Entries tagged with “Blind Willie Johnson”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
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.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Thomas ShawBaby Be A Boy Child Named Him After MeBlind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas ShawStop In The ValleyBlind Lemon's Buddy
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson One Dime Blues The Best Of
Thomas ShawAll Out And DownBorn In Texas
Thomas ShawBroke And Ain't Got A DimeBlind Lemon's Buddy
Funny Papa SmithHowling Wolf Blues - No. 1The Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Funny Papa SmithHoney BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Thomas Shaw Last Year Was A Mighty Fine YearBorn In Texas
Thomas Shaw Ella Speed Blind Lemon's Buddy
Blind Willie JohnsonLord I Can't Just Keep From CryingThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie JohnsonIf I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down
The Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Thomas Shaw Just Can't Keep From Crying Blind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas Shaw Worried BluesBorn In Texas
Ramblin' ThomasSo LonesomeCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics 1926-1937
Willie LaneToo Many Women BluesRural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956
Thomas ShawMatchbox Blues Blind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas ShawHowling Wolf Blues Blind Lemon's Buddy
Smokey Hogg Penitentiary Blues Pt. 1Good Morning Little School Girl
Mance Lipscomb Ella Speed Texas Sharecropper & Songster
Thomas Shaw Prowling Ground HogBlind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas Shaw She's My Gal Do Lord Remember Me
Funny Papa Smith County Jail BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Funny Papa Smith Fool's BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Thomas ShawJack of DiamondsSan Diego Blues Jam
Blind Lemon Jefferson Match Box BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Jack O' Diamond Blues The Best Of
Thomas ShawDedicated To My FriendsDo Lord Remember Me

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

Thomas Shaw came to the attention of the blues world in the late 1960's when he walked into Lou Curtis' Folk Arts Rare Records shop in San Diego looking for guitar strings. Shaw was from Brennam, Texas and had learned to play guitar in the late 1920's from Blind Lemon Jefferson. He was a walking library of Texas blues, having played with Ramblin’ Thomas, J.T. “Funny Papa” Smith, Texas Alexander, and Willie “Little Brother” Lane. He also played some with a very young Mance Lipscomb. In the early 70's Curtis wrote articles about Shaw for Living Blues and Blues Unlimited magazines and Shaw's discovery garnered interest from record companies. Frank Scott came down and recorded Shaw for Advent Records in the backroom of Curtis' store. The same year saw the release of the, now long out-of-print, record on the Blue Goose label with a final record cut in 1973 for the Blue Beacon label in Holland when Shaw toured Europe. A few scattered sides appeared on anthologies before his passing in 1977. Today's show not only spotlights a batch of great sides by Shaw, but we also spin sides from many of the great Texas bluesman that he knew and played with like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Funny Papa Smith, Blind Willie Johnson, Smokey Hogg, Mance Lipscomb, Willie Lane and Ramblin' Thomas.

Thomas Shaw only spent five years on the Texas house party circuit, leaving for San Diego in 1934, yet met an astonishing number of Texas blues legends. He was born in Brenham, Texas in 1908, a farming community between Austin and Houston. His was a musical family; his father played harmonica, guitar and accordion and Shaw learned acapella versions of spirituals on his father's knee. His uncle Fred Rogers headed up a family string band and his cousins, Willie and Bertie, were first rate blues guitarists. His older brother Leon played piano and his brother Louis played harmonica. "They played old time blues music, what you call the root of the music. 'Ella Speed', 'Take Mew Back Baby', 'See See Rider'. 'Alabama Bound', all of them songs was popular then."

Shaw first played harmonica before picking up guitar in the early 20's. The first song he mastered was “Out And Down”, a ragtime song that was played locally by his brother Louis and later recorded as “One Dime Blues” by Blind Lemon Jefferson. 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. “I followed all around that evening there, and then I started talkin' to him, and naturally me being a kid he's askin' me different things: 'You like the way I play this guitar?' I told him 'I love it!' …Say: 'How would you lie to do it?' I say: 'I sure wish I could do it!' He says: 'Well you can.' I say: 'I don't know.' He says: 'Yes, you can …go and find you a guitar.' .'..When you hear (of) me in town, you come where I am.' At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's song from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person.

In 1925 Blind Lemon Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Though he was not the first country blues singer/guitarist, or the first to make commercial recordings, Jefferson was the first to attain a national audience. 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. "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. 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."

