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Sun 17 Jul 2011
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Naptown Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Bill Gaither||Naptown Stomp||Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Shady Lane Blues||Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Alabama Women Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Midnight Hour Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Herve Duerson||Naptown Special||Barrelhouse Piano Blues and Stomps|
|Turner Parrish||Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog No More||Down In Black Bottom|
|Bill Gaither||Pains in My Heart||Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|Bill Gaither||Tired Of Your Line Of Jive||Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|Honey Hill||Set 'Em||Bill Gaither Vol. 3 1938-1939|
|Champion Jack Dupree||Big Time Mama||Champion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts|
|Jesse Crump||Mr. Crump Rag||Male Blues Of The Twenties Vol. 2 1923-1928|
|Montana Taylor||Indiana Avenue Stomp||Shake Your Wicked Knees|
|Brooks Berry & Scrapper Blackwell||How Long||My Heart Struck Sorrow|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Life of a Millionaire||Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958|
|J.T Adams & Shirley Griffith||Matchbox Blues||Indiana Ave. Blues|
|Shirley Griffith||River Line Blues||Saturday Blues|
|Shirley Griffith||Big Road Blues||Saturday Blues|
|Pete Franklin||Down Behind The Rise||Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953|
|James Easley, Pete Franklin, Raymond Holloway||Big Leg Woman||Indianapolis Jump|
|Pete Franklin||I Got To Find My Baby||Guitar Pete’s Blues|
|Shirley Griffith||Bye Bye Blues||Mississippi Blues|
|James Yank Rachel and Shirley Griffith||Peach Orchard Mama||Art of Field Recording Vol. I|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Blue Day Blues||The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Blues Before Sunrise||Mr. Scrapper's Blues|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Little Boy Blue||Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958|
|J.T Adams & Shirley Griffith||In The Evening||Indiana Ave. Blues|
|J.T Adams & Shirley Griffith||Indianapolis Jump||Indiana Ave. Blues|
|Bill Gaither||I'm Behind The 8 Ball||Bill Gaither Vol. 5 1940-1941|
|Bill Gaither||Bloody Eyed Woman||Bill Gaither Vol. 4 1939|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||I Believe I'll Make a Change||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Big Four Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Scrapper Blackwell||My Old Pal Blues (Dedicated to the Memory of Leroy Carr)||Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958|
|Read Duncan Scheidt's Liner Notes|
Indianapolis, Indiana had a vibrant blues scene both in the pre-war and postwar era, although the city's blues artists have been captured spottily on record. The most important blues artist to emerge from the city was Leroy Carr, one of the most popular blues artists of the 30's. Carr was born in Tennessee but move to Indianapolis, at a young age. It was there that he picked up the piano, influenced by many of the barrelhouse players on the city's west side. Carr eventually hooked up with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell who appears on the bulk of Carr's recordings as well as making sides under his own name. Indeed, by all accounts, the city was a good piano town going back to the turn of the century when ragtime players were abundant. In the blues er many good piano players got on record including Montana Taylor, Jesse Crump and strong evidence that Herve Duerson and Turner Parrish where also based in the city. Guitarist Bill Gaither and his piano partner George “Honey” Hill were also based in Indianapolis. Gaither moved back and forth between there and his native Louisville. Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Pianist Champion Jack Dupree settled in the city in 1940, cutting four sessions between 1940 and 1941 in the company of fellow Indianapolis musicians. Also in the pre-war era were recorded singers Nina Reeves, who cut "Indiana Avenue Blues" at her first session backed by Jesse Crump and Lulu Jackson. Bumble Bee Slim also settled in the city in 1928 and spent a few years there before heading to Chicago and a very successful recording career.
In the post-war era Scrapper Blackwell was rediscovered and had a short but productive comeback. Several other fine blues artists were in Scrapper's orbit; there was Shirley Griffith who moved to the city in 1928 and became friendly with Scrapper and Carr, Pete Franklin’ whose mother was good friend with Leroy Carr (he roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935), Jesse Ellery who appeared on Jack Dupree's first sessions and singer Brooks Berry who met Scrapper shortly after she moved to Indianapolis and recorded one album together. Other artists included Yank Rachell who moved to the city in 1958 and did some touring with Shirley Griffith and J.T. Adams who came up from Kentucky and became a faithful partner to Griffith. The city also became the adopted home of Leroy “Lefty” Bates after he’d left Chicago and where John Brim first landed in the early 40's when he left Kentucky.
Naptown is the nickname for Indianapolis and appears in a number of blues songs. The name Naptown was given to Indianapolis in the early 1900's with Indianapolis often referred to as a ghost-town with nothing to do. Indianapolis was known to shutdown the city early leaving very few places to go at night. The fact the word "nap" can be found in "Indianapolis" only made the name more suitable.
As Duncan Scheidt wrote in the notes to Columbia's Blues Before Sunrise album: "Up and down Indiana Avenue the black and tan spots flourished. The Golden West, an upstairs club, was the most famous of all, and featured the team of Crump and Reeves and pianist Montana Taylor. Other places were the Paradise, run by Raymond"Dee" Davis, and the Blackstone, which was such a rough joint it terrified the fugitive ban robber John Dillinger, who was secretly taken there by some local friends for an evening out. Neighborhood taverns such as Boultons' at 17th and Northwestern and Ran Butler's place at 15th and Northwestern were the favorite haunts of the local blues men. Every Monday night was Blue Monday and you could find all the barrelhouse, boogie and blues pianists you would want at one place or the other." Mr. Scheidt was kind enough to let me chat with him recently but unfortunately there was a problem with the audio and I'm unable to air the interview.
Art Rosenbaum was involved in producing several albums for Bluesville in the early 1960’s including records by Indianapolis artists such as Scrapper Blackwell, Pete Franklin, Shirley Griffith, J.T.Adams and Brooks Berry. The following is taken from his notes:
|Read Art Rosenbaum's Liner Notes|
"Indianapolis sprawls in the middle of the flat Hoosier farmlands, with streets radiating in all directions from what John Gunter called the second ugliest monument in the U.S. halfway between Louisville, on the edge of the South, and Chicago. One of the spokes, running north-west, the direction of Chicago, is Indiana Avenue, the 'sport street' of the black population. One might begin to characterize their city's blues from the town's location as a way-station between south and north, between rural and urban – guitar Pete Franklin told me it was 'far enough north to have the feelin', far enough north to play it right, get the changes right.'
