Entries tagged with “Big Bill Broonzy”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
The Sparks BrothersEveryday I Have The Blues The Sparks Brothers 1932-1935
Memphis SlimNobody Loves Me Rockin' This House: Chicago Blues Piano 1946-53
Lowell FulsonEveryday I Have The BluesLowell Fulson 1948-49
Joe Williams & Count BasieEverydayComplete Clef-Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings
B.B. KingEveryday I Have The Blues Ladies & Gentlemen... Mr. B.B. King Disc
James (Beale Street) ClarkGet Ready To Meet Your Man 78
Jazz Gillum Look On Yonder Wall When The Sun Goes Down
Boyd GilmoreJust An Army BoyThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Elmore James Look On Yonder Wall King of the Slide Guitar
Charlie SegarKey To The HighwayPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Jazz Gillum Key To The HighwayBill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 2 1938-1941
Big Bill BroonzyKey To The HighwayThe War & Postwar Years 1940-1951
Little WalterKey To The HighwayThe Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Madlyn Davis & Her Hot ShotsKokola BluesParamount Jazz
Scrapper BlackwellKokomo BluesThe virtuoso Guitar Of Scrapper Blackwell
Kokomo ArnoldOld Original Kokomo BluesThe Road To Robert Johnson
Charlie McCoy Baltimore BluesThe McCoy Brothers Vol. 1
Freddie SpruellMr. Freddie's Kokomo BluesMississippi Blues Vol.2 1926-1935
Robert Johnson Sweet Home ChicagoThe Centennial Collection
Big Boy Knox Eleven Light City Blues San Antonio 1937
Roosevelt SykesSweet Home ChicagoRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 10 1951-1957
Robert Lockwood Aw Aw Baby (Sweet Home Chicago)Rough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story
Earl HookerSweet Home Chicago Sweet Black Angel
Sara MartinAlabamy BoundSara Martin Vol. 4 1925-1928
Charles Johnson’s Original Paradise Ten & Monette MooreDon't You Leave Me HereThe Complete Charlie Johnson Sessions 1925-1929
‘‘Papa’’ Harvey Hull and Long ‘‘Cleve’’ ReedDon't You Leave Me Here Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Charlie Patton Elder Greene BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues: The Worlds Of Charley Patton
Big Joe WilliamsBaby Please Don't GoBig Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935 - 1941
Sam MontgomeryBaby Please Don't GoEast Coast Blues in the Thirties 1934-1939
Tampa KidBaby Please Don't GoThe McCoy Brothers Vol. 2
Vera Hall Another Man DoneThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Muddy Waters Turn Your Lamp Down LowThe Complete Chess Recordings

Show Notes:

Today's show is a rather obvious one but for some reason I have never got around to it until now. Today we trace the origins and evolution of several classic blues songs. We provide the history and context behind classics like “Everyday I Have The Blues”, “Look On Yonder Wall”, “Key To The Highway”, “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Baby, Please Don't Go.” The impetus for this show came from blues expert Alan Balfour who I've been corresponding with for many years. While discussing Jazz Gillum he reminded me that  James Clark's  "Get Ready to Meet Your Man" was the first incarnation of "Look on Yonder Wall." To my surprise the song does not seem to have been reissued and Alan was nice enough to send an MP3 of the song which he took from a 78 copy he owned before selling it for a "silly" amount.

Robert Johnson: Sweet Home Chicago"Every Day I Have the Blues" was written by Pinetop Sparks and his brother Milton. The song was first performed in the taverns of St. Louis by the Sparks brothers and was recorded July 28, 1935 by Pinetop with Henry Townsend on guitar. In 1949 Memphis Slim recorded the song as "Nobody Loves Me." Although he used the Sparks brothers' opening verse, he rewrote the remainder of the lyrics. "Nobody Love Me" was released as the B-side to Memphis Slim's "Angel Child" single for Miracle — "Angel Child" became a hit (number six Billboard R&B chart), but "Nobody Loves Me" did not chart. However, when Lowell Fulson with Lloyd Glenn adapted Memphis Slim's arrangement, but used Sparks' earlier title, it became a hit and spent twenty-three weeks in the R&B chart, where it reached number three in 1950 Fulson's version, with sax and guitar solos, influenced B.B. King's later rendition of the song. Jazz singer Joe Williams had hits with two different recordings of the song. The first version, recorded with the King Kolax Orchestra in 1952, reached number eight in the R&B chart. In 1955 in New York, he recorded a second and perhaps the most famous version of the song with the Count Basie Orchestra, titled "Every Day." It spent twenty weeks in the R&B chart, where it reached number two. Also in 1955, B.B. King recorded "Every Day I Have the Blues" for RPM. King attributes the song's appeal to arranger Maxwell Davis: "He [Davis] wrote a chart of 'Every Day I Have the Blues' with a crisp and relaxed sound I'd never heard before. I liked it so well, I made it my theme … Maxwell Davis didn't write majestically; he wrote naturally, which was my bag. He created an atmosphere that let me relax."

"Look on Yonder Wall", or "Get Ready to Meet Your Man" as it was first named, was first recorded in 1945 by James "Beale Street" Clark.  Clark, also known as "Memphis Jimmy", was a blues pianist from Memphis, Tennessee. During the 1940's, he appeared on recordings by Jazz Gillum, Red Nelson, and an early Muddy Waters session, as well as several singles in his own name. Jazz Gillum, with whom the song is often associated, recorded a version on February 18, 1946, four months after Clark. Although the release was re-titled, it credits "James Clark" as the composer. In 1952 Boyd Gilmore cut “Just An Army Boy”, his version of the song, backed by Ike Turner on piano for the Modern label. In 1961, Elmore James recorded his version of "Look on Yonder Wall" as the flip side of "Shake Your Moneymaker" for the Fire label.

B.B. King: Everyday I Have The Blues

"Key to the Highway" was first recorded by blues pianist Charlie Segar in 1940. The song was also recorded by Jazz Gillum and Big Bill Broonzy and it was later a R&B record chart success for Little Walter in 1958. "Key to the Highway" is usually credited to Charles "Chas" Segar and William "Big Bill" Broonzy. Both Broonzy and Gillum claimed authorship of the song which was an enduring source of bitterness for Gillum. According to Broonzy, it is likely based on traditional songs: "Some of the verses he [Charlie Segar] was singing it in the South the same time as I sung it in the South. And practically all of blues is just a little change from the way that they was sung when I was a kid … You take one song and make fifty out of it … just change it a little bit." Segar's lyrics are similar or in some cases identical to those recorded by Broonzy and Jazz Gillum.

In 1941 Broonzy recorded "Key to the Highway" with Gillum on harmonica, Horace Malcolm on piano, Washboard Sam on washboard, and an unknown bassist.  Shortly after his friend Broonzy's death in 1958, in an apparent tribute to him, Little Walter recorded "Key to the Highway" as a Chicago blues. The session took place sometime in August and backing Walter (vocals and harmonica) were Muddy Waters (slide guitar), Luther Tucker (guitar), Otis Spann (piano), Willie Dixon (bass), and George Hunter or Francis Clay (drums). The song was a hit, spending fourteen weeks in the Billboard R&B chart where it reached #6 in 1958. In 2010, Big Bill Broonzy's version of "Key to the Highway" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classics of Blues Recordings" category; in 2012, it received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

"One Time Blues" was recorded in March 1927 by Blind Blake for Paramount. Freddie Spruell had sung it as an alternate theme to end his record ‘‘Milk Cow Blues’’ on June 25, 1926. Several groups of blues were to use this melody. The most prominent was "Kokomo Blues,’’ first recorded by Madlyn Davis in November 1927 (mistitled "Kokola Blues,"), with a second recording by guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in June 1928. "Ko Ko Mo Blues" parts 1 and 2 was recorded by Jabo Williams for Paramount in 1932. Other "Kokomo" versions include Lucille Bogan' 1933 unissued number, Charlie McCoy (as "Baltimore Blues," 1934), Kokomo Arnold ("Kokomo Blues", 1934), and Big Boy Knox (as ‘"Eleven Light City", 1937). The set of lyrics with which the tune has long flourished is "Sweet Home Chicago," first recorded by Robert Johnson in November 1936. The lyrics evolving from the "Kokomo" group of songs.  Frank Busby cut "'Leven Light City (Sweet Old Kokomo)" in 1937 for Decca. The first post-war versions of the song were ‘‘Sweet Home Chicago’’ by Roosevelt Sykes recorded in 1954 followed by Robert Lockwood's "Aw Aw Baby (Sweet Home Chicago)" in 1955.

Madyln Davis: Kokola Blues

Big Joe Williams will forever be identified with "Baby Please Don’t Go," his own composition , but the melody actually emerged in 1925 out of Tin Pan Alley as "Alabamy Bound" by Ray Henderson, with lyrics by B. G. DeSylva and Bud Green. Both Lucille Hegamin and Sara Martin recorded versions of the song in 1925. The song soon found its way into more rural and downhome repertoires, sometimes as "Alabamy Bound" and sometimes as "Elder Greene." Charlie Patton recorded "Elder Greene Blues" in 1929 and Pete Harris recorded "Alabama Bound" for the Library of Congress in 1934. Harris’s version of "Alabama Bound" includes several lines about Elder Greene. Leadbelly also recorded "Alabama Bound" for the Library of Congress in 1935.

An intermediate step in the evolution of "Alabamy Bound" into "Baby, Please Don’t Go" was its almost immediate transformation into "Don’t You Leave Me Here." In this new guise, Thomas Morris was credited with writing the music, with Freddie Johnson composing the lyrics, first performed by Monette Moore, vocalist for Charles Johnson’s Original Paradise Ten, in 1927. The song became quite popular with down-home singers as either "Don’t Leave Me Here" or "Don’t You Leave Me Here.""Papa" Harvey Hull and Long "Cleve" Reed recorded a version on the Black Patti label the same year as Moore. Henry Thomas recorded it in 1929 and included a few lines from "Alabama Bound." Tampa Red recorded his version in 1932, Merline Johnson recorded hers in 1938, and Washboard Sam recorded a version in 1937. The most influential version, however, was Big Joe Williams’s 1935 recording of "Baby Please Don’t Go" which he cut again in 1941 and 1947, both backed by Sonny Boy Williamson. The first two artists to record "Baby Please Don’t Go" after Big Joe Williams were Sam Montgomery, who recorded it in the spring of 1936 and Tampa Kid, who recorded it in the fall of 1936. By the end of the Korean War, "Baby Please Don’t Go" had become a blues standard, and more than fifty versions were recorded. From the post-war era we spin Muddy Waters' 1953 version titled "Turn Your Lamp Down Low."

Another song that ties into this family of song is “Another Man Done Gone” first recorded by Vera Hall by John Lomax for the Library of Congress. In his book The Beautiful Music All Around Us author Stephen Wade talks bout this song: "When Vera recorded "Another Man Done" she told John Lomax that she learned it from her guitar-playing husband. …When writer-collector Harold Courlander came to Livingston in February 1950, he recorded both Vera singing 'Another Man Done,' as well as someone she knew: Willie Turner, a twenty-seven-year-old  confined at Camp Livingston. With his two fellow inmates, he sang and recorded 'Now Your Man Done Gone,' a piece they otherwise sang on the county road gang. …Two days before Courlander recorded Willie Turner at Camp Livingson, he stopped forty miles away in Marion, Mississippi. There he recorded a singer identified in his notes "only as Cora, who sang 'Baby Please Don't Go' . . . the same song, but with some variance in the lyrics."

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jazz GillumRoll Dem Bones Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumThe Blues What Am Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Tampa RedPlease Mr. DoctorTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa RedShe's DynamiteTampa Red Vol. 14 1949-1951
Big Bill BroonzyLeavin' DayRockin' In Chicago 1949-53
Big Bill BroonzyRambling BillThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Washboard SamYou Can't Make The GradeRockin' My Blues Away
Washboard SamRamblin' With That WomanWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949
Washboard SamShe's Just My SizeWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949
Sonny Boy WilliamsonWonderful TimeThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy WilliamsonPolly Put Your Kettle OnThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy WilliamsonApple Tree SwingThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Lonnie JohnsonMe And My Crazy SelfThe Original Guitar Wizard
Lonnie JohnsonNothin' Clicken' ChickenLonnie Johnson 1949
Lonnie JohnsonCan't Sleep AnymoreLonnie Johnson 1949-1952
Jazz GillumGonna Take My Rap Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumLook What You Are Today Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Big Bill BroonzyOld Man BluesThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Big Bill Broonzy I Can't WriteThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Tampa RedGot A Mind To Leave This TownTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa RedBig Stars Falling BluesTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Jazz GillumTake One More Chance with Me Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumHand Reader Blues Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Jazz GillumYou Got to Run Me Down Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Lonnie Johnson It Was All In VainThe Original Guitar Wizard
Lonnie Johnson I Know It's LoveLonnie Johnson 1949-1952
Sonny Boy WilliamsonBetter Cut That OutThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy WilliamsonMellow Chick SwingThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Tampa Red EvalenaTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa Red Rambler's BluesTampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Big Bill BroonzyBig Bill's BoogieThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Big Bill BroonzyStop Lying WomanThe War & Postwar Years 1945-49
Washboard SamSoap And Water BluesRockin' My Blues Away
Washboard SamI Just Couldn't Help ItWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949

