Entries tagged with “Big Joe Turner”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
B.B. King Gamblers' Blues Blues Is King
B.B. King I'm Gonna Do What They Do to Me Blues On Top of Blues
Charles Brown I Want To Go Home Legend!
Jimmy WitherspoonNo Rolling Blues The Blues Singer
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry When I Was Drinkin'I Couldn't Believe My Eyes
John Lee Hooker Back Biters and SyndicatorsUrban Blues
John Lee Hooker I'm Bad Like Jesse JamesLive At Cafe Au Go-Go
Otis SpannNobody Knows Chicago Like I Do Down To Earth
George Harmonica Smith Help Me ...Of The Blues
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Roy BrownWoman Trouble Blues The Blues Are All Brown
Big Joe TurnerCherry Red Singing The Blues
T-Bone Walker I'm Gonna Stop This Nite Life Stormy Monday Blues
Jimmy RushingBad LoserLivin the Blues
Mel Brown Seven Forty-Seven Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins
Rev. Gatemouth Brown I Come To The Garden And I'm Going ThroughAfter Twenty-One Years
Big Joe Williams Franklin Street BluesDon't Your Plums Look Mellow Hanging On Your Tree
Homesick James Fayette County Blues Ain't Sick No More
L.C. Robinson House Cleanin' Blues House Cleanin' Blues
Earl Hooker End of the Blues Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker
Andrew ''Big Voice'' Odom Take Me Back To East St Louis Farther On Down The Road
Jimmy Reed I'm Just Trying To Cop a Plea The New Jimmy Redd
Jimmy Reed I've Got To Keep on Rollin'Big Boss Man
Sunnyland Slim Mr. CoolPlay The Ragtime Blues
Lucille SpannCry Before I Go Cry Before I Go
Cousin JoeEvolutionCousin Joe Of New Orleans
Roosevelt Sykes Dirty Double Mother Dirty Double Mother

Show Notes:

[Shows notes are edited from part one which aired in 2010]

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. To give the new label legitimacy B.B. King, who was recording for ABC at the time, saw his releases put out on BluesWay (his Blues Is King was the label's first release). BluesWay seemingly signed every major bluesman available, including Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann, Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Witherspoon, Charles Brown, Roy Brown, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry among others. In addition to these seasoned performers the label issued records by deserving lesser knows, issuing the first LP's by Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, Andrew Odom and L.C. Robinson. Legendary jazz producer Bob Thiele (he was the main producer at ABC/Impulse between 1961-69) was instrumental in getting the BluesWay label started but entrusted day to day operations and producing to others. Early sessions were produced by Bill Syzmzyck, Ed Michel, Bob Thiele, with later sessions handled by Al Smith. Al Smith was Jimmy Reed's manager and bandleader, and after Vee-Jay folded in 1966, a producer of soul sessions for ABC and blues sessions for ABC BluesWay. Smith inked a 25-LP production deal with BluesWay in 1973. Twenty of these albums subsequently appeared. After the label folded all interests were bought by MCA who are now owned by Universal.

 60394
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The label has been spottily reissued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. MCA has largely left the catalog to languish. The BluesWay label has a decidedly mixed reputation, cutting many very good records and many downright bad ones. Producer Al Smith has been the target of much of the animosity against the label summed up by writer Pete Lowry in a 1974 Living Blues review: "Finally I get a chance to take a swipe at Al Smith. Unfortunately, he is no longer able to enjoy it, but I'll go on anyway. Here was a strange man-I don't know if he was any kind of bass player, but he surely produced some screwed-up sessions. I won't go into artist "relations," but merely deal with the sessions; there have been some predictable characteristics. Lousy liner notes, replete with phonetic spelling (to be kind), incomplete or wrong personnel data, as well as often incomplete or disordered listings of the tunes… As for the records themselves, they varied from good to near disasters. The results of Al's Special Ninety Minute Album Sessions included inconsistent levels on instruments, as if the warm up/test stuff was mixed for release (as was most likely the case!), some strange sounding stuff (out-of-synch echo units), and just total lack of programming. Al seems to have assembled albums in the order recorded, with no concept of the album as a programmed whole. For an artist to survive this sort of "production" he had to be damn good, or be having a better than average day in the studio." No doubt Lowry is accurate in his assessment but to be fair, as he notes, the label issued quite a number of very good records that deserve a better fate than to languish in limbo. In this article we selectively trawl through the BluesWay catalog spotlighting some of the releases featured on today's program. Hopefully MCA will see fit to to create a proper BluesWay reissue series but until then vinyl may be your only option (where known I'll try and list records which have appeared on CD – reissues have appeared on Charly in the late 80's as well as Off-Beat and One Way in the 90's although these now appear to be out of print. The BGO label has reissued several BluesWay records all of which appear to be in print).

The BluesWay label issued seven albums by B.B. King between 1966 and 1970. Hands down the best of the bunch was the first one, 1966's Blues Is King which ranks as one of King's best live recordings, perhaps just a notch behind the seminal Live At The Regal cut two years previously. Recorded at a Chicago club, B.B. turns in sizzling performances of "Tired Of Your Jive", "Don't Answer The Door" and a spectacular "Night Life." The rest of B.B.'s output during this period is very solid including 1967's Blues On Top of Blues with brassy arrangements of songs like "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss and "Worried Dream" while 1968's Lucille is sparser, most notable for the ten minutes of "Lucille." 1969's Completely Well was B.B.'s breakthrough album featuring "The Thrill Is Gone" while Live & Well is divided evenly between live and studio material and contains "Why I Sing The Blues" and was his first LP to enter the Top 100. His Best – The Electric B.B. King is not a "best of" but a collection of previously issued items as singles and studio leftovers and features strong material like "Don't Answer The Door" a #2 R&B hit, "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss" and "All Over Again." 1970's Back Alley was a "best of" collection. All of B.B.'s output from this period has been reissued on MCA with some titles on BGO.

