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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Bumble Bee SlimBricks In My Pillow Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 3 1934-1935
Casey Bill WeldonSomebody Changed the Lock on That DoorCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936
Kokomo ArnoldPolicy Wheel BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 2 1935-1936
Walter RolandSchool-Boy BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganShave em' DryThe Essential
Mississippi Moaner It's Cold In China BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lane Hardin Hard Time BluesBlues Images Vol. 8
Memphis MinnieHustlin' Woman Blues Four Women Blues
Blind Boy FullerBaby, I Don't Have to Worry ('Cause That Stuff Is Here) Blind Boy Fuller Remastered
Blind Gary Davis I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah! Goodbye Babylon
Sleepy John EstesDrop Down MamaI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Bo CarterWhen Your Left Eye Go to JumpingBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks (JSP)
Walter DavisSloppy Drunk AgainFavorite Country Blues/Piano-Guitar Duets
Willie Lofton Dirty Mistreater Big Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Johnnie TempleLead Pencil Blues (It Just Won't Write)The Essential
Joe McCoyLook Who's Coming Down The RoadWhen the Levee Breaks
Leroy Carr When The Sun Goes DownWhen The Sun Goes Down
Scrapper BlackwellAlley Sally Blues Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Alice Moore Riverside BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 2 1934-1941
Barrel House Buck McFarlandWeeping Willow Blues Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
The Sparks BrothersTell Her About MeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Robert Cooper West Dallas Drag No. 2Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossGoing To Your Funeral In A Vee Eight Ford Buddy Moss Vol. 3 1935-1941
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Curley Weaver Tricks Ain't Walking No MoreAtlanta Blues
Big Bill BroonzyMountain BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
State Street BoysThe DozenHow Low Can You Go
Cripple Clarence LoftonBrown Skin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9
Otto Virgial Bad Notion BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Big Joe Williams Little Leg WomanBig Joe Williams Vol. 2 1945-49
Dr. ClaytonPeter's Blues Doctor Clayton & His Buddy 1933-47
Red NelsonDetroit SpecialRed Nelson 1935-1947
Freddie ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946

Show Notes:

Casey Bill Weldon: Somebody Changed The Lock On The DoorToday’s show is the ninth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need.

According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on chance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). but despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties."

Two down home singers who could hold their own in terms of popularity against the urban artists were Sleepy John Estes and Blind Boy Fuller.  Estes made his debut for Victor Mississippi Moaner: It's So Cold In Chinain 1929 while Fuller made his debut for Vocalion in 1935. Unlike blues artists like Big Bill or Memphis Minnie who recorded extensively over three or four decades, Blind Boy Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span. Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. Fuller made his debut in 1935 and over the next five years he made over 120 sides.

Gary Davis was a major influence on Blind Boy Fuller. In the late 1920's he was one of the most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar. He backed Fuller on second guitar at at his third 1935 session.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. In 1934 Slim waxed around fifty sides and roughly the same number in 1935.  Our selection, “Bricks In My Pillow”, was recorded in July in 1935 and covered by Big Bill Broonzy in December of the same year and in later years recorded by Robert Nighthawk. Leroy Carr died in 1935 at the age of 30. In February he cut his final eight song session. Scrapper Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death, making a brief comeback in the late 50's.

Big Bill Broonzy recorded around tw0-dozen sides in 1935 all featuring the prominent piano of Black Bob. Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. Broonzy was also an active session guitarist and today we hear him backing the State Street Boys and pianist Cripple Clarence Lofton.

Lane Hardin: Hard Time BluesAlso featured today are a trio of musicians hailing from Jackson, Mississippi who recorded in Chicago. Johnnie Temple was part of a vibrant the 1920’s Jackson, MS scene, a city teeming with artists such as Tommy Johnson, Walter Vincson, Ishmon Bracey, the Chatmon Brothers, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Often, he performed with Charlie and Joe McCoy and also worked with Skip James. Temple moved to Chicago in the early 30’s, where he quickly became part of the town’s blues scene. From Temple's first session we spin his classic "Lead Pencil Blues" cut for Vocalion backed on second guitar by Charlie McCoy. Willie Lofton was also from Jackson which was the town he left when he traveled north to Chicago in the mid 1930's. He had two recording sessions in Chicago in August of 1934 and November of 1935 that produced eight sides. We also feature Joe McCoy's "Look Who's Coming Down The Road", recorded as Georgia Pine Boy, a variation on Tommy Johnson's "Maggie Campbell Blues."

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Lemon JeffersonOne Dime Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonMatchbox Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonRambler BluesThe Best Of
Down Home Boys (Papa Harvey Hull & Long "Cleve" Reed)Mama You Don't Know HowNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Big Joe WilliamsPeach Orchard Mama Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Blind Willie McTellLast Dime BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonSee That My Grave Is Kept CleanThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonBed Spring BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonPrison Cell Blues Mean & Evil Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins Reminiscences Of Blind LemonLightnin' Hopkins [Smithsonian Folkways]
Lightnin' Hopkins One Kind FavorAll The Classics 1946-1951
Son HouseCounty Farm BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Blind Lemon Jefferson Shuckin' Sugar BluesThe Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon Jefferson Corinna Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Rabbit Foot Blues If It Ain't One Thing, It'Rabbit Foot Blues
Ramblin' ThomasNo Baby BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Blind Boy Fuller Untrue BluesBlind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-1938
Blind Lemon Jefferson Got The Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Hot Dogs The Best Of
Leadbelly Blind Lemon (Song)Leadbelly Vol. 6 1947
Leadbelly Silver City Bound Leadbelly's Last Sessions
Blind Lemon JeffersonBad Luck Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Horse Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby Blues The Best Of
Hattie Hudson Doggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Thomas Shaw Jack Of Diamonds San Diego Blues Jam
Mance LipscombEasy Rider BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlind Lemon's Penitentiary Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Snake Moan Great Blues Guitarists: String Dazzlers
Pete HarrisBlind Lemon's SongTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Rev. Emmett Dickenson The Death Of Blind LemonBlues Images Vol. 6
King Solomon Hill My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon Blues Images Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Today we spotlight Blind Lemon Jefferson and the enormous influence he had on his contemporaries and countless blues artist over the ensuing decades. Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. Researcher Bruce Bastin, known for his extensive research in the Piedmont region, said of Jefferson… “…there can have been few nascent bluesmen outside Texas, let alone within the state, who had never heard his music. Among interviewed East Coast bluesmen active during Blind Lemon’s recording career, almost all recall him as one of the first bluesmen they heard on record.” Today we spotlight some of Lemon's best numbers as well as a those artists he inspired. Lemon's influence cast a long shadow among both black and white artists and today's show is in no way comprehensive but does give a snapshot of just how big Lemon's impact was.

