1960′s Blues


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Sonny Boy Williamson II The Sky Is Crying (Keep It To Ourselves)Sony Boy Williamson in Europe
Sonny Boy Williamson IIDissatisfiedSony Boy Williamson in Europe
Little Brother MontgomeryKeep Drinking Dealing With The Devil
James CottonDealing With The DevilDealing With The Devil
Otis SpannI Came From Clarksdale The Blues of Otis Spann
Roosevelt SykesSail OnAmerican Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Johnny 'Big Moose' WalkerGoing Home TomorrowGoing Home Tomorrow
Juke Boy BonnerB.U. BluesThings Ain't Right:The 1969 London Sessions
Fred McDowell Diving Duck BluesIn London Vol. 1
Cousin Joe American Blues Legends '74American Blues Legends '74
Doctor Ross Seems Like A DreamAmerican Blues Legends '74
Walter HortonThat Ain't ItAmerican Folk Blues Festival '70
Big John WrencherTouble Makin' WomanBig John's Boogie
Chicago Blues All StarsLittle Boy BlueLoaded With The Blues
Muddy WatersFeel Like Goin' HomeOne More Mile
Muddy WatersMy Pencil Won't Write No More One More Mile
Robert Pete WilliamsTake It Along Everywhere You GoBlues Masters Vol. 1
Big Joe WilliamsHand Me Down My Old Walking StickHand Me Down My Old Walking Stick
Bukka WhiteAberdeen BluesSparkasse In Concert
Howlin' Wolf Smokestack Lightning The American Folk-Blues Festival 1962-1966 DVD Vol.4
Sister Rosetta TharpeTrouble In MindAmerican Folk Blues Festival DVD Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeMy Last Suit The Best Of Brownie McGhee
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGheeHooray, Hooray, This Woman Is Killing Me Chris Barber Presents Lost & Found Vol. 1
Champion Jack DupreeStoryville SpecialBarrelhouse Blues & Boogie Woogie
Sunnyland Slim Get Further Little BrotherBarrelhouse Blues & Boogie Woogie
James Booker Papa Was A RascalLive At Montreux

Show Notes:

Sonny Boy Williamson:Portrait In BluesToday's program is the third and final program of  our look at blues artists who  recorded in Europe spanning the late 40's through the 70's. Outside of Lonnie Johnson and Alberta Hunter, the blues hadn't reached European shores prior to the 1940's The late 40's saw a few artists such as Leadbelly and Sammy Price hit Europe, with Price being the first to record. Josh White recorded the first guitar blues outside the U.S. But the biggest impact was Big Bill Broonzy's arrival in 1951 and subsequent tours through 1957. By 1958 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters had come to England. 1960 saw Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery and Speckled Red appear in England. Dupree and Slim would both settle in Europe. Europe would become a haven for blues pianists with Curtis Jones, Eddie Boyd and Little Willie Littlefield all settling there. 1962 saw the inaugural American Folk Blues Festival which featured the absolute cream of the blues scene and toured almost annually until 1972. During the 70's blues artists continued to tour Europe and there were package tours such as The American Blues Legends Tour which ran in 1973, 74, 75 and 79 and major concerts like the Montreux Jazz Festival which always had a blues component. Other artists also recorded in Europe like Blind John Davis, Professor Longhair, Lightnin' Slim and Louisiana Red who settled in Germany.

We open the show with a pair of tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson II who we've spotlighted in out first two installments. Sonny Boy Williamson first traveled to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1963 and joined the festival again in 1964. Williamson stayed on after the tour trying to establish residency but it wasn't to be. Giorgio Gomelsky, who ran the Crawdaddy Club,  claims that he convinced promoter Horst Lippmann to let Sonny Boy remain in Britain so that “we could organize a tour of the budding R&B club circuit and strengthen the blues scene.” It appears that Williamson returned to the United States with the rest of the cast but he was back in London by early December for a series of concerts at the Marquee Club, including a Christmas Eve gig with the Cyril Davies All-Stars and Long John Baldry that made him an “honorary member of the British pop elite.” Williamson ushered in 1964 at the Marquee with the Chris Barber Band and Ottilie Patterson and in January he played the club at least once a week, alternately backed by the Hoochie Coochie Men and the Yardbirds. His reception,and the club’s attendance, was so overwhelming that Williamson applied for an extension to his work permit so that he could play a short tour of the provinces with the Yardbirds and additional dates in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

American Blues Legends '74It must have been humbling to go from such great renown in Europe only to return to the states  and once again hawk his namesake cornmeal and promote gigs over KFFA's  "King Biscuit Time" in Helena Arkansas. Despite the bowler hat and suit, his stories of adoring  white crowds were met with skepticism among the locals. Willie Dixon, who organized the American Folk Blues Festival, put Sonny Boy on the second and third tours and held him in high regard. As Dixon wrote in his autobiography "Sonny Boy Williamson was a beautiful guy. He wasn't a liar like a lot of guys. Most guys talking about themselves exaggerate a little bit. But if Sonny Boy told you it was, it was." Sonny Boy was truly appreciative of all the attention, and contemplated moving to Europe permanently but went back to the States where he made some final recordings for Chess.

We spin two today by Muddy Waters who first appeared oversea in Britain in 1958, returning again in 1962 and 1964.  This time out we play two wonderful acoustic performances from a 1972 Swiss radio broadcast. These sides were first released on the 2-CD set One More Mile.

In our second installment we featured Muddy Waters performing in 1964 as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. In May of 1964, the touring Folk, Blues, and Gospel Caravan featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters and Cousin Joe performed a quirky, rain-drenched concert outside Manchester, England at a deserted Railway Station which had been decorated or 'dressed up' as a deep south railroad station. The railroad boarding platform served as a make-shift stage and the rail yard was filled with an audience. This time out we spotlight Sister Rosetta's knockout performance of "Trouble In Mind." Rosetta was introduced by Cousin Joe: "Ladies and Gentleman at this time I get great pleasure in bringing to you one of the greatest, one of the worlds greatest, gospel singers and guitar virtuosos, the inimitable Sister Rosetta Tharpe." As the rain poured down she launched into  "Didn't It Rain" and then "Trouble In Mind." This wasn't Tharpe's first time in Britain as she had toured first back in 1957 backed by Chris Barber's band. She was also the sole woman on the 1970 American Folk Blues Festival.

