Big Road Blues ...vintage blues radio & writing 2015-08-31T10:58:27Z http://sundayblues.org/feed/atom Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Delta Blues Comes to Rochester]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9710 2015-08-31T10:58:27Z 2015-08-31T02:12:43Z This past week Geva Theatre presented Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House a four-day festival that weaved together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures celebrating the life of Son House. Son lived in Rochester from 1943 through 1976 and was rediscovered here in 1964. There were fine performances by John Hammond, John Mooney, Chris Thomas King, Joe Beard, Steve Grills and others as well as musical workshops  and lectures. The biggest highlight for me was the dedication of an official Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Friday, August 28th on the corner of Clarissa and Grieg Street where Son House resided in the Corn Hill Neighborhood of Rochester. The marker is one of only a few above the Mason-Dixon line. Joining the celebration were Son's manager Dick Waterman, one of the men who tracked Son to Rochester in the summer of 1964, and Jim O'Neal founder of Living Blues magazine and research consultant for the Mississippi Trail marker project. Here's photos of both sides of the marker and a picture of Jim O'Neal and myself standing near the site of Son's apartment building which since been torn down.

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 8/30/15: Standing At The Crossroads – Blues At Home Pt. 2]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9695 2015-08-31T00:42:13Z 2015-08-31T00:42:13Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Charlie SangsterTwo White HorsesBlues At Home Vol. 9 Charlie SangsterOne Cold NightBlues At Home Vol. 9 James “Son” Thomas & Eddie CusicStanding At The CrossroadsBlues At Home Vol. 10 James “Son” Thomas & Joe CooperThree Days I CriedBlues At Home Vol. 10 James “Son” ThomasFour Women BluesBlues At Home Vol. 10 Sleepy John EstesYellow Yam Blues (Take 4)Blues At Home Vol. 11 Sleepy John Estes & Hammie NixonSugar MamaBlues At Home Vol. 11 Sleepy John EstesShe Keeps Me Worried And Bothered Blues At Home Vol. 11 Mott Willis Baby Please Don't GoBlues At Home Vol. 13 Lum GuffinTrain I Ride 18 Coaches Long Blues At Home Vol. 13 William 'Do Boy' DiamondMississippi FlatBlues At Home Vol. 13 Walter Cooper & Hammie NixonBaby Please Don't Go, No. 3Blues At Home Vol. 13 Roosevelt HoltsBig Road Blues Blues At Home Vol. 13 Asie PaytonBlind ManBlues At Home Vol. 13 Jacob StuckeyIt Must Have Been The Devil (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 13 Memphis Willie Borum 61 Highway Blues Blues At Home Vol. 13 Mattie May ThomasDangerous BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II John DudleyCool Drink of Water BluesParchman Farm: Photographs & Field Recordings 1947–1959 Son Thomas Catfish Blues Living Country Blues: An Anthology Frank Hovington Lonesome Road BluesGone With The Wind Joe Savage Joe’s Prison Camp HollerLiving Country Blues Vol. 7 Chester Davis, Compton Jones & Furry LewisGlory Glory HallelujahSorrow Come Pass Me Around John Lee ZieglerIf I Lose, Let Me LoseThe George Mitchell Collection Jimmy Lee WilliamsHave You Ever Seen PeachesHoot Your Belly Roosevelt CharlesWasn't I LuckyBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs Jim Brewer Big Road BluesBlues Scene USA Vol. 4 J.B. SmithSure Make a Man Feel BadNo More Good Time in the World for Me

Show Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 8/23/15: Journey to the Son – A Celebration of Son House]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9641 2015-08-23T19:42:03Z 2015-08-23T19:39:43Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Jenni WernerLiterary Director, Geva TheaterInterview Dan BeaumontAuthor of Preachin'
the Blues: The Life and Times of Son HouseInterview Steve GrillsMusicianInterview Son House Levee Camp Moan Son House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965 Son House Don't Mind People Grinnin' In Your Face Son House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965 Son House My Black Mama, Pt. 1Blues Images Vol. 2 Son House My Black Mama, Pt. 2Blues Images Vol. 2 Son House Death LetterFather of the Delta Blues Son House Mississippi County Farm Blues Blues Images Vol. 4 Son House Walkin' Blues Legends of Country Blues Son House Louise McGee Father of the Delta Blues Son House Empire State ExpressSon House With Studs Terkel, Chicago 1965 Son House Pony BluesLegends of Country Blues Son House Preachin' The Blues Part 1Legends of Country Blues Son House The Jinx Blues Part 1 The Real Delta Blues Son House Delta Blues Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues

Show Notes:Son House Geva Banner

This week Geva Theatre presents Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House from August 26 through August 29th. The four-day festival weaves together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures to celebrate the life of Son House. There will be musical performances by John Hammond, John Mooney, Chris Thomas King, Joe Beard, Steve Grills as well as musical workshops. Another highlight will be the dedication of an official Mississippi Blues Trail marker on Friday, August 28 near the site where Son House resided in the Corn Hill Neighborhood of Rochester. There will also be the debut of the play, Revival: The Resurrection of Son House, by Keith Glover. In addition there will be lectures by author Dan Beaumont, Son's old manager, Dick Waterman, and Jim O'Neal founder of Living Blues magazine. On today's show we  have several folks involved in this event in the studio including Geva's Literary Director Jenni Werner, Dan Beaumont author of Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House, and musician Steve Grills.

When I was a teenager discovering the blues one of the first albums that really captivated me was Son House's Death Letter – I still have it – (the UK equivalent of Father of the Folk Blues), his stunning return to the studio after dropping out of sight for nearly twenty-five years. As author Dan Beaumont wrote: "In 1943 Son House left Mississippi, and, for all that is known of his life over the course of the next twenty-one years, he may well have fallen off the face of the earth. But this he did not do-instead he did the next best thing. He moved to Rochester, New York." As a teenager living in the Bronx I too knew nothing of Rochester outside the fact it was in some nether region of New York State – the farthest I had been was the Catskills, one hundred miles upstate. But as I read Dick Waterman's liner notes, Rochester and the address 61 Greig Street was burned in my memory. That was where Dick Waterman, Phil Spiro and Nick Perls finally tracked Son down on June 23rd, 1964. Waterman became Son's manager and the following year he was signed to Columbia and played the Newport Folk Festival. Son had several good years on the comeback trail; he toured the US playing folk festivals and the coffeehouse circuit and did tours of Europe as well. He also performed locally in Rochester at several different venues, all of which are long shuttered. Memories of Son's local performances are vividly burned into the memories of all who had a chance to witness him in action.

Son House rediscovery
The men who found Son House: Nick Perls, Dick Waterman, Son House, Phil Spiro.
Photo taken June 23, 1964 in front of 61 Greig Street.

Son's rediscovery in Rochester was newsworthy, making it into Newsweek, Downbeat and the May 29, 1965 edition of the Rochester afternoon newspaper, The Times-Union, with a story titled Son House Records Blues Again and a follow-up article and interview in July titled Hunt for 'Blues' Singer Of Thirties Ends in City. It must have been a bit bewildering to Son who was living a very low-key life in Rochester as Dan Beaumont notes: "There for twenty one years he lived amidst almost total obscurity. Indeed, what is known of his life in that city from 1943 to 1964 is so slight, so slender, that his biographer's task becomes well nigh impossible."

I came to Rochester in the late 1980's for college and have been up here ever since. Over the years I met numerous people who fondly recalled Son House and when I started doing my yearly radio birthday tributes to Son, it brought more people out of the woodwork who gladly shared their memories with me. So it's puzzling that the City has never honored Son in any way. At least Cab Calloway (born in Rochester in 1907) has a plaque honoring him, albeit tucked away on a nondescript side street in an equally nondescript park. For years myself and others thought someone should rectify this sorry state of affairs; a plaque, a statue or something to honor one of the pivotal figures in blues history, a major influence on both Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and who's recordings are among the most powerful in blues history. It would be a shame to let Son's memory slip back to the years before he was rediscovered in Rochester, but the sad fact is there was nothing tangible that shows he ever made this city his home for a good part of his life (1943-1976). This year finally marks a change as a Mississippi Blues Trail marker (only the 13th outside of Mississippi) will be dedicated to Son at the Corner of Grieg and Clarissa St., close to the spot where he was rediscovered. Son's actual residence at the time, 61 Grieg Street, no longer exists, a causality of urban renewal.

