Entries tagged with “Arbee Stidham”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Teddy Moss Easy PapaBarrelhouse Piano Blues and Stomps 1929-1933
Earl McDonald's Original Louisville Jug BandRocking Chair BluesClifford Hayes & The Louisville Jug Bands Vol. 2
Tiny ParhamJim Jackson's Kansas City Blues Tiny Parham 1926-1929
Jimmy WitherspoonPast Forty BluesThe Blues Is Now
Arbee StidhamStandin' In My WindowA Time For Blues
Junior ParkerI Just Got To KnowBlues Man
Rev. Gary Davis If I Had My WayIf I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings
Rabbit MuseRocking Chair BluesMuse Blues
Lovey Williams Baby, Let Me Ride in Your AutomobileThe Blues Are Alive And Well
Jack Owens with Bud SpiresCan't See, BabyIt Must Have Been the Devil
Jack Owens with Bud SpiresHard TimesIt Must Have Been the Devil
Clara SmithWanna Go HomeThe Essential
Baby Benbow Don't Blame MeFemale Blues Singers Vol. 2 1920-1928
Edith Wilson & Johnny DunnHe Used To Be Your Man But He's My Man NowJohnny Dunn Vol. 2 1922-1928
Sloke & IkeChocolate Candy BluesBanjo Ikey Robinson 1929-1937
Walter G. PichonDoggin' That Thing Teddy Bunn 1929-1940
Lonnie JohnsonFour Shots Of GinThree Kings And The Queen
Roosevelt Sykes & Victoria SpiveyThirteen HoursThree Kings And The Queen
Blind Lemon JeffersonRising High Water BluesBlues Images Vol. 1
Kokomo ArnoldThe Mule Laid Down And Died Vaudeville Blues 1919-1941
Washboard SamYellow, Black And BrownWashboard Sam Vol. 2 1937-1938
Junior Parker Feelin' GoodMystery Train
Junior Parker Love My BabyMystery Train
Little Brother Montgomery Chinese Man Blues Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Charlie McCoyLet My Peaches BeCharlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1
Gatemouth MooreHey Mr GatemouthHey Mr. Gatemouth
Gatemouth MooreI Come To The Garden And I'm Going ThroughAfter Twenty One Years
Mary JamesGo 'way Devil Leave Me Alone, Pt. 1-2Field Recordings Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississipi
Florence WhiteCold Rocks Was My PillowFemale Blues Singers Vol. 14 1923-1932

Show Notes:

All kinds of interesting records on deck today including a couple of sets devoted to guitarist Floyd Murphy and harmonica blower Bud Spires who recently passed. We spin quite a number of tracks from some great out-of-print records, a twin spin of Gatemouth Moore, some fine early harmonica blues, a batch of great blues ladies and more.

Jack Owens & Bud Spires
Jack Owens & Bud Spires photo by David Evans circa 1969-1970

Bud Spires passed away March 20th. Bud Spires is the son of Arthur “Big Boy” Spires who recorded for Chess Records during the 1950's and 60's. Bud was born May 20th, 1931 just north of Bentonia in Anding, MS. He played with his good friend Jack Owens for over 30 years, from 1967 until Jack passed away in 1997. In the book The Land Where the Blues Began, Alan Lomax describes Spires: "Bud was a one-man, red-hot singing orchestra, accompanying himself o the harmonica, putting rough, bluesy chords after some lines and squealed comments to underscore the sexiest images. Sometimes his instrument almost disappeared in his mouth as he both blew and sucked notes out of its metal reeds." He and Owens were first recorded in 1970 by David Evans the results issued on Testament's It Must Have Been the Devil. In more recent years he recorded behind Jimmy "Duck" Holmes of Bentonia.

Floyd Murphy passed away on March 27. Floyd was the brother of Matt Murphy and worked with many Memphis greats like James Cotton, Junior Parker, Rufus Thomas, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, Johnny Ace, Willie Nix, Bobby Blue Bland and many others. Murphy recorded classic sides with singer/harmonica player Junior Parker and The Blue Flames for Sam Phillips' including "Feelin' Good" and "Mystery Train." He also recorded with Rufus Thomas and Eddie Snow. In the early 60's, Murphy recorded the VeeJay Records release of Birdlegs and Pauline's tune "Spring" which rose to number 18 on the R&B charts. For the next 30 years Murphy has continually performed throughout the Midwest. In 1990 Floyd collaborated with his brother Matt "Guitar" Murphy on the CD Way Down South for Antoine's Records.

