Entries tagged with “Cow Cow Davenport”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
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.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Julia MoodyPolice BluesTight Women And Loose Bands
Julia MoodyMidnight DanTight Women And Loose Bands
Leroy CarrEleven Twenty-Nine BluesWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Furry LewisJudge Harsh BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Romeo Nelson1129 Blues (The Midnight Special)Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930
Big Joe WilliamsAll I Want Is My Train Fare Home A Man Sings The Blues Vol. 1
Big Joe WilliamsCow Cow BluesA Man Sings The Blues Vol. 2
Scott Dunbar It's So Cold Up NorthBlues From The Delta
Lee KizartDon't Want No Woman Telling Me What To DoBlues From The Delta
Lovey WilliamsTrain I RideBlues From The Delta
Roosevelt SykesJivin' the JiveRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 7 1941-1944
Hal SingerDisc Jockey BoogieHal Singer 1948-51
J.B. Lenoir Everybody Is Crying About VietnamBye Bye Bird
Junior WellsVietnam BluesLookout Sam
Smoky BabeBoss Man BluesWay Back in the Country Blues
Smoky BabeGoin' Home BluesWay Back in the Country Blues
Scrapper BlackwellAlley Sally BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Robert WilkinsNew Stock Yard BluesMasters of the Memphis Blues
Rocky Fuller (Louisiana Red)The Moon Won't Go DownForrest City Joe & Rocky Fuller: Memory Of Sonny Boy
Robert Pete WilliamsMidnight BoogieBye Bye Bird
Mississippi Fred McDowellI Walked All The Way From East St LouisGood Morning Little Schoolgirl
Arizona DranesI Shall Wear A CrownVintage Mandolin Music
Otis SpannMake A WaySweet Giant of the Blues
Blind Willie McTellLay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Best Of
Peetie WheatstrawBring Me Flowers While I'm LivingPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Sippie WallaceUp The Country BluesSippie Wallace Vol. 1 1923-1925
Blind Willie McTellStatesboro BluesThe Best Of
De Ford Bailey Up The Country BluesHistory Of Blues Harmonica 1926-2002
Co Cow DavenportPlenty Gals BluesCow Cow Davenport - The Accompanist 1924-1929
Lil JohnsonMinor BluesLil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Sippie WallaceWoman Be WiseUp The Country

Show Notes:

Julia Moody - Midnight DanToday's mix show has several themes and featured artists running throughout. On deck today we play songs revolving around the term "11-29" and spin a trio of songs based on Sippie Wallace's "Up The Country Blues." We also feature twin spins form Julia Moody, Big Joe Williams and Blind Willie McTell. We hear some fine down-home blues including previously unreleased sides from Smoky Babe and a trio of tracks from the long out-of-print Blues From The Delta album. We spin some fine piano blues by Otis Spann, Arizona Dranes, Cow Cow Davenport, Montana Taylor and Roosevelt Sykes. In addition we play several recordings from the American Fol Blues Festival.

Sippie Wallace made her first record in 1923 and her last in 1984. Thomas grew up in Houston, Texas where she sang and played the piano in her father's church. While still in her early teens she and her younger brother Hersal and older brother George began playing and singing the Blues in tent shows that traveled throughout Texas. In 1915 she moved to New Orleans and lived with her older brother George. During her stay there she met many of the great Jazz musicians like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong who were friends of her brother George. During the early 1920s she toured the TOBA vaudeville circuit where she was billed as "The Texas Nightingale". In 1923 she followed her brothers to Chicago and began performing in the cafes and cabarets around town. In 1923 she recorded her first records for Okeh and went on to record over forty songs for them between 1923 and 1929. “Up The Country Blues b/w Shorty George Blues” was her debut and an immediate success. The songs were written by her brother George. Blind Willie McTell borrowed part of the lyrics for his classic "Statesboro Blues." "Statesboro Blues" was covered famously by Taj Mahal in 1968 and The Allman Brothers in 1971. We also play De Ford Bailey's superb instrumental of "Up The Country Blues" from 1927.Interestingly, in December 1923, just a few months after Sippie's recording, a singer by the name of Tiny Franklin cut six sides backed by Wallace's brother George on piano which included versions of "Up The Country Blues" and "Shorty George Blues,”

"11-29," is a reference found in a number of blues songs dealing with the subject of court sentencing in southern states for criminal behavior. The sentence was often the maximum for a misdemeanor crime, thus keeping the convict in local confinement as long as possible. This interpretation is borne out in a number of blues songs. Blac ks were often given more severe sentences than whites in a local court of law. And the experience of either county or state incarceration during the historical period that shaped early blues lyrics was, in reality, very cruel. We play a trio of songs using the theme including Leroy Carr's "Eleven Twenty-Nine Blues", Furry Lewis' "Judge Harsh Blues" and Romeo Nelson's "1129 Blues (The Midnight Special)."  Charley Patton refers to the "11-29" jail sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in "Jim Lee Blues, Part 1" recorded in 1929 which I've played several tomes on the show: "When I got arrested what do you reckon was my fine?/Say they give all coons eleven twenty-nine."

A Man Sings The Blues Vol. 1
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We spotlight twin spins today by Big Joe Williams and Julia Moody. Thes Big Joe Williams  songs were released two four-song EP's on the British Jen label (A Man Sings The Blues Vol. 1 & 2). These sides were recorded in the summer of 1957 in Chicago by Erwin Helfer who plays the piano on these sides.

Not much is know about Julia Moody who cut sixteen sides between 1922 and 1925. She was known to have been involved in the stage prior and after her brief recording career. Our two songs "Midnight Dan" and "Police Blues" come from her final 1925 session and find her backed by a fine jazz band called the Dixie Wobblers. "Midnight Dan" has a dramatic feel which probably owes to Moody's stage background while Police Blues" is a wonderfully sung slow blues:

I walked to the corner, 31st and State (2x)
I was so worried til' I stayed too late
Just standing on the corner, I didn't mean no harm (2x)
Along come the policeman, and took me by my arm
Carried me to the station, and I was full of booze (2x)
That's why I'm worried about those police blues

We play a trio of songs from the album Blues From the Delta which was the companion album to the book of the same name by William Ferris. The recordings were made in the summer of 1968 and included the debut recordings James “Son” Thomas. The album also includes excellent recordings by under-recorded artists such as Lovey Williams, Scott Dunbar and Lee Kizart.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, Robert Brown AKA Smoky Babe had found his way to Scotlandville, Louisiana by the age of 20. It was there that Harry Oster recorded him on several occasions between 1959-1961 with material appearing on the labels Folk-Lyric, Storyville and Bluesville. Smoky cut two full length albums: Smoky Babe and His Friends and Hottest Brand Goin' plus a few scattered sides on different anthologies. The recordings featured today are previously unreleased and have just been issue on Way Back in the Country Blues on Arhoolie Records. As the notes state: "Upon Harry’s death in 2001, his widow Caroline shipped what was understood to be the balance of his tapes. Nowhere in the pile were the unissued Smoky Babe recordings. Recently, in the early stages of preparing a box set of Harry’s work, we noticed that many other known recordings of his were missing from our collection, and reached out again to Caroline to see if any had been overlooked. The following week, a shipment of boxes arrived filled with tapes dating back to Harry’s Louisiana days. Among this last batch were several reels of Smoky Babe containing many unissued recordings as strong as anything previously available. This record represents what we feel is the best of those long lost performances."

