Entries tagged with “Lightnin’ Hopkins”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
The Nic Nacs with Mickey ChampionGonna Have A Merry Xmas Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2
Mabel ScottBoogie Woogie Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas
Frankie ''Half-Pint'' JaxonChrist Was Born On Christmas Morn Blues, Blues Christmas
Titus Turner Christmas Morning BluesBlues, Blues Christmas
Jimmy ButlerTrim Your TreeBlues, Blues Christmas
Cecil GrantHello Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas
Harman Ray Xmas Blues Blues, Blues Christmas
Champion Jack DupreeSanta Clause BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 4
Jimmy McCracklinChristmas Time Part 1Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
Roy Milton & His Solid SendersNew Year's Resolution BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2
Johnny Otis OrchestraHappy New Year, BabyBlues, Blues Christmas
Jimmy ButlerTrim Your Tree Blues, Blues Christmas
Big Joe TurnerChristmas Date BoogieBlues, Blues Christmas
Lil McClintockDon't Think I'm Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 4
LeadbellyChristmas Is CominBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
Leroy CarrChristmas In Jail (Ain't It A Pain)
Tampa RedChristmas & New Year's BluesBlues, Blues Christmas
Rev. J.M. Gates Did You Spend Christmas Day In JailBlues, Blues Christmas
Rev. Edward ClaybornThe Wrong Way to Celebrate ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas
Black AceChristmas TimeBlues, Blues Christmas
Lowell FulsonLonesome CBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2hristmas Part 1Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2
Hop WilsonNew Merry Christmas Baby Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
Charles BrownChristmas Blues Legend!
Goree Carter Christmas BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 4
Lonnie JohnsonHappy New Year DarlingBlues, Blues Christmas
Robert NighthawkMerry ChristmasBlues Southside Chicago
Jimmy WitherspoonHow I Hate To See Christmas Come Around Blues, Blues Christmas
Larry DarnellChristmas Blues Blues, Blues Christmas
Butterbeans & SusiePapa Ain't No Santa ClausBlues, Blues Christmas
Mary Harris w/ Peetie Wheatstraw & Charlie JordanHappy New Year BluesBlues, Blues Christmas
Julia LeeChristmas SpiritsBlues, Blues Christmas
Bukka WhiteChristmas Eve Blues Memphis Swamp Jam
Lightnin’ HopkinsMerry ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2
Gatemouth Moore Gate’s Christmas BluesGreat Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7
Harry ''Fats'' Crafton w Doc Bagby Orchestra Bring That Cadillac BackBlues, Blues Christmas
J.B. SummersI Want A Present For ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas
Fats WallerSwingin’ Them Christmas BellsBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Paramount Christmas Greetings Ad

I've been doing a Christmas blues show for many years and was always frustrated with the lack of a really good collection of early blues Christmas songs. In 2005 I hooked up with the Document label to put together a 2-CD, 52 track collection of blues and gospel songs from the 1920's to the 1950's called Blues, Blues Christmas. The record proved to be popular and a second volume was released in 2009,  a third volume in 2013 and this year sees the fourth volume. You can read the notes to these by visiting my writing page. Many of today's tracks come from those collections.

On October 30, 1889 banjoist Will Lyle made history by recording "Jingle Bells" – the very first Christmas record. Although no known copies of this recording survive, one of the earliest vocal examples of "Jingle Bells" does survive on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, "The Sleigh Ride Party." The first commercial Christmas blues record was cut by Bessie Smith. Her classic "At The Christmas Ball" inaugurated the Christmas blues tradition when it was recorded in November 1925 for Columbia. A year later, circa December 1926, the gospel Christmas tradition was launched when the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers recorded "Silent Night, Holy Night" for Paramount Records. After these recordings it was off to the races with numerous Christmas blues numbers recorded by singers of all stripes, a pace that continued as blues evolved into R&B and then rock and roll. It’s almost certainly the case that many of these songs were recorded at the prompting of the record companies. Like any business they were always looking for a new angle or gimmick to sell records and advertised these Christmas records boldly, often with full-page ads, in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender and magazines like Billboard.

Perhaps more than any other music, the blues is deeply enmeshed in a particular culture, entangled in the era of segregation, in the era of Jim Crow and in the era of slavery. In his classic Screening The Blues Paul Oliver wrote “for the Negro, Christmas has a deep-rooted significance beyond that of the religious meaning of the celebration itself; a more worldly one of which has none the less firmly established itself in his folkways. Since far back in slavery Christmas has signified a rest, a break in the year's routine which no other festival affords, proving an opportunity for a man to be with his family and, for a brief period at any rate, from the rigorous monotony of rural labor.” The annual Christmas Ball was something looked forward to all year and as Oliver astutely notes “there may have been a change of venue–a Harlem cellar dive for the 'quarters' and a jazz band instead of the fiddles, but there was probably little difference in kind and certainly in spirit at the Christmas Ball described by Bessie Smith…”

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Among Paramount's biggest blues stars of the 1920's were Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake who made their debuts for the label several months apart – Jefferson in December 1925 or January 1926 and Blake around August of 1926. Paramount ramped up their blues and gospel recordings considerably in 1927 and a new Jefferson and Blake record appeared every month. Paramount resorted to several novel promotions for their big artists; In 1924 Ma Rainey's sixth release was labeled "Ma Rainey's Mystery Record" with prizes given to the best title while Charlie Patton's "Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues" was listed as by The Masked Marvel with a corresponding advert that bore a drawing of a blindfolded singer – looking nothing like Patton – and the clue that he was an exclusive Paramount artist. Similarly, so successful was Jefferson, that a special yellow and white label was produced for Paramount 12650, "Piney Woods Money Mama" b/w ‘Low Down Mojo Blues" which bore his picture and the wording "Blind Lemon Jefferson's Birthday Record." In a similar vein Christmas records can be seen as just another promotional tool with ads for these records appearing annually in black newspapers every holiday season. Befitting his stardom, Lemon's lone holiday record "Christmas Eve Blues" b/w "Happy New Year Blues", was given a full-page advertisement in the December 12th, 1928 edition of the Chicago Defender. In Paramount's 1928 late fall Dealers' Supplement the label advertised scores of "CHRISTMAS, SPIRITUAL AND SERMON RECORDS THAT ARE DEPENDABLE SALES PRODUCERS" and warned that they "SHOULD BE IN YOUR STOCKS NOW." Blind Blake received the large sized treatment in the 1929 edition of the paper for his "Lonesome Christmas Blues," (also sharing the page was Leroy Carr's "Christmas In Jail – Ain't That A Pain?") his only Christmas record. The flip was "Third Degree Blues" – apparently Blake only had enough holiday spirit for one side!

Blind Blake wishes you a Merry X-mas

The trend continued with more frequency in the 30's. Here are a few notable songs: Butterbeans & Susie "Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus" (1930), Charlie Jordan "Santa Claus Blues" ["Christmas Christmas, how glad I am you are here/ Well I ain’t had a chicken dinner for this whole round year/Shiny bones and naked bones gleaming from around my plate/ …So pass me that chicken, the turkey, duck and the goose/Well all you birds gonna be one legged when I turn you-a-loose"] (1931) and "Christmas "Christmas Blues" (1935), Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom "Christmas Morning Blues" (1934), Verdi Lee "Christmas "Tree Blues" (1935), Tampa Red "Christmas And New Years Blues" (1934), Peetie Wheatstraw "Santa Claus Blues" (1935), Bumble Bee Slim's "Christmas And No Santa Claus and "Santa Claus Bring Me A New Woman" (1936), Black Ace "Christmas Time Blues (Beggin' Santa Claus)" (1937), Casey Bill Weldon "Christmas Time Blues" (1937), Bo Carter "Santa Claus" (1938), Walter Davis "Santa Claus" (1935), Sonny Boy Williamson I "Christmas Morning Blues" (1938).

