Big Road Blues http://sundayblues.org ...vintage blues radio & writing Sun, 22 Feb 2015 21:52:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Big Road Blues Show 2/22/15: You Got To Move – Blues Form The Newport Folk Festival Pt. 2 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8982 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8982#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 21:52:48 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8982 ARTISTSONGALBUM John Lee HookerGreat Fire Of NatchezNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues John Lee HookerBus Station Blues Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues Mississippi Fred McDowell, Annie Mae McDowell & Rev. Robert WilkinsWhat Do You Think About JesusBlues With A Feeling Mississippi Fred McDowellLord I'm Going Down SouthThe Blues at Newport 1964 Rev. Gary DavisSamson and DelilahRev. Gary Davis At Newport Rev. Gary DavisYou Got to Move Rev. Gary Davis At Newport Mississippi John HurtSpikedriver Blues Newport Folk Festival 1963 Mississippi John HurtStagolee Newport Folk Festival 1963 Mississippi John HurtTrouble, I've Had It All My Days Live Oberlin College & Newport '63 Skip JamesSick Bed BluesBlues At Newport 1964 Skip JamesHard Time Killing Floor Blues Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues Son House Death Letter BluesNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues Son House Son's BluesBlues With A Feeling Son House w/ Mance LipscombPony BluesGreat Bluesmen Newport Muddy WatersWalkin' Blues Blues With A Feeling Muddy WatersFlood Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues Muddy WatersI'm Your Hoochie Coochie ManAt Newport 1960 Doc Reese Hey RattlerThe Blues at Newport 1964 Elizabeth CottonFreight trainThe Blues at Newport 1964 Mance LipscombFreddieBlues With A Feeling Lightnin' HopkinsMojo Hand Live At Newport Jesse FullerSan Francisco Bay BluesBlues With A Feeling Jesse FullerDouble Double Do Love YouNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues Robert Pete WilliamsThe Prodigal SonThe Prodigal Son Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Key To The HighwayBlues At Newport 1963 Sleepy John EstesCleanup At HomeBlues at Newport Howlin' Wolf Dust My BroomDevil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966 Howlin' Wolf Meet Me In The BottomDevil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966

Show Notes:

Robert Wilkins Newport 1964
Rev. Robert Wilkins, Newport, 1964

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk-oriented music festival in Newport, Rhode Island, which began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. The Newport Folk Festival was founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, backed by its original board: Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger and Albert Grossman. The festival in its initial guise ran from 1959 to 1970, with no festivals scheduled in 1961 or 1962. The festival was revived in 1985. The festival's beginning in 1959 parallel the blues revival period and all of the great rediscovered bluesman appeared at the festival. The first bluesmen to appear at the festival were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in 1959. Others who performed at Newport include Muddy Waters, who issued a live album of their 1960 performance, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and many others. Today is part two of or look at the great blues performances of Newport in particular chronological order. The following information comes from the book Blues Music in the Sixties A Story in Black and White by Urlich Adelt.

"Even during the hiatus of folk song enthusiasm in the 1950s, a small group of connoisseurs kept promoting the music and helped to prepare for the full-scale folk revival between 1958 and 1965. 20 The folk music magazine Sing Out! was launched in 1950 as a small-scale operation and would grow into a formidable publication in the 1960s. Harry Smith’s six-disc Anthology of American Folk Music, which featured commercial recordings of blues, gospel, and string band music from the 1920s and 1930s, came out on Folkways in 1952 and would serve as an inspiration for many emerging folk musicians in the 1960s and as an impetus to rediscover the musicians featured on the recordings.

The Newport Folk Festival was one of the main catalysts of the 1960's folk revival. The showcasing of rediscovered blues artists, in particular in the years between 1963 and 1965, aptly demonstrates the emergence of a distinctive white blues fan culture that drew from notions of folk authenticity developed in nineteenth-century Europe and refined by the folk revivalists. …The Newport Folk Festival also revealed a particular form of antimodern blues purism, which entailed a nostalgic rediscovery of and hunt for prewar black musicians. This purism would eventually clash with the diluted but not necessarily less racialist white notions of blues authenticity represented by the plugging in of Mike Bloomfield and others.

Howlin' Wolf Newport 1966
Howlin Wolf with Hubert Sumlin on Guitar,
Newport Folk Festival (1966) by David Gahr

Although the first two Newport Folk Festivals in 1959 and 1960 were financial disasters, they drew about twelve thousand people each, an impressive number for the time. …The financial problems of both the jazz and the folk festival and the raucous crowds at the jazz festival in 1960 forced the organizers to cancel the folk festival in 1961 and 1962. …After the two-year hiatus, the Newport Folk Festival became a nonprofit operation in 1963. Among the board members of the newly established Newport Folk Foundation were George Wein, Pete Seeger, and Alan Lomax. The foundation’s mission was 'to promote and stimulate interest in the arts associated with folk music.' In addition to organizing the festival, this included fostering folk music and material culture in the field and in schools. Ralph Rinzler, another member of the board of directors, worked as talent and folklore coordinator and would seek out potential performers for the festival in rural regions of the United States and Canada.In an attempt to democratize the festival, each participant would receive a standard fee of fifty dollars (regardless of popularity) as well as travel and food reimbursements. The directors invited a larger number of amateur musicians, more women and musicians from a wider musical spectrum.

Interestingly, although the blues was racially coded as black or of black origin at Newport, much of the music in question was a nostalgic rehash of styles dating back to the 1920s and 1930s fraught with essentialist notions of blackness, and therefore few black people attended the concerts. Blues performers had only represented a small part of the lineup at the first two Newport Folk Festivals, but they became one of the major attractions in the years between 1963 and 1965 and contributed to a genre that fans could separate from folk music."

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Big Road Blues Show 2/15/15: Goodbye Newport Blues – Blues Form The Newport Folk Festival Pt. 1 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8957 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8957#comments Sun, 15 Feb 2015 22:17:46 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8957 ARTISTSONGALBUM Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee My Baby Done Changed The Lock On The Door Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-1968 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Long GoneNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-1968 Willie Thomas and Butch Cage 44 BluesThe Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1 John Lee Hooker TupeloNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-1968 John Lee Hooker Hobo BluesThe Newport Folk Festival 1960 Vol. 1 Mississippi Fred McDowellHighway 61The Blues at Newport 1964 Mississippi Fred McDowellIf The River Was Whiskey The Blues at Newport 1964 Sleepy John EstesDrop Down Mama Blues At Newport 1964 Robert Pete WilliamsOn My Way From TexasBlues At Newport 1964 Mississippi John HurtSliding DeltaBlues At Newport 1964 Mississippi John HurtTalking CaseyBlues At Newport 1964 Mississippi John HurtCoffee BluesNewport Folk Festival 1963: The Evening Concert Vol. 1 Skip James Going Back to the CountryDarling, Do You Remember Me?Going Back to the Country Skip James Cypress Grove Blues Blues At Newport 1964 Skip James Devil Got My WomanBlues At Newport 1964 Lightnin' HopkinsBaby Please Don't GoLightnin' Hopkins At Newport Wilie DossCoal Black Mare Blues At Newport 1964 Wilie DossHobo BluesBlues At Newport 1964 Son House Preaching Blues Blues With A Feeling Son House Empire state Express Blues With A Feeling Lafayette Leake & Willie DixonWrinklesBlues With A Feeling Otis Spann Goodbye Newport BluesAt Newport 1960 Muddy WatersSoon Forgotten At Newport 1960 Muddy WatersI Got My Brand On YouAt Newport 1960 Robert Wilkins Don't You Let Nobody Turn You RoundBlues With A Feeling Robert Wilkins The Prodigal SonThe Prodigal Son

Show Notes:

Mississippi John Hurt performs at the Newport Folk Festival in July, 1964

 

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk-oriented music festival in Newport, Rhode Island, which began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. The Newport Folk Festival was founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, backed by its original board: Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger and Albert Grossman. The festival in its initial guise ran from 1959 to 1970, with no festivals scheduled in 1961 or 1962. The festival was revived in 1985. The festival's beginning in 1959 parallel the blues revival period and all of the great rediscovered bluesman appeared at the festival. The first bluesmen to appear at the festival were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in 1959. Others who performed at Newport include Muddy Waters, who issued a live album of their 1960 performance, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and many others. Today is part one of or look at the great blues performances of Newport in particular chronological order.

All of the great rediscovered bluesman performed at Newport; John Hurt was tracked down in Avalon, Mississippi, Bukka White in Aberdeen, Mississippi, Skip James was found in Mississippi's Tunica Hospital while Son House was residing in Rochester, New York. Eric Von Schmidt recalled the scene when Skip James took to the stage in his book Baby Let Me Follow You Down: "Skip sat down, and put his guitar on his leg. He set himself down, doing a little finger manipulation with his left hand, then he set his fingers by the sound hole. Sighed and hit the first note of I'd Rather Be the Devil Than Be That Woman's Man. He took that first note up in falsetto all the way, and the hairs on the neck went up, and all up and down my arms, the hairs just went right up. It's such an eerie note. It's almost a wail. It's a cry. There was an audible gasp from the audience."

Skip James recorded a legendary session for Paramount Records in 1931 then vanished for 33 years leaving no trail to follow. Just another blues man who had come and gone. He was tracked down and found in the Tunica, MS, hospital and then brought north to appear at the 964 Newport Folk Festival.

In Baby Let Me Follow You Down Schmidt recalled his memories of the festival: "I was listening to Mississippi John Hurt sing Spike Driver Blues. It was unreal, John Hurt was dead. Had to be. All the guys on that Harry Smith Anthology were dead. But there was no denying that the man singing so sweet and playing so beautifully was the John Hurt. He had a face – and what a face. He had a hat that he wore like a halo."

In 1963, a folk musicologist, Tom Hoskins, supervised by Richard Spottswood, was able to locate Hurt near Avalon, Mississippi. While in Avalon, Hoskins convinced Hurt to perform several songs for him, to ensure that he was genuine. Hoskins was convinced, and seeing that Hurt's guitar playing skills were still intact, Hoskins encouraged him to move to Washington, D.C., and begin performing on a wider stage. His performance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival saw his star rise amongst the new folk revival audience.

 Skip James performs at the Newport Folk
Festival in July, 1964 (photo by Rick Staehling)

Robert Wilkins cut one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer, recorded in 1964 for the Piedmont label but perhaps because he refused to play blues his part in the 60's revival is sometimes neglected. Wilkins hit the folk circuit, appearing at Newport in 1964 and the Memphis Country Blues Festival in 1966 and 1968. Even after the Rolling Stones covered "Prodigal Son" Wilkins steadfastly refused to play the blues. At the 1964 festival Wilkins delivered an epic nine minute version of "Prodigal Son", showing, that if anything, his playing was better than ever.

