Memphis Blues

Walter HortonAin't It A Shame King of the Harmonica Players
Walter HortonI Hate To The Sun Go Down King of the Harmonica Players
Walter HortonThat's Wrong Little MamaKing of the Harmonica Players
Tampa RedEvalena Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Johnny ShinesEvening Shuffle (Take 1)Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Willie NixTruckin' Little WomanMemphis & The South 1949-1954
Walter HortonBaby I Need Your Love Solo Harp: Private Recordings
J.B. Lenoir Slow Down Woman American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Walter HortonThat Ain't ItAnn Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival Vol. 4
Walter HortonI Need My Baby BluesHave A Good Time…Chicago Blues
Johnny Young & Walter HortonStockyard BluesJohnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band
Walter Horton & Floyd JonesOverseas BluesDo Nothing Till You Hear From Us
Walter Horton & Floyd JonesTalk About Your Daddy Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us
Walter HortonGo Long WomanMouth Harp Maestro
Walter HortonLittle Walter's Boogie Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Walter HortonWe All Got To Go (Take 3)Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Walter HortonHard Hearted WomanBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Walter HortonWalking by MyselfBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Victoria Spivey &Walter Horton Inter-Mission TasteSpivey's Blues Parade
Otis SpannCan't Do Me No Good The Blue Horizon Story 1965-1970
Sunnyland Slim & Walter HortonBlow Walter BlowSad And Lonesome
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryWorried, Wonderin' And GladBack
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryEverybody's Fishin' Back
Walter Horton Let's Have A Good TimeI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Walter Horton You Don't Mistreat MeI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Chicago Blues All StarsLittle Boy BlueLoaded With The Blues
Walter HortonIf It Ain't Me Johnny Shines with Big Walter Horton

Show Notes:

Big Walter Horton: King of the Harmonica PlayersSeveral years back I devoted a show to Walter Horton and Little Walter. I was listening to some of Horton's recordings again recently and thought I would do a sequel, spotlighting material not covered in the first show. Today's show spotlights a number of lesser known, rarer sides Horton recorded under his own name as well as great sides that find him in a supporting role. Horton ranks as one of the greatest blues harmonica artists yet never got quite the same acclaim as contemporaries like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson II due mostly to the fact that, as a rather shy, quiet individual, he 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.”

Horton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi, in 1918. Horton got his first harmonica from his father when he five, and won a local talent contest with it. Shortly thereafter his mother moved to Memphis, then a hotbed of blues, and according to blues researcher Samuel Charters, Horton was playing with the Memphis Jug Band by the time he was nine or ten. He also may have recorded with them in 1927 as he himself claimed but many researchers doubt this assertion. During the thirties he played with Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards, and others, and later gave pointers to both Little Walter and Rice Miller. Horton's first verifiable sides were done in 1939 backing guitarist Charlie "Little Buddy" Doyle on sessions for Columbia. Around the same time (according to Horton himself), he began to experiment with amplifying his harmonica, which if accurate may have made him the first to do so.

lWalter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry

In the late forties he went to Chicago, but later returned to Memphis. From 1951 to 1953, Horton recorded as vocalist and harmonica virtuoso backed by small combos, which variously included Joe Willie Wilkins, Pat Hare, Jack Kelly, Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix, Albert Williams, and others. Singles by ‘‘Mumbles’’ were released on Modern, RPM, and Chess. In Memphis in 1953, Horton and guitarist Jimmy DeBerry recorded the instrumental masterpiece ‘‘Easy’’ (Sun), based on Ivory Joe Hunter’s ‘‘Since I Lost My Baby.’’ Following the success of "Easy," Horton went back to Chicago to play with Eddie Taylor and cut a memorable session backing Tampa Red. But when Junior Wells got drafted, Horton took his place in Muddy Waters' band. It didn't last long, though-Horton showed up drunk at a rehearsal and Muddy fired him. He reunited with Muddy on the 1977 record I'm Ready.

