ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Walter HortonAin't It A Shame King of the Harmonica Players
Walter HortonI Hate To The Sun Go Down King of the Harmonica Players
Walter HortonThat's Wrong Little MamaKing of the Harmonica Players
Tampa RedEvalena Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Johnny ShinesEvening Shuffle (Take 1)Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Willie NixTruckin' Little WomanMemphis & The South 1949-1954
Walter HortonBaby I Need Your Love Solo Harp: Private Recordings
J.B. Lenoir Slow Down Woman American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1965
Walter HortonThat Ain't ItAnn Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival Vol. 4
Walter HortonI Need My Baby BluesHave A Good Time…Chicago Blues
Johnny Young & Walter HortonStockyard BluesJohnny Young And His Chicago Blues Band
Walter Horton & Floyd JonesOverseas BluesDo Nothing Till You Hear From Us
Walter Horton & Floyd JonesTalk About Your Daddy Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us
Walter HortonGo Long WomanMouth Harp Maestro
Walter HortonLittle Walter's Boogie Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
Walter HortonWe All Got To Go (Take 3)Blues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Walter HortonHard Hearted WomanBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Walter HortonWalking by MyselfBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Victoria Spivey &Walter Horton Inter-Mission TasteSpivey's Blues Parade
Otis SpannCan't Do Me No Good The Blue Horizon Story 1965-1970
Sunnyland Slim & Walter HortonBlow Walter BlowSad And Lonesome
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryWorried, Wonderin' And GladBack
Walter Horton & Jimmy DeBerryEverybody's Fishin' Back
Walter Horton Let's Have A Good TimeI Blueskvarter Vol. 2
Walter Horton You Don't Mistreat MeI Blueskvarter Vol. 1
Chicago Blues All StarsLittle Boy BlueLoaded With The Blues
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.

Related Articles:

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Hazel MeyersI'm Every Man's Mama Hazel Meyers Vol. 1 1923-1924
Hazel MeyersMississippi BluesFemale Blues: The Remaining Titles 1921-1928
Boll Weavil Blues TrioThings Ain't What They Used To BeSouthside Screamers
Dixie Boy & His ComboOne More Drink Southside Screamers
Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band High Behind BluesMemphis Shakedown: More Jug Band Classics
Big Joe Williams Mellow Apples The Original Sonny Boy Williamson Vol.2
Sister Rosetta Tharpe99 Half Won't DoSister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 5 1953-1957
Sister Rosetta TharpeLet It ShineSister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 5 1953-1957
Hound Dog Taylor Sitting Here AloneChess Blues Box
Big Walter HortonNeed My BabyBig Walter Horton: Blues Harmonica Giant
Johnny LittlejohnKeep On RunningSultans of Slide Guitar
Maggie Jones North Bound Blues Maggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Maggie Jones Box Car Blues Maggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Madlyn DavisWinter BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 5 1921-1928
Teddy Darby The Girl I Left BehindBlind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Roosevelt SykesSouthern BluesRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 9 1947-1951
Boll Weavil Thinkin' BluesChicago Boogie! 1947
Sleepy John EstesHarlem BoundChicago Boogie! 1947
Cryin' Sam Collins It Won't Be Long Sam Collins 1927-31
Kokomo ArnoldDown and Out Blues Kokomo Arnold Vol. 2 1935-1936
Bumble Bee Sim12 O’clock Midnight Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 8 1937-1951
Larry DavisSweet Black AngelSweet Black Angel
Leroy Washington Don't Blame It On Me MamaWild Cherry
Jack Ranger T.P. Window Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Leroy CarrAlabama Women Blues Sloppy Drunk
Texas Bill Day Burn The Trestle Down Dallas Alley Drag
Walter Brown I'm Glad To Be BackWalter Brown 1945-47
Louis JordanOfay And Oxford GreyLouis Jordan & His Tympany Five: Chapter 4
David 'Honeyboy' EdwardsSpread My Raincoat DownBig Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues
Lightnin' HopkinsHouston BoundRemaining Titles: 1950-1961
Pete Johnson & Joe TurnerGoin' Away BluesRadio Broadcasts, Film Soundtracks, Alternate Takes 1939-1947
Pete Johnson Dive BomberRadio Broadcasts, Film Soundtracks, Alternate Takes 1939-1947

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."

