ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Gus Cannon Poor Boy A Long Way From HomeMemphis Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-34
Gus Cannon InterviewAmerican Skiffle Bands
Blind Blake & Gus CannonHe's In The Jailhouse NowThe Best of Blind Blake
Donald Hill Interview
Gus CannonI Met Mr. Toad Recordings Provided By Don Hill
Gus CannonShow Me The Way To Go HomeRecordings Provided By Don Hill
Gus CannonWalk Right In Recordings Provided By Don Hill
Cannon's Jug StompersMinglewood BluesRuckus Juice & Chitlins, Vol. 1
Cannon's Jug StompersViola Lee BluesWhen The Sun Goes Dow
Cannon's Jug StompersPig Ankle Strut Gus Cannon Vol. 1 1927-1928
Cannon's Jug StompersGoing To Germany Gus Cannon & Noah Lewis Vol. 2 1929-1930
Noah LewisSelling The JellyGus Cannon & Noah Lewis Vol. 2 1929-1930
Gus CannonCan You Blame The Colored ManMasters of the Memphis Blues
Gus CannonInterviewAmerican Skiffle Bands
Gus CannonMy Money Never Runs OutGood for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-37
Cannon's Jug StompersMadison Street BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Cannon's Jug StompersBig Railroad Blues Ruckus Juice & Chitlins, Vol. 1
Cannon's Jug StompersHeart Breakin' BluesGus Cannon Vol. 1 1927-1928
Cannon's Jug StompersFeather BedBefore The Blues Vol. 3
Memphis Willie B. & Gus CannonSitting Here ThinkingBlues: Music from the Documentary Film
Gus Cannon Make Me A Pallet On Your FloorWalk Right In
Gus Cannon Come On Down To My HouseWalk Right In
Cannon's Jug StompersFourth And BealeGus Cannon & Noah Lewis Vol. 2 1929-1930
Cannon's Jug StompersLast Chance Blues Ruckus Juice & Chitlins Vol. 2
Cannon's Jug StompersWalk Right In When The Sun Goes Down
Gus Cannon Goin' Back (To Memphis, TN)On The Road Again
Gus Cannon Salty DogWalk Right In
Cannon's Jug StompersTired Chicken BluesGus Cannon & Noah Lewis Vol. 2 1929-1930
Cannon's Jug StompersPrison Wall BluesGus Cannon & Noah Lewis Vol. 2 1929-1930
Gus Cannon Walk Right InWalk Right In

Show Notes:

Gus Cannon
Gus Cannon circa 1920

A remarkable musician, Gus Cannon bridged the gap between early blues and the minstrel and the pre-blues that preceded it. His band of the '20's and '30's, Cannon's Jug Stompers, along with contemporaries, The Memphis Jug Band, recorded the finest jug music of the era. On today's program we spin many of the classic Jug Stompers songs, songs Gus cut under his own name, sides he cut with others, a fascinating interview Cannon did in he 50's plus we talk to Don Hill who recorded Cannon in 1961. Much of the information for today's show come from the notes to Cannon's Jug Stompers The Complete Works 1927-1930 (issued first on Herwin then Yazoo) written by  Bengt Olsson. Olsson was a fine writer, an expert on Memphis blues and these notes notes are perhaps the best piece written on Gus Cannon.  A link to the notes is provided below.

Songs Cannon recorded, notably the raggy "Walk Right In," were staples of the folk repertoire decades later, and Cannon himself continued to record and perform into the 1970's. He learned early repertoire in the 1890's from older musicians, notably Mississippian Alec Lee. The early 1900's found him playing around Memphis with songster Jim Jackson and forming a partnership with Noah Lewis, whose harmonica wizardry would be basic to the Jug Stompers' sound. In 1914, Cannon began work with a succession of medicine shows that would continue into the 1940's. His recording career began with Paramount sessions in 1927 cut under the name Banjo Joe and also made sides with Blind Blake. In 1928 he began recording as Cannon's Jug Stompers, cutting over two-dozen sides with the group through 1930 for Victor. He returned in 1956 to make a few recordings for Folkways Records and made some college and coffee house appearances with Furry Lewis and Bukka White. In 1963 the Rooftop Singers had a hit with "Walk Right In" and in the wake of that recorded an album for Stax Records in 1963. He cut a few other scattered sides before his death in 1979.

Cannon's Jug Stompers
Cannon's Jug Stompers circa 1928

Cannon's first instrument was home-made but he soon ran away from home where he played banjo around work camps. "Gus grew up with banjo & fiddle songs – 'John Henry & all that mess' – all around him, as most of his brothers (nine in all & most older than Gus) played an instrument or two & would frequently get together with other musicians in the area." Around the turn of the century Cannon was in Clarksdale where he came under the influence of Alec Lee, 15 year his senior, who played with a knife on songs like "Poor Boy" and "John Henry." "Alec Lee was the first guy I heard playing on a Hawaiian guitar ..used a knife." About two years later Cannon recalled playing down by the Sunflower river. "..I was playing for Saturday night balls – that's when us colored folks had ourselves a time. Man I played the hell out of that banjo for $2.50 a night…" Cannon wasn't playing professionally at this time, still working different day jobs.

Cannon started out with medicine shows like Dr Hangerson's , Dr Stokey's, Dr Willie Lewis' and Dr W.B. Milton. From Virginia to Arkansas, billed as Banjo Joe, he worked for some ten years, 1914 -1928. He was accompanied by Hosea Woods, a longtime friends who could play guitar, violin and cornet and also sang. "I had to have a shot of liqueur before the show. If I didn't it seemed like I couldn't be funny in front of all them people. When I had one it seemed like all them people was one and I would throw up the banjo in the air and really put on a show." In 1916 Cannon moved North of Memphis to Ripley to work on a farm. There he teamed up with local musicians harmonica player Noah Lewis and guitarist Ashley Thompson. The trio played around the area until 1920. They would be reunited when Cannon formed his jug band in Memphis in 1928.

Back in Memphis, Will Shade had started the Memphis Jug Band. They became very popular in Memphis, often playing in Church Park, where Gus saw them. The Madison Rag AdMemphis Jug Band first recorded for Victor in February 1927 and over the next four years recorded 57 sides. By 1930 there were seven different jug bands active in Memphis. In 1928 Ralph Peer from Victor, who had previously recorded the Memphis Jug Band, returned to Memphis looking for other jug bands to record. Charlie Williamson, the manager of the Palace Theater, recommended Gus. By this time Gus had had a harness made for his jug so that he could wear it around his neck and play banjo at the same time. Gus called up Noah Lewis and Ashley Thompson and on Jan 30 1928 they recorded 4 sides in an old auditorium as Cannon's Jug Stompers.

