Joe Stone It's Hard TimeAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Hezekiah Jenkins The Panic Is On Blues & Jazz Obscurities
Gene Campbell Levee Camp Blues Ain't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Forrest City Joe Levee Camp ReminiscenceSounds Of The South
Tommy McClennan Cotton Patch BluesBluebird Recordings 1939-1942
Josh White Low Cotton Bluesman, Guitar Evangelist, Folksinger
Pigmeat Pete On Our Turpentine FarmCornshucker's Frolic Vol. 1
Florida Kid Lazy Mule Blues Rare 1930s & '40s Blues Vol. 3
Charlie Patton Mississippi Boll Weavil BluesScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Robert Curtis Smith Council Spur BluesClarksdale Blues
Guitar Slim & Jelly Belly Working Man BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Smoky Babe Hottest Brand Goin'Hottest Brand Goin'
Ivory Joe Hunter High Cost, Low Pay BluesJumping at the Dew Drop
J.B. Lenoir Everybody Wants To KnowJ.B. Lenoir 1955-56
Black Ivory KingWorking For The PWAAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Jimmy Gordon Don't Take Away My PWAAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Peetie Wheatstraw Working On The ProjectBroadcasting the Blues
Texas Alexander Section Gang BluesTexas Alexander Vol. 1
Camp Morris Captain Haney BluesDeep River of Song: Georgia
Blind BlakeDetroit Bound BluesAll The Published Sides
Frank Tannehill Warehouse Bluesare Country Blues Vol. 4 1929-c.1953
Bob Campbell Starvation Farm BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Lightnin' Hopkins Mister CharlieThe Acoustic Years 1959-1960
Otis Webster The Farm BluesCountry Negro Jam Session
Walter Vincson Overtime BluesJackson Blues: 1928-1938
Gabriel BrownI'm Gonna Take It EasyShake That Thing
Tom Dickson Labor BluesBlues Images Vol. 8
Mance Lipscomb Captain, CaptainCaptain, Captain
Willie Ford & Lucious Curtis PaydayMississippi: the Blues Lineage
Champion Jack Dupree Warehouse Man BluesJunker's Blues 1940-41
Washboard Sam C C C BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Big Bill Broonzy W.P.A. BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937

Show Notes:

Blind Blake: Dtetroit BoundToday's program revolves around blues songs and work. We hear from a variety of blues from the pre-war and post-war dealing with working in the mills, warehouses, farm, levees and those we can't find any work at all.  As the great blues scholar Paul Oliver wrote in Blues Fell This Morning: "For one reason alone are Blacks to be found on the American Continent: the enslavement of their ancestors. Their labor in bondage accounts for their presence, no matter what place in society they hold today. Over a period of three centuries  men and women in their millions were torn from their African homeland, chained, shipped, sold, branded, and forced into a life of toil that only ceased when death froze their limbs. Their children  worked in the fields from the day when they could lift a hoe to the day when they dropped  between the shafts of the plow.. Brutal planters there were, and humane ones too….But it was the great multitude of common laborers , uneducated, unskilled, deliberately kept in ignorance and held in perpetual, unrelenting bondage on whom the South relied. On the results of their sweat and toil depended its economy.“

Just a quick word, that today's show will be a bit shortened as we are in t the midst of our pledge drive. Those songs we don't get today we will spin next week. Please be sure to make your pledge of support to keep this great station, and of course our show on the air. Want to pledge now? Call 966-5299 or toll-free 1-800 -790-0415. You can also pledge online by clicking here.

As Paul Oliver wrote: “Tied in permanent debt to the planters on whose lands  they were sharecroppers or tenants, a vast  number of Blacks were still forced to remain, for the share-cropping system was flourishing in the twenties ans was still in operation in the 1960's.” Often they ended up in never ending debt to the landowner, sometimes called the “Bosman” or “Mr. Charlie” in song. In addition to the farms, blacks could be found employed in the logging and turpentine camps (Pigmeat Pete & Catjuice Charlie "On Our Turpentine Farm") , the tobacco and fertilizer plants, the cement factories and sawmills (Ramblin' Thomas "Sawmill Moan, Elzadie Robinson "Sawmill Blues").  We play several songs about working on the farm including "Low Cotton" recorded by Josh White in 1933:

When you're pickin' low cotton you gotta get down on your bended knees
Wonder who plant this low cotton, that gave me such a dirty deal
…If I was the president, I'd destroy this cotton that's worryin' us

In 1939 Tommy McClennan recorded "Cotton Patch Blues" which touches on the great northern migration in his striking opening lines:

I left my baby in Mississippi
Pickin' cotton down on her knee
I left my babe in Mississippi
Whoo-ooo, pickin' cottton down on her knee
She said, 'Babe, you get Chicago all right
Pleee-ase right me a letter, if you please

