Entries tagged with “Roosevelt Holts”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Arzo Youngblood Bye And Bye BluesGoin' Up The Country
Boogie Bill WebbDooleyville BluesGoin' Up The Country
Cornelius Bright My Baby's GoneGoin' Up The Country
Mager JohnsonBig Road BluesGoin' Up The Country
Isaiah ChattmanFound My Baby GoneGoin' Up The Country
Babe Stovall & Herb Quinn See See Rider South Mississippi Blues
Issac Youngblood & Herb QuinnHesitating BluesSouth Mississippi Blues
Eli OwensMuleskinner BluesSouth Mississippi Blues
Herb QuinnCaseySouth Mississippi Blues
Babe Stovall Candy ManSouth Mississippi Blues
Woodrow Adams & Fiddlin' Joe MartinPony BluesHigh Water Blues
Houston Stackhouse & Carey "Ditty" MasonTalkin' About YouHigh Water Blues
Charlie Taylor & Willie Taylor I Got The BluesHigh Water High
Isiah ChattmanCold In Hand BluesHigh Water High
L.V. Conelry High Water High High Water High
Willard Artis 'Blind Pete' BurrellDo Lord Remember MeSorrow Come Pass Me Around
Babe StovallThe Ship Is At The Landing Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Robert “Nighthawk” Johnson Ain't No Grave Hold My Body Down Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Dorothy Lee, Norma Jean & Shirley Marie JohnsonYou Give An Account Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Chester Davis, Compton Jones & Furry LewisGlory Glory Hallelujah Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Roosevelt HoltsThe Good Book Teach YouPresenting The Country Blues
Roosevelt HoltsMaggie Campbell BluesPresenting The Country Blues
Roosevelt HoltsDown The Big Road45
Roosevelt HoltsPackin´ Up Her Trunk Roosevelt Holts & Friends
Arzo YoungbloodMaggie Campbell BluesThe Legacy of Tommy Johnson
John Henry 'Bubba' Brown Canned Heat Blues The Legacy of Tommy Johnson
Boogie Bill WebbShow Me What You Got For SaleThe Legacy of Tommy Johnson
Houston Stackhouse & Carey Ditty Mason –Bye Bye BluesBig Road Blues
Houston Stackhouse & Carey Ditty Mason –Big Road BluesBig Road Blues
Jack Owens Jack Ain't Had No Water It Must Have Been the Devil
Jack Owens Cherry Ball It Must Have Been the Devil

Show Notes:

Goin' Up The County
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

Today's show spotlights field recordings made by David Evans in the 1960's and 70's. The recordings from this period were a direct result of Evans' investigation into Tommy Johnson in the late 1960’s. His research led to the book Tommy Johnson (Studio Vista, 1971) and Big Road Blues (1982). Evans recorded many men who knew or learned directly from Johnson including Roosevelt Holts, Boogie Bill Webb, Arzo Youngblood, Isaac Youngblood, Bubba Brown, Babe Stovall, Houston Stackhouse and Tommy’s brother Mager Johnson. The bulk of these artists had not been recorded previously. The field recordings Evans collected have been issued on several albums, unfortunately almost all of them are out of print. Today we feature selections from the following various artist albums: Goin' Up The Country, South Mississippi Blues, High Water Blues, Sorrow Come Pass Me Around and The Legacy of Tommy Johnson. In addition we feature tracks from the Roosevelt Holt albums Presenting The Country Blues Of, Roosevelt Holt and Friends, The Franklinton Muscatel Society plus the Jack Owens album It Must Have Been The Devil and a collection of sides by Houston Stackhouse and Carey Mason titled Big Road Blues.

Goin' Up The Country was the first collection of Evans' field recordings. All the recordings were made in 1966. As Evans wrote: “When I first made these recordings in 1966, interest in the blues in America was still largely an underground phenomenon. Britain was the center of interest and research. Consequently, I sent a tape of my best recordings to Simon Napier, the editor of the pioneering British magazine Blues Unlimited. He was sufficiently impressed with the music that he kindly arranged with Mike Vernon and Neil Slaven to have an album brought out on British Decca, Goin' Up The Country. The album was subsequently reissued and remastered on Rounder in 1975. These sides have not appeared on CD. Of these recordings, Evans wrote: “…in 1965 I began recoding and interviewing blues artists on my own, and in the summer of 1966 spent about five weeks in Louisiana and Mississippi taping older country blues styles. These fifteen performances are among the best I recorded there.” Among the performers, only a few had recorded previously: Boogie Bill Webb cut some sides for Imperial in the early 50's, Babe Stovall had recorded a full-length album and Isiah Chattman played rhythm guitar on some sides by Silas Hogan.

