Entries tagged with “Blind Joe Reynolds”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Ivy SmithGin House Blues Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport 1927-1930
Clara SmithWoman to Woman The Essential
Issie RinggoldBe On Your Merry WayBlue Girls Vol. 2 1925-1930
Frank BusbyPrisoner BoundBill Gaither Vol. 2 1936-1938
Keghouse Canned Heat Blues Piano Blues Vol. 4 1923-1928
Eugene Powell Pony Blues (Santa Fe) Blues At Home Vol. 3
John JacksonPoor BoyThe Blues Revival Vol. 1 1963-1969
Nugrape TwinsThe Road Is Rough & RockySinners & Saints 1926-1931
Mississippi John Hurt Praying On The Old Camp Ground Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 OKeh Recordings
Eddie Head & His FamilyDown On MeAmerican Primitive Vol. I
Louisiana Red I'm a Roaming StrangerThe Lowdown Back Porch Blues
Howlin' Wolf Poor BoySmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960
Big Moose Walker Footrace to a Resting Place/Wrong Doing WomanTo Know A Man
Samuel Brooks Oh the Sun's Goin' Down and I Won't Be Here LongField Recordings Vol. 3: Mississippi 1936-1942
George BoldwinCountry Girl Blues Mississippi Blues & Gospel 1934-1942
Willie Ford & Lucious CurtisHigh Lonesome HillMississippi Blues 1940-42
Joe Linthecome Humming BluesHokum, Blues & Rags 1929-1930's
The Three Stripped Gears1931 Depression BluesThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Jesse AndersonYou'd Better Think TwiceWelcome To The Club
Johnny Twist WilliamsTeach Me HowDown On Broadway And Main
Jimmy NolenStrollin' with Nolen Strollin' with Nolen
Unknown Female SingerAngel ChildField Recordings Vol. 3: Mississippi 1936-1942
Mattie DorseyStingaree BluesBarrelhouse Women Vol. 2 1924-1928
Frank StokesNehi Mama Best OfSara Martin Vol. 4 1925-1928
Blind Joe ReynoldsNehi Mama Blues Blues Images Vol. 5
Joe Turner with Albert Ammons Rock Of Gibraltar Blues Albert Ammons: Alt. Takes, Radio Perfs & Uniss. Home Recordings
Duke HendersonBeggin And PleadinDust My Rhythm & Blues: Flair Records R&B Story
Gene ParrishScreamin' In My SleepRhythm 'n' Blues Shouters
Sippie Wallace Parlor Social De LuxeI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 2
Sara MartinDown At The Razor BallSara Martin Vol. 3 1924-1925
Blind Willie McTellRazor Ball The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2: Columbia
Washboard SamDown At The Bad Man's HallWashboard Sam Vol. 5 1940-1941
Bill Gaither Wintertime BluesBill Gaither Vol. 4 1939
Lightnin' SlimWintertime BluesWe Gotta Rock Tonight

Show Notes: 

Our first mix show of the new year finds us digging deep into the pre-war blues catalog featuring several fine artists who left us with only a few 78's, several well known artists like Clara Smith and Blind Willie McTell and some interesting field recordings. From he post-war era some excellent Chicago blues, a few blues shouters, some down-home blues and a few gospel items. We also explore the origins of a well known blues theme.

Frank Busby" 'Leven Light CityWe hear from several superb blues ladies including Ivy Smith and Clara Smith. Ivy Smith hailed from Birmingham, Alabama and primarily worked with pianist Cow Cow Davenport. She was a good singer who cut close to two-dozen sides between 1927-1930. Clara Smith was a much bigger name although perennially eclipsed by Bessie Smith. In 1923 she settled in New York, appearing at cabarets and speakeasies there and that same year made her first records for Columbia Records, for whom she would continue recording through to 1932. She cut over a hundred sides often with the backing of top musicians like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Fletcher Henderson, Lonnie Johnson and James P. Johnson. Today we feature the lovely "Woman to Woman" from 1930 that features Smith's voice at her best with sympathetic cornet work from Ed Allen.

Then there's the lesser knowns such as Issie Ringgold who waxed one 78 in 1930 for Columbia and was the sister of Muriel, a star on Broadway, Mattie Dorsey who cut four sides for Paramount in 1927 and the unknown field recording of a woman singing "Angel Child" recorded by Alan Lomax in 1942.

Several of the of the male singers featured today are also one hit wonders: Joe Linthecome was an expressive, light voiced singer who cut one marvelous 78  ("Humming Blues b/w Pretty Mama Blues") for Gennett in 1929, Frank Busby was a sensitive singer who cut one 78 ("'Leven Light City b/w Prisoner Bound") in 1937 for Decca backed by Bill Gaither (we also spin Gaither's "Wintertime Blues" today) on guitar and Honey Hill on piano, the Three Stripped Gears were a string band possibly from Georgia, and possibly white, who cut four superb instrumentals and pianist Keghouse who waxed ten sides in 1928 for Okeh and Vocalion, only four of which were issued. Keghouse also recorded a couple of numbers backed by Lonnie Johnson and Thomas "Jaybird" Jones. Jones also made field recordings for Lewis Jones in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1941-1942 and performs "The Keghouse Blues." In the spoken introduction he talks about his friend Keghouse and how they went to Memphis to make records for Okeh and how he died shortly afterwards.

As anyone who's listened to this program knows I have a huge interest in field recordings, devoting several shows to the topic and interviewing several of the men who made the recordings. The Albatros  label was active from Eugene Powell: Blues At Home Vol. 3the early 70's through the early 80's issuing reissues of pre-war recordings, folk material and most interestingly, to me anyway, is several volumes of field recordings by label owner Gianni Marcucci. Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings  in the 70's and 80's in Tennessee and Mississippi. These albums are long been out-of-print. Recently Marcucci has issued some CD's on he Mbirafon imprint including one by singer Van Hunt, Sam Chatmon and now has issued collections by Eugene Powell (Eugene Powell: Blues At Home Vol. 3and Memphis Piano Red (Memphis Piano Red: Blues At Home Vol.4). The latter two are available only digitally via  iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. We spin a superb track off the Eugene Powell collection which contains unissued numbers plus tracks from the Albatros LP Police In Mississippi.  I finally tracked down some missing records from Albatros and will be doing an entire show devoted to the label shortly.

