1960’s Blues

The complete Blue Horizon Sessions Curtis Jones In London

By the time he succumbed to a heart attack in 1971 Curtis Jones was a sad, embittered man who – rightly I would say – viewed himself as the forgotten man of the blues, watching from the sidelines while others from his era were greeted with far more enthusiasm and fame. His passing was greeted with little fanfare and in a final indignity his grave was unceremoniously sold eight years later because no one had paid for its upkeep.

The intervening years have done nothing to raise to Jones' profile; his records have not been well represented on the reissue market and mention of his music to fellow blues fans is often greeted with indifference. To put it frankly his records are considered "boring" by most blues fans. The very qualities which made him popular among the black record buying public of the 1930's and 1940's were not exactly the qualities white enthusiasts prized. His talents were perhaps too subtle for the new white audience: his deep, unfussy piano playing was very much in the service of the song and decidedly unshowy, he was an expressive singer with a high, tight tenor with a way of putting across a song that really connected with the audience and he was an exceptional, imaginative lyricist. As Tony Russell wrote, somewhat uncharitably, in the Penguin Guide To Blues: "…Over the next four years [1937-1941] Jones turned out dozens of blues-and-trouble compositions, sung in the bleak Texas manner of men like Black Boy Shine to tidy, unexciting piano accompaniments."Closer to the mark was Paul Oliver who in the notes to In London wrote: "He is the bluesman's blues singer. All that he plays and sings is blues, but it cannot be lightly asserted that he represents the blues of Texas, where he was born, or of the West where he worked for some years. His is not merely 'Chicago blues', though he lived there for a quarter of a century. And how does one type a blues singer who has made Paris, France, his home?"

Curtis Jones
Courtesy American Folk Music Occasional, 1970

Our story picks up in Europe where Jones settled in the early 1960's after almost twenty years without stepping into a studio, outside of a couple of 1953 sides for Parrot. Before packing his bags for Europe he waxed a pair of fine stateside comeback records; Trouble Blues (Bluesville, 1960) and Lonesome Bedroom Blues (Delmark, 1962) which found his talents undimmed by the passage of time. Over in Europe he would record two more superb albums; In London (Decca, 1963) and Now Resident In Europe (Blue Horizon, 1968) reissued, remastered and rounded out with unissued sides as Curtis Jones: The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions. It was Mike Vernon who we have to thank for both sessions as he writes in the excellent liner notes: "To be totally honest, Curtis Jones represented a bygone era and his particular style and sound was not at one with the current trends and developments in the blues world at the time. …It should be remembered that I, in particular, had been the only producer who had the courage to record him – not once, but twice. Most others might well have not taken the risk, if the truth were to be told."

I, for one, am glad he took the chance as it paid off handsomely. The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions consists of the original ten songs plus brief interview, a batch of alternate takes and the previously unissued "Blues On The Scene." Backed by a strong rhythm section of Brian Brocklehurst on upright bass and Dougie Wright on drums, Jones is in superb form stretching out with some gorgeous piano solos and singing marvelously on this well recorded date that features songs he hadn't recorded before. Jones sounds particularly extroverted on a number of selections including the shuffling "You Don't Have To Go" stretching out with some sparkling piano work, the insistent drive of "Cherie", positively cooks on the bouncy, declamatory "Gee, Pretty Baby" and delivers the spirited, inventive instrumental "Dryburgh Drive" (named after the street the studio resided on). Jones is at his plaintive best on the lovely ballad "I Want To Be Your Slave" and displays his skills as a guitarist on several sparse numbers. Guitar was his first instrument and he first revealed his talent on the instrument on his Decca album. His picking is basic but effective on on solo numbers such as "Morocco Blues", "Jane", "Blues On The Scene" and the heartfelt, beautifully sung "Soul Brother Blues." As on all of the Blue Horizon reissues, packaging is excellent with lengthy notes, nice photos and pristine sound.

