Playlists


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Joe Morris Mad MoonJoe Morris 1946-1949
Tiny Grimes Quintet Boogie Woogie BarbecueTiny Grimes 1947-1950
Tiny Grimes Quintet w/ Red Prysock Nightmare BluesTiny Grimes 1947-1950
Joe Morris Jax BoogieJoe Morris 1946-1949
Sticks McGhee And His BuddiesLonesome Road BluesNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55
Sticks McGhee And His BuddiesTall Pretty WomanNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55
Ruth Brown Rain Is A BringdownRuth Brown 1949-1950
Sticks McGhee And His BuddiesDrinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-DeeNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55
Tiny Grimes Quintet Rock The HouseTiny Grimes 1947-1950
Texas Johnny Brown There Goes The BluesAtlantic Blues Guitar
Frank Floorshow Culley Floor Show (How 'Bout That Mess) The Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
Jimmie LewisMailman BluesJimmy ''Babyface'' Lewis 1947-1955
Ruth BrownRocking BluesRuth Brown 1949-1950
Ruth BrownHey Pretty BabyRuth Brown 1949-1950
Blind Willie McTellDying Crapshooter's Blues Atlanta Twelve String
Blind Willie McTellThe Razor BallAtlanta Twelve String
Blind Willie McTellLittle Delia Atlanta Twelve String
Blind Willie McTellAin't It Grand To Live a ChristianAtlanta Twelve String
Blind Willie McTellKill It Kid Atlanta Twelve String
Professor LonghairHey Now Baby Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Professor LonghairShe Walks Right InTipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Professor LonghairMardi Gras In New Orleans Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Professor LonghairProfessor Longhair BluesTipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Professor LonghairHey Little GirlTipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Professor LonghairLoghair Blues Rhumba Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings
Sticks McGheeHouse Warmin' BoogieNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55
Sticks McGheeShe's Gone New York Blues And R&B 1947-55
Joe Morris & Annie TateAnytime, Any Place, AnywhereJoe Morris 1950-1953
Joe Morris & Annie TateCome Back Daddy, DaddyJoe Morris 1950-1953
Jimmie LewisAll The Fun's On MeJimmy ''Babyface'' Lewis 1947-1955
Frank Floorshow Culley & Arlene Little Miss TalleyLittle Miss Blues78
Ruth BrownR.B. Blues Ruth Brown 1949-1950
Ruth BrownTeardrops from My Eyes Ruth Brown 1949-1950

Show Notes:

My two-part feature on Atlantic Records was partly inspired by a terrific reissue series that was originally issued in the early 1970's. In the early 70's Pete Lowry convinced Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun to reissue some classic and previously unissued blues from the vaults. The plan was to issue twelve albums although only six saw the light of day.I was first heard this series at my college radio station which luckily had the complete set and were much played. This was a great series featuring excellent recordings by Blind Willie McTell, Lawyer Houston, Professor Longhair, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Yancey, T-Bone Walker and others. The albums had excellent liner notes and packaged with wonderful photos in a gatefold album. We feature a number of these recordings on the next two programs as well as a wealth of great recordings from Atlantic's, early years spanning their founding in 1947 through 1952.

Brothers Nesuhin and Ahmet Ertegu were ardent fans of jazz and rhythm & blues music, amassing a collection of over 15,000 78rpm records. Atlantic Records was incorporated in October 1947 and was run by Herb Abramson (President), who put up the initial investment,  and Ertegun (vice-president in charge of A&R, production and promotion) while Abramson's wife Miriam ran the label's publishing company. Atlantic's first batch of recordings were issued in late January 1948. Atlantic Records was never into recording the blues in a big way, unlike other independents. One reason was its New York location, as Ahmet Ertegun told Charlie Gillet:  "You just couldn't find blues singers in Harlem or   Washington. They were all in Chicago, Texas, New Orleans, so we realised we had to go down south, both to find new artists and record them." This wasn't exactly true, as other New York and New Jersey independents such as Savoy, De Luxe, Manor and Sittin' In With had  New  York~based  artists under contract. The first artists signed by Atlantic were New York-based artists with jazz backgrounds, such as Joe Morris and Tiny Grimes, although their singles were marketed as R&B.