“It was a a little insect barley a quarter of an inch" long,  Oliver wrote, "that set the seal on the destruction of the South's cotton economy. In 1862 the boll-weavil was observed in the cotton fields of Mexico, and thirty years later it was ravishing the plantations of Texas. Within in a few years it was to be found throughout the entire South…” The boll-weavil  caused thousands of sharecroppers to be out of work. The boll-weavil was immortalized in numerous songs. Charley Patton recorded "Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues" at his first recording session in 1929 but there are reports of him playing the song a early as 1908 when the boll weevil might first have shown up at Dockery plantation where he lived:

Well I saw the boll weevil, Lord a-circle Lord in the air, lord
The next time I seen him, Lord he had his family there, lord
Boll weevil left Texas, Lord he bid me fare you well, lord
Where you going now?

"I'm going down to Mississippi, going to give Louisiana hell"
Boll weevil told the farmer that I ain't going to treat you fair
Took all the blossoms and leave you an empty square
Next time I seen you, you have your family there, lordy

Tom Dickson: Labor BluesThe levees were another notorious form of black employment. The Mississippi levee was begun piecemeal in the early 19th century when individual planters piled up small dykes to protect their fields from spring floods. By 1833, levee commissions had organized countywide efforts, but that all went to hell during the Civil War. The levees were built with the hard manual labor of convicts, and poor black and Irish laborers called “muleskinners." The levee camps, where workers lived in tents, drew thousands of freed slaves looking for work. By the mid-1920s, working on the levee was the subject of numerous blues that expressed fear of the unsafe conditions on the levee and anger at being forced to work on it. Those who sang tales of the levee included Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe "When the Levee breaks", Lonnie Johnson "Broken Levee Blues", Texas Alexander "Levee Camp Moan Blues", Ma Rainy "Levee Camp Moan", Washboard Sam "Levee Camp Blues", Forest City Joe "Levee Camp Reminiscence" among many others. Gene Campbell relates how the men were worked and treated the same as mules in his "Levee Camp Man" recorded in 1930:

A levee camp mule and a levee camp man
They work side by side, and it sure is man for man

By 1910 there began a steady stream of blacks moving to Northern cities for better employment and living conditions. Many found employment in the mills and warehouses, a subject of several blues songs such as Frank Tannehill "Warehouse Blues". Champion Jack Dupree "Warehouse Man Blues", Two Poor Boys "Mill Man Blues", Peg Leg Howell "Rolling Mill Blues", Peetie Wheatstraw "Chicago Mill Blues", Ralph Willis "Steel Mill Blues" and many others . Both Blind Blake ("Detroit Bound") and Bob Campbell ("Starvation Farm Blues") made their intentions clear:

I'm goin' to Detroit, get myself a good job (2x)
Tried to stay around here with that starvation mob

I'm goin' to Detroit to build myself a job (2x)
I'm tired of  layin' around here workin' on the starvation farm

When the Wall Street crash occurred at the end of October 1929 there were many stories of lost fortunes, of bankrupt financiers throwing themselves from skyscraper buildings. Those who bore the brunt were the poor, and of those the black population was the worst off. As steel mills ceased to operate and factories were closed down, thousands of workers, many of whom were seasonal employees, were laid off. Few were members of unions, and there was no protection against unemployment. "The Panic Was On" as Hezekiah Jenkins sang in 1931:

What this country is coming to
I sure would like to know
If they don't do something bye and bye, the rich will live and the poor will die
Doggone, I mean the panic is on

Can't get no work, can't draw no pay
Unemployment getting worser every day
Nothing to eat no place to sleep
All night long folks walking the street
Doggone, I mean the panic is on

rare-blues-78-peetie-wheatstraw-working-on-the-project-decca-7311-hear_3767094Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated in March 1933 and took many measures in his first hundred days to combat the depression. In June he established the Public Works Administration (P.W.A.) for which over $3 billion was appropriated. PWA projects were largely engaged in construction projects like sewage plants, flood control and bridge building. Under the PWA was an alphabet soup of agencies with acronyms like PWA, CCC, CWA, CCC and others. Later came the WPA which replaced direct relief and built over a half million miles of roads, a hundred thousand bridges and even more pubic buildings. Many blues songs deal with this topic: Black Ivory King "Working For The .PW.A.", Jimmy Gordon "Don't Take Away My P.W.A.", Peetie Wheatstraw  "Working On The Project", Washboard Sam "CCC Blues" and Big Bill Broonzy "W.P.A. Blues" among many others.

