ARTISTSONGALBUM
Drop On Down In Florida FeatureInterview & Music
Lum Guffin On The Road AgainOn The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974
Lum Guffin Old Country Blues Old Country Blues Vol. 1
Ashley Thomas Sweet PeaceOld Country Blues Vol. 1
Perry TillisKennedy MoanToo Close
Dewey CorleyLast NightOn The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974
William FloydEvery time I Need YouSouthern Comfort Country
Walter MillerSherman's BluesOld Country Blues
Lattie Murrell Howling In The Moonlight45
Lattie Murrell When A Gal Cross The BottomOld Country Blues
Lincoln JacksonBig Fat WomanOld Country Blues
William Davis Floyd Why Did I Have To Leave Cairo?Southern Comfort Country
Joe TownsendTake Your Burdens To The LordSouthern Comfort Country
David Johnson Let The Nation Be FreeSouthern Comfort Country
Lum GuffinJohnny WilsonOn The Road Again
Walter Miller Stuttgart ArkansasOn The Road Again
Lattie MurrellSpoonfulOn The Road Again

Show Notes:

On today’s program we spotlight field recordings taped mainly in the 70’s in Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. In the first hour we hear recordings from a new reissue on the Dust-To-Digital label, Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music, 1977 – 1980. This an expanded reissue of a 2-LP set that first came out in 1981. The expanded reissue includes nearly 80 previously-unreleased minutes of music on 28 new tracks, plus numerous photos and a lengthy booklet. In a addition we chat with Dwight Devane who was involved in putting together the original 2-LP set, Blaine Wade the State Folklorist from Florida and Lance Ledbetter from Dust-To-Digital.

Florida, probably due to geography, was not well documented in terms of blues recordings. The popularity of blues was growing rapidly in the 1920's and to feed the demand record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. Between 1927-1930 Atlanta was visited seventeen times, Memphis eleven times, Dallas eight times, New Orleans seven times and so on.  No trips, however made it down to Florida. There was field recordings done in the pre-war era, most notably 1935  recordings made by Alan Lomax,  Elizabeth Barnicle and Zora Neal Hurtson that resulted in recordings for the Library of Congress. In the mid-70's the Flyright label issued this material on the LP's Out In The Cold Again: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 3 and Boot That Thing: Library Of Congress Field Recordings Vol. 4. In the 1960's and 70's there was much field recording work done by men such as David Evans (who was involved in this project), Peter Lowry, George Mitchell, among others, but none ventured to Florida. This sparseness of recordings makes  Drop on Down in Florida all the more valuable.

Emmett Murray (left) and Johnny Brown (right)

For the second hour we hear recordings by Bengt Olsson who taped some superb field recordings in Tennessee and Alabama between 1969 and 1974. He was also a very good writer as the liner notes he wrote prove and also authored the classic Memphis Blues and Jug Bands which was published in 1970 by Studio Vista and now long out-of-print. His life's work, Memphis Blues, was slated to be published by Routledge in 2008 but with Olsson's passing in January of that year it looks like the book has been permanently shelved. Olsson first came to the United States in 1969, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. He recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others.

In addition to the Lum Guffin record, Olsson's recordings have been issued on three compilations on the Flyright label. Some of these recordings appear on the CD On the Road – Country Blues 1969-1974. Several years back Birdman Records purchased Olsson's entire library of recordings. So far the label has issued two releases: Old Country Blues Vol. 1 and Bishop Perry Tillis: Too Close. In 2010 the Sutro Park label issued a vinyl album titled Wolf's At The Door: Lost Recordings From The Spirits Of The South which included some unreleased recordings by Olsson.

Olsson recorded Lum Guffin between 1972 and 1974, with a few tracks appearing on anthologies and the rest on his only ful-length album, Walking Victrola, issued on the Flyright label in 1973. Further field recordings were made in 1978 by Gianni Marcucci and issued on his Albatros label. Guffin performed as a street musician around Binghampton, Memphis during the depression with his sometime partner, mandolin player ‘Chunk’ McCullough or at home for various social gatherings, picnics, dances, etc. Guffin also performed in a fife and drum band during the time of these recordings. He passed in 1993.

