|Mercy Dee Walton||Lonesome Cabin Blues||Masterly Texas Blues 1949-1955|
|Mercy Dee Walton||G.I. Fever (Baba-Du-Lay-Fever)||Masterly Texas Blues 1949-1955|
|Sidney Maiden||Eclipse Of The Sun||The Bob Geddins Blues Legacy|
|Sidney Maiden||Working Woman||Down South Blues 1952-1962:
Blues Anthology Vol. 4
|K.C. Douglas||Mercury Boogie||The Bob Geddins Blues Legacy|
|K.C. Douglas||Had I Money||Deadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues|
|K.C. Douglas||Lonely Blues||Jook Joint Blues|
|Guitar Slim Green||Alla Blues||Hollywood Blues: Classic West Coast Blues 1947-1953|
|Guitar Slim Green||Tricky Woman Blues||Hollywood Blues: Classic West Coast Blues 1947-1953|
|Guitar Slim Green||Baby I Love You||West Coast Down Home Blues|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Travelin' Alone Blues||Masterly Texas Blues 1949-1955|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Empty Life||Masterly Texas Blues 1949-1955|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Roamin' Blues||Masterly Texas Blues 1949-1955|
|Sidney Maiden||Up The River Blues||Down South Blues 1952-1962:
Blues Anthology Vol. 4
|Sidney Maiden||Hand Me Down Baby||The Legendary Dig Masters Vol. 2|
|K.C. Douglas||Big Road Blues||Big Road Blues|
|K.C. Douglas||Howling Blues||Big Road Blues|
|Guitar Slim Green||Shake em' Up||Jericho Alley Blues Flash|
|Guitar Slim Green||Jericho Alley||Jericho Alley Blues Flash|
|Mercy Dee Walton||One Room Country Shack||One Room Country Shack|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Dark Muddy Bottom||One Room Country Shack|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Have You Ever Been Out in the Country||Troublesome Mind|
|Sidney Maiden||Chicago Blues||I Have to Paint My Face: Mississippi Blues, 1960|
|Sidney Maiden||San Quentin Blues||Trouble An' Blues|
|Sidney Maiden||Tell Me, Somebody||Trouble An' Blues|
|K.C. Douglas||Canned Heat Blues||Big Road Blues|
|K.C. Douglas||Broke Heart||K.C.'s Blues|
|K.C. Douglas||Wake Up, Workin' Woman||K.C.'s Blues|
|Guitar Slim Green||My Woman Done Quit Me||The Legendary Dig Masters Vol. 2|
|Guitar Slim Green||You Make Me Feel So Good||Stone Down Blues|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Strugglin' With The Blues||One Room Country Shack|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Eighth Wonder of the World||Troublesome Mind|
|Mercy Dee Walton||Betty Jean||Troublesome Mind|
|Sidney Maiden, K.C. Douglas, Mercy Dee Walton
source: Blues Link 5 (1974), p. 17; photographer: Chris Strachwitz
This week's show spotlights a quartet of fine down home southern blues artists who migrated to California and cut some stellar recordings from the late 1940's through the 1970's. Today we spin a batch of great recordings by Mercy Dee Walton, K.C. Douglas, Sidney Maiden and Guitar Slim Green. All of these artists worked together to some degree; Douglas and Maiden made their debut together, appearing on each others records in the late 40's and again in the 60's. Both men appeared on some sides by Mercy Dee Walton while Maiden and Green appeared on record together. In addition Douglas, Maiden and Walton all benefited from the patronage of Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie records who recorded all three artists. Outside of Walton, who had two R&B hits, none of these artists enjoyed much success, often having to hold down day jobs, but the music they cut certainly stands the test of time.
Mercy Dee Walton was born in Waco, Texas on August 30, 1915. His parents worked on farms in the bottomlands of the Brazos River, and Mercy Dee was destined for a similar life when at the age of thirteen he began to learn to play the piano, inspired by the music he heard at local house parties. The greatest influence on him was the unrecorded Delois Maxey, but other (equally unrecorded) Texas pianists also made some contribution: Son Brewster from Waco, Pinetop Shorty, Willy Woodson, Sonny Vee and "Big Hand" Joe Thomas in Fort Worth, Son Putney in Dallas, and Bob Jackson in Marlin—all little more than names now—and the Grey Ghost who emerged from obscurity only after Mercy Dee's death to make several noteworthy recordings.
In the late 1930's Mercy Dee moved to California, where he worked on farms up and down the Central Valley while performing in local bars and clubs for the region's black farmworkers. In 1949 he recorded for the Fresno-based Spire label and had an immediate hit with "Lonesome Cabin Blues," which reached Number 7 on the R&B charts. This success attracted the attention of the larger Los Angeles–based Imperial label, which signed him and recorded two sessions of twelve titles in 1950. By 1952 he was recording for Specialty, another Los Angeles label. His first track for them, "One Room Country Shack," was a hit in 1953, reaching Number 8 on the R&B charts.
Mercy Dee's chart success led made him a nationally-known artist, and he worked with various package shows touring the country. But his two other Specialty issues were less successful and he was dropped by the label. A recording for the small Rhythm label in 1954 had little impact, but in 1955 he recorded for the Flair label, part of the Modern Records stable in Los Angeles. These recordings were much more in the R&B style but did nothing to restore Walton's career. He returned to his earlier situation of supplementing his earnings from music with agricultural work and settled in the Stockton, California, area.
In 1961 Mercy Dee came to the attention of Chris Strachwitz, owner of the Arhoolie label. A series of sessions that year with sympathetic backing by guitarist K. C. Douglas, harmonica player Sidney Maiden, and drummer Otis Cherry produced albums on the Arhoolie and Bluesville labels. Soon afterwards Walton suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in hospital in Murphys, California, on December 2, 1962.
