Show Notes:

Harmonica Blues

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. We hear many of these players on today's program including DeFord Bailey, George "Bullet" Williams, William McCoy, Alfred Lewis and Sonny Terry. We also feature early harmonica/vocalists like Daddy Stovepipe, Jaybird Coleman and Jazz Gillum. In addition we hear some great accompanists like Rhythm Willie, Robert Cooksey and Blues Birdhead. There were also play tracks by several notable harmonica players who worked in jug bands like Noah Lewis, Jed Davenport and Eddie Mapp. It was John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson who defined the language of modern blues harmonica playing so it's fitting we end with a few of his numbers. Below is some brief background on some of today's performers.

Bobby Leecan (who sang, and played guitar and kazoo) performed in a duo with harmonica player Robert Cooksey. Leecan and Cooksey teamed up for the first time in 1926 to cut sides for Victor, their recording output inhabiting a borderland between blues, vaudeville, and jazz. They are believed to have been based out of Philadelphia. Cooksey first entered the studio in the spring of 1924, when he backed up blues singer Viola McCoy on sessions for Vocalion. That puts him within months of the very first recording of harmonica ever made, the Clara Smith recording "My Doggone Lazy Man," which featured harmonica player Herbert Leonard. The following year, he backed up Sara Martin on Okeh label. It was two years later when he finally teamed up with Leecan.

Johnny Watson, alias Daddy Stovepipe, was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1867 and died in Chicago, in 1963. A veteran of the turn of the century medicine shows, he was in his late fifties when he became one of the first blues harp players to appear on record in 1924. He later recorded with his wife, Mississippi Sarah, in the 1930's and spent his last years as a regular performer on Chicago's famous Maxwell Street, where he made his last recordings.

Deford Bailey
DeFord Bailey

DeFord Bailey cut several records in 1927-1928, all of them harmonica solos. Emblematic of the ambiguity of Bailey's position as a black recording artist is the fact his arguably greatest recording, "John Henry", was released separately in both RCA's 'race' and 'hillbilly' series. Bailey was a pioneer member of the WSM Grand Ole Opry, and one of its most popular performers, appearing on the program from 1927 to 1941. During this period he toured with many major country stars, including Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe, and Roy Acuff. Bailey was fired by WSM in 1941 because of a licensing conflict with BMI-ASCAP which prevented him from playing his best known tunes on the radio. This effectively ended his performance career, and he spent the rest of his life shining shoes, cutting hair, and renting out rooms in his home to make a living. Though he continued to play the harp, he almost never performed publicly. One of his rare appearances occurred in 1974, when he agreed to make one more appearance on the Opry. This became the occasion for the Opry's first annual Old Timers' Show.

Singer and harpist Noah Lewis was a key figure on the Memphis jug band circuit of the 1920's. Upon moving to Memphis, he teamed with Gus Cannon, becoming an essential component of Cannon's Jug Stompers. On a series of sides cut in the first week of October 1929, Lewis made his debut as a name artist, cutting three great harmonica solos as well as "Going to Germany," which spotlighted his fine vocal style. He also cut a few sides under his own name between 1929-30. As the Depression wore on Lewis slipped into obscurity, living a life of extreme poverty; his death on February 7, 1961 was a result of gangrene brought on by frostbite.

As a child, Jaybird Coleman, taught himself how to play harmonica and would perform at parties, both for his family and friends. Coleman served in the Army during World War I and after his discharge moved to the Birmingham, AL area. While he lived in Birmingham, he would perform on street corners and occasionally play with the Birmingham Jug Band. Jaybird made his first recordings in 1927 for Gennett. For the next few years, he simply played on street corners. Coleman cut his final sessions in 1930 on the OKeh label. During the 1930's and 1940's, Coleman played on street corners throughout Alabama. By the end of the 1940's he had disappeared from the blues scene. In 1950 Coleman died of cancer.

Realizing his eyesight would keep him from pursuing a profession in farming, Sonny Terry decided instead to be a blues singer. He began traveling to nearby Raleigh and Durham, performing on street corners for tips. In 1934, he befriended the popular guitarist Blind Boy Fuller. Fuller convinced Terry to move to Durham, where the two immediately gained a strong local following. By 1937, they were offered an opportunity to go to New York and record for the Vocalion label. A year later, Terry would be back in New York taking part in John Hammond's legendary Spirituals to Swing concert. Upon returning to Durham, Terry continued playing regularly with Fuller and also met his future partner, guitarist Brownie McGhee, who would accompany Terry off and on for the next two decades.

