|Kokomo Arnold||Coffin Blues||Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937|
|Big Bill Broonzy||Falling Rain||All The Classic Sides|
|Tampa Red||Stormy Sea Blues||The Essential|
|Josephine Parker||I Got A Man In New Orleans||Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947|
|Alice Moore||Grass Cutter Blues||Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 1936-1937|
|Black Boy Shine||Brown House Blues||The Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe 1934-1937|
|Mack Rhinehart & Brownie Stubbliefield||Broke And Hungry||Deep South Blues Piano 1935-1937|
|Little Brother Montgomery||Santa Fe Blues||Little Brother Montgomery 1930-1936|
|Bo Carter||Bo Carter's Advice||Greatest Hits|
|Chatman Brothers||If You Don't Want Me, Please, Don't Dog Me Around||Bo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks|
|Willie Williams||'Twas On a Monday||Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia 1936-1941|
|J. Wilson||Barrel House Blues||Red River Blues 1934-1943|
|James Henry Diggs||Freight Train Blues||Virginia Traditions: Southwest Virginia Blues|
|Charlie McCoy||Let My Peaches Be||Charlie & Joe McCoy Vol. 1 1934-1936|
|Harlem Hamfats||My Daddy Was a Lovin' Man||Harlem Hamfats Vol. 1 1936|
|Lil Johnson||My Stove's In Good Condition||Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops|
|Victoria Spivey||Black Snake Swing||Victoria Spivey Vol 3 1929-1936|
|Jimmie Strothers & Joe Lee||Lord Remember Me||Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947|
|Blind Roosevelt Graves||Woke Up This Morning||American Primitive Vol. I: Raw Pre-War Gospel|
|Blind Boy Fuller||(I Got a Woman, Crazy for Me) She's Funny That Way||Blind boy Fuller: Remastered 1935-1938|
|The Two Charlies||Don’t Put Your Dirty Hands On Me||Charley Jordan Vol. 3 1935-1937|
|Walter Coleman||Mama Let Me Lay It On You||Cincinnati Blues|
|Red Nelson||Crying Mother Blues||Broadcasting the Blues|
|Bill Gaither||Pins And Needles||Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|Ozella Jones||I Been a Bad, Bad Girl (Prisoner Blues)||Alan Lomax: Blues Songbook|
|Memphis Minnie||I'm A Bad Luck Woman||Memphis Minnie Vol. 2 1935-1936|
|Peetie Wheatstraw||Working Man (Doing’ The Best I Can)||Peetie Wheatstraw Vol. 3|
|Bumble Bee Slim||This Old Life I'm Living||Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 5 1935-1936|
|Casey Biil Weldon||Somebody Changed the Lock on That Door||Casey Bill Weldon Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|Oscar Woods||Lone Wolf Blues||Texas Slide Guitars: Oscar Woods & Black Ace 1930-1938|
|Robert Johnson||Last Fair Deal Gone Down||The Centennial Collection|
|Sonny Boy Nelson||Pony Blues||Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues Vol. 3 1936-1942|
|Washboard Sam||Mixed Up Blues||Washboard Sam Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|The Hokum Boys||Nancy Jane||The Hokum Boys Vol. 2 & Bob Robinson 1935-1937|
|Lemuel Jones||Po' Farmer||Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947|
|Elinor Boyer||You're Gonna Need My Help Someday||Field Recordings, Vol. 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947|
Today’s show is the tenth installment of an ongoing series of programs built around a particular year. The first year we spotlighted was 1927 which was the beginning of a blues boom that would last until 1930; there were just 500 blues and gospel records issued in 1927 and increase of fifty percent from 1926 a trend that would continue until the depression. To feed the demand other record companies conducted exhaustive searches for new talent, which included making trips down south with field recording units. The Depression, with the massive unemployment it brought, had a shattering effect on the pockets of black record buyers. Sales of blues records plummeted in the years 1931 through 1933. Things picked up again in 1934 with the companies recording full-scale again. It was the urban style of blues that now dominated the market – artists such as Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Casey Bill Weldon, Bill Gaither and Bumble Bee Slim recorded prolifically. Blind Boy Fuller was one of the few down-home artists whose sales could compete with urban artists (he cut ten titles in 1936).
Leroy Carr, who epitomized the urban blues, passed away in 1935 with the recording companies trying to cede the mantle to artists such as Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither. Blues guitarist Bill Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr's death recorded under the moniker Leroy's Buddy for a time.