Other field recordings come from the pre-war era and were recorded by John Lomax:  Samuel Brooks' "Oh the Sun's Goin' Down and I Won't Be Here Long" (1942) recorded in Edwards, Mississippi and Willie Ford and Lucious Curtis on "High Lonesome Hill." Ad David Evans writes "Lucious Curtis was making a precarious living as a musician while his partner, Willie Ford, worked at a sawmill when John A. Lomax encountered them in 1940 for their only recording session."

In our first show of he new year we traced the origins of several classic blues songs. Today we spin a quartet of related blues songs from the 20's, 30's and 40's that draw from a much earlier source. Around the term of the century there was the "bully song" or more formally "The Bully of the Town" or "Looking for the Bully." There were several songs published with 'Bully" in the title around this period. Paul Oliver noted that the song "reinforced the stereotypes of the razor-totin', watermelon-suckin', chicken-stealin' 'nigger' of that period." The core of the story is an altercation, usually with a razor, between the bully and a rival with the action usually happening at a dance or ball.  Oliver has written about this both in Songsters & Saints and in a chapter titled Lookin' For That Bully in the book Nobody Knows where the Blues Come from: Lyrics and History (the entire chapter is available on Google Books).  In the blues era several songs drawn on these earlier sources including Sara Martin's "Down At The Razor Ball" (1925), Blind Willie McTell's "Razor Ball" (1930) and Washboard Sam's "Down At The Bad Man's Hall" (1941).  Oliver mentions all the songs but one he seems to have overlooked is Sippie Wallace's "Parlor Social De Luxe" (1925) which seems to me at least marginally related. The most famous related song, however, is the Willie Dixon penned "Wang Dang Doodle" (1960) which draws its inspiration from the Sara Martin number. As Dixon recalled "the one Wolf hated most of all was 'Wang Dang Doodle.' He hated that 'Tell Automatic Slim and Razor-Totin' Jim.' He'd say, 'man, that's too old-timey, sound like some old levee camp number.'" In 1966 Koko Taylor had a big hit with the song.

In addition to the down-home blues we also spin some Chicago and jump blues. We play the Howlin' Wolf gem "Poor Boy" (1957) a terrific updating of this old number and Big Moose Walker on "Footrace To A Resting Place" and "Wrong Doing Woman." The Walker tracks were recorded at Elmore James' last sessions for Fire in 1961 and come from the 2-LP set To Know A Man on Blue Horizon. At the time these songs were just attributed to "Bushy Head."

Nugrape Twins: The Road Is Rough And RockyWe spin some great blues shouters including Big Joe Turner on the magnificent "Rock Of Gibraltar" (1936) with Albert Ammons on piano,  Gene Parrish's jumping, raunchy "Screamin' In My Sleep" ("she'd slip and slide and I keep moaning low") featuring Maxwell Davis and superb guitar from West Coast ace Chuck Norris. Parrish cut a dozen sides in 1950-1951 for RPM and Victor.

We also hear from Big Duke Henderson & His Orchestra on "Beggin And Pleadin"from a new 2-CD set on Ace called Dust My Rhythm & Blues: The Flair Records R&B Story. In 1945 Henderson made his debut for the Apollo label on a recommendation by Jack McVea. He was backed on the recording dates by several notable Los Angeles session musicians including McVea, Wild Bill Moore and Lucky Thompson (saxophones), Gene Phillips (guitar), Shifty Henry and Charlie Mingus (bass violin), plus Lee Young and Rabon Tarrant (drums). The recordings were not a commercial success and Henderson lost his recording contract with Apollo. In 1947 Al "Cake" Wichard recorded for Modern Records billed as the Al Wichard Sextette, and featured vocals by Henderson. Henderson subsequently recorded material for a number of labels over several years including Globe, Down Beat, Swing Time, Specialty,] Modern, Imperial and Flair. Later in the decade, Henderson renounced his past, and commenced broadcasting as Brother Henderson as a gospel DJ. After his DJ career, Henderson went on to become a preacher.Henderson died in Los Angeles in 1972.

We also slip in a few gospel numbers: Mississippi John Hurt's "Praying On The Old Camp Ground", Eddie Head and His Family's "Down On Me" which Paul Oliver notes "was notable for the fluent guitar which imparted an easy swing to the recording, and from Eddie Head's skillful harmonizing to his family's singing" and the Nugrape Twins' "The Road Is Rough & Rocky" credited in the Columbia files to "Mark and Matthew (The Nugrape Twins)." The duo recorded eight sides at sessions in 1926 and 1927 for Columbia.

 

 

 

 

 

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Little Hat Jones Bye Bye Baby BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Blind Willie Johnson You'll Need Somebody on Your BondBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Willie Brown Future Blues Friends Of Charlie Patton
Charlie Patton Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1Best Of
Blind Willie McTell Love Changing BluesBest Of
Sam Collins My Road Is Rough And Rocky (How Long, How Long?)Jailhouse Blues
Son House Walking BluesLegends of Country Blues
Henry Williams & Eddie AnthonyGeorgia CrawlFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Andy Boy House Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Cannon's Jug Stompers Going To GermanyMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers
Lottie Kimbrough Rolling Log BluesThe Return Of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Weaver & Beasley Bottleneck BluesCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
BluesJim & Bob (The Genial Hawaiians) St. Louis BluesBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37
Willie Harris Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door Jackson Blues: 1928-1938
Blind Joe Reynolds Ninety Nine BluesBlues Images Vol. 2
The Sparks Brothers Down On The Levee Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis 2
Pigmeat Terry Black Sheep BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lee Green Memphis Fives The Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes And Lee Green
Elizabeth Johnson Be My Kid Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River Blues Blues images Vol. 3
Geeshie Wiley Pick Poor Robin CleanI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
Jim Jackson Hesitation Blues Jim Jackson Vol. 2 (928-1930
Mae Glover I Ain't Givin' Nobody NoneI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
King David's Jug Band Rising Sun BluesCincinnati Blues
Mattie May Thomas Dangerous BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Charlie Patton Tom RushenPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
William Harris Bull Frog Blues The Best There Ever Was
Sam Collins Lonesome Road BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Allen Shaw Moanin' The Blues Masters of the Memphis Blues
Shreveport HomewreckersFence Breakin' BluesBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37

Show Notes:

Blind Willie McTell: The Early Years
Read Liner Notes

Today's show is a trip down memory lane for me. I've been going through a bout of nostalgia lately, hopefully not the onset of a mid-life crisis, although I have been eying the red Corvette! Anyway, I've been thinking about my favorite country blues tracks lately, most of which I first heard in my formative years of blues collecting. These are the songs that I never get tired of and ones that I find myself revisiting over the years. This is by no means a “best of” list, just songs that I find myself continuously going back to. Many are considered blues classics, many not, and many are most often not the songs by these artists that are considered their best. There's numerous artists that I revere like Bukka White, Frank Stokes, Henry Thomas, Mississippi John Hurt that are omitted simply for the fact that I can't nail down just one song that does it for me by those artists. As I said many of these tracks I first heard when I first started picking up blues records, over twenty-five years ago (that's a hard number to swallow!). And yes I was buying country blues records back then. It was a very short jump from buying my first blues record, B.B. King – Live At The Regal ($3.99 at Tower Records) to picking up, and almost wearing out the grooves of Blind Willie McTell – The Early Years on my beloved Yazoo label. In fact Yazoo was the label where I discovered many of my favorite country blues tracks on treasured compilations like Mississippi Moaners, Guitar Wizards, Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics, Lonesome Road Blues and The Voice Of The Blues among others. I knew that the Yazoo office was in Manhattan and I often thought about going over there but I never did – I guess I never really knew what I'd do once I got there! Also hugely influential was the piano blues series on Magpie records which made me a lifelong fan of piano blues. Several tracks from that series can be found on today's show. Still, there are a number of songs that became favorites later, for example Blind Joe Reynolds “Ninety Nine Blues” which was only discovered a few years ago (the consensus seems to be that the “B” side, “Cold Woman Blues”, is the superior track, but for me “Ninety Nine Blues” just kills me). I never did go in for what the consensus says which I suppose is reflected in today's eclectic playlist of  all-time favorites.

I count myself lucky to be living where I was when the blues bug bit me. I lived in the Bronx and it was short hop to Manhattan where there was no shortage of great record stores. I fondly remember prowling  records stores like Finyl Vinyl on Second Ave., St. Marks Records, Venus Records, Bleeker Bob's, Footlight Records and the  Jazz Record Mart (still in business and even after buying records there since I was a teenager the same guy still refuses to cut me a deal!). Then there were the book/magazine shops like Hudson News and See Hear where I could find isues of the great British blues mags like Blues Unlimited (went under right when I discovered it!), Juke Blues and Blues & Rhythm.  Of course there were a number of fine left-of-the-dial radio stations that played plenty of blues. Anyway, below are few reminisces about some of today's selections.

Little Hat Jones cut ten sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. All his sides are worthwhile but “Bye Bye Baby Blues” is the best thing he ever did in my opinion. When I was coming up with today’s playlist this is one of the first songs I picked. I probably first heard it on the Yazoo compilation Don't Leave Me Here: The Blues of Texas, Arkansas, & Louisiana 1927-1932.

We spin a pair of my favorite Charlie Patton songs today, "Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1" and "Tom Rushen." I'm not sure exactly what it is with the former song that I find so striking, it's not one often cited when talking about Patton's best, yet I find it incredibly compelling. Patton's vocals on this are magnificent. The 2-part number celebrates a Mississippi river boat that plied between Vicksburg and Memphis. I have to admit that I really fell under Patton's spell much later. I did own the Yazoo double LP Founder of the Delta Blues but the problem for me was that I couldn't get past the terrible sound of those records. Compare that record to the Best Of which came out just a few years back and the difference is like night and day.

I first heard “Love Changing Blues” on Blind Willie McTell – The Early Years on Yazoo. I played the hell out of this record and for whatever reason, it was this song that made a huge impression on me although, of course, I also loved the more famous “Statesboro Blues.” I distinclty remember my college roomate making fun of me for owing a record by a guy named Blind Willie McTell. I never did lecture him, just turned up the record really loud until it drive him out of the room.

Despite the fact that I’m featuring two Sam Collins cuts on today’s show, I can’t really say he’s one of my favorite artists. However the vocal performances on “My Road Is Rough And Rocky” and “Lonesome Road Blues” are magnificent. I first heard these on the Yazoo compilation Lonesome Road Blues: 15 Years in the Mississippi Delta 1926-1941. The song “My Road Is Rough And Rocky” made its first appearance on this compilation and I believed the title was given by Yazoo. How this song could be unreleased boggles my mind.

Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Read Liner Notes

Yes I know, Son House's 1930 sides are acknowledged classics, and rightly so. His epic six minute version of “Walking Blues” from 1941, with a rocking band that included Willie Brown, Fiddlin' Joe Martin and Leroy Williams, is that song that floors me every time and one of my all time favorites.

I guess Texas pianist Andy Boy is an offbeat choice for favorites but his recordings really get to me. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. Andy Boy's songs are filled with vivid imagery, humor, clever wordplay and a times a deep pathos. Along with pianist Rob Cooper, Andy Boy plays prominently on the records of Joe Pullum, one of the era's most distinctive and imaginative vocalists. Andy Boy cut only eight sides under his own name as well as backing both Pullum and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington. I know I first him on Magpie’s The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937. I probably heard Joe Dean on one of the Magpie collections or possibly on Yazoo’s Barrelhouse Blues 1927-1936. I’m pretty sure I heard Cripple Clarence Lofton’s “Gang of Brownskin Women” on Yazoo’s Cripple Clarence Lofton & Walter Davis which sported a great photo of Lofton at the piano snapping his fingers with a huge grin on his face.

Sung by Noah Lewis who also plays the superb harmonica, "Going To Germany", is one of those dreamy blues that puts me in a trance every time I hear it. I'm guessing I first heard it on the double Cannon Jug Stompers album. I miss those great double albums that used to open up. Not quite the same experience with a CD. Lottie Kimbrough’ “Rolling Log Blues” has the same dreamy, haunting quality as “Going To Germany” and a song that always mesmerizes me.

The Yazoo compilation Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37 was an absolute killer. From that compilation comes Jim & Bob’s amazing “St. Louis Blues” as well as the Shreveport Homewreckers’ “Fence Breakin' Blues.”

Willie Harris’ “Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door” is a great bottleneck number. First heard this one on Yazoo’s Jackson Blues 1928-1938.

In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard who used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that day, "Ninety Nine Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released in October of 1930. No copies in any condition were ever located until just a few years ago. The recorded was eventually bought and reissued on CD by John Tefteller. I guess I’m at odds with collectors Richard Nevins (owner of Yazoo) and Pete Whelan of 78 Quarterly fame who claim "Cold Woman Blues" as the masterpiece, because for me it’s the flip, "Ninety Nine Blues.” What do those guys know anyway!?

