Entries tagged with “Frank Hovington”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Big Joe WilliamsDown In The BottomBack To The Roots
Big Joe WilliamsJump Baby JumpBack To The Roots
Bill Logan & Big Joe WilliamsWhat You Gon' Do Sinner?Back To The Roots
Axel KüstnerInterview
George Henry BusseyBlues Around My BadThe George Mitchell Collection Volumes 1-45
Honeyboy EdwardsHighway 61Ramblin' On My Mind
Memphis Piano RedThe Train Is ComingLiving Country Blues USA: Introduction
Flora MoltonWhat's The Matter NowLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 3
Archie EdwardsI Called My Baby Long DistanceLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 6
Frank HovingtonLonesome Road BluesLiving Country Blues USA: Introduction
Son ThomasCatfish BluesLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 5
Walter BrownMississippi MoanLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 9
Eugene PowellPony BluesUnissued
Albert Macon & Robert ThomasSomeday BabyUnissued
Boyd RiversChurch House RockUnissued
Irene Scruggs Itching Heel BluesBlind Blake: All The Published Sides

Show Notes:

On today's program we spend time with Axel Küstner who's been documenting the blues in the south since the early 70's through his field recordings and remarkable photography. From the 70's through the 2000's Axel documented the vanishing rural southern blues scene. Among the artists he documented and spent time with were bluesmen such as Big Joe Williams, Eugene Powell, Son Thomas, Jack Owens, J.W. Warren, Other Turner, Lattie Murell, Memphis Piano Red, Boogie Bill Webb among many others. We'll be playing many of these artists and more, a number of  unissued sides as well as chatting with Axel throughout the show who has some terrific stories to tell. I'll be doing a sequel with Axel down the road – due to time constraints we didn't get to some planned sides by Lattie Murrell, Dan Pickett, J.W. Warren,  some unissued material among a few others.

Axel discovered the blues in 1970 at the age of fourteen. Two years later he started meeting blues greats like Big Joe Williams and Robert Pete Williams while they were touring Germany. Axel first came to the States in 1972, came over again in 1978, 1980 and made 24 trips to the States between 1990 and 2005. The first artists he recorded was K.C. Douglas who he recorded in 1972. During these trips he hung out, recorded and photographed many great traditional bluesmen. A self-taught photographer, he has also produced a number of blues albums. He recorded Big Joe Williams in 1973 and 1978, resulting the album Back to the Roots (also issued as Watergate Blues). Additional recordings appeared on No More Whiskey on the Evidence label. In 1980, along with his friend Ziggy Chrismann, he was back in the States with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment they hit the road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. In this he was following in the footsteps of men he admired like Harry Oster, George Mitchell and Pete Lowry. The result of the trip was Living Country Blues USA, a fourteen volume series issued on the L&R label. The trip was one of the last great large-scale recording trips to survey southern blues and gospel, and the sad fact is that most of these performers have since passed on. A prodigious  photographer, Axel has amassed 30,000 black and white photos, some of which have appeared in print, on album covers and exhibitions.

We spin some sides by Big Joe Williams , someone who Axel had a close  connection with. On the track "Jump, Baby, Jump!" you can Axel blowing harp. He met Big Joe during the 1972 American Blues Festival  in Berlin. During that meeting he made some recordings of Joe and and fellow tour member Robert Pete Williams.  He recorded Joe again in Crawford, Mississippi  in 1978 and 1980.

Axel wanted to find time to play a few things that inspired him when he began documenting blues. The field recording recordings of George Mitchell, David Evans, Harry Oster and his friend, the late Bengt Olsson were major inspirations. From the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s George Mitchell roamed all over the south recording blues in small rural communities where the music still thrived. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Bengt Olsson first came to the United States in 1964, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. Olsson recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others (Axel spent time with the later two artists as well). Some of Olsson's recordings appear on the CD On The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974.

Axel's crowning achievement is the remarkable recordings he made with his friend  Siegfried Christmann in 1980. Issued as the Living Country Blues USA series, these remarkable recordings were first issued across 12 LP's plus one double set on the German L+R label between 1980 and 1981.The seed for these recordings came during 1978 when Axel spent six months in the States. He pitched idea to Horst Lippman, who founded L+R label in 1979, and modestly funded the project. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment the duo hit the dusty road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. As the notes proclaim: "Traveling 10,000 miles by car in 2 1/2 months, they used 180,000 feet of tape and took hundreds of photographs to document various aspects of Country Blues, as well as work songs, fife and drum band music, field hollers and rural Gospel music, performed by 35 artists, some of whom appear on record for the first time." From October 1st through November 30th the duo rolled through Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, New Orleans and of course Mississippi. The series was finally issued on CD a few years back (two additional albums of material were compiled but never issued).

After the 1980 trip Axel didn't get back to the States again until 1990. He made up for lost time making 24 trips to the States between 1990 and 2005, doing some recording but mostly focusing on photography. Axel was kind enough to send me a number of unissued field recordings he made in 1990 and 1991 which we feature on today's program. Among the artists he recorded during this period were Cecil Barfield, Eugene Powell, Jack Owens, Boyd Rivers and others. Axel informed me that the Boyd Rivers material will be seeing the light of day on a collection on Mississippi records. We were planning to spin a track by the great Alabama bluesman J.W. Warren who Axel recorded in 2001. Warren was one of the few who had memories of the mysterious Dan Pickett. Axel recorded a batch of fine songs by this under recorded bluesman just two years before he passed.

Speaking about Dan Pickett, Axel plays a key part in the unraveling of Pickett's life story. Pickett did one recording session for the Philadelphia-based Gotham label in 1949. His real name was James Founty who was born in Pike County, Alabama on August 31, 1907. Five singles were issued by the label while the rest of the titles weren't unearthed until four decades later. Details of his background, however, remained hazy for decades.

