Entries tagged with “Big Joe Williams”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Sonny Boy WilliamsonBlue Bird BluesThe Bluebird Recordings: 1937-1938
Big Joe Williams Brother JamesBig Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Black Ivory KingThe Flying CrowSan Antonio 1937
Son Becky Mistreated Washboard BluesSan Antonio 1937
Pinetop BurksJack Of All Trades BluesSan Antonio 1937
"Roosevelt" Antrim Station Boy BluesBlind Boy Fuller Vol. 2
Blind Boy FullerTruckin' My Blues Away Blind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
Floyd 'Dipper Boy' CouncilI'm Grievin' & I'm Worryin'Blind Boy Fuller Vol. 2
Bill GaitherIn The Wee Wee Hours Bill Gaither Vol. 2 1936-1938
Peetie WheatstrawWorking On The ProjectThe Essential

Charlie Pickett Down The Highway Son Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Sleepy John EstesFloating BridgeI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Black Boy ShineWest Columbia WomanLeroy Carr & Black Boy Shine: Unissued Test Pressings & Alternate Takes 1934-1937
Andy Boy Church Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Jazz GillumBirmingham BluesBill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 1 1936-38
Washboard SamI Drink Good WhiskeyWashboard Sam Vol. 2 1937-1938
Alice MooreNew Blue Black And Evil BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 2 1934-1941
Memphis MinnieLiving The Best I CanMemphis Minnie Vol. 3 1937
Victoria SpiveyOne Hour MamaThe Essential
Robert JohnsonStones In My PasswayAlberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-46
Mose Andrews Young Heifer BluesMississippi Blues Vol.1 1928-1937
Bukka WhiteShake 'Em On DownThe Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Scotte Nesbitt Deep, Deep In The GroundRare Jazz and Blues Piano 1927-1937
Charley WestRollin' Stone BluesRare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Roosevelt SykesNight Time Is the Right TimeRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 5 1937-1939
Lonnie JohnsonHard Times Ain't Gone No WhereLonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
Tampa RedSeminole BluesYou Can't Get that Stuff No More
Casey Bill WeldonLady Doctor BluesThe Essential
Lee GreenThe Way I Feel Lee Green Vol. 2 1930-1937
Charlie Campbell Goin' Away BluesAlabama & The East Coast 1933-1937

Show Notes:

Bukka White: Shake 'Em On DownToday’s show is the eleventh 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. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need.

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. Race record sales were up around 15 per cent in 1937: Decca and Bluebird each put out around 120 items whilst BRC-ARC issued almost on Vocalion and another 100 on the dime-store labels.

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 chance 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 – Roosevelt 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. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – and as in the previous years it was artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Casey Bill Weldon, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Peetie Wheatstraw and the Harlem Hamfats who dominated the market. Tampa cut 18 sides, Arnold , Weldon and the Hamfats cut around two-dozen sides apiece, Minnie cut 16 sides, Broonzy cut around 30 sides, Slim some 20 sides (a number unissued) and Wheatstraw a 14 sides.Pinetop Burks: Jack of All Trades

Two down home singers who could hold their own in terms of popularity against the urban artists were Sleepy John Estes and Blind Boy Fuller.  Estes made his debut for Victor in 1929 while Fuller made his debut for Vocalion in 1935. Unlike blues artists like Big Bill or Memphis Minnie who recorded extensively over three or four decades, Blind Boy Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span. Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. Fuller made his debut in 1935 and over the next five years he made over 120 sides. He cut around 50 sides in 1937.

One of Fuller's associates, Floyd Council, also recorded this year. Council occasionally worked with Fuller in the ‘30s, which may have led to his first recording sessions. In late January 1937. ACR Records scout John Baxter Long heard him, playing alone on a street in Chapel Hill. It was Long who had first brought Fuller to NYC to record in July 1935. Long invited Floyd to join Fuller on his third trip to New York. Floyd agreed, and a week later the three traveled to the city. During his second visit to New York in December, Floyd was used as a second guitar only. His solo tracks were later issued under the name ‘Blind Boy Fuller’s buddy’. In all he cut six sides under his own name and seven backing Fuller.

For his third session the Decca label brought Sleepy John Estes to New York City to record in 1937 and again in 1938 where he cut eighteen songs, laying down some of his most enduring songs. He was backed by Charlie Pickett on guitar and Hammie Nixon on harmonica. Pickett cut four sides for Decca in 1937 backed by Hammie Nixon and Lee Brown.  Pickett also played guitar behind Estes on 19 numbers at sessions in 1937 and 1938. He or Estes may have played guitar behind pianist Lee Green at a 1937 session.

1937 saw a number of notable recording sessions including two by Bluebird, one in Chicago and one in San Antonio, and one by ARC in Birmingham by ARC. In Chicago on May 5, 1937 Bluebird cut a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Robert Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits.

The Texas pianists known as the 'Santa Fe group' were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie.“ Mack McCormick noted that the “itinerant pack of pianists who came to be known loosely as 'the Santa Fe group,' partly because they favored that railroad and partly because a stranger asking for the name of a selection was invariably told 'That's The Santa Fe.' 1937 was an outstanding year for the Santa Fe group of pianists: Andy Boy recorded in February for Bluebird, Big Boy Knox recorded for Bluebird in March, Black Boy Shine recorded in June for Vocalion and Son Becky and Pinetop Burks recorded at a shared session for Vocalion in October. Just a few days after Black Boy Shine was recorded in Dallas, ARC recorded Robert Johnson who recorded thirteen sides adding to the previous year's sixteen sides.

1296536396_GW48006aBetween March 3rd and April 7th 1937, ARC (The American Record Company) sent a mobile recording unit on a field trip firstly to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas and, then to Birmingham, Alabama in search of new talent that could be recorded on location instead of transporting the artists to their New York studio. Sometime between 18th and 24th March the unit arrived in Birmingham and, over a two week period set about recording a number of gospel and blues musicians. Among those were Charlie Campbell, Guitar Slim (George Bedford) and James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) all of whom were backed by the lively piano of Robert McCoy who did not record under his own name. McCoy wouldn't record again until 1963 when he was recorded by Pat Cather, a teenaged Birmingham blues fan. Cather issued two albums on his Vulcan label: Barrelhouse Blues And Jook Piano and Blues And Boogie Classics.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
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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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Bukka White Strange Place Blues The Complete Bukka White
Casey Bill Weldon You're Laughing, NowCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 3 1935-1938
Freezone Indian Squaw BluesCountry Blues: The Essential
James Son Thomas After The WarGateway to the Delta
Big Joe Williams A Change Gotta Be MadeBig Joe Williams (Storyville)
Wright Holmes Alley BluesAlley Special
Mother McCollum Jesus Is My Air-O-PlaneBlues Images Vol. 11
Blind Gussie Nesbitt God Is Worried At Your Wicked WaysBlues Images Vol. 11
Big Joe Turner Nobody In MindBig Joe Rides Again
Big Joe Turner Married WomanRhythm & Blues Years
Robert Cooksey & Alfred Martin Hock My ShoesBobby Leecan & Robert Cooksey Vol. 1 1924-1927
Sleepy John Estes Whatcha Doin'I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Will Ezell Pitchin' BoogieShake Your Wicked Knees
Frank Tannehill Four O'Clock Morning BluesRare Country Blues Vol. 4 1929-c.1953
Lonnie Clark Broke Down Engine Down In Black Bottom
Jimmy Yancey Jimmy's RocksShake Your Wicked Knees
Littl Brother MontgomeryOut West BluesFaro Street Jive
Otis Rush So Many RoadsDoor To Door
Tiny PowellDone Made It OverBay Area Blues Blasters Vol 1
Blind Blake Miss Emma LizaBlues Images Vol. 11
Mississippi Sheiks Cracking Them ThingsBlues Images Vol. 11
Mance Lipscomb You Be Kind To MeThe Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men
Mance Lipscomb Stavin' ChainThe Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men
Babe Reid One Dime BluesMusic from the Hills of Caldwell County
Willie DossCoal Black MareBlues at Newport 1964
Furry LewisGood Morning JudgeGood Morning Judge
Lightnin' Slim Lightning Slim BoogieThe Ace Records Blues Story
Slim HarpoWhat's Goin' OnThe Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Vol. 4
Silas HoganOut And Down BluesTrouble: The Excello Recordings
Charley Patton Magnolia BluesBlues Images Vol. 11
Jim ThompkinsBedside BluesBlues Images Vol. 11

Show Notes:

2014 Blues Calendar

Another mx show today, this one leaning heavily on some great pre-war blues cuts and some excellent down-home blues sides from the post-war era. In addition we twin spin rare sides by Mance Lipscomb, a pair by Big Joe Turner a fine set of piano blues plus plenty of other interesting sides.

