ARTISTSONGALBUM
John Lee HookerGreat Fire Of NatchezNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
John Lee HookerBus Station Blues Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Mississippi Fred McDowell, Annie Mae McDowell & Rev. Robert WilkinsWhat Do You Think About JesusBlues With A Feeling
Mississippi Fred McDowellLord I'm Going Down SouthThe Blues at Newport 1964
Rev. Gary DavisSamson and DelilahRev. Gary Davis At Newport
Rev. Gary DavisYou Got to Move Rev. Gary Davis At Newport
Mississippi John HurtSpikedriver Blues Newport Folk Festival 1963
Mississippi John HurtStagolee Newport Folk Festival 1963
Mississippi John HurtTrouble, I've Had It All My Days Live Oberlin College & Newport '63
Skip JamesSick Bed BluesBlues At Newport 1964
Skip JamesHard Time Killing Floor Blues Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Son House Death Letter BluesNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Son House Son's BluesBlues With A Feeling
Son House w/ Mance LipscombPony BluesGreat Bluesmen Newport
Muddy WatersWalkin' Blues Blues With A Feeling
Muddy WatersFlood Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Muddy WatersI'm Your Hoochie Coochie ManAt Newport 1960
Doc Reese Hey RattlerThe Blues at Newport 1964
Elizabeth CottonFreight trainThe Blues at Newport 1964
Mance LipscombFreddieBlues With A Feeling
Lightnin' HopkinsMojo Hand Live At Newport
Jesse FullerSan Francisco Bay BluesBlues With A Feeling
Jesse FullerDouble Double Do Love YouNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues
Robert Pete WilliamsThe Prodigal SonThe Prodigal Son
Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Key To The HighwayBlues At Newport 1963
Sleepy John EstesCleanup At HomeBlues at Newport
Howlin' Wolf Dust My BroomDevil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966
Howlin' Wolf Meet Me In The BottomDevil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966

Show Notes:

Robert Wilkins Newport 1964
Rev. Robert Wilkins, Newport, 1964

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk-oriented music festival in Newport, Rhode Island, which began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. The Newport Folk Festival was founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, backed by its original board: Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger and Albert Grossman. The festival in its initial guise ran from 1959 to 1970, with no festivals scheduled in 1961 or 1962. The festival was revived in 1985. The festival's beginning in 1959 parallel the blues revival period and all of the great rediscovered bluesman appeared at the festival. The first bluesmen to appear at the festival were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in 1959. Others who performed at Newport include Muddy Waters, who issued a live album of their 1960 performance, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and many others. Today is part two of or look at the great blues performances of Newport in particular chronological order. The following information comes from the book Blues Music in the Sixties A Story in Black and White by Urlich Adelt.

"Even during the hiatus of folk song enthusiasm in the 1950s, a small group of connoisseurs kept promoting the music and helped to prepare for the full-scale folk revival between 1958 and 1965. 20 The folk music magazine Sing Out! was launched in 1950 as a small-scale operation and would grow into a formidable publication in the 1960s. Harry Smith’s six-disc Anthology of American Folk Music, which featured commercial recordings of blues, gospel, and string band music from the 1920s and 1930s, came out on Folkways in 1952 and would serve as an inspiration for many emerging folk musicians in the 1960s and as an impetus to rediscover the musicians featured on the recordings.

The Newport Folk Festival was one of the main catalysts of the 1960's folk revival. The showcasing of rediscovered blues artists, in particular in the years between 1963 and 1965, aptly demonstrates the emergence of a distinctive white blues fan culture that drew from notions of folk authenticity developed in nineteenth-century Europe and refined by the folk revivalists. …The Newport Folk Festival also revealed a particular form of antimodern blues purism, which entailed a nostalgic rediscovery of and hunt for prewar black musicians. This purism would eventually clash with the diluted but not necessarily less racialist white notions of blues authenticity represented by the plugging in of Mike Bloomfield and others.

