Entries tagged with “T-Bone Walker”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
B.B. King Gamblers' Blues Blues Is King
B.B. King I'm Gonna Do What They Do to Me Blues On Top of Blues
Charles Brown I Want To Go Home Legend!
Jimmy WitherspoonNo Rolling Blues The Blues Singer
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry When I Was Drinkin'I Couldn't Believe My Eyes
John Lee Hooker Back Biters and SyndicatorsUrban Blues
John Lee Hooker I'm Bad Like Jesse JamesLive At Cafe Au Go-Go
Otis SpannNobody Knows Chicago Like I Do Down To Earth
George Harmonica Smith Help Me ...Of The Blues
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Roy BrownWoman Trouble Blues The Blues Are All Brown
Big Joe TurnerCherry Red Singing The Blues
T-Bone Walker I'm Gonna Stop This Nite Life Stormy Monday Blues
Jimmy RushingBad LoserLivin the Blues
Mel Brown Seven Forty-Seven Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins
Rev. Gatemouth Brown I Come To The Garden And I'm Going ThroughAfter Twenty-One Years
Big Joe Williams Franklin Street BluesDon't Your Plums Look Mellow Hanging On Your Tree
Homesick James Fayette County Blues Ain't Sick No More
L.C. Robinson House Cleanin' Blues House Cleanin' Blues
Earl Hooker End of the Blues Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker
Andrew ''Big Voice'' Odom Take Me Back To East St Louis Farther On Down The Road
Jimmy Reed I'm Just Trying To Cop a Plea The New Jimmy Redd
Jimmy Reed I've Got To Keep on Rollin'Big Boss Man
Sunnyland Slim Mr. CoolPlay The Ragtime Blues
Lucille SpannCry Before I Go Cry Before I Go
Cousin JoeEvolutionCousin Joe Of New Orleans
Roosevelt Sykes Dirty Double Mother Dirty Double Mother

Show Notes:

[Shows notes are edited from part one which aired in 2010]

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. To give the new label legitimacy B.B. King, who was recording for ABC at the time, saw his releases put out on BluesWay (his Blues Is King was the label's first release). BluesWay seemingly signed every major bluesman available, including Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann, Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Witherspoon, Charles Brown, Roy Brown, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry among others. In addition to these seasoned performers the label issued records by deserving lesser knows, issuing the first LP's by Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, Andrew Odom and L.C. Robinson. Legendary jazz producer Bob Thiele (he was the main producer at ABC/Impulse between 1961-69) was instrumental in getting the BluesWay label started but entrusted day to day operations and producing to others. Early sessions were produced by Bill Syzmzyck, Ed Michel, Bob Thiele, with later sessions handled by Al Smith. Al Smith was Jimmy Reed's manager and bandleader, and after Vee-Jay folded in 1966, a producer of soul sessions for ABC and blues sessions for ABC BluesWay. Smith inked a 25-LP production deal with BluesWay in 1973. Twenty of these albums subsequently appeared. After the label folded all interests were bought by MCA who are now owned by Universal.

 60394
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The label has been spottily reissued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. MCA has largely left the catalog to languish. The BluesWay label has a decidedly mixed reputation, cutting many very good records and many downright bad ones. Producer Al Smith has been the target of much of the animosity against the label summed up by writer Pete Lowry in a 1974 Living Blues review: "Finally I get a chance to take a swipe at Al Smith. Unfortunately, he is no longer able to enjoy it, but I'll go on anyway. Here was a strange man-I don't know if he was any kind of bass player, but he surely produced some screwed-up sessions. I won't go into artist "relations," but merely deal with the sessions; there have been some predictable characteristics. Lousy liner notes, replete with phonetic spelling (to be kind), incomplete or wrong personnel data, as well as often incomplete or disordered listings of the tunes… As for the records themselves, they varied from good to near disasters. The results of Al's Special Ninety Minute Album Sessions included inconsistent levels on instruments, as if the warm up/test stuff was mixed for release (as was most likely the case!), some strange sounding stuff (out-of-synch echo units), and just total lack of programming. Al seems to have assembled albums in the order recorded, with no concept of the album as a programmed whole. For an artist to survive this sort of "production" he had to be damn good, or be having a better than average day in the studio." No doubt Lowry is accurate in his assessment but to be fair, as he notes, the label issued quite a number of very good records that deserve a better fate than to languish in limbo. In this article we selectively trawl through the BluesWay catalog spotlighting some of the releases featured on today's program. Hopefully MCA will see fit to to create a proper BluesWay reissue series but until then vinyl may be your only option (where known I'll try and list records which have appeared on CD – reissues have appeared on Charly in the late 80's as well as Off-Beat and One Way in the 90's although these now appear to be out of print. The BGO label has reissued several BluesWay records all of which appear to be in print).

The BluesWay label issued seven albums by B.B. King between 1966 and 1970. Hands down the best of the bunch was the first one, 1966's Blues Is King which ranks as one of King's best live recordings, perhaps just a notch behind the seminal Live At The Regal cut two years previously. Recorded at a Chicago club, B.B. turns in sizzling performances of "Tired Of Your Jive", "Don't Answer The Door" and a spectacular "Night Life." The rest of B.B.'s output during this period is very solid including 1967's Blues On Top of Blues with brassy arrangements of songs like "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss and "Worried Dream" while 1968's Lucille is sparser, most notable for the ten minutes of "Lucille." 1969's Completely Well was B.B.'s breakthrough album featuring "The Thrill Is Gone" while Live & Well is divided evenly between live and studio material and contains "Why I Sing The Blues" and was his first LP to enter the Top 100. His Best – The Electric B.B. King is not a "best of" but a collection of previously issued items as singles and studio leftovers and features strong material like "Don't Answer The Door" a #2 R&B hit, "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss" and "All Over Again." 1970's Back Alley was a "best of" collection. All of B.B.'s output from this period has been reissued on MCA with some titles on BGO.

