Blind BlakeWest Coast BluesThe Best of Blind Blake
Blind BlakeDry Bone ShuffleThe Best of Blind Blake
Blind BlakeCome on Boys Let's Do That Messin' AroundThe Best of Blind Blake
William Moore Ragtime Millionaire Ragtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
William Moore Barbershop RagRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Blind BlakeHe's In The Jailhouse NowThe Best of Blind Blake
Blind BlakeHey Hey Daddy BluesAll The Published Sides
Blind BlakeSea Board StompThe Best of Blind Blake
Bayless RoseJamestown ExhibitionRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Bayless RoseBlack Dog BluesRagtime Blues Guitar 1927-30
Blind BlakeIce Man Blues
The Best of Blind Blake
Blind BlakeWabash Rag The Best of Blind Blake
Blind Willie McTellGeorgia RagAtlanta Blues
Blind Willie McTellAtlanta StrutAtlanta Blues
Buddy MossJoy RagAtlanta Blues
Blind BlakeSouthern Rag The Best of Blind Blake
Blind BlakeHookworm BluesAll The Published Sides
Tarter and GrayUnknown BluesSouth Carolina Rag
Willie WalkerSouth Carolina RagSouth Carolina Rag
Blind BlakeGeorgia BoundThe Best of Blind Blake
Blind BlakeHastings StThe Best of Blind Blake
Buddy Boy HawkinsA RagBuddy Boy Hawkins And His Buddies
Kitty Gray & Her Wampus Cats w/ Oscar WoodsBaton Rouge RagTexas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace
Blind Boy FullerRag Mama RagBlind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-1938
Blind Boy FullerMama Let Me Lay It On You Blind Boy Fuller Remastered 1935-1938
Blind Blake Chump Man BluesThe Best of Blind Blake
Blind Blake Blind Arthur's BreakdownThe Best of Blind Blake
Rev. Gary Davis I'm Throwin' Up My HandsReverend Gary Davis 1935-1949
Rev. Gary Davis I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah!Reverend Gary Davis 1935-1949
Blind BlakeDiddie Wa DiddieAll The Published Sides
Blind BlakeToo Tight Blues, No. 2 The Best of Blind Blake

Show Notes:

The syncopated music that its black originators called “ragtime” was developed as a piano music in the last decade of the 19th Century, about the same time that the blues were also taking shape. Ragtime entered the American folk consciousness, both white and black; in the Eastern states, particularly, it became a vital component in the sound of blues music. The Piedmont way of picking was ideal for dancing, had a generally faster rhythm, syncopated tempo and came from ragtime with the guitarists attempting to reproduce the complicated piano sounds to the guitar. Of all the ragtime styled guitarists, Blind Blake is still regarded as the unrivaled master of ragtime blues fingerpicking. On today's show we spotlight the music of Blind Blake as well as some of his ragtime guitar playing peers such as Blind Boy Fuller, Rev. Gary Davis, William Moore, Blind Willie McTell and others.

Besides his music and session details, not much is known of Blind Blake. So who was Blind Blake? Despite his popularity and much investigation, he remains a shadowy figure. As to his name,  Bruce Bastin notes that "on occasion he is named Arthur Phelps, but copyright submissions on behalf of Chicago Music for his Paramount recordings give his name as Arthur Blake. They state his name in a variety of manners: Blind Blake ("Blake's Worried Blues"), Arthur (Blind) Blake ("Bootleg Whiskey" and "Goodbye Mama Moan"), Blind Arthur Blake ("Cold Hearted Mama Blues"), and simply Arthur Blake ("Detroit Bound")." During the recording "Papa Charlie And Blind Blake Talk About It," Papa Charlie Jackson asks him, "What is your right name?" Blake responds, "My name is Arthur Blake.".” On his death certificate, which turned up in 2011, Blake’s place of birth was listed as Newport News, Virginia, and 1896 was entered as his “date of birth.” “Mayo Williams, the Paramount scout, says that Blind Blake was sent up from Jacksonville by a dealer,” reports blues researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow.

Blake made his first records for Paramount during the summer of 1926, playing solo guitar behind Leola B. Wilson. He made his debut under his own name a few months late with "Early Morning Blues b/w West Coast Blues." He cut several more 78's by year's end. Less than six months after his entry into the record biz, Blake was playing behind the great Ma Rainey on several records.

