Pine Top Smith Pine Top BluesShake Your Wicked Knees
Pine Top Smith Pine Top's Boogie WoogieShake Your Wicked Knees
Jabo Williams Polock BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Jabo Williams Pratt City BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Lee Green Maltese Cat The Way I Feel
Lee Green 44 BluesThe Way I Feel
Lee Green Dud-Low Joe The Piano Blues Vol. 18: Roosevelt Sykes & Lee Green
Henry Brown Henry Brown Blues Twenty First St. Stomp
Henry Brown Stomp Em' Down To The Bricks Down On The Levee
Mary Johnson w/ Henry Brown Peepin' At The Risin' Sun Mary Johnson 1929-1936
Judson Brown You Don't Know My Mind Blues Piano Blues Vol 1 1927-1936
Mozelle Alderson w/ Judson Brown Tight In ChicagoBarrelhouse Mamas
Louise Johnson By The Moon And StarsJuke Joint Saturday
Louise Johnson On The WallJuke Joint Saturday
Pine Top Smith I'm Sober Now Shake Your Wicked Knees
Pine Top Smith Jump Steady Blues Shake Your Wicked Knees
Jabo Williams Fat Mama BluesJuke Joint Saturday
Jabo Williams Jab's BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Lee Green Pork Chop BluesLee Green Vol. 2 1930-1937
Lee Green The Way I Feel BluesThe Way I Feel
Lee Green Death Bell Blues The Way I Feel
Lee Green Memphis Fives The Way I Feel
Henry Brown Eastern Chimes Blues Down On The Levee
Henry Brown & Edith JohnsonNickel's Worth of Liver The Blues in St. Louis, Vol. 2
Henry Brown Deep Morgan Blues Down On The Levee
Madelyn James w/ Judson Brown Longtime BluesMemphis Blues 1927-1938
Jenny Pope w/ Judson Brown Tennessee Workhouse BluesMemphis Jug Band: Associates & Alternate Takes 1927-1930
Mary Johnson w/ Judson Brown Morning Sun BluesPiano Blues, Vol. 19: Barrelhouse Women 1925-1933
Mozelle Alderson w/ Judson Brown Tight WhoopeeThe Piano Blues Vol. 5: Postscript 1927-1935
Louise Johnson Long Ways From HomeMasters Of The Delta Blues
Louise Johnson All Night Long BluesJuke Joint Saturday Night
Henry Brown Papa Slick Head Henry Brown Blues
Henry Brown Henry Brown Boogie Henry Brown Blues

Show Notes:

Pine Top Smith: pinetop's BluesOn today's program we once again spotlight several fine forgotten piano men active in the 1920's and 30's,  a tremendously fertile period for piano blues.  We spotlight six superb blues pianists active in the 1920's and 30's who remain largely forgotten today. Perhaps the best known is Pine Top Smith who first recorded the classic “Pine Top's Boogie Woogie.” Jabo Williams’ legacy rests on only eight titles cut for Paramount in the depths of the depression and display a formidable technique. Louise Johnson was a barrelhouse pianist and girlfriend of Charlie Patton’s who went to Grafton, Wisconsin to make records for Paramount with Patton, Willie Brown and Son House. She cut four sides at that session, her sole recorded legacy. Judson Brown made one solo recording, sharing the B-side of his only 78 with Freddie "Redd" Nicholson and backed several singers. Lee Green was closely associated with Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery. He cut over forty sides between 1929 and 1937. Henry Brown is the only artist featured today who recorded after the war. He was fixture on the St. Louis scene recoding under his own name as well as backing several singers and waxed a couple of fine albums in the 1960’s.

Clarence "Pine Top" Smith first performed in public in Birmingham about the age of fifteen. He worked as a pianist at house parties in Troy, Alabama before moving on to Birmingham, where he sometimes worked with Robert McCoy. From around 1920 Smith was based in Pittsburgh, and the following years he traveled with minstrel and vaudeville shows as a dancer, singer and comedian.  He traveled throughout the south where he worked with artists such as Butterbeans & Susie and Ma Rainey. He began to devote more of his energies to playing piano and, at the urging of Charles "Cow Cow." In in interview with the Chicago Tribune pianist Cow Cow Davenport and Vocalion Records talent scout reported that he first saw Pinetop Smith in Pittsburgh  "I happened to hit in Pittsburgh at the Star Theater on Wylie Avenue. … I went with a friend of mine to the Sachem Alley, and there I found Pinetop Smith."

In an interview with Downbeat magazine in 1939, Smith’s wife Sarah Horton said that her husband first started playing "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" in Pittsburgh. Cow Cow Davenport recommended Smith to Mayo Williams of Brunswick/Vocalion records. Smith then moved with his family to Chicago in 1928. On December 29, 1928 Smith recorded his two breakthrough hits: "Pine Top Blues" and "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie." This was the first time the phrase "boogie woogie" appeared on record. On January 14 and 15, 1929 Smith recorded six more sides including "I'm Sober Now" and "Jump Steady Blues." On March 13, 1929 Pine Top made an unissued recording of "Driving Wheel Blues." Two days later, at age 25, Smith was accidentally shot by a man named David Bell during a fight that broke out in a dancehall.Lee Green: 44 Blues

Leothus Lee Green was an early contemporary of Little Brother Montgomery and a mentor to Roosevelt Sykes. Born in Mississippi around 1900, Green worked as a clothes presser in Vicksburg while perfecting his piano technique. Soon he was traveling and earning a living by playing piano. Montgomery knew him in Vicksburg, and claimed to have taught him the "44 Blues" in Sondheimer, LA, back in 1922. Sykes first heard Green in 1925. Green taught Sykes how to really play the blues and is usually credited with teaching the "44 Blues" to Sykes. All three men recorded the number;  Sykes and  Montgomery chose to record their versions of “44 blues” at their debut sessions, Sykes cutting it first in June 1929 as "Forty- Four Blues", Green as "number Forty-Four Blues" in August at his second session the same year and the following year by Montgomery as “Vicksburg Blues.”

