Entries tagged with “Clarence Green”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Lightnin' HopkinsTim Moore's FarmAll The Classic Sides
Interview Pt. 1 Overview
Lightnin' HopkinsZolo GoAll The Classic Sides
Thunder SmithBig Stars Are FallingLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Interview Pt. 2Blues Recordings
Leroy ErvinRock Island LineTexas Blues ( Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings )
L.C. WilliamsBoogie All The TimeLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Conrad JohnsonFisherman's Blues78
Interview Pt. 3Quinn, Hopkins, Blues & More
Henry HayesBowlegged Angeline78
Perry CainAll The Way From TexasTexas Blues ( Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings )
Lee HunterBack To Santa FeTexas Blues ( Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings )
Lil' Son JacksonHomeless BluesLil' Son Jackson Vol. 1 - Rockin' And Rollin' (1948-1950
Interview Pt. 4Evolution of Texas Blues Guitar
Lil' Son JacksonCairo BluesLil' Son Jackson Vol. 1 1948-1950
Joe HughesI Can't Go On This Way45
Interview Pt. 51950’s Blues/Kangaroo Records
Albert CollinsThe FreezeKangaroo Shuffle
Johnny CopelandDown On Bending KneesWorking Man's Blues
James DavisBad DreamsAngels In Houston
Bobby BlandDriftin' BluesThat Did It! The Duke Recordings Vol. 3
Interview Pt. 6Duke/Peacock
Jimmy McCracklinThinkI Had To Get With It
Junior ParkerMan Or MouseDuke Recordings Vol. 2
Junior ParkerCryin For My BabyDuke Recordings Vol. 1
Clifton ChenierI Am Going HomeClifton Chenier: The Anthology
Albert CollinsSnow-Cone IITruckin' With Albert Collins
O.V. WrightFed Up With The BluesTreasured Moments: The Backbeat Singles Collection
Interview Pt. 7Huey Meaux
Bobby BlandThis Time I'm Gone For GoodThe California Album

Show Notes:

Gold Star/SugarHill Studios is a Houston-based sound engineering and recording facility that started in 1941 and is still operating today. Over the years its founder and subsequent engineers have produced a multitude of influential hit records and classic tracks for numerous labels in a diverse range of popular genres. The inspiration for today's program is the book House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios written by Andy Bradley and Roger Wood. In addition to the music we also hear an interview that I conducted with Wood a few weeks ago.

Among the hundreds of Gold Star/SugarHill-affiliated artists, a brief sampling includes blues giants (ranging from Lightnin' Hopkins to Albert Collins to Bobby Bland), country legends (from George Jones to Willie Nelson to Roger Miller), early rockers (from the Big Bopper to Roy Head to Sir Douglas Quintet), seminal figures in Cajun and zydeco (from Harry Choates to Clifton Chenier), architects of R&B (from O. V. Wright to Junior Parker), pioneers of psychedelia (from 13th Floor Elevators to Bubble Puppy), the phenomenal Freddy Fender, song-crafters (from Guy Clark to Lucinda Williams), gospel greats (such as the Mighty Clouds of Joy) up to contemporary pop icons. Today’s program will of course focus on the studio's blues recordings.

From humble origins as Quinn's Radio Repair shop around 1940, studio founder Quinn built a recording studio and a record pressing plant, during the latter part of the WWII years. After a year or two of experiments and failures, he succeeded in getting the Gulf label off the ground in 1945, to be followed by the much greater success of the Gold Star label the following year. In 1948 “Lil’ Son” Jackson, became one of many blues singers to record for Gold Star. In 1946, Lil’ Son Jackson shipped off a demo to Bill Quinn, who owned Houston based Gold Star Records. Jackson scored a national R&B hit, “Freedom Train Blues,” in 1948. It would prove Jackson’s only national hit, although his 1950-1954 output for Imperial Records must have sold consistently, judging from how many sides the L.A. firm issued.