It was through the Magpie piano series that I became a lifelong fan of piano blues. I came to the series late, my first purchase was volume 20 and I must have been around 16. The album made a huge impression on me and I even remember exactly where I purchased it; it was at one of my favorite haunts, Tower Records on West 4th St., NYC (the blues section was on the top floor, tucked behind the jazz secton. Often I was the only one back threre, which for me was perfect!). I went back and picked up as many of the rest of the albums I could find and over the years completed the entire series. That particular volume was my introduction to the Sparks Brothers who are still favorites to this day. Milton’s Spark’s high pitched voice and Aaron sensitive piano work really struck a chord, particularly on “Down In The Levee”

Now the obscure Pigmeat Terry was anthologized on one of the Magpie albums although I’m positive I didn't hear his records until much later. Terry only cut one 78 in 1935, a great record, and possessed a high, whispery, moaning voice, a bit reminiscent of the popular Joe Pullum who made his debut the prior year. His "Black Sheep Blues" is a striking tune both vocally and lyrically:

My mother's gone to glory
My father died of drinking in his sins
My sister won't notice me, she's to proud to take me in
I'm a black sheep in my family, and how they dog me around
Someday I'll get lucky and won't be found around

Allen Shaw is another great bluesman cut only one78. He has a powerful voice, somewhat like Son House, and lays down some great slide. Shame he didn’t record more. Shaw also got together on record with Hattie Hart. They engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. I heard this side first on Sony’s Slide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2 back when the major labels would occasionally issue stuff like this. I’m pretty sure those days are gone.

“Have you ever woke up with them bullfrogs on your mind?” One of the more enigmatic opening blues lines I’ve ever heard and one of the best blues ever by the mysterious William Harris (not the same as the Willie Harris mentioned above).

The Voice Of The Blues
Read Liner Notes

There were very few recorded guitar playing women blues singers recorded in the pre-war era. Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley are two of the few. Both their records are extremely rare and both woman barley left a trace behind as to who they were. Wiley’s “Last Kind Words” is a masterpiece there’s no doubt, but I find myself returning to her jaunty “Pick Poor Robin Clean” with partner Elvie Thomas.“ I’m not sure where I first heard this and like William Harris’ “Bullfrog Blues” I’m not really sure what the hell the song means.

Elizabeth Johnson is another mystery woman who cut four sides in 1928. “Be My Kid Blues b/w Sobbin’ Woman Blues” is great record.  She’s backed by a unique band (listed as Her Turpentine Tree-O) that consisted of woodblocks, clarinet and guitar.

Mattie May Thomas waxed three remarkable acapella numbers in 1939. They were recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in the woman's camp of the  notorious Parchman Farm. Thomas' “Dangerous Blues” is a haunting, violent and sad song that gives me shivers every time I hear it.:

You keep on talking 'bout the dangerous blues.
If I had a pistol I'd be dangerous too.
Say, you may be a bully, say but I don't know.
But I fix you so you won't give me no trouble in the world I know.
She won't cook no breakfast, she won't wash no clothes.
Say, that woman don't do nothin' but walk the road.
My knee bone hurt me, and my ankle swell.
Says, I may get better but I won't get well.
Say, Mattie had a baby, and she got blues eyes.
Say, must be the captain, he keep on hanging around.
He keep on hanging around, keep on hanging around.

I’m not a huge fan of Jim Jackson but at his very last session in 1930 he cut outstanding versions of “St Louis Blues” and “Hesitation Blues.” Many have covered ““Hesitation Blues” but to me Jackson’s version will always be the definitive one.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lane HardinI'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal YouModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Lane HardinKeep 'em DownModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Leroy Simpson & Lane Hardin13 HighwayModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Leroy Simpson & Lane HardinBluebird BluesModern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4
King Solomon HillMy Buddy, Blind Papa LemonBlues Images Presents Vol. 2
Blind Lemon JeffersonFence Breakin' Yellin' BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home Blues – Test Blues Images Presents Vol. 8
Jaybird ColemanSave Your Money – Let These Women GoBlues Images Presents Vol. 8
Furry LewisCannon Ball Blues – Alternate Take Blues Images Presents Vol. 8
Blind Joe ReynoldsNinety Nine BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 2
Jenny PopeMr. Postman BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesBlues Images Presents Vol. 5
Teddy Darby Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Charley Patton Jesus Is A Dying Bed MakerBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
John TeftellerInterview
Lane HardinCalifornia Desert Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Lane HardinHard Times Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Lane HardinCartey Blues Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Papa Charlie JacksonPapa, Don't Tear Your PantsBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Harum Scarum Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here)Blues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Joel TaggartPrecious LordBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Blind Joel TaggartLittle Black TrainBlues Images Presents Vol. 9
Tampa RedMama Don't Allow No Easy Riders HereBlues Images Presents Vol. 9

Show Notes:

Today's program revolves around record collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. We'll be chatting with John in the second hour who I've interviewed previously and each time I've found him to be extremely knowledgeable regarding blues from the 1920's with a keen insight into how the record companies operated and how they marketed blues records. According to his website he has the world's largest inventory of blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll 78's with over 75,000 in stock. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. This year marks the ninth year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up newly discovered sides which I'll be featuring today. Among those are newly discovered sides by the mysterious Lane Hardin (I'll be playing all of Hardin's records today), guitar evangelist Blind Joe Taggart and as well as other records found in the past few years. Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously and has been reprinting the artwork in his annual calendars.

For decades Lane Hardin has been one of those tantalizing, mysterious blues figures who cut a handful of brilliant, garnered much interest among collectors yet has remained a cipher, resistant to all research attempts.  Now seventy-five years after his debut we  get to hear a previously unknown Hardin side and a recently published article has given his life shape. For a long time it was thought his 1935 record, "California Desert Blues b/w Hard Time Blues" was the only record Hardin ever recorded. The record is very scarce with only five or six known copies. Tefteller purchased a copy at auction recently for $5,500. Unknown to most collectors Hardin cut a vanity record circa 1948 – the A-side is Hardin's “Cartey Blues” while the B-Side is by Hardin's stand up bass player (credited to Don Tempo). The record was found by collector Steve LaVere sometime in the 1990's in Los Angeles and purchased by Tefteller.

In around 1950 a group of artists sent in a batch of unlabeled acetates that were discovered at Modern in 1970. These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since. When these sides were first issued on the Blues From The Deep South LP,  Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. It turns out that Todd is actually Lane Hardin. We play both of those numbers today: "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" and Keep 'em Down." Hardin also backs Leroy Simpson on "13 Highway" and "Bluebird Blues" which we also feature. The identity of Simpson remains a mystery. All these sides have been reissued on the CD Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4.

