Entries tagged with “Sippie Wallace”.


ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Ivy SmithGin House Blues Ivy Smith & Cow Cow Davenport 1927-1930
Clara SmithWoman to Woman The Essential
Issie RinggoldBe On Your Merry WayBlue Girls Vol. 2 1925-1930
Frank BusbyPrisoner BoundBill Gaither Vol. 2 1936-1938
Keghouse Canned Heat Blues Piano Blues Vol. 4 1923-1928
Eugene Powell Pony Blues (Santa Fe) Blues At Home Vol. 3
John JacksonPoor BoyThe Blues Revival Vol. 1 1963-1969
Nugrape TwinsThe Road Is Rough & RockySinners & Saints 1926-1931
Mississippi John Hurt Praying On The Old Camp Ground Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 OKeh Recordings
Eddie Head & His FamilyDown On MeAmerican Primitive Vol. I
Louisiana Red I'm a Roaming StrangerThe Lowdown Back Porch Blues
Howlin' Wolf Poor BoySmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960
Big Moose Walker Footrace to a Resting Place/Wrong Doing WomanTo Know A Man
Samuel Brooks Oh the Sun's Goin' Down and I Won't Be Here LongField Recordings Vol. 3: Mississippi 1936-1942
George BoldwinCountry Girl Blues Mississippi Blues & Gospel 1934-1942
Willie Ford & Lucious CurtisHigh Lonesome HillMississippi Blues 1940-42
Joe Linthecome Humming BluesHokum, Blues & Rags 1929-1930's
The Three Stripped Gears1931 Depression BluesThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Jesse AndersonYou'd Better Think TwiceWelcome To The Club
Johnny Twist WilliamsTeach Me HowDown On Broadway And Main
Jimmy NolenStrollin' with Nolen Strollin' with Nolen
Unknown Female SingerAngel ChildField Recordings Vol. 3: Mississippi 1936-1942
Mattie DorseyStingaree BluesBarrelhouse Women Vol. 2 1924-1928
Frank StokesNehi Mama Best OfSara Martin Vol. 4 1925-1928
Blind Joe ReynoldsNehi Mama Blues Blues Images Vol. 5
Joe Turner with Albert Ammons Rock Of Gibraltar Blues Albert Ammons: Alt. Takes, Radio Perfs & Uniss. Home Recordings
Duke HendersonBeggin And PleadinDust My Rhythm & Blues: Flair Records R&B Story
Gene ParrishScreamin' In My SleepRhythm 'n' Blues Shouters
Sippie Wallace Parlor Social De LuxeI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 2
Sara MartinDown At The Razor BallSara Martin Vol. 3 1924-1925
Blind Willie McTellRazor Ball The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2: Columbia
Washboard SamDown At The Bad Man's HallWashboard Sam Vol. 5 1940-1941
Bill Gaither Wintertime BluesBill Gaither Vol. 4 1939
Lightnin' SlimWintertime BluesWe Gotta Rock Tonight

Show Notes: 

Our first mix show of the new year finds us digging deep into the pre-war blues catalog featuring several fine artists who left us with only a few 78's, several well known artists like Clara Smith and Blind Willie McTell and some interesting field recordings. From he post-war era some excellent Chicago blues, a few blues shouters, some down-home blues and a few gospel items. We also explore the origins of a well known blues theme.

Frank Busby" 'Leven Light CityWe hear from several superb blues ladies including Ivy Smith and Clara Smith. Ivy Smith hailed from Birmingham, Alabama and primarily worked with pianist Cow Cow Davenport. She was a good singer who cut close to two-dozen sides between 1927-1930. Clara Smith was a much bigger name although perennially eclipsed by Bessie Smith. In 1923 she settled in New York, appearing at cabarets and speakeasies there and that same year made her first records for Columbia Records, for whom she would continue recording through to 1932. She cut over a hundred sides often with the backing of top musicians like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Green, Joe Smith, Fletcher Henderson, Lonnie Johnson and James P. Johnson. Today we feature the lovely "Woman to Woman" from 1930 that features Smith's voice at her best with sympathetic cornet work from Ed Allen.

Then there's the lesser knowns such as Issie Ringgold who waxed one 78 in 1930 for Columbia and was the sister of Muriel, a star on Broadway, Mattie Dorsey who cut four sides for Paramount in 1927 and the unknown field recording of a woman singing "Angel Child" recorded by Alan Lomax in 1942.

Several of the of the male singers featured today are also one hit wonders: Joe Linthecome was an expressive, light voiced singer who cut one marvelous 78  ("Humming Blues b/w Pretty Mama Blues") for Gennett in 1929, Frank Busby was a sensitive singer who cut one 78 ("'Leven Light City b/w Prisoner Bound") in 1937 for Decca backed by Bill Gaither (we also spin Gaither's "Wintertime Blues" today) on guitar and Honey Hill on piano, the Three Stripped Gears were a string band possibly from Georgia, and possibly white, who cut four superb instrumentals and pianist Keghouse who waxed ten sides in 1928 for Okeh and Vocalion, only four of which were issued. Keghouse also recorded a couple of numbers backed by Lonnie Johnson and Thomas "Jaybird" Jones. Jones also made field recordings for Lewis Jones in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1941-1942 and performs "The Keghouse Blues." In the spoken introduction he talks about his friend Keghouse and how they went to Memphis to make records for Okeh and how he died shortly afterwards.

As anyone who's listened to this program knows I have a huge interest in field recordings, devoting several shows to the topic and interviewing several of the men who made the recordings. The Albatros  label was active from Eugene Powell: Blues At Home Vol. 3the early 70's through the early 80's issuing reissues of pre-war recordings, folk material and most interestingly, to me anyway, is several volumes of field recordings by label owner Gianni Marcucci. Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings  in the 70's and 80's in Tennessee and Mississippi. These albums are long been out-of-print. Recently Marcucci has issued some CD's on he Mbirafon imprint including one by singer Van Hunt, Sam Chatmon and now has issued collections by Eugene Powell (Eugene Powell: Blues At Home Vol. 3and Memphis Piano Red (Memphis Piano Red: Blues At Home Vol.4). The latter two are available only digitally via  iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. We spin a superb track off the Eugene Powell collection which contains unissued numbers plus tracks from the Albatros LP Police In Mississippi.  I finally tracked down some missing records from Albatros and will be doing an entire show devoted to the label shortly.