The New Jimmy Reed Album
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In addition to B.B. King, BluesWay brought heavyweights Jimmy Reed and T-Bone Walker into the fold. With his contract for Vee-Jay over, Al Smith brought Reed over to BluesWay where he cut five albums for the label between 1966-1968; The New Jimmy Reed Album, Soulin', Big Boss Man, Down In Virginia and  I Ain't From Chicago. These are mostly solid outings, finding him mostly singing his classic material and were guitar heavy featuring, in addition to Reed, Eddie Taylor, Lefty Bates and Wayne Bennett. A selection of BluesWay material appears on the CD Jimmy Reed Is Back issued on Collectables. Walker cut three records for the label: Stormy Monday in 1967, Funky Town in 1968 and Dirty Mistreater in 1973. These aren't essential T-Bone records, although quite credible, with Walker playing well featuring a sympathetic band, particularly pianist Lloyd Glenn with the two sounding particularly good together on "Going To Funky Town." Walker revisits a number of his early classics like "Cold Hearted Woman", "Stormy Monday" and "I'm In An Awful Mood", updating these numbers with some 60's styled funk that generally comes across well. The latter two records have been reissued on BGO.

Between recordings under his own name and session work, Earl Hooker was prolifically recorded by BluesWay in 1969 less than a year before he passed away. Hooker was on the West Coast recording for Blue Thumb when he began working club dates with his cousin John Lee Hooker. Hooker was working with BluesWay at the time which is how Earl Hooker's BluesWay association began. The first date was a session with John Lee Hooker which went so well that producer Ed Michel offered to make an album with Earl on the spot. Both the John Lee Hooker album If You Miss 'Im…I Got 'Im and Earl Hooker's Don't Have To Worry were recorded on May 29, 1969 with the same personnel, adding Andrew Odom to Earl's date since he was insecure about his vocals. Considering the quick, no nonsense nature of the recording the results came off exceptionally well. It's inexplicable why Don't Have To Worry hasn't been issued on CD in it's entirety (5 songs appeared on the anthology Simply The Best with one additional song on Blues Masters, Vol. 15: Slide Guitar Classics). Despite his vocal insecurities Hooker sounds confident on "You Got To Lose" and "Don't Have To Worry" (originally called "Do Right Baby" as recorded by Billy Gayles in 1956). Odom's robust, booming vocals are particularly good on "The Sky Is Crying" and "Come To Me Right Away, Baby" while Big Moose Walker takes the vocals on the remarkable "Is You Ever See A One-Eyed Woman Cry?" Hooker stretches out on the instrumentals "Hookin'" and adaptation of "Honky Tonk" and sounds even more inspired in an update of "Universal Rock" a song he first cut in 1960. If You Miss 'Im…I Got 'Im is a very strong outing with Earl and his crew giving a unique twist to Hooker's sound. Hooker's wah-wah is heard to good effect on on moody numbers like "Lonesome Mood", "I Wanna Be Your Puppy, Baby" and lays down some nice slide flourishes on the title track. This has been reissued on CD on the BGO label. BGO has also reissued the other John Lee Hooker BluesWay albums: Urban Blues, Simply The Truth and Live At Cafe Au-Go-Go. The other Earl Hooker album released was 1973's posthumous Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker which were sides originally cut and released for the Cuca label in the early 60's. This has been reissued on CD by Catfish as There's a Fungus Amung Us but which is likely out of print itself.

Homesick James: Ain't Sick No More
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Ed Michel was so impressed with results that additional sessions were set the following week for Big Moose Walker and Andrew Odom. For the Odom date Michel backed him with jazz veterans Panama Francis on drums and Jimmy Bond on stand-up bass. Hooker for his part was asked to play it straight, without slide or wah-wah. Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose. The album was released as Farther On Down The Road. Among the highlights are the moody "Stormy Monday", the bouncing "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone" and a crackling version of "Farther Up The Road" (2 songs appear on Simply The Best). The record wasn't treated well by the critics as Mike Leadbitter clearly expressed in a 1973 edition of Blues Unlimited: "What a bitter disappointment! Muffled sound, endless boring songs and total lack of variation. What have BluesWay done to my heroes?" The album was finally released in 1973 and virtually sank without a trace. Despite Leadbitter's assessment this is a worthwhile release and well worth resurrecting on CD. On the other hand Leadbitter gave a rave write up to Johnny "Big Moose" Walker's Rambling Woman (recorded five days after the Odom session) in the January 1971 issue of Blues Unlimited: "He plays piano with the sort of boogie-woogie drive you just don't hear anymore, and has a nice husky voice-this is an exceptionally good blues album." Walker delivers fine originals including the witty "Footrace" (originally cut in 1961 as "Footrace To a Resting Place" and in 1967), the organ driven "Rambling Woman" (originally cut in 1967), "Baby Talk" with everybody stretching out on instrumentals "Moose Huntin'" and "Moose Is On The Loose." The session is slightly marred by Otis Hale's electric tenor sax. Hale was a guy Walker picked up in the park after hearing him play and disappeared after this session to (thankfully) never record again.

