Entries tagged with “Lil Son Jackson”.

Memphis SlimBeer Drinking WomanBoogie After Midnight
Roosevelt SykesTrouble and WhiskeyThe Essential
Charlie SpandRock and RyeBooze & The Blues
Smoky BabeBad WhiskeyLouisiana Country Blues
Lil' Son JacksonBad Whiskey, Bad WomanDown Home Blues Classics: Texas
Sloppy HenryCanned Heat BluesAtlanta Blues
Big Bill BroonzyWhen I Been DrinkingBooze & The Blues
Blind Well McTellBell Street BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Bo CarterLet's Get Drunk AgainThe Essential
Blind BlakeFighting The JugAll The Published Sides
Elder James BeckWine Head Willie Put that Bottle DownElder Charles Beck 1946-1947
Howlin' WolfDrinkin' C.V. WineMemphis Days Vol. 1
Roy Hawkins Wine Drinkin' WomanThe Thrill Is Gone
Papa George Lightfoot Wine, Women, WhiskeyRural Blues
James TisdomWinehead SwingTexas Down Home Blues 1948-1952
Bessie SmithMoonshine BluesThe Complete Recordings
Lucille BoganWhiskey Sellin' WomanLucille Bogan Vol.1 1923-1930
Harlem HamfatsLet's Get Drunk and TruckHarlem Hamfats Vol. 1 1936
State Street SwingersYou Drink Too MuchBooze & The Blues
Blind John DavisBooze Drinking BennyBlind John Davis 1938-1952
Sleepy John EstesDiving Duck BluesI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Black AceWhiskey and WomenTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar "Buddy" Woods & Black Ace 1930-1938
Yank RachelHaven't Seen No WhiskeyYank Rachel ?Vol. 2 1938-41
Gene PhilipsStinkin' DrunkDrinkin' & Stinkin'
Boogie Bill WebbDrinkin' And Stinkin'Roosevelt Holts And Friends
Tommy JohnsonAlcohol and Jake Blues Blues Images Vol. 6
Skip JamesDrunken SpreeBlues Images Vol. 2
Robert JohnsonDrunken Hearted Man The Centennial Collection
Champion Jack Dupree You've Been DrunkEarly Cuts
Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson When I Get DrunkThe Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story
Bill Gaither Moonshine By The KegBooze & the Blues
Peetie Wheatstraw Good Whiskey Blues Booze & the Blues
Leroy Carr Hustler's Blues Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave

Show Notes:

Sloppy Henry - Canned Heat BluesAlcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs pop up frequently as the subject of many blues. By far the subject of drinking comes up more than any of the other topics with hundred upon hundreds of songs written on all facets of drinking. Today we survey a wide variety blues songs about drinking, the majority from the pre-war era. Many of today's songs were recorded between 1920 and 1933, the era of Prohibition, which didn't seem to have any effect on those trying to find booze. Just sixteen days after the Volstead act made Prohibition the law of the land federal agents made their first raid on a speakeasy in Chicago. By the middle of the 1920's bootlegging became a two billion a year industry in which half a million people were employed. Prohibition became the topic of songs and in 1919, even before the law came into effect, vaudeville tenor Irving Kauffman sang "Prohibition drives me insane" in the "Alcoholic Blues." More than any other music, the pleasures and pains of booze were a common topic in blues songs. Drinking was tied to blues culture with the blues thriving in places known for drinking like brothels, lumber camps and juke joints.

Today's show title comes from Leroy Carr's number "Hustler's Blues" ("Whiskey is my habit, good woman is all I crave/And I don't believe them two things will carry me to my grave"). Between 1928 and 1935 Leroy Carr and his partner Scrapper Blackwell laid down a remarkably consistent body of work of hundreds of sides notable for the impeccable guitar/piano interplay. Carr sang numerous songs about booze including "Sloppy Drunk" which we featured last week, "Hard Times Done Drove Me To Drink", "Corn Licker Blues", "Papa Wants to Knock a Jug", and the prophetic "Straight Alky Blues Pt. 1-3" ('This alcohol is killing me/The doctor said if I don't quit it in a lonely graveyard I will be"). By the time of their final session together in February 1935, Carr's drinking was said to have made him practically unmanageable. He he sunk deeper and deeper into alcoholism which eventually cut his life short; he died in April 1935 just after his 30th birthday.

In the previous show we played Lonnie Johnson's "Drunk Again" in which he sings "People says drinkin' can help them, but drinkin' don't mean a thing/When you think you've drinked away your worries, and you find your fool self drunk again." In a similar sentiment we have Sloppy Henry's "Canned Heat Blues", Blind Willie McTell's "Bell Street Blues", Blind Blake's "Fighting The Jug" and the State Street Swingers "You Drink Too Much." Henry and McTelll echo similar complaints: Henry sings "Canned heat whiskey make you sleep all in your clothes, lay down in your clothes" while McTell sings that "This Bell Street whiskey, make you sleep all in your clothes." Blind Blake's "Fighting The Jug" has a sense of hopeless inevitability as he sings:

I can't sleep and I can't eat (2x)
The woman I love has drive me to drink

I'm deep in a hole somebody else has dug (2x)
Getting sick and tired of fighting that jug

From accounts of his life, Tommy Johnson faced a constant struggle with alcoholism which is reflected in his "Canned Heat Blues", featured last week, and his harrowing "Alcohol and Jake Blues" from 1929:

I drink so much of Jake, till it done give me the limber leg
(spoken: And that's sure to mess you up)
Drinking so much of Jake, till it done give me the limber leg
(spoken: Sure messes you up, boy, [there's no cure for] that)
If I don't quit drinking it every morning, sure gonna kill me dead (spoken: You ain't no lying man)

Black Ace - Whiskey and WomenWhen prohibition was on, people still needed a drink. Sometimes you could get bootleg alcohol, but sometimes you had to improvise from what you could get legally. There are quite a few prohibition-era songs about alcohol substitutes. One was Jamaica Ginger extract, known by the slang name "Jake," which was a late 19th-century patent medicine that provided a convenient way to bypass Prohibition laws, since it contained between 70-80% ethanol by weight. In 1930, large numbers of Jake users began to lose the use of their hands and feet. Some victims could walk, but they had no control over the muscles which would normally have enabled them to point their toes upward. Therefore, they would raise their feet high with the toes flopping downward, which would touch the pavement first followed by their heels. The toe first, heel second pattern made a distinctive “tap-click, tap-click" sound as they walked. This very peculiar gait became known as the jake walk and those afflicted were said to have jake leg, jake foot, or jake paralysis. The term "Jake" and "Canned Heat" turn up in other songs such as Will Shade's "Better Leave That Stuff Alone and  the Mississippi Sheiks' "Jake Leg Blues."Another alternative was Moonshine, the subject of numerous blues songs including Bessie Smith's "Moonshine Blues" from 1924 and Bill Gaither's "Moonshine By The Keg" featured today.

