J.B. Smith & Group Sure Makes A Man Feel BadI'm Troubled With A Diamond: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 1
Joseph 'Chinaman' Johnson & GroupDrop 'em DownOld Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2
Houston Paige & GroupDown The LineOld Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2
J.B. Smith Poor Boy Old Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2
Johnny Jackson & Group Yellow GalI'm Troubled With A Diamond: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 1
Johnny Johnson & GroupIn The BottomWake Up Dead Man
Benny Richardson & GroupGrizzly Bear Wake Up Dead Man
Eugene Rhodes If She's Your WomanTalkin' About My Time
Eugene Rhodes Whosoever Will, Let Him ComeTalkin' About My Time
Eugene Rhodes Talkin' About My TimeTalkin' About My Time
Eugene Rhodes Don't Talk Me to DeathTalkin' About My Time
J.B. SmithI Got Too Much Time For the Crime I DoneEver Since I Have Been a Man Full Grown
Babe Stovall The Ship Is At The Landing Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Robert “Nighthawk” JohnsonCan't No GraveSorrow Come Pass Me Around
Willard Artis “Blind Pete” Burrell Do Lord Remember Me Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Chester Davis/Compton Jones/Furry LewisGlory Glory HallelujahSorrow Come Pass Me Around
Willie Menifee & Mance Lipscomb If I Get Lucky MamaRuff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
T.J. Jackson Out And DownRuff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
Mance Lipscomb Papa Lightfoot Angel Child Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
Nathaniel “Bill” Barnes Jack Of Diamonds Is A Hard Card To PlayRuff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
Babe Stovall Worried Blues Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
Grey Ghost Lonesome Traveler Grey Ghost
Grey Ghost A Good Gal Is Hard To FindGrey Ghost
Grey Ghost Hold That Train, Conductor Grey Ghost

Show Notes:

J.B. Smith: Ever Since I Have Been a Man Full Grown
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

On today's show we spotlight some remarkable field recordings from the 1960's and 70's. During the first hour we play recordings made in Texas prisons in the 60's by scholar Bruce Jackson. Jackson is a professor in the University of Buffalo's Department of English and has written or edited more than 30 books in the fields of folklore, ethnography, sociology and photography. Several collections of his field recordings have been issued although the bulk are long out-of-print. In the second hour we feature selections from the albums Sorrow Come Pass Me Around, Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar and a collection of recordings made by pianist the Grey Ghost. Sorrow Come Pass Me Around is a collection of spiritual and gospel songs recorded between 1965-1973 by David Evans performed by active or former blues artists. Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar is a collection of Texas field recordings capture by Tary Owens. Owens also recorded the Grey Ghost in 1965, eventually issuing these recordings in the 1980's.

Bruce Jackson wrote: “I started recording in Texas prisons in July 1964. I think Texas had about 12,000 prisoners in 14 prisons back then …My primary interest in Texas was the black convict worksongs, which seemed to me to be part of an unbroken musical tradition going back to West Africa….Black convicts in Texas mostly called them 'river songs,' not 'worksongs.' That’s because all of the plantation prisons in Texas used to be located on the Brazos River or the Trinity River. Since I was interested in worksongs and since that tradition was already on the wane, I concentrated on prisons for long-term convicts and multiple recidivists, prisons populated by men who had been in for a long time or who had been in several times previously. I started out on the Ramsey farm, southwest of Houston, and visited Retrieve and Sugarland which aren’t far from the Ramsey. I also worked on Eastham, the Walls (the only prison in Texas with a wall around it), Wynne (at that time, a prison for physically infirm and geriatric inmates) and Ellis, all of them in or near Huntsville, which is 70 miles north of Houston. …The large plantations in the U.S. South were based on West African agricultural models and, with one major difference, the black slaves used worksongs in the plantations exactly as they had used them before they had been taken prisoner and sold to the white men. The difference was this: in Africa the songs were used to time body movements and to give poetic voice to things of interest because people wanted to do their work that way; in the plantations there was added a component of survival. If a man were singled out as working too slowly, he would often be brutally punished. The songs kept everyone together, so no one could be singled out as working more slowly than everyone else.”