Show Notes:

Jazz GillumAs blues historian Paul Oliver noted, artists like Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Washboard Sam and Sonny Boy Williamson, were "playing in the brash, confident manner of Chicago which had been developing through the 'thirties." Sam Charters characterized the sound as the "Bluebird Beat" or more unkindly as the "Melrose Mess" by Mike Rowe in his pioneering book Chicago Blues. As Rowe notes "it was a white businessman, Lester Melrose, who was really responsible for shaping the Chicago sound of the late 30's and 40's." Melrose had said "From March 1934 to February 1951 I recorded at least 90 percent of all rhythm-and-blues talent for RCA Victor and Columbia Records…" As Rowe further explains: "But Melrose had more than a large stable of blues artists under his control. Since only a few of them had regular accompanists most of them would play on each others records and thus Melrose has a completely self-contained unit… …The final stage of this musical incest was completed when they started recording each others songs." The result was a consistent, sometime cookie cutter sound, although the best artists would consistently transcend these limitations. The "Bluebird Sound" anticipated the Chicago blues of the post-war era featuring tight, smooth small band arrangements that were filled out with piano, bass drums and often clarinet or saxophone. I've always been a fan of the late period recordings by today's featured artists, in some cases a neglected or overlooked period, and today we spotlight recordings made between 1946 and 1953 which shows how their music evolved and how their sound led  to the rise of the electric Chicago blues sound of the 50's and the emergence of R&B..

Jazz Gillum is usually treated with indifference among blues critics, looked upon as a rather generic performer who typified the mainstream Chicago blues style of the 1930's and 40's. While there's some truth to this, Gillum's recordings were consistently entertaining throughout his sixteen-year recording career punctuated with a fair number of exceptional sides. Gillum was by no means a harmonica virtuoso but he was a very expressive, easygoing singer who penned a number of evocative songs backed by some of the era's best blues musicians. Gillum recorded 100 sides between 1934-49 as a leader in addition to session work with Big Bill Broonzy, Curtis Jones and the State Street Boys. Many of his records were characterized by strongly rhythmic support, credit for which must go largely to Big Bill Broonzy and later guitarist Willie Lacey.Washboard Sam

William McKinley Gillum was born in Indianola, Mississippi (B.B. King's birthplace as well) on September 11, 1904. He soon learned to play the harmonica. By 1918 he had a job in a drugstore in Greenwood, Mississippi and could often been seen on the streets playing music for tips. Five years later he migrated to Chicago. There he met guitarist Big Bill Broonzy and the two started working club dates around the city as a duo and would soon form an enduring recording partnership. Gillum made his recording debut for the Bluebird label in 1934 with "Early In The Morning" b/w "Harmonica Stomp." The records evidently didn't sell and Gillum didn't record again for two years. Gillum's recordings were very much in the Bluebird mold yet he often rose above the production line sound to record a fair number of high quality blues. Between 1934-1942 Gillum recorded 70 sides, every session featuring the fret work of Big Bill Broonzy. Gillum's most celebrated song during this period was "Key To The Highway" which he cut on May 9, 1940. Both Broonzy and Gillum claimed authorship of the song which was an enduring source of bitterness for Gillum. During World War II, there was a shortage of shellac and J.C. Patrillo, President of the American Federation of Musicians ordered a ban on all recordings. Gillum joined the Army in 1942 and served until 1945.

Gillum resumed recording in 1945 and in 1946 cut "Look On Yonder Wall" one of his most famous recordings. Starting in 1946 the brilliant William Lacey took over the guitar chores and his terrific electric work really adds a spark to Gillum's later recordings. Gillum made his last issued recordings as leader on January 25, 1949. Gillum would record once more on a 1961 date with Memphis Slim and Arbee Stidham. On March 29, 1966, during an argument, Gillum was shot in the head and was pronounced dead on arrival at Garfield Park Hospital in Chicago.

Washboard Sam recorded hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Out of all the washboard players of the era, Sam was the most popular, which was due not only to his washboard talent, but also his skills as a highly imaginative songwriter and powerful, expressive vocalist. As an accompanist, Washboard Sam not only played with Broonzy, but also backed bluesmen like Bukka White, Memphis Slim, and Jazz Gillum. Sam added a phonograph turntable and a couple of cowbells to his washboard for added tone and his washboard playing is consistently driving and swinging.

Washboard Sam (born Robert Brown) was the illegitimate son of Frank Broonzy, who also fathered Big Bill Broonzy. Sam was raised in Arkansas, working on a farm. He moved to Memphis in the early '20s to play the blues. While in Memphis, he met Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon and the trio played street corners, collecting tips from passerby's. In 1932, Sam moved to Chicago. Initially he played for tips, but soon he began performing regularly with Big Bill Broonzy. Within a few years, Sam was supporting Broonzy on the guitarist's Bluebird recordings. Soon, he was supporting a number of different musicians on their recording sessions, including pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Ransom Knowling, and a handful of saxophone players, who all recorded for Bluebird. In 1935, Sam began recording for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs. In 1953, Washboard Sam recorded a session for Chess Records and then retired. In the early '60s, Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim tried to persuade Sam to return to the stage to capitalize on the blues revival. Initially, he refused, but in 1963 began performing concerts in clubs and coffeehouses in Chicago; he even played a handful of dates in Europe in early 1964. He cut his last sides in 1964 before passing in 1966.

