Entries tagged with “Teddy Darby”.

Mary Johnson w/ Tampa RedDeath Cell Blues Twenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
James Stump Johnson w/ Tampa RedJones Law BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 2 - Brunswick 1928-30
Texas Alexander w/ Lonnie JohnsonLong Lonesome DayTexas Alexander Vol. 1
Mooch Richardson w/ Lonnie JohnsonHelena BluesA Richer Tradition: Country Blues and String Band Music 1923-1942
Peetie Wheatstraw w/ Lonnie JohnsonTruckin' Thru TrafficPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 5
Lil Green w/ Big Bill BroonzyJust Rockin'Lil Green -1940-1941
Charlie Spand w/ Big Bill Broonzy Rock And RyeRoots N' Blues: Booze & The Blues
Cripple Clarence Lofton w/ Big Bill BroonzyBrownskin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9: Lofton/Noble 1935-1936
Bumble Bee Slim w/ Casey Bill WeldonThis Old Life I'm Living Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936
Memphis Minnie w/ Casey Bill WeldonWhen The Sun Goes DownFour Woman Blues
Leroy Henderson w/ Casey Bill WeldonGood Scuffler BluesCharley Jordan Vol.3 1935-1937
Dorothy Baker w/ Roosevelt SykesSteady Grinding BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Teddy Darby w/ Roosevelt Sykes The Girl I Left BehindBlind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Napoleon Fletcher w/ Roosevelt Sykes – She Showed It AllGrass Cutter BluesShe Showed It AllRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Alice Moore w/ Kokomo ArnoldGrass Cutter BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Roosevelt Sykes w/ Kokomo ArnoldThe Honey DripperRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 4 1934-1936
Peetie Wheatstraw w/ Kokomo ArnoldWorking On The Project Broadcasting the Blues
Robert Lee McCoy w/ Sonny Boy Williamson ITough LuckProwling With The Nighthawk
Yank Rachel w/ Sonny Boy Williamson II'm Wild And Crazy As Can Be Yank Rachell Vol. 1 1934-1941
Ma Rainey w/ Tampa RedBlack Eye BluesMother of the Blues
Victoria Spivey w/ Tampa RedDon't Trust Nobody Blues Victoria Spivey Vol. 3 1929-1936
Bessie Mae Smith w/ Lonnie JohnsonMy Daddy's Coffin Blues St. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 1 1927-1929
Victoria Spivey w/ Lonnie JohnsonDope Head BluesBlues Images Vol. 4
Georgia White w/ Lonnie Johnson Alley BoogieGeorgia White Vol. 3 1937-1939
Mary Johnson w/ Roosevelt SykesRattlesnake BluesMary Johnson 1929-1936
Charlie McFadden w/ Roosevelt SykesGambler's BluesCharlie ''Specks'' McFadden 1929-1937
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill BroonzyLife Is Just A BookWashboard Sam Vol. 6 1941-1942
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill BroonzyMy Feet Jumped SaltyRockin' My Blues Away
Big Joe Williams w/ Sonny Boy Williamson IPlease Don't Go Big Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-1941
Speckled Red w/ Sonny Boy Williamson IYou Got To Fix ItSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Big Bill Broonzy w/ Papa Charlie JacksonAt The Break of DayAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
Lucille Bogan w/ Papa Charlie JacksonJim Tampa BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 1 1923-1929
Big Boy Teddy Edwards w/ Papa Charlie Jackson & Big Bill BroonzyLouise Big Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936
Washboard Sam w/ Big Bill Broonzy & Roosevelt SykesRiver Hip MamaRockin' My Blues Away

Show Notes:

Tampa Red
Tampa Red

A few months back I did a show called “Sideman Blues” where we shined the light on some superb session musicians who backed blues artists in the pre-war era. On today's sequel to that show we focus on some of the stars of the pre-war blues era who were also active session artists. Artists featured today include some of the era's big names such as Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes, Kokomo Arnold, Sonny Boy Williamson I and others who were also very active backing others on record. Bluesmen such as Big Bill, Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson and Roosevelt Sykes in particular, backed dozens of artists, both well known and obscure on record. Many of these artists also acted in the role as talent scouts for the labels.

During his heyday in the 1920's and 30's, Tampa Red was billed as "The Guitar Wizard," and his stunning slide work on steel National or electric guitar shows why he earned the title. His 25 year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions "Anna Lou Blues," "Black Angel Blues," "Crying Won't Help You," "It Hurts Me Too," and "Love Her with a Feeling"). Jim O'Neal neatly summed up Tampa's place in blues history when he wrote the following in 1975: "Few figures have been as important in blues history as Tampa Red; yet no bluesman of such stature has been so ignored by today's blues audience. As a composer, recording artist, musical trendsetter and one of the premier urban blues guitarists of his day, Tampa Red remained popular with black record buyers for more than 20 years and exerted considerable influence on many post-World War II blues stars who earned greater acclaim for playing Tampa's songs than Tampa himself often did."