Read Liner Notes

Dewey Corley was the leader of the Beale Street Jug Band from the '30s onward, and played jug, washtub bass and kazoo. In his later years, he also acted as an A&R man, helping record companies such as Adelphi scout out missing Memphis blues legends such as Hacksaw Harney and guitarist Willie Morris. Corley was influenced by Will Shade, joining Shade's Memphis Jug Band and was also a member of Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band and also backed quite a few of the city's diverse bluesmen in duo and trio settings. His own Beale Street Jug Band was a most successful venture and became a fixture in Memphis for nearly three decades. He cut several fine sessions in the 60's and 70's. Ashley Thompson was another jug band veteran, part of the vital jug band scene in Memphis in the '20s and '30s, working as a guitarist and vocalist in Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers.

Dewey Corley introduced Olsson to many of the city's overlooked older blues musicians. In Somerville, Tennessee, 1971, Olsson set up shop in a bootlegger's shack to record Lattie "The Wolf" Murrell, whose nickname stems from his great ability to mimic the vocal mannerisms of Howlin' Wolf. Murrel was record again in 1980 by Axel Kunster.

In the early 70 Begnt Olsson found himself in Coffee County, Al in search of blues musicians. They were soon pointed to the house of Joe Perry Tillis. Tillis had recently become blind but was travelling and playing blues just a few years prior. Now he was playing just gospel and spiritual music. They made some reel to reel recordings that day and came back to record more a few weeks later. In 1972 Olsson hired musicologist Bill Bart to record Tillis and found that Tillis had amplified his music. In his younger days Tillis had played blues all over the southeast and as far as California. During his travels he met Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and sometimes in the 40’s met Blind Willie Johnson whom he performed a couple of shows with. Tillis and his wife formed their own church in the late 70’s through. He regularly recorded his services on cassette. Tillis passed at the age of 85 in 2004.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Big MaybelleMy Big MistakeThe Complete OKeh Sessions
Mickey Baker Spininn’ Rock BoogieIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Louis JordanCaldonia 56'In The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Larry DaleMidnight HoursIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Rib JointRib Joint
Mickey & SylviaNo Good LoverIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Eddie MackLast Hour BluesEddie Mack 1947-1952
Tiny KennedyCountry BoyR&B From The Radio Corporation Volumes 1
H-Bomb FergusonWork For My BabyRock H-Bomb Rock
Mickey BakerMidnight Midnight The Wildest Guitar
Nappy BrownIs It Really You?Night Time Is The Right Time
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Juke JointSammy Price & His Bluescians
Buddy JohnsonSomedayBuddy and Ella Johnson: 1953-1964
Little EstherYou Can Bet Your LifeLadies Sing The Blues
Annisteen AllenWantedAnnisteen Allen 1945-53
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Paul WilliamsWoman Are The Root of All EvilPaul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Mickey Baker Bandstand StompRock With A Sock
Square WaltonPepper-Head WomanRub A Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Brownie McGhee Love's a DiseaseRub A Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Mckey BakerShake Walkin’ Rock With A Sock
Larry Dale You Better Heed My WarningIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Roy GainesWorried About You BabyGroove Jumping
Mr. BearThe Bear Hug In The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Big Red McHouston & His orchestraI’m Tired R&B From The Radio Corporation Volumes 1
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Kansas City Boogie Woogie StompRib Joint
Eddie Riff Ain’t That Lovin’ YouMickey Baker: Essential Blues Masters
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Bar-B-Q SauceRib Joint
Mickey BakerRock With A Sock Rock With A Sock
Champion Jack DupreeStumbling BlockIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Big Red McHouston & His OrchestraStranger BluesIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Big MaybellePitifulThe Complete OKeh Sessions
Varetta DillardSo Many WaysLadies Sing the Blues
Sammy Price & His Bluescians LeveeRib Joint

Show Notes:

 
Mickey Baker and Sylvia Vanderpool (Mickey & Sylvia)

Mickey Baker, who has died aged 87, was one of the most versatile and prolific guitarists of his era. I was a fan of baker's guitar playing even before I knew his name. When I first seriously started buying blues records it didn't take me long to figure out that the great guitar playing on those 50's records I was buying of Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown and numerous others was the work of the prolific Mickey Baker. During the 1950s, any producer making R&B or rock'n'roll records in New York would have Baker's name in his contacts book, and he played on innumerable sessions for Atlantic, Savoy and other labels, accompanying vocal groups including the Drifters and the Coasters and blues singers such as Champion Jack Dupree, Nappy Brown, Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker. Among the many hit records to which he made original and distinctive contributions were Ruth Brown's “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean”, the Coasters' “I'm a Hog for You” and Joe Turner's “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Today we spotlight Baker's bluesier records, as we hear him on great records by Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown, Larry Dale, Sammy Price, Champion Jack Dupree, Louis Jordan and many others.