Now Resident In EuropeListening to The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions prompted me to reacquaint myself with In London which I hadn't listened to in ages. I've been informed that this has made it on to CD on the Deram label which may itself be out of print although copies look to be still available. Despite extremely lean times, Jones sailed into his 1960's comeback as an artist at the height of his powers as he ably demonstrates on In London backed by sympathetic band featuring bassist Jack Fallon, drummer Eddie Taylor and Alexis Korner on guitar on a few numbers. The program is a mix of old classics like "Lonesome Bedroom Blues", Alleybound Blues", "You Got Good Business" plus items he had been playing for his European audiences, numbers like Percy Mayfield's “Please Send Me Someone To Love”, the rollicking instrumental, "Young Generation Boogie", based on the Ray Charles instrumental "Rockhouse" and the charming "Syl-Vous Play Blues." Jones revives classic piano pieces including an elegant version of "The Honeydripper", "Curtis Jones Boogie", his version of the timeless "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" and the rocking "Shake It Baby." Of the guitar pieces, "Skid Row" is the standout, the kind of seedy life blues tale Jones so excelled at conjuring up. Paul Oliver provides a fine set of notes for the original LP which have been reprinted in Blues Off The Record.

Both of these records come recommended and one hopes that the reissue of The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions will spark some renewed interest in Curtis Jones although that may be, admittedly, wishful thinking. I'll be spotlighting the music of Jones in an upcoming radio program so keep an eye out. For a well written piece on Jones I make available, with the author's permission, an article written in Jefferson magazine no. 124, 2000: Curtis Jones: The Lonesome Bedroom Blues (PDF)

You Don't Have To Go [Blue Horizon Sessions] (MP3)

Soul Brother Blues [Blue Horizon Sessions] (MP3)

Shake It Baby [In London] (MP3)

Syl-Vous Play Blues [In London] (MP3)


Rocks The Blues
RIP 1931 – 2007


Show Notes:

By now everyone knows that Ike Turner has passed. Just about every notable publication had an obituary or opinion on Ike and not surprisingly many focused on his well publicized troubles instead of his musical legacy. Serious blues and rock fans know that well before Tina, Ike was a major player on the R&B and blues scene of the 1950's.

Ike and his Kings of Rhythm were right in the thick of things when blues and R&B was coalescing into rock and roll. Ike made his mark as rock solid boogie piano player and was also a distinctive guitarist with a biting tone who was one of the first to make the whammy bar an integral part of his sound. Growing up in Clarksdale Ike's first inspiration was pianist Pinetop Perkins who also inspired Ike's life long friend Ernest Lane. "Anyway", he recalled, "we started talkin' to Pinetop and he started teaching us different little boogie-woogie things. And from there, that started my musical life." It should be noted that Lane was still touring with Ike at the time of death and remains a fine piano player in his own right, and is one of the last who plays in the rock ribbed, boogie based style.

I'm Lonesome Baby 78As a teenager talked himself into a DJ slot on the local radio station, where he played everything from the jump blues of Louis Jordan to country & western. He formed his first band while still in high school, and by the late '40s had assembled an outfit dubbed the Kings of Rhythm. After “Rocket 88” Turner and his band became session regulars around Memphis; they went on to back legendary bluesmen like Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, Bobby Bland, Jr. Parker, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and a host of Sun artists . During the early '50s, Turner switched from piano to guitar, and also doubled as a talent scout for the Bihari Brothers' Los Angeles-based Modern Records, where he helped get early breaks for artists like Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King. For many years Turner was the linchpin of Modern, working as a talent scout for Joe Bihari, a go-getter, a good pair of hands in the studio, and a fine musician to boot. On today's program we feature sides by Howlin' Wolf, Charley Booker, Elmore James, Driftin' Slim and Baby Face Turner all featuring Ike's piano.