Back in the 1930's Elder Beck railed against booze in his song "Drinking Shine" and was back at in in the 1953 number "Wine Head Willie Put that Bottle Down" a novelty sketch that takes “Open the Door Richard” as its inspiration, pitting a minister against wayward sinner. Beck recorded some 60 recordings for a number of labels spanning the 1930's through the 1950's. In the pre-war era he recorded in 1930, 1937 and 1939. After the Second World War, with the rise of independent record labels, Elder Beck really hit his stride and between 1946 and 1956 he recorded for Eagle, Gotham, King, Chart and possibly other small labels. His final recording was a full-length live LP, Urban Holiness Service, made in December 1957 for Folkways.

Eleder Beck - Wine Head Willie Put That Bottle DownThere's no shortage of songs about whiskey, which seem to be the drink of choice when available although wine seems to be pretty popular as well. Peetie Wheatstraw's "Good Whiskey Blues" from 1935  is one of the few songs that mentions the repeal of the Prohibition act (in later years James Brewer revived the song as "I'm So Glad Good Whiskey's Back"). Other songs on the topic include Yank Rachel's "Haven't Seen No Whiskey", Sleepy John Estes' "Diving Duck Blues" ("Now if the river was whiskey, I was a divin' duck/I would dive on the bottom, never would come up"), Black Ace's "Women and Whiskey", Lucille Bogan's "Whiskey Sellin' Woman", Papa George Lightfoot's "Wine, Women, Whiskey", Lil Son Jackson's "Bad Whiskey Bad Women" ("It's bad whiskey and bad women, oh man, 'bout to take me down/I wake up in the mornin' and I feel like a country clown"), Smoky Babe's "Bad Whiskey" and Roosevelt Sykes' "Trouble and Whiskey." Sticks McGhee McGhee had a smash with "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" in 1949 which James Tisdom covers on "Winehead Swing" from 1950 while Howlin' Wolf sings about "Drinkin' C.V. Wine" and Roy Hawkins sings about his "Wine Drinkin' Woman."

Robert Pete WilliamsPrisoner's Talking BluesAngola Prisoners' Blues
Mance LipscombMance's Talking BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Mississippi John HurtTalking Casey JonesD.C. Blues: The Library Of Congress Recordings Vol.1
Blind Willie McTellTravelin' BluesBest Of
Bukka White Special Stream LineBukka White: The Vintage Recordings
Big Walter (The Thunderbird) Nothing But The BluesChicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues
Mr. Bear The UpsShake Baby Shake!
Howlin' Wolf Going Down SlowSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Champion Jack DupreeStrollin'Blues From The Gutter
Champion Jack DupreeStory of My LifeShake Baby Shake!
Champion Jack DupreeEverybody's BluesMe And My Mule
Lightnin' HopkinsI'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnSoul Blues
Lightnin' HopkinsMr. Charlie Pt. 1 & 2Mojo Hand
Jazz GillumI'm Not The Lad Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Memphis MinnieFrankie JeanMemphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 2 1929-1930
Blind Blake & Charlie SpandHastings St.All The Published Sides
Detroit CountHastings St. Opera Detroit Blues Rarities Vol. 4
Willie Love Nelson Street BluesMemphis & The South 1949-1954
Pinetop SmithNobody Knows You When You're Down And Out Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1
Pinetop SmithI'm Sober NowShake Your Wicked Knees
Christinia GrayThe Reverend Is My ManFemale Blues Singers Vol. 7 G/H
Harris & HarrisThis Is Not The Stove To Brown Your BreadThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Butterbeans and SusieTimes Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)Classic Blues & Vaudeville Singers Vol. 5
Lil Son Jackson Talking BoogieThe Travelling Record Man
Sony Boy & Lonnie Talking Boogie (Talkin' Blues - Release Me Baby)Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Coy 'Hot Shot' LoveWolf Call BoogieSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
John Lee Hooker & Earl Hooker If You Miss 'Im...I Got 'Im...Simply The Best
John Lee Hooker John L's House Rent BoogieThe Classic Early Years 1948-1951
Junior Parker Funny How Time Slips AwayI Tell Stories Sad And True

Show Notes:

This show came from a vague idea I had awhile back to compile a show devoted to "talking Blues" songs, basically songs where the artist talk over the music. The show that came together is a little different than I intended. I had the idea of incorporating songs where the artist talks about the music or interview segments. I always find it interesting when the blues artists talk about the music in their own terms. As I was putting this show together I realized that it would make more sense for the to be a two-part show with the latter "talking blues" songs to be featured in a sequel. I'm not really sure where this style originated as far as blues goes but I came across some information regarding the style in country music: "Christopher Allen Bouchillon, billed as "The Talking Comedian of the South," is credited with creating the "talking blues" form with the song "Talking Blues," recorded for Columbia Records in Atlanta in 1926, from which the style gets its name. The song was released in 1927, followed by a sequel, "New Talking Blues," in 1928. His song "Born in Hard Luck" is similar in style." I'm not sure when the earliest blues songs in this style were recorded, although I imagine it might be the more vaudeville styled blues like Buttebeans and Susie, but the earliest songs featured today all come from the late 20's.