Indianapolis, Indiana is a good blues town, and in the sprawling neighborhoods of the Northwest side live many fine singers and instrumentalists who carry on the old blues traditions in that Midwestern city. There are singer like Scrapper Blackwell, Little Bill Gaither, Jesse Ellry, Clyde Robinson, and Guitar Pete, longtime residents who accompany their songs on the guitar in the distinctive 'Indianapolis style', Scrapper's refinement of the old Naptown picking played by men of the generation before him. There are piano players who prefer the lonesome blues of Leroy Carr to any others and who can point out the house near Fall Creek on Northwestern Avenue where Indianapolis' greatest blues singer died more then twenty-seven years ago. There are immigrants up from the border states of Kentucky and Tennessee where, in Guitar Pete's opinion, the best blues musicians come from. …Most of the Indianapolis blues singers know one another, and some of the southern singers have blended their primitive, emotional music with the more relaxed, wistful, and musically sophisticated Indianapolis blues. On the other hand, many of the older styles, local and southern, can still be heard in a fairly pure state. Blues singing has not been very remunerative for some time in Indianapolis and singers have not had the commercial pressures to keep up with the times that they might have been subjected to, say, in Chicago. The rhythm and blues bands with loud electric guitar, saxophone, and drums were never popular in Indianapolis as elsewhere."
As reissue producer and collector Francis Smith wrote of Leroy Carr, "He, perhaps more than any other single artist, was responsible for transforming the rural blues patterns of the ’20s into the more city-oriented blues of the ’30's." Carr met guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis in 1928 and the duo began performing together. Shortly afterward they were recording for Vocalion, releasing “How Long How Long Blues” before the year was finished. The song was an instant, surprise hit. For the next seven years, Carr and Blackwell would record a number of classic songs for Vocalion, including “Midnight Hour Blues,” “Blues Before Sunrise,” “Hurry Down Sunshine,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” and many others. Writer Elijah Wald wrote the following about Carr: “Carr was the most influential male blues singer and songwriter of the first half of the 20th century, but he was nothing like the current stereotype of an early bluesman. An understated pianist with a gentle, expressive voice, he was known for his natty suits and lived most of his life in Indianapolis. His first record, “How Long — How Long Blues,” in 1928, had an effect as revolutionary as Bing Crosby’s pop crooning, and for similar reasons. Previous blues stars, whether vaudevillians like Bessie Smith or street singers like Blind Lemon Jefferson, had needed huge voices to project their music, but with the help of new microphone and recording technologies, Carr sounded like a cool city dude carrying on a conversation with a few close friends. …Carr sang over the solid beat of his piano and the biting guitar of his constant partner Francis (Scrapper) Blackwell. The outcome was a hip, urban club style that signaled a new era in popular music.”
|Montana Taylor 1951
photo by Jasper Woods
Little is know about pianists Herve Duerson and Turner Parrish but census records link both men to Indianapolis. This census information was uncovered by David Costa who posted his findings on the Blindman's Blues Forum. Duerson recorded four superb ragtime-influenced piano solos for Gennett in Richmond, Indiana in 1929 including "Naptown Special", as well as recording accompaniments for various other people, such as Teddy Moss. Researcher Bob Hall states that he was remembered as a pianist with the DuValle Brothers Band in Indianapolis in the late 20's. A WWI draft card and a marriage record both link him to the city. Parrish recorded eight songs for Gennett/Champion in Richmond, Indiana at three different sessions, from 1929 to 1933. He covered Leroy Carr’s "My Own Lonesome Blues" and "Fore Day Rider" at his 1932 session although the record has never been found. He also backed up Teddy Moss in 1929, at the same session as Herve Duerson. Census records show him living in Indianapolis in 1920 and passing there in 1966.
Montana Taylor was born in Butte, Montana, where his father owned a club. The family moved to Chicago and then Indianapolis, where Taylor learned piano around 1919. Taylor cut his teeth playing in local joints like the Hole In the Wall, Goosie Lee's, Rock House and the Golden West Cafe. By 1929 he was back in Chicago, where he recorded a few tracks for Vocalion Records, including "Indiana Avenue Stomp" and "Detroit Rocks". Later he moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1936. He then disappeared from the public record for some years, during which he may have given up playing piano. However, in 1946 he was rediscovered by jazz fan Rudi Blesh, and was recorded both solo and as the accompanist to Bertha "Chippie" Hill. His final recordings were from a 1948 radio broadcast. Taylor died in 1954. Late Cleveland photographer Jasper Wood took the last know photograph of Taylor in 1951 and wrote: “You leave his small place, barely furnished where sometimes he sits in deep bitterness, not then able to play his heart out because his soul is tied in knots, and you know … that despite his extreme ‘scuffling’ for a living, he will every once in a while make music fit for kings.”
Jesse Crump was born in Dallas and came to Indianapolis in 1923. He played at the Golden West Cafe on Indiana Ave. and recorded "Mr. Crump's Rag b/w Golden West Blues" in 1923 for Gennett. As he recollected:"Lots of good piano players around Indianapolis when I was there. I can remember Russell Smith, Russell Williams, Frank Hines and Hanby … don't remember the rest of his name. That was a good town for piano players when I was at the Golden West." He also backed singers Nina Reeves and Billie McKenzie, later moving to Chicago to record and tour with Ida Cox. He wrote many of the Ida Cox tunes, including "Death Letter Blues", "Black Crepe Blues", "Cherry Pickin' Blues", and Last Mile Blues."
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 in 1935, he recorded under the moniker Leroy’s Buddy for a time. A fine guitarist who possessed a warm, expressive voice, Gaither was also at times a gifted and inventive lyricist. He was often partnered with pianist George “Honey” Hill, and the duo patterned themselves after Carr and his guitarist, Scrapper Blackwell. Among Gaither’s many sides were tributes to Carr such as “Life of Leroy Carr” and “After the Sun’s Gone Down.” In 1940 Gaither returned to Louisville where he ran a radio repair shop. Army service overseas in 1942-1945 left him with a nervous condition that prevented him from making music. He went back to Indianapolis where he worked in a cafe. He died in 1970. No information has been uncovered by Honey Hill who back Gaither on the bulk of his records, cut one solo piano record under his own name, "Boogie Woogie b/w Set 'Em", and backed Frank Busby and Bumble Bee Slim on record.
Sometime in the early 30's Champion Jack Dupree left New Orleans and eventually found his way to Indianapolis where he found work at the Cotton Club (named after the famous one in Harlem) who's resident bluesman was Leroy Carr. Although he died only months after their meeting he nevertheless had a profound impact on Dupree's playing. In November 1941 he cut two Carr numbers, 'Shady Lane b/w Hurry Down Sunshine" but they were unreleased at the time. On these early sessions local musicians including bassist Wilson Swain, guitarist Jesse Ellery and and on one 1940 track, "Gambling Man Blues", Bill Gaither appears on guitar. After Carr's death he decide to make Indianapolis his base from wherehe frequently traveled to Chicago to play house parties with musicians like Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. By the close of the thirties he was a large enough attraction to merit the job of M.C. and headliner at the Cotton Club where, in early 1940, he was seen by Lester Melrose who signed him up to record for Okeh in Chicago. The result was two-dozen recordings for the label through 1941. His Indianapolis residency ended when he was drafted at the end of 1941 and after his discharge he settled in New York.