In the summer of 1969 Ed Michel signed up Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon and the duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee. Brown and Witherspoon usually worked with pick-up units and Hooker was selected to worked with them as well as backing Sonny & Brownie following Michel's idea of putting their sound in an urban blues context. Jimmy Witherspoon was recorded first with the album released shortly after Hooker's death under the title Hunh!. The record is decidedly mixed, basically a long jam session, featuring Mel Brown, Jimmy Bond and Charles Brown. This is a laid back affair with some solid jams including "Bags Under My Eyes", "You Can't Do A Thing When You're Drunk" and the 12 minute plus of "Pillar To Post." Witherspoon had also recorded an earlier album for BluesWay in 1969 titled Blues Singer. Tracks from these albums together with several unreleased recordings from the same sessions were released as Never Knew This Kind of Hurt Before – The BluesWay Sessions on the UK-based Charly label in 1989. Hooker, Brown and Bond were brought back the next day, with the addition of drummer Ed Thigpen, tenor Red Holloway and singer Dottie Ivory for Charles Brown's session which was titled Legend! when released. Again a jam session atmosphere prevailed but this time the results were much better, in fact the album is a remarkable one, and ranks as one of the finest BluesWay dates. Brown reworks his old classics in a more modern context resulting in terrific new versions of "New Merry Christmas Baby", "Drifting Blues" and the stunning "I Want To Go Home" all featuring some beautiful and thoughtful playing from Hooker and superb tenor from Holloway. This record has been issued on CD on the Off-Beat imprint. As for Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, their playing and singing are as good as ever but the record never really gels. Michel was obviously not pleased with the results, with the record issued only four years later as I Couldn't Believe My Eyes. The record was chiefly notable for being Hooker's last studio appearance. This has been reissued on CD by the BGO label.T-Bone Walker: Stormy Monday Blues

One of the things BluesWay should be applauded for is giving lesser known deserving bluesmen an opportunity to record. It was on BluesWay that artists such as L.C. Robinson, Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, Cousin Joe and the aforementioned Big Moose Walker and Andrew Odom recorded their first full length records. On the short list of truly great BluesWay recordings one would have to place L.C. Robinson's House Cleanin' Blues. Robinson was an immensely talented steel guitar player, strong vocalist and fiddle player who had only one single from 1954 and a handful of tracks on a 1968 World Pacific LP to his credit. House Cleanin' Blues is a flawless set featuring Robinson's distinctive steel guitar on the blazing title track plus a batch of equally potent originals like "Separation Blues", "My Baby Crossed The Bay" and some outstanding fiddle on the brooding "Summerville Blues." Sadly Robinson recorded only once more for Arhoolie. Lee Jackson was a distinctive Chicago guitarist who had waxed a handful of singles in the 50's and 60's for Cobra, C.J. and Bea and Baby as well as appearing on records by Willie Dixon, Little Walter, St. Louis Jimmy, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim and others. His Lonely Girl is a very solid Chicago blues outing – although it could probably have been better with more rehearsal – featuring his slightly reverberated, jazzy guitar on fine cuts like the title track, "Juanita" (first cut by him in 1961) and "When I First Came To Chicago." The band is solid with Carey Bell being a real standout. Lucille Spann had made a handful of recordings with husband Otis and after his death in 1970 and cut a fine tribute to him immortalized on the out of print Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1972. Her lone album, 1972's Cry Before I Go, was quite good, spotlighting her strong, raspy, gospel vocals (she sang in church in Mississippi and Chicago) backed by a terrific Chicago ensemble of Detroit Junior, Mighty Joe Young, Eddie Taylor and Willie Smith. Highlights include the title cut, the hard luck "Meat Ration Blues" and the superb "Country Girl" which evolves into an impassioned tribute to her late husband. New Orleans singer/pianist Pleasant Joseph was introduced to Al Smith through Roosevelt Sykes who was acting as a talent scout for the label. Between 1945 and the early 50's he cut a slew of of swinging sides with top drawer session men that highlighted his witty wordplay and made him a big draw on the New York scene. If you want to know where Dr. John found his inspiration look no further than Cousin Joe. Joe hadn't record in nearly a decade when he made the exceptionally good Cousin Joe Of New Orleans, backed by a sympathetic combo that finds Joe in energetic and humorous form as he updates his classic numbers like "Beggin' Woman", "Chicken A-La-Blues" and "Evolution Blues."

L.C. Robinson: House Cleanin' Blues
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In addition to Cousin Joe, BluesWay recorded a number of piano players including the above mentioned Roosevelt Sykes plus two dates by Otis Spann and one session by Sunnyland Slim. Sykes was one of the great blues piano men who made his debut back in 1929 and recorded prolifically for numerous labels up until his death in 1983. On the surface his lone BluesWay date, Dirty Double Mother, would be just another brief pause in a long career and one would expect a typically professional outing if nothing else. Sykes, however, was clearly inspired turning in an exuberant performance backed by the same band as Cousin Joe plus the great sax of Clarence Ford. Ford was a veteran who's worked graced countless records by artists like Amos Milburn, Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Ear King, Little Richard, Guitar Slim and many others. Ford is terrific here as is Sykes who's witty way with a lyric is heard to fine effect on "May Be A Scandal", "Double Breasted Woman" as well as stomping boogies like "Jookin' In New Orleans" and "Dooky Chase Boogie." From New Orleans BluesWay went to Chicago where they recorded two albums by Otis Spann, The Blues Is Where It's At and The Bottom of the Blues, in 1966 and 1967. The first was recorded before a small studio audience, the second featuring the debut of Spann's wife Lucille with both sessions backed by Muddy Waters and his band. Spann is in commanding form on tracks like "My Home Is In The Delta", "T'ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do", "Heart Loaded With Trouble" and "Doctor Blues." Both records have been reissued on the MCA CD Down To Earth: The BluesWay Recordings, which seems to be out of print, and as individual CD's on BGO. The other Chicago piano player recorded was Sunnyland Slim who's oddly titled Plays The Ragtime Blues was released in 1972. Despite the title this is an exceptionally strong, well recorded set of Chicago blues finding Sunnyland backed superbly by Carey Bell and The Aces (Louis Myers, Dave Myers and Fred Below). "Get Hip To Yourself" is a terrific tough times tale with sizzling guitar from Myers with other highlights including "Mr. Cool" and the jazzy "Canadian Walk."

