Entries tagged with “Robert Wilkins”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember MeProdigal Son
Dick Spotswood Interview
Robert WilkinsThank You, Jesus Prodigal Son
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 1 1928-1935
Robert WilkinsIt Just Suits MeProdigal Son
Robert WilkinsOld Jim CanaanMemphis Blues Vol. 1 1928-1935
Robert WilkinsJesus Will Fix It Allright Prodigal Son
Robert WilkinsThat's No Way To Get AlongMemphis Blues Vol. 1 1928-1935
Robert WilkinsProdigal Son Prodigal Son
Robert WilkinsRollin' Stone (Part 1)Memphis Blues Vol. 1 1928-1935
Robert WilkinsI'll Go With Her BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 1 1928-1935
Robert Wilkins Losin' Out BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 1 1928-1935
Frank Stokes & Dane Sane'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do, Part 1Memphis Masters
Frank Stokes & Dane SaneMr. Crump Don't Like ItMemphis Masters
Frank Stokes & Dane SaneIt's A Good Thing Memphis Masters
Joe CalicottFare Thee Well BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 1)ConversatioMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Garfield AkersDough Roller BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Jim JacksonJim Jackson's Kansas City Blues Jim Jackson Vol. 1 1927-1928
Jim JacksonWhat A Time Jim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Jim JacksonHesitation Blues Jim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Minnie WallaceThe Cockeyed WorldRuckus Juice & Chitlins, Vol. 2: The Great Jug Bands

Show Notes:

Robert Wilkins: Prodigal Son Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer
Read Liner Notes (preview) Read Liner Notes

 

Robert Wilkins cut one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer recorded in 1964 for the Piedmont label and now finally issued issued on CD as Prodigal Son by Bear Family. Around 1964 Dick Spottswood, who had been instrumental in finding Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James a few before, set out to track down Robert Wilkins. After finding Wilkins he brought him up to Washington D.C. to record for his Piedmont label. Spottswood has written an excellent 28 page booklet for the new reissue and today we are joined by Dick as we spotlight this great album and chat about his old friend. We'll also be playing Wilkins' early classic sides: for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935. Wilkins was born in Hernando, Mississippi some twenty miles from Memphis and birthplace of an important group of musicians who helped establish Memphis as a major blues center in the 1920's. In addition to Wilkins these included Jim Jackson, Dan Sane, who was the partner of Frank Stokes and Garfield Akers and his partner Joe Calicott. We feature these artists in the second hour.

Wilkins was born south of Memphis in Hernando, Mississippi, in 1895. His father fled the area to avoid prosecution for bootlegging. In 1898 his mother remarried a farmer named Oliver, who helped raise Robert until he was fifteen. His earliest musical memories were of his grandfather's fiddle on the wall and the guitar-playing teenagers who came around at night to serenade his older sisters. "They would be playing in the front yard or on the porch," Wilkins told Pete Welding in Blues Unlimited. "They were dancing in the dust and up on the porches, and like that. Played the 'Buck Time' and all different things. One I never will forget is one called 'The St. Louis Buck.' And they would buck-dance off of that and cut so many different steps." By age nine Robert was playing music on a Jew's harp. Around 1911 after a neighbor broke a guitar over his wife's head, Robert's mother bought the remains of the instrument and had it reassembled for her son. The first song he learned, "I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down," would remain in his repertoire for a half-century. He claimed tRobert Wilkins: Rolling Stone-Part 1hat watching others play enabled him him to pick his own tunes almost straight away. "The one I learned under, he's the only one I ever saw who picks with two fingers like I do. His name was Aaron Taylor but we all called him 'Buddy. Most of the old tunes I play, that's the way he played them-'Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down.' I got the 'Frisco Train' behind him, I got the 'St. Louis Buck' behind him, and 'Jesse James' behind him, and 'Casey Jones'- all those songs I played behind him. So many of them I can't remember 'cause he could play 'most anything you ever heard on guitar. Within the year Robert was playing at picnics and fish fries and serenading door to door.For white dances he played -"what you call a drag dance" music.

Every autumn Robert would play the traveling medicine shows. He recalled hearing a tenor banjo around 1912, when  Gus Cannon came through. "I played on a stage with him and Jim Jackson," Wilkins told Welding. "They would dance, blacken their face and crack a lot of funny jokes, and play the guitars. Within a few years Wilkins felt he had outstripped all other players in town. "I overran all the old musicians I learned under," he said. "I was mostly the leading songster and blues player there in Hernando."

Robert and his family moved to Memphis in 1915. In the mid·1920's he got a job with the Pullman service., traveling  around the country for three years until he got laid off. He met up with Son Joe Lawlars and then in his words, "I begin to play music for all occasions." He met the Rev. Lonnie McIntorsh on Third and Beale one day and McIntorsh asked if he was interested in making records. The pair went into a furniture store on the corner and Wilkins rehearsed some numbers for the manager. "They loved the music so well and my singing! When the recorder come, they recommended me to him. They set up in an auditorium on Main and Poplar Streets." This was for Victor, when I did 'I Told My Rider' [unissued] and 'Rolling Stone.' That was the one they issued-'Rolling Stone.' The second day they was there I did 'Jail House Blues' and 'I Do Blues.' That was in September, and about the first of November I heard 'Rolling Stone.' The release of "Rolling Stone" opened up musical doors: "We would just bust music all over town-at pig stands, sporting houses while they was having a good time, and all like that," he told Welding. "Hotels-the Claridge, Blackstone, the Medical Arts Building, Peabody just any place. I played for all occasions; they called me for everything."Robert Wilkins: That's No Way To Get along Ad

untitleduntitledIn late September 1929 Wilkins journeyed to the Peabody Hotel to record his classic "That's No Way to Get Along" for Brunswick, as well as "Falling Down Blues," the ragtimey "Alabama Blues," and downhome "Long Train Blues." At his final Brunswick session the following February, he cut "Nashville Stonewall Blues", Police Sergeant Blues", "Get Away Blues" and "I'll Go With Her Blues." Five years elapsed before, as Tim Wilkins, in the company of Son Joe and "Kid Spoons", he recorded five titles for Vocalion, including "New Stock Yard Blues" and "Old Jim Canan's."

