Entries tagged with “Lucille Bogan”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Willie McTellSavannah MamaThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Blind Willie McTellLay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
James Iron Head BakerBlack BettyDeep River of Song: Big Brazos
Moses Clear Rock PlattDats All Right HoneyField Recordings Vol. 13 1933-1943
Washington (Lightnin') Long JohnField Recordings Vol. 6: Texas 1933-1958
Will BattsCountry WomanMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Jack Kelly R.F.C. BluesRuckus Juice & Chittlins Vol. 2
Coot Grant & Wesley Wilson Meat Cuttin' BluesRaunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops
Eva Taylor Organ Grinder BluesClarence Williams & His Orchestra Vol. 1 1933-1934
Curley Weaver Some Cold Rainy Day
Atlanta Blues
Fred McMullen Poor Stranger Blues Georgia Blues 1928-1933
Curley Weaver Tippin' TomAtlanta Blues
James ''Stump'' Johnson Steady Grindin' Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis Vol. 2
Sparks BrothersChicago's Too Much For MeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis Vol. 2
Georgia Boyd Never Mind BluesSt. Louis 1927-1933
Joe Stone (J.D. Short)It's Hard TimeWhen The Sun Goes Down
Ruth Willis Man Of My OwnGeorgia Blues 1928-1933
Lucille BoganGroceries On The ShelfShave 'Em Dry: The Best Of Lucille Bogan
Memphis MinnieToo LateQueen Of Country Blues
St. Louis Jimmy Sitting Down, Thinking BluesSt. Louis Jimmy Oden Vol. 1 1932-1944
Walter Davis Oil Field BluesWalter Davis Vol. 1 1933-1935
Henry TownsendShe's Got What I WantSt. Louis Country Blues 1929-1937
Sonny Scott Rolling WatersWalter Roland Vol. 1 1933
Walter RolandEarly This Morning ('Bout Break Of Day)Walter Roland Vol. 1 1933
Josh WhiteBlood Red River BluesJosh White Vol. 1 1929-1933
Buddy MossHard Road BluesSlide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2
Buddy MossJealous Hearted Man BluesSlide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2
Whistlin' RufusWho's Gonna Do Your Sweet Jelly Rolling Piano Blues Vol. 6 1933-1938
Turner Parrish The FivesBarrelhouse Piano Blues & Stomps 1929-1933
Carl Rafferty Dresser With the DrawersRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 3 1931-1933
Charlie ''Specks'' McFaddenLow Down Rounders BluesTwenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
Roosevelt Sykes Devil's Island Gin BluesThe Essential
The Mississippi Sheiks Show Me What You GotThe Road To Robert Johnson And Beyond
Teddy Darby Bought A Bottle Of GinBlind Teddy Darby 1929-1937

Show Notes:

Today’s show is the seventh 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. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. The record companies advertised their records in black newspapers, mainly in the Chicago Defender, which was the nation’s most influential black weekly newspaper. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. By 1931 race records were selling about a tenth as well as they had four years previously. For example, Paramount went from waxing over a hundred blues and gospel items in 1930 but only about three dozen in 1931, Columbia had no new artists and its releases were cut by over a third and Victor also cut their releases by a third. In 1932 they were half that. Things hit rock bottom in 1932 with less than 150 new issues – the lowest level since 1922. Many of the era's top sellers like Leroy Carr and Lonnie Johnson made no records at all. Labels took several measures: cutting record prices, making one take instead of two and maximizing studio time by recording lengthier sessions. As always there were still plenty of good records by artists such as Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Moss, Jack Kelly, Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Davis, J.D. Short among others.

A 1930's ad for the Perfect label. Top row: Spark Plug Smith, Weaver and McMullen, Curley Weaver, and Ruth Willis.Bottom row: Buddy Moss, Coot Grant and Sox Wilson, Fred McMullen, Joshua White. All of these artists recorded in 1933.

In order to survive the hard times, Victor for example, were forced to follow ARC-BRC and enter the cheap record market. Their 35-cent label, Bluebird, was launched of old Victor material-by Walter Davis, the Memphis Jug Band, Cannon's Jug Stompers and Rev. Gates. Victor also needed new material In the past, tent tiles a day was a good days work. Now, as a further economy, engineers were told to make maximum use of the studio facilities and their own time. Thus, on Wednesday August 2, 1933, no less than thirty-five race titles  were recorded in Chicago, by a dozen artists including Roosevelt Sykes (as Willie Kelly), the Sparks brothers,  and Walter Davis. The Walter Davis items were put out simultaneously on Bluebird, at  35 cents, and in the Victor 23250 series, at 75 cents. However, it soon became apparent that there was little point in continuing to produce 75-cent race records and at the end of 1933 the Victor race series-which had reached 23432- was withdrawn.

1933 was a particularly good year for the talented Atlanta artists: Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Moss and Curley Weaver. Over the course of several days in September 1933, Blind Willie recorded four sessions for Vocalion in New York City resulting in some two-dozen sides all featuring Curley Weaver.  Several sides were unissued at the time only too be issued decades later. Weaver recorded around two-dozen sides at six session in 1933 for Vocalion, Brunswick and ARC.  Some sides were unissued. Fred McMullen was recorded around th same time, cutting seven sides for Brunswick and ARC with each playing some of the others sessions. Ruth Willis, Buddy Moss and Blind Willie also show up on Weaver's sessions from this period. Moss cut some two-dozens sides at several sessions in 1933 for Brunswick and ARC in New York City. Some sessions featured fellow Atlanta friends Blind Willie McTell, Ruth Will, Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen.

