|Buster Pickens||Santa Fe Train||Back Door Blues|
|Buster Pickens||Rock Island Blues||Back Door Blues|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Rock With Me||Oakland Blues|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Call Me Juke Boy||Going Down To Louisiana
|Juke Boy Bonner||No Place To Run||The One More Trio|
|Hop Wilson||I’m A Stranger||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Hop Wilson||I Feel So Glad||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Hop Wilson||You Don't Move Me No More||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||Country Boy||Country Boy
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||Long Gone||Country Boy
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||Bad Luck Child||Country Boy
|Buster Pickens||Mountain Jack||Back Door Blues|
|Buster Pickens||She Caught The L&N||Back Door Blues|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal||I'm Going Back To The Country|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Going Back To The Country||I'm Going Back To The Country|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Stay Off Lyons Avenue||I'm Going Back To The Country|
|Hop Wilson||My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Hop Wilson||A Good Woman Is Hard To Find||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Hop Wilson||My Woman Done Quite Me||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||So Sorry For To Leave||Country Born|
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||No Money, No Honey||Country Born|
|Buster Pickens||You Better Stop Your Woman (From Tickling Me Under My Chin)||Back Door Blues|
|Buster Pickens||To Have The Blues Within||Conversation With The Blues|
|Buster Pickens||The Ma Grinder No. 2||Back Door Blues|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Struggle Here In Houston||The Struggle|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Life Is A Nightmare||I'm Going Back To The Country|
|Juke Boy Bonner||Being Black and Proud||The Struggle|
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||Hello Josephine||Juke Joint Blues 1950's-1960's
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||Gotta Find My Baby||Juke Joint Blues 1950's-1960's
|Buster Pickens||Jim Nanppy||Back Door Blues|
|Buster Pickens||Hattie Green||Back Door Blues|
|Hop Wilson||Rockin' With Hop||Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!|
|Read Liner Notes|
Today's show is the first of a series spotlighting some fine West Coast artists that I wanted to feature in more depth, the bulk form Texas and California, who cut sides for the myriad labels that popped up in the immediate port-war era. In California the blues thrived around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. Many of the artists were transplanted Texans who had come to California during the war year to find jobs in the booming defense industry in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area. In post-war Texas much of the action coalesced in Houston, and all of today's artists have ties to that city. Today we spotlight the barrelhouse pianist Buster Pickens, lap steel guitarist Hop Wilson, singer Luke Miles who came from Louisiana to Houston before starting his recording career in California and one-man-band Juke Boy Bonner who left Houston for California in the mid-fifties.
As Paul Oliver wrote in the liner notes to Buster Pickens sole album: "Buster Pickens is a barrelhouse pianist who has played the sawmills, the turpentine camps and the oil 'boom' towns since his childhood. He has outlasted most of his contemporaries in their tough an often dangerous life and can lay good claim to be virtually the last of the sawmill pianists. …The great days of Texas blues were in the 'twenties, when Pickens began to play for a living, and in the thirties when he was one of scores of blues pianists whose fame went before them from town, to camp, to flagstop to chock-house and honkytonk. These were the days when such pianists as Son Becky and Pinetop Burks, Andy Boy and Black Boy Shine were enjoying big local reputations, though if it had not been for a freak of chance recording they might never have been known outside Texas. Others, like Pickens himself, remained unrecorded though no less well known …Buster Pickens knew them and worked with them, changed places with them in the never-ceasing blues entertainment of the barrelhouse joints."
After serving in the military in World War II, Pickens returned to Houston and began a career as a session artist, and was relativley active between 1948-1953 backing Texas bluesmen such as Perry Cain, Bill Hayes , Goree Carter, J.D. Edwards and played on Texas Alexander's last record for the Freedom label in 1950. In addition, he performed regularly with Lightnin'" Hopkins and appears on some of Hopkins's records for Prestige/Bluesville in the early 1960's. His solo album for Heritage, the self-titled Buster Pickens, was recorded in in 1960 and reissued in the 70's on Flyright as Back Door Blues but has never appeared on CD. The sessions were organized by Paul Oliver for the Blues Reseach and Recording Project and the recording done by Mack McMcormick and Chris Strachwitz.
|Read Liner Notes|
In 1962 Pickens appeared in the movie The Blues. His promising new career in the blues revival, however, was ended when he was murdered a few years later, at age forty-eight, as a result of a barroom dispute about a dollar on November 24, 1964, in Houston. There are several unissued sides from the Pickens session and unfortunately I doubt they will surface anytime soon. There is also an interview with Pickens (conducted by Paul Oliver) which has only surfaced as a snippet on the Conversation With The Blues album that accompanied the book of the same name.
