Entries tagged with “Earl Hooker”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lucille Bogan Black Angel BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Tampa RedBlack Angel BluesTampa Red Vol. 5 1931-1934
Robert Nighthawk Sweet Black Angel Prowling With the Nighthawk
Tampa Red Sweet Little Angel Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949-1951
B.B. KingSweet Little Angel The Vintage Years
B.B. King Sweet Little Angel Live At The Regal
Earl Hooker Sweet Brown Angel Simply The Best
Tony HollisCross Cut Saw BluesChicago Blues Vol. 1 1939-1951
Tommy McClennanCross Cut Saw BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Albert King Crosscut Saw Born Under A Bad Sign
Curtis Jones Tin Pan Alley BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 4 1941-53
Guitar Slim Green Alla Blues California Blues 1940-1948
Jimmy WilsonTin Pan Alley Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story
James ReedRoughest Place In TownR&B Guitars 1950-54
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Ray Agee Tin Pan AlleyWest Coast Blues Vol. 2 1952-1957
The Sparks BrothersI Believe I'll Make A ChangeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Jack Kelly & his South Memphis Jug BandBelieve I'll Go Back HomeJack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band 1933-1939
Josh WhiteBelieve I'll Go Back Home Josh White Vol. 2 1933-1935
Carl Rafferty Mr. Carl's BluesRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Kokomo ArnoldSagefield Woman BluesBottleneck Trendsetters
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell I Believe I'll Make A ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Robert Johnson I Believe I'll Dust My BroomThe Centennial Collection
Washboard SamI Believe I'll Make A ChangeWashboard Sam Vol. 4 1939-1940
Arthur Crudup Dust My BroomWhen The Sun Goes Down
Robert LockwoodDust My BroomRough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story
Elmore JamesDust My BroomElmore James: Early Recordings 1951-56
Robert PetwayCatfish Blues Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942
Tommy McClennanDeep Sea BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Muddy Waters Rollin' StoneThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy Waters Still A Fool The Complete Chess Recordings
John Lee Hooker Catfish Blues John Lee Hooker: Vol. 4 Detroit 1950-51
B.B. King Fishin' After Me (Catfish Blues)The Vintage Years

Show Notes:

Johnny Fuller: Roughest Place In TownIn our first show of the year we traced the origins and evolution of several classic blues songs. I got some good feedback on the show so we today do a follow-up. On today's program we provide the history and context behind classics like “Black Angel Blues“, “Crosscut Saw“, “Tin Pan Alley“, “I Believe I'll Make A Change (Dust My Broom)“ and “Catfish Blues."

The song known today as either "Sweet Black Angel" or "Sweet Little Angel" is one of the most popular and frequently recorded songs in the blues. Although composer credits are often given to Tampa Red, whose "Black Angel Blues" appeared in March 1934, the first recorded version was Lucille Bogan’s, whose "Black Angel Blues" was recorded mid-December 1930. The two artists shared recording sessions in 1928 and 1929, and it is probably impossible at this late date to determine who originally created the song. Although Bogan’s recording credits "Smith" as the composer, she wrote many of her own songs and made be the author of the song. During the early post–World War II era, the lyrics of the song began to change. In 1949, Robert Nighthawk had gone back to the song’s prewar roots cutting the song for Aristocrat Records as "Black Angel Blues (Sweet Black Angel)", but in 1950 Tampa Red was the first to record it as "Sweet Little Angel". B.B. King did the same in 1956; he also changed the song’s final line from ". ..bought me a whiskey still" to "…gave me a Cadillac de Ville." We also spin B.B.'s classic live version from Live At The Regal. Guitar legend Earl Hooker recorded two versions during his career; 1953 saw him record "Sweet Angel (Original Sweet Black Angel)" for the Rockin’ label and in 1962 he recorded a reworked version titled "Sweet Brown Angel" for Checker, which went unreleased at the time.

"Cross Cut Saw Blues" was first released in 1941 by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan. Tony Hollins, a Mississippi bluesman and contemporary of Tommy McClennan, recorded a version of "Cross Cut Saw Blues" with similar lyrics on June 3, 1941, three months before McClennan. The song was not released at the time, but eventually appeared in 1992. In an interview, John Lee Hooker, who knew Tony Hollins, was asked "Well, did Tony Hollins or Tommy McClennan do it first? They both recorded it around the same time". Hooker responded "I think Tommy McClennan did it first."Eddie Burns knew Hollis in Clarksdale in the 40's and recalled that Tommy McClennan: Cross Cut Saw Blueshe was very popular. Burns recalled him singing "Cross Cut Saw", "Crawlin' King Snake" and "Tease Me Over" all of which he recorded in 1941. In 1966, Albert King recorded his version calling it "Crosscut Saw". The same lyrics as McClennan's "Cross Cut Saw Blues" were used, except for two verses which were replaced by guitar solos. However, King uses a different arrangement. The song was a success, reaching No. 34 in the Billboard R&B chart.

Pianist Curtis Jones composed “Tin Pan Alley Blues” which he recorded in 1941. Guitar Slim Green recorded "Alla Blues" in 1948, a retread of the Curtis Jones number. Green said that he and his partner Turner wrote it and that producer Robert Geddins stole it from him. Green and Turner's version would become some kind of West Coast national anthem. Jimmy Wilson’s mournful, bluesy voice ensured him a huge hit in California in 1953 with his version of "Tin Pan Alley," a masterpiece with an unmistakable gloomy tone. The song was soon revived under the original title by West Coast artists Ray Agee and by Johnny Fuller and James Reed under the title "Roughest Place In Town." In more recent years the song was popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn who recorded "Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town)" on 1984's Couldn't Stand the Weather.

"I Believe I’ll Make a Change" was first recorded on February 25, 1932, by Aaron and Milton Sparks in Atlanta, Georgia, for Victor Records. Other musicians were to use the song’s melody on their own recordings, including Jack Kelly and His South Memphis Jug Band in 1933 (as "Believe I’ll Go Back Home,"), Josh White (1934), and Leroy Carr with Scrapper Blackwell (934). Other version of "I Believe I’ll Make a Change" continued to appear through 1942, including Washboard Sam’s rendition for Bluebird in 1939. The tune is best known today by the title "I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom," first recorded to those words by Robert Johnson on November 23, 1936, for the ARC label. Lyric antecedents for the "dust my broom" stanza can be found in songs such as "Mr. Carl’s Blues" by Carl Rafferty with Roosevelt Sykes in 1933 and "Sagefield Woman Blues" by Kokomo Arnold in 1934 for Decca. The "Dust My Broom" version of the song would continue to be played as bluesmen traveled between Mississippi and Chicago. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup recorded one version in March 1949 for Victor, Johnson protege´ Robert Lockwood cut another in November 1951 for Mercury. Elmore James is the post–World War II musician most identified with "Dust My Broom," waxing four versions between 1951 and 1962.

