Chicago Blues


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Jimmy RogersRound About BoogieDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Jimmy RogersLittle Store BluesChicago Boogie! 1947
Jimmy RogersLudellaEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Memphis MinnieDown Home GirlEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Johnny ShinesSo Glad I Found YouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Little Walter Muskadine BluesBlues World Of Little Walter
Little Walter Just Keep Loving Her Blues World Of Little Walter
Jimmy RogersGoin' Away BabyComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThat's All Right Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersMoney, Marbles And ChalkComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThe World Is In A TangleComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersBack Door FriendComplete Chess Recordings
Little WalterCan't Hold Out Much Longer The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Muddy WatersGone To Main Street The Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersOut On The Road Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Act Like You Love MeComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Left Me With a Broken Heart Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersMy Life Is RuinedThe Complete Chess Recordings
T- Bone Walker Papa Ain't SaltyT-Bone Blues
Jimmy Rogers Walking By Myself Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers If It Ain't Me (Who You Thinking OfThe Complete Chess Recordings
Sunnyland Slim It's YouSunnyland Special
Howlin' WolfDown In The Bottom The Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Jimmy RogersTricky WomanAmerican Folk Blues Festival '72
Jimmy RogersWhat Have I Done?Chicago Blues at Home
Jimmy Rogers & Muddy WatersThat's Alright I'm Ready

Show Notes:

Jimmy RogersAn under-sung hero of the blues, Jimmy Rogers played a a key role in creating the electrified, band-oriented postwar Chicago sound. He was a member of Muddy Waters’ first band in Chicago, and cut great sides for Chess under his own name  including blues standards like "That’s All Right," "Ludella", "Chicago Bound," and "Walking By Myself." In addition to playing on dozens of sides backing Waters, Rogers also backed numerous others including Memphis Minnie, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones and others. After a final Chess single in 1959, Rogers, outside o fa lone single  on the C.J. label, did not record again until the 1970's, when he cut the his first full-length album for Shelter Records. He rejoined Muddy Waters in 1978 for the I’m Ready album and tour and released several albums later in life before passing in 1997.

Born James A. Lane, he was raised by his grandmother after his father was killed in a scuffle at a sawmill. She moved them often, living in several owns in several states: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. His first guitar was a diddley bow, a broom wire nailed to the side of a house and plucked,  next was the harmonica. Soon he was playing other people’s guitars. Meeting and watching Houston Stackhouse, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway, Robert Lockwood, and Joe Willie Wilkins, and listening to King Biscuit Time on the radio, Rogers developed a solid musical foundation and earned a reliable reputation as a player. Rogers had family in Chicago, and had been there several times before settling permanently in the mid-1940s. He found an apartment on the Near West Side, next to the Maxwell Street market, which is where he was living when he befriended a factory coworker who was Muddy Waters’s cousin. From the time Muddy and Jimmy first played together, they knew they had a good sound. Rogers understood how to play bass parts and how to play licks that complemented Muddy’s slide.harlem1021abjl

Initially, Rogers and Waters played with a third guitarist named Claude "Blue" Smitty. To keep the sound varied, Rogers often played harmonica instead of guitar, until Blue Smitty left and Rogers found Little Walter. Muddy, Rogers, and Walter began gigging together and, on their off nights, called themselves the Headhunters, roving the Chicago club scene of the late 1940s, sitting in on other people’s gigs and showing off their new, urban blues sound.

Rogers made his first solo recording in 1946 for the Harlem label, but Rogers' name did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of "Memphis Slim and his Houserockers" and Sunnyland Slim. Following that Rogers, with Little Walter at his side, cut the 1948 single “Little Store Blues” for the tiny Ora Nelle label. The legendary Ora Nelle label was run out of a record store by Bernard and his wife Idel, known as Red, operated for a year or two, managing just two releases. Another 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material make Ora Nelle's entire legacy. George Paulus, who had been a regular customer at Maxwell Street Record and Radio for several years, bought the surviving lacquers from the Abrams family. Paulus recalled: "I asked Bernie where he recorded Walter and Rogers. He matter of factly replied, “We had a little disc cutting machine in the front of the shop.  Recorded right about where you are standing. The boys just sat on chairs and played. Hell, Walter played harp on the steps when he was relaxing.” Red came over and said ,”Walter was a very nice talented fellow and we wished him all the best.” "Ora Nelle Blues," sung by Othum Brown, was named after one of Red’s relations. “We couldn’t get the distribution so we sold the records right out of the store.” Art Sheridan licensed Ora Nelle 711 "(Ora-Nelle Blues") for reissue on his Chance label. It was the only reissue from the label to take place before the blues revival of the 1960s. Part of his agenda is revealed by the retitling of this side, as "That's Alright." For "Ora Nelle Blues" was the same piece as "That's All Right," which in the meantime had become a hit for Jimmy Rogers—on Chess in 1950. Rogers teamed up with  Little Walter again on sides issued circa 1950 on the Regal and Herald labels; "Muskadine Blues", "Just Keep Lovin' Her" and "Boll Weevil" all of which featured Baby Face Leroy and Muddy Waters. Rogers hooked up with Walter again in 1952 classic "Juke b/w Can't Hold Out Much Longer" for Chess.