TheChicago Defender advertisement declares: "Early Morning Blues" is the first record of this new exclusive Paramount artist, Blind Blake. Blake, who hails from Jacksonville, Florida, is known up and down the coast as a wizard at picking his piano-sounding guitar. His 'talking guitar' they call it, and when you hear him sing and play you'll know why Blind Blake is going to be one of the most talked about Blues artist in music." The Paramount Book of the Blues (issued in 1924 and 1927 with photographs and short bios to promote Paramount recording artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Ma Rainey) had the following bio: "We have all heard expressions of people 'singing in the rain' or 'laughing in the face of adversity,' but we never saw such a good example of it, until we came upon the history of Blind Blake. Born in Jacksonville, in sunny Florida, he seemed to absorb some of the sunny atmosphere–disregarding the fact that nature had cruelly denied him a vision of outer things. He could not see the things that others saw–but he had a better gift. A gift of an inner vision, that allowed him to see things more beautiful. The pictures that he alone could see made him long to express them in some way–so he turned to music. He studied long and earnestly–listening to talented pianists and guitar players, and began to gradually draw out harmonious tunes to fit every mood. Now that he is recording exclusively for Paramount, the public has the benefit of his talent, and agrees, as one body, that he has an unexplainable gift of making one laugh or cry as he feels, and sweet chords and tones that come from his talking guitar express a feeling of his mood."

1927 saw the release of fourteen sides including backing Gus Cannon on several sides. He waxed celebrated numbers that year including “Dry Bone Shuffle”, “Southern Rag”, “Wabash Rag”, “Sea Board Stomp” and “He's In The Jailhouse Now” among others. During the spring of 1928 Blind Blake cut his most ambitious records featuring jazz artists Jimmy Bertrand and Johnny Dodds.

Blind Blake was at the height of his powers on August 17, 1929, at what was to be his last great session. During the course of that Saturday, he recorded several of his most enduring songs: "Georgia Bound", "Hastings St.", a duet with pianist Charlie Spand, and "Diddie Wa Diddie."

Paramount boldly promoted his skills in their ads: "He accompanies himself with that snappy guitar playing, like only Blind Blake can do," read copy for "Bad Feeling Blues." The company claimed that "Blind Blake and his trusty guitar do themselves proud" on "Rumblin' & Ramblin' Boa Constrictor Blues," while "Wabash Rag" was "aided by his happy guitar." Woody Mann stated, that "playing with a terrific flair for improvisation…he is at once subtle and ornate." And as Tony Russell sums up: "Blind Blake's most remarkable achievement as a recording artist was that in a career lasting almost six years, in which he made about 80 sides, he was never reduced, whether by slipping skill, waning inspiration or the single-mindedness of record company executives, from a multifaceted musician to a formulaic blues player."

After Paramount folded in 1932, Blake never recorded again. His death certificate was discovered in 2011 by a team of astute researchers and published in Blues & Rhythm magazine issue #263, their research suggests that Blake spent the last two or three years of his life living at 1844 B North 10th Street in the Bronzeville section of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife Beatrice McGee Blake, whom he’d married around 1931. His death certificate lists his profession as “unemployed musician,” and his date of death was entered as December 1, 1934. The cause was Pulmonary tuberculosis.

Blind Blake’s records no doubt astonished and influenced other blues guitarists, such as William Moore, who patterned his Paramount 78 of “Old Country Rock” on “West Coast Blues.” A resident of Tappahannock, Virginia, Moore recorded sixteen sides for Paramount Record Company in 1928. Featured today are "Ragtime Millionaire" and "Barbershop Rag."

Virtually nothing is know of Bayless Rose who cut four issued sides in June 1930 , with several sides left unissued. Perhaps the only source for information on Bayless Rose is an article by Christopher King in 78 Quarterly #12. He interviewed Dick Justice's daughter, and she remembered her daddy hanging out with a guitar player named 'Bailey Rose' back in the '30s. She described Bailey Rose as 'the man who sounded the most like daddy', and said he was a railroad worker who traveled thru WV, OH & IN. She said he was 'quite a bit older than daddy. He taught [daddy] how to play Old Black Dog and Brown Gal. When asked whether Bailey Rose was black, she denied that he was, tho she said "he was kind of foreign-looking, though". She elaborated, saying "he was sort of short with dark, curly hair but with darker skin, sort of like an Arab". She again denied he was black. After discussion of the parallels between Rose's and Justice's repertoires, King offers the theory that he was a melungeon.

Tarter and Gay are a duo from the western tip of Virginia. They made one great record in 1928, "Brownie Blues b/w Unknown Blues." The two played in the rough coal camps of southwestern Virginia as well as for black and white dances throughout northeastern Tennessee. After the recording session they continued performing until Stephen Tarter's death around 1935. Gay all but gave up music and passed in 1983. Gay was interviewed in the 70's by Kip Lornell who published article o the duo  in Living Blues and Juke Blues magazines.

Little is known of Willie Walker who was born in South Carolina in 1896 and was playing in a string band with Gary Davis as early as 1911. Among his contemporaries like Pink Anderson, Gary Davis and Josh White, he was considered to be the finest guitarist in the region. He recorded only two sides in 1930 for Columbia, "South Carolina Rag b/w Dupree Blues."

