Stovepipe #1 & David Crockett A Chicken Can Waltz the Gravy AroundGood For What Ails You
Beale Street Sheiks Chicken You Can Roost Behind The MoonBefore The Blues Vol. 3
Jim JacksonBye Bye PolicemanGood For What Ails You
Jim JacksonI Heard The Voice of a PorkchopGood For What Ails You
Chief ThundercloudSpoken Word The Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg SamWho's That Left Here Awhile AgoThe Last Medicine Show
Pink Anderson & Simmie DoleyPapa's 'bout to Get MadGood For What Ails You
Pink Anderson & Simmie DoleyGonna Tip Out, TonightGood For What Ails You
Beans Hambone & El Morrow BeansGood For What Ails You
Alec Johnson Mysterious CoonGood For What Ails You
Ben CovingtonAdam & Eve in the GardenGood For What Ails You
Chief ThundercloudSpoken Word The Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg Sam JacksonGreasy GreensThe Last Medicine Show
Gus CannonMy Money Never Runs Out Good For What Ails You
Cannon's Jug Stompers Bring It with You When You ComeRuckus Juice & Chitlins Vol. 2
Memphis SheiksHe's in the Jailhouse, NowThe Best Of
Frank Stokes I Got MineThe Best Of
"Big Boy" George Owens The Coon Crap GameSinners & Saints 1926-1931
Lil McClintockFurniture ManBefore The Blues Vol. 3
Henry ThomasRailroadin' SomeTexas Worried Blues
Hezekiah Jenkins Shout, You CatsGood For What Ails You
Peg Leg Sam JacksonBorn For Hard LuckThe Last Medicine Show
Peg Leg Sam JacksonHand Me DownThe Last Medicine Show
Papa Charlie JacksonScoodle Um SkooGood For What Ails You
Blind Willie McTellAtlanta StrutGood For What Ails You
Daddy Stovepipe & Mississippi Sarah The SpasmGood For What Ails You
Pink AndersonTravelin' ManMedicine Show Man
Peg Leg Sam JacksonJohn HenryThe Last Medicine Show

Show Notes:

Pink Anderson & Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson

Medicine shows flourished in the years following the Civil War when America’s patent medicine industry was booming and governmental regulations were few. They were called “med shows” or “doctor shows” and music was always a crucial part of the act. Onstage musicians served up comic songs, parodies, popular favorites, novelties, folk songs, dance tunes and instrumental specialties. In the early decades of the 20th century new musical forms such as jazz and blues were added to the mix. The musical acts were designed to draw a crowd before the “doctor” would step up and offer a remedy to cure the ailments of the crowd. The medicine show acts incorporated much from the minstrel shows, which by the 1840’s, were hugely popular. By the dawn of the 20th century the medicine shows were less extravagant, often including a lecturer-manager, a song-and-dance man, a blackface comedian, a string band and perhaps a comedian or ventriloquist, traveling by truck from one obscure town to the next during the spring and summer months, playing in rented lots or an open field. Many noted bluesmen spent time on these shows including artists like Frank Stokes, Jim Jackson, Gus Cannon, Howard Armstrong and Pink Anderson. Some of the medicine show veterans made records in the 20’s and 30’s and some of their recorded output gives us a glimpse of the type of music played on these shows. Today’s show features many of these artists and the songs they performed on the medicine show circuit. The bulk of these songs and much of the notes come from the fantastic 2-CD Old Hat release, Good For What Ails You, which comes with a 72-page color booklet detailing the history of the medicine shows with a profusion of rare photographs and previously unseen photos and illustrations.

In addition we spin music and spoken word from the last traveling medicine show featuring musician Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson and Chief Thundercloud. This was one of the last true medicine shows presided over by Chief Thundercloud (Leo Kahdot) who was still hawking “Prairie King Liniment” from the tailgate of his station wagon at fairs and carnivals in the Southeast in the early 70’s. In his heyday he traveled will a full cast of comediennes, dancers, singers and musicians, numbering as many as sixteen. In later years his lone partner was Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, a medicine show veteran who learned the ropes back in the 30’s from Pink Anderson. The duo was recorded and filmed by Pete Lowry in Pittsboro, North Carolina in 1972. A subsequent, now very rare,  2-LP set of music and spoken word was issued on the Flyright label titled The Last Medicine Show.

Doctor Franklin Street's Washaw Indian Medicine Show, Hot Springs, AK, 1919.
Onstage, in blackface, are Jim Jackson (left) and Gus Cannon (right).

