Entries tagged with “Curley Weaver”.

Ruth Willis & Blind Willie McTellTalkin' To You Wimmen About The BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Blind Willie McTellGeorgia RagThe Classic Early Years
Curley WeaverWild Cat KittenAtlanta Blues
Victoria Spivey Telephoning the BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Bessie SmithLong Old RoadThe Complete Recordings
Clara SmithGood Times (Come On Back Once More)Clara Smith Vol. 6 1930-1932
Leroy CarrNineteen Thirty One Blues How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Scrapper BlackwellBlue Day BluesThe Virtuoso Guitar Of Scrapper Blackwell
Gene CampbellWedding Day BluesGene Campbell 1929-1931
J.T. "Funny Papa" SmithHoppin' Toad FrogJ. T. ''Funny Paper'' Smith 1930-1931
Oscar ''Buddy'' Woods & Jimmie DavisShe's A Hum DingerTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace
Sam Collins Lonesome Road BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Skip JamesHard Time Killin' Floor BluesComplete 1931 Recordings
Geeshie Wiley Pick Poor Robin CleanMississippi Masters
Little Brother Montgomery Louisiana BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 12
James "Bat" RobinsonHumming BluesDown In Black Bottom
Peetie WheatstrawSix Weeks Old BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 1 1930-1932
Clifford GibsonShe Rolls It SlowClifford Gibson 1929-1931
Charley Jordan You Run And Tell Your DaddyCharley Jordan Vol. 1 1930-1931
Lonnie JohnsonUncle NedA Life in Music Selected Sides 1925-1953
Joe MccoyMy Wash Woman's GoneCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Memphis MinnieCrazy Cryin' BluesMemphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol 3 1929-1930
Mississippi Blacksnakes Grind So FineMississippi Strings Bands & Associates 1928-1931
Mississippi SheiksLivin' In A StrainHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down
Joe Evans & Arthur McClainJohn HenryBefore The Blues Vol. 3
Tommie BradleyPlease Don't Act That WayTommie Bradley/James Cole Groups 1928-1932
Black Billy SundayThis Old World's in a Hell of a FixBlues Images Vol. 7
Hezekiah JenkinsThe Panic Is OnBlues & Jazz Obscurities
Blind BlakeRope Stretching Blues Pt. 1The Best Of
Tampa RedToogaloo BluesTampa Red Vol. 4 1930-31
Bo Carter Twist It, BabyTwist It Babes
Daddy StovepipeBurleskin' BluesAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949
Ben FergusonTry And Treat Her RightRuckus Juice & Chitlins, Vol. 1

Show Notes:

Today’s show is the fifth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. The record companies advertised their records in black newspapers, mainly in the Chicago Defender, which was the nation’s most influential black weekly newspaper. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. By 1931 race records were selling about a tenth as well as they had four years previously. For example, Paramount went from waxing over a hundred blues and gospel items in 1930 but only about three dozen in 1931, Columbia had no new artists and its releases were cut by over a third and Victor also cut their releases by a third. Despite the cutbacks there was some fine blues recorded in 1931 including classic Mississippi blues by Skip James, Cryin' Sam Collins, Geeshie Wiley plus big blues stars like Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Clara Ward, Leroy Carr, Lonnie Johnson, Bo Carter, Blind Blake and the Mississippi Sheiks.

Chicago Defender, Mississippi Sheiks Ad, March 28, 1931

Columbia-Okeh (Columbia had taken over Okeh in 1929) made one field trip to Atalanta in October/November of 1931. Prior to this date the labels were run separately but because of the economic times the principle of keeping the labels separate was forgotten. The first day they recorded two tunes by Blind Willie McTell which were marked in the ledger 'Blind Sammie' and allotted Columbia matrix numbers; then McTell was recorded doing two more numbers which were listed as by 'Georgia Bill' and given Okeh matrix numbers. This was the last field trip Columbia made.

One of those 1931 McTell tracks was reissued for the first time just two years ago. In 2007 record collector John Tefteller reissued what is apparently the only known copy of Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis' "Talkin To You Wimmen' About The Blues." The track and it’s flip side, "Merciful Blues", was issued on the CD that accompanies Tefteller’s 2007 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!"

