ARTISTSONGALBUM
Floyd Jones Stockyard Blues Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Keep What You Got Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Hard TimesFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones School Days Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Sunnyland Slim Devil is a Busy Man Sunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Sunnyland Slim Going Back To Memphis Sunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Floyd Jones Dark Road Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones PlayhouseFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Big WorldFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Little Willie Foster Falling Rain Blues Chicago Blues: The Early 1950s
Little Willie Foster Four Day Jump Hand Me Down Blues
Floyd Jones OverseasFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Early Morning Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones You Can't Live Long Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Sunnyland Slim I Done You WrongSunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Sunnyland Slim Be My BabySunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Floyd Jones On The Road AgainFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Skinny MamaFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Snooky Pryor Someone To Love MeVee Jay, The Chicago Black Musi
Snooky Pryor Judgement DayChicago Blues: The Vee Jay Era
Snooky Pryor You Tried To Ruin Me BabyChicago Blues: The Vee Jay Era
Floyd Jones Rising Wind Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones I Lost A Good WomanFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Any Old Lonesome Day Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Little Willie Foster Crying BluesKing Cobras: Chicago Kings Of The Harmonica
Little Willie Foster Little WomanKing Cobras: Chicago Kings Of The Harmonica
Floyd Jones Schooldays On My Mind Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Ain't Times Hard Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Floyd's Blues Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Sunnyland Slim Troubles Of My OwnSunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Sunnyland Slim Worried About My Baby Sunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Floyd Jones M&O Blues Masters of Modern Blues Vol. 3
Floyd Jones & Walter HortonMr. Freddy's Blues Big Walter Horton: King of The Harmonica Players
Floyd Jones & Walter HortonTake A Little Walk Big Walter Horton: King of The Harmonica Players

Show Notes: 

Floyd Jones
Floyd Jones c. 1944

Guitarist Floyd Jones specialized in well crafted, dark, brooding topical blues songs. He was born on July 21, 1917, in Marianna, Arkansas. He  recalled that his Mother was a fine pianist but died when he was young. Moving to Mississippi with his father, where he came into contact with Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson and Tommy Johnson. After several years of dabbling with the guitar began playing it in earnest after Howlin’ Wolf gave him an instrument. Through much of the 1930's and early 1940's he worked the South as an itinerant musician. After visiting Chicago a couple of times, Jones moved to the city permanently in 1945, settling in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. In the city, the blues became more electrified, and Floyd Jones, who had been playing an acoustic guitar with an electric pickup, switched to a Gibson electric. He began playing on Maxwell Street and in non-union venues with such artists as Little Walter, John Henry Barbee, and Sunnyland Slim. In the fall of 1946, Jones teamed up with Snooky Pryor, soon joined by his cousin Moody Jones. Throughout the late 1940's and early 1950's, Jones recorded over a dozen songs for Marvel, JOB, Chess, and Vee-Jay, including the Chicago blues classics "Stockyard Blues," "Hard Times," and "Dark Road." His powerful but somber writing style dealt mainly with social and economic hardships, such as poverty, disenchantment, and unemployment. Jones also appeared on recordings throughout the 1950's by Eddie Taylor, Little Willie Foster, and Sunnyland Slim, and continued to play in clubs and on Maxwell Street into the 1970's, often with Big Walter Horton. In the 1960's and 70's he recorded more sparingly, cutting sides for Testament and some intimate sides with Walter Horton.