Harris & Harris: This Is Not The Stove Tp Brown Your BreadThe earliest blues songs in the talking blues style include songs by Blind Willie McTell, Pine Top Smith, Christinia Gray, Butterbeans and Susie, Blind Blake and Memphis Minnie. From McTell we hear two from 1929: "Travelin' Blues" and "This Is Not The Stove To Brown Your Bread" with McTell playing guitar behind Alfoncy Harris and Bethenea Harris (the song was released under the name Harris & Harris). The latter song is very much in the vaudeville tradition of Butterbeans and Susie, of whom we spin "Times Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)." The duo recorded prolifically between 1924 and 1930.  Clarence "Pine Top" Smith was one of the earliest pianists to recorded a boogie-woogie" piano solo. His 1928 tune "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was the first recording to be labeled as such and and had a great deal of influence on all future pieces in that style. Pine Top toured the minstrel and TOBA vaudeville circuits throughout the 1920s performing with Mamie Smith and Butterbeans and Susie and other vaudeville acts. He was also a frequent solo performer at rent parties, taverns and whorehouses. Smith was accidentally shot to death at a dance in Chicago in 1929. A number of his songs were talking Blues and rooted in the vaudeville tradition including our featured tracks "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" and "I'm Sober Now."

We jump up to 1948 to hear the fine "Hastings St. Opera Pt. 1" from 1948. From the turn of the century until its demise by urban renewal in the early 1960's, Hastings Street remained the center of business for Detroit's east side community, made up largely of Jewish entrepreneurs and small black business owners. Hastings teemed by day with shoppers; at night it became transformed, into, what John Lee Hooker later described, as a "rough wide-open street." Though the city had a number of corner taverns during the 1940s and 1950s, which featured down home blues, numerous Detroit bluesmen found their first jobs in the house party scene. Many artists got their start through Detroit record man Joe Von Battle. Recording his sessions from within a cluttered record shop on Detroit's Hastings Street that he opened in 1948, Von Battle was a magnet for most of the Motor City's blues and R&B talent. Bob White AKA the Detroit Count cut four sides for Battle's label including "Hastings St. Opera Pt. 1 & 2" which celebrates the famous street.

I'm not sure if Willie Love heard  "Hastings St. Opera" but his 1951 "Nelson Street Blues" celebrates  Greenville's street in a very similar manner. Nelson Street in Greenville, MS was once the epicenter of African American business and entertainment in the Delta. Nightclubs, cafes, churches, groceries, fish markets, barbershops, laundries, record shops, Hot Shot Love: Wolf Call Boogieand other enterprises did a bustling trade. Famous blues clubs on the street included the Casablanca, the Flowing Fountain, and the Playboy Club.

Champion Jack Dupree had a signature humorous, conversational style that he delivered over some fine piano playing. Dupree often employed a talking blues style which we hear on several terrific songs today including "The Ups" with the gruff voiced Mr. Bear, "Story Of My Life" and "Everybody's Blues."

We feature  several lengthy "talking blues" numbers by Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Walter (The Thunderbird) and Junior Parker that are worth mentioning. My first album by Lightnin' Hopkins was Soul Blues, a 1965 recording for Prestige. Hopkins' Prestige records weren't his most exciting but even with the glow of nostalgia I think Soul Blues is one of his better efforts for the label. Hands down my favorite song is "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own. Lyrically, the song has a long history. In his 1930 song "Preachin The Blues" Son House sang: "Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own/Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home" and in in 1934, Texas Alexander cut "Justice Blues" where he sang: "I'm Gonna build me a Heaven, have a Kingdom of my own/Where these brownskin woman can cluster round my throne." These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years so it's not clear where Hopkins picked this up although it seems clear he knew Alexander.

Big Walter Price died last year at the age of 97. We travel back to a Houston nightclub in 1965 and hear Price deliver the knockout talking blues "Nothing But The Blues." The track comes from the long out-of-print album Chicken Stuff :Houston Ghetto Blues issued on the Flyright label. Mike Leadbitter paints a rather sad portrait of Price, who hit big with "Shirley Jean" in 1955: "Since 1957 nothing else has happened and Walter has sunk to the depths. Gone is the handsome, powerfully built man pictured at the height of his career. Now will find a greyed, stooping figure supporting himself on a heavy stick due to a lame leg. When sober he is affable but when drunk he becomes a megalomaniac, dreaming that his day will come via a big band, big arrangements and probably Go-Go dancers. …In 1965 he was asked to sing blues and privately taped two performances. One of these 'Nothing But The Blues', is a tremendous talking blues 'recorded in a beautiful night-club in the heart of Houston.' This really demonstrates, though not Hi-Fi, what could be the real 'Thunderbird.' A fine pianist with a houmous outlook on the everyday problems of a ghetto Negro."

Chicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues
Read Liner Notes

Junior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. Parker died in November 1971 during an operation for a brain tumor. Before he passed he sailed into the 1970's in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and I Tell Stories Sad And True for United Artists which was released in 1972. Parker's singing on these albums, to quote critic Tony Russell, "could be used as a manual of blues singing;" his singing is a model of control and phrasing, almost delicate with it's high, fluttering range, with every line placed perfectly for maximum effect. His harmonica playing is quite and melodic, parceled out in small but effective doses." We close the show with the highlight of his final album, the nearly eight minute cover of Joe Hinton's "Funny How Time Slips Away." Parker delivers this as a hip, spoken rap, intermittently singing the song's poignant lyrics in a hushed, gorgeous delivery.

