Interviews


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jenni WernerLiterary Director, Geva TheaterInterview
Dan BeaumontAuthor of Preachin'
the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House
Interview
Steve GrillsMusicianInterview
Son House Levee Camp Moan Son House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965
Son House Don't Mind People Grinnin' In Your Face Son House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965
Son House My Black Mama, Pt. 1Blues Images Vol. 2
Son House My Black Mama, Pt. 2Blues Images Vol. 2
Son House Death LetterFather of the Delta Blues
Son House Mississippi County Farm Blues Blues Images Vol. 4
Son House Walkin' Blues Legends of Country Blues
Son House Louise McGee Father of the Delta Blues
Son House Empire State ExpressSon House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965
Son House Pony BluesLegends of Country Blues
Son House Preachin' The Blues Part 1Legends of Country Blues
Son House The Jinx Blues Part 1 The Real Delta Blues
Son House Delta Blues Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues

Show Notes:Son House Geva Banner

This week Geva Theatre presents Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House from August 26 through August 29th. The four-day festival weaves together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures to celebrate the life of Son House. There will be musical performances by John Hammond, John Mooney, Chris Thomas King, Joe Beard, Steve Grills as well as musical workshops. Another highlight will be the dedication of an official Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Friday, August 28 near the site where Son House resided in the Corn Hill Neighborhood of Rochester. There will also be the debut of the play, Revival: The Resurrection of Son House, by Keith Glover. In addition there will be lectures by author Dan Beaumont, Son's old manager, Dick Waterman, and Jim O'Neal founder of Living Blues magazine. On today's show we  have several folks involved in this event in the studio including Geva's Literary Director Jenni Werner, Dan Beaumont author of Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House, and musician Steve Grills.

When I was a teenager discovering the blues one of the first albums that really captivated me was Son House's Death Letter – I still have it – (the UK equivalent of Father of the Folk Blues), his stunning return to the studio after dropping out of sight for nearly twenty-five years. As author Dan Beaumont wrote: "In 1943 Son House left Mississippi, and, for all that is known of his life over the course of the next twenty-one years, he may well have fallen off the face of the earth. But this he did not do-instead he did the next best thing. He moved to Rochester, New York." As a teenager living in the Bronx I too knew nothing of Rochester outside the fact it was in some nether region of New York State – the farthest I had been was the Catskills, one hundred miles upstate. But as I read Dick Waterman's liner notes, Rochester and the address 61 Greig Street was burned in my memory. That was where Dick Waterman, Phil Spiro and Nick Perls finally tracked Son down on June 23rd, 1964. Waterman became Son's manager and the following year he was signed to Columbia and played the Newport Folk Festival. Son had several good years on the comeback trail; he toured the US playing folk festivals and the coffeehouse circuit and did tours of Europe as well. He also performed locally in Rochester at several different venues, all of which are long shuttered. Memories of Son's local performances are vividly burned into the memories of all who had a chance to witness him in action.

Son House rediscovery
The men who found Son House: Nick Perls, Dick Waterman, Son House, Phil Spiro.
Photo taken June 23, 1964 in front of 61 Greig Street.

Son's rediscovery in Rochester was newsworthy, making it into Newsweek, Downbeat and the May 29, 1965 edition of the Rochester afternoon newspaper, The Times-Union, with a story titled Son House Records Blues Again and a follow-up article and interview in July titled Hunt for 'Blues' Singer Of Thirties Ends in City. It must have been a bit bewildering to Son who was living a very low-key life in Rochester as Dan Beaumont notes: "There for twenty one years he lived amidst almost total obscurity. Indeed, what is known of his life in that city from 1943 to 1964 is so slight, so slender, that his biographer's task becomes well nigh impossible."

