Entries tagged with “Lil Johnson”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Julia MoodyPolice BluesTight Women And Loose Bands
Julia MoodyMidnight DanTight Women And Loose Bands
Leroy CarrEleven Twenty-Nine BluesWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Furry LewisJudge Harsh BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Romeo Nelson1129 Blues (The Midnight Special)Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 2 1928-1930
Big Joe WilliamsAll I Want Is My Train Fare Home A Man Sings The Blues Vol. 1
Big Joe WilliamsCow Cow BluesA Man Sings The Blues Vol. 2
Scott Dunbar It's So Cold Up NorthBlues From The Delta
Lee KizartDon't Want No Woman Telling Me What To DoBlues From The Delta
Lovey WilliamsTrain I RideBlues From The Delta
Roosevelt SykesJivin' the JiveRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 7 1941-1944
Hal SingerDisc Jockey BoogieHal Singer 1948-51
J.B. Lenoir Everybody Is Crying About VietnamBye Bye Bird
Junior WellsVietnam BluesLookout Sam
Smoky BabeBoss Man BluesWay Back in the Country Blues
Smoky BabeGoin' Home BluesWay Back in the Country Blues
Scrapper BlackwellAlley Sally BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Robert WilkinsNew Stock Yard BluesMasters of the Memphis Blues
Rocky Fuller (Louisiana Red)The Moon Won't Go DownForrest City Joe & Rocky Fuller: Memory Of Sonny Boy
Robert Pete WilliamsMidnight BoogieBye Bye Bird
Mississippi Fred McDowellI Walked All The Way From East St LouisGood Morning Little Schoolgirl
Arizona DranesI Shall Wear A CrownVintage Mandolin Music
Otis SpannMake A WaySweet Giant of the Blues
Blind Willie McTellLay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Best Of
Peetie WheatstrawBring Me Flowers While I'm LivingPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Sippie WallaceUp The Country BluesSippie Wallace Vol. 1 1923-1925
Blind Willie McTellStatesboro BluesThe Best Of
De Ford Bailey Up The Country BluesHistory Of Blues Harmonica 1926-2002
Co Cow DavenportPlenty Gals BluesCow Cow Davenport - The Accompanist 1924-1929
Lil JohnsonMinor BluesLil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Sippie WallaceWoman Be WiseUp The Country

Show Notes:

Julia Moody - Midnight DanToday's mix show has several themes and featured artists running throughout. On deck today we play songs revolving around the term "11-29" and spin a trio of songs based on Sippie Wallace's "Up The Country Blues." We also feature twin spins form Julia Moody, Big Joe Williams and Blind Willie McTell. We hear some fine down-home blues including previously unreleased sides from Smoky Babe and a trio of tracks from the long out-of-print Blues From The Delta album. We spin some fine piano blues by Otis Spann, Arizona Dranes, Cow Cow Davenport, Montana Taylor and Roosevelt Sykes. In addition we play several recordings from the American Fol Blues Festival.

Sippie Wallace made her first record in 1923 and her last in 1984. Thomas grew up in Houston, Texas where she sang and played the piano in her father's church. While still in her early teens she and her younger brother Hersal and older brother George began playing and singing the Blues in tent shows that traveled throughout Texas. In 1915 she moved to New Orleans and lived with her older brother George. During her stay there she met many of the great Jazz musicians like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong who were friends of her brother George. During the early 1920s she toured the TOBA vaudeville circuit where she was billed as "The Texas Nightingale". In 1923 she followed her brothers to Chicago and began performing in the cafes and cabarets around town. In 1923 she recorded her first records for Okeh and went on to record over forty songs for them between 1923 and 1929. “Up The Country Blues b/w Shorty George Blues” was her debut and an immediate success. The songs were written by her brother George. Blind Willie McTell borrowed part of the lyrics for his classic "Statesboro Blues." "Statesboro Blues" was covered famously by Taj Mahal in 1968 and The Allman Brothers in 1971. We also play De Ford Bailey's superb instrumental of "Up The Country Blues" from 1927.Interestingly, in December 1923, just a few months after Sippie's recording, a singer by the name of Tiny Franklin cut six sides backed by Wallace's brother George on piano which included versions of "Up The Country Blues" and "Shorty George Blues,”

