Snooky Pryor & Moody JonesStockyard BluesGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Snooky Pryor & Moody JonesKeep What You GotGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Snooky Pryor & Moody JonesSnooky and Moody's BoogieGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Johnny YoungMy Baby Walked OutDownhome Blues Classics: Chicago
Baby Face LeroyTake A Little Walk1948-1952
Snooky Pryor & Moody JonesTelephone BluesGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Snooky Pryor Boogy FoolGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Moody JonesRough TreatmentGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Snooky PryorReal Fine BoogieGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Snooky PryorGoing Back on the RoadGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Sunnyland SlimBack To KoreaSunnyland Slim & His Pals
Sunnyland SlimGoing To MemphisSunnyland Slim & His Pals
Homesick James12 St. StationChicago Slide Guitar Legend
Willie NixAll By YourselfDownhome Blues Classics: Chicago
Willie NixNo More Love Downhome Blues Classics: Chicago
Snooky PryorCryin' ShameGonna Pitch a Boogie Woogie
Snooky PryorCrosstown BluesDownhome Blues Classics: Chicago
Willie NixNervous WreckDownhome Blues Classics: Chicago
Willie NixJust Can't Stay Downhome Blues Classics: Chicago
Floyd JonesSchooldays On My Mind1948-1953
Floyd JonesAin't Times Hard 1948-1953
Snooky Pryor Judgment DayVee Jay, The Chicago Black Music
Snooky Pryor Uncle Sam Don't Take My ManGonna Pitch A Boogie Woogie
Floyd JonesAny Old Lonesome Day1948-1953
Floyd JonesFloyd's Blues1948-1953
Snooky Pryor Dangerous WomanBig Bear Sessions
Snooky Pryor I Feel AlrightBig Bear Sessions
Snooky Pryor Mighty Long TimeAnd The Country Blues
Homesick JamesFayette County BluesAin't Sick No More

Show Notes:

In his obituary for the Guardian, Tony Russell wrote: "Snooky Pryor, who has died aged 85, was the last of the group of harmonica players who distinguished the Chicago blues scene of the 1940s and 50s. If not quite the equal of men like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Walter "Shakey" Horton or Junior Wells, he was none the less a player with a distinctive sound, and his contributions to the early development of the Chicago blues-band idiom are held in high regard. In particular, the recordings he made in the late 40s, both in his own name and accompanying the singers Floyd Jones and Johnny Young, established him among blues enthusiasts of the 1960s as one of the defining figures of the primeval Chicago scene."

He was born in Lambert, Mississippi, spent parts of his early life in Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, and had a spell of army service in the early 1940s before settling in Chicago. He had been playing the harmonica since he was 14, and gigged in the evenings and at weekends, in clubs like the Jamboree and the 708, with a circle of musicians that included Floyd and his cousin Moody Jones, pianist Sunnyland Slim and guitarists Eddie Taylor and Homesick James. His style on the harmonica was derived in roughly equal parts from John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson and Aleck Miller (aka Sonny Boy Williamson #2). He got the idea of amplifying his harmonica while serving in the military during World War II, and in 1945 began performing at the Maxwell Street market with portable PA system he purchased at a store at 504 South State. As the first to amplify a harmonica, Pryor should rightly be recognized as a blues pioneer. As he boasted to Living Blues, "I started the big noise around Chicago." In the late 40's he cut a batch of great sides for small Chicago labels such as Marvel, Swingmaster and JOB.

Between 1950 and 1954 Pryor recorded steadily, cutting fine sides for JOB, Parrot, Ve-Jay backed by Chicago legends like Homesick James, Floyd Jones and Eddie Taylor. During this period he also backing Floyd Jones, Moody Jones and Sunnyland Slim on their records. He cut a few final sides in 1956, several unissued, for Vee-Jay before retiring from music for a spell in 1962.

Frustrated with the rough, low paying life of a bluesman, he dropped out of the music scene in the mid-1960s to become a carpenter and by 1967 relocated to Ullin, Illinois, to raise his large family. A chance encounter with the editors of Living Blues magazine in 1971 prompted a brief comeback that included a European tour and recordings for Today, Big Bear, and BluesWay in 1973. Remaining fairly inactive for the next fifteen years, Pryor was coaxed out of retirement in 1987 and recorded for Blind Pig. Throughout the 1990s, he recorded albums for Antone’s, Electro-Fi, and Blind Pig, and played sporadically at clubs and festivals. He passed in 2006.

Snooky's early partner, Moody Jones, played guitar and bass. He was born in Earle, Arkansas on April 8, 1908. Jones got his grounding in blues guitar by learning Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson songs. He moved north to Wolf Island, Missouri, then to East St. Louis, and arrived in Chicago in 1939. He developed his musicianship further in the Maxwell Street market, playing with his first cousin, guitarist Floyd Jones, as well as Snooky Pryor, Johnny Shines, Robert Nighthawk and others. After recording with Pryor, Moody Jones never had another release under his name. He appeared on several sessions for JOB in 1951 and 1952. He sang three numbers on a session that took place on April 28, 1952, but were not issued. Moody Jones continued to record for JOB through January 1953; then he gave up the blues and joined a gospel group. He later became a minister. Jones died in Chicago on March 23, 1988.

Guitarist Floyd Jones, was Moody Jones's cousin, and specialized in dark, blues that often spoke to tough times like "Stockyard Blues," "Dark Road," "Hard Times." He was born on July 21, 1917, in Marianna, Arkansas, and after several years of dabbling with the guitar began playing it in earnest after Howlin’ Wolf gave him an instrument. Through much of the 1930s and early 1940s he worked the South as an itinerant musician and settled in Chicago in 1945. He began playing on Maxwell Street and in non-union venues with such artists as Little Walter, John Henry Barbee, and Sunnyland Slim. In the fall of 1946, Jones teamed up with Snooky Pryor, soon joined by Moody Jones. The three were playing in a club on Sedgwick, when Chester Scales happened by and offered to record the trio, having remembered seeing Snooky on playing on the street sometime earlier. However, on the day of the session, Floyd Jones missed out on recording "Telephone Blues" and "Boogie," because he could not be located. Scales made up for it by recording the trio with Floyd Jones as the leader on "Stockyard Blues" and "Keep What You Got," two classics of postwar Chicago blues written by Jones. Much to Jones’s everlasting distress, when the record was released, Scales put Snooky and Moody down on the label as the main artists, and listed Floyd as mere vocalist. He also claimed composition credit on both titles.