I came to Rochester in the late 1980's for college and have been up here ever since. Over the years I met numerous people who fondly recalled Son House and when I started doing my yearly radio birthday tributes to Son, it brought more people out of the woodwork who gladly shared their memories with me. So it's puzzling that the City has never honored Son in any way. At least Cab Calloway (born in Rochester in 1907) has a plaque honoring him, albeit tucked away on a nondescript side street in an equally nondescript park. For years myself and others thought someone should rectify this sorry state of affairs; a plaque, a statue or something to honor one of the pivotal figures in blues history, a major influence on both Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and who's recordings are among the most powerful in blues history. It would be a shame to let Son's memory slip back to the years before he was rediscovered in Rochester, but the sad fact is there was nothing tangible that shows he ever made this city his home for a good part of his life (1943-1976). This year finally marks a change as a Mississippi Blues Trail marker (only the 13th outside of Mississippi) will be dedicated to Son at the Corner of Grieg and Clarissa St., close to the spot where he was rediscovered. Son's actual residence at the time, 61 Grieg Street, no longer exists, a causality of urban renewal.

Son House Times-Union
Article from Rochester's Times-Union, July 14, 1964

Back in 2007 myself and others launched the modest Hot Blues For The Homeless concert which evolved into Hot Blues For The Homeless …A Tribute To Son House. The concert was successful, raised a good amount of money for the Rochester homeless and raised some local awareness of Son House with good coverage in the local media. Out of the concert rose the Son House Apartments which provide housing for the homeless. After a few years I got burned out on the project but I'm glad a major institution like the Geva is picking up the torch.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Stephen WadeInterview
Kelly PaceRock Island Line The Beautiful Music All Around Us
LeadbellyRock Island Line Leadbelly Vol: 4 1944
Nashville Washboard Band Soldier's JoyThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Nashville Washboard Band Kohoma Blues Too Late, Too Late Vol. 10 1926-1951
Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band Buffalo GalBlind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band
Vera Hall Another Man Done GoneThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Willie TurnerNow Your Man Done Gone Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 1: Secular Music
Big Joe Williams Please Don't Go Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-41
Baby Doo Caston I'm Gonna Walk Your LogChicago Blues Vol. 2 1939-1944
Leadbelly & Golden Gate Quartet Alabama BoundAlabama Bound
Dennis Gainus You Gonna Look Like A Monkey A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Grover Dickson & Group Grizzley Bear A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Dudley Alexander and Washboard Band Baby, Please Don't Go A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Joel HopkinsBetter Down The Road A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Jack Jackson & Lightnin' Hopkins The Slop A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Mance Lipscomb Tom Moore's Farm A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
R.C. Forest & Gozy Kilpatrick Tin Can Alley A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
R.G. WIlliams & Group Hammer RingA Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Prisoners Chopping In The New Ground Negro Prison Camp Worksongs
Prisoners Go Down Old HannahNegro Prison Camp Worksongs
Jesse "G.I. Jazz" Hendricks and groupRattlerNegro Folklore from Texas State Prisons
Johnny Jackson & Group Raise 'Em Up Higher Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons

Show Notes:

The Beautiful Music All Around UsOn today’s program we spotlight some great field recordings captured between the 1930’s through the 1960’s. In the first hour we talk with Stephen Wade about his new book The Beautiful Music All Around Us which presents the fascinating back stories of thirteen performances captured on Library of Congress field recordings between 1934 and 1942. Through prodigious research, Wade sought out the performers on these recordings, their families, fellow musicians, and others who remembered them and reconstructs their lives and how the music was tied to the larger community. Wade is also known for his long-running stage performances of Banjo Dancing and On the Way Home. He also produced and annotated the Rounder CD collections A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings and Black AppalachiaIn the second hour we spotlight field recordings made by Mack McCormick and others around Houston plus recording made Texas prisons  by Bruce Jackson in the 1960’s and  Pete & Toshi Seeger, John Lomax Jr., Chester Bower and Fred Hellerman in 1951.