The American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) was an annual event, beginning in 1962, that featured the cream of American blues musicians barnstorming their way across Europe. The recordings from these tours have been collected on numerous anthologies over the years. Toda's AFBF recordings come from the Scout label which was Horst Lippmann's and Fritz Rau's label preceding L + R Records. Lippmann' and Rau were the men responsible for organizing the AFBF. Just about everything on the label was from the concerts and today we feature the following collection: Look Out Sam!Bye Bye Bird…and Up The Country!.

Blues From The Delta
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We feature terrific piano blues and gospel piano today from Otis Spann, Arizona Dranes, Cow Cow Davenport, Montana Taylor and Roosevelt Sykes. Leaving Muddy Waters’ group in 1968, Otis Spann made a flurry of recordings, including an album with Fleetwood Mac as his backing band. It was at this point Bob Thiele invited him to record for his Bluestime label. The album, Sweet Giant Of The Blues, has now been reissued by Ace Records. Unfortunately, his health had been compromised by years of alcohol abuse and he died a few months after these recordings at the age of 40.

Arizona Dranes born was born blind in 1889 or 1891. Between 1926 and 1928, Dranes recorded sixteen numbers for OKeh Records and soon became a gospel music star. Unfortunately, her recording career suffered due to misunderstandings between Dranes and the record company’s executives. After 1928 and until her death in 1963, Dranes served the Church of God in Christ by performing at churches around the country, quickly falling into near-complete obscurity (her last public appearance, where she was billed as the “Famous Blind Piano Player,” was in 1947).

Cow Cow Davenport, Montana Taylor and Roosvelt Sykes were some of the great early piano players. We hear Taylor playing superbly behind Lil Johnson's debut record "Minor Blues" which went unissued and hear Davenport on "Plenty Gals Blues" backing obscure singer Memphis Joe (Joe Byrd). Roosevelt Sykes is heard on the jumping "Jivin' the Jive" from 1944 backed by a combo that included Ted Summit on guitar and Jump Jackson on drums.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Alice mooreBlack and EvilSt. Louis Women Vol. 2 1934-1941
Ethel Waters(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & BlueEthel Waters 1929-1939
Hattie BurelsonSadie's Servant Room BluesTerritory Singers Vol. 2 1928-30
Big Bill BroonzyBlack, Brown, and WhiteBroadcasting The Blues
Otis SpannMoon Blues Sweet Giant Of The Blues
Howlin' WolfCoon On The MoonThe Back Door Wolf
Lillian GlinnBrown Skin BluesLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Barbecue BobChocolate To The BoneChocolate To The Bone
Andy BoyEvil BluesSan Antonio 1937
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesThe Original Rolling Stone
Tommy MclennanBottle It Up And GoThe Complete Bluebird Recodings
Bill & Mary MackBlack But Sweet, Oh God!Punch Miller & Albert Wynn 1925-1930
Furry LewisB-L-A-C-KThe Fabulous Furry Lewis
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Rosa HendersonI Have To Paint my FaceI Have To Paint my Face
Maggie jonesNorthbound BluesMaggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Cow Cow DavenportJim Crow BluesThe Essential
LeadbellyJim Crow BluesBourgeois Blues
Rev. J.M. GatesKinky Hair Is No DisgraceAre You Bound For Heaven Or Hell?
Albert HunterYou Can't Tell The Difference After DarkAlberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-46
Louis JordanOfay & oxford Grey Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - Chapter 4
J.B. LenoirBorn DeadAlabama Blues
John Lee HookerBirmingham BluesKennedy's Blues
Louisiana RedRide On Red, Ride OnThe Best of Louisiana Red
Dora Carr & Cow Cow DavenportBlack Girl Gets There Just The Same Cow Cow Davenport - Cow Cow Davenport: The Accompanist 1924-1929
Butterbeans & SusieBrown Skin GalButterbeans & Susie Vol. 1 1924-1925
Fats HaydenBrown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After AllTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Ruby SmithBlack GalSammy Price
And the Blues Singers
Juke Boy BonnerBeing Black and I'm ProudLife Gave Me A Dirty Deal
Champion Jack DupreeOh Lord What Have I DoneOh Lord What Have I Done

Show Notes:

Alice Moore: Black And Evil BluesToday's show is devoted to blues songs dealing with the topic of race. Blues of the segregation era are intrinsically tied to race but rarely do they deal with the topic of race itself. As the great blues scholar Paul Oliver wrote back in 1968: "Blacks in the United States are members of an underprivileged class, and it makes no difference if their standard of living is far higher than that of most people in Africa, India, or much of South America. For them, being below the poverty line in the world's richest nation means suffering. Ernest attempts to play the blues by white imitators notwithstanding, the blues is, inescapably, the music of the African American, and it seems undeniable that it is a cultural expression that relates back to circumstances of segregation. It's true that racial discrimination is seldom blatantly the theme of the blues-but it's never far away. …For the Black, whether he was purpled-hued or pink skinned, his color was his problem, both within the black community and in the community as a whole. It was this which determined that his whole social life should be different from his fellow Americans, for his color and his cast of feature were the outward indications of his ancestory." Today we play songs, both subtle and explicit, both humorous and serious, that deal with a variety of racial issues. Within black society there was a class system based on skin color – yellow, brown and black – and many songs deal with this topic. Other songs are more overt, dealing frankly about issues like Jim Crow and, particularly in the 60's, with the topic of civil rights. Other songs are more subtle, throwing in a interesting line or two, often hard to decipher without careful listening.

Alice Moore, Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's.

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep (2x)
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord has got a curse on me (2x)
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black." There's also, I think, a way of diffusing the negative "black" by owning it as Moore does, a way of empowering oneself by taking the negative associations of black and turning it around and even reveling in it. Moore's song was covered by Lil Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and Leroy Ervin. Another song from the same period with a similar sentiment is "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blues", originally written by Fats Waller in 1929, it was a hit for Ethel Waters in 1930. Like Moore's song this one too equates blackness with being "blue"but some of the lyrics give one an uneasy feeling:

I'm white inside, it don't help my case
'Cause I can't hide, what is on my face, oh!

I'm so forlorn, life's just a thorn
My heart is torn, why was I born?
What did I do to be so black and blue?

'Cause you're black, folks think you lack
They laugh at you, and scorn you too
What did I do to be so black and blue?

The title of today's show, Sam Chatmon's "I Have To Paint My Face", is another song tied into this theme. Chatmon's song paints being black in a negative light in contrast to being white. Chatmon's song is a bit more complicated with some of the language, it seems, drawing from the period before the blues when their was a wide variety of black music including ragtime, black vaudeville, minstrels, coon songs, work songs, dance tunes and more. Older musicians (Chatmon was born in the late 1890's), born in the 1860's through the 1880's, learned early forms of black music that they brought to their records when they had the opportunity to record in the 20's and 30's.