Jefferson was born in September 1893. By 1912, he was working over a wide area of Texas, including East Dallas, Silver City, Galveston, and Waco. Jefferson was still a teenager when he moved into Dallas. The black community in Dallas were settled in an area covering approximately six blocks around Central Avenue up to Elm Street, the center of which was Deep Ellum, a bustling thoroughfare full of bars, clubs and brothels. Mance Lipscomb saw Jefferson playing there as early as 1917. Although Jefferson’s reputation was originally made as a singer of sacred songs, the percentage of blues in his repertoire greatly increased as the years progressed. In 1925 Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Jefferson's first session produced "I Want To Be Like Jesus In My Heart" b/w "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" using the name Deacon L.J. Bates. It was the second session, however, that made Jefferson a star. He recorded four songs at that session: “Booster Blues” b/w “Dry Southern Blues’, came out in or around March 1926. "Got The Blues" b/w "Long Lonesome Blues" hadn't been on sale long in the spring of 1926 when Paramount asked him to record it again because of the huge demand for the record. This was unheard of for a male blues artist. Prior to Jefferson the blues had been recorded primarily by women backed by piano or bands

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Rambler Blues
Click to Enlarge

Tony Russell describes Jefferson's impact: "Jefferson offered instead blues sung by a man playing guitar – playing it, moreover, with a busyness and variety that showed up many of those pianists and bands as turgid and ordinary. The discovery that there was an audience for Jefferson's type of blues revolutionized the music business: within a few years female singers were out of favor and virtually all the trading in the 'race' market (jazz aside) was in men with guitars." Throughout 1926 there was a constant supply of new releases from Jefferson, "Black Horse Blues", "Jack O’ Diamond Blues" and "That Black Snake Moan" were among these classic numbers.

In 1927, when producer Mayo Williams moved to OKeh Records, he took Jefferson with him, and OKeh quickly recorded and released Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" backed with "Black Snake Moan," which was to be his only OKeh recording, probably because of contractual obligations with Paramount. Jefferson's two songs released on Okeh have considerably better sound quality than on his Paramount records at the time. When he had returned to Paramount a few months later, "Matchbox Blues" had already become such a hit that Paramount re-recorded and released two new versions. In 1927, Jefferson recorded another of his now classic songs, the haunting "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (once again using the pseudonym Deacon L. J. Bates) along with two other uncharacteristically spiritual songs, "He Arose from the Dead" and "Where Shall I Be." Of the three, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" became such a big hit that it was re-recorded and re-released in 1928. Despite his success, which allowed him to maintain a chauffeur-driven Ford and a healthy bank balance, Jefferson’s lifestyle was little affected. While he spent time in Chicago, where most of his recordings were made, he continued to work as an itinerant performer in the South.

In addition to his frequent recording sessions in Chicago throughout the late '20s, Blind Lemon Jefferson still performed in Texas and traveled around the South. He played Chicago rent parties, performed at St. Louis' Booker T. Washington Theater, and even worked some with Son House collaborator Rev. Rubin Lacy while in Mississippi. In late September of 1929, Jefferson went to Paramount's studios in Richmond, IN, for a fruitful session that included two songs,"Bed Springs Blues" and "Yo Yo Blues", that were also issued on the Broadway label. Jefferson was back in Chicago in December of 1929 when, sadly, he was found dead following a particularly cold snowstorm.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: 'Lectric Chair Blues
Click to Enlarge

Jefferson died in Chicago at 10 am on December 19, 1929, of what his death certificate called "probably acute myocarditis" (Lemon's death certificate was found in 2010 and published in the Frog Blues and Jazz Annual #1). Paramount Records paid for the return of his body to Texas by train, accompanied by pianist William Ezell. Jefferson was buried at Wortham Negro Cemetery (later Wortham Black Cemetery). By 1996, the cemetery and marker were in poor condition, but a new granite headstone was erected in 1997. In 2007, the cemetery's name was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery and his gravesite is kept clean by a cemetery committee in Wortham, Texas.

Several blues singer/guitarists like Thomas Shaw and Mance Lipscomb thought Jefferson’s style almost impossible to imitate with any degree of success. But there were a few recordings made in the pre-war period that managed to do so, notably Issiah Nettles (The Mississippi Moaner), who covered Lemon’s "Long Lonesome Blues" as "It’s Cold In China Blues". Willard ‘Ramblin’ Thomas (probably a one time associate of Jefferson) had a number of songs in the the vein of Lemon. Jesse Thomas' 1948 number, "Double Due Love You" opens with lyrics also taken from the Blind Lemon' "Long Lonesome Blues." Thomas also recorded Lemon's "Jack of Diamonds" in 1951.