Today's show spotlights a half-dozen tracks from the vaults of collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. According to his website he has the world's largest inventory of blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll 78's with over 75,000 in stock. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. This year marks the eleventh year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up some long lost 78's which I'll be featuring today. Among those are "Miss Emma Liza b/w Dissatisfied Blues” which is he last known missing record by Blind Blake. The record was found last year at a flea market in North Carolina. Cut in the heart of the depression, the record obviously sold poorly explaining its extreme rarity.

Then there's Blind Gussie Nesbit who was a guitar evangelist from Georgia. His first recording session was in 1930 in Atlanta for Columbia. Four titles were recorded but only two were issued. Five years later he had his second and final session in New York City for Decca. Ten songs were recorded in one day, but only four made it onto shellac. Between his two sessions, Nesbit also recorded two duets with Jack Gowdlock for Victor in 1931. Those were also held back. His 78 "The Joy of My Salvation b/w God Is Worried At Your Wicked Ways” is reissued for the first time on this collection. I asked John about this record and he told me that he "had the Mint copy that was used. Had it for some time and didn't realize it hadn't been re-issued until someone requested I put them out on one of my CD's."

The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men
Read Liner Notes

Although the Mississippi Sheiks were very popular, the record included on this CD, “Cracking Them Things b/w Back To Mississippi” is very rare. Tefteller reached out to the community of blues record collectors for a copy but none was to be found. Obviously someone has a copy because it was issued on Document's complete reissue of the Sheiks output although Tefteller's reissue sounds light years better. This transfer comes from the original metal master that still resides in the Sony/Columbia vaults.

We also feature pristine, newly discovered 78's by Jim Thompkins, "Bedside Blues", and Charlie Patton's "Magnolia Blues" that are  superior to previous issued copies. Thompkins (credited in the Brunswick ledger as Peg Leg Jim Thompkins) cut two songs, “Bedside Blues” and “Down Fall Blues”, the latter never issued. When issued on 78 the flipside of “Bedside Blues” was "We Got To Get That Thing Fixed" by Speckled Red. This copy is a much superior copy to the one previously issued and comes from an old store stock copy in Dallas.

In addition, several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously and has been reprinting the artwork in his annual calendars. Other newly discovered record promotional material are reprinted in the calendars and this year is notable for great photos of Henry Thomas, Mother McCollum (her "Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane" is featured today), Furry Lewis and Bessie Smith.

Every year Tefteller manages to top himself with these calendars and the 2015 edition is already one to get excited about. If you haven't heard the news, Tefteller just won an ebay auction for Tommy Johnson's  extremely rare "Alcohol And Jake Blues b/w Ridin' Horse" (Paramount 12950) for a whopping $37, 000 which as far a I know is the most ever paid for a blues 78. I asked John about the record and he wrote me that he "picked up the Tommy Johnson on Thursday, LOOKS Beautiful! Will play it at Nevins house next week in NJ." That's Richard Nevins head of Yazoo records who also does all the remastering for the CD's.

The two Mance Lipscomb numbers featured today come form the rare anthology The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men collected by Mack McCormick. I had pulled this record out recently when I was writing notes for a reissue of the great Buster Pickens album on Heritage which will be put out by Document. There happens to be two Pickens numbers on the album which hopefully will be reissued as well. The contents were described in the notes as "…An informal song-swapping session with a group of Texans, New Yorkers, and Englishmen exchanging bawdy songs and lore, presented without expurgation…" The album was originally issued in a generic white cover without any printing. Song titles are listed on the disc labels, but none of the many performers are credited anywhere on the release. Included inside the cover sleeve was a large, 14-page booklet explaining the history of the songs, as well as a large disclaimer presenting the recorded material as a scholarly document which, along with the generic white sleeve and anonymous performers, were evidently measures taken against possible charges of obscenity. Some of the performers have been ostensibly identified by researchers. The album was later reissued with a cover as Raglan R 51.

Farro Street Jive
Read Liner Notes

We hear several fine pianists today including Will Ezell, Frank Tannehill, Lonnie Clark, Little Brother Montgomery and Jimmy Yancey. Born in Texas, pianist Ezell played in the jukes around Shreveport before moving to Detroit and Chicago. He was a frequent accompanist for Paramount Records and even took Paramount’s star, Blind Lemon Jefferson's body back to Texas for burial. Ezell cut sixteen sides for the label between 1927 and 1929 and backed artists such as Lucille Bogan, Elzadie Robinson, Bertha Henderson, Blind Roosevelt Graves and others.