From the notes to Good For What Ails You, Marshall  Wyatt writes: "A performance usually commenced at sundown, on a wooden platform framed with striped canvas and lit with kerosene torches, or possibly a string of electric lights powered by a portable generator„ As the crowd, or "tip" gathered, the banjoist might render a medley of familiar tunes, tapping time with his feet and blowing a rack-held mouth harp. Next came a rapid-fire exchange of jokes and patter between Jake and a straight man, then more music and dancing, followed by the Professor's first pitch of the evening, often for an inexpensive product like soap or candy to soften customers for things to come. The entertainment continued with specialty acts, such as mind-reading or magic, alternating with comic songs, contests, and slapstick. The doc would probably deliver three lectures at crucial intervals during the course of a two-hour show, each promoting a different remedy. Florid oratory was entertainment in itself, and many a skillful pitchman followed the advice of Fred Foster Bloodgood: "Never use one word, when four will suffice." Showmen knew that a buying fervor was best cultivated in an atmosphere of sustained excitement. Typically, as the pitchman completed his harangue, entertainers dashed into the crowd, brandishing bottles of the doctor's elixir, while a contingent of musicians remained on the platform to strike up a raucous tune. If the doctor's pitch had "turned the tip" then such calculated chaos would cement the deal. Performers, rapidly exchanged their bottles for dollar bills, and created a sense urgency with cries of  "S·o-o-ld Out, Doc!" as they rushed back to the stage to replenish their supply. The evening's performance closed with an afterpiece, often a stock comedy routine or perhaps a promised special attraction, such as snake handling or sharp shooting, saved for last in order to discourage early departures. On the final day in town, a "blow off" was not uncommon, that is, high-pressure selling used to liquidate remaining stock before moving on."

Peg Leg Sam was a member of the last authentic traveling medicine show, a harmonica virtuoso, and an extraordinary entertainer. All of today's tracks by him have been extracted from The Last Medicine Show album. Born Arthur Jackson, he acquired his nickname after a hoboing accident in 1930. His medicine show career began in 1938 and ended in the early 70's "Peg" delivered comedy routines, bawdy toasts, and monologs; performed tricks with his harps (often playing two at once); and served up plenty of blues. He cut some albums in the 70's and was the subject of the film, Born for Hard Luck which was produced by Tom Davenport in 1976. Jackson died in in 1977.

Peg Leg Sam Jackson: Born For Hard Luck

Sam's mentor, Pink Anderson, spent many years on the road with medicine shows and learned guitar from his early partner Simmie Dooley, and older musician who was born in 1881. They recorded four titles together in 1928, one of which gives today's show its title. Anderson was born in South Carolina and toured throughout the Southeast mainly with William R. Kerr’s Indian Remedy, remaining with the show for some thirty years. He was employed not only as a musician and a singer but as a dancer and comedian. Anderson was extensively recorded by Sam Charters in 1961 resulting in three albums of material.

A whole constellation of Memphis artists performed on the medicine show circuit including Jim Jackson, Gus Cannon, Will Shade and Frank Stokes. Jim Jackson, who was taught guitar by his father, and was singing, dancing, and strumming the strings to attract crowds for peddlers of patent medicine as early as 1905. By 1915, Jackson was spending more and more time on the road with minstrel shows. Tall and weighing in at 235 lbs, he commanded attention with his booming voice, a knack for telling jokes, and his friendly, and a way of putting a song across. He toured with the Red Rose, Silas Green, and Rabbit's Foot Minstrel companies, sometimes in the company of Gus Cannon, guitarists Furry Lewis, and Will Shade, and pianist Speckled Red. Jackson traveled to Chicago in October 1927 to make his first phonograph record. "Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues" which was a huge seller. Jackson made further records in 1928, 1929 and his final ones in 1930 before passing in 1937.

Read Booklet (PDF)

"My Money Never Runs Out” has roots from the turn of the century and was composed by Irving Jones and published in 1900. Jones published songs as early as 1892, several of which found their way onto race records in the 1920’s. Today we hear the song as performed by Gus Cannon who recorded the song thirty years later with his band Cannon’s Jug Stompers. Cannon launched his medicine show career in 1914 when he joined Doc Stokey of Clarksdale, Mississippi. He later joked that Stokey's tonic sold "one bottle for a quarter, or three for a dollar!" A tour with Doc Benson's show took Cannon to Chicago in 1927, where he auditioned for Paramount Records and recorded a session with ace guitar picker Blind Blake.

The origins of the song "He's In The Jailhouse Now" aren’t clear but it was performed as early as 1919 by Marshall & Davis, a black vaudeville team and became a favorite of black traveling shows and jug band in the 1920’s. The song was recorded by Jim Jackson, Gus Cannon, Whistler’s Jug Band, Blind Blake among others. Will Shade, leader of the Memphis Jug Band cut his teeth in medicine shows as did members of his band and today we spin their version of the song.

Frank Stokes and partner Dan Sane recorded as The Beale Street Sheiks, a Memphis answer to the musical Chatmon family string band, the Mississippi Shieks. By most accounts Stokes was already playing the streets of Memphis by the turn of the century, about the same time the blues began to flourish. As a street artist, he needed a broad repertoire of songs and patter palatable to blacks and whites. A medicine show and house party favorite, Stokes was remembered as a consummate entertainer who drew on songs from the 19th and 20th centuries with equal facility. Solo or with Sane and sometimes fiddler Will Batts, Stokes recorded 38 sides for Paramount and Victor. Of today's featured songs, “I Got Mine” was published by a white composer in 1901 and taken up by black songsters. Big Boy Owens’ "The Coon Crap Game" is a variation of the same song.

Charlie Campbell w/ Robert McCoyGoin' Away Blues Uptown Blues: A Decade Of Guitar-Piano Duets
Guitar Slim w/ Robert McCoy Katie May - Katie May Alabama & The East Coast 1933-1937
Whistlin' Alex Moore West Texas Woman Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin' Alex Moore Ice Pick Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Whistlin' Alex Moore Heart Wrecked Blues Dallas Alley Drag
Speckled Red Speckled Red’s BluesSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled Red House Dance BluesSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled Red Interview "They Was Real Bad Words..."Broadcasting The Blues
Speckled Red Dirty Dozen Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here
James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) w/ Robert McCoy Eight Avenue Blues The Piano Blues Vol. 10
James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) w/ Robert McCoy Suicide Blues Alabama & The East Coast 1933-1937
Whistlin' Alex Moore Blue Bloomer BluesDallas Alley Drag
Whistlin' Alex Moore Alex's RagFrom North Dallas To The East Side
Speckled Red Do The GeorgiaSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled Red The Right String, But The Wrong Yo-YoWhen The Sun Goes Down
Speckled Red Wilkins Street Stomp Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here
Robert McCoy Let's Get Together Bye Bye Baby
Robert McCoy Gone Mother BluesBye Bye Baby
Robert McCoy Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye Baby
Whistlin' Alex Moore Sometime I Feel Worried From North Dallas To The East Side
Whistlin' Alex Moore Neglected Woman The Modern Down Home Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Whistlin' Alex Moore Lillie Mae Boogie The Modern Down Home Blues Sessions Vol. 4
Speckled Red Early In The MorningSpeckled Red 1929-1938
Speckled Red Specked Red Speaks Blues Masters Vol. 11
Speckled Red Four O'Clock Blues Blues Masters Vol. 11
Speckled Red Uncle Sam's Blues The Barrel-House Blues of Speckled Red
Robert McCoy You Got To Reap What You SowBye Bye Baby
Robert McCoy Church Bell Blues Bye Bye Baby
Robert McCoy Mr. Freddie BluesBye Bye Baby
Whistlin' Alex Moore If I Lose You Woman The Traveling Record Man
Whistlin' Alex Moore Going Back To Froggy Bottom From North Dallas To The East Side
Whistlin' Alex Moore You Say I'm A Bad Feller From North Dallas To The East Side

Show Notes:

On today's program we spotlight three fine piano players who recorded in both the pre-war and post-war eras. Robert McCoy spent virtually his whole life in Birmingham, Alabama where he participated in a 1937 session as an accompanist and cut two fine, very rare records in the early 60's. Speckled Red cut several sessions between 1929 and 1938 and was rediscovered living in St. Louis, cutting fine sessions in the 50's and 60's. Alex Moore got his start in Dallas and waxed several sessions in 1929 and 1937. In fact Moore recorded in almost every decade from the 20's through the 80's.

Between March 3rd and April 7th 1937, ARC (The American Record Company) sent a mobile recording unit on a field trip firstly to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas and, then to Birmingham, Alabama in search of new talent that could be recorded on location instead of transporting the artists to their New York studio. Sometime between 18th and 24th March the unit arrived in Birmingham and, over a two week period set about recording a number of gospel and blues musicians. Among those were Charlie Campbell, Guitar Slim (George Bedford) and James Sherrill (Peanut The Kidnapper) all of whom were backed by the lively piano of Robert McCoy who did not record under his own name. Sherrill  was heavily influenced by the then popular Peetie Wheatstraw.

McCoy was born in 1912 in Aliceville, AL but raised on Birmingham's North Side and by 1927 was a well-known local artist. Two of McCoy's six brothers, Johnny an Willie, played piano and used to run around with the great Jabo Williams. Cow Cow Davenport and Pinetop Smith played at McCoy's house whenever they were in town and had a profound influence on McCoy. In 1963 McCoy was recorded by Pat Cather, a teenaged Birmingham blues fan. Cather issued two albums on his Vulcan label: Barrelhouse Blues And Jook Piano and Blues And Boogie Classics. Both albums were cut in extremely small quantities and are very rare. Delmark has reissued some of this material on the CD Bye Bye Baby including some unreleased material. In 1964 Vulcan issued a couple of singles and the same year a couple of singles were issued on the Soul-O label (Robert McCoy and His Five Sins) with McCoy backed by an R&B band in an attempt to update his sound. In later years McCoy became a church Deacon. He passed in 1978. In 1983, McCoy was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

Of Alex Moore, Paul Oliver wrote: "He is a true original, a folk blues singer of the city who can sit at the piano improvise endlessley piano themes and blues verses that are sometimes startling, sometimes comic, sometimes grim, and very often pure poetry. …When I first heard his records, a dozen years ago, I was attracted by their unique quality and hoped that I one day meet the man whose memorable blues had so enriched the Columbia and Decca catalogs."