Son House Times-Union
Article from Rochester's Times-Union, July 14, 1964

Back in 2007 myself and others launched the modest Hot Blues For The Homeless concert which evolved into Hot Blues For The Homeless …A Tribute To Son House. The concert was successful, raised a good amount of money for the Rochester homeless and raised some local awareness of Son House with good coverage in the local media. Out of the concert rose the Son House Apartments which provide housing for the homeless. After a few years I got burned out on the project but I'm glad a major institution like the Geva is picking up the torch.

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 8/16/15: Mix Show]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9558 2015-08-17T02:05:21Z 2015-08-17T02:05:21Z ARTISTSONGALBUM James Son Thomas & Eddie CusicLittle Red CarBlues At Home Vol. 10 Eddie CusicGonna Cut You LooseLiving Country Blues USA Vol. 2 Skip James Sick Bed BluesGreatest Of The Delta Blues Singers Napoleon Strickland & Fred McDowellShake 'em on DownShake 'Em On Down Lemon NashPapa Lemon's BluesPapa Lemon Lemon NashGravedigger's BluesPapa Lemon Lemon NashBowleg Rooster, Duckleg Hen / Sweet Georgia BrownPapa Lemon Blind Willie JohnsonLord, I Just Can't Keep from CryingBlind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists Son HouseThis Little Light Of Mine The Real Delta Blues Peg Leg Sam I Got A Home Joshua Roy Brown Butcher Pete Part 1Pay Day Jump The 1949-51 Roy Brown Butcher Pete Part 2Pay Day Jump The 1949-51 Tampa RedIf I Don't Find Another True LoveDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues Tampa Red
I Got My Habits OnDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues Tampa RedEvalenaDynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues Scrapper BlackwellD BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958 Leroy Carr & Scrapper BlackwellBig Four BluesWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave Charlie PattonHigh Water Everywhere Part 1Blues Images Vol. 7 Charlie PattonHigh Water Everywhere Part 2Blues Images Vol. 7 Elmore JamesI Need YouKing of the Slide Guitar Guitar SlimStory of My LifeSufferin' Mind James WaltonLeaving BluesA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 2 Ma Rainey Log Camp Blues Mother of the Blues Bertha ''Chippie'' HillHard Time Blues Bertha 'Chippie' Hill Vol. 1 1925-1929 Funny Papa Smith Seven Sisters Blues Part 1The Original Howling Wolf Sessions Funny Papa Smith Seven Sisters Blues Part 2The Original Howling Wolf Sessions Blind Boy FullerTell It To Me Blind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938 Leroy JohnsonNo One to Love MeTexas Country Blues 1948-1951 Howlin' Wolf Bluebird BluesSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters Robert Johnson Traveling Riverside Blues The Centennial Collection Robert NighthawkFriar's Point Blues Prowling With The Nighthawk

Show Notes:

A mix show today as we travel through the 1920's up to the 60's touching on a wide variety of blues styles. On deck today are several two part blues songs including records by Charlie Patton, Funny Papa Smith and Roy Brown. Also featured are a some tracks by Eddie Cusic who recently passed away, a trio of tracks from the obscure New Orleans musician Lemon Nash, three sides by Tampa Red from a new reissue, some fine down-home blues, a pair of songs that share a similar geography and much more.

cusictho2
Eddie Cusic & James 'Son' Thomas 1976 Back cover of Albatros
album Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues (photographer: Enzo Castella)

Eddie Cusic passed away on August 11th. Cusic was born in 1926 south of Leland, Mississippi. In the early 1950's, he formed a group called the Rhythm Aces that featured Little Milton. The group played the clubs in Greenville, Leland and in juke joints throughout the Delta. In the 1960's Cusic frequently teamed up with fellow Leland guitarist James "Son" Thomas, playing with him at picnics and other social events throughout the state. He stopped performing for awhile to provide for his family, returning to active performing after retiring from his quarry job in 1989. He became a mainstay at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival and at the Sunflower River Festival. Cusic left behind a small recorded legacy that includes one full-length album, I Want to Boogie cut for Hightone in 1997 and reissued on the Wolf label with extra tracks, plus field recordings made by Gianni Marcucci in the 1970's and Axel Küstner in the 1980's.

I was toying around withe idea of doing a show revolving around two-part songs which in the context of this show would mean both sides of the 78. We spin perhaps one of the greatest two-part 78's, Charley Patton's "High Water Everywhere", his epic about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Paramount devoted an advertisement for the record with an illustration depicting a family sitting dejectedly on the porch of a shack, looking at the rising waters. The caption reads: "Everyone who has heard this record says that 'HIGH WATER EVERYWHERE' is Charley Patton's best and you know that means it has to be mighty good because he has made some knockouts."

cdtop-1423a_383_383

Other two-parters  featured today include "Seven Sisters Blues" by J. T. "Funny Papa" Smith recorded in 1931. The Seven Sisters of New Orleans were said to be a family of hoodoo women who lived and practiced in the Crescent City in the 1920's and 30's. We also spin Roy Brown's salacious tale of "Butcher Pete" from 1949:

Hey everybody, did the news get around
About a guy named Butcher Pete
Oh, Pete just flew into this town
And he's choppin' up all the women's meat

[Chorus]
He's hackin' and wackin' and smackin' (3x)
He just hacks, wacks, choppin' that meat

Tampa RedTampa Red
Read Liner Notes

I have been a huge fan of Tampa Red ever since picking up the wonderful 2-LP gatefold album, Guitar Wizard, which RCA released in the mid-70's. The album had a selection of sides from the 1930's through the 50's and a terrific set of notes by Jim O'Neal. O'Neal has provided another set of excellent notes to ACE's 2-CD Tampa Red reissue, Dynamite! The Unsung King Of The Blues. This set focuses on Tampa's final commercial period, the years 1945 through 1953, a period I've always been a fan of particularly the sides with pianist Little Johnny Jones who recorded with Tampa from 1949 through 1953. The tracks here have never sounded better, having been taken from master tapes and the original metal masters. The collection also contains four unissued sides including "I Got My Habits On", "Mary Lou Blues", "I Don’t Find Another True Love" and "Evalena", the latter two from his final session in 1953. I think this version of "Evalena" is superior to the issued take, showcasing magnificent playing from Walter Horton. Later in the program we hear from Tampa again, this time in a supporting role, backing Bertha "Chippie" Hill  on "Hard Time Blues" from 1928.

Friars Point is a small town in Coahoma County, Mississippi with an outsized role in blues history. Mississippi was one of only three states that continued prohibition after 1933 making Friars Point a popular weekend hangout because it was across the river from Helena, Arkansas where liqueur was legal and hence became an active bootlegging center. Another reason was there was curfew in Clarksdale, one of the Delta's main towns. Muddy Waters recalled: "Twelve O'Clock, you better be out of there, get off the streets. The great big police come down Sunflower street with that big cap on, man, waving that stick…That's why all this country stuff, people go out in the country. Friars Point'd go up to four o'clock in the morning, sometimes all night." Muddy Waters also said that the only time he saw Robert Johnson play was on the front porch of Hirsberg's Drugstore in Friars Point. In "Traveling Riverside Blues" Robert Johnson sang: "Just come on back to Friars Point, mama, and barrelhouse all night long/I got womens in Vicksburg, clean on into Tennessee (2x)/ But my Friar's Point rider, now, hops all over me." Friars Point seems to have been a regular stop on the circuit Delta bluesmen would travel from town to town through towns like Rosedale, Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville and others. The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a Blues Trail marker in Friars Point in recognition of musician Robert Nighthawk, who at various times called Friars Point home and where one of his marriages took place. In 1940, Nighthawk recorded "Friars Point Blues", singing of "going back to Friars Point, down in sweet old Dixie Land." Nighthawk's son, drummer Sam Carr, was born in Friars Point.

Last year Arhoolie released a terrific CD by the little known Lemon Nash titled Papa Lemon. Born in 1898, Nash started on guitar, then violin, before turning to ukulele in his late teens. In the 1920's he signed on with a medicine show shilling blood tonic for an Indian chief and a legless cowboy where he honed both his music and comedy routines. Somewhere in these early years he played with the mysterious Richard "Rabbit" Brown (of whom he says: "Rabbit played so bad I had to let him go") who cut six sides for Victor in New Orleans in 1927. Nash's recordings were captured between 1956 and 1961 by both New Orleans jazz archivist Richard B Allen and folklorist Dr Harry Oster. Outside of these sides only a few other sides by Nash have been issued on the 504 record label which specialized in New Orleans jazz. Nash passed away in 1969, a virtual unknown outside his small circle of family and friends. Nash was a true songster playing a charming variety of traditional numbers including blues, pop and gospel.