"11-29," is a reference found in a number of blues songs dealing with the subject of court sentencing in southern states for criminal behavior. The sentence was often the maximum for a misdemeanor crime, thus keeping the convict in local confinement as long as possible. This interpretation is borne out in a number of blues songs. Blac ks were often given more severe sentences than whites in a local court of law. And the experience of either county or state incarceration during the historical period that shaped early blues lyrics was, in reality, very cruel. We play a trio of songs using the theme including Leroy Carr's "Eleven Twenty-Nine Blues", Furry Lewis' "Judge Harsh Blues" and Romeo Nelson's "1129 Blues (The Midnight Special)."  Charley Patton refers to the "11-29" jail sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in "Jim Lee Blues, Part 1" recorded in 1929 which I've played several tomes on the show: "When I got arrested what do you reckon was my fine?/Say they give all coons eleven twenty-nine."

A Man Sings The Blues Vol. 1
Read Liner Notes

We spotlight twin spins today by Big Joe Williams and Julia Moody. Thes Big Joe Williams  songs were released two four-song EP's on the British Jen label (A Man Sings The Blues Vol. 1 & 2). These sides were recorded in the summer of 1957 in Chicago by Erwin Helfer who plays the piano on these sides.

Not much is know about Julia Moody who cut sixteen sides between 1922 and 1925. She was known to have been involved in the stage prior and after her brief recording career. Our two songs "Midnight Dan" and "Police Blues" come from her final 1925 session and find her backed by a fine jazz band called the Dixie Wobblers. "Midnight Dan" has a dramatic feel which probably owes to Moody's stage background while Police Blues" is a wonderfully sung slow blues:

I walked to the corner, 31st and State (2x)
I was so worried til' I stayed too late
Just standing on the corner, I didn't mean no harm (2x)
Along come the policeman, and took me by my arm
Carried me to the station, and I was full of booze (2x)
That's why I'm worried about those police blues

We play a trio of songs from the album Blues From the Delta which was the companion album to the book of the same name by William Ferris. The recordings were made in the summer of 1968 and included the debut recordings James “Son” Thomas. The album also includes excellent recordings by under-recorded artists such as Lovey Williams, Scott Dunbar and Lee Kizart.

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, Robert Brown AKA Smoky Babe had found his way to Scotlandville, Louisiana by the age of 20. It was there that Harry Oster recorded him on several occasions between 1959-1961 with material appearing on the labels Folk-Lyric, Storyville and Bluesville. Smoky cut two full length albums: Smoky Babe and His Friends and Hottest Brand Goin' plus a few scattered sides on different anthologies. The recordings featured today are previously unreleased and have just been issue on Way Back in the Country Blues on Arhoolie Records. As the notes state: "Upon Harry’s death in 2001, his widow Caroline shipped what was understood to be the balance of his tapes. Nowhere in the pile were the unissued Smoky Babe recordings. Recently, in the early stages of preparing a box set of Harry’s work, we noticed that many other known recordings of his were missing from our collection, and reached out again to Caroline to see if any had been overlooked. The following week, a shipment of boxes arrived filled with tapes dating back to Harry’s Louisiana days. Among this last batch were several reels of Smoky Babe containing many unissued recordings as strong as anything previously available. This record represents what we feel is the best of those long lost performances."

The American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) was an annual event, beginning in 1962, that featured the cream of American blues musicians barnstorming their way across Europe. The recordings from these tours have been collected on numerous anthologies over the years. Toda's AFBF recordings come from the Scout label which was Horst Lippmann's and Fritz Rau's label preceding L + R Records. Lippmann' and Rau were the men responsible for organizing the AFBF. Just about everything on the label was from the concerts and today we feature the following collection: Look Out Sam!Bye Bye Bird…and Up The Country!.

Blues From The Delta
Read Liner Notes

We feature terrific piano blues and gospel piano today from Otis Spann, Arizona Dranes, Cow Cow Davenport, Montana Taylor and Roosevelt Sykes. Leaving Muddy Waters’ group in 1968, Otis Spann made a flurry of recordings, including an album with Fleetwood Mac as his backing band. It was at this point Bob Thiele invited him to record for his Bluestime label. The album, Sweet Giant Of The Blues, has now been reissued by Ace Records. Unfortunately, his health had been compromised by years of alcohol abuse and he died a few months after these recordings at the age of 40.

