Entries tagged with “Shirley Griffith”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Shirley GriffithRiver Line Blues Saturday Blues
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithBig Road BluesSaturday Blues
Alec SewardEvil Woman BluesCreepin' Blues
Alec SewardBig Hip WomanCreepin' Blues
Alec SewardMade A Mistake In LoveCreepin' Blues
Robert Curtis SmithSunflower River Blues Clarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithPut Your Arms Around MeClarksdale Blues
Wade WaltonParchman FarmShake 'Em On Down
Wade WaltonShake 'Em On DownShake 'Em On Down
Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell'Bama BoundMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellCan't Sleep For Dreaming My Heart Struck Sorrow
Henry TownsendCairo Is My Baby's Home Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendTired Of Being MistreatedTired Of Being Mistreated
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Matchbox Blues Indiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Oh Mama How I Love You Indiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Bright Street JumpIndiana Ave. Blues
Shirley GriffithBye Bye BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley Griffith Left Alone BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithShirley's Jump Saturday Blues
Robert Curtis SmithCouncil Spur BluesClarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithCan You Remember MeClarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithI Hate To Leave You With Tears In Your EyesClarksdale Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellLive Ain't Worth LivingMy Heart Struck Sorrow' Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBlues Is A FeelingMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell Asked Her If She Loved MeMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Henry TownsendI Asked Her If She Loved Me Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendI Got Tired Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendAll My Money Gone Tired Of Being Mistreated
J. T. Adams & Shirley GriffithDone Changed The Lock On My DoorIndiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBlind Lemon's BluesIndiana Ave. Blues

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

From 1949 through 1971, Prestige Records, owned and run by Bob Weinstock, was among the most famous and successful of the independent jazz labels. By the late 50's the company was looking to branch out and new categories were created within the Prestige catalog. There was the Folklore series, there was Moodsville, Swingsville and then there was Bluesville. An important factor was the release in 1959 of Samuel Charter's ground breaking book The Country Blues. In 1961 Charter's hooked up with the label and played a important role getting talent for the label and did much of the producing. In addition to Charters there were a number of others including Mack McCormick of Houston who provided a slew of Lightnin' Hopkins records,Chris Strachwitz who would form Arhoolie Records, Art Rosenbaum who recorded Indianapolis artists Scrapper Blackwell, Shirley Griffith and J.T. Adams and Chris Albertson who was instrumental in getting Lonnie Johnson back in the studio. Bluesville's roster grew quickly including artists such as Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Joe Williams, Jimmy Witherspoon and Memphis Slim among numerous others. A number of older artists such as Tampa Red and particularly Lonnie Johnson found a new home at Bluesville in which to revitalize their careers. In addition the label also caught some important artists on record for the first time or who recorded very little including Pink Anderson (except for two sides cut in the 20's), Baby Tate, Wade Walton and Doug Quattlebaum to name a few. The bulk of of Bluesville's catalog has been issued on CD except for a handful of excellent records we spotlight today.

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (1965) and Mississippi Blues (1973). All thee records are long out of print. Born in 1907 near Brandon, Mississippi Griffith was certainly old enough to have made records in the 1920's and 30's and in fact had at least two opportunities to do so. In 1928 his friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too "wild and reckless" in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In 1935 Carr offered to take Griffith to New York for a recording session but Carr died suddenly and the trip was never made. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record and produced Griffith's Bluesville albums. Griffith did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. He passed away in 1974

John Tyler Adams was born in Western Kentucky and it was his father who started him out on guitar. In 1941 he went up North, eventually settling in Indianapolis. Adams became good friends with Shirley Griffith and at the time of his first recordings had been playing together for fifteen years. Adams recorded just one album, Indiana Ave. Blues (1964) on Bluesville with Griffith with other sides appearing on the album Indianapolis Jump issued on Flyright.

J.T. Adams & Shirley Griffith: Indiana Ave. Blues
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Alec Seward was born in Charles City County, Virginia and relocated to New York in 1942 where he befriended Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. He met Louis Hayes and the duo performed variously named as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly, or The Back Porch Boys. The duo recorded sides in 1944 and another batch in 1947. During the 1940's and 1950's Seward played and recorded with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, McGhee and Terry. Creepin' Blues (with harmonica accompaniment by Larry Johnson) was released by Bluesville in 1965 and never issued on CD. Later in the decade Seward worked in concert and at folk-blues festivals. He died at the age of 70, in New York in May 1972.

One of Clarksdale's most talented and renowned blues musicians, Wade Walton (1923-2000) chose to pursue a career as a barber rather than as a professional entertainer. Walton never lost his love for blues, however, and often performed for customers and tourists at his barbershops. Walton came to the attention of the international blues community after two California college students in search of folk and blues musicians, Dave Mangurian and Don Hill, visited him in 1958. Walton went with the pair to Parchman, where their request to record prisoners' songs were declined and became the topic of a song Walton composed after the encounter. On a return trip in 1961, the students were jailed, but after concluding that they were indeed in town to record blues, not to agitate for civil rights, the case was dismissed. They then traveled with Walton to New Jersey for the recording of his album for Bluesville Records, Shake 'Em On Down.

Brooks Berry was born in March, 1915, in western Kentucky and when she was in her middle teens moved up to Indianapolis, where she lived ever since. As producer Art Rosenbaum wrote: "Brooks met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis and thus began a long though at times stormy friendship that was to end suddenly some fifteen months after the last of the present recordings were made. On October 6, 1962. Scrapper was shot to death in a back alley near his home. Brooks has been, during the four years I have known her, reluctant to sing blues without her friend's sensitive guitar or piano playing behind her; and she will sing less and less now that he is gone." Her lone album under her own name was My Heart Struck Sorrow with Blackwell. Some additional sides by Berry and Blackwell appear on the collection Scrapper Blackwell with Brooks Berry 1959 – 1960 on Document and recorded live at 144 Gallery in Indianapolis, Ind in 1959.

