Entries tagged with “Banjo Ikey Robinson”.

Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery You'll Never Miss Your Jelly Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery Rock That Thing Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery House Rent Scuffle Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery Whiskey Sellin' Woman Lucille Bogan Vol. 11923-1930
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery They Ain't Walking No More Lucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery Alley Boogie Lucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery Tee Rolller's Rub Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery I Ain't Sleepy Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery Freddie's Got The BluesBoogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Red Nelson w/ Charles Avery Detroit Blues Red Nelson 1936-1947
Red Nelson w/ Charles Avery Grand Trunk Blues Red Nelson 1936-1947
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Black Bob Good Liqueur Gonna Carry me DownThe Young Big Bill Broonzy 1928-1935
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Black Bob Keep Your Hands Off Of HerWhen The Sun Goes Down
Charlie West w/ Black Bob Hobo Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Charlie West w/ Black Bob Rolling Stone Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Tampa Red w/ Black BobMean Old Tom Cat BluesTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Tampa Red w/ Black BobSomebody's Been Using That ThingTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Tampa Red w/ Black Bob Shake It About LittleTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Charlie McCoy w/ Black Bob Let My Peaches BeThe McCoy brothers
Vol. 1 1934-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Black Bob I'm Betting On YouLil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Fats Hayden w/ Teddy Bunn Brownskin Gal Is The Best Gal After AllTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Ben Franklin w/ Teddy Bunn Crooked World BluesTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Jimmie Gordon w/ Teddy Bunn Sail With MeJimmie Gordon Vol. 1938-1938
Hot Lips Page w/ Teddy Bunn Thirsty Mama BluesThe Very Best of Teddy Bunn
Cow Cow Davenport w/ Teddy Bunn That'll Get ItThe Very Best of Teddy Bunn
Lizzie Miles w/ Teddy Bunn Yellow Dog Gal BluesLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-39
Lizzie Miles w/ Teddy Bunn Too SlowLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-39
Trixie Smith w/ Ikey Robinson Trixie's Blues Trixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1939
Victoria Spivey w/ Ikey Robinson Baulin' Water Blues, Pt. 1Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Georgia White w/ Ikey Robinson The Blues Ain't Nothin' But...???The Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Johnnie Temple w/ Ikey Robinson Jelly Roll Bert Johnnie Temple Vol. 2 1938-1940
Frankie Jaxson w/ Ikey RobinsonRock Me Mama Frankie 'Half-Pint'Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-1929

Show Notes:

Lil Johnson: Rock That ThingOn today’s program we shine the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. We spotlight two fine pianists in Charles Avery and Black Bob. We know little about both men, with Avery making his debut on record in 1929 and Black Bob in 1934 and both dropped off the radar by the late 30’s. Both backed many o the popular blues singers of the era, with Avey cutting just one side under his name and Black Bob cutting nothing under his own name. We also spotlight two very fine guitarists who straddled both the blues and jazz worlds, Teddy Bunn and Banjo Ikey Robinson. Both men backed both jazz musicians and blues singers in the 20’s and 30’s and both cut just a handful of sides under their own names. I'll be doing a sequel, of sorts, where we focus on famous names who were active sessions artists such as Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Bill Broonzy, Kokomo Arnold and others.

Active in Chicago in the 20's and 30's, Charles Avery worked as a session musician backing artists such as Lil Johnson, Freddie 'Red” Nicholson, Red Nelson and others. He cut one record under his own name, 1929's “Dearborn Street Breakdown.” We here him on several tracks todays including backing blues ladies Lil Johnson and Lucille Bogan as well as singers  Freddie "Redd" Nicholson and Red Nelson.

LIl Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. From her second session onwards, she hit up had partnership with the ragtime influenced pianist "Black Bob" Hudson, who provided ebullient support to Johnson's increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet.

Lucille Bogan recorded for OKeh in 1923, for Paramount in 1927, and for Brunswick in 1928, 1929, and 1930. Although she had an uncommonly large Depression era output, she made no recordings at all in 1931 and 1932. When she switched to ARC for the 1933, 1934, and 1935 sessions, she had to use the pseudonym Bessie Jackson for contractual reasons. After the Second World War Bogan made some trial discs for a New York company. She was mad when the records were rejected and died shortly afterward in 1948. Her records find her back with fine pianists like Charles Avery, Will Ezell and later, Walter Roland.