In the towns of Moody and nearby Temple, Shaw met Blind Willie Johnson whom he learned “Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying.” " My father and Blind Willie Johnson used to work together, they both composed songs. My daddy would write 'em and make 'em into ballets and they'd sell 'em for fifteen cents a copy."  After spending a year in his mother's home of Brenham in the late 20's, Shaw began traveling as an itinerant cotton picker. It was in 1929 that he started playing for parties on the weekends. On one of these trips in the town of Vernon he ran into Ramblin' Thomas at a party where the two were goaded into a guitar contest which Shaw claims to have won. "The people went wild, I guess, 'cause I was a kid …what they really went wild over, me bein' able to play some of Blind Lemon Jefferson"s stuff …" Most Texas bluesman, he said, nvere played Jeffereson's songs. While living in Fort Worth in 1929 he played again with Thomas and met Willie Lane (who he knew only as Little Brother) at a house party.

Willard "Ramblin" Thomas was born around 1900, probably in Texas but possibly in Louisiana. Very little is known about him except that he recorded eighteen tracks for Paramount and Victor between 1928 and 1932. Willie Lane was a Texas blues guitarist who recorded five sides in 1949 and displays the influences of Ramblin' Thomas and J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith respectively on "Prowlin' Ground Hog" and "Howling Wolf Blues." In fact, he had accompanied Smith during a 1935 recording session for Vocalion, the results never being released, under the moniker "Little Brother."

Around 1930 Shaw met J.T. “Funny Papa” Smith. Shaw and Smith went on to play weekend house parties, each devising second guitar parts behind the others' vocal and leads. Smith promised to include Shaw in on of his recording sessions in 1931 but Smith was hauled off to face a murder charge and never returned to the area. Smith was a minstrel who wandered about the panhandle region, performing at fairs, fish fries, dances and other community events (often in the company of figures including Tom Shaw, Texas Alexander and Bernice Edwards.Between 1930 and 1931 he had recorded some twenty issued sides. Evidently Smith's commercial billing as "Funny Paper Smith" was a gaffe on the part of record company officials. When Texas bluesman Thomas Shaw met him in Wickoffs, Oklahoma, the name "Funny Papa Smith" was plainly stitched on his stovepipe hat and the work-overalls he customarily wore as the overseer of a local plantation. He was better known simply as Howling Wolf", the title of his debut recording. "That's the one that made him famous," Shaw said of the song.

Shaw's belated debut was recorded in 1969 or 70 and issued in 1972 on the Blue Goose label, titled Blind Lemon's Buddy. Subsequent albums included Born In Texas issued in 1972 on Advent then later on Testament, and Do Lord Remember Me released in 1973 on the Blues Beacon label (recorded in a Holland studio with one cut recorded live at Bajes Blues Club in Amsterdam). Tow other cuts appeared on the compilation San Diego Blues Jam issued in 1974 on Advent then later on Testament and four cuts that appear on the Ultimate Blues Collection Volume 3 on Ziggy Christmann's Ornament label. As Shaw noted of his recording career, it should have happened forty years earlier: “I was a guitar player then, brother …didn't nobody run into me-wanna mess with me. No sir …But I just can't play now.” He remains proudest of his ability to recreate the sound of Blind Lemon, saying of the style “ I went through hell and high water to get it.”

Sources:

-Liner notes to Blind Lemon's Buddy by Stephen Calt

-From The Vaults… Thomas Shaw Interview by Guido van Rijn (Blues & Rhythm #193, October 2004)

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Madelyn James Long Time BluesMemphis Blues 192 -1938
Madelyn James Stinging Snake BluesMemphis Blues 192 -1938
Holy Ghost Sanctified SingersJesus Throwed Up A Highway For MeMemphis Sanctified Jug Bands 1928-1930
Eli Green Brooks Run Into The OceanYou Got To Move
Eli Green Bulldog Blues You Got To Move
Blind Willie JohnsonYou're Gonna Need Somebody on Your BondThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Willie Lee HarrisNever Drive a Stranger from Your Door Rare Country Blues 1928-1937
Hammie NixonThe Judge, He Pleaded (Viola Lee Blues)Tappin' That Thing
Nat RiddlesCross My Heart New York Really Has the Blues Vol. 3
Roy Dunn Rollin' MillBlues Come To Chapel Hill
Frank Edwards Love My BabyBlues Come To Chapel Hill
Elester AndersonFurther Down The Road
Carolina Country Blues
Henry JohnsonSittin' Down ThinkinCarolina Country Blues
Rosie Mae Moore Stranger BluesFour Women Blues
Memphis MinnieWhen The Sun Goes Down (Part 2)Four Women Blues
Clara SmithWoman to WomanThe Essential
Sunset Blues Band & Pee Wee CraytonPiney Brown Blues Funky Blues
Kansas City RedOpen Your Heart Original Chicago Blues
Lovie Lee West Side WomanGood Candy
Cousin Joe Juice On The Loose Cousin Joe Of New Orleans
Cousin Joe Evolution BluesCousin Joe Of New Orleans
Buddy Lewis Lonesome Bedroom BluesJuke Joint Blues 2
Left Handed CharlieMiss My LagnionJuke Joint Blues 2
Big ChenierPlease Try to RealiseJuke Joint Blues 2
Larry Johnson & Nat RiddlesI Believe Basin' Free
Larry Johnson & Nat RiddlesJohnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?
Larry JohnsonFour Women Blues Fast & Funky
Charlie PattonJersey Bull BluesThe Best Of
Johnnie TempleJinks Lee BluesJohnnie Temple Vol. 3 1940-1949

