Entries tagged with “Roy Brown”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Ray CharlesMr. Charles BluesRay Charles 1953-54
Little Brother Montgomery After Hours BluesMemphis Minnie: Early Rhythm & Blues 1949
Big John & His OrchestraToo Late BluesRockin' On Acorn: Regent Vol. 1
Howlin' WolfChocolate Drop (Brown Skin Woman) Rides Again
Muddy WatersLook What You've DoneThe Complete Recordings
Joe Evans & Arthur McClainDown In Black BottomDown In Black Bottom: Lowdown Barrelhouse Piano
Bo CarterTush Hog BluesBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Harry ChatmonThese Jackson Women Will Not Treat You Right Deep South Blues Piano 1935-1937
Cliff ButlerGold Diggin' BabyBlues & Gospel Kings Vol.1 1945-50
Marylyn Scott Straighten Him Out Rockin' On Acorn: Regent Vol. 1

Gene Coy & His Killer DillersKiller DillerRockin' On Acorn: Regent Vol. 1
William Floyd DavisThe Capt'nLive At The Bootleggers
William Floyd DavisLookin' Down The RoadLive At The Bootleggers
Pillie Biling Brown Skin WomanTrouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
Mae GloverPig Meat Mama Mae Glover 1927-1931
Barbecue BobRed Hot Mama, Papa's Going to Cool You Off Barbecue Bob Vol. 2 1928-1929
James ButlerLonesome BluesElko Blues Vol. 3
Mance LipscombCaptain, CaptainCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Jimmy GrissomThey Call It The BluesYet More Mellow Cats & Kittens
Roosevelt SykesHe's Just a Gravy TrainRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 9 1947-1951
Roy BrownBlack DiamondGood Rocking Tonight: The Best Of Roy Brown
Lightnin' HopkinsAt Home BluesThe Texas Bluesman
Lightnin' HopkinsBlack and EvilTexas Blues
Josie MilesSouth Bound BluesJosie Miles Vol. 2 1924-1925
Clara SmithBlack Cat MoanThe Essential
Mary JohnsonBlack Gal BluesMary Johnson 1929-1936

Show Notes:

Rockin On Acorn-Regent Vol. 1Okay, a little radio business before we get into the notes. Today's show is our first during this year's first pledge drive. The Jazz90.1 spring 2014 membership campaign kicks off on Monday March 10th, with a goal of $50,000. Each year, Jazz90.1 must raise all operating funds through pledge drives and special events. Without support from listeners who become members, Jazz90.1 simply would not survive. For myself and the rest of the DJ's our shows are a labor of love  and if you're a regular listener, and have the means, please consider pledging. As usual lots of interesting records on deck today including some fine jump blues, lots of pre-war blues gems from the well known to the obscure, several exceptional early blues ladies, a pair of tracks from a new collection of field recordings and two superb cuts by Lightnin' Hopkins.

We spin a batch of great 1940's jump blues, a style I should probably play more of. Two cuts come from a recent collection I picked up called Rockin On Acorn-Regent Vol. 1, the first of the volumes, that gather sides from the Regent and Acorn imprints. Both labels were subsidiaries of Savoy with Regent operating between 1947 and 1964 and Acorn from 1949 through 1951.  Gene Coy & His Killer Dillers give some fine jive talking jump on "Killer Diller", Big John & His Orchestra deliver some after hour blues on "Too Late Blues" while Marylyn Scott's delivers the bouncy "Straighten Him Out." Mary DeLoatch, also known as Mary DeLoach, was a Norfolk, Virginia based gospel singer who used the name Marylin Scott or Marylyn Scott the Carolina Blues Girl when performing blues tunes. When her gospel self took over she sounded more than a little like Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She switched to exclusively religious material after 1950 and her final recording appears to have been made in 1967 when she was photographed playing an electric guitar while wearing evangelical robes. In similar vein is the always up-to-date Roosevelt Sykes on the gently jumping "He's Just A Gravy Train" with with knockout electric guitar from Henry Townsend. Then's there's Roy's Brown's relentlessly rocking "Black Diamond" from 1954.

Live At The BootleggersWe spin two tracks from a new LP on the Sutro Park label, Live At The Bootleggers. The recordings were made by Begnt Olsson in 197 1in Fayette County, Tennessee at the home of a bootlegger and include some unreleased material. Olsson taped some superb field recordings in Tennessee and Alabama between 1969 and 1974. Several years back Birdman Records (Sutro Park is an affiliated all vinyl imprint) purchased Olsson's entire library of recordings. So far the label has issued three prior releases: Old Country Blues Vol. 1, Bishop Perry Tillis: Too Close and in 2010 the Sutro Park label issued a vinyl album titled Wolf's At The Door: Lost Recordings From The Spirits Of The South which included some unreleased recordings by Olsson.

I have a soft spot for the blues ladies of the 20's and have featured them often on my show. Everybody know Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey but there were hundreds of blues ladies recorded in the first half of the decade, many forgettable and many forgotten but deserving wider recognition. Josie Miles falls in the latter category, heard in fine form on "South Bound Blues." By the early 1920's Miles was working in New York City, where she appeared in Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle's musical comedy Shuffle Along. In 1922 she made her first recordings, for the Black Swan Company, and later recorded for the Gennett, Ajax, Edison, and Banner Records labels. According to blues writer Steve Tracy, Josie Miles was characterized by "a light but forceful delivery that was not low-down but was nevertheless convincing." Her last recordings date from 1925.

Clara Smith recorded more than double the output of Miles, cutting over 120 sides over a ten year period. Looking back, I realize how often I've played Smith and how unjustly obscure she remains at least in comparison by her more famous label mate Bessie Smith. Carl Van Vechten of Vanity Fair compared them in 1926: "[Clara] employs, however, more nuances of expression than Bessie. Her voice flutters agonizingly between tones. Music critics would say she sings off key. What she really does, of course, is sing quarter tones. This she is justifiably bill as the 'World's greatest moaner.' She appears to be more of an artist than Bessie, but I suspect that this apparent artistry is spontaneous and uncalculated.One learns from her that the Negro's cry to a cruel cupid is moving and elemental, as is his cry to God, as expressed in his Spirituals." All of Smith's recordings are available on Document, six volumes in all, and are consistently strong despite some some lackluster sound quality. "Black Cat Moan" from 1927 finds her in peak from baked by the superb Bob Fuller on cornet. This recordings comes from  Clara Smith Vol. 5 1927-1929, capturing a particularity good period in Smith"s career.

Josie Miles
Josie Miles

Also featured today is is the fine singer Mary Johnson who I've also played quite a bit over the years.  Johnson  (sometimes billed as "Signifying Mary") came late to the game, making her debut in 1929, cut just shy of two dozen songs, achieved modest success and never recorded again after 1936 despite living until 1983. While it's true that Johnson wasn't in the same league as Bessie and Clara, she left behind a small, very impressive body of work that merits more attention. Johnson was a fine singer with a clear, low, moaning style that came across well on record. She also wrote a number of moving songs, many filled with vivid violent and sexual imagery and an unrelenting bleak view of the world. Johnson was blessed with superb backing musicians throughout her brief career that elevated her recordings above many of her contemporaries. She was accompanied by either Henry Brown, Judson Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, or Peetie Wheetstraw on piano, many selections featuring trombonist Ike Rodgers, guitarists Tampa Red and Kokomo Arnold and violinist Artie Mosby.

Other pre-war artists featured today include Bo Carter and Harry Chatmon both of the famous Chatmon family. Bo was one of the most popular bluesmen of the 30's known for his risqué numbers like today's "Tush Hog Blues." Harry Chatman cut ten songs under his name in1935 across three sessions, two in New Orleans and a final one in Jackson, Mississippi. He backed Walter Visnon on two sides in 1936.

Speaking of risqué songs we play a set featuring Mae Glover, Pillie Bolling and Barbecue Bob. Bolling, an associate of Greenville singer Ed Bell, sings about his "Brown Skin Woman", Glover proclaims herself a "Pigmeat Mama" complete with some convincing yodeling and Barbecue Bob serves up the fast paced hokum blues "Red Hot Mama, Papa's Going to Cool You Off."