Mary Harris, who cut two sides for Decca at an October 31, 1935 session is most certainly Verdi Lee who cut sides on the exact same date, also in the company of fellow St. Louis musicians Peetie Wheatstraw and Charlie Jordan. It was a holiday themed session with the group cutting "Christmas Tree Blues", "No Christmas Blues", "Happy New Year Blues", "Christmas Christmas Blues" and "Santa Claus Blues" (the latter two with vocals by Jordan and Wheatstraw respectively). Paul Oliver noted that "it would be pleasant to think that each singer was inspired by the others to create a blues on the same subject but at this date, with Christmas two months away, it is more likely that it was a deliberate promotional device by Rev. J.M. Gates: Will The Coffin Be Your Santa Claus[producer] Mayo Williams."

In the 40's there was of course more blues Christmas songs but there was a new music brewing called R&B. Evolving out of jump blues in the late '40's, R&B laid the groundwork for rock & roll. The era's biggest Christmas song was undoubtedly the immortal "Merry Christmas, Baby" cut by Charles Brown & The Blazers in 1947. This perennial classic has been covered numerous times including versions by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne , Lou Rawls, Booker T. & the MG's, Otis Redding, James Brown and countless others. Charles Brown's smooth ballad style has become synonymous with Christmas ever since remaking "Merry Christmas, Baby" many times, cutting many other Christmas songs and full length albums including 1961's Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs and Cool Christmas Blues in 1994.

Notable blues and R&B songs from this period include: Champion Jack Dupree's "Santa Claus Blues" (1945), Gatemouth Moore "Christmas Blues" (1946) [recut in 1977 as "Gate's Christmas Blues"], Little Willie Littlefield "Merry Xmas" (1949), Mabel Scott "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (1947), Harman Ray "Xmas Blues" ["Hold it, hold it man/Don’t play me no jingle bells the way I feel this Christmas/Only kind of bells I want to have anything to do with is some of them mission bells/Man, play me the blues long, loud and lowdown"] (1947), Boll Weavil "Christmas Time Blues" (1947), Big Joe Turner "Christmas Date Boogie "(1948), Thelma Cooper "I Need A Man (For Xmas)" (1948), Smokey Hogg "I Want My Baby For Christmas" (1949), Amos Milburn "Let's Make Christmas Merry Baby" (1949), Harry Crafton "Bring That Cadillac Back" ["I let you eat my turkey on Christmas morn/When I looked around you and my Cadillac was gone"] (1949), Felix Gross "Love For Christmas" ["You can have your turkey and your dressing/Sweet cakes and apple pie/Blue Champagne and Rock & Rye/Everything that money can buy"] (1949), J.B. Summers "I Want a Present For Christmas" (1949 ["Santa Claus, Santa Claus/Hear my plea/Open up your bag and give a fine brown baby to me/ …You can stop by my chimney/Drop her in the chute/ Leave your reindeer outside/Come in and get my loot"] .

One other song from this era is the downright odd "Junior's a Jap Girl's Christmas for His Santa Claus" (1942) a Library of Congress recording by Willie Blackwell that defies categorization. Other non-R&B Christmas songs from the 40's include a few by Leadbelly such as "Christmas Is A-Coming", "The Christmas Song", "On A Christmas Day", Sylvester Cotton "Christmas Blues" (1948), Washboard Pete [aka Ralph Willis] "Christmas Blues" (1948), Alex Seward & Louis Hayes "Christmas Time Blues" (1948), Walter Davis "Santa Claus" (1949).

Clyde Lasley: Santa Came Home DrunkThere was a time you could hit the charts with an instrumental as pianist Lloyd Glenn well knew, scoring big with "Old Time Shuffle Blues" which hit #3 on the R&B charts in 1950 and "Chica Boo" which hit #1 in 1951. He seemed to have a knack for being on hit records, accompanying T-Bone Walker on his 1947 hit "Call It Stormy Monday", and in 1949 he joined Swing Time Records as A&R man, recording a number of hits with Lowell Fulson, including "Everyday I Have The Blues" and the #1 R&B hit "Blue Shadows." In sunny Los Angeles on April 1951 he waxed the shuffling "(Christmas) Sleigh Ride." Glenn's distinctive piano work can also be found on a five-song session Jesse Thomas waxed for Swingtime also in April 1951 which included "Xmas Celebration." Glenn was also present when Lowell Fulson cut his classic two-parter, "Lonesome Christmas Pt. 1 & 2 "in 1951.

The 50's produced many more Christmas gems including: Lowell Fulson's oft covered ""Lonesome Christmas" (1950), Cecil Gant "It's Christmas Time Again" and "Hello, Santa Claus" (1950), Roy Milton "Christmas Time Blues" (1950), Johnny Otis & Little Esther Phillips "Far Away Blues" [also known as "Faraway Christmas Blues"] (1950), Jimmy Liggins "I Want My Baby For Christmas" (1950), The Nic Nacs with Mickey Champion "Gonna Have A Merry Xmas" (1950), Larry Darnell "Christmas Blues" (1950), Sonny Parker with Lionel Hampton "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (1950), Lloyd Glenn "Sleigh Ride" (1951), Sugar Chile Robinson "Christmas Boogie" b/w "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1950), Titus Turner "Christmas Morning" (1952), Lightning Hopkins "Merry Christmas" (1953), Chuck Berry "Run, Rudolph, Run" (1958) and "Merry Christmas Baby" (1958), John Lee Hooker "Blues for Christmas" (1959).

The 60's, less so in the 70's, produced a number of strong Christmas blues songs including at least one blues classic, Little Johnny Taylor's "Please Come Home For Christmas" (1969) which has become an oft covered holiday classic. Other notable 60's songs include: Sonny Boy Williamson II "Santa Claus" (1960), Lightnin' Hopkins "Santa" (1960) and "Heavy Snow" (1962), Black Ace "Santa Claus Blues" (1960), B.B. King "Christmas Celebration" (1960), Hop Wilson "Merry Christmas, Darling" (1961), Robert Nighthawk "Merry Christmas Baby" (1964), Lowell Fulson "I Wanna Spend Christmas With You" (1967), Louis Jordan "Santa Claus, Santa Claus" (1968), Charles Brown "New Merry Christmas Baby" (1969) featuring Earl Hooker, Bukka White "Christmas Eve Blues" (1969). In the 70's: Jimmy Reed "Christmas Present Blues" (1970), Lee Jackson "The Christmas Song" (1971), Clyde Lasley "Santa Came Home Drunk (1971), Albert King "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" (1974) and "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" (1974), Eddie C. Campbell "Santa's Messin' with the Kid" (1977).