In a 1987 Blues & Rhythm Magazine article, Chris Smith wrote:  "If  Founty had started early in life he might still be alive, and even still be playing. Let's hope he can be found." Axel paid particular attention and actually went to Alabama in 1993 to see what he could dig up. He fended up finding Founty's surviving family. He obtained the only known photograph that shows Founty and some information on his life. Künster published a two page teaser about the trip in Juke Blues where he wrote: "Until the whole story is published in Juke Blues, I'll just tell you this much: [Founty was] a classic rambler in the best blues tradition…" Künster wrote that over fifteen years ago and still no full article has been written. In 2010 John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote an article on Pickett for The Oxford American that published the Pickett photo, transcribed an interview with Künster and provided a bit more information on Pickett's life. Unfortunately we didn't have time to talk and play sides by Picket but next time Axel's on the show we will definitely go into depth about this fascinating tale.

We close the show today with Irene Scruggs and Blind Blake performing "Itching Heel." Axel recently got an opportunity to meet Scuggs' daughter, 91 year old Baby Scruggs. Scruggs was a former dancer who has memories of being in the studio with her mother and Blind Blake. By the '40s, Irene Scruggs had joined the population of expatriate black performers living abroad, residing first in Paris with her daughter. Later she moved to Germany, where she died.

-Axel Küstner Interview/Feature (edited, 121 min, MP3)

-View some of Axel's photos (bottom of page)

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Baby Tate See What You Done Done See What You Done Done
Pink AndersonYou Don't Know My MindCarolina Medicine Show Hokum And Blues
Doug Quattlebaum You Is One Black RatSoftee Man Blues
James Henry DiggsPoor Boy Long Way From HomeSouthwest Virginia Blues
Eddie Lee Jones & FamilyWhich Way Does The Blood Red River FlowYonder Go That Old Black Dog
Buddy MossCome On Around To My HouseAtlanta Blues Legend
Elizabeth Cotten I'm Going Away Shake Sugaree
John JacksonBear Cat Blues Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
Cliff Scott Long Wavy Hair Georgia Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel) Southland Welfare Blues
Guitar ShortyGoin' Down in Georgia Carolina Slide Guitar
Willie Trice Shine OnBlue & Rag'd
Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong In The BottomMartin, Bogan & Armstrong
Henry JohnsonWho's Going Home With YouUnion County Flash
Frank HovingtonLonesome Road Blues Lonesome Road Blues
Cecil Barfield I Told You Not To Do That South Georgia Blues
Peg Leg SamWalking Cane Classic Appalachian Blues Smithsonian Folkways
Jimmy Lee Williams Have You Ever Seen PeachesHoot Your Belly
John Lee Ziegler If I Lose, Let Me Lose George Mitchell Collection Vol. 6
Willie Guy RaineySo SweetWillie Guy Rainey
Archie Edwards The Road Is Rough And RockyClassic Appalachian Blues Smithsonian Folkways
Guitar Slim Worried BluesGreensboro Rounder
James Davis Instrumental #4The George Mitchell Collection Vols. 1 - 45
George Higgs & Elester Anderson Skinny Woman Blues Unreleased
Pernell CharityWar Blues Virginia Traditions; Tidewater Blues
Carl HodgesLeaving You, MamaVirginia Traditions; Tidewater Blues
Turner Foddrell Slow Drag Western Piedmont Blues
Lewis "Rabbit" MuseJailhouse BluesWestern Piedmont Blues
John Tinsley Red River BluesWestern Piedmont Blues
Cephas & Wiggins Richmond BluesLiving Country Blues Vol. 1
Clayton Horsley Don't The Moon Look PrettyWestern Piedmont Blues

Show Notes:

Today's show is the third in series of spotlights on East Coast Blues. In previous shows we spanned the year 1927 through 1953 and today we take the story up to the end of the 1970's. The music to be found on today's program is generally classified as Piedmont Blues, a term that refers to a style and geographic region. Piedmont Blues refers to a regional of centered on musicians of the southeastern United States; from the foothills of the Appalachians west of the tidewater region and Atlantic coastal plain stretching roughly from Richmond, VA, to Atlanta, GA. Musically, Piedmont blues describes the shared style of musicians from Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia, as well as others from as far afield as Florida, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. The Piedmont guitar style employs a complex fingerpicking method in which a regular, alternating-thumb bass pattern supports a melody on treble strings. The guitar style is highly syncopated and connects closely with an earlier string-band tradition, integrating ragtime, blues, and country dance songs. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime or stride piano styles. Recording artists such as Blind Blake, Josh White, Buddy Moss, and Blind Boy Fuller helped spread the style on the strength of their sales throughout the region. It was a nationally popular with the African-American audience for about twenty years from the mid-1920s through to the mid-1940s. By the 1960's and 70's the Piedmont style was no longer commercially viable, aided by the decline in popularity of the blues among black audiences and pushed aside by soul and electrified blues. Much of the recording done during this period were field recordings. There was much significant recording done by men like Sam Charters, Glenn Hinson, Kip Lornell, George Mitchell, Peter B. Lowry, Bruce Bastin and others. These recordings appeared mainly on small specialist blues labels geared to a predominately white audience. Many of the albums have not made it to the CD era.

Pink Anderson

The title of today's program comes from a song by Eddie Lee Jones from Georgia. Just about very southeastern bluesman sang a "Red River Blues": Josh White in 1932, Buddy Moss 1933, Virgil Childers 1938 among many others. The title a also nod to Bruce Bastion's book of the seam name, the definitive history of southeastern blues.

Samuel Charters played a central role in the folk revival of the 1950's and 1960's. His fieldwork, extensive liner notes, production efforts, and books served as a blues introduction to many. A 1961 trip for Prestige Records yielded records by Furry Lewis, Memphis Willie B., Baby Tate and Pink Anderson. Todat we spin tracks by the latter two artists.

