1920′s Blues


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lillian GlinnBrown Skin BluesLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Lillian GlinnDoggin' Me Blues Lillian Glinn 1927-1929
Lillian GlinnCome Home DaddyLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Billiken Johnson & Fred Adams Sun Beam BluesDallas Alley Drag
Billiken Johnson & Fred Adams Interurban BluesDallas Alley Drag
Blind Willie JohnsonI Know His Blood Can Make Me WholeBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Blind Willie JohnsonDark Was the Night -- Cold Was the GroundBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Coley JonesTraveling ManThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Part 1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
William McCoy Mama BluesMeaning In The Blues
Dallas String BandDallas RagVintage Mandolin Music
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck SoulDallas Alley Drag
Hattie HudsonBlack Hand BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Gertrude PerkinsNo Easy Rider BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Gertrude PerkinsGold Daddy BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Washington PhillipsI Am Born To Preach The GospelI Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Blind Willie JohnsonI'm Gonna Run to the City of RefugeSpreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings
Laura HentonHe's Coming SoonSpreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings
Laura HentonHeavenly SunshineTexas: Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935
Frenchy's String BandSunshine SpecialThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
Frenchy's String BandTexas And Pacific BluesJazz The World Forgot Vol. 1
Emma Wright State of Tennessee Blues The Best Of Memphis Jug Band
Bobbie CadillacThe SpasmGood for What Ails You
Billiken Johnson & Neal RobertsFrisco BluesDallas Alley Drag
Dallas String BandSo TiredHow Low Can You Go: Anthology Of The String Bass
William McCoyCentral Tracks BluesTexas: Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935
Willie Reed Dreaming BluesTrouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
Willie Reed Texas BluesThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Otis HarrisWalking BluesRamblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers
Otis HarrisYou'll Like My LovingRamblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers
Jewell NelsonJet Black Snake BluesTerritory Singers Vol. 2
Jewell NelsonBeating Me BlueTerritory Singers Vol. 2

Show Notes:

William McCoy- Mama BluesToday's show is the third installment spotlighting great recording sessions. The first spotlighted two sessions conducted by the Victor label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans in 1936 and 1937, the second was conducted by Brunswick in Memphis in 1929 and 1930. Today we spotlight some great blues and gospel captured by Columbia in December 1927 and December 1928. In 1927 sessions were conducted December 2nd through the 6th with artists Lillian Glinn, Billiken Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Coley Jones Washington Phillips, William McCoy, the Dallas String Band, Hattie Hudson and Gertrude Perkins. Several of theses artists were recorded again the following December with sessions conducted between December 4th through the 8th. Among the new artists recorded in 1928 were Laura Henton, Texas Jubilee Singers, Frenchy's String Band, Emma Wright, Bobbie Cadillac, Willie Reed, Otis Harris and Jewell Nelson. Several other artists recorded but had no sides issued: Willie Tyson, Willie Mae McFarland, Rev. J.W. Heads and Charlie King. Columbia recorded again Dallas in 1929, recording some of the same artists.

1927 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. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on.

One of the hidden stars of these sessions was pianist Willie Tyson. Tyson was active in Dallas and was part of a group of blues pianists that included K. D. Johnson and Whistlin’ Alex Moore, who accompanied various female blues singers in the 1920's and 1930's. Tyson contributed a number of fine accompaniments to several women blues singers, such as Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Ida Mae Mack, and Bessie Tucker and also backed Billiken Johnson. In addition to his piano accompaniment, Tyson recorded two piano solos that were never issued, “Roberta Blues” and “Missouri Blues.” These proved to be the only sessions for Tyson, who was most likely a theater pit pianist.

We hear several fine, obscure blues and gospel ladies today including Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Lillian Glinn, Jewell Nelson, Bobbie Cadillac, Emma Wright and Laura Henton. Blind Willie Johnson: I Know His Blood Can Make Me WholeSinger and vaudeville performer Lillian Glinn was born in Hillsboro, Texas, about 1902 and moved to Dallas when she was in her twenties. Texas blues singer Hattie Burleson discovered her singing in a Dallas church and encouraged her to pursue a musical career. Dallas entrepreneur R. T. Ashford helped Glinn secure a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1927. She cut her first record for Columbia in December 1927, and over the next two years she recorded more than twenty-two sides.

Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins and Jewell Nelson all left behind just one 78 while Emma Wright had one song issued. Singers Bobbie Cadillac and gospel singer Laura Henton left behind six sides. Emma Wright had only one issued side in 1928 backed by trumpeter Leroy Williams who accompanied Jewell Nelson the following day. According to blues historian Paul Oliver Jewel Nelson was "one of the best-known and best loved of the Dallas singers … known to the denizens of the Park (Theatre) as "Daybreak" Nelson because of her famous "Daybreak Blues." She recorded one 78 in 1928 possibly backed on guitar by Coley Jones. Singer Bobbie Cadillac cut six sides (one unissued ) at two sessions in 1928 and the following year cut four more duets with Coley Jones and featuring Whistlin' Alex Moore on piano.