Tampa was a very busy session guitarist mainly in the early years of his career, circa 1928-1929. Among those he backed include Big Maceo, Lucille Bogan, Bertha "Chippie" Hill, Lil Johnson, Frankie Jaxon, Victoria Spivey, Romeo Nelson, Ma Rainey, Mary Johnson and many others. Tampa's work behind underrated singer Mary Johnson has always been among my favorites. Johnson cut six sides at two sessions in 1930. The April 8, 1930 was outstanding do in large part to the shimmering slide guitar of Tampa and the excellent piano of the under recorded Judson Brown. The two work beautifully behind Johnson on the mournful "Three Months Ago Blues" with Tampa shinning on "Dawn Of Day Blues" and the magnificent "Death Cell Blues."

Lonnie Johnson was a true musical innovator who's remarkable recording career spanned from the 1920's through the 1960's. During that time his musical diversity was amazing: he played piano, guitar, violin, he recorded solo, he accompanied down home country blues singers like Texas Alexander, he played with Louis Armtrong's Hot Fives, recorded with Duke Ellington, duetted with Victoria Spivey and cut a series of instrumental duets with the white jazzman Eddie Lang that set a standard of musicianship that remains unsurpassed by blues guitarists. In Johnson's single-string style lie the basic precedents of such jazz greats as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, while being a prime influence on bluesman as diverse as Robert Johnson, Tampa Red and B.B. King. Thus Johnson enjoys the rare distinction of having influenced musicians in both the jazz and blues fields. Like Tampa, Johnson backed dozens of artists on record including Texas Alexander, Jimmie Gordon, Merline Johnson, Alice Moore, Victoria Spivey, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and a host of others.

Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy

As Bob Riesman wrote in his biography of Big Bill Broonzy: "…Bill's recording career took off in this era, and his prodigious output was nearly unmatched among blues musicians. From 1934 until 1942, when the combination of a musicians’ union ban and the diversion of shellac to the war effort halted virtually all recording for two years, Bill averaged better than thirteen double-sided 78 rpm records each year as a featured artist. In addition, he played on an average of forty-eight sides each year as a sideman. In other words, for nearly a decade, he averaged one new Big Bill record a month, and he appeared on two more as a studio guitarist. …As 'Big Bill,' he was one of the most productive and popular artists in the business, with a name that was familiar to his audiences and reinforced by his easily recognized singing style. At the same time, he became the first-call studio guitarist for dozens of recording sessions that Lester Melrose organized for several record companies, particularly Bluebird. In that capacity, he was an integral part of the distinctive sound of numerous musicians, including some of the most popular artists of the era. Two artists whose careers were interwoven with Bill’s were Washboard Sam and Jazz Gillum. Bill played guitar on a most every one of the more than 150 recordings that Sam made over a period of twenty years, as well as on many of the sides that Gillum recorded."

Broonzy's 40's work with Washboard Sam really hit a high point with Big Bill laying down some lengthy, swinging amplified guitar on featured tracks like "Life Is Just A Book", "My Feet Jumped Salty" and "River Hip Mama." Washboard Sam recorded hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill. In 1932, Sam moved to Chicago, initially he played for tips, but soon he began performing regularly with Broonzy. Within a few years, Sam was supporting Broonzy on the guitarist's Bluebird recordings. Soon, he was supporting a number of different musicians on their recording sessions, including pianist Memphis Slim, bassist Ransom Knowling, and a handful of saxophone players, who all recorded for Bluebird. In 1935, Sam began recording for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs.

Broonzy was also prominent on the recordings of Lil Green who's "Just Rockin'" we feature today. Her professional career was launched around 1940, when the manager of a Chicago club hired her on the spot after a group of her friends had arranged for a bandleader to call her up from the audience to sing.By May 1940 Green had come to the attention of Lester Melrose, who brought her into the studio to record on the Bluebird label. He assigned a trio of musicians to back her, including Big Bill, Simeon Henry on piano, and New Orleans veteran Ransom Knowling on bass. That session produced her first hit, "Romance in the Dark." As Broonzy noted in his autobiography: "I played for Lil Green for two years as her guitar player. I wrote some songs for her, like "My Mellow Man" and "Country Boy," "Give Your Mama One More Smile" and some more that I fixed up for her.

Roosevelt Sykes
Roosevelt Sykes

In 1929 Roosevelt Sykes met Jesse Johnson, the owner of the Deluxe Record Shop in St. Louis. Sykes, who at the time performed at an East St. Louis club for one dollar a night, quickly accepted Johnson's invitation to a recording session in New York. In the early 1930s, Sykes moved to Chicago. During the Depression years, he recorded for several labels under various pseudonyms. For the Victor label, he recorded as Willie Kelly on the classic 1930 side "32-20 Blues." Two years later, he cut his popular number "Highway 61 Blues" for Champion, the subsidiary label of Gennett Records. During the 1930's, Sykes served as a back-up pianist for more than thirty singers including Mary Johnson and James "St. Louis Jimmy" Oden. Through the recruiting efforts of Mayo "Ink" Williams, Sykes signed with Decca Records in 1934. His 1936 Decca side "Driving Wheel Blues" emerged as a blues classic. Sykes settled in Chicago in 1941 and, within a short time, became a house musician for the Victor/Bluebird label. Although the label marketed him as the successor to Fats Waller, who recorded on the same label and died in 1943, Sykes found success as the creator of his own style and remained active as a session man.

