Entries tagged with “Ramblin’ Thomas”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Blind Lemon JeffersonOne Dime Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonMatchbox Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonRambler BluesThe Best Of
Down Home Boys (Papa Harvey Hull & Long "Cleve" Reed)Mama You Don't Know HowNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Big Joe WilliamsPeach Orchard Mama Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Blind Willie McTellLast Dime BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonSee That My Grave Is Kept CleanThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonBed Spring BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonPrison Cell Blues Mean & Evil Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins Reminiscences Of Blind LemonLightnin' Hopkins [Smithsonian Folkways]
Lightnin' Hopkins One Kind FavorAll The Classics 1946-1951
Son HouseCounty Farm BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Blind Lemon Jefferson Shuckin' Sugar BluesThe Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon Jefferson Corinna Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Rabbit Foot Blues If It Ain't One Thing, It'Rabbit Foot Blues
Ramblin' ThomasNo Baby BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Blind Boy Fuller Untrue BluesBlind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-1938
Blind Lemon Jefferson Got The Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Hot Dogs The Best Of
Leadbelly Blind Lemon (Song)Leadbelly Vol. 6 1947
Leadbelly Silver City Bound Leadbelly's Last Sessions
Blind Lemon JeffersonBad Luck Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Horse Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby Blues The Best Of
Hattie Hudson Doggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Thomas Shaw Jack Of Diamonds San Diego Blues Jam
Mance LipscombEasy Rider BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlind Lemon's Penitentiary Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Snake Moan Great Blues Guitarists: String Dazzlers
Pete HarrisBlind Lemon's SongTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Rev. Emmett Dickenson The Death Of Blind LemonBlues Images Vol. 6
King Solomon Hill My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon Blues Images Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Today we spotlight Blind Lemon Jefferson and the enormous influence he had on his contemporaries and countless blues artist over the ensuing decades. Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. Researcher Bruce Bastin, known for his extensive research in the Piedmont region, said of Jefferson… “…there can have been few nascent bluesmen outside Texas, let alone within the state, who had never heard his music. Among interviewed East Coast bluesmen active during Blind Lemon’s recording career, almost all recall him as one of the first bluesmen they heard on record.” Today we spotlight some of Lemon's best numbers as well as a those artists he inspired. Lemon's influence cast a long shadow among both black and white artists and today's show is in no way comprehensive but does give a snapshot of just how big Lemon's impact was.

Jefferson was born in September 1893. By 1912, he was working over a wide area of Texas, including East Dallas, Silver City, Galveston, and Waco. Jefferson was still a teenager when he moved into Dallas. The black community in Dallas were settled in an area covering approximately six blocks around Central Avenue up to Elm Street, the center of which was Deep Ellum, a bustling thoroughfare full of bars, clubs and brothels. Mance Lipscomb saw Jefferson playing there as early as 1917. Although Jefferson’s reputation was originally made as a singer of sacred songs, the percentage of blues in his repertoire greatly increased as the years progressed. In 1925 Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Jefferson's first session produced "I Want To Be Like Jesus In My Heart" b/w "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" using the name Deacon L.J. Bates. It was the second session, however, that made Jefferson a star. He recorded four songs at that session: “Booster Blues” b/w “Dry Southern Blues’, came out in or around March 1926. "Got The Blues" b/w "Long Lonesome Blues" hadn't been on sale long in the spring of 1926 when Paramount asked him to record it again because of the huge demand for the record. This was unheard of for a male blues artist. Prior to Jefferson the blues had been recorded primarily by women backed by piano or bands

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Rambler Blues
Click to Enlarge

Tony Russell describes Jefferson's impact: "Jefferson offered instead blues sung by a man playing guitar – playing it, moreover, with a busyness and variety that showed up many of those pianists and bands as turgid and ordinary. The discovery that there was an audience for Jefferson's type of blues revolutionized the music business: within a few years female singers were out of favor and virtually all the trading in the 'race' market (jazz aside) was in men with guitars." Throughout 1926 there was a constant supply of new releases from Jefferson, "Black Horse Blues", "Jack O’ Diamond Blues" and "That Black Snake Moan" were among these classic numbers.

In 1927, when producer Mayo Williams moved to OKeh Records, he took Jefferson with him, and OKeh quickly recorded and released Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" backed with "Black Snake Moan," which was to be his only OKeh recording, probably because of contractual obligations with Paramount. Jefferson's two songs released on Okeh have considerably better sound quality than on his Paramount records at the time. When he had returned to Paramount a few months later, "Matchbox Blues" had already become such a hit that Paramount re-recorded and released two new versions. In 1927, Jefferson recorded another of his now classic songs, the haunting "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (once again using the pseudonym Deacon L. J. Bates) along with two other uncharacteristically spiritual songs, "He Arose from the Dead" and "Where Shall I Be." Of the three, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" became such a big hit that it was re-recorded and re-released in 1928. Despite his success, which allowed him to maintain a chauffeur-driven Ford and a healthy bank balance, Jefferson’s lifestyle was little affected. While he spent time in Chicago, where most of his recordings were made, he continued to work as an itinerant performer in the South.

