Entries tagged with “Louis Armstrong”.

Magic Slim She Is Mine 45
Magic Slim Scufflin Grand Slam
Alberta Brown How LongI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 2
Monette Moore Black Sheep BluesMonette Moore Vol. 2 1924-1932
Jenny Pope Bullfrog BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 4 1929-1953
Louis Armstrong Blues for Yesterday C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Louis Armstrong Back o' Town BluesC'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Frank Tannehill Rolling Stone BluesRare Country Blues Vol. 4 1929-c.1953
Tommy McLennan Baby, Please Don't Tell On Me Bluebird Recordings 1939-1942
Washboard SamEvil BluesRockin' My Blues Away
Fluffy Hunter Hi Jinks BluesTough Mamas
Madonna Martin Rattlesnakin' Daddy Tough Mamas
James Russell I Had Five Long YearsPrison Worksongs
Big Joe Williams These Are My Blues (Gonna Sing ´Em For Myself)These Are My Blues
Blind Arvella GrayWalking BluesBlues From Maxwell Street
Precious Bryant Precious Bryant's Staggering BluesNational Downhome Blues Festival Vol. 1
Precious Bryant That's The Way The Good Thing Go George Mitchell Collection Box Set
'Talking' Billy Anderson Lonely Bill Blues The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Blind Willie McTell Stole Rider BluesBest Of
Charley JordanHunkie Tunkie Blues Charley Jordan Vol.1 1930-1931
Teddy Darby She Thinks She's Slick Blind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Zuzu Bollin Headlight BluesR&B Guitars 1950-1954
Jimmy Babyface Lewis Last NightComplete Recordings 1947-1955
Big Joe Turner Wine-O-Baby BoogieTell Me Pretty Baby
Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette & Jimmy Witherspoon Geneva BluesCake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948
Lee Roy LittleI''m a Good Man But a Poor Man Blues From The Apple
Charlie SaylesVietnamThe Raw Harmonica Blues Of
Johnny MomentKeep Our Business To YourselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Robert Pete Williams Freight-Train Blues Louisiana Blues
Hammie NixonViola Lee Blues 2Way Back Yonder Vol. 1
Eugene Powell Poor Boy Blues Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Magic Slim Stranded On The HighwayLiving Chicago Blues Vol. II
Magic Slim Ain't Doing Too BAdRaw Magic

Show Notes:

Magic Slim
Magic Slim

It seems these mix show end up as tributes to an increasing number of blues artists who've passed recently. This time out we pay our respects to Magic Slim and Precious Bryant. Along the way we spin a pair of bluesy numbers by Louis Armstrong, play a few sets of pre-war blues, spotlight some interesting field recordings as well as some jump blues from the post-war era.

I was lucky enough to catch Magic Slim on several occasions and he always delivered the goods, which is to say a good dose of gutbucket blues. After battling health problems Slim passed at the age of 75 on Feb. 21st. His mentor was Magic Sam, whom he knew as a child in Mississippi and who offered early encouragement. “Magic Sam told me don’t try to play like him, don’t try to play like nobody,” he once recalled. “Get a sound of your own.” It was also Magic Sam who gave a teenager named Morris Holt the stage name Magic Slim when the two performed together in Chicago in the 1950's. He recorded his first single, “Scufflin’,” in 1966 and formed the Teardrops with his younger brothers a year later. Magic Slim and the Teardrops eventually became the house band at a local nightclub, Florence’s. They went on to tour and record regularly, headlining blues festivals all over the world, and to win numerous awards, including the 2003 Blues Music Award as band of the year. Magic Slim recorded prolifically, cutting his first album for the French MCM label in 1977 with follow-ups on labels like Blind Pig, Alligator and Wolf. Among my personal favorites of Slim voluminous discography would be Grand Slam (Rooster), Raw Magic (Alligator) and the series on Wolf titled Live At The Zoo Bar (five vols. I think?) which really capture Slim and the Teardrops in prime form.

Unfortunately I never got to see Precious Bryant who passed away on January 12th. She was born in Talbot County, GA and went on to play numerous festivals including the Chattahoochee Folk Festival, the National Down Home Blues Festival in Atlanta (recordings by her appear on the companion albums), the King Biscuit Blues, Newport Folk Festival, Utrecht Blues Festival in Utrecht, Holland and others. She never went on tour and didn't release an album until Fool Me Good in 2002 although a few scattered sides were recorded in the field by George Mitchell. It was Mitchell, who discovered her in 1969 while documenting the lower Chattahoochee scene. She cut a follow-up album, The Truth, in 2005 and the same year cut an album on the Music Maker label.

