- July 1st.,1946-- Paul "Wine" Jones
- July 15th.,1950-- Steve James
- July 28th.,1950-- David "Junior" Kimbrough Jr..
- July 2nd.,1988-- Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson
- July 17th.,2006-- Sammy Myers
- July 23rd.,2012-- Robert Cage
Some July Blues Births:
Answer To The June 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Matthew "Boogie Jake" Jacobs, born August 2,1922, in Marksville, Louisiana. In the Question I mentioned that he was related to a well-known bluesman. His last name should tell you who that is, but if you don't recognize it, you might know that man as Marion Walter "Little Walter" Jacobs, who was also from Marksville, and was Jake's second cousin. In their early years Boogie Jake played piano and guitar and Little Walter played guitar and harmonica. Jake learned guitar from one of his neighbors, Ernest Barron. From the 1940's into the early '50's, Jake and Walter performed together at local parties, and, on occasion, at the local club, the Golden Lantern. Walter moved to Chicago in the early '50's and Jake moved to Baton Rouge in the late '50's, where he teamed up with Joe Hudson, and they worked at the local clubs and other venues. Jake did some session work for the Excello label, in Crowley, as a sideman on some recordings by Slim Harpo, one of which is said to be his guitar riffs on "King Bee", by Slim Harpo. He also recorded on some tracks with Lazy Lester (Leslie Johnson) and Katie Webster. In 1959 Minit Records, a new start-up label, asked Jake to do their first recordings for release. That was titled "Bad Luck and Trouble", backed with "Early In The Morning". He recorded two more tracks for the label in 1960. Also in 1959, he formed his own five piece band and they toured/performed throughout the South. In 1961, fed up with the music business, he moved his family to Berkeley, California, where he worked mostly outside the music industry, though he sometimes played at house parties and suppers. By 1974 he had teamed up with another "displaced" Louisiana musician, "Schoolboy" Cleve White, who played harmonica, to work some club dates and regional blues festivals. Later in life he had moved back to New Orleans, where he passed away on December 6, 2013. On that first song he recorded for Minit, "Bad Luck And Trouble", Matthew Jacobs is shown as being the writer, and Boogie Jake as being the artist. That song has been released on other labels, sometimes titled as "I Don't Know Why", which further complicates finding it's true origin. It was recorded around the same time period by others, such as Clifton Chenier, John "Bobo" Jenkins, Lightnin' Slim, Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert "Smoky Babe" Brown, and later by Johnny Winter, R.L. Burnside, Fats Domino, and Jimmy McCracklin, just to name a few. The important thing here is to ENJOY THE SONG!!, by all of them, if you so choose.
Blues Question For July 2018: This bluesman, born in Mississippi, traveled quite a bit during his various careers. It is shown that he recorded on three labels, but I've found him on others, listed under any one of the four different names he used when performing. Any ideas on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) For July 2018: The song is "Travellin' To California". The artist is Albert King. This song was on Albert's first album, recorded by Stax Records, in 1962. It also featured Johnnie Johnson on piano, who was on many of Chuck Berry's Chess records. By the way, I picked this song for all you Jimi Hendrix fans, as it is the basis for Jimi's song "Red House".
Blues Trivia For July 2018: The song I mentioned in the Blues Question, Bad Luck And Trouble, was the first song recorded for release by/on Minit Records, which was distributed by Imperial Records. That particular recording was also distributed by Chess Records, all being in 1959. Minit was founded by Joe Banashak, partnered with local radio d.j. Larry McKinley, with Allen Toussaint serving as producer and songwriter. If you're familiar with the New Orleans music scene, the Toussaint name should be known to you. In 1961, Banashak partnered with Irvin Smith to found Instant Records, as a subsidiary to Minit. The original name for Instant was Valiant Records, but following the threat of a lawsuit by another Valiant Records, who owned the name, it was changed to Instant. The Minit label, from 1959 through 1963 (it's end), and the Instant label, from 1966 through 1970 (it's end), recorded and released, as near as I can calculate, 240 45rpm records. Their biggest hit was Ernie K-Doe's "Mother In Law", which is kind of surprising when you look at the roster of people who recorded on those labels. Among them were Jessie Hill, Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas, Jimmy McCracklin, Bobby Womack, Ike and Tina Turner, Magic Sam, Little Junior Parker, Chris Kenner, and many others, most favoring New Orleans music and musicians.
Some July Blues Passings:
Some June Blues Births:
Answer to the May Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Goree Chester Carter or Christer Carter (not sure of his exact birth name), born December 31, 1930, in Houston, Texas. He started playing blues music at the age of twelve, learned on a cousins' guitar. There were no guitarists living in his area from whom to learn, so he taught himself by listening to records, then "picking", string by string, then learning to form those notes into chords. By his early teen years he had started a band. In 1949 he had a "jump blues" band known as Goree Carter and His Hepcats, with which he signed a contract with Freedom Records, a local label, owned by Sol Kahal. That band featured him on electric guitar, two saxes, a trumpet, bass, and drums. Their recording, the first release by that label, was titled "Sweet Ole Woman Blues". Because Gorees' playing showed a strong influence by Aaron "T-Bone" Walker, he came to be called "Little T-Bone" at some of his live shows. He was sometimes also known as Rocky Thompson and/or Gory Carter. He recorded blues in the electric, jump, and Texas styles. He is best-known for the song "Rock Awhile", which he recorded in 1949, at the age of 18. That song is now recognized by many as the first Rock & Roll song, as it pre-dated "Rocket 88" by two years, and its' intro sounds a lot like the intros' on some of Chuck Berrys' recordings. To hear an example of Carters' blues style, listen to "Christmas Time", recorded in late 1948 and released in 1949. And now here's one of the problems with believing what you see/read on the internet: if you look that song up under Goree Carter, you'll find it, but also look it up under T-Bone Walker Jr., who is actually T-Bone Walkers' nephew, R.S. Rankin, you'll find that it is Goree, who was known as Little T-Bone, where-as Rankin was known as T-Bone Walker Jr. Rankins' first recordings were at a sit-in session with his uncle, the real T-Bone, for Atlantic Records in 1957. If you want to hear Jr.s' style, check out R.S. Rankin-- "Midnight Bells Are Ringing", done in 1962, on the Downey Records label. Again, never take for granted that what you read/hear on the "web" as being the "gospel truth" (or even correct). When Goree was 19, he was drafted into the Army, did his basic training, and was sent to Korea, where he was a "frontline" soldier in that conflict. When he returned to the U.S. and was discharged, his musical career began to falter. He recorded for several labels on his return, some of which were Coral, Imperial, and Modern. He wrote many songs during this period, but the labels wouldn't let him record them for the reason I stated before-- he was "too far ahead" of himself, so he stated that he "tore them up and threw them away". Before he was drafted and on his return from Korea, and then quitting the music business, he continued to work at a local business in Houston-- the Comet Rice Mill. He did sit in once in, 1970, with B.B.King. His last recordings were done in 1954. He passed away on December 29, 1990, in Houston, two days shy of his 60th. birthday.
Blues Question for June 2018: This bluesman is another "unknown", though you've probably heard him on others' recordings. He's the second cousin of one of the greats, with who he would sometimes work. He recorded on at least four different labels. Any ideas on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for June 2018: The topic of this song gets a lot of us started. The song is "Coffee Blues", and the artist is Lightnin' Hopkins. In our house (and I'm sure in others as well), nothing happens in the morning 'til I've had my coffee. Enjoy a cup, made of the "bean of life", along with a plate of the blues !!
Blues Trivia for June 2018: While researching some Lonnie Johnson recordings for Jim Reitz of NEOBA, I ran across a name that most won't recognize-- Elmer Snowden, who did a session with Lonnie. Every blues fan is familiar with the name William Christopher "W.C" Handy, who is recognized for his impact on Memphis blues, though he was born in Alabama. Elmer was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 9,1900. Early in his musical career he played all the reed instruments, later shifted to jazz/blues banjo and/or guitar. By the time he was 22 or 23, he had started a band called the Washingtonians. The bands' personnel changed often, as players moved on to other bands or went out on their own. He eventually moved the band to New York, but couldn't get a booking, so he called a former bandmember of his who had moved to New York earlier, to get his help finding a booking. He got a booking and, at one point, had five bands playing the area, under his name, much as Handy had done. He got into several disputes with the musicians' union and decided to move on, turning the band over to the bandmember who had gotten him the booking in the first place. That man was Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. If you go back and look at Snowdens' bandmember list, you'll find that he had the "who's who" of the jump blues/jazz musicians of all time working for him. After he turned the band over to Ellington, he worked almost full-time as a session player, though still having problems with the union. He finally had enough and moved to Philadelphia and taught music. He was working as a parking lot attendant when a Philly disc jockey, Chris Albertson, ran across him. Chris got Elmer together with Lonnie Johnson for a recording session in 1960, for/on the Prestige/ Bluesville label. One song from that session, "Blues for Chris", was probably a nod to Chris for getting them together. It's an acoustic blues, featuring Lonnie and Elmer on guitars, and Wendell Marshall on stand-up bass. After that session got him some recognition, Elmers' career was, once again, on track. In 1963 he moved to California, to teach at the University of California, Berkely. He later moved back to Philadelphia, where he passed away on May 14, 1973.
Some June Blues Passings:
First off, let us, at The Sound of Blue, offer our congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Blues Challenge hosted by the Northeast Ohio Blues Association (NEOBA, for short): in the Solo/Duo category-- Kristine Jackson, and in the Band category-- the Sam Hooper Group. Both of these acts have been at this for awhile and are deserving of their win. We wish them both well in Memphis in the January 2019 competition!
Some May Blues Births:
Answer to the April 2018 Blues Question: The blues singer we were looking for is/ was Mozelle Alderson, born Mozelle Fagans, on November 20, 1904, in Bedford, Ohio. Next to nothing is known of her personal life, but what is known is that after she married, she moved to Chicago. She recorded six songs for Black Patti Records (for more relative info on Black Patti records see the July 2017 Blues Blog in the Trivia section) in 1927. She recorded two songs for Brunswick Records, also in 1927 that were released in 1930. While in Chicago she also recorded for the A R C and Vocalion labels. In 1931 she recorded with Big Bill Broonzy and Georgia Tom (Dorsey) , as the Harum Scarums, on the Paramount label, at their Grafton, Wisconsin headquarters. If you want more info on Goergia Tom Dorsey, see the December 2014 Blues Question and the January 2015 Blues Trivia sections of the Blues Blog. There are other recordings featuring her, under some of her "performing" names: "Kansas City Kitty" (usually done with Georgia Tom), Hannah May, Thelma Holmes, May Belle Lee, and/or Jane Lucas. She was widowed by 1941 and went on to marry John Slocum in 1943. She passed away on February 15, 1994, in Chicago.
Blues Question for May 2018: This bluesman was a self-taught guitarist, both acoustic and electric, and drummer by the age of eighteen. He recorded his first song, which many believe is the first rock & roll song, rather than Jackie Brenston/ Ike Turners' "Rocket 88". He wrote and recorded most of his early material on a local label. Later in his career, he quit performing/ recording because he was told that he was "too far ahead of himself". Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for May 2018: The song is "I Put A Spell On You", and the artist is Angelina Jordan (I believe she's from Norway). She was 10 years old when she recorded this. The original was done by "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins, as a ballad, on the Grand Records label, in 1955. The version you're probably familiar with was done in 1956, on the OKeh label (Columbia), when Hawkins and all the band members were drunk. Some say her version is second only to Screamin' Jays', while others say his version is second to hers. Some others who have recorded it are: Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival (C C R), Manfred Mann, Jeff Beck, Bette Midler, Annie Lennox, And Samantha Fish. Oddly, after I had a rough draft of this blog and had decided to list Angelinas' version, I had a young, aspiring guitarist, Chris Marcic, who is currently studying under the tutelage of Mike Lenz, come in to look at some vinyl. The two 45's he picked out were "I Put A Spell On You", by Screamin' Jay and "Stormy Monday", by Bobby Blue Bland. When I see young people like Angelina and Chris, I'm glad to have started this store, and I see that some youngsters are actually looking into the "old Blues", and really aren't interested in the 120 decibel, 100 m.p.h., guitar-driven "stuff" of today. This is why we need to encourage, teach, guide, or help in any way we can, the coming musicians to learn about the blues.
Blues Trivia for May 2018: I’m almost sure you've heard of Sam "Lightning" Hopkins, and possibly his two brothers, John Henry and Joel "Squatty" Hopkins (the three did an album together for Arhoolie Records). Did you know that Lightninin' has recorded more albums than any other bluesman, or that he was taught by his older, distant cousin, Alger "Texas" Alexander and Blind Lemon Jefferson? If you hear a band backing him on a recording, it most likely consists of Buster Pickens on piano, Donald Cooks on bass, and Spider Kilpatrick on drums. Some trivia: if you hear some harmonica work on his recordings, those dated up to 1969, it's by his cousin, Billy Bizor (sometimes shown as Bizer or Biser), a gifted, early style (basic notes) player who deserves wider recognition. Lightnin' performed at Blossom Music Center in 1969, and lastly, he also played, though infrequently, piano and/or organ. Just so you know, we stock the c.d. of the three Hopkins brothers performing together. We also carry one under Lightnins' name, which prominently features Billy Bizor and have on order another one which also includes the only album that Bizor recorded on his own.
