Entries tagged with “Blind Boy Fuller”.


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

Show Notes:

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

Leroy Carr, who epitomized the urban blues, passed away in 1935 with the recording companies trying to cede the mantle to artists such as Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither. Blues guitarist Bill Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr's death recorded under the moniker Leroy's Buddy for a time.

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

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

Among the popular woman of the day were Memphis Minnie, Georgia White, Lil Johnson while Victoria Spivey was one of the last hold outs from the era of the 1920's blues queens. Lil Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929 on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Spivey updated her sound and waxed twelve sides in 1936 with a swinging band that featured the aforementioned Lee Collins. Spivey's "Black Snake Swing", backed by her Hallelujah Boys, was a jazzy remake of a song she recorded at her very first session in 1926.

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

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

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

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

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

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Peter LowrySoutheast Blues
Blind Boy Fuller Truckin' My Blues AwayBlind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
Peter Lowry1969/Buddy Moss
Buddy MossHey Lawdy MamaThe George Mitchell Collection Volumes 1-45
Peter Lowry1970/Back Down South
Eddie KirklandGoing Back To Mississippi The Complete Trix Recordings
Peter LowryBirth of Trix Records
Baby TateYou Can Always Tell Another Man Done Gone
Peter LowryMeeting Baby Tate
Baby TateBad Gasoline Another Man Done Gone
Peter LowryBaby Tate's Death
Peter LowryMeeting Willie Trice
Willie TriceTrying to Find My BabyBlue And Rag'd
Peter LowryPeg Leg Sam/The Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg SamHand Me DownThe Last Medicine Show
Peter LowryMore Peg Leg Sam
Peter LowryMeeting Henry Johnson
Henry JohnsonLittle Sally JonesThe Union County Flash
Peter LowryHenry Johnson/Chapel Hill Concerts
Henry JohnsonSittin' Down Thinkin'Carolina Country Blues
Peter LowryGuitar Shorty
Guitar ShortyNow Tell Me BabyAlone In His Field
Peter LowryMeeting John Cephas
John CephasNaylor RagUnreleased
Peter LowryBig Chief Ellis
Big Chief EllisAll Down BluesBig Chief Ellis
Peter LowryTarheel Slim
Tarheel SlimScreaming and CryingNo Time At All
Homesick James Live Life Over Goin' Back Home
Peter LowryHomesick James & Honeyboy Edwards
Honeyboy Edwards Ride With Me TonightI've Been Around
Peter LowryRobert Lockwood
Robert LockwoodForever On My MindThe Complete Trix Recordings
Peter LowryFollowing Leads/Roy Dunn
Roy Dunn Do That BoogieUnreleased
Cecil Barfield Sugar Coated LoveUnreleased
Turner FoddrellCrow JaneUnreleased
Ira Joiner Jr. Doin' The Natural ThingUnreleased

Show Notes:

Peter Lowry Peter Lowry
 Pete Lowry & Tarheel Slim 1970s. Photo by Valerie Vilmer.

 

Today’s show is a sequel, of sorts, to a show I did several years back focusing on the recordings made by Peter Lowry. Lowry did not go to Mississippi, did not discover long lost bluesmen from the 1920's but in his voluminous research, writing and recording has charted his own path, becoming the most renowned expert on the blues of the Southeast and is credited with coining the term Piedmont Blues. Between 1969 and 1980 he amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45's with LP's being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states with seventeen albums. Other recordings were issued on the Flyright label, a label formed in 1970 by Mike Leadbitter, Simon Napier and Bruce Bastin. Lowry's issued recordings are just the tip of the iceberg with unreleased recordings far exceeding what was commercially released. Lowry estimates there could be enough material for eighty CD's. Today we spotlight Lowry's recordings as issued on Trix and Flyright, some unreleased material and interview I conducted with Peter a few weeks back (an edited version of the interview can be found below). The notes that follow come mainly from articles I've written previously on Peter's recordings.

Lowry refers to his recordings as "controlled field recordings", often done in hotel rooms or someone'ss home with an emphasis on getting the sound right at the start, there was not option of fixing it in the mix afterwards. In an article by Valerie Wilmer [Wilmer, Valerie. “Lowry’s Bag of Trix.” Melody Maker (13 Oct 1973)] she goes on to explain how Lowry operated in the field: "Lowry will be back from his third field trip in 12 months at the end of the year. He does all his traveling by Volkswagen bus, accompanied by a faithful hound and no less than eight guitars. One such trip lasted five months and netted enough material for 20 albums, all of which he will be processing himself. 'I said, 'Christ, I've got an awful lot of stuff here-there's no sense in farting around with other people, I'll do it myself.' The guitars are needed because often the people he encounters have not played for a while or else their existing instrument may be in bad shape, rattling or buzzing. 'I've always tried to keep a clean sound on my recordings unlike most of the so-called field work'… I'm not just an out-and-out field recorder, nor do I use a studio as such. I usually say that the best sound-quality stuff I do is sort of in a Holiday Inn recording studio in whatever town I happen to be staying. You know, if it's not too cool where they're living or something, we go back to the hotel room.'"

Baby Tate
Baby Tate, photo by Pete Lowry.

As for the nature of field recording and researching  it's worthwhile to quote Bruce Bastin, author of the classic Red River Blues and running mate of Lowry's, on some of their experiences: "Armchair research can never replace the infectious pleasure of personal contact, or indeed the streetwise experiences of fieldwork at the very edges of existence. …Talk to Bengt Olsson about his times in Tennessee and Alabama. Talk to Pete Lowry about his (sadly unsuccessful) endeavors to record Buddy Moss… Talk also to us about our meeting with rednecks in Edgecomb County, North Carolina…or with Newton County, Georgia, police for 'consorting with blacks'… " On the other hand were plenty of positive experiences: "How do you replace memories of hearing Guitar Shorty perform at Chapel Hill's Endangered Species bar, packed with professors and 'kitty money'… Or watching a genuinely excited Buddy Moss play a stunning 'Chesterfield' on his battered guitar one hot August afternoon at his home? Or seeing Henry Johnson play slide guitar flat across his lap, Hawaiian style, at home and some time later stroll into Chapel Hill's TV station with a petrified Elester Anderson, casually watch a quartet finish playing Mozart and pack up, then settle down to back Elester (whom he'd never met before) on 'Red River Blues'… Or of tracing Floyd Council via the local cab company's switchboard? Or meeting the truly larger-than-life character Peg Leg Sam?"

It's useful to provide some background on Lowry's activities just prior to setting up Trix. Most of what follows is extracted from my correspondence with Lowry in response to questions I posed and by its nature is highly condensed. "I had not attempted field recording prior to 1970… Bastin and I hooked up in 1969 to look for 78's using my car as our transport in the SE (successfully)…and went back the next year. I figured that I should do more than just drive the car, so I purchased a tape recorder (Uher 4200, 1/2 track stereo, 5" reels). A series of pieces for Blues Unlimited came out of the '69 trip. …Bruce and I were focused in 1970 on collecting material for a book, as he had been asked to do one in the Studio Vista series off of our BU series of articles, resulting in Crying for the Carolines (the basis for Red River Blues). We WORKED for a solid month, doing library research (city directories were helpful, especially when there were back issues – in the old days, there was (c) after a name for 'colored', so that helped eliminate similar names. Then, vital statistics also were not so closed to non-family members – folks who helped us in the early years had to stop [legally] later on). Next-of-kin were often still findable. Those research tools were suggested by Gayle Dean Wardlow. We started with a copy of Godrich & Dixon and known names, likely 'home' locations of those who had made recordings pre-war, and worked from there. …There was NOBODY 'working' the SE when we attacked it, for Mitchell had wandered off to the sainted MS stuff, where the little work being done was being done. We broke 'new' ground, if you will, in part encouraged by BU editor Simon Napier. …Most of the info Bruce used for his books came from my/our work…"

