ARTISTSONGALBUM
Chas Q. PriceEarly Morning BluesJumpin' On The West Coast!
Louis ArmstrongBack o' Town BluesC'est Ci Bon: Satchmo In The Forties
Red MackMr. Big HeadLuke Jones & Red Mack: West Coast R&B 1947-1952
Big Bill BroonzyThe Southern BluesBig Bill Broonzy Vol. 3 1934-1935
Cannon's Jug StompersPrison Wall BluesMemphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper
K.C. DouglasMove To Kansas CityBig Road Blues
Mr. BearHold Out BabyHarlem Heavies
Cousin LeroyUp The RiverHarlem Heavies
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Sammy TaylorAin't That Some ShameNew York Wild Guitars
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandI’m Going to Write You a LetterBackcountry Barrelhouse
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteGravels In My PillowCake Walkin'
Al "Cake" Wichard SextetteThelma LeeCake Walkin'
Gladys BentleyLay It On the LineThe Gladys Bentley Quintette
Eddie DavisMountain OystersRisque Rhythm
Arbee StidhamStandin' In My WindowA Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamMeet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesLegends of Country Blues
Willie HarrisLonesome Midnight DreamA Richer Tradition
Curley Weaver & Blind Willie McTellYou Were Born To DieAtlanta Blues
Jesse JamesHighway 61Piano Blues Vol. 1 1927-1936
Leroy CarrBlue Night BluesHow Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
Peetie WheatstrawGangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownThe Bob Geddins Blues Legacy
Roy HawkinsGloom and Misery All AroundThe Thrill Is Gone
Lightnin' HopkinsNew York BoogieAll The Classics 1946-1951
John Lee HookerWalkin' This HighwayThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 4
Brownie McGheeSo Much TroubleSonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1938-48
Baby Davis & Buddy Banks SextetHappy Home BluesHappy Home Blues
Fluffy Hunter & Buddy Banks SextetFluffy's DebutHappy Home Blues

Show Notes:

There's a definite theme running through today's mix show,  with a good batch of recordings spotlighting the vibrant, swinging  Los Angeles blues scene of the mid-40's through the early 50's. The West Coast had a thriving blues and jazz scene in the 1940’s and 50’s with most of the activity centering around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. The Black population swelled in the 1940s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. From approximately 1920 to 1955, Central Avenue was the heart of the African-American community in Los Angeles. Like New York City’s 125th Street or Memphis’s Beale Street or Chicago’s South Side, Central Avenue was one of the world capitols of nightlife, of jazz, rhythm & blues, of black culture and society. I've devoted several shows to the west coast blues scene of this period but many of today's artists I haven't played before. Among those spotlighted are Buddy Tate, The Great Gates, Red Mack, Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette, Buddy Banks' Sextette, Roy Hawkins and Johnny Fuller.

We spin double shots of two great combos: Al "Cake" Wichard's Sextette and Buddy Banks' Sextette. The  Wichard tracks come from the terrific recent reissue on Ace, Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette – Cake Walkin’. Al Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on 15th August 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.This CD consists entirely of sessions made under his own name. Thirteen tracks have vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon while others feature vocalist Duke Henderson and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton. All these sides were cut between 1945 and 1949. Witherspoon is in magnificent form throughout, including our selection, the bouncy "Thelma Lee." Henderson wasn't quite in Spoon's league, few were, but he turns in a superb low-down performance on our cut, "Gravels In My Pillow" as he boasts:

They call me the devil's stepchild, they say I'm just no good (2x)
They say I'm rotten from the start, wouldn't be no other way if I could

Tenor sax blower Buddy Banks began his career in California and played with all the best West Coast Orchestras. In 1945 he formed his own sextet. The band began recording by backing singer Marion Abernathy for the Juke Box label and in its own right for the tiny Sterling label. The band went on to record for Excelsior, United, Modern and Specialty through 1949.The band employed some fine vocalists including Fluffy Hunter, Baby Davis, Marion Abernathy and Bixie Crawford. The obscure Davis belts it out "Happy Home Blues" while Hunter storms through the rocking "Fluffy's Debut." It's a shame both singers recorded so little. All these tracks come from the excellent LP Happy Home Blues issued on the Official label.

