Blues News


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OK, shameless plug time. Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2, a sequel to my 2005 release is now out on the Document label and features more  jazz, blues, boogie-woogie and gospel recordings dedicated to the season. With lively Boogie-woogie and R & B, reflective blues and the odd cautionary sermon thrown in for good moral measure, this double CD covers all the bases. The 2-CD set collects 44 numbers spanning from the 1920’s through the 1950’s, many of which have not been anthologized before. Artists include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rev. A.W. Nix, Blind Blake, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smokey Hogg, Fats Waller, Jesse Thomas, Gatemouth Moore, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry and many, many others. You can read my notes by visiting the writing page. It also appears that the elusive Blues, Blues Christmas is now back in stock and has been remastered. For some reason this one was extremely hard to come by when it first came out. This one sports an eleven page booklet written by myself and I also compiled all the tracks.  The CD collects 52 numbers spanning from 1925 to 1955, many of which have not been anthologized before. Artists include Bessie Smith, Leroy Carr, Rev. J.M. Gates, Butterbeans & Susie, Lonnie Johnson, Roy Milton, Larry Darnell, Cecil Gant, Lightnin’ Hopkins and many, many others. Just a heads up that I'm not selling these so buy them where available at your favorite store.

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Robert Nighthawk

Just a quick note to mention that my Robert Nighthawk website has been relocated and can be found at: http://nighthawk.sundayblues.org. The website is a compendium of just about all the available information regarding this legendary bluesman. The site includes detailed biographical information, audio clips, rare photos and more. There area few links that do not work but this should be fixed within a few days.

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Robert Ward

I just got the sad news that the great soul and blues artist Robert Ward passed away on Christmas day after a long struggle with health issues. Here's the press release:

Black Top and Delmark recording artist Robert Ward passed away Christmas Day at about 3:30 PM.

He had been ill with kidney and other problems recently, and had been in failing health
since a couple of minor strokes over this past decade.

He was watching a video of a European concert appearance he had made back in the 90's with his wife, Roberta, and she stepped into the kitchen just a few feet away to grab a snack for them. When she returned minutes later, he was gone.

Roberta said he hadn't made a sound and passed in peace.

The Wards have 68 grandchildren and live in Dry Branch GA, about 6 miles from Macon. Funeral arrangements are being made. Robert was a veteran of the US Army. Donations are being accepted to assist with interment costs, they can be sent to:

Roberta Ward
Post Office Box 217
Dry Branch GA 31020

Like many, I first heard Robert Ward when his magnificent Fear No Evil debuted on Black Top in 1990 and was unaware of his earlier recordings. In fact I remember distinctly when that record came out because I was received a copy in college for my blues show. The record blew me away and became a staple of my program. Nearly twenty years since its release I think its safe to say this is a modern classic. His subsequent Black Top follow-ups, Rhythm Of The People (1993) and Black Bottom (1995), were less inspired with the latter definitely the better of the two. After a five year absence he returned to form with his marvelous Delmark debut New Role Soul (2001). I also got a chance to interview Ward in 2001 although for the life of me I can't find the tape of that conversation!

It wasn't until the Black Top records that I became aware of Ward's 1960's recordings which were thankfully collected on the album Hot Stuff (1995) on Relic. These sides spotlighted the recordings Ward cut as leader of the Ohio Untouchables (who later morphed into the Ohio Players long after Ward's departure) for tiny labels like LuPine, Thelma, and Groove City. These are fiery and soulful sides featuring Ward's trademark watery guitar playing and passionate vocals on numbers like "I'm Tired", "Your Love Is Real", "Something For Nothing" and "Fear No Evil." Also included are four classic cuts by the Falcons from 1962 sporting lead vocals by Wilson Pickett with the Untouchables in support on the soaring smash hit "I Found A Love" and "Let's Kiss and Make Up" with some sizzling guitar from Ward. Ward's trademark vibrato-soaked guitar sound was said to be the direct result of acquiring a Magnatone amplifier. Lonnie Mack was so entranced by the watery sound of Ward's amp that he bought a Magnatone as well.

During the early 1970's Ward worked as a session guitarist at Motown, playing behind the Temptations and the Undisputed Truth. When his wife died in 1977 Ward hit hard times, even spending a year in jail. Ward's resurrection began with a chance encounter with guitar-shop owner Dave Hussong in Dayton, OH, which set off a chain of events resulting in Ward's signing to Black Top and a long overdue return to the limelight.

