Texas Blues


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lillian GlinnBrown Skin BluesLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Lillian GlinnDoggin' Me Blues Lillian Glinn 1927-1929
Lillian GlinnCome Home DaddyLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Billiken Johnson & Fred Adams Sun Beam BluesDallas Alley Drag
Billiken Johnson & Fred Adams Interurban BluesDallas Alley Drag
Blind Willie JohnsonI Know His Blood Can Make Me WholeBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Blind Willie JohnsonDark Was the Night -- Cold Was the GroundBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Coley JonesTraveling ManThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Part 1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
William McCoy Mama BluesMeaning In The Blues
Dallas String BandDallas RagVintage Mandolin Music
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck SoulDallas Alley Drag
Hattie HudsonBlack Hand BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Gertrude PerkinsNo Easy Rider BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Gertrude PerkinsGold Daddy BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Washington PhillipsI Am Born To Preach The GospelI Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Blind Willie JohnsonI'm Gonna Run to the City of RefugeSpreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings
Laura HentonHe's Coming SoonSpreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings
Laura HentonHeavenly SunshineTexas: Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935
Frenchy's String BandSunshine SpecialThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
Frenchy's String BandTexas And Pacific BluesJazz The World Forgot Vol. 1
Emma Wright State of Tennessee Blues The Best Of Memphis Jug Band
Bobbie CadillacThe SpasmGood for What Ails You
Billiken Johnson & Neal RobertsFrisco BluesDallas Alley Drag
Dallas String BandSo TiredHow Low Can You Go: Anthology Of The String Bass
William McCoyCentral Tracks BluesTexas: Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935
Willie Reed Dreaming BluesTrouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
Willie Reed Texas BluesThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Otis HarrisWalking BluesRamblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers
Otis HarrisYou'll Like My LovingRamblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers
Jewell NelsonJet Black Snake BluesTerritory Singers Vol. 2
Jewell NelsonBeating Me BlueTerritory Singers Vol. 2

Show Notes:

William McCoy- Mama BluesToday's show is the third installment spotlighting great recording sessions. The first spotlighted two sessions conducted by the Victor label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans in 1936 and 1937, the second was conducted by Brunswick in Memphis in 1929 and 1930. Today we spotlight some great blues and gospel captured by Columbia in December 1927 and December 1928. In 1927 sessions were conducted December 2nd through the 6th with artists Lillian Glinn, Billiken Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Coley Jones Washington Phillips, William McCoy, the Dallas String Band, Hattie Hudson and Gertrude Perkins. Several of theses artists were recorded again the following December with sessions conducted between December 4th through the 8th. Among the new artists recorded in 1928 were Laura Henton, Texas Jubilee Singers, Frenchy's String Band, Emma Wright, Bobbie Cadillac, Willie Reed, Otis Harris and Jewell Nelson. Several other artists recorded but had no sides issued: Willie Tyson, Willie Mae McFarland, Rev. J.W. Heads and Charlie King. Columbia recorded again Dallas in 1929, recording some of the same artists.

1927 was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on.

One of the hidden stars of these sessions was pianist Willie Tyson. Tyson was active in Dallas and was part of a group of blues pianists that included K. D. Johnson and Whistlin’ Alex Moore, who accompanied various female blues singers in the 1920's and 1930's. Tyson contributed a number of fine accompaniments to several women blues singers, such as Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Ida Mae Mack, and Bessie Tucker and also backed Billiken Johnson. In addition to his piano accompaniment, Tyson recorded two piano solos that were never issued, “Roberta Blues” and “Missouri Blues.” These proved to be the only sessions for Tyson, who was most likely a theater pit pianist.

We hear several fine, obscure blues and gospel ladies today including Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Lillian Glinn, Jewell Nelson, Bobbie Cadillac, Emma Wright and Laura Henton. Blind Willie Johnson: I Know His Blood Can Make Me WholeSinger and vaudeville performer Lillian Glinn was born in Hillsboro, Texas, about 1902 and moved to Dallas when she was in her twenties. Texas blues singer Hattie Burleson discovered her singing in a Dallas church and encouraged her to pursue a musical career. Dallas entrepreneur R. T. Ashford helped Glinn secure a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1927. She cut her first record for Columbia in December 1927, and over the next two years she recorded more than twenty-two sides.

Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins and Jewell Nelson all left behind just one 78 while Emma Wright had one song issued. Singers Bobbie Cadillac and gospel singer Laura Henton left behind six sides. Emma Wright had only one issued side in 1928 backed by trumpeter Leroy Williams who accompanied Jewell Nelson the following day. According to blues historian Paul Oliver Jewel Nelson was "one of the best-known and best loved of the Dallas singers … known to the denizens of the Park (Theatre) as "Daybreak" Nelson because of her famous "Daybreak Blues." She recorded one 78 in 1928 possibly backed on guitar by Coley Jones. Singer Bobbie Cadillac cut six sides (one unissued ) at two sessions in 1928 and the following year cut four more duets with Coley Jones and featuring Whistlin' Alex Moore on piano.

Billiken Johnson didn't sing or play an instrument, and yet he recorded six sides in the late '20s. Johnson's unique talent was his ability to imitate train whistles and provide other vocal effects, all of which made him a popular figure on-stage at the juke joints and taverns of the famed "Deep Ellum" district of Dallas. Under his own name he recorded two tracks for Columbia Records ("Sun Beam Blues" and "Interurban Blues") in Dallas on December 3, 1927, followed by two more ("Frisco Blues" and "Wild Jack Blues") a year later on December 8, 1928. He is also listed as part of a duet of sorts Coley Jones: Travelling Manwith Texas Bill Day on "Billiken's Weary Blues" and "Elm Street Blues," recorded December 5, 1929, in Dallas and also issued by Columbia.

As Blind Willie Johnson got older he began earning money by playing his guitar, one of the few avenues left to a blind man to earn a living. He became a Baptist preacher and brought his sermons and music to the streets of the surrounding cities. While performing in Dallas, he met a woman named Angeline and the two married in 1927. The two performed around the Dallas and Waco areas. On December 3, 1927, Columbia Records brought Blind Willie Johnson into the studio where he recorded six songs. after this session, Johnson didn't return to the studio for an entire year. The second visit (which took place on December 5, 1928) found him accompanied by his wife, Angeline. Although Blind Willie Johnson was one of Columbia's best-selling race recording artists, he only recorded for them one more time — in April 1930 — after which he never heard from them again. As Stephen Calt points out in his liner notes for Praise God I'm Satisfied, the fact that Columbia waited a full year between Johnson's recording sessions probably indicates that they were disappointed with his sales. In fact, in early 1929 Johnson sold about 5000 records. By contrast, Barbecue Bob and Bessie Smith Columbia's most popular artists, sold about 6000 and from 9000-10,000 respectively. As the depression deepened, however, and interest in religion surged, Blind Willie Johnson's popularity jumped, too. He continued to sell around 5000 records annually, but Barbecue Bob's sales dropped to 2000, and Smith's to 3000. Johnson continued to perform on the Texas streets during the '30s and '40s, passing away in 1947.

Coley Jones was born probably in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is presumed that much of his life was spent in Dallas.  He recorded seven sides for Columbia beginning in December 1927 as a solo act accompanying himself on guitar. Jones was also in demand as a sideman and recorded several sides in December 1929, accompanying Bobbie Cadillac and Texas Bill Day on guitar. Jones became associated with the Dallas String Band, which recorded  ten sides for Columbia between 1927 to 1929.

Dallas String Band: Dallas RagVirtually nothing is known about William McCoy other than he was probably from Texas. He recorded six sides for Columbia at three sessions; on December 6, 1927, December 7, 1928 and a final session on December 8, 1928. His records were advertised in the Defender on May 12, 1928, February 23, 1929 and September 21, 1929.

Little is known about Willie Reed, who recorded two songs on the same day as fellow Texas bluesman Otis Harris who exhibits a similar guitar style. Reed went on to accompany blues singer Texas Alexander on ten songs in 1934.

Otis Harris and Frenchy's String Band each cut one 78. Possibly from Dallas, TX., Otis Harris only had one 78 released under his name, "Walking Blues b/w You'll Like My Loving." Frenchy's String Band cut "Sunshine Special b/w Texas And Pacific Blues" in 1928. Polite "Frenchy" Christian was one of the New Orleans jazzmen who ventured westward in the 1920s, settling in Dallas. With a line-up here consisting of cornet, banjo, guitar and bowed bass, "Texas and Pacific Blues" gives an inkling of music played around New Orleans when a string band line up was used.