rogers34
Muddy Waters, unknown (maraccas), Otis Spann, Henry Strong,
Elgin Evans, Jimmy Rogers (presumably from the early 1950s)

source: Mike Rowe: Chicago Blues – The City and the Music.- New York (Da Capo Paperback) 1975,
first published in 1973 as "Chicago Breakdown", p. 146 ("from Chess files")

 

In 1949 Rogers backed Memphis Minnie for the Regal label and cut an early version of ‘‘Ludella,’’ for the label which he recut in 1950 at his first Chess Records session. 1949 aslo saw some unreleased sides cut for Tempo-Tone and Apollo where he recorded a version of "That's Alright." That year he also accompanied Muddy Waters as a sideman on “Screaming and Crying,” which initially came out on the Aristocrat label, soon renamed Chess Records. For the next half-decade, Rogers was a mainstay of the Waters band onstage and in the studio. With "That’s All Right" on the other side, Rogers' first release became a two-sided hit. The full Muddy Waters band had yet to back Muddy on records, the label preferring the simpler sound of Muddy and an upright bass; however, Chess let the band record with Rogers as the leader, beginning in December 1950. A year later, they began regularly recording with Muddy. Rogers continued to perform and record with Muddy, even as his solo career took off. When "Juke" became a hit for Little Walter, Muddy’s band boasted a line-up with three stars. Through the early 1950's, Rogers was on nearly all of Muddy’s major hits: "Standing Around Crying," "She’s All Right," "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)," "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love To Love To You", I’m Ready," and more.

Jimmy Rogers: That's All RightAround late 1956, Jimmy departed the Waters band to go solo, but the two remained close friends. Beginning with 1950’s “That’s All Right” b/w “Ludella,” Rogers’ Chess 78's rank right up there with Muddy’s as some of the finest examples of postwar Chicago blues. Among the highlights are 1950’s “Goin’ Away Blues,” 1954’s “Chicago Bound” and “Sloppy Drunk,” with backing by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and 1956’s “Walking By Myself,” Rogers’ highest-charting record. After playing for about a year in Wolf’s band Rogers virtually retired from music for a time during the '60s, operating a Westside clothing shop that burned down in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King's tragic assassination. He did cut a single for Carl Jones' C.J. label in 1966.

Rogers returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell's Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more soli albums but he wasn't as prolific as he might have been. We close our show with Rogers and Muddy reuniting on a update of "That's Alright" from the album  I'm Ready, the second of Waters' Johnny Winter-produced albums for the Blue Sky Records label. I'm Ready was issued one year after he found renewed commercial and critical success with Hard Again. The album earned Waters a Grammy Award in 1978 and reunited Waters with Walter Horton as well. Muddy and Rogers did occasional gigs together thereafter, until Muddy’s death in 1983.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Dusty Brown Will You Forgive Me BabyBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Dusty Brown Well You Know (I Love You)Bandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Jimmy Lee RobinsonAll My LifeBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Jimmy Lee RobinsonTimes Is HardBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Grover Pruitt Mean TrainBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Bobby DavisHype You Into Selling Your HeadBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
George & His House RockersYou Don't Love MeChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Sunnyland SlimRecession BluesChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Henry GrayHow Can You Do ItChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Eddy ClearwaterNeckbones EverydayChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Eddy ClearwaterA Minor Cha ChaChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Morris PejoeLet's Get HighChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Jimmy RogersI'm A Lucky Lucky ManChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Jo Jo WilliamsAll Pretty WomanChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Jo Jo WilliamsYou Can't Live In This Big World By YourselfChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Lonnie BrooksFigure HeadThe USA Records Blues Story
Mighty Joe YoungTough TimesThe USA Records Blues Story
Fenton RobinsonDirectly From HeartThe USA Records Blues Story
Fenton RobinsonSay Your Leavin'The USA Records Blues Story
Willie MabonSometimes I Wonder The USA Records Blues Story
Willie MabonJust Got SomeThe USA Records Blues Story
J.B. LenoirI Feel So GoodThe USA Records Blues Story
J.B. LenoirI Sing Um The Way I Feel Mojo Boogie
Jesse FortuneGood ThingsThe USA Records Blues Story
Jesse FortuneToo Many CooksThe USA Records Blues Story
Homesick JamesCrossroadsThe USA Records Blues Story
Hound Dog TaylorYou Don't Love MeChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Earl Hooker Wild MomentsChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Eddie ShawBlues For The West SideChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Big Moose WalkerThe Things I Used To DoChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Little Mac Simmons Come BackChicago Blues from C.J. Records
William Carter Goin' Out WestChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Lee Jackson JaunitaChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Jimmy RogersBlues FallingC.J.'s Roots Of Chicago Blues Vol. 2
Jimmy RogersBroken HeartC.J.'s Roots Of Chicago Blues Vol. 2

Show Notes:

jimmy Lee Robinson: All My LifeToday's show is the first part of our look at small Chicago blues labels in the 1950's and 1960's. Over the course of today's program we spotlight four small Chicago labels that issued some great records: Bandera, Atomic-H, C.J. and USA. Atomic-H was run by Rev. Houston. H. Harrington who operated the label between the mid-50's up until 1961. The tiny Bandera label was formed in 1958 and run on a shoestring by the mother and son team of Violet Muszynski and Bernie Harville. C.J. Records was run by singer/songwriter Carl Jones who waxed some fine sides in the early 60's. The USA label was operated by Paul Glass who cut some excellent records during the 60's. The four labels recorded singles by artists such as Detroit Junior, Hound Dog Taylor, Little Mack Simmons, Homesick James, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmie Lee Robinson and Earl Hooker – great Chicago artists who all recorded numerous singles for Chicago's small labels, few of which made any noise outside of Chicago. Many of these artists hopped from label to label, rarely staying long at one place while others were snapped up by larger labels like Chess and Vee-Jay.

