And This Is Free

After languishing out of print for many years, Mike Shea's legendary film on Chicago's Maxwell Street Market, And This Is Free, has finally been reissued by Shanachie and I imagine news of this will stir up quite a bit of excitement in blues circles. Shanachie has done an exemplary job with the packaging; housed in a soft covered fold out set is a two disc set containing the 50 minute documentary And This Is Free, the 30 minute documentary Maxwell Street: A Living Memory, some fascinating archival footage, an interview with sound man Gordon Quinn, a separate CD of performances by artists associated with Maxwell Street plus an illustrated 36 page booklet.

The history of the film and music recorded by Mike Shea over the course of sixteen Sundays on Chicago's Maxwell Street in 1964 has an interesting if convoluted history, and I find it odd that none of this is mentioned in the lengthy booklet. Disappointed by the film's reception, Shea let the tapes languish in a warehouse for years until the 1970's when all the footage not included in the original edit was thrown out. At some point a VHS of the film was issued but I'm unclear exactly when. Fortunately the audio tapes had been stored separately so all the original music had been preserved. Rounder records first put some of this music out in 1980 under Robert Nighthawk's name as Live On Maxwell Street 1964. At the time of release these recordings were incorrectly credited, both for the songs, publishing and for much of the personnel. It also turns out that the performances themselves were edited, giving two decades of listeners an incomplete and historically incorrect picture of those recordings as they were originally captured. Finally in May of 1999 the 2-CD set And This Is Maxwell Street was released in Japan on the P-Vine label produced by Studio IT and issued in 2000 in the US by Rooster Records with an additional CD containing a 44 minute interview of Nighthawk conducted by Mike Bloomfield. The set contains all the original unedited recordings made in conjunction with the film.

Arvella GrayWhile music makes up much of the backdrop of And This Is Free, all the performances are truncated and it's sad to think of all the amazing footage that was lost. Still the 50 minutes of And This Is Free is a fascinating, riveting street level view of this remarkable open air market, all the more important now that urban renewal has virtually erased it from existence. Ira Berkow, who wrote Maxwell Street: Survival In A Bazaar, and contributes to the booklet, described it this way: "It was a carnival, it was a bazaar, it was, as some believed and perhaps with some credibility, a thieves' den; it was also home to snake charmers, a horse that could count with a clop of his hoof, an "Indian chief" in war bonnet and penny loafers, honest businessmen, the ladies of the night (and morning and afternoon), Gypsies, Jews, Italians, Irish, Bohemians, Poles, Russians, Greeks, Latinos, blacks. As well as the birthplace of a number of prominent Americans. And this, more or less, just for starters." Hound Dog Taylor, a veteran of Maxwell Street, had this to say: "You used to get out on Maxwell Street on a Sunday Morning and pick you out a good spot, babe. Dammit, we'd make more money than I ever looked at. Put you out a tub, you know, and put a pasteboard in there, like a newspaper. I'm telling you, Jewtown was Jumpin' like a champ, jumpin' like mad on Sunday morning." Jewtown, as the area was also known because, as Lori Grove writes in her excellent essay Historic Maxwell Street, the "Jewish immigrants were the largest  and longest-standing ethnic group in the Maxwell Street neighborhood" who "established the old world marketplace and its reputation as a place where bargains could be found." This part of Maxwell street is evocatively told in Maxwell Street: A Living Memory through the stories of the children and grandchildren of the original Jewish immigrants and through some wonderful archival film and photographs.

