Entries tagged with “Howlin’ Wolf”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jimmy And Mama Yancey Monkey Woman Blues Chicago Blues Piano Vol. 1
Otis Spann It Must Have Been The Devil Genesis: Beginnings Of Rock Vol. 3
Al Winter Boogie 88 Hollywood Boogie: Obscure Piano Blues & Boogie Woogie From Los Angeles
Mable Hillery Lonesome Road It's So Hard To Be A Nigger
Mable Hillery Mr. President It's So Hard To Be A Nigger
Jimmy WitherspoonBig Family Blues 1950s R&B From Dolphin's Vol. 2; Toast Of The Coast
Tony AllenYou're A Mean And Evil Woman 1950s R&B From Dolphin's Vol. 1; On With The Jive
Lucille Bogan and Papa Charlie Jackson Jim Tampa Blues Papa Charlie Done Sung That Song
Laura DukesBricks In My PillowTennessee Blues Vol. 1
Elmore James Strange Angels Something Inside Of Me
Wild Jimmy Spruill Hard GrindScratchin': Wild Jimmy Spruill Story
Guitar Gable Long Way from HomeRhythm 'n' Bluesin' By The Bayou: Mad Dogs, Sweet Daddies & Pretty Babies
Pee Wee CraytonRockin the Blues Texas Blues Jumpin' In Los Angeles: The Modern Music Sessions 1948-51
John Lee Hooker I Don't Be Welcome HereThe Complete1948-51 Vol. 3
Blind Joe Hill Highway 13 First Chance
Jimmy Reed I'm Just Trying To Cop A Plea Soulin'
Tampa Red I Still Got California On My MindThe Bluebird Recordings 1934-1936
Lane HardinCalifornia Desert Blues Blues Images Vol. 9
Jesse Thomas Gonna Move to California Jesse Thomas 1948-1958
Lawyer Houston Out In CaliforniaLightning Hopkins: Lightning Special Vol. 2
Howlin' WolfCalifornia BoogieSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Johnny WoodsSo Many Cold MorningsSo Many Cold Mornings
John Tinsley Cotton Picking BluesCountry Blues Roots Revisted
Walter Davis Strange Land BluesWalter Davis 1930-1932
Roy HawkinsStrange LandBad Luck Is Falling
Roger (Burn Down) GarnettLighthouse BluesThe Frog Blues And Jazz Annual No. 1
Dorothy Everetts Macon Blues The Frog Blues And Jazz Annual No. 1
Irene Wiley Bo Hog BluesThe Frog Blues And Jazz Annual No. 1
Jimmy RushingSomebody's Spoiling These WomenBlues & Gospel Kings Vol. 4

Show Notes:

ctf10024 (1)
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A wide ranging mix show today  including songs a pair of sides by singer Mabel Hillery, sets of piano blues, some heavy duty guitar slingers, a pair of sets revolving around specific lyrical themes, music from the vaults of King Records and west coast record man John Dolphin and a batch of outstanding early pre-war blues sides.

Shortly after the death of folklorist Tary Owens on September 21, 2003, Brad Buchholz, wrote that, “Tary Owens devoted most of his life to music, though only rarely to his own. The greater mission, to Owens, was to champion the music of forgotten or unsung Texas bluesmen—to put their songs on records, to place them on a stage, to encourage a larger public to celebrate their artistry.” Owens operated the Catfish and Spindletop labels issuing some fine recordings of neglected Texas artists. We spotlight two tracks from Texas Piano Professors by little recorded piano men Dr. Hepcat, Grey Ghost and Erbie Bowser. I want to thank Gerrit Robs for making this album available to me.

We spin a trio of tracks from the Frog Blues And Jazz Annual No. 1, which I recently picked up along with the second and third issues. The magazine does a great job filling the hole left by the late lamented 78 Quarterly. The Annuals are something between a magazine and a softbound book, roughly 8.5 inches by 11.75 inches with 178 pages. They are edited (and  contributed to) by Paul Swinton, owner of Great Britain’s Frog Records, one of the  premier prewar jazz and jazz/blues reissue record companies. Each Annual comes with a companion CD featuring 26 cuts that reflect the articles in the Annual.  Most of the blues tracks have appeared on other collections, but Roger Garnett's marvelous "Lighthouse Blues" (recorded for the Library of Congress in 1939) and Irene Wiley's fantastic "Bo Hog Blues" (with a probable late 1940's recording date) have not been issued before. We also spin Dorothy Everetts terrific "Macon Blues" from her lone 1928 78 record.

