Entries tagged with “Lum Guffin”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Drop On Down In Florida FeatureInterview & Music
Lum Guffin On The Road AgainOn The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974
Lum Guffin Old Country Blues Old Country Blues Vol. 1
Ashley Thomas Sweet PeaceOld Country Blues Vol. 1
Perry TillisKennedy MoanToo Close
Dewey CorleyLast NightOn The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974
William FloydEvery time I Need YouSouthern Comfort Country
Walter MillerSherman's BluesOld Country Blues
Lattie Murrell Howling In The Moonlight45
Lattie Murrell When A Gal Cross The BottomOld Country Blues
Lincoln JacksonBig Fat WomanOld Country Blues
William Davis Floyd Why Did I Have To Leave Cairo?Southern Comfort Country
Joe TownsendTake Your Burdens To The LordSouthern Comfort Country
David Johnson Let The Nation Be FreeSouthern Comfort Country
Lum GuffinJohnny WilsonOn The Road Again
Walter Miller Stuttgart ArkansasOn The Road Again
Lattie MurrellSpoonfulOn The Road Again

Show Notes:

On today’s program we spotlight field recordings taped mainly in the 70’s in Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. In the first hour we hear recordings from a new reissue on the Dust-To-Digital label, Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music, 1977 – 1980. This an expanded reissue of a 2-LP set that first came out in 1981. The expanded reissue includes nearly 80 previously-unreleased minutes of music on 28 new tracks, plus numerous photos and a lengthy booklet. In a addition we chat with Dwight Devane who was involved in putting together the original 2-LP set, Blaine Wade the State Folklorist from Florida and Lance Ledbetter from Dust-To-Digital.

Florida, probably due to geography, was not well documented in terms of blues recordings. The popularity of blues was growing rapidly in the 1920's and to feed the demand 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.  No trips, however made it down to Florida. There was field recordings done in the pre-war era, most notably 1935  recordings made by Alan Lomax,  Elizabeth Barnicle and Zora Neal Hurtson that resulted in recordings for the Library of Congress. In the mid-70's the Flyright label issued this material on the LP's Out In The Cold Again: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 3 and Boot That Thing: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 4. In the 1960's and 70's there was much field recording work done by men such as David Evans (who was involved in this project), Peter Lowry, George Mitchell, among others, but none ventured to Florida. This sparseness of recordings makes  Drop on Down in Florida all the more valuable.

Emmett Murray (left) and Johnny Brown (right)

For the second hour we hear recordings by Bengt Olsson who taped some superb field recordings in Tennessee and Alabama between 1969 and 1974. He was also a very good writer as the liner notes he wrote prove and also authored the classic Memphis Blues and Jug Bands which was published in 1970 by Studio Vista and now long out-of-print. His life's work, Memphis Blues, was slated to be published by Routledge in 2008 but with Olsson's passing in January of that year it looks like the book has been permanently shelved. Olsson first came to the United States in 1969, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. He recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others.

In addition to the Lum Guffin record, Olsson's recordings have been issued on three compilations on the Flyright label. Some of these recordings appear on the CD On the Road – Country Blues 1969-1974. Several years back Birdman Records purchased Olsson's entire library of recordings. So far the label has issued two releases: Old Country Blues Vol. 1 and Bishop Perry Tillis: Too Close. In 2010 the Sutro Park label issued a vinyl album titled Wolf's At The Door: Lost Recordings From The Spirits Of The South which included some unreleased recordings by Olsson.

Olsson recorded Lum Guffin between 1972 and 1974, with a few tracks appearing on anthologies and the rest on his only ful-length album, Walking Victrola, issued on the Flyright label in 1973. Further field recordings were made in 1978 by Gianni Marcucci and issued on his Albatros label. Guffin performed as a street musician around Binghampton, Memphis during the depression with his sometime partner, mandolin player ‘Chunk’ McCullough or at home for various social gatherings, picnics, dances, etc. Guffin also performed in a fife and drum band during the time of these recordings. He passed in 1993.

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Dewey Corley was the leader of the Beale Street Jug Band from the '30s onward, and played jug, washtub bass and kazoo. In his later years, he also acted as an A&R man, helping record companies such as Adelphi scout out missing Memphis blues legends such as Hacksaw Harney and guitarist Willie Morris. Corley was influenced by Will Shade, joining Shade's Memphis Jug Band and was also a member of Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band and also backed quite a few of the city's diverse bluesmen in duo and trio settings. His own Beale Street Jug Band was a most successful venture and became a fixture in Memphis for nearly three decades. He cut several fine sessions in the 60's and 70's. Ashley Thompson was another jug band veteran, part of the vital jug band scene in Memphis in the '20s and '30s, working as a guitarist and vocalist in Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers.