All-State Record Distributing head Paul Glass began the USA label in Milwaukee in 1959 in partnership with deejay Lee Rothman. By 1961 Glass had taken complete control of USA and had moved it to Chicago. Initially, most of the artists were blues performers, notably Willie Mabon, Junior Wells, Ko Ko Taylor, Ricky Allen, and Fenton Robinson. Other USA bluesmen were Andrew Brown, Eddy Clearwater, A. C. Reed, Jesse Fortune, Jimmy Burns, and Homesick James. Producers on these records included Willie Dixon, Al Perkins, Al Smith, and Mel London. Most of the artists only stuck around fo a single or two before trying their luck elsewhere. Beginning in 1966, the label began concentrating on rock acts. However, occasional blues and hard soul acts continued to be released, such as Mighty Joe Young and Bobby Jones. USA closed down in 1969. During the early 1970's, the USA label was briefly revived under different ownership, releasing singles by Lonnie Brooks and Jackie Ross, Eddie Shaw: Blues From The West Sideamong others.

CJ. Records was owned by a black entrepreneur named Carl Jones and was essentially a boutique operation run from his home. Carl and Cadillac Baby carved out a niche  for themselves by working and helping to establish homegrown talent, many who went on to build nice careers  for themselves with a few like Hound Dog Taylor and Betty Everett who achieved national recognition. Jones was a musician himself (banjo and trumpet) in the 1930s, and in 1945 he recorded two sides for Mercury. In 1956 Jones founded the C.J. label, eventually followed by subsidiary imprints Colt and Firma. Although he recorded some country and some gospel, the bulk of his output was in the blues field, having recorded Earl Hooker, Mack Simmons, Hound Dog Taylor, Homesick James, Betty Everett, and Detroit Junior. Jones’s record company had no distribution during its last two decades of existence.

The tiny Bandera record label was launched in 1958 in Chicago, where it was over-shadowed by the Windy City's giant indie labels Chess and Vee-Jay. The label was run on a shoestring by the mother and son team of Violet Muszynski and Bernie Harville. They never had an office but ran the label from their home at 2437 West 34th Place. Muszynski was an ardent talent spotter and hung out in many of the clubs on the south side of Chicago where she was a well-known figure. On Chicago's 'Record Row', Violet was known as "Vi the record lady". Bernie recalls that she was a great hustler, into PR and record promotion and very good at schmoozing. Her greatest discovery was the Impressions, at the time when Jerry Butler was lead vocalist. She signed the Impressions to a recording contract and got them leased to Vee-Jay. Bernie recalls, "That got us the money to set up Bandera and paid for recording sessions at RCA in Nashville for my newest discovery, Bob Perry". Bernie hit on a name for their new label, Bandera, taking it from one of Slim Whitman's early hits "Bandera Waltz.." Many of the recording sessions for Bandera were held at small Chicago recording studios such as Hall and Balkan, while studios in Memphis and Nashville were also utilized. Vi and Bernie also set up a couple of subsidiary labels: Laredo and the gospelFenton Robinson: Say You're Leavin'label, Jerico Road.

Atomic-H Records was a tiny label that recorded blues and gospel but only issued a few 45s. It was owned and operated by Rev. Houston H. Harrington who was also Eddy Clearwater's uncle and was responsible for Eddy making his way to Chicago from Alabama. Houston began recording his fellow musicians in the 40's on a portable disc-cutting machine while living in Mississippi although none of these were issued. After he settled on Chicago's West Side in the early 1940s, and started his short-lived record label in the 1950s and revived it briefly in the early 1970s. The first Atomic  single  (the  H  came  later). cut in  Iate  1953  in Harrington's basement studio  at  1651  S.  Trumbull  and  likely  Issued sometime  in 1955, was credited to "Jick & His Trio" (actually Homesick James). Around 1958 he grew more serious about recording, cutting singles over the next few years by Jo Jo Williams, Mighty Joe Young, Jimmy Rogers, Eddy Clearwater, Morris Pejoe and others. Most of Atomic-H's singles were limited to 500 pressings making them extremely rare. Delmark’s 1972 Atomic-H collection, Chicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band, may have been the first time any of these tracks were widely heard and has since been issued on CD with additional tracks.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Jazz GillumRoll Dem Bones Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumThe Blues What Am Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Tampa RedPlease Mr. DoctorTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa RedShe's DynamiteTampa Red Vol. 14 1949-1951
Big Bill BroonzyLeavin' DayRockin' In Chicago 1949-53
Big Bill BroonzyRambling BillThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Washboard SamYou Can't Make The GradeRockin' My Blues Away
Washboard SamRamblin' With That WomanWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949
Washboard SamShe's Just My SizeWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949
Sonny Boy WilliamsonWonderful TimeThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy WilliamsonPolly Put Your Kettle OnThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy WilliamsonApple Tree SwingThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Lonnie JohnsonMe And My Crazy SelfThe Original Guitar Wizard
Lonnie JohnsonNothin' Clicken' ChickenLonnie Johnson 1949
Lonnie JohnsonCan't Sleep AnymoreLonnie Johnson 1949-1952
Jazz GillumGonna Take My Rap Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumLook What You Are Today Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Big Bill BroonzyOld Man BluesThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Big Bill Broonzy I Can't WriteThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Tampa RedGot A Mind To Leave This TownTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa RedBig Stars Falling BluesTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Jazz GillumTake One More Chance with Me Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumHand Reader Blues Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumYou Got to Run Me Down Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Lonnie Johnson It Was All In VainThe Original Guitar Wizard
Lonnie Johnson I Know It's LoveLonnie Johnson 1949-1952
Sonny Boy WilliamsonBetter Cut That OutThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy WilliamsonMellow Chick SwingThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Tampa Red EvalenaTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa Red Rambler's BluesTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Big Bill BroonzyBig Bill's BoogieThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Big Bill BroonzyStop Lying WomanThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Washboard SamSoap And Water BluesRockin' My Blues Away
Washboard SamI Just Couldn't Help ItWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949