Quinn recorded several fine  blues artists who's records are largely forgotten including Conrad Johnson, Henry Hayes, L.C. Williams, Wilson “Thunder” Smith, Leroy Ervin, Perry Cain, and the most famous of the Gold Star blues artists, Lightnin’ Hopkins. While most of these artists are in a down home vein, notable exceptions include by Conrad Johnson's "Fisherman's Blues" and Henry Hayes' "Bowlegged Angeline" performed in an upbeat, fully orchestrated style. I want to thank Roger for send me these tracks which are taken from the original Gold Star 78's.

Hopkins’ first decade of recording (1946-1956), was a prolific period which found him cutting close to 200 sides geared for the black market on a variety of different labels. Between 1946 and 1950 Hopkins recorded primarily for the L.A. based Aladdin label and the Houston based Gold Star label.  Hopkins scored some hits for Gold Star including “Tim Moore’s Farm” which was an R&B hit in 1949, hitting #4 on the charts and the year before he hit with “T-Model Blues” which peaked at #8. Hopkins recorded some 50 sides for the Gold Star label between 1947 and 1950. Even after the Gold Star label went under, Hopkins continued to record at the studio, the results issued on a a number of other labels. Throughout the ’20s and ’30s Hopkins traveled around Texas, usually in the company of recording star Texas Alexander. The pair was playing in Houston’s Third Ward in 1946 when talent scout Lola Anne Cullum came across them. She cut Alexander out of the deal and paired Hopkins with pianist Wilson “Thunder” Smith, getting the duo a recording contract for the Los Angles based Aladdin label. They recorded as “Thunder and Lightnin’”, a nickname Sam was to use for the rest of his life. Thunder Smith plays piano behind Hopkins on his first two sessions for Aladdin in 1946 and 1947, never achieving the success that Hopkins did. Hopkins backed Smith on a four-song session for Aladdin in 1946 with Smith cutting one session apiece in 1947 for Gold Star and in 1948 for Down Town. He reportedly died in Houston in 1965.

Bill Quinn at Gold Star Studios, 1960 (Photo by Chris Strachwitz)

The Gold Star label went under in 1951 when the IRS sued for back taxes. Quinn soldiered on, engineering for other labels that rented his studio, most notably Starday, Duke/Peacock, and D, and an endless number of smaller ones. Quinn sold the studio around 1963, and it eventually wound up being purchased by the infamous International Artists label. The label issued a number of notable psychedelic and rock recordings before going under in 1971

Of the Houston-based independent labels, Peacock emerged as the most prominent. Houston businessman Don Robey  founded Peacock Records in 1949. Robey expanded his recording interests by acquiring the Memphis label Duke Records. Through this acquisition Robey secured the rights to the stable of musicians who were then under contract to Duke. During the 1950's, Robey’s Duke-Peacock sound rose to national prominence, but by the mid-1960s, his business started to wane. The authors of House of Hits note that "few if any writers have noted that Robey conducted numerous recording sessions at Gold Star studios." Among the Duke artists who recorded at Gold Star were Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Buddy Ace and  Ernie K-Doe among others. Duke's subsidiary label, Back Beat, also saw sessions recorded at Gold Star by artists such as Joe Hinton, O.V. Wright and Roy Head among others.

Bobby Bland cut singles for Chess in 1951 and Modern the next year bombed and in 1952 for Duke. Bland entered the Army in late 1952 and his progress upon his 1955 return was remarkable. By now, Duke was headed by Don Robey, who provided top-flight bands for his artists. Most of Bland's blues sides during the mid- to late '50s featured the slashing guitar of Clarence Hollimon. Bland's first national hit was 1957's "Farther Up the Road." Later, Wayne Bennett took over on guitar, his fretwork prominent on Bland's Duke waxings throughout much of the '60s. Bland hit the charts often during this period with numbers like "Little Boy Blue", "Cry Cry Cry", "I Pity The Fool"and "Turn On Your Love Light" to name a few.

Junior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty-year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. Before 1953 was through, Junior Parker had moved on to Don Robey’s Duke label in Houston. It took a while for the harpist to regain his hitmaking momentum, but he scored big in 1957 with the “Next Time You See Me.” Parker developed a horn driven sound (usually the work of trumpeter/Duke-house-bandleader Joe Scott) that added power to his vocals and harp solos. Parker’s updated remake of Roosevelt Sykes’s “Driving Wheel” was a huge R&B hit in 1961, as was “In the Dark.” Parker continued to hit the charts through the 60’s with a mix of blues and R&B scoring with songs like “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Annie Get Your Yo-Yo”, “Man Or Mouse”, “Someone Somewhere.”