Other field recordings come from the pre-war era and were recorded by John Lomax:  Samuel Brooks' "Oh the Sun's Goin' Down and I Won't Be Here Long" (1942) recorded in Edwards, Mississippi and Willie Ford and Lucious Curtis on "High Lonesome Hill." Ad David Evans writes "Lucious Curtis was making a precarious living as a musician while his partner, Willie Ford, worked at a sawmill when John A. Lomax encountered them in 1940 for their only recording session."

In our first show of he new year we traced the origins of several classic blues songs. Today we spin a quartet of related blues songs from the 20's, 30's and 40's that draw from a much earlier source. Around the term of the century there was the "bully song" or more formally "The Bully of the Town" or "Looking for the Bully." There were several songs published with 'Bully" in the title around this period. Paul Oliver noted that the song "reinforced the stereotypes of the razor-totin', watermelon-suckin', chicken-stealin' 'nigger' of that period." The core of the story is an altercation, usually with a razor, between the bully and a rival with the action usually happening at a dance or ball.  Oliver has written about this both in Songsters & Saints and in a chapter titled Lookin' For That Bully in the book Nobody Knows where the Blues Come from: Lyrics and History (the entire chapter is available on Google Books).  In the blues era several songs drawn on these earlier sources including Sara Martin's "Down At The Razor Ball" (1925), Blind Willie McTell's "Razor Ball" (1930) and Washboard Sam's "Down At The Bad Man's Hall" (1941).  Oliver mentions all the songs but one he seems to have overlooked is Sippie Wallace's "Parlor Social De Luxe" (1925) which seems to me at least marginally related. The most famous related song, however, is the Willie Dixon penned "Wang Dang Doodle" (1960) which draws its inspiration from the Sara Martin number. As Dixon recalled "the one Wolf hated most of all was 'Wang Dang Doodle.' He hated that 'Tell Automatic Slim and Razor-Totin' Jim.' He'd say, 'man, that's too old-timey, sound like some old levee camp number.'" In 1966 Koko Taylor had a big hit with the song.

In addition to the down-home blues we also spin some Chicago and jump blues. We play the Howlin' Wolf gem "Poor Boy" (1957) a terrific updating of this old number and Big Moose Walker on "Footrace To A Resting Place" and "Wrong Doing Woman." The Walker tracks were recorded at Elmore James' last sessions for Fire in 1961 and come from the 2-LP set To Know A Man on Blue Horizon. At the time these songs were just attributed to "Bushy Head."

Nugrape Twins: The Road Is Rough And RockyWe spin some great blues shouters including Big Joe Turner on the magnificent "Rock Of Gibraltar" (1936) with Albert Ammons on piano,  Gene Parrish's jumping, raunchy "Screamin' In My Sleep" ("she'd slip and slide and I keep moaning low") featuring Maxwell Davis and superb guitar from West Coast ace Chuck Norris. Parrish cut a dozen sides in 1950-1951 for RPM and Victor.

We also hear from Big Duke Henderson & His Orchestra on "Beggin And Pleadin"from a new 2-CD set on Ace called Dust My Rhythm & Blues: The Flair Records R&B Story. In 1945 Henderson made his debut for the Apollo label on a recommendation by Jack McVea. He was backed on the recording dates by several notable Los Angeles session musicians including McVea, Wild Bill Moore and Lucky Thompson (saxophones), Gene Phillips (guitar), Shifty Henry and Charlie Mingus (bass violin), plus Lee Young and Rabon Tarrant (drums). The recordings were not a commercial success and Henderson lost his recording contract with Apollo. In 1947 Al "Cake" Wichard recorded for Modern Records billed as the Al Wichard Sextette, and featured vocals by Henderson. Henderson subsequently recorded material for a number of labels over several years including Globe, Down Beat, Swing Time, Specialty,] Modern, Imperial and Flair. Later in the decade, Henderson renounced his past, and commenced broadcasting as Brother Henderson as a gospel DJ. After his DJ career, Henderson went on to become a preacher.Henderson died in Los Angeles in 1972.

We also slip in a few gospel numbers: Mississippi John Hurt's "Praying On The Old Camp Ground", Eddie Head and His Family's "Down On Me" which Paul Oliver notes "was notable for the fluent guitar which imparted an easy swing to the recording, and from Eddie Head's skillful harmonizing to his family's singing" and the Nugrape Twins' "The Road Is Rough & Rocky" credited in the Columbia files to "Mark and Matthew (The Nugrape Twins)." The duo recorded eight sides at sessions in 1926 and 1927 for Columbia.

 

 

 

 

 

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Hersal ThomasHersal BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Sippie WallaceMurder's Gonna be My CrimeThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Hociel ThomasWorried Down With The BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
George Thomas Fast Stuff BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Moanin' Bernice EdwardsLong Tall Mama The Piano Blues Vol. 4: The Thomas Family 1925-1929
Bernice Edwards, Black Boy Shine & Howling SmithHot Mattress Stomp The Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937
Bert Mays Michigan River Blues Down In Black Bottom
Bert Mays You Can't Come In Down In Black Bottom
Fred Adams & Bilikin Johnson Frisco BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Texas Bill Day & Bilikin JohnsonElm Street Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Texas Bill Day Good Morning Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Hattie HudsonDoggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerTP Window Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Jack RangerThieving Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerThe Katy Dallas Alley Drag
Bessie TuckerPenitentiaryI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Ida May MackElm Street BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 15: Dallas 1927-1929
Ida May MackGoodbye Rider Barrelhouse Mamas
Whistlin Moore AlexHeart Wrecked Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexBlue Bloomer Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin Moore AlexIce Pick Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Black Ivory KingThe Flying CrowBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Duskey DaileyThe Flying CrowThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Frank TannehillRolling Stone BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 10: Territory Blues 1934-1941
Black Boy Shine Dog House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Ice Pick And Pistol Woman BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Black Boy Shine Brown House BluesBlack Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937
Joe PullumCows, See That Train Comin'Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumMcKinney Street StompJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Rob Cooper West Dallas DragThe Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport 1934-1937
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Joe PullumDixie My HomeJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935

Show Notes:

Back when I started this show in 2007 one of the first programs I did was one devoted to the pre-war Texas piano tradition. My interest in this was sparked again recently when I was doing research and writing the notes for a reissue of pianist Buster Pickens long out-of-print album for the Document label (just reissued  as Edwin "Buster" Pickens: The 1959 to 1961 Sessions).  Pickens was an active member of the  'Santa Fe group' of pianists, knew all players but unlike some of them did not get the opportunity to record until the post-war era. In our two-part feature on Texas piano I'll be spotlighting the tradition in more depth that I did the first time out, surveying both  pre-war and post-war artists.