Ike TurnerAlso featured today are many sides Ike cut with the mighty Kings of Rhythm, some of which came were issued variously as Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, Ike Turner and His Orchestra and other variations. The Kings of Rhythm employed several fine vocalists including Jackie Brenston, Billy Gayles, Billy Emerson, Dennis Binder, Clayton Love, Lonnie "The Cat", Johnny Wright. Many of these sides were issued under the singer's name and we feature a number of these sides on today's show. In addition we feature many of Ike's many scorching instrumentals. Ike’s ferocious whammy-bar and ultra-aggressive string-bending solos were way ahead of their time from the mid-1950s onwards. He always considered himself foremost a boogie pianist who picked up electric guitar during the early 1950s because he had difficulty finding a reliable axeman for his band. "It sounds like I was a guitar player," said Ike. "But I'm not." We counter that claim by playing a number of Ike's jaw dropping guitar workouts like "Loosely (The Wild One)," "Go To It (Stringin' Along),""Prancing, "The New Breed" among others.

King CobraIke relocated to St. Louis in he late 50's frontong one of the hottest live acts in the area. The late 50's were leaner times for Ike cutting an unissued session for Sun, scattered 45's for Cobra/Artistic in Chicago (backing Otis Rush, Betty Everett, Buddy Guy in addition to cutting thier own material). Though his hitmaking activities with Tina began to relegate Ike's wild guitar to the background from 1960 on, he found time to cut an instrumental album for Sue in 1962 called Dance With Ike & Tina Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Ike Turner Rocks The Blues was issued on Crown in 1963 and was a collection of his 50’s sides. Ike and Tina did cut a couple of solid blues based albums for Blue Thumb in 1969; Outta Season and The Hunter which actually featured an uncredited Albert Collins on guitar. Also in 1969 when he was out on tour in 1969 with his regular gig, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Ike Turner cut the instrumental album A Black Man's Soul which was reissued by Funky Delicacies in 2003 with bonus cuts. Strange Fruit was another instrumental outing cut in 1972 for United Artists and the aptly titled Blues Roots was also cut for United Artists in 1972.

Ike has been well served on CD reissues. Among those featured on today's show include: Traiblazer (Charly) a collection of late 50's sides for Federal, Ike Turner: 1958-1959 (reissued by Fuel 2000 as King Cobra: The Chicago Sessions) a collection of his Cobra sides, Rhythm Rockin' Blues a collection of early-'50s sessions with the Kings of Rhythm, Ike's Instrumentals, Blues Kingpins a 18-track collection drawn from the vaults of RPM, Modern, Crown, and Sue. InRhythm Rockin' Blues addition Ike's role as talent scout is meticulously documented on the 4-CD Ace label series Modern Downhome Blues Session which collects sides Joe Bihari and Ike Turner recorded in the deep South for Modern between 1951 and early 1952. Notewriter Jim O'Neal sets the scene for these recordings: "The tale of their [the Bihari brothers] exploits in the land of cotton has all the elements of a Dixie docu-drama, complete with an indignant Southern heroine [Lillian McMurry of Trumpet Records], a double-dealing native talent scout [Ike Turner], small town sheriffs and police, subterfuge, disguise, raiders, traitors, spies, and clandestine operations. But no shots were fired in these skirmishes, and the only casualties were in lost record sales revenue, broken contracts, violated trusts, and one unfortunate blues artist's shattered career. The Biharis' battle wagon was a flashy new Cadillac, their artillery a four-channel Magnecord tape recorder, and their ammunition reels of magnetic tape and rolls of cash."

Ike Before Tina

Ike Turner New York Times Obit

Ike Turner Discography



Show Notes:

From late 1958 into the early 60s, Junior Parker toured the country with a show called Blues Consolidated with long time running mate Bobby Bland and Willa Mae Thornton with a combo led by Duke Records veteran Joe Scott. Today's show spotlights both of the remarkable singers who rose to prominence in the early 1950's on the fertile Memphis blues scene.