Only one person seems to have ever been interviewed about Hardin who actually knew him. That was Henry Townsend who remembered him from the 1930's St. Louis scene. As Townsend told Bill Greensmith in his autobiography, A Blues Life: "Now Lane Hardin was one of the least known (n) musicians around the city , because he had come into the city and hadn't exposed himself much. He had a job at Lewins Metal Company and hadn't been exposed by his music until he ran across (Peetie) Wheatstraw's buddy, Neckbones, who also worked over there. They got to  talking and found out about playing music, and that's how he got be discovered. They would meet at different houses and just do something for their own personal entertainment, but not for jobs that I know of. Lane Hardin also played out at McKnight's place in Kinloch. Lane could have been slightly older than me, but not by much. He lived on Biddle Street about Thirteenth or Fourteenth -they had built a little row of new houses, and he lived there."

In the August 2011 issue of Blues & Rhythm magazine Tony Russell published a lengthy article on Hardin, essentially reconstructing his life from public records. It's an impressive piece of research that traces Hardin's life from his birth in Kentucky to working as a deck hand on steamboats, to a residence in St. Louis from the late 1910's through the 30's (documentation includes  a lengthy police record), to a stint in Illinois and finally traces him to Los Angeles by the 40's. Hardin passed in 1975 and it's a shame no one ever tracked him down to document his story.

The other big find on Tefteller's new CD is the only existing copy of a crudely recorded acetate,  by pre-war gospel legend Blind Joe Taggart. The disc was found by collector Robert Buchholz shoved between some old 70's rock and roll records at what remains of Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. It was put on sale on ebay where it was purchased by Tefteller. Taggart made his first records for Vocalion in June 1927 then went to Paramount in 1928. He continued recording in the 30's but vanished after a final session for Decca in 1934. The new calendar also contains the only known photograph of Taggart, published for the first time.

We feature several other numbers from the latest CD including sides by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jenny Pope, Teddy Darby, Charlie Patton, Papa Charlie Jackson and Harum Scarum. We round out the show with tracks from some of Tefteller's prior CD's including recently found sides by Tommy Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Joe Reynolds and others.

Jenny Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton.

Teddy Darby recorded from 1929 until 1937 under the names of "Blind Teddy Darby", "Blind Darby", "Blind Blues Darby" and "Blind Squire Turner" for the Paramount, Victor, Bluebird, Vocalion and Decca labels. In 1960 he was "rediscovered" and recorded by Pete Welding of Testament Records, yet the recordings from this session were never released. In the late 1930s he gave up the blues and became an ordained deacon.

Papa Charlie Jackson was the first commercially successful male blues singer. Jackson is believed originally to have come from New Orleans before relocating to Chicago sometime in the early 1900's. He became a very successful street performer, especially on the Near West Side, where he routinely played at the famed Maxwell Street market. His popularity eventually led to him being signed by the Paramount label, where he waxed more than 60 sides between 1924 and 1929. Jackson also did session working backing artists such as Ida Cox, Lottie Beaman, Ma Rainey, Big Bill Broonzy and others.

Issued as Paramount 13104, Harum Scarum's "Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here) " was released in January 1931 and is extremely rare. No copy has been discovered on Paramount however the record was reissued on Varsity, a company from the 1930's that gathered up old masters they found interesting and issued them again. The Harum Scarums recorded four songs and consisted of Big Bill Broonzy, Georgia Tom and Mozelle Alderson.

King Solomon Hill signed to the Paramount label in 1932, soon traveling to Grafton, Wisconsin to record six tracks (two of them alternate takes). In 2002 Tefteller went to Grafton and discovered the long lost Hill 78 "My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon b/w Times Has Done Got Hard" in mint condition. Not much is known of Hill – whose real name was Joe Holmes. He was closely connected to Sam Collins and traveled with Blind Lemon Jefferson and Rambling Thomas. After his lone session, Hill returned to the juke joint circuit, eventually vanishing from sight; reputedly a heavy drinker, he died of a massive brain hemorrhage in Sibley, Louisiana in 1949.

A welcome surprise in recent years has been the discovery of several Tommy Johnson recordings of unissued material. In 1985 an untitled Tommy Johnson test pressing was found and issued on Document as "Boogaloosa Woman"/"Morning Prayer." Yazoo has issued "Morning Prayer" with the title "Button Up Shoes." In around 2001 yet another important batch of records came to light. A box of unissued Paramount and QRS test pressings (the QRS material likely obtained by Paramount from Art Satherley in 1930/31) has been found by an antique dealer in Wisconsin. Tefteller purchased the Tommy Johnson test pressing of "I Want Someone To Love Me" for over $12,000. The record has since been issued on the CD that accompanies the 2004 calendar. Today's featured track,is a test pressing of "Lonesome Home Blues" which was issued on the CD that accompanies the 2010 calendar.

In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard who used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. Within a year, the four songs were released on two records. Neither record sold well, but almost 40 years later, one of the two attracted the attention of Eric Clapton who heard the song "Outside Woman Blues" on a reissue album. In 1967, Clapton and his Cream bandmates Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce recorded a more modern day version of "Outside Woman Blues" on their classic LP Disraeli Gears. The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that day, "Ninety Nine Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released in October of 1930. No copies in any condition were ever located until just a few years ago. The recorded was eventually bought and reissued on CD by John Tefteller.

In 2007 John Tefteller issued what is apparently the only known copy of Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis' "Talkin' To You Wimmen' About The Blues." The track and it's flip side, "Merciful Blues", was issued on the CD that accompanies Tefteller's 2008 blues artwork calendar. To quote Tefteller: "the record…apparently has not been heard by anyone since its release back in the late fall of 1931. I have had this record in my collection for almost ten years. I had no idea that it was potentially a one-of-a-kind record! …Late last year, legendary Blues reissue producer Larry Cohn called me about his upcoming Blind Willie McTell box set. He told me he would like to borrow certain records from my collection …I sent him a list of what I had. To my amazement, he called immediately with the comment, "I've never heard the Mary Willis record!" Apparently, there is no master in the Columbia vaults. Cohn is aware of no other copy of the record anywhere. Finding this hard to believe, I started calling "all the usual suspects" and sure enough, none of them had the record or had ever heard it."

