Sun 27 Jul 2014
|Freddie Brown||Raised In The Alley Blues||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|Sammie Lewis & His Bamville Syncopators||Leaving Town To Wear You Off My Mind||Rare 1920's Blues & Jazz 1923-1929|
|Sweet Georgia Brown||The Low Down Lonely Blues||Blues Box 2|
|Booker T. Washington||Death Of Bessie Smith||Walter Davis Vol. 5 1939-1940|
|Memphis Minnie||Ma Rainey||Memphis Minnie Vol. 5 1935-1941|
|Peetie Wheatstraw||Black or Brown||Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 5 1937-1938|
|Peetie Wheatstraw||Crazy With The Blues||Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 4 1936-1937|
|Peetie Wheatstraw||Peetie Wheatsraw Stomp No. 2||Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 4 1936-1937|
|Smoky Harrison||Hop Head Blues||Rare Paramount Country Blues 1926-1929|
|Willie Baker||Rag Baby||East Coast Blues|
|Viola Bartlette w/ Lovie Austin's Serenaders||Out Bound Train Blues||Lovie Austin 1924-1926|
|Eva Parker||You Got Yourself Another Woman||Blue Girls Vol. 1 (1924-1930)|
|Coletha Simpson||Down South Blues||Blue Girls Vol. 1 (1924 1930)|
|Rev. Emmett Dickenson||The Death Of Blind Lemon||Blues Images Vol. 6|
|King Solomon Hill||My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon||Times Ain't Like They Used To Be Vol. 8|
|Group Of Women Prisoners||If There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some Cabbage||Field Recordings Vol. 8 - Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi|
|Champion Jack||Cabbage Greens No 2||Junker Blues 1940-41|
|Washboard Sam||Good Old Cabbage Greens||Rockin' My Blues Away|
|Bill Williams||Chicken You Can't Roost Too High for Me||Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways|
|Peg Leg Sam||Straighten Up and Fly Right||Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways|
|Blues Bird||Mean Low Blues||American Primitive Vol. II|
|Booker T. Sapps, Roger Matthews, Jesse Flowers||Alabama Blues||Red River Blues 1934-1943|
|Helen Beasley||TiaJuana Blues||Blue Girls Vol. 1 (1924 1930)|
|Blu Lou Barker||New Orleans||Blu Lu Barker 1938-1939|
|Rudy Foster||Corn Trimmer Blues||Juke Joint Saturday Night|
|Dan Burley||31st Street Blues||Jazz & Blues Piano 1934-1947|
|Scrapper Blackwell||The Death of Leroy Carr||Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 4 1935|
|Brownie McGhee||Death Of Blind Boy Fuller No. 1||Blind Boy Fuller
|Robert Pete Williams||Goodbye Slim Harpo||Robert Pete Williams|
|Jimmie Gordon||Lookin' For The Blues||Jimmie Gordon Vol. 3 1939-1946|
|Little Brother Montgomery||Alabama Bound||Farro Street Jive|
|Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown||Leftover Blues||Guitar In My Hand Vol. 2|
As I'm looking over today's mix show I have to say, even by the standards of this show, there's some pretty obscure stuff. The mix shows are basically songs that have caught my ear that I haven't played before, new stuff I've acquired or older records I've revisited. Now I never purposely play records simply because they're obscure, I play records I like and try and play ones I haven't featured before. I've been thinking a bit about the notion of obscurity which for some collectors seems to be the records they most covet simply for the fact of their rarity. So records by Skip James and Charlie Patton, two artists I love, are put on a pedestal while big sellers like Tampa Red and Lonnie Johnson, female singers and piano players get mostly ignored which is something I never understood. I always feel that this show is fairly democratic, spotlighting the well known stars to the utterly forgotten, the blues queens of the 20's, the piano players, recordings made in the field, string bands, jug bands, electrified Chicago blues and everything in between. I've been reading a fascinating book that deals with the world of 78 collecting called Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys the music played on my show.
As to today's show we spin a whole batch of utterly forgotten blues ladies from the 20's, several songs that are tributes to blues singers who have passed, a trio of sides by Peetie Wheatstraw, some tracks from a new Smithsonian Folkways anthology, songs about cabbage greens (a euphemism of course), several fine piano players and more.