Billiken Johnson didn't sing or play an instrument, and yet he recorded six sides in the late '20s. Johnson's unique talent was his ability to imitate train whistles and provide other vocal effects, all of which made him a popular figure on-stage at the juke joints and taverns of the famed "Deep Ellum" district of Dallas. Under his own name he recorded two tracks for Columbia Records ("Sun Beam Blues" and "Interurban Blues") in Dallas on December 3, 1927, followed by two more ("Frisco Blues" and "Wild Jack Blues") a year later on December 8, 1928. He is also listed as part of a duet of sorts Coley Jones: Travelling Manwith Texas Bill Day on "Billiken's Weary Blues" and "Elm Street Blues," recorded December 5, 1929, in Dallas and also issued by Columbia.

As Blind Willie Johnson got older he began earning money by playing his guitar, one of the few avenues left to a blind man to earn a living. He became a Baptist preacher and brought his sermons and music to the streets of the surrounding cities. While performing in Dallas, he met a woman named Angeline and the two married in 1927. The two performed around the Dallas and Waco areas. On December 3, 1927, Columbia Records brought Blind Willie Johnson into the studio where he recorded six songs. after this session, Johnson didn't return to the studio for an entire year. The second visit (which took place on December 5, 1928) found him accompanied by his wife, Angeline. Although Blind Willie Johnson was one of Columbia's best-selling race recording artists, he only recorded for them one more time — in April 1930 — after which he never heard from them again. As Stephen Calt points out in his liner notes for Praise God I'm Satisfied, the fact that Columbia waited a full year between Johnson's recording sessions probably indicates that they were disappointed with his sales. In fact, in early 1929 Johnson sold about 5000 records. By contrast, Barbecue Bob and Bessie Smith Columbia's most popular artists, sold about 6000 and from 9000-10,000 respectively. As the depression deepened, however, and interest in religion surged, Blind Willie Johnson's popularity jumped, too. He continued to sell around 5000 records annually, but Barbecue Bob's sales dropped to 2000, and Smith's to 3000. Johnson continued to perform on the Texas streets during the '30s and '40s, passing away in 1947.

Coley Jones was born probably in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is presumed that much of his life was spent in Dallas.  He recorded seven sides for Columbia beginning in December 1927 as a solo act accompanying himself on guitar. Jones was also in demand as a sideman and recorded several sides in December 1929, accompanying Bobbie Cadillac and Texas Bill Day on guitar. Jones became associated with the Dallas String Band, which recorded  ten sides for Columbia between 1927 to 1929.

Dallas String Band: Dallas RagVirtually nothing is known about William McCoy other than he was probably from Texas. He recorded six sides for Columbia at three sessions; on December 6, 1927, December 7, 1928 and a final session on December 8, 1928. His records were advertised in the Defender on May 12, 1928, February 23, 1929 and September 21, 1929.

Little is known about Willie Reed, who recorded two songs on the same day as fellow Texas bluesman Otis Harris who exhibits a similar guitar style. Reed went on to accompany blues singer Texas Alexander on ten songs in 1934.

Otis Harris and Frenchy's String Band each cut one 78. Possibly from Dallas, TX., Otis Harris only had one 78 released under his name, "Walking Blues b/w You'll Like My Loving." Frenchy's String Band cut "Sunshine Special b/w Texas And Pacific Blues" in 1928. Polite "Frenchy" Christian was one of the New Orleans jazzmen who ventured westward in the 1920s, settling in Dallas. With a line-up here consisting of cornet, banjo, guitar and bowed bass, "Texas and Pacific Blues" gives an inkling of music played around New Orleans when a string band line up was used.

 

 

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Memphis Minnie & Kansas JoeI'm Going Back HomeStuff Tha Dreams Are Made Of
Memphis Minnie & Kansas JoeWhat's The Matter With The Mil Blues Images Vol. 10
Ma Rainey & Papa Charlie JacksonBig Feeling BluesMother Of The Blues
Arnold & Irene WileyRootin' Bo Hog Blues Blues & Jazz Obscurities
Hezekiah & Dorothy JenkinsFare Thee Well Blues & Jazz Obscurities
Bobbie Cadillac & Coley JonesEasin' InTexas Girls 1926-1929
Buddy Burton & Irene SandersElectric Man W E ''Buddy'' Burton & Ed ''Fats'' Hudson 1928-1936
Mae Glover & John ByrdGas Man BluesMississippi Moaners
Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport Mistreated Mamma Blues Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport 1927-1930
Dora Carr & Cow Cow Davenport5th Street BluesCow Cow Davenport - The Accompanist 1924-1929
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Rough Alley BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Blind Willie JohnsonYou're Gonna Need Somebody on Your BondBlind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists)
Eddie Head & FamilyDown On MeBlues Images Vol. 6
William & Versey SmithEverybody Help The Boys Come HomeAmerican Primitive Vol. I
Clara Smith & Lonnie JohnsonYou're Gettin' Old On Your JobClara Smith: The Essential
Victoria & Spivey & Lonnie JohnsonFurniture Man Blues - Part 1Victoria Spivey: The Essential
Victoria & Spivey & Lonnie JohnsonNew Black Snake Blues No.1Victoria Spivey Vol. 2 1927-1929
J. T. ''Funny Paper'' Smith & Dessa Foster Tell It To The Judge Part 1The Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
J. T. ''Funny Paper'' Smith & Magnolia HarrisMama's Quittin' And Leavin' Part 1 The Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes Lost Lover BluesBaby, How Can It Be?
Memphis Jug Band (Jennie Clayton & Will Shade) State of Tennessee Blues The Best Of Memphis Jug Band
Mississippi Sarah & Daddy StovepipeThe SpasmGood for What Ails You
Butterbeans & SusieCold Storage Papa (Mama's A Little Too Warm For You)Butterbeans & Susie Vol. 1 1924-1925
Butterbeans & SusieTimes Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)Classic Blues & Vaudeville Singers Vol. 5
Ruth Willis & Fred McMullenJust Can't Stand ItGeorgia Blues 1928-1933
Hattie HartColdest Stuff In TownMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Charley Patton and Bertha LeeTroubled 'Bout My MotherPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Charley Patton and Bertha LeeOh DeathPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Jane Lucas & Georgia Tom How Can You Have the BluesKansas City Kitty 1930-1934
Georgia Tom & Hannah MayCome On MamaFamous Hokum Boys Vol. 1 1930
Coot Grant & Wesley WilsonWhippin' the WolfCoot Grant & Wesley Wilson Vol. 3 1931-1938
Coot Grant & Wesley WilsonRasslin' 'till the Wagon ComesCoot Grant & Wesley Wilson Vol. 1 1925-1928

