ARTISTSONGALBUM
Shirley GriffithRiver Line Blues Saturday Blues
Shirley GriffithSaturday BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithBig Road BluesSaturday Blues
Alec SewardEvil Woman BluesCreepin' Blues
Alec SewardBig Hip WomanCreepin' Blues
Alec SewardMade A Mistake In LoveCreepin' Blues
Robert Curtis SmithSunflower River Blues Clarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithPut Your Arms Around MeClarksdale Blues
Wade WaltonParchman FarmShake 'Em On Down
Wade WaltonShake 'Em On DownShake 'Em On Down
Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell'Bama BoundMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellCan't Sleep For Dreaming My Heart Struck Sorrow
Henry TownsendCairo Is My Baby's Home Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendTired Of Being MistreatedTired Of Being Mistreated
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Matchbox Blues Indiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Oh Mama How I Love You Indiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley Griffith Bright Street JumpIndiana Ave. Blues
Shirley GriffithBye Bye BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley Griffith Left Alone BluesSaturday Blues
Shirley GriffithShirley's Jump Saturday Blues
Robert Curtis SmithCouncil Spur BluesClarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithCan You Remember MeClarksdale Blues
Robert Curtis SmithI Hate To Leave You With Tears In Your EyesClarksdale Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellLive Ain't Worth LivingMy Heart Struck Sorrow' Blues
Brooks Berry & Scrapper BlackwellBlues Is A FeelingMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell Asked Her If She Loved MeMy Heart Struck Sorrow
Henry TownsendI Asked Her If She Loved Me Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendI Got Tired Tired Of Being Mistreated
Henry TownsendAll My Money Gone Tired Of Being Mistreated
J. T. Adams & Shirley GriffithDone Changed The Lock On My DoorIndiana Ave. Blues
J. T. Adams & Shirley GriffithBlind Lemon's BluesIndiana Ave. Blues

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

From 1949 through 1971, Prestige Records, owned and run by Bob Weinstock, was among the most famous and successful of the independent jazz labels. By the late 50's the company was looking to branch out and new categories were created within the Prestige catalog. There was the Folklore series, there was Moodsville, Swingsville and then there was Bluesville. An important factor was the release in 1959 of Samuel Charter's ground breaking book The Country Blues. In 1961 Charter's hooked up with the label and played a important role getting talent for the label and did much of the producing. In addition to Charters there were a number of others including Mack McCormick of Houston who provided a slew of Lightnin' Hopkins records,Chris Strachwitz who would form Arhoolie Records, Art Rosenbaum who recorded Indianapolis artists Scrapper Blackwell, Shirley Griffith and J.T. Adams and Chris Albertson who was instrumental in getting Lonnie Johnson back in the studio. Bluesville's roster grew quickly including artists such as Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Joe Williams, Jimmy Witherspoon and Memphis Slim among numerous others. A number of older artists such as Tampa Red and particularly Lonnie Johnson found a new home at Bluesville in which to revitalize their careers. In addition the label also caught some important artists on record for the first time or who recorded very little including Pink Anderson (except for two sides cut in the 20's), Baby Tate, Wade Walton and Doug Quattlebaum to name a few. The bulk of of Bluesville's catalog has been issued on CD except for a handful of excellent records we spotlight today.

Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (1965) and Mississippi Blues (1973). All thee records are long out of print. Born in 1907 near Brandon, Mississippi Griffith was certainly old enough to have made records in the 1920's and 30's and in fact had at least two opportunities to do so. In 1928 his friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too "wild and reckless" in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. In 1935 Carr offered to take Griffith to New York for a recording session but Carr died suddenly and the trip was never made. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record and produced Griffith's Bluesville albums. Griffith did achieve modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. He passed away in 1974

John Tyler Adams was born in Western Kentucky and it was his father who started him out on guitar. In 1941 he went up North, eventually settling in Indianapolis. Adams became good friends with Shirley Griffith and at the time of his first recordings had been playing together for fifteen years. Adams recorded just one album, Indiana Ave. Blues (1964) on Bluesville with Griffith with other sides appearing on the album Indianapolis Jump issued on Flyright.

J.T. Adams & Shirley Griffith: Indiana Ave. Blues
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Alec Seward was born in Charles City County, Virginia and relocated to New York in 1942 where he befriended Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. He met Louis Hayes and the duo performed variously named as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly, or The Back Porch Boys. The duo recorded sides in 1944 and another batch in 1947. During the 1940's and 1950's Seward played and recorded with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, McGhee and Terry. Creepin' Blues (with harmonica accompaniment by Larry Johnson) was released by Bluesville in 1965 and never issued on CD. Later in the decade Seward worked in concert and at folk-blues festivals. He died at the age of 70, in New York in May 1972.

One of Clarksdale's most talented and renowned blues musicians, Wade Walton (1923-2000) chose to pursue a career as a barber rather than as a professional entertainer. Walton never lost his love for blues, however, and often performed for customers and tourists at his barbershops. Walton came to the attention of the international blues community after two California college students in search of folk and blues musicians, Dave Mangurian and Don Hill, visited him in 1958. Walton went with the pair to Parchman, where their request to record prisoners' songs were declined and became the topic of a song Walton composed after the encounter. On a return trip in 1961, the students were jailed, but after concluding that they were indeed in town to record blues, not to agitate for civil rights, the case was dismissed. They then traveled with Walton to New Jersey for the recording of his album for Bluesville Records, Shake 'Em On Down.