Alongside Otis Spann and Sunnyland Slim, Al Smith produced sessions by other Chicago artists including Carey Bell, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Johnny Littlejohn and Johnny Young. These sessions are definitely a mixed bag. Carey Bell's Last Night is his second album having cut a record for Delmark in 1969. The BluesWay LP is a superior outing finding Bell turning in a very strong Chicago blues record filled with plenty of inspired harp work on tracks like "Last Night", "Tomorrow Night" and instrumental showcases like "Rosa, I Love Your Soul" and "Freda." Bell receives excellent support from Pinetop Perkins, Dave Myers, Eddie Taylor and Willie Smith. This has been reissued on CD on the One Way label. With the addition of Snooky Pryor the same band backs Homesick James on his Ain't Sick No More. This is a very solid, relaxed outing with James in fine form on songs like "Buddy Brown", "Fayette County Blues" and " Money Getter." Snooky Pryor hadn't recorded in over a decade, having become disgusted with the record business, when he cut the lukewarm Do It If You Want To. It was Homesick James who directed Al Smith to his pal Snooky Pryor. Like the Cousin Joe and Roosevelt Sykes, this record was cut in New Orleans featuring some of the same band members. Pryor's brand of Chicago blues doesn't find sympathetic backing from the band and only a few songs like "The One I Crave To See" and "Do It If You Want To" rise to the occasion. Johnny Littlejohn was a fine slide player and singer who unfortunately was ill served on record so perhaps we can't totally blame Al Smith for the tepid Funky From Chicago. While Littlejohn turned in a sterling performance on his 1968 debut Arhoolie record, this one lacks the former's excitement. Littlejohn sounds muted on this recording with few tracks that stand out despite backing from a band that included Eddie Taylor, Dave Myers and Fred Below. Sadly Littlejohn's subsequent records weren't much better. Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping was Young's final recording, passing not long after this superb date. Young is in top form playing mandolin on all cuts backed by a tough band featuring stellar guitar work from Louis Myers and the debut by harp man Jerry Portnoy who is uncredited. Young energetically romps through first rate numbers like "Deal The Cards", "I Know She's Kinda Slick", and "No. 12 Is At The Station" among others. This is one of Young's best dates outside of his fine late 60's Arhoolie session.

 Rev. Gatemouth Moore: After Twenty-One Years
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The BluesWay label cast a wide net pulling in several classic blues shouters and those in a similar vein, cutting albums by veterans such as Jimmy Rushing, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Roy Brown and Big Joe Turner. It may have been relatively late in Jimmy Rushing's career when he recorded two albums for BluesWay, Every Day I Have the Blues and Livin' the Blues, but he was still in prime singing voice. Joined by a terrific cast of old pals like trombonist Dickie Wells, trumpeter Clark Terry, and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, Rushing puts across his distinctive brand of jazzy blues on tunes like "Berkeley Campus Blues," "Blues in the Dark," "I Left My Baby," "Sent for You Yesterday," "We Remember Prez" and "Evil Blues", the latter benefiting from Shirley Scott's organ and the guitar of Kenny Burrell. The end results are two fine swinging sets of vintage Jimmy Rushing. Both albums have been reissued on the Polygram CD Every Day I Have The Blues. Like Rushing, Vinson was well into a long illustrious career when he cut 1967's Cherry Red, his first recording after a five year hiatus from the studio. Backed by the fine small combo of Buddy Lucas on tenor/harmonica, Patti Brown on organ and Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Vinson turns in a marvelous session revisiting past glories like "Cherry Red", "Alimony Blues", "Somebody's Got To Go" as well as newer gems like 'Cadillac Blues" and "Flat Broke Blues." Bloomfield's playing is a real stand out. This album has been reissued on the One Way label. Big Joe Turner's 1967 album Singing The Blues finds the veteran shouter in fine form featuring ace tenor man Buddy Lucas and terrific blowing from George "Harmonica" Smith. The former album has been reissued on CD on the Mobile Fidelity label. The sixties were slow for Roy Brown. There were a few sessions for fly-by-night labels like DRA and Connie and Mobile. Chess cut four sides on him in 1963, but never released them. He became a door-to-door salesman, easing himself into the homes of older blacks with autographed pictures of the former star that was him. "I sold a lot of encyclopedias that way, he recalled. Brown cut 1968's The Blues Are All Brown (reissued in 1973 as Hard Times: The Classic Blues Of Roy Brown) which features the fine title track but the remainder is a bit lackluster.

BluesWay lists several albums that went unissued. Rocky & Val: I Stopped & Looked at the World , John Lee Hooker: Untitled Album, Jimmy Reed: Untitled Album, Little Andrews 'Blues Boy' Odom: Take Me Back to St.Louis and Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry: Untitled Album.