James Brewer I’m So Glad Good Whiskey’s BackBlues From Maxwell Street

Daddy StovepipeThe Monkey And The BaboonBlues From Maxwell Street
Blind Arvella GrayA RoughneckConversation With The Blues
Blind Arvella GrayHave Mercy Mr. PercyBlues From Maxwell Street
Will ShadeDays of 1900/Newport News BluesConversation With The Blues
Boogie Woogie RedSo Much Good FeelingConversation With The Blues
Little Brother Montgomery Walking Basses/Dud Low Joe/The First Vicksburg BluesConversation With The Blues
Roosevelt Sykes They Call Him "Pork Chops"/Forty-Four BluesConversation With The Blues
Otis SpannOnly Places They Can Go/People Call Me LuckyConversation With The Blues
Sunnyland SlimGot The Blues About My BabyThe La Salle Chicago Blues Recordings Vol. 1
Robert Lockwood TalkingConversation With The Blues (vinyl)
Robert Lockwood Take A Little Walk With MeConversation With The Blues (vinyl)
Sunnyland SlimGot The Blues About My BabyLa Salle Chicago Blues Recordings Vol.1
J.B. Lenoir My Father's Style/So It Rocked On/Move to Kansas CityConversation Conversation With The BluesWith The Blues
Brother John SellersMove Back! For WhatConversation With The Blues
Robert Curtis SmithStella RuthI Have To Paint My Face
Robert Curtis SmithMost Reason I SingConversation With The Blues
Robert Curtis SmithI Hope One Day My Luck Will Change Conversation With The Blues
Sam ChatmonI Have To Paint My FaceI Have To Paint My Face
K.C. DouglasBig Road Blues I Have To Paint My Face
Jasper LoveThe SlopI Have To Paint My Face
Willie ThomasA Little Different Conversation With The Blues
Butch Cage & Willie ThomasOne Dime Blues I Have To Paint My Face
Big Joe WilliamsMarried Woman BluesLive at the Fickle Pickle
Jewel Long Frankie and AlbertRural Blues Vol. 2 1951-1962

Lil Son JacksonThe Onliest WayConversation With The Blues
Lil Son JacksonJohnnie MaeBlues Came To Texas
Buster Pickens To Have The Blues WithinConversation With The Blues
Buster Pickens Mountain JackBack Door Blues
Mance LipscombBlues In The BottleConversation With The Blues
Mance LipscombSugar Babe (It's All Over Now)Texas Sharecropper and Songster
Mance LipscombBig Boss ManTexas Sharecropper and Songster
Black Ace Black Ace InterviewBroadcasting The Blues
Black Ace I Am The Black AceI'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
Black Ace Golden SlipperI'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
Alex Moore Chock House Days/Come and Get MeConversation With The Blues
Alex Moore Going Back To Froggy BottomFrom North Dallas To The East Side
Henry TownsendWhat Have I Commited? Conversation With The Blues
Henry BrownHenry Brown BluesHenry Brown Blues
Stump johnsonStump Johnson InterviewBroadcasting The Blues
Henry BrownDeep Morgan Is Delmar NowHenry Brown Blues

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

At the time of the publication of Paul Oliver's first book, Blues Fell This Morning, Oliver hand not visited the United States. As Oliver notes: "Its publication prompted Berha Von Allman of the American Embassy to draw my attention to the Foreign Specialist grant program. With a small grant and modest royalties the trip was made possible …For an enthusiast in Europe who did not live in the United States and in fact, for a middle-class white American too, blues records provided virtually the prime source for enjoyment of the music and information on its performers and content. Many singers interested me greatly as performers and as blues poets – Whistling Alex Moore, Lightin Hopkins and J.B. Lenoir, who recorded respectively in the 20s, 40s and 50s, among them. It was important for me to try and seek out these singers and many others whose records I had enjoyed and knew by heart. …The opportunity before me was one where I could take a synchronic slice through the blues phenomenon. It might be the last occasion when such a cross-section in time, culture and tradition was possible, I believed. Without a doubt, it was imperative to make the trip."

In the summer of 1960 Paul Oliver came to the United States with the aid of a State Department grant and BBC field recorder with the idea, as he writes of “putting on tape the conversation and music of blues artists in the country and the cities, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Some of the blues singers were famous, or had been, whilst others were unknown and destined to remain so. … The blues singers of the Mississippi Delta or East Texas Piney woods may have sung and played in different styles from those currently working in Chicago or Detroit but between them was a common bond of feeling and expression which lay at the root of the blues.” Oliver began his trip in the east hitting Detroit, Chicago, Memphis and St. Louis before joining forces with collector Chris Stratwichz who would found Arhoolie records, and researcher Mack McCormick. The trio, and Oliver’s wife Valerie, traveled through Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas where they record the Black Ace, Alex Moore, K.C. Douglas, Buster Pickens, Lil Son Jackson, Mance Lipscomb, Sam Chatmon and others. "Far from inhibiting the speakers the BBC field recorder excited genius interest as a piece of equipment and encouraged many a blues singer to summon his memories and address his observations with clarity and confidence." On his return to England Oliver produced BBC radio-documentaries on his experiences and compiled the conversations he had with blues singers in his groundbreaking book, Conversation with the Blues. Today we go back in time, traveling along with Oliver, tracing his route and playing the blues and conversation he recorded.

Oliver began his journey at Harvard where he interviewed Professors Raiford Logan and Sterling Brown, stopped briefly in Washington D.C. before spending a couple of days in New York City. There he interviewed Sam Price, Victoria Spivey and John Lee Hooker. On July 7th he was in Detroit where interviewed and taped performances by Boogie Woogie Red, Eddie Kirkland and Floyd Taylor. The only material issued from these encounters is an brief interview segment from John Lee Hooker and a performance by Boogie Woogie Red which we feature today. Boogie Woogie Red played piano on many records made by John Lee Hooker and he also recorded himself on the Fortune label.

Between July 9th and the 16th Oliver was in Chicago where he did recordings on Maxwell Street, his friend John Steiner's home at and at Muddy Waters' house. The Maxwell Street recordings resulted in the album Blues From Maxwell Street issued on the Heritage label on issued for the first time on CD on the Document label. In the liner notes Oliver wrote: ”The blues singers of Maxwell Street are many, and many are transitory figures, here today, hopping a freight train tomorrow. Amongst the best a familiar figures are Blind Grey, Blind Brewer, King David and Daddy Stovepipe, and these are the singers who are featured on this documentary of one of the most colorful Negro streets in the United States.”

