- July 4th., 1943-- Alan Christie "Blind Owl" Wilson
- July 19th., 1940-- Fred Eugene Martin, aka Little Freddie King
- July 23rd., 1946-- Percy Lee Strother
- July 4th.,1977-- Earl Bell
- July 13th.,1979-- Lesley "Esley" Riddle
- July 24th.,1997-- Bob Gaddy
Some July Blues Births:
Answer To The June 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/ is Eugene "Buddy" Moss, born January 16, 1914 (some sources show the year as 1906), in Jewell, Georgia, one of 12 children. When he was 4, his family moved to Augusta, where he remained for the next 10 years. At an early age he taught himself how to play the harmonica. By 1928 he was busking in the streets of Atlanta, where he was noticed by Curley Weaver (aka Slim Gordon) and "Barbecue Bob" (Robert Hicks), who then mentored him. On December 7, 1930 he went with them, to record for Columbia Records, at the Campbell Hotel in Atlanta. They recorded 4 songs, with Barbecue Bob and Weaver on guitars and Moss on harmonica, as the "Georgia Cotton Pickers". He wouldn't record again until '33, and by that time he had learned how to play guitar. Bob died October 21, 1931. Since the two had been performing together up 'till then, he needed to find another partner, which he did: that was Blind Willie McTell, with whom he performed at house parties around Atlanta. In January of '33, he went to New York City, to record for/ on the ARC label. Over a four day period, he recorded 11 songs, accompanied by Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen. Also, during those sessions, playing harmonica, he accompanied Weaver, McMullen, and vocalist Ruth Willis, recording as The Georgia Browns. September of '33 saw him return to New York City, with Weaver and McTell. With Weaver, he recorded some of his own songs, and accompanied the two on their recordings. By mid-'34, his records were outselling both Weaver's and McTell's. Then he teamed up with a new recording partner, Joshua "Josh" White, who recorded as " The Singing Christian". By mid-'35, his recordings had become so popular that his recording fee went from $5.00 to $10.00 a song. In mid-August, Buddy and Josh recorded 15 songs. This was shortly before his legal problems started, when he was arrested, tried, and convicted of the shooting death of his wife, and sentenced to a long prison term. There have been arguments since the trial, about the validity of the whole case-- evidence, trial, the sentence, all of it. What we need to remember here is that, since Blind Blake died in '32 and Blind Boy Fuller died in '41, the recordings of Moss and White, from '33 through '35, are the basis or the big link to the start of the Piedmont blues style development. In '41, J.B. Long, Fuller's manager, petitioned to get Moss released from prison, to fill the gap left by Fuller's death. He was assisted in those efforts by Columbia Records. The effort was successful. In '41, while working for Long, at Elon College, which was part of his parole agreement, Moss met Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. In October of '41, the three went to New York City to record for Columbia. Of the 13 songs they recorded, only 3 were released. In December of '41, the U.S. entered WW II. Because of that, shellac was an item that was rationed, since it was termed as a war material. Since that is what records were made of, that postponed the musical careers of all but the top performers of the time, who could still be allowed the material to make their records. That put Buddy's career on hold for slightly more than 20 years. In '64, Buddy heard that his old partner, Josh White, was performing at Emory University, in Atlanta. He went to visit him, backstage, and White persuaded him to perform together for other college audiences. White also got Buddy a contract to record for Columbia, in Nashville. Buddy went on to perform at many festivals, mostly in the Eastern states. He passed away October 19, 1984, in Atlanta.
Blues Question For July 2020: This bluesman is another of those who didn't quite get the recognition that he should have, both for his voice and the feeling with which he sang. Most often he worked as a sideman, but did do some recording as the frontman. Any ideas on who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For July 2020: The song is "My Grandpa Is Old, Too!", and the artist is Sam Lightnin' Hopkins. The only info I have on it's history is that it first shows up on Bluesville LP #1045, released in 1962. Thought you could use a couple of chuckles hearing the lyrics !
Blues Trivia For July 2020: While going through materials on Buddy Moss, I saw that most of his early recordings, 1930 to 1941, were shown to be on either the Columbia/OKeh label, or ARC. ARC, if you'll remember from an earlier blog, had control of many labels, and determined who got released on what label. The cd that we stock here is a collection of 23 tracks from throughout his career, on the Wolf label. Wanting to find more of his early works, I found listed Travelin' Man Records, which, along with Flyright, Krazy Kat, and Magpie, are trademark labels of Interstate Music,Ltd., out of East Sussex, England. Travelin' Man was started in 1983, and their first LP was TM-800, Buddy Moss: Georgia Blues. In '84, they issued a second one, TM-802, Buddy Moss: Red River Blues (Vol.2). The first one covered 1930-1935, the second one covering 1933-1941. Of note here is that the Vol.2 version was taken off an LP from Kokomo Records, a U.S. company, #K-1003, which was manufactured in 1968. There were only 99 copies pressed. Kokomo Records specialized in pre- WW II recordings. They were only in business from 1967 into 1971. They released a total of 7 different LP's, all re-issues of earlier recordings. In 1990, Travelin' Man started to release some cd compilations of some of their LP's. Their fifth one #TMCD-05 is Buddy Moss: 1930 - 1941, and is of some of the songs on the 2 LP's of him that they did. They produced a total of 9 different cd's, with one of them, Son House, getting two different cd's, both identical in content and information, the difference being that the first one was manufactured in France, as were all their cd's, withe the exception of one other. The second Son House was manufactured in the Czech Republic. The only difference I see is that the one in France had a blue backround on the liner notes cover and on the disc itself. The one from the Czech Republic was yellow in the same places. The other one from the Czech factory is TMCD-09 "I Can Eagle Rock", a compilation of Chicago Blues from 1940--'41, also done in yellow. This was Travelin' Man's final release of any kind, and that was in 1996. Since, in some of the past blogs, I've said that a lot of the earlier bluesmen had been in prison, I'm gonna' throw in a couple of tidbits, one on blues, one on folk musics: tidbit #1- we stock a cd done of Jimmy Reed's songs, by Bill Cosby. And here's the real zapper-- we don't stock this budding folk singer/songwriter/guitarist's LP's or cd's, but we can order them for you-- that would be Charles Manson (by law, the proceeds from those sales go toward restitution to the victims families) and I don't think he's related to Marilyn).
Some July Blues Passings:
First off, I'd like to say that I hope that all are doing well amid the restraints of the COVID-19 rules. As you know, many events, in all fields, have been postponed or cancelled. Postponed: maybe they'll be done in the future, but maybe not. Cancelled, they're just gone. All of this has an effect that, in one way or another, touches all who are involved, either directly, or indirectly. Some will have profited from this, while quite a few others will never recover. At any rate, if you can help someone who needs it, please do so--- we'll get through this!
Some Blues Births For June:
Answer To The May 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/ is B.K. Turner, born Babe Kyro Lemon Turner, on December 21, 1905 (some sources list it as 1907), in Hughes Springs, Texas. He was also known as Babe Turner, Buck Turner, but he is best- known as "Black Ace". At a young age he taught himself how to play guitar on a homemade instrument. In the late 1920's and into the early '30's, he travelled and performed with a youth a few years his junior, who he was mentoring on the guitar, one Andrew "Smokey" Hogg. They played at dances, parties, picnics, and other venues, around East Texas. In the mid- '30's he moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he met a musician who played the guitar, with a slide, with it sitting in his lap. That would be Oscar "Buddy" Woods. Woods mentored Ace in playing in that manner. Ace bought a National steel guitar after that, and used it, with a slide when he performed. He recorded 2 songs on April 5, 1936, in Fort Worth, Texas, on the ARC Records label. Those were "Bonus Man Blues" and "Black Ace Blues", numbers FW-1260-1 and FW-1261-2, respectively, credited artist- Buck Turner. Those were never released. On February 15, 1937, he recorded six songs with an "unknown" accompanist, believed to be Smokey Hogg, in Dallas, on the Decca label. One of those songs was "Black Ace". Also in '37, he started a radio show in Fort Worth, on KFJZ. He used that "Black Ace" recording as the show's theme song, which is when he "assumed" that name. He would not record again until 1960, as he'd been drafted into the Army in '43, and gave up playing music. In 1960, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records persuaded him to record an album. Part of it was recorded at Ace's home, and part of it was recorded in Fort Worth, and, yes, on different dates. That was on a vinyl lp. In '92, Arhoolie put together a cd, using most of those songs, added a couple of unreleased ones, and also adding the six from that '37 session. That cd is #374, and it's titled "I am the Boss Card in your Hand", and, yes it's in our stock. One critic labeled his sound as "Hawaii meets the Delta", and I have to agree. Ace passed away on November 7,1972, in Fort Worth, of cancer.
Blues Question For June 2020: This bluesman was putting a great career together, when some legal problems and a war put a crimp in what had looked like a great future. It wasn't until the '60's blues revival that his career recovered. He is considered to be one of the main influences in the early development of the "East Coast" blues. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For June 2020: The song is "Telephone Blues", and the artist is Floyd Dixon, shown to be backed by Johnny Moore and his Three Blazers. There are conflicting dates shown for this recording; one is October 26,1950, and the other is December 30,1950. Also, the people I found listed as being on it are: Floyd Dixon on piano and vocals, Johnny and Oscar Moore on guitars, Johnny Miller on bass, and Maxwell Davis on tenor sax. Regardless-- enjoy!
Blues Trivia For June 2020: This ties in with the answer on Black Ace. This is in reference to the ARC recordings of his in '36. By it's proper name, American Recording Corporation, was founded in 1929 through the merger of three record companies. Two of them contributed three record labels, while the third partner contributed five. ARC was sold, in 1930, to Consolidated Film Industries, who had leased Brunswick Records from Warner Brothers. The initial idea was to provide recordings to movie theaters, for use as background and/ or intermission music. From 1929 up to December 30, 1938, ARC recorded, issued, and/ or pressed records for at least 32 different labels, at least from what I could find. In '38, it was sold to Columbia Broadcasting System, and they started releasing under the Columbia Records, along with it's subsidiary label, OKeh Records. Today, it's still alive, but is shown as Sony Music Entertainment. Now, about those 2 recordings by Buck Turner (Black Ace): we'll never hear them, unless the masters can be found, and documented.