Lemon NashWe play several heavy hitters on today's show including Son House and Skip James who both recorded legendary sessions for Paramount in the 1930's; House in 1930 and James in 1931, and both were rediscovered in 1964 and soon hit the blues revival circuit. In a couple of weeks I'll be doing a feature on Son House as our local theater is celebrating his legacy with an ambitious four-day event. Today's Skip James recording was recorded in 1964 in Falls Church, VA at the home of musicologist Dick Spotswood. These were James' first recordings since 1931. The sessions were completed the following year, issued in 1965 as Greatest Of The Delta Blues Singers, first on on Spotswood's Melodeon label then on the Biograph label which acquired Melodeon in 1970.

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 7/26/15: Blues All In My Bread – Blues At Home Pt. 1]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=7599 2015-07-27T01:42:27Z 2015-07-26T23:39:24Z
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Van HuntLonesome Road BluesBlues At Home Vol. 1
Van HuntCorinna Corrina Blues At Home Vol. 1
Sweet Charlene Sitting Here Drinkin Blues At Home Vol. 1
Sam ChatmonGo Back Old DevilBlues At Home Vol. 2
Sam ChatmonProwling Ground HogBlues At Home Vol. 2
Sam ChatmonOpen Your BookBlues At Home Vol. 2
Sam ChatmonStoop Down Baby, Let Your Daddy SeeBlues At Home Vol. 2
Eugene Powell Poor Boy Blues (Take 1)Blues At Home Vol. 3
Eugene Powell Discusses His MusicBlues At Home Vol. 3
Eugene Powell Old Home BluesBlues At Home Vol. 3
Eugene Powell Blues At Home Vol. 3Blues At Home Vol. 3
Memphis Piano Red Baby Please Come Back To MeBlues At Home Vol. 4
Memphis Piano Red I Need Love So BadBlues At Home Vol. 4
Memphis Piano Red Barrelhouse Blues (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 4
Alonzo BurksTrain I RideBlues At Home Vol. 5
Carey TateDiscusses The Meaning Of The BluesBlues At Home Vol. 5
Carey TateBlues All In My Bread (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 5
Big Jack Johnson Catfish Blues (Take 1)Blues At Home Vol. 6
Pinetop JohnsonSee What You Done DoneBlues At Home Vol. 6
Pinetop JohnsonTommy Dorsey Boogie Woogie (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 6
Bukka WhiteBooker T.'s Doctor BluesBlues At Home Vol. 7
Bukka WhiteI'm Getting Ready, My Time Done ComeBlues At Home Vol. 7
Bukka WhiteThe Aberdeen Blues Blues At Home Vol. 7
Dewey Corey Dresser Drawer BluesBlues At Home Vol. 7
Dewey Corey Fishing In The DarkBlues At Home Vol. 7
Laura DukesLittle Laura's BluesBlues At Home Vol. 7
Laura DukesBricks In My PillowBlues At Home Vol. 7
Jack Owens Cherry Ball (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 8
Jack Owens The Devil (Take 2)Blues At Home Vol. 8
Charlie Sangster Moaning Blues Blues At Home Vol. 9
Charlie Sangster The Dirty Dozen (Take 2) Blues At Home Vol. 9
Charlie Sangster Selling That StuffBlues At Home Vol. 9

Show Notes:

Blues At Home Vol. 1As anyone who's listened to this program knows, I have a huge interest in field recordings devoting several shows to the topic and interviewing several of the men who made the recordings.  The 70's and early 80's were a good period for field recordings with men like George Mitchell, David Evans, Pete Lowry, Begnt Olsson, Axel Kunster and others (all who have been featured on past programs) making recordings throughout the south.

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

"In 1972, Gianni wrote, "I worked with Lucio Maniscalchi. In 1976 Vincenzo Castella, assisted me and took the photographs. Lucio Maniscalchi  worked with me for 11 days (20-31 December 1972); Vincenzo Castella in July-August 1976. Both Maniscalchi and Castella were not interested in my research and documentary project. They left the project after the 2 field trips were done. They just randomly worked with me on those occasions. Their name was erroneously featured and emphasized on the" original LP's, "especially the name of Vincenzo Castella. I was the only responsible of the recordings, archiving, and LP edition (including, of course, all the typos, mistakes, etc.). In 1972 and 1976 Hammie Nixon helped finding some of the performers in Tennessee. In 1976 Mary Helen Looper and Jane Abraham helped in the Delta. …On December 1972, with the help of the Blues At Home Vol. 3legendary harmonica player Hammie Nixon, using a professional portable equipment, I had the chance to start recording blues in Memphis. The documentary research continued in July 1976, ending in July 1982. A series of informal sessions was held during the course of my five trips through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, featuring well known, but also little known, and unknown musicians."

On today's program we spotlight recordings from the first nine Blues At Home collections featuring the following artists: Van Hunt, Mose Vinson, Sam Chatmon, Eugene Powell, Memphis Piano Red, Big Jack Johnson, Pinetop Johnson, Carey Tate, Alonzo Burkes, Bukka White, Dewey Corley, Laura Dukes, Jack Owens and  Charlie Sangster.

The first volume of the Blues At Home Collection features singer Van Zula Carter Hunt. Around the late 1910's, she moved to Memphis and began her professional musical activity, traveling for several years with minstrel shows. She played with local blues artists such as Sleepy John Estes, Frank Stokes, Gus Cannon, and Memphis Minnie. In November 1930, she recorded “Selling The Jelly” (issued under the name of the Carolina Peanut Boys) in Memphis for Victor Records. She also recorded some gospel sides as a chorus member with Rev. E.D. Campbell for Victor in 1927. Hunt is backed on a number of tracks by pianist Mose Vinson ,who was also recorded solo, as well as Hunt's daughter Sweet Charlene.

The second volume is devoted to Sam Chatmon the brother Bo Chatmon (a.k.a. Bo Carter) who made numerous popular records in the '30s. Before World War II. the Chatmon brothers and their associate Walter Vincent founded the string band called The Mississippi Sheiks. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Chatmon recorded for a variety of labels, as well as playing clubs and blues and folk festivals across America.In 1972 he cut the album The New Mississippi Sheiks, reuniting with Walter Vinson, cut the excellent The Mississippi Sheik for Blue Goose in the early 70's as well as albums for Rounder and Flying Fish among others. Chatmon passed in 1983.

The third volume focuses on Eugene Powell. Born in 1908 in Utica, Mississippi, he took up the guitar at the age of seven and soon developed a formidable technique that won him the respect of contemporaries such as Charley Patton, Bo Carter, and Sam Chatmon. In 1936 he recorded six sides which were released on the Bluebird label under the name of Sonny Boy Nelson, including the original version of “Pony Blues” of which we Blues At Home Vol. 6hear an updated version on today's program.

The fourth volume features an underrated and under recorded pianist John Williams (a.k.a. Memphis Piano Red). In 1930 he moved to Memphis where he started his musical activity, playing often in Beale Street bars. He never had the chance to record 78 rpm race records, and was discovered in the late '60s during blues revival times. These recordings stem from two long sessions held in 1972 and 1978 at his home in Memphis.

The fifth volume features the totally unknown Carey Tate from Henning, Tennessee, a very prolific area from which several outstanding blues artists came such as Noah Lewis, Charlie Pickett, Sleepy John Estes and John Henry Barbee. Tate was born in Henning, Tennessee, in 1905, and was discovered in the summer of 1976 in Humboldt, Tennessee, through the help of Hammie Nixon, and two sessions were recorded at Tate’s home there. Less than one year later, Tate was murdered under obscure circumstances and the recordings presented on this collection remain his last testament. This collection also includes six tracks by Alonzo Burks, another unknown artist discovered in Flora, Mississippi, in the summer of 1978, through referral of William “Do Boy” Diamond’s nephew Eugene.

The sixth volume features an underrated piano blues musician from the Delta, Wallace Bilbo Johnson (a.k.a. Pinetop Johnson). As Gianni writes, "he was discovered there in the late ‘60s by researcher Bill Ferris, who included the transcription of the entire 1969 session in his book Blues From the Delta. Wallace “Pinetop” Johnson was recorded during two relaxed sessions held in the summers of 1976 and 1978, the latter at a local piano supply store, the Gate Piano Company, on Issaquena Avenue in the heart of Clarksdale, where a piano in perfect condition had been made available for the occasion. This CD features his 1978 complete recording session in chronological order, plus some additional material cut in Clarksdale in 1978 by Earnest Roy, Big Jack Johnson, and Wade Walton."