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Sonny Boy Williamson IIMr. Down ChildCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Joe Willie WilkinsMr. Down ChildJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys
Sonny Boy Williamson IICool, Cool BluesCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIEyesight To The BlindCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIWest Memphis Blues Cool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Albert WilliamsHoodoo ManSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Albert WilliamsRhumba ChillenSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Honeyboy EdwardsSweet Home ChicagoSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Willie NixSeems Like A Million YearsSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Willie NixBakershop Boogie Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Joe Willie WilkinsMe & The Devil BluesJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys
Joe Willie WilkinsSad LetterJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys
Sonny Boy Williamson IIStop Crying Cool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IICome Back HomeCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IINine Below ZeroCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Joe Willie WilkinsWalkin' Blues/Feel Like Goin' HomeJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys
Joe Willie WilkinsIt's Too BadJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys
Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup Gotta Find My BabyCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Willie Love Everybody's Fishing Cool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson III Cross My HeartCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIStop NowCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIPontiac BluesCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Roosevelt Sykes She's Jailbait Roosevelt Sykes Vol .10 1951-1957
Roosevelt Sykes Sputnik BabyRoosevelt Sykes Vol .10 1951-1957
Houston StackhouseCrying Won't Help YouMemphis Blues Caravan Vol. I
Charlie BookerNew Moonrise BluesMemphis Blues Caravan Vol. II
Sonny Boy Williamson IICat HopCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Sonny Boy Williamson IIShe Brought Life Back To The DeadCool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides 1951-1954
Houston Stackhouse Cool Drink Of Water The Devil's Music
Houston Stackhouse Mean Red SpiderThe Devil's Music
Joe Willie WilkinsHucklefingerJoe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys

Show Notes:

Joe Willie Wilkins
Joe Willie Wilkins, Ann Arbor, 1973. Photo by Sandy Sutherland.

Joe Willie Wilkins spent the majority of his career in the shadows as a session guitarist, playing behind Sonny boy Williamson II, Willie Love, Will Nix among others and off record with bluesmen such as Robert Lockwood Jr., Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, Walter Horton and others. Through his studio contributions, his time broadcasting on King Biscuit Time on KFFA and out of West Memphis on WDIA, and the sheer number of bluesman he worked with throughout the Delta, Wilkins exerted a sizable influence despite never cutting records under his own name until the 70's. Those who cite him as an influence include Pat Hare, Little Milton, Jimmy Rogers and Brewer Phillips. He stepped out of the shadows in the 70's performing at festivals, making television appearances and a long overdue full-length album. As Luigi Monge wrote in the Encyclopedia of the Blues: “Wilkins incorporated in his playing the intensity of downhome blues, the elegance of jazz, and the power of urban sounds. His achievement transcends the quantity of recordings he left and has more to do with quality and originality.” And as his supporter Jim O'Neal wrote: “One of the greatest blues guitarists Memphis has ever known”-

The only child of Frank Wilkins, an accomplished bottleneck guitarist, Joe Willie became interested in music at a very early age.Wilkinswas born just southwest of Clarksdale in a tiny spot known as Davenport, Mississippi. Wilkins taught himself harmonica and often played with his father at local parties and dances in the Bobo, Mississippi, area, where his family had moved in 1933 to work on a farm. After being taught some fiddle by "Fiddlin’" Sam Harris and accordion by Walter "Pat" Rhodes, Wilkins learned guitar from his father, the members in his band, and phonograph records so well that he was nicknamed "The Walking Seeburg" after a brand of jukebox). His musical education was also enhanced by meeting several musicians around Clarksdale including Muddy Waters, Robert Lockwood and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller).