A member of The Georgia Sea Island Singers (she joined in 1961), Mable Hillery was less known than leader, Big John Davis or Bessie Jones, who also had her own performing career. Between 1961 and 1965 she toured the college circuit of campuses, coffee houses, church basements, and festivals, from Berkeley to Philadelphia, from the Ash Grove in Los Angeles to the Café à Go-Go in New York City. Hillery was very active in civil rights issues during the 60's. In 1968, after touring in England, where she did TV and concert dates, Hillery made a her only album for the record label Xtra, It's So Hard To Be A Nigger, which has never been issued on CD. This is a (The Frog Blues And Jazz Annual No. 1)wonderful record and Hillery was a tremendously expressive singer. The acapella title track sounds like a lost field recording by the Lomax's or Lawrence Gellert. A few other sides by her appear on various anthologies. She died at the age of 46 in 1976. 

We spin several songs with lyrical themes including several revolving around "California" and several using the title "Strange Land." In 1936 Robert Johnson famously sang the lines "But I'm cryin' hey baby, Honey don't you want to go/Back to the land of California, to my sweet home Chicago." This line always seemed a bit confusing too me but I think many blues singers viewed California as an idyllic, almost mystical place far from the Jim Crow south. From 1934 we spin Tampa Red's jaunty "I Still Got California On My Mind", Lane Hardin's "California Desert Blues" ("When I reach old Los Angeles, Californy, you oughta heard me jump and shout"),  Jesse Thomas' "Gonna Move to California", Howlin' Wolf's "California Boogie" and "Out In California" by Lawyer Houston:

Well I'm going out on Central
Going to get me a room at the hotel Dunbar
And then I'm going out to Hollywood to become a movie star

"Way out in California, that's where I long to be" sings Walter Davis in "Strange Land Blues." Roy Hawkins cut the doomy "Strange Land" in 1948 and updated it 1961.

We spin three tracks from the series Blues & Gospel Kings which spotlight early blues and gospel from King records. There are four volumes in the series spanning the years 1945 through 1952. Founded by Syd Nathan in 1943, King Records was one of the most influential independent labels of the 1940s and 1950s. By the end of the latter decade, it had become the nation's sixth largest record company. The label originally specialized in country music and." King advertised, "If it's a King, It's a Hillbilly – If it's a Hillbilly, it's a King." The company also had a "race records" label, Queen Records (which was melded into the King label within a year or two) and most notably (starting in 1950) Federal Records which launched the singing career of James Brown. In the 1950s, this side of the business outpaced the hillbilly recordings.

We also feature tracks from west coast record man John Dolphin and King Records. The legendary John Dolphin, also known as Lovin’ John, was one of the first and most well respected, black business man who made his way in the music business of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. Dolphin first entered the music business as a retailer where in 1948, when he opened Dolphin’s of Hollywood, a record store on Vernon Avenue that would stay open 24 hours a day.The store featured deejays broadcasting on the local station of KRKD, in front of the huge, glass window. In 1950, John Dolphin mounted his own label, Recorded In Hollywood, eventually selling the label to Decca. Dolphin launched follow-up labels including Lucky, Money and Cash. In 1958 Dolphin was shot and killed by a disgruntled songwriter. The Ace label has issued two volumes of recordings made by Dolphin: On With The Jive! 1950s R&B From Dolphin's Of Hollywood Vol. 1 and Toast Of The Coast: 1950s R&B From Dolphin's Of Hollywood Vol. 2.

Mabel Hillery
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We play a set of guitar heavy hitters today, most from some recent reissues. The track by Wild Jimmy Spruill comes from a great 2-CD set, Scratchin’: The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story. After arriving in New York in 1955 Spruill went on to play guitar on a staggering number of records notably for Bobby and Danny Robinson’s group of labels, including Fire, Fury, Enjoy, Everlast and Vim. He also cut some terrific sides under his own name. Our Pee wee Crayton cut comes from Texas Blues Jumpin' In Los Angeles: The Modern Music Sessions 1948-51, the third CD on the Ace label of Crayton's Modern sides. "Long Way From Home" by Guitar Gable comes from another recent Ace reissue, Rhythm 'n' Bluesin' By The Bayou: Mad Dogs, Sweet Daddies & Pretty Babies the tenth volume in the “By The Bayou” series, pulling sides from the  vaults of J.D. Miller’s Crowley studio.