Robert Petway: Catfish Blues"Catfish Blues" was first recorded on March 28, 1941, by Mississippi bluesman Robert Petway for RCA Bluebird. Another version, titled "Deep Sea Blues," was made by Petway’s contemporary Tommy McClennan on September 15, 1941, also for RCA Bluebird. There s a good case for believing that Petway composed it: "He just made that song up and used to play it at them old country dances. He just made it up and kept it in his head," says Honeyboy Edwards, who learned the song from Petway in person. After the Petway and McClennan versions were released other treatments of "Catfish Blues" included John Lee Hooker (1951, Gotham) and, a bit later, by B. B. King (as "Fishin’ After Me (Catfish Blues)," 1960, Kent). Two distinctive recordings were made by Muddy Waters for Chess Records in the early 1950's. The first was "Rollin’ Stone" (1950, Chess), which was simply a retitling of the standard "Catfish" tune and lyrics. Nonetheless, the title would be adopted in 1962 by the Rolling Stones and in 1968 for the rock publication Rolling Stone. The second was "Still a Fool" (1951, Chess), featuring a two-electric guitar accompaniment.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Dusty Brown Will You Forgive Me BabyBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Dusty Brown Well You Know (I Love You)Bandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Jimmy Lee RobinsonAll My LifeBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Jimmy Lee RobinsonTimes Is HardBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Grover Pruitt Mean TrainBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
Bobby DavisHype You Into Selling Your HeadBandera Blues And Gospel From The Bandera
George & His House RockersYou Don't Love MeChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Sunnyland SlimRecession BluesChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Henry GrayHow Can You Do ItChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Eddy ClearwaterNeckbones EverydayChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Eddy ClearwaterA Minor Cha ChaChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Morris PejoeLet's Get HighChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Jimmy RogersI'm A Lucky Lucky ManChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Jo Jo WilliamsAll Pretty WomanChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Jo Jo WilliamsYou Can't Live In This Big World By YourselfChicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band
Lonnie BrooksFigure HeadThe USA Records Blues Story
Mighty Joe YoungTough TimesThe USA Records Blues Story
Fenton RobinsonDirectly From HeartThe USA Records Blues Story
Fenton RobinsonSay Your Leavin'The USA Records Blues Story
Willie MabonSometimes I Wonder The USA Records Blues Story
Willie MabonJust Got SomeThe USA Records Blues Story
J.B. LenoirI Feel So GoodThe USA Records Blues Story
J.B. LenoirI Sing Um The Way I Feel Mojo Boogie
Jesse FortuneGood ThingsThe USA Records Blues Story
Jesse FortuneToo Many CooksThe USA Records Blues Story
Homesick JamesCrossroadsThe USA Records Blues Story
Hound Dog TaylorYou Don't Love MeChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Earl Hooker Wild MomentsChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Eddie ShawBlues For The West SideChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Big Moose WalkerThe Things I Used To DoChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Little Mac Simmons Come BackChicago Blues from C.J. Records
William Carter Goin' Out WestChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Lee Jackson JaunitaChicago Blues from C.J. Records
Jimmy RogersBlues FallingC.J.'s Roots Of Chicago Blues Vol. 2
Jimmy RogersBroken HeartC.J.'s Roots Of Chicago Blues Vol. 2

Show Notes:

jimmy Lee Robinson: All My LifeToday's show is the first part of our look at small Chicago blues labels in the 1950's and 1960's. Over the course of today's program we spotlight four small Chicago labels that issued some great records: Bandera, Atomic-H, C.J. and USA. Atomic-H was run by Rev. Houston. H. Harrington who operated the label between the mid-50's up until 1961. The tiny Bandera label was formed in 1958 and run on a shoestring by the mother and son team of Violet Muszynski and Bernie Harville. C.J. Records was run by singer/songwriter Carl Jones who waxed some fine sides in the early 60's. The USA label was operated by Paul Glass who cut some excellent records during the 60's. The four labels recorded singles by artists such as Detroit Junior, Hound Dog Taylor, Little Mack Simmons, Homesick James, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmie Lee Robinson and Earl Hooker – great Chicago artists who all recorded numerous singles for Chicago's small labels, few of which made any noise outside of Chicago. Many of these artists hopped from label to label, rarely staying long at one place while others were snapped up by larger labels like Chess and Vee-Jay.

All-State Record Distributing head Paul Glass began the USA label in Milwaukee in 1959 in partnership with deejay Lee Rothman. By 1961 Glass had taken complete control of USA and had moved it to Chicago. Initially, most of the artists were blues performers, notably Willie Mabon, Junior Wells, Ko Ko Taylor, Ricky Allen, and Fenton Robinson. Other USA bluesmen were Andrew Brown, Eddy Clearwater, A. C. Reed, Jesse Fortune, Jimmy Burns, and Homesick James. Producers on these records included Willie Dixon, Al Perkins, Al Smith, and Mel London. Most of the artists only stuck around fo a single or two before trying their luck elsewhere. Beginning in 1966, the label began concentrating on rock acts. However, occasional blues and hard soul acts continued to be released, such as Mighty Joe Young and Bobby Jones. USA closed down in 1969. During the early 1970's, the USA label was briefly revived under different ownership, releasing singles by Lonnie Brooks and Jackie Ross, Eddie Shaw: Blues From The West Sideamong others.

CJ. Records was owned by a black entrepreneur named Carl Jones and was essentially a boutique operation run from his home. Carl and Cadillac Baby carved out a niche  for themselves by working and helping to establish homegrown talent, many who went on to build nice careers  for themselves with a few like Hound Dog Taylor and Betty Everett who achieved national recognition. Jones was a musician himself (banjo and trumpet) in the 1930s, and in 1945 he recorded two sides for Mercury. In 1956 Jones founded the C.J. label, eventually followed by subsidiary imprints Colt and Firma. Although he recorded some country and some gospel, the bulk of his output was in the blues field, having recorded Earl Hooker, Mack Simmons, Hound Dog Taylor, Homesick James, Betty Everett, and Detroit Junior. Jones’s record company had no distribution during its last two decades of existence.

The tiny Bandera record label was launched in 1958 in Chicago, where it was over-shadowed by the Windy City's giant indie labels Chess and Vee-Jay. The label was run on a shoestring by the mother and son team of Violet Muszynski and Bernie Harville. They never had an office but ran the label from their home at 2437 West 34th Place. Muszynski was an ardent talent spotter and hung out in many of the clubs on the south side of Chicago where she was a well-known figure. On Chicago's 'Record Row', Violet was known as "Vi the record lady". Bernie recalls that she was a great hustler, into PR and record promotion and very good at schmoozing. Her greatest discovery was the Impressions, at the time when Jerry Butler was lead vocalist. She signed the Impressions to a recording contract and got them leased to Vee-Jay. Bernie recalls, "That got us the money to set up Bandera and paid for recording sessions at RCA in Nashville for my newest discovery, Bob Perry". Bernie hit on a name for their new label, Bandera, taking it from one of Slim Whitman's early hits "Bandera Waltz.." Many of the recording sessions for Bandera were held at small Chicago recording studios such as Hall and Balkan, while studios in Memphis and Nashville were also utilized. Vi and Bernie also set up a couple of subsidiary labels: Laredo and the gospelFenton Robinson: Say You're Leavin'label, Jerico Road.

