Sun 19 May 2013
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Evil Woman Blues||Juke Joint Saturday Night|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Keep A-Knockin' an You Can't Get In||Piano Blues: The Essential|
|Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed||Gang Of Brown Skin Women||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed||Hey! Lawdy Mama – The France Blues||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed||Two Little Tommies Blues||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Wesley Wallace||Fanny Lee Blues||Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis|
|Wesley Wallace||No. 29||Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis|
|Willie Harris||West Side Blues||Down In Black Bottom|
|Willie Harris||What Makes A Tomcat Blue?||Uptown Blues: A Decade Of Guitar -Piano Duets|
|Joe Dean||Mexico Blues||Down In Black Bottom|
|Joe Dean||I'm So Glad I'm 21 Years Old Today||Shake Your Wicked Knees|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||My Lovin' Blues||Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Weary-Heart Blues||Broke, Black And Blue|
|Charlie Pickett||Crazy 'bout My Black Gal||Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941|
|Charlie Pickett||Trembling Blues||Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941|
|Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed||Don't You Leave Me Here||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed||Mama You Don't Know How||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed||Original Stack O'Lee Blues||Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice|
|Tom Dickson||Labor Blues||Blues Images Vol. 8|
|Tom Dickson||Death Bell Blues||Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-34|
|Willie Harris||Lonesome Midnight Dream||A Richer Tradition|
|Willie Harris||Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door||A Richer Tradition|
|Margaret Thornton||Texas Bound Blues||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|Margaret Thornton||Jockey Blues||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Frisco Bound Blues||Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Forty-Four Blues||Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930|
|Charlie Pickett||Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon||Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941|
|Charlie Pickett||Down The Highway||Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Corinne, Corinna||Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930|
|James 'Boodle It' Wiggins||Gotta Shave 'Em Dry||Juke Joint Saturday Night|
|Bob Call||31 Blues||Down In Black Bottom|
|Tom Dickson||Happy Blues||Country Blues: The Essential|
|Tom Dickson||Worry Blues||The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 3|
|Jim Thompkins||Bedside Blues||A Richer Tradition|
Today's program spotlights several outstanding blues artists who recorded very little and who we know very little about. All the artists featured today recorded from one to eight titles and all left behind barley a trace of biographical information. We hear several fine pianists including Joe Dean, Wesley Wallace as well as Bob Call, Blind Leroy Garnett and Charlie Spand who back big voiced singer James Wiggins, In addition we spin the recorded output of guitarists Willie Harris, Charlie Pickett, Tom Dickson, Jim Thompkins plus all the sides by The Down Home Boys (Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed) and singer Margaret Thornton.
Virtually nothing is known about singer James 'Boodle It' Wiggins who cut eight sides at three sessions for the Paramount label between 1928 and 1929. Paramount placed two ads in the Chicago Defender on November 30, 1928 (Keep A-Knockin' An You Can't Get In b/w Evil Woman Blues) and January 25, 1930 ("Weary Heart Blues b/w My Lovin' Blues"). There were also two sessions on Nov. 13 and 14th 1928 that resulted in six unissued sides. Wiggins is believed to have been located in Dallas by Paramount scout R.L. Ashford who ran a music store and shoe shine parlor there. Big Bill Broonzy told Paul Oliver that Wiggins came from Louisiana. Broonzy related the following story to Oliver which appears in Screening The Blues: "Upon a return trip back home to Bogalusa in 1929, a white woman took offense when he failed to step aside for her on a public street. A local mob lynched him immediately and also shot him four times. Wiggins was a man of great strength and was actually still alive when his rope was cut down from the tree. While he survived the ordeal, he never sang about the incident."