The following spring Wilkins gave up playing guitar after witnessing unnerving violence at a house party. "I just hung it on the wall," he explained to Welding. "Said, 'I'm not going to play anymore.' It was just a sudden thing. Look like something appealed to me, and I heard it-said, 'Don't do it anymore.'" He married Ida Mae Harris and devoted himself to helping raise their five sons and two daughters. A family belief holds that in 1942 he promised God that he'd give up playing blues if his wife survived a life-threatening illness. With her recovery, Wilkins kept his promise and turned increasingly towards the church, becoming a minister of the Church pf God in Christ in 1950. The denomination's encouragement of music enabled him to perform gospel songs on electric guitar. While he no longer performed 12-bar blues, he remodeled his old blues arrangements into gospel songs: "Old Jim Canan's" was morphed into "I'm Going Home to My Heavenly King." "That's No Way to Get Along" metamorphosed into an epic retelling of the gospel of Luke entitled "Prodigal Son" while the guitar lines of "I'll Go With Her" echoed in "I'll Go With You."

Around 1964 Dick Spottswood launched a search for Wilkins. "I had gotten a tip that he was in Memphis," Spottswood explains. "I looked in the telephone book and found two Robert Wilkins there. I wrote a letter to each of them saying, 'Hey, if you're the Robert Wilkins who made 'Nashville Stonewall Blues' in the '20s, boy, would we like to hear from you.' A week or two later, the phone rang and the voice said, 'This is Rev. Wilkins.'" Dick arranged for Wilkins to come to Washington, D.C., to record his self-titled debut LP for the Piedmont label. The centerpiece of the album was his epic nine-minute plus "Prodigal Son" famously recorded by the Rolling Stones on their 1968 album  Beggars Banquet. The story goes that Wilkins was properly credited on the original graffiti-laden, bathroom-themed cover, but that credit was lost when the cover art was changed to an invitation-themed design. The credit later was restored in Wilkins’ name, but only after legal action was taken. Four additional songs from the Piedmont session appeared on the Biograph album This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix and these also appear on the Bear Family reissue. Otherwise, Wilkins' post-war discography is slim with a full-length album released on Gene Rosenthal's Genes imprint in the 90's plus a handful of scattered live and studio sides on several different anthologies.

Robert Wilkins Newport 1964
Rev. Robert Wilkins, Newport, 1964

Rev. Wilkins hit the folk circuit, appearing at Newport in 1964 (two sides appear on Vanguard's Blues At Newport) and the Memphis Country Blues Festival in 1966 and 1968 (three tracks appear on the Blue Horizon record The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival). Even after the Rolling Stones covered "Prodigal Son" Wilkins steadfastly refused to play the blues. "No, my conscience won't let me do it," he explained to Pete Welding. "It's something within. My children even, and all of my friends that know me, say: 'It looks like you could just go and play the blues, make two or three records of the blues.' 'If that was me,' they say, 'I wouldn't miss the money.' Well, it looks good, but then I have scripture say: 'What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?'" Rev. Wilkins never did return to blues and lived into his nineties, passing away on May 30, 1987.

Related Reading:

-Dick Spottswood Interview/Feature (68 min., MP3)

- Rev. Robert Wilkins (Blues Unlimited no. 13, Jul 1964 by Richard K. Spottswood) [PDF]

-Reverend Robert Wilkins: An Interview. Pt. 1. – 6 (Blues Unlimited no. 51-56, 1968 by Pete Welding) [PDF]

- Rev. Robert Wilkins (Victrola and 78 Journal no. 11, 1997: 8–13 by Jas Obrecht) [PDF]

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
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
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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
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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.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Furry Lewis John Henry (The Steel Driving Man)Masters of Memphis Blues
Furry Lewis Black Gyspy BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Furry Lewis Creeper's BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Charlie McCoyIt Ain't No Good - Part 1Charlie McCoy 1928-1932
Charlie McCoyLast Time BluesCharlie McCoy 1928-1932
Speckled RedHouse Dance Blues Speckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled RedThe Dirty Dozen Speckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled RedWilkins Street Stomp Speckled Red 1929-1938
Walter VincsonYour Friends Gonna Use It Too - Part 1Walter Vincson 1928 1941
Walter VincsonOvertime BluesWalter Vincson 1928 1941
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 1)
Mississippi Masters
Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues (Pt. 2)Mississippi Masters
Robert WilkinsThat's No Way To Get AlongMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsAlabama BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsLong Train BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesMasters of Memphis Blues
Jenny PopeWhiskey Drinkin' BluesMen Are Like Street Cars
Jed DavenportHow Long, How Long BluesMemphis Shakedown
Joe CallicottFare Thee Well BluesFare Thee Well Blues
Joe CallicottTraveling Mama BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Madelyn JamesStinging Stake BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Madelyn James Long Time BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Tommy GriffinMistreatment BluesCountry Blues Collectors' Items
Tommy GriffinBell Tolling BluesCountry Blues Collectors' Items
Mattie DelaneyDown The Big Road BluesMississippi Masters
Mattie DelaneyTallahatchie River BluesMississippi Masters
Garfield AkersDough Roller BluesMississippi Masters
Garfield AkersJumpin' & Shoutin' BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyMister Tango Blues Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyWhat Fault You Find of Me - Part 1 Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyCan I Do It For You Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Memphis Minnie & Joe McCoyI Called You This Morning Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 1 1929-1930
Jim ThompkinsBedside BluesBroke, Black And Blue

Show Notes:

Today's show is the second installment spotlighting great recording sessions. In the first installment we spotlighted two sessions conducted by the Victor  label roughly a year-and-a-half apart, one in Chicago and one in New Orleans. Today we select four recording sessions by Brunswick cut in Memphis: two sessions on Sept. 22nd and 23 in 1929 and two sessions on February 20 and 21st in 1930. The Sept. 22 and 23rd, 1929 sessions were recorded at the Peabody Hotel. "The Mississippi Delta begins on the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends at Catfish Row in Vicksburg", David Cohn wrote in 1935. By the time the race market was picking up in popularity nearly every major recording company either made field trips to Memphis or attracted Memphis artists to their Northern studios. The records recorded at these sessions were issued on the Brunswick and Vocalion labels. Those recorded included great performances by Furry Lewis,Charlie McCoy, Speckled Red, Walter Vincson, Garfield Akers, Robert Wilkins, Jed Davenport,Jenny Pope, Joe Callicott, Madlyn James, Tommy Griffin, Mattie Delaney, Jim Thompkins, Garfield Akers, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy.

Furry Lewis was born in Greenwood, MS and moved with his mother and two sisters to Brinley Avenue in Memphis when he was a youngster. Before he was ten he had fashioned a guitar from a cigar box and screen wire. His first guitar was supposedly given to him by W.C. Handy, a Martin that he used for decades. Lewis played around Beale Street in speakeasies, taverns, dance halls and house parties and worked the countryside at suppers, frolics and fish fries. In 1925 he got together with Will Shade, Dewey Thomas and Hambone Lewis to form an early version of the Memphis Jug Band and like Jim Jackson took to traveling with medicine shows. Vocalion talent scouts saw both men in 1927 but it was Lewis who went to Chicago first in April where he cut six sides. He and Jackson went up together in October the same year where Jackson cut his famous "Kansas City Blues" with Lewis cutting seven numbers including the unissued "Casey Jones." Just under a year later Victor recorded eight more titles by Lewis in Memphis and Vocalion brought him in the studio one last time in 1929, cutting four songs at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

Brothers Charlie and Joe McCoy were close to the Chatmans, who hailed from nearby Bolton, and recorded as the popular Mississippi Sheiks. The McCoys and the Chatmans often played together and like many Jackson area musicians, ther were influenced in varying degrees by Tommy Johnson. In addition to the Chatmons and Johnson, Jackson, in the 1920’s was a city with a vibrant blues scene, teeming with artists such as Walter Vincson, Ishman Bracey, Johnnie Temple, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Joe McCoy recorded under various pseudonyms; Georgia Pine Boy, Hallelujah Joe, Big Joe McCoy and His Washboard Band, and The Mississippi Mudder among others. During his time with Memphis Minnie he took the lead on several memorable numbers, most famously “When The Levee Breaks." After Joe and Minnie separated Joe occupied himself in small bands, singing with the Harlem Hamfats, working as a songwriter and working with his brother Charlie. Joe McCoy died of heart disease in Chicago, only a few months before his brother Charlie.

Charlie McCoy ranked among the great blues accompanists of his era and his accomplished mandolin and guitar work can be heard on numerous recordings in a wide variety of settings from the late 1920's through the early 40's. His sides under his own name prove he could hold his own as a lead artist but he seemed most at home enhancing other artists' records.

According to the authors of Memphis Minnie's biography she was "a wild youngster who never took to the farming life and she ran away from home at an early age. Her first guitar had been a Christmas present given to her in 1905 …She began to run away to Memphis' Beale Street with some regularity. Guitarists Frank Stokes and Furry Lewis…both provided advice and inspiration to Minnie in her early days in Memphis. Minnie's duets with Kansas Joe drew as much inspiration from the guitar teamwork of Frank Stokes and Dan Sane, who recorded as the Beale Street Sheiks, as from her own early 'partnership' with Willie Brown." Robert Wilkins also recalled Minnie from these days. Her marriage and recording debut came in 1929, to and with Kansas Joe McCoy, when a Columbia Records talent scout heard them playing in a Beale Street barbershop in their distinctive 'Memphis style.' By around 1929 both Minnie and Joe were playing stell bodied National guitars. As Joe Calicott recalled. Between 1929 and 1934 Minnie and Joe cut around one hundred sides together.

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. Vinson cut three sides at the Sept. 22, 1929 session: "Your Friends Gonna Use It Too – Part 1 & Part 2" and "Overtime blues."

Pianist Speckled Red was born in Monroe, LA, but he made his reputation as part of the St. Louis and Memphis blues scenes of the '20s and '30s. In 1929, he cut his first recording sessions. One song from these sessions, "The Dirty Dozens," was released on Brunswick and became a hit in late 1929. In 1938, he cut a few sides for Bluebird. In the early '40s, Red moved to St. Louis, where he played local clubs and bars for the next decade and a half. Charlie O'Brien, a St. Louis policeman and something of a blues aficionado "rediscovered" Speckled Red on December 14, 1954, who subsequently was signed to Delmark Records as their first blues artist. Several recordings were made in 1956 and 1957 for Tone, Delmark, Folkways, and Storyville record labels.

Garfield Akers recorded just four sides. His most well-known song was his debut, "Cottonfield Blues", a duet with friend and longtime collaborator Joe Callicott on second guitar. Akers lived in Hernando, Mississippi most of his life, working as a sharecropper and performing during off-hours at local house parties and dances. He toured with Frank Stokes on the Doc Watts Medicine Show. Akers was reportedly active on the south Memphis circuit throughout the 1930's. Akers and Callicott played together for more than twenty years, parting in the mid-1940's. Blues historian Don Kent praised "Cottonfield Blues," saying "only a handful of guitar duets in all blues match the incredible drive, intricate rhythms and ferocious intensity."