Some Blues Passings For June 2020:
Some May Blues Births:
Answer To The April 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Simeon "Blind" Simmie Dooley, born July 3, 1881, in Hartwell, Georgia. When he was a young boy, he worked the streets around Spartanburg, South Carolina, singing and playing guitar, for tips, around 1900. While doing that, he attracted the attention of a slightly younger person, who liked to watch and hear him perform. The youngster introduced himself -- he was Pinkney "Pink" Anderson, who Simmie would teach how to play the guitar. The two would pair up and work the streets, house parties, picnics, fish fries, and whatever else they could work, to make money. From about 1916-18 up into the late '20's, they also performed and travelled with "Doc" W.R. Kerr's Indian Remedy Company Medicine Show. When not on the road, the pair would return to Spartanburg and resume working as they had. In 1928, they travelled to Atlanta, to record for Columbia Records. On April 14th., they recorded four songs, with vocal and guitar duets, and possibly Simmie on kazoo. Two of those were released that year, the other two, the following year. All of them were good sellers. Pink was then invited to record more, but without Simmie. Pink refused to do that without Simmie. Those were/are the only recordings Simmie ever did, and Pink would not record again until 1950. Simmie went back to Spartanburg and continued to work the streets and other small venues, until his health would no longer allow him to perform. He passed away at 79 years of age, on January 17, 1961, in Spartanburg, of heart disease. You can find those 4 songs on compilation cd's, sometimes 1 or 2, never all 4. Some years ago Document Records made 2 different compilation cd's, with all 4 on each of them. I have 1 of each in my collection, and 1 new one in stock at The Sound of Blue.
Blues Question For May 2020: This bluesman, though somewhat obscure, did do quite a few recordings. He took his nickname from the title of one of his first recordings. His ability should put him with the likes of Eric Clapton and Ry Cooder. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For May 2020: The song is "Biscuit Baking Woman", and the artist is James "Yank" Rachell. It was done April 3,1941, in Chicago, and featured John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson I on harp, William Mitchell on bass, and Washboard Sam (Robert Brown) on washboard.
Blues Trivia For May 2020: This is just a collection of random thoughts, ideas, and opinions, some mine, others thrown into the mix by others. If any of you have a subscription to a blues magazine, whether it's a printed copy or a digital one, you'll note that they all have a "review" section for albums, dvd's, books, or whatever else is available for sale. They get copies sent to them by independent artists, record companies, etc. to evaluate. It's basically a cheap way to get a published and circulated ad, so it makes good business sense. When you look at the cd reviews, have you ever seen one that politely says "if you like this artist/band or if you just like one or two songs on it, then, by all means, buy it. If you don't like it for one of those reasons, don't waste your money-- skip it. Maybe the plastic in it should have been used to make a license plate frame." Have you noticed that it seems that 75 to 80% of the mag is ads? There are bright spots in them, too. I was just reading Blues Music Magazine (formerly Blues Revue), and in there is an interview/article featuring Charlie Musselwhite. In the interview he says the exact same thing that I've been trying to get across to blues fans for years. I won't quote it directly, just kind of a summary: "any decent musician can play blues music, but the blues isn't just music, it's a way of life. It's a story about life's ups and downs, on a daily basis, and if you really want to understand it, you have to go back and look at the old- timers, as that's where it started-- telling their stories". If I haven't made it clear, please read the article, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Let's shift gears here, a little bit. when I was picking the Blues Song for this month, I was considering one of many that are about different illnesses, diseases that are passed from one to another, afflictions that have plagued man for years, but I thought no, right now, though it's relevant, there's enough grief and suffering with this virus. So, sitting here on lockdown, I'm thinking about good food, and this goofy weather. An a-ha moment-- homemade hot biscuits and gravy, and yes, there are plenty of songs about food. Anyhow, good blues to 'ya, and I hope you're healthy, safe, and happy.!!
Some Blues Passings For May 2020:
Hope that this finds everyone well, and coping O.K. with the current situation. You'll have observed that some of the NEOBA events have been cancelled or postponed. This is going to be true for all types of musics and musicians. It's most likely to have a considerable negative effect on summer concerts, cruises, and other music venues, and may stretch into the fall/ winter period, though I do hope I'm wrong. But, as is said-- hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Some April Blues Births:
Answer To The March 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Benny Turner, born October 27, 1939, in Gilmer, Texas. As I stated in the Question, he was the younger brother of a blues icon, one Fred "Freddie" King (shown on his early recordings as Freddy). Both boys learned how to play guitar from their mother, Ella Mae (King) Turner, along with the help of two of her brothers, Leon and Leonard King. Benny started his musical career playing guitar and doing background vocals with a gospel group, The Kindly Shepherds. During that period he also started playing with Freddie and his band, in some Chicago blues clubs. While doing that, he met Dee Clark (remember the song "Raindrops"?), who invited him to go on tour with him and his R&B band, which he did. After that, for a short time, he played bass for The Soul Stirrers. He, after a while, re-joined his brother's band. Freddie passed away three days after Christmas, in '76, which hit Benny hard, so hard, in fact, that he went into a state of deep depression, for which he was eventually hospitalized. When he recovered, two years after Freddie's death, Benny joined Mighty Joe Young's band, and performed with them for eight years. When he left that band, he moved to New Orleans, where, in '86, he became the band leader for Marva Wright, a blues singer of some note. He stayed in that spot for twenty years. After she passed away in 2010, Benny went out on his own and recorded four albums, the latest in 2019. The one that has garnered the most recognition and awards is "My Brother's Blues", a tribute to Freddie, being a collection of the songs Freddie liked the best, and yes, Benny's still alive
Blues Question For April 2020: This bluesman only travelled one time and recorded only four songs. He was a guitarist and singer, who also played the kazoo. He's another of those "unknown" bluesmen, but you'll recognize his recording partner on those four songs. Any ideas on who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For April 2020: The song is "Ice Cream In Hell", and the artist is Tinsley Ellis. This was released on January 31st. of this year, on an album of the same title. I picked this one to show that I do listen to the newer artists, even though I favor the old "stuff". Those old artists and songs are how one learns about the blues, not just the songs, but the blues life in general. "There is much to be learned, Grasshopper".
Blues Trivia For April 2020: This ties in with Benny Turner (kinda'). Freddie King, his older brother, was a big man at 6ft.5in., and on the heavy side, where Benny was average height and skinny. When the family moved to Chicago, Freddie's first and main job, was working in a steel mill, and going to the blues clubs to listen, at night. At age 18, in 1952, he met and married another Texas transplant, Jessie Burnett, with whom, over the years, he/they had seven children. After sitting in with quite a few of the big names of the blues, he started his own band, and did a considerable amount of touring, about 300 shows a year, along with studio work. In 1960 he signed a recording contract with Cincinnati's King Records, and did his early recordings on King's subsidiary label, Federal Records, and was usually shown as Freddy King. His touring schedule in those years was the biggest contributor to his death, as he was a hard-partier. When he'd be setting up for a show, he'd usually, for lunch or dinner, have a Bloody Mary, because he didn't like to be feeling too full to work hard. That led to stomach ulcers, which caused his health to decline. If you get on YouTube and look at some concert footage of him performing, you'll see his size, how hard he worked, how in-command of the music, his playing, and his performance he was. He passed away at the age of 42, from the ulcers and acute pancreatitis. Now, a bunch of trivia: that 1960 contract with Federal got him to record four songs, two of which were released in '60, but not met with a lot of success. The other 2 were released in '61. One of those is now a blues standard, a blues instrumental, unheard of at that time as popular, "Hide Away", which was named after a Chicago West Side club, Mel's Hide Away Lounge. It made it onto and up the pop and R&B charts, not to the top, but close enough. There was a time when a guitarist, auditioning for a gig or a spot in a band would be asked "can you play Hide Away ?". If the answer was no, you were gone. It has been said that Freddie was the best of the four Kings, including Albert, B.B., and Earl. Now, let's back up a bit in time. In 1956, Freddie made his first recording (shown as Freddy King) on the small El-Bee Records label, #157. The "A" side was "Country Boy", and the "B" side was "That's What You Think". Freddie didn't play guitar on these, he only did vocals. The "A" side was a duet with Margaret Whitfield, while the "B" side was just him on the vocal. The surprise here is the musicians on these songs: Earlee Payton on harmonica, Billy "The Kid" Emerson (he's the one who did the original "The Woodchuck" song) on piano, and, depending on what source you're looking at, either Milton Rector or Robert "Big Mojo" Elem on bass. Fred Below was on drums, but the surprise here is the guitarists: Eugene Pearson, and our own Robert Lockwood Jr.. You often hear or see the phrase "small independent label" ? Well El-Bee is one of those. it recorded that #157 of Freddy's in '56. It recorded #161, "The Foster Bros.", in '57 (they went on to record quite a bit more on other labels), and #162, "Vera & The Three Jays" (the only recording by them that I've seen). That label was owned by Chicago lawyer John Burton, and those are the only three records that label put out, a total of six sides.
Some April Blues Passings:
Some March Blues Births:
Answer To The February 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/ is Eddie Shaw, born March 20, 1937, in Stringtown, Mississippi. In his teens he played tenor sax with the local blues musicians. When he was 14, he played at/ on a jam session with none other than The Ike Turner Band, in Greenville. In '57 he had a gig in Itta Bena (remember that town's name and some of the great bluesmen to come from there?), where he was spotted, then approached by Muddy Waters, who invited him to play in his Chicago- based band. Once in Chicago he found that he was splitting the sax position in the band with A.C.Reed (real name Aaron Corthen, with Reed being the type of instrument). Shaw then left Muddy's band and went with Howlin Wolf's band in '72, which he would take over the running of, a position he held up to Wolf's death in '76. He would continue to run that band, The Wolf Gang for several years, until it disbanded. In '74 Eddie "inherited" a blues club at which he and Wolf and the band had performed frequently, at that time known as the 1815 Club, which was it's street address on W. Roosevelt Road, on the corner at S. Wood Street. In '70, the club's owner, at that time called the Alex Club, was stabbed to death on the dance floor, while trying to stop a knife fight between two women. Different family members ran it and re- named it the 1815 Club, though they really didn't want to be running it. That's how and why Eddie ended up with it. He then made the Wolf Gang the house band, and re- named it Eddie's Place. Since he was still running the band, which was always touring and performing all over the U.S. and abroad, he wasn't there to manage it, and it went downhill. He decided to close it in '80. As I stated in the Question, he re- opened it almost 10 years later, re- named again as The New 1815 Club, with a new partner, LeRoy Edwards. He sold it shortly thereafter, and it was re- sold several times over the years, until it was bought by a Baptist church in '94, and was named the Howard Chapel Community Church, with the Rev. James Brooks running it. Eddie Vaan Shaw Jr. joined the Wolf Gang, performing with his dad. At that time Vaan used a three- necked Fender guitar. He eventually replaced Hubert Sumlin as the guitarist in the band. His second, younger son, Stan, is a character actor of some note, who lives in Hollywood. Eddie passed away on January 29, 2018, in Chicago, of natural causes.