Hersal Thomas
Hersal Thomas

The Texas piano tradition flowered in the 1920’s and was at its peak during the 1930’s when a number of the tradition’s best players were recorded. Paul Oliver observed that “Texas was as rich in piano blues as Mississippi was in guitar blues” and “a cursory glance through the discographies will emphasize the fact that a remarkable number of blues pianists came from Texas." The pianists can be roughly grouped into schools; there was the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928, one based around Dallas which included Whistlin Alex Moore, a regional style that developed around Shreveport and the so-called 'Santa Fe group' who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Today’s show is part one of a two-part feature, spotlighting recordings made between 1925 and 1941.

As piano expert Francis Smith noted: “With the two major recording centers of New York and Chicago a thousand miles to the North, it was extremely fortunate that so many pianists of this important close knit Texas group were recorded—all three record companies of the time being involved.” The three companies were Columbia, Victor and Vocalion in addition to Bluebird and Okeh. These companies, either singularly or in various combinations, made field trips to Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio between 1927 and 1941.

The early Texas piano tradition was based around the remarkable Thomas family who made the bulk of their recordings between 1923 and 1928. The music sounds quite different from those who recorded in the 30's. As David Evans states: “It is likely that no family has contributed more personalities to blues history than the Thomas family of Houston, Texas, whose famous members included George W. Thomas, his sister Beulah “Sippie” Wallace, their brother Hersal Thomas, George’s daughter Hociel Thomas, and Moanin’ Bernice Edwards who was raised up in the family.”

Hersal, is described by Francis Smith: "That Hersal, the child prodigy, was a highly influential pianist among his peers there is no doubt; even though he left Houston in his very early 'teens he had established a reputation there which remains still in the folk memory."Hersal was busy between 1925 & 1926 cutting a dozen titles with Hociel, fifteen with Sippie and backing singers Lillian Mller and Sodarisa Miller. Hersal died tragically at the age of 16 in 1926 of food poisoning.

Hersal's older brother George also left behind a slim legacy; a few jazz titles with his Muscle Shoals Devils, some sides backing singer Tiny Franklin, a recording of "The Rocks" made in 1922 under the name Clay Custer and the coupling ""Don't Kill Him In Here" from 1929 and our selection “Fast Stuff Blues."

Moanin' Bernice Edwards possessed a beautiful, deep, lowdown voice and piano style  that fell within the Santa Fe school of pianists. Edwards waxed twelve sides for Paramount in 1928 and six more for Vocalion in 1935.

Whistlin  Alex Moore: West Texas WomanDallas was the home of a number of distinctive piano players and singers they accompanied. Among them were Texas Bill Day, Neal Roberts, Willie Tyson, Whistlin' Alex Moore and singer Billiken Johnson. The hub of the black community was an area known as Central Tracks, where honky-tonks 'saloons, beer-parlours and brothels were wedged between warehouses, furniture stores and places of entertainment like Ella B. Moore's Park Theatre, or Hattie Burleson's dance hall. In addition many railroads whose names are familiar to blues collectors had termini there. It's not surprising that the railroad figure prominently in the blues of Dallas.

Not much is known about several of the Dallas pianists. Pianist/singer Texas Bill Day cut six sides for Columbia. Tyson cut two solo piano numbers for Columbia in 1927 which went unissued. The next day he backed singer Hattie Hudson on “Black Hand Blues” and the classic “Doggone My Good Luck Soul.” Tyson also backed Gertrude Perkins, Bilikin Johnson and Lillian Glinn. Jack Ranger cut three songs for Okeh in Dallas in 1929. it's unknown if he accompanies himself on piano but he was a sensitive singer and songwriter.

Pianist K.D. Johnson became famous backing the outstanding Texas singers Bessie Tucker and Ida May Mack. Johnson backs them on their legendary session for Victor on August 29th and 30th 1928 in Memphis. He was remembered as '49' by Alex Moore and not only did Mack call him 'Mr. 49' during his solos, she even named a song after him called "Mr. Forty-Nine Blues."

The most famous of the Dallas pianists was Alex Moore. Of Moore, Paul Oliver wrote: "He is a true original, a folk blues singer of the city who can sit at the piano improvise endlessly piano themes and blues verses that are sometimes startling, sometimes comic, sometimes grim, and very often pure poetry." Moore began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions for Columbia Records and also accompanied several artists on record. Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca.

Around Shreveport another regional style flourished. Among the pianists who recorded from this region were Dave Alexander who recorded as Black Ivory King and Duskey Dailey. Both recorded in 1937 with Dailey cutting an additional session in 1939. Both men cut version of a regional railroad number called “The Flying Crow.”

Two pianists who fall outside the Texas piano schools are Bert Mays and Frank Tannehill. Mays recorded four titles for Paramount in Chicago in 1927. He cut a final ten sides in 1928 and 1929 for Vocalion although only two were released. Tannehill was born in Austin and made his debut backing Perry Dickson in 1932. Under his own name he recorded for Vocalion in Chicago in 1937, in 1938 for Bluebird in San Antonio and a final session in Dallas in 1941.

Joe Pullum: Dixie Is My HomeIn part two of our feature we'll be going more in depth into the recordings of the Santa Fe group but we do feature a number of songs today by men associated with that group. ARC Records made field recordings in 1936 in San Antonio where they recorded Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine. He was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937.

Among the best of the Santa Fe group were Andy Boy of Galveston and Rob Cooper of Houston. Andy Boy had a rough, expressive voice offset with his sprightly blues piano laced with ragtime flourishes. He waxed eight sides in 1937 under his own name as well as backing singer Joe Pullum on eleven sides in 1935 and the obscure Walter 'Cowboy' Washington.

Rob Cooper was an accomplished pianist with strong links to ragtime and stride piano. He also recorded behind the popular singer Joe Pullum on three sessions in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He recorded two version of “West Dallas Drag”, his version of the seminal, technically complex Santa Fe number “The Ma Grinder.”