Deford Bailey
Sonny Boy Williamson I

John Lee Williamson is regarded as "the first truly virtuosic blues harmonica player", "who brought the harmonica to prominence as a major blues instrument." Generally regarded as the original "Sonny Boy", John Lee Williamson was born in Jackson, Tennessee on March 30, 1914. He hoboed with Yank Rachell and John Estes through Tennessee and Arkansas in the late 1920's and early 1930's. He worked with Sunnyland Slim in Memphis in the early 1930's. John Lee Williamson moved to Chicago in 1934 where he worked Maxwell Street and as a sideman with numerous blues groups at the local clubs. His first recording, made in May of 1937 at the Leland Hotel in Aurora, Illinois for the Bluebird label, is also the first recording of "Good Morning Little School Girl", which has become a much recorded blues classic tune. Bluebird recorded him until 1945 when Victor recorded him into 1947. Williamson worked frequently with Muddy Waters from 1943 and toured with Lazy Bill Lucas through the 1940's. He recorded with Big Joe Williams for the Columbia label in Chicago in 1947. In 1948 upon leaving the Plantation Club in Chicago after playing a gig, he was mugged and beaten. He died of a fractured skull and other injuries on June 1, 1948 and is buried in Jackson, Tennessee.

Jazz Gillum is usually treated with indifference among blues critics, looked upon as a rather generic performer who typified the mainstream Chicago blues style of the 1930's and 40's. While there's some truth to this, Gillum's recordings were consistently entertaining throughout his sixteen year recording career punctuated with a fair number of exceptional sides. Gillum was by no means a harmonica virtuoso – he had a kind of wheezy high-pitched sound – he was certainly no Sonny Boy Williamson I and certainly no "Harmonica King" as he boasts in "Gillum's Windy Blues." Yet he was a very expressive, easygoing singer who penned a number of evocative songs backed by some of the era's best blues musicians. Gillum recorded 100 sides between 1934-49 as a leader in addition to session work with Big Bill Broonzy, Curtis Jones and the State Street Boys.

Throughout the show we also play a number of little recorded, shadowy figures such as George "Bullet" Williams, William McCoy, Alfred Lewis, Blues Birdhead, Ollis Martin and Eddie Mapp. George "Bullet" Williams was originally from Alabama. He cut one session for paramount in 1928. Ollis Martin cut one side in 1927 for Gennet. He was active around the Birmingham area in the latter part of that decade, also showing up on two gospel sides the same year by Jaybird Coleman. Blues Birdhead's real was James Simons who cut one 78 for Okeh in 1929. Alfred Lewis cut one issued 78 in 1930 for Okeh.


A;ice MooreBefore World War II St. Louis was a thriving blues town. Henry Townsend, who was an integral part of  the St. Louis blues scene during its formative years, had this to say: "It was a whole lotta fun. You didn't find a dead place in town. Sometimes we'd just get together as a group and just do jamming, you know. Sometimes the jam sessions would last four or five hours. Henry Brown would show up, Peetie Wheatstraw, Robert Johnson was there for a while, and of course Robert Nighthawk, Big Joe Williams, and my main man, Sonny Boy. St. Louis was a hot town for blues in those days, just like Chicago." Likely encouraged by the discovery of Lonnie Johnson in 1925 the record companies began to focus on St. Louis artists and by 1930 most of the artists of consequence had made their recording debuts. Artists such as Lonnie Johnson, Peetie Wheatstraw, Roosevelt Sykes and Walter Davis went on to enjoy prolific recording careers while the majority are little remembered today, just names on dusty records. St. Louis also boasted some superb woman singers like Bessie Mae Smith, Mary Johnson, Edith North Johnson and one of the city's best, Alice Moore.