Baker was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent some of his youth in institutions, from which he ran away to New York, where for a time he got by as a pool-hall hustler. "Around the age of 19," he later recalled, "I decided to make a change in my life. I was still washing dishes, but I was determined that I wanted to be a jazz musician." His preferred instrument was the trumpet but he could not afford one, so he bought a cheap guitar from a pawnshop and learned some chords from a hillbilly songbook. In time he moved on to the standard repertoire and started playing progressive jazz. Then, while on the west coast, he went to a gig by the singer and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton and encountered the blues. "I asked Pee Wee, 'You mean you can make money playing that stuff?' So I started bending strings."

Inspired by the successful model of the guitarist Les Paul and the singer Mary Ford, he formed a duo with the singer Sylvia Vanderpool (later Sylvia Robinson). Mickey & Sylvia's recording of “Love Is Strange”, a million-selling hit in 1956-57. In the wake of "Love Is Strange", he and Vanderpool opened a nightclub, started a publishing company and generally tried to take more charge of their performing lives than was usually possible for black artists. But their personal relationship was stormy and Baker was tired of playing forgettable music for teenagers. Early in the 60s, he moved to France.

Many of today's tracks are longtime favorites including a batch of tough sides by the unsung Larry Dale who waxed some potent blues and R&B sides under his own name and some knockout session guitar backing a slew of New York artists. "It's kinda funny how I learned to play the guitar", Dale said in an interview. "Brownie McGhee would let me come up on his bandstand and sit in the back and playing all kind of bad notes until I learned where the changes were. And then I got so where I could play pretty good. And I could always sing good, If I could sing and leave the guitar alone I was good, but if I tried to play the guitar …Bobby Schiffman told me 'You just sing, leave the guitar alone. you'll make it'. But he didn't know I was determined to learn the guitar. So I bought B.B King records, people that played guitars; and I learned how to play. Then Mickey Baker he taught me a lot. …Well before then Mickey taught me a lot about guitar. And then it's a funny thing, after Mickey taught me then I had to teach him how to play the blues!" We hear Dale taking the vocals with Baker on guitar on tough numbers like "Midnight Hours", "Please Tell Me", "You Better Heed My Warning", all cut under Dale's name, and Dale taking the vocals on sides attributed to Big Red McHouston (alias Mickey Baker),  "I'm Tired" b/w "Where Is My Honey" cut for the Groove label.

Another favorite record of mine is the now out-of-print 2-LP set Rib Joint. Baker backed piano pounder Sam Price on a series of instrumental sides for the Savoy label in 1956 and 1959. The sides feature great session players including King Curtis, Leonard Gaskin, Panama Francis Al Casey and Kenny Burrell among others. We spin several selections from these sessions including "Rib Joint", "Kansas City Boogie Woogie Stomp", "Bar-B-Q Sauce" and "Juke Joint."

During the period covered in this show, Baker recorded only a handful of sides under his own names, fifteen sides between 1952 and 1956. In addition to the above mentioned Big Red McHouston sides, the rest of the sides  are instrumentals and today we spin several of those including "Shake Walkin'", "Bandstand Stomp" and "Rock With A Sock." In addition he cut his only full-length album from this period, 1959's The Wildest Guitar and all instrumental outing issued on Atlantic.

Among the earliest sides I heard Baker on those backing Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown and Champion Jack Dupree. Baker appears on several Big Maybelle sessions in 1954, 1955 and 1956 and backs Nappy Brown's on his 1952 debut plus sessions in 1955 and 1960. Baker backs Jack Dupree on sessions in 1953 and 1955 and the two reunited for a session in London in 1967 for the Decca label.

Baker backed a number of veteran artists who were trying to update their sound for the new rock and roll craze including Amos Milburn, Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Louis Jordan. Turner sailed into the rock and roll era rather seamlessly, scoring a big hit with “Shake, Rattle and Roll” with Baker on guitar. Although not commercially successful, Baker and Louis Jordan cut some rocking records during this period. In 1956, Mercury Records signed Jordan, releasing two LP's and a handful of singles. Jordan's first LP with Mercury, Somebody Up There Digs Me, showcased updated rock n' roll versions of previous hits such as "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens","Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", "Salt Pork, West Virginia", "Beware!" and a scorching "Caldonia" which we feature today; its follow-up, Man, We're Wailin' (1957), featured a more laid back "late night" sound. Although Mercury intended for this to be a comeback for Jordan, the comeback did not turn out to be a success, and the label let Jordan go in 1958.