Sonny Boy Williamson was already a harp virtuoso in his teens. He learned from Hammie Nixon and Noah Lewis and ran with Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell before settling in Chicago in 1934. Sonny Boy signed to Bluebird in 1937. Henry Townsend recalled driving Sonny Boy, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Davis and Big Joe Williams to Aurora, Illinois, in his 1930 A Model Ford for their 1937 sessions: "I transferred them to Aurora, Illinois. There was about eight or nine of us …we stacked them in the car like sardines." This led to a marathon recording session resulting in six songs by Nighthawk (as Robert Lee McCoy), six by Sonny Boy Williamson I, four by Big Joe Williams and eight sides by Walter Davis. It was Sonny Boy's songs, especially, "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Bluebird Blues" and "Sugar Mama Blues" which were the biggest hits. Sonny Boy recorded prolifically for Victor both as a leader and behind others in the vast Melrose stable (including Robert Lee McCoy and Big Joe Williams, who in turn played on some of Williamson's sides). Sonny Boy cut more than 120 sides in all for RCA from 1937 to 1947

Kokomo Arnold was born in Georgia, and began his musical career in Buffalo, New York in the early 1920's. During prohibition, Kokomo Arnold worked primarily as a bootlegger, and performing music was a only sideline to him. Nonetheless he worked out a distinctive style of bottleneck slide guitar and blues singing that set him apart from his contemporaries. In the late 1920's, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation. From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides.Arnold also did session work backing Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosvelt Sykes, Alice Moore, Mary Johnson and others.

Papa Charlie Jackson
Papa Charlie Jackson

"Papa" Charlie Jackson was a six-string banjo player who was one of the earliest and most successful of the solo blues singer/instrumentalists. Jackson settled in Chicago on the famed Maxwell Street around 1920 where he began earning a living by playing on street corners and at house parties. In 1924 he cut his first solo sides "Papa's Lawdy Blues" and "Airy Man Blues" for the Paramount label. During this period Jackson also became a sideman with many of the hot groups in and around Chicago. He also recorded with Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Bumble Bee Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and others before his subsequent death around 1938.

Despite several busy years in the recording studio and a couple of medium-sized hits ("Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door" and "We Gonna Move (To The Outskirts of Town)"), very little is known about Casey Bill Weldon. It was assumed he was the Will Weldon who played with the Memphis Jug Band but that remains in dispute. Between 1927 and 1935 he cut just over 60 sides for Victor, Bluebird and Vocalion. He was also an active session guitarist, appearing on records by Teddy Darby, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheatsraw and others.

Magic Slim She Is Mine 45
Magic Slim Scufflin Grand Slam
Alberta Brown How LongI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 2
Monette Moore Black Sheep BluesMonette Moore Vol. 2 1924-1932
Jenny Pope Bullfrog BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 4 1929-1953
Louis Armstrong Blues for Yesterday C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Louis Armstrong Back o' Town BluesC'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Frank Tannehill Rolling Stone BluesRare Country Blues Vol. 4 1929-c.1953
Tommy McLennan Baby, Please Don't Tell On Me Bluebird Recordings 1939-1942
Washboard SamEvil BluesRockin' My Blues Away
Fluffy Hunter Hi Jinks BluesTough Mamas
Madonna Martin Rattlesnakin' Daddy Tough Mamas
James Russell I Had Five Long YearsPrison Worksongs
Big Joe Williams These Are My Blues (Gonna Sing ´Em For Myself)These Are My Blues
Blind Arvella GrayWalking BluesBlues From Maxwell Street
Precious Bryant Precious Bryant's Staggering BluesNational Downhome Blues Festival Vol. 1
Precious Bryant That's The Way The Good Thing Go George Mitchell Collection Box Set
'Talking' Billy Anderson Lonely Bill Blues The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Blind Willie McTell Stole Rider BluesBest Of
Charley JordanHunkie Tunkie Blues Charley Jordan Vol.1 1930-1931
Teddy Darby She Thinks She's Slick Blind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Zuzu Bollin Headlight BluesR&B Guitars 1950-1954
Jimmy Babyface Lewis Last NightComplete Recordings 1947-1955
Big Joe Turner Wine-O-Baby BoogieTell Me Pretty Baby
Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette & Jimmy Witherspoon Geneva BluesCake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948
Lee Roy LittleI''m a Good Man But a Poor Man Blues From The Apple
Charlie SaylesVietnamThe Raw Harmonica Blues Of
Johnny MomentKeep Our Business To YourselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Robert Pete Williams Freight-Train Blues Louisiana Blues
Hammie NixonViola Lee Blues 2Way Back Yonder Vol. 1
Eugene Powell Poor Boy Blues Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Magic Slim Stranded On The HighwayLiving Chicago Blues Vol. II
Magic Slim Ain't Doing Too BAdRaw Magic