According to his union file Homesick James was born in 1924; according to himself it might have been 1914 or 1910 or even 1905; 1910 seems the most probable. In his professional life he tended to call himself Homesick James Williamson, but his surname seems likely to have been Henderson.He claimed to have played in the 1930s with blues notables such as Memphis Minnie, Sleepy John Estes and Sonny Boy Williamson I, which may well have been true, and to have recorded in 1939 with the diminutive Memphis street-singer, Little Buddy Doyle, which almost certainly was not. As the blues writer David Whiteis comments: "He was a bluesman of the old school, through and through – a trickster from his heart."

At some time during the late 1930's or 40's he moved to Chicago, where he had a day job in a steel mill. During the 1950's he played in the city's clubs, often with the harmonica player Snooky Pryor (obituary, November 10 2006) or with the pianist Lazy Bill Lucas, who accompanied him on his first recordings for the Chance label. During the late 1950's and early 60's he played bass guitar in Elmore's band, experience that prompted him to record some of the other man's material, such as "Set a Date" and "Crossroads." Issued in Britain, these singles – possibly his best work – helped to raise his profile among blues enthusiasts. Soon after Elmore's death, Homesick recorded his first album, Blues on the South Side (1964). The spread of blues enthusiasm throughout Europe in the 1970's provided Homesick with numerous bookings, and he made at least five visits during the decade, often working in a duet with Pryor. Several live cuts from their tour appear on the album Big Bear album American Blues Legends. They also appear together on Snooky's And The Country Blues (1973), Homesick James' Ain't Sick No More (1973) and a pair of albums in the 70's for the Big Bear label. All of the Big Bear sides plus bonus cuts were issued on the 2-CD set the Big Bear Sessions. Little was heard from him in the 1980's, but he greeted the 1990's with a salvo of albums for various labels. He passed in 2007.

Of his pal Snooky, Homesick told Chris Millar in 1994: "Me and Snooky been playing nearly fifty tears. I'd known Snooky for many years., from every time I used to go through his place, a plantation down there in Vance, Mississippi. We were just like brothers man, me and Snooky usedto finish playing in the clubs early in the morning and go off fishing."

John O. Young, known as "Man" because he played mandolin as well as guitar, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on January 1, 1918. In the mid-1930s he played with a string band in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He said he worked with Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon in Tennessee before moving to Chicago in 1940. In Chicago, he claimed to have performed with such notables as Memphis Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy, but one has to wonder how many of these were club dates, as Young was still essentially a street musician. By the late 1940s, he had become a regular in the Maxwell Street scene, playing with a cousin, guitarist Johnny Williams, along with Snooky Pryor, Floyd Jones, and Moody Jones. Pryor backs hom on one 78 for Swingmaster cut in 1948.

Born in Memphis, Willie Nix first entered performing as a tap dancer at age 12, and as a teenager during the late '30s, he toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels Shows as a dancing comedian. He appeared in various variety venues during the early '40s, and performed on streets and parks around Memphis. In 1947, Nix appeared with Robert Lockwood, Jr. on a Little Rock, AR radio station, and subsequently worked with Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Love and Joe Willie Wilkins as the Four Aces in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.Nix joined B.B. King and Joe Hill Louis for appearances on Memphis radio, and worked with The Beale Streeters during the late '40s. He made his first records in Memphis for RPM in 1951, and cut sides for Chess Records' Checker offshoot in 1952. Sam Philips signed him up as "the Memphis Blues Boy" for Sun in early 1953, as a singing drummer with a band, and he later cut sides for Art Sheridan's Chance label in Chicago which featured Snooky Pryor. He worked with Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Johnny Shines, and Memphis Slim during the mid '50s, but at the end of the decade was back in Memphis, and did a short stretch in prison late in the decade. Nix's health and abilities deteriorated during the '60s and '70s, and he hoboed around, performing occasionally, telling tall tales about his life and generally acting erratically.

John Henry Barbee Six Weeks Old BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
John Henry BarbeeGod Knows I Can't Help ItMemphis Blues 1927-1938
J.D. Short Barefoot BluesThe Best There Ever Was
J.D. Short Lonesome Swamp Rattlesnake Blues Images Vol. 2
J.D. Short J. D. Talks Stavin' Chain Blues
J.D. Short So Much WineJ.D. Short & Son House: Blues from the Mississippi Delta
The Chatmon BorthersIf You Don't Want Me, Please, Don't Dog Me AroundBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
The Chatmon BorthersJumping Out BluesBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Carl Martin Crow Jane Carl Martin & Willie '61' Blackwell 1930-1941
Carl Martin Farewell to You BabyGuitar Wizards 1926-1935
John Henry Barbee Against My WillMemphis Blues 1927-1938
John Henry Barbee You'll Work Down to me Someday Memphis Blues 1927-1938
John Henry Barbee I Know She Didn't Love MeDown Home Slide
Sam Chatmon I Have To Paint My FaceI Have To Paint My Face
Sam Chatmon I Stand And WonderI Have To Paint My Face
Sam Chatmon Last Chance Shaking In The Bed With MeSam Chatmon (Blue Goose)
Carl MartinOld Time BluesVirginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues
Carl MartinYou Can't Bet The Syndicate (excerpt)Crow Jane Blues
Carl MartinCorrina, CorrinaCrow Jane Blues
John Henry Barbee Tell Me BabyPortraits in Blues Vol. 9
John Henry Barbee Baby I Need Your LoveLive At The Fickle Pickle
John Henry Barbee I Ain't Gonna Pick No More CottonPortraits in Blues Vol. 9
J.D. Short It's Hard TimeAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
J.D. Short Starry Crown Blues The Sonet Blues Story
Sam ChatmonGo Back Old Devil 1970-1974
Sam ChatmonSam's Rag The Devil's Music
Martin, Bogan & Armstrong Hoodoo BluesClassic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
Carl MartinRailroad BluesCrow Jane Blues
Carl MartinState Street Pimp #1 Crow Jane Blues
J.D. Short Slidin' DeltaThe Sonet Blues Story
J.D. Short Stavin' Chain Blues Stavin' Chain Blues

Show Notes:

Today’s show is a continuing series on forgotten blues heroes, spotlighting several blues artists I admire who are little recorded and mostly forgotten outside of die-hard collectors. Today we spotlight four superb little-recorded artists who made their recording debuts in the 1930's and returned in the 1960's as part of the blues revival. From Mississippi by-way-of St. Louis we hear from J.D Short, Mississippian Sam Chatmon, John Henry Barbee from Tennessee and Carl Marin from West Virginia. None of today's artists return caused the sort of excitement of say Son House or Mississippi John Hurt but each had varying degrees of success and all cut some superb recordings in  both phases of their careers. Sam Chatmon was active on the festival circuit and recorded prolifically until his death in the early 80's while Carl Martin found success reuniting with old partners Howard Armstrong and Ted Bogan, forming Martin, Bogan and Armstrong. J.D. Short made some excellent recording in the late 50's and 60's but passed in 1962 before he could take advantage of the blues revival while John Henry Barbee made a handful of recordings in 1963 and 1964, was part of the American Folk Blues Festival which toured Europe in 1964 but who's resurgence was curtailed by a tragic end that very same year.