Horton cut his best work as a sideman. Always described as shy and nervous, he preferred this role to that of a bandleader. His playing graces numerous records behind Johnny Shines, Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, and others. He also taught a number of younger players, including Charlie Musselwhite and Carey Bell. In 1964, Horton recorded his first full-length album, The Soul of Blues Harmonica, for Chess subsidiary Argo. Two years later, Horton contributed several cuts to Vanguard's classic compilation Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 3.

Horton became a regular on Willie Dixon's Blues All Stars package tours during the 70's, which made their way through America and Europe over the '60s and '70s. He also played the AmericaWalter Horton: The Deep Blues Harmonica Ofn-The-Deep-Blues-Ha-539120n Folk Blues Festival in 1965. In 1973 he cut an album with Carey Bell for Alligator. After that he became a mainstay on the festival circuit, and often played at the open-air market on Chicago's legendary Maxwell Street, along with many other bluesman. In 1977, he joined Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters on Winter's album I'm Ready, and during the same period recorded some material for Blind Pig, which later found release as the albums Fine Cuts and Can't Keep Lovin' You. Horton appeared in the Maxwell Street scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, accompanying John Lee Hooker. He died of heart failure on December 8, 1981.

We spotlight a number of less well known recordings by Horton. Among those are several from the 1970's: King of the Harmonica Players issued on the Delta label and collects sides recorded in 1966 with Johnny Young and in 1970 with Floyd Jones, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us with Floyd Jones issued on the Magnolia label  in 1975, The Deep Blues Harmonica of Walter Horton issued on JSP and pair of albums issued on Crosscut with Jimmy DeBerry. The Delta album has recently been issued on CD with some additional vintage tracks while the Magnolia album has not been issued on CD. A few years back the JSP label  issued the 3-CD set Big Walter Horton – Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956. The third disc contains tracks issued on the album The Deep Blues Harmonica of Walter Horton likely recorded Jan. 1973 in Cambridge, MA.

Horton recorded some fine material in 1964 that we feature today. Blues Southside Chicago is a collection of Chicago blues 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. Both LP's feature sides by Horton as leader and in a session role and both albums have not been issued on CD.

Walter Horton & Folyd Jones: Do Nothing Til You Hear From UsJimmy DeBerry and Walter Horton cut two very hard-to-find albums circa 1972-1973 in Memphis called Easy and Back for the Crosscut label. DeBerry cut some material in the pre-war era and some terrific sides for Sun in the 1950's, both solo and with Walter Horton including playing on Horton's classic "Easy." These albums are bit of a mixed bag but there are several fine moments.

In 1964 Olle Helander and Lars Westman of Swedish Radio were on a trip to the US to document blues and jazz in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and San Francisco. They reached Chicago May 23rd and recorded Johnny Young accompanied by Slim Willis, Otis Spann and Robert Whitehead. In the afternoon they recorded Walter Horton with Robert Nighthawk. These recordings were aired in the context of radio documentaries with interviews of the artists. Unfortunately Nighthawk and Horton were not interviewed. Most of this material has  been released in excellent sound on the double disc sets I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 1 and I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 3 which is the first authorized release of these recordings

We also spotlight several fine live performances including a great performance with Horton backing J.B. Lenoir at the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival, live at the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival and a solo performance recorded in Dortmund, West Germany in 1965.

Related Articles:

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Joe Willie WilkinsMr. Down ChildJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys
Sonny Boy Williamson IICool, Cool BluesCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIEyesight To The BlindCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
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Albert WilliamsHoodoo ManSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
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Sonny Boy Williamson IIStop NowCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIPontiac BluesCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Roosevelt Sykes She's Jailbait Roosevelt Sykes Vol .10 1951-1957
Roosevelt Sykes Sputnik BabyRoosevelt Sykes Vol .10 1951-1957
Houston StackhouseCrying Won't Help YouMemphis Blues Caravan Vol. I
Charlie BookerNew Moonrise BluesMemphis Blues Caravan Vol. II
Sonny Boy Williamson IICat HopCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIShe Brought Life Back To The DeadCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Houston Stackhouse Cool Drink Of Water The Devil's Music
Houston Stackhouse Mean Red SpiderThe Devil's Music
Joe Willie WilkinsHucklefingerJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys

Show Notes:

Joe Willie Wilkins
Joe Willie Wilkins, Ann Arbor, 1973. Photo by Sandy Sutherland.