Through the dilegence of a relatively small number of dedicated researchers we know an amazing amount of information about early blues musicians. I'm no expert on country music but I imagine the case is similar. For all our knowledge there are many gaps; a fair number of the blues artists were itinerant musicians, traveling from town to town, or state to state and the other factor comes down to the fact that the white establishment wasn't all that concerned with documenting African-Americans, and if they were listed on census records, court documents, etc. that information is often inaccurate. The artists and songs Wade covers in The Beautiful Music All Around Us were biographical blanks, leaving leaving behind little of their origins, and seemingly impervious to discovery after so many decades. Through dogged research Wade has been able to flesh out the lives of folks like Bozie Sturdivant, Ora Dell Graham and Kelly Pace and find the origins and stories behind iconic songs such as "Rock Island Line" and "Another Man Done Gone." Our show has always focused on African-American music but Wade's book covers much wider territory, and illustrates the cross pollination there was between white and black music. Our focus for the first hour plus is some of the African-American artists covered in Wade's book: Kelly Pace, Nashville Washboard Band and Vera Hall.

In October 1934 John Lomax set up his recording equipment at Cummins State Prison in Little Rock, Arkansas  and recorded a group led by Kelly Pace singing "Rock Island Line." The story of that song and its singer is one of my favorite chapters in Wade's book, fleshing out Kelly from those who knew him, he comes across as fascinating, talented man who simply could not stay out of trouble, spending half his life behind bars. "My brother," said Kelly's brother Lawrence, "was a songster. He sang all sort of songs – songs of the church, of the blues, dance songs, work songs …You couldn't beat him working. He didn't wait till the dew is off. He'd say 'I'm going to get 400 pounds of cotton.' And when you was done half-way, he done cut out and coming back. …Kelly, he was something else.'"

Handbill
Handbill from lecture given at the Library of
Congress (click to enlarge)

Wade also unlocks the origins of that famous song: 'Rock Island Line' begin its journey in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the repair shops of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Based on a traditional form and arising within a commercial setting, the song, like a trunk line whose branches radiate across the countryside, soon moved beyond this work site making new stops, shifting its contents, and streamlining its load. It migrated from a gospel quartet that the Arkansas prisoners performed to a rhythmic fable that Huddie Ledbetter created as he traveled with John Lomax as chauffeur, auto mechanic, and musical demonstrator. Eventually the song reached an incalculable number of players, singers, and listeners via skiffle, rock and roll, country, pop, and the folksong revival."

John Work IV recalled to Wade when his father, John Work III, welcomed a quartet of street musicians called the Nashville Washboard Band into his home in 1942. As Wade writes "the musicians faced them in a row, seated side by side, lodged between the Works' radio set on one end and their Steinway parlor grand on the other. One band member chorded his banjo-mandolin, and another the guitar, but Work IV fixed most on the string bass a third member of the band had cobbled together from a length of laundry wire, a broomstick, and a lard can. …[T]he band's fourth member, who was blind, sat between, who was blind, set between two washboards mounted on a sawhorse and hinged in the shape of a V. He had attached to them an assemblage of frying pans, tin plates, and a metal bell, each registering different tones. Wearing sewing thimbles on his fingers, he tapped, clocked, and hammered this clattering array of stove-top resonators and corrugated surfaces." John Work IV recollected "These people were the music. …They could just play on and on, and the house would reverberate." Twenty years after a group calling themselves Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band were recorded by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie Records. The group members knew the earlier group, linking the two in a long, if largely undocumented, tradition of black street bands.

Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 1 Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Read Liner Notes Pt.1 / Pt. 2