Wake Up Dead Man
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

J.B. Smith was recorded by Jackson in 1965 at Texas’s Ramsey Prison Farm. From the liner notes: "Smitty – J.B. Smith – is eleven years into a forty-five year sentence that begun in 1954; he is 48 years old. This is his fourth time in prison in Texas and he does not expect to be paroled for some time.” Jackson wrote in his  book Wake Up Dead Man that, when he met him, Smith had already been in prison three times on burglary and robbery by assault charges. At the time of the recording, he was back in for the murder of his girlfriend, an act Smith recalled being born of “insane jealousy mixed up with love “So many of us do that,” he told Jackson, referring to his crime. “Lot of fellas in here today on those same terms.” The murder, according to Jackson, brought Smith back to Ramsey with “a forty-five-year sentence, which, because of his age, looked pretty much like life.” Jackson did continue, parenthetically: “He was paroled in 1967, lived in Amarillo for a while and did some preaching. I heard recently (1972) that he’d returned to prison for a parole violation.”

J.B. Smith noted that “the oldtimers still sing. That is, if whoever is carrying (in charge of) the squad will let them. In some cases the boss won’t let them sing. …The young men don’t get a chance to work with the older men and they haven’t experienced working with older men. A lot of them have never been in the system before. And the crews they work with don’t even know the songs, the worksongs that they work by. But once they get to working with the older men, they learn the songs and they try to carry them on when they can. But like I said, in most cases they can’t because they’re not permitted."

Jackson recorded an entire album devoted to smith titled Ever Since I Have Been a Man Full Grown issued on Takoma in 1965. As far as I know this is the only LP devoted to a single unaccompanied singer of prison worksong. As Jackson wrote: “He had been a member of groups doing work songs I had recorded at Ramsey during the summers of 1964 and 1965, when I returned in November 1965 he offered to tap some of the songs when he was working alone picking cotton or cutting sugarcane. He knows all the group songs and their melodies – he used to sing lead back in the days when he was younger and worked lead hoe…” Other songs by Smith appear on the anthologies I'm Troubled With A Diamond: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 1 and Old Rattler Can't Hold Me: Texas Prison Songs Vol. 2. In addition to Smith, we spotlight several tracks from the latter collections; both of these were cassette only releases issued in 1990 with only 250 copies of each produced. We also spin two tracks from Wake Up Dead Man the companion to the book – "making it in Hell", says Bruce Jackson, is the spirit behind the sixty-five work songs gathered in this remarkable book.

Today we feature selections from all those albums that were issued of Bruce Jackson's recording except for one omission. I left off Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons (Elektra, 1965) which I did not locate until the show was already assembled. I will feature this on another field recording show at some point.

Sorrow Come Pass Me Around
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

Jackson also recorded Eugene Rhodes who was doing a ten- to 25-year stretch at the Indiana State Prison, which was where the album Talkin' About My Time was recorded, 15 songs and a little talking that was eventually released on the Folk-Legacy label in 1963. In the '20s and '30s, Rhodes had traveled through the south as a one-man band, including a harmonica rack with a special mount on the side for a horn, a foot pedal powered drum, and of course, a guitar. He reportedly played in the Dallas area, where he claims to have met Blind Lemon Jefferson. He also crossed paths with Blind Boy Fuller in the Carolinas and Buddy Moss in Georgia.

At some point by the end of the year I plan to devote a show to the field recordings of David Evans. Today we spotlight Sorrow Come Pass Me Around a beautiful collection of spiritual and gospel songs performed in informal non-church settings between 1965-1973. Most are guitar-accompanied and performed by active or former blues artists. The songs were recorded between 1965 and 1973 . Evans writes: “Most records of black religious music contain some form of gospel singing or congregational singing recorded at a church service. This album, though, tries to present a broader range of performance styles and contexts with the hope of showing the important role that religious music plays in the Southern black communities and in the daily lives of individuals.” The album was originally issued on Advent in 1975 and has just been reissued on vinyl on the Dust-To-Digital label.

Our show concludes with recordings made by Tary Owens. Shortly after the death of folklorist Tary Owens on September 21, 2003, Brad Buchholz, wrote that, “Tary Owens devoted most of his life to music, though only rarely to his own. The greater mission, to Owens, was to champion the music of forgotten or unsung Texas bluesmen—to put their songs on records, to place them on a stage, to encourage a larger public to celebrate their artistry.” Funded by a Lomax Foundation grant in the 1960's, Owens traveled around Texas recording a variety of folk musicians, including guitarists Mance Lipscomb, Freddie King, and Bill Neely, as well as barrelhouse piano players Robert Shaw and Roosevelt T. Williams, also known as the “Grey Ghost.” Owens remained involved in the lives of these musicians for the next several decades and, in some cases, was largely responsible for helping rescue them from obscurity and resurrect their professional careers.

