Entries tagged with “Robert Pete Williams”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Blind Lemon Jefferson Match Box BluesBlues Images Vol. 12
Brother Son Bonds and Hammie Nixon I Want To Live So God Can Use MeBlues Images Vol. 12
Willie Lofton Trio Beer Garden BluesBlues Images Vol. 12
Grant 'Mr Blues' Jones They Call Me Mr Blues Jumpin' The Blues Vol. 2 Ace
Clay Braddy & Roy Mays New Kind Of Feelin' Jumpin' The Blues Vol. 1 Ace
Willie Brown People Don't Understand Me Jumpin' The Blues Vol. 3 Ace
Robert Pete Williams Hoodoo Blues Raise a Ruckus Tonight
Clarence Edwards Can't Stand to Be Your Dog Raise a Ruckus Tonight
Butch Cage and Willie ThomasMean Old Frisco Raise a Ruckus Tonight
Arizona Dranes He Is My StoryHe Is My Story
Chippie Hill w/ Freddie Shayne How Long Blues Montana Taylor 1929-1946
Cripple Clarence Lofton Salty Woman BluesCripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 2 1939-1943
Sonny Boy Williamson Don't Make A MistakeDon't Make A Mistake
Dixie Blues Boys My Baby Left TownModern Downhome Blues Vol. 3
Drifting Slim Take My Hand Somebody Done Voodoo The Hoodoo Man
Muddy Waters County JailComplete Chess Recordings
Tommy Johnson Alcohol and Jake Blues Blues Images Vol. 12
Bill Wilber My Babe My Babe Blues Images Vol. 12
Chocolate Brown with Blind Blake You Got What I Want Blues Images Vol. 12
Tampa Red & Georgia Tom Dead Cats On The Line Guitar Wizard
Blind Boy Fuller I'm a Good Stem Winder Remastered 1935-1938
Rev F W McGee Dead Cat On The Line Rev. FW McGee Vol. 2 1929-1930
Charles Henderson She Was a Woman Didn't Mean No GoodRaise a Ruckus Tonight
Smoky Babe and Sally Dotson Black Ghost The Country Blues
Butch Cage & Willie Thomas Bugle Call Blues The Country Blues
Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers Bye-Bye BluesClifford Hayes & The Louisville Jug Bands Vol. 3
Sippie Wallace w Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers You Gonna Need My HelpSippie Wallace Vol. 2 1925-1945
Faye Adams Crazy Mixed Up WorldFaye Adams 1952-1954
Christine Kittrell Sittin' Here Drinking Call Her Name: The Complete Recordings 1951-1965
Billie And Dede Pierce In The Racket Gulf Coast Blues
Georgia Tom Dorsey Don't Let Your Mouth Start Nothing Your Head Won't StandThe Essential

Show Notes

2015 Blues CalendarWe have a fine mix show lined up for the first week of October. We spotlight several albums including two sets from the new CD that accompanies record collector John Tefteller's new blues calendar, several fine sides featuring fiddler Butch Cage and friends from two long-out-of-print LP's and a set of jump blues from a series of albums from Ace records. Also featured are a few songs revolving around the phrase dead cat on the line, several fine blues ladies, excellent piano blues and a batch of strong harp blowers.

Every year around this time record collector John 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. The 2015 calendar marks its twelfth year. This year's calendar includes songs from such artists as Memphis Minnie, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tommy Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Garfield Akers, Willie Lofton, Gus Cannon and more. The calendar also includes never-before-seen-photos of Roosevelt Sykes, Willie Lofton and Son Bonds.

Last year record collector Tefteller bought Tommy Johnson's "Alcohol and Jake Blues b/w Riding’ Horse" for $37,100 on eBay. Both sides of the 78 have been remastered and are featured on the CD. One night, as he does every night, Tefteller was trawling eBay when he came across the record from a seller in South Carolina. The anonymous seller found the record at an estate sale years ago, and posted it on eBay with no knowledge of the record's true value. The record was set to sell at $16,800 when, minutes before the auction ended, it shot up to $37,000. This is one of the highest prices paid for a blues 78 although I get the impression Tefteller has paid more in private transactions.

Just to look ahead a bit, Tefteller's 2016 calendar will be a notable one as the CD will include a long lost J.D. Short 78. Paramount 13091, "Tar Road Blues b/w Flagin' It To Georgia" has been found recently in Tennessee. It turned up shoved into the back of an old Victrola record player cabinet along with a stack of other Blues records from the same time period," said Tefteller who purchased the record from "a local picker."

We spotlight a pair of terrific out-of-print albums that collect field recordings made in Louisiana in 1960 and 1961 by Harry Oster. The bulk of the tracks feature Butch Cage with guitarist Willie Thomas. Some of these sides were recorded at informal sessions in the homes of Butch Cage & Mabel Lee Williams near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Fiddler James "Butch" Cage was one of the last artists in the black string band tradition. Born on March 16, 1894, in Hamburg, MS, Cage's first real instrument was a cane fife. He moved to southwest Louisiana following the devastating Mississippi floods of 1927, eventually settling in Zachary, where he worked a succession of menial jobs while playing string band music at house parties and church functions, often in conjunction with guitarist Willie B. Thomas. Musicologist Oster heard the pair playing in Zachary in 1959 and recorded them extensively. The duo was also a huge hit at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival. The duo can also be heard on several fine anthologies including: Country Negro Jam Sessions (Arhoolie), I Have To Paint My Face (Arhoolie), The Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1 (Folkways), Country Spirituals (Storyville), Country Blues (Storyville), Raise A Rukus Tonight (Flyright) and Old Time Black Southern String Band Music (Arhoolie). In two weeks I'll be spotlighting more from the duo in a show devoted to Post-War String Bands.

Country Blues
Read Liner Notes

Dead cat on the line is a term used as a way of telling people that something suspicious is happening. A sermon with the title was recorded by Rev. J.M. Gates in 1929 and proved popular enough for him to record "Dead Cat On The Line No. 2" in 1930 and "New Dead Cat On The Line" in 1934. Tampa Red and Georgia Tom recorded "Dead Cats On The Line" in 1932 and Rev F.W. McGee recorded "Dead Cat On The Line" the same year. Blind Boy Fuller recorded "I'm a Good Stem Winder" which uses the term in 1935. Other versions were recorded by Elder Charles Beck and Sister Lillie Mae Littlejohn.