Weldon Bonner was born in Bellville, Texas on March 22nd 1932, to a sharecropping mother and father. His father died when Juke Boy was an infant, leaving his mother to raise nine children, until she died when Weldon was six years old. He moved in with a farming family and began chopping cotton. His musical career began as a child, singing in a gospel group and by the age of twelve he had taught himself the guitar. In 1947 he moved to Houston, winning first prize in a talent show at the Lincoln Theatre in the city. This success lead to regular gigs at lounges, bars and juke joints throughout the Houston area, however the chances to record were strictly limited and by the mid-fifties he headed for the West Coast.
In 1957, Bonner made his recording debut for the Irma label, in Oakland, California cutting four sides with Lafayette "Thing" Thomas on guitar and accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica. Just two sides were issued, "Rock With Me Baby"/"Well Baby" on Irma 111, as by Juke Boy Barner and Group. He returned to touring the South, frequenting bars and juke joints in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, where he cut three sessions for Goldband Records in Lake Charles in 1960, billed as Juke Boy Bonner — The One Man Trio. Some of these sides found their way to a European release on a Storyville album and attracted attention from European blues enthusiasts. But the breaks didn't come Juke Boy's way until 1967, when sterling work primarily by editors of Blues Unlimited magazine led to recording opportunities for the small Flyright label and for an eventual European tour. During the late 60's, Bonner suffered from bouts of ill health and underwent major stomach surgery. He earned a meager living playing gigs in Houston.
|Read Liner Notes|
Blues Unlimited magazine raised enough money for Juke Boy to cut a 45 for the Blues Unlimited label in Houston in 1967. Chris Strachwitz, owner of Arhoolie Records, on a field trip to Texas heard the record and cut an album with him in December 1967. Further sessions followed for Arhoolie in Houston during 1967, 1968 and 1969. Passport difficulties prevented him from joining the 1968 Folk Blues Festival Tour. He found his way to Europe in 1969 where he cut the album Things Ain't Right for Liberty. Throughout the early and mid-seventies his popularity grew and he continued to tour Europe as well as playing dates in Houston, however he couldn't match his European popularity at home. He became dogged by ill health, divorced from his wife and living in a small rented 10ft by 10ft room in a rundown house in the heart of Houston's black ghetto. Bonner was reduced to unloading trucks and collecting aluminum cans to make a living. The frustration and bitterness are reflected in the comments made by a longtime friend to the Houston Chronicle: "He used to say he could go to Europe and earn $1000 dollars but he couldn't make $50 in his hometown." He died in 1978. The week of his death the Houston Chronicle ran the headline: “Weldon ‘Juke Boy’ Bonner, well known in Europe, dies alone in his hometown.”
Hop Wilson was born Hardin Wilson on April 27, 1927 in Grapeland, Texas. He learned how to play guitar and harmonica as a child. He was nicknamed "Harp" at an early age for his frequent harmonica playing. Over time "Harp" became "Hop." When he was 12 years old, he received his first steel guitar from his brother. Little is known of his early years. Hop served in the US Army during WWII. After his discharge from the Army, he decided to pursue a career as a blues musician and in the 50’s moved to Houston.
He began performing with Ivory Lee Semien's group in the late '50s. Wilson and Semien were sent to see Eddie Shuler at Goldband records in 1958 on the recommendation of a local record distributor. They cut several sessions with a number of sides not issued at the time. All of the material has been issued on Ace the label as Hop Wilson & His Budies – Steel Guitar Flash!. Sometime in 1958 Semien started his own studio and issued records under his own Ivory label. Semien recorded fourteen sides by Wilson, three issued as singles. Wilson was approached in the 60’s to record again but refused to record again. Wilson died in 1975 and was buried in his hometown of Grapeland, Texas.
|Read Liner Notes|
Born in Lachute, Louisiana in 1925, Luke Miles spent his youth working on a cotton plantation, becoming enamored with the blues through listening to the radio as a teenager. He moved to Houston in 1952. In the liner notes to his only full length LP, Country Born (World Pacific, 1965), he said: “I went to Houston for one reason. I went to see Lightnin’ Hopkins. That’s what I went for and that’s what I did. Lightnin’ Hopkins taught me just about everything about blues singing. The first time I ever sang in front of an audience was in 1952 with Lightnin’. The first day I met Lightnin’ he named me “Long Gone” …and I’ve been Long Gone Miles ever since.” The two appear together on the Lightnin’ Hopkins album Country Blues, a collection of recordings made by Mack McCormick in 1959.
By 1961 Miles moved from Houston and was in Los Angles where he cut some 45’s for the Smash label. In 1962 he teamed up with guitarist Willie Chambers, who he would perform with regularly during 1962 and 1963, often at Sugar Hill in San Francisco and at the Ash Grove. Several of these Ash Grove performances can be heard on the Concert Vault website.
He cut a an album for World Pacific in 1965 called Country Born and then cut singles for the Two Kings label in 1965 and Kent in 1969. In the 80’s the Sundown label issued an album called Country Boy featuring early singles and unissued material. Miles’ whereabouts after 1970 where unknown but in 2008 a CD of live material cut in Venice, CA in 1985 was issued. Miles passed in 1987 in Los Angeles.