Entries tagged with “Frank Tannehill”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Hersal ThomasHersal BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Sippie WallaceMurder's Gonna be My CrimeThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Hociel ThomasWorried Down With The BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
George Thomas Fast Stuff BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Moanin' Bernice EdwardsLong Tall Mama The Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Bernice Edwards, Black Boy Shine & Howling SmithHot Mattress Stomp The Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Bert Mays Michigan River Blues Down In Black Bottom
Bert Mays You Can't Come In Down In Black Bottom
Fred Adams & Bilikin Johnson Frisco BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Texas Bill Day & Bilikin JohnsonElm Street Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Texas Bill Day Good Morning Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerTP Window Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerThieving Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerThe Katy Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerPenitentiaryI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Ida May MackElm Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Ida May MackGoodbye Rider Barrelhouse Mamas
Whistlin Moore AlexHeart Wrecked Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexBlue Bloomer Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexIce Pick Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Black Ivory KingThe Flying CrowBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Duskey DaileyThe Flying CrowThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Frank TannehillRolling Stone BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Black Boy Shine Dog House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Ice Pick And Pistol Woman BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Brown House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Joe PullumCows, See That Train Comin'Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumMcKinney Street StompJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Rob Cooper West Dallas DragThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumDixie My HomeJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935

Show Notes:

Back when I started this show in 2007 one of the first programs I did was one devoted to the pre-war Texas piano tradition. My interest in this was sparked again recently when I was doing research and writing the notes for a reissue of pianist Buster Pickens long out-of-print album for the Document label (just reissued  as Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions).  Pickens was an active member of the  'Santa Fe group' of pianists, knew all players but unlike some of them did not get the opportunity to record until the post-war era. In our two-part feature on Texas piano I'll be spotlighting the tradition in more depth that I did the first time out, surveying both  pre-war and post-war artists.

Hersal Thomas
Hersal Thomas

The Texas piano tradition flowered in the 1920’s and was at its peak during the 1930’s when a number of the tradition’s best players were recorded. Paul Oliver observed that “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues” and “a cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas." The pianists can be roughly grouped into schools; there was the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928, one based around Dallas which included Whistlin Alex Moore, a regional style that developed around Shreveport and the so-called 'Santa Fe group' who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Today’s show is part one of a two-part feature, spotlighting recordings made between 1925 and 1941.

As piano expert Francis Smith noted: “With the two major recording centers of New York and Chicago a thousand miles to the North, it was extremely fortunate that so many pianists of this important close knit Texas group were recorded—all three record companies of the time being involved.” The three companies were Columbia, Victor and Vocalion in addition to Bluebird and Okeh. These companies, either singularly or in various combinations, made field trips to Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio between 1927 and 1941.

The early Texas piano tradition was based around the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928. The music sounds quite different from those who recorded in the 30's. As David Evans states: “It is likely that no family has contributed more personalities to blues history than the Thomas family of Houston, Texas, whose famous members included George W. Thomas, his sister Beulah “Sippie” Wallace, their brother Hersal Thomas, George’s daughter Hociel Thomas, and Moanin’ Bernice Edwards who was raised up in the family.”

Hersal, is described by Francis Smith: "That Hersal, the child prodigy, was a highly influential pianist among his peers there is no doubt; even though he left Houston in his very early 'teens he had established a reputation there which remains still in the folk memory."Hersal was busy between 1925 & 1926 cutting a dozen titles with Hociel, fifteen with Sippie and backing singers Lillian Mller and Sodarisa Miller. Hersal died tragically at the age of 16 in 1926 of food poisoning.

Hersal's older brother George also left behind a slim legacy; a few jazz titles with his Muscle Shoals Devils, some sides backing singer Tiny Franklin, a recording of "The Rocks" made in 1922 under the name Clay Custer and the coupling ""Don't Kill Him In Here" from 1929 and our selection “Fast Stuff Blues."

Moanin' Bernice Edwards possessed a beautiful, deep, lowdown voice and piano style  that fell within the Santa Fe school of pianists. Edwards waxed twelve sides for Paramount in 1928 and six more for Vocalion in 1935.

Whistlin  Alex Moore: West Texas WomanDallas was the home of a number of distinctive piano players and singers they accompanied. Among them were Texas Bill Day, Neal Roberts, Willie Tyson, Whistlin' Alex Moore and singer Billiken Johnson. The hub of the black community was an area known as Central Tracks, where honky-tonks 'saloons, beer-parlours and brothels were wedged between warehouses, furniture stores and places of entertainment like Ella B. Moore's Park Theatre, or Hattie Burleson's dance hall. In addition many railroads whose names are familiar to blues collectors had termini there. It's not surprising that the railroad figure prominently in the blues of Dallas.

Not much is known about several of the Dallas pianists. Pianist/singer Texas Bill Day cut six sides for Columbia. Tyson cut two solo piano numbers for Columbia in 1927 which went unissued. The next day he backed singer Hattie Hudson on “Black Hand Blues” and the classic “Doggone My Good Luck Soul.” Tyson also backed Gertrude Perkins, Bilikin Johnson and Lillian Glinn. Jack Ranger cut three songs for Okeh in Dallas in 1929. it's unknown if he accompanies himself on piano but he was a sensitive singer and songwriter.

Pianist K.D. Johnson became famous backing the outstanding Texas singers Bessie Tucker and Ida May Mack. Johnson backs them on their legendary session for Victor on August 29th and 30th 1928 in Memphis. He was remembered as '49' by Alex Moore and not only did Mack call him 'Mr. 49' during his solos, she even named a song after him called "Mr. Forty-Nine Blues."

The most famous of the Dallas pianists was Alex Moore. Of Moore, Paul Oliver wrote: "He is a true original, a folk blues singer of the city who can sit at the piano improvise endlessly piano themes and blues verses that are sometimes startling, sometimes comic, sometimes grim, and very often pure poetry." Moore began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions for Columbia Records and also accompanied several artists on record. Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca.

Around Shreveport another regional style flourished. Among the pianists who recorded from this region were Dave Alexander who recorded as Black Ivory King and Duskey Dailey. Both recorded in 1937 with Dailey cutting an additional session in 1939. Both men cut version of a regional railroad number called “The Flying Crow.”

Two pianists who fall outside the Texas piano schools are Bert Mays and Frank Tannehill. Mays recorded four titles for Paramount in Chicago in 1927. He cut a final ten sides in 1928 and 1929 for Vocalion although only two were released. Tannehill was born in Austin and made his debut backing Perry Dickson in 1932. Under his own name he recorded for Vocalion in Chicago in 1937, in 1938 for Bluebird in San Antonio and a final session in Dallas in 1941.

Joe Pullum: Dixie Is My HomeIn part two of our feature we'll be going more in depth into the recordings of the Santa Fe group but we do feature a number of songs today by men associated with that group. ARC Records made field recordings in 1936 in San Antonio where they recorded Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine. He was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937.

Among the best of the Santa Fe group were Andy Boy of Galveston and Rob Cooper of Houston. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. He waxed eight sides in 1937 under his own name as well as backing singer Joe Pullum on eleven sides in 1935 and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington.

Rob Cooper was an accomplished pianist with strong links to ragtime and stride piano. He also recorded behind the popular singer Joe Pullum on three sessions in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He recorded two version of “West Dallas Drag”, his version of the seminal, technically complex Santa Fe number “The Ma Grinder.”

 

 

 

 