Say God made us all
He made some at night
That's why he didn't take time
To make us all white

I'm bound to change my name
I have to paint my face
So I won't be kin
To that Ethiopian race

Say now let me tell you one thing
That a Stumptown nigger will do
He'll pull up on young cotton
And he'll kill baby chickens too

Say when God made me
Say the moon was givin' light
I'm so doggone sorry
He didn't finish me up white

Say now when God made people
He done pretty well
But when he made a jet black nigger
He made them some hell

Say God took a ball of mud
When he got ready to make man
When he went to make you partner
I believe it slipped out his hand

Fats Hayden: Brown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After All As mentioned above, within black society there was a class system based on skin color – yellow, brown and black – each hue having their own stereotypes. In Blues Fell This Morning, Paul Oliver had the following to say: "Blacks frequently aspired to the conditions of being white, as they saw the better jobs, the higher standard of living Whites enjoyed. Men spent large sums of money on hair-straightening  greases and combs that were supposed to remove the kinks in African hair. Woman dyed their hair to a brick-red, powdered their faces and applied artificial color in order to make their skins lighter and their complexions more 'white.' …This primitive distinction by color was passed on to Blacks themselves and their population was many times divided by grades of skin pigmentation. In the caste system that evolved from this arbitrary means of discrimination, the lighter skinned tended to be on a higher plane, whilst the extremely black-skinned mas was looked down on… To differentiate between their many shades of color they evolved many words which are applicable to certain shades: 'ashy black', 'chocolate-brown', 'coffee', 'sealskin-brown', 'brightskin', 'high yaller', 'lemon', and others… Blacks of one particular skin hue kept together and may certainly  have a had a preference for that color…" In her popular 1927 number, "Brown Skin Blues", Lillian Glinn stated her preference:

Now all high yellers you ought to listen to me
A yellow man's sweet, a black man's neat
A brownskin man will take you clear off your feet

Barbecue Bob's “Chocolate To The Bone” was an answer song cut in 1928:

So glad I'm brownskin, so glad I'm brownskin, chocolate to the bone (2x)
And I've got what it takes to make a monkey man leave his home

Black man is evil, yellow man's so low-down (2x)
I walk into these houses just to see these black men frown

I'm just like Miss Lillian, like Miss Lillian, I mean Miss Glinn, you see
I'm just like Miss Lillian, I mean Miss Glinn, you see
She said, 'A brownskin man is just all right with me'

In a similar vein was Fats Hayden's 1939 number "Brown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After All" where he elaborates in detail to prove the song's title throwing quite a few disparaging comments on the other hues ("When a yellow gal gets old/She draw up like tripe"). Hayden's song is very similar to a number of earlier songs including Butterbeans & Susie's "Brown Skin Gal" from 1925 and Barbecue Bob's "Brown Skin Gal" from 1927. Bill & Mary Mack's "Black But Sweet, Oh God!" from 1925 has Bill asking for Mary's company and with the following reply: "Now listen hear man you too black and ugly, the type of man is out of my life." Then shes goes on about her "brown" who is "little an cute, chocolate to the bone." Jim Jackson recorded a song titled "Black But Sweet" which is likely the same song  although it was never issued. In the 1970's Furry Lewis recorded "a little jive" he claims to have made up called "B-L-A-C-K" which bears a striking resemblance to Bill & Mary Mack's number but Furry turns it around a bit:

Some people don't like their color, but I sure do like mine
I know I'm black and ugly, but gets along just fine
I was going down the street the other day, two high browns I did meet
Said ain't old Furry black but he sure looks good to me
I'm black but I'm sweet oh God

Earlier I quoted Paul Oliver mentioning that blacks tried to change their appearance to a more white aesthetic, that too is represented in songs featured today. In Ishman Bracey's "Saturday Blues" he sings:

Now, if you want yo' woman, to look like the rest
You buy her high-brown powder, Palmer's Skin Success

Cow Cow Davenport: Jim Crow BluesPalmer's Skin Success was the trade name of a popular skin bleach which claimed o be able to make you "one shade lighter." The product was advertised in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender probably not coincidentally on the same pages that advertised blues records. Then there's  Rev. J.M. Gates' "Kinky Hair is No Disgrace" which, despite the title, is more in a slapstick vaudeville vein than a black pride one. The 1960's saw a new found era in black pride with James Brown's "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" from 1968 becoming an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement. The same year Juke Boy Bonner cut "Being Black and I'm Proud" and Bee Houston recorded "Be Proud To Be A Black Man" in 1970. There were black pride sentiments in earlier songs like Ruby Smith on "Black Gal" from 1941. Chris Smith wrote that "it's a fascinating, uneasy mixture of self-abasement with early 'black is beautiful' ideology: "

If I had the choice of being white as a lamb
I would turn it down and stay, black as I am

'I'm just a black gal, insignificant me
But I'm just as happy as can be

I ain't seeking pity on account of being black
And if I've apologized I wanna take it back

…Furthermore, I don't believe in being what you ain't
That's why I don't lighten up with lots of chalk and paint.

Blues songs that speak directly to racial issues are relatively rare in early blues, while the 1960's saw more explicit songs dealing with the turbulent civil rights era. During the Jim Crow era, racial segregation laws were enacted between 1876 and 1965 at the state and local level that mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states. There were several songs that explicitly dealt with the topic. An early one from singer Maggie Jones, "Northbound Blues" from 1925, talks about heading away from Jim Crow:

Got my trunk and grip all packed
Goodbye, I ain't coming back
Going to leave this Jim Crow town
Lord, sweet pape, New York bound

Got my ticket in my hand
And I'm leaving dixieland

Going north child, where I can be free (2x)
Where there's no hardships, like in Tennessee

Going where they don't have Jim Crow laws (2x)
Don't have to work there, like in Arkansas

Cow Cow Davenport was another singer to make an overt statement about going North to escape Jim Crow. Accompanied by B.T. Wingfield on cornet, he recorded "Jim Crow Blues" for Paramount in 1927:

I'm tired of being Jim Crowed, gonna Leave this Jim Crow town
Doggone my black soul, I'm sweet Chicago bound

Rosa Henderson is sings about Jim Crow in "Back Woods Blues" from 1924 (Clara Smith recorded a version the same year):

Gonna see my folks, but its way too far
To ride in a dusty old Jim Crow car

Got the backwoods blues, but I don't wanna go back home
Got the backwoods blues, for a place way down in Bam
Got the blues, but I'm gonna stay right where I am

Gonna lay 'round here, where I'm at
Where there ain't no grinnin' and no snatchin' off my hat

Other songs on the subject include Josh White's "Jim Crow Train"and "Uncle Sam Says" and "Jim Crow Blues" and "Scottsboro Boys" by  Leadbelly. Jim Crow also existed in the military during both world wars and through part of the Korean war. Both Leadbelly and Josh White tackle the topic in "Uncle Sam Says", the topic also crops up in gospel songs by Blind Willie Johnson ("When the War Was On") and William And Versey Smith ("Everybody Help the Boys Come Home"). In Big Bill Broonzy's famous "Black, Brown, and White" and "I Wonder When I'll Get To Be Called A Man" he address the issue:

When Uncle Sam called me, I know'ed I'd be called a real McCoy
But I got none of this, they just called me soldier boy
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
When I got back from overseas, that night we had a ball
Next day I met the old boss, he said 'Boy get you some overalls'

Howlin' Wolf - Coon On The MoonOvert political commentary became increasingly more common by the 1960's. Several blues and gospel numbers were recorded about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. In "Birmingham Blues" John Lee Hooker forcefully sings about the Birmingham campaign which was a strategic effort by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to promote civil rights for black Americans. 1962's Louisiana Red's "Ride On Red, Ride On" is a civil rights themed blues mainly about leaving the racist south and its subject not far removed from Rosa Henderson's “Back Woods Blues” mentioned above.  Few bluesman were as outspoken and eloquent as J.B. Lenoir who cut some hard hitting topical numbers shortly before his untimely death in 1967. Here's his "Born Dead" from 1966:

Lord why was I born in Mississippi, when it's so hard to get ahead (2x)
Every black child born in Mississippi
You know the poor child is born dead

During the beginning of the space race in the early 1960's many songs appeared to cash in with space themed topics. With the landing on the moon in 1969 there were many more, but many, particularly by African Americans, took on a more political tone often contrasting the money and conditions of black people with the amount of money that went into the putting a man on the moon while ignoring the dire conditions at home. This is the topic of Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey On The Moon" and Otis Spann's "Moon Blues." Howlin' Wolf was fascinated by space flight and asked his saxophonist Eddie Shaw to write a song on the subject. "Coon On The Moon" is more about how things have changed during Wolf's lifetime than an overt political statement. 35 years before it happened the song predicted the first black president:

You know, they called us ‘coons’—said we didn’t have no sense
You gonna wake up one morning, and a coon’s gonna be the President

Several songs featured today don't fall into any particular category but lyrically fit into the topic of today's show: There's Andy Boy who sings "I got the evil blues, prejudicy on my mind" on "Evil Blues" from 1937 and Robert Wilkins who on "Fallin' Down Blues" from 1929 sings:

If you don't believe, girl, I'll treat you right
Come and walk with me down to my loving shack tonight
I'll certainly treat you just like you was white
That don't satisfy you, girl, I'll take your life

Finally there's  Tommy McClennan who's "Bottle It Up And Go" is one of the songs most associated with him. According to Honeyboy Edwards, McClennan learned the song from Memphis Jug Band member Dewey Corley.  McClennan insisted on playing the song as he learned it in the South, ignoring Northern sensibilities when he sang the controversial lines: "Now the nigger and the white man playin' seven-up/Nigger beat the white man was scared to pick it up." Broonzy tells a story of McClennan singing these lines at a house party and being forcibly ejected, forced to leave via the window with parts of his guitar around his neck.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Pinetop SmithPine Top's Boogie WoogieShake Your Wicked Knees
Meade Lux LewisHonky Tonk Train BluesHey! Piano Man: Selected Boogie Woogie Sides Remastered
Jimmy YanceyState Street Special Jimmy Yancey Vol. 1 1939-1940
'Crippple' Clarence LoftonHouse Rent StruggleCripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 2 1935-1939
Charles AveryDearborn Street BreakdownShake Your Wicked Knees
Albert Ammons Chicago In MindHey! Piano Man: Selected Boogie Woogie Sides Remastered
Romeo Nelson Gettin Dirty Just Shakin' That ThingShake Your Wicked Knees
Cow Cow DavenportCow Cow BluesThe Essential
Hersal ThomasSuitcase BluesRoots 'N' Blues: The Retrospective 1925-1950
Pinetop Smith Jump Steady Blues
Shake Your Wicked Knees
Jimmy BlytheBoogie Woogie BluesBoogie Woogie Blues
Crippple' Clarence LoftonCrying Mother Blues Cripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 1 1935-1939
Montana TaylorIndiana Avenue StompShake Your Wicked Knees
Charles Avery, Tampa Red & Lil JohnsonHouse Rent ScuffleTampa Red Vol. 2 1929
Clarence "Jelly" JohnsonJelly's BluesLow Down Papa
Freddie ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946
Doug SuggsDoug's Jump Piano Blues Vol. 21927-1956
Cow Cow Davenport State Street BluesCow Cow Davenport Vol. 1 1925-1929
Jimmy YanceyRolling The StoneJimmy Yancey Vol. 1 1939-1940
Jimmy BlytheChicago Stomp Boogie Woogie Blues
Pinetop SmithI'm Sober NowShake Your Wicked Knees
Clarence "Jelly" Johnson You're Always Messin' Round With My ManLow Down Papa
Romeo NelsonHead Rag HopShake Your Wicked Knees
Charles AveryChain 'Em DownBoogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930
Montana Taylor Detroit RocksShake Your Wicked Knees
'Crippple' Clarence Lofton Streamline TrainCripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 1 1935-1939
Pinetop SmithPinetop BluesPiano Blues Vol. 20
Meade Lux LewisBear Cat CrawlHey! Piano Man: Selected Boogie Woogie Sides Remastered
Cow Cow DavenportBack In The AlleyShake Your Wicked Knees
Jimmy Yancey Yancey LimitedJimmy Yancey Vol. 1 1939-19
Albert AmmonsShout For JoyHey! Piano Man: Selected Boogie Woogie Sides Remastered

Show Notes:

During the period of today's recordings , there was a mass migration of blacks from the southern states looking for regular employment and the chance to start a new life. Thousands headed to Chicago. They, together with the emerging school of pianists, took jobs as taxi drivers, hotel porters, dish washers and other menial occupations, working at these occupations during the daytime, they supplemented their earnings by playing at rent parties in the evenings and at weekends. The boogie pianists reigned supreme at these functions and the more proficient of them were able to find additional work at the many dives and clubs which became a part of Chicago’s night life. Today's show spotlights the Chicago boogie and barrelhouse who made records in the 20's and 30's. For more detailed information on today's performers check out Peter J. Silvester's seminal The Story of Boogie-Woogie: A Left Hand Like G od.

As Silvester wrote: "For the purposes of clarifying the several phases which the music underwent in reaching its state of perfection in the I940's, it is helpful to consider the first generation of pianists as being active in the period up to about 1930. This would include among its members Hersal Thomas, Lemuel Fowler, Jimmy Blythe, Jimmy Yancey, Clarence Lofton, Charles Davenport, Doug Suggs, Eurreal Montgomery, Roosevelt Sykes, many'one-record pianists' and other still unknown and unrecorded piano players. It was some time after 1930 that a number of these esteemed players made their first recordings, although their influence on later pianists as leading practitioners of the art is now clearly recognizable."