James Brewer was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi on 1920 and moved to Chicago in the 1940's where he spent the latter part of his life busking and performing both blues and religious songs at blues and folk festivals, on Chicago's Maxwell Street and other venues. By the early 1950's he settled in St. Louis playing streetcars and taverns and also joined a washboard band for a spell. By the mid-50's he was back in Chicago where he married his wife Fannie. Brewer's new mother-in-law bought him an electric guitar and amplifier. Returning to Maxwell Street he devoted himself exclusively to religious music. In 1962, however, he was offered an opportunity to play blues at a concert at Northwestern University and also began a regular gig at the No Exit Cafe which lasted for two decades. He went on to play major festivals and clubs in the United States, Canada and Europe. He was recorded by Swedish Radio in 1964, cut sides for Testament plus cut the full-length albums Jim Brewer (Philo, 1974) and Tough Luck (Earwig, 1983).

Arvella Gray was born James Dixon in Somerville, Texas. He spent the latter part of his life performing and busking blues and gospel music at Chicago's Maxwell Street. In the '60s, he recorded three singles for his own Gray label. Gray's only album, 1973's The Singing Drifter was reissued on the Conjuroo record label in 2005. Gray died in Chicago in September 1980, at the age of 74.

Johnny Watson, alias Daddy Stovepipe was born in Mobile, Alabama, on April 12th 1867 and died in Chicago, November 1st 1963. A veteran of the turn of the century medicine shows, he was in his late fifties when he became one of the first blues harp players to appear on record in 1924. He later recorded with his wife, Mississippi Sarah, in the 1930s and spent his last years as a regular performer on Chicago's famous Maxwell Street, where he made his last recordings.

"I Met Sunnyland Slim in St. Louis Jimmy's basement rooms where he lived underneath's Muddy Water's house. We had a solid two-day session of blues there, with singers, guitarists and pianists wandering in, playing for a while until their places were taken by other visitors. My field recorder was working overtime as a veritable 'Who's Who' of Chicago blues took part in the music. …The liqueur flowed and so did the music. John Steiner recorded it 'as it came' with as little interference with the informality of the session as was possible; glasses were filled, emptied and filled again; jibes, shouts and comments went on tape with the music. The result was 'authentic blues' – the blues and boogie of Chicago as it was then and is today, played and sung by some of the best exponents, no holds barred, without fake or 'folk.'” Also rerecorded were Roosevelt Sykes who was taped at "John Steiner's Chicago home and at Muddy Water's, playing for me the 44 Blues and Jesse Bell's West Helena Blues."

July 17th found Oliver in New York again taping interviews and music with J.B. Lenoir and Brother John Sellers and in Philadelphia interviewing Lonnie Johnson. He was back in Chicago on the 18th to interview Eddie Boyd and Albert Wynn. It was then down to Memphis where between the 20th and 22nd he taped interviews and music by Gus cannon, Will Shade, Bo Carter, Dewey Corley and Robert Henry. Then it was down to Clarksdale from the 23rd through the 25th.

A chance meeting with Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, at Wade Walton's Big 6 Barber Shop in Clarksdale led to the discovery of an exceptional blues singer named Robert Curtis Smith. The following year Strachwitz recorded him again, resulting in the magnificent 1961 Bluesville album, Clarksdale Blues, his lone full-length album that has yet to be issued on CD. The record didn't seem to make much of an impact, sinking without a trace and over the year becoming highly collectible. His earliest sides from 1960 appear on the collection I Have to Paint My Face which we feature today as well as a short spoken piece by Smith. Smith disappeared from the blues world not long after these recordings but 30 years later he was rediscovered living in Chicago. He had given up blues in the passing years, but he continued to play in church and was recorded performing gospel numbers in 1990 on the anthology From Mississippi to Chicago. Smith passed in 2010.

Another notable discovery was pianist Jasper Love who was related to pianist Willie Love who cut some great records fro the Jackson base Trumpet label in the 50's. The recordings that comprise the collection I Have To Paint My Face stem from this trip and are available on Arhoolie Records. Among those recorded were Sam Chatmon, K.C. Douglas, Big Joe Williams, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas, Robert Curtis Smith and others. The Chatmon sides were his first post-war sides, and arguably his best, and he would record prolifically through the 70's and was quite active on the festival circuit.

Butch Cage & Willie Thomas were recorded in Louisiana where Olive found himself for a few days in the first week of August. He also interviewed Billie and Dede Pierce during this period. Between the 9th and 11th he was in Houston where interviews were done with Lightnin' Hopkins and Luke "Long" Gone Miles were conducted as well as interview and music from pianist Buster Pickens. As Oliver wrote in the liner notes to Buster Pickens sole album: "Buster Pickens is a barrelhouse pianist who has played the sawmills, the turpentine camps and the oil 'boom' towns since his childhood. He has outlasted most of his contemporaries in their tough an often dangerous life and can lay good claim to be virtually the last of the sawmill pianists." His solo album for Heritage, the self-titled Buster Pickens, was reissued in the 70's on Flyright as Back Door Blues but has never appeared on CD. The sessions were organized by Paul Oliver and the recording done by Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz.

By the second week of August Strachwitz, McCormick and Oliver were in Navasota, Texas. Oliver recalls the events vividly: "'Just wait. We've got something for you to hear that will set you back on your ears! Exasperatingly, Mack McCormick and Chris Stratchwitz would say very little else, about their new-found 'discovery' but their ill-suppressed excitement was assurance enough that we were soon to hear something special. It was August 1960. A few weeks before, Chris and Mack had been on a search for songsters and blues singers in East Texas. A man named 'Peg Leg' had told them that the best guitar picker around was Mance Lipscomb, an opinion that was confirmed by others in the area. …Much of the music that Mance played for them that evening was recorded and issued on Arhoolie F 1001 'Mance Lipscomb – Texas Sharecropper and Songster'; the balance of the record was taped when Mack and Chris took my wife and me to visit him on 11 August." Soon after Lipscomb's name quickly became well known among blues and folk music fans and he appeared at numerous festivals and coffeehouse and made several more recordings for Arhoolie. In the late 1960s. Lipscomb passed in 1976.