Gayle Wardlow explained in his article, Garfield Akers and Mississippi Joe Callicott: From the Hernando Cotton Fields: "In the fall of 1929 Brunswick/Vocalion Records made its initial field trip to Memphis to record talent for its Vocalion 1000 and Brunswick 7000 Race series. The session at the Peabody Hotel was highlighted by the first recorded appearances of Garfield Akers, Mattie Delaney, and Kid Bailey, concomitantly with veterans Memphis Minnie and Tampa Red. Callicott recorded his lone 78, "Fare Thee Well Blues/Traveling Mama Blues", for Brunswick in 1930 at a second session in Memphis where Akers also recorded again ("Dough Roller Blues/Jumpin' and Shoutin'"). Callicott made a brief comeback, lasting from the summer of 1967 through the summer of 1968; he recorded sides in the field for George Mitchell, sides at the 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival and sides for Blue Horizon in 1968 all of which have made it onto CD.

Mattie Delaney cut just one 78: "Down The Big Road Blues b/w Tallahatchie River Blues" for Vocalion on February 21, 1930 in Memphis, TN. Her name evoked no response from Son House or from any Delta resident when researcher Gayle Wardlow made a tri-county search of those towns which boarder the Tallahatchie. Supposedly she was born Mattie Doyle in Tchula, MS 1905. Wardlow was the one who discovered the record: "But the prize was Mattie Delaney doing "Tallahatchie River Blues" (Vocalion 1480), a song that refers to a river flood in the Delta. My copy of this 1930 disc was the only one known to surface. I learned this from New York collectors eager for me to trade it away. " According to collector John Tefteller there are about five copies known to exist. Tefteller paid $3,000 for his copy which he says isn’t horrible but sure isn’t mint, either. He expects a like-new copy would draw $6,000 to $8,000/

Robert Wilkins was another prominent Memphis bluesman who, like Lewis, was originally born in Mississippi but made his fame in Memphis. Wilkins' early performing life included touring with small vaudeville and minstrel shows. In 1928, he met Ralph Peer of the Victor label and was invited to cut four songs. Vocalion recorded eight new songs the following year. In 1935 he cut four more sides for Vocalion and shortly afterwards joined the Church of God in Christ and became a minister. Wilkins was rediscovered in the 1960's and performed and recorded gospel material along with the blues. In 1964 he recorded the wonderful Memphis Gospel Singer for the Piedmont label which unfortunately has not been issued on CD.

Little is know about several of today's artists, all of whom recorded sparingly: Jenny Pope, Jed Davenport, Madelyn James, Tommy Griffin and Jim Thompkins. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Jed Davenport came from a tent show and medicine show background. Davenport cut around a dozen sides as leader between 1929-30. Madelyn James Cut one 78 at this February 20, 1930 session with one song possibly featuring Shade on jug. Tommy Griffin Griffin cut sixteen sides at two sessions in 1930 and 1936 for Vocalion and Bluebird. Jim Thompkin (credited in the Brunswick ledger as Peg Leg Jim Thompkins) cut two songs at this same session, “Bedside Blues” and “Down Fall Blues”, the latter never issued. When issued on 78 the flipside of “Bedside Blues” was "We Got To Get That Thing Fixed" by Speckled Red.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Furry Lewis, Bukka White, Gus CannonOn The Road AgainOn The Road Again
Furry LewisGoing Away BluesParty! At Home: Recorded in Memphis 1968
Dewey CorleyDewey's Walkin' BluesThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 1
Joe DobbinsBasin Street BluesThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 1
Mose VinsonYou Ain't Too OldThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 1
Sam ClarkSunnyland Train BluesThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 1
Bukka WhitePoor Boy Long Ways From HomeLegacy Of The Blues Vol. 1
Bukka WhiteSad Day Blues Memphis Swamp Jam
Johnny MomentKeep Our Business To Yourself I Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Earl BellTravellin' ManI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Rev. Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember MeMemphis Gospel Singer
Rev. Robert WilkinsThank You, Jesus Memphis Gospel Singer
Gus CannonCome On Down To My House Walk Right In
Furry Lewis, Bukka White, Gus CannonGibson Hill On The Road Again
Dewey Corley & Johnny Woods Tri-State Bus Beale Street Mess-Around
Dewley Corley & Walter Miller Fishing in the DarkBlow My Blues Away Vol. 1
Memphis Piano RedMobile Blues Memphis Swamp Jam
Laura Dukes Bricks In My Pillow Tennessee Blues Vol. 1
Nathan BeauregardKid Gal Blues The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival
Memphis Willie B.Overseas Blues Introducing Memphis Willie B.
Memphis Willie B.Stop Cryin' Blues Introducing Memphis Willie B.
Sleepy John Estes Need More Blues Memphis Swamp Jam
Sleepy John Estes/Yank Rachell/Hammie Nixon I Wanta Tear It All the TimeNewport Blues
Willie MorrisMy Good Woman Has Quit Me The Memphis Blues Again Vol. 2
Hacksaw HarneyHacksaw's Down South BluesThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 2
Walter MillerI Don't Care What You DoThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 2
Van Hunt & Mose Vinson Jelly Selling WomanThe Memphis Blues Again Vol. 2
Furry LewisI'm Going To BrownsvilleShake 'Em On Down
Furry LewisKassie Jones and a Message from Furry Party! At Home: Recorded in Memphis 1968

Show Notes:

Liner Notes: Pt. 1Pt. 2Pt. 3 -
Pt. 4 - Pt. 5Pt. 6
Liner Notes: Pt.1Pt. 2 - Pt. 3
Pt. 4
Pt. 5Pt. 6

Today's program is devoted to the Memphis country blues recorded in the 1960's. Of course the heyday of the Memphis blues was in the 20's and 30's. Memphis is the capital city of the Mississippi Delta, which stretches out south and west of the city in the states of Mississippi and Arkansas. "The Mississippi Delta begins on the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis and ends at Catfish Row in Vicksburg", David Cohn wrote in 1935. The Peabody also happened to be the location of several recording sessions by artists such as Furry Lewis, Charlie McCoy, Speckled Red, Robert Wilkins, Big Joe Williams, Jed Davenport, Garfield Akers, Jim Jackson and others. By the time the race market was picking up in popularity nearly every major recording company either made field trips to Memphis or attracted Memphis artists to their Northern studios. Consequently, many great blues records from this era were made in Memphis or by Memphis area musicians. Among those names were men like Furry Lewis, Frank Stokes, Robert Wilkins and the great jug bands the city was so famous for, such as the Memphis Jug band and Cannon's Jug Stompers.