Howlin' Wolf Newport 1966
Howlin Wolf with Hubert Sumlin on Guitar,
Newport Folk Festival (1966) by David Gahr

Although the first two Newport Folk Festivals in 1959 and 1960 were financial disasters, they drew about twelve thousand people each, an impressive number for the time. …The financial problems of both the jazz and the folk festival and the raucous crowds at the jazz festival in 1960 forced the organizers to cancel the folk festival in 1961 and 1962. …After the two-year hiatus, the Newport Folk Festival became a nonprofit operation in 1963. Among the board members of the newly established Newport Folk Foundation were George Wein, Pete Seeger, and Alan Lomax. The foundation’s mission was 'to promote and stimulate interest in the arts associated with folk music.' In addition to organizing the festival, this included fostering folk music and material culture in the field and in schools. Ralph Rinzler, another member of the board of directors, worked as talent and folklore coordinator and would seek out potential performers for the festival in rural regions of the United States and Canada.In an attempt to democratize the festival, each participant would receive a standard fee of fifty dollars (regardless of popularity) as well as travel and food reimbursements. The directors invited a larger number of amateur musicians, more women and musicians from a wider musical spectrum.

Interestingly, although the blues was racially coded as black or of black origin at Newport, much of the music in question was a nostalgic rehash of styles dating back to the 1920s and 1930s fraught with essentialist notions of blackness, and therefore few black people attended the concerts. Blues performers had only represented a small part of the lineup at the first two Newport Folk Festivals, but they became one of the major attractions in the years between 1963 and 1965 and contributed to a genre that fans could separate from folk music."

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee My Baby Done Changed The Lock On The Door Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-1968
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Long GoneNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-1968
Willie Thomas and Butch Cage 44 BluesThe Folk Music Of The Newport Folk Festival 1959-60 Vol. 1
John Lee Hooker TupeloNewport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-1968
John Lee Hooker Hobo BluesThe Newport Folk Festival 1960 Vol. 1
Mississippi Fred McDowellHighway 61The Blues at Newport 1964
Mississippi Fred McDowellIf The River Was Whiskey The Blues at Newport 1964
Sleepy John EstesDrop Down Mama Blues At Newport 1964
Robert Pete WilliamsOn My Way From TexasBlues At Newport 1964
Mississippi John HurtSliding DeltaBlues At Newport 1964
Mississippi John HurtTalking CaseyBlues At Newport 1964
Mississippi John HurtCoffee BluesNewport Folk Festival 1963: The Evening Concert Vol. 1
Skip James Going Back to the CountryDarling, Do You Remember Me?Going Back to the Country
Skip James Cypress Grove Blues Blues At Newport 1964
Skip James Devil Got My WomanBlues At Newport 1964
Lightnin' HopkinsBaby Please Don't GoLightnin' Hopkins At Newport
Wilie DossCoal Black Mare Blues At Newport 1964
Wilie DossHobo BluesBlues At Newport 1964
Son House Preaching Blues Blues With A Feeling
Son House Empire state Express Blues With A Feeling
Lafayette Leake & Willie DixonWrinklesBlues With A Feeling
Otis Spann Goodbye Newport BluesAt Newport 1960
Muddy WatersSoon Forgotten At Newport 1960
Muddy WatersI Got My Brand On YouAt Newport 1960
Robert Wilkins Don't You Let Nobody Turn You RoundBlues With A Feeling
Robert Wilkins The Prodigal SonThe Prodigal Son

Show Notes:

Mississippi John Hurt performs at the Newport Folk Festival in July, 1964

 

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk-oriented music festival in Newport, Rhode Island, which began in 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. The Newport Folk Festival was founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, backed by its original board: Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger and Albert Grossman. The festival in its initial guise ran from 1959 to 1970, with no festivals scheduled in 1961 or 1962. The festival was revived in 1985. The festival's beginning in 1959 parallel the blues revival period and all of the great rediscovered bluesman appeared at the festival. The first bluesmen to appear at the festival were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in 1959. Others who performed at Newport include Muddy Waters, who issued a live album of their 1960 performance, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Sleepy John Estes, Robert Pete Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and many others. Today is part one of or look at the great blues performances of Newport in particular chronological order.