Guitarist Jesse Ellery recorded legacy rest solely wth his backing of Champion Jack Dupree at his first sessions and the last by Bill Gaither. John Brim remembered him fondly: "'Cause I been knowing Jack Dupree, …since '41. …'Cause he used to play the midnight shows every week and jesse Ellery'd play guitar-he was a very good guitar player. …He played jazz and the blues, and I think Jesse come up under Scrapper some, but veterans like him and Pete Franklin could play anything-"Body and Soul", "I Surrender Dear"-anything, not just blues, all the way 'round."
John Tyler Adams was born in Western Kentucky and it was his father who started him out on guitar. In 1941 he went up North, eventually settling in Indianapolis. Adams became good friends with Shirley Griffith and at the time of his first recordings had been playing together for fifteen years. Adams recorded just one album, Indiana Ave. Blues (1964) on Bluesville with Griffith with other sides appearing on the album Indianapolis Jump issued on Flyright.
|Read Art Rosenbaum's Liner Notes|
Scrapper Blackwell began working with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920’s. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was “How Long, How Long Blues”, the biggest blues hit of that year. Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including “Kokomo Blues” which was transformed into “Old Kokomo Blues” by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson. Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 sides. Blackwell’s last recording session with Carr was in February 1935 for the Bluebird label. The recording session ended bitterly, as both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr’s death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner of seven years (“My Old Pal Blues”) which concludes today's program. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death. He returned to music in the late 1950’s where he was recorded first in 1958 and was next recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1959 and 1960. These latter recordings were issued on the British 77 label as Blues Before Sunrise. Art Rosenbaum recorded him in 1962 for the Prestige/Bluesville label resulting in his finest latter day recording, the album Mr. Scrapper’s Blues which certainly ranks as one of the greatest blues revival records of the 60's. In 1963 Rosenbaum recorded him again for Bluesville, this time with singer Brooks Berry resulting in the marvelous My Heart Struck Sorrow that has yet to be issued on CD. Sadly Blackwell was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley in 1962. He was 59 years old.
Shirley Griffith was a deeply expressive singer and guitarist who learned first hand from Tommy Johnson as a teenager in Mississippi. Griffith missed his opportunity to record as a young man but recorded three superb albums: Indiana Ave. Blues (1964, with partner J.T. Adams), Saturday Blues (1965), both recorded by Art Rosenbaum for Bluesville, and Mississippi Blues (1973) cut for Blue Goose. Unfortunately all three albums have yet to be reissued on CD. In 1928 Griffith’s friend and mentor, Tommy Johnson, offered to help him get started but, by his own account, he was too “wild and reckless” in those days. In 1928 he moved to Indianapolis where he became friendly with Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr. It was Art Rosenbaum who was responsible for getting Griffith on record. “I recall one August afternoon”, he wrote in the notes to Saturday Blues, “shortly after these recordings were made; Shirley sat in Scrapper Blackwell’s furnished room singing the “Bye Bye Blues” with such intensity that everyone present was deeply moved, though they had all heard him sing it many times before. Scrapper was playing , too, and the little room swelled with sound. When they finished there was a moment of awkward silence. Finally Shirley smiled and said: ‘The blues’ll kill you. And make you live, too.” Griffith achieved modest notice touring clubs with Yank Rachell in 1968, performed at the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969 and appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana in 1971.
|Read Art Rosenbaum's Liner Notes|
Pete Franklin’s mother was good friend with Leroy Carr, who roomed at their house shortly before he passed in 1935. Pete Franklin eventually became proficient on piano and guitar. After getting discharged from the war Franklin found his way to Chicago where he backed St. Louis Jimmy on a 1947 record and made his debut under his own name for Victor in 1949 waxing “Casey Brown Blues b/w Down Behind The Rise.” In the late 1940’s and early 50’s he backed Jazz Gillum, John Brim and Sunnyland Slim. Art Rosenbaum recorded Franklin in 1961 which resulted in the Bluesville album Guitar Pete’s Blues. A few other recordings appear on the album Indianapolis Jump. Regarding his style John Brim offered the following: "Yeah, he'd play his style-and Jesse Ellery's. Play his style and ideas that he put a little more in it than Scrapper did."
-The Death Of Leroy Carr
by Theodore F. Watts (Jazz Journal, 1960) [word doc]
-Scrapper Blackwell w/ Brooks Berry (1959-1960) Liner Notes
by Duncan P. Schiedt [PDF]
-Jesse Crump: Piano Behind The Blues
By Warren C. Huddleston (Record Exchanger March, 1952) [PDF]
-Rag Alley Blues
by Rudi Blesh (Jazz Record 54, April 1947) [PDF]
-Shirley Griffith & Yank Rachell Concert Review
by Len Kunstadt (Record Research 91, July 1968 )
-Art Rosenbaum Interview/Feature
(edited, 58 min, MP3 – original air date 1/31/10)
-Art Rosenbaum Interview/Feature
Sun 10 Jul 2011
|Dr. Hepcat||Hattie Green||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Lonny Lyons||Down In The Groovy||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Joe 'Papoose' Fritz||Real Fine Girl||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||Hello England||The Rooster Crowed In England|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||Blues For Queen Elizabeth||The Rooster Crowed In England|
|Lightnin' Hopkins||Goin' To Galveston||The Rooster Crowed In England|
|George Clarke||Prisoner Blues||Broke, Black And Blue|
|Vol Stevens||Vol Stevens Blues||Memphis Jug Band & Cannon's Jug Stomper s|
|Joe Williams/Yank Rachel/ Sonny Boy Williamson I||Haven't Seen No Whiskey||Yank Rachell Vol. 2 1934-1941|
|Big Joe Williams||Stella Blues||Back To The Roots|
|Big Joe Williams||Watergate Blues||Back To The Roots|
|Brownie McGhee||Four O'Clock In The Morning||New York Blues And R&B 1947-1955|
|Lane Hardin||Keep 'em Down||Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4|
|Buddy Moss||I Got a Woman, Don't Mean Me No Good||Atlanta Blues Legend|
|Andy Boy||Evil Blues||The Piano Blues Vol. 8: Texas Seaport|
|Pinetop Burks||Sun Down Blues||The Piano Blues Vol. 11: Texas Santa Fe|
|Bill Hayes||I'm Just Another Fool||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Lee Graves||Cloudy Weather Blues||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Willie Holiday||I've Played This Town||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Champion Jack Dupree||Jackie P. Blues||Champion Jack Dupree: Early Cuts|
|Turner Parrish||The Fives||Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here|
|Jimmy Rogers||If It Ain't Me (Who Are You Thinking Of)||Complete Chess Recording|
|Sonny Boy Williamson||West Memphis Blues||Cool Cool Blues: The Classic Sides|
|Peg Leg Sam & Louisiana Red||Going Train Blues||Joshua|
|Papa Lightfoot||Jump The Boogie||Juke Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues 1943-1956|
|Kid Bailey||Rowdy Blues||Screamin' & Hollerin' The Blues|
|Ishman Bracey||Leavin' Town Blues||Ishman Bracey & Charlie Taylor 1928-1929|
|Fiddlin' Joe Martin||Going To Fishing||Mississippi Blues 1940-42|
|Sara Martin||Got To Leave My Home Blues||Sara Martin Vol. 3 1924-1925|
|Berta "Chippie" Hill & Freddie Shayne||How Long Blues||Montana Taylor & Freddy Shayne 1929-1946|
|Swamp Dogg||Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe||Total Destruction To Your Mind|
A varied mix show today spanning the mid-20's through the mid-70's. Quite a number of Texas bluesmen are featured today including two sets from the recent 4-CD JSP collection, Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951, which gathers many lesser known artists mixed with better known artists like Peppermint Harris and Smokey Hogg. In addition there's three from an excellent long out-of-print Lightnin' Hopkins album and some early Texas piano players. Also on tap are a pair of cuts by the prolific Big Joe Williams, several fine piano men, some terrific harp blowers and some excellent down home blues from the pre-war and post-war eras.