We hear from several fine piano players including the amazing Arizona Dranes. As Michael Corcan wrote in the extensive booklet to our featured collection, He Is My Story: "A singer sits at the piano and loses all inhibitions while in complete control of the instrument: Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis. Although church singer Arizona Dranes does not come close to the stature of those icons, she set the mold for rockin' singer/ pianists in 1926 with six 'test records' that have stood the test of time." Until this collection, very "little has been correctly reported about Dranes other than the facts that she was blind, from Texas, had a piercing Pentecostal voice and was the first recording artist to play piano in the secular styles of the day, while singing words of deep praise." Corcoran spent years unearthing the details on the life of Dranes. The 50-page book includes a CD containing all 16 of Arizona Dranes' recorded tracks, expertly remastered from the original OKeh label 78 RPM records by Grammy-winning producer Christopher King.

From a three LP series by Ace called Jumpin' The Blues released in the early and mid-80's we hear a set of great jump blues. These albums collect jump blues from the Decca vaults of the late 40's early 50's. Ace has culled the material for the CD Jumpin' The Blues. None of our tracks are on the CD however.

We play a number of fine blues ladies spanning from the 1920's through the 1950's including Sippie Wallace, Faye Adams, Christine Kittrell and others. Sippie's "You Gonna Need My Help" finds her backed by Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers. Hayes was a violinist, but was more significant as a leader of recording sessions. He recorded with Sara Martin (1924), and often teamed up with banjoist Cal Smith in early jug bands including the Old Southern Jug Band, Clifford's Louisville Jug Band, the well-known Dixieland Jug Blowers (1926-1927), and Hayes' Louisville Stompers (1927-1929). Some of the other artists Hayes worked with included Sippie Wallace, Johnny Dodds and Earl Hines. Right before the Sippie track we hear Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers on the instrumental "Bye-Bye Blues."

Faye Adams, as Faye Scruggs (her married name), became a regular performer in New York nightclubs in the late 1940's and early 1950's. While performing in Atlanta, Georgia, she was discovered by singer Ruth Brown, who won her an audition with bandleader Joe Morris of Atlantic Records. Changing her name to Faye Adams, Morris recruited her as a singer in 1952, and signed her to Herald Records. Her first release was Morris's song "Shake aArizona Dranes: He Is My Story Hand", which topped the Billboard R&B chart for ten weeks in 1953, and made number 22 on the pop chart. In 1954, Faye had two more R&B chart toppers. In 1955 she appeared in the film Rhythm & Blues Revue, and in 1957 moved to Imperial Records, but her commercial success diminished. She continued to record for various smaller labels until the early 1960's and retired in 1963.

Christine Kittrell cut her first record, in 1951 and her first and biggest hit was 1954's "Sittin’ Here Drinking." Engaged as singer with Paul ‘Hucklebuck’ Williams’ band in December 1952, Billboard noted that the “five-foot-six chirp’ was the ‘blues find of the decade”. She made her west coast debut in 1954 with Earl Bostic and later Johnny Otis. Several releases on the Republic label at this time led to only regional success. In August 1954, Billboard announced her departure from the R&B field to sing with the Simmons Akers spiritual singers. In the early 60's she recorded for Vee-Jay and her song ‘I’m A Woman’ was covered by Peggy Lee. She re-recorded an old Republic song, ‘Call His Name’, in 1965, and spent the next few years touring army bases in south-east Asia entertaining US troops. Subsequently, she semi-retired to her Ohio home, playing the occasional local blues festivals and small clubs in the 90s.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Freddie BrownRaised In The Alley Blues Barrelhouse Mamas
Sammie Lewis & His Bamville SyncopatorsLeaving Town To Wear You Off My Mind Rare 1920's Blues & Jazz 1923-1929
Sweet Georgia Brown The Low Down Lonely BluesBlues Box 2
Booker T. WashingtonDeath Of Bessie SmithWalter Davis Vol. 5 1939-1940
Memphis Minnie Ma RaineyMemphis Minnie Vol. 5 1935-1941
Peetie Wheatstraw Black or BrownPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 5 1937-1938
Peetie Wheatstraw Crazy With The BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 4 1936-1937
Peetie Wheatstraw Peetie Wheatsraw Stomp No. 2Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 4 1936-1937
Smoky Harrison Hop Head BluesRare Paramount Country Blues 1926-1929
Willie Baker Rag Baby East Coast Blues
Viola Bartlette w/ Lovie Austin's Serenaders Out Bound Train Blues Lovie Austin 1924-1926
Eva Parker You Got Yourself Another WomanBlue Girls Vol. 1 (1924-1930)
Coletha Simpson Down South Blues Blue Girls Vol. 1 (1924 1930)
Rev. Emmett Dickenson The Death Of Blind LemonBlues Images Vol. 6
King Solomon Hill My Buddy, Blind Papa LemonTimes Ain't Like They Used To Be Vol. 8
Group Of Women PrisonersIf There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some CabbageField Recordings Vol. 8 - Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi
Champion Jack Cabbage Greens No 2 Junker Blues 1940-41
Washboard SamGood Old Cabbage GreensRockin' My Blues Away
Bill WilliamsChicken You Can't Roost Too High for Me Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
Peg Leg Sam Straighten Up and Fly RightClassic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
Blues Bird Mean Low Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Booker T. Sapps, Roger Matthews, Jesse FlowersAlabama BluesRed River Blues 1934-1943
Helen Beasley TiaJuana BluesBlue Girls Vol. 1 (1924 1930)
Blu Lou Barker New OrleansBlu Lu Barker 1938-1939
Rudy Foster Corn Trimmer BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Dan Burley 31st Street BluesJazz & Blues Piano 1934-1947
Scrapper Blackwell The Death of Leroy CarrBumble Bee Slim Vol. 4 1935
Brownie McGhee Death Of Blind Boy Fuller No. 1Blind Boy Fuller
Remastered 1935-1938
Robert Pete WilliamsGoodbye Slim HarpoRobert Pete Williams
Jimmie GordonLookin' For The BluesJimmie Gordon Vol. 3 1939-1946
Little Brother Montgomery Alabama BoundFarro Street Jive
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown Leftover BluesGuitar In My Hand Vol. 2

Show Notes:

As I'm looking over today's mix show I have to say, even by the standards of this show, there's some pretty obscure stuff. The mix shows are basically songs that have caught my ear that I haven't played before, new stuff I've acquired or older records I've revisited.  Now I never purposely play records simply because they're obscure, I play records I like and try and play ones I haven't featured before. I've been thinking a bit about the notion of obscurity which for some collectors seems to be the records they most covet simply for the fact of their rarity. So records by Skip James and Charlie Patton, two artists I love, are put on a pedestal while big sellers like Tampa Red and Lonnie Johnson, female singers and piano players get mostly ignored which is something I never understood. I always feel that this show is fairly democratic, spotlighting the well known stars to the utterly forgotten, the blues queens of the 20's, the piano players, recordings made in the field, string bands, jug bands, electrified Chicago blues and everything in between. I've been reading a fascinating book that deals with the world of 78 collecting called Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys the music played on my show.