Among the recordings Lowry got reissued and featured today are sides by Blind Willie McTell, and Professor Longhair. In 1949 a 15-song session by Blind Willie McTell was cut for the newly formed Atlantic Records. Only two songs, "Kill It Kid" and "Broke Down Engine Blues," were ever issued on a failed single, and the session was forgotten until almost 20 years later.  Longhair began to take his playing seriously in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club in New Orleans. He debuted on wax in 1949, laying down four tracks (including the first version of his signature "Mardi Gras in New Orleans") for the Dallas-based Star Talent label. Union problems forced those sides off the market, but Longhair's next date for Mercury the same year produced his first and only national R&B hit in 1950, the hilarious "Bald Head." The pianist made great records for Atlantic in 1949 and 1950-1951, Federal in 1951, Wasco in 1952, and Atlantic again in 1953 plus other scattered small label sides through the 50's. Thirteen of his Atlantic sides were issued on the album  Professor Longhair: New Orleans Piano.

Sticks McGhee

As Pete recalled in a column years later: "It must have been 1969 when both Mike Leadbitter and Simon Napier (Simon’s only trip. I do believe) came the US leaving Blues Unlimited temporarily without an editor! …Leads had an appointment to see Tunc Erim at the offices of Atlantic Records and I tagged along with the two of them (Simon & Mike) out of curiosity – I’d never been close to a big operation like that! We were permitted to look through the various file books for additions to the post-war discography (Leadbitter/Slaven) and were amazed at the information that could be gleaned. They were efficient. So I elected myself as a party of one to go back after that initial contact to do more detailed copying than could be done that first time. Photocopiers had not yet taken over and I used a pen and notebook to transcribe it all. In doing so, something else came to the surface – the realization that somehow some of this stuff ought to be heard. Actually, it was when I realized that there were thirteen unreleased sides by Blind Willie McTell that I became fixated on this idea. One LP wouldn’t do the trick… I had to work out some sort of package, including the McTell, and try and get it published/released."

Other early Atlantic artists featured today include Joe Morris, Tiny Grimes, Sticks McGhee, Ruth Brown, Frank Floorshow Culley, Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis and Texas Johnny Brown. Joe Morris began his career as a jazz trumpet play but his legacy rests with his 1950s work as leader of R&B-oriented Joe Morris Orchestra. After working with Lionel Hampton, Morris signed with tAtlantic Records, and his "Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere" (with vocal by Laurie Tate) put the new record company on the map when it hit number one on the R&B charts in 1950. The Joe Morris Orchestra functioned as the unofficial house band for Atlantic in the early to mid-'50s, and several future Atlantic stars passed through its ranks, including Ray Charles and Lowell Fulson. In addition to working for Atlantic, Morris also recorded sides for Decca and Herald. He died in 1958.

In 1938, Tiny Grimes started playing electric guitar, and two years later he was playing in a popular jive group, the Cats and the Fiddle. During 1943-1944, Grimes was part of a classic Art Tatum Trio. In September 1944, he led his first record date, using Charlie Parker." He also recorded for Blue Note in 1946, and then put together an R&B-oriented group, the Rockin' Highlanders, that featured the tenor of Red Prysock during 1948-1952 where he recorded for Atlantic. Later sessions were for Prestige/Swingville, Black & Blue, Muse, and Sonet.

Sticks McGhee may have not been as prolific or celebrated as his brother Brownie, but guitarist Stick McGhee cut some great blues and R&B from 1947 to 1960. McGhee's Ruth Brownfirst recorded version of his classic  "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" for thes Harlem logo made little impression in 1947, but a 1949 remake for Atlantic (as Stick McGhee & His Buddies) proved a massive R&B hit. After one more smash for Atlantic in 1951's "he moved along to Essex, King, Savoy, and Herald before passing in 1960.