Truman became President in 1945. Inflation was a major reason Truman’s popularity dropped from 87% after his election to 32% by the time he was up for re-election. In addition, after the war prices began to rise and opportunities lessen. Prices rose 38% between 1946 and 1948.Among the songs that deal with this period are Jimmy Witherspoon's "Money’s Getting Cheaper" (1947), Louis Jordan's "Inflation Blues" (1947), Roosevelt Sykes' "High Price Blues" (1945), Sunnyland Slim's "Bad Times (Cost of Living)" (1949), Smokey Hogg's "High Priced Meat" (1947) and Ivory Joe Hunter's "High Cost Low Pay Blues" (1947). In "Everybody Wants To Know (Laid Off Blues) " he was even more militant:

You rich people listen, you better listen real deep:
If we poor peoples get so hungry, we gonna take some food to eat


Garfield AkersCottonfield Blues Pt. 1 & 2Blues Images Vol. 14
Robert Jenkins TrioSteelin' Boogie Pt. 2 St. James' Infirmary Blues
Easy BabyGood Morning Mr. BluesGrab Me Another Half a Pint
Walter Horton Little Walter's BoogieSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
John Lee Zeiglar Used To Be Mine, But Look Who Got Her Now Georgia Grassroots Festival
Willie Guy Rainey Temper BluesGeorgia Grassroots Festival
Embry Raines All Night Boogie Georgia Grassroots Festival
Henry ThomasRed River BluesTexas Worried Blues
Josh White Blood Red River Blues Roots of the Blues
Frank EvansRed River BluesMississippi: Saints & Sinners
Little Boy Fuller (Richard Trice) Blood Red River Blues Acoustic Blues: The Roots of it all Vol. 2
Joe SavageTexas Is My HomeAmerican Patchwork
Roosevelt Charles Cane Choppin'Mean Trouble Blues
Robert Pete Williams Texas Blues–When I Was Young Sugar Farm
Eddie Mack w/Cootie Williams Orchestra Things Ain't What They Used To BeEchoes Of Harlem
Eddie Vinson w/Cootie Williams Orchestra Somebody's Gotta GoEchoes Of Harlem
Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra w/ Wynonie HarrisWho Threw The Whiskey In The WellRockin' The Blues
Frank PalmesAint Gonna Lay Ligion Down (TK 2)Blues Images Vol. 14
Blind Joe Reynolds Nehi BluesBlues Images Vol. 14
Big Bill Broonzy and The Western Kid Western BluesBlues Images Vol. 14
K. C. Douglas BluesDeadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues
Big Joe Williams; Brownie McGhee; Lightnin' Hopkins If You Steal My Chickens, You Can't Make 'Em LayBlues Summit
James Brewer I Don't Want No Woman, She Got Hair Like Drops Of RainI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Mississippi Fred McDowell Meet Me Down In Froggy BottomAnd His Blues Boys
Sylvia Mars Things About Comin' My WayBlues Walk Right In
Sylvia Mars Walk Right InBlues Walk Right In
Big Walter Price Better RunRhythm 'N' Bluesin' By The Bayou
Joe (Mr. 'G') August Strange Things Happening In The Dark Rhythm 'N' Bluesin' By The Bayou
Turner Junior Johnson When I Lay My Burden DownA Treasury Of Library Of Congress Field Recordings

Show Notes:

Blues Calendar 2017Lots of strange and interesting records on tap for today's mix show. We feature several great pre-war blues and gospel sides from the vaults of collector John Tefteller, we spin a batch of great harmonica blues, spotlight a couple of long-out-of-print albums, we trace the history of the blues classic "Red River Blues", play some big band blues, showcase some fascinating field records plus much more.

Every year around this time John Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. This year marks the fourteenth year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up some unheard gems. As Tefteller writes: "There are two songs on the CD by Blues legend Big Bill Broonzy – both had not been heard since they were first released in 1930. Because the original master of Gennett  7320, one of the earliest release in his long career, was destroyed decades ago, all that was known were the titles, as not even a single copy of "I Can't Be Satisfied"/"Western Blues" seemed to exist in the hands of any collector anywhere. …Not until and eagle-eyed expert from Europe spotted photographs of both sides of the record label on my own Blues Images website did I realize I had in my possession the one copy left in the whole wide world!"

Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. In later years they created artwork to advertise their records for mail order. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously and  has been reprinting the artwork in his annual calendars. Tefteller's reissue are not only noteworthy for the newly discovered records and ads but also for the quality of the mastering which make these old, often battered 78's sound so good. In the past the mastering was done by Richard Nevins of Yazoo records. Starting with last year a brand new method has been used to make these records sound even better. The method is a mix of using old equipment and new computer technology. This technology will also be used in  a series to air on PBS and BBC called American Epic which will be devoted to early American music and will be coming to the airwaves this year.