Considered to be the originator of the boogie -woogie style of piano playing, Clarence "Pine Top" Smith was a vaudeville performer. From around 1920 Smith was based in Pittsburgh, and the following years he traveled with minstrel and vaudeville shows as a dancer, singer and comedian. Smith’s work on the circuits took him throughout the south where he worked with artists such as Butterbeans & Susie and Ma Rainey. In an interview with Downbeat magazine in 1939, Smith’s wife Sarah Horton said that her husband first started playing "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" in Pittsburgh. Cow Cow Davenport recommended Smith to Mayo Williams of Brunswick/Vocalion records. Smith then moved with his family to Chicago in 1928. On December 29, 1928 Smith recorded his two breakthrough hits: "Pine Top Blues" and "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie." This was the first time the phrase "boogie woogie" appeared on record. He began to devote more of his energies to playing piano and, at the urging of Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport, made a few records. On January 14 and 15, 1929 Smith recorded six more sides of his vaudeville repertoire for Vocalion records, including “I'm Sober Now” and “Jump Steady Blues.” On March 13, 1929 Pine Top made an unissued recording of "Driving Wheel Blues." Two days later, at age 25, his rising career ended. Smith was accidentally shot by a man named David Bell during a fight.

Meade Lux Lewis was one of the three great boogie-woogie pianists (along with Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson) whose appearance at John Hammond's 1938 Spirituals to Swing concert helped start the boogie-woogie craze. He played regularly in Chicago in the late '20s and his one solo record of the time, "Honky Tonk Train Blues" (1927), was considered a classic. After cutting his classic "Honky Tonk Train Blues" in 1927 Lewis gained little extra work and slipped into obscurity. John Hammond heard Lewis' record in 1935 and, after a search, found Lewis washing cars for a living in Chicago. Soon, Lewis was back on records and after the 1938 Spirituals to Swing concert he was able to work steadily, sometimes in duets or trios with Ammons and Johnson. After the boogie-woogie craze ended, Lewis continued working in Chicago and California, recording as late as 1962. Lewis led sessions through the years that have come out on MCA, Victor, Blue Note, Solo Art, Euphonic, Stinson, Atlantic, Storyville, Verve, Tops, ABC-Paramount, Riverside, and Philips.

One of the seminal boogie-woogie pianists, Jimmy Yancey was active in and around Chicago playing house parties and clubs from 1915, yet he remained unrecorded until May 1939, when he recorded "The Fives" and "Jimmy's Stuff" for a small label. By then, Yancey's work around Chicago had already influenced such younger and better-known pianists as Meade "Lux" Lewis, Pinetop Smith, and Albert Ammons. Yancey was a musician's musician, remaining mostly unknown and unheard outside of Chicago until 1936, when Meade Lux Lewis recorded one of his tunes, "Yancey Special." Three years later, producer Dan Qualey became the first to record Yancey for his new Solo Art label. After the Victor recordings, Yancey went on to record for OKeh and Bluebird. In later years, Yancey performed with his wife, blues singer Estelle "Mama" Yancey; they appeared together at Carnegie Hall in 1948. Although Yancey attained a measure of fame for his music late in life, he never quit his day job, remaining with the White Sox as a groundskeeper until just before his death.

Active in Chicago in the 20's and 30's, Charles Avery worked as a session musician backing artists such as Lil Johnson, Freddie 'Red” Nicholson, Red Nelson and others. He cut one record under his own name, 1929's “Dearborn Street Breakdown.”

Albert Ammons is best remembered as an exciting pianist who inaugurated the Blue Note record label by hammering out blues and boogie duets with Meade "Lux" Lewis. His main influences were Jimmy Blythe, Jimmy and Alonzo Yancey, Hersal Thomas, and Clarence "Pinetop" Smith, who personally encouraged the aspiring pianist. By 1934 Ammons was leading his own little group at the Club De Lisa on the South Side. Ammons became strongly identified with the boogie-woogie style after recording "Boogie Woogie Stomp" and "Swanee River Boogie" for Decca with his Rhythm Kings in 1936. Ammons next decided to take himself to New York, where he gigged regularly at Café Society (Downtown and Uptown) with Meade "Lux" Lewis and the Kansas City contingent of Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner. In 1938 Ammons, along with Lewis and Pete Johnson created a sensation at the Spirituals to Swing concert in Carnegie Hall. Ammons, who had cut a few sides for Vocalion in 1938, recorded a series of solos and duets with Meade "Lux" Lewis on January 6, 1939, now established as the very first titles in the catalog of Alfred Lion's newly founded Blue Note label. Ammons remained active through the 40's but illness forced off the scene and when he passed away on December 2, 1949, he was only 42 years old.

Romeo Nelson moved to Chicago at the age of six. For most of his life he played piano at rent parties in the city, although he also lived in East St. Louis for a while in the early 1920s. In 1929 he made his only series of recordings for Vocalion Records: "Gettin' Dirty Just Shakin' That Thing"and "Head Rag Hop", featuring talking by Tampa Red and Frankie Jaxon.

Hersal Thomas was among the earliest architects of the boogie-woogie style leaving such a powerful impression that pianists as highly regarded as Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, and Meade "Lux" Lewis claimed him as a prime influence. It was his father George who taught Hersal the fundamentals of the blues, and the youngster gave his first public performances on the streets of Houston with his big sister Beulah, who would come to be known as Sippie Wallace. When George relocated to New Orleans in 1915, he brought Beulah and Hersal with him. Word spread quickly, and Hersal was soon gigging with the region's top jazz players, including King Oliver and his promising young protégée Louis Armstrong. On February 22, 1925 he recorded his only two piano solos,"The Suitcase Blues" and "Hersal's Blues." Two days later, he and Joe Oliver backed Sippie on three Okeh recordings, and in April and June, he accompanied Hociel on her first records. In August, Hersal and Sippie traveled to New York to cut more records, with alto saxophonist Rudolph "Rudy" Jackson sitting in on the first of Hersal's only two recording sessions that took place outside of the Chicago area. On November 11, 1925 Hersal, clarinetist Johnny Dodds and banjoist Johnny St. Cyr backed Hociel as members of Louis Armstrong's Jazz Four. Armstrong and Hersal worked together on two more occasions, accompanying Hociel and Sippie during February and March 1926. Hersal's last known studio session took place on the fourth of March when he accompanied Lillian Miller on her Okeh recording of "The Kitchen Blues." The short life of Hersal Thomas came to an abrupt conclusion on July 3, 1926 while he was performing at Penny's Pleasure Palace in Detroit MI. The exact cause of his sudden death has never been verified.

Considering how many fine recording sessions he was on in Chicago in the 1920s (particularly with Johnny Dodds), it is surprising how little is known about the mysterious Jimmy Blythe. He moved to Chicago in 1918, and studied with pianist Clarence Jones. Blythe recorded dozens of piano rolls in the early '20s. He began cutting records in 1924 (Blythe's "Chicago Stomp" from that year is considered by some to be the first full-length boogie-woogie recording). During the next seven years, he made a few piano solos; backed singers Viola Bartlette and Alexander Robinson; teamed up with Dodds in several settings; led Blythe's Sinful Five; recorded with the Midnight Rounders, Jimmy Bertrand's Washboard Wizards, Lonnie Johnson, and the State Street Ramblers; and cut piano duets with Buddy Burton and Charlie Clark. Jimmy Blythe died at the age of 30 from meningitis.

