ARTISTSONGALBUM
James & Fannie Brewer I Want To Know WhyCan't Keep From Crying
John Lee GrandersonA Man For The NationCan't Keep From Crying
Sleppy john Estes President Kennedy Stayed Away Too LongMemphis Swamp Jam
Ronda Mitchell & Mrs. Lovell J.F. Kennedy's ReservationKennedy's blues
Clyde Church Number Nine BluesPiano Blues Vol. 1 1927- 1936
Bert MaysMichigan River BluesDown In Black Bottom
Bill Pearson Detroit Blues Piano Blues Vol. 5 1929-1936
Left Hand CharlieGonna Miss My LognionBluesin' By The Bayou
Otis SpannI Wonder WhyDues Paid: The Bluestime Story
Flora DYou're Gonna CryFoxy R&B - Richard Stamz Chicago Blues
Lee ''Shot'' Williams Hello BabyFoxy R&B - Richard Stamz Chicago Blues
Rev. Gary Davis The Angel's Message To Me Reverend Gary Davis 1935-1949
Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)Goodbye, Babylon
Blind Willie Davis Rock of Ages
How Can I Keep From Singing Vol. 2
Paul Williams w/ Bobby Parker Once Upon A Time Long Ago Last NightTitanic And 23 Unsinkable Sax Blasters
Bobby Parker Blues Get Off My ShoulderGuitar Star
Bobby Parker I Couldn't Quit my Baby The Blue Horizon Story 1965-1970
Sunnyland SlimToo Late To Pray Meat & Gravy From Bea & Baby
Sonny Boy Williamson Ninety NineThe Chess Years Box Se
Frankie "Half-Pint" JaxonFan ItFrankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon Vol. 1 1926-29
John D. TwittySold It To The DevilRare 30's Blues Vol. 1 1934-1937
Otis Spann Sad Day In TexasCan't Keep From Crying
Son HousePresident KennedyKennedy's Blues
Perry TillisKennedy MoanKennedy's Blues
The Southern Bell Singers The Tragedy Of KennedyKennedy's Blues
Jack Newman My Woman Out WestJack Newman 1938
Charlie Segar Stop And Fix It MamaPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
The Blue ChipsCrying Holy Unto The LordGoodbye, Babylon
Jesse May HillI'm Going To Lift Up A Standard For My KingSpreading The Word: Early Gospel
Sister Rosetta TharpeJoy In This LandComplete Sister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 7
Sam Collins Devil In The Lion's DenSam Collins 1927-1931
Julius DanielsNinety Nine Year BluesAtlanta Blues
Furry LewisGood Looking Girl BluesBlues Images Vol. 11

Show Notes:

Can't Hardly Keep From Crying
Read Notes

We have a number of features running through today's mix show. With the 50th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy we spotlight a number of blues and gospel songs about the tragedy. Last week on our show was part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music and I had a few songs that I couldn't fit on last week's show so we play a couple of sets today. Today we also pay tribute to the recently departed Bobby Parker.  Also on deck today are some fine piano blues and a spotlight on some recent Ace reissues.

Five years ago I did an entire show around songs dealing with Presidents and politics wih a number of songs revolving around President Kennedy. Overt political commentary was rare in recorded blues and gospel prior to the 1960's. Some of the most moving political songs were tributes for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, who had great appeal to African Americans.  Roosevelt was considered the "poor man's friend" and the lyrical evidence suggests he was viewed "as a benevolent and powerful patron or ‘bossman'" while Truman was seen as much more fallible and "unresponsive to the economic plight of black people as well as their growing demands for equal rights." Kennedy's reputation, particularly in the early years, was rather ambivalent but his death, as the lyrical evidence makes clear, "virtually eradicated any criticism of his international or political policies and left him an unadulterated hero." These last quotes come from scholar Gudio Van Rijn who has written the books Roosevelt Blues, The Truman & Eisenhower Blues and Kennedy's Blues which analyze lyrics of blues and gospel songs that deal with topical issues. In addition each book has an accompanying CD, which is where some of today's songs come from. Several of the other Kennedy songs come from the album Can't Keep From Crying: Topical Blues on the Death of President Kennedy on the Testament label. In the wake of John Kennedy's assassination, Pete Welding recorded over a dozen acoustic blues tributes to the late president for the compilation Can't Keep from Crying in late 1963 and early 1964.

Religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion, artists who moonlighted by singing gospel and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We spin great guitar evangelists today including Blind Willie Davis on the driving "Rock of Ages", Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother, who recorded both blues and gospel,  on "I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" and Rev. Gary Davis, who also straddled the blues and gospel worlds. Then there's Sister Rosetta Tharpe delivering a blistering late period Bobby Parker: Blues Get Off My Shoulderperformance on 1961's "Joy In This Land" and The Blue Chips on the jazzy "Crying Holy Unto The Lord." The Blue Chips were an interesting group cutting seventeen sides in 1936, a mix of jazzy, swinging gospel and bluesier material like "I'm A Rattlesnakin' Daddy" and "Chippin' The Rock Of Blues."

Bobby Parker died at age 76 on Halloween. Born in Lafayette, La., in 1937 and raised in Los Angeles, Parker ended up in D.C. in 1961 after stints in New York City and elsewhere. Before coming here, a young Parker toured as the guitarist for the doo-wop group Otis Williams and the Charms. He played with Bo Diddley on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955, and subsequently became part of the Apollo Theater house band led by saxophonist Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams. With Williams he made a few recordings in the early 50's including our featured track "Once Upon A Time Long Ago Last Night" which showcases Parker on guitar and vocals. His first solo single, "Blues Get Off My Shoulder", was recorded in 1958, while he was still working primarily with Williams' band. He recorded the single "Watch Your Step" for the V-Tone label in 1961. The song reached no.51 on the Billboard Hot 100. With the success of the song, both in the United States and overseas, he toured the UK in 1968 and recorded his next record, "It's Hard But It's Fair" produced by Mike Vernon and released on Blue Horizon. For the next two decades, Parker played almost exclusively in the D.C. area. By the 1990s, Parker started to record again for a broader audience. He recorded his first official album, Bent Out of Shape, for the Black Top Records label in 1993, with a follow-up in 1995, Shine Me Up.