Freddy Ling: I Hear Jingle BellsThere seems to be a dearth of quality Christmas songs in the 70's and 80's. By the late 80's the rise of the CD caused the demise of the 45 record which was one of the main vehicles for putting out holiday songs. However in lieu of the 45 labels began releasing Christmas themed compilations and there have been a number of very good collections. Some of the best include: Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas (1989) from the Antone's label [reissued on Epic in 1986 and Sony in 2001], Alligator Records Christmas Collection (1992), Ichiban Blues At Christmas Vol. 1-4 (1991-97) [Best of Ichiban Blues at Christmas was issued 2002], Bullseye Blues Christmas (1995), Stony Plain's Christmas Blues (2000), Blue Christmas (2000) from the Dialtone label, Blue Xmas (2001) on Evidence. A number of artists issued Christmas themed records including Charles Brown, Huey "Piano' Smith, Johnny Adams, B.B. King and Etta James. Also with the dominance of the CD age labels went back into their vaults to put together compilations of classic Christmas blues.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Ray CharlesMr. Charles BluesRay Charles 1953-54
Little Brother Montgomery After Hours BluesMemphis Minnie: Early Rhythm & Blues 1949
Big John & His OrchestraToo Late BluesRockin' On Acorn: Regent Vol. 1
Howlin' WolfChocolate Drop (Brown Skin Woman) Rides Again
Muddy WatersLook What You've DoneThe Complete Recordings
Joe Evans & Arthur McClainDown In Black BottomDown In Black Bottom: Lowdown Barrelhouse Piano
Bo CarterTush Hog BluesBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Harry ChatmonThese Jackson Women Will Not Treat You Right Deep South Blues Piano 1935-1937
Cliff ButlerGold Diggin' BabyBlues & Gospel Kings Vol.1 1945-50
Marylyn Scott Straighten Him Out Rockin' On Acorn: Regent Vol. 1

Gene Coy & His Killer DillersKiller DillerRockin' On Acorn: Regent Vol. 1
William Floyd DavisThe Capt'nLive At The Bootleggers
William Floyd DavisLookin' Down The RoadLive At The Bootleggers
Pillie Biling Brown Skin WomanTrouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
Mae GloverPig Meat Mama Mae Glover 1927-1931
Barbecue BobRed Hot Mama, Papa's Going to Cool You Off Barbecue Bob Vol. 2 1928-1929
James ButlerLonesome BluesElko Blues Vol. 3
Mance LipscombCaptain, CaptainCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Jimmy GrissomThey Call It The BluesYet More Mellow Cats & Kittens
Roosevelt SykesHe's Just a Gravy TrainRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 9 1947-1951
Roy BrownBlack DiamondGood Rocking Tonight: The Best Of Roy Brown
Lightnin' HopkinsAt Home BluesThe Texas Bluesman
Lightnin' HopkinsBlack and EvilTexas Blues
Josie MilesSouth Bound BluesJosie Miles Vol. 2 1924-1925
Clara SmithBlack Cat MoanThe Essential
Mary JohnsonBlack Gal BluesMary Johnson 1929-1936

Show Notes:

Rockin On Acorn-Regent Vol. 1Okay, a little radio business before we get into the notes. Today's show is our first during this year's first pledge drive. The Jazz90.1 spring 2014 membership campaign kicks off on Monday March 10th, with a goal of $50,000. Each year, Jazz90.1 must raise all operating funds through pledge drives and special events. Without support from listeners who become members, Jazz90.1 simply would not survive. For myself and the rest of the DJ's our shows are a labor of love  and if you're a regular listener, and have the means, please consider pledging. As usual lots of interesting records on deck today including some fine jump blues, lots of pre-war blues gems from the well known to the obscure, several exceptional early blues ladies, a pair of tracks from a new collection of field recordings and two superb cuts by Lightnin' Hopkins.

We spin a batch of great 1940's jump blues, a style I should probably play more of. Two cuts come from a recent collection I picked up called Rockin On Acorn-Regent Vol. 1, the first of the volumes, that gather sides from the Regent and Acorn imprints. Both labels were subsidiaries of Savoy with Regent operating between 1947 and 1964 and Acorn from 1949 through 1951.  Gene Coy & His Killer Dillers give some fine jive talking jump on "Killer Diller", Big John & His Orchestra deliver some after hour blues on "Too Late Blues" while Marylyn Scott's delivers the bouncy "Straighten Him Out." Mary DeLoatch, also known as Mary DeLoach, was a Norfolk, Virginia based gospel singer who used the name Marylin Scott or Marylyn Scott the Carolina Blues Girl when performing blues tunes. When her gospel self took over she sounded more than a little like Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She switched to exclusively religious material after 1950 and her final recording appears to have been made in 1967 when she was photographed playing an electric guitar while wearing evangelical robes. In similar vein is the always up-to-date Roosevelt Sykes on the gently jumping "He's Just A Gravy Train" with with knockout electric guitar from Henry Townsend. Then's there's Roy's Brown's relentlessly rocking "Black Diamond" from 1954.

Live At The BootleggersWe spin two tracks from a new LP on the Sutro Park label, Live At The Bootleggers. The recordings were made by Begnt Olsson in 197 1in Fayette County, Tennessee at the home of a bootlegger and include some unreleased material. Olsson taped some superb field recordings in Tennessee and Alabama between 1969 and 1974. Several years back Birdman Records (Sutro Park is an affiliated all vinyl imprint) purchased Olsson's entire library of recordings. So far the label has issued three prior releases: Old Country Blues Vol. 1, Bishop Perry Tillis: Too Close and in 2010 the Sutro Park label issued a vinyl album titled Wolf's At The Door: Lost Recordings From The Spirits Of The South which included some unreleased recordings by Olsson.

I have a soft spot for the blues ladies of the 20's and have featured them often on my show. Everybody know Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey but there were hundreds of blues ladies recorded in the first half of the decade, many forgettable and many forgotten but deserving wider recognition. Josie Miles falls in the latter category, heard in fine form on "South Bound Blues." By the early 1920's Miles was working in New York City, where she appeared in Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle's musical comedy Shuffle Along. In 1922 she made her first recordings, for the Black Swan Company, and later recorded for the Gennett, Ajax, Edison, and Banner Records labels. According to blues writer Steve Tracy, Josie Miles was characterized by "a light but forceful delivery that was not low-down but was nevertheless convincing." Her last recordings date from 1925.

Clara Smith recorded more than double the output of Miles, cutting over 120 sides over a ten year period. Looking back, I realize how often I've played Smith and how unjustly obscure she remains at least in comparison by her more famous label mate Bessie Smith. Carl Van Vechten of Vanity Fair compared them in 1926: "[Clara] employs, however, more nuances of expression than Bessie. Her voice flutters agonizingly between tones. Music critics would say she sings off key. What she really does, of course, is sing quarter tones. This she is justifiably bill as the 'World's greatest moaner.' She appears to be more of an artist than Bessie, but I suspect that this apparent artistry is spontaneous and uncalculated.One learns from her that the Negro's cry to a cruel cupid is moving and elemental, as is his cry to God, as expressed in his Spirituals." All of Smith's recordings are available on Document, six volumes in all, and are consistently strong despite some some lackluster sound quality. "Black Cat Moan" from 1927 finds her in peak from baked by the superb Bob Fuller on cornet. This recordings comes from  Clara Smith Vol. 5 1927-1929, capturing a particularity good period in Smith"s career.

Josie Miles
Josie Miles

Also featured today is is the fine singer Mary Johnson who I've also played quite a bit over the years.  Johnson  (sometimes billed as "Signifying Mary") came late to the game, making her debut in 1929, cut just shy of two dozen songs, achieved modest success and never recorded again after 1936 despite living until 1983. While it's true that Johnson wasn't in the same league as Bessie and Clara, she left behind a small, very impressive body of work that merits more attention. Johnson was a fine singer with a clear, low, moaning style that came across well on record. She also wrote a number of moving songs, many filled with vivid violent and sexual imagery and an unrelenting bleak view of the world. Johnson was blessed with superb backing musicians throughout her brief career that elevated her recordings above many of her contemporaries. She was accompanied by either Henry Brown, Judson Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, or Peetie Wheetstraw on piano, many selections featuring trombonist Ike Rodgers, guitarists Tampa Red and Kokomo Arnold and violinist Artie Mosby.

