|Bumble Bee Slim||Sail On, Little Girl, Sail On||The Essential
|Bumble Bee Slim||Bricks In My Pillow||The Essential
|Bumble Bee Slim||Policy Dream Blues||The Essential
|Bumble Bee Slim||Everybody's Fishing||The Essential
|Johnnie Temple||Lead Pencil Blues||The Essential
|Johnnie Temple||Gonna Ride 74||The Essential
|Johnnie Temple||Big Leg Woman||The Essential
|Johnnie Temple||Down In Mississippi||The Essential
|Bill Gaither||Pains In My Heart||The Essential
|Bill Gaither||Pins And Needles||Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936
|Bill Gaither||Tired Of Your Line Of Jive||The Essential
|Joe Pullum||Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?||Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
|Joe Pullum||Cows, See That Train Comin'||Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
|Joe Pullum||Hustler's Blues||Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
|Doctor Clayton||Doctor Clayton Blues||Doctor Clayton 1935-1942
|Doctor Clayton||Watch Out Mama||Doctor Clayton 1935-1942
|Doctor Clayton||Cheating And Lying Blues||Doctor Clayton 1935-1942
|Doctor Clayton||Gotta Find My Baby||Doctor Clayton 1935-1942
|Bumble Bee Slim||Ramblin' With That Woman||The Essential
|Bumble Bee Slim||This Old Life I’m Living||The Essential
|Bumble Bee Slim||Fast Life Blues||The Essential
|Johnnie Temple||Good Time Suzie (Rusty Knees)||The Essential
|Johnnie Temple||Believe My Sins Have Found Me Out||Broke, Black & Blue
|Johnnie Temple||Olds 98||Chicago Boogie
|Bill Gaither||Tee-Ninecy Mama (Little Sweet Mama)||Bill Gaither Vol. 4 1939
|Bill Gaither||Stoney Lonesome Graveyard||Bill Gaither Vol. 2 1936-1938
|Bill Gaither||I'm Behind The 8 Ball Now||The Essential
|Joe Pullum||Hard-Working Man Blues||Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
|Joe Pullum||Mississippi Flood Blues||Joe Pullum Vol. 1 1934-1935
|Joe Pullum||Ice Man Blues||Joe Pullum Vol. 2 1935-1951
|Doctor Clayton||Ain't No Business We Can Do||Doctor Clayton 1935-1942
|Doctor Clayton||On the Killin' Floor||Doctor Clayton 1935-1942
|Doctor Clayton||Angels In Harlem||Doctor Clayton & His Buddies
|Doctor Clayton||Doctor Clayton & His Buddies
Today’s program spotlights five popular blues artists of the 1930’s and 40’s, some who represent something of the mainstream blues sound of the period while others are more indvidulistic; Bumble Bee Slim, Bill Gaither, Joe Pullum , Doctor Clayton and Johnnie Temple. The death of hugely popular Leroy Carr in 1935 was a profound shock to the blues world. Carr had a lasting influence on may blues artists including Amos Easton, who went by Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither who called himself “Leroy’s Buddy.” Both men recorded extensively throughout the 1930’s. Joe Pullum scored a massive hit with “Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” but despite strong material his subsequent sides didn’t sell well. Pullum was one of the most original vocalists of the 30’s and the same can be said of singer Doctor Clayton in the 1940’s. Clayton’s records sold well and his recordings and style highly influential. Johnnie Temple was a significant player in the “race” record business in the 1930’s and 40’s, scoring sizable hits with “Louise Louise Blues” and “Big Leg Woman.”