Casey Bill Weldon and Kokomo Arnold were two of the popular Chicago guitarists, alongside the well established Tampa Red. Between 1927 and 1935 Weldon cut just over 60 sides for Victor, Bluebird and Vocalion. He was also an active session guitarist, appearing on records by Teddy Darby, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie, Peetie Wheatsraw and others. In the late 1920's, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation. From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides. Arnold also did session work backing Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosvelt Sykes, Alice Moore (heard backing her on today's "Grass Cutter Blues"), Mary Johnson and others.
Of the recorded blues groups, the swinging, jazzy sound of the Harlem Hamfats fit right in with the times. The Hamfats were a crack studio band formed in 1936 by black talent scout Mayo Williams. Its main function was backing jazz and blues singers such as Johnny Temple, Rosetta Howard, and Frankie "Half Pint" Jackson for Decca Records; The Hamfats' side career began when its first record "Oh Red" became a hit. The band included brothers Joe and Charlie McCoy ,leader Herb Morand, Odell Rand, and John Lindsay, Horace Malcolm and drummers Pearlis Williams and Freddie Flynn .
Among the popular woman of the day were Memphis Minnie, Georgia White, Lil Johnson while Victoria Spivey was one of the last hold outs from the era of the 1920's blues queens. Lil Johnson first recorded in Chicago in 1929 on five songs. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly on the Vocalion label, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Spivey updated her sound and waxed twelve sides in 1936 with a swinging band that featured the aforementioned Lee Collins. Spivey's "Black Snake Swing", backed by her Hallelujah Boys, was a jazzy remake of a song she recorded at her very first session in 1926.
From 1934 until 1945 there were three main race labels, all selling at 35 cents: Decca, the Brunswick Record Corporation's Vocalion, and RCA-Victor's Bluebird. There were two other labels that featured a fair number of blues during this period; the store group Montgomery Ward, with a label of the same name, drew at various times on Gennett, Decca and Bluebird and Sears Roebuck used ARC material on its Conqueror label. According to John Godrich and Robert M.W. Dixon in their classic book Recording The Blues, the record companies "had three way of unearthing new talent: by placing advertisements in local newspapers, especially just before a field unit was due in a nearby town; by just relying on chance comments from singers, concerning other who might be good recording propositions; and by employing their own talent scouts, who carry out steady, systematic searches. The last method was intensively employed in the the thirties – Rootlet Sykes, for instance, would find likely artists for Decca (or, sometimes, for Lester Melrose). But despite this, race catalogs in the thirties relied more heavily on a small nucleus of popular singers than they had in the twenties. …There was far less recording in the field in the 'thirties; in view of the popularity of the Chicago singers there was less need." Decca, for example, seems to have only gone South once, to New Orleans in 1936, where they recorded Walter Vincson and Oscar Woods.
Then there was Bluebird who over two days on October 15-16, 1936 conducted sessions at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. Little Brother Montgomery cut eighteen sides plus backed singer Annie Turner on her four numbers (two were unissued), Sonny Boy Nelson (Eugene Powell) cut six sides under his own name as well as backing Robert Hill, who cut ten , and his wife Mississippi Matilda on her three sides. In addition Bo Carter cut ten sides, the Chatman brothers (Lonnie and Sam) cut twelve sides, Tommy Griffin cut a dozen sides and Walter Vincson (as Walter Jacobs) cut two sides. As John Godrich and Howard Rye wrote in Recording The Blues: "The New Orleans session in 1936 was Victor's last substantial race field recording; in subsequent years they recorded a fair number of gospel quartets in he field, but only one or two unimportant blues singers."
ARC made field recordings in 1936 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Fort Worth Texas and San Antonio where they recorded Black Boy Shine and Robert Johnson. Harold Holiday, known as Black Boy Shine, was one of the acknowledged leaders among the Santa Fe group of pianists. He recorded more prolifically then the rest; cutting 18 issued sides in 1936 and 1937. Johnson recorded sixteen sides in November and a final thirteen sides in June the next year.
|Graph showing number of blues and gospel records issued by year from
the book Recording The Blues (click to enlarge)
The year 1936 saw some notable field recordings captured by John Lomax who traveled through Virginia, South Carolina and Florida collecting primarily from convicts. Recordings featured today include Ozella Jones' "I Been a Bad, Bad Girl (Prisoner Blues)", Josephine Parker's "I Got A Man In New Orleans" recorded in Parchman Farm, James Henry Diggs, who's "Freight Train Blues" features two guitars and a bugle and Jimmie Strothers, a blind banjo and guitar player from Virginia who recorded 15 tracks for Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke.