Big Road Blues ...vintage blues radio & writing Mon, 23 Nov 2015 01:30:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Big Road Blues Show 11/22/15: Mix Show Mon, 23 Nov 2015 01:30:22 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Clifton Chenier Yesterday (I Lost My Best Friend) Zodico Blues and Boogie Dewey Corley Last NightOn The Road Again Kansas City KittyDouble Trouble Kansas City Kitty 1930-1934 Famous Hokum BoysYou Can't Get Enough Of That StuffThe Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Vol. 2 Harum ScarumCome On In (Ain't Nobody Here) Blues Images Vol. 9 Scrapper BlackwellNobody Knows When You're Down And OutMr. Scrapper's Blues Joe CallicottGreat Long Ways From HomeThe 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival Henry JohnsonSittin' Down Thinkin'Carolina Country Blues Lane Hardin Cartey BluesBlues Images Vol. 9 Wright Holmes Drove From Home BluesAlley Special Smoky Babe Talkin' BabyThe Country Blues Willie Nix Riding in the MoonlightSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958 Blind Leroy Garnett Frisco BoundThe Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Vol. 2 Buddy Boy Hawkins Snatch It And Grab ItBuddy Boy Hawkins And His Buddies Carolina Peanut BoysYou Got Me Rollin'Vintage Mandolin Music Geechie SmithThe Kaycee KidSwinging Small Combos Kansas City Style Vol. 2 Jo Jo Adams Jo-Jo's Troubles Jo-Jo Adams 1946-1953 Lavarda DurstI CriedHouston Might Be Heaven Vol. 1 Big Joe Turner Just A Travelin' ManBig Joe Turner: Classic Hits 1938-1952 Kid Prince Moore South Bound BluesKid Prince Moore 1936-1938 Willie Harris West Side BluesFavorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937 Sylvester Weaver Bottleneck Blues Bottleneck Blues Guitar Classics 1926-1937 D.C. BenderWoke Up This MorningIn The Alley: The Story of Ivory Records Mabel Franklin w/ D.C. Bender Unhappy WomanStompin' Vol. 9 Bill GaitherRocky Mountain Blues Bill Gaither Vol. 2 1936-1938 Lightnin' HopkinsRocky Mountain The Complete Prestige / Bluesville Recordings Big Chief EllisRocky Mountain BluesBig Chief Ellis Jaybird ColemanMistreatin' MamaStuff That Dreams are Made Of Sonny Boy WilliamsonMattie Mae BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2 AlexPrison BluesPrison Songs Vol. 1: Murderous Home Little Son Willis Baby Come Back HomeDown Home Blues Classics: California & The West Coast 1948 -1954 Thunder SmithWest Coast BluesUnfinished Boogie: Western Blues Piano 1946-1952

Show Notes:

The last few weeks we've featured a pair of interesting interviews with another one ready to air shortly. We pause with the interviews this week with an interesting mix show today. On deck today are some fine hokum blues from a group of famous bluesmen who recorded under several different names, we have a couple of sets devoted to well known blues numbers, we play a couple of tracks featuring underrated guitarist D.C. Bender, we hear from some fine blues crooners and are usual mix of down-home and pre-war blues.

HarumScarum AdWe play a set of hokum blues by the groups the Famous Hokum Boys, Harun Scarum and a song credited to Kansas City Kitty. The Famous Hokum Boys "You Can't Get Enough Of That Stuff" is a typical good time hokum piece.The group was a loose-knit aggregation of blues singers that included Georgia Tom, Tampa Red, and Big Bill Broonzy. The Harum Scarums included Big Bill Broonzy, Georgia Tom Dorsey and Jane Lucas on vocals. This record was issued on Paramount in 1931 but no known copies of the Paramount record have been found. The record was issued by two other companies, Crown and Varsity which used the Paramount master. As record collector John Tefteller said: "I’ve had the ad for a long time, but there was no copy on Paramount anywhere I could find,” he said. “This last year, somebody said, 'Why aren’t you using that,' and I said, ‘Yeah, find me that record.’”"Double Trouble" is a fine straight blues numbers sporting some excellent piano work from most likely Eddie Morgan.

While the music is fairly straightforward, unraveling who Kansas City Kitty and who Jane Lucas were is much more complicated. Researcher/writer Howard Rye attempted to make sense of it all. "The only certainty  about "Kansas City Kitty" is that she never  existed. The pseudonym was applied by Vocalion in 1930/31  to a singer or singers who recorded mainly hokum material in duets with Georgia Tom Dorsey. In 1934, the name was re-used by Victor's Bluebird subsidiary for a solo vocal session with different accompaniment. … In the early 1960s and again in the mid-1970s, Thomas A. Dorsey, who should have known, if anyone still did, whose identity was concealed by 'Kansas City Kitty', told interviewers she was Mozelle Alderson. He also stated that Jane Lucas, who made a number of similar records in 1930 for Gennett's Champion label, was the same singer. As it is generally conceded that the singer who recorded in the same idiom earlier in 1930 for the American Record Company's labels as 'Hannah May' is the same person as Gennett's Jane Lucas, these would also be by Mozelle Alderson. …The Vocalion file cards for Kansas City Kitty's unissued session of 21 January 1931 (which are in the CBS filing) name the singer as Mozelle Alderson. Aurally, it seems quite possible that all the 1930/31 recordings by 'Kansas City Kitty', 'Hannah May' and 'Jane Lucas' are by the same singer and their style is consistent with Mozelle Alderson's 1930 recordings. …The Victor files and composer credits are said by Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943 to 'tend to confirm' (whatever that means!) that Kansas City Kitty's real name was Thelma Holmes. This identification was given as a fact in a 1961 article by Paul Oliver (Jazz Monthly, November 1961) but no source is stated."

We spin a trio of 'Rocky Mountain Blues" songs. The oft covered “Rocky Mountain Blues” was first recorded by Bill Gaither in 1937. The song must have been popular as he recorded “New Rocky Mountain Blues” in 1939. The theme has been recorded many times over the years including versions by Lightnin' Hopkins (he cut the song in 1947 for Aladdin and again in the 60's for Prestige) , Champion Jack Dupree, Pete Franklin, Big Chief Ellis and others.

We also feature two songs based on Little Walter's classic "Last Night" which he cut in 1954. Walter told an English journalist "I made 'Last Night' after my best friend Henry Strong got killed …he was my best friend, so I made 'Last Night' as a tribute to him." The song was recorded a month after strong was stabbed to death by a jealous girlfriend . Strong was supposed to take the harmonica chair in Muddy Waters band but that ended up being filled by George "Harmonica" Smith. From 1995 we Clifton Chenier's "Yesterday (I Lost My Best Friend)" from 1955 and Dewey Corley's "Last Night" in 1972.

D.C. Bender, source: Blues Unlimited 148/149 (Winter 1987)

D.C. Bender used Houston as his base in the 1940's , playing alongside Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smokey Hogg, Wright Holmes and Luther Stoneham. He recorded for the Gold Star label as DC Washington in 1948, and, five years later, accompanied Big Son Tillis on a session recorded in Los Angeles for the Elko label. He did not record again until he backed Mabel Franklin on a single in 1964. The same year he also backed singer Calvin Johnson. By that time he had joined drummer Ivory Lee Semien’s band, with who he recorded a version of ‘Boogie Chillen’ in 1967 for Semien’s Ivory label. Other songs from that session were unissued. In 1967 he also backed singer Big H Williams on on record. Bender died in Houston in 1982.

Speaking of the aforementioned Wright Holmes, we play his "Drove From Home Blues" today. Holmes was based in Houston from 1930, by which time he was already a blues singer and guitarist, working in clubs on Dowling Street. His first recordings in 1947 for Gold Star were not issued because the producer felt he sounded too much like Lightnin’ Hopkins. Later that year others sides were issued by Miltone and Gotham. In all he only left three songs behind.

A couple of weeks back I interviewed Bill Greensmith. In the preface to Blues Unlimited: Essential Interviews from the Original Blues Magazine he wrote: "The Chicago R&B and jump music scene of the 1940s and '50s happily coexisted alongside the more celebrated and familiar down-home amplified style of Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter. …In 1974 Mike Leadbitter, in a column titled 'Chicago Flipside', was one of the first people to bemoan the fact that these artists, the clubs they performed in, and the companies who were recording them were largely undocumented." One of these artists was Jo Jo Adams heard today on the fine "Jo-Jo's Troubles." Adams was once quite a celebrity in the 1940s and 1950s Chicago music and entertainment circle. He was comedian/singer/dancer/emcee and leader of a successful revue. He first recorded in 1946 for the Melody Lane Record Shop label become Hy-Tone Records and the two Adams releases were reissued on the new label. During the summer of 1946, Adams was in Los Angeles, recording for Aladdin Records with the Maxwell Davis All Stars. By the end of the year, he was back in Chicago recording for Hy-Tone. In 1947 and 48, he recorded a sessions for Aristocrat Records with Tom Archia's All Stars. In 1952 he cut six sides for Chance Records and his last known release was issued the following year on Al Benson's Parrot label. His complete recordings have been collected on the Classics label.



