1970’s Blues


ARTISTSONGALBUM
James "Pee wee" MadisonLast NightThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band, Vol. 2
Otis SpannWonder WhyThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band, Vol. 2
Muddy Waters BandBlues For SpiveyThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band, Vol. 2
Otis SpannDiving MamaThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band, Vol. 2
Otis SpannShe's My BabyThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band, Vol. 2
Babe StovallMy Brown Is A MistreaterEncore! for the Chicago Blues
Big Joe WilliamsMove Your HandEncore! for the Chicago Blues
John Henry BarbeeSix Week Old BluesEncore! for the Chicago Blues
Olive BrownWoman's LamentEncore! for the Chicago Blues
J.B Lenoir Korea BluesEncore! for the Chicago Blues
Roosevelt SykesDirty Mother Fuyer Encore! for the Chicago Blues
Big Joe WilliamsDrifting BluesKings and the Queen Volume Two
Memphis SimEuropean BluesKings and the Queen Volume Two
Roosevelt SykesSleeping All Day BluesKings and the Queen Volume Two
Bukka White Brownsville Tennessee Spivey's Blues Cavalcade
Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton & Sunnyland SlimNidnight DarlingSpivey's Blues Cavalcade
Buster BentonI Must Have A Hole In My HeadThe All Star Blues World of Maestro Willie Dixon and his Chicago Blues Band
Carey BellOne Day You're Going To Get LuckyThe All Star Blues World of Maestro Willie Dixon and his Chicago Blues Band
Larry JohnsonMy Hoodoo DoctorThe All Star Blues World of Maestro Willie Dixon and his Chicago Blues Band
Victoria SpiveyI'm Taking OverThe All Star Blues World of Maestro Willie Dixon and his Chicago Blues Band
Otis SpannI'm AccusedUp in the Queen's Pad
Otis SpannVicksburg BluesUp in the Queen's Pad
Sunnyland SlimBlues Drive Me Out Of My MindVictoria Spivey Presents The All Stars BLUES WORLD of Spivey Records in Stereo
Cryin' Marie DixonThree O'Clock In The MorningVictoria Spivey Presents The All Stars BLUES WORLD of Spivey Records in Stereo
Lonnie JohnsonBe CarefulKings and the Queen Volume Two

Show Notes:

Victoria Spivey
Victoria Spivey


Spivey Records was a blues record label, founded by blues singer Victoria Spivey and her partner and jazz historian Len Kunstadt in 1961. The label was originally called Queen Vee Records, changing the name to Spivey records the following year. I believe only a couple of 45's were issued under the Queen Vee imprint. Spivey Records released a series of blues and jazz albums between 1961 and 1985. Most sessions took place at New York’s famous Cue Studios, some happened late at night at Victoria and Lenny's home studio while others took place at informal setting like hotel rooms or even at Willie Dixon's home in Chicago. Spivey put out some very eclectic records, with varying quality but through Spivey's connections she managed to get top notch artists to record for her including Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Otis Spann, Memphis Slim among many others. Spivey died in 1976 but the label continued until the death of Len Kunstadt in 1996. The whole catalog included some forty albums. Today is part two of our selective look at the Spivey label, focusing on the records and sessions done before Spivey passed away. The bulk of the Spivey catalog has never been issued on CD. Below is a summary of today's featured albums.

10084 10104
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Spivey's companion Len Kunstadt was the editor and publisher of Record Research magazine, which he founded in the late 1950's and was Spivey's agent, manager and long time partner. In an interview with Norbert Hess he had this to say: "Victoria knew the musicians and scouted for new talent. This went on for 16 years. In my opinion, from 1961 up to her death in 1976, she was more creative than ever before. Her fantastic way of winning over Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters for our company, and her concern for Bob Dylan. Sometimes I thought she was crazy. I could tell a lot of stories. The musicians would have killed for her. At first, they didn't like her, but after a split second they became her fans up to the very end. She was sometimes a little difficult because she was a genius."

Victoria Spivey & Muddy Waters Band
Photo from Otis Spann's 1967 Bluesway session: l to r – Otis Spann, Lucille Spann, Len Kunstadt, Victoria Spivey and Muddy Waters (photo by Denns Chalkin).

Before summarizing today's featured albums it's worth giving some background on Spivey's career. Spivey learned to play piano and sing when she was quite small, and by age twelve she was performing at the Lincoln Theatre, until the manager discovered she couldn’t read music. She continued to play at house parties and clubs, learning from local musicians such as John Calvin, and occasionally sharing a gig with Blind Lemon Jefferson. By age twenty, she had moved to St. Louis, where she made her first record for OKeh, the legendary "Black Snake Blues." The year 1928 saw Spivey teaming up with Lonnie Johnson to record a number of double-entendre vocal duets that sold quite well, but she continued to write songs and record for OKeh until she took time off to appear in King Vidor’s film Hallelujah in 1929. When she returned to the recording studio in late 1929, she was under contract to Victor. Spivey continued to record throughout the 1930s, for both Decca and Vocalion, and as her recording career ended, she hit the road, traveling with the Olsen and Johnson’s "Hellzapoppin’" troupe, owning a club in East St. Louis, and finally retiring to work in the church. But in the 1960's she came out of retirement to appear at clubs such as Gerdes Folk City. Before forming her label she reunited with Lonnie Johnson appearing on his album Idle Hours for Bluesville in 1961, he in turn backed her on her album Woman Blues and she also appeared on Songs We Taught Your Mother alongside Alberta Hunter and Lucille Hegamin. There was also a session for Folkways in 1962. Beginning in 1962 Spivey wrote a semi-regular column in Record Research called Blues Is My Business.