Precious Bryant
Precious Bryant

When not listening to blues I do listen to quite a bit of jazz, particularly the older stuff, and have listened to Louis Armstrong's hot Fives and Hot Sevens countless times. I suspect, like many, I haven't really listened to many of his recordings after this period. Some time back I picked up the 4-CD box set C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties on the Proper label which is where today's tracks come from. Satchmo set the bar so high on those early recordings they're pretty much unsurpassable but this set very worthwhile.  Lots of good stuf from big band sides, duets with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and great live recordings from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall with the All Stars. One of the songs, "Back o' Town Blues", was first recorded as an instrumental by the Original Memphis Five in 1923 on the Edison label.

From the pre-war era we spin some fine blues ladies including Monette Moore and Jenny Pope plus obscure male artists such as Frank Tannehill and 'Talking' Billy Anderson. Moore began her career accompanying silent films in Kansas City and then toured the vaudeville circuit as a pianist and singer. In the early 1920's she made her way to New York and became active in musical theater. Her recording career began in 1923. In 1927 and 1928 she was singing with Walter Page's Blue Devils in the mid-West. She returned to New York in 1929 and was very active in musical theater and cabaret work until the late 1930's. In the early 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles and performed in clubs, recorded with Teddy Bunn and the Harmony Girls and had small parts in a couple of films. From 1951 to 1953 she appeared on the Amos 'n Andy television program and recorded with George Lewis. Moore passed in 1962. From 1925 we spin her "Black Sheep Blues" (Virginia Liston cut the same song a few months later) which is not the same song as Pigmeat Terry cut in 1935 but offers a similar sentiment:

When you're thinking of black sheep
Just take a look at me
I'm the blackest of black sheep
That ever left old Tennessee

Lord from the straight and narrow path I've strayed
From the straight and narrow path I've strayed
With regrets and sorrows I have paid

Just a black sheep roamin' round the town (2x)
Like a tramp I'm always out and down

While Moore cut some fifty sides during her prime Jenny Pope was much less documented. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Pope delivers a great performance on "Bull Frog Blues", not to be confused with the William Harris song of the same name, with great piano playing from Judson Brown.

Little is known about Frank Tannehill and Billy Anderson. A pianist from Dallas, Texas Frank Tannehill backed Pere Dickson on his two 1932 recordings made in his hometown. Tannehill began his own recording career with two songs recorded in Chicago in 1937. 1938 found him in a San Antonio studio waxing four more songs. His third and final session was in 1941 in Dallas for a four song session. He was never heard from again. Nothing is known about Billy Anderson, other than the fact that two records were recorded under his name in 1927 and that he may have been from Georgia.

Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Read Back Cover

Moving up the 1940's we spin some fine jump blues from ladies like Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin as well as Big Joe Turner and Al Wichard among others. Krazy Kat was a great British label that put out some really interesting anthologies. From the aptly title Tough Mamas we spin rocking tracks from Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin. Big Joe Turner's jumping  "Wine-O-Baby Boogie" features the mighty Pete Johnson on piano and comes from the album Tell Me Pretty Baby a fine collection of late 40's sides issued on Arhoolie.  Al Wichard's "Geneva Blues" features Jimmy Witherspoon on vocals. Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on August 15th, 1919 but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern’s first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks. Wichard's is collected on the reissue on Ace, Cake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948.

Last week I did a whole show devoted to great out-of-print records and today we feature a couple from the Albatros label: Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues and Way Back Yonder Vol. 1. Albatros is an interesting label that has not been all that well served on CD. The label was active from the early 70's through the early 80's issuing reissues of pre-war recordings, folk material and most interestingly, to me anyway, is several volumes of field recordings by label owner Gianni Marcucci. Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings  between 1976 and 1978 in Tennessee and Mississippi. Several of these collections have long been out-of-print including all three volumes of the Way Back Yonder series, the collections Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee and I Got The Blues This Morning and single artists albums by Eugene Powell (Police In Mississippi), Carey Tate (Blues From The Heart) and Jack Owens (Bentonia Country Blues). A while back Marcucci formed the Mbirafon imprint which so far has issued collections of field recordings of Sam Chatmon and Van Hunt. I've heard through the grapevine there was a Eugene Powell 2-CD planned. The label hasn't issued anything in awhile and I wouldn't be surprised if Marcucci got discouraged due to general lack of interest in these kinds of project. I, for one, hope he forges ahead. I should also mention that are three Albatros collections available on CD: Tennessee Blues Vol. 1, 2, and 3 which have very good performances from Laura Dukes, Dewey Corley, Bukka White and others.