As to today's show we spin a whole batch of utterly forgotten blues ladies from the 20's, several songs that are tributes to blues singers who have passed, a trio of sides by Peetie Wheatstraw, some tracks from a new Smithsonian Folkways anthology, songs about cabbage greens (a euphemism of course), several fine piano players and more.

Today we spin a few sets by some superb but completely forgotten blues ladies from the 1920's: Freddie Brown, Sammie Lewis, Viola Bartlette, Eva Parker, Coletha Simpson and Helen Beasley. Freddie Brown recorded one 78 for Paramount in 1929. As Bob Hall and Richard Noblett wrote in the notes to Magpie's The Piano Blues Vol. 17: Paramount Vol. 2 1927-1932: "The quiet, introspective performance of Freddie Brown contrast strongly with the usual rumbustious Paramount label identity. It was not known if she was a resident of Chicago or came north to make her only recording in 1929. …She has a deep stately vocal style found in some of the so-called classic female blues singers, and may well play her own piano accompaniment, although this is by no means certain." The other ladies were also little recorded: Sammie Lewis & His Bamville Syncopators cut six sides in 1926, Helen Beasley cut one 78 in 1929, Eva Parker left behind four sides, Viola Bartlette cut ten sides between 1925-1926, most backed by Lovie Austin's Serenaders with some featuring Johnny Dodds and Kid Ory.

If There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some Cabbage

I imagine most 78 collectors care little for the records of Peetie Wheatstraw who was one of the more commercially successful blues artists of the 30's. Wheatstraw cut a slew of records, many too be honest not terribly exciting, but he cut his share of memorable ones and today I spin a few I may not have played before. Wheatstraw recorded over 160 songs, usually accompanied by his own piano and provided accompaniment on records to numerous others. Between 1930 and his death in 1941 he remained immensely popular for buyers of race records and was a fixture on the vibrant St. Louis blues scene of the 30's. St. Louis chronicler Henry Townsend emphasized this point: "Around town he was pretty well busy; his name was ringing."

There's a number of inexplicable lyrical images in blues like black snakes, jelly rolls and cabbage greens that are clearly euphemisms for sex. I'm not sure what was the first song that equated sex and cabbage greens but Bessie Smith sang the following in "Empty Bed Blues" from 1928:

Bought me a coffee grinder that's the best one I could find (2x)
Oh he could grind my coffee 'cause he had a brand new grind
He boiled my fresh cabbage and he made it awful hot (2x)
When he put in the bacon it overflowed the pot

Today we spin a trio of songs in the same vein including a 'Group Of Women Prisoners' singing "If There's Anybody Here Wants To Buy Some Cabbage" recorded in Parchman Farm in 1939, Champion Jack Dupree's "Cabbage Greens No 2" (1940) and Washboard Sam's "Good Old Cabbage Greens" (1942).

Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
Read Liner Notes

I was listening to Booker T. Washington's "Death Of Bessie Smith", featured today, and got to thinking of other singers who did tributes to famous blues singers. There's a relatively small number of these songs. In 1930, shortly after Blind Lemon Jefferson died, Paramount issued a double sided tribute: “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. In 1932 King Solomon Hill cut "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon" for Paramount: "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 Hill's hometown of Minden, Louisiana. 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.'" In a similar vein, after Leroy Carr's death, several artists wrote tribute songs including Scrapper Blackwell, Bill Gaither and Bumble Bee Slim. Other tributes today include Memphis Minnie's "Ma Rainey", Brownie McGhee's"Death Of Blind Boy Fuller" and  Robert Pete Williams' "Goodbye Slim Harpo."

Smithsonian Folkways has put out some interesting anthologies and their most recent, Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways, is another well compiled collection. The bulk of the sides are drawn from the Folkways catalog but there are several performances that are being issued for the first time. Among those are excellent tracks by Bill Williams, Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson and Martin, Bogan and Armstrong. As with all these anthologies, there is an extensive booklet this one written by writer Barry Lee Pearson.

 

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Willie McTell Just As Well Get Ready-You Got To Die-Climbing High Mountains-Tryin' To Get HomeThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Charley Patton You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You DieScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Son House Lord Have Mercy When I Come To DieThe Real Delta Blues
Brother Willie Eason I Want To Live (So God Can Use Me) Fire In My Bones
Furry Lewis When I Lay My Burden DownWhen I Lay My Burden Down
Henry Johnson Until I Found The Lord45
Leola Manning He Fans MeRare County Blues 1928-1957
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going To That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Rev. W.M. MosleyYou Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's HousesRev. W.M. Mosley 1926-1931
Hi Henry Brown Preacher BluesBlues Images Vol. 10
Big Bill Broonzy Preachin' the Blues Big Bill Broonzy
1937-1940 Vol. 2
Ralph Willis Amen BluesShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Papa Lightfoot When the Saints Go Marching Blues Harmonica Wizards
Julius DanielsSlippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden StreetAtlanta Blues
Skip James Jesus Is a Mighty Good LeaderBlues Images Vol. 6
Texas AlexanderJustice Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 3 1930-1950
Lightnin' Hopkins I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Sam Collins Lead Me All The WayJailhouse Blues
Bukka WhiteThe Promise True And GrandMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Mother McCollum Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane Blues Images Vol. 11
Bessie SmuthOn Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)The Complete (Frog)
Lizzie MilesHold Me, ParsonLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-1929
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Pt.1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Champion Jack Dupree Deacon's PartyChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
The Griffin BrothersDouble Faced DeaconBlues With A Beat
Rev. Anderson JohnsonDo You Call That Religion?Blind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Jaybird ColemanI'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan - Some O' These DaysGoodbye, Babylon6
Robert Pete WilliamsChurch on Fire (No. 2)I'm Blue As a Man Can Be
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemAngels In Harlem
Roy BrownJudgement DayRoy Brown & New Orleans - R&B
Lloyd Price Lord, Lord, Amen!Lloyd Price 1952-1953
H-Bomb Ferguson Preaching The BluesRock H-Bomb Rock
Willie Mae Williams Where the Sun Never Goes DownFire In My Bones
Little Janice Scarred KneesWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 1