 

Share

ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Howlin' WolfEvil Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Lazy Lester BloodstainsI'm A Lover Not A Fighter
Pat HareI'm Gonna Murder My BabySun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost BluesLonnie Johnson: Vol. 1 1937 -1940
Lightnin' HopkinsBlack Ghost BluesComplete Prestige / Bluesville Recording
Johnny FullerBlack CatWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Howlin' Wolf Moanin' At Midnight Complete Recordings 1951-1969
B.B. KingBad LuckThe Vintage Years
Hop WilsonMy Woman Has A Black Cat BoneSteel Guitar Flash
Victoria SpiveyBlood Thirsty BluesVictoria Spivey: Vol 1 1926-1927
Lil JohnsonMurder In The First DegreeLil Johnson: Vol. 2 1936-1937
Smokey HoggBorn On The 13thAngels In Harlem
Lightnin' HopkinsMojo HandMojo Hand
Baby Boy WarrenSomebody Put Bad Luck On MeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Robert JohnsonHell Hound On My TrailThe Centennial Collection
Tampa RedWitchin' Hour BluesThe Essential
Casey Bill WeldonI've Been TrickedCasey Bill Weldon: Vol. 3 1937-1938
Esther PhillipsNo Headstone On My GraveThe Country Side of Esther Phillips
Jimmy WitherspoonEndless SleepBaby, Baby, Baby
Rev. Emmett DickinsonYou Midnight Joy RidersRev Emmett Dickinson 1929-1930
Sylvester Weaver Devil BluesSylvester Weaver: Vol. 2 1927
Charlie Burse & His Memphis MudcatsHell's HighwayMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Billy Bird Down In the CemeteryLet Me Tell You About The Blues - Atlanta
Charlie SegerLonesome Graveyard BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My Grave
The Classic Years 1927-1940
Memphis Minnie
Hoodoo Lady Memphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936
Sonny Boy WilliamsonHoodoo HoodooThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.2
Gene PhillipsSuperstitious WomanDrinkin' And Stinkin'
Roy BrownUp Jumped The DevilMighty Mighty Man
Bessie SmithHaunted House BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Ma RaineyBlack Cat, Hoot Owl BluesMother of the Blues
Leola Manning Laying in the GraveyardRare Country Blues Vol.1

Show Notes:

Today's show is devoted to Halloween. Today we spin a wide range of songs from the 20's through the 60's. We'll hear songs about evil, Bad luck, bloody murder (both by men and woman), Hoodoo, Mojo Hands, Black Cat Bones, graveyards, the devil, Hell, superstition, haunted houses, gypsy woman and more.

Among the themes running through today's are that of hoodoo. Hoodoo, also known as conjure, is a form of predominantly African-American traditional folk magic that developed from a number of separate cultures and magical traditions. The goal of hoodoo is to allow people access to supernatural forces to improve their daily lives by gaining power in many areas of life, including luck, money, love, divination, revenge, health, employment, and necromancy. Many blues musicians have referred to hoodoo in their songs. In addition to the expected terms "hoodoo" and "mojo", other conjure words in blues songs include "jinx", "goofer dust", "nation sack", "black cat bone", "John de conkeroo" (John the Conqueror root), "graveyard dirt", and "black spider dumplings." We play several songs with these themes including Hop Wilson "My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone", Lightnin' Hopkins "Mojo Hand", Memphis Minnie "Hoodoo Lady", Muddy Waters "Gypsy Woman", Sonny Boy Williamson "Hoodoo Hoodoo" and  Casey Bill Weldon "I've Been Tricked."

The term black cat bone and mojo show up in a number of blues songs. The notorious black cat bone charm is strongly identified with African American hoodoo. Hoodoo doctors claimed that every black cat has within its body one bone that will either grant the owner invisibility or can be used to bring back a lost lover. To secure this bone, they said, a black cat must be thrown alive into a cauldron of boiling water at midnight. A mojo is the staple amulet of African-American hoodoo practice, a flannel bag containing one or more magical items. In Lightnin' Hopkins' classic "Mojo Hand" he sings:

I'm goin' to Louisiana, and get me a mojo hand (2x)
I'm gonna fix my woman so she can't have no other man

(John Lee) Sonny Boy Williamson sang a similar verse in his "Hoodoo Hoodoo":

One night I'm goin' down in Louisiana
And buy me another mojo hand
All because I got to break up my baby
From lovin' this other man

Mojos figure in numerous blues songs: Ida Cox "Mojo Hand Blues", Coot Grant & Wesley Wilson "Keep Your Hands Off My Mojo", Barbecue Bob "New Mojo Blues" and of couse Muddy Waters "Got My Mojo Working."

Murder also shows up in quite a number of blues songs. One of the more haunting numbers is "Bloodstains" originally cut by Frank 'Honeyboy' Patt for Specialty in 1953. Today we spin Lazy Lester's version circa cut 1958/59 which retains the memorable opening line:

Sheets and pillows torn to pieces, bloodstain all over the wall (2x)
Well, I know I wasn't injured when I left this mornin', I didn't leave the phone out in the hall

We also spin Victoria Spivey's "Blood Thirst blues" a haunting 1927 tale of murder:

Blood, blood look at all that blood (2x)
Yes I killed my man, a low down good for nothing cur

Along the same vein are Lil Johnson's "Murder In The First Degree" (1936) and Pat Hare's "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" (1954). Unfortunately in Hare's case, life imitated art. Sixteen years later Hare shot his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. When a police officer was dispatched to the scene, Hare also shot and killed him. He was sentenced to life in prison for the two killings. In 1980, he died in prison of cancer.

Cemetery and graveyards are the topic of many blues songs. Today we hear Billy Bird's "Down In the Cemetery", Charlie Seger's "Lonesome Graveyard Blues", Leola Manning "Laying in the Graveyard", Esther's Phillips "No Headstone On My Grave" and Blind Willie McTell's "Lay Some Flowers On My Grave", a beautifully poetic number:

You must lay some flowers on my grave (2x)
My mother and father have gone
Left me in this world alone
You must lay some flowers on my grave

My father was a roll sport and a gambler too
And he left me hear just singing the blues
I hope my heart will change
I don't want to die the same
You must lay some flowers on my grave

Put a wreath of flowers at my right side
Then you'll know that McTell's satisfied
Put a bouquet in my breast
You know the poor boy's gone to rest
You must lay some flowers on my grave

Now when this old building is fallin' down
Just lay me six feet in the cold cold ground
Wrap me up in silent clay
'Cause I come here to die one day
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

Put a morning glory at my head and feet
Then you'll know that McTell's gone to sleep
On my headboard write my name
I  left a many girl's heart in pain
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

Now snatch the pillow from under my head
Don't grieve and worry after the days I'm dead
When I bid you this last goodbye
Don't none of you womens cry
You just lay some flowers on my grave

Now when I'm gone to come no more
And old pallbearers lay me low
When you hear that coffin sound
You'll know McTell is in the ground
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

Now when the poor boy's dead and gone
I'm left in this old world all alone
When you hear that church bell toll
You'll know McTell's dead and gone
Hot mama, lay some flowers on my grave

One of the enduring blues myths is that of Robert Johnson and the devil but before "Hellhound On My Trail" (1937) and "Me And The Devil Blues" (1937) the devil popped up in quite a number of songs: Clara Smith "Done Sold My Soul to the Devil" (1924), Sylvester Weaver "Devil Blues" (1927), Texas Alexander "Blue Devil Blues" (1928), Robert Peeples "Wicked Devil's Blues" (1929), Skip James "Devil Got My Woman" (1931), Peetie Wheatstraw "Devil's Son-In-Law" (1931), Mississippi Sheiks "I Am the Devil" (1934), Casey Bill Weldon "Sold It To The Devil" (1937) and more. Weaver's "Devil's Blues" is a particularly imaginative and humorous number:

Had a dream while sleeping, found myself way down below, my Lord,
I had a dream while sleeping, found myself way down below
Couldn't get to Heaven, Hell's the place I had to go

Devil had me cornered, stuck me with his old pitchfork (2x)
And he put me in an oven, thought he had me for roast pork

Hellhounds start to chasin' me and I was a runnin' fool
Hellhounds start to chase me and I was a runnin' fool
My ankles caught on fire, couldn't keep my puppies cool

Four thousand devils with big tails and sharp horns, my Lordy,
Saw a thousand devils with tails and sharp horns
Everyone wandered, tried to step on my corns

For miles around I heard men scream and yell, my Lord,
For miles around, heard men scream and yell
Couldn't see a woman, I said, "Lord, ain't this Hell?"