|Read Liner Notes (PDF)|
JSP's Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951 is a valuable collection pulling together numerous obscure Houston bluesmen who's output has been scattered on various anthologies; artists like Dr. Hepcat, Lonnie Lyons, I.H. Smalley, Willie Holiday, Conrad Johnson and Joe 'Papoose' Fritz among many others. After World War II several Houston independent labels were started. The earliest to record blues was Gold Star, founded by Bill Quinn in 1946 as a hillbilly label. In 1947 Quinn decided to enter the "race" market by recording Lightnin' Hopkins. By the early 1950's, competition among independent record labels in Houston was intense. Macy's, Freedom, and Peacock (as well as Bob Shad's New York-based Sittin-In-With label) were all involved in recording local and regional blues musicians such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Gatemouth Brown, Goree Carter, Lester Williams, Peppermint Harris and Big Walter Price. Of the Houston-based independent labels, Peacock emerged as the most prominent.
One of the artists I want to mention from the set is Dr. Hepcat, who's "Hattie Green" opens our show. Born in Austin, Texas, January 9, 1913, as Lavada Durst he learned to play the piano as a child and emulated the styles he heard growing up. "I was self-taught," he recalls "I used to slip across the street to the church house and one-finger that piano. I had heard Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson on record, and around Austin, I heard a lot of piano players, Baby Dotson, Black Tank, and Boots Walton." Durst worked part time as a disc jockey from 1948 to 1963 on KVET radio in Austin. On the air, he used the call name “Dr. Hepcat.” He cut two sessions for Uptown in 1949 and another session for Peacock the same year. He made some final recordings in the 80's and passed in 1995.
Speaking of Houston, we spin a trio of sides by Lightnin' Hopkins which I don't think I've played before. The tracks come from the long out-of-print album The Rooster Crowed In England issued on the British 77 Records label in 1959. The bulk of these recordings were made in 1959 with a couple waxed in 1954. As Mack McCormick wrote in the notes: “This album was prepared with the frank intention of arousing interest among the public and agencies who govern the European concert halls. …Until only a few months before making these recordings, Sam Lightnin' Hopkins knew of England only vaguely as a place 'over across the water' …a place he'd heard of thru friends who visited there while in the army. He was startled and dubious when I told him that some of the greatest enthusiasm for the blues was centered in places 'over across that water.'” We open the set with, "Hello England" a brief spoken introduction where he addresses the British people: "I'm Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, blues singer from Texas, singing the blues for 77 Records in England and I'm hoping that each and every one will enjoy em' if they hear them because I'm long wanting to come over there which I probably will come over there someday…" We also play his "Blues For Queen Elizabeth" where he states his hope to play for her and her husband some day and we conclude the set with a 1954 cut "Goin' To Galveston" backed by some rollicking piano. Apparently this issued on a Document CD c. 1998 which was strictly limited edition of 100 copies, never sold, but given away at Document wrap party in Vienna. that release was titled Lightnin' Hopkins 1954 & 1959 with extra tracks from other places.
We go back to 1937 with tracks by Texas pianists Andy and Pinetop Burks. Andy Boy cut only eight sides under his own name in 1937 as well as backing both Joe Pullum and Walter 'Cowboy' Washington. Pinetop Burks cut six songs the same year. Both men were from the so-called “Santa Fe group” who were based in the southwestern part of the state where the cities of Galveston, Houston and Richmond lie. Here was where the music thrived and pianists could be found like Son Becky, Rob Cooper, Black Boy Shine, Big Boy Knox, Robert Shaw, Buster Pickens and the singers who worked with them.
We feature a pair of tracks from the Big Joe Williams album Back To The Roots (also issued as Watergate Blues). These recordings were recorded in 1973 in Berlin and 1978 in Crawford and Mashulaville, Mississippi by Siegfried A. Christmann and Axel Küstner. I was inspired to play these sides from a very nice letter I got from Axel Küstner which included some of his wonderful photos of bluesmen and the Williams CD. Küstner and his friend Siegfried A. Christmann were responsible for the remarkable Living Country Blues USA albums which were issued across 12 LP's (one double set) on the German L+R label between 1980 and 1981.In 1980 the duo came to America with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment they hit the dusty road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. In addition Küstner is a fine photographer and has taken thousands of photos of bluesmen through the years.
Several fine harp men are spotlighted today including George Clarke, Walter Horton, Peg Leg Sam and George Papa Lightfoot. From the pre-war era we hear Clarke's "Prisoner Blues", one of three songs he cut for Blue Bird in 1936. I don't know anything about Clarke but he was an engaging singer and fine harmonica player who plays in an assured down home style that reminds me a bit of the great Noah Lewis. Walter Horton gets plenty of room to cut loose on Jimmy Rogers' "If It Ain't Me (Who Are You Thinking Of)" and who cut it as "That Ain't It" on the Alligator album Big Walter Horton With Carey Bell. Peg Leg Sam was a member of what may have been the last authentic traveling medicine show, a harmonica virtuoso, and an extraordinary entertainer. Born Arthur Jackson, he acquired his nickname after a hoboing accident in 1930. His medicine show career began in 1938, and his repertoire -finally recorded only in the early '70s. Lightfoot cut Sessions for Peacock in 1949 (unissued), Sultan in 1950, and Aladdin in 1952 and a 1954 date for Imperial." Singles for Savoy in 1955 and Excello the next year (the latter billed him as "Ole Sonny Boy") closed out Lightfoot's '50s recording activities. Producer Steve LaVere tracked down Lightfoot in Natchez, cutting an album for Vault in 1969 called Natchez Trace and issued on Ace on CD in the 90's.