Blues Question For March 2020: This bluesman is the younger brother of a blues icon. When his older brother died, he quit performing for several years. When he did return, he was mostly performing as a sideman, which he did for years, before going out on his own. He did one album of his brother's songs, as a tribute. Any ideas on who this bluesman might be ?
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For March 2020: The song is "Ain't Got No Rabbit Dog", and the artist is "Smoky Babe" (Robert Brown), accompanied on harmonica by Clyde Causey, recorded in February of '60, in Scotlandville, Louisiana. Possibly, this was based on the song "Uncle Bud", a "rowdy blues" song recorded in '29, by Georgia Tom (Thomas A.Dorsey) and Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), though neither is credited with writing it.
Blues Trivia For March 2020: You can count this entire section as a collection of trivia, all thrown into the pot. When I was trying to figure out which Smoky Babe song to put in this blog, I did some digging into his recordings history. Turns out, he was recorded at only two sessions, in '60 and '61, by Dr. Harry Oster, yes, the same one who did all the recordings of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, prisoners. He specialized in field recordings of what he viewed as American folk musics of all types. He started a record company, Folk-Lyric, to gather and sell these recordings, using that income to go out and record more. As it turned out, he was assisted in Smoky's sessions by a young man interested in doing the same thing, born a count in his native Germany, one Christian Alexander Maria "Chris" Strachwitz. When he came to the U.S., he settled in California, but wanted to head to Louisiana to do some recording of locals in small towns. This came about after he had seen the 1934 movie "New Orleans". Chris started the Arhoolie Records company to do these releases, when he would get some recording done. The first album released under that label was one by Mance Lipscomb, which actually had been recorded/ released earlier by another young man by the name of Robert "Mack" McCormick, who would become a musicologist and folklorist of some note. He's the one who suggested the Arhoolie name to Chris, as it was a word used to describe the "field hollar", which is known as "call and response" music, used by field hands to have a cadence while working. It was also used by the prisoners on "chain gangs". Oster's recordings of the blues men and women were later released on the Arhoolie label. The balance of his recordings were of all different types of musics, including Cajun, country, and various other ethnic origins. His company was sold to/ merged with Folkways. Another note: Mack McCormick quit high school to work in the Cedar Point ballroom, taking care of the needs of the musicians. This section of the blog was put together to illustrate how many different things fall into place or come into being, as a result of chance, luck, and sometimes planning and hard work. Hope it gives some food for thought.
Some Blues Passings For March 2020:
Some February Blues Births:
Answer To The January 2020 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Emery H. "Little Junior" Williams, better known as Detroit Junior, born October 26, 1931, in Haynes, Arkansas. While he was an infant, the family moved nine miles to the north, to Forrest City. In '39 they moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and then on to Pulaski, Illinois, in '43, where Junior was raised by his grandmother. He became interested in music in his early teens. In '47 he moved to Flint, Michigan, where he worked house parties and shows, into '50. In late '50 he worked outside of the music field, in Pontiac, Michigan, and then in Cleveland, Ohio, in '51. He made his first recordings in '52, on the Great Lakes label, in Pontiac, but they were never released. From '52 to sometime in '56, he performed with musicians who were travelling in the area, such as John Lee Hooker, Amos Milburn (the original writer and performer of the song "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer"), and Eddie Boyd. Most of that was done in the Detroit area. In '56, Boyd got him to move to Chicago, hopefully to get a recording contract with Chess Records. While in Chicago, Junior performed with J.T. Brown, Little Mack (Simmons), James Cotton, Sam Lay, Eddie "Playboy" Taylor, Johnny Twist (Williams), and others. During that time, he also toured with James Cotton’s band. He then went on to tour, perform, and record with Howlin' Wolf's band, up to when Wolf passed away in '76. He stayed on with that band for a number of years, The Wolf Gang, who continued to perform Wolf's tunes. As I mentioned in the Blues Question, his career was influenced by his idol, Amos Milburn, who wrote humorous songs about the evils of alcohol. Of the hundreds of songs that Junior wrote, his best were along those same lines. After the Wolf Gang broke up, he returned to Chicago, where he performed on his own, occasionally with others, in the local clubs. In his early career he developed a fan base because of his style of play, and his stage shows. He would play standing up, kneeling, and-- picture this --from underneath the piano (and people think that playing the guitar behind one's head is hard!). Even after he lost a leg to diabetes, he continued to play in Chicago's North Side clubs, such as B.L.U.E.S. and Kingston Mines. He passed away on August 9,2005, at home, of heart failure.
Blues Question For February 2020: This bluesman was known mostly as a sideman, though he did front a band for a number of years. He also owned a Chicago blues club, shut it down, and, some years later, re-opened it. Any idea who this bluesman might be?
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For February 2020: The song is "Strange Letter Blues", and the artist is Schoolboy Cleve (Cleveland White), recorded around August of '54, in Crowley, Louisiana, on the Feature label. Cleve did the vocal and harmonica work, with Lightnin' Slim (Otis V. Hicks) on guitar, and Sammy Drake on drums. Listen closely to the words in this song, as they relate what the blues is/are all about. If you don't hear them clearly, look up the lyrics, and you'll get it!
Blues Trivia For February 2020: I thought since the main artist in this month's answer section is a pianist, that I should have another one in this section. Accordingly, this is about Otis Spann, who was the piano player in Muddy Waters' early '50's band. He was recruited for that spot by Jimmy Rogers, who had found him to having been sleeping in his car, because he couldn't get enough gigs to afford an apartment. Since the early blues recordings at Chess Records were building the careers and name recognition of its roster of bluesmen, such as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and many others, Spann was also being noticed. He was tapped frequently to be a session player for many of the Chess artists, in different genres, though most of the time he was uncredited as being on those recordings. Those sessions led to Otis being sought after to be a session player for many other artists, on many other labels. Most of the time he was not credited on those either. Here's a little trivia on Otis. If you're familiar with Chuck Berry and his Chess recordings, you know that his piano player was Johnnie Johnson. What you may not know however, is that quite a few of Chuck's recordings used Otis Spann on piano, uncredited yet again.
Some February Blues Passings:
Hope all had a Merry and Safe Christmas, and a good start on New Year's Day, for 2020!
Some January Blues Births:
Answer to The December 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Hammie Nixon, aka Hammie Nickerson, born as Hammie Davis (father was Green Nixon, mother was Martha Davis), on January 22,1908, in Brownsville, Tennessee. He was orphaned at an early age, and was raised, up to age 10, by a white family. He was interested in music at an early age and started playing at parties. He teamed up with a locally performing bluesman, one "Sleepy" John Estes, from 1924 to '27, playing picnics and country dances. Often, the pair went hoboing through Arkansas and Missouri. He worked in '30 and '31, mostly as a farmer, in Brownsville. In late '31 he moved to Chicago, where, up to '37, he worked house parties and street corners, with "Brownsville" Son Bonds, for tips. He recorded blues songs with Bonds, on the Decca label. He recorded more with Bonds, gospel songs, with Bonds being listed as "Brother" Son Bonds. In '35, Hammie teamed up with "Sleepy" John Estes, and recorded on the Champion label. Later on in '35 and '37, the pair recorded on the Decca label (in '34, Decca had bought out Gennett and its' subsidiary label, Champion records). From then, up into '62, he returned to Brownsville, to work mostly outside the music field, but did travel to record with Estes, Little Buddy Doyle, Charlie Pickett, Lee Green, and Clayton T. Driver. One source shows that he recorded with Estes, on the Victor label, in '29, but I find no record of that. Estes did record for Victor in '29, not with Nixon, but with Jab Jones and James "Yank" Rachell, as the "Three J's Jug Band". What I did find is that Nixon and Estes did, in '48, record 2 unreleased cuts, "Harlem Bound" and "Stone Blind", on the Ora Nelle label (more on that label shortly), but that recording also shows an "unknown" washtub bass player. It lists Estes as being on vocal and guitar, with Nixon shown on harmonica. Could it also be Nixon on that bass? His primary instrument was the harmonica, but he also played guitar, Jew's harp, washboard, jug, kazoo, and tub bass. Starting in '63, and from then on, until Estes' died in '77, the pair toured and performed all over the U.S., Canada, and most of the countries of Europe. Many of these performances were recorded and later released by the labels in the countries in which they took place. After Estes' death, Hammie toured and performed with the Beale Street Jug Band, up into the '80's. He suffered a cerebral hemmorage and passed away on August 17,1984, in Jackson, Tennessee. By the way, he was married to Estes' daughter, Virginia Estes.
Blues Question For January 2020: This bluesman played guitar and piano, with piano being his main focus. He was known for his ability as a player, but also for his stage presence and performance thereon. He was influenced by a couple of the greats in blues piano but favored and idolized one in particular. That one influenced both his playing and his songwriting. He wrote hundreds of songs, with many of those covered or performed by some of the leading names in the blues. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) For January 2020: The song is "Call My Job", and the artist is "Detroit Jr.". This is the original, the 1965 recording of what is now a blues standard. I picked this one as a "tip of the hat" to those who did the "party hearty" thing on New Year's Eve, and took two days to recover, before going back to work.
