Sun 15 Aug 2010
|Leroy Dallas||I'm Down Now But I Won't Be Down Always||Ralph Willis & Leroy Dallas Vol. 2|
|Leroy Dallas||I’m Going Away||Ralph Willis & Leroy Dallas Vol. 2|
|Lil' Son Jackson||Gambling Blues||Down Home Blue Classics 1943-1953|
|Smokey Hogg||You Won't Stay Home||Good Morning Little School Girl|
|Brownie McGee & Sonny Terry||My Bulldog Blues||Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48|
|Curley Weaver||Some Rainy Day||Blind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver: The Post War Years|
|Curley Weaver||Trixie||Blind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver: The Post War Years|
|Johnny Beck||Locked In Jail Blues||Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956|
|Johnny Beck||You've Gotta Lay Down Mama||Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956|
|Peppermint Harris||Rainin' In My Heart||Sittin' In With|
|Peppermint Harris||My Blues Have Rolled Away||Sittin' In With|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||You Caused My Heart To Weep||All The Classic Sides 1946-1951|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||New York Boogie||All The Classic Sides 1946-1951|
|Ray Charles||I Found My Baby||Ray Charles Collection Vol. 2|
|Clarence Jolly||Baby Take A Look At Me||Hot Fish! - Downhome Rhythm and Blues 1951-1955|
|Arbee Stidham||Bad Dream Blues||Arbee Stidham Vol. 2 1951-1957|
|Jesse James||Forgive Me Blues||Down Home Blue Classics 1943-1953|
|The Sugarman||Which Woman Do I Love||Texas Down Home Blues 1948-1952|
|Sam "Suitcase" Johnson||Sam's Boogie||Rural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962|
|L.C. Williams||The Lazy J||Lightnin' Special|
|L.C. Williams||Fannie Mae||Lightnin' Special|
|James Wayne||Junco Partner||Travelin' From Texas To New Orleans|
|James Wayne||Travelin' From Texas To New Orleans||Travelin' From Texas To New Orleans|
|Bob Gaddy||Blues Has Walked In My Room||Bicycle Boogie|
|Elmore Nixon||I Went To See A Gypsy||Texas Blues Vol. 2 - Rock Awhile|
|James "Widemouth"” Brown||Boogie Woogie Nighthawk||Boogie Uproar - Texas Blues & R&B 1947-54|
|Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters||A Letter To Lightnin'||Key To The Highway|
|Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry||Pawnshop Blues||Key To The Highway|
|Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters||Meet You In The Morning||Key To The Highway|
|Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters||Worryin’ Over You||Key To The Highway|
|James "Widemouth" Brown||Boogie Woogie Nighthawk||Boogie Uproar - Texas Blues & R&B 1947-54|
|Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee||Ease My Worried Mind||Key To The Highway|
|Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee||Key To The Highway||Key To The Highway|
|Sonny Terry||Dangerous Woman (with a .45 in her hand)||Sittin' In With Harlem Jade & Jax Vol. 2|
Today's program spotlights the New York based Sittin' In With label which, despite its short life, issued some terrific blues recordings. The label was founded by Morty and Bob Shad in New York City in 1948. The label specialized in Southern blues and R&B, which was a departure from most Eastern labels up to that time. In fact a quite a number of the label's artists were based out of Houston. Competition among independent record labels in Houston was intense with local labels like Macy’s, Freedom, and Peacock all vying for talent. As for Shad's connection to Houston, author Roger Wood related the following to me: "As for Bob Shad, all I know (mainly from the late Teddy Reynolds) is that he came to Houston and recorded a bunch of folks over the course of about a year or so, then disappeared. Teddy said that he rented an old house in one of the wards and used it to audition (and sometimes recorded there) the talent he discovered."
More information on Shad's activities can be gleaned in an interview he did with author Arnold Shaw in his seminal Honkers And Shouters: "Started my own label after I left National; it was called Sittin' In With. And I did all the early Charlie Venturas, Stan Getz, Wardell Gray. It was strictly jazz at the beginning-Gerry Mulligan, Buddy Stewart, Benny Green. But ther was no money in jazz. Used to sell seven to eight thousand. That's when the blues thing hit me and I bought a Magnecord, which was probably the first portable tape recorder. Went down South and did a lot of recording with Peppermint Harris, Lightnin' Hopkins, Smokey Hogg. Recorded in Texas, mostly Houston. But I did some up in Tyler; also Shreveport, Louisiana. The big problem with on-location recording was finding a piano that was in tune. I would go to the black quarter of town and ask the disk jockeys. I would tie up one musician and find a blue singer. One bluesman would tell you about another-it's a whole family-everybody sings blues. I did Curley Weaver, Big bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, Mel Walker with the Johnny Otis Band, Little Esther."