Ida Cox I Got The Blues For Rampart Street The Essential
Bertha Chippie Hill Pratt City BluesHow Low Can You Go?: Anthology of the String Bass
Victoria SpiveyBlack Snake SwingMen Are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969
Harlem Hamfats Oh Red!Harlem Hamfats Vol. 11936
Brown Bombers of Swing (Casey Bill Weldon) Walkin' In My SleepCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 3 1937-1938
Frankie "Half-Pint" JaxonDown At Jasper's Bar-B-QueFrankie 'Half-Pint' Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-1929
Laura Smith Don't Leave Me HereLaura Smith Vol. 1 1924-1927
Sippie WallaceI'm A Mighty Tight Woman First Time I Met the Blues (When the Sun Goes Down series)
Rosetta HowardMen Are Like Street CarsMen Are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969
Texas Alexander Tell Me Woman BluesTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peetie Wheatstraw Gangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Wingy Carpenter Preachin' Trumpet Blues
Jazzin' The Blues Vol. 2 1939-1946
Oliver Cobb Cornet Pleading Blues Male Blues Of The Twenties
Blind John DavisJersey Cow BluesBlind John Davis 1938-1952
Edna Winston I Got A Mule To RideLeona Williams & Edna Winston 1922-1927
Edith Wilson He Used To Be Your Man But He's My Man NowJohnny Dunn Vol. 1 1921-1922
Mamie SmithGoin' Crazy With The BluesJazz The World Forgot Vol. 1
Blind BlakeCC Pill Blues All The Published Sides
Frenchy's String BandTexas And Pacific BluesSunshine Special: Texas 1927-1929
Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals & Papa Charlie JacksonSalty DogBreaking Out of New Orleans 1922-1929
Louis Armstrong & The Hot FivesI'm Not Rough The Complete Hot Five And Hot Seven Recordings
Original Washboard Band & Julie Davis Jasper Taylor BluesJohnny Dodds 1927-1928
Oscar "Papa" Celestin & Sam MorganShort Dress GalBreaking Out of New Orleans 1922-1929
Elizabeth Johnson Empty Bed Blues Part 1American Primitive Vol. 1
Sara Martin Death Sting Me BluesSara Martin Vol. 4 1925-1928
Teddy PetersGeorgia ManKing Oliver: Sugar Foot Stomp
Hot Lips Page Down On The LeveeHot Lips Page: 1938-1940
Washboard Rhythm KingsI'm Gonna Play Down by the OhioWashboard Rhythm Kings Vol. 2 1932
Ben NorsingleRover's BluesSunshine Special: Texas 1927-1929
Joe PullumWoman Trouble BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 2 1935-1951
Bessie SmithGimmie A Pigfoot Bessie Smith Volume 8 (Frog)
Trixie SmithMy Daddy Rocks MeTrixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1929
Ma RaineyYonder Comes The BluesMother Of The Blues

Show Notes:

Today show is call Jazzin' The Blues and as the title suggests, we explore the jazzy side of early blues recordings and the bluesy side of jazz. Not surprisingly we play a number of women blues singers of the 1920's who were often backed by jazz bands. When Mamie Smith cut “Crazy Blues”, the first recorded blues by a black singer, her band was called the Jazz Hounds. Following in that tradition, singers like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Victoria Spivey were often paired with top flight jazz musicians such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, Coleman Hawkins and others. As the era of the classic woman blues singers faded the men gained the spotlight, first playing and singing solo, then evolving to bigger bands that often included horns and elements of jazz and swing. Many of the jazz outfits of this period incorporated plenty of blues and today we hear the bluesier side of artists such as Louis Armstrong, Hot Lips Page, Freddie Keppard and others.

Throughout today's backing band are quite a few jazz luminaries who backed the classic blues ladies of the 1920's. We spin several sides today featuring King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. King Oliver made his landmark recordings in 1923 with his Creole Jazz Band featuring his protege Louis Armstrong,  clarinetist Johnny Dodds, trombonist Honore Dutrey, pianist Lil Harden, and drummer Baby Dodds. Oliver continued to make recordings through 1931 although he seemed to fade from the spotlight not long after his initial recordings. From May to December, 1928, Oliver did some 22 sessions with his old friend, Clarence Williams, who had played with him around Louisiana and who had manged clubs like the Big 25 and Pete Lala's. Williams had become a music publisher, entrepreneur and early A&R man around New York. Seeing Oliver down on his luck, Williams used him as a backup player for several blues singers. Prior to 1928 Oliver had accompanied artists such as Butterbeans & Susie in 1924 ("Kiss Me Sweet b/w Construction Gang"), Sippie Wallace in 1925 ("Morning Dove Blues b/w "Every Dog Has His Day" and "Devil Dance Blues"), Teddy Peters ("Georgia Man"), Irene Scruggs ("Home Town Blues b/w Sorrow Valley blues"), Georgia Taylor in 1926 ("Jackass Blues") plus several others.