Henry Townsend, who has died aged 96 in 2006, had been the last blues musician who could trace his recording career back to the 1920s, having sat down before a recording microphone in November 1929 to sing his "Henry's Worried Blues" for Paramount. He was born in Shelby, Mississippi, but grew up in St Louis. In his late teens he became interested in playing the guitar and began to infiltrate a circle of musicians that included Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes and Peetie Wheatstraw. He recorded steadily, if not prolifically, through the decades cutting fine sides with Walter Davis through the 50's, a superb record for Bluesville in the 60's and in 1980 one of his finest records, Mule for the Nighthawk label. Townsend's Bluesville album has also been issued on Folkways as The Blues In St. Louis Vol. 3.

Wade Walton: Shake 'em On Down
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A chance meeting with Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, at the Big 6 Barber Shop in Clarksdale led to Robert Curtis Smith's the lone album, Clarksdale Blues, recorded in 1961. The record didn't seem to make much of an impact, sinking without a trace and over the year becoming highly collectible. In the liner notes Mack McCormick wrote: "Robert Curtis Smith is a hard working farm laborer in upper Mississippi. He supports a wife and eight children by driving a tractor ($3 a day top) during the farming season, by hunting rabbits in the winter. He has a borrowed guitar with which he sings of women he has loved, lost, discarded, or found worthy of erotic praise. …The status quo in his world is to sap the strength and exploit the weakness of Negroes. It is a far more vicious crime than the occasional lynching since the end result is the massive weakening of a strong people. Ideas of inferiority are fed to him hand-in-hand with conditions that patently are inferior. Badly deprived of constitutional privilege and the minimum wage, and lacking the know-how to correct his situation, Smith’s way of life is astonishingly out of step with modern times." A few other tracks by Curtis appear on various anthologies including some excellent 1960 numbers on the Arhoolie collection I Have to Paint My Face: Mississippi Blues 1960. Smith disappeared from the blues world not long after these recordings but 30 years later he was rediscovered living in Chicago. He had given up blues in the passing years, but he continued to play in church and was recorded performing gospel numbers in 1990 on the anthology From Mississippi to Chicago. Eventually Wade Walton became aware of Smith's whereabouts; this led to his appearance at the 1997 Sunflower River Blues Festival in Clarksdale. By one account it was an uncomfortable performance and I'm not sure if Smith did any follow-up concerts.Smith passed in 2010.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Andrew OdumIt's My Own Fault Farther Up The Road
Andrew OdumDon't Ever Leave Me All AloneFarther Up The Road
Andrew Odumake Me Back To East St LouisFarther Up The Road
Bill Williams Low and Lonesome Low And Lonesome
Bill Williams Blake's Rag LucillBlues, Rag & Ballads
Bill WilliamsyNobody's BusinessBlues, Rag & Ballads
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Walter HortonCan't Help MyselfBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Roosevelt CharlesCane Choppin'Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesMean Trouble BluesBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesI'm a Gamblin' ManBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Johnny YoungTried Not To CryI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Know She's Kinda SlickI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Rev. Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember Me Memphis Gospel Singer
Rev. Robert WilkinsThe Prodigal SonMemphis Gospel Singer
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Expressin' The Blues Welfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)The Welfare BluesWelfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Southland Welfare Blues
Arbee StidhamWee Hours A Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamTake Your Hand Off My KneeA Time For Blues
Arbee Stidham Meet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Shirely Griffith Cool Kind Papa From New OrleansMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Maggie Campbell BluesMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Delta HazeMississippi Blues

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
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Over the years of doing this show I've played many long out-of-print records and I've finally decided to do a series of shows exclusively devoted to these records. While an impressive amount of blues has made it to the digital age, it may be surprising to some that there is a large cache of great blues albums, primarily from the 60's and 70's, that have never been reissued. I like to think of these records as sort of a hidden narrative of the blues running parallel but under the more mainstream blues or the blues records issued on some of the bigger labels, sort of the same as the field recordings I often play as compared to the commercial blues that was being issued. With the decline of CD's and the rise of digital music I have a feeling these great records will never get resurrected. The bulk of the albums featured in the series are from a slew of great small labels that issued records that probably sold in exceedingly small amounts. Over the course of these shows I'll be spotlighting albums from some of these great forgotten labels like Blue Goose, 77 Records, Albatros, Flyright, Spivey, Barrelhouse among others. For part two I'll be spotlighting a batch from Bluesville, which did have an extensive CD reissue program but left out some great titles. Below is some background on today's featuredrecords.

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. The label has been spottily reissued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. The label had big names like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker but to me some of the more interesting records are by lesser knowns like Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, L.C. Robinson and Andrew Odom. Farther Up The Road finds Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between him and Earl Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose.  Among the highlights are the moody "Stormy Monday", the bouncing "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone" and a crackling version of "Farther Up The Road" (two songs appear on the Earl Hooker anthology CD Simply The Best). The record wasn't treated well by the critics as Mike Leadbitter clearly expressed in a 1973 edition of Blues Unlimited: "What a bitter disappointment! Muffled sound, endless boring songs and total lack of variation. What have BluesWay done to my heroes?" The album was finally released in 1973 and virtually sank without a trace. Despite Leadbitter's assessment this is a worthwhile release and well worth resurrecting on CD.

Also from the Bluesway vaults comes Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping, Young's final recording, passing not long after this superb date. Young is in top form playing mandolin on all cuts backed by a tough band featuring stellar guitar work from Louis Myers and the debut by harp man Jerry Portnoy who is uncredited.

Roosevelt Charles: Blues, Prayer, Work and Trouble Songs
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During the 1960's Nick Perls amassed a vast collection of blues records from the 1920's and 1930's. In 1968 he began transferring some of these onto LP, initially naming his label Belzoni but after five releases changed the name to Yazoo. Perls set up the Blue Goose Record label in the early 1970's. While on Blue Goose' sister label Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920's by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, on Blue Goose Records he recorded only living artists. He cut albums by blues artists like Sam Chatmon, Son House, Yank Rachell, Shirley Griffith, Thomas Shaw and Bill Williams and Larry Johnson plus younger white blues performers like Jo Ann Kelly, Woody Mann, Graham Hine, John Lewis, Roger Hubbard, Roy Book Binder, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders and Rory Block. The bulk of the label's output remains out of print.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist." Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he passed away in his sleep.Blues Southside Chicago is one of my favorite anthologies, a superb collection of Chicago blues recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do."

Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer
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Roosevelt Charles was recorded by folklorist Harry Oster in 1959 and 1960 with tracks appearing on anthologies and one full-length album, the long out of print Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs. Oster wrote the following: “Classified as a habitual criminal, a four-time loser, Roosevelt Charles has spent most of his adult life (he is now 45) in prisons, principally, Angola, alternating short periods of freedom with long sentences. …Despite his lengthy police record, Charles is sensitive, personable, intelligent and imaginative – a highly gifted creator, performer and interpreter of Negro music. His rebellion against society appears at least in part the explosion which results when a driving, intensely creative man can find no outlets for his energies and talents – a particularity difficult problem for a bright but almost illiterate Negro born in the Louisiana farm country."

Robert Wilkins passed away in 1987 and it's a shame he made so few recordings in his later years. He did make one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer cut in 1963 for the Piedmont label and sadly never issued on CD (it was reissued on vinyl in 1984 on the Origin Jazz Library label.) His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics. Other post-war sides by Wilkins can be found on the out-of-print anthology This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix, The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival, …Remember Me (from the 1969Memphis Country Blues Festival)  plus a few other scattered sides.

Guitar Gabriel AKA Nyles Jones, recorded under the latter name the superb LP, My South, My Blues, for the Gemini label in 1970.Mike Leadbitter, writing in Blues Unlimited in 1970, called the single, "Welfare Blues", the most important 45 released that year. Gabriel dropped out of sight for about 20 years and his belated return to performing was due largely to folklorist and musician Timothy Duffy, who located Gabriel in 1991. With Duffy accompanying him as second guitarist on acoustic sets and as a member of his band, Brothers in the Kitchen, Gabriel performed frequently at clubs and festivals, and appeared overseas. He recorded several albums for Duffy's Music Maker label before passing in 1996.I'm under the impression that

Arbee Stidham is held in rather low opinion among the blues collecting community. The truth is that Stidham's music isn't, for the most part, all that exciting but A Time For Blues is a terrific outing with Stidham backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.Shhirley Griffith: Mississppi Blues

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (Bluesville, 1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (Bluesville, 1965) and Mississippi Blues (Blue Goose, 1973). The fact that all three albums are out of print goes a ways in understanding why Griffith remains so little known. He also didn't benefit all that much from the renewed blues interest of the 1960's; he never achieving the acclaim of late discovered artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell, the critical appreciation of a Robert Pete Williams or the excitement surrounding rediscovered legends like Son House, Skip James or Mississippi John Hurt. He did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. Griffith passed away in 1974.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Naptown BluesSloppy Drunk
Bill GaitherNaptown StompBill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Shady Lane BluesWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Alabama Women BluesSloppy Drunk
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Midnight Hour BluesSloppy Drunk
Herve Duerson Naptown SpecialBarrelhouse Piano Blues and Stomps
Turner ParrishAin't Gonna Be Your Dog No More Down In Black Bottom
Bill GaitherPains in My HeartBill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
Bill GaitherTired Of Your Line Of Jive Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
Honey HillSet 'EmBill Gaither Vol. 3 1938-1939
Champion Jack DupreeBig Time MamaChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
Jesse CrumpMr. Crump Rag Male Blues Of The Twenties Vol. 2 1923-1928
Montana Taylor Indiana Avenue StompShake Your Wicked Knees
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellHow LongMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Scrapper BlackwellLife of a MillionaireScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
J.T Adams & Shirley GriffithMatchbox BluesIndiana Ave. Blues
Shirley Griffith River Line BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley Griffith Big Road Blues Saturday Blues
Pete FranklinDown Behind The Rise Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
James Easley, Pete Franklin, Raymond HollowayBig Leg Woman Indianapolis Jump
Pete Franklin I Got To Find My BabyGuitar Pete’s Blues
Shirley GriffithBye Bye BluesMississippi Blues
James Yank Rachel and Shirley GriffithPeach Orchard MamaArt of Field Recording Vol. I
Scrapper Blackwell Blue Day Blues The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Blues Before Sunrise Mr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Little Boy Blue Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
J.T Adams & Shirley GriffithIn The EveningIndiana Ave. Blues
J.T Adams & Shirley GriffithIndianapolis JumpIndiana Ave. Blues
Bill GaitherI'm Behind The 8 BallBill Gaither Vol. 5 1940-1941
Bill GaitherBloody Eyed WomanBill Gaither Vol. 4 1939
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellI Believe I'll Make a Change Sloppy Drunk
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellBig Four BluesSloppy Drunk
Scrapper BlackwellMy Old Pal Blues (Dedicated to the Memory of Leroy Carr)Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958

Show Notes:

Read Duncan Scheidt's Liner Notes

Indianapolis, Indiana had a vibrant blues scene both in the pre-war and postwar era, although the city's blues artists have been captured spottily on record. The most important blues artist to emerge from the city was Leroy Carr, one of the most popular blues artists of the 30's. Carr was born in Tennessee but move to Indianapolis, at a young age. It was there that he picked up the piano, influenced by many of the barrelhouse players on the city's west side. Carr eventually hooked up with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell who appears on the bulk of Carr's recordings as well as making sides under his own name.  Indeed, by all accounts, the city was a good piano town going back to the turn of the century when ragtime players were abundant. In the blues er many good piano players  got on record including Montana Taylor, Jesse Crump and strong evidence that Herve Duerson and Turner Parrish where also based in the city.  Guitarist Bill Gaither and his piano partner George “Honey” Hill were also based in Indianapolis. Gaither moved back and forth between there and his native Louisville. Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Pianist Champion Jack Dupree settled in the city in 1940, cutting four sessions between 1940 and 1941 in the company of fellow Indianapolis musicians. Also in the pre-war era were recorded singers Nina Reeves, who cut "Indiana Avenue Blues" at her first session backed by Jesse Crump and Lulu Jackson. Bumble Bee Slim also settled in the city in 1928 and spent a few years there before heading to Chicago and a very successful recording career.

In the post-war era Scrapper Blackwell was rediscovered and had a short but productive comeback. Several other fine blues artists were in Scrapper's orbit; there was Shirley Griffith who moved to the city in 1928 and became friendly with Scrapper and Carr, Pete Franklin’ whose mother was good friend with Leroy Carr (he roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935), Jesse Ellery who appeared on Jack Dupree's first sessions and singer Brooks Berry who met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis and recorded one album together. Other artists included Yank Rachell who moved to the city in 1958 and did some touring with Shirley Griffith and J.T. Adams who came up from Kentucky and became a faithful partner to Griffith. The city also became the adopted home of Leroy “Lefty” Bates after he’d left Chicago and where John Brim first landed in the early 40's when he left Kentucky.