The New Jimmy Reed Album
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In addition to B.B. King, BluesWay brought heavyweights Jimmy Reed and T-Bone Walker into the fold. With his contract for Vee-Jay over, Al Smith brought Reed over to BluesWay where he cut five albums for the label between 1966-1968; The New Jimmy Reed Album, Soulin', Big Boss Man, Down In Virginia and  I Ain't From Chicago. These are mostly solid outings, finding him mostly singing his classic material and were guitar heavy featuring, in addition to Reed, Eddie Taylor, Lefty Bates and Wayne Bennett. A selection of BluesWay material appears on the CD Jimmy Reed Is Back issued on Collectables. Walker cut three records for the label: Stormy Monday in 1967, Funky Town in 1968 and Dirty Mistreater in 1973. These aren't essential T-Bone records, although quite credible, with Walker playing well featuring a sympathetic band, particularly pianist Lloyd Glenn with the two sounding particularly good together on "Going To Funky Town." Walker revisits a number of his early classics like "Cold Hearted Woman", "Stormy Monday" and "I'm In An Awful Mood", updating these numbers with some 60's styled funk that generally comes across well. The latter two records have been reissued on BGO.

Between recordings under his own name and session work, Earl Hooker was prolifically recorded by BluesWay in 1969 less than a year before he passed away. Hooker was on the West Coast recording for Blue Thumb when he began working club dates with his cousin John Lee Hooker. Hooker was working with BluesWay at the time which is how Earl Hooker's BluesWay association began. The first date was a session with John Lee Hooker which went so well that producer Ed Michel offered to make an album with Earl on the spot. Both the John Lee Hooker album If You Miss 'Im…I Got 'Im and Earl Hooker's Don't Have To Worry were recorded on May 29, 1969 with the same personnel, adding Andrew Odom to Earl's date since he was insecure about his vocals. Considering the quick, no nonsense nature of the recording the results came off exceptionally well. It's inexplicable why Don't Have To Worry hasn't been issued on CD in it's entirety (5 songs appeared on the anthology Simply The Best with one additional song on Blues Masters, Vol. 15: Slide Guitar Classics). Despite his vocal insecurities Hooker sounds confident on "You Got To Lose" and "Don't Have To Worry" (originally called "Do Right Baby" as recorded by Billy Gayles in 1956). Odom's robust, booming vocals are particularly good on "The Sky Is Crying" and "Come To Me Right Away, Baby" while Big Moose Walker takes the vocals on the remarkable "Is You Ever See A One-Eyed Woman Cry?" Hooker stretches out on the instrumentals "Hookin'" and adaptation of "Honky Tonk" and sounds even more inspired in an update of "Universal Rock" a song he first cut in 1960. If You Miss 'Im…I Got 'Im is a very strong outing with Earl and his crew giving a unique twist to Hooker's sound. Hooker's wah-wah is heard to good effect on on moody numbers like "Lonesome Mood", "I Wanna Be Your Puppy, Baby" and lays down some nice slide flourishes on the title track. This has been reissued on CD on the BGO label. BGO has also reissued the other John Lee Hooker BluesWay albums: Urban Blues, Simply The Truth and Live At Cafe Au-Go-Go. The other Earl Hooker album released was 1973's posthumous Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker which were sides originally cut and released for the Cuca label in the early 60's. This has been reissued on CD by Catfish as There's a Fungus Amung Us but which is likely out of print itself.

Homesick James: Ain't Sick No More
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Ed Michel was so impressed with results that additional sessions were set the following week for Big Moose Walker and Andrew Odom. For the Odom date Michel backed him with jazz veterans Panama Francis on drums and Jimmy Bond on stand-up bass. Hooker for his part was asked to play it straight, without slide or wah-wah. Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose. The album was released as Farther On Down The Road. Among the highlights are the moody "Stormy Monday", the bouncing "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone" and a crackling version of "Farther Up The Road" (2 songs appear on Simply The Best). The record wasn't treated well by the critics as Mike Leadbitter clearly expressed in a 1973 edition of Blues Unlimited: "What a bitter disappointment! Muffled sound, endless boring songs and total lack of variation. What have BluesWay done to my heroes?" The album was finally released in 1973 and virtually sank without a trace. Despite Leadbitter's assessment this is a worthwhile release and well worth resurrecting on CD. On the other hand Leadbitter gave a rave write up to Johnny "Big Moose" Walker's Rambling Woman (recorded five days after the Odom session) in the January 1971 issue of Blues Unlimited: "He plays piano with the sort of boogie-woogie drive you just don't hear anymore, and has a nice husky voice-this is an exceptionally good blues album." Walker delivers fine originals including the witty "Footrace" (originally cut in 1961 as "Footrace To a Resting Place" and in 1967), the organ driven "Rambling Woman" (originally cut in 1967), "Baby Talk" with everybody stretching out on instrumentals "Moose Huntin'" and "Moose Is On The Loose." The session is slightly marred by Otis Hale's electric tenor sax. Hale was a guy Walker picked up in the park after hearing him play and disappeared after this session to (thankfully) never record again.

In the summer of 1969 Ed Michel signed up Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon and the duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee. Brown and Witherspoon usually worked with pick-up units and Hooker was selected to worked with them as well as backing Sonny & Brownie following Michel's idea of putting their sound in an urban blues context. Jimmy Witherspoon was recorded first with the album released shortly after Hooker's death under the title Hunh!. The record is decidedly mixed, basically a long jam session, featuring Mel Brown, Jimmy Bond and Charles Brown. This is a laid back affair with some solid jams including "Bags Under My Eyes", "You Can't Do A Thing When You're Drunk" and the 12 minute plus of "Pillar To Post." Witherspoon had also recorded an earlier album for BluesWay in 1969 titled Blues Singer. Tracks from these albums together with several unreleased recordings from the same sessions were released as Never Knew This Kind of Hurt Before – The BluesWay Sessions on the UK-based Charly label in 1989. Hooker, Brown and Bond were brought back the next day, with the addition of drummer Ed Thigpen, tenor Red Holloway and singer Dottie Ivory for Charles Brown's session which was titled Legend! when released. Again a jam session atmosphere prevailed but this time the results were much better, in fact the album is a remarkable one, and ranks as one of the finest BluesWay dates. Brown reworks his old classics in a more modern context resulting in terrific new versions of "New Merry Christmas Baby", "Drifting Blues" and the stunning "I Want To Go Home" all featuring some beautiful and thoughtful playing from Hooker and superb tenor from Holloway. This record has been issued on CD on the Off-Beat imprint. As for Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, their playing and singing are as good as ever but the record never really gels. Michel was obviously not pleased with the results, with the record issued only four years later as I Couldn't Believe My Eyes. The record was chiefly notable for being Hooker's last studio appearance. This has been reissued on CD by the BGO label.T-Bone Walker: Stormy Monday Blues