Victoria Spivey Presents The All Stars BLUES WORLD of Spivey Records in Stereo was the eleventh record on the Spivey label. The album comprises of sessions recorded at Willie Dixon home in Chicago in 1969 and sessions done in New York in 1970. Dixon is helped out by hs Blues All Stars which include Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Shines, Clifton James and Cryin’ Marie Dixon. Accoring to the notes there's big news: "ATTENTION: SMOKEY HOGG IS NOT DEAD!!" At least that's what Victoria Spivey thought when she "rediscovered" him in Brooklyn, N.Y. and what Len Kunstadt thought when he penned the liner notes for the album. Smokey actually passed in 1960 and this was Willie Anderson Hogg. He calimed to have recorded in the pre-war era but these sides for Spivey are his only know legacy.

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The Muddy Waters band cut two albums for Victoria Spivey's Spivey label: The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band (1966) and The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band Vol. 2 (1968). The Muddy Waters records are the only ones I know that have been issued on CD. These came out on the Japanese P-Vine label with several extra tracks. Today we feature tracks from the second volume. Muddy Waters is listed as "Main Stream" for contractual reasons and probably doesn't play on all the tracks. These sessions were recorded after a 1966 date at New York's Cafe Au Go Go. The performance was written up by Len Kunstadt in Record Research 83 (1967) and concludes with "Victoria Spivey, perhaps their greatest fan, and a lucky devil, was fortunate to capture some of the sounds of Otis, George, Luther, Sammy and Francis for the latest release on the Spivey label." As Kunstadt wrote of their live performance: "There was a combustible spark in the atmosphere – and every time Muddy would hit the stand and tell the throng 'He Had Been Mistreated' or he was the 'Hootchie Cootchie Man' or he would confide in you about his 'Five Long Years' the audience exploded into applause and rapport. Muddy and his band were keyed to greatness. OTIS SPANN, Muddy's 'Little Brother', was the anchor man and cohesive agent of the group with his brilliant dominant blues piano."

Otis Spann appears on several Spivey albums including both volumes of the The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters albums, The Everlasting Blues vs. Otis Spann and Up In The Queen's Pad. As Spivey wrote in a column in Record Research magazine in 1970 shortly after Otis' passing: “He was like a son, a brother and what a pal. Otis came into my life in 1963 during that American Folk Blues Festival (same one with Lonnie!) that toured all over Europe. …The European tour was really fine but Otis and his crazy lovable ways made it wonderful.”

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Encore! for the Chicago Blues was the ninth album on the Spivey label and a sequel to Chicago Blues
A Bonanza All Star Blues LPreleased in 1964. According to the notes: "This album is a sequel anthology to Spivey LP 1003 which commentated Victoria Spivey's first visit to Chicago in over 25 years. An informal blues party was given by host Willie Dixon in which such colorful talented artists as Homesick James, St. Louis Jimmy, Sunnyland Slim, Washboard Sam, Koko Taylor, Evans Spencer, John Henry Barbee and Willie himself, Miss Spivey by recording for her youthful record company. …Most of the artists are back again. In addition bonus tracks from studio and field recordings by other fine performers supplement the 'regulars'."

Kings And The Queen Volume Two was issued in 1970 and a sequel to Three Kings And The Queen issued several years earlier. Some of these sessions are likely from the same as the first volume and others probably later. Once again Bob Dylan appears alongside Victoria and Big Joe on a couple of songs. Alos appearing are Lonnie Johnson, Memphis Slim and Roosevelt Sykes. Both volumes of have been reissued on the European Doxy label on 180 gram vinyl only releases.

Spivey's Blues Cavalcade was issued in 1970 and the fifteenth album on the Spivey label. This is a grab bag of tracks with some of these recorded in the 60's – leftover tracks from previous Spivey albums.

By the end of the 1960s, Willie Dixon was eager to try his hand as a performer again, a career that had been interrupted when he'd gone to work for Chess as a producer. He recorded an album of his best-known songs, I Am the Blues, for Columbia Records, and organized a touring band, the Chicago Blues All Stars, to play concerts in Europe. Among the albums he cut during this period was 1973's Victoria Spivey presents The All Star Blues World of Maestro Willie Dixon and his Chicago Blues Band. This is a terrific outing spotlighting a great band that included Buster Benton, Carey Bell, Lafayette Leake and Larry Johnson.

Victoria Spivey began endorsing Otis Spann, telling the world of his genius – in her own inimitable way – via the pages of of her column in Record Research, and sporadically recording him for her Spivey Records label between 1967 and 1969. The sessions that comprise Up In The Queen's Pad were recorded in 1968 and 1969 at Spivey's home in Brooklyn backed by guitarist Sammy Lawhorn. The album was issued posthumously, possibly around 1980. One other song from this session appears on the album Spivey's Blues Showcase.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
James "Son" ThomasHighway 61 Blues Give My Heart Ease
James "Son" ThomasCrawling KingsnakeThe Blues Are Alive And Well
James "Son" ThomasBottle 'Em Up And GoMississippi Delta & South Tenessee Blues
Turner FoddrellCrow Jane Unreleased/Pete Lowry
The Foddrell BrothersPatrick County RagPatrick County Rag
The Foddrell BrothersBoogie In The MorningPatrick County Rag
Cecil BarfieldI Woke Up CryingThe George Mitchell Collection
Cecil BarfieldHooks In The WaterSouth Georgia Blues
Cecil BarfieldTrue Love South Georgia Blues
Guitar ShortyMy Mind Never ChangedCarolina Slide Guitar
Guitar ShortyI'm Going HomeCarolina Slide Guitar
Guitar ShortyGoin' Down in GeorgiaCarolina Slide Guitar
James 'Son' ThomasCairo BluesLiving Country Blues: Vol. 5 Mississippi Delta Blues
James 'Son' ThomasMama Don't Low No Guitar Playing Round HereLiving Country Blues: Vol. 10 Country Boogie
James 'Son' ThomasCatfish BluesLiving Country Blues: Vol. 5 Mississippi Delta Blues
The Foddrell BrothersHaunted HousePatrick County Rag
The Foddrell BrothersI Got A WomanClassic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
Cecil BarfieldLonesome House Blues The George Mitchell Collection
Cecil BarfieldI Told You Not To Do ThatThe George Mitchell Collection
Cecil BarfieldHoochie Coochie ManUnreleased/Axel Künster
Guitar ShortyDon't Cry Baby Alone In His Field
Guitar ShortyWorking Hard Alone In His Field
Guitar ShortyHold On BabyCarolina Country Blues
James "Son" ThomasAfter The WarGateway To The Delta
James "Son" ThomasTrain Fare BluesGateway To The Delta
James "Son" ThomasHigh Brown Son Thomas Plays And Sings Delta Blues
The Foddrell BrothersLonesome Country Boy BluesThe Original Blues Brothers
The Foddrell BrothersGoing Up The CountryThe Original Blues Brothers
The Foddrell BrothersSlow DragThe Original Blues Brothers