Victor was straining under hard times as well. Victor, like the other major companies, always made at least two takes of each title. On June 16, 1931 Raymond R. Sooy, the chief recording engineer, sent around a memo that only one wax recording was to be made unless the wax was defective. The label dispensed with their annual recording to Memphis. They did go to Charlotte, NC cutting mainly hillbilly and went on to Louisville where they recorded Jimmie Rodgers as well as sides by pianists Walter Davis and Roosevelt Sykes.

Okeh Records fared better then most labels; they had the fast selling Mississippi Sheiks but were also issuing solo records by Sheiks member, Bo Carter. Thanks to Carter and the Sheiks the label managed to issue more blues and gospel record then the previous year. The Mississippi Sheiks cut fourteen sides in 1931. Our track, "Livin' In A Strain", was unissued at the time. Carter was even more prolific, cutting over two-dozen sides in 1931.

Chicago Defender, Mississippi Sheiks/Bo Carter
Ad, May 23, 1931

The ARC label went out in the field in 1931 recordings some gospel numbers and sermons as well as eighteen numbers by Joe Evans and Arthur McClain, guitarists-singers from Alabama and twenty sides by Sam Collins. In 1931 and into 1932 ARC issued a steady two records or so each month in the Perfect 100 series. All the records were simultaneously release on Oriole, Romeo and , from the end of 1931, on Banner. These were budget priced labels that sold from 25 cents, sold in dime stores and department stores and became known as 'dime store labels.'

Paramount recorded some of the era’s most celebrated male blues artists such as delta legends Charlie Patton, Skip James, Tommy Johnson, Son House, Willie Brown plus diverse artists such as Buddy Boy Hawkins, the Mississippi Sheiks, Charlie Spand, Papa Charlie Jackson among many others. The onset of the depression crippled the recording industry and Paramount was eventually discontinued in 1932. Perhaps the most famous recording session from 1931 was the eighteen songs Skip James recorded for Paramount at a single remarkable session. Cut in the depths of the depression and when Paramount was on its last legs, pressings of James' recordings may have been as low as five hundred copies making these some of the rarest and most prized 78's in blues collecting circles.

Hard times songs were always common in the blues but took on a new immediacy during the depression.  The depression originated with the fall in stock prices that began around September 4, 1929 and became worldwide news with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday). Times were certainly hard in 1931 with 2,294 banks failing, stock market prices still falling and the doubling of unemployment to 16.3%. To an opening chorus of "God's gonna set this world on fire", Black Billy Sunday delivered "This Old World's In a Hell of a Fix", a rousing sermon on the depression:

God is calling, the world is upside down
This hard times that we're having in this world
With millions out of work, with worldwide Depression
Unrest is because this old world is in a hell of a fix
I'm saying to you today my brothers, and my sisters
Let me warn you, get right with God

Skip James also spoke for the dispossessed  in his "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" where he mixed some religious imagery with the blues:

Hard time's is here
An ev'rywhere you go
Times are harder
Than th'ever been befo'

You know that people
They are driftin' from do' to do'
But they can't find no heaven
I don't care where they go

Other songs featured today that speak to the times are the Mississippi Sheiks' "Livin' In A Strain", Clara Smith's "Good Times (Come On Back Once More)" and Hezikiah Jenkins' "The Panic Is On." Jenkins cut eight issued sides and four unissued sides between 1924 and 1931. He got his start performing in minstrel groups and was mentioned in press clippings as early as 1914. "The Panic Is On" is a vivid portrait of the times:

What this country is coming to
I sure would like to know
If they don’t do something bye and bye, the rich will live and the poor will die
Doggone, I mean the panic is on

Can’t get no work, can’t draw no pay
Unemployment getting worser every day
Nothing to eat no place to sleep
All night long folks walking the street
Doggone, I mean the panic is on

Chicago Defender, Bo Carter Ad, May 9, 1931

Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe made their debut in 1929 and in 1931 appeared on fourteen records for Vocalion (the label was owned by Brunswick); six solo sides by McCoy, six duets and sixteen solos by Minnie. However popular Minnie's records were, it was the unknown Gene Campbell who did the most recording for Vocalion/Brunswick. Nothing is known of Gene Campbell, who cut two-dozen sides between 1929 and 1931 for Brunswick.