Arizona Dranes born was born blind in 1889 or 1891. Between 1926 and 1928, Dranes recorded sixteen numbers for OKeh Records and soon became a gospel music star. Unfortunately, her recording career suffered due to misunderstandings between Dranes and the record company’s executives. After 1928 and until her death in 1963, Dranes served the Church of God in Christ by performing at churches around the country, quickly falling into near-complete obscurity (her last public appearance, where she was billed as the “Famous Blind Piano Player,” was in 1947).

Cow Cow Davenport, Montana Taylor and Roosvelt Sykes were some of the great early piano players. We hear Taylor playing superbly behind Lil Johnson's debut record "Minor Blues" which went unissued and hear Davenport on "Plenty Gals Blues" backing obscure singer Memphis Joe (Joe Byrd). Roosevelt Sykes is heard on the jumping "Jivin' the Jive" from 1944 backed by a combo that included Ted Summit on guitar and Jump Jackson on drums.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Skip JamesFour O'Clock BluesThe Complete 1931 Session
Robert JohnsonFrom Four Until LateThe Centennial Collection
Memphis Piano RedStanding At The CrossroadsBlues At Home 4
Memphis Piano RedBarrelhouse Blues (Take 2)Blues At Home 4
Geeshie WileyEagles On A HalfI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Elvie ThomasMotherless Child BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Lee KizartI Got the World in a Jug, Baby, and the Stopper in My HandThe Blues Are Alive And Well
Otis Spann & Walter HortonBloody MurderThe Story Of The Blues Vol. 1
Little Brother MontgomeryCow Cow BluesVocal Accompaniments & Early Post-War Recordings 1930-1954
Memphis SlimFour O'Clock BluesMemphis Slim and the Real Boogie-Woogie
Priscilla Stewart P. D. Q. BluesPriscilla Stewart 1924-1928
Hilda Alexander & Mamie McClureHe's Tight Like ThisGeorge Williams & Bessie Brown Vol. 2 1925-1930
Lil JohnsonI Lost My BabyWhen The Sun Goes Down
Billie HolidayBillie's Blues (I Love A Man)Complete Billie Holiday Lester Young 1937-1946
Floyd JonesPlayhouse1948-1953
John Lee HookerMy Baby's Got Somethin'The Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3
Eddie Shaw I've Got To Tell Somebody (2nd version)Have Blues, Will Travel
Texas AlexanderBoe Hog Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 1 1927-1928
Bumble Bee SlimSmokey Mountains BluesBumble Bee Slim Vol. 4 1935
Willie DukesSweet Poplar Bluff BluesMale Blues of the Twenties Vol. 1
Shorty Bob ParkerSo Cold In ChinaKid Prince Moore 1936-1938
Jimmy Lee HarrisRabbit On A LogGeorge Mitchell Collection Volume 5
Big John Henry Miller, Jimmy Lee MillerDown Here By MyselfBluesScene USA Vol. 4 Mississippi Blues
Big Joe WilliamsNorth Wind BluesBig Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-1941
Little Buddy DoyleHard Scufflin' BluesMemphis Harp & Jug Blowers 1927-1939
Ellis WilliamsSmokey BluesGreat Harp Players 1927-1936
Minnie WallaceField Mouse StompMemphis Harp & Jug Blowers 1927-1939
Charlie SangsterMoaning The BluesBlues At Home 9
Charlie SangsterHesitation Blues (Take 2)Blues At Home 9
Kid Brown And His Blues BandBo-lita American Primitive Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants
Birmingham Jug BandKickin' Mule BluesJaybird Coleman & The Birmingham Jug Band 1927 - 1930

Show Notes:

Memphis Piano Red: Blues At Home 4While the heart of this program is our weekly theme shows, where I get to dig deep into a particular theme or topic, the monthly mix show give me a bit of a breather and the opportunity to tackle things that don't fit in to our theme shows. The mix shows also usually feature an artist or theme that I plan to feature more in-depth at a future date. One of the things I plan to explore in a series of shows later this year is the remarkable field recordings captured by Giambattista Marcucci in the South in the 70's and 80's. From those recordings we spotlight terrific sides by Memphis Piano Red and Charlie Sangster. Also on deck are some knockout pre-war blues including recordings by Skip James and Robert Johnson that share a common theme, and two ladies, Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thoms, who were recently the subject of an extraordinary article in the New York Times of all places. Along the way we spin a set of fine piano blues, hear from a batch of strong blues women and several fine early bluesmen, both well known and utterly obscure.