Show Notes:

Jazz GillumAs blues historian Paul Oliver noted, artists like Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Washboard Sam and Sonny Boy Williamson, were "playing in the brash, confident manner of Chicago which had been developing through the 'thirties." Sam Charters characterized the sound as the "Bluebird Beat" or more unkindly as the "Melrose Mess" by Mike Rowe in his pioneering book Chicago Blues. As Rowe notes "it was a white businessman, Lester Melrose, who was really responsible for shaping the Chicago sound of the late 30's and 40's." Melrose had said "From March 1934 to February 1951 I recorded at least 90 percent of all rhythm-and-blues talent for RCA Victor and Columbia Records…" As Rowe further explains: "But Melrose had more than a large stable of blues artists under his control. Since only a few of them had regular accompanists most of them would play on each others records and thus Melrose has a completely self-contained unit… …The final stage of this musical incest was completed when they started recording each others songs." The result was a consistent, sometime cookie cutter sound, although the best artists would consistently transcend these limitations. The "Bluebird Sound" anticipated the Chicago blues of the post-war era featuring tight, smooth small band arrangements that were filled out with piano, bass drums and often clarinet or saxophone. I've always been a fan of the late period recordings by today's featured artists, in some cases a neglected or overlooked period, and today we spotlight recordings made between 1946 and 1953 which shows how their music evolved and how their sound led  to the rise of the electric Chicago blues sound of the 50's and the emergence of R&B..

Jazz Gillum is usually treated with indifference among blues critics, looked upon as a rather generic performer who typified the mainstream Chicago blues style of the 1930's and 40's. While there's some truth to this, Gillum's recordings were consistently entertaining throughout his sixteen-year recording career punctuated with a fair number of exceptional sides. Gillum was by no means a harmonica virtuoso but he was a very expressive, easygoing singer who penned a number of evocative songs backed by some of the era's best blues musicians. Gillum recorded 100 sides between 1934-49 as a leader in addition to session work with Big Bill Broonzy, Curtis Jones and the State Street Boys. Many of his records were characterized by strongly rhythmic support, credit for which must go largely to Big Bill Broonzy and later guitarist Willie Lacey.Washboard Sam

William McKinley Gillum was born in Indianola, Mississippi (B.B. King's birthplace as well) on September 11, 1904. He soon learned to play the harmonica. By 1918 he had a job in a drugstore in Greenwood, Mississippi and could often been seen on the streets playing music for tips. Five years later he migrated to Chicago. There he met guitarist Big Bill Broonzy and the two started working club dates around the city as a duo and would soon form an enduring recording partnership. Gillum made his recording debut for the Bluebird label in 1934 with "Early In The Morning" b/w "Harmonica Stomp." The records evidently didn't sell and Gillum didn't record again for two years. Gillum's recordings were very much in the Bluebird mold yet he often rose above the production line sound to record a fair number of high quality blues. Between 1934-1942 Gillum recorded 70 sides, every session featuring the fret work of Big Bill Broonzy. Gillum's most celebrated song during this period was "Key To The Highway" which he cut on May 9, 1940. Both Broonzy and Gillum claimed authorship of the song which was an enduring source of bitterness for Gillum. During World War II, there was a shortage of shellac and J.C. Patrillo, President of the American Federation of Musicians ordered a ban on all recordings. Gillum joined the Army in 1942 and served until 1945.

Gillum resumed recording in 1945 and in 1946 cut "Look On Yonder Wall" one of his most famous recordings. Starting in 1946 the brilliant William Lacey took over the guitar chores and his terrific electric work really adds a spark to Gillum's later recordings. Gillum made his last issued recordings as leader on January 25, 1949. Gillum would record once more on a 1961 date with Memphis Slim and Arbee Stidham. On March 29, 1966, during an argument, Gillum was shot in the head and was pronounced dead on arrival at Garfield Park Hospital in Chicago.

Washboard Sam recorded hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Out of all the washboard players of the era, Sam was the most popular, which was due not only to his washboard talent, but also his skills as a highly imaginative songwriter and powerful, expressive vocalist. As an accompanist, Washboard Sam not only played with Broonzy, but also backed bluesmen like Bukka White, Memphis Slim, and Jazz Gillum. Sam added a phonograph turntable and a couple of cowbells to his washboard for added tone and his washboard playing is consistently driving and swinging.

