ARTISTSONGALBUM
Rock Heart Johnson Rock Heart BluesRCA Downhome Blues Vol. 1
Rock Heart Johnson Midnight RamblerRCA Downhome Blues Vol. 1
Henry Clement Late Hour Blues Bluesin' By The Bayou: I'm Not Jiving
Clarence Garlow I Feel Like Calling You Bluesin' By The Bayou: I'm Not Jiving
Juke Boy Bonner I'm Not Jiving Bluesin' By The Bayou: I'm Not Jiving
Sonny Chestain Po' Boy Long Way From Home Fort Valley Blues 1941-1943
B.B. King Long Nights Here's One You Didn't Know About From the RPM & Kent Vaults
B.B. King Strange ThingsTreasures Untold
Kid Bailey Rowdy Blues Masters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My GraveBest Of
Curley Weaver Birmingham GamblerCurly Weaver 1933-1935
Son BeckyMidnight Trouble Blues San Antonio Blues 1937
Eddie MackSeven Days BluesEddie Mack 1947-1952
Dave Bartholomew The Golden RuleDave Bartholomew 1950-1952
Luke Jones Graveyard BluesWest Coast R&B 1947-1952
Frank Brown & The Ford Nelson Quintet Still Lookin' For A ChangeRCA Downhome Blues Vol. 1
Buster Bennett Crazy Woman BluesBuster Bennett 1945-1947
Willis JacksonHowling At MidnightWillis Jackson 1950-1954
Bo Weavil JacksonSome Scream High Yellow Guitar Wizards 1926-1935
Skip James 22-20 Blues Juke Joint Saturday Night
Roosevelt Sykes 32-20 Blues The Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes And Lee Green
Robert Johnson 32-20 Blues The Centennial Collection
Lightnin' Hopkins Blues For Queen Elizabeth The Rooster Crowed In England
Champion Jack Dupree London Special London Special
Big Joe Williams This Old London Town Don't Your Plums Look Mellow Hanging on Your Tree
John Lee Hooker My StoryMy Story
Eugene Rhodes Working on the LeveeTalkin' About My Time
Southern Negro Quartette Moanin' Groanin' Blues The Earliest Negro Vocal Groups Vol. 3 1921-1924
Helen Gross Undertaker's Blues Jazz & Blues On Edison Vol. 1 1920-1929
Viola McCoy Memphis Bound Jazz & Blues On Edison Jazz & Blues On Edison Vol. 1 1920-1929
Rock Heart Johnson Evilest Woman in TownRCA Downhome Blues Vol. 1
Rock Heart Johnson Black SpiderRCA Downhome Blues Vol. 1

Show Notes: 

Eviliest Woman In TownIt's been awhile since we've done a mix show. Lots of interesting records on tap today including spinning the recorded output of Rock Heart Johnson, a trio of sides from Ace's recent Bluesin' By The Bayou collection, two from B.B. King from new collections, two sides from the LP Fort Valley Blues, a set devoted to the song "32-20 Blues", a set related to songs about bluesman singing about England and a pair of numbers recorded for the Edison label. The rest of the show is filled out with some great pre-war blues, a dose of jump blues and some excellent down-home blues.

We open and close the show with the complete output of singer and harp player James "Rock Heart" Johnson. Johnson was from Texas and came to work in L.A. during the immediate postwar years. He recorded four tracks in L.A. on July, 22nd 1952 backed by Maxwell Davis on tenor, Jeanne Jamerson on piano, Red Callender on bass and Buddy Harper on drums. He was a very appealing singer backed by a good combo with a sound that seems to hark back to the sound of a decade prior.

Bluesin' By The Bayou: I'm Not Jiving is the latest installment in a series of great collections of Louisiana blues issued by the Ace label. Baton Rouge was arguably the blues center of Louisiana and just about all of the artists featured in this compilation spent part of their lives there. Featured artists include Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, Slim Harpo and Silas Hogan who all honed their skills in its clubs and bars, although they traveled some 70 miles west to record at J.D. Miller’s studio in Crowley. Everything here emanated from Miller’s studio or from his close rival Eddie Shuler’s facility in Lake Charles. Back in the 70's the Flyright label mined much of the same material. With the assistance of Miller, Flyright launched a series called the The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions to issue this material. The series ran to over fifty volumes. Several years ago I did an entire show devoted to the series which can be heard here.