Show Notes:

Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis - Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesToday's show is something of a sequel to a couple of  related shows I aired a couple of years back: Fence Breakin' Blues – Great Country Blues Guitar Duets and Play It It 'Till I Turn High Yeller – Great Guitar/Piano Duets. Today we spotlight some classic blues and gospel female/male duets spanning the years 1925 through 1938. Along the way we hear classic partnerships like Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe and Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson, blues in the vaudeville tradition from Butterbeans & Susie and Coot Grant &  Wesley Wilson, some moving gospel performances, well known artists such as Blind Willie McTell and Charlie Patton and a slew of fine lesser known artists who left behind memorable recordings.

Before blues got on record the music was heard in variety of settings including vaudeville, musicals, minstrel shows and tent shows. Many of these performers made there way on record into the 1920's, perhaps most famously Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey (we hear Rainey today with Papa Charlie Jackson on "Big Feeling Blues"). Among those featured today, Butterbeans & Susie, Coot Grant & Wesley Wilson and Cow Cow Davenport all came out of that tradition.

Butterbeans and Susie were a comedy duo made up of Jodie Edwards and Susie Edwards. Edwards began his career in 1910 as a singer and dancer. The two met in 1916 when Hawthorne was in the chorus of the Smart Set show. They married on stage the next year. The two did not perform as a comic team until the early 1920s. heir act, a combination of marital quarrels, comic dances, and racy singing, proved popular on the TOBA tour. They later moved to vaudeville and appeared for a time with the blackface minstrel troupe the Rabbit's Foot Company. They cut over sixty sides between 1924 and 1930.

Coot Grant was the main stage name of Leola B. Pettigrew, a  blues singer from Alabama whose legal name became Leola Wilson following her marriage to performing partner Wesley Wilson. The pair met and began performing together in 1905 and were wed in 1913. Coot had been involved in show business  since she was a child, beginning as a dancer in vaudeville. Her husband, who played both piano and organ, was performing as early as 1905. He performed under a variety of stage names including Catjuice Charlie in a duo with Pigmeat Pete, as well as Kid Wilson, Jenkins, Socks, and Sox Wilson. The husband and wife, billed as Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins, cut over sixty sides between 1925 and 1938, often backed with top jazz artists.Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes - Lost Lover Blues

In his early years Cow Cow Davenport toured TOBA with an act called Davenport and Company with Blues singer Dora Carr and they recorded together in 1925 and 1926. The act broke up when Carr got married. Davenport briefly teamed up with Blues singer Ivy Smith in 1928. Smith and Davenport cut some two-dozen sides together between 1927 and 1930.

Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson did several duets together that have vaudeville feel to them.  Johnson backed Spivey on numerous recordings in 1926 and 1927 and they made several duets together  in 1928 and 1929 including "New Black Snake Blues Part 1 & 2", "Toothache Blues Part 1 & 2 and "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now Part 1 & 2 ."

More in down-home vein were recordings by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, J. T. "Funny Paper" Smith and Blind Willie McTell with different partners. Memphis Minnie's marriage and recording debut came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop. It was supposedly a Columbia A and R man who gave the duo their names. Between 1929 and 1934 Minnie and Joe cut around one hundred sides together. McCoy and Minnie recorded songs together and on their own for Decca Records until they divorced in 1934.

Mary Willis recorded with several Atlanta artists including Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss. McTell also recorded with singer Ruby Glaze and Kate McTell who are likely the same person. One of the featured tracks, "Talkin To You Wimmen' About The Blues",  was not issued until just a few years ago.  The track and it's flip side, "Merciful Blues", was issued on the CD that accompanies Tefteller's 2008 blues artwork calendar. To quote Tefteller: "the record you see in the center of this page [Talkin' To You Wimmen About The Blues] apparently has not been heard by anyone since its release back in the late fall of 1931. I have had this record in my collection for almost ten years. I had no idea that it was potentially a one-of-a-kind record! …Late last year, legendary Blues reissue producer Larry Cohn called me about his upcoming Blind Willie McTell box set. He told me he would like to borrow certain records from my collection …I sent him a list of what I had. To my amazement , he called immediately with the comment, "I've never heard the Mary Willis record!" Apparently, there is no master in the Columbia vaults. Cohn is aware of no other copy of the record anywhere. Finding this hard to believe, I started calling "all the usual suspects" and sure enough, none of them had the record or had ever heard it."

Between 1930 and 1931 J. T. "Funny Paper" Smith had recorded some twenty issued sides. Among those were a pair of fine duets we feature today: "Tell It To The Judge Part 1 & 2" with Dessa Foster and Mama's Quittin' And Leavin' Part 1 & 2" with Magnolia Harris.

Mississippi Sarah & Daddy Stovepipe - The SpasmAlso on tap today are several fine gospel performances by Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Paton, Eddie Head and William & Versey Smith . Johnson  may have married Willie B. Harris who sang accompaniment with Johnson on some of his recordings for Columbia Records between 1927 and 1930. Today we feature one of my favorites, "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond."

Bertha Lee met Charlie Patton in 1930 and remained his wife until his death in 1934. During this time, she sang on several of Patton's recordings, which resulted in the recording of three of her own songs, "Yellow Bee", "Dog Train Blues" (unissued), and "Mind Reader Blues". Patton accompanied her on guitar on these records.

William Smith and his wife recorded four songs for Paramount in 1927 while Eddie Head cut the same number for Columbia in 1930.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Bukka WhiteI Am In The Heavenly WayBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhiteThe Panama LimitedBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhiteSic 'Em Dogs OnBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Freddie SpruellMilk Cow BluesMississippi Blues Vol.2 1926-1935
Freddie SpruellMuddy Water BluesMississippi Blues Vol.2 1926-1935
Freddie Spruell4A HighwayMississippi Blues Vol.2 1926-1935
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordHigh Lonesome HillMississippi - the Blues Lineage
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordTimes Is Getting HardDeep River Of Song - Mississippi: Saints & Sinners
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordFarmin' Man BluesMississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1
Bukka WhiteWhen Can I Change My ClothesBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhitePinebluff ArkansasBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhiteShake 'Em On DownBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordMississippi River BluesMississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordLonesome Highway BluesMississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1
Freddie SpruellTom Cat BluesThe Paramount Masters
Freddie SpruellLow-Down Mississippi Bottom ManThe Paramount Masters
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordPaydayMississippi - the Blues Lineage
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordStagolee Alan Lomax: Blues Songbook
Kid BaileyRowdy BluesMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Kid BaileyMississippi Bottom BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Willie BrownFuture BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Willie BrownM&O BluesBlues Images Vol. 3
Willie BrownMake Me A Pallet On The FloorScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Freddie Spruell Mr. Freddie's Kokomo BluesMississippi Blues Vol.2 1926-1935
Freddie Spruell Let's Go RidingMississippi Blues Vol.2 1926-1935
Bukka WhiteSleepy Man BluesBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhiteParchman Farm BluesBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhiteFixin' To Die BluesBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Willie FordPaydayMississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1
Lucious Curtis & Willie FordStagolee Mississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1
Willie FordSanta Field BluesMississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1
Bukka WhiteAberdeen Mississippi BluesBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Bukka WhiteBukka's Jitterbug SwingBukka White: The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940

Show Notes:

TBukka Whiteoday's show is the third in a series of shows devoted to great early Mississippi blues artists, most little remembered today. Mississippi produced some of the most powerful blues singers and guitarists of the 1920's and 1930's although one could say that the intense interest in Mississippi has taken the spotlight away from other regions that have equally notable blues traditions. In the past I've devoted shows to Charlie Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson but I realized that there was still several major figures I hadn't featured in depth like Bukka White, Skip James, Sam Collins and Mississippi John Hurt. I'll be spotlighting these artists alongside several fine lesser known Mississippi artists. At a later date I'll be spotlighting the rediscovery records by some of these artists. Today's shows spans the years 1926 through 1941 featuring records by Bukka White, Freddie Spruell, Lucious Curtis and partner Willie Ford, Willie Brown and Kid Bailey.

Along with Son House and Skip James, Bukka White was one of the major Mississippi bluesmen to be re-discovered during the great blues revival of the 1960’s. His early recordings made between 1930 and 1940 are among the most creative and powerful blues ever recorded. As Keith Briggs wrote in the notes to Document's Bukka White: Aberdeen Mississippi Blues: "Booker’s unique sound was a combination of solid, rocking, rhythms interspersed with vigorous guitar breaks, his ability as a bottleneck slide guitarist and his gritty, heavy voice. He favored the steel bodied National guitar as it’s volume allowed him to be audible over the noise of a good-time crowd. His songs were almost always personal and are among the most creative and descriptive to found on blues records."

White said he was born about five miles south of Houston, Mississippi. Various documents list his birth date between 1900 and 1909, but census data suggests 1904. His father John White, a multi-instrumentalist who performed at local gatherings, gave him his first guitar and other local musicians taught him his signature bottleneck slide technique. Recording agent Ralph Lembo of Itta Bena arranged for White to record his first blues and gospel songs in 1930 in Memphis. Victor only saw fit to release four of the 14 songs Bukka White recorded that day. It is very likely that it is Memphis Minnie, listed as “Miss Minnie”, who lends her voice to two of the Victor titles. Low-Down Mississippi Bottom Man

In 1937 White recorded a minor hit, “Shake ‘Em On Down,” in Chicago, but that year he was also sentenced for a shooting incident to Parchman Penitentiary, where John Lomax of the Library of Congress recorded him. It was as "Washington Barrelhouse White" that White recorded two numbers for John and Alan Lomax at Parchman Farm in 1939. After his release White recorded twelve of his best-known songs at a Chicago session in 1940. Among the songs he recorded on that occasion were "Parchman Farm Blues", "Good Gin Blues," "Bukka's Jitterbug Swing," "Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues," and "Fixin' to Die Blues," all classic numbers.