Banjo Ikey Robinson
Banjo Ikey Robinson

The obscure singer Freddie "Redd" Nicholson recorded eight sides in 1930 (three were not issued) all backed by pianist Charles Avery. Nothing seems tobe known about him.

There's not much information on Red Nelson outside of what I gleaned from the Encyclopedia of the Blues: "Nelson Wilborn, better known as Red Nelson, or Dirty Red, was born in Sumner, Mississippi, in 1907. A fine, capable vocalist, he moved to Chicago in the early 1930's and was a prominent recording artist from 1935 to 1947. His recordings with pianist Clarence Lofton, especially "Streamline Train" and "Crying Mother Blues," are probably his best work. In the 1960's he performed locally with the Muddy Waters Band."

Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. He was the brother of banjoist Ed Hudson, and the two frequented the same circles and recording sessions, and sometimes ended up accompanying the same singers. Both brothers were part of the Memphis Nighthawks, and Bob Hudson was also a member (with Tampa Red and other luminaries) of the Chicago Rhythm Kings. Broonzy and Black Bob cut dozens of sides together between 1934 and 1937 and Black Bob is featured on quite a number of Tampa Red sides between 1934 and 1937 .

Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals. Teddy Bunn rubbed shoulders with many top jazz musicians aas well as blues singers in the pre-war era. As he noted: "I have a very good ear and can usually sense what the cats are going to play a split second before they do it." Among the notable blues singers he accompanied were artists such as  Cow Cow Davenport, Lizzie Miles, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria Spivey among others. In addition to an active session career, Bunn was a member of the jazz groups the Spirits of Rhythm and June 1939, and was among the very first musicians ever to record for the Blue Note record label, first as a soloist, then as a member of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen. Today we hear Bunn backing several blues singers including a pair of excellent numbers by Lizzie Miles.

Teddy Bunn
Teddy Bunn

Lizzie Miles was a fine classic blues singer from the 1920s who survived to have a full comeback in the 1950s. She started out singing in New Orleans during 1909-1911 with such musicians as King Oliver, Kid Ory, and Bunk Johnson. She recorded extensively between1922-1930. She recorded in 1939 but spent 1943-1949 outside of music and in 1950 began a comeback recording for labels such as Circle, Cook, Capitol, Verve and others before retiring in 1959.

Ikey Robinson was an excellent banjoist and singer who recorded both jazz and blues from the late '20s into the late '30s. After working locally, Robinson moved to Chicago in 1926, playing and recording with Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and Jabbo Smith during 1928-1929. He led his own recording sessions in 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1935. His groups included Ikey Robinson and his Band (w/ Jabbo Smith), The Hokum Trio, The Pods of Pepper, Windy City Five, and Sloke & Ike. Robinson also accompanied blues singers such as Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon, Georgia White, Eva Taylor and Bertha "Chippie" Hill among others.

Related Articles:

Charlie West  (Blues World 44, Autumn 1972)

Tennessee Chocolate DropsKnox County Stomp Carl Martin / Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941
Howard ArmstrongLouie Bluie (Spoken)Louie Bluie
Howard ArmstrongLouie Bluie BluesLouie Bluie
Howard ArmstrongExposed To Music All My Life (Spoken)
Banjo Ikey Robinson Rock Pie BluesBanjo Ikey Robinson 1929-37
Carl Martin Crow JaneCarl Martin / Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941
Carl Martin Old Time BluesCarl Martin / Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941
Martin, Bogan & ArmstrongCarl's Blues Barnyard Dance
Banjo Ikey Robinson Raggedy But RightBanjo Ikey Robinson 1929-37
Howard Armstrong/Tom Armstrong/Ted Bogan/Ikey Robinson/Yank Rachell38 Pistol Blues
Louie Bluie Film Soundtrack
Yank Rachell Texas TommyYank Rachell Vol. 1 1934 1938
Howard ArmstrongPlaying Country Music (Spoken)
Tennessee Chocolate DropsVine Street DragBarnyard Dance
Martin, Bogan & Armstrong You Don't Know My MindBarnyard Dance
Carl MartinState Street Pimp #2 Crow Jane Blues
Martin, Bogan & Armstrong Salty Dog Barnyard Dance
Louie Bluie & Ted BoganTed's StompLouie Bluie Film Soundtrack
Howard ArmstrongEthnic Music (Spoken)
Louie Bluie & Ted BoganThat'll Never Happen No MoreLouie Bluie Film
Howard ArmstrongWith The Medicine Show (Spoken)
Banjo Ikey RobinsonSlocum BluesBanjo Ikey Robinson 1929-37
Howard ArmstrongPlaying On Maxwell Street (Spoken)
Howard Armstrong/Tom Armstrong/Ted Bogan/Ikey RobinsonRailroad BluesLouie Bluie Film Soundtrack
Yank RachellTappin' That ThingYank Rachell (Blue Goose)
Howard Armstrong/Tom Armstrong/Ted Bogan/Ikey Robinson/Yank RachellDiving Duck Blues Louie Bluie Film
Martin, Bogan & ArmstrongNobody Knows You When You're Down & Out Martin Bogan & Armstrong
Howard ArmstrongPlaying The Blues (Spoken)
Martin, Bogan & ArmstrongHoodoo Blues Classic Appalachian Blues from Smithsonian Folkways
Howard ArmstrongJohn HenryLouie Bluie
Spoken/Louie Bluie & Ted BoganState Street RagTimes Ain't Like They Used To Be Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes To Soundtrack