Little Alice, as she was known, achieved a measure of success with her first record, "Black And Evil Blues" cut at her first session 1929 with three subsequent versions cut during the 1930's. In all she cut thirty-six sides: Two sessions for Paramount in 1929 and nine sessions (the final one went unissued) for Decca between 1934 and 1937. The recording gap was likely due to the depression. Moore possessed a penetrating, pinched nasal tone and tendency to elongate certain words that added to the somber intensity of her songs which were almost always taken at a funeral pace. Mike Stewart and Don Kent described her style this way: "Her singing style, with its particular stresses, and choppy, exclaimed phrasing, was not especially unusual. No one, however, converted it to quite such a mannerism." She had the good fortune to record with the city's best musicians including pianists Henry Brown, Peetie Wheatstraw, Jimmie Gordon, possibly Roosevelt Sykes as well as guitarists Lonnie Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and trombonist Ike Rodgers. On record Moore sang mostly hard bitten tales of no good, dangerous men and desperate love in bleak songs like "Lonesome Women Blues", "S.O.S. Blues (Distress Blues)" "Midnight Creepers" and "Too Many Men." Prison and prostitution are recurring themes in songs such as "Prison Blues", "Cold Iron Walls", "Serving Time Blues" and "Broadway St. Woman Blues." On record Moore creates a persona of a vulnerable, good woman at the mercy of a cruel world and predatory, indifferent men while at other times she displays the harder shell of a jaded, good-time woman. She sang with conviction, often addressing woman listeners with pointed advice, frequently punctuating her songs with spoken asides and speaking directly to her accompanists.

Little is known of Moore's background and what is known comes from her arrest files and the recollections of her contemporaries. In fact a photograph of her was published for the first time just recently having been discovered in a 1934 Decca catalog with the caption "Alice Moore, Little Alice From St. Louis." According to Bill Greensmith: "In March 1925 Alice was arrested twice. The first occasion was on 7 March for 'suspicion of gambling.' She gave her address as 2016 Walnut Street, her age as twenty-one, and her birthplace as Tennessee. …She was arrested again on 27 March, although instead of being charged she was sent to the 'Health Department.' Alice was living at 2118 Randolph Street when on 19 September 1926 she was arrested and charged with 'disturbing the peace.'" Henry Townsend told Paul Oliver in 1960: "She was a real nice girl. She was real devoted to her blues singing. From my point of it she was pretty well a nice mixer with the public and a fairly intelligent girl. They used to call her Little Alice – well she was quite small I think at the time they adopted the name to her as Little Alice, but later I think she defeated that name, by getting quite some size – she got extra size before she died about ten or twelve years ago. Henry Brown has played for Alice Moore, for a fact I think he started her out, and she was a devoted blues singer." In 1986 Townsend told Bill Greensmith: "I remember Alice Moore. She was a beautiful person, a kind-hearted person. She was a very nice looking black gal. She was almost what you would call a pretty girl. She had a beautiful smooth skin like velvet. I think that had a lot to do with her death too. It sounds kinda off the wall, but sometimes a lot of things are against a person that don't have an understanding about how to handle it. I think it contributed to her living a little fast. Alice Moore, Ike Rodgers, and Henry Brown was a trio. I never worked with them, but I was around them quite a bit. …Alice seemed to be slightly my senior, but not by no big difference. But from maturity, she seemed to be a little more mature than I was. Her 'Black And Evil' was a hit right away, that first one. She was a pretty black woman ain't no doubt about that but the evil part, she wasn't evil, I don't think. But I never was her man, and that's the only way you're ever going to find that out. She may have been, but she never did show it on the surface; she always showed kindness, everybody like her. I don't know how Alice died or why. It appears to me like I would have heard about it or somebody would have said something about it, as many people that knew her and me. I'm inclined to believe that whenever she died, it was one of the times that I was away for some reason. A lot of the stuff Alice recorded Henry Brown worked with her, but Jimmy Gordon played piano on one of her sessions." In 1960 Henry Brown recalled those days: "Henry Townsend played guitar and Little Alice sang. We'd play joints on Franklin … Delmar …Easton … spots in East St. Louis  – like the Blue Flame Club."

Moore's first four sessions feature complimentary backing from Henry Brown and trombonist Ike Rodgers. Rodgers played rough "gutbucket" trombone, using a variety of tin cans, liquor glasses and other mutes of his own devising. Before moving to Decca in 1934 Moore cut ten songs at two sessions for Paramount in August, 1929 and possibly November of that year. "Black And Evil Blues" was a hit from this session, a dark song underscored by Rodgers' mournful trombone that would set the tone for many subsequent songs. The song was covered by Lil Johnson in 1936 and Leroy Ervin in 1937. Paul Oliver had this to say about the number: "At times the characteristics of African racial features and color have an ominous significance in the blues, which may hint that they are indirectly related to social problems. So the state of being 'blue' is associated with alienation, and is linked with an 'evil mind' or an inclination to violence. Both are coupled with the inescapable condition of being black. …That her hearers identified  with her theme was evident in the popularity of the blues, which she made four times in different versions."