Atomic-H Records was a tiny label that recorded blues and gospel but only issued a few 45s. It was owned and operated by Rev. Houston H. Harrington who was also Eddy Clearwater's uncle and was responsible for Eddy making his way to Chicago from Alabama. Houston began recording his fellow musicians in the 40's on a portable disc-cutting machine while living in Mississippi although none of these were issued. After he settled on Chicago's West Side in the early 1940s, and started his short-lived record label in the 1950s and revived it briefly in the early 1970s. The first Atomic  single  (the  H  came  later). cut in  Iate  1953  in Harrington's basement studio  at  1651  S.  Trumbull  and  likely  Issued sometime  in 1955, was credited to "Jick & His Trio" (actually Homesick James). Around 1958 he grew more serious about recording, cutting singles over the next few years by Jo Jo Williams, Mighty Joe Young, Jimmy Rogers, Eddy Clearwater, Morris Pejoe and others. Most of Atomic-H's singles were limited to 500 pressings making them extremely rare. Delmark’s 1972 Atomic-H collection, Chicago Ain’t Nothin’ But a Blues Band, may have been the first time any of these tracks were widely heard and has since been issued on CD with additional tracks.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Walter HortonCan't Help Myself Blues Southside Chicago
Johnny Young One More TimeBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesGoing To The RiverChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesSloppy DrunkChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Howlin' WolfSugar MamaBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersSitting And ThninkingBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersWee, Wee Baby Blues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Johnny Young The Sun Is Shining And This Is Maxwell Street
Big John WrencherCan´t Hold Out Much LongerAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Carey BellI'm Ready And This Is Maxwell Street
L.C. McKinleyMind Your BusinessHave A Good Time
Homesick James Little And Low Have A Good Time
Walter HortonHave A Good TimeHave A Good Time
Earl Hooker Peppers Other ThingLive At Peppers Lounge Vol. 2
Lonnie Brooks Sweet Little AngelLive At Peppers 1968
Sunnyland SlimEverytime I Get To Drinking Blues Southside Chicago
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Eddie BoydLosing HandBlues Southside Chicago
James BrewerBig Road Blues Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
John Henry BarbeeTell Me Baby Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Maxwell Street JimmyLong-Haired DoneyChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Little Johnny JonesWorried Life BluesLive In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny JonesOuch! Live In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Robert Nighthawk I Need Love So BadAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Robert Nighthawk Cheating And Lying BluesAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Muddy WatersClouds In My HeartBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Today show is part two in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight several collections of Chicago blues recorded in the 1960's some of which are somewhat rare or not particularly well known. Among the studio albums we spotlight today are Blues Southside Chicago and its companion album Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues. In addition we feature some great live blues from the albums Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle, Little Johnny Jones and Billy Boy ArnoldBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana, Live At Peppers Lounge, And This Is Maxwell Street among a few others.

Blues Southside Chicago Is a superb collection of Chicago blues artists recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do." In a 1977 interview pianist Henry Gray recalled this session: "I remember, in 1964, Willie Dixon was asked by an English company to produce a couple of so-called Southside Chicago sessions. [Dixon was a very close friend of Howlin' Wolf and they talked together about that;] Wolf was not personally interested but he induced me to go and support some of the artists chosen by Dixon…Poor Bob Woodfork, Robert Nighthawk, Shakey Horton. That was issued on British Decca label. Yeah, I think it was representative of the kind of music we were playing in the Southside clubs at that time."

Walter Horton always sounded best on other people's records but comes across magnificently on "Can't Help Myself" which opens with a lengthy upper register harmonica solo before Horton's plaintive, impassioned vocals kick in. Horton's harmonica work is stunning and it's a shame he gets consistently overshadowed by Little Walter.

Certainly one of the highlights is the two marvelous songs by Robert Nighthawk. "Lula Mae" is a cover of the 1944 Tampa Red song and it was Tampa who was Nighthawk's main influence. This is an exceedingly tough Chicago blues with Nighthawk's heavy, gloomy vocals hanging over the song punctuated by the waling amplified harp of Walter Horton. "Merry Christmas" (Nighthawk cut another version for Testament the same year) is more of the same again with some extroverted playing by Horton.

Johnny Young, who plays second guitar on the above sides, was a pal of Nighthawk's and the two often played together on Maxwell Street. Young was a brilliant mandolin and guitar player who like Nighthawk was sadly under recorded. Backed by the same band as Nighthawk, Young is in fine form on the stripped down, heartfelt "Little Girl" laying down some intricate mandolin work while the shuffling "One MoreFolk Festival of the Blues Time" virtually pops out of the speakers again with some dazzling harp from Horton.

Like Nighthawk, Homesick James was a bottleneck guitarist but with a more rudimentary technique, owing quite a bit to his cousin Elmore James. By the time of these recordings he was relatively under recorded with some scattered singles and one full length album cut for Prestige a few months prior. The combination of Homesick's ringing bottleneck and emotionally charged vocals make a potent force on "Got To Move" and "Crutch And Cane" a thinly disguised version of "Look On Yonder Wall."

Leadbitter calls the piano blues a dying art form and these days the tradition is hanging on by a lifeline. Back then there was still numerous fine piano men including Henry Gray (still with us thankfully) and Willie Mabon who back some of the other artists on this collection and Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd who get two sides apiece under their own names. Sunnyland is in commanding form, hollering out the blues with abandon on the shuffling "I Got To Get To My Baby" and the regal "Everytime I Get To Drinking" a number he first waxed back in 1949, both sporting marvelous solos by Buddy Guy. Boyd is in equally strong form on "Losing Hand" and the bouncy "Where You Belong" again with outstanding contributions from Buddy guy.

Little Johnny Jones recorded little under his own name, never making it past his 40th birthday. Luckily Jones was caught on tape in 1963 working with Billy Boy Arnold in a Chicago folk club called the Fickle Pickle run by Michael Bloomfield. Norman Dayron recorded Johnny on portable equipment which has been released on the Alligator record titled Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold. Additional tracks from this recording appear on Chicago Blues – Live At The Fickle Pickle, a long out of print LP on the Flyright label. The Fickle Pickle was a club on Rush Street in Chicago managed at one time by Michael Bloomfield. Regulars included Big Joe Willies, St. Louis Jimmy, James Brewer, Billy Boy Arnold, Little Johnny Jones, J.B. Lenoir and others.