Sykes and Green became traveling and gigging companions, circulating throughout the region for several years. Green made his first four recordings in Richmond, IN, for Gennett and Supertone on July 10, 1929, just weeks after Sykes cut his first sides for OKeh in New York. Excepting for a brief excursion to New York in August 1937, Green performed and recorded mainly in or near Chicago. He cut 24 sides for Vocalion in 1929 and 1930, and 14 titles for Decca between August 1934 and September 1937. His last records were made for the Bluebird label in Aurora, IL, on October 11, 1937.

Jabo Williams was a highly talented pianist/vocalist hailing from Birmingham, Alabama. In the early 1930s, north Alabama, including the mill towns of Birmingham and Huntsville, had a distinctive group of blues pianists including Walter Roland, Robert McCoy and Cow Cow Davenport.  It's not clear if he was discovered there or when he  relocated to St. Louis. In St. Louis he may have been  recommended to Paramount Records by local record store owner and talent scout Jesse Johnson. Paramount went out of business in 1932, the same year Williams recorded so his records were likely pressed in small quantities which makes them extremely rare.  In the only known photograph of Williams he's seen in a wide-brimmed hat and in the company fellow Birmingham pianist Robert McCoy. In St. Louis he was well remembered by pianist Joe Dean as a slim, medium-brown man who played piano in a pool hall on 15th and Biddle.

As pianist/researcher Bob Hall notes, Williams was a "forthright, two-handed pianist in the barrelhouse tradition, who used mostly eight-to-the bar boogie bass patterns and highly individual treble phrases, including a characteristic coda with which he ended many of his pieces. 'Ko Ko Mo Blues Parts 1 and 2' has similarities to the later 'Sweet Home Chicago' and is a medium boogie with a lazy, slurred vocal. 'Pratt City Blues,' which is a different tune from the Chippie Hill title, refers to a suburb of the Ensley District of Birmingham. Both this boogie and the stride ‘‘Jab Blues’’ are outstanding instrumental compositions with a relentless drive. 'My Woman Blues' and 'Polock Blues' revert to medium boogie tempo, the latter taking its name from a part of East St. Louis. Williams shared a disregard of bar lengths with his fellow Birmingham pianist Walter Roland, who subsequently recorded another of Williams’ songs, 'House Lady Blues.' 'Fat Mama Blues' is a bawdy house song having a lyrical piano melody and an unusual bass line, ending with a characteristic Williams coda." Some of Williams' records are in such rough shape, like "Ko Ko Mo Blues Parts 1 and 2", (only two known copies) they are virtually unplayable.

Henry Bown: Henry Brown BluesIn A Left Hand Like God: A Study of Boogie-Woogie Peter Silvester wrote: "Henry Brown was a living model for the qualities most apparent in the St. Louis boogie-woogie style. He employed an economic left hand of single notes or sparse chords for slow numbers and a rumbustious walking bass for faster ones." Brown learned to play the piano from the "professors" of the notorious Deep Morgan section of St. Louis. One of them went by the name of "Blackmouth," another was named Joe (or Tom) Cross. As Brown remembered him, "he was a real old time blues player and he'd stomp ‘em down to the bricks." "Deep Morgan Blues" was one of his signature pieces. By the age of sixteen Brown had acquired enough technique to be able to play the buffet flats in the 1920's and was soon in regular demand there. He was able to make enough money to survive, allowing him the sleep during the day and play all night. Brown worked clubs such as the Blue Flame Club, the 9-0-5 Club, Jim's Place and Katy Red's, from the twenties into the 30's. He recorded for Brunswick with Ike Rogers and Mary Johnson in 1929, for Paramount in ‘29 and ‘30, behind singer Alice Moore in 1929 and 1934 as well as backing others such singers as Jimmy Oden, Bessie Mae Smith and others.

Brown served in the army in the early 40's, then formed his own quartet to work occasional local gigs in St. Louis area from the 50's, and worked the Becky Thatcher riverboat in 1965. In addition to his pre-war recordings, he was recorded by Paul Oliver in 1960 (Henry Browm Blues, 77 Records and reissued on CD by Southland), by Sam Charters with Edith Johnson in 1961 (The Blues in St. Louis Vol. 2: Henry Brown and Edith Johnson), cut some sides for the Euphonic label in the 50's (some appear on the Delmark reissue Biddle Street Barrelhousin') and some final sides for Adelphi in 1969.