Joe Willie Wilkins spent the majority of his career in the shadows as a session guitarist, playing behind Sonny boy Williamson II, Willie Love, Will Nix among others and off record with bluesmen such as Robert Lockwood Jr., Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Horton and others. Through his studio contributions, his time broadcasting on King Biscuit Time on KFFA and out of West Memphis on WDIA, and the sheer number of bluesman he worked with throughout the Delta, Wilkins exerted a sizable influence despite never cutting records under his own name until the 70's. Those who cite him as an influence include Pat Hare, Little Milton, Jimmy Rogers and Brewer Phillips. He stepped out of the shadows in the 70's performing at festivals, making television appearances and a long overdue full-length album. As Luigi Monge wrote in the Encyclopedia of the Blues: “Wilkins incorporated in his playing the intensity of downhome blues, the elegance of jazz, and the power of urban sounds. His achievement transcends the quantity of recordings he left and has more to do with quality and originality.” And as his supporter Jim O'Neal wrote: “One of the greatest blues guitarists Memphis has ever known”-

The only child of Frank Wilkins, an accomplished bottleneck guitarist, Joe Willie became interested in music at a very early age.Wilkinswas born just southwest of Clarksdale in a tiny spot known as Davenport, Mississippi. Wilkins taught himself harmonica and often played with his father at local parties and dances in the Bobo, Mississippi, area, where his family had moved in 1933 to work on a farm. After being taught some fiddle by "Fiddlin’" Sam Harris and accordion by Walter "Pat" Rhodes, Wilkins learned guitar from his father, the members in his band, and phonograph records so well that he was nicknamed "The Walking Seeburg" after a brand of jukebox). His musical education was also enhanced by meeting several musicians around Clarksdale including Muddy Waters, Robert Lockwood and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller).

After playing in the Mississippi streets and barrelhouses with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Miller) and Robert Lockwood, Wilkins briefly served in the U.S. Navy. From 1942 he regularly participated with his mentors and other fellow musicians in the famous radio program King Biscuit Time over KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, and with Robert Nighthawk (whose sister he married) in the Bright Star Flour show. At the end of the decade Wilkins often toured the South with a group known as the Four Aces (Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Love, Willie Nix). Wilkins moved to West Memphis in 1948 where he played with local musicians and met B.B. King whom broadcast with.

King Biscuit Time

Wilkins first entered a studio as late as 1951, when he played guitar on the first recordings Sonny Boy Williamson II made for Lillian McMurry’s Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi, where Wilkins acted as house guitarist for two years. Wilkins backed Sonny Boy on ten sides in 1951, four sides in 1952 and final three sides in 1953. One of the songs was “Mr. Down Child” a Robert Johnson composition that he never recorded. It was Robert Lockwood who transposed the song and taught it to Sonny Boy who recorded it on December 4th 1951. Lockwood recorded his version in 1973. It seemed to be a favorite of Wilkins' who cut the song as the b-side of his first 45 for the Mimosa label in 1973, another version was cut for Wilkins' debut album and another version appears on the soundtrack fro the BBC TV series The Devil's Music.

During the 50's Wilkins backed several artists at Sun studios including Willie Nix, Honeyboy Edwards and Albert Williams. The Edwards and Williams sides were unissued at the time. Wilkins said he tried a session of his own for the label but lacked confidence and nothing ever materialized.  Nix's "Seems Like A Million Years b/w Baker Shop Boogie" was issued as a 78 by the label. Nix toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels Shows as a dancing comedian in the 30's and during the early '40s, performed on streets and parks around Memphis. In 1947, Nix appeared with Robert Lockwood, Jr. on a Little Rock radio station and subsequently worked with Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Love and Joe Willie Wilkins as the Four Aces. Nix joined B.B. King and Joe Hill Louis for appearances on Memphis radio, and worked with The Beale Streeters during the late '40s. He made his first records in Memphis for RPM in 1951, and cut sides for Chess Records' Checker offshoot in 1952. Sam Philips signed him up as "the Memphis Blues Boy" for Sun in early 1953, as a singing drummer with a band, and he later cut sides for the Chance label in Chicago.