 

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John Lee HookerGreat Fire Of NatchezNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
John Lee HookerBus Station Blues Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Mississippi Fred McDowell, Annie Mae McDowell & Rev. Robert WilkinsWhat Do You Think About JesusBlues With A Feeling
Mississippi Fred McDowellLord I'm Going Down SouthThe Blues at Newport 1964
Rev. Gary DavisSamson and DelilahRev. Gary Davis At Newport
Rev. Gary DavisYou Got to Move Rev. Gary Davis At Newport
Mississippi John HurtSpikedriver Blues Newport Folk Festival 1963
Mississippi John HurtStagolee Newport Folk Festival 1963
Mississippi John HurtTrouble, I've Had It All My Days Live Oberlin College & Newport '63
Skip JamesSick Bed BluesBlues At Newport 1964
Skip JamesHard Time Killing Floor Blues Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Son House Death Letter BluesNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Son House Son's BluesBlues With A Feeling
Son House w/ Mance LipscombPony BluesGreat Bluesmen Newport
Muddy WatersWalkin' Blues Blues With A Feeling
Muddy WatersFlood Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Muddy WatersI'm Your Hoochie Coochie ManAt Newport 1960
Doc Reese Hey RattlerThe Blues at Newport 1964
Elizabeth CottonFreight trainThe Blues at Newport 1964
Mance LipscombFreddieBlues With A Feeling
Lightnin' HopkinsMojo Hand Live At Newport
Jesse FullerSan Francisco Bay BluesBlues With A Feeling
Jesse FullerDouble Double Do Love YouNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Robert Pete WilliamsThe Prodigal SonThe Prodigal Son
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Key To The HighwayBlues At Newport 1963
Sleepy John EstesCleanup At HomeBlues at Newport
Howlin' Wolf Dust My BroomDevil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966
Howlin' Wolf Meet Me In The BottomDevil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966

Show Notes:

Robert Wilkins Newport 1964
Rev. Robert Wilkins, Newport, 1964

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk-oriented music festival in Newport, Rhode Island, which began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. The Newport Folk Festival was founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, backed by its original board: Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger and Albert Grossman. The festival in its initial guise ran from 1959 to 1970, with no festivals scheduled in 1961 or 1962. The festival was revived in 1985. The festival's beginning in 1959 parallel the blues revival period and all of the great rediscovered bluesman appeared at the festival. The first bluesmen to appear at the festival were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in 1959. Others who performed at Newport include Muddy Waters, who issued a live album of their 1960 performance, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and many others. Today is part two of or look at the great blues performances of Newport in particular chronological order. The following information comes from the book Blues Music in the Sixties A Story in Black and White by Urlich Adelt.

"Even during the hiatus of folk song enthusiasm in the 1950s, a small group of connoisseurs kept promoting the music and helped to prepare for the full-scale folk revival between 1958 and 1965. 20 The folk music magazine Sing Out! was launched in 1950 as a small-scale operation and would grow into a formidable publication in the 1960s. Harry Smith’s six-disc Anthology of American Folk Music, which featured commercial recordings of blues, gospel, and string band music from the 1920s and 1930s, came out on Folkways in 1952 and would serve as an inspiration for many emerging folk musicians in the 1960s and as an impetus to rediscover the musicians featured on the recordings.

The Newport Folk Festival was one of the main catalysts of the 1960's folk revival. The showcasing of rediscovered blues artists, in particular in the years between 1963 and 1965, aptly demonstrates the emergence of a distinctive white blues fan culture that drew from notions of folk authenticity developed in nineteenth-century Europe and refined by the folk revivalists. …The Newport Folk Festival also revealed a particular form of antimodern blues purism, which entailed a nostalgic rediscovery of and hunt for prewar black musicians. This purism would eventually clash with the diluted but not necessarily less racialist white notions of blues authenticity represented by the plugging in of Mike Bloomfield and others.

Howlin' Wolf Newport 1966
Howlin Wolf with Hubert Sumlin on Guitar,
Newport Folk Festival (1966) by David Gahr

Although the first two Newport Folk Festivals in 1959 and 1960 were financial disasters, they drew about twelve thousand people each, an impressive number for the time. …The financial problems of both the jazz and the folk festival and the raucous crowds at the jazz festival in 1960 forced the organizers to cancel the folk festival in 1961 and 1962. …After the two-year hiatus, the Newport Folk Festival became a nonprofit operation in 1963. Among the board members of the newly established Newport Folk Foundation were George Wein, Pete Seeger, and Alan Lomax. The foundation’s mission was 'to promote and stimulate interest in the arts associated with folk music.' In addition to organizing the festival, this included fostering folk music and material culture in the field and in schools. Ralph Rinzler, another member of the board of directors, worked as talent and folklore coordinator and would seek out potential performers for the festival in rural regions of the United States and Canada.In an attempt to democratize the festival, each participant would receive a standard fee of fifty dollars (regardless of popularity) as well as travel and food reimbursements. The directors invited a larger number of amateur musicians, more women and musicians from a wider musical spectrum.

