Sun 12 Jan 2014
|Clifford Gibson||Beat You Doing It||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Clifford Gibson||Whiskey Moan Blues||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Clifford Gibson||Tired Of Being Mistreated, Pt. 1||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Charley Jordan||Stack O' Dollars Blues||The Essential|
|Charley Jordan||Keep It Clean||The Essential|
|Charley Jordan||Just A Spoonful||The Essential|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Lamp Post Blues||Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Weeping Willow Blues||Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Mercy Mercy Blues||Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956|
|Clifford Gibson||Ice And Snow Blues||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Clifford Gibson||Don't Put That Thing On Me||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931
|Clifford Gibson||Drayman Blues||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Charley Jordan||Hunkie Tunkie Blues||The Essential|
|Charley Jordan||Tough Times Blues||Charley Jordan Vol. 1 1930-1931|
|Charley Jordan||You Run And Tell Your Daddy||You Run And Tell Your Daddy|
|Clifford Gibson||Bad Luck Dice||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Clifford Gibson||Levee Camp Moan||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Clifford Gibson||Blues Without A Dime||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Mean To Mean||Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Reminiscences||Backcountry Barrelhouse|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||20th Street Blues||Backcountry Barrelhouse|
|Hi Henry Brownr||Titanic Blues||Blues Images Vol. 10|
|Hi Henry Brown||Preacher Blues||Blues Images Vol. 10|
|Hi Henry Brown||Nut Factory Blues||The Essential|
|Charley Jordan||Honey Sucker Blues||The Essential|
|Charley Jordan||Hell Bound Boy Blues||Charley Jordan Vol. 1 1931-1934|
|Clifford Gibson||Keep Your Windows Pinned||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931s|
|Clifford Gibson||She Rolls It Slow||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Clifford Gibson||Let Me Be Your Sidetrack||Clifford Gibson 1929-1931|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Lieutenant Blues||Backcountry Barrelhouse|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Goodbye Blues||Alton Blues|
|Barrelhouse Buck McFarland||Barrelhouse Buck||Alton Blues|
On today's show we spotlight several fine forgotten St. Louis blues artists of the 20's and 30's. As blues historian Paul Oliver wrote: "For some reason St. Louis has never had its due as a centre for the blues. …With its ragtime background St. Louis was a Mecca for blues pianists like Speckled Red and Henry Brown, Sylvester Palmer and Roosevelt Sykes, Peetie Wheatstraw, Barrelhouse Buck McFarland and Wesley Wallace. But it was discovered early by the guitarists too, Sylvester Weaver and Lonnie Johnson, Clifford Gibson and Charley Jordan, J.D. Short and Big Joe Williams among them. There were plenty of women singers too, like Mary Johnson and Edith Johnson, Alice Moore or St. Louis Bessie Mae Smith. And while there were big name recording stars like Walter Davis there were many very good but lesser know ones: St.Louis Jimmy, Blind Teddy Darby, Aaron "Pine Top" Sparks, Lawrence Casey, Oscar Carter and many others." And as write Don Kent noted: "The blues men who took St. Louis to be their home are responsible for some of the most magnificent country music to be recorded during the twenties. Inexplicably, the plethora of musical wealth has been left unpublicized and, blueswise, St. Louis has scarcely been tapped for all the information it could yield."
Today we spotlight guitarists Clifford Gibson, who cut close to two dozen sides, and the prolific Charley Jordan who cut roughly double that number plus a good deal of session work. We also spotlight an exceptional singer named Hi Henry Brown who Jordan back on all six of his recordings. Finally we featured sides by pianist Barrelhouse Buck McFarland who cut a handful of fine pre-war recordings and several recordings shortly before his death in the early 60's.
Born in Louisiville, Kentucky, Clifford Gibson moved to St. Louis, Missouri in the 1920's and lived there for the rest of his life. He was born to Letha and William Gibson in 1901. Bluesman James Stump Johnson reported that Gibson was a discovery of his brother Jesse, a local promoter and music store owner. Gibson cut ten sides (four have either never been found or were never issued) in June 1929, four sides in November 1929, eight sides in December 1929 and two sides in 1931. In addition he did some session work backing Ed Bell and Roosevelt Sykes and lasted long enough to wax a few scattered post-war sides in the 1950's and 60's.