Show Notes:

Magic Slim
Magic Slim

It seems these mix show end up as tributes to an increasing number of blues artists who've passed recently. This time out we pay our respects to Magic Slim and Precious Bryant. Along the way we spin a pair of bluesy numbers by Louis Armstrong, play a few sets of pre-war blues, spotlight some interesting field recordings as well as some jump blues from the post-war era.

I was lucky enough to catch Magic Slim on several occasions and he always delivered the goods, which is to say a good dose of gutbucket blues. After battling health problems Slim passed at the age of 75 on Feb. 21st. His mentor was Magic Sam, whom he knew as a child in Mississippi and who offered early encouragement. “Magic Sam told me don’t try to play like him, don’t try to play like nobody,” he once recalled. “Get a sound of your own.” It was also Magic Sam who gave a teenager named Morris Holt the stage name Magic Slim when the two performed together in Chicago in the 1950's. He recorded his first single, “Scufflin’,” in 1966 and formed the Teardrops with his younger brothers a year later. Magic Slim and the Teardrops eventually became the house band at a local nightclub, Florence’s. They went on to tour and record regularly, headlining blues festivals all over the world, and to win numerous awards, including the 2003 Blues Music Award as band of the year. Magic Slim recorded prolifically, cutting his first album for the French MCM label in 1977 with follow-ups on labels like Blind Pig, Alligator and Wolf. Among my personal favorites of Slim voluminous discography would be Grand Slam (Rooster), Raw Magic (Alligator) and the series on Wolf titled Live At The Zoo Bar (five vols. I think?) which really capture Slim and the Teardrops in prime form.

Unfortunately I never got to see Precious Bryant who passed away on January 12th. She was born in Talbot County, GA and went on to play numerous festivals including the Chattahoochee Folk Festival, the National Down Home Blues Festival in Atlanta (recordings by her appear on the companion albums), the King Biscuit Blues, Newport Folk Festival, Utrecht Blues Festival in Utrecht, Holland and others. She never went on tour and didn't release an album until Fool Me Good in 2002 although a few scattered sides were recorded in the field by George Mitchell. It was Mitchell, who discovered her in 1969 while documenting the lower Chattahoochee scene. She cut a follow-up album, The Truth, in 2005 and the same year cut an album on the Music Maker label.

Precious Bryant
Precious Bryant

When not listening to blues I do listen to quite a bit of jazz, particularly the older stuff, and have listened to Louis Armstrong's hot Fives and Hot Sevens countless times. I suspect, like many, I haven't really listened to many of his recordings after this period. Some time back I picked up the 4-CD box set C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties on the Proper label which is where today's tracks come from. Satchmo set the bar so high on those early recordings they're pretty much unsurpassable but this set very worthwhile.  Lots of good stuf from big band sides, duets with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and great live recordings from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall with the All Stars. One of the songs, "Back o' Town Blues", was first recorded as an instrumental by the Original Memphis Five in 1923 on the Edison label.

From the pre-war era we spin some fine blues ladies including Monette Moore and Jenny Pope plus obscure male artists such as Frank Tannehill and 'Talking' Billy Anderson. Moore began her career accompanying silent films in Kansas City and then toured the vaudeville circuit as a pianist and singer. In the early 1920's she made her way to New York and became active in musical theater. Her recording career began in 1923. In 1927 and 1928 she was singing with Walter Page's Blue Devils in the mid-West. She returned to New York in 1929 and was very active in musical theater and cabaret work until the late 1930's. In the early 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles and performed in clubs, recorded with Teddy Bunn and the Harmony Girls and had small parts in a couple of films. From 1951 to 1953 she appeared on the Amos 'n Andy television program and recorded with George Lewis. Moore passed in 1962. From 1925 we spin her "Black Sheep Blues" (Virginia Liston cut the same song a few months later) which is not the same song as Pigmeat Terry cut in 1935 but offers a similar sentiment:

When you're thinking of black sheep
Just take a look at me
I'm the blackest of black sheep
That ever left old Tennessee

Lord from the straight and narrow path I've strayed
From the straight and narrow path I've strayed
With regrets and sorrows I have paid

Just a black sheep roamin' round the town (2x)
Like a tramp I'm always out and down

While Moore cut some fifty sides during her prime Jenny Pope was much less documented. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Pope delivers a great performance on "Bull Frog Blues", not to be confused with the William Harris song of the same name, with great piano playing from Judson Brown.

