Johnny YoungMy Baby Walked Out On Me Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Johnny YoungWorried Man BluesDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Johnny YoungMoney Taking WomanDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Johnny YoungLet Me Ride Your MuleGonna Pitch a Boogie Woogie
Snooky Pryor Judgment DayVee-Jay: The Definitive Collection
Snooky Pryor Someone To Love MeBlues Masters Vol. 6
Johnny YoungWhy Did You Break My HeartI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungTired Of You SmilingModern Chicago Blues
Johnny YoungGreen Door BluesBlues Scene USA Vol. 3
Johnny YoungHear That Whistle BlowRamblin' On My Mind
Robert Nighthawk Lula Mae Blue Southside Chicago
Johnny YoungOne More TimeBlue Southside Chicago
Johnny YoungMoaning And Groaning Johnny Young & His Chicago Blues Band
Johnny YoungWild, Wild WomanJohnny Young & His Chicago Blues Band
Johnny YoungStealin' Johnny Young & His Chicago Blues Band
Otis SpannSarah Street Otis Spann's Chicago Blues
Carl MartinState Street Pimp No. 1Crow Jane Blues
Johnny YoungThe Sun Is Shining And This Is Maxwell Street
Johnny YoungKid Man Blues Chicago The Blues Today
Johnny YoungI'm Doing All RightJohnny Young & Big Walter: Chicago Blues
Johnny YoungRing Around My HeartJohnny Young & Big Walter: Chicago Blues
Johnny YoungStockyard BluesJohnny Young & Big Walter: Chicago Blues
Robert NighthawkBlues Before SunriseModern Chicago Blues
Robert NighthawkI'm Getting TiredMasters Of Modern Blues Vol. 4
Johnny Young Meet Me In The BottomJohnny Young & Friends
John Lee GrandersonWatch Out GirlHard Luck John
The Chicago String BandRailroad BluesThe Chicago String Band
Johnny Young Mandolin RockMandolin Blues
Johnny Young Prison boundFat Mandolin
Johnny Young Deal The Cards I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny Young I Know She's Kinda Slick I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny Young I Got To Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping

Show Notes:

While there are a few modern day blues mandolin revivalists, the instrument has largely consigned to the dustbin of history. Although little-heard on commercial recordings after the 1940's, the mandolin played an important role in blues and early rural black music. The mandolin can be heard on numerous recordings of the 1920’s and 1930’s particularly on several black string band and jug band recordings. Johnny Young was the most famous of the post-war mandolin players who after waxing a couple of exciting 78's for Ora Nelle and Planet/Old Swing-Master circa 1947-48 didn't resurface on record for fifteen years. Thankfully the 1960's and 70's were a different story with Young recording for Testament, Arhoolie Vanguard, Spivey, Blue Horizon, Blues On Blues, Bluesway as well as scattered sides on anthologies and backing artists like Robert Nighthawk, Carl Martin, Big john Wrencher, Otis Spann and others. Into the 70's he cut fine records for Blue Horizon and Bluesway before his passing in 1974. Young played traditional Chicago blues, rooted in the 40's and early 50's, and didn't share much in common with more modern upstarts like Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. He also had one foot in his home state of Mississippi, his music still tied to the southern blues style of the 1920's and 30's and the vibrant string band tradition. Young was born in Vicksburg Mississippi in 1917 and spent most of his childhood living near Clarksdale, Mississippi. His mother was an accomplished musician and taught him harmonica, while his uncle Anthony Williams introduced him to guitar and mandolin. He remained in this area until he turned twenty-three, when he settled in Chicago. By 1943 he was often found performing at the Plantation Club at 31st and Giles, sharing the stage with other Mississippians like Muddy Waters and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. Young's popularity really blossomed in the Maxwell Street scene, where he often played with John Brim, Snooky Pryor, Big Walter Horton, John Lee Granderson, and Floyd and Moody Jones.

We open the program with Young's earliest recordings: in 1947 for Ora Nelle he cut "Money Taking Woman" b/w "Worried Man Blues" with Johnny Williams and "My Baby Walked Out" b/w "Let Me Ride Your Mule" in 1948 for Old Swingmaster with Snooky Pryor. Young didn't surface on record again until 1956 where he played guitar behind Snooky's "Someone To Love Me b/w Judgement Day" for Vee-Jay. From this same session are four unissued sides also with Young on guitar.

