Entries tagged with “Lum Guffin”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Charlie SangsterTwo White HorsesBlues At Home Vol. 9
Charlie SangsterOne Cold NightBlues At Home Vol. 9
James “Son” Thomas & Eddie CusicStanding At The CrossroadsBlues At Home Vol. 10
James “Son” Thomas & Joe CooperThree Days I CriedBlues At Home Vol. 10
James “Son” ThomasFour Women BluesBlues At Home Vol. 10
Sleepy John EstesYellow Yam Blues (Take 4)Blues At Home Vol. 11
Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonSugar MamaBlues At Home Vol. 11
Sleepy John EstesShe Keeps Me Worried And Bothered Blues At Home Vol. 11
Mott Willis Baby Please Don't GoBlues At Home Vol. 13
Lum GuffinTrain I Ride 18 Coaches Long Blues At Home Vol. 13
William 'Do Boy' DiamondMississippi FlatBlues At Home Vol. 13
Walter Cooper & Hammie NixonBaby Please Don't Go, No. 3Blues At Home Vol. 13
Roosevelt HoltsBig Road Blues Blues At Home Vol. 13
Asie PaytonBlind ManBlues At Home Vol. 13
Jacob StuckeyIt Must Have Been The Devil (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 13
Memphis Willie Borum 61 Highway Blues Blues At Home Vol. 13
Mattie May ThomasDangerous BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
John DudleyCool Drink of Water BluesParchman Farm: Photographs & Field Recordings 1947–1959
Son Thomas Catfish Blues Living Country Blues: An Anthology
Frank Hovington Lonesome Road BluesGone With The Wind
Joe Savage Joe’s Prison Camp HollerLiving Country Blues Vol. 7
Chester Davis, Compton Jones & Furry LewisGlory Glory HallelujahSorrow Come Pass Me Around
John Lee ZieglerIf I Lose, Let Me LoseThe George Mitchell Collection
Jimmy Lee WilliamsHave You Ever Seen PeachesHoot Your Belly
Roosevelt CharlesWasn't I LuckyBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs
Jim Brewer Big Road BluesBlues Scene USA Vol. 4
J.B. SmithSure Make a Man Feel BadNo More Good Time in the World for Me

Show Notes:

Charlie SangsterIn the early 70's through the early 80's Gianni Marcucci made five trips to the United States from Italy to document blues with several albums worth of material issued in the the 1970's. I've corresponded with Gianni regarding those albums and he wrote that these releases were "an abuse and an offense to my effort (10 years of field research, and 13 years of re-mastering and text editing), as well as an insult to the memory of the featured artists" and that his overall experience was a "nightmare." Furthermore, he wrote, "my research has been misunderstood with the result that I received some insults and defamation, both in Europe and USA, on magazines and books." The Blues At Home series is his "peaceful reply" to those critics. The recordings heard on this series were kept in Gianni's private archive. "In order to preserve these materials I transferred to digital those I thought were best, and by 2013 [2015]  the 16-volume Blues At Home CD collection was ready for release." The material is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music and CD Baby for digital download and streaming. There are plans to make these available as physical CD's as well.

"In 1972, Gianni wrote, "I worked with Lucio Maniscalchi. In 1976 Vincenzo Castella, assisted me and took the photographs. Lucio Maniscalchi  worked with me for 11 days (20-31 December 1972); Vincenzo Castella in July-August 1976. Both Maniscalchi and Castella were not interested in my research and documentary project. They left the project after the 2 field trips were done. They just randomly worked with me on those occasions. Their name was erroneously featured and emphasized on the" original LP's, "especially the name of Vincenzo Castella. I was the only responsible of the recordings, archiving, and LP edition (including, of course, all the typos, mistakes, etc.). In 1972 and 1976 Hammie Nixon helped finding some of the performers in Tennessee. In 1976 Mary Helen Looper and Jane Abraham helped in the Delta. …On December 1972, with the help of the legendary harmonica player Hammie Nixon, using a professional portable equipment, I had the chance to start recording blues in Memphis. The documentary research continued in July 1976, ending in July 1982. A series of informal sessions was held during the course of my five trips through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, featuring well known, but also little known, and unknown musicians."

