Entries tagged with “Blind Willie Johnson”.

James Son Thomas & Eddie CusicLittle Red CarBlues At Home Vol. 10
Eddie CusicGonna Cut You LooseLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 2
Skip James Sick Bed BluesGreatest Of The Delta Blues Singers
Napoleon Strickland & Fred McDowellShake 'em on DownShake 'Em On Down
Lemon NashPapa Lemon's BluesPapa Lemon
Lemon NashGravedigger's BluesPapa Lemon
Lemon NashBowleg Rooster, Duckleg Hen / Sweet Georgia BrownPapa Lemon
Blind Willie JohnsonLord, I Just Can't Keep from CryingBlind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Son HouseThis Little Light Of Mine The Real Delta Blues
Peg Leg Sam I Got A Home Joshua
Roy Brown Butcher Pete Part 1Pay Day Jump The 1949-51
Roy Brown Butcher Pete Part 2Pay Day Jump The 1949-51
Tampa RedIf I Don't Find Another True LoveDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues
Tampa Red
I Got My Habits On
Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues
Tampa RedEvalenaDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues
Scrapper BlackwellD BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellBig Four BluesWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Charlie PattonHigh Water Everywhere Part 1Blues Images Vol. 7
Charlie PattonHigh Water Everywhere Part 2Blues Images Vol. 7
Elmore JamesI Need YouKing of the Slide Guitar
Guitar SlimStory of My LifeSufferin' Mind
James WaltonLeaving BluesA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 2
Ma Rainey Log Camp Blues Mother of the Blues
Bertha ''Chippie'' HillHard Time Blues Bertha 'Chippie' Hill Vol. 1 1925-1929
Funny Papa Smith Seven Sisters Blues Part 1The Original Howling Wolf Sessions
Funny Papa Smith Seven Sisters Blues Part 2The Original Howling Wolf Sessions
Blind Boy FullerTell It To Me Blind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
Leroy JohnsonNo One to Love MeTexas Country Blues 1948-1951
Howlin' Wolf Bluebird BluesSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Robert Johnson Traveling Riverside Blues The Centennial Collection
Robert NighthawkFriar's Point Blues Prowling With The Nighthawk

Show Notes:

A mix show today as we travel through the 1920's up to the 60's touching on a wide variety of blues styles. On deck today are several two part blues songs including records by Charlie Patton, Funny Papa Smith and Roy Brown. Also featured are a some tracks by Eddie Cusic who recently passed away, a trio of tracks from the obscure New Orleans musician Lemon Nash, three sides by Tampa Red from a new reissue, some fine down-home blues, a pair of songs that share a similar geography and much more.

Eddie Cusic & James 'Son' Thomas 1976 Back cover of Albatros
album Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues (photographer: Enzo Castella)

Eddie Cusic passed away on August 11th. Cusic was born in 1926 south of Leland, Mississippi. In the early 1950's, he formed a group called the Rhythm Aces that featured Little Milton. The group played the clubs in Greenville, Leland and in juke joints throughout the Delta. In the 1960's Cusic frequently teamed up with fellow Leland guitarist James "Son" Thomas, playing with him at picnics and other social events throughout the state. He stopped performing for awhile to provide for his family, returning to active performing after retiring from his quarry job in 1989. He became a mainstay at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival and at the Sunflower River Festival. Cusic left behind a small recorded legacy that includes one full-length album, I Want to Boogie cut for Hightone in 1997 and reissued on the Wolf label with extra tracks, plus field recordings made by Gianni Marcucci in the 1970's and Axel Küstner in the 1980's.

I was toying around withe idea of doing a show revolving around two-part songs which in the context of this show would mean both sides of the 78. We spin perhaps one of the greatest two-part 78's, Charley Patton's "High Water Everywhere", his epic about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Paramount devoted an advertisement for the record with an illustration depicting a family sitting dejectedly on the porch of a shack, looking at the rising waters. The caption reads: "Everyone who has heard this record says that 'HIGH WATER EVERYWHERE' is Charley Patton's best and you know that means it has to be mighty good because he has made some knockouts."