We spin a batch of great harmonica blues today by Walter Horton, Easy Baby and Robert Jenkins. The Jenkins sides were issued on Parkway, one of those small Chicago postwar blues labels that developed a legendary reputation based on a handful of recorded sides. In all, the label was in business for little more than 4 months and produced only 23 recordings, of which 14 were released at the time—four by the Baby Face Leroy Trio, four by the Little Walter Trio, two by Memphis Minnie, two by Sunnyland Slim, and two by harmonica-blowing Robert Jenkins. There's a fair bit bit of speculation that the harmonica player on these sides might be Little Walter. I'm no harp expert so I'll leave it up to the listener to decide.

The blues is littered with great albums that have never made to CD and likely will never be reissued. Today we play tracks from the album Georgia Grassroots Music Festival, a festival billed as "a celebration of the South's musical heritage" and which still goes on today. The recordings on this album were captured in 1976 and 1977 and produced/edited by George Mitchell. The other album we feature is Blues Walk Right In by a wonderful singer named Sylvia Mars. The recordings were made by folklorist Harry Oster in 1960. The album itself has never been reissued and no tracks that I know of have ever been anthologized.

The Red River made famous in song runs from Texas, where it forms part of Texas’ northern border with Oklahoma and Arkansas, into Arkansas, and from there into Louisiana. The earliest recorded version of “Red River Blues” is from 1924, and was recorded by Lottie Beaman. Charlie “Dad” Nelson recorded “Red River Blues” accompanying himself on 12-string guitar in 1926, Henry Thomas recorded it in 1928 and Buddy Moss recorded “Red River Blues” at his first solo session in 1933. Josh White’s 1933 version of the song, which he called “Blood Red River” was to prove very influential, especially among East Coast players. Richard Trice as Little Boy Fuller recorded "Blood Red River Blues" in 1947. One version we spin today is by Frank Evans, recorded in 1936 in the infamous Parchman Farm for the Library of Congress. Many other have recorded the song including Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Leadbelly, Jesse Fuller, Lil Son Jackson, John Jackson and others.

Henry Thomas: Red River BluesAmong the field recordings today are selections from Joe Savage, Roosevelt Charles, Turner Junior Johnson and Lonnie Frazier. From 1978 to 1985 Alan Lomax traveled the American South and Southwest with a television crew to document regional folklore with deep historical roots. The resulting 500 hours of footage became the five-program series American Patchwork ,which aired on PBS in 1991. From that footage we hear Joe Savage who was a former muleskinner and Parchman Farm inmate. This was shot by Alan Lomax, Worth Long, and John Bishop, September 2, 1978, on the levee in Greenville, Mississippi. Savage recorded again in 1980 as part of the Living Country Blues series.

Roosevelt Charles was classified a habitual criminal and spend most of his adult life in prison. Charles was recorded extensively by folklorist Harry Oster both in Agola Prison and on the outside in 1959 and 1960. A full album of his recordings appeared on Vanguard (issued as Blues, Prayer, Work And Trouble Songs ? and Mean Trouble Blues) which is long out of print with other cuts showing up on various anthologies. Many of his sides remain unissued. Oster considered Charles one of his most gifted finds.

Turner Junior Johnson and Lonnie Frazier were both recorded for the Library of Congress. Johnson was a blind street singer and harmonica player recorded in 1942 for the Library of Congress.  It was during the same trip that Muddy Waters and Son House were recorded. I know nothing of Lonnie Frazier who Alan Lomax recorded in Detroit in 1938. I assume Frazier was related to Calvin Frazier who Lomax recorded in Detroit the same year.

Many blues singers and instrumentalists got their early experience working in big bands or employed these bands to back them on record. We spotlight two prominent bands today, with a full show sometime down the road; both Cootie Williams and Lucky Millinder were two such New York based bands that were very much blues based and  saw lots of talent flow their ranks. Cootie's band  employed Charlie Parker, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Bud Powell, Eddie Vinson, Eddie Mack and other young players. Millinder worked with the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bill Dogget, Wynonie Harris, Bull Moose Jackson, Tab Smith,  Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and "Sir" Charles Thompson. Today we feature both bands with vocalists Eddie Vinson, Eddie Mack and Wynonie Harris.