Once again we play several tracks from the American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) which was an annual event that featured the cream of American blues musicians barnstorming their way across Europe throughout the 60's. The impact of these annual tours had a profound impact on those that were in attendance. Future stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page any many others were in the audience and were directly influenced by what they saw. The rise of blues based bands like the The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals can be directly attributed to the AFBF. The festival, founded by Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau in 1962, featured performances by luminaries like John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, and Willie Dixon and drew sellout crowds and rave reviews. Many of the artists found they were far more popular in Britain than in the United States, where audiences for the blues were diminishing. Several emigrated, and others seized the new commercial opportunities presented by the British blues boom by recording extensively for the European market and touring the blues club circuit with bands comprised of their young devotees.

American Folk Blues Festival 1964
1964 AFBF ensemble (The British Tour): Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hubert Sumlin

Horst Lippman hired Willie Dixon as a consultant on the tour. "Willie was my guide to all the clubs and most of the people", Lipmann recalled. "I'd go to all the main clubs where Muddy played and Wolf's place Silvio's and then little clubs on the corner you'd get in and suddenly there was Magic Sam playing …and another West Side club where Otis Rush was playing. These were not famous clubs but Willie knew them. At that time, Chicago was full of blues music, especially on the South Side."

Howlin' Wolf's appearance as part of the AFBF was much anticipated. In How Britain Got The Blues Roberta Freund Shwartz writes: "The 6’6” Wolf was the most energetic showman in Chicago and was known to lunge about the stage, climb curtains, do back flips and anything else he could think of to get an audience on its feet. Both R&B Monthly and R ‘n’ B Scene thought it prudent to forewarn their readers. “From reports, his act is essentially visual, and it will be another hallmark in British blues appreciation to see this massive bluesman roar his blues.”72 Willie Dixon was so concerned about possible reactions that he ordered Howlin’ Wolf to “act right” on stage. From published reviews and remembrances it seems that he toned down his usual antics, but his size and menacing stage presence were enough to make an indelible impression. Alan Stevens of Melody Maker reported, 'He pads around the stage like a caged animal, fixes his baleful stare, makes a violent movement of his hands, then belts out the blues with such power and effect that the whole of his massive frame shakes ….' According to Simon Napier, Wolf’s Festival performances 'varied from day to day somewhat as to content quality and power … some days he got over very well, at others he was less effective.' At Croydon and Manchester he 'brought down the house' with 'Shake for Me' and was 'absolutely great.' Long John Baldry recalled, 'It was just magic watching him.' …Not only had his powerful Festival performances earned him new fans, he also had a record on the charts. 'Smokestack Lightnin,' [Pye 7N52244] a song that had been in Wolf’s repertoire since the early 1930s, broke the British Top 50 shortly after its release in June; it peaked at #42 on the national charts but in Manchester and Newcastle it was in the Top Twenty. This granted him almost mainstream stardom and during his stay he appeared on nearly every pop television and radio program in the country, including the iconic Juke Box Jury."

The American Blues Legends tour was run by promoter Jim Simpson who operated the Big Bear label. Simpson released albums of the tour for the years 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979. In the previous programs we've featured selections from the 1973 and 1979 tours and today we spotlight a pair from the 1974 tour. That toured featured Eddie Taylor, Doctor Ross, Big John Wrencher, G.P. Jackson and Cousin Joe. Joe's "Blues Legends '74" is an autobiographical song about the tour and is also where today's show title comes from.

Several tracks across these three programs come from the Storyville label. Named after the notorious New Orleans district where jazz was born, the Storyville label was launched in Copenhagen in 1952 by jazz fanatic Karl Emil Knudsen. Storyville originally sold imported American records but when the burgeoning post war jazz scene attracted the American jazz and blues artists to tour in Europe and Scandinavia Knudsen seized every opportunity to record his jazz and blues heroes for the label. From the beginning the label was issuing 45's by people like Champion Jack Dupree, Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Memphis Slim, Snooks Eaglin, Speckled Red and Leadbelly and then later releasing albums by these same artists. Notable where the label's "Portraits In Blues" series which featured full-length albums by Snooks Eaglin, John Henry Barbee, Big Joe Williams, Sunnyland Slim and others.

Big Walter Horton is featured twice today, once with the group Chicago Blues Allstars and and a performance under his own name at the 1965 AFBF. The Chicago Blues All Stars were a group that included Horton, Johnny Shines, Willie Dixon, Clifton James and  Sunnyland Slim.  The group issued one album,  Loaded With The Blues,  for the German MPS label in 1969.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Walter HortonCan't Help Myself Blues Southside Chicago
Johnny Young One More TimeBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesGoing To The RiverChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesSloppy DrunkChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Howlin' WolfSugar MamaBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersSitting And ThninkingBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersWee, Wee Baby Blues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Johnny Young The Sun Is Shining And This Is Maxwell Street
Big John WrencherCan´t Hold Out Much LongerAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Carey BellI'm Ready And This Is Maxwell Street
L.C. McKinleyMind Your BusinessHave A Good Time
Homesick James Little And Low Have A Good Time
Walter HortonHave A Good TimeHave A Good Time
Earl Hooker Peppers Other ThingLive At Peppers Lounge Vol. 2
Lonnie Brooks Sweet Little AngelLive At Peppers 1968
Sunnyland SlimEverytime I Get To Drinking Blues Southside Chicago
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Eddie BoydLosing HandBlues Southside Chicago
James BrewerBig Road Blues Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
John Henry BarbeeTell Me Baby Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Maxwell Street JimmyLong-Haired DoneyChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Little Johnny JonesWorried Life BluesLive In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny JonesOuch! Live In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Robert Nighthawk I Need Love So BadAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Robert Nighthawk Cheating And Lying BluesAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Muddy WatersClouds In My HeartBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Today show is part two in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight several collections of Chicago blues recorded in the 1960's some of which are somewhat rare or not particularly well known. Among the studio albums we spotlight today are Blues Southside Chicago and its companion album Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues. In addition we feature some great live blues from the albums Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle, Little Johnny Jones and Billy Boy ArnoldBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana, Live At Peppers Lounge, And This Is Maxwell Street among a few others.