Brooks Berry was born in March, 1915, in western Kentucky and when she was in her middle teens moved up to Indianapolis, where she lived ever since. As producer Art Rosenbaum wrote: "Brooks met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis and thus began a long though at times stormy friendship that was to end suddenly some fifteen months after the last of the present recordings were made. On October 6, 1962. Scrapper was shot to death in a back alley near his home. Brooks has been, during the four years I have known her, reluctant to sing blues without her friend's sensitive guitar or piano playing behind her; and she will sing less and less now that he is gone." Her lone album under her own name was My Heart Struck Sorrow with Blackwell. Some additional sides by Berry and Blackwell appear on the collection Scrapper Blackwell with Brooks Berry 1959 – 1960 on Document and recorded live at 144 Gallery in Indianapolis, Ind in 1959.

Henry Townsend, who has died aged 96 in 2006, had been the last blues musician who could trace his recording career back to the 1920s, having sat down before a recording microphone in November 1929 to sing his "Henry's Worried Blues" for Paramount. He was born in Shelby, Mississippi, but grew up in St Louis. In his late teens he became interested in playing the guitar and began to infiltrate a circle of musicians that included Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes and Peetie Wheatstraw. He recorded steadily, if not prolifically, through the decades cutting fine sides with Walter Davis through the 50's, a superb record for Bluesville in the 60's and in 1980 one of his finest records, Mule for the Nighthawk label. Townsend's Bluesville album has also been issued on Folkways as The Blues In St. Louis Vol. 3.

Wade Walton: Shake 'em On Down
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A chance meeting with Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records, at the Big 6 Barber Shop in Clarksdale led to Robert Curtis Smith's the lone album, Clarksdale Blues, recorded in 1961. The record didn't seem to make much of an impact, sinking without a trace and over the year becoming highly collectible. In the liner notes Mack McCormick wrote: "Robert Curtis Smith is a hard working farm laborer in upper Mississippi. He supports a wife and eight children by driving a tractor ($3 a day top) during the farming season, by hunting rabbits in the winter. He has a borrowed guitar with which he sings of women he has loved, lost, discarded, or found worthy of erotic praise. …The status quo in his world is to sap the strength and exploit the weakness of Negroes. It is a far more vicious crime than the occasional lynching since the end result is the massive weakening of a strong people. Ideas of inferiority are fed to him hand-in-hand with conditions that patently are inferior. Badly deprived of constitutional privilege and the minimum wage, and lacking the know-how to correct his situation, Smith’s way of life is astonishingly out of step with modern times." A few other tracks by Curtis appear on various anthologies including some excellent 1960 numbers on the Arhoolie collection I Have to Paint My Face: Mississippi Blues 1960. Smith disappeared from the blues world not long after these recordings but 30 years later he was rediscovered living in Chicago. He had given up blues in the passing years, but he continued to play in church and was recorded performing gospel numbers in 1990 on the anthology From Mississippi to Chicago. Eventually Wade Walton became aware of Smith's whereabouts; this led to his appearance at the 1997 Sunflower River Blues Festival in Clarksdale. By one account it was an uncomfortable performance and I'm not sure if Smith did any follow-up concerts.Smith passed in 2010.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Peter LowrySoutheast Blues
Blind Boy Fuller Truckin' My Blues AwayBlind Boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938
Peter Lowry1969/Buddy Moss
Buddy MossHey Lawdy MamaThe George Mitchell Collection Volumes 1-45
Peter Lowry1970/Back Down South
Eddie KirklandGoing Back To Mississippi The Complete Trix Recordings
Peter LowryBirth of Trix Records
Baby TateYou Can Always Tell Another Man Done Gone
Peter LowryMeeting Baby Tate
Baby TateBad Gasoline Another Man Done Gone
Peter LowryBaby Tate's Death
Peter LowryMeeting Willie Trice
Willie TriceTrying to Find My BabyBlue And Rag'd
Peter LowryPeg Leg Sam/The Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg SamHand Me DownThe Last Medicine Show
Peter LowryMore Peg Leg Sam
Peter LowryMeeting Henry Johnson
Henry JohnsonLittle Sally JonesThe Union County Flash
Peter LowryHenry Johnson/Chapel Hill Concerts
Henry JohnsonSittin' Down Thinkin'Carolina Country Blues
Peter LowryGuitar Shorty
Guitar ShortyNow Tell Me BabyAlone In His Field
Peter LowryMeeting John Cephas
John CephasNaylor RagUnreleased
Peter LowryBig Chief Ellis
Big Chief EllisAll Down BluesBig Chief Ellis
Peter LowryTarheel Slim
Tarheel SlimScreaming and CryingNo Time At All
Homesick James Live Life Over Goin' Back Home
Peter LowryHomesick James & Honeyboy Edwards
Honeyboy Edwards Ride With Me TonightI've Been Around
Peter LowryRobert Lockwood
Robert LockwoodForever On My MindThe Complete Trix Recordings
Peter LowryFollowing Leads/Roy Dunn
Roy Dunn Do That BoogieUnreleased
Cecil Barfield Sugar Coated LoveUnreleased
Turner FoddrellCrow JaneUnreleased
Ira Joiner Jr. Doin' The Natural ThingUnreleased

Show Notes:

Peter Lowry Peter Lowry
 Pete Lowry & Tarheel Slim 1970s. Photo by Valerie Vilmer.