Other pre-war artists featured today include Bo Carter and Harry Chatmon both of the famous Chatmon family. Bo was one of the most popular bluesmen of the 30's known for his risqué numbers like today's "Tush Hog Blues." Harry Chatman cut ten songs under his name in1935 across three sessions, two in New Orleans and a final one in Jackson, Mississippi. He backed Walter Visnon on two sides in 1936.

Speaking of risqué songs we play a set featuring Mae Glover, Pillie Bolling and Barbecue Bob. Bolling, an associate of Greenville singer Ed Bell, sings about his "Brown Skin Woman", Glover proclaims herself a "Pigmeat Mama" complete with some convincing yodeling and Barbecue Bob serves up the fast paced hokum blues "Red Hot Mama, Papa's Going to Cool You Off."

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Luther Stoneham January 11, 1949 Blues The Mercury Blues Story
Lightnin' HopkinsMoanin' BluesLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Blind Connie Williams St. Louis Blues Philadelphia Street Singer
Blind Connie Williams Mother Left Me Standing on the Highway Philadelphia Street Singer
Bessie Smith The Gin House Blues The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Clara SmithJelly Look What You Done Done Clara Smith Vol. 5 1927-1929
Esther PhillipsI Paid My Dues The Early Hits 1949-54
Gabriel Brown I Get Evil When My Love Comes DownShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
John Henry BarbeeI Know She Didn't Love Me Down Home Slide
Ranie Burnette Two And Two BluesRanie Burnette's Hill Country Blues
Cecil Barfield I Woke Up CryingCecil Barfield: The George Mitchell Collection
Ed Lewis Lucky HollerBroadcasting the Blues
Jaybird Coleman Coffee Grinder Blues Jaybird Coleman & The Birmingham Jug Band 1927-1930
Ollis Martin & Jaybird Coleman Police And High Sheriff Come Ridin' DownThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Baby Boy Warren Somebody Put Bad Luck On MeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Snooky Pryor You Tried To Ruin MeA Taste Of The Blues Vol. 2
Bobby Long The Pleasure Is All MineNew York On Fire: Bobby's Harlem Rock Vol.2
Magic Sam That's All I NeedLive At The Avant Garde
Magic Sam Don't Want No WomanLive At The Avant Garde
Teddy Bunn I've Come A Long Ways BabyThe Very Best Of Teddy Bunn 1937-1940
T-Bone WalkerBlues For MariliT-Bone Blues
Calvin FrazierSweet Lucy 78
Pee Wee Crayton Blues Before DawnComplete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings
Charlie McFadden Harvest Moon BluesCharlie McFadden 1929-1937
Willie "Long Time" Smith Homeless BluesNews & the Blues: Telling It Like It Is
Roosevelt Sykes Low Land BluesRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 10 1951-1957
Meade Lux Lewis & Big Joe Turner Low Down DogThe Piano Blues Vol. 21: Unfinished Boogie 1938-1945
Furry Lewis Cannon Ball Blues Blues Images Vol. 8
Furry Lewis Fury's Blues Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go
Laura Dukes Little Laura's Blues Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
Dewey Corley Fishing In The Dark Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
Bukka White I'm Getting Ready, My Time Done ComeBukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
J.T. Brown When I Was a LadJ.T. Brown 1950-1954
Jimmy WitherspoonI'm Going Round In CirclesI'll Be Right On Down: The Modern Recordings 1947-1953

Show Notes: 

Blind Connie WilliamsWhen putting together these shows I usually draw from a long list of show ideas I've jotted down over the years. Things are a bit jumbled right now as I have several shows lined up that revolve around other people's schedules. Without giving too much away, the next few months will see several very interesting interviews and features so you may notice that the list of upcoming shows on this website may get shuffled around until everything is lined up.  As for today's show we have wide range of blues including lots of down-home blues including twin spins of street singer Blind Connie Williams, two songs decades apart by Furry Lewis, several artists recorded in the field in the 70's by Gianni Marcucci including by Bukka White, Laura Dukes and Dewey Corley. In addition we hear a set of fine piano men, several top notch blues ladies and ace guitar players like T-Bone Walker and Calvin Frazier. We also spin two from a geat new Magic Sam live set.

According to Pete Welding's booklet notes, Connie Williams was born blind in southern Florida circa 1915 to parents who were migrant farm workers. During his youth, he attended the St. Petersburg School for the Blind (also Ray Charles' alma mater) and became sufficiently proficient on guitar to begin a career as a street musician in the 1930's. He eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1935 and often traveled to New York City, where he plied his trade in Harlem during his visits. It was there that he met Rev. Gary Davis, whose influence can be heard in Williams' guitar and singing style." Welding discovered Williams performing sanctified numbers to accordion accompaniment in a historically black neighborhood of Philadelphia sometime in 1961.  After striking up a friendship, Williams revealed to the music writer that he had originally been a guitarist but used an accordion because it could be more easily heard and required less physical effort to play. Not long afterward, Welding purchased a guitar for him. After reacquainting himself with the instrument. The recordings were not released on his Testament label until 1974 on the album Philadelphia Street Singer.

Furry Lewis: Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go
Read Liner Notes

While hundreds of blues artists got on record in the 1920's and 30's, the commercial heyday of the blues, numerous other talented artists never got the opportunity while some others had to wait decades for their chance like celebrated bluesmen such as Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb.  While not nearly as well known Cecil Barfield and Ranie Burnett made their debuts in the 1970's and left behind a small but strong body of work. Barfield was recorded by George Mitchell who called him "probably the greatest previously unrecorded bluesman I have had the pleasure of recording during my 15 years of field research." Using the name William Robertson, in fear of endangering his welfare checks, he cut the LP South Georgia Blues for Southland in the mid-70's with several other tracks appearing on Flyright’s Georgia Blues Today (reissued by Fat Possum). I imagine Barfield is an acquired taste but to me he is simply mesmerizing; his music, with his droning, lightly distorted electric guitar coupled with his powerful mushed mouth, nasal singing, is hypnotic. Barfield has some originals but his genius is in the way he transforms well known songs into something startlingly original.

Burnette was born in 1913 in Pleasant Grove, MS and in the 40's and 50's played local dances and juke joints in North Mississippi. He wasn't record extensively until the 80's with recordings appearing on High Water and Swingmaster. He did record some sides for David Evans in the 70's.

As the notes to Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7 relate: "The three Memphis blues musicians featured in this album were all recorded on the memorable day of 27 December 1972: Bukka White at his home; Laura Dukes at Furry Lewis’ home; and Dewey Corley at Memphis Piano Red’s home." The recordings were made by Gianni Marcucci who came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings in the 70's and 80's in Tennessee and Mississippi. The original albums that collected these recordings are long been out-of-print. All these recordings will be issued as 15 volume series both digitally and on CD on his Mbirafon imprint. I've been corresponding with Marcucci and with his help will be doing an in-depth series of shows on these recordings. At Marcucci's prompting I've pushed this show back until he completes his issuing of the Blues At Home series. These recordings originally came out on Albatros but as Marcucci made clear to me his "experience with Albatros in the 1970's was a nightmare." He further related that the original "…albums presented are full of spelling mistakes and there are also several typos in the digital edition, and errors in the original mastering."  He wrote that the releases were an abuse and an offense to my effort (10 years of field research, and 13 years of re-mastering and text editing), as well as an insult to the memory of the Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7featured artists."

Speaking of Furry Lewis we spin two of his numbers: "Cannon Ball Blues" cut for Victor in 1928 and "Fury's Blues" from the out-of-print 1971 LP Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go. The later album is a nice record that finds Furry in good form in front of an appreciative New York City audience.

During today's show we spotlight excellent four songs sets of piano blues and guitar blues. From the pre-war era we hear the under-appreciated singer Charlie McFadden on the lovely "Harvest Moon Blues" from 1929 featuring superb piano work from Eddie Miller. McFadden was a singer based out of St. Louis. Henry Townsend knew him and said that he could play piano a little bit, but preferred that someone else played it on his recordings. Roosevelt Sykes was the usual pianist, even though Eddie Miller and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks made a couple of appearances, each.

From 1944 we hear Big Joe Turner at the peak of his powers backed by the thundering piano of Meade Lux Lewis.

Of Willie "Long Time" Smith I know nothing outside of the fact that he waxed ten sides at sessions in 1947 and  1954. Several of these sides do not seem to have been reissued, a shame as he was an exceptional vocalist  (a disciple of of the popular Dr. Clatyon fro whom he recorded the tribute "My Buddy Doctor Clayton") and good piano player. Homelessness was a reality as detailed in songs like Josh White's "Homeless And Hungry",  Bessie Smith's "Homeless Blues" and Sleepy John Estes' "Hobo Jungle Blues." Even after the depression the reality was all too real as  Smith sang about eloquently in his 1947 composition "Homeless Blues" featured today:

On one cold frosty morning, the ground was covered with snow (2x)
Well,  I met a million people had no place to go
Well some have children, some just have their suitcase and clothes
(2x)
You know those people was steady walkin', but they couldn't find no place to go

Perhaps for contractual reasons pianist Roosevelt Skyes recorded a 1948 session for Bullet under the moniker Joe "Boogie" Evans. Whatever the case, Sykes is in superb form on this session backed by uncredited horns, the jazzy guitar of Henry Townsend and Jump Jackson on the drums. From the session we feature the fine "Low Land Blues."

a106a4In a set of guitar aces we feature killer instrumentals from T-Bone Walker ("Blues For Marili" from the classic T-Bone Blues album on Atlantic) and the rocking "Blues Before Dawn cut by Pee Wee Crayton for Aladdin. Less well known are Teddy Bunn and Calvin Frazier. Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals.Among the notable blues singers he accompanied were artists such as Cow Cow Davenport, Lizzie Miles, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria Spivey among others. In addition to an active session career, Bunn was a member of the jazz groups the Spirits of Rhythm and June 1939, and was among the very first musicians ever to record for the Blue Note record label, first as a soloist, then as a member of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen.

Frazier befriended Johnny Shines, in 1930 they jointly traveled to Helena, Arkansas where they met Robert Johnson. The threesome moved on to Detroit, Michigan. Here they performed hymns on local radio stations. Frazier and Johnson returned south. In 1935, Frazier returned to Detroit. In 1938 he was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress.  Frazier seems to have played with almost every blues or R&B act in Detroit in the post-war era. He updated his sound to a more modern style, influenced in a fair bit by T-Bone Walker. Early in 1954 he bought himself a Stratocaster, likely one of the very first bluesman to play this type of guitar. it's interesting to hear how his style evolved and and one wonders if his pal Robert Johnson would have developed a similar style. Frazier released three singles under his own name in 1949 and 1951. Between 1951 and 1953, Frazier was a recording member of T.J. Fowler's jump blues combo, then recorded with Baby Boy Warren in 1954, whilst his final sessions in the studio appear to be in 1956 backing Washboard Willie. He passed in 1972. In an upcoming feature on Detroit bluesmen I'll be spotlighting Frazier more in-depth.

Finally I should make mention of Live at the Avant Garde, 1968 just issued on Delmark. This is killer a live performance recorded at a Milwaukee coffee house with expectational sound, There are several live Magic Sam performances available which are very good but the sound on this one tops them all.

 

 

 

 

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Titus Turner Christmas Morning BluesBlues, Blues Christmas
Jimmy ButlerTrim Your TreeBlues, Blues Christmas
Frankie ''Half-Pint'' JaxonChrist Was Born On Christmas Morn Blues, Blues Christmas
Tampa RedChristmas & New Year's BluesBlues, Blues Christmas
Lonnie JohnsonHappy New Year DarlingBlues, Blues Christmas
Robert NighthawkMerry Christmas, Baby Masters Of Modern Blues Vol. 4
Lightnin' HopkinsMerry ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2
Bukka WhiteChristmas Eve BluesMemphis Swamp Jam
Ralph WillisChristmas Blues Blues, Blues Christmas
Goree Carter Christmas BluesGoree Carter Vol. 1 1949-1950
Gatemouth Moore Gate's Christmas BluesGreat Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7
Cecil GrantHello Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas
Charles BrownNew Merry Christmas Baby Legend!
Leroy CarrChristmas In JailBlues, Blues Christmas
Rev. J.M. Gates Did You Spend Christmas Day In JailBlues, Blues Christmas
Bertha ''Chippie'' HillChristmas Man BluesBlues, Blues Christmas
Victoria SpiveyAin't Gonna Let You See My Santa ClausBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
Butterbeans & SusiePapa Ain't No Santa ClausBlues, Blues Christmas
Sonny Parker w/ Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra Boogie Woogie Santa ClausBlues, Blues Christmas
Big Joe TurnerChristmas Date BoogieBlues, Blues Christmas
Freddy King I Hear Jingle BellsThe Very Best of Freddy King, Vol.1 1960-1961
Harry ''Fats'' Crafton w Doc Bagby Orchestra Bring That Cadillac BackBlues, Blues Christmas
Gus Jenkins and Orchestra Remember Last Xmas Jericho Alley Blues Flash! Vol.2: Blues In Los Angeles 1956-1959
Hop WilsonMerry Christmas DarlingBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
Black AceChristmas TimeBlues, Blues Christmas
Lil McClintockDon't Think I'm Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
LeadbellyChristmas Is CominBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3
Herman Ray Xmas Blues Blues, Blues Christmas
Champion Jack DupreeMerry Christmas BluesChris Barber Presents: Lost & Found Vol .2
Jimmy WitherspoonHow I Hate To See Christmas Come Around Blues, Blues Christmas
Lee Jackson The Christmas Song Bea & Baby Records Vol.2
Clyde Lasley Santa Claus Home DrunkBea & Baby Records Vol.2
Roy Milton & His Solid SendersNew Year's Resolution BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2
Johnny Otis OrchestraHappy New Year, BabyBlues, Blues Christmas

Show Notes:

Paramount Christmas Greetings Ad

I've been doing a Christmas blues show for many years and was always frustrated with the lack of a really good collection of early blues Christmas songs. In 2005 I hooked up with the Document label to put together a 2-CD, 52 track collection of blues and gospel songs from the 1920's to the 1950's called Blues, Blues Christmas. The record proved to be popular and a second volume was released in 2009 and this year a third volume has been issued. You can read the notes to these by visiting my writing page. Many of today's tracks come from those collections.

On October 30, 1889 banjoist Will Lyle made history by recording "Jingle Bells" – the very first Christmas record. Although no known copies of this recording survive, one of the earliest vocal examples of "Jingle Bells" does survive on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, "The Sleigh Ride Party." The first commercial Christmas blues record was cut by Bessie Smith. Her classic "At The Christmas Ball" inaugurated the Christmas blues tradition when it was recorded in November 1925 for Columbia. A year later, circa December 1926, the gospel Christmas tradition was launched when the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers recorded "Silent Night, Holy Night" for Paramount Records. After these recordings it was off to the races with numerous Christmas blues numbers recorded by singers of all stripes, a pace that continued as blues evolved into R&B and then rock and roll. It’s almost certainly the case that many of these songs were recorded at the prompting of the record companies. Like any business they were always looking for a new angle or gimmick to sell records and advertised these Christmas records boldly, often with full-page ads, in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender and magazines like Billboard.