Louise Johnson was barrelhouse pianist and girlfriend of Charlie Patton’s who went to Grafton to make records with Patton, Willie Brown and Son House in 1930. She cut four sides at that session, her sole recorded legacy. From the book Preachin' The Blues Dan Beaumont writes: "North of Robinsonville, Patton directed Ford to visit the Kirby plantation where they picked up a young woman named Louise Johnson, who was one of Patton’s girlfriends. Johnson sang and played piano in a barrelhouse operated by a Liny Armstrong.  Willie Brown had heard her playing, and he then introduced her to Patton who soon found time for her.  House remembered her 'nice-lookin’…’bout twenty-three, twenty-four years old.'  And like her boyfriend Patton, she 'didn’t do nothin’ but drink and play music; she didn’t work for nobody…' Somewhere along the trip her and Patton had a fight and she became House's girlfriend. "Back in Mississippi, the foursome played in a barrelhouse on the Kirby plantation near Lula for a brief time, then went their separate ways.  According to[Stephen]  Calt and [Gayle] Wardlow, House saw Louise Johnson only once after 1930. He thought she had moved to Helena, Arkansas.  Another report had her playing in the 1930's on the King and Anderson plantation near Clarksdale.  Then she vanished from view."

Judson Brown only made one solo recording in 1930, "You Don't Know My Mind Blues", and had to share the b-side of his one and only 78 with Freddie "Redd" Nicholson performing his "Tee Roller's Rub". Brown did appear on some recordings by Mary Johnson for Brunswick the same year as well as backing singers Mozelle Alderson, Madelyn James, Charlie Nickerson and Jenny Pope. The singers he worked with suggest a Memphis background but according to researcher Bob Eagle he was from Georgia and merely passed through Memphis, ending up in Chicago, where he died in 1933. The pre-war Memphis piano scene is no well documented although a few pianists from Memphis appear on record such as Jab Jones who recorded with the Memphis Jug band and Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes  and Blind Clyde Church who waxed one 78 for Victor.

Related Reading:

Henry Brown:Henry Brown Blues [PDF] (Liner notes by Paul Oliver)

Pinetop Smith [PDF]  (Jazz Record, March 1962 by John Bentley)

The Blues in St. Louis, Vol. 2: Henry Brown and Edith Johnson [PDF]  (Liner notes by Samuel Charters)

The Piano Blues Vol. 18: Roosevelt Sykes/Lee Green 1929-1930 [JPG]  (Liner notes by Bob Hall and Richard Noblett)

Robert Pete WilliamsLevee Camp BluesBlues at Newport 1964
Mississippi Fred McDowell Lord I'm Going Down SouthBlues at Newport 1964
Mississippi John Hurt Sliding Delta Blues at Newport 1964
George Carter Ghost Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 11
Walter DavisCan't See Your Face Walter Davis Vol. 5 1939-1940
Lonnie JohnsonBlue Ghost Blues Lonnie Johnson Vol. 1 1937-1940
Buddy Guy This Is The EndCobra Records Story
Sonny Boy WilliamsonUnseen EyeThe Chess Years Box
Barrelhouse Buck McFarlandLamp Post BluesPiano Blues Vol. 2 1927-1956
Charlie SpandGood Gal Favorite Country Blues Guitar: Piano Duets 1929-1937
Eddy Kelly's Washboard BandCome On 'Round To My House, BabyCarolina Blues 1937-1945
Hokum Boys & Jane Lucas Hip Shakin' Strut Georgia Tom Dorsey: The Essential
Trixie Smith Praying BluesTrixie Smith Vol. 1 1922-1924
Sister Rosetta Tharpe On My WaySister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 7
Sister O.M. Terrell I'm Going to That CityGet Right With God: Hot Gospel 1947-1953
Louisiana Red Had A Date With Barbara Last NightMidnight Rambler
Hop WilsonDrop Down MamaDrop Down Mama
Dave BartholomewAnother MuleDave Bartholomew 1952-1955
Elmore JamesQuarter Past NineEarly Recordings 1951-1956
Earl HookerThe Leading BrandBlue Guitar
Jim Brewer Liberty BillJim Brewer
Guitar ShortyMy Mind Never ChangedCarolina Slide Guitar
Jimmy T-99 NelsonSecond Hand FoolCry Hard Luck
Charles BrownEverybody's Got TroublesThe Complete Aladdin Recordings
Jimmy WitherspoonI Done Found OutUrban Blues Singing Legend
Gatemouth MooreSomebody Got To GoGreat Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7
Blind PercyFourteenth Street Blues Blues Images Vol. 11
Blind Joel Taggart Precious Lord Blues Images Vol. 9

Show Notes:

It's pledge drive time at the station so I usually run mix pogram so the drive doesn't cut short our usual theme shows. Lots of interesting records on deck today including a bunch of songs from the Newport Folk Festival, a batch of fine pre-war sides, some gospel that falls on the bluesy side, some strong down-home blues, a number of fine blues belters and some hard hitting post-war electric blues.

Blind Joe Taggart AcetateWe open the show with a trio of sides from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival from the 2-CD The Blues At Newport 1964 Complete Edition which collects two albums that originally came out on Vanguard in 1965. The Newport Folk Festival began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. Prior to 1964 blues were not well represented at the festival. That changed by 1964 when several important blues artists who recorded in the 20's and 30's were rediscovered. Featured were the first major festival appearances by Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Pete Williams and Robert Wilkins plus Mississippi John Hurt, who performed the previous year, as well as performances Rev. Gary Davis, John Lee Hooker, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry (they performed in 1959 at the first festival ) and others.

A few weeks ago I spotlighted several numbers from he vaults of collector John Tefteller who's record collection contains some of the rarest blues 78's in existence. Every year around this time 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. Today we spotlight the gorgeous "Ghost Woman Blues" a twelve string blues by George Carter. Nothing is known of him other then he cut four sides for Paramount in 1929. Bruce Bastin related that when Edward "Snap" Hill, a boyhood friend of Curley Weaver and the Hicks brothers was played a tape of one of Georg Carter's songs it prompted him to say: "He's from Atlanta" although he knew nothing about him.  It turns out that there's been a recent cover of "Ghost Woman Blues" by a group called The Low Anthem. I've actually been checking them out a bit – I think I've become a fan. (shhh …don't tell the blues police!)