Today's show is inspired by Terry Zwigoff's wonderful first film, Louie Bluie, an idiosyncratic documentary on the life of  Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong.  I saw this film for the first time many years ago and again just recently when the film was belatedly released on DVD by Criterion. Howard Armstrong proved to be a true renaissance man, excelling in a variety of artistic endeavors during his amazing 80-year career including storytelling, poetry and painting. He managed to conquer nearly every genre of music, learned to play multiple instruments and spoke several languages. One of his most celebrated accomplishments involved learning traditional folk songs in their native tongues and then performing them flawlessly to the astonishment of ethnic audiences. Armstrong was part of a whole generation of African-American string-band artists who played Americana in the 1920’s and 30’s for black and white audiences alike, everything from Tin Pan Alley tunes to gospel and blues. Today's show has plenty of music and spoken commentary from Armstrong as well as music from musical cronies like Ted Bogan, Yank Rachell, Carl Martin and Banjo Ikey Robinson.

Armstrong’s family was a musical one. Howard’s father was one of fifteen siblings, all of whom played one or more stringed instruments. Howard picked up his father’s mandolin and quickly learned his chords and harmonies. Howard’s mother sang and his older sisters sang and played in a little family combo. By the time he was in his early teens Howard, (on fiddle and mandolin) organized his younger brothers into a family string band. During this time he frequently played with the Martin brothers (his fiddle mentor, Roland Martin and Roland’s multi-instrumental brother, Carl) in Knoxville. Armstrong’s first recording experience was for the well-known Vocalion label. A field-recording team from Vocalion was in Knoxville twice between August 1929 and April 1930; setting up a temporary recording studio at radio station KNOX in downtown Knoxville’s St. James Hotel, where they recorded something approaching 100 tracks by several dozen musicians and musical groups from the region. It was during this session that a Vocalion record producer, looking for a memorable name that would spur sales, christened the Martin, Armstrong and Armstrong group, the “Tennessee Chocolate Drops.” They recorded one 78, “Knox County Stomp/ Vine Street Drag.”

From the left: Lee Crocket, Francis Lee, Howard and Roland.

Sometime in 1930 or 1931, Howard was given the name “Louie Bluie,” a name he adopted for performing and recording, a stage name he carried the rest of his life. While performing at a house party in West Virginia, an inebriated lady approached the band, giving each of them nicknames; Carl Martin she dubbed “Duke Ellington,” Ted Bogan became “Ted Lewis,” and coming last to Howard she said, “I know you’re Armstrong, but not Louis Armstrong, you’re just plain old Louie Bluie.” Between the April 3rd, 1930 recording session in Knoxville, and the March 23rd, 1934 recording session for the Bluebird Label in Chicago, IL,Armstrong, usually worked with both Ted Bogan and Carl Martin. By 1933, Howard was residing in Chicago,  primarily playing the streets, clubs and rent parties, as well as rubbing shoulders with Chicago blues players such as Bumble Bee Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie. He was as comfortable playing and singing pop songs as he was with old-time county, blues or jazz. But he didn’t stop there, he also performed novelty tunes, ethnic and gospel songs as well as rags. In 1934, as Louie Bluie and Ted Bogan, he recorded "State Street Rag/Ted’s Stomp" and "There’s Nothing in This Wide, Wide World For Me/ I’m Through With You" for the Bluebird. No copy of the latter has been found.

