As usual a wide variety of blues on tap today spanning from 1929 to the early 1980's. The mix shows reflect things I've been listening to lately from my own collection as well as new things that I've picked up (just about every week!). Today's show features three tracks from the fantastic, eclectic 3-CD set How Low Can You Go? : Anthology of the String Bass (1925-1941) from the Dust-to-Digital label. Dust-to-Digital is one of those great reissue labels like Revenant, Old Hat and Bear Family that puts out wonderful, lavish roots music collections that are clearly a labor of love. How Low Can You Go? is a survey into the early history of the string bass. Blues is only a small part of this collection and of the tunes we play today two include Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon and Georgia Tom: "Get The "L" On Down The Road" and "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone" the latter sporting the marvelous slide of Tampa Red. Up through 1931 Tampa and Georgia Tom made an unbeatable team, churning out dozens and dozens of sides with a number featuring the always entertaining vocals of Frankie Jaxon. Jaxon also pops up offering spoken encouragement on Bertha "Chippie" Hill's marvelous "Pratt City Blues" with a great group including Georgia Tom, Ikey Robinson on banjo and Bill Johnson slapping the upright bass. I've played Hill before on the show and I've always felt she was an underrated singer. Another recent CD played today is Van Hunt: Field Recordings from Memphis, Tennessee (1976-1982) – Blues at Home Vol. 1 the Mbirafon label. Although the artist credit is to Mrs. Van Hunt, it also contains four songs recorded by her daughter Sweet Charlene Peeples and pianist Mose Vinson. Hunt spent the 1920’s in minstrel shows and was involved in the early Memphis blues scene. She cut "Selling The Jelly" in 1930 with the Noah Lewis Jug Band which we also feature today. The Van Hunt recordings were made by Lucio Maniscalchi and Giambattista Marcucci who previously had several volumes of field recordings issued on the Italian Albatross label . I'm not sure what the Mbirafon label's plans are but I hope they reissue some of the field recordings issued on Albatross as the original LP's have been hard to find.
We also play a selection of country blues both old and new. I have to admit I've never been a huge fan of Buddy Boy Hawkins, a shadowy figure who recorded a dozen sides for Paramount between 1927 and 1929. I've sort of come around to him lately and today's featured track, "Snatch It And Grab It", is a superb ragtime flavored piece. We also spotlight a trio of fine blues ladies in Vera Hall, Lucille Bogan and Memphis Minnie. John Lomax met Vera Hall in the 1930's and recorded her extensively for the Library of Congress between 1937-1940. Lomax wrote that she “had the loveliest voice [he] had ever recorded” and her haunting "Another Man Done Gone" certainly bears that out. Bessie Jackson was a pseudonym of Lucille Bogan, a classic female blues artist from the 20's and 30's. She hooked up with pianist Walter Roland in the 1930's and the pair made more than 100 records together before Bogan stopped recording in 1935. Bogan almost exclusively focused on explicit sexual themes, like prostitution, adultery and lesbianism, and social ills such as alcoholism, drug addiction and abusive relationships. "Coffee Grindin' Blues", with Tampa on slide, is a fine example:
Ain't nobody, it ain't nobody in town can grind their coffee like mine
I drink so much coffee til' I grind it in my sleep
And when it get like that you know it can't be beat
It's so doggone good and it made me bite my tongue
There's not much that hasn't been said about the incomparable Memphis Minnie. Her "Down By The Riverside" from 1941 is one of my favorite numbers by her.
I've written about the George Mitchell recordings recently and we play a set of those recordings today in anticipation of a full length feature in the coming weeks. George Mitchell made some remarkable field recordings throughout the South over a twenty-year period beginning in the early 1960’s. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Several years ago the Fat Possum label acquired the Mitchell archive and began reissuing the recordings. J.W. Warren was the last artist Mitchell recorded in the field and his "The Escape Of Corinna" maybe his masterpiece. More of his fine recordings can be found on Fat Possum's "Life Ain't Worth Livin'." From the 1960's we spotlight two fine, under recorded figures, Houston Stackhouse and Maxwell Jimmy Davis. Never a prolific recording artist, Maxwell Jimmy had sides appear on Takoma, Sonet in the UK and the UK's Bruce Bastin released some live material on his Flyright label. Jimmy’s last major outing was for Austria's Wolf label, Chicago Blues Session Volume 11 issued in 1989. This track is from his only full-length record, Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis, cut for Elektra in 1965 and unfortunately out of print . Stackhouse was a pivotal figure on the southern blues scene from the 1920’s through the 196o’s; he taught his cousin Robert Nighthawk guitar, was a friend of Tommy Johnson, played behind Sonny Boy Williamson on the King Biscuit show and knew just about every important figure you could name. Unfortunately he didn’t record under his own name until the late 1960’s. He first recorded for George Mitchell in August 1967 and six days later for David Evans. He cut scattered sides through the 1970’s until his passing in 1980. For more on Stackhouse I recommend reading his interview in The Voice of The Blues an illuminating insight into the southern blues scene form somebody who seemingly knew everybody.
We play a number of blues from the 1950's through the early 1970's including a cut off the Johnny "Guitar" Watson collection Untouchable!: The Classic 1959-1966 Recordings on Ace. His "In The Evenin'" is a sizzling after hours blues. From the Vee-Jay label we spin a pair from the label's big hit makers, Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker; "I Know It's A Sin" and "Canal Street Blues" are a pair of great moody blues. From 1957 we clock in with Buddy And Ella Johnson's "You'll Get Them Blues." With his sister Ella serving for decades as his primary vocalist, pianist Buddy Johnson led a large jump blues band that enjoyed tremendous success during the 1940s and '50s. In addition to their frequent jaunts on the R&B charts, the Johnson band barnstormed the country to sellout crowds throughout the '40s. This cut from the four discs (104 tracks in all) 1953-1964 on Bear Family overs the sides they cut for Mercury, Roulette, and Old Town. Unfortunately this set appears to be out of print. We also spin some jump, horn driven blues from Gatemouth Brown and Wynonie Harris. We close things out with a pair of funky numbers in Freddie King's infectious "Surf Monkey" instrumental and the timely "I Don't Want To Be President" by the ever philosophical Percy Mayfield:
Now just suppose I had a girlfriend and called her, and she lived way across the lake
Why Congress would know the whole conversation because, you see, they'd have it on tape
Then they put me on the television to tell the whole world my private life
Hell I wouldn't mind if people knowing but what about my wife