Entries tagged with “Pee Wee Crayton”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Pee Wee Crayton Central AvenueThe Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Pee Wee Crayton Louella BrownThe Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Pee Wee Crayton Texas HopThe Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Big Mama Thornton Cotton Picking Blues1950-1953
Big Mama Thornton Let Your Tears Fall Baby1950-1953
Big Mama Thornton They Call Me Big Mama1950-1953
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Motor Head Baby1952-1955
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Half Pint of Whiskey1952-1955
Johnny "Guitar" Watson What's Goin' On1952-1955
Pee Wee Crayton Blues After HoursThe Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Pee Wee Crayton Change Your Way of Lovin'The Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Pee Wee Crayton Rockin' The BluesThe Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Big Mama Thornton Walking Blues1952-1955
Big Mama Thornton Hard Times1952-1955
Big Mama Thornton Hound Dog1952-1955
Johnny "Guitar" Watson I Love to Love You 1952-1955
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Hot Little Mama1952-1955
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Too Tired1952-1955
Pee Wee Crayton The Telephone Is RingingTaste of the Blues, Vol. 1
Pee Wee Crayton When It Rain It PoursComplete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings
Big Mama Thornton Willie Mae's Blues1950-1953
Big Mama Thornton I Smell A RatHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings
Big Mama Thornton Rockaby BabyHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Someone Cares for Me Hot Just Like TNT
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Don't Touch Me (I'm Gonna Hit the Highway)Hot Just Like TNT
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Those Lonely, Lonely NightsHot Just Like TNT
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Three Hours Past MidnightHot Just Like TNT
Big Mama Thornton Stop A-Hoppin' on Me Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings
Pee Wee Crayton Do Unto OthersComplete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings
Johnny "Guitar" Watson One Room Country ShackThe Original Gangster of Love: The Keen Records Sessions
Pee Wee Crayton Runnin' WildComplete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings
Big Mama Thornton Yes, BabyHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Gangster of LoveThe Original Gangster of Love: The Keen Records Sessions
Johnny "Guitar" Watson Looking BackThe Original Gangster of Love: The Keen Records Sessions

Show Notes:

Pee Wee Crayton
Pee Wee Crayton

Today's show is the third of a series spotlighting some fine West Coast artists that I wanted to feature in more depth, the bulk form Texas and California, who cut sides for the myriad labels that popped up in the immediate port-war era. In California the blues thrived around around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. Many of the artists were transplanted Texans who had come to California during the war year to find jobs in the booming defense industry in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area. Connie Crayton was a transplanted Texan who relocated to Los Angeles in 1935, later moving north to the Bay Area. He signed with the Bihari brothers' L.A.-based Modern logo in 1948, and continued through the 50's cutting fine sides for Imperial and Vee-Jay. Big Mama Thornton was born in Alabama, spent several years singing with Sammy Green's Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue before relocating to Houston in 1948. In Houston she recorded for the locally based Peacock label through the end of the 50's before settling in San Francisco. Johnny Watson was born in Houston and started playing the jule joints as a teenager, performing as a vocalist, pianist, and guitarist . He moved to Los Angeles around 1950 where he made his debut for Federal in 1952.

Connie Crayton was a transplanted Texan who relocated to Los Angeles in 1935, later moving north to the Bay Area. Crayton told interviewer John Breckow, "We got to be real good friends", speaking of T-Bone Walker. According to another Pee Wee interview, T-Bone "showed me how to string up the guitar to get the blues sound out of it. T-Bone was gonna try to help me learn how to play. My timing was real bad. T-Bone helped me with my timing. He would play the piano or the bass and show me how to play in time." The two went on to stage friendly battles, and when T-Bone's health problems interfered with his gigs late in life, Crayton was on call to fill in whenever he was available. Pee Wee was also influenced by Charlie Christian who he saw perform in 1941 and John Collins who worked with the Nat King Cole Trio. In 1946 he joined Ivory Joe Hunter’s band and appeared on a half-dozen recordings issued on the Pacific label.

Crayton signed with the Bihari brothers' L.A.-based Modern logo in 1948, quickly hit with the instrumental "Blues After Hours" , which topped the R&B charts in late 1948. "Texas Hop" trailed it up the charts shortly thereafter, followed the next year by "I Love You So." But Crayton's brief hitmaking reign was over soon over. After recording prolifically at Modern to no further commercial avail, Crayton moved on to Aladdin and, in 1954, Imperial. Under Dave Bartholomew's production, Crayton made some of his great waxings in New Orleans: "Every Dog Has His Day," "You Know Yeah," and "Runnin' Wild” among others.

In 1957 he hooked up with Vee-Jay in Chicago cutting some find sides, including one of his best, "The Telephone Is Ringing." The next decade brought Pee Wee his least glorious musical period as he mostly drove a truck and played locally. A fine LP he recorded didn't even credit him, appearing under the name of The Sunset Blues Band. Johnny Otis showcased Pee Wee in a memorable program at the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival (issued on Epic), leading to a comeback LP on Vanguard (The Things I Used To Do), and Otis later recorded an LP by Pee Wee for his Blues Spectrum label. Pee Wee continued to record sporadically and added some prestigious festivals and international tours to his resume. Pee Wee's last two albums were recorded in Riverside, California for Murray Brothers, at the instigation of the label's A & R man, blues harpist Rod Piazza. Pee Wee passed in 1985.

Big Mama Thornton was born in Ariton, Alabama and her introduction to music started in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a church singer. Thornton left Alabama at age 14 in 1941, following her mother's death. She joined Sammy Green's Hot Harlem Revue. She spent seven years with them in which she toured the South. In 1948, she settled in Houston, Texas, where she hoped to further her career as a singer She was also a self-taught drummer and harmonica player, and frequently played each instrument onstage. Thornton began her

Big Mama Thornton: I Smell  A Ratrecording career in Houston, signing a recording contract with Peacock Records in 1951.

While working with another Peacock artist, Johnny Otis, she recorded "Hound Dog," written by young songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as requested by Johnny Otis. The record was produced by Johnny Otis, and went to number one on the R&B chart. Although the record made her a star, she saw little of the profits. She continued to record for Peacock until 1957 and performed with R&B package tours with Junior Parker and Esther Phillips.