One of the things BluesWay should be applauded for is giving lesser known deserving bluesmen an opportunity to record. It was on BluesWay that artists such as L.C. Robinson, Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, Cousin Joe and the aforementioned Big Moose Walker and Andrew Odom recorded their first full length records. On the short list of truly great BluesWay recordings one would have to place L.C. Robinson's House Cleanin' Blues. Robinson was an immensely talented steel guitar player, strong vocalist and fiddle player who had only one single from 1954 and a handful of tracks on a 1968 World Pacific LP to his credit. House Cleanin' Blues is a flawless set featuring Robinson's distinctive steel guitar on the blazing title track plus a batch of equally potent originals like "Separation Blues", "My Baby Crossed The Bay" and some outstanding fiddle on the brooding "Summerville Blues." Sadly Robinson recorded only once more for Arhoolie. Lee Jackson was a distinctive Chicago guitarist who had waxed a handful of singles in the 50's and 60's for Cobra, C.J. and Bea and Baby as well as appearing on records by Willie Dixon, Little Walter, St. Louis Jimmy, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim and others. His Lonely Girl is a very solid Chicago blues outing – although it could probably have been better with more rehearsal – featuring his slightly reverberated, jazzy guitar on fine cuts like the title track, "Juanita" (first cut by him in 1961) and "When I First Came To Chicago." The band is solid with Carey Bell being a real standout. Lucille Spann had made a handful of recordings with husband Otis and after his death in 1970 and cut a fine tribute to him immortalized on the out of print Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1972. Her lone album, 1972's Cry Before I Go, was quite good, spotlighting her strong, raspy, gospel vocals (she sang in church in Mississippi and Chicago) backed by a terrific Chicago ensemble of Detroit Junior, Mighty Joe Young, Eddie Taylor and Willie Smith. Highlights include the title cut, the hard luck "Meat Ration Blues" and the superb "Country Girl" which evolves into an impassioned tribute to her late husband. New Orleans singer/pianist Pleasant Joseph was introduced to Al Smith through Roosevelt Sykes who was acting as a talent scout for the label. Between 1945 and the early 50's he cut a slew of of swinging sides with top drawer session men that highlighted his witty wordplay and made him a big draw on the New York scene. If you want to know where Dr. John found his inspiration look no further than Cousin Joe. Joe hadn't record in nearly a decade when he made the exceptionally good Cousin Joe Of New Orleans, backed by a sympathetic combo that finds Joe in energetic and humorous form as he updates his classic numbers like "Beggin' Woman", "Chicken A-La-Blues" and "Evolution Blues."

L.C. Robinson: House Cleanin' Blues
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In addition to Cousin Joe, BluesWay recorded a number of piano players including the above mentioned Roosevelt Sykes plus two dates by Otis Spann and one session by Sunnyland Slim. Sykes was one of the great blues piano men who made his debut back in 1929 and recorded prolifically for numerous labels up until his death in 1983. On the surface his lone BluesWay date, Dirty Double Mother, would be just another brief pause in a long career and one would expect a typically professional outing if nothing else. Sykes, however, was clearly inspired turning in an exuberant performance backed by the same band as Cousin Joe plus the great sax of Clarence Ford. Ford was a veteran who's worked graced countless records by artists like Amos Milburn, Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Ear King, Little Richard, Guitar Slim and many others. Ford is terrific here as is Sykes who's witty way with a lyric is heard to fine effect on "May Be A Scandal", "Double Breasted Woman" as well as stomping boogies like "Jookin' In New Orleans" and "Dooky Chase Boogie." From New Orleans BluesWay went to Chicago where they recorded two albums by Otis Spann, The Blues Is Where It's At and The Bottom of the Blues, in 1966 and 1967. The first was recorded before a small studio audience, the second featuring the debut of Spann's wife Lucille with both sessions backed by Muddy Waters and his band. Spann is in commanding form on tracks like "My Home Is In The Delta", "T'ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do", "Heart Loaded With Trouble" and "Doctor Blues." Both records have been reissued on the MCA CD Down To Earth: The BluesWay Recordings, which seems to be out of print, and as individual CD's on BGO. The other Chicago piano player recorded was Sunnyland Slim who's oddly titled Plays The Ragtime Blues was released in 1972. Despite the title this is an exceptionally strong, well recorded set of Chicago blues finding Sunnyland backed superbly by Carey Bell and The Aces (Louis Myers, Dave Myers and Fred Below). "Get Hip To Yourself" is a terrific tough times tale with sizzling guitar from Myers with other highlights including "Mr. Cool" and the jazzy "Canadian Walk."

Alongside Otis Spann and Sunnyland Slim, Al Smith produced sessions by other Chicago artists including Carey Bell, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Johnny Littlejohn and Johnny Young. These sessions are definitely a mixed bag. Carey Bell's Last Night is his second album having cut a record for Delmark in 1969. The BluesWay LP is a superior outing finding Bell turning in a very strong Chicago blues record filled with plenty of inspired harp work on tracks like "Last Night", "Tomorrow Night" and instrumental showcases like "Rosa, I Love Your Soul" and "Freda." Bell receives excellent support from Pinetop Perkins, Dave Myers, Eddie Taylor and Willie Smith. This has been reissued on CD on the One Way label. With the addition of Snooky Pryor the same band backs Homesick James on his Ain't Sick No More. This is a very solid, relaxed outing with James in fine form on songs like "Buddy Brown", "Fayette County Blues" and " Money Getter." Snooky Pryor hadn't recorded in over a decade, having become disgusted with the record business, when he cut the lukewarm Do It If You Want To. It was Homesick James who directed Al Smith to his pal Snooky Pryor. Like the Cousin Joe and Roosevelt Sykes, this record was cut in New Orleans featuring some of the same band members. Pryor's brand of Chicago blues doesn't find sympathetic backing from the band and only a few songs like "The One I Crave To See" and "Do It If You Want To" rise to the occasion. Johnny Littlejohn was a fine slide player and singer who unfortunately was ill served on record so perhaps we can't totally blame Al Smith for the tepid Funky From Chicago. While Littlejohn turned in a sterling performance on his 1968 debut Arhoolie record, this one lacks the former's excitement. Littlejohn sounds muted on this recording with few tracks that stand out despite backing from a band that included Eddie Taylor, Dave Myers and Fred Below. Sadly Littlejohn's subsequent records weren't much better. Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping was Young's final recording, passing not long after this superb date. Young is in top form playing mandolin on all cuts backed by a tough band featuring stellar guitar work from Louis Myers and the debut by harp man Jerry Portnoy who is uncredited. Young energetically romps through first rate numbers like "Deal The Cards", "I Know She's Kinda Slick", and "No. 12 Is At The Station" among others. This is one of Young's best dates outside of his fine late 60's Arhoolie session.