Fort Valley Blues
Read Liner Notes

We feature a pair of tracks from the long out-of-print album, Fort Valley Blues, released on the Flyright label in 1974. Fort Valley, the seat of Peach County, Georgia, lies about 20 miles southwest of Macon. Every spring the State College used to hold a music festival, and in 1940 the College's President, Horace Mann Bond, inspired by the singing in a rural church he had visited, decided to augment the festival with a folk music The Library of Congress got involved in 1941 when John Work started recording some of the performers with more recordings made in 1943.

B.B. King died at age the 89 on May 14, 2015 and since then there have been several posthumous releases. One is Ace"s Here's One You Didn't Know About From The RPM & Kent Vaults which includes over twenty sides issued for the first time. From that album we spotlight "Long Nights (The Feeling They Call the Blues)" a fine after hour blues. Then there's the incredible 17-CD limited edition set, The Complete Kent/RPM Recordings 1950 to 1965 issued on the Japanese P-Vine label. The box also comes with a vinyl LP titled Treasures Untold, with lots of rare BB King material and also comes with a Japanese edition of the book The Arrival of BB King by Charles Sawyer. I just got this behemoth so I've really haven't had a chance to dive in but thought I should play at least one track  for today's show. From that set we spin the tough "Strange Things." More to come on future shows.

"I put in for my citizenship papers and I'm going back to London for sure. Because if the good Lord lets me live I'm not going back to the States no more …" sings Sonny Boy Williamson on I'm Trying To Make London My Home with a little help on guitar from Hubert Sumlin on a live 1964 recording recorded at the American Folk Blues Festival. Unfortunately Sonny Boy died the following year while back in the States on tour so didn't get to live in London full time, despite adopting the trademark two-tone, city gentleman's suit (complete with bowler hat, rolled umbrella and attache case full of harmonicas). That song was also the title of a show I did awhile back on blues recorded overseas. Sonny Boy wasn't the only one to sing about London and of course numerous bluesman got to visit Europe beginning with a trickle in the 50's and opening full throttle in the 60's. Today we hear Lightnin' Hopkins performing his "Blues For Queen Elizabeth", Champion Jack Dupree singing his "London Special" from an EP of the same name and Big Joe Williams delivering "This Old London Town."

Robert Johnson: 32-20 Blues"32-20 Blues" was recorded by Robert Johnson during his second recording session in San Antonio, Texas, on November 26, 1936. The title refers to .32-20 Winchester ammunition, which could be used in handguns as well as smaller rifles. The song is based on the Skip James 1931 song "22-20 Blues" which was done at the request of Paramount Records who wanted successful “gun blues” to cover Roosevelt Sykes’ "44 Blues" cut in 1929. Sykes cut a sequel to his own song, "32-20 Blues", in 1930 which also may have been a source for James' song. An earlier source for the song may have been Bo Weavil Jackson's "Some Scream High Yellow" recorded in 1926. The tune itself is also similar to many other blues songs like Cannons Jug Stompers' "Minglewood Blues" and Hambone Willie Newbern's "Roll And Tumble Blues."

Thomas Edison's pioneering Edison Records recorded seemingly everything under the sun between 1914 and 1929, including a host of vaudeville sketches, opera, and classical pieces, string bands, jazz dance bands, political speeches and blues. The company ceased making records in 1929, and packed up its catalog in boxes and stored them in an old warehouse until 1976, when Merritt Malvern began the process of transferring everything to archival tape. Most of this material has never been issued in any form, and Document Records in conjunction with the American Sound Archives has undertaken the task of issuing the best of it on CD. So far Document has issued two CD's worth of material. From those collections we play fine singers Viola McCoy, who made quite a number of records, and Helen Gross who cut around twenty sides for the Ajax label between 1924 and 1925.

