Entries tagged with “Son House”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Son Sims Four Joe Turner Complete Plantation Recordings
Son Sims Four RosalieComplete Plantation Recordings
Nathan Frazier & Frank Patterson CorinneAltamont: Black Stringband Music
Sidney Hemphill, Lucius Smith, Will Head & Alec Askew John HenryThe Devil's Dream
*Son HouseWalking Blues Field Recordings Vol. 17: Son House 1941-1942
Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Jelly Roll Country Negro Jam Session
Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Brown Skin Woman Country Negro Jam Session
Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards & Butch Stack O´DollarsCountry Negro Jam Session
Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas Called For You Yesterday Country Negro Jam Session
Chicago String Band The Sun Is Sinking LowThe Chicago String Band
Chicago String Band Railroad BluesThe Chicago String Band
Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage 44 Blues Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1
Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Butch's Blues I Have To Paint My Face
Clarence & Cornelius Edwards & Butch Cage Goin' Back to New Orleans The Country Blues
Charles Henderson, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas Jesus On The Mainline Country Spirituals
Blind James Campbell I Am So Blue When It RainsBlind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band
Blind James Campbell I'm Crazy About You BabyBlind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band
Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Tomorrow Gonna Be My Trying Day Raise a Ruckus Tonight
Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Raise a Ruckus Tonight Raise a Ruckus Tonight
The New Mississippi Sheiks Stop And ListenThe New Mississippi Sheiks
The New Mississippi Sheiks What is it Tastes Like Gravy The New Mississippi Sheiks
Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong In The Bottom That Old Gang Of Mine
Carl Martin State Street Pimp #2 Crow Jane Blues
*Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Sneaky Ways Old Time Black Southern String Band Music
*Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage Bugle Call Blues Old Time Black Southern String Band Music
*Howard Armstrong; Tom Armstrong; Ted Bogan; Ikey Robinson Railroad BluesLouie Bluie
*Leonard Bowles and Irvin Cook I Wish To The Lord I'd Never Been Born Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
*Joe Thompson Careless LoveFamily Tradition
*Odell & Joe Thompson Georgia Buck Eight-Hand Sets & Holy Steps
*Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson Goin' Down the Road Feeling BadCarolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson

Show Notes:

*Due to the pledge drive several tracks (marked with an asterisk) were not played today. We will play these tracks on next week's program.

As collector Marshall Wyatt wrote, “the violin once held center stage in the rich pageant of vernacular music that evolved in the American South… and the fiddle held sway as the dominant folk instrument of both races until the dawn of the 20th century.” Today, outside of a few exceptions, African-American music has mostly abandoned the violin and fiddle to white country performers. Many black musicians active during the 1920's and ’30s came from a string-band tradition, an era predating the blues when fiddles and banjos were the predominant instruments, and guitars a rarity. Black fiddlers and string bands were still common in the South throughout the 1920's, were not entirely ignored by the record industry, but were they were certainly under-represented. Some black string bands incorporated blues into their repertoires in order to keep abreast of trends such as the popular Mississippi Sheiks. As the record business began to rebound in the mid-1930s, musical trends became rapidly modernized due to the spreading influence of mass media, and black fiddlers found even fewer recording opportunities.

Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas
Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas (Front cover Conversation With The Blues, Decca LK 4664)


Several years back
we spotlighted some of the black string band who got on record in the 20's and 30's and today is a sequel of sorts, featuring the few string band who recorded from the early 1940's and throughout the post-war era. The black string band tradition mostly faded away during this period but today we play some  of the groups who got on record including excellent sides recorded by the Library of Congress in the 40's, a batch of sides by Butch Cage & Willie Thomas, Blind James Campbell, Carl Martin, Howard Armstrong, Joe Thompson and others.

We open the show with sides recorded for the Library of Congress in 1942. That year John Work, a folklorist at Nashville’s Fisk University, captured the music of fiddler Frank Patterson and banjoist Nathan Frazier and Alan Lomax recorded Son House, Muddy Waters and Son Sims.

