Entries tagged with “Johnny Fuller”.

Lucille Bogan Black Angel BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Tampa RedBlack Angel BluesTampa Red Vol. 5 1931-1934
Robert Nighthawk Sweet Black Angel Prowling With the Nighthawk
Tampa Red Sweet Little Angel Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949-1951
B.B. KingSweet Little Angel The Vintage Years
B.B. King Sweet Little Angel Live At The Regal
Earl Hooker Sweet Brown Angel Simply The Best
Tony HollisCross Cut Saw BluesChicago Blues Vol. 1 1939-1951
Tommy McClennanCross Cut Saw BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Albert King Crosscut Saw Born Under A Bad Sign
Curtis Jones Tin Pan Alley BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 4 1941-53
Guitar Slim Green Alla Blues California Blues 1940-1948
Jimmy WilsonTin Pan Alley Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story
James ReedRoughest Place In TownR&B Guitars 1950-54
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Ray Agee Tin Pan AlleyWest Coast Blues Vol. 2 1952-1957
The Sparks BrothersI Believe I'll Make A ChangeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Jack Kelly & his South Memphis Jug BandBelieve I'll Go Back HomeJack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band 1933-1939
Josh WhiteBelieve I'll Go Back Home Josh White Vol. 2 1933-1935
Carl Rafferty Mr. Carl's BluesRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Kokomo ArnoldSagefield Woman BluesBottleneck Trendsetters
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell I Believe I'll Make A ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Robert Johnson I Believe I'll Dust My BroomThe Centennial Collection
Washboard SamI Believe I'll Make A ChangeWashboard Sam Vol. 4 1939-1940
Arthur Crudup Dust My BroomWhen The Sun Goes Down
Robert LockwoodDust My BroomRough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story
Elmore JamesDust My BroomElmore James: Early Recordings 1951-56
Robert PetwayCatfish Blues Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942
Tommy McClennanDeep Sea BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Muddy Waters Rollin' StoneThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy Waters Still A Fool The Complete Chess Recordings
John Lee Hooker Catfish Blues John Lee Hooker: Vol. 4 Detroit 1950-51
B.B. King Fishin' After Me (Catfish Blues)The Vintage Years

Show Notes:

Johnny Fuller: Roughest Place In TownIn our first show of the year we traced the origins and evolution of several classic blues songs. I got some good feedback on the show so we today do a follow-up. On today's program we provide the history and context behind classics like “Black Angel Blues“, “Crosscut Saw“, “Tin Pan Alley“, “I Believe I'll Make A Change (Dust My Broom)“ and “Catfish Blues."

The song known today as either "Sweet Black Angel" or "Sweet Little Angel" is one of the most popular and frequently recorded songs in the blues. Although composer credits are often given to Tampa Red, whose "Black Angel Blues" appeared in March 1934, the first recorded version was Lucille Bogan’s, whose "Black Angel Blues" was recorded mid-December 1930. The two artists shared recording sessions in 1928 and 1929, and it is probably impossible at this late date to determine who originally created the song. Although Bogan’s recording credits "Smith" as the composer, she wrote many of her own songs and made be the author of the song. During the early post–World War II era, the lyrics of the song began to change. In 1949, Robert Nighthawk had gone back to the song’s prewar roots cutting the song for Aristocrat Records as "Black Angel Blues (Sweet Black Angel)", but in 1950 Tampa Red was the first to record it as "Sweet Little Angel". B.B. King did the same in 1956; he also changed the song’s final line from ". ..bought me a whiskey still" to "…gave me a Cadillac de Ville." We also spin B.B.'s classic live version from Live At The Regal. Guitar legend Earl Hooker recorded two versions during his career; 1953 saw him record "Sweet Angel (Original Sweet Black Angel)" for the Rockin’ label and in 1962 he recorded a reworked version titled "Sweet Brown Angel" for Checker, which went unreleased at the time.

"Cross Cut Saw Blues" was first released in 1941 by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan. Tony Hollins, a Mississippi bluesman and contemporary of Tommy McClennan, recorded a version of "Cross Cut Saw Blues" with similar lyrics on June 3, 1941, three months before McClennan. The song was not released at the time, but eventually appeared in 1992. In an interview, John Lee Hooker, who knew Tony Hollins, was asked "Well, did Tony Hollins or Tommy McClennan do it first? They both recorded it around the same time". Hooker responded "I think Tommy McClennan did it first."Eddie Burns knew Hollis in Clarksdale in the 40's and recalled that Tommy McClennan: Cross Cut Saw Blueshe was very popular. Burns recalled him singing "Cross Cut Saw", "Crawlin' King Snake" and "Tease Me Over" all of which he recorded in 1941. In 1966, Albert King recorded his version calling it "Crosscut Saw". The same lyrics as McClennan's "Cross Cut Saw Blues" were used, except for two verses which were replaced by guitar solos. However, King uses a different arrangement. The song was a success, reaching No. 34 in the Billboard R&B chart.