Int the same set as the George Carter number we spin two moody masterpiece about haunted love. First up is Lonnie's Johnson's magnificent "Blue Ghost Blues" (Johnson cut this first in 1927 but today we spin his 1938 version) beautifully sung and played by a man who still doesn't get his proper due:

I've been in this haunted house, for three long years today (2x)
Blue ghost has got my shack surrounded, oh lord and I can't get away
I feel cold arms around me, ice lips upon my cheek (2x)
My lover is dead, how plainly plain I can hear her speak
(whispered: Lonnie, sweet Lonnie)

My windows beginning rattling, my door knob is turning round and round (2x)
My lover's ghost has got me and I know my time won't be long

Walter Davis is probably more neglected than Lonnie although he was very popular among black audiences, cutting hundreds of sides between his 1930 debut and his final 1952 session. "Can't See Your Face" is a poignant number from 1939:

Your old picture has faded, mama that hangs up on the wall (2x)
It's been hanging there so long, I can't see your face at all
Even my old house seems haunted, mama and there ain't nobody around (2x)
Sometime it seems like at  night, that the old house is falling down
I can hear my back door slamming, I can hear a little baby crying (2x)
All I wonder baby, have you got me on your mind

We spin two tracks today from Blind Joe Taggart. Taggart made his first records for Vocalion in June 1927 then went to Paramount in 1928. He continued recording in the 30's but vanished after a final session for Decca in 1934. A few years back an acetate Taggart made in 1948 turned up and was issued by John Tefteller on the CD hat accompanies the 2009 calendar. Taggart did cut one blues 78, "Coal River Blues b/w Fourteenth Street Blues under th psedonymn Blind Percy and His Blind Band in 1927 with the latter cut featured today and comes from the latest Tefteller CD.

Walter Davis
Walter Davis circa 1942

In an interview in Fretboard Journal Tefteller talked about the post-war record: "It means that Blind Joe Taggart went into a recording studio in Chicago — probably on Maxwell Street, because they had several studios there back then. For a few dollars you could pay to have a record made. You would walk into the booth where they had the microphone set up, you would sit down, you would play your song, and it would be cut directly from the microphone directly onto that acetate record.  There would be not necessarily any other copies made, and if there were other copies made, they would have been made from that. But it was never commercially released; it was never put out on a record with an actual label. The songs are 'Precious Lord,' spelled 'Preshious Lord' on the label, and 'Little Black Train.' My theory is that he was going to take that dub and go around to the different record companies on Record Row in Chicago, and try to get himself a contract to record again. He could walk into Chess — I think it was called Aristocrat in the late 1940s — he could walk into Chess or Aristocrat, or one of those independent labels with this acetate, and say, 'You know, I used to make records back in the '30s for Paramount, they sold fairly well. Here’s my latest recording. You might want to consider issuing this.' And I think that’s what this is. It was discovered in a stack of lousy 1970s rock LPs. It’s miraculous it survived. It came so close to being lost forever."

We play a few other sides today with a religious bent including music from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sister O.M. Terrell and a number by Trixie Smith. We spin Sister Rosetta's "On My Way" from 1961. Tharpe cut some fantastic records and I never tire of listening to her. There was a time when she wasn't well served on reissues but now just about everything she released is available on CD. Our selection comes from the seventh and final collection on the French Fremmeaux & Associes label that collects all of Tharpe's recordings through 1961.

Sister O.M. Terrell is far less known but her guitar style is very reminiscent of Tharpe's.  Terrell taught herself to play the guitar and began writing gospel songs and singing them on Atlanta's Decatur Street. From the Depression years of the 1930's to the Eisenhower '50's, she lived the life of an itinerant evangelist and supported herself with her music. In 1953 she recorded six sides for Columbia who for some reason released them in its country music series. She was eventually tracked down to the door of a nursing home in Conyers, Georgia by musicologist Bruce Nemerov. She passed in 2006 at the age of 95.

"Praying Blues" from 1924 is one of Trixie Smith's finest numbers backed by a great band that included trombonist Charlie Green, Don Redman on clarinet and Fletcher Henderson on piano.  A few weeks back I did a program called I Want Plenty Grease In My Frying Pan – Forgotten Blues Ladies Pt. 3 and someone asked me about Trixie Smith. I've never really given her much of a listen but I've been listening to her collected recordings on Document and it's a bit of a mixed bag but she has more then a few outstanding songs. I'll be spotlighting more of her on upcoming shows.

Smith was born in Atlanta and around 1915 moved north to New York to work in show business. At first she worked in minstrel shows and on the TOBA vaudeville circuit. In 1922 Smith made her first recordings for the Black Swan label and later that year she won a blues singing contest in New York beating out Lucille Hegamin and others with her song "Trixie's Blues." In 1924 Smith made her debut for Paramount, cutting twenty sides for the label through 1926. She recorded a final batch of sides in 1938 and 1939.

Jimmy Nelson: Watch ThatAction=We feature seveal tough post-war guiarists today including Buddy Guy's smoldering "This Is The End" for Cobra. Guy released two singles in 1958 on Cobra's Artistic Records subsidiary. Other heavy hitters include Elmore James' "Quarter Past Nine", Dave Bartholomew's "Another Mule" sporting great guitar work from Pee Wee Crayton and Earl Hooker's knockout instrumental "The Leading Brand."