 

 

 

 

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Ida Cox I Got The Blues For Rampart Street The Essential
Bertha Chippie Hill Pratt City BluesHow Low Can You Go?: Anthology of the String Bass
Victoria SpiveyBlack Snake SwingMen Are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969
Harlem Hamfats Oh Red!Harlem Hamfats Vol. 11936
Brown Bombers of Swing (Casey Bill Weldon) Walkin' In My SleepCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 3 1937-1938
Frankie "Half-Pint" JaxonDown At Jasper's Bar-B-QueFrankie 'Half-Pint' Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-1929
Laura Smith Don't Leave Me HereLaura Smith Vol. 1 1924-1927
Sippie WallaceI'm A Mighty Tight Woman First Time I Met the Blues (When the Sun Goes Down series)
Rosetta HowardMen Are Like Street CarsMen Are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969
Texas Alexander Tell Me Woman BluesTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928-1930
Peetie Wheatstraw Gangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Wingy Carpenter Preachin' Trumpet Blues
Jazzin' The Blues Vol. 2 1939-1946
Oliver Cobb Cornet Pleading Blues Male Blues Of The Twenties
Blind John DavisJersey Cow BluesBlind John Davis 1938-1952
Edna Winston I Got A Mule To RideLeona Williams & Edna Winston 1922-1927
Edith Wilson He Used To Be Your Man But He's My Man NowJohnny Dunn Vol. 1 1921-1922
Mamie SmithGoin' Crazy With The BluesJazz The World Forgot Vol. 1
Blind BlakeCC Pill Blues All The Published Sides
Frenchy's String BandTexas And Pacific BluesSunshine Special: Texas 1927-1929
Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals & Papa Charlie JacksonSalty DogBreaking Out of New Orleans 1922-1929
Louis Armstrong & The Hot FivesI'm Not Rough The Complete Hot Five And Hot Seven Recordings
Original Washboard Band & Julie Davis Jasper Taylor BluesJohnny Dodds 1927-1928
Oscar "Papa" Celestin & Sam MorganShort Dress GalBreaking Out of New Orleans 1922-1929
Elizabeth Johnson Empty Bed Blues Part 1American Primitive Vol. 1
Sara Martin Death Sting Me BluesSara Martin Vol. 4 1925-1928
Teddy PetersGeorgia ManKing Oliver: Sugar Foot Stomp
Hot Lips Page Down On The LeveeHot Lips Page: 1938-1940
Washboard Rhythm KingsI'm Gonna Play Down by the OhioWashboard Rhythm Kings Vol. 2 1932
Ben NorsingleRover's BluesSunshine Special: Texas 1927-1929
Joe PullumWoman Trouble BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 2 1935-1951
Bessie SmithGimmie A Pigfoot Bessie Smith Volume 8 (Frog)
Trixie SmithMy Daddy Rocks MeTrixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1929
Ma RaineyYonder Comes The BluesMother Of The Blues

Show Notes:

Today show is call Jazzin' The Blues and as the title suggests, we explore the jazzy side of early blues recordings and the bluesy side of jazz. Not surprisingly we play a number of women blues singers of the 1920's who were often backed by jazz bands. When Mamie Smith cut “Crazy Blues”, the first recorded blues by a black singer, her band was called the Jazz Hounds. Following in that tradition, singers like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Victoria Spivey were often paired with top flight jazz musicians such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, Coleman Hawkins and others. As the era of the classic woman blues singers faded the men gained the spotlight, first playing and singing solo, then evolving to bigger bands that often included horns and elements of jazz and swing. Many of the jazz outfits of this period incorporated plenty of blues and today we hear the bluesier side of artists such as Louis Armstrong, Hot Lips Page, Freddie Keppard and others.

Throughout today's backing band are quite a few jazz luminaries who backed the classic blues ladies of the 1920's. We spin several sides today featuring King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. King Oliver made his landmark recordings in 1923 with his Creole Jazz Band featuring his protege Louis Armstrong,  clarinetist Johnny Dodds, trombonist Honore Dutrey, pianist Lil Harden, and drummer Baby Dodds. Oliver continued to make recordings through 1931 although he seemed to fade from the spotlight not long after his initial recordings. From May to December, 1928, Oliver did some 22 sessions with his old friend, Clarence Williams, who had played with him around Louisiana and who had manged clubs like the Big 25 and Pete Lala's. Williams had become a music publisher, entrepreneur and early A&R man around New York. Seeing Oliver down on his luck, Williams used him as a backup player for several blues singers. Prior to 1928 Oliver had accompanied artists such as Butterbeans & Susie in 1924 ("Kiss Me Sweet b/w Construction Gang"), Sippie Wallace in 1925 ("Morning Dove Blues b/w "Every Dog Has His Day" and "Devil Dance Blues"), Teddy Peters ("Georgia Man"), Irene Scruggs ("Home Town Blues b/w Sorrow Valley blues"), Georgia Taylor in 1926 ("Jackass Blues") plus several others.

Among the notable recordings of 1928 included six sides backing Sara Martin including the superb "Death Sting Me Blues" which features a suitably mournful solo from Oliver plus equally fine playing on "Mean Tight Mama" and "Mistreating Man Blues."  His two numbers with Texas Alexander, "Tell Me Woman Blues b/w Frisco Train Blues," work surprising well with Oliver playing some beautiful, sympathetic fills on both numbers offset by the elegant guitar work of Eddie Lang. Lang and Oliver also back Victoria Spivey on "My Handy Man b/w Organ Grinder Blues" although Oliver is less prominent. Among the best recordings from this period are his backing of the terrific Elizabeth Johnson, an obscure singer who waxed only four sides at two session in 1928. "Empty Bed Blues Part 1 & 2" has Johnson's expressive vocals finding a marvelous counterpoint in Oliver's earthy responses.

In the early 1990's the Affinity label issued the comprehensive Louis Armstrong And The Blues Singers 1924-1930, a six CD set that I believe covers all the sessions Armstrong did backing blues singers. During 1924-26 (and to a lesser extent 1927-30) Armstrong made many recordings other than his own sessions, arranged by an old friend from New Orleans, pianist Clarence Williams Those he backed include some of the era's best woman blues singers like a Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Bessie Smith, Clara Smith and Victoria Spivey. We also spin the marvelous  "I'm Not Rough" as recorded by Louis Armstrong & The Hot Fives featuring Lonnie Johnson.  This is the final recording session with the "classic" Hot Five lineup (plus Lonnie Johnson). Hereafter, the "Hot Five" would be whoever Armstrong happened to be recording with.