Other two-parters  featured today include "Seven Sisters Blues" by J. T. "Funny Papa" Smith recorded in 1931. The Seven Sisters of New Orleans were said to be a family of hoodoo women who lived and practiced in the Crescent City in the 1920's and 30's. We also spin Roy Brown's salacious tale of "Butcher Pete" from 1949:

Hey everybody, did the news get around
About a guy named Butcher Pete
Oh, Pete just flew into this town
And he's choppin' up all the women's meat

He's hackin' and wackin' and smackin' (3x)
He just hacks, wacks, choppin' that meat

Tampa RedTampa Red
Read Liner Notes

I have been a huge fan of Tampa Red ever since picking up the wonderful 2-LP gatefold album, Guitar Wizard, which RCA released in the mid-70's. The album had a selection of sides from the 1930's through the 50's and a terrific set of notes by Jim O'Neal. O'Neal has provided another set of excellent notes to ACE's 2-CD Tampa Red reissue, Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues. This set focuses on Tampa's final commercial period, the years 1945 through 1953, a period I've always been a fan of particularly the sides with pianist Little Johnny Jones who recorded with Tampa from 1949 through 1953. The tracks here have never sounded better, having been taken from master tapes and the original metal masters. The collection also contains four unissued sides including "I Got My Habits On", "Mary Lou Blues", "I Don’t Find Another True Love" and "Evalena", the latter two from his final session in 1953. I think this version of "Evalena" is superior to the issued take, showcasing magnificent playing from Walter Horton. Later in the program we hear from Tampa again, this time in a supporting role, backing Bertha "Chippie" Hill  on "Hard Time Blues" from 1928.

Friars Point is a small town in Coahoma County, Mississippi with an outsized role in blues history. Mississippi was one of only three states that continued prohibition after 1933 making Friars Point a popular weekend hangout because it was across the river from Helena, Arkansas where liqueur was legal and hence became an active bootlegging center. Another reason was there was curfew in Clarksdale, one of the Delta's main towns. Muddy Waters recalled: "Twelve O'Clock, you better be out of there, get off the streets. The great big police come down Sunflower street with that big cap on, man, waving that stick…That's why all this country stuff, people go out in the country. Friars Point'd go up to four o'clock in the morning, sometimes all night." Muddy Waters also said that the only time he saw Robert Johnson play was on the front porch of Hirsberg's Drugstore in Friars Point. In "Traveling Riverside Blues" Robert Johnson sang: "Just come on back to Friars Point, mama, and barrelhouse all night long/I got womens in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee (2x)/ But my Friar's Point rider, now, hops all over me." Friars Point seems to have been a regular stop on the circuit Delta bluesmen would travel from town to town through towns like Rosedale, Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville and others. The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a Blues Trail marker in Friars Point in recognition of musician Robert Nighthawk, who at various times called Friars Point home and where one of his marriages took place. In 1940, Nighthawk recorded "Friars Point Blues", singing of "going back to Friars Point, down in sweet old Dixie Land." Nighthawk's son, drummer Sam Carr, was born in Friars Point.

Last year Arhoolie released a terrific CD by the little known Lemon Nash titled Papa Lemon. Born in 1898, Nash started on guitar, then violin, before turning to ukulele in his late teens. In the 1920's he signed on with a medicine show shilling blood tonic for an Indian chief and a legless cowboy where he honed both his music and comedy routines. Somewhere in these early years he played with the mysterious Richard "Rabbit" Brown (of whom he says: "Rabbit played so bad I had to let him go") who cut six sides for Victor in New Orleans in 1927. Nash's recordings were captured between 1956 and 1961 by both New Orleans jazz archivist Richard B Allen and folklorist Dr Harry Oster. Outside of these sides only a few other sides by Nash have been issued on the 504 record label which specialized in New Orleans jazz. Nash passed away in 1969, a virtual unknown outside his small circle of family and friends. Nash was a true songster playing a charming variety of traditional numbers including blues, pop and gospel.

Lemon NashWe play several heavy hitters on today's show including Son House and Skip James who both recorded legendary sessions for Paramount in the 1930's; House in 1930 and James in 1931, and both were rediscovered in 1964 and soon hit the blues revival circuit. In a couple of weeks I'll be doing a feature on Son House as our local theater is celebrating his legacy with an ambitious four-day event. Today's Skip James recording was recorded in 1964 in Falls Church, VA at the home of musicologist Dick Spotswood. These were James' first recordings since 1931. The sessions were completed the following year, issued in 1965 as Greatest Of The Delta Blues Singers, first on on Spotswood's Melodeon label then on the Biograph label which acquired Melodeon in 1970.