 

 

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Andy BoyEvil BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Andy BoyChurch Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Walter 'Cowboy' Washington & Andy BoyIce Pick MamaThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Andy BoyHouse Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Big Boy KnoxBlue Man BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Big Boy KnoxEleven Light City BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Son Becky Mistreated Washboard BluesSan Antonio Blues 1937
Son Becky Midnight Trouble BluesSan Antonio Blues 1937
Pinetop BurksJack of All Trades BluesSan Antonio Blues 1937
Pinetop BurksFannie Mae BluesSan Antonio Blues 1937
Pinetop BurksShake the ShackSan Antonio Blues 1937
Thunder SmithSanta Fe BluesLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Thunder SmithLow Down Dirty WaysLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Leroy Ervin Rock Island BluesTexas Blues: Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings
Lee HunterBack To Santa FeTexas Blues: Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings
Sonny Boy DavisI Don't Live Here No MoreTexas Country Blues 1948-1951
Dr. HepcatI CriedHouston Might Be Heaven V
Dr. HepcatHattie GreenDown Home Blue Classics 1943-1953: Texas
Dr. HepcatBoogie WoogieGiants Of Texas Country Blues Piano
Whistlin Moore AlexSometimes I Feel Worried From North Dallas To The East Side
Whistlin Moore AlexIf I Lose You WomanModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Whistlin Moore AlexNeglected WomanModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Buster PickensSanta Fe TrainEdwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions
Buster PickensJim NappyEdwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions
Buster PickensShe Caught The L & NEdwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions
Robert ShawHere I Come With My Dirty, Dirty Duckings On Texas Barrelhouse Piano: The Ma Grinder
Robert ShawGroceries On My Shelf (Piggly Wiggly) Texas Barrelhouse Piano: The Ma Grinder
Robert ShawThe Ma Grinder Texas Barrelhouse Piano: The Ma Grinder
Grey GhostNobody Knows You When You're Down And OutGrey Ghost (Catfish)
Grey GhostWay Out On The DesertGrey Ghost (Spindletop)

Show Notes:

Back when I started this show in 2007 one of the first programs I did was one devoted to the pre-war Texas piano tradition. My interest in this was sparked again recently when I was doing research and writing the notes for a reissue of pianist Buster Pickens long out-of-print album for the Document label (just reissued  as Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions).  Pickens was an active member of the  'Santa Fe group' of pianists, knew all players but unlike some of them did not get the opportunity to record until the post-war era. In our two-part feature on Texas piano I'll be spotlighting the tradition in more depth that I did the first time out, surveying both  pre-war and post-war artists.

Pinetop Burks: Jack Of All Trades BluesThe Texas piano tradition flowered in the 1920’s and was at its peak during the 1930’s when a number of the tradition’s best players were recorded. Paul Oliver observed that “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues” and “a cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas." The pianists can be roughly grouped into schools; there was the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928, one based around Dallas which included Whistlin Alex Moore, a regional style that developed around Shreveport and the so-called 'Santa Fe group' who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. In our second installment we spotlight members of the powerful Santa Fe group as well as a number of pianists who recorded in the post-war era.

The  'Santa Fe group' were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie.“ Mack McCormick noted that the “itinerant pack of pianists who came to be known loosely as 'the Santa Fe group,' partly because they favored that railroad and partly because a stranger asking for the name of a selection was invariably told 'That's The Santa Fe.' …They were known as The Santa Fe after the railroad that straddle Fort Bend County with a big triangle just Southwest of Houston, providing access westward to the high plains, cotton country, east to the piney-woods lumbering camps and north (pretty much following the old Chisholm Trail) to a string of cities and watering places. ”Here”, Oliver notes “was where the music thrived and pianists could be found like Pinetop Burks, Son Becky, Rob Cooper, Black Boy Shine, Andy Boy, Big Boy Knox, Robert Shaw, Buster Pickens and the singers who worked with them like Walter 'Cowboy' Washington and Joe Pullum.” Others associated with the group were Victoria Spivey and Bernice Edwards.

