1920′s Blues


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
James 'Boodle It' WigginsEvil Woman BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
James 'Boodle It' WigginsKeep A-Knockin' an You Can't Get In Piano Blues: The Essential
Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve ReedGang Of Brown Skin Women Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve ReedHey! Lawdy Mama – The France Blues Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve ReedTwo Little Tommies Blues Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Wesley WallaceFanny Lee Blues Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Wesley WallaceNo. 29 Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Willie HarrisWest Side BluesDown In Black Bottom
Willie HarrisWhat 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 BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Charlie PickettCrazy 'bout My Black GalSon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Charlie PickettTrembling Blues Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve ReedDon't You Leave Me Here Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve ReedMama You Don't Know How Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve ReedOriginal Stack O'Lee Blues Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Tom DicksonLabor Blues Blues Images Vol. 8
Tom DicksonDeath Bell BluesMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-34
Willie HarrisLonesome Midnight DreamA Richer Tradition
Willie HarrisNever Drive a Stranger from Your DoorA Richer Tradition
Margaret ThorntonTexas Bound BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Margaret ThorntonJockey BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
James 'Boodle It' WigginsFrisco Bound Blues Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930
James 'Boodle It' WigginsForty-Four BluesBoogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930
Charlie Pickett Let Me Squeeze Your LemonSon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Charlie Pickett Down The HighwaySon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
James 'Boodle It' WigginsCorinne, CorinnaBoogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930
James 'Boodle It' WigginsGotta Shave 'Em DryJuke Joint Saturday Night
Bob Call31 BluesDown In Black Bottom
Tom Dickson Happy Blues Country Blues: The Essential
Tom Dickson Worry Blues The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 3
Jim ThompkinsBedside BluesA Richer Tradition

Show Notes:

James "Boodle It" Wiggins: Keep A-Knockin' An You Can't Get In

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."Willie Harris: West Side Blues 78

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.

Black Patti Ad

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]

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Mary Johnson w/ Tampa RedDeath Cell Blues Twenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
James Stump Johnson w/ Tampa RedJones Law BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 - Brunswick 1928-30
Texas Alexander w/ Lonnie JohnsonLong Lonesome DayTexas Alexander Vol. 1
Mooch Richardson w/ Lonnie JohnsonHelena BluesA Richer Tradition: Country Blues and String Band Music 1923-1942
Peetie Wheatstraw w/ Lonnie JohnsonTruckin' Thru TrafficPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 5
Lil Green w/ Big Bill BroonzyJust Rockin'Lil Green -1940-1941
Charlie Spand w/ Big Bill Broonzy Rock And RyeRoots N' Blues: Booze & The Blues
Cripple Clarence Lofton w/ Big Bill BroonzyBrownskin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9: Lofton/Noble 1935-1936
Bumble Bee Slim w/ Casey Bill WeldonThis Old Life I'm Living Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936
Memphis Minnie w/ Casey Bill WeldonWhen The Sun Goes DownFour Woman Blues
Leroy Henderson w/ Casey Bill WeldonGood Scuffler BluesCharley Jordan Vol.3 1935-1937
Dorothy Baker w/ Roosevelt SykesSteady Grinding BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Teddy Darby w/ Roosevelt Sykes The Girl I Left BehindBlind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Napoleon Fletcher w/ Roosevelt Sykes – She Showed It AllGrass Cutter BluesShe Showed It AllRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Alice Moore w/ Kokomo ArnoldGrass Cutter BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Roosevelt Sykes w/ Kokomo ArnoldThe Honey DripperRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 4 1934-1936
Peetie Wheatstraw w/ Kokomo ArnoldWorking On The Project Broadcasting the Blues
Robert Lee McCoy w/ Sonny Boy Williamson ITough LuckProwling With The Nighthawk
Yank Rachel w/ Sonny Boy Williamson II'm Wild And Crazy As Can Be Yank Rachell Vol. 1 1934-1941
Ma Rainey w/ Tampa RedBlack Eye BluesMother of the Blues
Victoria Spivey w/ Tampa RedDon't Trust Nobody Blues Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Bessie Mae Smith w/ Lonnie JohnsonMy Daddy's Coffin Blues St. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 1 1927-1929
Victoria Spivey w/ Lonnie JohnsonDope Head BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Georgia White w/ Lonnie Johnson Alley BoogieGeorgia White Vol. 3 1937-1939
Mary Johnson w/ Roosevelt SykesRattlesnake BluesMary Johnson 1929-1936
Charlie McFadden w/ Roosevelt SykesGambler's BluesCharlie ''Specks'' McFadden 1929-1937
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill BroonzyLife Is Just A BookWashboard Sam Vol. 6 1941-1942
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill BroonzyMy Feet Jumped SaltyRockin' My Blues Away
Big Joe Williams w/ Sonny Boy Williamson IPlease Don't Go Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-1941
Speckled Red w/ Sonny Boy Williamson IYou Got To Fix ItSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Papa Charlie JacksonAt The Break of DayAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
Lucille Bogan w/ Papa Charlie JacksonJim Tampa BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929
Big Boy Teddy Edwards w/ Papa Charlie Jackson & Big Bill BroonzyLouise Big Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill Broonzy & Roosevelt SykesRiver Hip MamaRockin' My Blues Away

Show Notes:

Tampa Red
Tampa Red

A few months back I did a show called “Sideman Blues” where we shined the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. On today's sequel to that show we focus on some of the stars of the pre-war blues era who were also active session artists. Artists featured today include some of the era's big names such as Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes, Kokomo Arnold, Sonny Boy Williamson I and others who were also very active backing others on record. Bluesmen such as Big Bill, Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson and Roosevelt Sykes in particular, backed dozens of artists, both well known and obscure on record. Many of these artists also acted in the role as talent scouts for the labels.