In 1940, in Livingston, Alabama, Vera Hall sang "Another Man Done" twice into John Lomax's recording machine. The song became Hall's signature number and when Alan Lomax included the number for one of the Folk Archive's first releases the song entered the mainstream, recorded by Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, John Mayall, Odetta and numerous others. In the chapter on Vera Hall, Wade provides background on Hall, the conditions she grew up in and the meaning behind the song. "When Vera recorded "Another Man Done" she told John Lomax that she learned it from her guitar-playing husband. …When writer-collector Harold Courlander came to Livingston in February 1950, he recorded both Vera singing 'Another Man Done,' as well as someone she knew: Willie Turner, a twenty-seven-year-old  confined at Camp Livingston. With his two fellow inmates, he sang and recorded 'Now Your Man Done Gone,' a piece they otherwise sang on the county road gang. …Two days before Courlander recorded Willie Turner at Camp Livingson, he stopped forty miles away in Marion, Mississippi. There he recorded a singer identified in his notes "only as Cora, who sang 'Baby Please Don't Go' . . . the same song, but with some variance in the lyrics." That song was first recorded commercially by Big Joe Williams in 1935. These songs "fit within a larger family of songs that "fit within a larger family of songs that include 'I'm Alabama Bound,' 'Don't Ease Me In,' 'Don't Leave Me Here,' and 'Elder Greene's in Town.' This network of songs that arises by the late nineteenth century uses a consistent verse pattern and, largely, a recurring subject matter."

There is a connection between the albums featured in the second hour: A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2, Negro Prison Camp Worksongs and Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons. As Mack McCormick writes in the notes to A Treasury Of Field Recordings: "The various collecting projects which have funneled into this final selection were initiated in 1951 when Pete Seeger visiting Houston, bringing together Ed Badeaux, John Lomax Jr., Chester Bower and Harold Belikoff, resulting in the founding of the Houston Folklore Group. At that time recordings were made at two of the Texas prison farms." The recordings McCormick is talking about resulted in the album Negro Prison Camp Worksongs with some songs from that session appearing on A Treasury Of Field Recordings. The recordings Bruce Jackson made over a decade later for the album Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons were recorded at the same Texas prisons and it's likely some of the same prisoners were recorded.

Negro Prison Camp Worksongs
 Read Liner Notes

A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2 were compiled by Mack McCormick and issued on the British 77 label in 1960. Sponsored by the Houston Folklore Group and the Texas Folklore Society, these Fields recordings were collected around Houston by McCormick and other collectors like Ed Bradeux, Pete Seeger, John Lomax and others. The 36 selections contained in this set were drawn from over 400 items recorded over a nine year period. The original recordings are housed at the University of Texas and the Library of Congress. As the notes state it portrays "A panorama of the traditions around Houston – the city and its neighboring bayous, beaches, prisons, plantations, plains and piney woods…” And as John Lomax writes about this collection “This is one good, long look at the guts of America – songs sung by those who make them up and pass them along, showing the character of themselves, the flavor and spirit of their lives.” Below is information on some of the albums' performers.

Joel Hopkins was Lightnin's older brother and first gave him a guitar. Joel traveled the south with tent shows and traveling caravans. Lightnin's other brother, John Henry also played guitar. The three were recorded together in Waxahatchie, TX in 1964. The results were issued on Arhoolie under the title Hopkins Brothers: Lightnin', Joel, & John Henry .

As Mack McCormick writes in the notes: "When his wife is away at church, Jack Jackson will sit down at his piano and sing "sinful" songs. Sometimes when she has an evening prayer meeting he'll invite someone like Lightnin' over to 'kick it around.' Lightnin' has ceased working with pianists (though he stills plays primarily in jook joints (for dancing) and Jack has established himself in business on the corner of Milam and Prarie in Houston's downtown business district."

Tom Moore was a powerful plantation owner who farmed land along the Brazos river in Texas. Asked about the song, sung on this collection by Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, he replied: "They're happy people – they don 't always mean what they sing. He laughed deprecatingly, 'Only I best never catch one of them singing that song.'" As McCormick notes: “In order to protect him [Mance Lipscomb] and his family, his name is withheld from his recording of 'Tom Moore's Farm'. …The simple fact is that the singer and Tom Moore are neighbors, the one a poor laborer, the other a powerful and vindictive man who has long felt the song to be a thorn in his side.”