During the first half of the century Beale Street was the center of blues activity in Memphis. Writing at the end of the 1960's, researcher Begnt Olsson wrote: “Some years ago Beale Street was a rough, tough, gambling, whoring, cutting, musical, living street. Money was spent on cards, woman and whiskey. The liqueur and the music flowed in the many dives along Beale; ambulances howled; men and women were killed. Expensive cars were parked outside the gambling houses.” By the 1960's urban renewal decimated Beale Street yet many old time musicians remained; veterans like Furry Lewis, Bukka White, Will Shade, Dewey Corley, Memphis Piano Red, Laura Dukes and Gus Cannon were still hanging on. During the blues revival of the 60's many went down to Memphis to record these old musicians with the results mostly issued on small specialty labels. Many of the resulting records are long out-of-print.

Among those long out-of-print albums is The Memphis Blues Again Vol. 1 & 2. The records were issued on the Adelphi label and recorded in Memphis in October, 1969 and at the Peabody Hotel in June, 1970. These are wonderful gatefold albums with excellent notes and photos. We spin  superb performances by Mose Vinson, Willie Morris, Hacksaw Harney and Van Hunt among others.

Read Liner Notes

Originally from Holly Springs, MS, Mose Vinson worked as a clean-up man and part-time pianist for Sam Phillip's Sun label in Memphis. Between sessions, Vinson would sit at the piano and play "44 Blues" so often he eventually convinced Phillips to record him in 1954. He also appeared on records by James Cotton, Walter Horton, Joe Hill Louis and others, although his own Sun sides went unreleased for 30 years. Other sides by Vinson appear on various anthologies while his first full-length CD wasn't released until 1997.

From the time he was fifteen Willie Morris began hoboing throughout the Delta playing with Delta musicians including Kokomo Arnold. He moved to Memphis in 1938 where he worked with Franks Stokes, Will Shade, Gus cannon and others. he made a few recordings in the 1960's.

When Hacksaw Harney was in his early 20's he and an elder brother worked for tips and as backing musicians in Memphis but after his brother was murdered in a juke joint, Harney took up piano tuning. Robert Lockwood Jr. claimed that Harney was well acquainted with Robert Johnson and was a major influence on him. Harney spent most of his life in relative musical obscurity but in the late 1960's he was traced by folklorists to Memphis where he made some recordings for the Adelphi label.

Van Hunt spent the 1920’s in minstrel shows and was involved in the early Memphis blues scene. She cut "Selling The Jelly" in 1930 with the Noah Lewis Jug Band which hear her reprise today backed by Mose Vinson. She made some field recordings in the 60's and 70's.

It's only fitting we open and close the show with Furry Lewis. Pete Welding wrote that Lewis' music, "engagingly direct and sincere, typifies the best that the Memphis blues has to offer. If any single performer can be said to stand as the living embodiment of the Memphis blues, a perfomer in whose music can be found the full span of that urban-rural polarity, that man is surley Furry Lewis."

Lewis was born in Greenwood, MS and moved with his mother and two sisters to Brinley Avenue in Memphis when he was a youngster. His first guitar was supposedly given to him by W.C. Handy, a Martin that he used for decades. In 1925 he got together with Will Shade, Dewey Thomas and Hambone Lewis to form an early version of the Memphis Jug Band and like Jim Jackson took to traveling with medicine shows. Vocalion talent scouts saw both men in 1927 but it was Lewis who went to Chicago first in April where he cut six sides. He and Jackson went up together in October the same year with Lewis cutting seven numbers. Just under a year later Victor recorded eight more titles by Lewis in Memphis and Vocalion brought him in the studio one last time in 1929, cutting four songs at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Thirty year would pass before Sam Charters came knocking in 1959 subsequently recordings him for Folkways that same year with two more albums following for Prestige in 1961. There was nothing rusty about his playing as he had never stopped performing for neighbors and friends. Lewis was recorded often through the 1960's, with a slew of informal recordings issued posthumously. Bob Groom wrote in his book The Blues Revival that his "return has been one of the most satisfying of the [blues] revival." He played regularly at festivals around Memphis, appeared with Burt Reynolds in the movie W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings, sang "Furry's Blues" on Johnny Carson and was the subject of a Joni Mitchell song (he didn't like it). During this period Lewis' apartment became a pilgrimage for many visitors to Memphis, from blues fans, musicians to celebrities. Lewis died in 1981 at the City of Memphis Hospital.

Read Liner Notes (PDF)

Several of the old time jug musicians were still in Memphis in the 1960's. Renewed interest drew several out if the woodwork to record including Will Shade, Gus Cannon and Dewey Corley.

Will Shade got his first taste of blues music in 1925 when he first heard recordings by the Dixieland Jug Blowers, a jug band from Louisville, Kentucky. He then convinced a few of the local musicians, though still reluctant, to join him in creating yhe Memphis Jug Band. Shade himself played the guitar, washtub bass and the harmonica.The Memphis Jug Band had a fluid membership during the nearly 40 years that it was active. Between 1927 and 1934, the Memphis Jug Band recorded over 100 sides All the while, though, Shade was the backbone of the group, as he was the one responsible for finding new members to keep the jug band alive.blues revivalists found Shade and his old cohorts still playing together into the early 1960s and released several field recordings. The band during this period usually included Shade's long time friend Charlie Burse, whom Shade had picked up in 1928 as a vocalist and tenor guitarist, and sometimes included old rival Gus Cannon. Shade also appeared as an accompanist on Cannon's "comeback" album, Walk Right In, recorded by Stax Records in 1963.