Some May Blues Passings:
Some April Blues Births:
Answer to the March 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was "Little" George "Mojo" Buford, born George Carter Buford Jr., in Hernando, Mississippi, on November 10th.,1929. His grandfather was a preacher and his father was a harmonica player. By the time he was nine years old, he was singing in a church choir and also with local gospel groups. In 1944 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked outside the music field, but did watch and learn more about it. In 1953 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he formed his first band, The Savage Boys, and, later formed another, the Muddy Waters Jr. Band, to work in some of the bars, clubs, and lounges. From 1956 into the early '60's he worked in the actual Muddy Waters band. In 1962 he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he worked with Jo Jo Williams and others in local bars and clubs. During the 1960's, while performing in bands, he also worked outside the music field, at the University of Chicago. He got the "Mojo" nickname because, during that time period, he often filled in for Muddy when Muddy was on tour. One of the songs Buford performed was "I Got My Mojo Working", and was the one most often requested of him by the audience. Do you remember the original recording of that belongs to Ann Cole and the Suburbans? In the '60's and 1971, Buford recorded on six different small labels. Off and on, for over 20 years, he traveled and performed with the Muddy Waters band at venues and festivals around the U.S.A. and Europe. His final gig was at a place called Yoshi's, in San Francisco, California, with his old bandmates Hubert Sumlin and James "Superharp" Cotton. The following day he returned to Minneapolis. He went into St. John's Hospital in Maplewood, the town that's the home of the 3M company (a suburb about 10 miles north of St. Paul), for heart surgery, from which he never recovered. He passed away on October 11th.,2011, of heart failure.
Blues Question for April 2018: This blues singer was born in Bedford, Ohio. This artist is shown to only have recorded for four years, but had a considerable output, on at least five labels, with a few done under the birth name, but most done under "stage names", and, again, this is not a well-known person. Any idea on who this one can be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for April 2018: The song is "Texas Flood" (originally titled "Storm In Texas), and the artist is Moses "Whispering" Smith (also features Lightnin' Slim )
Blues Trivia for April 2018: If you follow the blues at all, you're familiar with names like Sam Phillips, Leonard and Phil Chess, Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic), Sol Rabinowitz (Baton), Ernie Young (Excello), Bob Koester (Delmar, later, Delmark), and many others who started their recording end of the music business in the 1940's and '50's. Let's add another name to that with which you're probably not familiar-- Cosimo Matassa, born April 13th.,1926, in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1944 he was studying to be a chemistry major at Tulane University. After 5 semesters he left school and founded/started the J & M Recording Studio, in the rear of his parents' grocery store, which was located in the French Quarter. He became known and recognized as a prominent figure in the development of the "New Orleans Sound" style of music, which showed up in Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll, Soul, Blues, and some Pop of the '50's and '60's. Some of those he made recordings of or for were Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Bobby Vinton, Tommy Ridgely, Smiley Lewis, Joe Tex, Babe Stovall, Albert King, Professor Longhair, Dr.John, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and many others. The one performer he managed was Jimmy Clanton. Those J & M sessions were done for labels such as Columbia, Imperial, Specialty, ACE Records, R C A Victor, Verve, Atlantic, and many smaller labels. He retired from the music field in the 1980's to manage the family's food store, known as Matassa's Market. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, first. He was then inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, as a "non-performer". In 2013 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He passed away on September 11th.,2014, in New Orleans.
Some April Blues Passings:
Some March Blues Births:
Answer to the February 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is Billy "The Kid" Emerson, born William Robert Emerson, on December 21, 1925, in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Having learned piano, in his teen years he performed with local bands. When he was 18 he joined the U.S. Navy, in 1943. After W.W.II and his discharge, he performed around Florida. In one of the bands in which he played, the band members dressed as outlaws, which is when and where he got his "Billy the Kid" nickname. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1952. After his discharge in 1954, while he was in Memphis, he was "recruited" by Ike Turner and joined the "Kings of Rhythm". Since Ike was also a talent scout for Sun Records, that's where Billy did his first recordings. He left Ike's band and joined another, led by Phineas Newborn, though he did continue to write songs and record vocals for Sun. In 1955 he joined Vee-Jay Records in Chicago, did some writing and recording for that label, but left shortly thereafter to join Chess Records. After recording for several small "indie" labels, he started his own -- Tarpon Records, in 1966. From what I can find, at least currently, there are seven 45's that were released on the Tarpon label, 5 recorded by Billy, 1 by Matt "Guitar" Murphy (12/29/1929), and 1, which was the debut recording, by Denise LaSalle (7/16/1939-1/8/2018). The Murphy and LaSalle recordings were shown to have been done in 1967. According to statements by Billy, there were/are more recordings that were done, but, as of this date, no more have been found. In the interim, from that time up into the mid-'80's, Billy toured with many other "big name" artists, performing at shows and festivals. In the early '80's he quit performing secular music and, instead, became choir director at the Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Church, at least, part-time. But before he became a full-time minister, he went on tour in Europe with several other blues artists, a tour that was quite successful. While he was in Europe, he and several of the other bluesmen on the tour did some recording for Big Bear Records. (We stock a compilation of those sessions, by Big Bear Records, titled "Don't Worry 'Bout the Bear".) When he began his full-time work as a minister, it was as The Reverend William R. "The Kishi" Emerson, in Chicago. He then moved back to his hometown of Tarpon Springs, where he started the Holy Praise Apostolic Church of Jesus, and also the Good Spirit Music Ministry. He continues to preach the Gospel today. Here's the odd part of all this-- most records indicate that he first recorded at Sun, in 1955, when he actually recorded 3 tracks in January 1954, backed by Ike Turner and The Rhythm Kings. In April 1954, he recorded with Raymond Hill, 2 songs by Hill, with Billy on piano, and 2 songs by Billy, with Hill on sax. At this session, however, there was a third song done by Billy: "When My Baby Quit Me", in 2 different versions. Version 1 is the one in which I'm interested. It's done in the true blues style, while version 2 is done in an R & B/soul style. Neither was released at that time because Sam Phillips was concentrating Suns' money and efforts on promoting another of his artists-- one Elvis Presley. None of these songs put Billy's name on the charts, but one recorded in May of 1955, did. It was based on a high school cheerleaders' chant, and wasn't blues. If you want to know what it was, you'll have to look it up (or call me). Oh, by the way, Billy was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Blues Question for March 2018: This bluesman came from good stock-- his grandfather was a preacher and his father was a harmonica player. He started his musical career with gospel groups, as a vocalist. Though not very well known, he recorded on seven different labels and, as far as I know, is only credited with writing one song, but I believe he probably did more. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) For March 2018: The song is "Gravy Child" and the artist is George "Wild Child" Butler, on harp and vocals. The other artists on this recording make it noteworthy, as they are: Aron Burton on bass, Sam Lay on drums, Joe Kelly on rhythm guitar, Jimmy Rogers on lead guitar, and Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins on piano and organ. I picked this song because it's about this time of year-- high taxes and rent. There are many more blues songs that cover those topics, but this one is by a bluesman not as well-known as some of the others, and it's actually blues.
Blues Trivia for March 2018: Some time ago, my wife, Lee, asked me how many types or styles of blues there are. When I got to somewhere between 15 and 20, she stopped me and said "I didn't realize there were that many different ones". Well, when you get into tracking the history of this music, you'll find that there are many more than that. If you look it up on the web, you'll find that it shows there are many more. The problem with that listing is that they have separated some that are actually the same, but they've been classified by the city in which they were/are played. Unfortunately, what was overlooked is all the variations, by geographic region, that developed over many years. The common terms you hear most blues fans using today when talking about blues is electric (usually meaning Chicago style), acoustic (usually meaning Delta style), and rock blues (which started out in England and has since moved here). Those are all valid, but in each of those lie many others, maybe not so well known. If you are truly a blues fan, you need to at least look into some of those variances. If you don't, you're going to miss out on hearing what real blues is about!
Some Blues Passings For March 2018:
Some February Blues Births:
Answer to the January 2018 Blues Question: I indicated that this gospel/bluesman was "obscure", when I should have said that he was/is obscure only to the average blues fan and well-known to the majority of blues musicians. He was/is "Blind" Willie Johnson, born January 22nd.,1897, in Independence, Texas. Willie's mother, Mary Fields, died when he was four years old. At the age of five his father gave him his first instrument: a cigar-box guitar. He wasn't born blind and most of his biographers agree that, at the age of seven, he was blinded by a solution of lye water splashed on him by his stepmother, who was being violently confronted by his father, about her "infidelity". Other theories have been offered, but this one seems to be the most likely to be correct. Not much else is known about his childhood years. In 1926 or early 1927 Blind Willie entered into an unregistered marriage with Willie B. Harris, who would sometimes perform with him on the streets and other gatherings. She was the one who recorded with him on vocals and/or piano at some of his recording sessions. He only did five sessions total, recording 30 songs, all of them released in his own name. They were released on the Columbia Records label, with two of those also released under the name "The Blind Pilgrim", on the Anchor label, a subsidiary of Columbia. There were also two songs recorded by him, under the name "Blind Texas Marlin", but they were never titled or released by Columbia, and the masters of them have yet to be found. In the early 1930's, Johnson is said to have married Angeline Robinson, sister of Louis Charles "L.C."/ "Good Rockin' Charles" Robinson. As of this time, no marriage certificates have been found for either marriage. At some point, probably sometime in the '20's, Blind Willie had become a minister and was an evangelist preacher, which is shown in his recordings. He travelled and performed with Evangeline (Anne) from the early '30's into the early '40's, in various towns in Texas. They ended up in Beaumont, where he opened a church, the House of Prayer. In 1945 his home burned to the ground and he had nowhere else to go and no money, so he continued to live in the remains of his house. There, exposed to the heat and humidity, he contracted malarial fever. Angeline stated in a later interview, that no hospital would admit him, either because he was blind, or because he was black. As near as I can find, that fire was early in 1945, and, over the course of the year he grew weaker from his illness. He finally passed away on September 18, 1945. His death certificate states that the factors contributing to his death were syphilis and blindness. If you are truly a blues fan, you MUST listen to his recording "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground". This is THE prime example of an acoustic guitar "weeping"(the slide sound). If you want to hear his gravelly voice, you have to listen to his recording of "John The Revelator". That one will surprise you as well. A couple of other points: in 1977 Carl Sagan was directed to compile a group of songs, to be recorded on a gold disc, and placed on the Voyager space probe, to be sent into space so if found by other life forms, they might have a point of reference about the human race. "Dark Was The Night" is one of those 27 songs (another artist included was Chuck Berry). In 2010, the Library of Congress added that song to it's list of songs it deems to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Blues Question for February 2018: This "bluesman" is listed as an R & B and/or Rock and Roll singer and songwriter, but his career also shows him to be in the blues vein. He was most active in music from the mid-1940's up into the late '70's. He has the distinction of never having a hit, but some of his recorded songs have been hits for others. Any idea who this "bluesman" might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for February 2018: Let's be a little adventurous here! The song is "Devil Woman", by Bruce Willis and the Bruce Willis Blues Band-- a live recording. Who knew?
Blues Trivia for February 2018: You're probably familiar with "fife and drum" music, such as that by Otha (Othar) Turner, but how about a flute on a blues song? One of the bluesmen to use the flute is/was Johnny Heartsman. He also played bass, piano, electronic organ, guitar, and did vocals as well. He is listed as a singer, songwriter, musician, and arranger. Some of the songs he wrote were: "Are You Gonna' Leave Me?", for Jesse James, "Goose Grease", for Roy Buchanan, "Got To Find My Baby", for John Hammond Jr., "Move On Down The Line", for Amos Garrett, along with several others for Joe Simon, with whom he toured, playing as an organist. His first all blues album was "Sacramento", in 1987. His second one was "The Touch", on Alligator Records in 1991. On that second album, he shows his versatility by playing different instruments and doing vocals. The song "Tongue" is an instrumental featuring the flute up front, with other instruments there, but subdued. The song "Walkin' Blues" features the organ, and the song "Let Me Love You Baby" features the guitar, both along with vocals. Sadly, he passed away in 1996, of a stroke, in Sacramento, California.
Some February Blues Passings:
Some January Blues Births:
Answer to the December 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is "Blind Blake", born Arthur Blake, in 1896 (some sources say 1893), in either Jacksonville, Florida, known at that time as Fort George Island (of the Sea Islands chain), or Newport News, Virginia. If you read about him in some of the books on blues history, you'll find his supposed birth name listed as Arthur Phelps. That was updated or corrected in 2011, when a group of researchers published copies of some documents, one of which was his death certificate. That showed that his parents were Winter and Alice Blake, and that he was born in Newport News in 1896. What is known about him to be (possibly) correct is that in his younger years he hoboed throughout Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, even up into Ohio, performing on the streets and at picnics, parties, suppers, and fish fries. He moved to and settled in Chicago in the mid- 1920's, where he lived in an apartment at 31st. and Cottage Grove. He started to record for Paramount Records in 1926, and his records sold well. He remained with Paramount his entire career. Some sources show that he recorded around 80 songs. I have found 85 listed under his own name, 6 as Blind Joe Martin, 2 as Billy James, and 44 as an accompanist to other artists. What you have to consider here is that at a recording session, there might have been up to 6 takes (in those days) of a song, and that, most of the time, only one take was actually released, with the others being either shelved or scrapped. Some of the ones I tallied in my count were never released by Paramount. In his hoboing years he went by the three names I've already listed and was also known as "Blind Arthur" and "Gorgeous Weed". He married Beatrice McGee around 1931. In around June of 1932, he recorded his two final songs at the Paramount headquarters in Grafton, Wisconsin. Those songs were "Depression's Gone From Me Blues" and "Champagne Charlie Is My Name", released under both his own name and the Billy James name. Some blues history experts and some musicologists say that the "Champagne Charlie" doesn't sound like Blake's picking style or voice and may be wrongly credited to him because of that. Those last two songs were done right before Paramount went "belly-up", and ended Blake's career. I t has been said that he met a "violent death" in 1934 (possibly hit by a streetcar), but that's incorrect. In April of 1933 he was hospitalized with pneumonia, from which he didn't fully recover. After a period of declining health, Beatrice, on December 1st.,1934, called for an ambulance for him. On the way to the hospital he suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage, and passed away. The official cause of death is listed as pulmonary tuberculosis. He passed away in Milwaukee and is buried in Glendale, Wisconsin. His style of play is comparable to ragtime piano, but on guitar. Thus, he is known as one of the first to help give birth to a style of play known today as "Piedmont Blues". You can look up anyone who has ever played that style or who is playing it today and you'll find they credit Blake as their biggest influence. Oh, by the way, if you've seen either of the "Jack Reacher" movies, you know that Reacher is the main character in 17 + novels written by Lee Child. In two of his books, "Killing Floor" and "The Affair", Reacher's character mentions that in his travels he hopes to learn what happened to "Blind Blake".