In closing, the BluesWay label has an uneven track record due primarily it seems to the quickie recording sessions and lack of rehearsals among musicians who in many cases hadn't play together much. Producers such as Bill Syzmzyck, Ed Michel, Bob Thiele did an admirable job considering these conditions but certainly Al Smith deserves much of the criticism leveled at him. Still there were many good records that deserve a better fate than languishing in the out of print bin. Even those that have been reissued on CD on One Way and Off-Beat in the early 90's all appear to be out of print. The BGO BluesWay reissues do appear to all be in print. Many of the LP's can be found easily on ebay although there are a few elusive ones. Hopefully MCA will see fit to due a proper reissue program of the BluesWay catalog as they did of the better known Chess catalog. At the very least they should reissue some of the better albums in there entirety like the Charles Brown, Earl Hooker, Johnny Young, L.C. Robinson and Sunnyland Slim to name a few. A very credible BluesWay box set could also be assembled, a 3 or 4 CD set say, cherry picking the best of the label. Major labels are usually indifferent about their blues holdings so I won't hold my breath but certainly the BluesWay catalog deserves a better fate.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
B.B. King My Own Fault, Darlin aka It's My FaultThe Vintage Years
B.B. King Dark Is The Night Pt.1 & 2The Vintage Years
Freddie Brown Whip It To A JellyBarrelhouse Mamas
Rosa Henderson Papa If You Can't Do Better (I'll Let A Better Papa Move In)The Essential
Olive Brown Lookin For A HomePeacock Chicks & Duchesses
King Queen & JackStack-O-Lee BluesHawaiian Guitar Hot Shots
Casey Bill Weldon Go Ahead BuddyBottleneck Guitar Trendsetters Of The 1930's
Hauulea EntertainersRailroad Blues Hawaiian Guitar Hot Shots
Oscar WoodsCome On Over To My House BabyTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace
Big Joe TurnerJohnson and Turner BluesHave No Fear, Big Joe Turner Is Here
Henry GrayI Declare That Ain't RightKnights Of The Keyboard: Chicago Piano Blues
Meade Lux LewisRising Tide BluesMeade Lux Lewis 1940-1944
Mississippi John HurtCow Hooking BluesD.C. Blues: The Library of Congress Recordings Vol. 2
Wilbur Sweatman and His OrchestraThe Hooking Cow BluesWilbur Sweatman Vol. 2
Ace Holder Leave My Woman Alone R&B On Lakewood Boulevard
Elmore NixonA Hepcat's AdviceLyons Avenue Jive
Sam Morgan's Jazz BandShort Dress Girl Breaking Out Of New Orleans 1922-29
Danny BarkerChocko Mo Feendo HeyHistory Of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues Vol. 1 29-49
Forest City JoeDown on the Levee BluesSounds of the South
Boy Blue I Got To GoSounds of the South
Texas AlexanderTexas Troublesome BluesTexas Troublesome Blues
Josh White Josh And Bill BluesJosh White: The Remaining Titles 1941-1947
Tampa Red Black Hearted BluesDown In Black Bottom
Big Joe Turner Poor HouseSinging The Blues
Roy BrownHard TimesThe Blues Are All Brown
Lela BoldenSouthern Woman Blues Piron's New Orleans Orchestra
Lela BoldenSeawall Special Blues Piron's New Orleans Orchestra
Mississippi John Hurt FrankieAvalon Blues, The Complete 1928 OKeh Recordings
Nick Nichols & Whistlin Moore AlexFrankie And Johnny (The Shooting Scene) Part 1Whistlin' Alex Moore 1929-1951
Jewell Long Frankie And Albert Rural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962
Joe Callicot Frankie And Albert Ain't A Gonna Lie To You
Tiny Grimes Frankie And Johnny (Boogie)Tiny Grimes Vol.4 1950-53

Show Notes:

Lela Bolden - Seawall Special BluesAn eclectic show on tap for today including several songs with a New Orleans connection which is not surprising after just spend the last week in the crescent city. In addition we spin a pair of vintage numbers by B.B. King,  a batch of Hawaiian flavored blues, sets revolving around W.C. Handy's "The Hooking Cow Blues", Frankie and Johnny", a pair of tracks from the Bluesway vaults, several fine woman singers and some outstanding piano players.

From New Orleans we spin tracks by Sam Morgan, Armand Piron and Danny Barker. The recordings by Sam Morgan's Jazz Band for Columbia Records in 1927 are some of the best regarded New Orleans classic jazz recordings of the decade.The band was one of the most popular territory bands touring the gulf coast circuit (Galveston, Texas to Pensacola, Florida).

In New Orleans he Danny Barker was dubbed "Banjo King of New Orleans." In 1930 Barker moved north to New York City where he switched from banjo to guitar and in 1938 joined Benny Carter's Big Band and from 1939 to 1949 was the rhythm guitarist for Cab Calloway. He also worked as a freelance rhythm man around New York playing and recording with Sidney Bechet and Mezz Mezzrow, Bunk Johnson, Edmond Hall and Henry "Red" Allen. By 1965, Barker, back in New Orleans, had married singer Blue Lu Barker. He split his time between performing with his wife and the Fairview Baptist Church Christian Band which he founded, lecturing on traditional jazz and working as Assistant to the Curator of the New Orleans Jazz museum up until his death in 1994.In the 1980's Barker published the wonderful autobiography A Jazz Life. From 1945 we play his "Chocko Mo Feendo Hay" a New Orleans classic recorded by others as "Jockamo."

After touring briefly with W.C. Handy in 1917, Armand Piron started an orchestra under his own name. Piron's New Orleans Orchestra quickly became the best paid African American band in New Orleans. In 1923, Piron took his band to New York City as part of his ambition to make the group nationally known. He succeeded in making a hit there, landing a residency at the Roseland Ballroom, and making recordings for three different companies, Okeh, Victor and Columbia. Lela Bolden cut one 78 for Okeh backed by Piron on violin and Steve Lewis who played Piano in Piron's band.The Hooking Cow Blues

B.B. King was in hospice care Friday at his home in Las Vegas, according to a longtime business associate with legal control over his affairs. Probably my first blues album was B.B.'s Live At The Regal which I picked up for $3.99 at Tower Records in NYC. After that I started picking up those great reissue albums put out by Ace Records which collected his 50's sides. Ace has done a great job collecting B.B.'s early sides on well over dozen CD's including a 4-CD box set called The Vintage Years which I highly recommend. We open the show with a couple of early gems, the two-part "Dark Is The Night" and "My Own Fault, Darlin'."

Some Scholars have suggested that the slide style was directly influenced by the “diddley bow” or “jitter-bug,” a single-stringed instrument they say was carried to America by West African slaves. The more likely story, John W. Troutman argues in his article Steelin’ the Slide: Hawaii‘i and the Birth of the Blues Guitar (the article can be found below) is that the musical technique popularized in the Mississippi Delta came from traveling Native Hawaiian musicians who laid the guitar flat on their lap and played it with a piece of metal slid across the strings. Oral testimony, newspaper clippings, and other evidence show that Hawaiian musicians frequented southern cities from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Memphis, to New Orleans, and sometimes collaborated with black musicians. Most of the earliest documented African-American slide guitarists, and certainly the most significant, understood their style as that of playing ‘Hawaiian guitar. Casey Bill Weldon, for example, was even billed as the Hawaiian Guitar Wizard.