All of the great rediscovered bluesman performed at Newport; John Hurt was tracked down in Avalon, Mississippi, Bukka White in Aberdeen, Mississippi, Skip James was found in Mississippi's Tunica Hospital while Son House was residing in Rochester, New York. Eric Von Schmidt recalled the scene when Skip James took to the stage in his book Baby Let Me Follow You Down: "Skip sat down, and put his guitar on his leg. He set himself down, doing a little finger manipulation with his left hand, then he set his fingers by the sound hole. Sighed and hit the first note of I'd Rather Be the Devil Than Be That Woman's Man. He took that first note up in falsetto all the way, and the hairs on the neck went up, and all up and down my arms, the hairs just went right up. It's such an eerie note. It's almost a wail. It's a cry. There was an audible gasp from the audience."

Skip James recorded a legendary session for Paramount Records in 1931 then vanished for 33 years leaving no trail to follow. Just another blues man who had come and gone. He was tracked down and found in the Tunica, MS, hospital and then brought north to appear at the 964 Newport Folk Festival.

In Baby Let Me Follow You Down Schmidt recalled his memories of the festival: "I was listening to Mississippi John Hurt sing Spike Driver Blues. It was unreal, John Hurt was dead. Had to be. All the guys on that Harry Smith Anthology were dead. But there was no denying that the man singing so sweet and playing so beautifully was the John Hurt. He had a face – and what a face. He had a hat that he wore like a halo."

In 1963, a folk musicologist, Tom Hoskins, supervised by Richard Spottswood, was able to locate Hurt near Avalon, Mississippi. While in Avalon, Hoskins convinced Hurt to perform several songs for him, to ensure that he was genuine. Hoskins was convinced, and seeing that Hurt's guitar playing skills were still intact, Hoskins encouraged him to move to Washington, D.C., and begin performing on a wider stage. His performance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival saw his star rise amongst the new folk revival audience.

 Skip James performs at the Newport Folk
Festival in July, 1964 (photo by Rick Staehling)

Robert Wilkins cut one of the great albums of the blues revival, Memphis Gospel Singer, recorded in 1964 for the Piedmont label but perhaps because he refused to play blues his part in the 60's revival is sometimes neglected. Wilkins hit the folk circuit, appearing at Newport in 1964 and the Memphis Country Blues Festival in 1966 and 1968. Even after the Rolling Stones covered "Prodigal Son" Wilkins steadfastly refused to play the blues. At the 1964 festival Wilkins delivered an epic nine minute version of "Prodigal Son", showing, that if anything, his playing was better than ever.

Other bluesmen weren't so much rediscovered as simply exposed; Mance Lipscomb was a gifted songster and slide guitarist who was born in 1895, who played at local functions around Navasota, Texas and did not make his debut recording until 1960. Lightin' Hopkins, another Texan had been recording since the 40's when he arrived at Newport. Mississippi McDowell was discovered by Alan Lomax in 1959 and recorded several albums before playing Newport in 1964. In 1956, Robert Pete Williams shot and killed a man in a local club and was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in  Angola prison. He served two years before being discovered by folklorists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen. The pair recorded Williams performing several of his own songs and helped Williams receive a pardon in 1959. For the first five years after he left prison, Williams could only perform in Louisiana, but made several albums. In 1964, Williams played his first concert outside of Louisiana, at the Newport Folk Festival. The cuts recorded of Willie Doss at Newport in 1964 are the only recordings that were ever released of his music. Doss was born in Cleveland, Mississippi, but discovered living in Ashford, Alabama by folklorist Ralph Rinzler.

Successful urban bluesmen like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, faced with a diminishing market for blues in the black market, saw the festival as a way to attract a whole new audience. At Newport 1960 was released by Muddy Waters after his appearance. When Muddy’s band played the Newport Folk Festival in 1960, Otis Spann sang "Goodbye Newport Blues" which appeared on the subsequent live album. The song was written by poet Langston Hughes in response to a riot that happened at the festival the day before.