They called Atlantic Records "the house that Ruth built" during the 1950's. Ruth Brown's hitmaking reign from 1949 to the close of the '50s helped establish the label's predominance in the R&B field. Brown made her debut in May 1949, waxing t"So Long" which proved to be her first hit. After an even two-dozen R&B chart appearances for Atlantic that ended in 1960 she faded from view. Brown's nine-year ordeal to recoup her share of royalties from all those Atlantic platters led to the formation of the nonprofit Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping others in the same frustrating situation. In 1993 Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She passed in 2006.

Johnny Brown's career started in a band called the Aladdin Chickenshackers, who regularly backed Amos Milburn.He recorded with Milburn, and also backed Ruth Brown on her earliest cuts for Atlantic. Through this work, in 1949 although not issued at the time, Brown was able to record some tracks of his own for Atlantic. Brown's recording career continued in the mid 1950s, when he was utilized mainly as a sideman for both of the affiliated Duke and Peacock record labels. Brown toured as Bland's lead guitarist in the 1950s and 1960s.

Frank Culley formed his own R&B group in the mid-40s, recording for the Lenox label in NYC and backing Wynonie Harris on King. In 1948, he was signed by the fledgling Atlantic label and led its first house band, backing the early stars of R&B as well as recording some thirty tracks under his own name. After leaving Atlantic in 1951, Culley recorded for RCA Victor, Parrot, Chess and Baton without success.

Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis cut nearly thirty sides between 1947 and 1955 for Aladdin, Atlantic, Savoy and other labels. Lewis was a fine smooth voced singer and excellent guitarist who's material  alternated between Charles Brown styled ballads and jump blues.His entire output has been issued on CD by Blue Moon as Jimmy Baby Face Lewis: Complete 1947-1955.

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jelly Roll Morton Mamie's BluesNew Orleans Blues 1923-1940
Sidney BechetSidney's Blues New Orleans Blues 1923-1940
John Lee HookerT.B.'s Killin' MeAlternative Boogie: Early Studio Recordings 1948-1952
Sonny Boy Williamson Lord Oh Lord Blues The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.1
Brownie McGheeI'm Talking About ItCountry Blues Troubadours 1938-1948
Ida CoxBlues Ain't Nothin' Else But! Vaudeville Blues 1919-1941
Grant & Wilson Scoop ItVaudeville Blues 1919-1941
Big John Greer Confusion BluesRockin' with Big John.
Slim HarpoStop Working BluesBuzzin' The Blues
Clarence Samuels Somebody Gotta GoHowling on Dowling: R&B from Houston 1947-1951
Wynonie Harris Wynonie's Unissued BluesDon't You Want To Rock: The King & DeLuxe Acetate Series
Charlie Spand Back To The Woods The Best of Charlie Spand
Kokomo ArnoldBack To The Woods The Essential
Walter DavisMove Back To The Woods Walter Davis Vol. 7 1946-52
Isiah Chattman Cold In Hand Blues High Water Blues
Frankie Lee SimsMy Home Ain't Here Walking With Frankie:
Unissued cuts from 1960
William 'Do Boy' Diamond Mississippi Flat Blues At Home Vol. 13
Hammie NixonYellow Yam Blues Blues At Home Vol. 12
Pinetop Johnson Tommy Dorsey Boogie Blues At Home Vol. 6
Marylin Scott I Got What My Daddy Likes I Got What My Daddy Likes
Marylin Scott Another Woman's Man I Got What My Daddy Likes
Marylin Scott I Want To Die Easy I Got What My Daddy Likes
Charles Brown Changeable Woman BluesThe Classic Earliest Recordings
Amos Milburn Rocky Road BluesThe Complete Aladdin Recordings 1946-1957
Blind Blake Hard Road Blues All The Published Sides
Willie Baker Crooked Woman Blues Charley Lincoln 1927-1930
Big Time Sarah Got To See My BabyLong Tall Daddy

Show Notes: 

Read Liner Notes

I originally had a theme show planned for today but found out that the station will be using some of my time for live remotes of the Rochester Jazz Festival. Despite the shortened airtime a good show today including some fine down home blues from the 60's and 70's, several excellent blues ladies from the pre-war and post-war eras and several superb blues singers.

