Entries tagged with “Joe Carter”.

Easy Baby Good Morning Mr. Blues Grab Me Another Half Pint
Easy Baby So Tired Sweet Home In Chicago
Easy Baby Madison Street Boogie Sweet Home In Chicago
Kansas City Red Standing Around CryingOriginal Chicago Blues
Kansas City Red K.C. Red's In TownGrab Me Another Half Pint
Big John Wrencher Tell Me Darling 45
Big John Wrencher Trouble Makin' Woman 45
Big John Wrencher Runnin' Wild 45
Joe Carter It Hurts Me Too Mean & Evil Blues
Joe Carter I'm WorriedMean & Evil Blues
Kansas City Red Lula Mae Old Friends
Kansas City Red Lightnin' Struck The Poor House Old Friends
Easy Baby Last Night Sweet Home In Chicago
Easy Baby Call Me Easy Baby If It Ain't One Thing, It's Another
Easy Baby If It Ain't One Thing, It's Another If It Ain't One Thing, It's Another
Kansas City Red Moon Is Rising Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis 2
Kansas City Red Mean Black SpiderOriginal Chicago Blues
Big John Wrencher Maxwell Street Alley Blues Maxwell Street Alley Blues
Big John Wrencher Can't Hold Out Much Longer And This Is Maxwell Street
Big John Wrencher I'm A Root Man Big John's Boogie
Joe Carter Anna LeeThat Ain't Right
Joe Carter Treat Me The Way You Do Mean & Evil Blues
Easy Baby She's 19 Years Old Sweet Home In Chicago
Easy Baby You Gonna Miss Me Sweet Home In Chicago
Big John Wrencher Conductor Took My Baby To Tennessee Maxwell Street Alley Blues
Big John Wrencher Rockin' Chair Blues Maxwell Street Alley Blues
Big John Wrencher Rough/Tough Boogie Maxwell Street Alley Blues
Chicago String Band w/ Big John Wrencher Don't Sic Your Dog On Me Chicago String Band

Show Notes:

Easy Baby: Sweet Home Chicago
Read Liner Notes

On today's program we spotlight a quartet of fine, if unheralded, bluesman who were active on the Chicago blues scene of the 1960's and 1970's Today we spotlight two superb harmonica men: Easy Baby and Big John Wrencher. Easy Baby was singing and playing the blues since the 50's, first in Memphis then Chicago, but didn't make his recorded debut until the mid-70's. He cut a small but impressive legacy which we feature today. Wrencher cut a few scattered sides in the 60's before making a a terrific album in 1969 and some strong sides in the 70's Much less documented on record are singer/drummer Kansas City Red who snag with Robert Nighthawk in the 40's but cut only a handful of sides staring in the 70's. Joe Carter was a powerful Elmore James inspired guitarist who cut a lone record in 1975 and a few other scattered sides. The artists featured today worked together in various combinations, all recorded in the 70's for George Paulus' Barrelhouse label and none achieved much in the way of star billing.

Alex “Easy Baby” Randle was born in Memphis in 1934. Both his grandmother and uncle were harmonica players. Easy Baby began playing professionally around Memphis as a teenager while doing odd jobs. Playing in the gambling houses and juke joints he befriended Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Joe Hill Louis and others. In 1956 he moved to Chicago and throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's played all over the Windy City while working as a mechanic.

Not long after Easy Baby wen to Chicago he meet his idol, Littltle Walter, at Ricky’s Show Lounge. After sitting in with Walter the two became friends and Walter showed him quite a bit on harp. Easy did a stint with Muddy Waters and had his own band which usually included Smokey Smothers on guitar,Baby Dimples on drums and George Austin on guitar. Over the years the personnel changed and included Jo Jo Williams and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Between 1962 and 1974 he worked in a band with guitarist “Big Red” Smith on Chicago’s West Side.

Easy Baby’s first recording appeared on the anthology Low Blows: An Anthology of Chicago Harmonica Blues with another track appearing on the anthology Bring Me Another Half-A-Pint. His full-length debut was Sweet Home Chicago issued on George Paulus' Barrelhouse label in 1977 with the band consisting of Eddie Taylor, el g; Mac Thompson, b; Kansas City Red, dr. Easy performed at the 1998 and 2000 Chicago Blues Festivals and recorded one more superb album, If It Ain't One Thing, It's Another for Wolf in 2000.He recorded a few more sides in 2001 that appeared on the anthology Harmonica Blues Orgy on the Random Chance label. He passed in 2009.