Sons Sims was born in Anguilla, Mississippi and learned to play the fiddle from his grandfather. Sims went on to be the leader of the Mississippi Corn Shuckers, a rural based string ensemble and played with them for a number of years. In 1929 he went up to the Paramount studios in Grafton, Wisconsin with Charlie Patton where he cut four sides under his own name and backed Patton on several numbers like "Running Wild Blues" and "Elder Greene Blues."He backed Patton again in 1930 for Paramount. On August 28, 1941, Sims accompanied Muddy Waters on a recording session under the direction of Alan Lomax, as part of his recordings for the Library of Congress. In the 1940's Sims also accompanied Robert Nighthawk on several joint appearances, and continued a solo career in to the 1950's.

Lomax found Sid Hemphill in Senatobia, deep in Mississippi’s Hill Country. He’d driven across a crumbling bridge and approached a “sagging, unpainted door on a weathered-gray, warping house.” Before he could knock, Hemphill, then 65, swung it open. “No one had told me that Sid Hemphill was blind, but it was the last thing you’d recall about him,” Lomax explained. “His face blazed with inner light.” On August 15, 1942, Lomax committed 15 tracks by Hemphill and his backing band (Lucius Smith, Alec “Turpentine” Askew, and Will Head) to acetate disc.

Muddy Waters & Son Sims
Muddy Waters & Sons Sims, 1942

 

Lomax first recorded Son House for the Library of Congress in 1941. Lomax returned to the area in 1942, where he recorded House once more. Willie Brown, mandolin player Fiddlin' Joe Martin, and harmonica player Leroy Williams played with House on these recordings  including the rollicking six minute version of "Walking Blues" featured today.

Fiddler James "Butch" Cage was one of the last artists in the black string band tradition. Born on March 16, 1894, in Hamburg, MS, Cage's first real instrument was a cane fife. He moved to southwest Louisiana following the devastating Mississippi floods of 1927, eventually settling in Zachary, where he worked a succession of menial jobs while playing string band music at house parties and church functions, often in conjunction with guitarist Willie B. Thomas. Musicologist Harry Oster heard Butch Cage and Willie Thomas playing in Zachary in 1959 and recorded them extensively. The duo was also a huge hit at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival. The duo can be heard on several fine anthologies including: Country Negro Jam Sessions (Arhoolie), I Have To Paint My Face (Arhoolie), The Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1 (Folkways), Country Spirituals (Storyville), Country Blues (Storyville), Raise A Rukus Tonight (Flyright) and Old Time Black Southern String Band Music (Arhoolie).

Fiddler Joe Thompson died in 2012 at the age of 93. Born December 9, 1918 in Orange County, North Carolina, Thompson grew up in a family where fiddle and banjo music was heard on nights and weekends after farm work was completed. Joe’s father and uncle played fiddle and banjo and were sought after by neighbors, both African American and white, to provide music for local square dances. Joe has received many honors since the 1970s, when he began performing his music outside of his home community. Kip Lornell, then a graduate student in ethnomusicology, heard him perform in 1973 and urged them to look into performing at folk music festivals that were springing up. In 1989 Joe and Odell recorded Music for Global Village Music and Joe was featured on the album Family Tradition, released by Rounder Records in 2000. Folklorist Alan Lomax included the three Thompsons' in his American Patchwork documentary film series. His music is also included on various anthologies. The Carolina Chocolate Drops became Thompson’s most well known protégés, learning from him at his home in Mebane and eventually recording and performing with him at festivals like Merlefest and even local dances.

The Chicago String Band was a studio group put together by Pete Welding to emulate the old time string band sound. The group cut one self-titled album for Welding's Testament label featuring Big John Wrencher, hca,voc; John Lee Granderson, voc, g; Carl Martin, voc, vl, mand; Johnny Young, voc, mand; Bill Foster, g.

From left to right: Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, Yank Rachell, Banjo Ikey Robinson,
Ted Bogan and Tom Armstrong.

 

Two original members of the Mississippi Sheiks, Sam Chatmon and Walter Vinson, partnered with two members of the string band Martin, Bogan and Armstrong to form The New Mississippi Sheiks. The group cut the album The New Mississippi Sheiks for Rounder in 1972.

