Entries tagged with “Robert Nighthawk”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Walter HortonCan't Help Myself Blues Southside Chicago
Johnny Young One More TimeBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesGoing To The RiverChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Billy Boy Arnold & Johnny JonesSloppy DrunkChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Howlin' WolfSugar MamaBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersSitting And ThninkingBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Muddy WatersWee, Wee Baby Blues From Big Bill's Copacabana
Johnny Young The Sun Is Shining And This Is Maxwell Street
Big John WrencherCan´t Hold Out Much LongerAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Carey BellI'm Ready And This Is Maxwell Street
L.C. McKinleyMind Your BusinessHave A Good Time
Homesick James Little And Low Have A Good Time
Walter HortonHave A Good TimeHave A Good Time
Earl Hooker Peppers Other ThingLive At Peppers Lounge Vol. 2
Lonnie Brooks Sweet Little AngelLive At Peppers 1968
Sunnyland SlimEverytime I Get To Drinking Blues Southside Chicago
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Eddie BoydLosing HandBlues Southside Chicago
James BrewerBig Road Blues Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
John Henry BarbeeTell Me Baby Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Maxwell Street JimmyLong-Haired DoneyChicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Little Johnny JonesWorried Life BluesLive In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Little Johnny JonesOuch! Live In Chicago With Billy Boy Arnold
Robert Nighthawk I Need Love So BadAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Robert Nighthawk Cheating And Lying BluesAnd This Is Maxwell Street
Muddy WatersClouds In My HeartBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Today show is part two in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight several collections of Chicago blues recorded in the 1960's some of which are somewhat rare or not particularly well known. Among the studio albums we spotlight today are Blues Southside Chicago and its companion album Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues. In addition we feature some great live blues from the albums Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle, Little Johnny Jones and Billy Boy ArnoldBlues From Big Bill's Copacabana, Live At Peppers Lounge, And This Is Maxwell Street among a few others.

Blues Southside Chicago Is a superb collection of Chicago blues artists recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do." In a 1977 interview pianist Henry Gray recalled this session: "I remember, in 1964, Willie Dixon was asked by an English company to produce a couple of so-called Southside Chicago sessions. [Dixon was a very close friend of Howlin' Wolf and they talked together about that;] Wolf was not personally interested but he induced me to go and support some of the artists chosen by Dixon…Poor Bob Woodfork, Robert Nighthawk, Shakey Horton. That was issued on British Decca label. Yeah, I think it was representative of the kind of music we were playing in the Southside clubs at that time."

Walter Horton always sounded best on other people's records but comes across magnificently on "Can't Help Myself" which opens with a lengthy upper register harmonica solo before Horton's plaintive, impassioned vocals kick in. Horton's harmonica work is stunning and it's a shame he gets consistently overshadowed by Little Walter.

Certainly one of the highlights is the two marvelous songs by Robert Nighthawk. "Lula Mae" is a cover of the 1944 Tampa Red song and it was Tampa who was Nighthawk's main influence. This is an exceedingly tough Chicago blues with Nighthawk's heavy, gloomy vocals hanging over the song punctuated by the waling amplified harp of Walter Horton. "Merry Christmas" (Nighthawk cut another version for Testament the same year) is more of the same again with some extroverted playing by Horton.

Johnny Young, who plays second guitar on the above sides, was a pal of Nighthawk's and the two often played together on Maxwell Street. Young was a brilliant mandolin and guitar player who like Nighthawk was sadly under recorded. Backed by the same band as Nighthawk, Young is in fine form on the stripped down, heartfelt "Little Girl" laying down some intricate mandolin work while the shuffling "One MoreFolk Festival of the Blues Time" virtually pops out of the speakers again with some dazzling harp from Horton.

Like Nighthawk, Homesick James was a bottleneck guitarist but with a more rudimentary technique, owing quite a bit to his cousin Elmore James. By the time of these recordings he was relatively under recorded with some scattered singles and one full length album cut for Prestige a few months prior. The combination of Homesick's ringing bottleneck and emotionally charged vocals make a potent force on "Got To Move" and "Crutch And Cane" a thinly disguised version of "Look On Yonder Wall."

