Bobby BlandGood Time Charlie, Part 1Angels In Harlem
Bobby BlandLoan Me A Helping HandI Pity The Fool: The Duke Recordings Vol. 1
Guitar Slim And Jelly BellyKeep Straight BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
John Lee HookerThat's My StoryThat's My Story
Country Paul One More TimeDevil's Jump: Important Indie Label Blues 1946-57
Buddy Boy HawkinsShaggy Dog BluesBullfrog Blues
Buddy Boy HawkinsA RagBuddy Boy & His Buddies
Howlin' Wolf I'll Be AroundSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Sonny Boy WilliamsonYour ImaginationThe Chess Years Box Set
Little WolfWhite House Blues 45
Fannie Mae Goosby Fortune Teller BluesFemale Blues Singers 7 G/H 1922-1929
Rosetta HowardMy Man Jumped Salty On Me The 30's Girls 1932-1940
Billie And Dede PierceDede And Billie's BluesThe Louisiana Joymakers Introducing Billie & De De Pierce
UnknownCold Iron ShacklesNegro Songs of Protest
UnknownIn Atlanta, GeorgiaNegro Songs of Protest
UnknownMr. TyreeNegro Songs of Protest
Mercy DeeEbony BabyTexas Blues Vol. 2
Mercy DeeJack EngineMercy Dee
Mercy DeeMercy's PartyMercy Dee
Martha CopelandWhen The Wind Make Connection With Your Dry GoodsMartha Copeland Vol. 1 1923-1927
Connie's McLean Rhythm BoysYou Done Lost Your Good Thing NowJazzin' the Blues Vol. 1 1929-1937
Scott Dunbar Forty-Four BluesMusic from the South, Vol. 5: Song, Play, and Dance
Robert CageEasy RiderCan See What You're Doing
Kansas Joe McCoyWhat's The Matter With You?Too Late Too Late Vol. 1 1926-44
The New Mississippi SheiksStop And ListenThe New Mississippi Sheiks
Anna Lee ChisholmCool Kind Daddy Blues Blue Girls Vol. 3 1924-1938
Louis Lasky Teasin' Brown BluesBroke, Black And Blue
Big Bill Broonzy C and A BluesAll The Classic Sides 1928-1937
Memphis MinnieI'm Waiting On YouFour Women Blues
Washboard SamMama Don't Allow No. 1Washboard Sam Vol. 1 1935-1936
Bobby BlandI Smell TroubleI Pity The Fool: The Duke Recordings Vol. 1
Bobby BlandYield Not To TemptationAngels In Harlem

Show Notes:

Bobby BlandAs always today's mix show covers a wide swath of blues, reflecting a number of things I've been listening to lately, some things that haven't fit into out usual theme shows and song things that will foreshadow future shows. We open and close the show on a sad note as we pay tribute to Bobby blue Bland. Also on deck featured sets of music from Buddy Boy Hawkins, Mercy Dee, Louis Lasky, a set of remarkable recordings made by Lawrence Gellert plus a number of fine blues ladies and more.

Bobby Bland passed on June 23 at the age of 83. Bland was a founding member of the Beale Streeters, the famous Memphis aggregation that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace. He cut singles for Chess in (produced by Sam Phillips) and Modern in 1951 that failed to catch on. Bland hooked up with Duke in 1952 cutting a few singles before entering the army. His 1955 return was remarkable; with saxist Bill Harvey's band providing support, Bland sounded much more assured. Most of Bland's sides during the mid- to late '50s featured the slashing guitar of Clarence Hollimon, but the guitar riffs guiding Bland's first national hit, 1957's "Farther Up the Road," were contributed by Pat Hare. Later, Wayne Bennett took over on guitar, his fret work prominent on Bland's Duke waxings throughout much of the '60s. "Farther Up the Road” was a #1 R&B hit, the first of more than 20 R&B top ten records. During this period Bland toured the Southern chitlin circuit incessantly. Joe Scott steered Bland into smoother material as the decade turned; a mixture of blues, R&B, and soul on numbers like"I Pity the Fool," "I'll Take Care of You," and "Two Steps From the Blues" which were tremendously influential. Scott's brass arrangements provided the perfect backing on Bland's rockers like "Turn on Your Love Light" in 1961 and "Yield Not to Temptation." In 1973, Don Robey sold his labels to ABC Records, and Bland was part of the deal. Without Joe Scott and his familiar surroundings to lean on, Bland's releases grew less consistent although His California Album in 1973 and 1974's Dreamer were very strong. Bland re-teamed with his old pal B.B. King for a couple of mid-'70s albums. Since the mid-'80s, Bland has recorded for Malaco Records.

I got an email from a long-time listener who relayed some information regarding Mercy Dee Walton. Apparently there was a discussion about him on one of the blues forums and the upshot was that there appears to be several tracks he cut for Arhoolie that were released on vinyl but never made it to CD when the label reissued his recordings. Today's tracks include "Ebony Baby"(only issued on the LP Texas Blues Vol. 2) , a fine version of Joe Pullum's "Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard", "Jack Engine" and "Mercy's Party", the later two only available on the first pressing of the album Mercy Dee on Arhoolie recorded in 1961. I featured Walton and some of his California contemporaries last year.

Buddy Boy Hawkins: A Rag BluesMercy Dee Walton was born in Waco, Texas on August 30, 1915.In the late 1930's he moved to California, where he worked on farms up and down the Central Valley while performing in local bars and clubs for the region's black farmworkers. In 1949 he recorded for the Fresno-based Spire label and had an immediate hit with "Lonesome Cabin Blues," which reached Number 7 on the R&B charts. The Imperial label signed him and recorded two sessions of twelve titles in 1950. By 1952 he was recording for Specialty, another Los Angeles label. His first track for them, "One Room Country Shack," was a hit in 1953, reaching Number 8 on the R&B charts. A recording for the small Rhythm label in 1954 had little impact, and in 1955 he recorded for the Flair label, part of the Modern Records stable in Los Angeles. He returned to his earlier situation of supplementing his earnings from music with agricultural work and settled in the Stockton, California, area. In 1961 Mercy Dee came to the attention of Chris Strachwitz, owner of the Arhoolie label. A series of sessions that year with backing by guitarist K. C. Douglas, harmonica player Sidney Maiden, and drummer Otis Cherry produced albums on the Arhoolie and Bluesville labels. Soon afterward Walton suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in hospital in Murphys, California, on December 2, 1962.