Blind James Campbell & His Nashville Street Band were a group of street musicians from Nashville, Tennessee who played a hybrid of hillbilly, jazz, blues, old time popular, skiffle, and jug band music. James Campbell, a Nashville native, on guitar and vocals is joined by Beauford Clay on fiddle, Bell Ray, on second fiddle and guitar, George Bell on trumpet, and Ralph Robinson on bass horn/tuba. This group was originally recorded in 1963. The band worked road houses, on the streets of Nashville, at parties, as well as other social functions. They recorded a self-titled album for Arhoolie issued in 1963.  The group members had links to an earlier group, called the Nashville Washboard Band, who were recorded for the Library of Congress by John Work.

Carl Martin's main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar, and according to those who saw him perform, could play anything with strings. Carl Martin not only performed solo, but also spent much of his career in a trio featuring Ted Bogan (guitar) and Howard Armstrong (violin). The trio enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and was known under several different monikers, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. In the late '30s, they followed the great migration to Chicago where they would eventually go their separate ways, occasionally playing together. Martin cut sides under his own name in the 30's as well as backing Tampa Red,Bumble Bee Slim, Washboard Sam and others. He recorded again in the 60's for the Testament label, resulting his only full-length album. Following years of playing solo, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong reunited in the early '70s and played the folk and blues festival circuit all over the country.

Howard Armstrong proved to be a true renaissance man, excelling in a variety of artistic endeavors during his amazing 80-career including storytelling, poetry and painting. He managed to conquer nearly every genre of music, learned to play multiple instruments and spoke several languages.

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

Show Notes:

Can't Hardly Keep From Crying
Read Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Willie McTell Just As Well Get Ready-You Got To Die-Climbing High Mountains-Tryin' To Get HomeThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Charley Patton You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You DieScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Son House Lord Have Mercy When I Come To DieThe Real Delta Blues
Brother Willie Eason I Want To Live (So God Can Use Me) Fire In My Bones
Furry Lewis When I Lay My Burden DownWhen I Lay My Burden Down
Henry Johnson Until I Found The Lord45
Leola Manning He Fans MeRare County Blues 1928-1957
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going To That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Rev. W.M. MosleyYou Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's HousesRev. W.M. Mosley 1926-1931
Hi Henry Brown Preacher BluesBlues Images Vol. 10
Big Bill Broonzy Preachin' the Blues Big Bill Broonzy
1937-1940 Vol. 2
Ralph Willis Amen BluesShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Papa Lightfoot When the Saints Go Marching Blues Harmonica Wizards
Julius DanielsSlippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden StreetAtlanta Blues
Skip James Jesus Is a Mighty Good LeaderBlues Images Vol. 6
Texas AlexanderJustice Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 3 1930-1950
Lightnin' Hopkins I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Sam Collins Lead Me All The WayJailhouse Blues
Bukka WhiteThe Promise True And GrandMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Mother McCollum Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane Blues Images Vol. 11
Bessie SmuthOn Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)The Complete (Frog)
Lizzie MilesHold Me, ParsonLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-1929
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Pt.1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Champion Jack Dupree Deacon's PartyChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
The Griffin BrothersDouble Faced DeaconBlues With A Beat
Rev. Anderson JohnsonDo You Call That Religion?Blind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Jaybird ColemanI'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan - Some O' These DaysGoodbye, Babylon6
Robert Pete WilliamsChurch on Fire (No. 2)I'm Blue As a Man Can Be
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemAngels In Harlem
Roy BrownJudgement DayRoy Brown & New Orleans - R&B
Lloyd Price Lord, Lord, Amen!Lloyd Price 1952-1953
H-Bomb Ferguson Preaching The BluesRock H-Bomb Rock
Willie Mae Williams Where the Sun Never Goes DownFire In My Bones
Little Janice Scarred KneesWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 1

Show Notes:

I know blues singers don't go to heaven
'Cause Gabriel bars them out
(
Doctor Clayton, Angels In Harlem, 1946 )