Performers were paid just $50 to appear at Newport, but careers were made on this main stage. Dick Waterman who became a booking agent and business adviser to many of the rediscovered bluesmen recalled: "It's important to remember that the record companies were well represented at the festival. You only had about fifteen minutes to play, but if you performed really well in those few minutes, as you turned from the microphone and left the stage, you just might be greeted by John Hammond of Columbia, or Maynard Solomon of Vanguard, or Jac Holzman of Elektra. There were no lawyers or middlemen involved. The guy who made the decision at the record company was there to make a deal."

 

 

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Stovepipe No. 1I've Got Salvation In My HeartStovepipe No. 1 & David Crockett 1924-1930
Stovepipe No. 1Lonesome JohnStovepipe No. 1 & David Crockett 1924-1930
Joe Hill Louis I Feel Like A MillionBoogie in the Park
Joe Hill Louis Street Walkin' WomanBoogie in the Park
Jesse Fuller Just Like a Ship on the Deep Blue SeaFrisco Bound! with Jesse Fuller
Jesse Fuller Hesitation Blues Jazz, Folk Songs, Spirituals, Blues
Jesse Fuller Take It Slow And EasyThe Lone Cat
Doctor RossDr. Ross Boogie The Memphis Cuts 1953-1956
Doctor RossCome Back Baby The Memphis Cuts 1953-1956
Doctor RossChicago Breakdown The Memphis Cuts 1953-1956
Daddy StovepipeBlack Snake BluesAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949
Daddy StovepipeTuxedo Blues Alabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949
Juke Boy BonnerGoing Back to the CountryDarling, Do You Remember Me?Going Back to the Country
Juke Boy BonnerI Live Where the Action IsThe One Man Trio
Joe Hill LouisPeace Of MindBoogie In The Park
Joe Hill LouisBoogie In The ParkBoogie In The Park
Jesse FullerLeavin Memphis Frisco BoundThe Lone Cat
Jesse FullerSan Francisco Bay BluesSan Francisco Bay Blues
Jesse FullerSleeping In The Midnight ColdRailroad Worksong
Ben Curry (Blind Bogus Ben Covington)Adam And Eve In The GardenAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949
Ben Curry (Blind Bogus Ben Covington)Boodle De Bum BumAlabama Black Country Dance Bands 1924-1949
Blind Joe HillBoogie In The DarkBoogie In The Park
Abner JayI'm a Hard Workin ManSwaunee Water And Cocaine Blues
Driftin' Slim Jackson BluesSomebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man
Driftin' Slim Mama Don't Tear My ClothesSomebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man
J.D. ShortSo Much WineBlues From The Mississippi Delta
J.D. ShortYou're Tempting MeThe Sonet Blues Story
Doctor RossCall The DoctorA Fortune Of Blues Vol. 1
Doctor RossDrifting BluesCall The Doctor
Juke Boy BonnerStruggle Here in HoustonThe Struggle
Juke Boy Bonner Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal

Show Notes:

Daddy Stovepipe, Gennett Records Studio, 1924
Photograph From Talking Machine World

>
As Geoge Paulus wrote in the liner notes to an album by Blind Joe Hill: "The one-man blues band, like the jug band, has all but vanished from the streets and gin mills of the cities and towns." Indeed, there doesn't seem to be much documentation on the prevalence of one-man bands and looking at the history of recorded blues, their contributions are merely a ripple in the history of recorded blues. Some information can be gleaned from liner notes and there is the book Head, Hands and Feet: A Book of One Man Bands by David Harris written a few years back that looks to be fairly comprehensive. As Pete welding wrote: "In the entire recorded history of black American folksong the number of such performers whose music has possessed anything other than curiosity or novelty value can be counted on the fingers of one hand. …One thing is certain: one-man band music is poorly represented on record. Like black string band music, it was much more commonly practiced and widely distributed through black America than its meager documentation on record would suggest, an probably for many of the same reasons. It is well known that at the very time when the largest numbers of black string bands could have been recorded by the mobile recording teams sent into the South by the record firms of the 1920's and 30's, they were largely ignored, passed over in favor of blues performers. …This one-sided emphasis tended to give us something of a distorted picture of black music."