We feature a trio of field recordings made by Lawrence Gellert which was inspired by a new book by Bruce Conforth titled African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics: The Lawrence Gellert Story. Gellert was born in New York City to Hungarian immigrants. When he was in his early 20's, he moved to Tryon, North Carolina for health reasons. He edited a newspaper there and began making friendships among the African Americans who lived in the area. Motivated by leftist political ideologies and inspired by the music-making of his neighbors, he began making recordings to pre-grooved zinc discs on a device of his own construction. The recordings he made were dangerous–both to himself and those who performed for him. Gellert was able to record songs that were more explicit in their complaint against the conditions of segregation than any other scholar before the 1960's. For this reason, in the 20 years he made these recordings he was careful not to document who made the recordings. The result was a body of songs so unprecedented that when Gellert published Negro Songs of Protest in 1936, some accused him of making up this collection of song texts himself. In the 70's Rounder issued two albums of Gellert's recordings (Negro Songs of Protest and Cap'n You're So Mean) and another album of material was issued on the Heritage label in the 80's (Nobody Knows My Name). I'm hoping to interview Conforth for an upcoming show and spotlight more of these remarkable recordings.

Today we feature a five song set revolving around the shadowy Louis Lasky. Lasky cut fives sides in 1935 as well as backing Anna Lee Chisholm, Big Bill, Memphis Minnie and Washboard Sam. It's been suggested he was a influence on Big Bill's guitar style. Nothing is known about Lasky's background but his style suggests a older musician, perhaps from the generation of Henry Thomas or Daddy Stovepipe. His first appearance was back in 1924 when he accompinaed Anna Lee Chisholm on "Cool Kind Daddy Blues." He didn't surface again until 1935 where he backed Broonzy on "C and A Blues", possibly appeared alongside Broonzy on two songs by the group the Chicago Sanctified Singers, backed Washboard Sam, Memphis Minnie and cut three sides under his own name; "How You Want Your Rollin' Done b/w "Teasin' Brown Blues" and the unissued pop song "Caroline" which surfaced and has been reissued.

Negro Songs of Protest
Read Liner Notes

Several fine blues ladies on tap today including Fannie Mae Goosby, Billie Pierce and Martha Copeland. As David Evans wrote: "Fannie Mae Goosby was one of the first two blues singers (the other was Lucille Bogan) to be recorded in the Deep South. Although the 1923 Atlanta session for OKeh Records, arranged by Polk Brockman and supervised by Ralph Peer, is best known for launching the career of hillbilly artist Fiddlin' John Carson, the discovery of Goosby and Bogan was an equally worthy outcome." Goosby cut eleven sides at sessions in 1923 and 1928.

DeDe Pierce was born Joseph De Lacroix Pierce in New Orleans. Pierce's first gig was with Arnold Dupas in New Orleans in 1924. During his time playing in city nightclubs, he met Billie Pierce, who became his wife as well as a musical companion; the two were the house band at the Luthjens Dance Hall from the 1930's through the 1950's. They released several albums together but stopped performing in the middle of the 1950's due to illness, which left De De Pierce blind. By 1959 they had returned to performing, and De De Pierce toured with Ida Cox and played with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, before further health problems ended his career. There's quite a number of recordings by them including sessions for Original Jazz Classics, Riverside, Arhoolie among others.Martha Copeland recorded a total of 34 sides for OKeh, Victor and Columbia between 1923 and 1928 yet virtually nothing is known about her background. Her accompanists included many of the best known New York jazz musicians of the period.

Robert Pete WilliamsPrisoner's Talking BluesAngola Prisoners' Blues
Mance LipscombMance's Talking BluesCaptain, Captain: The Texas Songster
Mississippi John HurtTalking Casey JonesD.C. Blues: The Library Of Congress Recordings Vol.1
Blind Willie McTellTravelin' BluesBest Of
Bukka White Special Stream LineBukka White: The Vintage Recordings
Big Walter (The Thunderbird) Nothing But The BluesChicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues
Mr. Bear The UpsShake Baby Shake!
Howlin' Wolf Going Down SlowSmokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters
Champion Jack DupreeStrollin'Blues From The Gutter
Champion Jack DupreeStory of My LifeShake Baby Shake!
Champion Jack DupreeEverybody's BluesMe And My Mule
Lightnin' HopkinsI'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My OwnSoul Blues
Lightnin' HopkinsMr. Charlie Pt. 1 & 2Mojo Hand
Jazz GillumI'm Not The Lad Bill ''Jazz'' Gillum Vol. 4 1946-49
Memphis MinnieFrankie JeanMemphis Minnie & Kansas Joe Vol. 2 1929-1930
Blind Blake & Charlie SpandHastings St.All The Published Sides
Detroit CountHastings St. Opera Detroit Blues Rarities Vol. 4
Willie Love Nelson Street BluesMemphis & The South 1949-1954
Pinetop SmithNobody Knows You When You're Down And Out Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano Vol. 1
Pinetop SmithI'm Sober NowShake Your Wicked Knees
Christinia GrayThe Reverend Is My ManFemale Blues Singers Vol. 7 G/H
Harris & HarrisThis Is Not The Stove To Brown Your BreadThe Classic Years 1927-1940
Butterbeans and SusieTimes Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)Classic Blues & Vaudeville Singers Vol. 5
Lil Son Jackson Talking BoogieThe Travelling Record Man
Sony Boy & Lonnie Talking Boogie (Talkin' Blues - Release Me Baby)Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Coy 'Hot Shot' LoveWolf Call BoogieSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
John Lee Hooker & Earl Hooker If You Miss 'Im...I Got 'Im...Simply The Best
John Lee Hooker John L's House Rent BoogieThe Classic Early Years 1948-1951
Junior Parker Funny How Time Slips AwayI Tell Stories Sad And True