Washboard Sam (born Robert Brown) was the illegitimate son of Frank Broonzy, who also fathered Big Bill Broonzy. Sam was raised in Arkansas, working on a farm. He moved to Memphis in the early '20s to play the blues. While in Memphis, he met Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon and the trio played street corners, collecting tips from passerby's. In 1932, Sam moved to Chicago. Initially he played for tips, but soon he began performing regularly with Big Bill Broonzy. Within a few years, Sam was supporting Broonzy on the guitarist's Bluebird recordings. Soon, he was supporting a number of different musicians on their recording sessions, including pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Ransom Knowling, and a handful of saxophone players, who all recorded for Bluebird. In 1935, Sam began recording for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs. In 1953, Washboard Sam recorded a session for Chess Records and then retired. In the early '60s, Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim tried to persuade Sam to return to the stage to capitalize on the blues revival. Initially, he refused, but in 1963 began performing concerts in clubs and coffeehouses in Chicago; he even played a handful of dates in Europe in early 1964. He cut his last sides in 1964 before passing in 1966.

Sonny Boy Williamson I
Sonny Boy Williamson I

Easily the most important harmonica player of the pre-war era, John Lee Williamson almost single-handedly made the harmonica a major instrument, leading the way for the amazing innovations of Little Walter and others who followed. Already a harp virtuoso in his teens, he learned from Hammie Nixon and Noah Lewis and ran with Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell before settling in Chicago in 1934. Sonny Boy signed to Bluebird in 1937. He recorded prolifically for Victor both as a leader and behind others in the vast Melrose stable (including Robert Lee McCoy and Big Joe Williams, who in turn played on some of Williamson's sides). Sonny Boy cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947. John Lee was popular enough that by the 1940s, another blues harp player, Aleck/Alex "Rice" Miller, who was based in Helena, Arkansas, began also using the name Sonny Boy Williamson.

His first recording session was supported by the great Big Joe Williams, at the beginning of his distinguished career playing delta blues guitar. After this session Sonny Boy alternated between guitar and piano backups, occasionally using both at the same session. His most frequent accompanists were Big Bill Broonzy and the record company's "house" piano player Blind John Davis. Other famous accompanists over the years were Eddie Boyd, Yank Rachel, Big Maceo and Willie Dixon. But some say the best accompanist was Joshua Altheimer, a piano player who played on the seven numbers of a 1940 session and then died the next year. Writer Pete Welding noted that the only significant difference between Big Joe Williams and Sonny Boy and those of say Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf is the matter of electric amplification. Othewise all the ingredients are the same: guitar, harp, bass and drums. He continues, "Big Joe and John Lee stand as vital, connecting links between the older Mississippi style and those of the postwar years." Sonny Boy Williamson wouldn't live to reap any appreciable rewards from his inventions. He died at the age of 34, while at the zenith of his popularity (his romping "Shake That Boogie" was a national R&B hit in 1947 on Victor), from a violent bludgeoning about the head that occurred during an apparent mugging on the South side. "Better Cut That Out," another storming rocker later appropriated by Junior Wells, became a posthumous hit for Williamson in late 1948. Williamson's style had a profound influence on those who followed including Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor among many others.

Lonnie Johnson's place in blues history would have been immortalized if even if he had never recorded past the 1930's. It certainly would have made blues critics life easier who generally tend to dismiss Johnson's later recordings. Unfortunately, for them, Johnson persisted hooking up with the King label in the late 1940's, enjoying the biggest commercial success of his career and after a fallow period in the 1950's made a full fledged comeback in the 1960's before passing in 1970.

In latter years Lonnie Johnson couldn't win with blues or jazz fans. In the 1960's the blues and folk audience looked away in embarrassment when he sang "How Deep Is the Ocean," "My Mother's Eyes," or "Red Sails in the Sunset." The jazz crowd dismissed him as a relic. Supposedly Duke Ellington, with whom Johnson recorded with in 1928, declined to appear with this "old blues guy" when he guest-starred with Ellington's band at Town Hall in 1961. The New York Daily News caught the flavor of the moment with the headline "The Janitor Meets the Duke." As singer Barbara Dane noted: "…He was a very sophisticated player in a moment when the world was looking for the rough and earthy Delta players."

Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson

Today we spotlight sides waxed during Johnson's stint with King records which ran from 1947 through 1952 and resulted in close to seventy issued sides. When Johnson signed with King in 1947 his music and music in general was changing. By 1947 he had switched to electric guitar, was incorporating more ballads into his repertoire while the music was in transition from blues to R&B. It is true that Johnson reworked several of his earlier songs and perhaps over relied on a few signature guitar phrases during this period. Still, while many were unprepared for the changing musical times, Johnson seamlessly sailed into the new era not only achieving commercial success but also cutting music of a consistently high artistic caliber.