Floyd Jones, Snooky Pryor and Moody Jones were playing in a club on Sedgwick, when Chester Scales, owner of Marvel Records, happened by and offered to record the trio, having remembered seeing Snooky playing on the street sometime earlier. However, on the day of the session, Floyd Jones missed out on recording "Telephone Blues" and "Boogie," because he could not be located. Scales made up for it by recording the trio with Floyd Jones as the leader on "Stockyard Blues" and "Keep What You Got," two classics of postwar Chicago blues written by Jones. Much to Jones’s everlasting distress, when the record was released, Scales put Snooky and Moody down on the label as the main artists, and listed Floyd as mere vocalist. He also claimed Stockyard Blues 78composition credit on both titles. These sides were reissued on the Old Swing-Master label in 1949. In May 1949, Floyd Jones went on to record with Sunnyland Slim for Tempo-Tone, making another classic "Hard Times" backed by “School Days." Jones' next recording opportunity would come with Joe Brown’s J.O.B. label in March 1951, when he made "Dark Road" with Sunnyland Slim and Moody Jones. "Dark Road" was considered a hit, though its sales were not high enough to make Billboard's R&B charts. By the end of the year, Floyd Jones had moved to Chess, where he recorded two sessions. Jones' second rendition of "Dark Road," cut for Chess in December 1951 was in direct competition with his J.O.B. version, and became his most successful record and the most enduring part of his recorded legacy. Jones returned to J.O.B. for a session in January 1953, recording another standout, "On the Road Again." In 1954 he moved to Vee-Jay, where he made "School Days On My Mind b/w Ain’t Times Hard" and "Floyd's Blues b/w Any Old Lonesome Day."

Floyd Jones appeared on a number of records as a backing guitarist including sessions by Sunnyland Slim, Little Willie Foster, Snooky Pryor and Eddie Taylor (those tracks are left off as Eddie Taylor will be feature in an upcoming show). Featured on Sunnyland Slim's first single, Blue Lake 105, was "Going Back to Memphis." "Going Back to Memphis" is a chaotic sounding version of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" backed with “Troubles of My Own.” Deejay Sam Evans, who owned several shops, told blues historian Mike Rowe that he "just couldn't stock enough" of "Going Back to Memphis." Floyd Jones also backed Sunnyland on several sides for Vee-Jay in 1954, some went unissued at the time.

Jones appears on all four sides by Little Willie Foster. Foster moved from Mississippi to Chicago in the early 40's and fell in playing harmonica with Floyd Jones, Lazy Bill Lucas and cousin "Baby Face" Leroy Foster. Foster was probably from Belzoni and Johnny Williams remembers giving him first job when, with Willie and his cousin Robert, he played the 520 Club, 520 E. 63rd Street. Foster ran with the same group of musicians much of the time, playing at the Jamboree with Homesick James and Lazy Bill or with Floyd Jones. He waxed two sides for Blue Lake in 1951 and two for Cobra in 1956. Both sessions feature backing from Lazy Bill Lucas and Floyd Jones, with Eddie Taylor on guitar on the earlier session. Shortly after this last session he was seriously wounded by a gunshot which ended his career. Foster passed in 1987. Foster was described by Snooky Pryor as "a good harmonica player, but kind of a terrible rough little guy."

Dark Road 78Jones appears on several sides by Snooky Pryor recorded for Vee-Jay in 1956. In his obituary for the Guardian, Tony Russell wrote: "Snooky Pryor, who has died aged 85, was the last of the group of harmonica players who distinguished the Chicago blues scene of the 1940's and 50's. If not quite the equal of men like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Walter "Shakey" Horton or Junior Wells, he was none the less a player with a distinctive sound, and his contributions to the early development of the Chicago blues-band idiom are held in high regard. In particular, the recordings he made in the late 40's, both in his own name and accompanying the singers Floyd Jones and Johnny Young, established him among blues enthusiasts of the 1960's as one of the defining figures of the primeval Chicago scene."

A new White audience created a market for the pioneers of Chicago blues, and in 1966 Pete Welding recruited Floyd Jones to record an LP with Eddie Taylor for his Testament label. Jones' was also featured in Harley Cokliss's 1970 film Chicago Blues. Jones subsequently recorded for the Swedish Magnolia label (with Big Walter Horton in 1970 and 1975) and Earwig (with Honey Boy Edwards, Sunnyland Slim, and Kansas City Red in 1979, and with Big Walter in 1980). As Dave Whiteis wrote: "Floyd gave his last performance,a quavering version of his 1952 Chess Recording 'Early Morning', on June 7, 1986 on a gray and drizzly Saturday afternoon at the 1986 Chicago Blues Festival." Floyd Jones died in Chicago on December 19, 1989. He was buried on December 26 and his old friend Sunnyland Slim organized a benefit at B.L.U.E.S. to pay the funeral cost.

