|Elzadie Robinson||St Louis Cyclone Blues||The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 1|
|Texas Alexander||Frost Texas Tornado Blues||Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down: The Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks|
|John Lee Hooker||No Friend Around||The Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3|
|John Lee Hooker||No Mortgage On My Soul||The Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3|
|Jealous James Stanchell||Anything From A Foot Race To A Resting Place||Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||The Foot Race||Autobiography in Blues|
|Big Moose Walker||Footrace||Ramblin' Woman|
|Jimmy Reed||There'll Be A Day||The Vee-Jay Years|
|Bobo Jenkins||I'm So Glad Trouble Don't Last Always||The Life Of|
|Sammy Lawhorn||Home of the Blues||Rockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis|
|The 5 Royales||I Got To Know||Rockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis|
|Sylvester Palmer||Mean Blues||Down In Black Bottom|
|Hound Head Henry||My Silver Dollar Mama||Cow Cow Davenport: The Essential|
|Lightnin' Hokins||The Twister||The Complete Prestige Recordings|
|Big Bill Broonzy||Texas Tornado Blues||The War & Postwar Years 1940-1951|
|Curtis Jones||Decoration Day Blues||Curtis Jones Vol. 1 1937-1938|
|Sonny Boy Williamson I||Decoration Blues||The Original Sonny Boy Williamson|
|Dan Picket||Decoration Day||Shake That Thing|
|Howlin' Wolf||Decoration Day||Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958|
|J & J Deuces||Sweet Woman Blues||Stompin' Vol 18|
|Otis Hinton||Walking Downhill||Stompin' Vol 18|
|Long Tall Lester||Working Man||Juicy Harmonica Vol. 1|
|Butterbeans & Susie||Bow Legged Papa||Vaudeville Blues 1919-1941|
|Sister Morgan||Hurry Down, Sunshine, and See What Tomorrow Brings||Too Late, Too Late 1927-1964|
|Alma Henderson||I've Got A Mama Down In New Orleans||Vocal Blues And Jazz Vol. 4|
|B.B. King||Worry Worry||Live At The Regal|
|Ironing Board Sam||I've Been Used||Double Bang|
|Johnny Fuller||Tin Pan Alley Blues||Fuller's Blues|
|Johnny Fuller||Bad Luck Overtook Me||Fuller's Blues|
|Lonnie Johnson||St Louis Cyclone Blues||Broadcasting The Blues|
|Gospel Travelers||God's Chariot Pt. 1||Get Right With God Vol. 2|
An eclectic mix show lined up for this Memorial Day Weekend. On deck today are a few Memorial Day songs (Decoration Day), a few tornado songs, twin spins of John Lee Hooker and Johnny Fuller as well, some interesting pre-war and post-war blues obscurities and lots more.
Like many folks I was transfixed by the news coverage of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma. It got me to thinking of some blues songs that have been recorded about tornadoes over the years. There was the St. Louis Cyclone which hit five months after the flooding of the Mississippi river. The 1927 flood provoked an outpouring of songs by both whites and African-Americans. Lonnie Johnson's "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" was recorded in New York City just four days after the catastrophe. On September 29th a cyclone struck St. Louis, killing 84 people in five minutes and causing one million dollars in damage. The impact of this disaster was minimal in relation to the Mississippi flood and this is reflected in the fact that only four songs were released about the subject. In addition to Johnson there was a sermon by Rev. J.M. Gates titled "God's Wrath In The St. Louis Cyclone", Elzadie Robinson's "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" (a shorter version of Johnson's song) featuring the exceptional Bob Call on piano and "Tornado Groan" by Luella Miller. On April 9th 1934 Texas Alexander was backed by the Mississippi Sheiks on eight numbers. From this session comes "Frost Texas Tornado Blues". Most sources rate this as an F4 tornado which destroyed the tiny town of Frost, Texas on May 6, 1930 leaving 41 dead. The Houston Chronicle wrote: "Bright sunshine today brought out in bold relief such a picture of death and ruin in the little town of Frost as has never been seen in this part of the state. There was no room in the little cemetery for the dead. The cemetery was covered with debris from the houses of the living. In three minutes Tuesday afternoon a black swirling monster swept out of the southwest and completely demolished a town which has been 43 years in the building, took the lives of 23 and injured a hundred more." Lightnin' Hopkins cut "Mean Old Twister" in 1946 and today we play a version he cut in 1964 live at Swarthmore college. Hopkins' version draws from the imagery of Lonnie Johnson's song. We close the show with a gospel number that I couldn't resist playing by the Gospel Travelers called God's Chariot. This is a remarkable two-part song cut in Memphis in 1952 complete with sound effects.
