Entries tagged with “Georgia White”.

Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery You'll Never Miss Your Jelly Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery Rock That Thing Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery House Rent Scuffle Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery Whiskey Sellin' Woman Lucille Bogan Vol. 11923-1930
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery They Ain't Walking No More Lucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery Alley Boogie Lucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery Tee Rolller's Rub Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery I Ain't Sleepy Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery Freddie's Got The BluesBoogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Red Nelson w/ Charles Avery Detroit Blues Red Nelson 1936-1947
Red Nelson w/ Charles Avery Grand Trunk Blues Red Nelson 1936-1947
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Black Bob Good Liqueur Gonna Carry me DownThe Young Big Bill Broonzy 1928-1935
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Black Bob Keep Your Hands Off Of HerWhen The Sun Goes Down
Charlie West w/ Black Bob Hobo Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Charlie West w/ Black Bob Rolling Stone Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Tampa Red w/ Black BobMean Old Tom Cat BluesTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Tampa Red w/ Black BobSomebody's Been Using That ThingTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Tampa Red w/ Black Bob Shake It About LittleTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Charlie McCoy w/ Black Bob Let My Peaches BeThe McCoy brothers
Vol. 1 1934-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Black Bob I'm Betting On YouLil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Fats Hayden w/ Teddy Bunn Brownskin Gal Is The Best Gal After AllTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Ben Franklin w/ Teddy Bunn Crooked World BluesTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Jimmie Gordon w/ Teddy Bunn Sail With MeJimmie Gordon Vol. 1938-1938
Hot Lips Page w/ Teddy Bunn Thirsty Mama BluesThe Very Best of Teddy Bunn
Cow Cow Davenport w/ Teddy Bunn That'll Get ItThe Very Best of Teddy Bunn
Lizzie Miles w/ Teddy Bunn Yellow Dog Gal BluesLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-39
Lizzie Miles w/ Teddy Bunn Too SlowLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-39
Trixie Smith w/ Ikey Robinson Trixie's Blues Trixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1939
Victoria Spivey w/ Ikey Robinson Baulin' Water Blues, Pt. 1Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Georgia White w/ Ikey Robinson The Blues Ain't Nothin' But...???The Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Johnnie Temple w/ Ikey Robinson Jelly Roll Bert Johnnie Temple Vol. 2 1938-1940
Frankie Jaxson w/ Ikey RobinsonRock Me Mama Frankie 'Half-Pint'Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-1929

Show Notes:

Lil Johnson: Rock That ThingOn today’s program we shine the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. We spotlight two fine pianists in Charles Avery and Black Bob. We know little about both men, with Avery making his debut on record in 1929 and Black Bob in 1934 and both dropped off the radar by the late 30’s. Both backed many o the popular blues singers of the era, with Avey cutting just one side under his name and Black Bob cutting nothing under his own name. We also spotlight two very fine guitarists who straddled both the blues and jazz worlds, Teddy Bunn and Banjo Ikey Robinson. Both men backed both jazz musicians and blues singers in the 20’s and 30’s and both cut just a handful of sides under their own names. I'll be doing a sequel, of sorts, where we focus on famous names who were active sessions artists such as Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Bill Broonzy, Kokomo Arnold and others.

Active in Chicago in the 20's and 30's, Charles Avery worked as a session musician backing artists such as Lil Johnson, Freddie 'Red” Nicholson, Red Nelson and others. He cut one record under his own name, 1929's “Dearborn Street Breakdown.” We here him on several tracks todays including backing blues ladies Lil Johnson and Lucille Bogan as well as singers  Freddie "Redd" Nicholson and Red Nelson.

LIl Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. From her second session onwards, she hit up had partnership with the ragtime influenced pianist "Black Bob" Hudson, who provided ebullient support to Johnson's increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet.

Lucille Bogan recorded for OKeh in 1923, for Paramount in 1927, and for Brunswick in 1928, 1929, and 1930. Although she had an uncommonly large Depression era output, she made no recordings at all in 1931 and 1932. When she switched to ARC for the 1933, 1934, and 1935 sessions, she had to use the pseudonym Bessie Jackson for contractual reasons. After the Second World War Bogan made some trial discs for a New York company. She was mad when the records were rejected and died shortly afterward in 1948. Her records find her back with fine pianists like Charles Avery, Will Ezell and later, Walter Roland.

Banjo Ikey Robinson
Banjo Ikey Robinson

The obscure singer Freddie "Redd" Nicholson recorded eight sides in 1930 (three were not issued) all backed by pianist Charles Avery. Nothing seems tobe known about him.