Owing his nickname to a limp from which he suffered, Clarence Lofton became a favorite of early jazz collectors during the boogie-woogie craze of the late 1930's along with Meade Lux Lewis, Jimmy Yancey, Cow Cow Davenport, and many others. Born in Tennessee he lived most of his life in Chicago becoming a fixture on the Chicago nightlife scene. He owned his own nightclub called the Big Apple where he ran his own boogie school teaching youngsters the art form. Between 1935 and 1943 Lofton cut close to forty sides for Vocalion, Swaggie, Solo Art and Session. The bulk of these were solo sides with guitarist Big Bill Broonzy adding support for two sessions. In addition Lofton provided accompaniment to Red Nelson, Sammy Brown, Al Miller and Jimmy Yancey. Lofton remained on the scene cutting sides for the Gennett, Vocalion, Solo Art, Riverside, Session and Pax labels. He stayed around Chicago until his death in 1957 from a blood clot in the brain.

Montana Taylor was born in Butte, Montana, where his father owned a club. The family moved to Chicago and then Indianapolis, where Taylor learned piano around 1919. In 1929 he recorded a few tracks for Vocalion Records, including "Indiana Avenue Stomp" and "Detroit Rocks". Later he moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1936. He then disappeared from the public record for some years, during which he may have given up playing piano. However, in 1946 he was rediscovered by jazz fan Rudi Blesh, and was recorded both solo and as the accompanist to Bertha "Chippie" Hill. His final recordings were from a 1948 radio broadcast. Taylor died in 1954.

Clarence "Jelly" Johnson became an in-demand piano roll performer, cutting many performances in Chicago during the mid to late 1920's fory the Capitol Music Roll Company and issued as nickelodeon piano rolls. Johnson never cut any 78's under his own name but did back several singers including Edna Hicks, Sara Martin, Lizzie Miles, Monette Moore and others. Recently Delmark records release Low Down Papa, a collection of twenty of Johnson's piano rolls.

Freddie Shayne is a shadowy figure who spent his life working in Chicago. He first time on record was backing singer Priscilla Stewart on “Mr. Freddie Blues.” Shayne also made a very rare piano roll of this song. In 1935 Shayne recorded a solo record, “Original Mr. Freddie Blues b/w Lonesome Man Blues.” “Mr. Freddie Blues” became something of a boogie standard covered by many artists including Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Jimmy Blythe, Art Tatum and others. In the 40's he made some recordings for the Circle label where he also backed singer Bertha “Chippie” Hill.

Jimmy Yancey 1946

Cow Cow Davenport learned to play piano and organ in his father's church from his mother who was the organist. Davenport's early career revolved around carnivals and vaudeville. He toured TOBA with an act called Davenport and Company with Blues singer Dora Carr and they recorded together in 1925 and 1926. Davenport didn't cut a 78 record until 1927 although prior to that he made a number of piano rolls between 1925 and 1927 including three versions of "Cow Cow Blues." Davenport briefly teamed up with Blues singer Ivy Smith in 1928 and worked as a talent scout for Brunswick and Vocalion records in the late 1920's and played rent parties in Chicago. They formed an act called the Chicago Steppers which lasted for some months and, in 1928, the partnership began to record for the Paramount Company. Daven venport moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1930 and toured the TOBA vaudeville circuit and recorded with Sam Price. In 1938 Davenport suffered a stroke that left his right hand somewhat paralyzed and affected his piano playing for the rest of his life, but he remained active as a vocalist until he regained enough strength in his hand to play again. In the early 1940's Cow Cow briefly left the music business and worked as a washroom attendant at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street in New York. In 1942 Freddie Slack's Orchestra scored a huge hit with "Cow Cow Boogie" with vocals by seventeen year old Ella Mae Morse which sparked the Boogie-Woogie craze of the early 1940s; this led to a revival of interest in Davenport's music. He tried to make a "comeback" in the forties and fifties but his career was often interrupted by sickness. He died in 1955 of heart problems in Cleveland.

Related Articles:

-Tell My Story: The Life and Music of Meade Lux Lewis by Michi Hortig (Blues & Rhythm #201) [PDF]

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Cow Cow Davenport5th Street Blues Boogie Woogie Blues
Cow Cow DavenportJim Crow BluesThe Essential
Cow Cow DavenportCow Cow BluesThe Essential
Charlie SpandSoon This Morning Dreaming The Blues
Charlie SpandGood GalDreaming The Blues
Charlie SpandBack To The Woods BluesDreaming The Blues
Cripple Clarence LoftonYou Done Tore Your Playhouse DownCripple Clarence Lofton: Vol.1 1935-1939
Cripple Clarence LoftonStrut That Thing Cripple Clarence Lofton: Vol.1 1935-1939
Cripple Clarence LoftonBrown Skin GirlsCripple Clarence Lofton: Vol.1 1935-1939
Walter RolandRed Cross BluesLucille Bogan & Walter Roland: The Essential
Walter RolandPenniless BluesLucille Bogan & Walter Roland: The Essential
Walter RolandJookit JookitLucille Bogan & Walter Roland: The Essential
Cow Cow DavenportChimes BluesThe Essential
Cow Cow DavenportThat'll Get ItThe Essential
Cow Cow DavenportState Street JiveThe Essential
Charlie SpandThirsty Woman BluesCharlie Spand: 1929-1931
Charlie SpandMoanin' The BluesDreaming The Blues
Charlie SpandHastings St.Dreaming The Blues
Cripple Clarence LoftonLofty BluesCripple Clarence Lofton: Vol.2 1939-1943
Cripple Clarence LoftonI Don't KnowBoogie Woogie Piano: Chicago-New York 1924-45
Walter Roland45 Pistol BluesLucille Bogan & Walter Roland: The Essential
Walter RolandEarly This Morning ('Bout Break Of Day)Lucille Bogan & Walter Roland: The Essential
Walter RolandRailroad StompWalter Roland: Vol. 1 1933
Cow Cow DavenportMama Don't Allow No Easy RidersThe Essential
Cow Cow DavenportRailroad BluesThe Essential
Charlie SpandRoom Rent BluesDreaming The Blues
Charlie SpandAin't Gonna Stand For ThatDreaming The Blues
Cripple Clarence LoftonCrying Mother Blues Broadcasting The Blues
Cripple Clarence LoftonStreamline Train Cripple Clarence Lofton: Vol.2 1939-1943
Walter RolandHouse Lady BluesWalter Roland: Vol. 1 1933
Walter RolandBig MamaLucille Bogan & Walter Roland: The Essential

Show Notes:

Today's show spotlights a quartet of great, mostly little remembered, barrelhouse and boogie pianists who's heyday was in the 1920's and 30's. Piano blues records were very popular on record in the 20's and 30's and by the early 1940's there was a full-fledged Boogie-Woogie craze. Today's pianists plied their trade in the juke joints, clubs and rent parties of Chicago, Detroit and down south. Today's best known artist is undoubtedly Cow Cow Davenport who's "Cow Cow Blues" has become a standard. Also on deck are the extroverted piano work of the colorful Cripple Clarence Lofton and the more subtle and technically adept playing of once popular race artists, Walter Roland and Charlie Spand. The bulk of today's notes come from Peter Silvester's A Left Hand Like God: A History of Boogie-Woogie Piano and from the liner notes to Francis Smith's groundbreaking 21 volume piano series on the Magpie label.

