Sun 5 Jul 2015
|Joe Morris||Mad Moon||Joe Morris 1946-1949|
|Tiny Grimes Quintet||Boogie Woogie Barbecue||Tiny Grimes 1947-1950|
|Tiny Grimes Quintet w/ Red Prysock||Nightmare Blues||Tiny Grimes 1947-1950|
|Joe Morris||Jax Boogie||Joe Morris 1946-1949|
|Sticks McGhee And His Buddies||Lonesome Road Blues||New York Blues And R&B 1947-55|
|Sticks McGhee And His Buddies||Tall Pretty Woman||New York Blues And R&B 1947-55|
|Ruth Brown||Rain Is A Bringdown||Ruth Brown 1949-1950|
|Sticks McGhee And His Buddies||Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee||New York Blues And R&B 1947-55|
|Tiny Grimes Quintet||Rock The House||Tiny Grimes 1947-1950|
|Texas Johnny Brown||There Goes The Blues||Atlantic Blues Guitar|
|Frank Floorshow Culley||Floor Show (How 'Bout That Mess)||The Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone|
|Jimmie Lewis||Mailman Blues||Jimmy ''Babyface'' Lewis 1947-1955|
|Ruth Brown||Rocking Blues||Ruth Brown 1949-1950|
|Ruth Brown||Hey Pretty Baby||Ruth Brown 1949-1950|
|Blind Willie McTell||Dying Crapshooter's Blues||Atlanta Twelve String|
|Blind Willie McTell||The Razor Ball||Atlanta Twelve String|
|Blind Willie McTell||Little Delia||Atlanta Twelve String|
|Blind Willie McTell||Ain't It Grand To Live a Christian||Atlanta Twelve String|
|Blind Willie McTell||Kill It Kid||Atlanta Twelve String|
|Professor Longhair||Hey Now Baby||Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings|
|Professor Longhair||She Walks Right In||Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings|
|Professor Longhair||Mardi Gras In New Orleans||Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings|
|Professor Longhair||Professor Longhair Blues||Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings|
|Professor Longhair||Hey Little Girl||Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings|
|Professor Longhair||Loghair Blues Rhumba||Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings|
|Sticks McGhee||House Warmin' Boogie||New York Blues And R&B 1947-55|
|Sticks McGhee||She's Gone||New York Blues And R&B 1947-55|
|Joe Morris & Annie Tate||Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere||Joe Morris 1950-1953|
|Joe Morris & Annie Tate||Come Back Daddy, Daddy||Joe Morris 1950-1953|
|Jimmie Lewis||All The Fun's On Me||Jimmy ''Babyface'' Lewis 1947-1955|
|Frank Floorshow Culley & Arlene Little Miss Talley||Little Miss Blues||78|
|Ruth Brown||R.B. Blues||Ruth Brown 1949-1950|
|Ruth Brown||Teardrops from My Eyes||Ruth Brown 1949-1950|
My two-part feature on Atlantic Records was partly inspired by a terrific reissue series that was originally issued in the early 1970's. In the early 70's Pete Lowry convinced Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun to reissue some classic and previously unissued blues from the vaults. The plan was to issue twelve albums although only six saw the light of day.I was first heard this series at my college radio station which luckily had the complete set and were much played. This was a great series featuring excellent recordings by Blind Willie McTell, Lawyer Houston, Professor Longhair, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Yancey, T-Bone Walker and others. The albums had excellent liner notes and packaged with wonderful photos in a gatefold album. We feature a number of these recordings on the next two programs as well as a wealth of great recordings from Atlantic's, early years spanning their founding in 1947 through 1952.
Brothers Nesuhin and Ahmet Ertegu were ardent fans of jazz and rhythm & blues music, amassing a collection of over 15,000 78rpm records. Atlantic Records was incorporated in October 1947 and was run by Herb Abramson (President), who put up the initial investment, and Ertegun (vice-president in charge of A&R, production and promotion) while Abramson's wife Miriam ran the label's publishing company. Atlantic's first batch of recordings were issued in late January 1948. Atlantic Records was never into recording the blues in a big way, unlike other independents. One reason was its New York location, as Ahmet Ertegun told Charlie Gillet: "You just couldn't find blues singers in Harlem or Washington. They were all in Chicago, Texas, New Orleans, so we realised we had to go down south, both to find new artists and record them." This wasn't exactly true, as other New York and New Jersey independents such as Savoy, De Luxe, Manor and Sittin' In With had New York~based artists under contract. The first artists signed by Atlantic were New York-based artists with jazz backgrounds, such as Joe Morris and Tiny Grimes, although their singles were marketed as R&B.