Her career began to fade in the late 1950's and early 1960's. She left Houston and relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she mostly played local blues clubs. In the arly-'60s she cut 45s for West Coast labels like Irma, Bay-Tone, Kent, and Sotoplay. In 1966, Thornton recorded Big Mama Thornton With The Muddy Waters Blues Band and in 1968 the album Ball 'n' Chain. Thornton performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966 and 1968, and at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1979. In 1965 she performed with the American Folk Blues Festival package in Europe. While in England that year, she recorded Big Mama Thornton in Europe and followed it up the next year in San Francisco with Big Mama Thornton with the Chicago Blues Band. Both albums came out on the Arhoolie label. She record through the 70’s, most notably for Vanguard, before passing in 1984. The funeral was led by her old friend, now Reverend Johnny Otis, and many artists paid tribute.

Johnny Watson was born in Houston on February 3, 1935. His father was a pianist who instructed his son in the rudiments of music, and at age 11 Watson was given a guitar by his grandfather, a preacher who disapproved of the blues and made the gift conditional on his never playing that most secular of musical forms. But "that was the first thing I played," Watson recalled in an interview. As a youth, Watson had heard the blues guitar of fellow Texan T- Bone Walker. He was also influenced by guitarist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Moving with his family to Los Angeles around 1950 and entered and won a variety of talent contests and shows. This exposure led to work as a sideman (sometimes still on piano) in various West Coast jump blues and jazz bands of the time, including those led by Chuck Higgins and Amos Milburn. Watson debuted on the Federal label in 1953, billed as "Young John Watson", cutting three sessions for the label through 1954.

After his session for the Federal label he hooked up with RPM, a subsidiary of Modern, cutting several sessions for the label through 1956. He scored his first hit in 1955 for RPM with a note-perfect cover of New Orleanian Earl King's two-chord swamp ballad "Those Lonely Lonely Nights." One day, Watson and company co-owner Joe Bihari went to see the 1954 Sterling Hayden film "Johnny Guitar," and Watson acquired the nickname that would stick with him for his entire performing career.Johnny Watson was born in Houston on February 3, 1935. His father was a pianist who instructed his son in the rudiments of music, and at age 11 Watson was given a guitar by his grandfather, a preacher who disapproved of the blues and made the gift conditional on his never playing that most secular of musical forms. But "that was the first thing I played," Watson recalled in an interview. As a youth, Watson had heard the blues guitar of fellow Texan T- Bone Walker. He was also influenced by guitarist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Moving with his family to Los Angeles around 1950 and entered and won a variety of talent contests and shows. This exposure led to work as a sideman (sometimes still on piano) in various West Coast jump blues and jazz bands of the time, including those led by Chuck Higgins and Amos Milburn. Watson debuted on the Federal label in 1953, billed as "Young John Watson", cutting three sessions for the label through 1954.

Those Lonely Lonely NightsWatson toured with such luminaries as Little Richard and acquired a reputation for exciting stage theatrics. "I used to play the guitar standing on my hands," he recalled in an interview. "I had a 1 50-foot cord and I could get on top of the auditorium–those things Jimi Hendrix was doing, I started that." During this period he also began to style himself as the "Gangster of Love," after the title of a 1957 single Watson cut for the Keen label. Watson scored a number six rhythm-and-blues hit with "Cuttin' In" on the King label in 1962. During the 1960s he also teamed frequently with vocalist Larry Williams, with whom he toured successfully in Britain as well as in the U.S. and recorded the much-covered "Mercy Mercy Mercy" in 1967.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Madelyn James Long Time BluesMemphis Blues 192 -1938
Madelyn James Stinging Snake BluesMemphis Blues 192 -1938
Holy Ghost Sanctified SingersJesus Throwed Up A Highway For MeMemphis Sanctified Jug Bands 1928-1930
Eli Green Brooks Run Into The OceanYou Got To Move
Eli Green Bulldog Blues You Got To Move
Blind Willie JohnsonYou're Gonna Need Somebody on Your BondThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Willie Lee HarrisNever Drive a Stranger from Your Door Rare Country Blues 1928-1937
Hammie NixonThe Judge, He Pleaded (Viola Lee Blues)Tappin' That Thing
Nat RiddlesCross My Heart New York Really Has the Blues Vol. 3
Roy Dunn Rollin' MillBlues Come To Chapel Hill
Frank Edwards Love My BabyBlues Come To Chapel Hill
Elester AndersonFurther Down The Road
Carolina Country Blues
Henry JohnsonSittin' Down ThinkinCarolina Country Blues
Rosie Mae Moore Stranger BluesFour Women Blues
Memphis MinnieWhen The Sun Goes Down (Part 2)Four Women Blues
Clara SmithWoman to WomanThe Essential
Sunset Blues Band & Pee Wee CraytonPiney Brown Blues Funky Blues
Kansas City RedOpen Your Heart Original Chicago Blues
Lovie Lee West Side WomanGood Candy
Cousin Joe Juice On The Loose Cousin Joe Of New Orleans
Cousin Joe Evolution BluesCousin Joe Of New Orleans
Buddy Lewis Lonesome Bedroom BluesJuke Joint Blues 2
Left Handed CharlieMiss My LagnionJuke Joint Blues 2
Big ChenierPlease Try to RealiseJuke Joint Blues 2
Larry Johnson & Nat RiddlesI Believe Basin' Free
Larry Johnson & Nat RiddlesJohnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?
Larry JohnsonFour Women Blues Fast & Funky
Charlie PattonJersey Bull BluesThe Best Of
Johnnie TempleJinks Lee BluesJohnnie Temple Vol. 3 1940-1949

Show Notes:

Cross my fingers, this is the first mix show in some time that I'm not featuring somebody who just passed away. Lots of interesting records on tap today including a set revolving around the Memphis Jug Band, twin spins of Eli Green, Cousin Joe, several tracks featuring New York artists Larry Johnson and Nat Riddles, some  fine latter day Chicago blues and some exceptional pre-war blues.  We spotlight several out-of-print records including a pair on the Flyright label and an obscure one featuring the great Pee Wee Crayton.