The first recordings did well and in Sept 1928 an additional 10 sides were cut; 4 on Sept. 5 with Avery replacing Thompson, 2 more on Sept. 9 and then 4 more on Sept. 20 with Hosea Woods added on kazoo. The band’s major musician was Noah Lewis who demonstrated remarkable breath control, inventiveness, and mastery of his instrument. Lewis was born in Henning, Tennessee, and raised in the vicinity of Ripley. He played in local string bands and brass bands, and began playing in the Ripley and Memphis areas with Cannon. He cut seven sides under his own name at sessions in 1929 and 1930. Recording as Noah Lewis' Jug Band, he was backed on two numbers by Sleepy John and Yank Rachell with just Estes backing him on two other numbers cut a couple of days apart. Lewis died in poverty of gangrene brought on by frostbite in Ripley, Tennessee, in 1961.  As Cannon recalled: "Lawd, he used to blow the hell outa that harp. He could play two harps at the same time …Y'know he could curl his lips 'round the harp & his nose was just like a fist. Noah, he was full of cocaine all the time – I reckon that's why he could play sou loud and aw, he was good!"

After Cannon's Jug Stompers final sessions in 1930 Cannon would no record again for over two-decades. In 1957 he recorded a few sides for Sam Charters for Folkways which includes an interview which is featured on today's show. The recordings were issued on the album American Skiffle Bands. While recording in the South in the early 1960's, producer, writer Charters was inspired not only by the sound of Furry Lewis’s guitar, but by the patterns of movement in his hands and fingers as he played. Thus Charters decided to make a film that would document aspects of the blues that couldn’t be put on a phonograph record. In the summer of 1962, Charters journeyed through St. Louis, Memphis, Louisiana, and South Carolina to shoot the film The Blues and record this soundtrack. Artists featured in addition to Lewis are J.D. Short, Baby Tate,  Sleepy John Estes and Gus Cannon who performs "Sitting Here Thinking" with Memphis Willie B.

Gus Cannon
Gus Cannon listens to his first record album on Stax
Photo: Bob Williams/The Commercial Appeal files

In 1961 Dave Mangurian and Donald Hall recorded Gus Cannon, Will Shade and Laura Dukes over two days in Memphis. The recordings have been issued as bootlegs on Will Shade & Gus Cannon 1961 (Document) and  Memphis Sessions (1956 – 1961) (Wolf). It turns out that Donald Hill is a Professor at SUNY Oneonta, just a few hours from my house. I got in touch and Donald graciously made some time to talk about recording Gus and his friends over fifty years ago. Mangurian and Hall headed to Memphis after a spending time in Clarksdale where they recorded Wade Walton and spent time in jail on "suspicion" another word for "white outsiders." In Memphis they looked up Memphis Minnie and Son Joe and and managed to record Will Shade, Laura Dukes, and Gus Cannon in Shade's apartment on Fourth Street, just off Beale. "We recorded over two days. The musicians drank a lot as did some of the visitors who heard the music and joined us. We recorded a variety of configurations, including Shade on vocal, washtub bass, harmonica, and guitar; Laura Dukes, vocal and banjo-uke, Gus Cannon on vocal and banjo; and several others that came by to sing a tune or two. …Shade, Cannon and Dukes were real professionals."

In 1963, Cannon's vocals and banjo-playing were accompanied by Will Shade on jug and Milton Roby on washboard for this Stax Record release titled Walk Right In. It appears that he recorded at the Stax studio simply because he lived in the neighborhood. Only 500 copies of this album were pressed. Cannon was also featured in The Devil’s Music—A History of the Blues on BBC TV in 1976. Cannon passed in 1979, obituaries, including that published in Living Blues magazine, gave his age as ninety-six, although some reference sources give birth years of 1883 and 1885.

Related Reading:

-Cannon's Jug Stompers The Complete Works 1927-1930 [PDF] (Liner notes by Begnt Olsson)

 

 

 

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Alice mooreBlack and EvilSt. Louis Women Vol. 2 1934-1941
Ethel Waters(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & BlueEthel Waters 1929-1939
Hattie BurelsonSadie's Servant Room BluesTerritory Singers Vol. 2 1928-30
Big Bill BroonzyBlack, Brown, and WhiteBroadcasting The Blues
Otis SpannMoon Blues Sweet Giant Of The Blues
Howlin' WolfCoon On The MoonThe Back Door Wolf
Lillian GlinnBrown Skin BluesLillian Glinn 1927-1929
Barbecue BobChocolate To The BoneChocolate To The Bone
Andy BoyEvil BluesSan Antonio 1937
Robert WilkinsFalling Down BluesThe Original Rolling Stone
Tommy MclennanBottle It Up And GoThe Complete Bluebird Recodings
Bill & Mary MackBlack But Sweet, Oh God!Punch Miller & Albert Wynn 1925-1930
Furry LewisB-L-A-C-KThe Fabulous Furry Lewis
Ishman BraceySaturday BluesWhen The Sun Goes Down
Rosa HendersonI Have To Paint my FaceI Have To Paint my Face
Maggie jonesNorthbound BluesMaggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Cow Cow DavenportJim Crow BluesThe Essential
LeadbellyJim Crow BluesBourgeois Blues
Rev. J.M. GatesKinky Hair Is No DisgraceAre You Bound For Heaven Or Hell?
Albert HunterYou Can't Tell The Difference After DarkAlberta Hunter Vol. 4 1927-46
Louis JordanOfay & oxford Grey Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - Chapter 4
J.B. LenoirBorn DeadAlabama Blues
John Lee HookerBirmingham BluesKennedy's Blues
Louisiana RedRide On Red, Ride OnThe Best of Louisiana Red
Dora Carr & Cow Cow DavenportBlack Girl Gets There Just The Same Cow Cow Davenport - Cow Cow Davenport: The Accompanist 1924-1929
Butterbeans & SusieBrown Skin GalButterbeans & Susie Vol. 1 1924-1925
Fats HaydenBrown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After AllTeddy Bunn 1929-1940
Ruby SmithBlack GalSammy Price
And the Blues Singers
Juke Boy BonnerBeing Black and I'm ProudLife Gave Me A Dirty Deal
Champion Jack DupreeOh Lord What Have I DoneOh Lord What Have I Done

Show Notes:

Alice Moore: Black And Evil BluesToday's show is devoted to blues songs dealing with the topic of race. Blues of the segregation era are intrinsically tied to race but rarely do they deal with the topic of race itself. As the great blues scholar Paul Oliver wrote back in 1968: "Blacks in the United States are members of an underprivileged class, and it makes no difference if their standard of living is far higher than that of most people in Africa, India, or much of South America. For them, being below the poverty line in the world's richest nation means suffering. Ernest attempts to play the blues by white imitators notwithstanding, the blues is, inescapably, the music of the African American, and it seems undeniable that it is a cultural expression that relates back to circumstances of segregation. It's true that racial discrimination is seldom blatantly the theme of the blues-but it's never far away. …For the Black, whether he was purpled-hued or pink skinned, his color was his problem, both within the black community and in the community as a whole. It was this which determined that his whole social life should be different from his fellow Americans, for his color and his cast of feature were the outward indications of his ancestory." Today we play songs, both subtle and explicit, both humorous and serious, that deal with a variety of racial issues. Within black society there was a class system based on skin color – yellow, brown and black – and many songs deal with this topic. Other songs are more overt, dealing frankly about issues like Jim Crow and, particularly in the 60's, with the topic of civil rights. Other songs are more subtle, throwing in a interesting line or two, often hard to decipher without careful listening.

