Entries tagged with “Sam Collins”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
James & Fannie Brewer I Want To Know WhyCan't Keep From Crying
John Lee GrandersonA Man For The NationCan't Keep From Crying
Sleppy john Estes President Kennedy Stayed Away Too LongMemphis Swamp Jam
Ronda Mitchell & Mrs. Lovell J.F. Kennedy's ReservationKennedy's blues
Clyde Church Number Nine BluesPiano Blues Vol. 1 1927- 1936
Bert MaysMichigan River BluesDown In Black Bottom
Bill Pearson Detroit Blues Piano Blues Vol. 5 1929-1936
Left Hand CharlieGonna Miss My LognionBluesin' By The Bayou
Otis SpannI Wonder WhyDues Paid: The Bluestime Story
Flora DYou're Gonna CryFoxy R&B - Richard Stamz Chicago Blues
Lee ''Shot'' Williams Hello BabyFoxy R&B - Richard Stamz Chicago Blues
Rev. Gary Davis The Angel's Message To Me Reverend Gary Davis 1935-1949
Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)Goodbye, Babylon
Blind Willie Davis Rock of Ages
How Can I Keep From Singing Vol. 2
Paul Williams w/ Bobby Parker Once Upon A Time Long Ago Last NightTitanic And 23 Unsinkable Sax Blasters
Bobby Parker Blues Get Off My ShoulderGuitar Star
Bobby Parker I Couldn't Quit my Baby The Blue Horizon Story 1965-1970
Sunnyland SlimToo Late To Pray Meat & Gravy From Bea & Baby
Sonny Boy Williamson Ninety NineThe Chess Years Box Se
Frankie "Half-Pint" JaxonFan ItFrankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-29
John D. TwittySold It To The DevilRare 30's Blues Vol. 1 1934-1937
Otis Spann Sad Day In TexasCan't Keep From Crying
Son HousePresident KennedyKennedy's Blues
Perry TillisKennedy MoanKennedy's Blues
The Southern Bell Singers The Tragedy Of KennedyKennedy's Blues
Jack Newman My Woman Out WestJack Newman 1938
Charlie Segar Stop And Fix It MamaPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
The Blue ChipsCrying Holy Unto The LordGoodbye, Babylon
Jesse May HillI'm Going To Lift Up A Standard For My KingSpreading The Word: Early Gospel
Sister Rosetta TharpeJoy In This LandComplete Sister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 7
Sam Collins Devil In The Lion's DenSam Collins 1927-1931
Julius DanielsNinety Nine Year BluesAtlanta Blues
Furry LewisGood Looking Girl BluesBlues Images Vol. 11

Show Notes:

Can't Hardly Keep From Crying
Read Notes

We have a number of features running through today's mix show. With the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy we spotlight a number of blues and gospel songs about the tragedy. Last week on our show was part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music and I had a few songs that I couldn't fit on last week's show so we play a couple of sets today. Today we also pay tribute to the recently departed Bobby Parker.  Also on deck today are some fine piano blues and a spotlight on some recent Ace reissues.

Five years ago I did an entire show around songs dealing with Presidents and politics wih a number of songs revolving around President Kennedy. Overt political commentary was rare in recorded blues and gospel prior to the 1960's. Some of the most moving political songs were tributes for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, who had great appeal to African Americans.  Roosevelt was considered the "poor man's friend" and the lyrical evidence suggests he was viewed "as a benevolent and powerful patron or ‘bossman'" while Truman was seen as much more fallible and "unresponsive to the economic plight of black people as well as their growing demands for equal rights." Kennedy's reputation, particularly in the early years, was rather ambivalent but his death, as the lyrical evidence makes clear, "virtually eradicated any criticism of his international or political policies and left him an unadulterated hero." These last quotes come from scholar Gudio Van Rijn who has written the books Roosevelt Blues, The Truman & Eisenhower Blues and Kennedy's Blues which analyze lyrics of blues and gospel songs that deal with topical issues. In addition each book has an accompanying CD, which is where some of today's songs come from. Several of the other Kennedy songs come from the album Can't Keep From Crying: Topical Blues on the Death of President Kennedy on the Testament label. In the wake of John Kennedy's assassination, Pete Welding recorded over a dozen acoustic blues tributes to the late president for the compilation Can't Keep from Crying in late 1963 and early 1964.

Religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion, artists who moonlighted by singing gospel and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We spin great guitar evangelists today including Blind Willie Davis on the driving "Rock of Ages", Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother, who recorded both blues and gospel,  on "I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" and Rev. Gary Davis, who also straddled the blues and gospel worlds. Then there's Sister Rosetta Tharpe delivering a blistering late period Bobby Parker: Blues Get Off My Shoulderperformance on 1961's "Joy In This Land" and The Blue Chips on the jazzy "Crying Holy Unto The Lord." The Blue Chips were an interesting group cutting seventeen sides in 1936, a mix of jazzy, swinging gospel and bluesier material like "I'm A Rattlesnakin' Daddy" and "Chippin' The Rock Of Blues."