Features the only tracks by McDowell's mentor, Eli Green.
Reissued on CD as You Got To Move

A month ago we did an in-depth feature on the Memphis Jug Band. Today we open up with an addendum of sorts with two tracks by singer Madeyln James and one by the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers. There's speculation that the Memphis Jug Band was the group who recorded in Memphis on a February 21, 1930 date resulting in four gospel and two secular sides. As the the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers on "Thou Carest Lord, For Me", "Jesus Throwed Up A Highway For Me", "Sinner I'd Make A Change", "When I Get Inside The Gate" and backing singer Madelyn James on "Stinging Snake Blues" and "Long Time Blues."

Eli Green was a mentor to Mississippi Fred McDowell and also Junior Kimbrough. With McDowell's help, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie records, located Green in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1965. He recorded him on the two songs, "Brooks Run Into The Ocean" and "Bulldog Blues", with backing by McDowell. These are the only recordings Green ever cut and are available on the Arhoolie CD, You Got To Move.

Born December 20, 1907 in Wallace, Louisiana, Cousin Joe made a name for himself on the Crescent City nightclub circuit of the mid-1930s before relocating to New York City in 1942; there he recorded prolifically through the 40's. He returned to New Orleans in 1947, recording material for the Deluxe and Imperial labels before signing a five-year pact with Decca; however, he entered the studio only rarely in the years to follow. After a long hiatus, he recorded and released an impromptu 1971 session under the title Bad Luck Blues, followed in 1973 by Cousin Joe from New Orleans where today's tracks come from. His activities were again curtailed in the years to follow, although he cut a final album in 1983 and in 1987 he published an autobiography, Cousin Joe: Blues from New Orleans. He died October 2, 1989.

Read Liner Notes

Nat Riddles played an important role in the New York blues scene during the late 1970's to mid 1980's. He became known in New York blues circles for his street performances with guitarist Charlie Hilbert and as well as performing with Larry Johnson. He also performed regularly at Dan Lynch's in NYC  a blues hotbed that that saw the emergence of recording artists like The Holmes Brother and Bobby Radcliff. Almost Riddles' recordings are out of print: he has scattered sides on various albums for the Spivey label (appears on several volumes of New York Really Has The "Blues Stars") plus a whole album on the label (The Art Of Nat Riddles). Riddles also appears on a fine recording with Larry Johnson for the L + R label, Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?, and a posthumous album of live recordings with Charlie Hilbert that came out in 2007. Riddles died of leukemia in August 1991 at the age of 39.

After a stint in the Navy from 1955 to 1959, Larry Johnson moved to New York and befriended Brownie and Sticks McGhee and began playing on records by Big Joe Williams, Harry Atkins, and Alec Seward. It was Seward who introduced Johnson to his future mentor, Rev. Gary Davis. He released his first single, "Catfish Blues"/"So Sweet," in 1962 and appeared on numerous live dates with Davis. By 1970, Johnson began releasing albums on small labels. Although never prolific, he cut consistently fine albums including Fast and Funky from 1971 and where our featured track, "Four Women Blues" comes from, the out-of-print Basin Free with Nat Riddles on the Spivey label and the marvelous Blues For Harlem issued in 1999.

We spin some terrific latter day Chicago blues from the under recorded Kansas City drummer/singer Kansas City Red and pianist Lovie Lee. By the early 1940's Red was hanging round with Robert Nighthawk. One night the band’s drummer took ill right before a gig and he offered to fill in despite never having played drums before. He ended up playing drums for Nighthawk until around 1946. After his split with Nighthawk he briefly hooked up with Honeyboy Edwards. He had an uncanny knack for hustling gigs and began singing by this period. In the 1950s he formed a band with Earl Hooker and pianist Ernest Lane. He moved to Chicago in the 1950's, occasionally sitting in with Muddy Waters. He formed a group with Walter Horton that included Johnny Young and Johnny Shines. During this period he played with Robert Lockwood Jr., Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Blind John Davis, Elmore James, and others. Starting with the Club Reno, he managed a number of Chicago bars and owned a couple as well. Through the 1970's and 1980's he held down stints at a number of Chicago clubs. His recorded legacy is slim with a handful of sessions for Barrelhouse, JSP, and Earwig. His last major engagement was at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival. He died of cancer on his sixty-fifth birthday on May 7, 1991. Today's cut comes from a hard-hitting record issued on the JSP label and the Japanese P-Vine label, Original Chicago Blues, that also features Big John Wrencher and Eddie Taylor.

Lovie Lee grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, and was self taught piano player. He found part time employment playing with the Swinging Cats in the early 1950's. The outfit included Carey Bell, who Lee took under his fatherly protection, and they jointly relocated to Chicago in September 1956. Lee worked during the day in a woodworking factory, and for many years played in the evening in numerous Chicago blues nightclubs. After he retired from full-time day work, Lee joined Muddy Waters band in 1979, replacing Pinetop Perkins. Lee made some private recordings in both 1984 and 1989, and this work plus later contemporary tracks, were released as the album Good Candy in 1992.

As always we spotlight a few long out-of-print records including two companion albums issued on the Flyright label in 1973: Blues Come To Chapel Hill and Carolina Country Blues. These were recorded in March 1973 live at the Chapel Hill Festival at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill by Pete Lowry. Most of the artists were recorded by Lowry for his Trix label including Frank Edwards, Roy Dunn, Tarheel Slim, Henry Johnson, Peg Leg Sam, Willie Trice and Guitar Shorty. Elester Anderson and Tommy Lee Russell were recorded extensively by Lowry but nothing was issued commercially.