One of my favorite Robert Johnson songs is "From Four Until Late" which has a very appealing melody. The song always felt to me like it was related to other songs and it all clicked while skimming through Elijah Wald's fascinating Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Wald had this to say: "Paul Garon points out that "From Four Until Late" has exactly the same melody as Johnny Dunn's "Four O'Clock Blues," an instrumental recorded in 1923. …David Evans notes that Son House or Skip James (House, probably) in the 1960s referred to this melody as the 4 O'Clock Blues." Charley Patton's "Tom Rushen Blues" and "High Sheriff Blues" (both influenced by Ma Rainey's "Booze and Blues") use variants of the melody. So does Skip James's "Yola My Blues Away," which is a 'harmonized' variant, and related pieces include James's "Four O'Clock Blues" and the 1941 version by Fiddlin" Joe Martin under the title "Fo' Clock Blues." Evans points out that Martin may have gotten the tune from Son House or Willie Brown, and Johnson could have learned it from any of these sources." Today we feature the Robert Johnson number, Skip James' "Four O'Clock Blues" and a version later in the show by Memphis Slim.

Geeshie Wiley recorded "Last Kind Word Blues" and "Skinny Leg Blues" in Grafton, Wisconsin for Paramount Records in March of 1930, with Elvie Thomas backing her on second guitar. Thomas also recorded two songs for Paramount at the session, "Motherless Child Blues" and "Over to My House," Wiley, providing second guitar and vocal harmonies. In 1931 Wiley and Thomas returned to Grafton to record two more sides for Paramount, "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Eagles on a Half." Nothing was known about either woman until recently when John Sullivan, based on the research of Mack McCormick, published a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine titled The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie that sent shock waves through the small group of blues scholars and collectors who care about this kind of thing.New York Times Magazine

As Sullivan wrote: "Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie…" It's an amazing piece of research, although, ethically the author is on shaky ground. Matt McCormick's daughter wrote a scathing retort published in the New York Observer. For his part, Sullivan wrote a defense in the same magazine. Like many blues collectors, I would love if McCormick's massive archive was made available, I imagine it holds the clues to many blues mysteries and would add immeasurably to out knowledge of blues history. But the bottom line is that it's his research, acquired painstakingly over decades with no outside assistance and he can do what he pleases with it. Sullivan's comment that “You’re not allowed to sit on these things for half a century, not when the culture has decided they matter” and that "Mack McCormick committed a theft—through negligence or writer’s block or whatever reasons of his own—far graver than my citation of interviews L.V. granted him decades ago" is self serving and simply wrong. What culture demands it? There's a handful of collectors and blues fans who care at all about this. I would hardly call that a demanding culture. Sullivan showed a self serving lack of integrity as far as I'm concerned.

Gianni Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some exceptional 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.In the meantime we play great sides by Memphis Piano Red and Charlie Sangster.

John Williams (a.k.a. Memphis Piano Red) was born an albino in Germantown, Tennessee, in 1904 in a family with 11 children, six of whom played musical instruments. He learned how to play piano at the age of 13 from one of his sisters and was influenced by local Germantown piano blues players. In 1930 he moved to Memphis where he started his musical activity, playing often in Beale Street bars. He hoboed and rode freight trains for more than 25 years, visiting various states, developing a solid barrelhouse piano technique coupled with strong, heartfelt singing. He never had the chance to record 78 rpm race records, and was discovered in the late '60s during blues revival . He recorded sparingly, with scattered sides on various anthologies. These recordings were recorded during two long sessions held in 1972 and 1978 at his home in Memphis. These sessions are now available digitally as Blues At Home 4.

