|Little Son Willis||Nothing But The Blues||Down Home Blues Classics: California & The West Coast 1948-1954|
|Alex Moore||Neglected Woman||Whistling Alex Moore 1929-51
|Dr. Hepcat||Hattie Green||Houston Might Be Heaven: Rockin' R&B In Texas 1947-1951|
|Wright Holmes||Good Road Blues||Down Behind The Rise 1947-1953
|Jesse Thomas||Double Due Love You||Down Behind The Rise 1947-1953
|Junior Brooks||Lone Town Blues||Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 1|
|Jimmy DeBery||Before Long||Deep South Blues Piano 1935-1937|
|Manny Nichols||No One To Love Me||Down Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-1954|
|Blind Willie McTell||East St. Louis||Blind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver: The Post War Years|
|Johnny Beck||You Gotta Lay Down Mama||Down Home Blues Classics: Texas 1946-1954|
|Dennis McMillon||Paper Wooden Daddy||New York City Blues 1940-1950|
|Schoolboy Cleve||She's Gone||Down Home Blues Classics Vol.5: Memphis & The South 1949-1954|
|Pee Wee Hughes||Country Boy||Jook Joint Blues|
|Papa Lightfoot||Wine, Whiskey & Women||Blues Harmonica Wizards
|Goldrush||All My Money Gone||Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934- 1956
|Leroy Ervin||Blue, Black and Evil||Texas Blues ( Bill Quinn's Gold Star Recordings)|
|Big Charlie Bradix||Numbered Days||The Travelling Record Man|
|Pete Franklin||Down Behind the Rise||Down Behind The Rise 1947-1953
|Walter Bradford||Reward For My Baby||Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958|
|Charley Booker||Walked All Night||Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958|
|Frank Edwards||Gotta Get Together||Jook Joint Blues|
|Henry Hill & Doctor Ross||That Ain't Right||Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958|
|Joe Hill Louis||We All Gotta Go Sometime||Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958|
|John Lee||Down At The Depot||Rural Blues Vol. 1 1934- 1956
|Dan Pickett||99 1/2 Won't Do||Shake That Thing!: East Coast Blues 1935-1953|
|Pinetop Slim||Applejack Boogie||Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4|
|Big Boy Spires||About To Lose My Mind||Chicago Slickers 1948-1953
|Otis Hinton||Walking Downhill||Black Cat Trail
|Frankie Lee Sims||Walking With Frankie||4th & Beale And Further South
|Luther Huff||Bulldog Blues||Down Home Blues Classics Vol.5: Memphis & The South 1949-1954|
|Lane Hardin||Keep 'em Down||The Modern Down Home Blues Sessions Vol. 4
|Boyd Gilmore||Ramblin' On My Mind||The Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 1|
|Baby Face Turner||Blue Serenade||The Modern Downhown Blues Sessions Vol. 2|
|Willie Nix||Lonesome Bedroom||The Traveling Record Man
In the immediate post-war era the music was rapidly changing, R&B was on the rise and and older blues styles were falling out of fashion. Yet for awhile at least, there was still a market for rural down home blues as evidenced by the popularity of artists like Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Smokey Hogg. Between 1944 and 1964, more than 600 record companies tried their hands at recording blues. Many failed or had limited success while others grew and became major players. Paul Vernon wrote that this was “the last grand hurrah of local blues recorded for, and often by, local entrepreneurs, neither folkloric nor college oriented, but music for the culture from which it grew." Today we spotlight some of my down home blues favorites spanning the years 1947 through 1957.
A good number of today's tracks come from two album series that made a big impression on me; one was on the Nighthawk label which issued a series of great anthologies in the late 70's. I discovered these a bit later at my college radio station which had the entire series. I was particularly drawn to Down Behind The Rise 1947-1953 which introduced me to Jesse Thomas, Wright Holmes and Johnny Beck, all of whom are featured today. All of these sides have since been reissued on many different collections. The other series was Kent's Anthology of Blues, a twelve volume set of albums, some spotlighting single artists, others anthologies of great down home blues. I discovered numerous great artists from that series including Willie Nix, Pinetop Slim, Charlie Bradix, Baby Face Turner, Junior Brooks, Boyd Gilmore and Charley Booker, all artists featured today. The series was resurrected in grand fashion by Ace Records over the course of six CD's with terrific notes by Jim O'Neal and loads of additional tracks.
I should also mention the Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1956, a nine LP box set that I picked up back in High School at Bleeker Bob's in Greenwich Village. I have played this set endlessly over the years and today spin several tracks from that box including Walter Bradford, Charley Booker, Henry Hill & Doctor Ross and Joe Hill Louis. Below is is some information on a few of today's featured performers.
Wright Holmes was born in Hightower, TX. on July 4, 1905. In 1930 he moved to Houston where he started playing in clubs on Dowling Street and also broadcasted on KTRH. In 1947 he made two recordings for Bill Quinn's Gold Star label but Quinn didn't issue the recordings because he thought that Holmes sounded too much like Lightnin' Hopkins who was his top selling blues artist. Later that year, another man named Abe Conley recorded four songs by him at his studio. Conley sold the masters to Miltone. Two of the songs were issued on Miltone. Miltone was later bought out by Gotham who reissued the two songs and issued one other with another song never issued.