During his heyday in the 1920's and 30's, Tampa Red was billed as "The Guitar Wizard," and his stunning slide work on steel National or electric guitar shows why he earned the title. His 25 year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions "Anna Lou Blues," "Black Angel Blues," "Crying Won't Help You," "It Hurts Me Too," and "Love Her with a Feeling"). Jim O'Neal neatly summed up Tampa's place in blues history when he wrote the following in 1975: "Few figures have been as important in blues history as Tampa Red; yet no bluesman of such stature has been so ignored by today's blues audience. As a composer, recording artist, musical trendsetter and one of the premier urban blues guitarists of his day, Tampa Red remained popular with black record buyers for more than 20 years and exerted considerable influence on many post-World War II blues stars who earned greater acclaim for playing Tampa's songs than Tampa himself often did."

Tampa was a very busy session guitarist mainly in the early years of his career, circa 1928-1929. Among those he backed include Big Maceo, Lucille Bogan, Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Lil Johnson, Frankie Jaxon, Victoria Spivey, Romeo Nelson, Ma Rainey, Mary Johnson and many others. Tampa's work behind underrated singer Mary Johnson has always been among my favorites. Johnson cut six sides at two sessions in 1930. The April 8, 1930 was outstanding do in large part to the shimmering slide guitar of Tampa and the excellent piano of the under recorded Judson Brown. The two work beautifully behind Johnson on the mournful "Three Months Ago Blues" with Tampa shinning on "Dawn Of Day Blues" and the magnificent "Death Cell Blues."

Lonnie Johnson was a true musical innovator who's remarkable recording career spanned from the 1920's through the 1960's. During that time his musical diversity was amazing: he played piano, guitar, violin, he recorded solo, he accompanied down home country blues singers like Texas Alexander, he played with Louis Armtrong's Hot Fives, recorded with Duke Ellington, duetted with Victoria Spivey and cut a series of instrumental duets with the white jazzman Eddie Lang that set a standard of musicianship that remains unsurpassed by blues guitarists. In Johnson's single-string style lie the basic precedents of such jazz greats as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, while being a prime influence on bluesman as diverse as Robert Johnson, Tampa Red and B.B. King. Thus Johnson enjoys the rare distinction of having influenced musicians in both the jazz and blues fields. Like Tampa, Johnson backed dozens of artists on record including Texas Alexander, Jimmie Gordon, Merline Johnson, Alice Moore, Victoria Spivey, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and a host of others.

Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy

As Bob Riesman wrote in his biography of Big Bill Broonzy: "…Bill's recording career took off in this era, and his prodigious output was nearly unmatched among blues musicians. From 1934 until 1942, when the combination of a musicians’ union ban and the diversion of shellac to the war effort halted virtually all recording for two years, Bill averaged better than thirteen double-sided 78 rpm records each year as a featured artist. In addition, he played on an average of forty-eight sides each year as a sideman. In other words, for nearly a decade, he averaged one new Big Bill record a month, and he appeared on two more as a studio guitarist. …As 'Big Bill,' he was one of the most productive and popular artists in the business, with a name that was familiar to his audiences and reinforced by his easily recognized singing style. At the same time, he became the first-call studio guitarist for dozens of recording sessions that Lester Melrose organized for several record companies, particularly Bluebird. In that capacity, he was an integral part of the distinctive sound of numerous musicians, including some of the most popular artists of the era. Two artists whose careers were interwoven with Bill’s were Washboard Sam and Jazz Gillum. Bill played guitar on a most every one of the more than 150 recordings that Sam made over a period of twenty years, as well as on many of the sides that Gillum recorded."

Broonzy's 40's work with Washboard Sam really hit a high point with Big Bill laying down some lengthy, swinging amplified guitar on featured tracks like "Life Is Just A Book", "My Feet Jumped Salty" and "River Hip Mama." Washboard Sam recorded hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill. In 1932, Sam moved to Chicago, initially he played for tips, but soon he began performing regularly with Broonzy. Within a few years, Sam was supporting Broonzy on the guitarist's Bluebird recordings. Soon, he was supporting a number of different musicians on their recording sessions, including pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Ransom Knowling, and a handful of saxophone players, who all recorded for Bluebird. In 1935, Sam began recording for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs.

Broonzy was also prominent on the recordings of Lil Green who's "Just Rockin'" we feature today. Her professional career was launched around 1940, when the manager of a Chicago club hired her on the spot after a group of her friends had arranged for a bandleader to call her up from the audience to sing.By May 1940 Green had come to the attention of Lester Melrose, who brought her into the studio to record on the Bluebird label. He assigned a trio of musicians to back her, including Big Bill, Simeon Henry on piano, and New Orleans veteran Ransom Knowling on bass. That session produced her first hit, "Romance in the Dark." As Broonzy noted in his autobiography: "I played for Lil Green for two years as her guitar player. I wrote some songs for her, like "My Mellow Man" and "Country Boy," "Give Your Mama One More Smile" and some more that I fixed up for her.