The Reverend Gary Davis was one of the two most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar; 35 years later, despite two decades spent playing on the streets of Harlem in New York, he was still one of the giants in his field and an inspiration to dozens of modern guitarist/singers including Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, and Jorma Kaukonen, Larry Johnson, David Bromberg, and Ry Cooder, who studied with Davis. In South Carolina, when Davis was a young man, the acknowledged guitar master was Blind Willie Walker, who played incredibly accurately and very fast, much like Blind Blake. Davis picked up several tunes up from Walker no doubt expanding his skills and repertoire. By his own admission, Davis ‘was scared o’ no guitarist’ by the time he was 30 years old. Davis, never generous with praise, stated "I ain't heard anybody on record yet beat Blind Blake on the guitar. I like Blake because he plays right sporty."

Thomas ShawBaby Be A Boy Child Named Him After MeBlind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas ShawStop In The ValleyBlind Lemon's Buddy
Blind Lemon Jefferson Long Lonesome BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson One Dime Blues The Best Of
Thomas ShawAll Out And DownBorn In Texas
Thomas ShawBroke And Ain't Got A DimeBlind Lemon's Buddy
Funny Papa SmithHowling Wolf Blues - No. 1The Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Funny Papa SmithHoney BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Thomas Shaw Last Year Was A Mighty Fine YearBorn In Texas
Thomas Shaw Ella Speed Blind Lemon's Buddy
Blind Willie JohnsonLord I Can't Just Keep From CryingThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie JohnsonIf I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down
The Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Thomas Shaw Just Can't Keep From Crying Blind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas Shaw Worried BluesBorn In Texas
Ramblin' ThomasSo LonesomeCountry Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics 1926-1937
Willie LaneToo Many Women BluesRural Blues Vol. 1 1934-1956
Thomas ShawMatchbox Blues Blind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas ShawHowling Wolf Blues Blind Lemon's Buddy
Smokey Hogg Penitentiary Blues Pt. 1Good Morning Little School Girl
Mance Lipscomb Ella Speed Texas Sharecropper & Songster
Thomas Shaw Prowling Ground HogBlind Lemon's Buddy
Thomas Shaw She's My Gal Do Lord Remember Me
Funny Papa Smith County Jail BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Funny Papa Smith Fool's BluesThe Original Howling Wolf 1930-31
Thomas ShawJack of DiamondsSan Diego Blues Jam
Blind Lemon Jefferson Match Box BluesThe Best Of
Blind Lemon Jefferson Jack O' Diamond Blues The Best Of
Thomas ShawDedicated To My FriendsDo Lord Remember Me

Show Notes:

Read Liner Notes

Thomas Shaw came to the attention of the blues world in the late 1960's when he walked into Lou Curtis' Folk Arts Rare Records shop in San Diego looking for guitar strings. Shaw was from Brennam, Texas and had learned to play guitar in the late 1920's from Blind Lemon Jefferson. He was a walking library of Texas blues, having played with Ramblin’ Thomas, J.T. “Funny Papa” Smith, Texas Alexander, and Willie “Little Brother” Lane. He also played some with a very young Mance Lipscomb. In the early 70's Curtis wrote articles about Shaw for Living Blues and Blues Unlimited magazines and Shaw's discovery garnered interest from record companies. Frank Scott came down and recorded Shaw for Advent Records in the backroom of Curtis' store. The same year saw the release of the, now long out-of-print, record on the Blue Goose label with a final record cut in 1973 for the Blue Beacon label in Holland when Shaw toured Europe. A few scattered sides appeared on anthologies before his passing in 1977. Today's show not only spotlights a batch of great sides by Shaw, but we also spin sides from many of the great Texas bluesman that he knew and played with like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Funny Papa Smith, Blind Willie Johnson, Smokey Hogg, Mance Lipscomb, Willie Lane and Ramblin' Thomas.

Thomas Shaw only spent five years on the Texas house party circuit, leaving for San Diego in 1934, yet met an astonishing number of Texas blues legends. He was born in Brenham, Texas in 1908, a farming community between Austin and Houston. His was a musical family; his father played harmonica, guitar and accordion and Shaw learned acapella versions of spirituals on his father's knee. His uncle Fred Rogers headed up a family string band and his cousins, Willie and Bertie, were first rate blues guitarists. His older brother Leon played piano and his brother Louis played harmonica. "They played old time blues music, what you call the root of the music. 'Ella Speed', 'Take Mew Back Baby', 'See See Rider'. 'Alabama Bound', all of them songs was popular then."

Shaw first played harmonica before picking up guitar in the early 20's. The first song he mastered was “Out And Down”, a ragtime song that was played locally by his brother Louis and later recorded as “One Dime Blues” by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Shaw had already been enthralled by Jefferson's early recordings of “Long Lonesome Blues” and “Matchbox Blues” when he met Jefferson on the town square of Waco in 1926 or 1927. “I followed all around that evening there, and then I started talkin' to him, and naturally me being a kid he's askin' me different things: 'You like the way I play this guitar?' I told him 'I love it!' …Say: 'How would you lie to do it?' I say: 'I sure wish I could do it!' He says: 'Well you can.' I say: 'I don't know.' He says: 'Yes, you can …go and find you a guitar.' .'..When you hear (of) me in town, you come where I am.' At Blind Jefferson's urging he bought himself a guitar and learned Jefferson's “Long Lonesome Blues”. He learned many of Jefferson's song from a combination of listening to the records and hearing him in person.