Other bluesmen weren't so much rediscovered as simply exposed; Mance Lipscomb was a gifted songster and slide guitarist who was born in 1895, who played at local functions around Navasota, Texas and did not make his debut recording until 1960. Lightin' Hopkins, another Texan had been recording since the 40's when he arrived at Newport. Mississippi McDowell was discovered by Alan Lomax in 1959 and recorded several albums before playing Newport in 1964. In 1956, Robert Pete Williams shot and killed a man in a local club and was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in  Angola prison. He served two years before being discovered by folklorists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen. The pair recorded Williams performing several of his own songs and helped Williams receive a pardon in 1959. For the first five years after he left prison, Williams could only perform in Louisiana, but made several albums. In 1964, Williams played his first concert outside of Louisiana, at the Newport Folk Festival. The cuts recorded of Willie Doss at Newport in 1964 are the only recordings that were ever released of his music. Doss was born in Cleveland, Mississippi, but discovered living in Ashford, Alabama by folklorist Ralph Rinzler.

Successful urban bluesmen like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, faced with a diminishing market for blues in the black market, saw the festival as a way to attract a whole new audience. At Newport 1960 was released by Muddy Waters after his appearance. When Muddy’s band played the Newport Folk Festival in 1960, Otis Spann sang "Goodbye Newport Blues" which appeared on the subsequent live album. The song was written by poet Langston Hughes in response to a riot that happened at the festival the day before.

Performers were paid just $50 to appear at Newport, but careers were made on this main stage. Dick Waterman who became a booking agent and business adviser to many of the rediscovered bluesmen recalled: "It's important to remember that the record companies were well represented at the festival. You only had about fifteen minutes to play, but if you performed really well in those few minutes, as you turned from the microphone and left the stage, you just might be greeted by John Hammond of Columbia, or Maynard Solomon of Vanguard, or Jac Holzman of Elektra. There were no lawyers or middlemen involved. The guy who made the decision at the record company was there to make a deal."

 

 

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Big Road Blues Show 2/8/15: Boogie In The Park – The One Man Band Tradition http://sundayblues.org/archives/8923 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8923#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 22:07:16 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8923 ARTISTSONGALBUM Stovepipe No. 1I've Got Salvation In My HeartStovepipe No. 1 & David Crockett 1924-1930 Stovepipe No. 1Lonesome JohnStovepipe No. 1 & David Crockett 1924-1930 Joe Hill Louis I Feel Like A MillionBoogie in the Park Joe Hill Louis Street Walkin' WomanBoogie in the Park Jesse Fuller Just Like a Ship on the Deep Blue SeaFrisco Bound! with Jesse Fuller Jesse Fuller Hesitation Blues Jazz, Folk Songs, Spirituals, Blues Jesse Fuller Take It Slow And EasyThe Lone Cat Doctor RossDr. Ross Boogie The Memphis Cuts 1953-1956 Doctor RossCome Back Baby The Memphis Cuts 1953-1956 Doctor RossChicago Breakdown The Memphis Cuts 1953-1956 Daddy StovepipeBlack Snake BluesAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949 Daddy StovepipeTuxedo Blues Alabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949 Juke Boy BonnerGoing Back to the CountryDarling, Do You Remember Me?Going Back to the Country Juke Boy BonnerI Live Where the Action IsThe One Man Trio Joe Hill LouisPeace Of MindBoogie In The Park Joe Hill LouisBoogie In The ParkBoogie In The Park Jesse FullerLeavin Memphis Frisco BoundThe Lone Cat Jesse FullerSan Francisco Bay BluesSan Francisco Bay Blues Jesse FullerSleeping In The Midnight ColdRailroad Worksong Ben Curry (Blind Bogus Ben Covington)Adam And Eve In The GardenAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949 Ben Curry (Blind Bogus Ben Covington)Boodle De Bum BumAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949 Blind Joe HillBoogie In The DarkBoogie In The Park Abner JayI'm a Hard Workin ManSwaunee Water And Cocaine Blues Driftin' Slim Jackson BluesSomebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man Driftin' Slim Mama Don't Tear My ClothesSomebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man J.D. ShortSo Much WineBlues From The Mississippi Delta J.D. ShortYou're Tempting MeThe Sonet Blues Story Doctor RossCall The DoctorA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 1 Doctor RossDrifting BluesCall The Doctor Juke Boy BonnerStruggle Here in HoustonThe Struggle Juke Boy Bonner Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal

Show Notes:

Daddy Stovepipe, Gennett Records Studio, 1924
Photograph From Talking Machine World

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As Geoge Paulus wrote in the liner notes to an album by Blind Joe Hill: "The one-man blues band, like the jug band, has all but vanished from the streets and gin mills of the cities and towns." Indeed, there doesn't seem to be much documentation on the prevalence of one-man bands and looking at the history of recorded blues, their contributions are merely a ripple in the history of recorded blues. Some information can be gleaned from liner notes and there is the book Head, Hands and Feet: A Book of One Man Bands by David Harris written a few years back that looks to be fairly comprehensive. As Pete welding wrote: "In the entire recorded history of black American folksong the number of such performers whose music has possessed anything other than curiosity or novelty value can be counted on the fingers of one hand. …One thing is certain: one-man band music is poorly represented on record. Like black string band music, it was much more commonly practiced and widely distributed through black America than its meager documentation on record would suggest, an probably for many of the same reasons. It is well known that at the very time when the largest numbers of black string bands could have been recorded by the mobile recording teams sent into the South by the record firms of the 1920's and 30's, they were largely ignored, passed over in favor of blues performers. …This one-sided emphasis tended to give us something of a distorted picture of black music."

On today's show we spotlight one-man band recordings made between the 1920's through the 70's. It should be noted that there are a number of artists like Papa George Lightfoot, Driftin' Slim, Washboard Willie and others who performed as one-man bands but recorded with bands in the studio. Today we hear from a few one-man bands from the pre-war era including Stovepipe #1, Daddy Stovepipe and Bogus Ben Covington and from the post-war era John Hill Louis, Doctor Ross, Jesse Fuller, Juke Boy Bonner, Driftin' Slim, J.D. Short, Abner Jay and and Blind Joe Hill.

From the pre-war era we spotlight music from Stovepipe #1, Daddy Stovepipe and Bogus Ben Covington. Sam Jones is remembered by elderly Cincinnati residents as a wanderer whose distinctive look (a stovepipe hat) and sound (one man band guitarist, harmonica and kazoo player blowing through a stovepipe to achieve a unique sound) made him a popular street performer. He cut sessions in 1924 as a one man band and in 1927 with guitarist DaviJoe Hill Louisd Crockett. On December 11, 1930 Stovepipe with David Crockett went into the studios with a group who called themselves King David's Jug Band. They cut six sides for the Okeh label.

Johnny Watson, alias Daddy Stovepipe was born in Mobile, Alabama, on April 12th 1867 and died in Chicago, November 1st 1963. By the 1920's he was working as a one-man band on Maxwell Street in Chicago, where he acquired the name "Daddy Stovepipe" from the characteristic top hat he wore. A veteran of the turn of the century medicine shows, he was in his late fifties when he became one of the first blues harp players to appear on record in 1924. n 1927 he made more recordings, this time in Birmingham, Alabama for Gennett Records. He made more recordings back in Chicago in 1931 for the Vocalion label with his wife, "Mississippi Sarah", a singer and jug player and made more recordings with her in 1935. He spent his last years as a regular performer on Chicago's famous Maxwell Street, where he made his last recordings.

Ben Covington or Ben Curry is said to have been born in Alabama but to have worked mainly in Mississippi and Chicago. According to Big Joe Williams he got his nickname of "Bogus Ben" because he insisted on impersonating a blind person whilst performing on street corners and in minstrel shows. In 1928 he recorded for Paramount. He recorded again in, 1929, this time for Brunswick. It is possible that he recorded for Paramount again in 1929, this time using the name "Memphis Ben". A final session recorded in 1932 for Paramount and credited to Ben Curry is usually accepted as being by the same Bogus Ben. After this session he may have moved to Pennsylvania and is said to have died there around 1935.

Doctor RossThree of the big names in one-man bands after the war were Joe Hill Louis,  Doctor Isiah Ross and Jesse Fuller. Joe Hill Louis was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill on September 23, 1921 in Raines, Tennessee. He picked up Harp first and by the late '40's, his one-man musical attack was a popular attraction in Handy Park and on WDIA, the Memphis radio station where he hosted a 15-minute program billed as The Pepticon Boy. Louis’ recording debut was made for Columbia in 1949, and his music was released on a variety of labels through the 1950's, most notably recording for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records,for whom he recorded extensively as a backing musician for a wide variety of other singers as well as under his own name. "Boogie in the Park" (recorded July 1950 and released August 1950) was the only record ever released on Sam Phillips' early Phillips label before founding Sun Records. Louis cut sides for Checker Records, Meteor and Ace with his final records cut for House Of Sound shortly before his death from tetanus in Memphis in August 1957.

Born and raised in Georgia, Jesse Fuller began playing guitar when he was a child, although he didn't pursue the instrument seriously. In his early twenties, Fuller eventually settled down in Los Angeles and then moved to San Francisco where he worked various odd jobs around the Bay Area, he played on street corners and parties. Fuller's musical career didn't properly begin until the early '50's, when he decided to become a professional musician at the age of 55. Performing as a one-man band, he began to get spots on local television shows and nightclubs. Fuller's career didn't take off until 1954, when he wrote "San Francisco Bay Blues." The song helped him land a record contract with the independent Cavalier label, and in 1955 he recorded his first album, Folk Blues: Working on the Railroad with Jesse Fuller. The album was a success and soon he was making records for a variety of labels, including Good Time Jazz and Prestige. In the late '50s and early '60s Jesse Fuller became one of the key figures of the blues revival, helping bring the music to a new, younger audience. Throughout the '60s and '70s he toured America and Europe, appearing at numerous blues and folk festivals, as well as countless coffeehouse gigs across the U.S. Fuller continued performing and recording until his death in 1976.

Driftin' Slim
From back cover of Flyright FLY 559; Photographer: Frank Scott  

Born Charles Isaiah Ross on October 21, 1925 in Tunica, Mississippi, he took early inspiration from the music of Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, and Sonny Boy Williamson I; primarily a harpist, hence his nickname "The Harmonica Boss",  he only added the other instruments in his arsenal in order to play a USO show while a member of the Army during World War II. Upon his release from the military, Ross settled in Memphis, where he became a popular club fixture as well as the host of his own radio show on station WDIA. During the early '50s, Ross recorded his first sides for labels including Sun and Chess; in 1954 he settled in Flint, Michigan, where he went to work as a janitor for General Motors, a position he held until retiring. He recorded some singles with Fortune Records during this period, including "Cat Squirrel" and "Industrial Boogie". In 1965 he cut his first full-length LP, Call the Doctor, and that same year mounted his first European tour. Ross won a Grammy for his 1981 album Rare Blues, and subsequently enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim towards the end of his career. He passed in 1993.

Another acclaimed one man band artist is Juke Boy Bonner. In 1957, Bonner made his recording debut for the Irma label, in Oakland, California. 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 magazine 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 fJuke Boy Bonnerollowed for Arhoolie in Houston during 1967, 1968 and 1969. 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. 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.”

Among the other artists featured today are Driftin' Slim, J.D. Short, Blind Joe Hill and Abner Jay. While these artists seemed to have performed as one-man bands, most of them did their recordings within a band context except Joe Hill. Slim made his first sides in the earliest 50's backed by legendary band consisting of himself on harmonica, Baby Face Turner and Crippled Red (Junior Brooks) on guitars and Bill Russel on drums.His only true one-man band recordings were in the late 60's for Milestone which issued his only full length album, Somebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man, recorded by Pete Welding in 1966 and 1967. Short cut some classic sides for Paramount and Vocalion in the 30's and made some one-man band recordings when recorded by Sam Charters in the early 60's. Jay began playing in medicine shows at the age of 5 and in 1932 joined the Silas Green from New Orleans Minstrel Show. Jay went on to lead the WMAZ Minstrels on Macon radio from 1946–56 before going solo. Common instruments on Jay's recordings include harmonica, drum kit, a six-string banjo and the bones. For many years, Jay released his music and monologues through his own record label, Brandie Records, and in later year issued recordings on Mississippi Records.

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Big Road Blues Show 2/1/15: Mix Show http://sundayblues.org/archives/8897 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8897#comments Sun, 01 Feb 2015 22:05:36 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8897 ARTISTSONGALBUM Doc Wiley Big House Blues Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50 Walter Brown & Skip Brown's OrchestraSusie May Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50 Charles "Crown Prince" Waterford Time To BlowBlues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50 Alice Moore New Blue Black And Evil BluesSt. Louis Women Vol. 2 1934-1941 Josh WhiteBlack And Evil BluesJosh White: Blues Singer 1932-1936 Leroy ErvinBlue Black And Evil Texas Blues:Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings Lennie Lewis & His Orchestra (vcl. Harold Tinsley) Mean, Bad And Evil Blues Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50 Lightnin' Hopkins Black and EvilTexas Blues Blind Joe Reynolds Outside Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 5 Marshall OwensTry Me One More TimeBlues Images Vol. 4 Willie Harris Never Drive a Stranger from Your DoorJackson Blues 1928 -1938 John Lee Hooker Don't You Remember Me?I'll Go Crazy: The Federal Records Story Lightnin' Hopkins Darling, Do You Remember Me?Soul Blues Clifford Gibson (R.T. Hanen Vcl) She's Got The Jordan River In Her Hips Clifford Gibson 1929-1931 Washboard Sam Rive Hip MamaRockin' My Blues Away Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson So Long Baby Goodbye Sun Blues box Sammy LewisYou Lied To Me Blow By Blow - An Anthology of Harmonica Blues Peg Leg Howell Moanin' and Groanin' BluesFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow! Mississippi Sheiks Your Good Man Caught The Train and GoneHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down: The Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks Mobile Strugglers Memphis BluesAfrican American Fiddlers 1926-1949 Muddy Waters Too Young To KnowThe Complete Chess Recordings Louisiana RedCatch Me A Freight TrainForrest Cty Joe/Rocky Fuller: Memory Of Sonny Boy Sonny Boy Williamson IIBorn BlindThe Chess Years Box Set Blind Lemon Jefferson Stocking Feet BluesMeaning In The Blues Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby BluesBest Of Blind Lemon Jefferson Otis Spann Hotel LorraineMartin Luther King’s Blues Big Joe Williams The Death Of Dr. Martin Luther KingMartin Luther King’s Blues Brother Will Hairston The Alabama Bus Parts 1 & 2Martin Luther King’s Blues Chocolate Brown with Blind Blake You Got What I WantBlues Images Vol. 12 Mamie SmithKansas City Man BluesCrazy Blues: The Best of Mamie Smith Lucille BoganTired as I Can BeShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan

Show Notes:

Alice Moore: Black And Evil BluesWhile I do theme shows most weeks, these mix shows often contain some short themes from set to set and we certainly explore a few on today's program. On deck today we spotlight several songs that revolve around the lyric "black and evil, first popularized by singer Alice Moore, we showcase a trio of songs revolving around Martin Luther King, we play several sides from the King Records anthology Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2, we hear twin spins from Blind Lemon Jefferson and Sammy Lewis, plus a whole batch of great pre-war blues and more.

Alice Moore, Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's. Our version, "New Black And Evil Blues" was recorded in 1937.

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep (2x)
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord has got a curse on me (2x)
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black." There's also, I think, a way of diffusing the negative "black" by owning it as Moore does, a way of empowering oneself by taking the negative associations of black and turning it around and even reveling in it. Moore's song was covered by Lil Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and Leroy Ervin. Several other artists used the "black and evil" theme including Josh White and Lennie Lewis & His Orchestra, both who are featured today.

Blues & Gospel Kings Vol. 2Today we spotlight several songs from the second volume of an anthology that collects early sides from the legendary King label titled Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50. Founded by Syd Nathan in 1943, King Records was one of the most influential independent labels of the 1940s and 1950s. By the end of the latter decade, it had become the nation's sixth largest record company. The label originally  specialized in country music and." King advertised, "If it's a King, It's a Hillbilly – If it's a Hillbilly, it's a King." The company also had a "race records" label, Queen Records (which was melded into the King label within a year or two) and most notably (starting in 1950) Federal Records which launched the singing career of James Brown. In the 1950s, this side of the business outpaced the hillbilly recordings.

Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. There's no shortage of great Lemon songs and today we spin "Stocking Feet Blues" and "That Crawlin' Baby Blues", the latter with the devastating lines:

Some woman rocks the cradle, and I declare she rules her home
Woman rocks the cradle, and I declare she rules her home
Many a man rocks some other man's baby and the fool thinks he's rockin' his own

I did not do a new show last week but I did want to play a few songs in honor of Martin Luther King. I did, however, see the movie Selma which was quite powerful. Overt political commentary was rare in recorded blues and gospel prior to the 1960’s but became increasingly more common afterwords. Several blues and gospel numbers were recorded about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in Alabama. In "Alabama Bus Pts. 1 & 2" Brother Will Hairston sings bout the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. King and ignited by Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white man. Several blues singers paid tribute to the death of Martin Luther King including Champion Jack Dupree, Big Joe Williams and Otis Spann. All three tracks played today come from the CD Martin Luther King's Blues on the Agram label, a companion to the book President Johnson’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on LBJ, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Vietnam 1963-1968 by Guido Van Rijn.

Sammy Lewis
Sammy Lewis (Photo from the Charly Sun Blues Box)

Harmonica blower Sammy Lewis and guitarist Willie Johnson recorded for Sun Records in 1955 cutting "I Feel So Worried b/w  So Long Baby Goodbye." The third song from this session, "Gonna Leave You Baby" was not issued at the time. Lewis continued working in Memphis after Johnson moved north, working with an assortment of bands. He went on to cut a 45 for the West Memphis 8th Street label in 1977. He was thought to have died until he was rediscovered in 1970, still playing in West Memphis. The 8th street sides were collected on the anthology Blow By Blow – An Anthology of Harmonica Blues on the Sundown label.

We play several classics from the pre-war era and as always I try to drawn from the best sounding reissues I can find. Tracks like Blind Joe Reynolds' "Outside Woman Blues", Marshall Owens' "Try Me One More Time" and Chocolate Brown (Irene Scruggs) with Blind Blake come from the CD's that accompany record collector John Tefteller's annual blues calendars.  The 78's are expertly remastered by Richard Nevins of Yazoo Records from the best possible copies. Other tracks like Peg Leg Howell's "Moanin' and Groanin' Blues" and Blind Lemon Jefferson's "That Crawlin' Baby Blues" come from some of the best reissue labels, Old Hat and Yazoo, A few others like Mamie Smith's "Kansas City Man Blues", Lucille Bogan's "Tired as I Can Be" and the Mississippi Sheiks' "Your Good Man Caught The Train and Gone" come from major label reissues, sometimes from the original masters, back when the majors occasionally reissued pre-war blues. So if you're not a 78 collector but are collecting pre-war blues pay attention to companies like these if you want to hear these old blues records at their best.

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Big Road Blues Show 1/18/15: Storyville Special – Blues from Storyville Records http://sundayblues.org/archives/8867 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8867#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 22:17:19 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8867 ARTISTSONGALBUM Champion Jack DupreeReminiscin' With Champion JackChampion of the Blues Champion Jack DupreeStoryville SpecialBoogie Woogie, Booze And Wild Women Champion Jack DupreeDrive 'em Down SpecialTwo Fisted Piano From New Orleans: Blues Roots Vol. 8 Speckled RedI Had My FunBlues Masters 11: Speckled Red Speckled RedFour O'Clock BluesBlues Masters 11: Speckled Red Speckled RedEarly Morning Blues Blues Masters 11: Speckled Red Lonnie Johnson & Otis SpannClementine BluesSwingin' with Lonnie: Blues Roots Vol. 5 Lonnie Johnson & Otis SpannSee See RiderSwingin' with Lonnie: Blues Roots Vol. 5 Sleepy John Estes with Hammie NixonDiving Duck BluesPortraits In Blues Vol. 10 John Henry BarbeeI Ain't Gonna Pick No More CottonI Ain't Gonna Pick No More Cotton Sippie Wallace & Little Brother MontgomeryWoman Be WiseSippie Wallace Sings The Blues Sippie Wallace & Little Brother MontgomeryI'm A Might Tight WomanSippie Wallace Sings The Blues Big Joe WilliamsShake Them DownBig Joe Williams Robert Pete WilliamsDoctor BluesRobert Pete Williams Otis SpannT.B. BluesOtis Spann: I Have Had My Fun - Blues Roots Vol. 9 Otis SpannSpann's BoogieOtis Spann: I Have Had My Fun - Blues Roots Vol. 9 Big Bill BroonzyI Get The Blues When It RainsAn Evening With Big Bill Broonzy Vol. 2 Big Bill BroonzyBlack Brown And WhiteAn Evening With Big Bill Broonzy Sunnyland SlimPrison Bound Blues Sunnyland Slim: Blues Roots Vol. 9 Roosevelt SykesThe Way I Feel Roosevelt Sykes: Portraits In Blues Vol. 11 Roosevelt SykesBoot That ThingRoosevelt Sykes: Portraits In Blues Vol. 11 Sonny Boy WilliamsonThe Sky Is CryingKeep It to Ourselves Sonny Boy WilliamsonRebecca BluesPiano Blues Little Brother MontgomeryI Must Get Mine In FrontDeep South Piano Little Brother MontgomeryBob Martin BluesDeep South Piano Sonny Terry with Brownie McGhee I'm Afraid Of FireWizard Of The Harmonica Brownie McGhee My Last SuitThe Best Of Brownie McGhee Memphis Slim This Is A Good Time To Write A Song Memphis Slim: Blues Roots Vol. 10