Today's program is our second installment  (see part 1) featuring the following artists: Charlie Sangster, James “Son” Thomas, Walter Cooper, Eddie Cusic, Sleepy John Estes, Hammie Nixon, William 'Do Boy' Diamond, Mott Willis, Lum Guffin, Roosevelt Holts, Asie Payton, Memphis Willie Borum and  Jacob Stuckey. We have some extra tome time at the end of our two-part feature so we round it out with a selection of filed recording favorites featured on previous shows.Hammie Nixon

The ninth volume of the Blues At Home collection introduces Charlie Sangster, a little known artist of Brownsville, Tennessee. Belonging to a musical family, he learned how to play mandolin and guitar at the age of 12. His father, Samuel Ellis Sangster, was a blues guitarist who used to play with Sleepy John Estes and Hambone Willie Newbern; his mother, Victoria, was a gospel singer. Charlie played at the fish market and in other social situations with a circle of local musicians, including Charlie Pickett, Brownsville Son Bonds, Hammie Nixon, Yank Rachel, Sleepy John Estes, and Walter Cooper. He also knew and performed with Hambone Willie Newbern during the last part of Newbern’s life. Sangster was recorded at eight sessions between 1976 and 1980.

The tenth volume of the Blues At Home collection features Leland, Mississippi, bluesman James “Son” Thomas along with his uncle Joe Cooper, both hailing from Yazoo County, Mississippi, and Leland blues artist Eddie Cusic who passed away a few weeks back. Thomas, Cooper, and Cusic were discovered in the late ‘60s by researcher Bill Ferris, and Thomas and his uncle’s music are featured in Ferris’s book Blues from The Delta. “Son” Thomas also appeared in several blues LP anthologiesduring the late ‘60s and in some documentary films. From the ‘80s until his death in 1995, Thomas was in the folk music circuit, recording numerous albums and performing all over the world. The material was recorded during several informal sessions held in 1976, 1978, and 1982 at the artists’ homes in Leland and Greenville, Mississippi.

The eleventh volume of the Blues At Home collection features Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. Estes was born in 1899 in Ripley, Tennessee, but spent most of his life in Brownsville, Tennessee, which he considered his home. Between 1929 and 1939, he recorded over 30 sides for Vocalion, Decca, and Bluebird. Living in poverty for the whole of his life and being completely blind by the late '40s, Estes was rediscovered in the early '60s through the referral of Big Joe Williams. He hit the blues revival circuit, making numerous recordings and performing all over the world until his death in 1977. These sessions were recorded informally at Estes' home in Brownsville in December 1972, both alone and with the accompaniment of his old-time partner Hammie Nixon.

The twelfth volume of the Blues At Home collection harmonica player Hammie Nixon, performing with Sleepy John Estes, and alone on guitar and harmonica. Nixon was born in Brownsville, Tennessee. At age 11, he was able to play harmonica with Sleepy John Estes at a picnic held in Brownsville. Hammie also played with local musicians, Hambone Willie Newbern, Samuel and Charlie Sangster, Yank Rachell, and Charlie Pickett, learning harmonica from Noah Lewis and Tommy Garry. He first recordwd with Estes in 1929 for Victor. In 1934 he recorded in Chicago for Decca and Champion with Brownsville Son Bonds. He recorded with John Estes again in 1935 and 1937.  After Estes’ rediscovery in the early ‘60s, Hammie kept performing with him until John’s death in 1977. These recordings were recorded between 1972 and 1976 during informal sessions held at Hammie Nixon and Sleepy John Estes' homes in Brownsville.