Pianist Curtis Jones composed “Tin Pan Alley Blues” which he recorded in 1941. Guitar Slim Green recorded "Alla Blues" in 1948, a retread of the Curtis Jones number. Green said that he and his partner Turner wrote it and that producer Robert Geddins stole it from him. Green and Turner's version would become some kind of West Coast national anthem. Jimmy Wilson’s mournful, bluesy voice ensured him a huge hit in California in 1953 with his version of "Tin Pan Alley," a masterpiece with an unmistakable gloomy tone. The song was soon revived under the original title by West Coast artists Ray Agee and by Johnny Fuller and James Reed under the title "Roughest Place In Town." In more recent years the song was popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn who recorded "Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town)" on 1984's Couldn't Stand the Weather.

"I Believe I’ll Make a Change" was first recorded on February 25, 1932, by Aaron and Milton Sparks in Atlanta, Georgia, for Victor Records. Other musicians were to use the song’s melody on their own recordings, including Jack Kelly and His South Memphis Jug Band in 1933 (as "Believe I’ll Go Back Home,"), Josh White (1934), and Leroy Carr with Scrapper Blackwell (934). Other version of "I Believe I’ll Make a Change" continued to appear through 1942, including Washboard Sam’s rendition for Bluebird in 1939. The tune is best known today by the title "I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom," first recorded to those words by Robert Johnson on November 23, 1936, for the ARC label. Lyric antecedents for the "dust my broom" stanza can be found in songs such as "Mr. Carl’s Blues" by Carl Rafferty with Roosevelt Sykes in 1933 and "Sagefield Woman Blues" by Kokomo Arnold in 1934 for Decca. The "Dust My Broom" version of the song would continue to be played as bluesmen traveled between Mississippi and Chicago. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup recorded one version in March 1949 for Victor, Johnson protege´ Robert Lockwood cut another in November 1951 for Mercury. Elmore James is the post–World War II musician most identified with "Dust My Broom," waxing four versions between 1951 and 1962.

Robert Petway: Catfish Blues"Catfish Blues" was first recorded on March 28, 1941, by Mississippi bluesman Robert Petway for RCA Bluebird. Another version, titled "Deep Sea Blues," was made by Petway’s contemporary Tommy McClennan on September 15, 1941, also for RCA Bluebird. There s a good case for believing that Petway composed it: "He just made that song up and used to play it at them old country dances. He just made it up and kept it in his head," says Honeyboy Edwards, who learned the song from Petway in person. After the Petway and McClennan versions were released other treatments of "Catfish Blues" included John Lee Hooker (1951, Gotham) and, a bit later, by B. B. King (as "Fishin’ After Me (Catfish Blues)," 1960, Kent). Two distinctive recordings were made by Muddy Waters for Chess Records in the early 1950's. The first was "Rollin’ Stone" (1950, Chess), which was simply a retitling of the standard "Catfish" tune and lyrics. Nonetheless, the title would be adopted in 1962 by the Rolling Stones and in 1968 for the rock publication Rolling Stone. The second was "Still a Fool" (1951, Chess), featuring a two-electric guitar accompaniment.

Elzadie RobinsonSt Louis Cyclone BluesThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 1
Texas Alexander Frost Texas Tornado BluesHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down: The Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks
John Lee Hooker No Friend AroundThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3
John Lee HookerNo Mortgage On My SoulThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3
Jealous James StanchellAnything From A Foot Race To A Resting PlaceTreasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Lightnin' HopkinsThe Foot RaceAutobiography in Blues
Big Moose Walker Footrace Ramblin' Woman
Jimmy ReedThere'll Be A DayThe Vee-Jay Years
Bobo JenkinsI'm So Glad Trouble Don't Last AlwaysThe Life Of
Sammy LawhornHome of the BluesRockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis
The 5 RoyalesI Got To KnowRockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis
Sylvester PalmerMean BluesDown In Black Bottom
Hound Head HenryMy Silver Dollar MamaCow Cow Davenport: The Essential
Lightnin' HokinsThe TwisterThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Big Bill BroonzyTexas Tornado Blues The War & Postwar Years 1940-1951
Curtis Jones Decoration Day BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 1 1937-1938
Sonny Boy Williamson IDecoration BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson
Dan Picket Decoration DayShake That Thing
Howlin' Wolf Decoration DaySun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
J & J DeucesSweet Woman BluesStompin' Vol 18
Otis HintonWalking Downhill Stompin' Vol 18
Long Tall LesterWorking Man Juicy Harmonica Vol. 1
Butterbeans & Susie Bow Legged PapaVaudeville Blues 1919-1941
Sister MorganHurry Down, Sunshine, and See What Tomorrow BringsToo Late, Too Late 1927-1964
Alma Henderson I've Got A Mama Down In New OrleansVocal Blues And Jazz Vol. 4
B.B. King Worry Worry Live At The Regal
Ironing Board SamI've Been UsedDouble Bang
Johnny Fuller Tin Pan Alley BluesFuller's Blues
Johnny Fuller Bad Luck Overtook MeFuller's Blues
Lonnie Johnson St Louis Cyclone BluesBroadcasting The Blues
Gospel TravelersGod's Chariot Pt. 1Get Right With God Vol. 2

Show Notes:

An eclectic mix show lined up for this Memorial Day Weekend. On deck today are a few Memorial Day songs (Decoration Day), a few tornado songs, twin spins of John Lee Hooker and Johnny Fuller as well, some interesting pre-war and post-war blues obscurities and lots more.