Interestingly, although the blues was racially coded as black or of black origin at Newport, much of the music in question was a nostalgic rehash of styles dating back to the 1920s and 1930s fraught with essentialist notions of blackness, and therefore few black people attended the concerts. Blues performers had only represented a small part of the lineup at the first two Newport Folk Festivals, but they became one of the major attractions in the years between 1963 and 1965 and contributed to a genre that fans could separate from folk music."

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Alice mooreBlack and EvilSt. Louis Women Vol. 2 1934-1941
Ethel Waters(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & BlueEthel Waters 1929-1939
Hattie BurelsonSadie's Servant Room BluesTerritory Singers Vol. 2 1928-30
Big Bill BroonzyBlack, Brown, and WhiteBroadcasting The Blues
Otis SpannMoon Blues Sweet Giant Of The Blues
Howlin' WolfCoon On The MoonThe Back Door Wolf
Lillian GlinnBrown Skin BluesLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Barbecue BobChocolate To The BoneChocolate To The Bone
Andy BoyEvil BluesSan Antonio 1937
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesThe Original Rolling Stone
Tommy MclennanBottle It Up And GoThe Complete Bluebird Recodings
Bill & Mary MackBlack But Sweet, Oh God!Punch Miller & Albert Wynn 1925-1930
Furry LewisB-L-A-C-KThe Fabulous Furry Lewis
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Rosa HendersonI Have To Paint my FaceI Have To Paint my Face
Maggie jonesNorthbound BluesMaggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Cow Cow DavenportJim Crow BluesThe Essential
LeadbellyJim Crow BluesBourgeois Blues
Rev. J.M. GatesKinky Hair Is No DisgraceAre You Bound For Heaven Or Hell?
Albert HunterYou Can't Tell The Difference After DarkAlberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-46
Louis JordanOfay & oxford Grey Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - Chapter 4
J.B. LenoirBorn DeadAlabama Blues
John Lee HookerBirmingham BluesKennedy's Blues
Louisiana RedRide On Red, Ride OnThe Best of Louisiana Red
Dora Carr & Cow Cow DavenportBlack Girl Gets There Just The Same Cow Cow Davenport - Cow Cow Davenport: The Accompanist 1924-1929
Butterbeans & SusieBrown Skin GalButterbeans & Susie Vol. 1 1924-1925
Fats HaydenBrown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After AllTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Ruby SmithBlack GalSammy Price
And the Blues Singers
Juke Boy BonnerBeing Black and I'm ProudLife Gave Me A Dirty Deal
Champion Jack DupreeOh Lord What Have I DoneOh Lord What Have I Done

Show Notes:

Alice Moore: Black And Evil BluesToday's show is devoted to blues songs dealing with the topic of race. Blues of the segregation era are intrinsically tied to race but rarely do they deal with the topic of race itself. As the great blues scholar Paul Oliver wrote back in 1968: "Blacks in the United States are members of an underprivileged class, and it makes no difference if their standard of living is far higher than that of most people in Africa, India, or much of South America. For them, being below the poverty line in the world's richest nation means suffering. Ernest attempts to play the blues by white imitators notwithstanding, the blues is, inescapably, the music of the African American, and it seems undeniable that it is a cultural expression that relates back to circumstances of segregation. It's true that racial discrimination is seldom blatantly the theme of the blues-but it's never far away. …For the Black, whether he was purpled-hued or pink skinned, his color was his problem, both within the black community and in the community as a whole. It was this which determined that his whole social life should be different from his fellow Americans, for his color and his cast of feature were the outward indications of his ancestory." Today we play songs, both subtle and explicit, both humorous and serious, that deal with a variety of racial issues. Within black society there was a class system based on skin color – yellow, brown and black – and many songs deal with this topic. Other songs are more overt, dealing frankly about issues like Jim Crow and, particularly in the 60's, with the topic of civil rights. Other songs are more subtle, throwing in a interesting line or two, often hard to decipher without careful listening.

Alice Moore, Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's.

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep (2x)
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord has got a curse on me (2x)
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black." There's also, I think, a way of diffusing the negative "black" by owning it as Moore does, a way of empowering oneself by taking the negative associations of black and turning it around and even reveling in it. Moore's song was covered by Lil Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and Leroy Ervin. Another song from the same period with a similar sentiment is "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blues", originally written by Fats Waller in 1929, it was a hit for Ethel Waters in 1930. Like Moore's song this one too equates blackness with being "blue"but some of the lyrics give one an uneasy feeling:

I'm white inside, it don't help my case
'Cause I can't hide, what is on my face, oh!

I'm so forlorn, life's just a thorn
My heart is torn, why was I born?
What did I do to be so black and blue?