During the war White settled in Memphis and worked at a defense plant. Bob Dylan recorded "Fixin' to Die Blues" on his 1961 debut Columbia album, and at the time no one in the music business knew who Bukka White was. Two California-based blues enthusiasts, John Fahey and Ed Denson in 1963 addressed a letter to "Bukka White (Old Blues Singer), c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, Mississippi." By chance, one of White's relatives was working in the Post Office in Aberdeen, and forwarded the letter to White in Memphis. Things moved quickly from there and  by the end of 1963 Bukka White was already recording on contract with Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie. After he began to tour and record again in the 1960's White, still a skilled and energetic performer, became a popular figure on the folk music circuit and traveled as far as Mexico and Europe. He passed in 1977.

Freddie Spruell recorded ten tracks for OKeh, Paramount, and Bluebird between 1926 and 1935. Spreull could well be considered the first Delta blues performer to record when he cut "Milk Cow Blues" in Chicago on June 25, 1926. He recorded two more sides in 1928, including "Tom Cat Blues," and five tracks (under the name Mr. Freddie) on April 12, 1935, a session that yielded perhaps his best song, the rag-inspired "Let's Go Riding," which featured second guitar from Carl Martin. Spruell also backs Washboard Sam on "Ocean Blues b/w Y.M.V. Blues", Sam's d 1935 debut recording for Bluebird. The only known copy of this record recently turned up. Spreull's Social Security file indicates he was born on December 28, 1893, and although he is generally considered a Mississippi bluesman, it appears he moved to Chicago with his parents as a small boy, and his ties to the Delta are more stylistic than geographical.

M&O Blues

Little is known for certain of the man whom Robert Johnson called "my friend-boy, Willie Brown" ("Cross Road Blues"). Brown is heard with Patton on the Paramount sessions of 1930 and cut "M & O Blues and" and "Future Blues" at that date. Brown's "Kickin' In My Sleep Blues" b/w "Window Blues" (Paramount 13001) and "Grandma Blues" b/w "Sorry Blues" (Paramount 13099) have yet to surface. As Dan Beaumont wrote in  Preachin' the Blues:  The Life and Times of Son House: "“M&O Blues” and “Future Blues,” are based respectively on Patton’s “Pony Blues” and “Maggie,” and show Patton’s enduring influence on Brown, which, by and by, would be another channel for Patton’s influence on House." In 1941 Alan Lomax recorded Brown with Son House, Fiddlin' Joe Martin and Leroy Williams. Brown played second guitar on three performances by the whole band, and recorded one solo, "Make Me A Pallet On The Floor." Brown died in Tunica, Mississippi in 1952 at the age of 52.

Nothing is known of Kid Bailey outside of his lone 78 "Mississippi Bottom Blues b/w Rowdy Blues." These were recorded on September 25, 1929 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Research by Dr. David Evans, professor of music at Memphis State University, has concluded that Kid Bailey may have been a pseudonym for Willie Brown. Son House on hearing this recording instantly recognized his partner Willie Brown. Others dispute that Brown and Bailey are the same person. Gayle Dean Wardlow has said that he "found 5 different source who all saw Kid Bailey in person in Mississippi–3 of them on taped interviews including [Ishman] Bracey who saw him across the river from Jackson and talked to him in person." It seems Wardlow changed his view because in The Life And Music Of Charle Patton he and his co-author, Stephen Calt, point out that  no one interviewed in the post-war period ever knew Kid Bailey well enough to know his real name or where he was from. When Gayle Dean Wardlow and Stephen Calt were doing research in Mississippi in the 1960's, these were some of the reactions when Kid Bailey's "Rowdy Blues" was played:

Rowdy BluesMandy Wigham:  "That sounds just like Willie…  Ain't Willie makin' music on there?  I think that's Willie makin' music."

Elizabeth Moore:  "Him (meaning Willie Brown) and Son could both make that introduction on their music…  sounds like that music and that voice – pretty close there if it ain't him (Brown)."

Confusingly Wardlow also had the following memory from Moore: "Elizabeth Moore who lived in Tunica County on a plantation near Robinsonville and knew Willie Brown and Son House and Robert saw Kid and Willie Brown playing together there in a juke in Robinsonville for a few weeks together. Willie told her they had made a record together but she doubted it as she never saw it. Willie only called him "Kid." Brown is the second guitar but sounds like the lead on "Rowdy Blues" but is barely audible on the other side. That's the connection. She made those comments after she listened to the Kid Bailey record. She said that's Willie's music and it sounded like the way he played– "Rowdy Blues". She also saw Willie and Robert together on many occasions playing together. Bailey played mainly from Leland over to Moorhead and was raised up near Leland at the Triplett community just outside Leland on Highway 82. Booker Miller saw him in Moorhead. But he was only called Kid Bailey–probably a childhood nickname."

In October 1940 John Lomax and his wife came to Natchez, Mississippi from Baton Rouge to look for musicians to record. During that trip they recorded Lucious Curtis, Willie Ford and George Bolwdin. Between Curtis and Ford ten songs were recorded. "'Like I foretold you, I ain't much of a player.'" When Lucious Curtis was there, Willie "followed after" him, but he did it skillfully, watching the leader carefully." So reads the first paragraph of John Lomax's notes for the recording session. He wen on to write that "Lucious Curtis is a honky-tonk, guitar picking Negro, living on a precarious income from pick-ups at dance halls. His 'complementer" Willie Ford has a regular job at a big saw mill but had a 'sad-day' off."Curtis claimed to have made commercial records with Bo Carter but this can't be verifed.