We featured some 1951 recordings which are complimented by tenor saxophonists Ray Felder and Wilbur "Red" Prysock: "It Was All in Vain" and "Me and My Crazy Self" are sublime blues ballads featuring some of Johnson's best vocal performances plus some nice guitar and tenor echoing off each other beautifully. Johnson concluded his King stint with a four song session in June 1952. Here Johnson is backed by trumpet, three tough saxes, and a kicking rhythm section headed by pianist Todd Rhodes. Backed by a wailing, full bodied band Johnson croons mightily on "I'm Guilty", "You Can't Buy Love" and the soaring "Can't Sleep Any More" the only number on which he solos for any length.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Walter HortonCan't Help Myself Blues Southside Chicago
Johnny Young One More TimeBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesGoing To The RiverChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesSloppy DrunkChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Howlin' WolfSugar MamaBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersSitting And ThninkingBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersWee, Wee Baby Blues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Johnny Young The Sun Is Shining And This Is Maxwell Street
Big John WrencherCan´t Hold Out Much LongerAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Carey BellI'm Ready And This Is Maxwell Street
L.C. McKinleyMind Your BusinessHave A Good Time
Homesick James Little And Low Have A Good Time
Walter HortonHave A Good TimeHave A Good Time
Earl Hooker Peppers Other ThingLive At Peppers Lounge Vol. 2
Lonnie Brooks Sweet Little AngelLive At Peppers 1968
Sunnyland SlimEverytime I Get To Drinking Blues Southside Chicago
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Eddie BoydLosing HandBlues Southside Chicago
James BrewerBig Road Blues Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
John Henry BarbeeTell Me Baby Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Maxwell Street JimmyLong-Haired DoneyChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Little Johnny JonesWorried Life BluesLive In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny JonesOuch! Live In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Robert Nighthawk I Need Love So BadAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Robert Nighthawk Cheating And Lying BluesAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Muddy WatersClouds In My HeartBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
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Today show is part two in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight several collections of Chicago blues recorded in the 1960's some of which are somewhat rare or not particularly well known. Among the studio albums we spotlight today are Blues Southside Chicago and its companion album Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues. In addition we feature some great live blues from the albums Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle, Little Johnny Jones and Billy Boy ArnoldBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana, Live At Peppers Lounge, And This Is Maxwell Street among a few others.

Blues Southside Chicago Is a superb collection of Chicago blues artists recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do." In a 1977 interview pianist Henry Gray recalled this session: "I remember, in 1964, Willie Dixon was asked by an English company to produce a couple of so-called Southside Chicago sessions. [Dixon was a very close friend of Howlin' Wolf and they talked together about that;] Wolf was not personally interested but he induced me to go and support some of the artists chosen by Dixon…Poor Bob Woodfork, Robert Nighthawk, Shakey Horton. That was issued on British Decca label. Yeah, I think it was representative of the kind of music we were playing in the Southside clubs at that time."

Walter Horton always sounded best on other people's records but comes across magnificently on "Can't Help Myself" which opens with a lengthy upper register harmonica solo before Horton's plaintive, impassioned vocals kick in. Horton's harmonica work is stunning and it's a shame he gets consistently overshadowed by Little Walter.

Certainly one of the highlights is the two marvelous songs by Robert Nighthawk. "Lula Mae" is a cover of the 1944 Tampa Red song and it was Tampa who was Nighthawk's main influence. This is an exceedingly tough Chicago blues with Nighthawk's heavy, gloomy vocals hanging over the song punctuated by the waling amplified harp of Walter Horton. "Merry Christmas" (Nighthawk cut another version for Testament the same year) is more of the same again with some extroverted playing by Horton.

Johnny Young, who plays second guitar on the above sides, was a pal of Nighthawk's and the two often played together on Maxwell Street. Young was a brilliant mandolin and guitar player who like Nighthawk was sadly under recorded. Backed by the same band as Nighthawk, Young is in fine form on the stripped down, heartfelt "Little Girl" laying down some intricate mandolin work while the shuffling "One MoreFolk Festival of the Blues Time" virtually pops out of the speakers again with some dazzling harp from Horton.

Like Nighthawk, Homesick James was a bottleneck guitarist but with a more rudimentary technique, owing quite a bit to his cousin Elmore James. By the time of these recordings he was relatively under recorded with some scattered singles and one full length album cut for Prestige a few months prior. The combination of Homesick's ringing bottleneck and emotionally charged vocals make a potent force on "Got To Move" and "Crutch And Cane" a thinly disguised version of "Look On Yonder Wall."

Leadbitter calls the piano blues a dying art form and these days the tradition is hanging on by a lifeline. Back then there was still numerous fine piano men including Henry Gray (still with us thankfully) and Willie Mabon who back some of the other artists on this collection and Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd who get two sides apiece under their own names. Sunnyland is in commanding form, hollering out the blues with abandon on the shuffling "I Got To Get To My Baby" and the regal "Everytime I Get To Drinking" a number he first waxed back in 1949, both sporting marvelous solos by Buddy Guy. Boyd is in equally strong form on "Losing Hand" and the bouncy "Where You Belong" again with outstanding contributions from Buddy guy.

Little Johnny Jones recorded little under his own name, never making it past his 40th birthday. Luckily Jones was caught on tape in 1963 working with Billy Boy Arnold in a Chicago folk club called the Fickle Pickle run by Michael Bloomfield. Norman Dayron recorded Johnny on portable equipment which has been released on the Alligator record titled Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold. Additional tracks from this recording appear on Chicago Blues – Live At The Fickle Pickle, a long out of print LP on the Flyright label. The Fickle Pickle was a club on Rush Street in Chicago managed at one time by Michael Bloomfield. Regulars included Big Joe Willies, St. Louis Jimmy, James Brewer, Billy Boy Arnold, Little Johnny Jones, J.B. Lenoir and others.