Leadbitter calls the piano blues a dying art form and these days the tradition is hanging on by a lifeline. Back then there was still numerous fine piano men including Henry Gray (still with us thankfully) and Willie Mabon who back some of the other artists on this collection and Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd who get two sides apiece under their own names. Sunnyland is in commanding form, hollering out the blues with abandon on the shuffling "I Got To Get To My Baby" and the regal "Everytime I Get To Drinking" a number he first waxed back in 1949, both sporting marvelous solos by Buddy Guy. Boyd is in equally strong form on "Losing Hand" and the bouncy "Where You Belong" again with outstanding contributions from Buddy guy.

Little Johnny Jones recorded little under his own name, never making it past his 40th birthday. Luckily Jones was caught on tape in 1963 working with Billy Boy Arnold in a Chicago folk club called the Fickle Pickle run by Michael Bloomfield. Norman Dayron recorded Johnny on portable equipment which has been released on the Alligator record titled Johnny Jones with Billy Boy Arnold. Additional tracks from this recording appear on Chicago Blues – Live At The Fickle Pickle, a long out of print LP on the Flyright label. The Fickle Pickle was a club on Rush Street in Chicago managed at one time by Michael Bloomfield. Regulars included Big Joe Willies, St. Louis Jimmy, James Brewer, Billy Boy Arnold, Little Johnny Jones, J.B. Lenoir and others.

Originally released as Folk Festival of the Blues on Chess's Argo subsidiary, then reissued as Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana, this is a live document of a steamy night in a Chicago blues club. Chicago blues disc jockey Big Bill Hill intros the band and the assembled stars (one of whom, Little Walter, is nowhere to be found on this disc), then Buddy Guy's band rips into "Wee Wee Baby," and sung in three-part harmony by Buddy, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Some of the tracks here are ringers; Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It On Home" and a stray Buddy Guy track are actually studio takes with fake applause dubbed on. But the two from Howlin' Wolf and everything here from Muddy are live.

And This Is Maxwell Street is a three-disc set features the street recordings from the 1964 Mike Shea film documentary, And This Is Free, plus a slew of previously unreleased performances of equal importance. These recordings were recorded live on Chicago's Maxwell Street, a mecca for bluesman trying to hustle a few bucks from the passing crowd. The 30 tracks contain wonderful performances by Maxwell Street regulars such as Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Carey Bell, Arvella Gray, Big John Wrencher and several others.

Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Read Liner Notes

After a long absence Nighthawk returned to Chicago in 1964 and recorded several times including a blistering set taped live on Maxwell St. in conjunction with the filming of Mike Shea's 1964 documentary "And This is Free." Maxwell St. was at the heart of Chicago's black ghetto and was a bustling open air market. Above all it's the music of legendary slide man Robert Nighthawk who dominates these recordings playing on 22 of the 30 tracks. In an interview done by Mike Bloomfield, Nighthawk, reflected on what brought him back to Maxwell Street: "Lately I went back to Maxwell St.- I been playing off and on for 24 years now. Most all music more or less starts right off from Maxwell St. and so you wind up going back there. …See it's more hard to play out in the street than it is in a place of business, but you have more fun in the street, looks like. Well, so many things you can see, so many different things going on, I get a kick out of it, I guess."