Related Reading:

-"…Ramblin' (Blues Revue Quarterly 8, Spring 1993, p14-17) [PDF]

-Death of a Delta giant (Melody Maker of July, 1971)  [PDF]

-Mississippi Bottom Blues (Mamlish S-3802,  notes byDon Kent & Mike Stewart, 1973) [PDF]

-Willie Brown: Fare Thee Well (Bernard Klatzko, 78 Quarterly no. 2, 1968, 47–50.) [PDF]

-Mississippi River Blues: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 1 (Flyright-Matchbox SDM 230, notes by John Cowly, 1973) [PDF]

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Show Notes:

ARTISTSONGALBUM
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Ishman BraceyLeft Alone Blues Ishman Bracey & Charlie Taylor 1928-1929
Ishman BraceyBrown Mama Blues Vintage Mandolin Music
Sam CollinsRiverside BluesJailhouse Blues
Sam CollinsYellow Dog BluesJailhouse Blues
Sam CollinsThe Jail House BluesJailhouse Blues
Otto Virgial Little Girl in RomeAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Otto Virgial Bad Notion Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Willie LoftonPoor Boy BluesBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Willie LoftonIt's Killin' MeBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Willie LoftonDirty MistreaterBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Ishman Bracey Trouble Hearted BluesTrouble Hearted Blues
Ishman Bracey The Four Day BluesJackson Blues: 1928-1938
Sam CollinsDevil In The Lion's DenJailhouse Blues
Sam CollinsPork Chop BluesJailhouse Blues
Sam CollinsHesitation BluesJailhouse Blues
The Mississippi MoanerMississippi MoanMississippi Moaners
The Mississippi MoanerIt's Cold In ChinaAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Rube LaceyMississippi Jail House GroanCountry Blues: The Essential
Rube LaceyHam Hound and GravyChasin That Devil Music
Ishman BraceyLeavin' Town BluesIshman Bracey & Charlie Taylor 1928-1929
Ishman BraceyWoman Woman BluesThe Return Of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Sam CollinsMy Road Is Rough And Rocky (How Long, How Long?)Sam Collins 1927-31
Sam CollinsLonesome Road Blues Before The Blues Vol. 1
Otto VirgialGot The Blues About Rome When the Levee Breaks
Otto VirgialSeven Year Itch Mississippi Blues Vol. 4: Delta Blues Goin' North
Willie LoftonDark Road BluesBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Willie LoftonBeer Garden BluesBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Sam CollinsSlow Mama SlowSam Collins 1927-31
Sam CollinsNew Salty DogJailhouse Blues

Today's show is the first of a series of shows devoted to great early Mississippi blues artists, most little remembered today. Ishman Bracey, Rube Lacey and Willie Lofton hailed from the fertile Jackson, MS region. Little is known of Lofton who cut eight titles in 1934 and 1935. Despite cutting only one 78 Lacey was a well-known blues performer in the Jackson area and the Delta until 1932 hen he put his guitar down and became a preacher. Crying Sam Collins was raised around McComb, Mississippi and recorded relatively extensively between 1927 and 1931. Virtually nothing is know of the obscure Otto Virgial and Isiah Nettles, who went by the moniker The Mississippi Moaner.

Ishman Bracey
 Ishman Bracey

"A rare combination of braggart, entertainer, musician, showman and eventually an ordained minister" is how Gayle Dean Wardlow, who interviewed him many times, chose to describe him in Blues Unlimited (No. 142). By Ishmon Bracey's own account to Dave Evans, he was a fighter too, "mixing it" with Saturday night drunks and the jealous lovers who came after his friend Tommy Johnson. It seems that he had always held strong religious sentiments, and had been a member of the Baptist church as a child in Byram, Mississippi. So his eventual ordination as a preacher, which was a personal relief after his "wicked ways" and life "in the world", was not so surprising.

Ishman Bracey was born in Byram, about ten miles south of Jackson, in January 1899, according to census records. He learned guitar from locals Louis Cooper and Lee Jones and moved to Jackson in the late 1920s after encountering Tommy Johnson. Bracey soon became one of the most popular musicians in the Jackson area’s vital blues scene, which consisted largely of musicians who were likewise born in small communities in the area. Jackson blues in the 1920s had a lighter feel than its counterpart in the Delta and sometimes featured the mandolin and the fiddle. Bracey and other musicians often played at dances for both black and white audiences, performing waltzes and ragtime numbers, and otherwise serenaded passersby on the busy streets of Jackson. Bracey’s music came to broader attention after he auditioned for recording agent H. C. Speir, who operated a furniture store on North Farish Street. Speir arranged for Bracey and Tommy Johnson to make their debut recordings at a session for Victor in Memphis in February of 1928. At that session and another for Victor later that year, Bracey was accompanied on guitar and mandolin by Charlie McCoy.

