Sun 4 Jan 2009
|Sidney Maiden||Eclipse Of The Sun||California & The West Coast 1948-54|
|K.C. Douglas||Mercury Boogie||California & The West Coast 1948-54|
|L.C. Robinson||Why Don't You Write To Me||Oakland Blues|
|Jimmy Wilson||Blues At Sundown||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Jimmy Wilson||A Woman Is To Blame||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Jimmy Wilson||Tin Pan Alley||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Rock With My Baby||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Big Mama Thornton||Big Mama's Coming||1950's Oakland Blues - Irma Records|
|Frank Motley||Honkin' At Midnight||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|James Reed||This Is The End||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|James Reed||My Momma Told Me||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|James Reed||Dr. Brown||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|Little Caesar||Big Eyes||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Little Caesar||Wonder Why I'm Leaving||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Little Caesar||What Kind Of Fool Is He||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Willie B. Huff||I Love You Baby||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Willie B. Huff||Operator 209||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Jimmy McCracklin||You're The One||1950's Oakland Blues - Irma Records|
|Jimmy McCracklin||Couldn't Be A Dream||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|Jimmy McCracklin||I'll Get A Break Someday||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|Johnny Fuller||Back Home||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|Johnny Fuller||Hard Times||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|Lowell Fulson||Black Widow Spider Blues||Classic Cuts 1946-1953|
|Lowell Fulson||San Francisco Blues||Classic Cuts 1946-1953|
|Lowell Fulson||I Want to See My Baby||Classic Cuts 1946-1953|
|Joe Hill Louis||Bad Woman Blues||Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story|
|Walter Robinson||I've Done Everything I Can||Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 5|
|Roy Hawkins||Strange Land||The Thrill Is Gone|
|Roy Hawkins||You Had A Good Man||The Thrill Is Gone|
|Jimmy Wilson||Mistake In Life||Cava-Tone Records Story|
|Bob Geddins' Cavaliers||Nobody's Business||Cava-Tone Records Story|
|Roy Hawkins||They Raided The Joint||Cava-Tone Records Story|
Today's program spotlights the tireless contributions of record producer, songwriter, label owner and all around hustler Bob Geddins. Modern Records co-owner Joe Bihari recalled Geddins this way: "Geddins had his own sound. He was a very nice person, he was black, and easy to deal with. A hustler? Well, you've got to do something, eh? I think the artists respected Geddins very much. It was like a family up there, yes." Geddins was the dominant figure in Bay Area blues scene from the mid-1940's to the mid-1960's and made hundreds of records over the years on small labels he ran like Down Town, Big Town, Irma, Plaid, Art Tone, Cavatone, and Gedison's and leased material to other companies bigger companies like Modern and Aladdin. He was also the first to set up a pressing plant in the Bay area. He released records by Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Johnny Fuller, Roy Hawkins, Jimmy Wilson among many others and was involved in the careers of many of these artists. Geddins died in 1991 at age 78.
It’s a bit difficult to get a handle on the West Coast sound, which is not as identifiable as say Chicago Blues but encompasses several different interlocking strands. As Mike Rowe wrote: “Unlike New York and Chicago there had been no blues or any kind of recording industry pre-war …The music as well as the industry was starting from scratch. …It was very often of Do-It yourself triumphing over the most adverse conditions.” The Black population swelled in the 1940’s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. Geddins’ brand of blues was decidedly downhome as he told Lee Hildebrand in a 1980 interview: “I make everything I record as sad as possible. …I want black folks to feel the troubles of old times. All the people that have had similar problems are the ones that’s gonna buy those records. A lot of people make like they don’t like the blues but sneak off and play them.”
Oakland became a blues mecca during the 1940s. The city’s shipbuilding industry boomed in support of World War II, and the consequent profusion of manufacturing jobs and military bases brought a huge influx of African Americans to the Bay Area. Many settled near the shipyards in West Oakland, and a vibrant entertainment district sprang up on Seventh Street, where the blocks were crowded with pool halls, card rooms, and as many as 40 blues clubs, including the Lincoln Theater, Esther’s Orbit Room, and Slim Jenkins’ Place.