Women blues singers dominated the field ever since Mamie Smith's smash hit "Crazy Blues" proved there was a market for blues records. By the mid-20's as solo blues artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Papa Charlie Jackson and Blind Blake began eclipsing the ladies in popularity. A few of the classic women blues singers stuck it out and we spin fine tracks by Bessie Smith, Clara Smith and Victoria Spivey. Bessie hung in there until 1933, Clara made her last records in 1932 while Spivey hung in there until 1937, although she made no records between 1932 and 1935.

For whatever reason there wasn't a whole lot of notable piano blues recorded in 1931. Both Peetie Wheatstraw and Little Brother Montgomery made their debut in 1930. Montgomery cut one 78 in 1931 while Wheatstraw cut half-a-dozen sides and would go on to become one of the most prolific and popular bluesmen of the 30's. We also play a track by lesser known St. Louis pianist James "Bat" Robinson who waxed just three sides in 1931 and two sides in the post-war period.

Leroy DallasI'm Down Now But I Won't Be Down Always Ralph Willis & Leroy Dallas Vol. 2
Leroy DallasI’m Going Away Ralph Willis & Leroy Dallas Vol. 2
Lil' Son Jackson Gambling Blues Down Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
Smokey Hogg You Won't Stay HomeGood Morning Little School Girl
Brownie McGee & Sonny Terry My Bulldog Blues Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48
Curley Weaver Some Rainy Day Blind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver: The Post War Years
Curley Weaver TrixieBlind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver: The Post War Years
Johnny Beck Locked In Jail Blues Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956
Johnny Beck You've Gotta Lay Down Mama Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956
Peppermint Harris Rainin' In My Heart Sittin' In With
Peppermint Harris My Blues Have Rolled Away Sittin' In With
Lightnin' Hopkins You Caused My Heart To Weep All The Classic Sides 1946-1951
Lightnin' HopkinsNew York Boogie All The Classic Sides 1946-1951
Ray Charles I Found My Baby Ray Charles Collection Vol. 2
Clarence Jolly Baby Take A Look At MeHot Fish! - Downhome Rhythm and Blues 1951-1955
Arbee Stidham Bad Dream BluesArbee Stidham Vol. 2 1951-1957
Jesse James Forgive Me Blues Down Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
The Sugarman Which Woman Do I LoveTexas Down Home Blues 1948-1952
Sam "Suitcase" Johnson Sam's BoogieRural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962
L.C. Williams The Lazy J Lightnin' Special
L.C. Williams Fannie MaeLightnin' Special
James Wayne Junco PartnerTravelin' From Texas To New Orleans
James Wayne Travelin' From Texas To New OrleansTravelin' From Texas To New Orleans
Bob Gaddy Blues Has Walked In My Room Bicycle Boogie
Elmore NixonI Went To See A Gypsy Texas Blues Vol. 2 - Rock Awhile
James "Widemouth"” Brown Boogie Woogie Nighthawk Boogie Uproar - Texas Blues & R&B 1947-54
Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters A Letter To Lightnin' Key To The Highway
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Pawnshop Blues Key To The Highway
Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters Meet You In The Morning Key To The Highway
Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters Worryin’ Over You Key To The Highway
James "Widemouth" Brown Boogie Woogie Nighthawk Boogie Uproar - Texas Blues & R&B 1947-54
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Ease My Worried Mind Key To The Highway
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Key To The Highway Key To The Highway
Sonny Terry Dangerous Woman (with a .45 in her hand) Sittin' In With Harlem Jade & Jax Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Today's program spotlights the New York based Sittin' In With label which, despite its short life, issued some terrific blues recordings. The label was founded by Morty and Bob Shad in New York City in 1948. The label specialized in Southern blues and R&B, which was a departure from most Eastern labels up to that time. In fact a quite a number of the label's artists were based out of Houston. Competition among independent record labels in Houston was intense with local labels like  Macy’s, Freedom, and Peacock all vying for talent. As for Shad's connection to Houston, author Roger Wood related the following to me: "As for Bob Shad, all I know (mainly from the late Teddy Reynolds) is that he came to Houston and recorded a bunch of folks over the course of about a year or so, then disappeared.  Teddy said that he rented an old house in one of the wards and used it to audition (and sometimes recorded there) the talent he discovered."

More information on Shad's activities can be gleaned in an interview he did with author Arnold Shaw in his seminal Honkers And Shouters: "Started my own label after I left National; it was called Sittin' In With. And I did all the early Charlie Venturas, Stan Getz, Wardell Gray. It was strictly jazz at the beginning-Gerry Mulligan, Buddy Stewart, Benny Green. But ther was no money in jazz. Used to sell seven to eight thousand. That's when the blues thing hit me and I bought a Magnecord, which was probably the first portable tape recorder. Went down South and did a lot of recording with Peppermint Harris, Lightnin' Hopkins, Smokey Hogg. Recorded in Texas, mostly Houston. But I did some up in Tyler; also Shreveport, Louisiana. The big problem with on-location recording was finding a piano that was in tune. I would go to the black quarter of town and ask the disk jockeys. I would tie up one musician and find a blue singer. One bluesman would tell you about another-it's a whole family-everybody sings blues. I did Curley Weaver, Big bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, Mel Walker with the Johnny Otis Band, Little Esther."

Bob Shad was an outstanding jazz producer, but also supervised several major blues, pop, rock and R&B dates. Shad started his production career with Savoy in the '40s, producing jazz sessions for Charlie Parker and blues and R&B albums for National. The labels earliest recordings were primarily jazz, featuring artists such as Chu Berry, Charlie Ventura and Stan Getz before cutting a blues recording by Brownie McGhee. After that release the label's catalog mixed blues, vocal group  and jazz before blues became the label's dominant sound. Soon Shad was issuing records by Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Bob Gaddy,  Curley Weaver, Elmore Nixon, Teddy Reynolds, James Wayne and Arbee Stidham among others. In 1951 Shad sold the label to Mercury although it appears releases on Sittin’ In With were released through 1953. Jade and Jax were subsidiary labels operated by Shad during the course of  Sittin’ In With. After Sittin' In folded, Morty Shad continued the Jax label and later formed the Harlem label in 1953. Bob Shad went to Mercury Records in 1951 and in the spring of 1953 joined Decca. When Shad left Mercury in the 1960’s he founded Mainstream Records which, in addition to new material, recycled some of the Sittin' In With recordings. Today's program runs roughly chronologically and below you'll find some background on today's featured artists.

Leroy Dallas was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1920 and moved to Memphis in 1924. Along his travels he played washboard behind Brownie McGhee and formed a band with James McMillan playing the streets and juke joints of Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. McMillan taught Dallas guitar and the two went on to tour the southern states working with  Frank Edwards who made recordings in1949 and Georgia Slim  who made records in 1937. By 1943 Dallas settled in Brooklyn New York. He made his first records for Sittin’ In With in 1949 consisting of six songs. He was accompanied by Brownie McGhee who was instrumental in setting up the session. Dallas was rediscovered by blues researcher Pete Welding and made a few recordings in the 60’s. Dallas gives a moving performance on "I'm Down Now But I Won't Be Down Always" an picks up the pace on the rocking boogie "I'm Going Away."

The two songs by Lil' Son Jackson, "Gambling Blues b/w Homeless Blues",  were issued on Sittin' In With but originally came out on Houston’s Gold Star label. In 1948 Jackson became one of many blues singers to record for Gold Star. In 1946, 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.

Smokey Hogg was a down-home bluesman who scored a pair of major R&B hits in 1948 and 1950 (“Long Tall Mama” and “Little School Girl”) and cut prolifically for a slew of labels including Exclusive, Modern, Bullet, Macy’s, Sittin’ in With, Imperial, Mercury, Specialty, Fidelity, Combo, Federal, and Showtime). Smokey’s cousin John Hogg also played the blues, waxing six sides in 1951.

According to David Evans: "Around the end of 1949, or more likely early in 1950, Curley Weaver recorded four songs for the Sittin' In With label. It's not certain whether there were one or two sessions and whether the recordings were made in Atlanta or New York. Two tracks were not released until 1952 and may actually have been recorded that year."  Weaver and McTell also cut a batch of records made in Atlanta for Regal Records in May 1950.

After first moving to Houston in 1943, Peppermint Harris started to play blues professionally in 1947, at such venues as the Eldorado Ballroom. It was his friend Lightnin' Hopkins who go him the opportunity to record for Gold Star circa 1947/48. A subsequent session in 1949 or 1950 for the Sittin' In With label produced his, and the label's, first hit record, the song "Rainin' in My Heart" which is one of two numbers featured today. He cut some two-dozen sides for the label. He went on to record for over a dozen labels through the 60's including Aladdin, Money, Dart, Duke, and Jewel.