Lonnie Johnson: St. Louis Cyclone BluesLike many folks I was transfixed by the news coverage of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma. It got me to thinking of some blues songs that have been recorded about tornadoes over the years. There was the St. Louis Cyclone which hit five months after the flooding of the Mississippi river. The 1927 flood provoked an outpouring of songs by both whites and African-Americans. Lonnie Johnson's "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" was recorded in New York City just four days after the catastrophe. On September 29th a cyclone struck St. Louis, killing 84 people in five minutes and causing one million dollars in damage. The impact of this disaster was minimal in relation to the Mississippi flood and this is reflected in the fact that only four songs were released about the subject. In addition to Johnson there was a sermon by Rev. J.M. Gates titled "God's Wrath In The St. Louis Cyclone", Elzadie Robinson's "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" (a shorter version of Johnson's song) featuring the exceptional Bob Call on piano and "Tornado Groan" by Luella Miller. On April 9th 1934 Texas Alexander was backed by the Mississippi Sheiks on eight numbers. From this session comes "Frost Texas Tornado Blues". Most sources rate this as an F4 tornado which destroyed the tiny town of Frost, Texas on May 6, 1930 leaving 41 dead. The Houston Chronicle wrote: "Bright sunshine today brought out in bold relief such a picture of death and ruin in the little town of Frost as has never been seen in this part of the state. There was no room in the little cemetery for the dead. The cemetery was covered with debris from the houses of the living. In three minutes Tuesday afternoon a black swirling monster swept out of the southwest and completely demolished a town which has been 43 years in the building, took the lives of 23 and injured a hundred more." Lightnin' Hopkins cut "Mean Old Twister" in 1946 and today we play a version he cut in 1964 live at Swarthmore college. Hopkins' version draws from the imagery of Lonnie Johnson's song. We close the show with a gospel number that I couldn't resist playing by the Gospel Travelers called God's Chariot. This is a remarkable two-part song cut in Memphis in 1952 complete with sound effects.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It was declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first blues song that I could find that references Decoration Day was singer Martha Copeland's "On Decoration Day" cut in 1926. Next was Curtis Jones who cut “Decoration Day Blues” at his very first session which was not issued at the time, then Sonny Boy's version, “Decoration Day Blues” was cut five months later and cut again in 1940 as "Decoration Day Blues No. 2". Sonny Boy II covered the original Sonny Boy's version in 1963 and Howlin' Wolf covered it in 1952. Other version were recorded by John Lee Hooker, Dan Pickett, Bobo Jenkins, Dr. Ross, Sunnyland Slim, Bukka White and others.

We spin a trio of songs today revolving around a strange song, "Anything From A Foot Race To A Resting Place", recorded by the obscure Jealous James Stanchell. In Treasury of Sonny Boy Williamson: Decoration Day Blues No. 2Field Recordings Vol. 2 Mack McCormick writes about this song: “The song is Jealous James own composition, well known around Houston and Kansas City from his own singing, but not previously recorded or published. The recording came about one afternoon when Lightnin' Hopkins was scheduled to make some tapes but, as usual, found himself without an acoustical guitar. He went out and found Jealous James inviting him and his guitar to come along. After finishing “Corrine Corrina” …Lightnin' turned things over to Jealous James who sang several of his own songs, including this. Lightnin' was so delighted with it that he promptly recorded a boogie which he dubbed “The Footrace Is On” which takes its inspiration from Jealous James' song.” I have no idea where Big Moose Walker picked up the song but he obviously liked the number as he cut versions in 1960, 1961,1967 and 1969. Our version comes from the Bluesway album Rambling Woman.

The many record labels that came out of Memphis, Tennessee have mostly been well documented over the years. There has been one glaring omission and that is the Home Of The Blues record label that existed from 1960 through to 1962. In that short time the company issued approximately forty singles. The label grew out of Ruben Cherry's Home Of The Blues record store on Beale Street. Most of the recordings were made at Royal Studios and Willie Mitchell joined the label as house musician and producer. He recorded three singles for the label under his own name. Big names who recorded for the label included Roy Brown and the '5' Royales, both after their lengthy stints at King Records, and Larry Birdsong. Today's featured tracks come off a brand new 32 song survey of the label called Rockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis.

We always spin tracks from out-of-print albums and today we spotlight a great Johnny Fuller album that someone asked me about awhile back but took some digging in my collection to find it. Fuller was a West Coast bluesman who left behind a fine batch of 1950's recordings. He was equally at home with low down blues, gospel, R&B, and rock & roll. Fuller was born in Edwards, Mississippi and moved to Vallejo, California with his family at a young age. Fuller made his debut with two gospel numbers for the Jaxyson label in 1948. His blues recording career began in 1954 with sides issued on Flair and Kent and would record prolifically for several labels through 1962. Fuller's two biggest hits, "All Night Long" and the original version of "The Haunted House," improbably found him in the late ’50s on rock & roll package shows, touring with the likes of Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon. He was essentially retired from music in the 60's and worked as a garage mechanic. We feature his excellent, and only full-length album, Fuller's Blues (Bluesmaker Records 1974) with a crack band that included Phillip Walker. Unfortunately the album has not been issued on CD. Fuller passed in 1985.