Dewey Corley introduced Olsson to many of the city's overlooked older blues musicians. In Somerville, Tennessee, 1971, Olsson set up shop in a bootlegger's shack to record Lattie "The Wolf" Murrell, whose nickname stems from his great ability to mimic the vocal mannerisms of Howlin' Wolf. Murrel was record again in 1980 by Axel Kunster.

In the early 70 Begnt Olsson found himself in Coffee County, Al in search of blues musicians. They were soon pointed to the house of Joe Perry Tillis. Tillis had recently become blind but was travelling and playing blues just a few years prior. Now he was playing just gospel and spiritual music. They made some reel to reel recordings that day and came back to record more a few weeks later. In 1972 Olsson hired musicologist Bill Bart to record Tillis and found that Tillis had amplified his music. In his younger days Tillis had played blues all over the southeast and as far as California. During his travels he met Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and sometimes in the 40’s met Blind Willie Johnson whom he performed a couple of shows with. Tillis and his wife formed their own church in the late 70’s through. He regularly recorded his services on cassette. Tillis passed at the age of 85 in 2004.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Yank Rachel & Shirley GriffithPeach Orchard MamaArt of Field Recording Vol. I
J. T. AdamsRed RiverArt of Field Recording Vol. I
Sam ChatmonI Have To Paint My FaceI Have To Paint My Face
Robert Curtis SmithStella RuthI Have To Paint My Face
Butch Cage & Willie ThomasForty Four BluesI Have To Paint My Face
Little Brother MontgomeryTalking/Vicksburg BluesConversation With The Blues
Otis SpannTalking/People Call Me LuckyConversation With The Blues
Johnny Young & Arthur Spires21 BelowBlues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1
Jim BrewerBig Road BluesBlues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1
Boogie Bill WebbDooleyville BluesGoin' Up The Country
Arzo YoungbloodFour Women BluesGoin' Up The Country
Babe StovallWorried BluesThe Old Ace
Roosevelt HoltsBig Fat Mama BluesSouth Mississippi Blues
Esau WearyYou Don’t Have To GoSouth Mississippi Blues
Houston StackhouseBye Bye BluesBig Road Blues
Lum GuffinJack Of DiamondsWalking Victrola
Dewey CorleyLast NightOn The Road - Country Blues 1969-1974
Lattie MurrellSpoonfulOn The Road - Country Blues 1969-1974
Elster AndersonBlack And TanUnreleased
George HiggsSkinny Woman Blues 2Unreleased
Lewis "Rabbit" MuseJailhouse BluesWestern Piedmont Blues
Turner FoddrellSlow DragWestern Piedmont Blues
John TinsleyRed River BluesWestern Piedmont Blues
Joe SavageJoe's Prison Camp HollerLiving Country Blues
James Son ThomasStanding At The CrossroadsLiving Country Blues
Joe CallicottCountry BluesGeorge Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45
Cliff ScottLong Wavy HairGeorge Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45
Jimmy Lee WilliamsHave You Ever Seen PeachesGeorge Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45
Johnny Johnson & GroupI'm In The BottomWake Up Dead Man

Show Notes:

I suppose it sounds rather romantic spending your time roaming around the south with a tape recorder recording blues but for all the rewards and exciting discoveries it’s a stressful enterprise, not to mention a precarious way to make a living. These days hardly anyone one does it anymore and the sad fact is that blues has largely disappeared as integral part of African-American rural communities; most of the old timers have passed on and few of the younger generation are interested in blues, particularly traditional blues. Much has been written about John and Alan Lomax who scoured the south and beyond making landmark recordings for the Library of Congress from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. Less well known are those that followed in the Lomax’s footsteps; there was folklorists and researchers such as David Evans, Sam Charters, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Frederic Ramsey, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Chris Strachwitz , Bruce Bastin, Bengt Olsson, Dick Spottswood, Kip Lornell, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, Siegfried A. Christmann and Axel Küstner. Some were hunting for the famous names who made records in the 1920’s and 1930’s, others were seeking to fill in biographical blanks regarding some of the older musicians coveted by collectors and then there were those who were seeking to document the blues tradition as it still existed in rural communities, men like George Mitchell and I Have To Pain My FacePeter B. Lowry. This was a very different undertaking than 1960’s blues revival which sought out and put back on the circuit such legendary artists of the past as Son House, Skip James, Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt. The field recordings made during this era were a sort of a parallel undercurrent to the more famous artists. What they recorded in the rural communities of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960’s was a still thriving, if largely undocumented, blues culture. The bulk of theses recordings were issued on small specialist labels and many have yet to be reissued on CD. Today's program is the first of a multi-part series on some of these remarkable recordings.

