Entries tagged with “Lil Son Jackson”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
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.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
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)

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
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]

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Mance LipscombFreddieTexas Songster
Big Joe WilliamsMean Step Father Tough Times
Robert Curtis SmithDon't Drive Me AwayArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Sam ChatmonI Have To Paint My Face I Have To Paint My Face
Lil Son JacksonI Walked From DallasBlues Come To Texas
Black Ace Golden Slipper I'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
Mercy Dee Lady LuckArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Alex MooreBoogieing In StrasbourgArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Lightnin' Sam Hopkins I Got a Brother in WaxahachieThe Hopkins Brothers
Lightnin' Sam Hopkins Meet You At The Chicken ShackTexas Blues
John JacksonBear Cat BluesDon't Let Your Deal Go Down
Bukka WhiteAlabama Blues Sky Songs
Fred McDowellWrite Me a Few LinesArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Clifton ChenierI'm A Hog For You60 Minutes With The King Of Zydeco
Blind James CampbellBaby Please Don't GoAnd His Nashville Street Band
Juke Boy BonnerGoin' Back To The Country Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Johnny LittlejohnDreamSlidin' Home
Johnny Young Wild, Wild Woman Johnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band
Earl Hooker Earl's Blues The Moon Is Rising
L.C. RobinsonUps And DownsUps And Downs
Big Mama ThorntonLittle Red Rooster In Europe
Bee HoustonThings Gonna Get BetterThe Hustler
Henry GrayThe Blues Won't Let Me Take My RestLouisiana Blues
Johnnie LewisHobo BluesAlabama Slide Guitar
Piano Red You Ain't Got A ChanceArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
David AlexanderSuffering With The Lowdown BluesThe Dirt On The Ground
Big Joe DuskinCincinnati StompCincinnati Stomp
K.C. DouglasYou're Crying Won't Make Me StayMercury Blues
J.C. Burris One Of These Mornings (I'm Checkin' Out)Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Furry LewisJudge Boushay BluesMemphis Swamp Jam

Show Notes:

Mr. Strachwitz in Arhoolie's record vault.
Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Arhoolie Records is celebrating its 50th year and I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a spotlight on the label who's records have been heard often on my show. Today's feature will obviously focus on the label's blues recordings. While the label reissued many vintage recordings and issued recordings made by others, most notably folklorist Harry Oster, today's focus will be on the recordings made specifically for the Arhoolie label itself. There's of course no way to do justice to the label in a two-hour show and I'll likely do a second installment down the road. The bulk of the Arhoolie catalog has been reissued on CD, almost always with bonus or unreleased tracks with the CD's often having a different title than the original LP's, sometimes combing multiple LP's onto one CD. On a related note I recently picked up a copy of the new Arhoolie 4-CD box set, Hear Me Howling!, which contains dozens of unreleased recordings and I'll be featuring cuts from this collection on an upcoming show.

Arhoolie Records was founded in 1960 and has issued some 400 albums and recorded more than 6,500 songs,the vast majority of which were captured by founder Chris Strachwitz himself. His field recordings have helped popularize numerous branches of Americana roots music, from Tex-Mex and Cajun to blues and folk. Strachwitz did many of his most important recordings with down home artists such as Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins and zydeco king Clifton Chenier on field trips through the South beginning 50 years ago. It was during his summer vacation of 1959 that Strachwitz used this trip as a pretense for his pilgrimage to see personal hero, Lightnin' Hopkins, in Houston. Seeing the legendary Texas bluesman on his home turf at watering holes such as Pop's Place and the Sputnik Club inspired him to begin his own label in earnest, although, ironically, he would not be able to record Lightnin' himself for a couple of years because he was "unaffordable." Arriving in Houston in the summer of 1960 for his second visit, he was disappointed that Hopkins, was back in California at a folk festival. Fortunately during the trip, with the aid of Mack McCormick,  he stumbled upon songster Mance Lipscomb. Lipscomb was recorded virtually on the spot, in his house. Texas Songster and Sharecropper became Arhoolie's first release as #1001 (the first of five volumes devoted to Lipscomb). Over the years the label has recorded a wide range of bluesmen such as Big Joe Williams, Black Ace, Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Johnny Young, L.C. Robinson, Earl Hooker, Big Mama Thornton and many others. Strachwitz's interest in recording blues waned by the late 60's and early 70's as he reflected: "I just found it didn't kick me in the ass like the old stuff did. I just found it formulaic." There were some later blues records including late 70's records by Charlie Musselwhite and The Charles Ford Band, a 1985 record by Katie Webster and a 1991 recording by pianist Dave Alexander.