Blues Question for January 2018: this gospel/blues singer and guitarist was an early "slide" player who was an influence to Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf, just to mention a couple. There are probably many of today's players he influences, but they don't know it because of his obscurity. He got his first instrument, the good-old "cigar box guitar", from his father at an early age. When I list some of his songs in the February blog, you'll see that a lot of today's players are covering his songs. Any ideas on who this gospel/bluesman is ??
Song(s) and Artist(s) for January 2018: I know that New Year's Eve, technically, isn't January, but it does roll into it, so I'm listing one for the "Eve" and one for New Year's Day. For the Eve the song is "New Year's Eve Blues", by Smokey Hogg. For New Year's Day the song is "Happy New Year Darling", by Lonnie Johnson.
Blues trivia for January 2018: as I have stated before, the cigar-box guitar was the first instrument that early young "bluesmen" were given by their parents, as most were poor and couldn't afford to buy them a top of the line guitar, which, at that time, would have been a Gibson or a C.F. Martin. In 1871, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the Oscar Schmidt Company was founded by Oscar and Otto Schmidt. In 1899, the Schmidt company started the Stella brand guitar production company, a low and mid-level "entry" type guitar, which became known for its reasonable price and good tone quality. They also produced instruments under the "Sovereign" and "La Scala" brand names. The company survived the Depression, but merged with another company in 1931. That organization was then merged with another one in 1935, before falling into bankruptcy. It was sold to Harmony Company in 1939 and operated under that brand until 1974. Oscar Schmidt is now, currently a subsidiary of the U.S.Music Corporation, and is located in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. They still produce Autoharps (Schmidt owns the name), ukuleles, basses, banjos, and guitars. Some of the best known names have used the Stella's. You may know some of them-- Son House, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson, Skip James, R.L. Burnside, Willie Nelson, and B.B. King, just to name a few.
Some January Blues Passings:
Just To Let You Know: The blues calendars are in. The songs on the included cd have been re-mastered for excellent sound quality, as it's to be used on a P.B.S show. The artwork is great, as always. Also, if you're looking for "stocking-stuffers" for youngsters or your grandkids, we have kazoos (ages 3 & up) and slide whistles.
Some December Blues Births:
Answer to the November 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Robert Pete Williams, born March 14, 1914, in Zachary, Louisiana. The "Pete" was added as a teenage nickname. Zachary is/was located north of Baton Rouge, on U.S. highway 61, a route number all blues lovers should recognize. Unschooled, one of 9 children, he worked as a farm hand, as his parents were sharecroppers. In 1928 he moved south to Scotlandville, which was still north of Baton Rouge, and by today's standards, would be considered a suburb of that city. There, he worked in lumberyards. At age 20, somewhere around 1934, he made his first instrument, one of the traditional "starters", a "cigar-box guitar", with 5 copper strings. Shortly thereafter, he bought one of the cheap, mass-produced ones available in those times. Slightly after that he started to perform at Church gatherings, dances, fish fries, dinners, and other small events. He did that from the 1930's up into the '50's, all the while, his reputation as a performer, growing. In 1956 he was arrested, tried, and convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting of a man in a nightclub, in 1956. While serving time in/at Angola, he was "discovered" by ethnomusicologists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen, and recorded by them. After they recorded several of William’s songs, most about prison life, pleaded, on his behalf, to the parole board, for them to issue a pardon to Williams, which they did, and commuted his sentence to 12 years. In 1958, Williams was issued a "servitude parole", which required him to work 80 hours a week at a farm in Denham Springs, which is several miles east of Zachary. As you can imagine, that didn't leave much time for performing. In 1964 he was permitted to perform at the Newport Folk Festival, which was/is in Rhode Island, because his music was becoming more popular and recognized. By 1965 he was permitted to travel freely in the U.S.A. to perform. By 1966 he was performing in France, England, Germany, Italy, and other areas of Europe, and in the U.S.A.. He did this up into the late 1970's. He recorded on at least 15 different labels and appeared in several films, both in the U.S. and France. During those years, when not performing, he worked outside the music field. He passed away December 31, 1980, in Rosedale, Louisiana, of heart disease, and is buried in Scotlandville. Incidentally, as of the 2000 census, Rosedale, which is a western suburb of Baton Rouge, had 753 residents and was less than 8 square miles. All his songs are good, but the two most notable are "Pardon Denied Again" and "Prisoner's Talking Blues". About that second one, it has been said that while he was a "resident" at Angola and he performed that song for his fellow prisoners, that they would often break out in tears.
Blues Song and Artist(s) for December 2017: Since Christmas is this month, I have to go with a well-known and often-covered song-- "Merry Christmas Baby", recorded in 1947 on the Exclusive Records label, #254, by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, made up of Johnny Moore on guitar, Eddie Williams on bass, and Charles Brown on piano and vocal. It made it to #3 on the charts, in the Christmas season, in 1947, even though it was the "B" side of the record. It was a hit again in 1949 and 1950. Exclusive Records never paid copyrights and was taken over by Hollywood Records, which was owned by Don Pierce. When Exclusive was sold by Pierce, none of the artists or creditors got a nickel, even though it had been promised.
Blues Trivia for December 2017: This time the trivia won't be strictly about blues, but instead, on Christmas songs, some of them blues, but also pop, rock & roll, and touches of other genres. I'll give you just a few examples. How about the original 1953 recording by Earthe Kitt of "Santa Baby" (did you know that she passed away Christmas day,2008?); pop version of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Gene Autry, covered in doo-wop style by the Cadillacs, the Coasters, and the Temptations, then modified or countered by "Run, Rudolph, Run" by Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, with a rockabilly version by the Outlaws. Let me give you one blues standard: "Christmas Morning Blues", recorded by Kansas City Kitty, Victoria Spivey, Titus Turner, and Sonny Boy Williamson I. This last song, if you do some digging, has words in the title changed, removed, added, as have some of the lyrics, so it may not look the same, but as soon as you hear it, you'll realize that, like so many other blues songs, it's based on another recording. Seems as though things haven't changed much since performers started doing those "tricks" as soon as the recording industry started up.
Some December Blues Passings:
Want to wish all a Merry Christmas, and have a safe, Happy New Years eve and day !!
Just to let you know: The 2018 Blues Calendars with CD should be here by November 10th., and we have lots of blues Christmas CD's in stock.
Some November Blues Births:
Answer to the October 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was James "Iron Head" Baker, possible real name Reuben Avery Burrage, born approximately 1870, unknown exact place or date. James Baker was his prison name. The "Iron Head" nickname was given to him because, while he was on a work detail, a tree fell on his head. The tree sustained major damage, while he walked away, uninjured. He was first recorded on July 5,1933, 5 tracks, when he was 63 years old, at Central State Farm, Sugarland, Texas, a penitentiary. He was serving a 99 year sentence, not because he was a "major criminal", but because he was a repeat offender, guilty of burglary, not a violent crime. He recorded 8 more tracks there in December, one of which is the very first recorded version of "Black Betty". You have to look up that song to see what it is thought to describe, which includes a couple of references to prison life. He recorded 14 more tracks at Central State in May of 1934, including 3 versions of "Little John Henry", with 9 more in October. He is shown to have recorded 2 tracks in Dallas on April 7th.,1936. On May 3rd. and 5th.,1936, he recorded 2 versions of "Go Down, Old Hannah" at the state penitentiary in Rainford, Florida. On May 15th.,1936, he recorded 2 more tracks at the state penitentiary in Columbia, South Carolina. By May 29th.,1936, Iron Head is shown to be in Washington, D.C., where he recorded some 24 more songs, apparently as a free man. He had most likely been paroled due to the efforts of John Lomax, who was the man who had done all of the recording of Iron Head, and wanted his help to gain access to more southern prisons to record others. That relationship didn't work out well, so Iron Head moved back to Texas, where he was met by Alan Lomax, John's son, and Ruby, John's wife. She helped him find work, but by 1939, he was caught burglaring again, and sent back to prison at Ramsey State Farm, in Otey, Texas, where he recorded 3 more songs. In 1941 he wrote a letter to Alan, from which John quoted Iron Head telling Alan "Crime don't pay. I'm walking the straight road now and I won't turn back". I could find no info on him after that time. If you listen to some of his songs, you'll note that they're the "call and response" style used in "field hollers", chain gangs, and prison work details. His songs were classified as folk songs by John Lomax, who was commissioned by the Library of Congress to make these recordings. You'd be surprised how many bluesmen got their "start" in prison!
Blues Question for November 2017: Thought that since the previous month's Blues Question featured a musician who was a prisoner, I want to feature another musician who was, at one time, also a prisoner. This bluesman, however, fared much better than Iron Head, though he was convicted and sentenced to life for a fatal shooting, to be served at Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He was paroled after 3 years, due to the petioning of another musicologist who wanted to record him. He played guitar and kazoo. Any idea who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song and Artist(s) for November 2017: This song is about something almost everybody likes: "Oreo Cookie Blues", acoustic guitar and vocals-- Lonnie Mack, with second acoustic guitar by Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Blues Trivia for November 2017: In last month's Blues Blog I listed Will Shade and his Memphis Jug Band. That group had a fluid membership, one of which was Will Weldon, on guitar. The trivia part of that is on Weldon, born in Grenada, Mississippi in 1906, died April 30,1934, in Memphis, Tennessee. In some places, he is listed as Casey Bill (Will) Weldon. Casey Bill is shown, in some places, as being born July 10, 1909, others show February 2, 1901. His death is shown to be September 28, 1972 in some places, while in others it's listed as "unknown". Same with the place-- Kansas City, Missouri, or "unknown". I've spent 3 full days researching this info for this Blues Blog, and I still don't have a definitive answer. There is so much conflicting info on the Weldon name in music, including the fore-mentioned ones-- dates of recordings, what label they recorded on, where they recorded, travels in their later years, and on and on. My best guess is that there were TWO different Will Weldons, one who recorded with the Memphis Jug Band, from 1927 to 1934, and one who first recorded in 1935, as a sideman to Blind Teddy Darby, in Chicago. If you have more information and it can be verified as being correct, I'd like to hear from you.
Some November Blues Passings:
Some October Blues Births:
Answer to the September 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was William "Will" Shade Jr., aka Son/ Sun Brimmer, born February 5, 1898, in Memphis, Tennessee, to William and Mary (nee Brimmer) Shade, when Mary was 14 years old. In 1903, Mary became a widow when Will Sr. died of a gunshot wound. She then married a member of the Banks family, but was a widow again by 1920. Will credited her with teaching him harmonica, the instrument with which he was most proficient, but he also played guitar and the "bullfiddle" (washtub bass). His grandmother, Annie Brimmer, helped in raising him, and gave him the "Son" (Brimmer) nickname, which was short for grandson. The Sun Brimmer name came later on, when his band mates noticed that he had difficulty with the bright sunlight and used his hat brim to shield himself from it. He first heard jug band music around 1925, performed by the Dixieland Jug Blowers, who were out of Louisville, Kentucky. He thought it might be a good sound to be "introduced" into Memphis. He recruited some local musicians and formed the Memphis Jug Band. The original members were Lionhorse (sometimes called/named Roundhouse), a whiskey bottle blower who Will "converted" to be a jug blower (meant to create a sound somewhere between a trombone and a tuba), Tee Wee Blackman on guitar, and Ben Ramey on kazoo (meant to sound like a trumpet). Will played guitar, harmonica, and the bullfiddle. Vocal duties were shared. Will's country style harmonica playing was a big influence to both Sonny Boy Williamsons (I & II), Big Walter Horton, and Charlie Musselwhite, to name a few. Will wrote most of the bands songs, did all of their bookings, handled their promotion, and made sure everyone was paid their due. Over the years the bands personnel changed constantly, as many of them went on to their own careers, and others replaced them. The song I mentioned in the original Blues Question, the first recording by the Grateful Dead, was "Steain',Stealin' ", one which has been recorded by many others since, and is sometimes listed as "Stealin' ". That original song was recorded on September 15, 1928, in Memphis, on the Victor label. It featured Will on harmonica only, Ben Ramey on kazoo, Vol Stevens on banjo and mandolin, Jab (J.B.) Jones on jug, and Charlie Burse (pronounced Bursey) on guitar and vocals. By this time, Will had become a session player for Victor, and, with his wife, Jennie Mae Clayton, who sometimes performed with the band, together were able to purchase a house and $3,000.00 worth of stock in Victor Records. After the depression started in 1929, they lost both the house and the stock, leaving them basically destitute. The bands popularity declined in the mid-30's, due to changes in music tastes and the after effects of the depression, though they did perform up into the early '60's. Will passed away September 18, 1966, in Memphis, of pneumonia. He was buried in the Shelby County Cemetery, which is a public- owned cemetery with many unmarked graves, as most of its "residents" were broke when they died. Since Will was the "backbone" of the band, it ceased to exist after his passing. In 2008 a group of musicians sponsored a fundraiser and purchased a headstone for his grave. That same group sponsored a "Brass Note" on Beale Street, which was dedicated on August 1, 2009, the first such honor for a jug band.