Buddy Moss playing guitar in the Green County Convict Camp

Other artists who recorded prolifically during 1933 were Jack Kelly,  Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Davis, Walter Roland, Sonny Scott and Josh White. Singer/guitarist Jack Kelly was the front man of the South Memphis Jug Band, a popular string band whose music owed a heavy debt to the blues as well as minstrel songs, vaudeville numbers, reels and rags. He led the group in tandem with fiddler Will Batts, and they made their first recordings in 1933, cutting some two-dozen sides between August 1 and 3rd for Banner and ARC. Roosevelt Sykes cut two sessions in 1933 for Victor and Bluebird and was busy backing several artists like Walter Davis, Carl Rafferty, St. Louis Jimmy, Clarence Harris and Charlie McFadden. Walter Davis cut two-dozen sides in 1933 for Blue Bird all backed by Sykes. Walter Roland and Sonny Scott recorded on the same dates for Vocalion between July 18-20, 1933 and playing on each others sessions. Roland cut eighteen sides while Scott cut fourteen sides. Josh White cut a dozen sides for Brunswick in 1933.

By 1933 the era of the blues Queens was past with Bessie Smith making her last sides in 1931, Clara Smith in 1932, Rosa Henderson in 1931, although several hung in there for a bit longer like Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey and Eva Taylor who was one of the only ones to record in 1933. In 1920 Taylor moved to New York City, where she became a popular singer in the night clubs of Harlem. The following year she married pianist, publisher and producer Clarence Williams. The couple collaborated on many projects. In 1922 Taylor made her first record for the African-American owned Black Swan label, who billed her as "The Dixie Nightingale". She would continue to record dozens of Blues, Jazz and popular sides for Okeh and Columbia throughout the 1920s and 1930s. She made a handful of strong sides in 1933 backed by Clarence Williams' Jug Band which included Willie "The Lion" Smith and Banjo Ikey Robinson among others.

Among some older styles that were hanging on were some of the vaudeville styled blues, namely with some sides cut by  Coot Grant and Wesley Wilson. Coot Grant was the main stage name of Leola B. Pettigrew, a blues singer from Alabama whose legal name became Leola Wilson following her marriage to performing partner Wesley Wilson. The husband and wife, billed as Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins, cut over sixty sides between 1925 and 1938, often backed with top jazz artists such as Fletcher Henderson, Mezz Mezzrow, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. They also performed in musical comedies, vaudeville, traveling shows, revues, and in film.

In addition to commercial recordings there was some important non-commercial sides recorded by John Lomax for the Library of Congress. Through a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, John Lomax was able to set out in June 1933 on the first recording expedition under the Library of Congress' auspices, with Alan Lomax (then eighteen years old) in tow. In their successful grant application they wrote, that prisoners, "Thrown on their own resources for entertainment . . . still sing, especially the long-term prisoners who have been confined for years and who have not yet been influenced by jazz and the radio, the distinctive old-time Negro melodies." They toured Texas prison farms recording work songs, reels, ballads, and blues from prisoners. They also recorded music from many others not in prison. The most important find was Leadbelly but also were recorded were fine singers like  James Iron Head Baker, Moses Clear Rock Platt and Washington (Lightnin'), all of whom are featured today.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Georgia WhiteSinking Sun BluesGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteGet 'Em From the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts) Sings & Plays
Georgia WhiteNew Dupree BluesGeorgia White Vol. 11930-1936
Lucille BoganJim TampaLucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929
Lucille BoganCoffee Grindin' BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganAlley BoogieThe Essential
Hattie HartWon't You Be Kind To Me?Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartI Let My Daddy Do That Memphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartI'm Missing That Thing Memphis Blues 1927-1938
Geeshie WileyLast Kind Word Blues The Best There Ever Was
Geeshie WileySkinny Legs Blues Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Georgia White Black Rider
Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteRattlesnakin' Daddy Georgia White Vol. 1 1930-1936
Georgia White I'm So Glad I'm 21 TodayGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Lucille BoganThey Ain't Walking No MoreThe Essential
Lucille BoganBaking Powder BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganPig Iron SallyShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Mattie Delaney Down The Big Road Blues I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River BluesMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Hattie HartColdest Stuff In TownMemphis Blues 1927-193
Hattie HartPapa's Got Your Water OnI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Hattie HartCocaine Habit Blues Blues Image Presents Vol. 4
Georgia WhiteWalking The StreetGeorgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937
Georgia WhiteAlley Boogie Sings & Plays
Georgia WhiteThe Blues Ain't Nothin' But???The Piano Blues Vol. 13
Lucille BoganReckless WomanShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Lucille BoganShave 'em DryShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Lucille BoganBarbecue BessShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Geeshie WileyEagles On A Half I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Geeshie WileyPick Poor Robin Clean I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Hattie HartMemphis Yo Yo BluesMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stomper
Lucille BoganStew Meat BluesShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Georgia WhiteLittle Red Wagon Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937

Show Notes:

On today's program we spotlight five tough blues ladies from the 1920's and 1930's; Lucille Bogan and Georgia White recorded extensively with Bogan cutting over sixty sides between 1923 and 1935, and White cutting over 80 sides between 1930 and 1941. Memphis singer Hattie Hart cut a handful of terrific sides under her own name and several with the Memphis Jug Band. We dip down to Mississippi to hear the only known record by mysterious guitar player Mattie Delaney and the equally shadowy, under-record and brilliant Geeshie Wiley.

Read Liner Notes: Pt. 1Pt. 2Pt. 3

In the 1982 liner notes to Georgia White: Sings & Plays the Blues (the first collection of White's recordings) Rosetta Reitz wrote: "Is Georgia White alive or dead? [she died in 1980] Nobody seems to know. If she is alive she is living in obscurity and would be 80 years old. If she is dead, her death went unnoticed for there were no obituaries. I checked and double checked with people who might know. I've been looking for her. I would like to tell her how important I think she is, important to to the history of American music (even though hardly anyone knows her name today)." Thirty years after these notes were written virtually nothing has changed, White is still forgotten and nothing of significance has been written about her in the intervening years. I suppose I should backtrack and mention that the Document label has issued her complete recordings spread over four volumes which is the source of several of today's recordings.