Show Notes:

Big Bill BroonzyOn today's program we spotlight a great batch of recordings from the Storyville label based in Copenhagen. Storyville managed to corral  many of the great blues performers who made their way to Europe staring in the latter end of the 1950's and which increased as the American Folk Blues Festival brought many more to European shores throughout the 1960's. I have always been impressed with the quality of the albums Storyville issued. Artists like Champion Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, for example, recorded prolifically for many labels often churning out less than inspired recordings in their later years but Storyville had a knack for eliciting great performances from even the most jaded artists and the fact is that the Storyville albums maintain a consistently high level of quality. In addition to the original recordings, Storyville also released albums of recordings by Harry Oster and Pete Welding.

The year was 1950 when a group of jazz enthusiasts/record collectors often met at the home of Karl Emil Knudsen. Among those present were Heinrich Breiling and the young clarinet phenomenon Henrik Johansen. The label was launched in Copenhagen in 1952 with Knudsen eventually taking over full responsibility of the label. Storyville originally sold imported American records but when American jazz artists began to tour in Europe and Scandinavia Knudsen seized every opportunity to record them for the label. The label's first releases were 78 rpm reissues featuring Ma Rainey, Clarence Williams Blue Five, and James P. Johnson, but Storyville soon began releasing original recordings. Looking back on the period of 1956 to 1964, and to a lesser extant into the early 70's, Storyville’s recorded quite a bit of blues. The first great blues singer to arrive in Copenhagen was Big Bill Broonzy in 1956 and recorded by the label. Many blues artists toured Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival, which originally ran for a decade between 1962 and the early 70's. Storyville recorded the artists in the wee hours after they had played the evening concert. The label recorded many of the bluesmen who settled down and lived and performed in Europe including Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree and Eddie Boyd. The label seemed to have a special affinity for piano players, cutting several albums by Champion Jack Dupree plus sessions by Speckled Red, Little Brother Montgomery, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd. Others who recorded for the label include Robert Pete Williams, Big Joe Williams, Lonnie Johnson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Sonny Boy Williamson and others. A good chunk of the material has been made its way to CD including the 7-CD set, The Blues Box. The Storyville discography can be a bit confusing as the label repackaged, and re-titled their albums through the years.

Champion Jack DupreeAs mentioned previously, there's a wealth of great piano blues recorded by the label.  Champion Jack Dupree moved to Europe in 1959, first settling in Switzerland and then Denmark, England, Sweden and, finally, Germany. He record prolifically for Storyville, British Decca, Blue Horizon, Sonet and others. Dupree moved to Europe in 1959, first settling in Switzerland and then Denmark, England, Sweden and, finally, Germany. He record prolifically for Storyville, British Decca, Blue Horizon, Sonet and others. Dupree cut 45's, EP's and several albums for Storyville including Champion of the Blues, The Best Of The Blues, Portraits in Blues Vol. 5, The Blues Of Champion Jack Dupree and several others.

Speckled Red first recorded in 1929, cutting his classic "The Dirty Dozens" among others. He did another session in 1930 and a final one in 1938. Charlie O'Brien, a St. Louis policeman and something of a blues aficionado had tracked down old bluesmen during the 1950s, including Speckled Red on December 14, 1954, who subsequently was signed to Delmark Records as their first blues artist. In 1960 he was booked to tour Europe. On June he toured Scandinavia where he recorded for Storyville.

Little Brother Montgomery saw his career pick up in the 1960's and he became a world traveler, visiting the UK and Europe on several occasions during the 1960's, cutting several albums there, while remaining based in Chicago. He cut one of his best latter day albums in 1972 for Storyville titled Deep South Piano. Montgomery can also be heard playing behind Sippie Wallace on the Storyville album Sippie Wallace Sings The Blues recorded in 1966 when when she was touring with the American Folk Blues.

Other piano players who recorded for Storyville were Otis Spann, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Slim, Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd. Roosevelt Sykes was recorded for Storyville while on tour for the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival. Memphis Slim first appeared outside the United States in 1960, touring with Willie Dixon, with whom he returned to Europe in 1962 as a featured artist in the first of the series of American Folk Festival concerts. in 1962. That same year, he moved permanently to Paris where he secured his position as one of the most prominent blues artists for nearly three decades. He recorded the album Traveling With The Blues for Storyville in 1960 plus some other scattered sides for the label. Otis Spann recorded an album for the label as well as backing Lonnie Johnson on a fantastic session. Both men were on tour for the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival at the time.

Sonny Boy Williamson: Portrait In Blues Vol. 4Big Bill Broonzy was the first blues singer to be recorded by Storyville. In 1951, Broonzy took his first tour of Europe, where he was met with enthusiasm and appreciation. His appearances in Europe introduced the blues to European audiences and were especially influential in London’s emerging skiffle and rock blues scene. Broonzy’s success also set the stage for later blues artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson II and Muddy Waters to play European venues. Broonzy toured Europe again in 1955, 1956 and 1957. Broonzy was recorded live at Club Montmartre in Copenhagen and these recordings were issued on Storyville as An Evening With Big Bill Broonzy Vol. 1 & 2.

Other blues singers recorded for the label include Sonny Boy Williamson II, Big Joe Williams, John Henry Barbee, Sleepy John Estes & Hammie Nixon, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Robert Pete Williams. Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon were recorded for Storyville while both were on tour for the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival while  Big Joe and Robert Pete Williams were recorded for Storyville while both were on tour for the 1972 Festival. Both Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry cut excellent albums in the early 70's for Storyville each accompanying each other. Sonny Boy Williamson first traveled to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1963 and joined the Festival again in 1964. He recorded a wonderful session for Storyville in 1963 backed by Matt Murphy, Memphis Slim and Billie Stepney.

John Henry Barbee cut an exceptional album for the label and has a fascinating but tragic story. Barbee recorded recorded for Vocalion in the early fall of 1938 where he made the trip to Chicago and recorded four titles. His initial record sold well enough to cause Vocalion to call on Barbee again, but by that time he had left his last known whereabouts in Arkansas. Barbee returned to the blues scene during the midst of the blues revival. His earliest sides are from 1963 recorded at the Chicago club the Fickle Pickle. n 1964 he joined the American Folk Blues Festival and was recorded several times that year: songs by him appear on a pair of albums on the Spivey label, several tracks were recorded while in Europe as well as a an excellent full-length album for Storyville issued as Portraits in Blues Vol. 9. and appears on John Henry Barbee & Sleepy John Estes: Blues Live. In a case of tragic circumstances, Barbee returned to the United States and used the money from the tour to purchase his first automobile. Only ten days after purchasing the car, he accidentally ran over and killed a man. He was locked up in a Chicago jail, and died there of a heart attack a few days later, November 3, 1964, 11 days before his 59th birthday.

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Big Road Blues Show 1/4/15: The Blues Ain't Nothin' But…??? – The Year 1938 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8850 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8850#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 15:26:38 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8850 ARTISTSONGALBUM Bo Carter Who's Been Here?Greatest Hits 1930-1940 Big Bill BroonzyGood Time TonightGood Time Tonight Kokomo ArnoldGoin' Down in Galilee (Swing Along With Me)Kokomo Arnold Vol. 4 1937-1938 Merline Johnson & The Louisiana KidSeparation BluesMerline Johnson Vol. 2 1938-1939 Trixie SmithFreight Train BluesCharlie Shavers & The Blues Singers 1938-1939 Rosetta TharpeRock MeThe Original Soul Sister Pete Johnson Roll 'EmPete Johnson 1938-1939 Meade Lux LewisHonky Tonk Train BluesFrom Spirituals To Swing Joe Turner & Pete JonsonLow Down DogFrom Spirituals To Swing Washboard SamYellow, Black And BrownWashboard Sam Vol. 2 1937-1938 Jazz Gillum Boar Hog BluesThe Bluebird Recordings 1934-1938 Blind John DavisJersey Cow BluesBlind John Davis 1938-1939 Shorty Bob ParkerThe Death of Slim GreenKid Prince Moore 1936-1938 Tampa RedLove with a FeelingThe Essential Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost BluesLonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940 John Henry BarbeeSix Weeks Old BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938) Big Joe WilliamsPeach Orchard MammaBig Joe Williams Vol. 1 1935-1941 Blind Boy Fuller Funny Feeling Blues Blind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-193 LeadbellyNoted Rider BluesLeadbelly - The Remaining LOCR Vol. 5 1938-1942 Monkey JoeNew York CentralMonkey Joe Vol. 1 1935-1939 Curtis JonesAlley Bound BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 2 1938-1939 Memphis MinnieGood BiscuitsMemphis Minnie Vol. 4 1938 Georgia WhiteThe Blues Ain't Nothin' But...???Georgia White Vol. 3 1937-1939 Speckled RedEarly In The MorningSpeckled Red 1929-1938 Peetie WheatstrawShack Bully StompThe Essential Cow Cow DavenportRailroad BluesThe Essential Oscar WoodsJames Session BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star Harlem HamfatsI Believe I'll Make A ChangeHarlem Hamfats Vol. 3 1937-1938 Jimmie GordonFast LifeJimmie Gordon Vol. 2 1936-1938 George CurryMy Last Five DollarsFrank ''Springback'' James & George Curry 1934-1938 Johnnie TempleGonna Ride 74Johnnie Temple Vol. 1 1935-1938 Son BondsOld Bachelor BluesSon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941 Sleepy John EstesSpecial Agent (Railroad Police Blues)I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More 1929-1941 Sonny Boy WilliamsonDecoration BluesThe Bluebird Recordings 1937-1938 Yank RachelI'm Wild And Crazy As Can BeThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.1

Show Notes:

 1938 Decca Cataloge
1938 Decca Catalog

Today’s show is the twelfth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need. From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. Race record sales were up around 15 per cent in 1937. Sales were a bit down by 1938 with an average of eight race records a week, down from seven a week from the previous year.

