the man whose memorable blues had so enriched the Columbia and Decca catalogs."
Alex Moore was born in Dallas in 1899 and died there in 1989. Moore began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas; he usually performed under the name Whistlin' Alex. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions, which were for Columbia Records. He accompanied several artists including Perry Dixon, Blind Norris and Nick Nichols. The sides didn't gain much attention and Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca. Between his first and second sessions, he continued to play clubs in Dallas.
It was 1951 before Moore recorded again with RPM Records/Kent. Fortunately some sides from a session at Radio KLIF in Dallas in 1947 survived and have been issued by Arhoolie Records. Arhoolie Records recorded a self-titled album in 1960, and those subsequent recordings saw him obtain nationwide recognition. This album has been reissued on CD as From North Dallas To The East Side and includes the 1947 sides plues sides cut in Hamburg, Germany in 1968. Throughout the 1960s, Moore played at clubs and festivals in America, as well as a small number of festivals across Europe. He toured with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1969, performing on the same bill as Earl Hooker and Magic Sam. The same year he recorded a session in Stuttgart, Germany, which led to the release of Alex Moore in Europe. He cut his final album for Rounder in 1988, passing away the following year.
Samuel Charters, who recorded Speckled Red for Folkways wrote the following about his performance style: "When he sits down at his piano, his shoulders hunch over the keys, and he turns to the audience to sing and seems to fill the room with his presence. He is an entertainer, expressing himself and his personality through his music. It's this personality, almost overwhelming when Red is in full cry, that sweeps his playing and singing past the occasional moments of erratic technique."
Speckled Red was given his name because he was a black albino with an almost white skin. His family moved from Louisiana to Georgia where he acquired a rudimentary piano technique by practicing on a church organ and eventually playing at church services. The family moved again to live in Atlanta and Red, who by this time had switched to the piano, was now playing at house parties at weekends. Red struck out on his own and left Atlanta for Detroit in 1924. Red played regularly at the Detroit clubs where he earned the name Detroit Red. Red drifted West where he played the barrelhouse circuits for some time, traveling in the boxcars on freight trains. Shortly after leaving the barrelhouse circuits, Red joined a traveling medicine show called the Red Rose Minstrels in Memphis. The owner of the show was Jim Jackson, who was a recording artist and also acted as talent scout for Brunswick Records and it was through him that Red first got on record in 1929. He recorded three numbers: "The Dirty Dozens", "Wilkins Street Stomp" and "Dance House Blues." "The Dirty Dozens" became a big seller. A second recording session for Brunswick occurred in Chicago on 8 April 1930.
Red was in Chicago for a brief time, in the late 1930s, where he recorded ten sides at the RCA studios in Illinois in 1938. The session was organized for him by Walter Davis, acting as talent scout for the Bluebird label. He also backed other Bluebird artists such as Robert Lee McCoy during this period. In 1941, still largely unregarded, he settled in St Louis, which became his adopted home until his death. It was during this period that Red's brother began recording for Victor under the name Piano Red.
Red owed his rediscovery to Charles O'Brien, a special officer with the St Louis Police Department, for during the 1950s this policeman and lover of blues and boogie-woogie music decided to trace some of the long-forgotten piano players in St Louis. Checking police records, O'Brien found Red was still living at the same address and, by chance, O'Brien visited a poolroom on 16th and Franklin near Red's home and found him there. After a brief conversation, which confirmed that he was speaking to Speckled Red, O'Brien took him to the Top Deck nightspot where, fuelled with a shot of whisky, Red played many of the old numbers he had recorded in the 1930s and 1940s. He eventually became the pianist at a club in the famous Gaslight Square, a noted St Louis jazz-club area. This was followed by a tour of Europe and Great Britain, in 1959, as part of a USA cultural programme. His recording career also took off once again with sessions for the Folkways, Delmark, Euphonic, Storyville and Tone labels. He passed in 1972.