Entries tagged with “Lucille Bogan”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Doc Wiley Big House Blues Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Walter Brown & Skip Brown's OrchestraSusie May Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Charles "Crown Prince" Waterford Time To BlowBlues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Alice Moore New Blue Black And Evil BluesSt. Louis Women Vol. 2 1934-1941
Josh WhiteBlack And Evil BluesJosh White: Blues Singer 1932-1936
Leroy ErvinBlue Black And Evil Texas Blues:Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings
Lennie Lewis & His Orchestra (vcl. Harold Tinsley) Mean, Bad And Evil Blues Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Lightnin' Hopkins Black and EvilTexas Blues
Blind Joe Reynolds Outside Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Marshall OwensTry Me One More TimeBlues Images Vol. 4
Willie Harris Never Drive a Stranger from Your DoorJackson Blues 1928 -1938
John Lee Hooker Don't You Remember Me?I'll Go Crazy: The Federal Records Story
Lightnin' Hopkins Darling, Do You Remember Me?Soul Blues
Clifford Gibson (R.T. Hanen Vcl) She's Got The Jordan River In Her Hips Clifford Gibson 1929-1931
Washboard Sam Rive Hip MamaRockin' My Blues Away
Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson So Long Baby Goodbye Sun Blues box
Sammy LewisYou Lied To Me Blow By Blow - An Anthology of Harmonica Blues
Peg Leg Howell Moanin' and Groanin' BluesFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Mississippi Sheiks Your Good Man Caught The Train and GoneHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down: The Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks
Mobile Strugglers Memphis BluesAfrican American Fiddlers 1926-1949
Muddy Waters Too Young To KnowThe Complete Chess Recordings
Louisiana RedCatch Me A Freight TrainForrest Cty Joe/Rocky Fuller: Memory Of Sonny Boy
Sonny Boy Williamson IIBorn BlindThe Chess Years Box Set
Blind Lemon Jefferson Stocking Feet BluesMeaning In The Blues
Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby BluesBest Of Blind Lemon Jefferson
Otis Spann Hotel LorraineMartin Luther King’s Blues
Big Joe Williams The Death Of Dr. Martin Luther KingMartin Luther King’s Blues
Brother Will Hairston The Alabama Bus Parts 1 & 2Martin Luther King’s Blues
Chocolate Brown with Blind Blake You Got What I WantBlues Images Vol. 12
Mamie SmithKansas City Man BluesCrazy Blues: The Best of Mamie Smith
Lucille BoganTired as I Can BeShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan

Show Notes:

Alice Moore: Black And Evil BluesWhile I do theme shows most weeks, these mix shows often contain some short themes from set to set and we certainly explore a few on today's program. On deck today we spotlight several songs that revolve around the lyric "black and evil, first popularized by singer Alice Moore, we showcase a trio of songs revolving around Martin Luther King, we play several sides from the King Records anthology Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2, we hear twin spins from Blind Lemon Jefferson and Sammy Lewis, plus a whole batch of great pre-war blues and more.

Alice Moore, Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's. Our version, "New Black And Evil Blues" was recorded in 1937.

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep (2x)
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord has got a curse on me (2x)
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black." There's also, I think, a way of diffusing the negative "black" by owning it as Moore does, a way of empowering oneself by taking the negative associations of black and turning it around and even reveling in it. Moore's song was covered by Lil Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and Leroy Ervin. Several other artists used the "black and evil" theme including Josh White and Lennie Lewis & His Orchestra, both who are featured today.

Blues & Gospel Kings Vol. 2Today we spotlight several songs from the second volume of an anthology that collects early sides from the legendary King label titled Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50. Founded by Syd Nathan in 1943, King Records was one of the most influential independent labels of the 1940s and 1950s. By the end of the latter decade, it had become the nation's sixth largest record company. The label originally  specialized in country music and." King advertised, "If it's a King, It's a Hillbilly – If it's a Hillbilly, it's a King." The company also had a "race records" label, Queen Records (which was melded into the King label within a year or two) and most notably (starting in 1950) Federal Records which launched the singing career of James Brown. In the 1950s, this side of the business outpaced the hillbilly recordings.

Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. There's no shortage of great Lemon songs and today we spin "Stocking Feet Blues" and "That Crawlin' Baby Blues", the latter with the devastating lines:

Some woman rocks the cradle, and I declare she rules her home
Woman rocks the cradle, and I declare she rules her home
Many a man rocks some other man's baby and the fool thinks he's rockin' his own

I did not do a new show last week but I did want to play a few songs in honor of Martin Luther King. I did, however, see the movie Selma which was quite powerful. Overt political commentary was rare in recorded blues and gospel prior to the 1960’s but became increasingly more common afterwords. Several blues and gospel numbers were recorded about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in Alabama. In "Alabama Bus Pts. 1 & 2" Brother Will Hairston sings bout the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. King and ignited by Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white man. Several blues singers paid tribute to the death of Martin Luther King including Champion Jack Dupree, Big Joe Williams and Otis Spann. All three tracks played today come from the CD Martin Luther King's Blues on the Agram label, a companion to the book President Johnson’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on LBJ, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Vietnam 1963-1968 by Guido Van Rijn.

Sammy Lewis
Sammy Lewis (Photo from the Charly Sun Blues Box)

Harmonica blower Sammy Lewis and guitarist Willie Johnson recorded for Sun Records in 1955 cutting "I Feel So Worried b/w  So Long Baby Goodbye." The third song from this session, "Gonna Leave You Baby" was not issued at the time. Lewis continued working in Memphis after Johnson moved north, working with an assortment of bands. He went on to cut a 45 for the West Memphis 8th Street label in 1977. He was thought to have died until he was rediscovered in 1970, still playing in West Memphis. The 8th street sides were collected on the anthology Blow By Blow – An Anthology of Harmonica Blues on the Sundown label.

We play several classics from the pre-war era and as always I try to drawn from the best sounding reissues I can find. Tracks like Blind Joe Reynolds' "Outside Woman Blues", Marshall Owens' "Try Me One More Time" and Chocolate Brown (Irene Scruggs) with Blind Blake come from the CD's that accompany record collector John Tefteller's annual blues calendars.  The 78's are expertly remastered by Richard Nevins of Yazoo Records from the best possible copies. Other tracks like Peg Leg Howell's "Moanin' and Groanin' Blues" and Blind Lemon Jefferson's "That Crawlin' Baby Blues" come from some of the best reissue labels, Old Hat and Yazoo, A few others like Mamie Smith's "Kansas City Man Blues", Lucille Bogan's "Tired as I Can Be" and the Mississippi Sheiks' "Your Good Man Caught The Train and Gone" come from major label reissues, sometimes from the original masters, back when the majors occasionally reissued pre-war blues. So if you're not a 78 collector but are collecting pre-war blues pay attention to companies like these if you want to hear these old blues records at their best.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Lucille Bogan Black Angel BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Tampa RedBlack Angel BluesTampa Red Vol. 5 1931-1934
Robert Nighthawk Sweet Black Angel Prowling With the Nighthawk
Tampa Red Sweet Little Angel Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949-1951
B.B. KingSweet Little Angel The Vintage Years
B.B. King Sweet Little Angel Live At The Regal
Earl Hooker Sweet Brown Angel Simply The Best
Tony HollisCross Cut Saw BluesChicago Blues Vol. 1 1939-1951
Tommy McClennanCross Cut Saw BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Albert King Crosscut Saw Born Under A Bad Sign
Curtis Jones Tin Pan Alley BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 4 1941-53
Guitar Slim Green Alla Blues California Blues 1940-1948
Jimmy WilsonTin Pan Alley Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story
James ReedRoughest Place In TownR&B Guitars 1950-54
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Ray Agee Tin Pan AlleyWest Coast Blues Vol. 2 1952-1957
The Sparks BrothersI Believe I'll Make A ChangeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Jack Kelly & his South Memphis Jug BandBelieve I'll Go Back HomeJack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band 1933-1939
Josh WhiteBelieve I'll Go Back Home Josh White Vol. 2 1933-1935
Carl Rafferty Mr. Carl's BluesRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Kokomo ArnoldSagefield Woman BluesBottleneck Trendsetters
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell I Believe I'll Make A ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Robert Johnson I Believe I'll Dust My BroomThe Centennial Collection
Washboard SamI Believe I'll Make A ChangeWashboard Sam Vol. 4 1939-1940
Arthur Crudup Dust My BroomWhen The Sun Goes Down
Robert LockwoodDust My BroomRough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story
Elmore JamesDust My BroomElmore James: Early Recordings 1951-56
Robert PetwayCatfish Blues Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942
Tommy McClennanDeep Sea BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Muddy Waters Rollin' StoneThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy Waters Still A Fool The Complete Chess Recordings
John Lee Hooker Catfish Blues John Lee Hooker: Vol. 4 Detroit 1950-51
B.B. King Fishin' After Me (Catfish Blues)The Vintage Years