The seventh volume features Bukka White, one of the major Mississippi bluesmen to be rediscovered during the blues revival of the '60s. Gianni writes "this CD features the complete relaxed session recorded at his private home in Memphis on December 22, 1972, in the stately presence of Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. …Also 107featured on this CD is some unusual material by former jug band members Dewey Corley on piano and Laura Dukes on ukulele, recorded on the same day, December 22, 1972."

The eighth volume features Jack Owens. In 1978, 1980, and 1982, Gianni writes, "I had the chance to meet Owens at his home in Bentonia and to record, during several informal sessions, the material finally released on this CD, which mostly had remained unreleased for over 30 years."

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

 

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 7/12/15: Jumpin' in the Mornin' – Blues From Atlantic Records Pt. 2 1950-1953]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9491 2015-07-13T10:09:23Z 2015-07-13T01:51:44Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Sticks McGhee One Monkey Don't Stop The ShowSticks McGhee 1947-1951 Jimmy "Babby Face" LewisLet's Get Together And Make Some Love Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis 1947-1955 Lawyer Houston Lawyer Houston BluesTexas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A. Lawyer Houston Dallas Bepop BluesTexas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A. Lawyer Houston Western Rider Blues Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A. Big Joe TurnerThe Chill Is On Rhythm & Blues Years Big Joe TurnerBump Miss SusieRhythm & Blues Years Jimmy YanceyMake Me A Pallet On The FloorChicago Piano Vol. 1 Jimmy YanceyMonkey Woman Blues Chicago Piano Vol. 1 Little Brother MontgomeryTalkin' BluesBlues Piano: Chicago Plus Little Brother MontgomeryVicksburg Blues '51Blues Piano: Chicago Plus Meade "Lux" LewisMr. Freddie's Blues Boogie-Woogie Interpretations Meade "Lux" LewisRiff boogieBlues Piano: Chicago Plus Frank 'Sweet' WilliamsSweet's Slow Blues Blues Piano: Chicago Plus Sticks McGhee Meet You in the MorningSticks McGhee 1947-1951 Ray CharlesRoll With Me BabyPure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings Ray CharlesJumpin' in the Mornin'Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings Big Joe TurnerBaby, I Still Want YouClassic Hits 1938-1952 Big Joe TurnerSweet Sixteen Classic Hits 1938-1952 Chuck NorrisLet Me KnowMessing With The Blues Chuck NorrisMessin' UpMessing With The Blues Ray CharlesLosing HandPure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings Ray CharlesMr. Charles BluesPure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings Big Joe TurnerTV MamaRhythm & Blues Years Big Joe TurnerMarried Woman Rhythm & Blues Years Professor LonghairTipitina The Complete 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Professor LonghairBall The Wall The Complete 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings John Lee HookerGuitar Lovin' ManDetroit Special John Lee HookerReal, Real GoneDetroit Special John Lee HookerPouring Down RainDetroit Special Little Johnny JonesChicago Blues Blues Piano: Chicago Plus Little Johnny JonesDoin' The Best I CanBlues Piano: Chicago Plus Little Johnny JonesHoy Hoy Blues Piano: Chicago Plus

Show Notes:

My two-part feature on Atlantic Records was partly inspired by a terrific reissue series that was originally issued in the early 1970's. In the early 70's Pete Lowry convinced Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun to reissue some classic and previously unissued blues from the vaults (read the article below for more background). The plan was to issue twelve albums although only six saw the light of day.I was first heard this series at my college radio station which luckily had the complete set and were much played. This was a great series featuring excellent recordings by Blind Willie McTell, Lawyer Houston, Professor Longhair, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Yancey, T-Bone Walker and others. The albums had excellent liner notes and packaged with wonderful photos in a gatefold album. We feature a number of these recordings on today's programs as well as a wealth of great recordings from Atlantic's, early years spanning the years 1950 through 1953. Our second feature on Atlantic Records focuses less on R&B and more on blues: featured today are several artists that appeared on those Atlantic reissue albums including Lawyer Houston,  Jimmy Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery, Meade Lux Lewis, Frank 'Sweet' Williams, Professor Longhair and John Lee Hooker.

I first heard Lawyer Houston on an Atlantic LP Texas Guitar: From Dallas To L.A. Until recently nothing was known about him. Sometime before June 7th 1950, when Atlantic bought them, he recorded eight titles at Jim Beck's studio on Ross Avenue, Dallas. Beck was also from Marshall, so that may have been a factor. He cut another session in autumn 1953 in L.A. Two songs were issued from the Dallas session, the first as by Lawyer Houston, the second as by Soldier Boy Houston. In “Western Rider Blues” he sings “My name is Lawyer Houston and I'm a Private First Class” which turns out to be true.

Houston was born in Marshall, Texas in 1917. He was inducted into the army in 1941 and served until 1946. He re-enlisted two months later and served until 1961. His songs “In The Army Since 1941” and “Lawton, Oklahoma Blues” are loosely autobiographical accounts of his time in the Philippines and Fort Sill near Lawton. As writer Neal Slavin notes: “Apart from their unusually informative lyrics, Houston's songs are notable for the springy rhythms with which he accompanies himself. In essence, his style is close to that of Lil' Son Jackson… …Two further songs,'Out In California Blues' and 'Going To The West Coast', were prophetic; in the former, Houston announces his intention of going to Los Angeles' Central Avenue to stay at the Hotel Dunbar, after which 'I'm going out to Hollywood and become a movie star'. The move took place but the Army intervened. They needed him in Korea, where war broke out on June 25, 1950. At his second and Iast recording session, “Far East Blues” and “Leavin' Korea” indicate a familiarity with Korea and Japan which in this artist's case is virtual proof of his presence there." Circa 1953/1954 Houston cut eight sides for the Hollywood label in Los Angeles with the sessions purchased by King Records. The sides were never issued and have been reissued for the first time, this year on the 2-CD Hollywood Blues on the JSP label. Houston's military service ended in December 1961 and he spent the rest of his Iife in various Californian communities, ending up in Lancaster, where he worked as a custodian at the California State Museum. He died of pulmonary disease on December 3, 1999. Houston's life story can be found in Blues & Rhythm magazine issue 215 written by Guido Van Rijn and Chris Smith.

Suffering from diabetes later in life, Jimmy Yancey and his wife held parties and jam sessions at their South Side Chicago apartment to raise money. Those sessions were well attended by Chicago jazz fans, and Yancey returned to the recording studio to make new records for the Paramount label in 1950 and his final for Atlantic in 1951 with his wife, Estelle Mama Yancey handling some of the vocal chores. He died on September 17, 1951. His final sides appeared on the album Chicago Piano Vol. 1.

The album Blues Piano:-Chicago, Plus featured sides by Little Brother Montgomery , Frank 'Sweet' Williams and Little Johnny Jones. In the 1950's there was sporadic recording activity, for Little Brother Montgomery even if there were few issued records to show for it at the time: a 1951 session for Atlantic with drummer Frank ‘Sweet’ Williams, two 1953 sides for JOB and two sessions in 1954 and 1956 only four tracks were issued, on a ten-inch LP on the Winding Ball label and five rare sides cut for the Chicago label, Ebony, in 1956. Frank 'Sweet' Williams was a minor Chicago blues musician who's only recordings were two songs cut for Atlantic in 1951 which remained unissued until the issued on the anthology Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus. It is assumed he was brought to the studio by Montgomery. He may be the uncredited drummer on Montgomery's session recorded on the same day. Meade Lux Lewis cut an album for Atlantic in 1951 titled Boogie-Woogie Interpretations with "Riff Boogie" reissued  on Chicago Piano: Chicago Plus.

Best known for his rock steady accompaniment in Elmore James’ band, Little Johnny Jones,  he also backed just about everyone else worth mentioning on the Chicago scene. The handful of times he stepped in front as leader produced a number of excellent sides and more than a few classics. Jones last official stint as leader came in 1953 when Atlantic Records came through Chicago and teamed Elmore and the Broomdusters behind Big Joe Turner resulting in the classic "TV Mama." Once again he recorded a couple of sides at the tail end of a session resulting in four songs: "Chicago Blues", 'Hoy Hoy', "Wait Baby" and "Doin' the Best I Can (Up the line)." Jones was backed by the full Broomdusters plus Ransom Knowling on bass.

