|Blind Blake||Georgia Bound||The Best of Blind Blake|
|Blind Blake||Blind Arthur's Breakdown||The Best of Blind Blake|
|Floyd 'Dipper Boy' Council||I'm Grievin' & I'm Worryin'||Blind Boy Fuller Vol. 2|
|Blind Boy Fuller||Untrue Blues||Remastered 1935-1938|
|Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee||Born for Bad Luck||The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 3|
|Willie Walker||Dupree Blues||Before The Blues Vol. 1|
|Willie Walker||South Carolina Rag||Mama Let Me Lay It On You|
|Rev. Gary Davis||Cross And Evil Woman Blues||The Vintage Recordings 1935-1949|
|Rev. Gary Davis||Lord I Wish I Could See||The Vintage Recordings 1935-1949|
|Luke Jordan||Church Bells Blues||The Songster Tradition 1927-1935|
|Josh White||Blood Red River||The Essential|
|Pink Anderson & Simmie Dooley||Gonna Tip Out, Tonight||Good for What Ails You|
|William Moore||One Way Gal||The Rain Don't Fall On Me - Country Blues 1927-1952|
|William Moore||Ragtime Millionaire||Ragtime Blues Guitar 1927-30|
|Blind Blake||Too Tight Blues, No. 2||The Best of Blind Blake|
|Blind Blake||Seaboard Stomp||The Best of Blind Blake|
|Carl Martin||Old Time Blues||Virginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues|
|Carl Martin||Crow Jane||Carl Martin & Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941|
|Charlie Lincoln||If It Looks Like Jelly, Shakes Like Jelly, It Must Be Gelatine||Charley Lincoln & Willie Baker|
|Barbecue Bob||Ease It to Me Blues||The Essential|
|Tarter & Gay||Unknown Blues||A Richer Tradition|
|Tarter & Gay||Brownie Blues||Ragtime Blues Guitar 1927-30|
|Curley Weaver & Blind Willie McTell||You Was Born to Die||The Classic Years 1927-1940|
|Buddy Moss||Unfinished Business||New York City Blues 1940-1950|
|Blind Willie McTell||Georgia Rag||The Classic Years 1927-1940|
|Rev. Gary Davis||I'm Throwin' Up My Hands||The Vintage Recordings 1935-1949|
|Rev. Gary Davis||I Belong To The Band Hallelujah!||The Vintage Recordings 1935-1949|
|Bayless Rose||Original Blues||Ragtime Blues Guitar 1927-30|
|Bayless Rose||Black Dog Blues||American Primitive, Vol. II|
|Sam Montgomery||She Stays Drunk All The Time||Blues & Gospel From The Eastern States|
|Bull City Red||Black Woman and Poison Blues||Blues & Gospel From The Eastern States|
|Peg Leg Howell||Too Tight Blues||Atlanta Blues|
|Julius Daniels||Ninety-Nine Year Blues||When The Sun Goes Down|
We've explored East Coast Blues previously with shows devoted to Atlanta Blues and Blind Boy Fuller and his circle. Today's show is not as tightly focused as those shows, giving me a opportunity to focus on some fine lesser known artists plus several bigger names like Blind Blake and Rev. Gary Davis who I haven't spotlighted in depth. I have two sequels in the works; one on the immediate post-war period, roughly from 1943 through the early 50's and another on the still active scene of the 1960's and 70's (some of which we touched in our show devoted to Pete Lowry's Trix label). The music to be found on today's program is generally classified as Piedmont Blues, a term that refers to a style and geographic region.
Piedmont Blues refers to a regional of centered on musicians of the southeastern United States. Geographically, the Piedmont means the foothills of the Appalachians west of the tidewater region and Atlantic coastal plain stretching roughly from Richmond, VA, to Atlanta, GA. Musically, Piedmont blues describes the shared style of musicians from Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia, as well as others from as far afield as Florida, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Influenced by ragtime, country string bands, traveling medicine shows, and popular song of the early 20th century, East Coast Blues blended both black and white, rural and urban song elements in the urban centers of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic region. The Piedmont guitar style employs a complex fingerpicking method in which a regular, alternating-thumb bass pattern supports a melody on treble strings. The guitar style is highly syncopated and connects closely with an earlier string-band tradition, integrating ragtime, blues, and country dance songs. The result is comparable in sound to ragtime or stride piano styles. The term was coined by blues researcher Peter B. Lowry who in turn gives co-credit to fellow folklorist Bruce Bastin (Bastin's Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast is the definitive work on the subject). Recording artists such as Blind Blake, Josh White, Buddy Moss, and Blind Boy Fuller helped spread the style on the strength of their sales throughout the region. It was a nationally popular with the African-American audience for about twenty years from the mid-1920s through to the mid-1940s. Blind Boy Fuller's 1940 recording of "Step It Up & Go" sold over half a million copies to both blacks and whites. Below you'll find some background on today's featured artists.