We feature several artists today who either covered Lemon's songs or who's records clearly bear the mark of Lemon's influence.  The Down Home Boys recording of "Mama, You Don't Know How", from 1927, has Long Cleve Reed, Papa Harvey Hull and Sunny Wilson re-working Lemon's "Black Snake Moan". Blind Boy Fuller was influenced by Lemon. The opening lick to his intro to "Untrue Blues" comes right out of "Rabbit's Foot Blues” while "Meat Shakin' Woman", derives its melody from "Bad Luck Blues". According to Son House’s recollection of his 1930 Paramount session, producer Art Laibley had asked the musicians if anyone could do a version of the song. Charlie Patton and Willie Brown passed but House went back to his room with Louise Johnson, worked half the night adding his own words to Lemon's melody, and the next day recorded "Mississippi County Farm." The song became a mainstay of House's repertoire, and he recorded it again for Alan Lomax in 1942. Hattie Hudson's 1927 song, "Doggone My Bad Luck Soul" was an "answer song" to Lemon's "Bad Luck Blues" issued in 1926, and has the repeated tag-line "doggone my bad luck soul."

Today we spotlight several artists who knew Lemon first hand such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly, Thomas Shaw and King Solomon Hill. Lightnin' Hopkins offered different account of when he met Blind Lemon but it seems to have been sometime in the early to mid-20's. From 1959 we hear "Reminiscences Of Blind Lemon" and "One Kind Favor, his cover of Lemon's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."

It was on the streets of Deep Ellum that Lemon met up with Leadbelly. Leadbelly, in later years, was understandably proud of his relationship with Lemon. They probably met up sometime after 1910, when Leadbelly and his wife Aletta moved into Dallas. Leadbelly would play guitar, mandolin or accordion behind Lemon and he remembered topically performing the number "Fare Thee Well, Titanic" (the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912) on the streets of Dallas with Jefferson and on other occasions, dancing while Lemon would play a guitar solo version of "Dallas Rag". As a team they traveled together on the railroads from town to town earning a reasonable living. In later years Leadbelly would recall how he and Lemon “was buddies” and how.. “we’d tear those guitars all to pieces”. Their partnership certainly ended by January 1918, when Leadbelly (using the alias Walter Boyd) was indicted on a charge of murder, found guilty and thereafter became a guest of the Texas penal system.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Cannon Ball Moan
Click to Enlarge

Thomas Shaw had already been enthralled by Jefferson's early recordings of “Long Lonesome Blues” and “Matchbox Blues” when he met Jefferson on the town square of Waco in 1926 or 1927. At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's songs from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person. Today we play his version of Lemon's classic "Jack Of Diamonds."

King Solomon Hill was closely connected to Crying Sam Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and their influence is evident, to some degree, in Hill's style. "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon"is a heartfelt tribute to someone Hill clearly admired: "Hmmm then the mailman brought a misery to my head/When I received a letter that my friend Lemon was dead." Those lines echo the opening of Lemon's “Gone Dead On You Blues”: Mmmmmm, mailman's letter brought misery to my head. Mmmmm, brought misery to my head. I got a letter this morning, my pigmeat mama was dead.” Hill ran with Lemon for about two months after he passed through Minden. Hill's widow recalled that "he sung that song a whole lot 'bout Blind Lemon. Said he loved his buddy 'some way better than anyone I know.'" On one record, “Whoope Blues” b/w Down On My Bended Knees” the subtitle on the record says “Blind Lemon's Buddy.”

In 1930 , shortly after Lemon's death, Paramount issued a double sided tribute to Lemon: “Wasn't It Sad About Lemon” by the duo Walter and Byrd was on one side while the second side was the sermon “The Death Of Blind Lemon” by Rev. Emmett Dickenson. Leadbelly recorded a number of songs about Lemon after his passing. Today we spin his "Blind Lemon (Song)" from 1947 and the marvelous "Silver City Bound" from his last session in 1948.

-A Twist of Lemon by Paul Swinton  (Blues & Rhythm, No. 121)

-Blind Lemon And I Had A Ball by Victoria Spivey  (Record Research 76, May 1966 p.9)

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Texas Alexander Days Is LonesomeTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928 - 1930

Bo Carter Tellin' You 'Bout ItGreatest Hits
Mississippi SheiksIt's Done Got WetBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Lindberg Sparks I.C. Train BluesSparks Brothers 1932-1935t
Dorothy Baker Steady Grinding BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Ernest RogersBaby Low Down, Oh Oh Low Down Dirty DogField Recordings Vol. 16 1934-1940
Blind Pete & George RyanBanty Rooster Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
John BrayTrench BluesDeep River Of Song: Louisiana
Bumble Bee SlimSail On Little Girl, Sail OnWhen The Sun Goes Down
Leroy CarrBlues Before SunriseWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Scrapper BlackwellMorning Mail BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Lucille Bogan Pig Iron SallyShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Walter Roland Big MamaWalter Roland Vol. 2 1934-1935
James “Iron Head” Baker Black BettyDeep River of Song: Big Brazos
LeadbellyTake A Whiff On MeLeadbelly: Important Recordings 1934-49
Joe PullumBlack Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossSomeday BabyThe Essential Buddy Moss
Son BondsTrouble, Trouble BluesSon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Bertha LeeMind Reader BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
Charlie Patton'34 BluesPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Mary Johnson Peepin' At The Risin' Sun Mary Johnson 1929-1936
Peetie WheatstrawThrow Me In The AlleyFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Bob CampbellStarvation Farm BluesA Richer Tradition
Memphis Jug Band Jug Band QuartetteMemphis Shakedown