Junior parker PhotoJunior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty-year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. It’s inexplicable, then, why he has such a low profile among blues aficionados. He hit the charts a fair bit through the 1960’s for Duke, retained a strong following among the black club audience but failed to break through to a wider audience. As such he was virtually ignored by the new white blues audience of the 1960’s. If Parker is mentioned at all these days it’s usually in association with his 1953 number “Mystery Train” which was picked up by Elvis.

Parker learned his initial harmonica style from Sonny Boy Williamson II and gigged with the Howlin' Wolf while still in his teens. Like so many young blues artists, Little Junior (as he was known then) got his first recording opportunity from talent scout Ike Turner, who brought him to Modern Records for his debut session as a leader in 1952. It produced the lone single "You're My Angel" b/w "Bad Woman, Bad Whiskey" with Turner on piano and Matt Murphy on guitar. Parker and his band, the Blue Flames (including FloydBland/Park Parker Poster Murphy, Matt's brother, on guitar), landed at Sun Records in 1953 and promptly scored a hit with their rollicking "Feelin' Good." Later that year, Parker cut "Love My Baby" and "Mystery Train."

Before 1953 was through, Junior Parker had moved on to Don Robey's Duke label in Houston. It took a while for the harpist to regain his hitmaking momentum, but he scored big in 1957 with the "Next Time You See Me." Parker developed a horn driven sound (usually the work of trumpeter/Duke-house-bandleader Joe Scott) that added power to his vocals and harp solos. Parker's updated remake of Roosevelt Sykes's "Driving Wheel" was a huge R&B hit in 1961, as was "In the Dark."

Parker continued to hit the charts through the 60’s with a mix of blues and R&B scoring with songs like “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Annie Get Your Yo-Yo”, “Man Or Mouse”, “Someone Somewhere.” Once Parker split from Robey's employ in 1966 the hits began to wane. From 1966-1968 he recorded for Mercury and its Blue Rock subsidiary and cut sides for Capitol in 1970. Parker died in November 1971 during an operation for a brain tumor. Before he passed he sailed into the 1970’s in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; “You Don’t Have To Be Black To Love The Blues” circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and “I Tell Stories Sad And True” for United Artists which was released in 1972. In 2001, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

That Man LPFor all his promise, Bland's musical career started slowly. He was a founding member of the Beale Streeters, the famous Memphis aggregation that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace. He cut singles for Chess in (produced by Sam Phillips) and Modern in 1951 that failed to catch on. Bland hooked up with Duke in 1952 cutting a few singles before entering the army. Bland always had a great voice but his early sides were a bit rough around the edges. But his progress upon his 1955 return was remarkable; with saxist Bill Harvey's band providing support, Bland sounded much more assured.

Most of Bland's sides during the mid- to late '50s featured the slashing guitar of Clarence Hollimon, notably "I Smell Trouble," "I Don't Believe," "Don't Want No Woman," "You Got Me (Where You Want Me)," the torrid "Loan a Helping Hand" and "Teach Me (How to Love You)." But the guitar riffs guiding Bland's first national hit, 1957's "Farther Up the Road," were contributed by Pat Hare. Later, WayneBobby Bland Revue Poster Bennett took over on guitar, his fret work prominent on Bland's Duke waxings throughout much of the '60s. "Farther Up the Road” was a #1 R&B hit, the first of more than 20 R&B top ten records. During this period Bland toured the Southern chitlin circuit incessantly. Joe Scott steered Bland into smoother material as the decade turned; a mixture of blues, R&B, and soul on numbers like"I Pity the Fool," "I'll Take Care of You," and "Two Steps From the Blues" which were tremendously influential. Scott's brass arrangements provided the perfect backing on Bland's rockers like "Turn on Your Love Light" in 1961 and "Yield Not to Temptation" the next year.

In 1973, Don Robey sold his labels to ABC Records, and Bland was part of the deal. Without Joe Scott and his familiar surroundings to lean on, Bland's releases grew less consistent although "His California Album" in 1973 and 1974's "Dreamer" had some nice moments. Bland re-teamed with his old pal B.B. King for a couple of mid-'70s albums. Since the mid-'80s, Bland has recorded Malaco Records. His last album was "Blues At midnight" in 2003.


Kennedy's Blues

Kennedy's Blues is the third volume in Guido Van Rijn's groundbreaking series of books focusing on topical blues and gospel songs. The critically praised Roosevelt Blues kicked off the series in 1997, an examination of all the blues and gospel songs during Roosevelt's administration that contained political commentary and doing the same with 2004's The Truman And Eisenhower Blues. In Kennedy's Blues Rijn turns his attention on the Kennedy years (1961-1963) once again exhaustively analyzing seemingly every blues and gospel song with political content and providing an invaluable and previously untapped source on how Kennedy was viewed in the African American community.

Roosevelt was considered the "poor man's friend" and the lyrical evidence suggests he was viewed "as a benevolent and powerful patron or 'bossman'" while Truman was seen as much more fallible and "unresponsive to the economic plight of black people as well as their growing demands for equal rights." Kennedy's reputation, particularly in the early years, was rather ambivalent but his death, as the lyrical evidence makes clear, "virtually eradicated any criticism of his international or political policies and left him an unadulterated hero."

In his perceptive foreword, Brian Ward notes that "Kennedy's Blues can be said to feature a series of musical 'editorials' on the state of black America and it's collective investment in the promise of the Kennedy administration during the early 1960's." In addition, of course, are the large cache of memorial songs Rijn examines in the wake of Kennedy's tragic murder. Particularly valuable is Rijn's examination of recorded sermons and the records by black comedians like Slappy White and Dick Gregory. As Rijn notes, this book, like the previous volumes, attempts to "restore the silenced voices" and "lost consciousness" of African Americans. The difference is that overt political commentary was rare in recorded blues and gospel prior to the 1960's but became increasingly more common afterwards; 95 percent of the songs in the book were issued while in Roosevelt's era it was 22 percent and 20 percent in the Truman and Eisenhower eras. In all 131 songs are mentioned (89 studied in full) with chapters dealing with the Kennedy myth, cold war, space race, economy, civil rights and the assassination.

While overt criticism against Kennedy, like FDR, was virtually nonexistent there was, as in previous eras, many songs concerned about war and the economy. The draft (300,000 were called up in the winter of 1961) and the Bay of Pigs were primary concerns in the chapter JFK Says I've Got To Go: songs documented include Wilbert Harrison's "Drafted", Lightnin' Hopkins' "War Is Starting Again", Bo Diddley's "Mr. Krushchev", J.D. Short's harrowing "Fighting For Dear Old Uncle Sam" among others. Unemployment and poverty cast a shadow over the Kennedy era as documented in the chapter named after the Freddy King song, The Welfare Turns Its Back On You: songs examined include Jimmy Lee Robinson's "Times Is Hard", Chuck Brown "Hard Times At My Door" and Emmanuel Laskey's "Welfare Cheese" to cite a few.

The lengthiest chapters, March On, Dr. Martin Luther King and The Day The World Stood Still, deal with the increasingly turbulent civil rights movement and the assassination of Kennedy. Rijn tackled the movement's beginnings in The Truman And Eisenhower Blues in the chapters "The Freedom Choo Choo" dealing with the mid to late 40's and in "Alabama Bus" when the mass civil rights movement began to coalesce in the 50's. As Champion Jack Dupree explained: "I don't know anything about politics and that thing but I have seen the mess they have done out of people's life. I've seen these things, so when I sing I can really sing what's going on. If I stand on a box and tell people of all the wrong in the world, people wouldn't listen. But if I sing it on records all around the world everybody will know. That's the way we have to get our message out in the world to the people. …We couldn't stand up like the white men and speak. If we did, we would be killed or put in jail."