Among the notable recordings of 1928 included six sides backing Sara Martin including the superb "Death Sting Me Blues" which features a suitably mournful solo from Oliver plus equally fine playing on "Mean Tight Mama" and "Mistreating Man Blues."  His two numbers with Texas Alexander, "Tell Me Woman Blues b/w Frisco Train Blues," work surprising well with Oliver playing some beautiful, sympathetic fills on both numbers offset by the elegant guitar work of Eddie Lang. Lang and Oliver also back Victoria Spivey on "My Handy Man b/w Organ Grinder Blues" although Oliver is less prominent. Among the best recordings from this period are his backing of the terrific Elizabeth Johnson, an obscure singer who waxed only four sides at two session in 1928. "Empty Bed Blues Part 1 & 2" has Johnson's expressive vocals finding a marvelous counterpoint in Oliver's earthy responses.

In the early 1990's the Affinity label issued the comprehensive Louis Armstrong And The Blues Singers 1924-1930, a six CD set that I believe covers all the sessions Armstrong did backing blues singers. During 1924-26 (and to a lesser extent 1927-30) Armstrong made many recordings other than his own sessions, arranged by an old friend from New Orleans, pianist Clarence Williams Those he backed include some of the era's best woman blues singers like a Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Bessie Smith, Clara Smith and Victoria Spivey. We also spin the marvelous  "I'm Not Rough" as recorded by Louis Armstrong & The Hot Fives featuring Lonnie Johnson.  This is the final recording session with the "classic" Hot Five lineup (plus Lonnie Johnson). Hereafter, the "Hot Five" would be whoever Armstrong happened to be recording with.

Other classic jazz artists who appear more than once on today's program are Freddie Keppard and Johnny Dodds. After playing with the Olympia Orchestra Keppard joined Frankie Dusen's Eagle Band, taking the place recently vacated by Buddy Bolden. Soon after Bolden was off the music scene Keppard was proclaimed "King Keppard" as the city's top horn player. About 1914 Joe "King" Oliver won a musical "cutting contest" and claimed Keppard's crown. Keppard made recordings in Chicago between 1924 and 1927 including two versions of "Salty Dog", which we feature today,  from 1926 featuring Papa charlie Jackson. Jackson first cut the song in 1924 which made him a recording star. We also hear him back Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon on the rollicking "Down At Jasper's Bar-B-Que." Jaxon was a vaudeville singer, comedian and female impersonator. He traveled extensively throughout the United States between 1916 and 1921 and in the early 1920's he often appeared on the bill with King Oliver and Freddie Keppard in Chicago. Throughout the rest of the 1920's and 1930's he continued to tour the vaudeville circuit, and record. On record he was backed by jazz musicians such as Keppard, Punch Miller, Henry “Red” Allen and others.

Johnny Dodds was one of the greatest clarinetist of the 1920's who had a very soulful, bluesy style of playing.He worked with most of the major Hot Jazz bands of the era including the bands of Kid Ory, King Oliver amd Louis Armstrong. Dodd's appears on several of today's recordings including those with Keppard, Armstrong, as a member of Jasper Taylor's Original Washboard Band, backing Sippie Wallace on the 1929 version of her classic "I'm A Might Tight Women" and backing guitarist Blind Blake.  We hear Dodds backing singer Julia Davis who cut one 78 for Paramount in 1924 and one final terrific record in 1928, "Jasper Taylor Blues b/w Geechie River Blues", backed by the Original Washboard Band featured washboard player Jasper Taylor.

During the spring of 1928 Blind Blake cut some of his most ambitious records. Jimmy Bertrand manned xylophone for "Doggin' Me Mama Blues" and played slide whistle on our featured track,  "C.C. Pill Blues" while the great Johnny Dodds soloed on clarinet. Dodds and Bertrand provided more accompaniment on Blake's "Hot Potatoes" and "South Bound Rag." Bertrand, Dodds, and Blake were also teamed on "Elzadie's Policy Blue b/w Pay Day Daddy Blues" with singer Elzadie Robinson.

We spin several jazz artists and groups who often worked on the bluesy side of the street including Papa Celestin, Hot Lips Page and the Washboard Rhythm Kings. Papa Celestin was one of the most popular of New Orleans cornet players, and considered a major player in the development of jazz. Most of the great New Orleans players up to 1950 played for him one time or another. In 1910 Celestin started the Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra which would become one of the most enduring bands and featured Louis Armstrong among others. elestin began recording with his own groups for Okeh from 1925 until the Depression forced him to give up the group. With singer Sam Morgan we hear him on "Short Dress Gal."