In 1975 Rarities Records put out two boottleg albums: Live At Peppers Lounge Vols. 1 & 2. The recordings were made in 1969 at Pepper's Lounge in Chicago. While the records have some good music the credits are incorrect; Little Walter and Eddie Taylor do not appear on these records despite the credits. The club featured great blues musicians, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Shakey Jake, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy.  Waters was a mainstay in the 1960's, and Chicago locals could catch his show for eight dollars. In 1971, the club moved to 1321 S. Michigan Avenue. Today we play a great Earl Hooker cut from the second volume. Unfortunately I couldn't locate my copy of the first volume so instead we play a killer  my cut by Lonnie Brooks recorded at Peppers in 1968.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Willie MabonMichelleI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Willie MabonInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Willie MabonI'm HungryI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerI Don't Want No Woman, She Got Hair Like Drops Of RainI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
James BrewerBig Road BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd Five Long YearsI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd InterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Eddie Boyd Her Picture In A FrameI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungWhy Did You Break My HeartI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Johnny YoungBetter Cut It OutI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Sunnyland SlimIt's You BabyI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Sunnyland SlimSunnyland's JumpI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonTrouble In MindI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonLouise LouiseI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Walter HortonLet's Have A Good TimeI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Washboard SamBooker T BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Washboard SamAll By MyselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
John Lee GrandersonEasy StreetI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
John Lee GrandersonInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Avery Brady Gangster's BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Avery Brady InterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryWest Texas BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Little Brother MontgomeryUp The Country BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Arvella GrayJohn HenryI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Arvella GrayInterviewI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
St. Louis Jimmy Can't Stand Your Evil WaysI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
St. Louis Jimmy Poor Boy BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Big Joe WilliamsSouthern BluesI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Big Joe WilliamsRootin' GroundhogI Blueskvarter Vol. 3

Show Notes:

Today's show is part one in a series of shows devoted to Chicago blues of the 1960's. Today we spotlight remarkable recordings made for a documentary titled I Blueskvarter, Swedish for In Blues Quarters. The bulk of today's notes come from Scott Baretta who wrote the notes for the series; Scott also edited the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson, is currently the host of the Highway 61 radio show for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, is head writer and researcher (with Jim O’Neal) for the Mississippi Blues Trail, and former editor of Living Blues magazine. In fact it was through Scott that I got a copy of the first volume of I Blueskvarter  more than a decade ago.

Olle Helander
Olle Helander

These recordings were made by Olle Helander, a radio host for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation who traveled to Chicago in 1964 for the express purpose of recording the blues. In addition there were trips to New Orleans and Memphis all of which were the raw material for the 21 part documentary radio series I Bluekvarter which first aired on Swedish Radio in the Autumn of 1964. Outside of poor sounding bootlegs, these recordings sat on the shelf for over thirty years until release in the beginning in the late 1990's by the folks who run the Swedish blues magazine Jefferson. The recordings were released as three 2- CD sets and feature intimate recordings by Willie Mabon, James Brewer, Champion Eddie Boyd, Yank Rachell, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Walter Horton as well as Babe Stovall, Snooks Eaglin and others. The recording trip documented on this show wasn't Helander's first to "the blues quarters".  In 1961 Helander spent several months visiting the music scenes of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Memphis, and Chicago. Helander arrived in Chicago with the vague idea of investigating the blues, but initially had no luck tracing down blues artists until a chance meeting with the guitarist Big Joe Williams. Hiring Williams as a guide, Helander soon met up with Willie Dixon, Chicago’s premier blues talent scout and producer, as well as a number of the artists he would record in 1964: Sunnyland Slim, Arvella Gray, James Brewer, Little Brother Montgomery, and St. Louis Jimmy Oden.

Unlike his 1961 trip, Helander returned in 1964 with a clearer mission. In order to insure good sound quality, Helander hand-picked the sound-technician Hans Westman, whom he regarded as Swedish Radio's best, and armed with a portable Nagra tape recorder and four channel mixer, they set off to the States. The two landed in New York on May the 4th, and after making the rounds in the city’s jazz scene over the next days, arrived in Chicago on the 11th. Helander and Westman spent several days preparing their recording sessions, spending time with Willie Dixon, as well as Pete Welding of Testament Records and DownBeat magazine, and Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records. The blues recordings commenced on May 14th. Not having the budget to book a conventional recording studio, the only suitable place they could find was the Sutherland Lounge, at 4569 South Drexel Avenue in Chicago’s South Side. Conducting sessions on five separate occasions, they would leave Chicago with ninety-nine full takes from fourteen different artists/units. Below you will find background on some of today's featured artists.