Recorded by Pete & Toshi Seeger in the winter of 1951 at two Texas prison farms, Negro Prison Camp Worksongs, released on the Folkways label, represents some of the oldest and most traditional work songs found among African American prison communities in the southern United States. In 1951, when Pete Seeger as one of the successful Singing group, The Weavers, was booked to appear at a Houston hotel ballroom, he wrote John Lomax, Jr. suggesting that he ask permission for them to visit the nearby prison farms with recording equipment. The governor granted permission and the group, with Chester Bower providing the tape machine and assisting, visited Ramsey and Rechine farms on consecutive Sunday afternoons.

Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons
 Read Liner Notes

A couple of months back we devoted half a show to recordings made by Bruce Jackson in the 60's at Texas prisons. Today we feature selections from Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons (Elektra, 1965) which I omitted last time. Jackson wrote: “I started recording in Texas prisons in July 1964. I think Texas had about 12,000 prisoners in 14 prisons back then …My primary interest in Texas was the black convict worksongs, which seemed to me to be part of an unbroken musical tradition going back to West Africa….”

Stephen Wade Interview/Feature  (75 min,. mp3)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Sugar Boy Crawford Troubled Mind Blues30 New Orleans Classics
Sugar Boy Crawford What's Wrong30 New Orleans Classics
Sugar Boy Crawford Jock-o-Mo30 New Orleans Classics
Beverly Scott Southern California BluesHollywood Blues
Manny Nichols No One To Love MeDown Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-52
Juke Boy Bonner Can't Hardly Keep From CryingGoin' To Louisiana
Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes The Life Of Lightnin` Bug RhodesNow Hear This!
Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes Now Hear This!Now Hear This!
Johnny Shines Your Troubles Can't Be Like MineStanding at the Crossroads
Johnnie LewisCan Hardly Get AlongAlabama Slide Guitar
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemDoctor Clayton & His Buddies
Son Willis Nothing But The BluesDown Home Blues Classics: California & The West Coast 1948-1954
Richard Nevins Interview
Charley Patton High Water Everywhere – Part 1The Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Charley Patton Some These Days I’ll Be GoneThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Geeshie Wiley Last Kind Words BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Bukka WhiteThe Panama LimitedThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Lottie KimbroughRolling Log BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Ishman BraceyWoman Woman BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of

Show Notes:

A mix show for the first hour of today's show as we pay tribute to the recently departed Sugar Boy Crawford, plus we feature artists like Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes, Manny Nichols, Johnny Shines, Son Willis and Doctor Clayton among others. In the second hour we chat with Richard Nevins who runs the Shanachie/Yaz00 label. Today we spotlight tracks from The Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of  the sequel to the highly acclaimed 20o6 release.

James “Sugar Boy” Crawford died Sept. 15th. He was 77. He formed a R&B band in High School and the group performed in local clubs and released a single on Aladdin Records. Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, happened to hear the band at radio station WMRY while in New Orleans. He made what was purportedly an audition tape of the group. Weeks later, a disc jockey at the station presented Crawford with a 78 rpm record of “I Don't Know What I’ll Do.” It was manufactured from the audition tape and credited to Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters. In November 1953, at age 19, Crawford recorded his composition “Jock-A-Mo” with a band that included Snooks Eaglin on guitar. Released on the Chess subsidiary Checker Records, "Jock-A-Mo" was a hit during the 1954 Carnival season. Over the next decade, he recorded for various labels, including Imperial Records, releasing such singles as "I Bowed on My Knees,” “You Gave Me Love,” "Morning Star" and "She's Gotta Wobble (When She Walks)." But in 1963, his career, and life, took a tragic turn. En route to a show in Monroe with his band, he was stopped by police and badly pistol-whipped. He briefly attempted a comeback, but was discouraged by what he perceived as his diminished talent. He subsequently retired from music. For decades, he confined his singing to the church. It was his grandson, the pianist and singer Davell Crawford, who coaxed Crawford out of retirement. He appeared on Davell’s 1995 CD Let Them Talk, and subsequently joined his grandson onstage, including at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

We spin a pair of tracks by Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes, who I've been listening to lately. He was a fine singer and songwriter who melded down home blues with a touch of soul. Rhodes was born in North carolina but moved to New York in 1950. He began performing with gospel groups and made his first appearance on record with the Golden Arrows. He eventually made the move to R&B working with different group, cutting a few records through the 60’s and 70’s for label like Hull, Le Sarge and Mascot, recording under the monikers The Blonde Bomber and Little Red Walter. Rhodes cut a couple of strong records for the German Swingmaster label and even toured Europe before passing in 1990.