Others heard from today include John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles and Chuck Norris. Hooker recorded twelve sides for Atco Records in 1953 which was a  division of Atlantic Records. These sides were issued on the album Detroit Special in in 1972. Hooker is backed by Eddie Kirkland on this session.

In 1951, while performing with the Count Basie Orchestra at Harlem's Apollo Theater Big Joe Turner was spotted by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, who signed him to Atlantic Records. Turner recorded a number of successes for them that climbed the R&B charts including "Chains of Love", "Sweet Sixteen, "Boogie Woogie Country Girl", "Honey Hush" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll." I first heard many of these sides on an excellent double album called Big Joe Turner: Rhythm & Blues Years.

John Lee Hooker: Guitar Lovin' ManIn 1950, Ray Charles' performance in a Miami hotel would impress Henry Stone, who went on to record a Ray Charles. After that he joined Swing Time Records, he recorded two more R&B hits under the name "Ray Charles": "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" (1951), which reached number five; and "Kissa Me Baby"(1952), which reached number eight. Swing Time folded the following year, and Ahmet Ertegün signed him to Atlantic Records.

Chuck Norris worked in Chicago until the mid-'40s, when he moved out to the West Coast. He soon became one of the in-demand musicians in Hollywood backing artists such as Ray Agee, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon, Roy Hawkins, Duke Henderson, Helen Humes, Etta James, Pete Johnson, Little Willie Littlefield, Percy Mayfield, Johnny Otis, Johnny Watson, Jimmy Witherspoon and many others. From time to time he did sessions on his own for labels like Atlantic, Mercury, Imperial, Aladdin and others between 1947 and 1953.

Oddenda & Such No. 15 by Pete Lowry (Blues & Rhythm no. 138, Apr1l, 1999)

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 7/5/15: Rock The House – Blues From Atlantic Records Pt. 1 1947-1950]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9467 2015-07-06T00:54:25Z 2015-07-06T00:21:14Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Joe Morris Mad MoonJoe Morris 1946-1949 Tiny Grimes Quintet Boogie Woogie BarbecueTiny Grimes 1947-1950 Tiny Grimes Quintet w/ Red Prysock Nightmare BluesTiny Grimes 1947-1950 Joe Morris Jax BoogieJoe Morris 1946-1949 Sticks McGhee And His BuddiesLonesome Road BluesNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55 Sticks McGhee And His BuddiesTall Pretty WomanNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55 Ruth Brown Rain Is A BringdownRuth Brown 1949-1950 Sticks McGhee And His BuddiesDrinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-DeeNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55 Tiny Grimes Quintet Rock The HouseTiny Grimes 1947-1950 Texas Johnny Brown There Goes The BluesAtlantic Blues Guitar Frank Floorshow Culley Floor Show (How 'Bout That Mess) The Big Horn: Honkin' And Screamin' Saxophone Jimmie LewisMailman BluesJimmy ''Babyface'' Lewis 1947-1955 Ruth BrownRocking BluesRuth Brown 1949-1950 Ruth BrownHey Pretty BabyRuth Brown 1949-1950 Blind Willie McTellDying Crapshooter's Blues Atlanta Twelve String Blind Willie McTellThe Razor BallAtlanta Twelve String Blind Willie McTellLittle Delia Atlanta Twelve String Blind Willie McTellAin't It Grand To Live a ChristianAtlanta Twelve String Blind Willie McTellKill It Kid Atlanta Twelve String Professor LonghairHey Now Baby Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Professor LonghairShe Walks Right InTipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Professor LonghairMardi Gras In New Orleans Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Professor LonghairProfessor Longhair BluesTipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Professor LonghairHey Little GirlTipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Professor LonghairLoghair Blues Rhumba Tipitina: 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings Sticks McGheeHouse Warmin' BoogieNew York Blues And R&B 1947-55 Sticks McGheeShe's Gone New York Blues And R&B 1947-55 Joe Morris & Annie TateAnytime, Any Place, AnywhereJoe Morris 1950-1953 Joe Morris & Annie TateCome Back Daddy, DaddyJoe Morris 1950-1953 Jimmie LewisAll The Fun's On MeJimmy ''Babyface'' Lewis 1947-1955 Frank Floorshow Culley & Arlene Little Miss TalleyLittle Miss Blues78 Ruth BrownR.B. Blues Ruth Brown 1949-1950 Ruth BrownTeardrops from My Eyes Ruth Brown 1949-1950

Show Notes:

My two-part feature on Atlantic Records was partly inspired by a terrific reissue series that was originally issued in the early 1970's. In the early 70's Pete Lowry convinced Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun to reissue some classic and previously unissued blues from the vaults. The plan was to issue twelve albums although only six saw the light of day.I was first heard this series at my college radio station which luckily had the complete set and were much played. This was a great series featuring excellent recordings by Blind Willie McTell, Lawyer Houston, Professor Longhair, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Yancey, T-Bone Walker and others. The albums had excellent liner notes and packaged with wonderful photos in a gatefold album. We feature a number of these recordings on the next two programs as well as a wealth of great recordings from Atlantic's, early years spanning their founding in 1947 through 1952.

Brothers Nesuhin and Ahmet Ertegu were ardent fans of jazz and rhythm & blues music, amassing a collection of over 15,000 78rpm records. Atlantic Records was incorporated in October 1947 and was run by Herb Abramson (President), who put up the initial investment,  and Ertegun (vice-president in charge of A&R, production and promotion) while Abramson's wife Miriam ran the label's publishing company. Atlantic's first batch of recordings were issued in late January 1948. Atlantic Records was never into recording the blues in a big way, unlike other independents. One reason was its New York location, as Ahmet Ertegun told Charlie Gillet:  "You just couldn't find blues singers in Harlem or   Washington. They were all in Chicago, Texas, New Orleans, so we realised we had to go down south, both to find new artists and record them." This wasn't exactly true, as other New York and New Jersey independents such as Savoy, De Luxe, Manor and Sittin' In With had  New  York~based  artists under contract. The first artists signed by Atlantic were New York-based artists with jazz backgrounds, such as Joe Morris and Tiny Grimes, although their singles were marketed as R&B.

Among the recordings Lowry got reissued and featured today are sides by Blind Willie McTell, and Professor Longhair. In 1949 a 15-song session by Blind Willie McTell was cut for the newly formed Atlantic Records. Only two songs, "Kill It Kid" and "Broke Down Engine Blues," were ever issued on a failed single, and the session was forgotten until almost 20 years later.  Longhair began to take his playing seriously in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club in New Orleans. He debuted on wax in 1949, laying down four tracks (including the first version of his signature "Mardi Gras in New Orleans") for the Dallas-based Star Talent label. Union problems forced those sides off the market, but Longhair's next date for Mercury the same year produced his first and only national R&B hit in 1950, the hilarious "Bald Head." The pianist made great records for Atlantic in 1949 and 1950-1951, Federal in 1951, Wasco in 1952, and Atlantic again in 1953 plus other scattered small label sides through the 50's. Thirteen of his Atlantic sides were issued on the album  Professor Longhair: New Orleans Piano.

Sticks McGhee

As Pete recalled in a column years later: "It must have been 1969 when both Mike Leadbitter and Simon Napier (Simon’s only trip. I do believe) came the US leaving Blues Unlimited temporarily without an editor! …Leads had an appointment to see Tunc Erim at the offices of Atlantic Records and I tagged along with the two of them (Simon & Mike) out of curiosity – I’d never been close to a big operation like that! We were permitted to look through the various file books for additions to the post-war discography (Leadbitter/Slaven) and were amazed at the information that could be gleaned. They were efficient. So I elected myself as a party of one to go back after that initial contact to do more detailed copying than could be done that first time. Photocopiers had not yet taken over and I used a pen and notebook to transcribe it all. In doing so, something else came to the surface – the realization that somehow some of this stuff ought to be heard. Actually, it was when I realized that there were thirteen unreleased sides by Blind Willie McTell that I became fixated on this idea. One LP wouldn’t do the trick… I had to work out some sort of package, including the McTell, and try and get it published/released."

Other early Atlantic artists featured today include Joe Morris, Tiny Grimes, Sticks McGhee, Ruth Brown, Frank Floorshow Culley, Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis and Texas Johnny Brown. Joe Morris began his career as a jazz trumpet play but his legacy rests with his 1950s work as leader of R&B-oriented Joe Morris Orchestra. After working with Lionel Hampton, Morris signed with tAtlantic Records, and his "Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere" (with vocal by Laurie Tate) put the new record company on the map when it hit number one on the R&B charts in 1950. The Joe Morris Orchestra functioned as the unofficial house band for Atlantic in the early to mid-'50s, and several future Atlantic stars passed through its ranks, including Ray Charles and Lowell Fulson. In addition to working for Atlantic, Morris also recorded sides for Decca and Herald. He died in 1958.