113The thirteenth volume of the Blues At Home collection, features various blues artists recorded from 1976 to 1982 in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana. Mott Willis was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, has been associated with Tommy and Mager Johnson. Willis was recorded in  Crystal Springs, where he was discovered in the summer of 1967 making recordings for Advent and Mimosa Records which have yet to be released. Lum Guffin was a multi-instrumentalist; he played guitar as well as fife and drum music at picnics in the east Shelby County area. Discovered by Swedish researcher Bengt Olsson in the late '60s, Guffin had a Flyright Records LP devoted to him. William “Do-Boy” Diamond was born near Canton, Mississippi, in 1913. He was discovered in the '60s by George Mitchell who recorded him. Roosevelt Holts was born in 1905 near Tylertown, Mississippi, and developed his musical skill with Tommy Johnson. Discovered in the '60s, he made several recordings released on LPs and on a 45. Asie Payton never moved out of the Holly Ridge, Mississippi, area where he worked as a farmer and tractor driver for most of his life. He record for Fat Possum late in life. Memphis Willie Borum was born in 1911 in Memphis and had a central role in the jug band scene, actually playing with all the major groups and blues artists active in the City. He was rediscovered by Sam Charters in 1961, recording two LP albums for Bluesville. Jacob Stuckey was born in Bentonia, Mississippi, in 1916 and learned directly from Skip James.

The final volumes of the Blues At Home series (13-16) feature interviews by several of the artists. These are not featured on today's program.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Guitar Slim Little BoyGreensboro Rounder
Guitar Slim Worried BluesGreensboro Rounder
Lum Guffin Moaning And Groaning Blues Walking Victrola
Lum Guffin Railroad Blues Walking Victrola
Shortstuff Macon Moanin' Introducing Mr. Shortstuff
Shortstuff Macon Great Big LegsIntroducing Mr. Shortstuff
Maxwell Street Jimmy Me And My Telephone Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis
Maxwell Street Jimmy Drifting From Door To Door Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis
Maxwell Street Jimmy Crying Won't Make Me Stay
Modern Chicago Blues
Guitar Slim Penitentiary Moan Blues Greensboro Rounder
Guitar Slim War Service Blues Greensboro Rounder
Guitar Slim Lovin Home Blues Greensboro Rounder
Lum Guffin Johnny Wilson Walking Victrola
Lum Guffin Old Country BluesOld Country Blues
Shortstuff Macon Short Stuff's Corrina Hell Bound & Heaven Sent
Shortstuff Macon My Jack Don't Drink Water No More Hell Bound & Heaven Sent
Shortstuff Macon Tight Like ThatHell Bound & Heaven Sent
Maxwell Street Jimmy Make Some Love To You Chicago Blues Live At The Fickle Pickle
Maxwell Street Jimmy Long Haired Darlin' Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis
Guitar Slim Won't You Spread Some Flowers On My Grave Living Country Blues Vol. 8
Guitar Slim – Bad Luck Blues Living Country Blues Vol. 8
Lum GuffinOn The Road Again Walking Victrola
Lum GuffinJack Of Diamond Walking Victrola
Guitar Slim Come On In My Kitchen Living Country Blues USA: Introduction
Guitar Slim Lula's Back In Town Living Country Blues vol. 10

Show Notes:

 Guitar Slim: Greensboro Rounder
Read Liner Notes

I was talking last week on the air during our pledge drive about radio and how the landscape has changed with iTunes and services like Spotify and Pandora. What I tried to emphasize is that even with these services there is a vast amount of material that has never been digitized and hence you will never hear on these services. This is certainly the case with the blues. When CD's starting coming out many of us assumed everything would be made available but there remain many, many great albums that remain long out-of-print with little chance of ever getting reissued. If you look in the The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings, one of my favorite resources, there's a thousand pages listing blues CD's but one could come up with a hefty companion volume of all the recordings that have not made it onto CD and therefore not included in that book. Those recordings are featured regularly on this show and make up something of a forgotten history of the blues. There are many artists who's complete output remains unissued on CD, making their achievements virtually forgotten. With companies like Document and Yazoo, almost all of the pre-war materiel has been reissued. Similarly labels like Ace and Classics, among others, have done a good job covering the post-war era. The most glaring oversight is some of the great, little known bluesman who were captured in the 1960's and 70's, many of these field recordings, and issued almost exclusively on small labels. Our ongoing Forgotten Country Blues Heroes continues spotlighting these artists.