Little is known about Frank Tannehill and Billy Anderson. A pianist from Dallas, Texas Frank Tannehill backed Pere Dickson on his two 1932 recordings made in his hometown. Tannehill began his own recording career with two songs recorded in Chicago in 1937. 1938 found him in a San Antonio studio waxing four more songs. His third and final session was in 1941 in Dallas for a four song session. He was never heard from again. Nothing is known about Billy Anderson, other than the fact that two records were recorded under his name in 1927 and that he may have been from Georgia.

Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Read Back Cover

Moving up the 1940's we spin some fine jump blues from ladies like Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin as well as Big Joe Turner and Al Wichard among others. Krazy Kat was a great British label that put out some really interesting anthologies. From the aptly title Tough Mamas we spin rocking tracks from Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin. Big Joe Turner's jumping  "Wine-O-Baby Boogie" features the mighty Pete Johnson on piano and comes from the album Tell Me Pretty Baby a fine collection of late 40's sides issued on Arhoolie.  Al Wichard's "Geneva Blues" features Jimmy Witherspoon on vocals. Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on August 15th, 1919 but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern’s first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks. Wichard's is collected on the reissue on Ace, Cake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948.

Last week I did a whole show devoted to great out-of-print records and today we feature a couple from the Albatros label: Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues and Way Back Yonder Vol. 1. Albatros is an interesting label that has not been all that well served on CD. The label was active from the early 70's through the early 80's issuing reissues of pre-war recordings, folk material and most interestingly, to me anyway, is several volumes of field recordings by label owner Gianni Marcucci. Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings  between 1976 and 1978 in Tennessee and Mississippi. Several of these collections have long been out-of-print including all three volumes of the Way Back Yonder series, the collections Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee and I Got The Blues This Morning and single artists albums by Eugene Powell (Police In Mississippi), Carey Tate (Blues From The Heart) and Jack Owens (Bentonia Country Blues). A while back Marcucci formed the Mbirafon imprint which so far has issued collections of field recordings of Sam Chatmon and Van Hunt. I've heard through the grapevine there was a Eugene Powell 2-CD planned. The label hasn't issued anything in awhile and I wouldn't be surprised if Marcucci got discouraged due to general lack of interest in these kinds of project. I, for one, hope he forges ahead. I should also mention that are three Albatros collections available on CD: Tennessee Blues Vol. 1, 2, and 3 which have very good performances from Laura Dukes, Dewey Corley, Bukka White and others.

Blind Willie McTellSavannah MamaThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Blind Willie McTellLay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
James Iron Head BakerBlack BettyDeep River of Song: Big Brazos
Moses Clear Rock PlattDats All Right HoneyField Recordings Vol. 13 1933-1943
Washington (Lightnin') Long JohnField Recordings Vol. 6: Texas 1933-1958
Will BattsCountry WomanMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics
Jack Kelly R.F.C. BluesRuckus Juice & Chittlins Vol. 2
Coot Grant & Wesley Wilson Meat Cuttin' BluesRaunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops
Eva Taylor Organ Grinder BluesClarence Williams & His Orchestra Vol. 1 1933-1934
Curley Weaver Some Cold Rainy Day
Atlanta Blues
Fred McMullen Poor Stranger Blues Georgia Blues 1928-1933
Curley Weaver Tippin' TomAtlanta Blues
James ''Stump'' Johnson Steady Grindin' Down On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis Vol. 2
Sparks BrothersChicago's Too Much For MeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis Vol. 2
Georgia Boyd Never Mind BluesSt. Louis 1927-1933
Joe Stone (J.D. Short)It's Hard TimeWhen The Sun Goes Down
Ruth Willis Man Of My OwnGeorgia Blues 1928-1933
Lucille BoganGroceries On The ShelfShave 'Em Dry: The Best Of Lucille Bogan
Memphis MinnieToo LateQueen Of Country Blues
St. Louis Jimmy Sitting Down, Thinking BluesSt. Louis Jimmy Oden Vol. 1 1932-1944
Walter Davis Oil Field BluesWalter Davis Vol. 1 1933-1935
Henry TownsendShe's Got What I WantSt. Louis Country Blues 1929-1937
Sonny Scott Rolling WatersWalter Roland Vol. 1 1933
Walter RolandEarly This Morning ('Bout Break Of Day)Walter Roland Vol. 1 1933
Josh WhiteBlood Red River BluesJosh White Vol. 1 1929-1933
Buddy MossHard Road BluesSlide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2
Buddy MossJealous Hearted Man BluesSlide Guitar Bottles, Knives & Steel Vol. 2
Whistlin' RufusWho's Gonna Do Your Sweet Jelly Rolling Piano Blues Vol. 6 1933-1938
Turner Parrish The FivesBarrelhouse Piano Blues & Stomps 1929-1933
Carl Rafferty Dresser With the DrawersRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 3 1931-1933
Charlie ''Specks'' McFaddenLow Down Rounders BluesTwenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis
Roosevelt Sykes Devil's Island Gin BluesThe Essential
The Mississippi Sheiks Show Me What You GotThe Road To Robert Johnson And Beyond
Teddy Darby Bought A Bottle Of GinBlind Teddy Darby 1929-1937

