|Joe Green, Joe Battle...||Rock Island Line||Library of Congress Website|
|Gene Raymond, Jimmie Lee Hart, Hattie Ellis...||Cap'n Don't 'low No Truckin' Rround in Here||Library of Congress Website|
|Curtis Jones||Private Talk Blues||Curtis Jones Vol. 3 1939-1940|
|Bill Gaither||Bloody Eyed Woman||Bill Gaither Vol. 4 1939|
|Cripple Clarence Lofton||House Rent Struggle||Cripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 2 1935-1939|
|Tommy McClennan||Cotton Patch Blues||Bluebird Recordings 1939-42|
|Alfred Fields||'29 Blues||Chicago Blues 1937-1941|
|Leadbelly||Noted Rider Blues||Leadbelly: The Remaining LOCR Vol. 5 1938-1942|
|Smith Casey||Shorty George||Two White Horses Standin' In Line|
|Roger "Burn Down Garnett||Lighthouse Blues||The Frog Blues & Jazz Annual No. 1|
|Bukka White||Po' Boy||The Complete Bukka White|
|Rosetta Howard||Men Are Like Streetcars||Men Are Like Streetcars|
|Alberta Hunter||Chirpin' The Blues||Alberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-1946|
|Ida Cox||One Hour Mama||The Essential|
|Jimmy Yancey||State Street Special||Hey! Piano Man|
|Roosevelt Sykes||Papa Low||The Essential|
|Albert Ammons||Shout For Joy||Hey! Piano Man|
|Mattie May Thomas||No Mo' freedom||Women from Parchman Penitentiary: Jailhouse Blues|
|Ace Johnson & L. W. Gooden||Mama Don't 'low No Swingin' Out In Here||Jailhouse Blues|
|Beatrice Perry||I Got A Man On The Wheeler||Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947|
|Big Bill Broonzy||Just A Dream||Big Bill Broonzy Vol. 9 1939|
|Tampa Red||Bessemer Blues||The Guitar Wizard: 1935-1953|
|Big Joe Turner||Lovin' Mama Blues||Big Joe Turner 1938-1940|
|Pete Johnson||Climbin' and Screamin'||Pete Johnson 1938-1939|
|Mary James with Four Girls||Go 'Way Devil Leave Me Alone||Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947|
|Richard L. Lewis and Wilbert Gilliam||Long Freight Train Blues||Two White Horses Standin' In Line|
|Unidentified performers||We Don't Have No Payday Here||Library of Congress Website|
|Blu Lu Barker||Lu's Blues||Blu Lu Barker 1938-1939|
|Rosetta Crawford||I'm Tired Of Fattenin' Frogs For Snakes||The 30's Girls|
|Lonnie Johnson||Why Woman Go Wrong||He's a Jelly Roll Baker|
|Johnnie Temple||Jelly Roll Bert||The Very Best Of Teddy Bunn|
|Merline Johnson||Reckless Life Blues||Merline Johnson Vol. 2 1938-1939|
|Memphis Minnie||Bad Outside Friends||Memphis Minnie Vol. 4 1938-1939|
|Library of Congress Note Cards|
Today’s show is the thirteenth 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. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need. From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. Race record sales were up around 15 per cent in 1937. Sales were a bit down by 1938 and by 1939 a quarter of of race releases were gospel, against an eighth the prior year. In the post-'37 years most releases were by established artists: Blind Boy Fuller, Big Bill, Washboard Sam, Tampa Red, Bill Gaither, Walter Davis, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sonny Boy Williamson and Sonny Boy Williamson (Kokomo Arnold and Bumble Slim had stopped recording in 1938).
Outside of the commercial recordings, 1939 was notable for some excellent field recordings captured by John Lomax and Herbert Halpert. Lomax made a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States beginning in Port Arkansas, Texas, on March 31, 1939, and ending at the Library of Congress on June 14, 1939. Some 700 recordings were made. In 1938 and 1939, folklorist Herbert Halpert traveled through the mid-Atlantic states recording songs funded in part by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and Columbia University. Most notable were some remarkable recording in the notorious Parchman Farm in 1939.
|1939 Decca Advertisement|
The Lomax's first visited Parchman in 1933 and returned numerous times to record blues, work songs, spirituals, and personal interviews with inmates. One of the most famous bluesman the Lomax's recorded was Bukka White. In 1937 White recorded a minor hit, “Shake ‘Em On Down,” in Chicago, but that year he was also sentenced for a shooting incident to Parchman, where John Lomax recorded him performing two numbers in 1939. After his release White recorded twelve songs at a Chicago session in 1940. Among the songs he recorded were two songs about his time in prison: "Parchman Farm Blues" and "When Can I Change My Clothes?." Parchman isn't the only prison the Lomax's recorded at; other recordings were made at Cummins State Farm in Gould, Arkansas, Goree State Farm, Women's Camp, near Huntsville, Texas, State Penitentiary ("The Walls"), Huntsville, Texas and the Florida State Prison (Raiford Penitentiary).
One of the best performers the Lomax's recorded was Smith Casey. He was born in 1895, probably in Riverside near Huntsville, and learned music in San Jacinto and Jackson Counties. While serving time in prison, he performed on a remote weekly radio program from the Huntsville Penitentiary called 'Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls'. He was paroled in 1945 and moved to Huntsville, dying of tuberculosis in 1950." He was recorded by the Lomax's at Clemens State Farm, Brazoria in Texas on April 16, 1939.
I've always been fascinated by the females who recorded at Parchman and whom I first heard on the album Jailhouse Blues on the Rosetta label. These recordings were made in May and June 1939 by Herbert Halpert in the sewing of the Woman's Camp in Parchman. Camp 13 was the woman's camp where white and black women occupied separate wards. The women's primary work was making clothes for the prisoners, mattresses and bedding. The woman also did canning and helped out in the fields. The Parchamn women were asked to sing a song, any song they chose. There were no restrictions about length or subject, but most of the songs were short and some merely fragments. The best of those singers is the remarkable Mattie May Thomas. Thomas was a senior member at Parchman for she had served twice before. She recorded four sides.
|Read Liner Notes|
The most prolific artists of 1939 were those performing in the urban blues style such as Curtis Jones (18 sides), Bill Gaither (33 sides), Tampa Red (18 sides), Sonny Boy Williamson I (24 sides), Washboard Sam (16 sides) and Big Bill Broonzy (33 sides). A couple of down home blues artists were popular including Blind Boy Fuller, who had been recording since 1937, and newcomer Tommy McClennan who cut forty sides (at five eight-song sessions), every one issued at the time, between 1939 and 1942.
Some the classic women blues singers reappeared briefly including Trixie Smith (1938-1939), Alberta Hunter (1939) and Ida Cox (1939). Cox was invited to participate in the Carnegie Hall concert series From Spirituals to Swing, (the first concert was in 1938) produced by John Hammond in 1939. It gave her career a much-needed boost and she resumed recording, with a series of sessions for Vocalion Records in 1939 and Okeh Records in 1940. Several other woman singers made notable records including Blu Lou Barker, Memphis Minnie, Merline Johnson and Rosetta Howard among others.