Born in Georgia, Baby Tate grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. By the age of 14, he had taught himself to play guitar; shortly thereafter he began appearing alongside Blind Boy Fuller, from whom he picked up the basics of the blues. A few years later, Tate began performing with Roosevelt Brooks and Joe Walker in clubs and bars around Greenville. In 1932 he djoined the Carolina Blackbirds. They played numerous shows for the radio station, WFBC. During the 1930s, Tate played at local parties, medicine shows, and celebrations, and he continued performing as a mere hobby. Serving in the U.S. Army in the late 1930s and early '40s, Tate entertained in local pubs and dances while stationed in Europe. In 1942, he returned to Greenville, held a series of odd jobs, and took up music again in 1946. In the early 1950's, Tate moved to Spartanburg SC, performing by himself as well as with Pink Anderson. The two remained a duo until the 1970s. Tate recorded his first and only album, See What You Done Done, in 1961. He was featured in Samuel Charters' documentary film, The Blues the very next year. Peter B. Lowry recorded him extensivley in 1970 but these were never released. He passed in 1972.

After being raised in Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina, Pink Anderson joined Dr. Frank "Smiley" Kerr of the Indian Remedy Company in 1914 to entertain the crowds. In 1916 in Spartanburg, Anderson met "Blind Simmie" Dooley, from whom he learned to be a blues singer. When Anderson was not traveling with Dr. Kerr, he and Dooley would play to small gatherings in Greenville, Spartanburg, and other neighboring communities, as well as recording four tracks for Columbia Records in Atlanta in April, 1928. After Dr. Kerr retired in 1945, Anderson stayed more close to home in Spartanburg. He still "went out" annually when he could with Leo "Chief Thundercloud" Kahdot and his medicine show, often with harmonica-player Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson. In May 1950, Anderson was recorded by folklorist Paul Clayton at the Virginia State Fair. Heart problems eventually forced Anderson to retire from the road in 1957. He was once recorded extensively in the early 60's by Samuel Charters with the material issued on several albums on the Bluesville label. A stroke in the late 1960s curtailed his musical activity. Attempts by folklorist Peter B. Lowry in 1970 to get Anderson on tape were not successful. He died in October 1974.

Read Liner Notes

Between 1969 and 1980 Peter B. Lowry amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. He formed the Trix label as an outlet to release his recordings. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45’s with LP’s being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states. In addition to the seventeen issued Trix albums there is sufficient material for another 40 to 50 CD’s. We play several of Lowry's recordings including tracks by Willie Trice, Henry Johnson and George Higgs & Elester Anderson.

Willie Trice and his brother Richard became close friends with Blind Boy Fuller and Fuller took them up to New York where they cut six sides together for Decca in 1937. Unlike many of his fellow musician friends, Trice always had a day job and it wasn't until the 1970's that he recorded again. Blue And Rag'd , his sole album, was released on Trix in 1973.

Henry Johnson was born in Union County, S.C.in 1908. He was inspired to play guitar by local musicians and the records of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake & Blind Boy Fuller. Around 1933 he also took up playing the piano. All of these influences made him a multi-instrumentalist playing finger-picking as well as slide guitar styles, piano and he also picked up harmonica along the way. A buried treasure, he wasn't heard until early white blues enthusiasts chanced upon him in the early 1970's. Johnson recorded a full-length album for Trix in 1973, and a few live recordings by him were later released on a Flyright Records LP compilation. Johnson passed away in Union in February of 1974.

George Mitchell who made some remarkable field recordings throughout the South over a twenty year period beginning in the early 1960's. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Several years ago the Fat Possum label acquired the Mitchell archive and has been reissuing the recordings through a variety of formats including CD, 7-inch record and digital download. We feature several of Mitchell's recordings by artists such as Cliff Scott, Cecil Barfield, Jimmy Lee Williams, John Lee Ziegler and James Davis.

Cliff Scott lived in Dranesville, Georgia, and learned a good deal about music from his neighbor Dixon Hunt. Approximately 40 years old in when he was recorded by George Mitchell in 1969.

Read Liner Notes

Cecil Barfield was discovered in 1976 by George Mitchell, who was touring the state for field research. He was living outside a tiny farm town on a meager disability check (in fact, the original LP was released under the name William Robertson, because Barfield was scared that he would lose his disability benefits if he released the record under his own name. the album was called South Georgia Blues and originally issued on the Southland label (since reissued in 2009 by Big Legal Mess Records). Mitchell recorded Barfield extensively and many of these recordings were unissued until recently mad available by Fat Possum as digital downloads. Barfield was also recorded by Art Rosenbaum and Pete Lowry.

Born in 1925 in Polan in Worth County, GA, guitarist Jimmy Lee Williams lived his whole life in the area, working as a farmer. He learned to play guitar in 1941, and was soon spending his weekends playing for all-night frolics in the area's juke joints. Musicologist George Mitchell recorded Williams at two sessions in 1977 and 1982.

John Lee Ziegler legacy rests on just a handful of recordings made by George Mitchell in the late 1970's and some sides made in the 1990's for the Music Maker organization.

Kip Lornell has worked on music projects for the Smithsonian Institute, has a doctorate in ethnomusicology and is the author of several articles and books. He also did some field recordings in the in the Southeast in the 70's. Among those we feature tracks by James “Guitar Slim” Stephens, Pernell charity and Carl Hodges. Some of Lornell's field recordings appear on the Virginia Traditions series issued by the Blue Ridge Institute for Appalachian Studies at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia. They released a series of eight LPs in the late '70s and early '80s. From those albums we play fine sides by Turner Foddrell and Lewis "Rabbit" Muse among others.