“The Hooking Cow Blues” was a tune was written by Memphis bandleader Douglas Williams in 1917, published and recorded by WC Handy and recorded for Columbia  by him the same year. The recorded was listed as a fox trot. "The Hooking Cow Blues" was recorded by Wilbur Sweatman and his Orchestra with vocal by Corky Williams and ssued in 1935 on Vocalion. Mississippi John Hurt recorded the song in the 1960's. It's unclear who put lyrics to the song.

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. To give the new label legitimacy B.B. King, who was recording for ABC at the time, saw his releases put out on BluesWay (his Blues Is King was the label's first release). BluesWay seemingly signed every major bluesman available. I did a feature on Bluesway in 2010 and will finally get around to a belated sequel this year. Today we play cuts from Big Joe Turner's Singing The Blues from 1967 and Roy Brown's Hard Times from 1968 (also issued on Bluesway in 1973 as The Blues Are All Brown and reissued on Charly as The Bluesway Sessions).

The song "Frankie and Johnny" was inspired by one or more actual murders. One of these took place in an apartment building located at 212 Targee Street in St. Louis, Missouri, at 2:00 on the morning of October 15, 1899. Frankie Baker a 22-year-old woman, shot her 17-year-old lover Allen (also known as "Albert") Britt in the abdomen. Britt had just returned from a cakewalk at a local dance hall, where he and another woman, Nelly Bly (also known as "Alice Pryor"), had won a prize in a slow-dancing contest. Britt died of his wounds four days later at the City Hospital. On trial, Baker claimed that Britt had attacked her with a knife and that she acted in self-defense; she was acquitted and died in a Portland, Oregon mental institution in 1952. In 1899, popular St Louis balladeer Bill Dooley composed "Frankie Killed Allen" shortly after the Baker murder case. The first published version of the music to "Frankie and Johnny" appeared in 1904.The song has also been linked to Frances "Frankie" Stewart Silver, convicted in 1832 of murdering her husband Charles Silver in Burke County, North Carolina. Unlike Frankie Baker, Silver was executed.Hundreds of versions of the recording have been made in all genres. We feature an eclectic mix of versions by Mississippi John Hurt, Jewell Long, Nick Nichols with Whistlin Moore Alex, Joe Callicot and Tiny Grimes.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Mickey Champion & Jimmy WitherspoonThere Ain't Nothing BetterBam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-19622
Mickey ChampionI'm A Woman Bam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-19622
Mickey ChampionGood For Nothin' ManBam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-19622
Big Joe TurnerNobody In My MindHave No Fear, Big Joe Turner Is Here
Washboard SamBucket's Got A HoleWhen The Sun Goes Down
J.B. SmithPoor BoyOld Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2
Bessie JonesJohn HenryGet In Union
Will Slayden Joe TurnerAfrican-American Bajo Songs From West Tennessee
Little Brother MontgomeryUp The CountryHome Again, Chicago
Roosevelt SykesMusic Is My BusinessMusic Is My Business
Lonesome SundownIt's Not True Bought Me A Ticket
Blue CharlieWatch That CrowRhythm 'n' Bluesin' By The Bayou
Boogie JakeEarly In The MorningBluesin' By The Bayou
The Four Blazes Women, WomenMary Jo
Goree CarterBack Home BluesThe Complete Recordings Vol. 1
Luke Jones & His OrchestraMama Oh MamaNo More Doggin' The RPM Records Story Vol. 1
King Perry & His OrchestraWelcome Home BabyNo More Doggin' The RPM Records Story Vol. 1
Alberta AdamsRememberChess Blues
Alberta AdamsMessin' Around With The BluesMen Are Like Street Cars...Women Blues Singers 1928-1969
Alberta AdamsSay Baby SayT.J. Fowler 1948-53
Leroy FosterLouella Rough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story
Floyd JonesSweet Talkin' WomanMasters Of Modern Blues Vol. 3
Johnny ShinesTwo Trains Runnin'Masters Of Modern Blues Vol.1
Otis Spann My Home Is On The DeltaThe Complete Candid Recordings
Lightnin' HopkinsAnother Fool In Town Jake Head Boogie
Sweet Papa StovepipeAll Birds Look Like Chicken To MeRare Paramount Blues 1926-1929
Sweet Papa StovepipeMama's Angel ChildRare Paramount Blues 1926-1929
McKinley Peebles & Bessie JonesYou Got to Reap Just What You Sow/Just a Little Talk with JesusGet In Union
Blind Lemon Jefferson'Lectric Chair BluesThe Best Of Blind Lemon Jefferson
William HarrisElectric Chair Blues (Jefferson Country Blues)Too Late, Too Late Blues Vol. 3
Mary ButlerElectrocuted Blues (Electric Chair Blues)Bo Carter Vol. 1 1928-1931
Bessie Smith Send Me to the 'Lectric ChairThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Dinah WashingtonSend Me to the 'Lectric ChairSings Bessie Smith

Show Notes:

Bessie JonesFor our final show of 2014 we have a diverse mix show spanning the 1920's through the 1970's and along the way we pay tribute to two blues ladies who recently passed; we end the year on a somber note with tributes to Detroit singer Alberta Adams and L.A. singer Mickey Champion. Also on deck today we spotlight tracks from a great recent collection of sides by singer Bessie Jones, we spin a batch of songs about the electric chair, some fine Chicago blues, a set of swamp blues, we also throw in some jump blues as well as some other odds and ends.

Detroit singer Alberta Adams died at the age of 97 on Christmas Day. Becoming a regular at clubs around Detroit in the 1940s, she eventually was discovered by Chess Records and cut several singles for the label in 1953 including "Messin' Around With The Blues b/w This Morning" and "Remember" and "No Good Man" the latter which was not released. She also briefly recorded with Berry Gordy's Thelma Records in 1962 cutting "I Got A Feeling b/w Without Your Love"and New Jersey's Savoy label where she cut “Say Baby Say” with T.J. Fowler's band in 1952. In the late 1990's and 2000's she record several albums.