Show Notes:

Son Thomas
James "Son" Thomas, photographed by Bill Ferris in Leland, Mississippi, 1968

The days of finding country blues performers still playing in their local communities seems to be a thing of the past and with that so too are the days of field recording.  These days hardly anyone one undertakes field recording and the sad fact is that blues has largely disappeared as integral part of African-American rural communities; most of the old timers have passed on and few of the younger generation are interested in blues, particularly traditional blues. From the 1960's through the 80's there were folklorists, researchers and dedicated fans such as David Evans, George Mitchell, Sam Charters, Chris Stratwichz, Mack McCormick, Bruce Jackson, Peter B. Lowry, Tary Owens, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Bengt Olsson, Kip Lornell, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, and Axel Küstner who actively sought out and recorded rural blues. Some were hunting for the famous names who made records in the 1920’s and 1930’s, others were seeking to fill in biographical blanks regarding some of the older musicians coveted by collectors and then there were those who were seeking to document the blues tradition as it still existed in rural communities. What they recorded in the rural communities of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi during this period was a still thriving, if largely undocumented, blues culture. As George Mitchell wrote: "As late as 1969 a country bluesman who at least occasionally played could be located in most small towns of Georgia. In 1976, there are very few active blues musicians left in the state! In the short span of seven years, one of the world's most vital and influential forms of music as it was originally performed has all but died out in Georgia, and probably in the rest of the South as well." I would say that even up through the early 1980's were still some fine players still active. Today's program spotlights  a batch of superb artists from this period,: the Foddrell Brothers, James "Son" Thomas, Cecil Barfield and Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue).

Marvin and Turner Foddrell
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Born in the Yazoo County community of Eden on October 14, 1926, James "Son"Thomas made his first recordings for folklorist Bill Ferris in 1968 (earliest sides appear on the compilations Blues From The Delta and The Blues Are Alive And Well). He later traveled throughout the United States and Europe to perform at blues concerts and exhibit his artwork. Thomas died in Greenville on June 26, 1993.

Thomas was one of the most recognized local musical figures in Mississippi during the 1970s and ’80s. He performed throughout the state at nightclubs, festivals, private parties, government social affairs, colleges, and juke joints. He also toured and recorded several blues albums in Europe, and his folk art was featured at galleries in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. Thomas learned guitar as a youngster after hearing his grandfather, Eddie Collins, and uncle, Joe Cooper, at house parties in Yazoo County. He later saw the two blues legends he regarded as his main influences, Elmore James and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, as well as Bentonia bluesman Jack Owens.

Thomas' performances had been confined to juke joints and house parties until he met Bill Ferris, who began recording and filming Thomas and other local bluesmen in 1968. The Xtra and Matchbox labels released the first recordings of Thomas, who later made albums for the Mississippi-based Southern Culture, Rustron, and Rooster Blues labels as well as companies in France, Holland, and Germany. He also appeared in several documentary films. Among his best recordings were made by Axel Küstner and Ziggy Chrismann in 1980 and issued as the Living Country Blues USA series on the German L&R label. By 1980 Thomas was a regular on the festival circuit but had recorded little, just a handful of sides scattered on obscure anthologies. After 1980 he toured Europe, recorded prolifically, including several very strong albums.

Marvin and Turner Foddrell were born into a musical family near Stuart in the Virginia Piedmont and for the major parts of their lives played regularly only at community gatherings, never professionally. Marvin and Turner were sons of a regionally renowned mult-instrumentalist, Posey Foddrell, who was proficient on fiddle, mandolin, piano, banjo, and guitar and played both with black and integrated groups. The family had lived in the Stuart area for several generations and they rarely ventured any significant distance from their home, where Turner ran a grocery store on Highway 8, and where the brothers were "discovered" by a local deejay during one of their impromptu jams. Discovered in the 1970s', the Foddrells became a regular fixture at the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at nearby Ferrum College (the college's Blue Ridge Institute recorded the brothers extensively) and were also featured at many other festivals including some in Europe. The Foddrell Brothers recorded only two commercial records: The Original Blues Brothers (1981) on Swingmaster and Patrick County Rag (1983) on Outlet. They also appeared alongside more famous traditional musicians on a number of recorded anthologies. Both brothers have since passed away. Pete Lowry recorded them extensively in 1979 but none of these recordings were ever issued. Turner’s son Lynn joined the brothers on the 1982 and 1983 performances at the Celebration of Traditional Music. After Marvin’s death, Turner had continued to perform with Lynn. With Turner succumbing to lung cancer on Jan 31, 1995, the baton was passed onto Lynn.