While it may be impossible to quantify, the fact is there was quite a number of quality blues players to be found and quite a number of them in the Southeast region as Lowry optimistically stated  to Valerie Wilmer: "'I never really believed all that stuff about the blues being dead,'" he said, 'As with other celebrities who said 'my death has been greatly exaggerated', so the blues. I think it's been submerged beneath the overlay of modern black pop music, but hell-you go down through Georgia and the Carolinas and there's still country-suppers. Peg Leg Sam still goes around busking in the streets, blowing his harp and collecting quarters and dollars.'" What follows is some background on today's featured artists:

Baby Tate spent the bulk of his life as a sideman, playing with musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Pink Anderson, and Peg Leg Sam. As a teenager he began playing with Blind Boy Fuller. In the early 1950's, Tate moved to Spartanburg, SC, where he performed both as a solo act and as a duo with Pink Anderson. Tate and Anderson performed as duo into the 1970's. In 1962, Tate recorded his first album, See What You Done, for Bluesville. Tate was one of Lowry's closest musician friends. Lowry said, "My plan…was to really record him in depth. He was just an incredible person and a wonderful person to deal with. I can't say I'm satisfied with what I've got on tape because I know he could do three times more and a lot better. But just having been around him and dealt with him and lived with him, there's a degree of satisfaction. …The first person to be recorded by me in 1970, a wonderful informant, and a very good friend – he came up to New Paltz to perform at a Spring festival in '72, partly w. Larry Johnson. He also played a coffee house near Albany, NY that same weekend thanks to Kip Lornell. He had a great time – then he died that summer. That made me a man possessed; 'do as much as you can before they all die off' took a hold of me! The rest is history." Peter recorded Tate extensively in 1970 but, outside of one 45 and a couple of tracks issued on anthology, this material remains unissued.

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"Recording is an accident, isn't it?! Had it not been for me, Henry Johnson and Peg Leg Sam would have been unheard…" Lowry notes. Peg Leg Sam was a member of what may have been the last authentic traveling medicine show, a harmonica virtuoso, and an extraordinary entertainer. Born Arthur Jackson, he acquired his nickname after a hoboing accident in 1930. His medicine show career began in 1938, giving his last medicine show performance in 1972 in North Carolina, and was still in fine form when he started making the rounds of folk and blues festivals in his last years. Lowry captured Sam and Chief Thundercloud (the last traveling medicine show) on the Flyright album The Last Medicine Show. There's also some footage of the medicine show act in the film Born For Hard Luck. Sam delivered comedy routines, bawdy toasts, monologues, performed tricks with his harps (often playing two at once) and served up some great blues (sometimes with a guitar accompanist, but most often by himself). Lowry released one album by Sam, Medicine Show Man, and he recorded only once  more for Blue Labor in 1975 which was originally issued under the title Joshua and subsequently reissued as Early In The Morning and Peg Leg Sam with Louisiana Red.

The sessions by Henry Johnson, his first recording, was a result of Peg Leg Sam pushing his good friend to record. "I feel Henry Johnson is the finest finger-picking blues artist to come along in a hell of a long time, and this album should demonstrate that with ease" Lowry wrote in the notes to The Union County Flash!, his lone album. "It was Sam who introduced us (Bastin and I) to Henry…His musicianship was surpassed only by his magnificent voice – I have UNC concert tapes where he plays piano, Hawaiian guitar, and harp w. his guitar… he stuck it in his mouth and worked without a rack (like Harmonica Frank)!" Johnson died 19 1974, shortly after the record was released and there is enough material in the can for another release. Lowry wrote" his 'compleat' talent will never be heard by those who never saw him in person."

Roy Dunn was one of the last links to the rich Atlanta pre-war blues scene; he had played with Curley Weaver., Buddy Moss and Blind Willie McTell. Know'd Them All is his only album. "This, his only album", Lowry wrote, is as complete a representation of the talents of Roy S. Dunn (a/k/a James Clavin Speed) as could be compiled, and his talents deserve another listening." Dunn passed in 1988.