In 1938, Tiny Grimes started playing electric guitar, and two years later he was playing in a popular jive group, the Cats and the Fiddle. During 1943-1944, Grimes was part of a classic Art Tatum Trio. In September 1944, he led his first record date, using Charlie Parker." He also recorded for Blue Note in 1946, and then put together an R&B-oriented group, the Rockin' Highlanders, that featured the tenor of Red Prysock during 1948-1952 where he recorded for Atlantic. Later sessions were for Prestige/Swingville, Black & Blue, Muse, and Sonet.

Sticks McGhee may have not been as prolific or celebrated as his brother Brownie, but guitarist Stick McGhee cut some great blues and R&B from 1947 to 1960. McGhee's Ruth Brownfirst recorded version of his classic  "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" for thes Harlem logo made little impression in 1947, but a 1949 remake for Atlantic (as Stick McGhee & His Buddies) proved a massive R&B hit. After one more smash for Atlantic in 1951's "he moved along to Essex, King, Savoy, and Herald before passing in 1960.

They called Atlantic Records "the house that Ruth built" during the 1950's. Ruth Brown's hitmaking reign from 1949 to the close of the '50s helped establish the label's predominance in the R&B field. Brown made her debut in May 1949, waxing t"So Long" which proved to be her first hit. After an even two-dozen R&B chart appearances for Atlantic that ended in 1960 she faded from view. Brown's nine-year ordeal to recoup her share of royalties from all those Atlantic platters led to the formation of the nonprofit Rhythm & Blues Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping others in the same frustrating situation. In 1993 Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She passed in 2006.

Johnny Brown's career started in a band called the Aladdin Chickenshackers, who regularly backed Amos Milburn.He recorded with Milburn, and also backed Ruth Brown on her earliest cuts for Atlantic. Through this work, in 1949 although not issued at the time, Brown was able to record some tracks of his own for Atlantic. Brown's recording career continued in the mid 1950s, when he was utilized mainly as a sideman for both of the affiliated Duke and Peacock record labels. Brown toured as Bland's lead guitarist in the 1950s and 1960s.

Frank Culley formed his own R&B group in the mid-40s, recording for the Lenox label in NYC and backing Wynonie Harris on King. In 1948, he was signed by the fledgling Atlantic label and led its first house band, backing the early stars of R&B as well as recording some thirty tracks under his own name. After leaving Atlantic in 1951, Culley recorded for RCA Victor, Parrot, Chess and Baton without success.

Jimmy "Baby Face" Lewis cut nearly thirty sides between 1947 and 1955 for Aladdin, Atlantic, Savoy and other labels. Lewis was a fine smooth voced singer and excellent guitarist who's material  alternated between Charles Brown styled ballads and jump blues.His entire output has been issued on CD by Blue Moon as Jimmy Baby Face Lewis: Complete 1947-1955.

 

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 6/21/15: Mix Show]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9430 2015-06-21T23:56:49Z 2015-06-21T23:56:49Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Jelly Roll Morton Mamie's BluesNew Orleans Blues 1923-1940 Sidney BechetSidney's Blues New Orleans Blues 1923-1940 John Lee HookerT.B.'s Killin' MeAlternative Boogie: Early Studio Recordings 1948-1952 Sonny Boy Williamson Lord Oh Lord Blues The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.1 Brownie McGheeI'm Talking About ItCountry Blues Troubadours 1938-1948 Ida CoxBlues Ain't Nothin' Else But! Vaudeville Blues 1919-1941 Grant & Wilson Scoop ItVaudeville Blues 1919-1941 Big John Greer Confusion BluesRockin' with Big John. Slim HarpoStop Working BluesBuzzin' The Blues Clarence Samuels Somebody Gotta GoHowling on Dowling: R&B from Houston 1947-1951 Wynonie Harris Wynonie's Unissued BluesDon't You Want To Rock: The King & DeLuxe Acetate Series Charlie Spand Back To The Woods The Best of Charlie Spand Kokomo ArnoldBack To The Woods The Essential Walter DavisMove Back To The Woods Walter Davis Vol. 7 1946-52 Isiah Chattman Cold In Hand Blues High Water Blues Frankie Lee SimsMy Home Ain't Here Walking With Frankie:
Unissued cuts from 1960 William 'Do Boy' Diamond Mississippi Flat Blues At Home Vol. 13 Hammie NixonYellow Yam Blues Blues At Home Vol. 12 Pinetop Johnson Tommy Dorsey Boogie Blues At Home Vol. 6 Marylin Scott I Got What My Daddy Likes I Got What My Daddy Likes Marylin Scott Another Woman's Man I Got What My Daddy Likes Marylin Scott I Want To Die Easy I Got What My Daddy Likes Charles Brown Changeable Woman BluesThe Classic Earliest Recordings Amos Milburn Rocky Road BluesThe Complete Aladdin Recordings 1946-1957 Blind Blake Hard Road Blues All The Published Sides Willie Baker Crooked Woman Blues Charley Lincoln 1927-1930 Big Time Sarah Got To See My BabyLong Tall Daddy

Show Notes: 

Read Liner Notes

I originally had a theme show planned for today but found out that the station will be using some of my time for live remotes of the Rochester Jazz Festival. Despite the shortened airtime a good show today including some fine down home blues from the 60's and 70's, several excellent blues ladies from the pre-war and post-war eras and several superb blues singers.

Today's featured blues ladies include Ida Cox, Coot Grant, Marylin Scott and Big Time Sarah. Ida Cox ran away from home in 1910 when she was a teenager and performed in minstrel and tent shows as a comedienne and singer. She worked her why into vaudeville and eventually became a headliner. She toured the country throughout the teens and 1920's. In 1923 she began her recording contract with the Paramount label, who billed her as the Uncrowned Queen of the Blues. Between September 1923 and October 1929, Cox recorded a total of 78 titles for Paramount.

Coot Grant was the main stage name of Leola B. Pettigrew, whose legal name became Leola Wilson following her marriage to performing partner Wesley Wilson. The pair met and began performing together in 1905 and were wed in 1913. Coot had been involved in show business since she was a child, beginning as a dancer in vaudeville. Her husband, who played both piano and organ, was performing as early as 1905. He performed under a variety of stage names including Catjuice Charlie in a duo with Pigmeat Pete, as well as Kid Wilson, Jenkins, Socks, and Sox Wilson. The husband and wife, billed as Grant & Wilson, Kid & Coot, and Hunter & Jenkins, cut over sixty sides between 1925 and 1938, often backed with top jazz artists

Little is known about Marylin Scott or Mary Deloatch, she recorded under both names as well as Marylin Scott the Carolina Blues Girl. She may have been from Charlotte, North Carolina or Norfolk, Virginia, and did some local recording in the mid-40’s then in 1950 for the new independent label, Muse Records. The songs for Muse were "Straighten Him Out" and "Another Woman's Man." Scott then moved to Savoy Records where she recorded with the Johnny Otis band cutting "Uneasy Blues" and "Beer Bottle Boogie" released on Savoy's subsidiary label, Regent Records. In 1951 she cut several gospel numbers for Regent as well as a few final gospel numbers for Savoy. She was still active in gospel music as late as 1967, cutting a 45 that year for Arctic under the name Mary De Loach, "Move This Thing Part I b/w Move This Thing Part II", delivering a powerhouse gospel performance. It's a shame this has not been reissued. In the 1980’s the Whiskey, Women, and… label issued the album I Got What My Daddy Likes: The Uneasy Blues of Marylin Scott that collected all her early recordings. These sides have also been issued on the Document CD Carolina Blues & Gospel 1949-1951.

Sarah Streeter, known as Big Time Sarah, passed away June 13th at the age of 62. She was born in Coldwater, Mississippi, and raised in Chicago, where she sang in gospel choirs in South Chicago churches. Her experience playing with Sunnyland Slim led to her first solo release, a single released on his label, Airways Records. She went on to record several records for Dlemark. Our closing track, "Go To See My Baby", features Sunnyland Slim and comes from the album Long Tall Daddy on the Arcola label collecting tracks from a 1976 session.