By the 14th they were in Fort Worth, Texas where they encountered B.K. Turner aka the Black Ace. The Black Ace was well known in the 30's and 40's, at least among black audiences, in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. He cut two sides for the ARC label in 1936 which were never issued but had better luck the following year cutting six sides for Decca in 1937 all of which were released. It was these sides that would later garner him notice among blues collectors and which led to a fleeting comeback. Comeback is probably not the right word as Turner had no interest in playing blues full time again although thankfully he was persuaded to record two sessions at his Fort Worth home which were issued as The Black Ace on Arhoolie (reissued on CD as Black Ace: I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand).

Other artists recorded in Texas included Lil Son Jackson, Alex Moore and Jewell Long.  Since quitting the music business Jackson had been working for an auto parts shop and did not want to be disturbed and bothered by music related people. As Chris Stratwitchz writes: “That July o f1960 Lil' Son Jackson recalled many of his earlier recordings, once I had brought in some of his Gold Star 78s, which I had just found in Ft. Worth. He also came up with a few more personal and traditional songs which he had not previously recorded.” The results were issued on a self-titled album on Arhoolie.

Of Alex Moore, Oliver wrote: “When I first heard his records, a dozen years ago, I was attracted by their unique quality and hoped that I one day meet the man whose memorable blues had so enriched the Columbia and Decca catalogs. After pursuing many false leads and encountering a number of setbacks I finally found him seated on the screened porch of a small bar situated scarcely a hundred yards from the street where he was born in North Dallas, Texas.” After finding a piano, Oliver writes, “a few moments were all that was necessary to prove that Alex Moore was a finer blues player than, on the evidence of his records, at any time in his life.”

Regarding Jewel Long, Oliver wrote he "lived in the tough, unlovely, racially tense little community of Sealy, Texas." Of himself, Long said "I been playin' guitar, little piano most of my life.I come up, under John Thomas, used to play a twelve string here. And my brother, he was a ragtime player, pianist in these parts. He was a noted muscianer, my brother and I learned a bit of piano from him. I used to play for country suppers in the Brazos Bottom, play for jukes and like that. Frankie and Albert, Ella Speed – those old songs, and them old cotton-patch blues."

From August 24th through the 29th Oliver was in St. Louis conducted interviews with Edith Johnson, Mary Johnson, Walter Davis, Henry Townsend, Speckled Red, Henry Brown and others. As Oliver writes of his trip to St. Louis: “A mile and a half from the river there is a large open triangle on Franklin where a number of roads meet and where the rectilinear monotony of the street planning is broken. It is a crowded, bustling forum where colored children dart around the knots of laughing, chattering people in the hot, dusty street. Less than a block away on Easton lives a legendary figure in the story of blues piano, Henry Brown. To find him in this maze of streets would require the skill of a detective – and did, for his whereabouts were traced by Charlie O'Brien of the Police Department, a few years ago. Charlie and I again went in search of him. Finally interrupting him in a game of pool in a joint on the corner of Easton and Garrison.”The recordings Oliver taped were issued originally on the 77 label and have since been issued on CD. The session was recorded at Pinkey Boxx's Beauty Parlor in St. Louis. Brown worked clubs such as the Blue Flame Club, the 9-0-5 Club, Jim’s Place and Katy Red’s, from the twenties into the 30’s. Recorded for Brunswisck with Ike Rogers and Mary Johnson in 1929, for Paramount in Richmond and Grafton in ‘29 and ‘30.

The bulk of today's notes come from the liner notes Oliver wrote for the recordings released during the trip, as well as from the book Conversation With The Blues. As Oliver notes: "Some of the experiences and results of research were worked into articles and record sleeve notes. A selection was published in my book  Blues Off  The Record: Thirty Years of Blues Commentary. Less evidently, perhaps, a great deal of the information gathered was Incorporated into The Story of The Blues."

There has been a fair bit of material that Oliver recorded in 1960 that has been released. Here is a list of the albums and CD's where this material can be found:

Conversation with The Blues (issued on LP as a companion to the book and also as a CD to the 1997 reprint of the book. Some tracks on the LP are not on the CD)

Broadcasting The Blues (a companion to the book of the same name, this contains several of Oliver's interviews from the 1960 trip)

Blues From Maxwell Street (originally issued on the Heritage, this has just been issued on CD by the Document label)

Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery: Chicago Blues Session  (originally issued on the 77 label and subsequently issued on Wolf, Polydor and Southland)

Henry Brown: Henry Brown Blues  (originally issued on the 77 label and subsequently issued on CD by Southland)

Alex Moore (issued on CD as From North Dallas To The East Side)

I Have To Paint My Face  (issued on CD by Arhoolie)

Lil Son Jackson (issued on CD by Arhoolie as Blues Come To Texas)

The Black Ace (issued on CD by Arhoolie as I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand)

Buster Pickens (first issued on Heritage then in the 70's as Back Door Blues on Flyright but not available on CD)

Mance Lipscomb: Texas Sharecropper and Songster (issued on CD by Arhoolie)

Rural Blues Vol.  2 1951-1962 (contains the Jewell Long sides recorded during Oliver's trip)

Lawyer Houston Lawyer Houston Blues Lightning Special
Lawyer Houston Dallas Be Bop Blues Lightning Special
Lawyer Houston Western Rider Blues Lightning Special
Smokey Hogg Country Girl Good Morning Little School Girl 1945-1951
Smokey Hogg Long Tall Woman Deep Ellum Rambler
Smokey Hogg I Want A Roller Juke Joints Vol. 3
Frankie Lee Sims Single Man Blues Lightning Special
Frankie Lee Sims Married Woman Lucy Mae Blues
Frankie Lee Sims Lucy Mae Blues Lucy Mae Blues
Lil Son Jackson Bad Whiskey Bad Women Rockin' And Rollin' - Vol. 1
Lil Son Jackson Cairo Blues Rockin' And Rollin' - Vol. 1
Lil Son Jackson Gambling Blues Rockin' And Rollin' - Vol. 1
Lawyer Houston Lawton, Oklahoma Blues Lightning Special
Lawyer Houston Out in California Blues Lightning Special
Lawyer Houston Going Back To The Country I'm Going Back To The Country
Smokey Hogg Goin' Back To Texas Good Morning Little School Girl 1945-1951
Smokey Hogg In This World Alone Texas Guitar Killers
Smokey Hogg Penitentiary Blues Good Morning Little School Girl 1945-1951
Frankie Lee Sims I'm So Glad Lucy Mae Blues
Frankie Lee Sims Wine And Gin Bounce Lucy Mae Blues
Lil Son Jackson Homeless (Blues) (Homesick Blues) Rockin' And Rollin' - Vol. 1
Lil Son Jackson Ticket Agent Blues Rockin' And Rollin' - Vol. 1
Lawyer Houston At The Station Crying Hollywood Blues
Lawyer Houston Far East Blues Hollywood Blues
Smokey Hogg Look in Your Eyes Pretty MamaSmokey Hogg Sings The Blues
Smokey Hogg You Brought It On Yourself Midnight Blues
Smokey Hogg Believe I'll Change Towns Midnight Blues
Frankie Lee Sims She Like To Boogie Real Low4th & Beale And Further South
Frankie Lee Sims Walking With Frankie 4th & Beale And Further South
Lil Son Jackson Black and BrownRestless Blues - Volume 2
Lil Son Jackson Big Gun Blues Restless Blues - Volume 2
Smokey Hogg Pack Your GripMidnight Blues