White reportedly moved to Chicago in the 1920's and began working as a singer in the nightclubs during the late '20s. She first recorded in May 1930 for the Vocalion label with Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra recording one song, "When You're Smiling, the Whole World Smiles With You."  After her initial session, White didn't return to the studios until 1935, but recorded regularly from then on through the early '40s for the Decca label (the label billed her as "the world's greatest blues singer"). In 1935, she also recorded a couple of songs, including "Your Worries Ain't Like Mine," under the alias Georgia Lawson. From her first sessions until the late '30s, White was accompanied by herself on piano then pianist Richard Jones, great bassist John Lindsay plus outstanding guitarists like Banjo Ikey Robinson, Les Paul, Teddy Bunn and Lonnie Johnson. White had a good repertoire of songs, many of which sold well and many risque such as I'll Keep Sitting on It, "Mama Knows What Papa Wants When Papa's Feeling Blue" and "Hot Nuts." She was also one of the blues' first revivalists, reaching way back to cover Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues", covering the like of Bessie Smith,  Ethel Waters, Sara Martin, Ma Rainey but more surprisingly are covers of Lucille Bogan's "Alley Boogie" and borrowing from Leadbelly ("Pigmeat Blues") and the obscure Joe Dean ("I'm So Glad I'm 21 Today").

Blues scholar Paul Oliver was on of the few others who wrote about White. In Jazz On Record published in 1968 he wrote: "Undeservedly neglected in recent years, Georgia White was one of the most popular of the recording blues singers in the thirties. She had a strong contralto voice with a keen edge to her intonation and was a capable pianist in the barrelhouse house tradition."

There was mention of White's passing in Arnold Shaw's Honkers And Shouters when he talks about Broonzy. White worked with Broonzy at the Bee Hive and another club in Chicago in a group called The Laughing Trio in 1949-1950. Shaw writes: "There was also Georgia White, a gorgeous Georgia Peach of a blues singer herself whom Big Bill credits with launching 'Trouble In Mind'"  (Bertha "Chippie" Hill cut the first version in 1926). Shaw quotes Broonzy: "When I say Georgia White", Big Bill murmurs, in introducing his version of 'Trouble In Mind', "she was a real nice-looking gal. All the musicians liked her. But there was no way of getting to her because her husband was always around. He was her valet-dressed her, brought her all of her food. Was no chance of anybody getting close to her."

Lucille Bogan, Circa 1933

In the late '40s, White formed an all-women band. She also worked with Big Bill Broonzy from 1949-50, and returned to singing in the clubs during the 1950's. Georgia Her last known public performance was in 1959, after which she retired from the music business.

Lucille Bogan got off to a rather shaky start on her two 1923 sessions. The feisty, boisterous singing she became known for came into much better focus when she returned to the studio in 1927 backed by papa Charlie Jackson on fine numbers like "Sweet Patinua", "Jim Tampa Blues" and "Cravin' Whiskey Blues." As Tony Russell writes in the Penguin Guide To Blues: "Over the next few years she constructed a persona of a tough-talking narrator – 'They call me Pig Iron Sally, 'cause I live in Slag Iron Ally, and I'm evil and mean as I can be,' she sings in 'Pig Iron Sally' – who knew the worlds of the lesbian and the prostitute. She reports from the former in 'Women Don't Need No Men' and 'B.D. Woman's Blues', and the latter in 'Tricks Ain't Walking no More' – best heard in the affectingly sombre version titled 'They Ain't Walking No More' …and 'Barbecue Bess.' Other notable recordings are 'Coffee Grindin' Blues' …and the first recording of  'Black Angel Blues,' which after a great change became a blues standard."  On these recordings she finds strong backing from pianists Will Ezell and Charles Avery. "…Thanks to the generally better sound quality and the ever sympathetic accompaniment of Walter Roland, her mid-30s recordings …are the most approachable. " Notable from this period are "Baking Powder Blues", "Reckless Woman", "Stew Meat Blues" and "Shave 'em Dry" which also exists in an extremely dirty version never intended for commercial release and one that can't be played on the air.

Bogan was born as Lucille Anderson in 1897 in Monroe county, Mississippi. In about 1914 she married Nazareth Bogan, Sr., a blues singer who also worked as a railroad man. The following year a son was born. In 1974 Bogan's son was interviewed by Bob Eagle (Lucille Bogan: Bessie Jackson, Living Blues no. 44, 1979) so quite a bit is known about her.

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.

Don Kent wrote in the notes to Mississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35: "Although Geeshie Wiley may well have been the rural South's greatest female blues singer and musician, almost nothing is known of her. …If Geeshie Wiley did not exist, she could not be invented: her scope and creativity dwarfs most blues artists. She seems to represent the moment when black secular music was coalescing into blues." Wiley recorded just two 78’s in 1930 and 1931, both highly sought after and worth a fortune to 78 record collectors. There are no known photographs and little is known about her. Ishman Bracey provides what little we know about her: "She lived 'round there on John Hart Street for a while. Charlie McCoy got her for his old lady. She could play on the guitar as good as on that record [Eagles On A Half, Pm 13074]. She said she was from Natchez; close by Natchez was her home. She didn't stay here long, couple of months and she done left." In the 1920's she spent three months in Jackson as a resident of John Hart Street; while there, she played in a medicine show. "She could play a guitar, but she had a guitar player with her," Bracey recalled. "She'd play a guitar, and a ukulele too." Wiley recorded "Last Kind Word Blues" and "Skinny Leg Blues" in Grafton, Wisconsin for Paramount Records in March of 1930, with Elvie Thomas backing her on second guitar. Thomas also recorded two songs for Paramount at the session, "Motherless Child Blues" and "Over to My House," Wiley, providing second guitar and vocal harmonies. In 1931 Wiley and Thomas returned to Grafton to record two more sides for Paramount, "Pick Poor Robin Clean" and "Eagles on a Half."

In Bengt Olsson's Memphis Blues and Jug Bands some light was shed on singer Hattie Hart: "Hattie Hart and Allen Shaw came together on record when they engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. Willie Borum was also present, playing guitar behind Shaw on some of the songs as well as singing four of his own. He and Shaw were new to the recording studio, but Hattie Hart had appeared on several of the Memphis Jug Band's discs in 1929 and 1939, singing the unforgettable 'Memphis Yo Yo Blues', 'Cocaine Habit Blues', 'Oh Ambulance Man, 'Papa's Got Your Bath Water On' and 'Spider's Nest Blues.'  Her voice was strong, sensual and moving. She was born, says Willie Borum, 'just around 1900.  She was dark skinned. She and her husband lived on Keil and Main …they were married as long as I knew them. Hattie used to throw lots of parties. " Borum recalled their New York session: "Hattie recorded just after Jack Kelly. She sang 'I Let My Daddy Do That'  and 'Travelin' Man' …but it was never out on record.  I went in the army from 1943 till 1946. When I came back Hattie had left town. I don't know what happened to her."

Her first recordings were made in Memphis for the Victor label in 1929. Three songs were recorded but only two were issued for her debut single. In 1934 she was recorded again in New York City in September of that year. In the course of four days she recorded some eighteen songs backed by guitarist Allen Shaw with the possibility of Willie Borum playing guitar on some of the cuts. Out of the eighteen songs, only four were issued giving Hattie two more records to her credit. It was also during these sessions that Shaw recorded his only issued sides. Hart may have moved Chicago where in in 1938 she cut sides as Hattie Bolten.

Mattie Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. The song "Tallahatchie River Blues" was first issued on the Yazoo anthology Mississippi Blues 1927-1941 in 1968. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie River Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist. Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy which he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000.

Here's the two Lucille Bogan sides I couldn't play on the air and one by Walter Roland:

-Shave 'Em Dry (unreleased version)

-Till The Cows Come Home (unreleased)

-I'm Gonna Shave You Dry (unreleased)

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Earl GilliamPetite Baby Sarg Records Anthology: South Texas 1954-1964
Earl GilliamWrong Doing WomanSarg Records Anthology: South Texas 1954-1964
Mississippi John HurtLet The Mermaids Flirt With MeDiscovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John HurtRichland Woman BluesDiscovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt
Ramblin' Hi Harris I Haven't Got A HomeThe Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Vol. 55
Morris "Big" Chenier I Wanna Know I Know NowGoldband Blues Collection Pt. 3
Left Handed Charlie MorrisYou Thrill MeGoldband Blues Collection Pt. 2
Jed Davenport Jug BluesMemphis Shakedown
Memphis Jug Band Going Back To MemphisMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers
Minnie WallaceLet's All Do That Thing Memphis Shakedown
Howlin' Wolf I'm Leaving You (Alternate Take) Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960
Howlin' Wolf My People's GoneSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960
Skip JamesNo Special Lover Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Lightnin' HopkinsUp On Telegraph (Avenue) Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Mance Lipscomb Mean Boss ManHear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Johnny Sayles Food Stamps Pt. 1The Johnny Sayles Story
Good Time Charlie (Charles Taylor)Welfare Blues President Ford's Blues 1974-1976
B.B. Odom & The EarbendersThe World's In TroublePresident Ford's Blues 1974-1976
Kid ColeSixth Street MoanRare Country Blues Vol. 3 1928-1936
George ToreyMarried Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 3
Blind Willie McTellTravelin' BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Memphis SlimCold Blooded WomanSavoy Blues 1944-1994
Sonny Boy Williamson II Can't Do Without YouThe Chess Years Box Set
Mighty Joe YoungWhy BabyN.Y. Wild Guitars
Big Joe Williams Hand Me Down My Old Walking StickHand Me Down My Old Walking Stick
John Dudley Clarksdale Mill Blues (previously unissued version)I'll Be So Glad When The Sun Goes Down
Babe Stovall Woman Blues Babe Stovall
Blind Willie JohnsonThe Rain Don't Fall On MeThe Rain Don't Fall On Me: Country Blues 1927-1952
Hattie Hart Coldest Stuff in TownMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Bessie JacksonThat's What My Baby LikesThe Essential
K.C. Douglas Hear Me Howling Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
K.C. DouglasHad I Money Deadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues

Show Notes:

We've had a run of interesting theme shows in the past few week and this time we take a pause with a mix show. We open today on a sad note with a pair of tracks from Houston stalwart Earl Gilliam. Also on deck  we spotlight the following recent collections: Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond, Discovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt, Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 and President Ford's Blues 1974-1976. In addition we spin a trio of fine artists from Louisiana, a batch of vintage Memphis blues and some outstanding country blues sides both pre-war and post-war.

Earl Gilliam

We open up with "Petite Baby" and "Wrong Doing Woman", two fine sides Earl Gilliam recorded back in 1955. Pianist Earl Gilliam passed away on Wednesday, October 20, 2011. He was part of the Houston blues scene for the past 60 years. Over the years, Gilliam would become known as Houston's premiere blues pianist, and he performed alongside such greats as Lightnin' Hopkins, Albert King, Albert Collins, and Joe "Guitar" Hughes, among many others. By 17 Gilliam landed a gig playing the Eldorado Ballroom with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. He cut a four song session for the Sarg label in 1955 backed by Lucian Davis & His Orchestra and cut one side for the Ivory label in 1962. Gilliam also led his own band, performing frequently in Houston clubs throughout the 1990's and 2000's. Gilliam only released one album under his own name, 2005's excellent Texas Doghouse Blues for the Dialtone label. I recall playing this one quite a bit when it first came out and even got an opportunity to interview Gilliam.

We feature four tracks today from the superb Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond, an anthology of recordings made by Chris Strachwitz in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1954 and 1971 in the early days of his Arhoolie record label. Arranged chronologically over four discs and 72 tracks, and packaged with a 136-page hardcover book, these sides (many of them previously unreleased) were recorded at coffeehouses, festivals, and living rooms, and sometimes in studios. When performers came through the area, Strachwitz would tape them at a show, at a party, or in somebody’s home – often his own. He wound up with more material than he could release at the time. Some of the leftovers, collected for the first time, are stunning. We hear tracks from Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb, clearly among Strachwitz' favorites, plus the gorgeous "No Special Lover" one of several Skip James tracks from 1965 and the title track by K.C. Douglas.

Speaking of K.C. Douglas we also play his "Had I Money" from the album Deadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues (subtitled Street corner blues 'bout women and automobiles). I've always been intrigued by this album which was states that this material  was "collected" by Sam Eskin in Oakland in 1952.  The album was issued possibly in 1954 or maybe 1956 which would make it one of the earliest blues records issued that wasn't a reissue of older material.  As for Eskin, he was a folklorist who made field recordings between 1939 and 1969 and during this period made many cross-country trips from New York to California where he recorded American folk music. Beginning in 1950 he made recordings abroad in Mexico, Israel, Spain and the British Isles.  Eskin's recordings and notes are now housed at the Library of Congress. Other artists he recorded include Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and Leadbelly.

This has been a good year for Mississippi John Hurt. Earlier this year so the publication of the biography Mississippi John Hurt: His Life, His Times, His Blues and now we get Discovery: The Rebirth Of Mississippi John Hurt, a collection of previously unissued recordings.  In  in 1963 guitarist and blues fanatic Thomas Hoskins rapped on the door of a small house in rural Mississippi. Inside the house Hoskins found found an amiable, humble man, who farmed to make a living. John Hurt was surrounded by family and friends. He hadn't owned a guitar in years, and was amazed that a young white man had sought him out 35 years after his last recording sessions. Hoskins gave Hurt his guitar and turned on his reel to reel recorder. On Discovery Hurt plays several of the songs from his 1928 sessions as well as some others that later became staples of his folk festival repertoire including "Let The Mermaids Flirt With" and "Richland Woman Blues" both featured today. Overall sound quality is surprisingly good considering the source and Hurt is much less polished then his studio recordings. All in all a fascinating document from the dawn of the blues revival. It's hard to believe that within a few year Hurt, Bukka White, Skip James and Son House would all be back in circulation. Amazing times.

Read Liner Notes

Two other collections featured today: Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 and President Ford's Blues 1974-1976. The Wolf collection is a 97-track, four-disc limited-edition box set containing everything the Wolf cut in his first decade of recording. President Ford's Blues is a companion CD to the book The Nixon and Ford Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights and Inflation 1969-1976. Guido van Rijn has written four previous books on topical blues and gospel songs. Good Time Charlie's (Charles Taylor) "Welfare Blues" is a funky slab of 70's blues  while B.B. Odom & The Earbenders deliver the tough "The World's In Trouble." Although from a different collection we also hear Johnny Sayles "Food Stamps Pt. 1", another hard hitting topical number.

We head down to Louisiana to hear records from the Lake Charles based Goldband label and a recording by legendary producer J.D. Miller. Goldband was formed by Eddie Shuler in 1945. In the early 1950's Shuler established the Goldband complex – including recording studio, record store, and TV store  in Lake Charles, and began recording all genres of music, including R&B, blues, country, rock and roll, swamp pop and Cajun. Hit recordings included Boozoo Chavis' "Paper in My Shoe" (1954) and the company's biggest seller, Phil Phillips' "Sea of Love" (1959). The label recorded a fair bit of blues including sides by Clarence Garlow, Juke Boy Bonner, Hop Wilson and today's selections from Morris "Big" Chenier and Left Handed Charlie Morris. Of Miller, Bruce Bastion wrote: "Close to South Louisiana bayou country, Crowley is the home of J.D. Miller's studio, responsible as much as any other factor for the sound we now know as the moody, loping blues of the Louisiana swamps. Many completely unknown artists found fleeting fame through Miller's recordings  and through the Excello issues of his recordings, he helped support one of the most consistent blues labels of the 1950's." Today we spin "I haven't Got A Home" by the mysterious Ramblin' Hi Harris who waxed just three sides for Jay Miller that were unissued at the time.

We head to Memphis for a fine set of vintage blues by the Memphis jug Band, Jed Davenport and Minnie Wallace. Davenport came from a tent show and medicine show background. Davenport cut around a dozen sides as leader between 1929-30. Wallace Cut six sides at sessions, plus several unissued sides, in 1929 and 1935 backed by members of the Memphis Jug Band.

I remember picking up the album Praise God I'm Satisfied by Blind Willie Johnson on Yazoo over twenty years and it was one of those albums that made a huge impression on me. I suppose I was more interested in his slide numbers that I overlooked today's featured track, the beautiful, "The Rain Don't Fall On Me" with second vocal by Johnson's wife Willie B. Harris. The track comes from an album on the Mississippi label that a friend gave me called The Rain Don't Fall On Me: Country Blues 1927-1952. The Mississippi label reissues an an eclectic mix of music strictly on vinyl including some interesting blues collections.

I also want to mention a great post-war recording by John Dudley. In early October 1959 Alan Lomax recorded an inmate named John Dudley in the "Dairy Camp" portion of the Mississippi prison camp known as Parchman Farms. Our selection, an unissued version of "Clarksdale Mill Blues", is a cover of Charley Patton's "Moon Going Down." Only three songs were issued but several others remain unreleased. This version comes from the album I’ll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down issued on the Mississippi label. Lomax didn't give us much information on Dudley: "Lastly, in John Dudley's blues, we meet a country musician of the sophisticated, yet completely folk, tradition of the 1930's. Dudley and Robert Johnson both come from Tunica County, Mississippi and belong to the same school." In all Dudley recorded the following numbers:  "Clarksdale Mill (2 takes)", "You Got a Mean Disposition","Big Road Blues", "Cool Drink of Water Blues (2 takes)", "Poor Boy Blues",  "I'm Gonna Move To Kansas City" and an interview about "playing guitar at dances."

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Funny Papa SmithMama's Quittin' And Leavin' Part 1The Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931
Ruby Glaze (Katie McTell) & Blind Willie McTellLonesome Day Blues BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Mae Glover I Ain't Givin' Nobody NoneI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Eliot ShaversFool, Fool, FoolMore West Coast Winners
Wille HeadonFind Another WomanMore West Coast Winners
Eddie LangTroubles, TroublesTroubles, Troubles: New Orleans Blues From The Vaults Of Ric & Ron
Lucille Bogan They Ain't Walking No MoreBarrelhouse Mamas
Alberta Jones Where Have All The Black Men GoneVocal Blues & Jazz Vol. 1 1921-1930
Muddy WatersOne More MileOne More Mile
Muddy WatersEvans ShuffleThe Complete Chess Masters 1
Muddy WatersWee Wee BabyBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Luke "Long Gone" MilesCountry BoyCountry Boy
Howard Armstrong38 Pistol BluesLouie Bluie: Film Soundtrack
Johnny YoungWhy Did You Break My Heart I Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Barbecue BobGood Time RounderBarbecue Bob Vol. 2 1928-1929
Charlie ''Specks'' McFaddenLow Down Rounders BluesTwenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
Frank Stokes Memphis Rounders BluesThe Best Of
Frankie Lee SimsBoogie 'Cross the CountryLucy Mae
Frankie Lee SimsFrankie Lee's 2 O'Clock JumpLucy Mae
Furry LewisBig Chief BluesThe Best There Ever Was
Allen ShawMoanin' The BluesMasters of the Memphis Blues
Sugar Boy Crawford Troubled Mind BluesThe Centennial Edition Sugar Boy Crawford 1953-154
Sugar Boy Crawford What's WrongSugar Boy Crawford 1953-154
Buster Johnson & James Cole's Washboard BandUndertaker BluesTimes Ain't Like They Used to Be Vol. 3
Texas Bill Day Good Mornin' BluesDallas Alley Drag
Amos MilburnMy Love Is LimitedThe Complete Aladdin Recordings
T-Bone WalkerThrough With WomanThe Complete Recordings 1940-1954
Howlin' Wolf My Last AffairHowlin' Wolf 1952-1953
Big Boy Teddy EdwardsW - P - A BluesBig Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936
Big Boy Teddy EdwardsAlcohol Mama Big Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936
The Earthworms FishtailDown And Broadway And Main

Show Notes:

The last couple of weeks have been a bit hectic so today's mix show was put together at the last minute. Still a solid set of blues on deck including some fine early blues ladies, a varied collection of pre-war blues, twin spins by Frankie Lee Sims, Big Boy Teddy Edwards, Sugar Boy Crawford and trio of sides by Muddy Waters.

Both Mae Glove and Ruby Glaze (Katie McTell) backed Blind Willie McTell's "Lonesome Day Blues" come from I Can't Be Satisfied an unbeatable two volume set on the Yazoo label which I've featured often on the program. Little is known of Mae Glover who cut fourteen sides at two sessions; four for Gennet in 1929 and the rest for Champion in 1931. Her best sides are from the first session where she backed by guitarist John Byrd. The two turn in a driving, sexy performance on "I Ain't Givin' Nobody None." Katie McTell first appeared on record with Blind Willie on 1932's "Rollin' Mama Blues b/w Lonesome Blues"and appears on several of his religious sides from a 1935 session. "Lonesome Day Blues" is sung in Katie's laconic, nasal style interjected by some asides by Blind Willie.

We hear a another duet between the utterly obscure Magnolia Harris and J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith on the two part "Mama's Quittin' And Leavin'." Smith was popular and relatively prolific, yet virtually nothing is known about him. He cut 20 sides at sessions in 1930, 1931 plus a batch of unreleased sides in 1935. Thomas Shaw who played with Smith in Oklahoma remembered Smith as a plantation overseer and convicted murderer. His debut single, the two-part "Howlin’ Wolf Blues" was a big hit. A June 1931 letter from Brunswick to dealers called it "the biggest selling record on the market today. …It is true that this is a Race Record and you might think therefore that its sales would be confined to your colored trade. Not so. You will be surprised how many white folk will buy it."

Lucille Bogan often focused on explicit sexual themes, like prostitution, adultery and lesbianism, and social ills such as alcoholism, drug addiction and abusive relationships. She was born in Mississippi but grew up in Birmingham. In 1923 she made her debut but the records apparently didn't sell well because she didn’t record again until 1927 for the Paramount and Brunswick labels after moving to Chicago. Between 1933 and 1935 she performed and recorded under the pseudonym Bessie Jackson and worked with Walter Roland. Bogan’s recording career came to an end in 1935. In the late 1930s or early l940s, Bogan moved to the West Coast. She died in Los Angeles in 1948. "They Ain't Walking No More" is a classic tale of walking the streets to earn a buck.

In contrast, little is known of Alberta Jones who cut sixteen sides between 1923 and 1930. She was a good singer, often backed by some sympathetic bands, and is heard to good effect on "Where Have All The Black Men Gone." Lillian Glinn cut the song a few months prior.

We spotlight a trio of songs about the those low down rounders. "Rounder" is a term that crops up in numerous blues songs. Here's the definition from the late Stephen Calt's Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary: "'A man who won't work' (Skip James). The sense of the word is implicit in most blues references to a rounder; the word otherwise signified 'who who makes the round of prisons, workhouses, drinking saloons, etc,;  a habitual criminal, loafer or drunkard' (OED which dates it to 1854). Most blues singers were by definition rounders, since performing homespun music was not considered legitimate music by anyone of the blues er, the singers themselves included." We travel around around to Atlanta to hear Barbecue Bob's "Good Time Rounder", St Louis' Charlie "Specks" McFadden's "Low Down Rounders Blues" and from Memphis, Frank Stokes' "Rounders Blues."

Little is known about "Big Boy" Teddy Edwards, a Chicago singer played both guitar and tiple and cut around two-dozen sides between 1930 and 1936 as well as contributing vocals to sessions by the Hokum Boys and Papa Charlie Jackson. Big Bill Broonzy recalled working with him and Papa Charlie Jackson. Today we spin the solo "Alcohol Mama" and the band backed "W – P – A Blues", a terrific cover of the Big Bill number.

Frankie Lee Sims claimed to be a cousin of Lightnin’ Hopkins. Sims cut his first 78's for Blue Bonnet Records in 1948 in Dallas, but didn’t taste anything resembling regional success until 1953, when his "Lucy Mae Blues" did well down south.  Sims recorded fairly prolifically for Los Angeles based Specialty into 1954, then switched to the Ace label in 1957 to cut great rockers like "Walking with Frankie" and "She Likes to Boogie Real Low." He recorded for Bobby Robinson in late 1960 but these sides were unreleased and didn’t surface until decades later when they were released on the British Krazy Kat label. .Sims died at age 53 in Dallas of pneumonia. We spin two of his infectious Specialty boogies, "Boogie 'Cross the Country" and "Frankie Lee's 2 O'Clock Jump."