Related Articles

-Whiteis, Dave. "Floyd Jones, 1917-1989." Juke Blues no. 20 (Summer 1990): 20-21.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Scrapper Blackwell Trouble Blues Pt. 1The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Penal Farm Blues The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Kokomo Blues The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellSloppy DrunkWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellI Believe I'll Make a ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellMemphis TownNaptown Blues 1929-1934
Georgia Tom Dorsey Gee, But It's Hard Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934
Georgia Tom Dorsey Levee Bound Blues Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellHow Long Has That Evening Train Been GoneHurry Down Sunshine
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellGeorge Street Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 7: Leroy Carr 1930-1935
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellPapa's on the Housetop Naptown Blues 1929-1934
Scrapper Blackwell Morning Mail BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell D BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Bad Liquor BluesBad Liquor Blues
Black Bottom McPhail Down In Black BottomThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Bumble Bee SlimMeet Me In the Bottom (Hey Lawdy Mama) Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 6 1936
Georgia Tom Dorsey Maybe It's The Blues The Essential
Scrapper Blackwell My Old Pal Blues (Dedicated to the Memory of Leroy Carr)Bad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Blue Day BluesThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Down South BluesThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Little Girl BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Scrapper BlackwellNo Good Woman BluesScrapper Blackwell with Brooks Berry 1959-1960
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellCold Blooded MurderMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Scrapper Blackwell Nobody Knows You When You're Down and OutMr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Shady LaneMr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Rambling BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Alley Sally BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Be-Da-Da-BumBad Liquor Blues
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Mean Mistreatin' MamaHurry Down Sunshine
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Barrelhouse Woman No. 2The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellHow LongMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Scrapper Blackwell Little Boy BlueMr. Scrapper's Blues

Show Notes:

Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell

Scrapper Blackwell was born Francis Hillman Blackwell in February 21, 1904 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was given the nickname "Scrapper" by his grandmother, because of his fiery nature. Blackwell was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of a cigar box, wood and wire and also learned to play the piano. Blackwell had met with an English entrepreneur and store owner simply remembered as Mr Guernsey. Guernsey was eager to break into the record business and, having heard both musicians, arranged for Blackwell and Leroy Carr to meet. As Scrapper recalled: "Talkin' to Leroy. He said, glad I met you. l said, well, I'm glad I met you too. I said, I kind of like your blues old boy… so we sat down and played together. l said, it does sound pretty good… now where are those record makers at?" From that first encounter in 1928, Guernsey was so impressed with this musical partnership that he suggested that he take the pair to Chicago to "make a record." Blackwell refused to travel and a makeshift studio was set up in Indianapolis. Using the local W.F.B.M. radio station as a studio, the record company cut two titles including "How Long – How Long Blues" which became one of the biggest selling blues records of all time. The duo's piano/guitar pairing inspired numerous similar duos like Georgia Tom and Tampa Red, Charlie Spand and Blind Blake, Bill Gaither and Honey Hill among others.

Blackwell actually made his solo recording debut three day prior to his debut with Carr, on June June 16, 1928, cutting "Kokomo Blues b/w Penal Farm Blues." "Kokomo Blues", was transformed into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold and later reworked as "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson. Blackwell cut two 78's under his own name in 1928, the second pairing was "Trouble Blues – Pt. 1 b/w Trouble Blues – Pt. 2." Several sessions from 1928 went unissued. In 1929 he cut "Mr. Scrapper's Blues b/w Down And Out Blues" as well as playing with singer Bertha "Chippie" Hill and on "Be-Da-Da-Bum" Blackwell took the vocals while Carr played the piano. Blackwell recorded behind Georgia Tom on a eight song session for Gennett in 1930 and the same year cut some solo sides as well as playing behind singer Teddy Moss. He cut eight sides in 1931 and 1932 and another tens sides between 1934 and 1935 under his own name. He backed several other artists on record including Bumble Bee Slim (1935), Black Bottom McPhail (1932), Josh White (1934) and Dot Rice (1935).

Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell
photo by Art Rosenbaum

Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues circuit. Between 1928 and 1935 the duo cut a remarkably consistent body of work of hundreds of sides notable for the impeccable guitar/piano interplay, Carr's profoundly expressive, melancholy vocals and some terrific songs. As Paul Oliver noted: “together they made an incomparable team, with a driving movement and lilting swing which was extremely infectious. Neither was at his best alone; it was their perfect timing and effortless mutual support which made them.” As for the songs, Oliver notes, “they were carefully composed and far from causally planned but they had a rare and simple poetry.”

Blackwell eventually grew dissatisfied with the lack of credit given his contributions with Carr; the situation was remedied by Vocalion's Mayo Williams after 1931 – in all future recordings, Blackwell and Carr received equal songwriting credits and equal status in recording contracts. Blackwell's last recording session with Carr was in February 1935, for Bluebird Records. The session ended bitterly, as both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr's death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner "My Old Pal Blues" and then shortly retired from the music industry.

Chicago Defender June 29, 1929

Indianapolis had some notable blues talent, with several fine artists who gravitated to Scrapper's orbit; there was Shirley Griffith who moved to the city in 1928 and became friendly with Scrapper and Carr, Pete Franklin, whose mother was good friend with Leroy Carr (he roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935), Jesse Ellery who appeared on Jack Dupree's first sessions and singer Brooks Berry who met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis.

Blackwell returned to music in the late 1950’s where he was recorded first in 1958 by Colin C. Pomroy, the recordings issued and first released on a 7 inch 45 rpm EP called Longtime Blues on the Collector label and was next recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1959 and 1960. These latter recordings were issued on the British 77 label as Blues Before Sunrise. Art Rosenbaum recorded him in 1962 for the Prestige/Bluesville label resulting in his finest latter day recording, the album Mr. Scrapper’s Blues which ranks as one of the great blues revival records of the 1960's. Rosenbaum recorded him again for Bluesville, this time with singer Brooks Berry, resulting in the marvelous My Heart Struck Sorrow that has yet to be issued on CD. For a few years it seemed that Blackwell was at last receiving the acclaim and rewards that he had long deserved, but it was all to end abruptly when in October 1962 he was shot in the chest at point blank range. Police arrested a 75-year-old neighbor named Robert Beam for his murder.

Related Articles

-Watts, Theodore F. “An Interview with Scrapper Blackwell.” Jazz Monthly 6, no. 5 (Jul 1960): 4–6.

-Rosenbaum, Arthur. Scrapper Blackwell: Mr. Scrapper’s Blues. USA: Bluesville BV-1047, 1961

-Rosenbaum, Art. Blues of Brooks Berry and Scrapper Blackwell: My Heart Struck Sorrow. USA: Bluesville BV-1074, c1963.

-Calt, Stephen; Epstein, Jerry; Perls, Nick; Stewart, Michael. The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell. USA: Yazoo L-1019, 1971.