Blues Trivia For January 2020: Earlier in the Blog I listed a recording by Nixon and Estes on the Ora Nelle label, done in 1948. In 1947, the first issued recording on that label, #711, was done by Little Walter J. and Othum Brown, the "A" side being "Ora Nelle Blues, the "B" side being "I Just Keep On Loving Her". Vocal and guitar on the A side by Brown, with Little Walter on harp and the B side with Little Walter on vocal and harp and Brown on guitar. Two things to note on that record: it was Little Walter's first recording and it was two of the three recordings ever done by Brown. Some sources show that the "Ora Nelle Blues" title was in honor of Walter's girlfriend, while other sources show it was about Brown's girlfriend. Further research, however, has shown that it was to honor a cousin of Idel Abrams (known as "Red" to friends, because of her haircolor), the wife of Bernard Abrams. In 1945 Bernard opened the Maxwell Radio and Record company, at 831-833 West Maxwell Street. He sold and repaired radios and other electrical items. He bought a military surplus record cutting machine and set up an area in the store where blues musicians could make demo recordings. A lot of those recordings went out the door, after the musicians had paid the bill for the services. It didn't take long for him to figure out that there might be money to be made with an actual record label, hence the Ora Nelle label was born, sole distributor being Maxwell Radio Co. He built up quite a collection of those demo recordings and sold them out of the store. Idel handled the sales end of things. During that time, Bernard had bought up one whole block of buildings on Maxwell Street. Some sources show only 4 songs ever pressed and released, while others show 5 and/or 8. There's one that shows 14, including alternate takes of some of the songs. Bernard was quoted as saying that "a bluesman never plays a song twice the same way". One of the bluesmen who recorded demos there was Muddy Waters, who later confirmed that he had taken all his recordings with him when he left the store. He also said, and Bernard confirmed, that he performed on the sidewalk in front of the store, before he became well-known enough to start booking gigs locally. We'll never know what treasures were lost there, as the building burned down a few years later, with lots of demos inside. By the way, that store/recording "studio" was the only store of its' type on the fabled Maxwell Street. We have 3 different dvd's in stock that document the history of that street and the blues men and women who performed thereon, and the "market", some showing a little history of Ora Nelle Records, Bernard and Idel Abrams, and the Maxwell Radio and Record Store.
Some January Blues Passings:
First off, wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hoping that all will have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!
Some December Blues Births:
Answer To The November 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, born June 9, 1926, in Greenwood, Mississippi. He grew up on a farm near Inverness. While growing up, he learned to play the violin and acoustic bass. He would later switch to electric bass, which became his instrument of choice. In the following years he worked with many mainstream bluesmen, such as Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, Little Walter, James Cotton, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi Heat. In 1970 he joined the Muddy Waters band, and toured and often recorded with them, through the '70's. In 1980 he appeared in the first Blues Brothers movie, playing on Maxwell Street, outside the Soul Food Cafe. Also, in '80, he joined others from Muddy's band, and formed the Legendary Blues Band, playing bass and, on occasion, doing the lead vocal. Between then and '83, they recorded 7 albums, before they broke up. In '93 he played bass on Mississippi Heat's first album. On that recording, he did the lead vocal on one song, "Ruby Mae", which was written by bandmember Billy Flynn, to honor Calvin's wife, Ruby Mae. Flynn had also been in the Legendary Blues Band, with Jones. Calvin also played in several tribute bands, honoring Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, and the Jelly Roll Allstars. In '99, he recorded with Barrelhouse Chuck, on Chuck's debut album. In 2003, Jones backed Cassandra Wilson on her album "Glamoured". He also recorded with Cassandra on her version of "Vietnam Blues" (originally written by J.B. Lenoir), which was/is featured in the 7- part video story "Martin Scorsese Presents The Best of The Blues". In his last few years, Jones lived in Senatobia, Mississippi. He passed away in Southaven, Ms., on August 9, 2010, of lung cancer and a heart attack. If you read the Blues Question in the November Blog, you'll remember that I said that the town where he was born (Greenwood) should be familiar to all blues fans, as many blues people were also born there. Some of those are Hubert Sumlin, Fenton Robinson, Nora Jean Bruso, Walter E. "Furry" Lewis, Betty Everett, and Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones. You've probably heard one of Guitar Slim's often-recorded songs (probably his best), "The Things That I Used To Do". If you're not familiar with some of those listed, there is one other person associated with the blues, though on a somber side in reference to Greenwood-- it's where Robert Johnson died.
Blues Question For December 2019: This bluesman started performing when he was 16. He spent most of his career as a sideman to a well-known bluesman, performing on the road, and recording with him. He was a multi-instrumentalist. Though you've probably heard his playing, backing others, but don't know him. Any idea who this bluesman might be?
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For December 2019: I must explain this one more than usual, so you can see what I was shooting for. The artist I was looking for is "Big Walter" "Shakey" Horton, when I found this clip. It's a 2-song medley, performed in 1970, in Copenhagen, Denmark, on November 7th. The song was shown titled as "Roundabout Midnight", but was really the "All Star Boogie", as the first song, with the 2nd. one being titled as "That Ain't It", but it's actually "Hard Hearted Woman". The featured players here are Willie Dixon (stand-up bass), "Big Walter" Horton (harp and vocal), Lee Jackson (guitar), Lafayette Leake (piano), and Clifton James (not shown, on drums). This performance shows 2 things: Horton's ability on the harp, along with showing the feeling that real bluesmen have for their musical stories, and why Little Walter was so influenced by Horton's work. Willie Dixon has been quoted as saying "Shakey Horton is the best harmonica player I've ever heard". This medley was done during The American Folk Blues Festival tour of Europe.
Blues Trivia For December 2019: Willie Nix toured, performing as a dancer and comedian, with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, in his early twenties, during the late'30's and into the early '40's. In the following years, up to the mid-'40's, he most frequently worked the parks and streets in the Memphis area. In '49 and '50, he toured and performed with Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Love, and Joe Willie Wilkins, as The Four Aces. Nix recorded on the R P M label in '51, on the Checker label in '52, and in '53 on the Sun label (as the "Memphis Blues Boy"), all in Memphis. In his later years he toured and/or recorded with many of the headliners, such as Sonny Boy II, Sunnyland Slim, Elmore James, "Shoeshine Johnny" Shines, Jimmy Cotton, Big Amos Patton, and Willie Cobbs, playing either drums or guitar, as required. Over his long career, he performed on many radio shows with some of these people, including with B.B. King, on "The Pepticon Boy" show. Here's the trivia: in 1947, for his first radio "on-air" show, he was backing one of the icons of the blues, one of whom I spent time with, talking about the blues and some of it's players, and was a strong influence in starting this store, one who I will call our own, Robert Lockwood Jr.
Some December Blues Passings:
We have lots of Christmas Blues CDs (and some in other genres, too) in stock, and, again, have a safe and happy holiday season!!
Just to let you know: The 2020 Blues Calendar with free cd is ordered and should be here around November 22nd.
Some November Blues Births:
Answer to the October 2019 Blues Question: The blues artist we were looking for is/was Johnnie Mae Dunson (born Hudson), born March 29, 1921, near Bessemer, Alabama. At the age of two she contracted rheumatic fever, which left her in a weakened state. She spent most of the 4th. and 5th. grade years in bed. At the age of ten, doctors told her mother that she wouldn't make it to 14. Her mother gathered some of her friends from church at their house to pray for Johnnie Mae's health to get better, which it did. Her mother liked fresh spring water and often sent Johnnie Mae and her older sister to get some. To get some they carried a washtub with them. She'd beg her older sister to let her turn over the tub and beat on it with sticks, as she liked the sound and rhythm she could make. As she got older and stronger, she sang in the church choir. Some friends of her mother's from Chicago came to town to visit with her, and some relatives, who also lived in town. They attended church and heard Johnnie Mae and were so impressed with her that they urged her to come to Chicago to perform. She did so in 1943 and got an apartment on the West Side. To make money, she did hair in her kitchen, and performed, for pocket change at the famous Maxwell Street market area, which is where she met quite a few of the big-name Chicago blues performers, who also performed on Maxwell Street. There she would often sing to accompany on old drummer, Eddie "Pork Chop" Hines. She noticed, at one of their sessions, that he wasn't looking too healthy, and she asked for permission to play his drums. To that request, he replied "girl, you gonna' wreck my drums". After hearing and watching her play, he said "don't never stop playin' ". After that, she formed a trio, including Hines, to perform in clubs on the West Side. They became known as the Globetrotters, named after one of the clubs where they most often played-- the Globe Trotter Lounge. By then, she'd become well known and well liked enough that the blues locals often visited at her apartment, to talk about the blues, or get a bite to eat, or get her to help them write songs. If she was cooking gumbo or her pepper steak with gravy, it was a pretty safe bet that Willie Dixon would be there pretty soon. At some point in time, she married Andy Smith. They had a son in 1959, Jimi "Prime Time" Smith, who also became a bluesman, now living in Minneapolis. While he was growing up at home, he learned guitar from some of his mother’s visitors. The one who taught him the basics was Jimmy Reed. Then two other visitors taught/showed him how to develop his own style. Those two were Hubert Sumlin and Eddie "Playboy" Taylor. In the late '50's and early '60's Johnnie Mae was, besides performing, buying buildings, fixing them up, and selling them. According to Jimi, she wasn't afraid to swing a sledgehammer. One of the people in her "orbit" in the '60's was Charlie Musselwhite. Of her, he said that she could really belt out some gut-bucket blues, and she looked like someone you wouldn't want to mess with, a sentiment echoed by Jimi. Charlie also said that she carried a ledger-type book, everywhere, with her, that listed all the songs she'd written. When she went somewhere, she would have bluesmen almost begging her to write a song for them. Sadly, that book and other items were lost in a house fire. It has been said that she wrote over 800 songs, a lot of them hits for others, like "Evil" for Muddy Waters, Going Upside Your Head", "Life Won't Last Me Long", and "If You Want It Done Right" for Jimmy Reed. She is also said to have written the original version of "Wang Dang Doodle", which is now credited as being written for KoKo Taylor, by Willie Dixon. She has received almost no credit for what she has written, but she has said that it doesn't matter, as it's all about the music. She quit the music scene in 1973 and wasn't heard from again until around 1983. Her husband, Andy, had a heart attack and passed away, at home, in 1991. She did her first and only album under her own name, in 2000 -- "Big Boss Lady", on the Bogfire label. And, yes, it was in answer to Jimmy Reed's song "Big Boss Man". In the early '70's she had become Jimmy's manager and helped him get off the alcohol. She passed away October 4, 2007, in Chicago, of complications from intestinal problems.