Blues Southside Chicago Is a superb collection of Chicago blues artists recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do." In a 1977 interview pianist Henry Gray recalled this session: "I remember, in 1964, Willie Dixon was asked by an English company to produce a couple of so-called Southside Chicago sessions. [Dixon was a very close friend of Howlin' Wolf and they talked together about that;] Wolf was not personally interested but he induced me to go and support some of the artists chosen by Dixon…Poor Bob Woodfork, Robert Nighthawk, Shakey Horton. That was issued on British Decca label. Yeah, I think it was representative of the kind of music we were playing in the Southside clubs at that time."

Walter Horton always sounded best on other people's records but comes across magnificently on "Can't Help Myself" which opens with a lengthy upper register harmonica solo before Horton's plaintive, impassioned vocals kick in. Horton's harmonica work is stunning and it's a shame he gets consistently overshadowed by Little Walter.

Certainly one of the highlights is the two marvelous songs by Robert Nighthawk. "Lula Mae" is a cover of the 1944 Tampa Red song and it was Tampa who was Nighthawk's main influence. This is an exceedingly tough Chicago blues with Nighthawk's heavy, gloomy vocals hanging over the song punctuated by the waling amplified harp of Walter Horton. "Merry Christmas" (Nighthawk cut another version for Testament the same year) is more of the same again with some extroverted playing by Horton.

Johnny Young, who plays second guitar on the above sides, was a pal of Nighthawk's and the two often played together on Maxwell Street. Young was a brilliant mandolin and guitar player who like Nighthawk was sadly under recorded. Backed by the same band as Nighthawk, Young is in fine form on the stripped down, heartfelt "Little Girl" laying down some intricate mandolin work while the shuffling "One MoreFolk Festival of the Blues Time" virtually pops out of the speakers again with some dazzling harp from Horton.

Like Nighthawk, Homesick James was a bottleneck guitarist but with a more rudimentary technique, owing quite a bit to his cousin Elmore James. By the time of these recordings he was relatively under recorded with some scattered singles and one full length album cut for Prestige a few months prior. The combination of Homesick's ringing bottleneck and emotionally charged vocals make a potent force on "Got To Move" and "Crutch And Cane" a thinly disguised version of "Look On Yonder Wall."

Leadbitter calls the piano blues a dying art form and these days the tradition is hanging on by a lifeline. Back then there was still numerous fine piano men including Henry Gray (still with us thankfully) and Willie Mabon who back some of the other artists on this collection and Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd who get two sides apiece under their own names. Sunnyland is in commanding form, hollering out the blues with abandon on the shuffling "I Got To Get To My Baby" and the regal "Everytime I Get To Drinking" a number he first waxed back in 1949, both sporting marvelous solos by Buddy Guy. Boyd is in equally strong form on "Losing Hand" and the bouncy "Where You Belong" again with outstanding contributions from Buddy guy.

Little Johnny Jones recorded little under his own name, never making it past his 40th birthday. Luckily Jones was caught on tape in 1963 working with Billy Boy Arnold in a Chicago folk club called the Fickle Pickle run by Michael Bloomfield. Norman Dayron recorded Johnny on portable equipment which has been released on the Alligator record titled Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold. Additional tracks from this recording appear on Chicago Blues – Live At The Fickle Pickle, a long out of print LP on the Flyright label. The Fickle Pickle was a club on Rush Street in Chicago managed at one time by Michael Bloomfield. Regulars included Big Joe Willies, St. Louis Jimmy, James Brewer, Billy Boy Arnold, Little Johnny Jones, J.B. Lenoir and others.

Originally released as Folk Festival of the Blues on Chess's Argo subsidiary, then reissued as Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana, this is a live document of a steamy night in a Chicago blues club. Chicago blues disc jockey Big Bill Hill intros the band and the assembled stars (one of whom, Little Walter, is nowhere to be found on this disc), then Buddy Guy's band rips into "Wee Wee Baby," and sung in three-part harmony by Buddy, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Some of the tracks here are ringers; Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It On Home" and a stray Buddy Guy track are actually studio takes with fake applause dubbed on. But the two from Howlin' Wolf and everything here from Muddy are live.

And This Is Maxwell Street is a three-disc set features the street recordings from the 1964 Mike Shea film documentary, And This Is Free, plus a slew of previously unreleased performances of equal importance. These recordings were recorded live on Chicago's Maxwell Street, a mecca for bluesman trying to hustle a few bucks from the passing crowd. The 30 tracks contain wonderful performances by Maxwell Street regulars such as Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Carey Bell, Arvella Gray, Big John Wrencher and several others.

Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Read Liner Notes

After a long absence Nighthawk returned to Chicago in 1964 and recorded several times including a blistering set taped live on Maxwell St. in conjunction with the filming of Mike Shea's 1964 documentary "And This is Free." Maxwell St. was at the heart of Chicago's black ghetto and was a bustling open air market. Above all it's the music of legendary slide man Robert Nighthawk who dominates these recordings playing on 22 of the 30 tracks. In an interview done by Mike Bloomfield, Nighthawk, reflected on what brought him back to Maxwell Street: "Lately I went back to Maxwell St.- I been playing off and on for 24 years now. Most all music more or less starts right off from Maxwell St. and so you wind up going back there. …See it's more hard to play out in the street than it is in a place of business, but you have more fun in the street, looks like. Well, so many things you can see, so many different things going on, I get a kick out of it, I guess."