Daddy StovepipeMany will gravitate to the film because of the music and indeed the street was a mecca for bluesman trying to hustle a few bucks from the passing crowd. The music is raw and wild with plenty of ambiance from the passing crowds as we briefly see Robert Nighthawk delivering a blistering blues boogie in a back alley to a raucous crowd and a gritty slide drenched cover Dr. Clayton's "Cheating and Lying Blues",  a too brief snippet of the great Johnny Young, Arvella Gray flaying away at his steel guitar as he delivers his signature version of "John Henry" incorporating references to Maxwell and Halstead streets. Gospel permeates the street, from street corner preachers of all stripes to Carrie Robinson backed by a full electric band, dancing like a whirling dervish, as she belts out a testifying "Power To Live Right", Fannie Brewer's lovely, introspective "I Shall Overcome" and Jim Brewer and group closing with a rousing "I'll Fly Away." George Paulus, owner of Barrelhouse Records and St. George Records, contributes a wonderful essay, Maxwell Street Blues, Mojos And Chickens, which gives a vivid portrait of the Maxwell Street blues scene as seen through the eyes of a then thirteen year old blues fan. D. Thomas Moon adds the companion essay, Talkin' 'Bout Maxwell Street, filled with recollections by former bluesman Johnny Williams, Delmark owner Bob Koester and the late Jimmie Lee Robinson among others. Adding to the overall feel is some amazing archival film of Maxwell Street in the 1940's, Casey Jones, the Chicken Man (a 95 year old who could hypnotize his chicken) and some remarkable footage of the ancient Daddy Stovepipe, complete with top hat, harmonica rack and guitar, who had been a fixture on the street since before World War II.

The CD includes performances by many who played on the street including Robert Nighthawk, Big John Wrencher, Daddy Stovepipe, John Lee Granderson, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers and others. A number of the tracks were recorded crudely at the Maxwell Street Radio Store by Bernard Abrams ( he preferred Perry Como) who issued them on his Ora Nelle imprint (named after Little Walter's girlfriend). While the music is uniformly excellent it also underscores a missed opportunity. Perhaps it's a licensing issue, but it would have been nice if the two CD's worth of music issued as And This Is Maxwell Street could have been included. Now that would be the ultimate Maxwell Street set! Also, as I mentioned earlier, it's a bit odd that this music is not mentioned at all.

All in all, with a few caveats, Shanachie has done a wonderful job with And This Is Free: The Life And Times Of Chicago's Legendary Maxwell Street, a lovingly packaged, trip back to a time and place that has been all but erased except in the vivid memories and footage contained in this small time capsule. Like the old Beale Street, Times Square and sadly, Mike Shea himself, Maxwell Street is all but gone. As Gatemouth Brown sang in his ode to Beale Street ("Beale Street Ain't Beale Street No More"): "My street is gone, gone to come back no more.”



Show Notes:

I'll Drown In My Own Tears CDToday's show starts and ends on a somber note with of sides by fine R&B singer Lula Reed who passed away a month ago. Reed is little remembered these days and in fact I've yet to see any mention of her passing outside of a very brief note in a newsgroup I belong to. For just over a decade, 1951-1963, Reed cut in the neighborhood of 70 sides including recordings with Sonny Thompson and Freddy King. Most of her material was firmly R&B although she was versatile, cutting straight blues, Latin tinged numbers, proto-soul and gospel. We play her most famous number, “I’ll Drown in My Tears”, as well as a couple of my favorites, "I'll Upset You Baby", "Rock Love" and "(Let Your Love) Watch Over Me", a wonderful duet with Freddy King. We don't normally play gospel but I couldn't help closing with her lovley "Just whsiper."

We play a couple of twin spins today by Bukka White and Percy Mayfield. In 1930 Bukka White met furniture salesman Ralph Limbo, who was also a talent scout for Victor. White traveled to Memphis where he made his first recordings, singing a mixture of blues and gospel material under the name of Washington White. Victor only saw fit to release four of the 14 songs Bukka White recorded that day. As the Depression set in, opportunity to record didn't knock again for Bukka White until 1937, when Big Bill Broonzy asked him to come to Chicago and record for Lester Melrose. White's record "Shake 'Em on Down" became a hit. The same year White was convicted of murder and sent to Parchman Farm prison. White cut two sides for John Lomax for the Library of Congress while in prison and when released resumed his recording career, cutting 12 sides for Okeh in 1940. We play "Fixin' To Die Blues" from that session.  White continued to play locally in Memphis but didn't record again until the 1960's. Two California-based blues enthusiasts, John Fahey and Ed addressed a letter in 1963 to "Bukka White (Old Blues Singer), c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, Mississippi." By chance, one of White's relatives was working in the Post Office in Aberdeen, and forwarded the letter to White in Memphis. Thus began White's successful comeback. He went on to cut fine records for Takoma, Arhoolie, Biograph, Blue Horizon and others. He died in 1977. "Sad Day Blues"is from 1968 and can be found on Mississippi Delta Blues Jam in Memphis, Vol. II on Arhoolie. This album is a marvelous set of studio performances from artists appearing at the 1969 Memphis Blues Festival.