After serving in World War II, Armstrong moved to Detroit and worked in the auto industry until 1971. With a revival of interest in oldtime African American music, Martin, Bogan and Armstrong reunited to perform. The band recorded, performed at clubs and festivals and went on a tour of South America sponsored by the U.S. State Department. They played together until Martin's death in 1979. The group recorded three albums together: The Barnyard Dance, Martin, Bogan & Armstrong and That Old Gang of Mine.

In 1985 Terry Zwigoff released Louie Bluie, his documentary on Howard Armstrong. Zwigoff was a collector of 1920's and 1930's recordings and was particularly obsessed with “State Street Rag,” which he had taped so that he could play it back repeatedly, and slowly, in order to catch all the notes and pick them out on his own mandolin. “The record took on the mystique for me of something really special. I don’t know how else to describe it,” Zwigoff says. His first idea was to write a feature article on Louie Bluie for the London-based publication Old Time Music. But he needed to track down his subject. “State Street Rag” didn’t credit Louie Bluie by his real name. Luckily, “Ted Bogan” was not a pseudonym. Zwigoff looked him up in the Chicago phone book and, sure enough, he was there—and Bogan put Zwigoff in touch with his friend and partner Howard Armstrong. In 1979, Zwigoff started filming Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, using up his life savings in the first few weeks. He followed the musician over the next five years, documenting his life and capturing a wonderful character in full swing.

From left to right: Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, Yank Rachell, Banjo Ikey Robinson,
Ted Bogan and Tom Armstrong.

"Well, Howard Armstrong and Ted Bogan went back together to the ‘20s",  Zwigoff  told the Fretboard Journal. "They also played with Carl Martin, who I got to meet, but he died just before we started filming. Carl was going to be a huge part of this film. He and Armstrong had this wonderful bantering relationship that I thought would be the heart of the movie. I said, “Oh, God, what am I gonna do now?” …I started thinking, since I played mandolin, “Are there any other black mandolin players still alive?” …Then I remembered Yank Rachell. I had a few of his Victor records with Sleepy John Estes from the 1920s and those are all masterpieces. Somebody had told me was still alive and living in Indianapolis. I tracked him down and I got him to come to Chicago. He never met Armstrong and Bogan before. I introduced him the night before we started filming and they hit it off. …anjo Ikey Robinson was a little bit reticent to be in this film. He said, “Well, you know, I have a reputation in jazz.” Indeed, he did. He was a heavyweight guy in the world of jazz. He recorded with Jelly Roll Morton. He played with everybody from Louis Armstrong to Fletcher Henderson to Coleman Hawkins. He didn’t want to sort of frivolously get in together with a bunch of guys he never heard of, who might just be a bunch of like, you know, bumbling idiots who could barely play. But once he met these guys and liked them personally, and heard ‘em play, he came around. It’s the kind of music Ikey Robinson started out playing before he played jazz. He played country music around the house with his family band as well. I think he grew up appreciating it. So he took to it, and the guys hit it off. But a lot of people think they’re all old friends that go back to the ‘20s, that all of them had known each other for 60 years, when in fact a couple of them had just met the night before."

Outside of his recordings with Armstrong, Ted Bogan recorded just a handful of sides under his own name: a 45 he shared with Carl Martin on the Rocky Road imprint (recorded live at the University of Chicago Folk Festival), a handful of sides for the Testament label in the 60's, two which appear on the Carl Martin album Crown Jane and one cut on the anthology Mandolin Blues.

Carl Martin's main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar, and according to those who saw him perform, could play anything with strings. Martin not only performed solo, but also spent much of his career in a trio featuring Ted Bogan (guitar) and Howard Armstrong (violin). The trio enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and was known under several different monikers, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong initially traveled all over the south entertaining at medicine shows, county fairs, and on the radio. When they couldn't get an actual paying gig, they would play for tips in local taverns. In the late '30s, they followed the great migration to Chicago where they would eventually go their separate ways, occasionally playing together. Martin cut sides under his own name in the 30's as well as backing Tampa Red,Bumble Bee Slim, Washboard Sam and others. He recorded again in the 60's for the Testament label, resulting his only full-length album. Following years of playing solo, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong reunited in the early '70s and played the folk and blues festival circuit all over the country. Martin passed away in Pontiac, MI, on May 10, 1979.