From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. Race record sales were up around 15 per cent in 1937: Decca and Bluebird each put out around 120 items whilst BRC-ARC issued almost on Vocalion and another 100 on the dime-store labels.

According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on chance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Roosevelt Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). But despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – and as in the previous years it was artists such as Tampa Red, Spirituals to Swing ConcertKokomo Arnold, Washboard Sam, Jazz Gillum, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Peetie Wheatstraw and the Harlem Hamfats who dominated the market. Tampa cut 26 sides, the Hamfats cut around numbers under there own name as well as backing other singers, Peetie Wheatstraw cut 17 sides, Washboard Sam cut over two-dozen sides, Jazz Gillum cut a dozen numbers and Broonzy cut around two-dozen sides. Several big name artists had their careers end during this period including Bumble Bee Slim who's last sides were cut in 1937 (he would record again in the 50's and 60's), while Kokomo Arnold and Casey Bill weldon cut their finals sessions in 1938.

We spin  a few tracks today from a groundbreaking concert held in New York City in 1938. From Spirituals to Swing was the title of two concerts presented by John Hammond in Carnegie Hall on 23 December 1938 and 24 December 1939. The event was dedicated to singer Bessie Smith, who died a year before in a car accident in Virginia. The concerts included performances by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, Helen Humes, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Mitchell's Christian Singers, the Golden Gate Quartet, James P. Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Terry. The idea was a history, starting with spirituals and leading up to big swing bands, involving African American performers. Hammond had difficulty gaining sponsorship for the event because it involved African American artists and an integrated audience. However, The New Masses, the journal of the American Communist Party, agreed to finance it. The boogie-woogie craze of the late 1930s and early 1940s dates from these concerts. Johnson and Turner, along with Lewis and Ammons, continued as an act after the concerts with their appearances at the Cafe Society night club, as did many of the other performers.

As in the previous year the blues market was dominated by Chicago singers but there several down-home singers recorded. wo down home singers who could hold their own in terms of popularity against the urban artists were Sleepy John Estes and Blind Boy Fuller. Fuller cut twenty-two sides in 1938 for Vocalion. Estes cut an eight song session on April 22, 1938 and at the same session Son Bonds cut one 78 backed by Estes. Other down-home singers featured today include Big Joe Williams, Leadbelly and John Henry Barbee.

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Big Road Blues Show 12/28/14: Mix Show http://sundayblues.org/archives/8826 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8826#comments Sun, 28 Dec 2014 22:38:35 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8826 ARTISTSONGALBUM Mickey Champion & Jimmy WitherspoonThere Ain't Nothing BetterBam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-19622 Mickey ChampionI'm A Woman Bam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-19622 Mickey ChampionGood For Nothin' ManBam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-19622 Big Joe TurnerNobody In My MindHave No Fear, Big Joe Turner Is Here Washboard SamBucket's Got A HoleWhen The Sun Goes Down J.B. SmithPoor BoyOld Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2 Bessie JonesJohn HenryGet In Union Will Slayden Joe TurnerAfrican-American Bajo Songs From West Tennessee Little Brother MontgomeryUp The CountryHome Again, Chicago Roosevelt SykesMusic Is My BusinessMusic Is My Business Lonesome SundownIt's Not True Bought Me A Ticket Blue CharlieWatch That CrowRhythm 'n' Bluesin' By The Bayou Boogie JakeEarly In The MorningBluesin' By The Bayou The Four Blazes Women, WomenMary Jo Goree CarterBack Home BluesThe Complete Recordings Vol. 1 Luke Jones & His OrchestraMama Oh MamaNo More Doggin' The RPM Records Story Vol. 1 King Perry & His OrchestraWelcome Home BabyNo More Doggin' The RPM Records Story Vol. 1 Alberta AdamsRememberChess Blues Alberta AdamsMessin' Around With The BluesMen Are Like Street Cars...Women Blues Singers 1928-1969 Alberta AdamsSay Baby SayT.J. Fowler 1948-53 Leroy FosterLouella Rough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story Floyd JonesSweet Talkin' WomanMasters Of Modern Blues Vol. 3 Johnny ShinesTwo Trains Runnin'Masters Of Modern Blues Vol.1 Otis Spann My Home Is On The DeltaThe Complete Candid Recordings Lightnin' HopkinsAnother Fool In Town Jake Head Boogie Sweet Papa StovepipeAll Birds Look Like Chicken To MeRare Paramount Blues 1926-1929 Sweet Papa StovepipeMama's Angel ChildRare Paramount Blues 1926-1929 McKinley Peebles & Bessie JonesYou Got to Reap Just What You Sow/Just a Little Talk with JesusGet In Union Blind Lemon Jefferson'Lectric Chair BluesThe Best Of Blind Lemon Jefferson William HarrisElectric Chair Blues (Jefferson Country Blues)Too Late, Too Late Blues Vol. 3 Mary ButlerElectrocuted Blues (Electric Chair Blues)Bo Carter Vol. 1 1928-1931 Bessie Smith Send Me to the 'Lectric ChairThe Complete Recordings (Frog) Dinah WashingtonSend Me to the 'Lectric ChairSings Bessie Smith

Show Notes:

Bessie JonesFor our final show of 2014 we have a diverse mix show spanning the 1920's through the 1970's and along the way we pay tribute to two blues ladies who recently passed; we end the year on a somber note with tributes to Detroit singer Alberta Adams and L.A. singer Mickey Champion. Also on deck today we spotlight tracks from a great recent collection of sides by singer Bessie Jones, we spin a batch of songs about the electric chair, some fine Chicago blues, a set of swamp blues, we also throw in some jump blues as well as some other odds and ends.

Detroit singer Alberta Adams died at the age of 97 on Christmas Day. Becoming a regular at clubs around Detroit in the 1940s, she eventually was discovered by Chess Records and cut several singles for the label in 1953 including "Messin' Around With The Blues b/w This Morning" and "Remember" and "No Good Man" the latter which was not released. She also briefly recorded with Berry Gordy's Thelma Records in 1962 cutting "I Got A Feeling b/w Without Your Love"and New Jersey's Savoy label where she cut “Say Baby Say” with T.J. Fowler's band in 1952. In the late 1990's and 2000's she record several albums.

Mickey Champion died last month at the age of 89. Discovered in L.A. by bandleader Johnny Otis, Champion recorded several impressive R&B sides in the 1950s and early '60s for West Coast-based labels including Aladdin, Dootone, Modern, RPM and King. The wife of bandleader Roy Milton until his death, Champion began recording again in 2000, releasing a pair of records on Tondef Records. In 2008 Ace Records issued her collected singles from the 1950's and 1960's under the title Bam a Lam: The R&B Recordings 1950-1962.

While I like looking at year end lists of music every year I'm not sure I purchase enough new music or even reissues to make my own list. If I were to compile a list I would certainly include Get In Union released on Tompkins Square Records. The 2-CD set is a collection sides by Bessie Jackson featuring sides with the Georgia Sea Island Singers, combined with many previously unavailable performances captured by Alan Lomax between 1959 Mickey Championand 1966. Bessie Jones was one of the most popular performers on the 1960s and ’70s folk circuit, appearing-usually at the helm of the Georgia Sea Island Singers-at colleges, festivals, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. lan Lomax first visited the Georgia Sea Island of St. Simons in June of 1935 with folklorist Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and author Zora Neale Hurston. There they met the Spiritual Singers Society of Coastal Georgia, as the group was then called, and recorded several hours of their songs and dances for the Library of Congress. Returning 25 years later, Lomax found that the Singers were still active, and had been enriched by the addition of Bessie Jones who possessed a enormous repertoire of black music.  There's practically no blues on this collection but we do play Jones singing a fine rendition of "John Henry."

Also from the is collection we spin a track by an associate of Jones' named McKinley Peebles. Nothing is known about Alan Lomax’s meeting with Peebles, in New York City, in late 1961, in the midst of Alan’s sessions with Bessie Jones, although it’s presumed that they were introduced by Peebles’ friend and busking colleague, Reverend Gary Davis. Peebles was a native of Tide- water Virginia who had made a record for the Paramount label in 1926 under the name Sweet Papa Stovepipe.We play those sides as well today, "All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me b/w Mama's Angel Child." By the way Tompkins Square Records has been issuing some of the best reissues around including some tremendous gospel collections if your a fan of that music.

It appears the electric chair theme started the Bessie Smith's "Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair" recorded on March 3, 1927 and written by Fletcher Henderson. The following year several songs appeared using the theme: Blind Lemon Jefferson "'Lectric Chair Blues" (Feb. 1928), William Harris' "Electric Chair Blues (Jefferson Country Blues)" (Oct. 1928) Mary Butler's "Electrocuted Blues (Electric Chair Blues)" (Nov. 1928). Both Ruby Smith in 1938, the niece of Bessie, and Dinah Washington in 1958 covered Bessie's "Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair." Guitar Welch recorded "Electric Chair Blues" at Angola Prison in 1959.

Alberta AdamsRegionally we feature sets of Chicago blues artists and Louisiana artists. From Chicago we hear the lovely "Louella" by Leroy Foster. Between 1948 and 1952 Baby Face Leroy Foster waxed a handful absolutely terrific sides under his own name for a number fledgling Chicago labels aided by some of the windy city's best blues musicians. We also hear from Floyd Jones and Johnny Shines from sessions they did for Pete Welding's Testament label.

Down in Louisiana we spotlight Charlie (Charlie Morris) from Lake Charles who cut sessions for Jay Miller in 1957 and 1958 (many unreleased), Boogie Jake who also worked with Jay Miller and backed Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester as well as cutting a few singles and Lonesome Sundown, there most prolific of the bunch, who also got his start through Miller and waxed a stack of great swamp number for Excello between 1956 and 1964. I've been listening to quite a bit of swamp blues lately courtesy of Ace Records who in the last few years has issue a trio of great collections that I would highly recommend:  Bluesin' By The Bayou, Rhythm 'n' Bluesin' By The Bayou: Rompin' & Stompin' and Bluesin' By The Bayou: Rough'n'Tough.