We spin a batch of fine, rather obscure pianists including Clyde Church, Bert Mays, Bill Pearson , Jesse Coleman and Charlie Seger. Bind Clyde Church cut one 78 for Victor in Memphis in 1929. On the bouncy "Number Nine Blues" he sings about a good time joint:

Down on number nine where the woman and men go
Everyday to have a real good time
They drink corn whiskey and they shoot high dice

Nothing is known about Bert Mays. He recorded three singles in 1927 and 1928, two for Paramount and one for Vocalion in Chicago. Bill Pearson cut four sides, two issued in 1929 and two unissued earlier sides. Charles Seger made his first recordings for Decca in 1934 and '35. In 1940 he recorded four numbers for Vocalion including "Key To The Highway." The song was covered by Jazz Gillum in May of that year for Bluebird with his version featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar with a different melody. Gillum's version became a blues standard later covered by many blues and rock artists. Broonzy's name was tacked onto the songwriting credits. As Alan Balfour wrote in the liner notes to Document's complete recordings of Monkey Joe: "For an artist who recorded a substantial body of work in the 1930's and who was still performing in Chicago night-clubs into the 1970s, it is quite astonishing that very little is known of Jesse "Monkey Joe" Coleman." Coleman waxed thirty-nine sides between 1935 and 1940. He was recorded a final time in 1961 working in a reformed version of the Mississippi Sheiks with some sides  issued on the album South Side Blues on Riverside. Coleman also may be the pianist behind the mysterious Jack Newman who we feature on "My Woman Out West" from 1938.

Blind Clyde Church: Pneumatic BluesWe spotlight a set of tracks from three recent Ace Records reissues: Bluesin' By The Bayou, Foxy R&B: Richard Stamz Chicago Blues -Richard Stamz and Dues Paid: The Bluestime Story. All the tracks from Bluesin' By The Bayou  stem from the studios of J.D. Miller in Crowley and Eddie Shuler in Lake Charles. Half of the songs are heard here for the first time, while the other half have appeared before on obscure 45's or long-deleted reissue LPs.

Richard Stamz was a colorful R&B and soul DJ who operated in Chicago throughout the 50's and 60's. He hosted a groundbreaking black TV show in the city in 1956, and round 1960 he took over the Cobra/Artistic/Abco studio and the Paso label, which he continued to run alongside his own Foxy label.

One of the most active and prolific blues labels was ABC’s Bluesway label which was run by producer Bob Thiele. When Bob Thiele started his jazz label Flying Dutchman in 1969, he set up the Bluestime imprint at the same time, bringing with him many of the artists he had worked with at Bluesway. Bluestime was short-lived and most of the releases have been out of print since the 1970's. With Dues Paid: The Bluestime Story Ace has begun its reissue of the Bluestime catalog.

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 Document video for the release of
Edwin Buster Pickens – The 1959 to 1961 Sessions

 

I've been collaborating with Document Records since 2005 when they asked me to write the notes for the Robert Nighthawk collection Prowling With The Nighthawk. The next project was the series that grew into the three double disc sets of Blues, Blues Christmas. For years I had being doing an annual Christmas program on my blues show and pitched the idea of a vintage collection of blues and gospel Christmas songs to Document. This year Document issued the third volume of Blues, Blues Christmas, the most wide-ranging collection yet, jumping genres from blues, gospel, jazz, rock, doo-wop and country. Another idea I brought to Document was to resurrect some great long out-of-print blues records. One of the first records that came to mind was pianist Buster Pickens' lone album for Heritage (HLP 1008), the self-titled Buster Pickens, which was recorded over several sessions between 1960 and 1961 and released in 1962, subsequently reissued in 1977 on the Flyright label as Back Door Blues and now appears on CD first time as Edwin Buster Pickens – The 1959 to 1961 Sessions.

Texas Piano Part 1 Texas Piano Part 2

 

A couple weeks back I got a call from Gillian from Document asking me if I was interested in putting together some podcasts. With the release of the Buster Pickens and the Christmas CD we decided to do a couple revolving around the rich Texas piano tradition and one devoted to Christmas tunes. You can hear these on the new Document podcast page. While you're there check out the great podcasts on James Booker and Christmas songs from Edison Records.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Blind Willie McTell Just As Well Get Ready-You Got To Die-Climbing High Mountains-Tryin' To Get HomeThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Charley Patton You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You DieScreamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
Son House Lord Have Mercy When I Come To DieThe Real Delta Blues
Brother Willie Eason I Want To Live (So God Can Use Me) Fire In My Bones
Furry Lewis When I Lay My Burden DownWhen I Lay My Burden Down
Henry Johnson Until I Found The Lord45
Leola Manning He Fans MeRare County Blues 1928-1957
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going To That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Rev. W.M. MosleyYou Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's HousesRev. W.M. Mosley 1926-1931
Hi Henry Brown Preacher BluesBlues Images Vol. 10
Big Bill Broonzy Preachin' the Blues Big Bill Broonzy
1937-1940 Vol. 2
Ralph Willis Amen BluesShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
Papa Lightfoot When the Saints Go Marching Blues Harmonica Wizards
Julius DanielsSlippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden StreetAtlanta Blues
Skip James Jesus Is a Mighty Good LeaderBlues Images Vol. 6
Texas AlexanderJustice Blues Texas Alexander Vol. 3 1930-1950
Lightnin' Hopkins I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Sam Collins Lead Me All The WayJailhouse Blues
Bukka WhiteThe Promise True And GrandMasters of the Delta Blues: Friends of Charlie Patton
Mother McCollum Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane Blues Images Vol. 11
Bessie SmuthOn Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)The Complete (Frog)
Lizzie MilesHold Me, ParsonLizzie Miles Vol. 3 1928-1929
Washington PhillipsDenomination Blues (Pt.1)I Am Born To Preach The Gospel
Champion Jack Dupree Deacon's PartyChampion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts
The Griffin BrothersDouble Faced DeaconBlues With A Beat
Rev. Anderson JohnsonDo You Call That Religion?Blind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists
Jaybird ColemanI'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan - Some O' These DaysGoodbye, Babylon6
Robert Pete WilliamsChurch on Fire (No. 2)I'm Blue As a Man Can Be
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemAngels In Harlem
Roy BrownJudgement DayRoy Brown & New Orleans - R&B
Lloyd Price Lord, Lord, Amen!Lloyd Price 1952-1953
H-Bomb Ferguson Preaching The BluesRock H-Bomb Rock
Willie Mae Williams Where the Sun Never Goes DownFire In My Bones
Little Janice Scarred KneesWest Coast Guitar Killers Vol. 1

Show Notes:

I know blues singers don't go to heaven
'Cause Gabriel bars them out
(
Doctor Clayton, Angels In Harlem, 1946 )

Bukka White: I Am In The Heavenly WayToday's show is part two of our look at the intersection between blues and religious music. In the early 1900's, blues singing was associated with the brothel, juke joint, and the dregs of African-American society. Black church goers called it the "Devils' Music" as the following quote, told to Paul Oliver, reflects: "When she was singin' the blues I told her-she was pavin' her way to Hell," said Emma Williams of her daughter', the blues singer Mary Johnson…" This view was also shared by some former blues singers: "A man's who's singin' the blues- I think it's a sin because it cause other people to sin," said Lil Son Jackson" who gave up blues for the church. As Oliver notes, "Musically the blues and the spirituals, or the spirituals' successor, the gospel song, may have stemmed from common sources. But in the recording era, though they shared on occasion similar instrumentation and voices, they were separate and distinct."

Despite this divide, religious imagery is prevalent throughout blues music, particularly the blues of the 20's and 30's; songs talk about the devil, make fun of the preachers, deacons and reverends, use biblical imagery and speak of the afterlife, both heaven and hell in frank terms. In addition there's a slew of bluesman who struggled between blues and religion like Son House, blues artists who moonlighted by singing gospel like Charlie Patton, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip, James, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, among many others and those bluesmen who eventually turned full time to religion like Robert Wilkins, Rev. Gary Davis, Georgia Tom, Rube Lacey, Ishman Bracey, Gatemouth Moore and many others. On the flipside are artists who straddled blues and gospel like Blind Roosevelt Graves, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and those artists who's musical language was similar to the blues artists, most notably the so-called guitar evangelists like Blind Willie Johnson, Rev. Edward Clayborn, Sister O.M. Terrell and others, plus sanctified singers and groups who's instrumentation drew from secular music like blues and jazz. We explore all this and more on today's program.

Today's title comes from one of my favorite singers, the influential Doctor Clayton. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. He first recorded for Bluebird in 1935 cutting six sides four of which went unissued, not recording again until 1941. Between 1941-1942 he recorded four sessions for Bluebird and Okeh. Clayton's final recordings were in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston with a final session in August 1946 which is where today's selection, "Angels In Harlem", comes from. The song was covered by Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris, Little Son Willis as "Harlem Blues" and by Larry Davis as "Angels In Houston." This is a good  example of a blues song using religious imagery. Another example is Texas Alexander's "Justice Blues" from 1934. The song has lyrical similarity to a number of songs:

I've cried, Lord, my Father, Lord, our kingdom come (2x)
Send me back my woman, then my will be done

I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Says, I never been to Heaven, people, but I've been told
Oh Lord, it's womens up there got their mouths chock full of gold

I'm gonna build me a Heaven, have a kingdom of my own
Gonna build me a Heaven have a kingdom of my own
So these brownskin women can cluster around my throne

The song echoed a line from House' 1930 number "Preachin The Blues:"

Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own (great Godawmighty)
Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home

These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years including Lightnin' Hopkins' "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own" which we play today .Also worth noting is Alexander's mockery of the Lord's prayer. This device shows up in a number of songs including John Byrd's mock sermon "The White Mule of Sin" as he has "Sister" Jones lead the prayer:

Our father who art in heaven
The white man owed me ten dollars and I didn't get but seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
I took that or I wouldn't have got none

In our first installment we played "You Shall" by Frank Stokes which uses a similar refrain:

Oh well it's our Father who art in heaven
The preacher owed me ten dollars he paid me seven
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done
If I hadn't took the seven Lord I wouldn't have gotten none

There were slew of related songs that took a cynical, humorous view of the preacher. In our first installment we featured a number of these including Arthur Anderson's "If You Want To Make A Preacher Cuss", Hambone Willie Newbern's "Nobody Knows (What The Good Deacon Does)", Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe's "Preachers Blues",  Mississippi Sheiks' "He Calls That Religion", Luke Jordan's "Church Bells", Christina Gray's "The Reverend Is My Man", Frank Stokes' "You Shall", Little Esther's "The Deacon Moves In" and Louis Jordan's "Deacon Jones."  We feature  a batch more today including Hi Henry Brown's "Preacher Blues", Champion Jack Dupree's "Deacon's Party" and  The Griffin Brothers' "Double Faced Deacon:"

Well let me tell you about a deacon, top hat long tail coat (2x)
Well he preaches his best while winking at the women folk
Well he preached against gambling, said it was a sin and a shame (2x)
Well he met me in the alley, shot seven for my watch and chain

On "Preacher Blues" from 1932 Hi Henry Brown echoes a similar sentiment:

Preacher in the pulpit, bible in his hand, sister in the corner crying that my man (2x)
Preacher come to your house asking to rest his hat, next hing he wanna know sister, where your husband at? (2x)

Criticism of the preacher and religion isn't confined  to secular artists. We hear a similar complaint from  Rev. Anderson today on "Do You Call That Religion?" and "Denomination Blues" by Washington Phillips:

You're fightin' each other, and think you're doing well
And the sinners on the outside are going to hell. And that's all

 Now the preachers is preachin', and think they're doing well
All they want is your money and you can go to hell. And that's all

 Then there was Reverend A.W. Mosley who delivers the no nonsense "You Preachers Stay Out Of Widow's Houses."