Not surprisingly Kennedy's assassination provoked an outpouring of memorial songs where "the deceased president emerges as a near-saint. As Rijn notes, "the blues and gospel singers' president was in heaven now. Like Christ he had died for our sins." Indeed Kennedy's death is often compared to the crucification of Christ a theme hammered home in gospel songs and sermons like Rev. Omie L. Holliday's "The Assassination of President Kennedy and the Crucification of Christ." The popularity of recorded sermons in the 1920's and 1930's was revived in the 1960's (now benefiting from the LP where sermons could be recorded in full) and Rijn goes at length to examine several of these which provide a rich vein of social commentary.

"Kennedy's Blues", like previous volumes, is an invaluable and illuminating look at the forgotten voices and opinions of African Americans "at a crucial, transitional moment in the black experience, just as a new era of mass activism and protest began." Through prodigious research and examining sources long ignored, Rijn has skillfully brought this era into sharper focus. I also have it on good authority that Rijn plans further sequels which is certainly good news.

As with previous books there is a companion CD featuring 28 of the songs discussed in the book. To order the CD visit: http://home.tiscali.nl/guido/kennedy-blues.htm


Tommy JohnsonBig Road BluesLegends of Country Blues
Tommy JohnsonCool Drink of Water BluesLegends of Country Blues
Mississippi SheiksStop and Listen BluesMississippi Sheiks Vol.1
Willie LoftonDark Road BluesMississippi Blues Vol. 2
Joe McCoyGoing Back Home BluesMemphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vo. 4
Joe McCoyLook Who's Coming Down...Charlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1
K.C DouglasCanned Heat BluesBig Road Blues
Jimmy BrewerBig Road BluesBlues Scene USA Vol. 4
Robert NighthawkMaggie Campbell BluesProwling With The Nighthawk
InterviewDavid EvansInterview
Arzo YoungbloodMaggie Campbell BluesLegacy of Tommy Johnson
Mager JohnsonBye And Bye BluesLegacy of Tommy Johnson
John Henry 'Bubba' BrownCanned Heat BluesLegacy of Tommy Johnson
Boogie Bill WebbDon't You Lie To MeLegacy of Tommy Johnson
Boogie Bill WebbShow Me What You Got For SaleLegacy of Tommy Johnson
Arzo YoungbloodBig Fat Mama BluesLegacy of Tommy Johnson
Mager JohnsonBig Road BluesGoin' Up The Country
Tommy JohnsonCanned Heat BluesLegends of Country Blues
Tommy JohnsonMaggie Campbell BluesMasters Of The Delta Blues
Tommy JohnsonBye, Bye BluesLegends of Country Blues
Tommy JohnsonBig Fat Mama BluesLegends of Country Blues
Houston StackhousePony BluesCatfish Blues
Roosevelt HoltsMaggie Campbell BluesPresenting The Country Blues
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Tommy JohnsonUntitled (Morning Prayer)Masters Of The Delta Blues
Ishman BraceyDeath of Tommy JohnsonChasin' That Devil Music

Show Notes:

For someone who recorded so little Tommy Johnson’s influence was unusually vast and long lasting; after all his recorded output only consists of six issued sides for Victor in 1928 and six issued sides for Paramount in 1929. A welcome surprise in recent years has been the discovery of several recordings of unissued material. It was Johnson’s Victor sides that were the most influential and oft covered: “Cool Drink of Water Blues”, “Big Road Blues”, “Bye-Bye Blues”, “Maggie Campbell Blues”, “Canned Heat Blues” and “Big Fat Mama.” Unlike the Paramount records these sold fairly well and were apparently the songs Johnson sang most often in person. As David Evans wrote: “For about thirty years Tommy Johnson was perhaps the most important and influential blues singer in the state of Mississippi.”

