Jerry McCain Things Ain't RightJook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues
Jerry McCain That's What They WantJook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues
Jerry McCain She's ToughTuff Enuff - Ace (MS.) Blues Masters Vol. 3
Irene Scruggs Home Town BluesSugar Foot Stomp
Victoria SpiveyShowered With The BluesVictoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Mamie SmithCrazy With The BluesCrazy Blues: The Best Of Mamie Smith
Bill Crosby Sneaking Woman BluesChicago Jump Bands: Early R&B Vol. 1 1945-1953
Charles GrayI'm A Bum Again Chicago Jump Bands: Early R&B Vol. 1 1945-1953
The Big Three TrioAppetite BluesA Shot in the Dark: Nashville Jumps
Thomas Shaw Born In TexasBorn In Texas
Thomas Shaw Prowling Ground HogBlind Lemon's Buddy
Sammy LawhornAfter Hours
After Hours
Cleo PageLeaving Mississippi Leaving Mississippi
Fred McDowell Black MinnieYou Got To Move
Jessie Mae HemphillI'm So Glad You Don't Know What's On My Mind Mississippi Blues Festival
Bukka WhiteGood Gin BluesAberdeeen Mississippi Blues
Bukka WhiteAberdeen Mississippi BluesAberdeeen Mississippi Blues
B.B. KingBroken PromiseMore B.B. King
Frankie Lee SimsWell Goodbye Baby4th & Beale And Further South - Ace (MS.) Blues Masters Vol.2
T.J. FowlerWine CoolerT.J. Fowler 1948-1953
Robert Johnson Phonograph BluesThe Centennial Collection
Buddy MossJoy RagThe Essential
Sylvester Cotton Cotton Field BluesBlues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949
Sylvester Cotton I TriedBlues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949
Texas Alexander CrossroadsTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928-1930
Elmore JamesStanding At The Crossroads King Of The Slide Guitar
Johnny ShinesStanding At The CrossroadsStanding At The Crossroads
Jerry McCainSteadyTuff Enuff - Ace (MS.) Blues Masters Vol. 3
Jerry McCainCourtin' In A CadillacJook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues

Show Notes:

Once again we open and close today show on a sad note with the passing of Jerry "Boogie" McCain. McCain died at the age of 81 on March 28, 2012. A lifelong resident of Gadsden, Alabama, McCain began playing music semi-professionally in his teens. During the 1950's cut singles such as "Wine-O-Wine", "Stay Out of Automobiles", "Courtin' in a Cadillac" and other numbers for the Trumpet and Excello labels. Record collectors discovering southern downhome blues in the 196'0s were especially excited by his coupling of the harmonica instrumental "Steady" and "She's Tough" (1960)."She's Tough" was covered, almost 20 years later by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and recalled in the title of the group's later album Tuff Enuff. In the 1960's McCain made further recordings for Okeh and Jewel but soon afterwards his recording career faded, not to be fully revived until the late 1980's, when he signed with the Ichiban label and made several albums. He had to wait longer than many of his contemporaries to be invited to Europe, but after his first trip in 1990 he was often booked for festivals and club engagements. His last album, and one of his best, This Stuff Just Kills Me (2000) was cut for Music Maker and produced by Mike Vernon with an all-star cast.

Also on tap today are a batch of fine blues queens from the 20's, twin spins by Bukka White, Thomas Shaw, Sylvester Cotton, some fine small band blues from the 40's, some fine latter day down-home blues and a trio of songs about the crossroads.

Jazz great Mary Lou Williams recalls coming across the young Irene Scruggs: "In St. Louis, our show picked up a young blues singer named Irene Scruggs… …Irene had not long settled in St. Louis, and was starting out to become one of St. Louis' finest singers." Scruggs got to sing with a number of Joe "King" Oliver's bands that played in St. Louis in the mid 1920's. She first recorded in 1924 and in 1926 she reignited her working association with Oliver. Two of the songs that Scruggs wrote, "Home Town Blues" and "Sorrow Valley Blues", were both recorded by Oliver. She recorded again for Okeh in 1927, this time with Lonnie Johnson. Scruggs formed her own band in the late 1920's, and appeared regularly performing around the St. Louis area. Using the pseudonym, Chocolate Brown, she recorded tracks with Blind Blake and by the early 1930's, Little Brother Montgomery took over as her accompanist on both recordings and touring work. Her recording career finished around 1935. In the 40's she left for Europe where she stayed for the remainder of her life.

Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds 1922. Left to right: unknown, Bubber Miley,unknown, unknown, Mamie Smith, Coleman Hawkins, unknown, unknown.

On August 10, 1920, in New York City, Mamie Smith recorded a set of songs all written by the African American songwriter, Perry Bradford, including "Crazy Blues" and "It's Right Here For You (If You Don't Get It, 'Tain't No Fault of Mine)", on Okeh Records. It was the first recording of vocal blues by an African American artist, and the record became a best seller, selling a million copies in less than a year. In his autobiography, Born With The Blues, Perry Bradford wrote: "When my jazz band played for Mamie Smith to record the "Crazy Blues, we had no arrangements. They were what I called 'hum and head arrangements.' I mean we would listen to the melody and harmony of the piano and each man picked out his harmony notes. It was crude, but the sound that Mamie and my Jazz Hounds planted that February morning in 1920 had such 'down home' original corn in it that it has sprouted, grown and thrived all down through the years." The success of Smith's record prompted record companies to seek to record other female blues singers and started the era of what is now known as classic female blues. Smith continued to make a series of popular recordings for Okeh throughout the 1920's. Today we spin her terrific, hard swinging, "Goin' Crazy With The Blues" from 1926.