There's not much information on Red Nelson outside of what I gleaned from the Encyclopedia of the Blues: "Nelson Wilborn, better known as Red Nelson, or Dirty Red, was born in Sumner, Mississippi, in 1907. A fine, capable vocalist, he moved to Chicago in the early 1930's and was a prominent recording artist from 1935 to 1947. His recordings with pianist Clarence Lofton, especially "Streamline Train" and "Crying Mother Blues," are probably his best work. In the 1960's he performed locally with the Muddy Waters Band."

Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. He was the brother of banjoist Ed Hudson, and the two frequented the same circles and recording sessions, and sometimes ended up accompanying the same singers. Both brothers were part of the Memphis Nighthawks, and Bob Hudson was also a member (with Tampa Red and other luminaries) of the Chicago Rhythm Kings. Broonzy and Black Bob cut dozens of sides together between 1934 and 1937 and Black Bob is featured on quite a number of Tampa Red sides between 1934 and 1937 .

Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals. Teddy Bunn rubbed shoulders with many top jazz musicians aas well as blues singers in the pre-war era. As he noted: "I have a very good ear and can usually sense what the cats are going to play a split second before they do it." Among the notable blues singers he accompanied were artists such as  Cow Cow Davenport, Lizzie Miles, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria Spivey among others. In addition to an active session career, Bunn was a member of the jazz groups the Spirits of Rhythm and June 1939, and was among the very first musicians ever to record for the Blue Note record label, first as a soloist, then as a member of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen. Today we hear Bunn backing several blues singers including a pair of excellent numbers by Lizzie Miles.

Teddy Bunn
Teddy Bunn

Lizzie Miles was a fine classic blues singer from the 1920s who survived to have a full comeback in the 1950s. She started out singing in New Orleans during 1909-1911 with such musicians as King Oliver, Kid Ory, and Bunk Johnson. She recorded extensively between1922-1930. She recorded in 1939 but spent 1943-1949 outside of music and in 1950 began a comeback recording for labels such as Circle, Cook, Capitol, Verve and others before retiring in 1959.

Ikey Robinson was an excellent banjoist and singer who recorded both jazz and blues from the late '20s into the late '30s. After working locally, Robinson moved to Chicago in 1926, playing and recording with Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and Jabbo Smith during 1928-1929. He led his own recording sessions in 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1935. His groups included Ikey Robinson and his Band (w/ Jabbo Smith), The Hokum Trio, The Pods of Pepper, Windy City Five, and Sloke & Ike. Robinson also accompanied blues singers such as Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon, Georgia White, Eva Taylor and Bertha "Chippie" Hill among others.

Related Articles:

Charlie West  (Blues World 44, Autumn 1972)

Georgia WhiteSinking Sun BluesGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteGet 'Em From the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts) Sings & Plays
Georgia WhiteNew Dupree BluesGeorgia White Vol. 11930-1936
Lucille BoganJim TampaLucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929
Lucille BoganCoffee Grindin' BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganAlley BoogieThe Essential
Hattie HartWon't You Be Kind To Me?Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartI Let My Daddy Do That Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartI'm Missing That Thing Memphis Blues 1927-1938
Geeshie WileyLast Kind Word Blues The Best There Ever Was
Geeshie WileySkinny Legs Blues Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Georgia White Black Rider
Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteRattlesnakin' Daddy Georgia White Vol. 1 1930-1936
Georgia White I'm So Glad I'm 21 TodayGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Lucille BoganThey Ain't Walking No MoreThe Essential
Lucille BoganBaking Powder BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganPig Iron SallyShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Mattie Delaney Down The Big Road Blues I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River BluesMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartColdest Stuff In TownMemphis Blues 1927-193
Hattie HartPapa's Got Your Water OnI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Hattie HartCocaine Habit Blues Blues Image Presents Vol. 4
Georgia WhiteWalking The StreetGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteAlley Boogie Sings & Plays
Georgia WhiteThe Blues Ain't Nothin' But???The Piano Blues Vol. 13
Lucille BoganReckless WomanShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Lucille BoganShave 'em DryShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Lucille BoganBarbecue BessShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Geeshie WileyEagles On A Half I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Geeshie WileyPick Poor Robin Clean I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Hattie HartMemphis Yo Yo BluesMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stomper
Lucille BoganStew Meat BluesShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Georgia WhiteLittle Red Wagon Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937

Show Notes:

On today's program we spotlight five tough blues ladies from the 1920's and 1930's; Lucille Bogan and Georgia White recorded extensively with Bogan cutting over sixty sides between 1923 and 1935, and White cutting over 80 sides between 1930 and 1941. Memphis singer Hattie Hart cut a handful of terrific sides under her own name and several with the Memphis Jug Band. We dip down to Mississippi to hear the only known record by mysterious guitar player Mattie Delaney and the equally shadowy, under-record and brilliant Geeshie Wiley.