The earliest tracks come from 1960 and were made by Paul Oliver and Chris Strachwitz and come from the albums Conversations With The Blues, a companion to Oliver's landmark book, and I Have To Paint My Face which was issued on Strachwitz's Arhoolie label. The recordings on I Have To Paint My Face were made by Chris Strachwitz in the Summer of 1960, the same year he formed his now legendary Arhoolie record label. That summer Strachwitz and blues scholar Paul Oliver and his wife made a trip through Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to interview and record older blues artists for a series of programs sponsored by the BBC. Among those recorded were Sam Chatmon, K.C. Douglas, Big Joe Williams, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas, Robert Curtis Smith and others. Conversations With The Blues is a series of interviews, in the artists own words, compiled from interviews with over sixty blues singers. The interviews stem from a trip Oliver made to the United States between June and Goin' Up The CountrySeptember 1960.

Today's program features a number of recordings made by David Evans. It was Evans' investigation into Tommy Johnson in the late 1960’s that we owe a good deal of what we know about Johnson and it was through Evans’ field recordings that Johnson’s influence comes into sharper focus. Evans recorded many men who learned directly from Johnson including Roosevelt Holts, Boogie Bill Webb, Arzo Youngblood, Isaac Youngblood, Bubba Brown, Babe Stovall, Houston Stackhouse and Tommy’s brother Mager Johnson. Long out of print are several important collections of Evans’ field recordings that gather artists influenced by Johnson. Most importantly is The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (1972), the companion LP to Evans’ Tommy Johnson biography featuring all songs that were in Johnson’s repertoire and all of which were learned by the artists from Johnson himself. Today's show spotlights selections from South Mississippi Blues and Goin’ Up The Country. David Evans began making field recordings in 1965 when he spent about five weeks taping blues artists in Mississippi and Louisiana. The collection Goin’ Up The Country released on Decca in 1968 collects some of the best performances he recorded. The album was reissued in 1976 on Rounder and Rounder also released South Mississippi Blues in 1973, another collection of field recordings from the same period. in addition we play a cut by Houston Stackhouse with his partner Carey Mason that stem from recordings Evans made in Crystal Springs, MS in 1967.

Bengt Olsson first came to the United States in 1964, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. Olsson recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others. Some of Olsson's recordings appear on the CD On The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974.

slp1804Pete Welding was one of the premiere documentarians of the 1960’s blues revival. Welding began recording and interviewing artists in the late 50’s and he began writing a column in Downbeat Magazine in 1959 called “Blues And Folk.” He moved to Chicago in 1962 where he formed his Testament Records label as an outlet for his fieldwork . Other of his recordings appeared on Storyville, Prestige, Blue Note and Milestone. We spotlight some of Weldings' recordings from the album Blues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1 recorded by circa 1964/1965.

Between 1969 and 1980 Pete Lowery amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. He formed the Trix label as an outlet to release his recordings. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45’s with LP’s being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states. In addition to the seventeen issued Trix albums there is sufficient material for another 40 to 50 CD’s. Many of the artists who had albums released were recorded extensively by Lowry and in most cases there is enough material in the can for follow-up records. In fact Lowry’s unreleased recordings far exceed the released recordings. Today’s program features some unreleased tracks that Lowry was kind of enough to send me.

Living Country Blues USAIn 1980 two young German blues enthusiasts, Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann, came to America with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment they hit the dusty road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. As the notes proclaim: “Traveling 10,000 miles by car in 2 1/2 months, they used 180,000 feet of tape and took hundreds of photographs to document various aspects of Country Blues, as well as work songs, fife and drum band music, field hollers and rural Gospel music, performed by 35 artists, some of whom appear on record for the first time.” From October 1st through November 30th the duo rolled through Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, New Orleans and of course Mississippi. These remarkable recordings were first issued across 12 LP’s titled Living Country Blues USA plus one double set on the German L+R label between 1980 and 1981. They have since been reissued on CD.

From the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s George Mitchell roamed all over the south recording blues in small rural communities where the music still thrived. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Several years ago the Fat Possum label acquired the Mitchell archive and has been reissuing the recordings.

