ARTISTSONGALBUM
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.

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