Today we spin a few sets by some superb but completely forgotten blues ladies from the 1920's: Freddie Brown, Sammie Lewis, Viola Bartlette, Eva Parker, Coletha Simpson and Helen Beasley. Freddie Brown recorded one 78 for Paramount in 1929. As Bob Hall and Richard Noblett wrote in the notes to Magpie's The Piano Blues Vol. 17: Paramount Vol. 2 1927-1932: "The quiet, introspective performance of Freddie Brown contrast strongly with the usual rumbustious Paramount label identity. It was not known if she was a resident of Chicago or came north to make her only recording in 1929. …She has a deep stately vocal style found in some of the so-called classic female blues singers, and may well play her own piano accompaniment, although this is by no means certain." The other ladies were also little recorded: Sammie Lewis & His Bamville Syncopators cut six sides in 1926, Helen Beasley cut one 78 in 1929, Eva Parker left behind four sides, Viola Bartlette cut ten sides between 1925-1926, most backed by Lovie Austin's Serenaders with some featuring Johnny Dodds and Kid Ory.
I imagine most 78 collectors care little for the records of Peetie Wheatstraw who was one of the more commercially successful blues artists of the 30's. Wheatstraw cut a slew of records, many too be honest not terribly exciting, but he cut his share of memorable ones and today I spin a few I may not have played before. Wheatstraw recorded over 160 songs, usually accompanied by his own piano and provided accompaniment on records to numerous others. Between 1930 and his death in 1941 he remained immensely popular for buyers of race records and was a fixture on the vibrant St. Louis blues scene of the 30's. St. Louis chronicler Henry Townsend emphasized this point: "Around town he was pretty well busy; his name was ringing."
There's a number of inexplicable lyrical images in blues like black snakes, jelly rolls and cabbage greens that are clearly euphemisms for sex. I'm not sure what was the first song that equated sex and cabbage greens but Bessie Smith sang the following in "Empty Bed Blues" from 1928:
Bought me a coffee grinder that's the best one I could find (2x)
Oh he could grind my coffee 'cause he had a brand new grind
He boiled my fresh cabbage and he made it awful hot (2x)
When he put in the bacon it overflowed the pot
Today we spin a trio of songs in the same vein including a 'Group Of Women Prisoners' singing "If There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some Cabbage" recorded in Parchman Farm in 1939, Champion Jack Dupree's "Cabbage Greens No 2" (1940) and Washboard Sam's "Good Old Cabbage Greens" (1942).
|Read Liner Notes|
I was listening to Booker T. Washington's "Death Of Bessie Smith", featured today, and got to thinking of other singers who did tributes to famous blues singers. There's a relatively small number of these songs. In 1930, shortly after Blind Lemon Jefferson died, Paramount issued a double sided tribute: “Wasn't It Sad About Lemon” by the duo Walter and Byrd was on one side while the second side was the sermon “The Death Of Blind Lemon” by Rev. Emmett Dickenson. Leadbelly recorded a number of songs about Lemon after his passing. In 1932 King Solomon Hill cut "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon" for Paramount: "Hmmm then the mailman brought a misery to my head/When I received a letter that my friend Lemon was dead." Those lines echo the opening of Lemon's “Gone Dead On You Blues”: Mmmmmm, mailman's letter brought misery to my head. Mmmmm, brought misery to my head. I got a letter this morning, my pigmeat mama was dead.” Hill ran with Lemon for about two months after he passed through Hill's hometown of Minden, Louisiana. Hill's widow recalled that "he sung that song a whole lot 'bout Blind Lemon. Said he loved his buddy 'some way better than anyone I know.'" In a similar vein, after Leroy Carr's death, several artists wrote tribute songs including Scrapper Blackwell, Bill Gaither and Bumble Bee Slim. Other tributes today include Memphis Minnie's "Ma Rainey", Brownie McGhee's"Death Of Blind Boy Fuller" and Robert Pete Williams' "Goodbye Slim Harpo."
Smithsonian Folkways has put out some interesting anthologies and their most recent, Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways, is another well compiled collection. The bulk of the sides are drawn from the Folkways catalog but there are several performances that are being issued for the first time. Among those are excellent tracks by Bill Williams, Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson and Martin, Bogan and Armstrong. As with all these anthologies, there is an extensive booklet this one written by writer Barry Lee Pearson.