-John Tefteller Interview/Feature (edited, 53 min, MP3)

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Robert WilkinsGet Away BluesTrouble Hearted Blues
Robert WilkinsI Wish I Was In HeavenWhen I Lay My Burden Down
Champion Jack DupreeTee-Na-Nee-NaBarrelhouse Blues And Boogie Woogie Vol. 4
Champion Jack DupreeGravier Street RagBarrelhouse Blues And Boogie Woogie Vol. 1
Smokey HoggIn This World AloneTexas Guitar Killers
T-Bone WalkerBaby Broke My HeartTexas Guitar Killers
Lowell FulsonBlues Don't Leave MeTexas Guitar Killers
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home Blues (Test)Blues Images Vol. 8
John D. FoxWorried Man BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Big Chief Ellis Dices, DicesRub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Square WaltonPepper Head Woman Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Bobbie HarrisFriendly AdviceRub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Duke Bayou (Alec Seward)Rub a Little BoogieRub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
James P. JohnsonSnowy Morning Blues Snowy Morning Blues
James P. Johnson w/ Anna RobinsonHungry BluesJames P. Johnson 1938-1942
Country JimOld River BluesDown Home Blues Classics Vol.5: Memphis & The South
Johnny ShinesRed SunToo Wet Too Plow
Hammie NixonYeller YamsTennessee Blues Vol. 2
Memphis SlimChicago New Home Of The BluesBarrelhouse Blues And Boogie Woogie Vol. 5
Sunnyland SlimGet Further Little BrotherBarrelhouse Blues And Boogie Woogie Vol. 1
Blind Joe ReynoldsThird Street Woman BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Mississippi MoanerIt's Cold In China BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
The Beale Street Sheiks Half Cup of TeaBlues Images vol. 2
Sonny Boy Williamson IIAll My Love In VainThe Chess Years Box Set
Sonny Boy Williamson IICross My HeartThe Chess Years Box Set
Walter Bradford Reward For My babySun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Houston BoinesCarry My Business OnSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Eddie SnowMean Mean WomanSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Henry GrayThat Ain't RightEarly Raw Electric Blues Masters
Hop WilsonA Good Woman is Hard to FindSteel Guitar Flash
Roosevelt CharlesCane Choppin' Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs
Roosevelt CharlesMean Trouble Blues Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs
Pinetop SmithJump Steady BluesShake Your Wicked Knees
Pinetop PerkinsPinetop's Boogie Woogie Memphis Blues (Important Postwar Recordings)

Show Notes:

A varied batch of blues today including artist spotlights of Robert Wilkins, James P. Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Roosevelt Charles and album features with tracks from the 4-CD set New York Blues 1945-1956 Rub a Little Boogie, Texas Guitar Killers and selections from Storyville's Barrelhouse Blues And Boogie Woogie series.

Robert Wilkins

Like several of the former bluesmen turned gospel artists, Reverend Robert T. Wilkins recorded only sparingly in later years; he cut one full length album Memphis Gospel Singer in 1964 plus several sides on various anthologies. His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics. Wilkins employs plenty of variety on these early recordings and on our selection, "Get Away Blues", lays down a steady droning riff reminiscent of Garfield Akers. "I Wish I Was In Heaven", recorded decades later, finds Wilkins' playing and singing to have lost nothing in the intervening years. As Peter Aschoff writes in the notes to When I Lay My Burden Down: "By the time in the 1960's when Hernando, Mississippi's, Robert Wilkins entered the studio to record the four tracks that close this CD, his religious conversion had put many years between him and the songs that had originally shown him to be one of the most innovative and startlingly original songwriters and performers in pre-war blues. …While his lyrics may have changed, his fluid guitar playing remained firmly rooted in the rhythmically complex picking style of his early secular recordings, and his singing still made use of the unexpected twists phrasing and timing that have always marked Wilkins'  music."

I found myself listening quite a bit lately to the recordings of James P. Johnson. Johnson was a pioneer of the stride style of jazz piano and a model for Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Fats Waller. Johnson composed many hit tunes including "Charleston" and "Carolina Shout" and remained the acknowledged king of New York jazz pianists until he was dethroned by Art Tatum. Before 1920 Johnson made dozens of superb player piano roll recordings. He developed into a fine accompanist, the favorite of Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith. Ethel Waters wrote in her autobiography that working with musicians such as Johnson " …made you want to sing until your tonsils fell out". His 1921 phonograph recordings of "Harlem Strut", "Carolina Shout" and "Keep off the Grass" were among the first jazz piano solos to be put onto record. The majority of his phonograph recordings of the 1920's and early 1930's were done for Black Swan and Columbia. He continued to record through the 40's. Johnson permanently retired from performing after suffering a severe, paralyzing stroke in 1951 and passed in 1955. Today we spin his "Snowy Morning Blues" from 1930, a song he recorded several times over the years. We also spin "Hungry Blues" as he accompanies singer Anna Robinson.

"Hungry Blues," a selection from a politically charged stage show with words by Langston Hughes, is a beautiful statement against segregation and inequity, invoking "…a brand new world, so clean and fine, nobody's hungry and there ain't no color line…." The show was called De Organizer. It dealt with the plight of Afro-American workers as they attempted to unionize. Anna Robinson was remembered by Milt Hinton as a merry libertine who partied hard. Strung out on narcotics, she was brutally murdered in an alley. This and the flip side, "Harlem Woogie", are the only recordings Robinson ever made.

Read Liner Notes

Well over a year back I did show revolving around the recordings made by folklorist Harry Oster and I was searching through my collection in vain trying to find the album he cut of the remarkable singer Roosevelt Charles. Well better late than never, we spin two tracks from this wonderful record. 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.”

Today we feature four sides from the excellent 4-CD JSP set Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-1956. This is a collection of down-home blues from artists who migrated from the Eastern states like the Carolinas to New York but still retained their country roots to a degree. The most famous artists are Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Champion Jack Dupree who in addition to sides under their own name, appear on the records of many of the other artists on this collection. Other artists on this set include fine sides Big Chief Ellis, Alec Seward, Carolina Slim, Boby Gaddy, Bobbie Harris and others. From Ellis we hear "Dices, Dices," which he and McGhee recorded for Lenox in 1945. Our version was later recorded live on February 19 1949, at a WYNC Jazz Festival (they were the only bluesmen  present),  prefaced by a conversation between McGhee and Rudi Blesh. Little is known of Bobbie Harris who may have been from South Carolina and cut sides for several New York labels. He's a fine singer as expressed on the steamy R&B of our selection, "Friendly Advice", Backed by Dupree and McGhee and an unknown, but wailing tenor man. We also play the title track, the wild, romping "Rub A Little Boogie" sung by Alec Seward and again featuring Dupree and McGhee. Square Walton is another mystery man who cut a lone four-song session in 1953. "Pepper Head Woman" may be my favorite, a rough and tough number backed by Big Chief Ellis and Mickey Baker.