Johnny Fuller: Fullers Blues
Read Liner Notes

We play some interesting, if obscure, material from the pre-war and postwar eras. From the pre-war era we hear from some fine singers including Alma Henderson, Sister Morgan and Hound Head Henry. Henderson is only mentioned in the pre-war blues bible (Blues & Gospel Records 1902-1943) as being of little blues interest. I like her "annoying talking-singing style", as Steve Tracy labels her in the notes to Vocal, Blues & Jazz 1921-1930. Of the four tracks on this set, two feature the guitar of Lonnie Johnson while the other two, including our selection, feature the great Eddie Lang on guitar. Of Henry I couldn't say it better than writer Mike Rowe: "The buffoonish Henry was one of the, mercifully, few specialists in vocal effects; laughing, crying, imitating trains, steamboats, hounds, crowing roosters, Henry's repertoire of sounds was wide indeed (listen to his W C. Fields for instance!). When he performs (almost) straight he makes a passable blues singer – "Silver Dollar Mama" is about his best and boasts a fine Davenport accompaniment too." As for Sister Morgan I know nothing outside of delivering a fine performance on "Hurry Down, Sunshine, and See What Tomorrow Brings" backed by Will Shade on guitar. She cut two sides for Victor in 1927 both unissued at the time.

From the post-war era some fine down-home blues from some equally obscure artists. Otis Hinton is believed to have possibly been from Shreveport, LA. He made four recordings for Apollo Records in New York City in the early 50's that were never issued. It wasn't until he recorded for the small Timely label in NYC that he had a record issued in 1953. "Walking Downhill" is a killer and one wishes he recorded more. Nothing seems to be known about Lester Foster, who made two recordings in the 1950's for the Duke label as Long Tall Lester. Our featured track, "Working Man", is a knockout.


Howlin' WolfEvil Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Lazy Lester BloodstainsI'm A Lover Not A Fighter
Pat HareI'm Gonna Murder My BabySun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost BluesLonnie Johnson: Vol. 1 1937 -1940
Lightnin' HopkinsBlack Ghost BluesComplete Prestige / Bluesville Recording
Johnny FullerBlack CatWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Howlin' Wolf Moanin' At Midnight Complete Recordings 1951-1969
B.B. KingBad LuckThe Vintage Years
Hop WilsonMy Woman Has A Black Cat BoneSteel Guitar Flash
Victoria SpiveyBlood Thirsty BluesVictoria Spivey: Vol 1 1926-1927
Lil JohnsonMurder In The First DegreeLil Johnson: Vol. 2 1936-1937
Smokey HoggBorn On The 13thAngels In Harlem
Lightnin' HopkinsMojo HandMojo Hand
Baby Boy WarrenSomebody Put Bad Luck On MeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Robert JohnsonHell Hound On My TrailThe Centennial Collection
Tampa RedWitchin' Hour BluesThe Essential
Casey Bill WeldonI've Been TrickedCasey Bill Weldon: Vol. 3 1937-1938
Esther PhillipsNo Headstone On My GraveThe Country Side of Esther Phillips
Jimmy WitherspoonEndless SleepBaby, Baby, Baby
Rev. Emmett DickinsonYou Midnight Joy RidersRev Emmett Dickinson 1929-1930
Sylvester Weaver Devil BluesSylvester Weaver: Vol. 2 1927
Charlie Burse & His Memphis MudcatsHell's HighwayMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Billy Bird Down In the CemeteryLet Me Tell You About The Blues - Atlanta
Charlie SegerLonesome Graveyard BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My Grave
The Classic Years 1927-1940
Memphis Minnie
Hoodoo Lady Memphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Sonny Boy WilliamsonHoodoo HoodooThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.2
Gene PhillipsSuperstitious WomanDrinkin' And Stinkin'
Roy BrownUp Jumped The DevilMighty Mighty Man
Bessie SmithHaunted House BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Ma RaineyBlack Cat, Hoot Owl BluesMother of the Blues
Leola Manning Laying in the GraveyardRare Country Blues Vol.1

Show Notes:

Today's show is devoted to Halloween. Today we spin a wide range of songs from the 20's through the 60's. We'll hear songs about evil, Bad luck, bloody murder (both by men and woman), Hoodoo, Mojo Hands, Black Cat Bones, graveyards, the devil, Hell, superstition, haunted houses, gypsy woman and more.