Mance Lipscomb
Mance Lipscomb
Credit: Chris Strachwitz
 

Lipscomb was born April 9, 1895 to an ex-slave father from Alabama and a half Native American mother. Lipscomb spent most of his life working as a tenant farmer in Texas and was "discovered" and recorded by Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz in 1960. Lipscomb's name quickly became well known among blues and folk music fans. He appeared at the Texas Heritage Festival in Houston in 1960 and 1961, then capitalized on his California connection and made appearances for three years running (1961-63) at the large Berkeley Folk Festival held at the University of California. In between festival appearances he appeared at folk coffeehouses in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, and he made several more recordings for Arhoolie. In the late 1960s, as interest in the blues mounted, Lipscomb experienced still greater success. He appeared at the Festival of American Folklife, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1968 and 1970, and he performed at other large festivals, including the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1970 and the Monterey Jazz Festival in California in 1973. Among the many musicians who became Lipscomb fans was vocalist Frank Sinatra, who issued a Lipscomb recording, Trouble in Mind, on his Reprise label in 1970. Lipscomb passed in 1976.

Strachwitz finally managed to record Hopkins for his Arhoolie label in 1961 and recorded him sporadically through 1969. By the 60's Hopkins music was increasingly geared towards the new white audience that was embracing blues and this is reflected in the nearly dozen LP's he cut for the Bluesville label. His Arhoolie recordings from this period, however, hark back to the raw sound of his early records that first captured Strachwitz's attention. Hopkins cut several fine albums for Arhoolie including the self-titled Lightnin' Sam Hopkins, an album featuring one with Hopkins' brothers and the other with Barbara Dane, The Texas Bluesman, Lightning Hopkins in Berkeley and Po' Lightning.

In addition to Lipscomb and Hopkins, another major down home blues artist Strachwitz recorded was Fred McDowell.  In September, 1959, Alan Lomax encountered Fred McDowell, the greatest discovery of his famous "Southern journey." McDowell, for his part, was happy to have some sounds on records, but continued on with his farming and playing for tips outside of Stuckey’s candy store in Como for spare change. It wasn’t until Strachwitz came searching for McDowell to record him that the bluesman’s fortunes began to change dramatically. He recorded McDowell between 1964 and 1969 resulting in the albums Mississippi Delta Blues, Fred McDowell Vol. 2, Fred McDowell And His Blues Boys and  Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning.

It was through Lightnin' Hopkins that Strachwitz met Clifton Chenier, who would become the label's most recorded artist. "Ay Yi Yi"/"Why Did You Go Last Night?" was the initial single and in 1965 Arhoolie issued Chenier's full-length debut, Louisiana Blues and Zydeco. Although they continued to work together until the early '70s, Chenier and Strachwitz differed artistically. While Chenier wanted to record commercial-minded R&B, Strachwitz encouraged him to focus on traditional zydeco. The label issued over a dozen albums by Chenier including 1976's Bogalusa Boogie, with his new group, the Red Hot Louisiana Band which eventually garnered the album an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Chenier reached the peak of his popularity in the '80s. In 1983, he received a Grammy award for his album, I'm Here!, recorded in eight hours in Bogalusa, LA. The following year, he performed at the White House. Chenier passed in 1987.