On today's show we spotlight one-man band recordings made between the 1920's through the 70's. It should be noted that there are a number of artists like Papa George Lightfoot, Driftin' Slim, Washboard Willie and others who performed as one-man bands but recorded with bands in the studio. Today we hear from a few one-man bands from the pre-war era including Stovepipe #1, Daddy Stovepipe and Bogus Ben Covington and from the post-war era John Hill Louis, Doctor Ross, Jesse Fuller, Juke Boy Bonner, Driftin' Slim, J.D. Short, Abner Jay and and Blind Joe Hill.

From the pre-war era we spotlight music from Stovepipe #1, Daddy Stovepipe and Bogus Ben Covington. Sam Jones is remembered by elderly Cincinnati residents as a wanderer whose distinctive look (a stovepipe hat) and sound (one man band guitarist, harmonica and kazoo player blowing through a stovepipe to achieve a unique sound) made him a popular street performer. He cut sessions in 1924 as a one man band and in 1927 with guitarist DaviJoe Hill Louisd Crockett. On December 11, 1930 Stovepipe with David Crockett went into the studios with a group who called themselves King David's Jug Band. They cut six sides for the Okeh label.

Johnny Watson, alias Daddy Stovepipe was born in Mobile, Alabama, on April 12th 1867 and died in Chicago, November 1st 1963. By the 1920's he was working as a one-man band on Maxwell Street in Chicago, where he acquired the name "Daddy Stovepipe" from the characteristic top hat he wore. A veteran of the turn of the century medicine shows, he was in his late fifties when he became one of the first blues harp players to appear on record in 1924. n 1927 he made more recordings, this time in Birmingham, Alabama for Gennett Records. He made more recordings back in Chicago in 1931 for the Vocalion label with his wife, "Mississippi Sarah", a singer and jug player and made more recordings with her in 1935. He spent his last years as a regular performer on Chicago's famous Maxwell Street, where he made his last recordings.

Ben Covington or Ben Curry is said to have been born in Alabama but to have worked mainly in Mississippi and Chicago. According to Big Joe Williams he got his nickname of "Bogus Ben" because he insisted on impersonating a blind person whilst performing on street corners and in minstrel shows. In 1928 he recorded for Paramount. He recorded again in, 1929, this time for Brunswick. It is possible that he recorded for Paramount again in 1929, this time using the name "Memphis Ben". A final session recorded in 1932 for Paramount and credited to Ben Curry is usually accepted as being by the same Bogus Ben. After this session he may have moved to Pennsylvania and is said to have died there around 1935.

Doctor RossThree of the big names in one-man bands after the war were Joe Hill Louis,  Doctor Isiah Ross and Jesse Fuller. Joe Hill Louis was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill on September 23, 1921 in Raines, Tennessee. He picked up Harp first and by the late '40's, his one-man musical attack was a popular attraction in Handy Park and on WDIA, the Memphis radio station where he hosted a 15-minute program billed as The Pepticon Boy. Louis’ recording debut was made for Columbia in 1949, and his music was released on a variety of labels through the 1950's, most notably recording for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records,for whom he recorded extensively as a backing musician for a wide variety of other singers as well as under his own name. "Boogie in the Park" (recorded July 1950 and released August 1950) was the only record ever released on Sam Phillips' early Phillips label before founding Sun Records. Louis cut sides for Checker Records, Meteor and Ace with his final records cut for House Of Sound shortly before his death from tetanus in Memphis in August 1957.