This number was updated by Lazy Bill Lucas in 1954 for Chance as "I Had A Dream."

As for superstitions like bad luck, ghosts and black cats the blues has those kinds of topics in spades. Today we feature numbers such as Gene Phillips "Superstitious Woman", Ma Rainey "Black Cat, Hoot Owl Blues", Johnny Fuller "Black Cat", B.B. King "Bad Luck", Smokey Hogg "Born On The 13th", Lightnin' Hopkins "Black Ghost Blues" and Lonnie Johnson "Blue Ghost Blues" among others. Johnson cut several versions of  the chillingly poetic  "Blue Ghost Blues" but I think his 1938 version was the best:

Mmmmmm, something cold is creepin' around (2x)
Blue Ghost is got me, I feel myself sinkin' down

Black cat and a owl, come to keep my company (2x)
He understands my troubles, mmm, and sympathize with me

I been in this haunted house, for three long years today (2x)
Blue Ghost is got my shack surrounded, oh Lord, and I can't get away

I feel cold arms around me, and ice lips upon my cheeks (2x)
My lover is dead, how plainly plain I can hear her speak.

Oh Lonnie, oh Lonnie oh Lonnie, sweet Lonnie [spoken words - falsetto voice]
That's my baby [spoken words Lonnie Johnson]

My windows begin rattlin', my doorknob is turnin' round an' round (2x)
My lover's ghost is got me, and I know my time won't be long

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Professor Longhair Her Mind Is GoneMercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953
Professor Longhair Been Foolin' AroundMercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953
Smiley LewisTee-Nah-Nah Shame Shame Shame
Paul Gayten & Annie LaurieI Ain't Gonna Let You InCreole Gal
Dave BartholomewCarnival DayDave Bartholomew 1947-50
Archibald Stack-O-Lee Pt. 1Crescent City Bounce
Archibald She's Scattered EverywhereCrescent City Bounce
Archibald Crescent City BounceCrescent City Bounce
Dave BartholomewIn The Alley Dave Bartholomew 1950-52
Smiley LewisSad LifeShame Shame Shame
Tommy RidgleyTra la la Crescent City Bounce
Fats Domino Rockin' Chair Out Of New Orleans
Fats Domino Don't You Lie To Me Out Of New Orleans
Guitar SlimCertainly All Sufferin' Mind
Cousin Joe Second Hand Love Crescent City Bounce
Blazer-BoyWaiting For My Baby Crescent City Bounce
Dave BartholomewLawdy Lawdy Lord Pt. 1Dave Bartholomew 1950-52
Tommy Ridgley I Live My Life Crescent City Bounce
Shirley & LeeI'm GoneThe Cosimo Matassa Story
Smiley LewisYou're Gonna Miss MeShame Shame Shame
Roy Brown Letter From HomeRoy Brown 1951-53
Roy Brown Money Can't Buy LoveRoy Brown 1951-53
Fats Domino Going To The RiverOut Of New Orleans
Fats Domino Going Home Out Of New Orleans
Fats Domino Mardi Gras in New OrleansOut Of New Orleans
Lloyd PriceMailman Boogie Lloyd Price 1952-53
Sugar Boy Crawford Jock-A-MoCrescent City Soul: Sound of New Orleans
Smiley LewisBlue MondayShame Shame Shame
Smiley LewisThe Rocks Shame Shame Shame
Smiley LewisDown The Road Shame Shame Shame
Guitar Slim The Things I Used To DoSufferin' Mind
Guitar Slim The Story of My LifeSufferin' Mind
Guitar Slim A Letter To My Girlfriend Sufferin' Mind

Show Notes:

With the exception of two sides by Champion Jack Dupree, our first New Orleans show really started in the post-war era when the city's first blues and R&B singers started getting on record. Today we continue the story spanning 1950 through 1953. The New Orleans pre-war blues scene was not well documented on record outside of early performers like Richard "Rabbit" Brown, Lizzie Miles and Blu Lu Barker. Even in the 1940's the scene was dominated by jazz and dixieland bands like Kid Thomas, Billie and De De Pierce, George Lewis and John Handy. During the 1940's and into the 1950s a distinctly New Orleans approach to blues and R&B emerged. Usually piano-driven and backed by inventive rhythms that showed the marked influence of second-line marching and brass bands, New Orleans blues and R&B developed a rolling, joyous feel that captured the rollicking feel of the city. As author John Broven writes: "The freewheeling, happy-go-lucky music is known as the New Orleans Sound, which has its roots in the original beat of the old parade bands of the nineteenth century. Whether it's rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, soul or modern jazz, the parade beat is the ubiquitous common factor, the foundation, if you like." And as record producer Marshall Sehorn said: 'This is the home of the second line, that extra syncopated beat that has been in existence ever since the first black man picked upa tambourine."

There's a distinct emphasis on the piano blues, particularly in the formative years of the New Orleans blues scene of the 40's. This can be linked to the influence of jazz pioneers in the 1920s like Jelly Roll Morton. Three figures dominated, and set the tone for, New Orleans rhythm and blues in the 1940's and into the 50's: Professor Longhair, Dave Bartolomew and Fats Domino. Other pianists heard today include Archibald and Paul Gayten plus a slew of talented singers, most famously Roy Brown, Cousin Joe, Tommy Ridgley, Smiley Lewis and Guitar Slim plus a batch of fine little remembered figures from the Crescent City's past.

On part one we spun a half dozen sides by Professor Longhair and we open today's program with two more, "Her Mind Is Gone" and the rollicking "Been Foolin' Around." Longhair grew up on the streets of New Orleans, tap dancing for tips on Bourbon Street with his running partners. Local 88s aces Sullivan Rock, Kid Stormy Weather, and Tuts Washington were early influences. Longhair began to take his playing seriously in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club. Longhair debuted on wax in 1949, laying down four tracks (including the first version of his signature "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," for the Dallas-based Star Talent label. Union problems forced those sides off the market, but Longhair's next date for Mercury the same year produced his first and only national R&B hit in 1950, the hilarious "Bald Head." The pianist made great records for Atlantic in 1949, Federal in 1951, Wasco in 1952, and Atlantic again in 1953 plus other scattered small label sides through the 50's.

Imperial Records Billboard Ad, 1952

Today's program boasts several more fine piano pounders including Paul Gayten, who we featured on the first installment, plus several sides by Archibald and of of Fats Domino whose 1949 smash "The Fat Man" we played in part one. When most people think of the song "Stagger Lee," they think of Lloyd Price and his 1958 chart-topping single. Eight years before Price's version, however, a single on Imperial Records (spelled "Stack-a-Lee"), credited to and featuring the piano of Archibald, reached the R&B Top Ten. He was born Leon T. Gross in New Orleans, LA, in 1912 and took up the piano as a child, initially entertaining at parties under the name "Archie Boy," which became Archibald. In 1950, he was signed to Imperial Records, part of the same wave that brought Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino onto the company's roster, and Archibald made his first recordings in March 1950. He never saw the national charts again with any of his sides, recording for Imperial until 1952. He died of a heart attack at the age of 60.

Paul Gayten, a seminal figure in New Orleans rhythm & blues, led a varied career in the music business as a bandleader, producer, label owner, and one-time overseer of the West Coast operation of Chess Records. A nephew of blues-piano legend Little Brother Montgomery, Gayten once led one of the top bands of New Orleans, but he gave up the performing life in 1956 to turn his attention to production and eventually to his own California-based Pzazz label. Gayten wrote Larry Darnell's 1949 classic "For You My Love" and recorded a few Top Ten hits of his own for Regal and DeLuxe (1947-1950), some of them with vocalist Annie Laurie including today's featured track, "I Ain't Gonna Let You In."

The most popular exponent of the classic New Orleans R&B sound, Fats Domino sold more records than any other black rock & roll star of the 1950s. Domino's first single, "The Fat Man" (1949) made number two on the R&B charts, and sold a million copies. Just as important, it established a vital partnership between Fats and Imperial A&R man Dave Bartholomew. He would also usually employ New Orleans session greats like Alvin Tyler on sax and Earl Palmer on drums, musicians who were vital in establishing New Orleans R&B as a distinct entity. Domino didn't cross over into the pop charts in a big way until 1955, when "Ain't That a Shame" made the Top Ten. We spotlight a number of bluesy items from his early years including "Rockin' Chair", a fine rendition of Tampa Red's "Don't You Lie To Me"  and a blasting version of "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" among others.