The generically titled and plain looking album, Sunset Blues Band: Funky Blues, was released on the Sunset budget label and recorded for the United Artists/Liberty group in 1969 featuring Pee Wee Crayton with a session group. Pee Wee's name is not credited on the LP and Pee Wee admitted he did not know what happened to this material after he recorded it. This has been re-released years ago on Charly records.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Dave AlexanderLove Is Just For Fools Oakland Blues
Dave AlexanderCold Feelin' The Dirt On The Ground
Dave AlexanderThe RattlerThe Rattler
Joe DeanMexico Bound Blues Down In Black Bottom
Charlie Spand Rock And RyeRoots N' Blues: Booze & The Blues
Walter ColemanCarry Your Good Stuff Home Rare Country Blues Vol. 3
Pete Johnson & Joe TurnerLovin' Mama BluesBoogie Woogie And Blues Piano
Ramp Davis Rampart Street Blues California Jump Blues
Lucky Enois QuartetKC Limited Pt. 2California Jump Blues
Etta James Something's Got A Hold On MeEtta Rocks The House
Etta James You Know What I MeanThe Complete Modern and Kent Recordings
Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonYour Best Friend's Gone Lost Blues Tapes: More American Folk Blues Festival 1963-65
Memphis SlimBlues EverywhereLost Blues Tapes: More American Folk Blues Festival 1963-65
Johnny OtisNew Orleans ShuffleMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Johnny OtisI Believe I'll Go Back HomeCold Shot /Snatch And The Poontangs
Eli FramerFramer's Blues Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Clifford GibsonIce And Snow BluesClifford Gibson 1929-1931
Louis LaskyTeasin' Brown BluesNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Eddie BoydLife Gets To Be A BurdenChess Piano Greats
Eddie BoydGot Lonesome HereChess Piano Greats
Eddie "Cleanhead" VinsonCleanhead's BluesThe Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey
Pee Wee Crayton The Things I Used To DoThe Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey
Rosa HendersonLow Down Daddy Blues Rosa Henderson Vol. 3 1924-1926
Josh WhiteHow Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone?Freedom: The Golden Gate Quartet & Josh White At The Library Of Congress
Blind Willie McTellSouthern Can Is MineThe Classic Early recordings 1927-1940
Johnny OtisJohnny Otis Radio Show Signature Tune Rock Me Baby: The Mercury And Peacock Sides
Johnny OtisAll Night LongMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Etta JamesSoul of a ManNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice

Show Notes:

It's already starting out to be a bad year for the blues with the recent deaths of Dave Alexander, Johnny Otis and Etta James. We pay tribute to all three on today's show as well as featuring twin spins of  Eddie Boyd, a pair of cuts from the American Folk Blues Festival and some fine pre-war blues numbers.

Read Liner Notes

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1938, Dave Alexander (he later changed his name to Omar Shariff) grew up in Marshall, Texas and moved to Oakland, California, in 1957. There played with Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Witherspoon, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins. Later in 1968, he recorded his first songs for the World Pacific label release called Oakland Blues, a compilation album of artists from that city. This is a great collection that has never been issued on CD featuring fine cuts from Lafayette Thomas, L.C. Robinson as well as Alexander. We open the show from that album with "Love Is Just For Fools" featuring backing from Albert Collins and George "Harmonica" Smith.

Alexander performed at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1970, and played at the San Francisco Blues Festival, many times from 1973 onward. He recorded a pair of albums, The Rattler (1972) and The Dirt on the Ground (1973), for the Arhoolie label. In the 90's he recorded a trio of albums for the small blues label Have Mercy. In the 2000's Alexander lived and performed mostly in the Sacramento area. He died on January 8, 2012.

Etta James died Jan. 20th in Riverside, Calif. She was 73. Etta James began her professional recording career in 1954, auditioning at the age of 14 for bandleader Johnny Otis before recording her first singles for Modern Records in Los Angeles with her vocal group, The Peaches. Her first single, "The Wallflower" (aka "Roll With Me Henry"), an answer song to Hank Ballard's 1954 #1 R&B hit "Work With Me Annie," hit #1 on Billboard's R&B chart in 1955, and "Good Rockin' Daddy" reached #6 on the chart the same year. When some disc jockeys complained that the title was too suggestive, the name was changed to “The Wallflower.” In 1960 she was signed by Chess Records and quickly had a string of hits, including “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “Trust in Me” and “At Last,” which established her as Chess’s first major female star. She remained with Chess well into the 1970s, reappearing on the charts after a long absence in 1967 with “Tell Mama.” In the late ’70s and early ’80s she was an opening act for the Rolling Stones.

We stick mainly to the early years spinning a fine early Modern number "You Know What I Mean" and her bruising "Something's Got A Hold On Me" from Etta Rocks The House which has to rank as one of the greatest live blues record. The set was cut at Nashville's New Era club in 1962 in front of a raucous crowd. We close the show with the impassioned "Soul Of A Man", a previously unissued cut that can be found on a 3-CD Chess box set.

The following comes from Midnight at the Barrelhouse a biography of Johnny Otis written by George George Lipsitz who I interviewed back in 2010: "From the moment Johnny Otis first arrived in Los Angeles in 1943, everyday seemed to offer a marvelous new experience. He led the house band at the club Alabam and later opened his own nightclub, the Barrelhouse, in Watts. As a recording artist, he succeeded in placing fifteen songs on the best-seller charts from 1950 to 1952. Otis had one of the biggest pop music hist of all time with "Willie and the Hand Jive" in 1958. He composed top-selling songs that became successes for other artists as well including "Every Beat of My Heart" for Gladys Knight and then Pips, "So Fine" for the Fiestas, "Roll With Me Henry", which became the "Wallflower" for Etta James, and "Dance With Me Henry" for Georgia Gibbs." As a promoter, producer, and talent scout for Savoy, King , Duke. and other independent record labels, Otis discovered and launched the careers of Etta James, Hank Ballard, Esther Phillips, Jackie Wilson, Big Mama Thornton, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Linda Hopkins, and Little Willie John, among others. He produced big hits for Little Esther, Etta James, and Johnny Ace, as well as less commercially successful but even more artistically triumphant recordings by Charles Williams, Barbara Morrrison, and Don "Sugarcane" Harris.

As a musician, Otis played the drums on Big Mama Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog", on Illinois Jacquet's "Flying Home", and Lester Young's "Jammin' With Lester." Otis provided the hauntingly beautiful vibraphone accompaniment to Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love", played vibes on his own recording of "Stardust", featuring Ben Webster on tenor saxophone, and he played piano and tambourine on Frank Zappa's Hot Rats album. When the occasion demanded it, Otis could also play harpsichord, celesta, and timpani. As an artist, promoter, disc jockey, and television host, he brought Black music to new audiences, in the process inspiring some of his listeners to become performers themselves.

 Johnny Otis with his son Shuggie

…For all his immersion in African American life and culture, Johnny Otis was not actually Black. He was a white man born as John Alexander Veliotes into an immigrant Greek family. He had grown up among Blacks and had lived much of his life as if he were Black. …At an early age Johnny felt captivated by Black culture, by the spiritual, moral, and intellectual richness he encountered in the sanctified churches that he attended with his Black playmates, by the music of gospel choirs, jazz bands, blues singers, by the way Black people dressed, danced, and talked."