In addition to his frequent recording sessions in Chicago throughout the late '20s, Blind Lemon Jefferson still performed in Texas and traveled around the South. He played Chicago rent parties, performed at St. Louis' Booker T. Washington Theater, and even worked some with Son House collaborator Rev. Rubin Lacy while in Mississippi. In late September of 1929, Jefferson went to Paramount's studios in Richmond, IN, for a fruitful session that included two songs,"Bed Springs Blues" and "Yo Yo Blues", that were also issued on the Broadway label. Jefferson was back in Chicago in December of 1929 when, sadly, he was found dead following a particularly cold snowstorm.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: 'Lectric Chair Blues
Click to Enlarge

Jefferson died in Chicago at 10 am on December 19, 1929, of what his death certificate called "probably acute myocarditis" (Lemon's death certificate was found in 2010 and published in the Frog Blues and Jazz Annual #1). Paramount Records paid for the return of his body to Texas by train, accompanied by pianist William Ezell. Jefferson was buried at Wortham Negro Cemetery (later Wortham Black Cemetery). By 1996, the cemetery and marker were in poor condition, but a new granite headstone was erected in 1997. In 2007, the cemetery's name was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery and his gravesite is kept clean by a cemetery committee in Wortham, Texas.

Several blues singer/guitarists like Thomas Shaw and Mance Lipscomb thought Jefferson’s style almost impossible to imitate with any degree of success. But there were a few recordings made in the pre-war period that managed to do so, notably Issiah Nettles (The Mississippi Moaner), who covered Lemon’s "Long Lonesome Blues" as "It’s Cold In China Blues". Willard ‘Ramblin’ Thomas (probably a one time associate of Jefferson) had a number of songs in the the vein of Lemon. Jesse Thomas' 1948 number, "Double Due Love You" opens with lyrics also taken from the Blind Lemon' "Long Lonesome Blues." Thomas also recorded Lemon's "Jack of Diamonds" in 1951.

We feature several artists today who either covered Lemon's songs or who's records clearly bear the mark of Lemon's influence.  The Down Home Boys recording of "Mama, You Don't Know How", from 1927, has Long Cleve Reed, Papa Harvey Hull and Sunny Wilson re-working Lemon's "Black Snake Moan". Blind Boy Fuller was influenced by Lemon. The opening lick to his intro to "Untrue Blues" comes right out of "Rabbit's Foot Blues” while "Meat Shakin' Woman", derives its melody from "Bad Luck Blues". According to Son House’s recollection of his 1930 Paramount session, producer Art Laibley had asked the musicians if anyone could do a version of the song. Charlie Patton and Willie Brown passed but House went back to his room with Louise Johnson, worked half the night adding his own words to Lemon's melody, and the next day recorded "Mississippi County Farm." The song became a mainstay of House's repertoire, and he recorded it again for Alan Lomax in 1942. Hattie Hudson's 1927 song, "Doggone My Bad Luck Soul" was an "answer song" to Lemon's "Bad Luck Blues" issued in 1926, and has the repeated tag-line "doggone my bad luck soul."

Today we spotlight several artists who knew Lemon first hand such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly, Thomas Shaw and King Solomon Hill. Lightnin' Hopkins offered different account of when he met Blind Lemon but it seems to have been sometime in the early to mid-20's. From 1959 we hear "Reminiscences Of Blind Lemon" and "One Kind Favor, his cover of Lemon's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."

It was on the streets of Deep Ellum that Lemon met up with Leadbelly. Leadbelly, in later years, was understandably proud of his relationship with Lemon. They probably met up sometime after 1910, when Leadbelly and his wife Aletta moved into Dallas. Leadbelly would play guitar, mandolin or accordion behind Lemon and he remembered topically performing the number "Fare Thee Well, Titanic" (the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912) on the streets of Dallas with Jefferson and on other occasions, dancing while Lemon would play a guitar solo version of "Dallas Rag". As a team they traveled together on the railroads from town to town earning a reasonable living. In later years Leadbelly would recall how he and Lemon “was buddies” and how.. “we’d tear those guitars all to pieces”. Their partnership certainly ended by January 1918, when Leadbelly (using the alias Walter Boyd) was indicted on a charge of murder, found guilty and thereafter became a guest of the Texas penal system.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Cannon Ball Moan
Click to Enlarge

Thomas Shaw had already been enthralled by Jefferson's early recordings of “Long Lonesome Blues” and “Matchbox Blues” when he met Jefferson on the town square of Waco in 1926 or 1927. At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's songs from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person. Today we play his version of Lemon's classic "Jack Of Diamonds."

King Solomon Hill was closely connected to Crying Sam Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and their influence is evident, to some degree, in Hill's style. "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon"is a heartfelt tribute to someone Hill clearly admired: "Hmmm then the mailman brought a misery to my head/When I received a letter that my friend Lemon was dead." Those lines echo the opening of Lemon's “Gone Dead On You Blues”: Mmmmmm, mailman's letter brought misery to my head. Mmmmm, brought misery to my head. I got a letter this morning, my pigmeat mama was dead.” Hill ran with Lemon for about two months after he passed through Minden. Hill's widow recalled that "he sung that song a whole lot 'bout Blind Lemon. Said he loved his buddy 'some way better than anyone I know.'" On one record, “Whoope Blues” b/w Down On My Bended Knees” the subtitle on the record says “Blind Lemon's Buddy.”