I want to thank Kip Lornell for send me a copy of the extremely hard to find Guitar Slim album. James “Guitar Slim” Stephens was born on March 10, 1915, near Spartanburg, South Carolina. He began playing pump organ when he was only five years old, singing spirituals he learned from his parents and reels he heard from his older brother pick on the banjo. Within a few years, Slim was playing piano. When he was thirteen, he began picking guitar, playing songs he heard at local house parties and churches. A few years later he joined the John Henry Davis Medicine Show, playing music to draw crowds. For in the next twenty or so years, he moved throughout the eastern United States living in such cities as Richmond, Durham, Louisville, Nashville, and Waterbury, Connecticut. In 1953 he arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he lived for the remainder of his life playing both guitar and piano–singing the blues at house parties and spirituals at church. His lone LP, Greensboro Rounder, was issued in 1979 by the Flyright label. In 1980 he was recorded by Axel Kunster and Ziggy Christmann which was issued as part of the Living Country Blues series on the L&R label. He passed in 1989.

Read Liner Notes: Pt. 1Pt. 2Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

Virginia guitarist Carl Hodges recorded for Pete Welding in 1961, he was also recorded by folklorist Kip Lornell in 1979. Hodges had quit his music in more recent years, but began playing again after Music Maker Foundationprovided him with a guitar and booked him some gigs. Hodges passed away earlier this year

Born in 1908 in Franklin County, VA, Lewis "Rabbit" Muse performed for white and black audiences from the 1920's until the '80s. A consummate entertainer, he played, sang and danced at medicine shows and folk festivals. He recorded a pair of hard to find albums, Muse Blues and Sixty Minute Man, for Rocky Mount's Outlet Records label in the 1970's. He passed in 1982.

We spotlight several cuts today from the recently release Classic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways, a terrific collection spanning the late 50's through the early 80's. Particularly interesting  are the tracks recorded between 1971-1982 which have been recently digitized thanks to a preservation grant from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and were made at Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife. From that festival we spotlight songs by Virginian blues artist Archie Edwards and North Carolina's Peg Leg Sam Jackson.

Archie Edwards was born on a farm near Union Hall in rural Virginia in 1918. He would play along to some of his favorite records by Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Boy Fuller, and Blind Lemon Jefferson.  When he was twelve, his older brother would go to house parties and brag to the musicians and other people at the party about how good Archie was.  He would then go home and wake up Archie, who would then go play at the party and be just as good if not better than the older musicians playing there. In the 1930s, he and his brother got a job at a near by sawmill. Archie played guitar in his spare time and went home on weekends to play for parties. After serving in the the war, he went to Richmond, Virginia, to become a barber. He set up a barbershop in Washington D.C. His barbershop became a musical hangout spot for many local musicians. Through the barbershop, Edwards met Mississippi John Hurt. The two started playing together and joined up with Skip James and played around the city for the new white audience. He died in 1998. His first recordings appeared on Living Country Blues Vol. 6 and he cut albums for Northern Blues and Mapleshade.

Peg Leg Sam Jackson made his living busking on the street and performing in medicine shows. Hem gave his last medicine-show performance in 1972 in North Carolina, but continued to appear at music festivals in his final years. Born For Hard Luck was a documentary about his life in 1976. He cut a coupe of albums in the 70's before passing in 1977.

Among other notable recordings today include tracks by Buddy Moss, Elizabeth Cotton, John Jackson, Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) , Frank Hovington, Turner Foddrell  and Eddie Lee Jones.

Buddy Moss playing guitar in the
Green County Convict Camp, 1941.

A talented harmonica player in his teens, Buddy Moss took up 6-string guitar after he moved to Atlanta in 1928 and began associating with Barbecue Bob, Charley Lincoln, and Curley Weaver. He advanced quickly on the instrument and within a few years was one of the Southeast’s foremost blues performers. By the mid 1930s, his output of 78s rivaled that of Blind Willie McTell, with whom he occasionally performed. ust as he was poised to become one of the Southeast’s most important bluesman, Moss was convicted of a major crime. Pete Lowry explained, “Roger Brown has seen official documentation of Moss having killed his girlfriend because he thought she was fooling around with another.” With the death of Blind Boy Fuller in 1941, J.B. Long, a record company talent scout who’d worked with Fuller, helped secure Moss’ release. Five weeks after this session, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II. With it came a ban on most recordings, and Moss’ session work came to a halt. He was never able to regain the momentum he’d had in the 1930s.

John Jackson was born in Woodville, Virginia into a musical family, he learned to play as a boy before moving in his twenties to Fairfax, where he had a day job as a gravedigger, one of many jobs he performed. In the early 1960's he cut several albums for Arhoolie. He visited Europe several times, played at folk festivals, and also recorded for Rounder and Alligator Records. Jackson died in 2002.

Frank Hovington was from Pennsylvania but lived in Delaware. He was recorded by Dick Spottswood & Bruce Bastin in the summer of 1975 at Frank’s home, using a tape recorder on loan from the Library of Congress. It was released by the British Label Flyright Records in 1976 as Lonesome Road Blues. He was recorded again in 1980 for the Living Country Blues series. He disliked travel and did not play away from his Delaware home, afraid that he would lose his welfare support payments, and so did not get the publicity from music festival appearances that his talent deserved.

Pete Lowry called Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) "One of the most spontaneous musicians around; right up there with Lightnin' Hopkins, maybe more so." He cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the album long out-of-print Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) which is where our selection comes from and a final album for Lowry's Trix label, Alone In His Field, before passing in 1975.