I'm black and I'm evil, and I did not make myself (2x)
If my man don't have me, he won't have nobody else
I've got to buy me a bulldog, he'll watch me while I sleep
Because I'm so black and evil, that I might make a midnight creep
I believe to my soul, the Lord  has got a curse on me
Because every man I get, a no good woman steals him from me

Notable form these first two sessions are four songs dealing with prison, a place Moore, as mentioned above, knew well: "Prison Blues", "Cold Iron Walls", "Serving Time Blues" and "Broadway St. Woman Blues."  In "Prison Blues" she sings:

The judge he sentenced me, and the clerk he wrote it down (2x)
My man said I'm sorry for you babe, that you are county farm bound
Six months in jail, and a month on the county farm (2x)
If my man had a been any good, he would have went my bond

She offers some pointed advice in "Cold Iron Walls:"

My friends, my friends you let this world of crime alone (2x)
For crime my friends, will keep you from your happy home
My baby, law outnumbers you, a thousand to one
And when he gets you, pay for the crime that you have done
When I was in my crime, they's as nice as they can be
And now I am in trouble, they have gone back on me
Spoken: Oh blow these blues for me. Nobody know the way I feel. Everybody take my advice.

She sings of overt violence in "Serving Time Blues:"

I laid in jail, oh baby, the whole night long (2x)
I cut my man, because he would not come back home
I told the sergeant, that he could take me to jail
Because that (?) doggone good man, to come and go my bail

The judge he slammed the door, said poor girl then rolled his eyes (2x)
And now little girl, you got to serve your time
Six bits ain't no dollar, six months ain't no great long time
I am going to the workhouse, baby just to serve my time

There's an allusion to prostitution in "Broadway St. Woman Blues" which is reinforced by the St. Louis police files and the observations of Henry Townsend:

I was standing on a corner, just between Broadway and Main (2x)
And a cop walked up, and he asked poor me my name
I told the cop, my name was written on my (?)
And I'm a good-time woman, and I sure don't have to (?)
He said I'll take you to the jail, and see what he will do (2x)
He may give you five years, and he may take pity on you
He took me to the jail, with my head hanging low
And the judge said hold your head up, for you are bound to go

"Loving Heart Blues" from her second session is another harsh number that may also allude to prostitution:

Oh Lord if you ever, please make my babe understand (2x)
Understand that I love him, do anything for him I can
I would pawn my clothes for him, walk the street the whole night long
And I would steal for him, although I know it's wrong
This world can be cruel babe, cruel as cruel can be

Guido Van Rijn notes that "on 17 November 1930 Alice probably recorded for Victor under the pseudonym Alice Melvin. Although these four songs remain unissued, two of the titles, ‘Lonesome Woman Blues' and 'Trouble Blues' were to be recorded by Alice Moore on 24 August 1934." Moore cut two songs apiece at her first Decca sessions in1934, cut six days apart. The records are listed as "Little Alice From St. Louis."  "Black Evil Blues" was a remake of her popular number while "Riverside Blues" features some lovely imagery and is lyrically unlike anything else she recorded. There is no trombone on this song, instead featuring the violin of Artie Mosby a St. Louis violinist of the 1920's and 30's. Guido Van Rijn suggests that he may have been classically trained. Moore's singing is also different, less nasal and more gritty as she sings:

And it's water, water, water, water rolls everywhere (2x)
I can catch this water, but sure can't catch my man
I see a moon in this river, and a moon shining up above
But I don't like the moonlight, without the one I love
And I wish I could swim, Little Alice could only float
I would jump in the river, and swim down to his boat

And I'm sitting by a river, taking off both of my shoes (2x)
Want to jump in this river, and get rid of these riverside blues

On "Trouble Blues" she's sassy and assertive despite her troubles as she sings:

Spoken: Now let me tell you about me
Now it's Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice Moore is my real right name
All the men like Little Alice, just because she can boot that thing




Show Notes:

On the last mix show we spotlighted recordings by the recently passed Lula Reed and this week starts on a similarly somber tone as we spin sides by the recently departed Chuck Carbo. R&B singer Chuck Carbo passed away on July 11th after a lengthy battle with cancer. I first became acquainted with Carbo with the two excellent comeback records he cut for Rounder: Drawers Trouble (1993) and The Barber's Blues (1996). I recall these records getting quite a bit of play on my radio program at the time. I soon tracked down his early recordings with the Spiders, a fabulous New Orleans vocal group who had a string of R&B hits in the 1950's, led by Carbo and his brother Chick. Just about all these sides can be found on Bear Family's 2-CD The Imperial Sessions. After the Spiders Carbo cut a number of 45's, only a few that I'm familiar with, and Just Got To Know 45returned to music after a long absence. We open today with a trio of great sides by Carbo and the Spiders and conclude the show with a track by Carbo fronting The Clowns and a 45 he cut under his own name.