John Henry Barbee (vocal & guitar), Sleepy John Estes (guitar)
and Hammie Nixon (jug). American Folk Blues Festival, 1964.

As Paul Oliver wrote: “It was a Thursday. September 6th and the year1938. A lean, bespectacled and serious-looking Negro recorded his "Six Weeks Old Blues" and shortly after, it was issued on Vocalion 04417, backed by "God Knows I Can't Help It" a verse-and refrain fast blues with words that seemed to go far back in the blues tradition. The record was a preliminary issue to test public reaction to the new singer and it sold well enough to cause the company to invite the singer back to Chicago to record again. But by this time he had disappeared and the name of John Henry Barbee became a lonely entry In the discographies and the single record a treasured rarity in a few comprehensive blues collections. The blues bass-player Willie Dixon was mainly responsible for the return of John Henry Barbee. He has continued in recent years to seek out new blues talent and has always interested himself in any news of singers unknown to him. One of his younger supporters sang him a blues that he had learned from an ice-cream vendor who sang to the children who gathered about his South Side stall. Stories of the “old man" sounded interesting and Willie was impressed when he heard him sing and play. A short while later, following the re-discovery of Sleepy John Estes and a number of signers from his region, the name of John Henry Barbee was mentioned and Willie Dixon brought him from his virtual retirement."

Barbee was born William George Tucker in Henning, TN on the Fourteenth of November, 1905. Even when he began to be known as a blues singer and guitarist at local country suppers he was still using his given name. His repertoire ranged beyond the blues to embrace the the broader black folk tradition – minstrel and work songs which he picked up from other players he added to his ever-increasing stock of songs. One song that appealed to him was "John Henry." It became a sort of signature tune and he was soon known by his song as "John Henry." He traveled widely through the south in the 30's where he met blues musicians like Sleepy John Estes, Big Joe Williams who he teamed up with for a while. Then in Memphis he met Sunnyland Slim and for a time they formed a guitar-and-piano team working the joints in the Mississippi Delta. Back in Tennessee he met up With Sonny Boy Williamson I. He was living across the Mississippi River in Luxora, Arkansas. when he got an invitation to record for Vocalion in the early fall of 1938. Ha made the trip to Chicago and recorded four titles, two of which were issued. His initial record sold well enough to cause Vocalion to call on Barbee again, but by that time he had left his last known whereabouts in Arkansas. Barbee explained that this sudden move was due to his evading the law for shooting and killing his girlfriend's lover. Eventually, when he felt it safe to emerge he did so, quietly and under an assumed name. When he was asked to give a complete name for his first record and not just his nick-name of ‘John Henry" he said "Barbee". It was the name he was known for the rest of his life.

Barbee returned to the blues scene during the midst of the blues revival. His earliest sides are from 1963 recorded at the Chicago club the Fickle Pickle. n 1964 he joined the American Folk Blues Festival on a European tour with fellow blues players, including Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf. Of his performance, Paul Oliver wrote: "On stage he seemed the most unaffected of all blues singers, the purest of rural artists. His guitar work was superb —greatly admired by Lightnin who really appreciated him — and his vocals were moving and gentle melodic blues." He was recorded several times in 1964: songs by him appear on a pair of albums on the Spivey label, several tracks were recorded while in Europe as well as a an excellent full-length album for Storyville issued as Portraits in Blues Vol. 9. In a case of tragic circumstances, Barbee returned to the United States and used the money from the tour to purchase his first automobile. Only ten days after purchasing the car, he accidentally ran over and killed a man. He was locked up in a Chicago jail, and died there of a heart attack a few days later, November 3, 1964, 11 days before his 59th birthday.

Born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, J.D. Short learned to play both the piano and guitar at a young age. He later mastered the harmonica, saxophone, clarinet and drums. Short performed locally in the Mississippi Delta at house parties, but relocated in 1923 to St. Louis. In St. Louis Short he worked with Henry Spaulding, David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Big Joe Williams. J.D. Short recorded two sessions in the early ’30s for Paramount and Vocalion, (recording under various pseudonyms like Joe Stone and Jelly Jaw Short) then quickly faded into obscurity. Three of Short's Paramount records have never been found: "Steamboat Rousty b/w Gittin Up On The Hill" (Paramount 13012 ), "Drafted Mama b/w "Wake Up Bright Eye Mama" (Paramount 13040) and "Flaggin' It To Georgia b/w Tar Road Blues" (Paramount 13091). He also backed other St. Louis artists on record including Peetie Wheatstraw, Spider Carter, Georgia Boyd and James “Stump” Johnson. As Chris Smith wrote of his recordings: "These seven sides are made exceptional by Short's insistent guitar rhythms , his heavy vocal vibrato and some highly original lyrics…"

Sam Charters recorded Short at his transplanted home base of St. Louis in 1961. Short unexpectedly passed away shortly after this session at the age of 60. As Charters writes in the notes: “The recording that we did in his house that summer – mostly in the kitchen to get away from the noises in the street – was his last, but we didn’t have any idea of it. I was filming him for a sequence in The Blues and trying to get his ideas about the backgrounds and the aesthetics of the blues for The Poetry Of The Blues so we recorded a lot of music – new versions of songs he’d done before – new songs – and his own comments about the styles and the music.” Charters' recordings of Short can be found on the albums J.D. Short and Son House: Blues from the Mississippi Delta issued on Folkways and a full-length album issued as part of The Legacy of the Blues series released in the 70's. Short also did some sessions with Big Joe Williams in 1958 for Delmark which appear on the album Stavin' Chain.