Today's featured blues ladies include Ida Cox, Coot Grant, Marylin Scott and Big Time Sarah. Ida Cox ran away from home in 1910 when she was a teenager and performed in minstrel and tent shows as a comedienne and singer. She worked her why into vaudeville and eventually became a headliner. She toured the country throughout the teens and 1920's. In 1923 she began her recording contract with the Paramount label, who billed her as the Uncrowned Queen of the Blues. Between September 1923 and October 1929, Cox recorded a total of 78 titles for Paramount.

Coot Grant was the main stage name of Leola B. Pettigrew, whose legal name became Leola Wilson following her marriage to performing partner Wesley Wilson. The pair met and began performing together in 1905 and were wed in 1913. Coot had been involved in show business since she was a child, beginning as a dancer in vaudeville. Her husband, who played both piano and organ, was performing as early as 1905. He performed under a variety of stage names including Catjuice Charlie in a duo with Pigmeat Pete, as well as Kid Wilson, Jenkins, Socks, and Sox Wilson. The husband and wife, billed as Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins, cut over sixty sides between 1925 and 1938, often backed with top jazz artists

Little is known about Marylin Scott or Mary Deloatch, she recorded under both names as well as Marylin Scott the Carolina Blues Girl. She may have been from Charlotte, North Carolina or Norfolk, Virginia, and did some local recording in the mid-40’s then in 1950 for the new independent label, Muse Records. The songs for Muse were "Straighten Him Out" and "Another Woman's Man." Scott then moved to Savoy Records where she recorded with the Johnny Otis band cutting "Uneasy Blues" and "Beer Bottle Boogie" released on Savoy's subsidiary label, Regent Records. In 1951 she cut several gospel numbers for Regent as well as a few final gospel numbers for Savoy. She was still active in gospel music as late as 1967, cutting a 45 that year for Arctic under the name Mary De Loach, "Move This Thing Part I b/w Move This Thing Part II", delivering a powerhouse gospel performance. It's a shame this has not been reissued. In the 1980’s the Whiskey, Women, and… label issued the album I Got What My Daddy Likes: The Uneasy Blues of Marylin Scott that collected all her early recordings. These sides have also been issued on the Document CD Carolina Blues & Gospel 1949-1951.

Sarah Streeter, known as Big Time Sarah, passed away June 13th at the age of 62. She was born in Coldwater, Mississippi, and raised in Chicago, where she sang in gospel choirs in South Chicago churches. Her experience playing with Sunnyland Slim led to her first solo release, a single released on his label, Airways Records. She went on to record several records for Dlemark. Our closing track, "Go To See My Baby", features Sunnyland Slim and comes from the album Long Tall Daddy on the Arcola label collecting tracks from a 1976 session.

Big Time Sarah & Sunnyland Slim
Big Time Sarah and Sunnyland Slim, photo by
Bob West from the CD Long Tall Daddy

We spin some excellent field recording from the 1960's and 70's with recordings captured by Giambattista Marcucci and David Evans. On December 1972, with the help of harmonica player Hammie Nixon, using a professional portable equipment, Giambattista Marcucci started recording blues in Memphis and continued in July 1976, ending in July 1982. A series of informal sessions was held during the course of my five trips through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, featuring well known, but also little known, and unknown musicians. This material has now been issued as the 16-volume Blues At Home series. The series is currently available digitally but will be soon issued on CD. I’ll be doing a two-part show on these recordings in the next month or so.

From the album High Water Blues, we hear Isiah Chattman's "Cold In Hand Blues." The recordings on this album were captured by David Evans between 1965 and 1970, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi and issued on the Flyright label in 1974.