Owens wrote:  "In 1962 and 1963 while a graduate student at Indiana University, I did some folklore and sociology research in prisons in Missouri and Indiana. I decided it might be interesting a southern prison system to see what had happened to the various traditions documented by John A. and Alan Lomax and Herbert Halpert in the 1930's." In the sixties Jackson received a four-year fellowship to Harvard Society of Fellows that gave him “the resources to work anywhere I wanted; that’s when I started working in Texas, mostly recording music and then looking at the prison cultural scene.”

Ruff Stuff: The Roots Of Texas Blues Guitar
Read Liner Notes (PDF)

From an article in National Geographic magazine: "He says he got the name Grey Ghost back when he was hired to play in various small towns. Someone would meet every arriving train or bus, but Williams was never aboard–yet mysteriously he would show up in time to perform. 'They said like a ghost I come up out of the ground, and then I was gone," he grinned. "I had come and gone by freight train. I would put overalls over my suit and tie, and that's the way I traveled.'" Williams was born in Bastrop, Texas and received only basic musical training when he was a teenager. He traveled to the area dances and roadhouses by riding empty boxcars. In 1940, author William A. Owens made a live recording of Williams singing "Hitler Blues," a song written by Williams. The song received mention in Time and was broadcast by BBC Radio on a program hosted by Alistair Cooke in 1940 about the American musical response to World War II. There's an entire chapter devoted to Grey Ghost in Owens's third volume of autobiography Tell Me A Story, Sing Me A Song; A Texas Chronicle. In 1965 Owens recorded several Grey Ghost songs. After decades of relative obscurity, Owens tracked down Grey Ghost again in the mid-1980s. Williams was long retired, but Owens not only issued the 1965 recordings on his Catfish Records label in 1987, but also convinced Williams, now 84, to start playing again and introduced him to a new generation of blues fans. Owens arranged for Williams to make a CD of new recordings at the age of 89. which was released in 1992 on Owens' Spindletop label. The City of Austin proclaimed December 7, 1987, as Grey Ghost Day, and he was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1988. Williams performed regularly until the time of his death in Austin at the age of 92 in 1996.

Related Material:

-Tary Owens, Texas Folklorist and Musician A Life Remembered by Ruth K. Sullivan (Austin-American Statesman, March, 2000) [PDF]

Drifting SlimDown South Blues The Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Drifting SlimMy Little Machine The Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Baby Face TurnerBlues SerenadeThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Junior Brooks She's The Little Girl For MeThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Sunny BlairStep Back BabyThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Papa LightfootAfter AwhileDown Home Blue Classics 1943-1953
Papa LightfootMean Ol' TrainBlues Harmonica Wizards
Joe Hill LouisShe Treats Me Mean and EvilThe Be-Bop Boy with Walter Horton and Mose Vinson
Joe Hill LouisShe Comes to See Me Sometime The Be-Bop Boy with Walter Horton and Mose Vinson
Joe Hill LouisBoogie In The ParkBoogie In The Park
Boyd Gilmore Believe I'll Settle DownSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Boyd Gilmore Ramblin' On My Mind The Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Boyd Gilmore All In My Dreams The Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Drifting SlimGood Morning BabyThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Drifting SlimMy Sweet WomanThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Joe Hill LouisTiger ManThe Be-Bop Boy with Walter Horton and Mose Vinson
Joe Hill LouisWe All Got To Go SometimeThe Be-Bop Boy with Walter Horton and Mose Vinson
Joe Hill LouisKeep Away From My Baby Boogie In The Park
Papa Lightfoot Blue LightsBlues Harmonica Wizards
Papa Lightfoot When The Saints Go Marching Blues Harmonica Wizards
Baby Face Turner Gonna Let You GoThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Sunny BlairFive Foot Three BluesThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Baby Face Turner Best DaysThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2
Junior BrooksLone Town BluesThe Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1
Drifting Slim15 Years My Love Was In VainSomebody Done Voodoo The Hoodoo Man
Drifting SlimSomebody Done Voodoo The Hoodoo ManSomebody Done Voodoo The Hoodoo Man
Joe Hill LouisShe's Takin All My Money Jook Joint Blues
Joe Hill LouisEyesight To The Blind Boogie In The Park
Joe Hill LouisHydromatic WomanSun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958
Papa Lightfoot Jump The BoogieBlues Harmonica Wizards
Papa Lightfoot Wine, Women, Whiskey Juicy Harmonica Vol. 3
Papa Lightfoot My Woman Is Tired of Me Lyin' Goin' Back to the Natchez Trace