 

Today’s show is a sequel, of sorts, to a show I did several years back focusing on the recordings made by Peter Lowry. Lowry did not go to Mississippi, did not discover long lost bluesmen from the 1920's but in his voluminous research, writing and recording has charted his own path, becoming the most renowned expert on the blues of the Southeast and is credited with coining the term Piedmont Blues. Between 1969 and 1980 he amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45's with LP's being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states with seventeen albums. Other recordings were issued on the Flyright label, a label formed in 1970 by Mike Leadbitter, Simon Napier and Bruce Bastin. Lowry's issued recordings are just the tip of the iceberg with unreleased recordings far exceeding what was commercially released. Lowry estimates there could be enough material for eighty CD's. Today we spotlight Lowry's recordings as issued on Trix and Flyright, some unreleased material and interview I conducted with Peter a few weeks back (an edited version of the interview can be found below). The notes that follow come mainly from articles I've written previously on Peter's recordings.

Lowry refers to his recordings as "controlled field recordings", often done in hotel rooms or someone'ss home with an emphasis on getting the sound right at the start, there was not option of fixing it in the mix afterwards. In an article by Valerie Wilmer [Wilmer, Valerie. “Lowry’s Bag of Trix.” Melody Maker (13 Oct 1973)] she goes on to explain how Lowry operated in the field: "Lowry will be back from his third field trip in 12 months at the end of the year. He does all his traveling by Volkswagen bus, accompanied by a faithful hound and no less than eight guitars. One such trip lasted five months and netted enough material for 20 albums, all of which he will be processing himself. 'I said, 'Christ, I've got an awful lot of stuff here-there's no sense in farting around with other people, I'll do it myself.' The guitars are needed because often the people he encounters have not played for a while or else their existing instrument may be in bad shape, rattling or buzzing. 'I've always tried to keep a clean sound on my recordings unlike most of the so-called field work'… I'm not just an out-and-out field recorder, nor do I use a studio as such. I usually say that the best sound-quality stuff I do is sort of in a Holiday Inn recording studio in whatever town I happen to be staying. You know, if it's not too cool where they're living or something, we go back to the hotel room.'"

Baby Tate
Baby Tate, photo by Pete Lowry.

As for the nature of field recording and researching  it's worthwhile to quote Bruce Bastin, author of the classic Red River Blues and running mate of Lowry's, on some of their experiences: "Armchair research can never replace the infectious pleasure of personal contact, or indeed the streetwise experiences of fieldwork at the very edges of existence. …Talk to Bengt Olsson about his times in Tennessee and Alabama. Talk to Pete Lowry about his (sadly unsuccessful) endeavors to record Buddy Moss… Talk also to us about our meeting with rednecks in Edgecomb County, North Carolina…or with Newton County, Georgia, police for 'consorting with blacks'… " On the other hand were plenty of positive experiences: "How do you replace memories of hearing Guitar Shorty perform at Chapel Hill's Endangered Species bar, packed with professors and 'kitty money'… Or watching a genuinely excited Buddy Moss play a stunning 'Chesterfield' on his battered guitar one hot August afternoon at his home? Or seeing Henry Johnson play slide guitar flat across his lap, Hawaiian style, at home and some time later stroll into Chapel Hill's TV station with a petrified Elester Anderson, casually watch a quartet finish playing Mozart and pack up, then settle down to back Elester (whom he'd never met before) on 'Red River Blues'… Or of tracing Floyd Council via the local cab company's switchboard? Or meeting the truly larger-than-life character Peg Leg Sam?"

It's useful to provide some background on Lowry's activities just prior to setting up Trix. Most of what follows is extracted from my correspondence with Lowry in response to questions I posed and by its nature is highly condensed. "I had not attempted field recording prior to 1970… Bastin and I hooked up in 1969 to look for 78's using my car as our transport in the SE (successfully)…and went back the next year. I figured that I should do more than just drive the car, so I purchased a tape recorder (Uher 4200, 1/2 track stereo, 5" reels). A series of pieces for Blues Unlimited came out of the '69 trip. …Bruce and I were focused in 1970 on collecting material for a book, as he had been asked to do one in the Studio Vista series off of our BU series of articles, resulting in Crying for the Carolines (the basis for Red River Blues). We WORKED for a solid month, doing library research (city directories were helpful, especially when there were back issues – in the old days, there was (c) after a name for 'colored', so that helped eliminate similar names. Then, vital statistics also were not so closed to non-family members – folks who helped us in the early years had to stop [legally] later on). Next-of-kin were often still findable. Those research tools were suggested by Gayle Dean Wardlow. We started with a copy of Godrich & Dixon and known names, likely 'home' locations of those who had made recordings pre-war, and worked from there. …There was NOBODY 'working' the SE when we attacked it, for Mitchell had wandered off to the sainted MS stuff, where the little work being done was being done. We broke 'new' ground, if you will, in part encouraged by BU editor Simon Napier. …Most of the info Bruce used for his books came from my/our work…"

While it may be impossible to quantify, the fact is there was quite a number of quality blues players to be found and quite a number of them in the Southeast region as Lowry optimistically stated  to Valerie Wilmer: "'I never really believed all that stuff about the blues being dead,'" he said, 'As with other celebrities who said 'my death has been greatly exaggerated', so the blues. I think it's been submerged beneath the overlay of modern black pop music, but hell-you go down through Georgia and the Carolinas and there's still country-suppers. Peg Leg Sam still goes around busking in the streets, blowing his harp and collecting quarters and dollars.'" What follows is some background on today's featured artists:

Baby Tate spent the bulk of his life as a sideman, playing with musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Pink Anderson, and Peg Leg Sam. As a teenager he began playing with Blind Boy Fuller. In the early 1950's, Tate moved to Spartanburg, SC, where he performed both as a solo act and as a duo with Pink Anderson. Tate and Anderson performed as duo into the 1970's. In 1962, Tate recorded his first album, See What You Done, for Bluesville. Tate was one of Lowry's closest musician friends. Lowry said, "My plan…was to really record him in depth. He was just an incredible person and a wonderful person to deal with. I can't say I'm satisfied with what I've got on tape because I know he could do three times more and a lot better. But just having been around him and dealt with him and lived with him, there's a degree of satisfaction. …The first person to be recorded by me in 1970, a wonderful informant, and a very good friend – he came up to New Paltz to perform at a Spring festival in '72, partly w. Larry Johnson. He also played a coffee house near Albany, NY that same weekend thanks to Kip Lornell. He had a great time – then he died that summer. That made me a man possessed; 'do as much as you can before they all die off' took a hold of me! The rest is history." Peter recorded Tate extensively in 1970 but, outside of one 45 and a couple of tracks issued on anthology, this material remains unissued.

Read Booklet (PDF)

"Recording is an accident, isn't it?! Had it not been for me, Henry Johnson and Peg Leg Sam would have been unheard…" Lowry notes. Peg Leg Sam was a member of what may have been the last authentic traveling medicine show, a harmonica virtuoso, and an extraordinary entertainer. Born Arthur Jackson, he acquired his nickname after a hoboing accident in 1930. His medicine show career began in 1938, giving his last medicine show performance in 1972 in North Carolina, and was still in fine form when he started making the rounds of folk and blues festivals in his last years. Lowry captured Sam and Chief Thundercloud (the last traveling medicine show) on the Flyright album The Last Medicine Show. There's also some footage of the medicine show act in the film Born For Hard Luck. Sam delivered comedy routines, bawdy toasts, monologues, performed tricks with his harps (often playing two at once) and served up some great blues (sometimes with a guitar accompanist, but most often by himself). Lowry released one album by Sam, Medicine Show Man, and he recorded only once  more for Blue Labor in 1975 which was originally issued under the title Joshua and subsequently reissued as Early In The Morning and Peg Leg Sam with Louisiana Red.

The sessions by Henry Johnson, his first recording, was a result of Peg Leg Sam pushing his good friend to record. "I feel Henry Johnson is the finest finger-picking blues artist to come along in a hell of a long time, and this album should demonstrate that with ease" Lowry wrote in the notes to The Union County Flash!, his lone album. "It was Sam who introduced us (Bastin and I) to Henry…His musicianship was surpassed only by his magnificent voice – I have UNC concert tapes where he plays piano, Hawaiian guitar, and harp w. his guitar… he stuck it in his mouth and worked without a rack (like Harmonica Frank)!" Johnson died 19 1974, shortly after the record was released and there is enough material in the can for another release. Lowry wrote" his 'compleat' talent will never be heard by those who never saw him in person."

Roy Dunn was one of the last links to the rich Atlanta pre-war blues scene; he had played with Curley Weaver., Buddy Moss and Blind Willie McTell. Know'd Them All is his only album. "This, his only album", Lowry wrote, is as complete a representation of the talents of Roy S. Dunn (a/k/a James Clavin Speed) as could be compiled, and his talents deserve another listening." Dunn passed in 1988.

Willie Trice and his brother Richard became close friends with Blind Boy Fuller and Fuller took them up to New York where they cut six sides together (two unissued) for Decca in 1937. Richard Trice recorded after the war for Savoy in 1946 as Little Boy Fuller as well as a couple of sides in 1948 and 1952/53. Lowry recorded him but those recordings remain unreleased. Unlike many of his fellow musician friends, Willie always had a day job and it wasn't until the 1970's that he recorded again. Blue And Rag'd , his sole album,  was released on Trix in 1973. "Willie Trice", Lowry wrote" was one of those special people – not just in my life, but in the lives of most everyone who chanced to meet him. We had some sort of special, almost mystical connection… I would irregualry just appear unannounced at the door of his mother's house and he'd be sitting there waiting for me. He would tell me that he had dreamed of me that night and therefore knew that I was going to be there to see him the next day."

Big Chief Ellis
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"Homesick" James Williamson was playing guitar at age ten and soon ran away from his Tennessee home to play at fish fries and dances. His travels took the guitarist through Mississippi and North Carolina during the 1920s, where he crossed paths with Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Boy Fuller, and Big Joe Williams.Settling in Chicago during the 1930's. Homesick made some of his finest sides in 1952-53 for Art Sheridan's Chance Records (including the classic "Homesick" that gave him his enduring stage name). He also worked extensively as a sideman, backing harp great Sonny Boy Williamson in 1945 at a Chicago joint called the Purple Cat and during the 1950's with his cousin Elmore James who he also recorded with. Homesick's own output included 45's for Colt and USA in 1962, a fine 1964 album for Prestige plus albums for Bluesway, Big Bear, Earwig and Fedora among others. He cut the solo Goin' Back Home for Trix of which Lowry said "I think that ‘my' solo album is the best thing he ever did."