Starting in 1964 Young started recording prolifically for several labels a steady pace he kept up until his death in 1974. Pete welding, who ran Testament Records, recorded Young prolifically during this period and wrote the following about him: "Another artist who served as talent scout was Johnny Young, a fine, vastly underrated singer-guitarist-mandolinist who, like Big Joe, I recorded fairly extensively over the years both as featured performer and as accompanist to others. I issued the first of the many Young recordings I made on the compilation album Modern Chicago BluesJohnny Young and Friends…presents this fine traditional blues artist in the entirety of his multi-faceted talent, as singer, guitarist and mandolinist in settings that range from solo performances to small-amplified ensembles. It's one of the albums I'm proudest of doing, and one that still gives me great listening pleasure…"

Young can be heard on several Testament anthologies including Modern Chicago Blues, Can't Keep From Crying, Mandolin Blues plus the above mentioned Johnny Young & His Friends and featured on the Testament albums of Carl Martin, John lee Granderson, Otis Spann, J.B. Hutto, Robert Nighthawk and as a member of The Chicago String Band. It's Johnny Young we owe thanks for the "rediscovery" of Carl Martin. In 1966, Pete Welding with the help of Johnny Young, recorded Martin resulting in the terrific Crow Jane with Young playing accompaniment. The Chicago String Band was a studio group put together by Welding to emulate the old time string band sound. The group cut one self-titled album featuring Big John Wrencher, hca,voc; John Lee Granderson, voc, g; Carl Martin, voc, vl, mand; Johnny Young, voc, mand; Bill Foster, g.  Some tracks that Welding cut of Young appear on non-Testament albums including cuts that appear on Storyville's Blues Scene USA Vol. 3 & 4 (one of today's cuts, "Green Door Blues, comes from vol. 3), another track on today's program, "Hear That Whistle Blow", comes from the collection Ramblin' On My Mind released on Milestone.

Read Liner Notes

There were some interesting recordings Young made in 1964 that we spotlight today. In 1964 Olle Helander and Lars Westman of Swedish Radio were on a trip to the US to document blues and jazz in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and San Francisco. They reached Chicago May 23rd and recorded Johnny Young accompanied by Slim Willis, Otis Spann and Robert Whitehead. These first surface sometime in the 60's on the Python album Southside Chicago. All these recordings have subsequently been issued on CD as I Blueskvarter Chicago 1964 Vols. 1-3. Young also recorded for Willie Dixon that year to interest UK promoters with touring lesser-known Chicago artists. These sides were issued on UK Decca in 1966 and issued on the album Blues Southside Chicago. Young recorded two songs and backed Robert Nighthawk on two of his numbers. Unfortunately this album has yet to bee issued on CD. Another song, "The Sun Is Shining" comes from And This Is Free a documentary which was filmed over the course of sixteen Sundays on Chicago's Maxwell Street in 1964. The Maxwell Street open air market was a seven- to ten-block area in Chicago that from the 1920s to the middle 1960's played host to various blues musicians — both professional and amateur — who performed right on the street for tips from passerbys.

In early 1966, blues history was made with the issuance of a three-volume set of new recordings produced by blues historian Samuel Charters titled Chicago: The Blues Today!. Every artist on the three volumes had recorded before but these recordings were largely their introduction to a newer,and predominately white, album-oriented audience. The series accurately portrayed a vast cross section of the Chicago blues scene as one could hear it on any given night in the mid-'60s.  Six sides appear on vol. 3 by Johnny Young's South Side Blues Band.

Among Young's finest recordings during the 60's were two sessions done for Arhoolie. 1966 saw the release of Johnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band featuring Otis Spann, p; James Cotton, hca; Jimmy Lee Morris, b; S.P. Leary, dr. 1968 saw the release of Johnny Young & Big Walter: Chicago Blues featuring Walter Horton, hca; Lafayette Leake, p; Jimmy Dawkins, lead g; Ernest Gatewood, b; Lester Dorsie, dr. All of the Arhoolie material has been collected on the Japanese P-Vine label's Johnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band.

Between 1969 and 1973 Young recorded prolifically: Spivey (The Everlasting Blues vs. Otis Spann), a solid album for Blue Horizon (first issued on LP as Blues Masters Vol. 9, then as Fat Mandolin and finally on CD as The Complete Blue Horizon Session), 1971's Johnny Young Sings the Blues with his Gut-Bucket Mandolin on Blues on Blues (the album obviously had pressing problems which caused its withdrawal soon after release), appeared on the Bob Riedy album Lake Michigan Ain't No River and finally 1973's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping for Bluesway. Mike Vernon's assessment of the Blue Horizon session is right on the mark: "What you will be listening to is tough, straight ahead, no messin' Chicago blues, echoing the great 40's era, as exemplified in the work of Big Maceo Merriweather and John Lee Williamson." Young plays mandolin on the bulk of the cuts aided by members of Muddy Waters' band: Otis Spann, Sammy Lawhorn, Paul Oscher and S.P. Leary. At one time or another, every seminal Chicago blues artist who was active during the late 1960's to the early 1980's was either a member of Bob Riedy's band or was backed by his band at one time or another. The band cut two albums for Rounder in the early 70's. The general consensus ranks Young's Arhoolie recordings among his best but for my money his Bluesway album, I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping, is one of his finest and one that gets unjustly ignored. Of course it doesn't help that the album has been long out of print and that the Bluesway label doesn't have the best reputation. Young's brawny, rippling mandolin playing is better recorded then the Blue Horizon, much more up front in the mix, and there's a crackling energy lacking in the earlier session. The band locks into a rock solid groove behind their leader: Louis Myers, Bill Warren and Richard Evans. The pianist is uncredited but may be Bob Reidy.