We spin a couple of early numbers plus  sides  from the albums Cold Shot! and The Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey. Though Johnny's 1969 album Cold Shot! wasn't much different from the straightforward R&B he'd been doing for years, it did have some updated rock, soul, and funk influences, due in large part to the presence of his teenage guitarist son, Shuggie Otis. Otis cut another album that year credited to Snatch and the Poontangs. Both albums were combined onto one CD on an Ace reissue in 2002, with the addition of two previously tracks. Live At Monterey was an R&B oldies show in 1970 that featured artists Johnny  had worked with back in the early days and they were still in fine form. The disc stars Otis, Esther Phillips, Eddie Vinson, Joe Turner, Ivory Joe Hunter, Roy Milton, Roy Brown, Pee Wee Crayton, and Johnny’s guitar wielding son, Shuggie.

Among the tributes we find some time to play some terrific pre-war blues from Charlie Spand, Joe Dean, Clifford Gibson and R0sa Henderson among others.

Charlie Spand was one of several heavy-hitting blues, boogie-woogie and barrelhouse pianists who performed on Brady and Hastings Streets in Detroit, MI during the '20s. In 1929 Spand moved to Chicago where he began hanging out and gigging with guitarist Blind Blake. Between June 1929 and September 1931 Spand recorded 24 sides for the Paramount label. The only other Charlie Spand recordings known to exist are eight sides cut for the Okeh label in June of 1940. Our cut, "Rock And Rye", come from the latter session and features some nice interplay between Spand and guitarist Big Bill Broonzy.

Joe Dean recorded one great 78 in 1930: “I'm So Glad I'm Twenty-One Years Old Today b/w Mexico Bound Blues.” Dean was  born in St. Louis on April 25, 1908.  He remained musically active on a part-time basis into the 1960's. He eventually became the Rev. Joe Dean and died on June 24 1981. He was interviewed by Mike Rowe for Blues Unlimited magazine in 1977.

Rosa Henderson started out in carnival and tent shows around 1913 and moved to New York in 1923 where she made her recording debut. She recorded a hundred odd sides throughout the 1920’s and made her final record in 1931. She was a fine singer who often suffered from some rather lackluster accompanists. 1925's "Low Down Daddy" was a good one with some tough words about her man:

I had a dream one night, my daddy laid down and died (2x)
The devil wouldn't own him, cause he couldn't burn his hide

Clifford Gibson left behind a small batch of superb, highly creative recordings that deserve wider attention. Gibson cut ten sides (four have either never been found or were never issued) in June 1929, four sides in November 1929, eight sides in December 1929 and two sides in 1931. In addition he did some session work and lasted long enough to wax a few scattered post-war sides in the 1950's and 60's.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Big Bill Broonzy Five Feet Seven Rockin' In Chicago 1949-1953
Big Bill Broonzy The Moppin' Blues Rockin' In Chicago 1949-1953
Jaybird Coleman Save Your MoneyBlues Images Vol. 8
Tommy Johnson Lonesome Home Blues [Unreleased Test]Blues Images Vol. 8
Tom Dickson Labor BluesBlues Images Vol. 8
Muddy Waters Canary BluesThe Complete Chess Recordings
Howlin' Wolf I Love My Baby1952-1953
J.B. Lenoir I'll Die Tryin'1951-1954
Lewis Bronzeville Five Natchez Mississippi BluesThe Jive Is Jumpin'
Quinn Kimble Blue MemoriesTexas Jump And Shuffle
Pee Wee Crayton Central Ave.The Modern Legacy Vol. 1
Jimmy RushingLonesome Daddy Blues1946-1953
John Jackson Rocks And GravelRappahannock Blues
John Jackson Red River BluesRappahannock Blues
Alice Moore Telephone BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Lil GreenJust Rockin'Why Don't You Do Right
Robert Curtis Smith Sunflower River BluesClarksdale Blues
Pink Anderson South Forest BoogieMedicine Show Man
Smokey HoggBorn On The 13thAngels In Harlem
Charlie Jordan Tough Time BluesCharley Jordan Vol. 1 1930-1931
Leroy Henderson Deep Sea DiverCharley Jordan Vol. 3 1935-1937
Buddy MossLittle Angel BluesBuddy Moss Vol. 3 1935-1941
Frank Stokes Nehi MamaThe Best of Frank Stokes
Robert Wilkins Falling Down BluesMasters Of The Memphis Blues
Jim JacksonWhat A TimeJim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Ramblin' Thomas No Job BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Alex Seward & Louis Hayes Good BoyDown Home Blues Classics: New York & The East Coast States
Louis Campbell Don't Want Anyone Hangin' AroundDown Home Blues Classics: Memphis & The South
Houston Stackhouse Canned Heat The George Mitchell Collection Vol. 4
Eddie Lee JonesI Got A Yellow GalYonder Go That Old Black Dog

Show Notes:

Today's mix show spans a good chunk of blues history, running from 1927 through 1975.  Among the programs' highlights are twin of Big Bill Broonzy, John Jackson, a fine batch of post-war country blues and several sets of excellent pre-war blues including a spotlight on collector John Tefteller's annual CD compilation.

We open the show with a pair of later period Big Bill Broonzy numbers. After being off record for two years Broonzy signed to Mercury in 1949, waxing two fine, up-to-date sessions.  Broonzy had spent a good part of the early 1940's barnstorming the South with Lil Green's road show or playing in Chicago with Memphis Slim. He continued alternating stints in Chicago and New York with coast-to-coast road work until 1951 when live performances and recording dates overseas earned him considerable renown in Europe and led to worldwide touring and several recording dates in Europe. He toured the continent several times during the fifties to much acclaim. He recorded again for Mercury in 1951, cutting twenty sides across three sessions. He recorded extensively after Mercury up until his passing in 1958, this later recording exclusively geared to a white audience. Our two numbers, one cut for Mercury in 1949 and one recorded in Paris in 1951 for Vogue, find Broonzy at a turning point in his career.  After decades of playing and recording for  black audiences he went to playing and recording through the rest of the fifties primarily for white audiences in a more stripped down folk setting. Broonzy is in superb form on 1949's "Five Feet Seven" backed by just drummer Alfred Wallace and 1951's solo "The Moppin' Blues" a reference to when he briefly worked outside music as a janitor at Iowa State College. It's interesting to listen to the commercial recordings that Broonzy was cutting for Mercury in 1949 and in 1951, very up-to-date, sophisticated blues backed by a full band, and his post 1951 work which is mostly solo, traditional numbers or else in the company of fellow folkies like Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Whatever setting he was in he remained a commanding performer.