Despite originally hailing from the Mississippi-Tennessee border just 50 miles from Memphis, K.C. Douglas was to become one of the last great rural blues guitarists of the post-war West Coast blues scene. Douglas grew up on a Mississippi farm and on acquiring a guitar in 1936, he began learning the fundamentals of the instrument from his uncle. However, it was a meeting later that year with idol Tommy Johnson in Jackson, Mississippi, that convinced Douglas that his future was as a blues performer. Johnson taught him the secrets of his guitar technique, and the two busked together on street corners and at parties.
By the end of the war years, Douglas had moved to California to work in the Kaiser naval shipyard as a government recruit. He soon became a central figure on the San Francisco/Oakland blues scene, and formed a band called the Lumberjacks in 1947. He became a fixture in the Bay Area clubs. Douglas' debut recordings were issued on the local Downtown label in 1948, and in 1949 he had a minor hit with "Mercury Boogie", subsequently renamed "Mercury Blues". The recording featured harmonica player Sidney Maiden, and Douglas accompanied his heartfelt vocal on a guitar loaned to him by Lowell Fulson. The Ford Motor Company bought the rights to the song in 1998.
The album Deadbeat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues (subtitled Street corner blues 'bout women and automobiles) states that this material was "collected" by Sam Eskin in Oakland in 1952. The album was issued possibly in 1954 or maybe 1956 which would make it one of the earliest blues records issued that wasn't a reissue of older material. As for Eskin, he was a folklorist who made field recordings between 1939 and 1969 and during this period made many cross-country trips from New York to California where he recorded American folk music.
Douglas continued to work as a laborer throughout the '50s and '60s, using music to supplement his income. By now a prolific songwriter, he recorded additional material for Arhoolie owner Chris Strachwitz in 1960-63. Some sides by Douglas with pal Sidney Maiden, appeared on the excellent compilation I Have To Paint My Face issued in 1960. Other material recorded by Strachwitz in 1961 was issued as two albums on the Bluesville label: Big Road Blues, his finest recording, and K.C.'s Blues. Douglas also backed bluesman Mercy Dee at about this time. Douglas went on to record for Fantasy towards the end of the 60's, but did not reach the height of his fame until 1970, when he appeared at the Berkeley Blues Festival. His final recordings were again recorded by Strachwitz in 1973 and 1974. In the 90's Arhoolie issued the CD Mercury Boogie collecting all the recordings from theses lengthy sessions. Douglas succumbed to a fatal heart attack in October 1975 at Berkeley. His body was taken back to Mississippi for burial at Pleasant Green Cemetery.
|Sidney Maiden front cover of Bluesville 1035 (Photographer Chris Strachwitz)|
Sidney Maiden was born in 1923 in Mansfield, LA. Maiden drifted to the West Coast and in 1945 where he met K.C. Douglas. The played quite a bit around Richmond, California which at the time was a booming ship-building community. During this time they cut their first records for the small Down-Town label. The songs were "Mercury Boogie" sung by Douglas and "Eclipse of The Sun" sung by Maiden. After the recordings were made Maiden moved to Fresno where he remained on and off until his death.
Throughout the 50's Maiden recorded a number of fine sides: eight sides for Imperial in 1952 (only two were issued at the time), a few sides for Flash in 1955 and a record for Johnny Otis' Dig label in 1957 issued as Sidney Maiden – Slim Green and The Cats From Fresno. Maiden, along with friend K.C. Douglas were recorded in 1960 by Chris Strachwitz with assistance from Mr. and Mrs. Paul Oliver. Strachwitz recorded both men again in 1961.The results were issued under Maiden's name as the album Trouble An' Blues issued on the Bluesville label. The same year Maiden backed Mercy Dee Walton on his Bluesville album A Pity And A Shame. Maiden never recorded again after these recordings, drifting off into obscurity. His death date is unknown.
|Read Liner Notes|
Norman G. Green was born in Bryant, Texas on July 25, 1920. His family moved to Oklahoma when he was in youth where he learned guitar and started playing at local functions. In 1947 he moved to Los Angeles. He made his first records in 1948 backing J.D. Nicholson. He made his debut recordings as R. Green & Turner for a label owned by J.R. Fulbright. Fulbright claimed to have found Green in Christian, Oklahoma "him and a crossed-eyed woman who played harp, came here together. I discovered him playing at an old country supper." Green recalled meeting Fullbright at his Los Angeles club, the Jungle Room. "Alla Blues" was a retread of "Tin Pan Alley" first recorded by Curtis Jones in 1941. Green said that he and Turner wrote it and that Robert Geddins stole it from him. Green & Turner's version would become some kind of West Coast national anthem:
I said fifth street alley, it's a dangerous place
They'll catch you down there, throw dirt all in your face
Fith street alley, blues just won't let me be
The song was soon revived under the original title by West Coast artists Jimmy Wilson and Rage Agee and by Johnny Fuller and James Reed as "Roughest Place In Town." The same year he waxed the excellent "Baby I Love You b/w Tricky Woman Blues" for Murray with the latter sung by drummer Junior Hampton. After his late 1940's recordings Green didn't record again for a nearly a decade waxing 45's for small labels such as Dig, Canton and in the 60's for Geenote, Solid Soul & Universal up until 1968. In the 50's he also backed Louis Jackson & Junior Hampton and Sidney Maiden. In 1970 he teamed up with Johnny Otis & his son son Shuggie to record a only full length album for Kent titled Stone Down Blues. The Kent recordings would be his last under his name. He died in Los Angeles on September 28, 1975.