Despite his popularity and much investigation, Blind Blake remains a shadowy figure. As for biographical details there is the following from his first Defenderadvertisement: "Early Morning Blues” is the first record of this new exclusive Paramount artist, Blind Blake. Blake, who hails from Jacksonville, Florida, is known up and down the coast as a wizard at picking his piano-sounding guitar. His ‘talking guitar’ they call it, and when you hear him sing and play you’ll know why Blind Blake is going to be one of the most talked about Blues artist in music." He was so popular, Paramount released at least one, and sometimes numerous, new records under his name every month. When his record sales began to fall in 1929, he contacted a good friend of his, George Williams, who managed the vaudeville show Happy-Go-Lucky. Blake played with the show until late 1930 or 1931. Blake disappeared from the Chicago music scene in 1932. He traveled to Grafton, WI, in 1932 to record his last songs with Paramount before they went bankrupt. Between the summers of 1926 and 1932, he recorded roughly 80 titles for the Paramount label. As Gary Davis noted: "I ain't never heard anybody on a record yet beat Blind Blake on guitar." And as Bruce Bastin summed up: "Arguably the finest ragtime artist who ever recorded, Blind Blake was also one of the few musicians to excel in both ragtime and blues."
In the late 1920's Gary Davis was one of the most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar. He was a considerable influence on Blind Boy Fuller who he backed on second guitar at a 1935 session. Davis moved to Durham in the mid-0s, by which time he was a full-time street musician. Davis went into the recording studio for the first time in the 1930's with the backing of a local businessman. Davis cut a stunning mixture of blues and spirituals for the American Record Company label, but there was never an agreement about payment for the recordings, and following these sessions, it was 19 years before he entered the studio again.
Little is known of Willie Walker who was born in South Carolina in 1896 and was playing in a string band with Gary Davis as early as 1911. Among his contemporaries like Pink Anderson, Gary Davis and Josh White, he was considered to be the finest guitarist in the region. He recorded only two sides in 1930 for Columbia, "South Carolina Rag b/w Dupree Blues."
As he grew older, Josh White dropped out of school to work with various street singers throughout the southeastern United States. He sang with Blind Blake, Blind Lemon, Willie Walker, and Blind Joe Taggar,with whom he recorded with, and these musicians were his major influences in music. During the first half of his life he was an important blues artist in the Piedmont style and played primarily in the South. While guiding Taggert in 1927, White arrived in Chicago, Illinois. Mayo Williams, a producer for Paramount Records, recognized White's talents and began using him as a session guitarist. He backed up many artists for recordings before recording his first popular Paramount recording. Late in 1930, New York's ARC Records sent two A&R men to find Joshua White, the lead boy who had recorded for Paramount in 1928.After his signing, White moved to New York City, billed as "Joshua White – The Singing Christian". Within a few months, after recording all of his religious repertoire, ARC explained to White that he could make more money if he also recorded the blues repertoire he had learned, in addition to working as a session man for other artists. White, at 18 and still underage, signed a new contract under the name "Pinewood Tom" in 1932 .As a session guitarist, he recorded with Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, Buddy Moss, Charlie Spand, The Carver Boys, Walter Roland, and Lucille Bogan.
Blind Boy Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span. Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. Fuller could play in multiple styles: slide, ragtime, pop, and blues were all enhanced by his National steel guitar. Fuller worked with some fine sidemen, including Gary Davis, Floyd Council, Sonny Jones, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and washboard player Bull City Red. Initially discovered and promoted by Carolina entrepreneur H. B. Long, Fuller recorded for ARC and Decca. He also served as a conduit to recording sessions, steering fellow blues musicians to the studio. Between 1935 and 1940 he cut over a 120 sides. He died in 1941 at the age of 33.
Floyd Council was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on September 2, 1911, to Harrie and Lizzie Council. Floyd later began working with Blind Boy Fuller in the 1930's, earning him the nickname Blind Boy Fuller's Buddy. ACR RecordsJohn Baxter Long invited Council to record alongside Fuller on a 1937 New York City session, after hearing him playing in Chapel Hill in January of that year. He recorded six sides at two sessions as a solo artist.