I had the pleasure of seeing pianist Davell Crawford last week at the Rochester Jazz Festival who put on a hell of a show and is firmly in the tradition of great New Orleans pianists like Professor Longhair and James Booker. He's also the grandson of Sugar Boy Crawford so I'd thought a play a pair of his numbers. Sugar Boy is best known for cutting the original version of  "Jock-A-Mo" in 1953, later recreated as "Iko Iko. " We hear Crawford croon on "Troubled Mind Blues" and pick up the tempo on the rollicking "What's Wrong."

I never get tired of playing Muddy Waters and there's plenty to choose from his deep catalog. From 1963 we hear the moody gem "One More Mile" spotlighting some fine harp from James Cotton and tasteful guitar from Luther Tucker, from the same year we listen to Muddy Live on "Wee Baby Blues" featuring Buddy Guy recorded at a WPOA live radio broadcast emceed by local Chicago disc jockey Big Bill Hill emanating from the Copacabana Club. From 1950 we spin "Evans Shuffle" (Ebony Boogie), featuring a virtuoso performance by Little Walter from just his second session in Muddy's band.

I want to also mention Howard Armstrong who we hear today on "38 Pistol Blues" playing with pals Tom Armstrong, Ted Bogan, Ikey Robinson and Yank Rachell. The track comes from the soundtrack to Louie Bluie by director Terry Zwigoff and the story that inspired this music collector to become a documentary filmmaker. The film he shot it on apparently was suffering from a lethal degradation called "vinegar syndrome," but fortunately Criterion has recently released it on DVD. At an hour long, Louie Bluie is packed with information, half about fiddle and mandolin master Howard Armstrong, and half about the history of old-time traveling bands. Zwigoff shot the film partially in Armstrong's Detroit housing project, recruiting musicians Ted Bogan, "Banjo" Ikey Robinson, and Yank Rachell in order to capture Armstrong jamming out with musicians of his ilk, and to extract the same charisma he entertained with in his 1930's and '40's heyday.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Little Brother MontgomeryVicksburg BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Charles AveryChain 'Em DownThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Blind Blake & Charlie SpandHastings St.The Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Lucille BoganAlly BoogieThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Mozelle AldersonTight In ChicagoThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Louise JohnsonBy The Moon And The StarsThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount
Charles 'Speck' PetrumHarvest Moon BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Eddie MillerFreight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 Brunswick
Bert MaysYou Ca'’t Come InThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Dan StewartNew Orleans BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Cow Cow DavenportBack In The AlleyThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Joe DeanI'm So Glad I'm 21 Years Old TodayThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Lee GreenMemphis FivesThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Pinetop SmithPine Top's Boogie WoogieThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Romeo NelsonHead Rag HopThe Piano Blues Vol. 3 Vocalion
Leroy CarrAlabama Woman BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 7: Leroy Carr
Walter RolandEarly This MorningThe Piano Blues Vol. 6 - Walter Roland
Turner ParrishTrenchesThe Piano Blues Vol. 5: Postscript
Joe PullumCows, See That Train Comin'The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport
Andy BoyHouse Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport
Cripple Clarence LoftonStrut That ThingThe Piano Blues Vol. 9 Lofton/Noble
Alfoncy HarrisAbsent Freight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11 Texas Santa Fe
Black Boy ShineBrown House BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11 Texas Santa Fe
Pinetop BurksJack Of All TradesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11 Texas Santa Fe
Pigmeat TerryBlack Sheep BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Peetie WheatstrawShack Bully StompThe Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Georgia WhiteThe Blues Ain't Nothin' But...The Piano Blues Vol. 13: Central Highway
Whistlin' Alex MooreBlue Bloomer BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas
Charlie SpandSoon This Morning BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 16 - Charlie Spand
Jabo WilliamsPratt City BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 17 - Paramount Vol. 2
Pinetop and LindbergEast Chicago BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 20 - Barrelhouse Years
Stump Johnson & Dorothy TrowbridgeSteady Grindin'Piano Blues Vol. 17 - Paramount Vol. 2
Bumble Slim w/ Myrtle JenkinsSomebody LosesPiano Blues Vol. 17 - Paramount Vol. 2
Speckled RedThe Dirty Dozen No. 2The Piano Blues Vol. 20 - Barrelhouse Years
Henry BrownHenry Brown BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 1 Paramount

Show Notes:

Some piano player, I'll tell you that
(Ivy Smith, Alabama Strut)

Read Liner Notes

On December 4, 2009 Francis Wilford-Smith died and today we pay tribute to him. Smith was an avid collector of 78 records, a broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 (Aspects of the Blues) and the compiler of some excellent piano blues LP's on the British label Magpie Records, drawing all the material from his own collection. Today's selections all come from Smith's groundbreaking 21 volume series he started in 1977 and issued on the Magpie label, a subsidiary o of the Flyright label. Subsequently his collection was used for a piano blues series on Yazoo issued on CD. He had one of the largest collections of piano blues 78's in the world. Smith also field recorded Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery at his home in Sussex in 1960, yielding two 1980s LP's of the latter: These Are What I Like: Unissued Recordings Vol. 1 and Those I Liked I Learned: Unissued Recordings Vol. 2. Smith made a good living from cartoons published under the pen name 'Smilby' in Playboy, which allowed him to outbid others for rare 78s. Wilford-Smith was 82, had suffered from Parkinson's disease since 1994, and spent his last years in a nursing home. He died asleep in bed.

On a personal note, it was through the Magpie series that I became a life long fan of piano blues. I came to the series late, my first purchase was volume 20 and I must have been around 16. The album made a huge impression on me and I even remember exactly where I purchased it – Tower Records on West 4th St., NYC. I went back and picked up as many of the rest of the albums I could find and over the years completed the entire series. The series had everything you would want; each thematically well assembled, excellent liner notes (brief introductions by Smith) by Bob Hall, Paul Oliver and Richard Noblett and superb transfers.