In 1930 , shortly after Lemon's death, Paramount issued a double sided tribute to Lemon: “Wasn't It Sad About Lemon” by the duo Walter and Byrd was on one side while the second side was the sermon “The Death Of Blind Lemon” by Rev. Emmett Dickenson. Leadbelly recorded a number of songs about Lemon after his passing. Today we spin his "Blind Lemon (Song)" from 1947 and the marvelous "Silver City Bound" from his last session in 1948.

-A Twist of Lemon by Paul Swinton  (Blues & Rhythm, No. 121)

-Blind Lemon And I Had A Ball by Victoria Spivey  (Record Research 76, May 1966 p.9)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jim BledsoeWorried BluesDown South Blues 1949-1961
Jim BledsoeHot Rod BoogieDown South Blues 1949-1961
Stick Horse Hammond Little GirlAlley Special
Stick Horse Hammond Alberta Down Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-195
Eddie & Oscar Flying Crow BluesToo Late, Too Late Vol 4 1892-1937
Black Ivory King Flying Crow BluesPiano Blues: The Essential
Pete McKinley Shreveport BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Pete McKinley Whistling BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Lillian GlinnShreveport Blues Lillian Glinn 1927-1929
Three Fifteen & His SquaresSaturday Night On Texas AvenueRare 1930's Blues Vol. 2
Kid WestKid West BluesI Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Library of Congress 1940-1941
Joe HarrisEast Texas BluesI Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Library of Congress 1940-1941
Oscar "Buddy" WoodsSometimes I Get to Thinkin' I Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Library of Congress 1940-1941
Jim BledsoeAvenue BreakdownRural Blues Vol. 1
Jim BledsoeOld River Blues Down Home Blues Classics: Memphis And The South
Jim BledsoeStormin' And Rainin' Rural Blues Vol. 3
Shreveport HomewreckersHome Wreckin' BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Oscar "Buddy" WoodsMuscat Hill Blues Texas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Stick Horse HammondToo Late BabyDown Home Blues Classics: Memphis And The South
Stick Horse HammondGamblin' ManDown Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-195
Jim Bledsoe & Pete McKinleyDon't Want Me BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Jim Bledsoe Philippine BluesJook Joint Blues
Ramblin ThomasSo Lonesome BluesCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
King Solomon HillThe Gone Dead TrainBlues Images Vol. 3
Jesse ThomasBlue Goose BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Lonnie WilliamsNew Road BluesJook Joint Blues Vol. 5
Lonnie WilliamsTears In My Jook Joint Blues Vol. 5
Stick Horse Hammond Truck 'Em On DownAlley Special
Clarence LondonGot a Letter This MorningBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Black AceTrifling WomanI'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
LeadbellyFannin StreetLeadbelly Vol. 1 1939-1940
Pine Bluff Pete A Women Acts FunnyBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Pine Bluff Pete Uncle Sam BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Jim BledsoeSad And LonelyRural blues Vol. 3
Jim Bledsoe Dial 110 Juke Joints 3

Show Notes:

Shreveport, 1920

Shreveport, Louisiana lies in the tri-state region where Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas meet. Located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, Shreveport has had a thriving music scene for many decades. On the southwest edge of Shreveport's Central Business District is a area that has long been forgotten. Blue Goose is a enclave of a much larger neighborhood called Crosstown, which was destroyed in the 1960's for the construction of Interstate 20. The remnant of Blue Goose is the remaining portion of an area that is rich in history. Blue Goose takes its name from a speakeasy that operated during prohibition. In 1942 the structure was torn down and a one story juke joint called the Silver Slipper took its place. Then later, The Ebony club. In the pre-war era artists such as Ocar "Buddy" Woods, Leadbelly, Jesse Thomas, Ramblin Thomas and the Black Ace performed in the area. Many of the musicians ended up there because they were passing through Shreveport by rail and the area was close to the tracks and the station. During the height of the post-war era, courtesy of labels like Gotham, JOB (not the Chicago label but a  home-grown Shreveport label), Pacemaker (owned by country music star Webb Pierce), Imperial, and Specialty recorded some great blues in Shreveport in the early 1950s. Today we spotight these artists as well as a few songs who make reference to the city in song.

Country Jim Bledsoe

Jim Bledsoe was a street singer and guitarist, he recorded for PaceMaker (Webb Pierce's label) in 1949 under the name Hot Rod Happy and ended his recording career circa 1951/1952 with recordings for Specialty and Imperial under the name Country Jim. "Avenue breakdown and "Old River Blues" (the name of a lake near the city) and "Hollywood Boogie" with a reference to the black neighborhood of Shreveport's, Mooretown (which includes an artery called Hollywood) clearly shows that Bledsoe really was a resident of Shreveport and knew the city well. Bledsoe recorded some twenty sides circa 1951/1952 for Specialty, likely recorded at KWKH studios after hours. Theses sides were not released at the time, with some being issued decades later. Among the unreleased sides were “Travis Street Blues” and “Texas Street Blues” which were named after streets in downtown Shreveport and there was also some gospel sides recorded.