Originally released as Folk Festival of the Blues on Chess's Argo subsidiary, then reissued as Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana, this is a live document of a steamy night in a Chicago blues club. Chicago blues disc jockey Big Bill Hill intros the band and the assembled stars (one of whom, Little Walter, is nowhere to be found on this disc), then Buddy Guy's band rips into "Wee Wee Baby," and sung in three-part harmony by Buddy, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Some of the tracks here are ringers; Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It On Home" and a stray Buddy Guy track are actually studio takes with fake applause dubbed on. But the two from Howlin' Wolf and everything here from Muddy are live.

And This Is Maxwell Street is a three-disc set features the street recordings from the 1964 Mike Shea film documentary, And This Is Free, plus a slew of previously unreleased performances of equal importance. These recordings were recorded live on Chicago's Maxwell Street, a mecca for bluesman trying to hustle a few bucks from the passing crowd. The 30 tracks contain wonderful performances by Maxwell Street regulars such as Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Carey Bell, Arvella Gray, Big John Wrencher and several others.

Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Read Liner Notes

After a long absence Nighthawk returned to Chicago in 1964 and recorded several times including a blistering set taped live on Maxwell St. in conjunction with the filming of Mike Shea's 1964 documentary "And This is Free." Maxwell St. was at the heart of Chicago's black ghetto and was a bustling open air market. Above all it's the music of legendary slide man Robert Nighthawk who dominates these recordings playing on 22 of the 30 tracks. In an interview done by Mike Bloomfield, Nighthawk, reflected on what brought him back to Maxwell Street: "Lately I went back to Maxwell St.- I been playing off and on for 24 years now. Most all music more or less starts right off from Maxwell St. and so you wind up going back there. …See it's more hard to play out in the street than it is in a place of business, but you have more fun in the street, looks like. Well, so many things you can see, so many different things going on, I get a kick out of it, I guess."

In 1975 Rarities Records put out two boottleg albums: Live At Peppers Lounge Vols. 1 & 2. The recordings were made in 1969 at Pepper's Lounge in Chicago. While the records have some good music the credits are incorrect; Little Walter and Eddie Taylor do not appear on these records despite the credits. The club featured great blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Shakey Jake, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy.  Waters was a mainstay in the 1960's, and Chicago locals could catch his show for eight dollars. In 1971, the club moved to 1321 S. Michigan Avenue. Today we play a great Earl Hooker cut from the second volume. Unfortunately I couldn't locate my copy of the first volume so instead we play a killer  my cut by Lonnie Brooks recorded at Peppers in 1968.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
LJ Thomas & His Louisiana PlayboysBaby Take A Chance With MeSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Dr. RossDr. Ross BoogieSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Howlin' WolfBaby Ride With Me (Ridin' In The Moonlight) The Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Jackie Boy & Little WalterSelling My WhiskeySun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Joe Hill LouisWe All Gotta Go SometimeThe Be-Bop Boy With Walter Horton & Mose Vinson
Albert WilliamsHoodoo Man Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Jimmy & WalterBefore Long Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Junior Parker Feelin' GoodMystery Train
Willie Nix Bakershop BoogieSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Walter BradfordReward For My BabyThe Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Walter HortonWest Winds Are BlowingThe Be-Bop Boy With Walter Horton & Mose Vinson
Houston StokesWe're All Gonna Do Some WrongSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Walter"Tang" SmithHi-Tone Mama Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Woodrow AdamsTrain TimeSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Honeyboy EdwardsSweet Home ChicagoSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Charlie BookerWalked All NightLet Me Tell You About The Blues: Memphis
Boyd GilmoreBelieve I'll Settle DownSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
D.A. Hunt Greyhound BluesFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Mose VinsonCome See Me (My Love Has Gone)Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Houston BoinesCarry My Business OnSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Rufus Thomas Walking In The Rain Tiger Man 1950-1957
Earl HookerMove On Down The Line Earl Hooker And His Blues Guitar
Billy EmersonHey Little GirlRed Hot
James CottonCotton Crop BluesMystery Train
Little MiltonHomesick For My BabySun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Coy "Hot Shot" LoveHarpin' On It Jook Joint Blues
Billy LoveHart's Bread BoogieSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Pat HareBonus Pay Mystery Train
Kenneth BanksHighSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Eddie SnowAin't That Right Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Rosco GordonTired of LivingI'm Gonna Shake It
Ike TurnerI'm Gonna Forget About You Baby (Matchbox)Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Frank FrostPocket Full of ShellsVery Best Of Frank Frost: Big Boss Man

Show Notes:


Sam Phillips at the console

In past shows we've spotlighted numerous small independent labels that specialized in blues and R&B. Today we finally get around to the remarkable music Sam Phillips conjured up in his small Memphis studio. We won't be talking about Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis or Johnny Cash today. Before those guys started recording for Sun, the label recorded a steady diet of blues between 1950 through 1954. Prior to launching Sun in 1952 he recorded blues that were leased to Modern, Chess, Gilt-Edge and 4 Star. Junior Parker, Little Milton, James Cotton all made their debuts for the label and artists like B.B. King and Howlin' were recorded by Phillips at the dawn of their careers although neither had a record issued on the label. There's also a slew of fabulous sides featured today by little remembered artists like Jimmy DeBerry, Walter Bradford, Woodrow Adams, Houston Stokes, Charlie Booker and Pat Hare among others. The bulk of the sides on today's program were issued on the Sun label while a few others were leased to other labels. Phillips recorded lots of material but had limited resources so many fine sides remained unissued at the time only to be issued decades later. Much of the material in today's notes come form the book Good Rockin' TonightSun Records And The Birth Of Rock 'N' Roll by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins.

In October 1949 Sam Phillips signed the lease on a small strorefront property at the junction of union and Marshall Avenues, near the heart of downtown Memphis (706 Union). Working with the slogan "We Record Anything-Anywhere-Anytime," Phillips opened the doors of the Memphis Recording Service in January 1950. As for the equipment, Phillips, noted: "I had a little Presto five-input mixer board. It was portable and sat on a hall table. The mixer had four microphone ports, and the fifth port had a multiselctor switch where you could flip it one way and get a mike and flip it another to play your recordings back. That was my console." By 1954 Phillips had upgraded his equipment and installed two Ampex 350 recorders: one console model and another mounted on a rack behind his head for the tape delay echo, or "slapback", for which Sun became famous. By "bouncing" the signal from one machine to another, with a split-second lag between the two, he created his characteristic echo effect. He made the switch from acetates to magnetic tape in late 1951.

Recorded spring/summer 1950 at Memphis Recording Service.
300 copies pressed by Plastic Products on August 30, 1950.