While the piano blues is something of a declining art form it flourished on record in the 1920’s-30’s and with the boogie-woogie craze of the 1940’s. To quote Peter J. Silvester’s A Left Hand Like God: A History of Boogie-Woogie Piano: "Originating in barrelhouses and entertainment spots that served the black labor force who worked in the lumber and railroad industries throughout the deep south, it could be heard later at rent parties in Chicago, buffet flats in St. Louis and other black urban centers like Birmingham, Al and several towns in Texas among others. When the music evolved into boogie-woogie entering New York nightclubs like Café Society, pianists such as Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons became stars. In the 1940’s the boogie-woogie craze hit big but faded by the 1950’s."

Cow Cow Davenport is remembered most for his famous song "Cow Cow Blues" which has elements of the style that would flourish as boogie-woogie. Davenport learned to play piano and organ in his father's church from his mother who was the organist and it looked like he was going to follow in the family footsteps until he was expelled from the Alabama Theological Seminary in 1911 for playing Ragtime at a church function. Davenport's early career revolved around carnivals and vaudeville. His first break in pursuit of his objective came when he was offered work as a pianist at a club on 18th Street. Unable to read music, he began to compose his own tunes and to improve his keyboard skills, but he could still play in only one key. With a larger repertoire and a sharper technique he now began to tour the mining towns of Alabama playing in the honky-tonks. It was at one of these establishments hat he was heard by Bob Davies, a trained pianist, who ran a touring company called the 'Barkroot Carnival'. Davies invited Davenport to join the show as the pianist. One of the requirements was to accompany the women singers, which necessitated being able ro play in several keys. Davies took Davenport under his wing and began to teach him.

He 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 didn't cut a 78 record until 1927 although prior to that he made a number of piano rolls between 1925 and 1927 including three versions of "Cow Cow Blues." Cow Cow was desperate for money, so he negotiated with a piano-roll company, called the Vocal Style, to make some piano rolls of his new composition. Neither Mr Miller, the owner, nor any of the musical stores in Cincinnati, where the company was situated, would handle the piano rolls, so Cow Cow traveled from house to house selling them. He managed t o do this successfully o an equal-share basis with the manufacturer until he had repaid the cost of cutting the rolls. As the rolls sold well, Miller included 'Cow Cow Blues' on the company's catalog  of piano rolls. We open our show with one of those rolls, "5th Street Blues", which was made in 1926.

As for Cow Cow's most famous song it came about when Dora left. He was deeply upset by this, so much so that he composed the "Railroad Blues", which finally took form as the "Cow Cow Blues". The new name was said to have been inspired by a section in the music where Charles was trying to use musical imagery to describe the signalman boarding the engine from the front of the train where the cow catcher was situated. During one theater engagement shortly after he had composed the number, and while playing the section, he sang, 'Nobody rocks me like my Papa Cow Cow do.' There was no particular reason why he introduced the expression "cow cow" but the name stuck and thereafter Charles was known to his fellow-pianists and his friends as "Cow Cow" Davenport.

Davenport briefly teamed up with Blues singer Ivy Smith in 1928 and worked as a talent scout for Brunswick and Vocalion records in the late 1920's and played rent parties in Chicago. They formed an act called the Chicago Steppers which lasted for some months and, in 1928, the partnership began to record for the Paramount Company. Among these sides were "Jim Crow Blues", a reflection of Davenport's racist experiences in the South:

I'm tired of being Jim Crowed, gonna Leave this Jim Crow town
Doggone my black soul, I'm sweet Chicago bound

Yes I'm leaving here from this old Jim Crow town
I'm going up North where they say money grows on trees
I don't give a doggone if my black soul is free
I'm going where I don't need no baby

Jimmy Yancey(left) listens to Charlie Spand,
Chicago, 1940's. Photo from A Left Hand Like God.

He moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1930 and toured the TOBA vaudeville circuit and recorded with Sam Price. In 1938 Davenport suffered a stroke that left his right hand somewhat paralyzed and affected his piano playing for the rest of his life, but he remained active as a vocalist until he regained enough strength in his hand to play again. In the early 1940's Cow Cow briefly left the music business and worked as a washroom attendant at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street in New York. In 1942 Freddie Slack's Orchestra scored a huge hit with "Cow Cow Boogie" with vocals by seventeen year old Ella Mae Morse which sparked the Boogie-Woogie craze of the early 1940s; this led to a revival of interest in Davenport's music. He tried to make a "comeback" in the forties and fifties but his career was often interrupted by sickness. He died in 1955 of heart problems in Cleveland.

Despite his popularity, Charlie Spand remains a shadowy figure despite numerous attempts to uncover his story. The first factual information about Charlie Spand is his residence in Detroit, Michigan, where he played piano on Hastings and Brady Streets in the Black Bottom, Detroit’s black section. Together with pianists James Hemingway, Hersal Thomas and Will Ezell, Spand formed the boogie nucleus of the city. He likely also performed in Chicago as well during this period.

Spand’s recording career started for Paramount on 6th June, 1929; during the next two years he recorded 24 songs. He cut two titles at this first session: "Soon This Morning Blues" and "Fetch Your Water" with the accompanying guitarist thought to have been Blind Blake. Probably recorded by Paramount on the suggestion of Blake, Spand's first record was a hit. After three records he was considered important enough to be included on the Paramount "sampler" "Home Town Skiffle" alongside such established artists as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Papa Charlie Jackson, the Hokum Boys, Will Ezell and Blind Blake." By 1929 Spand had moved to Chicago, and recorded "45th Street Blues" at Grafton in 1930, the title being an indication of his recent Chicago address. In September 1930 Spand traveled to Grafton to record some more titles for Paramount, six in total. Spand’s last session for the Paramount label was recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin in July 1931, by which time the company was on its last legs.

Nothing much is known about Spand’s activities during the 1930's, although it is rumored that he returned to Detroit. Boogie-woogie was in full swing by the late 1930's. Artists like Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and Jimmy Yancey embraced the popularity of boogie-woogie and were subsequently recorded during the 1939-1940 period. Spand may have taken advantage of the revival of interest in piano blues and boogie-woogie. He got the opportunity to do two separate recording sessions for OKeh, on 20th and 27th June, 1940, recording a total of eight songs, including a remake of his "Soon This Morning." No major rediscovery story resulted and no coverage was given on the whereabouts of Spand, in contrast to Lofton and Yancey. After his final 1940 sessions there is concrete information about Spand. Several sources believed that he died in Chicago around 1975.