Perhaps more than any other music, the blues is deeply enmeshed in a particular culture, entangled in the era of segregation, in the era of Jim Crow and in the era of slavery. In his classic Screening The Blues Paul Oliver wrote “for the Negro, Christmas has a deep-rooted significance beyond that of the religious meaning of the celebration itself; a more worldly one of which has none the less firmly established itself in his folkways. Since far back in slavery Christmas has signified a rest, a break in the year's routine which no other festival affords, proving an opportunity for a man to be with his family and, for a brief period at any rate, from the rigorous monotony of rural labor.” The annual Christmas Ball was something looked forward to all year and as Oliver astutely notes “there may have been a change of venue–a Harlem cellar dive for the 'quarters' and a jazz band instead of the fiddles, but there was probably little difference in kind and certainly in spirit at the Christmas Ball described by Bessie Smith…”

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Among Paramount's biggest blues stars of the 1920's were Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake who made their debuts for the label several months apart – Jefferson in December 1925 or January 1926 and Blake around August of 1926. Paramount ramped up their blues and gospel recordings considerably in 1927 and a new Jefferson and Blake record appeared every month. Paramount resorted to several novel promotions for their big artists; In 1924 Ma Rainey's sixth release was labeled "Ma Rainey's Mystery Record" with prizes given to the best title while Charlie Patton's "Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues" was listed as by The Masked Marvel with a corresponding advert that bore a drawing of a blindfolded singer – looking nothing like Patton – and the clue that he was an exclusive Paramount artist. Similarly, so successful was Jefferson, that a special yellow and white label was produced for Paramount 12650, "Piney Woods Money Mama" b/w ‘Low Down Mojo Blues" which bore his picture and the wording "Blind Lemon Jefferson's Birthday Record." In a similar vein Christmas records can be seen as just another promotional tool with ads for these records appearing annually in black newspapers every holiday season. Befitting his stardom, Lemon's lone holiday record "Christmas Eve Blues" b/w "Happy New Year Blues", was given a full-page advertisement in the December 12th, 1928 edition of the Chicago Defender. In Paramount's 1928 late fall Dealers' Supplement the label advertised scores of "CHRISTMAS, SPIRITUAL AND SERMON RECORDS THAT ARE DEPENDABLE SALES PRODUCERS" and warned that they "SHOULD BE IN YOUR STOCKS NOW." Blind Blake received the large sized treatment in the 1929 edition of the paper for his "Lonesome Christmas Blues," (also sharing the page was Leroy Carr's "Christmas In Jail – Ain't That A Pain?") his only Christmas record. The flip was "Third Degree Blues" – apparently Blake only had enough holiday spirit for one side!

Blind Blake wishes you a Merry X-mas

The trend continued with more frequency in the 30's. Here are a few notable songs: Butterbeans & Susie "Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus" (1930), Charlie Jordan "Santa Claus Blues" ["Christmas Christmas, how glad I am you are here/ Well I ain’t had a chicken dinner for this whole round year/Shiny bones and naked bones gleaming from around my plate/ …So pass me that chicken, the turkey, duck and the goose/Well all you birds gonna be one legged when I turn you-a-loose"] (1931) and "Christmas "Christmas Blues" (1935), Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom "Christmas Morning Blues" (1934), Verdi Lee "Christmas "Tree Blues" (1935), Tampa Red "Christmas And New Years Blues" (1934), Peetie Wheatstraw "Santa Claus Blues" (1935), Bumble Bee Slim's "Christmas And No Santa Claus and "Santa Claus Bring Me A New Woman" (1936), Black Ace "Christmas Time Blues (Beggin' Santa Claus)" (1937), Casey Bill Weldon "Christmas Time Blues" (1937), Bo Carter "Santa Claus" (1938), Walter Davis "Santa Claus" (1935), Sonny Boy Williamson I "Christmas Morning Blues" (1938).

Mary Harris, who cut two sides for Decca at an October 31, 1935 session is most certainly Verdi Lee who cut sides on the exact same date, also in the company of fellow St. Louis musicians Peetie Wheatstraw and Charlie Jordan. It was a holiday themed session with the group cutting "Christmas Tree Blues", "No Christmas Blues", "Happy New Year Blues", "Christmas Christmas Blues" and "Santa Claus Blues" (the latter two with vocals by Jordan and Wheatstraw respectively). Paul Oliver noted that "it would be pleasant to think that each singer was inspired by the others to create a blues on the same subject but at this date, with Christmas two months away, it is more likely that it was a deliberate promotional device by Rev. J.M. Gates: Will The Coffin Be Your Santa Claus[producer] Mayo Williams."

In the 40's there was of course more blues Christmas songs but there was a new music brewing called R&B. Evolving out of jump blues in the late '40's, R&B laid the groundwork for rock & roll. The era's biggest Christmas song was undoubtedly the immortal "Merry Christmas, Baby" cut by Charles Brown & The Blazers in 1947. This perennial classic has been covered numerous times including versions by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne , Lou Rawls, Booker T. & the MG's, Otis Redding, James Brown and countless others. Charles Brown's smooth ballad style has become synonymous with Christmas ever since remaking "Merry Christmas, Baby" many times, cutting many other Christmas songs and full length albums including 1961's Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs and Cool Christmas Blues in 1994.

Notable blues and R&B songs from this period include: Champion Jack Dupree's "Santa Claus Blues" (1945), Gatemouth Moore "Christmas Blues" (1946) [recut in 1977 as "Gate's Christmas Blues"], Little Willie Littlefield "Merry Xmas" (1949), Mabel Scott "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (1947), Harman Ray "Xmas Blues" ["Hold it, hold it man/Don’t play me no jingle bells the way I feel this Christmas/Only kind of bells I want to have anything to do with is some of them mission bells/Man, play me the blues long, loud and lowdown"] (1947), Boll Weavil "Christmas Time Blues" (1947), Big Joe Turner "Christmas Date Boogie "(1948), Thelma Cooper "I Need A Man (For Xmas)" (1948), Smokey Hogg "I Want My Baby For Christmas" (1949), Amos Milburn "Let's Make Christmas Merry Baby" (1949), Harry Crafton "Bring That Cadillac Back" ["I let you eat my turkey on Christmas morn/When I looked around you and my Cadillac was gone"] (1949), Felix Gross "Love For Christmas" ["You can have your turkey and your dressing/Sweet cakes and apple pie/Blue Champagne and Rock & Rye/Everything that money can buy"] (1949), J.B. Summers "I Want a Present For Christmas" (1949 ["Santa Claus, Santa Claus/Hear my plea/Open up your bag and give a fine brown baby to me/ …You can stop by my chimney/Drop her in the chute/ Leave your reindeer outside/Come in and get my loot"] .

One other song from this era is the downright odd "Junior's a Jap Girl's Christmas for His Santa Claus" (1942) a Library of Congress recording by Willie Blackwell that defies categorization. Other non-R&B Christmas songs from the 40's include a few by Leadbelly such as "Christmas Is A-Coming", "The Christmas Song", "On A Christmas Day", Sylvester Cotton "Christmas Blues" (1948), Washboard Pete [aka Ralph Willis] "Christmas Blues" (1948), Alex Seward & Louis Hayes "Christmas Time Blues" (1948), Walter Davis "Santa Claus" (1949).

