ARTISTSONGALBUM
Madonna MartinMadonna's BoogieLe Boogie Woogie Par Les Femmes
Hattie GreenPawn Shop BluesAtlas Blues Explosion
LaVern BakerHow Can You Leave a Man Like ThisLavern Baker 1949-1954
Annisteen AllenHard to Get AlongAnnisteen Allen 1945-53
Clifford GibsonBlues Without A DimeClifford Gibson 1929-1931
Barbecue BobGood Time RounderBarbecue Bob Vol. 3 1928-1929
Charlie SpandAin't Gonna Stand For ThatDreaming The Blues
J.B. LenoirSitting Down ThinkingJ.B. Lenoir 1951-1958
Johnny LittlejohnI Got My Nose OpenShuckin' Stuff Rare: Blues From Ace Records
Big John WrencherI'm A Root ManBig John's Boogie
Guitar Slim GreenFifth Street AlleyStone Down Blues
Jim BunkleySegregation BluesPresident Johnson's Blues
Lightnin' HopkinsThe Devil Jumped The Black ManComplete Prestige / Bluesville Recordings
Sonny Boy WilliamsonGoing In Your DirectionCool Cool Blues:The Classic Sides
Memphis SlimI’m Going To The RiverAlone With My Friends
Sunnyland SlimDrinking And ClowingBea & Baby Records Vol.3
Willie MabonMonday WomanWillie Mabon 1949-1954
The LarksEyesight To The BlindBlowing the Fuse 1951
B.B. KingEyesight To The BlindThe Soul Of
Madelyn JamesLong Time BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Memphis MinnieOut in the ColdMemphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Lizzie MilesLizzie's BluesJazzin' The Blues 1943-1952
Alberta HunterChirpin' the BluesMen Are Like Streetcars
Ivory Joe HunterLying Woman BluesIvory Joe Hunter 1947-1950
Gatemouth MooreHighway 61 BluesHey Mr. Gatemouth
Elmore JamesStormy MondayWho's Muddy Shoes
Robert NighthawkBlues Before SunriseModern Chicago Blues
Eddie TaylorJackson TownI Feel So Bad
Tampa RedNoonday Hour BluesTampa Red Vol. 11 1939-1940
Tampa RedGeorgia, Georgia BluesTampa Red Vol.12 1941-1945
Bobby MarchanPity Poor MeClown Jewels: The Ace Masters 1956-75
Tiny PowellMy Time After WhileBay Area Blues Blasters Vol. 1
Johnny HeartsmanJohnny's House Party, Part OneBay Area Blues Blasters Vol. 1

Show Notes:

A varied mix show today stretching from the 1920's up through the 1970's with the emphasis more on the post-war blues then usual. On deck today are a pair of extended sets focusing on some terrific blues ladies, a batch of prime Chicago blues from the 1950's and 60's, a pair of cuts by Tampa Red plus a pair featuring Johnny Heartsman. Amid the obscure players we feature quite a number of well known artists although, perhaps, performing lesser known tracks.

Alberta Hunter

Among the better known blues ladies featured today are Lavern Baker, Memphis Minnie and Alberta Hunter. From 1953, her second session and first for Atlantic, we spin Lavern Baker's torrid "How Can You Leave A Man Like This" backed by a rocking combo featuring Jimmy Lewis on guitar and Freddie Mitchell on tenor sax. During her time at Atlantic Records (1953-62), Baker cut half a dozen singles that rose to high positions on both the pop and R&B charts, including "Tweedle Dee" and "Jim Dandy." The niece of blues singer Memphis Minnie, Baker was blessed with a powerful voice, which she put to use as a teenager singing in nightclubs under the stage name Little Miss Sharecropper. She recorded under that and other pseudonyms (including Bea Baker), finally adopting the name LaVern Baker while singing for Todd Rhodes and His Orchestra.

A couple of decades before Baker made her debut, Memphis Minnie made hers. Starting in 1929, her remarkable career ran through 1953,  following three basic phases : the duet years with Kansas Joe, the "Melrose" band sound of the late thirties and early forties, and her later electric playing with Ernest "Little Son Joe" Lawlars. From 1936 we hear the powerfully sung "Out In The Cold."

Then there's Alberta Hunter, one of the original woman who ushered in the blues craze, making her debut for the legendary Black Swan label way back in 1921. Hunter recorded in six decades of the twentieth century, outlasting just about all her peers. Hunter first cut "Chirpin' The Blues" for Paramount in 1923 and again in 1939 which is the version featured today. Backed by a stellar band featuring Charlie Shaver on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet and Lil Armstrong on piano, Hunter delivers a magnificent performance.

No less talented are the lesser known blues ladies including Madonna Martin, who only cut four sides in 1949, and delivers the storming "Madonna's Boogie", Hattie Green, who cut six sides for Atlas in the 50's, lays down the tough "Pawn Shop Blues" and Annisteen Allen shouts the blues on the raucous "Hard to Get Along." From the pre-war there's the superb, but utterly obscure, Madelyn James who cut a lone 78 for Brunswick in 1930, "Long Time Blues b/w Stinging Snake Blues",  featuring the excellent session pianist Judson Brown.