Blues Question for November 2019: This bluesman, primarily known as a sideman, sometimes played lead and did vocals. He performed with many of the best-known blues headliners and bands. He came from a town steeped in blues history. Any idea who this bluesman might be?
Blues Song and Artist for November 2019: The song is "Please Have Mercy On Me", and the artist is Little Richard (Penniman). I picked this one to illustrate, again, that the "founders" of rock and roll came out of the blues, as did rock and roll itself.
Blues Trivia for November 2019: This ties in with the Blue Question answer from earlier, as it references Johnnie Mae Dunson- Smith, Jimmy Reed, and Mary Lee "Mama" Reed (Davis). I had indicated that Johnnie Mae hadn't recorded under her own name, and, for the most part, that's true. However, in 1972, after she'd taken over managing Jimmy's career, she set up an in-studio recording date with the Magic Recording Co., for him. Out of that session came two 7" 45 rpm records, 1 song on each side, for a total of 4 songs. She wrote the songs, did the producing of the recordings, and did vocals on them. Jimmy did the lead vocals and played harmonica, along with Larry Nestor on piano, King Edward (possible last name Antoine?) on guitar, Nolan Struck on bass, and someone listed only as "Rico", on drums. Unknown at the time, these would prove to be Jimmy's last studio recordings. Most all his studio recordings had been done in earlier years on the Vee-Jay label, while his "live" recordings were on a wide variety of labels. It's also widely known that "Mama" Reed wrote many of his songs, and that sometimes she'd have to give him the lyrics, on stage, because he was so drunk that he couldn't remember them. You should also know that she did vocals on most of his hit records from 1959 through 1962. A couple of other small items on this: I found one article that showed that the 4 songs that Johnnie Mae and Jimmy recorded together were done by the Memphis Recording Service. That label was only alive late in '50, all of '51, and a short period of '52, when its name was changed to Sun Records. Possibly that writer meant Magic Recording, and slipped, as we all do sometimes, and wrote Memphis in error? Also, I have 1 of each of those original Magic 45's in my collection. I wanted them because of their rarity, but also because I don't find any of those 4 songs in any compilation of Jimmy's work or added to any of his albums. "Nuff said!
Some Blues Passings for November 2019:
First, an apology: On the Blues Passings section for August and September. In the August Blog when I listed the first person, I listed the correct date, but the wrong name. Thankfully, that whole first line was omitted. In the September Blog I missed all three listings. I'll keep trying to improve!
Some Blues Births for October:
Answer to The September 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/ is Sonny Boy Williamson III. In some records he is shown to have been born as Jeffery "Jeff" Williamson, which has been determined to be incorrect. According to the birth certificate for his son, Charles E. Johnson, his listed name as the father is shown to be Edward William Johnson. This info was found by researchers/ writers Bob Eagle and Alan Balfour. It is also shown in some sources he was known as Sonny "Golden Boy" Williamson. A little note on that one in just a bit. He arrived in Shreveport, coming from New Orleans, Louisiana, wanting to make a record. In the 'phone book, he found a listing for Mira Ann Smith's R A M Records (Royal Audio Music). He called and made arrangements with Mira for an interview and possible recording session. When he got there, he was met by Margaret Lewis, a singer, recording artist, and song writer, who was working with Mira. Lewis would later say of that meeting, that "he was a tall, slim man, who had a Little Richard style pompadour, dyed gold". He was accompanied by his own guitarist/ drummer, a James Moore, from Birmingham, Alabama (no, not James "Slim Harpo" Moore). He was quoted as saying to Lewis that "in New Orleans they call me the Golden Boy". He recorded 4 songs, 2 of which were released, while 2 were not. Yes, he was a harp player. Sometime after that, he moved to East Texas, where he signed with Don Robey's Buffalo Bookings Agency, better known as the owner of Duke and Peacock record labels. It's rumored that this Sonny Boy died sometime between 1964 and 1968, in Houston, after being hospitalized due to an automobile accident. The actual places and dates of both his birth and death, all remain, at this time, unknown. You can hear his 2 released recordings on YouTube, or all 4 on Spotify. On all compilation discs I've seen, only one song comes up: "Mailman, Mailman". There is 1 cd, "Red River Blues: Shreveport Blues from R A M Records", on Ace Records U.K., #CDCHD 725, that has all 4 of his recordings, along with several really obscure artists and labels. It was released in 1999, and now, is out of print. If you can find one, expect to pay a "Collector's Price" for it.
Blues Question for October 2019: This blues artist is another in the barely known group, but certainly should be better-known. After writing hit songs for most all of Chicago's bluesmen, and knowing all of them, and being the most knowledgeable person about the history of Maxwell Street -- well, maybe at sometime, will be recognized. Any idea who this person might be??
Blues Song And Artist(s) for October 2019: The song is "Black Cat Bone", and the artist is Johnny Copeland. This is off the "Showdown!" album, on Alligator Records, featuring Albert Collins and Robert Cray as the other headliners, with Danny Gayden on bass, Allen Batts on organ, and Casey Jones on drums. Picked this one because Halloween is coming, and it fits. If you listen closely, at the beginning of the song, you'll hear Johnny and Albert referring to Harding "Poppa Hop" Wilson, who, along with Ivory Lee Simien, aka "King Ivory Lee", wrote and recorded the original of this song, with the title being "My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone", with Wilson on lap steel and vocal and Simien on drums. There is some debate on the vocals on the original ACA recordings, from which the Poppa Hop version was taken, as poor notes on the masters didn't show that other vocalists at/on this session were none other than Fenton Robinson and/or Larry Davis. The Alligator album, since it's 1985 release, has sold more than 285,000 copies, and has been remastered, with 1 song added, in 2011.
Blues Trivia For October 2019: This ties in with the aforementioned cd "Red River Blues". RAM Records appears to be the featured label, but, if you look closely, you'll see that the included labels of K, Jo, Clif, Speed, and Red River are there too. They were all tied to Mira Smith's RAM Records label. Think about this: she was one of the first women to own a recording company, which was difficult in the male dominated music business of that time. Anyhow, I don't know where the Jo name came from, but the K Records was in recognition of her sister, Katherine. Clif Hagin, a songwriter, teamed up with Mira, and the Clif Records subsidiary of R A M came to be. Speed Records, owned by Oscar Wills, aka T.-V. Slim, also became a subsidiary. There are 5 tracks on the Red River Records label, performed by Jesse "Baby Face" Thomas, who also owned that label. It wasn't a subsidiary of R A M, but rather, another Shreveport bluesman. A couple of other notes here: the recordings on this disc, from Speed Records, featured T.-V. Slim on vocals, Eddie Williams on piano, Jimmy White on drums, and Joe Young on guitars. Young would later move to Chicago, where he went on to be one of the best -- he was then known as "Mighty" Joe Young. Also on this cd are several other artists who recorded for these labels, but obviously didn't own them There were a lot of reasons for the "subsidiary" thing, but that's a whole 'nother story.
Some October Blues Passings:
Some September Blues Births:
Answer To The August 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Robert Percell Ferguson, best- known as H-Bomb Ferguson, born May 9, 1929, in Torrest, South Carolina, the 11th. of twelve children. As Robert was growing up, his father, a Baptist preacher, said he'd pay for piano lessons, but only if Robert learned sacred melodies. In a later interview, H-Bomb said that during the services, he'd play sacred music, then, when the services were over and the congregation would move outside to talk and socialize, he and his friends would run back inside, where Robert would play the blues on the piano. When he was 19, he toured and performed with Joe Liggins (also a piano player) and The Honeydrippers, after which the band ended up in New York. He went out on his own after that, and landed a gig at The Baby Grand Club, a Harlem nightclub, where he was billed as "The Cobra Kid". He first recorded as Bob Ferguson, in 1950, 4 tracks, on the Derby label, in New York City. The band backing him was The Jack "The Bear " Parker Orchestra. Parker became Ferguson's manager, and is credited as the one who gave him the " H-Bomb " nickname. It has also been said that he was given that name by Savoy Records producer Lee Magid, for whom he started recording in 1951, but I find that titles credited to "H-Bomb Ferguson" recorded in 1950 and early '51, on the Atlas and Prestige labels, were prior to his move to Savoy. He went on to record for at least 12 more labels in his career, as the featured artist. He toured with people such as Ruth Brown, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and even Redd Foxx, working clubs, performing as a singer and telling jokes. In '57 he moved to Cincinnati, where he signed with King Records. He formed his own band, "H-Bomb Ferguson and The Mad Lads, with whom he worked, to further develop his own style, focusing on his piano playing, up through the '60's. He quit performing in the early '70's but made a come-back in the '80's and on into the '90's, performing mostly in Britain and Europe, in his own self-developed wild style, wearing different multi-colored wigs. In 1990 he recorded a vinyl album for local Cincinnati record label Papa Lou Recordings, for local only release. In '93 he recorded a cd for Earwig Records, out of Chicago, titled "Wiggin' Out", backed by The Medicine Men. As near as I can tell, this was his last recording. He passed away November 26, 2006, in Cincinnati, of emphysema and cardiopulmonary disease. I only got to meet and talk with him once, at a blues festival at Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where we had a booth and worked that festival. We also met Guy Davis there. We had a bluesman spend those 2 days with us, sitting at our booth, talking with us and festival go-ers. His name was James Reed, and no, not THE Jimmy Reed, but the one with us was also a harp player. I'll never forget the red suit he was wearing!
Blues Question For September 2019: This is an almost totally unknown blues harp player who recorded only four tracks on the now long defunct RAM Records before he more or less, vanished from the business. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) for September 2019: The song is "Airport Blues", and the artist is Silas Hogan. This was recorded in January 1963, in Crowley, Louisiana. It features Silas Hogan on guitar and vocal, Sylvester Buckley on harmonica, Isiah Chatmon on the second guitar, and Samuel Hogan (Silas' son) on drums. This was done long before today’s airport congestion, and the T S A.