As the authors note, "a few of the hit records made at Gold Star studios by artists linked to Robey ended up being released on labels that he did not control. A prime example of that seemingly unlikely scenario is the song "Think", written and performed by Jimmy McCracklin. Released in 1965 on the California based Imperial Records, it went to number seven on the R&B charts and number ninety-five in the pop category. …"Think" was actually recorded independently by McCracklin in Houston, where he made use of both Robey's in-house studio on Erastus Street and the Gold Star facility across town."

Lightnin' Hopkins inside Gold Star Studios, 1961

Concurrent with the growth of Peacock Records, a new generation of Houston-bred rhythm-and-blues musicians began their careers, but were not recorded by Don Robey. Houston was homebase to a remarkable cadre of blues guitarists during the 1950’. These musicians included Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Joe Hughes, Clarence Green and Pete Mayes. Playing at the Club Matinee, Shady’s Playhouse, the Eldorado Ballroom, and other nightspots around Houston, these musicians emulated the music of T-Bone Walker and eventually developed their own distinctive performance styles.

Joe Hughes crossed paths with Johnny Copeland’s circa 1953 when the two shared vocal and guitar duties in a combo called the Dukes of Rhythm. Hughes served as bandleader at a local blues joint known as Shady’s Playhouse from 1958 through 1963, cutting a few scattered singles of his own in his spare time. In 1963, Hughes hit the road with the Upsetters, switching to the employ of Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1965. He also recorded behind the Bland for Duke and Al “TNT” Braggs from 1967 to 1969. Hughes cut the numbers "I Can't Go On This Way" b/w "Make Me Dance Little Ant" at Gold Star for the tiny Kangaroo label. The label was formed in the late 50's by the above mentioned Henry Hayes with label doing their recording at Gold Star.

In addition to Hughes, Albert Collins also made his debut for Kangaroo. Collins started out taking keyboard lessons but by the time he was 18 years old, he switched to guitar, and hung out and heard his heroes, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, T-Bone Walker and Lightnin’ Hopkins in Houston-area nightclubs. Collins  soon began performing in these same clubs. He led a ten-piece band, the Rhythm Rockers, and cut his first single in 1958 , “The Freeze” b/w “Collins Shuffle.” “The Freeze” became a regional hit and went on to serve as Collins' signature song throughout his career. Collins  returned to Gold Star in April 1965 for at least two sessions. The same year Collins’ first album was released, The Cool Sounds of Albert Collins, a collection of singles (the album was reissued later as Truckin’ With Albert Collins). To fill out the album at least three new numbers were recorded at Gold Star including our selection "Snow-Cone II."

Clarence Green was a versatile guitarist and a stalwart of the Houston scene who fronted a number of popular bands, the most famous being the Rhythmaires, between the early 1950's and his death. He started out around 1951 or 1952 in a group that called itself Blues For Two. Throughout the next decade the band’s personnel changed often; some of the more well-known members, at various times, included fellow guitarists Johnny Copeland and Joe Hughes. Green also did regular session work as a guitarist at various studios, the most notable being Duke Records, where he backed artists such as Bobby Bland, Joe Hinton, and Junior Parker. Green cut two singles for Duke at Gold Star in 1965 and 1966.

In 1964 Lightnin’ Hopkins took Chris Strachwitz to see his cousin, Clifton Chenier perform. Strachwitz agreed to record Chenier and they went to Gold Star in February to record. The session resulted in the first 45 for Strachwitz’s new label, Arhoolie and the following year he recorded a whole album of material. The session yielded the album Louisiana Blues and Zydeco with many of the songs also issued as 45’s.

Record hustler Huey P. Meaux, who had recorded the Sir Douglas Quintet's "She's About a Mover" at Gold Star in '65, bought and refurbishing the studio in 1972, naming the studio SugarHill. SugarHill became Meaux's home base for his Crazy Cajun Music label where careers of Texas legends Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and many more were launched.