South Georgia Blues
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One of the the most striking musicians recorded by George Mitchell was Cecil Barfield, and I agree with Mitchell’s assessment that he was some kind of genius. Mitchell called him "probably the greatest previously unrecorded bluesman I have had the pleasure of recording during my 15 years of field research." …Cecil was illiterate, but he was a genius. He couldn't read or write, but he was a highly intelligent person. I would stay up for hours, just talking to Cecil. …People from Germany and Italy wanted to have him come play, but he was not going anywhere." He began playing blues at five years old, using a cooking oil can he had rigged up with a neck and one string. He took up guitar at 12, and started playing rag and dance pieces before developing his distinctive bottleneck style. As Mitchell recalled: "We were recording Cecil in this tiny sharecropper's shack in some guy's plantation." Needless to say the plantation owner was not happy who called the sheriff on Mitchell.

Using the name William Robertson, in fear of endangering his welfare checks, he cut the LP South Georgia Blues for Southland in the mid-70's with several other tracks appearing on Flyright’s Georgia Blues Today (reissued by Fat Possum). I imagine Barfield is an acquired taste but to me he is simply mesmerizing; his music, with his droning, lightly distorted electric guitar coupled with his powerful mushed mouth, nasal singing, is hypnotic. Barfield has some originals but his genius is in the way he transforms well known songs by Frankie Lee Sims ("Lucy Mae Blues"), Lightnin’ Hopkins ("Mojo Hand"), J.B. Lenoir ("Talk To Your Daughter") and others into something startlingly original. Mitchell recorded Barfield extensively and there were a couple of digital collections available at one point. Art Rosenbaum and Axel Küstner also record Barfield. Barfield was born in 1922 and was farmer all his life until a back injury forced him to retire.  On how he came up with his songs he told Art Rosenbaum "your heart feels a certain way, then your mind follows, then you hands follow that."

Pete Lowry called Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) "One of the most spontaneous musicians around; right up there with Lightnin' Hopkins, maybe more so." He cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the long out-of-print album  Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) and an album for Lowry's Trix label, Alone In His Field, before passing in 1975. During his brief period of recording he played at the Chapel Hill Blues Festival and at coffee houses in the same town. Performances of him at the Chapel Hill Blues Festival can found on the Flyright albums Carolina Country Blues and Another Man Done Gone.

Guitar Shorty
Guitar Shorty, photo by Kip Lornell.

As Lowry wrote: "Born John Henry Fortescue in the town of Beihaven, N.C. at an unknown ttme, Shorty is possibly in his early forties. I am convinced that Shorty has no idea how old he is, and isn't of major importance. He now lives in Elm City. N.C. a very small town between Rocky Mount and Wilson – he lives in poverty in a house next to one of the fields he often works in…  the white man across the way owns it all. Life is hardly romantic, unless one is masochistic and likes starving, getting drunk, and waking in jail on occasions. When not working, he drinks, plays in the streets (that's how McLean met him the first time), or often in a church on Sunday (with his wife Lena)." As Danny McClean recalled: "I first met Shorty in the summer of 1970. There he was, just walking down the street playing guitar with Lena tagging along behind him. Shorty didn't sound like Blind Boy Fuller or Gary Davis or pick like Elizabeth Cotton. He played better when I first met him than he has since. He played really beautiful slide – weird things like maybe only Robert Johnson could have done. All the best things I heard him do never got on to tape it seems. They happened riding to his house in my car or on a visit when I didn't bring a tape recorder. He isn't nervous when he plays to a tape but it's never as good."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Arzo Youngblood Bye And Bye BluesGoin' Up The Country
Boogie Bill WebbDooleyville BluesGoin' Up The Country
Cornelius Bright My Baby's GoneGoin' Up The Country
Mager JohnsonBig Road BluesGoin' Up The Country
Isaiah ChattmanFound My Baby GoneGoin' Up The Country
Babe Stovall & Herb Quinn See See Rider South Mississippi Blues
Issac Youngblood & Herb QuinnHesitating BluesSouth Mississippi Blues
Eli OwensMuleskinner BluesSouth Mississippi Blues
Herb QuinnCaseySouth Mississippi Blues
Babe Stovall Candy ManSouth Mississippi Blues
Woodrow Adams & Fiddlin' Joe MartinPony BluesHigh Water Blues
Houston Stackhouse & Carey "Ditty" MasonTalkin' About YouHigh Water Blues
Charlie Taylor & Willie Taylor I Got The BluesHigh Water High
Isiah ChattmanCold In Hand BluesHigh Water High
L.V. Conelry High Water High High Water High
Willard Artis 'Blind Pete' BurrellDo Lord Remember MeSorrow Come Pass Me Around
Babe StovallThe Ship Is At The Landing Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Robert “Nighthawk” Johnson Ain't No Grave Hold My Body Down Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Dorothy Lee, Norma Jean & Shirley Marie JohnsonYou Give An Account Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Chester Davis, Compton Jones & Furry LewisGlory Glory Hallelujah Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Roosevelt HoltsThe Good Book Teach YouPresenting The Country Blues
Roosevelt HoltsMaggie Campbell BluesPresenting The Country Blues
Roosevelt HoltsDown The Big Road45
Roosevelt HoltsPackin´ Up Her Trunk Roosevelt Holts & Friends
Arzo YoungbloodMaggie Campbell BluesThe Legacy of Tommy Johnson
John Henry 'Bubba' Brown Canned Heat Blues The Legacy of Tommy Johnson
Boogie Bill WebbShow Me What You Got For SaleThe Legacy of Tommy Johnson
Houston Stackhouse & Carey Ditty Mason –Bye Bye BluesBig Road Blues
Houston Stackhouse & Carey Ditty Mason –Big Road BluesBig Road Blues
Jack Owens Jack Ain't Had No Water It Must Have Been the Devil
Jack Owens Cherry Ball It Must Have Been the Devil