A pianist from Dallas, Frank Tannehill backed Pere Dickson on his two 1932 recordings made in his hometown. Tannehill began his own recording career with two songs recorded in Chicago in 1937. 1938 found him in a San Antonio studio waxing four more songs. His third and final session was in 1941 in Dallas for a four song session. He was never heard from again.

"Out West Blues" was first recorded by Little Brother at his legendary 1936 session in New Orleans. Our version comes from a marvelous record he cut for Folkways called Farro Street Jive. Brother cut three fine record for Folkways in the 60's including Blues and Church Songs.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Sonny Boy Williamson II The Sky Is Crying (Keep It To Ourselves)Sony Boy Williamson in Europe
Sonny Boy Williamson IIDissatisfiedSony Boy Williamson in Europe
Little Brother MontgomeryKeep Drinking Dealing With The Devil
James CottonDealing With The DevilDealing With The Devil
Otis SpannI Came From Clarksdale The Blues of Otis Spann
Roosevelt SykesSail OnAmerican Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Johnny 'Big Moose' WalkerGoing Home TomorrowGoing Home Tomorrow
Juke Boy BonnerB.U. BluesThings Ain't Right:The 1969 London Sessions
Fred McDowell Diving Duck BluesIn London Vol. 1
Cousin Joe American Blues Legends '74American Blues Legends '74
Doctor Ross Seems Like A DreamAmerican Blues Legends '74
Walter HortonThat Ain't ItAmerican Folk Blues Festival '70
Big John WrencherTouble Makin' WomanBig John's Boogie
Chicago Blues All StarsLittle Boy BlueLoaded With The Blues
Muddy WatersFeel Like Goin' HomeOne More Mile
Muddy WatersMy Pencil Won't Write No More One More Mile
Robert Pete WilliamsTake It Along Everywhere You GoBlues Masters Vol. 1
Big Joe WilliamsHand Me Down My Old Walking StickHand Me Down My Old Walking Stick
Bukka WhiteAberdeen BluesSparkasse In Concert
Howlin' Wolf Smokestack Lightning The American Folk-Blues Festival 1962-1966 DVD Vol.4
Sister Rosetta TharpeTrouble In MindAmerican Folk Blues Festival DVD Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeMy Last Suit The Best Of Brownie McGhee
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGheeHooray, Hooray, This Woman Is Killing Me Chris Barber Presents Lost & Found Vol. 1
Champion Jack DupreeStoryville SpecialBarrelhouse Blues & Boogie Woogie
Sunnyland Slim Get Further Little BrotherBarrelhouse Blues & Boogie Woogie
James Booker Papa Was A RascalLive At Montreux

Show Notes:

Sonny Boy Williamson:Portrait In BluesToday's program is the third and final program of  our look at blues artists who  recorded in Europe spanning the late 40's through the 70's. Outside of Lonnie Johnson and Alberta Hunter, the blues hadn't reached European shores prior to the 1940's The late 40's saw a few artists such as Leadbelly and Sammy Price hit Europe, with Price being the first to record. Josh White recorded the first guitar blues outside the U.S. But the biggest impact was Big Bill Broonzy's arrival in 1951 and subsequent tours through 1957. By 1958 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters had come to England. 1960 saw Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery and Speckled Red appear in England. Dupree and Slim would both settle in Europe. Europe would become a haven for blues pianists with Curtis Jones, Eddie Boyd and Little Willie Littlefield all settling there. 1962 saw the inaugural American Folk Blues Festival which featured the absolute cream of the blues scene and toured almost annually until 1972. During the 70's blues artists continued to tour Europe and there were package tours such as The American Blues Legends Tour which ran in 1973, 74, 75 and 79 and major concerts like the Montreux Jazz Festival which always had a blues component. Other artists also recorded in Europe like Blind John Davis, Professor Longhair, Lightnin' Slim and Louisiana Red who settled in Germany.