Many of today's initial sides come from a fruitful meeting with blues historian Paul Oliver. As Strachwitz writes: "In the summer of 1960 I met up with British blues aficionado, author, and vernacular architecture scholar, Paul Oliver and his wife Valerie at the legendary Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN. Paul was making this trip, his first to the USA, to produce a series of radio programs to be broadcast by the BBC and interviewing historic blues musicians at the source was a major goal of his trip. Paul had sent me in advance a list of names of blues singers who had recorded in Dallas and Fort Worth in the 1920s and ’30s, hoping I would perhaps do a little research on my way to Texas from the West Coast. Driving with Bob Pinson (now of the Country Music Foundation Library) into Texas, we both made many inquiries which led to meeting Lil’ Son Jackson and Black Ace, a singer who accompanied himself on a National steel guitar. With Mack McCormick I was fortunate to meet and record the remarkable Mance Lipscomb and later on the return trip to the West Coast with Paul, we also met Alex Moore in Dallas, an extraordinary character and pianist from the early era in blues history, as well as many other artists in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

In addition to the above mentioned Alex Moore, Strachwitz recorded several fine pianists over the years like Mercy Dee Walton, Piano Red, Dave Alexander (who later changed his name to Omar Sharriff) and Big Joe Duskin. Walton was from Texas who had played piano around Waco from the age of 13 before hitting the coast in 1938. Once there, the pianist gigged up and down the length of the Golden State before debuting on record in 1949 with "Lonesome Cabin Blues" for the tiny Spire logo, which became a national R&B hit. He cut sessions for Imperial in 1950 and Specialty in 1952-53. After a lengthy layoff, Walton returned to the studio in 1961, recording prolifically for Arhoolie (some of this material ended up on the Bluesville album A Pity And A Shame). Walton passed in 1962.

Piano Red was Willie Perryman, the much younger, brother of Rufus Perryman aka Speckled Red. His career started with a bang when he sold an alleged million copies of "Red's Boogie/'Rockin' With Red" in 1951. He hit a second time with "Dr. Feelgood" and he took the name for his own. Strachwitz pried Red loose from his band and recorded him alone at the piano in 1972 resulting in the album Piano Red: "Dr. Feelgood" All Alone With His Piano.

Omar Shariff is a Texas-born pianist who moved to the San Francisco area in the '60s. He made two excellent albums in the 70's for Arhoolie in 1972 as Dave Alexander (The Rattler and The Dirt On The Ground), then  disappeared from the recording world for twenty years. Alexander (now as Omar Shariff) made a final recording for the label in 1991 titled The Raven which contains seven tracks form his earlier Arhoolie albums.

In his younger days Joe Duskin performed in clubs in Cincinnati and across the river in Newport, Kentucky. While serving in the US Army in World War II, he continued to play and, in entertaining the US forces, met his idols Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. In the early 1970's Duskin began playing the piano at festivals in the US and across Europe. By the late 70's,  with the reputation for his concert playing now growing, his first recording, Cincinnati Stomp, was released on Arhoolie Records featuring recording sessions done in 1977 and 1978. He recorded several more albums before passing in 2007.

Strachwitz made some superb urban blues records in the late 60's and early 70's. As he  wrote: "As Back in 1968, I told Buddy Guy, who was playing in a Berkeley club, that I was interested in recording his favorite neglected giants of Chicago Blues. I had met Buddy in Europe while touring with the American Folk Blues Festival and found him to be a tasteful and exciting player (and one of the nicest people I ever met). Buddy's prompt response was: Earl Hooker and John Littlejohn! " Hooker was recorded in 1968 and 1069 resulting the excellent Two Bugs And A Roach featuring Freddie Roulette, Louis Myers, Pinetop Perkins, Carey Bell and Andrew Odom. The posthumous Hooker and Steve (recorded in 1969)  came out in 1975 featuring keyboardist Steve Miller. In 1998 Arhoolie issued the CD The Moon Is Rising which contained the entirety of Hooker and Steve plus some unreleased live recordings. Johnny Littlejohn's discography is frustratingly inconsistent but hands down his Arhoolie album, 1968's John Littlejohn's Chicago Blues Stars (issued on CD as Slidin' Home), is his best outing.