"River's Invitation" is one of Mayfield's most haunting numbers but it also has an irresistible, lilting hook. Mayfield had a keen insight into the dark side of human nature and was a penetrating student of the human condition as this song exemplifies. We pair this with one of his RCA numbers from the 1970's. Mayfield was remarkably consistent and sailed into the 70's in fine fashion cutting three very good LP's for RCA: Percy Mayfield Sings, Blues And Then Some and Weakness Is A Thing Called Man. All these albums are out of print although a 25 track compilation was issued a few years back called Blues Laureate: The RCA Years on the Raven label.

Wailin' Willie 78A couple of weeks back we did a spotlight on Down Home harmonica players and we revisit a couple of those artists including Papa Lightfoot andJoe Hill Louis . Last time we played several of Lightfoot's early singles and this time out we play the stomping "My Woman Is Tired Of Me Lyin'" from his lone album, Goin' Back To The Natchez Trace. Joe Hill Louis was a good harmonica blower in his own right but also paired up with Walter Horton on several numbers for the Sun label in the early 1950's. Horton really cuts loose on the rocking "Hydramatic Woman." For whatever reason Horton was never comfortable as leader and his best work can be found on the records of others. In a couple of weeks I'll be doing a spotlight on Horton and Little Walter. Less known is the amazing Rhythm Willie who demonstrates his impressive chops on "Wailin' Willie." Rhythm Willie was a shadowy Chicago player who made some little remembered sides between 1939 and 1950. He also played on records backing Lee Brown and Peetie Wheatstraw. He died in 1954. Scott Dirks wrote the definitive Rhythm Willie story in Blues & Rhythm 127.

As usual we spin a batch of fine pre-war blues selections. On the piano side there's Dan Stewart wonderful vocal on "New Orleans Blues" with an excellent unknown piano player. This 1928 track is Stewart's only record. "Louisiana Blues Pt. 2" is a typically fine side by Little Brother Montgomery who cut one of the best bodies of piano blues records of the 1930's. His Complete Recorded Works 1930-1936 on Document is an indispensable collection for piano fans. Another fine singer is Freddie "Redd" Nicholson who's backed by the superb Charles Avery on "I Ain't Sleepy." Avery was primarily a session pianist who was active in Chicago in the 20's and 30's. His lone record, "Dearborn Street Breakdown",  is a tremendous boogie-woogie number and makes one wish he had recorded more frequently as a soloist. We also play a couple of fine blues ladies in Irene Scruggs and Berta Lee. Bertha Lee was Charlie Patton's common-law wife and on January 31, 1934 she recorded "Yellow Bee" and "Mind Reader Blues" backed by Patton. This was Patton's final Blues, Ballads, and Jumpin' Jazzrecording session. Irene Scruggs cut some two-dozen sides between 1924-1930 backed by artists such as Lonnie Johnson, Blind Blake, King Oliver and others. Her "Voice Of The Blues" is a terrific number backed by a good unknown guitarist. We play several great guitarists including Blind Willie McTell and partner Curley Weaver, Oscar "Buddy" Woods and William Moore. Born in Georgia, William "Bill" Moore was a barber and farmer in Tappahannock, VA. He cut 8 sides for Paramount in 1928.

In addition to the lesser known artists we play tracks by blues legends like Earl Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and Lonnie Johnson. Johnson's "New Orleans Blues" is a gorgeous ballad about his hometown and is particularly resonant in the aftermath of Katrina as he sings: "Dear old New Orleans/They call it the land of dreams." Johnson was just starting a successful comeback, and on this track he's teamed with acoustic rhythm guitarist Elmer Snowden who had not recorded since 1934. Elmer Snowden was the original leader of the Washingtonians, a group that would become the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The duo recorded Blues & Ballads in 1960 with enough material left over for it's sequel, Blues, Ballads, and Jumpin' Jazz, Vol. 2.