Rabbit Muse: Muse Blues
Read Liner Notes

My shows are always littered with great blues records that are long out-of-print and today we spotlight some excellent ones by Rabbit Muse, Lovey Williams, Junior Parker, Arbee Stidham and some recordings from the Spivey label. Rabbit Muse, was in born 1908 and learned soprano ukulele from a childhood friend before transferring to baritone and setting out on a career that spanned seven decades. Despite this long career he recorded only two albums: Muse Blues in 1976 and Sixty Minute Man in 1977 both on the Outlet label.

The Lovey Williams track comes from The Blues Are Alive And Well, a collection of sides recorded by William Ferris in 1968 and includes sides by James "Son" Thomas and Lee Kizart. Ferris wrote the following about Williams: "Lovey Williams has led the most isolated life of the three singers on this record, having never been over fifty miles away from Morning Star, his birthplace and present home. Lovey lives in a sharecropper's home with his wife and ten children and performs his blues in the homes of friends. …Lovey learned to 'blow the blues' from his father who was also a sharecropper." A couple of spoken pieces and performances appear on the album Bothered All The Time which are from the same session. As far as I can tell these are the only recordings he made.

Junior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. Before he passed he sailed into the 1970's in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and I Tell Stories Sad And True for United Artists which was released in 1972. One record I don't think I've played before is Blues Man cut for the Minit label in 1969. Parker is backed by a great uncredited band and delivers a superb performance on Jimmy McCracklin's "I Just Got To Know" featured today.

Arbee Stidham is held in rather low opinion among the blues collecting community. The truth is that Stidham's music isn't, for the most part, all that exciting but A Time For Blues is a terrific outing with Stidham backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. Stidham cut sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's. He passed away in 1988.

Three Kings And The Queen
Read Liner Notes

I've been threatening to do a feature on the Spivey label for years and this year I'm finally getting around to it – really! Spivey Records was a blues record label, founded by blues singer Victoria Spivey and her partner and jazz historian Len Kunstadt in 1961. Spivey Records released a series of blues and jazz albums between 1961 and 1985. The label recorded a wide variety of blues musicians who were friends of Spivey and Kunstadt, including Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson, Memphis Slim, Little Brother Montgomery and many others. Spivey died in 1976. The label became dormant after the death of Len Kunstadt in 1996. Today's track come from the 1962 album Three Kings And The Queen probably most famous for having a young Bob Dylan backing Big Joe Williams.

I've always had a soft spot for the larger-than-life Gatemouth Moore who summed his talents as a blues singer this way: "I am one of the ultra-men blues singers. I am not accustomed and don't know nothing about that gut-belly stuff in the joints…I put on tuxedos, dressed up, sang intelligent…Without a doubt, and I'm not being facetious, I'm the best blues singer in the business with that singing voice. Now I can't wiggle and I can't dance, but telling a story, I don't think them other boys are in my class." Often labeled a blues shouter,with his perfect diction and huge, mellow, enveloping voice he was more accurately a blues crooner of the highest order. His heyday as a blues career was short lived, cutting a couple of dozen sides between 1945 and 1947 that saw release on Gilmore's Chez Paree, Savoy, National with his final records cut for King at the very end of 1947. s blues career came to a close in 1949 when he had a religious conversion on stage at Chicago's Club DeLisa. After walking off stage he eventually became a preacher, gospel disc jockey and gospel recording artist. Gatemouth cut two LP's in the 70's: for Bluesway he cut the gospel record After Twenty One Years and for Johnny Otis' Blues Spectrum label he cut the blues album Great Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7 in 1977 both long out-of-print.

We hear from several fine blues ladies today including Edith Wilson, Clara Smith, Minnie Wallace, Florence White and Mary James. Edith Wilson and Johnny Dunn deliver a rousinng version of "He Used To Be Your Man But He's My Man Now." Wilson and trumpet player Johnny Dunn first worked together in the musical revue "Put And Take" in 1921 and then went on to perform in Lew Lesile's Plantation Revue in 1922. The group toured the TOBA vaudville circuit in 1921. Perry Bradford set up the recording sessions at Columbia for Wilson to compete with the Okeh's Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds records. Instrumental records were also released without Wilson under the name of Johnny Dunn and his Original Jazz Hounds. Dunn had also been a member of Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds.

Mary James LOC

I've written about Clara Smith before and she gives a mesmerizing performance on backed by just a reed organ giving the recording a haunting quality. Florence White was a powerful singer who cut one fine 78 in 1927 backed the  superb piano of Simeon Henry who would ably back singer Lil Green in the 1940's. Mary James was recorded in the Sewing Room at Parchman Farm Penitentiary in 1939. She's featured today on the spine chilling "Go 'way Devil Leave Me Alone" backed by "four girls." Minnie Wallace was a known associate of the Memphis Jug Band and on 1936's ebullient "Field Mouse Stomp" she's backed by a blues super group that includes Will Shade, Robert Wilkins and Harry Chatman.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Andrew OdumIt's My Own Fault Farther Up The Road
Andrew OdumDon't Ever Leave Me All AloneFarther Up The Road
Andrew Odumake Me Back To East St LouisFarther Up The Road
Bill Williams Low and Lonesome Low And Lonesome
Bill Williams Blake's Rag LucillBlues, Rag & Ballads
Bill WilliamsyNobody's BusinessBlues, Rag & Ballads
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Walter HortonCan't Help MyselfBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Roosevelt CharlesCane Choppin'Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesMean Trouble BluesBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesI'm a Gamblin' ManBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Johnny YoungTried Not To CryI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Know She's Kinda SlickI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Rev. Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember Me Memphis Gospel Singer
Rev. Robert WilkinsThe Prodigal SonMemphis Gospel Singer
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Expressin' The Blues Welfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)The Welfare BluesWelfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Southland Welfare Blues
Arbee StidhamWee Hours A Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamTake Your Hand Off My KneeA Time For Blues
Arbee Stidham Meet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Shirely Griffith Cool Kind Papa From New OrleansMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Maggie Campbell BluesMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Delta HazeMississippi Blues

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Over the years of doing this show I've played many long out-of-print records and I've finally decided to do a series of shows exclusively devoted to these records. While an impressive amount of blues has made it to the digital age, it may be surprising to some that there is a large cache of great blues albums, primarily from the 60's and 70's, that have never been reissued. I like to think of these records as sort of a hidden narrative of the blues running parallel but under the more mainstream blues or the blues records issued on some of the bigger labels, sort of the same as the field recordings I often play as compared to the commercial blues that was being issued. With the decline of CD's and the rise of digital music I have a feeling these great records will never get resurrected. The bulk of the albums featured in the series are from a slew of great small labels that issued records that probably sold in exceedingly small amounts. Over the course of these shows I'll be spotlighting albums from some of these great forgotten labels like Blue Goose, 77 Records, Albatros, Flyright, Spivey, Barrelhouse among others. For part two I'll be spotlighting a batch from Bluesville, which did have an extensive CD reissue program but left out some great titles. Below is some background on today's featuredrecords.

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. The label has been spottily reissued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. The label had big names like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker but to me some of the more interesting records are by lesser knowns like Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, L.C. Robinson and Andrew Odom. Farther Up The Road finds Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between him and Earl Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose.  Among the highlights are the moody "Stormy Monday", the bouncing "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone" and a crackling version of "Farther Up The Road" (two songs appear on the Earl Hooker anthology CD Simply The Best). The record wasn't treated well by the critics as Mike Leadbitter clearly expressed in a 1973 edition of Blues Unlimited: "What a bitter disappointment! Muffled sound, endless boring songs and total lack of variation. What have BluesWay done to my heroes?" The album was finally released in 1973 and virtually sank without a trace. Despite Leadbitter's assessment this is a worthwhile release and well worth resurrecting on CD.

Also from the Bluesway vaults comes Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping, Young's final recording, passing not long after this superb date. Young is in top form playing mandolin on all cuts backed by a tough band featuring stellar guitar work from Louis Myers and the debut by harp man Jerry Portnoy who is uncredited.

Roosevelt Charles: Blues, Prayer, Work and Trouble Songs
Read Liner Notes

During the 1960's Nick Perls amassed a vast collection of blues records from the 1920's and 1930's. In 1968 he began transferring some of these onto LP, initially naming his label Belzoni but after five releases changed the name to Yazoo. Perls set up the Blue Goose Record label in the early 1970's. While on Blue Goose' sister label Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920's by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, on Blue Goose Records he recorded only living artists. He cut albums by blues artists like Sam Chatmon, Son House, Yank Rachell, Shirley Griffith, Thomas Shaw and Bill Williams and Larry Johnson plus younger white blues performers like Jo Ann Kelly, Woody Mann, Graham Hine, John Lewis, Roger Hubbard, Roy Book Binder, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders and Rory Block. The bulk of the label's output remains out of print.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist." Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he passed away in his sleep.Blues Southside Chicago is one of my favorite anthologies, a superb collection of Chicago blues recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do."

Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer
Read Liner Notes

Roosevelt Charles was recorded by folklorist Harry Oster in 1959 and 1960 with tracks appearing on anthologies and one full-length album, the long out of print Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs. Oster wrote the following: “Classified as a habitual criminal, a four-time loser, Roosevelt Charles has spent most of his adult life (he is now 45) in prisons, principally, Angola, alternating short periods of freedom with long sentences. …Despite his lengthy police record, Charles is sensitive, personable, intelligent and imaginative – a highly gifted creator, performer and interpreter of Negro music. His rebellion against society appears at least in part the explosion which results when a driving, intensely creative man can find no outlets for his energies and talents – a particularity difficult problem for a bright but almost illiterate Negro born in the Louisiana farm country."

Robert Wilkins passed away in 1987 and it's a shame he made so few recordings in his later years. He did make one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer cut in 1963 for the Piedmont label and sadly never issued on CD (it was reissued on vinyl in 1984 on the Origin Jazz Library label.) His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics. Other post-war sides by Wilkins can be found on the out-of-print anthology This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix, The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival, …Remember Me (from the 1969Memphis Country Blues Festival)  plus a few other scattered sides.

Guitar Gabriel AKA Nyles Jones, recorded under the latter name the superb LP, My South, My Blues, for the Gemini label in 1970.Mike Leadbitter, writing in Blues Unlimited in 1970, called the single, "Welfare Blues", the most important 45 released that year. Gabriel dropped out of sight for about 20 years and his belated return to performing was due largely to folklorist and musician Timothy Duffy, who located Gabriel in 1991. With Duffy accompanying him as second guitarist on acoustic sets and as a member of his band, Brothers in the Kitchen, Gabriel performed frequently at clubs and festivals, and appeared overseas. He recorded several albums for Duffy's Music Maker label before passing in 1996.I'm under the impression that

Arbee Stidham is held in rather low opinion among the blues collecting community. The truth is that Stidham's music isn't, for the most part, all that exciting but A Time For Blues is a terrific outing with Stidham backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.Shhirley Griffith: Mississppi Blues

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (Bluesville, 1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (Bluesville, 1965) and Mississippi Blues (Blue Goose, 1973). The fact that all three albums are out of print goes a ways in understanding why Griffith remains so little known. He also didn't benefit all that much from the renewed blues interest of the 1960's; he never achieving the acclaim of late discovered artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell, the critical appreciation of a Robert Pete Williams or the excitement surrounding rediscovered legends like Son House, Skip James or Mississippi John Hurt. He did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. Griffith passed away in 1974.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Leroy DallasI'm Down Now But I Won't Be Down Always Ralph Willis & Leroy Dallas Vol. 2
Leroy DallasI’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 HomeGood 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 TrixieBlind 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' HopkinsNew 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 MeHot Fish! - Downhome Rhythm and Blues 1951-1955
Arbee Stidham Bad Dream BluesArbee Stidham Vol. 2 1951-1957
Jesse James Forgive Me Blues Down Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
The Sugarman Which Woman Do I LoveTexas Down Home Blues 1948-1952
Sam "Suitcase" Johnson Sam's BoogieRural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962
L.C. Williams The Lazy J Lightnin' Special
L.C. Williams Fannie MaeLightnin' Special
James Wayne Junco PartnerTravelin' From Texas To New Orleans
James Wayne Travelin' From Texas To New OrleansTravelin' From Texas To New Orleans
Bob Gaddy Blues Has Walked In My Room Bicycle Boogie
Elmore NixonI 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

Show Notes:

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.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Chas Q. PriceEarly Morning BluesJumpin' On The West Coast!
Louis ArmstrongBack o' Town BluesC'est Ci Bon: Satchmo In The Forties
Red MackMr. Big HeadLuke Jones & Red Mack: West Coast R&B 1947-1952
Big Bill BroonzyThe Southern BluesBig Bill Broonzy Vol. 3 1934-1935
Cannon's Jug StompersPrison Wall BluesMemphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper
K.C. DouglasMove To Kansas CityBig Road Blues
Mr. BearHold Out BabyHarlem Heavies
Cousin LeroyUp The RiverHarlem Heavies
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Sammy TaylorAin't That Some ShameNew York Wild Guitars
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandI’m Going to Write You a LetterBackcountry Barrelhouse
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteGravels In My PillowCake Walkin'
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteThelma LeeCake Walkin'
Gladys BentleyLay It On the LineThe Gladys Bentley Quintette
Eddie DavisMountain OystersRisque Rhythm
Arbee StidhamStandin' In My WindowA Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamMeet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesLegends of Country Blues
Willie HarrisLonesome Midnight DreamA Richer Tradition
Curley Weaver & Blind Willie McTellYou Were Born To DieAtlanta Blues
Jesse JamesHighway 61Piano Blues Vol. 1 1927-1936
Leroy CarrBlue Night BluesHow Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Peetie WheatstrawGangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownThe Bob Geddins Blues Legacy
Roy HawkinsGloom and Misery All AroundThe Thrill Is Gone
Lightnin' HopkinsNew York BoogieAll The Classics 1946-1951
John Lee HookerWalkin' This HighwayThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeSo Much TroubleSonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48
Baby Davis & Buddy Banks SextetHappy Home BluesHappy Home Blues
Fluffy Hunter & Buddy Banks SextetFluffy's DebutHappy Home Blues