Other classic jazz artists who appear more than once on today's program are Freddie Keppard and Johnny Dodds. After playing with the Olympia Orchestra Keppard joined Frankie Dusen's Eagle Band, taking the place recently vacated by Buddy Bolden. Soon after Bolden was off the music scene Keppard was proclaimed "King Keppard" as the city's top horn player. About 1914 Joe "King" Oliver won a musical "cutting contest" and claimed Keppard's crown. Keppard made recordings in Chicago between 1924 and 1927 including two versions of "Salty Dog", which we feature today,  from 1926 featuring Papa charlie Jackson. Jackson first cut the song in 1924 which made him a recording star. We also hear him back Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon on the rollicking "Down At Jasper's Bar-B-Que." Jaxon was a vaudeville singer, comedian and female impersonator. He traveled extensively throughout the United States between 1916 and 1921 and in the early 1920's he often appeared on the bill with King Oliver and Freddie Keppard in Chicago. Throughout the rest of the 1920's and 1930's he continued to tour the vaudeville circuit, and record. On record he was backed by jazz musicians such as Keppard, Punch Miller, Henry “Red” Allen and others.

Johnny Dodds was one of the greatest clarinetist of the 1920's who had a very soulful, bluesy style of playing.He worked with most of the major Hot Jazz bands of the era including the bands of Kid Ory, King Oliver amd Louis Armstrong. Dodd's appears on several of today's recordings including those with Keppard, Armstrong, as a member of Jasper Taylor's Original Washboard Band, backing Sippie Wallace on the 1929 version of her classic "I'm A Might Tight Women" and backing guitarist Blind Blake.  We hear Dodds backing singer Julia Davis who cut one 78 for Paramount in 1924 and one final terrific record in 1928, "Jasper Taylor Blues b/w Geechie River Blues", backed by the Original Washboard Band featured washboard player Jasper Taylor.

During the spring of 1928 Blind Blake cut some of his most ambitious records. Jimmy Bertrand manned xylophone for "Doggin' Me Mama Blues" and played slide whistle on our featured track,  "C.C. Pill Blues" while the great Johnny Dodds soloed on clarinet. Dodds and Bertrand provided more accompaniment on Blake's "Hot Potatoes" and "South Bound Rag." Bertrand, Dodds, and Blake were also teamed on "Elzadie's Policy Blue b/w Pay Day Daddy Blues" with singer Elzadie Robinson.

We spin several jazz artists and groups who often worked on the bluesy side of the street including Papa Celestin, Hot Lips Page and the Washboard Rhythm Kings. Papa Celestin was one of the most popular of New Orleans cornet players, and considered a major player in the development of jazz. Most of the great New Orleans players up to 1950 played for him one time or another. In 1910 Celestin started the Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra which would become one of the most enduring bands and featured Louis Armstrong among others. elestin began recording with his own groups for Okeh from 1925 until the Depression forced him to give up the group. With singer Sam Morgan we hear him on "Short Dress Gal."

In his early years, Hot Lips Page played in circuses and minstrel shows and backing such blues singers as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox. Page's main trumpet influence was Louis Armstrong. He joined the Blue Devils circa 1927, staying until1931, when he joined the Bennie Moten Orchestra, the leading dance band out of Kansas City.Though not a regular member of the band, Page appeared as a vocalist, emcee and hot trumpet soloist with Count Basie's Reno Club orchestra after the Moten band finally disbanded upon that leader's sudden death in April, 1935. Page embarked upon a solo career during this period, playing with small pick up bands out of Kansas City. We hear his wonderful "Down On The Levee" cut for Decca in 1938.

The Washboard Rhythm Kings were a loose aggregation of jazz performers, many of high calibre, who recorded as a group for various labels between about 1930 and 1935. The band played good-time swinging music, featuring spirited vocals, horns, a washboard player and occasionally kazoo. Today we feature their swinging "Down by the Ohio" from 1931.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Louisiana Red Story Of Louisiana Red Lowdown Back Porch Blues
Louisiana Red Where Is My Friend?Best of
Louisiana Red Red's DreamBest of
Bo Carter Last Go RoundBo Carter Vol. 2 193 -1934
Charlie CampbellGoin' Away BluesAlabama & The East Coast 1933-1937
Blind BlakePoker Woman BluesAll The Published Sides
Lafayette ThomasOld MemoriesWest Coast Guitar Killers
Jody WilliamsWhat Kind of Gal Is ThatChess Blues Guitar: Two Decades of Killer Fretwork 1949-1969
Rosa HendersonChicago Policeman BluesRosa Henderson Vol. 4 1926-1931
Sippie WallaceYou Gonna Need My HelpSippie Wallace Vol. 2 1925-1945
Bessie SmithCareless LoveComplete Recordings, Vol. 4 (Frog)
Blind John DavisBooze Drinking Benny
Blind John Davis Vol. 1 1938-1952
Blind John DavisAnna Lou BreakdownBlind John Davis Vol. 1 1938-1952
Jimmie HudsonRum River Blues78
T-Bone WalkerHere In The DarkThe Complete Imperial Recordings: 1950-1954
Teddy BunnJackson's NookVery Best Of 1937-1940
George & Ethel McCoy Mary (Penitentiary)Early In the Morning
Daddy HotcakesCorrine CorrinaThe Blues In St. Louis - Daddy Hotcakes
Bessie JonesBeggin' the BluesAlan Lomax Blues Songbook
Mabel HilleryHow Long Has That Train Been Gone45
Freddie ShayneLonesome Man BluesMontana Taylor And Freddie Shayne 1929-1946
Freddie ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor And Freddie Shayne 1929-1946
Willie (W.C.) Baker Goin' Back Home Today The Devil Is A Busy Man
Bee HoustonTen Years To Life45
Peg Leg HowellMoanin' And Groanin' BluesAtlanta Blues
Walter "Buddy Boy" HawkinsHow Come Mama BluesWilliam Harris & Buddy Boy Hawkins 1927 - 192
Dixieland Jug BlowersIf You Can't Make It Easy, Sweet MamaClifford Hayes And The Dixieland Jug Blowers
Louisiana Red Too Poor To Die Midnight Rambler
Louisiana Red Sweet Blood Call Midnight Rambler
Louisiana Red Bring It On HomeLive At Montreux