Buddy Lucas Hustlin Family BluesTitanic And 23 Unsinkable Sax Blasters
Buddy LucasBig BerthaJubilee Honkers And Shouters
Wynonie Harris w/ Buddy Lucas Triflin' WomanRockin' The Blues
Joseph "Google Eyes" August w/ Buddy TateRock My SoulJubilee Honkers And Shouters
Rene Hall w/ Buddy Tate Blowin' AwhileJubilee Honkers And Shouters
Wynonie Harris w/ Buddy Tate Mr. Blues Is Coming To TownRockin' The Blues
Arbee Stidham w/ Hal SingerStidham JumpsHam Hocks & Cornbread
Hal Singer Buttermilk And BeansHal Singer 1948-1951
Frank Floorshow CulleyAfter Hours SessionThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
Jimmy Rushing w/ Frank CulleyLonesome Daddy BluesJimmy Rushing 1946-53
Frank Floorshow CulleyFloorshowThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
Freddie Mitchell Moondog BoogieHam Hocks & Cornbread
Honey Brown w/ Freddie MitchelRockin' And Jumpin'I'm A Bad, Bad Girl
Bullmoose Walker w/ Sam Taylor Big Fat Mamas Are Back In Style AgainThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
Sam "The Man" TaylorOo-WeeBlues Masters Vol. 13
Champion Jack Dupree w/ Jesse PowellFifth Avenue BluesEarly Cuts
Fluffy Hunter w/ Jesse PowellThe Walkin' BluesThe R&B Hits of 1952
Jesse PowellHot BoxThe R&B Years
Sammy Price w/ King CurtisJuke Joint Rib Joint
Roy Gaines w/ King Curtis Dat Dat De Dum DumGroove Jumping
H-Bomb Ferguson w/ Charlie SingletonRock H-Bomb, RockRock H-Bomb, Rock
Charlie SingletonBlow Mr. SingletonHam Hocks And Cornbread
Eddie “Cleanhead” VinsonI'm Gonna Wind Your ClockHonk For Texas
Eddie “Cleanhead” VinsonBald Headed BluesHonk For Texas
Sil AustinSubamarine MamaTitanic And 23 Unsinkable Sax Blasters
Sil Austin & Red Prysock No. 1 SilBattle Royal
Noble “Thin Man” Watts Hard Times (The Slop)Scratchin': The Wild Jimmy Spruill Story
Paul Williams35-30 (Thirty-Five-Thirty)Paul Williams Vol.1 1947 -1949
Tiny Bradshaw w/ Red Prysiock Bradshaw BoogieBreakin' Up the House
Warren Lucky Paradise Rock Thunderbolt!
Little Willie John w/ Willis JacksonAll Around The WorldFever
Willis JacksonWine-O-WineThe Big Horn: Honkin' & Screamin' Saxophone
Johnny Hodges With Big Al Sears Castle RockThe Big Horn: Honkin' & Screamin' Saxophone
Morris Lane Bobby's BoogieBobby's Boogie: Red Robin Records

Show Notes:

Blow Man BlowToday's show is part two our look at some great New York based sax men who's honkin' sound was heard on hundreds of records in the 40's and 50's. This show is one of several sax based shows this year starting a few months ago with one based in Chicago , followed two spotlighting some great L.A. Horn blowers. Illinois Jacquet is cited as the one who kicked off the era of honkin' sax in 1945 with his famous solo on "Flying Home" while working with Lionel Hampton's band. As Big Jay McNeely said of of the songe, "every time we picked up our horns we were just elaborating on that, trying to make it bigger, wilder, give it more swing, more kick. If you want to know where rhythm and blues began, that's it brother."  Today we spin some great honkin' sax records, some cut by the horn men themselves and others featuring their raucous playing behind some great blues singers, both well known and obscure. The records were issued on a myriad of small New York independent labels labels such as Atlas, Derby, Coral,  Apollo, Groove, Savoy and bigger players such as King and Atlantic. Among those featured today are legendary horn men such as Hal Singr and Freddie Mitchell who played on countless sessions as well as recording some exciting sides under their own names. Then there were sax men primarily know for their session work such as the prolific Sam “The Man” Taylor, Budd Johnson and Big Al Sears. There were the sax men who lead their own band and were stars in their own right such as Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams, Red Prysock, Earl Bostic and Bullmoose Jackson. Others heard today include the incendiary Noble “Thin Man” Watts, the rising star King Curtis, Willis “Gator” Jackson, Buddy Lucas, Frank Culley, Sil Austin, Buddy Tate, Jesse Powell and others. We'll provide some background on some of today's artists that we didn't discuss last week.

From the late 1940s onward, Buddy Lucas was a much-in-demand session saxophonist who also recorded quite a few vocal sides. Lucas made his first (vocal) recordings in 1951, for Jerry Blaine's Jubilee label, where he also became leader of the house band. After the first release, "Soppin' Molasses"/"Whoppin' Blues" (Jubilee 5058), Frank CulleyBuddy renamed the combo "The Band Of Tomorrow". In 1953 Buddy moved to RCA, where he had two singles released on the parent label and three on its subsidiary Groove. Until 1964, Lucas went on to record for a host of other labels. The list of artists on whose records he has played is very long and includes Nappy Brown, Big Joe Turner,, LaVern Baker, Mickey and Sylvia,Big Maybelle, Bill Doggett, Little Willie John, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, among many others.