William McCoy Ad William McCoy Ad

Mama Blues (MP3)

Out Of Doors Blues (MP3)

Train Imitations & The Fox Chase (MP3)

Central Tracks Blues (MP3)

In our ongoing series of reprinting old Chicago Defender blues ads we turn to an obscure but excellent early harmonica player by the name of William McCoy. His records were advertised in the Defender on May 12, 1928, February 23, 1929 and September 21, 1929. Virtually nothing is known about McCoy other than he was probably from Texas. He recorded six sides for Columbia at three sessions; on December 6, 1927 he cut the solos "Mama Blues" b/w "Train Imitations And The Fox Chase", cut "Just It" b/w "How Long Baby" possibly backed by guitarist Sam Harris on December 7, 1928 and "Out Of Doors Blues" b/w "Central Tracks Blues" backed possibly by Sam Harris and Jesse Harris on clarinet on December 8, 1928. All of these sides can be found on Texas Black Country Dance Music 1927-1935 on the Document label.

According to harmonica researcher Pat Missin, McCoy was the first blues player to record in fifth position when he cut "Central Tracks Blues" which is in the key of C#. He's transcribed this piece on this page. The song refers the predominantly black Deep Ellum section of Dallas which, because of the proximity of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad tracks, was also called Central Track. By the 1920's it was known for it's gambling joints, pawnshops, prostitution and nightclubs. Many blues musicians worked the area including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly and Lightnin' Hopkins.

Although the harmonica was present in many pre-war recordings, it became a dominant force in the 1950's, when it was amplified by the likes of Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor. As such many players and fans seem to think that blues harmonica began with Little Walter and are unaware of the rich early tradition of harmonica recordings. In the early days harmonica soloists were common who played now forgotten pieces like train imitations and set pieces like "Lost John", "Fox Chase", "Mama Blues" and other call-and-response pieces that featured the harmonica over the voice, if the voice was used at all. William McCoy falls into that category while others include DeFord Bailey, George "Bullet" Williams, Alfred Lewis and Sonny Terry. Other notable early harmonica players include Jaybird Coleman, Daddy Stovepipe, Robert Cooksey, Noah Lewis and Jed Davenport. My August 17th show will be devoted to early harmonica blues, mostly from the 1920's and 1930's, and will spotlight all of these artists.

Pery Mayfield: Weakness Is A Thing Called Man

It's not hard to see why Percy Mayfield has been so frequently covered and so often mentioned with admiration among his fellow blues singers; he was a master of the moody blues ballad, he had flawless timing and phrasing and as a writer his songs had a frank, penetrating insight into the dark, complex side of the human condition. Songs like "River's Invitation", "Please Send Me Someone To Love", "Life Is Suicide", "My Jug And I" and "Stranger In My Own Home Town', to name just a few, were adult songs for adult listeners, filled with a darkly hued, poetic sensibility, devilish wit and hipster coolness.

Mayfield's main hit making period was from 1950-1952 when he scored seven top ten hits for the Specialty label including "Please Send Me Someone To Love", the biggest hit ever for the label. He stuck with the label through the decade, cutting a few singles for Chess, Cash and Imperial along the way, but never matched his early success. In the 1960's Mayfield's song "Hit The Road, Jack"came to the attention of Ray Charles who was also starting his own record label called Tangerine. Charles hired on Mayfield as a writer and also gave him a chance to record for the label. Mayfield was at the height of his abilities penning songs for Charles like "Hide Nor Hair", "At The Club", "Danger Zone" and "On The Other Hand, Baby." Mayfield's own sides for Tangerine were every bit as good and have been collected on Rhino's limited addition His Tangerine And Atlantic Sides. After leaving Tangerine Mayfield moved to Brunswick, cutting the exceptional Walking On A Tightrope album.