-Listen to the Roger Wood interview (edited, MP3, 45 min)

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Show Notes:

In Houston, African Americans settled mostly in three segregated wards: the Third, Fourth, and Fifth. It was in the Third Ward where guitarist Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins accompanied his cousin Texas Alexander in the late 1920's, and where Hopkins returned by himself in the 1940's to play on Dowling Street. In Houston there were fewer opportunities for recording than in Dallas until after World War II, when several independent labels were started. The earliest to record blues was Gold Star, founded by Bill Quinn in 1946 as a hillbilly label to record Harry Choates. In 1947 Quinn decided to enter the "race" market by recording Lightnin' Hopkins. By the early 1950's, competition among independent record labels in Houston was intense. Macy's, Freedom, and Peacock (as well as Bob Shad's New York-based Sittin-In-With label) were all involved in recording local and regional blues musicians such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Gatemouth Brown, Goree Carter, Lester Williams, Peppermint Harris and Big Walter Price. Of the Houston-based independent labels, Peacock emerged as the most prominent. Houston businessman Don Robey founded Peacock Records in 1949. Robey expanded his recording interests by acquiring the Memphis label Duke Records. Through this acquisition Robey secured the rights to the stable of musicians who were then under contract to Duke. During the 1950s, Robey's Duke-Peacock sound rose to national prominence, but by the mid-1960s, his business started to wane. Concurrent with the growth of Peacock Records, a new generation of Houston-bred rhythm-and-blues musicians began their careers, but were not recorded by Don Robey. These musicians included Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Joe Hughes, Clarence Green and Pete Mayes. Playing at the Club Matinee, Shady's Playhouse, the Eldorado Ballroom, and other nightspots around Houston, these musicians emulated the music of T-Bone Walker and eventually developed their own distinctive performance styles.

Today's show covers much ground and naturally two hours isn't long enough to devote to the vibrant Houston blues scene of the 40's, 50's and 60's. Future shows will take a more in-depth look at Houston labels like Duke-Peacock, Freedom, Macy's, Sittin' In With and Gold Star.

Hopkins cut some 50 sides for the Gold Star label between 1947 and 1950. Producer Bill Quinn opened Gold Star Studios in October 1941 in Houston. Originally, Quinn had called it Quinn Recording and focused primarily on country music artists, but, by 1950, he had rechristened it Gold Star Studios. In 1948, Melvin Jackson, better known as "Lil' Son" Jackson, became one of many blues singers to record for Gold Star. In addition to L.C. Williams, Wilson "Thunder" Smith, Leroy Ervin, and Perry Cain, the most famous of which was Lightnin' Hopkins. Hopkisn also cut around two dozen sides for the Sittin' In With label and its Jax subsidary in 1951.

By the time he was in his early twenties, Peppermint Harris then known as Harrison Nelson, Jr. was lucky enough to have found a mentor and friend on the Houston blues front in the form of Lightnin' Hopkins. When Harris was deemed ready, Lightnin' accompanied him to Houston's Gold Star Records. Nothing came of that trip, but Harris eventually recorded his debut 78 for the company in 1948 (as Peppermint Nelson).B ob Shad's Sittin' in With label was the vehicle that supplied Harris' early work to the masses, including his first major hit, "Raining in My Heart," in 1950. Sittin' in With was founded in 1948 by Bob Shad and was operated in NYC. The label recorded a number of Houston bluesmen in addition to Harris including Lightnin' Hopkins, Goree Carter and Elmore Nixon. Jade and Jax were subsidiaries of the label and also issued blues and R&B.

Among T-Bone's legion of disciples was Houston's Goree Carter, whose big break came when he signed to Houston's Freedom Records circa 1949. For his his first couple of side he was billed as "Little T-Bone." Freedom issued plenty of Carter records over the next few years, and he later recorded for Imperial/Bayou, Sittin' in With, Coral, Jade, and Modern without denting the national charts. Eventually, he left music behind altogether. Eddie's and Freedom were two intertwined labels; Eddie's was founded in 1947 in Houston while Freedom was founded the next year and distributed Eddie's releases. Artists on the labels included Little Willie Littlefield, L.C. Williams, Goree Carter, Big Joe Turner, Joe Houston among others.