Mickey Champion died last month at the age of 89. Discovered in L.A. by bandleader Johnny Otis, Champion recorded several impressive R&B sides in the 1950s and early '60s for West Coast-based labels including Aladdin, Dootone, Modern, RPM and King. The wife of bandleader Roy Milton until his death, Champion began recording again in 2000, releasing a pair of records on Tondef Records. In 2008 Ace Records issued her collected singles from the 1950's and 1960's under the title Bam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-1962.

While I like looking at year end lists of music every year I'm not sure I purchase enough new music or even reissues to make my own list. If I were to compile a list I would certainly include Get In Union released on Tompkins Square Records. The 2-CD set is a collection sides by Bessie Jackson featuring sides with the Georgia Sea Island Singers, combined with many previously unavailable performances captured by Alan Lomax between 1959 Mickey Championand 1966. Bessie Jones was one of the most popular performers on the 1960s and ’70s folk circuit, appearing-usually at the helm of the Georgia Sea Island Singers-at colleges, festivals, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. lan Lomax first visited the Georgia Sea Island of St. Simons in June of 1935 with folklorist Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and author Zora Neale Hurston. There they met the Spiritual Singers Society of Coastal Georgia, as the group was then called, and recorded several hours of their songs and dances for the Library of Congress. Returning 25 years later, Lomax found that the Singers were still active, and had been enriched by the addition of Bessie Jones who possessed a enormous repertoire of black music.  There's practically no blues on this collection but we do play Jones singing a fine rendition of "John Henry."

Also from the is collection we spin a track by an associate of Jones' named McKinley Peebles. Nothing is known about Alan Lomax’s meeting with Peebles, in New York City, in late 1961, in the midst of Alan’s sessions with Bessie Jones, although it’s presumed that they were introduced by Peebles’ friend and busking colleague, Reverend Gary Davis. Peebles was a native of Tide- water Virginia who had made a record for the Paramount label in 1926 under the name Sweet Papa Stovepipe.We play those sides as well today, "All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me b/w Mama's Angel Child." By the way Tompkins Square Records has been issuing some of the best reissues around including some tremendous gospel collections if your a fan of that music.

It appears the electric chair theme started the Bessie Smith's "Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair" recorded on March 3, 1927 and written by Fletcher Henderson. The following year several songs appeared using the theme: Blind Lemon Jefferson "'Lectric Chair Blues" (Feb. 1928), William Harris' "Electric Chair Blues (Jefferson Country Blues)" (Oct. 1928) Mary Butler's "Electrocuted Blues (Electric Chair Blues)" (Nov. 1928). Both Ruby Smith in 1938, the niece of Bessie, and Dinah Washington in 1958 covered Bessie's "Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair." Guitar Welch recorded "Electric Chair Blues" at Angola Prison in 1959.

Alberta AdamsRegionally we feature sets of Chicago blues artists and Louisiana artists. From Chicago we hear the lovely "Louella" by Leroy Foster. Between 1948 and 1952 Baby Face Leroy Foster waxed a handful absolutely terrific sides under his own name for a number fledgling Chicago labels aided by some of the windy city's best blues musicians. We also hear from Floyd Jones and Johnny Shines from sessions they did for Pete Welding's Testament label.

Down in Louisiana we spotlight Charlie (Charlie Morris) from Lake Charles who cut sessions for Jay Miller in 1957 and 1958 (many unreleased), Boogie Jake who also worked with Jay Miller and backed Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester as well as cutting a few singles and Lonesome Sundown, there most prolific of the bunch, who also got his start through Miller and waxed a stack of great swamp number for Excello between 1956 and 1964. I've been listening to quite a bit of swamp blues lately courtesy of Ace Records who in the last few years has issue a trio of great collections that I would highly recommend:  Bluesin' By The Bayou, Rhythm 'n' Bluesin' By The Bayou: Rompin' & Stompin' and Bluesin' By The Bayou: Rough'n'Tough.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Big Joe TurnerToo Late, Too LateIn The Evening
Big Joe TurnerI Just Didn't Have The PriceNobody In Mind
Mississippi Fred McDowellWhen I Lay My Burden DownAmazing Grace
Charles Henderson, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas Jesus On The MainlineCountry Spirituals
Leroy CarrMy Woman's Gone WrongWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Memphis Jug BandMy Love Is ColdMemphis Shakedown
Kokomo ArnoldLonesome Southern BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 1 1930-1935
Whispering SmithI Tried So HardThe Real Excello R&B
Little BoydBad Man Don't Live To LongBlues Is Here To Stay
Elmore JamesGoodbye BabyEarly Recordings 1951-56
Jimmy ReedI Had A DreamLet The Bossman Speak!
Blind Willie McTellLittle DeliaAtlanta Twelve String
Bukka WhiteThe Atlanta Special The Sonet Blues Story
Maggie JonesAnybody Here Wants To Try My CabbageMaggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Billie YoungWhen They Get Lovin' They's GoneFemale Blues Singers Vol. 14 1923-1932
Albinia JonesThe Rain Is FallingVocal Blues & Jazz Vol. 4 1938 -1949
Blind LemonDB BluesThe Complete Classic Sides
Skip JamesIf You Haven't Any Hay Get On Down The RoadComplete 1931 Recordings
Papa Charlie JacksonDrop That SackPapa Charlie Jackson Vol. 1 1924-1926
Jaybird ColemanMistreatin' MamaThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Roosevelt CharlesUncle BudBlues, Prayer, Work and Trouble Songs
Dave Tippen & GroupWrite My Mama One More LetterCatfish, Carp & Diamonds: 35 Years of Texas Blues)
Grey GhostWay Out On The DesertCatfish, Carp & Diamonds: 35 Years of Texas Blues)
Mississippi SheiksThe New Shake That ThingBlues Images Vol. 5
'Blind' Willie ReynoldsThird Street Woman BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Charlie PattonBird Nest Bound The Best Of
Jimmy LigginsYou Ain't Goin' To Heaven No HowJoe Liggins 1944-1946
Brother Bell w/ Ike Turner If You Feel FroggishRocks The Blues
The Rockers What Am I To Do?The Federal Records Story 1955-1960