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

In the 1982 liner notes to Georgia White: Sings & Plays the Blues (the first collection of White's recordings) Rosetta Reitz wrote: "Is Georgia White alive or dead? [she died in 1980] Nobody seems to know. If she is alive she is living in obscurity and would be 80 years old. If she is dead, her death went unnoticed for there were no obituaries. I checked and double checked with people who might know. I've been looking for her. I would like to tell her how important I think she is, important to to the history of American music (even though hardly anyone knows her name today)." Thirty years after these notes were written virtually nothing has changed, White is still forgotten and nothing of significance has been written about her in the intervening years. I suppose I should backtrack and mention that the Document label has issued her complete recordings spread over four volumes which is the source of several of today's recordings.

White reportedly moved to Chicago in the 1920's and began working as a singer in the nightclubs during the late '20s. She first recorded in May 1930 for the Vocalion label with Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra recording one song, "When You're Smiling, the Whole World Smiles With You."  After her initial session, White didn't return to the studios until 1935, but recorded regularly from then on through the early '40s for the Decca label (the label billed her as "the world's greatest blues singer"). In 1935, she also recorded a couple of songs, including "Your Worries Ain't Like Mine," under the alias Georgia Lawson. From her first sessions until the late '30s, White was accompanied by herself on piano then pianist Richard Jones, great bassist John Lindsay plus outstanding guitarists like Banjo Ikey Robinson, Les Paul, Teddy Bunn and Lonnie Johnson. White had a good repertoire of songs, many of which sold well and many risque such as I'll Keep Sitting on It, "Mama Knows What Papa Wants When Papa's Feeling Blue" and "Hot Nuts." She was also one of the blues' first revivalists, reaching way back to cover Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues", covering the like of Bessie Smith,  Ethel Waters, Sara Martin, Ma Rainey but more surprisingly are covers of Lucille Bogan's "Alley Boogie" and borrowing from Leadbelly ("Pigmeat Blues") and the obscure Joe Dean ("I'm So Glad I'm 21 Today").

Blues scholar Paul Oliver was on of the few others who wrote about White. In Jazz On Record published in 1968 he wrote: "Undeservedly neglected in recent years, Georgia White was one of the most popular of the recording blues singers in the thirties. She had a strong contralto voice with a keen edge to her intonation and was a capable pianist in the barrelhouse house tradition."

There was mention of White's passing in Arnold Shaw's Honkers And Shouters when he talks about Broonzy. White worked with Broonzy at the Bee Hive and another club in Chicago in a group called The Laughing Trio in 1949-1950. Shaw writes: "There was also Georgia White, a gorgeous Georgia Peach of a blues singer herself whom Big Bill credits with launching 'Trouble In Mind'"  (Bertha "Chippie" Hill cut the first version in 1926). Shaw quotes Broonzy: "When I say Georgia White", Big Bill murmurs, in introducing his version of 'Trouble In Mind', "she was a real nice-looking gal. All the musicians liked her. But there was no way of getting to her because her husband was always around. He was her valet-dressed her, brought her all of her food. Was no chance of anybody getting close to her."

Lucille Bogan, Circa 1933

In the late '40s, White formed an all-women band. She also worked with Big Bill Broonzy from 1949-50, and returned to singing in the clubs during the 1950's. Georgia Her last known public performance was in 1959, after which she retired from the music business.

Lucille Bogan got off to a rather shaky start on her two 1923 sessions. The feisty, boisterous singing she became known for came into much better focus when she returned to the studio in 1927 backed by papa Charlie Jackson on fine numbers like "Sweet Patinua", "Jim Tampa Blues" and "Cravin' Whiskey Blues." As Tony Russell writes in the Penguin Guide To Blues: "Over the next few years she constructed a persona of a tough-talking narrator – 'They call me Pig Iron Sally, 'cause I live in Slag Iron Ally, and I'm evil and mean as I can be,' she sings in 'Pig Iron Sally' – who knew the worlds of the lesbian and the prostitute. She reports from the former in 'Women Don't Need No Men' and 'B.D. Woman's Blues', and the latter in 'Tricks Ain't Walking no More' – best heard in the affectingly sombre version titled 'They Ain't Walking No More' …and 'Barbecue Bess.' Other notable recordings are 'Coffee Grindin' Blues' …and the first recording of  'Black Angel Blues,' which after a great change became a blues standard."  On these recordings she finds strong backing from pianists Will Ezell and Charles Avery. "…Thanks to the generally better sound quality and the ever sympathetic accompaniment of Walter Roland, her mid-30s recordings …are the most approachable. " Notable from this period are "Baking Powder Blues", "Reckless Woman", "Stew Meat Blues" and "Shave 'em Dry" which also exists in an extremely dirty version never intended for commercial release and one that can't be played on the air.

Bogan was born as Lucille Anderson in 1897 in Monroe county, Mississippi. In about 1914 she married Nazareth Bogan, Sr., a blues singer who also worked as a railroad man. The following year a son was born. In 1974 Bogan's son was interviewed by Bob Eagle (Lucille Bogan: Bessie Jackson, Living Blues no. 44, 1979) so quite a bit is known about her.

Bogan recorded for OKeh in 1923, for Paramount in 1927, and for Brunswick in 1928, 1929, and 1930. Although she had an uncommonly large Depression era output, she made no recordings at all in 1931 and 1932. When she switched to ARC for the 1933, 1934, and 1935 sessions, she had to use the pseudonym Bessie Jackson for contractual reasons. After the Second World War Bogan made some trial discs for a New York company. She was mad when the records were rejected and died shortly afterward in 1948.

Don Kent wrote in the notes to Mississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35: "Although Geeshie Wiley may well have been the rural South's greatest female blues singer and musician, almost nothing is known of her. …If Geeshie Wiley did not exist, she could not be invented: her scope and creativity dwarfs most blues artists. She seems to represent the moment when black secular music was coalescing into blues." Wiley recorded just two 78’s in 1930 and 1931, both highly sought after and worth a fortune to 78 record collectors. There are no known photographs and little is known about her. Ishman Bracey provides what little we know about her: "She lived 'round there on John Hart Street for a while. Charlie McCoy got her for his old lady. She could play on the guitar as good as on that record [Eagles On A Half, Pm 13074]. She said she was from Natchez; close by Natchez was her home. She didn't stay here long, couple of months and she done left." In the 1920's she spent three months in Jackson as a resident of John Hart Street; while there, she played in a medicine show. "She could play a guitar, but she had a guitar player with her," Bracey recalled. "She'd play a guitar, and a ukulele too." Wiley recorded "Last Kind Word Blues" and "Skinny Leg Blues" in Grafton, Wisconsin for Paramount Records in March of 1930, with Elvie Thomas backing her on second guitar. Thomas also recorded two songs for Paramount at the session, "Motherless Child Blues" and "Over to My House," Wiley, providing second guitar and vocal harmonies. In 1931 Wiley and Thomas returned to Grafton to record two more sides for Paramount, "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Eagles on a Half."

In Bengt Olsson's Memphis Blues and Jug Bands some light was shed on singer Hattie Hart: "Hattie Hart and Allen Shaw came together on record when they engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. Willie Borum was also present, playing guitar behind Shaw on some of the songs as well as singing four of his own. He and Shaw were new to the recording studio, but Hattie Hart had appeared on several of the Memphis Jug Band's discs in 1929 and 1939, singing the unforgettable 'Memphis Yo Yo Blues', 'Cocaine Habit Blues', 'Oh Ambulance Man, 'Papa's Got Your Bath Water On' and 'Spider's Nest Blues.'  Her voice was strong, sensual and moving. She was born, says Willie Borum, 'just around 1900.  She was dark skinned. She and her husband lived on Keil and Main …they were married as long as I knew them. Hattie used to throw lots of parties. " Borum recalled their New York session: "Hattie recorded just after Jack Kelly. She sang 'I Let My Daddy Do That'  and 'Travelin' Man' …but it was never out on record.  I went in the army from 1943 till 1946. When I came back Hattie had left town. I don't know what happened to her."

Her first recordings were made in Memphis for the Victor label in 1929. Three songs were recorded but only two were issued for her debut single. In 1934 she was recorded again in New York City in September of that year. In the course of four days she recorded some eighteen songs backed by guitarist Allen Shaw with the possibility of Willie Borum playing guitar on some of the cuts. Out of the eighteen songs, only four were issued giving Hattie two more records to her credit. It was also during these sessions that Shaw recorded his only issued sides. Hart may have moved Chicago where in in 1938 she cut sides as Hattie Bolten.

Mattie Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. The song "Tallahatchie River Blues" was first issued on the Yazoo anthology Mississippi Blues 1927-1941 in 1968. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie River Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist. Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy which he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000.