We spotlight a couple of fine Texas bluesman in Manny Nichols and Son Willis, both who cut a handful of terrific sides in the late 40's and early 50's. Nichols cut nine sides between 1949-1953 for several small labels, first in Texas and then in California. He also may have recorded as West Texas Slim. Malcolm Willis was a blues singer and pianist from Fort Worth, TX. At sometime in his youth he made the trek to California to join the West Coast blues scene. He cut his first disc for J.R. Fullbright's Elko label in Los Angeles, CA. in 1951. In 1952 and 1953 he recorded eight more numbers for the Swingtime label billed as Little Son Willis. Willis owns a strong debt to the popular Doctor Clayton. Clayton is all but forgotten today but was very popular in the 40's and who, despite a small recorded output, wielded a big a influence on numerous singers. We spin Clayton's oft covered "Angel In Harlem" which he cut in 1946. Willis recorded a cover called "Harlem Blues" in 1952 and the song has also been covered by Smokey Hogg and Larry Davis.

Back in 2006 Yazoo issued The Stuff That Dream Are Made Of subtitled "The Dead Sea Scrolls of Record Collecting." The two-disc collection was a loving testament to impossibly rare records and the obsessive collectors who tracked them down. among the treasures was the long lost Son House record, "Mississippi County Farm Blues" and "Clarksdale Moan" which had just be found. The Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of  is still a goldmine of rare records, although nothing as earth shattering as the Son House, and beautifully packaged with 46 tracks housed in a over-sized DVD package which sports an eye popping illustration by Drew Friedman. It includes a fascinating 54-page booklet with rare photographs and notes that chronicle the history of collecting old 78 records from beginning in the 1920s through the 1960s. Yazoo has always been at the top of the heap when it comes to remastering old 78's and these records sound incredible. The sound Nevins has achieved on the two Patton cuts, for example, is the best I've ever heard and the mastering on Yazoo's Best Of Patton set was pretty damn  good! Today Nevins and I chat about the history of 78 collecting, those crazy early collectors, Yazoo Records, Charlie Patton and more.

Richard Nevins Interview/Feature (edited, 36 min, MP3)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lane HardinI'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal YouModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Lane HardinKeep 'em DownModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Leroy Simpson & Lane Hardin13 HighwayModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Leroy Simpson & Lane HardinBluebird BluesModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
King Solomon HillMy Buddy, Blind Papa LemonBlues Images Presents Vol. 2
Blind Lemon JeffersonFence Breakin' Yellin' BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home Blues – Test Blues Images Presents Vol. 8
Jaybird ColemanSave Your Money – Let These Women GoBlues Images Presents Vol. 8
Furry LewisCannon Ball Blues – Alternate Take Blues Images Presents Vol. 8
Blind Joe ReynoldsNinety Nine BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 2
Jenny PopeMr. Postman BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 5
Teddy Darby Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Charley Patton Jesus Is A Dying Bed MakerBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
John TeftellerInterview
Lane HardinCalifornia Desert Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Lane HardinHard Times Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Lane HardinCartey Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Papa Charlie JacksonPapa, Don't Tear Your PantsBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Harum Scarum Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here)Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Joel TaggartPrecious LordBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Joel TaggartLittle Black TrainBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Tampa RedMama Don't Allow No Easy Riders HereBlues Images Presents Vol. 9

Show Notes:

Today's program revolves around record collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. We'll be chatting with John in the second hour who I've interviewed previously and each time I've found him to be extremely knowledgeable regarding blues from the 1920's with a keen insight into how the record companies operated and how they marketed blues records. According to his website he has the world's largest inventory of blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll 78's with over 75,000 in stock. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. This year marks the ninth year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up newly discovered sides which I'll be featuring today. Among those are newly discovered sides by the mysterious Lane Hardin (I'll be playing all of Hardin's records today), guitar evangelist Blind Joe Taggart and as well as other records found in the past few years. Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously and has been reprinting the artwork in his annual calendars.