Born and raised in Georgia, Jesse Fuller began playing guitar when he was a child, although he didn't pursue the instrument seriously. In his early twenties, Fuller eventually settled down in Los Angeles and then moved to San Francisco where he worked various odd jobs around the Bay Area, he played on street corners and parties. Fuller's musical career didn't properly begin until the early '50's, when he decided to become a professional musician at the age of 55. Performing as a one-man band, he began to get spots on local television shows and nightclubs. Fuller's career didn't take off until 1954, when he wrote "San Francisco Bay Blues." The song helped him land a record contract with the independent Cavalier label, and in 1955 he recorded his first album, Folk Blues: Working on the Railroad with Jesse Fuller. The album was a success and soon he was making records for a variety of labels, including Good Time Jazz and Prestige. In the late '50s and early '60s Jesse Fuller became one of the key figures of the blues revival, helping bring the music to a new, younger audience. Throughout the '60s and '70s he toured America and Europe, appearing at numerous blues and folk festivals, as well as countless coffeehouse gigs across the U.S. Fuller continued performing and recording until his death in 1976.

Driftin' Slim
From back cover of Flyright FLY 559; Photographer: Frank Scott  

Born Charles Isaiah Ross on October 21, 1925 in Tunica, Mississippi, he took early inspiration from the music of Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, and Sonny Boy Williamson I; primarily a harpist, hence his nickname "The Harmonica Boss",  he only added the other instruments in his arsenal in order to play a USO show while a member of the Army during World War II. Upon his release from the military, Ross settled in Memphis, where he became a popular club fixture as well as the host of his own radio show on station WDIA. During the early '50s, Ross recorded his first sides for labels including Sun and Chess; in 1954 he settled in Flint, Michigan, where he went to work as a janitor for General Motors, a position he held until retiring. He recorded some singles with Fortune Records during this period, including "Cat Squirrel" and "Industrial Boogie". In 1965 he cut his first full-length LP, Call the Doctor, and that same year mounted his first European tour. Ross won a Grammy for his 1981 album Rare Blues, and subsequently enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim towards the end of his career. He passed in 1993.

Another acclaimed one man band artist is Juke Boy Bonner. In 1957, Bonner made his recording debut for the Irma label, in Oakland, California. He returned to touring the South, frequenting bars and juke joints in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, where he cut three sessions for Goldband Records in Lake Charles in 1960, billed as Juke Boy Bonner — The One Man Trio. Some of these sides found their way to a European release on a Storyville album and attracted attention from European blues enthusiasts. But the breaks didn't come Juke Boy's way until 1967, when sterling work primarily by editors of Blues Unlimited magazine led to recording opportunities for the small Flyright label and for an eventual European tour. During the late 60's, Bonner suffered from bouts of ill health and underwent major stomach surgery. He earned a meager living playing gigs in Houston. Blues Unlimited magazine raised enough money for Juke Boy to cut a 45 for the Blues Unlimited label in Houston in 1967. Chris Strachwitz, owner of Arhoolie Records, on a field trip to Texas heard the record and cut an album with him in December 1967. Further sessions fJuke Boy Bonnerollowed for Arhoolie in Houston during 1967, 1968 and 1969. He found his way to Europe in 1969 where he cut the album Things Ain't Right for Liberty. Throughout the early and mid-seventies his popularity grew and he continued to tour Europe as well as playing dates in Houston, however he couldn't match his European popularity at home. Bonner was reduced to unloading trucks and collecting aluminum cans to make a living. The frustration and bitterness are reflected in the comments made by a longtime friend to the Houston Chronicle: "He used to say he could go to Europe and earn $1000 dollars but he couldn't make $50 in his hometown." He died in 1978. The week of his death the Houston Chronicle ran the headline: “Weldon ‘Juke Boy’ Bonner, well known in Europe, dies alone in his hometown.”