Show Notes:

Come on baby take a little swing with me (2x)
We gonna jump awhile, 'cause things ain't what they used to be
(Papa Lightfoot, Jump The Boogie)

Model T. Slim
Read Liner Notes

Today's show spotlights a batch of rough and tumble blues artists who cut some great down-home blues records in the South during the 50's and 60's. At the heart of today's show are some remarkable sides cut for the Modern label in the years 1951-52 when Ike Turner was employed by the Bihari brothers, owners of the Modern label, to record new talent for the label. At a session held in Greenville, Mississippi in January of '52 he recorded the tough juke joint blues of Boyd Gilmore, and in the spring of '52 Turner and Jules Bihari hit Little Rock, Arkansas where they recorded a bunch of musicians that revolved  Drifting Slim and guitarist Baby Face Turner. They also recorded harmonica blower Sunny Blair and guitarist Junior Brooks who were part of the same circle. Also featured today is Joe Hill Louis, the great one man band who cut some terrific sides for labels like Sun, Modern and Checker and harmonica ace George Papa Lightfoot who waxed some wild sides for a slew of different labels through the 50's.

Drifting Slim was born Elmon Mickle on February 24, 1919 in Keo, Arkansas. He first became interested in singing the blues in his late teens when he saw a performance in town by John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson, together with Yank Rachell. He was so impressed by Sonny Boy's renditions of 'Sugar Mama" and 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" that he would never be satisfied until he could sing and play these numbers just like Sonny Boy. He spoke to Sonny Boy after the show, who promised to spend the night with Boyd Gilmore Adhim and teach him to play. During them mid-forties, Elmon and Sonny Boy became firm friends and played frequently together at local clubs and dances. In 1952, Elmon formed his now legendary band consisting of himself on harmonica, Baby Face Turner and Crippled Red on guitars and Bill Russel on drums. Crippled Red is better known by the name he used on record – Junior Brooks. Sunny Blair joined the band very shortly afterwords, having been taught by Elmon to play the harmonica. Almost immediately after the first recording session, Junior Brooks died of a heart attack, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and so Elmon started to practice on the guitar in order to fill in. Sometime later he also learned to play the drums and became a one-man band. In 1957, he decided to leave Arkansas and so he and his wife packed their things and set off for Los Angeles. His first recordings in Los Angeles were for J.R. Fullbright's Elko label, other sides were cut for his own label E.M., also some titles on the J. Gems label and he also was recorded by Jerry Hooks, an independent black record producer in Los Angeles circa 1966/67 (collected on the Flyright album Somebody Done Voodoo The Hoodoo Man). In the late 60's Milestone issued his only full length album, Somebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man, recorded by Pete Welding in 1966 and 1967. Mickle died in 1977.

Guitarists Baby Face Turner and Junior Brooks with Sunnv Blair ( real name Sullivan Jackson) on harmonica were from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Bill Russel completed the band on drums . The first session saw two sides each by Blair, Brooks and Mickle issued on Modern and RPM, with Baby Face Turner playing lead guitar on them all . Mickle played harmonica on one side of the Brooks and saw his own sides issued as by Drifting Smith; both being Sonny Boy Williamson I songs. A second session on April 6 saw further sides by Blair, Turner and Mickle issued with Ike Turner on piano. This time Mickie's pseudonym, on RPM, was Drifting Slim. Unissued sides recorded under Blair's and Turner's names were first made available on a Kent LP and eventually issued on CD.

Boyd Gilmore was supposedly a cousin of Elmore James and may have had some connection to Robert Johnson and Robert Lockwood. Gilmore recorded seven sides for Modern in 1952 plus some alternate takes backed by Ike Turner on piano on on some sides. In 1953 he cut another version of “Believe I'll Settle Down” for Sun backed by Earl Hooker, Pinetop Perkins and Willie Nix that was a superior to the Modern version. Gilmore passed in 1976. Baby Face Turner's legacy rests on just three sides (one other record, an acetate of the song “44 Blues”, was cut but never found) and he playing guitar on records by Sonny Blair, Junior Brooks and Drifting Slim. Musician CeDell Davis recalled Turner: “He was such a good guitar player …He was one of the old-timers, played nothin' but the old-time Delta cotton patch stuff." Turner was reportedly murdered in Mississippi sometime in the early to mid-60's. Blair cut just four sides at sessions in 1952 and 1952 as well as backing Drifting Slim on record. He went on to play with the King Biscuit Boys in Helena, Arkansas. Blair died in 1966.