Regarding his style,  Bob Hall and Richard Noblett write in the Piano Blues vol. 16: "His playing was typical of the Detroit pianists of his day, essentially consisting of two main styles, an insistent rolling-boogie using a walking octave bass in the key of F or occasionally in the key of Bb,and a deliberate, at times almost majestic, barrelhouse style using a stride piano bass …it is however, his lyrics that set Span apart from his contemporaries. Not only have numbers like "Soon This Morning" become blues standards, but we hear in his work very strong indications of the future direction of the music. His songs frequently have a continuity which come from a genuine sense of poetry rather than the mere stringing together of traditional verses. Spand was in fact one of the first real blues song-writers, foreshadowing the work of such 'thirties artists as Leroy Carr."

Cripple Clarence Lofton (left) and Jimmy Yancey,
c. 1950's. Photo from  A Left Hand Like God.

Cripple Clarence Lofton was born as Albert Clemens in Tennessee in 1887, although he is most closely associated with his adopted hometown of Chicago, where he was a popular entertainer noted for his energetic performing style that, in addition to piano playing and singing, included tap dancing, whistling, and finger-snapping.A description of Lofton is provided in an excerpt from Boogie Woogie by William Russell:

"No one can complain of Clarence's lack of variety or versatility. When he really gets going he's a three-ring circus. During one number, he plays, sings, whistles a chorus, and snaps his fingers with the technique of a Spanish dancer to give further percussive accompaniment to his blues. At times he turns sideways, almost with his back to the piano as he keeps pounding away at the keyboard and stomping his feet, meanwhile continuing to sing and shout at his audience or his drummer. Suddenly in the middle of a number he jumps up, his hands clasped in front of him, and walks around the piano stool, and then, unexpectedly, out booms a vocal break in a bass voice from somewhere. One second later, he has turned and is back at the keyboard, both hands flying at lightning- like pace. His actions and facial expressions are as intensely dramatic and exciting as his music."

Owing his nickname to a limp from which he suffered, he became a favorite of early jazz collectors during the boogie-woogie craze of the late 1930's along with Meade Lux Lewis, Jimmy Yancey, Cow Cow Davenport, and many others. Born in Tennessee he lived most of his life in Chicago becoming a fixture on the Chicago nightlife scene. He owned his own nightclub called the Big Apple where he ran his own boogie school teaching youngsters the art form. Between 1935 and 1943 he cut close to forty sides for Vocalion, Swaggie, Solo Art and Session including exuberant pieces such as “Brown Skin Girls,” “Policy Blues,” “Streamline Train,” and “I Don’t Know,” the latter a number one R&B hit for Willie Mabon in 1952. The bulk of these were solo sides with guitarist Big Bill Broonzy adding support for two sessions. In addition Lofton provided accompaniment to Red Nelson, Sammy Brown, Al Miller and Jimmy Yancey. Lofton remained on the scene cutting sides for the Gennett, Vocalion, Solo Art, Riverside, Session and Pax labels. He stayed around Chicago until his death in 1957 from a blood clot in the brain.

As for his playing style, Peter Silvester writes:  "Lofton was an eclectic performer who played in two keys, C and G. While his pounding style and interpretation were his own he obtained inspiration from the themes of other pianists. His most compelling composition, 'Streamline Train', was inspired by 'Cow Cow Blues', while 'Pinetop's Boogie-woogie' was transformed into a very powerful and almost unrecognizable number. He was an undisciplined pianist and would often begin playing a new chorus before he had fully completed the one he was playing. The twelve-bar pattern would sometimes be reduced to ten, as was the case in 'I Don't Know' or eleven and a half bars, as in some interpretations of 'Streamline Train'. What he lacked in discipline, however, he more than made up for with vivacity and exuberance. I n some respects he can be compared to players like Jimmy Yancey and Montana Taylor, because their playing was untouched by time and their recordings reflected accurately the closed community of the rent party. None of them was required to perform relentlessly for the public, as Johnson, Ammons and Lewis were obliged to do when they became commercially popular. Lofton remained untouched by commercialism to the end."

As Bob Hall and Richard Noblett write in the Piano Blues vol. 6: "In the annals of the blues there are many artists who have made outstanding contributions to the music, but whose personal lives remain a mystery. Just such a man is Walter Roland, who during the Depression, recorded over ninety issued sides for ARC as a soloist and accompanist."As for his style and influence, they write: "…There is no doubt that Roland was a major and highly influential figure in his time, and his recorded output contains compositions which have become part of the repertoire of a host of younger musicians. …He was a highly accomplished pianist capable of playing in two distinct styles. The first employed a simple rolling boogie woogie bass, most often in the key of F, played in a variety of tempos. The second, less common barrelhouse style employed a stride piano bass of alternating octaves and chords, usually in the key of E. Throughout Roland's work certain distinctive treble phrases emerge, and particularly striking is his use of repeated single note staccato triplets, foreshadowing the use of the same device by the post-war Chicago pianists."

Roland was born at Ralph, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama on 20 December 1902 (according to his Social Security documents) or 4 December 1903 (according to his death certificate). Roland was one of the most technically proficient of all blues pianists, and in addition he displayed considerable feeling in his playing and singing. He was also an able guitarist, and recorded several titles backing his own vocals and those of others, playing guitar. Roland was said to have been based in the 1920's or 1930's around Pratt City, near Birmingham, Alabama.

Walter Roland

Although his recording career began in 1933, it is evident that Walter was already an accomplished musician with a fully formed style. Roland partnered Lucille Bogan when they recorded for the A R C labels between 1933 and 1935, in the course of which, he recorded in his own right. Walter's first disc, "Red Cross Blues" has since become a blues standard, versions having been recorded by Sonny Scott, Sonny Boy Williamson, Champion Jack Dupree, Robert McCoy, Forest City Joe, and many others. In 1933, he was recorded at New York City for the American Record Company, and he had apparently traveled to the session with Lucille Bogan and guitarist Sonny Scott. His best-selling recording was "Early This Morning", a reworking of an earlier Paramount recording by Charlie Spand, "Soon This Morning", but Walter was successful enough to continue recording until 1935.

At some later time, possibly as late as 1950, Walter became a farmer. Roland was reputedly playing guitar as a street singer in the 1960's. As well as Birmingham, he worked around Dolomite and the Interurban Heights, around Brighton and elsewhere. In about the late 1960's, Walter was trying to be a peacemaker in a domestic argument between a neighboring husband and wife and one of the disputing parties fired a shotgun, with the result that Walter was blinded by buckshot. By 1968, Walter had retired from music because of his blindness, and was cared for by his daughters at Fairfield, near Miles College. In 1968, he applied for an old age pension. He died there of bronchogenic carcinoma on 12 October 1972.

Related Articles:

-Charlie Spand – Back To The Woods by Alex van der Tuuk (Blues & Rhythm No. 217, 2007) (PDF)

-Cripple Clarence Lofton In Memoriam by Albert J. McCarthy (Jazz Monthly, November 1957 p. 31-32) (PDF)

-Walter Roland Blazed Through Music World Then Faded by Ben Windham (Tuscaloosa News Feb 27, 2000) (PDF)

-The Piano Blues Vol. 6: Walter Roland 1933-1935 (JPG)

-The Piano Blues Vol. 9: Lofton/Noble 1935-1936 (JPG)

-The Piano Blues Vol. 16: Charlie Spand 192-1931 (JPG)

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