Not everyone can be the main attraction and there are many talented blues figures who shined in supporting roles. Willie Brown, Joe Willie Wilkins and Lafayette Thomas come immediately to mind. In the vein we spin tracks by Vol Stevens and Fiddlin' Joe Martin. Vol Stevens played guitar, bajo-mandolin, mandolin,violin, jug and sang and cut just one record under his own name in 1928 for victor, "Vol Stevens Blues b/w Baby Got The Rickets." He also backed the Memphis Jug Band on many sides between 1927 and 1928, plus backing Will Weldon, the Mississippi Sheiks, Charlie Burse and the Picaninny Jug Band. Fiddlin’ Joe Martin played mandolin on Son House's, Alan Lomax recording sessions in 1941, taking the lead vocal on a couple of numbers. He also worked with Charlie Patton, Memphis Minnie, Howlin' Wolf and back Woodrow Adams, playing drums on all his sessions. He passed in 1975.
We play some interesting and mysterious down home blues from the postwar and pre-war periods. There's "Rowdy Blues" by Kid Bailey who cut one record in Memphis in 1929, "Rowdy Blues b/w Mississippi Bottom Blues." Bailey was remembered by (among others) Ishmon Bracey and Walter Vinson. Many believe Baily is actually Willie Brown, partner of both Charlie Patton and Son House. Then there's Arkansas Johnny Todd. In around 1950 a group of artists sent in a batch of unlabeled acetates that were discovered at Modern in 1970. These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since. When these sides were first issued on the Blues From The Deep South LP, so Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. It turns out that Todd is actually Lane Hardin who cut the classic "Hard Time Blues b/w California Desert Blues" in 1935. He also backs Leroy Simpson who still remains a mystery.
As a precursor to next week's show on Indianapolis blues we spotlight Turner Parrish and Champion Jack Dupree. In the pre-war era Indianapolis was a fine blues piano town and both Parrish and Dupree where part of that scene. Little is known of Parrish who cut eight sides between 1929 and 1933 and also backed singer Teddy Moss. Sometime in the early 30's Champion Jack Dupree left New Orleans and eventually found his way to Indianapolis here he found work at the Cotton Club (named after the famous one in Harlem) who's resident bluesman was Leroy Carr. In early 1940, he was seen by Lester Melrose who signed him up to record for Okeh in Chicago. The result was two-dozen recordings for the label through 1941. His Indianapolis residency ended when he was drafted at the end of 1941 and after his discharge he settled in New York.
We conclude the show with Swamp Dogg's "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe." Swamp Dogg's brand of bluesy soul and R&B usually falls outside of what I play but I couldn't resist playing this one as Swamp Dogg comes to town to perform next week. I happen to be a big fan and have never got the opportunity to see him so I'm looking forward to this one.
Sun 3 Jul 2011
|John Lee Hooker||Road Trouble||The Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 2|
|John Lee Hooker||Talkin' Boogie||The Complete John Lee Hooker Vol. 2|
|Homesick James||Farmer's Blues||Chicago Slide Guitar Legend|
|Homesick James||Whiskey Headed Woman||Chicago Slide Guitar Legend|
|Jo-Jo Adams||Didn't I Tell You||Jo-Jo Adams 1946-1953|
|Jo-Jo Adams||I 've Got A Crazy Baby||Jo-Jo Adams 1946-1953|
|Sunnyland Slim||Train Time (4 O'Clock Blues)||Sunnyland Slim & Pals|
|Sunnyland Slim||Roll, Tumble and Slip (I Cried)||Sunnyland Slim & Pals|
|Little Walter||That's Alright||Chicago Boogie|
|Jimmy Reed||High Lonesome||Jimmy Reed: The Vee-Jay Years|
|Johnny Williams||Fat Mouth||Chance Vintage Blues/R&B Crops Vol. 1|
|Big Boy Spires||Which One Do I Love||Chance Vintage Blues/R&B Crops Vol. 1|
|Big Boy Spires||My Baby Left Me||Chance Vintage Blues/R&B Crops Vol. 1|
|Big Boy Spires||About To Lose My Mind||Down Home Blues Classics Chicago|
|Homesick James||Wartime||Chicago Slide Guitar Legend|
|Homesick James||Homesick Blues||Chicago Slide Guitar Legend|
|Homesick James||The Woman I Love||Chicago Slide Guitar Legend|
|Tampa Red||BBaby Please Don't Throw Me Down||Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953|
|Tampa Red||Please Mr. Doctor||Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953|
|Tampa Red||Beat That Bop||Tampa Red Vol. 15 1951-1953|
|Homesick James||Late Hours After Midnight||Chicago Slide Guitar Legend|
|Homesick James||12th Street Station||Chicago Blues: The Chance Era|
|Willie Nix||No More Love||Down Home Blues Classics Chicago|
|Willie Nix||Nervous Wreck||Downhome Blues Classics: Chicago|
|Willie Nix||Just Can't Stay||Downhome Blues Classics: Chicago|
|Lazy Bill Lucas||I Had A Dream||Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago|
|Lazy Bill Lucas||I Can't Eat, Can't Sleep||Chicago Blues: The Chance Era|
|Lazy Bill Lucas||She Got Me Walkin'||Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago|
|J.B. Hutto & His Hawks||Pet Cream Man||Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago|
|J.B. Hutto & His Hawks||Dim Lights||Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago|
|J.B. Hutto & His Hawks||Price Of Love||Chicago Blues: The Chance Era|
|J.B. Hutto & His Hawks||Combination Boogie||Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago|
Chance Records was a Chicago-based label founded in 1950 by Art Sheridan. Chance was one of many independent Chicago labels from this period with a slant towards blues; several labels we've spotlighted in previous shows like J.O.B., Mercury, United/States, Aristocrat, Vee-Jay plus a slew of others like Parrot, Opera, Blue Lake, Hy-Tone, Miracle and many others. The bulk of today's notes come from The Red Saunders Research Foundation website, a tremendous repository of information on the Chicago music scene in the post-war era.