Big John Wrencher: Maxwell Street Alley BluesJohn Thomas Wrencher was born in Sunflower, Mississippi. He became interested in music as a child, and taught himself to play harmonica at an early age, and from the early 1940's was working as an itinerant musician in Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois. By the mid 1940's he had arrived in Chicago and was playing on Maxwell Street and at house parties with Jimmy Rogers, Claude "Blue Smitty" Smith and John Henry Barbee. In the 1950's he moved to Detroit, where he worked with singer/guitarist Baby Boy Warren, and formed his own trio to work in the Detroit and Clarksdale, Mississippi areas.

In 1958 Wrencher lost his left arm as a result of a car accident outside Memphis, Tennessee. By the early 1960's he had settled in Chicago, where he became a fixture on Maxwell Street Market, in particular playing from 10am to 3pm on Sundays. In 1964 he appeared in a documentary film about Maxwell Street, titled And This Is Free; performances by Wrencher recorded in the process of making the film were eventually issued on the three CD set And This Is Maxwell Street.

During the 1960's Wrencher recorded for the Testament label backing Robert Nighthawk, and as part of the Chicago String Band. In 1969 he recorded for Barrelhouse Records, backed by guitarist Little Buddy Thomas and drummer Playboy Vinson, who formed his Maxwell Street band of the time resulting in the album, Maxwell Street Alley Blues. Wrencher toured Europe with the Chicago Blues Festival in 1973 and with the American Blues Legends in 1974, and during the latter tour recorded an album in London for the Big Bear label, backed by guitarist Eddie Taylor and his band. During a trip to Mississippi to visit his family in July 1977, Wrencher died suddenly of a heart attack in Wade Walton's barber shop in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Arthur Stevenson was born in Drew, Mississippi and owed his Kansas City sobriquet to a brief trip to that city after being rejected from the service in 1942. His first musical inspiration was David “Honeyboy” Edwards and by the early 1940’s he was hanging around with Robert Nighthawk. One night the band’s drummer took ill right before a gig and he offered to fill in despite never having played drums before. He ended up playing drums for Nighthawk until around 1946. After his split with Nighthawk he briefly hooked up with Honeyboy Edwards. He had uncanny knack for hustling gigs and began singing by this period. In the 50’s he formed a band with Earl Hooker and pianist Ernest Lane.

Kansas City Red moved to Chicago in the 50’s, occasionally sitting in with Muddy Waters. He formed a group with Walter Horton that included Johnny Young and Johnny Shines. During this period he played with Robert Lockwood Jr., Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Blind John Davis, Elmore James and others. Starting with the Club Reno, he managed a number of Chicago bars and owned a couple as well.

Bring Me Another Half-a-PintThrough the 70’s and 80’s Kansas City Red held down stints at a number of Chicago clubs. His recorded legacy is slim with a handful of sessions for Barrelhouse, JSP and Earwig. Sides by him appear on the above mentioned anthology,  Bring Me Another Half-A-Pint, a few tracks on the album Original Chicago Blues (the other sides by Joe Carter) and the album called Old Friends featuring Honeyboy Edwards, Walter Horton and Floyd Jones. His last major engagement was at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival where he finally received some overdue recognition. He died of cancer on his 65th birthday May 7, 1991.

One of the truly great unsung heroes of the Chicago club scene of the 1950's, Joe Carter was a slide-playing disciple of Elmore James. Born in Georgia, Carter came under the early tutelage of local player Lee Willis, who showed the youngster various tunings and how to use a thumb pick. Arriving in Chicago by 1952 it was Muddy Waters who lent Carter the money to purchase his first electric guitar. Shortly thereafter, Joe started up his first group with guitarist Smokey Smothers and Lester Davenport on harmonica, quickly establishing himself as a club favorite throughout Chicago. Sadly, Carter never recorded with this group, or any other configuration, during his heyday. A contract with Cobra Records was offered (with a young Freddie King being added in the studio to his regular group), but Joe declined, as he felt the money would in no way equal what he was pulling down in club work.

Carter didn't end up being documented on record until he returned to active playing in the '70's, recording his lone solo album, Mean & Evil Blues, for the Barrelhouse label in 1976. Other sides appeared on the album Original Chicago Blues  and on an anthology of Ralph Bass recordings titled That Ain't Right. Carter retired from playing in the late '80's after a bout with throat cancer. He died in Chicago in 2001.

Chas Q. PriceEarly Morning BluesJumpin' On The West Coast!
Louis ArmstrongBack o' Town BluesC'est Ci Bon: Satchmo In The Forties
Red MackMr. Big HeadLuke Jones & Red Mack: West Coast R&B 1947-1952
Big Bill BroonzyThe Southern BluesBig Bill Broonzy Vol. 3 1934-1935
Cannon's Jug StompersPrison Wall BluesMemphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper
K.C. DouglasMove To Kansas CityBig Road Blues
Mr. BearHold Out BabyHarlem Heavies
Cousin LeroyUp The RiverHarlem Heavies
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Sammy TaylorAin't That Some ShameNew York Wild Guitars
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandI’m Going to Write You a LetterBackcountry Barrelhouse
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteGravels In My PillowCake Walkin'
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteThelma LeeCake Walkin'
Gladys BentleyLay It On the LineThe Gladys Bentley Quintette
Eddie DavisMountain OystersRisque Rhythm
Arbee StidhamStandin' In My WindowA Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamMeet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesLegends of Country Blues
Willie HarrisLonesome Midnight DreamA Richer Tradition
Curley Weaver & Blind Willie McTellYou Were Born To DieAtlanta Blues
Jesse JamesHighway 61Piano Blues Vol. 1 1927-1936
Leroy CarrBlue Night BluesHow Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Peetie WheatstrawGangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownThe Bob Geddins Blues Legacy
Roy HawkinsGloom and Misery All AroundThe Thrill Is Gone
Lightnin' HopkinsNew York BoogieAll The Classics 1946-1951
John Lee HookerWalkin' This HighwayThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeSo Much TroubleSonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48
Baby Davis & Buddy Banks SextetHappy Home BluesHappy Home Blues
Fluffy Hunter & Buddy Banks SextetFluffy's DebutHappy Home Blues

Show Notes:

There's a definite theme running through today's mix show,  with a good batch of recordings spotlighting the vibrant, swinging  Los Angeles blues scene of the mid-40's through the early 50's. The West Coast had a thriving blues and jazz scene in the 1940’s and 50’s with most of the activity centering around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. The Black population swelled in the 1940s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. From approximately 1920 to 1955, Central Avenue was the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles. Like New York City’s 125th Street or Memphis’s Beale Street or Chicago’s South Side, Central Avenue was one of the world capitols of nightlife, of jazz, rhythm & blues, of black culture and society. I've devoted several shows to the west coast blues scene of this period but many of today's artists I haven't played before. Among those spotlighted are Buddy Tate, The Great Gates, Red Mack, Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette, Buddy Banks' Sextette, Roy Hawkins and Johnny Fuller.

We spin double shots of two great combos: Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette and Buddy Banks' Sextette. The  Wichard tracks come from the terrific recent reissue on Ace, Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette – Cake Walkin’. Al Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on 15th August 1919, but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern's first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks.This CD consists entirely of sessions made under his own name. Thirteen tracks have vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon while others feature vocalist Duke Henderson and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. All these sides were cut between 1945 and 1949. Witherspoon is in magnificent form throughout, including our selection, the bouncy "Thelma Lee." Henderson wasn't quite in Spoon's league, few were, but he turns in a superb low-down performance on our cut, "Gravels In My Pillow" as he boasts:

They call me the devil's stepchild, they say I'm just no good (2x)
They say I'm rotten from the start, wouldn't be no other way if I could

Tenor sax blower Buddy Banks began his career in California and played with all the best West Coast Orchestras. In 1945 he formed his own sextet. The band began recording by backing singer Marion Abernathy for the Juke Box label and in its own right for the tiny Sterling label. The band went on to record for Excelsior, United, Modern and Specialty through 1949.The band employed some fine vocalists including Fluffy Hunter, Baby Davis, Marion Abernathy and Bixie Crawford. The obscure Davis belts it out "Happy Home Blues" while Hunter storms through the rocking "Fluffy's Debut." It's a shame both singers recorded so little. All these tracks come from the excellent LP Happy Home Blues issued on the Official label.