Crying Sam Collins Ad
Black Patti advertisement in the Chicago Defender July 2, 1927

Bracey recorded in more of a jazz mode in late 1929 and early 1930 for the Paramount label in Grafton, Wisconsin, backed by the New Orleans Nehi Boys (Charlie Taylor on piano and “Kid” Ernest Moliere on clarinet, an instrument rarely heard on Mississippi blues recordings). By the mid-‘30s many of the musicians in Bracey’s circle had left the area, and his musical partnership with Tommy Johnson ended. In later city directories he is listed as a laborer or painter. In 1963, when blues researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow met and interviewed him in Jackson, Bracey had been a Baptist minister for over a decade, and, although he would no longer play blues, he provided important information on the early blues scene in Jackson. He died on Feb. 12, 1970.

When Sam Collins made his recording debut in April, 1927, he was not far short of his fortieth birthday; born in Louisiana in August, 1887, he was raised, according to acquaintances located by Gayle Dean Wardlow, in McComb, Mississippi, just over the border from his native state. lt's not known when he started out in music, but by 1924 he was performing in local barrelhouses at weekends. By this time he had formed a loose and partnership with Joe Holmes from Sibley, La., who recorded for Paramount in 1932 as King Solomon Hill. Collins made his debut in 1972 cutting fives, four issued on the Black Patti label who advertised them as by "Crying Sam Collins and his Git·Fiddle." It seems likely that Collins Iearned his repertoire around the turn of the century, when he was,in his Iate teens and early twenties, for it incorporates a wide spectrum of music from that era and earlier. He cut  close to two-dozen issue sides between 1927-1931 for Black Patti, Gennett, Banner and ARC. Collins left behind a large number of unreleased sides. It's reported that Collins moved to Chicago where he died in 1949.

Rubin Lacy was one of the most talented and influential artists in Mississippi blues during his short career. He was a well-known blues performer in the Jackson area and the Delta until 1932, when he put his guitar down and became a preacher. Lacy played in an elite circle that included Son Spand, Ishmon Bracey, Tommy Johnson, Charlie McCoy, and Walter Vinson. He later moved to the Delta, where he formed his own group, performed with Charley Patton, and inspired artists including Son House, Tommy McClennan, and Honeyboy Edwards. Lacy made four recordings for Columbia Records at a session in Memphis in December 1927, but none were released. The following March he traveled to Chicago, where he recorded two songs for the Paramount label, “Mississippi Jail House Groan” and “Ham Hound Crave." In 1966 blues scholar David Evans located Lacy in Ridgecrest, California, and recorded him preaching and performing gospel songs together with members of his congregation. Lacy died in 1969.

Willie Lofton is a virtual biographical black hole who made four records in the fifteen months between August 1934 and November  1935.It seems he came from Jackson, Miss., where he worked as a barber before journeying to Chicago. He returned south in  1942 and died in Jackson twenty years later.

Big Joe Williams once recalled that Otto Virgil (or Virgial) was from the area of Columbus, MS., and could usually be found playing with another native by the name of Tom Turner. Virgial had a community in Sunflower County on Halloween Day of 1935 on his mind when he recorded four songs that also included "Got The Blues About Rome". He was probably living in Chicago at the time of his one and only session.

Mississippi Jail House Groan

The Mississippi Moaner was the name used by Isaiah Nettles when he recorded five sides for Vocalion Records in Jackson, MS, on October 20, 1935. Only one 78 from the session was ever officially released, "Mississippi Moan" b/w "It's Cold in China Blues" (a version of Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Long Lonesome Blues"). A credible singer and a fine guitar player, Nettles lived in Carlisle, MS (in Claiborne County), as late as 1936, but his trail vanishes after that date.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Hersal ThomasHersal BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Sippie WallaceMurder's Gonna be My CrimeThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Hociel ThomasWorried Down With The BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
George Thomas Fast Stuff BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Moanin' Bernice EdwardsLong Tall Mama The Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Bernice Edwards, Black Boy Shine & Howling SmithHot Mattress Stomp The Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Bert Mays Michigan River Blues Down In Black Bottom
Bert Mays You Can't Come In Down In Black Bottom
Fred Adams & Bilikin Johnson Frisco BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Texas Bill Day & Bilikin JohnsonElm Street Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Texas Bill Day Good Morning Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerTP Window Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerThieving Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerThe Katy Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerPenitentiaryI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Ida May MackElm Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Ida May MackGoodbye Rider Barrelhouse Mamas
Whistlin Moore AlexHeart Wrecked Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexBlue Bloomer Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexIce Pick Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Black Ivory KingThe Flying CrowBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Duskey DaileyThe Flying CrowThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Frank TannehillRolling Stone BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Black Boy Shine Dog House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Ice Pick And Pistol Woman BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Brown House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Joe PullumCows, See That Train Comin'Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumMcKinney Street StompJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Rob Cooper West Dallas DragThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumDixie My HomeJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935

Show Notes:

Back when I started this show in 2007 one of the first programs I did was one devoted to the pre-war Texas piano tradition. My interest in this was sparked again recently when I was doing research and writing the notes for a reissue of pianist Buster Pickens long out-of-print album for the Document label (just reissued  as Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions).  Pickens was an active member of the  'Santa Fe group' of pianists, knew all players but unlike some of them did not get the opportunity to record until the post-war era. In our two-part feature on Texas piano I'll be spotlighting the tradition in more depth that I did the first time out, surveying both  pre-war and post-war artists.