I'm planning a few sax related shows in the upcoming months and one horn blower I'll be featuring is Buster Bennett who's "Crazy Woman Blues" we hear today. James Joseph "Buster" Bennett was a saxophonist and singer who has been almost completely neglected. He also played piano and string bass professionally during his career. He arrived in Chicago in the summer of 1938 and his last mention in the Chicago Defender came in April 1954. He appeared on twenty-eight recording sessions between 1938 and 1947. His career on record divides neatly into two phases; In the first part of his career he worked as a blues accompanist in the studios backing artists such as Monkey Joe, Big Bill Broonzy, Merline Johnson, Washboard Sam and Jimmie Gordon; during the second part, after being signed as a leader, he was presented as a gut-bucket instrumentalist and blues singer. The sides under his own name have been reissued on the Classics label as Buster Bennett 1945-1947.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Floyd Jones Stockyard Blues Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Keep What You Got Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Hard TimesFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones School Days Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Sunnyland Slim Devil is a Busy Man Sunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Sunnyland Slim Going Back To Memphis Sunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Floyd Jones Dark Road Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones PlayhouseFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Big WorldFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Little Willie Foster Falling Rain Blues Chicago Blues: The Early 1950s
Little Willie Foster Four Day Jump Hand Me Down Blues
Floyd Jones OverseasFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Early Morning Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones You Can't Live Long Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Sunnyland Slim I Done You WrongSunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Sunnyland Slim Be My BabySunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Floyd Jones On The Road AgainFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Skinny MamaFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Snooky Pryor Someone To Love MeVee Jay, The Chicago Black Musi
Snooky Pryor Judgement DayChicago Blues: The Vee Jay Era
Snooky Pryor You Tried To Ruin Me BabyChicago Blues: The Vee Jay Era
Floyd Jones Rising Wind Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones I Lost A Good WomanFloyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Any Old Lonesome Day Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Little Willie Foster Crying BluesKing Cobras: Chicago Kings Of The Harmonica
Little Willie Foster Little WomanKing Cobras: Chicago Kings Of The Harmonica
Floyd Jones Schooldays On My Mind Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Ain't Times Hard Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Floyd Jones Floyd's Blues Floyd Jones 1948-1953
Sunnyland Slim Troubles Of My OwnSunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Sunnyland Slim Worried About My Baby Sunnyland Slim 1952-1955
Floyd Jones M&O Blues Masters of Modern Blues Vol. 3
Floyd Jones & Walter HortonMr. Freddy's Blues Big Walter Horton: King of The Harmonica Players
Floyd Jones & Walter HortonTake A Little Walk Big Walter Horton: King of The Harmonica Players

Show Notes: 

Floyd Jones
Floyd Jones c. 1944

Guitarist Floyd Jones specialized in well crafted, dark, brooding topical blues songs. He was born on July 21, 1917, in Marianna, Arkansas. He  recalled that his Mother was a fine pianist but died when he was young. Moving to Mississippi with his father, where he came into contact with Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson and Tommy Johnson. After several years of dabbling with the guitar began playing it in earnest after Howlin’ Wolf gave him an instrument. Through much of the 1930's and early 1940's he worked the South as an itinerant musician. After visiting Chicago a couple of times, Jones moved to the city permanently in 1945, settling in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. In the city, the blues became more electrified, and Floyd Jones, who had been playing an acoustic guitar with an electric pickup, switched to a Gibson electric. He began playing on Maxwell Street and in non-union venues with such artists as Little Walter, John Henry Barbee, and Sunnyland Slim. In the fall of 1946, Jones teamed up with Snooky Pryor, soon joined by his cousin Moody Jones. Throughout the late 1940's and early 1950's, Jones recorded over a dozen songs for Marvel, JOB, Chess, and Vee-Jay, including the Chicago blues classics "Stockyard Blues," "Hard Times," and "Dark Road." His powerful but somber writing style dealt mainly with social and economic hardships, such as poverty, disenchantment, and unemployment. Jones also appeared on recordings throughout the 1950's by Eddie Taylor, Little Willie Foster, and Sunnyland Slim, and continued to play in clubs and on Maxwell Street into the 1970's, often with Big Walter Horton. In the 1960's and 70's he recorded more sparingly, cutting sides for Testament and some intimate sides with Walter Horton.

Floyd Jones, Snooky Pryor and Moody Jones were playing in a club on Sedgwick, when Chester Scales, owner of Marvel Records, happened by and offered to record the trio, having remembered seeing Snooky playing on the street sometime earlier. However, on the day of the session, Floyd Jones missed out on recording "Telephone Blues" and "Boogie," because he could not be located. Scales made up for it by recording the trio with Floyd Jones as the leader on "Stockyard Blues" and "Keep What You Got," two classics of postwar Chicago blues written by Jones. Much to Jones’s everlasting distress, when the record was released, Scales put Snooky and Moody down on the label as the main artists, and listed Floyd as mere vocalist. He also claimed Stockyard Blues 78composition credit on both titles. These sides were reissued on the Old Swing-Master label in 1949. In May 1949, Floyd Jones went on to record with Sunnyland Slim for Tempo-Tone, making another classic "Hard Times" backed by “School Days." Jones' next recording opportunity would come with Joe Brown’s J.O.B. label in March 1951, when he made "Dark Road" with Sunnyland Slim and Moody Jones. "Dark Road" was considered a hit, though its sales were not high enough to make Billboard's R&B charts. By the end of the year, Floyd Jones had moved to Chess, where he recorded two sessions. Jones' second rendition of "Dark Road," cut for Chess in December 1951 was in direct competition with his J.O.B. version, and became his most successful record and the most enduring part of his recorded legacy. Jones returned to J.O.B. for a session in January 1953, recording another standout, "On the Road Again." In 1954 he moved to Vee-Jay, where he made "School Days On My Mind b/w Ain’t Times Hard" and "Floyd's Blues b/w Any Old Lonesome Day."

Floyd Jones appeared on a number of records as a backing guitarist including sessions by Sunnyland Slim, Little Willie Foster, Snooky Pryor and Eddie Taylor (those tracks are left off as Eddie Taylor will be feature in an upcoming show). Featured on Sunnyland Slim's first single, Blue Lake 105, was "Going Back to Memphis." "Going Back to Memphis" is a chaotic sounding version of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" backed with “Troubles of My Own.” Deejay Sam Evans, who owned several shops, told blues historian Mike Rowe that he "just couldn't stock enough" of "Going Back to Memphis." Floyd Jones also backed Sunnyland on several sides for Vee-Jay in 1954, some went unissued at the time.

Jones appears on all four sides by Little Willie Foster. Foster moved from Mississippi to Chicago in the early 40's and fell in playing harmonica with Floyd Jones, Lazy Bill Lucas and cousin "Baby Face" Leroy Foster. Foster was probably from Belzoni and Johnny Williams remembers giving him first job when, with Willie and his cousin Robert, he played the 520 Club, 520 E. 63rd Street. Foster ran with the same group of musicians much of the time, playing at the Jamboree with Homesick James and Lazy Bill or with Floyd Jones. He waxed two sides for Blue Lake in 1951 and two for Cobra in 1956. Both sessions feature backing from Lazy Bill Lucas and Floyd Jones, with Eddie Taylor on guitar on the earlier session. Shortly after this last session he was seriously wounded by a gunshot which ended his career. Foster passed in 1987. Foster was described by Snooky Pryor as "a good harmonica player, but kind of a terrible rough little guy."

Dark Road 78Jones appears on several sides by Snooky Pryor recorded for Vee-Jay in 1956. In his obituary for the Guardian, Tony Russell wrote: "Snooky Pryor, who has died aged 85, was the last of the group of harmonica players who distinguished the Chicago blues scene of the 1940's and 50's. If not quite the equal of men like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Walter "Shakey" Horton or Junior Wells, he was none the less a player with a distinctive sound, and his contributions to the early development of the Chicago blues-band idiom are held in high regard. In particular, the recordings he made in the late 40's, both in his own name and accompanying the singers Floyd Jones and Johnny Young, established him among blues enthusiasts of the 1960's as one of the defining figures of the primeval Chicago scene."

A new White audience created a market for the pioneers of Chicago blues, and in 1966 Pete Welding recruited Floyd Jones to record an LP with Eddie Taylor for his Testament label. Jones' was also featured in Harley Cokliss's 1970 film Chicago Blues. Jones subsequently recorded for the Swedish Magnolia label (with Big Walter Horton in 1970 and 1975) and Earwig (with Honey Boy Edwards, Sunnyland Slim, and Kansas City Red in 1979, and with Big Walter in 1980). As Dave Whiteis wrote: "Floyd gave his last performance,a quavering version of his 1952 Chess Recording 'Early Morning', on June 7, 1986 on a gray and drizzly Saturday afternoon at the 1986 Chicago Blues Festival." Floyd Jones died in Chicago on December 19, 1989. He was buried on December 26 and his old friend Sunnyland Slim organized a benefit at B.L.U.E.S. to pay the funeral cost.

Related Articles

-Whiteis, Dave. "Floyd Jones, 1917-1989." Juke Blues no. 20 (Summer 1990): 20-21.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Scrapper Blackwell Trouble Blues Pt. 1The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Penal Farm Blues The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Kokomo Blues The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellSloppy DrunkWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellI Believe I'll Make a ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellMemphis TownNaptown Blues 1929-1934
Georgia Tom Dorsey Gee, But It's Hard Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934
Georgia Tom Dorsey Levee Bound Blues Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellHow Long Has That Evening Train Been GoneHurry Down Sunshine
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellGeorge Street Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 7: Leroy Carr 1930-1935
Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellPapa's on the Housetop Naptown Blues 1929-1934
Scrapper Blackwell Morning Mail BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell D BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Bad Liquor BluesBad Liquor Blues
Black Bottom McPhail Down In Black BottomThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Bumble Bee SlimMeet Me In the Bottom (Hey Lawdy Mama) Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 6 1936
Georgia Tom Dorsey Maybe It's The Blues The Essential
Scrapper Blackwell My Old Pal Blues (Dedicated to the Memory of Leroy Carr)Bad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Blue Day BluesThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Down South BluesThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper Blackwell Little Girl BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Scrapper BlackwellNo Good Woman BluesScrapper Blackwell with Brooks Berry 1959-1960
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellCold Blooded MurderMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Scrapper Blackwell Nobody Knows You When You're Down and OutMr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Shady LaneMr. Scrapper's Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Rambling BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Alley Sally BluesBad Liquor Blues
Scrapper Blackwell Be-Da-Da-BumBad Liquor Blues
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Mean Mistreatin' MamaHurry Down Sunshine
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell Barrelhouse Woman No. 2The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellHow LongMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Scrapper Blackwell Little Boy BlueMr. Scrapper's Blues

Show Notes:

Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell

Scrapper Blackwell was born Francis Hillman Blackwell in February 21, 1904 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was given the nickname "Scrapper" by his grandmother, because of his fiery nature. Blackwell was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of a cigar box, wood and wire and also learned to play the piano. Blackwell had met with an English entrepreneur and store owner simply remembered as Mr Guernsey. Guernsey was eager to break into the record business and, having heard both musicians, arranged for Blackwell and Leroy Carr to meet. As Scrapper recalled: "Talkin' to Leroy. He said, glad I met you. l said, well, I'm glad I met you too. I said, I kind of like your blues old boy… so we sat down and played together. l said, it does sound pretty good… now where are those record makers at?" From that first encounter in 1928, Guernsey was so impressed with this musical partnership that he suggested that he take the pair to Chicago to "make a record." Blackwell refused to travel and a makeshift studio was set up in Indianapolis. Using the local W.F.B.M. radio station as a studio, the record company cut two titles including "How Long – How Long Blues" which became one of the biggest selling blues records of all time. The duo's piano/guitar pairing inspired numerous similar duos like Georgia Tom and Tampa Red, Charlie Spand and Blind Blake, Bill Gaither and Honey Hill among others.