Bukka White: I Am In The Heavenly WayToday's show is part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music. In the early 1900's, blues singing was associated with the brothel, juke joint, and the dregs of African-American society. Black church goers called it the "Devils' Music" as the following quote, told to Paul Oliver, reflects: "When she was singin' the blues I told her-she was pavin' her way to Hell," said Emma Williams of her daughter', the blues singer Mary Johnson…" This view was also shared by some former blues singers: "A man's who's singin' the blues- I think it's a sin because it cause other people to sin," said Lil Son Jackson" who gave up blues for the church. As Oliver notes, "Musically the blues and the spirituals, or the spirituals' successor, the gospel song, may have stemmed from common sources. But in the recording era, though they shared on occasion similar instrumentation and voices, they were separate and distinct."

Despite this divide, religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion like Son House, blues artists who moonlighted by singing gospel like Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip, James, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, among many others and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion like Robert Wilkins, Rev. Gary Davis, Georgia Tom, Rube Lacey, Ishman Bracey, Gatemouth Moore and many others. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel like Blind Roosevelt Graves, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists like Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Edward Clayborn, Sister O.M. Terrell and others, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We explore all this and more on today's program.

Today's title comes from one of my favorite singers, the influential Doctor Clayton. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. He first recorded for Bluebird in 1935 cutting six sides four of which went unissued, not recording again until 1941. Between 1941-1942 he recorded four sessions for Bluebird and Okeh. Clayton's final recordings were in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston with a final session in August 1946 which is where today's selection, "Angels In Harlem", comes from. The song was covered by Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Little Son Willis as "Harlem Blues" and by Larry Davis as "Angels In Houston." This is a good  example of a blues song using religious imagery. Another example is Texas Alexander's "Justice Blues" from 1934. The song has lyrical similarity to a number of songs:

I've cried, Lord, my Father, Lord, our kingdom come (2x)
Send me back my woman, then my will be done

I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Says, I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Oh Lord, it's womens up there got their mouths chock full of gold

I'm gonna build me a Heaven, have a kingdom of my own
Gonna build me a Heaven have a kingdom of my own
So these brownskin women can cluster around my throne

The song echoed a line from House' 1930 number "Preachin The Blues:"

Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own (great Godawmighty)
Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home

These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years including Lightnin' Hopkins' "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own" which we play today .Also worth noting is Alexander's mockery of the Lord's prayer. This device shows up in a number of songs including John Byrd's mock sermon "The White Mule of Sin" as he has "Sister" Jones lead the prayer:

Our father who art in heaven
The white man owed me ten dollars and I didn't get but seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
I took that or I wouldn't have got none

In our first installment we played "You Shall" by Frank Stokes which uses a similar refrain:

Oh well it's our Father who art in heaven
The preacher owed me ten dollars he paid me seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
If I hadn't took the seven Lord I wouldn't have gotten none

There were slew of related songs that took a cynical, humorous view of the preacher. In our first installment we featured a number of these including Arthur Anderson's "If You Want To Make A Preacher Cuss", Hambone Willie Newbern's "Nobody Knows (What The Good Deacon Does)", Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe's "Preachers Blues",  Mississippi Sheiks' "He Calls That Religion", Luke Jordan's "Church Bells", Christina Gray's "The Reverend Is My Man", Frank Stokes' "You Shall", Little Esther's "The Deacon Moves In" and Louis Jordan's "Deacon Jones."  We feature  a batch more today including Hi Henry Brown's "Preacher Blues", Champion Jack Dupree's "Deacon's Party" and  The Griffin Brothers' "Double Faced Deacon:"

Well let me tell you about a deacon, top hat long tail coat (2x)
Well he preaches his best while winking at the women folk
Well he preached against gambling, said it was a sin and a shame (2x)
Well he met me in the alley, shot seven for my watch and chain

On "Preacher Blues" from 1932 Hi Henry Brown echoes a similar sentiment:

Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand, sister in the corner crying that my man (2x)
Preacher come to your house asking to rest his hat, next hing he wanna know sister, where your husband at? (2x)

Criticism of the preacher and religion isn't confined  to secular artists. We hear a similar complaint from  Rev. Anderson today on "Do You Call That Religion?" and "Denomination Blues" by Washington Phillips:

You're fightin' each other, and think you're doing well
And the sinners on the outside are going to hell. And that's all

 Now the preachers is preachin', and think they're doing well
All they want is your money and you can go to hell. And that's all

 Then there was Reverend A.W. Mosley who delivers the no nonsense "You Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's Houses."