Show Notes:

This show came from a vague idea I had awhile back to compile a show devoted to "talking Blues" songs, basically songs where the artist talk over the music. The show that came together is a little different than I intended. I had the idea of incorporating songs where the artist talks about the music or interview segments. I always find it interesting when the blues artists talk about the music in their own terms. As I was putting this show together I realized that it would make more sense for the to be a two-part show with the latter "talking blues" songs to be featured in a sequel. I'm not really sure where this style originated as far as blues goes but I came across some information regarding the style in country music: "Christopher Allen Bouchillon, billed as "The Talking Comedian of the South," is credited with creating the "talking blues" form with the song "Talking Blues," recorded for Columbia Records in Atlanta in 1926, from which the style gets its name. The song was released in 1927, followed by a sequel, "New Talking Blues," in 1928. His song "Born in Hard Luck" is similar in style." I'm not sure when the earliest blues songs in this style were recorded, although I imagine it might be the more vaudeville styled blues like Buttebeans and Susie, but the earliest songs featured today all come from the late 20's.

Harris & Harris: This Is Not The Stove Tp Brown Your BreadThe earliest blues songs in the talking blues style include songs by Blind Willie McTell, Pine Top Smith, Christinia Gray, Butterbeans and Susie, Blind Blake and Memphis Minnie. From McTell we hear two from 1929: "Travelin' Blues" and "This Is Not The Stove To Brown Your Bread" with McTell playing guitar behind Alfoncy Harris and Bethenea Harris (the song was released under the name Harris & Harris). The latter song is very much in the vaudeville tradition of Butterbeans and Susie, of whom we spin "Times Is Hard (So I'm Savin' for a Rainy Day)." The duo recorded prolifically between 1924 and 1930.  Clarence "Pine Top" Smith was one of the earliest pianists to recorded a boogie-woogie" piano solo. His 1928 tune "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" was the first recording to be labeled as such and and had a great deal of influence on all future pieces in that style. Pine Top toured the minstrel and TOBA vaudeville circuits throughout the 1920s performing with Mamie Smith and Butterbeans and Susie and other vaudeville acts. He was also a frequent solo performer at rent parties, taverns and whorehouses. Smith was accidentally shot to death at a dance in Chicago in 1929. A number of his songs were talking Blues and rooted in the vaudeville tradition including our featured tracks "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" and "I'm Sober Now."

We jump up to 1948 to hear the fine "Hastings St. Opera Pt. 1" from 1948. From the turn of the century until its demise by urban renewal in the early 1960's, Hastings Street remained the center of business for Detroit's east side community, made up largely of Jewish entrepreneurs and small black business owners. Hastings teemed by day with shoppers; at night it became transformed, into, what John Lee Hooker later described, as a "rough wide-open street." Though the city had a number of corner taverns during the 1940s and 1950s, which featured down home blues, numerous Detroit bluesmen found their first jobs in the house party scene. Many artists got their start through Detroit record man Joe Von Battle. Recording his sessions from within a cluttered record shop on Detroit's Hastings Street that he opened in 1948, Von Battle was a magnet for most of the Motor City's blues and R&B talent. Bob White AKA the Detroit Count cut four sides for Battle's label including "Hastings St. Opera Pt. 1 & 2" which celebrates the famous street.

I'm not sure if Willie Love heard  "Hastings St. Opera" but his 1951 "Nelson Street Blues" celebrates  Greenville's street in a very similar manner. Nelson Street in Greenville, MS was once the epicenter of African American business and entertainment in the Delta. Nightclubs, cafes, churches, groceries, fish markets, barbershops, laundries, record shops, Hot Shot Love: Wolf Call Boogieand other enterprises did a bustling trade. Famous blues clubs on the street included the Casablanca, the Flowing Fountain, and the Playboy Club.

Champion Jack Dupree had a signature humorous, conversational style that he delivered over some fine piano playing. Dupree often employed a talking blues style which we hear on several terrific songs today including "The Ups" with the gruff voiced Mr. Bear, "Story Of My Life" and "Everybody's Blues."

We feature  several lengthy "talking blues" numbers by Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Walter (The Thunderbird) and Junior Parker that are worth mentioning. My first album by Lightnin' Hopkins was Soul Blues, a 1965 recording for Prestige. Hopkins' Prestige records weren't his most exciting but even with the glow of nostalgia I think Soul Blues is one of his better efforts for the label. Hands down my favorite song is "I'm Going To Build Me A Heaven Of My Own. Lyrically, the song has a long history. In his 1930 song "Preachin The Blues" Son House sang: "Ooh, I wish I had me a heaven of my own/Then I would give all my woman a long, long happy home" and in in 1934, Texas Alexander cut "Justice Blues" where he sang: "I'm Gonna build me a Heaven, have a Kingdom of my own/Where these brownskin woman can cluster round my throne." These lines would crop up in other blues songs through the years so it's not clear where Hopkins picked this up although it seems clear he knew Alexander.

Big Walter Price died last year at the age of 97. We travel back to a Houston nightclub in 1965 and hear Price deliver the knockout talking blues "Nothing But The Blues." The track comes from the long out-of-print album Chicken Stuff :Houston Ghetto Blues issued on the Flyright label. Mike Leadbitter paints a rather sad portrait of Price, who hit big with "Shirley Jean" in 1955: "Since 1957 nothing else has happened and Walter has sunk to the depths. Gone is the handsome, powerfully built man pictured at the height of his career. Now will find a greyed, stooping figure supporting himself on a heavy stick due to a lame leg. When sober he is affable but when drunk he becomes a megalomaniac, dreaming that his day will come via a big band, big arrangements and probably Go-Go dancers. …In 1965 he was asked to sing blues and privately taped two performances. One of these 'Nothing But The Blues', is a tremendous talking blues 'recorded in a beautiful night-club in the heart of Houston.' This really demonstrates, though not Hi-Fi, what could be the real 'Thunderbird.' A fine pianist with a houmous outlook on the everyday problems of a ghetto Negro."

Chicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues
Read Liner Notes

Junior Parker was an extraordinary blues singer and harmonica player who laid down some superb material over the course of a twenty year career (1952-1971) before his life was cut short just prior to his fortieth birthday. Parker died in November 1971 during an operation for a brain tumor. Before he passed he sailed into the 1970's in promising fashion cutting a pair of terrific albums; You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues circa 1970/1971 for Groove Merchant and I Tell Stories Sad And True for United Artists which was released in 1972. Parker's singing on these albums, to quote critic Tony Russell, "could be used as a manual of blues singing;" his singing is a model of control and phrasing, almost delicate with it's high, fluttering range, with every line placed perfectly for maximum effect. His harmonica playing is quite and melodic, parceled out in small but effective doses." We close the show with the highlight of his final album, the nearly eight minute cover of Joe Hinton's "Funny How Time Slips Away." Parker delivers this as a hip, spoken rap, intermittently singing the song's poignant lyrics in a hushed, gorgeous delivery.

Alex MooreAcross The Atlantic OceanThe American Folk Blues Festival 1969
Speckled RedEarly Morning BluesBlues Masters Vol. 11
Sonny Boy Williamson IIKeep It To Yourself Live In Europe
Lonnie Jonson Another Night To CryThe American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966
Lightnin' HopkinsAin't It A PityThe American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966
Hammie Nixon & Sleepy John EstesI'm Going HomeThe Harmonica Blues of ...
Sippie WallaceWoman Be WiseWoman Be Wise
Curtis JonesYou Don't Have To GoNow Resident In Europe
Eddie BoydI'm Coming Home Five Long Years
Memphis SlimI Got The Blues EverywhereMemphis Slim With Matthew Murphy
T-Bone Walker & Muddy Waters She Says She Loves MeBlues Avalanche Live At Montreux
Josh White Like a Natural ManFrom New York to London
Big Bill BroonzyBlack, Brown & White Big Bill Broonzy 1949-1951
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGheeClimbin' On Top The HillChris Barber Presents: Lost & Found Vol.1
Hubert Sumlin, Willie Dixon & Sunnyland Slim Blues Anytime! Blues Anytime!
Magic SamEasy BabyThe American Folk Blues Festival 1969
Lightnin' Slim & Whispering SmithWalking In The ParkAmerican Blues Legends '73
Homesick James & Snooky PryorDangerous WomanBig Bear Sessions
John Henry Barbee I Ain't Gonna Pick No CottonPortraits in Blues Vol. 9
Big Joe Williams Back Home Blues Portraits in Blues Vol. 7
Son HouseDeath LetterDelta Blues & Spirituals
Muddy Waters You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had Blues & Gospel Train

Show Notes:

American Negro BluesToday's program is the second of a three part feature on blues artists recorded in Europe spanning the late 40's through the 70's. Outside of Lonnie Johnson and Alberta Hunter, the blues hadn't reached European shores prior to the 1940's The late 40's saw a few artists such as Leadbelly and Sammy Price hit Europe, with Price being the first to record. Josh White recorded the first guitar blues outside the U.S. But the biggest impact was Big Bill Broonzy's arrival in 1951 and subsequent tours through 1957. By 1958 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters had come to England. 1960 saw Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery and Speckled Red appear in England. Dupree and Slim would both settle in Europe. Europe would become a haven for blues pianists with Curtis Jones, Eddie Boyd and Little Willie Littlefield all settling there. 1962 saw the inaugural American Folk Blues Festival which featured the absolute cream of the blues scene and toured almost annually until 1972. During the 70's blues artists continued to tour Europe and there were package tours such as The American Blues Legends Tour which ran in 1973, 74, 75 and 79 and major concerts like the Montreux Jazz Festival which always had a blues component. Other artists also recorded in Europe like Blind John Davis, Professor Longhair, Lightnin' Slim and Louisiana Red who settled in Germany.

Josh White had reached the zenith of his career when touring with Eleanor Roosevelt on a celebrated and triumphant Goodwill tour of Europe. He had been hosted by the continent's prime ministers and royal families, and had just performed before 50,000 cheering fans at Stockholm's soccer stadium. With work rapidly drying up in America, White relocated to London for much of 1950 to 1955, where he hosted his own BBC radio show, resumed his recording career, and gave concert tours throughout Europe and beyond. As Robert Freund Shwartz writes in How Britain Got The Blues: "White’s success in Britain encouraged a number of other prewar blues musicians to try their luck in Europe. Most, like Lonnie Johnson, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, were affiliated with the folk music scene in the United States. Big Bill Broonzy was the exception. By 1950 he had quit the music profession; black audiences in the United States increasingly found his style old-fashioned in comparison to the raucous jump blues of Louis Jordan and the aggressive, rhythmic sounds coming out of Chicago and Memphis. Yet it was Broonzy who served as Britain’s ambassador of the blues, in equal parts sage, songster, teacher and touchstone to what was believed to be a fading tradition." As for Lonnie, it's probable that he was in London (and possibly elsewhere in Europe) roughly from the summer of 1917 until the summer or fall of 1919 with a musical review. In 1952 Johnson made an 11 month tour of England and returned to Europe in again in 1963 for the American Folk Blues Festival. Lonnie's reception in Europe was mixed; his insistence on ballads and pop songs did not go over with blues audiences but when he stuck with blues his performances were well recieved.