From the Storyville label we hear great piano numbers from Champion Jack Dupree, Sunnyland Slim and Memphis Slim. Karl Knudsen, a dedicated jazz fan, founded his Storyville Records label in Copenhagen in 1952 just as the groundswell for a blues and jazz revival began to sweep through Europe. Initially, the label simply reissued archival material from the States, but as more and more veteran blues and jazz players began touring Europe (and in many cases, relocating there permanently), he began setting up recording sessions with them, and Storyville ended up with an impressive catalog of original jazz and blues sessions from master performers. He recorded extensively some fine piano players including Champion Jack Dupree, Little Brother Montgomery, Speckled Red, Memphis Slim and others. A few years back Storyville issued five volumes of piano material under the title Barrelhouse Blues and Boogie Woogie which is where all our tracks come from.

While rooting around my collection I stumbled upon the 2-CD set Texas Guitar Killers. This was part of Capitol's ongoing development of its vaults, produced by the late Pete Welding. The 39 cuts feature T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, Lowell Fulson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Smokey Hogg and Pee-Wee Crayton, with sides drawn from their stints with Imperial and Aladdin spanning the years 1945-1953. Hogg is in fine form on the plaintive "In This World Alone", T-Bone at his best on "Baby Broke My Heart" while Fulson hollers the blues on on the stomping "Blues Don't Leave Me."

We conclude the show with a couple of Pinetops; Smith and Perkins. Clarence "Pine Top" Smith was one of the earliest pianists to recorded a boogie-woogie piano solo. His 1928 tune "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was the first recording to be labeled as such and and had a great deal of influence on all future pieces in that style. Pine Top toured the minstrel and TOBA vaudeville circuits throughout the 1920's performing with Mamie Smith and Butter Beans and Susie and other vaudeville acts. He was also a frequent solo performer at rent parties, taverns and whorehouses. Smith was accidentally shot to death at a dance in Chicago in 1929. He was twenty-five years old and left behind just eleven sides.

Pinetop Perkins died on march 21, he was 97. In 1943 Mr. Perkins moved to Helena, Ark., to work Robert Nighthawk. He later joined Sonny Boy Williamson’s King Biscuit Boys, before moving on to the band of the slide guitarist Earl Hooker. He also appeared on the recordings that Nighthawk made for the Chess label and that Hooker made for Sun in the 1950s. It was for Sun, in 1953, that he cut his first version of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” the song that furnished him with his nickname and the number we feature today. When the pianist Otis Spann left Muddy Waters’s band in 1969 it was Perkins who took his place.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Julius Daniels Ninety-Nine Year Blues Atlanta Blues
Blind Willie McTell King Edward Blues The Classic Years 1927-1940
Cousin Leroy CrossroadsLivin' That Wild Life: Herald/Ember Blues & Gospel Masters
Cousin Leroy Waitin' At The Station Livin' That Wild Life: Herald/Ember Blues & Gospel Masters
T-Bone Walker Here In The DarkComplete Recordings of T-Bone Walker 1940-1954
Hot Lips Page Trio Thirsty Mama Blues The Very Best Of Teddy Bunn
Champion Jack Dupree She's GoneEarly Cuts
Ma Rainey Chain Gang Bound Mother Of The Blues
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River Blues Blues Images Vol. 3
Georgia Boyd Never Mind Blues St. Louis 1927-1933
Lonnie Johnson Blue And All AloneBlues, Ballads And Jumpin' Jazz Vol. 2
Percy Mayfield Highway Is Like A WomanBlues Laureate: RCA Years
Eddie Vinson I'm Gonna Wind Your Clock Ham Hocks And Cornbread
Sonny Boy Nelson Pony Blues Catfish Blues - Mississippi Blues Vol. 3
Robert Petway Ride 'Em On Down Catfish Blues - Mississippi Blues Vol. 3
Tommy McLennan Cotton Patch Blues Complete Bluebird Recordings
Jack Owens B & O BluesGoin' Up The Country
Bill "Boogie Bill" Webb Love Me Mama Rural Blues Vol. 1
Sonny Boy Williamson Miss Stella Brown BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Sonny Boy Williamson Better Cut That OutThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Baby Face Leroy Red Headed Woman The Blues World Of Little Walter
Magic Sam Call Me If You Need Me With a Feeling 57-67: The Cobra, Chief & Crash Recordings
Whispering Smith Crying Blues More Louisiana Swamp Blues
Walter 'Cowboy' Washington West Dallas Woman The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
St. Louis Jimmy Good Luck Blues Livin' That Wild Life: Herald/Ember Blues & Gospel Masters
Eddie Boyd Lonesome For My BabyLivin' That Wild Life: Herald/Ember Blues & Gospel Masters
Blind Joe Reynolds Cold Woman Blues Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Kansas Joe McCoy Joilet Blues Tommy Johnson And Associates
Hop Wilson My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone Steel Guitar Flash

Show Notes:

As we take a pause between theme shows we turn to a wide ranging mix show, spanning the years 1925 through 1970. We spin several thematic sets including a twin spin of sides by Sonny Boy Williamson I, a batch of sides from the recent 2-CD collection collection Livin' That Wild Life – The Herald-Ember Blues & Gospel Masters Vol. 1 and a the usual mix of excellent pre-war blues.

We spotlight a pair of superb post-war sides by Sonny Boy that come from the 4-CD JSP set The Original Sonny Boy Williamson: The Later Years 1939-1947 which collects all the sides he waxed between 1944 through 1947. Talking about the 1946 session that produced one of our selections,  Neil Slaven writes: "Sonny Boy's next three sessions represented his golden age- when song after song underlined his new-found maturity. Sonny Boy's Cold Chills, Hoodoo Hoodoo, Shake The Boogie, Mellow Chick Swing, Polly Put Your Kettle On, Apple Tree Swing, all benefited from the work of Blind John Davis, Eddie Boyd, Willie Lacey, Big Bill Broonzy, Ransom Knowling, Willie Dixon and Charles Sanders. These were the songs that influenced a generation of singers and laid the groundwork for the ascendancy of Chicago blues over the next decade." From his very last session, in November 1947 we spin the romping "Better Cut That Out." There's little doubt Sonny Boy would have been a major force on the vibrant Chicago blues scene of the 50's and would have thrived during the blues revival of the 60's, undoubtedly playing Europe to adoring fans. Sadly it was not to be, Sonny Boy's blazing career came to a untimely end with his murder in June 1948.