South Mississippi Blues
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

South Mississippi Blues collects songs recorded between 1965 and 1971 and was issued on Rounder in the mid-70's. Evans writes of this collection: “All nine performers heard here grew up and learned their music in the vicinity of Tylertown (Walthall Co.) Mississippi in the south-central part of the state near the Louisiana border. …All nine of these musicians know each other, and most have at one time or another, played together in various combinations.”

The recordings on High Water Blues were recorded between 1965 and 1970, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi and issued on the Flyright label in 1974. Of this collection Evans writes: “ln the last ten years I've recorded hundreds of blues by dozens of performers in Mississippi and Louisiana and some of the other southern states. Some of these artists like Roosevelt Holts and Jack Owens, Iwas able to record extensively, and l have presented complete LP's of their work. But there were many others who only recorded a handful of good songs for me. …I've selected for this record the best blues from some of here artists that I met briefly some years ago.”

The Legacy of Tommy Johnson was issued on the Saysdic Mathbox label in 1972, a companion record to Evans' 1971 book titled Tommy Johnson. As Evans Writes: “The songs on this album, although they are created by twelve different musicians, were all at one time part of the repertoire of Tommy Johnson, perhaps the greatest and best remembered folk blues performer the state of Mississippi has ever produced. …Versions of Johnson’s songs derive exclusively from personal contact, though many of the artists undoubtedly heard Johnson’s records at one time or other.”

The Legacy of Tommy Johnson
Read Liner Notes

Sorrow Come Pass Me Around is a beautiful collection of spiritual and gospel songs performed in informal non-church settings between 1965-1973. Most are guitar-accompanied and performed by active or former blues artists. The songs were recorded between 1965 and 1973 . Evans writes: “Most records of black religious music contain some form of gospel singing or congregational singing recorded at a church service. This album, though, tries to present a broader range of performance styles and contexts with the hope of showing the important role that religious music plays in the Southern black communities and in the daily lives of individuals.” The album was originally issued on Advent in 1975 and has just been reissued on vinyl on the Dust-To-Digital label.

Roosevelt Holts was born in 1905 near Tylertown, Mississippi, and took up the guitar when he was in his mid-twenties. He started to get serious about music in the late 1930's when he encountered Tommy Johnson. Evans began recording Holts in 1965 resulting in two LP's (both out of print): Presenting The Country Blues (Blue Horizon,1966) and Roosevelt Holts and Friends (Arhoolie, 1969-1970) plus the collection The Franklinton Muscatel Society featuring his earliest sides through 1969 which is available on CD. In addition selections recorded by Evans appeared on the following anthologies (all out of print): Goin' Up The Country (Decca, 1968), The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (Matchbox, 1972), South Mississippi Blues (Rounder, 1974 ?), Way Back Yonder …Original Country Blues Vol. 3 (Albatros, 1979 ?), Giants Of Country Blues Vol. 3 (Wolf, 199?) and a very scarce 45 ("Down The Big Road b/w Blues On Mind") cut for the Bluesman label in 1969 that we feature today.

Houston Stackhouse's family moved to Crystal Springs, Mississippi in the mid-1920's, where he learned songs from Tommy Johnson and his brothers and took up guitar. In the early 1930's, he moved to Hollandale, Mississippi where his cousin, Robert Lee McCullum (later known as Robert Nighthawk) lived. In 1946, Houston moved to Helena, Arkansas where he played with Sonny Boy Williamson on The King Biscuit Time show, on KFFA Radio. He played with Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Roosevelt Sykes and Earl Hooker. He continued to play, but less frequently after he married in the late 1950's. Periodically, he returned to the King Biscuit show. In 1967 he made his first recordings cutting field recordings for George Mitchell and shortly after for David Evans that same year.

High Water Blues
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

Jack Owens belonged to the pioneering generation of Bentonia bluesmen, which included Skip James and the unrecorded Henry Stuckey. Just as James’s recording career was nearing its end, Owens was beginning his, in 1966; his first album (It Must Have Been The Devil), produced by Evans, was not released until 1971 for the Testament label. The music of Owens and James, as Evans wrote, was distinguished by “haunting, brooding lyrics dealing with such themes as loneliness, death and the supernatural . . . Altogether it is one of the eeriest, loneliest and deepest blues sounds ever recorded.”