Show Notes:

There's a definite theme running through today's mix show,  with a good batch of recordings spotlighting the vibrant, swinging  Los Angeles blues scene of the mid-40's through the early 50's. The West Coast had a thriving blues and jazz scene in the 1940’s and 50’s with most of the activity centering around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. The Black population swelled in the 1940s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. From approximately 1920 to 1955, Central Avenue was the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles. Like New York City’s 125th Street or Memphis’s Beale Street or Chicago’s South Side, Central Avenue was one of the world capitols of nightlife, of jazz, rhythm & blues, of black culture and society. I've devoted several shows to the west coast blues scene of this period but many of today's artists I haven't played before. Among those spotlighted are Buddy Tate, The Great Gates, Red Mack, Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette, Buddy Banks' Sextette, Roy Hawkins and Johnny Fuller.

We spin double shots of two great combos: Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette and Buddy Banks' Sextette. The  Wichard tracks come from the terrific recent reissue on Ace, Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette – Cake Walkin’. Al Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on 15th August 1919, but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern's first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks.This CD consists entirely of sessions made under his own name. Thirteen tracks have vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon while others feature vocalist Duke Henderson and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. All these sides were cut between 1945 and 1949. Witherspoon is in magnificent form throughout, including our selection, the bouncy "Thelma Lee." Henderson wasn't quite in Spoon's league, few were, but he turns in a superb low-down performance on our cut, "Gravels In My Pillow" as he boasts:

They call me the devil's stepchild, they say I'm just no good (2x)
They say I'm rotten from the start, wouldn't be no other way if I could

Tenor sax blower Buddy Banks began his career in California and played with all the best West Coast Orchestras. In 1945 he formed his own sextet. The band began recording by backing singer Marion Abernathy for the Juke Box label and in its own right for the tiny Sterling label. The band went on to record for Excelsior, United, Modern and Specialty through 1949.The band employed some fine vocalists including Fluffy Hunter, Baby Davis, Marion Abernathy and Bixie Crawford. The obscure Davis belts it out "Happy Home Blues" while Hunter storms through the rocking "Fluffy's Debut." It's a shame both singers recorded so little. All these tracks come from the excellent LP Happy Home Blues issued on the Official label.

Read Notes Read Notes

Red Mack was a west coast vocalist who also played piano, organ, trumpet, cornet and drums. He fronted bands that cut sides for Gold Seal, Atlas and Mercury at sessions recorded in 1945, 1946 and 1951. Mack is heard to fine effect on the humorous "Mr. Big Head:"

You said your wife was fine, when you lived down on the farm (2x)
Now you got the big head, and a glamor girl on your arm
Well you making more money, and that's a fact
You won't drive nothing baby, but those big fine Cadillacs
Well your head is big and you think you own the moon
Well I'm tellin' you fool, your head will go down sore

Mack's sides have been collected, along with those of his contemporary Luke Jones, on the Krazy Kat LP Luke Jones & Red Mack – West Coast R&B 1947-1952. Also on the Krazy Kat label is The Great Gates  – West Coast R' n B 1949-1955. Edward Gates White aka “The Great Gates” enjoyed a recording career as an R&B vocalist from 1949 to 1955, before changing to recording jazz organ instrumentals. He continually shifted between various small West Coast labels such as Selective, Kappa and Miltone. Gates was a smooth big voiced singer heard today on the moody "Late After Hours" backed by a killer little combo featuring the cooking tenor of Marvin Phillips.

Tenor sax man Buddy Tate joined Count Basie's band in 1939 and stayed with him until 1948. In 1947 Tate made a batch of recordings for the L.A. based Supreme label backed by members of Basie's band. The session included luminaries like Bill Doggett, Chico Hamilton and Jimmy Witherspoon. Alto sax man Chas Q. Price takes the vocal on the silky, after hours number "Early Morning Blues" sporting some sensitive playing from Tate. These early recordings can be found on the marvelous LP Jumpin' On The West Coast! on the Black Lion label.

Also on tap today are some twin spins by Arbee Stidham and pianist Barrelhouse Buck McFarland. The two Stidham tracks come from the album A Time For Blues, one of Stidham’s best recordings backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.