Willie Trice and his brother Richard became close friends with Blind Boy Fuller and Fuller took them up to New York where they cut six sides together (two unissued) for Decca in 1937. Richard Trice recorded after the war for Savoy in 1946 as Little Boy Fuller as well as a couple of sides in 1948 and 1952/53. Lowry recorded him but those recordings remain unreleased. Unlike many of his fellow musician friends, Willie always had a day job and it wasn't until the 1970's that he recorded again. Blue And Rag'd , his sole album,  was released on Trix in 1973. "Willie Trice", Lowry wrote" was one of those special people – not just in my life, but in the lives of most everyone who chanced to meet him. We had some sort of special, almost mystical connection… I would irregualry just appear unannounced at the door of his mother's house and he'd be sitting there waiting for me. He would tell me that he had dreamed of me that night and therefore knew that I was going to be there to see him the next day."

Big Chief Ellis
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"Homesick" James Williamson was playing guitar at age ten and soon ran away from his Tennessee home to play at fish fries and dances. His travels took the guitarist through Mississippi and North Carolina during the 1920s, where he crossed paths with Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Boy Fuller, and Big Joe Williams.Settling in Chicago during the 1930's. Homesick made some of his finest sides in 1952-53 for Art Sheridan's Chance Records (including the classic "Homesick" that gave him his enduring stage name). He also worked extensively as a sideman, backing harp great Sonny Boy Williamson in 1945 at a Chicago joint called the Purple Cat and during the 1950's with his cousin Elmore James who he also recorded with. Homesick's own output included 45's for Colt and USA in 1962, a fine 1964 album for Prestige plus albums for Bluesway, Big Bear, Earwig and Fedora among others. He cut the solo Goin' Back Home for Trix of which Lowry said "I think that ‘my' solo album is the best thing he ever did."

Born in Alabama, Eddie Kirkland headed to Detroit in 1943. There he hooked up with John Lee Hooker five years later, recording with him for several firms as well as under his own name for RPM in 1952, King in 1953, and Fortune in 1959. In 1961-62 he cut his first album for Tru-Sound Records. Leaving Detroit for Macon, GA, in 1962, Kirkland signed on with Otis Redding as a sideman and show opener not long thereafter. By the dawn of the 1970's, Kirkland cut two albums for Trix label; Front And Center and The Devil And Other Blues Demons (issued together as The Complete Trix Recordings on the 32 Blues label).

A self-taught player, Big Chief Ellis performed at house parties and dances during the 1920's. He traveled extensively for several years, working mostly in non-musical jobs. After a three-year army stint from 1939 – 1942, Ellis settled in New York. He started recording for Lenox in 1945, and also did sessions for Sittin' In and Capitol in the 1940's and 50's, playing with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee for Capitol. Though Ellis reduced his performance schedule after moving from New York to Washington D.C., his career got a final boost in the early 1970's. He recorded for Trix and appeared at several folk and blues festivals until his death in 1977. His self-titled Trix album features John Cephas, Tarheel Slim, and Brownie McGhee. He also backed Tarheel Slim on his Trix album.

While still in North Carolina during the early 1940's, Tarheel Slim worked with several gospel groups. He broke away with Thurman Ruth and in 1949 formed their own group, the Jubilators. During a single day in New York in 1950, they recorded for four labels under four different names, One of those labels was Apollo, who convinced them to go secular. That's basically how the Larks, one of the seminal early R&B vocal groups, came to be. He cut two sessions of his own for the firm in 1952 under the name of Allen Bunn. As Alden Bunn, he encored on Bobby Robinson's Red Robin logo the next year. He also sang with another R&B vocal group, the Wheels and the Lovers. As Tarheel Slim he made his debut in 1958 with his wife, Little Ann, in a duet format for Robinson's Fire imprint. He cut a pair of rockabilly raveups of his own, "Wilcat Tamer" and "No. 9 Train." After a few years off the scene, Tarheel Slim made a bit of a comeback during the early 1970's, with an album for Trix, his last recording. He died in 1977. Lowry wrote that "Tarheel Slim was one of the finest voices to appear appear in the blues and R&B world, as this collection will solidly demonstrate. …Slim was a consummate artist and a great gentleman: this recording gives the world at-large at least a partial glimpse of his talent."