Today's program is also sprinkled with some top notch Chicago blues from the 50's and 60's including cuts by Eddie Taylor, Robert Nighthawk, Big John Wrencher, Johnny Littlejohn and J.B. Lenoir. Eddie Taylor hit Chicago in 1949, falling in with harpist Snooky Pryor, guitarist Floyd Jones, and Jimmy Reed who was a childhood friend. From Jimmy Reed's second Vee-Jay date in 1953, Taylor was on the great majority of Reed's Vee-Jay sides during the 1950s and early '60s, and he even found time to wax a few classic sides of his own for Vee-Jay during the mid-'50s. He also recorded behind John Lee Hooker, John Brim, Elmore James, Snooky Pryor, and many more during the '50s. He cut his debut album, I Feel So Bad, in 1972 for Advent. From that album we spin his fine cover of Robert Nighthawk's "Jackson Town Gal", here title "Jackson Town."

Delta born John Funchess left home in 1946, pausing in Jackson, MS; Arkansas, and Rochester, NY, before winding up in Gary, IN. Littlejohn waited a long time to wax his debut singles for Margaret, T-D-S, and Weis in 1968. But before the year was out, Littlejohn had also cut his debut album, Chicago Blues Stars, for the Arhoolie logo. Unfortunately, a four-song 1969 Chess date remained in the can. After that, another long dry spell preceded Littlejohn's 1985 album So-Called Friends for Rooster Blues. Littlejohn had been in poor health for some time prior to his 1994 passing. Today's cut, "I Got My Nose Open" was recorded for the Mississippi Ace label but inexplicably was unissued.

One-Armed harmonica player Big John Wrencher was a fixture of Maxwell Street. Wrencher was a traveling musician, playing throughout Tennessee and neighboring Arkansas from the late 1940’s to the early 1950’s. By the early 1960’s he had moved North to Chicago and quickly became a regular fixture on Maxwell Street. His first recordings surfaced on a pair of Testament albums from the 1960’s, featuring Big John in a sideman role behind Robert Nighthawk. We hear him today backing Nighthawk on a fine rendition of "Blues Before Sunrise." Wrencher cut the excellent Maxwell Street Alley Blues for the Barrelhouse label and cut Big John’s Boogie for the British Big Bear label in 1975. Wrencher passed in 1977.

We have a couple of twin spins, of sorts on today's program. Two from the incomparable  Tampa Red, including 1940's solo "Noonday Hour Blues" and 1941's gorgeous "Georgia, Georgia Blues" backed by pianist Big Maceo and Ransom Knowling. We also spin two versions of the blues standard 'Eyesight To The Blind" by The Larks and B.B. King. The song was originally cut by Sonny Boy Williamson and has has been covered many times. The most successful early version was that by The Larks. The group's recording of "Eyesight to the Blind", with vocals and guitar by Allen Bunn, who later worked solo as Tarheel Slim, reached #5 on the Billboard R&B charts in July 1951. King first cut the song in 1965 and played the song often live.

Through one of his main influences, guitarist Lafayette "Thing" Thomas, a teenage Johnny Heartsman hooked up with Bay Area producer Bob Geddins. Heartsman played bass on Jimmy Wilson's 1953 rendition of "Tin Pan Alley," handling guitar or piano at other Geddins recordings.  Other artists he backed included Ray Agee, Little Willie Littlefield and Jimmy McCracklin . He cut his own two-part instrumental, the "Honky Tonk"-inspired "Johnny's House Party," for Music City, which become a national R&B hit in 1957. The early '60s brought a lot more session work — Heartsman played on Tiny Powell's "My Time After Awhile" (soon covered by Buddy Guy) which we also spin, and Al King's remake of Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby." Stints in show bands, jazzy cocktail lounge gigs, and a stand as soul singer Joe Simon's organist came prior to his return to the blues in the 90's. In 1991 he cut his best album, The Touch for Alligator. He passed in 1996.

Also worth mentioning are some fine down-home blues by Guitar Slim Green and Jim Bunkley. West Coast guitarist Slim Green cut a handful of sides in the late 40’s and late 50’s for a bunch of small California labels and in 1970 cut the album Stone Down Blues for Kent backed by Johnny and Shuggie Otis. From that album we spin "Fifth Street Alley" a reworking of his 1948 gem, "Alla Blues."

George Mitchell recorded a handful of sides by Bunkley in Geneva, Georgia in 1968. From Mitchell's notes:  "Jim Bunkley lived in a small tar-papered house he bragged was his own, in Geneva, Georgia, his birthplace. He was 'eight years old when they took the census in 1920. It was about that time he made friends with the guitar." 'When I was about eight, my brother had one, and me and my nine year-old sister used to play it. Us couldn't hold it. Had it hanging up 'side of the wall and we'd get up on a chair and play it. Everyone in my family could play – we had five boys and four girls.' "When he 'got up in age, Bunkley was about the best known musician around Talbot County. He recalled the many times he walked away with prizes offered at a theater in nearby Junction City. 'I was rough then,' he said. 'I had on a great big ole cowboy hat and I got up there on the stage and cracked a whole lot of jokes and then played. I win all that money, too.'" Our track, the topical "Segregation Blues", comes from the recent collection, President Johnson's Blues and was originally released in 1971 on the Revival label as George Henry Bussey and Jim Bunkley. The CD is a companion to Guido van Rijn's book of the same name, the fourth in a series of superbly researched books dealing with topical blues and gospel. I've read Rijn's previous books and look forward to reading this one as well. There's an additional CD companion to his latest book, Martin Luther King's Blues which is another fascinating collection of topical rarities.

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