Teddy Reynolds, blues pianist, songwriter, and singer, was born in Houston on July 12, 1931. Reynolds recorded numerous tracks but is most famous among blues aficionados for his studio work and touring with some of the top Texas-based artists of his generation, including Bobby Bland, Texas Johnny Brown, Johnny Copeland, Grady Gaines, Clarence Green, Peppermint Harris, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, B. B. King, and Phillip Walker. In 1950 he cut ten tracks for the Sittin' In With label including our selection, the moody "Right Will Always Win."

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 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. From his handful of cuts for Sittin’ in With we spin the atmospheric instrumental  "Bull Corn Blues."

Sittin' recorded several Houston based artists but in one way or the other they all revolved around Lightnin' Hopkins who cut a staggering number of sides for numerous labels as well as encouraging many artists, including several featured today. Hopkins cut some tw0-dozen sides for Sittin’ In With, and related labels Harlem and Jax, in 1951 with about half the sessions cut in New York and the others in Houston. Today's featured Hopkins tracks include the poignant "You Caused My Heart To Weep" and one of Hopkins' patented boogies, "New York Boogie" which gives our show its title. Shad had this say about Hopkins: "When we picked him up and talked a recording date, he wouldn't sign a contract. He wouldn't accept a royalty deal. He had to be paid in cash. Not only that, he had to be paid after each cut. …He didn't know the lyrics from one song to another, but made them up as he went along …Whatever hit his mind, he sang and recorded."

L.C. Williams was a singer/tap dancer who also occasionally drummed behind Hopkins. He arrived in Houston in 1945 and was one of the many characters who hung around in Lightning’s orbit, sitting on stoops drinking beer and wine, shooting the breeze with passers-by. He made his first record in 1947 with Hopkins on piano and guitar. Hopkins plays guitar on a four-song session for Gold Star in 1948 with Williams making some sides for Eddie’s and Freedom between 1948-1950 and four songs for Sittin' In in 1951 featuring Hopkins on guitar. He died in Houston of TB in 1960. Williams and Hopkins deliver gripping, intense performances on "The Lazy J" and "Fannie Mae."

James Waynes was credited with that name on his earliest recordings. Later it became James Wayne and from 1955 onwards, Wee Willie Wayne. He was discovered in Texas by Sittin' In With boss Bob Shad. It was for this label that Wayne made his first recording (in Houston) and his only hit: "Tend To Your Business", which reached # 2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1951. Shad next recorded Waynes at the WGST studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the five songs recorded there was the all-time classic "Junco Partner", which became a local hit and one of the two numbers we spotlight today. He was then signed by Imperial, who recorded him in New Orleans and the cut sides for Aladdin and Old Town and returned to Imperial in 1955 and recorded "Travelin' Mood" and others in 1955. Both "Junco Partner" and "Travelin' Mood" became standards in the repertoire of many New Orleans musicians, like Dr. John, Professor Longhair, James Booker and Snooks Eaglin. Further records appeared on the Peacock and Angletone labels, before he was signed by Imperial for a third time in 1961.

Elmore Nixon was a Houston pianist who was a sideman on labels such as Gold Star, Peacock, Mercury, Savoy and Imperial between 1949 and 1955. In the 1960’s he backed Lightnin’ Hopkins and Clifton Chenier on sessions. He also cut over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1949 and 1952 for labels like Sittin’ In With, Peacock, Mercury Savoy and Imperial.

Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters featured Sonny Terry and Bob Gaddy, with the group cutting a dozen sides for the Jax label in 1952. As the Jook House Rockers (sans Sonny Terry) the group cut for Morty Shad's Harlem label in 1954. Sonny Terry and His Buckshot 5, featuring Bob Gaddy and Brownie McGee, cut one 78 for the Harlem label in 1954. Brownie McGhee's combo cut some potent R&B and we spin two sets worth of tunes including the good natured "A Letter To Lightnin' Hopkins", tough blues like "Pawnshop Blues", a majestic "Key To The Highway" and the romping "Meet You In The Morning." Sonny Terry's "Dangerous Woman (with a .45 in her hand)" is every bit as tough as the title suggests.