Here's the two Lucille Bogan sides I couldn't play on the air and one by Walter Roland:

Shave 'Em Dry (unreleased version)

Till The Cows Come Home (unreleased)

I'm Gonna Shave You Dry (unreleased)

Big Bill Broonzy & Black BobI Can't Make You Satisfied All The Classic Sides
Cripple Clarence Lofton & Big Bill BroonzyBrown Skin GirlsCripple Clarence Vol.1 1935-1939
Charlie Spand & Blind BlakeHastings St. All The Published Sides
Will Ezell & Roosevelt GravesJust Can't StayWill Ezell 1927-1931
Roosevelt Sykes & Clifford GibsonTired Of Being Mistreated Roosevelt Sykes Vol. 1 1929-1930
St Louis Jimmy Poor Boy BluesJimmy Oden 1 Vol. 1932-1944
Roosevelt Sykes & Kokomo ArnoldThe Honey Dripper The Essential
Oscar "Buddy' Woods & the Wampus Cats Don't Sell It, Don't Give It AwayFavorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937
Rufus & Ben QuillianGood Feeling BluesUptown Blues: A Decade Of Guitar Piano Duets 1927-1937
Walter Davis & Henry Townsend Sloppy Drunk AgainFavorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937
Bill Gaither & Honey HillPins And Needles Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
Coletha SimpsonLonesome Lonesome Blues
Blue Girls Vol. 1 1924-1930
Georgia WhiteNew Hot NutsGeorgia White Vol. 1 1930-1936
Mack Rhinehart & Brownie StubblefieldIf I Leave Here RunningDeep South Blues Piano 1935-1937
Joe EvansShook It This Morning BluesDown In Black Bottom
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellI Believe I'll Make a ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellPapa's On The House TopSloppy Drunk
Georgia Tom & Scrapper BlackwellGee, But It's Hard Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934
Lovin' Sam Theard I Ain't No Ice ManLovin' Sam Theard 1929-1936
Big Maceo & Tampa RedCounty Jail BluesBig Maceo Vol. 1
Frank "Springback" James & Willie Bee JamesPoor Coal LoaderThe Piano Blues Vol. 12
Curtis Jones & Willie B. JamesDrinking And Thinking BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 1 1937-1938
Charlie West & Black BobHobo BluesRare 1930's & 40's Blues Vol. 3
Lil JohnsonHouse Rent Scuffle Shake Your Wicked Knees
Willie Harris & Charles AveryWest Side BluesDown In Black Bottom
Red NelsonDetroit SpecialRed Nelson 1935-1947
Leroy HenderonGood Scuffler Blues Charley Jordan Vol. 3 1935-1937
Bumble Bee Slim This Old Life I'm Living Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936
Peanut The Kidnapper (James Sherrill) & Robert McCoyEighth Avenue Blues Alabama & The East Coast 1933-1937
Leola ManningThe Blues Is All WrongFavorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937
Walter Roland & Sonny ScottRailroad Stomp Walter Roland Vol. 1 1933
Bo Carter & Harry ChatmanWhen Your Left Eye Go To JumpingBo Carter Vol. 3 1934 - 1936

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

Today's show is a companion to the guitar duets show we aired a couple of weeks back. This time we spotlight some great piano/guitar duets from the 20's through the 40's. The style was popularized by the huge success of pianist Leroy Carr and his guitarist Scrapper Blackwell who's recordings were immensely popular and influential. The duo recorded hundreds of sides between 1928 and 1935. Many artists patterned themselves after the duo including recording artists Bill Gaither, Bumble Bee Slim, Frank "Springback” James all of whom we feature today. There were a number of excellent guitar/piano teams, most relatively short-lived such as Big Bill Broonzy with mysterious pianist Black Bob, Tampa Red with pianist Georgia Tom in the late 20's and 30's and with pianist Big Maceo in the 40's, and the lengthy partnership of Walter Davis and guitarist Henry Townsend. For the majority of today's selections I've chosen sides where both the pianist and guitarist play on equal terms.

Between 1928 and 1935 Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell cut a remarkably consistent body of work of hundreds of sides, notable for the impeccable guitar/piano interplay. Teamed with the exemplary guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis, Leroy Carr became one of the biggest blues stars of his day, composing and recording almost 200 sides during his short lifetime. Carr met guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis in 1928 and the duo began performing together. Shortly afterward they were recording for Vocalion, releasing “How Long How Long Blues” before the year was finished. The song was an instant, surprise hit. For the next seven years, Carr and Blackwell would record a number of classic songs for Vocalion, including “Midnight Hour Blues,” “Blues Before Sunrise,” “Hurry Down Sunshine,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” and many others. Blackwell did some moonlighting away from Carr, cutting his own sides and backing other artists. We also feature him cutting loose on "Gee, But It's Hard" as he backs pianist Georgia Tom.