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Red Mack was a west coast vocalist who also played piano, organ, trumpet, cornet and drums. He fronted bands that cut sides for Gold Seal, Atlas and Mercury at sessions recorded in 1945, 1946 and 1951. Mack is heard to fine effect on the humorous "Mr. Big Head:"

You said your wife was fine, when you lived down on the farm (2x)
Now you got the big head, and a glamor girl on your arm
Well you making more money, and that's a fact
You won't drive nothing baby, but those big fine Cadillacs
Well your head is big and you think you own the moon
Well I'm tellin' you fool, your head will go down sore

Mack's sides have been collected, along with those of his contemporary Luke Jones, on the Krazy Kat LP Luke Jones & Red Mack – West Coast R&B 1947-1952. Also on the Krazy Kat label is The Great Gates  – West Coast R' n B 1949-1955. Edward Gates White aka “The Great Gates” enjoyed a recording career as an R&B vocalist from 1949 to 1955, before changing to recording jazz organ instrumentals. He continually shifted between various small West Coast labels such as Selective, Kappa and Miltone. Gates was a smooth big voiced singer heard today on the moody "Late After Hours" backed by a killer little combo featuring the cooking tenor of Marvin Phillips.

Tenor sax man Buddy Tate joined Count Basie's band in 1939 and stayed with him until 1948. In 1947 Tate made a batch of recordings for the L.A. based Supreme label backed by members of Basie's band. The session included luminaries like Bill Doggett, Chico Hamilton and Jimmy Witherspoon. Alto sax man Chas Q. Price takes the vocal on the silky, after hours number "Early Morning Blues" sporting some sensitive playing from Tate. These early recordings can be found on the marvelous LP Jumpin' On The West Coast! on the Black Lion label.

Also on tap today are some twin spins by Arbee Stidham and pianist Barrelhouse Buck McFarland. The two Stidham tracks come from the album A Time For Blues, one of Stidham’s best recordings backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.

Barrelhouse Buck McFarland cut his final session for Folkways and an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released a few years back on Delmark. He died shortly afterward. McFarland was born in Alton, Illinois in 1903 in the same area as two other exceptional piano players, Wesley Wallace and Jabbo Williams, all three of which made names for themselves on the bustling St. Louis blues scene. McFarland got his shot in the recording studio waxing ten sides; two for Paramount in 1929, two for Decca in 1934 and four more for Decca in 1935, which were not issued.

We also feature a cut by Gladys Bentley, a truly largely than life figure. Bentley cut six sides for Okeh in 1928 and fifteen sides in 1946 and 1952 for the labels Excelsior, Top Hat, Flame and Swing Time. Bentley was a 250 pound woman dressed in men's clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), who played piano and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience. She appeared at Harry Hansberry's "Clam House" on 133rd Street, one of New York City's most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem's Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She relocated to southern California, where she was billed as "America's Greatest Sepia Piano Player", and the "Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs". She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960. Bentley's act was probably impossible to capture on record but her post-war recordings have a jivey exuberance, particularly our selection, the bouncy "Lay It On The Line." Unfortunately Bentley has been ill served on reissue collections.

Also worth mentioning are a quartet of sides from New York artists. New York had a lively blues scene in the immediate post-war era, circa 1945 through 1960. The scene was dominated by small independent labels like Fire/Fury, Apollo, DeLuxe, Herald, Joe Davis, Baton, Old Town, Atlantic and Savoy. There was also out of town labels like King who recorded Big Apple talent. Hundreds of R&B and blues records were cut during this period. Today we feature several obscure artists from the scene including Mr. Bear, Larry Dale and Cousin Leroy. These tracks come form two excellent LP compilations; Harlem Heavies on the Moonshine label and New York Wild Guitars on the P-Vine label. Down the road I plan on doing a whole show devoted to the New York blues scene from this period.



Show Notes:

Amsterdam Concerts 1953Today's show is a mix show, which includes a sort of sequel to last week's program. Last week we featured classic albums with Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee which featured music and spoken commentary. For the first hour we play more interesting tracks from Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Among those are Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953 a remarkable 2-CD set of Broonzy recordings that just surfaced a couple of years ago, selections from Blues In The Mississippi Night which feature music and candid commentary with Big Bill, Memphis Slim and Sonny Boy Williamson I plus live recordings of Sonny & Brownie playing with Lightnin' Hopkins. The second hour of the show is a our standard mix show that we do on a regular basis.

There's no shortage of live and studio recordings from Big Bill Broonzy's European appearances during the 1950's. The Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953 set is a dazzling addition to Broonzy's discography, on technical as well as musical grounds. It not only captures him on two excellent nights of performance, but also, thanks to the technical expertise of Louis Van Gasteren, the sound engineer (and later a movie producer) who made the tapes, in amazing fidelity, equal to the best work of any record label. Broonzy toured Europe in 19521, 1955 and 1957. Broonzy had led the way to Europe for a generation of elder statesmen of the blues, and his performances were so well received that they paved the way for American bluesmen to follow his path across the Atlantic, to bigger, more enthusiastic audiences and better paying gigs than they'd ever known in their native United States. In what had to be his first taste of respect as a musician from a white audience, by most accounts Broonzy seemed to revel in the reception that he got, and the relatively free and open societies (compared with what existed in the United States at the time) that he encountered in Europe. He never lived long enough to play in any of the big folk festivals of the early 1960's, so what we have to go on comes from these European performances. This concert was recorded across two nights and includes over 110 minutes of music and stories.