Among the themes running through today's are that of hoodoo. Hoodoo, also known as conjure, is a form of predominantly African-American traditional folk magic that developed from a number of separate cultures and magical traditions. The goal of hoodoo is to allow people access to supernatural forces to improve their daily lives by gaining power in many areas of life, including luck, money, love, divination, revenge, health, employment, and necromancy. Many blues musicians have referred to hoodoo in their songs. In addition to the expected terms "hoodoo" and "mojo", other conjure words in blues songs include "jinx", "goofer dust", "nation sack", "black cat bone", "John de conkeroo" (John the Conqueror root), "graveyard dirt", and "black spider dumplings." We play several songs with these themes including Hop Wilson "My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone", Lightnin' Hopkins "Mojo Hand", Memphis Minnie "Hoodoo Lady", Muddy Waters "Gypsy Woman", Sonny Boy Williamson "Hoodoo Hoodoo" and  Casey Bill Weldon "I've Been Tricked."

The term black cat bone and mojo show up in a number of blues songs. The notorious black cat bone charm is strongly identified with African American hoodoo. Hoodoo doctors claimed that every black cat has within its body one bone that will either grant the owner invisibility or can be used to bring back a lost lover. To secure this bone, they said, a black cat must be thrown alive into a cauldron of boiling water at midnight. A mojo is the staple amulet of African-American hoodoo practice, a flannel bag containing one or more magical items. In Lightnin' Hopkins' classic "Mojo Hand" he sings:

I'm goin' to Louisiana, and get me a mojo hand (2x)
I'm gonna fix my woman so she can't have no other man

(John Lee) Sonny Boy Williamson sang a similar verse in his "Hoodoo Hoodoo":

One night I'm goin' down in Louisiana
And buy me another mojo hand
All because I got to break up my baby
From lovin' this other man

Mojos figure in numerous blues songs: Ida Cox "Mojo Hand Blues", Coot Grant & Wesley Wilson "Keep Your Hands Off My Mojo", Barbecue Bob "New Mojo Blues" and of couse Muddy Waters "Got My Mojo Working."

Murder also shows up in quite a number of blues songs. One of the more haunting numbers is "Bloodstains" originally cut by Frank 'Honeyboy' Patt for Specialty in 1953. Today we spin Lazy Lester's version circa cut 1958/59 which retains the memorable opening line:

Sheets and pillows torn to pieces, bloodstain all over the wall (2x)
Well, I know I wasn't injured when I left this mornin', I didn't leave the phone out in the hall

We also spin Victoria Spivey's "Blood Thirst blues" a haunting 1927 tale of murder:

Blood, blood look at all that blood (2x)
Yes I killed my man, a low down good for nothing cur

Along the same vein are Lil Johnson's "Murder In The First Degree" (1936) and Pat Hare's "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" (1954). Unfortunately in Hare's case, life imitated art. Sixteen years later Hare shot his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. When a police officer was dispatched to the scene, Hare also shot and killed him. He was sentenced to life in prison for the two killings. In 1980, he died in prison of cancer.

Cemetery and graveyards are the topic of many blues songs. Today we hear Billy Bird's "Down In the Cemetery", Charlie Seger's "Lonesome Graveyard Blues", Leola Manning "Laying in the Graveyard", Esther's Phillips "No Headstone On My Grave" and Blind Willie McTell's "Lay Some Flowers On My Grave", a beautifully poetic number:

You must lay some flowers on my grave (2x)
My mother and father have gone
Left me in this world alone
You must lay some flowers on my grave

My father was a roll sport and a gambler too
And he left me hear just singing the blues
I hope my heart will change
I don't want to die the same
You must lay some flowers on my grave

Put a wreath of flowers at my right side
Then you'll know that McTell's satisfied
Put a bouquet in my breast
You know the poor boy's gone to rest
You must lay some flowers on my grave

Now when this old building is fallin' down
Just lay me six feet in the cold cold ground
Wrap me up in silent clay
'Cause I come here to die one day
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

Put a morning glory at my head and feet
Then you'll know that McTell's gone to sleep
On my headboard write my name
I  left a many girl's heart in pain
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

Now snatch the pillow from under my head
Don't grieve and worry after the days I'm dead
When I bid you this last goodbye
Don't none of you womens cry
You just lay some flowers on my grave

Now when I'm gone to come no more
And old pallbearers lay me low
When you hear that coffin sound
You'll know McTell is in the ground
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

Now when the poor boy's dead and gone
I'm left in this old world all alone
When you hear that church bell toll
You'll know McTell's dead and gone
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

One of the enduring blues myths is that of Robert Johnson and the devil but before "Hellhound On My Trail" (1937) and "Me And The Devil Blues" (1937) the devil popped up in quite a number of songs: Clara Smith "Done Sold My Soul to the Devil" (1924), Sylvester Weaver "Devil Blues" (1927), Texas Alexander "Blue Devil Blues" (1928), Robert Peeples "Wicked Devil's Blues" (1929), Skip James "Devil Got My Woman" (1931), Peetie Wheatstraw "Devil's Son-In-Law" (1931), Mississippi Sheiks "I Am the Devil" (1934), Casey Bill Weldon "Sold It To The Devil" (1937) and more. Weaver's "Devil's Blues" is a particularly imaginative and humorous number:

Had a dream while sleeping, found myself way down below, my Lord,
I had a dream while sleeping, found myself way down below
Couldn't get to Heaven, Hell's the place I had to go

Devil had me cornered, stuck me with his old pitchfork (2x)
And he put me in an oven, thought he had me for roast pork

Hellhounds start to chasin' me and I was a runnin' fool
Hellhounds start to chase me and I was a runnin' fool
My ankles caught on fire, couldn't keep my puppies cool

Four thousand devils with big tails and sharp horns, my Lordy,
Saw a thousand devils with tails and sharp horns
Everyone wandered, tried to step on my corns

For miles around I heard men scream and yell, my Lord,
For miles around, heard men scream and yell
Couldn't see a woman, I said, "Lord, ain't this Hell?"