1937 was an outstanding year for the Santa Fe group of pianists: Andy Boy recorded in February for Bluebird, Big Boy Knox recorded for Bluebird in March, Black Boy Shine recorded in June for Vocalion and Son Becky and Pinetop Burks recorded at a shared session for Vocalion in October. Among the best of the Santa Fe group were Andy Boy of Galveston and Rob Cooper of Houston. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. He waxed eight sides in 1937 under his own name as well as backing singer Joe Pullum on eleven sides in 1935 and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington.

Little is known of Big Boy Knox who recorded four sides in 1937. Son Becky and Pinetop Burks recorded at a shared session for Vocalion in October 1937. Becky's real name was Leon Calhoun born in Wharton, Texas in 1910. He's remembered playing along the Piney woods border with Louisiana. He's backed by an unknown guitarist and washboard player oh his six titles. Conish 'Pinetop' Burks was born near Richmond, Texas in 1907. He possessed a formidable technique as he displays on the six titles he cut for Vocalion in 1937.

Thunder Smith: Santa Fe BluesAfter World War II the Texas piano tradition virtually evaporated. Several, however, did record in the post-war era including Wilson “Thunder” Smith. Smith plays piano behind Lightnin' Hopkins on his first two sessions for Aladdin in 1946 and 1947 and Hopkins backed Smith on a four song session for Aladdin in 1946 with Smith cutting one session apiece in 1947 for Gold Star and in 1948 for Down Town. He was murdered in Houston in 1963. His “Santa Fe Blues” indicates ties to the Santa Fe group.

Bill Quinn, owner of the Houston based Gold Star label, recorded two piano players: Leroy Ervin in 1947 and Lee Hunter in 1948. Another pianist from the older generation was Sonny Boy Davis who recorded two sides for the Talent label in 1949 backed by guitarist Rattlesnake Cooper.

Lavada Durst, known as Dr. Hepcat, who was a disciple of Robert Shaw but who recorded infrequently. He worked in baseball for much of his life, training players and announcing games, and it was from the latter activity that he graduated to working as a DJ, broadcasting over KVET, a white station in Austin. There he developed the persona of Dr.Hepcat, with an extraordinary line in jive talk. He also made a few records of his own, but despite his high profile on radio, it appears that these can't have sold very well, as they are extremely rare, even one issued on the comparatively major independent label Peacock; the other two were on the local Uptown label, one issued under the pseudonym of Cool Papa Smith. He made a handful of latter day recordings before passing in 1995.

In part one of our spotlight on Texas piano we played a pair of pre-war number by Whistlin Alex Moore, the best known Dallas pianist. Moore's career spanned from 1929 until 1988, recording in every decade except the 1970's. He was rediscovered by Chris Strachwitz in 1960, recording an album for Arhoolie and making his way to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival by the end of the decade. Back in 1951 in Dallas he cut a few titles for the RPM label including two of which we spin today.

As Paul Oliver wrote: "Buster Pickens is a barrelhouse pianist who has played the sawmills, the turpentine camps and the oil 'boom' towns since his childhood. He has outlasted most of his contemporaries in their tough an often dangerous life and can lay good claim to be virtually the last of the sawmill pianists. Pickens lone album, for Heritage, the self-titled Buster Pickens, was recorded over several sessions in 1960 and 1961 and released in 1962, later reissued in 1977 on the Flyright label as Back Door Blues and now appears on CD for the first time courtesy of Document Records. Liner notes for the new reissue were written by your truly.

Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions
 Read Liner Notes

Robert Shaw was born in Stafford, Texas in 1908 and in his mid-teens started playing with members of the Santa Fe Group and greatly influenced by his friend Black Boy Shine. Shaw wasn't recorded until 1963 when he was tracked down by Mack McCormick.