Show Notes:

Today’s show is the seventh installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on. The record companies advertised their records in black newspapers, mainly in the Chicago Defender, which was the nation’s most influential black weekly newspaper. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. By 1931 race records were selling about a tenth as well as they had four years previously. For example, Paramount went from waxing over a hundred blues and gospel items in 1930 but only about three dozen in 1931, Columbia had no new artists and its releases were cut by over a third and Victor also cut their releases by a third. In 1932 they were half that. Things hit rock bottom in 1932 with less than 150 new issues – the lowest level since 1922. Many of the era's top sellers like Leroy Carr and Lonnie Johnson made no records at all. Labels took several measures: cutting record prices, making one take instead of two and maximizing studio time by recording lengthier sessions. As always there were still plenty of good records by artists such as Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Moss, Jack Kelly, Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Davis, J.D. Short among others.

A 1930's ad for the Perfect label. Top row: Spark Plug Smith, Weaver and McMullen, Curley Weaver, and Ruth Willis.Bottom row: Buddy Moss, Coot Grant and Sox Wilson, Fred McMullen, Joshua White. All of these artists recorded in 1933.

In order to survive the hard times, Victor for example, were forced to follow ARC-BRC and enter the cheap record market. Their 35-cent label, Bluebird, was launched of old Victor material-by Walter Davis, the Memphis Jug Band, Cannon's Jug Stompers and Rev. Gates. Victor also needed new material In the past, tent tiles a day was a good days work. Now, as a further economy, engineers were told to make maximum use of the studio facilities and their own time. Thus, on Wednesday August 2, 1933, no less than thirty-five race titles  were recorded in Chicago, by a dozen artists including Roosevelt Sykes (as Willie Kelly), the Sparks brothers,  and Walter Davis. The Walter Davis items were put out simultaneously on Bluebird, at  35 cents, and in the Victor 23250 series, at 75 cents. However, it soon became apparent that there was little point in continuing to produce 75-cent race records and at the end of 1933 the Victor race series-which had reached 23432- was withdrawn.

1933 was a particularly good year for the talented Atlanta artists: Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Moss and Curley Weaver. Over the course of several days in September 1933, Blind Willie recorded four sessions for Vocalion in New York City resulting in some two-dozen sides all featuring Curley Weaver.  Several sides were unissued at the time only too be issued decades later. Weaver recorded around two-dozen sides at six session in 1933 for Vocalion, Brunswick and ARC.  Some sides were unissued. Fred McMullen was recorded around th same time, cutting seven sides for Brunswick and ARC with each playing some of the others sessions. Ruth Willis, Buddy Moss and Blind Willie also show up on Weaver's sessions from this period. Moss cut some two-dozens sides at several sessions in 1933 for Brunswick and ARC in New York City. Some sessions featured fellow Atlanta friends Blind Willie McTell, Ruth Will, Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen.

Buddy Moss playing guitar in the Green County Convict Camp

Other artists who recorded prolifically during 1933 were Jack Kelly,  Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Davis, Walter Roland, Sonny Scott and Josh White. Singer/guitarist Jack Kelly was the front man of the South Memphis Jug Band, a popular string band whose music owed a heavy debt to the blues as well as minstrel songs, vaudeville numbers, reels and rags. He led the group in tandem with fiddler Will Batts, and they made their first recordings in 1933, cutting some two-dozen sides between August 1 and 3rd for Banner and ARC. Roosevelt Sykes cut two sessions in 1933 for Victor and Bluebird and was busy backing several artists like Walter Davis, Carl Rafferty, St. Louis Jimmy, Clarence Harris and Charlie McFadden. Walter Davis cut two-dozen sides in 1933 for Blue Bird all backed by Sykes. Walter Roland and Sonny Scott recorded on the same dates for Vocalion between July 18-20, 1933 and playing on each others sessions. Roland cut eighteen sides while Scott cut fourteen sides. Josh White cut a dozen sides for Brunswick in 1933.

By 1933 the era of the blues Queens was past with Bessie Smith making her last sides in 1931, Clara Smith in 1932, Rosa Henderson in 1931, although several hung in there for a bit longer like Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey and Eva Taylor who was one of the only ones to record in 1933. In 1920 Taylor moved to New York City, where she became a popular singer in the night clubs of Harlem. The following year she married pianist, publisher and producer Clarence Williams. The couple collaborated on many projects. In 1922 Taylor made her first record for the African-American owned Black Swan label, who billed her as "The Dixie Nightingale". She would continue to record dozens of Blues, Jazz and popular sides for Okeh and Columbia throughout the 1920s and 1930s. She made a handful of strong sides in 1933 backed by Clarence Williams' Jug Band which included Willie "The Lion" Smith and Banjo Ikey Robinson among others.