This number was updated by Lazy Bill Lucas in 1954 for Chance as "I Had A Dream."

As for superstitions like bad luck, ghosts and black cats the blues has those kinds of topics in spades. Today we feature numbers such as Gene Phillips "Superstitious Woman", Ma Rainey "Black Cat, Hoot Owl Blues", Johnny Fuller "Black Cat", B.B. King "Bad Luck", Smokey Hogg "Born On The 13th", Lightnin' Hopkins "Black Ghost Blues" and Lonnie Johnson "Blue Ghost Blues" among others. Johnson cut several versions of  the chillingly poetic  "Blue Ghost Blues" but I think his 1938 version was the best:

Mmmmmm, something cold is creepin' around (2x)
Blue Ghost is got me, I feel myself sinkin' down

Black cat and a owl, come to keep my company (2x)
He understands my troubles, mmm, and sympathize with me

I been in this haunted house, for three long years today (2x)
Blue Ghost is got my shack surrounded, oh Lord, and I can't get away

I feel cold arms around me, and ice lips upon my cheeks (2x)
My lover is dead, how plainly plain I can hear her speak.

Oh Lonnie, oh Lonnie oh Lonnie, sweet Lonnie [spoken words – falsetto voice]
That's my baby [spoken words Lonnie Johnson]

My windows begin rattlin', my doorknob is turnin' round an' round (2x)
My lover's ghost is got me, and I know my time won't be long

Jimmy WilsonTin Pan AlleyBob Geddins' Big Town Records Story Label
Jimmy WilsonJumpin' From Six To SixBob Geddins' Big Town Records Story Label
L.C. RobinsonWhy Don't You Write To MeOakland Blues (Arhoolie)
L.C. RobinsonTrain TimeOakland Blues (World Pacific)
Johnny Fuller Hard TimesWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1Blues & Gospel Masters Vol. 1
Johnny Fuller First Stage Of The BluesWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Lowell FulsonSan Francisco BluesClassic Cuts 1946-1953
Lowell FulsonI'm a Night Owl (part 1)Classic Cuts 1946-1953
Lowell FulsonI Love My BabyClassic Cuts 1946-1953
Saunders KingS.K. Blues, Part 1 (New S.K. Blues, Part 1)Cool Blues, Jumps & Shuffles
Saunders KingLazy Woman BluesCool Blues, Jumps & Shuffles
Saunders KingS.K. Jumps, Part 1Cool Blues, Jumps & Shuffles
Jimmy WilsonBlues At SundownBob Geddins' Big Town Records Story Label
Jimmy WilsonA Woman Is To Blame Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story Label
Jimmy Wilson Trouble In My Home Bayou Blues Blasters
L.C. Robinson Summerville Blues House Cleanin' Blues
L.C. Robinson My Baby Crossed The BayHouse Cleanin' Blues
L.C. Robinson House Cleanin' BluesHouse Cleanin' Blues
Johnny FullerToo Late To ChangeWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Johnny FullerMean Old WorldWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Lowell FulsonHung Down HeadThe Complete Chess Masters
Lowell FulsonReconsider BabyThe Complete Chess Masters
Lowell FulsonDon't Drive Me BabyThe Complete Chess Masters
Saunders KingNobody Wants MeSaunders King 1948-54
Saunders KingStormy Night Blues Saunders King 1948-54
Saunders King2:00 AM HopCool Blues, Jumps & Shuffles
L.C. RobinsonUps And DownsUps And Downs
L.C. RobinsonL. C.'s Shuffle Ups And Downs
Lowell FulsonStrange Feeling The Complete Kent Recordings
Lowell FulsonLittle Angel The Complete Kent Recordings
Lowell FulsonAsk Any Door In TownThe Complete Kent Recordings

Show Notes:

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Today’s show spotlights the vibrant west coast blues scene which 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 1940's, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. Oakland became a blues mecca during this period due to the city’s shipbuilding industry. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. Among those on the early Oakland scene were several of today's artists like Lowell Fulson, Johnny Fuller, Saunders King, Jimmy Wilson and L.C. Robinson. A key player on the scene was record producer, songwriter, label owner and all around hustler Bob Geddins. Geddins was the dominant figure in Bay Area blues scene from the mid-1940's to the mid-1960's and made hundreds of records over the years on small labels he ran like Down Town, Big Town, Irma, Plaid, Art Tone, Cavatone, and Gedison’s and leased material to bigger companies like Modern and Aladdin. Artists like Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Roy Hawkins, K.C. Douglas, Mercy Dee Walton, Johnny Fuller, Juke Boy Bonner, Big Mama Thornton, and other singers who were virtually unknown, all recorded for Geddins on his various labels. Several of today's tracks were released by Geddins.