Bobby Parker died at age 76 on Halloween. Born in Lafayette, La., in 1937 and raised in Los Angeles, Parker ended up in D.C. in 1961 after stints in New York City and elsewhere. Before coming here, a young Parker toured as the guitarist for the doo-wop group Otis Williams and the Charms. He played with Bo Diddley on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955, and subsequently became part of the Apollo Theater house band led by saxophonist Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams. With Williams he made a few recordings in the early 50's including our featured track "Once Upon A Time Long Ago Last Night" which showcases Parker on guitar and vocals. His first solo single, "Blues Get Off My Shoulder", was recorded in 1958, while he was still working primarily with Williams' band. He recorded the single "Watch Your Step" for the V-Tone label in 1961. The song reached no.51 on the Billboard Hot 100. With the success of the song, both in the United States and overseas, he toured the UK in 1968 and recorded his next record, "It's Hard But It's Fair" produced by Mike Vernon and released on Blue Horizon. For the next two decades, Parker played almost exclusively in the D.C. area. By the 1990s, Parker started to record again for a broader audience. He recorded his first official album, Bent Out of Shape, for the Black Top Records label in 1993, with a follow-up in 1995, Shine Me Up.

We spin a batch of fine, rather obscure pianists including Clyde Church, Bert Mays, Bill Pearson , Jesse Coleman and Charlie Seger. Bind Clyde Church cut one 78 for Victor in Memphis in 1929. On the bouncy "Number Nine Blues" he sings about a good time joint:

Down on number nine where the woman and men go
Everyday to have a real good time
They drink corn whiskey and they shoot high dice

Nothing is known about Bert Mays. He recorded three singles in 1927 and 1928, two for Paramount and one for Vocalion in Chicago. Bill Pearson cut four sides, two issued in 1929 and two unissued earlier sides. Charles Seger made his first recordings for Decca in 1934 and '35. In 1940 he recorded four numbers for Vocalion including "Key To The Highway." The song was covered by Jazz Gillum in May of that year for Bluebird with his version featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar with a different melody. Gillum's version became a blues standard later covered by many blues and rock artists. Broonzy's name was tacked onto the songwriting credits. As Alan Balfour wrote in the liner notes to Document's complete recordings of Monkey Joe: "For an artist who recorded a substantial body of work in the 1930's and who was still performing in Chicago night-clubs into the 1970s, it is quite astonishing that very little is known of Jesse "Monkey Joe" Coleman." Coleman waxed thirty-nine sides between 1935 and 1940. He was recorded a final time in 1961 working in a reformed version of the Mississippi Sheiks with some sides  issued on the album South Side Blues on Riverside. Coleman also may be the pianist behind the mysterious Jack Newman who we feature on "My Woman Out West" from 1938.

Blind Clyde Church: Pneumatic BluesWe spotlight a set of tracks from three recent Ace Records reissues: Bluesin' By The Bayou, Foxy R&B: Richard Stamz Chicago Blues -Richard Stamz and Dues Paid: The Bluestime Story. All the tracks from Bluesin' By The Bayou  stem from the studios of J.D. Miller in Crowley and Eddie Shuler in Lake Charles. Half of the songs are heard here for the first time, while the other half have appeared before on obscure 45's or long-deleted reissue LPs.

Richard Stamz was a colorful R&B and soul DJ who operated in Chicago throughout the 50's and 60's. He hosted a groundbreaking black TV show in the city in 1956, and round 1960 he took over the Cobra/Artistic/Abco studio and the Paso label, which he continued to run alongside his own Foxy label.

One of the most active and prolific blues labels was ABC’s Bluesway label which was run by producer Bob Thiele. When Bob Thiele started his jazz label Flying Dutchman in 1969, he set up the Bluestime imprint at the same time, bringing with him many of the artists he had worked with at Bluesway. Bluestime was short-lived and most of the releases have been out of print since the 1970's. With Dues Paid: The Bluestime Story Ace has begun its reissue of the Bluestime catalog.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Little Hat Jones Bye Bye Baby BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Blind Willie Johnson You'll Need Somebody on Your BondBlind Willie Johnson And The Guitar Evangelists
Willie Brown Future Blues Friends Of Charlie Patton
Charlie Patton Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1Best Of
Blind Willie McTell Love Changing BluesBest Of
Sam Collins My Road Is Rough And Rocky (How Long, How Long?)Jailhouse Blues
Son House Walking BluesLegends of Country Blues
Henry Williams & Eddie AnthonyGeorgia CrawlFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Andy Boy House Raid BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Cannon's Jug Stompers Going To GermanyMemphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers
Lottie Kimbrough Rolling Log BluesThe Return Of The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Weaver & Beasley Bottleneck BluesCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
BluesJim & Bob (The Genial Hawaiians) St. Louis BluesBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37
Willie Harris Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door Jackson Blues: 1928-1938
Blind Joe Reynolds Ninety Nine BluesBlues Images Vol. 2
The Sparks Brothers Down On The Levee Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis 2
Pigmeat Terry Black Sheep BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lee Green Memphis Fives The Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes And Lee Green
Elizabeth Johnson Be My Kid Blues American Primitive Vol. II
Mattie Delaney Tallahatchie River Blues Blues images Vol. 3
Geeshie Wiley Pick Poor Robin CleanI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
Jim Jackson Hesitation Blues Jim Jackson Vol. 2 (928-1930
Mae Glover I Ain't Givin' Nobody NoneI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
King David's Jug Band Rising Sun BluesCincinnati Blues
Mattie May Thomas Dangerous BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Charlie Patton Tom RushenPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
William Harris Bull Frog Blues The Best There Ever Was
Sam Collins Lonesome Road BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Allen Shaw Moanin' The Blues Masters of the Memphis Blues
Shreveport HomewreckersFence Breakin' BluesBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37

Show Notes:

Blind Willie McTell: The Early Years
Read Liner Notes

Today's show is a trip down memory lane for me. I've been going through a bout of nostalgia lately, hopefully not the onset of a mid-life crisis, although I have been eying the red Corvette! Anyway, I've been thinking about my favorite country blues tracks lately, most of which I first heard in my formative years of blues collecting. These are the songs that I never get tired of and ones that I find myself revisiting over the years. This is by no means a “best of” list, just songs that I find myself continuously going back to. Many are considered blues classics, many not, and many are most often not the songs by these artists that are considered their best. There's numerous artists that I revere like Bukka White, Frank Stokes, Henry Thomas, Mississippi John Hurt that are omitted simply for the fact that I can't nail down just one song that does it for me by those artists. As I said many of these tracks I first heard when I first started picking up blues records, over twenty-five years ago (that's a hard number to swallow!). And yes I was buying country blues records back then. It was a very short jump from buying my first blues record, B.B. King – Live At The Regal ($3.99 at Tower Records) to picking up, and almost wearing out the grooves of Blind Willie McTell – The Early Years on my beloved Yazoo label. In fact Yazoo was the label where I discovered many of my favorite country blues tracks on treasured compilations like Mississippi Moaners, Guitar Wizards, Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics, Lonesome Road Blues and The Voice Of The Blues among others. I knew that the Yazoo office was in Manhattan and I often thought about going over there but I never did – I guess I never really knew what I'd do once I got there! Also hugely influential was the piano blues series on Magpie records which made me a lifelong fan of piano blues. Several tracks from that series can be found on today's show. Still, there are a number of songs that became favorites later, for example Blind Joe Reynolds “Ninety Nine Blues” which was only discovered a few years ago (the consensus seems to be that the “B” side, “Cold Woman Blues”, is the superior track, but for me “Ninety Nine Blues” just kills me). I never did go in for what the consensus says which I suppose is reflected in today's eclectic playlist of  all-time favorites.

I count myself lucky to be living where I was when the blues bug bit me. I lived in the Bronx and it was short hop to Manhattan where there was no shortage of great record stores. I fondly remember prowling  records stores like Finyl Vinyl on Second Ave., St. Marks Records, Venus Records, Bleeker Bob's, Footlight Records and the  Jazz Record Mart (still in business and even after buying records there since I was a teenager the same guy still refuses to cut me a deal!). Then there were the book/magazine shops like Hudson News and See Hear where I could find isues of the great British blues mags like Blues Unlimited (went under right when I discovered it!), Juke Blues and Blues & Rhythm.  Of course there were a number of fine left-of-the-dial radio stations that played plenty of blues. Anyway, below are few reminisces about some of today's selections.

Little Hat Jones cut ten sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. All his sides are worthwhile but “Bye Bye Baby Blues” is the best thing he ever did in my opinion. When I was coming up with today’s playlist this is one of the first songs I picked. I probably first heard it on the Yazoo compilation Don't Leave Me Here: The Blues of Texas, Arkansas, & Louisiana 1927-1932.

We spin a pair of my favorite Charlie Patton songs today, "Jim Lee Blues Pt. 1" and "Tom Rushen." I'm not sure exactly what it is with the former song that I find so striking, it's not one often cited when talking about Patton's best, yet I find it incredibly compelling. Patton's vocals on this are magnificent. The 2-part number celebrates a Mississippi river boat that plied between Vicksburg and Memphis. I have to admit that I really fell under Patton's spell much later. I did own the Yazoo double LP Founder of the Delta Blues but the problem for me was that I couldn't get past the terrible sound of those records. Compare that record to the Best Of which came out just a few years back and the difference is like night and day.

I first heard “Love Changing Blues” on Blind Willie McTell – The Early Years on Yazoo. I played the hell out of this record and for whatever reason, it was this song that made a huge impression on me although, of course, I also loved the more famous “Statesboro Blues.” I distinclty remember my college roomate making fun of me for owing a record by a guy named Blind Willie McTell. I never did lecture him, just turned up the record really loud until it drive him out of the room.

Despite the fact that I’m featuring two Sam Collins cuts on today’s show, I can’t really say he’s one of my favorite artists. However the vocal performances on “My Road Is Rough And Rocky” and “Lonesome Road Blues” are magnificent. I first heard these on the Yazoo compilation Lonesome Road Blues: 15 Years in the Mississippi Delta 1926-1941. The song “My Road Is Rough And Rocky” made its first appearance on this compilation and I believed the title was given by Yazoo. How this song could be unreleased boggles my mind.

Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Read Liner Notes

Yes I know, Son House's 1930 sides are acknowledged classics, and rightly so. His epic six minute version of “Walking Blues” from 1941, with a rocking band that included Willie Brown, Fiddlin' Joe Martin and Leroy Williams, is that song that floors me every time and one of my all time favorites.

I guess Texas pianist Andy Boy is an offbeat choice for favorites but his recordings really get to me. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. Andy Boy's songs are filled with vivid imagery, humor, clever wordplay and a times a deep pathos. Along with pianist Rob Cooper, Andy Boy plays prominently on the records of Joe Pullum, one of the era's most distinctive and imaginative vocalists. Andy Boy cut only eight sides under his own name as well as backing both Pullum and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington. I know I first him on Magpie’s The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937. I probably heard Joe Dean on one of the Magpie collections or possibly on Yazoo’s Barrelhouse Blues 1927-1936. I’m pretty sure I heard Cripple Clarence Lofton’s “Gang of Brownskin Women” on Yazoo’s Cripple Clarence Lofton & Walter Davis which sported a great photo of Lofton at the piano snapping his fingers with a huge grin on his face.

Sung by Noah Lewis who also plays the superb harmonica, "Going To Germany", is one of those dreamy blues that puts me in a trance every time I hear it. I'm guessing I first heard it on the double Cannon Jug Stompers album. I miss those great double albums that used to open up. Not quite the same experience with a CD. Lottie Kimbrough’ “Rolling Log Blues” has the same dreamy, haunting quality as “Going To Germany” and a song that always mesmerizes me.