Stick Horse Hammond cut three 78's, six sides, for the JOB and Gotham labels in 1950. The sides Hammond cut for JOB (not the Chicago label of the same name) were issued by Ray Bartlett a former disc-jockey at Shreveport's KWKH station about and according to country artist Zeke Clements, who discovered Hammond, “they drove around for two or three days getting him drunk enough to record.” Hammond was born Nathaniel Hammond, April 1896, Dallas, Texas, and after playing around east and central Texas in the 30's before moved to Taylortown, Louisiana in the 40's. The nickname probably derives from the fact that he wore a peg-leg. He died in Shreveport in 1964 and was buried in Taylortown.

Eddie Schaffer teamed up with Oscar "Buddy" Woods and recorded one single for Victor in Memphis in 1930 billed as the "Shreveport Home Wreckers". Two years later they cut one more record in Dallas under their names. One of their numbers was "Flying Crow Blues." Several songs make reference to the Flying Crow, a train line connecting Port Arthur, Texas to Kansas City with major stops in Shreveport and Texarkana. Black Ivory King, Carl Davis & the Dallas Jamboree Jug Band, Dusky Dailey, Washboard Sam and Oscar Woods all recorded songs about the train. Today we also spin the version by Black Ivory King, perhaps the finest version of this song.

Oscar "Buddy" Woods was a Louisiana street musician known as "The Lone Wolf" and a pioneer in the style of lap steel bottleneck blues slide guitar. It is said that Woods developed his bottleneck slide approach to playing blues guitar after seeing a touring Hawaiian troupe of musical entertainers in the early 1920s. Not long after arriving in Shreveport, Woods began a long association with guitarist Ed Schaffer, and together they performed as the Shreveport Home Wreckers. Woods and Schaffer made their first two recordings as the Shreveport Home Wreckers for Victor in Memphis on May 31, 1930. Woods cut his last five selections for the Library of Congress in 1940. John Lomax wrote the following about the session: "Oscar (Buddy) Woods, Joe Harris and Kid West are all professional Negro guitarists and singers of  Texas Avenue, Shreveport…The songs I have recorded are among those they use to cajole nickels and dimes from the pockets of listeners." Woods died in 1956.

David “Pete” McKinley had two songs released in 1950 on Gotham. “Shreveport Blues” is the earliest post-war blues to mention the city. McKinley participated in the same March 12, 1952 session for Specialty that Jim Bledsoe was involved in. Several other sides were unissued until decades later. Art Rupe of Specialty Records came to Shreveport from California at the suggestion of Stan Lewis, renting out the Studios KWKH for an all-night marathon session which began when the station signed off at 2AM. In 1948, Lewis opened a record store, Stan's Record Shop, on Texas Street in Shreveport. Lewis became a one-stop operator (other record stores would buy from him) and distributor of independent records and began to write and produce R&B and rock and roll records. In 1963, Lewis founded the Jewel label and soon after the Paula and Ronn imprints.

Art Rupe remembered “Pine Bluff Pete” as a “very black man” who had been running errands during the session. Rupe said “when it was felt the other singers couldn't perform effectively any more because of alcohol , fatigue, or both, Pine Bluff Pete asked to record. He looked like he could use the recording fee, and everybody was feeling good, so we recorded him. We never actually intended to release the records, so we paid him outright, not even getting his full name.” The name “Pine Bluff Pete” was given to him by Barry Hansen who discovered the tap in the Specialty vaults. Two of the three songs he recorded credit Jim Bledsoe as the composer and he may be playing guitar on these sides.

Ramblin' Thomas spent time in both Dallas and Shreveport. His brother Jesse said “ He spend a good time in both of them. He's mostly get a room to hisself and play in the streets, in the barbershop, on a corner or even in the alley.” In Shreveport he hung out with Joe Holmes, who in 1932 recorded as 'King Solomon Hill' for Paramount. Holmes' ex-wife, Roberta Allums told researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow, “Joe had rather play with Thomas than any other singer.” In Dallas he spent time with Blind Lemon Jefferson. Thomas cut two sessions for Paramount in 1928 and a last session for Victor in 1932.

Jesse Thomas moved to Shreveport when he was fifteen. In 1927 he moved to Dallas to stay with his brother Willard. After meeting Lonnie Johnson he turned to the guitar playing house parties. Thomas recorded sporadically from the late 1920’s through the early 1990’s and despite his longevity didn’t achieve much in the way of success or recognition. In 1929, at 18, Thomas cut four excellent sides for Victor most notably, ”Blues Goose Blues” named after a Shreveport area where Thomas performed:

 I'm goin down in old Blue Goose, even if I lose
   When you go to Shreveport town
   You can find Blue Goose and they'll car' you down
   I'm goin' down in old Blue Goose, I don't care if I lose

King Solomon Hill's legacy is the six sides he cut for Paramount in 1932: "Whoopee Blues", "Down On My Bended Knee", "The Gone Dead Train", "Tell Me Baby", "My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon" and "Times Has Done Got Hard." The last two numbers were not found until 2002 by record collector John Tefteller. King was closely connected to Crying Sam Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and their influence are evident, to some degree, in Hill's style.