Chance cut 362 known sides from September 1950 through October 1954. In addition, Chance purchased or licensed at least 42 sides. There was one release on its very short-lived tributary Meteor and nine on its later subsidiary Sabre. The bulk of Chance's output was in the R&B field, which reflected the knowledge amassed by the label's founder and owner, Art Sheridan. Sheridan (born July 16, 1925 in Chicago) had been running a distributorship and a pressing plant, where the preponderance of his work was with African-American oriented product. Chance specialized in blues, jazz, doo-wop, and gospel. Among the acts who recorded for Chance were The Flamingos, The Moonglows, Homesick James, J. B. Hutto, Brother John Sellers, and Schoolboy Porter. In addition, Chance released three singles by John Lee Hooker and made a coordinated issue of the first singles by Jimmy Reed and The Spaniels with the brand-new and still tiny Vee-Jay Records. At the beginning of 1953 Chance also formed a brief alliance with J.O.B. label. Sheridan would distribute and market both labels through the distribution channels he established. The company closed down at the end of 1954. Sheridan went on to became one of the financial backers of Vee-Jay. Below is some background on today's artists.
The first tracks to be leased or purchased by the Chance operation were six 1949 recordings by bluesman John Lee Hooker and released by Chance in 1951 and 1952. These were obtained Joe Von Battle in Detroit; featuring just Hooker's vocals and guitar, these were reportedly recorded in the back of Von Battle's record store and they certainly sound like it. They were issued on Chance as by John Lee Booker which I'm sure didn't fool anyone. We kick off today's program with Hooker's "Talkin' Boogie" and "Road Trouble."
Among the first Chicago blues artists the label released were Sunnyland Slim and Little Walter. For more than 50 years Sunnyland Slim rumbled the ivories around the Windy City, playing with virtually every local luminary imaginable and backing the great majority in the studio at one time or another. Today's tracks were originally issued on the Opera label in 1947 then purchased and issued on Chance under the moniker Delta Joe. In 1952 Art Sheridan snapped up two further blues releases from now-defunct Chicago independents. He resuscitated the two sides that Little Walter Jacobs had cut in 1947 for Ora Nelle, with Jimmy Rogers and Othum Brown in the back of a Maxwell Street record shop. As Mike Rowe wrote in seminal Chicago Blues "the record was obviously released in an attempt to cash in on the huge success that Walter was enjoying with Checker." Both the Sunnyland and the Walter records were released by Chance in 1952.
On June 12, 1952 the company did its first recordings on a downhome bluesman, the bottleneck guitar player and singer James Williamson, who would become known as Homesick James. Williamson was born John William Henderson most likley in 1910, in Somerville, Tennessee. He claimed to have played in the 1930's with blues notables such as Memphis Minnie, Sleepy John Estes and Sonny Boy Williamson I, which may well have been true, and to have recorded in 1939 with the Memphis street singer, Little Buddy Doyle, which almost certainly was not. As the blues writer David Whiteis noted: "He was a bluesman of the old school, through and through – a trickster from his heart." He first moved to Chicago in 1937 and played some local clubs. He returned to Memphis during the war years, but in the early 1950's settled again in Chicago. Williamson played a bit on Maxwell Street, and toured with the Elmore James band. Also during the 1950's he played in the city's clubs, often with the harmonica player Snooky Pryor or with the pianist Lazy Bill Lucas, who accompanied him on his first recordings, "Lonesome Old Train" and "Farmer's Blues", for the Chance label. James cut thirteen sides for Chance including some unissued material. Williamson later recorded for Prestige, Delmark, Earwig, and lastly Icehouse (in 1997). He died December 13, 2006, in Springfield, Missouri.
November 1952 saw a session with flamboyant uptown blues singer Jo Jo Adams, backed by the band of bebop trumpeter Melvin Moore. Of his start, Adams told Living Blues magazine "I started playing the blues when I saw a man standing on the stage and he was getting big money. He had a red pocket hand'chief around his neck and coveralls and I said, 'That's not the way it's supposed to go'. I introduced color to the stage. My tailor-made tails that were 55 inches long – when I spun around you could shoot dice on them!" At the time of his Chance date, Adams and Moore were working at the Flame Show Bar, where the show was billed as "The Jo Jo Show, starring Dr. Jo Jo Adams, Bennie Pittman, Laura Watson, Melvin Moore's Band." Besides singing, Adams served as MC at the Flame. Adams was born in Alabama at an unknown date and died in Chicago in 1988. He broke in at the Club DeLisa and made his first recordings with Floyd Smith's group for the Hy-Tone label in December 1946. He followed up with six sides for Aladdin in 1947, recorded in Los Angeles with the Maxwell Davis band, and 6 more for Aristocrat Aristocrat, which were done in Chicago in 1947 and 1948. He would record just one more session, for Parrot in 1953.
Sheridan began working with Vee-Jay Records in 1953, which had just set up shop and had two releases, one by the the doowop group the Spaniels and one by the bluesman Jimmy Reed. The company was owned by two neophytes, Jimmy Bracken and Vivian Carter, who had no distribution and little knowledge of the business. When the Spaniels' record, "Baby It's You," started generating interest, Chance picked it up for national distribution and it became a top ten R&B record. Reed's "High and Lonesome" b/w "Roll and Rhumba," also saw some local action, and picked up national sales from Chance distribution.
Johnny Williams was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, on May 15, 1906. He was raised first in Houston and then in Belzoni, Mississippi. His uncle played with Charlie Patton, and Williams got to know Patton and other legendary Delta bluesmen. Williams began performing in the late 1920's, arriving in Chicago in 1938. During much of the 1940's Williams played house parties. After World War II, he fell into the Maxwell Street scene, performing most often with Johnny Young. His only recording, cut in 1953, "Silver Haired Woman b/w Fat Mouth" was not released until the 1970s'.