 Rev. Gatemouth Moore: After Twenty-One Years
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The BluesWay label cast a wide net pulling in several classic blues shouters and those in a similar vein, cutting albums by veterans such as Jimmy Rushing, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Roy Brown and Big Joe Turner. It may have been relatively late in Jimmy Rushing's career when he recorded two albums for BluesWay, Every Day I Have the Blues and Livin' the Blues, but he was still in prime singing voice. Joined by a terrific cast of old pals like trombonist Dickie Wells, trumpeter Clark Terry, and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, Rushing puts across his distinctive brand of jazzy blues on tunes like "Berkeley Campus Blues," "Blues in the Dark," "I Left My Baby," "Sent for You Yesterday," "We Remember Prez" and "Evil Blues", the latter benefiting from Shirley Scott's organ and the guitar of Kenny Burrell. The end results are two fine swinging sets of vintage Jimmy Rushing. Both albums have been reissued on the Polygram CD Every Day I Have The Blues. Like Rushing, Vinson was well into a long illustrious career when he cut 1967's Cherry Red, his first recording after a five year hiatus from the studio. Backed by the fine small combo of Buddy Lucas on tenor/harmonica, Patti Brown on organ and Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Vinson turns in a marvelous session revisiting past glories like "Cherry Red", "Alimony Blues", "Somebody's Got To Go" as well as newer gems like 'Cadillac Blues" and "Flat Broke Blues." Bloomfield's playing is a real stand out. This album has been reissued on the One Way label. Big Joe Turner's 1967 album Singing The Blues finds the veteran shouter in fine form featuring ace tenor man Buddy Lucas and terrific blowing from George "Harmonica" Smith. The former album has been reissued on CD on the Mobile Fidelity label. The sixties were slow for Roy Brown. There were a few sessions for fly-by-night labels like DRA and Connie and Mobile. Chess cut four sides on him in 1963, but never released them. He became a door-to-door salesman, easing himself into the homes of older blacks with autographed pictures of the former star that was him. "I sold a lot of encyclopedias that way, he recalled. Brown cut 1968's The Blues Are All Brown (reissued in 1973 as Hard Times: The Classic Blues Of Roy Brown) which features the fine title track but the remainder is a bit lackluster.

BluesWay lists several albums that went unissued. Rocky & Val: I Stopped & Looked at the World , John Lee Hooker: Untitled Album, Jimmy Reed: Untitled Album, Little Andrews 'Blues Boy' Odom: Take Me Back to St.Louis and Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry: Untitled Album.

In closing, the BluesWay label has an uneven track record due primarily it seems to the quickie recording sessions and lack of rehearsals among musicians who in many cases hadn't play together much. Producers such as Bill Syzmzyck, Ed Michel, Bob Thiele did an admirable job considering these conditions but certainly Al Smith deserves much of the criticism leveled at him. Still there were many good records that deserve a better fate than languishing in the out of print bin. Even those that have been reissued on CD on One Way and Off-Beat in the early 90's all appear to be out of print. The BGO BluesWay reissues do appear to all be in print. Many of the LP's can be found easily on ebay although there are a few elusive ones. Hopefully MCA will see fit to due a proper reissue program of the BluesWay catalog as they did of the better known Chess catalog. At the very least they should reissue some of the better albums in there entirety like the Charles Brown, Earl Hooker, Johnny Young, L.C. Robinson and Sunnyland Slim to name a few. A very credible BluesWay box set could also be assembled, a 3 or 4 CD set say, cherry picking the best of the label. Major labels are usually indifferent about their blues holdings so I won't hold my breath but certainly the BluesWay catalog deserves a better fate.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Son House Walking Blues Son House 1941-1942
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 Blues Louie Bluie
Leonard Bowles and Irvin Cook I Wish To The Lord I'd Never Been Born Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music
Leonard Bowles and Irvin Cook Momma Don't AllowBlack Banjo Songsters Of North Carolina And Virginia
Joe Thompson Careless Love Family Tradition
Odell & Joe ThompsonGeorgia Buck Eight-Hand Sets & Holy Steps
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson
Little Brother Montgomery Talkin' Blues Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus
Jimmy Yancey Tell 'Em About MeJimmy Yancey Vol. 1 1939 - 1940
Frank 'Sweet' Williams Sweet's Slow Blues Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus
Oscar "Preacher" Nelson And Newton "Hoss" Nelson Broke And Ain't Got A Dime Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
Green Paschal Trouble Brought Me DownGeorge Mitchell Collection Volumes 1-45
Big Joe Williams Back Home BluesBlues With A Message
Rev Nix It Was Tight Like ThatRev. A.W. Nix & Rev. Emmett Dickinson Vol. 2 1928-1931
Leadbelly Tight Like ThatLeadbelly's Last Sessions
McKinney's Cotton Pickers It's Tight Like That McKinney's Cotton Pickers Vol. 1
Roy Hawkins If I Had ListenedBad Luck Is Falling
T-Bone Walker Dream Girl Blues The Complete Recordings of T-Bone Walker 1940-1954
Tom Archia Downfall Blues (Whiskey)Tom Archia 1947-1948
William 'Do Boy' DiamondJust Want To Talk To YouGeorge Mitchell Collection Volumes 1-45
Fats Jefferson Love Me Blues Goin' Back To Tifton
Furry Lewis Longing BluesFurry Lewis
Mississippi Fred McDowell Dankin's FarmMy Home Is in the Delta
Willie Long Time Smith I Love You Baby BoogieGood Time Blues 1930-1941
Camille Howard The Boogie And The BluesCamille Howard Vol. 1

Show Notes: 

Chicago Piano: Chicago PlusLast week our feature was on Post-War Black String Bands but due to our pledge drive we ran of time to include all the tracks I intended to play. Today we open up with those tracks with background information to be found on the notes for last week's program. The rest of the show is mixed, featuring some great down home blues and field recordings, a few sets of fine piano blues, a set revolving around a classic blues song, a pair of tracks from a recent reissue and more.

