Entries tagged with “Bill Williams”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Freddie BrownRaised In The Alley Blues Barrelhouse Mamas
Sammie Lewis & His Bamville SyncopatorsLeaving Town To Wear You Off My Mind Rare 1920's Blues & Jazz 1923-1929
Sweet Georgia Brown The Low Down Lonely BluesBlues Box 2
Booker T. WashingtonDeath Of Bessie SmithWalter Davis Vol. 5 1939-1940
Memphis Minnie Ma RaineyMemphis Minnie Vol. 5 1935-1941
Peetie Wheatstraw Black or BrownPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 5 1937-1938
Peetie Wheatstraw Crazy With The BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 4 1936-1937
Peetie Wheatstraw Peetie Wheatsraw Stomp No. 2Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 4 1936-1937
Smoky Harrison Hop Head BluesRare Paramount Country Blues 1926-1929
Willie Baker Rag Baby East Coast Blues
Viola Bartlette w/ Lovie Austin's Serenaders Out Bound Train Blues Lovie Austin 1924-1926
Eva Parker You Got Yourself Another WomanBlue Girls Vol. 1 (1924-1930)
Coletha Simpson Down South Blues Blue Girls Vol. 1 (1924 1930)
Rev. Emmett Dickenson The Death Of Blind LemonBlues Images Vol. 6
King Solomon Hill My Buddy, Blind Papa LemonTimes Ain't Like They Used To Be Vol. 8
Group Of Women PrisonersIf There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some CabbageField Recordings Vol. 8 - Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi
Champion Jack Cabbage Greens No 2 Junker Blues 1940-41
Washboard SamGood Old Cabbage GreensRockin' My Blues Away
Bill WilliamsChicken You Can't Roost Too High for Me Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
Peg Leg Sam Straighten Up and Fly RightClassic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
Blues Bird Mean Low Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Booker T. Sapps, Roger Matthews, Jesse FlowersAlabama BluesRed River Blues 1934-1943
Helen Beasley TiaJuana BluesBlue Girls Vol. 1 (1924 1930)
Blu Lou Barker New OrleansBlu Lu Barker 1938-1939
Rudy Foster Corn Trimmer BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Dan Burley 31st Street BluesJazz & Blues Piano 1934-1947
Scrapper Blackwell The Death of Leroy CarrBumble Bee Slim Vol. 4 1935
Brownie McGhee Death Of Blind Boy Fuller No. 1Blind Boy Fuller
Remastered 1935-1938
Robert Pete WilliamsGoodbye Slim HarpoRobert Pete Williams
Jimmie GordonLookin' For The BluesJimmie Gordon Vol. 3 1939-1946
Little Brother Montgomery Alabama BoundFarro Street Jive
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Leftover BluesGuitar In My Hand Vol. 2

Show Notes:

As I'm looking over today's mix show I have to say, even by the standards of this show, there's some pretty obscure stuff. The mix shows are basically songs that have caught my ear that I haven't played before, new stuff I've acquired or older records I've revisited.  Now I never purposely play records simply because they're obscure, I play records I like and try and play ones I haven't featured before. I've been thinking a bit about the notion of obscurity which for some collectors seems to be the records they most covet simply for the fact of their rarity. So records by Skip James and Charlie Patton, two artists I love, are put on a pedestal while big sellers like Tampa Red and Lonnie Johnson, female singers and piano players get mostly ignored which is something I never understood. I always feel that this show is fairly democratic, spotlighting the well known stars to the utterly forgotten, the blues queens of the 20's, the piano players, recordings made in the field, string bands, jug bands, electrified Chicago blues and everything in between. I've been reading a fascinating book that deals with the world of 78 collecting called Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys the music played on my show.

As to today's show we spin a whole batch of utterly forgotten blues ladies from the 20's, several songs that are tributes to blues singers who have passed, a trio of sides by Peetie Wheatstraw, some tracks from a new Smithsonian Folkways anthology, songs about cabbage greens (a euphemism of course), several fine piano players and more.