Blues Trivia For September 2019: Are you familiar with Alden Bunn, better-known as "Tarheel Slim" ? Probably not, though he recorded in many music genres, including blues, gospel, pop duets of the day, with groups in R & B, and rockabilly. He recorded under the names Alden Bunn, Allen Bunn, Allen Baum, and, of course, Tarheel Slim. Around 1955 he married Anna Lee Sandford, and they first recorded as "The Lovers", and later, going by "Tarheel Slim and Little Ann" on recordings. One of his interesting songs is "The Guy With A .45". The trivia part here is that another guitarist, as a sideman, recorded with him. That was James "Wild Jimmy" Spruill. Never heard of him either, right ? Well, you've probably heard his guitar work on things, such as Dave "Baby" Cortez's "The Happy Organ", Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City", Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae", and many of Elmore James' recordings. Bunn didn't record in all the genres he played, but Spruill did--and then some. The list of all the people/bands with whom he recorded is waay too long to be included here, but please, check him out, you'll be surprised! One last little bit of trivia on "Wild Jimmy"; he was well-known for playing his guitar with his teeth. Speaking of his guitar, he started out with the traditional "cigar box" guitar, with an elastic band, as a youngster, learning to play. After a few years, he stepped up to a Fender Telecaster. After that, he graduated to a Gibson Les Paul. This part, if you're a guitar player or collector, you might not want to read. He sawed off most of the Gibson's body, leaving maybe 2 inches of it on each side, parallel to the fret board, retained the pick-ups and controls, and replaced the sides to complete the soundboard, to suit his style of play. To hear some of that, listen to his tune "Hard Grind", on the "Fire" label, #1006, or "June's Blues", with King Curtis on sax, on the Symbol label (a subsidiary of Sue Records), #900, with the artist listed on the label as "The Commandos".
Some August Blues Births:
Answer To The July 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was William Lloyd "Bill" Johnson, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, birth date unknown. When he was 2, the family moved to Ottawa, Ontario. Artistic family? -- yes; his mother, Dorothy Oxborough, is a recognized painter. While he was growing up he listened to his brother's blues records collection (his brother plays blues harmonica). At the age of 9, his family moved to Victoria, British Columbia. That was the year he started playing the guitar, as with the move, he, as yet, had no new friends. He excelled in his music classes and was playing professionally by the age of 15. He spent his teen years playing local gigs and studying guitar. He has said that his desire to play guitar was most influenced by his listening to recordings done by Chuck Berry. He now plays acoustic, electric, and lap slide guitars, and also the flute and harmonica. He performed with different bands through the '70's and '80's, all in varying genres of music. That's probably why he now fuses many styles into his playing (rock, country, jazz, and blues). In the mid - '80's he started to really concentrate on the blues area. Between 2005 and 2016 he has released 5 albums. In his career he has worked as a sideman for people such as Hubert Sumlin, Son Seals, and Otis Rush. He and his band were often the opening act for Otis Rush. He has been nominated, in different categories, by the Maple Blues Awards, The Blues Underground Network, and by both the Western Canada and Juno Awards. He won both best song, "Half the Man", and the best album (cd) "Still Blue", from which that song was taken. I picked this artist to show that the blues is not exclusive to our South, or Chicago, or anywhere else that lays claim to it -- it's recognized and appreciated world-wide. Two very good publications about the blues come from Europe -- 1 in England, and 1 in Italy. Why do you think so many blues and jazz musicians moved to Europe, in particular, France ? One of those who did that, because he felt he wasn't appreciated here, was Luther Allison, though some years later, after he had developed a following, a fan base, he moved back to the U.S.
Blues Question For August 2019: This bluesman was known as a "blues shouter", a name given to jump blues singers. He also played piano, which allowed him, in the mid -'50's to be a "pioneer" in the beginning of the Rock & Roll era. Late in his career he lived in Cincinnati. His recordings are sometimes found in the R & B section, as he contributed to that genre, as well. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for August 2019: The song is "I'm In A Phone Booth, Baby", and the artist is Albert King. You might be more familiar with Robert Cray's version, recorded at a later date. King's original was recorded in 1984, on his last studio album, "Phone Booth". First, I picked this one because of the guitar work, for the guitar players out there, and secondly, because the sounds you hear are the product of King's fingers -- there were no effects machines or pedals, or any other "artificial" sounds -- it was all Albert's talented playing. By the way, how long since you've seen a phone booth, and what are Clark Kent and Dr. Who going to use in the future?
Blues Trivia For August 2019: This one is about The Sound of Blue and remembering Deborah Coleman. In 1996, before we actually opened the store, we wanted to see if and how it would be received. We spent that Summer and Fall working manufacturer and craft shows where we would be inside or under a large tent, with many other assorted businesses, as well as some school festivals and sales where we'd be inside. At that time we had roughly 150 to 200 cd's and cassettes that we'd display and, hopefully, sell. The response was good. It showed us that it would probably work, but that it was going to take both a considerable amount of work, and a substantial investment in merchandise expansion. In the Winter/Spring of '96 and '97, we did just that. By the beginning of Summer, we had roughly 1,100 cd's, 400 cassettes, and 100 or so l.p.'s and 45's, along with various tee-shirts, ball caps, most of the blues magazines of the day, and some books. Now, we'd best get serious about moving some "product", and along came our first big debut, our Grand Opening, in May, featuring Crazy Marvin and The Blues Express, for entertainment. After that, we signed up to have a booth at The Cleveland Blues Festival, which was to take place August 15, 16, and 17, at the Berea Fairgrounds. The booth we took was inside a building, in what was billed as "The Blues Barn", to make sure that, in the case of bad weather, our merchandise was safe and dry, since it had a concrete floor. Spotty showers Friday turned into a mild storm on Saturday. Since fairgrounds aren't paved, they turn into mud city when there's a prolonged rain, and that one was. That's when we learned that the only floor drain in the "Blues Barn" was dead square in the center of our booth's area. We all worked that day in ankle - deep muddy water, and still had a good time with the die - hard blues fans. The last day at most blues festivals is when the "headliners" perform, which was the case here, as well. The day was over, the performers, bands, and acts were all done. That's when things wind down and things are being closed up, in some cases, loaded up, and people head for home. We backed our van in and were preparing to take the booth apart, and load up, when a young lady came up to me and asked if we had a cd that had "44 Blues" on it. She then introduced herself -- Deborah Coleman. She had performed a set at this festival to show her ability and to promote her newly released album on Blind Pig Records. Having heard the album, and hearing her play at this venue, I knew she probably didn't want the original of this, as it was done by Roosevelt Sykes, and featured his piano work. I suggested she get the Howlin' Wolf version, which featured Hubert Sumlin on guitar. She agreed and took that one. From that time on, anytime we worked a festival where she was playing, she'd come by the booth to say Hi, and chat for a bit. Seems she never forgot us or our help, way back when. A neat lady, a good guitarist, who'll be missed by her family, friends, and fans. R.I.P., Deborah!
Some August Blues Passings:
Some July Blues Births:
Answer To The June 2019 Blues Question: The blueswoman we were looking for was/is Deborah Francine Coleman, born October 3,1956, in Portsmouth, Virginia. I also mentioned that she came from a musical family -- her father played piano, her two brothers played guitar, and her sister played guitar and keyboards. At age 8 she saw the t.v. show "The Monkees” and thought that would be a cool thing to do, and started to learn guitar. At the age of 15 she was playing bass in rock and R & B bands. She switched to guitar after hearing Jimi Hendrix, then started listening to popular bands of that time, such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Rush, then followed those band's roots-- back to the blues. At age 25 she married Donald W. Williams, and then had a daughter, Misao Marie Williams. She then dropped out of the music field to raise her daughter. During those "time out" years she went on to become a nurse, then went on to become a Master Electrician. She then decided that she'd raised a family, worked a 9 to 5 job, and wanted to get back into music, fulltime. In 1985 she worked with an all- female rock band, "Moxxie", which allowed her to work on her own style. She got her first experience playing blues in an R & B trio named "Misbehavin' “ and toured with them for 18 months. She then took a year off, listening to all the blues bands, playing live, that she could find. Out of that, she came to understand that many of the music genres came out of the blues. In 1993 she put together a group of musicians to back her, did a frantic practice session, and left for Charleston, South Carolina, where she entered The Charleston Blues Festival's National Amatuer Talent Search, which she won, hands down. That win gave her some studio time to record a demo, which got her a contract with New Moon Records, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she recorded her first album, "Takin' A Stand", which was released in 1994 (some sites list that release date as 1995). She then went with Blind Pig Records, where she recorded/released 5 albums, the first of which was "I Can'T Lose", released February 14,1997. She did one on Telarc in 2004, and 1 on JSP in 2007. Also in 2007, 1 was released on Ruf Records, a compilation featuring Sue Foley and Roxanne Potvin. In 2008 a second compilation on Ruf featured Kandye Kane and Dani Wilde. Sadly, Deborah passed away, unexpectedly, April 12, 2018, in Norfolk, Virginia, from complications brought on by bronchitis and pneumonia, at the age of 61.
Blues Question For July 2019: This bluesman is a multi-instrumental player, but he favors guitar. His stated jump into playing guitar was prompted by his hearing Chuck Berry. He fuses many genres of music into his work. He has worked as a sideman to players such as Hubert Sumlin and Son Seals. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For July 2019: The song is "Rainy Day Blues" and the Artist is Lightnin' Hopkins. I picked this one because of the amount of rain we've had (the rest of the country, too!). Though it's not raining as I'm typing this, it's supposed to be.
Blues Trivia For July 2019: This is referring to the song I listed above. The supposed earliest version I could find is by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson I, shown to have been recorded December 17, 1938, on the Bluebird label, featuring Speckled Red on piano, Willie Hacher on mandolin, and Robert Lee McCoy on guitar, with no indication who wrote it. Next up was James "Yank" Rachell, also shown on Bluebird, recorded December 11,1941, with him on vocal and guitar, Sonny Boy Williamson I on harp, and Washboard Sam on washboard, with writing credited to Rachell. Another version by Willie "The Lion" Smith, doing vocal and piano. Writing credit on some other versions list Big Joe Turner and J. Mayo Williams. There are versions by others, such as Willie Nelson, Tab Benoit, and John Lee Hooker. There's even one by Victor and Valentino, two characters in a Cartoon Network show. A great live version can be seen on youtube. It was at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee. You can check out that one as "Loveless Jam Rainy Day Blues". If you take the time to listen to some of these, you'll notice that the lyrics are totally different on most of them, not always expressing the same thoughts. If you hear a blues song and you like it, when you start to hunt for it at the store of your choice, make sure that you've got the correct artist, song title, and/or album title. If you're trying to find it by one line from the song, you'd better be dealing with someone who knows the stuff, or you're gonna' be unhappy with the result. Just sayin'.