After playing in the Mississippi streets and barrelhouses with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Miller) and Robert Lockwood, Wilkins briefly served in the U.S. Navy. From 1942 he regularly participated with his mentors and other fellow musicians in the famous radio program King Biscuit Time over KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, and with Robert Nighthawk (whose sister he married) in the Bright Star Flour show. At the end of the decade Wilkins often toured the South with a group known as the Four Aces (Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Love, Willie Nix). Wilkins moved to West Memphis in 1948 where he played with local musicians and met B.B. King whom broadcast with.

King Biscuit Time

Wilkins first entered a studio as late as 1951, when he played guitar on the first recordings Sonny Boy Williamson II made for Lillian McMurry’s Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi, where Wilkins acted as house guitarist for two years. Wilkins backed Sonny Boy on ten sides in 1951, four sides in 1952 and final three sides in 1953. One of the songs was “Mr. Down Child” a Robert Johnson composition that he never recorded. It was Robert Lockwood who transposed the song and taught it to Sonny Boy who recorded it on December 4th 1951. Lockwood recorded his version in 1973. It seemed to be a favorite of Wilkins' who cut the song as the b-side of his first 45 for the Mimosa label in 1973, another version was cut for Wilkins' debut album and another version appears on the soundtrack fro the BBC TV series The Devil's Music.

During the 50's Wilkins backed several artists at Sun studios including Willie Nix, Honeyboy Edwards and Albert Williams. The Edwards and Williams sides were unissued at the time. Wilkins said he tried a session of his own for the label but lacked confidence and nothing ever materialized.  Nix's "Seems Like A Million Years b/w Baker Shop Boogie" was issued as a 78 by the label. Nix toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels Shows as a dancing comedian in the 30's and during the early '40s, performed on streets and parks around Memphis. In 1947, Nix appeared with Robert Lockwood, Jr. on a Little Rock radio station and subsequently worked with Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Love and Joe Willie Wilkins as the Four Aces. Nix joined B.B. King and Joe Hill Louis for appearances on Memphis radio, and worked with The Beale Streeters during the late '40s. He made his first records in Memphis for RPM in 1951, and cut sides for Chess Records' Checker offshoot in 1952. Sam Philips signed him up as "the Memphis Blues Boy" for Sun in early 1953, as a singing drummer with a band, and he later cut sides for the Chance label in Chicago.

Willie Nix & Joe Willie Wilkins
Joe Willie Wilkins & Willie Nix from Blues
Unlimited #120, courtesy Steve La Vere

In 1959 Wilkins' father died and Joe Willie moved from West Memphis to Memphis, where he worked mostly outside music until about 1970. Despite bad health, Wilkins took up guitar again as a result of his wife Carrie’s encouragement and of blues writer and promoter Jim O’Neal’s support, often playing with Houston Stackhouse. Wilkins formed his King Biscuit Boys group featuring the ever present Stackhouse and a changing line up that included harp players Boy Blue and Sonny Blake and guitarist Clarence Nelson. Wilkins made appearances at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, the Memphis River City Blues Festival and worked as part of the Memphis Blues Caravan, a traveling show made up of first generation bluesmen such as Sleepy John Esets, Bukka White, Furry Lewis and others. Performances appear on the albums Memphis Blues Caravan Vol. I & II.

In 1973 Steve LaVere’s Mimosa label released Wilkins’s first recordings under his own name, a 45, “It's Too Bad b/w "Mr. Downchild.” A full-length album titled Joe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys was released by Adamo that included some live performances and studio recordings. In 1976 Wilkins also played the Monterrey Jazz Festival and appeared in the BBC Television series The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues. Wilkins passed March 28, 1979 in Memphis.