For me, and others whose opinion I value, the recordings made by Walter Horton are a high water mark. As Barretta writes: "It’s probably no accident that Helander chose as his introductory theme Walter Horton’s 'Trouble In Mind', the eerie sounds of his lonesome harmonica, accompanied sparsely by Robert Nighthawk on guitar, about as far as one could get from the schlager and pop music dominating the Swedish charts of 1964. As a rather shy, quiet I Blueskavrter Vol. 1individual, Horton never had much taste for leading his own bands or recording sessions. Horton was much more comfortable in a supporting role and as writer Neal Slavin wrote “was one of the few musicians capable of elevating the slightest material into something approaching a masterpiece.”

James Brewer was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi on 1920 and moved to Chicago in the 1940's where he spent the latter part of his life busking and performing both blues and religious songs at blues and folk festivals, on Chicago's Maxwell Street and other venues. In 1962, however, he was offered an opportunity to play blues at a concert at Northwestern University and also began a regular gig at the No Exit Cafe which lasted for two decades. He went on to play major festivals and clubs in the United States, Canada and Europe. His first recordings appear on Blues From Maxwell Street (Heritage, 1960), cut several sides for Pete Welding in 1964, the same he was recorded during the making of the documentary And The Is Free and cut the full-length albums Jim Brewer (Philo, 1974) and Tough Luck (Earwig, 1983).

John Lee Granderson, Avery Brady and Arvella Gray all performed on Maxwell Street, and all under-recorded. In addition to the full length Hard Luck John (issued posthumously in 1998), Tennessee bluesman John Lee Granderson cut sides on other Testament compilations with further sides appearing on various anthologies. Among those Granderson played with were Robert Nighthawk, Big Joe Williams and Daddy Stovepipe. Brady's first recordings were made for this documentary. A few more songs by Avery were recorded that year and few in 1965 that were issued on the Testament and Storyville labels. He never recorded again. Gray made his first recordings in 1960 (released on the Heritage label) and in early 1964 he made sides for his own Gray label, selling the 45's on the street. In 1964, like James Brewer, he was also recorded for the documentary And This Is Free. He was regular performer on Maxwell Street on Sundays. Gray's only album, 1972's The Singing Drifter was reissued on the Conjuroo label in 2005.

Captured were several artists active in the pre-war years incluing Washboard Sam, St. Louis Jimmy and Little Brother Montgomery. Washboard Sam was one of the most popular and prolific blues artists of the 30's and 40's. Between 1935 and 1949 he recorded hundreds of sides for RCA's Bluebird and Victor labels. His last commercial session was a date with Big Bill Broonzy for Chess in 1953. These recordings were his first recordings in a decade. St. Louis Jimmy Oden made his debut back in 1932 but when recorded for these sessions he was mainly working as a songwriter, although he did cut a full-length album for Bluesville as recently as 1960.

In addition to Little Brother Montgomery, several other pianists were captured during the trip including Willie Mabon, Eddie Boyd and Sunnyland Slim. Mabon made his debut in 1949 but it was his 1952 debut release on the Parrot label, "I Don't Know," topped the R&B charts for eight weeks after being sold to Chess. From then on, Mabon was a Chess artist, returning to the top R&B slot the next year with "I'm Mad" and the Top Ten "Poison Ivy" in 1954. Although he didn't score any he big hits after Chess he continued cutting solid sides for  Federal in 1957, Mad in 1960, Formal in 1962, and USA 1963-64. He moved to Paris in 1972.

I Blueskavrter Vol. 2In 1941, Boyd settled in Chicago. He backed Sonny Boy Williamson on his 1945 classic "Elevator Woman," also accompanying Bluebird stars Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, and Jazz Gillum on wax. Boyd made his 1947 debut for RCA staying with the label through 1949. Boyd reportedly paid for the date that produced "Five Long Years" himself, selling the track to JOB Records where it topped the R&B charts during 1952. Al Benson signed Boyd to a contract with his Parrot label and promptly sold it to Chess. At Chess he waxed "24 Hours" and "Third Degree," both huge R&B hits in 1953 and several other fine sides. Boyd became enamored of Europe during his tour with the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival, so he moved to Belgium. He recorded prolifically during the late '60sand in the early '70s settled in Helsinki where he played often and lived until his death.