We played a batch of terrific sides by Dave Bartholomew on part one and continue with the second line strut of "Carnival, the good time "In the Alley" and the slinky "Lawdy Lawdy Lord Pt. 1" all propelled by some a band of knockout New Orleans musicians. Bartholomew helped develop and define the sound of rhythm & blues in the Fifties. He was a bandleader, trumpet player, songwriter, producer, arranger, talent scout, businessman, and more. Although he never made the pop charts under his own name, Bartholomew was a key figure in the transition from jump blues and big-band swing to rhythm & blues and rock and roll. Bartholomew is most famous for having discovered and produced Fats Domino, with whom he produced and wrote songs for through the Fifties and beyond. But he’s worked with a who’s-who of New Orleans R&B figures: Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley & Lee, Earl King, Roy Brown, Huey "Piano" Smith, Chris Kenner, Robert Parker, Frankie Ford, James Booker, Jewel King, James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, Tommy Ridgley and more. In the late 40s, he formed his own band, which became one of the most popular and accomplished in the city. Between 1947 and the early 60’s Bartholomew recorded prolifically under his own name mostly for Imperial but also for Deluxe, Aladdin, Specialty, King and Jax. His records featured the cream of New Orleans musicians like Earl Palmer, Ernest McClean, Edgar Blanchard, Lee Allen, Alvin "Red" Tyler, Frank Fields and others.

Also returning from part one are Tommy Ridgley, Cousin Joe and Roy Brown. Ridgley was on the Crescent City R&B scene when it first caught fire, and he remained a proud part of that same scene until his death in 1999. Ridgley cut his debut sides back in 1949 for Imperial under Dave Bartholomew's direction. He cut four 1953-1955 sessions for Atlantic cut sides for Herald in the late 50's. From there he cut sides for the local Ric and Ronn imprints. During the 90's he cut several fine albums before passing in 1999.

Smiley Lewis

Growing up in New Orleans, Cousin Joe began singing in church before crossing over to the blues. Guitar and ukulele were his first axes. He eventually prioritized the piano instead, playing Crescent City clubs and riverboats. He moved to New York in 1942, gaining entry into the city's thriving jazz scene (where he played with Dizzy Gillespie, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and a host of other luminaries). He recorded for King, Gotham, Philo (in 1945), Savoy, and Decca along the way, doing well on the latter logo with "Box Car Shorty and Peter Blue" in 1947. After returning to New Orleans in 1948, he recorded for DeLuxe and cut a two-part "ABCs" for Imperial in 1954 as Smilin' Joe under Dave Bartholomew's supervision. But by then, his recording career had faded.

Born in the Crescent City, Roy Brown grew up all over the place: Eunice, LA (where he sang in church and worked in the sugarcane fields); Houston, TX; and finally Los Angeles by age 17. His seminal 1947 DeLuxe Records waxing of "Good Rockin' Tonight" was immediately ridden to the peak of the R&B charts by shouter Wynonie Harris and subsequently covered by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many more early rock icons. Roy Brown didn't have to wait long to dominate the R&B lists himself. He scored 15 hits from mid-1948 to late 1951 for DeLuxe.

Today's New Orleans installment marks the debut of several crescent city stars including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price and Guitar Slim. Lewis hit New Orleans in his mid-teens and played clubs in the French Quarter. By 1947, his following was strong enough to merit a session for DeLuxe Records, which issued his debut 78. Nothing happened with that disc, but when Lewis signed with Imperial in 1950 (debuting with "Tee-Nah-Nah") things began to happen. He scored his first national hit in 1952 with "The Bells Are Ringing," but enjoyed his biggest sales in 1955 with "I Hear You Knocking." Strangely, Fats Domino fared better with some of Smiley Lewis' tunes than Lewis did ("Blue Monday" in particular). Similarly, Elvis Presley cleaned up  "One Night" and hit big with it. After a long and at successful run at Imperial, Lewis moved over to OKeh in 1961 for one single, stopped at Dot in 1964 just long enough to make a solitary 45 and bowed in 1965. He died in the autumn of 1966, all but forgotten outside his New Orleans home base.

Growing up in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans, Lloyd Price was exposed to seminal sides by Louis Jordan, the Liggins brothers, Roy Milton, and Amos Milburn through the jukebox in his mother's little fish-fry joint. Lloyd and his younger brother Leo put together a band while in their teens. Bandleader Dave Bartholomew was impressed enough to invite Specialty Records boss Art Rupe to see the singer. At his very first Specialty date in 1952, Price sang his classic "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" (its piano intro courtesy of Fats Domino). It topped the R&B charts for an extended period, making Price a legitimate star. Four more Specialty smashes soon followed.

Guitar Slim, born Eddie Jones in Mississippi, turned up in New Orleans in 1950. He debuted on wax in 1951 with a mediocre session for Imperial, cut a 1952 date for Bullet before scoring huge with "The Things That I Used to Do" on the Specialty label. The song hit the R&B charts for 14 weeks in 1954. Strangely, although he waxed several stunning follow-ups for Specialty in the same vein, he never charted again. He switched over to Atlantic Records in 1956. Excessive drinking and life in the fast lane took its inevitable toll over the years, and he died in 1959 at age 32.

We also spin a track apiece by Shirley & Lee and James "Sugar Boy" Crawford. Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee, scored three massive R&B hits before either one of them were both 20 years old: "Feel So Good," "Let the Good Times Roll," and "I Feel Good."

In 1950 James "Sugar Boy" Crawford and eight classmates formed the band the Sha-Weez. Producer Dave Bartholomew signed the Sha-Weez to New Orleans imprint Aladdin Records in late 1952, helming their debut session at Cosimo Matassa's legendary J&M Studios. In late 1953 Crawford began recording for Chess as Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters. His Chess debut, "I Don't Know What I'll Do," was the label's first release cut in New Orleans, and enjoyed strong local airplay. The follow-up, "Jock-a-Mo," appeared in early 1954 and also proved a regional favorite.

I'm planning on doing a part three and possibly part four on the music of New Orleans. On deck for part three will include more sides by Guitar Slim, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and Dave Bartholomew plus sides by Earl King, Ernie K-Doe, Bobby Marchan, Little Sonny Jones and many  others.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Champion Jack DupreeJunker's BluesJunker's Blues
Champion Jack DupreeCabbage GreensJunker's Blues
Roy BrownJudgment Day BluesRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Roy BrownWhose Hat Is ThatRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Roy BrownMighty, Mighty Man Roy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Cousin JoeIt's Dangerous To Be A HusbandCousin Joe 1945-1947 Vol. 2
Cousin JoeLittle Woman BluesCousin Joe 1945-1947 Vol. 2
Paul Gayten & Annie LaurieAnnie's BluesCreole Gal
Paul GaytenYour Hands Ain't Clean Creole Gal
Joe "Mr. Google Eyes" August Rough And Rocky RoadThe Very Best Of
Joe "Mr. Google Eyes" August Young BoyThe Very Best Of
Dave Bartholomew Mr. Fool Roy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Dave Bartholomew Country Boy Roy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Dave Bartholomew She's Got Great Big EyesRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Professor LonghairProfessor Longhair BluesRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Professor LonghairHey! Now BabyRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Professor LonghairMardi Gras In New OrleansRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Larry Darnell For You My LoveLarry Darnell 1949-1951
Larry Darnell Pack Your Rags And Go Larry Darnell 1949-1951
Jewel King3 x 7 = 21The Spirit Of New Orleans
Tommy RidgleyShrewsbury Blues The Spirit Of New Orleans
Fats DominoThe Fat Man Crescent City Soul: The Sound Of New Orleans
Little Mr. MidnightGot A Brand New Baby Crescent City Bounce
Chubby "Hip Shakin"' NewsomeHard-Lovin' Mama Jump 'N' Shout (New Orleans Blues & Rhythm)
Big Joe TurnerThe Blues Jumped Over the Rabbit The Spirit of New Orleans
Alma Mondy (Alma Lollypop)Streetwalkin' DaddyMercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions
Little Joe Gaines She Won't Leave No More Mercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions
George Miller & His Mid-DriffsBat-Lee swingMercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions
Dave BartholomewAin't Gonna Do It Ain't Gonna Do It
Dave BartholomewThat's How You Got Killed, Before Ain't Gonna Do It
Dave BartholomewGood Jax BoogieRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Professor LonghairByrd's BluesRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Professor LonghairHadacol BounceRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B
Professor LonghairBetween Midnight & DayRoy Brown & New Orleans R & B