Bumble Bee Slim was a prolific singer who was one of the most-recorded and best-selling blues artists of the 1930s. His work exemplifies the beginnings of what came to be known as the Chicago style. Yet as Bill Barlow writes in Looking Up At Down, that although he was the "most prolific" blues artist of the period he "had the least impact on Chicago's blues culture, in part because, he never lived there for long." He was born Amos Easton in Brunswick on May 7, 1905. When he was about fifteen, Easton joined the Ringling Brothers' circus and traveled around the South and Midwest for two years. Returning to Georgia, he worked at a variety of jobs and was married briefly before heading north on a freight train. In 1928 he settled in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he most likely met pianist Leroy Carr, who with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell formed one of the most innovative blues duos of the period. Easton, now using the stage name Bumble Bee Slim, was impressed by Carr's singing and by Blackwell's guitar technique. A solid singer and excellent songwriter, Slim owed a large part of his success in his ability to emulate Leroy Carr. He was, alas, derivative and as Paul Oliver noted his music seemed merely an “echo” of Carr’s “fatalism.” Slim issued a few tribute records dedicated to Carr: "The Death of Leroy Carr", "Last Respects" and "My Old Pal Blues." In the latter he sings:
I woke up this morning, couldn't hardly get out of my bed (2x)
When I heard the news, that Leroy Carr was dead
I run to the window, and I fold back the blind (2x)
I stood there wondering, and just could not keep from crying
After refining his skills by playing halls and rent parties, Slim moved to Chicago, where he made his first record, "Chain Gang Bound," for Paramount Records in 1931. The following year his song "B&O Blues" was a hit for Vocalion Records. "I made my audition… down at 666 [S.] Lake Shore Drive on the 11th floor" Slim recalled. The "contract "wasn't much. It couldn't be, 'cause in those days you could buy a record for 25 cents" The deal called for "forty tunes a year." Between 1934 and 1937 Slim recorded more than 170 titles. His regular backing band included pianists Jimmie Gordon, Myrtle Jenkins, Black Bob, Honey Hill, or, on occasion, Peetie Wheatstraw. Willie Bee James was a regular on guitar but he also employed Casey Bill Weldon, Big Bill Broonzy, Bill Gaither and Scrapper Blackwell. In 1934 he did some sessions with Carl Martin and Ted Bogan. Howard Armstrong, who worked with Martin and Bogan, refered to Slim as "one of those good old Georgia boys… well liked, nice looking… a prolific songwriter" who "overnight would write two songs sometimes. " Several of Slim's songs have been revived including "Sail On Little Girl, Sail On", "Brick In My Pillow", "Everybody's Fishing" among others.
By 1937 Slim had become frustrated with the record business. He returned to Georgia, then relocated to Los Angeles, California, in the early 1940s, apparently hoping to break into motion pictures. He soon went back to blues music, however. Moving back to Los Angles he cut four sides for the Specialty label with two appearing on it’s sister imprint, Fidelity in 1951. An ad appeared in the September 1951 issue of Billboard: "Blues singer Amos Easton has come out of retirement and inked a five year term pact with Specialty Records. Diskery's first sides on the warbler are Strange Angel and Lonesome Trail Blues and will be on the racks September 10." Those were followed by two more before he made his final recording, the album Bumble Bee Slim: Back In Town, for Pacific Jazz in 1962. He died of Pneumonia on June 8, 1968.
Blues guitarist Bill Gaither cut well over a hundred sides for Decca and OKeh between 1931 and 1941. Gaither was close to the blues pianist Leroy Carr, and following Carr's death in 1935, he recorded under the moniker Leroy's Buddy for a time. A fine guitarist who possessed a warm, expressive voice, Gaither was also at times a gifted and inventive lyricist. He was often partnered with pianist George "Honey" Hill, and the duo patterned themselves after Carr and his guitarist, Scrapper Blackwell. Among Gaither's many sides are three tributes to Carr: " "Leroy Carr's Blues," "Life of Leroy Carr" and "After the Sun's Gone Down." In The latter he sings:
It was in the evening, it was in the evening we used to talk face to face
When Leroy Carr told me, someday you'll have to take my place
Gaither was a fine singer and as Tony Russell notes "made the bulk of his recordings before he was 30, and his voice never lost the freshness of youth, so that when he sings reflective numbers in the Carr idiom he often sounds like Carr's sunnier younger brother." Gaither was clearly attuned to the musical trends of the day with "Bad Luck Child" in the mold of Joe Pullum's hit “Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” , alludes to Bumble Bee Slim's hit "Bricks In My Pillow" in his "Gravel In My Bread", updates Johnnie Temple's "Big Leg Woman" with "Another Big Leg Woman" and faithfully covers Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues." He was capable of transcending imitation as evidenced on worthy compositions like the jaunty "Pins And Needles" and "Bloody Eyed Woman" and more melancholy fare like "Rocky Mountain Blues", "Pains In My Heart", "Old Coals Will Kindle", "Stony Lonesome Graveyard" and the insightful topical blues of "I'm Behind The 8 Ball Now." In 1940 Gaither returned to Louisville where he ran a radio repair shop. Army service overseas in 1942-1945 left him with a nervous condition that prevented him from making music. He went back to Indianapolis where he worked in a cafe. He died in 1970.