Roosevelt Sykes
Roosevelt Sykes

In 1929 Roosevelt Sykes met Jesse Johnson, the owner of the Deluxe Record Shop in St. Louis. Sykes, who at the time performed at an East St. Louis club for one dollar a night, quickly accepted Johnson's invitation to a recording session in New York. In the early 1930s, Sykes moved to Chicago. During the Depression years, he recorded for several labels under various pseudonyms. For the Victor label, he recorded as Willie Kelly on the classic 1930 side "32-20 Blues." Two years later, he cut his popular number "Highway 61 Blues" for Champion, the subsidiary label of Gennett Records. During the 1930's, Sykes served as a back-up pianist for more than thirty singers including Mary Johnson and James "St. Louis Jimmy" Oden. Through the recruiting efforts of Mayo "Ink" Williams, Sykes signed with Decca Records in 1934. His 1936 Decca side "Driving Wheel Blues" emerged as a blues classic. Sykes settled in Chicago in 1941 and, within a short time, became a house musician for the Victor/Bluebird label. Although the label marketed him as the successor to Fats Waller, who recorded on the same label and died in 1943, Sykes found success as the creator of his own style and remained active as a session man.

Sonny Boy Williamson was already a harp virtuoso in his teens. He learned from Hammie Nixon and Noah Lewis and ran with Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell before settling in Chicago in 1934. Sonny Boy signed to Bluebird in 1937. Henry Townsend recalled driving Sonny Boy, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Davis and Big Joe Williams to Aurora, Illinois, in his 1930 A Model Ford for their 1937 sessions: "I transferred them to Aurora, Illinois. There was about eight or nine of us …we stacked them in the car like sardines." This led to a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits. Sonny Boy recorded prolifically for Victor both as a leader and behind others in the vast Melrose stable (including Robert Lee McCoy and Big Joe Williams, who in turn played on some of Williamson's sides). Sonny Boy cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947

Kokomo Arnold was born in Georgia, and began his musical career in Buffalo, New York in the early 1920's. During prohibition, Kokomo Arnold worked primarily as a bootlegger, and performing music was a only sideline to him. Nonetheless he worked out a distinctive style of bottleneck slide guitar and blues singing that set him apart from his contemporaries. In the late 1920's, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation. From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides.Arnold also did session work backing Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosvelt Sykes, Alice Moore, Mary Johnson and others.

Papa Charlie Jackson
Papa Charlie Jackson

"Papa" Charlie Jackson was a six-string banjo player who was one of the earliest and most successful of the solo blues singer/instrumentalists. Jackson settled in Chicago on the famed Maxwell Street around 1920 where he began earning a living by playing on street corners and at house parties. In 1924 he cut his first solo sides "Papa's Lawdy Blues" and "Airy Man Blues" for the Paramount label. During this period Jackson also became a sideman with many of the hot groups in and around Chicago. He also recorded with Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Bumble Bee Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and others before his subsequent death around 1938.

Despite several busy years in the recording studio and a couple of medium-sized hits ("Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door" and "We Gonna Move (To The Outskirts of Town)"), very little is known about Casey Bill Weldon. It was assumed he was the Will Weldon who played with the Memphis Jug Band but that remains in dispute. Between 1927 and 1935 he cut just over 60 sides for Victor, Bluebird and Vocalion. He was also an active session guitarist, appearing on records by Teddy Darby, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheatsraw and others.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Little Hat Jones Bye Bye Baby BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Blind Willie Johnson You'll Need Somebody on Your BondBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Willie Brown Future Blues Friends Of Charlie Patton
Charlie Patton Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1Best Of
Blind Willie McTell Love Changing BluesBest Of
Sam Collins My Road Is Rough And Rocky (How Long, How Long?)Jailhouse Blues
Son House Walking BluesLegends of Country Blues
Henry Williams & Eddie AnthonyGeorgia CrawlFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Andy Boy House Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Cannon's Jug Stompers Going To GermanyMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers
Lottie Kimbrough Rolling Log BluesThe Return Of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Weaver & Beasley Bottleneck BluesCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
BluesJim & Bob (The Genial Hawaiians) St. Louis BluesBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37
Willie Harris Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door Jackson Blues: 1928-1938
Blind Joe Reynolds Ninety Nine BluesBlues Images Vol. 2
The Sparks Brothers Down On The Levee Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis 2
Pigmeat Terry Black Sheep BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lee Green Memphis Fives The Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes And Lee Green
Elizabeth Johnson Be My Kid Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River Blues Blues images Vol. 3
Geeshie Wiley Pick Poor Robin CleanI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
Jim Jackson Hesitation Blues Jim Jackson Vol. 2 (928-1930
Mae Glover I Ain't Givin' Nobody NoneI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
King David's Jug Band Rising Sun BluesCincinnati Blues
Mattie May Thomas Dangerous BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Charlie Patton Tom RushenPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
William Harris Bull Frog Blues The Best There Ever Was
Sam Collins Lonesome Road BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Allen Shaw Moanin' The Blues Masters of the Memphis Blues
Shreveport HomewreckersFence Breakin' BluesBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37

Show Notes:

Blind Willie McTell: The Early Years
Read Liner Notes

Today's show is a trip down memory lane for me. I've been going through a bout of nostalgia lately, hopefully not the onset of a mid-life crisis, although I have been eying the red Corvette! Anyway, I've been thinking about my favorite country blues tracks lately, most of which I first heard in my formative years of blues collecting. These are the songs that I never get tired of and ones that I find myself revisiting over the years. This is by no means a “best of” list, just songs that I find myself continuously going back to. Many are considered blues classics, many not, and many are most often not the songs by these artists that are considered their best. There's numerous artists that I revere like Bukka White, Frank Stokes, Henry Thomas, Mississippi John Hurt that are omitted simply for the fact that I can't nail down just one song that does it for me by those artists. As I said many of these tracks I first heard when I first started picking up blues records, over twenty-five years ago (that's a hard number to swallow!). And yes I was buying country blues records back then. It was a very short jump from buying my first blues record, B.B. King – Live At The Regal ($3.99 at Tower Records) to picking up, and almost wearing out the grooves of Blind Willie McTell – The Early Years on my beloved Yazoo label. In fact Yazoo was the label where I discovered many of my favorite country blues tracks on treasured compilations like Mississippi Moaners, Guitar Wizards, Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics, Lonesome Road Blues and The Voice Of The Blues among others. I knew that the Yazoo office was in Manhattan and I often thought about going over there but I never did – I guess I never really knew what I'd do once I got there! Also hugely influential was the piano blues series on Magpie records which made me a lifelong fan of piano blues. Several tracks from that series can be found on today's show. Still, there are a number of songs that became favorites later, for example Blind Joe Reynolds “Ninety Nine Blues” which was only discovered a few years ago (the consensus seems to be that the “B” side, “Cold Woman Blues”, is the superior track, but for me “Ninety Nine Blues” just kills me). I never did go in for what the consensus says which I suppose is reflected in today's eclectic playlist of  all-time favorites.

I count myself lucky to be living where I was when the blues bug bit me. I lived in the Bronx and it was short hop to Manhattan where there was no shortage of great record stores. I fondly remember prowling  records stores like Finyl Vinyl on Second Ave., St. Marks Records, Venus Records, Bleeker Bob's, Footlight Records and the  Jazz Record Mart (still in business and even after buying records there since I was a teenager the same guy still refuses to cut me a deal!). Then there were the book/magazine shops like Hudson News and See Hear where I could find isues of the great British blues mags like Blues Unlimited (went under right when I discovered it!), Juke Blues and Blues & Rhythm.  Of course there were a number of fine left-of-the-dial radio stations that played plenty of blues. Anyway, below are few reminisces about some of today's selections.

Little Hat Jones cut ten sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. All his sides are worthwhile but “Bye Bye Baby Blues” is the best thing he ever did in my opinion. When I was coming up with today’s playlist this is one of the first songs I picked. I probably first heard it on the Yazoo compilation Don't Leave Me Here: The Blues of Texas, Arkansas, & Louisiana 1927-1932.

We spin a pair of my favorite Charlie Patton songs today, "Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1" and "Tom Rushen." I'm not sure exactly what it is with the former song that I find so striking, it's not one often cited when talking about Patton's best, yet I find it incredibly compelling. Patton's vocals on this are magnificent. The 2-part number celebrates a Mississippi river boat that plied between Vicksburg and Memphis. I have to admit that I really fell under Patton's spell much later. I did own the Yazoo double LP Founder of the Delta Blues but the problem for me was that I couldn't get past the terrible sound of those records. Compare that record to the Best Of which came out just a few years back and the difference is like night and day.

I first heard “Love Changing Blues” on Blind Willie McTell – The Early Years on Yazoo. I played the hell out of this record and for whatever reason, it was this song that made a huge impression on me although, of course, I also loved the more famous “Statesboro Blues.” I distinclty remember my college roomate making fun of me for owing a record by a guy named Blind Willie McTell. I never did lecture him, just turned up the record really loud until it drive him out of the room.

Despite the fact that I’m featuring two Sam Collins cuts on today’s show, I can’t really say he’s one of my favorite artists. However the vocal performances on “My Road Is Rough And Rocky” and “Lonesome Road Blues” are magnificent. I first heard these on the Yazoo compilation Lonesome Road Blues: 15 Years in the Mississippi Delta 1926-1941. The song “My Road Is Rough And Rocky” made its first appearance on this compilation and I believed the title was given by Yazoo. How this song could be unreleased boggles my mind.

Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
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Yes I know, Son House's 1930 sides are acknowledged classics, and rightly so. His epic six minute version of “Walking Blues” from 1941, with a rocking band that included Willie Brown, Fiddlin' Joe Martin and Leroy Williams, is that song that floors me every time and one of my all time favorites.

I guess Texas pianist Andy Boy is an offbeat choice for favorites but his recordings really get to me. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. Andy Boy's songs are filled with vivid imagery, humor, clever wordplay and a times a deep pathos. Along with pianist Rob Cooper, Andy Boy plays prominently on the records of Joe Pullum, one of the era's most distinctive and imaginative vocalists. Andy Boy cut only eight sides under his own name as well as backing both Pullum and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington. I know I first him on Magpie’s The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937. I probably heard Joe Dean on one of the Magpie collections or possibly on Yazoo’s Barrelhouse Blues 1927-1936. I’m pretty sure I heard Cripple Clarence Lofton’s “Gang of Brownskin Women” on Yazoo’s Cripple Clarence Lofton & Walter Davis which sported a great photo of Lofton at the piano snapping his fingers with a huge grin on his face.

Sung by Noah Lewis who also plays the superb harmonica, "Going To Germany", is one of those dreamy blues that puts me in a trance every time I hear it. I'm guessing I first heard it on the double Cannon Jug Stompers album. I miss those great double albums that used to open up. Not quite the same experience with a CD. Lottie Kimbrough’ “Rolling Log Blues” has the same dreamy, haunting quality as “Going To Germany” and a song that always mesmerizes me.

The Yazoo compilation Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37 was an absolute killer. From that compilation comes Jim & Bob’s amazing “St. Louis Blues” as well as the Shreveport Homewreckers’ “Fence Breakin' Blues.”

Willie Harris’ “Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door” is a great bottleneck number. First heard this one on Yazoo’s Jackson Blues 1928-1938.