Barrelhouse Buck McFarland cut his final session for Folkways and an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released a few years back on Delmark. He died shortly afterward. 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 got his shot in the recording studio waxing ten sides; two for Paramount in 1929, two for Decca in 1934 and four more for Decca in 1935, which were not issued.

We also feature a cut by Gladys Bentley, a truly largely than life figure. Bentley cut six sides for Okeh in 1928 and fifteen sides in 1946 and 1952 for the labels Excelsior, Top Hat, Flame and Swing Time. Bentley was a 250 pound woman dressed in men's clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), who played piano and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience. She appeared at Harry Hansberry's "Clam House" on 133rd Street, one of New York City's most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem's Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She relocated to southern California, where she was billed as "America's Greatest Sepia Piano Player", and the "Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs". She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960. Bentley's act was probably impossible to capture on record but her post-war recordings have a jivey exuberance, particularly our selection, the bouncy "Lay It On The Line." Unfortunately Bentley has been ill served on reissue collections.

Also worth mentioning are a quartet of sides from New York artists. New York had a lively blues scene in the immediate post-war era, circa 1945 through 1960. The scene was dominated by small independent labels like Fire/Fury, Apollo, DeLuxe, Herald, Joe Davis, Baton, Old Town, Atlantic and Savoy. There was also out of town labels like King who recorded Big Apple talent. Hundreds of R&B and blues records were cut during this period. Today we feature several obscure artists from the scene including Mr. Bear, Larry Dale and Cousin Leroy. These tracks come form two excellent LP compilations; Harlem Heavies on the Moonshine label and New York Wild Guitars on the P-Vine label. Down the road I plan on doing a whole show devoted to the New York blues scene from this period.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Scrapper BlackwellBlues Before SunriseMr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper BlackwellLittle Boy BlueMr. Scrapper's Blues
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithMaggie Campbell BluesSaturday Blues
J.T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBlind Lemon's BluesIndiana Ave. Blues
J.T. Adams & Shirley GriffithNaptown BoogieIndiana Ave. Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBama BoundMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Pete FranklinI Got To Find My BabyGuitar Pete's Blues
Neal PatmanKey To The HighwayArt of Field Recording: Vol I
Cecil BarfieldGeorgia Bottleneck BluesArt of Field Recording: Vol I
Art Rosenbaum Interview
Yank Rachel & Shirley GriffithPeach Orchard MamaArt of Field Recording: Vol. I
Scrapper BlackwellNobody Knows When Your Down...Mr. Scrapper's Blues
Shirley GriffithRiver Line BluesSaturday Blues
J.T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBig Road BluesIndianapolis Jump
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBrook's BluesArt of Field Recording: Vol. I
Tony BryantBroke Down EngineArt of Field Recording: Vol. II
J. Easley, P. Franklin and Ray HollowayBig Leg WomanIndianapolis Jump

Show Notes:

Mission statement released after
United had been in existence for one year

The United Record Company was launched in July 1951, by Leonard Allen and Lew Simpkins, a veteran record man who had worked for the Miracle and Premium Records and brought many of their former artists to the new label. A news item in the trade press dated July 21, 1951, announces the formation of the United Recording Company. "The guiding force behind this new company is a Chicago area entertainment entrepreneur by the name of Lewis Simpkins. He had previous experience with the local Miracle and Premium labels in the Chicago areas. Simpkins is unique because he is one of the very few Black record company owners producing this music that is largely by and for the Black community. He joins the Rene Brothers in California (Excelsior and Exclusive) and soon to be executives Vivian Carter and James Bracken in nearby Gary Indiana with the Vee-Jay label."

United enjoyed early success, scoring hits by Tab Smith, Jimmy Forrest, and the Four Blazes; during its first year it was outdoing its local rival Chess on the charts. The United label took off impressively, scoring two number one R&B hits among its first ten releases: Tab Smith's "Because of You," and Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train." United formally opened for business with a long recording session on July 12, 1951. The company was able to expand and open a new imprint called States in May 1952. United and States recorded a substantial roster of jazz artists. The company also recorded a substantial amount of blues including artists like Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Slim, J. T. Brown, "Big" Walter Horton, J. T. Brown, Robert Nighthawk, Junior Wells and others. The label also recorded a fair bit of gospel and vocal harmony groups.During its first 2 1/2 years of operation, the company recorded 463 masters. The death of Lew Simpkins, who died suddenly on April 27, 1953, was a serious blow; Leonard Allen was left to run the enterprise with limited help until the label's demise in 1957. While the company remained fairly healthy during 1954, activity dropped off sharply after that. Of the 281 sides that the company cut during this period, 130 were done in 1954. By the end of 1956 Leonard Allen was reduced to selling off half of the house music publishing company to pay his tax bill. Too many years without hits finally brought United and States down after the company's Christmas releases in 1957. Bob Koester of Delmark Records acquired most of the label's masters in 1975 and has reissued the bulk of this material on LP and CD. I want to thank the folks at Delmark for sending me several titles that made this show possible. Below is some background on some of today's featured artists, most of which comes from the The Red Saunders Research Foundation website.