Show Notes:

Goin' Up The County
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

Today's show spotlights field recordings made by David Evans in the 1960's and 70's. The recordings from this period were a direct result of Evans' investigation into Tommy Johnson in the late 1960’s. His research led to the book Tommy Johnson (Studio Vista, 1971) and Big Road Blues (1982). Evans recorded many men who knew or 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. The bulk of these artists had not been recorded previously. The field recordings Evans collected have been issued on several albums, unfortunately almost all of them are out of print. Today we feature selections from the following various artist albums: Goin' Up The Country, South Mississippi Blues, High Water Blues, Sorrow Come Pass Me Around and The Legacy of Tommy Johnson. In addition we feature tracks from the Roosevelt Holt albums Presenting The Country Blues Of, Roosevelt Holt and Friends, The Franklinton Muscatel Society plus the Jack Owens album It Must Have Been The Devil and a collection of sides by Houston Stackhouse and Carey Mason titled Big Road Blues.

Goin' Up The Country was the first collection of Evans' field recordings. All the recordings were made in 1966. As Evans wrote: “When I first made these recordings in 1966, interest in the blues in America was still largely an underground phenomenon. Britain was the center of interest and research. Consequently, I sent a tape of my best recordings to Simon Napier, the editor of the pioneering British magazine Blues Unlimited. He was sufficiently impressed with the music that he kindly arranged with Mike Vernon and Neil Slaven to have an album brought out on British Decca, Goin' Up The Country. The album was subsequently reissued and remastered on Rounder in 1975. These sides have not appeared on CD. Of these recordings, Evans wrote: “…in 1965 I began recoding and interviewing blues artists on my own, and in the summer of 1966 spent about five weeks in Louisiana and Mississippi taping older country blues styles. These fifteen performances are among the best I recorded there.” Among the performers, only a few had recorded previously: Boogie Bill Webb cut some sides for Imperial in the early 50's, Babe Stovall had recorded a full-length album and Isiah Chattman played rhythm guitar on some sides by Silas Hogan.

South Mississippi Blues
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South Mississippi Blues collects songs recorded between 1965 and 1971 and was issued on Rounder in the mid-70's. Evans writes of this collection: “All nine performers heard here grew up and learned their music in the vicinity of Tylertown (Walthall Co.) Mississippi in the south-central part of the state near the Louisiana border. …All nine of these musicians know each other, and most have at one time or another, played together in various combinations.”

The recordings on High Water Blues were recorded between 1965 and 1970, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi and issued on the Flyright label in 1974. Of this collection Evans writes: “ln the last ten years I've recorded hundreds of blues by dozens of performers in Mississippi and Louisiana and some of the other southern states. Some of these artists like Roosevelt Holts and Jack Owens, Iwas able to record extensively, and l have presented complete LP's of their work. But there were many others who only recorded a handful of good songs for me. …I've selected for this record the best blues from some of here artists that I met briefly some years ago.”

The Legacy of Tommy Johnson was issued on the Saysdic Mathbox label in 1972, a companion record to Evans' 1971 book titled Tommy Johnson. As Evans Writes: “The songs on this album, although they are created by twelve different musicians, were all at one time part of the repertoire of Tommy Johnson, perhaps the greatest and best remembered folk blues performer the state of Mississippi has ever produced. …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.”

The Legacy of Tommy Johnson
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Sorrow Come Pass Me Around is a beautiful collection of spiritual and gospel songs performed in informal non-church settings between 1965-1973. Most are guitar-accompanied and performed by active or former blues artists. The songs were recorded between 1965 and 1973 . Evans writes: “Most records of black religious music contain some form of gospel singing or congregational singing recorded at a church service. This album, though, tries to present a broader range of performance styles and contexts with the hope of showing the important role that religious music plays in the Southern black communities and in the daily lives of individuals.” The album was originally issued on Advent in 1975 and has just been reissued on vinyl on the Dust-To-Digital label.

Roosevelt Holts was born in 1905 near Tylertown, Mississippi, and took up the guitar when he was in his mid-twenties. He started to get serious about music in the late 1930's when he encountered Tommy Johnson. Evans began recording Holts in 1965 resulting in two LP's (both out of print): Presenting The Country Blues (Blue Horizon,1966) and Roosevelt Holts and Friends (Arhoolie, 1969-1970) plus the collection The Franklinton Muscatel Society featuring his earliest sides through 1969 which is available on CD. In addition selections recorded by Evans appeared on the following anthologies (all out of print): Goin' Up The Country (Decca, 1968), The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (Matchbox, 1972), South Mississippi Blues (Rounder, 1974 ?), Way Back Yonder …Original Country Blues Vol. 3 (Albatros, 1979 ?), Giants Of Country Blues Vol. 3 (Wolf, 199?) and a very scarce 45 ("Down The Big Road b/w Blues On Mind") cut for the Bluesman label in 1969 that we feature today.

Houston Stackhouse's family moved to Crystal Springs, Mississippi in the mid-1920's, where he learned songs from Tommy Johnson and his brothers and took up guitar. In the early 1930's, he moved to Hollandale, Mississippi where his cousin, Robert Lee McCullum (later known as Robert Nighthawk) lived. In 1946, Houston moved to Helena, Arkansas where he played with Sonny Boy Williamson on The King Biscuit Time show, on KFFA Radio. He played with Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Roosevelt Sykes and Earl Hooker. He continued to play, but less frequently after he married in the late 1950's. Periodically, he returned to the King Biscuit show. In 1967 he made his first recordings cutting field recordings for George Mitchell and shortly after for David Evans that same year.

High Water Blues
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Jack Owens belonged to the pioneering generation of Bentonia bluesmen, which included Skip James and the unrecorded Henry Stuckey. Just as James’s recording career was nearing its end, Owens was beginning his, in 1966; his first album (It Must Have Been The Devil), produced by Evans, was not released until 1971 for the Testament label. The music of Owens and James, as Evans wrote, was distinguished by “haunting, brooding lyrics dealing with such themes as loneliness, death and the supernatural . . . Altogether it is one of the eeriest, loneliest and deepest blues sounds ever recorded.”

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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.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Peter LowrySoutheast Blues
Blind Boy Fuller Truckin' My Blues AwayBlind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
Peter Lowry1969/Buddy Moss
Buddy MossHey Lawdy MamaThe George Mitchell Collection Volumes 1-45
Peter Lowry1970/Back Down South
Eddie KirklandGoing Back To Mississippi The Complete Trix Recordings
Peter LowryBirth of Trix Records
Baby TateYou Can Always Tell Another Man Done Gone
Peter LowryMeeting Baby Tate
Baby TateBad Gasoline Another Man Done Gone
Peter LowryBaby Tate's Death
Peter LowryMeeting Willie Trice
Willie TriceTrying to Find My BabyBlue And Rag'd
Peter LowryPeg Leg Sam/The Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg SamHand Me DownThe Last Medicine Show
Peter LowryMore Peg Leg Sam
Peter LowryMeeting Henry Johnson
Henry JohnsonLittle Sally JonesThe Union County Flash
Peter LowryHenry Johnson/Chapel Hill Concerts
Henry JohnsonSittin' Down Thinkin'Carolina Country Blues
Peter LowryGuitar Shorty
Guitar ShortyNow Tell Me BabyAlone In His Field
Peter LowryMeeting John Cephas
John CephasNaylor RagUnreleased
Peter LowryBig Chief Ellis
Big Chief EllisAll Down BluesBig Chief Ellis
Peter LowryTarheel Slim
Tarheel SlimScreaming and CryingNo Time At All
Homesick James Live Life Over Goin' Back Home
Peter LowryHomesick James & Honeyboy Edwards
Honeyboy Edwards Ride With Me TonightI've Been Around
Peter LowryRobert Lockwood
Robert LockwoodForever On My MindThe Complete Trix Recordings
Peter LowryFollowing Leads/Roy Dunn
Roy Dunn Do That BoogieUnreleased
Cecil Barfield Sugar Coated LoveUnreleased
Turner FoddrellCrow JaneUnreleased
Ira Joiner Jr. Doin' The Natural ThingUnreleased

Show Notes:

Peter Lowry Peter Lowry
 Pete Lowry & Tarheel Slim 1970s. Photo by Valerie Vilmer.

 

Today’s show is a sequel, of sorts, to a show I did several years back focusing on the recordings made by Peter Lowry. Lowry did not go to Mississippi, did not discover long lost bluesmen from the 1920's but in his voluminous research, writing and recording has charted his own path, becoming the most renowned expert on the blues of the Southeast and is credited with coining the term Piedmont Blues. Between 1969 and 1980 he amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45's with LP's being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states with seventeen albums. Other recordings were issued on the Flyright label, a label formed in 1970 by Mike Leadbitter, Simon Napier and Bruce Bastin. Lowry's issued recordings are just the tip of the iceberg with unreleased recordings far exceeding what was commercially released. Lowry estimates there could be enough material for eighty CD's. Today we spotlight Lowry's recordings as issued on Trix and Flyright, some unreleased material and interview I conducted with Peter a few weeks back (an edited version of the interview can be found below). The notes that follow come mainly from articles I've written previously on Peter's recordings.

Lowry refers to his recordings as "controlled field recordings", often done in hotel rooms or someone'ss home with an emphasis on getting the sound right at the start, there was not option of fixing it in the mix afterwards. In an article by Valerie Wilmer [Wilmer, Valerie. “Lowry’s Bag of Trix.” Melody Maker (13 Oct 1973)] she goes on to explain how Lowry operated in the field: "Lowry will be back from his third field trip in 12 months at the end of the year. He does all his traveling by Volkswagen bus, accompanied by a faithful hound and no less than eight guitars. One such trip lasted five months and netted enough material for 20 albums, all of which he will be processing himself. 'I said, 'Christ, I've got an awful lot of stuff here-there's no sense in farting around with other people, I'll do it myself.' The guitars are needed because often the people he encounters have not played for a while or else their existing instrument may be in bad shape, rattling or buzzing. 'I've always tried to keep a clean sound on my recordings unlike most of the so-called field work'… I'm not just an out-and-out field recorder, nor do I use a studio as such. I usually say that the best sound-quality stuff I do is sort of in a Holiday Inn recording studio in whatever town I happen to be staying. You know, if it's not too cool where they're living or something, we go back to the hotel room.'"

Baby Tate
Baby Tate, photo by Pete Lowry.

As for the nature of field recording and researching  it's worthwhile to quote Bruce Bastin, author of the classic Red River Blues and running mate of Lowry's, on some of their experiences: "Armchair research can never replace the infectious pleasure of personal contact, or indeed the streetwise experiences of fieldwork at the very edges of existence. …Talk to Bengt Olsson about his times in Tennessee and Alabama. Talk to Pete Lowry about his (sadly unsuccessful) endeavors to record Buddy Moss… Talk also to us about our meeting with rednecks in Edgecomb County, North Carolina…or with Newton County, Georgia, police for 'consorting with blacks'… " On the other hand were plenty of positive experiences: "How do you replace memories of hearing Guitar Shorty perform at Chapel Hill's Endangered Species bar, packed with professors and 'kitty money'… Or watching a genuinely excited Buddy Moss play a stunning 'Chesterfield' on his battered guitar one hot August afternoon at his home? Or seeing Henry Johnson play slide guitar flat across his lap, Hawaiian style, at home and some time later stroll into Chapel Hill's TV station with a petrified Elester Anderson, casually watch a quartet finish playing Mozart and pack up, then settle down to back Elester (whom he'd never met before) on 'Red River Blues'… Or of tracing Floyd Council via the local cab company's switchboard? Or meeting the truly larger-than-life character Peg Leg Sam?"

It's useful to provide some background on Lowry's activities just prior to setting up Trix. Most of what follows is extracted from my correspondence with Lowry in response to questions I posed and by its nature is highly condensed. "I had not attempted field recording prior to 1970… Bastin and I hooked up in 1969 to look for 78's using my car as our transport in the SE (successfully)…and went back the next year. I figured that I should do more than just drive the car, so I purchased a tape recorder (Uher 4200, 1/2 track stereo, 5" reels). A series of pieces for Blues Unlimited came out of the '69 trip. …Bruce and I were focused in 1970 on collecting material for a book, as he had been asked to do one in the Studio Vista series off of our BU series of articles, resulting in Crying for the Carolines (the basis for Red River Blues). We WORKED for a solid month, doing library research (city directories were helpful, especially when there were back issues – in the old days, there was (c) after a name for 'colored', so that helped eliminate similar names. Then, vital statistics also were not so closed to non-family members – folks who helped us in the early years had to stop [legally] later on). Next-of-kin were often still findable. Those research tools were suggested by Gayle Dean Wardlow. We started with a copy of Godrich & Dixon and known names, likely 'home' locations of those who had made recordings pre-war, and worked from there. …There was NOBODY 'working' the SE when we attacked it, for Mitchell had wandered off to the sainted MS stuff, where the little work being done was being done. We broke 'new' ground, if you will, in part encouraged by BU editor Simon Napier. …Most of the info Bruce used for his books came from my/our work…"

While it may be impossible to quantify, the fact is there was quite a number of quality blues players to be found and quite a number of them in the Southeast region as Lowry optimistically stated  to Valerie Wilmer: "'I never really believed all that stuff about the blues being dead,'" he said, 'As with other celebrities who said 'my death has been greatly exaggerated', so the blues. I think it's been submerged beneath the overlay of modern black pop music, but hell-you go down through Georgia and the Carolinas and there's still country-suppers. Peg Leg Sam still goes around busking in the streets, blowing his harp and collecting quarters and dollars.'" What follows is some background on today's featured artists:

Baby Tate spent the bulk of his life as a sideman, playing with musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Pink Anderson, and Peg Leg Sam. As a teenager he began playing with Blind Boy Fuller. In the early 1950's, Tate moved to Spartanburg, SC, where he performed both as a solo act and as a duo with Pink Anderson. Tate and Anderson performed as duo into the 1970's. In 1962, Tate recorded his first album, See What You Done, for Bluesville. Tate was one of Lowry's closest musician friends. Lowry said, "My plan…was to really record him in depth. He was just an incredible person and a wonderful person to deal with. I can't say I'm satisfied with what I've got on tape because I know he could do three times more and a lot better. But just having been around him and dealt with him and lived with him, there's a degree of satisfaction. …The first person to be recorded by me in 1970, a wonderful informant, and a very good friend – he came up to New Paltz to perform at a Spring festival in '72, partly w. Larry Johnson. He also played a coffee house near Albany, NY that same weekend thanks to Kip Lornell. He had a great time – then he died that summer. That made me a man possessed; 'do as much as you can before they all die off' took a hold of me! The rest is history." Peter recorded Tate extensively in 1970 but, outside of one 45 and a couple of tracks issued on anthology, this material remains unissued.

Read Booklet (PDF)

"Recording is an accident, isn't it?! Had it not been for me, Henry Johnson and Peg Leg Sam would have been unheard…" Lowry notes. Peg Leg Sam was a member of what may have been the last authentic traveling medicine show, a harmonica virtuoso, and an extraordinary entertainer. Born Arthur Jackson, he acquired his nickname after a hoboing accident in 1930. His medicine show career began in 1938, giving his last medicine show performance in 1972 in North Carolina, and was still in fine form when he started making the rounds of folk and blues festivals in his last years. Lowry captured Sam and Chief Thundercloud (the last traveling medicine show) on the Flyright album The Last Medicine Show. There's also some footage of the medicine show act in the film Born For Hard Luck. Sam delivered comedy routines, bawdy toasts, monologues, performed tricks with his harps (often playing two at once) and served up some great blues (sometimes with a guitar accompanist, but most often by himself). Lowry released one album by Sam, Medicine Show Man, and he recorded only once  more for Blue Labor in 1975 which was originally issued under the title Joshua and subsequently reissued as Early In The Morning and Peg Leg Sam with Louisiana Red.

The sessions by Henry Johnson, his first recording, was a result of Peg Leg Sam pushing his good friend to record. "I feel Henry Johnson is the finest finger-picking blues artist to come along in a hell of a long time, and this album should demonstrate that with ease" Lowry wrote in the notes to The Union County Flash!, his lone album. "It was Sam who introduced us (Bastin and I) to Henry…His musicianship was surpassed only by his magnificent voice – I have UNC concert tapes where he plays piano, Hawaiian guitar, and harp w. his guitar… he stuck it in his mouth and worked without a rack (like Harmonica Frank)!" Johnson died 19 1974, shortly after the record was released and there is enough material in the can for another release. Lowry wrote" his 'compleat' talent will never be heard by those who never saw him in person."