Show Notes:

Today's show is the second of a series spotlighting some fine West Coast artists that I wanted to feature in more depth, the bulk form Texas and California, who cut sides for the myriad labels that popped up in the immediate port-war era. In California the blues thrived around around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. Many of the artists were transplanted Texans who had come to California during the war year to find jobs in the booming defense industry in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area. Today we spotlight four excellent down-home Texas artists: Frankie Lee Sims, Lil Son Jackson and Smokey Hogg, all who did the bulk of their recording for California labels and Lawyer Houston who spent time in Oklahoma and California and split his recordings between Dallas and Los Angeles.

I first heard Lawyer Houston on an Atlantic LP Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A. years ago and he’s a very appealing singer with a light tenor voice backing himself with some springy guitar work. Until recently nothing was known about him. Sometime before June 7th 1950, when Atlantic bought them, he recorded eight titles at Jim Beck's studio on Ross Avenue, Dallas. Beck was also from Marshall, so that may have been a factor. He cut another session in autumn 1953 in L.A. Two songs were issued from the Dallas session, the first as by Lawyer Houston, the second as by Soldier Boy Houston. In “Western Rider Blues” he sings “My name is Lawyer Houston and I'm a Private First Class” which turns out to be true.

Lawyer Daniel Houston was born in Marshall, Texas in 1917. He was inducted into the army in 1941 and served until 1946. He re-enlisted two months later and served until 1961. His songs “In The Army Since 1941” and “Lawton, Oklahoma Blues” are loosely autobiographical accounts of his time in the Philippines and Fort Sill near Lawton. As writer Neal Slavin notes: “Apart from their unusually informative lyrics, Houston's songs are notable for the springy rhythms with which he accompanies himself. In essence, his style is close to that of Lil' Son Jackson… …Two further songs,'Out In Califonia Blues' and 'Going To The West Coast', were prophetic; in the former, Houston announces his intention of going to Los Angeles' Central Avenue to stay at the Hotel Dunbar, after which 'I'm going out to Hollywood and become a movie star'. The move took place but the Army intervened. They needed him in Korea, where war broke out on June 25, 1950. At his second and Iast recording session, “Far East Blues” and “Leavin' Korea” indicate a familiarity with Korea and Japan which in this artist's case is virtual proof of his presence there."

Circa 1953/1954 Houston cut eight sides for the Hollywood label in Los Angeles with the sessions purchased by King Records. The sides were never issued and have been reissued for the first time, this year on the 2-CD Hollywood Blues on the JSP label. Houston's military service ended in December 1961 and he spent the rest of his Iife in various Californian communities, ending up in Lancaster, where he worked as a custodian at the California State Museum. He died of pulmonary disease on December 3, 1999. Houston's life story can be found in Blues & Rhythm magazine issue 215 written by Guido Van Rijn and Chris Smith.

For roughly a decade Smokey Hogg was a big seller, cutting a pile of records across numerous labels and retained a a loyal fan base among the black audiences who purchased his records, yet, among some blues collectors his esteem, shall we say,  is held in much lower regard. As Tony Rounce points out: "It's true that Smokey's unique, even eccentric sense of timing has always rendered him a cottonpatch apart from the majority of his peers. It's also true that many of his best records display an enjoyably ramshackle quality, which makes them sound like segments of a longer song, where his various producers just turned the tape machine on and off for when they decided they'd got enough on tape. (According to Modern Records boss Jules Bihari, that's more or less what often did happen, with Jules waving his arms frantically from the recording booth when he wanted Smokey to knock it on the head!)." Still, more often than not, Smokey put out some very appealing records, melding a rural Texas blues style with a more contemporary R&B combo sound with generally succesful results. Many of his songs reach back to the 30"s, no doubt his formative musical years, as he updates, borrows and adopts songs by Big Bill Broonzy, Peetie Wheatstraw,  John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson and others as well as contemporaries like Doctor Clayton. Little by little over the past few years, the Ace label has been restoring Smokey's reputation, issuing three CD's worth of material (over seventy songs), all with meticulous notes and featuring quite a bit of unissued material

Andrew "Smokey" Hogg was born in Cushing, Texas, in January of 1914. He grew up on the farm and was taught to play guitar by his father, Frank Hogg. While still in his teens he teamed up with the slide guitarist and vocalist B.K. Turner, aka Black Ace, and the pair travelled together playing the turpentine and logging camp circuit of country dance halls and juke joints that surrounded Kilgore, Tyler, Greenville and Palestine in East Texas. In 1937 Smokey Hogg and Black Ace were brought to Chicago, Illinois by Decca Records to record, and Hogg had his first record wwith "Family Trouble Blues b/w Kind Hearted Blues," released as by Andrew Hogg.  He did not make it back into a recording studio for over a decade. By the early 1940s he was married and making a good living busking around the Deep Ellum area of Dallas, Texas.