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Red Mack was a west coast vocalist who also played piano, organ, trumpet, cornet and drums. He fronted bands that cut sides for Gold Seal, Atlas and Mercury at sessions recorded in 1945, 1946 and 1951. Mack is heard to fine effect on the humorous "Mr. Big Head:"

You said your wife was fine, when you lived down on the farm (2x)
Now you got the big head, and a glamor girl on your arm
Well you making more money, and that's a fact
You won't drive nothing baby, but those big fine Cadillacs
Well your head is big and you think you own the moon
Well I'm tellin' you fool, your head will go down sore

Mack's sides have been collected, along with those of his contemporary Luke Jones, on the Krazy Kat LP Luke Jones & Red Mack – West Coast R&B 1947-1952. Also on the Krazy Kat label is The Great Gates  – West Coast R' n B 1949-1955. Edward Gates White aka “The Great Gates” enjoyed a recording career as an R&B vocalist from 1949 to 1955, before changing to recording jazz organ instrumentals. He continually shifted between various small West Coast labels such as Selective, Kappa and Miltone. Gates was a smooth big voiced singer heard today on the moody "Late After Hours" backed by a killer little combo featuring the cooking tenor of Marvin Phillips.

Tenor sax man Buddy Tate joined Count Basie's band in 1939 and stayed with him until 1948. In 1947 Tate made a batch of recordings for the L.A. based Supreme label backed by members of Basie's band. The session included luminaries like Bill Doggett, Chico Hamilton and Jimmy Witherspoon. Alto sax man Chas Q. Price takes the vocal on the silky, after hours number "Early Morning Blues" sporting some sensitive playing from Tate. These early recordings can be found on the marvelous LP Jumpin' On The West Coast! on the Black Lion label.

Also on tap today are some twin spins by Arbee Stidham and pianist Barrelhouse Buck McFarland. The two Stidham tracks come from the album A Time For Blues, one of Stidham’s best recordings backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.

Barrelhouse Buck McFarland cut his final session for Folkways and an unissued session in 1961 that was belatedly released a few years back on Delmark. He died shortly afterward. McFarland was born in Alton, Illinois in 1903 in the same area as two other exceptional piano players, Wesley Wallace and Jabbo Williams, all three of which made names for themselves on the bustling St. Louis blues scene. McFarland got his shot in the recording studio waxing ten sides; two for Paramount in 1929, two for Decca in 1934 and four more for Decca in 1935, which were not issued.

We also feature a cut by Gladys Bentley, a truly largely than life figure. Bentley cut six sides for Okeh in 1928 and fifteen sides in 1946 and 1952 for the labels Excelsior, Top Hat, Flame and Swing Time. Bentley was a 250 pound woman dressed in men's clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), who played piano and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience. She appeared at Harry Hansberry's "Clam House" on 133rd Street, one of New York City's most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem's Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She relocated to southern California, where she was billed as "America's Greatest Sepia Piano Player", and the "Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs". She died, aged 52, from pneumonia in 1960. Bentley's act was probably impossible to capture on record but her post-war recordings have a jivey exuberance, particularly our selection, the bouncy "Lay It On The Line." Unfortunately Bentley has been ill served on reissue collections.

Also worth mentioning are a quartet of sides from New York artists. New York had a lively blues scene in the immediate post-war era, circa 1945 through 1960. The scene was dominated by small independent labels like Fire/Fury, Apollo, DeLuxe, Herald, Joe Davis, Baton, Old Town, Atlantic and Savoy. There was also out of town labels like King who recorded Big Apple talent. Hundreds of R&B and blues records were cut during this period. Today we feature several obscure artists from the scene including Mr. Bear, Larry Dale and Cousin Leroy. These tracks come form two excellent LP compilations; Harlem Heavies on the Moonshine label and New York Wild Guitars on the P-Vine label. Down the road I plan on doing a whole show devoted to the New York blues scene from this period.

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