Charlie Sangster' sides come from the ninth volume of the Blues At Home series, featuring this little known artist of Brownsville, Tennessee. Charlie Sangster, born in this small Tennessee town in 1917, earned his living as a farmer. Belonging to a musical family, he learned how to play mandolin and guitar at the age of twelve. His father, Samuel Ellis Sangster, was a blues guitarist who used to play with Sleepy John Estes and Hambone Willie Newbern; his mother, Victoria, was a gospel singer. Charlie played at the fish market and in other social situations with a circle of local musicians, including Charlie Pickett, Brownsville Son Bonds, Hammie Nixon, Yank Rachel, Sleepy John Estes, and Walter Cooper. He also knew and performed with Hambone Willie Newbern during the last part of Newbern’s life. With only the exclusion of five years in Indiana and a period of time in Europe serving with the U.S. Army during World War II, he spent most of his life in Brownsville, living in the house where he was born, where Marcucci discovered him through referral by Hammie Nixon. Marcucci recorded eight sessions between 1976 and 1980, plus an interview in 1982, just one year before his death. He was recorded in 1980 by Axel Kunster.

Priscilla Stewart: PDQ Blues
Ad in the Chicago Defender, Feb 19 , 1927

We spin several forgotten blues ladies today including Priscilla Stewart and Lil Johnson. Stewart is considered a second tier blues singer I suppose but here's something about her singing I find very appealing. Virtually nothing is known about her other than she recorded 25 performances between 1924-1928. In the majority of the cases, she is accompanied by pianist Jimmy Blythe. Unlike many of the other blues ladies from the period, Priscilla Stewart doesn’t seem to have come from a stage background since no mention can be found of her appearing in stage revues of the time. As Alan Balfour writes in the notes to Document's collected CD of her recordings: "'P.D.Q.' was originally an instrumental recorded in November 1926 for Victor by cornet player Thomas Morris. The following month the copyright holders ran a competition to find lyrics for the tune, even offering a prize of a Radiola. On February 12th, 1927 the Chicago Defender announced that the winning lyricist was John Simson. Given the subject matter of the song, Mr. Simson must have misunderstood P.D.Q. to be a railroad (like P.P.B. for Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & Boston), rather than the common abbreviation for 'pretty damn quick' ! Nevertheless, in March Vocalion recorded the song with Clarence Lee fronting the Clarence Williams band and Paramount followed shortly afterwards with Priscilla Stewart’s rendition. Paramount undoubtedly hoped such topicality would bring vast sales but it is unlikely that the recording achieved such – it certainly didn’t bring the singer any fame. Priscilla Stewart’s recording career was brief and unspectacular and although she may not have been in the same league as many of her famous contemporaries, somebody at Paramount thought it worth the company’s time and investment to record her. That being the case she certainly deserves the belated recognition that this release will hopefully bring."

Lil Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. From her second session onwards, she had a partnership with the ragtime influenced pianist "Black Bob" Hudson, who provided ebullient support to Johnson's increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Our selection, "I Lost My Baby", is a swinging number most likely featuring Black Bob and Big Bill Broonzy.

Several fine male blues singers spotlighted today including sides by the well known Texas Alexander and Bumble Bee Slim and the obscure Willie Dukes and Shorty Bob Parker. Alexander delivers a fine performance on "Boe Hog Blues" featuring impeccable guitar from Lonnie Johnson while Bumbe Slim sings "Smokey Mountain Blues" in his best Leroy Carr manner backed the superb guitar work of Scrapper Blackwell, Carr's longtime partner. Nothing is known of Dukes and Parker who both waxed six sides in 1930.