In 1975 Rarities Records put out two boottleg albums: Live At Peppers Lounge Vols. 1 & 2. The recordings were made in 1969 at Pepper's Lounge in Chicago. While the records have some good music the credits are incorrect; Little Walter and Eddie Taylor do not appear on these records despite the credits. The club featured great blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Shakey Jake, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy.  Waters was a mainstay in the 1960's, and Chicago locals could catch his show for eight dollars. In 1971, the club moved to 1321 S. Michigan Avenue. Today we play a great Earl Hooker cut from the second volume. Unfortunately I couldn't locate my copy of the first volume so instead we play a killer  my cut by Lonnie Brooks recorded at Peppers in 1968.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Willie MabonMichelleI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Willie MabonInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Willie MabonI'm HungryI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerI Don't Want No Woman, She Got Hair Like Drops Of RainI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerBig Road BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd Five Long YearsI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd InterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd Her Picture In A FrameI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungWhy Did You Break My HeartI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungBetter Cut It OutI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Sunnyland SlimIt's You BabyI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Sunnyland SlimSunnyland's JumpI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonTrouble In MindI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonLouise LouiseI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonLet's Have A Good TimeI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Washboard SamBooker T BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Washboard SamAll By MyselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
John Lee GrandersonEasy StreetI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
John Lee GrandersonInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Avery Brady Gangster's BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Avery Brady InterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryWest Texas BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryUp The Country BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Arvella GrayJohn HenryI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Arvella GrayInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
St. Louis Jimmy Can't Stand Your Evil WaysI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
St. Louis Jimmy Poor Boy BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Big Joe WilliamsSouthern BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Big Joe WilliamsRootin' GroundhogI Blueskvarter Vol. 3

Show Notes:

Today's show is part one in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight remarkable recordings made for a documentary titled I Blueskvarter, Swedish for In Blues Quarters. The bulk of today's notes come from Scott Baretta who wrote the notes for the series; Scott also edited the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson, is currently the host of the Highway 61 radio show for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, is head writer and researcher (with Jim O’Neal) for the Mississippi Blues Trail, and former editor of Living Blues magazine. In fact it was through Scott that I got a copy of the first volume of I Blueskvarter  more than a decade ago.

Olle Helander
Olle Helander

These recordings were made by Olle Helander, a radio host for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation who traveled to Chicago in 1964 for the express purpose of recording the blues. In addition there were trips to New Orleans and Memphis all of which were the raw material for the 21 part documentary radio series I Bluekvarter which first aired on Swedish Radio in the Autumn of 1964. Outside of poor sounding bootlegs, these recordings sat on the shelf for over thirty years until release in the beginning in the late 1990's by the folks who run the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson. The recordings were released as three 2- CD sets and feature intimate recordings by Willie Mabon, James Brewer, Champion Eddie Boyd, Yank Rachell, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Walter Horton as well as Babe Stovall, Snooks Eaglin and others. The recording trip documented on this show wasn't Helander's first to "the blues quarters".  In 1961 Helander spent several months visiting the music scenes of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Memphis, and Chicago. Helander arrived in Chicago with the vague idea of investigating the blues, but initially had no luck tracing down blues artists until a chance meeting with the guitarist Big Joe Williams. Hiring Williams as a guide, Helander soon met up with Willie Dixon, Chicago’s premier blues talent scout and producer, as well as a number of the artists he would record in 1964: Sunnyland Slim, Arvella Gray, James Brewer, Little Brother Montgomery, and St. Louis Jimmy Oden.

Unlike his 1961 trip, Helander returned in 1964 with a clearer mission. In order to insure good sound quality, Helander hand-picked the sound-technician Hans Westman, whom he regarded as Swedish Radio's best, and armed with a portable Nagra tape recorder and four channel mixer, they set off to the States. The two landed in New York on May the 4th, and after making the rounds in the city’s jazz scene over the next days, arrived in Chicago on the 11th. Helander and Westman spent several days preparing their recording sessions, spending time with Willie Dixon, as well as Pete Welding of Testament Records and DownBeat magazine, and Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records. The blues recordings commenced on May 14th. Not having the budget to book a conventional recording studio, the only suitable place they could find was the Sutherland Lounge, at 4569 South Drexel Avenue in Chicago’s South Side. Conducting sessions on five separate occasions, they would leave Chicago with ninety-nine full takes from fourteen different artists/units. Below you will find background on some of today's featured artists.

For me, and others whose opinion I value, the recordings made by Walter Horton are a high water mark. As Barretta writes: "It’s probably no accident that Helander chose as his introductory theme Walter Horton’s 'Trouble In Mind', the eerie sounds of his lonesome harmonica, accompanied sparsely by Robert Nighthawk on guitar, about as far as one could get from the schlager and pop music dominating the Swedish charts of 1964. As a rather shy, quiet I Blueskavrter Vol. 1individual, Horton never had much taste for leading his own bands or recording sessions. Horton was much more comfortable in a supporting role and as writer Neal Slavin wrote “was one of the few musicians capable of elevating the slightest material into something approaching a masterpiece.”

James Brewer was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi on 1920 and moved to Chicago in the 1940's where he spent the latter part of his life busking and performing both blues and religious songs at blues and folk festivals, on Chicago's Maxwell Street and other venues. In 1962, however, he was offered an opportunity to play blues at a concert at Northwestern University and also began a regular gig at the No Exit Cafe which lasted for two decades. He went on to play major festivals and clubs in the United States, Canada and Europe. His first recordings appear on Blues From Maxwell Street (Heritage, 1960), cut several sides for Pete Welding in 1964, the same he was recorded during the making of the documentary And The Is Free and cut the full-length albums Jim Brewer (Philo, 1974) and Tough Luck (Earwig, 1983).