Show Notes:

Cross my fingers, this is the first mix show in some time that I'm not featuring somebody who just passed away. Lots of interesting records on tap today including a set revolving around the Memphis Jug Band, twin spins of Eli Green, Cousin Joe, several tracks featuring New York artists Larry Johnson and Nat Riddles, some  fine latter day Chicago blues and some exceptional pre-war blues.  We spotlight several out-of-print records including a pair on the Flyright label and an obscure one featuring the great Pee Wee Crayton.

Features the only tracks by McDowell's mentor, Eli Green.
Reissued on CD as You Got To Move

A month ago we did an in-depth feature on the Memphis Jug Band. Today we open up with an addendum of sorts with two tracks by singer Madeyln James and one by the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers. There's speculation that the Memphis Jug Band was the group who recorded in Memphis on a February 21, 1930 date resulting in four gospel and two secular sides. As the the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers on "Thou Carest Lord, For Me", "Jesus Throwed Up A Highway For Me", "Sinner I'd Make A Change", "When I Get Inside The Gate" and backing singer Madelyn James on "Stinging Snake Blues" and "Long Time Blues."

Eli Green was a mentor to Mississippi Fred McDowell and also Junior Kimbrough. With McDowell's help, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie records, located Green in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1965. He recorded him on the two songs, "Brooks Run Into The Ocean" and "Bulldog Blues", with backing by McDowell. These are the only recordings Green ever cut and are available on the Arhoolie CD, You Got To Move.

Born December 20, 1907 in Wallace, Louisiana, Cousin Joe made a name for himself on the Crescent City nightclub circuit of the mid-1930s before relocating to New York City in 1942; there he recorded prolifically through the 40's. He returned to New Orleans in 1947, recording material for the Deluxe and Imperial labels before signing a five-year pact with Decca; however, he entered the studio only rarely in the years to follow. After a long hiatus, he recorded and released an impromptu 1971 session under the title Bad Luck Blues, followed in 1973 by Cousin Joe from New Orleans where today's tracks come from. His activities were again curtailed in the years to follow, although he cut a final album in 1983 and in 1987 he published an autobiography, Cousin Joe: Blues from New Orleans. He died October 2, 1989.

Read Liner Notes

Nat Riddles played an important role in the New York blues scene during the late 1970's to mid 1980's. He became known in New York blues circles for his street performances with guitarist Charlie Hilbert and as well as performing with Larry Johnson. He also performed regularly at Dan Lynch's in NYC  a blues hotbed that that saw the emergence of recording artists like The Holmes Brother and Bobby Radcliff. Almost Riddles' recordings are out of print: he has scattered sides on various albums for the Spivey label (appears on several volumes of New York Really Has The "Blues Stars") plus a whole album on the label (The Art Of Nat Riddles). Riddles also appears on a fine recording with Larry Johnson for the L + R label, Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?, and a posthumous album of live recordings with Charlie Hilbert that came out in 2007. Riddles died of leukemia in August 1991 at the age of 39.

After a stint in the Navy from 1955 to 1959, Larry Johnson moved to New York and befriended Brownie and Sticks McGhee and began playing on records by Big Joe Williams, Harry Atkins, and Alec Seward. It was Seward who introduced Johnson to his future mentor, Rev. Gary Davis. He released his first single, "Catfish Blues"/"So Sweet," in 1962 and appeared on numerous live dates with Davis. By 1970, Johnson began releasing albums on small labels. Although never prolific, he cut consistently fine albums including Fast and Funky from 1971 and where our featured track, "Four Women Blues" comes from, the out-of-print Basin Free with Nat Riddles on the Spivey label and the marvelous Blues For Harlem issued in 1999.

We spin some terrific latter day Chicago blues from the under recorded Kansas City drummer/singer Kansas City Red and pianist Lovie Lee. By the early 1940's Red was hanging round with Robert Nighthawk. One night the band’s drummer took ill right before a gig and he offered to fill in despite never having played drums before. He ended up playing drums for Nighthawk until around 1946. After his split with Nighthawk he briefly hooked up with Honeyboy Edwards. He had an uncanny knack for hustling gigs and began singing by this period. In the 1950s he formed a band with Earl Hooker and pianist Ernest Lane. He moved to Chicago in the 1950's, occasionally sitting in with Muddy Waters. He formed a group with Walter Horton that included Johnny Young and Johnny Shines. During this period he played with Robert Lockwood Jr., Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Blind John Davis, Elmore James, and others. Starting with the Club Reno, he managed a number of Chicago bars and owned a couple as well. Through the 1970's and 1980's he held down stints at a number of Chicago clubs. His recorded legacy is slim with a handful of sessions for Barrelhouse, JSP, and Earwig. His last major engagement was at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival. He died of cancer on his sixty-fifth birthday on May 7, 1991. Today's cut comes from a hard-hitting record issued on the JSP label and the Japanese P-Vine label, Original Chicago Blues, that also features Big John Wrencher and Eddie Taylor.

Lovie Lee grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, and was self taught piano player. He found part time employment playing with the Swinging Cats in the early 1950's. The outfit included Carey Bell, who Lee took under his fatherly protection, and they jointly relocated to Chicago in September 1956. Lee worked during the day in a woodworking factory, and for many years played in the evening in numerous Chicago blues nightclubs. After he retired from full-time day work, Lee joined Muddy Waters band in 1979, replacing Pinetop Perkins. Lee made some private recordings in both 1984 and 1989, and this work plus later contemporary tracks, were released as the album Good Candy in 1992.

As always we spotlight a few long out-of-print records including two companion albums issued on the Flyright label in 1973: Blues Come To Chapel Hill and Carolina Country Blues. These were recorded in March 1973 live at the Chapel Hill Festival at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill by Pete Lowry. Most of the artists were recorded by Lowry for his Trix label including Frank Edwards, Roy Dunn, Tarheel Slim, Henry Johnson, Peg Leg Sam, Willie Trice and Guitar Shorty. Elester Anderson and Tommy Lee Russell were recorded extensively by Lowry but nothing was issued commercially.

The generically titled and plain looking album, Sunset Blues Band: Funky Blues, was released on the Sunset budget label and recorded for the United Artists/Liberty group in 1969 featuring Pee Wee Crayton with a session group. Pee Wee's name is not credited on the LP and Pee Wee admitted he did not know what happened to this material after he recorded it. This has been re-released years ago on Charly records.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Ma Rainey Titanic Man Blues Mother Of The Blues
Virginia ListonTitanic BluesVirginia Liston Vol. 2 1924-1926
Bessie JonesTitanic Put Your Hand on Your Hip and Let Your Backbone Slip
Ida Cox Pink Slip BluesIda Cox Vol. 5 1939-1940
Guitar Slim & Jelly BellyWorking Man BluesCarolina Blues
Tony Hollins Stamp BluesChicago Blues Vol. 1 1939-1950
William and Versey Smith When That Great Ship Went Down American Primitive Vol. 1
Mance LipscombGod Moves on The WaterTexas Songster Vol. 2
Pink Anderson The Titanic Blues Of Pink Anderson: Ballad & Folksinger Vol. 3
J.B. Lenoir Alabama BluesAlabama Blues
Louisiana RedRide On Red, Ride OnThe Truman & Eisenhower Blues
Wee Bea Booze Uncle Sam Come And Get Him
Sammy Price and the Blues Singers Vol 2. 1939-1949
Snooky Pryor Uncle Sam Don't Take My ManSnooky Pryor and Friends: Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Bill JacksonTitanic BluesLong Steel Rail
Flora Molton & The Truth BandThe TitanicThe Introduction To Living Country Blues USA
Smokey HoggHigh Priced MeatThe Truman And Eisenhower Blues
Lucille SpannMeat Ration BluesCry Before I Go
Blind Willie Johnson God Moves On The WaterThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
‘Hi’ Henry BrownTitanic BluesCharley Jordan Vol.2 1931-1934
LeadbellyThe TitanicLast Sessions
Roosevelt SykesBad NewsPresident Johnson's Blues
Otis Spann Moon BluesThe Nixon and Ford Blues
B.B. Odom & The EarbendersThe World's In TroublePresident Ford's Blues
Louis JordanYou Can't Get That No MoreRoosevelt's Blues
Cousin JoePost-War Future BluesThe Truman & Eisenhower Blues
Richard 'Rabbit' Brown Sinking Of The Titanic Times Ain't Like They Used To Be Vol. 1
Jim JacksonTraveling ManJim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Lonnie Johnson Broken Levee Blues The Original Guitar Wizard
Casey Bill WeldonFlood Water Blues No.1Casey Bill Weldon Vol .1 1935-1936
Cousin Joe What A Tragedy Relaxin' In New Orleans