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Big Road Blues Show 11/8/15: B.U. Blues – Blues From Bexhill-on-Sea Mon, 09 Nov 2015 00:49:00 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Bill GreensmithInterview Juke Boy BonnerB.U. BluesThings Ain't Right Juke Boy BonnerWhere I LiveThings Ain't Right Juke Boy BonnerCall Me Juke BoyGoin' Down To Louisiana Joe DeanMexico Bound BluesDown In Black Bottom Joe DeanI'm So Glad I'm Twenty-One Years Old Today Shake Your Wicked Knees Dr. HepcatHattie GreenLyons Avenue Jive Sparks BrothersLouisiana BoundSparks Brothers 1932-1935 Sparks BrothersTell Her About MeSparks Brothers 1932-1935 Juke boy BonnerYakin' in My Plans45, Blues Unlimited 101 Juke boy BonnerRunnin' Shoes 45, Blues Unlimited 101 Big Maceo Wintertime BluesBig Maceo with Tampa Red Big Maceo Kid Man BluesBig Maceo Vol. 1 1941-1945 Big Maceo Detroit Jump Big Maceo Vol. 2 1945-1950 Big Maceo Chicago Breakdown Big Maceo Vol. 2 1945-1950 Louise Johnson By The Moon And StarsJuke Joint Saturday Night Louise Johnson On The Wall Juke Joint Saturday Night The Four Blazes w/ Red HollowayWomen, WomenMary Jo Sunnyland Slimw/ Red HollowaySunnyland Slim 1952-1955

Show Notes:

Blues UnlimitedAs Bill Greensmith writes in the introduction to Blues Unlimited: Essential Interviews from the Original Blues Magazine: "Bexhill-on-Sea is a sleepy seaside town in East Sussex on the south coast of England., seemingly populated by old ladies and retired servicemen. …It was unquestionably the most unlikely of locations for the birthplace of Blues Unlimited, the world's first publication devoted solely to the blues. …Bexhill was home to both Simon Napier and Mike Leadbitter, Blues Unlimited's founding editors. …In April 1963, six months after the first AFBF [American Folk Blues Festival] toured Europe, the first issue of Blues Unlimited was published." The magazine was an outgrowth of The Journal of the Blues Appreciation Society formed in May 1962. The first issue was a success, selling out all 180 copies. By issue thirteen the run was up to one thousand and photos included for the first time. Greensmith wrote: "Researchers, discographers, and enthusiasts from Europe and the United States soon began to freely contribute articles, interviews, reviews, and information. …The early BU's managed to covey a wonderful sense of adventure; the enthusiasm was palpable. The early '60's saw the rediscovery of several artists who had recorded in the '20's and '30's, and Blues Unlimited was among the first to report the findings. …From today's vantage point it is sometimes easy to forget the time and context which BU began operating. Few blues artists had ever been the subject of an article or formal interview before appearing in BU. The magazine hit issue one hundred in 1973 and three issues later Simon Nappier stepped down with Mike Leadbetter taking sole ownership. Sadly, in November the next year Leadbitter died of meningitis at the age of 32. BU forged ahead with a five-person editorial committee talking over including Bill Greensmith. BU soldiered on until 1987 with a final double issue, 148/149.

I got into blues seriously when I was around sixteen and picked up my first Blues Unlimited right before the magazine went under. The magazine was a revelation and I even remember where I first picked it up – it was at tiny store called See Hear in the East Village that specialized in strange zines and other publications. Over the years I managed to pick up some of the back issues. The articles and reviews that appeared in the lengthy run of  Blues Unlimited are a treasure of information about the blues, much of the information remains unsurpassed, and locked away, more or less inaccessible unless you were picking up the magazine form the beginning. As far as I know you can't access back issues at any library and there is no archive online. This is why the new book is so valuable, even if it gives us just a brief look at the wealth found in those old BU's. Hopefully there will be a sequel.   On today's Show I air an interview I conducted with Bill Greensmith a few weeks back. Bill was a wonderful and knowledgeable interview. Even though we chatted for over an hour we only touched on a few of the artists (chosen by my interest) featured in the book and today's show revolves around those artists. Below is some background.

Juke Boy Bonner's musical career began as a child, singing in a gospel group and by the age of twelve he had taught himself the guitar. In 1947 he moved to Houston, winning first prize in a talent show at the Lincoln Theatre in the city. This success lead to regular gigs at lounges, bars and juke joints throughout the Houston area, however the chances to record were strictly limited and by the mid-fifties he headed for the West Coast. In 1957, Bonner made his recording debut for the Irma label, in Oakland, California cutting four sides. Just two sides were issued, "Rock With Me Baby"/"Well Baby." He returned to touring the South, frequenting bars and juke joints in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, where he cut three sessions for Goldband Records in Lake Charles in 1960, billed as Juke Boy Bonner — The One Man Trio. Some of these sides found their way to a European release on a Storyville album and attracted attention from European blues enthusiasts. But the breaks didn't come Juke Boy's way until 1967, when sterling work primarily by editors of Blues Unlimited magazine led to recording opportunities for the small Flyright label and for an eventual European tour. During the late 60's, Bonner suffered from bouts of ill health and underwent major stomach surgery. He earned a meager living playing gigs in Houston.

Blues Unlimited raised enough money for Juke Boy to cut a 45 for the Blues Unlimited label in Houston in 1967. Chris Strachwitz, owner of Arhoolie Records, on a field trip to Texas heard the record and cut an album with him in December 1967. Further sessions followed for Arhoolie in Houston during 1967, 1968 and 1969. Passport difficulties prevented him from joining the 1968 Folk Blues Festival Tour. He found his way to Europe in 1969 where he cut the album Things Ain't Right for Liberty. Throughout the early and mid-seventies his popularity grew and he continued to tour Europe as well as playing dates in Houston, however he couldn't match his European popularity at home. He became dogged by ill health, divorced from his wife and living in a small rented 10ft by 10ft room in a rundown house in the heart of Houston's black ghetto. Bonner was reduced to unloading trucks and collecting aluminum cans to make a living. The frustration and bitterness are reflected in the comments made by a longtime friend to the Houston Chronicle: "He used to say he could go to Europe and earn $1000 dollars but he couldn't make $50 in his hometown." He died in 1978. The week of his death the Houston Chronicle ran the headline: “Weldon ‘Juke Boy’ Bonner, well known in Europe, dies alone in his hometown.”

Simon Napier and Mike LeadbitterAaron and Marion (he changed his name to Milton in 1929) were twins born to Ruth and Sullie Gant in Tupelo, Mississippi. The brothers cut four sessions as the Sparks Brothers, the first for Victor and the other three for Bluebird, between 1932 and 1935. Milton cut two songs for Decca in 1934 under the name Flyin' Lindberg. Aaron backed a number of St. Louis artists at their second session: Elisabeth Washington, Tecumseh McDowell, Dorotha Trowbridge, James "Stump" Johnson and Charlie McFadden. The brothers' led rough and tumble lives reflected in songs that dealt with gambling, jail, alcohol, woman, hoboing and railroads. In spite of their lyrics and rough background, the music the brothers made was surprisingly tender and wistful. They excelled at thoughtful, mid-tempo blues such as "East Chicago Blues", "Down On The Levee" and "4X11=44" a reference to number combination for playing policy.

Milton possessed a strong, nasal voice that is extremely appealing while Milton had a warm, sensitive vocal that occasionally dips into a mellow falsetto. Aaron was an exceptional and versatile piano player as Chris Smith appraises: "Aaron's playing features the steady chordal basses typical of St. Louis, and a very inventive right hand, endowed with melodic grace and propulsive energy. He was also a capable boogie playe r, with a singing line and a fondness for medium tempos." Aaron's fine abilities as an accompanist extend to his backing a trio of St. Louis ladies. Elisabeth Washington was an appealing, slightly nasal singer with a good sense of delivery; "Riot Call Blues" and "Whiskey Blues" (1933) are particularly tough blues with the latter opening with the line "Everyday I have the blues" a song that the brothers would debut two years later. Mike Rowe with help from Charlie O'Brien wrote the definitive pice on the Sparks Brothers in Blues Unlimited 144 published in 1983. The bulk of the information came from an interview with the brothers' uncle, Aaron Sparks.

Joe Dean recorded one great 78 in 1930: “I'm So Glad I'm Twenty-One Years Old Today b/w Mexico Bound Blues" for Paramount, who dubbed him ‘‘Joe Dean from Bowling Green.’’ Dean was born in St. Louis on April 25, 1908. Raised by his widowed mother, Dean began by playing house parties and small clubs. Dean worked in a steel mill, playing intermittently, until the 1950's. He remained musically active on a part-time basis into the 1960's. He eventually became the Rev. Joe Dean and died on June 24 1981. He was interviewed by Mike Rowe for Blues Unlimited 127 in 1977.

Lavada Durst, known as Dr. Hepcat, who was a disciple of Robert Shaw but who recorded infrequently. He worked in baseball for much of his life, training players and announcing games, and it was from the latter activity that he graduated to working as a DJ, broadcasting over KVET, a white station in Austin. There he developed the persona of Dr.Hepcat, with an extraordinary line in jive talk. He also made a few records of his own, but despite his high profile on radio, it appears that these can't have sold very well, as they are extremely rare, even one issued on the comparatively major independent label Peacock; the other two were on the local Uptown label, one issued under the pseudonym of Cool Papa Smith. He made a handful of latter day recordings before passing in 1995. Dr. Hepcat was interviewed in Blues Unlimited 129 in 1978.

Blues writer Chris Smith wrote the following about Big Maceo: “On both slow blues and boogies, Big Maceo played powerful, sometimes challengingly chromatic bass figures and anvil-sparkling right-hand flourishes and solos. He could be a jovial singer, but more typical were husky, plaintive, fatalistic accounts of trouble with women and the law.  …His playing and Tampa Red’s amplified guitar foreshadow the sound of postwar Chicago.” Maceo had a profound influence on postwar Chicago piano despite a relativley sparse discography; his short career spanned the years 1941 through 1950, where he recorded just over three dozen sides as well as backing partner Tampa Red on eighteen sides and providing session work behind Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jazz Gillum and John & Grace Brim.

Blues Unlimited Number OneMaceo's first session fielded 14 sides, with the first single becoming the most important of his career: "Worried Life Blues". At the conclusion of the war, Melrose immediately brought his stable of blues artists back to the studio. Maceo resumed his work with Tampa Red. Maceo recorded more sides in 1945 including his classic piano instrumental "Chicago Breakdown." Unfortunately, Big Maceo's career was cut short after he suffered a stroke in 1946 that left him almost completely paralyzed on his right side. Over the next few years, he would attempt to record several more times despite his handicap, and still remained a fine singer. Occasionally other pianists would play while he sang.

Louise Johnson was barrelhouse pianist and girlfriend of Charlie Patton’s who went to Grafton to make records with Patton, Willie Brown and Son House in 1930. She cut four sides at that session, her sole recorded legacy. From the book Preachin' The Blues Dan Beaumont writes: "North of Robinsonville, Patton directed Ford to visit the Kirby plantation where they picked up a young woman named Louise Johnson, who was one of Patton’s girlfriends. Johnson sang and played piano in a barrelhouse operated by a Liny Armstrong.  Willie Brown had heard her playing, and he then introduced her to Patton who soon found time for her.  House remembered her 'nice-lookin’…’bout twenty-three, twenty-four years old.'  And like her boyfriend Patton, she 'didn’t do nothin’ but drink and play music; she didn’t work for nobody…' Somewhere along the trip her and Patton had a fight and she became House's girlfriend. "Back in Mississippi, the foursome played in a barrelhouse on the Kirby plantation near Lula for a brief time, then went their separate ways.  According to [Stephen]  Calt and [Gayle] Wardlow, House saw Louise Johnson only once after 1930. He thought she had moved to Helena, Arkansas.  Another report had her playing in the 1930's on the King and Anderson plantation near Clarksdale.  Then she vanished from view." Bob Hall and Richard Noblet wrote the definitive piece on her in Blues Unlimited 115 in 1975. No additional information has turned up on her since.