We have a set of superb blues singers on deck today including Gatemouth Moore, Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Jimmy Witherspoon and Charles Brown.  I fist heard Moore on a great 2-LP set, The Shouters – Roots Of Rock 'N' Roll Vol. 9, and have been a fan ever since.  Often labeled a blues shouter, with his perfect diction and huge, mellow, enveloping voice he was more accurately a blues crooner of the highest order. I'll let Gatemouth speak for himself: "I am one of the ultra-men blues singers. I am not accustomed and don't know nothing about that gut-belly stuff in the joints…I put on tuxedos, dressed up, sang intelligent…Without a doubt, and I'm not being facetious, I'm the best blues singer in the business with that singing voice. Now I can't wiggle and I can't dance, but telling a story, I don't think them other boys are in my class."

Moore's blues career came to a close in 1949 when he had a religious conversion on stage at Chicago's Club DeLisa. After walking off stage he eventually became a preacher, gospel disc jockey and gospel recording artist. Inexplicably in 1977 he stepped back briefly into the world of blues cutting Great Rhythm & Blues Oldies Vol. 7, an exceptional album despite it's generic title. The album was produced by Johnny Otis and issued on the Blues Spectrum label. Today's selection, "Somebody got To Go", comes from that album.

Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson is another favorite singer of mine. I became a fan of Jimmy Nelson many years ago after hearing an LP collection of his early sides on the Ace label. I always hoped he would start recording again and in 1999 he issued the terrific Rockin' And Shoutin' The Blues. I interviewed Jimmy when that record came out and it was one of the best interviews I ever did and subsequently spoke with him again in 2005.

Blessed with a booming voice and a hip delivery, Nelson cut a swath of fine sides for Modern's RPM and Kent imprints in the early 50's and 60's but only scored big with his signature "T-99 Blues." After getting dropped from Modern Nelson bounced through a number of small labels before giving up music in the 60's. From his RPM days we feature his "Second Hand Fool."

Richard "Rabbit" Brown James Alley BluesNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Richard "Rabbit" Brown Never Let The Same Bee Sting You TwiceNever Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Boogie Bill Webb Bad Dog Rural Blues Vol. 3
Boogie Bill Webb Drinkin' And Stinkin' Roosevelt Holts & Friends
Snooks Eaglin Country Boy Down In New OrleansCountry Boy Down In New Orleans
Snooks Eaglin Mama Don't You Tear My ClothesCountry Boy Down In New Orleans
Arzo Youngblood Four Women Blues Goin' Up The Country
Arzo Youngblood Bye And Bye Blues Goin' Up The Country
Babe Stovall Woman Blues Babe Stovall Story
Babe Stovall I'm Gwine To New Orleans Babe Stovall
Babe Stovall The Ship Is At The Landing The Old Ace
Newton Greer Born Dead Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King
Harmonica Williams & Little Freddie KingBaby Don't You Know Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King
Richard "Rabbit" Brown Sinking Of The Titanic Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Richard "Rabbit" Brown I'm Not Jealous Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
Boogie Bill Webb BoogieRual Blues Vol. 3
Boogie Bill WebbBig Road Blues Living Country Blues USA – Introduction
Snooks Eaglin Mailman PassedCountry Boy Down In New Orleans
Snooks Eaglin Lonesome RoadI Bluskvarter Vol. 3
Arzo Youngblood I Can't Be Successful Living Country Blues USA – Introduction
Arzo Youngblood Goin Up The Country Living Country Blues:Vol. 7
Lemone Nash New Orleans Blues The Country Blues -Storyville Blues Anthology Vol.10
Edgar Blanchard & Papa LightfootCreole Gal Blues Down Home Blues Classics 1943-1953
Monroe Vincent AKA Polka Dot Slim Ain't Broke, Ain't Hungry Forest City Joe & Polka Dot Slim: Downhome Delta Harmonica
Pee Wee Hughes Sugar Mama Juke Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues 1943 -1956
Pee Wee HughesI'm A Country Boy Juke Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues 1943 -1956
Babe Stovall Going Away To Wear You Off My Mind The Old Ace
Babe Stovall Worried Blues The Old Ace
Babe Stovall See See Rider South Mississippi Blues
Harmonica Williams & Little Freddie KingHighway 82 Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King
Little Freddy King The King Special Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King
Harmonica Williams & Little Freddie KingJuke Boy Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King

Show Notes:

Richard Rabbit Brown: James Alley BluesI had been toying around with the idea of this show for awhile and was finally inspired to put this  together after reading Scott Baretta's article, "Downhome New Orleans Blues", a couple of months back in Living Blues magazine. New Orleans has always been a music city, and some would say jazz was its most significant invention, formed around the dawn of the twentieth century and passed on to the rest of America and the world thereafter. That being said, anyone who's listened o the early New Orleans jazz records knows that blues was the bedrock for many of the bands such as Oscar 'Papa' Celestin, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Louis Dumaine, The Chicago Footwarmers, Freddie Keppard and Johnny Dodds among others.

Certainly before the war the blues not well documented on record outside of early performers like Richard "Rabbit" Brown, Lizzie Miles and Blu Lu Barker. Even in the 1940's the scene was dominated by jazz and dixieland bands like Kid Thomas, Billie and De De Pierce, George Lewis and John Handy. During the 1940's and into the 1950s a distinctly New Orleans approach to blues and R&B emerged. Usually piano-driven and backed by inventive rhythms that showed the marked influence of second-line marching and brass bands. While surrounding states like Mississippi, Texas had significant downhome blues scenes that's not the case with New Orleans. Today's show documents some of the few downhome New Orleans  bluesmen who made records including the pre-war blues of  Richard “Rabbit” Brown, and post-war sides by Snooks Eaglin, Boogie Bill Webb, Arzo Youngblood, Babe Stovall and others. Below is some background on today's featured performers.