Big Bill Broonzy Serve It To Me RightAll The Classic Sides
Alfoncey Harris Absent Freight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe
John OscarOther Man BluesChicago Piano 1929-1936
Lee GreenMemphis FivesThe Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes & Lee Green
Joe McCoyI'm Going Back HomeThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Charlie McCoy Charity BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Moses Clear Rock PlattThat's All Right, BabyBlack Texicans
Wilson Jones (Stavin' Chain)Can't Put On My ShoesField Recordings Vol. 16 1934-1940

Show Notes:

Charlie Patton: 34 Blues

Today’s show is the eighth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked in 1934, and in addition to labels like Gennett and Columbia a new label emerged that year. Decca Records began recording in New York and Chicago in August and by the end of the year had issued dozens of race records. During this period it was the urban style of blues that dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. Still some down home blues artists were recorded such as Texas Alexander and Charlie Patton. In parallel to the commercial recordings were some remarkable field recording made by John Lomax for the Library of Congress. All those and more can be heard on today's program.

From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling for 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. Whereas Decca had a special race series, Bluebird and Vocalion numbered blues and gospel material in their general series. Although the Gennett label went under at the end of 1934, Decca bought the Gennett material and bought the Champion trademark. Later that year they started their second race series, the Champion 5000s; it feature some reissues of Gennett blues, some reissues from Paramount as well as some material recorded by Decca. The Brunswick Record Corporation bought Columbia issuing records by Papa Charlie Jackson and the Memphis Jug Band. They also operated five "dime-store labels" – Perfect, Oriole, Romeo, Banner and Melotone which sold for 25 cents.

A sign that the market was reviving was the fact that the labels were once again sending out field recording units. Much of the activity was in Texas where Brunswick-ARC recorded Texas Alexander in San Antonio and Fort Worth, Bo Carter and the Mississippi Sheiks in San Antonio and a new artist called Joe Pullum. Texas Alexander cut sessions in 1934 in the company of the Mississippi Sheiks, the jazz band His Sax Black Tams, the guitar duo of Willie Reed and Carl Davis for a total of two dozen sides. These were his last sides until 1950 where he cut a lone 78 for the Freedom label.The popular Mississippi Sheiks cut fourteen sides on March 26 and 27th. "Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” was a huge and influential hit in 1934 for Joe Pullum. After Pullum recorded it in April 1934 it was covered by Vocalion by Leroy Carr, for Decca by Mary Johnson and Jimmie Gordon (under the pseudonym of Joe Bullum!), and by Josh White—all within ten months. Pullum went on to cut four sessions in less than two years which produced thirty songs including two sequels to "Black Gal" , yet few sold very well.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. Slim waxed around fifty sides apiece in 1934 and Carr even more.  Slim cut sides for all three major labels in 1934. Carr cut some iconic songs in 1934 including blues classics like “Blues Before Sunrise” and “Mean Mistreater Mama” among others, most with his partner Scrapper Blackwell.

Thanks to a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, John Lomax was able to set out in June 1933 on the first recording expedition under the Library of Congress' auspices, with his son Alan in tow. John and Alan toured Texas prison farms recording work songs, reels, ballads, and blues from prisoners such as James "Iron Head" Baker, Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, and Lightnin’ Washington. In 1934, Lomax was named Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song, and he secured grants from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, for continued field recordings. In September 1934, Lead Belly, who was out of prison, wrote to Lomax requesting employment, since he needed to have a job in order not to be sent back to prison. At the urging of John, Jr., Lomax engaged Lead Belly as his driver and assistant and the pair traveled the South together collecting folk songs for the next three months. We spin some remarkable sides today by James "Iron Head" Baker and  Mose "Clear Rock" , who Lomax had recorded the previous year, plus new discoveries like Wilson Jones (Stavin' Chain).

Leadbelly was "discovered" by folklorists John Lomax and his then 18-year-old son Alan Lomax during a visit to the Angola Prison Farm in 1933. They recorded him on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress. Those recordings are very poor quality. They returned to record with new and better equipment in July of the following year (1934). From those sessions we hear Leadbelly deliver a powerful version of "Take A Whiff On Me."

Stavin' Chain playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," (fiddler also in shot), Lafayette, La, 1934.
Photo by Alan Lomax.

Notable this year were the last recordings by Charlie Patton. Patton's last recording sessions were in New York where he cut twenty-six sides for Vocalion between January 3oth and February 1st. Seventeen of those sides were unissued. On January 31st Patton backed his common-law wife Bertha Lee on three sides, one of which was unissued.  On the morning of Saturday, April 28, 1934, Charlie Patton was buried the following day at Longswitch Cemetery, less than a mile from his last home at Holly Ridge. He was 43. Patton was a popular performer among both whites and blacks, and at Dockery's Plantation he often played on the porch of the commissary and at all-night picnics hosted by Will Dockery for residents.. In “34 Blues” Patton sang of being banished from Dockery by plantation manager Herman Jett, apparently because Patton was running off with various tenants’ women.