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Big Road Blues Show 12/21/14: Christmas In Jail (Ain't That A Pain) – Christmas Blues http://sundayblues.org/archives/8805 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8805#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:53:08 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8805 ARTISTSONGALBUM The Nic Nacs with Mickey ChampionGonna Have A Merry Xmas Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2 Mabel ScottBoogie Woogie Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas Frankie ''Half-Pint'' JaxonChrist Was Born On Christmas Morn Blues, Blues Christmas Titus Turner Christmas Morning BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Jimmy ButlerTrim Your TreeBlues, Blues Christmas Cecil GrantHello Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas Harman Ray Xmas Blues Blues, Blues Christmas Champion Jack DupreeSanta Clause BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 4 Jimmy McCracklinChristmas Time Part 1Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3 Roy Milton & His Solid SendersNew Year's Resolution BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2 Johnny Otis OrchestraHappy New Year, BabyBlues, Blues Christmas Jimmy ButlerTrim Your Tree Blues, Blues Christmas Big Joe TurnerChristmas Date BoogieBlues, Blues Christmas Lil McClintockDon't Think I'm Santa Claus Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 4 LeadbellyChristmas Is CominBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3 Leroy CarrChristmas In Jail (Ain't It A Pain) Tampa RedChristmas & New Year's BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Rev. J.M. Gates Did You Spend Christmas Day In JailBlues, Blues Christmas Rev. Edward ClaybornThe Wrong Way to Celebrate ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas Black AceChristmas TimeBlues, Blues Christmas Lowell FulsonLonesome CBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2hristmas Part 1Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2 Hop WilsonNew Merry Christmas Baby Blues, Blues Christmas Vol. 3 Charles BrownChristmas Blues Legend! Goree Carter Christmas BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 4 Lonnie JohnsonHappy New Year DarlingBlues, Blues Christmas Robert NighthawkMerry ChristmasBlues Southside Chicago Jimmy WitherspoonHow I Hate To See Christmas Come Around Blues, Blues Christmas Larry DarnellChristmas Blues Blues, Blues Christmas Butterbeans & SusiePapa Ain't No Santa ClausBlues, Blues Christmas Mary Harris w/ Peetie Wheatstraw & Charlie JordanHappy New Year BluesBlues, Blues Christmas Julia LeeChristmas SpiritsBlues, Blues Christmas Bukka WhiteChristmas Eve Blues Memphis Swamp Jam Lightnin’ HopkinsMerry ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2 Gatemouth Moore Gate’s Christmas BluesGreat Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7 Harry ''Fats'' Crafton w Doc Bagby Orchestra Bring That Cadillac BackBlues, Blues Christmas J.B. SummersI Want A Present For ChristmasBlues, Blues Christmas Fats WallerSwingin’ Them Christmas BellsBlues, Blues Christmas Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Paramount Christmas Greetings Ad

I've been doing a Christmas blues show for many years and was always frustrated with the lack of a really good collection of early blues Christmas songs. In 2005 I hooked up with the Document label to put together a 2-CD, 52 track collection of blues and gospel songs from the 1920's to the 1950's called Blues, Blues Christmas. The record proved to be popular and a second volume was released in 2009,  a third volume in 2013 and this year sees the fourth volume. You can read the notes to these by visiting my writing page. Many of today's tracks come from those collections.

On October 30, 1889 banjoist Will Lyle made history by recording "Jingle Bells" – the very first Christmas record. Although no known copies of this recording survive, one of the earliest vocal examples of "Jingle Bells" does survive on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, "The Sleigh Ride Party." The first commercial Christmas blues record was cut by Bessie Smith. Her classic "At The Christmas Ball" inaugurated the Christmas blues tradition when it was recorded in November 1925 for Columbia. A year later, circa December 1926, the gospel Christmas tradition was launched when the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers recorded "Silent Night, Holy Night" for Paramount Records. After these recordings it was off to the races with numerous Christmas blues numbers recorded by singers of all stripes, a pace that continued as blues evolved into R&B and then rock and roll. It’s almost certainly the case that many of these songs were recorded at the prompting of the record companies. Like any business they were always looking for a new angle or gimmick to sell records and advertised these Christmas records boldly, often with full-page ads, in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender and magazines like Billboard.

Perhaps more than any other music, the blues is deeply enmeshed in a particular culture, entangled in the era of segregation, in the era of Jim Crow and in the era of slavery. In his classic Screening The Blues Paul Oliver wrote “for the Negro, Christmas has a deep-rooted significance beyond that of the religious meaning of the celebration itself; a more worldly one of which has none the less firmly established itself in his folkways. Since far back in slavery Christmas has signified a rest, a break in the year's routine which no other festival affords, proving an opportunity for a man to be with his family and, for a brief period at any rate, from the rigorous monotony of rural labor.” The annual Christmas Ball was something looked forward to all year and as Oliver astutely notes “there may have been a change of venue–a Harlem cellar dive for the 'quarters' and a jazz band instead of the fiddles, but there was probably little difference in kind and certainly in spirit at the Christmas Ball described by Bessie Smith…”

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Among Paramount's biggest blues stars of the 1920's were Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake who made their debuts for the label several months apart – Jefferson in December 1925 or January 1926 and Blake around August of 1926. Paramount ramped up their blues and gospel recordings considerably in 1927 and a new Jefferson and Blake record appeared every month. Paramount resorted to several novel promotions for their big artists; In 1924 Ma Rainey's sixth release was labeled "Ma Rainey's Mystery Record" with prizes given to the best title while Charlie Patton's "Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues" was listed as by The Masked Marvel with a corresponding advert that bore a drawing of a blindfolded singer – looking nothing like Patton – and the clue that he was an exclusive Paramount artist. Similarly, so successful was Jefferson, that a special yellow and white label was produced for Paramount 12650, "Piney Woods Money Mama" b/w ‘Low Down Mojo Blues" which bore his picture and the wording "Blind Lemon Jefferson's Birthday Record." In a similar vein Christmas records can be seen as just another promotional tool with ads for these records appearing annually in black newspapers every holiday season. Befitting his stardom, Lemon's lone holiday record "Christmas Eve Blues" b/w "Happy New Year Blues", was given a full-page advertisement in the December 12th, 1928 edition of the Chicago Defender. In Paramount's 1928 late fall Dealers' Supplement the label advertised scores of "CHRISTMAS, SPIRITUAL AND SERMON RECORDS THAT ARE DEPENDABLE SALES PRODUCERS" and warned that they "SHOULD BE IN YOUR STOCKS NOW." Blind Blake received the large sized treatment in the 1929 edition of the paper for his "Lonesome Christmas Blues," (also sharing the page was Leroy Carr's "Christmas In Jail – Ain't That A Pain?") his only Christmas record. The flip was "Third Degree Blues" – apparently Blake only had enough holiday spirit for one side!

Blind Blake wishes you a Merry X-mas

The trend continued with more frequency in the 30's. Here are a few notable songs: Butterbeans & Susie "Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus" (1930), Charlie Jordan "Santa Claus Blues" ["Christmas Christmas, how glad I am you are here/ Well I ain’t had a chicken dinner for this whole round year/Shiny bones and naked bones gleaming from around my plate/ …So pass me that chicken, the turkey, duck and the goose/Well all you birds gonna be one legged when I turn you-a-loose"] (1931) and "Christmas "Christmas Blues" (1935), Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom "Christmas Morning Blues" (1934), Verdi Lee "Christmas "Tree Blues" (1935), Tampa Red "Christmas And New Years Blues" (1934), Peetie Wheatstraw "Santa Claus Blues" (1935), Bumble Bee Slim's "Christmas And No Santa Claus and "Santa Claus Bring Me A New Woman" (1936), Black Ace "Christmas Time Blues (Beggin' Santa Claus)" (1937), Casey Bill Weldon "Christmas Time Blues" (1937), Bo Carter "Santa Claus" (1938), Walter Davis "Santa Claus" (1935), Sonny Boy Williamson I "Christmas Morning Blues" (1938).

Mary Harris, who cut two sides for Decca at an October 31, 1935 session is most certainly Verdi Lee who cut sides on the exact same date, also in the company of fellow St. Louis musicians Peetie Wheatstraw and Charlie Jordan. It was a holiday themed session with the group cutting "Christmas Tree Blues", "No Christmas Blues", "Happy New Year Blues", "Christmas Christmas Blues" and "Santa Claus Blues" (the latter two with vocals by Jordan and Wheatstraw respectively). Paul Oliver noted that "it would be pleasant to think that each singer was inspired by the others to create a blues on the same subject but at this date, with Christmas two months away, it is more likely that it was a deliberate promotional device by Rev. J.M. Gates: Will The Coffin Be Your Santa Claus[producer] Mayo Williams."

In the 40's there was of course more blues Christmas songs but there was a new music brewing called R&B. Evolving out of jump blues in the late '40's, R&B laid the groundwork for rock & roll. The era's biggest Christmas song was undoubtedly the immortal "Merry Christmas, Baby" cut by Charles Brown & The Blazers in 1947. This perennial classic has been covered numerous times including versions by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne , Lou Rawls, Booker T. & the MG's, Otis Redding, James Brown and countless others. Charles Brown's smooth ballad style has become synonymous with Christmas ever since remaking "Merry Christmas, Baby" many times, cutting many other Christmas songs and full length albums including 1961's Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs and Cool Christmas Blues in 1994.

Notable blues and R&B songs from this period include: Champion Jack Dupree's "Santa Claus Blues" (1945), Gatemouth Moore "Christmas Blues" (1946) [recut in 1977 as "Gate's Christmas Blues"], Little Willie Littlefield "Merry Xmas" (1949), Mabel Scott "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (1947), Harman Ray "Xmas Blues" ["Hold it, hold it man/Don’t play me no jingle bells the way I feel this Christmas/Only kind of bells I want to have anything to do with is some of them mission bells/Man, play me the blues long, loud and lowdown"] (1947), Boll Weavil "Christmas Time Blues" (1947), Big Joe Turner "Christmas Date Boogie "(1948), Thelma Cooper "I Need A Man (For Xmas)" (1948), Smokey Hogg "I Want My Baby For Christmas" (1949), Amos Milburn "Let's Make Christmas Merry Baby" (1949), Harry Crafton "Bring That Cadillac Back" ["I let you eat my turkey on Christmas morn/When I looked around you and my Cadillac was gone"] (1949), Felix Gross "Love For Christmas" ["You can have your turkey and your dressing/Sweet cakes and apple pie/Blue Champagne and Rock & Rye/Everything that money can buy"] (1949), J.B. Summers "I Want a Present For Christmas" (1949 ["Santa Claus, Santa Claus/Hear my plea/Open up your bag and give a fine brown baby to me/ …You can stop by my chimney/Drop her in the chute/ Leave your reindeer outside/Come in and get my loot"] .