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Kokomo Arnold Coffin Blues Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Big Bill BroonzyFalling RainAll The Classic Sides
Tampa RedStormy Sea BluesThe Essential
Josephine ParkerI Got A Man In New OrleansField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Alice Moore Grass Cutter Blues Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Black Boy ShineBrown House BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Mack Rhinehart & Brownie StubbliefieldBroke And HungryDeep South Blues Piano 1935-1937
Little Brother Montgomery Santa Fe BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Bo CarterBo Carter's AdviceGreatest Hits
Chatman Brothers If You Don't Want Me, Please, Don't Dog Me AroundBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Willie Williams'Twas On a Monday Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941
J. WilsonBarrel House BluesRed River Blues 1934-1943
James Henry DiggsFreight Train BluesVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Charlie McCoy Let My Peaches BeCharlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1 1934-1936
Harlem HamfatsMy Daddy Was a Lovin' ManHarlem Hamfats Vol. 1 1936
Lil JohnsonMy Stove's In Good Condition Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops
Victoria Spivey Black Snake Swing Victoria Spivey Vol 3 1929-1936
Jimmie Strothers & Joe Lee Lord Remember Me Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Blind Roosevelt GravesWoke Up This MorningAmerican Primitive Vol. I: Raw Pre-War Gospel
Blind Boy Fuller (I Got a Woman, Crazy for Me) She's Funny That Way Blind boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
The Two CharliesDon’t Put Your Dirty Hands On Me Charley Jordan Vol. 3 1935-1937
Walter ColemanMama Let Me Lay It On YouCincinnati Blues
Red NelsonCrying Mother BluesBroadcasting the Blues
Bill Gaither Pins And NeedlesBill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
Ozella JonesI Been a Bad, Bad Girl (Prisoner Blues)Alan Lomax: Blues Songbook
Memphis MinnieI'm A Bad Luck WomanMemphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Peetie WheatstrawWorking Man (Doing’ The Best I Can)Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 3
Bumble Bee SlimThis Old Life I'm LivingBumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936
Casey Biil Weldon Somebody Changed the Lock on That DoorCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936
Oscar WoodsLone Wolf BluesTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace 1930-1938
Robert JohnsonLast Fair Deal Gone DownThe Centennial Collection
Sonny Boy NelsonPony BluesCatfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942
Washboard SamMixed Up BluesWashboard Sam Vol. 1 1935-1936
The Hokum BoysNancy JaneThe Hokum Boys Vol. 2 & Bob Robinson 1935-1937
Lemuel JonesPo' FarmerField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947
Elinor Boyer You're Gonna Need My Help SomedayField Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947

Show Notes:

Walter Coleman: Mama Let Me Lay It On YouToday’s show is the tenth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Casey Bill Weldon, Bill Gaither  and Bumble Bee Slim recorded prolifically. Blind Boy Fuller was one of the few down-home artists whose sales could compete with urban artists (he cut ten titles in 1936).

Leroy Carr, who epitomized the urban blues, passed away in 1935 with the recording companies trying to cede the mantle to artists such as Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither. Blues guitarist Bill Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr's death recorded under the moniker Leroy's Buddy for a time.

Casey Bill Weldon and Kokomo Arnold were two of the popular Chicago guitarists, alongside the well established Tampa Red.  Between 1927 and 1935 Weldon cut just over 60 sides for Victor, Bluebird and Vocalion. He was also an active session guitarist, appearing on records by Teddy Darby, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheatsraw and others. In the late 1920's, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation. From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides. Arnold also did session work Casey Bill Weldon: Somebody Changed the Lock on That Doorbacking Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosvelt Sykes, Alice Moore (heard backing her on today's "Grass Cutter Blues"), Mary Johnson and others.

Of the recorded blues groups, the swinging, jazzy sound of  the Harlem Hamfats fit right in with the times. The Hamfats were a crack studio band formed in 1936 by black talent scout Mayo Williams. Its main function was backing jazz and blues singers such as Johnny Temple, Rosetta Howard, and Frankie "Half Pint" Jackson for Decca Records; The Hamfats' side career began when its first record "Oh Red" became a hit. The band included brothers Joe and Charlie McCoy ,leader Herb Morand, Odell Rand, and John Lindsay, Horace Malcolm and drummers Pearlis Williams and Freddie Flynn .

Among the popular woman of the day were Memphis Minnie, Georgia White, Lil Johnson while Victoria Spivey was one of the last hold outs from the era of the 1920's blues queens. Lil Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929 on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Spivey updated her sound and waxed twelve sides in 1936 with a swinging band that featured the aforementioned Lee Collins. Spivey's "Black Snake Swing", backed by her Hallelujah Boys, was a jazzy remake of a song she recorded at her very first session in 1926.

From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on Sonny Boy Nelson: Pony Blueschance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). But despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties. …There was far less recording in the field in the 'thirties; in view of the popularity of the Chicago singers there was less need." Decca, for example, seems to have only gone South once, to New Orleans in 1936, where they recorded Walter Vincson and Oscar Woods.