At his first session Wiggins cut "Keep A-Knockin' An You Can't Get In" which gives our show it's title and has an interesting history. In his autobiography Born With The Blues Perry Bradford claims to be composer of the song but the first recorded version would seem to be that by Wiggins. In November 1928 Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band cut "You Can't Come In," which singer-pianist Bert Mays had cut for Vocalion a month earlier and which evolved into Little Richard's 1957's rock 'n' roll classic "Keep A Knockin." Singer and kazoo player James "Boodle It" Wiggins had recorded essentially the same song with pianist Bob Call for Paramount in February under the title "Keep A Knockin' An You Can't Get In" but with a somewhat different melody. Clarence Williams recorded a similar but slower song, "I'm Busy and You Can't Come In," twice in September 1928, first with Eva Taylor singing and then as an instrumental. Sylvester Weaver had recorded a solo guitar piece titled "I'm Busy And You Can't Come In" in 1924, but it bears little resemblance to the tune Williams played. Bert May's record seems to have been the first to marry the melody of "Bucket's Got A Hole In It" to the lyrics of "You Can't Come In" (the same melody is also used for "Midnight Special"). Accompanying himself on slide guitar, Kokomo Arnold recorded "Busy Bootin'" his adaptation of Wiggins's "Keep A Knockin' An You Can't Get In"in April 1935, with Black Bob Hudson on piano and Big Bill Broonzy on guitar. Hudson's introduction is based on the one Bob Call used with Wiggins, but on the second verse, Johnson sings "Kinda busy and you can't come in," indicating a familiarity with Eva Taylor’s song, which Alura Mack had covered in 1929.
Writer Mike Rowe wrote: "ln a pioneering article (read full article below) in Blues Unlimited magazine (A Handful of Keys: Boodle It One Time?) Bob Hall and Richard Noblett analyzed Wiggins' recordings and cast doubts on the accepted identifications of the pianists. They accept Leroy Garnett's presence on 'My Lovin" and 'Weary Heart' but doubt he plays on 'Forty Four Blues.' Similarly they agree Bob Call as pianist on 'Evil Woman' but not necessarily 'Keep A-Knockin'.' For Wiggins's last coupling 'Corinne Corinna' and 'Gotta Shave 'Em Dry' Charlie Spand had been suggested but no firm conclusions were drawn. Bob Call, identified on two unissued Wiggins sessions, raises other questions; can the pianist of '31 Blues' be the same Bob Call after a gap of eighteen years crops up as a band pianist on records by Arbee Stidham, Big Bill, Jazz Gillum, Robert Nighthawk and who under his own name made a couple of jump blues? It would seem so. Call was known to have gone to school to learn to read music, presumably to expand his musical potential, and moreover the age seems right; his photograph from 1958 shows a man well into his fifties. Bob Call was shrewd enough to realize a change in style was necessary – those that wouldn't change retired or disappeared, and left as few traces as when they arrived."
In March/April 1927, the Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana, made its first, of several, field trips to Chicago. The hundred-odd sides seem to have been made primarily for issue on J. Mayo Williams' short-lived Black Patti label. Many also appeared on Gennett and other labels, usually under pseudonyms. Among the sides recorded were some by Papa Harvey Hull and Long 'Cleve' Reed and the Down Home Boys also known as 'Sunny Boy And His Pals, a Gennet pseudonym. It's unclear where the group was from. It's been suggested that they were natives of northern Mississippi, a region that is as musically different from the Delta as it is geographically.Writer Chris Smith surmised the group might be from South Memphis around Tate and Panola counties where Garfield Akers, Joe Callicott and Frank Stokes developed their two-guitar sound. Their recorded legacy is the epitome of the songster sound, featuring a coon song ("Gang of Brown Skin Women," a retitled version of "I've Got a Gal for Ev'ry Day in the Week"), a bad man ballad ("Original Stack O'Lee Blues") and material that probably dates from circa 1900, including "Don't You Leave Me Here" (an "Alabama Bound" variant), "Mama You Don't Know How," "Hey! Lawdy Mama – The France Blues" and "Two Little Tommies Blues." The last two numbers are noteworthy for the artists' fantastic harmony singing, a characteristic much more prevalent in proto-blues material than in blues. All six of these sides are magnificent, and it's a shame that the Down Home Boys never recorded again after 1927. It's been suggested that Big Boy Cleveland, who recorded for Gennett shortly after Hull and Reed, was actually Long Cleve(land) Reed. A drawing of Papa Harvey Hull and Long 'Cleve' Reed appeared in a Black Patti advertisement published May 21, 1927.