You jack-legged preachers – stay out of widow's houses
Some of the mornings – some of these nights
You goin' to some widow's house
Some grass widow, that you ain't got no business there
They gonna find your body there
But you won't find yo' head
Preacher – stay out of widow's houses

Bessie Smith: On Revival DayIn the heyday of  blues popularity, the late 20's and 30's, there was a marked increase in blues imagery in recorded sermons which were hugely popular during this period. There was F.W. McGhee railing against "Shine-Drinking" and "Women's Clothes (You Can't Hide)" while Rev. Emmett Dickinson  delivered sermons with titles like "Is There Harm In Singing The Blues" and "Sermon On Tight Like That."

 There were quite a number of blues artists who recorded both blues and gospel. I'm not sure if this was commercially driven or heartfelt religious sentiment. Certainly Son House was conflicted  between the blues and religious worlds.  In his younger days House became involved with the Baptist religion, and by the time he was twenty he was preaching in a church near Clarksdale. In his mid-twenties, House heard a guitar player named Willie Wilson (sometimes Willie Williams) playing bottleneck guitar and it changed his life. House bought a battered guitar, Wilson patched it up, put it in Spanish tuning, and soon House was accompanying him. Surprisingly enough, after becoming a bluesman, House continued to preach for awhile, an unlikely combination of careers that speaks of the conflict between religion and blues that would bedevil him the rest of his life. His  "Preachin the Blues", featured in part one, is a savage attack on organized religion—specifically in the form of the Baptist church. In his rediscovery years House recorded and performed religious materiel, sometimes even doing some preaching during his shows.

House's contemporary Charley Patton not only performed and recorded religious songs but for most of his life wrestled with what he thought was a calling to be a preacher. He cut several religious songs: "Prayer of Death" (Parts 1 & 2), "Lord I'm Discouraged", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "Some Happy Day, "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" and "Oh Death."

Others featured today who recorded both blues and gospel were singer Leola Manning who's vocals seem straight out of the church. Our selection, "He Fans Me", is a religious number but bears a strong resemblance to  Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's raunchy hit "Fan It." Then there was Crying Sam Collin who cut just a few gospel numbers although he did record several others that were not released. Similarly Julius Daniels cut a mix of blues and gospel as we feature him performing "Slippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden Street." Blind Willie McTell was another who cut a fair number of spiritual sides starting in 1933, some more in 1935 and several for the Library of Congress in 1940. He continued to cut a number of religious sides during his post-war recordings. Skip James, featured today on "Jesus Is a Mighty Good Leader" from his legendary 1931 session, continued to perform and record spiritual numbers during his rediscovery in the 1960's. At his first session in 1930 Bukka White cut two religious numbers and two blues and in advertisement in the Chicago  Defender was billed as the "Singing Preacher."

Unrelated to the Son House song, where several similarly titled songs such as Bessie Smith's "Preachin' The Blues", "Preaching The Blues" by H-Bomb Ferguson and Big Bill Broonzy's "Preachin' The Blues.” In many versions of his life, Broonzy speaks of becoming a preacher for awhile. Unlike the House song, these songs represented the blues singer delivering mock sermons. Ferguson's father was a Baptist preacher who paid for piano lessons for his son condition he learned sacred songs. But Ferguson had other ideas: "After church was over, while the people was all standing outside talking, me and my friends would run back inside and I'd play the blues on the piano." His father would not approve of his 1952 number:

Is all my bothers here, is everybody ready?
Well all you backsliders sit out there and say amen,
And when I get to preaching, you wish you had some gin
Now take old brother Johnson he says he's living right,
I saw him sneaking around with the deacon"s wife last night

Today's program features several so called guitar evangelists. There is only a slight difference between a street-corner blues singer and a sanctified street singer, since both need to hold a crowd and make a few bucks. Blind Willie Johnson is the most famous and greatest of the guitar evangelists. Others from this period include Edward W. Clayborn, A.C. & Blind Mamie Forehand, Blind Willie Brother Willie Eason: I Want To LiveHarris, Willie Mae Williams plus several who recorded slightly later like Rev. Utah Smith, Willie Eason and Sister O.M. Terrell.