Bill Greensmith writes to in the preface to the Red Holloway interview: "The Chicago R&B and jump music scene of the 1940s and '50s happily coexisted alongside the more celebrated and familiar down-home amplified style of Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter. …In 1974 Mike Leadbitter, in a column titled 'Chicago Flipside', was one of the first people to bemoan the fact that these artists, the clubs they performed in, and the companies who were recording them were largely undocumented." Red Holloway was very much part of this scene and Bill Greensmith conducted a wonderful. candid interview with him that was published in Blues Unlimited 117 and 118 in 1976. Today we close the show with  Holloway backing The Four Blazes and Sunnyland Slim.


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Big Road Blues Show 11/1/15: Tar Road Blues – John Tefteller's Rare Blues & Gospel 78's Mon, 02 Nov 2015 00:40:35 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM John TeftellerInterview Jim Jackson My Monday BluesBlues Images Vol. 13 Blind Blake Wabash RagBlues Images Vol. 13 Charlie KyleWalking BluesBlues Images Vol. 13 Jed DavenportBeale Street BreakdownBlues Images Vol. 13 Jaydee ShortTar Road BluesBlues Images Vol. 13 Jaydee ShortFlaggin’ It To GeorgiaBlues Images Vol. 13 Willie BrownM & O Blues Blues Images Vol. 3 Willie BrownFuture BluesMasters of the Delta Blues King Solomon HillMy Buddy, Blind Papa LemonBlues Images Vol. 2 Son HouseMississippi County Farm BluesBlues Images Vol. 2 Hattie HydeSpecial QuestionBlues Images Vol. 13 Hattie HydeT & N O BluesBlues Images Vol. 13 Charlie McCoy Country Guy BluesBlues Images Vol. 13 Charlie McCoy Boogie WoogieBlues Images Vol. 13 Blind Lemon JeffersonSee That My Grave's Kept CleanBlues Images Vol. 13 Blind Lemon Jefferson ’Lectric Chair BluesBlues Images Vol. 13 Blind Willie JohnsonWhen The War Was OnBlues Images Vol. 13 Blind Joe Reynolds Ninety-Nine BluesBlues Images Vol. 2

Show Notes:

2016 Blues Calendar Today's program revolves around record collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. I spoke with John a couple of weeks back and I'll be airing the interview today. According to his website he has the world's largest inventory of blues, rhythm & blues and rock & roll 78's with over 75,000 in stock. Every year around this time 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 thirteenth year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up newly discovered sides which I'll be featuring today. Among those are newly discovered sides by J.D Short, Charlie McCoy and Hattie Hyde. 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. This year's calendar contains some great ads and fabulous photos, some not seen before. Check out Tefteller's website Blues Images for more details.

Tefteller's reissue are not only noteworthy for the newly discovered records 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.This time out 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. If you want to know more you'll need to listen to the interview. 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.

Among the newly discovered 78's are records by Jaydee Short, Charlie McCoy and Hattie Hyde. Eighty-four years after it was recorded and originally released, J.D. Short's, Paramount 13091, "Tar Road Blues" b/ w "Flagin' It To Georgia" has been found. As Tefteller said: "It turned up shoved into the back of an old Victrola record player cabinet along with a stack of other Blues records from the same time period." To other other 78's by Short have yet to be found: "Steamboat Rousty" b/w "Gittin' Up On The Hill" and "Drafted Mama" b/w "Wake Up Bright Eye Mama" both recorded at the same Paramount session in 1930. Singer Hattie Hyde cut one record in Dallas in 1929 for Victor with backing from an unknown guitarist and harmonica player. Tefteller attributed the record to Memphis singer Hattie Hart backed by the Memphis Jug Band but this appears to Jaydee Short: Tar Road Bluesbe incorrect. It's still a fine record that's never been heard since it was released so nothing to complain about. The Charlie McCoy 78, "Country Guy Blues" b/w "Boogie Woogie" is also a one-of-the-kind record and a typically excellent one by McCoy.

The rest of today's playlist is all made up from 78's from Tefteller's collection. From his latest CD we hear classic tracks by Jim Jackson, Blind Blake, Charlie Kyle, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Willie Brown  and others. Speaking of Kyle, there's a fabulous photo of him in the calendar that's has not been published before. Kyle played 12-string guitar and was said to have been from Texas where he may have traveled to Memphis in 1928 along with female blues singers Bessie Tucker and Ida Mae Mack to record. Six of his songs were recorded, only four were issued. One of the two Jefferson songs played today is his "See That My Grave's Kept Clean" which Son House used the melody for on his 1930 recording of "Mississippi County Farm Blues" also featured today and discovered several years back. Other records played today are something of a greatest hits of Tefteller's past discoveries including legendary sides by Blind Joe Reynolds, King Solomon Hill and others.


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Big Road Blues Show 10/25/15: Mix Show Sun, 25 Oct 2015 20:47:20 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Sam CollinsYellow Dog BluesSam Collins 1927-1931 Bo Weavil JacksonYou Can't Keep No BrownBottleneck Blues Guitar Classics Andrew DunhamNezeree Blues Andrew Dunham & Friends: Detroit Blues Vol. 2 Andrew DunhamWay Down In Hell Andrew Dunham & Friends: Detroit Blues Vol. 2 George Guesnon Draw's Trouble BluesCreole Blues Guitar Slim Green My MarieStone Down Blues (Ace) Howlin' Wolf Ain't Goin' Down That Dirt Road #2The Roots Of It All: Acoustic Blues The 1960's & 1970's Little Willie LittlefieldTrain Whistle BluesKat On The Keys Big MaceoTexas Blues Big Maceo Vol. 1 1941-1945 Eddie BoydI Got The BluesEddie Boyd Vol. 2 1951-1953 Al Miller 22-20 BluesAl Miller 1927-1936 Al Miller Got The Blues (Can't Be Satisfied)Al Miller 1927-1936 John DudleyJohn DudleySouthern Journey Vol.3: 61 Highway Mississippi Fred McDowell, Miles Pratcher & Fanny DavisPlaying Policy BluesSouthern Journey Vol.3: 61 Highway Mississippi Walter DavisM & O BluesFirst Recordings 1930-1932 Willie BrownM & O BluesThe Roots Of It All: Acoustic Blues The 1920's & 1930's Georgia TomM & O Blues Part 1Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934 Manny Nichols Tall Skinny Mama BluesLightnin' Special Vol. 2 Lightnin' HopkinsBad Things on My MindLightnin' Special Vol. 2 James Brewer Good Morning BluesJames Brewer Blind Willie JohnsonDark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground Blues Images Vol. 10 Robert JohnsonCross Road Blues The Centennial Collection Lonesome SundownSitting On Another Man's KneeGenuine Excello R&B Floyd JonesYou Can't Live LongDrop Down Mama Papa LightfootP.L. Blues Suckin' And Blowin' Carl Martin Crow JaneThe Roots Of It All: Acoustic Blues The 1920's & 1930's Little Hat JonesKentucky BluesMy Rough And Rowdy Ways Vol. 1 Famous Hokum BoysEagle Riding PapaFamous Hokum Boys Vol. 1 1930

Show Notes:

Al Miller 78Right now we are in the midst of out fall pledge drive, so due to the shortened time frame we have a mixed show for today. A varied set list today including twin spins by Al Miller and Andrew Dunham, a trio of songs revolving around a well known blues number, a few  tracks from from a great project by the Bear Family label, a set of piano blues and plenty more odds and ends.

Mandolinist Al Miller is not exactly a household name. As Howard Rye wrote of his music: "as a body of work, the music is not exactly blues and not exactly jazz. This failure to conform to the categories of record collectors has no doubt contributed to Miller's obscurity… However, this eclectic mixture of styles and material gave way to a heavy concentration on bawdry once he arrived at Brunswick and the series of recordings by his Market Street Boys. 'Somebody's Been Using That Thing 'was evidently his  big seller, generating five versions (three issued)." During the years 1927-1936 Miller cut twenty-six sides under his own name and under the names Al Miller's String Band, Al Miller and his Market Street Boys and  Al Miller and his Swing Stompers. He also sat in with pianist Cripple Clarence Lofton and singers Red Nelson , Luella Miller and Mozelle Alderson. After cutting his first sides for Black Patti records, Miller cut sides for Paramount and Brunswick.

A number of Miller's songs fell into the hokum genre which were characterized by a a bouncy, ragtime sound coupled with humor and risque subject matter. Hokum blues was propelled by Georgia Tom and Tampa Red's 1929 hit "It's Tight Like That." We hear more hokum from the Famous Hokum Boys, not to be confused by the group simply called the Hokum Boys. The Famous Hokum Boys were a loose-knit aggregation of blues singers that included Georgia Tom, Tampa Red, and Big Bill Broonzy.

Willie Brown M & O Blues Ad

Andrew Dunham was recorded by Bernie Besman in 1948 and 1949 in Detroit.Bessman operated the Sensation label which issued John Lee Hooker's first recordings including Hooker's smash "Boogie Chillen." Dunham may have also accompanied John Lee Hooker on a number of recordings cut in 1951 and leased to Modern and Chess. The Dunham sides, along with sides by Sylvester Cotton, were first issued on the LP Andrew Dunham & Friends 1948-1949 on the Krazy Kat label in 1984.At the time, Bessman only issued one 78 apiece by Dunham and Cotton. Several years back Ace issued most of these sides on the CD Blues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949. Several of the tracks on the Krazy Kat album have not been issued on the Ace CD although the Ace contains some unreleased material. As Chris Smith wrote in the notes to the Krazy Kat release (he also wrote the notes to the Ace record)): "The compositions that appear here show Dunham to be a guitarist who infuses considerable aggression and tension into his music by means of heavy bass figures and the use of dissonant extensions in the treble register; he is well aware of the potential of amplification for adding to the effect. His singing too, is energetic, often giving the impression of improvisation in melody and lyrics. The latter are overwhelmingly concerned with the man-woman relationship. generality in a misogynistic vein and often, one feels, with a good deal of suppressed violence lending weight."

"M & O Blues" was first recorded in 1930 by Walter Davis for Vctor. The song was a hit and Davis cut sequels to the songs. Willie Brown cut a song with the same title for Paramount the same year but it's a different song. Paramount may having been trying to cash in on the popularity of Davis' song and they did create an ad promoting the song. Several blues artists reinterpreted the song, most notably Robert Johnson who used the melody for "Rambling On My Mind" in 1936. Georgia Tom covered the song as a two-part 78 in 1932 and we feature part one today.