Robert Lewis Jones, known as both Guitar Gabriel and Nyles Jones, was influenced by artists such as Blind Boy Fuller and Reverend Gary Davis. After hearing of Guitar Gabriel from the late Greensboro, North Carolina blues guitarist and pianist, James "Guitar Slim" Stephens, musician and folklorist Tim Duffy located and befriended Gabriel, who was the inspiration for the creation of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. His father, Sonny Jones recorded for Vocalion Records in 1939 in Memphis, accompanied by Sonny Terry and Oh Red. In 1935, Gabriel's family moved to Durham, North Carolina, where he began playing guitar on the streets. Between the ages of 15 and 25, Gabriel traveled the country playing the guitar in medicine shows. In 1970, Gabriel went to Pittsburgh and recorded a single, "Welfare Blues," as well as an album My South, My Blues with the Gemini label under the name Nyles Jones. Tim Duffy found him in 1990 and teamed up with and several albums were released in the 90's. He passed in 1996.

Elizabeth Nevills (Cotton) was born in Carrboro, North Carolina, at the border of Chapel Hill, to a musical family. By her early teens she was writing her own songs. After getting married she gave up guitar for 25 years, except for occasional church performances. It wasn't until she reached her 60's that she began recording and performing publicly. She was discovered by the folk-singing Seeger family while she was working for them as a housekeeper.

Marvin and Turner  Foddrell were born into a musical family near Stuart in the Virginia Piedmont and for the major parts of their lives played regularly only at community gatherings, never professionally. Discovered in the 1970s', the Foddrells became a regular fixture at the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at nearby Ferrum College and were also featured at many other festivals including some in Europe. The Foddrell Brothers recorded albums on Swingmaster and Outlet, and also appeared alongside more famous traditional musicians on a number of recorded anthologies. Both brothers have since passed away. Lowry recorded them extensively in 1979 but none of these recordings were ever issued.

In 1965 folklorist Bill Koon was out for a walk near Lexington, GA, when he happened across Eddie Lee "Mustright" Jones playing guitar on a porch. Intrigued, Koon walked up and introduced himself, quickly realizing that Jones' archaic song repertoire, which bounced between old black spirituals, early blues, and interpretations of fiddle dance tunes, was something special. He returned with a reel-to-reel recorder and taped several hours of Jones singing and playing, often with interjections and unsolicited vocals from Jones' family and friends. The results were released on Pete Welding's Testament label. Little else is known about Jones.

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Show Notes:

For today's show we continue with our ongoing series I call Forgotten Blues Heroes. For this installment we spotlight four great bluesmen who didn't get the opportunity to record until the 1960's and 1970's: Scott Dunbar, Bill Williams, Babe Stovall and Frank Hovington. As the blues historian Paul Oliver wrote: "Throughout the Sixties, it seemed there was one 'discovery' or 'rediscovery' of a blues singer after another; a succession of methodical searches, happy accidents and dramatic events which brought not only a number of legendary figures to life, but also revealed that the wealth of talent in the black traditions had been even greater than might have been supposed."

All of today's featured artists were old enough to have been recorded earlier but opportunity passed them by until the blues revival of the 1960's. In addition to the resurrection of the legendary artists of the past like Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White and Skip James there were a slew of older artists uncovered who got a chance to make some recordings such as Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Pete Williams and Mance Lipscomb to name a few. Unlike those who recorded back in the 1920's and 30's for the commercial record companies and black consumers, those who recorded in the 1960's and 70's were being recorded primarily for a new found white audience, with the records issued usually on tiny specialist labels. The benefit wasn't in sales of records so much as it was the fact that these recordings would be an entry way into the festival and coffeehouse circuit. Unfortunately many of these small labels never lasted into the CD era and hence many great albums remain long out of print. The bulk of today's recordings fall into that category.

Scott Dunbar

In the notes to his sole album, From Lake Mary issued on the Ahura Mazda label in 1970, Karl Micheal Wolfe wrote that "Today Scott Dunbar is a fisherman and guide on Lake Mary, father of six, and resident blues singer of Woodville and rural Wilkinson County, Mississippi. There everyone knows old Scott. We hope this record will make him known to a wider audience." Prior to the recordings in 1970 Dunbar was recorded by Frederic Ramsey, Jr. in 1954 as part of field recordings done under a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Ramsey's recordings appeared on the ten volume series Music from the South on Folkways with four of Dunbar's recordings on Music From The South Vol. 5: Song, Play And Dance and one side on Music From The South Vol. 10: Been Here And Gone. Three more issued sides were recorded in 1968, which appeared on the album Blues From The Delta, the companion album to William Ferris' influential book of the same name.

Dunbar gave up the juke joints because they were too dangerous and in later years played primarily for whites. William Ferris wrote in Blues From The Delta that "I recorded thirty-seven songs during my visits with Dunbar and of these, two thirds were sung white style in the key of C. " The thirteen songs on From Lake Mary are mostly blues, likely selected to appeal to the blues revival market while the vast majority of recordings from this session have not been issued, forty-eight unissued sides in total.  At lengthy recording sessions n February, April and August of 1970 Dunbar proves to be a true songster, laying down songs like "Wabash Cannonball", "Sally Good'n", "Blue Heaven", "Tennessee Waltz" and  "You Are My Sunshine." In 1994 Fat Possum reissued From Lake Mary on CD with no additional tracks.Dunbar passed away at the age of 90 in 1994 with his death largely unnoticed outside of a couple of obituaries in blues magazines and a recorded legacy of  nineteen issued sides.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist. …Disbelief is the inevitable reaction to incredible Bill Williams, a former partner of Blind Blake who is without doubt the most technically accomplished living country blues guitarist. …While living in Bristol, Tennessee in the early 1920's Bill met the peerless Blind Blake who was then living with an elderly woman (perhaps a relative) in a desolate nearby country area. For four months Bill worked as Blake's regular second guitarist…" Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused.