Show Notes:

Much of today's notes and transcriptions have been based on Chris Smith's The Titanic a Case Study Of Religious and Secular Attitudes (see below for full article). The sinking of the Titanic on the night of 14th-5th April 1912 was the first characteristically 20th century transport disaster, the first of the age of mass intercontinental travel; its 1503 deaths dwarfed the losses from the train wrecks that were the typical large-scale accident of its time, and the figure still exceeds the largest toll from an air crash. It is a measure of the impression that was made by the sinking of the Titanic that it found its way into African American music. The Titanic became a topic for both religious and secular singers. Even before recording began, folk song collectors in Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia and Mississippi were noting down songs about the Titanic from black informants as early as 1915.

Around 1913 there was a proto-blues about the Titanic sung by Butler "String Bean" May a star of African-American vaudeville.  As Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff describe in Ramblin' on My Mind: New Perspectives on the Blues: "'Beans' was known throughout black America for his street-wise humor, contortive  vernacular dancing, and outrageous blues piano playing." He was popularly known as the "The Elgin Movements Man" and "some time before the end of 1913, String Beans combined his metaphor of 'Elgin movements' with the theme of the sinking of the Titanic to produce, his irreverent tour de force 'Titanic Blues'." W.C. Handy was an eyewitness to a performance with the following lyrics recalled:

I was on dat great Titanic
De night dat she went down
Ev'rybody  wondered
Why I didn't drown-
I had dem Elgin movements in ma hips,
Twenty years' guarantee !

A relatively small percentage of blues deals directly with overt protest but there were many more about community events; there were numerous songs about natural disasters such as floods, drought, storms and fire, songs about cultural figures like Joe Louis, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and John Kennedy, songs about politics, war, urban renewal, prostitution and even racism and of course countless songs about the depression, hard times and welfare. Taken together these songs form an oral history of black America at a time when black Americans had few outlets for self-expression. On today's show we spin over a dozen songs related to the Titanic as well as a batch of topical numbers we haven't played on previous shows.

Ma Rainey’s “Titanic Man Blues” recorded in New York in December 1925, is the first documented blues that refers in any way to the sinking although, in true blues fashion, the song refers not to the actual disaster but to her lover who is compared to the Titanic: "Rig you up like a ship at sea/But you sunk an’ made a fool of me." “Titanic Blues” recorded by Virginia Liston in Chicago on the 29th of May 1926, was the next blues recorded about the Titanic. It was structured in much the same way as Ma Rainey’s song and it used a small part of that song’s chorus but it was more a ballad about the actual sinking. Leadbelly recorded his Titanic song on more than one occasion and it owes its structure as Ma Rainey's song. Our version, "The Titanic",  is from his last sessions in 1948. Leadbelly claimed he learned the song in 1912.

"When That Great Ship Went Down" was heard sung by African-Americans as early as 1915 or 1916. It was William and Versey Smith who made the first recording of "When That Great Ship Went Down" in 1927:

On a Monday morning, just about nine o'clock.
Great Titanic began to reel and rock;
Children weepin' and cry,
"Yes, I'm going to die!"

Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?
Sad when that great ship went down (2x)
Husbands and wives. Children lost their lives.
Wasn't it sad when that great ship went down?

When that ship left England, making for the shore,
The rich had declared that they would not ride with the poor.
Put the poor below,
Where first they had to go.

African Americans expressed their sympathy with the dead but they saw the disaster as God's punishment for the supposed boast of the ship's builders that God could not sink it. For many singers, the disaster was a kind of modern “tower of Babel”, God punishing man’s arrogance, especially among black singers who saw in the disaster God’s punishment for the segregationist policies of the boat’s company (Black were not allowed on board). "God Moves on The Water” is the other religious song about the Titanic. The song was collected by folklorist Dorothy Scarborough and published in 1919, but first issued on record in a 1929 by Blind Willie Johnson. We play another version today by songster Mance Lipscomb who learned the song from Johnson.

Another early song about the Titanic was by Richard "Rabbit" Brown who was most likely born around 1880 in or near New Orleans, Louisiana. On March 11, 1927, Brown waxed six sides for Victor. "Sinking of the Titanic" brought Rabbit Brown a form of recognition seldom given to a songster in his time. Abbe Niles noted the song in his music column in The Bookman for July, 1928. The entire text of the song was reproduced and a meager biography, courtesy of Ralph Peer, also accompanied the lyrics. Brown "sang to his guitar in the streets of New Orleans, and he rowed you out into Lake Pontchartrain for a fee, and sang to you as he rowed." In 1929 a Blind Willie Harris recorded one 78 and it's been suggested this was a pseudonym for Brown.