There were some notable piano blues recorded in 1934. St. Louis had an abundance of talented blues pianists including Henry Brown, Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosevelt Sykes, Lee Green, and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks all who were recorded during the year. Also notable were pianists Alfoncey Harris who was recorded in Texas and John Oscar who was recorded in Chicago.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Furry Lewis John Henry (The Steel Driving Man)Masters of Memphis Blues
Furry Lewis Black Gyspy BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Furry Lewis Creeper's BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Charlie McCoyIt Ain't No Good - Part 1Charlie McCoy 1928-1932
Charlie McCoyLast Time BluesCharlie McCoy 1928-1932
Speckled RedHouse Dance Blues Speckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled RedThe Dirty Dozen Speckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled RedWilkins Street Stomp Speckled Red 1929-1938
Walter VincsonYour Friends Gonna Use It Too - Part 1Walter Vincson 1928 1941
Walter VincsonOvertime BluesWalter Vincson 1928 1941
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 1)
Mississippi Masters
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 2)Mississippi Masters
Robert WilkinsThat's No Way To Get AlongMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsAlabama BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsLong Train BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Jenny PopeWhiskey Drinkin' BluesMen Are Like Street Cars
Jed DavenportHow Long, How Long BluesMemphis Shakedown
Joe CallicottFare Thee Well BluesFare Thee Well Blues
Joe CallicottTraveling Mama BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Madelyn JamesStinging Stake BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Madelyn James Long Time BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Tommy GriffinMistreatment BluesCountry Blues Collectors' Items
Tommy GriffinBell Tolling BluesCountry Blues Collectors' Items
Mattie DelaneyDown The Big Road BluesMississippi Masters
Mattie DelaneyTallahatchie River BluesMississippi Masters
Garfield AkersDough Roller BluesMississippi Masters
Garfield AkersJumpin' & Shoutin' BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyMister Tango Blues Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyWhat Fault You Find of Me - Part 1 Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyCan I Do It For You Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyI Called You This Morning Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Jim ThompkinsBedside BluesBroke, Black And Blue

Show Notes:

Today's show is the second installment spotlighting great recording sessions. In the first installment we spotlighted two sessions conducted by the Victor  label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans. Today we select four recording sessions by Brunswick cut in Memphis: two sessions on Sept. 22nd and 23 in 1929 and two sessions on February 20 and 21st in 1930. The Sept. 22 and 23rd, 1929 sessions were recorded at the Peabody Hotel. "The Mississippi Delta begins on the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends at Catfish Row in Vicksburg", David Cohn wrote in 1935. By the time the race market was picking up in popularity nearly every major recording company either made field trips to Memphis or attracted Memphis artists to their Northern studios. The records recorded at these sessions were issued on the Brunswick and Vocalion labels. Those recorded included great performances by Furry Lewis,Charlie McCoy, Speckled Red, Walter Vincson, Garfield Akers, Robert Wilkins, Jed Davenport,Jenny Pope, Joe Callicott, Madlyn James, Tommy Griffin, Mattie Delaney, Jim Thompkins, Garfield Akers, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy.

Furry Lewis was born in Greenwood, MS and moved with his mother and two sisters to Brinley Avenue in Memphis when he was a youngster. Before he was ten he had fashioned a guitar from a cigar box and screen wire. His first guitar was supposedly given to him by W.C. Handy, a Martin that he used for decades. Lewis played around Beale Street in speakeasies, taverns, dance halls and house parties and worked the countryside at suppers, frolics and fish fries. In 1925 he got together with Will Shade, Dewey Thomas and Hambone Lewis to form an early version of the Memphis Jug Band and like Jim Jackson took to traveling with medicine shows. Vocalion talent scouts saw both men in 1927 but it was Lewis who went to Chicago first in April where he cut six sides. He and Jackson went up together in October the same year where Jackson cut his famous "Kansas City Blues" with Lewis cutting seven numbers including the unissued "Casey Jones." Just under a year later Victor recorded eight more titles by Lewis in Memphis and Vocalion brought him in the studio one last time in 1929, cutting four songs at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

Brothers Charlie and Joe McCoy were close to the Chatmans, who hailed from nearby Bolton, and recorded as the popular Mississippi Sheiks. The McCoys and the Chatmans often played together and like many Jackson area musicians, ther were influenced in varying degrees by Tommy Johnson. In addition to the Chatmons and Johnson, Jackson, in the 1920’s was a city with a vibrant blues scene, teeming with artists such as Walter Vincson, Ishman Bracey, Johnnie Temple, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Joe McCoy recorded under various pseudonyms; Georgia Pine Boy, Hallelujah Joe, Big Joe McCoy and His Washboard Band, and The Mississippi Mudder among others. During his time with Memphis Minnie he took the lead on several memorable numbers, most famously “When The Levee Breaks." After Joe and Minnie separated Joe occupied himself in small bands, singing with the Harlem Hamfats, working as a songwriter and working with his brother Charlie. Joe McCoy died of heart disease in Chicago, only a few months before his brother Charlie.

Charlie McCoy ranked among the great blues accompanists of his era and his accomplished mandolin and guitar work can be heard on numerous recordings in a wide variety of settings from the late 1920's through the early 40's. His sides under his own name prove he could hold his own as a lead artist but he seemed most at home enhancing other artists' records.

According to the authors of Memphis Minnie's biography she was "a wild youngster who never took to the farming life and she ran away from home at an early age. Her first guitar had been a Christmas present given to her in 1905 …She began to run away to Memphis' Beale Street with some regularity. Guitarists Frank Stokes and Furry Lewis…both provided advice and inspiration to Minnie in her early days in Memphis. Minnie's duets with Kansas Joe drew as much inspiration from the guitar teamwork of Frank Stokes and Dan Sane, who recorded as the Beale Street Sheiks, as from her own early 'partnership' with Willie Brown." Robert Wilkins also recalled Minnie from these days. Her marriage and recording debut came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop in their distinctive 'Memphis style.' By around 1929 both Minnie and Joe were playing stell bodied National guitars. As Joe Calicott recalled. Between 1929 and 1934 Minnie and Joe cut around one hundred sides together.

Walter Vinson rarely worked as a solo act, seemingly much more at home in duets and trios; towards that end, during the 1920's he worked with Charlie McCoy, Rubin Lacy and Son Spand before forming the Mississippi Sheiks. Vinson cut three sides at the Sept. 22, 1929 session: "Your Friends Gonna Use It Too – Part 1 & Part 2" and "Overtime blues."