From the notes to The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads, Stephen Calt wrote: "For a guitarist of such uncommon ability Bill Williams enjoyed an all-too brief period of public recognition. Within fifteen minutes of the time he first picked up an instrument in 1908 he was accomplished enough to play a song, but he was still completely unknown beyond his home town of Greenup, Kentucky before Blue Goose recorded him in the fall of 1970 and issued an album (Low and Lonesome) that brought him unqualified acclaim as a 73-year old folk find. A brief series of concert engagements (notably at the Smithsonian Institution and the Mariposa Folk Festival) followed, along with an extended recording session in New York, before a heart ailment brought about his musical retirement. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he was fatally stricken in his sleep. This memorial album and its soon to be released sequel will constitute the remainder of Bill's musical legacy."

Jewell "Babe" Stovall was a Mississippi-born songster who was born in 1907 in Tylertown, MS, Babe was the youngest of 11 children, most of them musicians. Stovall learned guitar when he was around eight years old, and was soon playing breakdowns, frolics, and parties in the area, even meeting and learning "Big Road Blues" from Tommy Johnson. He moved to Franklinton, LA, in the 1930s, and split his time between there and Tylertown for several years, picking up whatever work he could as a farmhand. In 1964 he moved to New Orleans, where he was "discovered" working as a street singer in the French Quarter, his act featuring crowd-pleasing antics like playing his National Steel guitar behind his head and shouting out his song lyrics in a voice so loud that it carried well down the street. He recorded an LP for Verve in 1964, simply titled Babe Stovall (re-released on CD by Flyright in 1990), and did further sessions in 1966 released on Southern Sound as The Babe Stovall Story and with Bob West in 1968 (which form the basis of The Old Ace: Mississippi Blues & Religious Songs, released on Arcola in 2003), and became active on the folk and blues college circuit, as well as holding down a house gig at the Dream Castle Bar in New Orleans. Stovall died in 1974 in New Orleans.

Bruce Bastin called Frank Hovington or Guitar Frank as he was also known, "one of the finest singers to have been recorded during the 1970's…steeped in a tradition which is as much part of him as is the countryside about him." Bastin and Dick Spotswood recorded Frank in 1975, issuing the album Lonesome Road Blues on the Flyright label (reissued in 2000 as Gone With The Wind with several additional tracks). Frank was still in fine form when he reluctantly agreed to perform for Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann in 1980. The results were issued as part of their remarkable Living Country Blues series. Hovington started on ukulele and banjo as a child and teamed with Willliam Walker in the late '30s and '40s playing at house parties and dances in Frederica, Pennsylvania. Hovington moved to Washington D.C. in the late '40s, and backed such groups as Stewart Dixon's Golden Stars and Ernest Ewin's Jubilee Four. Hovington moved to Delaware in 1967 where he passed in 1982.

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Show Notes:

We open our latest mix show with a quartet of songs revolving around the Chatmon brothers including numbers by Bo Carter, Mississippi Blacksnakes, The Mississippi Sheiks and Sam Chatmon. One of the most popular bluesmen of the '30's, Bo Carter cut over a hundred sides between 1928 and 1940. Bo and his brothers Lonnie and Sam Chatmon also recorded as members of the Mississippi Sheiks with singer/guitarist Walter Vinson. Bo died in 1964 but Sam hung in long enough to take advantage of the blues revival, recording prolifically in the 1960's and 70's. Unfortunately most all of the LP's he cut seem to be out-of-print. Today's selection, "Hollandale Blues", is from the 1979 Rounder album, Sam Chatmon's Advice. The Mississippi Blacksnakes cut ten songs over three sessions in 1931for Brunswick with the likley personal of Luke Bo and Sam Chatmon, Charlie McCoy with Walter Vinscon only on the first session.

Moving up to the 1960's and 70's we spin some great records by some lesser known players including Luke "Long Gone" Miles, Lum Guffin, Frank Hovington and John Lee Ziegler. Luke Miles was born in Louisiana in 1925 and moved to Houston in 1952. In the liner notes to his only full length LP Country Born (World Pacific, 1965) he said: "I went to Houston for one reason. I went to see Lightnin' Hopkins. That's what I went for and that's what I did. Lightnin' Hopkins taught me just about everything about blues singing. The first time I ever sang in front of an audience was in 1952 with Lightnin'. The first day I met Lightnin' he named me "Long Gone" …and I've been Long Gone Miles ever since." By 1961 Miles was in Los Angles were he cut some 45's for Smash. After the World Pacific LP he cut singles for Two Kings in 1965, Kent in 1969 before supposedly leaving L.A. in 1970. Our selection comes from the LP Country Boy (Sundown, 1984) which is a collection of mostly unreleased sides from  1961 and 1962. Just recently a liver CD of of Miles surfaced from 1985 titled Riding Around In My V8 Ford Live in Venice, California. He died in 1987. Unfortunately just about all of Miles' recordings remain out of print.

The other gentleman were recorded in the 1970's, an extension you could say of the 1960's blues revival that swept up many fine bluesman who never got the opportunity to record in their younger days. Lum Guffin was first recorded in the 1970's by Swedish researcher Bengt Olsson when he was 70 and again in 1980 by Axel Kunster for the Living Country Blues series. The LP Walking Victrola was his sole record, released on the Flyright label in 1973. Some of these recordings appear on the CD On The Road Again. Frank Hovington was an exceptional guitarist in the Piedmont tradition who was reluctant to record but made some superb recordings in 1975 released (issued on the LP Lonesome Road Blues first on Flyright and then on Rounder with additional tracks on the CD Gone With The Wind) and 1980 for the Living Country Blues series. Ziegler passed away May of last year. He cut just a handful of recordings, the best recorded by George Mitchell in the late 1970's plus some sides made in the 1990's and issued on the Music Maker label.