We have a couple of twin spins on today's program with sides by Jimmy McCracklin and Big Joe Turner. In his heyday, from the late 1940's through the 1960's, he led one of the toughest, hardest rocking blues bands on the West Coast. He was a prolific and witty composer, a fine singer/pianist and was a real pioneer in defining the soul-blues style made so popular by Little Milton, Bobby Bland and others. With a pair of excellent records in the 1990's for Bullseye he achieved some wider exposure although during his hit making days he remained something of a neglected figure with a stature that seems to have always been higher in the black community. At 87, McCracklin is still active and I was thrilled to get a chance to see him at this year's Pocono Blues Festival. We go back to 1947 to hear Big Joe Turner teaming up with Wynonie Harris on "Blues" as Wynonie has this to say to Big Joe: "Yes the girl that used to sleep with you, Joe Turner she's sleeping with Mr. Blues now." This is one of four songs Turner and Harris recorded together for Imperial in 1947. We jump ahead a few years to hear Big Joe's "Sweet Sixteen" from 1952.

On today's show we spotlight recordings from two recent releases: Blues Images Presents Vol. 6 and And This Free. Blues Images Presents Vol. 6 is the companion CD to the latest blues calendar put out by record collector John Tefteller. Several years back Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously. The depression essentially killed off Paramount's advertising budget so many of these images were never sent out and hence have not been seen by anyone since they were first produced. Tefteller has been making these gorgeous ads available in his Night & Day BluesClassic Blues Artwork Calendar since 2004 and the 2009 version has just been printed. The accompanying CD is a collection of songs that match the artwork. For pre-war blues fans these CD's are eagerly anticipated as that always include some newly discovered sides. This year is no exception with newly discovered titles by Blind Blake, Ben Curry and two test recordings of the Paramount All Star's "Home Town Skiffle." The Blind Blake sides were discovered in 2007 and I'm very glad to be able to play "Night And Day Blues" a very nice laid back number sporting some fine guitar solos. We also play one of the "Home Town Skiffle" tests which was a group consisting of The Hokum Boys, Georgia Tom, Will Ezell, Blind Blake, Charlie Spand and Papa Charlie Jackson. This was made as a sampler to advertise Paramount artists. It was thought Blind Lemon Jefferson was on this but he is clearly not after listening closely to these test recordings.

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. 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. Form the CD we play Blind Percy & His Blind Band's "Fourteenth Street Blues" which is supposedly a pseudonym for Blind Taggart who recorded primarily gospel material.

Southside Blues JamThe most recent song on today's show is Junior Wells' "Trouble Don't Last Always" cut circa 1969/1970. The song comes from Southside Blues Jam which is easily one of Wells' best records from this era featuring longtime partner Buddy Guy along with Otis Spann. Spann's rumbling, two-fisted piano adds much to this date and is his last studio recording before his untimely death in April 1970. Fittingly the album is dedicated to Spann.

Among the other early blues we spin are fine sides by Bayless Rose, Blind Willie McTell, Leroy Carr, Little Brother Montgomery, J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith plus blues ladies Victoria Spivey and Merline Johnson. The mysterious Bayless Rose recorded 3 sides in 1930 plus several unissued sides and there's some dispute if Rose is a white or black performer. "Frisco Blues" is a gorgeous instrumental sporting some amazing quick fingered playing and crystal clear, fluid tone. I've played Little Brother often on the show and today's selection, "No Special Rider Blues", was cut in 1960 but is a reprise of a song he cut at his very first session for Paramount back in 1930. This version comes from the Bluesville album Tasty Blues, one of his finest records and featuring the wonderful guitar of Lafayette Thomas. Montgomery also shows up on another song we play, "Ethel Bea", by Little Son Joe which also features Joe's wife, Memphis Minnie. Speaking of piano blues we play Leroy Carr's timeless "Midnight Hour Blues." Little is known about Merline Johnson who was one of the most prolific female blues artists of the 1930's. She recorded over 70 sides between 1937 and 1941and on our selection, "He May Be Your Man" she's ably supported by Blind John Davis and Lonnie Johnson. I've been listening quite a bit to J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith who cut twenty issued sides between 1930 and 1931. He was a superb singer/guitarist and a marvelous lyricist as he shows on the salacious "Hoppin' Toad Frog:"