Show notes:

With the exception of two sides by Champion Jack Dupree, today's show really starts in the post-war era when the city's first blues and R&B singers started getting on record. The New Orleans pre-war blues scene was not well documented on record outside of early performers like Richard "Rabbit" Brown, Lizzie Miles and Blu Lu Barker. As Neil Slaven writes about the city's history: "New Orleans has always been a music city. Most would have it jazz was its most significant invention, formed around the dawn of the twentieth century and passed on to the rest of America and the world thereafter. Some, perhaps with a little less fervor, point to the city's long blues traditions and the explosion of rhythm and blues in the 1950's. In fact the two are inextricably bound together, branches of the same tree, sharing sharing a common ancestry that laid down some of its roots at the turn of the nineteenth century …Such was the impact of jazz over the next decades, that blues progressed unseen in the salons of a thriving bordello district for the entertainment, but not distraction, of whores and their clients. When they weren't dispensing refinement, pianists would gather at dives like Tudlom's Tonk, where rolling the horses, which was what boogie woogie called for its repetition and prancing tempos, was the coming thing. Most of the tonks, cribs and barrel houses were located in what was called the Battlefield, and over the years, that's where you'd find Drive 'Em Down (Willie Hall) who taught Jack Dupree, Joseph 'Red' Cayou, Tuts Washington, Fats Pichon, Udell Wilson and Joe Robichaux, known as Joe Daggers." It's that heritage behind today's featured piano players.

Even in the 1940's the scene was dominated by jazz and dixieland bands like Kid Thomas, Billie and De De Pierce, George Lewis and John Handy. During the 1940's and into the 1950s a distinctly New Orleans approach to blues and R&B emerged. Usually piano-driven and backed by inventive rhythms that showed the marked influence of second-line marching and brass bands, New Orleans blues and R&B developed a rolling, joyous feel that captured the rollicking feel of the city. As author John Broven writes: "The freewheeling, happy-go-lucky music is known as the New Orleans Sound, which has its roots in the original beat of the old parade bands of the nineteenth century. Whether it's rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, soul or modern jazz, the parade beat is the ubiquitous common factor, the foundation, if you like." And as record producer Marshall Sehorn said: 'This is the home of the second line, that extra syncopated beat that has been in existence ever since the first black man picked upa tambourine."

There's a distinct emphasis on the piano blues, particularly in the formative years of the New Orleans blues scene of the 40's. Three figures dominated, and set the tone for, New Orleans rhythm and blues in the 1940s: Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Dave Bartholomew. Fats Domino will play a larger role in our second New Orleans installment but we play two sets apiece by Longhair and Bartholomew. Other pianists heard today include Champion Jack Dupree and Paul Gayten plus a slew of talented singers, most famously Roy Brown, Cousin Joe and Larry Darnell plus a batch of fine little remembered figures from the Crescent City's past.

We open the show with two sides by Champion Jack Dupree from 1940 and 1941. Dupree grew up in New Orleans' Colored Waifs' Home for Boys (Louis Armstrong also spent his formative years there). Learning his trade from barrelhouse 88s ace Willie "Drive 'em Down" Hall, Dupree left the Crescent City in 1930 for Chicago and then Detroit. By 1935, he was boxing professionally in Indianapolis, battling in an estimated 107 bouts. In 1940, Dupree made his recording debut for Chicago A&R man Lester Melrose and OKeh Records. Dupree's 1940-1941 output for the Columbia subsidiary exhibited a strong New Orleans tinge despite the Chicago surroundings; his driving "Junker's Blues" was later cleaned up as Fats Domino's 1949 debut, "The Fat Man."

Born in the Crescent City, Roy Brown grew up all over the place: Eunice, LA (where he sang in church and worked in the sugarcane fields); Houston, TX; and finally Los Angeles by age 17. His seminal 1947 DeLuxe Records waxing of "Good Rockin' Tonight" was immediately ridden to the peak of the R&B charts by shouter Wynonie Harris and subsequently covered by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many more early rock icons. Roy Brown didn't have to wait long to dominate the R&B lists himself. He scored 15 hits from mid-1948 to late 1951 for DeLuxe.

Growing up in New Orleans, Cousin Joe began singing in church before crossing over to the blues. Guitar and ukulele were his first axes. He eventually prioritized the piano instead, playing Crescent City clubs and riverboats. He moved to New York in 1942, gaining entry into the city's thriving jazz scene (where he played with Dizzy Gillespie, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and a host of other luminaries). He recorded for King, Gotham, Philo (in 1945), Savoy, and Decca along the way, doing well on the latter logo with "Box Car Shorty and Peter Blue" in 1947. After returning to New Orleans in 1948, he recorded for DeLuxe and cut a two-part "ABCs" for Imperial in 1954 as Smilin' Joe under Dave Bartholomew's supervision. But by then, his recording career had faded. For today's program we spin two tracks,"It's Dangerous To Be A Husband" and "Little Woman Blues",  from the only session from the period that was actually recorded in New Orleans.

Paul Gayten, a seminal figure in New Orleans rhythm & blues, led a varied career in the music business as a bandleader, producer, label owner, and one-time overseer of the West Coast operation of Chess Records. A nephew of blues-piano legend Little Brother Montgomery, Gayten once led one of the top bands of New Orleans, but he gave up the performing life in 1956 to turn his attention to production and eventually to his own California-based Pzazz label. Gayten wrote Larry Darnell's 1949 classic "For You My Love" and recorded a few Top Ten hits of his own for Regal and DeLuxe (1947-1950), some of them with vocalist Annie Laurie who shines on our selection, "Annie's Blues."

Joe "Mr. Google Eyes" August was born Joseph Augustus on September 13, 1931, and gained his formative musical experience as a member of the First Emmanuel Baptist Church choir, but found himself most deeply attracted to the blues. He eventually earned a steady gig at the local Downbeat Club, appearing opposite Roy Brown.Although Brown, Paul Gayten, and Annie Laurie were the first New Orleans R&B artists to enter the recording studio, Augustus was not far behind, making his debut for the black-owned Coleman Records with 1946's "Poppa Stoppa's Be-Bop Blues"; he was still just 15 years old at the time, and accordingly the label proclaimed him "Mr. Google Eyes — the world's youngest blues singer."His contract was then bought out by Columbia. The twenty track collection, The Very Best, is well worth tracking down.

Working in his hometown of New Orleans, Dave Bartholomew helped develop and define the sound of rhythm & blues in the late 40's and 50's. He was a bandleader, trumpet player, songwriter, producer, arranger, talent scout, businessman, and more. Although he never made the pop charts under his own name, Bartholomew was a key figure in the transition from jump blues and big-band swing to rhythm & blues and rock and roll. Bartholomew is most famous for having discovered and produced Fats Domino, with whom he produced and wrote songs for through the 50's and beyond. But he’s worked with a who’s-who of New Orleans R&B figures: Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley & Lee, Earl King, Roy Brown, Huey “”Piano”” Smith, Chris Kenner, Robert Parker, Frankie Ford, James Booker, Jewel King, James “”Sugar Boy”” Crawford, Tommy Ridgley and more. Bartholomew may be more well known for the famous artists he worked with but also prolifically under his own name between 1947and the early 60's, laying down and impressive body of work for a several different labels like DeLuxe, Imperial and King, almost all recorded in his hometown of New Orleans. His records featured the cream of New Orleans musicians like Earl Palmer, Ernest McClean, Edgar Blanchard, Lee Allen, Alvin “Red” Tyler, Frank Fields and others.

Professor Longhair grew up on the streets of New Orleans, tap dancing for tips on Bourbon Street with his running partners. Local 88s aces Sullivan Rock, Kid Stormy Weather, and Tuts Washington were early influences. Longhair began to take his playing seriously in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club. Longhair debuted on wax in 1949, laying down four tracks (including the first version of his signature "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," for the Dallas-based Star Talent label. Union problems forced those sides off the market, but Longhair's next date for Mercury the same year produced his first and only national R&B hit in 1950, the hilarious "Bald Head." The pianist made great records for Atlantic in 1949, Federal in 1951, Wasco in 1952, and Atlantic again in 1953 plus other scattered small label sides through the 50's.