Lillian GlinnBrown Skin BluesLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Lillian GlinnDoggin' Me Blues Lillian Glinn 1927-1929
Lillian GlinnCome Home DaddyLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Billiken Johnson & Fred Adams Sun Beam BluesDallas Alley Drag
Billiken Johnson & Fred Adams Interurban BluesDallas Alley Drag
Blind Willie JohnsonI Know His Blood Can Make Me WholeBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Blind Willie JohnsonDark Was the Night -- Cold Was the GroundBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Coley JonesTraveling ManThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Part 1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
William McCoy Mama BluesMeaning In The Blues
Dallas String BandDallas RagVintage Mandolin Music
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck SoulDallas Alley Drag
Hattie HudsonBlack Hand BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Gertrude PerkinsNo Easy Rider BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Gertrude PerkinsGold Daddy BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Washington PhillipsI Am Born To Preach The GospelI Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Blind Willie JohnsonI'm Gonna Run to the City of RefugeSpreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings
Laura HentonHe's Coming SoonSpreading The Word: Early Gospel Recordings
Laura HentonHeavenly SunshineTexas: Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935
Frenchy's String BandSunshine SpecialThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
Frenchy's String BandTexas And Pacific BluesJazz The World Forgot Vol. 1
Emma Wright State of Tennessee Blues The Best Of Memphis Jug Band
Bobbie CadillacThe SpasmGood for What Ails You
Billiken Johnson & Neal RobertsFrisco BluesDallas Alley Drag
Dallas String BandSo TiredHow Low Can You Go: Anthology Of The String Bass
William McCoyCentral Tracks BluesTexas: Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935
Willie Reed Dreaming BluesTrouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
Willie Reed Texas BluesThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Otis HarrisWalking BluesRamblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers
Otis HarrisYou'll Like My LovingRamblin' Thomas & The Dallas Blues Singers
Jewell NelsonJet Black Snake BluesTerritory Singers Vol. 2
Jewell NelsonBeating Me BlueTerritory Singers Vol. 2

Show Notes:

William McCoy- Mama BluesToday's show is the third installment spotlighting great recording sessions. The first spotlighted two sessions conducted by the Victor label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans in 1936 and 1937, the second was conducted by Brunswick in Memphis in 1929 and 1930. Today we spotlight some great blues and gospel captured by Columbia in December 1927 and December 1928. In 1927 sessions were conducted December 2nd through the 6th with artists Lillian Glinn, Billiken Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Coley Jones Washington Phillips, William McCoy, the Dallas String Band, Hattie Hudson and Gertrude Perkins. Several of theses artists were recorded again the following December with sessions conducted between December 4th through the 8th. Among the new artists recorded in 1928 were Laura Henton, Texas Jubilee Singers, Frenchy's String Band, Emma Wright, Bobbie Cadillac, Willie Reed, Otis Harris and Jewell Nelson. Several other artists recorded but had no sides issued: Willie Tyson, Willie Mae McFarland, Rev. J.W. Heads and Charlie King. Columbia recorded again Dallas in 1929, recording some of the same artists.

1927 was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on.

One of the hidden stars of these sessions was pianist Willie Tyson. Tyson was active in Dallas and was part of a group of blues pianists that included K. D. Johnson and Whistlin’ Alex Moore, who accompanied various female blues singers in the 1920's and 1930's. Tyson contributed a number of fine accompaniments to several women blues singers, such as Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Ida Mae Mack, and Bessie Tucker and also backed Billiken Johnson. In addition to his piano accompaniment, Tyson recorded two piano solos that were never issued, “Roberta Blues” and “Missouri Blues.” These proved to be the only sessions for Tyson, who was most likely a theater pit pianist.