In part one we spotlighted  a pair of cuts by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a tremendous guitarist and singer who did  blues sides in her early days but pretty much stuck to gospel for the rest of her lengthy recording career. It's interesting that in the early blues years there were very few guitar playing woman. The biggest name was Memphis Minnie with a few others like Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley who cut a few sides. Tharpe must have been an influence in because on the gospel side there were several fine woman guitarists including Willie Mae Williams and  Sister O.M.  Terrell  both of whom are spotlighted today.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Blind Lemon JeffersonOne Dime Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonMatchbox Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonRambler BluesThe Best Of
Down Home Boys (Papa Harvey Hull & Long "Cleve" Reed)Mama You Don't Know HowNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Big Joe WilliamsPeach Orchard Mama Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Blind Willie McTellLast Dime BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonSee That My Grave Is Kept CleanThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonBed Spring BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon JeffersonPrison Cell Blues Mean & Evil Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins Reminiscences Of Blind LemonLightnin' Hopkins [Smithsonian Folkways]
Lightnin' Hopkins One Kind FavorAll The Classics 1946-1951
Son HouseCounty Farm BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Blind Lemon Jefferson Shuckin' Sugar BluesThe Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon Jefferson Corinna Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Rabbit Foot Blues If It Ain't One Thing, It'Rabbit Foot Blues
Ramblin' ThomasNo Baby BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Blind Boy Fuller Untrue BluesBlind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-1938
Blind Lemon Jefferson Got The Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Hot Dogs The Best Of
Leadbelly Blind Lemon (Song)Leadbelly Vol. 6 1947
Leadbelly Silver City Bound Leadbelly's Last Sessions
Blind Lemon JeffersonBad Luck Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Horse Blues The Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby Blues The Best Of
Hattie Hudson Doggone My Good Luck Soul Dallas Alley Drag
Thomas Shaw Jack Of Diamonds San Diego Blues Jam
Mance LipscombEasy Rider BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlind Lemon's Penitentiary Blues The Complete Classic Sides
Blind Lemon JeffersonBlack Snake Moan Great Blues Guitarists: String Dazzlers
Pete HarrisBlind Lemon's SongTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Rev. Emmett Dickenson The Death Of Blind LemonBlues Images Vol. 6
King Solomon Hill My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon Blues Images Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Today we spotlight Blind Lemon Jefferson and the enormous influence he had on his contemporaries and countless blues artist over the ensuing decades. Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. Researcher Bruce Bastin, known for his extensive research in the Piedmont region, said of Jefferson… “…there can have been few nascent bluesmen outside Texas, let alone within the state, who had never heard his music. Among interviewed East Coast bluesmen active during Blind Lemon’s recording career, almost all recall him as one of the first bluesmen they heard on record.” Today we spotlight some of Lemon's best numbers as well as a those artists he inspired. Lemon's influence cast a long shadow among both black and white artists and today's show is in no way comprehensive but does give a snapshot of just how big Lemon's impact was.

Jefferson was born in September 1893. By 1912, he was working over a wide area of Texas, including East Dallas, Silver City, Galveston, and Waco. Jefferson was still a teenager when he moved into Dallas. The black community in Dallas were settled in an area covering approximately six blocks around Central Avenue up to Elm Street, the center of which was Deep Ellum, a bustling thoroughfare full of bars, clubs and brothels. Mance Lipscomb saw Jefferson playing there as early as 1917. Although Jefferson’s reputation was originally made as a singer of sacred songs, the percentage of blues in his repertoire greatly increased as the years progressed. In 1925 Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Jefferson's first session produced "I Want To Be Like Jesus In My Heart" b/w "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" using the name Deacon L.J. Bates. It was the second session, however, that made Jefferson a star. He recorded four songs at that session: “Booster Blues” b/w “Dry Southern Blues’, came out in or around March 1926. "Got The Blues" b/w "Long Lonesome Blues" hadn't been on sale long in the spring of 1926 when Paramount asked him to record it again because of the huge demand for the record. This was unheard of for a male blues artist. Prior to Jefferson the blues had been recorded primarily by women backed by piano or bands