Naptown is the nickname for Indianapolis and appears in a number of blues songs. The name Naptown was given to Indianapolis in the early 1900's with Indianapolis often referred to as a ghost-town with nothing to do. Indianapolis was known to shutdown the city early leaving very few places to go at night. The fact the word "nap" can be found in "Indianapolis" only made the name more suitable.

As Duncan Scheidt wrote in the notes to Columbia's Blues Before Sunrise album: "Up and down Indiana Avenue the black and tan spots flourished. The Golden West, an upstairs club, was the most famous of all, and featured the team of Crump and Reeves and pianist Montana Taylor. Other places were the Paradise, run by Raymond"Dee" Davis, and the Blackstone, which was such a rough joint it terrified the fugitive ban robber John Dillinger, who was secretly taken there by some local friends for an evening out. Neighborhood taverns such as Boultons' at 17th and Northwestern and Ran Butler's place at 15th and Northwestern were the favorite haunts of the local blues men. Every Monday night was Blue Monday and you could find all the barrelhouse, boogie and blues pianists you would want at one place or the other." Mr. Scheidt was kind enough to let me chat with him recently but unfortunately there was a problem with the audio and I'm unable to air the interview.

Art Rosenbaum was involved in producing several albums for Bluesville in the early 1960’s including records by Indianapolis artists such as Scrapper Blackwell, Pete Franklin, Shirley Griffith, J.T.Adams and Brooks Berry. The following is taken from his notes:

Read Art Rosenbaum's Liner Notes

"Indianapolis sprawls in the middle of the flat Hoosier farmlands, with streets radiating in all directions from what John Gunter called the second ugliest monument in the U.S. halfway between Louisville, on the edge of the South, and Chicago. One of the spokes, running north-west, the direction of Chicago, is Indiana Avenue, the 'sport street' of the black population. One might begin to characterize their city's blues from the town's location as a way-station between south and north, between rural and urban – guitar Pete Franklin told me it was 'far enough north to have the feelin', far enough north to play it right, get the changes right.'

Indianapolis, Indiana is a good blues town, and in the sprawling neighborhoods of the Northwest side live many fine singers and instrumentalists who carry on the old blues traditions in that Midwestern city. There are singer like Scrapper Blackwell, Little Bill Gaither, Jesse Ellry, Clyde Robinson, and Guitar Pete, longtime residents who accompany their songs on the guitar in the distinctive 'Indianapolis style', Scrapper's refinement of the old Naptown picking played by men of the generation before him. There are piano players who prefer the lonesome blues of Leroy Carr to any others and who can point out the house near Fall Creek on Northwestern Avenue where Indianapolis' greatest blues singer died more then twenty-seven years ago. There are immigrants up from the border states of Kentucky and Tennessee where, in Guitar Pete's opinion, the best blues musicians come from. …Most of the Indianapolis blues singers know one another, and some of the southern singers have blended their primitive, emotional music with the more relaxed, wistful, and musically sophisticated Indianapolis blues. On the other hand, many of the older styles, local and southern, can still be heard in a fairly pure state. Blues singing has not been very remunerative for some time in Indianapolis and singers have not had the commercial pressures to keep up with the times that they might have been subjected to, say, in Chicago. The rhythm and blues bands with loud electric guitar, saxophone, and drums were never popular in Indianapolis as elsewhere."

As reissue producer and collector Francis Smith wrote of Leroy Carr, "He, perhaps more than any other single artist, was responsible for transforming the rural blues patterns of the ’20s into the more city-oriented blues of the ’30's." Carr met guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis in 1928 and the duo began performing together. Shortly afterward they were recording for Vocalion, releasing “How Long How Long Blues” before the year was finished. The song was an instant, surprise hit. For the next seven years, Carr and Blackwell would record a number of classic songs for Vocalion, including “Midnight Hour Blues,” “Blues Before Sunrise,” “Hurry Down Sunshine,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” and many others. Writer Elijah Wald wrote the following about Carr: “Carr was the most influential male blues singer and songwriter of the first half of the 20th century, but he was nothing like the current stereotype of an early bluesman. An understated pianist with a gentle, expressive voice, he was known for his natty suits and lived most of his life in Indianapolis. His first record, “How Long — How Long Blues,” in 1928, had an effect as revolutionary as Bing Crosby’s pop crooning, and for similar reasons. Previous blues stars, whether vaudevillians like Bessie Smith or street singers like Blind Lemon Jefferson, had needed huge voices to project their music, but with the help of new microphone and recording technologies, Carr sounded like a cool city dude carrying on a conversation with a few close friends. …Carr sang over the solid beat of his piano and the biting guitar of his constant partner Francis (Scrapper) Blackwell. The outcome was a hip, urban club style that signaled a new era in popular music.”

Montana Taylor 1951
photo by Jasper Woods

Little is know about pianists Herve Duerson and Turner Parrish but census records link both men to Indianapolis. This census information was uncovered by David Costa who posted his findings on the Blindman's Blues Forum. Duerson recorded four superb ragtime-influenced piano solos for Gennett in Richmond, Indiana in 1929 including  "Naptown Special", as well as recording accompaniments for various other people, such as Teddy Moss. Researcher Bob Hall states that he was remembered as a pianist with the DuValle Brothers Band in Indianapolis in the late 20's. A WWI draft card and a marriage record both link him to the city. Parrish recorded eight songs for Gennett/Champion in Richmond, Indiana at three different sessions, from 1929 to 1933. He covered Leroy Carr’s "My Own Lonesome Blues" and "Fore Day Rider" at his 1932 session although the record has never been found. He also backed up Teddy Moss in 1929, at the same session as Herve Duerson. Census records show him living in Indianapolis in 1920 and passing there in 1966.