Born circa 1880, Richard "Rabbit" Brown spent much of his life in New Orleans where he was reported to have worked as a street singer and singing boatman on Lake Ponchartrain. On March 11, 1927, Brown cut six sides for the recording pioneer Ralph Peer. Brown was a very much the songster and his recordings are an interesting mix of original blues, pop covers and event songs like his "Sinking Of The Titanic" and "Mystery of the Dunbar's Child." Brown passed away in 1937. It's been suggested that Brown also be he man behind Blind Willie Harris who cut "Does Jesus Care? b/w Where He Leads Me I Will Follow" for Victor in New Orleans in 1929. In  the notes to Dust-To-Digital's Goodbye Babyblon box set the following is noted: "Two swallows don't make a summer either, but the resemblance of Willie Harris' voice and guitar to those of Richard 'Rabbit' Brown suggest the existence of a local shared troubadour style.  The voice on this track and the accompanying side Does Jesus Care is strikingly similar to the 5 titles recorded by Brown in New Orleans in March 1927.  This is B.W.H's only recording."

Babe Stovall
Read Liner Notes

Lemon Nash played with Richard "Rabbit" "Brown in the 1920's. Nash was one of the few musicians who remembered Brown. In an interview in 1959 he recalled that Brown made his money playing on the streets of New Orleans' sporting district. He was a regular at Mama Lou's on Lake Pontchartrain. If "business was slow and [Brown] need a ride home, he would turn in a false fire alarm." The firemen answered the call and found out it was only their friend, who sang to them as they went back to the station. "He knew all the firemen," Nash recalled, and they did not seem to mind the inconvenience. For Nash, Brown seems to have been a comic figure with little musical talent. He "played so badly, I had to let him go," Nash remembered. "He just hit the guitar and yell." Brown was "what you call a clown man." Nash was a veteran of many string bands of and cut a handful of sides in 1959 and 1960 including today's featured track "New Orleans Blues".

Born in 1907 in Tylertown, MS, Babe Stovall was the youngest of 11 children, most of them musicians. Stovall learned guitar when he was around eight years old, and was soon playing breakdowns, frolics, and parties in the area, even meeting and learning "Big Road Blues" from Tommy Johnson. He moved to Franklinton, LA, in the 1930's, and split his time between there and Tylertown for several years, picking up whatever work he could as a farmhand. In 1964 he moved to New Orleans, where he was "discovered" working as a street singer in the French Quarter. He recorded an LP for Verve in 1964, simply titled Babe Stovall (re-released on CD by Flyright in 1990), and did further sessions in 1966 (released on CD by Southern Sound as The Babe Stovall Story) and with Bob West in 1968 (which form the basis of The Old Ace: Mississippi Blues & Religious Songs, released on Arcola in 2003), and became active on the folk and blues college circuit, as well as holding down a house gig at the Dream Castle Bar in New Orleans. He passed in 1974.

Boogie Bill Webb was born in Jackson, Mississippi, his greatest influence was Tommy Johnson. He settled in New Orleans in 1952. Webb obtained a recording contract with Imperial Records, after his friendship with Fats Domino led to his introduction to Dave Bartholomew. In 1953 Webb released his debut single, "Bad Dog" and three other songs at this session. Frustrated by lack of recognition, Webb relocated to Chicago, where he worked in various factories. Webb returned to New Orleans in 1959 to work as a stevedore, performing music infrequently. However, in the late 60's he recorded several songs for the folklorist David Evans, which appeared on several anthologies. In the 1970's Webb began performing in Europe. Finally in 1989, with financial assistance from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Webb released his only full-length record, Drinkin' and Stinkin'. Webb died in New Orleans in August 1990, at the age of 66.

Snooks Eaglin: New Orleans Street Singer
Read Liner Notes

Azo Youngblood was a pal of Boogie Bill Webb and learned guitar as a teenager from Tommy Johnson who married Youngblood's aunt. Youngblood was first recorded in 1966 by David Evans with songs appearing on the anthology Goin' Up The Country on Decca and other sides on the collection The Legacy Of Tommy Johnson. He was recorded a final time in 1980 by Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann with songs appearing on the Living Country Blues USA series of albums.

In 1947, at the age of 11, Snooks Eaglin won a talent contest organized by the radio station WNOE by playing "Twelfth Street Rag". Three years later, he dropped out of the school for the blind to become a professional musician. In 1952, Eaglin joined the Flamingos, a local seven-piece band started by Allen Toussaint.He stayed with The Flamingos for several until the mid-1950's. The first recordings under his own name came when Harry Oster, a folklorist from Louisiana State University, found him playing in the streets of New Orleans. Oster made recordings of Eaglin between 1958 and 1960 during seven sessions which later became records on various labels including Folkways, Folklyric, and Prestige/Bluesville. He started waxing R&B records for Imperial Records with the help of producer Dave Bartholomew in 1960 and stuck with the label through 1963. Eaglin's resurgence came with his signing to Black Top in the 80's where he cut a series of great records though the 90's.

