We cut a wide swath on today's mix show with recordings spanning1928 to 1979. We have a pair of twin spins including a pair of cuts by Houston Stackhouse. I recently wrote a piece on Stackhouse for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas and have been listening to his music quite a bit lately. Stackhouse never achieved much in the way of success yet he was a pivotal figure on the southern blues scene from the 1930's through the 1960's who worked with, or knew, just about every significant blues musician during that period. He was greatly influenced by Tommy Johnson who he met in the 1920's. In the 1930's he met Robert Nighthawk, whom he taught how to play guitar. In 1946 Nighthawk asked Stackhouse to join him in Helena where he would stay for almost twenty-five years. For a year he was a member of Nighthawk's band. After splitting with Nighthawk in 1947 he joined with drummer James "Peck" Curtis who was working on KFFA's King Biscuit Time. In 1948 Sonny Boy Williamson (the program started with him in 1941) rejoined the show and the group performed all over the delta. Stackhouse played with all the important musicians who passed through Helena including Jimmy Rogers and Sammy Lawhorn, both whom he tutored on guitar, as well as Elmore James, Earl Hooker, Willie Love, Ernest Lane and Roosevelt Sykes. Unlike many of his fellow bluesmen, Stackhouse remained in the south continuing to perform locally as well as working regular jobs through the 1950's. In 1967 field researcher George Mitchell recorded Stackhouse in Dundee, Mississippi. The group, calling themselves the Blues Rhythm Boys, consisted of "Peck" Curtis and Robert Nighthawk and marked the final recordings of Nighthawk who died a few months later. A week later field researcher David Evans recorded Stackhouse in Crystal Springs with long time partner Carey "Ditty" Mason. In the 1970's Stackhouse began taking part in the blues revival, touring with Wilkins throughout the decade as The King Biscuit Boys, traveling with the Memphis Blues Caravan, playing various festivals and making a lone trip overseas to Vienna in 1976. He recorded for Adelphi in 1972 with various live tracks appearing on compilations. He died in 1980.
The other twin spin today is a pair of cuts by Blind Willie McTell and his longtime partner Curley Weaver. Both tracks come from Document's Blind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver: The Post-War Years 1949 – 1950. All tracks on this CD have been remastered in 2008 with three additional tracks and excellent booklet notes by David Evans. It's McTell's early sides that are most revered by collectors but these later sides find the versatile McTell in excellent shape playing a broad repertoire of blues, gospel and pop tunes. The under recorded Weaver is no slouch either as he proves on the bouncy, ragtime flavored "Trixie" a version of the oft covered "Trix Ain't Walking No More."
As usual there's a good chunk of sides from the 1920's and 30's including sides by Lonnie Johnson, Johnnie Temple, Tommy Johnson, Oscar "Buddy" Woods, Rube Lacey and Lane Hardin. "Violin Blues" was issued as The Johnson Boys which consisted of Lonnie Johnson on violin and vocals, Nap Hayes on guitar and Mathew Prater on mandolin. This is a wonderful low-down number with a great vocal by Johnson and superb mandolin by Prater. Also from the same session is the wailing "Memphis Stomp" which I'll have to play at a later date. Johnson is also listed as playing guitar on "Good Suzie (Rusty Knees)" by Johnnie Temple although his playing is submerged. Temple delivers a great vocal on this number although I have no idea what the title means. Born and raised in Mississippi, Temple learned to play guitar and mandolin as a child. By the time he was a teenager, he was playing house parties and various other local events. Temple moved to Chicago in the early 30's, where he quickly became part of the town's blues scene. Often, he performed with Charlie and Joe McCoy. In 1935, Temple began his recording, releasing "Louise Louise Blues" the following year on Decca Records. Although he never achieved stardom, Temple's records, issued on a variety of record labels, sold consistently throughout the late 30's and 40's. In the 1950's, his recording career stopped, but he continued to perform, frequently with Big Walter Horton and Billy Boy Arnold. He moved back to Mississippi where he played clubs and juke joints around the Jackson area for a few years before he disappeared from the scene. He died in 1968.
We also play some latter day country blues By Bukka White, K.C. Douglas with Sidney Maiden, Soldier Boy Houston and Robert Pete Williams. White's "Black Bottom" comes from the fine out of print LP Living Legends featuring live performances by Skip James and Big Joe Williams recorded at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York City in 1966. I first heard Soldier Boy Houston (Lawyer Houston was his real name) on an Atlantic LP years ago and he’s a very appealing singer with a light tenor voice backing himself with some springy guitar work. His songs are captivating tales packed with loads of descriptive detail, much seemingly based on his real life experiences. His eight issued sides can be found on Lightning Special: Volume 2 of the Collected Works.
I always slip in a few prime barrelhouse number, this time out we spin excellent tracks by Jabo Williams and Barrel House Welsh. I've been featuring Williams quite a bit on my mix show. He was a terrific player who cut only eight sides that appear to be extremely rare, with few in absolutely terrible shape. "Polock Blues", which takes its name from a section of East St. Louis, is a marvelous mid-tempo blues. Nolan Welsh recorded as Barrel House Welch on three sides for Paramount in 1928-29 and as Nolan Welsh on sides in 1926, two with Louis Armstrong. He really gives those "Chicago women" the business on his forceful "Larceny Woman Blues." From the wonderful album Country Negro Jam Session we hear Robert Pete Williams & Robert "Guitar" J. Welch reviving Barbecue Bob's 1927 classic, "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues."
Moving up to the 1950's and 1960's we play classic Chicago blues from Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Little Johnnie Jones plus excellent sides from Gatemouth Brown, Professor Longhair, Gene Phillips and John Lee Hooker. Jimmy Rogers' shuffling "Look-A-Here" sports superb piano from Otis Spann as does Muddy's 1965 gem "I Got a Rich Man's Woman" a great lesser known tune featuring James Cotton and Sammy Lawhorn and Pee Wee Madison on guitars. Over in Texas we play Gatemouth's torrid instrumental "Boogie Uproar", Earl Hooker's vicious instrumental "Alley Corn", from New Orleans the tough "Longhair Stomp" by Professor Longhair and from the West Coast it's Gene Phillips & His Rhythm Aces on the low-down "My Baby's Mistreatin' Me"featuring some great guitar from Phillip who's guitar skills were not spotlighted nearly enough. If you're a fan of West Coast blues I highly recommend the two Phillips collections on Ace, Swinging The Blues and Drinkin' And Stinkin'. We close out with terrific topical number by John Lee Hooker, "Birmingham Blues" cut for Vee-Jay in 1963. The Birmingham campaign was a strategic effort by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to promote civil rights for black Americans. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, and aimed at ending the city's segregated civil and discriminatory economic policies, the campaign lasted for more than two months in the spring of 1963. To provoke the police into filling the city's jails to overflowing, Martin Luther King, Jr. and black citizens of Birmingham employed nonviolent tactics to flout laws they considered unfair.