As I was rummaging around my record collection I came across a great series of gate-fold albums that were issued in the early 70's spotlighting blues from the vaults of Atlantic Records. Theses albums feature both issued and unissued sides with excellent notes by Pete Lowry. I believe there were about a half-dozen of these including ones devoted to Blind Willie McTell, Professor Longhair, John Lee Hooker as well as anthologies based on piano blues and  Texas guitar. Today we feature sides from Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus. These sides were recorded in the early 50's, several of the sides not issued at the time of recording.  We spotlight a pair of tracks by Little Brother Montgomery, Floyd Dixon and Frank 'Sweet' Williams. Williams is the most obscure of the bunch and was a minor Chicago blues musician who's only recordings were two songs cut for Atlantic in 1951 which remained unissued until this anthology. It is assumed he was brought to the studio by Little Brother Montgomery. He may be the uncredited drummer on Montgomery 's session recorded on the same day.

We hear several other fine pianists including Willie "Long Time" Smith  and Camille Howard. Smith waxed ten sides at sessions in 1947 and  1954. Several of these sides do not seem to have been reissued, a shame as he was an exceptional vocalist  (a disciple of of the popular Dr. Clatyon for whom he recorded the tribute "My Buddy Doctor Clayton") and good piano player.

Howard was installed as the pianist for drummer Roy Milton & the Solid Senders sometime during World War II, playing on all their early hits for Art Rupe's Juke Box and Specialty labels. Rupe began recording her as a featured artist at the end of the year. Her biggest hit was the romping instrumental "X-Temporaneous Boogie" but she was also a very fine vocalist. She continued to record successfully in the early 1950's.

As we often do, we spin several superb field recordings captured in the 60's and 70's by George Mitchell, Kip Lornell and Tary Owens. We play two sides recorded by Mitchell who made some remarkable field recordings throughout the South over a twenty year period beginning in the early 1960's. What Mitchell recorded in the rural communities of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960's amd 70's was a still thriving, if largely undocumented, blues culture. Mitchell had the passion and drive to seek out these folks, and unlike some folklorists didn't use the music to reinforce his own theories, he simply let the musicians speak for themselves and judging by the recordings they clearly responded to Mitchell's sincerity (being a southerner probably didn't hurt as well). Mitchell came along at the right time as he wrote: "As late as 1969 a country bluesman who at least occasionally played could be located in most small towns of Georgia. In 1976, there are very few active blues musicians left in the state! In the short span of seven years, one of the world's most vital and influential forms of music as it was originally performed has all but died out in Georgia, and probably in the rest of the South as well." Today we hear tracks by William "Do Boy" Diamond and Green Paschal.

William "Do Boy" Diamond was recorded in Canton, Mississippi in 1967. Diamond was a basic guitar player but possessed a great, relaxed voice. Born around 1927 in Georgia, Paschal started playing late in life, sometime in the 1950's. He was recorded by Mitchell in Talbotton, GA in 1969 and by that time had given up blues in favor of spirituals.

Kip Lornell has worked on music projects for the Smithsonian Institute, has a doctorate in ethnomusicology and is the author of several articles and books. He also did some field recordings in the in the Southeast in the 70's. Lornell recorded Fats Jefferson outside Albany, New York along with several other artists in the early 70's . These recordings were issued on the long out-of-print album Goin' Back To Tifton issued on the Flyright label in 1974.

Shortly after the death of folklorist Tary Owens on September 21, 2003, Brad Buchholz, wrote that, “Tary Owens devoted most of his life to music, though only rarely to his own. The greater mission, to Owens, was to champion the music of forgotten or unsung Texas bluesmen—to put their songs on records, to place them on a stage, to encourage a larger public to celebrate their artistry.” Funded by a Lomax Foundation grant in the 1960's, Owens traveled around Texas recording a variety of folk musicians, including guitarists Mance Lipscomb, Freddie King, and Bill Neely, as well as barrelhouse piano players Robert Shaw and Roosevelt T. Williams, also known as the “Grey Ghost.” Owens remained involved in the lives of these musicians for the next several decades and, in some cases, was largely responsible for helping rescue them from obscurity and resurrect their professional careers. Today we hear Oscar "Preacher" Nelson And Newton "Hoss" Nelson from a collection of Owen's field recordings called Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar.

We spotlight two numbers from a recent 2-CD, 50 song collection called Boogie Uproar: Gems From The Peacock Vaults. The Peacock label was founded by Don Robey in 1949 to promote his new artist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. The label was named after Robey's Bronze Peacock in Houston. Robey added the Duke label to his operation in 1952, gaining full control of the label in 1953. Today we play tracks by Bea Johnson and Elmore Nixon. I don't have any information on Johnson outside of eight sides she cut in 1949 backed by the Jim Wynn band with four of the sides going unissued. She possessed a strong, rich voice as evidenced on the moody lover's lament "No Letter Blues."

Boogie Uproar: Gems From The Peacock VaultsNixon's family moved to Houston in 1939, where he would remain until his death. By his early teens, he was already backing Peppermint Harris on his Gold Star debut. Thereafter he recorded with many Texas artists as a member of alto saxophonist Henry Hayes’ Four Kings, including Carl Campbell, Milton Willis, L.C. Williams, Hubert Robinson, Ivory Lee and Hop Wilson. His debut record, "Foolish Love", was made in 1949 for Sittin' In With. Other sessions followed for Peacock, Mercury Records, Savoy Records and Imperial Records, the latter in 1955. During the mid-60s, he worked with Clifton Chenier, recording on Chenier’s sessions for Arhoolie Records and with Lightnin’ Hopkins for Jewel. At other times he led his own band, working around Texas and Louisiana.