Big Time Sarah & Sunnyland Slim
Big Time Sarah and Sunnyland Slim, photo by
Bob West from the CD Long Tall Daddy

We spin some excellent field recording from the 1960's and 70's with recordings captured by Giambattista Marcucci and David Evans. On December 1972, with the help of harmonica player Hammie Nixon, using a professional portable equipment, Giambattista Marcucci started recording blues in Memphis and continued in July 1976, ending in July 1982. A series of informal sessions was held during the course of my five trips through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, featuring well known, but also little known, and unknown musicians. This material has now been issued as the 16-volume Blues At Home series. The series is currently available digitally but will be soon issued on CD. I’ll be doing a two-part show on these recordings in the next month or so.

From the album High Water Blues, we hear Isiah Chattman's "Cold In Hand Blues." The recordings on this album were captured by David Evans between 1965 and 1970, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi and issued on the Flyright label in 1974.

We hear from several fine blues singers today including tracks by Big John Greer and Wynonie Harris who share some recording history together. Greer was fine sax man and singer who played on a terrific number of records for RCA Victor and its Groove subsidiary from 1949 to 1955 and for King between 1956 and 1957. Greer blew some mighty sax as a session artist, most notably on sides by Wynonie Harris. He cut several fine R&B numbers under his own name. In the early 1990's Bear Family issued a 3-CD set titled Rockin' with Big John. Our featured Wynonie Harris song, "Wynonie's Unissued Blues", comes from an excellent reissue on Ace called Don't You Want To Rock: The King & DeLuxe Acetate Series. The 2-CD set includes a CD of some of his best known cuts plus an entire CD of alternates, all mastered from new transfers from the original acetates.

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 6/7/15: I Heard the Angels Singing – The Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9384 2015-06-07T21:26:14Z 2015-06-07T21:24:20Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Ian Zack InterviewInterviewSay No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis Rev. Gary Davis Lord I Wish I Could See Rev. Blind Gary Davis 1935-1949 Rev. Gary Davis CocaineBlues & Ragtime Rev. Gary Davis Samson and Delilah Harlem Street Singer Rev. Gary Davis O, Glory Apostolic Studio Sessions Rev. Gary Davis CrucifixionA Little More Faith Rev. Gary Davis The Boy Was Kissing The Girl The Guitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis Rev. Gary Davis Candy ManThe Blues & Salvation Rev. Gary Davis Death Don't Have No Mercy Harlem Street Singer Rev. Gary Davis Out On The Ocean Sailing Apostolic Studio Sessions Rev. Gary Davis You Got To Go Down Rev. Blind Gary Davis 1935-1949 Rev. Gary Davis Lord, I Looked Down The Road Say No To The Devil Rev. Gary Davis Goin' To Sit Down On The Banks of the River Harlem Street Singer Rev. Gary Davis Get Right Church American Street Songs Rev. Gary Davis Hesitation Blues Blues & Ragtime Rev. Gary Davis I Belong To The BandHarlem Street Singer Rev. Gary Davis I Heard The Angels Singing Demons & Angels Rev. Gary Davis Fast Fox Trot aka Buck Rag The Guitar And Banjo Of Reverend Gary Davis Rev. Gary Davis You Can Go HomeRev. Blind Gary Davis 1935-1949

Show Notes:

ISay No To The Devil Bookn Ian Zack's new book, Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis, Zack calls Davis "arguably the greatest of all the blues-based guitarists to record before World War II" and the "…remained, up until the last years of his life, one of the world’s greatest, if not the greatest, of all traditional blues and ragtime guitarists." Davis ran with legendary bluesmen such as Willie Walker and Blind Boy Fuller down South, making his debut with fifteen sides cut in 1935 for the ARC label. In the 1940's he moved to New York where he recorded prolifically in the post-war years starting with a few scattered sides in the 1940's, more in the 1950's before really picking up steam in the 1960's. While he was never a star on the folk scene or blues revival, he attracted a flock of devoted mostly white followers who learned directly from him and many in turn became well known musicians in their own right ensuring that Davis' legacy was carried on. "Davis", Zack writes, "would come to regard many of his top students as his children, and he wanted them to carry on both his name and his music." Recent years have seen numerous posthumous releases, musical tributes, books and a movie. Say No to the Devil is a thoroughly researched and well written account of Davis' life and one of the better musical biographies in recent years.

I haven't played Davis all that much over the years on the show despite having many of his records. Reading the biography inspired me to dip back into those albums and rediscover many songs I'd half forgotten. Today we interview the author, Ian Zack, as well as playing a diverse selection of Davis' music spanning the 1930's through the 70's.

Davis was an accomplished guitar player at an early age, supposedly playing in a string band at the age of fourteen in Greenville with legendary guitarist Willie Walker (Walker recorded one 78 for Columbia in 1930, "Dupree Blue b/w South Carolina Rag"). By the late 20's Davis had moved to Durham. "For Davis", Zack writes, "the tension between the sacred and the secular world would reach a peak during his time in Durham, just when he might have been on the cusp of major success as a musician." During this period Davis described himself as a "blues cat."

In 1935 storekeeper and talent scout J. B. Long, the manager of Blind Boy Fuller "discovered" Davis. "Oh, [Gary] could play the guitar up and down, any way in the world," he later recalled (from Bruce Bastin's Red River Blues). Davis exerted a considerable influence on Fuller. Davis and Fuller were among a group of Durham musicians Long escorted to New York City to record for ARC, the race music subsidiary of Columbia Records. Between July 23 and July 26 Davis recorded 15 sides (1 unissued): ten religious songs, and two blues numbers. Sometime in the early thirties Davis had a religious awakening and by the end of the decade was an ordained minister. Long tried to get him to record again in 1939 but he declined likely because he refused to play blues. It was ten years before Davis made another record.

Rev. Gary Davis with the daughter of Alice
Ochs and Phil Ochs. Photo by Alice Ochs

In 1937 Davis married Annie Bell Wright, a woman as deeply spiritual as himself, and she looked after him devotedly until his death. In 1943 she moved to New York with Davis following in 1944. They soon moved to 169th Street in Harlem, where they lived for the next 18 years and where Davis preached in various storefront churches. During this time Davis also busked and preached on the streets: "dressed in a suit and tie, with a tin cup pinned to his overcoat or fastened to his guitar, and wearing dark aviator sunglasses over his eyes, he performed both spirituals and instrumental dance tunes-but no blues, unless he was asked to teach a song."

It didn't take Davis long to get involved with the fledgling New York folk scene. "Although folk music wouldn't hit the mainstream for more than a decade, New York already had an established folk music underground that included performers, record producers, and club owners." Davis eventually toured Europe and played at numerous folk festivals including the Cambridge and Newport Folk Festivals (1959, 1965, and 1968).

It didn't take him long to resume his recording career either. He made his first post-war sides in 1945, cut sides for Continental in 1949, recorded in 1950 with tracks appearing on the Folkways album Music in the Streets, in 1954 for the Stinson label and 1956 for Riverside. During this period the following albums were issued: The Singing Reverend w/ Sonny Terry and American Street Songs with songs split between Davis and Pink Anderson. Davis recorded in 1957 but these recordings were not released until 1963 when they were issued by the British 77 label as Pure Religion and Bad Company. His finest recordings during this period were the four he did for the Prestige label: Harlem Street Singer, Say No to the Devil, A Little More Faith and The Guitar and Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis.

A pleasant surprise in recent years are a number of unreleased Davis recordings that have surfaced. Among the notable ones include: If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings, Demons and Angels: The Ultimate Collection (3 CD), Sun of Our Life: Solos, Songs, A Sermon, 1955-1957, Manchester Free Trade Hall 1964, Live at Gerde's Folk City (3 CD) and At Home and Church (3 CD), the latter two released by Davis ' student Stephan Grossman.

The Angel's Message To Me 78
Originally issued on ARC in 1935
then on the dime store label Melotone in 1936

Among folk revival guitar players of the 1950's and early '60s Reverend Gary Davis's finger picking style was legendary. One of the first to adopt it was Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who recorded "Cocaine Blues" and "Candyman." Dave Van Ronk studied with Davis and also covered many of his songs. Other aspiring folk guitarists and blues players swarmed to take lessons from him including Bob Weir, Stefan Grossman, Ernie Hawkins, Dion, Steve Katz, Janis Ian, Dave Bromberg, Ry Cooder, Roy Bookbinder, Larry Johnson, Jorma Kaukonen among others. As one of Davis' admirers, Terri Thal, recalled: "We worshiped him, musically. Because of Gary's musicianship-not his fame, he wasn't that famous-people were awestruck."