Roosevelt Williams, better know as the Grey Ghost, was born in Bastrop, Texas in 1903. He outlived his contemporaries passing at the age of 92 in 1996. He traveled to the area dances and roadhouses by riding empty boxcars. He would seem to appear out of nowhere and then disappear immediately after performing, which earned him the nickname, "Grey Ghost. He wasn't properly documented until 1965 when he was recorded by Tary Owens. Those recordings saw daylight in the late 80's, reviving Williams' career. Owens arranged for Williams to make a CD of new recordings at the age of 89, Which was released in 1992.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Hersal ThomasHersal BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Sippie WallaceMurder's Gonna be My CrimeThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Hociel ThomasWorried Down With The BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
George Thomas Fast Stuff BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Moanin' Bernice EdwardsLong Tall Mama The Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Bernice Edwards, Black Boy Shine & Howling SmithHot Mattress Stomp The Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Bert Mays Michigan River Blues Down In Black Bottom
Bert Mays You Can't Come In Down In Black Bottom
Fred Adams & Bilikin Johnson Frisco BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Texas Bill Day & Bilikin JohnsonElm Street Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Texas Bill Day Good Morning Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerTP Window Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerThieving Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerThe Katy Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerPenitentiaryI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Ida May MackElm Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Ida May MackGoodbye Rider Barrelhouse Mamas
Whistlin Moore AlexHeart Wrecked Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexBlue Bloomer Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexIce Pick Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Black Ivory KingThe Flying CrowBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Duskey DaileyThe Flying CrowThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Frank TannehillRolling Stone BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Black Boy Shine Dog House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Ice Pick And Pistol Woman BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Brown House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Joe PullumCows, See That Train Comin'Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumMcKinney Street StompJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Rob Cooper West Dallas DragThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumDixie My HomeJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935

Show Notes:

Back when I started this show in 2007 one of the first programs I did was one devoted to the pre-war Texas piano tradition. My interest in this was sparked again recently when I was doing research and writing the notes for a reissue of pianist Buster Pickens long out-of-print album for the Document label (just reissued  as Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions).  Pickens was an active member of the  'Santa Fe group' of pianists, knew all players but unlike some of them did not get the opportunity to record until the post-war era. In our two-part feature on Texas piano I'll be spotlighting the tradition in more depth that I did the first time out, surveying both  pre-war and post-war artists.

Hersal Thomas
Hersal Thomas

The Texas piano tradition flowered in the 1920’s and was at its peak during the 1930’s when a number of the tradition’s best players were recorded. Paul Oliver observed that “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues” and “a cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas." The pianists can be roughly grouped into schools; there was the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928, one based around Dallas which included Whistlin Alex Moore, a regional style that developed around Shreveport and the so-called 'Santa Fe group' who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Today’s show is part one of a two-part feature, spotlighting recordings made between 1925 and 1941.

As piano expert Francis Smith noted: “With the two major recording centers of New York and Chicago a thousand miles to the North, it was extremely fortunate that so many pianists of this important close knit Texas group were recorded—all three record companies of the time being involved.” The three companies were Columbia, Victor and Vocalion in addition to Bluebird and Okeh. These companies, either singularly or in various combinations, made field trips to Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio between 1927 and 1941.

The early Texas piano tradition was based around the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928. The music sounds quite different from those who recorded in the 30's. As David Evans states: “It is likely that no family has contributed more personalities to blues history than the Thomas family of Houston, Texas, whose famous members included George W. Thomas, his sister Beulah “Sippie” Wallace, their brother Hersal Thomas, George’s daughter Hociel Thomas, and Moanin’ Bernice Edwards who was raised up in the family.”

Hersal, is described by Francis Smith: "That Hersal, the child prodigy, was a highly influential pianist among his peers there is no doubt; even though he left Houston in his very early 'teens he had established a reputation there which remains still in the folk memory."Hersal was busy between 1925 & 1926 cutting a dozen titles with Hociel, fifteen with Sippie and backing singers Lillian Mller and Sodarisa Miller. Hersal died tragically at the age of 16 in 1926 of food poisoning.

Hersal's older brother George also left behind a slim legacy; a few jazz titles with his Muscle Shoals Devils, some sides backing singer Tiny Franklin, a recording of "The Rocks" made in 1922 under the name Clay Custer and the coupling ""Don't Kill Him In Here" from 1929 and our selection “Fast Stuff Blues."

Moanin' Bernice Edwards possessed a beautiful, deep, lowdown voice and piano style  that fell within the Santa Fe school of pianists. Edwards waxed twelve sides for Paramount in 1928 and six more for Vocalion in 1935.

Whistlin  Alex Moore: West Texas WomanDallas was the home of a number of distinctive piano players and singers they accompanied. Among them were Texas Bill Day, Neal Roberts, Willie Tyson, Whistlin' Alex Moore and singer Billiken Johnson. The hub of the black community was an area known as Central Tracks, where honky-tonks 'saloons, beer-parlours and brothels were wedged between warehouses, furniture stores and places of entertainment like Ella B. Moore's Park Theatre, or Hattie Burleson's dance hall. In addition many railroads whose names are familiar to blues collectors had termini there. It's not surprising that the railroad figure prominently in the blues of Dallas.