We hear from several fine blues singers today including tracks by Big John Greer and Wynonie Harris who share some recording history together. Greer was fine sax man and singer who played on a terrific number of records for RCA Victor and its Groove subsidiary from 1949 to 1955 and for King between 1956 and 1957. Greer blew some mighty sax as a session artist, most notably on sides by Wynonie Harris. He cut several fine R&B numbers under his own name. In the early 1990's Bear Family issued a 3-CD set titled Rockin' with Big John. Our featured Wynonie Harris song, "Wynonie's Unissued Blues", comes from an excellent reissue on Ace called Don't You Want To Rock: The King & DeLuxe Acetate Series. The 2-CD set includes a CD of some of his best known cuts plus an entire CD of alternates, all mastered from new transfers from the original acetates.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Ian Zack InterviewInterviewSay No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis
Rev. Gary Davis Lord I Wish I Could See Rev. Blind Gary Davis 1935-1949
Rev. Gary Davis CocaineBlues & Ragtime
Rev. Gary Davis Samson and Delilah Harlem Street Singer
Rev. Gary Davis O, Glory Apostolic Studio Sessions
Rev. Gary Davis CrucifixionA Little More Faith
Rev. Gary Davis The Boy Was Kissing The Girl The Guitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis
Rev. Gary Davis Candy ManThe Blues & Salvation
Rev. Gary Davis Death Don't Have No Mercy Harlem Street Singer
Rev. Gary Davis Out On The Ocean Sailing Apostolic Studio Sessions
Rev. Gary Davis You Got To Go Down Rev. Blind Gary Davis 1935-1949
Rev. Gary Davis Lord, I Looked Down The Road Say No To The Devil
Rev. Gary Davis Goin' To Sit Down On The Banks of the River Harlem Street Singer
Rev. Gary Davis Get Right Church American Street Songs
Rev. Gary Davis Hesitation Blues Blues & Ragtime
Rev. Gary Davis I Belong To The BandHarlem Street Singer
Rev. Gary Davis I Heard The Angels Singing Demons & Angels
Rev. Gary Davis Fast Fox Trot aka Buck Rag The Guitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis
Rev. Gary Davis You Can Go HomeRev. Blind Gary Davis 1935-1949

Show Notes:

ISay No To The Devil Bookn Ian Zack's new book, Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis, Zack calls Davis "arguably the greatest of all the blues-based guitarists to record before World War II" and the "…remained, up until the last years of his life, one of the world’s greatest, if not the greatest, of all traditional blues and ragtime guitarists." Davis ran with legendary bluesmen such as Willie Walker and Blind Boy Fuller down South, making his debut with fifteen sides cut in 1935 for the ARC label. In the 1940's he moved to New York where he recorded prolifically in the post-war years starting with a few scattered sides in the 1940's, more in the 1950's before really picking up steam in the 1960's. While he was never a star on the folk scene or blues revival, he attracted a flock of devoted mostly white followers who learned directly from him and many in turn became well known musicians in their own right ensuring that Davis' legacy was carried on. "Davis", Zack writes, "would come to regard many of his top students as his children, and he wanted them to carry on both his name and his music." Recent years have seen numerous posthumous releases, musical tributes, books and a movie. Say No to the Devil is a thoroughly researched and well written account of Davis' life and one of the better musical biographies in recent years.

I haven't played Davis all that much over the years on the show despite having many of his records. Reading the biography inspired me to dip back into those albums and rediscover many songs I'd half forgotten. Today we interview the author, Ian Zack, as well as playing a diverse selection of Davis' music spanning the 1930's through the 70's.

Davis was an accomplished guitar player at an early age, supposedly playing in a string band at the age of fourteen in Greenville with legendary guitarist Willie Walker (Walker recorded one 78 for Columbia in 1930, "Dupree Blue b/w South Carolina Rag"). By the late 20's Davis had moved to Durham. "For Davis", Zack writes, "the tension between the sacred and the secular world would reach a peak during his time in Durham, just when he might have been on the cusp of major success as a musician." During this period Davis described himself as a "blues cat."

In 1935 storekeeper and talent scout J. B. Long, the manager of Blind Boy Fuller "discovered" Davis. "Oh, [Gary] could play the guitar up and down, any way in the world," he later recalled (from Bruce Bastin's Red River Blues). Davis exerted a considerable influence on Fuller. Davis and Fuller were among a group of Durham musicians Long escorted to New York City to record for ARC, the race music subsidiary of Columbia Records. Between July 23 and July 26 Davis recorded 15 sides (1 unissued): ten religious songs, and two blues numbers. Sometime in the early thirties Davis had a religious awakening and by the end of the decade was an ordained minister. Long tried to get him to record again in 1939 but he declined likely because he refused to play blues. It was ten years before Davis made another record.

Rev. Gary Davis with the daughter of Alice
Ochs and Phil Ochs. Photo by Alice Ochs

In 1937 Davis married Annie Bell Wright, a woman as deeply spiritual as himself, and she looked after him devotedly until his death. In 1943 she moved to New York with Davis following in 1944. They soon moved to 169th Street in Harlem, where they lived for the next 18 years and where Davis preached in various storefront churches. During this time Davis also busked and preached on the streets: "dressed in a suit and tie, with a tin cup pinned to his overcoat or fastened to his guitar, and wearing dark aviator sunglasses over his eyes, he performed both spirituals and instrumental dance tunes-but no blues, unless he was asked to teach a song."

It didn't take Davis long to get involved with the fledgling New York folk scene. "Although folk music wouldn't hit the mainstream for more than a decade, New York already had an established folk music underground that included performers, record producers, and club owners." Davis eventually toured Europe and played at numerous folk festivals including the Cambridge and Newport Folk Festivals (1959, 1965, and 1968).

It didn't take him long to resume his recording career either. He made his first post-war sides in 1945, cut sides for Continental in 1949, recorded in 1950 with tracks appearing on the Folkways album Music in the Streets, in 1954 for the Stinson label and 1956 for Riverside. During this period the following albums were issued: The Singing Reverend w/ Sonny Terry and American Street Songs with songs split between Davis and Pink Anderson. Davis recorded in 1957 but these recordings were not released until 1963 when they were issued by the British 77 label as Pure Religion and Bad Company. His finest recordings during this period were the four he did for the Prestige label: Harlem Street Singer, Say No to the Devil, A Little More Faith and The Guitar and Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis.

A pleasant surprise in recent years are a number of unreleased Davis recordings that have surfaced. Among the notable ones include: If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings, Demons and Angels: The Ultimate Collection (3 CD), Sun of Our Life: Solos, Songs, A Sermon, 1955-1957, Manchester Free Trade Hall 1964, Live at Gerde's Folk City (3 CD) and At Home and Church (3 CD), the latter two released by Davis ' student Stephan Grossman.

The Angel's Message To Me 78
Originally issued on ARC in 1935
then on the dime store label Melotone in 1936

Among folk revival guitar players of the 1950's and early '60s Reverend Gary Davis's finger picking style was legendary. One of the first to adopt it was Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who recorded "Cocaine Blues" and "Candyman." Dave Van Ronk studied with Davis and also covered many of his songs. Other aspiring folk guitarists and blues players swarmed to take lessons from him including Bob Weir, Stefan Grossman, Ernie Hawkins, Dion, Steve Katz, Janis Ian, Dave Bromberg, Ry Cooder, Roy Bookbinder, Larry Johnson, Jorma Kaukonen among others. As one of Davis' admirers, Terri Thal, recalled: "We worshiped him, musically. Because of Gary's musicianship-not his fame, he wasn't that famous-people were awestruck."

He "…never became an American cultural icon like Armstrong or Muddy Waters. Four decades after his death, his genius has gone largely unrecognized in the popular culture, even though he exerted a considerable influence on the folk scene of the sixties and on the early rock scene of the seventies." Undoubtedly his fame would have been greater had he chosen to focus on blues. "The business of saving souls", Zack writes, "is what occupied him, and fame didn't seem to motivate him. … It could be said that Davis turned Robert Johnson's legend on its head: he didn't sell his soul to the devil, as Johnson was rumored to have done, to acquire superhuman blues guitar chops. Rather, Davis renounced blues music in his prime and devoted his life to God as a preacher. When recording blues material might have opened doors or record producers wallets-and stamped an express ticket out of poverty-Davis refused again and again."

Ian Zack Interview [edited] (MP3, 37 min.)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Peg Leg HowellNew Prison BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg HowellFo' Day BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg HowellCoal Man Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg HowellTishamingo Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg HowellNew Jelly Roll BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg HowellBeaver Slide RagViolin, Sing The Blues For Me
Macon Ed & Tampa Joe Mean Florida BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Macon Ed & Tampa Joe Worrying Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg Howell & His GangMoanin' & Groanin' BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg Howell & His GangPeg Leg StompPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg Howell & His GangPapa Stobb BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg Howell & His GangHobo Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg Howell Skin Game Blues Before The Blues Vol. 2
Peg Leg Howell & His Gang Too Tight BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Sloppy Henry Long, Tall, Disconnected Mama Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Sloppy Henry Say I Do ItPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg HowellRock & Gravel BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Peg Leg Howell & Eddie Anthony Banjo Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg Howell & Eddie Anthony Turkey Buzzard BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Henry Williams & Eddie Anthony Lonesome Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928
Henry Williams & Eddie Anthony Georgia Crawl Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Peg Leg HowellTurtle Dove BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg HowellWalkin' BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg HowellAway From home Hard Times Come Again No More Vol. 2
Macon Ed & Tampa JoeEverything's Coming My WayPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Macon Ed & Tampa JoeWinging That ThingPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Brothers Wright And WilliamsI've Got A Home In Beulah LandPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Sloppy HenryCaned Heat BluesMy Rough And Rowdy Ways Vol. 2
Sloppy HenryRoyal Palm Special BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg HowellBroke & Hungry Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg Howell & Jim Hill Monkey Man BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peg Leg Howell & Jim Hill Chittlin' Supper Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930

Show Notes:

Peg Leg Howell and His Gang
Henry Williams, Eddie Anthony, Peg Leg Howell

Like Memphis, Atlanta was a staging post for musicians on their way to all points. It’s not surprising then that the first country blues musician, Ed Andrews, was recorded there in 1924. The company that recorded him, Okeh, was one of many to send their engineers to Southern cities to record local talent. Companies like Victor, Columbia, Vocalion and Brunswick made at least yearly visits until the depression. One of the earliest recorded Atlanta bluesmen, Peg Leg Howell, bridged the gap between the era of pre-blues and the period when the blues eventually became the popular music of the day. Born Joshua Barnes Howell in Eatonton, Georgia on March 5, 1888, he was a self-taught guitarist who acquired his nickname after a 1916 run-in with an irate brother-in-law which ended in a shotgun wound to the leg and, ultimately, amputation. Unable to continue working as a farmhand, he migrated to Atlanta, where he began pursuing music full-time; in addition to playing street corners for passing change, Howell supplemented his income by bootlegging liquor, an offense which led to a one-year prison sentence in 1925. He recorded four songs at the end of 1926, eight sides in 1927 with guitarist Henry Williams and Eddie Anthony which were billed as Peg Leg Howel and his gang. Ten final sides were recorded in 1929. Tony Russell described the music as "rugged and without artifice. Howell's early recordings like 'Coal Man Blues' do no lack appeal but are rather overshadowed by his trio sides with Anthony and Williams, which give us a stringband music both less suave and more diverse than that of their near-contemporaries the Mississippi Sheiks." Howell backed singer Sloppy Henry on a few sides and his pals Eddie Anthony and Henry Williams also recorded on their own.