Joe Hill LouisBorn Alexander Lightfoot in Natchez, Mississippi,he taught himself harmonica as a child. Lightfoot earned a living early on shining shoes on the river docks but soon graduated to the more lucrative work of playing music for tips. His first opportunity to record came in 1949 in Houston for the Peacock label, but the two resulting sides were not issued. The following year he recorded as "Papa George" in Natchez for the tiny Sultan label, and in 1952 he recorded for the Aladdin imprint in New Orleans. Lightfoot then worked with Champion Jack Dupree and toured and recorded with him through 1953. Lightfoot returned to New Orleans to record for Imperial in 1954. After an unissued date for Jiffy as "Little Papa Walter," he traveled to Atlanta for a 1955 session for Savoy. It is theorized that two songs cut by "Ole Sonny Boy" for Excello in 1956 were actually by Papa Lightfoot, although no existing label documentation verifies it. By the late 50's he had left music. Steve LaVere tracked down the Lightfoot in Natchez, cutting the album Goin' Back to the Nachez Trace for Vault in 1969. Lightfoot appeared at the 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festival and was on the verge of an anticipated comeback when he died the following year of cardiac arrest at age forty-seven.

Papa Lightfoot: Wine, Women, WhiskeyJoe Hill Louis was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill on September 23, 1921 in Raines, Tennessee. He ran away from home at age 14, living instead with a well-heeled Memphis family. A fight with another youth that was won by young Hill earned him the "Joe Louis" nickname. He picked up Harp first and by the late '40s, his one-man musical attack was a popular attraction in Handy Park and on WDIA, the Memphis radio station where he hosted a 15-minute program billed as The Pepticon Boy. Louis’ recording debut was made for Columbia in 1949, and his music was released on a variety of independent labels through the 1950s, most notably recording for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records,for whom he recorded extensively as a backing musician for a wide variety of other singers as well as under his own name. "Boogie in the Park" (recorded July 1950 and released August 1950) was the only record ever released on Sam Phillips' early Phillips label before founding Sun Records. Louis cut sides for Checker Records, Meteor and Ace with his final records cut for House Of Sound shortly before his death from tetanus in Memphis in August 1957.

Related Material:

-Drifting Slim Discovered by Frank Scott (Blues Unlimited 40, January 1967 p. 5-7) [PDF]

-Alexander Papa George Lightfoot! by Steve C La Vere (Blues Unlimited 68, January 1969 p.12) [PDF]

Jimmy DawkinsYou Got To Keep On TryingFast Fingers
Jimmy DawkinsWelfare BluesAll For Business
Annie Summerford'Fo Day BluesEddie Heywood & The Blues Singers 1923-1926
Catherine Henderson (Edmonia Henderson)Four-Thirty BluesEddie Heywood & The Blues Singers 1923-1926
Evelyn ThompsonI Got A Papa Down In New Orleans, Another Papa Up In Maine78
James ShelbyI Love You Girl45
Ben HarperWhich-A-Way45
Blue SmittyElgin MovementsGenesis: Beginnings Of Rock Vol. 3 - Sweet Home Chicago
Sonny Boy Williamson & Memphis SlimNine Below Zero In Paris
Howlin' Wolf Speak Now WomanThe Back Door Wolf
Clifford Gibson Drayman BluesClifford Gibson 1929-1931
Sylvester WeaverSouthern Man BluesSylvester Weaver Vol. 2 1927
Lewis Black Spanish BluesThe Great Race Record Labels Vol. 2: Columbia
Robert LoweryShe Always Treats Me Mean45
Charles ConleyGreyhound Blues45
Muddy WatersCold Up NorthOne More Mile
Scott Dunbar It's So Cold Up NorthGive My Poor Heart Ease: Voices Of The Mississippi Blues
Rabbit MuseHaunted House BluesMuse Blues
Rabbit MuseJailhouse BluesMuse Blues
Levi Seabury Motherless Child Packin' Up My Blues: Blues Of The Deep South 1950-1961
Woodrow Adams & the Three B'sTrain TimeSun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958
"Doc'' Dasher West Palm Beach BluesEddie Heywood & The Blues Singers 1923-1926
Ki Ki Johnson Look What A Hole I'm InHokum Blues 1924-1929
Feathers & Frogs How You Get That WayHokum Blues 1924-1929
Big Boy HenryMr. Ball's WarehouseMr. Ball's Warehouse EP
Algia Mae HintonGoin' Down This RoadEP Audio Arts
Bukka White Poor Boy Living Legends
Eugene PowellPolice In Mississippi Police In Mississippi
Eugene PowellBlues In GPolice In Mississippi
Johnny “Big Moose Walker Chicago Here I Come Going Home Tomorrow
Willie James LyonsChicago WomanChicago Woman