Not much is known about several of the Dallas pianists. Pianist/singer Texas Bill Day cut six sides for Columbia. Tyson cut two solo piano numbers for Columbia in 1927 which went unissued. The next day he backed singer Hattie Hudson on “Black Hand Blues” and the classic “Doggone My Good Luck Soul.” Tyson also backed Gertrude Perkins, Bilikin Johnson and Lillian Glinn. Jack Ranger cut three songs for Okeh in Dallas in 1929. it's unknown if he accompanies himself on piano but he was a sensitive singer and songwriter.

Pianist K.D. Johnson became famous backing the outstanding Texas singers Bessie Tucker and Ida May Mack. Johnson backs them on their legendary session for Victor on August 29th and 30th 1928 in Memphis. He was remembered as '49' by Alex Moore and not only did Mack call him 'Mr. 49' during his solos, she even named a song after him called "Mr. Forty-Nine Blues."

The most famous of the Dallas pianists was Alex Moore. Of Moore, Paul Oliver wrote: "He is a true original, a folk blues singer of the city who can sit at the piano improvise endlessly piano themes and blues verses that are sometimes startling, sometimes comic, sometimes grim, and very often pure poetry." Moore began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions for Columbia Records and also accompanied several artists on record. Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca.

Around Shreveport another regional style flourished. Among the pianists who recorded from this region were Dave Alexander who recorded as Black Ivory King and Duskey Dailey. Both recorded in 1937 with Dailey cutting an additional session in 1939. Both men cut version of a regional railroad number called “The Flying Crow.”

Two pianists who fall outside the Texas piano schools are Bert Mays and Frank Tannehill. Mays recorded four titles for Paramount in Chicago in 1927. He cut a final ten sides in 1928 and 1929 for Vocalion although only two were released. Tannehill was born in Austin and made his debut backing Perry Dickson in 1932. Under his own name he recorded for Vocalion in Chicago in 1937, in 1938 for Bluebird in San Antonio and a final session in Dallas in 1941.

Joe Pullum: Dixie Is My HomeIn part two of our feature we'll be going more in depth into the recordings of the Santa Fe group but we do feature a number of songs today by men associated with that group. ARC Records made field recordings in 1936 in San Antonio where they recorded Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine. He was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937.

Among the best of the Santa Fe group were Andy Boy of Galveston and Rob Cooper of Houston. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. He waxed eight sides in 1937 under his own name as well as backing singer Joe Pullum on eleven sides in 1935 and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington.

Rob Cooper was an accomplished pianist with strong links to ragtime and stride piano. He also recorded behind the popular singer Joe Pullum on three sessions in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He recorded two version of “West Dallas Drag”, his version of the seminal, technically complex Santa Fe number “The Ma Grinder.”

 

 

 

 

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 Document video for the release of
Edwin Buster Pickens – The 1959 to 1961 Sessions

 

I've been collaborating with Document Records since 2005 when they asked me to write the notes for the Robert Nighthawk collection Prowling With The Nighthawk. The next project was the series that grew into the three double disc sets of Blues, Blues Christmas. For years I had being doing an annual Christmas program on my blues show and pitched the idea of a vintage collection of blues and gospel Christmas songs to Document. This year Document issued the third volume of Blues, Blues Christmas, the most wide-ranging collection yet, jumping genres from blues, gospel, jazz, rock, doo-wop and country. Another idea I brought to Document was to resurrect some great long out-of-print blues records. One of the first records that came to mind was pianist Buster Pickens' lone album for Heritage (HLP 1008), the self-titled Buster Pickens, which was recorded over several sessions between 1960 and 1961 and released in 1962, subsequently reissued in 1977 on the Flyright label as Back Door Blues and now appears on CD first time as Edwin Buster Pickens – The 1959 to 1961 Sessions.

Texas Piano Part 1 Texas Piano Part 2

 

A couple weeks back I got a call from Gillian from Document asking me if I was interested in putting together some podcasts. With the release of the Buster Pickens and the Christmas CD we decided to do a couple revolving around the rich Texas piano tradition and one devoted to Christmas tunes. You can hear these on the new Document podcast page. While you're there check out the great podcasts on James Booker and Christmas songs from Edison Records.

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