Show Notes:

As I was putting the finishing touches on this week's show I received the news that Louisiana Red had passed. He died  in Germany at the age of 79. By his own account he had a hard life as he announced in his haunting "The Story of Louisiana Red" which opens today's show: "Now this here's a sad one. It's about my life." He lost his parents early in life through multiple tragedies; his mother died of pneumonia a week after his birth, and his father was lynched by the Klu Klux Klan when he was five. Red began recording for Chess in 1949 (as Rocky Fuller). His early sides were heavily indebted to Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. He joined the Army and after his discharge, he played with John Lee Hooker in Detroit for almost two years in the late '50s, and continued through the '60s and '70s with recording sessions for Chess, Checker, Atlas, Glover, Roulette, L&R, and Tomato, among others. Louisiana Red moved to Hanover, Germany in 1981, and maintained a busy recording and performing schedule through the subsequent decades.

Red recorded prolifically through the years. Among his better efforts was the album The Lowdown Backporch Blues (1963) featuring striking topical numbers like the humorous "Red's Dream" and "Ride On Red, Ride On." The single "I'm Too Poor to Die"  had minor chart success in 1964. We also feature two tracks from the out-of-print Midnight Rambler, a compilation of sessions cut for the Blue Labor label in 1975-1976. We play his update of  "I'm Too Poor to Die"  and the chilling "Sweet Blood Call:"

"I have a hard time missin’ you baby, with my pistol in your mouth (2x)
You may be thinkin’ ‘bout goin’ north, but your brains are stayin’ south"
 

Also on tap today are a trio of 1920's blues queens, a pair of songs apiece by piano men Blind John Davis and Freddie Shayne plus we spin a batch of great long out-of-print blues records. Rosa Henderson is the least known of today's featured blues queens. In 1963 Len Kunstadt tracked down Henderson and wrote a feature on her in Record Research: "She began her career about 1913 in her uncle's carnival show. She played tent and plantation shows all over the South with one long streak of 5 years in Texas. She sang nothing but the blues. During this period she married Slim Henderson, a great comedian and showman, and she became professionally, ROSA HENDERSON. Slim joined up with John Mason and from this association a troupe was born which included Rosa. They played the country from one end to the other. In the mid 20s the Mason Henderson troupe really began to hit big time with headline attraction bill¬ing in many of the larger theatres. Rosa also received star billing in some independent ventures. …From May 1927 through September 1927 Rosa Henderson was a top race blues recurring artist. She was on Victor, Vocalion, Ajax, Perfect, Pathe, Brunswick, Paramount, Emerson, Edison, Columbia, Banner, Domino, Regal, Oriole, English Oriole, Silvertone and others. Besides her own name she was Flora Dale on Domino; Mamie Harris and Josephine Thomas on Pathe and Perfect; Sally Ritz (her sister's name) on Banner; and probably Sarah Johnson and Gladys White on other labels….In 1927 Rosa was hitting her real stride as a single but just a year later Rosa quit in her prime due to the unexpected death of husband, Slim." She made her final recordings in 1931. From 1926 we spin her remarkably outspoken "Chicago Policeman Blues:"

Policemen in Chicago they can't police at all (2x)
They only wear their uniform, or blue just for a song (?)
Most every cop in town, black and white all have a grudge (2x)
If you don't know you better, then to say good morning judge

I've got the blues, Chicago policeman blues (2x)
They wouldn't give a pick (?) of you for Peter or Paul
They send you away for absolutely nothing at all
I've got the blues, Chicago policeman blues (3x)

I'm expressin' my opinion, just the way I feel
Pigs about the only things supposed to squeal
I've got the blues, Chicago policeman blues

We hear some fine piano blues from Blind John Davis and Freddie Shayne. From 1938 we spin Davis' jazzy brand of blues as heard on "Booze Drinking Benny" and "Anna Lou Breakdown" both featuring the electric guitar of George Barnes (one of the first Chicago musicians to record with an electric guitar). In 1973 Davis was interviewed by Melody Maker: "I started recording in 1937—Big Bill Broonzy was a friend of my Dad's and he fixed for me to play on one of his sessions 'Sweet William Blues' I think it was. That was for Vocalion or Columbia. …They all seemed to like my playing so I got  to play on most of the sessions around at the time….I was top piano player for Lester Melrose's Wabash Music Company. …"I could play for anybody  excepting Big Boy Crudup. I think no piano player in the world could play for him 'cos he plays so damn irregular. …In 1949 I made my first recordings under my own name— for MGM, that was. Before I had no desire to sing and the record producers told me I didn't sound Southern enough. They got me recording again in '51 — this time with George Barnes on guitar and Ransom Knowling playing bass. I cut a lot of records over in Europe with Big Bill Broonzy — but we wasn't paid for none of them. I kept copies of all my recordings, but my house burned out in 1955 and I lost everything!"

Freddie Shayne is a shadowy figure who spent his life working in Chicago. He first time on record was backing singer Priscilla Stewart on “Mr. Freddie Blues.” Shayne also made a very rare piano roll of this song. In 1935 Shayne recorded a solo record, “Original Mr. Freddie Blues b/w Lonesome Man Blues.” “Mr. Freddie Blues” became something of a boogie standard covered by many artists including Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Jimmy Blythe, Art Tatum and others. In the 40's he made some recordings for the Circle label where he also backed singer Bertha “Chippie” Hill.

From the out-of-print file we spin records by George and Ethel McCoy, Daddy Hotcakes, Bee Houston and Mabel Hillary. George and Ethel McCoy were a brother and sister guitar duo who lived in St. Louis. Their aunt was Memphis Minnie who taught Ethel first hand. They recorded the album Early In the Morning for the Adelphi label in 1969 and later saw some recordings out on the Swingmaster label.