Today we spin a few sets by some superb but completely forgotten blues ladies from the 1920's: Freddie Brown, Sammie Lewis, Viola Bartlette, Eva Parker, Coletha Simpson and Helen Beasley. Freddie Brown recorded one 78 for Paramount in 1929. As Bob Hall and Richard Noblett wrote in the notes to Magpie's The Piano Blues Vol. 17: Paramount Vol. 2 1927-1932: "The quiet, introspective performance of Freddie Brown contrast strongly with the usual rumbustious Paramount label identity. It was not known if she was a resident of Chicago or came north to make her only recording in 1929. …She has a deep stately vocal style found in some of the so-called classic female blues singers, and may well play her own piano accompaniment, although this is by no means certain." The other ladies were also little recorded: Sammie Lewis & His Bamville Syncopators cut six sides in 1926, Helen Beasley cut one 78 in 1929, Eva Parker left behind four sides, Viola Bartlette cut ten sides between 1925-1926, most backed by Lovie Austin's Serenaders with some featuring Johnny Dodds and Kid Ory.

If There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some Cabbage

I imagine most 78 collectors care little for the records of Peetie Wheatstraw who was one of the more commercially successful blues artists of the 30's. Wheatstraw cut a slew of records, many too be honest not terribly exciting, but he cut his share of memorable ones and today I spin a few I may not have played before. Wheatstraw recorded over 160 songs, usually accompanied by his own piano and provided accompaniment on records to numerous others. Between 1930 and his death in 1941 he remained immensely popular for buyers of race records and was a fixture on the vibrant St. Louis blues scene of the 30's. St. Louis chronicler Henry Townsend emphasized this point: "Around town he was pretty well busy; his name was ringing."

There's a number of inexplicable lyrical images in blues like black snakes, jelly rolls and cabbage greens that are clearly euphemisms for sex. I'm not sure what was the first song that equated sex and cabbage greens but Bessie Smith sang the following in "Empty Bed Blues" from 1928:

Bought me a coffee grinder that's the best one I could find (2x)
Oh he could grind my coffee 'cause he had a brand new grind
He boiled my fresh cabbage and he made it awful hot (2x)
When he put in the bacon it overflowed the pot

Today we spin a trio of songs in the same vein including a 'Group Of Women Prisoners' singing "If There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some Cabbage" recorded in Parchman Farm in 1939, Champion Jack Dupree's "Cabbage Greens No 2" (1940) and Washboard Sam's "Good Old Cabbage Greens" (1942).

Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
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I was listening to Booker T. Washington's "Death Of Bessie Smith", featured today, and got to thinking of other singers who did tributes to famous blues singers. There's a relatively small number of these songs. In 1930, shortly after Blind Lemon Jefferson died, Paramount issued a double sided tribute: “Wasn't It Sad About Lemon” by the duo Walter and Byrd was on one side while the second side was the sermon “The Death Of Blind Lemon” by Rev. Emmett Dickenson. Leadbelly recorded a number of songs about Lemon after his passing. In 1932 King Solomon Hill cut "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon" for Paramount: "Hmmm then the mailman brought a misery to my head/When I received a letter that my friend Lemon was dead." Those lines echo the opening of Lemon's “Gone Dead On You Blues”: Mmmmmm, mailman's letter brought misery to my head. Mmmmm, brought misery to my head. I got a letter this morning, my pigmeat mama was dead.” Hill ran with Lemon for about two months after he passed through Hill's hometown of Minden, Louisiana. Hill's widow recalled that "he sung that song a whole lot 'bout Blind Lemon. Said he loved his buddy 'some way better than anyone I know.'" In a similar vein, after Leroy Carr's death, several artists wrote tribute songs including Scrapper Blackwell, Bill Gaither and Bumble Bee Slim. Other tributes today include Memphis Minnie's "Ma Rainey", Brownie McGhee's"Death Of Blind Boy Fuller" and  Robert Pete Williams' "Goodbye Slim Harpo."

Smithsonian Folkways has put out some interesting anthologies and their most recent, Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways, is another well compiled collection. The bulk of the sides are drawn from the Folkways catalog but there are several performances that are being issued for the first time. Among those are excellent tracks by Bill Williams, Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson and Martin, Bogan and Armstrong. As with all these anthologies, there is an extensive booklet this one written by writer Barry Lee Pearson.