Alice Moore, Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's.

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep (2x)
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord has got a curse on me (2x)
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black." There's also, I think, a way of diffusing the negative "black" by owning it as Moore does, a way of empowering oneself by taking the negative associations of black and turning it around and even reveling in it. Moore's song was covered by Lil Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and Leroy Ervin. Another song from the same period with a similar sentiment is "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blues", originally written by Fats Waller in 1929, it was a hit for Ethel Waters in 1930. Like Moore's song this one too equates blackness with being "blue"but some of the lyrics give one an uneasy feeling:

I'm white inside, it don't help my case
'Cause I can't hide, what is on my face, oh!

I'm so forlorn, life's just a thorn
My heart is torn, why was I born?
What did I do to be so black and blue?

'Cause you're black, folks think you lack
They laugh at you, and scorn you too
What did I do to be so black and blue?

The title of today's show, Sam Chatmon's "I Have To Paint My Face", is another song tied into this theme. Chatmon's song paints being black in a negative light in contrast to being white. Chatmon's song is a bit more complicated with some of the language, it seems, drawing from the period before the blues when their was a wide variety of black music including ragtime, black vaudeville, minstrels, coon songs, work songs, dance tunes and more. Older musicians (Chatmon was born in the late 1890's), born in the 1860's through the 1880's, learned early forms of black music that they brought to their records when they had the opportunity to record in the 20's and 30's.

Say God made us all
He made some at night
That's why he didn't take time
To make us all white

I'm bound to change my name
I have to paint my face
So I won't be kin
To that Ethiopian race

Say now let me tell you one thing
That a Stumptown nigger will do
He'll pull up on young cotton
And he'll kill baby chickens too

Say when God made me
Say the moon was givin' light
I'm so doggone sorry
He didn't finish me up white

Say now when God made people
He done pretty well
But when he made a jet black nigger
He made them some hell

Say God took a ball of mud
When he got ready to make man
When he went to make you partner
I believe it slipped out his hand

Fats Hayden: Brown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After All As mentioned above, within black society there was a class system based on skin color – yellow, brown and black – each hue having their own stereotypes. In Blues Fell This Morning, Paul Oliver had the following to say: "Blacks frequently aspired to the conditions of being white, as they saw the better jobs, the higher standard of living Whites enjoyed. Men spent large sums of money on hair-straightening  greases and combs that were supposed to remove the kinks in African hair. Woman dyed their hair to a brick-red, powdered their faces and applied artificial color in order to make their skins lighter and their complexions more 'white.' …This primitive distinction by color was passed on to Blacks themselves and their population was many times divided by grades of skin pigmentation. In the caste system that evolved from this arbitrary means of discrimination, the lighter skinned tended to be on a higher plane, whilst the extremely black-skinned mas was looked down on… To differentiate between their many shades of color they evolved many words which are applicable to certain shades: 'ashy black', 'chocolate-brown', 'coffee', 'sealskin-brown', 'brightskin', 'high yaller', 'lemon', and others… Blacks of one particular skin hue kept together and may certainly  have a had a preference for that color…" In her popular 1927 number, "Brown Skin Blues", Lillian Glinn stated her preference:

Now all high yellers you ought to listen to me
A yellow man's sweet, a black man's neat
A brownskin man will take you clear off your feet

Barbecue Bob's “Chocolate To The Bone” was an answer song cut in 1928:

So glad I'm brownskin, so glad I'm brownskin, chocolate to the bone (2x)
And I've got what it takes to make a monkey man leave his home

Black man is evil, yellow man's so low-down (2x)
I walk into these houses just to see these black men frown

I'm just like Miss Lillian, like Miss Lillian, I mean Miss Glinn, you see
I'm just like Miss Lillian, I mean Miss Glinn, you see
She said, 'A brownskin man is just all right with me'

In a similar vein was Fats Hayden's 1939 number "Brown Skin Gal Is The Best Gal After All" where he elaborates in detail to prove the song's title throwing quite a few disparaging comments on the other hues ("When a yellow gal gets old/She draw up like tripe"). Hayden's song is very similar to a number of earlier songs including Butterbeans & Susie's "Brown Skin Gal" from 1925 and Barbecue Bob's "Brown Skin Gal" from 1927. Bill & Mary Mack's "Black But Sweet, Oh God!" from 1925 has Bill asking for Mary's company and with the following reply: "Now listen hear man you too black and ugly, the type of man is out of my life." Then shes goes on about her "brown" who is "little an cute, chocolate to the bone." Jim Jackson recorded a song titled "Black But Sweet" which is likely the same song  although it was never issued. In the 1970's Furry Lewis recorded "a little jive" he claims to have made up called "B-L-A-C-K" which bears a striking resemblance to Bill & Mary Mack's number but Furry turns it around a bit:

Some people don't like their color, but I sure do like mine
I know I'm black and ugly, but gets along just fine
I was going down the street the other day, two high browns I did meet
Said ain't old Furry black but he sure looks good to me
I'm black but I'm sweet oh God

Earlier I quoted Paul Oliver mentioning that blacks tried to change their appearance to a more white aesthetic, that too is represented in songs featured today. In Ishman Bracey's "Saturday Blues" he sings:

Now, if you want yo' woman, to look like the rest
You buy her high-brown powder, Palmer's Skin Success

Cow Cow Davenport: Jim Crow BluesPalmer's Skin Success was the trade name of a popular skin bleach which claimed o be able to make you "one shade lighter." The product was advertised in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender probably not coincidentally on the same pages that advertised blues records. Then there's  Rev. J.M. Gates' "Kinky Hair is No Disgrace" which, despite the title, is more in a slapstick vaudeville vein than a black pride one. The 1960's saw a new found era in black pride with James Brown's "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" from 1968 becoming an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement. The same year Juke Boy Bonner cut "Being Black and I'm Proud" and Bee Houston recorded "Be Proud To Be A Black Man" in 1970. There were black pride sentiments in earlier songs like Ruby Smith on "Black Gal" from 1941. Chris Smith wrote that "it's a fascinating, uneasy mixture of self-abasement with early 'black is beautiful' ideology: "

If I had the choice of being white as a lamb
I would turn it down and stay, black as I am

'I'm just a black gal, insignificant me
But I'm just as happy as can be

I ain't seeking pity on account of being black
And if I've apologized I wanna take it back

…Furthermore, I don't believe in being what you ain't
That's why I don't lighten up with lots of chalk and paint.