In his early years, Hot Lips Page played in circuses and minstrel shows and backing such blues singers as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox. Page's main trumpet influence was Louis Armstrong. He joined the Blue Devils circa 1927, staying until1931, when he joined the Bennie Moten Orchestra, the leading dance band out of Kansas City.Though not a regular member of the band, Page appeared as a vocalist, emcee and hot trumpet soloist with Count Basie's Reno Club orchestra after the Moten band finally disbanded upon that leader's sudden death in April, 1935. Page embarked upon a solo career during this period, playing with small pick up bands out of Kansas City. We hear his wonderful "Down On The Levee" cut for Decca in 1938.

The Washboard Rhythm Kings were a loose aggregation of jazz performers, many of high calibre, who recorded as a group for various labels between about 1930 and 1935. The band played good-time swinging music, featuring spirited vocals, horns, a washboard player and occasionally kazoo. Today we feature their swinging "Down by the Ohio" from 1931.

Lonnie JohnsonNew Orleans Blues Chris Albertson's Apt. 1959
Chris Albertson InterviewMeeting Lonnie Johnson
Lonnie JohnsonInstrumentalChris Albertson's Apt. 1959
Lonnie JohnsonAway Down In The Alley BluesA Life in Music Selected Sides 1925-1953
Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost BluesLonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
Lonnie JohnsonUncle NedA Life in Music Selected Sides 1925-1953
Lonnie Johnson & Clara SmithWhat Makes You Act Like ThatClara Smith Vol. 6 1930-1932
Lonnie Johnson & Victoria SpiveyI've Got Men All Over This Town Woman Blues
Lonnie Johnson & Otis SpannClementine BluesBlues Masters Vol. 4
Lonnie Johnson & Otis SpannSwingin with LonnieBlues Masters Vol. 4
Lonnie JohnsonWoke Up With the Blues in My FingersThe Original Guitar Wizard
Lonnie Johnson & Louis ArmstrongI'm Not RoughHot Fives and Sevens
Lonnie JohnsonI Know It's LoveLonnie Johnson 1948-1949
Lonnie JohnsonCareless LoveWHAT FM 1960
Chris Albertson InterviewPerforming Again
Lonnie JohnsonI Want To Talk To YouWHAT FM 1960
Lonnie Johnson I Don't Hurt AnymoreBlues By Lonnie Johnson,
Lonnie Johnson St. Louis Blues Blues & Ballads
Chris Albertson InterviewElmer Snowden
Lonnie Johnson & Eddie LangMidnight Call BluesLonnie Johnson Vol. 5 1929-1930
Lonnie Johnson Crowing Rooster BluesHe's A Jelly Roll Baker
Lonnie Johnson Mr. Johnson's SwingLonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
Lonnie JohnsonInstrumentalChris Albertson's Apt. 1959
Chris Albertson InterviewRipped Off
Lonnie JohnsonBig Leg WomanChris Albertson's Apt. 1959
Lonnie Johnson Me And My Crazy SelfMe And My Crazy Self
Chris Albertson InterviewLonnie The Artist
Lonnie Johnson Another Night to Cry The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966

Show Notes:

lonnie Johnson 1935
Lonnie Johnson, circa 1935

Two days before his birthday, we once again turn our attention to the amazing legacy of Lonnie Johnson. This is our third show devoted to Lonnie, the last time we chatted with Dean Alger who is working on a biography of Lonnie. Today's show features a wide range of recordings Lonnie made between the 1920's through the 1960's. In addition we chat with Chris Albertson who was instrumental in Lonnie's comeback and produced several of his comeback records. Chris was also gracious enough to let me play some tapes of Lonnie that have never been released commercially. These recordings first appeared on Chris' terrific blog after languishing in Chris's closet for some fifty years. The good news is that Chris has more tapes of Lonnie that he plans on making available. I've written extensively about Lonnie in previous posts so this time out the I'll be writing primarily about today's recordings.

Throughout the show we spin some of the tapes that Chris recorded. One tape was recorded in his apartment and the other at the radio station where Chris was a disc jockey. Chris wrote: "These performances by Elmer Snowden and Lonnie Johnson took place in my Philadelphia apartment in 1959. I recorded them on my Ferrograph tape machine, which I still have. This was the tape I took to Bob Weinstock, the one that led to the Prestige albums." Back in the 50's Chris was a disc jockey at WHAT-FM—a Philadelphia station that offered jazz around the clock, seven days a week . After meeting Lonnie and Elmer, he wrote on his blog: "I also asked my newfound friends to appear live on my Sunday afternoon WHAT show, and they did that on several occasions. That was fifty years ago, but—and who says miracles don't happen—some of my airchecks have survived in the recesses of a closet. …I finally found out how to add audio to this blog, so here is an excerpt form Sunday, April 10, 1960."