After the war dozens of small labels sprouted to serve the demand for blues and R&B records, many failed or had limited success while others grew and became major players. While down-home artists like John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins found popularity there were also loads of small R&B combos hitting the market. Today we hear a trio of 40's combos including the popular Big Three Trio and the lesser known Bill Crosby and his Band,  Charles Gray & His Rhumboogie Five and T.J. Fowler's band. William J. "Bill" Crosby was a Chicago vocalist whose career remains obscure. Crosby made two sessions for Columbia in Chicago in 1945 and 1946. We spin his humorous "Sneaking Woman Blues." The short-lived Rhumboogie label was the very first R & B independent to come out of the Chicago area. It was named for the famous night club of the same name which was noted for being part owned by world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. In early 1946 Rhumboogie issued # 5001, two tunes by Charles Gray & His Rhumboogie Five ( a pseudonym for Buster Bennett who takes the vocals). The songs were "I'm A Bum Again" and "Crazy Woman Blues" of which we play the former:

I used to eat fried chicken, and steaks big enough for two
But now I'm lucky, if I could buy some groundhog stew

T.J. Fowler assembled his own band and in 1947 accompanied saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams on that artist's first recordings for the Savoy label. Fowler began making records as a leader in 1948, beginning with small Detroit labels like Paradise and Sensation and landing his own contract with Savoy in 1952, sometimes featuring singer Alberta Adams. Fowler's ensemble also used outstanding guitarist Calvin Frazier who back in the 30's ran with Robert Johnson. In Detroit, Fowler and his men served as the backing band for T-Bone Walker and spent the next few years gigging around the Motor City and southeastern Michigan.

We spin some excellent post-war country blues today by Sylvester Cotton, Thomas Shaw, Cleo Page and Jessie Mae Hemphill among others. Sylvester Cotton was a contemporary of John Lee Hooker (one of the Cotton sides was actually credited to Hooker when issued), and, like Hooker, performed solo with their guitar. The sides were cut in Detroit in 1948 and 1949 by recorded by Bernie Besman who ran the Sensation label. All of his recordings, along with contemporary Andrew Dunham, can be found on the Ace label's Blues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949.

Thomas Shaw spent about five years on the Texas house party circuit in the 1920's and early 1930's before moving to San Diego in 1934. Shaw met many great Texas bluesmen including Smokey Hogg, T-Bone Walker, Mance Lipscomb, Blind Willie Johnson, Ramblin' Thoms, JT "Funny Papa" Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson who he was clearly a disciple of. He met Jefferson in Waco, Texas in 1926 or 27. JT "Funny Papa" Smith offered to let Shaw play on one of his records in 1931 but Smith was sent to jail on a murder charge. In the 1960's and 70s he recorded excellent albums for the Advent, Blue Goose and Blues Beacon labels before passing in 1977.

Not much is known about Cleo Page who seems to have been based in L.A.. In the 50's he cut some singles under different names and backed some west coast artists on record and cut several tough singles in the early 70's. Some of these were issued on the LP Leaving Mississippi which came out on JSP in 1979, the same year Page passed away on L.A..

Jesse Mae Hemphill was born near Como and Senatobia, Mississippi,in northern Mississippi just east of the Mississippi Delta. She began playing the guitar at the age of seven and also played drums in various local Mississippi fife and drum bands. Her musical background began with playing snare drum and bass drum in the fife-and-drum band led by her grandfather, Sid Hemphill. Aside from sitting in at Memphis bars a few times in the 1950's, most of her playing was done in family and informal settings such as picnics with fife and drum music. The first field recordings of her work were made by blues researcher George Mitchell in 1967 and David Evans in 1973. Evans went on to produce her debut album, She-Wolf, in 1981. She recorded and toured prolifically in the 80's across the US and Europe.

‘‘Straight Alky Blues’’ was composed and first recorded by Leroy Carr in 1929. It provided the melodic basis and, to a lesser extent, a lyric basis for ‘‘Black River Blues’’ by Roosevelt Sykes (1929) and for ‘‘Cross Road Blues’’ by Robert Johnson. Johnson's was released by Vocalion in 1937. His second take was performed at a less hurried tempo and with greater care on the guitar, but it was not released until 1961 as the lead track of the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers. ‘‘Cross Road Blues’’ was introduced to white rock musicians by Cream, who included a live recording from a Fillmore East concert on their 1968 two-LP set Wheels of Fire. Today we play variations on the songs by Elmore James, Johnny Shines and Texas Alexander. Alexander's song has little to do with Johnson's version, except for the opening line:

Lord, I was standin' at the crossroad, I was tryin' my best to get a ride (2x)
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody was passin' by

One final record worth mentioning is by Sammy Lawhorn, who spent most of his career as a session guitarist. Lawhorn was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and worked down south with Driftin' Slim and with Sonny Boy Williamson II on the King Biscuit Time radio program. After being discharged from the army in 1958 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and did recording sessions with The "5" Royales, Eddie Boyd, Roy Brown and Willie Cobbs. He relocated to Chicago the early 1960's,  and found regular work as a club sideman to Junior Wells, Otis Rush and Elmore James, which led to him sitting in with Muddy Waters band on a couple of occasions. By October 1964, Lawhorn was invited to join Waters band on a full time basis. Over the next decade, he subsequently played on a number of Waters' albums including Live At Mister Kelly's, The London Muddy Waters Sessions, The Woodstock Album, and Folk Singer. Lawhorn's career started to be hampered by his drinking and Waters fired him in 1973. Lawhorn died in April 1990, at the age of 54. The only album issued under his own names was a solid, low key affair titled After Hours issued on the Isabel label recorded in he early 80's. Today we play the title track.