Jimmy Wilson was born in Louisiana in 1921. Wilson was a gospel singer before he was a bluesman, but fell in with the Oakland record producer Bob Geddins, who wrote several songs for him, most importantly "Tin Pan Alley." Of his voice Geddins said "he had a unique crying sadness to his voice." The guitarists Lafayette Thomas and Johnny Heartsman, who both worked with him, remembered him as as an excellent vocalist. Prior to 1953's "Tin Pan Alley" for Big Town, Wilson cut sides for Cava-Tone and Aladdin in 1948 and another Aladdin session in 1952. Wilson’s mournful, bluesy voice ensured him a huge hit in California in 1953 with his version of ‘‘Tin Pan Alley,’’ a masterpiece with an unmistakable gloomy tone. The song has roots in the pre-war era as recorded by pianist Curtis Jones. Geddins rewrote the number and was made the first record of the song with Guitar Slim Green as "Alla Blues." n that was a big seller as Geddins noted: "It started moving fast…It was a big one…I recieved a thousand dollars on a rate of a nickel a record…It was a big one…I always knew it would be a big song." As Geddins said, "I want black folks to feel the troubles of the old times" and he certainly found the right singer in Wilson. Wilson recorded fairly prolifically for small labels through 1961 (most of the labels operated by Bob Geddins including 7-11, Rhythm, Chart, Irma, Rockin' ). Unfortunately, Wilson’s drinking habit prevented him from cashing in on his success and he went back to Louisiana, where he recorded again for local label Goldband ("Please Accept My Love" was a local hit for the label in 1958)and also for Houston based Duke Record. Wilson passed in Dallas in 1965. Wilson's recordings are scattered on anthologies but you can find many of his early sides on the 4-CD Set The Bob Geddins Blues Legacy on JSP and the 3-CD set Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story on Acrobat. The one CD devoted to Wilson's sides, Jimmy Wilson & His All Stars: Jumpin' From Six To Six,, on Official suffers from poor remastering. Worth tracking down is the Diving Duck LP, Trouble In My House released sometime in the 80's and has some harder to track down sides.

Wilson was a superb singer who was at his best on doom laden numbers like "Blues At Sundown", "A Woman Is To Blame", the immortal "Tin Pan Ally" and found the perfect foil in guitarist Lafayette Thomas who's blistering fret work can be heard  on all of Wilson's early sides. Thomas was a brilliant and influential guitarist, and fine singer, whose primary reputation resides on the stinging fretwork he laid down as a session guitarist. In his 1977 obituary Tom Mazzolini wrote: "Unquestionably the finest guitarist to emerge from the San Francisco-Oakland blues scene, there is hardly a guitarist around here today who doesn’t owe a little something to Lafayette Thomas…" The bulk of his recordings were with Jimmy McCracklin’s combo in the 50's and 60"s. During his lifetime only a scant fifteen sides were issued under his own name (a number were left unissued).

L. C. Robinson was born and raised in east Texas, and later relocated to California. A unique and dynamic bluesman, L.C. Robinson played guitar and fiddle, but he was really known for his incredible steel guitar style. He played a stand-mounted, solid-body, electric steel guitar, the sort often heard in Western Swing bands It was Leon McAuliffe of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys who inspired Robinson, a fellow Texan to take up the instrument. He was born Louis Charles Robinson in Brenham, Texas.He generally worked with his harmonica playing brother, A. C. Robinson; in Texas in the 1930's and after World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he cut four sides for the Black & White label in 1945 as the Robinson Brothers with his brother A.C. Robinson. He recorded his debut single under his own name for Rhythm in 1954; "If I Lose You Baby b/w Why Don't You Write To Me." In 1968, he recorded sides for the World Pacific Records label, on Oakland Blues, a compilation album of artists from that city which feature Lafayette Thomas on some cuts . Recorded primarily in San Francisco, California during the early 1970s, a few years before his death he cut the album Ups and Downs (issued on CD as Mojo In My Hand which includes an unissued radio performance) for Arhoolie Records. Robinson played at the San Francisco Blues Festival in both 1973 and 1974. Around this time he cut the full length LP House Cleanin' Blues for Bluesway.The following year, on his only visit to Europe, he was enjoyed in Sweden, although he was never widely known. He died of a heart attack in Berkeley, California in 1976, aged 61.

Johnny Fuller was a West Coast bluesman who left behind a fine batch of 1950's recordings. He was equally at home with low down blues, gospel, R&B, and rock & roll.Fuller was born in Edwards, Mississippi and moved to Vallejo, California with his family at a young age. He told Arnold Shaw that he didn't hear any blues before the war and his listening and guitar playing centered around hillbilly artists like Tex Ritter and Ernest Tubb.