Show Notes:

Jimmy Dawkins
Jimmy Dawkins

A wide ranging mix show on tap for today. We open up with the sad news of the passing of Jimmy Dawkins. As the years roll on and more and more blues artists pass I realize I'm grateful I am that I go to see many of them. I only saw Dawkins once but it certainly was a memorable show in Cleveland probably a decade or so ago. Also on deck today are some long forgotten blues ladies from the 20's, several equally little remembered bluesmen and groups from the same era, twin spins of Rabbit Muse and Eugene Powell, a batch of excellent 45's, some vintage Chicago blues and some excellent down-home blues.

Jimmy Dawkins passed away from undisclosed causes on April 10, 2013. Dawkins moved up to Chicago from Mississippi at the age of 19 in 1955. He became a part of the so called West Side blues scene in Chicago, playing with and befriending Magic Sam, Luther Allison, Otis Rush and Billy Boy Arnold, among many others. In 1969, thanks to the efforts of his friend Magic Sam, he released his first album Fast Fingers on Delmark Records. In 1971 Delmark released his second album All For Business with singer, Andrew "Big Voice" Odom, and the guitarist, Otis Rush. Dawkins began to tour in Europe and Japan and recorded more albums in the United States and Europe. Dawkins also contributed a column to the blues magazine Living Blues. In the 1980s he released few recordings, but began his own record label, Leric Records, and was more interested in promoting other artists.

Rabbit Muse: Muse Blues
Read Liner Notes

Regular listeners to the show know that I always like to spotlight some of the forgotten blues ladies of the 20's. Everyone knows the stars like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey but there were hundreds of lesser known ladies who cut perhaps dozens of records or maybe maybe just a handful. Some are forgotten for good reason while others were fine singers who just never made it. Annie Summerford, for instance, was a rich, expressive singer who cut one fine 78 in 1924, "'Fo Day Blues b/w Low Down Blues" backed by Eddie Heywood's Black Bottom Ramblers. Then there was Edmonia Henderson who cut 14 sides between 1923 and 1926 for Paramount, Okeh and Vocalion. Our selection, "Four-Thirty Blues" was cut under the pseudonym Catherine Henderson with backing from just Eddie Heywood on piano. Finally there's Evelyn Thompson's "I Got A Papa Down In New Orleans, Another Papa Up In Maine" from 1927. Thompson also recorded as Evelyn Preer and recorded as a vocalist for the Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson bands.

Born in 1908 in Franklin County, VA, Lewis "Rabbit" Muse performed for white and black audiences from the 1920's until the '80s. A consummate entertainer, he played, sang and danced at medicine shows and folk festivals. He recorded a pair of hard to find albums, Muse Blues and Sixty Minute Man, for Rocky Mount's Outlet Records label in the 1970's. He passed in 1982. I've been searching for these records for some time and finally tracked down a copy of Muse Blues – still looking for the other one if any knows where I can get a copy! This is an absolutely charming record featuring blues and pop numbers played with equal verve.

We also spin two by Eugene Powell. Powell was born in Utica, Mississippi, December 23, 1908. He started playing the guitar at age eight. His mother ran a juke house so he grew up around music. He took the name "Sonny Boy Nelson" after his step father. His early experiences around Hollandale were with Robert Nighthawk, Robert Hill, and the great blues instrumentalist Richard "Hacksaw" Harney. In 1936 Eugene and wife "Mississippi Matilda" along with Willie "Brother" Harris traveled with the Chatmon Brothers to New Orleans to record for the Bluebird label. Powell moved to Greenville in the 1940s and played with several bands until the early 1950s. He remained largely musically inactive until 1972 when he performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Powell made few recordings during the following twenty years, with only the Italian LP, Police in Mississippi Blues, on Albatros being his only full-length album. I've been featuring a few albums on Albatros lately and may do a  show devoted to the label. There's just a few more on the label I need to track down.