Pianist Speckled Red was born in Monroe, LA, but he made his reputation as part of the St. Louis and Memphis blues scenes of the '20s and '30s. In 1929, he cut his first recording sessions. One song from these sessions, "The Dirty Dozens," was released on Brunswick and became a hit in late 1929. In 1938, he cut a few sides for Bluebird. In the early '40s, Red moved to St. Louis, where he played local clubs and bars for the next decade and a half. Charlie O'Brien, a St. Louis policeman and something of a blues aficionado "rediscovered" Speckled Red on December 14, 1954, who subsequently was signed to Delmark Records as their first blues artist. Several recordings were made in 1956 and 1957 for Tone, Delmark, Folkways, and Storyville record labels.

Garfield Akers recorded just four sides. His most well-known song was his debut, "Cottonfield Blues", a duet with friend and longtime collaborator Joe Callicott on second guitar. Akers lived in Hernando, Mississippi most of his life, working as a sharecropper and performing during off-hours at local house parties and dances. He toured with Frank Stokes on the Doc Watts Medicine Show. Akers was reportedly active on the south Memphis circuit throughout the 1930's. Akers and Callicott played together for more than twenty years, parting in the mid-1940's. Blues historian Don Kent praised "Cottonfield Blues," saying "only a handful of guitar duets in all blues match the incredible drive, intricate rhythms and ferocious intensity."

Gayle Wardlow explained in his article, Garfield Akers and Mississippi Joe Callicott: From the Hernando Cotton Fields: "In the fall of 1929 Brunswick/Vocalion Records made its initial field trip to Memphis to record talent for its Vocalion 1000 and Brunswick 7000 Race series. The session at the Peabody Hotel was highlighted by the first recorded appearances of Garfield Akers, Mattie Delaney, and Kid Bailey, concomitantly with veterans Memphis Minnie and Tampa Red. Callicott recorded his lone 78, "Fare Thee Well Blues/Traveling Mama Blues", for Brunswick in 1930 at a second session in Memphis where Akers also recorded again ("Dough Roller Blues/Jumpin' and Shoutin'"). Callicott made a brief comeback, lasting from the summer of 1967 through the summer of 1968; he recorded sides in the field for George Mitchell, sides at the 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival and sides for Blue Horizon in 1968 all of which have made it onto CD.

Mattie Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie River Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist. Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy which he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000/

Robert Wilkins was another prominent Memphis bluesman who, like Lewis, was originally born in Mississippi but made his fame in Memphis. Wilkins' early performing life included touring with small vaudeville and minstrel shows. In 1928, he met Ralph Peer of the Victor label and was invited to cut four songs. Vocalion recorded eight new songs the following year. In 1935 he cut four more sides for Vocalion and shortly afterwards joined the Church of God in Christ and became a minister. Wilkins was rediscovered in the 1960's and performed and recorded gospel material along with the blues. In 1964 he recorded the wonderful Memphis Gospel Singer for the Piedmont label which unfortunately has not been issued on CD.

Little is know about several of today's artists, all of whom recorded sparingly: Jenny Pope, Jed Davenport, Madelyn James, Tommy Griffin and Jim Thompkins. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Jed Davenport came from a tent show and medicine show background. Davenport cut around a dozen sides as leader between 1929-30. Madelyn James Cut one 78 at this February 20, 1930 session with one song possibly featuring Shade on jug. Tommy Griffin Griffin cut sixteen sides at two sessions in 1930 and 1936 for Vocalion and Bluebird. Jim Thompkin (credited in the Brunswick ledger as Peg Leg Jim Thompkins) cut two songs at this same session, “Bedside Blues” and “Down Fall Blues”, the latter never issued. When issued on 78 the flipside of “Bedside Blues” was "We Got To Get That Thing Fixed" by Speckled Red.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Memphis Jug BandSun Brimmers BluesMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandKansas City BluesMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Will WeldonTurpentine Blues Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Vol StevensBaby Got The Rickets (Mama's Got The Mobile Blues) Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandI'll See You In The Spring, When The Birds Begin To SingMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandBeale Street Mess AroundMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandStealin' Stealin' Best of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug BandWhitewash Station Blues Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandA Black Woman Is Like A Black SnakeBest of the Memphis Jug Band
Charlie Burse & his Memphis MudcatsBrand New Day BluesMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Will ShadeHe Stabbed Me With An Ice-PickMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Will ShadeBetter Leave That Stuff Alone
Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Minnie Wallace The Old Folks Started ItMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Minnie Wallace Dirty Butter Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandK.C. MoanBest of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug BandOn The Road AgainBest of the Memphis Jug Band
Hattie HartWon't You Be Kind?Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-34
Hattie HartMemphis Yo Yo Blues Best of the Memphis Jug Band
Hattie HartPapa's Got Your Water OnI Can't Be Satisfied: Early American Blues Singers Vol. 1
Charlie Bozo NickersonWhat's the Matter Now? Part 3Memphis Blues 1927-1938
Memphis Jug BandCave Man Blues Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandFourth Street MessRuckus Juice & Chitlins Vol. 1
Memphis Jug BandGoing Back To Memphis Best of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug BandHe's In The Jailhouse Now Best of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug BandYou May Leave But This Will Bring You BackBest of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug BandCocaine Habit BluesBest of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Minnie Bumble Bee Blue Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Kaiser CliftonFort Worth & Denver Blues Memphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Picaninny Jug BandI Got Good Taters Memphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Memphis Jug BandAunt Caroline Dyer Blues Best of the Memphis Jug Band
Memphis Jug BandYou Got Me Rollin'Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandTear It Down, Bed Slats And AllMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics

Show Notes:

The Memphis Jug Band was one of the most popular musical groups of the late 1920's and early 1930's and arguably the most important jug band in the history of the blues. Born in Memphis in 1894, Will Shade (also known as Son Brimmer) was the founder of the Memphis Jug Band. He learned guitar from Tee Wee Blackman, a sometime member of the band and also played harmonica. After performing around Memphis and touring with medicine shows for a few years, Shade formed the group in the mid-1920's after being inspired by the records of the influential Louisville jug band, the Dixieland Jug Blowers. Furry Lewis was in the early incarnation of the band (probably around 1925) as he recalled: "After we moved to Memphis , I just got with the boys, and just got us a little old band they called a jug band. In my jug band the fellow that blowed the jug Will Shade. There was me and Will Shade, Dewey Thomas and Ham."