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jerry McCain Things Ain't RightJook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues
Jerry McCain That's What They WantJook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues
Jerry McCain She's ToughTuff Enuff - Ace (MS.) Blues Masters Vol. 3
Irene Scruggs Home Town BluesSugar Foot Stomp
Victoria SpiveyShowered With The BluesVictoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Mamie SmithCrazy With The BluesCrazy Blues: The Best Of Mamie Smith
Bill Crosby Sneaking Woman BluesChicago Jump Bands: Early R&B Vol. 1 1945-1953
Charles GrayI'm A Bum Again Chicago Jump Bands: Early R&B Vol. 1 1945-1953
The Big Three TrioAppetite BluesA Shot in the Dark: Nashville Jumps
Thomas Shaw Born In TexasBorn In Texas
Thomas Shaw Prowling Ground HogBlind Lemon's Buddy
Sammy LawhornAfter Hours
After Hours
Cleo PageLeaving Mississippi Leaving Mississippi
Fred McDowell Black MinnieYou Got To Move
Jessie Mae HemphillI'm So Glad You Don't Know What's On My Mind Mississippi Blues Festival
Bukka WhiteGood Gin BluesAberdeeen Mississippi Blues
Bukka WhiteAberdeen Mississippi BluesAberdeeen Mississippi Blues
B.B. KingBroken PromiseMore B.B. King
Frankie Lee SimsWell Goodbye Baby4th & Beale And Further South - Ace (MS.) Blues Masters Vol.2
T.J. FowlerWine CoolerT.J. Fowler 1948-1953
Robert Johnson Phonograph BluesThe Centennial Collection
Buddy MossJoy RagThe Essential
Sylvester Cotton Cotton Field BluesBlues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949
Sylvester Cotton I TriedBlues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949
Texas Alexander CrossroadsTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928-1930
Elmore JamesStanding At The Crossroads King Of The Slide Guitar
Johnny ShinesStanding At The CrossroadsStanding At The Crossroads
Jerry McCainSteadyTuff Enuff - Ace (MS.) Blues Masters Vol. 3
Jerry McCainCourtin' In A CadillacJook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues

Show Notes:

Once again we open and close today show on a sad note with the passing of Jerry "Boogie" McCain. McCain died at the age of 81 on March 28, 2012. A lifelong resident of Gadsden, Alabama, McCain began playing music semi-professionally in his teens. During the 1950's cut singles such as "Wine-O-Wine", "Stay Out of Automobiles", "Courtin' in a Cadillac" and other numbers for the Trumpet and Excello labels. Record collectors discovering southern downhome blues in the 196'0s were especially excited by his coupling of the harmonica instrumental "Steady" and "She's Tough" (1960)."She's Tough" was covered, almost 20 years later by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and recalled in the title of the group's later album Tuff Enuff. In the 1960's McCain made further recordings for Okeh and Jewel but soon afterwards his recording career faded, not to be fully revived until the late 1980's, when he signed with the Ichiban label and made several albums. He had to wait longer than many of his contemporaries to be invited to Europe, but after his first trip in 1990 he was often booked for festivals and club engagements. His last album, and one of his best, This Stuff Just Kills Me (2000) was cut for Music Maker and produced by Mike Vernon with an all-star cast.

Also on tap today are a batch of fine blues queens from the 20's, twin spins by Bukka White, Thomas Shaw, Sylvester Cotton, some fine small band blues from the 40's, some fine latter day down-home blues and a trio of songs about the crossroads.

Jazz great Mary Lou Williams recalls coming across the young Irene Scruggs: "In St. Louis, our show picked up a young blues singer named Irene Scruggs… …Irene had not long settled in St. Louis, and was starting out to become one of St. Louis' finest singers." Scruggs got to sing with a number of Joe "King" Oliver's bands that played in St. Louis in the mid 1920's. She first recorded in 1924 and in 1926 she reignited her working association with Oliver. Two of the songs that Scruggs wrote, "Home Town Blues" and "Sorrow Valley Blues", were both recorded by Oliver. She recorded again for Okeh in 1927, this time with Lonnie Johnson. Scruggs formed her own band in the late 1920's, and appeared regularly performing around the St. Louis area. Using the pseudonym, Chocolate Brown, she recorded tracks with Blind Blake and by the early 1930's, Little Brother Montgomery took over as her accompanist on both recordings and touring work. Her recording career finished around 1935. In the 40's she left for Europe where she stayed for the remainder of her life.

Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds 1922. Left to right: unknown, Bubber Miley,unknown, unknown, Mamie Smith, Coleman Hawkins, unknown, unknown.

On August 10, 1920, in New York City, Mamie Smith recorded a set of songs all written by the African American songwriter, Perry Bradford, including "Crazy Blues" and "It's Right Here For You (If You Don't Get It, 'Tain't No Fault of Mine)", on Okeh Records. It was the first recording of vocal blues by an African American artist, and the record became a best seller, selling a million copies in less than a year. In his autobiography, Born With The Blues, Perry Bradford wrote: "When my jazz band played for Mamie Smith to record the "Crazy Blues, we had no arrangements. They were what I called 'hum and head arrangements.' I mean we would listen to the melody and harmony of the piano and each man picked out his harmony notes. It was crude, but the sound that Mamie and my Jazz Hounds planted that February morning in 1920 had such 'down home' original corn in it that it has sprouted, grown and thrived all down through the years." The success of Smith's record prompted record companies to seek to record other female blues singers and started the era of what is now known as classic female blues. Smith continued to make a series of popular recordings for Okeh throughout the 1920's. Today we spin her terrific, hard swinging, "Goin' Crazy With The Blues" from 1926.