Born and raised in Mississippi, Johnny 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. He was part of a vibrant the 1920’s Jackson, MS scene, a city teeming with artists such as Tommy Johnson, Walter Vincson, Ishmon Bracey, the Chatmon Brothers, Skip James and Rube Lacey. Often, he performed with Charlie and Joe McCoy and also worked with Skip James. Temple moved to Chicago in the early 30’s, where he quickly became part of the town’s blues scene. In 1935, Temple began his recording career, releasing “Louise Louise Blues”, his biggest hit, the following year on Decca Records. He also recorded "Lead Pencil Blues" at his first session a song that was the first to employ the bottom-string boogie bass figure generally credited to Robert Johnson. Although he never achieved stardom, Temple’s records sold consistently throughout the late 30’s and 40’s. He had another sizable hit with 1938's "Big Leg Woman." While Temple's recordings became somewhat formulaic, his delivery, as Tony Russell notes set him apart: "with its Southern accent, pronounced vibrato and momentary octave laps at word-endings, was set against urbane small-group settings giving his records a character that distinguished them from much contemporary blues." He never fully shook off regional style of Jackson, singing numerous references to the city at his debut session and paid tribute to his roots in songs like Skip James' "The Evil Devil Blues" (a version "Devil Got My Woman") and "Cherry Ball Blues", "Mississippi Woman's Blues" with its similarities to Ishmon Bracey's "Saturday Blues" and the nostalgic "Down In Mississippi." As David Evans describes him in his liner notes as "someone who gave further life to a highly idiosyncratic and regional music and exposed elements of it to a larger audience that could never have been reached by its original creators." Several of Temple's songs have been oft-covered including "Lead Pencil Blues", "Louise, Louise", "Big Leg Woman" and "Gonna Ride 74."
In 1946 Temple cut some up-to-date sides for King with trumpet, tenor and piano, several of which were only issued decades later. In 1947 he cut an acetate of just himself on guitar for the Ora Nelle label, “Olds “98” Blues”, which Tony Russell notes "has some of the rockabilly drive of an early Sun recording." In 1950 he cut a lone 78 for Miracle and cut some unissued songs for Chess. In the 1950’s, Temple’s 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.
“Black Gal What Makes Your Head So Hard?” was a huge and influential hit in 1934. After Pullum recorded it in April 1934 it was covered by Vocalion by Leroy Carr, for Decca by Mary Johnson and Jimmie Gordon (under the pseudonym of Joe Bullum!), and by Josh White—all within ten months. Black gal is supposed to have been a traditional Texas theme, but Victoria Spivey calls Pullum's "the original one." That was 'about 1925, yet neither Victoria nor Bernice Edwards, both members of a clique that played West Texas from Galveston to Houston' with Pullum and others, chose to record the song at their sessions in the '20s. In a review of a record by Texas pianist Robert Shaw that appeared in her Blues Is My Business column in Record Research, Victoria Spivey reminisced about the early days. "At first it made me very sad and blue as it brought back my carefree days in Texas in the early 20's when we were all playing the whiskey joints, gay houses and picnics. We all loved each other then. Had no animosity in our hearts. These were the days of lazy, offbeat blues piano and singing. I was a member of a clique that played West Texas from Galveston to Houston to Richmond to Sugarland. There were Anthony (sic) Boy, Joe Pullum, Houston, Bernice Edwards, Pearl Dickson and myself. …On BLACK GAL, my buddy, Robert 'Fud' Shaw, must have really improvised the lyrics as it is very different from the original one by Joe Pullum. I first heard Joe sing this about 1925. In fact I was there in his house in the bloody 5th Ward in Houston, Texas when Joe was making up the words. It was at the time when I had a 6 month job with Miss Weaver in this same bloody 5th. Listen to Joe Pullum's Bluebird recording and you will hear it right." Robert Shaw had this to say about the song's origins: "We was on a party and there were three or four girls there. An old black girl there, man she was, you talk about a handsome baby, she was a baby! Feet, eyes, legs, nose, mouth, everything fit! …So Joe Pullum says to this black girl; 'Say black girl!' She didn't say nothin'. Said 'black girl!.' She just kept on walkin'. He said: 'What make your doggone head so hard'? All right! Now, there was a boy down there named Purdue (Robert Cooper) and Shine (Harold Holiday aka Black Boy Shine) and myself and Joe Pullum. Well, we went down to that party-house. Here Purdue come up playin' the blues and this gal come in the door, the same black gal and Joe Pullum here he come (sings falsetto): 'Black gal, black gal, woman, what makes your nappy head so hard, I would come to see you but your bad man has me barred.' Joe Pullum brought that song up. …I bet he sold a million records and that song come out of two men and a half-a-pint of whiskey."
"Why was it so successful?", Tony Russell wrote. " First, it introduced a new singing style; Pullum's voice was pitched very high and clear, yet it always sounded relaxed, and his timing was impeccable. The effect—plaintive, appealing, penetrating—was like that of a muted trumpet solo, piercing its way through the blues, occasionally soaring in sudden leaps." He was also a witty lyricist, writing several topical blues like "Joe Louis Is The Man", "Bonus Blues", "Mississippi Flood Blues" and "CWA Blues." The piano accompaniment was first rate as Russell notes: "…The piano-playing behind Pullum is always satisfying stuff, whether the work of Andy Boy (who was on the third and longest session) or that of Robert Cooper (on the other three).”