Working in various configurations, Walter Vincson and Lonnie, Bo, and Sam Chatmon performed and recorded as the Mississippi Sheiks, a name inspired by a popular 1921 Rudolph Valentino film, The Sheik. A propulsive fiddler, Lonnie managed the band, while Bo, a strong, confident singer and gifted guitarist, became its biggest star. Lonnie and Sam, recorded as the Chatman Brothers, cut twelve sides at a remarkable recording session cut of Louisiana and Mississippi artists recorded by Bluebird on October 15-16, 1936 at the St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans.

Sam Chatmon

Sam Chatmon survived to begin performing and recording again in the1960's. Chatmon began playing music as a child, occasionally with his family’s string band, as well as the Mississippi Sheiks. Sam launched his own solo career in the early ’30s. While he performed and recorded on his own, he would still record with the Mississippi Sheiks and with his brother Lonnie. Throughout the ’30s, Sam traveled throughout the south, playing with a variety of minstrel and medicine shows. He stopped traveling in the early ’40s, making himself a home in Hollandale, Mississippi, where he worked on plantations. For the next two decades, Chatmon was essentially retired from music and only worked on the plantations. When the blues revival arrived in the late ’50s, he managed to capitalize on the genre’s resurgent popularity.

In 1960, Chatmon came out of decades of retirement and signed a contract with Arhoolie and recorded a number of songs for the label. The earliest of these were recorded in 1960 and issued on the album I Have To Paint My Face. As Mack McCormick wrote in the liner notes: "With Bo (who is credited with composing Corrine Corrina) ailing and feeble in Memphis, and the other brothers dead or scattered, Sam Chatmon lives in a shotgun house across the tracks in Hollendale, Mississippi, working variously as a yard man, day laborer and truck driver. Adding the scarce but vital element of the near-forgotten minstrel songs to this collection, these are Chatman's only recordings in the past 25 years." He toured extensively during the 1960s and 1970s. He played many of the largest and best-known folk festivals, including the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. in 1972, the Mariposa Fest in Toronto in 1974, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1976. Up until his death in 1983 he recorded prolifically, cutting albums for Blue Goose, Alabatros, Rounder. Flying Fish and may sides scattered on various anthologies.

Carl Martin was born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia in 1906. Carl Martin's main instrument was mandolin but he also mastered the guitar, and according to those who saw him perform, could play anything with strings. Martin not only performed solo, but also spent much of his career in a trio featuring Ted Bogan (guitar) and Howard Armstrong (violin). The trio enjoyed a career that spanned five decades and was known under several different monikers, including the Four Keys, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours. Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong initially traveled all over the south entertaining at medicine shows, county fairs, and on the radio. When they couldn't get an actual paying gig, they would play for tips in local taverns. In the late '30s, they followed the great migration to Chicago where they would eventually go their separate ways, occasionally playing together.

Beginning with an Oct. 27,1934 session for Bluebird, where he cut "You can Go your way" and "Kid Man Blues", Martin participated in six additional sessions from January of the following year through mid-April of 1936, for OKeh, Vocalion, Bluebird, Decca and Champion, recording a total of 13 selections. In Addition Martin participated in a number of recording dates led by such Chicago-based performers as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red and Bumble Bee Slim, and backed up his close friends and long-time playing partners Howard Armstrong (who recorded as "Louie Bluie" ) and Ted Bogan on their March 1934 recordings for Bluebird.

Martin recorded again in the 60's for the Testament label, resulting his only full-length album, Crow Jane Blues. Following years of playing solo, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong reunited in the early '70s and played the folk and blues festival circuit all over the country. Martin passed away in Pontiac, MI, on May 10, 1979.

Percy MayfieldTo Me Your Name Is LoveWalking On A Tightrope
Percy MayfieldWalking On A TightropeWalking On A Tightrope
Big Mama ThorntonLife Goes OnAll Night Long They Play The Blues
Phillip WalkerLaughin' And Clownin'All Night Long They Play The Blues
Ironing Board SamI've Been UsedBlues Is Here To Stay
L.C. McKinleyMind Your BusinessHave A Good Time: Chicago Blues
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home BluesBlues Images vol. 8
George ToreyMarried Woman BluesBlues Images vol. 3
Charlie PattonIt Won't Be LongThe Best Of
Frank Patt Just A Minute BabyJericho Alley Blues Flash! Vol.2
Gus JenkinsDrift OnJericho Alley Blues Flash! Vol.2
Fenton RobinsonI Hear Some Blues DownstairsI Hear Some Blues Downstairs
Turner Foddrell Crow JaneUnreleased
Marvin & Turner FoddrellLonesome Country Boy Blues The Original Blues Brothers
Marvin & Turner FoddrellSweet Little WomanThe Original Blues Brothers
Louis MyersThat’s Allright 45
Louis MyersMoney Marbles and ChalkThe Aces Kings of Chicago Blues, Vol.1
Barbecue BobCalifornia BluesBarbecue Bob Vol. 2 1928-1929
Jim JacksonHesitation Blues Jim Jackson Vol. 2 1928-1930
Newton GreerBorn DeadHarmonica Williams With Little Freddie King
Little OscarSuicide BluesWhen Girls Do It
Willie WilliamsWine Headed WomanRaw Unpolluted Soul
Charles WalkerJuice Head WomanBlues From The Apple
Boyd RiversWhen I Cross OverYou Can't Make Me Doubt
Robert Curtis SmithSunflower River BluesClarksdale Blues
Fred McDowell Fred McDowell's BluesDownhome Blues 1959
Roosevelt SykesEagle Rock Double Barreled Boogie
Memphis Slim & Roosevelt SykesTalking About Miss Ida BDouble Barreled Boogie
Memphis SlimMiss Ida B Double Barreled Boogie
Bukka WhiteSpecial Stream LineTrouble Hearted Blues 1927-1944
Mississippi SheiksNew Shake That ThingBlues Images Vol. 5
Kokomo Arnold Salty DogKokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937
Dusty BrownYes She's GoneHand Me Down Blues

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

Lots of interesting records on tap for our latest mix show.  We spotlight a few artists today including a period of later period Percy Mayfield cuts, two by Louis Myers, a trio of sides by the marvelous Foddrell brothers and a set revolving around Roosevelt Sykes and Memphis Slim. In addition we spotlight a number of fine unheralded artists who recorded between the 50's and 70's like  Little Oscar, Willie Williams, Newton Greer, Dusty Brown and Charles Walker among others. Also on board are some heavyweights from the pre-war era like Bukka White, Charlie Patton, Mississippi Sheiks, Kokomo Arnold and Barbecue Bob.