In 1925 Blind Lemon Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make his first records either in December 1925 or January 1926. Though he was not the first country blues singer/guitarist, or the first to make commercial recordings, Jefferson was the first to attain a national audience. Jefferson’s first session produced "I Want To Be Like Jesus In My Heart" b/w "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" using the name Deacon L.J. Bates. It was the second session, however, that made Jefferson a star. "Got The Blues" b/w "Long Lonesome Blues" hadn't been on sale long in the spring of 1926 when Paramount asked him to record it again because of the huge demand for the record. This was unheard of for a male blues artist. Prior to Jefferson the blues had been recorded primarily by women backed by piano or bands. Tony Russell describes Jefferson's impact: "Jefferson offered instead blues sung by a man playing guitar – playing it, moreover, with a busyness and variety that showed up many of those pianists and bands as turgid and ordinary. The discovery that there was an audience for Jefferson's type of blues revolutionized the music business: within a few years female singers were out of favor and virtually all the trading in the 'race' market (jazz aside) was in men with guitars."

In the towns of Moody and nearby Temple, Shaw met Blind Willie Johnson whom he learned “Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying.” " My father and Blind Willie Johnson used to work together, they both composed songs. My daddy would write 'em and make 'em into ballets and they'd sell 'em for fifteen cents a copy."  After spending a year in his mother's home of Brenham in the late 20's, Shaw began traveling as an itinerant cotton picker. It was in 1929 that he started playing for parties on the weekends. On one of these trips in the town of Vernon he ran into Ramblin' Thomas at a party where the two were goaded into a guitar contest which Shaw claims to have won. "The people went wild, I guess, 'cause I was a kid …what they really went wild over, me bein' able to play some of Blind Lemon Jefferson"s stuff …" Most Texas bluesman, he said, nvere played Jeffereson's songs. While living in Fort Worth in 1929 he played again with Thomas and met Willie Lane (who he knew only as Little Brother) at a house party.

Willard "Ramblin" Thomas was born around 1900, probably in Texas but possibly in Louisiana. Very little is known about him except that he recorded eighteen tracks for Paramount and Victor between 1928 and 1932. Willie Lane was a Texas blues guitarist who recorded five sides in 1949 and displays the influences of Ramblin' Thomas and J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith respectively on "Prowlin' Ground Hog" and "Howling Wolf Blues." In fact, he had accompanied Smith during a 1935 recording session for Vocalion, the results never being released, under the moniker "Little Brother."

Around 1930 Shaw met J.T. “Funny Papa” Smith. Shaw and Smith went on to play weekend house parties, each devising second guitar parts behind the others' vocal and leads. Smith promised to include Shaw in on of his recording sessions in 1931 but Smith was hauled off to face a murder charge and never returned to the area. Smith was a minstrel who wandered about the panhandle region, performing at fairs, fish fries, dances and other community events (often in the company of figures including Tom Shaw, Texas Alexander and Bernice Edwards.Between 1930 and 1931 he had recorded some twenty issued sides. Evidently Smith's commercial billing as "Funny Paper Smith" was a gaffe on the part of record company officials. When Texas bluesman Thomas Shaw met him in Wickoffs, Oklahoma, the name "Funny Papa Smith" was plainly stitched on his stovepipe hat and the work-overalls he customarily wore as the overseer of a local plantation. He was better known simply as Howling Wolf", the title of his debut recording. "That's the one that made him famous," Shaw said of the song.

Shaw's belated debut was recorded in 1969 or 70 and issued in 1972 on the Blue Goose label, titled Blind Lemon's Buddy. Subsequent albums included Born In Texas issued in 1972 on Advent then later on Testament, and Do Lord Remember Me released in 1973 on the Blues Beacon label (recorded in a Holland studio with one cut recorded live at Bajes Blues Club in Amsterdam). Tow other cuts appeared on the compilation San Diego Blues Jam issued in 1974 on Advent then later on Testament and four cuts that appear on the Ultimate Blues Collection Volume 3 on Ziggy Christmann's Ornament label. As Shaw noted of his recording career, it should have happened forty years earlier: “I was a guitar player then, brother …didn't nobody run into me-wanna mess with me. No sir …But I just can't play now.” He remains proudest of his ability to recreate the sound of Blind Lemon, saying of the style “ I went through hell and high water to get it.”