A year later Jim Jackson cut "Traveling Man" which had verses about the Titanic:

He run and jumped on this Titanic ship,
And started up that ocean blue;
He looked out and spied that big iceberg,
And right overboard he flew:
All the white ladies on the deck of the ship
Said that man certainly was a fool,
But when that Titanic ship went down
He's shootin' craps in Liverpool

The earliest collected version of "Traveling Man" is from North Carolina in 1919. The song was recorded by numerous performers (not all with the Titanic lyrics) such as Coley Jones, Luke Jordan, Pink Anderson as well as by several white country artists.

In 1932, the St. Louis guitarist 'Hi' Henry Brown accompanied by Charley Jordan, recorded  'Titanic Blues. "This song, Chris Smith writes, is notable for having been, until recently, the only 12 bar blues on the subject.

We hear later Titanic songs by Bill Jackson, Flora Molton, Johnny Otis and Cousin Joe. Bill Jackson's "Titanic Blues" comes from his lone album, Long Steel Rail, recorded in Philadelphia, in 1962 by Pete Welding and issued on the Testament label. Flora Molton And The Truth Band recorded "The Titanic" in 1980. Molton began preaching at the age of 17, not taking up guitar until 1943, when she moved to Washington DC. Virtually blind, she supported herself by playing in the streets. From 1963, she made appearances on the folk circuit, and was later visited Europe in 1987. She released self-produced singles in the 70's and had an album's worth of material issued on the L+R label that was recorded by Axel Kunster and Ziggy Christmann as part of the Living Country Blues series in 1980. A couple of other full-length albums appeared in the late 80's.

One version we won't be playing today (I've included it below) is the x-rated "Hey Shine" by Delmar Evans backed the Johnny Otis band cut in 1970. As Chris Smith notes: "For an unambiguous Titanic-based song about relations between the races, we must turn to another alter ego of the Traveling Man, Shine. 'Shine & The Titanic' is by and for blacks; usually, it is a 'toast', or narrative poem, relentlessly obscene like almost all toasts…"

We conclude the show with a Titanic song by Cousin Joe from his final album, Relaxin In New Orleans. Chris Smith writes: "In 1985, the New Orleans singer and pianist Cousin Joe recorded his last album. On it, no doubt in response to Bob Ballard's location of the wreck, he included what will probably be the last black song about the Titanic, 'What A Tragedy'":

Now a rich man asked me to save his life,
He would give me half his wealth;
I said, 'I'm very sorry, mister,
But I've really got to save myself'

When I jumped in the water,
Everybody said, 'Look at that fool ;'
But when that Titanic ship hit the bottom,
I was in Harlem shootin' pool.

Oh what a tragedy, when the Titanic ship went down (2X),
I used strategy during the tragedy; that's why I was nowhere around.

I'm not going to talk about today's other topical numbers but I do want to mention that several of the tracks come from the companion CD's to books written by Guido Van Rijn. Rijn has written a series of important books on topical blues: Roosevelt's Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on FDR, The Truman and Eisenhower Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs 1945-1960, Kennedy's Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on JFK, President Johnson's Blues: African American Blues and Gospel Songs on LBJ, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Vietnam 1963-1968 and The Nixon and Ford Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights and Inflation 1969-1976.

Related Items:

-The Titanic a Case Study Of Religious and Secular Attitudes by Chris Smith (Saints and Sinners; Religion, Blues and Devil in African-American Music and Literature Proceedings of the Conference held at the Universite of Liege, October 1991 [SLGM, Liege, 1996 p. 213-227] [PDF]

-Delmar Evans with Johnny Otis – Hey Shine ( Snatch and the Poontangs, 1969) [MP3]