Blues Sensation
Read Liner Notes

Bear Family has recently issued  four 2- CD  sets called The Roots Of It All: Acoustic Blues spanning the 1923 through the 2012. From these discs we spin tracks by Carl Martin, Willie Brown and Howlin' Wolf. This can be seen as a complement to their sets of electric blues sets of a few years back, this time chronologically covering the history of acoustic blues. Each of these sets comes with excellent booklets and the selections seem thoughtfully well chosen. In the 20's and 30's the blues was a commercial product catering to a sizable black audience. In the immediate post-war numerous independent labels sprouted with similar intent. The folk scene and the blues revival came in the 50's and ramped up in the 60's with much good material recorded. The 60's was the death knell for commercial acoustic blues but a good deal of excellent acoustic blues was recorded. The 70's and 80's were an under appreciated period for acoustic blues but a good deal of great music was recorded, much of it in the field and issued on tiny labels. This period is particularly important as many of these performances are from albums long out-of-print, featuring artists who are virtually forgotten like Shirley Griffith, Robert Curtis Smith, James Brewer, Baby Tate, Frank Hovington, Guitar Slim Stephens and many others that have been long touted on this show. Sound quality is excellent throughout, particularly on the early 78's which come from very clean copies.

Other odds and ends includes songs by diverse artists such as George Guesnon and Blind Willie Johnson. Creole George Guesnon was a New Orleans banjoist, guitarist and singer. He played in bands by Papa Celestin and Sam Morgan among others. In 1936 he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he played and recorded in a band led by Little Brother Montgomery. He did two tours with the show Rabbit Foot Minstrels, then returned to New Orleans in 1938, but found little work there and moved to New York City. He worked with Jelly Roll Morton and Trixie Smith, and recorded four pieces for Decca Records in April 1940. In 1959 he cut the album Creole Blues on the Icon which is where this song comes from.

Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was The Night – Cold Was The Ground, featured today, has the distinction of being one of twenty-seven samples of music included on the Voyager Golden Record, launched into space in 1977 to represent the diversity of life on Earth. Francis Davis, author of The History of the Blues wrote: "In terms of its intensity alone—its spiritual ache—there is nothing else from the period to compare to Johnson's 'Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground', on which his guitar takes the part of a preacher and his wordless voice the part of a rapt congregation."


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Big Road Blues Show 10/11/15: Violence & Vice – I'm Going to Shoot My Woman, I'm Gonna Wade Out in The Blood Sun, 11 Oct 2015 21:28:59 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Lonnie JohnsonMan Killing BroadLonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940 Bill GaitherBloody Eyed WomanBill Gaither Vol. 4 1939 Whistlin' Alex MooreIce Pick BluesWhistlin' Alex Moore 1929-1951 Walter 'Cowboy' WashingtonIce Pick MamaTexas Seaport 1934-1937 Louisiana Red Sweet Blood CallSweet Blood Call Lazy LesterBloodstains On The WallI'm A Lover Not A Fighter Mary Johnson Death Cell BluesMary Johnson 1929-1936 Bessie SmithSend Me To The 'Lectric ChairThe Complete Recordings Victoria Spivey Blood Thirsty BluesVictoria Spivey Vol. 1 1926-1927 Bama StackaleeParchman Farm: Photographs and Field Recordings 1947-1959 Skip James 22-20 BluesComplete Early Recordings Mississippi John Hurt Got The Blues (Can't Be Satisfied)Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 OKeh Recordings Charles 'Speck' Petrum Gambler's BluesCharlie ''Specks'' McFadden 1929-1937 Blind Blake Playing Policy BluesAll The Published Sides Doctor Clayton Roaming GamblerDoctor Clayton And His Buddy 1935-1947 Lucille BoganThey Ain't Walking No MoreBarrelhouse Mamas Memphis MinnieDown In The AlleyMemphis Minnie Vol. 3 1937 Sara Martin Down At The Razor BallSara Martin Vol. 3 1924-1925 Washboard SamRazor Cuttin' ManWashboard Sam Vol. 1 1935-1936 Blind Willie McTellRazor BallAtlanta Twelve String Walter Roland45 Pistol BluesWalter Roland Vol. 2 1934-1935 Leroy CarrShinin' PistolWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave Blind Boy FullerPistol Slapper Blues Remastered 1935-1938 Will Shade She Stabbed Me With An Ice PickMemphis Jug Band Associates & Alternate Takes 1927-1930 Black Boy Shine Ice Pick And Pistol Woman Blues Black Boy Shine & Black Ivory King 1936-1937 Pat HareI'm Gonna Murder My BabySun Records - The Blues Years 1950-1956 Roy BrownButcher PetePay Day Jump: The Later Sessions Geeshie WileySkinny Legs BluesMississippi Masters Josie MilesMad Mama BluesJosie Miles Vol. 2 1924-1935 Jazz GillumGonna Be Some ShootingJazz Gillum Vol. 4 1946-1949 Peetie WheatstrawGangster's BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 7 1940-1941 Georgia Tom & Tampa RedCrow Jane AlleyCome On Mama Do That Dance Jim Jackson I'm A Bad Bad ManJim Jackson Vol. 1 1927-1928 Blind Willie McTell A To Z BluesThe Classic Years 1927–1940 Bertha IdahoDown On Pennsylvania AvenueFemale Blues Singers Vol. 10 Georgia WhiteI'll Keep Sittin' On It (If I Can't Sell It)Georgia White Vol. 2 1936-1937

Show Notes: 

Victoria Spivey Ad“The blues, contrary to popular conception, are not always concerned with love, razors, dice, and death," Richard Wright wrote in 1941. While that's certainly true, there are in fact a large number of blues songs that do deal with those topics.  Today we feature a wide range of songs about violence and vice. The blues emerged at the turn of the century in the midst of virulent racism and violent repression. Blues musicians of the 1920's and 30's existed in a violent culture where fights were common and it was often common to carry a weapon. In the places where the blues were regularly performed in the early days, the juke joints, there was a considerable amount of violence. Memphis Minnie said that at juke joints she and her husband played they would “have to run at night when they start cutting and shooting.” The south was a virtual apartheid society enforced by "Jim Crow" restrictions, with widespread violence, including lynchings. An increased presence of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920's contributed to an atmosphere of fear. In the South, mobs lynched many blacks for no other reason than their having acted outside the harsh social restrictions of Jim Crow. As writer Gary Buenett wrote: "The blues enabled Southern black to process the oppression they faced, but more than that, to affirm their humanity over against a system that denied that very fact. it enabled them to state the reality of the troubles, powerlessness, dread, and despair, but at the same time assert their essential humanness through expressions of rage, humor, courage, and of course, sexuality."

Today's lurid title is courtesy of Jazz Gillum from his 1949 number "Gonna Be Some Shooting." The song is a cover of Willie "61" Blackwell's 1941 song "Machine Gun Blues" and was modified and refashioned by Sunnyland Slim as "Johnson Machine Gun." Gillum had several songs filled with violent  imagery including "I'm Gonna Take My Rap" ("I'm gonna take my pistol/And cock it in my baby's face/Gonna let some graveyard, baby be your hiding place") and "Can't Trust Myself" ("I'm gonna buy myself a pistol/I'm gonna hang it to my side/I'm going to join the gangsters/People I'm gonna live a reckless life") among others. Gillum was himself a victim of violence. He was murdered in 1966  during a street argument.  Echoing Jazz Gillum, several decades later is the harrowing "Sweet Blood Call" by Louisiana Red:

I have a hard time missing you baby, with my pistol in your mouth
You may be thinking 'bout going north, but your brains are staying south

Today's show is filled with guns, knives, razors and even ice picks. One of the more famous gun songs is Skip James' "22-20 Blues" which may have been inspired by the success of the song “44 blues” recorded by Roosevelt Sykes in 1929 as "Forty- Four Blues" and the following year by Little Brother Montgomery as “Vicksburg Blues.” In 1936 Robert Johnson covered the song as “32-20 Blues.”

You talk about your forty-four-forty, buddy it'll do very well
But my thirty-two-twenty, Lord is a burning hell

Woman were the target of much of the violence as evidenced in numerous other songs including Leroy Carr's "Shinin' Pistol" ("I'm going to get me a shiny pistol with a long shiny barrel/I'm going to ramble this town over until I find my girl") and Blind Boy Fuller's "Pistol Slapper Blues" ("And I feel like snapping my pistol in your face/Let some brownskin woman be here to take your place"). Walter Roland's "45 Pistol Blues", on the other hand, is for protection when he heads down to a part of town that must be very close to the well known Tin Pan Alley or maybe Crow Jane Alley:

I'm going over to Third Alley, Lord but I'm going to carry my .45 (2x)
Because you know ain't many men go there and come back alive
They will shoot you and cut you, Lord they will knock you down
Lord, they will shoot you and cut you, Lord they will knock you down

And you can ask anybody ain't that the baddest place in town
Mens carry .38s, womens carry their razors too (2x)

Alex Moore - Ice Pick bluesRazors, despite Richard Wright's protest, crop up quite a bit in blues. There was Washboard Sam's "Razor Cuttin' Man",  Edith Wilson's "Rules and Regulations 'Signed Razor Jim'", Jazz Gillum's "Long Razor Blues", Perline Ellison's "Razor Totin' Mama", Helen Gross' "Bloody Razor Blues" as well as a school of related songs from the pre-blues era. Around the turn of the century there was the "bully song" or more formally "The Bully of the Town" or "Looking for the Bully." There were several songs published with 'Bully" in the title around this period. Paul Oliver noted that the song "reinforced the stereotypes of the razor-totin', watermelon-suckin', chicken-stealin' 'nigger' of that period." The core of the story is an altercation, usually with a razor, between the bully and a rival with the action usually happening at a dance or ball. In the blues era several songs drawn on these earlier sources including Sara Martin's "Down At The Razor Ball" (1925), Blind Willie McTell's "Razor Ball" (1930) and Washboard Sam's "Down At The Bad Man's Hall" (1941). The most famous related song, however, is the Willie Dixon penned "Wang Dang Doodle" (1960) which draws its inspiration from the Sara Martin number. Another razor song is "A To Z Blues" which has the protagonist literally carving the entire alphabet in the victim's body. The song was recorded by Butterbeans & Susie, Josie Miles, Blind Willie McTell and Charley Jordan under the title "Cutting My ABCs."

Ice picks are not something that immediately comes to mind as a weapon (does anybody gets ice delivered to their home anymore?) but they crop up in several songs: Whistlin' Alex Moore "Ice Pick Blues", Walter 'Cowboy' Washington "Ice Pick Mama" ("Every time I meet Roberta she's got an ice pick in her hand/And all frowned up, an wanna kill some poor, poor man"), Will Shade "She Stabbed Me With An Ice Pick" and Black Boy Shine "Ice Pick And Pistol Woman Blues."