Guitar Shorty
Guitar Shorty, photo by Kip Lornell.

Robert Lockwood cut two albums for Trix,  Does 12 and Contrasts, (issued together as The Complete Trix Recordings on the 32 Blues label) which rank among his best recordings. The crack band features the great sax player Maurice Reedus who played with Lockwood for 35 years and passed away just recently. Lowry was planning to issue an album by Reedus but it was never released. As Lowry told me: "Words fail me… I was truly a 'Fortunate Son' to have known and worked with this man, a true gentleman and a noble/regal being. All of 'Contrasts' was recorded in his living room in Cleveland (band sides) or Roger Brown's place!"

Lowry called Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) "One of the most spontaneous musicians around; right up there with Lightnin' Hopkins, maybe more so." He cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the album Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) and his final album for Trix, Alone In His Field,  before passing in 1975.

Related Material:

-Peter Lowry Interview (edited, 30 min., MP3)

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Bumble Bee SlimBricks In My Pillow Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 3 1934-1935
Casey Bill WeldonSomebody Changed the Lock on That DoorCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936
Kokomo ArnoldPolicy Wheel BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 2 1935-1936
Walter RolandSchool-Boy BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganShave em' DryThe Essential
Mississippi Moaner It's Cold In China BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lane Hardin Hard Time BluesBlues Images Vol. 8
Memphis MinnieHustlin' Woman Blues Four Women Blues
Blind Boy FullerBaby, I Don't Have to Worry ('Cause That Stuff Is Here) Blind Boy Fuller Remastered
Blind Gary Davis I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah! Goodbye Babylon
Sleepy John EstesDrop Down MamaI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Bo CarterWhen Your Left Eye Go to JumpingBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks (JSP)
Walter DavisSloppy Drunk AgainFavorite Country Blues/Piano-Guitar Duets
Willie Lofton Dirty Mistreater Big Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Johnnie TempleLead Pencil Blues (It Just Won't Write)The Essential
Joe McCoyLook Who's Coming Down The RoadWhen the Levee Breaks
Leroy Carr When The Sun Goes DownWhen The Sun Goes Down
Scrapper BlackwellAlley Sally Blues Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Alice Moore Riverside BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 2 1934-1941
Barrel House Buck McFarlandWeeping Willow Blues Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
The Sparks BrothersTell Her About MeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Robert Cooper West Dallas Drag No. 2Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossGoing To Your Funeral In A Vee Eight Ford Buddy Moss Vol. 3 1935-1941
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Curley Weaver Tricks Ain't Walking No MoreAtlanta Blues
Big Bill BroonzyMountain BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
State Street BoysThe DozenHow Low Can You Go
Cripple Clarence LoftonBrown Skin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9
Otto Virgial Bad Notion BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Big Joe Williams Little Leg WomanBig Joe Williams Vol. 2 1945-49
Dr. ClaytonPeter's Blues Doctor Clayton & His Buddy 1933-47
Red NelsonDetroit SpecialRed Nelson 1935-1947
Freddie ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946

Show Notes:

Casey Bill Weldon: Somebody Changed The Lock On The DoorToday’s show is the ninth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. 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.

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 – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). but despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties."

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 Mississippi Moaner: It's So Cold In Chinain 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.