Percy Mayfield SingsMuch less well known are the trio of superb records he cut for RCA in the 1970's, all unfortunately out of print: Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970), Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970) and Blues…And Then Some (1971). While I won't go so far as to say these are better than his earlier records, they're not, they are quite good and deserve to be better remembered. Mayfield's writing and voice were in great shape, and he was surrounded by sympathetic studio bands including Eric Gale, Billy Butler, Chuck Rainey, Pretty Purdie, Seldon Powell, Snooky Young, and Richard Tee to name a few as well as full horn sections and female backing vocalists. The music is filled with blues ballads, funky shuffles and a touch of soul. Like similar era recordings from Bobby Bland and Junior Parker, the music has a bit of a period feel but finds a veteran artist still at his peak, making a few changes to still sound fresh and relevant.

The albums are filled with songs dealing with relationships, a preoccupation with the past and meditations on the human condition. Percy Mayfield Sings includes the bouncy "Live Today Like The Day Before" and the moody mumble of "To Live The Past", two songs that find Mayfield ruminating on the past. In the former song he sings:

Well my past is like a whirlwind, on a summer day
It whirls around inside, and I get carried away

So when I'm reminiscing, it's no fault of mine
It's just my past that won't let go but I'm sure it will in time

On Blues…And Then Some the memories of a past love at times soothe his mind on the lovely ballad "Memories That's All" and are harsher on the funky "Minden Is A Dry Town" from Weakness Is A Thing Called Man. Minden, Louisiana was Mayfield's hometown and where he returned for solace after he was involved in a terrible auto accident in 1952 which left his matinee-idol good looks disfigured. Mayfield explored this theme in 1964's masterful "Stranger in My Own Hometown" a devastating portrait of isolation and alienation and his struggle with alcoholism afterward in "My Jug And I" and "The Bottle Is My Companion." He likely has Minden on his mind on the smoldering "California Blues" also from Weakness Is A Thing Called Man:

I'm gonna leave here, I'm going back where I'm better known (2x)
Where smart people mind there own business, and the fool will leave your business alone
I was born to be a wise man, look how long I've been a fool (2x)
I don't mind being used by people, but I sure do hate to be misused

California, California, make room 'cause here I come (2x)
'Cause you see, you're more like a mother to me [spoken: in more ways than one]
Because that's where I started from

 Travel is also the theme of one of his best blues from this period, the slinky "The Highway Is Like A Woman", from Percy Mayfield Sings:

The time has come, and I've got to hit the road again (2x)
'Cause I travel with a passion, and the highway is my lady friend
You see the highway is like a woman, soft shoulders and dangerous curves (2x)

If  "Please Send Me Someone To Love" was a universal prayer for peace, Mayfield is still delivering a message on the troubled state of man on the super funky "Stand Tall", "Right On Young Americans", the shuffling "Brotherhood Week" and the brooding "Weakness Is A Thing Called Man."

Above all Mayfield sings masterly about the complicated state of love on the throbbing blues of "This Time You Suffer Too" punctuated by Eric Gale's economical, stinging licks and a batch of gorgeous blues ballads like "Lonely For My Baby", "Hand In Hand With Another Man", "Getting You Off My Mind", "Contact Me (When You Find Her)", "You Lied To Me For The Last Time", "Don't Want To Lose My Baby" and the evocative "Black Coffee" as Mayfield expertly charts the state of troubled love:

Well my nerves has gone to pieces, now my hair is turning gray
Well I'm a talking to the shadows from one o'clock to four
Lord how slow the moments go, and all I do is pour, black coffee
Love is a sorry affair, a sorry affair

It's not all gloom and dark shadows. In fact Mayfield has a wicked sense of humor as he displays most notably on "A Lying Woman" and "The Devil Made Me Do It." On the former he sings:

You're not a trustworthy woman, 'cause you just lie all the time (2x)
You and I never will never be successful, just as long as you keep on lying
I remember when I met you, you said your name was Mary Jane
But when I seen you in the line-up, the heat was calling you by another name

In the latter he sings:

Now a broad in a mini-skirt sitting at the bar, her big legs crossed
And just as I asked her, darling, how much do your mini-skirt cost?
Before she could answer my question, and she seemed so very nice
My old lady wanted to know, just what do you wanna to know the price?
I said the devil made me do it, I'm not guilty baby
Well now you might as well get used to it because the devil got most of me

A couple of years back the Raven label did issue Blues Laureate: The RCA Years which collects twenty-five tracks from Mayfield's RCA period. Still, I wish these records would be reissued in their entirety. After these albums Mayfield slipped back in obscurity but made a comeback in the early 1980's resulting in a pair of strong live recordings. He passed in 1984.