Originally released as Folk Festival of the Blues on Chess's Argo subsidiary, then reissued as Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana, this is a live document of a steamy night in a Chicago blues club. Chicago blues disc jockey Big Bill Hill intros the band and the assembled stars (one of whom, Little Walter, is nowhere to be found on this disc), then Buddy Guy's band rips into "Wee Wee Baby," and sung in three-part harmony by Buddy, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Some of the tracks here are ringers; Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It On Home" and a stray Buddy Guy track are actually studio takes with fake applause dubbed on. But the two from Howlin' Wolf and everything here from Muddy are live.

And This Is Maxwell Street is a three-disc set features the street recordings from the 1964 Mike Shea film documentary, And This Is Free, plus a slew of previously unreleased performances of equal importance. These recordings were recorded live on Chicago's Maxwell Street, a mecca for bluesman trying to hustle a few bucks from the passing crowd. The 30 tracks contain wonderful performances by Maxwell Street regulars such as Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Carey Bell, Arvella Gray, Big John Wrencher and several others.

Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
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After a long absence Nighthawk returned to Chicago in 1964 and recorded several times including a blistering set taped live on Maxwell St. in conjunction with the filming of Mike Shea's 1964 documentary "And This is Free." Maxwell St. was at the heart of Chicago's black ghetto and was a bustling open air market. Above all it's the music of legendary slide man Robert Nighthawk who dominates these recordings playing on 22 of the 30 tracks. In an interview done by Mike Bloomfield, Nighthawk, reflected on what brought him back to Maxwell Street: "Lately I went back to Maxwell St.- I been playing off and on for 24 years now. Most all music more or less starts right off from Maxwell St. and so you wind up going back there. …See it's more hard to play out in the street than it is in a place of business, but you have more fun in the street, looks like. Well, so many things you can see, so many different things going on, I get a kick out of it, I guess."

In 1975 Rarities Records put out two boottleg albums: Live At Peppers Lounge Vols. 1 & 2. The recordings were made in 1969 at Pepper's Lounge in Chicago. While the records have some good music the credits are incorrect; Little Walter and Eddie Taylor do not appear on these records despite the credits. The club featured great blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Shakey Jake, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy.  Waters was a mainstay in the 1960's, and Chicago locals could catch his show for eight dollars. In 1971, the club moved to 1321 S. Michigan Avenue. Today we play a great Earl Hooker cut from the second volume. Unfortunately I couldn't locate my copy of the first volume so instead we play a killer  my cut by Lonnie Brooks recorded at Peppers in 1968.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Willie MabonMichelleI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Willie MabonInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Willie MabonI'm HungryI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerI Don't Want No Woman, She Got Hair Like Drops Of RainI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerBig Road BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd Five Long YearsI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd InterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd Her Picture In A FrameI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungWhy Did You Break My HeartI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungBetter Cut It OutI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Sunnyland SlimIt's You BabyI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Sunnyland SlimSunnyland's JumpI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonTrouble In MindI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonLouise LouiseI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonLet's Have A Good TimeI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Washboard SamBooker T BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Washboard SamAll By MyselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
John Lee GrandersonEasy StreetI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
John Lee GrandersonInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Avery Brady Gangster's BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Avery Brady InterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryWest Texas BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryUp The Country BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Arvella GrayJohn HenryI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Arvella GrayInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
St. Louis Jimmy Can't Stand Your Evil WaysI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
St. Louis Jimmy Poor Boy BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Big Joe WilliamsSouthern BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Big Joe WilliamsRootin' GroundhogI Blueskvarter Vol. 3

Show Notes:

Today's show is part one in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight remarkable recordings made for a documentary titled I Blueskvarter, Swedish for In Blues Quarters. The bulk of today's notes come from Scott Baretta who wrote the notes for the series; Scott also edited the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson, is currently the host of the Highway 61 radio show for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, is head writer and researcher (with Jim O’Neal) for the Mississippi Blues Trail, and former editor of Living Blues magazine. In fact it was through Scott that I got a copy of the first volume of I Blueskvarter  more than a decade ago.

Olle Helander
Olle Helander

These recordings were made by Olle Helander, a radio host for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation who traveled to Chicago in 1964 for the express purpose of recording the blues. In addition there were trips to New Orleans and Memphis all of which were the raw material for the 21 part documentary radio series I Bluekvarter which first aired on Swedish Radio in the Autumn of 1964. Outside of poor sounding bootlegs, these recordings sat on the shelf for over thirty years until release in the beginning in the late 1990's by the folks who run the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson. The recordings were released as three 2- CD sets and feature intimate recordings by Willie Mabon, James Brewer, Champion Eddie Boyd, Yank Rachell, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Walter Horton as well as Babe Stovall, Snooks Eaglin and others. The recording trip documented on this show wasn't Helander's first to "the blues quarters".  In 1961 Helander spent several months visiting the music scenes of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Memphis, and Chicago. Helander arrived in Chicago with the vague idea of investigating the blues, but initially had no luck tracing down blues artists until a chance meeting with the guitarist Big Joe Williams. Hiring Williams as a guide, Helander soon met up with Willie Dixon, Chicago’s premier blues talent scout and producer, as well as a number of the artists he would record in 1964: Sunnyland Slim, Arvella Gray, James Brewer, Little Brother Montgomery, and St. Louis Jimmy Oden.