DTD-08-Cover-ArtArt Rosenbaum is a painter, muralist, and illustrator, as well as a collector and performer of traditional American folk music. His field recordings have been collected on two 4-CD box sets on the Dust-To-Digital label called the Art Of Field Recording. Rosenbaum was also involved in producing several albums for Bluesville in the early 60’s including records by Indianapolis artists Scrapper Blackwell, Pete Franklin, Shirley Griffith, J.T.Adams and Brooks Berry. I'll be spotlighting Rosenbaum's blues recordings as well as interviewing him at the end of January.

The Blue Ridge Institute for Appalachian Studies at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, released a series of eight LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the group title Virginia Traditions. Each album featured an aspect of traditional Virginia folk music, setting old 78s and field recordings alongside more recent field material. From that series we spotlight three tracks for the album Western Peidmont Blues.

We close the show with Johnny Johnson & Group perfroming "I’m In The Bottom" from the album Wake Up Dead Man. "Making it in hell",  Bruce Jackson says, is the spirit behind the songs that comprise the album and book  Wake Up Dead Man is a collection of prison worksongs taped by Bruce Jackson in 1965 and 1966 in Texas prisons. Research was done at three primary institutions; the Ramsey unit (Camps 1 and 2), Ellis, and Wynne. Allowed complete freedom in these facilities, Bruce Jackson talked with, interviewed, and recorded inmates over time to collect information for this book.

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Show Notes:

An varied set of blues on today's program including some notable female singers,  several fine piano players and some fascinating field recordings. We spin two today tracks by the great Sippie Wallace that were cut almost forty years apart. From 1929 we play Sippie's magnificent, swaggering "I'm A Mighty Tight Woman" featuring Johnny Dodds on clarinet which outshines her original version cut three years prior.  We jump ahead to 1966 for "Woman Be Wise" from the album of the same name. These recordings are recorded on tour in Denmark with Little Brother Montgomery and if anything Sippie sounds stronger than she does on her earlier recordings. Wallace was born and raised in Houston and as a child  sang and played piano in church. Before she was in her teens, she began performing with her pianist brother Hersal Thomas. By the time she was in her mid-teens, she had left Houston to pursue a musical career. In 1923, Sippie, Hersal, and their older brother George moved to Chicago. By the end of the year, she had secured a contract with OKeh Records. Her first two songs for the label, "Shorty George" and "Up the Country Blues," were hits and Sippie soon magpie-4451-frontbecame a star. Sippie’s recordings featured jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Eddie Heywood, King Oliver, and Clarence Williams; both Hersal and George Thomas performed on Sippie's records as well. Between 1923 and 1927, she recorded over 40 songs for OKeh. She stopped performing in the 30’s and outside of a couple of sides in 1945 didn’t return to performing until the 60’s. She continued to perform and record until shortly before her death in 1986.

Among the featured piano blues today is a terrific solo version of  "Up the Country Blues" by Little Brother Montgomery. This recording comes from the album The Piano Blues – Unissued Recordings Vol. 1 on Magpie, a collection of recordings made in 1960 in England. Other pianists spotlighted include Leroy Carr, Peetie Wheatstraw, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Detroit Count, Cleo Brown and Dan Burley. Carr's "I Ain't Got No Money Now" cut in 1934 is a beautifully sung depression era gem set to the template of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out." Peetie Wheatstraw is exuberant on the rocking "Shack Bully Stomp"  from 1938 backed by Lonnie Johnson. Sung by red Nelson, "Crying Mother Blues", is a moving, poetic number underpinned by the rolling boogie piano of Cripple Clarence Lofton:

Dear mother's dead and gone to glory, my old dad gone straight away (2x)
Only way to meet my mother, I will have to change my lowdown ways

Tombstones my pillow, graveyard gonna be my bed (2x)
Blue skies gonna be my blanket and the pale moon gonna be my spread

We jump ahead to the late 1940's for tracks by the Detroit Count, Cleo Brown and Dan Burley. African-Americans began arriving in droves in Detroit by the 1920’s, most settling in an area called Black Bottom, later named Paradise Valley. Some of the earliest blues took place in the bars, brothels and house parties in Paradise Valley. One who played in those joints was the Detroit Count,the stage name of pianist Bob White who arrived in Detroit in 1938. He made his name with his 1948 song “Hastings Street Opera” a humorous description of the people and places of the famous street. He cut a total of six songs in 1948 plus a pair of unissued sides for King. our selection, "Detroit Boogie", is a storming update of the classic "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie." Dan Burley was a strong pianist who cut his teeth in the Chicago rent parties and barrelhouses, a sound reflected in 1946's " Fishtail Blues" back by Brownie and Sticks McGhee. Cleo Brown, made recordings in the '30s and '40s, then entered the studios once again in the late '80s after being rediscovered living in Colorado. Following the family move to Chicago in 1919, she began formal studies music on piano. By the early '20s, she was working professionally in clubs and tent shows as well as broadcasting live with her own regular radio show. By the early '30s, she was well-established and for the next two decades she worked almost non-stop, performing in cities across the United States and holding forth regularly in clubs such as New York's Three Deuces. She recorded prolifically in 1935-36 for Decca and made further sessions in 1949, 50 and 51.