Clyde Lasley: Santa Came Home DrunkThere was a time you could hit the charts with an instrumental as pianist Lloyd Glenn well knew, scoring big with "Old Time Shuffle Blues" which hit #3 on the R&B charts in 1950 and "Chica Boo" which hit #1 in 1951. He seemed to have a knack for being on hit records, accompanying T-Bone Walker on his 1947 hit "Call It Stormy Monday", and in 1949 he joined Swing Time Records as A&R man, recording a number of hits with Lowell Fulson, including "Everyday I Have The Blues" and the #1 R&B hit "Blue Shadows." In sunny Los Angeles on April 1951 he waxed the shuffling "(Christmas) Sleigh Ride." Glenn's distinctive piano work can also be found on a five-song session Jesse Thomas waxed for Swingtime also in April 1951 which included "Xmas Celebration." Glenn was also present when Lowell Fulson cut his classic two-parter, "Lonesome Christmas Pt. 1 & 2 "in 1951.

The 50's produced many more Christmas gems including: Lowell Fulson's oft covered ""Lonesome Christmas" (1950), Cecil Gant "It's Christmas Time Again" and "Hello, Santa Claus"  (1950), Roy Milton "Christmas Time Blues" (1950), Johnny Otis & Little Esther Phillips "Far Away Blues" [also known as "Faraway Christmas Blues"] (1950), Jimmy Liggins "I Want My Baby For Christmas" (1950), The Nic Nacs with Mickey Champion "Gonna Have A Merry Xmas" (1950), Larry Darnell "Christmas Blues" (1950), Sonny Parker with Lionel Hampton "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (1950), Lloyd Glenn "Sleigh Ride" (1951), Sugar Chile Robinson "Christmas Boogie" b/w "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1950), Titus Turner "Christmas Morning" (1952), Lightning Hopkins "Merry Christmas" (1953), Chuck Berry "Run, Rudolph, Run" (1958) and "Merry Christmas Baby" (1958), John Lee Hooker "Blues for Christmas" (1959).

The 60's, less so in the 70's, produced a number of strong Christmas blues songs including at least one blues classic, Little Johnny Taylor's "Please Come Home For Christmas" (1969) which has become an oft covered holiday classic. Other notable 60's songs include: Sonny Boy Williamson II "Santa Claus" (1960), Lightnin' Hopkins "Santa" (1960) and "Heavy Snow" (1962), Black Ace "Santa Claus Blues" (1960), B.B. King "Christmas Celebration" (1960), Hop Wilson "Merry Christmas, Darling" (1961), Robert Nighthawk "Merry Christmas Baby" (1964), Lowell Fulson "I Wanna Spend Christmas With You" (1967), Louis Jordan "Santa Claus, Santa Claus" (1968), Charles Brown "New Merry Christmas Baby" (1969) featuring Earl Hooker, Bukka White "Christmas Eve Blues" (1969). In the 70's: Jimmy Reed "Christmas Present Blues" (1970), Lee Jackson "The Christmas Song" (1971), Clyde Lasley "Santa Came Home Drunk (1971), Albert King "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" (1974) and "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" (1974), Eddie C. Campbell "Santa's Messin' with the Kid" (1977).

Freddy Ling: I Hear Jingle BellsThere seems to be a dearth of quality Christmas songs in the 70's and 80's. By the late 80's the rise of the CD caused the demise of the 45 record which was one of the main vehicles for putting out holiday songs. However in lieu of the 45 labels began releasing Christmas themed compilations and there have been a number of very good collections. Some of the best include: Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas (1989) from the Antone's label [reissued on Epic in 1986 and Sony in 2001], Alligator Records Christmas Collection (1992), Ichiban Blues At Christmas Vol. 1-4 (1991-97) [Best of Ichiban Blues at Christmas was issued 2002], Bullseye Blues Christmas (1995), Stony Plain's Christmas Blues (2000), Blue Christmas (2000) from the Dialtone label, Blue Xmas (2001) on Evidence. A number of artists issued Christmas themed records including Charles Brown, Huey "Piano' Smith, Johnny Adams, B.B. King and Etta James. Also with the dominance of the CD age labels went back into their vaults to put together compilations of classic Christmas blues.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Blind Willie McTell Just As Well Get Ready-You Got To Die-Climbing High Mountains-Tryin' To Get HomeThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Charley Patton You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You DieScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Son House Lord Have Mercy When I Come To DieThe Real Delta Blues
Brother Willie Eason I Want To Live (So God Can Use Me) Fire In My Bones
Furry Lewis When I Lay My Burden DownWhen I Lay My Burden Down
Henry Johnson Until I Found The Lord45
Leola Manning He Fans MeRare County Blues 1928-1957
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going To That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Rev. W.M. MosleyYou Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's HousesRev. W.M. Mosley 1926-1931
Hi Henry Brown Preacher BluesBlues Images Vol. 10
Big Bill Broonzy Preachin' the Blues Big Bill Broonzy
1937-1940 Vol. 2
Ralph Willis Amen BluesShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Papa Lightfoot When the Saints Go Marching Blues Harmonica Wizards
Julius DanielsSlippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden StreetAtlanta Blues
Skip James Jesus Is a Mighty Good LeaderBlues Images Vol. 6
Texas AlexanderJustice Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 3 1930-1950
Lightnin' Hopkins I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Sam Collins Lead Me All The WayJailhouse Blues
Bukka WhiteThe Promise True And GrandMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Mother McCollum Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane Blues Images Vol. 11
Bessie SmuthOn Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)The Complete (Frog)
Lizzie MilesHold Me, ParsonLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-1929
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Pt.1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Champion Jack Dupree Deacon's PartyChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
The Griffin BrothersDouble Faced DeaconBlues With A Beat
Rev. Anderson JohnsonDo You Call That Religion?Blind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Jaybird ColemanI'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan - Some O' These DaysGoodbye, Babylon6
Robert Pete WilliamsChurch on Fire (No. 2)I'm Blue As a Man Can Be
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemAngels In Harlem
Roy BrownJudgement DayRoy Brown & New Orleans - R&B
Lloyd Price Lord, Lord, Amen!Lloyd Price 1952-1953
H-Bomb Ferguson Preaching The BluesRock H-Bomb Rock
Willie Mae Williams Where the Sun Never Goes DownFire In My Bones
Little Janice Scarred KneesWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 1

Show Notes:

I know blues singers don't go to heaven
'Cause Gabriel bars them out
(
Doctor Clayton, Angels In Harlem, 1946 )

Bukka White: I Am In The Heavenly WayToday's show is part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music. In the early 1900's, blues singing was associated with the brothel, juke joint, and the dregs of African-American society. Black church goers called it the "Devils' Music" as the following quote, told to Paul Oliver, reflects: "When she was singin' the blues I told her-she was pavin' her way to Hell," said Emma Williams of her daughter', the blues singer Mary Johnson…" This view was also shared by some former blues singers: "A man's who's singin' the blues- I think it's a sin because it cause other people to sin," said Lil Son Jackson" who gave up blues for the church. As Oliver notes, "Musically the blues and the spirituals, or the spirituals' successor, the gospel song, may have stemmed from common sources. But in the recording era, though they shared on occasion similar instrumentation and voices, they were separate and distinct."

Despite this divide, religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion like Son House, blues artists who moonlighted by singing gospel like Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip, James, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, among many others and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion like Robert Wilkins, Rev. Gary Davis, Georgia Tom, Rube Lacey, Ishman Bracey, Gatemouth Moore and many others. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel like Blind Roosevelt Graves, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists like Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Edward Clayborn, Sister O.M. Terrell and others, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We explore all this and more on today's program.