We hear several fine, obscure blues and gospel ladies today including Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Lillian Glinn, Jewell Nelson, Bobbie Cadillac, Emma Wright and Laura Henton. Blind Willie Johnson: I Know His Blood Can Make Me WholeSinger and vaudeville performer Lillian Glinn was born in Hillsboro, Texas, about 1902 and moved to Dallas when she was in her twenties. Texas blues singer Hattie Burleson discovered her singing in a Dallas church and encouraged her to pursue a musical career. Dallas entrepreneur R. T. Ashford helped Glinn secure a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1927. She cut her first record for Columbia in December 1927, and over the next two years she recorded more than twenty-two sides.

Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins and Jewell Nelson all left behind just one 78 while Emma Wright had one song issued. Singers Bobbie Cadillac and gospel singer Laura Henton left behind six sides. Emma Wright had only one issued side in 1928 backed by trumpeter Leroy Williams who accompanied Jewell Nelson the following day. According to blues historian Paul Oliver Jewel Nelson was "one of the best-known and best loved of the Dallas singers … known to the denizens of the Park (Theatre) as "Daybreak" Nelson because of her famous "Daybreak Blues." She recorded one 78 in 1928 possibly backed on guitar by Coley Jones. Singer Bobbie Cadillac cut six sides (one unissued ) at two sessions in 1928 and the following year cut four more duets with Coley Jones and featuring Whistlin' Alex Moore on piano.

Billiken Johnson didn't sing or play an instrument, and yet he recorded six sides in the late '20s. Johnson's unique talent was his ability to imitate train whistles and provide other vocal effects, all of which made him a popular figure on-stage at the juke joints and taverns of the famed "Deep Ellum" district of Dallas. Under his own name he recorded two tracks for Columbia Records ("Sun Beam Blues" and "Interurban Blues") in Dallas on December 3, 1927, followed by two more ("Frisco Blues" and "Wild Jack Blues") a year later on December 8, 1928. He is also listed as part of a duet of sorts Coley Jones: Travelling Manwith Texas Bill Day on "Billiken's Weary Blues" and "Elm Street Blues," recorded December 5, 1929, in Dallas and also issued by Columbia.

As Blind Willie Johnson got older he began earning money by playing his guitar, one of the few avenues left to a blind man to earn a living. He became a Baptist preacher and brought his sermons and music to the streets of the surrounding cities. While performing in Dallas, he met a woman named Angeline and the two married in 1927. The two performed around the Dallas and Waco areas. On December 3, 1927, Columbia Records brought Blind Willie Johnson into the studio where he recorded six songs. after this session, Johnson didn't return to the studio for an entire year. The second visit (which took place on December 5, 1928) found him accompanied by his wife, Angeline. Although Blind Willie Johnson was one of Columbia's best-selling race recording artists, he only recorded for them one more time — in April 1930 — after which he never heard from them again. As Stephen Calt points out in his liner notes for Praise God I'm Satisfied, the fact that Columbia waited a full year between Johnson's recording sessions probably indicates that they were disappointed with his sales. In fact, in early 1929 Johnson sold about 5000 records. By contrast, Barbecue Bob and Bessie Smith Columbia's most popular artists, sold about 6000 and from 9000-10,000 respectively. As the depression deepened, however, and interest in religion surged, Blind Willie Johnson's popularity jumped, too. He continued to sell around 5000 records annually, but Barbecue Bob's sales dropped to 2000, and Smith's to 3000. Johnson continued to perform on the Texas streets during the '30s and '40s, passing away in 1947.

Coley Jones was born probably in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is presumed that much of his life was spent in Dallas.  He recorded seven sides for Columbia beginning in December 1927 as a solo act accompanying himself on guitar. Jones was also in demand as a sideman and recorded several sides in December 1929, accompanying Bobbie Cadillac and Texas Bill Day on guitar. Jones became associated with the Dallas String Band, which recorded  ten sides for Columbia between 1927 to 1929.

Dallas String Band: Dallas RagVirtually nothing is known about William McCoy other than he was probably from Texas. He recorded six sides for Columbia at three sessions; on December 6, 1927, December 7, 1928 and a final session on December 8, 1928. His records were advertised in the Defender on May 12, 1928, February 23, 1929 and September 21, 1929.

Little is known about Willie Reed, who recorded two songs on the same day as fellow Texas bluesman Otis Harris who exhibits a similar guitar style. Reed went on to accompany blues singer Texas Alexander on ten songs in 1934.