John Lee Hooker: Urban BluesWe play a twin spin by John Lee Hooker from his Bluesway years. Hooker cut several albums for Bluesway in the 1960's including: Live At Cafe Au-Go-Go (1966), Urban Blues (1967), Simply The Truth (1968), If You Miss 'Im… I Got 'Im (1970)and Kabuki Wuki (1973). Our selections come from Simply The Truth and the excellent Urban Blues featuring Hooker in the company of sidemen like Eddie Taylor, Wayne Bennett, and Louis Myers. Bluesway has been ill served reissue wise, with only a handful of releases issued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. I'll be doing a show on the label in the near future.  Urban Blues was issued on CD in 1994 by BGO with three bonus cuts. One of those bonus cut is the stomping "I Gotta Go To Vietnam" featuring some wild wah wah guitar from Hooker's cousin Earl Hooker. The "The Motor City Is Burning" is a harrowing account of the 1967 Detroit riots. The flash point began at a drinking joint at Twelfth Street and Clairmount Avenue and quickly spread out. Looting and fires spread through the Northwest side of Detroit, then crossed over to the East Side. Within 48 hours, the National Guard was mobilized, to be followed by the 82nd airborne on the riot’s fourth day. As police and military troops sought to regain control of the city, violence escalated. At the conclusion of 5 days of rioting, 43 people lay dead, 1189 injured and over 7000 people had been arrested. Hooker gives a vivid account of the action:

Ohhh the Motor City is burning, ain't a thing in the world that I can do
Don't you know, don't you know the big D is burning
Ain't a thing in the world that Johnny can do
My hometown is burning down to the ground, worster than Vietnam

Well it started on Twelfth Street and Clairmount this morning, I just don't know what it's all about (2x)
The fire wagon kept coming, the snipers just wouldn't let them put it out
Firebombs bursting all around me, soldiers standing everywhere (2x)
I could hear the people screaming, sirens filled the air

Doctor Clayton
Doctor Clayton

Also on deck today are some prime 1940's Chicago blues by Sonny Boy Williamson I, Yank Rachel, Washboard Sam and Doctor Clayton. At the time of his untimely death in 1948 at the age of 34, Sonny Boy was still at his creative peak as she proves on "Sugar Gal" from 1947, a storming update of his classic "Sugar Mama Blues" with a some killer electric guitar from William Lacey. Rachel's "Up North Blues (There's A Reason)" from 194 sports some wonderful playing by Sonny Boy and is just one of a batch of sides they cut together between 1938 and 1941. Also on that track is the prolific Washboard Sam who is also heard on his "My Feet Jumped Salty" featuring some stunning amplified guitar from Big Bill Broonzy. Both Sonny Boy I and Washboard Sam will be featured in upcoming programs. Nearly 50 years after his untimely death the exceptional singer and masterful songwriter known as Doctor Clayton is little spoken of today. Clayton worked strictly as a vocalist (by some accounts he could play piano and ukulele), employing an impressive falsetto technique, later refined into a powerful, swooping style that was instantly recognizable. In addition he was an unparalleled songwriter, writing mostly original material with a rare wit, intelligence and social awareness. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. Despite the high esteem he was held in by fellow blues artists and his popularity during his lifetime Clayton's fine blues recordings remain largely ignored. "Watch Out Mama" is a fine example of his songwriting, filled with a dash of violence and humor:

You clown when you get ready, stay out late as you please
Come home drunk and staggering, and weak in your knees
But watch out momma, Doctor Clayton gonna sneak up on you
Yes, I'm gonna whip your nappy head, just as soon as I find you

As usual we spin some fine piano records including tracks by Big Maceo, Sammy Price and Robert McCoy. Robert McCoy: Bye Bye Baby BluesAlongside his protege Johnnie Jones and later Otis Spann, Big Maceo is among the greatest Chicago piano men. During the 1940's he worked with Tampa Red and the duo made some magnifecnt sides including our selection, the romping "Texas Stomp." Sammy Price fine boogie woogie playing is heard backing Nora Lee King on "Cannon Ball" her uptown rendition of Cow Cow Davenport's immortal "Cow Cow Blues." King cut a dozen sides between 1941and 1944 before fading into obscurity. Alabama barrelhouse pianist Robert McCoy had two rare LPs in the early 1960's on the Vulcan label. A few years back Delmark acquired the masters and reissued the material on CD for the first time with many previously unissued tracks. Unfortunatley no tracks from his second Vulcan album have been included. These were his first recordings as leader although he recorded in the 1930's accompanying Guitar Slim, Jaybird Coleman and Peanut The Kidnapper. McCoy was part of the fertile Birmingham piano tradition, learning piano from Cow Cow Davenport and Jabbo Williams.

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Mississippi Moan

In part one we discussed the some of the superb East Coast musicians Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann recorded while this time out we travel with the duo down to Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. It was Mississippi that occupied most of their time and form a good chunk of the recordings. Mississippi, particularly the Delta has been subjected to immense scrutiny among researchers and with good reason; in the 1920's and 30's men like Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Skip James and Son House recorded some of the greatest blues records ever made and it was the breeding ground for those who became famous up North like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and countless others. Yet some have said that the region has attracted too much attention among researchers, leaving other areas like the East Coast too sparsely documented. While this is certainly true there's no denying that Mississippi was an immensely fertile region for the blues and remained so when Küstner and Christmann set up shop in 1980 over the course of eleven days.

Son Thomas
Son Thomas

Among the finest bluesman they came across in Mississippi was James "Son" Thomas "discovered" in 1968 by William Ferris who wrote about him in his influential book Blues From The Delta. By 1980 Thomas was a regular on the festival circuit but had recorded little, just a handful of sides scattered on obscure anthologies. After 1980 he toured Europe, recorded prolifically, including several very strong albums but never did he sound better then the recordings he made for Küstner and Christmann. Thomas plays brooding, darkly hued delta blues with a tightly wound, controlled intensity. Thomas' fourteen tracks, scattered over several volumes, are all traditional but he gives them a thoroughly invigorating, individual reading; thus he shakes the dust off material like "Bull Cow Blues", "Rock Me Mama", "Big Fat Mama", "61 Highway Blues" laying these numbers down with a throbbing intensity, underpinned by his steady guitar rhythm and dramatic vocal delivery that often dips into a riveting falsetto. By far his most memorable performance is the six minute plus "Catfish Blues", a hypnotic and downright dirty version of this delta standard. Also fascinating are several numbers Thomas performs with his running buddy Cleveland "Brooman" Jones who would pull a few handfuls of dirt out of his pocket, flip over the broom handle and scrape the floor to produce a bass sound that somehow perfectly meshed with Thomas' music.