Percy Mayfield's main hit making period was from 1950-1952 when he scored seven top ten hits for the Specialty label including "Please Send Me Someone To Love", the biggest hit ever for the label. He stuck with the label through the decade, cutting a few singles for Chess, Cash and Imperial along the way, but never matched his early success. In the 1960's Mayfield's song "Hit The Road, Jack"came to the attention of Ray Charles who was also starting his own record label called Tangerine. Charles hired on Mayfield as a writer and also gave him a chance to record for the label. Mayfield was at the height of his abilities penning songs for Charles like "Hide Nor Hair", "At The Club", "Danger Zone" and "On The Other Hand, Baby." Mayfield's own sides for Tangerine were every bit as good and have been collected on Rhino's limited addition, His Tangerine And Atlantic Sides. After leaving Tangerine Mayfield moved to Brunswick, cutting the exceptional Walking On A Tightrope album in 1968 which we spotlight today. The album features an excellent band arranged by Willie Henderson and remembered by the singer only as "Chicago cats." Mayfield's fine run of albums extended into the 70's with a trio of superb records he cut for RCA in the 1970's, all unfortunately out of print: Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970), Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970) and Blues…And Then Some (1971).

Read Liner Notes

Marvin and Turner Foddrell were born into a musical family near Stuart in the Virginia Piedmont and for the major parts of their lives played regularly only at community gatherings, never professionally. Discovered in the 1970s', the Foddrells became a regular fixture at the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at nearby Ferrum College (the college's he Blue Ridge Institute recorded the brothers extensivley) and were also featured at many other festivals including some in Europe. The Foddrell Brothers recorded only two commercial records: The Original Blues Brothers on Swingmaster and Patrick County Rag on Outlet (unfortunately I have yet to track down a copy of the latter). They also appeared alongside more famous traditional musicians on a number of recorded anthologies. Both brothers have since passed away. Pete Lowry recorded them extensively in 1979 but none of these recordings were ever issued. Pete was nice enough to let me play Turner Foddrell's "Crow Jane" which Pete notes  is "different from most."

Louis Myers will forever be recognized first and foremost as a top-drawer sideman and founding member of the Aces, the band that backed harmonica wizard Little Walter on his classic early Checker waxings. Myers played with Otis Rush, Earl Hooker, and many more. But his own recording career was practically non-existent; after a solitary 1956 single for Abco, it wasn't until 1968 that two Myers tracks turned up on Delmark. The Aces re-formed during the '70s and visited Europe often as a trusty rhythm section for touring acts. Myers cut a fine set for Advent in 1978 called I'm a Southern Man. He cut a final album in 1991 before passing in 1994. From 1968 we hear Myers with magic Sam on "That's All Right" and "Money Marbles and Chalk" from 1971 with the twins guitars of Sammy Lawhorn and Eddie Taylor.

We spotlight a trio of cuts from the album Double Barreled Boogie the results of a collaboration in a studio in Paris in 1970. Roosevelt Sykes was a major blues pianist-vocalist since the late 1920s, inspiring Memphis Slim who emerged a decade later. Sykes and Slim reminisce about the old days, talk about the origin of some of their songs, and joke a bit on this charming set. Utilizing two pianos, they play together (taking "M & S Boogie" as an instrumental) and alternate vocals.

We spotlight several lesser known, little recorded artists today including Little Oscar, Newton Greer, Dusty Brown and Charles Walker. Little Oscar Stricklin cut some terrific 45's in the 60's and 70's for a batch of tiny Chicago labels. The best known was his "Suicide Blues" cut in 1967 which has been reissued several times on various anthologies. After the cutting these sides he basically dropped out of sight. Newton Greer pops up on just one song, "Born Dead", a mesmerizing reading of the J.B. Lenoir song of the same name. The song comes for the 1971 album Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King issued on the Ahura Mazda label and supposedly the first electric blues album recorded in New Orleans. Charles Walker was a fine New York musician who cut handful of sides in the 50's, 60's and early 70's. His "Juice Head Woman" comes from the fine out-of-print album Blues From The Apple issued in 1974 on the Oblivion imprint. Dusty Brown was born in Mississippi in 1929 and migrated to Chicago in 1946. In 1955 he cut four sides for the Parrot label and four more sides for Bandera in 1958. Dusty embarked on a tour of Europe in 1972. In 1975 he opened a lounge in Chicago Heights, Illinois called Dusty's Lounge and featured many of his Chicago blues friends. He moved back down South in the early '90's and in recent years returned to Chicago where he has been reviving his music career appearing at many clubs and festivals

Bessie SmithAggravatin' PapaThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithJailhouse BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithAny Woman's BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Sippie WallaceA Jealous Woman's BluesLouis Armstrong & the Blues Singers: 1924-1930
Sippie WallaceTrouble Everywhere I RoamI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 2
Sippie WallaceParlor Social De LuxeI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 2
Rosa HendersonDon't Advertise Your ManThe Essential
Rosa HendersonI'm A Good Gal (But I'm A Thousan' Miles From Home)The Essential
Rosa HendersonStrut Yo' Puddy Rosa Henderson Vol. 2 1924
Bessie SmithThe St. Louis BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithCareless LoveThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithI Ain't Goin' To Play No Second FiddleThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Sippie WallaceLazy Woman BluesLouis Armstrong & the Blues Singers: 1924-1930
Sippie WallaceDead Drunk BluesLouis Armstrong & the Blues Singers: 1924-1930
Rosa HendersonBack Woods Blues Rosa Henderson Vol. 2 1924
Rosa HendersonDo Right BluesThe Essential
Rosa HendersonPoplar Bluff BluesThe Essential
Bessie SmithReckless Blues The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithSend Me To The 'Lectric ChairThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithTrombone ChollyThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Sippie WallaceI'm A Mighty Tight WomanWhen The Sun Goes Down
Sippie WallaceBedroom BluesAlbert Ammons: His Best Recordings 1936-1947
Rosa HendersonRough House Blues (A Reckless Woman's Lament) Rosa Henderson Vol. 4 1926-1931
Rosa HendersonChicago Policeman Blues Rosa Henderson Vol. 4 1926-1931
Rosa HendersonCan't Be Bothered With No Sheik The Essential
Bessie SmithA Good Man Is Hard To FindThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithI'd Rather Be Dead And Buried In My GraveThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithMe And My Gin The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Sippie Wallace Up The Country BluesWoman Be Wise
Sippie Wallace Woman Be WiseWoman Be Wise
Bessie SmithPoor Man's BluesThe Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithEmpty Bed Blues Part 1The Complete Recordings (Frog)
Bessie SmithGimme A Pigfoot The Complete Recordings (Frog)