John Lee Granderson, Avery Brady and Arvella Gray all performed on Maxwell Street, and all under-recorded. In addition to the full length Hard Luck John (issued posthumously in 1998), Tennessee bluesman John Lee Granderson cut sides on other Testament compilations with further sides appearing on various anthologies. Among those Granderson played with were Robert Nighthawk, Big Joe Williams and Daddy Stovepipe. Brady's first recordings were made for this documentary. A few more songs by Avery were recorded that year and few in 1965 that were issued on the Testament and Storyville labels. He never recorded again. Gray made his first recordings in 1960 (released on the Heritage label) and in early 1964 he made sides for his own Gray label, selling the 45's on the street. In 1964, like James Brewer, he was also recorded for the documentary And This Is Free. He was regular performer on Maxwell Street on Sundays. Gray's only album, 1972's The Singing Drifter was reissued on the Conjuroo label in 2005.

Captured were several artists active in the pre-war years incluing Washboard Sam, St. Louis Jimmy and Little Brother Montgomery. Washboard Sam was one of the most popular and prolific blues artists of the 30's and 40's. Between 1935 and 1949 he recorded hundreds of sides for RCA's Bluebird and Victor labels. His last commercial session was a date with Big Bill Broonzy for Chess in 1953. These recordings were his first recordings in a decade. St. Louis Jimmy Oden made his debut back in 1932 but when recorded for these sessions he was mainly working as a songwriter, although he did cut a full-length album for Bluesville as recently as 1960.

In addition to Little Brother Montgomery, several other pianists were captured during the trip including Willie Mabon, Eddie Boyd and Sunnyland Slim. Mabon made his debut in 1949 but it was his 1952 debut release on the Parrot label, "I Don't Know," topped the R&B charts for eight weeks after being sold to Chess. From then on, Mabon was a Chess artist, returning to the top R&B slot the next year with "I'm Mad" and the Top Ten "Poison Ivy" in 1954. Although he didn't score any he big hits after Chess he continued cutting solid sides for  Federal in 1957, Mad in 1960, Formal in 1962, and USA 1963-64. He moved to Paris in 1972.

I Blueskavrter Vol. 2In 1941, Boyd settled in Chicago. He backed Sonny Boy Williamson on his 1945 classic "Elevator Woman," also accompanying Bluebird stars Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, and Jazz Gillum on wax. Boyd made his 1947 debut for RCA staying with the label through 1949. Boyd reportedly paid for the date that produced "Five Long Years" himself, selling the track to JOB Records where it topped the R&B charts during 1952. Al Benson signed Boyd to a contract with his Parrot label and promptly sold it to Chess. At Chess he waxed "24 Hours" and "Third Degree," both huge R&B hits in 1953 and several other fine sides. Boyd became enamored of Europe during his tour with the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival, so he moved to Belgium. He recorded prolifically during the late '60sand in the early '70s settled in Helsinki where he played often and lived until his death.

For more than 50 years Sunnyland Slim rumbled the ivories around the Windy City, playing with virtually every local luminary imaginable and backing the great majority in the studio at one time or another. Slim moved to Chicago in 1939 and set up shop as an in-demand piano man, playing for a spell with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson before making his debut in 1947. Slim recorded prolifically until his death in 1995.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Shirley GriffithRiver Line Blues Saturday Blues
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithBig Road BluesSaturday Blues
Alec SewardEvil Woman BluesCreepin' Blues
Alec SewardBig Hip WomanCreepin' Blues
Alec SewardMade A Mistake In LoveCreepin' Blues
Robert Curtis SmithSunflower River Blues Clarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithPut Your Arms Around MeClarksdale Blues
Wade WaltonParchman FarmShake 'Em On Down
Wade WaltonShake 'Em On DownShake 'Em On Down
Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell'Bama BoundMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellCan't Sleep For Dreaming My Heart Struck Sorrow
Henry TownsendCairo Is My Baby's Home Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendTired Of Being MistreatedTired Of Being Mistreated
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Matchbox Blues Indiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Oh Mama How I Love You Indiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Bright Street JumpIndiana Ave. Blues
Shirley GriffithBye Bye BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley Griffith Left Alone BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithShirley's Jump Saturday Blues
Robert Curtis SmithCouncil Spur BluesClarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithCan You Remember MeClarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithI Hate To Leave You With Tears In Your EyesClarksdale Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellLive Ain't Worth LivingMy Heart Struck Sorrow' Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBlues Is A FeelingMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell Asked Her If She Loved MeMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Henry TownsendI Asked Her If She Loved Me Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendI Got Tired Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendAll My Money Gone Tired Of Being Mistreated
J. T. Adams & Shirley GriffithDone Changed The Lock On My DoorIndiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBlind Lemon's BluesIndiana Ave. Blues

Show Notes:

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From 1949 through 1971, Prestige Records, owned and run by Bob Weinstock, was among the most famous and successful of the independent jazz labels. By the late 50's the company was looking to branch out and new categories were created within the Prestige catalog. There was the Folklore series, there was Moodsville, Swingsville and then there was Bluesville. An important factor was the release in 1959 of Samuel Charter's ground breaking book The Country Blues. In 1961 Charter's hooked up with the label and played a important role getting talent for the label and did much of the producing. In addition to Charters there were a number of others including Mack McCormick of Houston who provided a slew of Lightnin' Hopkins records,Chris Strachwitz who would form Arhoolie Records, Art Rosenbaum who recorded Indianapolis artists Scrapper Blackwell, Shirley Griffith and J.T. Adams and Chris Albertson who was instrumental in getting Lonnie Johnson back in the studio. Bluesville's roster grew quickly including artists such as Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Joe Williams, Jimmy Witherspoon and Memphis Slim among numerous others. A number of older artists such as Tampa Red and particularly Lonnie Johnson found a new home at Bluesville in which to revitalize their careers. In addition the label also caught some important artists on record for the first time or who recorded very little including Pink Anderson (except for two sides cut in the 20's), Baby Tate, Wade Walton and Doug Quattlebaum to name a few. The bulk of of Bluesville's catalog has been issued on CD except for a handful of excellent records we spotlight today.

