Sun 26 Aug 2012
|John Henry Barbee||Six Weeks Old Blues||Memphis Blues 1927-1938|
|John Henry Barbee||God Knows I Can't Help It||Memphis Blues 1927-1938|
|J.D. Short||Barefoot Blues||The 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 Wine||J.D. Short & Son House: Blues from the Mississippi Delta|
|The Chatmon Borthers||If You Don't Want Me, Please, Don't Dog Me Around||Bo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks|
|The Chatmon Borthers||Jumping Out Blues||Bo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks|
|Carl Martin||Crow Jane||Carl Martin & Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941|
|Carl Martin||Farewell to You Baby||Guitar Wizards 1926-1935|
|John Henry Barbee||Against My Will||Memphis 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 Me||Down Home Slide|
|Sam Chatmon||I Have To Paint My Face||I Have To Paint My Face|
|Sam Chatmon||I Stand And Wonder||I Have To Paint My Face|
|Sam Chatmon||Last Chance Shaking In The Bed With Me||Sam Chatmon (Blue Goose)|
|Carl Martin||Old Time Blues||Virginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues|
|Carl Martin||You Can't Bet The Syndicate (excerpt)||Crow Jane Blues|
|Carl Martin||Corrina, Corrina||Crow Jane Blues|
|John Henry Barbee||Tell Me Baby||Portraits in Blues Vol. 9|
|John Henry Barbee||Baby I Need Your Love||Live At The Fickle Pickle|
|John Henry Barbee||I Ain't Gonna Pick No More Cotton||Portraits in Blues Vol. 9|
|J.D. Short||It's Hard Time||Ain't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues|
|J.D. Short||Starry Crown Blues||The Sonet Blues Story|
|Sam Chatmon||Go Back Old Devil||1970-1974|
|Sam Chatmon||Sam's Rag||The Devil's Music|
|Martin, Bogan & Armstrong||Hoodoo Blues||Classic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways|
|Carl Martin||Railroad Blues||Crow Jane Blues|
|Carl Martin||State Street Pimp #1||Crow Jane Blues|
|J.D. Short||Slidin' Delta||The Sonet Blues Story|
|J.D. Short||Stavin' Chain Blues||Stavin' Chain Blues|
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 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.