Tampa Red and Georgia had a huge hit in 1928 with "Tight Like That" which kicked started the hokum blues style which drew on jug band music and vaudeville for bouncy, rag- influenced songs that abounded with double entendres. On its release, the record was a massive hit, spawning several sequels by Tampa Red and Dorsey and countless imitations by other artists. Today we hear versions by McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Leadbelly and Rev. A.W. Nix. Nix's "It Was Tight Like That" is part of a tradition of popular blues topics that were turned into sermons such as Rev. J. M. Gates' "Dead Cat On The Line" (recorded by Tampa Red and Georgia Tom in 1934) and Rev. Emmett Dickinson's "Death Of Blind Lemon." Nix also recorded other blues based sermons including the two-part "The Dirty Dozen" and "How Long, How Long."

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jimmy RogersRound About BoogieDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Jimmy RogersLittle Store BluesChicago Boogie! 1947
Jimmy RogersLudellaEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Memphis MinnieDown Home GirlEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Johnny ShinesSo Glad I Found YouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Little Walter Muskadine BluesBlues World Of Little Walter
Little Walter Just Keep Loving Her Blues World Of Little Walter
Jimmy RogersGoin' Away BabyComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThat's All Right Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersMoney, Marbles And ChalkComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThe World Is In A TangleComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersBack Door FriendComplete Chess Recordings
Little WalterCan't Hold Out Much Longer The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Muddy WatersGone To Main Street The Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersOut On The Road Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Act Like You Love MeComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Left Me With a Broken Heart Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersMy Life Is RuinedThe Complete Chess Recordings
T- Bone Walker Papa Ain't SaltyT-Bone Blues
Jimmy Rogers Walking By Myself Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers If It Ain't Me (Who You Thinking OfThe Complete Chess Recordings
Sunnyland Slim It's YouSunnyland Special
Howlin' WolfDown In The Bottom The Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Jimmy RogersTricky WomanAmerican Folk Blues Festival '72
Jimmy RogersWhat Have I Done?Chicago Blues at Home
Jimmy Rogers & Muddy WatersThat's Alright I'm Ready

Show Notes:

Jimmy RogersAn under-sung hero of the blues, Jimmy Rogers played a a key role in creating the electrified, band-oriented postwar Chicago sound. He was a member of Muddy Waters’ first band in Chicago, and cut great sides for Chess under his own name  including blues standards like "That’s All Right," "Ludella", "Chicago Bound," and "Walking By Myself." In addition to playing on dozens of sides backing Waters, Rogers also backed numerous others including Memphis Minnie, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones and others. After a final Chess single in 1959, Rogers, outside o fa lone single  on the C.J. label, did not record again until the 1970's, when he cut the his first full-length album for Shelter Records. He rejoined Muddy Waters in 1978 for the I’m Ready album and tour and released several albums later in life before passing in 1997.

Born James A. Lane, he was raised by his grandmother after his father was killed in a scuffle at a sawmill. She moved them often, living in several owns in several states: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. His first guitar was a diddley bow, a broom wire nailed to the side of a house and plucked,  next was the harmonica. Soon he was playing other people’s guitars. Meeting and watching Houston Stackhouse, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway, Robert Lockwood, and Joe Willie Wilkins, and listening to King Biscuit Time on the radio, Rogers developed a solid musical foundation and earned a reliable reputation as a player. Rogers had family in Chicago, and had been there several times before settling permanently in the mid-1940s. He found an apartment on the Near West Side, next to the Maxwell Street market, which is where he was living when he befriended a factory coworker who was Muddy Waters’s cousin. From the time Muddy and Jimmy first played together, they knew they had a good sound. Rogers understood how to play bass parts and how to play licks that complemented Muddy’s slide.harlem1021abjl

Initially, Rogers and Waters played with a third guitarist named Claude "Blue" Smitty. To keep the sound varied, Rogers often played harmonica instead of guitar, until Blue Smitty left and Rogers found Little Walter. Muddy, Rogers, and Walter began gigging together and, on their off nights, called themselves the Headhunters, roving the Chicago club scene of the late 1940s, sitting in on other people’s gigs and showing off their new, urban blues sound.

Rogers made his first solo recording in 1946 for the Harlem label, but Rogers' name did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of "Memphis Slim and his Houserockers" and Sunnyland Slim. Following that Rogers, with Little Walter at his side, cut the 1948 single “Little Store Blues” for the tiny Ora Nelle label. The legendary Ora Nelle label was run out of a record store by Bernard and his wife Idel, known as Red, operated for a year or two, managing just two releases. Another 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material make Ora Nelle's entire legacy. George Paulus, who had been a regular customer at Maxwell Street Record and Radio for several years, bought the surviving lacquers from the Abrams family. Paulus recalled: "I asked Bernie where he recorded Walter and Rogers. He matter of factly replied, “We had a little disc cutting machine in the front of the shop.  Recorded right about where you are standing. The boys just sat on chairs and played. Hell, Walter played harp on the steps when he was relaxing.” Red came over and said ,”Walter was a very nice talented fellow and we wished him all the best.” "Ora Nelle Blues," sung by Othum Brown, was named after one of Red’s relations. “We couldn’t get the distribution so we sold the records right out of the store.” Art Sheridan licensed Ora Nelle 711 "(Ora-Nelle Blues") for reissue on his Chance label. It was the only reissue from the label to take place before the blues revival of the 1960s. Part of his agenda is revealed by the retitling of this side, as "That's Alright." For "Ora Nelle Blues" was the same piece as "That's All Right," which in the meantime had become a hit for Jimmy Rogers—on Chess in 1950. Rogers teamed up with  Little Walter again on sides issued circa 1950 on the Regal and Herald labels; "Muskadine Blues", "Just Keep Lovin' Her" and "Boll Weevil" all of which featured Baby Face Leroy and Muddy Waters. Rogers hooked up with Walter again in 1952 classic "Juke b/w Can't Hold Out Much Longer" for Chess.

rogers34
Muddy Waters, unknown (maraccas), Otis Spann, Henry Strong,
Elgin Evans, Jimmy Rogers (presumably from the early 1950s)

source: Mike Rowe: Chicago Blues – The City and the Music.- New York (Da Capo Paperback) 1975,
first published in 1973 as "Chicago Breakdown", p. 146 ("from Chess files")

 

In 1949 Rogers backed Memphis Minnie for the Regal label and cut an early version of ‘‘Ludella,’’ for the label which he recut in 1950 at his first Chess Records session. 1949 aslo saw some unreleased sides cut for Tempo-Tone and Apollo where he recorded a version of "That's Alright." That year he also accompanied Muddy Waters as a sideman on “Screaming and Crying,” which initially came out on the Aristocrat label, soon renamed Chess Records. For the next half-decade, Rogers was a mainstay of the Waters band onstage and in the studio. With "That’s All Right" on the other side, Rogers' first release became a two-sided hit. The full Muddy Waters band had yet to back Muddy on records, the label preferring the simpler sound of Muddy and an upright bass; however, Chess let the band record with Rogers as the leader, beginning in December 1950. A year later, they began regularly recording with Muddy. Rogers continued to perform and record with Muddy, even as his solo career took off. When "Juke" became a hit for Little Walter, Muddy’s band boasted a line-up with three stars. Through the early 1950's, Rogers was on nearly all of Muddy’s major hits: "Standing Around Crying," "She’s All Right," "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)," "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love To Love To You", I’m Ready," and more.