In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard who used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that day, "Ninety Nine Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released in October of 1930. No copies in any condition were ever located until just a few years ago. The recorded was eventually bought and reissued on CD by John Tefteller. I guess I’m at odds with collectors Richard Nevins (owner of Yazoo) and Pete Whelan of 78 Quarterly fame who claim "Cold Woman Blues" as the masterpiece, because for me it’s the flip, "Ninety Nine Blues.” What do those guys know anyway!?

It was through the Magpie piano series that I became a lifelong fan of piano blues. I came to the series late, my first purchase was volume 20 and I must have been around 16. The album made a huge impression on me and I even remember exactly where I purchased it; it was at one of my favorite haunts, Tower Records on West 4th St., NYC (the blues section was on the top floor, tucked behind the jazz secton. Often I was the only one back threre, which for me was perfect!). I went back and picked up as many of the rest of the albums I could find and over the years completed the entire series. That particular volume was my introduction to the Sparks Brothers who are still favorites to this day. Milton’s Spark’s high pitched voice and Aaron sensitive piano work really struck a chord, particularly on “Down In The Levee”

Now the obscure Pigmeat Terry was anthologized on one of the Magpie albums although I’m positive I didn't hear his records until much later. Terry only cut one 78 in 1935, a great record, and possessed a high, whispery, moaning voice, a bit reminiscent of the popular Joe Pullum who made his debut the prior year. His "Black Sheep Blues" is a striking tune both vocally and lyrically:

My mother's gone to glory
My father died of drinking in his sins
My sister won't notice me, she's to proud to take me in
I'm a black sheep in my family, and how they dog me around
Someday I'll get lucky and won't be found around

Allen Shaw is another great bluesman cut only one78. He has a powerful voice, somewhat like Son House, and lays down some great slide. Shame he didn’t record more. Shaw also got together on record with Hattie Hart. They engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. I heard this side first on Sony’s Slide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2 back when the major labels would occasionally issue stuff like this. I’m pretty sure those days are gone.

“Have you ever woke up with them bullfrogs on your mind?” One of the more enigmatic opening blues lines I’ve ever heard and one of the best blues ever by the mysterious William Harris (not the same as the Willie Harris mentioned above).

The Voice Of The Blues
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There were very few recorded guitar playing women blues singers recorded in the pre-war era. Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley are two of the few. Both their records are extremely rare and both woman barley left a trace behind as to who they were. Wiley’s “Last Kind Words” is a masterpiece there’s no doubt, but I find myself returning to her jaunty “Pick Poor Robin Clean” with partner Elvie Thomas.“ I’m not sure where I first heard this and like William Harris’ “Bullfrog Blues” I’m not really sure what the hell the song means.

Elizabeth Johnson is another mystery woman who cut four sides in 1928. “Be My Kid Blues b/w Sobbin’ Woman Blues” is great record.  She’s backed by a unique band (listed as Her Turpentine Tree-O) that consisted of woodblocks, clarinet and guitar.

Mattie May Thomas waxed three remarkable acapella numbers in 1939. They were recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in the woman's camp of the  notorious Parchman Farm. Thomas' “Dangerous Blues” is a haunting, violent and sad song that gives me shivers every time I hear it.:

You keep on talking 'bout the dangerous blues.
If I had a pistol I'd be dangerous too.
Say, you may be a bully, say but I don't know.
But I fix you so you won't give me no trouble in the world I know.
She won't cook no breakfast, she won't wash no clothes.
Say, that woman don't do nothin' but walk the road.
My knee bone hurt me, and my ankle swell.
Says, I may get better but I won't get well.
Say, Mattie had a baby, and she got blues eyes.
Say, must be the captain, he keep on hanging around.
He keep on hanging around, keep on hanging around.

I’m not a huge fan of Jim Jackson but at his very last session in 1930 he cut outstanding versions of “St Louis Blues” and “Hesitation Blues.” Many have covered ““Hesitation Blues” but to me Jackson’s version will always be the definitive one.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Furry Lewis John Henry (The Steel Driving Man)Masters of Memphis Blues
Furry Lewis Black Gyspy BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Furry Lewis Creeper's BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Charlie McCoyIt Ain't No Good - Part 1Charlie McCoy 1928-1932
Charlie McCoyLast Time BluesCharlie McCoy 1928-1932
Speckled RedHouse Dance Blues Speckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled RedThe Dirty Dozen Speckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled RedWilkins Street Stomp Speckled Red 1929-1938
Walter VincsonYour Friends Gonna Use It Too - Part 1Walter Vincson 1928 1941
Walter VincsonOvertime BluesWalter Vincson 1928 1941
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 1)
Mississippi Masters
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 2)Mississippi Masters
Robert WilkinsThat's No Way To Get AlongMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsAlabama BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsLong Train BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Jenny PopeWhiskey Drinkin' BluesMen Are Like Street Cars
Jed DavenportHow Long, How Long BluesMemphis Shakedown
Joe CallicottFare Thee Well BluesFare Thee Well Blues
Joe CallicottTraveling Mama BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Madelyn JamesStinging Stake BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Madelyn James Long Time BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Tommy GriffinMistreatment BluesCountry Blues Collectors' Items
Tommy GriffinBell Tolling BluesCountry Blues Collectors' Items
Mattie DelaneyDown The Big Road BluesMississippi Masters
Mattie DelaneyTallahatchie River BluesMississippi Masters
Garfield AkersDough Roller BluesMississippi Masters
Garfield AkersJumpin' & Shoutin' BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyMister Tango Blues Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyWhat Fault You Find of Me - Part 1 Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyCan I Do It For You Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyI Called You This Morning Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Jim ThompkinsBedside BluesBroke, Black And Blue