Blues songs that speak directly to racial issues are relatively rare in early blues, while the 1960's saw more explicit songs dealing with the turbulent civil rights era. During the Jim Crow era, racial segregation laws were enacted between 1876 and 1965 at the state and local level that mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states. There were several songs that explicitly dealt with the topic. An early one from singer Maggie Jones, "Northbound Blues" from 1925, talks about heading away from Jim Crow:

Got my trunk and grip all packed
Goodbye, I ain't coming back
Going to leave this Jim Crow town
Lord, sweet pape, 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

Cow Cow Davenport was another singer to make an overt statement about going North to escape Jim Crow. Accompanied by B.T. Wingfield on cornet, he recorded "Jim Crow Blues" for Paramount in 1927:

I'm tired of being Jim Crowed, gonna Leave this Jim Crow town
Doggone my black soul, I'm sweet Chicago bound

Rosa Henderson is sings about Jim Crow in "Back Woods Blues" from 1924 (Clara Smith recorded a version the same year):

Gonna see my folks, but its way too far
To ride in a dusty old Jim Crow car

Got the backwoods blues, but I don't wanna go back home
Got the backwoods blues, for a place way down in Bam
Got the blues, but I'm gonna stay right where I am

Gonna lay 'round here, where I'm at
Where there ain't no grinnin' and no snatchin' off my hat

Other songs on the subject include Josh White's "Jim Crow Train"and "Uncle Sam Says" and "Jim Crow Blues" and "Scottsboro Boys" by  Leadbelly. Jim Crow also existed in the military during both world wars and through part of the Korean war. Both Leadbelly and Josh White tackle the topic in "Uncle Sam Says", the topic also crops up in gospel songs by Blind Willie Johnson ("When the War Was On") and William And Versey Smith ("Everybody Help the Boys Come Home"). In Big Bill Broonzy's famous "Black, Brown, and White" and "I Wonder When I'll Get To Be Called A Man" he address the issue:

When Uncle Sam called me, I know'ed I'd be called a real McCoy
But I got none of this, they just called me soldier boy
I wonder when,
I wonder when,
I wonder when will I get to be called a man
Do I have to wait till I get ninety-three?
When I got back from overseas, that night we had a ball
Next day I met the old boss, he said 'Boy get you some overalls'

Howlin' Wolf - Coon On The MoonOvert political commentary became increasingly more common by the 1960's. Several blues and gospel numbers were recorded about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. In "Birmingham Blues" John Lee Hooker forcefully sings about the Birmingham campaign which was a strategic effort by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to promote civil rights for black Americans. 1962's Louisiana Red's "Ride On Red, Ride On" is a civil rights themed blues mainly about leaving the racist south and its subject not far removed from Rosa Henderson's “Back Woods Blues” mentioned above.  Few bluesman were as outspoken and eloquent as J.B. Lenoir who cut some hard hitting topical numbers shortly before his untimely death in 1967. Here's his "Born Dead" from 1966:

Lord why was I born in Mississippi, when it's so hard to get ahead (2x)
Every black child born in Mississippi
You know the poor child is born dead

During the beginning of the space race in the early 1960's many songs appeared to cash in with space themed topics. With the landing on the moon in 1969 there were many more, but many, particularly by African Americans, took on a more political tone often contrasting the money and conditions of black people with the amount of money that went into the putting a man on the moon while ignoring the dire conditions at home. This is the topic of Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey On The Moon" and Otis Spann's "Moon Blues." Howlin' Wolf was fascinated by space flight and asked his saxophonist Eddie Shaw to write a song on the subject. "Coon On The Moon" is more about how things have changed during Wolf's lifetime than an overt political statement. 35 years before it happened the song predicted the first black president:

You know, they called us ‘coons’—said we didn’t have no sense
You gonna wake up one morning, and a coon’s gonna be the President

Several songs featured today don't fall into any particular category but lyrically fit into the topic of today's show: There's Andy Boy who sings "I got the evil blues, prejudicy on my mind" on "Evil Blues" from 1937 and Robert Wilkins who on "Fallin' Down Blues" from 1929 sings:

If you don't believe, girl, I'll treat you right
Come and walk with me down to my loving shack tonight
I'll certainly treat you just like you was white
That don't satisfy you, girl, I'll take your life

Finally there's  Tommy McClennan who's "Bottle It Up And Go" is one of the songs most associated with him. According to Honeyboy Edwards, McClennan learned the song from Memphis Jug Band member Dewey Corley.  McClennan insisted on playing the song as he learned it in the South, ignoring Northern sensibilities when he sang the controversial lines: "Now the nigger and the white man playin' seven-up/Nigger beat the white man was scared to pick it up." Broonzy tells a story of McClennan singing these lines at a house party and being forcibly ejected, forced to leave via the window with parts of his guitar around his neck.

Share
ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Jimmy RogersRound About BoogieDown Home Blues Classics: Chicago
Jimmy RogersLittle Store BluesChicago Boogie! 1947
Jimmy RogersLudellaEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Memphis MinnieDown Home GirlEarly Rhythm & Blues 1949 From The Rare Regal Sessions
Johnny ShinesSo Glad I Found YouChess Blues Guitar 1949-1969
Little Walter Muskadine BluesBlues World Of Little Walter
Little Walter Just Keep Loving Her Blues World Of Little Walter
Jimmy RogersGoin' Away BabyComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThat's All Right Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersMoney, Marbles And ChalkComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersThe World Is In A TangleComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersBack Door FriendComplete Chess Recordings
Little WalterCan't Hold Out Much Longer The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Muddy WatersGone To Main Street The Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersOut On The Road Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Act Like You Love MeComplete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers Left Me With a Broken Heart Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersMy Life Is RuinedThe Complete Chess Recordings
T- Bone Walker Papa Ain't SaltyT-Bone Blues
Jimmy Rogers Walking By Myself Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy Rogers If It Ain't Me (Who You Thinking OfThe Complete Chess Recordings
Sunnyland Slim It's YouSunnyland Special
Howlin' WolfDown In The Bottom The Complete Recordings 1951-1969
Jimmy RogersTricky WomanAmerican Folk Blues Festival '72
Jimmy RogersWhat Have I Done?Chicago Blues at Home
Jimmy Rogers & Muddy WatersThat's Alright I'm Ready