Babe Karo Lemon Turner AKA Black Ace grew up in a farm in Hughes Springs, Texas. He took up the guitar seriously when he moved to Shreveport in the mid-1930's and met Oscar Woods from whom he learned the local slide guitar style, playing the guitar flat across the knees. By 1936 he moved to Fort Worth where he secured a gig broadcasting on local station KFJZ between 1936-1941. As his reputation grew he toured and cut six sides for Decca in 1937 (two sides recorded for ARC in 1936 were never released). War service disrupted his career and he worked a variety of jobs outside of music. Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records and Paul Oliver ventured to Fort Worth in 1960 and recorded an album by him that year. Those recordings were originally issued the following year on Black Ace's only LP. Turner passed in 1972 showing no interest to get back in the music business after his Arhoolie session.

By 1903, Lead Belly was already a "musicianer", a singer and guitarist of some note. He performed for nearby Shreveport audiences in St. Paul's Bottoms, a notorious red-light district there. Lead Belly began to develop his own style of music after exposure to a variety of musical influences on Shreveport's Fannin Street, a row of saloons, brothels, and dance halls in the Bottoms. He celebrates the street in the powerful "Fannin Street" which we feature today:

My mama told me
My sister too
Said, 'The Shreveport women, son,
Will be the death of you

Said to my mama,
'Mama, you don't know
If the Fannin Street women gonna kill me
Well, you might as well let me go

In 1937, Three Fifteen and His Squares, a music group from Shreveport, Louisiana, traveled 200 miles north for a recording session in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The musicians, led by David “315” Blunson, recorded four songs released by Vocalion Records. The lyrics to Blunson’s “Saturday Night on Texas Avenue” pay a colorful tribute to Shreveport’s African American main drag during its heyday:

In a spot in my hometown, I’d like for you to go
And get woke up, and see a great show
We smoke weed, and we say hey-hey
We drink port wine until the break of day
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

Walk all night from place to place
Shuckin’ and jivin’ trying to get our gait
Some be truckin’ and some be doin’ the Suzie-Q
And if you stay long enough, you’ll be truckin’ too
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

Little is known of Lonnie Williams and Clarence London. Williams recorded four songs for the Sittin' In With label in 1951. In a 1968 interview label head Bob Shad recalled Williams was recorded at a Shreveport radio station, most likely KWKH. Clarence London was a Shreveport construction worker who had been hanging around Stan Lewis' record shop, begging Lewis to record him. When Art Rupe of Specialty Records came to town, Lewis obliged. London recorded three songs and never recorded again.

During the time period covered by this show, there were several songs that had Shreveport in the title. Today we spin "Shreveport Blues" sung  in 1928 by Lilillian Glinn which makes reference to Shreveport's Texas Avenue. A different song with the same title was recorded by Virginia Liston in 1923. Other songs include Little Brother Montgomery's "Shreveport Farewell", Jelly Roll Morton's "Shreveport" and "Shreveport Stomp", Clarence Williams' "Shreveport Blues" and Leadbelly's "Shreveport County Jail Blues" to name a few examples.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Thomas ShawBaby Be A Boy Child Named Him After MeBlind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas ShawStop In The ValleyBlind Lemon's Buddy
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson One Dime Blues The Best Of
Thomas ShawAll Out And DownBorn In Texas
Thomas ShawBroke And Ain't Got A DimeBlind Lemon's Buddy
Funny Papa SmithHowling Wolf Blues - No. 1The Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Funny Papa SmithHoney BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Thomas Shaw Last Year Was A Mighty Fine YearBorn In Texas
Thomas Shaw Ella Speed Blind Lemon's Buddy
Blind Willie JohnsonLord I Can't Just Keep From CryingThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie JohnsonIf I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down
The Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Thomas Shaw Just Can't Keep From Crying Blind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas Shaw Worried BluesBorn In Texas
Ramblin' ThomasSo LonesomeCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics 1926-1937
Willie LaneToo Many Women BluesRural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956
Thomas ShawMatchbox Blues Blind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas ShawHowling Wolf Blues Blind Lemon's Buddy
Smokey Hogg Penitentiary Blues Pt. 1Good Morning Little School Girl
Mance Lipscomb Ella Speed Texas Sharecropper & Songster
Thomas Shaw Prowling Ground HogBlind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas Shaw She's My Gal Do Lord Remember Me
Funny Papa Smith County Jail BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Funny Papa Smith Fool's BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Thomas ShawJack of DiamondsSan Diego Blues Jam
Blind Lemon Jefferson Match Box BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Jack O' Diamond Blues The Best Of
Thomas ShawDedicated To My FriendsDo Lord Remember Me

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

Thomas Shaw came to the attention of the blues world in the late 1960's when he walked into Lou Curtis' Folk Arts Rare Records shop in San Diego looking for guitar strings. Shaw was from Brennam, Texas and had learned to play guitar in the late 1920's from Blind Lemon Jefferson. He was a walking library of Texas blues, having played with Ramblin’ Thomas, J.T. “Funny Papa” Smith, Texas Alexander, and Willie “Little Brother” Lane. He also played some with a very young Mance Lipscomb. In the early 70's Curtis wrote articles about Shaw for Living Blues and Blues Unlimited magazines and Shaw's discovery garnered interest from record companies. Frank Scott came down and recorded Shaw for Advent Records in the backroom of Curtis' store. The same year saw the release of the, now long out-of-print, record on the Blue Goose label with a final record cut in 1973 for the Blue Beacon label in Holland when Shaw toured Europe. A few scattered sides appeared on anthologies before his passing in 1977. Today's show not only spotlights a batch of great sides by Shaw, but we also spin sides from many of the great Texas bluesman that he knew and played with like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Funny Papa Smith, Blind Willie Johnson, Smokey Hogg, Mance Lipscomb, Willie Lane and Ramblin' Thomas.