Montana Taylor was born in Butte, Montana, where his father owned a club. The family moved to Chicago and then Indianapolis, where Taylor learned piano around 1919. Taylor cut his teeth playing in local joints like the Hole In the Wall, Goosie Lee's, Rock House and the Golden West Cafe. By 1929 he was back in Chicago, where he recorded a few tracks for Vocalion Records, including "Indiana Avenue Stomp" and "Detroit Rocks". Later he moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1936. He then disappeared from the public record for some years, during which he may have given up playing piano. However, in 1946 he was rediscovered by jazz fan Rudi Blesh, and was recorded both solo and as the accompanist to Bertha "Chippie" Hill. His final recordings were from a 1948 radio broadcast. Taylor died in 1954. Late Cleveland photographer Jasper Wood took the last know photograph of Taylor in 1951 and wrote: “You leave his small place, barely furnished where sometimes he sits in deep bitterness, not then able to play his heart out because his soul is tied in knots, and you know … that despite his extreme ‘scuffling’ for a living, he will every once in a while make music fit for kings.”

Jesse Crump was born in Dallas and came to Indianapolis in 1923. He played at the Golden West Cafe on Indiana Ave. and recorded "Mr. Crump's Rag b/w Golden West Blues" in 1923 for Gennett. As he recollected:"Lots of good piano players around Indianapolis when I was there. I can remember Russell Smith, Russell Williams, Frank Hines and Hanby … don't remember the rest of his name. That was a good town for piano players when I was at the Golden West." He also backed singers Nina Reeves and Billie McKenzie, later moving to Chicago to record and tour with Ida Cox.   He wrote many of the Ida Cox tunes, including "Death Letter Blues", "Black Crepe Blues", "Cherry Pickin' Blues", and Last Mile Blues."

Blues guitarist Bill Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr’s death in 1935, he recorded under the moniker Leroy’s Buddy for a time. A fine guitarist who possessed a warm, expressive voice, Gaither was also at times a gifted and inventive lyricist. He was often partnered with pianist George “Honey” Hill, and the duo patterned themselves after Carr and his guitarist, Scrapper Blackwell. Among Gaither’s many sides were tributes to Carr such as  “Life of Leroy Carr” and “After the Sun’s Gone Down.” In 1940 Gaither returned to Louisville where he ran a radio repair shop. Army service overseas in 1942-1945 left him with a nervous condition that prevented him from making music. He went back to Indianapolis where he worked in a cafe. He died in 1970. No information has been uncovered by Honey Hill who back Gaither on the bulk of his records, cut one solo piano record under his own name, "Boogie Woogie b/w Set 'Em", and backed Frank Busby and Bumble Bee Slim on record.

Sometime in the early 30's Champion Jack Dupree left New Orleans and eventually found his way to Indianapolis where he found work at the Cotton Club (named after the famous one in Harlem) who's resident bluesman was Leroy Carr. Although he died only months after their meeting he nevertheless had a profound impact on Dupree's playing. In November 1941 he cut two Carr numbers, 'Shady Lane b/w Hurry Down Sunshine" but they were unreleased at the time. On these early sessions local musicians including bassist Wilson Swain, guitarist Jesse Ellery and and on one 1940 track, "Gambling Man Blues", Bill Gaither appears on guitar. After Carr's death he decide to make Indianapolis his base from wherehe frequently traveled to Chicago to play house parties with musicians like Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. By the close of the thirties he was a large enough attraction to merit the job of M.C. and headliner at the Cotton Club where, in early 1940, he was seen by Lester Melrose who signed him up to record for Okeh in Chicago. The result was two-dozen recordings for the label through 1941. His Indianapolis residency ended when he was drafted at the end of 1941 and after his discharge he settled in New York.

Guitarist Jesse Ellery recorded legacy rest solely wth his backing of Champion Jack Dupree at his first sessions and the last by Bill Gaither. John Brim remembered him fondly: "'Cause I been knowing Jack Dupree, …since '41.  …'Cause he used to play the midnight shows every week and jesse Ellery'd play guitar-he was a very good guitar player. …He played jazz and the blues, and I think Jesse come up under Scrapper some, but veterans like him and Pete Franklin could play anything-"Body and Soul", "I Surrender Dear"-anything, not just blues, all the way 'round."

John Tyler Adams was born in Western Kentucky and it was his father who started him out on guitar. In 1941 he went up North, eventually settling in Indianapolis. Adams became good friends with Shirley Griffith and at the time of his first recordings had been playing together for fifteen years. Adams recorded just one album, Indiana Ave. Blues (1964) on Bluesville with Griffith with other sides appearing on the album Indianapolis Jump issued on Flyright.

Read Art Rosenbaum's Liner Notes

Scrapper Blackwell began working with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920’s. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was “How Long, How Long Blues”, the biggest blues hit of that year. Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including “Kokomo Blues” which was transformed into “Old Kokomo Blues” by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson. Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 sides. Blackwell’s last recording session with Carr was in February 1935 for the Bluebird label. The recording session ended bitterly, as both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr’s death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner of seven years (“My Old Pal Blues”) which concludes today's program. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death. He returned to music in the late 1950’s where he was recorded first in 1958 and was next recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1959 and 1960. These latter recordings were issued on the British 77 label as Blues Before Sunrise. Art Rosenbaum recorded him in 1962 for the Prestige/Bluesville label resulting in his finest latter day recording, the album Mr. Scrapper’s Blues which certainly ranks as one of the greatest blues revival records of the 60's. In 1963 Rosenbaum recorded him again for Bluesville, this time with singer Brooks Berry resulting in the marvelous My Heart Struck Sorrow that has yet to be issued on CD. Sadly Blackwell was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley in 1962. He was 59 years old.

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (1965), both recorded by Art Rosenbaum for Bluesville, and Mississippi Blues (1973) cut for Blue Goose. Unfortunately all three albums have yet to be reissued on CD. In 1928 Griffith’s friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too “wild and reckless” in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record. “I recall one August afternoon”, he wrote in the notes to Saturday Blues, “shortly after these recordings were made; Shirley sat in Scrapper Blackwell’s furnished room singing the “Bye Bye Blues” with such intensity that everyone present was deeply moved, though they had all heard him sing it many times before. Scrapper was playing , too, and the little room swelled with sound. When they finished there was a moment of awkward silence. Finally Shirley smiled and said: ‘The blues’ll kill you. And make you live, too.” Griffith achieved modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971.