'Cause you're black, folks think you lack
They laugh at you, and scorn you too
What did I do to be so black and blue?

The title of today's show, Sam Chatmon's "I Have To Paint My Face", is another song tied into this theme. Chatmon's song paints being black in a negative light in contrast to being white. Chatmon's song is a bit more complicated with some of the language, it seems, drawing from the period before the blues when their was a wide variety of black music including ragtime, black vaudeville, minstrels, coon songs, work songs, dance tunes and more. Older musicians (Chatmon was born in the late 1890's), born in the 1860's through the 1880's, learned early forms of black music that they brought to their records when they had the opportunity to record in the 20's and 30's.

Say God made us all
He made some at night
That's why he didn't take time
To make us all white

I'm bound to change my name
I have to paint my face
So I won't be kin
To that Ethiopian race

Say now let me tell you one thing
That a Stumptown nigger will do
He'll pull up on young cotton
And he'll kill baby chickens too

Say when God made me
Say the moon was givin' light
I'm so doggone sorry
He didn't finish me up white

Say now when God made people
He done pretty well
But when he made a jet black nigger
He made them some hell

Say God took a ball of mud
When he got ready to make man
When he went to make you partner
I believe it slipped out his hand

Fats Hayden: Brown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After All As mentioned above, within black society there was a class system based on skin color – yellow, brown and black – each hue having their own stereotypes. In Blues Fell This Morning, Paul Oliver had the following to say: "Blacks frequently aspired to the conditions of being white, as they saw the better jobs, the higher standard of living Whites enjoyed. Men spent large sums of money on hair-straightening  greases and combs that were supposed to remove the kinks in African hair. Woman dyed their hair to a brick-red, powdered their faces and applied artificial color in order to make their skins lighter and their complexions more 'white.' …This primitive distinction by color was passed on to Blacks themselves and their population was many times divided by grades of skin pigmentation. In the caste system that evolved from this arbitrary means of discrimination, the lighter skinned tended to be on a higher plane, whilst the extremely black-skinned mas was looked down on… To differentiate between their many shades of color they evolved many words which are applicable to certain shades: 'ashy black', 'chocolate-brown', 'coffee', 'sealskin-brown', 'brightskin', 'high yaller', 'lemon', and others… Blacks of one particular skin hue kept together and may certainly  have a had a preference for that color…" In her popular 1927 number, "Brown Skin Blues", Lillian Glinn stated her preference:

Now all high yellers you ought to listen to me
A yellow man's sweet, a black man's neat
A brownskin man will take you clear off your feet

Barbecue Bob's “Chocolate To The Bone” was an answer song cut in 1928:

So glad I'm brownskin, so glad I'm brownskin, chocolate to the bone (2x)
And I've got what it takes to make a monkey man leave his home

Black man is evil, yellow man's so low-down (2x)
I walk into these houses just to see these black men frown

I'm just like Miss Lillian, like Miss Lillian, I mean Miss Glinn, you see
I'm just like Miss Lillian, I mean Miss Glinn, you see
She said, 'A brownskin man is just all right with me'

In a similar vein was Fats Hayden's 1939 number "Brown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After All" where he elaborates in detail to prove the song's title throwing quite a few disparaging comments on the other hues ("When a yellow gal gets old/She draw up like tripe"). Hayden's song is very similar to a number of earlier songs including Butterbeans & Susie's "Brown Skin Gal" from 1925 and Barbecue Bob's "Brown Skin Gal" from 1927. Bill & Mary Mack's "Black But Sweet, Oh God!" from 1925 has Bill asking for Mary's company and with the following reply: "Now listen hear man you too black and ugly, the type of man is out of my life." Then shes goes on about her "brown" who is "little an cute, chocolate to the bone." Jim Jackson recorded a song titled "Black But Sweet" which is likely the same song  although it was never issued. In the 1970's Furry Lewis recorded "a little jive" he claims to have made up called "B-L-A-C-K" which bears a striking resemblance to Bill & Mary Mack's number but Furry turns it around a bit:

Some people don't like their color, but I sure do like mine
I know I'm black and ugly, but gets along just fine
I was going down the street the other day, two high browns I did meet
Said ain't old Furry black but he sure looks good to me
I'm black but I'm sweet oh God

Earlier I quoted Paul Oliver mentioning that blacks tried to change their appearance to a more white aesthetic, that too is represented in songs featured today. In Ishman Bracey's "Saturday Blues" he sings:

Now, if you want yo' woman, to look like the rest
You buy her high-brown powder, Palmer's Skin Success