Texas Johnny Brown began his professional career as an original member of the great Amos Milburn band known as the Aladdin Chickenshackers. Brown's picking is killer on early Aladdin recordings by both Milburn as well as Ruth Brown's first Atlantic sides. Atlantic allowed Brown to make a few recordings of his own in 1949. He didn't cut his first full-length record until 1998.

Lester Williams grew up infatuated with the sound of T-Bone Walker, whose style he emulated; after serving in World War II, he formed his own combo, and in 1949 signed on with the Houston-based Macy's Records. Macy's was founded by Macy and Charles Henry and was active from 1949 through 195, releasing records by Lester Williams, Smokey Hogg, Hubert Robinson, Clarence Garlow and others. Williams' debut single "Winter Time Blues" became a regional hit, although subsequent efforts were less successful. Williams moved to Specialty records and scored his biggest hit in 1952 with "I Can't Lose with the Stuff I Use." Williams' follow-ups failed to catch on, however, and by 1954 he was regularly performing on Houston station KLVL and touring throughout the South. He later recorded on Duke before one final date for Imperial in 1956. In the years to follow he remained a staple of the Houston club circuit, touring Europe prior to his death on November 13, 1990.

Clarence Garlow is best known for his 1950 hit "Bon Ton Roula" (French for "Let the Good Times Roll"), a rhythm & blues-laced zydeco song that helped introduce the Lousiana music form to a national audience. Garlow was born in Louisiana but raised in nearby Beaumont, Texas. In 1949 he put together a band, began playing jukes and dances in the Houston area, and signed a recording contract with Macy's Records. After Macy's demise, Garlow moved from one label to the next but never could repeat his former success.

Elmore Nixon was a Houston pianist was acted as a sideman for labels like Gold Star, Peacock, Mercury, Savoy and Imperial between 1949-1955. In the 1960's he backed Lightnin' Hopkins and Clifton Chenier on record. He cut close to two-dozen sides under his own name for labels like Sittin' In With, Peacock, Mercury, Imperial and Savoy.

In 1947, Gatemouth Brown's impromptu fill-in for an ailing T-Bone Walker at Houston entrepreneur Don Robey's Bronze Peacock nightclub convinced Robey to assume control of Brown's career. After two singles for Aladdin stiffed, Robey inaugurated his own Peacock label in 1949 to showcase Gatemouth on record. Gate stayed with Peacock through 1960. Assisted by business partner Evelyn Johnson, Peacock's roster grew with both blues and gospel artists. By the end of 1952 they had released singles by over fifty different artists. It was this year that Robey acquired Duke Records.

James 'Wide Mouth' Brown was Gatemouth Brown older brother. He cut his only record, "A Weary Silent Night" b/w "Boogie Woogie Nighthawk", in 1952 issued on the Jax label.

Big Walter Price was born in Gonzales, Texas in 1914, pianist Big Walter started he music career in 1954, recording for labels like T-N-T, Peacock, Goldband and others.

Slide guitar blues with an Elmore James flavor played on an eight-string table (non-pedal) steel guitar was the trademarked sound of Houston blues legend Hop Wilson. Strictly a local phenomenon, Wilson recorded fitfully and hated touring. After his discharge from the Army, he decided to pursue a serious career as a blues musician, performing with Ivory Semien's group in the late '50s. Wilson and Semien recorded a number of sides for Goldband Records in 1957. Hop Wilson didn't lead his own sessions until 1960, when he signed with the Ivory record label. Wilson only recorded for the label for two years — his final sessions were in 1961. After 1961, Wilson concentrated on playing local Houston clubs and bars. He continued to perform in Houston until his death in 1975.

Teddy Reynolds, blues pianist, songwriter, and singer, was born in Houston on July 12, 1931. He debuted in 1950 for the Sittin' In With label and cut sides for Mercury in 1958. Reynolds's did his most prolific and enduring studio work as a regular session player at Duke and Peacock Records. Starting in 1958 and lasting into the mid-1960s, he played piano or organ on classic sides by Bobby Bland and Junior Parker, with whom he toured constantly in a popular twin-bill revue for almost three years.