A couple of lesser known New York artists worth mentioning are Eddie Mack and Mr. Bear. Mack was part of the Brooklyn blues scene in the late 40's and early 50's but his subsequent career is a mystery. He fronted various groups by Cootie Williams & His Orchestra (he replaced Eddie Vinson), Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra and others. He cut some two-dozen sides between 1947-1952. Mickey Baker appears on Mack's final four sides for the Savoy label which are among his best.

Teddy McRae, also known as Mr. Bear, cut a few isolated titles as a leader, including two songs for King in 1945, six for Groove in 1955 and two numbers for Moonshine in 1958, and recorded with Champion Jack Dupree from 1955-56. Prior to this he was an important an arranger and tenor-saxophonist for several bands including Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford, Lionel Hampton and Chick Webb's.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Jim BledsoeWorried BluesDown South Blues 1949-1961
Jim BledsoeHot Rod BoogieDown South Blues 1949-1961
Stick Horse Hammond Little GirlAlley Special
Stick Horse Hammond Alberta Down Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-195
Eddie & Oscar Flying Crow BluesToo Late, Too Late Vol 4 1892-1937
Black Ivory King Flying Crow BluesPiano Blues: The Essential
Pete McKinley Shreveport BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Pete McKinley Whistling BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Lillian GlinnShreveport Blues Lillian Glinn 1927-1929
Three Fifteen & His SquaresSaturday Night On Texas AvenueRare 1930's Blues Vol. 2
Kid WestKid West BluesI Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Library of Congress 1940-1941
Joe HarrisEast Texas BluesI Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Library of Congress 1940-1941
Oscar "Buddy" WoodsSometimes I Get to Thinkin' I Can Eagle Rock: Jook Joint Blues Library of Congress 1940-1941
Jim BledsoeAvenue BreakdownRural Blues Vol. 1
Jim BledsoeOld River Blues Down Home Blues Classics: Memphis And The South
Jim BledsoeStormin' And Rainin' Rural Blues Vol. 3
Shreveport HomewreckersHome Wreckin' BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Oscar "Buddy" WoodsMuscat Hill Blues Texas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Stick Horse HammondToo Late BabyDown Home Blues Classics: Memphis And The South
Stick Horse HammondGamblin' ManDown Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-195
Jim Bledsoe & Pete McKinleyDon't Want Me BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Jim Bledsoe Philippine BluesJook Joint Blues
Ramblin ThomasSo Lonesome BluesCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics
King Solomon HillThe Gone Dead TrainBlues Images Vol. 3
Jesse ThomasBlue Goose BluesTexas Blues: Early Masters From the Lone Star State
Lonnie WilliamsNew Road BluesJook Joint Blues Vol. 5
Lonnie WilliamsTears In My Jook Joint Blues Vol. 5
Stick Horse Hammond Truck 'Em On DownAlley Special
Clarence LondonGot a Letter This MorningBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Black AceTrifling WomanI'm The Boss Card In Your Hand
LeadbellyFannin StreetLeadbelly Vol. 1 1939-1940
Pine Bluff Pete A Women Acts FunnyBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Pine Bluff Pete Uncle Sam BluesBloodstains on the Wall: Country Blues from Specialty Records
Jim BledsoeSad And LonelyRural blues Vol. 3
Jim Bledsoe Dial 110 Juke Joints 3

Show Notes:

Shreveport, 1920

Shreveport, Louisiana lies in the tri-state region where Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas meet. Located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, Shreveport has had a thriving music scene for many decades. On the southwest edge of Shreveport's Central Business District is a area that has long been forgotten. Blue Goose is a enclave of a much larger neighborhood called Crosstown, which was destroyed in the 1960's for the construction of Interstate 20. The remnant of Blue Goose is the remaining portion of an area that is rich in history. Blue Goose takes its name from a speakeasy that operated during prohibition. In 1942 the structure was torn down and a one story juke joint called the Silver Slipper took its place. Then later, The Ebony club. In the pre-war era artists such as Ocar "Buddy" Woods, Leadbelly, Jesse Thomas, Ramblin Thomas and the Black Ace performed in the area. Many of the musicians ended up there because they were passing through Shreveport by rail and the area was close to the tracks and the station. During the height of the post-war era, courtesy of labels like Gotham, JOB (not the Chicago label but a  home-grown Shreveport label), Pacemaker (owned by country music star Webb Pierce), Imperial, and Specialty recorded some great blues in Shreveport in the early 1950s. Today we spotight these artists as well as a few songs who make reference to the city in song.