Cow Cow Davenport: Jim Crow BluesPalmer's Skin Success was the trade name of a popular skin bleach which claimed o be able to make you "one shade lighter." The product was advertised in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender probably not coincidentally on the same pages that advertised blues records. Then there's  Rev. J.M. Gates' "Kinky Hair is No Disgrace" which, despite the title, is more in a slapstick vaudeville vein than a black pride one. The 1960's saw a new found era in black pride with James Brown's "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" from 1968 becoming an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement. The same year Juke Boy Bonner cut "Being Black and I'm Proud" and Bee Houston recorded "Be Proud To Be A Black Man" in 1970. There were black pride sentiments in earlier songs like Ruby Smith on "Black Gal" from 1941. Chris Smith wrote that "it's a fascinating, uneasy mixture of self-abasement with early 'black is beautiful' ideology: "

If I had the choice of being white as a lamb
I would turn it down and stay, black as I am

'I'm just a black gal, insignificant me
But I'm just as happy as can be

I ain't seeking pity on account of being black
And if I've apologized I wanna take it back

…Furthermore, I don't believe in being what you ain't
That's why I don't lighten up with lots of chalk and paint.

Blues songs that speak directly to racial issues are relatively rare in early blues, while the 1960's saw more explicit songs dealing with the turbulent civil rights era. During the Jim Crow era, racial segregation laws were enacted between 1876 and 1965 at the state and local level that mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states. There were several songs that explicitly dealt with the topic. An early one from singer Maggie Jones, "Northbound Blues" from 1925, talks about heading away from Jim Crow:

Got my trunk and grip all packed
Goodbye, I ain't coming back
Going to leave this Jim Crow town
Lord, sweet pape, New York bound

Got my ticket in my hand
And I'm leaving dixieland

Going north child, where I can be free (2x)
Where there's no hardships, like in Tennessee

Going where they don't have Jim Crow laws (2x)
Don't have to work there, like in Arkansas

Cow Cow Davenport was another singer to make an overt statement about going North to escape Jim Crow. Accompanied by B.T. Wingfield on cornet, he recorded "Jim Crow Blues" for Paramount in 1927:

I'm tired of being Jim Crowed, gonna Leave this Jim Crow town
Doggone my black soul, I'm sweet Chicago bound

Rosa Henderson is sings about Jim Crow in "Back Woods Blues" from 1924 (Clara Smith recorded a version the same year):

Gonna see my folks, but its way too far
To ride in a dusty old Jim Crow car

Got the backwoods blues, but I don't wanna go back home
Got the backwoods blues, for a place way down in Bam
Got the blues, but I'm gonna stay right where I am

Gonna lay 'round here, where I'm at
Where there ain't no grinnin' and no snatchin' off my hat

Other songs on the subject include Josh White's "Jim Crow Train"and "Uncle Sam Says" and "Jim Crow Blues" and "Scottsboro Boys" by  Leadbelly. Jim Crow also existed in the military during both world wars and through part of the Korean war. Both Leadbelly and Josh White tackle the topic in "Uncle Sam Says", the topic also crops up in gospel songs by Blind Willie Johnson ("When the War Was On") and William And Versey Smith ("Everybody Help the Boys Come Home"). In Big Bill Broonzy's famous "Black, Brown, and White" and "I Wonder When I'll Get To Be Called A Man" he address the issue:

When Uncle Sam called me, I know'ed I'd be called a real McCoy
But I got none of this, they just called me soldier boy
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
When I got back from overseas, that night we had a ball
Next day I met the old boss, he said 'Boy get you some overalls'

Howlin' Wolf - Coon On The MoonOvert political commentary became increasingly more common by the 1960's. Several blues and gospel numbers were recorded about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. In "Birmingham Blues" John Lee Hooker forcefully sings about the Birmingham campaign which was a strategic effort by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to promote civil rights for black Americans. 1962's Louisiana Red's "Ride On Red, Ride On" is a civil rights themed blues mainly about leaving the racist south and its subject not far removed from Rosa Henderson's “Back Woods Blues” mentioned above.  Few bluesman were as outspoken and eloquent as J.B. Lenoir who cut some hard hitting topical numbers shortly before his untimely death in 1967. Here's his "Born Dead" from 1966:

Lord why was I born in Mississippi, when it's so hard to get ahead (2x)
Every black child born in Mississippi
You know the poor child is born dead

During the beginning of the space race in the early 1960's many songs appeared to cash in with space themed topics. With the landing on the moon in 1969 there were many more, but many, particularly by African Americans, took on a more political tone often contrasting the money and conditions of black people with the amount of money that went into the putting a man on the moon while ignoring the dire conditions at home. This is the topic of Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey On The Moon" and Otis Spann's "Moon Blues." Howlin' Wolf was fascinated by space flight and asked his saxophonist Eddie Shaw to write a song on the subject. "Coon On The Moon" is more about how things have changed during Wolf's lifetime than an overt political statement. 35 years before it happened the song predicted the first black president:

You know, they called us ‘coons’—said we didn’t have no sense
You gonna wake up one morning, and a coon’s gonna be the President

Several songs featured today don't fall into any particular category but lyrically fit into the topic of today's show: There's Andy Boy who sings "I got the evil blues, prejudicy on my mind" on "Evil Blues" from 1937 and Robert Wilkins who on "Fallin' Down Blues" from 1929 sings:

If you don't believe, girl, I'll treat you right
Come and walk with me down to my loving shack tonight
I'll certainly treat you just like you was white
That don't satisfy you, girl, I'll take your life

Finally there's  Tommy McClennan who's "Bottle It Up And Go" is one of the songs most associated with him. According to Honeyboy Edwards, McClennan learned the song from Memphis Jug Band member Dewey Corley.  McClennan insisted on playing the song as he learned it in the South, ignoring Northern sensibilities when he sang the controversial lines: "Now the nigger and the white man playin' seven-up/Nigger beat the white man was scared to pick it up." Broonzy tells a story of McClennan singing these lines at a house party and being forcibly ejected, forced to leave via the window with parts of his guitar around his neck.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jimmy RogersRound About BoogieDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Jimmy RogersLittle Store BluesChicago Boogie! 1947
Jimmy RogersLudellaEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Memphis MinnieDown Home GirlEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Johnny ShinesSo Glad I Found YouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Little Walter Muskadine BluesBlues World Of Little Walter
Little Walter Just Keep Loving Her Blues World Of Little Walter
Jimmy RogersGoin' Away BabyComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThat's All Right Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersMoney, Marbles And ChalkComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThe World Is In A TangleComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersBack Door FriendComplete Chess Recordings
Little WalterCan't Hold Out Much Longer The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Muddy WatersGone To Main Street The Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersOut On The Road Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Act Like You Love MeComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Left Me With a Broken Heart Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersMy Life Is RuinedThe Complete Chess Recordings
T- Bone Walker Papa Ain't SaltyT-Bone Blues
Jimmy Rogers Walking By Myself Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers If It Ain't Me (Who You Thinking OfThe Complete Chess Recordings
Sunnyland Slim It's YouSunnyland Special
Howlin' WolfDown In The Bottom The Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Jimmy RogersTricky WomanAmerican Folk Blues Festival '72
Jimmy RogersWhat Have I Done?Chicago Blues at Home
Jimmy Rogers & Muddy WatersThat's Alright I'm Ready

Show Notes:

Jimmy RogersAn under-sung hero of the blues, Jimmy Rogers played a a key role in creating the electrified, band-oriented postwar Chicago sound. He was a member of Muddy Waters’ first band in Chicago, and cut great sides for Chess under his own name  including blues standards like "That’s All Right," "Ludella", "Chicago Bound," and "Walking By Myself." In addition to playing on dozens of sides backing Waters, Rogers also backed numerous others including Memphis Minnie, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones and others. After a final Chess single in 1959, Rogers, outside o fa lone single  on the C.J. label, did not record again until the 1970's, when he cut the his first full-length album for Shelter Records. He rejoined Muddy Waters in 1978 for the I’m Ready album and tour and released several albums later in life before passing in 1997.

Born James A. Lane, he was raised by his grandmother after his father was killed in a scuffle at a sawmill. She moved them often, living in several owns in several states: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. His first guitar was a diddley bow, a broom wire nailed to the side of a house and plucked,  next was the harmonica. Soon he was playing other people’s guitars. Meeting and watching Houston Stackhouse, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway, Robert Lockwood, and Joe Willie Wilkins, and listening to King Biscuit Time on the radio, Rogers developed a solid musical foundation and earned a reliable reputation as a player. Rogers had family in Chicago, and had been there several times before settling permanently in the mid-1940s. He found an apartment on the Near West Side, next to the Maxwell Street market, which is where he was living when he befriended a factory coworker who was Muddy Waters’s cousin. From the time Muddy and Jimmy first played together, they knew they had a good sound. Rogers understood how to play bass parts and how to play licks that complemented Muddy’s slide.harlem1021abjl

Initially, Rogers and Waters played with a third guitarist named Claude "Blue" Smitty. To keep the sound varied, Rogers often played harmonica instead of guitar, until Blue Smitty left and Rogers found Little Walter. Muddy, Rogers, and Walter began gigging together and, on their off nights, called themselves the Headhunters, roving the Chicago club scene of the late 1940s, sitting in on other people’s gigs and showing off their new, urban blues sound.