We also hear Broonzy in a very different setting six years earlier. Blues In The Mississippi Night is the story of the blues from the mouths of three legendary bluesmen – Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, and Sonny Boy Williamson I. Alan Lomax had visited the three bluesmen in Chicago and asked them to come perform in New York at Town Hall as part of his Midnight Special concert series. The day following that concert, March 2, 1947, he took them to Decca Studios, asked them to play a few songs and to discuss the blues. Lomax encouraged them to speak frankly about the racial climate. The result was so candid that Big Bill, Sonny Boy, and Memphis were given assumed names in the original liner notes to protect themselves and their families.Blues In The Mississippi Night The album was so controversial that its release was delayed 13 years, finally released by United Artists in 1959.

During the summer of 1960 Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee Big Joe Williams and Lightnin' Hopkins all happened to be in L.A. World Pacific Records took advantage of this rare convergence and recorded them together, both in the studio and in performance at the Ash Grove. An album was duly issued; other tracks, reportedly from the same sessions, appeared on other labels. This material has been issued confusingly on several albums with different names. The best reissue of this material is the album Lightnin' Hopkins & The Blues Summit that has been reissued on the Fuel 2000 label and we feature three tracks from that album.

In the second hour we play a wide mix of blues spanning 1928 to 1976.  We spin some fine Chicago blues from Little Johnny Jones, Muddy Waters and Joe Carter. Jones was a terrific piano player who worked extensively with Tampa Red, Elmore James and just about everyone else on the Chicago scene including Muddy Waters. Unfortunately he recorded little under his own name, never making it past his 40th birthday. Luckily Jones was caught on tape in 1963 working with Billy Boy Arnold in a Chicago folk club called the Fickle Pickle run by Michael Bloomfield. Norman Dayron recorded Johnny on portable equipment which has been released on the Alligator record titled Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold. A couple of additional tracks from this recording appear on Chicago Blues – Live At The Fickle Pickle, a long out of print LP on the Flyright label. From that records we hear "Johnny's Boogie." Our Muddy Waters selection, "Little Brown Bird", is one of four songs ("Black Angel" was not issued) from two 1962 sessions that features the great Earl Hooker.  Apparently the tracks were laid down and Waters vocal was dubbed later. We also play Hooker's "Guitar Rag."

We also spotlight some fine country blues including Texas artists Henry Thomas and the two from the obscure Gene Campbell. Not much is known about Texas songster Henry Thomas. Evidence suggests he was a musical hobo who rode the rails across Texas. Most agree he was the oldest African-American folk artist to produce a significant body of recordings having been born in 1874 .His music gives us a window into what the black music sounded like before it was actually labeled blues. The 23 songs he cut for Vocalion between 1927 and 1929 include a spiritual, ballads, reels, dance songs, and eight selections titled blues. He played on guitar and also played the quills or panpipes, a common but seldom-recorded African-American instrument. Campbell was an obscure artist, probably from Texas, who cut 24 sides for Brunswick at sessions in 1929, 1930 and 1931. Nothing else is know about him.

Cat-Iron Sings Blues and HymnsOther country blues on tap include fine field recordings of Willie Brown and  Cat Iron. Willie Brown was recorded by John and Alan Lomax at Sadie Beck's Plantation in Arkansas. Lomax wrote the following in his book The Land Where The Blues Began: "Well, I ain't got no voice, but I'll give you the words of an old Memphis song." William Brown began to sing in his sweet true country voice, poking in delicate passages at every pause, like the guitar was a second voice commenting with feeling on the ironic words of the blues….This was the real blues…. The blues in print give you the skeleton only. If you've never heard the blues, get yourself a record and listen and then come back and join us…. William Brown's song can last until the morning…." In 1958, folklorist Frederic Ramsey, Jr. recorded someone named Cat-Iron in Buckner's Alley in Natchez, Mississippi. Ramsey wrote a detailed poetic description of his discovery of Cat-Iron for The Saturday Review which offered no background on the artist. Cat-Iron's sole testament is the album Cat-Iron Sings Blues and Hymns for the Folkways label.