For more than 50 years Sunnyland Slim rumbled the ivories around the Windy City, playing with virtually every local luminary imaginable and backing the great majority in the studio at one time or another. Slim moved to Chicago in 1939 and set up shop as an in-demand piano man, playing for a spell with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson before making his debut in 1947. Slim recorded prolifically until his death in 1995.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Andrew OdumIt's My Own Fault Farther Up The Road
Andrew OdumDon't Ever Leave Me All AloneFarther Up The Road
Andrew Odumake Me Back To East St LouisFarther Up The Road
Bill Williams Low and Lonesome Low And Lonesome
Bill Williams Blake's Rag LucillBlues, Rag & Ballads
Bill WilliamsyNobody's BusinessBlues, Rag & Ballads
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Walter HortonCan't Help MyselfBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Roosevelt CharlesCane Choppin'Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesMean Trouble BluesBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesI'm a Gamblin' ManBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Johnny YoungTried Not To CryI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Know She's Kinda SlickI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Rev. Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember Me Memphis Gospel Singer
Rev. Robert WilkinsThe Prodigal SonMemphis Gospel Singer
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Expressin' The Blues Welfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)The Welfare BluesWelfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Southland Welfare Blues
Arbee StidhamWee Hours A Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamTake Your Hand Off My KneeA Time For Blues
Arbee Stidham Meet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Shirely Griffith Cool Kind Papa From New OrleansMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Maggie Campbell BluesMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Delta HazeMississippi Blues

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Over the years of doing this show I've played many long out-of-print records and I've finally decided to do a series of shows exclusively devoted to these records. While an impressive amount of blues has made it to the digital age, it may be surprising to some that there is a large cache of great blues albums, primarily from the 60's and 70's, that have never been reissued. I like to think of these records as sort of a hidden narrative of the blues running parallel but under the more mainstream blues or the blues records issued on some of the bigger labels, sort of the same as the field recordings I often play as compared to the commercial blues that was being issued. With the decline of CD's and the rise of digital music I have a feeling these great records will never get resurrected. The bulk of the albums featured in the series are from a slew of great small labels that issued records that probably sold in exceedingly small amounts. Over the course of these shows I'll be spotlighting albums from some of these great forgotten labels like Blue Goose, 77 Records, Albatros, Flyright, Spivey, Barrelhouse among others. For part two I'll be spotlighting a batch from Bluesville, which did have an extensive CD reissue program but left out some great titles. Below is some background on today's featuredrecords.

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. The label has been spottily reissued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. The label had big names like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker but to me some of the more interesting records are by lesser knowns like Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, L.C. Robinson and Andrew Odom. Farther Up The Road finds Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between him and Earl Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose.  Among the highlights are the moody "Stormy Monday", the bouncing "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone" and a crackling version of "Farther Up The Road" (two songs appear on the Earl Hooker anthology CD Simply The Best). The record wasn't treated well by the critics as Mike Leadbitter clearly expressed in a 1973 edition of Blues Unlimited: "What a bitter disappointment! Muffled sound, endless boring songs and total lack of variation. What have BluesWay done to my heroes?" The album was finally released in 1973 and virtually sank without a trace. Despite Leadbitter's assessment this is a worthwhile release and well worth resurrecting on CD.

Also from the Bluesway vaults comes Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping, Young's final recording, passing not long after this superb date. Young is in top form playing mandolin on all cuts backed by a tough band featuring stellar guitar work from Louis Myers and the debut by harp man Jerry Portnoy who is uncredited.