 

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Andrew OdumIt's My Own Fault Farther Up The Road
Andrew OdumDon't Ever Leave Me All AloneFarther Up The Road
Andrew Odumake Me Back To East St LouisFarther Up The Road
Bill Williams Low and Lonesome Low And Lonesome
Bill Williams Blake's Rag LucillBlues, Rag & Ballads
Bill WilliamsyNobody's BusinessBlues, Rag & Ballads
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Walter HortonCan't Help MyselfBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Roosevelt CharlesCane Choppin'Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesMean Trouble BluesBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesI'm a Gamblin' ManBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Johnny YoungTried Not To CryI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Know She's Kinda SlickI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Rev. Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember Me Memphis Gospel Singer
Rev. Robert WilkinsThe Prodigal SonMemphis Gospel Singer
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Expressin' The Blues Welfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)The Welfare BluesWelfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Southland Welfare Blues
Arbee StidhamWee Hours A Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamTake Your Hand Off My KneeA Time For Blues
Arbee Stidham Meet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Shirely Griffith Cool Kind Papa From New OrleansMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Maggie Campbell BluesMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Delta HazeMississippi Blues

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Over the years of doing this show I've played many long out-of-print records and I've finally decided to do a series of shows exclusively devoted to these records. While an impressive amount of blues has made it to the digital age, it may be surprising to some that there is a large cache of great blues albums, primarily from the 60's and 70's, that have never been reissued. I like to think of these records as sort of a hidden narrative of the blues running parallel but under the more mainstream blues or the blues records issued on some of the bigger labels, sort of the same as the field recordings I often play as compared to the commercial blues that was being issued. With the decline of CD's and the rise of digital music I have a feeling these great records will never get resurrected. The bulk of the albums featured in the series are from a slew of great small labels that issued records that probably sold in exceedingly small amounts. Over the course of these shows I'll be spotlighting albums from some of these great forgotten labels like Blue Goose, 77 Records, Albatros, Flyright, Spivey, Barrelhouse among others. For part two I'll be spotlighting a batch from Bluesville, which did have an extensive CD reissue program but left out some great titles. Below is some background on today's featuredrecords.

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. 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. The label had big names like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker but to me some of the more interesting records are by lesser knowns like Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, L.C. Robinson and Andrew Odom. Farther Up The Road finds Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between him and Earl Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose.  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" (two songs appear on the Earl Hooker anthology CD 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.

Also from the Bluesway vaults comes Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping, 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.

Roosevelt Charles: Blues, Prayer, Work and Trouble Songs
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During the 1960's Nick Perls amassed a vast collection of blues records from the 1920's and 1930's. In 1968 he began transferring some of these onto LP, initially naming his label Belzoni but after five releases changed the name to Yazoo. Perls set up the Blue Goose Record label in the early 1970's. While on Blue Goose' sister label Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920's by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, on Blue Goose Records he recorded only living artists. He cut albums by blues artists like Sam Chatmon, Son House, Yank Rachell, Shirley Griffith, Thomas Shaw and Bill Williams and Larry Johnson plus younger white blues performers like Jo Ann Kelly, Woody Mann, Graham Hine, John Lewis, Roger Hubbard, Roy Book Binder, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders and Rory Block. The bulk of the label's output remains out of print.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist." Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he passed away in his sleep.Blues Southside Chicago is one of my favorite anthologies, a superb collection of Chicago blues recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do."

Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer
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Roosevelt Charles was recorded by folklorist Harry Oster in 1959 and 1960 with tracks appearing on anthologies and one full-length album, the long out of print Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs. Oster wrote the following: “Classified as a habitual criminal, a four-time loser, Roosevelt Charles has spent most of his adult life (he is now 45) in prisons, principally, Angola, alternating short periods of freedom with long sentences. …Despite his lengthy police record, Charles is sensitive, personable, intelligent and imaginative – a highly gifted creator, performer and interpreter of Negro music. His rebellion against society appears at least in part the explosion which results when a driving, intensely creative man can find no outlets for his energies and talents – a particularity difficult problem for a bright but almost illiterate Negro born in the Louisiana farm country."