Rogers made his first solo recording in 1946 for the Harlem label, but Rogers' name did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of "Memphis Slim and his Houserockers" and Sunnyland Slim. Following that Rogers, with Little Walter at his side, cut the 1948 single “Little Store Blues” for the tiny Ora Nelle label. The legendary Ora Nelle label was run out of a record store by Bernard and his wife Idel, known as Red, operated for a year or two, managing just two releases. Another 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material make Ora Nelle's entire legacy. George Paulus, who had been a regular customer at Maxwell Street Record and Radio for several years, bought the surviving lacquers from the Abrams family. Paulus recalled: "I asked Bernie where he recorded Walter and Rogers. He matter of factly replied, “We had a little disc cutting machine in the front of the shop.  Recorded right about where you are standing. The boys just sat on chairs and played. Hell, Walter played harp on the steps when he was relaxing.” Red came over and said ,”Walter was a very nice talented fellow and we wished him all the best.” "Ora Nelle Blues," sung by Othum Brown, was named after one of Red’s relations. “We couldn’t get the distribution so we sold the records right out of the store.” Art Sheridan licensed Ora Nelle 711 "(Ora-Nelle Blues") for reissue on his Chance label. It was the only reissue from the label to take place before the blues revival of the 1960s. Part of his agenda is revealed by the retitling of this side, as "That's Alright." For "Ora Nelle Blues" was the same piece as "That's All Right," which in the meantime had become a hit for Jimmy Rogers—on Chess in 1950. Rogers teamed up with  Little Walter again on sides issued circa 1950 on the Regal and Herald labels; "Muskadine Blues", "Just Keep Lovin' Her" and "Boll Weevil" all of which featured Baby Face Leroy and Muddy Waters. Rogers hooked up with Walter again in 1952 classic "Juke b/w Can't Hold Out Much Longer" for Chess.

rogers34
Muddy Waters, unknown (maraccas), Otis Spann, Henry Strong,
Elgin Evans, Jimmy Rogers (presumably from the early 1950s)

source: Mike Rowe: Chicago Blues – The City and the Music.- New York (Da Capo Paperback) 1975,
first published in 1973 as "Chicago Breakdown", p. 146 ("from Chess files")

 

In 1949 Rogers backed Memphis Minnie for the Regal label and cut an early version of ‘‘Ludella,’’ for the label which he recut in 1950 at his first Chess Records session. 1949 aslo saw some unreleased sides cut for Tempo-Tone and Apollo where he recorded a version of "That's Alright." That year he also accompanied Muddy Waters as a sideman on “Screaming and Crying,” which initially came out on the Aristocrat label, soon renamed Chess Records. For the next half-decade, Rogers was a mainstay of the Waters band onstage and in the studio. With "That’s All Right" on the other side, Rogers' first release became a two-sided hit. The full Muddy Waters band had yet to back Muddy on records, the label preferring the simpler sound of Muddy and an upright bass; however, Chess let the band record with Rogers as the leader, beginning in December 1950. A year later, they began regularly recording with Muddy. Rogers continued to perform and record with Muddy, even as his solo career took off. When "Juke" became a hit for Little Walter, Muddy’s band boasted a line-up with three stars. Through the early 1950's, Rogers was on nearly all of Muddy’s major hits: "Standing Around Crying," "She’s All Right," "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)," "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love To Love To You", I’m Ready," and more.

Jimmy Rogers: That's All RightAround late 1956, Jimmy departed the Waters band to go solo, but the two remained close friends. Beginning with 1950’s “That’s All Right” b/w “Ludella,” Rogers’ Chess 78's rank right up there with Muddy’s as some of the finest examples of postwar Chicago blues. Among the highlights are 1950’s “Goin’ Away Blues,” 1954’s “Chicago Bound” and “Sloppy Drunk,” with backing by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and 1956’s “Walking By Myself,” Rogers’ highest-charting record. After playing for about a year in Wolf’s band Rogers virtually retired from music for a time during the '60s, operating a Westside clothing shop that burned down in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King's tragic assassination. He did cut a single for Carl Jones' C.J. label in 1966.

Rogers returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell's Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more soli albums but he wasn't as prolific as he might have been. We close our show with Rogers and Muddy reuniting on a update of "That's Alright" from the album  I'm Ready, the second of Waters' Johnny Winter-produced albums for the Blue Sky Records label. I'm Ready was issued one year after he found renewed commercial and critical success with Hard Again. The album earned Waters a Grammy Award in 1978 and reunited Waters with Walter Horton as well. Muddy and Rogers did occasional gigs together thereafter, until Muddy’s death in 1983.

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