There were quite a number of artists who cut just one or a handful of sides for the label. The most famous is Ray Charles who cut a couple of sides for Sittin’ In With in 1951 and would go on to much greater success a few years later with Atlantic. Then there was James “Widemouth” Brown, Gatemouth Brown’s brother, who cut one 78 for the Jax label 1952. Our cut, "Boogie Woogie Nighthawk", is a swinging big band blues showing  Gate's brother to be a fine singer and impressive guitarist. He died in 1971. Clarence Jolly was a fine blues shouter in the vain of Roy Brown who cut four sides for Sittin’ In With in 1951 and two for Cobra in 1957. Several artists cut just a lone 78 for the label including several superb down home bluesmen like Johnny Beck who cut one 78 in 1949 in Houston, Jesse James who cut one 78 for the label in1950 and one for Down Town in 1948, The Sugarman who cut one 78 for the label in 1951 and Sam "Suitcase" Johnson cut a lone 78 for the label, the bouncy "Sam's Boogie" , in 1951.

Chas Q. PriceEarly Morning BluesJumpin' On The West Coast!
Louis ArmstrongBack o' Town BluesC'est Ci Bon: Satchmo In The Forties
Red MackMr. Big HeadLuke Jones & Red Mack: West Coast R&B 1947-1952
Big Bill BroonzyThe Southern BluesBig Bill Broonzy Vol. 3 1934-1935
Cannon's Jug StompersPrison Wall BluesMemphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper
K.C. DouglasMove To Kansas CityBig Road Blues
Mr. BearHold Out BabyHarlem Heavies
Cousin LeroyUp The RiverHarlem Heavies
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Sammy TaylorAin't That Some ShameNew York Wild Guitars
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandI’m Going to Write You a LetterBackcountry Barrelhouse
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteGravels In My PillowCake Walkin'
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteThelma LeeCake Walkin'
Gladys BentleyLay It On the LineThe Gladys Bentley Quintette
Eddie DavisMountain OystersRisque Rhythm
Arbee StidhamStandin' In My WindowA Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamMeet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesLegends of Country Blues
Willie HarrisLonesome Midnight DreamA Richer Tradition
Curley Weaver & Blind Willie McTellYou Were Born To DieAtlanta Blues
Jesse JamesHighway 61Piano Blues Vol. 1 1927-1936
Leroy CarrBlue Night BluesHow Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Peetie WheatstrawGangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownThe Bob Geddins Blues Legacy
Roy HawkinsGloom and Misery All AroundThe Thrill Is Gone
Lightnin' HopkinsNew York BoogieAll The Classics 1946-1951
John Lee HookerWalkin' This HighwayThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeSo Much TroubleSonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48
Baby Davis & Buddy Banks SextetHappy Home BluesHappy Home Blues
Fluffy Hunter & Buddy Banks SextetFluffy's DebutHappy Home Blues

Show Notes:

There's a definite theme running through today's mix show,  with a good batch of recordings spotlighting the vibrant, swinging  Los Angeles blues scene of the mid-40's through the early 50's. The West Coast had a thriving blues and jazz scene in the 1940’s and 50’s with most of the activity centering around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. The Black population swelled in the 1940s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. From approximately 1920 to 1955, Central Avenue was the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles. Like New York City’s 125th Street or Memphis’s Beale Street or Chicago’s South Side, Central Avenue was one of the world capitols of nightlife, of jazz, rhythm & blues, of black culture and society. I've devoted several shows to the west coast blues scene of this period but many of today's artists I haven't played before. Among those spotlighted are Buddy Tate, The Great Gates, Red Mack, Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette, Buddy Banks' Sextette, Roy Hawkins and Johnny Fuller.

We spin double shots of two great combos: Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette and Buddy Banks' Sextette. The  Wichard tracks come from the terrific recent reissue on Ace, Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette – Cake Walkin’. Al Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on 15th August 1919, but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern's first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks.This CD consists entirely of sessions made under his own name. Thirteen tracks have vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon while others feature vocalist Duke Henderson and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. All these sides were cut between 1945 and 1949. Witherspoon is in magnificent form throughout, including our selection, the bouncy "Thelma Lee." Henderson wasn't quite in Spoon's league, few were, but he turns in a superb low-down performance on our cut, "Gravels In My Pillow" as he boasts:

They call me the devil's stepchild, they say I'm just no good (2x)
They say I'm rotten from the start, wouldn't be no other way if I could

Tenor sax blower Buddy Banks began his career in California and played with all the best West Coast Orchestras. In 1945 he formed his own sextet. The band began recording by backing singer Marion Abernathy for the Juke Box label and in its own right for the tiny Sterling label. The band went on to record for Excelsior, United, Modern and Specialty through 1949.The band employed some fine vocalists including Fluffy Hunter, Baby Davis, Marion Abernathy and Bixie Crawford. The obscure Davis belts it out "Happy Home Blues" while Hunter storms through the rocking "Fluffy's Debut." It's a shame both singers recorded so little. All these tracks come from the excellent LP Happy Home Blues issued on the Official label.