Buddy Tate began his professional career in the late 1920s playing around the Southwest in bands led by Terrence Holder, Andy Kirk, and Nat Towles. For a brief period in 1934 he played with the Count Basie Band who he recorde with in 1939. Tate decided to leave the band, hoping to tour less and perform closer to his home in New York. Eventually Tate secured residency for his own band in 1953 at the Celebrity Club on 125th Street in Harlem, a position he held for twenty-one years. He did a fair bit of session work on R&B sessions for sveral New York labels.

Frank Culley began learning the tenor sax at the age of 10 and made his first professional mark playing with Johnson's Happy Pals around Richmond, Virginia. He formed his own R&B group in the mid-40s, recording for the Lenox label in NYC and backing Wynonie Harris on King. In 1948, he was signed by Atlantic and led its first house band, backing the early stars of R&B as well as recording some thirty tracks under his own name. Culley's first release on Atlantic, "Coleslaw", was a # 11 R&B hit in 1949. The follow-up was "Floorshow" the song gave him his nickname. The next single, "After Hour Session" went to # 10 on the R&B charts. Culley recorded for RCA Victor, Parrot, Chess and Baton without success.

Texas tenorman Jesse Powell worked his early years with Hot Lips Page, Louis Armstrong, and Luis Russell. He joined Count Basie's Band in 1946, replacing the great sax player Illinois Jacquet. Powell appears on a number of blues recordings in the late 1940s with people like Brownie McGhee, Willie Jordan, and Doc Pomus. He also worked with Champion Jack Dupree and continued to play jazz, touring France with Howard McGee in 1948. He played bop and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1949. During the 1950s, as bebop fell out of favor, Powell found steady work with a variety of R&B artists. He recorded as a leader for Federal in 1951 and 1953 and had established himself with the Josie label by 1954.

Sil Austin & Red PrysockBorn in Kansas City around 1930, alto and tenor saxophonist Charlie Singleton he started making records under his own name in New York City at the age of 19 for the Apollo label. Singleton made a handful of recordings in 1950 and recorded sides for the Atlas label during the early '50s. He also backed several singer including H-Bomb Ferguson.

Sil Austin won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1945, playing "Danny Boy". His performance brought him a recording contract with Mercury Records, and he moved to New York. Austin played with Roy Eldridge briefly in 1949, and with Cootie Williams in 1951-52 and Tiny Bradshaw in 1952-54, before setting up his own successful touring group. He recorded over 30 albums for Mercury, and had a number of Top 40 hits with pop tunes. Austin described the sound of his 1950s singles to author Wayne Jancik. "Exciting horn, honking horn, gutbucket horn is what kids wanted to hear, so I made sure I played more of that. They called it rock 'n' roll. And the records sold."


Hal Singer & Carl Davis I Feel So GoodHal Singer 1948-1951
Hal SingerDisc Jockey BoogieHal Singer 1948-1951
Wynonie Harris w/ Frank Culley & Hal Singer I Feel That Old Age Coming OnRockin' The Blues
Ruth Brown w/ Freddie MitchellI Would If I CouldI'm A Bad, Bad Girl
Eunice Davis & Freddie Mitchell OrchestraRock Little DaddyBaby, That's Rock 'n' Roll
Freddie Mitchell Rockin' With CoopFreddie Mitchell 1949-1950
Big Joe Turner w/ Sam Taylor In The EveningThe Rhythm & Blues Years
Bull Moose Jackson w/ Sam TaylorCherokee BoogieThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
Bull Moose Jackson w/ Red PrysiockBig Ten Inch RecordThe R&B Hits Of 1952
Wynonie Harris w/ Red Prysiock -Down Boy DownLovin' Machine
Red Prysock Jump Red, JumpHandclappin' Foot Stompin'
Willis JacksonGood To The BoneFire/Fury Records Story
Eddie Mack w/ Willis Jackson Mercenary PapaEddie Mack 1947-1952
Big Joe Turner w/ Al Sears Ti - Ri – LeeThe Rhythm & Blues Years
Nappy Brown w/ Big Al SearsWell Well Well Baby LaNight Time Is The Right Time
Big Al SearsMarshall PlanThe Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone
King CurtisMovin' On King's Rock
Mr. Bear & The Bearcats w/ Sam Taylor & King CurtisMr. Bear Comes To TownHonkin' 'N' Hollerin'
Sammy Price w/ King CurtisRib Joint Rib Joint
Ruth Brown w/ Budd JohnsonI KnowRuth Brown 1949-1950
Mabel Scott w/ Budd JohnsonCatch 'Em Young, Treat 'Em Rough, Tell 'Em NothingMabel Scott 1951-1955
Edna McGriff w/ Buddy Lucas Edna's BluesI'm A Bad, Bad Girl
Buddy Lucas High Low JackStill Groove Jumping
Paul “Hucklebuck” WilliamsWomen Are the Root of All Evil Paul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Paul “Hucklebuck” WilliamsThe Hucklebuck (Hucklebuck)Paul Williams Vol. 2 1949-1952
Paul “Hucklebuck” WilliamsYoung Man BluesPaul Williams Vol. 2 1949-1952
Noble “Thin Man” Watts Jookin'Fire/Fury Records
Margie Day w/ Noble “Thin Man” Watts Take Out Your False Teeth DaddyJumpin' The Blues Vol. 2
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson w/ Buddy Tate Queen Bee Blues Honk For Texas
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson Bald Head Blues Honk For Texas
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson Mr. Cleanhead Steps OutHonk For Texas
Cousin Joe w/ Earl Bostic Fly Hen BluesCousin Joe Vol. 1 1945-1947
Earl BosticLet's Ball Tonight - Part 1Earl Bostic 1945-48
Earl BosticEarl Blows A FuseEarl Bostic Blows a Fuse