After the war dozens of small labels sprouted to serve the demand for blues and R&B records, many failed or had limited success while others grew and became major players. While down-home artists like John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins found popularity there were also loads of small R&B combos hitting the market. Today we hear a trio of 40's combos including the popular Big Three Trio and the lesser known Bill Crosby and his Band,  Charles Gray & His Rhumboogie Five and T.J. Fowler's band. William J. "Bill" Crosby was a Chicago vocalist whose career remains obscure. Crosby made two sessions for Columbia in Chicago in 1945 and 1946. We spin his humorous "Sneaking Woman Blues." The short-lived Rhumboogie label was the very first R & B independent to come out of the Chicago area. It was named for the famous night club of the same name which was noted for being part owned by world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. In early 1946 Rhumboogie issued # 5001, two tunes by Charles Gray & His Rhumboogie Five ( a pseudonym for Buster Bennett who takes the vocals). The songs were "I'm A Bum Again" and "Crazy Woman Blues" of which we play the former:

I used to eat fried chicken, and steaks big enough for two
But now I'm lucky, if I could buy some groundhog stew

T.J. Fowler assembled his own band and in 1947 accompanied saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams on that artist's first recordings for the Savoy label. Fowler began making records as a leader in 1948, beginning with small Detroit labels like Paradise and Sensation and landing his own contract with Savoy in 1952, sometimes featuring singer Alberta Adams. Fowler's ensemble also used outstanding guitarist Calvin Frazier who back in the 30's ran with Robert Johnson. In Detroit, Fowler and his men served as the backing band for T-Bone Walker and spent the next few years gigging around the Motor City and southeastern Michigan.

We spin some excellent post-war country blues today by Sylvester Cotton, Thomas Shaw, Cleo Page and Jessie Mae Hemphill among others. Sylvester Cotton was a contemporary of John Lee Hooker (one of the Cotton sides was actually credited to Hooker when issued), and, like Hooker, performed solo with their guitar. The sides were cut in Detroit in 1948 and 1949 by recorded by Bernie Besman who ran the Sensation label. All of his recordings, along with contemporary Andrew Dunham, can be found on the Ace label's Blues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949.

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

Not much is known about Cleo Page who seems to have been based in L.A.. In the 50's he cut some singles under different names and backed some west coast artists on record and cut several tough singles in the early 70's. Some of these were issued on the LP Leaving Mississippi which came out on JSP in 1979, the same year Page passed away on L.A..

Jesse Mae Hemphill was born near Como and Senatobia, Mississippi,in northern Mississippi just east of the Mississippi Delta. She began playing the guitar at the age of seven and also played drums in various local Mississippi fife and drum bands. Her musical background began with playing snare drum and bass drum in the fife-and-drum band led by her grandfather, Sid Hemphill. Aside from sitting in at Memphis bars a few times in the 1950's, most of her playing was done in family and informal settings such as picnics with fife and drum music. The first field recordings of her work were made by blues researcher George Mitchell in 1967 and David Evans in 1973. Evans went on to produce her debut album, She-Wolf, in 1981. She recorded and toured prolifically in the 80's across the US and Europe.

‘‘Straight Alky Blues’’ was composed and first recorded by Leroy Carr in 1929. It provided the melodic basis and, to a lesser extent, a lyric basis for ‘‘Black River Blues’’ by Roosevelt Sykes (1929) and for ‘‘Cross Road Blues’’ by Robert Johnson. Johnson's was released by Vocalion in 1937. His second take was performed at a less hurried tempo and with greater care on the guitar, but it was not released until 1961 as the lead track of the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers. ‘‘Cross Road Blues’’ was introduced to white rock musicians by Cream, who included a live recording from a Fillmore East concert on their 1968 two-LP set Wheels of Fire. Today we play variations on the songs by Elmore James, Johnny Shines and Texas Alexander. Alexander's song has little to do with Johnson's version, except for the opening line:

Lord, I was standin' at the crossroad, I was tryin' my best to get a ride (2x)
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody was passin' by