-Rijn, Guido van; Vergeer, Hans. Francis ‘Scrapper’ Blackwell: ‘Blues That Make Me Cry’. Holland: Agram AB 2008, c1980.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
The Aristo Kats Jack You're Dead The Jive Is Jumpin'
The Aristo Kats Watch Yourself Baby The Jive Is Jumpin'
Tampa Red Please Mister Doctor Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa Red I Should Have Loved Her More Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Sunnyland Slim Sad and LonesomeThe Best of Club 51 Records
Big Bertha Henderson Rock, Daddy, Rock Tough Mamas
Al Smith's Progressive JazzBeale Street StompThe Complete Meteor Blues, R & B And Gospel Recordings
Pee Wee Crayton The Telephone Is Ringing Vee Jay: The Chicago Black Music
Junior Parker Pretty Little DollRide With Me, Baby
Arbee StidhamLook Me Straight In The Eye Long Man Blues
Piney BrownMy LoveThe Last Shout, Twilight Of The Blues Shouters
Larry Birdsong I'll Run My Business Vee Jay: The Chicago Black Music
The ChargersThe Large Charge 45
Rosco Gordon Going HomeThe Very Best of Rosco Gordon
Danny Overbea Stop45
Jimmy Reed Baby, What's Wrong The Vee-Jay Years
Lefty (Guitar) Bates & His Orchestra Rock Alley Guitar Star
Lefty (Guitar) Bates & His Orchestra BackgroundGuitar Star
Eddie Boyd Five Long YearsLong Man Blues
Eddie Boyd Blue Coat Man Long Man Blues
L.C. McKinley Pain In My HeartChicago Blues 1952-1957
L.C. McKinley All Alone BluesCool Playing Blues
L.C. McKinley Companion Blues Chicago Blues In The Groove
L.C. McKinley Tortured Blues Chicago Blues In The Groove
Curtis Jones Wrong BluesCool Playing Blues
Curtis Jones Cool Blues Flamin' Blues
L.C. McKinley Blue Evening Blues Vee Jay Screaming Blues Guitar
L.C. McKinley Strange Girl Vee Jay Screaming Blues Guitar
L.C. McKinley She's five Feet Three Vee Jay Screaming Blues Guitar
Curtis Jones Flamin' Blues Flamin' Blues
Ernest CottonEmpty Bed Long Man Blues
L.C. McKinley Nit WitCadillac Baby Vol. 3
L.C. McKinley Sharpest Man In Town Cadillac Baby Vol. 3
L.C. McKinley Mind Your Business Chicago Anthology:
Have A Good Time - Chicago Blues

Show Notes:

Lefty Bates (at left) with the Aristo-Kats, 1946 or 1947.

Today's program is part three of a series of shows devoted to lesser known Chicago blues artists, some session artists, others who cut a handful of sides under their own name, all who are little remembered outside of die-hard collectors. In the past two installments we've spotlighted guitarists William Lacey, Lee Cooper, Lee Jackson and Jody Williams, and this week we showcase two more guitarists: Lefty Bates and L.C. McKinley. Bates helped to form the Hi-De-Ho Boys and after World War II he joined another group called the the Aristo-Kats. He formed his own band in the early 50's cutting a handful of sides on small labels. Most of his paid work came from regular performances in clubs and as a session musician, notably as a rhythm/lead guitarist on records by blues giants such as Tampa Red, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker plus backing numerous lesser known R&B, vocal, doo-wop and jazz combos. He was also a member of the house band for Vee-Jay Records. Bates was involved in a staggering number of sessions so today's focus will be on his bluesier sides and where his playing is prominent. There are also a number of sides by Bates that have not been reissued. Selections were based on Blues Records 1943-1970 and a two-part discography in Blues & Rhythm magazine which is reprinted below.

By 1947 L.C. McKinley had started to play professionally in Chicago, heavily influenced by T-Bone Walker. By the early 1950's he began working with Eddie Boyd and later Curtis Jones. In 1953 he recorded for Parrot Records, but these recordings were not released. He signed with States Records in January 1954 and in 1955, signed a recording contract with Vee-Jay Records. In 1959, Bea & Baby Records released a single by him. McKinley made his last recordings in 1964, which were released on the Sunnyland label in the UK.

Rock AlleyLefty Bates was born William Bates in Leighton, Alabama, in 1920 and acquired his nickname from his left-handed guitar playing. He was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, attended Vashon High School, and there helped to form the Hi-De-Ho Boys. In 1936, they relocated to Chicago, recorded for Decca Records and became a semi-regular act at the Club DeLisa from 1937 to 1950. After serving in the military in World War II, Bates joined the Aristo-Kats, who recorded for RCA Victor. Bates once again became one of the Hi-De-Ho Boys when the Aristo-Kats called it quits.

Early in the 50's, Bates formed a trio with bassist Quinn Wilson, a former member of the Aristo-Kats, and Chicago pianist Horace Palm. This group gigged for much of the 50's, sometimes expanding to a quartet by adding a horn player. Their few recordings were issued by United, Boxer, Mad and Apex Records under Bates's name. Most of his paid work came from regular performances in clubs and as a session musician, notably as a rhythm guitarist. On Jan. 29th 1953 Lefty's band, credited as Jimmy Eager and His Trio, backed Tampa Red on several songs with Bates playing terrific lead guitar.