Sonny Boy Williamson I
Sonny Boy Williamson I

Easily the most important harmonica player of the pre-war era, John Lee Williamson almost single-handedly made the harmonica a major instrument, leading the way for the amazing innovations of Little Walter and others who followed. Already a harp virtuoso in his teens, he learned from Hammie Nixon and Noah Lewis and ran with Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell before settling in Chicago in 1934. Sonny Boy signed to Bluebird in 1937. He recorded prolifically for Victor both as a leader and behind others in the vast Melrose stable (including Robert Lee McCoy and Big Joe Williams, who in turn played on some of Williamson's sides). Sonny Boy cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947. John Lee was popular enough that by the 1940s, another blues harp player, Aleck/Alex "Rice" Miller, who was based in Helena, Arkansas, began also using the name Sonny Boy Williamson.

His first recording session was supported by the great Big Joe Williams, at the beginning of his distinguished career playing delta blues guitar. After this session Sonny Boy alternated between guitar and piano backups, occasionally using both at the same session. His most frequent accompanists were Big Bill Broonzy and the record company's "house" piano player Blind John Davis. Other famous accompanists over the years were Eddie Boyd, Yank Rachel, Big Maceo and Willie Dixon. But some say the best accompanist was Joshua Altheimer, a piano player who played on the seven numbers of a 1940 session and then died the next year. Writer Pete Welding noted that the only significant difference between Big Joe Williams and Sonny Boy and those of say Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf is the matter of electric amplification. Othewise all the ingredients are the same: guitar, harp, bass and drums. He continues, "Big Joe and John Lee stand as vital, connecting links between the older Mississippi style and those of the postwar years." Sonny Boy Williamson wouldn't live to reap any appreciable rewards from his inventions. He died at the age of 34, while at the zenith of his popularity (his romping "Shake That Boogie" was a national R&B hit in 1947 on Victor), from a violent bludgeoning about the head that occurred during an apparent mugging on the South side. "Better Cut That Out," another storming rocker later appropriated by Junior Wells, became a posthumous hit for Williamson in late 1948. Williamson's style had a profound influence on those who followed including Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor among many others.

Lonnie Johnson's place in blues history would have been immortalized if even if he had never recorded past the 1930's. It certainly would have made blues critics life easier who generally tend to dismiss Johnson's later recordings. Unfortunately, for them, Johnson persisted hooking up with the King label in the late 1940's, enjoying the biggest commercial success of his career and after a fallow period in the 1950's made a full fledged comeback in the 1960's before passing in 1970.

In latter years Lonnie Johnson couldn't win with blues or jazz fans. In the 1960's the blues and folk audience looked away in embarrassment when he sang "How Deep Is the Ocean," "My Mother's Eyes," or "Red Sails in the Sunset." The jazz crowd dismissed him as a relic. Supposedly Duke Ellington, with whom Johnson recorded with in 1928, declined to appear with this "old blues guy" when he guest-starred with Ellington's band at Town Hall in 1961. The New York Daily News caught the flavor of the moment with the headline "The Janitor Meets the Duke." As singer Barbara Dane noted: "…He was a very sophisticated player in a moment when the world was looking for the rough and earthy Delta players."

Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie Johnson

Today we spotlight sides waxed during Johnson's stint with King records which ran from 1947 through 1952 and resulted in close to seventy issued sides. When Johnson signed with King in 1947 his music and music in general was changing. By 1947 he had switched to electric guitar, was incorporating more ballads into his repertoire while the music was in transition from blues to R&B. It is true that Johnson reworked several of his earlier songs and perhaps over relied on a few signature guitar phrases during this period. Still, while many were unprepared for the changing musical times, Johnson seamlessly sailed into the new era not only achieving commercial success but also cutting music of a consistently high artistic caliber.

We featured some 1951 recordings which are complimented by tenor saxophonists Ray Felder and Wilbur "Red" Prysock: "It Was All in Vain" and "Me and My Crazy Self" are sublime blues ballads featuring some of Johnson's best vocal performances plus some nice guitar and tenor echoing off each other beautifully. Johnson concluded his King stint with a four song session in June 1952. Here Johnson is backed by trumpet, three tough saxes, and a kicking rhythm section headed by pianist Todd Rhodes. Backed by a wailing, full bodied band Johnson croons mightily on "I'm Guilty", "You Can't Buy Love" and the soaring "Can't Sleep Any More" the only number on which he solos for any length.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Blind Willie McTell Just As Well Get Ready-You Got To Die-Climbing High Mountains-Tryin' To Get HomeThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Charley Patton You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You DieScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Son House Lord Have Mercy When I Come To DieThe Real Delta Blues
Brother Willie Eason I Want To Live (So God Can Use Me) Fire In My Bones
Furry Lewis When I Lay My Burden DownWhen I Lay My Burden Down
Henry Johnson Until I Found The Lord45
Leola Manning He Fans MeRare County Blues 1928-1957
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going To That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Rev. W.M. MosleyYou Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's HousesRev. W.M. Mosley 1926-1931
Hi Henry Brown Preacher BluesBlues Images Vol. 10
Big Bill Broonzy Preachin' the Blues Big Bill Broonzy
1937-1940 Vol. 2
Ralph Willis Amen BluesShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Papa Lightfoot When the Saints Go Marching Blues Harmonica Wizards
Julius DanielsSlippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden StreetAtlanta Blues
Skip James Jesus Is a Mighty Good LeaderBlues Images Vol. 6
Texas AlexanderJustice Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 3 1930-1950
Lightnin' Hopkins I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Sam Collins Lead Me All The WayJailhouse Blues
Bukka WhiteThe Promise True And GrandMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Mother McCollum Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane Blues Images Vol. 11
Bessie SmuthOn Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)The Complete (Frog)
Lizzie MilesHold Me, ParsonLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-1929
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Pt.1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Champion Jack Dupree Deacon's PartyChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
The Griffin BrothersDouble Faced DeaconBlues With A Beat
Rev. Anderson JohnsonDo You Call That Religion?Blind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Jaybird ColemanI'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan - Some O' These DaysGoodbye, Babylon6
Robert Pete WilliamsChurch on Fire (No. 2)I'm Blue As a Man Can Be
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemAngels In Harlem
Roy BrownJudgement DayRoy Brown & New Orleans - R&B
Lloyd Price Lord, Lord, Amen!Lloyd Price 1952-1953
H-Bomb Ferguson Preaching The BluesRock H-Bomb Rock
Willie Mae Williams Where the Sun Never Goes DownFire In My Bones
Little Janice Scarred KneesWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 1

Show Notes:

I know blues singers don't go to heaven
'Cause Gabriel bars them out
(
Doctor Clayton, Angels In Harlem, 1946 )

Bukka White: I Am In The Heavenly WayToday's show is part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music. In the early 1900's, blues singing was associated with the brothel, juke joint, and the dregs of African-American society. Black church goers called it the "Devils' Music" as the following quote, told to Paul Oliver, reflects: "When she was singin' the blues I told her-she was pavin' her way to Hell," said Emma Williams of her daughter', the blues singer Mary Johnson…" This view was also shared by some former blues singers: "A man's who's singin' the blues- I think it's a sin because it cause other people to sin," said Lil Son Jackson" who gave up blues for the church. As Oliver notes, "Musically the blues and the spirituals, or the spirituals' successor, the gospel song, may have stemmed from common sources. But in the recording era, though they shared on occasion similar instrumentation and voices, they were separate and distinct."