One final record worth mentioning is by Sammy Lawhorn, who spent most of his career as a session guitarist. Lawhorn was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and worked down south with Driftin' Slim and with Sonny Boy Williamson II on the King Biscuit Time radio program. After being discharged from the army in 1958 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and did recording sessions with The "5" Royales, Eddie Boyd, Roy Brown and Willie Cobbs. He relocated to Chicago the early 1960's,  and found regular work as a club sideman to Junior Wells, Otis Rush and Elmore James, which led to him sitting in with Muddy Waters band on a couple of occasions. By October 1964, Lawhorn was invited to join Waters band on a full time basis. Over the next decade, he subsequently played on a number of Waters' albums including Live At Mister Kelly's, The London Muddy Waters Sessions, The Woodstock Album, and Folk Singer. Lawhorn's career started to be hampered by his drinking and Waters fired him in 1973. Lawhorn died in April 1990, at the age of 54. The only album issued under his own names was a solid, low key affair titled After Hours issued on the Isabel label recorded in he early 80's. Today we play the title track.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Mojo BufordDeep Sea Diver Chicago Blues Summit
Mojo BufordMean Old World Chicago Blues Summit
Jimmy CoeAfter Hours JointHonkers & Bar Walkers Vol 1
Memphis Slim & Willie DixonStewballSongs of Memphis Slim and Wee Willie Dixon
Gatemouth MooreWalking My Blues Away Cryin' and Singin' the Blues
Jimmy WitherspoonJust A Country BoyUrban Blues Singing Legend
Bo Carter Bo Carter's AdviceGreatest Hits
Otto Virgil Bad Notion Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Blind Willie McTell Little DeliaAtlanta Twelve String
Willie HeadonBlame It On The BluesBlame It On The Blues
Guitar SlimTrouble Don't LastSufferin' Mind
Big Mama ThorntonCotton Picking BluesThe Original Hound Dog
Roosevelt HoltsCoal Black WomanThe Franklinton Muscatel Society
Roosevelt HoltsBig Road Blues The Franklinton Muscatel Society
Jed DavenportSave Me SomeMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Sleepy John EstesDon't You Want to KnowMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
D.C. Bender Woke Up This MorningIn The Alley: Story Of Ivory Records
Big H WilliamsSomebody's DaughterIn The Alley: Story Of Ivory Records
Mississippi John HurtNobody's Dirty BusinessAvalon Blues: The Complete 1928 OKeh Recording
Henry SpauldingCairo BluesA Richer Tradition
Kid Brown & His Blues BandBo-LitaAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Snooky PryorHold Me in Your ArmsGonna Pitch a Boogie Woogie
Slim HarpoThat Ain't Your BusinessThe Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Vol. 4
Sonny Boy WilliamsonBoppin' With SonnyCool Cool Blues
Elizabeth JohnsonSobbin' Woman Blues A Richer Tradition
Bessie Smith Black Mountain BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Blu Lu BarkerNew Orleans BluesBlu Lu Barker 1938-1939
Little SylviaDrive, Daddy, Drive
I'm A Bad, Bad Girl

Show Notes:

I want to start off by thanking all those who pledged their support during our Fall membership drive. Talking up the pledge drive always takes some time which is why we usually do mix shows during this period. Today's mix show is bookended on a somber note as we pay tribute to the recent passings of Mojo Buford and Sylvia Robinson. In between we spin a pair of tunes by the little remembered Roosevelt Holts, two cuts from the Houston based Ivory label plus our usual mix of pre-war blues including some fine blues ladies, jug band music and an assortment of well known and forgot bluesman from the 20's and 30's. In addition we spend some time in the 40'sand 50's with some more uptown blues and spin a trio of superb harp blowers.

George “Mojo” Buford was still performing up until a few months ago but unfortunately I never got an opportunity to see him. Buford passing marks the third passing of a member of Muddy Waters band this year including Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Buford passed away Oct. 11th at the age of 81. Buford moved from Mississippi to Chicago around 1953 and wound up joining Muddy Waters' band a few years later as a stand-in for James Cotton. Buford played with Waters off and on until Waters' death in 1983. Buford cut several albums as leader over the years including some very hard-to-find early records for his own label. To my ear his best album was Chicago Blues Summit cut in the late 70's. We open the program with two tracks from that record. The album features Muddy bandmates Pee Wee Madison, Sammy Lawhorn and Sonny Rogers plus Little Smokey Smothers. The album was issued on CD on the Japanese P-vine label. Buford blows some fine harp but the album is really ensemble recording letting these talented musicians really stretch out.

Sylvia Robinson passed away September 29, 2011. Born as Sylvia Vanderpool she began recording in 1950 for Columbia Records under the billing Little Sylvia. In 1954 she began teaming up with guitarist Mickey Baker, billed as Mickey & Sylvia. The duo had several R&B hits including “Love Is Strange,” a No. 1 R&B song in 1957. She married Joe Robinson 1959 and the two formed All Platinum Records. In the 1970s, the Robinson's founded Sugar Hill Records. She was the mastermind behind the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip-hop single to become a commercial hit. Some called her “the mother of hip-hop.” For our tribute, however, we go back to the roots and play the jumping “Drive, Daddy, Drive” from 1952 backed by the Buddy Lucas Orchestra.