Robert Wilkins passed away in 1987 and it's a shame he made so few recordings in his later years. He did make one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer cut in 1963 for the Piedmont label and sadly never issued on CD (it was reissued on vinyl in 1984 on the Origin Jazz Library label.) His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics. Other post-war sides by Wilkins can be found on the out-of-print anthology This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix, The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival, …Remember Me (from the 1969Memphis Country Blues Festival)  plus a few other scattered sides.

Guitar Gabriel AKA Nyles Jones, recorded under the latter name the superb LP, My South, My Blues, for the Gemini label in 1970.Mike Leadbitter, writing in Blues Unlimited in 1970, called the single, "Welfare Blues", the most important 45 released that year. Gabriel dropped out of sight for about 20 years and his belated return to performing was due largely to folklorist and musician Timothy Duffy, who located Gabriel in 1991. With Duffy accompanying him as second guitarist on acoustic sets and as a member of his band, Brothers in the Kitchen, Gabriel performed frequently at clubs and festivals, and appeared overseas. He recorded several albums for Duffy's Music Maker label before passing in 1996.I'm under the impression that

Arbee Stidham is held in rather low opinion among the blues collecting community. The truth is that Stidham's music isn't, for the most part, all that exciting but A Time For Blues is a terrific outing with Stidham backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.Shhirley Griffith: Mississppi Blues

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (Bluesville, 1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (Bluesville, 1965) and Mississippi Blues (Blue Goose, 1973). The fact that all three albums are out of print goes a ways in understanding why Griffith remains so little known. He also didn't benefit all that much from the renewed blues interest of the 1960's; he never achieving the acclaim of late discovered artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell, the critical appreciation of a Robert Pete Williams or the excitement surrounding rediscovered legends like Son House, Skip James or Mississippi John Hurt. He did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. Griffith passed away in 1974.

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Show Notes:

Bluue Goose Logo

During the 1960's Nick Perls amassed a vast collection of blues records from the 1920's and 1930's. In 1968 he began transferring some of these onto LP, initially naming his label Belzoni (after a town in Mississippi) but after five releases changed the name to Yazoo, also a town in Mississippi. Perls set up the Blue Goose Records label in the early 1970's. While on Blue Goose' sister label Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920's by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, on Blue Goose Records he recorded only living artists. He cut albums by blues artists like Sam Chatmon, Son House, Yank Rachell, Shirley Griffith, Thomas Shaw and Bill Williams and Larry Johnson plus younger white blues performers like Jo Ann Kelly, Woody Mann, Graham Hine, John Lewis, Roger Hubbard, Roy Book Binder, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders and Rory Block. Unfortunately most of the Blue Goose catalog remains out of print. Since Big Road Blues focuses on traditional black blues performers I have omited the fine white blues singers the label recorded. I'm sure some folks may have a problem with this but hey it's my show so I can be as finicky as I want!

Among the postwar generation of country blues artists, Larry Johnson ranks as one of the best. He was born on May 5, 1938, in Fulton County, GA. His father was a preacher and his son would often travel with him from town to town. In this environment, Johnson was exposed to early blues records and he especially loved those of Blind Boy Fuller. It was Fuller's records that made Johnson pick up a guitar. After a stint in the Navy from 1955 to 1959, Johnson moved to New York and befriended Brownie and Sticks McGhee and began playing on records by Big Joe Williams, Harry Atkins, and Alec Seward (aka Guitar Slim). It was Seward who introduced Johnson to his future mentor, Rev. Gary Davis. He released his first single, "Catfish Blues"/"So Sweet," in 1962 and appeared on numerous live dates with Davis. By 1970, Johnson began releasing albums on small labels, including Fast & Funky on Blue Goose. After years of living from gig to gig, Johnson retreated from the grind of the road. He did, however, manage to release two albums, Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound? in 1983 and Basin Free with Nat Riddles in 1984. By the '90s, Johnson began receiving better offers for live performances, especially in Europe. While abroad, he recorded Railroad Man released in 1990 on JSP and Blues for Harlem in 1999 on the Armadillo label. Two years later, Johnson collaborated with National slide guitar extraordinaire Brian Kramer and his band the Couch Lizards, resulting in Two Gun Green on Armadillo.