Pullum went on to cut four sessions in less than two years which produced thirty songs including two sequels to "black gal" , yet few sold very well. Pullum performed on Houston radio station KTLC with his pianist, Preston Chase, known as Peachy. "Pullum and Peachy" became household names although for some reason Chase does not appear on Pullum's records. Pullum headed to California probably in the 40’s where he cut a record for Swingtime in 1948. He supposedly cut a demo for Specialty in 1953. He died in 1964.
Doctor Clayton worked strictly as a vocalist (by some accounts he could play piano and ukulele), employing an impressive falsetto technique, later refined into a powerful, swooping style that was instantly recognizable. In addition he was an unparalleled songwriter, writing mostly original material with a rare wit, intelligence and social awareness. Clayton's vocal style was widely emulated and a number of his songs became blues standards. Clayton moved to Chicago with partner Robert. Clayton was supposed to record for Decca but ended up hooking up with Lester Melrose of Bluebird. As Lockwood related later: "Doctor Clayton started singin', and Melrose had a baby. …He had to have Doctor Clayton! Yeah! Lester Melrose heard Doctor Clayton sing, and he went crazy." He first recorded for Bluebird in 1935 cutting six sides four of which went unissued, not recording again until 1941. Between 1941-1942 he recorded four sessions for Bluebird and Okeh. In 1941 he cut his most covered number, "Confessin' The Blues" which has become a blues standard. Many of Clayton's songs deal with tough times that many still felt even after the depression. 1942's "On The Killing Floor"no doubt spoke for many and also seems to echo his own reckless lifestyle:
Please give me a match to light this short that I found
I know it looks bad for me, picking tobacco off the ground
I was in my prime not so very long ago
But high priced whiskey and woman done put me on the killin' floor
Lord it's zero weather and I ain't got a lousy dime
I'm walking from door to door and I can't find a friend of mine
From the same session was another down-and-out tale, "Ain't No Business We Can Do":
I went down to Eli, got my suit out of pawn
Took the last little change I had left, and put some new shoes on
I took a real slow stroll, right down the avenue
A high yeller asked me, could she go 'long too
I said, "Hey good-lookin' have you got any cash on you?
'Cos if you broke like me, ain't no business we can do"
Prices goin' up every day, all kind of meat is too high
If you ain't rich or got a good job, neckbones is all you could buy
The best friend you got, will even tell you a lie
And let me tell you buddy, you better keep some kinda cash on you
'Cos when you broke, outdoors and hungry ain't no business you can do
He cut a pair of topical songs including "Pearl Harbor Blues" and "41' Blues." In "'41 Blues" Clayton offers his solution to end hostilities:
War is raging in Europe, up on the water, land and in the air
If Uncle Sam don't be careful, we'll all soon be right back over there
This whole war would soon be over if Uncle Sam would use my plan
Let me sneak in Hitler's bedroom with my razor in my hand
In "Pearl Harbor Blues" he had this to say:
On December the seventh, nineteen hundred and forty one
The Japanese flew over Pearl Harbor, dropping bombs by the ton
This Japanese is so ungrateful, just like a stray dog on the street
Well he bite the hand that feeds em', soon as he get enough to feed
Other numbers from the period were the oft covered "Cheating And Lying Blues", "Gotta Find My Baby", "Watch Out Mama", "Moonshine Woman Blues" (covered by B.B. King in 1959 as "The Woman I Love" with an overdubbed version charting in 1968) and "Ain't No Business We Can Do." Slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk was recorded playing "Cheating And Lying Blues" in 1964 live on Maxwell Street which also combined the lyrics form "Ain't No Business We Can Do" and Pat Hare's 1954 "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" was a direct descendant of "Cheating And Lying Blues" ("I'm gonna murder my baby if she don't stop cheating and lying/Well I'd rather be in the penitentiary than to be worried out of my mind"). Clayton's final recordings were in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston with a final session in August 1946. These sessions included the original versions of oft-covered songs such as "Root Doctor", "Angels in Harlem" (covered by Smokey Hogg, Peppermint Harris and by Larry Davis as "Angels In Houston"), "Hold That Train Conductor" (covered by B.B. King in 1961) and "I Need My Baby" (covered by B.B. King as "Walking Dr. Bill" and Smokey Hogg as "I Declare") and perhaps ironically "Aint Gonna Drink No More." Also cut during this period was "Copper Colored Mama" which King covered as "The Woman I Love" in 1954.
Clayton’s records were steady sellers and he regularly appeared at Chicago clubs such as Sylvios working with Robert Lockwood and Sunnyland Slim and toured in a bus with his likeness on the side. Attesting to this popularity was Sunnyland Slim who recorded as "Doctor Clayton's Buddy" on his debut 1947 sessions and Willie Long Time Smith who in 1947 recorded the tribute, "My Buddy Doctor Clayton." Clayton died on January 7th 1947 in Chicago, of pulmonary tuberculosis at Chicago's Cook County Hospital. According to Big Bill only ten people attended Clayton's funeral including himself and Tampa Red.