Read Art Rosenbaum's Liner Notes

Pete Franklin’s mother was good friend with Leroy Carr, who roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935. Pete Franklin eventually became proficient on piano and guitar. After getting discharged from the war Franklin found his way to Chicago where he backed St. Louis Jimmy on a 1947 record and made his debut under his own name for Victor in 1949 waxing “Casey Brown Blues b/w Down Behind The Rise.” In the late 1940’s and early 50’s he backed Jazz Gillum, John Brim and Sunnyland Slim. Art Rosenbaum recorded Franklin in 1961 which resulted in the Bluesville album Guitar Pete’s Blues. A few other recordings appear on the album Indianapolis Jump. Regarding his style John Brim offered the following: "Yeah, he'd play his style-and Jesse Ellery's. Play his style and ideas that he put a little more in it than Scrapper did."

Related Articles:

-The Death Of Leroy Carr
by Theodore F. Watts (Jazz Journal, 1960) [word doc]

-Scrapper Blackwell w/ Brooks Berry (1959-1960) Liner Notes
by Duncan P. Schiedt [PDF]

-Jesse Crump: Piano Behind The Blues
By Warren C. Huddleston (Record Exchanger March, 1952) [PDF]

-Rag Alley Blues
by Rudi Blesh (Jazz Record 54, April 1947) [PDF]

-Shirley Griffith & Yank Rachell Concert Review
by Len Kunstadt (Record Research 91, July 1968 )

Interview:

-Art Rosenbaum Interview/Feature
(edited, 58 min, MP3 – original air date 1/31/10)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Scrapper BlackwellBlues Before SunriseMr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper BlackwellLittle Boy BlueMr. Scrapper's Blues
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithMaggie Campbell BluesSaturday Blues
J.T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBlind Lemon's BluesIndiana Ave. Blues
J.T. Adams & Shirley GriffithNaptown BoogieIndiana Ave. Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBama BoundMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Pete FranklinI Got To Find My BabyGuitar Pete's Blues
Neal PatmanKey To The HighwayArt of Field Recording: Vol I
Cecil BarfieldGeorgia Bottleneck BluesArt of Field Recording: Vol I
Art Rosenbaum Interview
Yank Rachel & Shirley GriffithPeach Orchard MamaArt of Field Recording: Vol. I
Scrapper BlackwellNobody Knows When Your Down...Mr. Scrapper's Blues
Shirley GriffithRiver Line BluesSaturday Blues
J.T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBig Road BluesIndianapolis Jump
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBrook's BluesArt of Field Recording: Vol. I
Tony BryantBroke Down EngineArt of Field Recording: Vol. II
J. Easley, P. Franklin and Ray HollowayBig Leg WomanIndianapolis Jump

Show Notes:

I was a fan of Art Rosenbaum's recordings without actually knowing much about him. Among my favorite records of the 1960's are a pair on the Bluesville label; Scrapper Blackwell's Mr. Scrapper's Blues and Shirley Griffith's Saturday Blues. Rosenbaum, like his contemporaries who went  into the field, men such as George Mitchell, Pete Lowry, David Evans, Sam Charters, Pete Welding, mostly stayed in the background. It wasn't until recently when a couple of recent well praised reissues put him in the spotlight. Those included two 4-CD box sets on the Dust-To-Digital label, the Art Of Field Recording I & II. The first volume won a Grammy for 2008 Best Historical Album. While Rosenbaum recorded a wide variety of roots music, our focus today will be on his blues recordings. In addition we talk to Art near the end of the first hour.

Art Rosenbaum is a painter, muralist, and illustrator, as well as a collector and performer of traditional American folk music. His folk music field work in the South and Midwest has resulted in over 14 recordings, several of which are on Smithsonian-Folkways; he wrote and illustrated two books, Folk Visions and Voices: Traditional Music and Song in North Georgia (1983), and Shout Because You're Free: The African American Ring Shout Tradition on the Coast of Georgia (1998). A performer on a variety of folk instruments, he has appeared at numerous folk festivals both solo and with groups. His field recordings have been collected on two 4-CD box sets on the Dust-To-Digital label called the Art Of Field Recording. Rosenbaum was also involved in producing several albums for Bluesville in the early 1960’s including records by Indianapolis artists such as Scrapper Blackwell, Pete Franklin, Shirley Griffith, J.T.Adams and Brooks Berry.

Scrapper Blackwell began working with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920’s. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was "How Long, How Long Blues", the biggest blues hit of that year. Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including "Kokomo Blues" which was transformed into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson. Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 sides. Blackwell's last recording session with Carr was in February 1935 for the Bluebird label. The recording session ended bitterly, as both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr's death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner of seven years ("My Old Pal Blues") before retiring from the music industry. Blackwell returned to music in the late 1950’s where he was recorded first  in June 1958 by Colin C. Pomroy. He was next recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt  in 1959 and 1950. These recordings appeared on on the album Blues Before Sunrise on the 77 label. Rosenbaum recorded him in 1962 for the Prestige/Bluesville Records label resulting in his finest latter day recording, the album Mr. Scrapper’s Blues. In 1963 Rosenbaum recorded him again for Bluesville, this time with singer Brooks Berry resulting in the album My Heart Struck Sorrow which has yet to be issued on CD. Sadly Blackwell was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley in 1962. He was 59 years old.

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (1965), both recorded by Art Rosenbaum for Bluesville, and Mississippi Blues (1973) cut for Blue Goose. Unfortunatley all three albums have yet to be reissued on CD. In 1928 Griffith’s friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too “wild and reckless” in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record. “I recall one August afternoon”, he wrote in the notes to Saturday Blues, “shortly after these recordings were made; Shirley sat in Scrapper Blackwell’s furnished room singing the “Bye Bye Blues” with such intensity that everyone present was deeply moved, though they had all heard him sing it many times before. Scrapper was playing , too, and the little room swelled with sound. When they finished there was a moment of awkward silence. Finally Shirley smiled and said: ‘The blues’ll kill you. And make you live, too." Griffith achieved modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971.

John Tyler Adams was born in Western Kentucky and it was his father who started him out on guitar. In 1941 he went up North, eventually settling in Indianapolis. Adams became good friends with Shirley Griffith and at the time of this recording had been playing together for fifteen years. Adams recorded just one album, Indiana Ave. Blues on Bluesville with Griffith with other sides appearing on the album Indianapolis Jump issued on Flyright.

Neal Pattman was born in Madison County, GA. and at age seven he lost his right arm in a farming accident. His father taught him to play harmonica soon after. His playing and soulful vocals made him something of a local legend but he remained unknown to the blues world at large until 1989, when he performed at New York City's Lincoln Center and immediately thereafter was flooded with invitations to tour internationally. In 1991, he met Timothy Duffy, head of the Maker Relief Foundation — Duffy teamed Pattman with some of the other acts supported by the organization, most notably singer/guitarist Cootie Stark, with whom he mounted the 48-city Blues Revival Tour in support of Taj Mahal. A 1995 date at London's 100 Club alongside British guitarist Dave Peabody was the subject of Pattman's long-awaited debut LP, Live in London. Three years later, Duffy's Music Maker label released the follow-up, Prison Blues. Pattman died of cancer on May 4, 2005, a few months after contributing to Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads. Today's selection, "Key To The Highway", comes from the Art Of Field Recording I.

Ceci Barfiled was first recorded by George Mitchell who called Barfield “probably the greatest previously unrecorded bluesman I have had the pleasure of recording during my 15 years of field research.” Using the name William Robertson, in fear of endangering his welfare checks, he cut the LP South Georgia Blues for Southland in the mid-70’s with several other tracks appearing on Flyright’s Georgia Blues Today. He was also recorded by Pete Lowery and Art Rosenbaum. Today's selection, "Georgia Bottleneck Blues", comes from the Art Of Field Recording I.

Pete Franklin’s mother was good friend with Leroy Carr, who roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935. Franklin eventually became proficient on piano and guitar. After getting discharged from the war Franklin found his way to Chicago where he backed St. Louis Jimmy on a 1947 record and made his debut under his own name for Victor in 1949 waxing “Casey Brown Blues b/w Down Behind The Rise.”  In the late 1940’s and early 5o’s he backed Jazz Gillum, John Brim and Sunnyland Slim. Art Rosenbaum recorded Franklin in 1961 which resulted in the Bluesville album Guitar Pete’s Blues. A few other recordings appear on the album Indianapolis Jump.

Brooks Berry moved to Indianapolis in her early teens. As Art Rosenbaum wrote: “She met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis and thus began a long though at times stormy friendship that was to end suddenly some fifteen months after the last of the present recordings were made. On October 6, 1962. Scrapper was shot to death in a back alley near his home. Brooks has been, during the four years I have known her, reluctant to sing blues without her friend's sensitive guitar or piano playing behind her; and she will sing less and less now that he is gone.”  As Rosenabum observed: "Singing blues is for Brooks not a social activity or a performance for others, although it once might have been, but rather a completely internal and personal expression. She sings with her eyes shut, swaying back and forth to her music, apparently unconscious of those around her. It is a deeply moving and often slightly awkward experience to listen to her sing—one sometimes feels that he is intruding or her most private thoughts and feelings." Rosenbaum recorded the duo in 1961 resulting in the Bluesville album My Heart Struck Sorrow. Berry was also recorded live with Blackwell at a 1959 concert which are available on the Document CD Scrapper Blackwell with Brooks Berry 1959 – 1960.

Several track were omitted due to the length of the interview. I've included those tracks below plus the interview:

Scrapper Blackwell Brooks Berry – Blues And Trouble (MP3)

Shirley Griffith-Yank Rachell – Mandolin Stomp (MP3)

Cliff  Sheats – Got the Blues So Bad (MP3)

Guitar Pete Franklin – How Long Blues (MP3)

Art Rosenbaum Interview (MP3)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Yank Rachel & Shirley GriffithPeach Orchard MamaArt of Field Recording Vol. I
J. T. AdamsRed RiverArt of Field Recording Vol. I
Sam ChatmonI Have To Paint My FaceI Have To Paint My Face
Robert Curtis SmithStella RuthI Have To Paint My Face
Butch Cage & Willie ThomasForty Four BluesI Have To Paint My Face
Little Brother MontgomeryTalking/Vicksburg BluesConversation With The Blues
Otis SpannTalking/People Call Me LuckyConversation With The Blues
Johnny Young & Arthur Spires21 BelowBlues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1
Jim BrewerBig Road BluesBlues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1
Boogie Bill WebbDooleyville BluesGoin' Up The Country
Arzo YoungbloodFour Women BluesGoin' Up The Country
Babe StovallWorried BluesThe Old Ace
Roosevelt HoltsBig Fat Mama BluesSouth Mississippi Blues
Esau WearyYou Don’t Have To GoSouth Mississippi Blues
Houston StackhouseBye Bye BluesBig Road Blues
Lum GuffinJack Of DiamondsWalking Victrola
Dewey CorleyLast NightOn The Road - Country Blues 1969-1974
Lattie MurrellSpoonfulOn The Road - Country Blues 1969-1974
Elster AndersonBlack And TanUnreleased
George HiggsSkinny Woman Blues 2Unreleased
Lewis "Rabbit" MuseJailhouse BluesWestern Piedmont Blues
Turner FoddrellSlow DragWestern Piedmont Blues
John TinsleyRed River BluesWestern Piedmont Blues
Joe SavageJoe's Prison Camp HollerLiving Country Blues
James Son ThomasStanding At The CrossroadsLiving Country Blues
Joe CallicottCountry BluesGeorge Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45
Cliff ScottLong Wavy HairGeorge Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45
Jimmy Lee WilliamsHave You Ever Seen PeachesGeorge Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45
Johnny Johnson & GroupI'm In The BottomWake Up Dead Man

Show Notes:

I suppose it sounds rather romantic spending your time roaming around the south with a tape recorder recording blues but for all the rewards and exciting discoveries it’s a stressful enterprise, not to mention a precarious way to make a living. These days hardly anyone one does it anymore and the sad fact is that blues has largely disappeared as integral part of African-American rural communities; most of the old timers have passed on and few of the younger generation are interested in blues, particularly traditional blues. Much has been written about John and Alan Lomax who scoured the south and beyond making landmark recordings for the Library of Congress from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. Less well known are those that followed in the Lomax’s footsteps; there was folklorists and researchers such as David Evans, Sam Charters, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Frederic Ramsey, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Chris Strachwitz , Bruce Bastin, Bengt Olsson, Dick Spottswood, Kip Lornell, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, Siegfried A. Christmann and Axel Küstner. Some were hunting for the famous names who made records in the 1920’s and 1930’s, others were seeking to fill in biographical blanks regarding some of the older musicians coveted by collectors and then there were those who were seeking to document the blues tradition as it still existed in rural communities, men like George Mitchell and I Have To Pain My FacePeter B. Lowry. This was a very different undertaking than 1960’s blues revival which sought out and put back on the circuit such legendary artists of the past as Son House, Skip James, Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt. The field recordings made during this era were a sort of a parallel undercurrent to the more famous artists. What they recorded in the rural communities of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960’s was a still thriving, if largely undocumented, blues culture. The bulk of theses recordings were issued on small specialist labels and many have yet to be reissued on CD. Today's program is the first of a multi-part series on some of these remarkable recordings.

The earliest tracks come from 1960 and were made by Paul Oliver and Chris Strachwitz and come from the albums Conversations With The Blues, a companion to Oliver's landmark book, and I Have To Paint My Face which was issued on Strachwitz's Arhoolie label. The recordings on I Have To Paint My Face were made by Chris Strachwitz in the Summer of 1960, the same year he formed his now legendary Arhoolie record label. That summer Strachwitz and blues scholar Paul Oliver and his wife made a trip through Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to interview and record older blues artists for a series of programs sponsored by the BBC. Among those recorded were Sam Chatmon, K.C. Douglas, Big Joe Williams, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas, Robert Curtis Smith and others. Conversations With The Blues is a series of interviews, in the artists own words, compiled from interviews with over sixty blues singers. The interviews stem from a trip Oliver made to the United States between June and Goin' Up The CountrySeptember 1960.

Today's program features a number of recordings made by David Evans. It was Evans' investigation into Tommy Johnson in the late 1960’s that we owe a good deal of what we know about Johnson and it was through Evans’ field recordings that Johnson’s influence comes into sharper focus. Evans recorded many men who learned directly from Johnson including Roosevelt Holts, Boogie Bill Webb, Arzo Youngblood, Isaac Youngblood, Bubba Brown, Babe Stovall, Houston Stackhouse and Tommy’s brother Mager Johnson. Long out of print are several important collections of Evans’ field recordings that gather artists influenced by Johnson. Most importantly is The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (1972), the companion LP to Evans’ Tommy Johnson biography featuring all songs that were in Johnson’s repertoire and all of which were learned by the artists from Johnson himself. Today's show spotlights selections from South Mississippi Blues and Goin’ Up The Country. David Evans began making field recordings in 1965 when he spent about five weeks taping blues artists in Mississippi and Louisiana. The collection Goin’ Up The Country released on Decca in 1968 collects some of the best performances he recorded. The album was reissued in 1976 on Rounder and Rounder also released South Mississippi Blues in 1973, another collection of field recordings from the same period. in addition we play a cut by Houston Stackhouse with his partner Carey Mason that stem from recordings Evans made in Crystal Springs, MS in 1967.

Bengt Olsson first came to the United States in 1964, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. Olsson recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others. Some of Olsson's recordings appear on the CD On The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974.

slp1804Pete Welding was one of the premiere documentarians of the 1960’s blues revival. Welding began recording and interviewing artists in the late 50’s and he began writing a column in Downbeat Magazine in 1959 called “Blues And Folk.” He moved to Chicago in 1962 where he formed his Testament Records label as an outlet for his fieldwork . Other of his recordings appeared on Storyville, Prestige, Blue Note and Milestone. We spotlight some of Weldings' recordings from the album Blues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1 recorded by circa 1964/1965.

Between 1969 and 1980 Pete Lowery amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. He formed the Trix label as an outlet to release his recordings. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45’s with LP’s being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states. In addition to the seventeen issued Trix albums there is sufficient material for another 40 to 50 CD’s. Many of the artists who had albums released were recorded extensively by Lowry and in most cases there is enough material in the can for follow-up records. In fact Lowry’s unreleased recordings far exceed the released recordings. Today’s program features some unreleased tracks that Lowry was kind of enough to send me.

Living Country Blues USAIn 1980 two young German blues enthusiasts, Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann, came to America with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment they hit the dusty road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. As the notes proclaim: “Traveling 10,000 miles by car in 2 1/2 months, they used 180,000 feet of tape and took hundreds of photographs to document various aspects of Country Blues, as well as work songs, fife and drum band music, field hollers and rural Gospel music, performed by 35 artists, some of whom appear on record for the first time.” From October 1st through November 30th the duo rolled through Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, New Orleans and of course Mississippi. These remarkable recordings were first issued across 12 LP’s titled Living Country Blues USA plus one double set on the German L+R label between 1980 and 1981. They have since been reissued on CD.

From the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s George Mitchell roamed all over the south recording blues in small rural communities where the music still thrived. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Several years ago the Fat Possum label acquired the Mitchell archive and has been reissuing the recordings.

DTD-08-Cover-ArtArt Rosenbaum is a painter, muralist, and illustrator, as well as a collector and performer of traditional American folk music. His field recordings have been collected on two 4-CD box sets on the Dust-To-Digital label called the Art Of Field Recording. Rosenbaum was also involved in producing several albums for Bluesville in the early 60’s including records by Indianapolis artists Scrapper Blackwell, Pete Franklin, Shirley Griffith, J.T.Adams and Brooks Berry. I'll be spotlighting Rosenbaum's blues recordings as well as interviewing him at the end of January.

The Blue Ridge Institute for Appalachian Studies at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, released a series of eight LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the group title Virginia Traditions. Each album featured an aspect of traditional Virginia folk music, setting old 78s and field recordings alongside more recent field material. From that series we spotlight three tracks for the album Western Peidmont Blues.

We close the show with Johnny Johnson & Group perfroming "I’m In The Bottom" from the album Wake Up Dead Man. "Making it in hell",  Bruce Jackson says, is the spirit behind the songs that comprise the album and book  Wake Up Dead Man is a collection of prison worksongs taped by Bruce Jackson in 1965 and 1966 in Texas prisons. Research was done at three primary institutions; the Ramsey unit (Camps 1 and 2), Ellis, and Wynne. Allowed complete freedom in these facilities, Bruce Jackson talked with, interviewed, and recorded inmates over time to collect information for this book.

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