Bob Shad was an outstanding jazz producer, but also supervised several major blues, pop, rock and R&B dates. Shad started his production career with Savoy in the '40s, producing jazz sessions for Charlie Parker and blues and R&B albums for National. The labels earliest recordings were primarily jazz, featuring artists such as Chu Berry, Charlie Ventura and Stan Getz before cutting a blues recording by Brownie McGhee. After that release the label's catalog mixed blues, vocal group and jazz before blues became the label's dominant sound. Soon Shad was issuing records by Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Bob Gaddy, Curley Weaver, Elmore Nixon, Teddy Reynolds, James Wayne and Arbee Stidham among others. In 1951 Shad sold the label to Mercury although it appears releases on Sittin’ In With were released through 1953. Jade and Jax were subsidiary labels operated by Shad during the course of Sittin’ In With. After Sittin' In folded, Morty Shad continued the Jax label and later formed the Harlem label in 1953. Bob Shad went to Mercury Records in 1951 and in the spring of 1953 joined Decca. When Shad left Mercury in the 1960’s he founded Mainstream Records which, in addition to new material, recycled some of the Sittin' In With recordings. Today's program runs roughly chronologically and below you'll find some background on today's featured artists.
Leroy Dallas was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1920 and moved to Memphis in 1924. Along his travels he played washboard behind Brownie McGhee and formed a band with James McMillan playing the streets and juke joints of Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. McMillan taught Dallas guitar and the two went on to tour the southern states working with Frank Edwards who made recordings in1949 and Georgia Slim who made records in 1937. By 1943 Dallas settled in Brooklyn New York. He made his first records for Sittin’ In With in 1949 consisting of six songs. He was accompanied by Brownie McGhee who was instrumental in setting up the session. Dallas was rediscovered by blues researcher Pete Welding and made a few recordings in the 60’s. Dallas gives a moving performance on "I'm Down Now But I Won't Be Down Always" an picks up the pace on the rocking boogie "I'm Going Away."
The two songs by Lil' Son Jackson, "Gambling Blues b/w Homeless Blues", were issued on Sittin' In With but originally came out on Houston’s Gold Star label. In 1948 Jackson became one of many blues singers to record for Gold Star. In 1946, Jackson shipped off a demo to Bill Quinn, who owned Houston based Gold Star Records. Jackson scored a national R&B hit, “Freedom Train Blues,” in 1948. It would prove Jackson’s only national hit, although his 1950-1954 output for Imperial Records must have sold consistently, judging from how many sides the L.A. firm issued.
Smokey Hogg was a down-home bluesman who scored a pair of major R&B hits in 1948 and 1950 (“Long Tall Mama” and “Little School Girl”) and cut prolifically for a slew of labels including Exclusive, Modern, Bullet, Macy’s, Sittin’ in With, Imperial, Mercury, Specialty, Fidelity, Combo, Federal, and Showtime). Smokey’s cousin John Hogg also played the blues, waxing six sides in 1951.
According to David Evans: "Around the end of 1949, or more likely early in 1950, Curley Weaver recorded four songs for the Sittin' In With label. It's not certain whether there were one or two sessions and whether the recordings were made in Atlanta or New York. Two tracks were not released until 1952 and may actually have been recorded that year." Weaver and McTell also cut a batch of records made in Atlanta for Regal Records in May 1950.
After first moving to Houston in 1943, Peppermint Harris started to play blues professionally in 1947, at such venues as the Eldorado Ballroom. It was his friend Lightnin' Hopkins who go him the opportunity to record for Gold Star circa 1947/48. A subsequent session in 1949 or 1950 for the Sittin' In With label produced his, and the label's, first hit record, the song "Rainin' in My Heart" which is one of two numbers featured today. He cut some two-dozen sides for the label. He went on to record for over a dozen labels through the 60's including Aladdin, Money, Dart, Duke, and Jewel.
Teddy Reynolds, blues pianist, songwriter, and singer, was born in Houston on July 12, 1931. Reynolds recorded numerous tracks but is most famous among blues aficionados for his studio work and touring with some of the top Texas-based artists of his generation, including Bobby Bland, Texas Johnny Brown, Johnny Copeland, Grady Gaines, Clarence Green, Peppermint Harris, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, B. B. King, and Phillip Walker. In 1950 he cut ten tracks for the Sittin' In With label including our selection, the moody "Right Will Always Win."
Among T-Bone’s legion of disciples was Houston’s Goree Carter, whose big break came when he signed to Houston’s Freedom Records circa 1949. For his first couple of side he was billed as “Little T-Bone.” Freedom issued plenty of Carter records over the next few years, and he later recorded for Imperial/Bayou, Sittin’ in With, Coral, Jade, and Modern without denting the national charts. From his handful of cuts for Sittin’ in With we spin the atmospheric instrumental "Bull Corn Blues."