Then there was Bluebird who over two days on October 15-16, 1936 conducted sessions at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. Little Brother Montgomery cut eighteen sides plus backed singer Annie Turner on her four numbers (two were unissued), Sonny Boy Nelson (Eugene Powell) cut six sides under his own name as well as backing Robert Hill, who cut ten , and his wife Mississippi Matilda on her three sides. In addition Bo Carter cut ten sides, the Chatman brothers (Lonnie and Sam) cut twelve sides, Tommy Griffin cut a dozen sides and Walter Vincson  (as Walter Jacobs) cut two sides. As John Godrich and Howard Rye wrote in Recording The Blues: "The New Orleans session in 1936 was Victor's last substantial race field recording; in subsequent years they recorded a fair number of gospel quartets in he field, but only one or two unimportant blues singers."

ARC made field recordings in 1936 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Fort Worth Texas and San Antonio where they recorded Black Boy Shine and Robert Johnson. Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine, was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937. Johnson recorded sixteen sides in November and a final thirteen sides in June the next year.

Record Sales Chart
Graph showing number of blues and gospel records issued by year from
the book Recording The Blues (click to enlarge)

The year 1936 saw some notable field recordings captured by John Lomax who traveled through Virginia, South Carolina and Florida collecting primarily from convicts. Recordings featured today include Ozella Jones' "I Been a Bad, Bad Girl (Prisoner Blues)", Josephine Parker's "I Got A Man In New Orleans" recorded in Parchman Farm, James Henry Diggs, who's "Freight Train Blues" features two guitars and a bugle and Jimmie Strothers, a blind banjo and guitar player from Virginia who recorded 15 tracks for Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery You'll Never Miss Your Jelly Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery Rock That Thing Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Charles Avery House Rent Scuffle Lil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery Whiskey Sellin' Woman Lucille Bogan Vol. 11923-1930
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery They Ain't Walking No More Lucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Lucille Bogan w/ Charles Avery Alley Boogie Lucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery Tee Rolller's Rub Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery I Ain't Sleepy Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Freddie ''Redd'' Nicholson w/ Charles Avery Freddie's Got The BluesBoogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1 1928-1932
Red Nelson w/ Charles Avery Detroit Blues Red Nelson 1936-1947
Red Nelson w/ Charles Avery Grand Trunk Blues Red Nelson 1936-1947
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Black Bob Good Liqueur Gonna Carry me DownThe Young Big Bill Broonzy 1928-1935
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Black Bob Keep Your Hands Off Of HerWhen The Sun Goes Down
Charlie West w/ Black Bob Hobo Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Charlie West w/ Black Bob Rolling Stone Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3 1937-1948
Tampa Red w/ Black BobMean Old Tom Cat BluesTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Tampa Red w/ Black BobSomebody's Been Using That ThingTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Tampa Red w/ Black Bob Shake It About LittleTampa Red Vol. 6 1934-1935
Charlie McCoy w/ Black Bob Let My Peaches BeThe McCoy brothers
Vol. 1 1934-1936
Lil Johnson w/ Black Bob I'm Betting On YouLil Johnson Vol. 1 1929-1936
Fats Hayden w/ Teddy Bunn Brownskin Gal Is The Best Gal After AllTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Ben Franklin w/ Teddy Bunn Crooked World BluesTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Jimmie Gordon w/ Teddy Bunn Sail With MeJimmie Gordon Vol. 1938-1938
Hot Lips Page w/ Teddy Bunn Thirsty Mama BluesThe Very Best of Teddy Bunn
Cow Cow Davenport w/ Teddy Bunn That'll Get ItThe Very Best of Teddy Bunn
Lizzie Miles w/ Teddy Bunn Yellow Dog Gal BluesLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-39
Lizzie Miles w/ Teddy Bunn Too SlowLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-39
Trixie Smith w/ Ikey Robinson Trixie's Blues Trixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1939
Victoria Spivey w/ Ikey Robinson Baulin' Water Blues, Pt. 1Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Georgia White w/ Ikey Robinson The Blues Ain't Nothin' But...???The Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Johnnie Temple w/ Ikey Robinson Jelly Roll Bert Johnnie Temple Vol. 2 1938-1940
Frankie Jaxson w/ Ikey RobinsonRock Me Mama Frankie 'Half-Pint'Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-1929

Show Notes:

Lil Johnson: Rock That ThingOn today’s program we shine the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. We spotlight two fine pianists in Charles Avery and Black Bob. We know little about both men, with Avery making his debut on record in 1929 and Black Bob in 1934 and both dropped off the radar by the late 30’s. Both backed many o the popular blues singers of the era, with Avey cutting just one side under his name and Black Bob cutting nothing under his own name. We also spotlight two very fine guitarists who straddled both the blues and jazz worlds, Teddy Bunn and Banjo Ikey Robinson. Both men backed both jazz musicians and blues singers in the 20’s and 30’s and both cut just a handful of sides under their own names. I'll be doing a sequel, of sorts, where we focus on famous names who were active sessions artists such as Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Bill Broonzy, Kokomo Arnold and others.