We spotlight several cuts from the LP Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King cut for the Ahura Mazda label in 1971. This is supposedly the first electric blues album recorded in New Orleans and marks the debut of Little Freddie King. It would take until 1995 before King made his full-length debut with Swamp Boogie. In addition to Williams and King there is a powerful version of J.B. Lenoir's "Born Dead" sung by Newton Greer. Greer was a local club owner and a blues singer who often worked with local groups.

A guitarist and band leader, Edgar Blanchard was a permanent feature of the New Orleans music scene from the 40s to the 60s. In 1947 he was in charge of the resident band at the Down Beat Club on Rampart Street, with Roy Brown as one of the vocalists. Blanchard’s most well-known band was the Gondoliers. Although he frequently played on sessions, Blanchard seldom recorded under his own name. "Creole Gal" is the only downhome song he recorded, this one featuring Papa Lightfoot on harmonica.
Harmonica Williams with Little Freddie King
Monroe Vincent AKA Polka Dot Slim was born in Woodville, MS., and was influenced by the harmonica playing of Sonny Boy Williamson I. Vincent made his debut in 1956 recording a single for Excello as Vince Monroe. In 1957 he recorded over two dozen sides for the Zynn label but only released two recordings. Vincent returned to recording in 1965 and the following year waxing two singles for Instant & Apollo. Even after his recording career stalled, he remained a fixture on the New Orleans performing scene up until about 1976.

Nothing is known about Pee Wee Hughes.  Hughes cut four sides for the Deluxe label in 1949 in New Orleans.

Ann Cook Mama Cookie Sizzling The Blues
Wilmer Davis Gut StruggleRichard M. Jones and the Blues Singers 1923-1938

Original Washboard Band & Julie Davis Geechie River Blues Johnny Dodds 1927-1928
Blanche Johnson Galveston BluesElzadie Robinson Vol. 1 1926-1928
Ida May MackMr. Forty-Nine Blues Texas Girls 1926-1929
Dorothy Everetts Macon BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 6: E/F/G 1922-1928)
Madlyn Davis & Her Hot Shots Kokola BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 5 C/D/E 1921-1928
Madlyn Davis & Her Hot Shots Winter BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 5 C/D/E 1921-1928
Bertha Ross Lost Man BluesBarrelhouse Woman Vol. 1 1925-1930
Dolly Martin All Men Blues St. Louis Barrelhouse Piano 1929-1934
Luella MillerFrisco BluesLuella Miller 1926-1928
Viola McCoy I Ain't Gonna Marry, Ain't Gonna Settle DownViola McCoy Vol. 2 1924-1926
Edith WilsonEvil BluesAin't Gonna Settle Down: The Pioneering Blues of Mary Stafford and Edith Wilson
Edna Winston I Got A Mule To RideLeona Williams & Edna Winston 1922-1927
Sylvester Hannah Michigan River Blues Fletcher Henderson & The Blues Singers 1923-1924
Margaret Carter I Want Plenty Grease In My Frying Pan Vaudeville Blues
Ora AlexanderRider Needs a Fast HorseFemale Blues Singers Vol. 1 A/B 1924-1932
Maggie Jones North Bound BluesMaggie Jones Vol. 1 1923-1925
Monette Moore House Rent BluesMonette Moore Vol. 1 1923-1924
Ruby Gowdy Florida Flood BluesFemale Blues Singers, Vol. 6: E/F/G 1922-1928
Rosie Mae Moore Staggering BluesI Can't Be Satisfied: Early American Blues Singers Vol. 1
Bessie Mae Smith Mean Bloodhound BluesSt. Louis Bessie & Alice Moore Vol. 1 1927-1929
Nellie Florence Jacksonville BluesChocolate To The Bone
Marie Grinter East and West BluesFemale Blues Singers Vol. 7 G/H 1922-1929
Martha CopelandPolice BluesMartha Copeland Vol. 1 1923-1927
Hattie Snow Make That Gravel FlyMeaning In The Blues
Elzadie Robinson Elzadie's Policy BluesParamount Jazz
Ida May Mack Elm Street BluesTexas Girls 1926-1929
Bessie TuckerThe KatyBessie Tucker 1928 - 1929
Bertha Henderson Black Bordered LetterParamount Jazz
Ora BrownJinx Blues Blues Images Vol. 9
Fanny May Goosby Fortune Teller BluesFemale Blues Singers 7 G/H 1922- 1929
Genevieve Davis Haven't Got A Dollar To Pay Your House Rent ManWhen the Sun Goes Down
Liza BrownPeddlin' BluesBessie Brown 1925-1929 & Liza Brown 1929

Show Notes:

Woman blues singers seem to get shortchanged when it comes to interest among blues fans or reissue companies. I'm not talking about heavy hitters like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, but the dozens and dozens of fine singers who recorded in their shadows during the 1920's and 30's. This show is dedicated to singers like Ida May Mack, Elzadie Robinson, Bessie Tucker, Madlyn Davis and others; in some cases they recorded dozens of sides or just a handful, some were quite popular in their day while other achieved little or no success yet they cut some exceptional blues records that, outside of collectors, remain all but forgotten today.

As researcher Don Kent wrote: "In the late 1890's, an amateur folklorist in Frankfort, Kentucky, heard a black woman in the county workhouse do a melancholy song called a 'jailhouse moan'. In 1902, traveling with a tent show, the young Ma Rainey heard a woman in Missouri do a 'strange and poignant' song (which Ma immediately incorporated in her act) that she later identified as a 'blues'. Nearly a decade passed before this style gained any real prominence, but Mamie Smith's first recording in 1920 showed record companies that black people were anxious and willing to buy music by their peers. Ironically, although Mamie Smith started the blues bandwagon, her repertoire was more indicative of black vaudeville and cabaret singers who included blues and pseud0-blues among their performance pieces."