Strachwitz also recorded Chicago bluesman Johnny Young. He was recorded at two sessions in '65. Producer Pete Welding surrounded him with the best that Chicago had to offer, including two thirds of the then Muddy Waters Band of 1965: Otis Spann, SP Leary, Jimmy Cotton with Jimmy Lee Morris on bass, and for a '67 session, Walter Horton, Jimmy Dawkins, Lafayette Leake, Ernie Gatewood on bass and Lester Dorsie on drums. The sessions resulted in the albums Johnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band and Johnny Young And Big Walter: Chicago Blues. The CD Johnny Young – Chicago Blues contains the entirety of the former and most of the latter album.

Also recorded were a some tough West Coast artists: L.C. Robinson,  Bee Houston and Big Mama Thornton. Robinson was born and raised in east Texas, and later relocated to California. Robinson played guitar and fiddle, but he was really known for his incredible steel guitar style. On one of his Arhoolie sessions he is backed by the Muddy Waters band, on another by his own trio issued on the alum Ups And Downs (issued on CD as Mojo In My Hand which includes an unissued radio performance). His only other full length session was House Cleanin' Blues for the Bluesway label in the early 70's.

Texas born, Los Angeles blues guitarist Bee Houston became known as Big Mama Thornton's guitarist during the waning years of her career. He cut his lone album, The Hustler,  for Arhoolie in the 70's. The CD version contains not only the entire LP but also most of a second, earlier but unissued session.

Big Mama Thornton was recorded on October 20, 1965, at Wessex Studio in London, England resulting in the album In Europe (the CD version contains six extra sides) featuring Eddie Boyd, Buddy Guy, Big Walter Horton, Fred Below and Jimmy Lee Robinson. Big Mama Thornton Vol. 2: The Queen At Monterey (reissued on CD as Big Mama Thornton – With the Muddy Waters Blues Band, 1966 with seven extra cuts)was recorded in 1966 backed by the Muddy Waters band: James Cotton,  Otis Spann,  Muddy Waters, Sammy Lawhorn, Luther Johnson and Francis Clay.

Some of the other Arhoolie artists featured today include John Jackson, James Campbell, K.C. Douglas and J.C. Burris. For much of his life, John Jackson played for country house parties in Virginia, or around the house for his own amusement. Then in the ’60s he encountered the folk revival, becoming the Washington, D.C. area’s best-loved blues artist. He made his debut in 1965 for Arhoolie with Blues and Country Dance Tunes From Virginia followed by Country Blues & Ditties and John Jackson In Europe.

A bluesy group of street musicians from Nashville, Tennessee, James Campbell and his group played a hybrid of hillbilly, jazz, blues, old time popular, skiffle, and jug band elements. This assemblage of street musicians was originally recorded in 1963 and issued on the album as Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band. The band worked road houses, on the streets of Nashville, at parties, a well as other social functions.

Born and raised on a family farm near Sharon, MS, K.C. Douglas was deeply influenced by the 1920's recordings of Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. Relocating to Vallejo, CA, in 1945, Douglas found employment in the naval shipyards. Within a couple of years, he gravitated to the San Francisco/Oakland blues scene. His first recordings were issued on the Oakland-based Downtown label in 1948.He cut some of his best sides for Bluesville in the 60's as well as scattered sides for Arhoolie. In 1974 he the album The Country Boy for the label and issued on CD in 1998 as Mercury Blues with many unreleased tracks.