One other song from this era is the downright odd "Junior's a Jap Girl's Christmas for His Santa Claus" (1942) a Library of Congress recording by Willie Blackwell that defies categorization. Other non-R&B Christmas songs from the 40's include a few by Leadbelly such as "Christmas Is A-Coming", "The Christmas Song", "On A Christmas Day", Sylvester Cotton "Christmas Blues" (1948), Washboard Pete [aka Ralph Willis] "Christmas Blues" (1948), Alex Seward & Louis Hayes "Christmas Time Blues" (1948), Walter Davis "Santa Claus" (1949).

Clyde Lasley: Santa Came Home DrunkThere was a time you could hit the charts with an instrumental as pianist Lloyd Glenn well knew, scoring big with "Old Time Shuffle Blues" which hit #3 on the R&B charts in 1950 and "Chica Boo" which hit #1 in 1951. He seemed to have a knack for being on hit records, accompanying T-Bone Walker on his 1947 hit "Call It Stormy Monday", and in 1949 he joined Swing Time Records as A&R man, recording a number of hits with Lowell Fulson, including "Everyday I Have The Blues" and the #1 R&B hit "Blue Shadows." In sunny Los Angeles on April 1951 he waxed the shuffling "(Christmas) Sleigh Ride." Glenn's distinctive piano work can also be found on a five-song session Jesse Thomas waxed for Swingtime also in April 1951 which included "Xmas Celebration." Glenn was also present when Lowell Fulson cut his classic two-parter, "Lonesome Christmas Pt. 1 & 2 "in 1951.

The 50's produced many more Christmas gems including: Lowell Fulson's oft covered ""Lonesome Christmas" (1950), Cecil Gant "It's Christmas Time Again" and "Hello, Santa Claus" (1950), Roy Milton "Christmas Time Blues" (1950), Johnny Otis & Little Esther Phillips "Far Away Blues" [also known as "Faraway Christmas Blues"] (1950), Jimmy Liggins "I Want My Baby For Christmas" (1950), The Nic Nacs with Mickey Champion "Gonna Have A Merry Xmas" (1950), Larry Darnell "Christmas Blues" (1950), Sonny Parker with Lionel Hampton "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" (1950), Lloyd Glenn "Sleigh Ride" (1951), Sugar Chile Robinson "Christmas Boogie" b/w "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1950), Titus Turner "Christmas Morning" (1952), Lightning Hopkins "Merry Christmas" (1953), Chuck Berry "Run, Rudolph, Run" (1958) and "Merry Christmas Baby" (1958), John Lee Hooker "Blues for Christmas" (1959).

The 60's, less so in the 70's, produced a number of strong Christmas blues songs including at least one blues classic, Little Johnny Taylor's "Please Come Home For Christmas" (1969) which has become an oft covered holiday classic. Other notable 60's songs include: Sonny Boy Williamson II "Santa Claus" (1960), Lightnin' Hopkins "Santa" (1960) and "Heavy Snow" (1962), Black Ace "Santa Claus Blues" (1960), B.B. King "Christmas Celebration" (1960), Hop Wilson "Merry Christmas, Darling" (1961), Robert Nighthawk "Merry Christmas Baby" (1964), Lowell Fulson "I Wanna Spend Christmas With You" (1967), Louis Jordan "Santa Claus, Santa Claus" (1968), Charles Brown "New Merry Christmas Baby" (1969) featuring Earl Hooker, Bukka White "Christmas Eve Blues" (1969). In the 70's: Jimmy Reed "Christmas Present Blues" (1970), Lee Jackson "The Christmas Song" (1971), Clyde Lasley "Santa Came Home Drunk (1971), Albert King "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" (1974) and "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" (1974), Eddie C. Campbell "Santa's Messin' with the Kid" (1977).

Freddy Ling: I Hear Jingle BellsThere seems to be a dearth of quality Christmas songs in the 70's and 80's. By the late 80's the rise of the CD caused the demise of the 45 record which was one of the main vehicles for putting out holiday songs. However in lieu of the 45 labels began releasing Christmas themed compilations and there have been a number of very good collections. Some of the best include: Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas (1989) from the Antone's label [reissued on Epic in 1986 and Sony in 2001], Alligator Records Christmas Collection (1992), Ichiban Blues At Christmas Vol. 1-4 (1991-97) [Best of Ichiban Blues at Christmas was issued 2002], Bullseye Blues Christmas (1995), Stony Plain's Christmas Blues (2000), Blue Christmas (2000) from the Dialtone label, Blue Xmas (2001) on Evidence. A number of artists issued Christmas themed records including Charles Brown, Huey "Piano' Smith, Johnny Adams, B.B. King and Etta James. Also with the dominance of the CD age labels went back into their vaults to put together compilations of classic Christmas blues.

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Big Road Blues Show 12/14/14: They Call Me Big Mama – The Life and Music of Big Mama Thornton http://sundayblues.org/archives/8767 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8767#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 22:07:08 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8767 ARTISTSONGALBUM Michael SpörkeInterview Big Mama ThorntonCotton Picking BluesThe Complete 1950 1961 Big Mama ThorntonI Smell A RatHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings Big Mama ThorntonRock-A-Bye BabyHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings Big Mama ThorntonYes, BabyHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings Big Mama ThorntonHound DogHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings Big Mama ThorntonMy StoryThe Complete 1950 1961 Big Mama ThorntonStop Hoppin' On MeHound Dog: The Peacock Recordings Big Mama ThorntonThey Call Me Big MamaThe Complete 1950 1961 Big Mama ThorntonOne More River Saved Big Mama ThorntonBig Mama's Coming HomeThe Complete 1950-1961 Big Mama ThorntonLife Goes OnAll Night Long They Played The Blues Big Mama ThorntonBall N' Chain Ball And Chain Big Mama ThorntonLittle Red RoosterLive In Europe Big Mama ThorntonMy Heavy Load Ball And Chain Big Mama ThorntonSession BluesIn Europe Big Mama ThorntonI'm Feeling Alright With The Muddy Waters Blues Band) Big Mama ThorntonLooking The World OverIn Europe Big Mama ThorntonEverybody's Happy But MeSassy Mama! Big Mama ThorntonJailJail Big Mama ThorntonThat Lucky Old SunLive At Ann Arbor 1970 Big Mama Thornton Unlucky GirlBall And Chain Big Mama ThorntonRock MeGunsmoke Blues

Show Notes:

Big Mama ThorntonWillie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton is probably best remembered for two songs that became huge for Elvis and later Janis Joplin. "Hound Dog" held down the top slot on Billboard's R&B charts for seven weeks in 1953 and Elvis had an even bigger hit with it in 1956. Joplin covered "Ball and Chain" on her debut album which became a million seller. Thornton moved to Houston where she signed with Don Robey's cutting some terrific sides but no hits to match "Hound Dog." After Houston she settled in California where she cut a few singles and struggled playing small club dates. After new management she began to play festivals including the American Folk Blues Festival and cut some fine albums for Arhoolie. She cutting records for Mercury and Vanguard through the 70's and touring up until her death in 1984. Today we feature Big Mama's music and hear my interview with Michael Spörke who has written the biography Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music.

As Spörke writes: "Willie Mae moved in the house of relatives in Barbour County Alabama, and found herself a job washing and cleaning spittoons in the local tavern. One night the tavern's regular;r vocalist go drunk so Willie Mae convinced the tavern owner that she could do the job. She never looked back after that." As she related to writer Ralph Gleason: "I like my own old down home singing, with the feeling.I learned to sing blues by myself. …My singing comes from experience, my own feeling. I got my own feeling for everything. I never had no one teach me nothing. I never went to school for music or nothing. I stayed home to take care of my mother who was sick. I taught myself to sing and to blow harmonica and even to play the drums by watching other people. I can't read music but I know where I'm singing! If I hear a blues I like, I try to sing it in my own way. It's always best to have something of your own. I don't sing like nobody but myself." Her big break came through singer Diamond Teeth Mary who met Willie Mae when she was working on a garbage truck and  happened to hear her singing. Mary told her about a singing contest for Sammy Greens Hot Harlem Revue. At fourteen years old, she won the contest and began traveling with the Revue.

Thornton’s career began to take off when she moved to Houston in 1948.She made her debut in 1950 cutting "All Right Baby b/w Bad Luck Got My Man" for the tiny E&W label on Houston's Dallas Avenue. She signed a a five year recording contract with Don Robey's Peacock Records in 1951. Thornton played at Robey's Bronze Peacock club and toured the Big Mama Thornton AdChitlin' Circuit. Thornton cut some solid records before "Hound Dog", such as "Cotton picking Blues" and  "Let Your Tears Fall Baby" but nothing hit the charts. Robey negotiated a deal with Johnny Otis in which he would take some of Robey's artists on tour with the revue and that he would also record them. Sh was apparently a big hits as the Chicago Defender proclaimed that Thornton "stopped the show in the Tacoma, Oakland and Richmond auditoriums, as well as in Stockton, Sacramento, Bakersfield and the Elks Auditorium in Los Angeles." While on tour with Otis she cut "Hound Dog." The son was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller especially for Thornton. Otis brought Leiber and Stoller  to see her to see if they could come up with something for her. As Stoller recalled:  "we saw Big mama and she knocked me cold. she looked like the biggest, bad-ass, saltiest chick you would ever see. And she was mean, a 'lady bear' as they used to call 'em. She must have been 350 pounds and she had all these scars all over her face. I had to write a song for her that basically said 'Go fuck yourself' but how do you do it without actually saying it? ..She was a wonderful blues singer with a great moaning style, but it was as much her appearance as her blues style that influenced the writing of Hound Dog." The song went to number one on the R&B charts and was the biggest record Peacock ever had.

Unable to follow the success of  "Hound Dog" she left peacock in 1957 and relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, playing clubs in San Francisco and L.A. but not recording again until 1961. In 1961 she waxed 45's for Irma and Bay Tone. During the latter session she cut "Ball and Chain" but was not released. Her fortunes took an upswing with new manager Jimmy Moore and "the big festivals and shows came back into Big Mama Thornton's life…" Her first big festival shows the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival which she would play again in 1966 and 1968. In 1965, she toured with the American Folk Blues Festival package in Europe. As Spörke writes: "Big Mama was always put on at the end of each show. She was the highlight." During the festival she got the chance to record an album for Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie label. Big Mama In Europe featured an all-star backing band that included Buddy guy, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Walter Horton, Eddie Boyd and others.