Gus Cannon's band of the '20s and '30s, Cannon's Jug Stompers, were one of the best jug bands of the era. Songs they recorded, notably the raggy "Walk Right In," were staples of the folk repertoire decades later. Cannon learned early repertoire in the 1890s from older musicians. The early 1900s found him playing around Memphis with songster Jim Jackson and forming a partnership with Noah Lewis, whose harmonica would be basic to the Jug Stompers' sound. In 1914, Cannon began work with a succession of medicine shows that would continue into the 1940s, and where he further developed his style and repertoire. His recording career began with Paramount sessions in 1927. He continued to record into the '30s as a soloist and with his incredible trio, which included Noah Lewis along with guitarists Hosea Woods or Ashley Thompson. (Side projects included duets with Blind Blake and the first ever recordings of slide banjo.) Often obliged to find employment in other fields than music, Cannon continued to play anyway, mostly around Memphis. He resumed his stalled recording efforts in 1956 with sessions for Folkways. Subsequent sessions paired him with other Memphis survivors like Furry Lewis.

Dewey Corley was the leader of the Beale Street Jug Band from the '30s onward, and played jug, washtub bass and kazoo. In his later years, he also acted as an A&R man, helping record companies such as Adelphi scout out missing Memphis blues legends such as Hacksaw Harney and guitarist Willie Morris. Corley was influenced by Will Shade, joining Shade's Memphis Jug Band and was also a member of Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band and also backed quite a few of the city's diverse bluesmen in duo and trio settings. His own Beale Street Jug Band was a most successful venture and became a fixture in Memphis for nearly three decades. He cut several fine sessions in the 60's and 70's.

Among the other big names residing in Memphis during this period were Bukka White, Robert Wilkins and Sleepy John Estes, all who had significant pre-war recording careers.

Read Liner Notes

The letter was addressed to: "Booker T. Washington White, (Old Blues Singer), C/O General Delivery Aberdeen , Miss." and forwarded to him by a relative. That was how John Fahey and Ed Denson found Bukka White in 1963 who was now living in Memphis. In 1930 Bukka White met furniture salesman Ralph Limbo, who was also a talent scout for Victor. White traveled to Memphis where he made his first recording. After a stint in Parchman Farm (he recorded two numbers for John and Alan Lomax there in 1939) he returned to Chicago cutting twelve sides in 1940. Then, Bukka disappeared dropped from the music scene, finding factory work in Memphis during World War II. Things moved quickly from the time Bukka White met up with John Fahey and Ed Denson; by the end of 1963 Bukka White was already recording on contract for Arhoolie Records. He recorded prolifically and thrived on the folk festival and coffeehouse circuit of the 1960s. He passed in 1977.

Like several of the former bluesmen turned gospel artists, Reverend Robert T. Wilkins recorded only sparingly in later years; he cut one full length album Memphis Gospel Singer in 1964 plus several sides on various anthologies. His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics.

Sleepy John Estes was born in Ripley, Tennessee but was a longtime resident of Memphis. He made his debut in 1929 and made his last pre-war recording session taking place in 1941. Outside of a session for Sun in 1952 he was largely out of music until the 1960's.

We spotlight a number of fine little recorded Memphis artists who were recorded during this period. Among those are Earl Bell, Memphis Piano Red, Nathan Beauregard, Laura Dukes and Memphis Willie B.

Earl Bell was born in Hernando, MS, 22 miles from Memphis. He was recorded at the prompting of Dewey Corley. He made a handful of sides in the 60's, some with Corley and some with Memphis Sonny Boy.

John "Piano Red" Williams was born in Germantown, TN in 1905 and moved to Memphis with his family when he was nine. Red spent many years hoboing and met many roadhouse piano players. He recorded sparingly, with scattered sides on various anthologies.

During the folk and blues revival of the 1960s Nathan Beauregard was "discovered" in Memphis by Bill Barth, who convinced him to work as a musician again. It was widely advertised at the time that Beauregard was around one hundred year old but recent research suggests he was twenty years younger. In the short time between his "discovery" in 1968 and his death in 1970, he played at various folk and blues festivals and on a number of compilation albums on such labels as Blue Thumb, Arhoolie and Adelphi.

A lifelong Memphis musician, Laura Dukes was known as "Little Laura" or "Little Bit" for her diminutive stature. Her father, who played drums for W.C. Handy's band, put Dukes on the stage by the time she was five years old, where she proved to be a fine singer and performer. During the 1920's and 1930's, she performed for medicine shows, carnivals, and circuses. She also regularly performed on Beale Street during those years. Also during this time, she met the bluesman, Robert Nighthawk and the two spent several years traveling together and performing. She became a regular performer around Beale Street with the Memphis Jug Band, along with Will Shade and Will Batts. In 1961 she made some recordings with Will Shae and Gus Cannon (available on the out-of-print LP's Memphis Sessions 1956-1961 on Wolf and  Will Shade & Gus Cannon 1961 on Document), some unreleased sides in 1964, our selection which was recorded for the Albatross label in 1972 and appeared in the BBC-TV documentary The Devil's Music – A History of the Blues. Dukes passed in 1992.