Show Notes:

I know blues singers don't go to heaven
'Cause Gabriel bars them out
(
Doctor Clayton, Angels In Harlem, 1946 )

Bukka White: I Am In The Heavenly WayToday's show is part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music. In the early 1900's, blues singing was associated with the brothel, juke joint, and the dregs of African-American society. Black church goers called it the "Devils' Music" as the following quote, told to Paul Oliver, reflects: "When she was singin' the blues I told her-she was pavin' her way to Hell," said Emma Williams of her daughter', the blues singer Mary Johnson…" This view was also shared by some former blues singers: "A man's who's singin' the blues- I think it's a sin because it cause other people to sin," said Lil Son Jackson" who gave up blues for the church. As Oliver notes, "Musically the blues and the spirituals, or the spirituals' successor, the gospel song, may have stemmed from common sources. But in the recording era, though they shared on occasion similar instrumentation and voices, they were separate and distinct."

Despite this divide, religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion like Son House, blues artists who moonlighted by singing gospel like Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip, James, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, among many others and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion like Robert Wilkins, Rev. Gary Davis, Georgia Tom, Rube Lacey, Ishman Bracey, Gatemouth Moore and many others. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel like Blind Roosevelt Graves, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists like Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Edward Clayborn, Sister O.M. Terrell and others, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We explore all this and more on today's program.

Today's title comes from one of my favorite singers, the influential Doctor Clayton. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. He first recorded for Bluebird in 1935 cutting six sides four of which went unissued, not recording again until 1941. Between 1941-1942 he recorded four sessions for Bluebird and Okeh. Clayton's final recordings were in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston with a final session in August 1946 which is where today's selection, "Angels In Harlem", comes from. The song was covered by Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Little Son Willis as "Harlem Blues" and by Larry Davis as "Angels In Houston." This is a good  example of a blues song using religious imagery. Another example is Texas Alexander's "Justice Blues" from 1934. The song has lyrical similarity to a number of songs:

I've cried, Lord, my Father, Lord, our kingdom come (2x)
Send me back my woman, then my will be done

I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Says, I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Oh Lord, it's womens up there got their mouths chock full of gold

I'm gonna build me a Heaven, have a kingdom of my own
Gonna build me a Heaven have a kingdom of my own
So these brownskin women can cluster around my throne

The song echoed a line from House' 1930 number "Preachin The Blues:"

Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own (great Godawmighty)
Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home

These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years including Lightnin' Hopkins' "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own" which we play today .Also worth noting is Alexander's mockery of the Lord's prayer. This device shows up in a number of songs including John Byrd's mock sermon "The White Mule of Sin" as he has "Sister" Jones lead the prayer:

Our father who art in heaven
The white man owed me ten dollars and I didn't get but seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
I took that or I wouldn't have got none

In our first installment we played "You Shall" by Frank Stokes which uses a similar refrain:

Oh well it's our Father who art in heaven
The preacher owed me ten dollars he paid me seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
If I hadn't took the seven Lord I wouldn't have gotten none

There were slew of related songs that took a cynical, humorous view of the preacher. In our first installment we featured a number of these including Arthur Anderson's "If You Want To Make A Preacher Cuss", Hambone Willie Newbern's "Nobody Knows (What The Good Deacon Does)", Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe's "Preachers Blues",  Mississippi Sheiks' "He Calls That Religion", Luke Jordan's "Church Bells", Christina Gray's "The Reverend Is My Man", Frank Stokes' "You Shall", Little Esther's "The Deacon Moves In" and Louis Jordan's "Deacon Jones."  We feature  a batch more today including Hi Henry Brown's "Preacher Blues", Champion Jack Dupree's "Deacon's Party" and  The Griffin Brothers' "Double Faced Deacon:"

Well let me tell you about a deacon, top hat long tail coat (2x)
Well he preaches his best while winking at the women folk
Well he preached against gambling, said it was a sin and a shame (2x)
Well he met me in the alley, shot seven for my watch and chain

On "Preacher Blues" from 1932 Hi Henry Brown echoes a similar sentiment:

Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand, sister in the corner crying that my man (2x)
Preacher come to your house asking to rest his hat, next hing he wanna know sister, where your husband at? (2x)

Criticism of the preacher and religion isn't confined  to secular artists. We hear a similar complaint from  Rev. Anderson today on "Do You Call That Religion?" and "Denomination Blues" by Washington Phillips:

You're fightin' each other, and think you're doing well
And the sinners on the outside are going to hell. And that's all

 Now the preachers is preachin', and think they're doing well
All they want is your money and you can go to hell. And that's all

 Then there was Reverend A.W. Mosley who delivers the no nonsense "You Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's Houses."

You jack-legged preachers – stay out of widow's houses
Some of the mornings – some of these nights
You goin' to some widow's house
Some grass widow, that you ain't got no business there
They gonna find your body there
But you won't find yo' head
Preacher – stay out of widow's houses

Bessie Smith: On Revival DayIn the heyday of  blues popularity, the late 20's and 30's, there was a marked increase in blues imagery in recorded sermons which were hugely popular during this period. There was F.W. McGhee railing against "Shine-Drinking" and "Women's Clothes (You Can't Hide)" while Rev. Emmett Dickinson  delivered sermons with titles like "Is There Harm In Singing The Blues" and "Sermon On Tight Like That."