Alex Moore was born in Dallas in 1899 and died there in 1989. Moore began performing in the early '20s, playing clubs and parties around his hometown of Dallas; he usually performed under the name Whistlin' Alex. In 1929, he recorded his first sessions, which were for Columbia Records. He accompanied several artists including Perry Dixon, Blind Norris and Nick Nichols. The sides didn't gain much attention and Moore didn't record again until 1937, when he made a few records for Decca. Between his first and second sessions, he continued to play clubs in Dallas.

It was 1951 before Moore recorded again with RPM Records/Kent. Fortunately some sides from a session at Radio KLIF in Dallas in 1947 survived and have been issued by Arhoolie Records. Arhoolie Records recorded a self-titled album in 1960, and those subsequent recordings saw him obtain nationwide recognition. This album has been reissued on CD as From North Dallas To The East Side and includes the 1947 sides plues sides cut in Hamburg, Germany in 1968.  Throughout the 1960s, Moore played at clubs and festivals in America, as well as a small number of festivals across Europe. He toured with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1969, performing on the same bill as Earl Hooker and Magic Sam. The same year he recorded a session in Stuttgart, Germany, which led to the release of Alex Moore in Europe. He cut his final album for Rounder in 1988, passing away the following year.

Samuel Charters, who recorded Speckled Red for Folkways wrote the following about his performance style: "When he sits down at his piano, his shoulders hunch over the keys, and he turns to the audience to sing and seems to fill the room with his presence. He is an entertainer, expressing himself and his personality through his music. It's this personality, almost overwhelming when Red is in full cry, that sweeps his playing and singing past the occasional moments of erratic technique."

Speckled Red was given his name because he was a black albino with an almost white skin. His family moved from Louisiana to Georgia where he acquired a rudimentary piano technique by practicing on a church organ and eventually playing at church services. The family moved again to live in Atlanta and Red, who by this time had switched to the piano, was now playing at house parties at weekends. Red struck out on his own and left Atlanta for Detroit in 1924. Red played regularly at the Detroit clubs where he earned the name Detroit Red. Red drifted West where he played the barrelhouse circuits for some time, traveling in the boxcars on freight trains. Shortly after leaving the barrelhouse circuits, Red joined a traveling medicine show called the Red Rose Minstrels in Memphis. The owner of the show was Jim Jackson, who was a recording artist and also acted as talent scout for Brunswick Records and it was through him that Red first got on record in 1929. He recorded three numbers: "The Dirty Dozens", "Wilkins Street Stomp" and "Dance House Blues." "The Dirty Dozens" became a big seller. A second recording session for Brunswick occurred in Chicago on 8 April 1930.

Red was in Chicago for a brief time, in the late 1930s, where he recorded ten sides at the RCA studios in Illinois in 1938. The session was organized for him by Walter Davis, acting as talent scout for the Bluebird label. He also backed other Bluebird artists such as Robert Lee McCoy during this period. In 1941, still largely unregarded, he settled in St Louis, which became his adopted home until his death. It was during this period that Red's brother began recording for Victor under the name Piano Red.

Red owed his rediscovery to Charles O'Brien, a special officer with the St Louis Police Department, for during the 1950s this policeman and lover of blues and boogie-woogie music decided to trace some of the long-forgotten piano players in St Louis. Checking police records, O'Brien found Red was still living at the same address and, by chance, O'Brien visited a poolroom on 16th and Franklin near Red's home and found him there. After a brief conversation, which confirmed that he was speaking to Speckled Red, O'Brien took him to the Top Deck nightspot where, fuelled with a shot of whisky, Red played many of the old numbers he had recorded in the 1930s and 1940s. He eventually became the pianist at a club in the famous Gaslight Square, a noted St Louis jazz-club area. This was followed by a tour of Europe and Great Britain, in 1959, as part of a USA cultural programme. His recording career also took off once again with sessions for the Folkways, Delmark, Euphonic, Storyville and Tone labels. He passed in 1972.

Barbecue BobMotherless Chile BluesChocolate To The Bone
Barbecue BobIt's Just Too BadChocolate To The Bone
Percy WilsonKaty Left MemphisDon'tcha Hear Poor Mother Call
Joe CallicotLonesome KatyAin't A Gonna Lie To You
Sam PriceBlow, Katy, BlowSam Price 1942-1945
Margaret CarterI Want Plenty Grease In My Frying Pan Female Blues Singers Vol. 4 1921-1930
Lizzie MilesDone Throwed The Key AwayVocal Blues & Jazz Vol. 2 1921-1938
Mae Glover & John ByrdGas Man BluesMississippi Moaners
Blues Boy Rawlins I Got A Woman Shining My ShoeA-K-A Sweet Lovin' Daddy
Blues Boy RawlinsBaby She Loves MeA-K-A Sweet Lovin' Daddy
Lil McClintock Furniture Man Atlanta Blues
Lil McClintock Sow Good SeedsBlues Images Vol. 10
Johnny Williams Silver Haired WomanJuke Joints 3
Boogie Bill WebbLove Me Mama Juke Joints 3
Houston BoinesOperator BluesJuke Joints 3
Will Shade I'll Get A Break Before LongWill Shade & Gus Cannon 1961
Laura DukesStellaWill Shade & Gus Cannon 1961
Washboard Sam & Freddie SpruellOcean BluesBlues Images Vol. 10
Washboard Sam & Freddie SpruellY.M.V. Blues Blues Images Vol. 10
Cornelius Bright My Baby's GoneGoin' Up The Country
Jack OwensB&O Blues Goin' Up The Country
Dusty BrownHe Don’t Love YouHand Me Down Blues
Dusty BrownYes She's Gone Hand Me Down Blues
Charlie PattonSome These Days I'll Be Gone - Take 1 [unreleased]Blues Images vol. 10
Robert JohnsonLast Fair Deal Gone DownThe Centennial Collection
Freddie Spruell 4A HighwayWhen the Levee Breaks
Freddie Spruell Mr. Freddie's Kokomo BluesWhen the Levee Breaks