Hersal Thomas
Hersal Thomas

The Texas piano tradition flowered in the 1920’s and was at its peak during the 1930’s when a number of the tradition’s best players were recorded. Paul Oliver observed that “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues” and “a cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas." The pianists can be roughly grouped into schools; there was the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928, one based around Dallas which included Whistlin Alex Moore, a regional style that developed around Shreveport and the so-called 'Santa Fe group' who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Today’s show is part one of a two-part feature, spotlighting recordings made between 1925 and 1941.

As piano expert Francis Smith noted: “With the two major recording centers of New York and Chicago a thousand miles to the North, it was extremely fortunate that so many pianists of this important close knit Texas group were recorded—all three record companies of the time being involved.” The three companies were Columbia, Victor and Vocalion in addition to Bluebird and Okeh. These companies, either singularly or in various combinations, made field trips to Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio between 1927 and 1941.

The early Texas piano tradition was based around the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928. The music sounds quite different from those who recorded in the 30's. As David Evans states: “It is likely that no family has contributed more personalities to blues history than the Thomas family of Houston, Texas, whose famous members included George W. Thomas, his sister Beulah “Sippie” Wallace, their brother Hersal Thomas, George’s daughter Hociel Thomas, and Moanin’ Bernice Edwards who was raised up in the family.”

Hersal, is described by Francis Smith: "That Hersal, the child prodigy, was a highly influential pianist among his peers there is no doubt; even though he left Houston in his very early 'teens he had established a reputation there which remains still in the folk memory."Hersal was busy between 1925 & 1926 cutting a dozen titles with Hociel, fifteen with Sippie and backing singers Lillian Mller and Sodarisa Miller. Hersal died tragically at the age of 16 in 1926 of food poisoning.

Hersal's older brother George also left behind a slim legacy; a few jazz titles with his Muscle Shoals Devils, some sides backing singer Tiny Franklin, a recording of "The Rocks" made in 1922 under the name Clay Custer and the coupling ""Don't Kill Him In Here" from 1929 and our selection “Fast Stuff Blues."

Moanin' Bernice Edwards possessed a beautiful, deep, lowdown voice and piano style  that fell within the Santa Fe school of pianists. Edwards waxed twelve sides for Paramount in 1928 and six more for Vocalion in 1935.

Whistlin  Alex Moore: West Texas WomanDallas was the home of a number of distinctive piano players and singers they accompanied. Among them were Texas Bill Day, Neal Roberts, Willie Tyson, Whistlin' Alex Moore and singer Billiken Johnson. The hub of the black community was an area known as Central Tracks, where honky-tonks 'saloons, beer-parlours and brothels were wedged between warehouses, furniture stores and places of entertainment like Ella B. Moore's Park Theatre, or Hattie Burleson's dance hall. In addition many railroads whose names are familiar to blues collectors had termini there. It's not surprising that the railroad figure prominently in the blues of Dallas.

Not much is known about several of the Dallas pianists. Pianist/singer Texas Bill Day cut six sides for Columbia. Tyson cut two solo piano numbers for Columbia in 1927 which went unissued. The next day he backed singer Hattie Hudson on “Black Hand Blues” and the classic “Doggone My Good Luck Soul.” Tyson also backed Gertrude Perkins, Bilikin Johnson and Lillian Glinn. Jack Ranger cut three songs for Okeh in Dallas in 1929. it's unknown if he accompanies himself on piano but he was a sensitive singer and songwriter.

Pianist K.D. Johnson became famous backing the outstanding Texas singers Bessie Tucker and Ida May Mack. Johnson backs them on their legendary session for Victor on August 29th and 30th 1928 in Memphis. He was remembered as '49' by Alex Moore and not only did Mack call him 'Mr. 49' during his solos, she even named a song after him called "Mr. Forty-Nine Blues."

The most famous of the Dallas pianists was Alex Moore. Of Moore, Paul Oliver wrote: "He is a true original, a folk blues singer of the city who can sit at the piano improvise endlessly piano themes and blues verses that are sometimes startling, sometimes comic, sometimes grim, and very often pure poetry." Moore began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions for Columbia Records and also accompanied several artists on record. Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca.

Around Shreveport another regional style flourished. Among the pianists who recorded from this region were Dave Alexander who recorded as Black Ivory King and Duskey Dailey. Both recorded in 1937 with Dailey cutting an additional session in 1939. Both men cut version of a regional railroad number called “The Flying Crow.”

Two pianists who fall outside the Texas piano schools are Bert Mays and Frank Tannehill. Mays recorded four titles for Paramount in Chicago in 1927. He cut a final ten sides in 1928 and 1929 for Vocalion although only two were released. Tannehill was born in Austin and made his debut backing Perry Dickson in 1932. Under his own name he recorded for Vocalion in Chicago in 1937, in 1938 for Bluebird in San Antonio and a final session in Dallas in 1941.

Joe Pullum: Dixie Is My HomeIn part two of our feature we'll be going more in depth into the recordings of the Santa Fe group but we do feature a number of songs today by men associated with that group. ARC Records made field recordings in 1936 in San Antonio where they recorded Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine. He was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937.

Among the best of the Santa Fe group were Andy Boy of Galveston and Rob Cooper of Houston. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. He waxed eight sides in 1937 under his own name as well as backing singer Joe Pullum on eleven sides in 1935 and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington.

Rob Cooper was an accomplished pianist with strong links to ragtime and stride piano. He also recorded behind the popular singer Joe Pullum on three sessions in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He recorded two version of “West Dallas Drag”, his version of the seminal, technically complex Santa Fe number “The Ma Grinder.”

 

 

 

 

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