Blues Question for October 2017: this bluesman made his first recording when he was 63 years old. In a six year period he recorded close to 70 songs. Little else is known about him. Any idea on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song and Artist(s) for October 2017: the song is "Baby, Baby", recorded by Katherine Jewel Thorn(e), better known as Katie Webster, aka the "Swamp Boogie Queen", also featuring Ashton Savoy (Conroy) on vocals and guitar, and Little Brother Griffin on drums. It was recorded by J.D. Miller, in Crowley, Louisiana, in 1958, on the KRY label, Jemil Music #100. There are those who believe that rap and hip-hop is something new, but if you listen to some recordings of the 1920's, you'll hear the basis of those "sounds of today". I picked this song because it reminded me of some of Queen Latifah's early recordings, but more so because of a quote: "I can't understand how someone like me can be famous when Katie Webster isn't" --Robert Cray.
Blues Trivia for October 2017: you've probably heard of and are familiar with the name Sun Records, some of its artists, and Sam Phillips, its founder. The first recording made there was of Joe Hill Louis-- "Boogie in the Park", when the place was known as the Memphis Recording and Sound Service. The trivia part is that at the time, the beginning of the studio, Sam Phillips had a partnership/agreement with a local, well-known radio DJ named Dewey Phillips, no relation, who had agreed to help Sam get it up and running. Because of that "partnership", that first recording was released on the Phillips Records label -- the one and only one ever released under that name. That track was later released on the Modern label, for which Sam made many recordings. Oh, yeah, by the way, "Daddy-O" Dewey Phillips was a couple of years ahead of Alan Freed, as far as playing rock-and-roll on the radio. Daddy-O played what he liked, be it gospel, blues, R&R, R&B, pop, country, etc. If he had a song he really liked, he'd play it 15 times in a row, if he felt like it. Also, by the way, he was the first radio DJ to play Elvis Presley's first recording, "That's Allright (Mama)", an Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup song, on the air!, so he contributed to getting Elvis started in the music business.
Some October Blues Passings:
NOTE: With this month I'm adding a new, small section: Blues Song of the Month, listing a song and the performer(s). If there's pertinent information I'll include that in a short note.
Some September Blues Births:
Answer to the August 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was John Thomas Brown, best known as J.T. Brown, but also known/recorded as "Saxman" Brown, J.T."Big Boy" Brown, "Nature Boy" Brown, and/or "Bep" Brown, born April 2nd.,1918, in Mississippi. He first performed in a minstrel group, before he moved to Chicago. While living in Chicago most of his work was as a session player, though he did some of his own recordings. Some of the big names he recorded with, as a session player, were Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, Roosevelt Sykes, Muddy Waters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Washboard Sam, J.B. Lenoir, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, and on and on-- you get the idea - he was an "in demand" sax player. He recorded on the Harlem, Meteor, JOB, United, and Chess labels, along with some recordings on several smaller "indie" labels. When Delmark Records acquired the masters from the States and United labels, some of J.T.'s recordings were re-issued on Delmark's "Honkers and Barwalkers" titled c.d.'s. He passed away on November24.,1969, in Chicago, at the age of 51.
Blues Question for September 2017: this bluesman, born in Memphis, put together a band that recorded around 100 sides for RCA, in a seven year period. It was the first (arguably, of course, by some) of its kind to be performed in Memphis, and was quite popular at local shows at all types of venues. The Grateful Dead's first recording was a cover of one of their songs. This bluesman was an influence to many of the harmonica players of the period and is also regarded by some of today’s harpists as their influence. Sound familiar? Any idea who this bluesman might be?
Blues Song & Artist (s) for Sepember 2017: the song is "Snowed In", by Albert Collins. All of the sound effects you'll hear were done by Albert on his guitar and/or on his mic.
Blues Trivia for September 2017: if you're familiar with R.L. Burnside or Junior Kimbrough, you should also know the Fat Possum Records label. There seems to be some question as to it's exact founding date, as it is shown to be 1991 and/or 1992. It was founded by Peter Redvers-Lee, then the editor of Living Blues magazine, and Matthew Johnson. Around 1994 Redvers-Lee left and Bruce Watson took over his duties as manager. Fat Possum's original goal, which they achieved, was to record the raw, rural sounds of North Mississippi Hill Country blues, hence Burnside and Kimbrough. But they found others, too, including T-Model Ford (James Lewis Carter Ford), CeDell Davis (Ellis Davis), Robert "Wolfman" Bellfour, Charles w. Caldwell, and Little Freddie King (Fread Eugene Martin), among others. By the mid- 1990's, the label, which had been having some long-running money problems, got temporarily out of the "red", with the releases of "Not The Same Old Blues Crap, Vol.III" (following I & II), and "Chapter VII; All Men Are Liars". Then came a legal battle with Capricorn Records, who were supposed to be distributing Fat Possum's releases, which pretty well drained off the money that was there. After some of their main artists started passing away, they started to release archived recordings, acquired the rights to Al Green's recordings, and became the distributer of/for HI records, which included some of John Lee Hooker's earlier sides, Ann Peebles recordings, and some Willie Mitchell offerings, among others. The trivia part is that, also, during this period of changes, they came to the conclusion that there was no more "raw, rural blues" talent to be found, that that was a hopeless cause, and, out of that deduction, have started to record "indie" rock bands, punk rock, even, to me, anyhow, it seems to be rap. Thankfully, at least, most all of their earlier blues recordings are available, along with the folk and country they also recorded, like Hasil Adkins.
Some September Blues Passings:
Some August Blues Births:
Answer to the August 2017 Blues Question: the blues person we were looking for is/was Sister O. M. Terrell, born as Ola Mae Long on August 18th.,1911, in Atlanta, Georgia. At age eleven she had a "conversion experience" at an annual summer "tent revival", which was put on by the Fire- Baptized Holiness Church. The Holiness Movement was born out of disapproval with the "formality and worldliness" that was taking root, at that time, in the Baptist and Methodist faiths- the late 1800's. It was basically the African- American members who left those two faiths, along with poor whites, to start the "Fire- Baptized" faith. They didn't approve of the "needless ornamentation" of women. They also considered it a sin for men to wear a necktie. In 1975 the church group changed its name to the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Yes, there are some local "Fire- Baptized" congregations in our area, but enough on that score. In her early years, after joining that church, Sister Terrell played her guitar (self-taught) and sang songs, most of which she wrote, on Atlanta's vice- ridden Decatur Street, from the 1930's up into the 1950's, as did many other itinerant "street preachers" of that time. She was brought to the attention of Columbia Records by Robert T. Christie and Lauren Moore, managers at radio station WPAL, in Charleston, South Carolina, where, for a time, Sister Terrell did a live show on Sundays. Everything I've found shows that she recorded six sides for her Columbia recording session, but I've found eight. I don't know if the two extras were done at that Columbia session and not listed or if they were done elsewhere. Her recordings didn't sell because Columbia mistakenly released them as "country" rather than "gospel". Gospel recordings at that time were selling as fast as they could be produced, so, because if the mislabeling, Sister Terrell was an unknown to the gospel fans. Because of that she received no royalties for her efforts, became disgusted, and walked out of the Columbia studios, never to return. Things haven't changed much today as some rock and country recordings are labeled as blues. Bruce Nemerov, who wrote some of what info is contained here, talked with a music publisher some time ago who asked him to try to locate Sister Terrell, as he had some royalty checks waiting. I don't know what the date was, but Bruce found her in a nursing home in Conyers, Georgia. He stated that the money allowed her some material comfort in her last years. She passed on March 3rd., 2006, in Conyers, Georgia.
Blues Question for August 2017: this bluesman is relatively unknown but you've probably heard him on other artists and/or bands recordings. He first played in a minstrel group before moving to Chicago and getting into the blues market. He recorded and/or played with some of the big names in the blues, usually as a sideman/band member, or as a studio musician. Any ideas as to who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia for August 2017: there have been many bluesmen who, over the years, started in gospel music, performing and/or recording it. One of those was Joel Adams, known as Jo-Jo Adams or Doctor Jo-Jo Adams. Born in rural Alabama around 1918, he first sang with the Big Four Gospel Jubilee Singers, before moving to Chicago in the early '40's. He started performing in the clubs on the South Side, as a jump blues singer, a comedian, a dancer, or as an m.c. His singing style was like that of Cab Calloway (remember him in The Blues Brothers movie, in his white tux with tails ?). Jo-Jo had his tux custom- made, featuring 55" tails. He often said that "when I spin around you could shoot dice on them". He then went to Los Angeles to record on the Aladdin label. On his return to Chicago he recorded on the Aristocrat label (later to become Chess Records) for Leonard Chess. In 1949 he did a risqué version of The Hucklebuck in the all African- American casted revue film "Burlesque in Harlem". He did his own revue, The Jo-Jo Show, which sometimes featured Joe Williams and Willie Mabon, among others. He also performed with Memphis Slim and Terry Timmons in several Chicago clubs. His last recordings, in 1952 and '53, were on the Chance and Parrot labels. His very first recording, in 1946, was Jo Jo Blues, on the Melody Lane label, with bandleader Freddie Williams, who was also a guitarist, owned a record store--and the Melody Lane Records label, which was started in March of 1946. Here's the Trivia part -- shortly after that first recording, the labels name was changed to Hi-Tone Records when Russian-born Nathan Rothner, a jukebox operator, became involved. Hy-Tone closed in 1948, after King Records in Cincinnati bought some of the master recordings of Hy-Tone from Rothner. There have been several record companies who have used some form of the Hy-Tone name. Among them are Hytone, started by the Indestructable Phonograph Company in 1921; Hi-Tone, set up in New York City as a susidiary of Signature Records in 1949; Hy-Tone, also set up in New York in 1957; another Hy-Tone, which produced gospel records in California in the 1960's; HighTone Records, based in Oakland, California, in 1983. That last one closed its doors in 2008 and sold its entire catalogue to Shout! Factory. In 2016, the HighTone part of Shout! Factory, was sold to Concord Bicycle Music. That company was founded in 1973 by Carl Jefferson, an auto dealer and jazz fan, in Concord, California. He sold it to Alliance Entertainment in 1994. In 1999, Norman Lear (that name ring any bells ?) and Hal Gaba bought that company and moved its headquarters to Beverly Hills. From that day to this, that company, now known as Concord Music Group, has been buying up record labels/companies-- way too numerous to list them all here-- but if you're a true blues fan, you'd recognize quite a few of them. And, if you think there's not a lot of money in that, consider this: on June 2nd.,2017, Concord Music Group bought music publisher IMAGEN for $500 MILLION !!
Some August Blues Passings:
Some July Blues Births:
Answer to the June 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Louis Washington, possibly born Louis Jackson, born October 1895, exact date unknown, in Wadesboro, Florida. He used his given name for his gospel recordings. For his blues recordings he used the name "Tallahassee Tight". He is shown to have recorded in 1933 and '34 in New York City on the American Records Corporation (A.R.C. label?) label. There is only one disc that features all his recordings and those of one of his contemporaries -- Spark Plug Smith. On that disc there are 4 songs under Louis' own name and 10 as Tallahassee Tight. The first bluesman to have his name get full credit on the label of a record was Sylvester Weaver, that recording being made on November 2, 1923, in New York City, on the OKeh label. They were guitar instrumentals -- "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag". Here's the tie-in with Washington, for which Washington should be recognized. Again, taken from the information I could find, he was probably the first Florida resident bluesman who was recorded during this time period of commercial blues recordings. I could find no record of him after 1934.
Blues Question for July 2017: In the early days, in the South, there was a considerable number of "street-corner evangelists", who usually played guitar or harmonica to accompany their singing of religious songs or prayers. Most often this took place in the poorest section of the town. "Blind" Rev. Gary Davis was one of these but he's not the one we're looking for. Any idea who this one is ??