1927 columbia Catalog
Peg Leg Howell featured on a 1927 Columbia catalog

In 1963 three high school students – George Mitchell, Roger Brown, and Jack Boozer tracked Howell down. Mitchell coaxed him into recording again. After a month of practicing on the guitar, Howell made the field recordings that were issued by Testament Records as The Legendary Peg Leg Howell. Howell was also interviewed by Mitchell the results of which were published in Blues Unlimited (the full article is provided below) which is where the below quotes come from.

"My friends call me Peg, …Peg Leg Howell. I was born on the fifth of March. in 1888. I was born in Eatonton, Putnom. County, Georgia. …My father was a farmer. when I was a child I went to school in Putnam County; I went as far as the ninth grade before I stopped. After that I worked on my father's farm with him…plowed. Worked on the farm until 1916, when I was about 28. …I had lost my leg in 1916 and had to quit farm work. I got shot by my brother-in-law; he got mad at me and shot me. …I came to Atlanta when I was about 35 years old. …I learned how to play the guitar about 1909. I learnt myself – didn't take long to learn. I just stayed up one night and learnt myself."

He began performing music in parks and on the streets of Atlanta, sometimes working alongside mandolinist Eugene Pedin, guitarist Henry Williams, and violinist Eddie Anthony, his closest friend. “The men from Columbia Records found me there in Atlanta. A Mr. Brown – he worked for Columbia – he asked me to make a record for them. I was out serenading, playing on Decatur Street, and he heard me playing and taken me up to his office and I played there. …My first record. was "New Prison Blues" (coupled with "Fo Day Blues" on Columbia 14177D). In 1925 I had been in prison for s selling whiskey and I heard the song there. I don't know who made it up. As for selling the whiskey, I would sell it to anybody who came to the house. I bought the moonshine from people who ran it and I sold it. I don't know how they caught me; they just ran down on me one day."

Howell was back before the microphone five months after his debut this time with Henry Williams and Eddie Anthony. His “New Jelly Roll Blues” from this session was his bestselling number and advertised in the Chicago Defender newspaper (Columbia ran eight ads for Howell between 1927 and 1929). The record was listed as Peg Leg Howell and His Gang. The label promoted Peg Leg Howell by putting his photo on the cover of its 1927 catalog. In November 1927, Peg Leg Howell and His Gang recorded three more 78's. "Eddie Anthony recorded with me. He played violin. And Henry Williams; he played guitar. We called the group Peg Leg Howell and His Gang. Made quite a few records with them two."At the November 1st session “Too Tight Blues,” “Moanin’ and Groanin’ Blues,” “Hobo Blues,” and “Peg Leg Stomp” were recorded. Howell made three final Columbia 78's in April 1929. Ollie Griffin was probably the violinist. Three days later, Howell fronted four songs that came out credited to Peg Leg Howell and Jim Hill.

Peg Leg Howell - New Jelly Roll BluesDuring the spring of 1929 Eddie Anthony recorded eight sides for OKeh Records as part of a duo called Macon Ed and Tampa Joe (the identity of Tampa Joe has never been established). On April 19, 1928, Henry Williams and Eddie Anthony recorded a Columbia 78 on their own, the raucous “Georgia Crawl” backed with “Lonesome Blues.” Howell and Anthony were probably the accompanists on a four song session by Sloppy Henry recorded on August 13, 1928. Henry cut sixteen sides between 1924 and 1929 for Okeh. It's been speculated that Anthony plays on on the record "I've Got A Home In Beulah Land" by the Brothers Wright And Williams recorded in 1930.

Henry Williams perished in jail in 1930, and Peg Leg Howell was soon back serving time for bootlegging. After Eddie Anthony died in 1934, Howell told Mitchell, “I just didn’t feel like playing anymore. I went back to selling liquor. Then I ran a woodyard for about two years around 1940. I lost my other leg in 1952, through sugar diabetes.” Howell's final recordings issued on the Testament label captured him in sad shape so those songs will not be featured. Better to remember Howell and his pals in their prime.

Related Reading:

-Welding, Pete; Mitchell, George. “I’m Peg Leg Howell.” Blues Unlimited no. 10 (Mar 1964) [PDF]

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