The nephew of Sonny Terry, Johnny "J.C." Burris was also a blues harmonica player, though he didn't record too much. Burris did some performing in New York in the 1950's and worked on recording sessions with Terry, Sticks McGhee, and other artists on Folkways Records. At the end of the decade, he relocated to California, finding some work in folk clubs in San Francisco before a stroke in 1966 robbed him of his use of his right side. Several years later, he regained his mobility on his right side, and in 1973, he began performing again, recording some solo unaccompanied material in 1975-1976 that appears on Arhoolie's Blues Professor album. He continued playing at schools, clubs, and festivals until his death in 1988.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Jim & Bob (The Genial Hawaiians)St. Louis BluesCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Little Hat JonesRollin' From Side To SideBuddy Boy Hawkins & His Buddies
Ed BellSquabblin BluesThe Best There Ever Was
Saunders King Stormy Night BluesSaunders King 1948-54
Pee Wee CraytonI Love Her Still Blues After Dark
Lowell Fulson I'm A Night Owl, Part 1Lowell Fulson 1949-51
Ivory Joe HunterLandlord BluesIvory Joe Hunter 1947
Rev. Gary DavisNobody Don't Care For MeAt Home and Church: 1962-1967
Rev. Gary DavisLord, I Looked Down The RoadSay No To The Devil
Rev. Gary DavisMister Jim aka Walkin' Dog BluesGuitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis
Junior Kimbrough Lonesome In My HomeFirst Recordings
K.C. DouglasI'm Gonna Build Me A WebMercury Blues
Lil' Son JacksonBlues Come to TexasBlues Come to Texas
Edith WilsonHe Used To Be Your Man But He's My Man NowJohnny Dunn Vol. 2 1922-1928
Edith WilsonMistreatin' BluesHe May Be Your Man (But He Comes To See Me Sometimes
Baby TateYou Can Always Tell Another Man Done Gone
Furry Lewis Paer LeeLive At The Gaslight
Henry Townsend Hard Luck Story Hard Luck Stories
'Little' Laura Dukes Stack O' Lee BluesTennessee Blues Vol.1
'Little' Laura Dukes Bricks In My PillowTennessee Blues Vol.1
Tarter & GaryBrownie BluesVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Jaydee ShortBarefoot BluesThe Best There Ever Was
St. Louis Jimmy Stay Up All Night After Hours
Mickey CooperI Had A Dream Last NightSwing Time Shouters Vol. 1
Washboard Sam & Big Bill Broonzy By MyselfWashboard Sam & Big Bill Broonzy
Jo Jo Williams You Can't Live In This Big World By Yourself Chicago Ain't Nothin' But A Blues Band
Booker T. SappsThe Weeping Worry Blues Red River Blues 1934-1943
James Henry DiggsPoor Boy Long Way From HomeVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Fred McDowellGoin' Down to the RacesRoots Of The Blues
Clara Smith Jelly Bean BluesClara smith Vol. 4 1926-1927
Alberta Hunter If You Can't Hold The Man You Love (Don't Cry When He's Gone) Female Blues: The Remaining Titles Vol. 1
Juke Boy Bonner B.U. Blues Things Ain't Right

Show Notes:

I enjoy taking a break from the theme shows and put together these mix shows, which usually reflect records I've been listening to that don't fit into the other programs. We span a sizable chunk of blues history today, playing tracks spanning from 1922 to 1981. Along the way we hear multiple tracks by Rev. Gary Davis, Edith Wilson, Laura Dukes plus some vintage West Coast blues, plenty of pre-war blues and some terrific latter day down-home blues records.

We spin a trio of sides by the magnificent guitarist Rev. Gary Davis. Thankfully Davis recorded prolifically in the post-war years starting with a few scattered sides in the 1940's, more in the 1950's and really picking up steam in the 1960's. A pleasant surprise in recent years are the number of unreleased Davis sides that have surfaced. Just in the last few years the following have been released: At Home and Church: 1962-1967 (3-CD), Live at Gerde's Folk City (3-CD), If I Had My Way: Early Home RecordingsDemons and Angels: The Ultimate Collection (3-CD), Sun of Our Life – Solos, Songs, A Sermon, 1955-1957 and Document’s Reverend Gary Davis: Manchester Free Trade Hall 1964.