I'm harmless as I can be, I stays out of all peoples way (2x)
I'm just a little old toad, I'm gonna hop back to my home someday

I'll hop down in your basement, don't mean to harm a single soul (2x)
I'll shake all of your ashes, then shovel you in some brand new coal

I don't have no friend, by myself I'm always on the road (2x)
Just let me hop for you one time mama and you'll keep me for your little old toad

Mama would you let a poor little old toad frog hop down in your water pond (2x)
I'll dive down and come right out and I won't stay in your water long

I ain't no bottle stopper, I ain't no police copper, I ain't no cradle rocker, you know I ain't the baby's papa
But I know for my self, in your front yard is where I get my load
Well you talk you like my hoppin', why don't you keep me for your little toad

Mama do you know one thing, your water tank is just deep enough (2x)
I can dive down to the bottom, take my time and then tread right back up


Blues Calendar

In this digital age with instant access to just about any song in crystal clear sound it's hard to convey to the uninitiated the lure of old, crackly 78's or the attraction to ancient record ephemera. For those of us fascinated with anything related to the vintage blues of the 1920's and 1930's, for those of us who think the blues industry went into decline after the 1930's, we owe debt to record collector John Tefteller. Every year around this time Tefteller, through his Blues Images imprint, publishes his Classic Blues Artwork Calendar with a companion CD that matches the artwork with the songs. The CD's have also been one of the main places that newly discovered blues 78's turn up. Several years ago Tefteller uncovered a huge cache of Paramount promotional material. Paramount marketed their "race records", as they were called, to African-Americans, most notably in the pages of the Chicago Defender, the weekly African-American newspaper, and sent promotional material to record stores and distributors. Tefteller bought a huge cache of this artwork from a pair of journalists who rescued them from the rubbish heap some twenty years previously. The depression essentially killed off Paramount's advertising budget so many of these images were never sent out and hence have not been seen by anyone since they were first produced. Tefteller's annual calendars have been the main vehicle for reprinting these gorgeous ads. As in previous years the 2009 version and accompanying CD will be a revelation for fans of old time blues.

Night & Day BluesAs writer Elijah Wald summarizes: "For roughly ten years, from the dawn of the blues recording boom in 1920 until the Depression temporarily destroyed the ‘race record’ industry, blues was the most popular music in black America, and the Chicago Defender was the principle venue for record advertisements aimed at African American consumers." Where the earlier reproductions of these ads were taken from adverts in the Chicago Defender newspaper, Tefteller's are copied from distribution posters. They are large reproductions and they have been beautifully reproduced with stunning clarity with each month featuring a large sized ad. The ads are lurid, sensational, politically incorrect and often bear a striking disconnect to the actual subject of the record. This year we are treated to the following full page reproductions: Blind Blake ("Night & Day Blues"), Kokomo Arnold ("Milk Cow Blues"), Charley Patton ("Shake It And Break It") [Patton's named is spelled Charley, the way he would have spelled it. According to Tefteller: "Final proof of this occurred in 2008 when Bernard MacMahon found Patton's original handwritten military draft papers for World War I where Mr. Patton clearly signs his name 'Charley'."], Skip James ("Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader"), Paramount All Stars ("Home Town Skiffle"), Buddy Boy Hawkins ("Jailhouse Fire Blues"), Blind Lemon Jefferson ("Worried Blues") [this is listed in the discographies as "Lemon's Worried Blues"], Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie ("Cherry Ball Blues"), Ida Cox ("Graveyard Dream Blues"), Elgar's Creole Orchestra ("Nightmare") [the cover illustration and Robert Crumb's favorite record related graphic], Rev. Emmett Dickenson ("The Death Of Blind Lemon") and Rev. A.W. Nix ("Death May Be Your Christmas Present"). Many of the illustrations include an actual photo of the artist. In addition we get some smaller ads included on each calendar page that, despite the small size, are just as crisp and readable as the larger images. The usual anniversary dates for Christmas, Easter are listed plus anniversaries for blues singers like Son House and other luminaries such as Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass. Brief artist biographies are included and there is an informative introduction from Tefteller where he gives the providence of the newly discovered records.