Show Notes:

Johnny Fuller: Roughest Place In TownIn our first show of the year we traced the origins and evolution of several classic blues songs. I got some good feedback on the show so we today do a follow-up. On today's program we provide the history and context behind classics like “Black Angel Blues“, “Crosscut Saw“, “Tin Pan Alley“, “I Believe I'll Make A Change (Dust My Broom)“ and “Catfish Blues."

The song known today as either "Sweet Black Angel" or "Sweet Little Angel" is one of the most popular and frequently recorded songs in the blues. Although composer credits are often given to Tampa Red, whose "Black Angel Blues" appeared in March 1934, the first recorded version was Lucille Bogan’s, whose "Black Angel Blues" was recorded mid-December 1930. The two artists shared recording sessions in 1928 and 1929, and it is probably impossible at this late date to determine who originally created the song. Although Bogan’s recording credits "Smith" as the composer, she wrote many of her own songs and made be the author of the song. During the early post–World War II era, the lyrics of the song began to change. In 1949, Robert Nighthawk had gone back to the song’s prewar roots cutting the song for Aristocrat Records as "Black Angel Blues (Sweet Black Angel)", but in 1950 Tampa Red was the first to record it as "Sweet Little Angel". B.B. King did the same in 1956; he also changed the song’s final line from ". ..bought me a whiskey still" to "…gave me a Cadillac de Ville." We also spin B.B.'s classic live version from Live At The Regal. Guitar legend Earl Hooker recorded two versions during his career; 1953 saw him record "Sweet Angel (Original Sweet Black Angel)" for the Rockin’ label and in 1962 he recorded a reworked version titled "Sweet Brown Angel" for Checker, which went unreleased at the time.

"Cross Cut Saw Blues" was first released in 1941 by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan. Tony Hollins, a Mississippi bluesman and contemporary of Tommy McClennan, recorded a version of "Cross Cut Saw Blues" with similar lyrics on June 3, 1941, three months before McClennan. The song was not released at the time, but eventually appeared in 1992. In an interview, John Lee Hooker, who knew Tony Hollins, was asked "Well, did Tony Hollins or Tommy McClennan do it first? They both recorded it around the same time". Hooker responded "I think Tommy McClennan did it first."Eddie Burns knew Hollis in Clarksdale in the 40's and recalled that Tommy McClennan: Cross Cut Saw Blueshe was very popular. Burns recalled him singing "Cross Cut Saw", "Crawlin' King Snake" and "Tease Me Over" all of which he recorded in 1941. In 1966, Albert King recorded his version calling it "Crosscut Saw". The same lyrics as McClennan's "Cross Cut Saw Blues" were used, except for two verses which were replaced by guitar solos. However, King uses a different arrangement. The song was a success, reaching No. 34 in the Billboard R&B chart.