Sonny Terry was born Saunders Terrell on October 24, 1911, in Greensboro, NC. He began traveling to nearby Raleigh and Durham, performing on street corners for tips. In 1934, he befriended the popular guitarist Blind Boy Fuller. Fuller convinced Terry to move to Durham, where the two immediately gained a strong local following. By 1937, they were offered an opportunity to go to New York and record for the Vocalion label. Between 1937 and 1940 he backed Fuller on over two-dozen sides. A year later, Terry would be back in New York taking part in John Hammond? legendary Spirituals to Swing concert. Upon returning to Durham, Terry continued playing regularly with Fuller and also met his future partner, guitarist Brownie McGhee, who would accompany Terry off and on for the next two decades.
Bull City Red, whose real name was George Washington, is best known as a sometimes sideman on washboard to the likes of Blind Boy Fuller, Sonny Terry, and Blind Gary Davis. Red cut more than a dozen sides showing off his skills as a singer and guitarist as well as on the washboard, between 1935 and 1939.
Post-war research by Bruce Bastin reveals that Luke Jordan was a key figure in the blues enclave centered around Lynchburg, VA. Victor Records discovered him in 1927 and he recorded for them in Charlotte, North Carolina, in August of that year. Jordan? records sold well enough to justify transporting him to New York for a further two sessions in November 1929.
When he was sixteen, Pink Anderson met blind Simeon "Simmie" Dooley. He would be Pink's teacher and mentor until Simmie's death in 1961.When he wasn't traveling with medicine shows, Anderson would get together with Dooley and they would play at picnics, dances, and parties. In 1928, Pink and Simmie traveled to Atlanta and recorded four tracks together for Columbia records. He did not record again until 1950 and was extensively recorded in the 60's.
Carl Martin was born near Stone Gap, VA, on April 1, 1906. His main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar. Beginning with an Oct. 27,1934 session for Bluebird, where he cut "You can Go your way" and "Kid Man Blues", Martin participated in six additional sessions from January of the following year through mid-April of 1936, for OKeh, Vocalion, Bluebird, Decca and Champion, recording a total of 13 selections.
Peg Leg Howell arrived in Atlanta in 1923 and was recorded by Columbia in November 1926. His first session featured Howell solo and are certainly appealing but it? the rough, exciting stringband music he recorded with His Gang that really grabs attention. The gang consisted of Henry Williams on guitar and the infectious alley fiddle of Eddie Anthony. Unfortunately the trio only made a handful of recordings as Williams apparently died in jail in January 1930 while serving time for vagrancy and Anthony passed in 1934, after which Howell gave up music.
Within a year or so of Peg Leg Howell's arrival in Atlanta, Robert Hicks aka Barbecue Bob came to the city. He learned guitar, as did his older brother Charlie, and their friend Curley Weaver from the latter's mother Savannah Weaver. Robert Hicks as Barbecue Bob he became the most heavily recorded Atlanta bluesman of the 1920's with his records selling steadily for Columbia until his untimely death in 1931. He recorded over fifty issued sides between 1927 and 1930
Other featured artists today include Stephen Tarter and Harry Gay, William Moore, Julius Daniels and Bayless Rose. Tarter and Gay are an obscure duo from the western tip of Virginia. They made one great record in 1928, "Brownie Blues b/w Unknown Blues.". Virtually nothing is know of Bayless Rose who cut four issued sides in June 1930 , with several sides left unissued. Perhaps the only source for information on Bayless Rose is an article by Christopher King in 78 Quarterly #12. He interviewed Dick Justice's daughter, and she remembered her daddy hanging out with a guitar player named 'Bailey Rose' back in the '30s. She described Bailey Rose as 'the man who sounded the most like daddy', and said he was a railroad worker who traveled thru WV, OH & IN. She said he was 'quite a bit older than daddy. He taught [daddy] how to play Old Black Dog and Brown Gal. When asked whether Bailey Rose was black, she denied that he was, tho she said "he was kind of foreign-looking, though". She elaborated, saying "he was sort of short with dark, curly hair but with darker skin, sort of like an Arab". She again denied he was black. After discussion of the parallels between Rose's and Justice's repertoires, King offers the theory that he was a melungeon. A resident of Tappahannock, Virginia, Bill Moore recorded sixteen sides for Paramount Record Company in 1928.
-I'm Peg Leg Howell by Pete Welding (Blues Unlimited no. 10, March 1964) [PDF]
-Buddy Moss Talks to Valerie Wilmer (Melody Maker July 15, 1972) [PDF]
-Georgia Bound: The Search For Blind Arthur Blake in 1996 by Gayle Dean Wardlow and Joel Slotnikoff [Link]