The calendar includes an eighteen track CD, the first twelve songs matching the artwork on each page of the calendar. As we've come to expect, the CD delivers several long lost records though to be gone forever. Earlier this year word made the rounds that one of two missing Blind Blake 78’s (Paramount 13123) had been discovered. "Night And Day Blues" b/w "Sun To Sun" was discovered in 2007 when it was retrieved from an old steamer trunk in a trailer park in Raleigh, NC, and acquired by Old Hat Records. Both records are included, which stem from Blake's second to last session in 1932. Many have commented that Blake's skills deteriorated after 1930 but certainly "Night And Day Blues" belies that perceived wisdom. It's a marvelous slow-tempo number with nice vocal punctuated with a few fast paced, sprightly solos. "Sun To Sun" is a mournful number not nearly as notable as the flip side. In addition to the Blind Blake are two newly discovered sides by Ben Curry (Paramount 13122, the record Paramount released right before Home Town Skifflethe Blake). "Hot Dog" b/w "The Laffing Rag" was uncovered in February 2008 in a small stack of beat-up 78's in Missouri. I've never been a huge fan of Curry who's music seems to harks back to the minstrel era, except for the hilarious "Adam And Eve In The Garden." Proving that not every lost record is a classic, Curry's pairing are raucous and primitive as he flails away on banjo and toots away on harmonica. If anything they did bring a smile to my face – or was that a grimace!? Also previously unreleased are two test pressings of "Home Town Skiffle" a super group of Paramount's biggest selling artists including Charley Spand, Will Ezell, The Hokum Boys, Papa Charlie Jackson and Blind Blake. According to Tefteller: "Paramount, however, told a lie on this one – claiming on both the record label and the ad that Blind Lemon Jefferson appears on this record. Not true! Collectors long suspected that Blind Blake simply imitates Jefferson's guitar licks and they are correct! Newly discovered test pressings of other takes of the song reveal this. We include one of those complete tests on this year's CD so you can clearly hear for yourself that Jefferson was not in the room for these sessions." Considering the rarity of these recordings, Richard Nevis of Yazoo fame has done and an excellent job remastering these ancient sides.

All in all a beautiful, unique and thoughtfully produced collectable that will bring pleasure to blues collectors year round. Tefteller noted a couple of years back that he was "knee-deep in production of what will be the ultimate book of original Blues advertising material" which apparently is still in the works as Tefteller notes: "Blues Images is indeed going to publish a book with all existing artwork which Mr. Crumb is going to assist with. We are simply waiting for him to finish his current project. Stay tuned!!!"

Blind Blake – Night & Day Blues (MP3)

Paramount All Stars – Home Town Skiffle – Test (MP3)



Show Notes:

Today's feature is on two of the greatest post-war harmonica players: Big Walter Horton also known as Shakey Horton and Little Walter. By most accounts Little Walter was given pointers by Big Walter when he was a teenager in Helena, Arkansas. Little Walter went on to greater fame playing with Muddy Waters and soon after cutting his own celebrated records. Horton isn't as widely known as his fellow Chicago blues pioneers Little Walter or Sonny Boy Williamson II, due mostly to the fact that, as a rather shy, quiet individual, he never had much taste for leading his own bands or recording sessions.

EasyHorton was born in Horn Lake, Mississippi, in 1918. Horton got his first harmonica from his father when he five, and won a local talent contest with it. Shortly thereafter his mother moved to Memphis, then a hotbed of blues, and according to blues researcher Samuel Charters, Horton was playing with the Memphis Jug Band by the time he was nine or ten. He also may have recorded with them in 1927 as he himself claimed but many researchers doubt this assertion. During the thirties he played with Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards, and others, and later gave pointers to both Little Walter and Rice Miller. His first verifiable sides were done in 1939 backing guitarist Charlie "Little Buddy" Doyle on sessions for Columbia. Around the same time (according to Horton himself), he began to experiment with amplifying his harmonica, which if accurate may have made him the first to do so. In the late forties he went to Chicago, but later returned to Memphis to record for Modern/RPM and Sun. Of these sessions, the 1953 instrumental "Easy", based on Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind", became a hit. He also backed artists such as Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix and others.