Pianist Curtis Jones composed “Tin Pan Alley Blues” which he recorded in 1941. Guitar Slim Green recorded "Alla Blues" in 1948, a retread of the Curtis Jones number. Green said that he and his partner Turner wrote it and that producer Robert Geddins stole it from him. Green and Turner's version would become some kind of West Coast national anthem. Jimmy Wilson’s mournful, bluesy voice ensured him a huge hit in California in 1953 with his version of "Tin Pan Alley," a masterpiece with an unmistakable gloomy tone. The song was soon revived under the original title by West Coast artists Ray Agee and by Johnny Fuller and James Reed under the title "Roughest Place In Town." In more recent years the song was popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn who recorded "Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town)" on 1984's Couldn't Stand the Weather.

"I Believe I’ll Make a Change" was first recorded on February 25, 1932, by Aaron and Milton Sparks in Atlanta, Georgia, for Victor Records. Other musicians were to use the song’s melody on their own recordings, including Jack Kelly and His South Memphis Jug Band in 1933 (as "Believe I’ll Go Back Home,"), Josh White (1934), and Leroy Carr with Scrapper Blackwell (934). Other version of "I Believe I’ll Make a Change" continued to appear through 1942, including Washboard Sam’s rendition for Bluebird in 1939. The tune is best known today by the title "I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom," first recorded to those words by Robert Johnson on November 23, 1936, for the ARC label. Lyric antecedents for the "dust my broom" stanza can be found in songs such as "Mr. Carl’s Blues" by Carl Rafferty with Roosevelt Sykes in 1933 and "Sagefield Woman Blues" by Kokomo Arnold in 1934 for Decca. The "Dust My Broom" version of the song would continue to be played as bluesmen traveled between Mississippi and Chicago. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup recorded one version in March 1949 for Victor, Johnson protege´ Robert Lockwood cut another in November 1951 for Mercury. Elmore James is the post–World War II musician most identified with "Dust My Broom," waxing four versions between 1951 and 1962.

Robert Petway: Catfish Blues"Catfish Blues" was first recorded on March 28, 1941, by Mississippi bluesman Robert Petway for RCA Bluebird. Another version, titled "Deep Sea Blues," was made by Petway’s contemporary Tommy McClennan on September 15, 1941, also for RCA Bluebird. There s a good case for believing that Petway composed it: "He just made that song up and used to play it at them old country dances. He just made it up and kept it in his head," says Honeyboy Edwards, who learned the song from Petway in person. After the Petway and McClennan versions were released other treatments of "Catfish Blues" included John Lee Hooker (1951, Gotham) and, a bit later, by B. B. King (as "Fishin’ After Me (Catfish Blues)," 1960, Kent). Two distinctive recordings were made by Muddy Waters for Chess Records in the early 1950's. The first was "Rollin’ Stone" (1950, Chess), which was simply a retitling of the standard "Catfish" tune and lyrics. Nonetheless, the title would be adopted in 1962 by the Rolling Stones and in 1968 for the rock publication Rolling Stone. The second was "Still a Fool" (1951, Chess), featuring a two-electric guitar accompaniment.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Mary Johnson w/ Tampa RedDeath Cell Blues Twenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
James Stump Johnson w/ Tampa RedJones Law BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 - Brunswick 1928-30
Texas Alexander w/ Lonnie JohnsonLong Lonesome DayTexas Alexander Vol. 1
Mooch Richardson w/ Lonnie JohnsonHelena BluesA Richer Tradition: Country Blues and String Band Music 1923-1942
Peetie Wheatstraw w/ Lonnie JohnsonTruckin' Thru TrafficPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 5
Lil Green w/ Big Bill BroonzyJust Rockin'Lil Green -1940-1941
Charlie Spand w/ Big Bill Broonzy Rock And RyeRoots N' Blues: Booze & The Blues
Cripple Clarence Lofton w/ Big Bill BroonzyBrownskin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9: Lofton/Noble 1935-1936
Bumble Bee Slim w/ Casey Bill WeldonThis Old Life I'm Living Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936
Memphis Minnie w/ Casey Bill WeldonWhen The Sun Goes DownFour Woman Blues
Leroy Henderson w/ Casey Bill WeldonGood Scuffler BluesCharley Jordan Vol.3 1935-1937
Dorothy Baker w/ Roosevelt SykesSteady Grinding BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Teddy Darby w/ Roosevelt Sykes The Girl I Left BehindBlind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Napoleon Fletcher w/ Roosevelt Sykes – She Showed It AllGrass Cutter BluesShe Showed It AllRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Alice Moore w/ Kokomo ArnoldGrass Cutter BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Roosevelt Sykes w/ Kokomo ArnoldThe Honey DripperRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 4 1934-1936
Peetie Wheatstraw w/ Kokomo ArnoldWorking On The Project Broadcasting the Blues
Robert Lee McCoy w/ Sonny Boy Williamson ITough LuckProwling With The Nighthawk
Yank Rachel w/ Sonny Boy Williamson II'm Wild And Crazy As Can Be Yank Rachell Vol. 1 1934-1941
Ma Rainey w/ Tampa RedBlack Eye BluesMother of the Blues
Victoria Spivey w/ Tampa RedDon't Trust Nobody Blues Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Bessie Mae Smith w/ Lonnie JohnsonMy Daddy's Coffin Blues St. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 1 1927-1929
Victoria Spivey w/ Lonnie JohnsonDope Head BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Georgia White w/ Lonnie Johnson Alley BoogieGeorgia White Vol. 3 1937-1939
Mary Johnson w/ Roosevelt SykesRattlesnake BluesMary Johnson 1929-1936
Charlie McFadden w/ Roosevelt SykesGambler's BluesCharlie ''Specks'' McFadden 1929-1937
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill BroonzyLife Is Just A BookWashboard Sam Vol. 6 1941-1942
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill BroonzyMy Feet Jumped SaltyRockin' My Blues Away
Big Joe Williams w/ Sonny Boy Williamson IPlease Don't Go Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-1941
Speckled Red w/ Sonny Boy Williamson IYou Got To Fix ItSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Papa Charlie JacksonAt The Break of DayAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
Lucille Bogan w/ Papa Charlie JacksonJim Tampa BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929
Big Boy Teddy Edwards w/ Papa Charlie Jackson & Big Bill BroonzyLouise Big Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill Broonzy & Roosevelt SykesRiver Hip MamaRockin' My Blues Away