Despite this divide, religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion like Son House, blues artists who moonlighted by singing gospel like Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip, James, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, among many others and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion like Robert Wilkins, Rev. Gary Davis, Georgia Tom, Rube Lacey, Ishman Bracey, Gatemouth Moore and many others. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel like Blind Roosevelt Graves, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists like Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Edward Clayborn, Sister O.M. Terrell and others, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We explore all this and more on today's program.

Today's title comes from one of my favorite singers, the influential Doctor Clayton. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. He first recorded for Bluebird in 1935 cutting six sides four of which went unissued, not recording again until 1941. Between 1941-1942 he recorded four sessions for Bluebird and Okeh. Clayton's final recordings were in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston with a final session in August 1946 which is where today's selection, "Angels In Harlem", comes from. The song was covered by Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Little Son Willis as "Harlem Blues" and by Larry Davis as "Angels In Houston." This is a good  example of a blues song using religious imagery. Another example is Texas Alexander's "Justice Blues" from 1934. The song has lyrical similarity to a number of songs:

I've cried, Lord, my Father, Lord, our kingdom come (2x)
Send me back my woman, then my will be done

I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Says, I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Oh Lord, it's womens up there got their mouths chock full of gold

I'm gonna build me a Heaven, have a kingdom of my own
Gonna build me a Heaven have a kingdom of my own
So these brownskin women can cluster around my throne

The song echoed a line from House' 1930 number "Preachin The Blues:"

Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own (great Godawmighty)
Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home

These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years including Lightnin' Hopkins' "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own" which we play today .Also worth noting is Alexander's mockery of the Lord's prayer. This device shows up in a number of songs including John Byrd's mock sermon "The White Mule of Sin" as he has "Sister" Jones lead the prayer:

Our father who art in heaven
The white man owed me ten dollars and I didn't get but seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
I took that or I wouldn't have got none

In our first installment we played "You Shall" by Frank Stokes which uses a similar refrain:

Oh well it's our Father who art in heaven
The preacher owed me ten dollars he paid me seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
If I hadn't took the seven Lord I wouldn't have gotten none

There were slew of related songs that took a cynical, humorous view of the preacher. In our first installment we featured a number of these including Arthur Anderson's "If You Want To Make A Preacher Cuss", Hambone Willie Newbern's "Nobody Knows (What The Good Deacon Does)", Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe's "Preachers Blues",  Mississippi Sheiks' "He Calls That Religion", Luke Jordan's "Church Bells", Christina Gray's "The Reverend Is My Man", Frank Stokes' "You Shall", Little Esther's "The Deacon Moves In" and Louis Jordan's "Deacon Jones."  We feature  a batch more today including Hi Henry Brown's "Preacher Blues", Champion Jack Dupree's "Deacon's Party" and  The Griffin Brothers' "Double Faced Deacon:"

Well let me tell you about a deacon, top hat long tail coat (2x)
Well he preaches his best while winking at the women folk
Well he preached against gambling, said it was a sin and a shame (2x)
Well he met me in the alley, shot seven for my watch and chain

On "Preacher Blues" from 1932 Hi Henry Brown echoes a similar sentiment:

Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand, sister in the corner crying that my man (2x)
Preacher come to your house asking to rest his hat, next hing he wanna know sister, where your husband at? (2x)

Criticism of the preacher and religion isn't confined  to secular artists. We hear a similar complaint from  Rev. Anderson today on "Do You Call That Religion?" and "Denomination Blues" by Washington Phillips:

You're fightin' each other, and think you're doing well
And the sinners on the outside are going to hell. And that's all

 Now the preachers is preachin', and think they're doing well
All they want is your money and you can go to hell. And that's all

 Then there was Reverend A.W. Mosley who delivers the no nonsense "You Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's Houses."

You jack-legged preachers – stay out of widow's houses
Some of the mornings – some of these nights
You goin' to some widow's house
Some grass widow, that you ain't got no business there
They gonna find your body there
But you won't find yo' head
Preacher – stay out of widow's houses

Bessie Smith: On Revival DayIn the heyday of  blues popularity, the late 20's and 30's, there was a marked increase in blues imagery in recorded sermons which were hugely popular during this period. There was F.W. McGhee railing against "Shine-Drinking" and "Women's Clothes (You Can't Hide)" while Rev. Emmett Dickinson  delivered sermons with titles like "Is There Harm In Singing The Blues" and "Sermon On Tight Like That."

 There were quite a number of blues artists who recorded both blues and gospel. I'm not sure if this was commercially driven or heartfelt religious sentiment. Certainly Son House was conflicted  between the blues and religious worlds.  In his younger days House became involved with the Baptist religion, and by the time he was twenty he was preaching in a church near Clarksdale. In his mid-twenties, House heard a guitar player named Willie Wilson (sometimes Willie Williams) playing bottleneck guitar and it changed his life. House bought a battered guitar, Wilson patched it up, put it in Spanish tuning, and soon House was accompanying him. Surprisingly enough, after becoming a bluesman, House continued to preach for awhile, an unlikely combination of careers that speaks of the conflict between religion and blues that would bedevil him the rest of his life. His  "Preachin the Blues", featured in part one, is a savage attack on organized religion—specifically in the form of the Baptist church. In his rediscovery years House recorded and performed religious materiel, sometimes even doing some preaching during his shows.

House's contemporary Charley Patton not only performed and recorded religious songs but for most of his life wrestled with what he thought was a calling to be a preacher. He cut several religious songs: "Prayer of Death" (Parts 1 & 2), "Lord I'm Discouraged", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "Some Happy Day, "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" and "Oh Death."