Jesse Thomas recorded sporadically from the late 1920's through the early 1990's and despite his longevity didn't achieve much in the way of success or recognition. In 1929, at 18, Thomas cut four excellent sides for Victor.By the post-war era Thomas had developed a brilliant, highly individual style unlike anyone else. Between 1948-1958 Thomas cut sides for nine different West Coast labels. Thomas' "Double Due Love You" was a song made a big impression when I first heard it on Down Behind The Rise.
Modern Records' partner Joe Bihari had made his first field trip to the South around September 1951 following the breakdown in relations with Sam Phillips. This was after Rocket "88" by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner ended up on Chess instead of Modern, and became a #1 R&B smash hit. Until then Phillips had been recording Modern's Memphis-area artists including B.B. King, Joe Hill Louis and Rosco Gordon. Following the split with Phillips, Bihari hit paydirt with B.B. King's "3 O'Clock Blues," thus encouraging Bihari to authorize further trips in the South. The Biharis launched a new label for these field recordings, Blues & Rhythm, in February 1952. The first major reissue of this material was in 1969 and 1970, issued as the Anthology Of The Blues 12-volume LP series on Kent. In later years Joe Bihari said: "I was a gutsy kid who wasn't afraid of anything, traveling during a period where there was immense segregation and discrimination against African Americans. Indeed, I am proud of myself for doing what I could to resist this horrific prejudice. Looking back, I think I made major contributions to this rich music that we have all over America – and all my hard work paid off as this blues music is now recognized worldwide."
As Joe Bihari remembers, it was on a trip to Atlanta in 1949 that he conducted his first on-the-road session after he just happened to hear a guitarist playing on the street there. The bluesman he discovered was Pine Top Slim. "I took him right into our distributor's office and I recorded him at the local radio station where Zeas Sears was the top jock" "Applejack Boogie b/w I'm Gonna Carry On" were released on a short-lived Modern subsidiary called Colonial in 1949. The Biharis shelved the rest of the Pine Top Slim session, and it was only when Frank Scott and Bruce Bromberg compiled the historic Kent Anthology of the Blues LP series that the rest of the material resurfaced.
For a long time it was thought Lane Hardin's 1935 record, "California Desert Blues b/w Hard Time Blues" was the only record he ever recorded. Unknown to most collectors Hardin cut a vanity record circa 1948. The record was found by collector Steve LaVere sometime in the 1990's in Los Angeles and purchased by Tefteller and has since been reissued. 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 Kent's Blues From The Deep South LP, Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. It turns out that Todd is actually Lane Hardin.
Junior Brooks (nicknamed "Crippled Red") was from Pine Bluff, AR. He worked the local club scene with his fellow musicians Baby Face Turner, Elmon "Driftin' Slim" Mickle, and Sunny Blair. The Bihari brothers held two sessions in Little Rock in 1951 and '52 to record some of the local talent. Brooks made four recordings at the 1951 sessions. He died shortly afterward. Also from this session we feature tracks by Baby Face Turner and Boyd Gilmore.
Years ago, I don't remember where, I picked up a record on Arhoolie's Blues Classic series called Juke Joint Blues. There were some great sides on that record but the one I played over and over was Dr. Hepcat's rollicking, humorous "Hattie Green", a totally unique rendition of this classic Texas blues number. 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. From Robert Shaw (Arhoolie CD 377), Durst learned the rudiments of what is now referred to as the Texas barrelhouse piano style. He 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,” and during his show, which featured primarily rhythm and blues and jazz, he used to jive talk to pique the interests of his listeners in making introductions to records, public service announcements, and commercials. He cut a handful of sides in 1949 and latter day sides.
Now I remember exactly where I snagged a copy of Dan Pickett: 1949 Country Blues. I was at my favorite record shop, Finyl Vinyl, on New York's Second Avenue in the Village and they had the album displayed on the wall reserved for notable new records. Most times I walked in there without a plan, just poking around and always leaving with some albums tucked under my arm. This time I had been looking for this album after reading an intriguing review in Juke Blues magazine. Dan Pickett did one recording session for the Philadelphia-based Gotham label in 1949. His real name was James Founty who was born in Pike County, Alabama on August 31, 1907. Five singles were issued by the label while the rest of the titles weren't unearthed until four decades later (with some alternate takes of some issued titles to boot). No one is certain what he did after his one and only session as far as his life. He passed away in Boaz, Alabama on August 16, 1967, a few days short of his 60th birthday.
In strange twist I became friends decades later with Axel Küstner who played a big part in unraveling the mystery behind Pickett. Küstner went from his home in Germany to Alabama in 1993 to see what he could dig up. He found Founty's surviving family and also the lawyer's son, who had his father"s papers, though Founty's file was missing. He obtained the only known photograph that shows Founty and some information on his life. Künster published a two page teaser about the trip in Juke Blues where he wrote: "Until the whole story is published in Juke Blues, I'll just tell you this much: [Founty was] a classic rambler in the best blues tradition…"Künster wrote that over fifteen years ago and still no full article has been written. I've been trying to gently prod him into writing the full article – maybe someday! In 2010 John Jeremiah Sullivam wrote an article on Pickett for The Oxford American that published the Pickett photo, transcribed an interview with Künster and provided a bit more information on Pickett's life.