Roosevelt Charles: Blues, Prayer, Work and Trouble Songs
Read Liner Notes

During the 1960's Nick Perls amassed a vast collection of blues records from the 1920's and 1930's. In 1968 he began transferring some of these onto LP, initially naming his label Belzoni but after five releases changed the name to Yazoo. Perls set up the Blue Goose Record label in the early 1970's. While on Blue Goose' sister label Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920's by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, on Blue Goose Records he recorded only living artists. He cut albums by blues artists like Sam Chatmon, Son House, Yank Rachell, Shirley Griffith, Thomas Shaw and Bill Williams and Larry Johnson plus younger white blues performers like Jo Ann Kelly, Woody Mann, Graham Hine, John Lewis, Roger Hubbard, Roy Book Binder, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders and Rory Block. The bulk of the label's output remains out of print.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist." Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he passed away in his sleep.Blues Southside Chicago is one of my favorite anthologies, a superb collection of Chicago blues recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do."

Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer
Read Liner Notes

Roosevelt Charles was recorded by folklorist Harry Oster in 1959 and 1960 with tracks appearing on anthologies and one full-length album, the long out of print Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs. Oster wrote the following: “Classified as a habitual criminal, a four-time loser, Roosevelt Charles has spent most of his adult life (he is now 45) in prisons, principally, Angola, alternating short periods of freedom with long sentences. …Despite his lengthy police record, Charles is sensitive, personable, intelligent and imaginative – a highly gifted creator, performer and interpreter of Negro music. His rebellion against society appears at least in part the explosion which results when a driving, intensely creative man can find no outlets for his energies and talents – a particularity difficult problem for a bright but almost illiterate Negro born in the Louisiana farm country."

Robert Wilkins passed away in 1987 and it's a shame he made so few recordings in his later years. He did make one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer cut in 1963 for the Piedmont label and sadly never issued on CD (it was reissued on vinyl in 1984 on the Origin Jazz Library label.) His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics. Other post-war sides by Wilkins can be found on the out-of-print anthology This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix, The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival, …Remember Me (from the 1969Memphis Country Blues Festival)  plus a few other scattered sides.

Guitar Gabriel AKA Nyles Jones, recorded under the latter name the superb LP, My South, My Blues, for the Gemini label in 1970.Mike Leadbitter, writing in Blues Unlimited in 1970, called the single, "Welfare Blues", the most important 45 released that year. Gabriel dropped out of sight for about 20 years and his belated return to performing was due largely to folklorist and musician Timothy Duffy, who located Gabriel in 1991. With Duffy accompanying him as second guitarist on acoustic sets and as a member of his band, Brothers in the Kitchen, Gabriel performed frequently at clubs and festivals, and appeared overseas. He recorded several albums for Duffy's Music Maker label before passing in 1996.I'm under the impression that

Arbee Stidham is held in rather low opinion among the blues collecting community. The truth is that Stidham's music isn't, for the most part, all that exciting but A Time For Blues is a terrific outing with Stidham backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.Shhirley Griffith: Mississppi Blues