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (1965) and Mississippi Blues (1973). All thee records are long out of print. Born in 1907 near Brandon, Mississippi Griffith was certainly old enough to have made records in the 1920's and 30's and in fact had at least two opportunities to do so. In 1928 his friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too "wild and reckless" in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In 1935 Carr offered to take Griffith to New York for a recording session but Carr died suddenly and the trip was never made. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record and produced Griffith's Bluesville albums. Griffith did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. He passed away in 1974

John Tyler Adams was born in Western Kentucky and it was his father who started him out on guitar. In 1941 he went up North, eventually settling in Indianapolis. Adams became good friends with Shirley Griffith and at the time of his first recordings had been playing together for fifteen years. Adams recorded just one album, Indiana Ave. Blues (1964) on Bluesville with Griffith with other sides appearing on the album Indianapolis Jump issued on Flyright.

J.T. Adams & Shirley Griffith: Indiana Ave. Blues
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Alec Seward was born in Charles City County, Virginia and relocated to New York in 1942 where he befriended Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. He met Louis Hayes and the duo performed variously named as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly, or The Back Porch Boys. The duo recorded sides in 1944 and another batch in 1947. During the 1940's and 1950's Seward played and recorded with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, McGhee and Terry. Creepin' Blues (with harmonica accompaniment by Larry Johnson) was released by Bluesville in 1965 and never issued on CD. Later in the decade Seward worked in concert and at folk-blues festivals. He died at the age of 70, in New York in May 1972.

One of Clarksdale's most talented and renowned blues musicians, Wade Walton (1923-2000) chose to pursue a career as a barber rather than as a professional entertainer. Walton never lost his love for blues, however, and often performed for customers and tourists at his barbershops. Walton came to the attention of the international blues community after two California college students in search of folk and blues musicians, Dave Mangurian and Don Hill, visited him in 1958. Walton went with the pair to Parchman, where their request to record prisoners' songs were declined and became the topic of a song Walton composed after the encounter. On a return trip in 1961, the students were jailed, but after concluding that they were indeed in town to record blues, not to agitate for civil rights, the case was dismissed. They then traveled with Walton to New Jersey for the recording of his album for Bluesville Records, Shake 'Em On Down.

Brooks Berry was born in March, 1915, in western Kentucky and when she was in her middle teens moved up to Indianapolis, where she lived ever since. As producer Art Rosenbaum wrote: "Brooks met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis and thus began a long though at times stormy friendship that was to end suddenly some fifteen months after the last of the present recordings were made. On October 6, 1962. Scrapper was shot to death in a back alley near his home. Brooks has been, during the four years I have known her, reluctant to sing blues without her friend's sensitive guitar or piano playing behind her; and she will sing less and less now that he is gone." Her lone album under her own name was My Heart Struck Sorrow with Blackwell. Some additional sides by Berry and Blackwell appear on the collection Scrapper Blackwell with Brooks Berry 1959 – 1960 on Document and recorded live at 144 Gallery in Indianapolis, Ind in 1959.

Henry Townsend, who has died aged 96 in 2006, had been the last blues musician who could trace his recording career back to the 1920s, having sat down before a recording microphone in November 1929 to sing his "Henry's Worried Blues" for Paramount. He was born in Shelby, Mississippi, but grew up in St Louis. In his late teens he became interested in playing the guitar and began to infiltrate a circle of musicians that included Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes and Peetie Wheatstraw. He recorded steadily, if not prolifically, through the decades cutting fine sides with Walter Davis through the 50's, a superb record for Bluesville in the 60's and in 1980 one of his finest records, Mule for the Nighthawk label. Townsend's Bluesville album has also been issued on Folkways as The Blues In St. Louis Vol. 3.

Wade Walton: Shake 'em On Down
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A chance meeting with Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, at the Big 6 Barber Shop in Clarksdale led to Robert Curtis Smith's the lone album, Clarksdale Blues, recorded in 1961. The record didn't seem to make much of an impact, sinking without a trace and over the year becoming highly collectible. In the liner notes Mack McCormick wrote: "Robert Curtis Smith is a hard working farm laborer in upper Mississippi. He supports a wife and eight children by driving a tractor ($3 a day top) during the farming season, by hunting rabbits in the winter. He has a borrowed guitar with which he sings of women he has loved, lost, discarded, or found worthy of erotic praise. …The status quo in his world is to sap the strength and exploit the weakness of Negroes. It is a far more vicious crime than the occasional lynching since the end result is the massive weakening of a strong people. Ideas of inferiority are fed to him hand-in-hand with conditions that patently are inferior. Badly deprived of constitutional privilege and the minimum wage, and lacking the know-how to correct his situation, Smith’s way of life is astonishingly out of step with modern times." A few other tracks by Curtis appear on various anthologies including some excellent 1960 numbers on the Arhoolie collection I Have to Paint My Face: Mississippi Blues 1960. Smith disappeared from the blues world not long after these recordings but 30 years later he was rediscovered living in Chicago. He had given up blues in the passing years, but he continued to play in church and was recorded performing gospel numbers in 1990 on the anthology From Mississippi to Chicago. Eventually Wade Walton became aware of Smith's whereabouts; this led to his appearance at the 1997 Sunflower River Blues Festival in Clarksdale. By one account it was an uncomfortable performance and I'm not sure if Smith did any follow-up concerts.Smith passed in 2010.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
John Henry Barbee Six Weeks Old BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
John Henry BarbeeGod Knows I Can't Help ItMemphis Blues 1927-1938
J.D. Short Barefoot BluesThe Best There Ever Was
J.D. Short Lonesome Swamp Rattlesnake Blues Images Vol. 2
J.D. Short J. D. Talks Stavin' Chain Blues
J.D. Short So Much WineJ.D. Short & Son House: Blues from the Mississippi Delta
The Chatmon BorthersIf You Don't Want Me, Please, Don't Dog Me AroundBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
The Chatmon BorthersJumping Out BluesBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Carl Martin Crow Jane Carl Martin & Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941
Carl Martin Farewell to You BabyGuitar Wizards 1926-1935
John Henry Barbee Against My WillMemphis Blues 1927-1938
John Henry Barbee You'll Work Down to me Someday Memphis Blues 1927-1938
John Henry Barbee I Know She Didn't Love MeDown Home Slide
Sam Chatmon I Have To Paint My FaceI Have To Paint My Face
Sam Chatmon I Stand And WonderI Have To Paint My Face
Sam Chatmon Last Chance Shaking In The Bed With MeSam Chatmon (Blue Goose)
Carl MartinOld Time BluesVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Carl MartinYou Can't Bet The Syndicate (excerpt)Crow Jane Blues
Carl MartinCorrina, CorrinaCrow Jane Blues
John Henry Barbee Tell Me BabyPortraits in Blues Vol. 9
John Henry Barbee Baby I Need Your LoveLive At The Fickle Pickle
John Henry Barbee I Ain't Gonna Pick No More CottonPortraits in Blues Vol. 9
J.D. Short It's Hard TimeAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
J.D. Short Starry Crown Blues The Sonet Blues Story
Sam ChatmonGo Back Old Devil 1970-1974
Sam ChatmonSam's Rag The Devil's Music
Martin, Bogan & Armstrong Hoodoo BluesClassic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
Carl MartinRailroad BluesCrow Jane Blues
Carl MartinState Street Pimp #1 Crow Jane Blues
J.D. Short Slidin' DeltaThe Sonet Blues Story
J.D. Short Stavin' Chain Blues Stavin' Chain Blues