Having learned guitar and his wide-ranging stock of songs as a youth from family and 78-rpm recordings, John Jackson enthralled major audiences during more than three decades with his vintage style and repertoire. The two numbers we spin come from the new collection on Smithsonian Folkways called Rappahannock Blues, a  terrific collection of live tracks mostly from the 1970's. Jackson passed in 2002.

For those of us fascinated with anything related to the vintage blues of the 1920's and 1930's, for those of us who think the blues industry went into decline after the 1930's, we owe debt to record collector John Tefteller. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78?s turn up. Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their “race records”, as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously. The depression essentially killed off Paramount’s advertising budget so many of these images were never sent out and hence have not been seen by anyone since they were first produced. Tefteller’s annual calendars have been the main vehicle for reprinting these gorgeous ads. The 2011 calendar is another beauty and the eighteen track CD sports some superbly remastered blues classics plus two unreleased numbers: an alternate take of Furry Lewis' "Cannon Ball Blues" and an unreleased test pressing of Tommy Johnson's "Lonesome Home Blues." In addition to the Tommy Johnson track we also play tracks by Jaybird Coleman and Tom Dickson from the CD.

We spin several other great pre-war blues including a trio of sides by Memphis based artists Frank Stokes, Robert Wilkins and Jim Jackson plus sides by Buddy Moss, Alice Moore and Charley Jordan. The Memphis sides were inspired by an amazing solo performance I saw by Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Flemons calls himself a songster and played songs by all the above Memphis artists. When I first saw him he was performing Jim Jackon's "Bye Bye Policeman" and went on to lay down fine renditions of Frank Stokes' "It's A Good Thing", and sounded uncannily like Robert Wilkins on his cover of "Police Sergeant Blues. " Flemons is a true songster playing quills on Henry Thomas' "Fishing Blues", mandolin on Ben Covington's "Boodle-De-Bum Blues" and even the bones on one song. His performance also motivated me to put together a show called Before The Blues that I'll be airing in a few weeks.

From Memphis we move to Atlanta and feature "Little Angel Blues" by Buddy Moss. Moss taught himself to play the harmonica at an early age, and was playing at local parties and picnics before he reached his teens. By 1928, he was busking around the streets of Atlanta when he began working with Curley Weaver and Barbecue Bob. It was Weaver and Hicks that got Moss his first recording date, at the age of 16, as a member of their group the Georgia Cotton Pickers, Moss doing four songs for Columbia. Nothing more was heard from Buddy Moss on record until three years later.After Barbecue Bob died in 1931, he found a new partner and associate in Blind Willie McTell, performing with the Atlanta blues legend at local parties in the Atlanta area. Moss went on to record prolifically between 1933 and 1941. At the height of his popularity Moss when he was convicted of the murder of his wife and sentenced to a long prison term. Upon his 1941 release while working under parole arrangements that Moss met a group of blues musicians that included Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Moss recorded with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee for Okeh. Hard times then followed for Moss and although he continued performing he was force to take a series of manual jobs to make ends meet. Buddy Moss was largely forgotten and it was not until 1964 when he visited Josh White, now an established star, backstage in Atlanta that he was "re-discovered". He resumed performing at colleges and blues and folk festivals but was unable to resurrect his recording career.

Jumping to St. Louis we hear Alice Moore or Little Alice, as she was known, who achieved a measure of success with her first record, “Black And Evil Blues” cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's. In all she cut thirty-six sides through 1937. She had the good fortune to record with the city’s best musicians including pianists Henry Brown, Peetie Wheatstraw, Jimmie Gordon, possibly Roosevelt Sykes as well as guitarists Lonnie Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and trombonist Ike Rodgers. On record Moore sang mostly hard bitten tales about no good, dangerous men and desperate love in a series of bleak songs. Prison and prostitution are also recurring themes. On record Moore creates a persona of a vulnerable, good woman at the mercy of a cruel world and predatory, indifferent men while at other times she displays the harder shell of a jaded, good-time woman. She sang with conviction, often addressing woman listeners with pointed advice, frequently punctuating her songs with spoken asides and speaking directly to her accompanists.

Charley Jordan found his way from Arkansas to St. Louis in the mid-20’s and remained there for the rest of his life. When not playing music he worked as a bootlegger and in the course of that business was shot and permanently disabled. He recorded over three-dozen sides between 1930-1937 and wrote numerous songs for other artists including his friend Peetie Wheatstraw. He also served as talent scout for record companies. Jordan was a fine guitarist and songwriterg but who's a bit repetitive in long doses. Still, he left behind a number of exceptional, well written  songs like today's "Tough Time Blues" plus numbers like "Keep It Clean", "Hunkie Trunkie Blues", "Starvation Blues", "Dollar Bill Blues" and "You Run And Tell Your Daddy."

Also worth mentioning is a track from 1940 by the silky smooth Lewis Bronzeville Five. "Natchez Mississippi Blues" memorializes The Rhythm Club fire, a fire resulting in the death or serious injury of over two hundred nine African-Americans.The featured band that night was Walter Barnes and His Royal Creolians. The disaster was memorialized in songs such as "Mississippi Fire Blues" and "Natchez Mississippi Blues" by the Lewis Bronzeville Five, "The Natchez Fire" by Gene Gilmore, "We The Cats Shall Hep You" by Cab Calloway, "For You" by Slim Gaillard, "You're A Heavenly Thing" by Cleo Brown, "The Death Of Walter Barnes" by Leonard "Baby Doo" Caston, "The Natchez Burnin" by Howlin' Wolf, "That Night" by Stompy Jones, and "Natchez Fire" by John Lee Hooker.

In the post-war period we spotlight several fine down-home bluesman including tragically under-recorded artists like Robert Curtis Smith (his sole 1962  album was the marvelous Clarksdale Blues cut for Bluesville) and Houston Stackhouse to those well represented on record like the prolific Smokey Hogg and Pink Anderson who's deep repertoire was well represented on several albums recorded by Sam Charters.