Banjo Ikey Robinson, Howard Armstrong, Tom Armstrong and Ted Bogan
play "My Four Reasons."

Ikey Robinson was an excellent banjoist, guitarist and singer who was versatile enough to record both blues and jazz in the 20's and 30's. Unfortunately he spent long periods off record after the swing era leading him to be less well known that he should be. He moved to Chicago in 1926 where he worked with Clarence Williams, Jelly Roll Morton and Jabbo Smith. He lead his own sessions in 1929, 1931, 1933 and 1935 with groups such as the Hokum Trio, The Pods of Pepper, Windy City Five, and Sloke & Ike. He led small groups form the 40's on. He was rediscovered in the 70's, reuniting with Jabbo Smith, touring Europe and playing with Howard Armstrong as well.

If Armstrong's resurgence began when he reconnected with Carl Martin and Ted Bogan in the early 1970's, the second half of his  resurgence began with the 1985 release of Louie Bluie. At the age of 86, Armstrong made his final album, the wonderful Louie Bluie released in 1995 on the Blue Suit label, earning him a W.C. Handy Award nomination. From 1985, through the remainder of his life, Howard Armstrong was recognized and honored for his contribution to American vernacular music and performed regularly at various venues as well as teaching and performing at sites such as West Virginia’s Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkin’s College, and Port Townsend, Washington’s Centrum Country Blues and Fiddle Tunes workshops and festivals. There was another film, Sweet Old Song In 2002 which premiered on the PBS series P.O.V. He died in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 94, following a heart attack.

Related Articles:

Louie Bluie-Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 by Terry Zwigoff (78 Quarterly 5 and 6) [PDF]

A part three was promised but never published

An American Songster

Georgia WhiteSinking Sun BluesGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteGet 'Em From the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts) Sings & Plays
Georgia WhiteNew Dupree BluesGeorgia White Vol. 11930-1936
Lucille BoganJim TampaLucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929
Lucille BoganCoffee Grindin' BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganAlley BoogieThe Essential
Hattie HartWon't You Be Kind To Me?Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartI Let My Daddy Do That Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartI'm Missing That Thing Memphis Blues 1927-1938
Geeshie WileyLast Kind Word Blues The Best There Ever Was
Geeshie WileySkinny Legs Blues Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Georgia White Black Rider
Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteRattlesnakin' Daddy Georgia White Vol. 1 1930-1936
Georgia White I'm So Glad I'm 21 TodayGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Lucille BoganThey Ain't Walking No MoreThe Essential
Lucille BoganBaking Powder BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganPig Iron SallyShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Mattie Delaney Down The Big Road Blues I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River BluesMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartColdest Stuff In TownMemphis Blues 1927-193
Hattie HartPapa's Got Your Water OnI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Hattie HartCocaine Habit Blues Blues Image Presents Vol. 4
Georgia WhiteWalking The StreetGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteAlley Boogie Sings & Plays
Georgia WhiteThe Blues Ain't Nothin' But???The Piano Blues Vol. 13
Lucille BoganReckless WomanShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Lucille BoganShave 'em DryShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Lucille BoganBarbecue BessShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Geeshie WileyEagles On A Half I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Geeshie WileyPick Poor Robin Clean I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Hattie HartMemphis Yo Yo BluesMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stomper
Lucille BoganStew Meat BluesShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Georgia WhiteLittle Red Wagon Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937

Show Notes:

On today's program we spotlight five tough blues ladies from the 1920's and 1930's; Lucille Bogan and Georgia White recorded extensively with Bogan cutting over sixty sides between 1923 and 1935, and White cutting over 80 sides between 1930 and 1941. Memphis singer Hattie Hart cut a handful of terrific sides under her own name and several with the Memphis Jug Band. We dip down to Mississippi to hear the only known record by mysterious guitar player Mattie Delaney and the equally shadowy, under-record and brilliant Geeshie Wiley.

Read Liner Notes: Pt. 1Pt. 2Pt. 3

In the 1982 liner notes to Georgia White: Sings & Plays the Blues (the first collection of White's recordings) Rosetta Reitz wrote: "Is Georgia White alive or dead? [she died in 1980] Nobody seems to know. If she is alive she is living in obscurity and would be 80 years old. If she is dead, her death went unnoticed for there were no obituaries. I checked and double checked with people who might know. I've been looking for her. I would like to tell her how important I think she is, important to to the history of American music (even though hardly anyone knows her name today)." Thirty years after these notes were written virtually nothing has changed, White is still forgotten and nothing of significance has been written about her in the intervening years. I suppose I should backtrack and mention that the Document label has issued her complete recordings spread over four volumes which is the source of several of today's recordings.

White reportedly moved to Chicago in the 1920's and began working as a singer in the nightclubs during the late '20s. She first recorded in May 1930 for the Vocalion label with Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra recording one song, "When You're Smiling, the Whole World Smiles With You."  After her initial session, White didn't return to the studios until 1935, but recorded regularly from then on through the early '40s for the Decca label (the label billed her as "the world's greatest blues singer"). In 1935, she also recorded a couple of songs, including "Your Worries Ain't Like Mine," under the alias Georgia Lawson. From her first sessions until the late '30s, White was accompanied by herself on piano then pianist Richard Jones, great bassist John Lindsay plus outstanding guitarists like Banjo Ikey Robinson, Les Paul, Teddy Bunn and Lonnie Johnson. White had a good repertoire of songs, many of which sold well and many risque such as I'll Keep Sitting on It, "Mama Knows What Papa Wants When Papa's Feeling Blue" and "Hot Nuts." She was also one of the blues' first revivalists, reaching way back to cover Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues", covering the like of Bessie Smith,  Ethel Waters, Sara Martin, Ma Rainey but more surprisingly are covers of Lucille Bogan's "Alley Boogie" and borrowing from Leadbelly ("Pigmeat Blues") and the obscure Joe Dean ("I'm So Glad I'm 21 Today").

Blues scholar Paul Oliver was on of the few others who wrote about White. In Jazz On Record published in 1968 he wrote: "Undeservedly neglected in recent years, Georgia White was one of the most popular of the recording blues singers in the thirties. She had a strong contralto voice with a keen edge to her intonation and was a capable pianist in the barrelhouse house tradition."

There was mention of White's passing in Arnold Shaw's Honkers And Shouters when he talks about Broonzy. White worked with Broonzy at the Bee Hive and another club in Chicago in a group called The Laughing Trio in 1949-1950. Shaw writes: "There was also Georgia White, a gorgeous Georgia Peach of a blues singer herself whom Big Bill credits with launching 'Trouble In Mind'"  (Bertha "Chippie" Hill cut the first version in 1926). Shaw quotes Broonzy: "When I say Georgia White", Big Bill murmurs, in introducing his version of 'Trouble In Mind', "she was a real nice-looking gal. All the musicians liked her. But there was no way of getting to her because her husband was always around. He was her valet-dressed her, brought her all of her food. Was no chance of anybody getting close to her."

Lucille Bogan, Circa 1933

In the late '40s, White formed an all-women band. She also worked with Big Bill Broonzy from 1949-50, and returned to singing in the clubs during the 1950's. Georgia Her last known public performance was in 1959, after which she retired from the music business.

Lucille Bogan got off to a rather shaky start on her two 1923 sessions. The feisty, boisterous singing she became known for came into much better focus when she returned to the studio in 1927 backed by papa Charlie Jackson on fine numbers like "Sweet Patinua", "Jim Tampa Blues" and "Cravin' Whiskey Blues." As Tony Russell writes in the Penguin Guide To Blues: "Over the next few years she constructed a persona of a tough-talking narrator – 'They call me Pig Iron Sally, 'cause I live in Slag Iron Ally, and I'm evil and mean as I can be,' she sings in 'Pig Iron Sally' – who knew the worlds of the lesbian and the prostitute. She reports from the former in 'Women Don't Need No Men' and 'B.D. Woman's Blues', and the latter in 'Tricks Ain't Walking no More' – best heard in the affectingly sombre version titled 'They Ain't Walking No More' …and 'Barbecue Bess.' Other notable recordings are 'Coffee Grindin' Blues' …and the first recording of  'Black Angel Blues,' which after a great change became a blues standard."  On these recordings she finds strong backing from pianists Will Ezell and Charles Avery. "…Thanks to the generally better sound quality and the ever sympathetic accompaniment of Walter Roland, her mid-30s recordings …are the most approachable. " Notable from this period are "Baking Powder Blues", "Reckless Woman", "Stew Meat Blues" and "Shave 'em Dry" which also exists in an extremely dirty version never intended for commercial release and one that can't be played on the air.