Country Jim Bledsoe

Jim Bledsoe was a street singer and guitarist, he recorded for PaceMaker (Webb Pierce's label) in 1949 under the name Hot Rod Happy and ended his recording career circa 1951/1952 with recordings for Specialty and Imperial under the name Country Jim. "Avenue breakdown and "Old River Blues" (the name of a lake near the city) and "Hollywood Boogie" with a reference to the black neighborhood of Shreveport's, Mooretown (which includes an artery called Hollywood) clearly shows that Bledsoe really was a resident of Shreveport and knew the city well. Bledsoe recorded some twenty sides circa 1951/1952 for Specialty, likely recorded at KWKH studios after hours. Theses sides were not released at the time, with some being issued decades later. Among the unreleased sides were “Travis Street Blues” and “Texas Street Blues” which were named after streets in downtown Shreveport and there was also some gospel sides recorded.

Stick Horse Hammond cut three 78's, six sides, for the JOB and Gotham labels in 1950. The sides Hammond cut for JOB (not the Chicago label of the same name) were issued by Ray Bartlett a former disc-jockey at Shreveport's KWKH station about and according to country artist Zeke Clements, who discovered Hammond, “they drove around for two or three days getting him drunk enough to record.” Hammond was born Nathaniel Hammond, April 1896, Dallas, Texas, and after playing around east and central Texas in the 30's before moved to Taylortown, Louisiana in the 40's. The nickname probably derives from the fact that he wore a peg-leg. He died in Shreveport in 1964 and was buried in Taylortown.

Eddie Schaffer teamed up with Oscar "Buddy" Woods and recorded one single for Victor in Memphis in 1930 billed as the "Shreveport Home Wreckers". Two years later they cut one more record in Dallas under their names. One of their numbers was "Flying Crow Blues." Several songs make reference to the Flying Crow, a train line connecting Port Arthur, Texas to Kansas City with major stops in Shreveport and Texarkana. Black Ivory King, Carl Davis & the Dallas Jamboree Jug Band, Dusky Dailey, Washboard Sam and Oscar Woods all recorded songs about the train. Today we also spin the version by Black Ivory King, perhaps the finest version of this song.

Oscar "Buddy" Woods was a Louisiana street musician known as "The Lone Wolf" and a pioneer in the style of lap steel bottleneck blues slide guitar. It is said that Woods developed his bottleneck slide approach to playing blues guitar after seeing a touring Hawaiian troupe of musical entertainers in the early 1920s. Not long after arriving in Shreveport, Woods began a long association with guitarist Ed Schaffer, and together they performed as the Shreveport Home Wreckers. Woods and Schaffer made their first two recordings as the Shreveport Home Wreckers for Victor in Memphis on May 31, 1930. Woods cut his last five selections for the Library of Congress in 1940. John Lomax wrote the following about the session: "Oscar (Buddy) Woods, Joe Harris and Kid West are all professional Negro guitarists and singers of  Texas Avenue, Shreveport…The songs I have recorded are among those they use to cajole nickels and dimes from the pockets of listeners." Woods died in 1956.

David “Pete” McKinley had two songs released in 1950 on Gotham. “Shreveport Blues” is the earliest post-war blues to mention the city. McKinley participated in the same March 12, 1952 session for Specialty that Jim Bledsoe was involved in. Several other sides were unissued until decades later. Art Rupe of Specialty Records came to Shreveport from California at the suggestion of Stan Lewis, renting out the Studios KWKH for an all-night marathon session which began when the station signed off at 2AM. In 1948, Lewis opened a record store, Stan's Record Shop, on Texas Street in Shreveport. Lewis became a one-stop operator (other record stores would buy from him) and distributor of independent records and began to write and produce R&B and rock and roll records. In 1963, Lewis founded the Jewel label and soon after the Paula and Ronn imprints.

Art Rupe remembered “Pine Bluff Pete” as a “very black man” who had been running errands during the session. Rupe said “when it was felt the other singers couldn't perform effectively any more because of alcohol , fatigue, or both, Pine Bluff Pete asked to record. He looked like he could use the recording fee, and everybody was feeling good, so we recorded him. We never actually intended to release the records, so we paid him outright, not even getting his full name.” The name “Pine Bluff Pete” was given to him by Barry Hansen who discovered the tap in the Specialty vaults. Two of the three songs he recorded credit Jim Bledsoe as the composer and he may be playing guitar on these sides.