Thomas Shaw only spent five years on the Texas house party circuit, leaving for San Diego in 1934, yet met an astonishing number of Texas blues legends. He was born in Brenham, Texas in 1908, a farming community between Austin and Houston. His was a musical family; his father played harmonica, guitar and accordion and Shaw learned acapella versions of spirituals on his father's knee. His uncle Fred Rogers headed up a family string band and his cousins, Willie and Bertie, were first rate blues guitarists. His older brother Leon played piano and his brother Louis played harmonica. "They played old time blues music, what you call the root of the music. 'Ella Speed', 'Take Mew Back Baby', 'See See Rider'. 'Alabama Bound', all of them songs was popular then."

Shaw first played harmonica before picking up guitar in the early 20's. The first song he mastered was “Out And Down”, a ragtime song that was played locally by his brother Louis and later recorded as “One Dime Blues” by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Shaw had already been enthralled by Jefferson's early recordings of “Long Lonesome Blues” and “Matchbox Blues” when he met Jefferson on the town square of Waco in 1926 or 1927. “I followed all around that evening there, and then I started talkin' to him, and naturally me being a kid he's askin' me different things: 'You like the way I play this guitar?' I told him 'I love it!' …Say: 'How would you lie to do it?' I say: 'I sure wish I could do it!' He says: 'Well you can.' I say: 'I don't know.' He says: 'Yes, you can …go and find you a guitar.' .'..When you hear (of) me in town, you come where I am.' At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's song from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person.

In 1925 Blind Lemon Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Though he was not the first country blues singer/guitarist, or the first to make commercial recordings, Jefferson was the first to attain a national audience. Jefferson’s first session produced "I Want To Be Like Jesus In My Heart" b/w "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" using the name Deacon L.J. Bates. It was the second session, however, that made Jefferson a star. "Got The Blues" b/w "Long Lonesome Blues" hadn't been on sale long in the spring of 1926 when Paramount asked him to record it again because of the huge demand for the record. This was unheard of for a male blues artist. Prior to Jefferson the blues had been recorded primarily by women backed by piano or bands. Tony Russell describes Jefferson's impact: "Jefferson offered instead blues sung by a man playing guitar – playing it, moreover, with a busyness and variety that showed up many of those pianists and bands as turgid and ordinary. The discovery that there was an audience for Jefferson's type of blues revolutionized the music business: within a few years female singers were out of favor and virtually all the trading in the 'race' market (jazz aside) was in men with guitars."

In the towns of Moody and nearby Temple, Shaw met Blind Willie Johnson whom he learned “Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying.” " My father and Blind Willie Johnson used to work together, they both composed songs. My daddy would write 'em and make 'em into ballets and they'd sell 'em for fifteen cents a copy."  After spending a year in his mother's home of Brenham in the late 20's, Shaw began traveling as an itinerant cotton picker. It was in 1929 that he started playing for parties on the weekends. On one of these trips in the town of Vernon he ran into Ramblin' Thomas at a party where the two were goaded into a guitar contest which Shaw claims to have won. "The people went wild, I guess, 'cause I was a kid …what they really went wild over, me bein' able to play some of Blind Lemon Jefferson"s stuff …" Most Texas bluesman, he said, nvere played Jeffereson's songs. While living in Fort Worth in 1929 he played again with Thomas and met Willie Lane (who he knew only as Little Brother) at a house party.

Willard "Ramblin" Thomas was born around 1900, probably in Texas but possibly in Louisiana. Very little is known about him except that he recorded eighteen tracks for Paramount and Victor between 1928 and 1932. Willie Lane was a Texas blues guitarist who recorded five sides in 1949 and displays the influences of Ramblin' Thomas and J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith respectively on "Prowlin' Ground Hog" and "Howling Wolf Blues." In fact, he had accompanied Smith during a 1935 recording session for Vocalion, the results never being released, under the moniker "Little Brother."

Around 1930 Shaw met J.T. “Funny Papa” Smith. Shaw and Smith went on to play weekend house parties, each devising second guitar parts behind the others' vocal and leads. Smith promised to include Shaw in on of his recording sessions in 1931 but Smith was hauled off to face a murder charge and never returned to the area. Smith was a minstrel who wandered about the panhandle region, performing at fairs, fish fries, dances and other community events (often in the company of figures including Tom Shaw, Texas Alexander and Bernice Edwards.Between 1930 and 1931 he had recorded some twenty issued sides. Evidently Smith's commercial billing as "Funny Paper Smith" was a gaffe on the part of record company officials. When Texas bluesman Thomas Shaw met him in Wickoffs, Oklahoma, the name "Funny Papa Smith" was plainly stitched on his stovepipe hat and the work-overalls he customarily wore as the overseer of a local plantation. He was better known simply as Howling Wolf", the title of his debut recording. "That's the one that made him famous," Shaw said of the song.