Show Notes:

Today's show is the second installment spotlighting great recording sessions. In the first installment we spotlighted two sessions conducted by the Victor  label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans. Today we select four recording sessions by Brunswick cut in Memphis: two sessions on Sept. 22nd and 23 in 1929 and two sessions on February 20 and 21st in 1930. The Sept. 22 and 23rd, 1929 sessions were recorded at the Peabody Hotel. "The Mississippi Delta begins on the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends at Catfish Row in Vicksburg", David Cohn wrote in 1935. By the time the race market was picking up in popularity nearly every major recording company either made field trips to Memphis or attracted Memphis artists to their Northern studios. The records recorded at these sessions were issued on the Brunswick and Vocalion labels. Those recorded included great performances by Furry Lewis,Charlie McCoy, Speckled Red, Walter Vincson, Garfield Akers, Robert Wilkins, Jed Davenport,Jenny Pope, Joe Callicott, Madlyn James, Tommy Griffin, Mattie Delaney, Jim Thompkins, Garfield Akers, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy.

Furry Lewis was born in Greenwood, MS and moved with his mother and two sisters to Brinley Avenue in Memphis when he was a youngster. Before he was ten he had fashioned a guitar from a cigar box and screen wire. His first guitar was supposedly given to him by W.C. Handy, a Martin that he used for decades. Lewis played around Beale Street in speakeasies, taverns, dance halls and house parties and worked the countryside at suppers, frolics and fish fries. In 1925 he got together with Will Shade, Dewey Thomas and Hambone Lewis to form an early version of the Memphis Jug Band and like Jim Jackson took to traveling with medicine shows. Vocalion talent scouts saw both men in 1927 but it was Lewis who went to Chicago first in April where he cut six sides. He and Jackson went up together in October the same year where Jackson cut his famous "Kansas City Blues" with Lewis cutting seven numbers including the unissued "Casey Jones." Just under a year later Victor recorded eight more titles by Lewis in Memphis and Vocalion brought him in the studio one last time in 1929, cutting four songs at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

Brothers Charlie and Joe McCoy were close to the Chatmans, who hailed from nearby Bolton, and recorded as the popular Mississippi Sheiks. The McCoys and the Chatmans often played together and like many Jackson area musicians, ther were influenced in varying degrees by Tommy Johnson. In addition to the Chatmons and Johnson, Jackson, in the 1920’s was a city with a vibrant blues scene, teeming with artists such as Walter Vincson, Ishman Bracey, Johnnie Temple, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Joe McCoy recorded under various pseudonyms; Georgia Pine Boy, Hallelujah Joe, Big Joe McCoy and His Washboard Band, and The Mississippi Mudder among others. During his time with Memphis Minnie he took the lead on several memorable numbers, most famously “When The Levee Breaks." After Joe and Minnie separated Joe occupied himself in small bands, singing with the Harlem Hamfats, working as a songwriter and working with his brother Charlie. Joe McCoy died of heart disease in Chicago, only a few months before his brother Charlie.

Charlie McCoy ranked among the great blues accompanists of his era and his accomplished mandolin and guitar work can be heard on numerous recordings in a wide variety of settings from the late 1920's through the early 40's. His sides under his own name prove he could hold his own as a lead artist but he seemed most at home enhancing other artists' records.

According to the authors of Memphis Minnie's biography she was "a wild youngster who never took to the farming life and she ran away from home at an early age. Her first guitar had been a Christmas present given to her in 1905 …She began to run away to Memphis' Beale Street with some regularity. Guitarists Frank Stokes and Furry Lewis…both provided advice and inspiration to Minnie in her early days in Memphis. Minnie's duets with Kansas Joe drew as much inspiration from the guitar teamwork of Frank Stokes and Dan Sane, who recorded as the Beale Street Sheiks, as from her own early 'partnership' with Willie Brown." Robert Wilkins also recalled Minnie from these days. Her 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 in their distinctive 'Memphis style.' By around 1929 both Minnie and Joe were playing stell bodied National guitars. As Joe Calicott recalled. Between 1929 and 1934 Minnie and Joe cut around one hundred sides together.

Walter Vinson rarely worked as a solo act, seemingly much more at home in duets and trios; towards that end, during the 1920's he worked with Charlie McCoy, Rubin Lacy and Son Spand before forming the Mississippi Sheiks. Vinson cut three sides at the Sept. 22, 1929 session: "Your Friends Gonna Use It Too – Part 1 & Part 2" and "Overtime blues."

Pianist Speckled Red was born in Monroe, LA, but he made his reputation as part of the St. Louis and Memphis blues scenes of the '20s and '30s. In 1929, he cut his first recording sessions. One song from these sessions, "The Dirty Dozens," was released on Brunswick and became a hit in late 1929. In 1938, he cut a few sides for Bluebird. In the early '40s, Red moved to St. Louis, where he played local clubs and bars for the next decade and a half. Charlie O'Brien, a St. Louis policeman and something of a blues aficionado "rediscovered" Speckled Red on December 14, 1954, who subsequently was signed to Delmark Records as their first blues artist. Several recordings were made in 1956 and 1957 for Tone, Delmark, Folkways, and Storyville record labels.

Garfield Akers recorded just four sides. His most well-known song was his debut, "Cottonfield Blues", a duet with friend and longtime collaborator Joe Callicott on second guitar. Akers lived in Hernando, Mississippi most of his life, working as a sharecropper and performing during off-hours at local house parties and dances. He toured with Frank Stokes on the Doc Watts Medicine Show. Akers was reportedly active on the south Memphis circuit throughout the 1930's. Akers and Callicott played together for more than twenty years, parting in the mid-1940's. Blues historian Don Kent praised "Cottonfield Blues," saying "only a handful of guitar duets in all blues match the incredible drive, intricate rhythms and ferocious intensity."

Gayle Wardlow explained in his article, Garfield Akers and Mississippi Joe Callicott: From the Hernando Cotton Fields: "In the fall of 1929 Brunswick/Vocalion Records made its initial field trip to Memphis to record talent for its Vocalion 1000 and Brunswick 7000 Race series. The session at the Peabody Hotel was highlighted by the first recorded appearances of Garfield Akers, Mattie Delaney, and Kid Bailey, concomitantly with veterans Memphis Minnie and Tampa Red. Callicott recorded his lone 78, "Fare Thee Well Blues/Traveling Mama Blues", for Brunswick in 1930 at a second session in Memphis where Akers also recorded again ("Dough Roller Blues/Jumpin' and Shoutin'"). Callicott made a brief comeback, lasting from the summer of 1967 through the summer of 1968; he recorded sides in the field for George Mitchell, sides at the 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival and sides for Blue Horizon in 1968 all of which have made it onto CD.

Mattie Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie River Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist. Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy which he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000/

Robert Wilkins was another prominent Memphis bluesman who, like Lewis, was originally born in Mississippi but made his fame in Memphis. Wilkins' early performing life included touring with small vaudeville and minstrel shows. In 1928, he met Ralph Peer of the Victor label and was invited to cut four songs. Vocalion recorded eight new songs the following year. In 1935 he cut four more sides for Vocalion and shortly afterwards joined the Church of God in Christ and became a minister. Wilkins was rediscovered in the 1960's and performed and recorded gospel material along with the blues. In 1964 he recorded the wonderful Memphis Gospel Singer for the Piedmont label which unfortunately has not been issued on CD.

Little is know about several of today's artists, all of whom recorded sparingly: Jenny Pope, Jed Davenport, Madelyn James, Tommy Griffin and Jim Thompkins. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Jed Davenport came from a tent show and medicine show background. Davenport cut around a dozen sides as leader between 1929-30. Madelyn James Cut one 78 at this February 20, 1930 session with one song possibly featuring Shade on jug. Tommy Griffin Griffin cut sixteen sides at two sessions in 1930 and 1936 for Vocalion and Bluebird. Jim Thompkin (credited in the Brunswick ledger as Peg Leg Jim Thompkins) cut two songs at this same session, “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.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Lane HardinI'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal YouModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Lane HardinKeep 'em DownModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Leroy Simpson & Lane Hardin13 HighwayModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Leroy Simpson & Lane HardinBluebird BluesModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
King Solomon HillMy Buddy, Blind Papa LemonBlues Images Presents Vol. 2
Blind Lemon JeffersonFence Breakin' Yellin' BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home Blues – Test Blues Images Presents Vol. 8
Jaybird ColemanSave Your Money – Let These Women GoBlues Images Presents Vol. 8
Furry LewisCannon Ball Blues – Alternate Take Blues Images Presents Vol. 8
Blind Joe ReynoldsNinety Nine BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 2
Jenny PopeMr. Postman BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 5
Teddy Darby Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Charley Patton Jesus Is A Dying Bed MakerBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
John TeftellerInterview
Lane HardinCalifornia Desert Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Lane HardinHard Times Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Lane HardinCartey Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Papa Charlie JacksonPapa, Don't Tear Your PantsBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Harum Scarum Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here)Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Joel TaggartPrecious LordBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Joel TaggartLittle Black TrainBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Tampa RedMama Don't Allow No Easy Riders HereBlues Images Presents Vol. 9

Show Notes:

Today's program revolves around record collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. We'll be chatting with John in the second hour who I've interviewed previously and each time I've found him to be extremely knowledgeable regarding blues from the 1920's with a keen insight into how the record companies operated and how they marketed blues records. According to his website he has the world's largest inventory of blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll 78's with over 75,000 in stock. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. This year marks the ninth year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up newly discovered sides which I'll be featuring today. Among those are newly discovered sides by the mysterious Lane Hardin (I'll be playing all of Hardin's records today), guitar evangelist Blind Joe Taggart and as well as other records found in the past few years. Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously and has been reprinting the artwork in his annual calendars.

For decades Lane Hardin has been one of those tantalizing, mysterious blues figures who cut a handful of brilliant, garnered much interest among collectors yet has remained a cipher, resistant to all research attempts.  Now seventy-five years after his debut we  get to hear a previously unknown Hardin side and a recently published article has given his life shape. For a long time it was thought his 1935 record, "California Desert Blues b/w Hard Time Blues" was the only record Hardin ever recorded. The record is very scarce with only five or six known copies. Tefteller purchased a copy at auction recently for $5,500. Unknown to most collectors Hardin cut a vanity record circa 1948 – the A-side is Hardin's “Cartey Blues” while the B-Side is by Hardin's stand up bass player (credited to Don Tempo). The record was found by collector Steve LaVere sometime in the 1990's in Los Angeles and purchased by Tefteller.

In around 1950 a group of artists sent in a batch of unlabeled acetates that were discovered at Modern in 1970. These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since. When these sides were first issued on the Blues From The Deep South LP,  Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. It turns out that Todd is actually Lane Hardin. We play both of those numbers today: "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" and Keep 'em Down." Hardin also backs Leroy Simpson on "13 Highway" and "Bluebird Blues" which we also feature. The identity of Simpson remains a mystery. All these sides have been reissued on the CD Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4.