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (Bluesville, 1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (Bluesville, 1965) and Mississippi Blues (Blue Goose, 1973). The fact that all three albums are out of print goes a ways in understanding why Griffith remains so little known. He also didn't benefit all that much from the renewed blues interest of the 1960's; he never achieving the acclaim of late discovered artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell, the critical appreciation of a Robert Pete Williams or the excitement surrounding rediscovered legends like Son House, Skip James or Mississippi John Hurt. He did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. Griffith passed away in 1974.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Robert NighthawkG-ManProwling With The Nighthawk
Sonny Boy Williamson I Blue Bird BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1
Big Joe WilliamsRootin' Ground HogBig Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Little Brother MontgomerySanta Fe BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Sonny Boy NelsonLow DownMississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues
Bo CarterThe Ins And Outs Of My GirlBo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938
Robert NighthawkProwling NighthawkProwling With The Nighthawk
Sonny Boy Williamson IJackson BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1
Walter Davis Good GalWalter Davis Vol. 3 1937-1938
Sonny Boy NelsonLong Tall Woman
Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues
Mississippi MatildaHard Working WomanMississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues
Robert HillLumber-Yard BluesNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Walter DavisFifth AvenueWalter Davis Vol. 3 1937-1938
Big Joe WilliamsBrother JamesBig Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Sonny Boy Williamson I Got The Bottle Up And GoneThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1
Little Brother MontgomeryThe First Time I Met You Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Bo Carter Bo Carter's AdviceBo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938
Sonny Boy NelsonPony BluesMississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues
Chatman Brothers (Lonnie And Sam)Jumping Out BluesMississippi Sheiks Vol. 4 1934-1936
Chatman Brothers (Lonnie And Sam)If You Don't Want Me Please Don't Dog Me 'RoundMississippi Sheiks Vol. 4 1934-1936
Bo Carter All Around Man - Part 2Bo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938
Bo Carter Pussy Cat BluesBo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938
Bo Carter Your Biscuits Are Not Big Enough For MeBo Carter Vol. 4 1936-1938
Sonnyboy Williamson ISugar Mama Blues The Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1
Sonnyboy Williamson IGood Morning School GirlThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson I Vol. 1
Tommy Griffin On My Way BluesCountry Blues Collector's Items 1930-1941
Walter VincsonRats Been On My CheeseRats Been On My Cheese
Annie Turner Black Pony BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1954
Annie Turner Workhouse BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1954
Little Brother MontgomeryA. & V. Railroad Blues Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936Remastered
Mississippi Matilda Happy Home BluesMississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues
Sonny Boy NelsonStreet Walkin'Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 - Catfish Blues
Robert HillTell Me What's Wrong With YouNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Little Brother MontgomeryWest Texas BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Little Brother MontgomeryLouisiana Blues, Pt. 2Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Little Brother MontgomeryFarish Street JiveLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1936

Show Notes:

Today's show is the first installment spotlighting great recording sessions. Today we select two sessions conducted by the Victor (issued on Bluebird) label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans. In the pre-war era the record companies used mobile recording units to visit southern cities and capture the music of regional performers. For example, between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. During and after the Depression field trips dropped off precipitously. We play recordings today from remarkable field sessions cut by Louisiana and Mississippi artists on October 15-16, 1936 at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans. Dozens of titles were cut by Lonnie and Sam Chatmon, Bo Carter, Eugene Powell (as Sonny Boy Nelson), his wife Matilda Powell (as Mississippi Matilda), Walter Vincson, Little Brother Montgomery, Annie Turner and Tommy Griffin. The other session we spotlight was conducted in Chicago on May 5, 1937 resulting in two-dozen sides by Sonny Boy Williamson I and Robert Lee McCoy (Robert Nighthawk) who were making their recording debuts, plus sides by Big Joe Williams and Walter Davis.

Big Joe Williams: Rootin' Ground Hog 78Henry Townsend recalled driving Sonny Boy Williamson I, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Davis and Big Joe Williams to Aurora, Illinois, in his 1930 A Model Ford for their 1937 sessions: "I transferred them to Aurora, Illinois. There was about eight or nine of us …we stacked them in the car like sardines." This led to a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits. Sonny Boy would go on to cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947.

Robert Nighthawk cut six sides at this session all of which were released at the time. The popularity of the song "Prowling Night-Hawk" was the basis for his changing his surname in the early 40's. At the time of these recordings he was going by Robert Lee McCoy.

Walter Davis was among the most prolific blues performers to emerge from the pre-war St. Louis scene, cutting over 150 sides between 1930 and 1952. Davis enjoyed a fair amount of success before a stroke prompted him to move from music to the ministry during the early '50s.

Over two days on October 15-16, 1936 Bluebird conducted sessions at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. Little Brother Montgomery cut eighteen sides plus backed singer Annie Turner on her four numbers (two were unissued), Sonny Boy Nelson (Eugene Powell) cut six sides under his own name as well as backing Robert Hill, who cut ten sides, and his wife Mississippi Matilda on her three sides. In addition Bo Carter cut ten sides, the Chatman brothers (Lonnie and Sam) cut twelve sides, Tommy Griffin cut a dozen sides and Walter Vincson  (as Walter Jacobs) cut two sides. As John Godrich and Howard Rye wrote in Recording The Blues: "The New Orleans session in 1936 was Victor's last substantial race field recording; in subsequent years they recorded a fair number of gospel quartets in he field, but only one or two unimportant blues singers."