Clarence Green was a versatile guitarist and a stalwart of the Houston scene who fronted a number of popular bands, the most famous being the Rhythmaires, between the early 1950s and his death.He started out around 1951 or 1952 in a group that called itself Blues For Two. Throughout the next decade the band's personnel changed often; some of the more well-known members, at various times, included fellow guitarists Johnny Copeland and Joe Hughes.Green also did regular session work as a guitarist at various studios, the most notable being Duke Records, where he backed artists such as Bobby Bland, Joe Hinton, and Junior Parker. he cut his own sides for labels such as C & P, All Boy, Aquarius, Bright Star, Lynn, Pope, and Golden Eagle.

Houston was homebase to a remarkable cadre of blues guitarists during the 1950's among whom was Joe Hughes. He crossed paths with johnny Copeland's circa 1953 when the two shared vocal and guitar duties in a combo called the Dukes of Rhythm. Hughes served as bandleader at a local blues joint known as Shady's Playhouse from 1958 through 1963, cutting a few scattered singles of his own in his spare time. In 1963, Hughes hit the road with the Upsetters, switching to the employ of Bobby "Blue" Bland in 1965. He also recorded behind the Bland for Duke and Al "TNT" Braggs from 1967 to 1969.

Albert Collins started out taking keyboard lessons but by the time he was 18 years old, he switched to guitar, and hung out and heard his heroes, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins in Houston-area nightclubs. Collins began soon began performing in these same clubs. He led a ten-piece band, the Rhythm Rockers, and cut his first single in 1958 for the Houston-based Kangaroo label, "The Freeze." The single was followed by a slew of other instrumental singles. All of these singles brought Collins a regional following. After recording "De-Frost" b/w "Albert's Alley" for Hall-Way Records of Beaumont, TX, he hit it big in 1962 with "Frosty," a million-selling single. He recorded for other small Texas labels in the 1960's, including Great Scott, Brylen and TFC.

Johnny Copeland's first gig was with his friend Joe "Guitar" Hughes. Soon after, Hughes "took sick" for a week and the young Copeland discovered he could be a front man and deliver vocals as well as anyone else around Houston at that time. Copeland and Hughes fell under the spell of T-Bone Walker, whom Copeland first saw perform when he was 13 years old. As a teenager he played at locales such as Shady's Playhouse — Houston's leading blues club, host to most of the city's best bluesmen during the 1950s — and the Eldorado Ballroom. Copeland and Hughes subsequently formed The Dukes of Rhythm, which became the house band at the Shady's Playhouse. After that, he spent time playing on tour with Albert Collins during the 1950's. He began recording in 1958 for Mercury, and moved between various labels during the 1960s, including All Boy and Golden Eagle in Houston, where he had regional successes with "Please Let Me Know" and "Down on Bending Knees," and later for Wand and Atlantic in New York.

Pete Mayes played guitar with greats like Junior Parker and Bill Doggett.  He has fronted his own band, the Houserockers, for 40 years. Mayes owned and maintained the historic Double Bayou Dancehall, which once served as a regular venue for Amos Milburn, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and scores of others.  It was there that Mayes, then just 16 years old, first heard T-Bone Walker who became a major influence. During the next 20 years, he often worked with Walker and made the acquaintance of many other bluesmen who would later come to fame, most prominently Joe Hughes.  Mayes' discography is slim with just three full-length albums and cut just a handful of singles in the 1960's.

Juke Boy Bonner caught a break in 1947 in Houston, winning a talent contest that led to a spot on a local radio outlet. He journeyed to Oakland in 1956, cutting his debut single for Bob Geddins's Irma imprint before jumping to Goldband Recordsin 1960. He cut his best work during the late '60s for Arhoolie Records, accompanying himself on both guitar and racked harmonica as he weaved extremely personal tales of his rough life in Houston. A few European tours ensued, but they didn't really lead to much. Toward the end of his life, he toiled in a chicken processing plant to make ends meet. Bonner died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1978.

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