Ramblin' Thomas spent time in both Dallas and Shreveport. His brother Jesse said “ He spend a good time in both of them. He's mostly get a room to hisself and play in the streets, in the barbershop, on a corner or even in the alley.” In Shreveport he hung out with Joe Holmes, who in 1932 recorded as 'King Solomon Hill' for Paramount. Holmes' ex-wife, Roberta Allums told researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow, “Joe had rather play with Thomas than any other singer.” In Dallas he spent time with Blind Lemon Jefferson. Thomas cut two sessions for Paramount in 1928 and a last session for Victor in 1932.

Jesse Thomas moved to Shreveport when he was fifteen. In 1927 he moved to Dallas to stay with his brother Willard. After meeting Lonnie Johnson he turned to the guitar playing house parties. Thomas recorded sporadically from the late 1920’s through the early 1990’s and despite his longevity didn’t achieve much in the way of success or recognition. In 1929, at 18, Thomas cut four excellent sides for Victor most notably, ”Blues Goose Blues” named after a Shreveport area where Thomas performed:

 I'm goin down in old Blue Goose, even if I lose
   When you go to Shreveport town
   You can find Blue Goose and they'll car' you down
   I'm goin' down in old Blue Goose, I don't care if I lose

King Solomon Hill's legacy is the six sides he cut for Paramount in 1932: "Whoopee Blues", "Down On My Bended Knee", "The Gone Dead Train", "Tell Me Baby", "My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon" and "Times Has Done Got Hard." The last two numbers were not found until 2002 by record collector John Tefteller. King was closely connected to Crying Sam Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson and their influence are evident, to some degree, in Hill's style.

Babe Karo Lemon Turner AKA Black Ace grew up in a farm in Hughes Springs, Texas. He took up the guitar seriously when he moved to Shreveport in the mid-1930's and met Oscar Woods from whom he learned the local slide guitar style, playing the guitar flat across the knees. By 1936 he moved to Fort Worth where he secured a gig broadcasting on local station KFJZ between 1936-1941. As his reputation grew he toured and cut six sides for Decca in 1937 (two sides recorded for ARC in 1936 were never released). War service disrupted his career and he worked a variety of jobs outside of music. Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records and Paul Oliver ventured to Fort Worth in 1960 and recorded an album by him that year. Those recordings were originally issued the following year on Black Ace's only LP. Turner passed in 1972 showing no interest to get back in the music business after his Arhoolie session.

By 1903, Lead Belly was already a "musicianer", a singer and guitarist of some note. He performed for nearby Shreveport audiences in St. Paul's Bottoms, a notorious red-light district there. Lead Belly began to develop his own style of music after exposure to a variety of musical influences on Shreveport's Fannin Street, a row of saloons, brothels, and dance halls in the Bottoms. He celebrates the street in the powerful "Fannin Street" which we feature today:

My mama told me
My sister too
Said, 'The Shreveport women, son,
Will be the death of you

Said to my mama,
'Mama, you don't know
If the Fannin Street women gonna kill me
Well, you might as well let me go

In 1937, Three Fifteen and His Squares, a music group from Shreveport, Louisiana, traveled 200 miles north for a recording session in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The musicians, led by David “315” Blunson, recorded four songs released by Vocalion Records. The lyrics to Blunson’s “Saturday Night on Texas Avenue” pay a colorful tribute to Shreveport’s African American main drag during its heyday:

In a spot in my hometown, I’d like for you to go
And get woke up, and see a great show
We smoke weed, and we say hey-hey
We drink port wine until the break of day
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

Walk all night from place to place
Shuckin’ and jivin’ trying to get our gait
Some be truckin’ and some be doin’ the Suzie-Q
And if you stay long enough, you’ll be truckin’ too
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

Little is known of Lonnie Williams and Clarence London. Williams recorded four songs for the Sittin' In With label in 1951. In a 1968 interview label head Bob Shad recalled Williams was recorded at a Shreveport radio station, most likely KWKH. Clarence London was a Shreveport construction worker who had been hanging around Stan Lewis' record shop, begging Lewis to record him. When Art Rupe of Specialty Records came to town, Lewis obliged. London recorded three songs and never recorded again.