The Yazoo compilation Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-37 was an absolute killer. From that compilation comes Jim & Bob’s amazing “St. Louis Blues” as well as the Shreveport Homewreckers’ “Fence Breakin' Blues.”

Willie Harris’ “Never Drive a Stranger from Your Door” is a great bottleneck number. First heard this one on Yazoo’s Jackson Blues 1928-1938.

In November 1929 at the Paramount Recording Studios in Grafton, Wisconsin, four songs were recorded at 78 rpm by a Louisiana street musician named Joe Sheppard who used the name Blind Joe Reynolds. The second record recorded in Wisconsin on that day, "Ninety Nine Blues" backed with "Cold Woman Blues" has been lost since it was first released in October of 1930. No copies in any condition were ever located until just a few years ago. The recorded was eventually bought and reissued on CD by John Tefteller. I guess I’m at odds with collectors Richard Nevins (owner of Yazoo) and Pete Whelan of 78 Quarterly fame who claim "Cold Woman Blues" as the masterpiece, because for me it’s the flip, "Ninety Nine Blues.” What do those guys know anyway!?

It was through the Magpie piano series that I became a lifelong fan of piano blues. I came to the series late, my first purchase was volume 20 and I must have been around 16. The album made a huge impression on me and I even remember exactly where I purchased it; it was at one of my favorite haunts, Tower Records on West 4th St., NYC (the blues section was on the top floor, tucked behind the jazz secton. Often I was the only one back threre, which for me was perfect!). I went back and picked up as many of the rest of the albums I could find and over the years completed the entire series. That particular volume was my introduction to the Sparks Brothers who are still favorites to this day. Milton’s Spark’s high pitched voice and Aaron sensitive piano work really struck a chord, particularly on “Down In The Levee”

Now the obscure Pigmeat Terry was anthologized on one of the Magpie albums although I’m positive I didn't hear his records until much later. Terry only cut one 78 in 1935, a great record, and possessed a high, whispery, moaning voice, a bit reminiscent of the popular Joe Pullum who made his debut the prior year. His "Black Sheep Blues" is a striking tune both vocally and lyrically:

My mother's gone to glory
My father died of drinking in his sins
My sister won't notice me, she's to proud to take me in
I'm a black sheep in my family, and how they dog me around
Someday I'll get lucky and won't be found around

Allen Shaw is another great bluesman cut only one78. He has a powerful voice, somewhat like Son House, and lays down some great slide. Shame he didn’t record more. Shaw also got together on record with Hattie Hart. They engaged in one memorable session in New York, in the late summer of 1934. I heard this side first on Sony’s Slide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2 back when the major labels would occasionally issue stuff like this. I’m pretty sure those days are gone.

“Have you ever woke up with them bullfrogs on your mind?” One of the more enigmatic opening blues lines I’ve ever heard and one of the best blues ever by the mysterious William Harris (not the same as the Willie Harris mentioned above).

The Voice Of The Blues
Read Liner Notes

There were very few recorded guitar playing women blues singers recorded in the pre-war era. Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley are two of the few. Both their records are extremely rare and both woman barley left a trace behind as to who they were. Wiley’s “Last Kind Words” is a masterpiece there’s no doubt, but I find myself returning to her jaunty “Pick Poor Robin Clean” with partner Elvie Thomas.“ I’m not sure where I first heard this and like William Harris’ “Bullfrog Blues” I’m not really sure what the hell the song means.

Elizabeth Johnson is another mystery woman who cut four sides in 1928. “Be My Kid Blues b/w Sobbin’ Woman Blues” is great record.  She’s backed by a unique band (listed as Her Turpentine Tree-O) that consisted of woodblocks, clarinet and guitar.

Mattie May Thomas waxed three remarkable acapella numbers in 1939. They were recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in the woman's camp of the  notorious Parchman Farm. Thomas' “Dangerous Blues” is a haunting, violent and sad song that gives me shivers every time I hear it.:

You keep on talking 'bout the dangerous blues.
If I had a pistol I'd be dangerous too.
Say, you may be a bully, say but I don't know.
But I fix you so you won't give me no trouble in the world I know.
She won't cook no breakfast, she won't wash no clothes.
Say, that woman don't do nothin' but walk the road.
My knee bone hurt me, and my ankle swell.
Says, I may get better but I won't get well.
Say, Mattie had a baby, and she got blues eyes.
Say, must be the captain, he keep on hanging around.
He keep on hanging around, keep on hanging around.