Among some older styles that were hanging on were some of the vaudeville styled blues, namely with some sides cut by  Coot Grant and Wesley Wilson. Coot Grant was the main stage name of Leola B. Pettigrew, a blues singer from Alabama whose legal name became Leola Wilson following her marriage to performing partner Wesley Wilson. The husband and wife, billed as Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins, cut over sixty sides between 1925 and 1938, often backed with top jazz artists such as Fletcher Henderson, Mezz Mezzrow, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. They also performed in musical comedies, vaudeville, traveling shows, revues, and in film.

In addition to commercial recordings there was some important non-commercial sides recorded by John Lomax for the Library of Congress. Through a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, John Lomax was able to set out in June 1933 on the first recording expedition under the Library of Congress' auspices, with Alan Lomax (then eighteen years old) in tow. In their successful grant application they wrote, that prisoners, "Thrown on their own resources for entertainment . . . still sing, especially the long-term prisoners who have been confined for years and who have not yet been influenced by jazz and the radio, the distinctive old-time Negro melodies." They toured Texas prison farms recording work songs, reels, ballads, and blues from prisoners. They also recorded music from many others not in prison. The most important find was Leadbelly but also were recorded were fine singers like  James Iron Head Baker, Moses Clear Rock Platt and Washington (Lightnin'), all of whom are featured today.

Edna HicksCemetery BluesEdna Hicks/Hazel Meyers/Laura Smith Vol. 2 1923-1927
Interview Pt. 1Alberta Hunter & Ida Cox.
Ida CoxGraveyard Dream BluesIda Cox Vol. 1 1923
Interview Pt. 21200 Series Launch
Edna TaylorGood Man BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 14 1923-1932
Edmonia HendersonWorried 'bout Him BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 9 1923-1930
Lena WilsonFour Flushin' PapaLena Wilson Vol. 1 1922-1924
Interview Pt. 3Ma Rainey
Ma RaineyDead Drunk BluesMother Of The Blues
Papa Charlie JacksonI'm Looking For A Woman Who...Papa Charlie Jackson Vol. 2 1926-1928
Blind Lemon JeffersonRambler BluesBest Of Blind Lemon Jefferson
Interview Pt. 4Blind Blake
Blind BlakeGeorgia BoundBest Of Blind Blake
Ethel WatersDown Home BluesEthel Waters 1921-1923
Interview Pt. 5Selling Records
Alice MooreBlack And Evil BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 1 1927-1929
Madlyn DavisKokola BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 5 1921-1928
Frank StokesYou ShallBest Of Frank Stokes
Interview Pt. 6Mayo Williams & Thomas Dorsey
Walter "Buddy Boy" HawkinsHow Come Mama BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Teddy DarbyLawdy Lawdy Worried BluesBefore The Blues Vol. 1
Tommy JohnsonAlcohol And Jake BluesChasin That Devil Music
Willie BrownFuture BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Interview Pt. 7Talent Scouts
Charlie PattonMississippi Boweavil BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Charlie SpandGood GalDreaming The Blues
James ' Boodle-It' WigginsGotta Shave 'em DryThe Paramount Masters
Will EzellPlaying The DozenMama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here
Jabo WilliamsJab’s BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Bobby GrantNappy Head BluesThe Paramount Masters
Hokum BoysGambler's BluesThe Hokum Boys Vol. 1 1929
William MooreRagtime MillionaireBroadcasting The Blues
Geeshie Wiley & Elvie ThomasPick Poor Robin CleanI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1
Blind Joe ReynoldsNinety-Nine BluesBlues Images Vol. 2
Edward ThompsonShowers Of Rain BluesA Richer Tradition
Bumble Bee SlimNo Woman No NickelBumble Bee Slim Vol. 1 1931-1934
Skip JamesCherry Ball BluesComplete Early Recordings
Interview Pt. 8Skip James
King Solomon HillThe Gone Dead TrainThe Paramount Masters
Son HousePreachin' The Blues Pt.1Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues

Show Notes:

Ida Cox Mean Loving Man BluesParamount records recorded some of the greatest blues artists of the 20's and early 30's and today we kick off the second of a multi-part feature on the label. In addition we'll also be airing and interview I did with Alex van der Tuuk the author of Paramount's Rise And Fall. Paramount Records was founded in 1917 as a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company of Port Washington, Wisconsin. The chair company had made some wooden phonograph cabinets by contract for Edison Records. Wisconsin Chair decided to start making its own line of phonographs with a subsidiary called the "United Phonograph Corporation" at the end  of 1915. It made phonographs under the "Vista" brand name through the end of the decade; the line failed commercially. In 1917 a line of phonograph records was debuted with the "Paramount" label. They were recorded and pressed by Chair Company subsidiary "The New York Recording Laboratories, Incorporated." In its initial years, the Paramount label offered recordings of standard pop-music fare, on records recorded with below-average audio fidelity pressed in below-average quality shellac. In the early 1920's, Paramount was still racking up debts for the Chair Company while producing no net profit. Paramount began offering to press records for other companies at low prices. The Paramount Record pressing plant was contracted to press discs for Black Swan Records. When that later company floundered, Paramount bought out Black Swan and thus got into the business of making recordings by and for African-Americans. These so-called "race music" records became Paramount's most famous and lucrative business. Paramount’s "race record" series was launched in 1922 with its 1200 "race" series exclusively devoted to black music. The early catalog was dominated by female blues singers such as Lucille Hegamin, Alberta Hunter and Monette Moore and a bit later with records by stars Ida Cox and Ma Rainey. A large mail-order operation and weekly advertisements in black owned newspapers like the Chicago Defender were keys to the label's early success. The label's successful recordings by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake shifted the focus from women singers to male. The label went on to record some of the era's most celebrated male blues artists such as delta legends Charlie Patton, skip James, Tommy Johnson, Son House, Willie Brown plus diverse artists such as Buddy Boy Hawkins, the Mississippi Sheiks, Charlie Spand, Papa Charlie Jackson among many others. The onset of the depression crippled the recording industry and Paramount was eventually discontinued in 1932.