We spotlight four tracks  from the fine recent 2-CD collection on Acrobat, Livin' That Wild Life – The Herald-Ember Blues & Gospel Masters Vol. 1. Herald was founded in 1951 by music veteran Fred Mendelsohn but was inactive until he took on partners Al Silverman and Jack Braverman. Herald issued some terrific blues including tracks by Little Walter, St. Louis Jimmy, Cousin Leroy and some of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ best sides. Among those tracks are cuts by St. Louis Jimmy which was originally recorded for De Luxe in 1949 and Eddie Boyd's "Lonesome For My Baby" which was first issued on Regal in 1950 before being picked up by Herald. We also feature two tracks by the mysterious Cousin Leroy. Nothing is known about him except that  he cut two sides for Groove in 1955 and several for Herald and Ember in 1957.  He was backed by great musicians including Larry dale, Sonny Terry and Champion Jack Dupree. Leroy's songs are mainly reworking of traditional material including the ominous "Crossroads"  which incorporated Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone" with references to the the crossroads myth:

Well I walked down, by the crossroad
Just to learn how, to play my guitar
Well a man walked up, 'son let me tune it'
That was the devil
(2x)

Today's program features a set of fine blues ladies including Ma Rainey, Mattie Delaney and Georgia Boyd. Rainey first appeared onstage in 1900, singing and dancing in minstrel and vaudeville stage revues. In 1902 she married the song and dance man William "Pa" Rainey and from then on became known as Ma Rainey. The couple formed a song and dance act that included Blues and popular songs and toured the country, but primarily the South. It was not until 1923 that Ma Rainey signed a recording contract with Paramount. She was billed as the "Mother of the Blues", which wasn't far off the mark. She ended up recording 100 songs between 1923 and 1928 on Paramount Records. Nothing is known of Delaney and Boyd who each cut a lone 78.  In 1930 Delaney cut two magnificent numbers for Vocalion, "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" featuring herself on guitar.  In 1933 Boyd cut "Never Mind Blues b/w I'm Sorry Blues" with J.D. Short laying down some tough guitar on the former.

In 1936, Eugene Powell, along with Mississippi Matilda, Willie Harris and some of the Chatmon family traveled to New Orleans to record for the Bluebird label.  Setting up at the St. Charles Hotel, Powell cut six sides during these sessions under the moniker Sonny Boy Nelson. Among these numbers were classics such as "Street Walkin' Woman" and our selection "Pony Blues". He also accompanied Matilda on four tracks and harmonica player Robert Hill on 10 more. It would be another 34 years before Eugene Powell would have the opportunity to record again.

Also from the pre-war era, we spin numbers by Robert Petway and his pal Tommy McClennan. Little biographical information is available on Robert Petway. He was the first to record “Catfish Blues” which became a blues standard and may have composed the song. Big Bill Broonzy reported to researcher Paul Oliver that Petway played with Tommy McClennan and that the two grew up together as kids. McClennan was born and raised on the J. F. Sligh farm about ten miles north of Yazoo City in 1908 and it seems likely from Broonzy's recollection that Petway was about the same age and raised on the same farm.

McClennan was an influence on David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who learned songs like “Catfish Blues” and "Bullfrog" from him. In another account Edwards states that he learnt “Catfish Blues” in person from Petway. McClennan was stylistically similar to Petway because the two played together often. McClennan and Petway would play at house parties, and in the juke joint at Three Forks crossroads, famous now as the place where Robert Johnson was poisoned. In 1939 McClennan moved to Chicago and had three successful recording sessions by the time Petway had his first. It seems likely that McClennan sent for Petway to come to Chicago and record. Petway recorded eight sides for Bluebird Records in 1941 and followed those up with eight more in 1942.

McClennan's brand of  rough-around-the-edges blues is not far removed from singer Walter "Cowboy" Washington who Paul Oliver called a "bar-fly on the waterfront who worked as a cowpuncher." Backed by the superb piano of Andy Boy the rough voiced singer tells a gritty tale in his "West Dallas Woman" about a woman (a reference to Houston's Fourth Ward)  who's "trying to make twenty-five cents just to get a half-a-pint of corn." Washington cut just four sides in San Antonio in 1937 including another gritty number, "Ice Pick Mama."

Also worth mentioning are tracks by Percy Mayfield, Hot Lips Page and Baby Face Leroy Foster. Mayfield’s main hit making period was from 1950-1952 when he scored seven top ten hits for the Specialty label including “Please Send Me Someone To Love”, the biggest hit ever for the label. Much less well known are the trio of superb records he cut for RCA in the 1970's, all unfortunately out of print: Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970), Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970) and Blues…And Then Some (1971). 25 tracks from these albums are available on the CD Blues Laureate: RCA Years.

Between 1948 and 1952 Baby Face Leroy Foster waxed a handful absolutely terrific sides under his own name for a number fledgling Chicago labels aided by some of the windy city’s best blues musicians. In addition his vocals, drumming, and guitar playing can be found backing some of the greatest Chicago blues records of the era. His death in 1958, at the age of 38, robbed the blues world of a singular, memorable talent.

Known as a scorching  soloist and powerful vocalist, Oran “Hot Lips” Page was one of the Midwest's top trumpet players. He began his professional touring career when he joined “Ma” Rainey's band in the 1920s. Page traveled the Southwest with Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and other touring acts. From 1928 to 1931 Page was a member of the Blue Devils; in 1932 he joined Bennie Moten’s orchestra, remaining until 1935. After Moten's death, he continued to work with Count Basie. He recorded as the Hot Lips Page Trio for Bluebird in 1940 before joining Artie Shaw where he worked from 1941-1942. Starting in 1944 he recorded for Commodore and Savoy, fronting his own. In May 1949, Page traveled for the first time to Europe, where he played at the Jazz Festival in Paris. He visited Europe again in 1951 and 1952, to make a tour of Scandinavia and France. From 1952 until his health began to deteriorate in 1953, he worked various jazz shows around the United States. "Thirsty Mama Blues" from 1940 sports some melancholy blowing, a fine world weary vocal from page reminiscent of Jimmy Rushing and some knockout guitar from Teddy Bunn. It's not surprising the song is featured on the CD The Very Best Of Teddy Bunn 1937-1940.

Share