I’m not a huge fan of Jim Jackson but at his very last session in 1930 he cut outstanding versions of “St Louis Blues” and “Hesitation Blues.” Many have covered ““Hesitation Blues” but to me Jackson’s version will always be the definitive one.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Ruth Willis & Blind Willie McTellTalkin' To You Wimmen About The BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Blind Willie McTellGeorgia RagThe Classic Early Years
Curley WeaverWild Cat KittenAtlanta Blues
Victoria Spivey Telephoning the BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Bessie SmithLong Old RoadThe Complete Recordings
Clara SmithGood Times (Come On Back Once More)Clara Smith Vol. 6 1930-1932
Leroy CarrNineteen Thirty One Blues How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Scrapper BlackwellBlue Day BluesThe Virtuoso Guitar Of Scrapper Blackwell
Gene CampbellWedding Day BluesGene Campbell 1929-1931
J.T. "Funny Papa" SmithHoppin' Toad FrogJ. T. ''Funny Paper'' Smith 1930-1931
Oscar ''Buddy'' Woods & Jimmie DavisShe's A Hum DingerTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace
Sam Collins Lonesome Road BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Skip JamesHard Time Killin' Floor BluesComplete 1931 Recordings
Geeshie Wiley Pick Poor Robin CleanMississippi Masters
Little Brother Montgomery Louisiana BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 12
James "Bat" RobinsonHumming BluesDown In Black Bottom
Peetie WheatstrawSix Weeks Old BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 1 1930-1932
Clifford GibsonShe Rolls It SlowClifford Gibson 1929-1931
Charley Jordan You Run And Tell Your DaddyCharley Jordan Vol. 1 1930-1931
Lonnie JohnsonUncle NedA Life in Music Selected Sides 1925-1953
Joe MccoyMy Wash Woman's GoneCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Memphis MinnieCrazy Cryin' BluesMemphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol 3 1929-1930
Mississippi Blacksnakes Grind So FineMississippi Strings Bands & Associates 1928-1931
Mississippi SheiksLivin' In A StrainHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down
Joe Evans & Arthur McClainJohn HenryBefore The Blues Vol. 3
Tommie BradleyPlease Don't Act That WayTommie Bradley/James Cole Groups 1928-1932
Black Billy SundayThis Old World's in a Hell of a FixBlues Images Vol. 7
Hezekiah JenkinsThe Panic Is OnBlues & Jazz Obscurities
Blind BlakeRope Stretching Blues Pt. 1The Best Of
Tampa RedToogaloo BluesTampa Red Vol. 4 1930-31
Bo Carter Twist It, BabyTwist It Babes
Daddy StovepipeBurleskin' BluesAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949
Ben FergusonTry And Treat Her RightRuckus Juice & Chitlins, Vol. 1

Show Notes:

Today’s show is the fifth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. The record companies advertised their records in black newspapers, mainly in the Chicago Defender, which was the nation’s most influential black weekly newspaper. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. By 1931 race records were selling about a tenth as well as they had four years previously. For example, Paramount went from waxing over a hundred blues and gospel items in 1930 but only about three dozen in 1931, Columbia had no new artists and its releases were cut by over a third and Victor also cut their releases by a third. Despite the cutbacks there was some fine blues recorded in 1931 including classic Mississippi blues by Skip James, Cryin' Sam Collins, Geeshie Wiley plus big blues stars like Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Clara Ward, Leroy Carr, Lonnie Johnson, Bo Carter, Blind Blake and the Mississippi Sheiks.

Chicago Defender, Mississippi Sheiks Ad, March 28, 1931
 
 

Columbia-Okeh (Columbia had taken over Okeh in 1929) made one field trip to Atalanta in October/November of 1931. Prior to this date the labels were run separately but because of the economic times the principle of keeping the labels separate was forgotten. The first day they recorded two tunes by Blind Willie McTell which were marked in the ledger 'Blind Sammie' and allotted Columbia matrix numbers; then McTell was recorded doing two more numbers which were listed as by 'Georgia Bill' and given Okeh matrix numbers. This was the last field trip Columbia made.

One of those 1931 McTell tracks was reissued for the first time just two years ago. In 2007 record collector John Tefteller reissued what is apparently the only known copy of Blind Willie McTell & Mary Willis' "Talkin To You Wimmen' About The Blues." The track and it’s flip side, "Merciful Blues", was issued on the CD that accompanies Tefteller’s 2007 blues artwork calendar. To quote Tefteller: "the record you see in the center of this page [Talkin' To You Wimmen About The Blues] apparently has not been heard by anyone since its release back in the late fall of 1931. I have had this record in my collection for almost ten years. I had no idea that it was potentially a one-of-a-kind record!"

Victor was straining under hard times as well. Victor, like the other major companies, always made at least two takes of each title. On June 16, 1931 Raymond R. Sooy, the chief recording engineer, sent around a memo that only one wax recording was to be made unless the wax was defective. The label dispensed with their annual recording to Memphis. They did go to Charlotte, NC cutting mainly hillbilly and went on to Louisville where they recorded Jimmie Rodgers as well as sides by pianists Walter Davis and Roosevelt Sykes.

Okeh Records fared better then most labels; they had the fast selling Mississippi Sheiks but were also issuing solo records by Sheiks member, Bo Carter. Thanks to Carter and the Sheiks the label managed to issue more blues and gospel record then the previous year. The Mississippi Sheiks cut fourteen sides in 1931. Our track, "Livin' In A Strain", was unissued at the time. Carter was even more prolific, cutting over two-dozen sides in 1931.

Chicago Defender, Mississippi Sheiks/Bo Carter
Ad, May 23, 1931

The ARC label went out in the field in 1931 recordings some gospel numbers and sermons as well as eighteen numbers by Joe Evans and Arthur McClain, guitarists-singers from Alabama and twenty sides by Sam Collins. In 1931 and into 1932 ARC issued a steady two records or so each month in the Perfect 100 series. All the records were simultaneously release on Oriole, Romeo and , from the end of 1931, on Banner. These were budget priced labels that sold from 25 cents, sold in dime stores and department stores and became known as 'dime store labels.'

Paramount recorded some of the era’s most celebrated male blues artists such as delta legends Charlie Patton, Skip James, Tommy Johnson, Son House, Willie Brown plus diverse artists such as Buddy Boy Hawkins, the Mississippi Sheiks, Charlie Spand, Papa Charlie Jackson among many others. The onset of the depression crippled the recording industry and Paramount was eventually discontinued in 1932. Perhaps the most famous recording session from 1931 was the eighteen songs Skip James recorded for Paramount at a single remarkable session. Cut in the depths of the depression and when Paramount was on its last legs, pressings of James' recordings may have been as low as five hundred copies making these some of the rarest and most prized 78's in blues collecting circles.