Blackwell actually made his solo recording debut three day prior to his debut with Carr, on June June 16, 1928, cutting "Kokomo Blues b/w Penal Farm Blues." "Kokomo Blues", was transformed into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold and later reworked as "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson. Blackwell cut two 78's under his own name in 1928, the second pairing was "Trouble Blues – Pt. 1 b/w Trouble Blues – Pt. 2." Several sessions from 1928 went unissued. In 1929 he cut "Mr. Scrapper's Blues b/w Down And Out Blues" as well as playing with singer Bertha "Chippie" Hill and on "Be-Da-Da-Bum" Blackwell took the vocals while Carr played the piano. Blackwell recorded behind Georgia Tom on a eight song session for Gennett in 1930 and the same year cut some solo sides as well as playing behind singer Teddy Moss. He cut eight sides in 1931 and 1932 and another tens sides between 1934 and 1935 under his own name. He backed several other artists on record including Bumble Bee Slim (1935), Black Bottom McPhail (1932), Josh White (1934) and Dot Rice (1935).

Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell
photo by Art Rosenbaum

Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues circuit. Between 1928 and 1935 the duo cut a remarkably consistent body of work of hundreds of sides notable for the impeccable guitar/piano interplay, Carr's profoundly expressive, melancholy vocals and some terrific songs. As Paul Oliver noted: “together they made an incomparable team, with a driving movement and lilting swing which was extremely infectious. Neither was at his best alone; it was their perfect timing and effortless mutual support which made them.” As for the songs, Oliver notes, “they were carefully composed and far from causally planned but they had a rare and simple poetry.”

Blackwell eventually grew dissatisfied with the lack of credit given his contributions with Carr; the situation was remedied by Vocalion's Mayo Williams after 1931 – in all future recordings, Blackwell and Carr received equal songwriting credits and equal status in recording contracts. Blackwell's last recording session with Carr was in February 1935, for Bluebird Records. The session ended bitterly, as both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr's death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner "My Old Pal Blues" and then shortly retired from the music industry.

Chicago Defender June 29, 1929

Indianapolis had some notable blues talent, with several fine artists who gravitated to Scrapper's orbit; there was Shirley Griffith who moved to the city in 1928 and became friendly with Scrapper and Carr, Pete Franklin, whose mother was good friend with Leroy Carr (he roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935), Jesse Ellery who appeared on Jack Dupree's first sessions and singer Brooks Berry who met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis.

Blackwell returned to music in the late 1950’s where he was recorded first in 1958 by Colin C. Pomroy, the recordings issued and first released on a 7 inch 45 rpm EP called Longtime Blues on the Collector label and was next recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1959 and 1960. These latter recordings were issued on the British 77 label as Blues Before Sunrise. Art Rosenbaum recorded him in 1962 for the Prestige/Bluesville label resulting in his finest latter day recording, the album Mr. Scrapper’s Blues which ranks as one of the great blues revival records of the 1960's. Rosenbaum recorded him again for Bluesville, this time with singer Brooks Berry, resulting in the marvelous My Heart Struck Sorrow that has yet to be issued on CD. For a few years it seemed that Blackwell was at last receiving the acclaim and rewards that he had long deserved, but it was all to end abruptly when in October 1962 he was shot in the chest at point blank range. Police arrested a 75-year-old neighbor named Robert Beam for his murder.

Related Articles

-Watts, Theodore F. “An Interview with Scrapper Blackwell.” Jazz Monthly 6, no. 5 (Jul 1960): 4–6.

-Rosenbaum, Arthur. Scrapper Blackwell: Mr. Scrapper’s Blues. USA: Bluesville BV-1047, 1961

-Rosenbaum, Art. Blues of Brooks Berry and Scrapper Blackwell: My Heart Struck Sorrow. USA: Bluesville BV-1074, c1963.

-Calt, Stephen; Epstein, Jerry; Perls, Nick; Stewart, Michael. The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell. USA: Yazoo L-1019, 1971.