"I opened the Memphis Recording Service", recalled Phillips, "with the intention of recording singers and musicians from Memphis and the locality who I felt had something that people should be able to hear. I'm talking about blues-both the country style and the rhythm style-and also about gospel or spiritual music and about white country music. I always felt that the people who played this type of music had not be given the opportunity to reach an audience. I feel strongly that alot of the blues was a real true story. Unadulterated life as it was. My aim was to try and record the blues and other music I liked and to prove whether I was right or wrong about this music. I knew, or felt I knew, that there was a bigger audience than just the black man of the mid-South. There were city markets to be reached, and I knew that whites listened to blues surreptitiously." At first Phillips recorded music in the hopes of it being leased to other record labels. The first deals he lined up were with 4-Star and Gilt Edge Records. Phillips' first foray with his own label was simply called Phillips and lasted just a few weeks in the summer of 1950. Joe Hill Louis' "Gotta Let You Go b/w Boogie In the Park" was the sole record issued on the label. Around this time Phillips began a relationship with the Bihari brothers who owned the Modern label out of Los Angeles. They began issuing Phillips produced records on their RPM subsidiary including five singles from a young B.B. King. Phillips also placed Joe Hill Louis with RPM/Modern. In 1953, after recording for Chess, Louis recorded a record issued Sun 178, "We All Gotta Go Sometime b/w She May Be Yours (But She Comes To See Me Sometime)."

On March 5, 1951 Ike Turner, a DJ on WROX in Clarksdale, Mississippi had driven up to Memphis with a band featuring his underage cousin Jackie Brenston. They had worked up a number called "Rocket 88" and wanted to audition it for Phillips. Phillips sent a dub to Chess who put it out in April 1951, hitting number one on the R&B charts by May. This caused a rift with Modern Record who were upset and not getting a chance to issue the record. Ike was also upset at not getting a chance to record under his won name and defected to Modern where he became a talent scout, cutting many sessions around Memphis. More trouble followed when Phillips place Roscoe Gordon's "Booted" with Chess, eventually hitting number one. Modern felt Gordon was still under contract for them and cut their own version for RPM. Eventually the problems were resolved with Modern getting Roscoe Gordon and Chess getting Howlin' Wolf.

After “Rocket 88” Turner and his band became session regulars around Memphis; they went on to back legendary bluesmen like Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, Bobby Bland, Jr. Parker, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and a host of Sun artists . During the early '50s, Turner switched from piano to guitar, and also doubled as a talent scout for the Bihari Brothers' Los Angeles-based Modern Records, where he helped get early breaks for artists like Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King.  After leaving Memphis and cutting sides for Federal in '56 and '57, Turner self-produced recordings in St. Louis in 1958 and sold them to Sun which is where our selection, "I'm Gonna Forget About You Baby (Matchbox)" comes from. The vocalist is Tommy Hodge.

Still more problems arose when Phillips signed Howlin' Wolf to Chess. Soon after coming to West Memphis, Wolf secured steady work playing whorehouses, black baseball parks, and other spots that catered to country folk in search of a little diversion. Wold landed a spot on KWEM in 1950, Monday through Saturday a between 4:45 and 5:00 P.M. "A disc jockey from West Memphis told me about Wolf's show", recalled Sam Phillips to Robert Palmer. "“When Wolf sat down in that little old chair with his big feet sticking out and began to sing, this guy didn’t know anything was around him! I mean he was singing to exactly the thing that we all want to make contact with, and that is the ears of the world. Maybe that’s one person. Maybe it is everybody on the globe. But Wolf had nothing in mind but just to make sure that he conveyed everything that was in his mind, and in his heart, and in his soul when he opened his mouth to sing.…He was, boy, pouring out his soul! And I mean you could just see it in addition to feel it…He sung his ass off—and that was a big ass! …“I think that he had that honest sound and that heartfelt feeling that he gave with that unbelievably different, totally different, voice that the young people that I was looking for that didn’t have anything they could call their own would have heard this man and said, ‘Man, he is…telling it like it is.’ The freedom that he gave you and the truth that he told and felt in his songs were something to hear. And then to hear the way that he sang ’em, it is something that I just wish everybody could hear right now."Wolf recorded in Sun studio between Spring 1951 and October 1952.

By 1952 Phillips decided to start his own label. "I truly did not want to open a record label but I was forced into it by those labels [RPM & Chess] either coming to Memphis to record or taking my artists elsewhere. …Sun Records was forced on me but at the same time, it presented the opportunity  to do exactly as I wanted. …I honestly can say I know what it's like to have a baby. That's what Sun Records was to me."

The first record on Sun was to be number 174 by Walter Horton and Jack Kelly titled "Blues In My Condition b/w Selling My Whiskey" [billed as by "Jackie Boy and Little Walter"] but a negative reaction to samples circulated to radio stations persuaded Phillips not issue the record commercially. Sun 175 by Johnny London titled "Drivin' Slow" was the first record to appear in record stores. Other Horton tracks from Phillips’ studio appeared on the Modern and RPM labels under the name of “Mumbles.” He also backed Joe Hill Louis during this period. Horton traveled back to Memphis to record for Sun Records again in 1953, waxing his signature song "Easy" with guitarist Jimmy DeBerry in 1953. DeBerry had recorded some sides before the war and got a chance to record one more record for the Sun.

Pat Hare

A secret ingredient on many Sun sessions was the aggressive, feedback sound of guitarist Pat Hare. The earliest records of Hare's participation indicate that he was a member of Howlin' Wolf's first electric group in the late forties. In addition to working the Memphis circuit, this group played regular sessions on the local Arkansas radio station KWEM. Always on the lookout for talented sidemen, Phillips soon picked up on "the new guitarist with the angry, spine-tingling tone", and recruited Hare to play on James Cotton's debut session for the Sun. Other Sun artists to benefit from Hare's grating guitar included "Hot Shot" Love and Big Memphis Ma Rainey.  Some sources also indicate him as being the guitarist on legendary recordings such as "Love My Baby" by Little Junior's Blue Flames, and Roscoe Gordon cites Hare as the guitarist on several of his records. Hare also plays behind the fine but obscure singer Walter Bradford. Bradford's "Dreary Nights b/w Nuthin' But The Blues" (3rd Sun record issued) as yet to be found. Bradford cut four other records in 1952 for Sun but they were not issued at the time. But Hare also found time in May 1954 to record a couple of sides under his own name, both of which remained unissued in the Sun vaults till many years later: "Bonus Pay" (Sun 997), a fast-paced R&B romp, and the infamous "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby."

Mose Vinson was another important Sun session artist. Originally from Holly Springs, MS, Vinson worked as a clean-up man and part-time pianist for Sam Phillip's Sun label in Memphis. Between sessions, Vinson would sit at the piano and play "44 Blues" so often he eventually convinced Phillips to record him in 1954. In addition, he also appeared on records by James Cotton, Walter Horton, Joe Hill Louis and others, although his own Sun sides went unreleased for 30 years.

In 1951 Junior Parker formed his own band, the Blue Flames, with guitarist Pat Hare. Parker was discovered in 1952 by Ike Turner, who signed him to Modern Records. He put out one single on this record label, “You’re My Angel.” This brought him to the attention of Sam Phillips, and he and his band signed onto Sun Records in 1953. There they produced three successful songs: “Feelin’ Good” (which reached # 5 on the Billboard R&B charts), “Love My Baby,” and “Mystery Train” ,with Floyd Murphy (Matt “Guitar” Murphy’s brother) on guitar, later covered by Elvis Presley. For Presley’s version of “Mystery Train”, Scotty Moore borrowed the guitar riff from Parker’s “Love My Baby”.