Hard times songs were always common in the blues but took on a new immediacy during the depression.  The depression originated with the fall in stock prices that began around September 4, 1929 and became worldwide news with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday). Times were certainly hard in 1931 with 2,294 banks failing, stock market prices still falling and the doubling of unemployment to 16.3%. To an opening chorus of "God's gonna set this world on fire", Black Billy Sunday delivered "This Old World's In a Hell of a Fix", a rousing sermon on the depression:

God is calling, the world is upside down
This hard times that we're having in this world
With millions out of work, with worldwide Depression
Unrest is because this old world is in a hell of a fix
I'm saying to you today my brothers, and my sisters
Let me warn you, get right with God

Skip James also spoke for the dispossessed  in his "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" where he mixed some religious imagery with the blues:

Hard time's is here
An ev'rywhere you go
Times are harder
Than th'ever been befo'

You know that people
They are driftin' from do' to do'
But they can't find no heaven
I don't care where they go

Other songs featured today that speak to the times are the Mississippi Sheiks' "Livin' In A Strain", Clara Smith's "Good Times (Come On Back Once More)" and Hezikiah Jenkins' "The Panic Is On." Jenkins cut eight issued sides and four unissued sides between 1924 and 1931. He got his start performing in minstrel groups and was mentioned in press clippings as early as 1914. "The Panic Is On" is a vivid portrait of the times:

What this country is coming to
I sure would like to know
If they don’t do something bye and bye, the rich will live and the poor will die
Doggone, I mean the panic is on

Can’t get no work, can’t draw no pay
Unemployment getting worser every day
Nothing to eat no place to sleep
All night long folks walking the street
Doggone, I mean the panic is on

Chicago Defender, Bo Carter Ad, May 9, 1931

Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe made their debut in 1929 and in 1931 appeared on fourteen records for Vocalion (the label was owned by Brunswick); six solo sides by McCoy, six duets and sixteen solos by Minnie. However popular Minnie's records were, it was the unknown Gene Campbell who did the most recording for Vocalion/Brunswick. Nothing is known of Gene Campbell, who cut two-dozen sides between 1929 and 1931 for Brunswick.

Women blues singers dominated the field ever since Mamie Smith's smash hit "Crazy Blues" proved there was a market for blues records. By the mid-20's as solo blues artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Papa Charlie Jackson and Blind Blake began eclipsing the ladies in popularity. A few of the classic women blues singers stuck it out and we spin fine tracks by Bessie Smith, Clara Smith and Victoria Spivey. Bessie hung in there until 1933, Clara made her last records in 1932 while Spivey hung in there until 1937, although she made no records between 1932 and 1935.

For whatever reason there wasn't a whole lot of notable piano blues recorded in 1931. Both Peetie Wheatstraw and Little Brother Montgomery made their debut in 1930. Montgomery cut one 78 in 1931 while Wheatstraw cut half-a-dozen sides and would go on to become one of the most prolific and popular bluesmen of the 30's. We also play a track by lesser known St. Louis pianist James "Bat" Robinson who waxed just three sides in 1931 and two sides in the post-war period.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Lemon JeffersonSunshine SpecialThe Complete Classic Sides
Black Ivory KingThe Flying CrowBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Jack RangerT.P. Window BluesDallas Alley Drag
Kelly PaceRock Island LineField Recordings Vol. 2
LeadbellyMidnight SpecialAlabama Bound
Bukka WhiteStreamline SpecialThe Vintage Recordings 1930-1940
Cripple Clarence LoftonStreamline TrainCripple Clarence Lofton Vol. 1 1935-1939
Henry ThomasRailroadin' SomeGood For What Ails You
Leroy CarrMemphis TownSloppy Drunk
Charlie McCoyThat Lonesome Train Took...Charlie McCoy 1928-1932
Furry LewisKassie JonesBefore The Blues Vol. 3
Jesse JamesSouthern Casey JonesPiano Blues Vol. 1 1927-1936
Two Poor BoysJohn HenryAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lucille BoganT& NO BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Sparks BrothersI.C. Train BluesThe Sparks Brothers 1932-1935
Little Brother MontgomeryA. & V. Railroad BluesLittle Brother Montgomery 1930-1936
Eddie MillerFreight Train BluesDown On The Levee
Hound Head HenryFreight Train SpecialCow Cow Davenport - The Accompanist 1924-1929
Trixie SmithFreight Train BluesTrixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1939
Martha CopelandHobo BillMartha Copeland Vol. 1 1923-1927
Will BennettRailroad BillSinners & Saints 1926-1931
Sam CollinsYellow Dog BluesWhen The Levee Breaks
Robert JohnsonLove In VainThe Road to Robert Johnson
Willie BrownM&O BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Roosevelt SykesThe Train Is ComingRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 5 1937-1939
Cow Cow DavenportRailroad BluesCow Cow Davenport Vol. 2 1929-1945
Sylvester WeaverRailroad Porter BluesSylvester Weaver Vol. 2
Sleepy John EstesSpecial Agent (Railroad Police Blues)I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Billiken JohnsonSun Beam BluesDallas Alley Drag
Andrew and Jim BaxterKC Railroad BluesViolin, Sing The Blues For Me
George NobleThe Seminole BluesChicago Piano 1929-1936
Pink Anderson & Simmnie DooleyC.C. and O. BluesA Richer Tradition
Blind Willie McTellTravelin' BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940

Show Notes:

When a woman get the blues, she goes to her room and hides (2x)
When a man gets the blues, he catches a freight train and rides
(Trixie Smith, Freight Train Blues)

For southern Blacks the appeal of the railroads has always been both a real and a symbolic one. For them the train was a symbol of power, of freedom and escape.  As blues historian Paul Oliver wrote: “In the slavery periods when they were unable to travel between districts without written ‘bonds’ from their owners, the snorting engines, with brilliant furnaces traces their progress and clouds of black smoke that hung in the still air above the tracks long after the screaming whistles had died away, inspired them in awe which their descendants still retain.” This image carried on, in the hard times of the 1920's and 1930s', when the southern Blacks struggled to make a living and saw the northern cities as their saviors, where work was plentiful and a better life was to be had. As the blues developed, the railroad featured prominently in the songs. Numerous songs were sung about individual trains such as the Flying Crow, the Sunshine Special and the Panama Limited, many simply abbreviated like the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio), T&P (Texas Pacific) or the L&N (Louisville and Nashville), many songs dealt with the hobos who rode the rails, others dealt with working for the railroad while other songs retold the famous railroad ballads of John Henry, Railroad Bill and Casey Jones. Today’s show will spotlight all of these types of railroad blues.

The title of today's program comes from the song by Henry Thomas. Thomas, nicknamed “Ragtime Texas”, was born in 1874 in Big Sandy, Texas. The 1874 date marks him as one of the eldest-born blues performers on record. Thomas was the archetypal rambling musician who went wherever the railroads would take him. According to Mack McCormick, as told to him from a former railroad conductor, “Ragtime Texas was a big fellow that used to come aboard at Gladewater or Mineola or somewhere in there. I’d always carry him, except when he was too dirty. He was a regular hobo, but I’d carry him most of the time. That guitar was his ticket.” Speaking of his famous “Railroadin’ Some”, William Barlow calls it the most “vivid and intense recollection of railroading” in all the early blues recorded in the 1920’s.

Among the famous railroad songs featured today are two associated with Leadbelly, "Rock Island Line" and 'Midnight Special", and the folk ballads Casey Jones, John Henry and Railroad Bill. John Lomax recorded "Rock Island Line" at the Cummins State Prison farm, Gould, Arkansas, in 1934 from its convict composer, Kelly Pace. Leadbelly, who was with Lomax at the time, rearranged it in his own style, and made commercial recordings of it in the forties. The song refers to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Lyrics appearing in the "Midnight Special" were first recorded in print by Howard Odum in 1905. The song was first commercially recorded on the OKeh label in 1926 as "Pistol Pete's Midnight Special" by Dave "Pistol Pete" Cutrell and the following year by bluesman Sam Collins. In 1934 Lead Belly recorded a version of the song at Angola Prison for John and Alan Lomax, who mistakenly attributed it to him as the author. Leadbelly recorded at least three versions of the song, including the one we feature with the Golden Gate Quartet.

John Luther "Casey" Jones was an American railroad engineer from Jackson, Tennessee who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. On April 30, 1900, he alone was killed when his passenger train collided with a stalled freight train at Vaughan, Mississippi on a foggy and rainy night. His dramatic death trying to stop his train and save lives made him a folk hero who became immortalized in a popular song. We spin two versions on today's program: "Kassie Jones Pt. 1" by Furry Lewis and "Southern Casey Jones" by Jesse James.

John Henry is an American folk hero, notable for having raced against a steam powered hammer and won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand. He has been the subject of numerous songs, stories, plays, and novels. The truth about John Henry is obscured by time and myth, but one legend has it that he was a slave born in Missouri in the 1840s and fought his notable battle with the steam hammer along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in Talcott, West Virginia. On today's show we play a version by the duo The Two Poor Boys.

The legend of Railroad Bill arose in the winter of 1895, along the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad line in southern Alabama. Based loosely on the exploits of an African American outlaw known as "Railroad Bill," tales of his brief but action-filled career on the wrong side of the law have been preserved in song, fiction, and theater. He has been variously portrayed as a "Robin Hood" character, a murderous criminal and a nameless victim of the Jim Crow South. He was never conclusively identified, but L&N detectives claimed he was a man named Morris Slater. Today we spin  "Railroad Bill" by Will Bennett.

Featured today are several songs about specific trains or railroad lines. Our opening track "Sunshine Special" by Blind Lemon Jefferson refers the train of the same name which was inaugurated by the Missouri Pacific Railroad on December 5, 1915, providing service between St. Louis, Little Rock, and destinations in Texas. The Sunshine Special served as the flagship of Missouri Pacific Railroad's passenger train service. Several songs make reference to the Flying Crow, a train line connecting Port Arthur, Texas to Kansas City with major stops in Shreveport and Texarkana. Black Ivory King, Carl Davis & the Dallas Jamboree Jug Band, Dusky Dailey, Washboard Sam and Oscar Woods all recorded songs about the train. Other songs dealing with specific trains featured today include Jack Ranger's "T.P. Window Blues" ( Texas Pacific Railroad), Lucille Bogan's "T& NO Blues" (Texas and New Orleans Railroad), Sparks Brothers' "I.C. Train Blues" (Illinois Central Railroad), Little Brother Montgomery's "A. & V. Railroad Blues" (Alabama & Vicksburg Railroad), Willie Brown's "M&O Blues" (Mobile and Ohio Railroad), Billiken Johnson's "Sun Beam Blues" (Sunbeam was a named passenger train operated from 1925 to 1955 between Houston and Dallas by the Texas and New Orleans Railroad), Andrew and Jim Baxter's "K C Railroad Blues" (Kansas City Southern Railway), George Noble's "The Seminole Blues" (Seminole Gulf Railway), and Pink Anderson & Simmnie Dooley's "C.C. and O. Blues" (Chesapeake and Ohio). Sam Collins' "Yellow Dog Blues" seems to refer to two trains. In 1903 W.C. Handy related how he heard a lean, raggedy, black guitarist in Tutwiler’s railroad depot, singing of going to where the "Southern cross the Yellow Dog." The “Southern” was the Southern Railway which began operations in 1894.“The Dog” was the Yellow Dog, a name for the Yazoo Delta Railroad which opened in 1897.