Show Notes:

Jimmy RogersAn under-sung hero of the blues, Jimmy Rogers played a a key role in creating the electrified, band-oriented postwar Chicago sound. He was a member of Muddy Waters’ first band in Chicago, and cut great sides for Chess under his own name  including blues standards like "That’s All Right," "Ludella", "Chicago Bound," and "Walking By Myself." In addition to playing on dozens of sides backing Waters, Rogers also backed numerous others including Memphis Minnie, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones and others. After a final Chess single in 1959, Rogers, outside o fa lone single  on the C.J. label, did not record again until the 1970's, when he cut the his first full-length album for Shelter Records. He rejoined Muddy Waters in 1978 for the I’m Ready album and tour and released several albums later in life before passing in 1997.

Born James A. Lane, he was raised by his grandmother after his father was killed in a scuffle at a sawmill. She moved them often, living in several owns in several states: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. His first guitar was a diddley bow, a broom wire nailed to the side of a house and plucked,  next was the harmonica. Soon he was playing other people’s guitars. Meeting and watching Houston Stackhouse, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway, Robert Lockwood, and Joe Willie Wilkins, and listening to King Biscuit Time on the radio, Rogers developed a solid musical foundation and earned a reliable reputation as a player. Rogers had family in Chicago, and had been there several times before settling permanently in the mid-1940s. He found an apartment on the Near West Side, next to the Maxwell Street market, which is where he was living when he befriended a factory coworker who was Muddy Waters’s cousin. From the time Muddy and Jimmy first played together, they knew they had a good sound. Rogers understood how to play bass parts and how to play licks that complemented Muddy’s slide.harlem1021abjl

Initially, Rogers and Waters played with a third guitarist named Claude "Blue" Smitty. To keep the sound varied, Rogers often played harmonica instead of guitar, until Blue Smitty left and Rogers found Little Walter. Muddy, Rogers, and Walter began gigging together and, on their off nights, called themselves the Headhunters, roving the Chicago club scene of the late 1940s, sitting in on other people’s gigs and showing off their new, urban blues sound.

Rogers made his first solo recording in 1946 for the Harlem label, but Rogers' name did not appear on the record, which was mislabeled as the work of "Memphis Slim and his Houserockers" and Sunnyland Slim. Following that Rogers, with Little Walter at his side, cut the 1948 single “Little Store Blues” for the tiny Ora Nelle label. The legendary Ora Nelle label was run out of a record store by Bernard and his wife Idel, known as Red, operated for a year or two, managing just two releases. Another 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material make Ora Nelle's entire legacy. George Paulus, who had been a regular customer at Maxwell Street Record and Radio for several years, bought the surviving lacquers from the Abrams family. Paulus recalled: "I asked Bernie where he recorded Walter and Rogers. He matter of factly replied, “We had a little disc cutting machine in the front of the shop.  Recorded right about where you are standing. The boys just sat on chairs and played. Hell, Walter played harp on the steps when he was relaxing.” Red came over and said ,”Walter was a very nice talented fellow and we wished him all the best.” "Ora Nelle Blues," sung by Othum Brown, was named after one of Red’s relations. “We couldn’t get the distribution so we sold the records right out of the store.” Art Sheridan licensed Ora Nelle 711 "(Ora-Nelle Blues") for reissue on his Chance label. It was the only reissue from the label to take place before the blues revival of the 1960s. Part of his agenda is revealed by the retitling of this side, as "That's Alright." For "Ora Nelle Blues" was the same piece as "That's All Right," which in the meantime had become a hit for Jimmy Rogers—on Chess in 1950. Rogers teamed up with  Little Walter again on sides issued circa 1950 on the Regal and Herald labels; "Muskadine Blues", "Just Keep Lovin' Her" and "Boll Weevil" all of which featured Baby Face Leroy and Muddy Waters. Rogers hooked up with Walter again in 1952 classic "Juke b/w Can't Hold Out Much Longer" for Chess.

rogers34
Muddy Waters, unknown (maraccas), Otis Spann, Henry Strong,
Elgin Evans, Jimmy Rogers (presumably from the early 1950s)

source: Mike Rowe: Chicago Blues – The City and the Music.- New York (Da Capo Paperback) 1975,
first published in 1973 as "Chicago Breakdown", p. 146 ("from Chess files")

 

In 1949 Rogers backed Memphis Minnie for the Regal label and cut an early version of ‘‘Ludella,’’ for the label which he recut in 1950 at his first Chess Records session. 1949 aslo saw some unreleased sides cut for Tempo-Tone and Apollo where he recorded a version of "That's Alright." That year he also accompanied Muddy Waters as a sideman on “Screaming and Crying,” which initially came out on the Aristocrat label, soon renamed Chess Records. For the next half-decade, Rogers was a mainstay of the Waters band onstage and in the studio. With "That’s All Right" on the other side, Rogers' first release became a two-sided hit. The full Muddy Waters band had yet to back Muddy on records, the label preferring the simpler sound of Muddy and an upright bass; however, Chess let the band record with Rogers as the leader, beginning in December 1950. A year later, they began regularly recording with Muddy. Rogers continued to perform and record with Muddy, even as his solo career took off. When "Juke" became a hit for Little Walter, Muddy’s band boasted a line-up with three stars. Through the early 1950's, Rogers was on nearly all of Muddy’s major hits: "Standing Around Crying," "She’s All Right," "Mad Love (I Want You to Love Me)," "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Want to Make Love To Love To You", I’m Ready," and more.

Jimmy Rogers: That's All RightAround late 1956, Jimmy departed the Waters band to go solo, but the two remained close friends. Beginning with 1950’s “That’s All Right” b/w “Ludella,” Rogers’ Chess 78's rank right up there with Muddy’s as some of the finest examples of postwar Chicago blues. Among the highlights are 1950’s “Goin’ Away Blues,” 1954’s “Chicago Bound” and “Sloppy Drunk,” with backing by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and 1956’s “Walking By Myself,” Rogers’ highest-charting record. After playing for about a year in Wolf’s band Rogers virtually retired from music for a time during the '60s, operating a Westside clothing shop that burned down in the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King's tragic assassination. He did cut a single for Carl Jones' C.J. label in 1966.