Houston Stackhouse never achieved much in the way of success, yet he was a pivotal figure on the Southern blues scene from the 1930s through the 1960s, having worked with numerous significant blues musicians during that period, mentoring more than a few. He was a familiar figure in the small country juke joints, mainly in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, and was highly respected among his fellow musicians. He also achieved a measure of regional fame as a member of the King Biscuit Boys who played on station KFFA out of Helena, present-day Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). When he finally made his first recordings in 1967, he was still a working musician, taking jobs within a 150-mile radius of his home base in Helena. In 1967, field researcher George Mitchell recorded Stackhouse in Dundee, Mississippi. The group, calling themselves the Blues Rhythm Boys, consisted of “Peck” Curtis and Robert Nighthawk. These were the final recordings of Nighthawk, who died a few months later. In my liner notes to Prowlin' With The Nighthawk I wrote the following: "The music harks back to Nighthawk and Stackhouse's early Delta days and the music is beautifully played. Tommy Johnson's influence looms large with five of his songs being covered. In a way Nighthawk's life had come circle: He was once again playing with Stackhouse who taught how to play guitar (Johnson's "Big Road Blues", "Cool Water Blues" and Big Fat Mama were the first songs he taught Nighthawk) Stackhouse in turn learned directly from Tommy Johnson and here were the two old friends performing the songs of Johnson together one final time.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Johnny OtisOpening Monologue & Theme SongVintage 1950's Broadcasts From Los Angeles
Jimmy RushingMy Baby's BusinessMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Interview Pt. 1Drawn To Black Culture
Johnny OtisMidnight At The BarrelhouseMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Little EstherDouble Crossing BluesMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Interview Pt. 2Early Career
Johnny OtisThe Jell RollMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Johnny OtisBoogie GuitarMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Mel WalkerStrange Woman BluesMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Interview Pt. 3Session Work
Johnny OtisHangover BluesMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Little EstherThe Deacon Moves InMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Johnny OtisNew Orleans ShuffleMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Interview Pt. 4Harlem Nocturne
The RobinsFreight Train BoogieMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Johnny OtisAll Night LongMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Linda HopkinsWarning BluesMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Interview Pt. 5The Barrelhouse
Pete "Guitar" LewisCrying With The Rising SunMidnight At The Barrelhouse
Johnny OtisDog Face Boy Part 1The Legendary Dig Masters Vol. 1
Sailor BoyCountry HomeThe Legendary Dig Masters Vol. 2
Interview Pt. 6Radio & TV
Johnny OtisNumber 69 Number 21The Legendary Dig Masters Vol. 1
Interview Pt. 7Willie & The Hand Jive
Johnny OtisWillie & The Hand JiveThe Greatest Johnny Otis Show
Johnny OtisI Believe I'll Go Back HomeCold Shot
Interview Pt. 81960 & 70’s
Johnny OtisCC RiderCold Shot
Johnny OtisCold ShotCold Shot
Pee Wee CraytonThings I Used To DoThe Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey
Esther PhillipsCry Me A River BluesThe Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey
Interview Pt. 9Legacy
Johnny OtisHarlem Nocturne & Bye Bye BabyVintage 1950's Broadcasts From Los Angeles

Show Notes:

Today’s show spotlights  recordings by Johny Otis  and the many  talented performers that passed through his band or that he was involved with. This is the second show revolving around Johnny Otis and this time we celebrate the release of Midnight at the Barrelhouse, the first biography of this musical legend. Johnny has written his own books, and from a musical standpoint, most memorably, Upside Your Head!: Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue. In addition I've interviewed the author, George Lipsitz, for today's program. We take our introduction from the book:

"From the moment Johnny Otis first arrived in Los Angeles in 1943, everyday seemed to offer a marvelous new experience. He led the house band at the club Alabam and later opened his own nightclub, the Barrelhouse, in Watts. As a recording artist, he succeeded in placing fifteen songs on the best-seller charts from 1950 to 1952. Otis had one of the biggest pop music hist of all time with "Willie and the Hand Jive" in 1958. He composed top-selling songs that became successes for other artists as well including "Every Beat of My Heart" for Gladys Knight and then Pips, "So Fine" for the Fiestas, "Roll With Me Henry", which became the "Wallflower" for Etta James, and "Dance With Me Henry" for Georgia Gibbs." As a promoter, producer, and talent scout for Savoy, King , Duke. and other independent record labels, Otis discovered and launched the careers of Etta James, Hank Ballard, Esther Phillips, Jackie Wilson, Big Mama Thornton, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Linda Hopkins, and Little Willie John, among others. He produced big hits for Little Esther, Etta James, and Johnny Ace, as well as less commercially successful but even more artistically triumphant recordings by Charles Williams, Barbara Morrrison, and Don "Sugarcane" Harris.

As a musician, Otis played the drums on Big Mama Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog", on Illinois Jacquet's "Flying Home", and Lester Young's "Jammin' With Lester." Otis provided the hauntingly beautiful vibraphone accompaniment to Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love", played vibes on his own recording of "Stardust", featuring Ben Webster on tenor saxophone, and he played piano and tambourine on Frank Zappa's Hot Rats album. When the occasion demanded it, Otis could also play harpsichord, celesta, and timpani. As an artist, promoter, disc jockey, and television host, he brought Black music to new audiences, in the process inspiring some of his listeners to become performers themselves.

Billboard Magazine Ad March, 11, 1950

…For all his immersion in African American life and culture, Johnny Otis was not actually Black. He was a white man born as John Alexander Veliotes into an immigrant Greek family. He had grown up among Blacks and had lived much of his life as if he were Black. …At an early age Johnny felt captivated by Black culture, by the spiritual, moral, and intellectual richness he encountered in the sanctified churches that he attended with his Black playmates, by the music of gospel choirs, jazz bands, blues singers, by the way Black people dressed, danced, and talked."

Considered by many to be the godfather of R&B, Johnny Otis – musician, producer, artist, entrepreneur, pastor, disc jockey, writer, and tireless fighter for racial equality – has had a remarkable life by any measure. Born to Greek immigrant parents in Vallejo, California, in 1921, Otis grew up in an integrated neighborhood and identified deeply with black music and culture from an early age. He moved to Los Angeles as a young man and submerged himself in the city’s vibrant African American cultural life, centered on Central Avenue and its thriving music scene. Otis began his six-decade career in music playing drums in territory swing bands in the 1930's. He went on to lead his own band in the 1940's and open the Barrelhouse nightclub in Watts.