Show Notes:

The Classic Female Blues era as it's generally called spanned from 1920 to 1929 with its peak from 1923 to 1925 and resulted in an impressive body of work that's often neglected. As Derrick Stewart Baxter wrote in 1968: "…It is unfortunate that this important side of jazz and blues has been neglected. I do not think that many people realise just how important this era was. It was from the music hall, the travelling show and the Negro circuits, such as T.O.B.A. that many of our jazz musicians sprang What a wealth of talent started in this way. Once you can accept the vaudeville style (and even Bessie Smith showed what she owed to vaudeville), you find yourself in a fascinating world of song and instrumental music. Some of the songs with their amusing titles, very blues based, have gone into the melting pot and influenced our music quite considerably."

Although officially introduced by Mamie Smith with her hit Okeh recording of "Crazy Blues" in 1920, vaudeville entertainers such as "coon shouter" Sophie Tucker and comedienne Marie Cahill anticipated some aspects of the style on record prior to World War I. Most of the women were from the South and toured on the TOBA booking circuit. In the past we've spotlighted many of the blues ladies but not in any real depth. I think it's hard for modern listeners to appreciate some of these early woman singers. The problem is twofold; the earliest records, before 1925, were recorded acoustically which doesn't make for a great listening experience and the other problem is that unless the singer was one of the big names, like Bessie Smith or Ma Rainey, the available recordings are usually presented in pretty rough shape, with little or no mastering done to spruce them up. Today's show is the first installment spotlighting some of the era's bigger names. None were bigger than Bessie Smith who we feature today. In addition we feature recordings by Sippie Wallace and Rosa Henderson.

"Bessie was a queen" said Ruby Walker, her niece by marriage. "I mean, the people looked up to her and worshiped her like she was a queen. You know, she would walk into a room or out on a stage and people couldn't help but notice her-she was that kind of woman, a strong, beautiful woman with a personality as big as a house. No hanging around in the corner, not Bessie! She'd let you know she was there, and she didn't have to open her mouth to do it:' As Bessie's biographer, Chris Albertson wrote in the notes to the groundbreaking The Complete Recordings: "Of course, Bessie took her commanding presence with her to the grave, but her artistry-captured on one 17-minute film and 160 3-minute recordings-has made her immortal. For decades, Bessie also lived on in the memories of those who knew her and heard her perform, but they are a dwindling number as this century draws to a close. 'I don't ever remember any artist in my long, long years who could evoke the response from her listeners that Bessie Smith did" said the late Frank Schiffman, who owned Harlem's Lafayette and Apollo theatres when Bessie was a headliner there. 'Whatever pathos there is in the world, whatever sadness she had, was brought out in her singing-and the audience knew it and responded to it."'

"It has been suggested that Ma Rainey was Bessie's mentor, the person from whom she learned everything she knew, but Bessie's style contradicts that theory, as do the recollections of people who heard her sing in those formative years. '[Ma Rainey] may have taught her a few dance steps, or showed her how to walk onstage,' said the late character actor Leigh Whipper, who first heard Bessie in 1913, when he managed Atlanta's "81" Theatre, 'but Bessie was born with that voice and she had a style of her own when I first heard her in Atlanta. She was just a teenager, and she obviously didn't know she was the artist she was. She didn't know how to dress, she just sang in her street clothes, but she was such a natural that she could wreck anybody's show. She onIy made ten dollars a week, but people would throw money on the stage, and the stagehands would pick up about three or four dollars for her after every performance, especially when she sang the 'Weary Blues'-that was her big number.' Ma Rainey probably]y helped to groom Bessie for life on the road, and she may have introduced her to the blues, but there is general agreement among those who experienced her performances that Bessie had her own style by 1913. Revered gospel composer and former Ma Rainey accompanist Thomas A. Dorsey sold soft drinks at Atlanta's "81" Theatre when Bessie first ventured out on her own. It was about  1913  or  1914" he recalled some fifty years later, 'and Bessie was already a star in her own right, but she really got  her start there at the 81 and I don't recall Ma Rainey ever having taken credit for helping her.'"

The major breakthrough for Bessie, and for the recording industry, came in 1923. Mamie Smith in 1920 had recorded "Crazy Blues" in 1920, which sold so well (against all expectations) that Columbia set up a separate division for "race" records. Frank Walker, in charge of the division, had been so impressed years earlier by Bessie’s singing, that he sent the pianist Clarence Williams to bring her to New York. As she arrived, Columbia was on the verge of bankruptcy. Her debut record, "Downhearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues" , sold 780,000 copies in the six months after she recorded the pieces, and helped save Columbia. Over the years she made 160 recordings. At that stage Bessie was receiving an outright $125 per recording; at her height a few years later, she was receiving $2,000/week, and owned her own traveling railway car. During the following ten years she was the foremost recording artist in the world. A widely published contemporary newspaper account gives us some idea of her popularity:

"Streets blocked,  hundreds and hundreds and hundreds were unable to gain entrance to this performance…Bessie Smith with lrvin Johns at the piano before their own special drop opened full stage with 'Nobody's Bizness if I Do' with the  Gulf Coast Blues' following, which received heavy applause, leaving the house in a riot."

For some reason, many of Bessie’s recordings were accompanied by piano only, which was, presumably, to put all the focus on the voice. But although that might have worked in live performance, on records the results were often disappointing. Her career on record lasted ten years and later she recorded with some of the best musicians around—Louis Armstrong, James P. Johnson, Don Redman, Charlie Green, Coleman Hawkins, and many more—but many of the songs are in the popular form rather than blues. Columbia dropped her in 1931. She recorded once more in a John Hammond all-star session in 1933 with Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, and Chu Berry.

Bessie continued to perform in the South but in September 1937 was involved in a car accident close to Clarksdale, Mississippi. John Hammond claimed she bled to death because she was refused treatment because of racial prejudice but later admitted he was wrong. In fact, she was treated by a doctor on the spot and in hospital but was too badly hurt to survive.