Back in the States after her European tour she cut a few singles for Sotoplay, Kent and the terrific "Life Goes On" for Galaxy. In 1966 she cut her second album for Arhoolie, Big Mama Thornton Vol. 2: The Queen at Monterey with the Chicago Blues Band. The album found her backed by a crack Muddy Waters band that included James Cotton, Sammy Lawhorn and Otis Spann among others. 1968 saw the release of the album Ball and Chain on Arhoolie.

While the black audience was turning away from the blues there was a growing appreciation for blues and roots music among white audiences that would benefit Thornton greatly. Between 1966 and 1969 she was in great demand in campuses, clubs, folk festivals and rock festivals. She played in places like the Fillmore and the Ash Grove, sharing the stage with rock bands like the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. It was during this period she met Janis Joplin and members of Big Brother & the Holding Company. It was at a club that they heard her perform "Ball and Chain." As Joplin  said " she sings the blues with such heart and soul. I have learned so much from her and only wish I could sing as well as Willie Mae." Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company's performance of "Ball 'n' Chain" at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and release of the song on their number one album Cheap Thrills renewed interest in Thornton's career and was the song that made Joplin famous.

Big Mama Thornton at the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival

 

By 1969, she signed with Mercury Records. Mercury released her most successful album, Stronger Than Dirt, which reached number 198 in the Billboard Top 200 record chart. Thornton then signed a contract with Pentagram cutting a gospel album called Saved. Thornton's last albums were Jail and Sassy Mama for Vanguard Records in 1975. Thornton never stopped touring until her passing in 1984, including a return to Europe on 1972. As Spörke writes: "The newspapers, for the most part, wrote that she was found dead, alone in a boarding house, but her friends say  that this is not the truth. It seems more realistic that she had gathered together her old buddies one last time on July 25, 1984. Around six in the evening, rumor has it, she phoned her sister Mattie. She sang for her, her favorite song, 'That Lucky Old Sun.' Then she went to the sofa, drank some gin and milk, fell to sleep and never got up." As Johnny Otis said at her funeral: "Don't waste your sorrow on Big Mama. She's free. Don't fell sorry for Big mama. There's no more pain. No more suffering in a society where the color of skin was more important than the quality of your talent."

 

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Big Road Blues Show 12/7/14: Going Down The Road Feeling Good – Kip Lornell's 1970's Field Recordings http://sundayblues.org/archives/8722 http://sundayblues.org/archives/8722#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 22:40:12 +0000 http://sundayblues.org/?p=8722 ARTISTSONGALBUM Kip LornellInterview Fats Jefferson Hard Luck Blues North Florida Fives Elroy Hart North Florida Fives North Florida Fives Fats Jefferson Married Woman North Florida Fives Willie Morris Broke Down Blues Goin' Back To Tifton Tom CarterSome Got 6 Months Goin' Back To Tifton C.D. DobbsAberdeen WomanGoin' Back To Tifton Blind Donald DawsonRack 'Em SlowGoin' Back To Tifton Peg Leg Sam Hand Me DownThe Last Medicine Show Peg Leg Sam Who's That Left Here Awhile AgoThe Last Medicine Show Guitar Slim Worried Blues Greensboro Rounder Guitar Slim War Service BluesGreensboro Rounder Guitar Slim Come On Down To My HouseAin't Gonna Rain No More Pernell CharityCome Back, Baby, ComeThe Virginian Pernell CharityFind Me A Home Pernell Charity Pernell CharityI'm Climbing On Top Of The Hill The Virginian Irvin Cook & Leonard Bowles I Wish to the Lord I'd Never Been BornVirginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music John CephasRailroad BillVirginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music Lewis HairstonBile Them Cabbage Down Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music Clayton HorsleyPoor Black Annie Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music Carl Hodges Leaving You, MamaVirginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues Corner MorrisGoing Down The Road Feeling GoodVirginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues Jamie AlstonGoin' AwayAin't Gonna Rain No More Wilbert Atwater Can't Get A Letter From Down The Road Ain't Gonna Rain No More Jamie AlsonSix White Horses Ain't Gonna Rain No More Joe & Odell Thompson Going Down The Road Feeling Bad Ain't Gonna Rain No More

Show Notes:

North Florida FivesFrom the 1960's through the 80's there were folklorists, researchers and dedicated fans such as David Evans, George Mitchell, Sam Charters, Chris Stratwichz, Mack McCormick, Bruce Jackson, Peter B. Lowry, Tary Owens, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Bengt Olsson, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, Axel Küstner and Kip Lornell who actively sought out and recorded rural blues. Over the years we have featured many of them and today we spotlight the field recordings of Christopher “Kip” Lornell who captured some remarkable, undiscovered musicians in the 1970’s. Lornell was gracious enough to let me talk with him a couple of weeks back which I've edited for today's program.

Lornell began conducting blues research while still in high school. As an undergraduate in New York and North Carolina he interviewed and recorded local blues artists, resulting in articles in Living Blues and other periodicals and albums on the Flyright, Trix, and Rounder labels. Lornell served for four years as the staff folklorist at Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute documenting music from Virginia on the groundbreaking Virginia Traditions series of albums which included some of his field recordings. Since 1992 Lornell has taught courses in American Music & Ethnomusicology at George Washington University and more recently works as a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1997 Lornell received a Grammy for his work on the boxed set The Anthology of American Folk Music for Smithsonian/Folkways. Lornell has published numerous articles, liner notes and books. His books include: Melody Man: Joe Davis and the New York Music Scene, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (coauthored with Charles Wolfe), Shreveport Sounds in Black and White (Editor), Happy In Service Of Lord: African-American Sacred Vocal Harmony, Exploring American Folk Music, Virginia's Blues, Country, and Gospel Records, 1902-1943 among others. Our focus on today's program is Lornell's blues field recordings from the 1970's which include the following albums:  Pernell Charity: The Virginian (some tracks recorded by Pete Lowry), Ain't Gonna Rain No More: Blues And Pre-Blues From Piedmont North Carolina, Virginia Traditions: Non-Blues Secular Black Music, Virginia Traditions: Tidewater Blues, Goin' Back To Tifton, North Florida Fives, Guitar Slim: Greensboro Rounder and The Last Medicine Show where he assisted Pete Lowry.

Peg Leg Sam Jackson: Born For Hard Luck

We open the program with selections from two long out-of-print records released on the Flyright label in 1974:  Goin' Back To Tifton and North Florida Fives. Lornell was just out of High School when he made these recordings following what would because a practice for him which is to look in your own backyard. He correctly assumed that since Albany had significant black population there would be some blues musicians. In hindsight he wishes he had done a similar exploration for religious singers but at the time it was blues that was his primary interest. Most of the musicians were probably rusty and didn't play much anywhere but there some fine performances including some piano players who were recorded far too infrequently during this period. Not all blues musicians from the south came to Chicago and in fact quite a number came to New York such as Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Rev. Gary Davis and others. It's not surprising some of them went farther into upstate New York.  The most famous, of course, is Son House who settled in Rochester in 1943.

Lornell eventually connected with Pete Lowry who was teaching at SUNY New Paltz. In his voluminous research, writing and recording Lowry has become perhaps the most renowned expert on the blues of the Southeast and is credited with coining the term Piedmont Blues. Between 1969 and 1980 he amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. He formed the Trix label in 1972 as an outlet to release his recordings. Around this time Lornell got an NEA Federal Youth Grant and hooked up with Lowry to do some field recording in the south. One of the artists Lornell recorded was Pernell Charity. Charity spent his whole life around Waverly, VA. The Virginian is his only album released on the Trix label. As Lowry told me: "Pernell is a Kip Lornell discovery, done during his Federal Youth Grant year – I was his mentor and supervisor for that! I did the first tapes for him, then got them back – then did a few sessions on my own later, when I got my NEA Folkarts grant." Lornell wrote the liner notes and noted that "the phonograph record has had an important effect in shaping the song repertoire of many blues musicians…such is the case with Pernell Charity… It was the records of Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, and Blind Lemon Jefferson that inspired Pernell to take up guitar."

 Guitar Slim: Greensboro Rounder
Read Liner Notes

Lornell was also involved with Lowry in recording one of the last medicine shows. The show was  presided over by Chief Thundercloud who was still hawking “Prairie King Liniment” from the tailgate of his station wagon at fairs and carnivals in the Southeast in the early 70’s. In his heyday he traveled will a full cast of comediennes, dancers, singers and musicians, numbering as many as sixteen. In later years his lone partner was Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, a medicine show veteran who learned the ropes back in the 30’s from Pink Anderson. The duo was recorded and filmed by Pete Lowry and Kip Lornell in Pittsboro, North Carolina in 1972. The recordings issued on a 2-LP set of music and spoken word issued on the Flyright label titled The Last Medicine Show.

James “Guitar Slim” Stephens was first recorded in the early 70's by Lornell who recorded him on several occasions in 1974 and 1975. His first LP, Greensboro Rounder, was issued in 1979 by the British Flyright label and are comprised of these recordings. Green also appears on the anthologies Eight Hand Sets & Holy Steps and Ain't Gonna Rain No More: Blues And Pre-Blues From Piedmont North Carolina. Green's final recordings were made in 1980 by Siegfried Christmann and Axel Küstner for the Living Country Blues USA series of albums. Other songs from 1980 appear on the album Old Time Barrelhouse Blues which also includes sides by Memphis Piano Red. Green passed away in 1991.

The Virginia Traditions series consisted of nine albums issued between 1978 and 1988  by BRI Records, a label operated by the Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College. The recordings, made in various settings between the mid-1920's and the mid-1980's, range from African American work songs to Anglo American ballads to a cappella sacred music and stringband tunes. As the  Blue Ridge Institute's staff folklorist, Lornell was involved with the series, producing, writing liner notes and compiling tracks which included some of his own field recordings. He was most deeply involved in the volumes Non-Blues Secular Black Music and Tidewater Blues which is where we draw our selections form. Smithsonian Folkways has made the entire series available via their website.

BRI00001 BRI00006
Read Liner Notes Read Liner Notes

The final record we look at today is the anthology Ain't Gonna Rain No More: Blues And Pre-Blues From Piedmont North Carolina. The album includes performances recorded in North Carolina in the mid 1970's by Dink Roberts, Joe & Odell Thompson, Jamie Alston, Wilbert Atwater, John Snipes,and Guitar Slim and it contains a mixture of banjo and guitar numbers. It should be noted that during the interview both Kip and I were under the impression this had not been issued on CD but it appears that Rounder did reissue on CD about eight years ago.

Related Listening:

-Kip Lornell Radio Feature (2 hours, 4 min., mp3)

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