Discharged from the Navy in 1945, Fulson found his way to to Oakland, California, where he played small nightclubs. In 1946, he formed a group with pianist Eldridge McCarthy and recorded on Bob Geddins's Big Town with Geddins leasing his recordings to Jack Lauderdale's Los Angeles-based Down Beat and Swing Time labels. As Geddins recalled in the book Honkers and Shouters, "Lowell Fulson was the first great bluesman I put on wax …. [I] Bought him an electric guitar and amplifier–cost a hundred and eighty dollars. And he did a lot of rehearsing in the Seventh Street Music Shop."
Along with Lowell Fulson, who left the Bay Area shortly after he became successful, McCracklin was the biggest name to ever emerge from the Oakland blues scene. He made his first record, "Miss Mattie Left Me," for the Globe label in Los Angeles in 1945. Two years later in Oakland, he began a relationship with record producer Bob Geddins that would last on and off over the next two decades.
Jimmy Wilson scored a huge hit in California with his 1953 number “Tin Pan Alley” written by Bob Geddins. He was never able to match the record’s success but issued fine sides between 1948 and 1961 on labels such as Aladdin, Cava-Tone, Big Town, 7-11, Rhythm, Chart, Irma, Goldband and finally Duke. He died in 1965 at the age of 42.
Accompanying himself on both guitar and rack harmonica Bonner sung highly personal tales typified in songs like “Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal” and “Struggle Here In Houston.” He won a talent contest in 1947 in Houston that led to a radio spot. He cut his first sides for Bob Geddins’ Irma label in 1957 and next for *Goldband in 1960. Full length albums came about do to the interest of Mike Leadbitter, co-editor of Blues Unlimited, who recorded Bonner in 1967, issuing his full length debut on Flyright. He cut his best work between 1968-69 for Arhoolie Records. A few European tours ensued but by the 70’s he was working outside of music. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1978.
Johnny Fuller was a West Coast bluesman who left behind a batch of 1950's recordings. He was equally at home with low down blues, gospel, R&B, and rock & roll. Making the Bay Area his home throughout his career, Fuller turned in classic sides for Heritage, Aladdin, Specialty, Flair, Checker, and Hollywood; all but one of them West Coast-based concerns. His two biggest hits, "All Night Long" and the original version of "The Haunted House," improbably found him in the late '50s on rock & roll package shows, touring with the likes of Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon! By and large retiring from the music scene in the '60s (with the exception of one excellent album in 1974), Fuller worked as a garage mechanic until his passing in 1985.
Geddins had discovered Roy Hawkins playing in a club in Oakland in 1948. Hawkins and his backing group the Four Jacks were very popular and were doing sell-out business at several Bay area clubs at that time. Geddins rushed Hawkins and his band into the studio to cut some sides to capitalise on their current popularity and released "They Raided The Joint" on Geddins' Cava-Tone label. After recording some more sides with Hawkins, Geddins sold "It's Too Late To Change" and "Strange Land" to Modern and Jules Bihari then brought Hawkins and his band to LA to record. Starting in October 1949 through 1954/55 Hawkins’ records were released on Modern. In 1958 Hawkins cut a four-song session for Geddins’ Rhythm label.
James Reed was an exceptional blues singer who cut only ten sides at sessions in 1954, which were issued on Flair, Rhythm, Money and Big Town.
Little Caesar was fine but forgotten vocalist who waxed a couple of dozen sides in the 1950’s including a four-song session for Geddins’ Big Town label.
Willie B. Huff Cut was a terrific downhome blues singer who cut two sides in 1953 for Big Town and two in 1954 for Rhythm. She turned up at the 1977 San Francisco blues festival before drifting back into obscurity.