Blues Trivia for July 2017: this whole section is a collection of facts related to one man and how he touched so many. Any true blues fan is familiar with the current disc/record labels, such as Alligator, Blind Pig, Delta Groove, Ruf and many others, but have you heard of Black Patti Records ? Most likely, you haven't, as it's from 1927 and was only in operation for seven months, shutting down in September of that year, after having produced 55 different records. That label and its' parent company, Chicago Record Company, were owned by Jay Mayo "Ink" Williams. That nickname came from his ability to get musicians to sign contracts with him. He was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When he was 7 years old, his father, Daniel, was murdered. After that, his mother, Millie, moved the family back to her hometown of Monmouth, Illinois, where he grew up. He then went on to attend Brown University, an Ivy League school in Rhode Island, where he was an outstanding track and football star. He served in World War I, and graduated in 1921. Starting in 1921 and up until 1926, he played professional football for the Canton (Ohio)Bulldogs, the Hammond (Indiana)Pros, the Dayton (Ohio)Triangles and the Cleveland (Ohio)Bulldogs, who were originally known as the Cleveland Indians. The Cleveland Indians got that name when they "recruited" players from the Akron (Ohio)Indians (earlier named the Akron Pros), who, by the way, had won the very first NFL championship. A Cleveland jeweler, Sam Deutsch, who owned the Indians, bought the Canton Bulldogs, moved the team (seven players only) to Cleveland, combined it with the Indians, and re-named it the Cleveland Bulldogs. Check that one out--lots of controversy there! Anyhow, Williams was one of the first black athletes in the NFL, and in its' first year. During those years Williams also worked in a Chicago office for Paramount Records as a producer. Some of the first artists he signed and recorded were Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, "Papa" Charlie Jackson, and "Blind" Lemon Jefferson. It was when he left Paramount that he started Black Patti. He named it that because he admired a black opera singer, Matilda Sissieretta Joyner, who was called "The Black Patti", in reference to Italian opera singer Adelina Patti, who sang in the same style. After shutting down Black Patti Records, Williams went on to run, manage, or work for many other labels and co-write many of the blues standards you would recognize, but are too numerous to list here. Some of the labels with which he was involved were Decca, Brunswick, Vocalion, Harlem, Ebony, and Chess. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2004. The reason I picked this person and subject was to illustrate that the blues that you listen to, whether it be the early type indicated here or the current style, is tied into everything-- music, sports, manufacturing, automobile industry, foodstuffs, or any others you think of, which are common to all of us!! Oh, by the way, if you look Williams up somewhere, you'll see that he was one of the first to record a lot of musicians who are considered to be the Who's Who in the genre of the blues. Also, the "logo" on the Black Patti records was of an "art deco" peacock. Later, that same style peacock was used by Nick Perls' "Belzona Records" on those labels. After 5 releases, the Belzona name was changed to "Yazoo Records" and again retained the peacock artwork.
Some July Blues Passings:
First of all, The Sound of Blue congratulates the winners of the 2017 Blues Challenge, hosted by NEOBA : Chris Yakopcic in the solo/ duo category, and J.J. Vicars and the Desiatos, in the band category, and wish them the best of luck in their next level of competition !!
Some June Blues Births:
Answer to the May 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Jewell "Babe" Stovall, born October 14th.,1907, in Tylertown, Mississippi, one of twelve children. Again with the discrepancies -- there are other sources that suggest that he was the youngest of eleven children, hence the "Babe" nickname. Anyhow, he was born, raised, and worked on a farm. By the age of eight he had taught himself to play the guitar. He quit school to work outside the music field. During the 1920's and into the '30's, he travelled and performed with his brother Tom, who played the mandolin. During this time period he met guitarist and kazoo player Tommy Johnson. It was Johnson's playing style that influenced the style in which Babe played during his career. From the '30's through the '50's, he lived in the Franklinton, Louisiana area, where he worked mostly outside the music field, but occasionally performing in the area's streets, juke joints, and parks. During the late '50's into the mid-'60's, he toured/ played in New Orleans, Louisiana, Boston and Providence, Massachusetts, Brooklyn and New York City, and coffee houses in California. From the mid-'60's into the early '70's, he played in Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia. During his career he recorded on the Verve, Spivey, Rounder, and Blue Horizon labels. Babe passed away on September 21st.,1974, in New Orleans, of natural causes, in his sleep. It has been stated that the song "Mr. Bojangles", written by Jerry Jeff Walker, was written as a tribute and to honor Babe, after having met and befriended him. Over the years, Walker has given several different answers to that question, none of which has stated that to be correct. Who Knows ??
Blues Question for June 2017: this bluesman, almost totally unknown, did recording sessions during a two year period. Some of the songs were under his own name, while others were under his nickname. He does, however, have one distinction in his recording career. Any ideas on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia for June 2017: Walter "Furry" Lewis (Jr.), who was born March 6th.,1893, in Greenwood, Mississippi, is another discrepancy question. There are researchers who list his other possible year of birth as 1895, 1898, or 1899. He taught himself to play on a home- made guitar by age six. At around age seven, his family moved to Memphis, where he worked the street, playing for tips. At about thirteen he ran away from home to work in passing medicine shows. At fifteen he returned to Memphis, where he performed with the W.C. Handy Orchestra or performed as a solo act. At 23, he lost a leg in a train accident. From 1916 to 1922/23, he performed in local clubs, in the streets, and with various "medicine shows". In 1922 he took a job in Memphis as a street sweeper, a job he held until he retired in 1966. That job allowed him to keep performing in Memphis. He recorded on at least fourteen different labels and appeared in seven films and/or documentaries. His cause of death on September 14th.,1981, in Memphis, is also an "unresolved" question. One source lists it as lung cancer while another states that he contracted pneumonia, and in his weakened condition, died of a heart attack. Anyhow, the trivia part is that in his last film appearance, his character was "Uncle Furry", in the movie "W.W. and The Dixie Dancekings", starring Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Art Carney, Ned Beatty, Mel Tillis, and several others of note. It was released in 1975. Two years later, some of the same actors were in another movie that was based on the type of story of the W.W. movie. You might remember the second movie-- "Smokey and the Bandit".
Some June Blues Passings:
Some May Blues Births:
Answer to the April 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Jack Owens, born as L.F. Nelson, on November 17, 1904, in Bentonia, Mississippi. The "Owens" surname came from his mother while the "Nelson" came from his father, who deserted the family when Jack was around 5 or 6 years old. While he was still in the picture his father and an uncle taught the youngster some chords on the guitar. As I stated in the question Jack also learned, as a youth, fiddle, piano, and fife, but stayed with the guitar as his instrument of choice. One of his local peers, Nehemiah "Skip" James, travelled to Jackson to get an audition with Henry Columbus "H.C." Speir, a record store owner and talent scout for several companies producing records. Out of that audition came a trip to Grafton, Wisconsin, to record several sides for Paramount Records. He had tried to get Jack to also go but Jack was not interested in traveling to perform. He chose instead to stay in Bentonia where he worked as a farmer, sold home-made bootleg liquor on the side, and ran a local in-town juke joint on weekends. He preferred to play his music on his front porch. Eventually his house became known as "Jack Owens' place, since, by then, all the furniture had been removed from the front parlor, and an opening cut in the wall, through to the kitchen, to pass through food and drinks. Some of the locals, which included Skip James and Henry Stuckey (who had taught both Skip and Jack how to play), played there sometimes. Jack would perform too, for the dancing. He could play and sing loud enough to be heard over the dancers. While playing he would keep time by stomping on the floor with his feet, a style that became known as "the Bentonia School". There's another bluesman, from Tutwiler, which is about 110 miles north of Bentonia, who used that style. Him, you probably know -- John Lee Hooker. Jack made no recordings until the late 1960's. He was first recorded one night, September 7, 1966, by musicologist David Evans. Two of those songs were released on a compilation album in 1968, "Goin' Up The Country". That album was made up of several bluesmen from Mississippi and Louisiana, with one or two songs by each, and was released on the Decca label. Jack's second album, again recorded by Evans on September 7, 1970, released in 1971, on the Testament label, featured Jack and his long-time friend, Benjamin "Blind Bud" Spires accompanying on harmonica. That album was titled "It Must Have Been The Devil". Spires was the son of Arthur "Big Boy" Spires who recorded with Chess Records in the 1950's and '60's. Jack's third album, "Jack Owens: Bentonia Country Blues", on the Albatross label, was recorded August 13 and 16, 1978, in Bentonia, by Gianni Marcucci. There was a 4th. album, "Blues From the Blue Front", recorded in April 1996, by Peter Redvers-Lee's Midnight Creeper Records, but it closed before it was released. Featured on it were Jack, Blind Bud Spires, Tommy Lee West, Mookey and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Cleo Pullman, and Jacob Stuckey. There are several compilations currently in print featuring a few songs by Jack. In the years after his 3rd. album, Jack performed at music festivals across the U.S.A. and Europe. He passed away on February 9, 1997, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
Blues Question For May 2017: this bluesman, born in Mississippi, moved to Louisiana in his teens. He spent most of his life working outside the music field, but did perform, on the side. He recorded on at least four different labels, all in widely- spaced geographies and years. He performed from Massachusetts to California. He was one of 12 children and went on to have 10 of his own. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Trivia (kin'da, again) For May 2017: while putting together the info on/about Jack Owens, I was also looking into some old "string band" players -- James "Butch" Cage and Willie B. Thomas, who often performed together. One of their more daring tunes was "Kill That Ni@@er Dead", which was not racial, but rather about going after another man who you thought had "wronged you" with your woman. Ever curious, I kept looking and found quite a few more songs peppered with the "N" word. I found that it was also used by a lot of the Delta bluesmen. While looking through them I ran across another spot on Jack Owens, but not of that type of thing. Along with him, several other Bentonia area bluesmen were shown in reference to a cafe that opened up in Bentonia in 1948. It is the "Blue Front Cafe", where a lot of the locals and also the travelling bluesmen would perform, including Jack. It was founded by Carey and Mary Holmes, and is run today by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, one of their sons, who is said to be the "last Bentonia School" player. The cafe is listed on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Here's the important part. While going through all of this hunting, I stumbled into a listing of a couple of videos that looked interesting. Boy, talk about under-estimating something! These two videos, about an hour long each, are time well-spent! There is a combination of historic footage not normally seen, from the early days of the development of the blues, leading into New York City, into Memphis, into Chicago, and into present-day blues-rock and blues. There is an interview with a bluesman, sitting in a chair in the side yard of the "Blue Front Cafe". As soon as I saw that spot I knew this video has to be passed on for all to made aware of and to see! Those videos are titled "Blues America, Part 1 and Part 2". If you love the blues and really want to learn more about it, watch the show, learn, and, above all, ENJOY!!
Some May Blues Passings:
Some April Blues Births:
Answer to the March 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Robert Lee "R.L." Burnside, born November 23rd.,1926, in Harmontown, Mississippi. He played harmonica up until he was around 16, roughly, which is when took up the guitar. He was playing in public by age 22. One of the first people he had heard playing the blues, when he was 7 or 8 years old, was one of his neighbors, Mississippi Fred McDowell, who would, in later years, teach R.L. on the guitar. He moved to Chicago in the mid/late 1940's, where, as I listed in the question, his time there was troubled, to say the least. After that he moved south again and married Alice Mae Taylor, in 1949. He moved several times between Memphis and northern Mississippi, which is where he would eventually settle, mostly, at first, staying in remote areas. Up into the 1980's he only played music part time. His full time or day job was as a sharecropper, farming soy and/or cotton, a truck driver, or as a commercial fisherman, selling "product" door to door. In Holly Springs, R.L. played gigs in local juke joints, bars, at picnics, and at his own house parties. His first recordings were made in 1967, as field recordings, by George Mitchell. He recorded more sides in 1969, 1975, and again in 1979/80, all done stateside. In the late '70's/early '80's, he met and formed a "partnership" with another "Mississippi Hill Country" bluesman-- Junior Kimbrough. Between 1980 and 1986, he recorded almost exclusively in France and the Netherlands, while on tour there, and at least once in New Orleans, Louisiana. Those albums, and a videotape, were only released in Europe. About 10 years later, after R.L. had shut down "Burnside's Palace", he moved next door to "Junior's Place", a juke joint that Kimbrough owned in Chulahoma, which originally was a church. That venue was burned to the ground in an arson fire on April 6, 2000. In 1991 R.L. had signed with Fat Possum Records, with whom he would remain until his passing. He recorded albums in 1992, 1994,and 1996. That '96 album was with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and was credited to R.L., titled "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey". The album won critical acclaim from most, but Living Blues magazine called it "possibly the worst blues album ever made". Later, there were more recordings and also some albums put together using re-mixes of earlier recordings. After a heart attack in 2001, followed by another in 2002, he no longer played guitar but did do guest appearances/performances as a singer up into 2004. He passed away September 1, 2005, in Memphis. There are many c.d.'s and vinyl albums of his recordings available, including a 7-disc set titled "The George Mitchell Collection, Volumes 1-45", which includes the field recordings he made, along with other Mississippi bluesmen being featured.
Blues Question for April 2017: this bluesman, at a very young age, learned some blues chords on guitar. While still a child, he was also taught to play fiddle, piano, and fife. He didn't want to be a professional musician and, for years, he only played on his front porch. He worked mostly as a farmer but he did have other "sidelines". Any idea who this bluesman might be??
Blues Trivia for April 2017 (kinda): This is more for your information rather than straight trivia. When The Sound of Blue was started I had the lofty goal of having in stock every current blues recording that was available at that time, which included tapes, c.d.'s, vinyl (45's and albums), VHS tapes, and DVD’s. At that time there were roughly 6,000 items, with another 4 to 6 thousand available that were duplicates, on other labels or other formats. It didn't take too long to figure out that my initial goal was not to be. It took a little while longer for me to accept it, though. Today, just in the catalogue of one vendor from whom I purchase, there are over 18,000 available. Same problem as before, a lot of them are duplicates on different labels. Same artwork, same appearance, sometimes vastly different prices. There's another problem that pops up also: what or who you're hunting for may not show up in the genre you think it's in. I have found that when a blues fan is trying to find a particular performer/album/song, or hunting it some other way, the info they have is either incomplete or totally wrong. Biggest problem appears to be "genre" listings, as these can be determined by the artist, the record company, whoever manufactures the item, the guy who enters it in the computer at the warehouse level, and sometimes the stock boy who puts it away. When you're hunting for blues, especially today's artists, it may be listed as: blues, psycho-blues, folk, world, jazz, rap, hip-hop, soul, rock, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, oldies, pop, or even big-band. I'll give you one quick example: Chuck Berry. He was the first one I heard playing blues, on a 45: "Deep Feeling" (an instrumental using a lap steel guitar), which was the flip side of "School Day". Since his passing, I was browsing through his catalogue, and there are 93 items with him listed as the main artist and over 1,100 with him or his music/songs available. While going through that list, I found him listed under jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, oldies, Hawaiian, and world. Here's a little bit of trivia: Chuck first started playing in public when he was in high school, Sumner High School in St. Louis, at the school. While still in high school, he was arrested, tried, and convicted of armed robbery, for which he served 3 years, 1944-1947.