Today's title comes from one of my favorite singers, the influential Doctor Clayton. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. He first recorded for Bluebird in 1935 cutting six sides four of which went unissued, not recording again until 1941. Between 1941-1942 he recorded four sessions for Bluebird and Okeh. Clayton's final recordings were in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston with a final session in August 1946 which is where today's selection, "Angels In Harlem", comes from. The song was covered by Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Little Son Willis as "Harlem Blues" and by Larry Davis as "Angels In Houston." This is a good  example of a blues song using religious imagery. Another example is Texas Alexander's "Justice Blues" from 1934. The song has lyrical similarity to a number of songs:

I've cried, Lord, my Father, Lord, our kingdom come (2x)
Send me back my woman, then my will be done

I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Says, I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Oh Lord, it's womens up there got their mouths chock full of gold

I'm gonna build me a Heaven, have a kingdom of my own
Gonna build me a Heaven have a kingdom of my own
So these brownskin women can cluster around my throne

The song echoed a line from House' 1930 number "Preachin The Blues:"

Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own (great Godawmighty)
Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home

These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years including Lightnin' Hopkins' "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own" which we play today .Also worth noting is Alexander's mockery of the Lord's prayer. This device shows up in a number of songs including John Byrd's mock sermon "The White Mule of Sin" as he has "Sister" Jones lead the prayer:

Our father who art in heaven
The white man owed me ten dollars and I didn't get but seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
I took that or I wouldn't have got none

In our first installment we played "You Shall" by Frank Stokes which uses a similar refrain:

Oh well it's our Father who art in heaven
The preacher owed me ten dollars he paid me seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
If I hadn't took the seven Lord I wouldn't have gotten none

There were slew of related songs that took a cynical, humorous view of the preacher. In our first installment we featured a number of these including Arthur Anderson's "If You Want To Make A Preacher Cuss", Hambone Willie Newbern's "Nobody Knows (What The Good Deacon Does)", Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe's "Preachers Blues",  Mississippi Sheiks' "He Calls That Religion", Luke Jordan's "Church Bells", Christina Gray's "The Reverend Is My Man", Frank Stokes' "You Shall", Little Esther's "The Deacon Moves In" and Louis Jordan's "Deacon Jones."  We feature  a batch more today including Hi Henry Brown's "Preacher Blues", Champion Jack Dupree's "Deacon's Party" and  The Griffin Brothers' "Double Faced Deacon:"

Well let me tell you about a deacon, top hat long tail coat (2x)
Well he preaches his best while winking at the women folk
Well he preached against gambling, said it was a sin and a shame (2x)
Well he met me in the alley, shot seven for my watch and chain

On "Preacher Blues" from 1932 Hi Henry Brown echoes a similar sentiment:

Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand, sister in the corner crying that my man (2x)
Preacher come to your house asking to rest his hat, next hing he wanna know sister, where your husband at? (2x)

Criticism of the preacher and religion isn't confined  to secular artists. We hear a similar complaint from  Rev. Anderson today on "Do You Call That Religion?" and "Denomination Blues" by Washington Phillips:

You're fightin' each other, and think you're doing well
And the sinners on the outside are going to hell. And that's all

 Now the preachers is preachin', and think they're doing well
All they want is your money and you can go to hell. And that's all

 Then there was Reverend A.W. Mosley who delivers the no nonsense "You Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's Houses."

You jack-legged preachers – stay out of widow's houses
Some of the mornings – some of these nights
You goin' to some widow's house
Some grass widow, that you ain't got no business there
They gonna find your body there
But you won't find yo' head
Preacher – stay out of widow's houses

Bessie Smith: On Revival DayIn the heyday of  blues popularity, the late 20's and 30's, there was a marked increase in blues imagery in recorded sermons which were hugely popular during this period. There was F.W. McGhee railing against "Shine-Drinking" and "Women's Clothes (You Can't Hide)" while Rev. Emmett Dickinson  delivered sermons with titles like "Is There Harm In Singing The Blues" and "Sermon On Tight Like That."

 There were quite a number of blues artists who recorded both blues and gospel. I'm not sure if this was commercially driven or heartfelt religious sentiment. Certainly Son House was conflicted  between the blues and religious worlds.  In his younger days House became involved with the Baptist religion, and by the time he was twenty he was preaching in a church near Clarksdale. In his mid-twenties, House heard a guitar player named Willie Wilson (sometimes Willie Williams) playing bottleneck guitar and it changed his life. House bought a battered guitar, Wilson patched it up, put it in Spanish tuning, and soon House was accompanying him. Surprisingly enough, after becoming a bluesman, House continued to preach for awhile, an unlikely combination of careers that speaks of the conflict between religion and blues that would bedevil him the rest of his life. His  "Preachin the Blues", featured in part one, is a savage attack on organized religion—specifically in the form of the Baptist church. In his rediscovery years House recorded and performed religious materiel, sometimes even doing some preaching during his shows.

House's contemporary Charley Patton not only performed and recorded religious songs but for most of his life wrestled with what he thought was a calling to be a preacher. He cut several religious songs: "Prayer of Death" (Parts 1 & 2), "Lord I'm Discouraged", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "Some Happy Day, "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" and "Oh Death."

Others featured today who recorded both blues and gospel were singer Leola Manning who's vocals seem straight out of the church. Our selection, "He Fans Me", is a religious number but bears a strong resemblance to  Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's raunchy hit "Fan It." Then there was Crying Sam Collin who cut just a few gospel numbers although he did record several others that were not released. Similarly Julius Daniels cut a mix of blues and gospel as we feature him performing "Slippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden Street." Blind Willie McTell was another who cut a fair number of spiritual sides starting in 1933, some more in 1935 and several for the Library of Congress in 1940. He continued to cut a number of religious sides during his post-war recordings. Skip James, featured today on "Jesus Is a Mighty Good Leader" from his legendary 1931 session, continued to perform and record spiritual numbers during his rediscovery in the 1960's. At his first session in 1930 Bukka White cut two religious numbers and two blues and in advertisement in the Chicago  Defender was billed as the "Singing Preacher."

Unrelated to the Son House song, where several similarly titled songs such as Bessie Smith's "Preachin' The Blues", "Preaching The Blues" by H-Bomb Ferguson and Big Bill Broonzy's "Preachin' The Blues.” In many versions of his life, Broonzy speaks of becoming a preacher for awhile. Unlike the House song, these songs represented the blues singer delivering mock sermons. Ferguson's father was a Baptist preacher who paid for piano lessons for his son condition he learned sacred songs. But Ferguson had other ideas: "After church was over, while the people was all standing outside talking, me and my friends would run back inside and I'd play the blues on the piano." His father would not approve of his 1952 number:

Is all my bothers here, is everybody ready?
Well all you backsliders sit out there and say amen,
And when I get to preaching, you wish you had some gin
Now take old brother Johnson he says he's living right,
I saw him sneaking around with the deacon"s wife last night

Today's program features several so called guitar evangelists. There is only a slight difference between a street-corner blues singer and a sanctified street singer, since both need to hold a crowd and make a few bucks. Blind Willie Johnson is the most famous and greatest of the guitar evangelists. Others from this period include Edward W. Clayborn, A.C. & Blind Mamie Forehand, Blind Willie Brother Willie Eason: I Want To LiveHarris, Willie Mae Williams plus several who recorded slightly later like Rev. Utah Smith, Willie Eason and Sister O.M. Terrell.

In part one we spotlighted  a pair of cuts by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a tremendous guitarist and singer who did  blues sides in her early days but pretty much stuck to gospel for the rest of her lengthy recording career. It's interesting that in the early blues years there were very few guitar playing woman. The biggest name was Memphis Minnie with a few others like Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley who cut a few sides. Tharpe must have been an influence in because on the gospel side there were several fine woman guitarists including Willie Mae Williams and  Sister O.M.  Terrell  both of whom are spotlighted today.

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