Chicago Defender Ad, June 7, 1930

Despite not recording for most of the 50's and doing little performing, Lonnie is in marvelous from delivering gorgeous numbers like "New Orleans Blues", eventually issued on Blues, Ballads, and Jumpin' Jazz, Vol. 2 which didn't come out to the 90's although it was recorded at the 1960 with Elmer Snowden that resulted in the Blues & Ballads album, and "Careless Love" which Lonnie first recorded in 1928 and again in 1948 for King. There's also some fine instrumentals and a song Lonnie calls "I Want To Talk To You."

Chris produced three of Lonnie's Bluesville albums: Blues By Lonnie Johnson, Blues & Ballads and Idle Hours which featured Victoria Spivey. As Chris wrote in the liner notes to Johnson’s Bluesville debut: "I was interviewing Elmer Snowden on my radio show when I played an old record by Lonnie which I followed up with the remark: 'I wonder whatever happened to Lonnie Johnson?' Elmer replied: 'I saw him in the Supermarket the other day'. A listener then called up and said that he worked with Lonnie at the hotel so I finally contacted him, brought him to my apartment and had him play for me. Having recorded his playing and singing and realizing that he was as good as ever I took the tapes to Prestige and Lonnie was on his way again." From his Bluesville period we spin the elegant "I Don't Hurt Anymore" from his Bluesville debut, Blues By Lonnie Johnson, with fine support by tenor saxophonist Hal Singer, pianist Claude Hopkins, bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Bobby Donaldson plus a swinging version of "St. Louis Blues" with Elmer Snowden from the album Blues & Ballads. As mentioned, Chris produced Idle Hours with Victoria Spivey but I prefer her 1961 Bluesville album, Woman Blues!, produced by Spivey's long time companion Len Kunstadt. Lonnie and Victoria sound like they're having lost of fun on this album as can be heard on our selection, the humorous "I Get Men All Over This Town." This tune reminds me of the great duets of the 20's and 30's by Vaudeville veterans like Butterbeans and Susie and Coot Grant and Wesley Wilson.

In 1963 Lonnie toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival. From that date we spin Lonnie (wonderfully introduced by Sonny Boy Williamson II) delivering a magnificent rendition of "Another Night To Cry." Along with Lonnie, Victoria Spivey was the only other one on the tour who started their careers in the 1920's (Johnson in 1925 and Victoria in 1926). If you read interviews of blues musicians who grew up in the 20's and 30's, time and time again Lonnie is mentioned as one of the artists admired the most. I imagine that those on the tour like Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, Big Joe Williams and Sonny Boy remembered well when Lonnie was a star. Also on tour was pianist Otis Spann who may have too young to recall Lonnie's heyday but probably was familiar with his King records of the 40's, quite a few of which were big sellers. While the tour was in Copenhagen the two recorded a superb session together issued on the Storyville label. The two make a great team as heard on our selections, "Clementine" and the aptly titled "Swinging With Lonnie."

"I Know It's Love" and "Me And My Crazy Self" come form Lonnie's prolific and commercially successful stint with the King label which ran from 1947 through 1952.  Johnson’s place in blues history would have been immortalized if even if he had never recorded past the 1930's. It certainly would have made blues critics life easier who generally tend to dismiss Johnson’s later recordings. When Johnson signed with King in 1947 his music and music in general was changing. By 1947 he had switched to electric guitar, was incorporating more ballads into his repertoire while the music was in transition from blues to R&B. It is true that Johnson reworked several of his earlier songs and perhaps over relied on a few signature guitar phrases during this period. Still, while many were unprepared for the changing musical times, Johnson seamlessly sailed into the new era not only achieving commercial success but also cutting music of a consistently high artistic caliber. "I Know It's Love" is a good example of the period, an infectious bluesy pop number that features some knockout guitar playing while "Me And My Crazy Self" is a beautifully sung blues ballad that anticipates a style that he displayed prominently throughout his 60's recordings.

Of course we spin many classics from Lonnie's early period including landmark instrumentals like "Woke Up With the Blues in My Fingers", "Away Sown In The Alley Blues" and "Midnight Call Blues", one of several remarkable duets with Eddie Lang. More guitar fireworks can be found in "Uncle Ned, Don't Use Your Head" and "Mr. Johnson's Swing" ("Want all you people to listen while my guitar sings"). Johnson had a way of painting a vivid portrait in song which can be heard in featured songs like "Crowing Rooster Blues" from 1941 (originally cut in 1928 and as "Working Man's Blues" in 1947) and "Blue Ghost Blues" from 1938 (originally cut in 1927 and reworked in 1947 as "Blue Ghost Has Got Me") a vivid, haunting ode to loneliness.