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Magic Slim She Is Mine 45
Magic Slim Scufflin Grand Slam
Alberta Brown How LongI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 2
Monette Moore Black Sheep BluesMonette Moore Vol. 2 1924-1932
Jenny Pope Bullfrog BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 4 1929-1953
Louis Armstrong Blues for Yesterday C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Louis Armstrong Back o' Town BluesC'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Frank Tannehill Rolling Stone BluesRare Country Blues Vol. 4 1929-c.1953
Tommy McLennan Baby, Please Don't Tell On Me Bluebird Recordings 1939-1942
Washboard SamEvil BluesRockin' My Blues Away
Fluffy Hunter Hi Jinks BluesTough Mamas
Madonna Martin Rattlesnakin' Daddy Tough Mamas
James Russell I Had Five Long YearsPrison Worksongs
Big Joe Williams These Are My Blues (Gonna Sing ´Em For Myself)These Are My Blues
Blind Arvella GrayWalking BluesBlues From Maxwell Street
Precious Bryant Precious Bryant's Staggering BluesNational Downhome Blues Festival Vol. 1
Precious Bryant That's The Way The Good Thing Go George Mitchell Collection Box Set
'Talking' Billy Anderson Lonely Bill Blues The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Blind Willie McTell Stole Rider BluesBest Of
Charley JordanHunkie Tunkie Blues Charley Jordan Vol.1 1930-1931
Teddy Darby She Thinks She's Slick Blind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Zuzu Bollin Headlight BluesR&B Guitars 1950-1954
Jimmy Babyface Lewis Last NightComplete Recordings 1947-1955
Big Joe Turner Wine-O-Baby BoogieTell Me Pretty Baby
Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette & Jimmy Witherspoon Geneva BluesCake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948
Lee Roy LittleI''m a Good Man But a Poor Man Blues From The Apple
Charlie SaylesVietnamThe Raw Harmonica Blues Of
Johnny MomentKeep Our Business To YourselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Robert Pete Williams Freight-Train Blues Louisiana Blues
Hammie NixonViola Lee Blues 2Way Back Yonder Vol. 1
Eugene Powell Poor Boy Blues Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Magic Slim Stranded On The HighwayLiving Chicago Blues Vol. II
Magic Slim Ain't Doing Too BAdRaw Magic

Show Notes:

Magic Slim
Magic Slim

It seems these mix show end up as tributes to an increasing number of blues artists who've passed recently. This time out we pay our respects to Magic Slim and Precious Bryant. Along the way we spin a pair of bluesy numbers by Louis Armstrong, play a few sets of pre-war blues, spotlight some interesting field recordings as well as some jump blues from the post-war era.

I was lucky enough to catch Magic Slim on several occasions and he always delivered the goods, which is to say a good dose of gutbucket blues. After battling health problems Slim passed at the age of 75 on Feb. 21st. His mentor was Magic Sam, whom he knew as a child in Mississippi and who offered early encouragement. “Magic Sam told me don’t try to play like him, don’t try to play like nobody,” he once recalled. “Get a sound of your own.” It was also Magic Sam who gave a teenager named Morris Holt the stage name Magic Slim when the two performed together in Chicago in the 1950's. He recorded his first single, “Scufflin’,” in 1966 and formed the Teardrops with his younger brothers a year later. Magic Slim and the Teardrops eventually became the house band at a local nightclub, Florence’s. They went on to tour and record regularly, headlining blues festivals all over the world, and to win numerous awards, including the 2003 Blues Music Award as band of the year. Magic Slim recorded prolifically, cutting his first album for the French MCM label in 1977 with follow-ups on labels like Blind Pig, Alligator and Wolf. Among my personal favorites of Slim voluminous discography would be Grand Slam (Rooster), Raw Magic (Alligator) and the series on Wolf titled Live At The Zoo Bar (five vols. I think?) which really capture Slim and the Teardrops in prime form.

Unfortunately I never got to see Precious Bryant who passed away on January 12th. She was born in Talbot County, GA and went on to play numerous festivals including the Chattahoochee Folk Festival, the National Down Home Blues Festival in Atlanta (recordings by her appear on the companion albums), the King Biscuit Blues, Newport Folk Festival, Utrecht Blues Festival in Utrecht, Holland and others. She never went on tour and didn't release an album until Fool Me Good in 2002 although a few scattered sides were recorded in the field by George Mitchell. It was Mitchell, who discovered her in 1969 while documenting the lower Chattahoochee scene. She cut a follow-up album, The Truth, in 2005 and the same year cut an album on the Music Maker label.

Precious Bryant
Precious Bryant

When not listening to blues I do listen to quite a bit of jazz, particularly the older stuff, and have listened to Louis Armstrong's hot Fives and Hot Sevens countless times. I suspect, like many, I haven't really listened to many of his recordings after this period. Some time back I picked up the 4-CD box set C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties on the Proper label which is where today's tracks come from. Satchmo set the bar so high on those early recordings they're pretty much unsurpassable but this set very worthwhile.  Lots of good stuf from big band sides, duets with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and great live recordings from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall with the All Stars. One of the songs, "Back o' Town Blues", was first recorded as an instrumental by the Original Memphis Five in 1923 on the Edison label.