Before the age of eighteen Roscoe Gordon had won the Talent Show at Beale Street's famed Palace Theater and was appearing on WDIA, America's first all black radio station. Through WDIA's owner James Mattis he was sent to see Sam Phillips who recorded him, leasing his sides to the Bihari Brother' RPM label out of L.A., charting for the first time with "Saddled The Cow (Milked The Horse) b/w Ouch! Pretty Baby" which went to #9 R&B in September of '51. Then Phillips sent two versions of the same master– Booted, one to RPM and a slightly different alternate take to Chess in Chicago. The Chess version hit #1 R&B in February of '52 kicking off a three way tug of war which ended up with RPM securing Gordon's contract.

Rufus Thomas was already a professional entertainer in the mid-’30s, when he was a comedian with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. He recorded music as early as 1941, but really made his mark on the Memphis music scene as a deejay on WDIA, one of the few black-owned stations of the era. He also ran talent shows on Memphis’ famous Beale Street that helped showcase the emerging skills of such influential figures as B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Ike Turner, and Roscoe Gordon. Thomas had his first success as a recording artist in 1953 with “Bear Cat,” a funny answer record to Big Mama Thornton‘s “Hound Dog.” It made number three on the R&B charts, giving Sun Records its first national hit, though some of the sweetness went out of the triumph after Sun owner Sam Phillips lost a lawsuit for plagiarizing the original Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller tune. Thomas, strangely, would make only one other record for Sun, and recorded only sporadically throughout the rest of the 1950's.

A 1952-53 stint in the Air Force found Billy Emerson stationed in Greenville, MS. That’s where he met young bandleader Ike Turner, who whipped Emerson into shape as an entertainer while he sang with Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Turner also got Emerson through the door at Sun Records in 1954, playing guitar on the Kid’s debut waxing “No Teasing Around.” Emerson’s songwriting skills made him a valuable commodity around Sun — but more as a source for other performers’ material later on. His bluesy 1955 outing “When It Rains It Pours” elicited a cover from Elvis a few years later at RCA, while Emerson’s “Red Hot” became a savage rockabilly anthem revived by Billy Lee Riley for Sun. After his “Little Fine Healthy Thing” failed to sell, Emerson exited Sun to sign with Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records in late 1955.

James Cotton began his professional career playing the blues harp in Howling Wolf‘s band in the early 1950s. He made his first recordings as a solo artist for the Sun Records label in Memphis,Tennessee in 1953. Cotton began to work with the Muddy Waters Band around 1955.

Honeyboy Edwards just passed on August 29, 2011 in Chicago. Prior to  recording a slashing version of "Sweet Home Chicago" fpr Sun (not issued at the time) he had been recorded for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax in 1942 and cut a commercial 78 for ARC in 1950 as Mr. Honey.

Ike Turner, who was a talent scout for Sun Records introduced Little Milton to Sam Phillips, who signed him to a contract in 1953. With Ike Turner and band band backing him, Milton cut various Sun sides. Unfortunately, none of them were hits, and Milton's association with Sun was over by the end of 1954.

Billy Love did some session work for Phillips, backing Walter Horton, Rufus Thomas and Willie Nix, before he got the chance to cut his own record as a singer-pianist. This resulted in the storming drinking song "Juiced", probably cut on July 24, 1951. ove's next session took place in October or November 1951 and yielded three songs, two of which, "Drop Top" and "You're Gonna Cry" were issued as a Chess single (1508), this time credited to "Billy 'Red' Love and his orchestra". On January 19, 1954 Love returned to the Sun studio with a new band and cut five titles. One more session was recorded at the Sun studio, resulting in "Blues Leave Me Alone" and the promotional record "Hart's Bread Boogie" for the Hart's bakery in Memphis. He did session work for Sun as well, appearing on records by Pate hare, Roscoe Gordon and others.

Tim Schloe of St. Paul found “Greyhound Blues,” a 1953 single by Alabama bluesman D.A. Hunt, in a collection he bought in 2007. The recording sold for more than $10,000 on eBay to collector John Tefteller. The flipside is Lonesome Ole Jail."

Our final selection is from Frank Frost. Frost moved to St. Louis, Missouri when he was 15 and began his musical career as a guitarist. He toured in 1954 with drummer Sam Carr and Carr’s father, Robert Nighthawk. Soon after, he spent several years touring with Sonny Boy Williamson, who helped teach him to play harmonica. Around 1960, Frost moved with Carr to the Mississippi Delta. After he played a show with the guitarist Big Jack Johnson, they added him to their group. Together they attracted the interest of the record producer Sam Phillips. He produced the album Hey Boss Man for Phillips International in 1962.  In the 60's Phillips created two different subsidiary recording labels: Phillips International and Holiday Inn Records. Neither would match the success or influence of Sun.By the mid- 1960s, Phillips rarely recorded. He built a satellite studio and opened radio stations, but the studio declined and he sold Sun Records to Shelby Singleton in 1968.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Mance LipscombFreddieTexas Songster
Big Joe WilliamsMean Step Father Tough Times
Robert Curtis SmithDon't Drive Me AwayArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Sam ChatmonI Have To Paint My Face I Have To Paint My Face
Lil Son JacksonI Walked From DallasBlues Come To Texas
Black Ace Golden Slipper I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
Mercy Dee Lady LuckArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Alex MooreBoogieing In StrasbourgArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Lightnin' Sam Hopkins I Got a Brother in WaxahachieThe Hopkins Brothers
Lightnin' Sam Hopkins Meet You At The Chicken ShackTexas Blues
John JacksonBear Cat BluesDon't Let Your Deal Go Down
Bukka WhiteAlabama Blues Sky Songs
Fred McDowellWrite Me a Few LinesArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Clifton ChenierI'm A Hog For You60 Minutes With The King Of Zydeco
Blind James CampbellBaby Please Don't GoAnd His Nashville Street Band
Juke Boy BonnerGoin' Back To The Country Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Johnny LittlejohnDreamSlidin' Home
Johnny Young Wild, Wild Woman Johnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band
Earl Hooker Earl's Blues The Moon Is Rising
L.C. RobinsonUps And DownsUps And Downs
Big Mama ThorntonLittle Red Rooster In Europe
Bee HoustonThings Gonna Get BetterThe Hustler
Henry GrayThe Blues Won't Let Me Take My RestLouisiana Blues
Johnnie LewisHobo BluesAlabama Slide Guitar
Piano Red You Ain't Got A ChanceArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
David AlexanderSuffering With The Lowdown BluesThe Dirt On The Ground
Big Joe DuskinCincinnati StompCincinnati Stomp
K.C. DouglasYou're Crying Won't Make Me StayMercury Blues
J.C. Burris One Of These Mornings (I'm Checkin' Out)Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Furry LewisJudge Boushay BluesMemphis Swamp Jam

Show Notes:

Mr. Strachwitz in Arhoolie's record vault.
Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Arhoolie Records is celebrating its 50th year and I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a spotlight on the label who's records have been heard often on my show. Today's feature will obviously focus on the label's blues recordings. While the label reissued many vintage recordings and issued recordings made by others, most notably folklorist Harry Oster, today's focus will be on the recordings made specifically for the Arhoolie label itself. There's of course no way to do justice to the label in a two-hour show and I'll likely do a second installment down the road. The bulk of the Arhoolie catalog has been reissued on CD, almost always with bonus or unreleased tracks with the CD's often having a different title than the original LP's, sometimes combing multiple LP's onto one CD. On a related note I recently picked up a copy of the new Arhoolie 4-CD box set, Hear Me Howling!, which contains dozens of unreleased recordings and I'll be featuring cuts from this collection on an upcoming show.