Larry Darnell was born in Columbus, OH and achieved local fame as a gospel singer the age of 11.When he was 15 he left home to tour as a dancerwith a burlesque road show. When company funds were low, Darnell did not hesitate when offered a steady gig in New Orleans as a singer at the famous Dew Drop Inn. He stayed on for several years, and gradually developing a persona that began to attract quite a following. One night in 1949 Darnell's act was caught by Fred Mendelsohn, co-founder and A&R director for the Regal record label. Mendelsohn, later recalled: "Darnell was doing a song called 'I'll Get Along Somehow' originally popularized by Andy Kirk. He added a recitation that sent the dames screaming and hollering." Darnell was hired on the spot and whisked up to Newark where three titles were cut in early September 1949 and issued on 78-rpm records bearing the Regal label. Presented in two parts, "I'll Get Along Somehow" made it to number two on the Billboard R&B chart not long after "For You My Love" hit number one, staying up there for eight weeks.

Texas-born R&B singer Jewel King moved to New Orleans in the mid-forties. By 1948 she began to make a name for herself as she worked many local clubs like the Club Rocket, the Club Desire and the Dew Drop. In that year she had her first recording session, for DeLuxe Records, but these tracks ("Go Now" and "Passion Blues") were never issued. Her next visit to a recording studio (Cosimo's, the only studio in New Orleans) took place on November 29, 1949. This was the first session that Dave Bartholomew produced for Imperial. It was a split session with Tommy Ridgley, who recorded "Shrewsbury Blues" (Imperial 5054), his very first single. One song from the session, "3 x 7 = 21", was released in January 1950 and climbed to # 4 on the R&B charts. Fats Domino's "The Fat Man" also charted at this time and Imperial honcho Lew Chudd set up a national tour for the two acts, with King headlining. At the last minute, Jewel bailed out because her husband /bandleader (Jack Scott) refused to let her tour without his band. Bartholomew told her she was making a big mistake and left without her, with Tommy Ridgley as a replacement.

Dave Bartholomew

Chubby Newsome was originally from Detroit but found recognition in New Orleans where she was a regular performer in the late 1940s. She was discovered by Paul Gayten at the famous Dew Drop Inn. She was soon signed to the DeLuxe label where she recorded her signature tune "Hip Shakin' Mama", and also "He May Be Your Man" with Gayten's band. Newsome signed with Regal in 1949 cutting several serssions for the label in the early 50's.

The Mercury label cut some fine sessions in New Orleans between 19490 and 1953. The sessions began with William B. Allen, who owned a radio supply store at Orleans and North Robertson streets and also distributed Mercury records in New Orleans. In late 1949 Allen talked to Mercury’s main office about recording black artists in New Orleans. Among those recorded were Professor Longhair, Alma Monday, Little Joe Gaines, George Miller & His Mid-Driffs, Ray Johnson and Herbert ‘Woo Woo’ Moore among others.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
B.B King Night Life Blues Is King
B.B King No Money, No Luck Blues Lucille
Otis Spann T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness The Blues Is Where It's At
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson Flat Broke Blues Cherry Red
Jimmy Rushing You Can't Run Around (Blues) Everyday I Have The Blues
John Lee Hooker If You Miss 'Im...I Got 'Im... If You Miss 'Im...I Got 'Im...
John Lee Hooker The Motor City Is Burning Urban Blues
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee Just Usin' Me for a Convenience Long Way From Home
Jimmy ReedKnocking At Your Door Soulin'
Roy BrownHard TimesThe Blues Are All Brown
Earl Hooker Something You Ate Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker
Earl Hooker Come To Me Right Away, Baby Simply The Best
Charles Brown Drifting Blues Simply The Best
Jimmy Witherspoon Parcel Post Blues Hunh!
Johnny "Big Moose" Walker FootraceRambling Woman
Sunnyland Slim Get to Hip to Yourself Sunnyland Slim Plays Ragtime Blues
Johnny Little John Lost In The JungleFunky From Chicago
Andrew Odom Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone Father On Down The Road
Snooky Pryor Miss Stella Brown BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2
Lucille Spann Country GirlCry Before I Go
Johnny Young I Know She's Kinda Slick I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Cousin JoeChicken A-La-Blues Cousin Joe Of New Orleans
Roosevelt Sykes Jookin' In New OrleansDirty Double Mother
Lee Jackson When I First Came to Chicago Lonely Girl
L.C. Robinson My Baby Crossed The Bay House Cleanin' Blues
Carey Bell Taking You DowntownLast Night

Show Notes:

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. To give the new label legitimacy B.B. King, who was recording for ABC at the time, saw his releases put out on BluesWay (his Blues Is King was the label's first release). BluesWay seemingly signed every major bluesman available, including Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann, Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Witherspoon, Charles Brown, Roy Brown, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry among others. In addition to these seasoned performers the label issued records by deserving lesser knows, issuing the first LP's by Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, Andrew Odom and L.C. Robinson. Legendary jazz producer Bob Thiele (he was the main producer at ABC/Impulse between 1961-69) was instrumental in getting the  BluesWay label started but entrusted day to day operations and producing to others. Early sessions were produced by Bill Syzmzyck, Ed Michel, Bob Thiele, with later sessions handled by Al Smith. Al Smith was Jimmy Reed's manager and bandleader, and after Vee-Jay folded in 1966, a producer of soul sessions for ABC and blues sessions for ABC BluesWay. Smith inked a 25-LP production deal with BluesWay in 1973. Twenty of these albums subsequently appeared. After the label folded all interests were bought by MCA who are now owned by Universal.

The label has been ill 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. MCA has largely left the catalog to languish. The BluesWay label has a decidedly mixed reputation, cutting many very good records and many downright bad ones. Producer Al Smith has been the target of much of the animosity against the label summed up by writer Pete Lowry in a 1974 Living Blues review: "Finally I get a chance to take a swipe at Al Smith. Unfortunately, he is no longer able to enjoy it, but I'll go on anyway. Here was a strange man-I don't know if he was any kind of bass player, but he surely produced some screwed-up sessions. I won't go into artist "relations," but merely deal with the sessions; there have been some predictable characteristics. Lousy liner notes, replete with phonetic spelling (to be kind), incomplete or wrong personnel data, as well as often incomplete or disordered listings of the tunes… As for the records themselves, they varied from good to near disasters. The results of Al's Special Ninety Minute Album Sessions included inconsistent levels on instruments, as if the warm up/test stuff was mixed for release (as was most likely the case!), some strange sounding stuff (out-of-synch echo units), and just total lack of programming. Al seems to have assembled albums in the order recorded, with no concept of the album as a programmed whole. For an artist to survive this sort of "production" he had to be damn good, or be having a better than average day in the studio." No doubt Lowry is accurate in his assessment but to be fair, as he notes, the label issued quite a number of very good records that deserve a better fate than to languish in limbo. In this article we selectively trawl through the BluesWay catalogue spotlighting some of the releases featured on today's program. Hopefully MCA will see fit to to create a proper BluesWay reissue series but until then vinyl may be your only option (where known I'll try and list records which have appeared on CD – reissues have appeared on Charly in the late 80's as well as Off-Beat and One Way in the 90's although these now appear to be out of print. The BGO label has reissued several BluesWay records all of which appear to be in print).

The BluesWay label issued seven albums by B.B. King between 1966 and 1970. Hands down the best of the bunch was the first one, 1966's Blues Is King which ranks as one of King's best live recordings, perhaps just a notch behind the seminal Live At The Regal cut two years previously. Recorded at a Chicago club, B.B. turns in sizzling performances of "Tired Of Your Jive", "Don't Answer The Door" and a spectacular "Night Life." The rest of B.B.'s output during this period is very solid including 1967's Blues On Top of Blues with brassy arrangements of songs like "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss and "Worried Dream" while 1968's Lucille is sparser, most notable for the ten minutes of "Lucille." 1969's Completely Well was B.B.'s breakthrough album featuring "The Thrill Is Gone" while Live & Well is divided evenly between live and studio material and contains "Why I Sing The Blues" and was his first LP to enter the Top 100. His Best – The Electric B.B. King is not a "best of" but a collection of previously issued items as singles and studio leftovers and features strong material like "Don't Answer The Door" a #2 R&B hit, "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss" and "All Over Again." 1970's Back Alley was a "best of" collection. All of B.B.'s output from this period has been reissued on MCA with some titles on BGO.