Rogers returned to the studio in 1972 for Leon Russell's Shelter logo, cutting his first LP, Gold-Tailed Bird (with help from the Aces and Freddie King). There were a few more soli albums but he wasn't as prolific as he might have been. We close our show with Rogers and Muddy reuniting on a update of "That's Alright" from the album  I'm Ready, the second of Waters' Johnny Winter-produced albums for the Blue Sky Records label. I'm Ready was issued one year after he found renewed commercial and critical success with Hard Again. The album earned Waters a Grammy Award in 1978 and reunited Waters with Walter Horton as well. Muddy and Rogers did occasional gigs together thereafter, until Muddy’s death in 1983.

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Luther Stoneham January 11, 1949 Blues The Mercury Blues Story
Lightnin' HopkinsMoanin' BluesLightnin' Special Vol. 2
Blind Connie Williams St. Louis Blues Philadelphia Street Singer
Blind Connie Williams Mother Left Me Standing on the Highway Philadelphia Street Singer
Bessie Smith The Gin House Blues The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Clara SmithJelly Look What You Done Done Clara Smith Vol. 5 1927-1929
Esther PhillipsI Paid My Dues The Early Hits 1949-54
Gabriel Brown I Get Evil When My Love Comes DownShake That Thing: East Coast Blues 1935-1953
John Henry BarbeeI Know She Didn't Love Me Down Home Slide
Ranie Burnette Two And Two BluesRanie Burnette's Hill Country Blues
Cecil Barfield I Woke Up CryingCecil Barfield: The George Mitchell Collection
Ed Lewis Lucky HollerBroadcasting the Blues
Jaybird Coleman Coffee Grinder Blues Jaybird Coleman & The Birmingham Jug Band 1927-1930
Ollis Martin & Jaybird Coleman Police And High Sheriff Come Ridin' DownThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Baby Boy Warren Somebody Put Bad Luck On MeDetroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City
Snooky Pryor You Tried To Ruin MeA Taste Of The Blues Vol. 2
Bobby Long The Pleasure Is All MineNew York On Fire: Bobby's Harlem Rock Vol.2
Magic Sam That's All I NeedLive At The Avant Garde
Magic Sam Don't Want No WomanLive At The Avant Garde
Teddy Bunn I've Come A Long Ways BabyThe Very Best Of Teddy Bunn 1937-1940
T-Bone WalkerBlues For MariliT-Bone Blues
Calvin FrazierSweet Lucy 78
Pee Wee Crayton Blues Before DawnComplete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings
Charlie McFadden Harvest Moon BluesCharlie McFadden 1929-1937
Willie "Long Time" Smith Homeless BluesNews & the Blues: Telling It Like It Is
Roosevelt Sykes Low Land BluesRoosevelt Sykes Vol. 10 1951-1957
Meade Lux Lewis & Big Joe Turner Low Down DogThe Piano Blues Vol. 21: Unfinished Boogie 1938-1945
Furry Lewis Cannon Ball Blues Blues Images Vol. 8
Furry Lewis Fury's Blues Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go
Laura Dukes Little Laura's Blues Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
Dewey Corley Fishing In The Dark Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
Bukka White I'm Getting Ready, My Time Done ComeBukka White & Others Blues At Home 7
J.T. Brown When I Was a LadJ.T. Brown 1950-1954
Jimmy WitherspoonI'm Going Round In CirclesI'll Be Right On Down: The Modern Recordings 1947-1953

Show Notes: 

Blind Connie WilliamsWhen putting together these shows I usually draw from a long list of show ideas I've jotted down over the years. Things are a bit jumbled right now as I have several shows lined up that revolve around other people's schedules. Without giving too much away, the next few months will see several very interesting interviews and features so you may notice that the list of upcoming shows on this website may get shuffled around until everything is lined up.  As for today's show we have wide range of blues including lots of down-home blues including twin spins of street singer Blind Connie Williams, two songs decades apart by Furry Lewis, several artists recorded in the field in the 70's by Gianni Marcucci including by Bukka White, Laura Dukes and Dewey Corley. In addition we hear a set of fine piano men, several top notch blues ladies and ace guitar players like T-Bone Walker and Calvin Frazier. We also spin two from a geat new Magic Sam live set.

According to Pete Welding's booklet notes, Connie Williams was born blind in southern Florida circa 1915 to parents who were migrant farm workers. During his youth, he attended the St. Petersburg School for the Blind (also Ray Charles' alma mater) and became sufficiently proficient on guitar to begin a career as a street musician in the 1930's. He eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1935 and often traveled to New York City, where he plied his trade in Harlem during his visits. It was there that he met Rev. Gary Davis, whose influence can be heard in Williams' guitar and singing style." Welding discovered Williams performing sanctified numbers to accordion accompaniment in a historically black neighborhood of Philadelphia sometime in 1961.  After striking up a friendship, Williams revealed to the music writer that he had originally been a guitarist but used an accordion because it could be more easily heard and required less physical effort to play. Not long afterward, Welding purchased a guitar for him. After reacquainting himself with the instrument. The recordings were not released on his Testament label until 1974 on the album Philadelphia Street Singer.

Furry Lewis: Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go
Read Liner Notes

While hundreds of blues artists got on record in the 1920's and 30's, the commercial heyday of the blues, numerous other talented artists never got the opportunity while some others had to wait decades for their chance like celebrated bluesmen such as Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb.  While not nearly as well known Cecil Barfield and Ranie Burnett made their debuts in the 1970's and left behind a small but strong body of work. Barfield was recorded by George Mitchell who called him "probably the greatest previously unrecorded bluesman I have had the pleasure of recording during my 15 years of field research." Using the name William Robertson, in fear of endangering his welfare checks, he cut the LP South Georgia Blues for Southland in the mid-70's with several other tracks appearing on Flyright’s Georgia Blues Today (reissued by Fat Possum). I imagine Barfield is an acquired taste but to me he is simply mesmerizing; his music, with his droning, lightly distorted electric guitar coupled with his powerful mushed mouth, nasal singing, is hypnotic. Barfield has some originals but his genius is in the way he transforms well known songs into something startlingly original.

Burnette was born in 1913 in Pleasant Grove, MS and in the 40's and 50's played local dances and juke joints in North Mississippi. He wasn't record extensively until the 80's with recordings appearing on High Water and Swingmaster. He did record some sides for David Evans in the 70's.