Arhoolie Records was founded in 1960 and has issued some 400 albums and recorded more than 6,500 songs,the vast majority of which were captured by founder Chris Strachwitz himself. His field recordings have helped popularize numerous branches of Americana roots music, from Tex-Mex and Cajun to blues and folk. Strachwitz did many of his most important recordings with down home artists such as Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins and zydeco king Clifton Chenier on field trips through the South beginning 50 years ago. It was during his summer vacation of 1959 that Strachwitz used this trip as a pretense for his pilgrimage to see personal hero, Lightnin' Hopkins, in Houston. Seeing the legendary Texas bluesman on his home turf at watering holes such as Pop's Place and the Sputnik Club inspired him to begin his own label in earnest, although, ironically, he would not be able to record Lightnin' himself for a couple of years because he was "unaffordable." Arriving in Houston in the summer of 1960 for his second visit, he was disappointed that Hopkins, was back in California at a folk festival. Fortunately during the trip, with the aid of Mack McCormick,  he stumbled upon songster Mance Lipscomb. Lipscomb was recorded virtually on the spot, in his house. Texas Songster and Sharecropper became Arhoolie's first release as #1001 (the first of five volumes devoted to Lipscomb). Over the years the label has recorded a wide range of bluesmen such as Big Joe Williams, Black Ace, Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Johnny Young, L.C. Robinson, Earl Hooker, Big Mama Thornton and many others. Strachwitz's interest in recording blues waned by the late 60's and early 70's as he reflected: "I just found it didn't kick me in the ass like the old stuff did. I just found it formulaic." There were some later blues records including late 70's records by Charlie Musselwhite and The Charles Ford Band, a 1985 record by Katie Webster and a 1991 recording by pianist Dave Alexander.

Mance Lipscomb
Mance Lipscomb
Credit: Chris Strachwitz
 

Lipscomb was born April 9, 1895 to an ex-slave father from Alabama and a half Native American mother. Lipscomb spent most of his life working as a tenant farmer in Texas and was "discovered" and recorded by Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz in 1960. Lipscomb's name quickly became well known among blues and folk music fans. He appeared at the Texas Heritage Festival in Houston in 1960 and 1961, then capitalized on his California connection and made appearances for three years running (1961-63) at the large Berkeley Folk Festival held at the University of California. In between festival appearances he appeared at folk coffeehouses in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, and he made several more recordings for Arhoolie. In the late 1960s, as interest in the blues mounted, Lipscomb experienced still greater success. He appeared at the Festival of American Folklife, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1968 and 1970, and he performed at other large festivals, including the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1970 and the Monterey Jazz Festival in California in 1973. Among the many musicians who became Lipscomb fans was vocalist Frank Sinatra, who issued a Lipscomb recording, Trouble in Mind, on his Reprise label in 1970. Lipscomb passed in 1976.

Strachwitz finally managed to record Hopkins for his Arhoolie label in 1961 and recorded him sporadically through 1969. By the 60's Hopkins music was increasingly geared towards the new white audience that was embracing blues and this is reflected in the nearly dozen LP's he cut for the Bluesville label. His Arhoolie recordings from this period, however, hark back to the raw sound of his early records that first captured Strachwitz's attention. Hopkins cut several fine albums for Arhoolie including the self-titled Lightnin' Sam Hopkins, an album featuring one with Hopkins' brothers and the other with Barbara Dane, The Texas Bluesman, Lightning Hopkins in Berkeley and Po' Lightning.

In addition to Lipscomb and Hopkins, another major down home blues artist Strachwitz recorded was Fred McDowell.  In September, 1959, Alan Lomax encountered Fred McDowell, the greatest discovery of his famous "Southern journey." McDowell, for his part, was happy to have some sounds on records, but continued on with his farming and playing for tips outside of Stuckey’s candy store in Como for spare change. It wasn’t until Strachwitz came searching for McDowell to record him that the bluesman’s fortunes began to change dramatically. He recorded McDowell between 1964 and 1969 resulting in the albums Mississippi Delta Blues, Fred McDowell Vol. 2, Fred McDowell And His Blues Boys and  Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning.

It was through Lightnin' Hopkins that Strachwitz met Clifton Chenier, who would become the label's most recorded artist. "Ay Yi Yi"/"Why Did You Go Last Night?" was the initial single and in 1965 Arhoolie issued Chenier's full-length debut, Louisiana Blues and Zydeco. Although they continued to work together until the early '70s, Chenier and Strachwitz differed artistically. While Chenier wanted to record commercial-minded R&B, Strachwitz encouraged him to focus on traditional zydeco. The label issued over a dozen albums by Chenier including 1976's Bogalusa Boogie, with his new group, the Red Hot Louisiana Band which eventually garnered the album an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Chenier reached the peak of his popularity in the '80s. In 1983, he received a Grammy award for his album, I'm Here!, recorded in eight hours in Bogalusa, LA. The following year, he performed at the White House. Chenier passed in 1987.

Many of today's initial sides come from a fruitful meeting with blues historian Paul Oliver. As Strachwitz writes: "In the summer of 1960 I met up with British blues aficionado, author, and vernacular architecture scholar, Paul Oliver and his wife Valerie at the legendary Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN. Paul was making this trip, his first to the USA, to produce a series of radio programs to be broadcast by the BBC and interviewing historic blues musicians at the source was a major goal of his trip. Paul had sent me in advance a list of names of blues singers who had recorded in Dallas and Fort Worth in the 1920s and ’30s, hoping I would perhaps do a little research on my way to Texas from the West Coast. Driving with Bob Pinson (now of the Country Music Foundation Library) into Texas, we both made many inquiries which led to meeting Lil’ Son Jackson and Black Ace, a singer who accompanied himself on a National steel guitar. With Mack McCormick I was fortunate to meet and record the remarkable Mance Lipscomb and later on the return trip to the West Coast with Paul, we also met Alex Moore in Dallas, an extraordinary character and pianist from the early era in blues history, as well as many other artists in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

In addition to the above mentioned Alex Moore, Strachwitz recorded several fine pianists over the years like Mercy Dee Walton, Piano Red, Dave Alexander (who later changed his name to Omar Sharriff) and Big Joe Duskin. Walton was from Texas who had played piano around Waco from the age of 13 before hitting the coast in 1938. Once there, the pianist gigged up and down the length of the Golden State before debuting on record in 1949 with "Lonesome Cabin Blues" for the tiny Spire logo, which became a national R&B hit. He cut sessions for Imperial in 1950 and Specialty in 1952-53. After a lengthy layoff, Walton returned to the studio in 1961, recording prolifically for Arhoolie (some of this material ended up on the Bluesville album A Pity And A Shame). Walton passed in 1962.