Bill Williams was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist. …While living in Bristol, Tennessee in the early 1920's Bill met the peerless Blind Blake who was then living with an elderly woman (perhaps a relative) in a desolate nearby country area. For four months Bill worked as Blake's regular second guitarist…" Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused. From the notes to The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads, Stephen Calt wrote: "For a guitarist of such uncommon ability Bill Williams enjoyed an all-too brief period of public recognition. Within fifteen minutes of the time he first picked up an instrument in 1908 he was accomplished enough to play a song, but he was still completely unknown beyond his home town of Greenup, Kentucky before Blue Goose recorded him in the fall of 1970 and issued an album (Low and Lonesome) that brought him unqualified acclaim as a 73-year old folk find. A brief series of concert engagements (notably at the Smithsonian Institution and the Mariposa Folk Festival) followed, along with an extended recording session in New York, before a heart ailment brought about his musical retirement. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he was fatally stricken in his sleep."

A product of the Chatmon family that included not only Lonnie of the famous Mississippi Sheiks but also the prolific Bo Carter and several other blues-playing brothers, Sam Chatmon survived to began performing and recording again in the '60s. Chatmon began playing music as a child, occasionally with his family's string band, as well as the Mississippi Sheiks. Sam launched his own solo career in the early '30s. While he performed and recorded as a solo act, he would still record with the Mississippi Sheiks and with his brother Lonnie. Throughout the '30s, Sam traveled throughout the south, playing with a variety of minstrel and medicine shows. He stopped traveling in the early '40s, making himself a home in Hollandale, Mississippi, where he worked on plantations. For the next two decades, Sam Chatmon was essentially retired from music and only worked on the plantations. When the blues revival arrived in the late '50s, he managed to capitalize on the genre's resurgent popularity. In 1960, he signed a contract with Arhoolie and he recorded a number of songs for the label. Throughout the '60s and '70s, he recorded for a variety of labels, as well as playing clubs and blues and folk festivals across America. Chatmon was an active performer and recording artist until his death in 1983.

Tom 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 for the Advent, Blue Goose and Blues Beacon labels before passing in 1977.

James "Yank" Rachell was the primary exponent of blues mandolin, although he also played guitar, violin, harp and sang as well. Born on a farm outside Brownsville, Tennessee, Yank Rachell picked up the mandolin at the age of eight. Rachell began to work dances with singer and guitarist Sleepy John Estes in the early '20s. In early 1929, he co-formed the Three J's Jug Band with Estes and pianist Jab Jones. The group recorded 14 sides credited jointly to Estes and Rachell for Victor for 1929 and 1930. After the record business was flattened by the depression, the Three J's broke up. Estes and harmonica player Hammie Nixon went on to Chicago to seek their fortune in the nightclubs, but Yank Rachell decided to try his hand at farming and also worked for the L&N Railroad. Ironically, it was Rachell who was next to record — during a stopover in New York Rachell teamed up with guitarist Dan Smith and laid down 25 titles for ARC in just three days, though only six of them were issued. Shortly before the ARC date, Yank Rachell had discovered a kid harmonica player that he believed had real talent, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. They worked together at the Blue Flame Club in Jackson, Tennessee starting in 1933. In 1934 Williamson went north to Chicago. With the success of Williamson's first Bluebird dates of 1937, Rachell decided to join Sonny Boy in Chicago for sessions in March and June of 1938. Yank Rachell also contributed four sides of his own to each session, and then 16 more in 1941 with Sonny Boy backing him up. Rachell kept his day job and did not lead "the life," at least not the same one that claimed his friend Sonny Boy Williamson on June 1, 1948. After Williamson's murder, Rachell drifted away from music and relied solely on straight jobs to make his living, settling permanently in Indianapolis in 1958. His wife passed away in 1961, and afterward he began to resume performing. In 1962, Rachell was re-united with Nixon and Estes, and the three of them began tearing up the college and coffeehouse circuit, recording for Delmark as Yank Rachell's Tennessee Jug Busters. Estes died in 1977, and from that time Rachell worked mainly as a solo act. Yank Rachell was a long-time regular at the Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, and recorded only sporadically in his last years. Nonetheless, he was working on a new album when he died at age 87.

Born in 1907 near Brandon, Mississippi Shirley Griffith was certainly old enough to have made records in the 1920's and 30's and in fact had at least two opportunities to do so. In 1928 his friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too "wild and reckless" in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In 1935 Carr offered to take Griffith to New York for a recording session but Carr died suddenly and the trip was never made. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record and who also precipitated the comeback of Scrapper Blackwell. Rosenbaum produced Griffith's Bluesville albums. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (Bluesville, 1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (Bluesville, 1965) and Mississippi Blues (Blue Goose, 1973). In addition some field recordings from the early 1960's were issued on the Flyright album Indianapolis Jumps. The fact that all these albums are out of print goes a ways in understanding why Griffith remains so little known. He also didn't benefit all that much from the renewed blues interest of the 1960's; he never achieving the acclaim of late discovered artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell, the critical appreciation of a Robert Pete Williams or the excitement surrounding rediscovered legends like Son House, Skip James or Mississippi John Hurt. He did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. Griffith passed away in 1974

Son House: The Real Delta Blues was issued in 1974 on Blues Goose. This album was a collection of early sixties private tapes released to provide Son House some additional revenue in his later years. Reviewer Chris Smith wrote that "all the greatness of Son House is here – the total involvement, the powerful, yet fundamentally introspective vocals, the lyrical creativeness, the rich dialogue between voice and guitar. …No country blues fan can be without this collection."

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Show Notes:

For today's show we continue with our ongoing series I call Forgotten Blues Heroes. For this installment we spotlight four great bluesmen who didn't get the opportunity to record until the 1960's and 1970's: Scott Dunbar, Bill Williams, Babe Stovall and Frank Hovington. As the blues historian Paul Oliver wrote: "Throughout the Sixties, it seemed there was one 'discovery' or 'rediscovery' of a blues singer after another; a succession of methodical searches, happy accidents and dramatic events which brought not only a number of legendary figures to life, but also revealed that the wealth of talent in the black traditions had been even greater than might have been supposed."

All of today's featured artists were old enough to have been recorded earlier but opportunity passed them by until the blues revival of the 1960's. In addition to the resurrection of the legendary artists of the past like Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White and Skip James there were a slew of older artists uncovered who got a chance to make some recordings such as Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Pete Williams and Mance Lipscomb to name a few. Unlike those who recorded back in the 1920's and 30's for the commercial record companies and black consumers, those who recorded in the 1960's and 70's were being recorded primarily for a new found white audience, with the records issued usually on tiny specialist labels. The benefit wasn't in sales of records so much as it was the fact that these recordings would be an entry way into the festival and coffeehouse circuit. Unfortunately many of these small labels never lasted into the CD era and hence many great albums remain long out of print. The bulk of today's recordings fall into that category.

Scott Dunbar

In the notes to his sole album, From Lake Mary issued on the Ahura Mazda label in 1970, Karl Micheal Wolfe wrote that "Today Scott Dunbar is a fisherman and guide on Lake Mary, father of six, and resident blues singer of Woodville and rural Wilkinson County, Mississippi. There everyone knows old Scott. We hope this record will make him known to a wider audience." Prior to the recordings in 1970 Dunbar was recorded by Frederic Ramsey, Jr. in 1954 as part of field recordings done under a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Ramsey's recordings appeared on the ten volume series Music from the South on Folkways with four of Dunbar's recordings on Music From The South Vol. 5: Song, Play And Dance and one side on Music From The South Vol. 10: Been Here And Gone. Three more issued sides were recorded in 1968, which appeared on the album Blues From The Delta, the companion album to William Ferris' influential book of the same name.

Dunbar gave up the juke joints because they were too dangerous and in later years played primarily for whites. William Ferris wrote in Blues From The Delta that "I recorded thirty-seven songs during my visits with Dunbar and of these, two thirds were sung white style in the key of C. " The thirteen songs on From Lake Mary are mostly blues, likely selected to appeal to the blues revival market while the vast majority of recordings from this session have not been issued, forty-eight unissued sides in total.  At lengthy recording sessions n February, April and August of 1970 Dunbar proves to be a true songster, laying down songs like "Wabash Cannonball", "Sally Good'n", "Blue Heaven", "Tennessee Waltz" and  "You Are My Sunshine." In 1994 Fat Possum reissued From Lake Mary on CD with no additional tracks.Dunbar passed away at the age of 90 in 1994 with his death largely unnoticed outside of a couple of obituaries in blues magazines and a recorded legacy of  nineteen issued sides.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist. …Disbelief is the inevitable reaction to incredible Bill Williams, a former partner of Blind Blake who is without doubt the most technically accomplished living country blues guitarist. …While living in Bristol, Tennessee in the early 1920's Bill met the peerless Blind Blake who was then living with an elderly woman (perhaps a relative) in a desolate nearby country area. For four months Bill worked as Blake's regular second guitarist…" Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused.

From the notes to The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads, Stephen Calt wrote: "For a guitarist of such uncommon ability Bill Williams enjoyed an all-too brief period of public recognition. Within fifteen minutes of the time he first picked up an instrument in 1908 he was accomplished enough to play a song, but he was still completely unknown beyond his home town of Greenup, Kentucky before Blue Goose recorded him in the fall of 1970 and issued an album (Low and Lonesome) that brought him unqualified acclaim as a 73-year old folk find. A brief series of concert engagements (notably at the Smithsonian Institution and the Mariposa Folk Festival) followed, along with an extended recording session in New York, before a heart ailment brought about his musical retirement. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he was fatally stricken in his sleep. This memorial album and its soon to be released sequel will constitute the remainder of Bill's musical legacy."

Jewell "Babe" Stovall was a Mississippi-born songster who was born in 1907 in Tylertown, MS, Babe was the youngest of 11 children, most of them musicians. Stovall learned guitar when he was around eight years old, and was soon playing breakdowns, frolics, and parties in the area, even meeting and learning "Big Road Blues" from Tommy Johnson. He moved to Franklinton, LA, in the 1930s, and split his time between there and Tylertown for several years, picking up whatever work he could as a farmhand. In 1964 he moved to New Orleans, where he was "discovered" working as a street singer in the French Quarter, his act featuring crowd-pleasing antics like playing his National Steel guitar behind his head and shouting out his song lyrics in a voice so loud that it carried well down the street. He recorded an LP for Verve in 1964, simply titled Babe Stovall (re-released on CD by Flyright in 1990), and did further sessions in 1966 released on Southern Sound as The Babe Stovall Story and with Bob West in 1968 (which form the basis of The Old Ace: Mississippi Blues & Religious Songs, released on Arcola in 2003), and became active on the folk and blues college circuit, as well as holding down a house gig at the Dream Castle Bar in New Orleans. Stovall died in 1974 in New Orleans.

Bruce Bastin called Frank Hovington or Guitar Frank as he was also known, "one of the finest singers to have been recorded during the 1970's…steeped in a tradition which is as much part of him as is the countryside about him." Bastin and Dick Spotswood recorded Frank in 1975, issuing the album Lonesome Road Blues on the Flyright label (reissued in 2000 as Gone With The Wind with several additional tracks). Frank was still in fine form when he reluctantly agreed to perform for Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann in 1980. The results were issued as part of their remarkable Living Country Blues series. Hovington started on ukulele and banjo as a child and teamed with Willliam Walker in the late '30s and '40s playing at house parties and dances in Frederica, Pennsylvania. Hovington moved to Washington D.C. in the late '40s, and backed such groups as Stewart Dixon's Golden Stars and Ernest Ewin's Jubilee Four. Hovington moved to Delaware in 1967 where he passed in 1982.

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