For many years Bates was a stalwart at Chicago blues scene clubs such as the legendary Theresa's, and appeared in the second guitar on many records by blues giants such as Tampa Red, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. He also shows up on a variety of sessions by lesser-known players such as Larry Birdsong and Honey Brown. He was chosen as a member of what would become the house band for the famous Vee Jay label; along with other players such as bassist, bandleader and manager Al Smith, and saxophonist Red Holloway. This group of players began working under the auspices of the Chance record label, a precursor to Vee-Jay.

In 1957, Bates and Earl Hooker backed the singer Arbee Stidham on his recording of "Look Me Straight in the Eye b/w I Stayed Away Too Long." In 1959, Bates played with Jimmy Reed on his recording of "Baby What You Want Me to Do". In March 1960, he was part of the backing trio for John Lee Hooker on his album Travelin'. In 1961 he performed on the album Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall, and in the same year played on Reed's recording of "Big Boss Man."

L.C. McKinley

Bates got into a jack-of-all-trades situation with the upstart Club 51 label, another Chicago outfit that recorded a mixture of blues, R&B, doo wop, and jazz. At Club 51, however, Bates was the main man, leading up the studio bands under names such as the Lefty Bates Orchestra. Some of the records for this label combined Bates and his sidemen, often the same players that were on the Vee-Jay sides, with vocal groups such as the Five Buddies or Chicago bluesmen such as pianist Sunnyland Slim. In the 70's, Bates took over leadership of the Ink Spots, at that point more of a franchise than a group. Bates died of an arteriosclerosis in Chicago in April 2007, aged 87.

L.C. McKinley was born Larry McKinley in Winona, Mississippi. He relocated to Chicago in 1941. He began to find work and by 1947 had started to play professionally in the Chicago area. By the early 1950's, he was a regular performer at the 708 Club, where he variously topped the bill or played accompaniment in the first half of 1954 with the Ernest Cotton Trio. He began working with Eddie Boyd in the early 1950's. In 1952, McKinley and Cotton backed Boyd on the latter's recording of "Five Long Years", which reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart.

McKinley also worked with pianist Curtis Jones in the early 50’s and played behind Ernest Cotton on 1954's "Empty Bed" recorded for the J.O.B. label . In 1953 he recorded for Parrot Records, but these recordings were not released. He signed with States Records in January 1954, which issued his "Companion Blues" later that year. In 1955, McKinley signed a recording contract with Vee-Jay Records, which issued his single "Strange Girl", backed with "She's Five Feet Three", in the same year. Other tracks he recorded in that period, which were unissued at that time, included "Blue Evening", "Down with It", "Rosalie Blues", "Disgusted", and "Tortured Blues.” In 1959, Bea & Baby Records released his single "Nit Wit b/w Sharpest Man In Town". McKinley made his last recordings in 1964, which were released on the Sunnyland label in the UK. After leaving the music industry, he worked as a presser for a dry cleaning company in East Chicago, Indiana. McKinley died in East Chicago on January 19, 1970, aged 51.

Related Articles

-Vernon, Mick. “L.C. McKinley: The Sharpest Man in Town.” R&B Monthly no. 9 (Oct 1964): 6.

-Penny, Dave; Campbell, Robert; Kochakian, Dan. "Lefty Bates Discography, Pt. 1." Blues & Rhythm no. 183 (Oct 2003): 4-9.