Another future show will be devoted exclusively to 45's that haven't been issued on album or CD. I've never been a huge collector of 45's although I do have quite a few and my friend Axel Künster recently dubbed me some rare ones. Today we play a couple of 45 sets including one featuring James Shelby and Ben Harper. James "Son" Shelby was born in Jasper, TX. in 1927. Blind at birth, he learned how to play harmonica from his father who was a local musician. Shelby worked local dances and other functions in his youth, and later learned how to play guitar from a man by the name of Charlie Hafford. Shelby moved to Beaumont sometime in the 1940's and worked as a street musician for tips through the early 1970's. He also played at the South Texas State Fair from 1970 to 1972. His last documented performance was at the University of Texas in Austin in 1972. Today I spin a 45 he cut in 1972 for the Swoon label. I was unable to track down anything concrete on Harper outside of the fact he cut nine sides in Los Angeles between 1960 and 1962 for the Talent, Cenco and Sylark labels.  "Which-A-Way" finds Harper backed by a rocking band sporting some great sax and background harmony. The song is a really interesting update of the standard "Red River Blues."

45's by Robert Lowery and Charles Conley were issued on the Blues Connoisseur label. The label was run by Donald Lindenau between 1972 and 1975. The label issued fifteen singles by artists such as Richard Riggins, Boogie Jake, Charles Conley, K. C. Douglas, Little Willie Littlefield, Robert Lowery, Sonny Rhodes, and Schoolboy. The majority of these sides have not been issued on album or CD and would make a terrific anthology if someone ever collected them together.

Some strong Chicago blues today including tracks by Blue Smitty, Sonny Boy Williamson with Memphis Slim, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Johnny “Big Moose Walker and Willie James Lyons. Claude "Blue Smitty" Smith allegedly taught Muddy Waters, already an accomplished slide guitar player in the 1940's, how to finger the fretboard of his instrument. Smitty cut just a few sides for Chess (under the name Blue Smitty & His String Men) in 1952 which were unissued at the time.

Eugene Powell: Police In Mississippi
Read Liner Notes

In 1963 Sonny Boy 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." Today we spin his classic "Nine Below Zero" backed by Memphis Slim from 1963 which comes from an album called Live In Paris.

The Black & Blue label was a French record company established by Jean-Marie .Monestier in 1966. Isabel was a subsidiary label that operated between 1977–1984 wholly devoted to blues, including albums by Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, and Lucky Peterson. From that label we play Johnny “Big Moose Walker's Going Home Tomorrow and Willie James Lyons' Chicago Woman both cut for the label in 1979. Both play on each others album backed also by Big Mojo Elem on bass and Odie Payne on drums.

We feature some excellent down-home blues today including tracks from the 50's by Woodrow Adams and Levi Seabury and sides from the 80'sby Algia Mae Hinton and Big Boy Henry. Adams learned both harmonica and guitar during childhood, but was 35 years old before he made his first record. He cut his debut single for Checker in 1952, cut some unissued sides for Sun the same year, followed by a single for Meteor in 1955, a single for Home of the Blues in 1961 and some final sides in 1967 that remain unissued. He passed in 1988. Very little is known about James Levi Sebury. He was probably an Alabama blues singer and harmonica player. He came to Memphis in 1956 to record for B.B. King's short-lived Blues Boys Kingdom label. B.B. didn't keep the label in business very long due to his own recording and touring schedule, and Seabury was one of the very few artists that recorded for it. B.B. produced Seabury's session and plays guitar on his recordings. Seabury never had a chance to record again. It is documented that he died in Dixon Mills, AL. on January 12, 1957.

Both the Big Boy Henry and Algia Mae Hinton EP's featured today were produced by Lightnin' Wells for the Audio Arts label. Wells has produced several recordings by Piedmont artists and currently serves on the board of Music Maker Relief Foundation.

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

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wade Walton: Shake 'em On Down
Read Liner Notes

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

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

Show Notes:

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


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

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

Baby Tate
Baby Tate, photo by Pete Lowry.

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

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

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

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

Read Booklet (PDF)

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

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

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

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

Big Chief Ellis
Read Liner Notes

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

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

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

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

Guitar Shorty
Guitar Shorty, photo by Kip Lornell.

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

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

Related Material:

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


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