Sun 23 Mar 2014
|Sonny Boy Williamson||Blue Bird Blues||The Bluebird Recordings: 1937-1938|
|Big Joe Williams||Brother James||Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues|
|Black Ivory King||The Flying Crow||San Antonio 1937|
|Son Becky||Mistreated Washboard Blues||San Antonio 1937|
|Pinetop Burks||Jack Of All Trades Blues||San Antonio 1937|
|"Roosevelt" Antrim||Station Boy Blues||Blind Boy Fuller Vol. 2|
|Blind Boy Fuller||Truckin' My Blues Away||Blind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938|
|Floyd 'Dipper Boy' Council||I'm Grievin' & I'm Worryin'||Blind Boy Fuller Vol. 2|
|Bill Gaither||In The Wee Wee Hours||Bill Gaither Vol. 2 1936-1938|
|Peetie Wheatstraw||Working On The Project||The Essential
|Charlie Pickett||Down The Highway||Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941|
|Sleepy John Estes||Floating Bridge||I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More|
|Black Boy Shine||West Columbia Woman||Leroy Carr & Black Boy Shine: Unissued Test Pressings & Alternate Takes 1934-1937|
|Andy Boy||Church Street Blues||The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937|
|Jazz Gillum||Birmingham Blues||Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 1 1936-38|
|Washboard Sam||I Drink Good Whiskey||Washboard Sam Vol. 2 1937-1938|
|Alice Moore||New Blue Black And Evil Blues||St. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 2 1934-1941|
|Memphis Minnie||Living The Best I Can||Memphis Minnie Vol. 3 1937|
|Victoria Spivey||One Hour Mama||The Essential|
|Robert Johnson||Stones In My Passway||Alberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-46|
|Mose Andrews||Young Heifer Blues||Mississippi Blues Vol.1 1928-1937|
|Bukka White||Shake 'Em On Down||The Vintage Recordings 1930-1940|
|Scotte Nesbitt||Deep, Deep In The Ground||Rare Jazz and Blues Piano 1927-1937|
|Charley West||Rollin' Stone Blues||Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948|
|Roosevelt Sykes||Night Time Is the Right Time||Roosevelt Sykes Vol. 5 1937-1939
|Lonnie Johnson||Hard Times Ain't Gone No Where||Lonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
|Tampa Red||Seminole Blues||You Can't Get that Stuff No More|
|Casey Bill Weldon||Lady Doctor Blues||The Essential|
|Lee Green||The Way I Feel||Lee Green Vol. 2 1930-1937|
|Charlie Campbell||Goin' Away Blues||Alabama & The East Coast 1933-1937|
Today’s show is the eleventh installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which 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. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need.
From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. Race record sales were up around 15 per cent in 1937: Decca and Bluebird each put out around 120 items whilst BRC-ARC issued almost on Vocalion and another 100 on the dime-store labels.
According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on chance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Roosevelt Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). But despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – and as in the previous years it was artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Casey Bill Weldon, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Peetie Wheatstraw and the Harlem Hamfats who dominated the market. Tampa cut 18 sides, Arnold , Weldon and the Hamfats cut around two-dozen sides apiece, Minnie cut 16 sides, Broonzy cut around 30 sides, Slim some 20 sides (a number unissued) and Wheatstraw a 14 sides.
Two down home singers who could hold their own in terms of popularity against the urban artists were Sleepy John Estes and Blind Boy Fuller. Estes made his debut for Victor in 1929 while Fuller made his debut for Vocalion in 1935. Unlike blues artists like Big Bill or Memphis Minnie who recorded extensively over three or four decades, Blind Boy Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span. Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. Fuller made his debut in 1935 and over the next five years he made over 120 sides. He cut around 50 sides in 1937.
One of Fuller's associates, Floyd Council, also recorded this year. Council occasionally worked with Fuller in the ‘30s, which may have led to his first recording sessions. In late January 1937. ACR Records scout John Baxter Long heard him, playing alone on a street in Chapel Hill. It was Long who had first brought Fuller to NYC to record in July 1935. Long invited Floyd to join Fuller on his third trip to New York. Floyd agreed, and a week later the three traveled to the city. During his second visit to New York in December, Floyd was used as a second guitar only. His solo tracks were later issued under the name ‘Blind Boy Fuller’s buddy’. In all he cut six sides under his own name and seven backing Fuller.
For his third session the Decca label brought Sleepy John Estes to New York City to record in 1937 and again in 1938 where he cut eighteen songs, laying down some of his most enduring songs. He was backed by Charlie Pickett on guitar and Hammie Nixon on harmonica. Pickett 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.
1937 saw a number of notable recording sessions including two by Bluebird, one in Chicago and one in San Antonio, and one by ARC in Birmingham by ARC. In Chicago on May 5, 1937 Bluebird cut a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Robert 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.
The Texas pianists known as the 'Santa Fe group' were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie.“ Mack McCormick noted that the “itinerant pack of pianists who came to be known loosely as 'the Santa Fe group,' partly because they favored that railroad and partly because a stranger asking for the name of a selection was invariably told 'That's The Santa Fe.' 1937 was an outstanding year for the Santa Fe group of pianists: Andy Boy recorded in February for Bluebird, Big Boy Knox recorded for Bluebird in March, Black Boy Shine recorded in June for Vocalion and Son Becky and Pinetop Burks recorded at a shared session for Vocalion in October. Just a few days after Black Boy Shine was recorded in Dallas, ARC recorded Robert Johnson who recorded thirteen sides adding to the previous year's sixteen sides.
Between March 3rd and April 7th 1937, ARC (The American Record Company) sent a mobile recording unit on a field trip firstly to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas and, then to Birmingham, Alabama in search of new talent that could be recorded on location instead of transporting the artists to their New York studio. Sometime between 18th and 24th March the unit arrived in Birmingham and, over a two week period set about recording a number of gospel and blues musicians. Among those were Charlie Campbell, Guitar Slim (George Bedford) and James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) all of whom were backed by the lively piano of Robert McCoy who did not record under his own name. McCoy wouldn't record again until 1963 when he was recorded by Pat Cather, a teenaged Birmingham blues fan. Cather issued two albums on his Vulcan label: Barrelhouse Blues And Jook Piano and Blues And Boogie Classics.