Bertha-Henderson- Black-Bordered-LetterThe "Classic Female Blues" era as it's generally called, spanned from 1920 to 1929 with its peak from 1923 to 1925. The most popular of these singers were Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Ethel Waters, Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, Alberta Hunter, Clara Smith and Trixie Smith. As Paul Oliver notes: "One of the records that helped launch the issue of so-called 'Race Records'…was Mamie Smith's 'Crazy Blues.' It was to the benefit of many other black woman singers that a black woman had at last broke into what had previously been an exclusively white market. During the decade after the release of this record, more than 200 women singers were recorded and their songs issued on Race Records. Several of them made more than a hundred titles each, and a great many made a few dozen. In addition, there were those who made just a handful of titles that were often of great interest, nonetheless." In 1921 blues singers such as Lillyn Brown, Lavinia Turner, Lucille Hegamin, Daisey Martin all made records. In January 1922 Metronome declared that "every phonograph company has a colored girl recording blues." Of course woman like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Ida Cox had been singing the blues for years, mainly in the South, in circuses like Miller's 101 Ranch, The Mighty Haag Circus, Vaudeville stages and minstrel shows like Sugar Foot Greene's Minstrel Show, Silas Green from New Orleans and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.

Several of today artists got their start in vaudeville, black theater or worked primarily fronting jazz bands.  In this category we hear from Viola McCoy, Edith Wilson, Ann Cook and Julia Davis.

In the early 1920s, Viola McCoy moved to New York City, where she worked in cabarets and appeared in revues at the Lincoln and Lafayette Theaters. She toured the Theater Owners Bookers Association vaudeville circuit, and made numerous recordings between 1923–1929 for various labels including Gennett, Vocalion, and Columbia Records.Author Derrick Stewart-Baxter wrote of McCoy: "She belongs to the great vaudeville tradition, but in all she does there is a strong jazz strain … Possessing a lovely contralto voice and fine diction, she was able to project herself through even the worst recording … It would be true to say that in the three years she was recording most prolifically she hardly ever made a bad record".Nellie Florence - Jacksonville-Blues

Edith Wilson was one of the stars of early African-American musical theater. After working in vaudeville with her pianist brother Danny Wilson, Edith rose to prominence in 1921 when she replaced Mamie Smith in Perry Bradford's musical revue "Put And Take". Bradford arranged for her to begin recording with Columbia in 1921. She was paired with Johnny Dunn's Jazz Hounds for a series of 17 recordings made in 1921 and 1922. Wilson would make few recordings in subsequent years until she made her comeback in the 1970s.

Nothing much is known about Ann Cook and Julia Davis other then they were exceptional singers who were recorded fronting jazz bands. We hear the great Johnny Dodds backing singer Julia Davis who cut one 78 for Paramount in 1924 and one final terrific record in 1928, "Jasper Taylor Blues b/w Geechie River Blues", backed by the Original Washboard Band featured washboard player Jasper Taylor.  Ann Cook was a New Orleans singer who recorded a couple of songs in 1927 backed by a band that included Louis Dumaine on Cornet, Willie Joseph on Clarinet, Leonard Mitchell on Banjo and Morris Rouse on Piano. Cook was recorded again in the 1940's.

Several of today's featured singers fall in the down-home blues category of singing. Among those are Madlyn Davis, Elzadie Robinson. Ida Mae Mack, Bessie Tucker, Bessie Mae Smith and Nellie Florence.

Madlyn Davis made ten recordings in Chicago, for Paramount Records, with her first session taking place in June 1927. In October 1928, Davis had her final recording stint, with her backing musicians including Georgia Tom Dorsey on piano and Tampa Red on guitar. Her most famous song was "Kokola Blues", obviously mistitled at the time. Scrapper Blackwell recorded it the following year as "Kokomo Blues". In 1934 Kokomo Arnold called his version "Old Original Kokomo Blues". Two years later Robert Johnson turned it in to "Sweet Home Chicago", and the rest is history.

Vocalist Elzadie Robinson hailed from Shreveport, Louisiana, but remained in Chicago, after going there to record. Her recordings span 1926-29, and during that time she worked with several pianists including Bob Call, and her regular accompanist and fellow Shreveport native, Will Ezell. Robinson chiefly recorded for the Paramount label, but also cut several sides for Broadway and used the aliases Bernice DRosie Mae Moore - Staggering Bluesrake and Blanche Johnson.

Ida May Mack was a Texas singer who traveled by train to Memphis, Tennessee in the summer of 1928 along with Bessie Tucker and Charlie Kyle to record. Mack made at least ten recordings with multiple takes of some, only six sides were issued by her at the time. Little is known about Bessie Tucker. Tucker had another session in Dallas the following year, once again backed by Johnson on piano as well as other area musicians. No one knows what happened to her after her recording sessions and unlike most of her peers of the day, one photo of her survives.

Little is known about Rosie Mae Moore except for the fact that she was Charlie McCoy's girlfriend during the time of her recordings that all took place in 1928. She recorded four sides for Victor in Memphis in the early part of the year. Later in December she recorded four more sides for Brunswick in New Orleans, backed by McCoy as well as Walter Vincson and Bo Chatman of The Mississippi Shieks. On her Brunswick releases she was billed as Mary Butler.

Bessie Mae Smith recorded variously as St. Louis Bessie, Blue Belle and Streamline Mae. Her 18 sides recorded between 1927-1930.


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