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Earl GilliamPetite Baby Sarg Records Anthology: South Texas 1954-1964
Earl GilliamWrong Doing WomanSarg Records Anthology: South Texas 1954-1964
Mississippi John HurtLet The Mermaids Flirt With MeDiscovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John HurtRichland Woman BluesDiscovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt
Ramblin' Hi Harris I Haven't Got A HomeThe Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Vol. 55
Morris "Big" Chenier I Wanna Know I Know NowGoldband Blues Collection Pt. 3
Left Handed Charlie MorrisYou Thrill MeGoldband Blues Collection Pt. 2
Jed Davenport Jug BluesMemphis Shakedown
Memphis Jug Band Going Back To MemphisMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers
Minnie WallaceLet's All Do That Thing Memphis Shakedown
Howlin' Wolf I'm Leaving You (Alternate Take) Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960
Howlin' Wolf My People's GoneSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960
Skip JamesNo Special Lover Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Lightnin' HopkinsUp On Telegraph (Avenue) Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Mance Lipscomb Mean Boss ManHear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Johnny Sayles Food Stamps Pt. 1The Johnny Sayles Story
Good Time Charlie (Charles Taylor)Welfare Blues President Ford's Blues 1974-1976
B.B. Odom & The EarbendersThe World's In TroublePresident Ford's Blues 1974-1976
Kid ColeSixth Street MoanRare Country Blues Vol. 3 1928-1936
George ToreyMarried Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 3
Blind Willie McTellTravelin' BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Memphis SlimCold Blooded WomanSavoy Blues 1944-1994
Sonny Boy Williamson II Can't Do Without YouThe Chess Years Box Set
Mighty Joe YoungWhy BabyN.Y. Wild Guitars
Big Joe Williams Hand Me Down My Old Walking StickHand Me Down My Old Walking Stick
John Dudley Clarksdale Mill Blues (previously unissued version)I'll Be So Glad When The Sun Goes Down
Babe Stovall Woman Blues Babe Stovall
Blind Willie JohnsonThe Rain Don't Fall On MeThe Rain Don't Fall On Me: Country Blues 1927-1952
Hattie Hart Coldest Stuff in TownMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Bessie JacksonThat's What My Baby LikesThe Essential
K.C. Douglas Hear Me Howling Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
K.C. DouglasHad I Money Deadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues

Show Notes:

We've had a run of interesting theme shows in the past few week and this time we take a pause with a mix show. We open today on a sad note with a pair of tracks from Houston stalwart Earl Gilliam. Also on deck  we spotlight the following recent collections: Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond, Discovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt, Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 and President Ford's Blues 1974-1976. In addition we spin a trio of fine artists from Louisiana, a batch of vintage Memphis blues and some outstanding country blues sides both pre-war and post-war.

Earl Gilliam

We open up with "Petite Baby" and "Wrong Doing Woman", two fine sides Earl Gilliam recorded back in 1955. Pianist Earl Gilliam passed away on Wednesday, October 20, 2011. He was part of the Houston blues scene for the past 60 years. Over the years, Gilliam would become known as Houston's premiere blues pianist, and he performed alongside such greats as Lightnin' Hopkins, Albert King, Albert Collins, and Joe "Guitar" Hughes, among many others. By 17 Gilliam landed a gig playing the Eldorado Ballroom with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. He cut a four song session for the Sarg label in 1955 backed by Lucian Davis & His Orchestra and cut one side for the Ivory label in 1962. Gilliam also led his own band, performing frequently in Houston clubs throughout the 1990's and 2000's. Gilliam only released one album under his own name, 2005's excellent Texas Doghouse Blues for the Dialtone label. I recall playing this one quite a bit when it first came out and even got an opportunity to interview Gilliam.

We feature four tracks today from the superb Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond, an anthology of recordings made by Chris Strachwitz in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1954 and 1971 in the early days of his Arhoolie record label. Arranged chronologically over four discs and 72 tracks, and packaged with a 136-page hardcover book, these sides (many of them previously unreleased) were recorded at coffeehouses, festivals, and living rooms, and sometimes in studios. When performers came through the area, Strachwitz would tape them at a show, at a party, or in somebody’s home – often his own. He wound up with more material than he could release at the time. Some of the leftovers, collected for the first time, are stunning. We hear tracks from Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb, clearly among Strachwitz' favorites, plus the gorgeous "No Special Lover" one of several Skip James tracks from 1965 and the title track by K.C. Douglas.

Speaking of K.C. Douglas we also play his "Had I Money" from the album Deadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues (subtitled Street corner blues 'bout women and automobiles). I've always been intrigued by this album which was states that this material  was "collected" by Sam Eskin in Oakland in 1952.  The album was issued possibly in 1954 or maybe 1956 which would make it one of the earliest blues records issued that wasn't a reissue of older material.  As for Eskin, he was a folklorist who made field recordings between 1939 and 1969 and during this period made many cross-country trips from New York to California where he recorded American folk music. Beginning in 1950 he made recordings abroad in Mexico, Israel, Spain and the British Isles.  Eskin's recordings and notes are now housed at the Library of Congress. Other artists he recorded include Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and Leadbelly.