For decades Lane Hardin has been one of those tantalizing, mysterious blues figures who cut a handful of brilliant, garnered much interest among collectors yet has remained a cipher, resistant to all research attempts.  Now seventy-five years after his debut we  get to hear a previously unknown Hardin side and a recently published article has given his life shape. For a long time it was thought his 1935 record, "California Desert Blues b/w Hard Time Blues" was the only record Hardin ever recorded. The record is very scarce with only five or six known copies. Tefteller purchased a copy at auction recently for $5,500. Unknown to most collectors Hardin cut a vanity record circa 1948 – the A-side is Hardin's “Cartey Blues” while the B-Side is by Hardin's stand up bass player (credited to Don Tempo). The record was found by collector Steve LaVere sometime in the 1990's in Los Angeles and purchased by Tefteller.

In around 1950 a group of artists sent in a batch of unlabeled acetates that were discovered at Modern in 1970. These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since. When these sides were first issued on the Blues From The Deep South LP,  Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. It turns out that Todd is actually Lane Hardin. We play both of those numbers today: "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" and Keep 'em Down." Hardin also backs Leroy Simpson on "13 Highway" and "Bluebird Blues" which we also feature. The identity of Simpson remains a mystery. All these sides have been reissued on the CD Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4.

Only one person seems to have ever been interviewed about Hardin who actually knew him. That was Henry Townsend who remembered him from the 1930's St. Louis scene. As Townsend told Bill Greensmith in his autobiography, A Blues Life: "Now Lane Hardin was one of the least known (n) musicians around the city , because he had come into the city and hadn't exposed himself much. He had a job at Lewins Metal Company and hadn't been exposed by his music until he ran across (Peetie) Wheatstraw's buddy, Neckbones, who also worked over there. They got to  talking and found out about playing music, and that's how he got be discovered. They would meet at different houses and just do something for their own personal entertainment, but not for jobs that I know of. Lane Hardin also played out at McKnight's place in Kinloch. Lane could have been slightly older than me, but not by much. He lived on Biddle Street about Thirteenth or Fourteenth -they had built a little row of new houses, and he lived there."

In the August 2011 issue of Blues & Rhythm magazine Tony Russell published a lengthy article on Hardin, essentially reconstructing his life from public records. It's an impressive piece of research that traces Hardin's life from his birth in Kentucky to working as a deck hand on steamboats, to a residence in St. Louis from the late 1910's through the 30's (documentation includes  a lengthy police record), to a stint in Illinois and finally traces him to Los Angeles by the 40's. Hardin passed in 1975 and it's a shame no one ever tracked him down to document his story.

The other big find on Tefteller's new CD is the only existing copy of a crudely recorded acetate,  by pre-war gospel legend Blind Joe Taggart. The disc was found by collector Robert Buchholz shoved between some old 70's rock and roll records at what remains of Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. It was put on sale on ebay where it was purchased by Tefteller. Taggart made his first records for Vocalion in June 1927 then went to Paramount in 1928. He continued recording in the 30's but vanished after a final session for Decca in 1934. The new calendar also contains the only known photograph of Taggart, published for the first time.

We feature several other numbers from the latest CD including sides by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jenny Pope, Teddy Darby, Charlie Patton, Papa Charlie Jackson and Harum Scarum. We round out the show with tracks from some of Tefteller's prior CD's including recently found sides by Tommy Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Joe Reynolds and others.

Jenny 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.

Teddy Darby recorded from 1929 until 1937 under the names of "Blind Teddy Darby", "Blind Darby", "Blind Blues Darby" and "Blind Squire Turner" for the Paramount, Victor, Bluebird, Vocalion and Decca labels. In 1960 he was "rediscovered" and recorded by Pete Welding of Testament Records, yet the recordings from this session were never released. In the late 1930s he gave up the blues and became an ordained deacon.