Sam Charters recorded Memphis Willie B. through the help of Will Shade. "Usually I stop by Will's whenever I'm in Memphis, and over the years he's led me to other singers like Gus Cannon, Charlie Burse and Furry Lewis. …I stopped by in April 1961 …he mentioned that one of the blues singers he's known in the 1930s has stopped by his place a few weeks before. 'Charters recorded Borum at a session at the Sun studios for Prestige's Bluesville label, with one more session to follow. The albums were issued as Introducing Memphis Willie B. and Hard Working Man Blues. Borum, was a mainstay of the Memphis blues and jug band circuit. He took to the guitar early in his childhood, being principally taught by his father and Memphis medicine show star Jim Jackson. By his late teens, he was working with Jack Kelly's Jug Busters. This didn't last long, as Borum joined up with the Memphis Jug Band. Sometime in the '30s he learned to play harmonica, being taught by Noah Lewis, the best harp blower in Memphis and mainstay of Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers. Willie B. began working on and off with various traveling Delta bluesmen, performing at various functions with Rice Miller, Willie Brown, Garfield Akers, and Robert Johnson. He finally got to make some records in 1934 for Vocalion backing Hattie Hart and Allen Shaw, but quickly moved back into playing juke joints and gambling houses with Son Joe, Joe Hill Louis and Will Shade until around 1943, when he became a member of the U.S. Army. Memphis Willie B. passed in 1993.

Related Article:

-Willie, Furry & Gus by Jim Delehant , Jazz Journal 1965 ( PDF)

-Furry's Blues by Stanley Booth, Playboy 1970 (PDF)

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Honeyboy EdwardsBuild A CaveJuke Joint Blues
Honeyboy EdwardsDrop Down Mama Drop Down Mama
Honeyboy EdwardsRide With Me TonightI've Been Around
Bertha "Chippie" HillLonesome Weary BluesLouis Armstrong & the Blues Singers 1924-1930
Sippie WallaceLazy Man BluesLouis Armstrong & the Blues Singers 1924-1930
McKinley James Ain't Gonna Pick No Cotton 45
McKinley James Tuskegee Boogie 45
Little Sonny I Hear My Woman Callin'Harp Suckers: Detroit Blues Rarities
Alec SewardCreepin' BluesThe Bluesville Years Vol. 11
Blind Willie McTellLay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Charlie PattonSome Summer DayPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Blind Boy FullerSombody's Been Talkin'Blind Boy Fuller Vol. 2 (JSP)
Leroy Washington Hello Stranger Wild Cherry
Leroy Washington Women Are TroubleWild Cherry
Lovey WilliamsGoing Away Blues Bothered All The Time
James BrewerBig Road Blues Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle
Robert Wilkins I'll Go With Her BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Robert Wilkins Do Lord Remember MeMemphis Gospel Singer
Little Son WillisNothing But The BluesBlues 'N Trouble vol. 2
Robert Shaw Turn Loose My TongueBlues 'N Trouble vol. 2
Roosevelt SykesPlease Don't Talk About Me When I'm GoneClassic Sounds Of New Orleans
UnknownDon't Go To GeorgiaCap'n, You're So Mean - Negro Songs of Protest Vol. 2
UnknownWhy Didn't Somebody Tell MeCap'n, You're So Mean - Negro Songs of Protest Vol. 2
UnknownCap'n, You're So MeanCap'n, You're So Mean - Negro Songs of Protest Vol. 2
Johnny Shines Blood Ran Like Wine President Nixon's Blues
J. B. Lenoir Everybody Is Crying About VietnamPresident Johnson's Blues
The DaylightersSomething Is WrongForth Worth Shuffle - Texas RNB 1958-1964
Travis Phillips & his Wonder BoysThat's AllrightForth Worth Shuffle - Texas RNB 1958-1964
Guitar SlimHard Headed BluesWalkin' Blues
Guitar ShortyI'm Going Home Carolina Slide Guitar

Show Notes:

Today's show spans from the 1920's through 1980, covering a wide variety of recordings and styles.  Among the artists featured include a trio by the recently  departed Honeyboy Edwards, a pair by the obscure McKinley James, two by fine Louisiana guitarist/vocalist Leroy Washington and two by the great Memphis blues and gospel artists Robert Wilkins. Also on tap are a batch of fine field recordings, some classic female blues singers, a set of piano blues, some fascinating topical recordings and the usual  batch of hard to find albums.

We open things up by paying tribute to Honeyboy Edwards who just passed on August 29, 2011 in Chicago. A couple of weeks back we played his slashing version of "Sweet Home Chicago" that he cut for Sun in 1953. Today we open with "Build A Cave", Honeyboy's commercial debut cut for the ARC label in 1950 recorded under the moniker Mr. Honey (the flipside was "Who May Your Regular Be").  The song is related to Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's 1951 Cold War/the Korean War number " I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole" which was also recorded the same year by Robert Lockwood and is also kin to Jimmy Rogers' "The World Is In A Tangle" also the same year. We spin another early number, "Drop Down Mama", part of a four song session he cut for Chess in 1953. "Drop Down Mama" eventually surfaced on the 1970 Chess album of the same name. As far as I know the remaining three sides have never been issued.

We feature both sides of  McKinley James' 1966 45 "Tuskegee Boogie b/w Ain't Gonna Pick No Cotton." James was a blues musician who was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1935 and raised in Macon County, Alabama. "Tuskegee Boogie" rolls along at an easygoing pace, featuring some fine low-down slide guitar. McKinley began singing gospel in The Golden Four Quartet and joined The Wings of Victory two years later, where he sang and played guitar. From there he became a one-man band and played at local shows that ranged from jails to fish fries to weddings and funerals. "I was here, there and everywhere, just like Old MacDonald's farm," McKinley recalled with a laugh. In 1955, several well-known bluesmen including Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed played in Tuskegee. McKinley was inspired to make a go at a blues career. Work was hard to find but he was able to get gigs singing 15 minute spots on local radio programs. In 1965, he joined a federal adult-education program and ended up playing "Tuskegee Boogie" at his class graduation party. He'd written the song in 1962 about Tuskegee's first black sheriff, Lucious Amerson and his personal war on public drunkenness.