Bogan was born as Lucille Anderson in 1897 in Monroe county, Mississippi. In about 1914 she married Nazareth Bogan, Sr., a blues singer who also worked as a railroad man. The following year a son was born. In 1974 Bogan's son was interviewed by Bob Eagle (Lucille Bogan: Bessie Jackson, Living Blues no. 44, 1979) so quite a bit is known about her.

Bogan recorded for OKeh in 1923, for Paramount in 1927, and for Brunswick in 1928, 1929, and 1930. Although she had an uncommonly large Depression era output, she made no recordings at all in 1931 and 1932. When she switched to ARC for the 1933, 1934, and 1935 sessions, she had to use the pseudonym Bessie Jackson for contractual reasons. After the Second World War Bogan made some trial discs for a New York company. She was mad when the records were rejected and died shortly afterward in 1948.

Don Kent wrote in the notes to Mississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35: "Although Geeshie Wiley may well have been the rural South's greatest female blues singer and musician, almost nothing is known of her. …If Geeshie Wiley did not exist, she could not be invented: her scope and creativity dwarfs most blues artists. She seems to represent the moment when black secular music was coalescing into blues." Wiley recorded just two 78’s in 1930 and 1931, both highly sought after and worth a fortune to 78 record collectors. There are no known photographs and little is known about her. Ishman Bracey provides what little we know about her: "She lived 'round there on John Hart Street for a while. Charlie McCoy got her for his old lady. She could play on the guitar as good as on that record [Eagles On A Half, Pm 13074]. She said she was from Natchez; close by Natchez was her home. She didn't stay here long, couple of months and she done left." In the 1920's she spent three months in Jackson as a resident of John Hart Street; while there, she played in a medicine show. "She could play a guitar, but she had a guitar player with her," Bracey recalled. "She'd play a guitar, and a ukulele too." Wiley recorded "Last Kind Word Blues" and "Skinny Leg Blues" in Grafton, Wisconsin for Paramount Records in March of 1930, with Elvie Thomas backing her on second guitar. Thomas also recorded two songs for Paramount at the session, "Motherless Child Blues" and "Over to My House," Wiley, providing second guitar and vocal harmonies. In 1931 Wiley and Thomas returned to Grafton to record two more sides for Paramount, "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Eagles on a Half."

In Bengt Olsson's Memphis Blues and Jug Bands some light was shed on singer Hattie Hart: "Hattie Hart and Allen Shaw came together on record when they engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. Willie Borum was also present, playing guitar behind Shaw on some of the songs as well as singing four of his own. He and Shaw were new to the recording studio, but Hattie Hart had appeared on several of the Memphis Jug Band's discs in 1929 and 1939, singing the unforgettable 'Memphis Yo Yo Blues', 'Cocaine Habit Blues', 'Oh Ambulance Man, 'Papa's Got Your Bath Water On' and 'Spider's Nest Blues.'  Her voice was strong, sensual and moving. She was born, says Willie Borum, 'just around 1900.  She was dark skinned. She and her husband lived on Keil and Main …they were married as long as I knew them. Hattie used to throw lots of parties. " Borum recalled their New York session: "Hattie recorded just after Jack Kelly. She sang 'I Let My Daddy Do That'  and 'Travelin' Man' …but it was never out on record.  I went in the army from 1943 till 1946. When I came back Hattie had left town. I don't know what happened to her."

Her first recordings were made in Memphis for the Victor label in 1929. Three songs were recorded but only two were issued for her debut single. In 1934 she was recorded again in New York City in September of that year. In the course of four days she recorded some eighteen songs backed by guitarist Allen Shaw with the possibility of Willie Borum playing guitar on some of the cuts. Out of the eighteen songs, only four were issued giving Hattie two more records to her credit. It was also during these sessions that Shaw recorded his only issued sides. Hart may have moved Chicago where in in 1938 she cut sides as Hattie Bolten.

Mattie Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. The song "Tallahatchie River Blues" was first issued on the Yazoo anthology Mississippi Blues 1927-1941 in 1968. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie River Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist. Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy which he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000.