Born in Alabama, Eddie Kirkland headed to Detroit in 1943. There he hooked up with John Lee Hooker five years later, recording with him for several firms as well as under his own name for RPM in 1952, King in 1953, and Fortune in 1959. In 1961-62 he cut his first album for Tru-Sound Records. Leaving Detroit for Macon, GA, in 1962, Kirkland signed on with Otis Redding as a sideman and show opener not long thereafter. By the dawn of the 1970's, Kirkland cut two albums for Trix label; Front And Center and The Devil And Other Blues Demons (issued together as The Complete Trix Recordings on the 32 Blues label).

A self-taught player, Big Chief Ellis performed at house parties and dances during the 1920's. He traveled extensively for several years, working mostly in non-musical jobs. After a three-year army stint from 1939 – 1942, Ellis settled in New York. He started recording for Lenox in 1945, and also did sessions for Sittin' In and Capitol in the 1940's and 50's, playing with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee for Capitol. Though Ellis reduced his performance schedule after moving from New York to Washington D.C., his career got a final boost in the early 1970's. He recorded for Trix and appeared at several folk and blues festivals until his death in 1977. His self-titled Trix album features John Cephas, Tarheel Slim, and Brownie McGhee. He also backed Tarheel Slim on his Trix album.

While still in North Carolina during the early 1940's, Tarheel Slim worked with several gospel groups. He broke away with Thurman Ruth and in 1949 formed their own group, the Jubilators. During a single day in New York in 1950, they recorded for four labels under four different names, One of those labels was Apollo, who convinced them to go secular. That's basically how the Larks, one of the seminal early R&B vocal groups, came to be. He cut two sessions of his own for the firm in 1952 under the name of Allen Bunn. As Alden Bunn, he encored on Bobby Robinson's Red Robin logo the next year. He also sang with another R&B vocal group, the Wheels and the Lovers. As Tarheel Slim he made his debut in 1958 with his wife, Little Ann, in a duet format for Robinson's Fire imprint. He cut a pair of rockabilly raveups of his own, "Wilcat Tamer" and "No. 9 Train." After a few years off the scene, Tarheel Slim made a bit of a comeback during the early 1970's, with an album for Trix, his last recording. He died in 1977. Lowry wrote that "Tarheel Slim was one of the finest voices to appear appear in the blues and R&B world, as this collection will solidly demonstrate. …Slim was a consummate artist and a great gentleman: this recording gives the world at-large at least a partial glimpse of his talent."

Guitar Shorty
Guitar Shorty, photo by Kip Lornell.

Robert Lockwood cut two albums for Trix,  Does 12 and Contrasts, (issued together as The Complete Trix Recordings on the 32 Blues label) which rank among his best recordings. The crack band features the great sax player Maurice Reedus who played with Lockwood for 35 years and passed away just recently. Lowry was planning to issue an album by Reedus but it was never released. As Lowry told me: "Words fail me… I was truly a 'Fortunate Son' to have known and worked with this man, a true gentleman and a noble/regal being. All of 'Contrasts' was recorded in his living room in Cleveland (band sides) or Roger Brown's place!"

Lowry called Guitar Shorty (John Henry Fortescue) "One of the most spontaneous musicians around; right up there with Lightnin' Hopkins, maybe more so." He cut a pair of unissued sides for Savoy in 1952, the album Carolina Slide Guitar (Flyright, 1971) and his final album for Trix, Alone In His Field,  before passing in 1975.

Related Material:

-Peter Lowry Interview (edited, 30 min., MP3)

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Bumble Bee SlimBricks In My Pillow Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 3 1934-1935
Casey Bill WeldonSomebody Changed the Lock on That DoorCasey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936
Kokomo ArnoldPolicy Wheel BluesKokomo Arnold Vol. 2 1935-1936
Walter RolandSchool-Boy BluesThe Essential
Lucille BoganShave em' DryThe Essential
Mississippi Moaner It's Cold In China BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Lane Hardin Hard Time BluesBlues Images Vol. 8
Memphis MinnieHustlin' Woman Blues Four Women Blues
Blind Boy FullerBaby, I Don't Have to Worry ('Cause That Stuff Is Here) Blind Boy Fuller Remastered
Blind Gary Davis I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah! Goodbye Babylon
Sleepy John EstesDrop Down MamaI Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
Bo CarterWhen Your Left Eye Go to JumpingBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks (JSP)
Walter DavisSloppy Drunk AgainFavorite Country Blues/Piano-Guitar Duets
Willie Lofton Dirty Mistreater Big Joe Williams & the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Johnnie TempleLead Pencil Blues (It Just Won't Write)The Essential
Joe McCoyLook Who's Coming Down The RoadWhen the Levee Breaks
Leroy Carr When The Sun Goes DownWhen The Sun Goes Down
Scrapper BlackwellAlley Sally Blues Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Alice Moore Riverside BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 2 1934-1941
Barrel House Buck McFarlandWeeping Willow Blues Piano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
The Sparks BrothersTell Her About MeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Joe PullumHard-Working Man BluesJoe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Robert Cooper West Dallas Drag No. 2Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossGoing To Your Funeral In A Vee Eight Ford Buddy Moss Vol. 3 1935-1941
Blind Willie McTell Lay Some Flowers On My GraveThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Curley Weaver Tricks Ain't Walking No MoreAtlanta Blues
Big Bill BroonzyMountain BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
State Street BoysThe DozenHow Low Can You Go
Cripple Clarence LoftonBrown Skin GirlsThe Piano Blues Vol. 9
Otto Virgial Bad Notion BluesAmerican Primitive Vol. II
Big Joe Williams Little Leg WomanBig Joe Williams Vol. 2 1945-49
Dr. ClaytonPeter's Blues Doctor Clayton & His Buddy 1933-47
Red NelsonDetroit SpecialRed Nelson 1935-1947
Freddie ShayneOriginal Mr. Freddie BluesMontana Taylor & 'Freddy' Shayne 1929-1946

Show Notes:

Casey Bill Weldon: Somebody Changed The Lock On The DoorToday’s show is the ninth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. During this period there was far less recording in the field during this period and in view of the popularity of Chicago singers there was less need.