Negro Songs Of ProtestAmong the field recordings played on today's program are a trio of marvelous recordings made by Lawrence Gellert of unnamed/documented singers. According to Gellert's notes some of these recordings were recorded in Greenville, South Carolina in 1924. It seems likely that these recordings are actually from the 30's although according to eyewitnesses Gellert was indeed recording in South Carolina in 1924. Other recordings hail from Atlanta, Georgia and date from 1928 through 1932. As one reviewer noted: "The most interesting thing about these two albums was the outspokenness of the songs against authority." Gellert was accepted as an insider in the African American communities in which he worked and was able to record protest songs that eluded other collectors of the time.” "Boogie Lovin'" is the first of eight pieces apparently played by the same guitarist.  As Bruce Harrah-Conforth wrote in the notes to a collection of these recordings: "Through his collection we get a chance to examine blues as they were performed within the Black community, as influenced by, and as influence to the 'race record' industry. In all probability the people Gellert recorded never went on to become anything more than what they were, members of their community. As such, the music they made is really the folk blues: blues without the intervention of commercial urbanity." There are many more recordings by Gellert that have yet to be issued. Some of these recordings appear on the Document collection Field Recordings, Vol. 9: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky (1924-1939) (this includes all the recordings on the album Nobody Knows My Name issued on the Heritage label in 1984). Gellert's initial release of these recordings was originally prepared for release on the Timely label titled Negro Songs of Protest but jackets were never printed and the only copies of the record which left Gellert's apartment went to friends or to others who had heard about it by word of mouth; the total was about 40 discs. This material was issued on LP by Rounder in the 70's with a follow-up album in the 80's titled Cap'n You're So Mean.

Other field recordings include some wonderful stringband music from Butch Cage and Willie B. Thomas recorded by Henry Oster in 1959, Blind Willie McTell performing "Delia" for Alan Lomax in 1940 in an Atlanta hotel room for John Lomax and Furry Lewis in fine form on "East St. Louis Blues" in 1968 from the album At Home In Memphis. We also hear the lone recording by Hayes McMullen who was interviewed and recorded by blues researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow. McMullen knew several of the early delta bluesman such as William Harris, Charlie Patton, Willie Brown and Ishman Bracey. We also hear from Lum Guffin who was first recorded in the 1970’s by Swedish researcher Bengt Olsson when he was 70 and again in 1980 by Axel Kunster for the Living Country Blues series. The LP Walking Victrola was his sole record, released on the Flyright label in 1973. Some of these recordings appear on the CD On The Road Again.

wee-willieFrom the 1950's we spin tracks by Larry Darnell and Wee Willie Wayne who both recorded in New Orleans. We spin Wayne's wailing "Tend To Your Business", his only hit which reached # 2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1951.  In the mid-40's Darnell settled in New Orleans, working in the Dew Drop Inn. One night in 1949 Darnell's act was caught by Fred Mendelsohn, co-founder and A&R director for the Regal record label who was in town scouting for new talent. He later recalled: "Darnell was doing a song called 'I'll Get Along Somehow' originally popularized by Andy Kirk. He added a recitation that sent the dames screaming and hollering." Darnell was hired on the spot where three titles were cut in early September 1949. Presented in two parts, "I'll Get Along Somehow" made it to number two on the Billboard R&B chart not long after "For You My Love" hit number one and scored a few other hits along the way. After Regal folded he bounced through labels like Okeh, Savoy, Deluxe Argo and others. He passed in 1984. Our selection, "Sundown", is a great showcase for his powerful pipes featuring some excellent backing vocals. Also from the 1950's are great tracks by Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker,  Helen Humes and B.B. King among others.

Also worth mention are recordings featuring Stovepipe No. 1.  Stovepipe No. 1 was Sam Jones who played harmonica, guitar and stovepipe. Possibly born in the 1880’s he  spent his life in Cincinnati. He cut a dozen sides in 1924, with several unissued, plus a few sides in 1927. He recorded as a one man band, with guitarist David Crockett and with the jug bands; King David’s Jug Band cut six sides in 1930 and most likely the Cincinnati Jug Band.

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