(Editor Note: Just see Joe for all your Blues music needs and you’ll save much aggravation.)
Some July Blues Passings:
Some June Blues Births:
Answer To The May 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Auburn "Pat" Hare, born December 20,1930, in Cherry Valley, Arkansas. As with many blues performers of the early '50's, there is conflicting information. He is shown as joining "Little Junior" Parker and his Blue Flames' band in 1951, with whom he made his first recordings, on the Duke label with Parker, in December of 1953. The band’s name was listed as Little Junior Parker with Bill Johnson's Blue Flames. I also found that his first recording is shown to be in February of 1952, as a sideman, with "Walter Bradford and the Big City Four", at Sun Records, #176, but a copy of that has never been found, which begs the question, was it ever released? He also did some recordings with Rosco Gordon, on the Duke label, in 1952. In the May 2019 Blog I indicated that he (Hare) made a recording (as a sideman) that is considered to be the main influence to hard rock and heavy metal guitarists. That song would be "Cotton Crop Blues", with James Cotton doing the vocal, Mose Vinson on piano, John Bowers on drums, and Hare on guitar. That was on Sun Records, #206, recorded May 14,1954, in Memphis. In a session later that day he recorded 3 songs; the only ones ever done in his own name. They featured him on vocals and guitar, with Billy "Red" Love on piano, and Israel Franklin on drums. Those were unissued at that time, and I'll get to them shortly. All the rest of his recordings were as a session player or sideman with the fore-mentioned Parker, Gordon, and Cotton, but also with Bobby Blue Bland, Howlin' Wolf, Big Mama Thornton, Big Memphis Ma Rainey (Ma Rainey #2, born Lillie Mae Hardison or Harrison), among others. Now, about those 3 under his own name. The "B" side was "Bonus Pay"(Ain't Gonna Be That Way). The "A" side was 2 different versions of "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby", with the second version titled the same, but also tagged with "Cheating and Lying Blues", which was the title of the original, recorded by Dr. Clayton on November 11,1941. In Hare's case it proved to be prophetic. From '54 to '56 Pat lived in Houston (home of Duke/Peacock records), where he recorded with Gordon and Bland, while playing full-time with Bland at gigs. Bland fired him for legal problems Pat was having (supposedly he was in jail). Then Pat got a call from Cotton, asking him to come to Chicago, to play in the Muddy Waters band. He accepted the offer, but before moving there, he situated his wife, Dorothy Mae, and their 3 children in Cleveland. Once in Chicago, he performed and recorded with Cotton, in Muddy's band. The recordings were on the Chess label, but, unfortunately, Pat didn't get along with Leonard Chess. Consequently, when Leonard would do the mix on Hare's playing in the band, he would move Pat's sound to the rear, while bringing another player's sound to the front. Some records indicate that Muddy fired him, because of Pat's drinking, which rendered him hard to control, and sometimes, unable to play. Anyhow, on Sunday, December 15,1963, Pat had been drinking and was in heated arguments with his then girlfriend, Agnes "Aggie" Winje, 49, at their apartment (Pat was 32 at that time). When shots were heard fired for the second time that day by a neighbor’s girlfriend, she called police to investigate. Officers James E. Hendricks and Chester Langaard responded from a couple blocks away. Once on scene, Hendricks, who was a few steps ahead of his partner, went through the doorway first, and was heard by his partner to say "Give me the gun", right before 3 shots were heard. Langaard went through the doorway and saw Pat standing over his partner, with a gun in his hand. Langaard shot Pat twice, then called for ambulances. The first one took his partner to the hospital, where he was pronounced D O A. The second ambulance took Aggie, who'd been shot twice, and Pat to the hospital. She died on January 22, 1964. Hare was then charged with 2 counts of murder, among other charges. The case went to court on February 19,1964. The trial lasted one day, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, was immediately bound over to Stillwater State Prison, in Bayport, near St. Paul, Minnesota. While there, Pat started a band, "Sounds Incarcerated". He passed away September 26,1980, of lung cancer.
Blues Question For June 2019: This blueswoman came from a musical family. She learned to play guitar by the age of 8. At 15, she was playing bass professionally, then switched to guitar. Any idea who this blueswoman might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For June 2019: The song is "Take A Look Behind", and the artist is Otis Rush. Recorded in 1971, for Capitol, never released. Otis bought the masters from them and had it released in 1976, on P-Vine, out of Japan. After that, it was released on the Bullfrog label, in the U.S. The title of the album was/is "Right Place, Wrong Time", and is one of his best recordings. It's still available.
Blues Trivia For June 2019: Since the Blues Question answer was so long, I'm going to try to keep this shorter than usual. This ties into that answer, though. When I started researching Hare, I ran into the same thing that I've seen on so many other bluesmen: when looking at bio's of these people, 4,6,8 or however many you run across, all from different people and sources, you'll find that a lot of them are exactly the same. Word for word, sentence for sentence, etc., exactly the same, with some of these people claiming to be the author of said bio. To that I say, I think not! On the info I gathered on Hare, that answer would be 5 times+ longer to document him more accurately. His guitar work on Cotton's 1954 "Cotton Crop Blues" is the first recording of intentionally distorted guitar, using power chords. Yes, others used it during live performances-- I'm talking about recorded. Also, Hare's guitar work on Junior Parker's 1953 recording "Love My Baby", is credited with being one of the big influences on rockabilly guitar. If you talk to or listen to interviews with today's rock or heavy metal guitarists, you'll hear them credit their influence being the first recording of distorted power chord playing, the instrumental "Rumble", by Fred Lincoln "Link" Wray. Not so fast, boys and girls, as that was done in 1958. That recording has been used in movies, on television, and in documentaries, such as The Sopranos, Pulp Fiction, Independence Day, and The Warriors. It's currently being used in Jack Daniels commercials. It's the only instrumental ever banned on radio airplay, in New York and Boston, as "rumble" was a slang term for a gang fight. It was thought that it might glorify juvenile delinquency. Incidentally, Link Wray was of Shawnee Native American descent. Once again, it came from the blues first!!
Some June Blues Passings:
First off, congratulations to the winners of the 2019 NEOBA Blues Challenge. In the Band category, Mojo Theory, based out of Columbus, Ohio, and in the Solo/Duo category, Jake Friel and Nic Clark (Jake & Nic). And, thank you to all the others who participated! Now, on with the monthly blog.
Some May Blues Births:
Answer To The April 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Wayne Talmadge Bennett, born December 13, 1931, in Sulpher, Oklahoma. As I stated in the question, he wanted to be known as a versatile performer, as he played blues, jazz, and rhythm & blues material. In his life, at different times, he performed in the house orchestras at the Apollo, in Harlem, at the Regal, in Chicago, at the Howard, in Washington D.C., at the Royal, in Baltimore, and at the Uptown, in Philadelphia, theaters. In the blues field he performed (and sometimes toured) with Bobby Blue Bland, John Lee Hooker, Mighty Sam McClain, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Rosco Gordon, Little Junior Parker, and James Cotton, just to name a few. In the jazz field he worked with Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley, and Dexter Gordon, and others. In the R & B, soul, gospel, and doo-wop fields, he performed with the Soul Stirrers, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Five Blind Boys, Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, Ramsey Lewis, The Chi-Lites, the Hues Corporation, and many others. That should give you some idea of his abilities, and, yes, he also did some country. In the Question, I also mentioned that he played guitar on a recording and that that had influenced the rock guitar sound of the '60's. That was/is Elmore James' recording "The Twelve Year Old Boy", on April 12, 1957 (released May '57), on the Chief label, BMI # C2402, Chief # 7001. That recording features Elmore James on vocals, both Wayne Bennett and Eddie Taylor on guitars, J.T. Brown on tenor sax, Johnny Jones on piano, Homesick James on bass, and Odie Payne on drums, featuring Wayne Bennett on the guitar solo work. Both Wayne and Eddie were plugged into the same amp, which is what generated the distortion in sound. James recorded this song again in 1963, on the Fire /Fury/and Enjoy Record(s) company, but it's nowhere as good as the earlier version, and didn't feature Bennett or Taylor. Wayne passed away on November 28, 1992, in New Orleans, from heart failure, one week before a scheduled replacement could be transplanted.
Blues Question For May 2019: In some of the past Blogs, I've listed or shown that some of the great bluesmen had gotten their professional start while they were in prison. This time, this bluesman who was already well established professionally, was sent to prison, where he eventually passed away. One of his recordings is often recognized as the beginning of the "heavy metal" guitar sound. Any idea who this bluesman might be??
Blues Song(s) And Artist)s) For May 2019: The song is "Pickin' The Blues", and the artist is Elmore James, on the Enjoy label, #2015, with Johnny "Big Moose" Walker on piano. If you listen to this and your feet aren't tapping, have someone make sure you have a pulse.
Blues Trivia For May 2019: When you're listening to the blues that you like, do you know what type it is? There are many factors and sub-types: acoustic, electric, guitar, harmonica, piano, or horn-driven, also by area or region. When I say regional, I'm referring to style by area: Mississippi Hill Country, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, West Coast, among many others. The one I'm touching on here is referred to as the Piedmont style. That's played acoustically, with the thumb thumping out the bass line, and the index (and/or others) finger(s) supplying the upper or treble notes. You're probably familiar with some of those who play(ed) that style: Blind Blake, Barbeque Bob, Rev.Gary Davis, Brownie McGhee, Josh White, Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Moss, the list goes on and on. Here's the trivia part: I've said, for a long time, that all American music has come/grown out of the blues. One of the not-well-known Piedmont style blues players was Lesley "Esley" Riddle, of African-American descent, born June 13,1905, in Burnsville, North Carolina. Piedmont style blues was common from the Southern East Coast, northward, as far as New York and New Jersey, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He grew up with his grandparents, not far from the Virginia border, in an area close to Kingsport, Tenn. As a young man, he worked in a cement plant, where he was injured. That injury required that his right leg was amputated at the knee. While he was recovering, he took up the guitar. Shortly after that, he started working with other musicians, such as Brownie McGhee, Harry Gray, and Steve Tarter. Once, at Tarter's house, he met Blind Lemon Jefferson. In 1928, Esley met A.P.Carter (Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter), who had just started a "country band", The Carter Family Country Band, consisting of A.P., his wife, Sara, and his sister-in-law, Maybelle. Esley and the Carter family travelled and worked together, performing. That pairing was the foundation of country music as it is known today. Here's a question for you: the banjo was used in the earliest blues string bands, and is now used in folk, country, bluegrass, and Dixieland jazz, so from where did it come??