George “Daddy Hotcakes” Montgomery was born in Georgia and came moved to St. Louis in 1918. He began singing the blues as a youngster and worked as an entertainer during the 1920’s. Sometime in the late 30’s he had an opportunity to record through blues artist and talent scout Charlie Jordan but the recording session fell through. He was still occasionally playing parties when Sam Charters recorded him in 1961. The Blues in St. Louis, Vol. 1: Daddy Hotcakes is his only recording.

Read Liner Notes

Bee Houston played in the backing bands of Little Willie John, Junior Parker, Bobby "Blue" Bland and others in the late '50s and early '60s. After a two-year army stint, Houston moved to the West Coast. He toured and recorded frequently with Big Mama Thornton in the '60s, and also accompanied several visiting blues players during West Coast visits. Houston recorded for Arhoolie in the '60s and '70s, and also made several festival appearances and club dates. Our selection, "Ten Years To Life", was issued as a 1970 single on the Joliet label (Joliet 203).

A member of The Georgia Sea Island Singers, Mable Hillery was less known than leaders, Big John Davis or Bessie Jones. Between 1961 and 1965 she toured the college circuit of campuses, coffee houses, church basements, and festivals, from Berkeley to Philadelphia, from the Ash Grove in Los Angeles to the Café à Go-Go in New York City. She toured Europe in the 60's and cut a session in London in 1968 for Transatlantic which was issued as It's So Hard To Be A Nigger on their budget Xtra label. Other scattered sides appeared on anthologies.

We also spin a track by fellow Georgia Sea Island singer Bessie Jones. Our cut, "Beggin' the Blues", was recorded by Alan Lomax. In the 1960s, with the assistance of Lomax, Bessie Jones, together with John Davis, Peter Davis, Mable Hillery, Emma Ramsey, and Henry Morrison, formed the Georgia Sea Island Singers and traveled to colleges and folk music venues throughout the country.

Related Articles:

- Rosa Henderson – Yesterday and Today by Len Kunstadt (Record Research 75, April 1966)

-Farewell Rosa Henderson by By Derrick Stewart-Baxter (Jazz Journal, July 1968)

-Blind John – Man of Respect by Jim Simpson (Melody Maker, 24 November 1973)

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Myra Taylor I'm In My Sins This MorningSwinging Small Combos - Kansas City Style Vol. 3
Myra Taylor Tell Your Best Friend Nothin' Swinging Small Combos - Kansas City Style Vol. 3
Myra Taylor The Spider And The FlySwinging Small Combos - Kansas City Style Vol. 3
Blind Lemon JeffersonLong Lonesome BluesThe Complete Classic Sides
The Mississippi Moaner It's Cold In China BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Jesse ThomasDouble Due Love You Jesse Thomas 1948-1958
Mr. Bo & His Blues BoysIf Trouble Was Money45
Fenton RobinsonDirectly From My Heart To YouSomebody Loan me A Dime
Geechie WileySkinny Leg BluesMississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35
Margaret ThorntonTexas Bound BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Mary Johnson No Good Town Blues Twenty First St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
Sippie Wallace I'm A Mighty Tight WomanWhen The Sun Goes Down
Howlin' Wolf I'll Be AroundSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Howlin' Wolf Who Will Be Next Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Hubert Sumlin No Title Boogie American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Big Joe Williams & Mary WilliamsOakland BluesHear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond
Juke Boy BonnerGoin' Back To The CountryArhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection
Charlie PattonMagnolia BluesTimes Ain't Like They Used to Be Vol. 4
Cannon's Jug StompersViola Lee BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Kokomo ArnoldBack To The WoodsBottleneck Trendsetters
Lee Shot Williams Drop Your LaundryChicago Blues & Deep Soul Legend
Lee Shot Williams I'm Tore UpChicago Blues & Deep Soul Legend
Lee Shot Williams Hello BabyChicago Blues & Deep Soul Legend
J.B. Lenoir I've Been Down For So LongJ.B. Lenoir 1951-1958
Eddie BoydBaby What's Wrong With YouComplete Recordings 1947-1950
Jimmy YanceyRollin' the StoneHey! Piano Man
Rudy Foster Black Gal Makes ThunderJuke Joint Saturday Night
James ''Boodle It'' WigginsGotta Shave 'Em Dry Juke Joint Saturday Night
Lafayette ThomasStanding In The Back Door CryingThe Modern Recordings Vol. 2
Jimmy McCracklinNight And Day Jimmy McCracklin 1951-54
Sonny Boy Williamson III Got to Cut OutAmerican Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965\Disc 4\American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Wild Child Butler Gravy ChildWild Child
Little Mac SimmonsWoman Help MeChicago Blues Harmonica Wizard
Howard TateHow Blue Can You Get?Get It While You Can: The Legendary Sessions

Show Notes:

We close out the year on a somber note as we pay tribute to several recently passed blues artists: Kansas City legend Myra Taylor, blues and R&B singer Lee Shot Williams, legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin and singer Howard Tate. Also on tap are great pre-war blues including Blind Lemon Jefferson and a couple of his admirers, a quartet of fine blues ladies and a batch of superb piano players. We also spin more contemporary blues including a trio of ace harmonica blowers and some hard hitting sides form the 60's and 70's.

Myra Taylor and Charlie Parker (left)

Myra Taylor, one of the final links to Kansas City’s heyday as a jazz mecca, died December 9th in Kansas City. She was 94.In the 1930's, she became a regular in the clubs in the 12th and Vine, 18th and Vine and 12th and Woodland districts, where she performed along with musicians as a dancer. There, she mingled with the likes of Big Joe Turner, Pete Johnson, Bennie Moten, Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing and Count Basie. Her career as a singer began in the early 1930s in Kansas City, which led to a stint through the Midwest with Clarence Love and his band. In 1937, she moved to Chicago, where she worked with jazz greats Warren “Baby” Dodds, Lonnie Johnson, Roy Eldridge and Lil’ Hardin Armstrong. She recorded ten sides at two sessions in 1946 and 1947. We open the show with a trio of her 40's sides: the silky "I'm In My Sins This Morning", "Tell Your Best Friend Nothin'" a reworking of "Don't Advertise Your Man" (a 20's anthem sung by Clara Smith, Sippie Wallace and Rosa Henderson) and the swinging "The Spider And The Fly."