A true anomaly was 25 year old Lonnie Pitchford, the youngest musician recorded who played the most ancient of instruments, the one string diddley bow which he amplified and picked like a guitar. These were Pitchford's first recordings and he truly sounds like no one else; the music is mesmerizing and hypnotic as he transforms chestnuts like "Boogie Chillen", "My Babe" and a slashing "Shake Your Money Maker." Pitchford was still evolving as an artist when AIDS claimed him at the age of 43. Thankfully due to the exposure from this series he was recorded extensively on anthologies and issued a lone album, the terrific All Around Man, for Rooster in 1994.

Lonnie Pitchford
Lonnie Pitchford

The fact is that the bulk of these artists were older, the remaining holdouts of a fading tradition and the music often sounds like it was trapped in amber, virtually unchanged from the blues of fifty years ago. Certainly that's the case with musicians such as Walter Brown, Joe Savage and Boyd Rivers. Brown and Savage bring alive the era of the field and levee camp hollers that could once be heard ringing all over the south and in later years primarily survived in prisons as documented by the Lomax's, Harry Oster and Bruce Jackson. Both Brown and Savage lived hard lives and both men spent time in the notorious Parchman Farm. In fact John Lomax interviewed and recorded Joe Savage in Parchman in the 1940's and said of him "he was by far the youngest and most damaged." Jumping to 1980 we hear Savage recount his prison experience and sing on the harrowing "Joe’s Prison Camp Holler." Küstner noted that "recording Walter Brown was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. …I had the feeling he was just waiting for somebody to come around so that he could express himself and let his music come out." His "Mississippi Moan" is a bone chilling account of what it's like to be black in Mississippi where "The place, the town where time done come to civilization and they still call you a nigger." His "Levee Camp Holler", sung from experience, is equally arresting as is Savage's unique spin on "Mean Ol' Frisco." The blues is so often romanticized but there's nothing romantic about the lives of men like Brown, Savage and many of the others on this collection who have led unbearably tough lives under crushing poverty and persistent racism. "I actually thought he was the best and gave the most powerful performances of any that were recorded" Küstner said of Boyd Rivers. A one time bluesman, Rivers plays with unbridled passion, singing in a powerful, raspy voice coupled with hard edged Mississippi guitar attack. His nine selections are startling in there intensity which were his first and unfortunately only recordings.

Among the other notable musicians recorded in Mississippi the most famous was Sam Chatmon who was 81 at the time of these recordings and still in fine form. There are several fine performers one wishes had been recorded more including the excellent Stonewall Mays who's two song are his sole legacy and Joe Cooper who was Son Thomas' Uncle and very fine performer in his own right.

Sam
Sam "Stretch" Shields

The recordings made in Tennessee and Arkansas are less consistent although there are some very rewarding performances, chiefly from CeDell Davis and Sam "Stretch" Shields. "CeDell "Big G" Davis",  Küstner wrote, "is probably the most amazing musician I have ever met. At the age of 10 he contracted polio and the disease left him without the full use of his hands. His fingers are crippled, but however, he manages to strum the guitar with his left hand, and chords and slides across the strings with an ordinary table knife that he put in his right hand. The resulting sound, coupled with his roaring voice, makes him a highly individual Blues artist." Davis' rough juke joint blues is perfectly encapsulated on numbers like "I Don't Know Why" and a cover of Tampa Red's "Let Me Play With Your Poodle." Sam "Stretch" Shields' harmonica style harks back to the pre-amplified era when harmonica soloists played now forgotten pieces like train imitations and set pieces like Lost John, Fox Chase, Mama Blues and other call-and-response pieces. Küstner recalled "With Sam, it was like going back in time. When you went into his living room, he had pictures of Franklin D Roosevelt up there. It was like the 1930s." His unaccompanied renditions of "Bluebird Blues", "Mellow Peaches" and the "The Hounds" are enthralling. Of the other performers from the region it sounds like Hammie Nixon has seen better days, pianist Memphis Piano Red is in good form although his piano is badly out of tune while Lottie Murrell delivers some powerful slashing slide guitar but is fairly well inebriated.  I would have liked to hear more from the superb Charlie Sangster who's two numbers reveal a bluesman of very high order, very much in the classic Brownsville, Tennessee tradition of Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon.

Fans and collectors of early country and traditional blues will find hours of rewarding listening within the fourteen volumes that comprise Living Country Blues USA. Through the 1970's country blues was still going strong in rural southern communities even if interest was low commercially. Thankfully a handful intrepid researchers stepped into the breach to record a music and culture that was virtually vanishing before their eyes.  As for complaints, well I do wish that some unreleased material was included which seems to me like a real missed opportunity. In addition while the original liner notes are included it would be nice to have some follow-up information regarding what became of these the artists after these recordings.

Son Thomas – Catfish Blues (MP3)

Boyd Rivers – You Got To Move (MP3)

Lonnie Pitchford – My Babe (MP3)

Walter Brown – Levee Camp Holler (MP3)

Joe Savage – Mean Ol' Frisco (MP3)

Stonewall Mays – Jazz Boogie Woogie (MP3)

CeDell Davis – I Don't Know Why (MP3)

Lottie Murrell – Spoonful (MP3)

Joe Cooper – She Run Me Out On The Road (MP3)

Charlie Sangster & Hammie Nixon – Moanin The Blues (MP3)

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