-Rijn, Guido van; Vergeer, Hans. Francis ‘Scrapper’ Blackwell: ‘Blues That Make Me Cry’. Holland: Agram AB 2008, c1980.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
The Aristo Kats Jack You're Dead The Jive Is Jumpin'
The Aristo Kats Watch Yourself Baby The Jive Is Jumpin'
Tampa Red Please Mister Doctor Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Tampa Red I Should Have Loved Her More Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953
Sunnyland Slim Sad and LonesomeThe Best of Club 51 Records
Big Bertha Henderson Rock, Daddy, Rock Tough Mamas
Al Smith's Progressive JazzBeale Street StompThe Complete Meteor Blues, R & B And Gospel Recordings
Pee Wee Crayton The Telephone Is Ringing Vee Jay: The Chicago Black Music
Junior Parker Pretty Little DollRide With Me, Baby
Arbee StidhamLook Me Straight In The Eye Long Man Blues
Piney BrownMy LoveThe Last Shout, Twilight Of The Blues Shouters
Larry Birdsong I'll Run My Business Vee Jay: The Chicago Black Music
The ChargersThe Large Charge 45
Rosco Gordon Going HomeThe Very Best of Rosco Gordon
Danny Overbea Stop45
Jimmy Reed Baby, What's Wrong The Vee-Jay Years
Lefty (Guitar) Bates & His Orchestra Rock Alley Guitar Star
Lefty (Guitar) Bates & His Orchestra BackgroundGuitar Star
Eddie Boyd Five Long YearsLong Man Blues
Eddie Boyd Blue Coat Man Long Man Blues
L.C. McKinley Pain In My HeartChicago Blues 1952-1957
L.C. McKinley All Alone BluesCool Playing Blues
L.C. McKinley Companion Blues Chicago Blues In The Groove
L.C. McKinley Tortured Blues Chicago Blues In The Groove
Curtis Jones Wrong BluesCool Playing Blues
Curtis Jones Cool Blues Flamin' Blues
L.C. McKinley Blue Evening Blues Vee Jay Screaming Blues Guitar
L.C. McKinley Strange Girl Vee Jay Screaming Blues Guitar
L.C. McKinley She's five Feet Three Vee Jay Screaming Blues Guitar
Curtis Jones Flamin' Blues Flamin' Blues
Ernest CottonEmpty Bed Long Man Blues
L.C. McKinley Nit WitCadillac Baby Vol. 3
L.C. McKinley Sharpest Man In Town Cadillac Baby Vol. 3
L.C. McKinley Mind Your Business Chicago Anthology:
Have A Good Time - Chicago Blues

Show Notes:

Lefty Bates (at left) with the Aristo-Kats, 1946 or 1947.

Today's program is part three of a series of shows devoted to lesser known Chicago blues artists, some session artists, others who cut a handful of sides under their own name, all who are little remembered outside of die-hard collectors. In the past two installments we've spotlighted guitarists William Lacey, Lee Cooper, Lee Jackson and Jody Williams, and this week we showcase two more guitarists: Lefty Bates and L.C. McKinley. Bates helped to form the Hi-De-Ho Boys and after World War II he joined another group called the the Aristo-Kats. He formed his own band in the early 50's cutting a handful of sides on small labels. Most of his paid work came from regular performances in clubs and as a session musician, notably as a rhythm/lead guitarist on records by blues giants such as Tampa Red, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker plus backing numerous lesser known R&B, vocal, doo-wop and jazz combos. He was also a member of the house band for Vee-Jay Records. Bates was involved in a staggering number of sessions so today's focus will be on his bluesier sides and where his playing is prominent. There are also a number of sides by Bates that have not been reissued. Selections were based on Blues Records 1943-1970 and a two-part discography in Blues & Rhythm magazine which is reprinted below.

By 1947 L.C. McKinley had started to play professionally in Chicago, heavily influenced by T-Bone Walker. By the early 1950's he began working with Eddie Boyd and later Curtis Jones. In 1953 he recorded for Parrot Records, but these recordings were not released. He signed with States Records in January 1954 and in 1955, signed a recording contract with Vee-Jay Records. In 1959, Bea & Baby Records released a single by him. McKinley made his last recordings in 1964, which were released on the Sunnyland label in the UK.

Rock AlleyLefty Bates was born William Bates in Leighton, Alabama, in 1920 and acquired his nickname from his left-handed guitar playing. He was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, attended Vashon High School, and there helped to form the Hi-De-Ho Boys. In 1936, they relocated to Chicago, recorded for Decca Records and became a semi-regular act at the Club DeLisa from 1937 to 1950. After serving in the military in World War II, Bates joined the Aristo-Kats, who recorded for RCA Victor. Bates once again became one of the Hi-De-Ho Boys when the Aristo-Kats called it quits.