Some April Blues Passings:
Some March Blues Births:
Answer to the February Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was "Earring" George Mayweather, born September 27., 1927, in Montgomery County, Alabama. He received a harmonica as a Christmas present when he was six years old. He taught himself to play it after listening to John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson I. After George moved to Chicago he met and became friends with Little Walter (Jacobs), who would teach George techniques on the harp. This was in 1949 or thereabouts. In the February Blues Blog I mentioned that he lived next door to a blues guitarist of some note. That person was Joseph Benjamin "J.B." Hutto, the uncle of both James "Pookie" Young, a bass player, and "Lil' Ed" Williams (of "Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials"), a vocalist and slide guitarist, who were half-brothers. Early in the 1950's he teamed up with Eddie "Porkchop" Hines, a percussionist, to perform at/in the Maxwell Street market. In 1952, after Little Walter had left Muddy Waters' touring band to start his own solo career, George was offered that job, but turned it down. You have to remember that this was when Muddy was just starting to get big. What if George had taken that job? Would it have made him more well-known? Who knows? At that time, however, he was mostly working with Hutto, with occaisional work as a session man in the band backing Bo Diddley (Ellas McDaniel, born as Ellas Otha Bates) on recordings. By December 1953, J.B. Hutto had brought in/ hired Porkchop Hines on percussion and Joe Custom, on 2nd. guitar. He then hired "Earring" George on harp, and named the band "J.B. Hutto and the Hawks". In January/ February of 1954, they recorded four sides. In October, they added Johnny Jones on piano and recorded two more sides. All of these were on the Chance label. George got the "Earring" moniker from "Big Bill" Hill, a Chicago radio D.J., promoter, and T.V. host of blues and other music programs. In the late 50's, George recorded several sides with Eddie "Playboy" Taylor, some of which were released as singles, but they weren't as successful as those done with Hutto. In the 1980's he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he landed a permanent gig at the 1369 Jazz Club. In 1992 he recorded his only album, "Whup It,Whup It", on the Tone Cool Records label. He passed away in Boston on February 12th.,1995, of liver cancer.
Blues Question for March 2017: I usually give you questions about relatively "unknowns" in the blues, or ones that are mostly overlooked. How about this time I give you an easy one, even though this bluesman's life was anything but easy? Born in Mississippi, as were a lot of the blues musicians, he, at one time, moved to Chicago. That proved to be a rough time for him, as while he lived there his father, two of his own brothers, and two of his uncles were all murdered there. He, after that moved to Memphis for a time, and then back to Mississippi. He, himself, was incarcerated at/ in Parchman Farm, a prison, if you're not familiar with the name, for a murder that happened during a dispute over a crap game. He made his first recordings in 1967. Ring any bells? Any idea who this bluesman is/was??
Blues Trivia for March 2017: the music of today's "blues artists" shows the definite trend of merging rock, soul, rhythm & blues, country, jazz, and even sometimes, blues. If you go back quite a few years, however, you'll find that this is not something new. I have been told, more than a few times, that I'm a "blues purist". Well, maybe so, but I do go back to early rock & roll, rock, jazz, rockabilly, and many other genres of music, both to listen and enjoy, and for research to learn/ discover more about the blues. When you start really looking at these different genres of music, what you'll find is that they all have one thing in common-- how much each of them has been influenced by the blues! Let me give you just one example here -- Danny Gatton, guitarist. Ever hear of him? He was born September 4th.,1945, as Daniel W. Gatton Jr.. His father was also a guitarist, but gave it up to take care of his family. Danny was a teenager when he first started playing in bands. What he did was fuse be-bop, country, rock & roll, rockabilly, jazz, soul, and blues into his works. From out of his ability to do that, he was dubbed with the nickname "The Telemaster", as he played/favored a 1953 Fender Telecaster. He would later be called "the Humbler", because of his ability to out-play anyone who was foolish enough to compete with him in a match session. He has also been called "the world's greatest unknown guitarist". In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time", had him ranked at 63rd. In 2010, Gibson guitars ranked him as 27th. best of all time. He was/is recognized by Eric Clapton, Steve Earle, and Les Paul. He is also admired by Les Paul, Bill Kirchen (Hot Rod Lincoln), Albert Lee, Steve Vai, Richie Sambora, "Slash", and many others. He performed with Roy Buchanan, Jorma Kaukonen, Lonnie Mack, Alvin Lee, and Jimmie Vaughan, among others. The trivia part is that he was a mentor to an eleven year old fledgling guitarist, someone you're probably familiar with-- "Smokin'" Joe Bonamassa!! You want to know more about Danny, or how we lost him-- look him up-- you'll be surprised or, maybe, saddened.
Some March Blues Passings:
Some February Blues Births:
Answer to the January 2017 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Benjamin Joe "Bennie" Houston, born November 6, 1943, in Panola, Alabama-- an area known as the "Black Belt", because of its topsoil's richness. That is the "uplands area", which runs from East Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, and was the dominant cotton-producing area of the day. Bennie was the 9th. of eleven children. At the age of 4, he was given a guitar by his brother Earle, who was leaving for military service. He learned to play it by age 6. In 1962, after his graduation from high school, he moved to Chicago to join his brothers "Sweetman"(Elijah), Milton and Nathaniel, who were performing under the name "Sweetman and The Sugar Boys". He was immediately brought into the group. Sometime after his joining, his brother Nathaniel, on his way home after a gig on the South Side, was killed in an automobile accident. The remaining brothers, being superstitious, broke up the band, vowing never to play together again, so they would not all perish together. Bennie performed after that under the name "Dog Man", for a period. On finding out that that name was already being used by another performer, he switched his performing name to one that was a fictional character, a jewel thief and bank robber in the periodicals of an earlier time-- "Boston Blackie". Those stories, first published in 1914, were written by a man named Jack Boyle, whose pen-name was "No.6066", as he was in prison at the time, once for bad checks and later for robbery. Anyhow, Blackie, influenced by his brother Milton, improved his playing by sitting in with notables, such as Johnny B Moore, Lee "Shot" Williams, Little Milton (Campbell), Magic Sam (Maghett), Otis Rush, Freddy King (sometimes spelled Freddie), Kansas City Red (Arthur Lee Stevenson), Homesick James (Williamson), Little Walter (Jacobs), Hubert Sumlin (long time guitarist in Howlin' Wolf's band), and Jimmy "Fast Fingers" Dawkins. Blackie played at most of the West Side venues at one time or another. On the weekends, together with Necktie Nate (who later owned one of those clubs), he would play at the corners of Pulaski and Roosevelt Streets. Blackie was extremely dark-skinned, and Nate, joking with the fans/crowd, would offer $5.00 to anyone who was "blacker than Blackie"--- they never had to pay!! On July 11th.,1993, at around 1:00 AM, at a stage set up in a vacant lot on West 5th. Street, Boston Blackie, during an argument with one of his band members and friend of about 30 years, was shot in the eye with a .38 revolver. That friend, James Yancey "Taildragger" Jones, and Blackie had been, for sometime, arguing about money that Jones felt he was shorted for their performance at the Chicago Blues Festival in May. Jones claimed it was self-defense and that Blackie "had pulled a knife on him". Jones was charged with 1st. degree murder. I've found different records of the actual charges in his conviction. One indicates he was convicted of 2nd. degree murder. Another shows him being convicted of manslaughter. As he served 17 months in jail, the latter is probably correct. Taildragger is still performing and recording. By the way, he got that nickname from/by Howlin' Wolf because he often showed up late for gigs with "Wolf".
Blues Question For February 2017: This bluesman got his start, as did quite a few others, with a Christmas present. In his case, a harmonica, at the age of six. He would, later in life, meet a harmonicist who would give him lessons. He lived next door to a blues guitarist of some note, with whom he would perform and, later, record, while living in Chicago. He recorded only one album under his own name. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Trivia for February 2017: A man named Art Sheridan owned a record- pressing plant, Armour Plastics, in Chicago. He also owned American Record Distributors, located at 2011 South Michigan Avenue. He started the Chance Record Co. label in August of 1950, and opened for business in September. It started out as a 78 rpm only label. He got into trouble with the musician's union and in August of 1951 through May of 1952, he lost his license to be able to record any union musicians. For every problem, there's a solution, so to keep the business going, he started to record gospel groups and musicians, as, at that time, they were not in the union. Late in 1952, he added 45 rpm records to his offerings. Once his "ban" was lifted, he moved the record company and distribution operations to 1151 East 47th. Street. Being a businessman, Art made some deals to press/release records made by some of the smaller companies, though he did do some for Chess. One of the recordings of one of the small labels, ORA-NELL, was by a man named Little Walter J. That recording was originally done in 1947. It featured Little Walter J(acobs) on harmonica, Othum Brown on guitar, and a second guitarist named Jimmy Rogers. The "A" side was "Ora-Nell Blues", which featured Brown on vocals. The "B" side was "Just Keep Loving Her", with Little Walter on vocals. That was the first recording of both Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers. Most people think Chance did the first recording of Little Walter. Wrong again. There was, however, one bluesman of note who DID do his first recordings (six sides) at Chance Records--- J.B. Hutto and the Hawks. Chance Records was closed down in December of 1954. Sheridan went on to become a silent partner in Vee-Jay Records, who were the first to record Jimmy Reed. During Chance's short life, they recorded 360 sides and purchased/leased 44 more. Its subsidiary label, Meteor (not to be mistaken for the Bihari Brothers Meteor label), released 1. Another "spin-off" label, Sabre, released 9.
Some February Blues Passings:
Here we are-- a brand new year! Hope everyone had a good Christmas season and a safe beginning to the New Year, with, hopefully, more to follow!
Some January Blues Births:
Answer to The December 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Maynard Silva, born February 20th., 1951, in Oak Bluffs, a town, which has several communities, on the island known as Martha's Vineyard, that is south of Cape Cod and is part of Massachusetts. At his birth, the family lived in the community of Vineyard Haven, where his father, Frank, worked at a gas station and managed the local cemetery. His mother, Mabel, worked at Vineyard Dry Goods. Maynard attended Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, from which he graduated in 1969. While still in that school, he met and then apprenticed with Peter Ortiz, a local sign painter. He had his musical interest peaked by his English teacher, Leroy Hazelton, who played a "Howlin' Wolf" record for him. Maynard would say in a later interview that that record and music scared him because it was so intense. He had only heard rock and roll before. Then he was further encouraged musically by his art teacher, Gene Baer, who was a boogie - woogie piano player, and explained music theory to Maynard. After graduation he entered Lindenwood College, near St. Louis. Not finding the blues scene he wanted, he travelled down-river to Memphis on weekends, where he would spend time in the clubs on Beale Street. He quit college to play blues in Memphis, which was the start of his career, around 1972, which is when he met and performed with Bukka White. From then on he was playing professionally, and touring extensively, performing with bluesmen such as Buddy Guy, J.B.Hutto, and Rick Danko. Sadly, as has happened to many musicians, he became an addict during this period. By the late 1980's he quit touring and returned to the Vineyard, started a family, and worked as a sign painter. That marriage ended in divorce, and he raised his son, Milo, on his own. In 1998 he met his second wife, a local artist, Basia Jaworski. They were married in 2007. During those years he still played local gigs and helped others to learn the music craft, as he was a great slide guitar player, as well as harmonica. He was known across the country by his usual performing outfit-- a top hat and red, high-top sneakers and the ever-present National steel guitar. He played and sang from the gut, as did the early bluesmen, not like some of today's players, who play from the head and the bank. Maynard passed away on July 16th., 2008, after a three year battle with cancer. He was 57.
January 2017 Blues Question: this bluesman had mastered the guitar by the age of 6. Born in Alabama, he migrated to Chicago to be with three of his brothers. He took his best-known stage name from a fictional character. He learned from and performed with at least twelve different big names in the Chicago blues clubs. He was only 49 years old when he passed. Any idea who this bluesman is/was??
Blues Trivia for January 2017: over the years, the music recording business in Chicago has been steady, good for some, not so good for others. Some labels have been around for a long time, while others have been/ were short-lived. One of those short-lived ones was Chief Records and its subsidiaries Profile and Age Records. They operated from 1957 to 1964. It was founded by a 25 year old R & B entrepreneur named Mel London ( 4-9-1932 / 5-16-1975). One of his main assets was a session man he had by the name of Earl Hooker, who worked closely with him. Hooker, who was recognized as one of the best blues guitarists in the Chicago area, was involved in over a dozen recording sessions. His playing was featured in at least 40 titles and over 25 singles. Twelve of those were released under his own name, with the rest showing him as a sideman for others, including Amos "Junior" Wells, A.C.Reed, Lillian Offitt, and Ricky Allen. Some of the other artists who recorded on the three different labels were Elmore James, Magic Sam (Maghett), Otis Rush, John Lee Hooker (as a sideman), and Johnny "Big Moose" Walker. Following some financial problems, the Chief and Profile labels were discontinued in late 1961. The Age label lasted until 1964. The trivia part is that on May 3rd.,1961, Earl Hooker recorded an instrumental blues (now a blues staple), called "Blue Guitar", with A.C.Reed on tenor sax, "Big Moose" Walker on organ, Lafayette Leake on piano, Earnest Johnson on bass, and Bobby Little on drums. Lo and behold, on June 27th., 1962, Muddy Waters "overdubbed" his vocal onto that track and re-named it "You Shook Me", and then released it. And, like most, you thought it was an original!! By the way, I also found a spot where someone credited it to Willie Dixon.