In addition to B.B. King, BluesWay brought heavyweights Jimmy Reed and T-Bone Walker into the fold. With his contract for Vee-Jay over, Al Smith brought Reed over to BluesWay where he cut four albums for the label between 1966-1968; The New Jimmy Reed Album, Soulin', Big Boss Man and Down In Virginia. These records add little to Reed's reputation, finding him mostly singing his classic material and were guitar heavy featuring, in addition to Reed, Eddie Taylor, Lefty Bates and Wayne Bennett. A selection of BluesWay material appears on the CD Jimmy Reed Is Back issued on Collectables. Walker cut two records for the label, Stormy Monday in 1967 and Funky Town in 1968. These aren't essential T-Bone records, although quite credible, with Walker playing well featuring a sympathetic band, particularly pianist Lloyd Glenn with the two sounding particularly good together on "Going To Funky Town." Walker revisits a number of his early classics like "Cold Hearted Woman", "Stormy Monday" and "I'm In An Awful Mood", updating these numbers with some 60's styled funk that generally comes across well. Both records have been reissued on BGO.

Between recordings under his own name and session work, Earl Hooker was prolifically recorded by BluesWay in 1969 less than a year before he passed away. Hooker was on the West Coast recording for Blue Thumb when he began working club dates with his cousin John Lee Hooker. Hooker was working with BluesWay at the time which is how Earl Hooker's BluesWay association began. The first date was a session with John Lee Hooker which went so well that producer Ed Michel offered to make an album with Earl on the spot. Both the John Lee Hooker album If You Miss 'Im…I Got 'Im and Earl Hooker's Don't Have To Worry were recorded on May 29, 1969 with the same personnel, adding Andrew Odom to Earl's date since he was insecure about his vocals. Considering the quick, no nonsense nature of the recording the results came off exceptionally well. It's inexplicable why Don't Have To Worry hasn't been issued on CD in it's entirety (5 songs appeared on the anthology Simply The Best with one additional song on Blues Masters, Vol. 15: Slide Guitar Classics. Despite his vocal insecurities Hooker sounds confident on "You Got To Lose" and "Don't Have To Worry" (originally called "Do Right Baby" as recorded by Billy Gayles in 1956). Odom's robust, booming vocals are particularly good on "The Sky Is Crying" and "Come To Me Right Away, Baby" while Big Moose Walker takes the vocals on the remarkable "Is You Ever See A One-Eyed Woman Cry?" Hooker stretches out on the instrumentals "Hookin'" and adaptation of "Honky Tonk" and sounds even more inspired in an update of "Universal Rock" a song he first cut in 1960. If You Miss 'Im…I Got 'Im is a very strong outing with Earl and his crew giving a unique twist to Hooker's sound. Hooker's wah-wah is heard to good effect on on moody numbers like "Lonesome Mood", "I Wanna Be Your Puppy, Baby" and lays down some nice slide flourishes on the title track. This has been reissued on CD on the BGO label. BGO has also reissued the other John Lee Hooker BluesWay albums: Urban Blues, Simply The Truth and Live At Cafe Au-Go-Go. The other Earl Hooker album released was 1973's posthumous Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker which were sides originally cut and released for the Cuca label in the early 60's. This has been reissued on CD by Catfish as There's a Fungus Amung Us but which is likely out of print itself.

Ed Michel was so impressed with results that additional sessions were set the following week for Big Moose Walker and Andrew Odom. For the Odom date Michel backed him with jazz veterans Panama Francis on drums and Jimmy Bond on stand-up bass. Hooker for his part was asked to play it straight, without slide or wah-wah. Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose. The album was released as Farther On Down The Road. 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" (2 songs appear on 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. On the other hand Leadbitter gave a rave write up to Johnny "Big Moose" Walker's Rambling Woman (recorded five days after the Odom session) in the January 1971 issue of Blues Unlimited: "He plays piano with the sort of boogie-woogie drive you just don't hear anymore, and has a nice husky voice-this is an exceptionally good blues album." Walker delivers fine originals including the witty "Footrace" (originally cut in 1961 as "Footrace To a Resting Place" and in 1967), the organ driven "Rambling Woman" (originally cut in 1967), "Baby Talk" with everybody stretching out on instrumentals "Moose Huntin'" and "Moose Is On The Loose." The session is slightly marred by Otis Hale's electric tenor sax. Hale was a guy Walker picked up in the park after hearing him play and disappeared after this session to (thankfully) never record again.

In the summer of 1969 Ed Michel signed up Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon and the duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee. Brown and Witherspoon usually worked with pick-up units and Hooker was selected to worked with them as well as backing Sonny & Brownie following Michel's idea of putting their sound in an urban blues context. Jimmy Witherspoon was recorded first with the album released shortly after Hooker's death under the title Hunh!. The record is decidedly mixed, basically a long jam session, featuring Mel Brown, Jimmy Bond and Charles Brown. This is a laid back affair with some solid jams including "Bags Under My Eyes", "You Can't Do A Thing When You're Drunk" and the 12 minute plus of "Pillar To Post." Witherspoon had also recorded an earlier album for BluesWay in 1969 titled Blues Singer. Tracks from these albums together with several unreleased recordings from the same sessions were released as Never Knew This Kind of Hurt Before – The BluesWay Sessions on the UK-based Charly label in 1989. Hooker, Brown and Bond were brought back the next day, with the addition of drummer Ed Thigpen, tenor Red Holloway and singer Dottie Ivory for Charles Brown's session which was titled Legend! when released. Again a jam session atmosphere prevailed but this time the results were much better, in fact the album is a remarkable one, and ranks as one of the finest BluesWay dates. Brown reworks his old classics in a more modern context resulting in terrific new versions of "New Merry Christmas Baby", "Drifting Blues" and the stunning "I Want To Go Home" all featuring some beautiful and thoughtful playing from Hooker and superb tenor from Holloway. This record has been issued on CD on the Off-Beat imprint. As for Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, their playing and singing are as good as ever but the record never really gels. Michel was obviously not pleased with the results, with the record issued only four years later as I Couldn't Believe My Eyes. The record was chiefly notable for being Hooker's last studio appearance. This has been reissued on CD by the BGO label.

One of the things BluesWay should be applauded for is giving lesser known deserving bluesmen an opportunity to record. It was on BluesWay that artists such as L.C. Robinson, Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, Cousin Joe and the aforementioned Big Moose Walker and Andrew Odom recorded their first full length records. On the short list of truly great BluesWay recordings one would have to place L.C. Robinson's House Cleanin' Blues. Robinson was an immensely talented steel guitar player, strong vocalist and fiddle player who had only one single from 1954 and a handful of tracks on a 1968 World Pacific LP to his credit. House Cleanin' Blues is a flawless set featuring Robinson's distinctive steel guitar on the blazing title track plus a batch of equally potent originals like "Separation Blues", "My Baby Crossed The Bay" and some outstanding fiddle on the brooding "Summerville Blues." Sadly Robinson recorded only once more for Arhoolie. Lee Jackson was a distinctive Chicago guitarist who had waxed a handful of singles in the 50's and 60's for Cobra, C.J. and Bea and Baby as well as appearing on records by Willie Dixon, Little Walter, St. Louis Jimmy, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim and others. His Lonely Girl is a very solid Chicago blues outing – although it could probably have been better with more rehearsal – featuring his slightly reverberated, jazzy guitar on fine cuts like the title track, "Juanita" (first cut by him in 1961) and "When I First Came To Chicago." The band is solid with Carey Bell being a real standout. Lucille Spann had made a handful of recordings with husband Otis and after his death in 1970 and cut a fine tribute to him immortalized on the out of print Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1972. Her lone album, 1972's Cry Before I Go, was quite good, spotlighting her strong, raspy, gospel vocals (she sang in church in Mississippi and Chicago) backed by a terrific Chicago ensemble of Detroit Junior, Mighty Joe Young, Eddie Taylor and Willie Smith. Highlights include the title cut, the hard luck "Meat Ration Blues" and the superb "Country Girl" which evolves into an impassioned tribute to her late husband. New Orleans singer/pianist Pleasant Joseph was introduced to Al Smith through Roosevelt Sykes who was acting as a talent scout for the label. Between 1945 and the early 50's he cut a slew of of swinging sides with top drawer session men that highlighted his witty wordplay and made him a big draw on the New York scene. If you want to know where Dr. John found his inspiration look no further than Cousin Joe. Joe hadn't record in nearly a decade when he made the exceptionally good Cousin Joe Of New Orleans, backed by a sympathetic combo that finds Joe in energetic and humorous form as he updates his classic numbers like "Beggin' Woman", "Chicken A-La-Blues" and "Evolution Blues."

