ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Robert Pete WilliamsPrisoner's Talking BluesAngola Prisoners' Blues
Mance LipscombMance's Talking BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Mississippi John HurtTalking Casey JonesD.C. Blues: The Library Of Congress Recordings Vol.1
Blind Willie McTellTravelin' BluesBest Of
Bukka White Special Stream LineBukka White: The Vintage Recordings
Big Walter (The Thunderbird) Nothing But The BluesChicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues
Mr. Bear The UpsShake Baby Shake!
Howlin' Wolf Going Down SlowSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Champion Jack DupreeStrollin'Blues From The Gutter
Champion Jack DupreeStory of My LifeShake Baby Shake!
Champion Jack DupreeEverybody's BluesMe And My Mule
Lightnin' HopkinsI'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnSoul Blues
Lightnin' HopkinsMr. Charlie Pt. 1 & 2Mojo Hand
Jazz GillumI'm Not The Lad Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Memphis MinnieFrankie JeanMemphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 2 1929-1930
Blind Blake & Charlie SpandHastings St.All The Published Sides
Detroit CountHastings St. Opera Detroit Blues Rarities Vol. 4
Willie Love Nelson Street BluesMemphis & The South 1949-1954
Pinetop SmithNobody Knows You When You're Down And Out Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1
Pinetop SmithI'm Sober NowShake Your Wicked Knees
Christinia GrayThe Reverend Is My ManFemale Blues Singers Vol. 7 G/H
Harris & HarrisThis Is Not The Stove To Brown Your BreadThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Butterbeans and SusieTimes Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)Classic Blues & Vaudeville Singers Vol. 5
Lil Son Jackson Talking BoogieThe Travelling Record Man
Sony Boy & Lonnie Talking Boogie (Talkin' Blues - Release Me Baby)Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Coy 'Hot Shot' LoveWolf Call BoogieSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
John Lee Hooker & Earl Hooker If You Miss 'Im...I Got 'Im...Simply The Best
John Lee Hooker John L's House Rent BoogieThe Classic Early Years 1948-1951
Junior Parker Funny How Time Slips AwayI Tell Stories Sad And True

Show Notes:

This show came from a vague idea I had awhile back to compile a show devoted to "talking Blues" songs, basically songs where the artist talk over the music. The show that came together is a little different than I intended. I had the idea of incorporating songs where the artist talks about the music or interview segments. I always find it interesting when the blues artists talk about the music in their own terms. As I was putting this show together I realized that it would make more sense for the to be a two-part show with the latter "talking blues" songs to be featured in a sequel. I'm not really sure where this style originated as far as blues goes but I came across some information regarding the style in country music: "Christopher Allen Bouchillon, billed as "The Talking Comedian of the South," is credited with creating the "talking blues" form with the song "Talking Blues," recorded for Columbia Records in Atlanta in 1926, from which the style gets its name. The song was released in 1927, followed by a sequel, "New Talking Blues," in 1928. His song "Born in Hard Luck" is similar in style." I'm not sure when the earliest blues songs in this style were recorded, although I imagine it might be the more vaudeville styled blues like Buttebeans and Susie, but the earliest songs featured today all come from the late 20's.

Harris & Harris: This Is Not The Stove Tp Brown Your BreadThe earliest blues songs in the talking blues style include songs by Blind Willie McTell, Pine Top Smith, Christinia Gray, Butterbeans and Susie, Blind Blake and Memphis Minnie. From McTell we hear two from 1929: "Travelin' Blues" and "This Is Not The Stove To Brown Your Bread" with McTell playing guitar behind Alfoncy Harris and Bethenea Harris (the song was released under the name Harris & Harris). The latter song is very much in the vaudeville tradition of Butterbeans and Susie, of whom we spin "Times Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)." The duo recorded prolifically between 1924 and 1930.  Clarence "Pine Top" Smith was one of the earliest pianists to recorded a boogie-woogie" piano solo. His 1928 tune "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was the first recording to be labeled as such and and had a great deal of influence on all future pieces in that style. Pine Top toured the minstrel and TOBA vaudeville circuits throughout the 1920s performing with Mamie Smith and Butterbeans and Susie and other vaudeville acts. He was also a frequent solo performer at rent parties, taverns and whorehouses. Smith was accidentally shot to death at a dance in Chicago in 1929. A number of his songs were talking Blues and rooted in the vaudeville tradition including our featured tracks "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" and "I'm Sober Now."