Related Articles:

-Joe Willie Wilkins Obituary by Cilla Huggins (Blues Unlimited 134, March/June 1979) [PDF]

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Magic Slim She Is Mine 45
Magic Slim Scufflin Grand Slam
Alberta Brown How LongI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 2
Monette Moore Black Sheep BluesMonette Moore Vol. 2 1924-1932
Jenny Pope Bullfrog BluesMemphis Blues Vol. 4 1929-1953
Louis Armstrong Blues for Yesterday C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Louis Armstrong Back o' Town BluesC'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties
Frank Tannehill Rolling Stone BluesRare Country Blues Vol. 4 1929-c.1953
Tommy McLennan Baby, Please Don't Tell On Me Bluebird Recordings 1939-1942
Washboard SamEvil BluesRockin' My Blues Away
Fluffy Hunter Hi Jinks BluesTough Mamas
Madonna Martin Rattlesnakin' Daddy Tough Mamas
James Russell I Had Five Long YearsPrison Worksongs
Big Joe Williams These Are My Blues (Gonna Sing ´Em For Myself)These Are My Blues
Blind Arvella GrayWalking BluesBlues From Maxwell Street
Precious Bryant Precious Bryant's Staggering BluesNational Downhome Blues Festival Vol. 1
Precious Bryant That's The Way The Good Thing Go George Mitchell Collection Box Set
'Talking' Billy Anderson Lonely Bill Blues The Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2
Blind Willie McTell Stole Rider BluesBest Of
Charley JordanHunkie Tunkie Blues Charley Jordan Vol.1 1930-1931
Teddy Darby She Thinks She's Slick Blind Teddy Darby 1929-1937
Zuzu Bollin Headlight BluesR&B Guitars 1950-1954
Jimmy Babyface Lewis Last NightComplete Recordings 1947-1955
Big Joe Turner Wine-O-Baby BoogieTell Me Pretty Baby
Al "Cake" Wichard Sextette & Jimmy Witherspoon Geneva BluesCake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948
Lee Roy LittleI''m a Good Man But a Poor Man Blues From The Apple
Charlie SaylesVietnamThe Raw Harmonica Blues Of
Johnny MomentKeep Our Business To YourselfI Blueskvarter Vol. 3
Robert Pete Williams Freight-Train Blues Louisiana Blues
Hammie NixonViola Lee Blues 2Way Back Yonder Vol. 1
Eugene Powell Poor Boy Blues Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Magic Slim Stranded On The HighwayLiving Chicago Blues Vol. II
Magic Slim Ain't Doing Too BAdRaw Magic

Show Notes:

Magic Slim
Magic Slim

It seems these mix show end up as tributes to an increasing number of blues artists who've passed recently. This time out we pay our respects to Magic Slim and Precious Bryant. Along the way we spin a pair of bluesy numbers by Louis Armstrong, play a few sets of pre-war blues, spotlight some interesting field recordings as well as some jump blues from the post-war era.

I was lucky enough to catch Magic Slim on several occasions and he always delivered the goods, which is to say a good dose of gutbucket blues. After battling health problems Slim passed at the age of 75 on Feb. 21st. His mentor was Magic Sam, whom he knew as a child in Mississippi and who offered early encouragement. “Magic Sam told me don’t try to play like him, don’t try to play like nobody,” he once recalled. “Get a sound of your own.” It was also Magic Sam who gave a teenager named Morris Holt the stage name Magic Slim when the two performed together in Chicago in the 1950's. He recorded his first single, “Scufflin’,” in 1966 and formed the Teardrops with his younger brothers a year later. Magic Slim and the Teardrops eventually became the house band at a local nightclub, Florence’s. They went on to tour and record regularly, headlining blues festivals all over the world, and to win numerous awards, including the 2003 Blues Music Award as band of the year. Magic Slim recorded prolifically, cutting his first album for the French MCM label in 1977 with follow-ups on labels like Blind Pig, Alligator and Wolf. Among my personal favorites of Slim voluminous discography would be Grand Slam (Rooster), Raw Magic (Alligator) and the series on Wolf titled Live At The Zoo Bar (five vols. I think?) which really capture Slim and the Teardrops in prime form.

