We open the show on a somber note with two by Pete Mayes. Mayes, a staple of the Houston scene for the past 50 years, died December 16th at the age of 70. Mayes played guitar with greats like Junior Parker and Bill Doggett and has fronted his own band, the Houserockers, for 40 years. Mayes owned and maintained the historic Double Bayou Dancehall, which once served as a regular venue for Amos Milburn, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and scores of others. It was there that Mayes, then just 16 years old, first heard T-Bone Walker who became a major influence. According to his own story, by the age of 14 he had already worked with Lester Williams, although he did not meet T-Bone Walker until 1954. During the next 20 years, he often worked with Walker and made the acquaintance of many other bluesmen who would later come to fame, most prominently Joe Hughes. Mayes' discography is slim with just three full length albums; Pete's Sake (Antone's, 1998), I'm Ready (Double Trouble, 1986) and Live! At Double Bayou Dance Hall (GoldRhyme Music, 2005). According to The Blues Discography 1943-1970 he cut the following singles: "The Things I Used To Do" (Home Cooking, 1965), "Crazy Woman" (Ovide, 1969) and "Movin' Out" (Ovide, 1969). Our opening tracks, "Crazy Woman" and "Lowdown Feeling" come from the Krazy Kat LP Houston Shuffle.
Lots of vinyl on today's show as I've been trying to organize my LP's and stumbled across some gems I haven't played in a while. On tap today are several fine 1960's and 70's recordings by Guitar Gabriel, Babe Stovall, Willie Guy Rainey, Guitar Slim Green and Sam Chatmon. Guitar Gabriel is familiar to some collectors Nyles Jones, the name under which he recorded the superb LP, My South, My Blues, for the Gemini label in 1970.Mike Leadbitter, writing in Blues Unlimited in 1970, called the single, "Welfare Blues", the most important 45 released that year. He dropped out of sight for about 20 years and his belated return to performing was due largely to folklorist and musician Timothy Duffy, who located Gabriel in 1991. With Duffy accompanying him as second guitarist on acoustic sets and as a member of his band, Brothers in the Kitchen, Gabriel performed frequently at clubs and festivals, and appeared overseas. He recorded several albums for Duffy's Music Maker label before passing in 1996.
West Coast guitarist Slim Green cut "Alla Blues" in 1948, the precursor to Jimmy Wilson's "Tin Pan Alley." He cut singles in the 40's, 50's and 60's for labels such as J & M Fullbright, Murray, Dig,Canton and Geenote. He 1970 he cut his only full length LP, Stone Down Blues, for Kent backed by Johnny Otis and his son Shuggie. From that album we play the fine protest blues "This War Ain't Right."
Sam Chatmon began playing music as a child, occasionally with his family's string band, as well as the Mississippi Sheiks. Sam launched his own solo career in the early '30s. While he performed and recorded as a solo act, he would still record with the Mississippi Sheiks and with his brother Lonnie. Throughout the '30s, Sam traveled throughout the south, playing with a variety of minstrel and medicine shows. He stopped traveling in the early '40s, making himself a home in Hollandale, Mississippi, where he worked on plantations. For the next two decades, Sam Chatmon was essentially retired from music and only worked on the plantations. When the blues revival arrived in the late '50s, he managed to capitalize on the genre's resurgent popularity and throughout the '60s and '70s, he recorded for a variety of labels, as well as playing clubs and blues and folk festivals across America. Chatmon was an active performer and recording artist until his death in 1983.
Born in 1907 in Tylertown, MS, Babe Stovall was the youngest of 11 children, most of them musicians. Stovall learned guitar when he was around eight years old, and was soon playing breakdowns, frolics, and parties in the area, even meeting and learning "Big Road Blues" from Tommy Johnson. In 1964 he moved to New Orleans, where he was "discovered" working as a street singer in the French Quarter. He recorded an LP for Verve in 1964, which is were today's selection comes off, simply titled Babe Stovall, and did further sessions in 1966 and with Bob West in 1968 and became active on the folk and blues college circuit. He died in 1974.
Willie Guy Rainey was a blues musician from Georgia who became a popular performing artist in the Atlanta area in the 1970's. Through the promotion of musician Ross Kapstein and the recording of a self-titled album in 1978 for Southland, Rainey (at 77 years old) went on tour, which eventually led to overseas tours. He died in 1983.
We also spotlight several fine vocalists including Helen Humes, Esther Phillips, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker and Jimmy Witherspoon. Helen Humes is in fine form on 1951's "I Ain't In The Mood" an answer song to John Lee Hooker's recent chart-topper titled "I Ain't in the Mood." Esther Phillips has long been a favorite and she sizzles on a reading of "I'm Gettin' 'Long Alright" recorded live at Freddie Jett's Pied Piper club from the terrific album Burnin'. In 1999 Collectables released Burnin 'paired with Confessin' the Blues, two of her finest records on one CD. From Jimmy Witherspoon we spin "Parcel Post Blues" from the Bluesway album Hunh! featuring an all-star lineup of Charles Brown (piano), Red Holloway (sax) and Earl Hooker and Mel Brown on guitars. Junior Parker is another favorite of mine and a great song interpreter as he proves on his cover of the chestnut "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water." This comes from the excellent album I Tell Stories Sad And True from 1972 which unfortunately is out of print.
Other interesting tracks today include numbers by Will Ezell, Victoria Spivey, and some fine field recordings made by George Mitchell. 1929's "Playing The Dozen" is by great barrelhouse pianist Will Ezell who cut fourteen sides for Paramount between 1927 and 1929. He also backed artists such as Lucille Bogan, Blind Roosevelt Grave, Ethel Waters and others. Speaking of great pianists that's Little Brother Montgomery backing Victoria Spivey along with Lonnie Johnson on "Every Dog Has Its Day" from 1964. George Mitchell recorded some incredible music in his over twenty years of field recording and considered Cecil Barfield among his greatest discoveries. Barfield's repertoire was mostly covers but he truly sounded like no one else as he proves on his version of "Bottle Up And Go." By the way, Mitchell also wrote the notes to the above mentioned Willie Guy Rainey LP.
We wrap up with a trio of 1960's sides by great soul and blues artist Robert Ward who passed away on Christmas day after a long struggle with health issues. Like many, I first heard Robert Ward when his magnificent Fear No Evil debuted on Black Top in 1990 and was unaware of his earlier recordings. His subsequent Black Top follow-ups, Rhythm Of The People (1993) and Black Bottom (1995), were less inspired with the latter definitely the better of the two. After a five year absence he returned to form with his marvelous Delmark debut New Role Soul (2001). It wasn't until the Black Top records that I became aware of Ward's 1960's recordings which were thankfully collected on the album Hot Stuff (1995) on Relic. These sides spotlighted the recordings Ward cut as leader of the Ohio Untouchables (who later morphed into the Ohio Players long after Ward's departure) for tiny labels like LuPine, Thelma, and Groove City. These are fiery and soulful sides featuring Ward's trademark watery guitar playing and passionate vocals on numbers like "I'm Tired", "Your Love Is Real", "Something For Nothing" and "Fear No Evil." Also included are four classic cuts by the Falcons from 1962 sporting lead vocals by Wilson Pickett with the Untouchables in support on the soaring smash hit "I Found A Love" and "Let's Kiss and Make Up" with some sizzling guitar from Ward.