We open part two of our Paramount feature as we did our first, with some of the women who dominated the label's catalog in the early years before being eclipsed by the popularity of the solo male blues artists. Today we spin tracks by Edna Hicks, Ida Cox, Edna Taylor, Edmonia Henderson, Lena Wilson Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters and others.

Blues singer Edna Hicks was born in New Orleans and was the half-sister of Lizzie Miles and her brother was the trumpet player Herb Morand. Edna left New Orleans sometime around 1916 and worked in a variety of vaudeville and musical comedy shows. She began recording in 1923 with Victor and went on to make records with Brunswick, Gennett, Vocalion, Ajax, Columbia and Paramount. In 1925 she died due to burns that she suffered in an accident involving gasoline in her home in Chicago.

Ida Cox sang in church choirs as a child in Georgia. She ran away from home in 1910 when she was a teenager and performed in minstrel and tent shows as a comedienne and singer. She toured the country throughout the Teens and 1920s sometimes singing with Jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton and with King Oliver at the Plantation Cafe in Chicago. In 1923 she began her recording contract with the Paramount label, who billed her as the Uncrowned Queen of the Blues. She cut around ninety sides for the label through 1929.

Alongside Bessie Smith, who recorded for Columbia, Ma Rainey is one of the most celebrated woman blues singers of the era. Rainey first appeared onstage in 1900, singing and dancing in minstrel and vaudeville stage revues. In 1902 she married the song and dance man William "Pa" Rainey and from then on became known as Ma Rainey. The couple formed a song and dance act that included blues and popular songs. They toured the country, but primarily the South and became a popular attraction as part of Tolliver's Circus, The Musical Extravaganza and The Rabbit Foot Minstrels, where Rainey befriended a young Bessie Smith. It was not until 1923 that Ma Rainey signed a recording contract with Paramount. She was billed as the "Mother of the Blues", recording 100 songs between 1923 and 1928 for the label.

Ethel Waters was one of the most popular African-American singers and actresses of the 1920s. She moved to New York in 1919 after touring in vaudeville shows as a singer and a dancer. She made her recording debut in 1921 on Cardinal records but switched over to the Black Swan label, and recorded "Down Home Blues" and "Oh Daddy" the first Blues numbers for that company. In 1924 she cut five sides for Paramount. She frequently sang with Fletcher Henderson during the early 1920s, but by the mid-1920s Waters had became more of a pop singer.

The heyday of woman blues singers started to fade toward the mid to late 20's. Paramount's earliest male blues star was Papa Charlie Jackson who made his debut in 1924 followed by in 1926 by big selling artists Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake. In addition to those artists, who we profiled in part one,  we spin tracks by Frank Stokes and several fine piano players including Charlie Span and Will Ezell. Frank Stokes and partner Dan Sane recorded as The Beale Street Shieks, a Memphis answer to the musical Chatmon family string band, the Mississippi Shieks. Stokes was already playing the streets of Memphis by the turn of the century, about the same time the blues began to flourish. A medicine show and house party favorite, Stokes was remembered as a consummate entertainer who drew on songs from the 19th and 20th centuries. Solo or with Sane and sometimes fiddler Will Batts, Stokes recorded 38 sides for Paramount and Victor.

Next to nothing is known about barrelhouse pianist Charlie Spand (PDF). He waxed 22 sides for Paramount between 1929 and 1931 and two final sessions for Okeh in 1940. Spand first made a name for himself on the Detroit scene of the 1920's.

Ezell's early career was spent as an itinerant musician playing dances, labor camps and logging mills in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. Ezell had a recording career that lasted for four years beginning in 1927 and he produced total of 17 tracks (including alternative takes) for Paramount Records. It was in his role as "house pianist" for Paramount that he supported artists such as Blind Roosevelt Graves, Bertha Henderson and was rumored to have worked for Bessie Smith. His success disappeared during the Depression and nothing is known of him after his last recording session in 1931.