Here's the two Lucille Bogan sides I couldn't play on the air and one by Walter Roland:

Shave 'Em Dry (unreleased version)

Till The Cows Come Home (unreleased)

I'm Gonna Shave You Dry (unreleased)



Show Notes:

Banjo Ikey Robinson, 1929

Today's mix show is drawn heavily from the Document catalog with an emphasis on their Jazz Perspective Series. Document has done an invaluable service by issuing on CD the vast majority of African-American blues, jazz, spirituals and gospel recordings made during the pre-war era and into the early post-war era. Their Jazz Perspective series encompasses obviously jazz, but also much music that meets in that middle ground where blues and jazz intersect. Among those recording we spin terrific records by Teddy Bunn, Banjo Ikey Robinson, Edith Wilson with Johnny Dunn and Clifford Hayes and The Louisville Jug Bands.

Teddy Bunn and Ikey Robinson were contemporaries of Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson and like those men they played both blues and jazz. Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals. He also backed several notable blues singers like Cow Cow Davenport, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria  Spivey among others. Our selections find him backing the obscure Buck Franklin and Fat Hayden. Ikey Robinson was an excellent banjoist and singer who recorded both jazz and blues from the late '20s into the late '30s. After working locally, Robinson moved to Chicago in 1926, playing and recording with Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and Jabbo Smith during 1928-1929. He led his own recording sessions in 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1935. Robinson also accompanied blues singers such as Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon, Georgia White, Eva Taylor and Bertha "Chippie" Hill among others. Recordings of Bunn and Robinson can be found respectively on the Document collections Banjo Ikey Robinson 1929-1937 and Teddy Bunn 1929-1940.

We spin a couple of fine blues tracks by the obscure singers John Harris and Ben Ferguson recorded one day apart in June 1931 both featuring Clifford Hayes on violin.  These stem from the fourth volume of recordings by Clifford Hayes & Louisville Jug Bands on Document's Jazz Perspective series spanning the years 1924 through 1931. Hayes was among the most active and energetic of the early Louisville musicians and these four volumes are built around him but also include several other Louisville bands. The music is a fascinating mix of blues, ragtime, pop music, minstrel, coon songs and jazz.

It probably comes as no surprise that I've amassed a huge percentage of the Document catalog and I never fail to stumble across great forgotten artists that deserve to be better remembered. Among those we spin tracks by Charlie West, The Florida Kid, Al Miller, Bill Gaither, Frank Busby, Willie Lane and Sam "Suitcase" Johnson among others. Charlie West recorded just two brief sessions for Bluebird and Vocalion in 1937 and 1941. Carey Bell eventually married West's daughter and West would occasionally sing in Carey's band. Ernest Blunt AKA The Florida Kid was a fine vocalist and lyricist who waxed eight sides for Blue Bird in 1940. Little is known of Al Miller who sang and played banjo, guitar and mandolin. He cut over two-dozen sides between 1927 and 1936. Writing in The Penguin Guide To Blues Tony Russell observed: "When the history of African-American mandolin playing is written, a page will have to be reserved for Al Miller."

Blues guitarist Bill Gaither was easily the most popular of the bunch, cutting well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr's death in 1935, he recorded as Leroy's Buddy for a time. A fine guitarist who possessed a warm, expressive voice, Gaither was also a gifted and inventive lyricist. He was often partnered with pianist George "Honey" Hill, and the duo patterned themselves after Carr and his guitarist, Scrapper Blackwell. Frank Busby recorded just one 78 in 1937 backed by Bill Gaither and  Honey Hill. We spin Busby's "'Leven Light City", his version of "Sweet Old Kokomo", which shows him to have been a very expressive singer.

Big Joe Williams

The tracks by Willie Lane and Sam "Suitcase" Johnson come from two superb Document collections: Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956 and Rural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962. These collections draw together great recordings by fine obscure performers like John Lee, Monroe Moe Jackson, Julius King, Black Diamond, John Beck plus the post-war recordings of Clifford Gibson.

Also on tap today are three sides from the 1950's and 60's featuring the timeless Big Joe Williams. "Nobody Knows Chicago" comes from a 1958 date featuring the great J.D. Short with the duo making a potent team. J.D. and Big Joe teamed up on the 1958 Delmark albums Piney Woods Blues where he's heard on four tracks and is on all of Stavin' Chain. "Mean Stepfather" comes from the excellent 1960 album Tough Times which was reissued as part of Shake Your Boogie which also includes some sides from 1969. "Penitentiary Blues" comes from a jam session between Big Joe, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. These sides have been issued many times under a myriad of titles. I've taken this one form the 2-CD set Rediscovered Blues which not only includes the jam session but also a very good 1959 date between Brownie and Sonny plus sixteen strong Big Joe sides from 1968.