Some January Blues Passings:
Hi, Blues Fans: just to let you know, the 2017 blues calendars are in, featuring original blues artwork from the 1920's/'30's, and a 23 track cd of music from the same period.
Now, it's another December, the month of Christmas and New Years Eve parties, and when and where possible, family gatherings. To all, we wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Yes, I know by today's standards, that it's not politically correct, but I'm sure that with any blues fan, it is correct. What-- the song should be "Happy Holiday, Baby”? That would be a severe injustice to Charles Brown! His original vocal was with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, “Merry Christmas, Baby" (1947), on the Aladdin label, #254.
Thanks to all who attended/participated in/at the NEOBA 2016 Christmas Party. It is/was for good causes!
December Blues Births:
Answer to the November 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Houston Stackhouse, born Houston Goff, September 28th.,1910, in Wesson, Mississippi. He was raised by James Wade Stackhouse, on the Randall Ford Plantation. He only found out about his biological parentage in 1976, when he applied for a passport to perform in Vienna, Austria (which was his only overseas trip). When he was around 15, his family moved to Crystal Springs. At around that point he became interested in music while listening to local musicians and records by Arthur "Blind" Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Lonnie Johnson. The local musicians from whom he learned to play guitar were brothers Tommy, Mager, LeDell, and Clarence Johnson. From the late '20's up to about 1932, Houston worked with Tommy Johnson and his own distant cousin, Robert Lee McCollum (aka Robert Lee McCoy; best known as Robert Nighthawk), who, it has been said, Houston taught to play guitar. Houston himself played guitar, violin, mandolin, and harmonica. During his career, from the early '30's through 1969, he, at various times, worked with Jimmy Rogers, The Mississippi Sheiks (2nd. group), Robert Lockwood Jr., Little Walter Jacobs, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Frank Frost, Peck Curtis, Boyd Gilmore, and Joe Willie Wilkins, to name a few. He performed, at different times, on the "King Biscuit Time" and "Mother's Best Flour Hour " programs on KFFA radio, in Helena, Arkansas. During this period he only performed in the Delta area. He did his first recording session in 1967, in Dundee, Mississippi, on the Testament label. From 1970 on he started to travel more to perform. Some of the places he played were Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, Boston, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Florida. He passed away September 23rd., 1980, five days short of his 70th. birthday, in Helena, Arkansas.
Blues Question For December 2016: this bluesman is of Portuguese descent. He plays slide guitar and harmonica in the late Delta/ early Chicago style. He was quoted as saying, in a 1994 interview, " it's hard to see this big explosion of BMW blues, you know? I mean Eric Clapton, a multimillionaire, singing about five long years working in a steel mill? ". His biggest influence was Booker T. Washington " Bukka " White. Any idea who this bluesman is??
Blues Trivia for December 2016: (this whole thing is trivia this time) As a blues fan, are you familiar with the Aristocrat record label? No ? I'll bet you are! It was founded in April, 1947, in Chicago, by five people: two husband and wife couples and one individual. In September of that same year, another investor bought into the company, a guy by the name of Leonard Chess. By 1948 Leonard had bought out the rest of the group, and, with one of the founding wives, Evelyn Aron, ran the company. By early 1950 Leonard and brother, Phil, became sole owners. In June of that year the company's name was changed to Chess Records. In January of 1951, the Aristocrat label was officially discontinued. During the period from 1947 into 1950, two of the artists who recorded on the Aristocrat/Chess labels were notable. One of them was Muddy Waters. The other was Robert Nighthawk (born as Robert Lee McCollum). The two competed for the top billing spot, as both were "slide" players of the same style. As Muddy won the spot, Nighthawk moved to the " United " and " States " labels. Oh, by the way, at the age of 17, Nighthawk had a son, born Samuel Lee McCollum. You may have heard the son's later name, taken from his adoptive parents-- Sam Carr, a well-known drummer who could also play bass. Carr, Frank Frost, and "Big" Jack Johnson later formed " The Jelly Roll Kings ".
Some December Blues Passings:
Some November Blues Births
Answer To The October 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Freddie Spruell, aka Papa Freddie or Mr. Freddie, born December 28th.,1893, probably in Lake Providence, Louisiana. He is regarded as the first Delta bluesman to be recorded, though he, as a boy, had moved to Chicago with his family. He is regarded as a Delta bluesman because he played in the style of the music he had heard in his youth, before the move to Chicago. The distinction of being the first two to record blues vocals goes to Mamie Smith, who recorded in August, 1920, and "Blind" Lemon Jefferson, who recorded in March, 1926. The first song Freddie recorded, "Muddy Water Blues" on the OKeh label, #9908A, on June 25th.,1926, in Chicago. His second recorded song, "Milk Cow Blues", same label, same town, but on November 17th.,1926, was #9793A. He recorded both as "Papa Freddie". Both were released as #8122. He would, later, record on the Paramount and Bluebird labels, though he only recorded over a nine year period. A couple of things about his early recordings-- "Milk Cow Blues" is generally considered by blues historians and fans to have been first written and recorded by "Sleepy" John Estes on May 13th.,1930, in Memphis. Another "oops" in blues facts. By the way, that song has been covered by many people and should be familiar to you. Some of those are Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and Eddie Cochran(Summertime Blues), just to name a few. Another song, recorded on April 12th.,1935, in Chicago, with the featured artist shown as "Sugar Cane Johnny"(Ellis), had Freddie as the guitarist and "Washboard Sam"(Robert Brown) on washboard. That song was titled as "Who Pumped The Wind In The Doughnuts?". That song was originally recorded in New York City on January 6th.,1933, and was titled as "Mama's Doughnut", performed by "Spark Plug Smith". A few months after the 1935 version by Sugar Cane Johnny, it was recorded by Washboard Sam and re-titled again as "Who Pumped The Wind In My Doughnut", and was a hit for Sam. In the late 1920's Freddie met and married his lifetime wife. She said, in an interview years after Freddie's passing, that the last time he played was for his mother's birthday, and that his mother asked him to stop playing blues and return to the church, which he did. By 1945 he was a preacher in a Baptist church, but didn't do so often, and he never played in church. He passed away on June 19th.,1956, in Chicago, after a prolonged hospital stay. No death certificate has ever been found. One odd thing about Freddie is that he always used a 12-string guitar, where almost all other Delta bluesmen used either a 4 or 6-string guitar.
Blues Question For November 2016: this bluesman learned guitar at the age of 17, from some of the early greats in blues. He would later go on to teach and sometimes play with the latest greats. He made his first recordings at the age of 57. He's not well-known because he didn't like to travel to perform. Any ideas who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia For November 2016: if you read the October 2016 Trivia section, you'll remember that it covered the ABCO, Cobra, and Aritocrat labels and that it gave a start to some of the blues greats. One of those listed was "Magic Sam" Maghett, who made his first hit record, "All Your Love", in May of 1957 (featuring Willie Dixon on bass). Now we'll cover some of the trivia around Sam. His first actual recording session was backing Morris Pejoe on "Screaming and Crying" and "Maybe Blues", on the short-lived ABCO label in May of 1956. Sam would first record under his own name on the fore-mentioned "All Your Love", which was recorded on the Cobra label a few months later. Sam was drafted into the U.S.Army in 1959, and promptly deserted, which netted him six months in the stockade(jail) and a dishonorable discharge. He "rehabilitated" himself in the early 1960's and became a sought-after performer. He toured quite a bit with Charlie Musselwhite. Sam's uncle and part-time manager was "Shakey Jake" Harris. At the time Sam recorded for ABCO and Cobra records he used the pseudonym "Good Rocking Sam", but changed that to Magic Sam, which was suggested by his longtime friend and current bass player, Mack Thompson. The reason for the change being that another performer, a blues and rhythm and blues singer went by the "Good Rocking Sam" moniker. His real name was Sam Beasley, and he recorded on the Excello label, usually with the Kid King Combo, out of Memphis
Some November Blues Passings
Some October Blues Births:
Answer To The September 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/ was William "Bill"/"Lazy Bill" Lucas, born August 29th.,1918, in Wayne, Arkansas. He was supposedly born partially blind. By 1924 the family had moved to Advance, Missouri, where he worked on a farm. By 1930 he had taught himself to play guitar, and from 1930 to 1932, he worked the streets, playing for tips. In 1932 he taught himself to play piano. In 1936 or '37 he moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he worked as a "hillbilly" guitarist. He then went to Commerce, Missouri, where he performed from late 1937 through 1939. In 1940 he moved to St. Louis, where he worked the streets with "Big Joe" Williams, though Bill sometimes worked alone. In early 1941 he moved to Chicago, where he worked the Maxwell Street area with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson (I), with whom he would tour during the 1940's. Some of the people he worked with while in Chicago were Willie Mabon, Little Walter (Jacobs), Earl Dranes, "Homesick" James (Williamson, who sometimes performed/ recorded as "Jick and His Trio"), Snooky Prior, "Little Hudson" (Shower), Little Willie Foster, and JoJo Williams. In around 1964 Bill moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he would reside until his passing. While living there he sometimes performed with George "Mojo" Buford. Also while living there; he worked the "college circuit" and festivals in the northeast. Bill recorded on the Chance, Parrot, J.O.B., Cobra, Blue Lake, Excello, Wild, Lazy, Atomic, Colt, Atomic-H, and LaSalle labels. He passed away in his sleep, at home, of natural causes, on December 12th.,1982.
Blues Question For October 2016: This bluesman performed and recorded under three different names. It has been said that he recorded two more songs, under a 4th name. One of his songs, the first he had written and recorded, has been covered by over one hundred different artists and/ or bands. Not surprisingly, its' writing has been credited to two other bluesmen, incorrectly. He eventually quit performing music and became a Baptist preacher. Any idea who this bluesman is/ was ??
Blues Trivia For October 2016: Over the years there have been many record labels associated with recording the blues, especially in the beginning. At that time , they were called "Race Records". Some of those labels you're probably familiar with, such as Victor, OKeh, Black Swan, Excello, Decca, Mercury, Paramount, King, and many others. This is one of the "lesser-known" , Cobra, and its' subsidiary, Artistic. of Chicago, founded by Eli Toscani, in 1956. That label gave the start to the careers of Otis Rush, "Magic Sam" (Maghett), Buddy Guy, "Shakey Jake" (Harris), and others. It started the "new generation" of blues artists and brought a new sound to the blues, which, eventually, would be called "The West Side Sound". The first song recorded at Cobra was "I Can't Quit You, Baby" (which has since been covered by many artists), by Otis Rush, in 1956. In 1957 Magic Sam recorded his signature tune-- "All Your Love". In 1958 Buddy Guy & His Band recorded "Sit and Cry (the Blues)", backed with "Try to Quit You Baby", on the Artistic subsidiary label. Some of the others who recorded on the Cobra/ Artistic label(s) were Walter "Shakey" Horton, Sunnyland Slim (Albert Laundrew), Lee Jackson, Little Willie Foster, Harold Burrage, Guitar Shorty (David Kearney), Betty Everett, Shakey Jake Harris, and Ike Turner. There are several bits of trivia with this label and its' owner. ABCO records was started in April of 1956, by Eli Toscano (who owned a TV repair shop), Ted Daniels (producer, songwriter, singer), and Joe Brown (owner of A.B. Record Distributing and , later, the founder/ owner of J.O.B. Records). The label lasted only four months, supposedly ending because of differences between Toscano and Brown. In July Cobra Records was started, with Ted and a new financial "partner", Howard Bedno. The trivia parts are that early in 1957, Eli hired Willie Dixon away from Chess Records, to be the talent scout, arranger, songwriter, producer, and bassist. The other part is that Cobra Records folded in 1959, when its' owner, Eli, was found in the Chicago River, wearing cement shoes, possibly because of unpaid gambling debts. Shakey Jake Harris (who got his nickname from his ability with the dice), who was a professional gambler for 15 years before starting his recording career, was quoted as earlier saying that "Eli was a crap-shootin' fool". After that Willie Dixon returned to Chess Records, and you should already know that it was the most productive time for both Willie and the Chess label.