Otis Harris and Frenchy's String Band each cut one 78. Possibly from Dallas, TX., Otis Harris only had one 78 released under his name, "Walking Blues b/w You'll Like My Loving." Frenchy's String Band cut "Sunshine Special b/w Texas And Pacific Blues" in 1928. Polite "Frenchy" Christian was one of the New Orleans jazzmen who ventured westward in the 1920s, settling in Dallas. With a line-up here consisting of cornet, banjo, guitar and bowed bass, "Texas and Pacific Blues" gives an inkling of music played around New Orleans when a string band line up was used.




Memphis Minnie & Kansas JoeI'm Going Back HomeStuff Tha Dreams Are Made Of
Memphis Minnie & Kansas JoeWhat's The Matter With The Mil Blues Images Vol. 10
Ma Rainey & Papa Charlie JacksonBig Feeling BluesMother Of The Blues
Arnold & Irene WileyRootin' Bo Hog Blues Blues & Jazz Obscurities
Hezekiah & Dorothy JenkinsFare Thee Well Blues & Jazz Obscurities
Bobbie Cadillac & Coley JonesEasin' InTexas Girls 1926-1929
Buddy Burton & Irene SandersElectric Man W E ''Buddy'' Burton & Ed ''Fats'' Hudson 1928-1936
Mae Glover & John ByrdGas Man BluesMississippi Moaners
Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport Mistreated Mamma Blues Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport 1927-1930
Dora Carr & Cow Cow Davenport5th Street BluesCow Cow Davenport - The Accompanist 1924-1929
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis Rough Alley BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Blind Willie JohnsonYou're Gonna Need Somebody on Your BondBlind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists)
Eddie Head & FamilyDown On MeBlues Images Vol. 6
William & Versey SmithEverybody Help The Boys Come HomeAmerican Primitive Vol. I
Clara Smith & Lonnie JohnsonYou're Gettin' Old On Your JobClara Smith: The Essential
Victoria & Spivey & Lonnie JohnsonFurniture Man Blues - Part 1Victoria Spivey: The Essential
Victoria & Spivey & Lonnie JohnsonNew Black Snake Blues No.1Victoria Spivey Vol. 2 1927-1929
J. T. ''Funny Paper'' Smith & Dessa Foster Tell It To The Judge Part 1The Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
J. T. ''Funny Paper'' Smith & Magnolia HarrisMama's Quittin' And Leavin' Part 1 The Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes Lost Lover BluesBaby, How Can It Be?
Memphis Jug Band (Jennie Clayton & Will Shade) State of Tennessee Blues The Best Of Memphis Jug Band
Mississippi Sarah & Daddy StovepipeThe SpasmGood for What Ails You
Butterbeans & SusieCold Storage Papa (Mama's A Little Too Warm For You)Butterbeans & Susie Vol. 1 1924-1925
Butterbeans & SusieTimes Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)Classic Blues & Vaudeville Singers Vol. 5
Ruth Willis & Fred McMullenJust Can't Stand ItGeorgia Blues 1928-1933
Hattie HartColdest Stuff In TownMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Charley Patton and Bertha LeeTroubled 'Bout My MotherPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Charley Patton and Bertha LeeOh DeathPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Jane Lucas & Georgia Tom How Can You Have the BluesKansas City Kitty 1930-1934
Georgia Tom & Hannah MayCome On MamaFamous Hokum Boys Vol. 1 1930
Coot Grant & Wesley WilsonWhippin' the WolfCoot Grant & Wesley Wilson Vol. 3 1931-1938
Coot Grant & Wesley WilsonRasslin' 'till the Wagon ComesCoot Grant & Wesley Wilson Vol. 1 1925-1928

Show Notes:

Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis - Talkin' to You Wimmen About the BluesToday's show is something of a sequel to a couple of  related shows I aired a couple of years back: Fence Breakin' Blues – Great Country Blues Guitar Duets and Play It It 'Till I Turn High Yeller – Great Guitar/Piano Duets. Today we spotlight some classic blues and gospel female/male duets spanning the years 1925 through 1938. Along the way we hear classic partnerships like Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe and Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson, blues in the vaudeville tradition from Butterbeans & Susie and Coot Grant &  Wesley Wilson, some moving gospel performances, well known artists such as Blind Willie McTell and Charlie Patton and a slew of fine lesser known artists who left behind memorable recordings.