The Memphis Jug Band, from a Victor catalog of 1930

The band's repertoire, as Tony Russell wrote, drew "from a book that included blues, ragtime tunes, comic songs, breakdowns, waltzes, old Southern country songs, and glee-club quartet numbers: altogether one of the most varied and fascinating repertoires in the history of African-American music. …The MJB's primary colors were harmonica, kazoo, and a couple of guitars (the jug, of course, was a given)…" Although this remained the group's core instrumentation, "Shade frequently tinkered with the prototype, adding Milton Roby's violin, Jab Jones' piano or Vol Stevens' mandolin, and experimenting with different lead singers, replacing his doleful, phlegmy  voice or Will Weldon's rather plain one with the more expressive Jones or Charlie Burse, or the effervescent Charlie Nickerson…"  The group also worked with several female singers including Shade's wife, Jennie Clayton, Minnie Wallace, Memphis Minnie and the magnificent Hattie Hart.

The band initially played in the city's parks, streets and taverns. As their fame spread they performed at political rallies, store openings and other civic affairs. Memphis was a wide open town in the late twenties and clubs like Pee Wee's, The Monarch and The Hole In The Wall catered to crap-shooters and policy players with bootleg whiskey. "There was so much excitement down there on Beale Street", Will Shade told Paul Oliver, "It'd take me a year and a day to tell you about (it) …Aw we used to have a rough kind of crowd."

The lineup of the Memphis Jug Band changed constantly throughout its career, both inside and outside the recording studio. Between 1927 and 1934, the Memphis Jug Band made over some 80-odd sides for Victor, Champion, and OKeh, achieving considerable fame and commercial success. In addition to the sides cut under the Memphis Jug Band name, we also play sides by those who worked with the band, cutting sides under their own name but usually backed by members of the band. So today we also spin sides cut under the names of Will Shade, Vol Stevens, Hattie Hart, Will Weldon, Minnie Wallace, Charlie Burse, Charlie Nickerson and others.

With success of the Memphis Jug Band other jug bands followed so by the 30's the city boasted six different jug groups including the Beale Street Jug Band, Jack Kelly and His South Memphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers. The jug bands were enjoyed by whites and blacks, and at times found their employment almost entirely at white parties. Mr. Crump – Boss Crump, the biggest man in Memphis at the time, often hired these groups to play for his own entertainments.  That didn't stop the band from making some pointed comments in their rendition of  of the medicine show staple, "He's In The Jailhouse Now" from 1930:

I remember last election
Sam Jones got in action
Said he'd vote for the man who paid the biggest price
The next day at the polls
He voted with heart and soul
But instead of voting once he voted twice

He's in the jailhouse now (2x)
Instead of staying at home
Leaving the white folks' business alone
He's in the jailhouse now

 In February 1927 Ralph Peer of Victor Records went to Memphis to audition talent. His first discovery was the Memphis Jug Band who consisted of Shade, Ben Ramsey, Will Weldon and Charlie Polk. The band cut four sides which were so successful the band was summoned to Chicago in June for four more sides. In October 1927 the band went to Atlanta to record with Shade's wife Jennie Clayton as singer and Vol Stevens who played guitar, mandolin and fiddle. Stevens takes the vocal on two band numbers: “Beale Street Mess Around” and “I'll See You In The Spring, When The Birds Begin To Sing” (better known as "Fare Thee Honey"). The following day solo sides were cut by Stevens and Weldon, each backing the other on his session. We spin Weldon's "Turpentine Blues" and Steven's colorfully titled "Baby Got The Rickets (Mama's Got The Mobile Blues)." Whether Will is the Casey Bill Weldon who recorded prolifically in Chicago throughout the 30's has been the object of much speculation. Current evidence suggests they are two different performers. Weldon played guitar on some twenty sides with the Memphis Jug Band between 1927 and 1928.

Chicago Defender Ad, December 6, 1930

All the Memphis musicians used to hang out in PeeWee's on Beale street and it was there that Will Shade met guitarist Charlie Burse on September 9th, 1928 and invited him to join a recording session two days later. Burse and Shade would become lifelong associates and continued playing together for nearly four decades (one of their last recording efforts together was the wonderful Beale St. Mess Around album on Rounder). Shade and Burse duet on “A Black Woman Is Like A Black Snake.” “Stealin' Stealin'” was cut four days later and is one of the band's best known numbers. In 1939, Burse put together his own band, the Memphis Mudcats who cut a batch of sides for Vocalion.