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It was declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first blues song that I could find that references Decoration Day was singer Martha Copeland's "On Decoration Day" cut in 1926. Next was Curtis Jones who cut “Decoration Day Blues” at his very first session which was not issued at the time, then Sonny Boy's version, “Decoration Day Blues” was cut five months later and cut again in 1940 as "Decoration Day Blues No. 2". Sonny Boy II covered the original Sonny Boy's version in 1963 and Howlin' Wolf covered it in 1952. Other version were recorded by John Lee Hooker, Dan Pickett, Bobo Jenkins, Dr. Ross, Sunnyland Slim, Bukka White and others.
We spin a trio of songs today revolving around a strange song, "Anything From A Foot Race To A Resting Place", recorded by the obscure Jealous James Stanchell. In Treasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2 Mack McCormick writes about this song: “The song is Jealous James own composition, well known around Houston and Kansas City from his own singing, but not previously recorded or published. The recording came about one afternoon when Lightnin' Hopkins was scheduled to make some tapes but, as usual, found himself without an acoustical guitar. He went out and found Jealous James inviting him and his guitar to come along. After finishing “Corrine Corrina” …Lightnin' turned things over to Jealous James who sang several of his own songs, including this. Lightnin' was so delighted with it that he promptly recorded a boogie which he dubbed “The Footrace Is On” which takes its inspiration from Jealous James' song.” I have no idea where Big Moose Walker picked up the song but he obviously liked the number as he cut versions in 1960, 1961,1967 and 1969. Our version comes from the Bluesway album Rambling Woman.
The many record labels that came out of Memphis, Tennessee have mostly been well documented over the years. There has been one glaring omission and that is the Home Of The Blues record label that existed from 1960 through to 1962. In that short time the company issued approximately forty singles. The label grew out of Ruben Cherry's Home Of The Blues record store on Beale Street. Most of the recordings were made at Royal Studios and Willie Mitchell joined the label as house musician and producer. He recorded three singles for the label under his own name. Big names who recorded for the label included Roy Brown and the '5' Royales, both after their lengthy stints at King Records, and Larry Birdsong. Today's featured tracks come off a brand new 32 song survey of the label called Rockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis.
We always spin tracks from out-of-print albums and today we spotlight a great Johnny Fuller album that someone asked me about awhile back but took some digging in my collection to find it. Fuller was a West Coast bluesman who left behind a fine batch of 1950's recordings. He was equally at home with low down blues, gospel, R&B, and rock & roll. Fuller was born in Edwards, Mississippi and moved to Vallejo, California with his family at a young age. Fuller made his debut with two gospel numbers for the Jaxyson label in 1948. His blues recording career began in 1954 with sides issued on Flair and Kent and would record prolifically for several labels through 1962. Fuller's two biggest hits, "All Night Long" and the original version of "The Haunted House," improbably found him in the late ’50s on rock & roll package shows, touring with the likes of Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon. He was essentially retired from music in the 60's and worked as a garage mechanic. We feature his excellent, and only full-length album, Fuller's Blues (Bluesmaker Records 1974) with a crack band that included Phillip Walker. Unfortunately the album has not been issued on CD. Fuller passed in 1985.
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We play some interesting, if obscure, material from the pre-war and postwar eras. From the pre-war era we hear from some fine singers including Alma Henderson, Sister Morgan and Hound Head Henry. Henderson is only mentioned in the pre-war blues bible (Blues & Gospel Records 1902-1943) as being of little blues interest. I like her "annoying talking-singing style", as Steve Tracy labels her in the notes to Vocal, Blues & Jazz 1921-1930. Of the four tracks on this set, two feature the guitar of Lonnie Johnson while the other two, including our selection, feature the great Eddie Lang on guitar. Of Henry I couldn't say it better than writer Mike Rowe: "The buffoonish Henry was one of the, mercifully, few specialists in vocal effects; laughing, crying, imitating trains, steamboats, hounds, crowing roosters, Henry's repertoire of sounds was wide indeed (listen to his W C. Fields for instance!). When he performs (almost) straight he makes a passable blues singer – "Silver Dollar Mama" is about his best and boasts a fine Davenport accompaniment too." As for Sister Morgan I know nothing outside of delivering a fine performance on "Hurry Down, Sunshine, and See What Tomorrow Brings" backed by Will Shade on guitar. She cut two sides for Victor in 1927 both unissued at the time.
From the post-war era some fine down-home blues from some equally obscure artists. Otis Hinton is believed to have possibly been from Shreveport, LA. He made four recordings for Apollo Records in New York City in the early 50's that were never issued. It wasn't until he recorded for the small Timely label in NYC that he had a record issued in 1953. "Walking Downhill" is a killer and one wishes he recorded more. Nothing seems to be known about Lester Foster, who made two recordings in the 1950's for the Duke label as Long Tall Lester. Our featured track, "Working Man", is a knockout.