Before blues got on record the music was heard in variety of settings including vaudeville, musicals, minstrel shows and tent shows. Many of these performers made there way on record into the 1920's, perhaps most famously Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey (we hear Rainey today with Papa Charlie Jackson on "Big Feeling Blues"). Among those featured today, Butterbeans & Susie, Coot Grant & Wesley Wilson and Cow Cow Davenport all came out of that tradition.

Butterbeans and Susie were a comedy duo made up of Jodie Edwards and Susie Edwards. Edwards began his career in 1910 as a singer and dancer. The two met in 1916 when Hawthorne was in the chorus of the Smart Set show. They married on stage the next year. The two did not perform as a comic team until the early 1920s. heir act, a combination of marital quarrels, comic dances, and racy singing, proved popular on the TOBA tour. They later moved to vaudeville and appeared for a time with the blackface minstrel troupe the Rabbit's Foot Company. They cut over sixty sides between 1924 and 1930.

Coot Grant was the main stage name of Leola B. Pettigrew, a  blues singer from Alabama whose legal name became Leola Wilson following her marriage to performing partner Wesley Wilson. The pair met and began performing together in 1905 and were wed in 1913. Coot had been involved in show business  since she was a child, beginning as a dancer in vaudeville. Her husband, who played both piano and organ, was performing as early as 1905. He performed under a variety of stage names including Catjuice Charlie in a duo with Pigmeat Pete, as well as Kid Wilson, Jenkins, Socks, and Sox Wilson. The husband and wife, billed as Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins, cut over sixty sides between 1925 and 1938, often backed with top jazz artists.Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes - Lost Lover Blues

In his early years Cow Cow Davenport toured TOBA with an act called Davenport and Company with Blues singer Dora Carr and they recorded together in 1925 and 1926. The act broke up when Carr got married. Davenport briefly teamed up with Blues singer Ivy Smith in 1928. Smith and Davenport cut some two-dozen sides together between 1927 and 1930.

Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson did several duets together that have vaudeville feel to them.  Johnson backed Spivey on numerous recordings in 1926 and 1927 and they made several duets together  in 1928 and 1929 including "New Black Snake Blues Part 1 & 2", "Toothache Blues Part 1 & 2 and "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now Part 1 & 2 ."

More in down-home vein were recordings by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, J. T. "Funny Paper" Smith and Blind Willie McTell with different partners. Memphis Minnie's marriage and recording debut came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop. It was supposedly a Columbia A and R man who gave the duo their names. Between 1929 and 1934 Minnie and Joe cut around one hundred sides together. McCoy and Minnie recorded songs together and on their own for Decca Records until they divorced in 1934.

Mary Willis recorded with several Atlanta artists including Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss. McTell also recorded with singer Ruby Glaze and Kate McTell who are likely the same person. One of the featured tracks, "Talkin To You Wimmen' About The Blues",  was not issued until just a few years ago.  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 you see in the center of this page [Talkin' To You Wimmen About The Blues] 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."

Between 1930 and 1931 J. T. "Funny Paper" Smith had recorded some twenty issued sides. Among those were a pair of fine duets we feature today: "Tell It To The Judge Part 1 & 2" with Dessa Foster and Mama's Quittin' And Leavin' Part 1 & 2" with Magnolia Harris.

Mississippi Sarah & Daddy Stovepipe - The SpasmAlso on tap today are several fine gospel performances by Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Paton, Eddie Head and William & Versey Smith . Johnson  may have married Willie B. Harris who sang accompaniment with Johnson on some of his recordings for Columbia Records between 1927 and 1930. Today we feature one of my favorites, "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond."

Bertha Lee met Charlie Patton in 1930 and remained his wife until his death in 1934. During this time, she sang on several of Patton's recordings, which resulted in the recording of three of her own songs, "Yellow Bee", "Dog Train Blues" (unissued), and "Mind Reader Blues". Patton accompanied her on guitar on these records.

William Smith and his wife recorded four songs for Paramount in 1927 while Eddie Head cut the same number for Columbia in 1930.

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.