Below is some background on some of today’s featured artists:

The Robins were formed when Ty Terrell Leonard and the Richard brothers Billy and Roy met at Alameda High School in San Francisco in 1945, and formed the “A-Sharp Trio” (no recordings). The trio came to Hollywood a year later, and in 1949 they were joined by Bobby Nunn, who worked at Johnny Otis’ club The Barrelhouse in Watts. The group began recording in 1949 and through 1950 cut sides for Aladdin and Savoy backed by Johnny Otis’ band.

In 1949 singer Mel Walker was discovered by Johnny Otis and joined his band, singing with Otis until around 1953. On many recordings he featured in duets with Little Esther (Phillips), and also recorded with The Robins.

In 1948 Little Esther Jones won an amateur contest in Los Angeles, singing Dinah Washington’s “Baby Get Lost” at a nightclub belonging to bluesman Johnny Otis. Otis recalls her debut at his club The Barrelhouse was hosted by popular disc jockey Hunter Hancock, and as Johnny recalls in his memoir, Upside Your Head !,  “As the talent show began, Hunter called me to the microphone. Johnny he said, All week long you’ve been raving to me about a new young girl singer you’ve discovered. Yeah, Hunter, I found her singing down on 103rd. Street at the Largo Theatre. I want you all to hear her tonight, here she is, Little Esther Jones. Esther sang the blues, the crowd went nuts, and that night, thirteen-year-old Little Esther began her historic, bittersweet career. …She instantly became the teenage favorite among Black music lovers. Everywhere we went, from coast to coast, thousands of adoring fans lined up to see and hear Little Esther.” Otis brought the 13-year-old into the studio for a recording session with Modern Records and added her to his live revue. Billed as “Little Esther,” and sounding mature beyond her years, she recorded “Double Crossing Blues” with Johnny Otis, selling 400,000 copies before her 14th birthday. The record hit number one on the charts making Little Esther the youngest female singer to have a #1 hit on the R&B charts. More successful singles followed including “Mistrustin’ Blues” (#1 R&B), “Misery,” “Cupid Boogie” (#1 R&B), and “Deceivin’ Blues” (#4 R&B). A traveling review called the Savoy Records Barrelhouse Caravan of Stars hit the road for a series of one nighters across the South in early 1950 drawing huge crowds. The show included The Johnny Otis band, The Robins, Little Esther, Mel Walker, and Redd Lyte. Proving the sudden star power of Little Esther, she came in number one in a poll of the national juke box operators for best jazz and blues performer for the year of 1950.

It's a tribute to Johnny that, just as he was there at the beginning of Esther's career, he was there at the end. In 1984 she was admitted into a hospital for liver and kidney failure. Johnny recalls visiting her in the hospital during this period: "As I leaned towards her, my mind raced back in time. I remembered the bright-eyed, brash, talented little girl I had found in Watts years ago, and a big sob welled up in me. 'Don't cry, baby', she said softly, but I cried all the way home." She died soon after on August 7, 1984 at the age of 48. "I conducted her funeral service just as she instructed me", Otis recalled: "No crying and bullshit eulogies", she said. "Just my friends singing and playing and having a party."

Pete “Guitar” Lewis joined the Johnny Otis band in 1948 and stayed until 1957. He was discovered by Johnny Otis in 1948 who signed him on the spot after he won a talent contest at his Barrelhouse Club at the Thursday Night Talent Hour. Lewis also cut a batch of fine solo sides for Federal and Peacock which also showcased his considerable singing and harmonica abilities. For Peacock he backed Johnny Ace (most notably “Pledging My Love”), Big Mama Thornton (most notably “Hound Dog”) plus others. Lewis stuck with Otis throughout the 50’s cutting some sides for Otis’ Dig label during this period. He was eventually replaced by Jimmy Nolen in 1957. Lewis went on to play with George “Harmonica” Smith with whom he recorded for Sotoplay. He died of alcohol related problems in the early 60’s.

Billboard Magazine Ad May, 27, 1950

Jimmy Nolen replaced the ailing Pete "Guitar" Lewis in the Johnny Otis Band around 1956 and played on Johnny's big hit, "Willie And The Hand Jive" and other Capitol successes such as "Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me" and "In The Dark." Nolen's guitar work is spotlighted prominently on a series of recordings Johnny and the band cut on Dig in 1956 of which we spin "Number 69/Number 21." Striking out on his own in 1960, he formed his own band and was sought after by many of the major blues stars that came into L.A. for backing when they were without their own bands. B.B. King and T-Bone Walker would always use Jimmy and his band when they were in town without their sidemen. Jimmy played throughout California and Arizona working steadily until he decided to accept James Brown's offer to join his band in 1965. His patented funky chicken scratch style can be heard on hits like "Papa' Got A Brand New Bag" and many more hits between 1965 to 1983, except for the two years he left the band to go with Brown sidemen, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley as "All the Kings Men". He was with the band in Atlanta, GA when he suffered a fatal heart attack on December 16, 1983 at the age of 48.

We play some selections from Dig Records (originally called Ultra Records). Ultra Records was formed in 1955 by Frank Gallo, Eddie Mesner, Leo Mesner and Johnny Otis in Los Angeles California. In February 1956, the name of the label was changed to Dig Records. In 1957, Johnny Otis acquired sole ownership of the Dig Records Label. Dig Records officially issued 41 singles and 4 Long Play albums. These recordings have been issued on CD by the Ace label spread across five volumes.

We conclude the show with  sides  from the albums Cold Shot! and The Johnny Otis Show Live at Monterey. Though Johnny's 1969 album Cold Shot! wasn't much different from the straightforward R&B he'd been doing for years, it did have some updated rock, soul, and funk influences, due in large part to the presence of his teenage guitarist son, Shuggie Otis. Otis cut another album that year credited to Snatch and the Poontangs. Both albums were combined onto one CD on an Ace reissue in 2002, with the addition of two previously tracks. Monterey was an R&B oldies show in 1970 that featured artists Johnny  had worked with back in the early days and they were still in fine form. The disc stars Otis, Esther Phillips, Eddie Vinson, Joe Turner, Ivory Joe Hunter, Roy Milton, Roy Brown, Pee Wee Crayton, and Johnny’s guitar wielding son, Shuggie.

-Listen to the George Lipsitz interview (edited, MP3, 30 min)

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