 There were quite a number of blues artists who recorded both blues and gospel. I'm not sure if this was commercially driven or heartfelt religious sentiment. Certainly Son House was conflicted  between the blues and religious worlds.  In his younger days House became involved with the Baptist religion, and by the time he was twenty he was preaching in a church near Clarksdale. In his mid-twenties, House heard a guitar player named Willie Wilson (sometimes Willie Williams) playing bottleneck guitar and it changed his life. House bought a battered guitar, Wilson patched it up, put it in Spanish tuning, and soon House was accompanying him. Surprisingly enough, after becoming a bluesman, House continued to preach for awhile, an unlikely combination of careers that speaks of the conflict between religion and blues that would bedevil him the rest of his life. His  "Preachin the Blues", featured in part one, is a savage attack on organized religion—specifically in the form of the Baptist church. In his rediscovery years House recorded and performed religious materiel, sometimes even doing some preaching during his shows.

House's contemporary Charley Patton not only performed and recorded religious songs but for most of his life wrestled with what he thought was a calling to be a preacher. He cut several religious songs: "Prayer of Death" (Parts 1 & 2), "Lord I'm Discouraged", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "Some Happy Day, "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" and "Oh Death."

Others featured today who recorded both blues and gospel were singer Leola Manning who's vocals seem straight out of the church. Our selection, "He Fans Me", is a religious number but bears a strong resemblance to  Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's raunchy hit "Fan It." Then there was Crying Sam Collin who cut just a few gospel numbers although he did record several others that were not released. Similarly Julius Daniels cut a mix of blues and gospel as we feature him performing "Slippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden Street." Blind Willie McTell was another who cut a fair number of spiritual sides starting in 1933, some more in 1935 and several for the Library of Congress in 1940. He continued to cut a number of religious sides during his post-war recordings. Skip James, featured today on "Jesus Is a Mighty Good Leader" from his legendary 1931 session, continued to perform and record spiritual numbers during his rediscovery in the 1960's. At his first session in 1930 Bukka White cut two religious numbers and two blues and in advertisement in the Chicago  Defender was billed as the "Singing Preacher."

Unrelated to the Son House song, where several similarly titled songs such as Bessie Smith's "Preachin' The Blues", "Preaching The Blues" by H-Bomb Ferguson and Big Bill Broonzy's "Preachin' The Blues.” In many versions of his life, Broonzy speaks of becoming a preacher for awhile. Unlike the House song, these songs represented the blues singer delivering mock sermons. Ferguson's father was a Baptist preacher who paid for piano lessons for his son condition he learned sacred songs. But Ferguson had other ideas: "After church was over, while the people was all standing outside talking, me and my friends would run back inside and I'd play the blues on the piano." His father would not approve of his 1952 number:

Is all my bothers here, is everybody ready?
Well all you backsliders sit out there and say amen,
And when I get to preaching, you wish you had some gin
Now take old brother Johnson he says he's living right,
I saw him sneaking around with the deacon"s wife last night

Today's program features several so called guitar evangelists. There is only a slight difference between a street-corner blues singer and a sanctified street singer, since both need to hold a crowd and make a few bucks. Blind Willie Johnson is the most famous and greatest of the guitar evangelists. Others from this period include Edward W. Clayborn, A.C. & Blind Mamie Forehand, Blind Willie Brother Willie Eason: I Want To LiveHarris, Willie Mae Williams plus several who recorded slightly later like Rev. Utah Smith, Willie Eason and Sister O.M. Terrell.

In part one we spotlighted  a pair of cuts by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a tremendous guitarist and singer who did  blues sides in her early days but pretty much stuck to gospel for the rest of her lengthy recording career. It's interesting that in the early blues years there were very few guitar playing woman. The biggest name was Memphis Minnie with a few others like Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley who cut a few sides. Tharpe must have been an influence in because on the gospel side there were several fine woman guitarists including Willie Mae Williams and  Sister O.M.  Terrell  both of whom are spotlighted today.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Robert Pete WilliamsLevee Camp BluesBlues at Newport 1964
Mississippi Fred McDowell Lord I'm Going Down SouthBlues at Newport 1964
Mississippi John Hurt Sliding Delta Blues at Newport 1964
George Carter Ghost Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 11
Walter DavisCan't See Your Face Walter Davis Vol. 5 1939-1940
Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost Blues Lonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
Buddy Guy This Is The EndCobra Records Story
Sonny Boy WilliamsonUnseen EyeThe Chess Years Box
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandLamp Post BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Charlie SpandGood Gal Favorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937
Eddy Kelly's Washboard BandCome On 'Round To My House, BabyCarolina Blues 1937-1945
Hokum Boys & Jane Lucas Hip Shakin' Strut Georgia Tom Dorsey: The Essential
Trixie Smith Praying BluesTrixie Smith Vol. 1 1922-1924
Sister Rosetta Tharpe On My WaySister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 7
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going to That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Louisiana Red Had A Date With Barbara Last NightMidnight Rambler
Hop WilsonDrop Down MamaDrop Down Mama
Dave BartholomewAnother MuleDave Bartholomew 1952-1955
Elmore JamesQuarter Past NineEarly Recordings 1951-1956
Earl HookerThe Leading BrandBlue Guitar
Jim Brewer Liberty BillJim Brewer
Guitar ShortyMy Mind Never ChangedCarolina Slide Guitar
Jimmy T-99 NelsonSecond Hand FoolCry Hard Luck
Charles BrownEverybody's Got TroublesThe Complete Aladdin Recordings
Jimmy WitherspoonI Done Found OutUrban Blues Singing Legend
Gatemouth MooreSomebody Got To GoGreat Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7
Blind PercyFourteenth Street Blues Blues Images Vol. 11
Blind Joel Taggart Precious Lord Blues Images Vol. 9

Show Notes:

It's pledge drive time at the station so I usually run mix pogram so the drive doesn't cut short our usual theme shows. Lots of interesting records on deck today including a bunch of songs from the Newport Folk Festival, a batch of fine pre-war sides, some gospel that falls on the bluesy side, some strong down-home blues, a number of fine blues belters and some hard hitting post-war electric blues.

Blind Joe Taggart AcetateWe open the show with a trio of sides from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival from the 2-CD The Blues At Newport 1964 Complete Edition which collects two albums that originally came out on Vanguard in 1965. The Newport Folk Festival began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. Prior to 1964 blues were not well represented at the festival. That changed by 1964 when several important blues artists who recorded in the 20's and 30's were rediscovered. Featured were the first major festival appearances by Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Pete Williams and Robert Wilkins plus Mississippi John Hurt, who performed the previous year, as well as performances Rev. Gary Davis, John Lee Hooker, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry (they performed in 1959 at the first festival ) and others.