You jack-legged preachers – stay out of widow's houses
Some of the mornings – some of these nights
You goin' to some widow's house
Some grass widow, that you ain't got no business there
They gonna find your body there
But you won't find yo' head
Preacher – stay out of widow's houses

Bessie Smith: On Revival DayIn the heyday of  blues popularity, the late 20's and 30's, there was a marked increase in blues imagery in recorded sermons which were hugely popular during this period. There was F.W. McGhee railing against "Shine-Drinking" and "Women's Clothes (You Can't Hide)" while Rev. Emmett Dickinson  delivered sermons with titles like "Is There Harm In Singing The Blues" and "Sermon On Tight Like That."

 There were quite a number of blues artists who recorded both blues and gospel. I'm not sure if this was commercially driven or heartfelt religious sentiment. Certainly Son House was conflicted  between the blues and religious worlds.  In his younger days House became involved with the Baptist religion, and by the time he was twenty he was preaching in a church near Clarksdale. In his mid-twenties, House heard a guitar player named Willie Wilson (sometimes Willie Williams) playing bottleneck guitar and it changed his life. House bought a battered guitar, Wilson patched it up, put it in Spanish tuning, and soon House was accompanying him. Surprisingly enough, after becoming a bluesman, House continued to preach for awhile, an unlikely combination of careers that speaks of the conflict between religion and blues that would bedevil him the rest of his life. His  "Preachin the Blues", featured in part one, is a savage attack on organized religion—specifically in the form of the Baptist church. In his rediscovery years House recorded and performed religious materiel, sometimes even doing some preaching during his shows.

House's contemporary Charley Patton not only performed and recorded religious songs but for most of his life wrestled with what he thought was a calling to be a preacher. He cut several religious songs: "Prayer of Death" (Parts 1 & 2), "Lord I'm Discouraged", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "Some Happy Day, "Jesus Is A Dying Bed Maker", "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" and "Oh Death."

Others featured today who recorded both blues and gospel were singer Leola Manning who's vocals seem straight out of the church. Our selection, "He Fans Me", is a religious number but bears a strong resemblance to  Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's raunchy hit "Fan It." Then there was Crying Sam Collin who cut just a few gospel numbers although he did record several others that were not released. Similarly Julius Daniels cut a mix of blues and gospel as we feature him performing "Slippin' And Slidin' Up The Golden Street." Blind Willie McTell was another who cut a fair number of spiritual sides starting in 1933, some more in 1935 and several for the Library of Congress in 1940. He continued to cut a number of religious sides during his post-war recordings. Skip James, featured today on "Jesus Is a Mighty Good Leader" from his legendary 1931 session, continued to perform and record spiritual numbers during his rediscovery in the 1960's. At his first session in 1930 Bukka White cut two religious numbers and two blues and in advertisement in the Chicago  Defender was billed as the "Singing Preacher."

Unrelated to the Son House song, where several similarly titled songs such as Bessie Smith's "Preachin' The Blues", "Preaching The Blues" by H-Bomb Ferguson and Big Bill Broonzy's "Preachin' The Blues.” In many versions of his life, Broonzy speaks of becoming a preacher for awhile. Unlike the House song, these songs represented the blues singer delivering mock sermons. Ferguson's father was a Baptist preacher who paid for piano lessons for his son condition he learned sacred songs. But Ferguson had other ideas: "After church was over, while the people was all standing outside talking, me and my friends would run back inside and I'd play the blues on the piano." His father would not approve of his 1952 number:

Is all my bothers here, is everybody ready?
Well all you backsliders sit out there and say amen,
And when I get to preaching, you wish you had some gin
Now take old brother Johnson he says he's living right,
I saw him sneaking around with the deacon"s wife last night

Today's program features several so called guitar evangelists. There is only a slight difference between a street-corner blues singer and a sanctified street singer, since both need to hold a crowd and make a few bucks. Blind Willie Johnson is the most famous and greatest of the guitar evangelists. Others from this period include Edward W. Clayborn, A.C. & Blind Mamie Forehand, Blind Willie Brother Willie Eason: I Want To LiveHarris, Willie Mae Williams plus several who recorded slightly later like Rev. Utah Smith, Willie Eason and Sister O.M. Terrell.