Jimmy Rogers: That's All RightAround late 1956, Jimmy departed the Waters band to go solo, but the two remained close friends. Beginning with 1950’s “That’s All Right” b/w “Ludella,” Rogers’ Chess 78's rank right up there with Muddy’s as some of the finest examples of postwar Chicago blues. Among the highlights are 1950’s “Goin’ Away Blues,” 1954’s “Chicago Bound” and “Sloppy Drunk,” with backing by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and 1956’s “Walking By Myself,” Rogers’ highest-charting record. After playing for about a year in Wolf’s band Rogers virtually retired from music for a time during the '60s, operating a Westside clothing shop that burned down in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King's tragic assassination. He did cut a single for Carl Jones' C.J. label in 1966.

Rogers returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell's Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more soli albums but he wasn't as prolific as he might have been. We close our show with Rogers and Muddy reuniting on a update of "That's Alright" from the album  I'm Ready, the second of Waters' Johnny Winter-produced albums for the Blue Sky Records label. I'm Ready was issued one year after he found renewed commercial and critical success with Hard Again. The album earned Waters a Grammy Award in 1978 and reunited Waters with Walter Horton as well. Muddy and Rogers did occasional gigs together thereafter, until Muddy’s death in 1983.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Luther Stoneham January 11, 1949 Blues The Mercury Blues Story
Lightnin' HopkinsMoanin' BluesLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Blind Connie Williams St. Louis Blues Philadelphia Street Singer
Blind Connie Williams Mother Left Me Standing on the Highway Philadelphia Street Singer
Bessie Smith The Gin House Blues The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Clara SmithJelly Look What You Done Done Clara Smith Vol. 5 1927-1929
Esther PhillipsI Paid My Dues The Early Hits 1949-54
Gabriel Brown I Get Evil When My Love Comes DownShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
John Henry BarbeeI Know She Didn't Love Me Down Home Slide
Ranie Burnette Two And Two BluesRanie Burnette's Hill Country Blues
Cecil Barfield I Woke Up CryingCecil Barfield: The George Mitchell Collection
Ed Lewis Lucky HollerBroadcasting the Blues
Jaybird Coleman Coffee Grinder Blues Jaybird Coleman & The Birmingham Jug Band 1927-1930
Ollis Martin & Jaybird Coleman Police And High Sheriff Come Ridin' DownThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Baby Boy Warren Somebody Put Bad Luck On MeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Snooky Pryor You Tried To Ruin MeA Taste Of The Blues Vol. 2
Bobby Long The Pleasure Is All MineNew York On Fire: Bobby's Harlem Rock Vol.2
Magic Sam That's All I NeedLive At The Avant Garde
Magic Sam Don't Want No WomanLive At The Avant Garde
Teddy Bunn I've Come A Long Ways BabyThe Very Best Of Teddy Bunn 1937-1940
T-Bone WalkerBlues For MariliT-Bone Blues
Calvin FrazierSweet Lucy 78
Pee Wee Crayton Blues Before DawnComplete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings
Charlie McFadden Harvest Moon BluesCharlie McFadden 1929-1937
Willie "Long Time" Smith Homeless BluesNews & the Blues: Telling It Like It Is
Roosevelt Sykes Low Land BluesRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 10 1951-1957
Meade Lux Lewis & Big Joe Turner Low Down DogThe Piano Blues Vol. 21: Unfinished Boogie 1938-1945
Furry Lewis Cannon Ball Blues Blues Images Vol. 8
Furry Lewis Fury's Blues Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go
Laura Dukes Little Laura's Blues Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
Dewey Corley Fishing In The Dark Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
Bukka White I'm Getting Ready, My Time Done ComeBukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
J.T. Brown When I Was a LadJ.T. Brown 1950-1954
Jimmy WitherspoonI'm Going Round In CirclesI'll Be Right On Down: The Modern Recordings 1947-1953

Show Notes: 

Blind Connie WilliamsWhen putting together these shows I usually draw from a long list of show ideas I've jotted down over the years. Things are a bit jumbled right now as I have several shows lined up that revolve around other people's schedules. Without giving too much away, the next few months will see several very interesting interviews and features so you may notice that the list of upcoming shows on this website may get shuffled around until everything is lined up.  As for today's show we have wide range of blues including lots of down-home blues including twin spins of street singer Blind Connie Williams, two songs decades apart by Furry Lewis, several artists recorded in the field in the 70's by Gianni Marcucci including by Bukka White, Laura Dukes and Dewey Corley. In addition we hear a set of fine piano men, several top notch blues ladies and ace guitar players like T-Bone Walker and Calvin Frazier. We also spin two from a geat new Magic Sam live set.

According to Pete Welding's booklet notes, Connie Williams was born blind in southern Florida circa 1915 to parents who were migrant farm workers. During his youth, he attended the St. Petersburg School for the Blind (also Ray Charles' alma mater) and became sufficiently proficient on guitar to begin a career as a street musician in the 1930's. He eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1935 and often traveled to New York City, where he plied his trade in Harlem during his visits. It was there that he met Rev. Gary Davis, whose influence can be heard in Williams' guitar and singing style." Welding discovered Williams performing sanctified numbers to accordion accompaniment in a historically black neighborhood of Philadelphia sometime in 1961.  After striking up a friendship, Williams revealed to the music writer that he had originally been a guitarist but used an accordion because it could be more easily heard and required less physical effort to play. Not long afterward, Welding purchased a guitar for him. After reacquainting himself with the instrument. The recordings were not released on his Testament label until 1974 on the album Philadelphia Street Singer.