A few weeks ago I spotlighted several numbers from he vaults of collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. 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. Today we spotlight the gorgeous "Ghost Woman Blues" a twelve string blues by George Carter. Nothing is known of him other then he cut four sides for Paramount in 1929. Bruce Bastin related that when Edward "Snap" Hill, a boyhood friend of Curley Weaver and the Hicks brothers was played a tape of one of Georg Carter's songs it prompted him to say: "He's from Atlanta" although he knew nothing about him.  It turns out that there's been a recent cover of "Ghost Woman Blues" by a group called The Low Anthem. I've actually been checking them out a bit – I think I've become a fan. (shhh …don't tell the blues police!)

Int the same set as the George Carter number we spin two moody masterpiece about haunted love. First up is Lonnie's Johnson's magnificent "Blue Ghost Blues" (Johnson cut this first in 1927 but today we spin his 1938 version) beautifully sung and played by a man who still doesn't get his proper due:

I've been in this haunted house, for three long years today (2x)
Blue ghost has got my shack surrounded, oh lord and I can't get away
I feel cold arms around me, ice lips upon my cheek (2x)
My lover is dead, how plainly plain I can hear her speak
(whispered: Lonnie, sweet Lonnie)

My windows beginning rattling, my door knob is turning round and round (2x)
My lover's ghost has got me and I know my time won't be long

Walter Davis is probably more neglected than Lonnie although he was very popular among black audiences, cutting hundreds of sides between his 1930 debut and his final 1952 session. "Can't See Your Face" is a poignant number from 1939:

Your old picture has faded, mama that hangs up on the wall (2x)
It's been hanging there so long, I can't see your face at all
Even my old house seems haunted, mama and there ain't nobody around (2x)
Sometime it seems like at  night, that the old house is falling down
I can hear my back door slamming, I can hear a little baby crying (2x)
All I wonder baby, have you got me on your mind

We spin two tracks today from Blind Joe Taggart. Taggart made his first records for Vocalion in June 1927 then went to Paramount in 1928. He continued recording in the 30's but vanished after a final session for Decca in 1934. A few years back an acetate Taggart made in 1948 turned up and was issued by John Tefteller on the CD hat accompanies the 2009 calendar. Taggart did cut one blues 78, "Coal River Blues b/w Fourteenth Street Blues under th psedonymn Blind Percy and His Blind Band in 1927 with the latter cut featured today and comes from the latest Tefteller CD.

Walter Davis
Walter Davis circa 1942

In an interview in Fretboard Journal Tefteller talked about the post-war record: "It means that Blind Joe Taggart went into a recording studio in Chicago — probably on Maxwell Street, because they had several studios there back then. For a few dollars you could pay to have a record made. You would walk into the booth where they had the microphone set up, you would sit down, you would play your song, and it would be cut directly from the microphone directly onto that acetate record.  There would be not necessarily any other copies made, and if there were other copies made, they would have been made from that. But it was never commercially released; it was never put out on a record with an actual label. The songs are 'Precious Lord,' spelled 'Preshious Lord' on the label, and 'Little Black Train.' My theory is that he was going to take that dub and go around to the different record companies on Record Row in Chicago, and try to get himself a contract to record again. He could walk into Chess — I think it was called Aristocrat in the late 1940s — he could walk into Chess or Aristocrat, or one of those independent labels with this acetate, and say, 'You know, I used to make records back in the '30s for Paramount, they sold fairly well. Here’s my latest recording. You might want to consider issuing this.' And I think that’s what this is. It was discovered in a stack of lousy 1970s rock LPs. It’s miraculous it survived. It came so close to being lost forever."

We play a few other sides today with a religious bent including music from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sister O.M. Terrell and a number by Trixie Smith. We spin Sister Rosetta's "On My Way" from 1961. Tharpe cut some fantastic records and I never tire of listening to her. There was a time when she wasn't well served on reissues but now just about everything she released is available on CD. Our selection comes from the seventh and final collection on the French Fremmeaux & Associes label that collects all of Tharpe's recordings through 1961.

Sister O.M. Terrell is far less known but her guitar style is very reminiscent of Tharpe's.  Terrell taught herself to play the guitar and began writing gospel songs and singing them on Atlanta's Decatur Street. From the Depression years of the 1930's to the Eisenhower '50's, she lived the life of an itinerant evangelist and supported herself with her music. In 1953 she recorded six sides for Columbia who for some reason released them in its country music series. She was eventually tracked down to the door of a nursing home in Conyers, Georgia by musicologist Bruce Nemerov. She passed in 2006 at the age of 95.

"Praying Blues" from 1924 is one of Trixie Smith's finest numbers backed by a great band that included trombonist Charlie Green, Don Redman on clarinet and Fletcher Henderson on piano.  A few weeks back I did a program called I Want Plenty Grease In My Frying Pan – Forgotten Blues Ladies Pt. 3 and someone asked me about Trixie Smith. I've never really given her much of a listen but I've been listening to her collected recordings on Document and it's a bit of a mixed bag but she has more then a few outstanding songs. I'll be spotlighting more of her on upcoming shows.

Smith was born in Atlanta and around 1915 moved north to New York to work in show business. At first she worked in minstrel shows and on the TOBA vaudeville circuit. In 1922 Smith made her first recordings for the Black Swan label and later that year she won a blues singing contest in New York beating out Lucille Hegamin and others with her song "Trixie's Blues." In 1924 Smith made her debut for Paramount, cutting twenty sides for the label through 1926. She recorded a final batch of sides in 1938 and 1939.

Jimmy Nelson: Watch ThatAction=We feature seveal tough post-war guiarists today including Buddy Guy's smoldering "This Is The End" for Cobra. Guy released two singles in 1958 on Cobra's Artistic Records subsidiary. Other heavy hitters include Elmore James' "Quarter Past Nine", Dave Bartholomew's "Another Mule" sporting great guitar work from Pee Wee Crayton and Earl Hooker's knockout instrumental "The Leading Brand."