We jump up to 1948 to hear the fine "Hastings St. Opera Pt. 1" from 1948. From the turn of the century until its demise by urban renewal in the early 1960's, Hastings Street remained the center of business for Detroit's east side community, made up largely of Jewish entrepreneurs and small black business owners. Hastings teemed by day with shoppers; at night it became transformed, into, what John Lee Hooker later described, as a "rough wide-open street." Though the city had a number of corner taverns during the 1940s and 1950s, which featured down home blues, numerous Detroit bluesmen found their first jobs in the house party scene. Many artists got their start through Detroit record man Joe Von Battle. Recording his sessions from within a cluttered record shop on Detroit's Hastings Street that he opened in 1948, Von Battle was a magnet for most of the Motor City's blues and R&B talent. Bob White AKA the Detroit Count cut four sides for Battle's label including "Hastings St. Opera Pt. 1 & 2" which celebrates the famous street.

I'm not sure if Willie Love heard  "Hastings St. Opera" but his 1951 "Nelson Street Blues" celebrates  Greenville's street in a very similar manner. Nelson Street in Greenville, MS was once the epicenter of African American business and entertainment in the Delta. Nightclubs, cafes, churches, groceries, fish markets, barbershops, laundries, record shops, Hot Shot Love: Wolf Call Boogieand other enterprises did a bustling trade. Famous blues clubs on the street included the Casablanca, the Flowing Fountain, and the Playboy Club.

Champion Jack Dupree had a signature humorous, conversational style that he delivered over some fine piano playing. Dupree often employed a talking blues style which we hear on several terrific songs today including "The Ups" with the gruff voiced Mr. Bear, "Story Of My Life" and "Everybody's Blues."

We feature  several lengthy "talking blues" numbers by Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Walter (The Thunderbird) and Junior Parker that are worth mentioning. My first album by Lightnin' Hopkins was Soul Blues, a 1965 recording for Prestige. Hopkins' Prestige records weren't his most exciting but even with the glow of nostalgia I think Soul Blues is one of his better efforts for the label. Hands down my favorite song is "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own. Lyrically, the song has a long history. In his 1930 song "Preachin The Blues" Son House sang: "Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own/Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home" and in in 1934, Texas Alexander cut "Justice Blues" where he sang: "I'm Gonna build me a Heaven, have a Kingdom of my own/Where these brownskin woman can cluster round my throne." These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years so it's not clear where Hopkins picked this up although it seems clear he knew Alexander.

Big Walter Price died last year at the age of 97. We travel back to a Houston nightclub in 1965 and hear Price deliver the knockout talking blues "Nothing But The Blues." The track comes from the long out-of-print album Chicken Stuff :Houston Ghetto Blues issued on the Flyright label. Mike Leadbitter paints a rather sad portrait of Price, who hit big with "Shirley Jean" in 1955: "Since 1957 nothing else has happened and Walter has sunk to the depths. Gone is the handsome, powerfully built man pictured at the height of his career. Now will find a greyed, stooping figure supporting himself on a heavy stick due to a lame leg. When sober he is affable but when drunk he becomes a megalomaniac, dreaming that his day will come via a big band, big arrangements and probably Go-Go dancers. …In 1965 he was asked to sing blues and privately taped two performances. One of these 'Nothing But The Blues', is a tremendous talking blues 'recorded in a beautiful night-club in the heart of Houston.' This really demonstrates, though not Hi-Fi, what could be the real 'Thunderbird.' A fine pianist with a houmous outlook on the everyday problems of a ghetto Negro."

Chicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues
Read Liner Notes

Junior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. Parker died in November 1971 during an operation for a brain tumor. Before he passed he sailed into the 1970's in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and I Tell Stories Sad And True for United Artists which was released in 1972. Parker's singing on these albums, to quote critic Tony Russell, "could be used as a manual of blues singing;" his singing is a model of control and phrasing, almost delicate with it's high, fluttering range, with every line placed perfectly for maximum effect. His harmonica playing is quite and melodic, parceled out in small but effective doses." We close the show with the highlight of his final album, the nearly eight minute cover of Joe Hinton's "Funny How Time Slips Away." Parker delivers this as a hip, spoken rap, intermittently singing the song's poignant lyrics in a hushed, gorgeous delivery.

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