Show Notes:

A fine mix showed lined up today with an emphasis on pre-war blues. Every year around this time record collector John Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD’s have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78’s turn up. In addition the calendars have also been a showcase for never before seen photos. This year marks the tenth year of the calendar and CD's and once again Tefteller has turned up newly discovered sides which I'll be featuring today including the only known copy of Washboard Sam's first record which recently turned up and an unissued Charlie Patton test pressing. Washboard Sam is backed by guitarist Freddie Spruell so I thought I'd take the opportunity to spotlight a couple of solo sides from this fine artist.  Also on tap are a set of excllent early woman singers, twin spins by Barbecue Bob, the mysterious Blues Boy Rawlins, Chicago blues great Dusty Brown,  a pair by Detroit harp man Little Sonny and a few of album spotlights.

"Ocean Blues b/w Y.M.V. Blues" are both sides of Washboard Sam's debut 1935 recording for Bluebird. This record comes from the only known copy of this record which just turned up and have never before been reissued before. I have to admit that I had no idea this record was missing. While nothing earth shattering, it's a very solid record aided by the guitar work of Freddie Spruell and Carl Martin. Sam went on to record hundreds of records between 1935 and 1949 for the bluebird label, usually with backing by guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Throughout the rest of the '30s and the '40s, Sam was one of the most popular Chicago bluesmen, selling plenty of records and playing to packed audiences in the Chicago clubs.  Y.M.V.refers to the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad who's predecessor was the Yazoo Delta Railway which appears in a number of blues songs as the Yellow Dog Railroad. According W. C. Handy, locals assigned the words "Yellow Dog" to the letters Y.D. on the freight trains that they saw. The Mississippi Blues Commission placed a historic marker at the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad depot site in Rosedale, Mississippi, designating it as a site on the Mississippi Blues Trail. The marker commemorates the original lyrics of Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" which traced the route of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad which ran south from Friars Point to Rosedale among other stops, including Vicksburg and north to Memphis.

We also spin two sides by Freddie Spruell cut under his own name. Spruell has the distinction of being the first delta bluesman to make a record. Spruell recorded almost two years before Tommy Johnson and three years before either Charlie Patton or Garfield Akers. One of the first self-accompanied guitarists to record, Spruell lived in Chicago when he made his debut for OKeh Records in 1926. Spruell cut ten sides at sessions in 1926, 1928 and 1935 for Okeh, Paramount and Bluebird. He gave up blues for the church by the 40's and passed in 1956. All we know of Spruell comes from and interview done by intrepid blues researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow who interviewed Spruell's widow.

Also from the companion CD to Tefteller's calendar we spin tracks by Lil McClintock and Charlie Patton.  McClintock is one of those guys I never thought much of, but after listening to the slide driven "Sow Good Seeds" I've changed my tune. We also spin his "Furinture Man" which is not on the Tefteller CD, a fascinating throwback to the coon song era. Almost nothing is known of McClintock except that he was from Clinton, South Carolina and travled to Atlanta to record four songs for Columbia on December 4, 1930. The first record released was a blues, “Furniture Man b/w Don't Think I'm Santa Claus.” His second record was gospel, “Sow Good Seeds b/w Mother Called Her Child To Her Dying Bed.” In the calendar there appears the only known photo of him, a wonderful full-length shot, which has never been reproduced before. As for the Patton song, 'Some These Days I'll Be Gone", it's from an unissued test pressing. Both the released and unreleased are included and I can't discern much difference between the two.

We open the show with a pair of sides by Barbecue Bob, both from Yazoo's excllent Chocalate To The Bone collection. Robert Hicks was spotted by Columbia talent scout Dan Hornsby while working at the all-white Tidwell’s Barbecue in upscale Buckhead, serenading patrons for tips and entertaining after work at private parties. Hicks began cutting for Columbia in March 1927 and was identified as “Barbecue Bob” on all but two of his 78s. For the next three years, Barbecue Bob made records every time Columbia visited Atlanta. As Sam Charters pointed out, “Over the three and a half years he was a Columbia artist, he did sixty titles, and his releases sold almost 200,000 copies. He consistently outsold every artist on the Columbia race series except Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and Blind Willie Johnson for the years he was recording.”