Roy Dunn was one of the last links to the rich Atlanta pre-war blues scene; he had played with Curley Weaver., Buddy Moss and Blind Willie McTell. Know'd Them All is his only album. "This, his only album", Lowry wrote, is as complete a representation of the talents of Roy S. Dunn (a/k/a James Clavin Speed) as could be compiled, and his talents deserve another listening." Dunn passed in 1988.

Willie Trice and his brother Richard became close friends with Blind Boy Fuller and Fuller took them up to New York where they cut six sides together (two unissued) for Decca in 1937. Richard Trice recorded after the war for Savoy in 1946 as Little Boy Fuller as well as a couple of sides in 1948 and 1952/53. Lowry recorded him but those recordings remain unreleased. Unlike many of his fellow musician friends, Willie always had a day job and it wasn't until the 1970's that he recorded again. Blue And Rag'd , his sole album,  was released on Trix in 1973. "Willie Trice", Lowry wrote" was one of those special people – not just in my life, but in the lives of most everyone who chanced to meet him. We had some sort of special, almost mystical connection… I would irregualry just appear unannounced at the door of his mother's house and he'd be sitting there waiting for me. He would tell me that he had dreamed of me that night and therefore knew that I was going to be there to see him the next day."

Big Chief Ellis
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"Homesick" James Williamson was playing guitar at age ten and soon ran away from his Tennessee home to play at fish fries and dances. His travels took the guitarist through Mississippi and North Carolina during the 1920s, where he crossed paths with Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Boy Fuller, and Big Joe Williams.Settling in Chicago during the 1930's. Homesick made some of his finest sides in 1952-53 for Art Sheridan's Chance Records (including the classic "Homesick" that gave him his enduring stage name). He also worked extensively as a sideman, backing harp great Sonny Boy Williamson in 1945 at a Chicago joint called the Purple Cat and during the 1950's with his cousin Elmore James who he also recorded with. Homesick's own output included 45's for Colt and USA in 1962, a fine 1964 album for Prestige plus albums for Bluesway, Big Bear, Earwig and Fedora among others. He cut the solo Goin' Back Home for Trix of which Lowry said "I think that ‘my' solo album is the best thing he ever did."

Born in Alabama, Eddie Kirkland headed to Detroit in 1943. There he hooked up with John Lee Hooker five years later, recording with him for several firms as well as under his own name for RPM in 1952, King in 1953, and Fortune in 1959. In 1961-62 he cut his first album for Tru-Sound Records. Leaving Detroit for Macon, GA, in 1962, Kirkland signed on with Otis Redding as a sideman and show opener not long thereafter. By the dawn of the 1970's, Kirkland cut two albums for Trix label; Front And Center and The Devil And Other Blues Demons (issued together as The Complete Trix Recordings on the 32 Blues label).

A self-taught player, Big Chief Ellis performed at house parties and dances during the 1920's. He traveled extensively for several years, working mostly in non-musical jobs. After a three-year army stint from 1939 – 1942, Ellis settled in New York. He started recording for Lenox in 1945, and also did sessions for Sittin' In and Capitol in the 1940's and 50's, playing with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee for Capitol. Though Ellis reduced his performance schedule after moving from New York to Washington D.C., his career got a final boost in the early 1970's. He recorded for Trix and appeared at several folk and blues festivals until his death in 1977. His self-titled Trix album features John Cephas, Tarheel Slim, and Brownie McGhee. He also backed Tarheel Slim on his Trix album.

While still in North Carolina during the early 1940's, Tarheel Slim worked with several gospel groups. He broke away with Thurman Ruth and in 1949 formed their own group, the Jubilators. During a single day in New York in 1950, they recorded for four labels under four different names, One of those labels was Apollo, who convinced them to go secular. That's basically how the Larks, one of the seminal early R&B vocal groups, came to be. He cut two sessions of his own for the firm in 1952 under the name of Allen Bunn. As Alden Bunn, he encored on Bobby Robinson's Red Robin logo the next year. He also sang with another R&B vocal group, the Wheels and the Lovers. As Tarheel Slim he made his debut in 1958 with his wife, Little Ann, in a duet format for Robinson's Fire imprint. He cut a pair of rockabilly raveups of his own, "Wilcat Tamer" and "No. 9 Train." After a few years off the scene, Tarheel Slim made a bit of a comeback during the early 1970's, with an album for Trix, his last recording. He died in 1977. Lowry wrote that "Tarheel Slim was one of the finest voices to appear appear in the blues and R&B world, as this collection will solidly demonstrate. …Slim was a consummate artist and a great gentleman: this recording gives the world at-large at least a partial glimpse of his talent."

Guitar Shorty
Guitar Shorty, photo by Kip Lornell.

Robert Lockwood cut two albums for Trix,  Does 12 and Contrasts, (issued together as The Complete Trix Recordings on the 32 Blues label) which rank among his best recordings. The crack band features the great sax player Maurice Reedus who played with Lockwood for 35 years and passed away just recently. Lowry was planning to issue an album by Reedus but it was never released. As Lowry told me: "Words fail me… I was truly a 'Fortunate Son' to have known and worked with this man, a true gentleman and a noble/regal being. All of 'Contrasts' was recorded in his living room in Cleveland (band sides) or Roger Brown's place!"

Lowry called Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) "One of the most spontaneous musicians around; right up there with Lightnin' Hopkins, maybe more so." He cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the album Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) and his final album for Trix, Alone In His Field,  before passing in 1975.

Related Material:

-Peter Lowry Interview (edited, 30 min., MP3)

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