Following the success of "Easy," Horton went back to Chicago to play with Eddie Taylor. But when Junior Wells got drafted, Horton took his place in Muddy Waters' band. It didn't last long, though-Horton showed up drunk at a rehearsal and Muddy fired him. We play one of those tracks, "My Life Is Ruined", and then one track when he reunited with Muddy on the 1977 record "I'm Ready." Around the same time he cut a memorable session backing Tampa Red, delivering a tremendous solo on "Rambler's Blue."

Big Walter cut his best work as a sideman. Always described as shy and nervous, he preferred this role to that of a bandleader. His playing graces numerous records behind Johnny Shines, Johnny Young, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, and others. He also taught a number of younger players, including Charlie Musselwhite and Carey Bell. In 1964, Horton recorded his first full-length album, The Soul of Blues Harmonica, for Chess subsidiary Argo; it was produced by Dixon and featured Buddy Guy aCan't Keep Lovin' Yous a sideman, though it didn't completely capture Horton at his best. Two years later, Horton contributed several cuts to Vanguard's classic compilation Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 3, which did much to establish his name on a blues circuit that was thriving anew thanks to an interest from white audiences.

Horton became a regular on Willie Dixon's Blues All Stars package tours during the 70's, which made their way through America and Europe over the '60s and '70s. He also played the American Folk Blues Festival in 1965. In 1973 he cut an album with Carey Bell for Alligator. After that he became a mainstay on the festival circuit, and often played at the open-air market on Chicago's legendary Maxwell Street, along with many other bluesman. In 1977, he joined Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters on Winter's album I'm Ready, and during the same period recorded some material for Blind Pig, which later found release as the albums Fine Cuts and Can't Keep Lovin' You. Horton appeared in the Maxwell Street scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, accompanying John Lee Hooker. He died of heart failure on December 8, 1981, and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame the following year.

Marion "Little Walter" Jacobs is widely considered the greatest blues harmonica player ever. He was born in Marksville, Louisiana in 1930. He took up the harmonica as a child, at first playing polkas and waltzes, and by the time he was 12 he was on his own, working the sidewalks and bars of New Orleans with his instrument. He had also discovered the music of John Lee Williamson, and modeled his early blues style on that of Williamson's. When he was fourteen he drifted to Helena, Arkansas, and came under the influence of Rice Miller, who along with Walter Horton, gave him pointers on the harp. The following year, Little Walter's evolution beyond traditional folk-blues began when he started to listen to the records of jump saxophonist Louis Jordan and learn his solos note for note on harmonica.

Little WalterIn 1947 Little Walter arrived in Chicago with Honeyboy Edwards, and became a part of the fabled Maxwell Street scene that at one time or another included almost every postwar Chicago blues luminary. He first recorded that year behind singer Othum Brown on the Ora Nelle label, and also began playing in a trio with Jimmy Rogers and Muddy Waters, whom he had met on Maxwell Street. He debuted on wax that same year for the tiny Ora-Nelle logo ("I Just Keep Loving Her") in the company of Jimmy Rogers and guitarist Othum Brown. Along with Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers and Baby Face Leroy Foster, they became informally known as the Headhunters. They would stroll into South side clubs, mount the stage, and proceed to calmly "cut the heads" of whomever was booked there that evening. Little Walter began recording in 1950 with Muddy, first on the Parkway label, and then for Chess, the label he was to stay with for the rest of his short life. With Waters's "Long Distance Call," Walter became the first to record amplified harmonica.

On May 12, 1952, Little Walter recorded an instrumental under his own name that the Muddy Waters band had been using to close sets with. "Juke," with its fat, amplified tone and sax-like phrases, was released under Little Walter's own name and became a huge hit. Following its success, he left Waters' band to form his own group, but continued to record with Muddy.

From 1952 to 1958, Walter notched 14 Top Ten R&B hits, including "Sad Hours," "Mean Old World," "Tell Me Mama," "Off the Wall," "Blues with a Feeling," "You're So Fine," "You Better Watch Yourself," "Last Night," and "My Babe" among others.

In 1964 he toured Europe with the Rolling Stones, but substance abuse and his hot temper still plagued him. "Little Walter was dead ten years before he died," Muddy Waters said. At gigs, as well as offstage, he would sometimes wave a pistol or two around, and had trouble keeping a band together. Photos taken towards the end of his life show a scarred, haggard man looking closer to 55 than 35. On February 14th, 1968, Walter Jacobs died of injuries sustained in a Chicago street fight. He was only 37 years old


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