We spotlight a few interesting records today including sides by Blues Boy Rawlins, late period tracks by members of the Memphis Jug Band and a trio of sides from a fine down blues collection on the JSP label. Blues Boy Rawlins A-K-A "Sweet Lovin' Daddy" is something of a mystery man. He cut one LP which was released in 1978 on Shakey Jakes' Good Time label with Shakey backing him on harmonica. It's a strong set of gut-bucket blues and it's a shame he didn't record more. Apparently Rawlins played in the streets in L.A. There is a photo of him floating around on the internet with harmonica man William Clarke.

I finally tracked down a copy of the very hard to find album Will Shade & Gus Cannon 1961. These recordings were made by members of the band in 1961 at a private party in Memphis and is a charming lo-fi document. There's a companion album with more sides from this party on the Wolf label. The Memphis Jug Band were one of the most popular musical groups of the late 1920's and early 1930's cutting some 80 sides between 1927 and 1934. Eventually the band’s live engagements became less frequent, and the group could no longer get recording dates after 1934. Still, the group occasionally performed in and around Memphis for years after that, and in 1956, Will Shade and Charlie Burse made a few recordings for the Folkways label (credited as the Memphis Jug Band). In 1963 Shade recorded one last time with 79-year-old Gus Cannon, former leader of Cannon’s Jug Stompers. They recorded the album Walk Right In, on Stax Records, a result of The Rooftop Singers having made Cannon's "Walk Right In" into a number one single.

We also spin three tracks from JSP's Juke Joints 3, a four-CD set of down-home blues sides. This is the third box set filled with raw rural blues cut for a slew of tiny labels and as the titles suggest, was probaly the sound of the blues in the late 40's and 50's to be heard in juke joints, taverns and beer joints all over the south. The lastest collection contaisn 104 tracks form well knowns like Slim Harpo and Jimmy Rogers to the uterly obscure like Johnny Beck, Hank Kilroy, Stick Horse Hammond and the like.

Sugar Boy Crawford Troubled Mind Blues30 New Orleans Classics
Sugar Boy Crawford What's Wrong30 New Orleans Classics
Sugar Boy Crawford Jock-o-Mo30 New Orleans Classics
Beverly Scott Southern California BluesHollywood Blues
Manny Nichols No One To Love MeDown Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-52
Juke Boy Bonner Can't Hardly Keep From CryingGoin' To Louisiana
Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes The Life Of Lightnin` Bug RhodesNow Hear This!
Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes Now Hear This!Now Hear This!
Johnny Shines Your Troubles Can't Be Like MineStanding at the Crossroads
Johnnie LewisCan Hardly Get AlongAlabama Slide Guitar
Doctor Clayton Angels In HarlemDoctor Clayton & His Buddies
Son Willis Nothing But The BluesDown Home Blues Classics: California & The West Coast 1948-1954
Richard Nevins Interview
Charley Patton High Water Everywhere – Part 1The Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Charley Patton Some These Days I’ll Be GoneThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Tommy JohnsonLonesome Home BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Geeshie Wiley Last Kind Words BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Bukka WhiteThe Panama LimitedThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Lottie KimbroughRolling Log BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of
Ishman BraceyWoman Woman BluesThe Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of

Show Notes:

A mix show for the first hour of today's show as we pay tribute to the recently departed Sugar Boy Crawford, plus we feature artists like Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes, Manny Nichols, Johnny Shines, Son Willis and Doctor Clayton among others. In the second hour we chat with Richard Nevins who runs the Shanachie/Yaz00 label. Today we spotlight tracks from The Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of  the sequel to the highly acclaimed 20o6 release.

James “Sugar Boy” Crawford died Sept. 15th. He was 77. He formed a R&B band in High School and the group performed in local clubs and released a single on Aladdin Records. Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, happened to hear the band at radio station WMRY while in New Orleans. He made what was purportedly an audition tape of the group. Weeks later, a disc jockey at the station presented Crawford with a 78 rpm record of “I Don't Know What I’ll Do.” It was manufactured from the audition tape and credited to Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters. In November 1953, at age 19, Crawford recorded his composition “Jock-A-Mo” with a band that included Snooks Eaglin on guitar. Released on the Chess subsidiary Checker Records, "Jock-A-Mo" was a hit during the 1954 Carnival season. Over the next decade, he recorded for various labels, including Imperial Records, releasing such singles as "I Bowed on My Knees,” “You Gave Me Love,” "Morning Star" and "She's Gotta Wobble (When She Walks)." But in 1963, his career, and life, took a tragic turn. En route to a show in Monroe with his band, he was stopped by police and badly pistol-whipped. He briefly attempted a comeback, but was discouraged by what he perceived as his diminished talent. He subsequently retired from music. For decades, he confined his singing to the church. It was his grandson, the pianist and singer Davell Crawford, who coaxed Crawford out of retirement. He appeared on Davell’s 1995 CD Let Them Talk, and subsequently joined his grandson onstage, including at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

We spin a pair of tracks by Walter 'Lightnin' Bug' Rhodes, who I've been listening to lately. He was a fine singer and songwriter who melded down home blues with a touch of soul. Rhodes was born in North carolina but moved to New York in 1950. He began performing with gospel groups and made his first appearance on record with the Golden Arrows. He eventually made the move to R&B working with different group, cutting a few records through the 60’s and 70’s for label like Hull, Le Sarge and Mascot, recording under the monikers The Blonde Bomber and Little Red Walter. Rhodes cut a couple of strong records for the German Swingmaster label and even toured Europe before passing in 1990.