We spin two today from Roosevelt Holts, one of those great bluesman who seems destined for obscurity. In the liner notes to his first LP, David Evans wrote: "If he had been able to get to a record studio in the 1930's, his records would now be highly prized collector's items, reissued on albums and talked about by blues fans everywhere. He might have even been 'rediscovered' and brought north to the cities for concerts and coffee house engagements before an audience of young whites who were not even born when he recorded his famous numbers." Still, we should be fortunate that Holts was recorded at all and we have Evans to thank. Evans found him in the 1960's in Louisiana resulting in two LP's (both out of Little Sylvia: Drive, Daddy, Driveprint): Presenting The Country Blues (Blue Horizon,1966) and Roosevelt Holts and Friends (Arhoolie, 1969-1970). Several other tracks appear on equally obscure anthologies. Today's selections come from the CD The Franklinton Muscatel Society and collect sides he cut between 1965-1969 and also feature his brother Herlin Holts and L. V. Conerly.

Holts started to get serious about music in the late 1930's when he encountered Tommy Johnson. Around 1937 both men moved to Jackson playing all around town and surrounding towns. During this period he also played with Ishmon Bracey, Johnnie Temple, Bubba Brown, and One Legged Sam Norwood.

We spotlight a pair of songs today from the collection In The Alley: The Best Of Ivory Records. The label was formed by musician Ivory Lee Semiens. Semiens moved from Louisiana to Houston in 1950 and formed Ivory by the end of the decade. The label issued singles by fine Houston bluesman like Lightnin' Hopkins, Earl Gilliam, Hop Wilson, D.C. Bender and Big H Williams. Today's tracks are by the latter two artists both cut in 1967. I don't know much about Williams, but Bender was an active session guitarists on the Houston scene, cutting just a few sides under his own name, but backing artists such as Mabel Franklin, Big Son Tillis, Calvin Johnson and others.

We play a bunch of superb blues ladies today including, perhaps, the greatest of them all, Bessie Smith. Throughout the 20's there a staggering number of blues woman recorded, some had long, prolific careers like Victoria Spivey, Alberta Hunter, Clara Smith, Ma Rainey and became stars that are still remembered today. Many other fine singers from the era remain utterly forgotten like Elizabeth Johnson who we feature today. She cut two terrific 78's for Okeh in 1928 and an unissued 78 for Vocalion in 1929. To me Bessie remains the greatest out of a crowded field and our selection, “Black Mountain Blues”, is a typically fine example:

Back in Black Mountain, a child will smack your face (2x)
Babies cryin' for liquor, and all the birds sing bass

Black Mountain people are bad as they can be (2x)
They uses gunpowder just to sweeten their tea

Back in Black Mountain, can't keep a man in jail (2x)
If the jury finds him guilty, the judge'll throw they bail

Had a man in Black Mountain, sweetest man in town (2x)
He met a city gal, and he throwed me down

I'm bound for Black Mountain, me and my razor and my gun (2x)
I'm gonna shoot him if he stands still, and cut him if he runs

Down in Black Mountain, they all shoot quick and straight (2x)
The bullet'll get you, if you start dodgin' too late

Got the devil in my soul, and I'm full of bad booze (2x)
I'm out here for trouble, I've got the Black Mountain blues

Nothing is known about Elizabeth Johnson who cut four fine sides including a two part cover of Bessie's “Empty Bed Blues” backed by King Oliver. Billed as Elizabeth Johnson & Her Turpentine Tree-O she cut "Sobbin' Woman Blues b/w Be My Kid Blues” with the band providing an eccentric backing of cornet, guitar and percussive woodblocks.

During the heyday of race recording the record companies (except Paramount) headed down south and set up mobile recording units to find artists for an audience that was buying blues records in huge numbers. Among those that were recorded were those that went on to long illustrious careers and those that waxed just a side or two before receding back into obscurity. To get some indication of the talented bluesman who the commercial companies overlooked we can look the the field recording done during this period. Folks like John and Alan Lomax and Lawrence Gellert recorded some remarkable blues during this period. Then there were other artists, like the aforementioned Roosevelt Holts, who were active during this period but didn't get the opportunity to record until the blues revival of the 1960's. It's interesting to conjecture how many fine blues performers were never captured on record and my bet is that there were more than a few. Going back to the early days of blues record collecting there's always been the allure of those artists who we know nothing about, like the previously mentioned Elizabeth Johnson, but left behind one or two brilliant records. We spin a few of those records today including sides by Otto Virgil, Henry Spaulding and Kid Brown And His Blues Band.