We open the show with a pair of tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson II who we've spotlighted in out first two installments. Sonny Boy Williamson first traveled to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1963 and joined the festival again in 1964. Williamson stayed on after the tour trying to establish residency but it wasn't to be. Giorgio Gomelsky, who ran the Crawdaddy Club,  claims that he convinced promoter Horst Lippmann to let Sonny Boy remain in Britain so that “we could organize a tour of the budding R&B club circuit and strengthen the blues scene.” It appears that Williamson returned to the United States with the rest of the cast but he was back in London by early December for a series of concerts at the Marquee Club, including a Christmas Eve gig with the Cyril Davies All-Stars and Long John Baldry that made him an “honorary member of the British pop elite.” Williamson ushered in 1964 at the Marquee with the Chris Barber Band and Ottilie Patterson and in January he played the club at least once a week, alternately backed by the Hoochie Coochie Men and the Yardbirds. His reception,and the club’s attendance, was so overwhelming that Williamson applied for an extension to his work permit so that he could play a short tour of the provinces with the Yardbirds and additional dates in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

American Blues Legends '74It must have been humbling to go from such great renown in Europe only to return to the states  and once again hawk his namesake cornmeal and promote gigs over KFFA's  "King Biscuit Time" in Helena Arkansas. Despite the bowler hat and suit, his stories of adoring  white crowds were met with skepticism among the locals. Willie Dixon, who organized the American Folk Blues Festival, put Sonny Boy on the second and third tours and held him in high regard. As Dixon wrote in his autobiography "Sonny Boy Williamson was a beautiful guy. He wasn't a liar like a lot of guys. Most guys talking about themselves exaggerate a little bit. But if Sonny Boy told you it was, it was." Sonny Boy was truly appreciative of all the attention, and contemplated moving to Europe permanently but went back to the States where he made some final recordings for Chess.

We spin two today by Muddy Waters who first appeared oversea in Britain in 1958, returning again in 1962 and 1964.  This time out we play two wonderful acoustic performances from a 1972 Swiss radio broadcast. These sides were first released on the 2-CD set One More Mile.

In our second installment we featured Muddy Waters performing in 1964 as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. In May of 1964, the touring Folk, Blues, and Gospel Caravan featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters and Cousin Joe performed a quirky, rain-drenched concert outside Manchester, England at a deserted Railway Station which had been decorated or 'dressed up' as a deep south railroad station. The railroad boarding platform served as a make-shift stage and the rail yard was filled with an audience. This time out we spotlight Sister Rosetta's knockout performance of "Trouble In Mind." Rosetta was introduced by Cousin Joe: "Ladies and Gentleman at this time I get great pleasure in bringing to you one of the greatest, one of the worlds greatest, gospel singers and guitar virtuosos, the inimitable Sister Rosetta Tharpe." As the rain poured down she launched into  "Didn't It Rain" and then "Trouble In Mind." This wasn't Tharpe's first time in Britain as she had toured first back in 1957 backed by Chris Barber's band. She was also the sole woman on the 1970 American Folk Blues Festival.

Once again we play several tracks from the American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) which was an annual event that featured the cream of American blues musicians barnstorming their way across Europe throughout the 60's. The impact of these annual tours had a profound impact on those that were in attendance. Future stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page any many others were in the audience and were directly influenced by what they saw. The rise of blues based bands like the The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals can be directly attributed to the AFBF. The festival, founded by Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau in 1962, featured performances by luminaries like John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, and Willie Dixon and drew sellout crowds and rave reviews. Many of the artists found they were far more popular in Britain than in the United States, where audiences for the blues were diminishing. Several emigrated, and others seized the new commercial opportunities presented by the British blues boom by recording extensively for the European market and touring the blues club circuit with bands comprised of their young devotees.

American Folk Blues Festival 1964
1964 AFBF ensemble (The British Tour): Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hubert Sumlin

Horst Lippman hired Willie Dixon as a consultant on the tour. "Willie was my guide to all the clubs and most of the people", Lipmann recalled. "I'd go to all the main clubs where Muddy played and Wolf's place Silvio's and then little clubs on the corner you'd get in and suddenly there was Magic Sam playing …and another West Side club where Otis Rush was playing. These were not famous clubs but Willie knew them. At that time, Chicago was full of blues music, especially on the South Side."

Howlin' Wolf's appearance as part of the AFBF was much anticipated. In How Britain Got The Blues Roberta Freund Shwartz writes: "The 6’6” Wolf was the most energetic showman in Chicago and was known to lunge about the stage, climb curtains, do back flips and anything else he could think of to get an audience on its feet. Both R&B Monthly and R ‘n’ B Scene thought it prudent to forewarn their readers. “From reports, his act is essentially visual, and it will be another hallmark in British blues appreciation to see this massive bluesman roar his blues.”72 Willie Dixon was so concerned about possible reactions that he ordered Howlin’ Wolf to “act right” on stage. From published reviews and remembrances it seems that he toned down his usual antics, but his size and menacing stage presence were enough to make an indelible impression. Alan Stevens of Melody Maker reported, 'He pads around the stage like a caged animal, fixes his baleful stare, makes a violent movement of his hands, then belts out the blues with such power and effect that the whole of his massive frame shakes ….' According to Simon Napier, Wolf’s Festival performances 'varied from day to day somewhat as to content quality and power … some days he got over very well, at others he was less effective.' At Croydon and Manchester he 'brought down the house' with 'Shake for Me' and was 'absolutely great.' Long John Baldry recalled, 'It was just magic watching him.' …Not only had his powerful Festival performances earned him new fans, he also had a record on the charts. 'Smokestack Lightnin,' [Pye 7N52244] a song that had been in Wolf’s repertoire since the early 1930s, broke the British Top 50 shortly after its release in June; it peaked at #42 on the national charts but in Manchester and Newcastle it was in the Top Twenty. This granted him almost mainstream stardom and during his stay he appeared on nearly every pop television and radio program in the country, including the iconic Juke Box Jury."

The American Blues Legends tour was run by promoter Jim Simpson who operated the Big Bear label. Simpson released albums of the tour for the years 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979. In the previous programs we've featured selections from the 1973 and 1979 tours and today we spotlight a pair from the 1974 tour. That toured featured Eddie Taylor, Doctor Ross, Big John Wrencher, G.P. Jackson and Cousin Joe. Joe's "Blues Legends '74" is an autobiographical song about the tour and is also where today's show title comes from.

Several tracks across these three programs come from the Storyville label. Named after the notorious New Orleans district where jazz was born, the Storyville label was launched in Copenhagen in 1952 by jazz fanatic Karl Emil Knudsen. Storyville originally sold imported American records but when the burgeoning post war jazz scene attracted the American jazz and blues artists to tour in Europe and Scandinavia Knudsen seized every opportunity to record his jazz and blues heroes for the label. From the beginning the label was issuing 45's by people like Champion Jack Dupree, Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Memphis Slim, Snooks Eaglin, Speckled Red and Leadbelly and then later releasing albums by these same artists. Notable where the label's "Portraits In Blues" series which featured full-length albums by Snooks Eaglin, John Henry Barbee, Big Joe Williams, Sunnyland Slim and others.

Big Walter Horton is featured twice today, once with the group Chicago Blues Allstars and and a performance under his own name at the 1965 AFBF. The Chicago Blues All Stars were a group that included Horton, Johnny Shines, Willie Dixon, Clifton James and  Sunnyland Slim.  The group issued one album,  Loaded With The Blues,  for the German MPS label in 1969.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Stephen WadeInterview
Kelly PaceRock Island Line The Beautiful Music All Around Us
LeadbellyRock Island Line Leadbelly Vol: 4 1944
Nashville Washboard Band Soldier's JoyThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Nashville Washboard Band Kohoma Blues Too Late, Too Late Vol. 10 1926-1951
Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band Buffalo GalBlind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band
Vera Hall Another Man Done GoneThe Beautiful Music All Around Us
Willie TurnerNow Your Man Done Gone Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Vol. 1: Secular Music
Big Joe Williams Please Don't Go Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-41
Baby Doo Caston I'm Gonna Walk Your LogChicago Blues Vol. 2 1939-1944
Leadbelly & Golden Gate Quartet Alabama BoundAlabama Bound
Dennis Gainus You Gonna Look Like A Monkey A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Grover Dickson & Group Grizzley Bear A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Dudley Alexander and Washboard Band Baby, Please Don't Go A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Joel HopkinsBetter Down The Road A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Jack Jackson & Lightnin' Hopkins The Slop A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1
Mance Lipscomb Tom Moore's Farm A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
R.C. Forest & Gozy Kilpatrick Tin Can Alley A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
R.G. WIlliams & Group Hammer RingA Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Prisoners Chopping In The New Ground Negro Prison Camp Worksongs
Prisoners Go Down Old HannahNegro Prison Camp Worksongs
Jesse "G.I. Jazz" Hendricks and groupRattlerNegro Folklore from Texas State Prisons
Johnny Jackson & Group Raise 'Em Up Higher Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons

Show Notes:

The Beautiful Music All Around UsOn today’s program we spotlight some great field recordings captured between the 1930’s through the 1960’s. In the first hour we talk with Stephen Wade about his new book The Beautiful Music All Around Us which presents the fascinating back stories of thirteen performances captured on Library of Congress field recordings between 1934 and 1942. Through prodigious research, Wade sought out the performers on these recordings, their families, fellow musicians, and others who remembered them and reconstructs their lives and how the music was tied to the larger community. Wade is also known for his long-running stage performances of Banjo Dancing and On the Way Home. He also produced and annotated the Rounder CD collections A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings and Black AppalachiaIn the second hour we spotlight field recordings made by Mack McCormick and others around Houston plus recording made Texas prisons  by Bruce Jackson in the 1960’s and  Pete & Toshi Seeger, John Lomax Jr., Chester Bower and Fred Hellerman in 1951.

Through the dilegence of a relatively small number of dedicated researchers we know an amazing amount of information about early blues musicians. I'm no expert on country music but I imagine the case is similar. For all our knowledge there are many gaps; a fair number of the blues artists were itinerant musicians, traveling from town to town, or state to state and the other factor comes down to the fact that the white establishment wasn't all that concerned with documenting African-Americans, and if they were listed on census records, court documents, etc. that information is often inaccurate. The artists and songs Wade covers in The Beautiful Music All Around Us were biographical blanks, leaving leaving behind little of their origins, and seemingly impervious to discovery after so many decades. Through dogged research Wade has been able to flesh out the lives of folks like Bozie Sturdivant, Ora Dell Graham and Kelly Pace and find the origins and stories behind iconic songs such as "Rock Island Line" and "Another Man Done Gone." Our show has always focused on African-American music but Wade's book covers much wider territory, and illustrates the cross pollination there was between white and black music. Our focus for the first hour plus is some of the African-American artists covered in Wade's book: Kelly Pace, Nashville Washboard Band and Vera Hall.

In October 1934 John Lomax set up his recording equipment at Cummins State Prison in Little Rock, Arkansas  and recorded a group led by Kelly Pace singing "Rock Island Line." The story of that song and its singer is one of my favorite chapters in Wade's book, fleshing out Kelly from those who knew him, he comes across as fascinating, talented man who simply could not stay out of trouble, spending half his life behind bars. "My brother," said Kelly's brother Lawrence, "was a songster. He sang all sort of songs – songs of the church, of the blues, dance songs, work songs …You couldn't beat him working. He didn't wait till the dew is off. He'd say 'I'm going to get 400 pounds of cotton.' And when you was done half-way, he done cut out and coming back. …Kelly, he was something else.'"

Handbill
Handbill from lecture given at the Library of
Congress (click to enlarge)

Wade also unlocks the origins of that famous song: 'Rock Island Line' begin its journey in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the repair shops of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Based on a traditional form and arising within a commercial setting, the song, like a trunk line whose branches radiate across the countryside, soon moved beyond this work site making new stops, shifting its contents, and streamlining its load. It migrated from a gospel quartet that the Arkansas prisoners performed to a rhythmic fable that Huddie Ledbetter created as he traveled with John Lomax as chauffeur, auto mechanic, and musical demonstrator. Eventually the song reached an incalculable number of players, singers, and listeners via skiffle, rock and roll, country, pop, and the folksong revival."

John Work IV recalled to Wade when his father, John Work III, welcomed a quartet of street musicians called the Nashville Washboard Band into his home in 1942. As Wade writes "the musicians faced them in a row, seated side by side, lodged between the Works' radio set on one end and their Steinway parlor grand on the other. One band member chorded his banjo-mandolin, and another the guitar, but Work IV fixed most on the string bass a third member of the band had cobbled together from a length of laundry wire, a broomstick, and a lard can. …[T]he band's fourth member, who was blind, sat between, who was blind, set between two washboards mounted on a sawhorse and hinged in the shape of a V. He had attached to them an assemblage of frying pans, tin plates, and a metal bell, each registering different tones. Wearing sewing thimbles on his fingers, he tapped, clocked, and hammered this clattering array of stove-top resonators and corrugated surfaces." John Work IV recollected "These people were the music. …They could just play on and on, and the house would reverberate." Twenty years after a group calling themselves Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band were recorded by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie Records. The group members knew the earlier group, linking the two in a long, if largely undocumented, tradition of black street bands.

Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 1 Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Read Liner Notes Pt.1 / Pt. 2

In 1940, in Livingston, Alabama, Vera Hall sang "Another Man Done" twice into John Lomax's recording machine. The song became Hall's signature number and when Alan Lomax included the number for one of the Folk Archive's first releases the song entered the mainstream, recorded by Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, John Mayall, Odetta and numerous others. In the chapter on Vera Hall, Wade provides background on Hall, the conditions she grew up in and the meaning behind the 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." That song was first recorded commercially by Big Joe Williams in 1935. These songs "fit within a larger family of songs that "fit within a larger family of songs that include 'I'm Alabama Bound,' 'Don't Ease Me In,' 'Don't Leave Me Here,' and 'Elder Greene's in Town.' This network of songs that arises by the late nineteenth century uses a consistent verse pattern and, largely, a recurring subject matter."