American Folk Blues Festival 1969
Back Row L to R: Earl Hooker, Cleveland Chenier, Magic Sam, Carey Bell, John Jackson,
Robert St. Judy, Willy Leiser (in headlock). Front Row L to R: Juke Boy Bonner, Clifton Chenier, Mac Thompson, 'Whistling' Alex Moore. (photo by Chris Strachwitz)

Sonny Boy Williamson first traveled to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1963 and joined the festival again in 1964. Williamson stayed on after the tour trying to establish residency but it wasn't to be. While over in Europe he recorded with the Yardbirds with the album released in the States in 1966. A quote often attributed to him about the experience was that "they wanted to play the blues very badly, and they did play them very badly." Musician Tom McGuinness recalled that Sonny Boy “would turn round to the band, and say ‘this one’s in E’ and he would deliberately start playing in C, or anything but E. Then he’d stop the band and say to the audience, ‘you see, these white boys can’t play the blues!’” Sonny Boy also played with Manfred Mann and recorded with The Animals. As Sonny Boy said: "The kids over there loved me, They'd buy me things and treat me like God. Hah! They all wanted to play with me – paid good money too. They love the blues. And some of those cats are serious players. That's right. A few of those English cats really surprised me. Damned if they didn't. You might be hearing about some of them sons of bitches damn straight…"

In February 1964, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records met Horst Lippmann who had come to Houston because his French promoter had said that he would not take on the American Folk Blues Festival again if he did not get Lightnin’ Hopkins to perform. As Strachwitz recalled: “Horst had heard that I was the only guy he should deal with,” Strachwitz says, “and apparently it helped that I was German. And when I got there, we met with Lightnin’, who said he wouldn’t fly to Europe if I didn’t go with him. So Horst said he’d pay for my whole trip, hotel and all, to tour with Lightnin’ in October. …Anyway, we got on this Air India plane. I think it was one of those back loading ones where you crawl in on the back, and I remember Lightnin’ and I were already sitting in our seats and the crew walks in. And Lightnin’ turns to me, ‘Chris, these people are going to fly this airplane?’ I said, ‘Ya, they’re good, you know.’ And it only dawned on me later on that he had never encountered these East Indians, except as ‘hoodoo’ people down in Louisiana.” When they finally landed in Frankfurt, Lightnin’ was a wreck: “He was just sickened. He couldn’t play. We called a doctor and they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. And thank God, we had a whole week in Baden-Baden for the television program that Joachim Berendt had arranged for and had apparently paid for much of the whole tour. So they put him on the last day of the week. By that time, he sort of regained his ability to play. I think he had a nervous breakdown.” In 1964, with his brothers, he recorded a song  about his time overseas called "Two Brothers Playing (Going Back To Baden-Baden)."

As we mentioned in part one, numerous pianists found Europe a a particularly hospitable place to work. Today we feature several who made there way overseas and a few who never went back. Today we feature sides by Alex Moore, Speckled Red, Eddie Boy and Curtis Jones. Moore, who's song gives today's show its title,  began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions and accompanied several artists including Perry Dixon, Blind Norris and Nick Nichols. Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca. It was 1951 before Moore recorded again with RPM Records/Kent. Fortunately some sides from a session at Radio KLIF in Dallas in 1947 survived and have been issued by Arhoolie Records. Arhoolie Records recorded a self-titled album in 1960, and those subsequent recordings saw him obtain nationwide recognition. Throughout the 1960s, Moore played at clubs and festivals in America, as well as a small number of festivals across Europe. He toured with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1969, performing on the same bill as Earl Hooker and Magic Sam. The same year he recorded a session in Stuttgart, Germany, which led to the release of Alex Moore in Europe.

Speckled Red first got on record in 1929 recording three numbers of which the "The Dirty Dozens" was a big seller. A second recording session for Brunswick occurred in Chicago on 8 April 1930. Red was in Chicago for a brief time, in the late 1930s, where he recorded ten sides at the RCA studios in Illinois in 1938. Red owed his rediscovery to Charles O'Brien, a special officer with the St Louis Police Department, for during the 1950s this policeman and lover of blues and boogie-Curtis Jones: In Londonwoogie music decided to trace some of the long-forgotten piano players in St Louis. Red eventually became the pianist at a club in the famous Gaslight Square, a noted St Louis jazz-club area. This was followed by a tour of Europe and Great Britain, in 1959, as part of a USA cultural programme. His recording career also took off once again with sessions for the Folkways, Delmark, Euphonic, Storyville and Tone labels.

Curtis Jones settled in Europe in the early 1960's after almost twenty years without stepping into a studio, outside of a couple of 1953 sides for Parrot. Before packing his bags for Europe he waxed a pair of fine stateside comeback records; Trouble Blues (Bluesville, 1960) and Lonesome Bedroom Blues (Delmark, 1962). Over in Europe he would record two more superb albums; In London (Decca, 1963) and Now Resident In Europe (Blue Horizon, 1968).

Eddie Boyd found himself on the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival touring roster, and decided that perhaps his future lay in Europe. An appearance at the Hague Blues Festival (the first big blues concert ever to be organised in Holland) followed in the same year, and Boyd realized that not only was Europe relatively free of the racial discrimination it also promised to be the starting place for the blues revival, with ample recording opportunities. Switching residence from Paris to Belgium, he also found time to visit London and record an LP for Blue Horizon 1967 backed by Fleetwood Mac. In 1970, he married a Finnish girl and settled in Helsinki, continuing to gig regularly in Finland over the next two decades.

Many down-home bluesman found welcoming audiences in Europe such as Big Joe Williams, Lightnin' Slim and partner Whispering Smith and John Henry Barbee. Big Joe toured with the AFBF in 1963, 1968 and 1972. He cut albums for Storyville in 1963 and twice for the label in 1972 in Copenhagen and cut an album in England in 1968.

In 1966, Lightnin' Slim moved to Detroit to work in a car factory. But his reputation was very high among the European blues fans. So in 1972, Fred Reif who had found Slim in Detroit persuaded him to bring his Swamp blues overseas, alongside his old partner harmonica player Whispering Smith. Slim and Smith gave one of their most memorable concert on the venerable j1972 Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In London the same year Slim cut the album London Gumbo. The duo also toured as part of the 1973 American Blues Ligands tour. There were plans for Slim to return and to tour extensively everywhere in Europe. But he died unexpectedly on 27 July 1974 in Detroit.

John Henry Barbee returned to the blues scene during the midst of the blues revival after making his last recordings in 1938.In 1964 he joined the American Folk Blues Festival. He was recorded several times in 1964: songs by him appear on a pair of albums on the Spivey label, several tracks were recorded while in Europe including an excellent full-length album for Storyville issued as Portraits in Blues Vol. 9.

Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters at the American Folk Blues & Gospel Caravan, Manchester, 1964

Among other big names featured today are fine tracks by T-Bone Walker, Son House and Muddy Waters. T-Bone First made it to Europe as part of the 1962 AFBF. A 1968 visit to Paris resulted in one of his best latter-day albums, I Want a Little Girl, for Black & Blue (and later issued stateside on Delmark). In Paris during November 1968, he recorded Good Feelin' and Fly Walker Airlines released in 1973 and recorded at the 1972 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Son House had been to Europe during tbeforel but this time was different as Alan Balfour wrote in the notes: "He had been before, with the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival, but this occasion was more momentous as the headlines in the Melody Maker tried to impress on its readership: “Your last chance to see the Son. …The appearance of Son House in Britain that year was almost certainly the last time most would get to see an artist so important and so influential in the history of the blues. More to the point, for many, he was a bluesman from whom could be drawn a direct line – House-Robert Johnson-Muddy Waters-Elmore James and so on. Paul Oliver, writing in the Melody Maker at the time, reinforced this: 'For the blues enthusiasts the living witness to the Mississippi tradition, he is virtually set apart from normal critical appraisal. Playing partner to Charlie Patton and Willie Brown, inspiration of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, he is a key figure in the story of Delta blues with a timeless reputation'”.

We conclude the show with a riveting version of "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had" by Waters recorded in 1964 as part of the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. As Robert Freund Shwartz writes in How Britain Got The Blues: "The success of the American Folk Blues Festival motivated George Wein—the impresario behind the Newport Folk Festival—to launch the American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan. In late April 1964 the package—which included Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Blind Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Otis Spann and Cousin Joe Pleasants—arrived in Britain for a 17-date tour. The venture was financially successful—the original 11 dates sold out so quickly that six more were added—and the reviews were overwhelmingly favorable." A concert, in the rain, was recorded by Granada Television at the disused railway station at Wilbraham Road, Manchester in May 1964. The band performed on one platform while the audience members were seated on the opposite platform.

Related Articles/Video:

-Blues Is My Business [AFBF 1963] by Victoria Spivey (Record Research no. 56, 1963)

-Blues & Gospel Train (England, 1964)

-Sippie Wallace: Woman Be Wise (Germany, 1966)

-Lonnie Johnson: Another Night to Cry (American Folk Blues Festival, 1963)

-Sonny Boy Williamson: Keep it to Yourself (American Folk Blues Festival, 1963)

Big Bill BroonzyOn Folk Songs/Going Down the Road Feeling BadAmsterdam Live Concerts
Sammy Price Frenchy's Blues Blues & Boogie Woogie from Texas
Little Brother MontgomeryRailroad BluesThe Piano Blues: Unissued Recordings Vol. 1
Champion Jack DupreeLondon Special New Orleans Barrelhouse
Louisiana RedBring It On HomeLive At Montreux
Dr. Isaiah Ross Hobo BluesLive At Montreux
Big Mama ThorntonGood Girl In LondonIn Europe
Juke Boy BonnerRunnin' ShoesAmerican Folk Blues Festival '69
Memphis Slim & Roosevelt Sykes Introducing The Grinder Man And The HoneydripperDouble-Barreled Boogie
Memphis Slim Mr. Sykes BluesDouble-Barreled Boogie
Blind John DavisWhen I Lost My Baby Alive 'Live' And Well
Sonny Boy Williamson III'm Trying To Make London My Home Sony Boy Williamson in Europe
Lonnie Johnson & Otis SpannJelly Jelly Blues Masters
Sonny Terry with Brownie McGheeI'm Afraid of FireWizard of the Harmonica
Lightnin' Slim & Whispering SmithTexas FloodAmerican Blues Legends 73'
Eddie BurnsBury Me Back In The USA American Blues Legends 75'
Professor LonghairHey NowLive In London
Katie WebsterKate's Worried BluesTexas Boogie Queen
Willie MabonWhy Did It Happen To Me Cold Chilly Woman
Muddy WatersHoochie Coochie ManChris Barber Presents: Lost & Found Vol.2
Howlin' Wolf Going Down SlowRockin' The Blues: Live in Germany 1964
John Jackson Early Morning BluesLive In Europe
Mississippi Fred McDowellWhat's The Matter With Papa's Little Angel ChildIn London Vol. II

Show Notes:

Today's program is the first of a three part feature on blues artists recorded in Europe spanning the late 40's through the 70's. Outside of Lonnie Johnson and Alberta Hunter, the blues hadn't reached European shores prior to the 1940's The late 40's saw a few artists such as Leadbelly and Sammy Price hit Europe, with Price being the first to record. Josh White recorded the first guitar blues outside the U.S. The biggest impact, however, was Big Bill Broonzy's arrival in 1951 and subsequent tours through 1957. By 1958 Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters had come to England. 1960 saw Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery and Speckled Red appear in England. Dupree and Slim would both settle in Europe. Europe would become a haven for blues pianists with Curtis Jones, Eddie Boyd and Little Willie Littlefield all settling there. 1962 saw the inaugural American Folk Blues Festival which featured the absolute cream of the blues scene and toured almost annually until 1972. During the 70's blues artists continued to tour Europe and there were package tours such as The American Blues Legends Tour which ran in 1973, 74, 75 and 79 and major concerts like the Montreux Jazz Festival which always had a blues component. Other artists also recorded in Europe like Blind John Davis, Professor Longhair, Lightnin' Slim and Louisiana Red who settled in Germany. Our mufti-part look at European blues is by no means comprehensive or chronological but does, I think, provide an entertaining and wide survey of excellent recordings made across the pond by people who truly appreciated a music that was too often neglected in its own country.

 Big Bill Broonzy
A still from the Big Bill Broonzy film Low Light & Blue Smoke, Brussels, 1956.