According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on chance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). but despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties."

Two down home singers who could hold their own in terms of popularity against the urban artists were Sleepy John Estes and Blind Boy Fuller.  Estes made his debut for Victor Mississippi Moaner: It's So Cold In Chinain 1929 while Fuller made his debut for Vocalion in 1935. Unlike blues artists like Big Bill or Memphis Minnie who recorded extensively over three or four decades, Blind Boy Fuller recorded his substantial body of work over a short, six-year span. Nevertheless, he was one of the most recorded artists of his time and by far the most popular and influential Piedmont blues player of all time. Fuller made his debut in 1935 and over the next five years he made over 120 sides.

Gary Davis was a major influence on Blind Boy Fuller. In the late 1920's he was one of the most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar. He backed Fuller on second guitar at at his third 1935 session.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. In 1934 Slim waxed around fifty sides and roughly the same number in 1935.  Our selection, “Bricks In My Pillow”, was recorded in July in 1935 and covered by Big Bill Broonzy in December of the same year and in later years recorded by Robert Nighthawk. Leroy Carr died in 1935 at the age of 30. In February he cut his final eight song session. Scrapper Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death, making a brief comeback in the late 50's.

Big Bill Broonzy recorded around tw0-dozen sides in 1935 all featuring the prominent piano of Black Bob. Very little is known about Black Bob Hudson, except that he was a ragtime-influenced blues pianist who was active from the 1920's and 1930's, and worked with a who's who of Chicago talent including  Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim, Jazz Gillum, Lil Johnson, Washboard Sam, Casey Bill Weldon and  Tampa Red. Broonzy was also an active session guitarist and today we hear him backing the State Street Boys and pianist Cripple Clarence Lofton.

Lane Hardin: Hard Time BluesAlso featured today are a trio of musicians hailing from Jackson, Mississippi who recorded in Chicago. Johnnie Temple was part of a vibrant the 1920’s Jackson, MS scene, a city teeming with artists such as Tommy Johnson, Walter Vincson, Ishmon Bracey, the Chatmon Brothers, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Often, he performed with Charlie and Joe McCoy and also worked with Skip James. Temple moved to Chicago in the early 30’s, where he quickly became part of the town’s blues scene. From Temple's first session we spin his classic "Lead Pencil Blues" cut for Vocalion backed on second guitar by Charlie McCoy. Willie Lofton was also from Jackson which was the town he left when he traveled north to Chicago in the mid 1930's. He had two recording sessions in Chicago in August of 1934 and November of 1935 that produced eight sides. We also feature Joe McCoy's "Look Who's Coming Down The Road", recorded as Georgia Pine Boy, a variation on Tommy Johnson's "Maggie Campbell Blues."

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Walter HortonAin't It A Shame King of the Harmonica Players
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Walter HortonIf It Ain't Me Johnny Shines with Big Walter Horton

Show Notes:

Big Walter Horton: King of the Harmonica PlayersSeveral years back I devoted a show to Walter Horton and Little Walter. I was listening to some of Horton's recordings again recently and thought I would do a sequel, spotlighting material not covered in the first show. Today's show spotlights a number of lesser known, rarer sides Horton recorded under his own name as well as great sides that find him in a supporting role. Horton ranks as one of the greatest blues harmonica artists yet never got quite the same acclaim as contemporaries like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson II due mostly to the fact that, as a rather shy, quiet individual, he never had much taste for leading his own bands or recording sessions. Horton was much more comfortable in a supporting role and as writer Neal Slavin wrote “was one of the few musicians capable of elevating the slightest material into something approaching a masterpiece.”

Horton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi, in 1918. Horton got his first harmonica from his father when he five, and won a local talent contest with it. Shortly thereafter his mother moved to Memphis, then a hotbed of blues, and according to blues researcher Samuel Charters, Horton was playing with the Memphis Jug Band by the time he was nine or ten. He also may have recorded with them in 1927 as he himself claimed but many researchers doubt this assertion. During the thirties he played with Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards, and others, and later gave pointers to both Little Walter and Rice Miller. Horton's first verifiable sides were done in 1939 backing guitarist Charlie "Little Buddy" Doyle on sessions for Columbia. Around the same time (according to Horton himself), he began to experiment with amplifying his harmonica, which if accurate may have made him the first to do so.

lWalter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerry

In the late forties he went to Chicago, but later returned to Memphis. From 1951 to 1953, Horton recorded as vocalist and harmonica virtuoso backed by small combos, which variously included Joe Willie Wilkins, Pat Hare, Jack Kelly, Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix, Albert Williams, and others. Singles by ‘‘Mumbles’’ were released on Modern, RPM, and Chess. In Memphis in 1953, Horton and guitarist Jimmy DeBerry recorded the instrumental masterpiece ‘‘Easy’’ (Sun), based on Ivory Joe Hunter’s ‘‘Since I Lost My Baby.’’ Following the success of "Easy," Horton went back to Chicago to play with Eddie Taylor and cut a memorable session backing Tampa Red. But when Junior Wells got drafted, Horton took his place in Muddy Waters' band. It didn't last long, though-Horton showed up drunk at a rehearsal and Muddy fired him. He reunited with Muddy on the 1977 record I'm Ready.