Active in Chicago in the 20's and 30's, Charles Avery worked as a session musician backing artists such as Lil Johnson, Freddie 'Red” Nicholson, Red Nelson and others. He cut one record under his own name, 1929's “Dearborn Street Breakdown.” We here him on several tracks todays including backing blues ladies Lil Johnson and Lucille Bogan as well as singers  Freddie "Redd" Nicholson and Red Nelson.

LIl Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. From her second session onwards, she hit up had partnership with the ragtime influenced pianist "Black Bob" Hudson, who provided ebullient support to Johnson's increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet.

Lucille Bogan recorded for OKeh in 1923, for Paramount in 1927, and for Brunswick in 1928, 1929, and 1930. Although she had an uncommonly large Depression era output, she made no recordings at all in 1931 and 1932. When she switched to ARC for the 1933, 1934, and 1935 sessions, she had to use the pseudonym Bessie Jackson for contractual reasons. After the Second World War Bogan made some trial discs for a New York company. She was mad when the records were rejected and died shortly afterward in 1948. Her records find her back with fine pianists like Charles Avery, Will Ezell and later, Walter Roland.

Banjo Ikey Robinson
Banjo Ikey Robinson

The obscure singer Freddie "Redd" Nicholson recorded eight sides in 1930 (three were not issued) all backed by pianist Charles Avery. Nothing seems tobe known about him.

There's not much information on Red Nelson outside of what I gleaned from the Encyclopedia of the Blues: "Nelson Wilborn, better known as Red Nelson, or Dirty Red, was born in Sumner, Mississippi, in 1907. A fine, capable vocalist, he moved to Chicago in the early 1930's and was a prominent recording artist from 1935 to 1947. His recordings with pianist Clarence Lofton, especially "Streamline Train" and "Crying Mother Blues," are probably his best work. In the 1960's he performed locally with the Muddy Waters Band."

Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. He was the brother of banjoist Ed Hudson, and the two frequented the same circles and recording sessions, and sometimes ended up accompanying the same singers. Both brothers were part of the Memphis Nighthawks, and Bob Hudson was also a member (with Tampa Red and other luminaries) of the Chicago Rhythm Kings. Broonzy and Black Bob cut dozens of sides together between 1934 and 1937 and Black Bob is featured on quite a number of Tampa Red sides between 1934 and 1937 .

Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals. Teddy Bunn rubbed shoulders with many top jazz musicians aas well as blues singers in the pre-war era. As he noted: "I have a very good ear and can usually sense what the cats are going to play a split second before they do it." 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. Today we hear Bunn backing several blues singers including a pair of excellent numbers by Lizzie Miles.

Teddy Bunn
Teddy Bunn

Lizzie Miles was a fine classic blues singer from the 1920s who survived to have a full comeback in the 1950s. She started out singing in New Orleans during 1909-1911 with such musicians as King Oliver, Kid Ory, and Bunk Johnson. She recorded extensively between1922-1930. She recorded in 1939 but spent 1943-1949 outside of music and in 1950 began a comeback recording for labels such as Circle, Cook, Capitol, Verve and others before retiring in 1959.

Ikey Robinson was an excellent banjoist and singer who recorded both jazz and blues from the late '20s into the late '30s. After working locally, Robinson moved to Chicago in 1926, playing and recording with Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and Jabbo Smith during 1928-1929. He led his own recording sessions in 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1935. His groups included Ikey Robinson and his Band (w/ Jabbo Smith), The Hokum Trio, The Pods of Pepper, Windy City Five, and Sloke & Ike. Robinson also accompanied blues singers such as Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon, Georgia White, Eva Taylor and Bertha "Chippie" Hill among others.

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-Charlie West  (Blues World 44, Autumn 1972)

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