Unfortunately I never got to see Precious Bryant who passed away on January 12th. She was born in Talbot County, GA and went on to play numerous festivals including the Chattahoochee Folk Festival, the National Down Home Blues Festival in Atlanta (recordings by her appear on the companion albums), the King Biscuit Blues, Newport Folk Festival, Utrecht Blues Festival in Utrecht, Holland and others. She never went on tour and didn't release an album until Fool Me Good in 2002 although a few scattered sides were recorded in the field by George Mitchell. It was Mitchell, who discovered her in 1969 while documenting the lower Chattahoochee scene. She cut a follow-up album, The Truth, in 2005 and the same year cut an album on the Music Maker label.

Precious Bryant
Precious Bryant

When not listening to blues I do listen to quite a bit of jazz, particularly the older stuff, and have listened to Louis Armstrong's hot Fives and Hot Sevens countless times. I suspect, like many, I haven't really listened to many of his recordings after this period. Some time back I picked up the 4-CD box set C'est Si Bon: Satchmo in the Forties on the Proper label which is where today's tracks come from. Satchmo set the bar so high on those early recordings they're pretty much unsurpassable but this set very worthwhile.  Lots of good stuf from big band sides, duets with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and great live recordings from the Town Hall and Symphony Hall with the All Stars. One of the songs, "Back o' Town Blues", was first recorded as an instrumental by the Original Memphis Five in 1923 on the Edison label.

From the pre-war era we spin some fine blues ladies including Monette Moore and Jenny Pope plus obscure male artists such as Frank Tannehill and 'Talking' Billy Anderson. Moore began her career accompanying silent films in Kansas City and then toured the vaudeville circuit as a pianist and singer. In the early 1920's she made her way to New York and became active in musical theater. Her recording career began in 1923. In 1927 and 1928 she was singing with Walter Page's Blue Devils in the mid-West. She returned to New York in 1929 and was very active in musical theater and cabaret work until the late 1930's. In the early 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles and performed in clubs, recorded with Teddy Bunn and the Harmony Girls and had small parts in a couple of films. From 1951 to 1953 she appeared on the Amos 'n Andy television program and recorded with George Lewis. Moore passed in 1962. From 1925 we spin her "Black Sheep Blues" (Virginia Liston cut the same song a few months later) which is not the same song as Pigmeat Terry cut in 1935 but offers a similar sentiment:

When you're thinking of black sheep
Just take a look at me
I'm the blackest of black sheep
That ever left old Tennessee

Lord from the straight and narrow path I've strayed
From the straight and narrow path I've strayed
With regrets and sorrows I have paid

Just a black sheep roamin' round the town (2x)
Like a tramp I'm always out and down

While Moore cut some fifty sides during her prime Jenny Pope was much less documented. Pope was married to Will Shade leader of the famous Memphis Jug Band. Pope cut six sides at three sessions in 1929 and 1930. She may have recorded with the Memphis Jug Band under the name Jennie Clayton. Pope delivers a great performance on "Bull Frog Blues", not to be confused with the William Harris song of the same name, with great piano playing from Judson Brown.

Little is known about Frank Tannehill and Billy Anderson. A pianist from Dallas, Texas Frank Tannehill backed Pere Dickson on his two 1932 recordings made in his hometown. Tannehill began his own recording career with two songs recorded in Chicago in 1937. 1938 found him in a San Antonio studio waxing four more songs. His third and final session was in 1941 in Dallas for a four song session. He was never heard from again. Nothing is known about Billy Anderson, other than the fact that two records were recorded under his name in 1927 and that he may have been from Georgia.

Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues
Read Back Cover

Moving up the 1940's we spin some fine jump blues from ladies like Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin as well as Big Joe Turner and Al Wichard among others. Krazy Kat was a great British label that put out some really interesting anthologies. From the aptly title Tough Mamas we spin rocking tracks from Fluffy Hunter and Madonna Martin. Big Joe Turner's jumping  "Wine-O-Baby Boogie" features the mighty Pete Johnson on piano and comes from the album Tell Me Pretty Baby a fine collection of late 40's sides issued on Arhoolie.  Al Wichard's "Geneva Blues" features Jimmy Witherspoon on vocals. Wichard was born in Welbourne, Arkansas, on August 15th, 1919 but the steps by which he arrived in Los Angeles as a drummer in 1944 remain shadowy. He managed to record with Jimmy Witherspoon and Jay McShann within weeks of his arrival, and in April 1945 was the drummer on Modern’s first session, accompanying Hadda Brooks. Wichard's is collected on the reissue on Ace, Cake Walkin’: The Modern Recordings 1947-1948.

Last week I did a whole show devoted to great out-of-print records and today we feature a couple from the Albatros label: Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee Blues and Way Back Yonder Vol. 1. Albatros is an interesting label that has not been all that well served on CD. The label was active from the early 70's through the early 80's issuing reissues of pre-war recordings, folk material and most interestingly, to me anyway, is several volumes of field recordings by label owner Gianni Marcucci. Marcucci came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings  between 1976 and 1978 in Tennessee and Mississippi. Several of these collections have long been out-of-print including all three volumes of the Way Back Yonder series, the collections Mississippi Delta & South Tennessee and I Got The Blues This Morning and single artists albums by Eugene Powell (Police In Mississippi), Carey Tate (Blues From The Heart) and Jack Owens (Bentonia Country Blues). A while back Marcucci formed the Mbirafon imprint which so far has issued collections of field recordings of Sam Chatmon and Van Hunt. I've heard through the grapevine there was a Eugene Powell 2-CD planned. The label hasn't issued anything in awhile and I wouldn't be surprised if Marcucci got discouraged due to general lack of interest in these kinds of project. I, for one, hope he forges ahead. I should also mention that are three Albatros collections available on CD: Tennessee Blues Vol. 1, 2, and 3 which have very good performances from Laura Dukes, Dewey Corley, Bukka White and others.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Andrew OdumIt's My Own Fault Farther Up The Road
Andrew OdumDon't Ever Leave Me All AloneFarther Up The Road
Andrew Odumake Me Back To East St LouisFarther Up The Road
Bill Williams Low and Lonesome Low And Lonesome
Bill Williams Blake's Rag LucillBlues, Rag & Ballads
Bill WilliamsyNobody's BusinessBlues, Rag & Ballads
Robert NighthawkLula MaeBlues Southside Chicago
Walter HortonCan't Help MyselfBlues Southside Chicago
Homesick JamesCrutch And CaneBlues Southside Chicago
Roosevelt CharlesCane Choppin'Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesMean Trouble BluesBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Roosevelt CharlesI'm a Gamblin' ManBlues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs,
Johnny YoungTried Not To CryI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Gotta Find My BabyI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Johnny YoungI Know She's Kinda SlickI Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping
Rev. Robert WilkinsDo Lord Remember Me Memphis Gospel Singer
Rev. Robert WilkinsThe Prodigal SonMemphis Gospel Singer
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Expressin' The Blues Welfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)The Welfare BluesWelfare Blues
Nyles Jones (Guitar Gabriel)Southland Welfare Blues
Arbee StidhamWee Hours A Time For Blues
Arbee StidhamTake Your Hand Off My KneeA Time For Blues
Arbee Stidham Meet Me HalfwayA Time For Blues
Shirely Griffith Cool Kind Papa From New OrleansMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Maggie Campbell BluesMississippi Blues
Shirely Griffith Delta HazeMississippi Blues

Show Notes:

Blues Southside Chicago
Read Liner Notes

Over the years of doing this show I've played many long out-of-print records and I've finally decided to do a series of shows exclusively devoted to these records. While an impressive amount of blues has made it to the digital age, it may be surprising to some that there is a large cache of great blues albums, primarily from the 60's and 70's, that have never been reissued. I like to think of these records as sort of a hidden narrative of the blues running parallel but under the more mainstream blues or the blues records issued on some of the bigger labels, sort of the same as the field recordings I often play as compared to the commercial blues that was being issued. With the decline of CD's and the rise of digital music I have a feeling these great records will never get resurrected. The bulk of the albums featured in the series are from a slew of great small labels that issued records that probably sold in exceedingly small amounts. Over the course of these shows I'll be spotlighting albums from some of these great forgotten labels like Blue Goose, 77 Records, Albatros, Flyright, Spivey, Barrelhouse among others. For part two I'll be spotlighting a batch from Bluesville, which did have an extensive CD reissue program but left out some great titles. Below is some background on today's featuredrecords.

ABC-Paramount formed the BluesWay subsidiary in 1966 to record blues music. The label lasted into 1974, with the last new releases coming in February, 1974. The label issued over 70 albums, numerous 45's plus several titles that remain unreleased. The label has been spottily reissued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. The label had big names like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker but to me some of the more interesting records are by lesser knowns like Lee Jackson, Lucille Spann, L.C. Robinson and Andrew Odom. Farther Up The Road finds Odom is in fine form and the chemistry between him and Earl Hooker is faultless with Hooker getting plenty of room to cut loose.  Among the highlights are the moody "Stormy Monday", the bouncing "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone" and a crackling version of "Farther Up The Road" (two songs appear on the Earl Hooker anthology CD Simply The Best). The record wasn't treated well by the critics as Mike Leadbitter clearly expressed in a 1973 edition of Blues Unlimited: "What a bitter disappointment! Muffled sound, endless boring songs and total lack of variation. What have BluesWay done to my heroes?" The album was finally released in 1973 and virtually sank without a trace. Despite Leadbitter's assessment this is a worthwhile release and well worth resurrecting on CD.

Also from the Bluesway vaults comes Johnny Young's I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping, Young's final recording, passing not long after this superb date. Young is in top form playing mandolin on all cuts backed by a tough band featuring stellar guitar work from Louis Myers and the debut by harp man Jerry Portnoy who is uncredited.

Roosevelt Charles: Blues, Prayer, Work and Trouble Songs
Read Liner Notes

During the 1960's Nick Perls amassed a vast collection of blues records from the 1920's and 1930's. In 1968 he began transferring some of these onto LP, initially naming his label Belzoni but after five releases changed the name to Yazoo. Perls set up the Blue Goose Record label in the early 1970's. While on Blue Goose' sister label Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78 rpm recordings made in the 1920's by such singers and guitarists as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, on Blue Goose Records he recorded only living artists. He cut albums by blues artists like Sam Chatmon, Son House, Yank Rachell, Shirley Griffith, Thomas Shaw and Bill Williams and Larry Johnson plus younger white blues performers like Jo Ann Kelly, Woody Mann, Graham Hine, John Lewis, Roger Hubbard, Roy Book Binder, R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders and Rory Block. The bulk of the label's output remains out of print.

Bill Williams, was a 72-year old bluesman from Greenup, Kentucky, when he made his debut for Blue Goose in the early 1970's. Stephen Calt wrote that "The previously unrecorded Williams ranks among the most polished and proficient living traditional bluesmen, and has a large repertoire embracing ragtime, hillbilly, and even pop material. He is also the only known living associate of Blind Blake, his own favorite guitarist." Williams cut just two LP's, both for Blue Goose: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams 'Blues, Rags and Ballads plus had one song on the anthology These Blues Is Meant To Be Barrelhoused. In October of 1973, nearly three years to the day of his recording debut, he passed away in his sleep.Blues Southside Chicago is one of my favorite anthologies, a superb 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. Mike Leadbitter discusses the aim of the record in his liner notes: "This album was recorded In Chicago's Southside by Willie Dixon with one aim in mind-to provide the English enthusiast with blues played as they are played in the clubs, without gimmicks and without interfering A & R men. This album is not intended to be commercial in any way and by using top artists and top session men an LP has been produced that doesn't sound as cold as studio recordings usually do."

Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer
Read Liner Notes

Roosevelt Charles was recorded by folklorist Harry Oster in 1959 and 1960 with tracks appearing on anthologies and one full-length album, the long out of print Blues, Prayer, Work & Trouble Songs. Oster wrote the following: “Classified as a habitual criminal, a four-time loser, Roosevelt Charles has spent most of his adult life (he is now 45) in prisons, principally, Angola, alternating short periods of freedom with long sentences. …Despite his lengthy police record, Charles is sensitive, personable, intelligent and imaginative – a highly gifted creator, performer and interpreter of Negro music. His rebellion against society appears at least in part the explosion which results when a driving, intensely creative man can find no outlets for his energies and talents – a particularity difficult problem for a bright but almost illiterate Negro born in the Louisiana farm country."

Robert Wilkins passed away in 1987 and it's a shame he made so few recordings in his later years. He did make one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer cut in 1963 for the Piedmont label and sadly never issued on CD (it was reissued on vinyl in 1984 on the Origin Jazz Library label.) His early sessions for Victor in 1928, Brunswick in 1929 and Vocalion in 1935 are classics. Other post-war sides by Wilkins can be found on the out-of-print anthology This Old World's In A Hell Of A Fix, The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival, …Remember Me (from the 1969Memphis Country Blues Festival)  plus a few other scattered sides.

Guitar Gabriel AKA Nyles Jones, recorded under the latter name the superb LP, My South, My Blues, for the Gemini label in 1970.Mike Leadbitter, writing in Blues Unlimited in 1970, called the single, "Welfare Blues", the most important 45 released that year. Gabriel dropped out of sight for about 20 years and his belated return to performing was due largely to folklorist and musician Timothy Duffy, who located Gabriel in 1991. With Duffy accompanying him as second guitarist on acoustic sets and as a member of his band, Brothers in the Kitchen, Gabriel performed frequently at clubs and festivals, and appeared overseas. He recorded several albums for Duffy's Music Maker label before passing in 1996.I'm under the impression that

Arbee Stidham is held in rather low opinion among the blues collecting community. The truth is that Stidham's music isn't, for the most part, all that exciting but A Time For Blues is a terrific outing with Stidham backed by the swinging Ernie Wilkins Orchestra. A jazz-influenced blues vocalist, Stidham also played alto sax, guitar and harmonica. His father Luddie Stidham worked in Jimme Lunceford's orchestra, while his uncle was a leader of the Memphis Jug Band. Stidham formed the Southern Syncopators and played various clubs in his native Arkansas in the '30s. He appeared on Little Rock radio station KARK and his band backed Bessie Smith on a Southern tour in 1930 and 1931. Stidham frequently performed in Little Rock and Memphis until he moved to Chicago in the 40's. Stidham recorded with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra for Victor in the 40's. He did his own sessions for Victor, Sittin' In, Checker, Abco, Prestige/Bluesville, Mainstream, and Folkways in the 50's and 60', and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. Stidham also made many festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He did occasional blues lectures at Cleveland State University in the 70's.Shhirley Griffith: Mississppi Blues

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 (Bluesville, 1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (Bluesville, 1965) and Mississippi Blues (Blue Goose, 1973). The fact that all three albums are out of print goes a ways in understanding why Griffith remains so little known. He also didn't benefit all that much from the renewed blues interest of the 1960's; he never achieving the acclaim of late discovered artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell, the critical appreciation of a Robert Pete Williams or the excitement surrounding rediscovered legends like Son House, Skip James or Mississippi John Hurt. He 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. Griffith passed away in 1974.

Share

« Previous PageNext Page »