Roosevelt Sykes, like Nighthawk, was recorded on United’s first day of sessions on July 12, 1951. He cut two additional sessions in August 1951 and March 1953. There is speculation that Nighthawk plays guitar on the first Sykes session. Robert Nighthawk was recorded by United on their very first day of sessions and two of United's first five releases were by Robert Nighthawk and his Nighthawks Band. Sales never took off and Nighthawk headed back south and wouldn't record again until 1964. Leonard Allen scoffed: "Robert Nighthawk? I didn't think nothin' of him. I didn't go into those joints where they were playing. Lew knew him- he had Robert Nighthawk in mind for the first session. So after he cut the session it did nothin'." Nighthawk recorded two sessions for United, one on July 12, 1951 and one on October 25, 1952 for its subsidiary States. His complete recordings for the label are collected on the CD Bricks in My Pillow.

Memphis Slim cut around 30 sides for United at sessions in 1952, 1953 and two in 1954. This was a particularly inspired period for Slim who added his first permanent guitarist, Matt Murphy to his band. These recordings have been reissued on the Delmark CD’s Memphis Slim U.S.A. and The Come Back. Memphis Slim had been recording since 1940. Based in Chicago during this phase of his career, he had been a mainstay at three postwar independents: first Hy-Tone, then Miracle, and finally Miracle's successor entity Premium. After Premium collapsed in the summer of 1951, Slim cut three sessions for Mercury in Chicago. Lew Simpkins, who knew Slim from the days when he was moving 78's for Miracle and Premium, brought him to United as soon as he could.

J.T. Brown also recorded during United's first day – and his "Windy City Boogie" was credited by United proprietor Leonard Allen with "saving our first money." J.T. is best remembered for the accompaniments he provided for Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Roosevelt Sykes, Johnny Shines, and J.B. Lenoir. In his liner notes for the United reissues on Delmark, Jim O'Neal remarked that he "was a bluesman. By jazz standards, he was not a great instrumentalist. His lack of sophistication, subtlety, and tonal variations prevented him from moving into more 'progressive' circles." Brown first performed as a member of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in the South before moving to Chicago in the early 1940's.

One of the top R&B records of 1952, "Mary Jo" provided a moment in the national spotlight for one of Chicago's hottest vocal combos, The Four Blazes. The single moved rapidly to the top, displacing Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" as the #1 R&B song in the nation at the end of August. Bassist Tommy Braden was the main lead singer while all members provided backup harmony vocals. "Jelly" Holt was the founder and drummer in the group, while Floyd McDaniel and "Shorty" Hill played guitars. The Four Blazes formed in 1940 and made their recording debut with a few sides for Aristocrat in 1947 before landing at United in 1952.

In what was likely a response to Chess' success with Little Walter, United signed harp ace Junior Wells. After a youthful apprenticeship in the Aces and then the Muddy Waters band (when Little Walter went out on his own he took over the Aces, while Junior moved into his chair in Muddy's band, and appeared on one of Muddy's sessions for Chess), he was ready to make his first sides as a leader for the States subsidiary.  Down Beat's Pete Welding wrote "In their power, directness, unerring taste and utter consistency of mood, these may well be the most perfectly distilled examples of Wells' music ever recorded, taking their place alongside of those of Waters, Walter, Wolf and other masters of the period." These historic sessions also feature Louis and Dave Myers, Willie Dixon, Johnnie Jones, Fred Below and Odie Payne Jr. Recorded by United Records in 1953 and 1954 at Universal Studio in Chicago, eight sides were issued on the subsidiary States label.

Walter Horton moved to Chicago in the late 1940's, but during 1951-54 made frequent trips to Memphis to record for Modern, behind other artists and under the name Mumbles. He also made sideman appearances for Chicago-based labels, with Muddy Waters for Chess (January 1953) and Johnny Shines for JOB (the same month). He recorded under the name Big Walter Horton for the first time when he signed with United in 1954. Horton also backed singer Tommy Brown the same year. Brown's United session on August 26 featured an all-star lineup of Walter Horton (harmonica), Harold Ashby (tenor sax), Memphis Slim (piano), Lee Cooper (guitar), and Willie Dixon (bass); the drums are unknown. Brown remains an active performer.