Horton cut his best work as a sideman. Always described as shy and nervous, he preferred this role to that of a bandleader. His playing graces numerous records behind Johnny Shines, Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, and others. He also taught a number of younger players, including Charlie Musselwhite and Carey Bell. In 1964, Horton recorded his first full-length album, The Soul of Blues Harmonica, for Chess subsidiary Argo. Two years later, Horton contributed several cuts to Vanguard's classic compilation Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 3.

Horton became a regular on Willie Dixon's Blues All Stars package tours during the 70's, which made their way through America and Europe over the '60s and '70s. He also played the AmericaWalter Horton: The Deep Blues Harmonica Ofn-The-Deep-Blues-Ha-539120n Folk Blues Festival in 1965. In 1973 he cut an album with Carey Bell for Alligator. After that he became a mainstay on the festival circuit, and often played at the open-air market on Chicago's legendary Maxwell Street, along with many other bluesman. In 1977, he joined Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters on Winter's album I'm Ready, and during the same period recorded some material for Blind Pig, which later found release as the albums Fine Cuts and Can't Keep Lovin' You. Horton appeared in the Maxwell Street scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, accompanying John Lee Hooker. He died of heart failure on December 8, 1981.

We spotlight a number of less well known recordings by Horton. Among those are several from the 1970's: King of the Harmonica Players issued on the Delta label and collects sides recorded in 1966 with Johnny Young and in 1970 with Floyd Jones, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us with Floyd Jones issued on the Magnolia label  in 1975, The Deep Blues Harmonica of Walter Horton issued on JSP and pair of albums issued on Crosscut with Jimmy DeBerry. The Delta album has recently been issued on CD with some additional vintage tracks while the Magnolia album has not been issued on CD. A few years back the JSP label  issued the 3-CD set Big Walter Horton – Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956. The third disc contains tracks issued on the album The Deep Blues Harmonica of Walter Horton likely recorded Jan. 1973 in Cambridge, MA.

Horton recorded some fine material in 1964 that we feature today. Blues Southside Chicago is a collection of Chicago blues recorded by Willie Dixon in 1964 and originally issued on UK Decca and reissued by Flyright in 1976. Additional sides from this session appeared on Have A Good Time – Chicago Blues issued in 1970 on the Sunnyland label which is also out of print. Both LP's feature sides by Horton as leader and in a session role and both albums have not been issued on CD.

Walter Horton & Folyd Jones: Do Nothing Til You Hear From UsJimmy DeBerry and Walter Horton cut two very hard-to-find albums circa 1972-1973 in Memphis called Easy and Back for the Crosscut label. DeBerry cut some material in the pre-war era and some terrific sides for Sun in the 1950's, both solo and with Walter Horton including playing on Horton's classic "Easy." These albums are bit of a mixed bag but there are several fine moments.

In 1964 Olle Helander and Lars Westman of Swedish Radio were on a trip to the US to document blues and jazz in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and San Francisco. They reached Chicago May 23rd and recorded Johnny Young accompanied by Slim Willis, Otis Spann and Robert Whitehead. In the afternoon they recorded Walter Horton with Robert Nighthawk. These recordings were aired in the context of radio documentaries with interviews of the artists. Unfortunately Nighthawk and Horton were not interviewed. Most of this material has  been released in excellent sound on the double disc sets I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 1 and I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 3 which is the first authorized release of these recordings

We also spotlight several fine live performances including a great performance with Horton backing J.B. Lenoir at the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival, live at the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival and a solo performance recorded in Dortmund, West Germany in 1965.

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Show Notes:

Maggie Jones
Maggie Jones

A wide and diverse set of blues on tap today spanning the years 1924 through 1969. A bit of a running theme throughout today's show with several songs dealing with geography, some dealing with a sense of nostalgia for the South others taking the opposite view.  Along the way we'll hear from some fine blues ladies, a batch of excellent pre-war blues, some rare recordings courtesy of the St. George label, a pair of sides by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pair of numbers featuring Pete Johnson, a set of vintage piano blues as well as some topical numbers.

It might be hard to believe to modern listeners but there were quite a number of blues songs that took a nostalgic view of the South.  In our opening set we spin two numbers by the obscure Hazel Meyers including "Mississippi Blues"from 1924 in which she sings:

Folks I'm feeling blue today
Gonna make my getaway
Down in Mississippi, that's where I long to be
Wanna wander there once more
'Long the Mississippi Shore
I miss Mississippi, Mississippi misses me

Meyers cut eighteen and a half 78's issued between 1923 and 1926, some of hem accompanied by major jazz figures, yet nothing seems to be known about her. Maggie Jones offers a similar sentiment in her wonderful "Box Car Blues" cut the same year:

 Every time I see a railroad track (2x)
Feel like riding, feel like going back
Catch a train that's headed for the South (2x)

In 1927 Madyln Davis and her Hot Shots cut "Winter Blues" which has Davis echoing the same sentiment: "I'm leaving Chicago but I'm not going to stay/I'm gonna back my trunk going back to Tennessee." Maggie Jones recorded thirty-eight songs between 1923 and 1926 and was billed as "The Texas Nightingale." In 1925 Jones cut "North Bound Blues" with very different view:

Got my trunk and grip all packed
Goodbye, I ain't coming back

Going to leave this Jim Crow town
Lord, sweet papa, New York bound

Got my ticket in my hand
And I'm leaving dixieland

Going north child, where I can be free (2x)
Where there's no hardships, like in Tennessee

Going where they don't have Jim Crow laws (2x)
Don't have to work there, like in Arkansas

When I cross the Mason Dixon Line (2x)
Goodbye old gal, yon mama's gonna fly

We jump up to 1937 to hear "The Girl I Left Behind" by Teddy Darby featuring piano by Roosevelt Sykes, one of Darby's finest numbers, a wistful, nostalgic song:

One Monday night and I had just laid down (2x)
I heard Roosevelt Sykes say 'Darby you are Chicago bound'
He put me in a V-8, and it was fairly flying (2x)
He was at the mind on Chicago,  I had my mine on the girl I left behind
When we hit Springfield I did not have much to say (2x)
But the boys were singing about Chicago, I was thinking about the other way

Darby was born in Henderson, Kentucky March 2, 1906 and brought to St. Louis at seven years old. At 15 he had his first taste of trouble when he "cut a boy with a razor" and was sent to a correctional institution. Released after 14 months he found work in a barrel factory until he lost his sight through glaucoma, around 1926. Another cutting incident over a woman saw him incarcerated in the city workhouse where he learned to play guitar from one Jesse Riley – "I really worked on the guitar; not much else a blind man could do then", he said. Riley taught him "Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues" while "My Leona" Darby composed for the girl he lost. On release he performed on the streets, at house-parties and at a gambling club. He first found his way into the recording studio in 1929, following with sessions in 1931, 1933, 1935 and 1937. After the Darby Song we move up to hear "Southern Blues" by Roosevelt Sykes cut in 1948: "

Well I'm going back down South
Where men are men, and woman are glad of it
Woh, woh I've got those Southern blues
Cotton prices going higher, and I got no time to lose
Chicago and Detroit, folks have you heard the news
Old Dixieland is jumping, I've got those Southern blues

Soutside ScreamersMoving up to the late 40's we spotlight two collections from the St. George label run by George Paulus (he also operated the Barrelhouse label): Southside Screamers and Chicago Boogie! 1947.These collections feature rare acetates, some made by Bernard Abrams who operated the Ora Nelle label. The Ora Nelle label which was founded in 1947 by Abrams who operated Maxwell Street Radio and Record shop located at 831 Maxwell Street. Two 78's were released; "I Just Keep Loving Her" (Ora Nelle 711) and "Money Taking Woman" (Ora Nelle 712). The label's name supposedly came from Walter's girlfriend. These were Walter's first recordings. Additional recordings were made by Jimmy Rogers (also his first), Boll Weavil, Sleepy John Estes, Johnnie Temple which were not released at the time. Boll Weevil (Willie McNeal) cut a pair of acetates for the label circa 1947-48, including "Christmas Time Blues" b/w "Thinkin' Blues" and as the Boll Weavil Blues Trio cut "Things Ain't What They Used To Be b/w Streamline Woman"  in 1956 for  the Club 51 label. A letter from Bill Greensmith to Blues & Rhythm magazine  #45 describes this Club 51 "metal dub" with the purple-on-white stick-on label carrying some typed information.

We feature a couple of topical numbers today by Louis Jordan and Walter Brown. The fascinating song "Ofay And Oxford Grey" was from a 1945 New York radio broadcast. Jordan sang this song at gigs at the time, but it was too controversial to be released on record. It was not publicly available until it appeared on a CD of Jordan's radio broadcasts in 1990. It was played live at the Hotel Zanzibar Nightclub and sent by wire to the radio station, and the radio station recorded it live on a 16 inch transcription disc. Jordan was well ahead of the curve on this number:

I'm a fella who wants to say
Discrimination has gone its way
So let's all smile and just be gay
There's no line between ofay and oxford grey
Now soon in the Wedgewood room
The band'll be jumpin' with a solid tune

If you hep to the jive
You know ofay means white
And oxford grey means colored they say
And believe me they're alright

Piano keys are black and white
They make the harmony that is right
So don't be square and don't delay
he blending of ofay and oxford gray

Teddy Darby: The Girl I Left BehindWalter Brown's 1945 number "I'm Glad To Back" is one of many numbers celebrating those just back from the war.

We pay tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe with a pair of of later period cuts from 1956 and 1957.  Tharpe has just gotten some mainstream exposure with a feature on the PBS American Masters Series called Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll. I haven't seen the feature yet but I'm a huge fan of Tharpe's. It wasn't all that long ago when she wasn't all that well served on reissues but now it seems most of her output is available. There's the excellent 4-CD set The Original Soul Sister on Proper which spans the years 1938 though 1949, the French Fremeaux & Associes label which to date has issued seven 2-CD collections that chart Tharpe's recordings through 1961 as well a a few live recordings available.

We close the program with two cuts featuring the great pianist Pete Johnson. Both tracks comes from the excellent Document collection Pete Johnson Radio Broadcasts, Film Soundtracks, Alternate Takes 1939 – c.1947. As Axel Zwingenberger writes in the notes: "This compilation, gives the overall impression of a player who had good knowledge of harmonic structures, great command of rhythm and plenty of experience of swinging along with high caliber Jazz musicians." Today we spin the radio broadcasts "Goin' Away Blues" featuring Big Joe Turner and the rollicking instrumental "Dive Bomber."

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