In addition to Cousin Joe, BluesWay recorded a number of piano players including the above mentioned Roosevelt Sykes plus two dates by Otis Spann and one session by Sunnyland Slim. Sykes was one of the great blues piano men who made his debut back in 1929 and recorded prolifically for numerous labels up until his death in 1983. On the surface his lone BluesWay date, Dirty Double Mother, would be just another brief pause in a long career and one would expect a typically professional outing if nothing else. Sykes, however, was clearly inspired turning in an exuberant performance backed by the same band as Cousin Joe plus the great sax of Clarence Ford. Ford was a veteran who's worked graced countless records by artists like Amos Milburn, Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Ear King, Little Richard, Guitar Slim and many others. Ford is terrific here as is Sykes who's witty way with a lyric is heard to fine effect on "May Be A Scandal", "Double Breasted Woman" as well as stomping boogies like "Jookin' In New Orleans" and "Dooky Chase Boogie." From New Orleans BluesWay went to Chicago where they recorded two albums by Otis Spann, The Blues Is Where It's At and The Bottom of the Blues, in 1966 and 1967. The first was recorded before a small studio audience, the second featuring the debut of Spann's wife Lucille with both sessions backed by Muddy Waters and his band. Spann is in commanding form on tracks like "My Home Is In The Delta", "T'ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do", "Heart Loaded With Trouble" and "Doctor Blues." Both records have been reissued on the MCA CD Down To Earth: The BluesWay Recordings, which seems to be out of print, and as individual CD's on BGO. The other Chicago piano player recorded was Sunnyland Slim who's oddly titled Plays The Ragtime Blues was released in 1972. Despite the title this is an exceptionally strong, well recorded set of Chicago blues finding Sunnyland backed superbly by Carey Bell and The Aces (Louis Myers, Dave Myers and Fred Below). "Get Hip To Yourself" is a terrific tough times tale with sizzling guitar from Myers with other highlights including "Mr. Cool" and the jazzy "Canadian Walk."

Alongside Otis Spann and Sunnyland Slim, Al Smith produced sessions by other Chicago artists including Carey Bell, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Johnny Littlejohn and Johnny Young. These sessions are definitely a mixed bag. Carey Bell's Last Night is his second album having cut a record for Delmark in 1969. The BluesWay LP is a superior outing finding Bell turning in a very strong Chicago blues record filled with plenty of inspired harp work on tracks like "Last Night", "Tomorrow Night" and instrumental showcases like "Rosa, I Love Your Soul" and "Freda." Bell receives excellent support from Pinetop Perkins, Dave Myers, Eddie Taylor and Willie Smith. This has been reissued on CD on the One Way label. With the addition of Snooky Pryor the same band backs Homesick James on his Ain't Sick No More. This is a very solid, relaxed outing with James in fine form on songs like "Buddy Brown", "Fayette County Blues" and " Money Getter." Snooky Pryor hadn't recorded in over a decade, having become disgusted with the record business, when he cut the lukewarm Do It If You Want To. It was Homesick James who directed Al Smith to his pal Snooky Pryor. Like the Cousin Joe and Roosevelt Sykes, this record was cut in New Orleans featuring some of the same band members. Pryor's brand of Chicago blues doesn't find sympathetic backing from the band and only a few songs like "The One I Crave To See" and "Do It If You Want To" rise to the occasion. Johnny Littlejohn was a fine slide player and singer who unfortunately was ill served on record so perhaps we can't totally blame Al Smith for the tepid Funky From Chicago. While Littlejohn turned in a sterling performance on his 1968 debut Arhoolie record, this one lacks the former's excitement. Littlejohn sounds muted on this recording with few tracks that stand out despite backing from a band that included Eddie Taylor, Dave Myers and Fred Below. Sadly Littlejohn's subsequent records weren't much better. Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping was 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. Young energetically romps through first rate numbers like "Deal The Cards", "I Know She's Kinda Slick", and "No. 12 Is At The Station" among others. This is one of Young's best dates outside of his fine late 60's Arhoolie session.

The BluesWay label cast a wide net pulling in several classic blues shouters and those in a similar vein, cutting albums by veterans such as Jimmy Rushing, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Roy Brown and Big Joe Turner. It may have been relatively late in Jimmy Rushing's career when he recorded two albums for BluesWay, Every Day I Have the Blues and Livin' the Blues, but he was still in prime singing voice. Joined by a terrific cast of old pals like trombonist Dickie Wells, trumpeter Clark Terry, and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, Rushing puts across his distinctive brand of jazzy blues on tunes like "Berkeley Campus Blues," "Blues in the Dark," "I Left My Baby," "Sent for You Yesterday," "We Remember Prez" and "Evil Blues", the latter benefiting from Shirley Scott's organ and the guitar of Kenny Burrell. The end results are two fine swinging sets of vintage Jimmy Rushing. Both albums have been reissued on the Polygram CD Every Day I Have The Blues. Like Rushing, Vinson was well into a long illustrious career when he cut 1967's Cherry Red, his first recording after a five year hiatus from the studio. Backed by the fine small combo of Buddy Lucas on tenor/harmonica, Patti Brown on organ and Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Vinson turns in a marvelous session revisiting past glories like "Cherry Red", "Alimony Blues", "Somebody's Got To Go" as well as newer gems like 'Cadillac Blues" and "Flat Broke Blues." Bloomfield's playing is a real stand out. This album has been reissued on the One Way label. Big Joe Turner's 1967 album Singing The Blues and 1970's Turns On The Blues find the veteran shouter in fine form featuring ace tenor man Buddy Lucas and terrific blowing from George "Harmonica" Smith. The former album has been reissued on CD on the Mobile Fidelity label. Roy Brown cut 1973's Hard Times: The Classic Blues Of Roy Brown which  features the fine title track but the remainder is a bit lackluster.

BluesWay lists several albums that were unissued. The following list is taken from the ilpopolodelblues website: Roy Brown: Brown on Blues, Rocky & Val: I Stopped & Looked at the World , John Lee Hooker: Untitled Album, Jimmy Reed: Untitled Album, Little Andrews 'Blues Boy' Odom: Take Me Back to St.Louis and Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry: Untitled Album.

In closing, the BluesWay label has an uneven track record due primarily it seems to the quickie recording sessions and lack of rehearsals among musicians who in many cases hadn't play together much. Producers such as Bill Syzmzyck, Ed Michel, Bob Thiele did an admirable job considering these conditions but certainly Al Smith deserves much of the criticism leveled at him. Still there were many good records that deserve a better fate than languishing in the out of print bin. Even those that have been reissued on CD on One Way and Off-Beat in the early 90's all appear to be out of print. The BGO BluesWay reissues do appear to all be in print. Many of the LP's can be found easily on ebay although there are a few elusive ones. Hopefully MCA will see fit to due a proper reissue program of the BluesWay catalog as they did of the better known Chess catalog. At the very least they should reissue some of the better albums in there entirety like the Charles Brown, Earl Hooker, Johnny Young, L.C. Robinson and Sunnyland Slim to name a few. A very credible BluesWay box set could also be assembled, a 3 or 4 CD set say, cherry picking the best of the label. Major labels are usually indifferent about their blues holdings so I won't hold my breath but certainly the BluesWay catalog deserves a better fate.

Stay tuned for a part two somewhere down the road. That show will more tracks by the more prolific BluesWay artists like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker plus records we couldn't get to this time out including albums by Big Joe Williams, Bobby Bland, Gatemouth Moore, Ray Charles and George "Harmonica" Smith among others.

Share