Domestic violence is a common theme in many early blues. That being said, there were no shortage of woman who sang songs that turned the tables on the men. Among those featured today are Mary Johnson's  "Death Cell Blues" ("I killed my man last year, lord, the man I really love/He did not treat me right, now he's with the good lord above"), Victoria Spivey's "Blood Thirsty Blues" and Bessie Smith's "Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair":

Judge you wanna hear my plea
Before you open up your court
But I don't want no sympathy
'Cause I'm done, cut my good man's throat

Spivey had several lurid titles including “Blood Thirsty Blues”, “Murder in the First Degree” and “Blood Hound Blues.” Okeh Records  ran a a striking newspaper advertisement for "Bloodthirsty Blues."  The ad is laid out like an authentic news report with graphic illustration and eye-catching titles such as “I Have Killed my Man”, “Never Seen So Much Blood” and “Bloodthirsty Woman Confesses!” The lyrics are equally sensational:

Blood, blood, blood look at all that blood
Blood, blood look at all that blood
Yes I killed my man
A lowdown good for nothing cuss
I told him blood was in my eyes
And still he wouldn’t listen to me

Bill Gaither used similar imagery in his "Bloody Eyed Woman" cut more than a decade later. Spivey didn't have the market corned on that kind of imagery as evidenced in Geeshie Wiley's "Skinny Leg Blues":

I’m gonna cut your throat babe, gonna look down in your face (2x)
Aaaaaaaaa, gonna look down in your face
I’m gonna let some lonesome graveyard be your restin’ place

Josie Miles had an apocalyptic vision in "Mad Mama Blues" from 1924:

Wanna set the world on fire
That is my one mad desire
I’m a devil in disguise
Got murder in my eyes

Now I could see blood runnin’
hrough the streets (2x)
Could be everybody
ayin’ dead right at my feet

As Angela Y. Davis wrote: "The performance of the classic blues women-especially Bessie Smith-were one of the few cultural spaces in which a tradition of public discourse on male violence had been previously established. …The blues women of the 1920s…fail to respect the taboo of speaking on speaking publicly about domestic violence …Women's blues suggest emergent feminist insurgency in that they unabashedly name the problem of male violence and so usher it out of the shadows of domestic life where society had kept it hidden and beyond public or political scrutiny." Daphne Duval Harrison has noted that women's blues in the 1920s "introduced a new, different model of black women-more assertive, sexy, sexually aware, independent, realistic, complex, alive. …They saw a world that did not protect the sanctity of black womanhood, as espoused in the bourgeois ideology; only white white or middle or upper-class women were protected by it. They saw and experienced injustice as jobs they held were snatched away when white women refused to work with them or white men returned from war to reclaim them. They pointed out the pain of sexual and physical abuse and abandonment."

OthBlind Willie McTell - Razor Baller vices covered today include prostitution and gambling. The most well known prostitution song is probably "Tricks Ain't Walking No More." The song is a prostitute’s lament due to a dwindling supply of customers or "tricks." Lucille Bogan recorded this song three times during 1930 including today's version "They Ain't Walking No More." Curley Weaver, Buddy Moss, Kid Coley and Memphis Minnie, among others, recorded versions of the song. Othe songs sharing this theme include Memphis Minnie's "Down In Alley" ("Met a man, asked me did I want to pally/Yes, baby, let's go down in the alley"), Georgia White's " I'll Keep Sittin' On It (If I Can't Sell It)" and Bertha Idaho's "Down On Pennsylvania Avenue" about Baltimore’s seedy side where you "can’t tell the he’s from the she’s."

Now if you want good lovin’, and want it cheap
Just drop around about the middle of the week
When the broads is broke and can’t pay rent
Get good lovin’ boys for fifteen cents
You can get it every night on Pennsylvania Avenue

Gambling features in numerous songs with quite a few dealing with playing policy. Policy is an illegal numbers game that was hugely popular at the end of the nineteenth and in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Basically you'd pick three numbers and hope they hit. The name comes from the practice of allowing bettors to make an “insurance policy” bet on tomorrow's numbers to offset potential losses, a gambler could make a policy bet that his ticket would come up blank insuring he would get something back on a losing ticket. Eventually the entire game came to be called policy. "Numbers, numbers 'bout to drive me mad/Thinkin' about the money that I should have had" sings Blind Blake on "Playing Policy Blues."

While we don't touch on it much today, the blues has a number of "bad man" ballads about violent men and outlaws like John Henry, Railroad Bill, Frankie and  Stagolee. Recorded in Parchman Farm in 1959, we hear Bama sing "Stackalee." The song about the murder of Billy Lyons by "Stag" Lee Shelton in St. Louis, Missouri at Christmas, 1895. The song was first published in 1911, and was first recorded in 1923. Long Cleve Reed and Harvey Hull recorded "Original Stack O'Lee Blues" in 1927, Furry Lewis cut "Billy Lyons And Stack O'Lee" the same year and Mississippi John Hurt recorded a version in 1928.


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Big Road Blues Show 10/4/15: Gonna Sell Moonshine In The Day An Peddle Dope At Night – Booze, Blues & More Pt. III Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:19:42 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Champion Jack DupreeJunker Blues Cabbage Greens Lil GreenKnockin' Myself Out Why Don't You Do Right? 1940-1942 Luke Jordan Cocaine Blues The Songster Tradition Charley Jordan Just A Spoonful St. Louis Town 1929-1933 Memphis Jug Band Cocaine Habit BluesBest Of Leadbelly Take A Whiff On Me Important Recordings 1934-1949 Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon Don't Drink It In Here How Low Can You Go: Anthology Of The String Bass Doctor Clayton Ain't Gonna Drink No MoreDoctor Clayton & His Buddies 1946 & 1947 Clarence Williams Jerry The JunkerClarence Williams 1934 Harlem Hamfats Weed Smoker's Dream Harlem Hamfats Vol. 1 1936 Jo Jo Adams When I'm In My Tea Jo-Jo Adams 1946-1953 Buster BennettReefer Head WomanBuster Bennett 1945-1947 Cee Pee Johnson and His Band The G Man Got The T Man West Coast Jive Josie Miles Pipe Dream Blues Gennett Jazz Victoria Spivey Dope Head Blues Blues Images Vol. 4 Memphis Willie B.The Stuff Is Here Introducing Memphis Willie B Carl MartinIf You're A ViperMartin, Bogan & Armstrong Papa Charlie Jackson All I Want is a SpoonfulPapa Charlie Jackson Vol. 1 1924-26 Charlie Patton Spoonful Blues Images Vol. 12 Jazz Gillum Reefer Head Woman Roll Dem Bones 1938-1949 Curtis Jones Reefer Hound Blues Curtis Jones Vol. 2 1938-1939 Bumble Bee Slim Bricks In My PillowBumble Bee Slim Vol. 3 1934-1935 Doctor Clayton I Got To Find My Baby Doctor Clayton 1935-1942 Washboard Sam Bucket's Got a Hole in ItWhen The Sun Goes Down Blue Lu Barker's Don't Make Me High Blu Lu Barker 1938-1939 Trixie SmithJack, I'm Mellow Trixie Smith Vol. 2 1925-1929 Leroy Carr Straight Alky Blues, Pt. 1Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave Walter DavisSloppy Drunk Again Favorite Country Blues Guitar-Piano Duets 1929-1937 Kokomo Arnold I Can't Get Enough Of That Stuff Kokomo Arnold Vol. 2 1935-1936 Rev. Gary Davis Cocaine BluesBlues & Ragtime Mance LipscombCocaine Done Killed My Baby Texas Songster Vol. 2 John Lee Hooker Whiskey and WimmenThe Vee-Jay Years Vol. 3 Tiny Grimes & JB SummersDrinking Beer House Party

Show Notes: 

Chicago Defender Ad, December 6, 1930

Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs pop up frequently as the subject of many blues. By far the subject of drinking comes up far more than any of the other topics with hundred upon hundreds of songs all facets of drinking. On our first two shows we spotlighted songs about booze, this time we broaden our reach, featuring songs about other illicit substances. While the topic of drugs shows up in some of the early recorded blues it seems to more associated with jazz, particularly songs about marijuana. The word dope came around during the 19th century opium craze. But by 1927, when Victoria Spivey recorded "Dope Head Blues" the term could apply to all kinds of drugs.

Today we survey a wide variety blues songs about drugs and drinking, the majority from the pre-war era. Many of today's songs were recorded between 1920 and 1933, the era of Prohibition and tightened restrictions on marijuana use, which didn't seem to have any effect on those trying to find those substances. Increased restrictions and labeling of marijuana began in many states from 1906 onward, and outright prohibitions began in the 1920's and by the mid-1930's it was regulated as a drug in every state. Local laws prohibiting cocaine appeared before the drug was banned outright in 1922. Just sixteen days after the Volstead act made Prohibition the law of the land federal agents made their first raid on a speakeasy in Chicago. By the middle of the 1920's bootlegging became a two billion a year industry in which half a million people were employed. Prohibition became the topic of songs and in 1919, even before the law came into effect, vaudeville tenor Irving Kauffman sang "Prohibition drives me insane" in the "Alcoholic Blues." More than any other music, the pleasures and pains of booze were a common topic in blues songs. Drinking was tied to blues culture with the blues thriving places known for drinking like brothels, lumber camps and juke joints.