Only one person seems to have ever been interviewed about Hardin who actually knew him. That was Henry Townsend who remembered him from the 1930's St. Louis scene. As Townsend told Bill Greensmith in his autobiography, A Blues Life: "Now Lane Hardin was one of the least known (n) musicians around the city , because he had come into the city and hadn't exposed himself much. He had a job at Lewins Metal Company and hadn't been exposed by his music until he ran across (Peetie) Wheatstraw's buddy, Neckbones, who also worked over there. They got to  talking and found out about playing music, and that's how he got be discovered. They would meet at different houses and just do something for their own personal entertainment, but not for jobs that I know of. Lane Hardin also played out at McKnight's place in Kinloch. Lane could have been slightly older than me, but not by much. He lived on Biddle Street about Thirteenth or Fourteenth -they had built a little row of new houses, and he lived there."

In the August 2011 issue of Blues & Rhythm magazine Tony Russell published a lengthy article on Hardin, essentially reconstructing his life from public records. It's an impressive piece of research that traces Hardin's life from his birth in Kentucky to working as a deck hand on steamboats, to a residence in St. Louis from the late 1910's through the 30's (documentation includes  a lengthy police record), to a stint in Illinois and finally traces him to Los Angeles by the 40's. Hardin passed in 1975 and it's a shame no one ever tracked him down to document his story.

The other big find on Tefteller's new CD is the only existing copy of a crudely recorded acetate,  by pre-war gospel legend Blind Joe Taggart. The disc was found by collector Robert Buchholz shoved between some old 70's rock and roll records at what remains of Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. It was put on sale on ebay where it was purchased by Tefteller. Taggart made his first records for Vocalion in June 1927 then went to Paramount in 1928. He continued recording in the 30's but vanished after a final session for Decca in 1934. The new calendar also contains the only known photograph of Taggart, published for the first time.

We feature several other numbers from the latest CD including sides by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jenny Pope, Teddy Darby, Charlie Patton, Papa Charlie Jackson and Harum Scarum. We round out the show with tracks from some of Tefteller's prior CD's including recently found sides by Tommy Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Joe Reynolds and others.

Jenny Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton.

Teddy Darby recorded from 1929 until 1937 under the names of "Blind Teddy Darby", "Blind Darby", "Blind Blues Darby" and "Blind Squire Turner" for the Paramount, Victor, Bluebird, Vocalion and Decca labels. In 1960 he was "rediscovered" and recorded by Pete Welding of Testament Records, yet the recordings from this session were never released. In the late 1930s he gave up the blues and became an ordained deacon.

Papa Charlie Jackson was the first commercially successful male blues singer. Jackson is believed originally to have come from New Orleans before relocating to Chicago sometime in the early 1900's. He became a very successful street performer, especially on the Near West Side, where he routinely played at the famed Maxwell Street market. His popularity eventually led to him being signed by the Paramount label, where he waxed more than 60 sides between 1924 and 1929. Jackson also did session working backing artists such as Ida Cox, Lottie Beaman, Ma Rainey, Big Bill Broonzy and others.

Issued as Paramount 13104, Harum Scarum's "Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here) " was released in January 1931 and is extremely rare. No copy has been discovered on Paramount however the record was reissued on Varsity, a company from the 1930's that gathered up old masters they found interesting and issued them again. The Harum Scarums recorded four songs and consisted of Big Bill Broonzy, Georgia Tom and Mozelle Alderson.

King Solomon Hill signed to the Paramount label in 1932, soon traveling to Grafton, Wisconsin to record six tracks (two of them alternate takes). In 2002 Tefteller went to Grafton and discovered the long lost Hill 78 "My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon b/w Times Has Done Got Hard" in mint condition. Not much is known of Hill – whose real name was Joe Holmes. He was closely connected to Sam Collins and traveled with Blind Lemon Jefferson and Rambling Thomas. After his lone session, Hill returned to the juke joint circuit, eventually vanishing from sight; reputedly a heavy drinker, he died of a massive brain hemorrhage in Sibley, Louisiana in 1949.

A welcome surprise in recent years has been the discovery of several Tommy Johnson recordings of unissued material. In 1985 an untitled Tommy Johnson test pressing was found and issued on Document as "Boogaloosa Woman"/"Morning Prayer." Yazoo has issued "Morning Prayer" with the title "Button Up Shoes." In around 2001 yet another important batch of records came to light. A box of unissued Paramount and QRS test pressings (the QRS material likely obtained by Paramount from Art Satherley in 1930/31) has been found by an antique dealer in Wisconsin. Tefteller purchased the Tommy Johnson test pressing of "I Want Someone To Love Me" for over $12,000. The record has since been issued on the CD that accompanies the 2004 calendar. Today's featured track,is a test pressing of "Lonesome Home Blues" which was issued on the CD that accompanies the 2010 calendar.

In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard who used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. Within a year, the four songs were released on two records. Neither record sold well, but almost 40 years later, one of the two attracted the attention of Eric Clapton who heard the song "Outside Woman Blues" on a reissue album. In 1967, Clapton and his Cream bandmates Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce recorded a more modern day version of "Outside Woman Blues" on their classic LP Disraeli Gears. The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that day, "Ninety Nine Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released in October of 1930. No copies in any condition were ever located until just a few years ago. The recorded was eventually bought and reissued on CD by John Tefteller.

In 2007 John Tefteller issued what is apparently the only known copy of Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis' "Talkin' To You Wimmen' About The Blues." 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…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."

-John Tefteller Interview/Feature (edited, 53 min, MP3)

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