As mentioned the Memphis Jug Band worked with several fine female singers. Jennie Clayton was the first, and shares vocals on"I Packed My Suitcase and "State of Tennessee" and solos on "Bob Lee Junior." On September 23, 1929 the band was in the studio to back singer Minnie Wallace on two numbers, "The Old Folks Started It b/w Dirty Butter." Shade backed Wallace on her next session cut in 1935. By this point Vol Stevens was out of the band, replaced by violinist Milton Roby. Roby had followed the medicine shows circuit and like Shade, learned guitar from Tee Wee Blackman.  In Bengt Olsson's Memphis Blues and Jug Bands (view PDF below) some light was shed on singer Hattie Hart: "Hattie Hart and Allen Shaw came together on record when they engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. Willie Borum was also present, playing guitar behind Shaw on some of the songs as well as singing four of his own. He and Shaw were new to the recording studio, but Hattie Hart had appeared on several of the Memphis Jug Band's discs in 1929 and 1930, singing the unforgettable 'Memphis Yo Yo Blues', 'Cocaine Habit Blues', 'Oh Ambulance Man, 'Papa's Got Your Bath Water On' and 'Spider's Nest Blues.' "Cocaine Habit" is probably Hart's greatest performance; the song dates from the turn of the century (known as "Take A Whiff on Me"), when cocaine was both legal and endemic in Memphis, with Lehman's Drugstore on Union the main source:

Cocaine habit mighty bad
It's the worst old habit that I ever had
Hey, hey, Honey take a whiff on me

I went to Mr Lehman's in a lope
Saw a sign on the window said no more dope
Hey, hey, Honey take a whiff on me

At a session in 1930 Will Shade, Ham Lewis and Charlie Burse were joined by Memphis Minnie who was at the beginning of her career. Minnie had occasionally worked with the band in Handy's Park in Memphis. The session yielded “Bumble Bee Blues” and “Meningitis Blues.”

In 1930 Victor was back in Memphis, recording the band on nine separate occasions, six times in one month for a total of twenty titles. Singer/pianist Charlie Nickerson had joined the band in 1929. He takes the vocals on several numbers including “Cave Man Blues”, "Fourth Street Mess" and leads the whole band on “ Going Back To Memphis”:

I love ol' Memphis, where I was born
Wear my boxback suit and drink my pint of corn

Nickerson and is also heard to good effect on the boozy "fourth Street Mess:"

Somebody tell me, what makes this jug band drink? (2x)
They get you whipping these blues, and they begin to think

About that Fourth Street mess around
Originated by that jug band from Memphis town
Go down Fourth until you get to Vance, ask anybody about that brand new dance
The gals will say You’re going my way, it’s right here for you, here’s your only chance
Then ease down Vance until you get to Main
Turn around, beat it back again

Excuse us, stranger, for being bold this morn, but would you knock the jug band another drink of corn
While we play that Fourth Street mess around

Nickerson cut a handful of side under his own name over the course of three sessions in 1930, several were unissued. We feature his "What's the Matter Now? Part 3" on today's show.

The Memphis Jug Band recorded under several names on various recording labels. Alternate names found on record labels include the Picaninny Jug Band, Memphis Sanctified Singers, the Carolina Peanut Boys, the Dallas Jug Band and the Jolly Jug Band. As the Picaninny Jug Band (Will Shade, harmonica; Jab Jones, jug; Charlie Burse, vocal, tenor guitar, Vol Stevens, vocal, mandolin, Otto Gilmore, drums) they cut ten sides for Gennett in 1932. From that session we play the raucous and rough "I Got Good Taters."

The Memphis Jug Band’s music at their final 1934 session (now recording for Okeh) had changed radically since their Victor days, in an effort to keep up with changing fashions. There is a considerable infusion of jazz, and Charlie Pierce’s virtuoso fiddle playing draws heavily on white country music. By the mid-1930s the popularity of jug band music had begun to wane considerably as the Great Depression drastically diminished record sales and as newer and more urbane musical styles emerged.The band waxed some exciting music at their swansong including "Jazzbo Stomp", "Gator Wobble" and our selection, "Tear It Down, Bed Slats And All." One of their last numbers was an affecting tribute to the jug band sound in the song "Jug Band Quartett:"

You know, way down yonder in Memphis Tennessee
Jug band music sounds sweet to me
Because it sounds so sweet
Oh you know they're hard to beat
You know the jug band's music certainly was a treat to me

Eventually the Memphis Jug Band’s live engagements became less frequent, and the group could no longer get recording dates after 1934. Still, the group occasionally performed in and around Memphis for years after that, and in 1956, Will Shade and Charlie Burse made a few recordings for the Folkways label (credited as the Memphis Jug Band). In 1963 Shade recorded one last time with another Memphian, 79-year-old Gus Cannon, former leader of Cannon’s Jug Stompers. They recorded the album Walk Right In, on Stax Records, a result of The Rooftop Singers having made Cannon's "Walk Right In" into a number one single. Will Shade on jug and former Memphis Jug Band member Milton Roby on washboard perform a series of thirteen traditional songs, plus Cannon's great hit "Walk Right In." Shade recorded a handful of songs for other labels in the early 1960's before his death in 1966.

Other songs we play today are by Kaiser Clifton and both sides of the 1928 78 Will Shade cut under his own name, "She Stabbed Me With An Ice-Pick b/w Better Leave That Stuff Alone." Although recorded in Memphis (four sides cut in 1930), Kaiser Clifton was almost certainly from further south, as “Fort Worth and Denver Blues” (which includes a mention of the Sunshine Special that Blind Lemon Jefferson sang about) and references to his home in Texas in “Cash Money” suggest. Will Shade plays guitar and Ham Lewis is on jug.

There's speculation that the Memphis Jug Band was the group who recorded in Memphis on a February 21, 1930 date resulting in four gospel and two secular sides. As the the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers on "Thou Carest Lord, For Me ", "Jesus Throwed Up A Highway For", "Sinner I'd Make A Change", "When I Get Inside The Gate" and backing singer Madelyn James on "Stinging Snake Blues" and "Long Time Blues."

Related Articles:

-Memphis Blues and Jug Bands by Begnt Olsson (Studio Vista, 1970) [PDF]

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