Read Liner Notes

Before I give some background on the individual volumes, its worth quoting Wilford-Smith from his introduction to the series:  "The well-merited reissue of so many excellent blues guitar records over the past few years has had, perhaps, one unfortunate and unintentional – in that it caused the pianist to be unfairly overshadowed. This album marks the start of a series which, it is hoped, will put into perspective the role of the piano in blues history and do justice to the memory of the many fine pianists who have so enriched the music. We are only using 78 originals from my own collection, thus giving the listener the rare chance to hear records; at their best. No dubs, no tape-tracks that have wandered in and out of   half-a-dozen tape collections before being issued with that all too familiar dead and muffled cotton-wool-in-the-ears sounds. No ordinary filtering of any sort has been done in any misguided attempt t0 'improve' the quality, and each listener is left free to filter to his own taste. Surface noise there may be, but freshness and vitality are not strained away. The selection of records both here and throughout the series will be essentially subjective and reflect my own taste, but l shall endeavor to include a wide-ranging variety of piano styles and treatments to give as broad as possible a picture of the whole blues piano scene."

More or less, we work our way through the series volume by volume. The first volume and volume 17 are devoted to Paramount and as Smith writes: "…We start with Paramount, almost unchallenged as the greatest blues label, and its piano content lives up to its reputation. Here are joys indeed  -  and some of the greatest blues piano ever recorded.  Spand, Little Brother, Ezell,  Louise Johnson, Wesley Wallace, Garnett.  …I think the playing here must satisfy the most critical lover of the blues." From those volumes we spin tracks by Little Montgomery, Charles Avery, Charlie Spand, Louise Johnson, Henry Brown and Jabo Williams.

"…The second volume", Smith writes, "in our Piano Blues Series, will  be found very different in character to Volume One.  … Here on Brunswick a large  proportion of  the  piano blues bear a strong family resemblance and emotional  unity. This perhaps because several of the artists would seem to hail from the St. Louis area, and share that  hollow-chorded easy-rocking piano style." The Piano Blues Vol. 3 is devoted to the Vocalion label which was founded in 1916 and acquired by Brunswick in 1925. These are particularly strong volumes and we included several tracks from these collections including Eddie Miller, Charles "Speck" Pertum, Lucille Bogan, Mozelle Alderson, Romeo Nelson and Joe Dean among others.

Read Liner Notes

Next to St. Louis, one of the most musically rich piano regions was Texas as Paul Oliver observed:  “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues …A cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas.” Four volumes in the series are devoted to the piano blues of Texas: The Piano Blues Vol. 4 – The Thomas Family 1925-1929, The Piano Blues Vol. 8 – Texas Seaport 1934-1937, The Piano Blues Vol. 11 – Texas Sante Fe 1934-1937 and The Piano Blues Vol. 15 – Dallas 1927-1929. The Texas pianists, Oliver notes, "…can be grouped into 'schools', characterized by certain similarities of style and approach, that were partly a reflection of the environments in which they worked, of their friendships and associations with other pianists, and by the isolation of Texas from other states.” One school was the so-called “Santa Fe group” who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Here was where the music thrived and pianists could be found like Pinetop Burks, Son Becky, Rob Cooper, Black Boy Shine, Andy Boy, Big Boy Knox, Robert Shaw, Buster Pickens and the singers who worked with them like Walter “Cowboy” Washington and Joe Pullum. The other important school was a cluster of pianists and singers based in Dallas such as Alex Moore, Texas Bill Day, Neal Roberts Willie Tyson, and singer Billiken Johnson. The earlier Texas piano tradition is documented on The Piano Blues Vol. 4 – The Thomas Family 1925-1929. As David Evans states: “It is likely that no family has contributed more personalities to blues history than the Thomas family of Houston, Texas, whose famous members included George W. Thomas, his sister Beulah “Sippie” Wallace, their brother Hersal Thomas, George’s daughter Hociel Thomas, and Moanin’ Bernice Edwards who was raised up in the family.”

Several volumes in the series are devoted to individual artists or a cluster of artists: The Piano Blues Vol. 6 – Walter Roland 1933-1935, The Piano Blues Vol. 7 – Leroy Carr 1930-1935, The Piano Blues Vol. 9 – Lofton-Noble 1935-1936 (Cripple Clarence Lofton and George Noble), The Piano Blues Vol. 12 – Big Four 1933-1941 (Little Brother Montgomery, Walter Davis, Roosevelt Sykes, Springback James) and The Piano Blues Vol. 18 – Roosevelt Sykes/Lee Green 1929-1930.

Read Liner Notes

Among the other volumes in the series we play tracks from The Piano Blues Vol. 5 – Postsript 1927-1935, The Piano Blues Vol. 13 – Central Highway 1933-1941, The Piano Blues Vol. 14 – The Accompanist and The Piano Blues Vol. 20 – Barrelhouse Years 1928-1933. Among the tracks we spin from these collections are Turner Parrish's remarkable "The Trenches" who Bob Hall calls "an eccentric and probably unschooled pianist with nevertheless a considerable technique", Georgia White accompanying herself on piano on the boisterous "The Blues Ain't Nothin' But…", the obscure Pigmeat Terry who sings magnificently on the moving "Black Sheep Blues" accompanied by his own piano and the wonderful Pinetop and Lindberg's "East Chicago Blues."

The piano blues series officially concluded with The Piano Blues Vol. 21 – Unfinished Boogie 1938-1945 which collects unreleased recordings of Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. As mentioned previously two collections of recordings by Little Brother Montgomery were made at Smith's home in 1960 and were the final albums issued on the Magpie imprint. Yazoo Records launched their own piano blues series also using 78’s from Smith’s collection. As far as I can tell the series has stopped but they issued seven excellent collections.

Related Articles:

Notes to The Piano Blues Vol. 8 – Texas Seaport 1934-1937, The Piano Blues Vol. 11 – Texas Sante Fe 1934-1937 and The Piano Blues Vol. 15 – Dallas 1927-1929 (Word Doc)

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