Show Notes:

Big Joe Turner: In The EveningThis has been a busy summer and I have been taking quite a bit of time off. It's been a struggle getting these shows together on time and this one just got in under the wire. Nevertheless a good mix show lined up for today opening with a pair of lengthy cuts from the tail end of Big Joe Turner's career. Along the way we hear some superb pre- war blues from heavy hitters like Charlie Patton, Kokomo Arnold, Mississippi Sheiks and others, several fine blues ladies, a few field recordings, a batch of tough blues from the 50's  through the 70's plus some spirituals with a blues feel

When Big Joe Turner began his series of recordings for Norman Granz' rejuvenated Pablo label, he was a somewhat neglected figure. Big Joe sustained a successful career through the 50's when he signed with the Atlantic label in 1951. He became one of the few black R&B stars to crossover to rock'n'roll but seemed to founder a a bit in the 60's. He didn't really seem to fit in with the general tone of the blues revival. Big Joe eventually moved to California and began appearing irregularly on jazz festivals and L.A. clubs. In 1972 producer and former civic rights activist Norman Granz decided to launch a big band tour of Europe, he chose to reunite old Kansas City partners, Count Basie and his Orchestra with Big Joe. The tour proved to be so successful that Granz recorded the Paris concert live and issued it on his Pablo label. This started a new association between Turner and Granz that resulted in nine LP's through 1978.

I won't claim this is Big Joe's finest period but these records deserve better than the general reputation. There are a number of overly long jams and familiar songs but Big Joe is a consummate blues singer and he's helped along by all-star band that included Count Basie, Sonny Stitt, Pee Wee Crayton, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Clark Terry, Harry Edison and others. I believe a good chunk of this material is now out-of-print.

We spotlight some fascinating field recordings captured by Tary Owens and Harry Oster. Funded by a Lomax Foundation grant in the 1960's, Tary Owens traveled around Texas recording a variety of folk musicians, prison songs, including guitarists Mance Lipscomb, Freddie King, and Bill Neely, as well as barrelhouse piano players Robert Shaw and Roosevelt T. Williams, also known as the “Grey Ghost.” Owens remained involved in the lives of these musicians for the next several decades and, in some cases, was largely responsible for helping rescue them from obscurity and resurrect their professional careers. In the 80's and 90's he operated the Catfish and Spindletop labels. Our two recordings come from a special limited edition disc of Owen's favorite recordings cut between 1965 and 1999 titled Catfish, Carp & Diamonds: 35 Years of Texas Blues.

Country Spirituals
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Through the 50's and 60's Harry Oster captured some incredible field recordings in Louisiana made in and around towns such as Baton Rouge, Eunice and Scotlandville. In 1959 Oster went with New Orleans jazz historian Richard B. Allen to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola prison, to record blues, spirituals sung by choirs and soloists, sermons and personal interviews. Among those he recorded he were Robert ‘Smoky Babe’ Brown, James ‘Butch’ Cage, Roosevelt Charles, Clarence Edwards, Hogman Maxey, Willie B. Thomas. Otis Webster, Guitar Welch, Snooks Eaglin and perhaps most famously Robert Pete Williams. Today we spin selections from a pair of hard to find albums: Charles Henderson, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas performing "Jesus On The Mainline" from the album Country Spirituals and Roosevelt Charles singing "Uncle Bud" from a wonderful record on Vanguard called Blues, Prayer, Work And Trouble Songs. Several years back I did a show devoted to Oster's recordings and will likely do a sequel when Arhoolie unveils their Harry Oster box set sometime in the future.

We opened the show with some 70's sides by Big Joe and from the same period play a fine Jimmy Reed cut. Reed's records hit the R&B charts with amazing frequency and crossed over onto the pop charts on many occasions, a rare feat for an bluesman. Reed has a long association with Vee-Jay and with his his third single, "You Don't Have to Go" backed with "Boogie in the Dark," made the number five slot on Billboard's R&B charts, the hits pretty much kept on coming for the next decade. Reed's slow descent into the ravages of alcoholism and epilepsy roughly paralleled the decline of Vee-Jay Records, which went out of business at approximately the same time that his final 45 was released, "Don't Think I'm Through" in 1965. His manager, Al Smith, quickly arranged a contract with the newly formed ABC-Bluesway label and a handful of albums were released into the '70's. Our selection, "I Had A Dream", comes from 1971 the album Let The Bossman Speak! cut for Al Smith's short lived Blues On Blues label.

Maggie Jones
Maggie Jones

As usual we shine the light on several fine blues ladies including Maggie Jones, Billie Young and Albinia Jones. Maggie Jones was born Fae Barnes in Hillsboro, Texas, around 1900. She moved in the early 1920's to New York City, where she began to perform in local clubs billed as the "Texas Nightingale." On July 26, 1923, she became one of the earliest female Texas singers to record, cutting some three dozen sides for a variety of labels including Black Swan and Columbia through 1926. Sometime in the early 1930's she returned to Texas and was last known to have been performing in Fort Worth area in 1934. Today we hear her on the risque "Anybody Here Wants To Try My Cabbage." Billie Young left behind only one record backed by Jelly Roll Morton on piano. Albinia Jones first recorded for National Records in late 1944.The following year she recorded for Savoy backed by Dizzy Gillespie, Don Byas and Sammy Price. She was promoted at the time as the "New Queen of the Blues" and toured widely with Blanche Calloway, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Tiny Bradshaw and the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra.She recorded again with Price for Decca Records in 1947 and made her last records in 949.

 

 

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