Today's title comes from Washboard Sam's "Bucket's Got a Hole in It" recorded in 1938. The song is widely attributed to Clarence Williams, who obtained a copyright in 1933. The original melody evolved from the second theme of "Long Lost Blues" published in 1914. The "Long Lost Blues" theme was a variation of "Bucket's Got a Hole in It", a motif that appears in several versions of "Keep A-Knockin." This tune later became the basis for several versions of the song, "You Can't Come In" recorded by multiple artists. However, "Bucket's Got a Hole in It" has also been attributed to Buddy Bolden, which would date it before 1906. Hank Williams had a hit for MGM when his version reached #4 on the country chart in 1949 and Ricky Nelsom cut a tame version of the song in 1958. Washboard Sam's version had lyrics that don't appear in other versions (except for Lil Johnson who did an identical song the prior year):

Gonna start a new racket
Gonna start it out right
Gonna sell moonshine in the day
An peddle dope at night

In 1885 the U.S. manufacturer Parke-Davis sold cocaine in various forms, including cigarettes, powder, and even a cocaine mixture that could be injected directly into the user's veins with the included needle. The company promised that its cocaine products would "supply the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent and render the sufferer insensitive to pain." Stevedores along the Mississippi River used the drug as a stimulant, and white employers encouraged its use by black laborers. In early 20th-century Memphis, Tennessee, cocaine was sold in neighborhood drugstores on Beale Street, costing five or ten cents for a small boxful. The Memphis Jug Band's “Cocaine Blues”, featured today, dates from the turn of the century (also known as "Take A Whiff on Me"), when cocaine was both legal and endemic in Memphis, with Lehman's Drugstore on Union the main source as Hattie Hart sings:

Went to Mr Lehman's in a lope
Saw a sign on the window said no more dope
Hey, hey, honey take a whiff on me

Champion Jack Dupree - Junker BluesLuke Jordan cut "Cocaine Blues" ("I’m simply wild about my good cocaine") in 1929 which was covered by Dick Justice almost note for note  two years later. Rev. Gary Davis recorded a version much later that he says he learnt in 1905, his version introduced the “there’s cocaine all around my brain” lyric. Other cocaine related songs featured today include Leadbelly's "Take A Whiff On Me" plus songs by Charlie Patton and Papa Charlie Jackson. Patton recorded "Spoonful" for Paramount in 1929 which is related to "All I Want Is A Spoonful" by Papa Charlie Jackson from 1925 and "Cocaine Blues" by Luke Jordan. Charley Jordan cut "Just A Spoonful" in 1930. The lyrics relate men's sometimes violent search to satisfy their cravings, with "a spoonful" used mostly as a metaphor for pleasures, which have been interpreted as sex, love, or drugs. "Spoonful" is also the title of a Willie Dixon number first recorded in 1960 by Howlin' Wolf and related to the early versions.

 Cocaine is also referenced in Champion Jack Dupree's famous "Junker Blues" along with other substances. "Junker Blues" was first recorded in 1940 by  Dupree. It formed the basis of several later songs including "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino. The song also served as a template for the classic New Orleans number "Junco Partner."Dupree also sang about drugs on songs like "Weed Head Woman" and "Can't Kick The Habit."

They call, they call me a junker
Cause I'm loaded all the time
I don't use no reefer, I'll be knocked out with that angel wine

Six months, Six months ain't no sentence
And one year ain't no time
They got boys in penitentiary doing from nine to ninety-nine

I was standing, I was standing on the corner
With my reefers in my hand
Up stepped the sergeant took my reefers out of my hand

My brother, my brother used a needle
and my sister sniffed cocaine
I don't use no junk, I'm the nicest boy you ever seen

My mother, my mother she told me
and my father told me too
That that junk is a bad habit, why don't you leave it too?

My sister she even told me
And my grandma told me too
That using junk partner was going to be the death of you

Songs about "reefer" show up in many blues songs but the term seem more associated to jazz. In 1938 Jazz Gillum cut "Reefer Head Woman" ("Mens, please don't take her around/ She will get full of reefers, and raise sand all over this town") and Curtis Jones" waxed "Reefer Hound Blues" ("I'm high off of my reefer, I'm nothing but a reefer hound") while The Harlem Hamfats cut "Weed Smoker's Dream" in 1936. At some point another set of lyrics was attached to the melody that The Harlem Hamfats had recorded as "Weed Smoker's Dream" and fashioned into "Why Don't You Do Right?" Lil Green was the first to recortd the song under that title in 1941. One of the best-known versions of the song, Peggy Lee's, was recorded in 1942, in New York with Benny Goodman which sold over 1 million copies. Speaking of Lil Green, we spin her "Knockin' Myself Out" her 1941 ode to self medication:

Listen girls and boys I got one stick
Give me a match and let me take a whiff quick
I'm gonna knock myself out, I'm gonna kill myself
I'm gonna knock myself out, gradually by degrees

Other reefer related songs played today include Memphis Willie B's "The Stuff Is Here" and Carl Martin's "If You're A Viper." Back in 1936 Martin also cut the drug themed "That New Kind Of Stuff." "The Stuff Is Here And It's Mellow” was recorded by Clarence Williams in 1934 and the following year with lyrics by Cleo Brown. "If You're a Viper" is a jazz song composed by Stuff Smith and recorded by Smith and his Onyx Club Boys in 1936. The song was a hit for Smith and is one of the most frequently covered songs about marijuana. "Viper" was Harlem slang for a pot smoker. From the 1940's we spin Doctor Clayton's "I Gotta Find My Baby ("When my head starts to aching, I grab my hat and go/Cause cocaine and reefers can't reach my case no more") and "When I'm In My Tea" recorded in 1946 by Jo Jo Adams.


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Big Road Blues Show 9/20/15: Whiskey Is My Habit, Good Women Is All I Crave – Booze & the Blues Pt. II Sun, 20 Sep 2015 21:06:25 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Memphis SlimBeer Drinking WomanBoogie After Midnight Roosevelt SykesTrouble and WhiskeyThe Essential Charlie SpandRock and RyeBooze & The Blues Smoky BabeBad WhiskeyLouisiana Country Blues Lil' Son JacksonBad Whiskey, Bad WomanDown Home Blues Classics: Texas Sloppy HenryCanned Heat BluesAtlanta Blues Big Bill BroonzyWhen I Been DrinkingBooze & The Blues Blind Well McTellBell Street BluesThe Classic Years 1927-1940 Bo CarterLet's Get Drunk AgainThe Essential Blind BlakeFighting The JugAll The Published Sides Elder James BeckWine Head Willie Put that Bottle DownElder Charles Beck 1946-1947 Howlin' WolfDrinkin' C.V. WineMemphis Days Vol. 1 Roy Hawkins Wine Drinkin' WomanThe Thrill Is Gone Papa George Lightfoot Wine, Women, WhiskeyRural Blues James TisdomWinehead SwingTexas Down Home Blues 1948-1952 Bessie SmithMoonshine BluesThe Complete Recordings Lucille BoganWhiskey Sellin' WomanLucille Bogan Vol.1 1923-1930 Harlem HamfatsLet's Get Drunk and TruckHarlem Hamfats Vol. 1 1936 State Street SwingersYou Drink Too MuchBooze & The Blues Blind John DavisBooze Drinking BennyBlind John Davis 1938-1952 Sleepy John EstesDiving Duck BluesI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More Black AceWhiskey and WomenTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar "Buddy" Woods & Black Ace 1930-1938 Yank RachelHaven't Seen No WhiskeyYank Rachel ?Vol. 2 1938-41 Gene PhilipsStinkin' DrunkDrinkin' & Stinkin' Boogie Bill WebbDrinkin' And Stinkin'Roosevelt Holts And Friends Tommy JohnsonAlcohol and Jake Blues Blues Images Vol. 6 Skip JamesDrunken SpreeBlues Images Vol. 2 Robert JohnsonDrunken Hearted Man The Centennial Collection Champion Jack Dupree You've Been DrunkEarly Cuts Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson When I Get DrunkThe Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story Bill Gaither Moonshine By The KegBooze & the Blues Peetie Wheatstraw Good Whiskey Blues Booze & the Blues Leroy Carr Hustler's Blues Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave

Show Notes:

Sloppy Henry - Canned Heat BluesAlcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs pop up frequently as the subject of many blues. By far the subject of drinking comes up more than any of the other topics with hundred upon hundreds of songs written on all facets of drinking. Today we survey a wide variety blues songs about drinking, the majority from the pre-war era. Many of today's songs were recorded between 1920 and 1933, the era of Prohibition, which didn't seem to have any effect on those trying to find booze. Just sixteen days after the Volstead act made Prohibition the law of the land federal agents made their first raid on a speakeasy in Chicago. By the middle of the 1920's bootlegging became a two billion a year industry in which half a million people were employed. Prohibition became the topic of songs and in 1919, even before the law came into effect, vaudeville tenor Irving Kauffman sang "Prohibition drives me insane" in the "Alcoholic Blues." More than any other music, the pleasures and pains of booze were a common topic in blues songs. Drinking was tied to blues culture with the blues thriving in places known for drinking like brothels, lumber camps and juke joints.

Today's show title comes from Leroy Carr's number "Hustler's Blues" ("Whiskey is my habit, good woman is all I crave/And I don't believe them two things will carry me to my grave"). Between 1928 and 1935 Leroy Carr and his partner Scrapper Blackwell laid down a remarkably consistent body of work of hundreds of sides notable for the impeccable guitar/piano interplay. Carr sang numerous songs about booze including "Sloppy Drunk" which we featured last week, "Hard Times Done Drove Me To Drink", "Corn Licker Blues", "Papa Wants to Knock a Jug", and the prophetic "Straight Alky Blues Pt. 1-3" ('This alcohol is killing me/The doctor said if I don't quit it in a lonely graveyard I will be"). By the time of their final session together in February 1935, Carr's drinking was said to have made him practically unmanageable. He he sunk deeper and deeper into alcoholism which eventually cut his life short; he died in April 1935 just after his 30th birthday.

In the previous show we played Lonnie Johnson's "Drunk Again" in which he sings "People says drinkin' can help them, but drinkin' don't mean a thing/When you think you've drinked away your worries, and you find your fool self drunk again." In a similar sentiment we have Sloppy Henry's "Canned Heat Blues", Blind Willie McTell's "Bell Street Blues", Blind Blake's "Fighting The Jug" and the State Street Swingers "You Drink Too Much." Henry and McTelll echo similar complaints: Henry sings "Canned heat whiskey make you sleep all in your clothes, lay down in your clothes" while McTell sings that "This Bell Street whiskey, make you sleep all in your clothes." Blind Blake's "Fighting The Jug" has a sense of hopeless inevitability as he sings:

I can't sleep and I can't eat (2x)
The woman I love has drive me to drink

I'm deep in a hole somebody else has dug (2x)
Getting sick and tired of fighting that jug

From accounts of his life, Tommy Johnson faced a constant struggle with alcoholism which is reflected in his "Canned Heat Blues", featured last week, and his harrowing "Alcohol and Jake Blues" from 1929:

I drink so much of Jake, till it done give me the limber leg
(spoken: And that's sure to mess you up)
Drinking so much of Jake, till it done give me the limber leg
(spoken: Sure messes you up, boy, [there's no cure for] that)
If I don't quit drinking it every morning, sure gonna kill me dead (spoken: You ain't no lying man)

Black Ace - Whiskey and WomenWhen prohibition was on, people still needed a drink. Sometimes you could get bootleg alcohol, but sometimes you had to improvise from what you could get legally. There are quite a few prohibition-era songs about alcohol substitutes. One was Jamaica Ginger extract, known by the slang name "Jake," which was a late 19th-century patent medicine that provided a convenient way to bypass Prohibition laws, since it contained between 70-80% ethanol by weight. In 1930, large numbers of Jake users began to lose the use of their hands and feet. Some victims could walk, but they had no control over the muscles which would normally have enabled them to point their toes upward. Therefore, they would raise their feet high with the toes flopping downward, which would touch the pavement first followed by their heels. The toe first, heel second pattern made a distinctive “tap-click, tap-click" sound as they walked. This very peculiar gait became known as the jake walk and those afflicted were said to have jake leg, jake foot, or jake paralysis. The term "Jake" and "Canned Heat" turn up in other songs such as Will Shade's "Better Leave That Stuff Alone and  the Mississippi Sheiks' "Jake Leg Blues."Another alternative was Moonshine, the subject of numerous blues songs including Bessie Smith's "Moonshine Blues" from 1924 and Bill Gaither's "Moonshine By The Keg" featured today.

