We open our latest mix show with a quartet of songs revolving around the Chatmon brothers including numbers by Bo Carter, Mississippi Blacksnakes, The Mississippi Sheiks and Sam Chatmon. One of the most popular bluesmen of the '30's, Bo Carter cut over a hundred sides between 1928 and 1940. Bo and his brothers Lonnie and Sam Chatmon also recorded as members of the Mississippi Sheiks with singer/guitarist Walter Vinson. Bo died in 1964 but Sam hung in long enough to take advantage of the blues revival, recording prolifically in the 1960's and 70's. Unfortunately most all of the LP's he cut seem to be out-of-print. Today's selection, "Hollandale Blues", is from the 1979 Rounder album, Sam Chatmon's Advice. The Mississippi Blacksnakes cut ten songs over three sessions in 1931for Brunswick with the likley personal of Bo and Sam Chatmon, Charlie McCoy with Walter Vinscon only on the first session.
Moving up to the 1960's and 70's we spin some great records by some lesser known players including Luke "Long Gone" Miles, Lum Guffin, Frank Hovington and John Lee Ziegler. Luke Miles was born in Louisiana in 1925 and moved to Houston in 1952. In the liner notes to his only full length LP Country Born (World Pacific, 1965) he said: "I went to Houston for one reason. I went to see Lightnin' Hopkins. That's what I went for and that's what I did. Lightnin' Hopkins taught me just about everything about blues singing. The first time I ever sang in front of an audience was in 1952 with Lightnin'. The first day I met Lightnin' he named me "Long Gone" …and I've been Long Gone Miles ever since." By 1961 Miles was in Los Angles were he cut some 45's for Smash. After the World Pacific LP he cut singles for Two Kings in 1965, Kent in 1969 before supposedly leaving L.A. in 1970. Our selection comes from the LP Country Boy (Sundown, 1984) which is a collection of mostly unreleased sides from 1961 and 1962. Just recently a liver CD of of Miles surfaced from 1985 titled Riding Around In My V8 Ford Live in Venice, California. He died in 1987. Unfortunately just about all of Miles' recordings remain out of print.
The other gentleman were recorded in the 1970's, an extension you could say of the 1960's blues revival that swept up many fine bluesman who never got the opportunity to record in their younger days. Lum Guffin was first recorded in the 1970's by Swedish researcher Bengt Olsson when he was 70 and again in 1980 by Axel Kunster for the Living Country Blues series. The LP Walking Victrola was his sole record, released on the Flyright label in 1973. Some of these recordings appear on the CD On The Road Again. Frank Hovington was an exceptional guitarist in the Piedmont tradition who was reluctant to record but made some superb recordings in 1975 released (issued on the LP Lonesome Road Blues first on Flyright and then on Rounder with additional tracks on the CD Gone With The Wind) and 1980 for the Living Country Blues series. Ziegler passed away May of last year. He cut just a handful of recordings, the best recorded by George Mitchell in the late 1970's plus some sides made in the 1990's and issued on the Music Maker label.
We play a twin spin by John Lee Hooker from his Bluesway years. Hooker cut several albums for Bluesway in the 1960's including: Live At Cafe Au-Go-Go (1966), Urban Blues (1967), Simply The Truth (1968), If You Miss 'Im… I Got 'Im (1970)and Kabuki Wuki (1973). Our selections come from Simply The Truth and the excellent Urban Blues featuring Hooker in the company of sidemen like Eddie Taylor, Wayne Bennett, and Louis Myers. Bluesway has been ill served reissue wise, with only a handful of releases issued on CD, usually by labels other than the parent company MCA, and in many cases these CD's themselves are out of print. I'll be doing a show on the label in the near future. Urban Blues was issued on CD in 1994 by BGO with three bonus cuts. One of those bonus cut is the stomping "I Gotta Go To Vietnam" featuring some wild wah wah guitar from Hooker's cousin Earl Hooker. The "The Motor City Is Burning" is a harrowing account of the 1967 Detroit riots. The flash point began at a drinking joint at Twelfth Street and Clairmount Avenue and quickly spread out. Looting and fires spread through the Northwest side of Detroit, then crossed over to the East Side. Within 48 hours, the National Guard was mobilized, to be followed by the 82nd airborne on the riot’s fourth day. As police and military troops sought to regain control of the city, violence escalated. At the conclusion of 5 days of rioting, 43 people lay dead, 1189 injured and over 7000 people had been arrested. Hooker gives a vivid account of the action:
Ohhh the Motor City is burning, ain't a thing in the world that I can do
Don't you know, don't you know the big D is burning
Ain't a thing in the world that Johnny can do
My hometown is burning down to the ground, worster than Vietnam
Well it started on Twelfth Street and Clairmount this morning, I just don't know what it's all about (2x)
The fire wagon kept coming, the snipers just wouldn't let them put it out
Firebombs bursting all around me, soldiers standing everywhere (2x)
I could hear the people screaming, sirens filled the air
Also on deck today are some prime 1940's Chicago blues by Sonny Boy Williamson I, Yank Rachel, Washboard Sam and Doctor Clayton. At the time of his untimely death in 1948 at the age of 34, Sonny Boy was still at his creative peak as she proves on "Sugar Gal" from 1947, a storming update of his classic "Sugar Mama Blues" with a some killer electric guitar from William Lacey. Rachel's "Up North Blues (There's A Reason)" from 194 sports some wonderful playing by Sonny Boy and is just one of a batch of sides they cut together between 1938 and 1941. Also on that track is the prolific Washboard Sam who is also heard on his "My Feet Jumped Salty" featuring some stunning amplified guitar from Big Bill Broonzy. Both Sonny Boy I and Washboard Sam will be featured in upcoming programs. Nearly 50 years after his untimely death the exceptional singer and masterful songwriter known as Doctor Clayton is little spoken of today. 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. Despite the high esteem he was held in by fellow blues artists and his popularity during his lifetime Clayton's fine blues recordings remain largely ignored. "Watch Out Mama" is a fine example of his songwriting, filled with a dash of violence and humor:
You clown when you get ready, stay out late as you please
Come home drunk and staggering, and weak in your knees
But watch out momma, Doctor Clayton gonna sneak up on you
Yes, I'm gonna whip your nappy head, just as soon as I find you
As usual we spin some fine piano records including tracks by Big Maceo, Sammy Price and Robert McCoy. Alongside his protege Johnnie Jones and later Otis Spann, Big Maceo is among the greatest Chicago piano men. During the 1940's he worked with Tampa Red and the duo made some magnifecnt sides including our selection, the romping "Texas Stomp." Sammy Price fine boogie woogie playing is heard backing Nora Lee King on "Cannon Ball" her uptown rendition of Cow Cow Davenport's immortal "Cow Cow Blues." King cut a dozen sides between 1941and 1944 before fading into obscurity. Alabama barrelhouse pianist Robert McCoy had two rare LPs in the early 1960's on the Vulcan label. A few years back Delmark acquired the masters and reissued the material on CD for the first time with many previously unissued tracks. Unfortunatley no tracks from his second Vulcan album have been included. These were his first recordings as leader although he recorded in the 1930's accompanying Guitar Slim, Jaybird Coleman and Peanut The Kidnapper. McCoy was part of the fertile Birmingham piano tradition, learning piano from Cow Cow Davenport and Jabbo Williams.