Among the recordings Lowry got reissued and featured today are sides by Blind Willie McTell, and Professor Longhair. In 1949 a 15-song session by Blind Willie McTell was cut for the newly formed Atlantic Records. Only two songs, "Kill It Kid" and "Broke Down Engine Blues," were ever issued on a failed single, and the session was forgotten until almost 20 years later. Longhair began to take his playing seriously in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club in New Orleans. He debuted on wax in 1949, laying down four tracks (including the first version of his signature "Mardi Gras in New Orleans") for the Dallas-based Star Talent label. Union problems forced those sides off the market, but Longhair's next date for Mercury the same year produced his first and only national R&B hit in 1950, the hilarious "Bald Head." The pianist made great records for Atlantic in 1949 and 1950-1951, Federal in 1951, Wasco in 1952, and Atlantic again in 1953 plus other scattered small label sides through the 50's. Thirteen of his Atlantic sides were issued on the album Professor Longhair: New Orleans Piano.
As Pete recalled in a column years later: "It must have been 1969 when both Mike Leadbitter and Simon Napier (Simon’s only trip. I do believe) came the US leaving Blues Unlimited temporarily without an editor! …Leads had an appointment to see Tunc Erim at the offices of Atlantic Records and I tagged along with the two of them (Simon & Mike) out of curiosity – I’d never been close to a big operation like that! We were permitted to look through the various file books for additions to the post-war discography (Leadbitter/Slaven) and were amazed at the information that could be gleaned. They were efficient. So I elected myself as a party of one to go back after that initial contact to do more detailed copying than could be done that first time. Photocopiers had not yet taken over and I used a pen and notebook to transcribe it all. In doing so, something else came to the surface – the realization that somehow some of this stuff ought to be heard. Actually, it was when I realized that there were thirteen unreleased sides by Blind Willie McTell that I became fixated on this idea. One LP wouldn’t do the trick… I had to work out some sort of package, including the McTell, and try and get it published/released."
Other early Atlantic artists featured today include Joe Morris, Tiny Grimes, Sticks McGhee, Ruth Brown, Frank Floorshow Culley, Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis and Texas Johnny Brown. Joe Morris began his career as a jazz trumpet play but his legacy rests with his 1950s work as leader of R&B-oriented Joe Morris Orchestra. After working with Lionel Hampton, Morris signed with tAtlantic Records, and his "Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere" (with vocal by Laurie Tate) put the new record company on the map when it hit number one on the R&B charts in 1950. The Joe Morris Orchestra functioned as the unofficial house band for Atlantic in the early to mid-'50s, and several future Atlantic stars passed through its ranks, including Ray Charles and Lowell Fulson. In addition to working for Atlantic, Morris also recorded sides for Decca and Herald. He died in 1958.
In 1938, Tiny Grimes started playing electric guitar, and two years later he was playing in a popular jive group, the Cats and the Fiddle. During 1943-1944, Grimes was part of a classic Art Tatum Trio. In September 1944, he led his first record date, using Charlie Parker." He also recorded for Blue Note in 1946, and then put together an R&B-oriented group, the Rockin' Highlanders, that featured the tenor of Red Prysock during 1948-1952 where he recorded for Atlantic. Later sessions were for Prestige/Swingville, Black & Blue, Muse, and Sonet.
Sticks McGhee may have not been as prolific or celebrated as his brother Brownie, but guitarist Stick McGhee cut some great blues and R&B from 1947 to 1960. McGhee's first recorded version of his classic "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" for thes Harlem logo made little impression in 1947, but a 1949 remake for Atlantic (as Stick McGhee & His Buddies) proved a massive R&B hit. After one more smash for Atlantic in 1951's "he moved along to Essex, King, Savoy, and Herald before passing in 1960.
They called Atlantic Records "the house that Ruth built" during the 1950's. Ruth Brown's hitmaking reign from 1949 to the close of the '50s helped establish the label's predominance in the R&B field. Brown made her debut in May 1949, waxing t"So Long" which proved to be her first hit. After an even two-dozen R&B chart appearances for Atlantic that ended in 1960 she faded from view. Brown's nine-year ordeal to recoup her share of royalties from all those Atlantic platters led to the formation of the nonprofit Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping others in the same frustrating situation. In 1993 Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She passed in 2006.
Johnny Brown's career started in a band called the Aladdin Chickenshackers, who regularly backed Amos Milburn.He recorded with Milburn, and also backed Ruth Brown on her earliest cuts for Atlantic. Through this work, in 1949 although not issued at the time, Brown was able to record some tracks of his own for Atlantic. Brown's recording career continued in the mid 1950s, when he was utilized mainly as a sideman for both of the affiliated Duke and Peacock record labels. Brown toured as Bland's lead guitarist in the 1950s and 1960s.
Frank Culley formed his own R&B group in the mid-40s, recording for the Lenox label in NYC and backing Wynonie Harris on King. In 1948, he was signed by the fledgling Atlantic label and led its first house band, backing the early stars of R&B as well as recording some thirty tracks under his own name. After leaving Atlantic in 1951, Culley recorded for RCA Victor, Parrot, Chess and Baton without success.
Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis cut nearly thirty sides between 1947 and 1955 for Aladdin, Atlantic, Savoy and other labels. Lewis was a fine smooth voced singer and excellent guitarist who's material alternated between Charles Brown styled ballads and jump blues.His entire output has been issued on CD by Blue Moon as Jimmy Baby Face Lewis: Complete 1947-1955.