Others featured today who recorded both blues and gospel were singer Leola Manning who's vocals seem straight out of the church. Our selection, "He Fans Me", is a religious number but bears a strong resemblance to  Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's raunchy hit "Fan It." Then there was Crying Sam Collin who cut just a few gospel numbers although he did record several others that were not released. Similarly Julius Daniels cut a mix of blues and gospel as we feature him performing "Slippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden Street." Blind Willie McTell was another who cut a fair number of spiritual sides starting in 1933, some more in 1935 and several for the Library of Congress in 1940. He continued to cut a number of religious sides during his post-war recordings. Skip James, featured today on "Jesus Is a Mighty Good Leader" from his legendary 1931 session, continued to perform and record spiritual numbers during his rediscovery in the 1960's. At his first session in 1930 Bukka White cut two religious numbers and two blues and in advertisement in the Chicago  Defender was billed as the "Singing Preacher."

Unrelated to the Son House song, where several similarly titled songs such as Bessie Smith's "Preachin' The Blues", "Preaching The Blues" by H-Bomb Ferguson and Big Bill Broonzy's "Preachin' The Blues.” In many versions of his life, Broonzy speaks of becoming a preacher for awhile. Unlike the House song, these songs represented the blues singer delivering mock sermons. Ferguson's father was a Baptist preacher who paid for piano lessons for his son condition he learned sacred songs. But Ferguson had other ideas: "After church was over, while the people was all standing outside talking, me and my friends would run back inside and I'd play the blues on the piano." His father would not approve of his 1952 number:

Is all my bothers here, is everybody ready?
Well all you backsliders sit out there and say amen,
And when I get to preaching, you wish you had some gin
Now take old brother Johnson he says he's living right,
I saw him sneaking around with the deacon"s wife last night

Today's program features several so called guitar evangelists. There is only a slight difference between a street-corner blues singer and a sanctified street singer, since both need to hold a crowd and make a few bucks. Blind Willie Johnson is the most famous and greatest of the guitar evangelists. Others from this period include Edward W. Clayborn, A.C. & Blind Mamie Forehand, Blind Willie Brother Willie Eason: I Want To LiveHarris, Willie Mae Williams plus several who recorded slightly later like Rev. Utah Smith, Willie Eason and Sister O.M. Terrell.

In part one we spotlighted  a pair of cuts by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a tremendous guitarist and singer who did  blues sides in her early days but pretty much stuck to gospel for the rest of her lengthy recording career. It's interesting that in the early blues years there were very few guitar playing woman. The biggest name was Memphis Minnie with a few others like Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley who cut a few sides. Tharpe must have been an influence in because on the gospel side there were several fine woman guitarists including Willie Mae Williams and  Sister O.M.  Terrell  both of whom are spotlighted today.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Kokomo Arnold Coffin Blues Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Big Bill BroonzyFalling RainAll The Classic Sides
Tampa RedStormy Sea BluesThe Essential
Josephine ParkerI Got A Man In New OrleansField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Alice Moore Grass Cutter Blues Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Black Boy ShineBrown House BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Mack Rhinehart & Brownie StubbliefieldBroke And HungryDeep South Blues Piano 1935-1937
Little Brother Montgomery Santa Fe BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Bo CarterBo Carter's AdviceGreatest Hits
Chatman Brothers If You Don't Want Me, Please, Don't Dog Me AroundBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Willie Williams'Twas On a Monday Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941
J. WilsonBarrel House BluesRed River Blues 1934-1943
James Henry DiggsFreight Train BluesVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Charlie McCoy Let My Peaches BeCharlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1 1934-1936
Harlem HamfatsMy Daddy Was a Lovin' ManHarlem Hamfats Vol. 1 1936
Lil JohnsonMy Stove's In Good Condition Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops
Victoria Spivey Black Snake Swing Victoria Spivey Vol 3 1929-1936
Jimmie Strothers & Joe Lee Lord Remember Me Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Blind Roosevelt GravesWoke Up This MorningAmerican Primitive Vol. I: Raw Pre-War Gospel
Blind Boy Fuller (I Got a Woman, Crazy for Me) She's Funny That Way Blind boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
The Two CharliesDon’t Put Your Dirty Hands On Me Charley Jordan Vol. 3 1935-1937
Walter ColemanMama Let Me Lay It On YouCincinnati Blues
Red NelsonCrying Mother BluesBroadcasting the Blues
Bill Gaither Pins And NeedlesBill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
Ozella JonesI Been a Bad, Bad Girl (Prisoner Blues)Alan Lomax: Blues Songbook
Memphis MinnieI'm A Bad Luck WomanMemphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Peetie WheatstrawWorking Man (Doing’ The Best I Can)Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 3
Bumble Bee SlimThis Old Life I'm LivingBumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936
Casey Biil Weldon Somebody Changed the Lock on That DoorCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936
Oscar WoodsLone Wolf BluesTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace 1930-1938
Robert JohnsonLast Fair Deal Gone DownThe Centennial Collection
Sonny Boy NelsonPony BluesCatfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942
Washboard SamMixed Up BluesWashboard Sam Vol. 1 1935-1936
The Hokum BoysNancy JaneThe Hokum Boys Vol. 2 & Bob Robinson 1935-1937
Lemuel JonesPo' FarmerField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Elinor Boyer You're Gonna Need My Help SomedayField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947

Show Notes:

Walter Coleman: Mama Let Me Lay It On YouToday’s show is the tenth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Casey Bill Weldon, Bill Gaither  and Bumble Bee Slim recorded prolifically. Blind Boy Fuller was one of the few down-home artists whose sales could compete with urban artists (he cut ten titles in 1936).

Leroy Carr, who epitomized the urban blues, passed away in 1935 with the recording companies trying to cede the mantle to artists such as Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither. Blues guitarist Bill Gaither cut 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 recorded under the moniker Leroy's Buddy for a time.

Casey Bill Weldon and Kokomo Arnold were two of the popular Chicago guitarists, alongside the well established Tampa Red.  Between 1927 and 1935 Weldon cut just over 60 sides for Victor, Bluebird and Vocalion. He was also an active session guitarist, appearing on records by Teddy Darby, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheatsraw and others. In the late 1920's, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation. From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides. Arnold also did session work Casey Bill Weldon: Somebody Changed the Lock on That Doorbacking Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosvelt Sykes, Alice Moore (heard backing her on today's "Grass Cutter Blues"), Mary Johnson and others.