He "…never became an American cultural icon like Armstrong or Muddy Waters. Four decades after his death, his genius has gone largely unrecognized in the popular culture, even though he exerted a considerable influence on the folk scene of the sixties and on the early rock scene of the seventies." Undoubtedly his fame would have been greater had he chosen to focus on blues. "The business of saving souls", Zack writes, "is what occupied him, and fame didn't seem to motivate him. … It could be said that Davis turned Robert Johnson's legend on its head: he didn't sell his soul to the devil, as Johnson was rumored to have done, to acquire superhuman blues guitar chops. Rather, Davis renounced blues music in his prime and devoted his life to God as a preacher. When recording blues material might have opened doors or record producers wallets-and stamped an express ticket out of poverty-Davis refused again and again."

Ian Zack Interview [edited] (MP3, 37 min.)

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Jeff http://sundayblues.org <![CDATA[Big Road Blues Show 5/31/15: Peg Leg Stomp – Peg Leg Howell & Friends]]> http://sundayblues.org/?p=9344 2015-05-31T21:14:33Z 2015-05-31T21:14:33Z ARTISTSONGALBUM Peg Leg HowellNew Prison BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg HowellFo' Day BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg HowellCoal Man Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg HowellTishamingo Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg HowellNew Jelly Roll BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg HowellBeaver Slide RagViolin, Sing The Blues For Me Macon Ed & Tampa Joe Mean Florida BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Macon Ed & Tampa Joe Worrying Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg Howell & His GangMoanin' & Groanin' BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg Howell & His GangPeg Leg StompPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg Howell & His GangPapa Stobb BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg Howell & His GangHobo Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg Howell Skin Game Blues Before The Blues Vol. 2 Peg Leg Howell & His Gang Too Tight BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Sloppy Henry Long, Tall, Disconnected Mama Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Sloppy Henry Say I Do ItPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg HowellRock & Gravel BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Peg Leg Howell & Eddie Anthony Banjo Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg Howell & Eddie Anthony Turkey Buzzard BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Henry Williams & Eddie Anthony Lonesome Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 1 1926-1928 Henry Williams & Eddie Anthony Georgia Crawl Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow! Peg Leg HowellTurtle Dove BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg HowellWalkin' BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg HowellAway From home Hard Times Come Again No More Vol. 2 Macon Ed & Tampa JoeEverything's Coming My WayPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Macon Ed & Tampa JoeWinging That ThingPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Brothers Wright And WilliamsI've Got A Home In Beulah LandPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Sloppy HenryCaned Heat BluesMy Rough And Rowdy Ways Vol. 2 Sloppy HenryRoyal Palm Special BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg HowellBroke & Hungry Blues Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg Howell & Jim Hill Monkey Man BluesPeg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930 Peg Leg Howell & Jim Hill Chittlin' Supper Peg Leg Howell Vol. 2 1928-1930

Show Notes:

Peg Leg Howell and His Gang
Henry Williams, Eddie Anthony, Peg Leg Howell

Like Memphis, Atlanta was a staging post for musicians on their way to all points. It’s not surprising then that the first country blues musician, Ed Andrews, was recorded there in 1924. The company that recorded him, Okeh, was one of many to send their engineers to Southern cities to record local talent. Companies like Victor, Columbia, Vocalion and Brunswick made at least yearly visits until the depression. One of the earliest recorded Atlanta bluesmen, Peg Leg Howell, bridged the gap between the era of pre-blues and the period when the blues eventually became the popular music of the day. Born Joshua Barnes Howell in Eatonton, Georgia on March 5, 1888, he was a self-taught guitarist who acquired his nickname after a 1916 run-in with an irate brother-in-law which ended in a shotgun wound to the leg and, ultimately, amputation. Unable to continue working as a farmhand, he migrated to Atlanta, where he began pursuing music full-time; in addition to playing street corners for passing change, Howell supplemented his income by bootlegging liquor, an offense which led to a one-year prison sentence in 1925. He recorded four songs at the end of 1926, eight sides in 1927 with guitarist Henry Williams and Eddie Anthony which were billed as Peg Leg Howel and his gang. Ten final sides were recorded in 1929. Tony Russell described the music as "rugged and without artifice. Howell's early recordings like 'Coal Man Blues' do no lack appeal but are rather overshadowed by his trio sides with Anthony and Williams, which give us a stringband music both less suave and more diverse than that of their near-contemporaries the Mississippi Sheiks." Howell backed singer Sloppy Henry on a few sides and his pals Eddie Anthony and Henry Williams also recorded on their own.

1927 columbia Catalog
Peg Leg Howell featured on a 1927 Columbia catalog

In 1963 three high school students – George Mitchell, Roger Brown, and Jack Boozer tracked Howell down. Mitchell coaxed him into recording again. After a month of practicing on the guitar, Howell made the field recordings that were issued by Testament Records as The Legendary Peg Leg Howell. Howell was also interviewed by Mitchell the results of which were published in Blues Unlimited (the full article is provided below) which is where the below quotes come from.

"My friends call me Peg, …Peg Leg Howell. I was born on the fifth of March. in 1888. I was born in Eatonton, Putnom. County, Georgia. …My father was a farmer. when I was a child I went to school in Putnam County; I went as far as the ninth grade before I stopped. After that I worked on my father's farm with him…plowed. Worked on the farm until 1916, when I was about 28. …I had lost my leg in 1916 and had to quit farm work. I got shot by my brother-in-law; he got mad at me and shot me. …I came to Atlanta when I was about 35 years old. …I learned how to play the guitar about 1909. I learnt myself – didn't take long to learn. I just stayed up one night and learnt myself."

He began performing music in parks and on the streets of Atlanta, sometimes working alongside mandolinist Eugene Pedin, guitarist Henry Williams, and violinist Eddie Anthony, his closest friend. “The men from Columbia Records found me there in Atlanta. A Mr. Brown – he worked for Columbia – he asked me to make a record for them. I was out serenading, playing on Decatur Street, and he heard me playing and taken me up to his office and I played there. …My first record. was "New Prison Blues" (coupled with "Fo Day Blues" on Columbia 14177D). In 1925 I had been in prison for s selling whiskey and I heard the song there. I don't know who made it up. As for selling the whiskey, I would sell it to anybody who came to the house. I bought the moonshine from people who ran it and I sold it. I don't know how they caught me; they just ran down on me one day."

Howell was back before the microphone five months after his debut this time with Henry Williams and Eddie Anthony. His “New Jelly Roll Blues” from this session was his bestselling number and advertised in the Chicago Defender newspaper (Columbia ran eight ads for Howell between 1927 and 1929). The record was listed as Peg Leg Howell and His Gang. The label promoted Peg Leg Howell by putting his photo on the cover of its 1927 catalog. In November 1927, Peg Leg Howell and His Gang recorded three more 78's. "Eddie Anthony recorded with me. He played violin. And Henry Williams; he played guitar. We called the group Peg Leg Howell and His Gang. Made quite a few records with them two."At the November 1st session “Too Tight Blues,” “Moanin’ and Groanin’ Blues,” “Hobo Blues,” and “Peg Leg Stomp” were recorded. Howell made three final Columbia 78's in April 1929. Ollie Griffin was probably the violinist. Three days later, Howell fronted four songs that came out credited to Peg Leg Howell and Jim Hill.

Peg Leg Howell - New Jelly Roll BluesDuring the spring of 1929 Eddie Anthony recorded eight sides for OKeh Records as part of a duo called Macon Ed and Tampa Joe (the identity of Tampa Joe has never been established). On April 19, 1928, Henry Williams and Eddie Anthony recorded a Columbia 78 on their own, the raucous “Georgia Crawl” backed with “Lonesome Blues.” Howell and Anthony were probably the accompanists on a four song session by Sloppy Henry recorded on August 13, 1928. Henry cut sixteen sides between 1924 and 1929 for Okeh. It's been speculated that Anthony plays on on the record "I've Got A Home In Beulah Land" by the Brothers Wright And Williams recorded in 1930.

Henry Williams perished in jail in 1930, and Peg Leg Howell was soon back serving time for bootlegging. After Eddie Anthony died in 1934, Howell told Mitchell, “I just didn’t feel like playing anymore. I went back to selling liquor. Then I ran a woodyard for about two years around 1940. I lost my other leg in 1952, through sugar diabetes.” Howell's final recordings issued on the Testament label captured him in sad shape so those songs will not be featured. Better to remember Howell and his pals in their prime.

Related Reading:

-Welding, Pete; Mitchell, George. “I’m Peg Leg Howell.” Blues Unlimited no. 10 (Mar 1964) [PDF]

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