Piano Red was Willie Perryman, the much younger, brother of Rufus Perryman aka Speckled Red. His career started with a bang when he sold an alleged million copies of "Red's Boogie/'Rockin' With Red" in 1951. He hit a second time with "Dr. Feelgood" and he took the name for his own. Strachwitz pried Red loose from his band and recorded him alone at the piano in 1972 resulting in the album Piano Red: "Dr. Feelgood" All Alone With His Piano.

Omar Shariff is a Texas-born pianist who moved to the San Francisco area in the '60s. He made two excellent albums in the 70's for Arhoolie in 1972 as Dave Alexander (The Rattler and The Dirt On The Ground), then  disappeared from the recording world for twenty years. Alexander (now as Omar Shariff) made a final recording for the label in 1991 titled The Raven which contains seven tracks form his earlier Arhoolie albums.

In his younger days Joe Duskin performed in clubs in Cincinnati and across the river in Newport, Kentucky. While serving in the US Army in World War II, he continued to play and, in entertaining the US forces, met his idols Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. In the early 1970's Duskin began playing the piano at festivals in the US and across Europe. By the late 70's,  with the reputation for his concert playing now growing, his first recording, Cincinnati Stomp, was released on Arhoolie Records featuring recording sessions done in 1977 and 1978. He recorded several more albums before passing in 2007.

Strachwitz made some superb urban blues records in the late 60's and early 70's. As he  wrote: "As Back in 1968, I told Buddy Guy, who was playing in a Berkeley club, that I was interested in recording his favorite neglected giants of Chicago Blues. I had met Buddy in Europe while touring with the American Folk Blues Festival and found him to be a tasteful and exciting player (and one of the nicest people I ever met). Buddy's prompt response was: Earl Hooker and John Littlejohn! " Hooker was recorded in 1968 and 1069 resulting the excellent Two Bugs And A Roach featuring Freddie Roulette, Louis Myers, Pinetop Perkins, Carey Bell and Andrew Odom. The posthumous Hooker and Steve (recorded in 1969)  came out in 1975 featuring keyboardist Steve Miller. In 1998 Arhoolie issued the CD The Moon Is Rising which contained the entirety of Hooker and Steve plus some unreleased live recordings. Johnny Littlejohn's discography is frustratingly inconsistent but hands down his Arhoolie album, 1968's John Littlejohn's Chicago Blues Stars (issued on CD as Slidin' Home), is his best outing.

Strachwitz also recorded Chicago bluesman Johnny Young. He was recorded at two sessions in '65. Producer Pete Welding surrounded him with the best that Chicago had to offer, including two thirds of the then Muddy Waters Band of 1965: Otis Spann, SP Leary, Jimmy Cotton with Jimmy Lee Morris on bass, and for a '67 session, Walter Horton, Jimmy Dawkins, Lafayette Leake, Ernie Gatewood on bass and Lester Dorsie on drums. The sessions resulted in the albums Johnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band and Johnny Young And Big Walter: Chicago Blues. The CD Johnny Young – Chicago Blues contains the entirety of the former and most of the latter album.

Also recorded were a some tough West Coast artists: L.C. Robinson,  Bee Houston and Big Mama Thornton. Robinson was born and raised in east Texas, and later relocated to California. Robinson played guitar and fiddle, but he was really known for his incredible steel guitar style. On one of his Arhoolie sessions he is backed by the Muddy Waters band, on another by his own trio issued on the alum Ups And Downs (issued on CD as Mojo In My Hand which includes an unissued radio performance). His only other full length session was House Cleanin' Blues for the Bluesway label in the early 70's.

Texas born, Los Angeles blues guitarist Bee Houston became known as Big Mama Thornton's guitarist during the waning years of her career. He cut his lone album, The Hustler,  for Arhoolie in the 70's. The CD version contains not only the entire LP but also most of a second, earlier but unissued session.

Big Mama Thornton was recorded on October 20, 1965, at Wessex Studio in London, England resulting in the album In Europe (the CD version contains six extra sides) featuring Eddie Boyd, Buddy Guy, Big Walter Horton, Fred Below and Jimmy Lee Robinson. Big Mama Thornton Vol. 2: The Queen At Monterey (reissued on CD as Big Mama Thornton – With the Muddy Waters Blues Band, 1966 with seven extra cuts)was recorded in 1966 backed by the Muddy Waters band: James Cotton,  Otis Spann,  Muddy Waters, Sammy Lawhorn, Luther Johnson and Francis Clay.

Some of the other Arhoolie artists featured today include John Jackson, James Campbell, K.C. Douglas and J.C. Burris. For much of his life, John Jackson played for country house parties in Virginia, or around the house for his own amusement. Then in the ’60s he encountered the folk revival, becoming the Washington, D.C. area’s best-loved blues artist. He made his debut in 1965 for Arhoolie with Blues and Country Dance Tunes From Virginia followed by Country Blues & Ditties and John Jackson In Europe.

A bluesy group of street musicians from Nashville, Tennessee, James Campbell and his group played a hybrid of hillbilly, jazz, blues, old time popular, skiffle, and jug band elements. This assemblage of street musicians was originally recorded in 1963 and issued on the album as Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band. The band worked road houses, on the streets of Nashville, at parties, a well as other social functions.

Born and raised on a family farm near Sharon, MS, K.C. Douglas was deeply influenced by the 1920's recordings of Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. Relocating to Vallejo, CA, in 1945, Douglas found employment in the naval shipyards. Within a couple of years, he gravitated to the San Francisco/Oakland blues scene. His first recordings were issued on the Oakland-based Downtown label in 1948.He cut some of his best sides for Bluesville in the 60's as well as scattered sides for Arhoolie. In 1974 he the album The Country Boy for the label and issued on CD in 1998 as Mercury Blues with many unreleased tracks.

The nephew of Sonny Terry, Johnny "J.C." Burris was also a blues harmonica player, though he didn't record too much. Burris did some performing in New York in the 1950's and worked on recording sessions with Terry, Sticks McGhee, and other artists on Folkways Records. At the end of the decade, he relocated to California, finding some work in folk clubs in San Francisco before a stroke in 1966 robbed him of his use of his right side. Several years later, he regained his mobility on his right side, and in 1973, he began performing again, recording some solo unaccompanied material in 1975-1976 that appears on Arhoolie's Blues Professor album. He continued playing at schools, clubs, and festivals until his death in 1988.

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