Of the recorded blues groups, the swinging, jazzy sound of  the Harlem Hamfats fit right in with the times. The Hamfats were a crack studio band formed in 1936 by black talent scout Mayo Williams. Its main function was backing jazz and blues singers such as Johnny Temple, Rosetta Howard, and Frankie "Half Pint" Jackson for Decca Records; The Hamfats' side career began when its first record "Oh Red" became a hit. The band included brothers Joe and Charlie McCoy ,leader Herb Morand, Odell Rand, and John Lindsay, Horace Malcolm and drummers Pearlis Williams and Freddie Flynn .

Among the popular woman of the day were Memphis Minnie, Georgia White, Lil Johnson while Victoria Spivey was one of the last hold outs from the era of the 1920's blues queens. Lil Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929 on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. 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. Spivey updated her sound and waxed twelve sides in 1936 with a swinging band that featured the aforementioned Lee Collins. Spivey's "Black Snake Swing", backed by her Hallelujah Boys, was a jazzy remake of a song she recorded at her very first session in 1926.

From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on Sonny Boy Nelson: Pony Blueschance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). But despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties. …There was far less recording in the field in the 'thirties; in view of the popularity of the Chicago singers there was less need." Decca, for example, seems to have only gone South once, to New Orleans in 1936, where they recorded Walter Vincson and Oscar Woods.

Then there was Bluebird who over two days on October 15-16, 1936 conducted sessions at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. Little Brother Montgomery cut eighteen sides plus backed singer Annie Turner on her four numbers (two were unissued), Sonny Boy Nelson (Eugene Powell) cut six sides under his own name as well as backing Robert Hill, who cut ten , and his wife Mississippi Matilda on her three sides. In addition Bo Carter cut ten sides, the Chatman brothers (Lonnie and Sam) cut twelve sides, Tommy Griffin cut a dozen sides and Walter Vincson  (as Walter Jacobs) cut two sides. As John Godrich and Howard Rye wrote in Recording The Blues: "The New Orleans session in 1936 was Victor's last substantial race field recording; in subsequent years they recorded a fair number of gospel quartets in he field, but only one or two unimportant blues singers."

ARC made field recordings in 1936 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Fort Worth Texas and San Antonio where they recorded Black Boy Shine and Robert Johnson. Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine, was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937. Johnson recorded sixteen sides in November and a final thirteen sides in June the next year.

Record Sales Chart
Graph showing number of blues and gospel records issued by year from
the book Recording The Blues (click to enlarge)

The year 1936 saw some notable field recordings captured by John Lomax who traveled through Virginia, South Carolina and Florida collecting primarily from convicts. Recordings featured today include Ozella Jones' "I Been a Bad, Bad Girl (Prisoner Blues)", Josephine Parker's "I Got A Man In New Orleans" recorded in Parchman Farm, James Henry Diggs, who's "Freight Train Blues" features two guitars and a bugle and Jimmie Strothers, a blind banjo and guitar player from Virginia who recorded 15 tracks for Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Bobby BlandGood Time Charlie, Part 1Angels In Harlem
Bobby BlandLoan Me A Helping HandI Pity The Fool: The Duke Recordings Vol. 1
Guitar Slim And Jelly BellyKeep Straight BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
John Lee HookerThat's My StoryThat's My Story
Country Paul One More TimeDevil's Jump: Important Indie Label Blues 1946-57
Buddy Boy HawkinsShaggy Dog BluesBullfrog Blues
Buddy Boy HawkinsA RagBuddy Boy & His Buddies
Howlin' Wolf I'll Be AroundSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Sonny Boy WilliamsonYour ImaginationThe Chess Years Box Set
Little WolfWhite House Blues 45
Fannie Mae Goosby Fortune Teller BluesFemale Blues Singers 7 G/H 1922-1929
Rosetta HowardMy Man Jumped Salty On Me The 30's Girls 1932-1940
Billie And Dede PierceDede And Billie's BluesThe Louisiana Joymakers Introducing Billie & De De Pierce
UnknownCold Iron ShacklesNegro Songs of Protest
UnknownIn Atlanta, GeorgiaNegro Songs of Protest
UnknownMr. TyreeNegro Songs of Protest
Mercy DeeEbony BabyTexas Blues Vol. 2
Mercy DeeJack EngineMercy Dee
Mercy DeeMercy's PartyMercy Dee
Martha CopelandWhen The Wind Make Connection With Your Dry GoodsMartha Copeland Vol. 1 1923-1927
Connie's McLean Rhythm BoysYou Done Lost Your Good Thing NowJazzin' the Blues Vol. 1 1929-1937
Scott Dunbar Forty-Four BluesMusic from the South, Vol. 5: Song, Play, and Dance
Robert CageEasy RiderCan See What You're Doing
Kansas Joe McCoyWhat's The Matter With You?Too Late Too Late Vol. 1 1926-44
The New Mississippi SheiksStop And ListenThe New Mississippi Sheiks
Anna Lee ChisholmCool Kind Daddy Blues Blue Girls Vol. 3 1924-1938
Louis Lasky Teasin' Brown BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Big Bill Broonzy C and A BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
Memphis MinnieI'm Waiting On YouFour Women Blues
Washboard SamMama Don't Allow No. 1Washboard Sam Vol. 1 1935-1936
Bobby BlandI Smell TroubleI Pity The Fool: The Duke Recordings Vol. 1
Bobby BlandYield Not To TemptationAngels In Harlem

Show Notes:

Bobby BlandAs always today's mix show covers a wide swath of blues, reflecting a number of things I've been listening to lately, some things that haven't fit into out usual theme shows and song things that will foreshadow future shows. We open and close the show on a sad note as we pay tribute to Bobby blue Bland. Also on deck featured sets of music from Buddy Boy Hawkins, Mercy Dee, Louis Lasky, a set of remarkable recordings made by Lawrence Gellert plus a number of fine blues ladies and more.