We spotlight a couple of fine Texas bluesman in Manny Nichols and Son Willis, both who cut a handful of terrific sides in the late 40's and early 50's. Nichols cut nine sides between 1949-1953 for several small labels, first in Texas and then in California. He also may have recorded as West Texas Slim. Malcolm Willis was a blues singer and pianist from Fort Worth, TX. At sometime in his youth he made the trek to California to join the West Coast blues scene. He cut his first disc for J.R. Fullbright's Elko label in Los Angeles, CA. in 1951. In 1952 and 1953 he recorded eight more numbers for the Swingtime label billed as Little Son Willis. Willis owns a strong debt to the popular Doctor Clayton. Clayton is all but forgotten today but was very popular in the 40's and who, despite a small recorded output, wielded a big a influence on numerous singers. We spin Clayton's oft covered "Angel In Harlem" which he cut in 1946. Willis recorded a cover called "Harlem Blues" in 1952 and the song has also been covered by Smokey Hogg and Larry Davis.

Back in 2006 Yazoo issued The Stuff That Dream Are Made Of subtitled "The Dead Sea Scrolls of Record Collecting." The two-disc collection was a loving testament to impossibly rare records and the obsessive collectors who tracked them down. among the treasures was the long lost Son House record, "Mississippi County Farm Blues" and "Clarksdale Moan" which had just be found. The Return of the Stuff That Dream Are Made Of  is still a goldmine of rare records, although nothing as earth shattering as the Son House, and beautifully packaged with 46 tracks housed in a over-sized DVD package which sports an eye popping illustration by Drew Friedman. It includes a fascinating 54-page booklet with rare photographs and notes that chronicle the history of collecting old 78 records from beginning in the 1920s through the 1960s. Yazoo has always been at the top of the heap when it comes to remastering old 78's and these records sound incredible. The sound Nevins has achieved on the two Patton cuts, for example, is the best I've ever heard and the mastering on Yazoo's Best Of Patton set was pretty damn  good! Today Nevins and I chat about the history of 78 collecting, those crazy early collectors, Yazoo Records, Charlie Patton and more.

-Richard Nevins Interview/Feature (edited, 36 min, MP3)

Texas Alexander Days Is LonesomeTexas Alexander Vol. 2 1928 - 1930

Bo Carter Tellin' You 'Bout ItGreatest Hits
Mississippi SheiksIt's Done Got WetBo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks
Lindberg Sparks I.C. Train BluesSparks Brothers 1932-1935t
Dorothy Baker Steady Grinding BluesBarrelhouse Mamas
Ernest RogersBaby Low Down, Oh Oh Low Down Dirty DogField Recordings Vol. 16 1934-1940
Blind Pete & George RyanBanty Rooster Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues
John BrayTrench BluesDeep River Of Song: Louisiana
Bumble Bee SlimSail On Little Girl, Sail OnWhen The Sun Goes Down
Leroy CarrBlues Before SunriseWhiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave
Scrapper BlackwellMorning Mail BluesScrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958
Lucille Bogan Pig Iron SallyShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan
Walter Roland Big MamaWalter Roland Vol. 2 1934-1935
James “Iron Head” Baker Black BettyDeep River of Song: Big Brazos
LeadbellyTake A Whiff On MeLeadbelly: Important Recordings 1934-49
Joe PullumBlack Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
Buddy MossSomeday BabyThe Essential Buddy Moss
Son BondsTrouble, Trouble BluesSon Bonds & Charlie Pickett 1934-1941
Bertha LeeMind Reader BluesI Can't Be Satisfied Vol 1
Charlie Patton'34 BluesPrimeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs
Mary Johnson Peepin' At The Risin' Sun Mary Johnson 1929-1936
Peetie WheatstrawThrow Me In The AlleyFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandMercy Mercy BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Bob CampbellStarvation Farm BluesA Richer Tradition
Memphis Jug Band Jug Band QuartetteMemphis Shakedown

Big Bill Broonzy Serve It To Me RightAll The Classic Sides
Alfoncey Harris Absent Freight Train BluesThe Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe
John OscarOther Man BluesChicago Piano 1929-1936
Lee GreenMemphis FivesThe Way I Feel: The Best Of Roosevelt Sykes & Lee Green
Joe McCoyI'm Going Back HomeThe Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Charlie McCoy Charity BluesAin't Times Hard: Political & Social Comment In The Blues
Moses Clear Rock PlattThat's All Right, BabyBlack Texicans
Wilson Jones (Stavin' Chain)Can't Put On My ShoesField Recordings Vol. 16 1934-1940

Show Notes:

Charlie Patton: 34 Blues

Today’s show is the eighth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked in 1934, and in addition to labels like Gennett and Columbia a new label emerged that year. Decca Records began recording in New York and Chicago in August and by the end of the year had issued dozens of race records. During this period it was the urban style of blues that dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Bumble Bee Slim and Leroy Carr recorded prolifically. Still some down home blues artists were recorded such as Texas Alexander and Charlie Patton. In parallel to the commercial recordings were some remarkable field recording made by John Lomax for the Library of Congress. All those and more can be heard on today's program.