Back in the 1930's Elder Beck railed against booze in his song "Drinking Shine" and was back at in in the 1953 number "Wine Head Willie Put that Bottle Down" a novelty sketch that takes “Open the Door Richard” as its inspiration, pitting a minister against wayward sinner. Beck recorded some 60 recordings for a number of labels spanning the 1930's through the 1950's. In the pre-war era he recorded in 1930, 1937 and 1939. After the Second World War, with the rise of independent record labels, Elder Beck really hit his stride and between 1946 and 1956 he recorded for Eagle, Gotham, King, Chart and possibly other small labels. His final recording was a full-length live LP, Urban Holiness Service, made in December 1957 for Folkways.

Eleder Beck - Wine Head Willie Put That Bottle DownThere's no shortage of songs about whiskey, which seem to be the drink of choice when available although wine seems to be pretty popular as well. Peetie Wheatstraw's "Good Whiskey Blues" from 1935  is one of the few songs that mentions the repeal of the Prohibition act (in later years James Brewer revived the song as "I'm So Glad Good Whiskey's Back"). Other songs on the topic include Yank Rachel's "Haven't Seen No Whiskey", Sleepy John Estes' "Diving Duck Blues" ("Now if the river was whiskey, I was a divin' duck/I would dive on the bottom, never would come up"), Black Ace's "Women and Whiskey", Lucille Bogan's "Whiskey Sellin' Woman", Papa George Lightfoot's "Wine, Women, Whiskey", Lil Son Jackson's "Bad Whiskey Bad Women" ("It's bad whiskey and bad women, oh man, 'bout to take me down/I wake up in the mornin' and I feel like a country clown"), Smoky Babe's "Bad Whiskey" and Roosevelt Sykes' "Trouble and Whiskey." Sticks McGhee McGhee had a smash with "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" in 1949 which James Tisdom covers on "Winehead Swing" from 1950 while Howlin' Wolf sings about "Drinkin' C.V. Wine" and Roy Hawkins sings about his "Wine Drinkin' Woman."


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Big Road Blues Show 9/13/15: It Takes Boozy Booze, Lord, to Carry Me Through – Booze & the Blues Pt. 1 Sun, 13 Sep 2015 21:13:09 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Ma Rainey Booze and BluesMother of The Blues Charlie Patton Tom Rushen BluesBlues Images Vol. 8 Mississippi SheiksBootlegger's BluesThe Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks Willie Lofton Beer Garden BluesBlues Images Vol. 12 Pine Top Smith I'm Sober Now Shake Your Wicked Knees Leroy CarrSloppy DrunkWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave Big Bill Broonzy Good Liquor Gonna Carry Me DownMy Rough And Rowdy Ways Vol. 2 Casey Bill Weldon Give Me Another ShotCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 3 1937-1938 Washboard SamNo. 1 DrunkardWashboard Sam Vol. 7 1942-1949 Tommy McClennan Whiskey Headed WomanBluebird Recordings 1939-1942 Wynonie HarrisQuiet WhiskeyLovin' Machine Lonnie "The Cat" I Ain't DrunkRhythm Rockin' Blues Gabriel Brown I've Got to Stop Drinkin'Shake That Thing Lonnie JohnsonDrunk AgainLonnie Johnson -1947-1948 Sonny Boy Williamson IWhiskey Headed BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.1 Sunnyland SlimEvery Time I Get to Drinkin’Sunnyland Slim 1949-1951 Forest City JoeDrink On Little GirlSounds Of The South Rev. W.M. MosleyDrinking ShineRev. W.M. Mosley 1926-1931 Rev. Anderson JohnsonGod Don't Like ItGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953 Bessie Smith Me and My GinThe Complete Recordings Elizabeth Washington Whiskey BluesThe Sparks Brothers 1932-1935 Memphis MinnieDrunken Barrel House BluesMemphis Jamboree 1927-1936 Lillian MillerDead Drunk BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1 Junior Parker Sittin', Drinkin,' Thinkin'The Duke Recordings Vol. 1 Amos Milburn Thinking And DrinkinThe R&B Hits of 1952 Peetie Wheatsraw Drinking Man BluesPeetie Wheatstraw Vol. 3 1935-1936 Tommy JohnsonCanned heat BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down Bukka WhiteGood Gin Blues The Complete Bukka White Lucille Bogan Drinkin' BluesThe Essential Big Three Trio & Rosetta HowardWhen I Been Drinking Rosetta Howard 1939-1947 Merline JohnsonBad Whiskey BluesOKeh Chicago Blues Tony HollisWine O WomanChicago Blues Vol. 1 1939-1951 Joseph 'Chinaman' Johnson and GroupDrinkin' That WineOld Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Booze and the BluesAlcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs pop up frequently as the subject of many blues. By far the subject of drinking comes up more than any of the other topics with hundred upon hundreds of songs written on all facets of drinking. Today we survey a wide variety blues songs about drinking, the majority from the pre-war era. Many of today's songs were recorded between 1920 and 1933, the era of Prohibition, which didn't seem to have any effect on those trying to find booze. Just sixteen days after the Volstead act made Prohibition the law of the land federal agents made their first raid on a speakeasy in Chicago. By the middle of the 1920's bootlegging became a two billion a year industry in which half a million people were employed. Prohibition became the topic of songs and in 1919, even before the law came into effect, vaudeville tenor Irving Kauffman sang "Prohibition drives me insane" in the "Alcoholic Blues." More than any other music, the pleasures and pains of booze were a common topic in blues songs. Drinking was tied to blues culture with the blues thriving in places known for drinking like brothels, lumber camps and juke joints.

Today's show title comes from Charlie Patton's 1929 number "Tom Rushen Blues" ("It takes boozy booze, lord, to carry me through/But each day seem like years in the jailhouse when there is no booze") which is modeled after Ma Rainey's “Booze and Blues” from 1924. An apparent arrest for drunkenness led Patton to write this number about the recently-installed high sheriff of Merigold, O.T. Rushing, who had assumed office in 1928 and would hold that position for the next four years.

Both Tommy Johnson's "Canned Heat Blues" and the Mississippi Sheiks' "Bootlegger's Blues" were recorded during Prohibition and deal with two different ways to get booze in this dry time. In 1928 Johnson made his first recordings for Victor Records which included "Canned Heat Blues."Canned heat was a term for the cans of sterno or other portable heating fuels. People drink it, usually strained through a sock or some kind of cloth. It will get you drunk and also maybe kill you or cause you to go blind. The song features the refrain "canned heat, mama, sure, Lord, killing me." The blues group Canned Heat took their name from this song. Bootlegging was a risky business as the Sheiks make clear:

Ever since that state went dry
The bootleggers have to stand shy
They gonna keep out the way of the sheriff if they can

There were  plenty of good time songs about drinking including several featured today like Willie Lofton's jaunty "Beer Garden Blues", Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Half Pint of Whiskey" and Wynonie Harris' "Quiet Whiskey." On the flip side were songs more acutely aware of the perils of drinking like Gabriel Brown's " I've Got to Stop Drinkin'" ("I'm gonna stop drinkin' to make myself again"), Tommy McClennan's "Whiskey Headed Woman" ( "She's a whiskey headed woman and she stays drunk all the time/Baby, and if you don't stop drinking I believe gonna lose yo' mind") and Peetie Wheatstraw's"Drinking Man Blues" from 1936:

I been drinking that stuff, and it went to my head (2x)
It made me hit the baby in the cradle, ooh well, well, and kill my papa dead

It made me hit the policeman and knock him off his feet (2x)
Taken his pistol and his star, ooh well, well, and walking up and down his beat

While Peetie's tale may be a bit fanciful (I hope),  his sometime partner Lonnie Johnson penned "Drunk Again" in 1947 a song that has an insightful, realistic approach to alcohol:

I've been drinkin' all night long, I've started again today (2x)
I'm just tryin' my best, to drink these blues away

People says drinkin' can help them, but drinkin' don't mean a thing (2x)
When you think you've drinked away your worries, and you find your fool self drunk again

Friends, I drink to keep from worryin', and I smile just to keep from cryin' (2x)
I try to cover my troubles, so the public don't know what 's on my mind

My brains is so cloudy, the world seems upside down (2x)
Yes, I would feel so much better, if was no liquor around

Love has caused so many men to drink and gamble, and stay out all night long (2x)
Love will drive a man into places, friends, where he don't belong

Willie Lofton - Beer Garden BluesSeveral of today's' singers are acutely aware of the ill effects of booze but seemingly powerless against it's grip such as Big Bill Broonzy's "Good Liquor Gonna Carry Me Down", Washboard Sam's "No. 1 Drunkard" ("I'm a number one drunkard and I don't care who knows"), Lucille Bogan's "Drinkin' Blues" ("Blues has got me drinkin', trouble's got me thinkin', and it's goin' to carry me to my grave") and Merline Johnson's" Bad Whiskey Blues", the latter which appear to be autobiographical. Johnson was one of the most prolific female artists of the 30's, with 70 issued sides, the bulk of her recordings were made between 1937 and 1940 with a last, unissued session, in 1947. Blind John Davis said of her: "…Big Bill would have to take her home so his wife could watch her so she wouldn’t go and get drunk. But when she hit that microphone, though, boy, she was on her way." Despite the efforts of her family in Milwaukee to keep her under control, John says, "She’d get to thinkin’ about Chicago, they’d wake up the next morning and Merline'd be in Chicago. She used to call me up and just cuss and laugh. "…She didn’t like good whiskey," Davis laughs. "You could go out there in Jewtown and get moonshine and still hear it foamin’ in the glass. It was still fermenting. She was crazy about it. But she was a nice person."