Show Notes:

Joe Brown and James Oden aka St. Louis Jimmy founded the J.O.B. label in August 1949. The name of the label was a combination of their two names. J.O.B. would hold on until 1974, but its main period of sustained activity ran from late 1950 through the middle of 1954. The company's one chart hit, "Five Long Years" by Eddie Boyd, was released in July 1952. Always a "mom and pop" scale business with erratic publicity and distribution, after 1954 JOB became more of a hobby for its owner than a serious business venture.  J.O.B consistently elicited great performances from notable blues artists such as Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Leroy Foster, Sunnyland Slim, J.B. Lenoir and Snooky Pryor among others. The bulk of today’s tracks come from the 2-CD, 54 track collection, Rough Treatment – The J.O.B. Records Story, on the Westside label. An exhaustive history of the label can be found at the Red Saunders Research Foundation website. Below is some background on today's featured artists.

Johnny Shines had first met Robert Johnson in Memphis in 1934, and he began accompanying Johnson on his wanderings around the Southern juke-joint circuit with the twp playing together for three years. The two split up in Arkansas in 1937, and never saw each other again before Johnson's death in 1938. He made his way to Chicago in the 1940's making the rounds of the local blues clubs, and in 1946 he made his Aw Awfirst-ever recordings; four tracks for Columbia that the label declined to release. In 1950, he resurfaced on Chess, cutting sides that were rarely released (and, when they were, often appeared under the name "Shoe Shine Johnny"). Meanwhile, Shines was finding work supporting other artists at live shows and recording sessions. From 1952-1953, he laid down some storming sides for the JOB label, which constitute some of his finest work ever.

Robert Lockwood, Jr., learned his blues firsthand from Robert Johnson. When Lockwood's mother became romantically involved with Johnson in Helena, AR, Lockwood gained a role model and a close friend — so close that Lockwood considered himself Johnson's stepson. Settling in Chicago in 1950, Lockwood swiftly gained a reputation as a versatile in-demand studio sideman, recording behind harp genius Little Walter, piano masters Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd, and plenty more. Solo recording opportunities were scarce, though Lockwood did cut fine singles in 1951 for Mercury and in 1955 for JOB ("Sweet Woman From Maine", "Aw Aw Baby", "Dust My Broom", Pearly B").

Bassist Moody Jones, who recorded regularly for JOB between 1950 and 1953, retired from playing blues shortly after his last session for the label.

Raisin' SandSnooky Pryor hit Chicago for the first time in 1940. Armed with a primitive amp, he dazzled the folks on Maxwell Street in late 1945 with his massively amplified harp. Pryor made some groundbreaking 78's during the immediate postwar Chicago blues era. Teaming with guitarist Moody Jones, he waxed "Telephone Blues" and "Boogie" for Planet Records in 1948, encoring the next year with "Boogy Fool"/"Raisin' Sand" for JOB with Jones on bass and guitarist Baby Face Leroy Foster in support. Pryor made more classic sides for JOB (1950-1953 and 1962 or 1963), Parrot (1953), and Vee-Jay ("Someone to Love Me"/"Judgment Day") in 1956, but commercial success never materialized. He wound down his playing in the early '60s, finally chucking it all and moving to downstate Illinois, in 1967. h e recorded an LP for Bluesway in 1973 (Do It If You Want), but did not become a hit on the blues revival circuit until a Blind Pig release in 1987 (Snooky). He continued to record into the 1990s for such labels as Antone's and Discovery. Snooky Pryor died on October 18, 2006. He was 85 years old.

Between 1948 and 1952 Baby Face Leroy Foster waxed a handful absolutely terrific sides under his own name for a number fledgling Chicago labels aided by some of the windy city's best blues musicians. In addition his vocals, drumming, and guitar playing can be found backing some of the greatest Chicago blues records of the era. His death in 1958, at the age of 38, robbed the blues world of a singular, memorable talent and likely did much to hasten his unwarranted obscurity. Foster's recorded twice for J.O.B.: First in 1949 with "My Head Can't Rest Anymore" b/w "Take A Little Walk With Me" backed by Snooky Pryor on harmonica and Alfred Elkins on bass and once more in 1952 with "Pet Rabbit" b/w Louella" backed by Robert Lockwood and Sunnyland Slim.