Johnson was born in 1896 in Hinds County, MS, on the George Miller plantation. Once the family moved to Crystal Springs in 1910, Tommy picked up the guitar, learning from his older brother, LeDell. By age 16, Johnson had run away from home to become a "professional" musician, largely supporting himself by playing on the street for tips. By the late teens-early '20s, Tommy was frequently playing the company of rising local stars Charley Patton, Dick Bankston and Willie Brown. Johnson spent most of the '20s playing in the company of Rubin Lacy, Charley McCoy, Son Spand, Walter Vincent, and Ishmon Bracey. He cut his first records for the Victor label at sessions held in Memphis, TN, in 1928.

He cut one session for the Paramount label in 1930, largely through the maneuvering of fellow buddy Charley Patton. Then the slow descent into alcoholism started taking its toll. He worked on a medicine show with Ishmon Bracey in the '30s, but mostly seemed to be a mainstay of the juke and small party dance circuit the rest of his days. He was playing just such a local house party in November of 1956 when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

I was aware of Johnson's influence but hadn't really thought about it until recently. I was listening to some records in preparation for one of my shows, records by K.C. Douglas and Shirley Griffith, both of who were influenced by Johnson first hand. I began to dig out some other records, mainly LP's of field recordings David Evans made in the 1960's and 70's. It was David Evans investigation into Johnson in the late 1960’s that we owe a good deal of what we know about Johnson and it was through Evans’ field recordings that Johnson’s influence comes into sharper focus. Evans had this to say regarding Johnson’s influence: “Johnson exerted almost no musical influence, either in person or through his records, on blues singers outside the state of Mississippi. …Furthermore, none of his songs, was a big enough hit to enter the folk tradition significantly in its recorded from. Instead, his records tended to act as a reinforcement of the playing of men who had already learned the songs from him in person, and as a stabilizing force within the tradition. …Versions of Johnson’s songs derive exclusively from personal contact, though many of the artists undoubtedly heard Johnson’s records at one time or other.” Evans recorded many men who learned directly from Johnson including Roosevelt Holts, Boogie Bill Webb, Arzo Youngblood, Isaac Youngblood, Bubba Brown, Babe Stovall, Houston Stackhouse and Tommy’s brother Mager Johnson.

Babe Stovall

Among the records played on today's show are the following, all recorded by Evans: The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (the companion LP to Evans’ book Tommy Johnson – I want to thank Evans for making me a copy of this hard to find record), two albums by Roosevelt Holts (Presenting The Country Blues, Roosevelt Holts and Friends) , South Mississippi Blues, Goin’ Up The Country and Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues From Jackson & Crystal Springs. Outside of Catfish Blues all the other records have never been issued on CD. Evans has done quite a bit of field recording much of it unavailable. Here's a link to a list of some of the recordings he's made.

In addition Johnson's influence can be heard on many earlier recordings. Those played on todays show include: Willie Lofton’s “Dark Road Blues” (1935), Mississippi Sheiks “Stop and Listen Blues” (1930) were covers of “Big Road Blues”, The McCoy Brothers recorded “Going Back Home” (1934) which was a version of “Cool Drink of Water Blues”, Robert Nighthawk recorded versions of “Maggie Campbell Blues” in 1953 (he also cut a version in 1964) and K.C. Douglas who recorded “Canned Heat Blues” 1961 (he cut another version in 1956).

As for Johnson's own recording they are available in their entirety (outside a a newly found title) on Document's Tommy Johnson 1928 – 1929 and JSP's Legends of Country Blues. Sound quality is good on both but even better on Yazoo's Masters Of The Delta Blues ~ Friends Of Charlie Patton and Revenant's Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues: The Worlds Of Charlie Patton, although these feature only a few tracks.

I again want to thank David Evans for taking the time to talk with me about Tommy Johnson. If you can track down a copy, I highly recommend his book Tommy Johnson.


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