Arthur "Big Boy" Spires cut a handful of brilliant down home sides for Checker and Chance in the 1950's and unissued sides in the 1960's for Testament before arthritis cut his career short. Spires was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1912 and was inspired by local musicians. Spires moved to Chicago in 1943 and in the late 1940's began playing the Southside clubs with Eddie El and Little Earl Dranes. The trio made some demo recordings and Spires was picked up by Chess Records. He first pairing was "Murmur Low b/w One of These Days" which was issued on Checker in 1952. In 1953 he cut a session for Chance resulting in one issued record: "About To Lose My Mind b/w Which One Do I Love." He cut four other Chance sides that were not issued at the time but released decades later on various collections. Around this time he formed his own band called the Rocket Four playing various clubs around town until giving up music around 1959. In 1965 Spires and Johnny Young cut a batch of sides for Testament that went unissued except for "21 Below Zero" which came out on a compilation on the Storyville label. After the Testament session he worked mainly outside music and passed away in 1990
In 1953 Chance cut six sides by veteran Tampa Red. Chance put out the Tampa Red releases as by Jimmy Eager and His Trio, as Tampa was still under contract with RCA Victor at the time. He further disguised his identity by giving all of the guitar work to Lefty Bates. However, the composer credits went to Hudson Whittaker (which was Tampa Red's real name). Chance held the "Jimmy Eager" material for the initial release on its new Sabre label. Bates plays some stunning guitar on these sides but sadly cut little under his own name. For many years he was a stalwart at Chicago blues clubs such as the legendary Theresa’s, and appeared in the second guitar position on many records by blues giants such as Tampa Red, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy. Bates can also be heard doing session work for Chicago labels like Vee-Jay, Chance and Club 51
Willie Nix made his first records in Memphis for RPM in 1951, and cut sides for Chess Records' Checker offshoot in 1952. Sam Philips signed him up as "the Memphis Blues Boy" for Sun in early 1953, as a singing drummer with a band. He landed at Chance in 1954. Chance carried on a heavy recording schedule in October, recording bluesman Willie Nix, guitarist Rudolph Spencer "Rudy" Greene, and Lazy Bill. On October 14th the label recorded "Just Can't Stay" b/w "All by Myself," which saw release in November on Sabre 104. The band consisted of Nix on drums, Eddie Taylor on guitar, Sunnyland Slim on piano, and Snooky Pryor on harmonica. The other two sides from the session were released on Chance 1163 in November 1954. Rowe describes "Just Can't Stay" as "a brilliant updating of a traditional theme of unrequited love to the urban setting with its images of hustlers, whores, and easy money."
Piano player and vocalist, Lazy Bill Lucas, was born May 29, 1918, in Wynne, Arkansas, and came to Chicago in 1941 where he met Big Joe Williams and toured with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson in the 40'’s. Lazy Bill also played piano on records by Homesick James, Little Willie Foster, Little Hudson, Snooky Pryor and Jo Jo Williams. He cut "She Got Me Walking b/w I Had A Dream" for Chance in 1953. Two other songs from the same session, "My Baby’s Gone b/w I Can’t Eat, I Can’t Sleep", were not issued until decades later. In 1955 he cut two sides for Excello with the group the Blue Rockers. He moved to Minneapolis in 1962 where he was active for close to two decades. He was the first host of the Lazy Bill Lucas Show on KFAI and cut three LP’s during the late 60's and early 70's. He remained active right up to his death on December 11, 1982. His "I Had A Dream" was an update of Sylvester Weaver's 1927 number "Devil Blues":
I had a dream I was sleeping, found myself way down below (2x)
I couldn't get to heaven, you know the place I had to go
The Devil had me cornered, stuck me with his old pitch fork (2x)
He put me in an oven, had me for roast pork
Lucas was a witty song smith as he further proved in "She Got Me Walking" as he name drops his blues buddies:
I don't want to see Snook, not even Homesick James
The way my baby left me, I really believe he's to blame
We close out with a quartet of tough sides by J.B. Hutto. Slide guitarist J.B. Hutto was born in Blackville, South Carolina, on April 26, 1926. He came to Chicago with his family in 1949. Hutto had originally sung in a gospel group, and played drums, but after arriving in Chicago he taught himself guitar. He formed his band, the Hawks, with "Earring" George Mayweather on harp, Joe Custom on second guitar, and Eddie "Porkchop" Hines on drums or washboard. Hutto's first sides on Chance, recorded in either January or February, represent an extraordinary debut. One of our selections, "Price of Love", was unissued at the time and made a belated appearance on a Delta Swing LP in the 1970's. Hutto did not get on record again until 1965, when he was picked up by Vanguard for its Chicago Blues compilation series; he went on to make the classic Hawk Squat for Delmark in 1967.
Mon 20 Jun 2011
|Funny Papa Smith||Mama's Quittin' And Leavin' Part 1||The Original Howling Wolf 1930-1931|
|Ruby Glaze (Katie McTell) & Blind Willie McTell||Lonesome Day Blues Blues||I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1|
|Mae Glover||I Ain't Givin' Nobody None||I Can't Be Satisfied Vol. 1|
|Eliot Shavers||Fool, Fool, Fool||More West Coast Winners|
|Wille Headon||Find Another Woman||More West Coast Winners|
|Eddie Lang||Troubles, Troubles||Troubles, Troubles: New Orleans Blues From The Vaults Of Ric & Ron|
|Lucille Bogan||They Ain't Walking No More||Barrelhouse Mamas|
|Alberta Jones||Where Have All The Black Men Gone||Vocal Blues & Jazz Vol. 1 1921-1930|
|Muddy Waters||One More Mile||One More Mile|
|Muddy Waters||Evans Shuffle||The Complete Chess Masters 1|
|Muddy Waters||Wee Wee Baby||Blues From Big Bill's Copacabana|
|Luke "Long Gone" Miles||Country Boy||Country Boy|
|Howard Armstrong||38 Pistol Blues||Louie Bluie: Film Soundtrack|
|Johnny Young||Why Did You Break My Heart||I Blueskvarter Vol. 1|
|Barbecue Bob||Good Time Rounder||Barbecue Bob Vol. 2 1928-1929|
|Charlie ''Specks'' McFadden||Low Down Rounders Blues||Twenty First. St. Stomp: The Piano Blues Of St. Louis|
|Frank Stokes||Memphis Rounders Blues||The Best Of|
|Frankie Lee Sims||Boogie 'Cross the Country||Lucy Mae|
|Frankie Lee Sims||Frankie Lee's 2 O'Clock Jump||Lucy Mae|
|Furry Lewis||Big Chief Blues||The Best There Ever Was|
|Allen Shaw||Moanin' The Blues||Masters of the Memphis Blues|
|Sugar Boy Crawford||Troubled Mind BluesThe Centennial Edition||Sugar Boy Crawford 1953-154|
|Sugar Boy Crawford||What's Wrong||Sugar Boy Crawford 1953-154|
|Buster Johnson & James Cole's Washboard Band||Undertaker Blues||Times Ain't Like They Used to Be Vol. 3|
|Texas Bill Day||Good Mornin' Blues||Dallas Alley Drag|
|Amos Milburn||My Love Is Limited||The Complete Aladdin Recordings|
|T-Bone Walker||Through With Woman||The Complete Recordings 1940-1954|
|Howlin' Wolf||My Last Affair||Howlin' Wolf 1952-1953|
|Big Boy Teddy Edwards||W - P - A Blues||Big Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936|
|Big Boy Teddy Edwards||Alcohol Mama||Big Boy Teddy Edwards 1930-1936|
|The Earthworms||Fishtail||Down And Broadway And Main|
The last couple of weeks have been a bit hectic so today's mix show was put together at the last minute. Still a solid set of blues on deck including some fine early blues ladies, a varied collection of pre-war blues, twin spins by Frankie Lee Sims, Big Boy Teddy Edwards, Sugar Boy Crawford and trio of sides by Muddy Waters.