Leonard Allen  recorded blues artists Morris Pejoe and Big Boy Spires in Al Smith's basement (5313 South Drexel). Although the Pejoe session was interesting enough to justify putting matrix numbers on it, Allen eventually backpedaled, most likely because of the less-than-professional sound quality. Neither saw release until Delmarkr put them out on an album in 1989. Pejoe was born Morris Pejas in Louisiana, and began his music career on the violin. After moving to Beaumont, Texas, in 1949, he switched to guitar. In 1951 he was in Chicago, performing with pianist Henry Gray. During 1952-53 he recorded three sessions for Checker, accompanied by Gray among others. The United session was held in December 1954.

Arthur "Big Boy" Spires was born in Natchez, Mississippi; he started playing guitar only in the late 1930s. Spires came to Chicago in 1943, and played house-rent parties during the decade. It was not until 1950 or 1951 that he graduated to nightclubs. He first recorded for Checker in 1952 (which produced his best known record, "Murmur Low"), and did a strong session for Chance in January 1953. In December 1953, Big Boy Spires and His Rhythm Rocking Three was advertised as the feature act in the grand opening celebration of the Palace Inn (the ad failed to list an address). The date of the Spires session for Leonard Allen seems to be December 1954 or shortly thereafter.

The most down-home blues session ever recorded by Leonard Allen featured harmonica player Alfred "Blues King" Harris and drummer James Bannister. Bannister got the vocals on "Blues and Trouble" and "Gold Digger," which were the only titles to be released from the session at the time; States 141 is a very rare record. Harris sang on the rest, which did not see issue until they appeared on a Delmark LP many years later. Bannister had made unissued recordings for Sun in Memphis and for Chess before cutting this session for States. Harris, who could sing in the B. B. King manner and often billed himself as Blues King, made one track for Modern in Memphis. He was booked into the Be-Bop Club for 6 months in 1954 when Allen recorded him. He waxed five sides for United that same year. In the late 1950's, Harris put out a single on J. Mayo Williams' low-circulation Ebony label. He dropped off the Chicago scene after 1959 and his later movements are untraced.

Other performers featured today include Jimmy Coe, Eddie Chamblee, Arbee Stidham, L.C. McKinley and Ernie K-Doe among others. United recorded several fine sax players who's music straddled the line between R&B and jazz. Many are featured on Delmark's three volume Honkers & Bar Walkers series including Jimmy Coe and Eddie Chamblee. From 1941 to 1946 Chamblee worked as a musician in Army bands; after his discharge he put together his own combo. His first notable work was on the Miracle label, particularly on the huge hit "Long Gone" by Sonny Thompson, which recorded for 1947. After Chamblee went out on his own in 1948, his records for Miracle and Premium sold well, and Lew Simpkins no doubt remembered him. In addition to putting out sides under his own name he also played on many sides backing the Four Blazes. On our selection, "La! La! La! Lady", Chamblee also takes the vocal. Arbee Stidham was the last blues artist to record for Leonard Allen, and was responsible for the very last release on States. He came to Chicago in the 1940s and his first recording for RCA Victor in 1947 produced a number one R&B hit on the Billboard race chart, "My Heart Belongs To You." Subsequently he cut sides for Victor, Checker, Sittin' With and Abco before signing with States in 1957. Only rone record was issued featuring the guitar of Earl Hooker. L. C. McKinley was T-Bone Walker disciple who made from Mississippi to Chicago in 1951. In the early 1950's he was a regular headliner at the famed 708 Club. In 1951 and 1952, he recorded as a sideman with pianist Eddie Boyd for JOB, appearing on Boyd's biggest hit, "Five Long Years." He first recorded as a leader in 1953 for the Parrot label, but Al Benson chose not to release his session. McKinley signed with States around the beginning of 1954 and cut four sides for the label. In 1955 United became the first to record Ernie K-Doe, who was living and performing in Chicago at the time under his real name, Ernest Kador. K-Doe spent nearly his entire life in New Orleans, but in 1953, after winning several singing and dancing competitions back home, he came to Chicago for a brief time to live with his mother. He met the Four Blazes at the Crown Propeller Lounge; the Blazes introduced him to A&R man Dave Clark, who was doing some work for United at the time and supervised the session. In early November he was singing at the Apex Country Club in Robbins, Illinois (13624 Claire Blvd) as "Ernest Kado." The Chicago Defender ad (12 November) was already billing him as "United Recording Artist."

Share