Making the Bay Area his home throughout his career, Fuller turned in classic sides for Heritage, Aladdin, Specialty, Flair, Checker, and Hollywood; all but one of them West Coast-based concerns.Fuller debut was two gospel numbers for the Jaxyson label in 1948. His blues recording career began in 1954 with sides issued on Flair and Kent and would record prolifically for several labels through 1962. Fuller's two biggest hits, "All Night Long" and the original version of "The Haunted House," improbably found him in the late ’50s on rock & roll package shows, touring with the likes of Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon. By and large retiring from the music scene in the ’60s (with the exception of the excellent 1974 album Fuller's Blues), Fuller worked as a garage mechanic until his passing in 1985.

After singing and playing socials as a child, Lowell Fulson joined Dan Wright’s string band in 1939 when it came through Ada, Oklahoma, playing guitar in the elaborate seventeen-piece big band. He then hit the road with Texas Alexander, working his way through Texas and ultimately settling in Gainesville in 1941. Following a U.S. Navy stint, Fulson returned to Oklahoma in 1945 and found employment as a cook but soon decided to put his full time and energy into a music career. He relocated to Oakland, California, where he had been stationed during military boot camp, and he had a recording deal with Big Town Records within weeks. After the first releases did so well, Geddins recorded Fulson again with a different set of musicians. "Oh yeah, whenI put out Trouble B1ues, oh man! I went to Texas and everywhere they were waiting to see me when I got there. With Trouble Blues and Black Widow Spider Blues, the distributors down inTexas and Louisiana were offering me cash money and offers of buying 5,000 records and that kind of stuff."

As Neil Slaven wrote in the notes to Lowell Fulson: Classic Cuts 1946-53: "Like John Lee Hooker in Detroit, it seemed everybody wanted to record Lowell. Tired of the limited distribution of both Big Town and Trilon, he gave in to an offer from the owner of the Los Ange|es-based Down Beat/SwingTime operation.While his first singles were country-tinged guitar duets with his brother Martin, but Fulson soon assembled a full band, one including Ray Charles on piano. On the strength of a series of classic hit singles, including "Three O’Clock Blues" and "Every Day I Have the Blues," Fulson and his band toured widely, performing at the Apollo Theater in 1951 and playing dates throughout the South. In 1954 Fulson, recording for the Checker affiliate of Chess Records, had his biggest career hit in "Reconsider Baby." Fulson’s relationship with Chess was a stormy one and Chess demanded Fulson record in Chicago under their supervision and with their sidemen, who included Windy City legends Otis Spann and Willie Dixon. But their sensibilities were mismatched with Fulson’s West Coast approach and he ultimately took over and produced his own sessions in Los Angeles with more sympathetic sidemen. Fulson reinvented himself in 1960's, emphasizing a funky R&B persona in his recordings for Kent Records. He scored hits with "Black Nights" and "Tramp," the latter subsequently becoming a smash success for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas in 1966. Fulson moved on to Jewel Records in the 1970s and seemed to be nearing the end of his commercial career in the 1980s when his diminished touring and recording activity. It’s a Good Day, released in 1988, kicked off another phase of Fulson’s career. Hold On, with long- time friend and musical associate, West Coast pianist Jimmy McCracklin making his belated recording debut with Fulson, won the 1993 W. C. Handy award for Best Traditional Album to cap his comeback period. Fulson passed in 1999.

As John Broven writes in the notes to Cool Blues, Jumps & Shuffles: "In 1942 Saunders King had one of the earliest "race" [R&B] hits with "SK Blues" on Rhythm. He promptly scored with the compelling "What's Your Story Morning Glory" when major label Decca Records became interested in his artistry. Prospects seemed unlimited. Yet Saunders King failed to consolidate upon this formidable beginning, so much so that his work as an R&B pioneer is often overlooked. "

As a child, Saunders King played piano, banjo, and ukulele in his preacher father’s Oakland church. He switched to guitar in 1938 for NBC broadcasts with a gospel quartet, the Southern Harmony Four, in which he sang tenor, and took up electric guitar after hearing Charlie Christian. He was in Jake Porter’s band before forming his own sextet in 1942 and recording with them for Rhythm. "S. K. Blues"’(1942) entered the repertoire of many other singers. After war work with Special Services, King resumed bandleading and recording for Rhythm and later Specialty, Aladdin, and Flair in a musical style that mixed swing and jump/rhythm and blues and extensively featured his own blues singing. "Write Me a Letter Blues b/w Swingin'" (1946) and "‘St. James Infirmiry Blues b/w Little Girl" (1949) document the group’s development. They continued to play, mainly around Los Angeles and San Francisco, into the early 1950s after which recording opportunities declined. His last session in 1961 included a remake of "S. K. Blues", after which he retired, though he still played in church and occasional blues gigs. In the 1960s he held a long residency at a club in Sunnyvale, California. In 1979, he guested on an album by his son-in-law, the guitarist Carlos Santana. He passed in 2000.

Related Articles:

-Saunders King Discography by John Broven (JPEG)

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.