We have a set of superb blues singers on deck today including Gatemouth Moore, Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Jimmy Witherspoon and Charles Brown.  I fist heard Moore on a great 2-LP set, The Shouters – Roots Of Rock 'N' Roll Vol. 9, and have been a fan ever since.  Often labeled a blues shouter, with his perfect diction and huge, mellow, enveloping voice he was more accurately a blues crooner of the highest order. I'll let Gatemouth speak for himself: "I am one of the ultra-men blues singers. I am not accustomed and don't know nothing about that gut-belly stuff in the joints…I put on tuxedos, dressed up, sang intelligent…Without a doubt, and I'm not being facetious, I'm the best blues singer in the business with that singing voice. Now I can't wiggle and I can't dance, but telling a story, I don't think them other boys are in my class."

Moore's blues career came to a close in 1949 when he had a religious conversion on stage at Chicago's Club DeLisa. After walking off stage he eventually became a preacher, gospel disc jockey and gospel recording artist. Inexplicably in 1977 he stepped back briefly into the world of blues cutting Great Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7, an exceptional album despite it's generic title. The album was produced by Johnny Otis and issued on the Blues Spectrum label. Today's selection, "Somebody got To Go", comes from that album.

Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson is another favorite singer of mine. I became a fan of Jimmy Nelson many years ago after hearing an LP collection of his early sides on the Ace label. I always hoped he would start recording again and in 1999 he issued the terrific Rockin' And Shoutin' The Blues. I interviewed Jimmy when that record came out and it was one of the best interviews I ever did and subsequently spoke with him again in 2005.

Blessed with a booming voice and a hip delivery, Nelson cut a swath of fine sides for Modern's RPM and Kent imprints in the early 50's and 60's but only scored big with his signature "T-99 Blues." After getting dropped from Modern Nelson bounced through a number of small labels before giving up music in the 60's. From his RPM days we feature his "Second Hand Fool."

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Sonny Boy Williamson II The Sky Is Crying (Keep It To Ourselves)Sony Boy Williamson in Europe
Sonny Boy Williamson IIDissatisfiedSony Boy Williamson in Europe
Little Brother MontgomeryKeep Drinking Dealing With The Devil
James CottonDealing With The DevilDealing With The Devil
Otis SpannI Came From Clarksdale The Blues of Otis Spann
Roosevelt SykesSail OnAmerican Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Johnny 'Big Moose' WalkerGoing Home TomorrowGoing Home Tomorrow
Juke Boy BonnerB.U. BluesThings Ain't Right:The 1969 London Sessions
Fred McDowell Diving Duck BluesIn London Vol. 1
Cousin Joe American Blues Legends '74American Blues Legends '74
Doctor Ross Seems Like A DreamAmerican Blues Legends '74
Walter HortonThat Ain't ItAmerican Folk Blues Festival '70
Big John WrencherTouble Makin' WomanBig John's Boogie
Chicago Blues All StarsLittle Boy BlueLoaded With The Blues
Muddy WatersFeel Like Goin' HomeOne More Mile
Muddy WatersMy Pencil Won't Write No More One More Mile
Robert Pete WilliamsTake It Along Everywhere You GoBlues Masters Vol. 1
Big Joe WilliamsHand Me Down My Old Walking StickHand Me Down My Old Walking Stick
Bukka WhiteAberdeen BluesSparkasse In Concert
Howlin' Wolf Smokestack Lightning The American Folk-Blues Festival 1962-1966 DVD Vol.4
Sister Rosetta TharpeTrouble In MindAmerican Folk Blues Festival DVD Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeMy Last Suit The Best Of Brownie McGhee
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGheeHooray, Hooray, This Woman Is Killing Me Chris Barber Presents Lost & Found Vol. 1
Champion Jack DupreeStoryville SpecialBarrelhouse Blues & Boogie Woogie
Sunnyland Slim Get Further Little BrotherBarrelhouse Blues & Boogie Woogie
James Booker Papa Was A RascalLive At Montreux

Show Notes:

Sonny Boy Williamson:Portrait In BluesToday's program is the third and final program of  our look at blues artists who  recorded in Europe spanning the late 40's through the 70's. Outside of Lonnie Johnson and Alberta Hunter, the blues hadn't reached European shores prior to the 1940's The late 40's saw a few artists such as Leadbelly and Sammy Price hit Europe, with Price being the first to record. Josh White recorded the first guitar blues outside the U.S. But the biggest impact was Big Bill Broonzy's arrival in 1951 and subsequent tours through 1957. By 1958 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters had come to England. 1960 saw Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery and Speckled Red appear in England. Dupree and Slim would both settle in Europe. Europe would become a haven for blues pianists with Curtis Jones, Eddie Boyd and Little Willie Littlefield all settling there. 1962 saw the inaugural American Folk Blues Festival which featured the absolute cream of the blues scene and toured almost annually until 1972. During the 70's blues artists continued to tour Europe and there were package tours such as The American Blues Legends Tour which ran in 1973, 74, 75 and 79 and major concerts like the Montreux Jazz Festival which always had a blues component. Other artists also recorded in Europe like Blind John Davis, Professor Longhair, Lightnin' Slim and Louisiana Red who settled in Germany.

We open the show with a pair of tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson II who we've spotlighted in out first two installments. Sonny Boy Williamson first traveled to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1963 and joined the festival again in 1964. Williamson stayed on after the tour trying to establish residency but it wasn't to be. Giorgio Gomelsky, who ran the Crawdaddy Club,  claims that he convinced promoter Horst Lippmann to let Sonny Boy remain in Britain so that “we could organize a tour of the budding R&B club circuit and strengthen the blues scene.” It appears that Williamson returned to the United States with the rest of the cast but he was back in London by early December for a series of concerts at the Marquee Club, including a Christmas Eve gig with the Cyril Davies All-Stars and Long John Baldry that made him an “honorary member of the British pop elite.” Williamson ushered in 1964 at the Marquee with the Chris Barber Band and Ottilie Patterson and in January he played the club at least once a week, alternately backed by the Hoochie Coochie Men and the Yardbirds. His reception,and the club’s attendance, was so overwhelming that Williamson applied for an extension to his work permit so that he could play a short tour of the provinces with the Yardbirds and additional dates in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

American Blues Legends '74It must have been humbling to go from such great renown in Europe only to return to the states  and once again hawk his namesake cornmeal and promote gigs over KFFA's  "King Biscuit Time" in Helena Arkansas. Despite the bowler hat and suit, his stories of adoring  white crowds were met with skepticism among the locals. Willie Dixon, who organized the American Folk Blues Festival, put Sonny Boy on the second and third tours and held him in high regard. As Dixon wrote in his autobiography "Sonny Boy Williamson was a beautiful guy. He wasn't a liar like a lot of guys. Most guys talking about themselves exaggerate a little bit. But if Sonny Boy told you it was, it was." Sonny Boy was truly appreciative of all the attention, and contemplated moving to Europe permanently but went back to the States where he made some final recordings for Chess.