Mississippian Otto Virgil recorded two superb 78's in Chicago for Bluebird on Halloween in 1925. Big Joe Williams once recalled that Otto Virgil (or Virgial) was from the area of Columbus, MS., and could usually be found playing with another native by the name of Tom Turner. Henry Spaulding cut the lone 78 "Cairo Blues b/w Biddle Street Blues" for Brunswick in 1929. In his memoir, A Blues Life, Henry Townsend recalled Spaulding: "Harry and I worked together periodically. He worked at the moving van company on Twenty-third and Carr. …And if Harry didn't go out, we'd get the guitars and go out and serenade all around everywhere, walk the streets. We had a district we'd like to go in, and we'd head down there because we knew we'd get together with a crowd and gets some quarters and dimes, have all the drinks we needed, and have a lot of fun." Nothing is known about Kid Brown And His Blues Band who cut one side for Black Patti, "Bo-lita", with the other side featuring Al Miller’s “Saturday Night Hymn.” This is an extremely rare record, perhaps two to three known copies, with a copy selling at auction last year for over $4,000.

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Show Notes:

For today's show we continue with our ongoing series I call Forgotten Blues Heroes. For this installment we spotlight four great Mississippi bluesmen who didn't get the opportunity to record until the 1960's: James Brewer, Shirley Griffith, Roosevelt Holts and Houston Stackhouse. All these gentlemen were old enough to have been recorded earlier but opportunity passed them by until the blues revival of the 1960's. In addition to the resurrection of the legendary artists of the past like Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White and Skip James there were a slew of older artists uncovered who got a chance to make some recordings. Unlike those who recorded back in the 1920's and 30's for the commercial record companies and black consumers, those who recorded in the 1960's were being recorded primarily for a a new found white audience with the records issued usually on tiny specialist labels. The benefit wasn't in sales of records so much as it was the fact that these recordings would be an entry way into the festival and coffeehouse circuit. Unfortunately many of these small labels never lasted into the CD era and hence many great albums remain long out of print. The bulk of today's recordings fall into that category and it seems only Houston Stackhouse is lucky enough to have just about all of his recordings available on CD. In upcoming installments of this series I plan on spotlighting other who made their debuts in the 1960's and 70's such as James "Son" Thomas, Sam Chatmon, Scott Dunbar, Joe Callicott, Bill Williams, Babe Stovall and Frank Hovington to name a few.

Jim Brewer - Tough LuckJames Brewer was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi on October 3rd 1920 and moved to Chicago in the 1940's where he spent the latter part of his life busking and performing both blues and religious songs at blues and folk festivals, on Chicago's Maxwell Street and other venues. While playing on the streets of Brookhaven in the 1930's he learned most of the religious songs that he continued to perform throughout his life. His father told him he could make more money playing blues and as he grew older he started performing at parties having learned his repertoire from records.  Following the death of his mother the family moved to Chicago where he eventually found his way to Maxwell Street. in the early 1950's he settled in St. Louis playing streetcars and taverns and also joined a washboard band for a spell. By the mid-50's he was back in Chicago where he married his wife Fannie. Brewer's new mother-in-law bought him an electric guitar and amplfier. Returning to Maxwell Street he devoted himself exclusively to religious music. In 1962, however, he was offered an opportunity to play blues at a concert at Northwestern University and also began a regular gig at the No Exit Cafe which lasted for two decades. He went on to play major festivals and clubs in the United States, Canada and Europe. He was recorded by Swedish Radio in 1964, cut sides for the Heritage label and Testament plus cut the full-length albums Jim Brewer (Philo, 1974) and Tough Luck (Earwig, 1983).

Born in 1907 near Brandon, Mississippi Shirley Griffith was certainly old enough to have made records in the 1920’s and 30’s and in fact had at least two opportunities to do so. In 1928 his friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too "wild and reckless" in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In 1935 Carr offered to take Griffith to New York for a recording session but Carr died suddenly and the trip was never made. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record and who also precipitated the comeback of Scrapper Blackwell. Rosenbaum produced Griffith’s Bluesville albums. "I recall one August afternoon", he wrote in the notes to Saturday Blues, "shortly after these recordings were made; Shirley sat in Scrapper Blackwell’s furnished room singing the 'Bye Bye Blues' with such intensity that everyone present was deeply moved, though they had all heard him sing it many times before. Scrapper wasShirley Griffith - Mississippi Blues playing , too, and the little room swelled with sound. When they finished there was a moment of awkward silence. Finally Shirley smiled and said: ‘The blues'll kill you. And make you live, too.’"