Some October Blues Passings:
Some September Blues Births:
Answer to the August 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is William Paden Hensley, better known as "Washboard Willie", born July 24th.,1909, in Fort Mitchell, Alabama. The family moved shortly thereafter to Columbus, Georgia. There, by the age of six, he had mastered the drums. In those early years he went to tent, vaudeville, and minstrel shows. He sometimes performed around the area, but not professionally, on drums. Influenced by what he had seen at those shows, somewhere between 1932 and 1940, he bought a wooden framed, steel washboard. To it he attached a 4" frying pan and part of an old dog leash (to be able to suspend it from his neck). Then, using eight metal thimbles, he beat out songs. The pan, he thought, gave it a better sound. In 1945 he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked washing cars at a local dealership. In 1952 he and a friend went looking to find a local blues musician named John Lee Hooker. Instead, who they found first, playing at the Harlem Inn, was Eddie "Guitar" Burns and his band. After listening to a few songs, Willie realized that the drummer was playing "off-time". Willie went out to his car, got his washboard, returned to the club, and started to play in time with the band. After he had finished playing the second song the club owner came over and booked him to play the coming weekend. It ended up with Willie and the Eddie Burns band playing there for three years. Willie's first recordings were as a sideman, with The Eddie "Guitar" Burns Band, in 1953, on the DeLuxe label of Detroit. Somewhere around that time, while working at his day job washing cars, he came up with the name for his own band--" Washboard Willie and The Suds of Rhythm" (sometimes you'll find them listed as The Super Suds of Rhythm). The name came from a laundry soap of the time, which he might have been using at his job. When they were performing in 1955, he gave "Little Sonny" Willis his start (you'll find Little Sonny listed in an earlier blog). Willie first recorded under his own name, Washboard Willie and the Suds of Rhythm, in 1956, on the J-V-B label (named after Joe Von Battle, one of the first black record producers). During his recording career, which spanned from 1953 through 1973, he recorded on the DeLuxe, J-V-B, VON, Blue Lake, Dot, Modern, Knowles, Excello, Herculon, Barrelhouse, Drummond, and Big Bear/Polydor labels. Some of those were under his own name, while others were with him as a sideman for Baby Boy Warren, Lena Hall, Louise Jackson, Henry Smith and His Blue Flames, Calvin Frazier, and Brother Will Hairston. Though most of his work was in Detroit, he did play at the Monterey Jazz Fest in California, recorded in Chicago, and toured England and Europe with The American Blues Legends in 1973. He performed in clubs and at festivals in Detroit and Ann Arbor into the mid 1980's. He passed away in Detroit on August 24th.,1991, of a heart attack.
NOTE: As I have said before, every time you dig into the history of some of the lesser-known blues artists of the past, you start running into conflicting "facts" about them. On Willie, the more I dug, the more confusing it got. He is shown as being born in 1901 and 1909, with the latter showing up more often than the former. His place of birth is another one. I picked the Fort Mitchell location because that source supposedly checked birth records. In 1813/1814, Fort Mitchell was actually a cavalry garrison to protect the people during the Creek Wars. That is located in Russell County. Another source has his birthplace as Union Springs, Alabama, which was incorporated in 1817, after the Creek Wars. It's in Bullock County, which butts up to the west side of Russell County. Still other sources show him to be born in Columbus, Georgia (the home of Fort Benning). If you're familiar with the area, if you start at Columbus, take the bridge across the Chattahoochee River, you'd be in Phenix City, Alabama (yes, Phenix is spelled correctly). From there, go 10 miles (approx.) south and you'd be in Fort Mitchell. Go another 45 to 50 (approx.) miles south and you'd be in Union Springs. They're all close together, so take your pick!
Blues Question for September 2016: This bluesman was born partially blind. He learned (self-taught) his first instrument as a youth. In his teens, he switched instruments, and learned the second one. He did a lot of recording work-- though not under his own name. He later did a few of his own. He made his first money playing music when he was 12 years old. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Trivia for September 2016: previously, in the above answer to the August Blues Question, I listed Joe Von Battle as a black music producer, which is correct, but there was a lot more to him than that. Born Joseph Battle on April 3rd.,1915, in Macon, Georgia, he was a trained and licensed minister. He took the "Von" part of his name as a result of being a fan of the films of Erich Von Stroheim. He kept the Von as he believed that it made him appear to be of European descent, rather than African-American, in his later business dealings. Those dealings were after, in the 1930's, he had moved to Detroit with his wife and four children. He later re-married and had four more children. Skipping all the detail between his moving to Detroit in the 30's and 1948, I’ll pick it up there. By that time, he had established Joe's Records, at 3530 Hastings Street, which was the "hotbed" of black music (blues, R&B, jazz and gospel) at that time. He had roughly 35,000 records in stock and had set up a recording studio in the back of the building. That was the birth of the J-V-B, VON, and Battle record labels. A few of the people who recorded on the different listed labels were John Lee Hooker, Baby Boy Warren, Boogie Woogie Red (Vernon Harrison), Washboard Willie, Little Sonny Willis, Calvin Frazier, Eddie "Guitar" Burns, Joe Weaver, Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman), Little Willie John, One-String Sam (Wilson), Reverand Clarence Franklin, and Brother Will Hairston. There were many others! Here's where the trivia comes in. In 1960, Hastings Street, which was THE musical area for the local musicians and fans, and all the properties thereon, were demolished to make way for the Chrysler Freeway. Not to be deterred, Joe moved his businesses to 12th.Street, on the west side of Detroit. He kept recording all the types of music he always had, up until 1966. About this time he was diagnosed with Addison's Disease and was also afflicted with chronic alcoholism. In 1967, during the "race riots", his businesses were almost totally destroyed, as they were in the area of the problems. He passed on March 26th.,1973, from the effects of his illnesses. The last bit of trivia-- the aforementioned Rev. C. L. Franklin ?-- his daughter, who you know as ARETHA, made her first recording, in 1957, at the age of 14, for/on Battle's J-V-B records label, a gospel song-- "Never Grow Old"!!
Some September Blues Passings:
Some August Blues Births:
Answer To The July 2016 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Alexander "Alec" T. Seward (sometimes shown as Alec Stewart) aka "Blues Boy", "Blues King", "Georgia Slim", or/and "Guitar Slim". The others who used the "Guitar Slim" name were Eddie Jones, Guitar Slim Jr. (born as Rodney Glynn Armstrong and really is Eddie Jones's son), James Stephenson and Norman Green. Jones was/is probably the best-known of all, for his song "The Things That I Used To Do", which is still being covered by today's artists. Alec was born March 16, 1902, in Charles City, Virginia. Shortly after that the family moved to Newport News. There, from 1920 to 1923, he played at local parties and dances. After that time he moved to New York City, where he worked outside the music field, but did play at/for the occasional party. He did that from 1923 through the '30's. At different times during the '40's, he worked with Louis "Fat Boy" Hayes, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Leadbelly. In the '40's he only recorded with Hayes, under the names of "The Blues Boys", "The Backporch Boys", and with Hayes, featuring Alec as "Blues King". You can also find recordings of them listed as "Jelly Belly and Guitar Slim". He did a couple of recording sessions with Sonny Terry in the '50's, but he worked mostly outside music. In 1965 he recorded with Larry Johnson, featuring Johnson on harmonica, and in '66 with Sonny and Brownie. About that session, Sonny Terry was quoted as saying "There wasn't none better than him at singing". Alec passed away in New York City on May 11, 1972. He is buried in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Blues Question For August 2016: This bluesman is another of the "unsung bluesmen". He was born in Alabama and later moved to Detroit. He had mastered playing his first instrument by age 6. Most of his recording was done in Detroit, but he also recorded in Chicago and London, England. Some of his recordings can be found on DVD's of various festivals. He is shown, in error, as having written only one song of his own. Any idea of who this "forgotten" bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia For August 2016: Most all of the true blues songs are lamenting "that woman", "this man", "that train", or breaking-down cars or taxes, and/or all of the other everyday problems of life. Been that way since the beginning---still is that way, though the topics have changed. Consider "Telephone Blues", with versions credited to Bessie Smith, Sonny Terry, and Big John Wrencher, just to name a few. Now, it's "Cell Phone Blues" or "Cell Phone Man", recorded by artists such as Willie Buck, Nnenna Freelon, Michael Coghill, Cleveland Fats, and Bill Lupkin. Another is the ever-present type of blues song-- the Risque Blues, sometimes referred to as double-entendre type of songs, the meaning of which is to be interpreted by the listener. The ones I'm going to list are about the ladies, but ladies--please take no offense at them, as the female singers do the same thing about the men. Some of them are: "Big Fat Mama" by Big Joe Williams, "Big Fat Mama Blues" by Tommy Johnson, "Big Fine Girl" by Jimmy Witherspoon, "Big Butt Woman" by Blind Joe Hill, "Big Leg Blues" by Mississippi John Hurt, "Big Leg Mama" by James "Kokomo" Arnold, "Big Leg Woman" by Johnny "Geechie" Temple (a favorite of our departed friend and avid blues fan-- Fred Jones!), "Big Time Girl" by Peter Chatman, aka "Memphis Slim", and "Big Time Woman" by Roosevelt Sykes, aka "The Honeydripper". The trivia part is that one of this group of songs, "Big Hip Mamma", was done by Alec Seward, on whom I did the July Blues Question. I picked this group of songs to show the bluesmen's fondness for the ladies (and vice-versa)!
Some August Blues Passings:
As always-- Good Blues To 'Ya !!
Some July Blues Births:
Answer to the June 2016 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Joe Seneca, born Joel McGhee, in Cleveland, Ohio on January 4th.,1919. He first sang in the choir at Central High School. After high school, in his early career, he sang with a vocal group The Three Riffs, who were sometimes known as The Jungle Bugs or The Three Barons, performing in New York City after moving there. They would also perform in Boston, Cleveland, Chicago and St. Louis. He (they) recorded from 1939 to 1949, however little. Joe wrote two songs that were big hits-- "Talk to Me", recorded by Little Willie John, and "Break It to Me Gently", a 1962 hit for Brenda Lee and a 1982 hit for Juice Newton. He then went on to Hollywood to begin a new career, which started in the 1970's and went on into the '90's. We'll cover the t.v. spots first. He made several appearances as Dr. Zachariah J. Hanes, president of Hillman University, on The Cosby Show. He played Alvin Newcastle, a man afflicted with Alzheimer’s, on an episode of The Golden Girls. He played the accused, found innocent, on an episode of Matlock, titled "The Blues Singer". On that episode they, Seneca and Andy Griffith, did a duet, with acoustic guitars and vocals of "How Long, How Long Blues". His last episode on t.v. was on Law and Order, where he portrayed a blind murder witness. On the next size screen, he had an appearance on Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" video. Now, on to the big screen. In the 1982 film "The Verdict", he played Dr. Thompson. a witness for Attorney Frank Galvin, played by Paul Newman. The film was/is a really good courtroom/life drama, starring some of the big names of the time, and was nominated for 5 academy awards. In the 1985 film "Silverado" he played the father of Danny Glover's character. Joe made two films in 1988. one was Spike Lee's "School Daze", where he played President McPherson of Mission College. The film is a musical comedy drama based on Lee's experiences in college (s). It looks at members of black fraternity and sororities on a mostly black college campus on homecoming weekend, where the faculty is totally inept at it's job. The other two films are the ones for which he is best known. In 1988 he starred in the remake of 1958's "The Blob", as Dr. Christopher Meddows, the evil head of a government team. Now, on to the one all blues fans should recognize. In it, Joe played "Willie Brown", a blues guitarist/vocalist who is trying to help Eugene Martone, a classical guitarist who wants to be a bluesman, find a long-lost blues song. Willie is actually headed to a meeting to get out of his contract with the devil. This is the 1986 film "Crossroads", with Ralph Macchio playing Eugene. In the movie there's a cameo appearance by Frank Frost, harp player and member of the band "The Jelly Roll Kings". The soundtrack, still available by the way, was done by Ry Cooder and took a year to complete. This film, by the way, is what influenced "Geneva Red" to take up the blues harp. We met and spent some time with her some years back.
Blues Question for July 2016: this bluesman is credited with writing only seven songs, but he did a considerable amount of recording as a sideman. As he was one of fourteen children he didn't get into the blues until the age of about eighteen. One of the nicknames he used was used by at least four other bluesmen. Any idea who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia for July 2016: this is about another "blues genius" most people have never heard of. His name is "Kid" Wesley "Sox"/"Socks" Wilson, also known as Jenkins; Pigmeat Pete, born October 1st.,1893, in Jacksonville, Florida. From the age of twelve up to about nineteen, he played piano in a pit band in a local theater. Somewhere in that nineteenth year he met, teamed up with, traveled and performed with-- and married Leola B. Pettigrew, better known as Coot Grant. They remained together until he passed away on October 10th.,1958, in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, of a stroke. His "Socks" nickname came from one of his songs- "Dem Socks My Daddy Used To Wear". The "Coot" nickname came from a childhood pet name--"Cutie". From around 1912 he and Coot traveled and performed in the south, west and mid-west, making their first recording in Chicago in 1925. From there they went on to perform and record in New York City from that point up into the late 1930's/early 1940's. Socks and Coot were both good song writers and were hired by the best in that era to do so. Between them, they wrote over 400 songs. If you're a barbecue fan and go to one where period music is on in the background, one of their songs you'll probably hear is "Gimme a Pigfoot"(and a Bottle of Beer), made famous by Bessie Smith, and since then, recorded by many others--even Diana Ross. Due to illness, Socks quit performing in 1949. In 1951, he and Coot moved to Los Angeles, where they would remain until 1955, when they moved to Whitesboro, New Jersey. It has been said that while they lived in Los Angeles that they were "in financial distress". Besides Bessie, others who have recorded their songs are LaVern Baker, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Rory Block, Saffire--The Uppity Blues Women, Louis Jordan, B.B.King, Dr.John, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, just to name a few.
Some July Blues Passings:
Comments about this Blues Blog: the bluesmen listed here, in the Answer to the Question area- Joe Seneca, and in the Trivia section- Socks Wilson, relatively unknown to most, were picked because they are a part of the "edges" or the "background" in a beautiful "painting" called the blues. Without the details, it's just another picture or just another genre of music. The blues is a living, breathing entity that needs to be fed and nurtured. Do your part to do that and, at the same time, you'll be doing yourself a favor. Go listen to some live blues in a juke joint, or some back-alley gut-bucket joint, or just some dive where blues is featured. Forget the highly polished, high-dollar "acts" and go see some real Blues. Enjoy it for what it really is about--LIFE!
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.