|Read Liner Notes|
Gibson was a guitarist to be reckoned with who's playing is unflaggingly inventive, employing a sharp, limpid tone and, while bearing a high degree of originality, was clearly influenced by Lonnie Johnson. With his unpredictable, scattershot guitar runs he also bears some comparisons to Blind Lemon Jefferson although Gibson was a more sophisticated player. Gibson's two 1931 sides find him in the company of pianist Roosevelt Sykes making a fine team on “She Rolls It Slow." Gibson and Sykes back singer R. T. Hanen (possibly Jaydee Short) on "She's Got Jordan River In Her Hip b/w Happy Day Blues" from the same year. Another fascinating collaboration from 1931 finds Gibson backing country singer Jimmie Rodgers on the unissued "Let Me Be Your Sidetrack" (the issued side features just Rodgers on guitar). Other session work by Gibson includes supporting Ed Bell on a handful of 1929 tracks and backing Jimmy Strange on a pair of 1931 numbers. Gibson stuck around long enough to wax two sides in 1951 and four more in 1960. The 1951 sides are acetates cut at Baul Studios in St. Louis and find Gibson in good shape but pale in comparison to his early work. The 1960 sides were issued on the Bobbin label under the name Grandpappy Gibson. Gibson died as few short years later in 1963, right at the heart of the folk/blues boom, and while highly regarded among collectors, more widespread claim has eluded him.
Charley Jordan is one of the many major figures in the blues of whom we knows surprisingly little. He was born in Mabelvale. Arkansas, around 1850, and is reported to have lead a hobo's life after service in the Army during World War I. By 1925, he was living in St. Louis which was to be his home for the rest of his life. In 1928 Jordan had been shot in the spine in an incident in his other occupation as a bootlegger. Of his guitar playing Chris Smith wrote: "He played it in a clean, confident three-finger expression style that owed a good deal to ragtime, but more to his extraordinary sense of rhythm.
Henry Townsend remembered Jordan well: "I never knew Charley to have another occupation other than music. …Charley was a good guitar player. I highly respected his guitar playing because he could accompany anybody. Piano, another guitar player, or what have you, he was qualified to back it up. When Charley got into music he was full-time with it. He had people everyday rehearsing, trying to put packages together, week in week out. Sometimes it would be months, maybe a year before they recorded, but they'd be there every day. He had a little organized club with people paying membership that would support him in his expense for lights, etc."
Between 1930 and 1937 Jordan waxed close to 50 sides under his own name for Victor, Vocalion, Decca and ARC. He also backed numerous St. Louis artists including Peetie Wheatstraw, Hi Henry Brown, Lee Green, St. Louis Jimmy Oden and others. Jordan also acted as a talent scout for Vocalion and Decca during the 30's. During the 40's he worked around St. Louis with Big Joe Williams but was largely retired by the end of the decade. He passed in 1954.
Buck McFarland was born in Alton, Illinois in 1903 in the same area as two other exceptional piano players, Wesley Wallace and Jabbo Williams, all three of which made names for themselves on the bustling St. Louis blues scene. McFarland was a member of Charlie Creath's Jazzomaniacs and Peetie Wheatstraw's Blues Blowers. He also led his own bands under a variety of names. Between 1929 and 1934 he made 10 records.
|Read Liner Notes|
In the late 1950's in St.. Louis, a city detective named Charlie "Lindy" O'Brien tracked down Speckled Red, an oldtime blues pianist and brother of the bluesman Piano Red. O'Brien wasn't out to arrest Red. No, he was a member of the St.. Louis Jazz Club and had been searching for all of the old forgotten bluesmen who had made the city a haven for the blues in the 1920s and '30s. One of the men Speckled Red led O'Brien to was Barrelhouse Buck McFarland. Samuel Charters called O'Brien a "part-time enthusiast" who over the "last ten or so years …helped develop the picture of the music and musicians in the St. Louis area. Over the years he had been collecting records, vert desultorily, and about the time he joined the police force in 1949 he realized there had been considerable recording in the St. Louis area. With the encouragement of a young enthusiast named Bob Koester who was at this time still living in St. Louis and active with the Blue Note Record Shop and Delmar Record Company, O'Brien began making inquiries about many of the St. Louis artists. Since that time the singers he has located have included Speckled Red, Henry Brown, Edith Johnson, Stump Johnson, Walter Davis, Mary Johnson and Barrelhouse Buck among many others, less well known."
McFarland cut his final session for Folkways and an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released a few years back on Delmark as Alton Blues. The recordings Charters made were released on Folkways as Backcountry Barrelhouse. He died just a few months afterward.
Don Kent calls Hi Henry Brown "one of the pinnacles of St. Louis musicianship" and says he "may have come from Pace, Mississippi. His three 78's for Vocalion in the early '30s are accompanied by Charlie Jordan 2nd guitar.