There is a connection between the albums featured in the second hour: A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2, Negro Prison Camp Worksongs and Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons. As Mack McCormick writes in the notes to A Treasury Of Field Recordings: "The various collecting projects which have funneled into this final selection were initiated in 1951 when Pete Seeger visiting Houston, bringing together Ed Badeaux, John Lomax Jr., Chester Bower and Harold Belikoff, resulting in the founding of the Houston Folklore Group. At that time recordings were made at two of the Texas prison farms." The recordings McCormick is talking about resulted in the album Negro Prison Camp Worksongs with some songs from that session appearing on A Treasury Of Field Recordings. The recordings Bruce Jackson made over a decade later for the album Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons were recorded at the same Texas prisons and it's likely some of the same prisoners were recorded.

Negro Prison Camp Worksongs
 Read Liner Notes

A Treasury Of Field Recordings Vol. 1 & 2 were compiled by Mack McCormick and issued on the British 77 label in 1960. Sponsored by the Houston Folklore Group and the Texas Folklore Society, these Fields recordings were collected around Houston by McCormick and other collectors like Ed Bradeux, Pete Seeger, John Lomax and others. The 36 selections contained in this set were drawn from over 400 items recorded over a nine year period. The original recordings are housed at the University of Texas and the Library of Congress. As the notes state it portrays "A panorama of the traditions around Houston – the city and its neighboring bayous, beaches, prisons, plantations, plains and piney woods…” And as John Lomax writes about this collection “This is one good, long look at the guts of America – songs sung by those who make them up and pass them along, showing the character of themselves, the flavor and spirit of their lives.” Below is information on some of the albums' performers.

Joel Hopkins was Lightnin's older brother and first gave him a guitar. Joel traveled the south with tent shows and traveling caravans. Lightnin's other brother, John Henry also played guitar. The three were recorded together in Waxahatchie, TX in 1964. The results were issued on Arhoolie under the title Hopkins Brothers: Lightnin', Joel, & John Henry .

As Mack McCormick writes in the notes: "When his wife is away at church, Jack Jackson will sit down at his piano and sing "sinful" songs. Sometimes when she has an evening prayer meeting he'll invite someone like Lightnin' over to 'kick it around.' Lightnin' has ceased working with pianists (though he stills plays primarily in jook joints (for dancing) and Jack has established himself in business on the corner of Milam and Prarie in Houston's downtown business district."

Tom Moore was a powerful plantation owner who farmed land along the Brazos river in Texas. Asked about the song, sung on this collection by Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin' Hopkins, he replied: "They're happy people – they don 't always mean what they sing. He laughed deprecatingly, 'Only I best never catch one of them singing that song.'" As McCormick notes: “In order to protect him [Mance Lipscomb] and his family, his name is withheld from his recording of 'Tom Moore's Farm'. …The simple fact is that the singer and Tom Moore are neighbors, the one a poor laborer, the other a powerful and vindictive man who has long felt the song to be a thorn in his side.”

Recorded by Pete & Toshi Seeger in the winter of 1951 at two Texas prison farms, Negro Prison Camp Worksongs, released on the Folkways label, represents some of the oldest and most traditional work songs found among African American prison communities in the southern United States. In 1951, when Pete Seeger as one of the successful Singing group, The Weavers, was booked to appear at a Houston hotel ballroom, he wrote John Lomax, Jr. suggesting that he ask permission for them to visit the nearby prison farms with recording equipment. The governor granted permission and the group, with Chester Bower providing the tape machine and assisting, visited Ramsey and Rechine farms on consecutive Sunday afternoons.

Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons
 Read Liner Notes

A couple of months back we devoted half a show to recordings made by Bruce Jackson in the 60's at Texas prisons. Today we feature selections from Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons (Elektra, 1965) which I omitted last time. Jackson wrote: “I started recording in Texas prisons in July 1964. I think Texas had about 12,000 prisoners in 14 prisons back then …My primary interest in Texas was the black convict worksongs, which seemed to me to be part of an unbroken musical tradition going back to West Africa….”

-Stephen Wade Interview/Feature  (75 min,. mp3)

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