-Liner notes to Blind Lemon's Buddy by Stephen Calt

-From The Vaults… Thomas Shaw Interview by Guido van Rijn (Blues & Rhythm #193, October 2004)

Madelyn James Long Time BluesMemphis Blues 192 -1938
Madelyn James Stinging Snake BluesMemphis Blues 192 -1938
Holy Ghost Sanctified SingersJesus Throwed Up A Highway For MeMemphis Sanctified Jug Bands 1928-1930
Eli Green Brooks Run Into The OceanYou Got To Move
Eli Green Bulldog Blues You Got To Move
Blind Willie JohnsonYou're Gonna Need Somebody on Your BondThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson
Willie Lee HarrisNever Drive a Stranger from Your Door Rare Country Blues 1928-1937
Hammie NixonThe Judge, He Pleaded (Viola Lee Blues)Tappin' That Thing
Nat RiddlesCross My Heart New York Really Has the Blues Vol. 3
Roy Dunn Rollin' MillBlues Come To Chapel Hill
Frank Edwards Love My BabyBlues Come To Chapel Hill
Elester AndersonFurther Down The Road
Carolina Country Blues
Henry JohnsonSittin' Down ThinkinCarolina Country Blues
Rosie Mae Moore Stranger BluesFour Women Blues
Memphis MinnieWhen The Sun Goes Down (Part 2)Four Women Blues
Clara SmithWoman to WomanThe Essential
Sunset Blues Band & Pee Wee CraytonPiney Brown Blues Funky Blues
Kansas City RedOpen Your Heart Original Chicago Blues
Lovie Lee West Side WomanGood Candy
Cousin Joe Juice On The Loose Cousin Joe Of New Orleans
Cousin Joe Evolution BluesCousin Joe Of New Orleans
Buddy Lewis Lonesome Bedroom BluesJuke Joint Blues 2
Left Handed CharlieMiss My LagnionJuke Joint Blues 2
Big ChenierPlease Try to RealiseJuke Joint Blues 2
Larry Johnson & Nat RiddlesI Believe Basin' Free
Larry Johnson & Nat RiddlesJohnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?
Larry JohnsonFour Women Blues Fast & Funky
Charlie PattonJersey Bull BluesThe Best Of
Johnnie TempleJinks Lee BluesJohnnie Temple Vol. 3 1940-1949

Show Notes:

Cross my fingers, this is the first mix show in some time that I'm not featuring somebody who just passed away. Lots of interesting records on tap today including a set revolving around the Memphis Jug Band, twin spins of Eli Green, Cousin Joe, several tracks featuring New York artists Larry Johnson and Nat Riddles, some  fine latter day Chicago blues and some exceptional pre-war blues.  We spotlight several out-of-print records including a pair on the Flyright label and an obscure one featuring the great Pee Wee Crayton.

Features the only tracks by McDowell's mentor, Eli Green.
Reissued on CD as You Got To Move

A month ago we did an in-depth feature on the Memphis Jug Band. Today we open up with an addendum of sorts with two tracks by singer Madeyln James and one by the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers. There's speculation that the Memphis Jug Band was the group who recorded in Memphis on a February 21, 1930 date resulting in four gospel and two secular sides. As the the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers on "Thou Carest Lord, For Me", "Jesus Throwed Up A Highway For Me", "Sinner I'd Make A Change", "When I Get Inside The Gate" and backing singer Madelyn James on "Stinging Snake Blues" and "Long Time Blues."

Eli Green was a mentor to Mississippi Fred McDowell and also Junior Kimbrough. With McDowell's help, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie records, located Green in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1965. He recorded him on the two songs, "Brooks Run Into The Ocean" and "Bulldog Blues", with backing by McDowell. These are the only recordings Green ever cut and are available on the Arhoolie CD, You Got To Move.

Born December 20, 1907 in Wallace, Louisiana, Cousin Joe made a name for himself on the Crescent City nightclub circuit of the mid-1930s before relocating to New York City in 1942; there he recorded prolifically through the 40's. He returned to New Orleans in 1947, recording material for the Deluxe and Imperial labels before signing a five-year pact with Decca; however, he entered the studio only rarely in the years to follow. After a long hiatus, he recorded and released an impromptu 1971 session under the title Bad Luck Blues, followed in 1973 by Cousin Joe from New Orleans where today's tracks come from. His activities were again curtailed in the years to follow, although he cut a final album in 1983 and in 1987 he published an autobiography, Cousin Joe: Blues from New Orleans. He died October 2, 1989.

Read Liner Notes

Nat Riddles played an important role in the New York blues scene during the late 1970's to mid 1980's. He became known in New York blues circles for his street performances with guitarist Charlie Hilbert and as well as performing with Larry Johnson. He also performed regularly at Dan Lynch's in NYC  a blues hotbed that that saw the emergence of recording artists like The Holmes Brother and Bobby Radcliff. Almost Riddles' recordings are out of print: he has scattered sides on various albums for the Spivey label (appears on several volumes of New York Really Has The "Blues Stars") plus a whole album on the label (The Art Of Nat Riddles). Riddles also appears on a fine recording with Larry Johnson for the L + R label, Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound?, and a posthumous album of live recordings with Charlie Hilbert that came out in 2007. Riddles died of leukemia in August 1991 at the age of 39.