Show Notes:

Tampa Red
Tampa Red

A few months back I did a show called “Sideman Blues” where we shined the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. On today's sequel to that show we focus on some of the stars of the pre-war blues era who were also active session artists. Artists featured today include some of the era's big names such as Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes, Kokomo Arnold, Sonny Boy Williamson I and others who were also very active backing others on record. Bluesmen such as Big Bill, Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson and Roosevelt Sykes in particular, backed dozens of artists, both well known and obscure on record. Many of these artists also acted in the role as talent scouts for the labels.

During his heyday in the 1920's and 30's, Tampa Red was billed as "The Guitar Wizard," and his stunning slide work on steel National or electric guitar shows why he earned the title. His 25 year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions "Anna Lou Blues," "Black Angel Blues," "Crying Won't Help You," "It Hurts Me Too," and "Love Her with a Feeling"). Jim O'Neal neatly summed up Tampa's place in blues history when he wrote the following in 1975: "Few figures have been as important in blues history as Tampa Red; yet no bluesman of such stature has been so ignored by today's blues audience. As a composer, recording artist, musical trendsetter and one of the premier urban blues guitarists of his day, Tampa Red remained popular with black record buyers for more than 20 years and exerted considerable influence on many post-World War II blues stars who earned greater acclaim for playing Tampa's songs than Tampa himself often did."

Tampa was a very busy session guitarist mainly in the early years of his career, circa 1928-1929. Among those he backed include Big Maceo, Lucille Bogan, Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Lil Johnson, Frankie Jaxon, Victoria Spivey, Romeo Nelson, Ma Rainey, Mary Johnson and many others. Tampa's work behind underrated singer Mary Johnson has always been among my favorites. Johnson cut six sides at two sessions in 1930. The April 8, 1930 was outstanding do in large part to the shimmering slide guitar of Tampa and the excellent piano of the under recorded Judson Brown. The two work beautifully behind Johnson on the mournful "Three Months Ago Blues" with Tampa shinning on "Dawn Of Day Blues" and the magnificent "Death Cell Blues."