Shaw's belated debut was recorded in 1969 or 70 and issued in 1972 on the Blue Goose label, titled Blind Lemon's Buddy. Subsequent albums included Born In Texas issued in 1972 on Advent then later on Testament, and Do Lord Remember Me released in 1973 on the Blues Beacon label (recorded in a Holland studio with one cut recorded live at Bajes Blues Club in Amsterdam). Tow other cuts appeared on the compilation San Diego Blues Jam issued in 1974 on Advent then later on Testament and four cuts that appear on the Ultimate Blues Collection Volume 3 on Ziggy Christmann's Ornament label. As Shaw noted of his recording career, it should have happened forty years earlier: “I was a guitar player then, brother …didn't nobody run into me-wanna mess with me. No sir …But I just can't play now.” He remains proudest of his ability to recreate the sound of Blind Lemon, saying of the style “ I went through hell and high water to get it.”

Sources:

-Liner notes to Blind Lemon's Buddy by Stephen Calt

-From The Vaults… Thomas Shaw Interview by Guido van Rijn (Blues & Rhythm #193, October 2004)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Big John Wrencher Trouble Makin' Woman 45
Big John Wrencher Runnin' Wild 45
Mississippi SheiksStill I'm Traveling OnHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down
Red Nelson Black Gal StompRed Nelson 1935-1947
Blind John Davis Jersey Cow Blues Blind John Davis 1938-1952
Thomas Shaw Born In TexasBorn In Texas
Thomas Shaw All Out And DownBorn In Texas
Muddy WatersStandin' Around CryinOne More Mile
Larry JohnsonFour Woman BluesFast & Funky
J.W. Warren Hoboing Into HollywoodLife Ain't Worth Livin'
Guitar Slim War Service Blues Greensboro Rounder
Guitar Slim Lovin Home BluesGreensboro Rounder
Blue Smitty Sad StoryDrop Down Mama
Floyd JonesPlayhouseDrop Down Mama
Howlin' Wolf Decoration DaySun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Mattie May ThomasBig Mac From MacamereAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Bessie Smith I've Got What It Takes (But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away)The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Ruth Willis Man of My OwnCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Shakey Jake HarrisA Hard Road to TravelFurther On Up The Road
T-Bone Walker You Don't Know What You're DoingT-Bone Blues
Fats JeffersonLove Me BluesGoin' Back To Tifton
Buddy DurhamBlues All Around My HeadGoin' Back To Tifton
Tiny BradshawKnockin' BluesBreakin' Up the House
Louis JordanBuzz Me Good Times Live 1948-49
Gatemouth BrownShe Winked Her EyeBoogie Uproar: Texas Blues & R&B 1947-54
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryElectrocution BluesBack
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryEverybody's Fishin'Back
Ramblin' ThomasSo LonesomeCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Big Joe WilliamsMeet Me Around The CornerBig Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Brownie McGheeCholly BluesThe Folkways Years 1945-1959
Lucille SpannCountry GirlCry Before I Go

Show Notes:

Blues Unlimted 106 – Big John Wrencher Cover

Today's show is the first blues show of the fall membership drive and we hope to hear from our loyal blues listeners. On deck for today's mix show are a fine batch of Chicago blues from Big John Wrencher, Muddy Waters, Blue Smitty, Floyd Jones and Lucille Spann. We also spotlight twin spins by down-home bluesmen Guitar Slim (Stephens) and Thomas Shaw, rare latter day tracks by the duo of Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry, a trio of tough blues ladies and more.

We open up with obscure 45 from the great one-armed harp blower Big John Wrencher. The sides were recorded by Big John in 1974 during his European tour  and I believe it's Eddie Taylor on guitar. They were released in 1979 in France as part of a six single Coca Cola Promo that covered various styles of popular music. Big John became a recognizable fixture  on Chicago's  Maxwell Street open air market which was  a seven-to ten-block area in Chicago that from the 1920's to the mid-'60s played host to various blues musicians, both professional and amateur, who performed right on the street for tips from passerby. Most of them who started their careers there (like Little Walter, Earl Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor, and others) and moved up to club work. Despite his enormous playing and performing talents, the discography on Wrencher remains thin. His first official recordings surfaced on a pair of Testament albums from the '60s, featuring him as a sideman role behind Robert Nighthawk. His only full album, Maxwell Street Alley Blues, surfaced in the early '70s on the Barrelhouse label. After years of vacillating between his regular Maxwell Street gig and a few appearances on European blues festivals, Wrencher decided to go back to Mississippi to visit family and old friends in July of 1977. There he died from a heart attack at the age of 54.

Claude "Blue Smitty" Smith allegedly taught Muddy Waters, already an accomplished slide guitar player in the 1940s, how to finger the fretboard of his instrument. Smitty cut just a few sides for Chess (under the name Blue Smitty & His String Men) in 1952 which were unissued at the time. From the session we play the doomy "Sad Story."

