Lots of country blues on deck for today's mix show. I've been re-listening to Tommy Johnson quite a bit lately and thinking about his influence. For a musician who cut just a handful of sides in 1928 and 1929 he was vastly influential. While his initial records sold well his influence stems mainly from those who learned directly from Johnson. David Evans began researching Johnson in the 1960’s, discovering many musicians who still performed Johnson’s songs and made field recordings of many of them during this period. He also wrote the excellent Tommy Johnson in 1971 which I've recently reread. Roosevelt Holts and Shirley Griffith both knew and learned songs from Tommy Johnson when they were living in Mississippi but didn’t record until the 1960’s. Holts cut records for Blues Horizon and Arhoolie and Griffith cut records for Bluesville and Blue Goose – all out of print. Jim Brewer moved to Chicago from Mississippi and became a street musician mainly playing on Maxwell Street. He appears on various anthologies and cut two records for Philo and Earwig – both out of print. We play Brewer's version of "Big Road Blues" which is one of the best versions I've ever heard. We also play one of Johnson's classics, "Cool Drink of Water Blues", and "Trouble Hearted Blues" by Johnson's close friend Ishman Bracey.
There's a bunch more country blues including classics like "Delta Blues" by Son House recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1941. Willie Brown was also recorded during this session backing House and cutting "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor." In addition to performing alongside Robert Johnson and Son House he appeared on many of the seminal sides cut by Charlie Patton between 1929 and 1934, including a legendary 1930 Paramount label session which also yielded two of the three existing Brown solo cuts, "M & O Blues" and "Future Blues." Brown may or may not be the artist who cut one 78 as Kid Bailey in 1929. The debate will likely never be settled but it certainly sounds like Brown to my ears. Regardless, "Rowdy Blues", is a magnificent tune. Moving up to Memphis we opened the show with "Going To Germany"by Cannon's Jug Stompers. This is one of my favorite songs by the group spotlighting the terrific harmonica and singing of Noah Lewis.
We also feature some great more modern guitarists, relativity speaking, including Eddie Taylor and Earl Hooker. Both men had the ability to sound just like Robert Nighthawk when they chose to and Taylor does just that on the sizzling "The Moon Is Rising" featuring Kansas Red on vocals and drums. Red drummed and sang with Nighthawk in the 1940's and he likely learned the song from Nighthawk during this period who in turn picked up the song from Ivory Joe Hunter's 1945 hit "Blues At Sunrise." Hooker also picked up plenty from Nighthawk but sounds like his own man on the infectious instrumental "The Leading Brand." Son Seals heard Nighthawk when he played at his father's Dipsy Doodle Club in Arkansas although he was more influenced by local hero Albert King. Here we close the show with "Going Back Home" off 1977's Midnight Son my favorite album by Seals.
As usual we play a number of out of print records. In the early 1970's Sunnyland Slim cut the fine, albeit oddly titled, "Plays The Ragtime Blues" for Bluesway backed by Carey Bell and the Aces. Like a good chunk of the Bluesway catalog this fine date remains unavailable on CD. Also on Bluesway, and yes out of print, is Johnny Young's "I Can't Keep My Foot From Jumping." This is an all mandolin outing for Young and I really think one of his finest sessions. Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Spires cut a handful of brilliant down home sides for Checker and Chance in the 1950’s and unissued sides in the 1960’s for Testament before arthritis cut his career short. His burnished voice sounds marvelous on the gently propulsive “21 Below Zero” backed by Johnny Young on guitar. This one comes off the excellent compilation "Blues Scene USA Vol. 4: Mississippi Blues" on Storyville." Junior Parker is best know for his classic Sun and Duke singles like "Feelin' Good, "Mystery Train", ""Next Time You See Me " and "Driving Wheel." He still sounded great on the album "You Don't Have To Be Black To Love The Blues" circa 1971 backed by The Crusaders. The pairing works exceptionally well as you can hear on Parker's revival of his old number "Man Or Mouse." Sadly Parker died in November 1971 before he reached his fortieth birthday.