After a stint in the Navy from 1955 to 1959, Larry Johnson moved to New York and befriended Brownie and Sticks McGhee and began playing on records by Big Joe Williams, Harry Atkins, and Alec Seward. It was Seward who introduced Johnson to his future mentor, Rev. Gary Davis. He released his first single, "Catfish Blues"/"So Sweet," in 1962 and appeared on numerous live dates with Davis. By 1970, Johnson began releasing albums on small labels. Although never prolific, he cut consistently fine albums including Fast and Funky from 1971 and where our featured track, "Four Women Blues" comes from, the out-of-print Basin Free with Nat Riddles on the Spivey label and the marvelous Blues For Harlem issued in 1999.

We spin some terrific latter day Chicago blues from the under recorded Kansas City drummer/singer Kansas City Red and pianist Lovie Lee. By the early 1940's Red was hanging round with Robert Nighthawk. One night the band’s drummer took ill right before a gig and he offered to fill in despite never having played drums before. He ended up playing drums for Nighthawk until around 1946. After his split with Nighthawk he briefly hooked up with Honeyboy Edwards. He had an uncanny knack for hustling gigs and began singing by this period. In the 1950s he formed a band with Earl Hooker and pianist Ernest Lane. He moved to Chicago in the 1950's, occasionally sitting in with Muddy Waters. He formed a group with Walter Horton that included Johnny Young and Johnny Shines. During this period he played with Robert Lockwood Jr., Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Blind John Davis, Elmore James, and others. Starting with the Club Reno, he managed a number of Chicago bars and owned a couple as well. Through the 1970's and 1980's he held down stints at a number of Chicago clubs. His recorded legacy is slim with a handful of sessions for Barrelhouse, JSP, and Earwig. His last major engagement was at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival. He died of cancer on his sixty-fifth birthday on May 7, 1991. Today's cut comes from a hard-hitting record issued on the JSP label and the Japanese P-Vine label, Original Chicago Blues, that also features Big John Wrencher and Eddie Taylor.

Lovie Lee grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, and was self taught piano player. He found part time employment playing with the Swinging Cats in the early 1950's. The outfit included Carey Bell, who Lee took under his fatherly protection, and they jointly relocated to Chicago in September 1956. Lee worked during the day in a woodworking factory, and for many years played in the evening in numerous Chicago blues nightclubs. After he retired from full-time day work, Lee joined Muddy Waters band in 1979, replacing Pinetop Perkins. Lee made some private recordings in both 1984 and 1989, and this work plus later contemporary tracks, were released as the album Good Candy in 1992.

As always we spotlight a few long out-of-print records including two companion albums issued on the Flyright label in 1973: Blues Come To Chapel Hill and Carolina Country Blues. These were recorded in March 1973 live at the Chapel Hill Festival at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill by Pete Lowry. Most of the artists were recorded by Lowry for his Trix label including Frank Edwards, Roy Dunn, Tarheel Slim, Henry Johnson, Peg Leg Sam, Willie Trice and Guitar Shorty. Elester Anderson and Tommy Lee Russell were recorded extensively by Lowry but nothing was issued commercially.

The generically titled and plain looking album, Sunset Blues Band: Funky Blues, was released on the Sunset budget label and recorded for the United Artists/Liberty group in 1969 featuring Pee Wee Crayton with a session group. Pee Wee's name is not credited on the LP and Pee Wee admitted he did not know what happened to this material after he recorded it. This has been re-released years ago on Charly records.


A few weeks back I passed along the sad news that Doc's Juke Joint was going off the air. Starting June 3rd the blues will be back to four hours as we announce the addition of The Blues Spectrum with Jim McGrath to the Sunday lineup, immediately following Big Road Blues. Jim is well know to the Rochester blues community, probably best known for his overnight blues program on WXXI for many years. Jim was an inspiration to several of us, including myself, who went on to host their own blues shows in Rochester. In addition, Jim has been compiling the Living Blues Playlist that has appeared in Living Blues magazine for the past twenty-five years. Jim was born and raised in Rochester, and started listening to music in the 50's coming to jazz in high school due to a priest that enjoyed jazz and had an after school jazz club. It was just a listening activity but that coupled with stories of The Pythodd Club and other Jazz venues lead Jim to a life long love of the music. But after "liking what he liked" he sat down and tried to figure out what he liked about the music styles, and the common denominator turned out to be the blues. To learn more about Jim McGrath, click here.