Among the other artists featured today are Driftin' Slim, J.D. Short, Blind Joe Hill and Abner Jay. While these artists seemed to have performed as one-man bands, most of them did their recordings within a band context except Joe Hill. Slim made his first sides in the earliest 50's backed by legendary band consisting of himself on harmonica, Baby Face Turner and Crippled Red (Junior Brooks) on guitars and Bill Russel on drums.His only true one-man band recordings were in the late 60's for Milestone which issued his only full length album, Somebody Hoo-Doo'd The Hoo-Doo Man, recorded by Pete Welding in 1966 and 1967. Short cut some classic sides for Paramount and Vocalion in the 30's and made some one-man band recordings when recorded by Sam Charters in the early 60's. Jay began playing in medicine shows at the age of 5 and in 1932 joined the Silas Green from New Orleans Minstrel Show. Jay went on to lead the WMAZ Minstrels on Macon radio from 1946–56 before going solo. Common instruments on Jay's recordings include harmonica, drum kit, a six-string banjo and the bones. For many years, Jay released his music and monologues through his own record label, Brandie Records, and in later year issued recordings on Mississippi Records.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Doc Wiley Big House Blues Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Walter Brown & Skip Brown's OrchestraSusie May Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Charles "Crown Prince" Waterford Time To BlowBlues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Alice Moore New Blue Black And Evil BluesSt. Louis Women Vol. 2 1934-1941
Josh WhiteBlack And Evil BluesJosh White: Blues Singer 1932-1936
Leroy ErvinBlue Black And Evil Texas Blues:Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings
Lennie Lewis & His Orchestra (vcl. Harold Tinsley) Mean, Bad And Evil Blues Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50
Lightnin' Hopkins Black and EvilTexas Blues
Blind Joe Reynolds Outside Woman BluesBlues Images Vol. 5
Marshall OwensTry Me One More TimeBlues Images Vol. 4
Willie Harris Never Drive a Stranger from Your DoorJackson Blues 1928 -1938
John Lee Hooker Don't You Remember Me?I'll Go Crazy: The Federal Records Story
Lightnin' Hopkins Darling, Do You Remember Me?Soul Blues
Clifford Gibson (R.T. Hanen Vcl) She's Got The Jordan River In Her Hips Clifford Gibson 1929-1931
Washboard Sam Rive Hip MamaRockin' My Blues Away
Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson So Long Baby Goodbye Sun Blues box
Sammy LewisYou Lied To Me Blow By Blow - An Anthology of Harmonica Blues
Peg Leg Howell Moanin' and Groanin' BluesFolks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!
Mississippi Sheiks Your Good Man Caught The Train and GoneHoney Babe Let The Deal Go Down: The Best Of The Mississippi Sheiks
Mobile Strugglers Memphis BluesAfrican American Fiddlers 1926-1949
Muddy Waters Too Young To KnowThe Complete Chess Recordings
Louisiana RedCatch Me A Freight TrainForrest Cty Joe/Rocky Fuller: Memory Of Sonny Boy
Sonny Boy Williamson IIBorn BlindThe Chess Years Box Set
Blind Lemon Jefferson Stocking Feet BluesMeaning In The Blues
Blind Lemon Jefferson That Crawlin' Baby BluesBest Of Blind Lemon Jefferson
Otis Spann Hotel LorraineMartin Luther King’s Blues
Big Joe Williams The Death Of Dr. Martin Luther KingMartin Luther King’s Blues
Brother Will Hairston The Alabama Bus Parts 1 & 2Martin Luther King’s Blues
Chocolate Brown with Blind Blake You Got What I WantBlues Images Vol. 12
Mamie SmithKansas City Man BluesCrazy Blues: The Best of Mamie Smith
Lucille BoganTired as I Can BeShave 'Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan

Show Notes:

Alice Moore: Black And Evil BluesWhile I do theme shows most weeks, these mix shows often contain some short themes from set to set and we certainly explore a few on today's program. On deck today we spotlight several songs that revolve around the lyric "black and evil, first popularized by singer Alice Moore, we showcase a trio of songs revolving around Martin Luther King, we play several sides from the King Records anthology Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2, we hear twin spins from Blind Lemon Jefferson and Sammy Lewis, plus a whole batch of great pre-war blues and more.

Alice Moore, Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's. Our version, "New Black And Evil Blues" was recorded in 1937.

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep (2x)
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord has got a curse on me (2x)
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black." There's also, I think, a way of diffusing the negative "black" by owning it as Moore does, a way of empowering oneself by taking the negative associations of black and turning it around and even reveling in it. Moore's song was covered by Lil Johnson, Lightnin' Hopkins and Leroy Ervin. Several other artists used the "black and evil" theme including Josh White and Lennie Lewis & His Orchestra, both who are featured today.