Gary Davis was a major influence on Blind Boy Fuller. In the late 1920's he was one of the most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar. He backed Fuller on second guitar at a 1935 session. Davis moved to Durham in the mid-’20s, by which time he was a full-time street musician. Davis went into the recording studio for the first time in the 1930?s with the backing of a local businessman. Davis cut a mixture of blues and spirituals for the American Record Company label, but there was never an agreement about payment for the recordings, and following these sessions, it was 19 years before he entered the studio again. Today we spin the gorgeous "Nobody Don't Care For Me" from At Home and Church: 1962-1967 the second 3-CD collection of recordings made by Stefan Grossman who was a student of Davis. The other tracks come from his studio albums; "Lord, I Looked Down The Road" comes from Say No To The Devil while "Mister Jim aka Walkin' Dog Blues"comes from Guitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis.

After working in vaudeville with her pianist brother Danny Wilson, Edith Wilson rose to prominence in 1921 when she replaced Mamie Smith in Perry Bradford's musical revue "Put And Take." Bradford arranged for her to begin recording with Columbia in 1921. She cut just under three-dozen sides between 1921 and 1930. Wilson recorded far less than other female blues stars of the 1920's like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. She could sing the blues but she was more of a  nightclub and theater singer and worked for years on the New York entertainment scene. She retired from active performance in 1963, but made a comeback in 1973 to play with Eubie Blake, Little Brother Montgomery and others. In 1977 she recorded one of her finest efforts, He May Be Your Man (But He Comes to See Me Sometimes) with Little Brother Montgomery for the Delmark label. Her last live show was given at the 1980 Newport Jazz Festival. She passed the following year. From 1922 we hear Wilson delivering a spirited version of "He Used To Be Your Man But He's My Man Now" featuring the outstanding trumpeter Johnny Dunn. Fifty years down the line Wilson remains in vigorous and sassy form as we hear on "Mistreatin' Blues."

Little Laura Dukes with Robert Burse, Dick Rowles, Louis Allen, Wilfred Bell and Will Batts 1930's

A lifelong Memphis muscian, Laura Dukes was known as "Little Laura" or "Little Bit" for her diminutive stature. Her father, who played drums for W.C. Handy's band, put Dukes on the stage by the time she was five years old, where she proved to be a fine singer and performer. During the 1920's and 1930's, she performed for medicine shows, carnivals, and circuses. She also regularly performed on Beale Street during those years. Also during this time, she met the bluesman, Robert Nighthawk and the two spent several years traveling together and performing. She became a regular performer around Beale Street with the Memphis Jug Band, along with Will Shade and Will Batts. In 1954 she made some recordings with Will Batts and for the Albatross label in in 1972 and appeared in the BBC-TV documentary The Devil's Music – A History of the Blues. Dukes passed in 1992. From the album Tennessee Blues Vol.1 we hear Dukes in great form playing solo, flailing away on her ukulele and singing magnificently on "Stack O' Lee Blues" and "Bricks In My Pillow", the latter number likely learned from Robert Nighthawk who cut the song in 1952.

I've long been a fan of the West Coast blues sound of the 40's and 50's, devoting several shows to the region, and today we spin four in a row by men who found fame in the land of opportunity. I've been listening quite a bit to pioneering R&B guitarist Saunders King. King had his first hit in 1942 with "S.K. Blues." In 1938 he began playing guitar and wound up singing with the Southern Harmony Four for an NBC radio station in San Francisco. He soon developed his passion for blues and "S.K. Blues" was an enormous hit. It also features one of the earliest examples of electric blues guitar. King recorded for the Aladdin, Modern, and Rhythm labels. He may have made a greater impact in the burgeoning West Coast blues scene of the '40s but was saddled with numerous personal problems including the suicide of his wife in 1942, a serious wound from a .45-caliber pistol fired by his landlord in 1946, and his serving time at San Quentin prison for heroin possession. King retired from music in 1961 and dedicated time to the church. He passed away on August 31, 2000 at his Oakland home. He was 91. Outside of two 1961 tracks, all of King's recordings can be found on two volumes on the Classics label.