Your Love Is Real [1964] (MP3)

Something For Nothing [1964] (MP3)

I Found A Love w/ The Falcons [1962] (MP3)

Let's Kiss And Make Up w/ The Falcons [1963] (MP3)

Fear No Evil [1967] (MP3)

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pete Mayes
Pete Mayes in 1996 (Photo by Jeff Dunas)

More sad news in the blues world as The Houston Chronicle reports that Pete Mayes, a staple of the Houston scene for the past 50 years, died December 16th at the age of 70. Mayes played guitar with greats like Junior Parker and Bill Doggett.  He has fronted his own band, the Houserockers, for 40 years.  Mayes owned and maintained the historic Double Bayou Dancehall, which once served as a regular venue for Amos Milburn, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and scores of others.  It was there that Mayes, then just 16 years old, first heard T-Bone Walker who became a major influence. According to his own story, by the age of 14 he had already worked with Lester Williams, although he did not meet T-Bone Walker until 1954. During the next 20 years, he often worked with Walker and made the acquaintance of many other bluesmen who would later come to fame, most prominently Joe Hughes. Mayes and the Double Bayou Dancehall were profiled in Roger's Wood's Down In Houston – Bayou City Blues published in 2003. Mayes' discography is slim with just three full length albums;  Pete's Sake (Antone's, 1998), I'm Ready (Double Trouble, 1986) and Live! At Double Bayou Dance Hall (GoldRhyme Music, 2005). According to The Blues Discography 1943-1970 he cut the following singles: "The Things I Used To Do" (Home Cooking, 1965), "Crazy Woman" (Ovide, 1969) and "Movin' Out" (Ovide, 1969). The LP Houston Shuffle (Krazy Kat, 1984) includes "Crazy Woman" plus "Lowdown Feeling" both of which are listed in the notes to have been cut circa 1965-1966. According to the notes: "One time resident of Beaumont, Texas, Pete Mayes was a member of Gatemouth Brown's band where he would stage local guitar battles with Curley Mays; no relation despite their name. He had a long stint with Junior Parker and been on European tours, recording with Bill Doggett's Orchestra in Paris for Black & Blue. He still plays around Texas and was instrumental in relocating Houston guitarist Goree Carter."

Battle Of The Guitars


  • Play Real-Surestream
    Film – 16:51
  • Play MPEG-4 Film – 16:51

    This is one of three short films in the Living Texas Blues series. Battle of the Guitars shows the ranging influence of Aaron "T-Bone" Walker throught the performance of Pete Mayes and Joe Hughes at the Doll House Club in Houston.

Crazy Woman (MP3)

Lowdown Feeling (MP3)

Sister Rosetta Headstone

Gospel legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe has finally received a headstone after 35 years. From the press release: Philadelphia, PA – Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the pioneering gospel musician and instrumentalist, finally has a gravestone marking her resting place at Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia. Since her passing in 1973, the gravesite of Sister Rosetta had been a barren plot lacking any memorial. Today, a beautiful, rose-colored monument bears respect to one of America’s most influential artists of the 20th Century. Sister Rosetta’s monument was partially funded by a benefit concert at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA on January 11, 2008, that featured performances by gospel and spiritual music legends—The Dixie Hummingbirds, Odetta, Marie Knight, Willa Ward, The Johnny Thompson Singers, and The Huff Singers. Additional financial contributions were provided by Philadelphia’s Rhythm & Blues Foundation, and the Blues Foundation in Memphis. Red the entire press release.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – "Up Above My Head." Unknown performance date (appox. around the 1960's) on the show TV Gospel Time with the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
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Studs Terkel

By now you've probably heard about the passing of oral historian, radio host and writer Studs Terkel. It's a shame he didn't hang on long enough to see Barack Obama win the presidency. Studs was a champion of the underdog, the "non-celebrated" and had plenty to say on racial issues. I don't claim to be an expert on Studs and in fact feel a bit guilty that I didn't read more by him. As I write this I glance over to my book shelf to see Studs' Hard Times looking back at me guiltily and unread. What I did know about Studs was his connection with the blues; in particular the two wonderful albums of interviews and music that were issued on the Folkways label: Big Bill Broonzy: His Story (1956) and Blues With Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee (1958). These were from Studs' radio program which he began In 1953 on WFMT, Chicago and ran until 1998. There was also another album with Pete Seeger, which I don't own, called Studs Terkel's Weekly Almanac: Radio Programme, No. 4: Folk Music and Blues. Oh, and like myself, Studs was born in the Bronx which is always a plus in my book.

I won't rehash Studs' background as the internet is loaded with obituaries but I thought I would share the above mentioned Folkways albums. I should mention that these albums can be purchased at the Smithsonian Global Sound website. The tracks from Blues With Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee come from my own LP  that I digitized while the tracks from Big Bill Broonzy: His Story I downloaded from the Smithsonian website because my LP is too battered.

Blues with Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

Key To The Highway (MP3)

What Are The Blues (MP3)

Blood River Blues (Brownie's Blues) (MP3)

Crow Jane Blues (MP3)

Willie May (MP3)

Daisy (MP3)

Louise / Shuffle Rag (medley) (MP3)

The Blues (MP3)

Talk on the Blues (MP3)

Talk on the Spirituals (MP3)

Oh, What a Beautiful City (MP3)

I'm Going To Tell God How You Treat Me (MP3)

Hush, Somebody Is Calling Me (MP3)

When the Saints Go Marching In (MP3)

Big Bill Broonzy: His Story

Early Days: Plough Hand Blues / C.C. Rider (MP3)

Blues: Bill Bailey (MP3)

Willie Mae Blues (MP3)

Experiences: This Train / Mule Ridin' / Talking Blues (MP3)

Travelling: Keys to the Highway / Black, Brown and White (MP3)

Joe Turner Blues No. 1 (MP3)

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