Willie Harris cut five sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930 for Brunswick. One of those sides was unissued. At his May 28th 1929 session he also backed singer Coletha Simpson on “ Lonesome Lonesome Blues.” Harris may also have backed Sonny Boy Nelson, Mississippi Matilda and Robert Hill at a 1936 session for Bluebird. Harris is not the same artist as William Harris who cut fourteen issued sides at four sessions for Gannet in 1927 and 1928 or Blind Willie Harris who cut one 78 in 1928.
Little is known about Charlie Pickett, who was from Brownsville, TN. Sheldon Harris reported that he was Estes cousin. Hammie Nixon had him performing in a group with Estes, Nixon, and others on the streets of Chicago in the 1930's and 1940's. Nixon told Kip Lornell in 1975, "He started preaching in St. Louis, been living in St. Louis for a couple of years. I think he's preaching in Los Angeles now." Of the song "Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon",Nixon said, "I will never forget the first time he started playing that song, how he sung a something like, 'When I got home, another nigger kicking in my stall.' The bossman told him 'don't say that no more!'" He cut four sides for Decca in 1937 backed by Hammie Nixon and Lee Brown. Pickett also played guitar behind Estes on 19 numbers at sessions in 1937 and 1938. He or Estes may have played guitar behind pianist Lee Green at a 1937 session.
Blues pianist Wesley Wallace left behind only one 78, "Fanny Lee Blues" b/w "No. 29," recorded for Paramount in Grafton, WI, in February of 1930. Not much is known about his life, other than the fact that he probably lived just outside of St. Louis, in Alton, MO, and that he may originally have come from Arkansas. Wallace also backed Robert Peeples, Bessie Mae Smith on record and has been suggested as the pianist behind Sylvester Palmer although this has been disputed by Henry Townsend who knew him well. Palmer cut a lone four-song session on November 15, 1929 in Chicago for Columbia. He traveled to the Windy City with Henry Townsend: "Sylvester and I went to Chicago to record for Columbia. Sylvester Palmer had his own particular style on piano, and it was a very strange style. The one number that I think sold better was 'Do It Sloppy' I haven't heard anyone come close to playing that particular style; it has a ring more towards Cow Cow Davenport than anyone I know." …I've heard it said that the piano player Wesley Wallace and Sylvester Palmer were one and the same person. Forget it – it's not true. At Sylvester's session I was sitting I was sitting right in the studio with him, and at my session he was right in the studio with me, and there was no other person involved." As for Wallace, Townsend had the following to say: "Wesley Wallace had beautiful coordination with what he was doing, very timely. The introduction he plays to "Fanny Lee Blues" was a typical sound of this city, that beat. "
Joe Dean recorded one great 78 in 1930: “I'm So Glad I'm Twenty-One Years Old Today b/w Mexico Bound Blues" for Paramount, who dubbed him ‘‘Joe Dean from Bowling Green.’’ Dean was born in St. Louis on April 25, 1908. Raised by his widowed mother, Dean began by playing house parties and small clubs. Dean worked in a steel mill, playing intermittently, until the 1950's. He remained musically active on a part-time basis into the 1960's. He eventually became the Rev. Joe Dean and died on June 24 1981. He was interviewed by Mike Rowe for Blues Unlimited magazine in 1977 (Blues Unlimited no. 127 Nov/Dec 1977, p. 4-9.).
Tom Dickson cut six sides in Memphis in 1928 for the Okeh label. Nothing is known of him except that Joe Callicott said that he played in the Memphis area.
Margaret Thornton cut one lone record for the short-lived Black Patti label in 1927, "Texas Bound Blues b/w Jockey Blues." Thornton was a wonderful singer backed by the fine barrelhouse playing of the equally obscure Blind James Beck.
Jim Thompkins (credited in the Brunswick ledger as Peg Leg Jim Thompkins) cut two songs, “Bedside Blues” and “Down Fall Blues”, the latter never issued. When issued on 78 the flipside of “Bedside Blues” was "We Got To Get That Thing Fixed" by Speckled Red.
-A Handful of Keys: Boodle It One Time? (Blues Unlimited no. 114, Jul/Aug 1975, p. 14–15) [PDF]
-A Handful of Keys: Boodle It One Time? (Blues Unlimited no. 114, Jul/Aug 1975, p. 14–15) [PDF]