Bobby Bland passed on June 23 at the age of 83. Bland was a founding member of the Beale Streeters, the famous Memphis aggregation that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace. He cut singles for Chess in (produced by Sam Phillips) and Modern in 1951 that failed to catch on. Bland hooked up with Duke in 1952 cutting a few singles before entering the army. His 1955 return was remarkable; with saxist Bill Harvey's band providing support, Bland sounded much more assured. Most of Bland's sides during the mid- to late '50s featured the slashing guitar of Clarence Hollimon, but the guitar riffs guiding Bland's first national hit, 1957's "Farther Up the Road," were contributed by Pat Hare. Later, Wayne Bennett took over on guitar, his fret work prominent on Bland's Duke waxings throughout much of the '60s. "Farther Up the Road” was a #1 R&B hit, the first of more than 20 R&B top ten records. During this period Bland toured the Southern chitlin circuit incessantly. Joe Scott steered Bland into smoother material as the decade turned; a mixture of blues, R&B, and soul on numbers like"I Pity the Fool," "I'll Take Care of You," and "Two Steps From the Blues" which were tremendously influential. Scott's brass arrangements provided the perfect backing on Bland's rockers like "Turn on Your Love Light" in 1961 and "Yield Not to Temptation." In 1973, Don Robey sold his labels to ABC Records, and Bland was part of the deal. Without Joe Scott and his familiar surroundings to lean on, Bland's releases grew less consistent although His California Album in 1973 and 1974's Dreamer were very strong. Bland re-teamed with his old pal B.B. King for a couple of mid-'70s albums. Since the mid-'80s, Bland has recorded for Malaco Records.

I got an email from a long-time listener who relayed some information regarding Mercy Dee Walton. Apparently there was a discussion about him on one of the blues forums and the upshot was that there appears to be several tracks he cut for Arhoolie that were released on vinyl but never made it to CD when the label reissued his recordings. Today's tracks include "Ebony Baby"(only issued on the LP Texas Blues Vol. 2) , a fine version of Joe Pullum's "Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard", "Jack Engine" and "Mercy's Party", the later two only available on the first pressing of the album Mercy Dee on Arhoolie recorded in 1961. I featured Walton and some of his California contemporaries last year.

Buddy Boy Hawkins: A Rag BluesMercy Dee Walton was born in Waco, Texas on August 30, 1915.In the late 1930's he moved to California, where he worked on farms up and down the Central Valley while performing in local bars and clubs for the region's black farmworkers. In 1949 he recorded for the Fresno-based Spire label and had an immediate hit with "Lonesome Cabin Blues," which reached Number 7 on the R&B charts. The Imperial label signed him and recorded two sessions of twelve titles in 1950. By 1952 he was recording for Specialty, another Los Angeles label. His first track for them, "One Room Country Shack," was a hit in 1953, reaching Number 8 on the R&B charts. A recording for the small Rhythm label in 1954 had little impact, and in 1955 he recorded for the Flair label, part of the Modern Records stable in Los Angeles. He returned to his earlier situation of supplementing his earnings from music with agricultural work and settled in the Stockton, California, area. In 1961 Mercy Dee came to the attention of Chris Strachwitz, owner of the Arhoolie label. A series of sessions that year with backing by guitarist K. C. Douglas, harmonica player Sidney Maiden, and drummer Otis Cherry produced albums on the Arhoolie and Bluesville labels. Soon afterward Walton suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in hospital in Murphys, California, on December 2, 1962.

We feature a trio of field recordings made by Lawrence Gellert which was inspired by a new book by Bruce Conforth titled African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics: The Lawrence Gellert Story. Gellert was born in New York City to Hungarian immigrants. When he was in his early 20's, he moved to Tryon, North Carolina for health reasons. He edited a newspaper there and began making friendships among the African Americans who lived in the area. Motivated by leftist political ideologies and inspired by the music-making of his neighbors, he began making recordings to pre-grooved zinc discs on a device of his own construction. The recordings he made were dangerous–both to himself and those who performed for him. Gellert was able to record songs that were more explicit in their complaint against the conditions of segregation than any other scholar before the 1960's. For this reason, in the 20 years he made these recordings he was careful not to document who made the recordings. The result was a body of songs so unprecedented that when Gellert published Negro Songs of Protest in 1936, some accused him of making up this collection of song texts himself. In the 70's Rounder issued two albums of Gellert's recordings (Negro Songs of Protest and Cap'n You're So Mean) and another album of material was issued on the Heritage label in the 80's (Nobody Knows My Name). I'm hoping to interview Conforth for an upcoming show and spotlight more of these remarkable recordings.

Today we feature a five song set revolving around the shadowy Louis Lasky. Lasky cut fives sides in 1935 as well as backing Anna Lee Chisholm, Big Bill, Memphis Minnie and Washboard Sam. It's been suggested he was a influence on Big Bill's guitar style. Nothing is known about Lasky's background but his style suggests a older musician, perhaps from the generation of Henry Thomas or Daddy Stovepipe. His first appearance was back in 1924 when he accompinaed Anna Lee Chisholm on "Cool Kind Daddy Blues." He didn't surface again until 1935 where he backed Broonzy on "C and A Blues", possibly appeared alongside Broonzy on two songs by the group the Chicago Sanctified Singers, backed Washboard Sam, Memphis Minnie and cut three sides under his own name; "How You Want Your Rollin' Done b/w "Teasin' Brown Blues" and the unissued pop song "Caroline" which surfaced and has been reissued.

Negro Songs of Protest
Read Liner Notes

Several fine blues ladies on tap today including Fannie Mae Goosby, Billie Pierce and Martha Copeland. As David Evans wrote: "Fannie Mae Goosby was one of the first two blues singers (the other was Lucille Bogan) to be recorded in the Deep South. Although the 1923 Atlanta session for OKeh Records, arranged by Polk Brockman and supervised by Ralph Peer, is best known for launching the career of hillbilly artist Fiddlin' John Carson, the discovery of Goosby and Bogan was an equally worthy outcome." Goosby cut eleven sides at sessions in 1923 and 1928.

DeDe Pierce was born Joseph De Lacroix Pierce in New Orleans. Pierce's first gig was with Arnold Dupas in New Orleans in 1924. During his time playing in city nightclubs, he met Billie Pierce, who became his wife as well as a musical companion; the two were the house band at the Luthjens Dance Hall from the 1930's through the 1950's. They released several albums together but stopped performing in the middle of the 1950's due to illness, which left De De Pierce blind. By 1959 they had returned to performing, and De De Pierce toured with Ida Cox and played with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, before further health problems ended his career. There's quite a number of recordings by them including sessions for Original Jazz Classics, Riverside, Arhoolie among others.Martha Copeland recorded a total of 34 sides for OKeh, Victor and Columbia between 1923 and 1928 yet virtually nothing is known about her background. Her accompanists included many of the best known New York jazz musicians of the period.

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