In the early years Lonnie appeared prominently on the records of other Okeh artist such as Clara Smith, Victoria Spivey, Texas Alexander, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and many others as well as performing with jazz icons Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Johnson cut two fine duets with Clara Smith in 1930 and we spotlight the playful "What Makes You Act Like That" which showcases some fabulous fret work from Lonnie. It's a shame they didn't record more together. Lonnie was so technically sophisticated, that on his best records, he seems to be operating on different plane than his blues contemporaries. Evidence of this can be heard in the handful of recordings he made with Duke (songs like "Misty Mornin'", "The Mooche" and "Hot and Bothered") and our featured number, "I'm Not Rough" with Louis Armstrong (Lonnie also appears on "Hotter Than That", and "Savoy Blues").

Lonnie passed in 1970 and I wanted to close with a eulogy Victoria Spivey wrote for Guitar Player magazine: "Lonnie Johnson was the greatest blues guitar man in the business-and what a beautiful blues ballad singer he was too! Everywhere I turn, I hear him in T-Bone Walker, B.B. and Albert King, Muddy Waters, and the younger fellows like Buddy Guy. And of course, all the white kids are playing Lonnie, most of them thinking they're being influenced by B.B. What I like about B.B. and T-Bone is that they all give Lonnie the credit for it…I say to Lonnie: Join the heavenly Gabriel as you used to play with the earthly Gabriel, Louis Armstrong."

Related Articles (word docs):

Lonnie Johnson talks To Valerie Wilmer (Jazz Journal, 1963)

The Return Of Lonnie Johnson By Steve Voce (Jazz Journal, 1963)

Lonnie Johnson In Cincinnati by Gary Fortine (78 Quarterly 10, 1999)

Chas Q. PriceEarly Morning BluesJumpin' On The West Coast!
Louis ArmstrongBack o' Town BluesC'est Ci Bon: Satchmo In The Forties
Red MackMr. Big HeadLuke Jones & Red Mack: West Coast R&B 1947-1952
Big Bill BroonzyThe Southern BluesBig Bill Broonzy Vol. 3 1934-1935
Cannon's Jug StompersPrison Wall BluesMemphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper
K.C. DouglasMove To Kansas CityBig Road Blues
Mr. BearHold Out BabyHarlem Heavies
Cousin LeroyUp The RiverHarlem Heavies
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Sammy TaylorAin't That Some ShameNew York Wild Guitars
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandI’m Going to Write You a LetterBackcountry Barrelhouse
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteGravels In My PillowCake Walkin'
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteThelma LeeCake Walkin'
Gladys BentleyLay It On the LineThe Gladys Bentley Quintette
Eddie DavisMountain OystersRisque Rhythm
Arbee StidhamStandin' In My WindowA Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamMeet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesLegends of Country Blues
Willie HarrisLonesome Midnight DreamA Richer Tradition
Curley Weaver & Blind Willie McTellYou Were Born To DieAtlanta Blues
Jesse JamesHighway 61Piano Blues Vol. 1 1927-1936
Leroy CarrBlue Night BluesHow Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Peetie WheatstrawGangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownThe Bob Geddins Blues Legacy
Roy HawkinsGloom and Misery All AroundThe Thrill Is Gone
Lightnin' HopkinsNew York BoogieAll The Classics 1946-1951
John Lee HookerWalkin' This HighwayThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeSo Much TroubleSonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48
Baby Davis & Buddy Banks SextetHappy Home BluesHappy Home Blues
Fluffy Hunter & Buddy Banks SextetFluffy's DebutHappy Home Blues

Show Notes:

There's a definite theme running through today's mix show,  with a good batch of recordings spotlighting the vibrant, swinging  Los Angeles blues scene of the mid-40's through the early 50's. The West Coast had a thriving blues and jazz scene in the 1940’s and 50’s with most of the activity centering around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. The Black population swelled in the 1940s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. From approximately 1920 to 1955, Central Avenue was the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles. Like New York City’s 125th Street or Memphis’s Beale Street or Chicago’s South Side, Central Avenue was one of the world capitols of nightlife, of jazz, rhythm & blues, of black culture and society. I've devoted several shows to the west coast blues scene of this period but many of today's artists I haven't played before. Among those spotlighted are Buddy Tate, The Great Gates, Red Mack, Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette, Buddy Banks' Sextette, Roy Hawkins and Johnny Fuller.