We feature two other West Coast guitar slingers, Lowell Fulson and Pee Wee Crayton. We turn to 1950 to hear Fulson's elegant, moody "I'm a Night Owl, Part 1" part of a session that also produced the masterpieces "Lonesome Christmas, Pt. 1 & 2" and " Sinner's Prayer." Not a bad day's work! We jump ahead to 1957 to hear Pee Wee Crayton's "I Love Her Still", a lesser known gem he cut for Vee-Jay.

We feature several fine pre-war blues performances including a pair of 1926 tracks by Alberta Hunter and Clara Smith. Hunter would become one of Paramount’s top sellers and her releases were given full-page ads in the Chicago Defender. According to Paramount historian Alex van der Tuuk, Hunter “had been working for a couple of years at the Dreamland Theater in Chicago and had started her recording career with Black Swan in New York, but had become disenchanted with them because they did so little to ptomote her records in contrast with the big buildup they were affording Ethel Waters.” She switched to Paramount in 1922 where her recordings launched Paramount’s 1200 race series." Hunter's records are decidedly mixed, lacking in the feeling and earthiness of her contemporaries. There are times, usually when she has suitable accompanists, that she sings with conviction as on our selection, the rousing  "If You Can't Hold The Man You Love (Don't Cry When He's Gone)." Clara Smith got on record two years after Hunter, although she was a headliner on the TOBA circuit by 1918. She was a terrific all around blues singer who recorded prolifically between 1923 and 1932. The mournful "Jelly Bean Blues" is sung with great feeling as Smith sings a tale no doubt her female listeners could relate to:

Days coming, days go, but my work is never done (2x)
I have to get up every morning, with the rising sun
That road is narrow and it's crooked, lead to you don't no where (2x)
It's hard for a honest girl, to make her way up there
All these so called sweet and pretty men, please take them away
(2x)
All they want to do, to lead some poor gal astray
Some are like jelly beans, so cute and so sweet (2x)
I carry carbolic acid, for everyone of them I meet

In addition to the ladies we play some superb bluesmen. We open up with an unusual number, a stunning instrumental version of "St. Louis Blues" by Jim & Bob (The Genial Hawaiians). Unfortunately very little is known about Jim and Bob. They performed on the radio in Chicago and made a handful of impressive recordings that were released in the 1930's. "St. Louis Blues" appears to be the only blues the duo ever recorded (the flip side, "Hula Blues", is not a blues). From the same opening set we hear the fleet fingered "Rollin' From Side To Side" form Little Hat Jones. Also worth mentioning is Jaydee Short's tough "Barefoot Blues" that has one of the great opening monologues in the blues: "Now mama let's get stomp barefooted and get drunk and run. Because I'm a hard working man you think I'm gonna be your slave for you all my life. And you know (?) don't have to treat a good man right." The Jaydee Short track comes from The Best There Ever Was, an unbeatable collection of country blues on Yazoo with unsurpassed mastering. Also from that collection we spin Ed Bell's "Squabblin Blues."

There's some great down-home blues on today's program including a track from Junior Kimbrough's first session and a live recording of Furry Lewis. In 1966 Junior Kimbrough traveled to Memphis from his home in North Mississippi and recorded for noted R&B/Gospel producer and owner of the Goldwax record label, Quinton Claunch. Kimbrough recorded one session but Claunch declined to release the recordings, deeming them too country. Forty some years later, Bruce Watson of Big Legal Mess Records approached Claunch to buy the original master tapes and the rights to release the recordings which have been released as First Recordings. Kimbrough made a name for himself with some fine down-home blues recordings for Fat Possum in the 90's before passing in 1998.

I was digging through my records recently and stumbled across the Furry Lewis album Live At The Gaslight At The Au Go Go. This is warm, well recorded album cut in August 1971 and captures Furry in fine form. Our track, "Paer Lee", a misspelling of "Pearlee", is gorgeous slide number. Furry cut the number at his 1959 self titled comeback album for Folkways.

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