Beulah "Sippie" Thomas grew up in Houston, Texas where she sang and played the piano in her father's church. While still in her early teens she and her younger brother Hersal and older brother George began playing and singing the Blues in tent shows that travelled throughout Texas. In 1915 she moved to New Orleans and lived with her older brother George. During her stay there she met many of the great Jazz musicians like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong who were friends of her brother George. During the early 1920s she toured the TOBA vaudeville circuit where she was billed as "The Texas Nightingale". In 1923 she followed her brothers to Chicago and began performing in the cafes and cabarets around town.

In 1923 Wallace recorded her first records for Okeh and went on to record over forty songs for them between 1923 and 1929. The sidemen who played on her recording sessions were always excellent and included the cream of New Orleans Jazz musicians, like King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Clarence Williams, Sidney Bechet and Johnny Dodds among others. Sippie moved to Detroit in 1929 and left show business in the early 1930s as the Blues craze ran its course. During the next forty years she was a singer and organ player at the Leland Baptist Church in Detroit. She occasionally performed over the years, but did little in the Blues until she launched a comeback in 1966 . Wallace's next album was called Sippie Wallace Sings the Blues for the Storyville label in 1966. Wallace suffered a stroke in 1970 but managed to keep recording and performing. With the help of Bonnie Raitt she landed a recording deal with Atlantic Records and recorded the album, Sippie, which featured Raitt, was nominated for a Grammy in 1983 and won a W.C. Handy Award for best blues album in 1984.

Rosa Henderson is the least known of today's featured blues queens but was quite popular in her day, cutting some one hundred sides. As Derrick Stewart Baxter wrote: "Her voice was strong, but at the same time possessed a sweet tone. The material she recorded varied from typical vaudeville numbers as He May Be Your Dog, But He's Wearing My Collar, and Hey, Hey, and He, He, I'm Charles ton Crazy to blues like Penitentiary Bound Blues and Back Wood Blues. Also many of her accompanists were of no mean status, including the complete Fletcher Henderson band, and such names as Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Green, Louis Metcalf, James P. Johnson, and countless others. Proof of her popularity with the record buying public was made clear by the number of titles released, and the only reason her recording career was cut short was the death of her husband Slim."

In 1963 Len Kunstadt tracked down Henderson and wrote a feature on her in Record Research: "She speaks glowingly of Fletcher Henderson who helped her out immeasurably with her recordings. She can still remember Fletcher busily scoring her music for her on a noisy subway train as they were studio bound. She remembers veteran pioneer P & B publisher, Joe Davis, musicians: Cliff Jackson, Louis Metcalf, Rex Stewart, Coleman Hawkins, Wendell Talbert, Bub Miley and James P. Johnson. She mentioned that she never feared the great Bessie Smith, professionally, but she had a great deal of respect for Mattie Hite.

"…She began her career about 1913 in her uncle's carnival show. She played tent and plantation shows all over the South with one long streak of 5 years in Texas. She sang nothing but the blues. During this period she married Slim Henderson, a great comedian and showman, and she became professionally, ROSA HENDERSON. Slim joined up with John Mason and from this association a troupe was born which included Rosa. They played the country from one end to the other. In the mid 20s the Mason Henderson troupe really began to hit big time with headline attraction billing in many of the larger theatres. Rosa also received star billing in some independent ventures. …From May 1927 through September 1927 Rosa Henderson was a top race blues recurring artist. She was on Victor, Vocalion, Ajax, Perfect, Pathe, Brunswick, Paramount, Emerson, Edison, Columbia, Banner, Domino, Regal, Oriole, English Oriole, Silvertone and others. Besides her own name she was Flora Dale on Domino; Mamie Harris and Josephine Thomas on Pathe and Perfect; Sally Ritz (her sister's name) on Banner; and probably Sarah Johnson and Gladys White on other labels….In 1927 Rosa was hitting her real stride as a single but just a year later Rosa quit in her prime due to the unexpected death of husband, Slim." She made her final recordings in 1931.

George 'Harmonica' SmithTelephone Blues Harmonica Ace
George 'Harmonica' SmithSometimes You Win When You LoseBlowing The Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithLove LifeHarmonica Ace
Champion Jack DupreeOverhead BluesMe And My Mule
Little Johnny TaylorSomewhere Down The LineThe Galaxy Years
George 'Harmonica' SmithThe Blues Is My Roots West Coast Down Home Harmonica
George 'Harmonica' Smith I Don't KnowBlowing The Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithAstatic StompNow You Can Talk About Me
Sunnyland Slim Got To Get To My BabySlim's got His Thing Goin' On
Dave AlexanderHighway 59Oakland Blues
Long Gone Miles Gotta Find My Baby Juke Joint Blues
Long Gone Miles Hello JosephineJuke Joint Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithBlues For Reverend King Of The Blues...
George 'Harmonica' SmithTimes Won't Be Hard AlwaysBlowing The Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithBlues In The DarkHarmonica Ace
Muddy Waters You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never HadAuthorized Bootleg
Muddy Waters Just To Be With YouThe Lost Tapes
George 'Harmonica' Smith West Helena WomanTribute to Little Walter
George 'Harmonica' Smith Going Down SlowTribute to Little Walter
George 'Harmonica' Smith Too Late Tribute to Little Walter
Otis Spann Down On Sarah Street Down To Earth
Big Mama ThorntonOne Black RatThe Way It Is
Big Joe TurnerNight Time is the Right Time Turns On The Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithEarly One Monday MorningHarmonica Ace
George 'Harmonica' SmithBlowing The BluesBlowing The Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithMiss O'Malley's RallyBlowing The Blues
George 'Harmonica' SmithMississippi River BluesThe Complete Blue Horizon Sessions

Show Notes:

George 'Harmonica' Smith was one of the most gifted contemporaries of Little Walter and Big Walter yet has received a fraction of their recognition. He was a powerful, inventive and swinging harmonica player and a superb singer. Likely his recognition would be higher if he wasn't based in L.A. He cut his first records for modern in the mid-50's which achieved some success. For the rest of the 50's and 60's he cut a slew of fine singles for small West Coast labels that didn't do much to raise his profile. By the late 60's he had a cut a couple of LP's and was quite active on record in the early and late 70's, keeping relatively quiet in the middle part of that decade. Smith was fairly active as a session player and today we hear him backing his occasional employer Muddy Waters as well as Champion Jack Dupree, Little Johnny Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, Sunnyland Slim, Luke Miles, Otis Spann and others. Smith had a profound influence on the style of younger west coast harmonica players like Johnny Dyer, Kim Wilson, James Harmon and in particular, Rod Piazza and William Clarke.