During the time period covered by this show, there were several songs that had Shreveport in the title. Today we spin "Shreveport Blues" sung  in 1928 by Lilillian Glinn which makes reference to Shreveport's Texas Avenue. A different song with the same title was recorded by Virginia Liston in 1923. Other songs include Little Brother Montgomery's "Shreveport Farewell", Jelly Roll Morton's "Shreveport" and "Shreveport Stomp", Clarence Williams' "Shreveport Blues" and Leadbelly's "Shreveport County Jail Blues" to name a few examples.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
Albert Macon & Robert Thomas Someday Baby Blues and Boogie from Alabama
Albert Macon & Robert Thomas Don't Nothing Hurt But My Back And Side Blues and Boogie from Alabama
Good Rockin' Charles I Wish I Had Somebody American Blues Legends 1979
Eddie Guitar Burns Bury Me Back In The USA American Blues Legends 1975
Billy “The Kid” Emerson Buzzard Luck American Blues Legends 1979
Lottie Merle Howlin' In The Moonlight 45
Lincoln Jackson Big Fat Mama Old Country Blues
William Floyd Every Time I Need You Baby Southern Comfort Country
Jim Bledsoe Old River BluesJuke Joint Blues 2
Ernest Lewis You've Got good Business
Lovey Williams Going Away BluesBothered All The Time
Big Boy Knox Blue Man Blues San Antonio Blues 1937
Tricky Sam Stavin' ChainTexas Field Recordings 1934 -1939
Little Hat JonesCross the Water BluesTexas Blues: Early Blues Masters from the Lone Star State
Sonny Rhodes The Highway Is Like A Woman Blue Bay - Anthology of Bay Area Blues
Hi Tide Harris Never Will Forget Your Love Blue Bay - Anthology of Bay Area Blues
Big Boy Henry My Ten Women Strut His Stuff
Big Boy Henry Stop Hanging Around Strut His Stuff
Big Walter Nothing But The Blues Nothing But the Blues
Otis Spann I'm AccusedUp In The Queen's Pad
Big Joe Duskin Storm In Texas San Francisco Blues Festival Vol.2
Little Sylvia & Hot Lips Page Chocolate Candy Blues Hot Lips Page 1950-1953
Hot Lips Page Pacifying Blues Hot Lips Page 1950-1953
Blind Lemon Jefferson Prison Cell BluesThe Best There Ever Was
Blind Willie McTellMama, 'Taint Long Fo' DayThe Early Years
Frank Stokes Frank Stokes' DreamThe Best Of
Larry Dale Larry's Joint
John and Sylvia Embry I'm Hurtin'After Work
James "Guitar Slim" Stephens Your Close Friend Eigth-Hand Sets & Holy Steps
Elester Anderson Out On The Farm Eigth-Hand Sets & Holy Steps
Algia Mae Honey Babe Eigth-Hand Sets & Holy Steps

Show Notes:

Lots of vinyl on today's mix show. Today we hear twin spins from out-of-print records by Albert Macon & Robert Thomas, Big Boy Henry, a set of field recordings by Begnt Olsson and a set by Glen Hinson, plus some fine recordings of more contemporary blues from the 70's and some excellent piano records by Otis Spann and Big Walter (The thunderbird). And as always, plenty of fine pre-war blues recordings.

Read Liner Notes

We play some superb field recordings that I haven't featured before. We open up with the duo Albert Macon & Robert Thomas. Macon, born in 1920 in Society Hill, played a type of music he called "boogie and blues," which he learned from his father, Buster Macon, at house parties and frolics in the rural Macon County community. Macon began teaching Robert Thomas to play blues guitar when Thomas, who was nine years younger than Macon, was about 15 years old. For over 40 years the two men played music together at fish fries, parties and festivals in Georgia. Macon and Thomas recorded Blues and Boogie from Alabama, on the Dutch Swingmaster label, with other tracks appearing on anthologies.

My friend  Axel Küstner is a big admirer of Begnt Olsson and its prompted me to dig a bit deeper into the recordings he captured. Olsson taped some supreb field recordings in Tennessee and Alabama between 1969 and 1974. He was also a very good writer as the liner notes he wrote prove and also authored the classic  Memphis Blues and Jug Bands which was published in 1970 by Studio Vista and now long out-of-print. His life's work, Memphis Blues, was slated to be published by Routledge in 2008 but with Olsson's passing in January of that year it looks like the book has been permanently shelved. Olsson first came to the United States in 1969, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. He recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others. In addition to the Lum Guffin record, Olsson's recordings have been issued on three compilations on the Flyright label. Some of these recordings appear on the CD On the Road – Country Blues 1969-1974. Several years back Birdman Records purchased Olsson's entire library of recordings. So far the label has issued two releases: Old Country Blues Vol. 1 and Bishop Perry Tillis: Too Close. In 2010 the Sutro Park label issued a vinyl album titled Wolf's At The Door: Lost Recordings From The Spirits Of The South which inlcuded some unreleased recordings by Olsson. I’ll be featuring more of Olsson’s recordings on an upcoming show.