If you were looking to find someone to rail against the evils of booze you would have to turn to the preachers. They recorded prolifically in the 1920's and 30's dealing with all manner of social ills in their recorded sermons including drinking. We spin Rev. W.M. Mosley's "Drinking Shine" from 1927 which was widely recorded under several titles including "God Don't Like it." Rev. Mosley was an Atlanta minister whose recording career started in 1926 and lasted through 1931. From 1953 we hear Rev. Anderson's "God Don't Like It."  Anderson cut some blistering sides in the 1950's for labels such as Glory and DeLuxe. Elder Charlie Beck recorded his version of "Drinking Shine" in 1930 and also the colorful "Wine Head Willie Put That Bottle Down" in 1953 which we will spin in part two.


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Delta Blues Comes to Rochester Mon, 31 Aug 2015 02:12:43 +0000 This past week Geva Theatre presented Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House a four-day festival that weaved together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures celebrating the life of Son House. Son lived in Rochester from 1943 through 1976 and was rediscovered here in 1964. There were fine performances by John Hammond, John Mooney, Chris Thomas King, Joe Beard, Steve Grills and others as well as musical workshops  and lectures. The biggest highlight for me was the dedication of an official Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Friday, August 28th on the corner of Clarissa and Grieg Street where Son House resided in the Corn Hill Neighborhood of Rochester. The marker is one of only a few above the Mason-Dixon line. Joining the celebration were Son's manager Dick Waterman, one of the men who tracked Son to Rochester in the summer of 1964, and Jim O'Neal founder of Living Blues magazine and research consultant for the Mississippi Trail marker project. Here's photos of both sides of the marker and a picture of Jim O'Neal and myself standing near the site of Son's apartment building which since been torn down.


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Big Road Blues Show 8/30/15: Standing At The Crossroads – Blues At Home Pt. 2 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 00:42:13 +0000 ARTISTSONGALBUM Charlie SangsterTwo White HorsesBlues At Home Vol. 9 Charlie SangsterOne Cold NightBlues At Home Vol. 9 James “Son” Thomas & Eddie CusicStanding At The CrossroadsBlues At Home Vol. 10 James “Son” Thomas & Joe CooperThree Days I CriedBlues At Home Vol. 10 James “Son” ThomasFour Women BluesBlues At Home Vol. 10 Sleepy John EstesYellow Yam Blues (Take 4)Blues At Home Vol. 11 Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonSugar MamaBlues At Home Vol. 11 Sleepy John EstesShe Keeps Me Worried And Bothered Blues At Home Vol. 11 Mott Willis Baby Please Don't GoBlues At Home Vol. 13 Lum GuffinTrain I Ride 18 Coaches Long Blues At Home Vol. 13 William 'Do Boy' DiamondMississippi FlatBlues At Home Vol. 13 Walter Cooper & Hammie NixonBaby Please Don't Go, No. 3Blues At Home Vol. 13 Roosevelt HoltsBig Road Blues Blues At Home Vol. 13 Asie PaytonBlind ManBlues At Home Vol. 13 Jacob StuckeyIt Must Have Been The Devil (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 13 Memphis Willie Borum 61 Highway Blues Blues At Home Vol. 13 Mattie May ThomasDangerous BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II John DudleyCool Drink of Water BluesParchman Farm: Photographs & Field Recordings 1947–1959 Son Thomas Catfish Blues Living Country Blues: An Anthology Frank Hovington Lonesome Road BluesGone With The Wind Joe Savage Joe’s Prison Camp HollerLiving Country Blues Vol. 7 Chester Davis, Compton Jones & Furry LewisGlory Glory HallelujahSorrow Come Pass Me Around John Lee ZieglerIf I Lose, Let Me LoseThe George Mitchell Collection Jimmy Lee WilliamsHave You Ever Seen PeachesHoot Your Belly Roosevelt CharlesWasn't I LuckyBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs Jim Brewer Big Road BluesBlues Scene USA Vol. 4 J.B. SmithSure Make a Man Feel BadNo More Good Time in the World for Me

Show Notes:

Charlie SangsterIn the early 70's through the early 80's Gianni Marcucci made five trips to the United States from Italy to document blues with several albums worth of material issued in the the 1970's. I've corresponded with Gianni regarding those albums and he wrote that these releases were "an abuse and an offense to my effort (10 years of field research, and 13 years of re-mastering and text editing), as well as an insult to the memory of the featured artists" and that his overall experience was a "nightmare." Furthermore, he wrote, "my research has been misunderstood with the result that I received some insults and defamation, both in Europe and USA, on magazines and books." The Blues At Home series is his "peaceful reply" to those critics. The recordings heard on this series were kept in Gianni's private archive. "In order to preserve these materials I transferred to digital those I thought were best, and by 2013 [2015]  the 16-volume Blues At Home CD collection was ready for release." The material is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music and CD Baby for digital download and streaming. There are plans to make these available as physical CD's as well.

"In 1972, Gianni wrote, "I worked with Lucio Maniscalchi. In 1976 Vincenzo Castella, assisted me and took the photographs. Lucio Maniscalchi  worked with me for 11 days (20-31 December 1972); Vincenzo Castella in July-August 1976. Both Maniscalchi and Castella were not interested in my research and documentary project. They left the project after the 2 field trips were done. They just randomly worked with me on those occasions. Their name was erroneously featured and emphasized on the" original LP's, "especially the name of Vincenzo Castella. I was the only responsible of the recordings, archiving, and LP edition (including, of course, all the typos, mistakes, etc.). In 1972 and 1976 Hammie Nixon helped finding some of the performers in Tennessee. In 1976 Mary Helen Looper and Jane Abraham helped in the Delta. …On December 1972, with the help of the legendary harmonica player Hammie Nixon, using a professional portable equipment, I had the chance to start recording blues in Memphis. The documentary research continued in July 1976, ending in July 1982. A series of informal sessions was held during the course of my five trips through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, featuring well known, but also little known, and unknown musicians."

Today's program is our second installment  (see part 1) featuring the following artists: Charlie Sangster, James “Son” Thomas, Walter Cooper, Eddie Cusic, Sleepy John Estes, Hammie Nixon, William 'Do Boy' Diamond, Mott Willis, Lum Guffin, Roosevelt Holts, Asie Payton, Memphis Willie Borum and  Jacob Stuckey. We have some extra tome time at the end of our two-part feature so we round it out with a selection of filed recording favorites featured on previous shows.Hammie Nixon

The ninth volume of the Blues At Home collection introduces Charlie Sangster, a little known artist of Brownsville, Tennessee. Belonging to a musical family, he learned how to play mandolin and guitar at the age of 12. His father, Samuel Ellis Sangster, was a blues guitarist who used to play with Sleepy John Estes and Hambone Willie Newbern; his mother, Victoria, was a gospel singer. Charlie played at the fish market and in other social situations with a circle of local musicians, including Charlie Pickett, Brownsville Son Bonds, Hammie Nixon, Yank Rachel, Sleepy John Estes, and Walter Cooper. He also knew and performed with Hambone Willie Newbern during the last part of Newbern’s life. Sangster was recorded at eight sessions between 1976 and 1980.

The tenth volume of the Blues At Home collection features Leland, Mississippi, bluesman James “Son” Thomas along with his uncle Joe Cooper, both hailing from Yazoo County, Mississippi, and Leland blues artist Eddie Cusic who passed away a few weeks back. Thomas, Cooper, and Cusic were discovered in the late ‘60s by researcher Bill Ferris, and Thomas and his uncle’s music are featured in Ferris’s book Blues from The Delta. “Son” Thomas also appeared in several blues LP anthologiesduring the late ‘60s and in some documentary films. From the ‘80s until his death in 1995, Thomas was in the folk music circuit, recording numerous albums and performing all over the world. The material was recorded during several informal sessions held in 1976, 1978, and 1982 at the artists’ homes in Leland and Greenville, Mississippi.

The eleventh volume of the Blues At Home collection features Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. Estes was born in 1899 in Ripley, Tennessee, but spent most of his life in Brownsville, Tennessee, which he considered his home. Between 1929 and 1939, he recorded over 30 sides for Vocalion, Decca, and Bluebird. Living in poverty for the whole of his life and being completely blind by the late '40s, Estes was rediscovered in the early '60s through the referral of Big Joe Williams. He hit the blues revival circuit, making numerous recordings and performing all over the world until his death in 1977. These sessions were recorded informally at Estes' home in Brownsville in December 1972, both alone and with the accompaniment of his old-time partner Hammie Nixon.

The twelfth volume of the Blues At Home collection harmonica player Hammie Nixon, performing with Sleepy John Estes, and alone on guitar and harmonica. Nixon was born in Brownsville, Tennessee. At age 11, he was able to play harmonica with Sleepy John Estes at a picnic held in Brownsville. Hammie also played with local musicians, Hambone Willie Newbern, Samuel and Charlie Sangster, Yank Rachell, and Charlie Pickett, learning harmonica from Noah Lewis and Tommy Garry. He first recordwd with Estes in 1929 for Victor. In 1934 he recorded in Chicago for Decca and Champion with Brownsville Son Bonds. He recorded with John Estes again in 1935 and 1937.  After Estes’ rediscovery in the early ‘60s, Hammie kept performing with him until John’s death in 1977. These recordings were recorded between 1972 and 1976 during informal sessions held at Hammie Nixon and Sleepy John Estes' homes in Brownsville.

113The thirteenth volume of the Blues At Home collection, features various blues artists recorded from 1976 to 1982 in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana. Mott Willis was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, has been associated with Tommy and Mager Johnson. Willis was recorded in  Crystal Springs, where he was discovered in the summer of 1967 making recordings for Advent and Mimosa Records which have yet to be released. Lum Guffin was a multi-instrumentalist; he played guitar as well as fife and drum music at picnics in the east Shelby County area. Discovered by Swedish researcher Bengt Olsson in the late '60s, Guffin had a Flyright Records LP devoted to him. William “Do-Boy” Diamond was born near Canton, Mississippi, in 1913. He was discovered in the '60s by George Mitchell who recorded him. Roosevelt Holts was born in 1905 near Tylertown, Mississippi, and developed his musical skill with Tommy Johnson. Discovered in the '60s, he made several recordings released on LPs and on a 45. Asie Payton never moved out of the Holly Ridge, Mississippi, area where he worked as a farmer and tractor driver for most of his life. He record for Fat Possum late in life. Memphis Willie Borum was born in 1911 in Memphis and had a central role in the jug band scene, actually playing with all the major groups and blues artists active in the City. He was rediscovered by Sam Charters in 1961, recording two LP albums for Bluesville. Jacob Stuckey was born in Bentonia, Mississippi, in 1916 and learned directly from Skip James.

The final volumes of the Blues At Home series (13-16) feature interviews by several of the artists. These are not featured on today's program.


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