Furry Lewis: Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go
Read Liner Notes

While hundreds of blues artists got on record in the 1920's and 30's, the commercial heyday of the blues, numerous other talented artists never got the opportunity while some others had to wait decades for their chance like celebrated bluesmen such as Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb.  While not nearly as well known Cecil Barfield and Ranie Burnett made their debuts in the 1970's and left behind a small but strong body of work. Barfield was recorded by George Mitchell who called him "probably the greatest previously unrecorded bluesman I have had the pleasure of recording during my 15 years of field research." Using the name William Robertson, in fear of endangering his welfare checks, he cut the LP South Georgia Blues for Southland in the mid-70's with several other tracks appearing on Flyright’s Georgia Blues Today (reissued by Fat Possum). I imagine Barfield is an acquired taste but to me he is simply mesmerizing; his music, with his droning, lightly distorted electric guitar coupled with his powerful mushed mouth, nasal singing, is hypnotic. Barfield has some originals but his genius is in the way he transforms well known songs into something startlingly original.

Burnette was born in 1913 in Pleasant Grove, MS and in the 40's and 50's played local dances and juke joints in North Mississippi. He wasn't record extensively until the 80's with recordings appearing on High Water and Swingmaster. He did record some sides for David Evans in the 70's.

As the notes to Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7 relate: "The three Memphis blues musicians featured in this album were all recorded on the memorable day of 27 December 1972: Bukka White at his home; Laura Dukes at Furry Lewis’ home; and Dewey Corley at Memphis Piano Red’s home." The recordings were made by Gianni Marcucci who came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings in the 70's and 80's in Tennessee and Mississippi. The original albums that collected these recordings are long been out-of-print. All these recordings will be issued as 15 volume series both digitally and on CD on his Mbirafon imprint. I've been corresponding with Marcucci and with his help will be doing an in-depth series of shows on these recordings. At Marcucci's prompting I've pushed this show back until he completes his issuing of the Blues At Home series. These recordings originally came out on Albatros but as Marcucci made clear to me his "experience with Albatros in the 1970's was a nightmare." He further related that the original "…albums presented are full of spelling mistakes and there are also several typos in the digital edition, and errors in the original mastering."  He wrote that the releases were an abuse and an offense to my effort (10 years of field research, and 13 years of re-mastering and text editing), as well as an insult to the memory of the Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7featured artists."

Speaking of Furry Lewis we spin two of his numbers: "Cannon Ball Blues" cut for Victor in 1928 and "Fury's Blues" from the out-of-print 1971 LP Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go. The later album is a nice record that finds Furry in good form in front of an appreciative New York City audience.

During today's show we spotlight excellent four songs sets of piano blues and guitar blues. From the pre-war era we hear the under-appreciated singer Charlie McFadden on the lovely "Harvest Moon Blues" from 1929 featuring superb piano work from Eddie Miller. McFadden was a singer based out of St. Louis. Henry Townsend knew him and said that he could play piano a little bit, but preferred that someone else played it on his recordings. Roosevelt Sykes was the usual pianist, even though Eddie Miller and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks made a couple of appearances, each.

From 1944 we hear Big Joe Turner at the peak of his powers backed by the thundering piano of Meade Lux Lewis.

Of Willie "Long Time" Smith I know nothing outside of the fact that he waxed ten sides at sessions in 1947 and  1954. Several of these sides do not seem to have been reissued, a shame as he was an exceptional vocalist  (a disciple of of the popular Dr. Clatyon fro whom he recorded the tribute "My Buddy Doctor Clayton") and good piano player. Homelessness was a reality as detailed in songs like Josh White's "Homeless And Hungry",  Bessie Smith's "Homeless Blues" and Sleepy John Estes' "Hobo Jungle Blues." Even after the depression the reality was all too real as  Smith sang about eloquently in his 1947 composition "Homeless Blues" featured today:

On one cold frosty morning, the ground was covered with snow (2x)
Well,  I met a million people had no place to go
Well some have children, some just have their suitcase and clothes
(2x)
You know those people was steady walkin', but they couldn't find no place to go

Perhaps for contractual reasons pianist Roosevelt Skyes recorded a 1948 session for Bullet under the moniker Joe "Boogie" Evans. Whatever the case, Sykes is in superb form on this session backed by uncredited horns, the jazzy guitar of Henry Townsend and Jump Jackson on the drums. From the session we feature the fine "Low Land Blues."

a106a4In a set of guitar aces we feature killer instrumentals from T-Bone Walker ("Blues For Marili" from the classic T-Bone Blues album on Atlantic) and the rocking "Blues Before Dawn cut by Pee Wee Crayton for Aladdin. Less well known are Teddy Bunn and Calvin Frazier. Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals.Among the notable blues singers he accompanied were artists such as Cow Cow Davenport, Lizzie Miles, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria Spivey among others. In addition to an active session career, Bunn was a member of the jazz groups the Spirits of Rhythm and June 1939, and was among the very first musicians ever to record for the Blue Note record label, first as a soloist, then as a member of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen.

Frazier befriended Johnny Shines, in 1930 they jointly traveled to Helena, Arkansas where they met Robert Johnson. The threesome moved on to Detroit, Michigan. Here they performed hymns on local radio stations. Frazier and Johnson returned south. In 1935, Frazier returned to Detroit. In 1938 he was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress.  Frazier seems to have played with almost every blues or R&B act in Detroit in the post-war era. He updated his sound to a more modern style, influenced in a fair bit by T-Bone Walker. Early in 1954 he bought himself a Stratocaster, likely one of the very first bluesman to play this type of guitar. it's interesting to hear how his style evolved and and one wonders if his pal Robert Johnson would have developed a similar style. Frazier released three singles under his own name in 1949 and 1951. Between 1951 and 1953, Frazier was a recording member of T.J. Fowler's jump blues combo, then recorded with Baby Boy Warren in 1954, whilst his final sessions in the studio appear to be in 1956 backing Washboard Willie. He passed in 1972. In an upcoming feature on Detroit bluesmen I'll be spotlighting Frazier more in-depth.

Finally I should make mention of Live at the Avant Garde, 1968 just issued on Delmark. This is killer a live performance recorded at a Milwaukee coffee house with expectational sound, There are several live Magic Sam performances available which are very good but the sound on this one tops them all.

 

 

 

 

 

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