Sittin' recorded several Houston based artists but in one way or the other they all revolved around Lightnin' Hopkins who cut a staggering number of sides for numerous labels as well as encouraging many artists, including several featured today. Hopkins cut some tw0-dozen sides for Sittin’ In With, and related labels Harlem and Jax, in 1951 with about half the sessions cut in New York and the others in Houston. Today's featured Hopkins tracks include the poignant "You Caused My Heart To Weep" and one of Hopkins' patented boogies, "New York Boogie" which gives our show its title. Shad had this say about Hopkins: "When we picked him up and talked a recording date, he wouldn't sign a contract. He wouldn't accept a royalty deal. He had to be paid in cash. Not only that, he had to be paid after each cut. …He didn't know the lyrics from one song to another, but made them up as he went along …Whatever hit his mind, he sang and recorded."
L.C. Williams was a singer/tap dancer who also occasionally drummed behind Hopkins. He arrived in Houston in 1945 and was one of the many characters who hung around in Lightning’s orbit, sitting on stoops drinking beer and wine, shooting the breeze with passers-by. He made his first record in 1947 with Hopkins on piano and guitar. Hopkins plays guitar on a four-song session for Gold Star in 1948 with Williams making some sides for Eddie’s and Freedom between 1948-1950 and four songs for Sittin' In in 1951 featuring Hopkins on guitar. He died in Houston of TB in 1960. Williams and Hopkins deliver gripping, intense performances on "The Lazy J" and "Fannie Mae."
James Waynes was credited with that name on his earliest recordings. Later it became James Wayne and from 1955 onwards, Wee Willie Wayne. He was discovered in Texas by Sittin' In With boss Bob Shad. It was for this label that Wayne made his first recording (in Houston) and his only hit: "Tend To Your Business", which reached # 2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1951. Shad next recorded Waynes at the WGST studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the five songs recorded there was the all-time classic "Junco Partner", which became a local hit and one of the two numbers we spotlight today. He was then signed by Imperial, who recorded him in New Orleans and the cut sides for Aladdin and Old Town and returned to Imperial in 1955 and recorded "Travelin' Mood" and others in 1955. Both "Junco Partner" and "Travelin' Mood" became standards in the repertoire of many New Orleans musicians, like Dr. John, Professor Longhair, James Booker and Snooks Eaglin. Further records appeared on the Peacock and Angletone labels, before he was signed by Imperial for a third time in 1961.
Elmore Nixon was a Houston pianist who was a sideman on labels such as Gold Star, Peacock, Mercury, Savoy and Imperial between 1949 and 1955. In the 1960’s he backed Lightnin’ Hopkins and Clifton Chenier on sessions. He also cut over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1949 and 1952 for labels like Sittin’ In With, Peacock, Mercury Savoy and Imperial.
Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters featured Sonny Terry and Bob Gaddy, with the group cutting a dozen sides for the Jax label in 1952. As the Jook House Rockers (sans Sonny Terry) the group cut for Morty Shad's Harlem label in 1954. Sonny Terry and His Buckshot 5, featuring Bob Gaddy and Brownie McGee, cut one 78 for the Harlem label in 1954. Brownie McGhee's combo cut some potent R&B and we spin two sets worth of tunes including the good natured "A Letter To Lightnin' Hopkins", tough blues like "Pawnshop Blues", a majestic "Key To The Highway" and the romping "Meet You In The Morning." Sonny Terry's "Dangerous Woman (with a .45 in her hand)" is every bit as tough as the title suggests.
There were quite a number of artists who cut just one or a handful of sides for the label. The most famous is Ray Charles who cut a couple of sides for Sittin’ In With in 1951 and would go on to much greater success a few years later with Atlantic. Then there was James “Widemouth” Brown, Gatemouth Brown’s brother, who cut one 78 for the Jax label 1952. Our cut, "Boogie Woogie Nighthawk", is a swinging big band blues showing Gate's brother to be a fine singer and impressive guitarist. He died in 1971. Clarence Jolly was a fine blues shouter in the vain of Roy Brown who cut four sides for Sittin’ In With in 1951 and two for Cobra in 1957. Several artists cut just a lone 78 for the label including several superb down home bluesmen like Johnny Beck who cut one 78 in 1949 in Houston, Jesse James who cut one 78 for the label in1950 and one for Down Town in 1948, The Sugarman who cut one 78 for the label in 1951 and Sam "Suitcase" Johnson cut a lone 78 for the label, the bouncy "Sam's Boogie" , in 1951.