Blues & Gospel Kings Vol. 2Today we spotlight several songs from the second volume of an anthology that collects early sides from the legendary King label titled Blues & Gospel Kings, Vol. 2 1945-50. Founded by Syd Nathan in 1943, King Records was one of the most influential independent labels of the 1940s and 1950s. By the end of the latter decade, it had become the nation's sixth largest record company. The label originally  specialized in country music and." King advertised, "If it's a King, It's a Hillbilly – If it's a Hillbilly, it's a King." The company also had a "race records" label, Queen Records (which was melded into the King label within a year or two) and most notably (starting in 1950) Federal Records which launched the singing career of James Brown. In the 1950s, this side of the business outpaced the hillbilly recordings.

Although he was not the first male country blues singer/guitarist to record, Blind Lemon Jefferson was the first to succeed commercially and his success influenced previously reluctant record companies to actively seek out and record male country blues players in the hope of finding a similar talent. Throughout the ’20s Lemon spearheaded a boom in ‘race’ record sales that featured male down-home blues singers and such was the appeal of his recordings that in turn they were responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of blues singers. There's no shortage of great Lemon songs and today we spin "Stocking Feet Blues" and "That Crawlin' Baby Blues", the latter with the devastating lines:

Some woman rocks the cradle, and I declare she rules her home
Woman rocks the cradle, and I declare she rules her home
Many a man rocks some other man's baby and the fool thinks he's rockin' his own

I did not do a new show last week but I did want to play a few songs in honor of Martin Luther King. I did, however, see the movie Selma which was quite powerful. Overt political commentary was rare in recorded blues and gospel prior to the 1960’s but became increasingly more common afterwords. Several blues and gospel numbers were recorded about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in Alabama. In "Alabama Bus Pts. 1 & 2" Brother Will Hairston sings bout the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. King and ignited by Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white man. Several blues singers paid tribute to the death of Martin Luther King including Champion Jack Dupree, Big Joe Williams and Otis Spann. All three tracks played today come from the CD Martin Luther King's Blues on the Agram label, a companion to the book President Johnson’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on LBJ, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Vietnam 1963-1968 by Guido Van Rijn.

Sammy Lewis
Sammy Lewis (Photo from the Charly Sun Blues Box)

Harmonica blower Sammy Lewis and guitarist Willie Johnson recorded for Sun Records in 1955 cutting "I Feel So Worried b/w  So Long Baby Goodbye." The third song from this session, "Gonna Leave You Baby" was not issued at the time. Lewis continued working in Memphis after Johnson moved north, working with an assortment of bands. He went on to cut a 45 for the West Memphis 8th Street label in 1977. He was thought to have died until he was rediscovered in 1970, still playing in West Memphis. The 8th street sides were collected on the anthology Blow By Blow – An Anthology of Harmonica Blues on the Sundown label.

We play several classics from the pre-war era and as always I try to drawn from the best sounding reissues I can find. Tracks like Blind Joe Reynolds' "Outside Woman Blues", Marshall Owens' "Try Me One More Time" and Chocolate Brown (Irene Scruggs) with Blind Blake come from the CD's that accompany record collector John Tefteller's annual blues calendars.  The 78's are expertly remastered by Richard Nevins of Yazoo Records from the best possible copies. Other tracks like Peg Leg Howell's "Moanin' and Groanin' Blues" and Blind Lemon Jefferson's "That Crawlin' Baby Blues" come from some of the best reissue labels, Old Hat and Yazoo, A few others like Mamie Smith's "Kansas City Man Blues", Lucille Bogan's "Tired as I Can Be" and the Mississippi Sheiks' "Your Good Man Caught The Train and Gone" come from major label reissues, sometimes from the original masters, back when the majors occasionally reissued pre-war blues. So if you're not a 78 collector but are collecting pre-war blues pay attention to companies like these if you want to hear these old blues records at their best.

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