Papa Charlie Jackson was the first commercially successful male blues singer. Jackson is believed originally to have come from New Orleans before relocating to Chicago sometime in the early 1900's. He became a very successful street performer, especially on the Near West Side, where he routinely played at the famed Maxwell Street market. His popularity eventually led to him being signed by the Paramount label, where he waxed more than 60 sides between 1924 and 1929. Jackson also did session working backing artists such as Ida Cox, Lottie Beaman, Ma Rainey, Big Bill Broonzy and others.

Issued as Paramount 13104, Harum Scarum's "Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here) " was released in January 1931 and is extremely rare. No copy has been discovered on Paramount however the record was reissued on Varsity, a company from the 1930's that gathered up old masters they found interesting and issued them again. The Harum Scarums recorded four songs and consisted of Big Bill Broonzy, Georgia Tom and Mozelle Alderson.

King Solomon Hill signed to the Paramount label in 1932, soon traveling to Grafton, Wisconsin to record six tracks (two of them alternate takes). In 2002 Tefteller went to Grafton and discovered the long lost Hill 78 "My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon b/w Times Has Done Got Hard" in mint condition. Not much is known of Hill – whose real name was Joe Holmes. He was closely connected to Sam Collins and traveled with Blind Lemon Jefferson and Rambling Thomas. After his lone session, Hill returned to the juke joint circuit, eventually vanishing from sight; reputedly a heavy drinker, he died of a massive brain hemorrhage in Sibley, Louisiana in 1949.

A welcome surprise in recent years has been the discovery of several Tommy Johnson recordings of unissued material. In 1985 an untitled Tommy Johnson test pressing was found and issued on Document as "Boogaloosa Woman"/"Morning Prayer." Yazoo has issued "Morning Prayer" with the title "Button Up Shoes." In around 2001 yet another important batch of records came to light. A box of unissued Paramount and QRS test pressings (the QRS material likely obtained by Paramount from Art Satherley in 1930/31) has been found by an antique dealer in Wisconsin. Tefteller purchased the Tommy Johnson test pressing of "I Want Someone To Love Me" for over $12,000. The record has since been issued on the CD that accompanies the 2004 calendar. Today's featured track,is a test pressing of "Lonesome Home Blues" which was issued on the CD that accompanies the 2010 calendar.

In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard who used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. Within a year, the four songs were released on two records. Neither record sold well, but almost 40 years later, one of the two attracted the attention of Eric Clapton who heard the song "Outside Woman Blues" on a reissue album. In 1967, Clapton and his Cream bandmates Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce recorded a more modern day version of "Outside Woman Blues" on their classic LP Disraeli Gears. The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that day, "Ninety Nine Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released in October of 1930. No copies in any condition were ever located until just a few years ago. The recorded was eventually bought and reissued on CD by John Tefteller.

In 2007 John Tefteller issued what is apparently the only known copy of Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis' "Talkin' To You Wimmen' About The Blues." The track and it's flip side, "Merciful Blues", was issued on the CD that accompanies Tefteller's 2008 blues artwork calendar. To quote Tefteller: "the record…apparently has not been heard by anyone since its release back in the late fall of 1931. I have had this record in my collection for almost ten years. I had no idea that it was potentially a one-of-a-kind record! …Late last year, legendary Blues reissue producer Larry Cohn called me about his upcoming Blind Willie McTell box set. He told me he would like to borrow certain records from my collection …I sent him a list of what I had. To my amazement, he called immediately with the comment, "I've never heard the Mary Willis record!" Apparently, there is no master in the Columbia vaults. Cohn is aware of no other copy of the record anywhere. Finding this hard to believe, I started calling "all the usual suspects" and sure enough, none of them had the record or had ever heard it."

John Tefteller Interview/Feature (edited, 53 min, MP3)

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