This has been a good year for Mississippi John Hurt. Earlier this year so the publication of the biography Mississippi John Hurt: His Life, His Times, His Blues and now we get Discovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt, a collection of previously unissued recordings.  In  in 1963 guitarist and blues fanatic Thomas Hoskins rapped on the door of a small house in rural Mississippi. Inside the house Hoskins found found an amiable, humble man, who farmed to make a living. John Hurt was surrounded by family and friends. He hadn't owned a guitar in years, and was amazed that a young white man had sought him out 35 years after his last recording sessions. Hoskins gave Hurt his guitar and turned on his reel to reel recorder. On Discovery Hurt plays several of the songs from his 1928 sessions as well as some others that later became staples of his folk festival repertoire including "Let The Mermaids Flirt With" and "Richland Woman Blues" both featured today. Overall sound quality is surprisingly good considering the source and Hurt is much less polished then his studio recordings. All in all a fascinating document from the dawn of the blues revival. It's hard to believe that within a few year Hurt, Bukka White, Skip James and Son House would all be back in circulation. Amazing times.

Read Liner Notes

Two other collections featured today: Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 and President Ford's Blues 1974-1976. The Wolf collection is a 97-track, four-disc limited-edition box set containing everything the Wolf cut in his first decade of recording. President Ford's Blues is a companion CD to the book The Nixon and Ford Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights and Inflation 1969-1976. Guido van Rijn has written four previous books on topical blues and gospel songs. Good Time Charlie's (Charles Taylor) "Welfare Blues" is a funky slab of 70's blues  while B.B. Odom & The Earbenders deliver the tough "The World's In Trouble." Although from a different collection we also hear Johnny Sayles "Food Stamps Pt. 1", another hard hitting topical number.

We head down to Louisiana to hear records from the Lake Charles based Goldband label and a recording by legendary producer J.D. Miller. Goldband was formed by Eddie Shuler in 1945. In the early 1950's Shuler established the Goldband complex – including recording studio, record store, and TV store  in Lake Charles, and began recording all genres of music, including R&B, blues, country, rock and roll, swamp pop and Cajun. Hit recordings included Boozoo Chavis' "Paper in My Shoe" (1954) and the company's biggest seller, Phil Phillips' "Sea of Love" (1959). The label recorded a fair bit of blues including sides by Clarence Garlow, Juke Boy Bonner, Hop Wilson and today's selections from Morris "Big" Chenier and Left Handed Charlie Morris. Of Miller, Bruce Bastion wrote: "Close to South Louisiana bayou country, Crowley is the home of J.D. Miller's studio, responsible as much as any other factor for the sound we now know as the moody, loping blues of the Louisiana swamps. Many completely unknown artists found fleeting fame through Miller's recordings  and through the Excello issues of his recordings, he helped support one of the most consistent blues labels of the 1950's." Today we spin "I haven't Got A Home" by the mysterious Ramblin' Hi Harris who waxed just three sides for Jay Miller that were unissued at the time.

We head to Memphis for a fine set of vintage blues by the Memphis jug Band, Jed Davenport and Minnie Wallace. Davenport came from a tent show and medicine show background. Davenport cut around a dozen sides as leader between 1929-30. Wallace Cut six sides at sessions, plus several unissued sides, in 1929 and 1935 backed by members of the Memphis Jug Band.

I remember picking up the album Praise God I'm Satisfied by Blind Willie Johnson on Yazoo over twenty years and it was one of those albums that made a huge impression on me. I suppose I was more interested in his slide numbers that I overlooked today's featured track, the beautiful, "The Rain Don't Fall On Me" with second vocal by Johnson's wife Willie B. Harris. The track comes from an album on the Mississippi label that a friend gave me called The Rain Don't Fall On Me: Country Blues 1927-1952. The Mississippi label reissues an an eclectic mix of music strictly on vinyl including some interesting blues collections.

I also want to mention a great post-war recording by John Dudley. In early October 1959 Alan Lomax recorded an inmate named John Dudley in the "Dairy Camp" portion of the Mississippi prison camp known as Parchman Farms. Our selection, an unissued version of "Clarksdale Mill Blues", is a cover of Charley Patton's "Moon Going Down." Only three songs were issued but several others remain unreleased. This version comes from the album I’ll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down issued on the Mississippi label. Lomax didn't give us much information on Dudley: "Lastly, in John Dudley's blues, we meet a country musician of the sophisticated, yet completely folk, tradition of the 1930's. Dudley and Robert Johnson both come from Tunica County, Mississippi and belong to the same school." In all Dudley recorded the following numbers:  "Clarksdale Mill (2 takes)", "You Got a Mean Disposition","Big Road Blues", "Cool Drink of Water Blues (2 takes)", "Poor Boy Blues",  "I'm Gonna Move To Kansas City" and an interview about "playing guitar at dances."

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