Willie Nix & Joe Willie Wilkins
Joe Willie Wilkins & Willie Nix from Blues
Unlimited #120, courtesy Steve La Vere

In 1959 Wilkins' father died and Joe Willie moved from West Memphis to Memphis, where he worked mostly outside music until about 1970. Despite bad health, Wilkins took up guitar again as a result of his wife Carrie’s encouragement and of blues writer and promoter Jim O’Neal’s support, often playing with Houston Stackhouse. Wilkins formed his King Biscuit Boys group featuring the ever present Stackhouse and a changing line up that included harp players Boy Blue and Sonny Blake and guitarist Clarence Nelson. Wilkins made appearances at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, the Memphis River City Blues Festival and worked as part of the Memphis Blues Caravan, a traveling show made up of first generation bluesmen such as Sleepy John Esets, Bukka White, Furry Lewis and others. Performances appear on the albums Memphis Blues Caravan Vol. I & II.

In 1973 Steve LaVere’s Mimosa label released Wilkins’s first recordings under his own name, a 45, “It's Too Bad b/w "Mr. Downchild.” A full-length album titled Joe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys was released by Adamo that included some live performances and studio recordings. In 1976 Wilkins also played the Monterrey Jazz Festival and appeared in the BBC Television series The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues. Wilkins passed March 28, 1979 in Memphis.

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Joe Willie Wilkins Obituary by Cilla Huggins (Blues Unlimited 134, March/June 1979) [PDF]

Memphis Jug BandSun Brimmers BluesMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandKansas City BluesMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Will WeldonTurpentine Blues Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Vol StevensBaby Got The Rickets (Mama's Got The Mobile Blues) Memphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
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Memphis Jug BandBeale Street Mess AroundMemphis Jug Band with Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers
Memphis Jug BandStealin' Stealin' Best of the Memphis Jug Band
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Memphis Jug BandA Black Woman Is Like A Black SnakeBest of the Memphis Jug Band
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Show Notes:

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

The Memphis Jug Band, from a Victor catalog of 1930

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Defender Ad, December 6, 1930

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Little Junior ParkerSittin', Drinkin' And Thinkin'Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950 - 1958
Little Junior ParkerPlease Baby Blues Mystery Train
Hot Shot LoveWolf Call Boogie
Memphis Blues: Important Postwar Blues
Kenneth BanksHighMemphis Aggressive Guitars Vol. 1
Billy LoveHart's Bread Boogie Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950 - 1958
Little Junior ParkerDirty Friend BluesThe Duke Recordings Vol. 2
Little Junior ParkerCan't Understand The Duke Recordings Vol. 2
Pat HareBonus Pay (Ain't Gonna Be That Way)Memphis Aggressive Guitars Vol. 1
Muddy WatersI Won't Go OnThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersMeanest WomanThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersGood NewsThe Complete Chess Recordings
Little Junior Parker BacktrackingThe Duke Recordings Vol. 2
Little Junior Parker I Wanna RambleLittle Junior Parker 1952-1955
Muddy WatersShe's Into SomethingThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersWhen I Get to ThinkingThe Complete Chess Recordings
James Cotton Cotton Crop BluesSun Records: The Blues Years 1950 - 1958
James Cotton Hold Me In Your ArmsSun Records: The Blues Years 1950 - 1958
James Cotton Straighten Up, BabySun Records: The Blues Years 1950 - 1958
Junior ParkerThat's Allright The Duke Recordings Vol. 1
Bobby "Blue" BlandFarther Up The RoadThe Duke Recordings Vol. One
Muddy WatersI've Got My Brand On YouMuddy Waters at Newport 1960
Muddy WatersHey Hey The Songs of "Big Bill" Broonzy
Muddy WatersTell Me BabyThe Songs of "Big Bill" Broonzy
Pat Hare I'm Gonna Murder My Baby (Cheatin' And Lyin' Blues) Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950 - 1958