As the notes to Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7 relate: "The three Memphis blues musicians featured in this album were all recorded on the memorable day of 27 December 1972: Bukka White at his home; Laura Dukes at Furry Lewis’ home; and Dewey Corley at Memphis Piano Red’s home." The recordings were made by Gianni Marcucci who came to the States in the 70's and captured some fine field recordings in the 70's and 80's in Tennessee and Mississippi. The original albums that collected these recordings are long been out-of-print. All these recordings will be issued as 15 volume series both digitally and on CD on his Mbirafon imprint. I've been corresponding with Marcucci and with his help will be doing an in-depth series of shows on these recordings. At Marcucci's prompting I've pushed this show back until he completes his issuing of the Blues At Home series. These recordings originally came out on Albatros but as Marcucci made clear to me his "experience with Albatros in the 1970's was a nightmare." He further related that the original "…albums presented are full of spelling mistakes and there are also several typos in the digital edition, and errors in the original mastering."  He wrote that the releases were an abuse and an offense to my effort (10 years of field research, and 13 years of re-mastering and text editing), as well as an insult to the memory of the Bukka White & Others Blues At Home 7featured artists."

Speaking of Furry Lewis we spin two of his numbers: "Cannon Ball Blues" cut for Victor in 1928 and "Fury's Blues" from the out-of-print 1971 LP Live at the Gaslight at the Au Go Go. The later album is a nice record that finds Furry in good form in front of an appreciative New York City audience.

During today's show we spotlight excellent four songs sets of piano blues and guitar blues. From the pre-war era we hear the under-appreciated singer Charlie McFadden on the lovely "Harvest Moon Blues" from 1929 featuring superb piano work from Eddie Miller. McFadden was a singer based out of St. Louis. Henry Townsend knew him and said that he could play piano a little bit, but preferred that someone else played it on his recordings. Roosevelt Sykes was the usual pianist, even though Eddie Miller and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks made a couple of appearances, each.

From 1944 we hear Big Joe Turner at the peak of his powers backed by the thundering piano of Meade Lux Lewis.

Of Willie "Long Time" Smith I know nothing outside of the fact that he waxed ten sides at sessions in 1947 and  1954. Several of these sides do not seem to have been reissued, a shame as he was an exceptional vocalist  (a disciple of of the popular Dr. Clatyon fro whom he recorded the tribute "My Buddy Doctor Clayton") and good piano player. Homelessness was a reality as detailed in songs like Josh White's "Homeless And Hungry",  Bessie Smith's "Homeless Blues" and Sleepy John Estes' "Hobo Jungle Blues." Even after the depression the reality was all too real as  Smith sang about eloquently in his 1947 composition "Homeless Blues" featured today:

On one cold frosty morning, the ground was covered with snow (2x)
Well,  I met a million people had no place to go
Well some have children, some just have their suitcase and clothes
(2x)
You know those people was steady walkin', but they couldn't find no place to go

Perhaps for contractual reasons pianist Roosevelt Skyes recorded a 1948 session for Bullet under the moniker Joe "Boogie" Evans. Whatever the case, Sykes is in superb form on this session backed by uncredited horns, the jazzy guitar of Henry Townsend and Jump Jackson on the drums. From the session we feature the fine "Low Land Blues."

a106a4In a set of guitar aces we feature killer instrumentals from T-Bone Walker ("Blues For Marili" from the classic T-Bone Blues album on Atlantic) and the rocking "Blues Before Dawn cut by Pee Wee Crayton for Aladdin. Less well known are Teddy Bunn and Calvin Frazier. Teddy Bunn played with many of the top jazzmen of that period on guitar or banjo and sometimes he provided vocals.Among the notable blues singers he accompanied were artists such as Cow Cow Davenport, Lizzie Miles, Peetie Wheatstraw, Johnnie Temple and Victoria Spivey among others. In addition to an active session career, Bunn was a member of the jazz groups the Spirits of Rhythm and June 1939, and was among the very first musicians ever to record for the Blue Note record label, first as a soloist, then as a member of the Port of Harlem Jazzmen.

Frazier befriended Johnny Shines, in 1930 they jointly traveled to Helena, Arkansas where they met Robert Johnson. The threesome moved on to Detroit, Michigan. Here they performed hymns on local radio stations. Frazier and Johnson returned south. In 1935, Frazier returned to Detroit. In 1938 he was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress.  Frazier seems to have played with almost every blues or R&B act in Detroit in the post-war era. He updated his sound to a more modern style, influenced in a fair bit by T-Bone Walker. Early in 1954 he bought himself a Stratocaster, likely one of the very first bluesman to play this type of guitar. it's interesting to hear how his style evolved and and one wonders if his pal Robert Johnson would have developed a similar style. Frazier released three singles under his own name in 1949 and 1951. Between 1951 and 1953, Frazier was a recording member of T.J. Fowler's jump blues combo, then recorded with Baby Boy Warren in 1954, whilst his final sessions in the studio appear to be in 1956 backing Washboard Willie. He passed in 1972. In an upcoming feature on Detroit bluesmen I'll be spotlighting Frazier more in-depth.

Finally I should make mention of Live at the Avant Garde, 1968 just issued on Delmark. This is killer a live performance recorded at a Milwaukee coffee house with expectational sound, There are several live Magic Sam performances available which are very good but the sound on this one tops them all.

 

 

 

 

 

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ARTIST
SONG
ALBUM
Lucille Bogan Black Angel BluesLucille Bogan Vol. 2 1930-1933
Tampa RedBlack Angel BluesTampa Red Vol. 5 1931-1934
Robert Nighthawk Sweet Black Angel Prowling With the Nighthawk
Tampa Red Sweet Little Angel Tampa Red Vol. 14 1949-1951
B.B. KingSweet Little Angel The Vintage Years
B.B. King Sweet Little Angel Live At The Regal
Earl Hooker Sweet Brown Angel Simply The Best
Tony HollisCross Cut Saw BluesChicago Blues Vol. 1 1939-1951
Tommy McClennanCross Cut Saw BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Albert King Crosscut Saw Born Under A Bad Sign
Curtis Jones Tin Pan Alley BluesCurtis Jones Vol. 4 1941-53
Guitar Slim Green Alla Blues California Blues 1940-1948
Jimmy WilsonTin Pan Alley Bob Geddins' Big Town Records Story
James ReedRoughest Place In TownR&B Guitars 1950-54
Johnny FullerRoughest Place In TownWest Coast R&B And Blues Legend Vol.1
Ray Agee Tin Pan AlleyWest Coast Blues Vol. 2 1952-1957
The Sparks BrothersI Believe I'll Make A ChangeDown On The Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
Jack Kelly & his South Memphis Jug BandBelieve I'll Go Back HomeJack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band 1933-1939
Josh WhiteBelieve I'll Go Back Home Josh White Vol. 2 1933-1935
Carl Rafferty Mr. Carl's BluesRoosevelt Sykes: The Essential
Kokomo ArnoldSagefield Woman BluesBottleneck Trendsetters
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell I Believe I'll Make A ChangeWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave: The Best of Leroy Carr
Robert Johnson I Believe I'll Dust My BroomThe Centennial Collection
Washboard SamI Believe I'll Make A ChangeWashboard Sam Vol. 4 1939-1940
Arthur Crudup Dust My BroomWhen The Sun Goes Down
Robert LockwoodDust My BroomRough Treatment: The J.O.B. Records Story
Elmore JamesDust My BroomElmore James: Early Recordings 1951-56
Robert PetwayCatfish Blues Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942
Tommy McClennanDeep Sea BluesComplete Bluebird Recordings
Muddy Waters Rollin' StoneThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy Waters Still A Fool The Complete Chess Recordings
John Lee Hooker Catfish Blues John Lee Hooker: Vol. 4 Detroit 1950-51
B.B. King Fishin' After Me (Catfish Blues)The Vintage Years