We open our series of European blues shows fittingly with monologue and song by Big Bill Broonzy. As Paul Vernon Wrote: "Regarded at the time as the first 'genuine' blues singer to visit Europe, between 1951 and his final 1957 tour, Big Bill returned every year except 1954, played concerts in London, Nottingham, Brighton and Edinburgh; in Paris and elsewhere in France; in Brussels, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Milan and Madrid, appeared on French radio, British and Italian television, was filmed in Brussels had many European-made records issued aimed at his new European audience. Press coverage was significant and he was viewed as “the last great blues singer” by the fans who took him completely at his word. That he cannily tailored his style to what he accurately believed to be European expectations is now thoroughly understood and accepted, but for all his “folksiness” he was, of course, a genuine bluesman and a wonderful guitarist. His career, in danger of imploding in the U.S., changed course in Europe and in doing so changed the course of Blues history. ” Big Bill’s European success lit the long fuse that would lead to the explosion in the early 1960’s."

Broonzy (described in adverts as “last of the country bluesmen”) spent time in Europe, especially France, in the early 1950s, and, as Guido van Rijn reveals, established especially strong connections in the Netherlands where he had a long-term relationship that produced a son. He first toured the United Kingdom in 1951 following a stint organized by the Hot Club de France in Paris. The two concerts that Broonzy played at Kingsway Hall, Holborn, in September of 1951 were aggressively promoted by the blues evangelists; during the months of August and September the jazz press featured articles about the blues in general, and Broonzy in particular. His appearances were emceed by Alan Lomax, who not only introduced the singer but also drew him into discussions about the songs and their social import, making the audience feel “as if they had wandered more or less by accident into one of those fabulous jazz parties of which the books are full.”34 The critical response was unanimously positive.

As Paul Oliver noted: "A profound influence on many of his contemporary singers and musicians, Big Bill was exceptional in every respect. I was honored to draw a number of illustrations for his autobiography, Big Bill Blues, edited by Yannick Bruynogue and published in 1955. He showed little sign of decline during his frequent visits in the 1950s, but he died of throat cancer in 1958. I learned a lot from Big Bill; if our collecting and research had enabled us to take the measure of the blues in its diversity and distribution, it was Broonzy who gave an insight of its depth."

Lonnie Donegan, the Glasgow-born banjo player with Chris Barber’s jazz band began to play guitar and sing versions of American folk and blues songs during the band’s intermission. One of these songs, “Rock Island Line,” originally recorded by Leadbelly, was so popular it was released as a record in 1956, sold three million copies, and became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The skiffle craze was launched. The popularity of this music encouraged Chris Barber to bring over blues artists to the United Kingdom. In 1958 Barber brought Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry to England, including an appearance on British television. That year also witnessed Muddy Water’s first controversial British appearance in Leeds, again engineered by Barber. Within an emerging fan-base that valued the acoustic guitar as the premier blues instrument, Muddy’s amplification startled and dismayed many, but it also riveted others. As Waters said, “They thought I was Big Bill Broonzy…” Waters would return in 1962 and as Paul Oliver wrote: “Muddy made a typical error when he sang at the Leeds festival, in playing his electric guitar to an audience that couldn’t take one from a blues singer. He made another one this time—in playing a bright new Spanish box when he ought to have played electric guitar.”  “Back at his London hotel after the concert,” Val Wilmer reported, “he sat shaking his head in disbelief … Just what did they want, these [British] white folks?”

American Folk Blues Festival Poster 1964

Blues pianists were particularly taken with Europe and warmly welcomed, with many becoming exiles. In February 1948 blues pianist Sam Price sat down in a Paris studio and cut six boogie solos, thus becoming the first blues musician to record outside the U.S. Pianist Blind John Davis toured Europe with Broonzy in 1952. In later years Davis toured and recorded frequently in Europe, where he enjoyed a higher profile than in his homeland. He recorded several albums in Europe including Alive And Well, Stomping On A Saturday Night and Live In Hamburg all recorded in Germany and The Incomparable recorded in the Netherlands. The precedent set by Price and Davis blossomed in 1960, a great year for piano fans, Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery and Speckled Red all appeared in England. Researcher Francis Wilford-Smith had, since 1960, invited many of them to his Sussex home and with their consent, recorded them in performance in his living room. Though much remains currently unissued, there are excellent full-length albums from this period of Champion Jack Dupree and Little Brother Montgomery.

Memphis Slim first appeared outside the United States in 1960, touring with Willie Dixon, with whom he returned to Europe in 1962 as a featured artist in the first American Folk Festival. In 1962 he moved permanently to Paris and he became the most prominent blues artist in Europe for nearly three decades. He appeared on television in numerous European countries, acted in several French films and wrote the score for another, and performed regularly in Paris, throughout Europe, and on return visits to the United States. His status was recognized by France, which awarded him the title of Commander of Arts and Letters, and by the U.S. Senate, which in1978 named him Ambassador-at-Large of Good Will. By the time of his death in Paris in 1988, he had recorded for nearly forty different blues record labels. Our selection by Slim comes from the album Double-Barreled Boogie recorded in 1970 as Slim and Roosevelt Sykes gathered in a recording studio in Paris and reminisce about the old days, talk about the origin of some of their songs, and joke a bit.

Willie Mabon settled in Paris in 1972. He toured and recorded in Europe as part of promoter Jim Simpson's American Blues Legends tour, recording The Comeback for Simpson's Big Bear Records label, and a 1977 album on Ornament Records. He also performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. In April 1985, after a long illness, Mabon died in Paris. Our selection, "Why Did it Happen To Me", comes from the album Cold Chilly Woman recorded in Bordeaux, France in 1972.

Sonny Boy Williamson II
Sonny Boy Williamson in Britain during the American Folk Blues Festival

The American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) was an annual event that featured the cream of American blues musicians barnstorming their way across Europe throughout the 60's. The impact of these annual tours had a profound impact on those that were in attendance. Future stars such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page any many others were in the audience and were directly influenced by what they saw. The rise of blues based bands like the The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals can be directly attributed to the AFBF. The festival, founded by Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau in 1962, featured performances by luminaries like John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, and Willie Dixon and drew sellout crowds and rave reviews. Many of the artists found they were far more popular in Britain than in the United States, where audiences for the blues were diminishing. Several emigrated, and others seized the new commercial opportunities presented by the British blues boom by recording extensively for the European market and touring the blues club circuit with bands comprised of their young devotees.