From the pre-war era we spin some fine blues ladies including Monette Moore and Jenny Pope plus obscure male artists such as Frank Tannehill and 'Talking' Billy Anderson. Moore began her career accompanying silent films in Kansas City and then toured the vaudeville circuit as a pianist and singer. In the early 1920's she made her way to New York and became active in musical theater. Her recording career began in 1923. In 1927 and 1928 she was singing with Walter Page's Blue Devils in the mid-West. She returned to New York in 1929 and was very active in musical theater and cabaret work until the late 1930's. In the early 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles and performed in clubs, recorded with Teddy Bunn and the Harmony Girls and had small parts in a couple of films. From 1951 to 1953 she appeared on the Amos 'n Andy television program and recorded with George Lewis. Moore passed in 1962. From 1925 we spin her "Black Sheep Blues" (Virginia Liston cut the same song a few months later) which is not the same song as Pigmeat Terry cut in 1935 but offers a similar sentiment:

When you're thinking of black sheep
Just take a look at me
I'm the blackest of black sheep
That ever left old Tennessee

Lord from the straight and narrow path I've strayed
From the straight and narrow path I've strayed
With regrets and sorrows I have paid

Just a black sheep roamin' round the town (2x)
Like a tramp I'm always out and down

While Moore cut some fifty sides during her prime Jenny Pope was much less documented. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Pope delivers a great performance on "Bull Frog Blues", not to be confused with the William Harris song of the same name, with great piano playing from Judson Brown.

Little is known about Frank Tannehill and Billy Anderson. A pianist from Dallas, Texas Frank Tannehill backed Pere Dickson on his two 1932 recordings made in his hometown. Tannehill began his own recording career with two songs recorded in Chicago in 1937. 1938 found him in a San Antonio studio waxing four more songs. His third and final session was in 1941 in Dallas for a four song session. He was never heard from again. Nothing is known about Billy Anderson, other than the fact that two records were recorded under his name in 1927 and that he may have been from Georgia.

Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Read Back Cover

Moving up the 1940's we spin some fine jump blues from ladies like Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin as well as Big Joe Turner and Al Wichard among others. Krazy Kat was a great British label that put out some really interesting anthologies. From the aptly title Tough Mamas we spin rocking tracks from Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin. Big Joe Turner's jumping  "Wine-O-Baby Boogie" features the mighty Pete Johnson on piano and comes from the album Tell Me Pretty Baby a fine collection of late 40's sides issued on Arhoolie.  Al Wichard's "Geneva Blues" features Jimmy Witherspoon on vocals. Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on August 15th, 1919 but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern’s first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks. Wichard's is collected on the reissue on Ace, Cake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948.

Last week I did a whole show devoted to great out-of-print records and today we feature a couple from the Albatros label: Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues and Way Back Yonder Vol. 1. Albatros is an interesting label that has not been all that well served on CD. The label was active from the early 70's through the early 80's issuing reissues of pre-war recordings, folk material and most interestingly, to me anyway, is several volumes of field recordings by label owner Gianni Marcucci. Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings  between 1976 and 1978 in Tennessee and Mississippi. Several of these collections have long been out-of-print including all three volumes of the Way Back Yonder series, the collections Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee and I Got The Blues This Morning and single artists albums by Eugene Powell (Police In Mississippi), Carey Tate (Blues From The Heart) and Jack Owens (Bentonia Country Blues). A while back Marcucci formed the Mbirafon imprint which so far has issued collections of field recordings of Sam Chatmon and Van Hunt. I've heard through the grapevine there was a Eugene Powell 2-CD planned. The label hasn't issued anything in awhile and I wouldn't be surprised if Marcucci got discouraged due to general lack of interest in these kinds of project. I, for one, hope he forges ahead. I should also mention that are three Albatros collections available on CD: Tennessee Blues Vol. 1, 2, and 3 which have very good performances from Laura Dukes, Dewey Corley, Bukka White and others.

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