Show Notes:

In past shows we've featured great session guitarists like Larry Dale and Lafayette Thomas who spent most of their time out of the spotlight, making their presence known backing others. In that vein we shine the light on guitarist Pat Hare. Hare's aggressive, distorted guitar graced records in the 50's by up and coming Memphis artists like Rosco Gordon, Little Junior Parker, James Cotton, Bobby Bland as well as some fine lesser known artists. In the latter half of the 50's he was a member of the Muddy Waters band and his guitar work can be heard on several sessions and albums from this period. Hare cut just two sides under his own which were not issued until decades later.

Pat Hare was born Auburn Hare, December 20, 1930 in Cherry Valley, Arkansas. In 1940, the family moved to a farm near Parkin, Arkansas, and around the same time young Auburn, whose grandmother nicknamed him Pat, started playing guitar. In his teens he took lessons from Joe Willie Wilkins who played in Sonny Boy Williamson's band, appearing on Sonny Boy's King Biscuit Flour radio show. He also fell in with Howlin' Wolf, and played in Wolf's band on weekends around the Forrest City/West Memphis area while still in his teens. Howlin' Wolf used Hare for his own radio show that broadcast from West Memphis' KWEM, and Hare also appeared on the radio with James Cotton, Willie Nix, Joe Hill Louis and later on Memphis' all black WDIA playing behind his cousin Walter Bradford. It was around this period, on Christmas day 1949, five days after his nineteenth birthday, that Hare married a 13-year-old- girl and set up house in West Memphis.

Pat Hare made his recording debut backing up Bradford on a session held at Sam Phillips' Sun Studio in the spring of 1952. The record, "Dreary Nights b/w Nuthin' But The Blues” (Sun 176) is so rare that no one has actually ever seen a copy. Following his first session with Bradford, was a four-song June 14, 1952 date with Bradford with one track, "Lucy Done Moved", featuring the vocals of L.C. Hubert.

Hare had left Howlin' Wolf's band (or more likely, was fired) in 1952, and it was then he joined up with Little Junior Parker's band, staying with them until April of '53. Hare can be heard on eight sides of Parker's cut between 1954 and 1957. When not touring, he would return to the family farm, and play around Memphis working with various musicians including Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Ike Turner, and James Cotton whose band became his most regular gig of the time. He also became the favorite session guitarist of producer Sam Phillips who had just opened his studio on the corner of Union and Marshall in Memphis.Phillips told Robert Palmer that Hare "had a Fender amp and a pretty good guitar. His pickup was powerful and I think he had a mismatch of impedance. It was a little more than his amp could stand, but it felt good." Colin Escott wrote, in his history of  the Sun label: "Hare became a fairly regular fixture at the studio, and his trademark sound – coarse, distorted, marked by aggressive fills and a fondness for playing them under the vocal lines – became something of an early Sun trademark as well." Among he artists he backed from Sun were Big Memphis Ma Rainey, James Cotton, Coy "Hot Shot" Love, Kenneth Banks and Billy Love.

At the age of 14 Willie Mae Glover AKA Big Memphis Ma Rainey ran away from home and joined a traveling medicine show operated by a man named Jim Hayden. She gave up performing in medicine shows in 1928 and settled in Memphis where she began performing in Vaudevillian productions. During these years, she performed with various itinerant blues musicians passing through the city. She befriended B. B. King during his early years and used to take care of him by cooking for him and she would frequently meet with him at local hamburger joints after performances.  She cut two sides, "Call Me Anything, But Call Me b/w Baby, No, No!",  for Sun in 1953.

At Sun Records Hare appeared on early James Cotton singles, among the best ever issued under Cotton's name,“My Baby b/w Straighten Up Baby” (Sun 199) and “Cotton Crop Blues b/w Hold Me In Your Arms” (Sun 206).