When the teachers saw how much the audience like the song, they decided to arrange a recording session in Columbus, GA which McKinley raised the $250 to pay for. He recorded "Tuskegee Boogie" and "Ain't Gonna Pick No Cotton" which were released as a 45 on the Tomahawk label. McKinley strapped all 500 copies to his bicycle and rode around selling them for 50 cents each in Tuskegee, Notasulga and Opelika. In 1973 he recorded another 4, "Misunderstanding b/w A Closer Talk" which was distributed locally, but neither record was picked up by a larger label. Despite that, McKinley became a prominent musician in the region and played many times at the Chattahoochee Folk Festival in Columbus, GA.

Read Liner Notes

Little is known about Leroy Washington, who recorded several sessions between 1957 and 1961 for Jay Miller. He was recalled by Miller as perhaps his favorite blues guitarist. He only released a handful of sides, however, he had recorded a considerable legacy of material for Miller, which had lain unissued for decades. As Bruce Bastin wrote: "Like another fine Miller guitarist, Guitar Gable, Leroy Washington was from Opelousas. …Washington's polite, easy-going nature and keenness to record made him a highly suitable artist for Miller, who carefully built up his artist's sessions, in order to create a satisfactory potential "hit' record. Three couplings submitted by Miller to Ernie Young of the Nashboro Record Co. saw release on his Excello label in 1958-59 but Miller clearly submitted material which did not find favor." Today we play "Hello Stranger" and "Woman Are Trouble" from 1959, both unissued at the time.

I've played Robert Wilkins often on the show and today we contrast one of his pre-war songs with one of his post-war recordings. 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.) Andy Cohen has been threatening to issue this on CD with bonus tracks but that was announced several years ago and I have no idea what the current status is. There's a few other scattered tracks available including some live cuts from the Newport Blues Festival and the 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival plus excellent sides on the Biograph CD When I Lay My Burden Down and the Adelphi CD …Remember Me. I should also mention This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix on Biograph which has four great Wilkins sides but like the Piedmont this is long out of print.

I've always been intrigued by topical songs and and field recordings and we play both today. Awhile back I played songs by Lawrence Gellert off the album Negro Songs of Protest issued on Rounder in the 70's. Today we spin three from the follow-up album Cap'n You're So Mean, issued by Rounder in the 80's. According to Gellert's notes some of these recordings were recorded in Greenville, South Carolina in 1924. It seems likely that these recordings are actually from the 30's although according to eyewitnesses Gellert was indeed recording in South Carolina in 1924. Other recordings hail from Atlanta, Georgia and date from 1928 through 1932. As one reviewer noted: "The most interesting thing about these two albums was the outspokenness of the songs against authority. Gellert was accepted as an insider in the African American communities in which he worked and was able to record protest songs that eluded other collectors of the time." The Document label has also issued some of this material on the CD Field Recordings Vol. 9: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky 1924 – 1939. Many of Gellert's recordings have yet to be issued.

We play a couple of more modern protest songs with Johnny Shines' "Blood Ran Like Wine" and J.B. Lenoir's "Everybody Is Crying About Vietnam" both about the Vietnam war. These songs come from companion CD's to \a fascinating series of books written by Guido Van Rijn; Roosevelt's Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on FDRThe Truman and Eisenhower Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs, 1945-1960, Kennedy’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on JFK , President Johnson's Blues: African American Blues and Gospel Songs on LBJ, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Vietnam 1963-1968 and the just published The Nixon and Ford Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights and Inflation 1969-1976.

We spotlight a batch of fine field recordings from the 60's, 70's and 80's. The 70's is generally considered a down period for the blues which may be true commercially but there was terrific field recordings being made by folks like Pete Lowry, Kip Lornell and George Mitchell among others, and in 1980 an ambitious field trip conducted by a pair of German blues fans. One of the artists they recorded was Guitar Slim who hailed from Greensboro, North Carolina. He recorded Greensboro Rounder for Flyright in the 1970's . He was accomplished on six and twelve string and a fine piano player to boot. He made final batch of sides in 1980 as part of the Living Country Blues USA series, recordings made by two young German blues enthusiasts, Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann who came to America with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. Additional recordings by Slim have been issued on a CD called Walkin' Boogie which also features sides by Memphis Piano Red.

Pete Lowry called Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) "One of the most spontaneous musicians around; right up there with Lightnin' Hopkins, maybe more so." He cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the album long out-of-print Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) which is where our selection comes from and a final album for Lowry's Trix label, Alone In His Field, before passing in 1975.

From the 1960's we play Lovey Williams' "Going Away Blues" from the album Bothered All The Time (Southern Culture, 1983) which collects field recordings made in Mississippi in 1968 by William Ferris. Ferris did some good field work in Mississippi in he 1960's preserved on some fine  long out-out of-print records like Mississippi Folk Voices (Southern Culture, 1983), James 'Son' Thomas: Highway 61 Blues (Southern Culture, 1983) and James 'Son' Thomas, Lee Kizart & Lovey Williams: The Blues Are Alive

Read Liner Notes: Pt. 1Pt. 2Pt. 3

And Well (XTRA, 1970). Some of his field recordings were issued on a companion CD to his most recent book Give My Poor Heart Ease – Voices Of The Mississippi Blues.   In addition Ferris has written several books including the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture nominated for the Pulitzer prize and and Blues from the Delta.

As listeners know I always like to dredge up rare and hard to find records for the show. In that vein we spotlight some tough R&B tracks from the Krazy Kat album Forth Worth Shuffle – Texas RNB 1958-1964, a pair from the Arhoolie record Blues N' Trouble Vol. 2 including "Turn Loose My Tongue" a tremendous piano workout from Texas piano man Robert Shaw and James Brewer's rendition of "Big Road Blues" from Chicago Blues: Live At The Fickle Pickle a collection of live tracks cut at the famous club in 1963.

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