Jumping ahead twenty years we play a superb cut by Muddy Waters. "Standin' Around Cryin" comes from the 2-CD set One More Mile which includes 11 tracks from a 1972 Radio Lausanne broadcast featuring Muddy with Louis Myers on acoustic second guitar and Mojo Buford on harp. These are stunning performances and worth the price of this disc alone.

We close today's show with the track "Country Girl" from the wife of Muddy's long time pianist Otis Spann. Mahalia Lucille Jenkins began as a church gospel singer in Mississippi and continued to practice when her family moved to Chicago around 1952. She met Otis Spann in the 1960’s with the two beginning a musical collaboration and would later marry. Lucille and Otis performed regularly at college gigs and would record together until Otis passed in 1970. Lucille continued to work in music performing at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival and making a few recordings before passing in 1994. Cry Before I Go was cut for Bluesway in 1973 and is her only full length album, never issued on CD. She also waxed a couple of 45's in the 70's.

The heyday of country blues was the 20's and 30's  when an incredible number of talented blues musicians got their shot at glory cutting records for the burgeoning race record market. The music eventually fell by the wayside, swept aside by changing musical trends. Yet the style never really went away and with a new found interest among white listeners came a number of men armed with portable equipment to document this music that still thrived in black communities. Roughly from the early 60's through the early 80's a prodigious amount of recording was done and issued on small specialty labels. Unfortunately a good amount of this material has never made it to the CD age. Today we spin some long out-of-print sides recorded by Kip Lornell as well as fine sides from this era by Tom Shaw and J.W. Warren.

Kip Lornell has worked on music projects for the Smithsonian Institute, has a doctorate in ethnomusicology and is the author of several articles and books. He also did some field notable field recording in the 70's. I want to thank Kip for making me a copy of the extremely hard to find Guitar Slim album. 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. Within a few years, Slim was playing piano. When he was thirteen, he began picking guitar, playing songs he heard at local house parties and churches. A few years later he joined the John Henry Davis Medicine Show, playing music to draw crowds. 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. His lone LP, Greensboro Rounder, was issued in 1979 by the Flyright label and is a real lost gem. In 1980 he was recorded by Axel Kunster and Ziggy Christmann which was issued as part of the Living Country Blues series on the L&R label. Slim passed in 1989.

Lornell also made some recordings in the early 70's in Albany, NY of all places. These appeared on two Flyright LP's: Goin' Back To Tifton and North Florida Fives. Lornell also wrote a three part feature on the Albany blues scene in Living Blues magazine between 1973 and 1974. I don't have the latter record but we do spin two tracks from the former album.

Tom Shaw spent about five years on the Texas house party circuit in the 1920's and early 1930's before moving to San Diego in 1934. Shaw met many great Texas bluesmen including Smokey Hogg, T-Bone Walker, Mance Lipscomb, Blind Willie Johnson, Ramblin' Thoms, JT "Funny Papa" Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson who he was clearly a disciple of. He met Jefferson in Waco, Texas in 1926 or 27. JT "Funny Papa" Smith offered to let Shaw play on one of his records in 1931 but Smith was sent to jail on a murder charge. In the 1960's and 70s he recorded for the Advent, Blue Goose and Blues Beacon labels before passing in 1977.

J.W. Warren was born in 1921 in Enterprise, AL. In a family of eleven children, he was the only one to take up music, starting at the age of fifteen or sixteen and was soon playing blues pieces at local juke joints and barbecues. . "I came up the hard way. I never had a break whatsoever. In other words, I never had a break in my life. I was born in the wrong part of the world and then again I didn't go any place else. …didn't do anything with the talent I had because I didn't have much education. When you got a back break like I had you doubt yourself, you know it's rough man!" Warren was recorded at his home in Ariton, AL in 1981, and 1982, by folklorist George Mitchell and made some sides in the 90's for Music Maker.

We spotlight a trio of tough blues ladies with tracks by Ruth Willis, Mattie May Thomas and Bessie Smith. Willis'  first session was for Columbia in Atlanta in October 1931, when she was accompanied by Blind Willie McTell on four tracks: "Rough Alley Blues", "Talkin' To You Wimmen About The Blues", "Experience Blues" and 'Painful Blues." The first two were issued as a single on the OKeh label, billed as by Mary Willis, accompanied by Blind Willie McTell; the other two tracks were issued as a Columbia single as by Ruth Day accompanied by Blind Sammie. A week later she made another OKeh single, "Low Down Blues b/w Merciful Blues", accompanied this time Curley Weaver, and issued as by Mary Willis. She had one more day in the studio in January 1933 where she cut "I'm Still Sloppy Drunk b/w Man Of My Own." Willis died the same year as Curley Weaver (1962), and three years after McTell.

Mattie May Thomas waxed three remarkable acapella numbers in 1939. They were recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in the woman's camp of the  notorious Parchman Farm.

Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry Reunion in Memphis Aug 29 1972

Jimmy DeBerry and Walter Horton cut two very hard-to-find albums circa 1972-1973 in Memphis called Easy and Back. DeBerry cut some material in the pre-war era and some terrific sides for Sun in the 1950's, both solo and with Walter Horton including playing on Horton's classic "Easy." These albums are bit of a mixed bag but there are several great moments.

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