In part one we spotlighted  a pair of cuts by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a tremendous guitarist and singer who did  blues sides in her early days but pretty much stuck to gospel for the rest of her lengthy recording career. It's interesting that in the early blues years there were very few guitar playing woman. The biggest name was Memphis Minnie with a few others like Mattie Delaney and Geeshie Wiley who cut a few sides. Tharpe must have been an influence in because on the gospel side there were several fine woman guitarists including Willie Mae Williams and  Sister O.M.  Terrell  both of whom are spotlighted today.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Pine Top Smith Pine Top BluesShake Your Wicked Knees
Pine Top Smith Pine Top's Boogie WoogieShake Your Wicked Knees
Jabo Williams Polock BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Jabo Williams Pratt City BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Lee Green Maltese Cat The Way I Feel
Lee Green 44 BluesThe Way I Feel
Lee Green Dud-Low Joe The Piano Blues Vol. 18: Roosevelt Sykes & Lee Green
Henry Brown Henry Brown Blues Twenty First St. Stomp
Henry Brown Stomp Em' Down To The Bricks Down On The Levee
Mary Johnson w/ Henry Brown Peepin' At The Risin' Sun Mary Johnson 1929-1936
Judson Brown You Don't Know My Mind Blues Piano Blues Vol 1 1927-1936
Mozelle Alderson w/ Judson Brown Tight In ChicagoBarrelhouse Mamas
Louise Johnson By The Moon And StarsJuke Joint Saturday
Louise Johnson On The WallJuke Joint Saturday
Pine Top Smith I'm Sober Now Shake Your Wicked Knees
Pine Top Smith Jump Steady Blues Shake Your Wicked Knees
Jabo Williams Fat Mama BluesJuke Joint Saturday
Jabo Williams Jab's BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Lee Green Pork Chop BluesLee Green Vol. 2 1930-1937
Lee Green The Way I Feel BluesThe Way I Feel
Lee Green Death Bell Blues The Way I Feel
Lee Green Memphis Fives The Way I Feel
Henry Brown Eastern Chimes Blues Down On The Levee
Henry Brown & Edith JohnsonNickel's Worth of Liver The Blues in St. Louis, Vol. 2
Henry Brown Deep Morgan Blues Down On The Levee
Madelyn James w/ Judson Brown Longtime BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Jenny Pope w/ Judson Brown Tennessee Workhouse BluesMemphis Jug Band: Associates & Alternate Takes 1927-1930
Mary Johnson w/ Judson Brown Morning Sun BluesPiano Blues, Vol. 19: Barrelhouse Women 1925-1933
Mozelle Alderson w/ Judson Brown Tight WhoopeeThe Piano Blues Vol. 5: Postscript 1927-1935
Louise Johnson Long Ways From HomeMasters Of The Delta Blues
Louise Johnson All Night Long BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Henry Brown Papa Slick Head Henry Brown Blues
Henry Brown Henry Brown Boogie Henry Brown Blues

Show Notes:

Pine Top Smith: pinetop's BluesOn today's program we once again spotlight several fine forgotten piano men active in the 1920's and 30's,  a tremendously fertile period for piano blues.  We spotlight six superb blues pianists active in the 1920's and 30's who remain largely forgotten today. Perhaps the best known is Pine Top Smith who first recorded the classic “Pine Top's Boogie Woogie.” Jabo Williams’ legacy rests on only eight titles cut for Paramount in the depths of the depression and display a formidable technique. Louise Johnson was a barrelhouse pianist and girlfriend of Charlie Patton’s who went to Grafton, Wisconsin to make records for Paramount with Patton, Willie Brown and Son House. She cut four sides at that session, her sole recorded legacy. Judson Brown made one solo recording, sharing the B-side of his only 78 with Freddie "Redd" Nicholson and backed several singers. Lee Green was closely associated with Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery. He cut over forty sides between 1929 and 1937. Henry Brown is the only artist featured today who recorded after the war. He was fixture on the St. Louis scene recoding under his own name as well as backing several singers and waxed a couple of fine albums in the 1960’s.

Clarence "Pine Top" Smith first performed in public in Birmingham about the age of fifteen. He worked as a pianist at house parties in Troy, Alabama before moving on to Birmingham, where he sometimes worked with Robert McCoy. From around 1920 Smith was based in Pittsburgh, and the following years he traveled with minstrel and vaudeville shows as a dancer, singer and comedian.  He traveled throughout the south where he worked with artists such as Butterbeans & Susie and Ma Rainey. He began to devote more of his energies to playing piano and, at the urging of Charles "Cow Cow." In in interview with the Chicago Tribune pianist Cow Cow Davenport and Vocalion Records talent scout reported that he first saw Pinetop Smith in Pittsburgh  "I happened to hit in Pittsburgh at the Star Theater on Wylie Avenue. … I went with a friend of mine to the Sachem Alley, and there I found Pinetop Smith."

In an interview with Downbeat magazine in 1939, Smith’s wife Sarah Horton said that her husband first started playing "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" in Pittsburgh. Cow Cow Davenport recommended Smith to Mayo Williams of Brunswick/Vocalion records. Smith then moved with his family to Chicago in 1928. On December 29, 1928 Smith recorded his two breakthrough hits: "Pine Top Blues" and "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie." This was the first time the phrase "boogie woogie" appeared on record. On January 14 and 15, 1929 Smith recorded six more sides including "I'm Sober Now" and "Jump Steady Blues." On March 13, 1929 Pine Top made an unissued recording of "Driving Wheel Blues." Two days later, at age 25, Smith was accidentally shot by a man named David Bell during a fight that broke out in a dancehall.Lee Green: 44 Blues

Leothus Lee Green was an early contemporary of Little Brother Montgomery and a mentor to Roosevelt Sykes. Born in Mississippi around 1900, Green worked as a clothes presser in Vicksburg while perfecting his piano technique. Soon he was traveling and earning a living by playing piano. Montgomery knew him in Vicksburg, and claimed to have taught him the "44 Blues" in Sondheimer, LA, back in 1922. Sykes first heard Green in 1925. Green taught Sykes how to really play the blues and is usually credited with teaching the "44 Blues" to Sykes. All three men recorded the number;  Sykes and  Montgomery chose to record their versions of “44 blues” at their debut sessions, Sykes cutting it first in June 1929 as "Forty- Four Blues", Green as "number Forty-Four Blues" in August at his second session the same year and the following year by Montgomery as “Vicksburg Blues.”

Sykes and Green became traveling and gigging companions, circulating throughout the region for several years. Green made his first four recordings in Richmond, IN, for Gennett and Supertone on July 10, 1929, just weeks after Sykes cut his first sides for OKeh in New York. Excepting for a brief excursion to New York in August 1937, Green performed and recorded mainly in or near Chicago. He cut 24 sides for Vocalion in 1929 and 1930, and 14 titles for Decca between August 1934 and September 1937. His last records were made for the Bluebird label in Aurora, IL, on October 11, 1937.

Jabo Williams was a highly talented pianist/vocalist hailing from Birmingham, Alabama. In the early 1930s, north Alabama, including the mill towns of Birmingham and Huntsville, had a distinctive group of blues pianists including Walter Roland, Robert McCoy and Cow Cow Davenport.  It's not clear if he was discovered there or when he  relocated to St. Louis. In St. Louis he may have been  recommended to Paramount Records by local record store owner and talent scout Jesse Johnson. Paramount went out of business in 1932, the same year Williams recorded so his records were likely pressed in small quantities which makes them extremely rare.  In the only known photograph of Williams he's seen in a wide-brimmed hat and in the company fellow Birmingham pianist Robert McCoy. In St. Louis he was well remembered by pianist Joe Dean as a slim, medium-brown man who played piano in a pool hall on 15th and Biddle.

As pianist/researcher Bob Hall notes, Williams was a "forthright, two-handed pianist in the barrelhouse tradition, who used mostly eight-to-the bar boogie bass patterns and highly individual treble phrases, including a characteristic coda with which he ended many of his pieces. 'Ko Ko Mo Blues Parts 1 and 2' has similarities to the later 'Sweet Home Chicago' and is a medium boogie with a lazy, slurred vocal. 'Pratt City Blues,' which is a different tune from the Chippie Hill title, refers to a suburb of the Ensley District of Birmingham. Both this boogie and the stride ‘‘Jab Blues’’ are outstanding instrumental compositions with a relentless drive. 'My Woman Blues' and 'Polock Blues' revert to medium boogie tempo, the latter taking its name from a part of East St. Louis. Williams shared a disregard of bar lengths with his fellow Birmingham pianist Walter Roland, who subsequently recorded another of Williams’ songs, 'House Lady Blues.' 'Fat Mama Blues' is a bawdy house song having a lyrical piano melody and an unusual bass line, ending with a characteristic Williams coda." Some of Williams' records are in such rough shape, like "Ko Ko Mo Blues Parts 1 and 2", (only two known copies) they are virtually unplayable.

Henry Bown: Henry Brown BluesIn A Left Hand Like God: A Study of Boogie-Woogie Peter Silvester wrote: "Henry Brown was a living model for the qualities most apparent in the St. Louis boogie-woogie style. He employed an economic left hand of single notes or sparse chords for slow numbers and a rumbustious walking bass for faster ones." Brown learned to play the piano from the "professors" of the notorious Deep Morgan section of St. Louis. One of them went by the name of "Blackmouth," another was named Joe (or Tom) Cross. As Brown remembered him, "he was a real old time blues player and he'd stomp ‘em down to the bricks." "Deep Morgan Blues" was one of his signature pieces. By the age of sixteen Brown had acquired enough technique to be able to play the buffet flats in the 1920's and was soon in regular demand there. He was able to make enough money to survive, allowing him the sleep during the day and play all night. Brown worked clubs such as the Blue Flame Club, the 9-0-5 Club, Jim's Place and Katy Red's, from the twenties into the 30's. He recorded for Brunswick with Ike Rogers and Mary Johnson in 1929, for Paramount in ‘29 and ‘30, behind singer Alice Moore in 1929 and 1934 as well as backing others such singers as Jimmy Oden, Bessie Mae Smith and others.

Brown served in the army in the early 40's, then formed his own quartet to work occasional local gigs in St. Louis area from the 50's, and worked the Becky Thatcher riverboat in 1965. In addition to his pre-war recordings, he was recorded by Paul Oliver in 1960 (Henry Browm Blues, 77 Records and reissued on CD by Southland), by Sam Charters with Edith Johnson in 1961 (The Blues in St. Louis Vol. 2: Henry Brown and Edith Johnson), cut some sides for the Euphonic label in the 50's (some appear on the Delmark reissue Biddle Street Barrelhousin') and some final sides for Adelphi in 1969.

Louise Johnson was barrelhouse pianist and girlfriend of Charlie Patton’s who went to Grafton to make records with Patton, Willie Brown and Son House in 1930. She cut four sides at that session, her sole recorded legacy. From the book Preachin' The Blues Dan Beaumont writes: "North of Robinsonville, Patton directed Ford to visit the Kirby plantation where they picked up a young woman named Louise Johnson, who was one of Patton’s girlfriends. Johnson sang and played piano in a barrelhouse operated by a Liny Armstrong.  Willie Brown had heard her playing, and he then introduced her to Patton who soon found time for her.  House remembered her 'nice-lookin’…’bout twenty-three, twenty-four years old.'  And like her boyfriend Patton, she 'didn’t do nothin’ but drink and play music; she didn’t work for nobody…' Somewhere along the trip her and Patton had a fight and she became House's girlfriend. "Back in Mississippi, the foursome played in a barrelhouse on the Kirby plantation near Lula for a brief time, then went their separate ways.  According to[Stephen]  Calt and [Gayle] Wardlow, House saw Louise Johnson only once after 1930. He thought she had moved to Helena, Arkansas.  Another report had her playing in the 1930's on the King and Anderson plantation near Clarksdale.  Then she vanished from view."