Show Notes:

Today’s show is a continuing series on forgotten blues heroes, spotlighting several blues artists I admire who are little recorded and mostly forgotten outside of die-hard collectors. Today we spotlight four superb little-recorded artists who made their recording debuts in the 1930's and returned in the 1960's as part of the blues revival. From Mississippi by-way-of St. Louis we hear from J.D Short, Mississippian Sam Chatmon, John Henry Barbee from Tennessee and Carl Marin from West Virginia. None of today's artists return caused the sort of excitement of say Son House or Mississippi John Hurt but each had varying degrees of success and all cut some superb recordings in  both phases of their careers. Sam Chatmon was active on the festival circuit and recorded prolifically until his death in the early 80's while Carl Martin found success reuniting with old partners Howard Armstrong and Ted Bogan, forming Martin, Bogan and Armstrong. J.D. Short made some excellent recording in the late 50's and 60's but passed in 1962 before he could take advantage of the blues revival while John Henry Barbee made a handful of recordings in 1963 and 1964, was part of the American Folk Blues Festival which toured Europe in 1964 but who's resurgence was curtailed by a tragic end that very same year.

John Henry Barbee (vocal & guitar), Sleepy John Estes (guitar)
and Hammie Nixon (jug). American Folk Blues Festival, 1964.

As Paul Oliver wrote: “It was a Thursday. September 6th and the year1938. A lean, bespectacled and serious-looking Negro recorded his "Six Weeks Old Blues" and shortly after, it was issued on Vocalion 04417, backed by "God Knows I Can't Help It" a verse-and refrain fast blues with words that seemed to go far back in the blues tradition. The record was a preliminary issue to test public reaction to the new singer and it sold well enough to cause the company to invite the singer back to Chicago to record again. But by this time he had disappeared and the name of John Henry Barbee became a lonely entry In the discographies and the single record a treasured rarity in a few comprehensive blues collections. The blues bass-player Willie Dixon was mainly responsible for the return of John Henry Barbee. He has continued in recent years to seek out new blues talent and has always interested himself in any news of singers unknown to him. One of his younger supporters sang him a blues that he had learned from an ice-cream vendor who sang to the children who gathered about his South Side stall. Stories of the “old man" sounded interesting and Willie was impressed when he heard him sing and play. A short while later, following the re-discovery of Sleepy John Estes and a number of signers from his region, the name of John Henry Barbee was mentioned and Willie Dixon brought him from his virtual retirement."

Barbee was born William George Tucker in Henning, TN on the Fourteenth of November, 1905. Even when he began to be known as a blues singer and guitarist at local country suppers he was still using his given name. His repertoire ranged beyond the blues to embrace the the broader black folk tradition – minstrel and work songs which he picked up from other players he added to his ever-increasing stock of songs. One song that appealed to him was "John Henry." It became a sort of signature tune and he was soon known by his song as "John Henry." He traveled widely through the south in the 30's where he met blues musicians like Sleepy John Estes, Big Joe Williams who he teamed up with for a while. Then in Memphis he met Sunnyland Slim and for a time they formed a guitar-and-piano team working the joints in the Mississippi Delta. Back in Tennessee he met up With Sonny Boy Williamson I. He was living across the Mississippi River in Luxora, Arkansas. when he got an invitation to record for Vocalion in the early fall of 1938. Ha made the trip to Chicago and recorded four titles, two of which were issued. His initial record sold well enough to cause Vocalion to call on Barbee again, but by that time he had left his last known whereabouts in Arkansas. Barbee explained that this sudden move was due to his evading the law for shooting and killing his girlfriend's lover. Eventually, when he felt it safe to emerge he did so, quietly and under an assumed name. When he was asked to give a complete name for his first record and not just his nick-name of ‘John Henry" he said "Barbee". It was the name he was known for the rest of his life.