Both Mae Glove and Ruby Glaze (Katie McTell) backed Blind Willie McTell's "Lonesome Day Blues" come from I Can't Be Satisfied an unbeatable two volume set on the Yazoo label which I've featured often on the program. Little is known of Mae Glover who cut fourteen sides at two sessions; four for Gennet in 1929 and the rest for Champion in 1931. Her best sides are from the first session where she backed by guitarist John Byrd. The two turn in a driving, sexy performance on "I Ain't Givin' Nobody None." Katie McTell first appeared on record with Blind Willie on 1932's "Rollin' Mama Blues b/w Lonesome Blues"and appears on several of his religious sides from a 1935 session. "Lonesome Day Blues" is sung in Katie's laconic, nasal style interjected by some asides by Blind Willie.
We hear a another duet between the utterly obscure Magnolia Harris and J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith on the two part "Mama's Quittin' And Leavin'." Smith was popular and relatively prolific, yet virtually nothing is known about him. He cut 20 sides at sessions in 1930, 1931 plus a batch of unreleased sides in 1935. Thomas Shaw who played with Smith in Oklahoma remembered Smith as a plantation overseer and convicted murderer. His debut single, the two-part "Howlin’ Wolf Blues" was a big hit. A June 1931 letter from Brunswick to dealers called it "the biggest selling record on the market today. …It is true that this is a Race Record and you might think therefore that its sales would be confined to your colored trade. Not so. You will be surprised how many white folk will buy it."
Lucille Bogan often focused on explicit sexual themes, like prostitution, adultery and lesbianism, and social ills such as alcoholism, drug addiction and abusive relationships. She was born in Mississippi but grew up in Birmingham. In 1923 she made her debut but the records apparently didn't sell well because she didn’t record again until 1927 for the Paramount and Brunswick labels after moving to Chicago. Between 1933 and 1935 she performed and recorded under the pseudonym Bessie Jackson and worked with Walter Roland. Bogan’s recording career came to an end in 1935. In the late 1930s or early l940s, Bogan moved to the West Coast. She died in Los Angeles in 1948. "They Ain't Walking No More" is a classic tale of walking the streets to earn a buck.
In contrast, little is known of Alberta Jones who cut sixteen sides between 1923 and 1930. She was a good singer, often backed by some sympathetic bands, and is heard to good effect on "Where Have All The Black Men Gone." Lillian Glinn cut the song a few months prior.
We spotlight a trio of songs about the those low down rounders. "Rounder" is a term that crops up in numerous blues songs. Here's the definition from the late Stephen Calt's Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary: "'A man who won't work' (Skip James). The sense of the word is implicit in most blues references to a rounder; the word otherwise signified 'who who makes the round of prisons, workhouses, drinking saloons, etc,; a habitual criminal, loafer or drunkard' (OED which dates it to 1854). Most blues singers were by definition rounders, since performing homespun music was not considered legitimate music by anyone of the blues er, the singers themselves included." We travel around around to Atlanta to hear Barbecue Bob's "Good Time Rounder", St Louis' Charlie "Specks" McFadden's "Low Down Rounders Blues" and from Memphis, Frank Stokes' "Rounders Blues."
Little is known about "Big Boy" Teddy Edwards, a Chicago singer played both guitar and tiple and cut around two-dozen sides between 1930 and 1936 as well as contributing vocals to sessions by the Hokum Boys and Papa Charlie Jackson. Big Bill Broonzy recalled working with him and Papa Charlie Jackson. Today we spin the solo "Alcohol Mama" and the band backed "W – P – A Blues", a terrific cover of the Big Bill number.
Frankie Lee Sims claimed to be a cousin of Lightnin’ Hopkins. Sims cut his first 78's for Blue Bonnet Records in 1948 in Dallas, but didn’t taste anything resembling regional success until 1953, when his "Lucy Mae Blues" did well down south. Sims recorded fairly prolifically for Los Angeles based Specialty into 1954, then switched to the Ace label in 1957 to cut great rockers like "Walking with Frankie" and "She Likes to Boogie Real Low." He recorded for Bobby Robinson in late 1960 but these sides were unreleased and didn’t surface until decades later when they were released on the British Krazy Kat label. .Sims died at age 53 in Dallas of pneumonia. We spin two of his infectious Specialty boogies, "Boogie 'Cross the Country" and "Frankie Lee's 2 O'Clock Jump."
I had the pleasure of seeing pianist Davell Crawford last week at the Rochester Jazz Festival who put on a hell of a show and is firmly in the tradition of great New Orleans pianists like Professor Longhair and James Booker. He's also the grandson of Sugar Boy Crawford so I'd thought a play a pair of his numbers. Sugar Boy is best known for cutting the original version of "Jock-A-Mo" in 1953, later recreated as "Iko Iko. " We hear Crawford croon on "Troubled Mind Blues" and pick up the tempo on the rollicking "What's Wrong."
I never get tired of playing Muddy Waters and there's plenty to choose from his deep catalog. From 1963 we hear the moody gem "One More Mile" spotlighting some fine harp from James Cotton and tasteful guitar from Luther Tucker, from the same year we listen to Muddy Live on "Wee Baby Blues" featuring Buddy Guy recorded at a WPOA live radio broadcast emceed by local Chicago disc jockey Big Bill Hill emanating from the Copacabana Club. From 1950 we spin "Evans Shuffle" (Ebony Boogie), featuring a virtuoso performance by Little Walter from just his second session in Muddy's band.
I want to also mention Howard Armstrong who we hear today on "38 Pistol Blues" playing with pals Tom Armstrong, Ted Bogan, Ikey Robinson and Yank Rachell. The track comes from the soundtrack to Louie Bluie by director Terry Zwigoff and the story that inspired this music collector to become a documentary filmmaker. The film he shot it on apparently was suffering from a lethal degradation called "vinegar syndrome," but fortunately Criterion has recently released it on DVD. At an hour long, Louie Bluie is packed with information, half about fiddle and mandolin master Howard Armstrong, and half about the history of old-time traveling bands. Zwigoff shot the film partially in Armstrong's Detroit housing project, recruiting musicians Ted Bogan, "Banjo" Ikey Robinson, and Yank Rachell in order to capture Armstrong jamming out with musicians of his ilk, and to extract the same charisma he entertained with in his 1930's and '40's heyday.