Gary Davis was a major influence on Blind Boy Fuller. In the late 1920's he was one of the most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar. He backed Fuller on second guitar at at his third 1935 session.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. In 1934 Slim waxed around fifty sides and roughly the same number in 1935.  Our selection, “Bricks In My Pillow”, was recorded in July in 1935 and covered by Big Bill Broonzy in December of the same year and in later years recorded by Robert Nighthawk. Leroy Carr died in 1935 at the age of 30. In February he cut his final eight song session. Scrapper Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death, making a brief comeback in the late 50's.

Big Bill Broonzy recorded around tw0-dozen sides in 1935 all featuring the prominent piano of Black Bob. Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. Broonzy was also an active session guitarist and today we hear him backing the State Street Boys and pianist Cripple Clarence Lofton.

Lane Hardin: Hard Time BluesAlso featured today are a trio of musicians hailing from Jackson, Mississippi who recorded in Chicago. Johnnie Temple was part of a vibrant the 1920’s Jackson, MS scene, a city teeming with artists such as Tommy Johnson, Walter Vincson, Ishmon Bracey, the Chatmon Brothers, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Often, he performed with Charlie and Joe McCoy and also worked with Skip James. Temple moved to Chicago in the early 30’s, where he quickly became part of the town’s blues scene. From Temple's first session we spin his classic "Lead Pencil Blues" cut for Vocalion backed on second guitar by Charlie McCoy. Willie Lofton was also from Jackson which was the town he left when he traveled north to Chicago in the mid 1930's. He had two recording sessions in Chicago in August of 1934 and November of 1935 that produced eight sides. We also feature Joe McCoy's "Look Who's Coming Down The Road", recorded as Georgia Pine Boy, a variation on Tommy Johnson's "Maggie Campbell Blues."

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Lemon JeffersonOne Dime Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonMatchbox Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonRambler BluesThe Best Of
Down Home Boys (Papa Harvey Hull & Long "Cleve" Reed)Mama You Don't Know HowNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Big Joe WilliamsPeach Orchard Mama Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Blind Willie McTellLast Dime BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonSee That My Grave Is Kept CleanThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonBed Spring BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonPrison Cell Blues Mean & Evil Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins Reminiscences Of Blind LemonLightnin' Hopkins [Smithsonian Folkways]
Lightnin' Hopkins One Kind FavorAll The Classics 1946-1951
Son HouseCounty Farm BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Blind Lemon Jefferson Shuckin' Sugar BluesThe Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon Jefferson Corinna Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Rabbit Foot Blues If It Ain't One Thing, It'Rabbit Foot Blues
Ramblin' ThomasNo Baby BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Blind Boy Fuller Untrue BluesBlind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-1938
Blind Lemon Jefferson Got The Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Hot Dogs The Best Of
Leadbelly Blind Lemon (Song)Leadbelly Vol. 6 1947
Leadbelly Silver City Bound Leadbelly's Last Sessions
Blind Lemon JeffersonBad Luck Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Horse Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby Blues The Best Of
Hattie Hudson Doggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Thomas Shaw Jack Of Diamonds San Diego Blues Jam
Mance LipscombEasy Rider BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlind Lemon's Penitentiary Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Snake Moan Great Blues Guitarists: String Dazzlers
Pete HarrisBlind Lemon's SongTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Rev. Emmett Dickenson The Death Of Blind LemonBlues Images Vol. 6
King Solomon Hill My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon Blues Images Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Today we spotlight Blind Lemon Jefferson and the enormous influence he had on his contemporaries and countless blues artist over the ensuing decades. Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. Researcher Bruce Bastin, known for his extensive research in the Piedmont region, said of Jefferson… “…there can have been few nascent bluesmen outside Texas, let alone within the state, who had never heard his music. Among interviewed East Coast bluesmen active during Blind Lemon’s recording career, almost all recall him as one of the first bluesmen they heard on record.” Today we spotlight some of Lemon's best numbers as well as a those artists he inspired. Lemon's influence cast a long shadow among both black and white artists and today's show is in no way comprehensive but does give a snapshot of just how big Lemon's impact was.