Judson Brown only made one solo recording in 1930, "You Don't Know My Mind Blues", and had to share the b-side of his one and only 78 with Freddie "Redd" Nicholson performing his "Tee Roller's Rub". Brown did appear on some recordings by Mary Johnson for Brunswick the same year as well as backing singers Mozelle Alderson, Madelyn James, Charlie Nickerson and Jenny Pope. The singers he worked with suggest a Memphis background but according to researcher Bob Eagle he was from Georgia and merely passed through Memphis, ending up in Chicago, where he died in 1933. The pre-war Memphis piano scene is no well documented although a few pianists from Memphis appear on record such as Jab Jones who recorded with the Memphis Jug band and Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes  and Blind Clyde Church who waxed one 78 for Victor.

Related Reading:

-Henry Brown:Henry Brown Blues [PDF] (Liner notes by Paul Oliver)

-Pinetop Smith [PDF]  (Jazz Record, March 1962 by John Bentley)

-The Blues in St. Louis, Vol. 2: Henry Brown and Edith Johnson [PDF]  (Liner notes by Samuel Charters)

-The Piano Blues Vol. 18: Roosevelt Sykes/Lee Green 1929-1930 [JPG]  (Liner notes by Bob Hall and Richard Noblett)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Robert Pete WilliamsLevee Camp BluesBlues at Newport 1964
Mississippi Fred McDowell Lord I'm Going Down SouthBlues at Newport 1964
Mississippi John Hurt Sliding Delta Blues at Newport 1964
George Carter Ghost Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 11
Walter DavisCan't See Your Face Walter Davis Vol. 5 1939-1940
Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost Blues Lonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
Buddy Guy This Is The EndCobra Records Story
Sonny Boy WilliamsonUnseen EyeThe Chess Years Box
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandLamp Post BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Charlie SpandGood Gal Favorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937
Eddy Kelly's Washboard BandCome On 'Round To My House, BabyCarolina Blues 1937-1945
Hokum Boys & Jane Lucas Hip Shakin' Strut Georgia Tom Dorsey: The Essential
Trixie Smith Praying BluesTrixie Smith Vol. 1 1922-1924
Sister Rosetta Tharpe On My WaySister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 7
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going to That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Louisiana Red Had A Date With Barbara Last NightMidnight Rambler
Hop WilsonDrop Down MamaDrop Down Mama
Dave BartholomewAnother MuleDave Bartholomew 1952-1955
Elmore JamesQuarter Past NineEarly Recordings 1951-1956
Earl HookerThe Leading BrandBlue Guitar
Jim Brewer Liberty BillJim Brewer
Guitar ShortyMy Mind Never ChangedCarolina Slide Guitar
Jimmy T-99 NelsonSecond Hand FoolCry Hard Luck
Charles BrownEverybody's Got TroublesThe Complete Aladdin Recordings
Jimmy WitherspoonI Done Found OutUrban Blues Singing Legend
Gatemouth MooreSomebody Got To GoGreat Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7
Blind PercyFourteenth Street Blues Blues Images Vol. 11
Blind Joel Taggart Precious Lord Blues Images Vol. 9

Show Notes:

It's pledge drive time at the station so I usually run mix pogram so the drive doesn't cut short our usual theme shows. Lots of interesting records on deck today including a bunch of songs from the Newport Folk Festival, a batch of fine pre-war sides, some gospel that falls on the bluesy side, some strong down-home blues, a number of fine blues belters and some hard hitting post-war electric blues.

Blind Joe Taggart AcetateWe open the show with a trio of sides from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival from the 2-CD The Blues At Newport 1964 Complete Edition which collects two albums that originally came out on Vanguard in 1965. The Newport Folk Festival began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. Prior to 1964 blues were not well represented at the festival. That changed by 1964 when several important blues artists who recorded in the 20's and 30's were rediscovered. Featured were the first major festival appearances by Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Pete Williams and Robert Wilkins plus Mississippi John Hurt, who performed the previous year, as well as performances Rev. Gary Davis, John Lee Hooker, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry (they performed in 1959 at the first festival ) and others.

A few weeks ago I spotlighted several numbers from he vaults of collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. Today we spotlight the gorgeous "Ghost Woman Blues" a twelve string blues by George Carter. Nothing is known of him other then he cut four sides for Paramount in 1929. Bruce Bastin related that when Edward "Snap" Hill, a boyhood friend of Curley Weaver and the Hicks brothers was played a tape of one of Georg Carter's songs it prompted him to say: "He's from Atlanta" although he knew nothing about him.  It turns out that there's been a recent cover of "Ghost Woman Blues" by a group called The Low Anthem. I've actually been checking them out a bit – I think I've become a fan. (shhh …don't tell the blues police!)

Int the same set as the George Carter number we spin two moody masterpiece about haunted love. First up is Lonnie's Johnson's magnificent "Blue Ghost Blues" (Johnson cut this first in 1927 but today we spin his 1938 version) beautifully sung and played by a man who still doesn't get his proper due:

I've been in this haunted house, for three long years today (2x)
Blue ghost has got my shack surrounded, oh lord and I can't get away
I feel cold arms around me, ice lips upon my cheek (2x)
My lover is dead, how plainly plain I can hear her speak
(whispered: Lonnie, sweet Lonnie)

My windows beginning rattling, my door knob is turning round and round (2x)
My lover's ghost has got me and I know my time won't be long

Walter Davis is probably more neglected than Lonnie although he was very popular among black audiences, cutting hundreds of sides between his 1930 debut and his final 1952 session. "Can't See Your Face" is a poignant number from 1939:

Your old picture has faded, mama that hangs up on the wall (2x)
It's been hanging there so long, I can't see your face at all
Even my old house seems haunted, mama and there ain't nobody around (2x)
Sometime it seems like at  night, that the old house is falling down
I can hear my back door slamming, I can hear a little baby crying (2x)
All I wonder baby, have you got me on your mind

We spin two tracks today from Blind Joe Taggart. Taggart made his first records for Vocalion in June 1927 then went to Paramount in 1928. He continued recording in the 30's but vanished after a final session for Decca in 1934. A few years back an acetate Taggart made in 1948 turned up and was issued by John Tefteller on the CD hat accompanies the 2009 calendar. Taggart did cut one blues 78, "Coal River Blues b/w Fourteenth Street Blues under th psedonymn Blind Percy and His Blind Band in 1927 with the latter cut featured today and comes from the latest Tefteller CD.