Eugene Powell was born in Utica, Mississippi, December 23, 1908. He started playing the guitar at age eight. His mother ran a juke house so he grew up around music. He took the name "Sonny Boy Nelson" after his step father. His early experiences around Hollandale were with Robert Nighthawk, Robert Hill, and the great blues instrumentalist Richard "Hacksaw" Harney. In 1936 Eugene and wife "Mississippi Matilda" along with Willie "Brother" Harris traveled with the Chatmon Brothers to New Orleans to record for the Bluebird label. Bo Carter acted as agent for Nelson and Hill and received a fifth of the royalties for setting the session up.

In the 1930's Matilda Powell married musician Eugene Powell. She recorded four songs at the 1936 session, one of them, "Peel Your Banana",  went unissued. In 1952, Matilda separated from Eugene, and moved to Chicago taking their one son and five daughters with her.

Interviews with Eugene Powell by Brett Bonner and Robert Eagle elicited that Robert  Hill was from Sumrall, Mississippi, near Hattiesburg, and that in Hollandale he worked with guitarist Will Hadley. Paul Oliver noted that his harmonica playing was reminiscent of Jazz Gillum.

In late 1930, Little Brother Montgomery made his debut backing Minnie Hicks and on two songs, Irene Scruggs on four and recorded “No Special Rider blues” and "Vicksburg Blues" for Paramount. He cut four more sides for Bluebird in 1935. His next recording opportunity was in October 1936 in New Orleans where he waxed a remarkable eighteen  song session. As Chris Smith writes he was "adept at blues, jazz, stride, boogie and pop which he synthesized into a personal style that ranged easily from the bopping earthiness of "Frisco Hi-Ball" to the pearl-stringing elegance of "Shreveport Farewell." His high voice and bleating vibrato are unmistakable, especially on his signature piece, "Vicksburg Blues", a polyrhythmic showcase for his acute but never pedantic timing. It's also an example of Brother's poetry of geography; many of his songs, and even the titles of his instrumentals, are rich evocations of places he knew and the railroads that carried him between them."

Nothing is known of fifteen year-old Annie Turner who cut four sides (two unissued) at this session backed by Little Brother on piano and Walter Vincson on guitar. As Chris Smith wrote: "…Turner projects a smoldering sensuality, triumphing over her low volume dicey pitch with help from Montgomery and Vincson's wonderfully attentive accompaniment."

Sonny Boy Nelson: Low Down 78

Working in various configurations, Walter Vincson and Lonnie, Bo, and Sam Chatmon performed and recorded as the Mississippi Sheiks, a name inspired by a popular 1921 Rudolph Valentino film, The Sheik. A propulsive fiddler, Lonnie managed the band, while Bo, a strong, confident singer and gifted guitarist, became its biggest star. Bo made his recording debut in 1928, backing Alec Johnson. Carter soon was recording as a solo artist and became one of the dominant blues recording acts of the 1930's, recording over 100 sides. He also played with and managed the family group, the Mississippi Sheiks, and several other acts in the area. Bo Carter specialized in double entendre songs, recording dozens of risqué songs like "Banana in Your Fruit Basket," "Pin in Your Cushion", "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me", "The Ins And Outs Of My Girl", the latter two featured today. Carter's brothers, Lonnie and Sam, recorded as the Chatman Brothers, cutting twelve sides at this same session.

Walter Vinson rarely worked as a solo act, seemingly much more at home in duets and trios; towards that end, during the 1920's he worked with Charlie McCoy, Rubin Lacy and Son Spand before forming the Mississippi Sheiks. He cut two songs at this 1936 sessions in the company of pianist Harry Chatman. The year before pianist Harry Chatman cut ten songs under his won name across three sessions, two in New Orleans and a final one in Jackson, Mississippi.

Share