Jefferson was born in September 1893. By 1912, he was working over a wide area of Texas, including East Dallas, Silver City, Galveston, and Waco. Jefferson was still a teenager when he moved into Dallas. The black community in Dallas were settled in an area covering approximately six blocks around Central Avenue up to Elm Street, the center of which was Deep Ellum, a bustling thoroughfare full of bars, clubs and brothels. Mance Lipscomb saw Jefferson playing there as early as 1917. Although Jefferson’s reputation was originally made as a singer of sacred songs, the percentage of blues in his repertoire greatly increased as the years progressed. In 1925 Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Jefferson's first session produced "I Want To Be Like Jesus In My Heart" b/w "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" using the name Deacon L.J. Bates. It was the second session, however, that made Jefferson a star. He recorded four songs at that session: “Booster Blues” b/w “Dry Southern Blues’, came out in or around March 1926. "Got The Blues" b/w "Long Lonesome Blues" hadn't been on sale long in the spring of 1926 when Paramount asked him to record it again because of the huge demand for the record. This was unheard of for a male blues artist. Prior to Jefferson the blues had been recorded primarily by women backed by piano or bands

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Rambler Blues
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Tony Russell describes Jefferson's impact: "Jefferson offered instead blues sung by a man playing guitar – playing it, moreover, with a busyness and variety that showed up many of those pianists and bands as turgid and ordinary. The discovery that there was an audience for Jefferson's type of blues revolutionized the music business: within a few years female singers were out of favor and virtually all the trading in the 'race' market (jazz aside) was in men with guitars." Throughout 1926 there was a constant supply of new releases from Jefferson, "Black Horse Blues", "Jack O’ Diamond Blues" and "That Black Snake Moan" were among these classic numbers.

In 1927, when producer Mayo Williams moved to OKeh Records, he took Jefferson with him, and OKeh quickly recorded and released Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" backed with "Black Snake Moan," which was to be his only OKeh recording, probably because of contractual obligations with Paramount. Jefferson's two songs released on Okeh have considerably better sound quality than on his Paramount records at the time. When he had returned to Paramount a few months later, "Matchbox Blues" had already become such a hit that Paramount re-recorded and released two new versions. In 1927, Jefferson recorded another of his now classic songs, the haunting "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (once again using the pseudonym Deacon L. J. Bates) along with two other uncharacteristically spiritual songs, "He Arose from the Dead" and "Where Shall I Be." Of the three, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" became such a big hit that it was re-recorded and re-released in 1928. Despite his success, which allowed him to maintain a chauffeur-driven Ford and a healthy bank balance, Jefferson’s lifestyle was little affected. While he spent time in Chicago, where most of his recordings were made, he continued to work as an itinerant performer in the South.

In addition to his frequent recording sessions in Chicago throughout the late '20s, Blind Lemon Jefferson still performed in Texas and traveled around the South. He played Chicago rent parties, performed at St. Louis' Booker T. Washington Theater, and even worked some with Son House collaborator Rev. Rubin Lacy while in Mississippi. In late September of 1929, Jefferson went to Paramount's studios in Richmond, IN, for a fruitful session that included two songs,"Bed Springs Blues" and "Yo Yo Blues", that were also issued on the Broadway label. Jefferson was back in Chicago in December of 1929 when, sadly, he was found dead following a particularly cold snowstorm.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: 'Lectric Chair Blues
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Jefferson died in Chicago at 10 am on December 19, 1929, of what his death certificate called "probably acute myocarditis" (Lemon's death certificate was found in 2010 and published in the Frog Blues and Jazz Annual #1). Paramount Records paid for the return of his body to Texas by train, accompanied by pianist William Ezell. Jefferson was buried at Wortham Negro Cemetery (later Wortham Black Cemetery). By 1996, the cemetery and marker were in poor condition, but a new granite headstone was erected in 1997. In 2007, the cemetery's name was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery and his gravesite is kept clean by a cemetery committee in Wortham, Texas.