One disciple of Carr was guitarist Bill Gaither who cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr’s death in 1935, he recorded under the moniker Leroy’s Buddy for a time. A fine guitarist who possessed a warm, expressive voice, Gaither was also at times a gifted and inventive lyricist. He was often partnered with pianist George “Honey” Hill, and the duo patterned themselves after Carr and his guitarist, Scrapper Blackwell. Our selection, the bouncy "Pins And Needles", is fine showcase for their well honed interplay.

Read Liner Notes

Amos Easton, known professionally as Bumble Bee Slim, was another artist who molded himself after Leroy Carr. While he played guitar on his first session in 1931, afterwards he stuck to vocals, often employing a shifting piano/guitar backing that included pianists such as Myrtle Jones, Jimmie Gordon, Horance Malcolm and Black Bob and guitarists such as Willie Bee James, Big Bill Broonzy, Carl Martin, Casey Bill Weldon and Bill Gaither. "This Old Life I'm Living" is one of my favorite numbers by Easton sporting immaculate lap steel from Casey Bill Weldon and piano from Myrtle Jenkins.

Chicago blues pianist Frank "Springback" James made records with four different companies during the 1930's, playing and singing in a style that revealed a strong Leroy Carr influence. He cut 18 sides between 1934 and 1938. He often worked with guitarist Willie B. James. Despite being a prolific session guitarist, nothing is known of James who backed artists such as Bumble Bee Slim, Merline Johnson, Curtis Jones, Tampa Red, John Henry Barbee and others. We hear James today backing Curtis Jones on "Drinking And Thinking Blues" (he appears on several of Jones' 30's sessions), backing Red Nelson on "Long Ago Blues" with pianist Charles Avery and playing behind Charlie West on "Hobo Blues" along with pianist Black Bob.

There were a number of notable guitar/piano teams, some relatively long lasting, others more fleeting; among them we spotlight recordings by Walter Davis and Henry Townsend, Big Bill Broonzy and Black Bob, Big Maceo and Tampa Red, Walter Roland and Sonny Scott, Mack Rhinehart and Brownie Stubblefield and Charlie Spand and Blind Blake. Walter Davis and Henry Townsend played on numerous sessions together from the 1930's through the 1950's. Today we we feature the uncharacteristically uptempo "Sloppy Drunk Again."

Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's. While he didn't cut any sides under his own name he backed a staggering number of renowned artists such as Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon, Tampa Red and many others. Broonzy and Bob cut dozens of sides together between 1934 and 1937.

Blues writer Chris Smith wrote the following about Big Maceo: “On both slow blues and boogies, Big Maceo played powerful, sometimes challengingly chromatic bass figures and anvil-sparkling right-hand flourishes and solos. He could be a jovial singer, but more typical were husky, plaintive, fatalistic accounts of trouble with women and the law.  …His playing and Tampa Red’s amplified guitar foreshadow the sound of postwar Chicago.” His short career spanned the years 1941 through 1950, where he recorded just over three dozen sides as well as backing partner Tampa Red on eighteen sides and providing session work behind Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jazz Gillum and John & Grace Brim.

Walter Roland recorded over ninety issued sides for ARC as a soloist and accompanist. Roland partnered Lucille Bogan when they recorded for the ARC labels between 1933 and 1935, in the course of which, he recorded in his own right. He recorded several sides with guitarist Sonny Scott including our selection, the rollicking instrumental "Railroad Stomp."

Mack Rhinehart and Brownie Stubblefield were a piano/guitar team that cut a dozen sides in 1936 and 1937. Rhinehart also recorded solo as Blind Mack in 1935 but only two of his ten sides were ever released.  According to Blues & Gospel Records some twenty-two sides by the duo remain unissued. Nothing is known about the duo although noted researcher David Evans called Rhinehart "a major artist" with "an outstanding recorded legacy."

*The superb "West Side Blues" by Willie Harris and Charles Avery provides today's show title with the spoken aside probably by Coletha Simpson. Harris along with pianist James Williams backs Simpson on "Lonesome Lonesome Blues" which is also featured today.