Walter Davis
Walter Davis circa 1942

In an interview in Fretboard Journal Tefteller talked about the post-war record: "It means that Blind Joe Taggart went into a recording studio in Chicago — probably on Maxwell Street, because they had several studios there back then. For a few dollars you could pay to have a record made. You would walk into the booth where they had the microphone set up, you would sit down, you would play your song, and it would be cut directly from the microphone directly onto that acetate record.  There would be not necessarily any other copies made, and if there were other copies made, they would have been made from that. But it was never commercially released; it was never put out on a record with an actual label. The songs are 'Precious Lord,' spelled 'Preshious Lord' on the label, and 'Little Black Train.' My theory is that he was going to take that dub and go around to the different record companies on Record Row in Chicago, and try to get himself a contract to record again. He could walk into Chess — I think it was called Aristocrat in the late 1940s — he could walk into Chess or Aristocrat, or one of those independent labels with this acetate, and say, 'You know, I used to make records back in the '30s for Paramount, they sold fairly well. Here’s my latest recording. You might want to consider issuing this.' And I think that’s what this is. It was discovered in a stack of lousy 1970s rock LPs. It’s miraculous it survived. It came so close to being lost forever."

We play a few other sides today with a religious bent including music from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sister O.M. Terrell and a number by Trixie Smith. We spin Sister Rosetta's "On My Way" from 1961. Tharpe cut some fantastic records and I never tire of listening to her. There was a time when she wasn't well served on reissues but now just about everything she released is available on CD. Our selection comes from the seventh and final collection on the French Fremmeaux & Associes label that collects all of Tharpe's recordings through 1961.

Sister O.M. Terrell is far less known but her guitar style is very reminiscent of Tharpe's.  Terrell taught herself to play the guitar and began writing gospel songs and singing them on Atlanta's Decatur Street. From the Depression years of the 1930's to the Eisenhower '50's, she lived the life of an itinerant evangelist and supported herself with her music. In 1953 she recorded six sides for Columbia who for some reason released them in its country music series. She was eventually tracked down to the door of a nursing home in Conyers, Georgia by musicologist Bruce Nemerov. She passed in 2006 at the age of 95.

"Praying Blues" from 1924 is one of Trixie Smith's finest numbers backed by a great band that included trombonist Charlie Green, Don Redman on clarinet and Fletcher Henderson on piano.  A few weeks back I did a program called I Want Plenty Grease In My Frying Pan – Forgotten Blues Ladies Pt. 3 and someone asked me about Trixie Smith. I've never really given her much of a listen but I've been listening to her collected recordings on Document and it's a bit of a mixed bag but she has more then a few outstanding songs. I'll be spotlighting more of her on upcoming shows.

Smith was born in Atlanta and around 1915 moved north to New York to work in show business. At first she worked in minstrel shows and on the TOBA vaudeville circuit. In 1922 Smith made her first recordings for the Black Swan label and later that year she won a blues singing contest in New York beating out Lucille Hegamin and others with her song "Trixie's Blues." In 1924 Smith made her debut for Paramount, cutting twenty sides for the label through 1926. She recorded a final batch of sides in 1938 and 1939.

Jimmy Nelson: Watch ThatAction=We feature seveal tough post-war guiarists today including Buddy Guy's smoldering "This Is The End" for Cobra. Guy released two singles in 1958 on Cobra's Artistic Records subsidiary. Other heavy hitters include Elmore James' "Quarter Past Nine", Dave Bartholomew's "Another Mule" sporting great guitar work from Pee Wee Crayton and Earl Hooker's knockout instrumental "The Leading Brand."

We have a set of superb blues singers on deck today including Gatemouth Moore, Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Jimmy Witherspoon and Charles Brown.  I fist heard Moore on a great 2-LP set, The Shouters – Roots Of Rock 'N' Roll Vol. 9, and have been a fan ever since.  Often labeled a blues shouter, with his perfect diction and huge, mellow, enveloping voice he was more accurately a blues crooner of the highest order. I'll let Gatemouth speak for himself: "I am one of the ultra-men blues singers. I am not accustomed and don't know nothing about that gut-belly stuff in the joints…I put on tuxedos, dressed up, sang intelligent…Without a doubt, and I'm not being facetious, I'm the best blues singer in the business with that singing voice. Now I can't wiggle and I can't dance, but telling a story, I don't think them other boys are in my class."

Moore's blues career came to a close in 1949 when he had a religious conversion on stage at Chicago's Club DeLisa. After walking off stage he eventually became a preacher, gospel disc jockey and gospel recording artist. Inexplicably in 1977 he stepped back briefly into the world of blues cutting Great Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7, an exceptional album despite it's generic title. The album was produced by Johnny Otis and issued on the Blues Spectrum label. Today's selection, "Somebody got To Go", comes from that album.

Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson is another favorite singer of mine. I became a fan of Jimmy Nelson many years ago after hearing an LP collection of his early sides on the Ace label. I always hoped he would start recording again and in 1999 he issued the terrific Rockin' And Shoutin' The Blues. I interviewed Jimmy when that record came out and it was one of the best interviews I ever did and subsequently spoke with him again in 2005.

Blessed with a booming voice and a hip delivery, Nelson cut a swath of fine sides for Modern's RPM and Kent imprints in the early 50's and 60's but only scored big with his signature "T-99 Blues." After getting dropped from Modern Nelson bounced through a number of small labels before giving up music in the 60's. From his RPM days we feature his "Second Hand Fool."

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