Allen George Smith was born on April 22nd , 1924 in Helena, Arkansas to Jessie and George Senior. His guitar and harmonica playing mother was something of a role model in his musical upbringing, helping him master the finer points of the harmonica. Around the age of twelve he was hoboing throughout he delta. During this period he was a semi-professional musician playing picnics and fish fries. With the help of a local musician, Smith continued to work in and out of the music business whilst holding down a Job as a projectionist in the town of Itta Bena. He found a way to utilize the amplifier and speaker taken from, presumably, a disused projector and, to amplify the sound of his harmonica. This makes him one of the pioneers in the amplified harmonica.

At the age of twenty-five Smith moved to Chicago. He got a job working with David and Louis Myers and then hooked up with Otis Rush. Smith and Little Walter became really close during this period. Both played chromatic as their chosen and preferred instrument. Unlike Walter, it was proving difficult for Smith to make a break through. Following the departure of Little Walter from Muddy Waters' band, Smith was to fill the vacated harmonica chair when fill-in Henry Strong was stabbed to death by a jealous girlfriend. For whatever reason, his stint with Waters was short-lived and he never recorded with him. Before leaving Chicago, Smith was involved in a Otis Spann session recorded at the end of 1954 which resulted in "It Must Have Been The Devil b/w Five Spot." Smith plays on the former holding his own among heavyweights B.B. King, Jody Williams, Willie Dixon and Earl Phillips.

In 1954, he was offered a permanent job at the Orchid Room in Kansas City where, early in 1955, Joe Bihari of Modern Records (on a scouting trip) heard Smith, and signed him to Modern. These recording sessions were released under the name Little George Smith, and included classics like "Telephone Blues" and "Blues in the Dark." The relative success of these first recordings, resulted in Smith touring with many of the leading Rhythm & Blues acts of the time. While on the tour, he recorded with Champion Jack Dupree in November of 1955 in Cincinnati, producing "Sharp Harp" and "Overhead Blues", the latter we spin on today's program. Smith's excellent Modern sides are collected on Harmonica Ace: The Modern Masters on the Ace label. This disc is aptly described by note-writer Ray Topping as "a lasting memorial to one of the last great harp players of the postwar blues scene."

After touring in support of his first records the tour closed out on the West Coast and the Bihari brothers took Smith into the studio again, this time to work with saxophonist and arranger Maxwell Davis. Smith settled in Los Angeles for the rest of his life. In the late '50s he recorded for J&M, Lapel, Melker, and Caddy under the names Harmonica King or Little Walter Junior. Smith also worked with Big Mama Thornton on many shows. In 1960, Smith met producer Nat McCoy who owned the Sotoplay and Carolyn labels, and with whom he recorded ten singles under the name of George Allen. The bulk of these sides have been collected on Blowin' The Blues which has been issued on P-Vine, Official and the El Segundo labels. There are some real gems on this collection unfortunately sound quality is not always the best and some of the personnel is unknown. When James Cotton left Muddy Water’s band in 1966 he asked Smith to join him and they worked together for a while, recording for Spivey Records under the title The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band. Several years back Geffen/Chess issued Authorized Bootleg featuring Smith with Muddy recorded November 4-6, 1966 at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Smith was captured with the band again in 1971 live at Washington and Oregon University and posthumously issued as The Lost Tapes on Blind Pig. Smith moved to Chicago to play with Waters. As before, it didn’t last, and Smith went back to Los Angeles. But he stayed friends with Muddy, and when Little Walter died two years later, Muddy’s band backed Smith on his highly regarded Tribute to Little Walter album on World Pacific.

Smith also appeared on the World Pacific album by Sunnyland Slim, Slim's Got His Thing Goin' On and the compilation Oakland Blues backing David Alexander and L.C. Robinson. In 1969, Bob Thiele produced an album of Smith on Bluesway, ..Of the Blues, and later made use of Smith as a sideman for his Blues Times label, including sets with T-Bone Walker and Harmonica Slim. Smith also recorded on the two albums Otis Spann recorded for Bluesway. Smith met the young Rod Piazza in the late 60's, and they launched the Southside Blues Band, which toured with Big Mama Thorton . In 1970 British producer Mike Vernon met the band, signed them to a European tour, and changed their name to Bacon Fat. They recorded a couple of albums for Vernon. All this material has been reissued on the 2-CD set George Smith & Bacon Fat: The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions. In 1969 Luke “Long Gone” Miles and Smith recorded a batch of great songs for Kent, the bulk of which went unissued. The same year he backed Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner and was involved in the Super Black Blues jam album with T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann and Big Joe Turner. In 1970 he cut the album No Time For Jive and the same year he backed Big Joe Turner on the Kent album Turns On The Blues. In 1971 Smith cut the album Arkansas Trap. In 1972 he appeared on Eddie Taylor's I Feel So Bad and backed Big Mama Thornton again in 1975 on the album Jail. Through the 70's and early 80's he remained active working on record with Jimmy Witherspoon, Phillip Walker and others.

Around 1977, Smith became friends with William Clarke and they began working together. Their working relationship and friendship continued until Smith died on October 2, 1983. Of Smith, Clarke said: "He had a technique on the chromatic harp where he would play two notes at once, but one octave apart. He would get an organ-type sound by doing this. George really knew how to make his notes count by not playing too much and taking his time by letting the music unfold easily. He could also swing like crazy and was a first-class entertainer. …I have never heard George play a song the same way twice. He was very creative and played directly from his heart. He admired all great musicians but had his own sound and style. He was a true original. Mr. Smith would always give 100-percent on-stage whether or not there were 1 or 1,000 people listening. This was his performing style, always." His last studio album was Boogie'n With George produced by protege Rod Piazza.

Read Liner Notes

Tom Townsley describes Smith's technique in the following manner: "He often approached his soIos by using his tongue-blocked octave technique to imitate hom section riffs (as opposed to copying the single notes of a soloist). This gave his playing incredible power. He also knew how to coax a variety of tonal shadings and subtle pitch variations out of a single note by combining bends and microphone manipulation. He built suspense by phrasing his attack just behind the beat. As a result, his tunes swung relentlessly."


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