In 1963 Sonny Boy Williamson was headed to Europe for the first time, as part of the American Folk Blues Festival. He loved Europe and stayed behind in Britain when the tour headed home. He started working the teenage beat club circuit, touring and recording with the Yardbirds and Eric Burdon's band, whom he always referred to as "de Mammimals." Sonny Boy was truly appreciative of all the attention, and contemplated moving to Europe permanently but went back to the States and made some final recordings for Chess. He returned to England in 1964 and one of his final recordings, with Jimmy Page on guitar, was entitled "I'm Trying to Make London My Home."

In 1964, Howlin' Wolf toured eastern and western Europe with the American Blues Festival. In 1970 he recorded The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions in England with Eric Clapton, members of the Rolling Stones, and other British rock stars. It was his best-selling album, reaching #79 on the pop charts.

American Blues Legends '73In 1965 Fred McDowell toured Europe with The American Folk Blues Festival, together with Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Roosevelt Sykes and others. In 1969 came a second tour of Europe. In Britain he recorded his first solo album using electric guitar – Mississippi Fred McDowell in London (Volumes I and II on Sire and Transatlantic).

It was Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie records who was instrumental in getting Big Mama Thornton booked on the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival. In London she recorded an album with members of the tour; Buddy Guy (guitar), Fred Below (drums), Eddie Boyd (keyboards), Jimmy Lee Robinson (bass), and Walter Horton (harmonica), except for three songs which Fred McDowell provided acoustic slide guitar. The album was subsequently issued on the Arhoolie label.

Dr. Ross first hit Europe in 1965 for the American Folk Blues Festival. While in London he recorded what would be the first LP on Blue Horizon Records. In 1972 he recorded for Ornament Records during a German tour and performed at the 1972 Montreux Jazz Festival with a subsequent album released of the performance. The Harmonica Boss was recorded in London in 1972 and in 1974 he recorded Jivin' The Blues also in London. Europe loved Ross and gave him work and recording opportunities; he was never as popular at home.

Juke Bonner cut three sessions for Goldband Records in Lake Charles in 1960, billed as Juke Boy Bonner — The One Man Trio. Some of these sides found their way to a European release on a Storyville album and attracted attention from European blues enthusiasts. But the breaks didn't come Juke Boy's way until 1967, when sterling work primarily by editors of Blues Unlimited magazine led to recording opportunities for the small Flyright label and for an eventual European tour. Passport difficulties prevented him from joining the 1968 American Folk Blues Festival Tour but was on the tour in 1969 where he cut the album Things Ain't Right for Liberty. Throughout the early and mid-seventies his popularity grew and he continued to tour Europe as well as playing dates in Houston, however he couldn't match his European popularity at home. The frustration and bitterness are reflected in the comments made by a longtime friend to the Houston Chronicle: "He used to say he could go to Europe and earn $1000 dollars but he couldn't make $50 in his hometown." He died in 1978. The week of his death the Houston Chronicle ran the headline: “Weldon ‘Juke Boy’ Bonner, well known in Europe, dies alone in his hometown.”

In the wake of the success of the AFBF, there were other package tours and festivals. There was the American Folk Blues and  Gospel  Caravan formed in 1964 (Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Blind Gary Davis, Cousin Joe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann) and  The American Blues Legends tour which was run by promoter Jim Simpson who operated the Big Bear label. Simpson released albums of the tour for the years 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979.There was also festivals like the Montreux Jazz Festival which launched in 1967 in Switzerland and always had strong blues representation.

Elzadie RobinsonSt Louis Cyclone BluesThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 1
Texas Alexander Frost Texas Tornado BluesHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down: The Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks
John Lee Hooker No Friend AroundThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3
John Lee HookerNo Mortgage On My SoulThe Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 3
Jealous James StanchellAnything From A Foot Race To A Resting PlaceTreasury of Field Recordings Vol. 2
Lightnin' HopkinsThe Foot RaceAutobiography in Blues
Big Moose Walker Footrace Ramblin' Woman
Jimmy ReedThere'll Be A DayThe Vee-Jay Years
Bobo JenkinsI'm So Glad Trouble Don't Last AlwaysThe Life Of
Sammy LawhornHome of the BluesRockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis
The 5 RoyalesI Got To KnowRockin' Rhythm 'n' Blues From Memphis
Sylvester PalmerMean BluesDown In Black Bottom
Hound Head HenryMy Silver Dollar MamaCow Cow Davenport: The Essential
Lightnin' HokinsThe TwisterThe Complete Prestige Recordings
Big Bill BroonzyTexas Tornado Blues The War & Postwar Years 1940-1951
Curtis Jones Decoration Day BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 1 1937-1938
Sonny Boy Williamson IDecoration BluesThe Original Sonny Boy Williamson
Dan Picket Decoration DayShake That Thing
Howlin' Wolf Decoration DaySun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
J & J DeucesSweet Woman BluesStompin' Vol 18
Otis HintonWalking Downhill Stompin' Vol 18
Long Tall LesterWorking Man Juicy Harmonica Vol. 1
Butterbeans & Susie Bow Legged PapaVaudeville Blues 1919-1941
Sister MorganHurry Down, Sunshine, and See What Tomorrow BringsToo Late, Too Late 1927-1964
Alma Henderson I've Got A Mama Down In New OrleansVocal Blues And Jazz Vol. 4
B.B. King Worry Worry Live At The Regal
Ironing Board SamI've Been UsedDouble Bang
Johnny Fuller Tin Pan Alley BluesFuller's Blues
Johnny Fuller Bad Luck Overtook MeFuller's Blues
Lonnie Johnson St Louis Cyclone BluesBroadcasting The Blues
Gospel TravelersGod's Chariot Pt. 1Get Right With God Vol. 2

Show Notes:

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.

Lonnie Johnson: St. Louis Cyclone BluesLike 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 Sonny Boy Williamson: Decoration Day Blues No. 2Field 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.

Johnny Fuller: Fullers Blues
Read Liner Notes

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.


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