Barbee returned to the blues scene during the midst of the blues revival. His earliest sides are from 1963 recorded at the Chicago club the Fickle Pickle. n 1964 he joined the American Folk Blues Festival on a European tour with fellow blues players, including Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf. Of his performance, Paul Oliver wrote: "On stage he seemed the most unaffected of all blues singers, the purest of rural artists. His guitar work was superb —greatly admired by Lightnin who really appreciated him — and his vocals were moving and gentle melodic blues." He was recorded several times in 1964: songs by him appear on a pair of albums on the Spivey label, several tracks were recorded while in Europe as well as a an excellent full-length album for Storyville issued as Portraits in Blues Vol. 9. In a case of tragic circumstances, Barbee returned to the United States and used the money from the tour to purchase his first automobile. Only ten days after purchasing the car, he accidentally ran over and killed a man. He was locked up in a Chicago jail, and died there of a heart attack a few days later, November 3, 1964, 11 days before his 59th birthday.

Born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, J.D. Short learned to play both the piano and guitar at a young age. He later mastered the harmonica, saxophone, clarinet and drums. Short performed locally in the Mississippi Delta at house parties, but relocated in 1923 to St. Louis. In St. Louis Short he worked with Henry Spaulding, David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Big Joe Williams. J.D. Short recorded two sessions in the early ’30s for Paramount and Vocalion, (recording under various pseudonyms like Joe Stone and Jelly Jaw Short) then quickly faded into obscurity. Three of Short's Paramount records have never been found: "Steamboat Rousty b/w Gittin Up On The Hill" (Paramount 13012 ), "Drafted Mama b/w "Wake Up Bright Eye Mama" (Paramount 13040) and "Flaggin' It To Georgia b/w Tar Road Blues" (Paramount 13091). He also backed other St. Louis artists on record including Peetie Wheatstraw, Spider Carter, Georgia Boyd and James “Stump” Johnson. As Chris Smith wrote of his recordings: "These seven sides are made exceptional by Short's insistent guitar rhythms , his heavy vocal vibrato and some highly original lyrics…"

Sam Charters recorded Short at his transplanted home base of St. Louis in 1961. Short unexpectedly passed away shortly after this session at the age of 60. As Charters writes in the notes: “The recording that we did in his house that summer – mostly in the kitchen to get away from the noises in the street – was his last, but we didn’t have any idea of it. I was filming him for a sequence in The Blues and trying to get his ideas about the backgrounds and the aesthetics of the blues for The Poetry Of The Blues so we recorded a lot of music – new versions of songs he’d done before – new songs – and his own comments about the styles and the music.” Charters' recordings of Short can be found on the albums J.D. Short and Son House: Blues from the Mississippi Delta issued on Folkways and a full-length album issued as part of The Legacy of the Blues series released in the 70's. Short also did some sessions with Big Joe Williams in 1958 for Delmark which appear on the album Stavin' Chain.

Working in various configurations, Walter Vincson and Lonnie, Bo, and Sam Chatmon performed and recorded as the Mississippi Sheiks, a name inspired by a popular 1921 Rudolph Valentino film, The Sheik. A propulsive fiddler, Lonnie managed the band, while Bo, a strong, confident singer and gifted guitarist, became its biggest star. Lonnie and Sam, recorded as the Chatman Brothers, cut twelve sides at a remarkable recording session cut of Louisiana and Mississippi artists recorded by Bluebird on October 15-16, 1936 at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans.

Sam Chatmon

Sam Chatmon survived to begin performing and recording again in the1960's. Chatmon began playing music as a child, occasionally with his family’s string band, as well as the Mississippi Sheiks. Sam launched his own solo career in the early ’30s. While he performed and recorded on his own, he would still record with the Mississippi Sheiks and with his brother Lonnie. Throughout the ’30s, Sam traveled throughout the south, playing with a variety of minstrel and medicine shows. He stopped traveling in the early ’40s, making himself a home in Hollandale, Mississippi, where he worked on plantations. For the next two decades, Chatmon was essentially retired from music and only worked on the plantations. When the blues revival arrived in the late ’50s, he managed to capitalize on the genre’s resurgent popularity.

In 1960, Chatmon came out of decades of retirement and signed a contract with Arhoolie and recorded a number of songs for the label. The earliest of these were recorded in 1960 and issued on the album I Have To Paint My Face. As Mack McCormick wrote in the liner notes: "With Bo (who is credited with composing Corrine Corrina) ailing and feeble in Memphis, and the other brothers dead or scattered, Sam Chatmon lives in a shotgun house across the tracks in Hollendale, Mississippi, working variously as a yard man, day laborer and truck driver. Adding the scarce but vital element of the near-forgotten minstrel songs to this collection, these are Chatman's only recordings in the past 25 years." He toured extensively during the 1960s and 1970s. He played many of the largest and best-known folk festivals, including the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. in 1972, the Mariposa Fest in Toronto in 1974, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1976. Up until his death in 1983 he recorded prolifically, cutting albums for Blue Goose, Alabatros, Rounder. Flying Fish and may sides scattered on various anthologies.

Carl Martin was born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia in 1906. Carl Martin's main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar, and according to those who saw him perform, could play anything with strings. Martin not only performed solo, but also spent much of his career in a trio featuring Ted Bogan (guitar) and Howard Armstrong (violin). The trio enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and was known under several different monikers, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong initially traveled all over the south entertaining at medicine shows, county fairs, and on the radio. When they couldn't get an actual paying gig, they would play for tips in local taverns. In the late '30s, they followed the great migration to Chicago where they would eventually go their separate ways, occasionally playing together.

Beginning with an Oct. 27,1934 session for Bluebird, where he cut "You can Go your way" and "Kid Man Blues", Martin participated in six additional sessions from January of the following year through mid-April of 1936, for OKeh, Vocalion, Bluebird, Decca and Champion, recording a total of 13 selections. In Addition Martin participated in a number of recording dates led by such Chicago-based performers as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red and Bumble Bee Slim, and backed up his close friends and long-time playing partners Howard Armstrong (who recorded as "Louie Bluie" ) and Ted Bogan on their March 1934 recordings for Bluebird.

Martin recorded again in the 60's for the Testament label, resulting his only full-length album, Crow Jane Blues. Following years of playing solo, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong reunited in the early '70s and played the folk and blues festival circuit all over the country. Martin passed away in Pontiac, MI, on May 10, 1979.

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