Little Brother MontgomeryVicksburg BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Charles AveryChain 'Em DownThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Blind Blake & Charlie SpandHastings St.The Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Lucille BoganAlly BoogieThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Mozelle AldersonTight In ChicagoThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Louise JohnsonBy The Moon And The StarsThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Charles 'Speck' PetrumHarvest Moon BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Eddie MillerFreight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Bert MaysYou Ca'’t Come InThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Dan StewartNew Orleans BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Cow Cow DavenportBack In The AlleyThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Joe DeanI'm So Glad I'm 21 Years Old TodayThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Lee GreenMemphis FivesThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Pinetop SmithPine Top's Boogie WoogieThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Romeo NelsonHead Rag HopThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Leroy CarrAlabama Woman BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 7: Leroy Carr
Walter RolandEarly This MorningThe Piano Blues Vol. 6 - Walter Roland
Turner ParrishTrenchesThe Piano Blues Vol. 5: Postscript
Joe PullumCows, See That Train Comin'The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport
Andy BoyHouse Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport
Cripple Clarence LoftonStrut That ThingThe Piano Blues Vol. 9 Lofton/Noble
Alfoncy HarrisAbsent Freight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11 Texas Santa Fe
Black Boy ShineBrown House BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11 Texas Santa Fe
Pinetop BurksJack Of All TradesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11 Texas Santa Fe
Pigmeat TerryBlack Sheep BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Peetie WheatstrawShack Bully StompThe Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Georgia WhiteThe Blues Ain't Nothin' But...The Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Whistlin' Alex MooreBlue Bloomer BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas
Charlie SpandSoon This Morning BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 16 - Charlie Spand
Jabo WilliamsPratt City BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 17 - Paramount Vol. 2
Pinetop and LindbergEast Chicago BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 20 - Barrelhouse Years
Stump Johnson & Dorothy TrowbridgeSteady Grindin'Piano Blues Vol. 17 - Paramount Vol. 2
Bumble Slim w/ Myrtle JenkinsSomebody LosesPiano Blues Vol. 17 - Paramount Vol. 2
Speckled RedThe Dirty Dozen No. 2The Piano Blues Vol. 20 - Barrelhouse Years
Henry BrownHenry Brown BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount

Show Notes:

Some piano player, I'll tell you that
(Ivy Smith, Alabama Strut)

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On December 4, 2009 Francis Wilford-Smith died and today we pay tribute to him. Smith was an avid collector of 78 records, a broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 (Aspects of the Blues) and the compiler of some excellent piano blues LP's on the British label Magpie Records, drawing all the material from his own collection. Today's selections all come from Smith's groundbreaking 21 volume series he started in 1977 and issued on the Magpie label, a subsidiary o of the Flyright label. Subsequently his collection was used for a piano blues series on Yazoo issued on CD. He had one of the largest collections of piano blues 78's in the world. Smith also field recorded Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery at his home in Sussex in 1960, yielding two 1980s LP's of the latter: These Are What I Like: Unissued Recordings Vol. 1 and Those I Liked I Learned: Unissued Recordings Vol. 2. Smith made a good living from cartoons published under the pen name 'Smilby' in Playboy, which allowed him to outbid others for rare 78s. Wilford-Smith was 82, had suffered from Parkinson's disease since 1994, and spent his last years in a nursing home. He died asleep in bed.

On a personal note, it was through the Magpie series that I became a life long fan of piano blues. I came to the series late, my first purchase was volume 20 and I must have been around 16. The album made a huge impression on me and I even remember exactly where I purchased it – Tower Records on West 4th St., NYC. I went back and picked up as many of the rest of the albums I could find and over the years completed the entire series. The series had everything you would want; each thematically well assembled, excellent liner notes (brief introductions by Smith) by Bob Hall, Paul Oliver and Richard Noblett and superb transfers.

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Before I give some background on the individual volumes, its worth quoting Wilford-Smith from his introduction to the series:  "The well-merited reissue of so many excellent blues guitar records over the past few years has had, perhaps, one unfortunate and unintentional – in that it caused the pianist to be unfairly overshadowed. This album marks the start of a series which, it is hoped, will put into perspective the role of the piano in blues history and do justice to the memory of the many fine pianists who have so enriched the music. We are only using 78 originals from my own collection, thus giving the listener the rare chance to hear records; at their best. No dubs, no tape-tracks that have wandered in and out of   half-a-dozen tape collections before being issued with that all too familiar dead and muffled cotton-wool-in-the-ears sounds. No ordinary filtering of any sort has been done in any misguided attempt t0 'improve' the quality, and each listener is left free to filter to his own taste. Surface noise there may be, but freshness and vitality are not strained away. The selection of records both here and throughout the series will be essentially subjective and reflect my own taste, but l shall endeavor to include a wide-ranging variety of piano styles and treatments to give as broad as possible a picture of the whole blues piano scene."