We spin double shots of two great combos: Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette and Buddy Banks' Sextette. The  Wichard tracks come from the terrific recent reissue on Ace, Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette – Cake Walkin’. Al Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on 15th August 1919, but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern's first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks.This CD consists entirely of sessions made under his own name. Thirteen tracks have vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon while others feature vocalist Duke Henderson and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. All these sides were cut between 1945 and 1949. Witherspoon is in magnificent form throughout, including our selection, the bouncy "Thelma Lee." Henderson wasn't quite in Spoon's league, few were, but he turns in a superb low-down performance on our cut, "Gravels In My Pillow" as he boasts:

They call me the devil's stepchild, they say I'm just no good (2x)
They say I'm rotten from the start, wouldn't be no other way if I could

Tenor sax blower Buddy Banks began his career in California and played with all the best West Coast Orchestras. In 1945 he formed his own sextet. The band began recording by backing singer Marion Abernathy for the Juke Box label and in its own right for the tiny Sterling label. The band went on to record for Excelsior, United, Modern and Specialty through 1949.The band employed some fine vocalists including Fluffy Hunter, Baby Davis, Marion Abernathy and Bixie Crawford. The obscure Davis belts it out "Happy Home Blues" while Hunter storms through the rocking "Fluffy's Debut." It's a shame both singers recorded so little. All these tracks come from the excellent LP Happy Home Blues issued on the Official label.

Read Notes Read Notes

Red Mack was a west coast vocalist who also played piano, organ, trumpet, cornet and drums. He fronted bands that cut sides for Gold Seal, Atlas and Mercury at sessions recorded in 1945, 1946 and 1951. Mack is heard to fine effect on the humorous "Mr. Big Head:"

You said your wife was fine, when you lived down on the farm (2x)
Now you got the big head, and a glamor girl on your arm
Well you making more money, and that's a fact
You won't drive nothing baby, but those big fine Cadillacs
Well your head is big and you think you own the moon
Well I'm tellin' you fool, your head will go down sore

Mack's sides have been collected, along with those of his contemporary Luke Jones, on the Krazy Kat LP Luke Jones & Red Mack – West Coast R&B 1947-1952. Also on the Krazy Kat label is The Great Gates  – West Coast R' n B 1949-1955. Edward Gates White aka “The Great Gates” enjoyed a recording career as an R&B vocalist from 1949 to 1955, before changing to recording jazz organ instrumentals. He continually shifted between various small West Coast labels such as Selective, Kappa and Miltone. Gates was a smooth big voiced singer heard today on the moody "Late After Hours" backed by a killer little combo featuring the cooking tenor of Marvin Phillips.

Tenor sax man Buddy Tate joined Count Basie's band in 1939 and stayed with him until 1948. In 1947 Tate made a batch of recordings for the L.A. based Supreme label backed by members of Basie's band. The session included luminaries like Bill Doggett, Chico Hamilton and Jimmy Witherspoon. Alto sax man Chas Q. Price takes the vocal on the silky, after hours number "Early Morning Blues" sporting some sensitive playing from Tate. These early recordings can be found on the marvelous LP Jumpin' On The West Coast! on the Black Lion label.

Also on tap today are some twin spins by Arbee Stidham and pianist Barrelhouse Buck McFarland. The two Stidham tracks come from the album A Time For Blues, one of Stidham’s best recordings backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.

Barrelhouse Buck McFarland cut his final session for Folkways and an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released a few years back on Delmark. He died shortly afterward. McFarland was born in Alton, Illinois in 1903 in the same area as two other exceptional piano players, Wesley Wallace and Jabbo Williams, all three of which made names for themselves on the bustling St. Louis blues scene. McFarland got his shot in the recording studio waxing ten sides; two for Paramount in 1929, two for Decca in 1934 and four more for Decca in 1935, which were not issued.

We also feature a cut by Gladys Bentley, a truly largely than life figure. Bentley cut six sides for Okeh in 1928 and fifteen sides in 1946 and 1952 for the labels Excelsior, Top Hat, Flame and Swing Time. Bentley was a 250 pound woman dressed in men's clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), who played piano and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience. She appeared at Harry Hansberry's "Clam House" on 133rd Street, one of New York City's most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem's Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She relocated to southern California, where she was billed as "America's Greatest Sepia Piano Player", and the "Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs". She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960. Bentley's act was probably impossible to capture on record but her post-war recordings have a jivey exuberance, particularly our selection, the bouncy "Lay It On The Line." Unfortunately Bentley has been ill served on reissue collections.

Also worth mentioning are a quartet of sides from New York artists. New York had a lively blues scene in the immediate post-war era, circa 1945 through 1960. The scene was dominated by small independent labels like Fire/Fury, Apollo, DeLuxe, Herald, Joe Davis, Baton, Old Town, Atlantic and Savoy. There was also out of town labels like King who recorded Big Apple talent. Hundreds of R&B and blues records were cut during this period. Today we feature several obscure artists from the scene including Mr. Bear, Larry Dale and Cousin Leroy. These tracks come form two excellent LP compilations; Harlem Heavies on the Moonshine label and New York Wild Guitars on the P-Vine label. Down the road I plan on doing a whole show devoted to the New York blues scene from this period.