J.B. Lenoir spent time in New Orleans before arriving in Chicago in the late '40s. He cut his first single for Chess in 1951, "Korea Blues." From late 1951 to 1953, he waxed several dates for JOB in the company of pianist Sunnyland Slim, drummer Alfred Wallace, and J.T. Brown.

The four side for J.O.B. Memphis Minnie cut were her last commercial recordings. Her husband, Little Son Joe (Ernest Lawlars) plays guitar and cut two sides under his own name for the label.

Guitarist John Brim was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on April 10, 1922. He moved to Indianapolis in 1941 and Chicago in 1945; in the early 1950s he lived in Gary, Indiana. Along with his wife Grace (on harmonica and drums), Brim made recordings for Detroit-based Fortune (1950) and St. Louis-based Random (1951), before hooking up with J.O.B. in 1953 cutting four sides.

Blues singer/guitarist Hudson Shower was born September 6, 1919, in Aguilla, Mississippi. At age 12 he took up guitar. In 1939 Shower came to Chicago, but it was not until 1946 that he entered the city's burgeoning deep blues scene, despite having played guitar for 15 years. He first followed some of the older musicians, such as Big Bill Broonzy, Big Maceo, and Tampa Red, before forming his own group, the Red Devil Trio, in 1950. With this trio he cut four sides for J.O.B. in 1953.

Five Long YearsEddie Boyd's first formal session for J.O.B. took place on June 30, 1951, when four tracks were laid down. Boyd's first release, on JOB 1005, didn't sell much. A second session was booked on May 30, 1952, at which two tracks were laid. Promptly released on JOB 1007, "Five Long Years" was a huge hit. In consequence, Joe Brown quickly called Ernest Cotton into the studio to overdub his tenor sax on three of the tracks recorded in 1951, and a few months later reissued overdubbed versions of both sides of JOB 1005 on JOB 1009.

Floyd Jones cut six sides for J.O.B. at sessions in 1951 and 1953. Jones came to Chicago in the mid-'40s, working for tips on Maxwell Street with his cousin Moody Jones and Baby Face Leroy Foster and playing local clubs on a regular basis. Floyd was right there when the postwar "Chicago blues" movement first took flight, recording with harpist Snooky Pryor for Marvel in 1947; pianist Sunnyland Slim for Tempo Tone the next year, JOB and Chess in 1952-53, and Vee-Jay in 1955.Jones remained active on the Chicago scene until shortly before his 1989 death.

John Lee Henley recorded as John Lee, and should not be confused with the John Lee who recorded for Federal. He worked for a time in Big Boy Spires' band, the Rocket Four. He cut two sides for the label: "Rythm Rockin' Boogie" and "Knockin' on Lula Mae's Door" in 1952 for J.O.B. Henley recorded on three unissued sessions with guitarist Honeyboy Edwards during 1965 and 1966, so the JOB release is the full extent of his issued discography.

Down Home ChildMississippi born John T. Brown was a member of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels down south before arriving in the Windy City. By 1945, Brown was recording behind pianist Roosevelt Sykes and singer St. Louis Jimmy Oden, later backing Eddie Boyd and Washboard Sam for RCA Victor. He debuted on wax as a bandleader in 1950 on the Harlem label, subsequently cutting sessions in 1951 and 1952 for Chicago's United logo as well as JOB. Brown backed Elmore James on records for Meteor and Flair in 1952 and 1953 and Meteor issued a couple of singles under Brown's own name. After a final 1956 date for United that laid unissued at the time, Brown's studio activities were limited to sideman roles. In January of 1969, he was part of Fleetwood Mac's Blues Jam at Chess album, even singing a tune for the project, but he died before the close of that year.

Sunnyland Slim cut a handful of sides under his own name for the label in 1951 and 1954 and many artists on the label including Floyd Jones, Robert Lockwood, Leroy Foster, John Brim J.B. Lenoir, Snooky Pryor.


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