Coy "Hot Shot" Love lived on Gayoso Street in Memphis, an itinerant musician and sometime sign-painter who got his one moment of glory in the recording studio on January 8, 1954, when he entered Sam Phillips' Sun Studios to record "Wolf Call Boogie" b/w "Harmonica Jam," backed by Mose Vinson at the piano, Pat Hare on guitar, Kenneth Banks on bass, and Houston Stokes on the drums. Love did cut one more 45 recorded  by George Paulus of Barrelhouse Records at Steve LaVere's Shop in Memphis in mid August 1973. The songs are "Hot Shot Boogie", "Foxchase Boogie" and "Freight Train Blues" and issued under the  Mr. Bo Weevil imprint.

Kenneth Banks cut two sides, "High b/w Blue Man",  for Sun in 1954. Both these songs were recorded twice at separate session (on January 8, 1954 and January 11, 1954 with Ike Turner's band) both times feature Hare on guitar. Both sessions went unissued. Banks was a bass player who can be heard on sessions by Coy "Hot Shot" Love, James Cotton.

Billy Love did some session work for Sam Phillips, backing Walter Horton, Rufus Thomas and Willie Nix, before he got the chance to cut his own record as a singer-pianist. He did some sessions for Sun in 1951 and on January 19, 1954 Love returned to the Sun studio with a new band and cut five titles. One more session was recorded at the Sun studio, resulting in "Blues Leave Me Alone" and the promotional record "Hart's Bread Boogie" for the Hart's bakery in Memphis, both featuring Hare on guitar.

Hare is the listed guitarist on two songs by Clifton White cut for Sun in December 1953 with Billy Love, Kenneth Banks, Harvey Simmons and Houston Stokes. These songs were never issued. Hare is also on the unissued Sun June 1953 Sun number, "You Can't Love Two" backing Billy Gayles.

In addition to Sun, Hare was involved in several sessions with Duke Records, a label with Memphis roots. Duke Records was started in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1952 by David James Mattis (WDIA program director and DJ) and Bill Fitzgerald, owners of Tri-State Recording Company. After forming a partnership with Mattis in the summer of 1952, Don Robey (founder of Houston's Peacock Records) took control of Duke. Both labels then headquartered at his Bronze Peacock club at 2809 Erastus Street in Houston.

Junior Parker was at the center of a lawsuit in late 1955 against Don Robey and Duke Records. Sun Records charged that Robey induced Parker to break an exclusive contract with Sun to go to Duke and filed for damages. The judge ruled in favor of Sun Records and Robey was liable for unspecified damages to be paid to Sun. We hear Hare today backing Parker on several Duke sides: "Dirty Friend Blues, "Can't Understand", "Sittin', Drinkin' And Thinkin", "Please Baby Blues", "Backtracking",  "I Wanna Ramble" and "That's Allright."

Hare also appears on sides by Rosco Gordon and Bobby "Blue" Bland cut for Duke. Hare plays on Bobby "Blue" Bland's hit Further Up The Road (Duke 170) where his guitar is featured prominently. Hare went back on the road with Bland until he fired him sometime in 1957. Hare backs Gordon on a couple of sessions for Duke as well as on several sides cut for RPM and Modern.

In The Blues Discography 1943-1970 Hare is listed as possibly being the guitarist on a five-song Johnny Ace session cut for Duke in 1954. I've listened to these sides and I'm not convinced Hare is the guitarist.

Blues Unlimited: Little Jr. Parker, standing (far left), Bobby "Blue" Bland,
kneeling (far left), Pat Hare, standing (far right). South Carolina, 1952.

In May of '54, Sam Phillips decided to record Pat Hare under his own name. James Cotton was scheduled to play harmonica on the session but the two got into a fist fight that day, and Cotton disappeared. Instead, Hare is backed up by Israel Franklin on bass and Billy Love on piano on the two tunes. The first is a tough reading of Dr. Clayton's “Cheatin' & Lyin' Blues”, retitled on the tape box “I'm Gonna Murder My Baby” and “Bonus Pay” which is actually a cover of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's “Ain't Gonna Be That Way.” Phillips chose not to release Hare's disc which would not be heard until it slipped out on a bootleg on the Redita label in 1976, and later appeared on Charley Records' Sun Blues Box in the eighties. “I'm Gonna Murder My Baby” was a chilling, prophetic performance:

She used to have a mind to stay at home
At night she goes out and stays out all night long
I'm gonna murder my baby
(Spoken: she just doin' wrong, I can't stand it no more, judge, she just ain't no good.
I'm gonna do something to that woman, that's the reason I come to see you…)
She don't do nothing but cheat and lie

In 1957, James Cotton, who had joined Muddy Waters' band, brought Hare to Chicago to replace Jimmy Rogers. Hare became a regular member of the Muddy Waters band, appearing on the legendary Live at Newport album and numerous sessions backing Muddy between 1956 and 1960. At Newport 1960 showcases Muddy Waters live at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island on July 3. Muddy's band, minus Waters, also backed John Lee Hooker on the same date at Newport on five numbers.

He's also the guitarist on the album Muddy Waters Sings "Big Bill" from 1960 a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy who passed two years prior. Muddy would undoubtedly get Broonzy's approval. "Oh yeah, Muddy is a real singer for the Blues," Big Bill was heard to say early on in Muddy Waters' career. Full of confidence after a Best Of compilation released on the Chess label in 1959 and his legendary appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, Muddy set down his heartfelt tribute to Broonzy. The band features:  James Cotton, hca, Otis Spann, p; Pat Hare, g; Andrew Stephens, b; Francis Clay, dr. Hare did not get along with Leonard Chess and was not featured much on the Chess discs although his playing shines on a number of cuts. His trademark distorted sonic attack is replaced by a cleaner, low volume sound. Probably at Leonard Chess' insistence, trying to make him sound more like Jimmy Rogers who favored a more twangy sound.

Pat Hare (right) with James Cotton, 1959

By accounts Hare was mild when sober but drunk became violent and aggressive. Shortly after 1960 he was fired from Muddy's band for being drunk once too often. In '63 Hare returned to the family farm in Parkin,Arkansas and it was there that former Muddy Waters sidemen Mojo Buford and Jojo Williams tracked him down. They were starting a new band in Minneapolis and brought Harenorth to play with them. Soon they were gigging at Mattie's Bar-B-Q in South Minneapolis. On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15, 1963 Hare spent the afternoon drinking wine with well known blues drummer S. P. Leary.Hare at the time was living with a married woman named Aggie Winje. Pat called a friend of Aggie's named Pat Morrow who drove him to a third friend's house where he drank a half pint of gin. When Hare got home he took a couple of potshots at Aggie. They continued to fight, soon, more shots were heard and the police were called. Officer James E. Hendricks, armed with a shotgun headed to Hare's apartment and was heard to say "Give me the gun", followed by three shots. When Office Langaard, a few steps behind his partner arrived to see Hendricks on the floor and Hare pointing a pistol at him. Aggie was on the couch with two bullet holes in her. Langaard shot Pat Hare twice and called for back up. Officer Hendricks died en route to the hospital and Aggie would die on January 22, 1964. The trial, held February 14, 1964 lasted all of one day and Pat Hare was found guilty of first degree murder of Officer Hendricks while at the same time pleading guilty to third degree murder in the case of Aggie Winje's shooting. He was sentenced to life in prison and was sent off to Stillwater State Prison

In prison Hare joined AA and quit drinking,  he played in the prison band, Sounds Incarcerated, playing jazz, country, blues, and rock ' n 'roll to fellow inmates and later the band was allowed to travel outside the prison, appearing at public events, concerts, hospitals, and other venues. He was often allowed to leave the prison to perform music, even appearing with Muddy Waters at a local concert where Muddy was opening for Eric Clapton. He was filmed in 1980 for a local Minnesota TV show called PM Magazine, and was about to be given a medical pardon when he succumbed to cancer on September 26, 1980. By the time of his death, the ironic story of Pat Hare and "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" had entered blues folklore. There was an interview with him, done in prison, that appeared in Living Blues magazine, and later a long feature about him in Juke Blues.


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