Several blues singer/guitarists like Thomas Shaw and Mance Lipscomb thought Jefferson’s style almost impossible to imitate with any degree of success. But there were a few recordings made in the pre-war period that managed to do so, notably Issiah Nettles (The Mississippi Moaner), who covered Lemon’s "Long Lonesome Blues" as "It’s Cold In China Blues". Willard ‘Ramblin’ Thomas (probably a one time associate of Jefferson) had a number of songs in the the vein of Lemon. Jesse Thomas' 1948 number, "Double Due Love You" opens with lyrics also taken from the Blind Lemon' "Long Lonesome Blues." Thomas also recorded Lemon's "Jack of Diamonds" in 1951.

We feature several artists today who either covered Lemon's songs or who's records clearly bear the mark of Lemon's influence.  The Down Home Boys recording of "Mama, You Don't Know How", from 1927, has Long Cleve Reed, Papa Harvey Hull and Sunny Wilson re-working Lemon's "Black Snake Moan". Blind Boy Fuller was influenced by Lemon. The opening lick to his intro to "Untrue Blues" comes right out of "Rabbit's Foot Blues” while "Meat Shakin' Woman", derives its melody from "Bad Luck Blues". According to Son House’s recollection of his 1930 Paramount session, producer Art Laibley had asked the musicians if anyone could do a version of the song. Charlie Patton and Willie Brown passed but House went back to his room with Louise Johnson, worked half the night adding his own words to Lemon's melody, and the next day recorded "Mississippi County Farm." The song became a mainstay of House's repertoire, and he recorded it again for Alan Lomax in 1942. Hattie Hudson's 1927 song, "Doggone My Bad Luck Soul" was an "answer song" to Lemon's "Bad Luck Blues" issued in 1926, and has the repeated tag-line "doggone my bad luck soul."

Today we spotlight several artists who knew Lemon first hand such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly, Thomas Shaw and King Solomon Hill. Lightnin' Hopkins offered different account of when he met Blind Lemon but it seems to have been sometime in the early to mid-20's. From 1959 we hear "Reminiscences Of Blind Lemon" and "One Kind Favor, his cover of Lemon's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."

It was on the streets of Deep Ellum that Lemon met up with Leadbelly. Leadbelly, in later years, was understandably proud of his relationship with Lemon. They probably met up sometime after 1910, when Leadbelly and his wife Aletta moved into Dallas. Leadbelly would play guitar, mandolin or accordion behind Lemon and he remembered topically performing the number "Fare Thee Well, Titanic" (the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912) on the streets of Dallas with Jefferson and on other occasions, dancing while Lemon would play a guitar solo version of "Dallas Rag". As a team they traveled together on the railroads from town to town earning a reasonable living. In later years Leadbelly would recall how he and Lemon “was buddies” and how.. “we’d tear those guitars all to pieces”. Their partnership certainly ended by January 1918, when Leadbelly (using the alias Walter Boyd) was indicted on a charge of murder, found guilty and thereafter became a guest of the Texas penal system.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Cannon Ball Moan
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Thomas Shaw had already been enthralled by Jefferson's early recordings of “Long Lonesome Blues” and “Matchbox Blues” when he met Jefferson on the town square of Waco in 1926 or 1927. At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's songs from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person. Today we play his version of Lemon's classic "Jack Of Diamonds."

King Solomon Hill was closely connected to Crying Sam Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and their influence is evident, to some degree, in Hill's style. "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon"is a heartfelt tribute to someone Hill clearly admired: "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 Minden. 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.'" On one record, “Whoope Blues” b/w Down On My Bended Knees” the subtitle on the record says “Blind Lemon's Buddy.”

In 1930 , shortly after Lemon's death, Paramount issued a double sided tribute to Lemon: “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. Today we spin his "Blind Lemon (Song)" from 1947 and the marvelous "Silver City Bound" from his last session in 1948.

-A Twist of Lemon by Paul Swinton  (Blues & Rhythm, No. 121)

-Blind Lemon And I Had A Ball by Victoria Spivey  (Record Research 76, May 1966 p.9)

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