The death of Hubert Sumlin made a bigger splash than Taylor's, garnering obituaries in many major papers. Sumlin died Dec. 4 at the age of 80. Sumlin began appearing on Howlin’ Wolf’s recordings in 1954, first appearing on "Baby How Long? b/w Evil Is Goin' on" alongside fellow guitarist Jody Williams. Sumlin’s partnership with Howlin’ Wolf lasted until the singer’s death in 1976. Speaking of their collaborations in a 1989 interview with Living Blues magazine, Sumlin said: “Hubert was Wolf, Wolf was Hubert. I got to where I knew what he wanted before he asked for it, because I could feel the man.”  He met Howlin’ Wolf while still a teenager, when Mr. Sumlin was performing in and around West Helena, Ark., with the blues harmonica player James Cotton, and first recorded with him, under the supervision of Sam Phillips, at Sun Studios in 1953. Sumlin also made more than a dozen albums under his own name; the first was recorded in Europe in 1964, and the last in 2007. Today we showcase a pair of early numbers with Wolf, "I'll Be Around" (1954) and "Who Will Be Next" (1955) plus Hubert's own "No Title Boogie" recorded at the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival when he was touring Europe with Wolf.

Hubert Sumlin and Howlin' Wolf

In recent years Lee Shot Williams was best known for such raunchy songs as “Meat Man” and “Starts With a P,” but he had a long career as a blues and R&B singer in Chicago where he first recorded in 1962 with a style similar to Bobby “Blue” Bland. His best known hits were “You’re Welcome to the Club” (1962) and “I Like Your Style” (1967). We spin a pair of blistering early sides, "I'm Tore Up" (1963)" featuring Bobby King on guitar and "Hello Baby" (1962) featuring Freddie Robinson on guitar and Mack Simmons on harmonica and the from the 70's his raunchy "Drop Your Laundry" (he updated the number on his stellar 1995 album, Cold Shot, released on the Black Magic label.

We close out the show with a soulful rendition of  "How Blue Can You Get?" (1966) by Howard Tate. Tate, who in collaboration with producer and songwriter Jerry Ragovoy, recorded such late 1960's soul classics as “Ain’t Nobody Home,” “Stop” and “Get It While You Can,” died Dec. 2 at 72. After struggling with cocaine addiction and homelessness, Tate became a preacher only to re-emerge in 2003 with the critically acclaimed album Rediscovered.

It's hard to overestimate the influence and popularity of Blind Lemon Jefferson who began recording in 1926. His records made him nationally known among the black audiences who bough race records as influencing many blues artists. In December 1925 or January 1926, he was taken to Chicago to record his first tracks. Jefferson's first two recordings from this session were gospel songs ("I Want to be like Jesus in my Heart b/w "All I Want is that Pure Religion"), released under the name Deacon L. J. Bates. This led to a second recording session in March 1926. His first releases under his own name, "Booster Blues" and "Dry Southern Blues," were hits; this led to the release of the other two songs from that session, "Got the Blues" and "Long Lonesome Blues," which also became hits. The latter number reworked by two of our featured artists; The Mississippi Moaner and Jesse Thomas. The Mississippi Moaner was the name used by Isaiah Nettles when he recorded five sides for Vocalion Records in Jackson, MS, on October 20, 1935. Only one 78 from the session was ever released, "Mississippi Moan" b/w "It's Cold in China Blues" (the song title was a lyric used in Blind Lemon's song). Jesse Thomas remarkable 1948 number, "Double Due Love You" opens with a tongue twisting run of words (taken from the Blind Lemon song) that is sort of a vocal equivalent to his knotty guitar phrases.

We spin several rather obscure blues ladies today including Margaret Thornton, Mary Johnson, Geeshie Wiley plus the better known Sippie Wallace. Thornton cut one lone record for the short-lived Black Patti label in 1927, "Texas Bound Blues b/w Jockey Blues." Thornton was a wonderful singer backed by the fine barrelhouse playing of the equally obscure Blind James Beck. St. Louis singer Mary Johnson is in superb form on "No Good Town Blues" backed by pianist Judson Brown. Brown  who cut just one side under his own name for Brunswick in 1930 as well as backing singers such as Jenny Pope and  Mozelle Alderson. Don Kent wrote in the notes to Mississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35 that "If Geeshie Wiley did not exist, she could not be invented: her scope and creativity dwarfs most blues artists. She seems to represent the moment when black secular music was coalescing into blues." We feature her haunting "Skinny Leg Blues" which is worth quoting in full:

And I’m a little bitty mama, baby and I ain’t built for speed
Cryin’ I’m a little bitty mama, baby and I ain’t built for speed
Aaaaaaah and I ain’t built for speed
I’ve got everything that a little bitty mama needs

I’ve got little bitty legs, keep up these noble thighs (2x)
Aaaaaah, keep up these noble thighs
I’ve got somethin’ underneath them that works like a bo' hog's eye

But when you see me comin’, pull down your window blind (2x)
You see me comin’, pull down your window blind
So your next door neighbor sure can hear you whine

I’m gonna cut your throat baby, gonna look down in your face (2x)
Aaaaaaaaa, gonna look down in your face
I’m gonna let some lonesome graveyard be your restin’ place

Among the triumvirate of boogie-woogie pioneers, which include  Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, Jimmy Yancey is my favorite. Yancey had a more delicate and subtle style then his hard driving peers as heard to good effect on the marvelous "Rollin' The Stone" from 1939. Far more obscure are Rudy Foster who cut one 78 for paramount in 1930. "Black Gal Makes Thunder" is a driving barrelhouse romp with the enigmatic lyric "black gal makes it thunder, yellow gal makes it fall down rain." James "Boodle It" Wiggins was a wonderfully expressive, heavy voiced singer who cut eight issued sides for Paramount in 1928 and 1929. His "Gotta Shave 'Em Dry" is an infectious number with terrific backing from pianist charlie Spand. As Paul Oliver noted in his Screening The Blues: "Shave 'Em Dry" …seems to have been favored by women though a number of men also sang it on record. As a term 'shave 'em dry' appears to have layers of meaning; at one level it refers to mean and aggressive action but as a sexual theme it refers to intercourse without preliminary love-making. Big Bill Broonzy put it succinctly: 'Shave 'em dry is what you call makin' it with a woman; you ain't doin' nothin', just makin' it.'" Among those who cut versions were Lucille Bogan, Ma Rainey, Lil Johnson and Papa charlie Jackson.

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