-Penny, Dave; Campbell, Robert; Kochakian, Dan. "Lefty Bates Discography, Pt. 2." Blues & Rhythm no. 184 (Nov 2003): 4-9.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lee JacksonFishin' in My Pond Chicago Blues of the 1950's
Lee JacksonI'll Just Keep Walkin Chicago Blues of the 1950's
Lee JacksonChange of LoveBlues Party at Jump Jackson’s
Sunnyland Slim Depression Blues Blues Party at Jump Jackson’s
Roosevelt SykesYour Will Is MineSings The Blues
Roosevelt SykesGone With The WindSings The Blues
Little Johnnie Jones Prison Bound45
Little Johnnie Jones Don't You Lie To Me45
Lee JacksonJuanitaChicago Blues from C.J. Records Vol. 2
Lee JacksonPleading for LoveChicago Blues from C.J. Records Vol. 2
Lee JacksonWhen I First Came to ChicagoLonely Girl
Lee JacksonLonely Without LoveLonely Girl
Jody Williams Groan My Blues AwayCool Playing Blues
Otis SpannFive SpotBlues From The Checker Vaults
Howlin' Wolf I'll Be AroundSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Howlin' Wolf EvilSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Howlin' Wolf I Have A Little GirlSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Jody WilliamsEasy LovinCool Playing Blues
Billy Boy ArnoldDon't Stay Out All NightThe Very Best of Blues: Vee- Jay Vol. 2
Dennis 'Long Man' BinderI'm A Lover Long Man Blues
Jody WilliamsI Feel So All Alone Cool Playing Blues
Jimmy WitherspoonAin't Nobody's BusinessSpoon So Easy
Billy StewartBilly's Blues (Part 1) The Unbelievable Billy Stewart
Bo Diddley I'm Looking for a Woman Bo's Blues
Bo Diddley Who Do You Love Bo's Blues
Jimmy Rogers One KissComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers I Can't Believe Complete Chess Recordings
Jody WilliamsYou MayChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Jody WilliamsLucky LouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Jody WilliamsWhat Kind of Gal Is That Chess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Otis Rush Groaning The Blues Cobra Records Story
Harold BurrageMessed UpMessed Up ! The Cobra Recordings 1956-58
Bobby Davis Hype You Into Selling Your HeadBandera Blues And Gospel
Jody Williams Moanin' for Molasses The Chicago Years: Blues

Show Notes:

Howlin Wolf, Jody Williams, Hubert Sumlin and Drummer Earl Phillips

 

Today's program is part two of series of shows devoted to lesser known Chicago blues artists, some session artists, others who cut a handful of sides under their own name, all who are little remembered outside of die-hard collectors. We spotlighted guitarists William Lacey and Lee Cooper last week and this time out we showcase two more guitarists: Lee Jackson and Jody Williams. In the mid-1950's, Williams was one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Chicago, yet he was little known outside the music industry since his name rarely appeared on discs. His acclaimed comeback in 2000 led to a resurgence of interest in Williams’ early work. In the 50's he was briefly a member of Howlin' Wolf's band, playing on a number of classic sides as well as backing artists like Bo Diddley,  Jimmy Rogers, Otis Rush, Billy Boy Arnold and others. He cut a handful of brilliant sides under his own name as well. In the late 1960's, he quit the music business in favor of a steady day job. Lee Jackson appears in many studio sessions as a guitarist and bassist but only recorded a handful of sides under his name. His first 45 was for Cobra and after that he would wax some very good tracks for labels run by Cadillac Baby and Carl Jones as well as laying down some fine session work. In 1970, Jackson was part of the American Folk Blues Festival's European tour. He cut his first full LP for Bluesway label in the 70's and cut another album in 1977 for the T.K. label that went unissued.

Jody Williams: Lucky LouBorn in Mobile, Alabama, Joseph Leon "Jody" Williams moved with his family to Chicago when he was just 5 years old.  It was an encounter with Bo Diddley at a talent show that convinced him he should put down his harmonica and pick up a guitar. Absorbing the guitar styles of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and Robert Lockwood, Jody become one of the first important string benders to work in Chicago, influencing such up and coming stars as Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. Williams’ solo career began in December 1955 with the upbeat saxophone-driven "Lookin' For My Baby", released under the name Little Papa Joe on the Blue Lake label. Williams also cut "What a Fool I've Been (I Feel So All Alone)" and "Easy Lovin'" for the label. The label closed a few months later, leaving his slide guitar performance on "Groaning My Blues Away" unreleased.