Early in the 50's, Bates formed a trio with bassist Quinn Wilson, a former member of the Aristo-Kats, and Chicago pianist Horace Palm. This group gigged for much of the 50's, sometimes expanding to a quartet by adding a horn player. Their few recordings were issued by United, Boxer, Mad and Apex Records under Bates's name. Most of his paid work came from regular performances in clubs and as a session musician, notably as a rhythm guitarist. On Jan. 29th 1953 Lefty's band, credited as Jimmy Eager and His Trio, backed Tampa Red on several songs with Bates playing terrific lead guitar.

For many years Bates was a stalwart at Chicago blues scene clubs such as the legendary Theresa's, and appeared in the second guitar on many records by blues giants such as Tampa Red, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. He also shows up on a variety of sessions by lesser-known players such as Larry Birdsong and Honey Brown. He was chosen as a member of what would become the house band for the famous Vee Jay label; along with other players such as bassist, bandleader and manager Al Smith, and saxophonist Red Holloway. This group of players began working under the auspices of the Chance record label, a precursor to Vee-Jay.

In 1957, Bates and Earl Hooker backed the singer Arbee Stidham on his recording of "Look Me Straight in the Eye b/w I Stayed Away Too Long." In 1959, Bates played with Jimmy Reed on his recording of "Baby What You Want Me to Do". In March 1960, he was part of the backing trio for John Lee Hooker on his album Travelin'. In 1961 he performed on the album Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall, and in the same year played on Reed's recording of "Big Boss Man."

L.C. McKinley

Bates got into a jack-of-all-trades situation with the upstart Club 51 label, another Chicago outfit that recorded a mixture of blues, R&B, doo wop, and jazz. At Club 51, however, Bates was the main man, leading up the studio bands under names such as the Lefty Bates Orchestra. Some of the records for this label combined Bates and his sidemen, often the same players that were on the Vee-Jay sides, with vocal groups such as the Five Buddies or Chicago bluesmen such as pianist Sunnyland Slim. In the 70's, Bates took over leadership of the Ink Spots, at that point more of a franchise than a group. Bates died of an arteriosclerosis in Chicago in April 2007, aged 87.

L.C. McKinley was born Larry McKinley in Winona, Mississippi. He relocated to Chicago in 1941. He began to find work and by 1947 had started to play professionally in the Chicago area. By the early 1950's, he was a regular performer at the 708 Club, where he variously topped the bill or played accompaniment in the first half of 1954 with the Ernest Cotton Trio. He began working with Eddie Boyd in the early 1950's. In 1952, McKinley and Cotton backed Boyd on the latter's recording of "Five Long Years", which reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart.

McKinley also worked with pianist Curtis Jones in the early 50’s and played behind Ernest Cotton on 1954's "Empty Bed" recorded for the J.O.B. label . In 1953 he recorded for Parrot Records, but these recordings were not released. He signed with States Records in January 1954, which issued his "Companion Blues" later that year. In 1955, McKinley signed a recording contract with Vee-Jay Records, which issued his single "Strange Girl", backed with "She's Five Feet Three", in the same year. Other tracks he recorded in that period, which were unissued at that time, included "Blue Evening", "Down with It", "Rosalie Blues", "Disgusted", and "Tortured Blues.” In 1959, Bea & Baby Records released his single "Nit Wit b/w Sharpest Man In Town". McKinley made his last recordings in 1964, which were released on the Sunnyland label in the UK. After leaving the music industry, he worked as a presser for a dry cleaning company in East Chicago, Indiana. McKinley died in East Chicago on January 19, 1970, aged 51.

Related Articles

-Vernon, Mick. “L.C. McKinley: The Sharpest Man in Town.” R&B Monthly no. 9 (Oct 1964): 6.

-Penny, Dave; Campbell, Robert; Kochakian, Dan. "Lefty Bates Discography, Pt. 1." Blues & Rhythm no. 183 (Oct 2003): 4-9.

-Penny, Dave; Campbell, Robert; Kochakian, Dan. "Lefty Bates Discography, Pt. 2." Blues & Rhythm no. 184 (Nov 2003): 4-9.

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