From the 1960's through the 80's there were folklorists, researchers and dedicated fans such as David Evans, Pete Welding, George Mitchell, Sam Charters, Chris Stratwichz, Mack McCormick, Bruce Jackson, Peter B. Lowry, Tary Owens, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Bengt Olsson, Kip Lornell, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, and Axel Küstner who actively sought out and recorded rural blues. 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. Today's program spotlights a batch of superb, little known, artists who were recorded during this period, almost all of whose recordings remain out-of-print: Guitar Slim Stephens, Lum Guffin, Short Stuff Macon and Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis.

 Lum Guffin: Walking Victrola
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James “Guitar Slim” Stephens was born on March 10, 1915, near Spartanburg, South Carolina. He began playing pump organ when he was only five years old, singing spirituals he learned from his parents and reels he heard from his older brother pick on the banjo. Slim was so small that his feet would not even reach the organ pedals, so he had one of his brothers do the pumping while he practiced the keys. Within a few years, Slim was playing piano. When he was thirteen, Green began picking guitar, playing songs he heard at local “fling-dings,” house parties, and churches. A few years later he joined the John Henry Davis Medicine Show, playing music to draw crowds to hear the show master’s pitch; this took him throughout the southeastern Piedmont. It seems as if traveling was in Slim’s blood from that point on; for in the next twenty or so years, he moved throughout the eastern United States living in such cities as Richmond, Durham, Louisville, Nashville, and Waterbury, Connecticut. In 1953 he arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he lived for the remainder of his life playing both guitar and piano–singing the blues at house parties and spirituals at church.

Green's was first recorded in the early 70's by Kip Lornell who recorded him on several occasions in 1974 and 1975. His first LP, Greensboro Rounder, was issued in 1979 by the British Flyright label and are comprised of these recordings. Green also appears on the anthologies Eight Hand Sets & Holy Steps and Ain't Gonna Rain No More from the 1970's. Green's final recordings were made in 1980 by Siegfried Christmann and Axel Küstner for the Living Country Blues USA series of albums. Other songs from 1980 appear on the album Old Time Barrelhouse Blues which also includes sides by Memphis Piano Red. Green passed away in 1991. I'll be spotlighting more sides by Slim on an upcoming show devoted to the field recordings of Kip Lornell.

Begnt Olsson recorded Lum Guffin between 1972 and 1974, with a few tracks appearing on anthologies and the rest on his only full-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.

 Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis
Read Liner Notes

Regarding Short Stuff Macon the liner notes to his Folkways album (Hell Bound And Heaven Sent recorded in 1964) had this to say: "Short Stuff has now begun traveling the sparse and fickle concert circuit with Big Joe Williams, who, in a trip back to Mississippi,'discovered' him, liked his 'deep down' music, remembered his father and mother, and decided to take him with him.” In 1964 Macon recorded for the Spivey label issued on the album called Introducing Mr. Shortstuff. He appeared one final time on the album Goin’ Back to Crawford alongside Big Joe and others on a 1971 session. Macon passed in 1973.

Maxwell Jimmy Davis was Born Charles W. Thompson on March 2, 1925 in Tippo, MS. He learned to play guitar from John Lee Hooker while still a teenager, developing an insistent single-chord technique similar to that of his mentor; Davis and Hooker regularly gigged together in Detroit throughout the '40s, with the former settling in Chicago early the next decade. There he became a fixture of the West Side's Maxwell Street marketplace area. Davis recorded for Sam Phillips in 1952 but those sides were never issued .Live tracks from 1963 at Chicago's Fickle Pickle have been issued on different albums and there were some sides cut for the Testament label circa 1964.65. In 1965 he recorded his only full-length album, Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis for Elektra. His last recordings were from the late 80's. He passed in 1995.

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
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.

Read Liner Notes

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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ARTISTSONGALBUM
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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