Unlike his 1961 trip, Helander returned in 1964 with a clearer mission. In order to insure good sound quality, Helander hand-picked the sound-technician Hans Westman, whom he regarded as Swedish Radio's best, and armed with a portable Nagra tape recorder and four channel mixer, they set off to the States. The two landed in New York on May the 4th, and after making the rounds in the city’s jazz scene over the next days, arrived in Chicago on the 11th. Helander and Westman spent several days preparing their recording sessions, spending time with Willie Dixon, as well as Pete Welding of Testament Records and DownBeat magazine, and Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records. The blues recordings commenced on May 14th. Not having the budget to book a conventional recording studio, the only suitable place they could find was the Sutherland Lounge, at 4569 South Drexel Avenue in Chicago’s South Side. Conducting sessions on five separate occasions, they would leave Chicago with ninety-nine full takes from fourteen different artists/units. Below you will find background on some of today's featured artists.

For me, and others whose opinion I value, the recordings made by Walter Horton are a high water mark. As Barretta writes: "It’s probably no accident that Helander chose as his introductory theme Walter Horton’s 'Trouble In Mind', the eerie sounds of his lonesome harmonica, accompanied sparsely by Robert Nighthawk on guitar, about as far as one could get from the schlager and pop music dominating the Swedish charts of 1964. As a rather shy, quiet I Blueskavrter Vol. 1individual, Horton never had much taste for leading his own bands or recording sessions. Horton was much more comfortable in a supporting role and as writer Neal Slavin wrote “was one of the few musicians capable of elevating the slightest material into something approaching a masterpiece.”

James Brewer was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi on 1920 and moved to Chicago in the 1940's where he spent the latter part of his life busking and performing both blues and religious songs at blues and folk festivals, on Chicago's Maxwell Street and other venues. In 1962, however, he was offered an opportunity to play blues at a concert at Northwestern University and also began a regular gig at the No Exit Cafe which lasted for two decades. He went on to play major festivals and clubs in the United States, Canada and Europe. His first recordings appear on Blues From Maxwell Street (Heritage, 1960), cut several sides for Pete Welding in 1964, the same he was recorded during the making of the documentary And The Is Free and cut the full-length albums Jim Brewer (Philo, 1974) and Tough Luck (Earwig, 1983).

John Lee Granderson, Avery Brady and Arvella Gray all performed on Maxwell Street, and all under-recorded. In addition to the full length Hard Luck John (issued posthumously in 1998), Tennessee bluesman John Lee Granderson cut sides on other Testament compilations with further sides appearing on various anthologies. Among those Granderson played with were Robert Nighthawk, Big Joe Williams and Daddy Stovepipe. Brady's first recordings were made for this documentary. A few more songs by Avery were recorded that year and few in 1965 that were issued on the Testament and Storyville labels. He never recorded again. Gray made his first recordings in 1960 (released on the Heritage label) and in early 1964 he made sides for his own Gray label, selling the 45's on the street. In 1964, like James Brewer, he was also recorded for the documentary And This Is Free. He was regular performer on Maxwell Street on Sundays. Gray's only album, 1972's The Singing Drifter was reissued on the Conjuroo label in 2005.

Captured were several artists active in the pre-war years incluing Washboard Sam, St. Louis Jimmy and Little Brother Montgomery. Washboard Sam was one of the most popular and prolific blues artists of the 30's and 40's. Between 1935 and 1949 he recorded hundreds of sides for RCA's Bluebird and Victor labels. His last commercial session was a date with Big Bill Broonzy for Chess in 1953. These recordings were his first recordings in a decade. St. Louis Jimmy Oden made his debut back in 1932 but when recorded for these sessions he was mainly working as a songwriter, although he did cut a full-length album for Bluesville as recently as 1960.

In addition to Little Brother Montgomery, several other pianists were captured during the trip including Willie Mabon, Eddie Boyd and Sunnyland Slim. Mabon made his debut in 1949 but it was his 1952 debut release on the Parrot label, "I Don't Know," topped the R&B charts for eight weeks after being sold to Chess. From then on, Mabon was a Chess artist, returning to the top R&B slot the next year with "I'm Mad" and the Top Ten "Poison Ivy" in 1954. Although he didn't score any he big hits after Chess he continued cutting solid sides for  Federal in 1957, Mad in 1960, Formal in 1962, and USA 1963-64. He moved to Paris in 1972.

I Blueskavrter Vol. 2In 1941, Boyd settled in Chicago. He backed Sonny Boy Williamson on his 1945 classic "Elevator Woman," also accompanying Bluebird stars Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, and Jazz Gillum on wax. Boyd made his 1947 debut for RCA staying with the label through 1949. Boyd reportedly paid for the date that produced "Five Long Years" himself, selling the track to JOB Records where it topped the R&B charts during 1952. Al Benson signed Boyd to a contract with his Parrot label and promptly sold it to Chess. At Chess he waxed "24 Hours" and "Third Degree," both huge R&B hits in 1953 and several other fine sides. Boyd became enamored of Europe during his tour with the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival, so he moved to Belgium. He recorded prolifically during the late '60sand in the early '70s settled in Helsinki where he played often and lived until his death.

For more than 50 years Sunnyland Slim rumbled the ivories around the Windy City, playing with virtually every local luminary imaginable and backing the great majority in the studio at one time or another. Slim moved to Chicago in 1939 and set up shop as an in-demand piano man, playing for a spell with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson before making his debut in 1947. Slim recorded prolifically until his death in 1995.

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