Lonnie Johnson was a true musical innovator who's remarkable recording career spanned from the 1920's through the 1960's. During that time his musical diversity was amazing: he played piano, guitar, violin, he recorded solo, he accompanied down home country blues singers like Texas Alexander, he played with Louis Armtrong's Hot Fives, recorded with Duke Ellington, duetted with Victoria Spivey and cut a series of instrumental duets with the white jazzman Eddie Lang that set a standard of musicianship that remains unsurpassed by blues guitarists. In Johnson's single-string style lie the basic precedents of such jazz greats as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, while being a prime influence on bluesman as diverse as Robert Johnson, Tampa Red and B.B. King. Thus Johnson enjoys the rare distinction of having influenced musicians in both the jazz and blues fields. Like Tampa, Johnson backed dozens of artists on record including Texas Alexander, Jimmie Gordon, Merline Johnson, Alice Moore, Victoria Spivey, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and a host of others.

Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy

As Bob Riesman wrote in his biography of Big Bill Broonzy: "…Bill's recording career took off in this era, and his prodigious output was nearly unmatched among blues musicians. From 1934 until 1942, when the combination of a musicians’ union ban and the diversion of shellac to the war effort halted virtually all recording for two years, Bill averaged better than thirteen double-sided 78 rpm records each year as a featured artist. In addition, he played on an average of forty-eight sides each year as a sideman. In other words, for nearly a decade, he averaged one new Big Bill record a month, and he appeared on two more as a studio guitarist. …As 'Big Bill,' he was one of the most productive and popular artists in the business, with a name that was familiar to his audiences and reinforced by his easily recognized singing style. At the same time, he became the first-call studio guitarist for dozens of recording sessions that Lester Melrose organized for several record companies, particularly Bluebird. In that capacity, he was an integral part of the distinctive sound of numerous musicians, including some of the most popular artists of the era. Two artists whose careers were interwoven with Bill’s were Washboard Sam and Jazz Gillum. Bill played guitar on a most every one of the more than 150 recordings that Sam made over a period of twenty years, as well as on many of the sides that Gillum recorded."

Broonzy's 40's work with Washboard Sam really hit a high point with Big Bill laying down some lengthy, swinging amplified guitar on featured tracks like "Life Is Just A Book", "My Feet Jumped Salty" and "River Hip Mama." Washboard Sam recorded hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill. In 1932, Sam moved to Chicago, initially he played for tips, but soon he began performing regularly with Broonzy. Within a few years, Sam was supporting Broonzy on the guitarist's Bluebird recordings. Soon, he was supporting a number of different musicians on their recording sessions, including pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Ransom Knowling, and a handful of saxophone players, who all recorded for Bluebird. In 1935, Sam began recording for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs.

Broonzy was also prominent on the recordings of Lil Green who's "Just Rockin'" we feature today. Her professional career was launched around 1940, when the manager of a Chicago club hired her on the spot after a group of her friends had arranged for a bandleader to call her up from the audience to sing.By May 1940 Green had come to the attention of Lester Melrose, who brought her into the studio to record on the Bluebird label. He assigned a trio of musicians to back her, including Big Bill, Simeon Henry on piano, and New Orleans veteran Ransom Knowling on bass. That session produced her first hit, "Romance in the Dark." As Broonzy noted in his autobiography: "I played for Lil Green for two years as her guitar player. I wrote some songs for her, like "My Mellow Man" and "Country Boy," "Give Your Mama One More Smile" and some more that I fixed up for her.

Roosevelt Sykes
Roosevelt Sykes

In 1929 Roosevelt Sykes met Jesse Johnson, the owner of the Deluxe Record Shop in St. Louis. Sykes, who at the time performed at an East St. Louis club for one dollar a night, quickly accepted Johnson's invitation to a recording session in New York. In the early 1930s, Sykes moved to Chicago. During the Depression years, he recorded for several labels under various pseudonyms. For the Victor label, he recorded as Willie Kelly on the classic 1930 side "32-20 Blues." Two years later, he cut his popular number "Highway 61 Blues" for Champion, the subsidiary label of Gennett Records. During the 1930's, Sykes served as a back-up pianist for more than thirty singers including Mary Johnson and James "St. Louis Jimmy" Oden. Through the recruiting efforts of Mayo "Ink" Williams, Sykes signed with Decca Records in 1934. His 1936 Decca side "Driving Wheel Blues" emerged as a blues classic. Sykes settled in Chicago in 1941 and, within a short time, became a house musician for the Victor/Bluebird label. Although the label marketed him as the successor to Fats Waller, who recorded on the same label and died in 1943, Sykes found success as the creator of his own style and remained active as a session man.

Sonny Boy Williamson was already a harp virtuoso in his teens. He learned from Hammie Nixon and Noah Lewis and ran with Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell before settling in Chicago in 1934. Sonny Boy signed to Bluebird in 1937. Henry Townsend recalled driving Sonny Boy, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Davis and Big Joe Williams to Aurora, Illinois, in his 1930 A Model Ford for their 1937 sessions: "I transferred them to Aurora, Illinois. There was about eight or nine of us …we stacked them in the car like sardines." This led to a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits. Sonny Boy recorded prolifically for Victor both as a leader and behind others in the vast Melrose stable (including Robert Lee McCoy and Big Joe Williams, who in turn played on some of Williamson's sides). Sonny Boy cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947

Kokomo Arnold was born in Georgia, and began his musical career in Buffalo, New York in the early 1920's. During prohibition, Kokomo Arnold worked primarily as a bootlegger, and performing music was a only sideline to him. Nonetheless he worked out a distinctive style of bottleneck slide guitar and blues singing that set him apart from his contemporaries. In the late 1920's, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation. From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides.Arnold also did session work backing Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosvelt Sykes, Alice Moore, Mary Johnson and others.

Papa Charlie Jackson
Papa Charlie Jackson

"Papa" Charlie Jackson was a six-string banjo player who was one of the earliest and most successful of the solo blues singer/instrumentalists. Jackson settled in Chicago on the famed Maxwell Street around 1920 where he began earning a living by playing on street corners and at house parties. In 1924 he cut his first solo sides "Papa's Lawdy Blues" and "Airy Man Blues" for the Paramount label. During this period Jackson also became a sideman with many of the hot groups in and around Chicago. He also recorded with Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Bumble Bee Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and others before his subsequent death around 1938.

Despite several busy years in the recording studio and a couple of medium-sized hits ("Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door" and "We Gonna Move (To The Outskirts of Town)"), very little is known about Casey Bill Weldon. It was assumed he was the Will Weldon who played with the Memphis Jug Band but that remains in dispute. Between 1927 and 1935 he cut just over 60 sides for Victor, Bluebird and Vocalion. He was also an active session guitarist, appearing on records by Teddy Darby, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheatsraw and others.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Bumble Bee SlimBricks In My Pillow Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 3 1934-1935
Casey Bill WeldonSomebody Changed the Lock on That DoorCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936
Kokomo ArnoldPolicy Wheel BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 2 1935-1936
Walter RolandSchool-Boy BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganShave em' DryThe Essential
Mississippi Moaner It's Cold In China BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lane Hardin Hard Time BluesBlues Images Vol. 8
Memphis MinnieHustlin' Woman Blues Four Women Blues
Blind Boy FullerBaby, I Don't Have to Worry ('Cause That Stuff Is Here) Blind Boy Fuller Remastered
Blind Gary Davis I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah! Goodbye Babylon
Sleepy John EstesDrop Down MamaI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Bo CarterWhen Your Left Eye Go to JumpingBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks (JSP)
Walter DavisSloppy Drunk AgainFavorite Country Blues/Piano-Guitar Duets
Willie Lofton Dirty Mistreater Big Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Johnnie TempleLead Pencil Blues (It Just Won't Write)The Essential
Joe McCoyLook Who's Coming Down The RoadWhen the Levee Breaks
Leroy Carr When The Sun Goes DownWhen The Sun Goes Down
Scrapper BlackwellAlley Sally Blues Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Alice Moore Riverside BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 2 1934-1941
Barrel House Buck McFarlandWeeping Willow Blues Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
The Sparks BrothersTell Her About MeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Robert Cooper West Dallas Drag No. 2Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossGoing To Your Funeral In A Vee Eight Ford Buddy Moss Vol. 3 1935-1941
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Curley Weaver Tricks Ain't Walking No MoreAtlanta Blues
Big Bill BroonzyMountain BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
State Street BoysThe DozenHow Low Can You Go
Cripple Clarence LoftonBrown Skin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9
Otto Virgial Bad Notion BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Big Joe Williams Little Leg WomanBig Joe Williams Vol. 2 1945-49
Dr. ClaytonPeter's Blues Doctor Clayton & His Buddy 1933-47
Red NelsonDetroit SpecialRed Nelson 1935-1947
Freddie ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946