John BrimDark CloudsJohn Brim 1950-1953
John BrimHumming Blues John Brim 1950-1953
John BrimHard Pill To Swallow John Brim 1950-1953
J.B. Lenoir Eisenhower Blues J.B. Lenoir 1951-1954
J.B. Lenoir The Mojo J.B. Lenoir 195 -1954
J.B. Lenoir Mamma Talk To Your Daughter J.B. Lenoir 1951-1954
Little Willie Foster Falling Rain Blues Juicy Harmonica Vol. 2
Little Willie Foster Four Day JumpHand Me Down Blues
John BrimMoonlight BluesJohn Brim 1950-1953
John BrimIt Was A Dream John Brim 1950-1953
John BrimRattlesnake BluesJohn Brim 1950-1953
J.B. LenoirGive Me One More Shot
J.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
J.B. LenoirLet Me Die With The One I LoveJ.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
J.B. LenoirNatural ManJ.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
John BrimLifetime BabyJohn Brim 1950-1953
John Brim Ice Cream ManJohn Brim 1950-1953
John BrimTough Times John Brim 1950-1953
John BrimGary Stomp John Brim 1950-1953
J.B. LenoirWe've Got Both To Realise J.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
J.B. LenoirDon't Dog Your Woman J.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
J.B. LenoirI've Been Down So Long J.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
J.B. LenoirDon't Touch My Head! J.B. Lenoir 1955-1956
John BrimYou Got Me Where You Want MeWhose Muddy Shoes
John BrimBe Careful What You Do Whose Muddy Shoes
J.B. LenoirLouise J. B. Lenoir, Sunnyland Slim & Friends: Live In '63
J.B. LenoirI Sing Um The Way I Feel Mojo Boogie
J.B. LenoirSlow Down WomanAmerican Folk Blues Festival '65
Little Willie Foster Crying The BluesGoin' Down To Eli's
Little Willie Foster Little Girl Goin' Down To Eli's
J.B. Lenoir My Father's Style/So It Rocked On/Move To Kansas CityConversation With The Blues
J.B. Lenoir AlabamaThe Complete L+R Recording
J.B. Lenoir Shot On James MeredithThe Complete L+R Recording

Show Notes:

Today's show spotlights three great bluesmen who were active on the Chicago scene from the late 40's through the 60's: John Brim, J.B. Lenoir and Little Willie Foster. Guitar/Vocalist John Brim cut a batch of great singles in the 50's and 60's for a variety of labels, often accompanied by his wife on drums or harmonica, as well as backing artists like Big Maceo, Jimmy Reed and Albert King. J.B. Lenoir cut terrific boogie based and topical numbers through the 50's and 60's for variety of Chicago labels. Leroy Foster cut just four great sides for Blue Lake and Cobra in the 50's before injury curtailed his career.

John Brim was born on a farm about ten miles from Hopkinsville, Kentucky on April 10, 1922. Brim picked up his early guitar licks from the 78's of Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy before heading first to Indianapolis in 1941 and Chicago four years later.There he met Tampa Red, Big Maceo, Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson. He played with Sonny Boy for about a year and a half from 1946 as well as odd dates with Muddy Waters, L.C. McKinley, Eddie Boyd and Willie Mabon. He met his wife Grace in 1947.She was a capable drummer, harmonica player and singer. She soon joined John in a group together based in their new home town of Gary, Indiana. Brim formed his own group called The Gary Kings which featured Jimmy Reed. His wife was the vocalist on a 1950 single for Detroit-based Fortune Records that signaled the beginning of his career ("Strange Man" b/ "Mean Man Blues" for the Fortune label).

Brim recorded for Random Records, J.O.B. Records, Parrot Records (the topical "Tough Times" which appeared on the R & B best sellers lists in Detroit and Chicago), and Checker Records ("Rattlesnake," his answer to Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" was pulled from the shelves by Chess for fear of a plagiarism lawsuit). All of his 1950s recordings for the Chess brothers were later included on the compilation LP/CD Whose Muddy Shoes (which also included the few recordings Elmore James made for Chess and Checker). On some tracks Little Walter played the harmonica, whilst Jimmy Reed, Snooky Pryor, or James Dalton were also featured blowing the harp. Cut in 1953, the suggestive "Ice Cream Man" had to wait until 1969 to enjoy a very belated release. Brim's last Chess single, "I Would Hate to See You Go," was waxed in 1956 with a combo consisting of Little Walter, guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr., bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Below. In 1971 a brief return to the recording studio with Grace and son John Jr. produced two originals "Moving Out" an instrumental, and "You Put The Hurt On Me" which the Brim family produced on their own BB label. It would be close to two decades before Brim recorded again. He played often at the Elsewhere Lounge in Chicago during the 70's.