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Rambler Blues
Click to Enlarge

Tony Russell describes Jefferson's impact: "Jefferson offered instead blues sung by a man playing guitar – playing it, moreover, with a busyness and variety that showed up many of those pianists and bands as turgid and ordinary. The discovery that there was an audience for Jefferson's type of blues revolutionized the music business: within a few years female singers were out of favor and virtually all the trading in the 'race' market (jazz aside) was in men with guitars." Throughout 1926 there was a constant supply of new releases from Jefferson, "Black Horse Blues", "Jack O’ Diamond Blues" and "That Black Snake Moan" were among these classic numbers.

In 1927, when producer Mayo Williams moved to OKeh Records, he took Jefferson with him, and OKeh quickly recorded and released Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" backed with "Black Snake Moan," which was to be his only OKeh recording, probably because of contractual obligations with Paramount. Jefferson's two songs released on Okeh have considerably better sound quality than on his Paramount records at the time. When he had returned to Paramount a few months later, "Matchbox Blues" had already become such a hit that Paramount re-recorded and released two new versions. In 1927, Jefferson recorded another of his now classic songs, the haunting "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (once again using the pseudonym Deacon L. J. Bates) along with two other uncharacteristically spiritual songs, "He Arose from the Dead" and "Where Shall I Be." Of the three, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" became such a big hit that it was re-recorded and re-released in 1928. Despite his success, which allowed him to maintain a chauffeur-driven Ford and a healthy bank balance, Jefferson’s lifestyle was little affected. While he spent time in Chicago, where most of his recordings were made, he continued to work as an itinerant performer in the South.

In addition to his frequent recording sessions in Chicago throughout the late '20s, Blind Lemon Jefferson still performed in Texas and traveled around the South. He played Chicago rent parties, performed at St. Louis' Booker T. Washington Theater, and even worked some with Son House collaborator Rev. Rubin Lacy while in Mississippi. In late September of 1929, Jefferson went to Paramount's studios in Richmond, IN, for a fruitful session that included two songs,"Bed Springs Blues" and "Yo Yo Blues", that were also issued on the Broadway label. Jefferson was back in Chicago in December of 1929 when, sadly, he was found dead following a particularly cold snowstorm.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: 'Lectric Chair Blues
Click to Enlarge

Jefferson died in Chicago at 10 am on December 19, 1929, of what his death certificate called "probably acute myocarditis" (Lemon's death certificate was found in 2010 and published in the Frog Blues and Jazz Annual #1). Paramount Records paid for the return of his body to Texas by train, accompanied by pianist William Ezell. Jefferson was buried at Wortham Negro Cemetery (later Wortham Black Cemetery). By 1996, the cemetery and marker were in poor condition, but a new granite headstone was erected in 1997. In 2007, the cemetery's name was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery and his gravesite is kept clean by a cemetery committee in Wortham, Texas.

Several blues singer/guitarists like Thomas Shaw and Mance Lipscomb thought Jefferson’s style almost impossible to imitate with any degree of success. But there were a few recordings made in the pre-war period that managed to do so, notably Issiah Nettles (The Mississippi Moaner), who covered Lemon’s "Long Lonesome Blues" as "It’s Cold In China Blues". Willard ‘Ramblin’ Thomas (probably a one time associate of Jefferson) had a number of songs in the the vein of Lemon. Jesse Thomas' 1948 number, "Double Due Love You" opens with lyrics also taken from the Blind Lemon' "Long Lonesome Blues." Thomas also recorded Lemon's "Jack of Diamonds" in 1951.