Show Notes:

Johnny Fuller: Roughest Place In TownIn our first show of the year we traced the origins and evolution of several classic blues songs. I got some good feedback on the show so we today do a follow-up. On today's program we provide the history and context behind classics like “Black Angel Blues“, “Crosscut Saw“, “Tin Pan Alley“, “I Believe I'll Make A Change (Dust My Broom)“ and “Catfish Blues."

The song known today as either "Sweet Black Angel" or "Sweet Little Angel" is one of the most popular and frequently recorded songs in the blues. Although composer credits are often given to Tampa Red, whose "Black Angel Blues" appeared in March 1934, the first recorded version was Lucille Bogan’s, whose "Black Angel Blues" was recorded mid-December 1930. The two artists shared recording sessions in 1928 and 1929, and it is probably impossible at this late date to determine who originally created the song. Although Bogan’s recording credits "Smith" as the composer, she wrote many of her own songs and made be the author of the song. During the early post–World War II era, the lyrics of the song began to change. In 1949, Robert Nighthawk had gone back to the song’s prewar roots cutting the song for Aristocrat Records as "Black Angel Blues (Sweet Black Angel)", but in 1950 Tampa Red was the first to record it as "Sweet Little Angel". B.B. King did the same in 1956; he also changed the song’s final line from ". ..bought me a whiskey still" to "…gave me a Cadillac de Ville." We also spin B.B.'s classic live version from Live At The Regal. Guitar legend Earl Hooker recorded two versions during his career; 1953 saw him record "Sweet Angel (Original Sweet Black Angel)" for the Rockin’ label and in 1962 he recorded a reworked version titled "Sweet Brown Angel" for Checker, which went unreleased at the time.

"Cross Cut Saw Blues" was first released in 1941 by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan. Tony Hollins, a Mississippi bluesman and contemporary of Tommy McClennan, recorded a version of "Cross Cut Saw Blues" with similar lyrics on June 3, 1941, three months before McClennan. The song was not released at the time, but eventually appeared in 1992. In an interview, John Lee Hooker, who knew Tony Hollins, was asked "Well, did Tony Hollins or Tommy McClennan do it first? They both recorded it around the same time". Hooker responded "I think Tommy McClennan did it first."Eddie Burns knew Hollis in Clarksdale in the 40's and recalled that Tommy McClennan: Cross Cut Saw Blueshe was very popular. Burns recalled him singing "Cross Cut Saw", "Crawlin' King Snake" and "Tease Me Over" all of which he recorded in 1941. In 1966, Albert King recorded his version calling it "Crosscut Saw". The same lyrics as McClennan's "Cross Cut Saw Blues" were used, except for two verses which were replaced by guitar solos. However, King uses a different arrangement. The song was a success, reaching No. 34 in the Billboard R&B chart.

Pianist Curtis Jones composed “Tin Pan Alley Blues” which he recorded in 1941. Guitar Slim Green recorded "Alla Blues" in 1948, a retread of the Curtis Jones number. Green said that he and his partner Turner wrote it and that producer Robert Geddins stole it from him. Green and Turner's version would become some kind of West Coast national anthem. Jimmy Wilson’s mournful, bluesy voice ensured him a huge hit in California in 1953 with his version of "Tin Pan Alley," a masterpiece with an unmistakable gloomy tone. The song was soon revived under the original title by West Coast artists Ray Agee and by Johnny Fuller and James Reed under the title "Roughest Place In Town." In more recent years the song was popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn who recorded "Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place in Town)" on 1984's Couldn't Stand the Weather.

"I Believe I’ll Make a Change" was first recorded on February 25, 1932, by Aaron and Milton Sparks in Atlanta, Georgia, for Victor Records. Other musicians were to use the song’s melody on their own recordings, including Jack Kelly and His South Memphis Jug Band in 1933 (as "Believe I’ll Go Back Home,"), Josh White (1934), and Leroy Carr with Scrapper Blackwell (934). Other version of "I Believe I’ll Make a Change" continued to appear through 1942, including Washboard Sam’s rendition for Bluebird in 1939. The tune is best known today by the title "I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom," first recorded to those words by Robert Johnson on November 23, 1936, for the ARC label. Lyric antecedents for the "dust my broom" stanza can be found in songs such as "Mr. Carl’s Blues" by Carl Rafferty with Roosevelt Sykes in 1933 and "Sagefield Woman Blues" by Kokomo Arnold in 1934 for Decca. The "Dust My Broom" version of the song would continue to be played as bluesmen traveled between Mississippi and Chicago. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup recorded one version in March 1949 for Victor, Johnson protege´ Robert Lockwood cut another in November 1951 for Mercury. Elmore James is the post–World War II musician most identified with "Dust My Broom," waxing four versions between 1951 and 1962.

Robert Petway: Catfish Blues"Catfish Blues" was first recorded on March 28, 1941, by Mississippi bluesman Robert Petway for RCA Bluebird. Another version, titled "Deep Sea Blues," was made by Petway’s contemporary Tommy McClennan on September 15, 1941, also for RCA Bluebird. There s a good case for believing that Petway composed it: "He just made that song up and used to play it at them old country dances. He just made it up and kept it in his head," says Honeyboy Edwards, who learned the song from Petway in person. After the Petway and McClennan versions were released other treatments of "Catfish Blues" included John Lee Hooker (1951, Gotham) and, a bit later, by B. B. King (as "Fishin’ After Me (Catfish Blues)," 1960, Kent). Two distinctive recordings were made by Muddy Waters for Chess Records in the early 1950's. The first was "Rollin’ Stone" (1950, Chess), which was simply a retitling of the standard "Catfish" tune and lyrics. Nonetheless, the title would be adopted in 1962 by the Rolling Stones and in 1968 for the rock publication Rolling Stone. The second was "Still a Fool" (1951, Chess), featuring a two-electric guitar accompaniment.

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