After touring with West Coast piano player Charles Brown, Williams established himself as a session player with Chess Records. At Chess, Williams met Howlin’ Wolf, recently arrived in Chicago from Memphis, and was hired by Wolf as the first guitarist in his new Chicago-based band. A year later Hubert Sumlin moved to Chicago to join Wolf's band, and the dual guitars of Williams and Sumlin are featured on Howlin’ Wolf’s 1954 singles, "Evil Is Going On", and "Forty Four", and on the 1955 releases, "Who Will Be Next" and "Come To Me Baby." By this time, Williams was highly sought after as a session guitarist, and his virtuosity in this capacity is well illustrated by his blistering lead guitar work on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?", a hit for Checker Records in 1956. In 1957, Williams released "You May" on Argo Records, backed with the instrumental "Lucky Lou", the extraordinary opening riff of which Otis Rush copied on his 1958 Cobra Records side "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)." Other notable session work from the 1950's include lead guitar parts on Billy Boy Arnold's "I Ain't Got You" and "I Wish You Would", Jimmy Rogers’ "One Kiss", Jimmy Witherspoon’s "Ain't Nobody's Business" and Otis Rush’s "Three Times A Fool." Also worth noting is Williams work backing Otis Spann’s storming 1954 release, "It Must Have Been The Devil b/w Five Spot", that features lead guitar work from B. B. King, one of Williams’ early heroes and a big influence on his playing.

Lee Jackson
Lee Jackson, photo by Don Peterson

The frequency with which Williams found his distinctive guitar phrases being copied without credit led to increasing disenchantment with the music business. When the distinctive riff he created for Billy Stewart's 1956 Argo release, "Billy's Blues", was appropriated by Mickey Baker for the Mickey & Sylvia hit, "Love Is Strange", Chess Records took legal action. At the conclusion of the case in 1961, Williams gained neither credit nor compensation.

Lee Jackson was born Warren George Harding in 1921 in Arkansas. He was strongly influenced by his Uncle Alf Bonner and his Aunt Cora who led a jug band and also ran a café between Helena and Memphis in which about every bluesman of the neighboring States played regularly. After some years playing with the Bonners' Jug Band, he tried his luck,under the nickname of Lee Jackson, as an itinerant musician, playing in Memphis, Florida, Saint Louis and finally Chicago. As writer Gerard Herzhaft noted: "The guitar style of Lee Jackson, sharp, jazzy, with sparse but brilliant and bluesy notes was quite original for the immediate post-war Chicago blues scene, reflecting his years playing with swinging jug bands."

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In Chicago he made his debut with Cobra in 1956, with "Fishin' in My Pond b/w I'll Just Keep Walkin'." Jackson's sides under his own name were scant, cutting scattered singles for C.J. and Bea & Baby before cutting his first album, Lonely Girl, for the Bluesway label in 1973. In 1970, Jackson was part of the American Folk Blues Festival's European tour and two sides from that event were issued on the Scout label. Around this time Jackson was part of Willie Dixon's Chicago All-Stars group and a bootleg of him with the band has been circulating for some time. In 1977, he cut another album for Ralph Bass and the T.K. label that was never released, although tracks from that session popped up on several anthologies.

Another interesting session was one captured in 1960 by Joachim Berendt that featured Lee Jackson alongside Shakey Jake, Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim, Jump Jackson and others. These tracks were part of a 45 minute private recording circulating among collectors. Some of these tracks appeared on a German LP. From this session we play Jackson's on "Change of Love" and another track backing Sunnyland Slim. Jackson also backed pianist Little Johnny Jones on two sides that only saw the light of day years later. Jones' widow, Letha Jones, owned an acetate of  two 1964 titles and Jim O'Neal of Rooster Records licensed the rights from her to issue them on 45. Perhaps Jackson's best session work can found on the 1962 Crown release Roosevelt Sykes Sings The Blues which has been reissued by Ace. This short session was recorded in Chicago, and it features Sykes in the company a stellar band including Willie Dixon on bass, Jump Jackson on drums and Sax Mallard. By the late 70's Jackson was playing more and more in the Chicago North Side clubs and his reputation was growing among this new audience. Sadly it would be too late. Jackson was shot to death by the son of his new bride during an argument and died on July, 1st, 1979.

Related Articles

Lee Jackson Obituary. Blues Unlimited no. 135/136 (Jul/Sep 1979): 30.

-Stephenson, Mike. “The Jody Williams Story.” Blues & Rhythm no. 184 (Nov 2003): 22–26.

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