More or less, we work our way through the series volume by volume. The first volume and volume 17 are devoted to Paramount and as Smith writes: "…We start with Paramount, almost unchallenged as the greatest blues label, and its piano content lives up to its reputation. Here are joys indeed  –  and some of the greatest blues piano ever recorded.  Spand, Little Brother, Ezell,  Louise Johnson, Wesley Wallace, Garnett.  …I think the playing here must satisfy the most critical lover of the blues." From those volumes we spin tracks by Little Montgomery, Charles Avery, Charlie Spand, Louise Johnson, Henry Brown and Jabo Williams.

"…The second volume", Smith writes, "in our Piano Blues Series, will  be found very different in character to Volume One.  … Here on Brunswick a large  proportion of  the  piano blues bear a strong family resemblance and emotional  unity. This perhaps because several of the artists would seem to hail from the St. Louis area, and share that  hollow-chorded easy-rocking piano style." The Piano Blues Vol. 3 is devoted to the Vocalion label which was founded in 1916 and acquired by Brunswick in 1925. These are particularly strong volumes and we included several tracks from these collections including Eddie Miller, Charles "Speck" Pertum, Lucille Bogan, Mozelle Alderson, Romeo Nelson and Joe Dean among others.

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Next to St. Louis, one of the most musically rich piano regions was Texas as Paul Oliver observed:  “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues …A cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas.” Four volumes in the series are devoted to the piano blues of Texas: The Piano Blues Vol. 4 – The Thomas Family 1925-1929, The Piano Blues Vol. 8 – Texas Seaport 1934-1937, The Piano Blues Vol. 11 – Texas Sante Fe 1934-1937 and The Piano Blues Vol. 15 – Dallas 1927-1929. The Texas pianists, Oliver notes, "…can be grouped into 'schools', characterized by certain similarities of style and approach, that were partly a reflection of the environments in which they worked, of their friendships and associations with other pianists, and by the isolation of Texas from other states.” One school was 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. Here was where the music thrived and pianists could be found like Pinetop Burks, Son Becky, Rob Cooper, Black Boy Shine, Andy Boy, Big Boy Knox, Robert Shaw, Buster Pickens and the singers who worked with them like Walter “Cowboy” Washington and Joe Pullum. The other important school was a cluster of pianists and singers based in Dallas such as Alex Moore, Texas Bill Day, Neal Roberts Willie Tyson, and singer Billiken Johnson. The earlier Texas piano tradition is documented on The Piano Blues Vol. 4 – The Thomas Family 1925-1929. 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.”

Several volumes in the series are devoted to individual artists or a cluster of artists: The Piano Blues Vol. 6 – Walter Roland 1933-1935, The Piano Blues Vol. 7 – Leroy Carr 1930-1935, The Piano Blues Vol. 9 – Lofton-Noble 1935-1936 (Cripple Clarence Lofton and George Noble), The Piano Blues Vol. 12 – Big Four 1933-1941 (Little Brother Montgomery, Walter Davis, Roosevelt Sykes, Springback James) and The Piano Blues Vol. 18 – Roosevelt Sykes/Lee Green 1929-1930.

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Among the other volumes in the series we play tracks from The Piano Blues Vol. 5 – Postsript 1927-1935, The Piano Blues Vol. 13 – Central Highway 1933-1941, The Piano Blues Vol. 14 – The Accompanist and The Piano Blues Vol. 20 – Barrelhouse Years 1928-1933. Among the tracks we spin from these collections are Turner Parrish's remarkable "The Trenches" who Bob Hall calls "an eccentric and probably unschooled pianist with nevertheless a considerable technique", Georgia White accompanying herself on piano on the boisterous "The Blues Ain't Nothin' But…", the obscure Pigmeat Terry who sings magnificently on the moving "Black Sheep Blues" accompanied by his own piano and the wonderful Pinetop and Lindberg's "East Chicago Blues."

The piano blues series officially concluded with The Piano Blues Vol. 21 – Unfinished Boogie 1938-1945 which collects unreleased recordings of Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. As mentioned previously two collections of recordings by Little Brother Montgomery were made at Smith's home in 1960 and were the final albums issued on the Magpie imprint. Yazoo Records launched their own piano blues series also using 78’s from Smith’s collection. As far as I can tell the series has stopped but they issued seven excellent collections.

Related Articles:

Notes to The Piano Blues Vol. 8 – Texas Seaport 1934-1937, The Piano Blues Vol. 11 – Texas Sante Fe 1934-1937 and The Piano Blues Vol. 15 – Dallas 1927-1929 (Word Doc)