From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling for 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. Whereas Decca had a special race series, Bluebird and Vocalion numbered blues and gospel material in their general series. Although the Gennett label went under at the end of 1934, Decca bought the Gennett material and bought the Champion trademark. Later that year they started their second race series, the Champion 5000s; it feature some reissues of Gennett blues, some reissues from Paramount as well as some material recorded by Decca. The Brunswick Record Corporation bought Columbia issuing records by Papa Charlie Jackson and the Memphis Jug Band. They also operated five "dime-store labels" – Perfect, Oriole, Romeo, Banner and Melotone which sold for 25 cents.

A sign that the market was reviving was the fact that the labels were once again sending out field recording units. Much of the activity was in Texas where Brunswick-ARC recorded Texas Alexander in San Antonio and Fort Worth, Bo Carter and the Mississippi Sheiks in San Antonio and a new artist called Joe Pullum. Texas Alexander cut sessions in 1934 in the company of the Mississippi Sheiks, the jazz band His Sax Black Tams, the guitar duo of Willie Reed and Carl Davis for a total of two dozen sides. These were his last sides until 1950 where he cut a lone 78 for the Freedom label.The popular Mississippi Sheiks cut fourteen sides on March 26 and 27th. "Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” was a huge and influential hit in 1934 for Joe Pullum. After Pullum recorded it in April 1934 it was covered by Vocalion by Leroy Carr, for Decca by Mary Johnson and Jimmie Gordon (under the pseudonym of Joe Bullum!), and by Josh White—all within ten months. Pullum went on to cut four sessions in less than two years which produced thirty songs including two sequels to "Black Gal" , yet few sold very well.

With the popularity of the urban blues it's not surprising that Leroy Carr and his imitator, Bumble Bee Slim, recorded prolifically. Slim waxed around fifty sides apiece in 1934 and Carr even more.  Slim cut sides for all three major labels in 1934. Carr cut some iconic songs in 1934 including blues classics like “Blues Before Sunrise” and “Mean Mistreater Mama” among others, most with his partner Scrapper Blackwell.

Thanks to a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, John Lomax was able to set out in June 1933 on the first recording expedition under the Library of Congress' auspices, with his son Alan in tow. John and Alan toured Texas prison farms recording work songs, reels, ballads, and blues from prisoners such as James "Iron Head" Baker, Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, and Lightnin’ Washington. In 1934, Lomax was named Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song, and he secured grants from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, for continued field recordings. In September 1934, Lead Belly, who was out of prison, wrote to Lomax requesting employment, since he needed to have a job in order not to be sent back to prison. At the urging of John, Jr., Lomax engaged Lead Belly as his driver and assistant and the pair traveled the South together collecting folk songs for the next three months. We spin some remarkable sides today by James "Iron Head" Baker and  Mose "Clear Rock" , who Lomax had recorded the previous year, plus new discoveries like Wilson Jones (Stavin' Chain).

Leadbelly was "discovered" by folklorists John Lomax and his then 18-year-old son Alan Lomax during a visit to the Angola Prison Farm in 1933. They recorded him on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress. Those recordings are very poor quality. They returned to record with new and better equipment in July of the following year (1934). From those sessions we hear Leadbelly deliver a powerful version of "Take A Whiff On Me."

Stavin' Chain playing guitar and singing the ballad "Batson," (fiddler also in shot), Lafayette, La, 1934.
Photo by Alan Lomax.

Notable this year were the last recordings by Charlie Patton. Patton's last recording sessions were in New York where he cut twenty-six sides for Vocalion between January 3oth and February 1st. Seventeen of those sides were unissued. On January 31st Patton backed his common-law wife Bertha Lee on three sides, one of which was unissued.  On the morning of Saturday, April 28, 1934, Charlie Patton was buried the following day at Longswitch Cemetery, less than a mile from his last home at Holly Ridge. He was 43. Patton was a popular performer among both whites and blacks, and at Dockery's Plantation he often played on the porch of the commissary and at all-night picnics hosted by Will Dockery for residents.. In “34 Blues” Patton sang of being banished from Dockery by plantation manager Herman Jett, apparently because Patton was running off with various tenants’ women.

There were some notable piano blues recorded in 1934. St. Louis had an abundance of talented blues pianists including Henry Brown, Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosevelt Sykes, Lee Green, and Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks all who were recorded during the year. Also notable were pianists Alfoncey Harris who was recorded in Texas and John Oscar who was recorded in Chicago.


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