Show Notes:

Casey Bill Weldon: Somebody Changed The Lock On The DoorToday’s show is the ninth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need.

According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on chance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). but despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties."

Two down home singers who could hold their own in terms of popularity against the urban artists were Sleepy John Estes and Blind Boy Fuller.  Estes made his debut for Victor Mississippi Moaner: It's So Cold In Chinain 1929 while Fuller made his debut for Vocalion in 1935. Unlike blues artists like Big Bill or Memphis Minnie who recorded extensively over three or four decades, Blind Boy Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span. Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. Fuller made his debut in 1935 and over the next five years he made over 120 sides.

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 at his third 1935 session.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. In 1934 Slim waxed around fifty sides and roughly the same number in 1935.  Our selection, “Bricks In My Pillow”, was recorded in July in 1935 and covered by Big Bill Broonzy in December of the same year and in later years recorded by Robert Nighthawk. Leroy Carr died in 1935 at the age of 30. In February he cut his final eight song session. Scrapper Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death, making a brief comeback in the late 50's.

Big Bill Broonzy recorded around tw0-dozen sides in 1935 all featuring the prominent piano of Black Bob. Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. Broonzy was also an active session guitarist and today we hear him backing the State Street Boys and pianist Cripple Clarence Lofton.

Lane Hardin: Hard Time BluesAlso featured today are a trio of musicians hailing from Jackson, Mississippi who recorded in Chicago. Johnnie Temple was part of a vibrant the 1920’s Jackson, MS scene, a city teeming with artists such as Tommy Johnson, Walter Vincson, Ishmon Bracey, the Chatmon Brothers, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Often, he performed with Charlie and Joe McCoy and also worked with Skip James. Temple moved to Chicago in the early 30’s, where he quickly became part of the town’s blues scene. From Temple's first session we spin his classic "Lead Pencil Blues" cut for Vocalion backed on second guitar by Charlie McCoy. Willie Lofton was also from Jackson which was the town he left when he traveled north to Chicago in the mid 1930's. He had two recording sessions in Chicago in August of 1934 and November of 1935 that produced eight sides. We also feature Joe McCoy's "Look Who's Coming Down The Road", recorded as Georgia Pine Boy, a variation on Tommy Johnson's "Maggie Campbell Blues."

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

Show Notes:

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

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

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

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

Banjo Ikey Robinson
Banjo Ikey Robinson

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

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

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

Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals. Teddy Bunn rubbed shoulders with many top jazz musicians aas well as blues singers in the pre-war era. As he noted: "I have a very good ear and can usually sense what the cats are going to play a split second before they do it." Among the notable blues singers he accompanied were artists such as  Cow Cow Davenport, Lizzie Miles, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria Spivey among others. In addition to an active session career, Bunn was a member of the jazz groups the Spirits of Rhythm and June 1939, and was among the very first musicians ever to record for the Blue Note record label, first as a soloist, then as a member of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen. Today we hear Bunn backing several blues singers including a pair of excellent numbers by Lizzie Miles.

Teddy Bunn
Teddy Bunn

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

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

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-Charlie West  (Blues World 44, Autumn 1972)

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