A typically wide ranging show show today spanning from 1927 to 1977. We kick things off with a set featuring the brilliant boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson. All these tracks come from the fascinating Document collection Pete Johnson Radio Broadcasts, Film Soundtracks, Alternate Takes 1939 – c.1947. I always play some classic piano blues and we also play some great tracks by Peanut The Kidnapper, Blind John Davis and Lazy Bill Lucas. James Sherrill, under the name Peanut The Kidnapper, cut 4 sides for ARC in 1937 in backed by fine pianist Robert McCoy. McCoy hailed from Birmingham, Alabama, a good piano town that also boasted such players as Jabbo Williams, Walter Roland and Cow Cow Davenport. In the 30's he also accompanied Guitar Slim and Jaybird Coleman. McCoy cut two rare LP's in the early 60s' on the Vulcan label (reissued on Delmark with many previously unissued tracks as Bye Bye Blues) , his first as leader. "Walkin' and Talkin'" is a fine number Blind John Davis cut at a 1947 session. Davis backed scores of artist during the '30's and '40's including Tampa Red, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. He was the first pianist to do a European blues tour (with Broonzy in 1952), returning to the continent frequently as a solo act during the '70's and '80's and recordings several albums over there as well. Lazy Bill Lucas first cut "She Got Me Walkin'" for Chance in 1953 but the version we play today comes from the excellent self titled LP he cut for Philo in 1974. After moving to Minneapolis, Lucas mounted a comeback making some recordings in the late 60's and early 70's. The Philo LP is long out of print and finds him in excellent form. The LP includes a really nice insert written by blues scholar Jeff Todd Titon. I have the two LP's he cut for Wild in 1969 and 1970 and will spotlight these in future shows.
As usual there's plenty of country blues on tap including a set featuring Blind Blake. I've had Blake on the brain after hearing the news that a long lost Blake record had just been discovered. Blake plays guitar on Gus Cannon's "My Money Never Runs Out", cuts loose with Charlie Spand on "Hastings St." ("You always tellin' me about Brady Street … wonder what is on Brady … must be something there very marvelous, mm, mm, mm…") and the playful "Righteous Blues" from 1930. One of the most haunting pre-war bluesmen was the mysterious King Solomon Hill. His "The Gone Dead Train" is a masterpiece, a stunning marriage of his eerie high pitched vocals and immaculate slide playing, it's one of those songs that sticks with you long after you've heard it. Born Joe Holmes circa 1897 in McComb, Mississippi he is rumored to have roamed the south playing alongside Sam Collins, Ramblin' Thomas, Oscar Woods and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Hill signed to the Paramount label in 1932, soon traveling to Grafton, Wisconsin to record six tracks. After this lone session, Hill returned to the juke joint circuit, dying in Sibley, Louisiana in 1949. Another slide player of note, perhaps more accurately bottleneck, was the popular Kokomo Arnold who shows off his prodigious skills on the tour-de-force "Back To The Woods." We close the program with a number of artists who give us a glimpse of what the blues sounded like before it was called blues; Papa Harvey Hull, Henry Thomas, Bogus Ben Covington are musicians from an earlier era with Thomas born in 1874, making him one of the oldest artists to record a significant body of work.
We also delve into some later country blues by Scrapper Blackwell, Roy Dunn and Jim Brewer. Blackwell's "Life Of A Millionaire" is a beautiful, poignant version of "Nobody Knows You when You're Down And Out." This track comes from Document's Scrapper Blackwell, Vol. 2 (1934-1958) which features four cuts from the outset of his comeback. There's something very compelling about his latter day recordings; his playing isn't as crisp as his early work and his voice has hoarsened, yet his blues come across as somehow deeper, and more moving than his earlier work. His best rediscovery work can be found on Mr. Scrapper's Blues cut for Bluesville in 1961 a year before he was murdered. Jim Brewer performed regularly on Maxwell Street singing both blues and religious songs. He recorded sides on a number of anthologies and cut two full length albums; Jim Brewer (Philo, 1974) and Tough Luck (Earwig, 1983), neither of which is available on CD.