We feature several artists today who either covered Lemon's songs or who's records clearly bear the mark of Lemon's influence.  The Down Home Boys recording of "Mama, You Don't Know How", from 1927, has Long Cleve Reed, Papa Harvey Hull and Sunny Wilson re-working Lemon's "Black Snake Moan". Blind Boy Fuller was influenced by Lemon. The opening lick to his intro to "Untrue Blues" comes right out of "Rabbit's Foot Blues” while "Meat Shakin' Woman", derives its melody from "Bad Luck Blues". According to Son House’s recollection of his 1930 Paramount session, producer Art Laibley had asked the musicians if anyone could do a version of the song. Charlie Patton and Willie Brown passed but House went back to his room with Louise Johnson, worked half the night adding his own words to Lemon's melody, and the next day recorded "Mississippi County Farm." The song became a mainstay of House's repertoire, and he recorded it again for Alan Lomax in 1942. Hattie Hudson's 1927 song, "Doggone My Bad Luck Soul" was an "answer song" to Lemon's "Bad Luck Blues" issued in 1926, and has the repeated tag-line "doggone my bad luck soul."

Today we spotlight several artists who knew Lemon first hand such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Leadbelly, Thomas Shaw and King Solomon Hill. Lightnin' Hopkins offered different account of when he met Blind Lemon but it seems to have been sometime in the early to mid-20's. From 1959 we hear "Reminiscences Of Blind Lemon" and "One Kind Favor, his cover of Lemon's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."

It was on the streets of Deep Ellum that Lemon met up with Leadbelly. Leadbelly, in later years, was understandably proud of his relationship with Lemon. They probably met up sometime after 1910, when Leadbelly and his wife Aletta moved into Dallas. Leadbelly would play guitar, mandolin or accordion behind Lemon and he remembered topically performing the number "Fare Thee Well, Titanic" (the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912) on the streets of Dallas with Jefferson and on other occasions, dancing while Lemon would play a guitar solo version of "Dallas Rag". As a team they traveled together on the railroads from town to town earning a reasonable living. In later years Leadbelly would recall how he and Lemon “was buddies” and how.. “we’d tear those guitars all to pieces”. Their partnership certainly ended by January 1918, when Leadbelly (using the alias Walter Boyd) was indicted on a charge of murder, found guilty and thereafter became a guest of the Texas penal system.

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Cannon Ball Moan
Click to Enlarge

Thomas Shaw had already been enthralled by Jefferson's early recordings of “Long Lonesome Blues” and “Matchbox Blues” when he met Jefferson on the town square of Waco in 1926 or 1927. At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's songs from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person. Today we play his version of Lemon's classic "Jack Of Diamonds."

King Solomon Hill was closely connected to Crying Sam Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and their influence is evident, to some degree, in Hill's style. "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon"is a heartfelt tribute to someone Hill clearly admired: "Hmmm then the mailman brought a misery to my head/When I received a letter that my friend Lemon was dead." Those lines echo the opening of Lemon's “Gone Dead On You Blues”: Mmmmmm, mailman's letter brought misery to my head. Mmmmm, brought misery to my head. I got a letter this morning, my pigmeat mama was dead.” Hill ran with Lemon for about two months after he passed through Minden. Hill's widow recalled that "he sung that song a whole lot 'bout Blind Lemon. Said he loved his buddy 'some way better than anyone I know.'" On one record, “Whoope Blues” b/w Down On My Bended Knees” the subtitle on the record says “Blind Lemon's Buddy.”

In 1930 , shortly after Lemon's death, Paramount issued a double sided tribute to Lemon: “Wasn't It Sad About Lemon” by the duo Walter and Byrd was on one side while the second side was the sermon “The Death Of Blind Lemon” by Rev. Emmett Dickenson. Leadbelly recorded a number of songs about Lemon after his passing. Today we spin his "Blind Lemon (Song)" from 1947 and the marvelous "Silver City Bound" from his last session in 1948.

-A Twist of Lemon by Paul Swinton  (Blues & Rhythm, No. 121)

-Blind Lemon And I Had A Ball by Victoria Spivey  (Record Research 76, May 1966 p.9)

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

Show Notes:

Blind Willie McTell: The Early Years
Read Liner Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
Read Liner Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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