Hogg was drafted in the mid 1940s, and after a brief spell with the U.S. military he continued working in the Dallas area where he was becoming well known. In 1947 he came to the attention of Herb Ritter, boss of the Dallas-based record label Blue Bonnet Records, who recorded several sides with him and leased the masters to Modern Records. Hogg's first release on Modern was "Too Many Drivers b/w Country Girl", and was followed by "Unemployment Blues b/w Skinny Leg Woman." These racked up sufficient sales to encourage Modern Records to bring Hogg out to Los Angeles, California to cut more sides with their team of studio musicians that included Hadda Brooks on piano, Bill Davis on bass, and Al Wichard on drums. These sessions yielded his two biggest hits, "Long Tall Mama" in 1947 and "Little School Girl" (#9 U.S. R&B chart), in 1950. In early 1950 Hogg was fronting the Hadda Brooks trio, then later that year he led a new 7-piece combo on a West Coast tour.

Between 1947 and 1958 Smokey Hogg recorded several times a year, and cut several hundred sides for a number of labels, including Modern, Exclusive, Specialty, Macy's, Independent, Sittin In With, Jade, Recorded In Hollywood, Colony, Imperial, Mercury, Combo, Top Hat, Fidelity, Federal, Show Time, Crown, Meteor, Ray's and Ebb Records. Hogg's 1952 Recorded In Hollywood release of his two-part "Penitentiary Blues," a powerful retelling of the old Texas prison song "Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos," is is generally regraded as his finest performance. Hogg's country blues style, influenced by Broonzy, Peetie Wheatstraw and Black Ace, was popular with record buyers in the South during the late 1940s and early 1950s. He continued to work and record until the end of the 1950s, but died of cancer, or possibly a ruptured ulcer, on May 1, 1960.

Frankie Lee Sims c. 1969, photo by Chris Strachwitz

Frankie Lee Sims and his family moved to Marshall, Texas when he was ten years old. His father played guitar at home and at local parties, and Frankie Lee absorbed several tunes, although it seems he didn't take guitar at all seriously until later in his teens. In 1943 he took a job as a fourth grade elementary school teacher in East Texas. That continued until America's entry into the Second World War and his induction into the Marines. On his discharge some three years later he decided to be a musician and made his way to Dallas. There, he made the acquaintance of  T-Bone Walker and Smokey Hogg. He was playing with Smokey Hogg at the Empire Room when Blue Bonnet owner Herb Rippa saw their performance and offered each man a contract. In the event, Sims had two singles issued on Blue Bonnet but Hogg's single was leased to Bullet in Nashville. The following year Sims backed Lightnin' Hopkins on a handful of Gold Star sides. It wasn't until March 1953 that Sims recorded for the Specialty label as a leader. Three sessions were cut in Dallas, the last on February 5, 1954. Johnny Vincent was working as a talent scout for Specialty at the time, so it's likely he brought Sims to the label. One single was issued from each session and the first, "Lucy Mae Blues", was a local hit.

Three years after his last Specialty session, Johnny Vincent, now the mastermind behind Ace Records, contacted him about some sessions. First up was "What Will Lucy Do", a remodeled "Lucy Mae Blues" Next came "Walkin' With Frankie", an up-tempo romp apparently thrown together in the studio. "You don't please yourself, you please the public,' he told Chris Strachwitz. "Now we made (Hey Little Girl) for the hit but now we just bull-corning on this 'Walkin With Frankie' – we just having fun. I made more money out of 'Walkin' With Frankie' than any other record I ever made." Two other singles were issued without much success and Sims also backed Mercy Baby on a pair of singles. For many years, that seemed to be the end of Frankie Lee's recording career, until three battered acetates of material recorded at New York's Belvedere Studios sometime in 1959 or 1960 were found. It's thought Sims may have accompanied Lightnin' Hopkins to New York when the latter cut an album for Bobby Robinson. The results were issued in 1985. By then, Frankie Lee had been dead for fifteen years having died at his Dallas home on May 10,1970.

Melvin Jackson was born near Tyler, Texas in August of 1915. His father Johnny Jackson was a singer and musician and it was from him that he learned the foundation of guitar playing. At about the age of sixteen he left home and settled in Dallas. In the early nineteen forties Jackson began to concentrate on the blues. Jackson was almost thirty years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army served in Europe for two years during the war and in early 1946 returned to Dallas. In 1948 Jackson finally got serious about music and searched around for opportunities to present himself to record companies. Jackson's friends persuaded him to try his luck at an amusement gallery where they had a rather primitive recording machine. He made an acetate of  "Roberta" and "2:16 Blues", a song about "some girl", which he sent off to Bill Quinn who operated Quinn Recording Company in Houston, Texas. The company was interested in recording Texas blues for its Gold Star label, and it was here that Jackson made his debut in the summer of 1948. He was called "Lil' Son" Jackson by the label and the name would stick for the rest of his life. His very first recording was "Roberta Blues b/w Freedom Blues”, the latter becoming a national hit. That initial side was followed by "Ground Hog Blues b/w Bad Whiskey-Bad Women.”. He cut more sides for Gold Star in 1949 as well as for the Sittin' In With label and Modern.

In mid-1950 Lil' Son Jackson made the move to California's major independent label Imperial Records. He would remain with them for most of the decade. His initial recording for the label was "Ticket Agent Blues" and "True Love Blues." He would cut prolifically for the label through 1954 changing his sound by adding a small combo for backing. His "Rockin' and Rollin'," cut in December of 1950, became better known through a raft of subsequent covers as "Rock Me Baby." He gave up the blues during the mid-'50s after an auto wreck, resuming work as a mechanic. Arhoolie Records boss Chris Strachwitz convinced Jackson to cut an album in 1960, but his comeback proved fleeting. Jackson died May 30, 1976, in Dallas, TX, from cancer.

Related Items:

Chris  Strachwitz: Frankie Lee Sims Interview (Blues Unlimited #119) [PDF]

Chris  Strachwitz: Lil' Son Jackson (Jazz Report , 1961) [PDF]

Gary Paulsen: In Rememberance of Smokey Hogg (Blues Unlimited #55) [PDF]

Guido Van Rijn & Chris Smith: Lawyer Houston (Blues & Rhythm #239) [PDF]