Read Notes Read Notes

Red Mack was a west coast vocalist who also played piano, organ, trumpet, cornet and drums. He fronted bands that cut sides for Gold Seal, Atlas and Mercury at sessions recorded in 1945, 1946 and 1951. Mack is heard to fine effect on the humorous "Mr. Big Head:"

You said your wife was fine, when you lived down on the farm (2x)
Now you got the big head, and a glamor girl on your arm
Well you making more money, and that's a fact
You won't drive nothing baby, but those big fine Cadillacs
Well your head is big and you think you own the moon
Well I'm tellin' you fool, your head will go down sore

Mack's sides have been collected, along with those of his contemporary Luke Jones, on the Krazy Kat LP Luke Jones & Red Mack – West Coast R&B 1947-1952. Also on the Krazy Kat label is The Great Gates  – West Coast R' n B 1949-1955. Edward Gates White aka “The Great Gates” enjoyed a recording career as an R&B vocalist from 1949 to 1955, before changing to recording jazz organ instrumentals. He continually shifted between various small West Coast labels such as Selective, Kappa and Miltone. Gates was a smooth big voiced singer heard today on the moody "Late After Hours" backed by a killer little combo featuring the cooking tenor of Marvin Phillips.

Tenor sax man Buddy Tate joined Count Basie's band in 1939 and stayed with him until 1948. In 1947 Tate made a batch of recordings for the L.A. based Supreme label backed by members of Basie's band. The session included luminaries like Bill Doggett, Chico Hamilton and Jimmy Witherspoon. Alto sax man Chas Q. Price takes the vocal on the silky, after hours number "Early Morning Blues" sporting some sensitive playing from Tate. These early recordings can be found on the marvelous LP Jumpin' On The West Coast! on the Black Lion label.

Also on tap today are some twin spins by Arbee Stidham and pianist Barrelhouse Buck McFarland. The two Stidham tracks come from the album A Time For Blues, one of Stidham’s best recordings backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.

Barrelhouse Buck McFarland cut his final session for Folkways and an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released a few years back on Delmark. He died shortly afterward. McFarland was born in Alton, Illinois in 1903 in the same area as two other exceptional piano players, Wesley Wallace and Jabbo Williams, all three of which made names for themselves on the bustling St. Louis blues scene. McFarland got his shot in the recording studio waxing ten sides; two for Paramount in 1929, two for Decca in 1934 and four more for Decca in 1935, which were not issued.

We also feature a cut by Gladys Bentley, a truly largely than life figure. Bentley cut six sides for Okeh in 1928 and fifteen sides in 1946 and 1952 for the labels Excelsior, Top Hat, Flame and Swing Time. Bentley was a 250 pound woman dressed in men's clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), who played piano and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience. She appeared at Harry Hansberry's "Clam House" on 133rd Street, one of New York City's most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem's Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She relocated to southern California, where she was billed as "America's Greatest Sepia Piano Player", and the "Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs". She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960. Bentley's act was probably impossible to capture on record but her post-war recordings have a jivey exuberance, particularly our selection, the bouncy "Lay It On The Line." Unfortunately Bentley has been ill served on reissue collections.

Also worth mentioning are a quartet of sides from New York artists. New York had a lively blues scene in the immediate post-war era, circa 1945 through 1960. The scene was dominated by small independent labels like Fire/Fury, Apollo, DeLuxe, Herald, Joe Davis, Baton, Old Town, Atlantic and Savoy. There was also out of town labels like King who recorded Big Apple talent. Hundreds of R&B and blues records were cut during this period. Today we feature several obscure artists from the scene including Mr. Bear, Larry Dale and Cousin Leroy. These tracks come form two excellent LP compilations; Harlem Heavies on the Moonshine label and New York Wild Guitars on the P-Vine label. Down the road I plan on doing a whole show devoted to the New York blues scene from this period.