We spin two today by Muddy Waters who first appeared oversea in Britain in 1958, returning again in 1962 and 1964.  This time out we play two wonderful acoustic performances from a 1972 Swiss radio broadcast. These sides were first released on the 2-CD set One More Mile.

In our second installment we featured Muddy Waters performing in 1964 as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. In May of 1964, the touring Folk, Blues, and Gospel Caravan featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters and Cousin Joe performed a quirky, rain-drenched concert outside Manchester, England at a deserted Railway Station which had been decorated or 'dressed up' as a deep south railroad station. The railroad boarding platform served as a make-shift stage and the rail yard was filled with an audience. This time out we spotlight Sister Rosetta's knockout performance of "Trouble In Mind." Rosetta was introduced by Cousin Joe: "Ladies and Gentleman at this time I get great pleasure in bringing to you one of the greatest, one of the worlds greatest, gospel singers and guitar virtuosos, the inimitable Sister Rosetta Tharpe." As the rain poured down she launched into  "Didn't It Rain" and then "Trouble In Mind." This wasn't Tharpe's first time in Britain as she had toured first back in 1957 backed by Chris Barber's band. She was also the sole woman on the 1970 American Folk Blues Festival.

Once again we play several tracks from the American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) which was an annual event that featured the cream of American blues musicians barnstorming their way across Europe throughout the 60's. The impact of these annual tours had a profound impact on those that were in attendance. Future stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page any many others were in the audience and were directly influenced by what they saw. The rise of blues based bands like the The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals can be directly attributed to the AFBF. The festival, founded by Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau in 1962, featured performances by luminaries like John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, and Willie Dixon and drew sellout crowds and rave reviews. Many of the artists found they were far more popular in Britain than in the United States, where audiences for the blues were diminishing. Several emigrated, and others seized the new commercial opportunities presented by the British blues boom by recording extensively for the European market and touring the blues club circuit with bands comprised of their young devotees.

American Folk Blues Festival 1964
1964 AFBF ensemble (The British Tour): Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hubert Sumlin

Horst Lippman hired Willie Dixon as a consultant on the tour. "Willie was my guide to all the clubs and most of the people", Lipmann recalled. "I'd go to all the main clubs where Muddy played and Wolf's place Silvio's and then little clubs on the corner you'd get in and suddenly there was Magic Sam playing …and another West Side club where Otis Rush was playing. These were not famous clubs but Willie knew them. At that time, Chicago was full of blues music, especially on the South Side."

Howlin' Wolf's appearance as part of the AFBF was much anticipated. In How Britain Got The Blues Roberta Freund Shwartz writes: "The 6’6” Wolf was the most energetic showman in Chicago and was known to lunge about the stage, climb curtains, do back flips and anything else he could think of to get an audience on its feet. Both R&B Monthly and R ‘n’ B Scene thought it prudent to forewarn their readers. “From reports, his act is essentially visual, and it will be another hallmark in British blues appreciation to see this massive bluesman roar his blues.”72 Willie Dixon was so concerned about possible reactions that he ordered Howlin’ Wolf to “act right” on stage. From published reviews and remembrances it seems that he toned down his usual antics, but his size and menacing stage presence were enough to make an indelible impression. Alan Stevens of Melody Maker reported, 'He pads around the stage like a caged animal, fixes his baleful stare, makes a violent movement of his hands, then belts out the blues with such power and effect that the whole of his massive frame shakes ….' According to Simon Napier, Wolf’s Festival performances 'varied from day to day somewhat as to content quality and power … some days he got over very well, at others he was less effective.' At Croydon and Manchester he 'brought down the house' with 'Shake for Me' and was 'absolutely great.' Long John Baldry recalled, 'It was just magic watching him.' …Not only had his powerful Festival performances earned him new fans, he also had a record on the charts. 'Smokestack Lightnin,' [Pye 7N52244] a song that had been in Wolf’s repertoire since the early 1930s, broke the British Top 50 shortly after its release in June; it peaked at #42 on the national charts but in Manchester and Newcastle it was in the Top Twenty. This granted him almost mainstream stardom and during his stay he appeared on nearly every pop television and radio program in the country, including the iconic Juke Box Jury."

The American Blues Legends tour was run by promoter Jim Simpson who operated the Big Bear label. Simpson released albums of the tour for the years 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979. In the previous programs we've featured selections from the 1973 and 1979 tours and today we spotlight a pair from the 1974 tour. That toured featured Eddie Taylor, Doctor Ross, Big John Wrencher, G.P. Jackson and Cousin Joe. Joe's "Blues Legends '74" is an autobiographical song about the tour and is also where today's show title comes from.

Several tracks across these three programs come from the Storyville label. Named after the notorious New Orleans district where jazz was born, the Storyville label was launched in Copenhagen in 1952 by jazz fanatic Karl Emil Knudsen. Storyville originally sold imported American records but when the burgeoning post war jazz scene attracted the American jazz and blues artists to tour in Europe and Scandinavia Knudsen seized every opportunity to record his jazz and blues heroes for the label. From the beginning the label was issuing 45's by people like Champion Jack Dupree, Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Memphis Slim, Snooks Eaglin, Speckled Red and Leadbelly and then later releasing albums by these same artists. Notable where the label's "Portraits In Blues" series which featured full-length albums by Snooks Eaglin, John Henry Barbee, Big Joe Williams, Sunnyland Slim and others.

Big Walter Horton is featured twice today, once with the group Chicago Blues Allstars and and a performance under his own name at the 1965 AFBF. The Chicago Blues All Stars were a group that included Horton, Johnny Shines, Willie Dixon, Clifton James and  Sunnyland Slim.  The group issued one album,  Loaded With The Blues,  for the German MPS label in 1969.

Share