Writing about another older musician who only recorded late in life, Tony Russell had this to say: “Through this streaked glass one can discern the outlines of a younger, quicker musician who unfortunately never recorded.” It would have been interesting to hear how Griffith sounded when he was younger but it’s hard to imagine him sounding much better than on these late recordings. His singing is superb on these recordings; warm, controlled and expressive, often drawing out his phrases in a relaxed, easy manner. His guitar playing is subtle, melodic and gently propulsive and contains hidden depths upon repeated listening.

Shirley 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). In addition some field recordings from the early 1960's were issued on the Flyright album Indianapolis Jumps. The fact that all these 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

Presenting The Country BluesRoosevelt Holts was a country bluesman of considerable skill who in a small way was caught up in the blues boom of the 1960's, finally getting the opportunity to record scattered sides and a couple of LP's in the 1960's and 1970's. Holts, who was born in 1905, likely would have achieved greater recognition if he had gotten the chance to make records in the 1920's and 1930's as David Evans emphasized: "If he had been able to get to a record studio in the 1930's, his records would now be highly prized collector's items, reissued on albums and talked about by blues fans everywhere. He might have even been "rediscovered" and brought north to the cities for concerts and coffee house engagements before an audience of young whites who were not even born when he recorded his famous numbers." Holts was born in 1905 near Tylertown, Mississippi, and he took up the guitar when he was in his mid-twenties. He started to get serious about music in the late 1930's when he encountered Tommy Johnson. Folklorist David Evans began recording Holts in 1965 resulting in two LP's (both out of print): Presenting The Country Blues (Blue Horizon,1966) and Roosevelt Holts and Friends (Arhoolie, 1969-1970) plus the collection The Franklinton Muscatel Society featuring his earliest sides through 1969 which is available on CD.  In addition selections recorded by Evans appeared on the following anthologies (all out of print): Goin' Up The Country (Decca, 1968), The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (Matchbox, 1972), South Mississippi Blues (Rounder, 1974 ?), Way Back Yonder …Original Country Blues Volume 3 (Albatros, 1979 ?), Giants Of Country Blues Vol. 3 (Wolf, 199?) and a very scarce 45 ("Down The Big Road" b/w "Blues On Mind") cut for the Bluesman label in 1969.

Houston Stackhouse
Houston Stackhouse

Stackhouse's family moved to Crystal Springs, Mississippi in the mid-1920's, where he learned songs from Tommy Johnson and his brothers and took up guitar. In the early 1930's, he moved to Hollandale, Mississippi where his cousin, Robert Lee McCullum (later known as Robert Nighthawk) lived. It was Houston who taught Robert Nighthawk how to play the bottleneck guitar. In 1946, Houston moved to Helena, Arkansas where he played with Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) on The King Biscuit Time show, on KFFA Radio. His association with the King Biscuit show and his living in Helena brought him in contact with many of the great blues players. He played with Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Roosevelt Sykes and Earl Hooker. From the late 1940's and up until 1954, Houston worked for the Chrysler Corporation in Helena. He continued to play, but less frequently after he married in the late 1950's. Periodically, he returned to the King Biscuit show. In 1967 he made his first recordings cutting field recordings for George Mitchell and shortly after for David Evans. At the tail end of August 1967 George Mitchell recorded an impromptu combo who called themselves the Blues Rhythm Boys in Dundee, MS, a small town on route 61 roughly halfway between Tunica and Friars Point and just across the river from Helena, AR. The group consisted of Houston Stackhouse, Robert Nighthawk and James "Peck" Curtis. As I wrote in my notes to Prowling With The Nighthawk: "The music harks back to Nighthawk and Stackhouse's early delta days. Tommy Johnson's influence looms large with five of his songs being covered. In a way Nighthawk's life had come full circle; he was once again playing with Stackhouse who taught how to play guitar, Stackhouse in turn learned directly from Tommy Johnson and here were the two old friends performing the songs of Johnson together one final time. Nghthawk died less than two months after these recordings on Nov. 5 1967 of congestive heart failure at the Helena hospital. These 1967 recordings have been justly celebrated and long available, with the Mitchell sides appearing on Arhoolie’s Mississippi Delta Blues- Blow My Blues Away Vol. 1 & 2 and Robert Nighthawk & Houston Stackhouse – Masters of Modern Blues Volume 4 while the Evans recordings are available on  Big Road Blues on the Wolf label. In 1972 Stackhouse recorded Crying Won't Help You for the Adelphi label. He was part of The Memphis Blues Caravan, traveled around the Eastern states, toured Europe in 1970 and played the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues Festival with Joe Willie Wilkins under the name The King Biscuit Boys. He died in 1980

Related Articles: (Word Docs)

-Shirley Griffith/Yank Rachell Concert Review by Leo Kunstadt (Record Research 9, 1968)

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