Several songs like Bukka White's " Special Streamline" and Cripple Clarence Lofton's "Streamline Train" refer to streamliners. A streamliner is any vehicle that incorporates streamlining to produce a shape that provides less resistance to air. The term is most often applied to certain high-speed railway trainsets of the 1930's to 1950's. For a short time in the late 1930s, the ten fastest trains in the world were all American streamliners.

Other trains immortalized in blues songs will be featured in the sequel to today's show; trains such as the Cannon Ball (an Illinois Central passenger train routing between Chicago and New Orleans, now known as the City of New Orleans), the Santa Fe (Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway), the Seaboard (The Seaboard Coast Line Railroad), the Katy (the Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Texas line), the Big four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad ) and the New York Central among others.

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Show Notes:

jim jackson's Kansas City Blues

Today's show is the first installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The bulk of the information for today's show notes comes from the books Recording The Blues (reprinted along with two other titles in Yonder Come The Blues) by Robert M.W. Dixon and John Godrich and Blues & Gospel Records, 1890-1943 by Robert M.W. Dixon, John Godrich and Howard Rye.

The year 1927 was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. Paramount, the market leader at the time, brought talent up to their northern studios. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. The record companies advertised their record in black newspapers, mainly in the Chicago Defender, which was the nation's most influential black weekly newspaper.

Jelly Roll QueenAfter neglecting the race market, Victor decided to jump in the field in 1926 with negligible results. Victor's fortunes turned around when they hired Ralph Peer who had been responsible for building up the race and hilliby catalogs for OKeh. In February 1927 Peer ventured out with the Victor filed unit to Atlanta, Memphis and finally New Orleans. Among the artists recorded in Memphis were the Memphis Jug Band, Furry Lewis and Frank Stokes. In Atlanta recordings were made by Julius Daniels, Blind Willie McTell and others. In New Orleans the major find was songster Richard "Rabbit" Brown who recorded six sides.

Early in 1927 Mayo Williams, who had built up the Paramount catalog, formed his Black Patti label. The recordings were made by Gennett, with half the material issued on Gennett's own labels. Black Patti Records debuted with advertisements in May of 1927, with some two dozen discs said to already be available. The repertory included jazz, blues, sermons, spirituals, and vaudeville skits, most (but not quite all) by African American entertainers. A total of 55 different discs were manufactured. Williams found running his own label not as lucrative and easy as he had hoped, and closed up operations before the end of 1927. Among the notable blues artists recorded were Papa Harvey Hull, Sam Collins, Clara Smith, Jaybird Collins among others.

When Black Patti folded in August 1927, Vocalion quickly hired him as a talent scout. Williams hit pay dirt with Jim Jackson's "Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues" which was released in December 1927 and was an immediate hit.

Gennett began recording blues in 1923 but was the only major label not to have a separate race series. Gennett recorded most of their recordings at their Richmond, Indiana and New York studios. They made one group of recordings in the South in Birmingham Alabama in 1927. Among those recorded during this trip were Jay Bird Coleman, Daddy Stovepipe,, William Harris and Joe Evans.Other artists to appear on the label included Sam Collins and Cow Cow Davenport.

Columbia's race records  were primarily issued on the 1400-D series which ran from December 1923 through April 1933. The first country blues singer to appear on the series was Peg Leg Howell who was recorded in Atalanta in November 1926 and the following year in April.  Also recorded in April 1927 were Robert Hicks aka Barbecue Bob. According to Robert M.W. Dixon John Godrich in their book Recording The Blues, 10, 850 copies of "Barbecue Blues" b/w "Cloudy Sky Blues" were pressed. Initial sales were so good that Hicks was called to New York in the middle of June to record 8 more numbers, and when Columbia returned to Atlanta in November they not only recorded a further 8 selections by Barbecue Bob, but also 6 by his brother Charley Lincoln, who sang the same sort of songs in very much the same style. In December 1927 the Columbia field unti went to Dallas and Memphis.  Notable artists recorded in Dallas inluded Blind Willie Johnson, the Dallas String Band, Lillian Glinn while Memphis yielded important recordings by Reubin Lacy and Pearl Dickson.

TB Blues

In 1926 Columbia and OKeh merged but the labels were run by separate management for three years after the merger and did not compete for the same artists. Since 1927 OKeh had been issuing a new record every six weeks by Lonnie Johnson and issued some two-dozen sides by him in 1927. Johnson also backed other OKeh artists that year including Texas Alexander and Victoria Spivey. OKeh also recorded two sessions by Blind Lemon Jefferson, exclusively a Paramount artist, but these were never issued. Today's show features tracks by all these artists as well as the duo of Butterbeans & Susie who cut close to 70 sides for the label between 1924 and 1930.

The only race company that made no field trips was Paramount. Despite this Paramount remained the market leader in records released and singers recorded. Paramount issued records by the many of the blues biggest stars. In 1927 the label issued records by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake both of whom were extensivley advertised in the Chicago Defender. Other big names were Ma Rainey, Lucille Bogan Ida Cox, and Papa Charlie Jackson.

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