Show Notes:

Hal "Cornbread" Singer

Today's show is a part one of our look at some great New York based sax men who's honkin' sound was heard on hundreds of records in the 40's and 50's. This show is one of several sax based shows this year starting a few months ago with a two-part show of Chicago horn men , followed by two spotlighting some great L.A. Horn blowers. Illinois Jacquet is cited as the one who kicked off the era of honkin' sax in 1945 with his famous solo on "Flying Home" while working with Lionel Hampton's band. As Big Jay McNeely said of of the song, "every time we picked up our horns we were just elaborating on that, trying to make it bigger, wilder, give it more swing, more kick. If you want to know where rhythm and blues began, that's it brother."  Today we spin some great honkin' sax records, some cut by the horn men themselves and others featuring their raucous playing behind some great blues singers, both well known and obscure. The records were issued on a myriad of small New York independent labels labels such as Atlas, Derby, Coral,  Apollo, Groove, Fire/Fury, Savoy and bigger players such as King and Atlantic. Along the way we'll hear some exciting instrumentals and hear them back some terrific blues singers, both famous like Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown, to the obscure such as Eddie Mack, Mr. Bear and Edna McGriff. Among those featured today are legendary horn men such as Hal Singer and Freddie Mitchell who played on countless sessions as well as recording some exciting sides under their own names. Then there were sax men primarily know for their session work such as the prolific Sam “The Man” Taylor, Budd Johnson and Big Al Sears. There were the sax men who led their own bands and were stars in their own right such as Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams, Red Prysock, Earl Bostic and Bullmoose Jackson. Others heard today include the incendiary Noble “Thin Man” Watts, the rising star King Curtis, Willis “Gator” Jackson, Buddy Lucas, Frank Culley and others. On part two we'll spin more great tracks by theses sax men as well as hearing form others such as Sil Austin, Buddy Tate, Charlie Singleton and more. We'll provide some background on some of today's artists and fill in details about the rest next week.

If you pour through the session details of the hundreds of New York City R&B sessions that took place in the mid-40's through the 50's you'll run across several sax men time and again, including Hal Singer, Freddie Mitchell, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Big Al Sears  and Budd Johnson. Hal Singer played with the legendary South Western and Mid Western territory bands of T Holder, Ernie Fields, Tommy Douglas and Jay McShann. He lent his torrid tenor saxophone style to R&B hits from Wynonie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight" in 1947 to Little Willie John's "Talk To Me, Talk To Me" in 1958, and conducted his own successful recording career from 1948, kicking off with "Cornbread" – a title that would provide his nickname for the next several years. Singer formed his own quartet, which played on some blues sessions for Savoy Records eventually recording signing a contract with the label in 1948 which lasted until 1949. He would record again for the label for a longer term from 1952 to1956 – and in the meantime Singer recorded for Mercury (1950) and Coral (1951/52), as well as playing back-up on countless R&B and rock 'n' roll sessions. rom the late 1950s into the early 1960s, in addition to touring extensively with many jazz, R&B and rock 'n' roll package shows, Singer recorded for DeLuxe and Prestige and between 1958 and 1961 he played in the famous New York club Metropole with Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Shavers, Henry "Red" Allen, Cozy Cole and Claude Hopkins.

Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams

Born in Orlando, Florida, in 1918, young Freddie Mitchell became a blues pianist in nearby Tampa before moving to New York City with his family at about 13 years of age. Upon leaving high school he joined Benny Carter's Orchestra in late 1940 and in 1941 joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra and also briefly played with Hot Lips Page and Louis Armstrong.  By 1949 Mitchell was approached by Larry Newton, owner of Derby Records, to be a contracted artist and the in-house bandleader. Leaving Derby after three years, Mitchell recorded for Mercury (1952), Coral, Brunswick and Gem (1953), Jubilee (1954), Rock 'n' Roll (1955), ABC Paramount (1956-61) and a one-off session for Herb Abramson in 1959. y 1952 he had become a top New York session musician and can be heard on many hits, particularly those from Atlantic: Joe Turner's "Sweet Sixteen", Ray Charles' "It Should've Been Me", Ruth Brown's "Wild, Wild Young Men" and LaVern Baker's "Soul On Fire" to name a fraction.

Sam Taylor began working with Scat Man Crothers and the Sunset Royal Orchestra in the late '30s. He played with Cootie Williams and Lucky Millinder in the early '40s, then worked six years with Cab Calloway. Taylor toured South America and the Caribbean during his tenure with Calloway. Taylor began to get work as a session musician in 1952 and did work for Atlantic, Savoy, and Apollo Records. In November of that year he was signed by former MGM record man Joe Davis who has a stable of labels including Beacon, Joe Davis, and Jay-Dee. Taylor became the saxophonist of choice for many R&B dates through the '50s, recording with Ray Charles, Buddy Johnson, Louis Jordan, and Big Joe Turner, among others.

Al Sears had actually had his first important job in 1928 replacing Hodges with the Chick Webb band. However, despite associations with Elmer Snowden (1931-1932), Andy Kirk (1941-1942), Lionel Hampton (1943-1944), and with his own groups (most of 1933-1941), it was not until Sears joined Duke Ellington's Orchestra in 1944 that he began to get much attention. Sears worked with Johnny Hodges' group during 1951-1952, recorded a variety of R&B-oriented material in the 1950s backing artists such as Big Joe Turner, Nappy Brown, Piano Red, Cousin Joe and others. He cut two excellent albums for Swingville in 1960 before going into semi-retirement.

Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson

In the 1920's Budd Johnson performed in Texas and parts of the Midwest, working with Jesse Stone among others. Johnson had his recording debut while working with Louis Armstrong's band in 1932-33 but he is more known for his work, over many years, with Earl Hines. Johnson was also an early figure in the bebop era, doing sessions with Coleman Hawkins in 1944. In the 1950s he led his own group and did session work for Atlantic Records – he is the featured tenor saxophone soloist on Ruth Brown's hit "Teardrops from My Eyes."

Several sax men spent time leading their own bands and became quite famous during this era. Among those were Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams and Earl Bostic. Eddie Vinson first picked up a horn while attending high school in Houston. During the late '30s, he was a member of an incredible horn section in Milton Larkins's orchestra, sitting next to Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet. Vinson joined the Cootie Williams Orchestra from 1942 to 1945. His vocals on trumpeter Williams' renditions of "Cherry Red" and "Somebody's Got to Go" were big hits. Vinson struck out on his own in 1945, forming his own large band, signing with Mercury, and enjoying a double-sided smash in 1947 with "Old Maid Boogie" and  "Kidney Stew Blues." Between 1949-1952 he did a stint at King Records.  Vinson steadfastly kept one foot in the blues camp and the other in jazz, waxing jumping R&B for Mercury (in 1954) and Bethlehem (1957), jazz for Riverside in 1961 (with Cannonball Adderley), and blues for Blues Time and ABC-BluesWay.

Saxophonist and bandleader Paul Williams scored one of the first big hits of the R&B era in 1949 with "The Hucklebuck," an adaption of Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time." The song topped the R&B charts for 14 weeks in 1949, and was one of three Top Ten and five other Top 20 R&B instrumental hits that Williams scored for Savoy in 1948 and 1949. He was later part of Atlantic Records' house band in the '60s, and directed the Lloyd Price and James Brown orchestras until 1964.

Earl Bostic played around the Midwest during the early '30s, studied at Xavier University, and toured with several bands before moving to New York in 1938. In the early '40s, he worked as an arranger and session musician, and began leading his own regular large group in 1945. Cutting back to a septet the next year, Bostic began recording regularly, scoring his first big hit with 1948's "Temptation." He soon signed with the King label, the home of most of his biggest jukebox hits. In 1951, Bostic landed a number one R&B hit with "Flamingo," plus another Top Ten in "Sleep." Subsequent hits included "You Go to My Head" and "Cherokee." Bostic's bands became important training grounds for up-and-coming jazzmen like John Coltrane, Blue Mitchell, Stanley Turrentine, Benny Golson, Jaki Byard, and others.


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