We wrap up the program with a set of field recordings from the album Eigth-Hand Sets & Holy Steps. This album is a document of black folk music from the North Carolina region and recorded in in that state in the 1970's by folklorist Glen Hinson. As the notes state, Hinson "packed up portable tape-recording gear and traveled the state; front porches, living rooms and church sanctuaries served as recording studio." Today we  feature superb performances by under-recorded blues artists James "Guitar Slim" Stephens, Elester Anderson and Alga Mae Hnton. See below for a scan of the booklet that accompanies this collection.

Jumping up to the 70's and 80's we spin some more out-of-print records on the Big Bear and Razor labels. The American Blues Legends tour of 1973, 1975 and 1979 was put on by Big Bear Records  and included Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Billy "The Kid" Emerson, Lester Davenport, Eddie C. Campbell, Good Rockin' Charles, Nolan Stuck, Chico Chism, Tommy Tucker, Billy Boy Arnold, Eddie Burns and others. This tour spanned a number of weeks and hit many countries in Europe.  Today we spin tracks from the 1975 and 1979 tours and the albums that resulted. There is also an album form the 1973 tour that I believe has been issued on CD.

Sylvia Embry began playing piano as a child and sang in church choirs, moving to Memphis at the age of 19. In the 60s she settled in Chicago, where she met and married blues guitarist Johnny Embry, who taught her to play bass guitar. In the 70s she worked for several years with Lefty Dizz. She shared the credit with her husband on a 45 for Razor Records and the album After Work (1980) on the same label, was part of Alligator Records’ Living Chicago Blues project, and had an album released under the name Blues Queen Sylvia on the German L&R label. Living Blues magazine reported in 1985 that she had turned her back on blues and was playing gospel music. She passed in 1992.

We spin a trio of terrific piano tracks by Otis Spann, Big Walter (The Thuderbird) and Big Joe Duskin. To my mind Otis Spann was the finest ofthe post-war piano players and he left behind an outstanding recorded legacy despite passing at the age of forty in 1970. I finally tracked down one of the more elusive Spann recordings, Up In The Queen's Pad, issued on Victoria Spivey's Spivey label which was recorded at her Brooklyn apartment in 1969. Now Spivey recordings are always quirky affairs, production values are decidedly low-fi and the albums have that slapped togther look. All that applies here but Spann is in great form and ably back by guitarist Sammy Lawhorn and ond of course Spivey herself.  The two clearly were fond of each other which comes through not only on this recording but on the others he did for the label which include both volumes of Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band and the Everlasting Blues vs. Otis Spann album

Also from the out-of-print bin Big Walter Price's "Nothing But The Blues" which comes from the album Houston Ghetto Blues on Flyright. This is a tremendous talking blues number recorded privatley in a Houston club. "Storm In Texas" is Big Joe Duskin's fine rendition of "Texas Flood" and comes from the album San Francisco Blues Festival Vol.2.

I should also mention a couple of tracks we spin by the great Hot Lips Page. Page was of the great swing trumpeters in addition to being a talented blues vocalist, Hot Lips Page's premature passing left a large hole in the jazz world. Page gained early experience in the 1920's performing in Texas, playing in Ma Rainey's backup band. He was with Walter Page's Blue Devils during 1928-1931, and then joined Bennie Moten's band in Kansas City. Page freelanced in Kansas City and in 1936 was one of the stars in Count Basie's orchestra but, shortly before Basie was discovered, Joe Glaser signed Hot Lips as a solo artist. He died in 1954 at the age of 36. Today's recordings are from 1950 and  inlude one featuring Little Sylvia, "Chocolate Candy Blues", which are her first recordings.she was 14 at the time and like Little Esther, sounded wise beyond her years. . She would soon garner big success when she teamed up With Mickey Baker as Mickey & Sylvia.

Share
ARTISTSONGALBUM
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.

Share

« Previous PageNext Page »