In between touring, Brim operated dry-cleaning businesses and a record store. When the royalties from Van Halen’s recording of "Ice Cream Man" came through, they enabled him to open John Brim’s House of the Blues Broadway Nite Club in Chicago. Brim continued to perform occasionally around Chicago, and was a regularly featured performer on the Chicago Blues Festival beginning in 1991, when he was backed by the local Chicago blues band The Ice Cream Men. He was tempted back into the recording studio again in 1989 to record four songs for the German Wolf label, and renewed interest in him finally led to his recording his first solo CD, Ice Cream Man, for Tone Cool Records in 1994. It received a W. C. Handy nomination as the best Traditional Blues Album of the Year. He recorded again in 2000, 50 years after his recording debut, and continued to tour, playing in Belgium in 2001. One of his final appearances was at the 2002 Chicago Blues Festival. He passed in 2003.

16mm footage  shot in Chicago by Steve and Ronnog Seaberg and Peter Amf, 1964.

J.B. Lenoir was born on a farm in Monticello, Mississippi in 1929. As he sang about so forthrightly in his songs, he was determined to leave Mississippi: "The way they do's you down there in Mississippi it ain't what a man should suffer, what a man should go through. And I said, after I seen the way they treat my daddy I never was goin' to stand that no kind of way. So I just worked as hard as I could for to get that money to get away…" Lenoir did get away, spending time in New Orleans before arriving in Chicago in 1949 and was mentored by Big Bill Broonzy. Playing the clubs in Chicago he came to the attention of some small labels, on his first session he was backed by Snooky Pryor on harp, Sunnyland Slim on piano and Eddie Taylor on guitar, the two songs recorded — "In The Evening" and "Please Don't Go Away" were issued on the tiny Negro Rhythm label. His first single for Chess in 1951, "Korea Blues," was a superb topical blues and a minor hit. From late 1951 to 1953, he waxed several dates for Joe Brown's JOB logo in the company of pianist Sunnyland Slim, drummer Alfred Wallace, and on the romping "The Mojo," saxophonist J.T. Brown.  Lenoir waxed his most enduring piece, often-covered, "Mama Talk to Your Daughter," in 1954 for Al Benson's Parrot label. Lenoir's 1954-1955 Parrot output and 1955-1958 Checker catalog contained a some of his performances. In 1954 he recorded another minor topical hit, “I'm In Korea b/w Eisenhower Blues.” The latter song was too incendiary for the times, and was forced off the shelve and re-recorded with tamer lyrics as "Tax Paying Blues."

Taken all my money, to pay the tax
I'm only givin' you people, the natural facts
I only tellin' you people, my belief
Because I am headed straight on relief
Mm mm mm, I got them Eisenhower blues
Thinkin' about me and you, what on earth are we gonna do?

Scattered singles for Shad in 1958 and Vee-Jay two years later kept Lenoir's name in the public eye. His music was growing substantially by the time he hooked up with USA Records in 1963 (billed asJ.B. Lenoir & his African Hunch Rhythm). Even more unusual were the two acoustic albums he cut for German blues promoter Horst Lippmann in 1965 and 1966. Alabama Blues! and Down in Mississippi were done in Chicago under Willie Dixon's supervision, where Lenoir cut some scathing topical numbers like "Born Dead," "Shot on James Meredith" and "Alabama:"

I never will go back to Alabama, that is not the place for me (2x)
You know they killed my sister and my brother,
and the whole world let them peoples go down there free

By the time of his 1967 death, the Lenoir had moved to downstate Champagne, and that's where he died, probably as a delayed result of an auto accident he was involved in three weeks prior to his actual death. Two interesting Lenoir documents surfaced in recent years; first is the short film made in the early 60's by a Swedish fan who made a brief color film on Lenoir that was later included in the Wim Wenders part of the PBS TV documentary Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues. In 2003 on the Fuel label, released recordings made form a tape made in 1963 at a small club called Nina's Lounge in Chicago and features JB Lenoir playing live to a tiny crowd (the CD's eighteen tunes are split between Lenoir and Sunnyland Slim).

Little Willie Foster moved from Mississippi to Chicago in the early 40's and fell in playing harmonica with Floyd Jones, Lazy Bill Lucas and cousin "Baby Face" Leroy Foster. Foster was probably from Belzoni and Johnny Williams remembers giving him first job when, with Willie and his cousin Robert, he played the 520 Club, 520 E. 63rd Street. Foster ran with the same group of musicians much of the time, playing at the Jamboree with Homesick  James and Lazy Bill or with Floyd Jones. He waxed two sides for Blue Lake in 1951 and two for Cobra in 1956. Both sessions feature backing from Lazy Bill Lucas and Floyd Jones, with Eddie Taylor on guitar on the earlier session. Shortly after this last session he was seriously wounded by a gunshot which ended his career. Foster passed in 1987. Foster was described by Snooky Pryor as "a good harmonica player, but kind of a terrible rough little guy." Foster's "Falling Rain Blues" had a poetic flair:

Got up this morning, looking through my window pane (2x)
Though I could see my baby walking out in the showers of rain

Lawd, my baby's gone, she's gone down in old Shade Grove (2x)
That's where they carried my baby, carried her down to her burying ground


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