Some May Blues Passings:
First, a correction on an item in last month's Trivia section: I don't know if it was how I tapped the keys or if it was being in too much of a hurry to get it typed, but I showed Howlin' Wolf arriving in Chicago with $4,00.00 in his pocket. Look at that closely: I had the comma correct but I left out a "0". Although in, 1952, getting into town with four hundred dollars would have been impressive for a bluesman, it should have read $4,000.00, an unheard-of amount then, or even now! Now, on to the Blog.
Some April Blues Births:
Answer To The March 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was "Texas" Johnny Brown, born John Riley Brown, on February 22,1928, in Ackerman, Mississippi. There are two versions of his childhood-- I'll give you both, as they are plausible. As a child he played guitar, next to his father, an ex-railroad worker who had been blinded by an accident while at work, in the streets of their town, and in close-by towns. The other story is that Johnny's father, Cranston Exerville "Clarence" Brown, had likely left his wife and Johnny. Johnny lived with his mother until she passed away, when he was nine years old. He then moved to live with his father. Johnny played the tambourine and danced, to accompany his father, who sang and played guitar. Also accompanying them was their dog, named Carburetor, who would strum the guitar on cue. He and his father lived alternately in New Orleans, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi, while they travelled and performed in towns in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Johnny moved to Houston, Texas, in 1946, while the other version says the family had done that. Somewhere around that 1946 date, his father moved to Ethel, Mississippi, where he passed away in the mid-'50's. Johnny got his professional music start in the backing band of Amos Milburn, The Aladdin Chickenshakers, most likely so named because that's the label on which they recorded. He also backed Ruth Brown on her early recordings on the Atlantic label. He entered military service, served three years, and was discharged in 1953. On his return, he backed Lightnin' Hopkins and "Little" Junior Parker, among others, throughout the'50's, while he also worked as a sideman/studio musician for the Duke/ Peacock labels (same company). In the late '50's he wrote the song "Two Steps From The Blues". The song was recorded by Bobby "Blue" Bland, on Bland's first studio album, and its title was used as the title of that album. During the '50's and '60's, he recorded as a sideman for many different artists, but was usually uncredited. He also toured, as the lead guitarist with Bobby Bland, during those years. Starting around 1963, he also worked outside the music field, as a truck driver, a forklift operator, a mechanic, and as a landscaper. In the mid-'60's he sat in on jam sessions with people, such as Goree Carter, Clarence Holliman, Joe Bell, and Roy Gaines. He retired in 1991, and formed his own band, The Quality Blues Band. In 1998 they recorded an album, "Nothin' But The Truth", nominated for "the Best Comeback Album of The Year", in 1999. That included his "Two Steps From The Blues" song and it was the first time he recorded it himself. They recorded a second album, "Blues Defender", in 2001, which was released in 2002. Both of those were on the Chocktaw Creek Records label, which Johnny owned, named after the county where he was born. He passed away on July 1,2013, at home, in Houston, of lung cancer. Sadly, I only got to meet and chat with him once, some years back. An interesting man, and the loss of yet another relatively unrecognized talent and contributor to the blues world.
Blues Question For April 2019: This guitarist preferred not to be known as a bluesman, but rather, as a versatile musician. On the blues front, he played on recordings of many of the big names of the blues. You've probably heard his work on some of those recordings, and, yes, even on some of Bland's songs, though he's usually uncredited. One of those recordings, as a sideman, is sometimes said to be the beginning of rock guitar. Any idea who this "bluesman" might be ??
Blues Song(s) And Artist(s) For April 2019: The song is "Saddled The Cow (And Milked The Horse)", and the artist is Rosco Gordon. I picked this one 'cause we need a little more humor in our day to day lives, a little stress relief.
Blues Trivia For April 2019: I hope you enjoy the Blues Blogs, and pick up some information and ideas about the blues from them. If you've liked them, and that has prompted you to go back and see some of the earlier ones, you'll have noted on some of them, that the video isn't there anymore, but has been replaced with a frown and the message "Sorry, Video Not Available" or "Video Has Been Removed Because Of Possible Copyright Infringement". This has not been done by myself or NEOBA, but rather by the person or site which originally posted it. As you can see, almost all of what I write about is the earlier recordings and artists. Seeing those videos removed, if you think about it, indicates that BMI or ASCAP services, or whatever individual or record company who/that has procured the rights to that recording, either didn't give permission or receive compensation for someone to use it. Sometimes it's just a record company who wants you to purchase an album or collection of theirs. If it's protecting rights, or compensation going to the correct entity, then I'm O.K. with it. The important thing is, do not lose the music. Almost all of those about whom I write, we have in stock, or, can get it. Some, however, are gone, so enjoy them if you can find them on the web. Whatever you do, do things right or don't do them at all.
Some April Blues Passings:
Some March Blues Births:
Answer To The February 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was James "Jimmy/Jimmie" D. Harris, best-known as "Shakey Jake" Harris, born April 21,1921, in Earle, Arkansas. In 1928 the family moved to Chicago, where his father, James Sr., did odd jobs. In his youth Shakey taught himself to play harmonica. He frequently returned to Earle to work outside the music field. He dropped out of high school in the early '40's to serve in the U.S. Army. After his discharge he returned to Chicago where he worked as a mechanic, sometimes sitting in at local clubs, with bands, such as Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and others. In 1952 he formed his own band to play local club dates, sometimes with his nephew, Magic Sam (Maghett), up into 1967. He recorded on/for the Artistic label in Chicago in 1958, the Prestige/Bluesville label in New York City in 1959 and '60, and on the Polydor label in Hamburg, Germany, in 1962. Also in '62, he toured with the Rhythm & Blues U.S.A. Package Show through England and Europe. That early recording session for Artistic featured Magic Sam and Syl Johnson on guitars and was produced by Willie Dixon. He was never paid for that session, but he won $700.00 shooting craps, with/from label-owner Eli Toscani. The nickname "Shakey Jake" came from that, because of his ability to "shake them cubes", a common phrase for crapshooter's abilities with dice. In 1968 Jake moved to Los Angeles, California, where he played local club dates. He recorded for several different labels there, one of which he owned from 1977 to 1982, the Good Time label. He also owned and performed at the Safara Lounge in 1977 & '78. Health problems eventually led him to return to Arkansas, where he passed away, from pneumonia, on March 2,1990, in Forrest City.
Blues Question For March 2019: This "unknown" and under-appreciated bluesman was born, as were many, in Mississippi, but was/is associated more with Texas, where he took up residence and performed. His most famous song title was used as the title for another bluesman's album. He was/is featured on many recordings, often uncredited. He released only two albums under his own name, the first when he was 58 years old, and the second one sixteen years later. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for March 2019: The song is "Blues After Hours", and the artist is Pee Wee Crayton. The original was recorded in 1948, on the Modern label. He recorded it again in December 1984, on the small Murray Brothers label, which was produced by Rob Murray and Rod Piazza
Blues Trivia For March 2019: This bluesman's trivia started with his name on his birth certificate: Chester Arthur Burnett, named after the 21st. president, Chester A. Arthur. You know him as Howlin' Wolf, one of the premier Chicago bluesmen. He claimed that the " Howlin" part came from his grandfather, who told him that if he misbehaved, a " howling wolf " would get him. It has been said that later that he got the nickname from one of his early musical influences, country singer Jimmie Rodgers. Wolf had tried to match Jimmie's " blue yodel ", but it had come out as a growl or howl, so that's what he stuck with. He was taught guitar by Charlie (sometimes shown as Charley) Patton. In his early days Wolf sat in with Patton, where they played the local jukes. He was taught harmonica by Sonny Boy Williamson II, with whom he would occasionally sit in with at KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas, on the King Biscuit Flour Hour. Now, here's some more trivia about Wolf: after his first recordings in Memphis, in 1951 & '52, he moved to Chicago, but he did it differently than all other bluesmen who had moved there from the South. He drove his own car, and he had roughly $400.00 in his pocket. He was functionally illiterate into his forties, when he went back to school and got a G E D diploma, after which he went on to take a course in accounting, and other business- related courses. By then he had married Lillie, who was an educated woman. She took care of the business end for him. He, with Lillie, the love of his life, raised two daughters, Betty and Barbara, that were from a prior relationship Lillie had. Some of the things he did for his band members were to provide good wages, on time, provide unemployment insurance, contribute to their social security, and provide health insurance. He didn't believe in foolish spending-- he drove a Pontiac station wagon. He remained deeply in love with Lillie up to his passing. With all this said, I'd like to pose a question, or, at least, provoke some thought by you blues fans. Look at and think about today's blues performers and ask yourself how many, if any, would take so much care of their band members. Just think about it.
Some March Blues Passings:
Some February Blues Births:
Answer To The January 2019 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Willie Lee Johnson, born March 4, 1923, in Senatobia, Mississippi. His first instrument, as with many a bluesman's beginnings, was a homemade guitar, and by the late 1930's he was working local parties. His first touch with a professional bluesman was working with Howlin' Wolf, in 1941, at Dooley Square, in Tunica, Mississippi. In the mid-'40's he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked local clubs with other bluesmen, such as Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Calvin Newborn, Willie Nix, Willie Love, and Howlin' Wolf, who by that time, had also moved to Memphis. Johnson's first recordings were with Wolf, at Memphis Recording Service (later to become Sun Records), in 1951. Two of those songs were released on/by Chess Records, with two more released on/by the R P M Records label. In 1952 the studio was re-named Sun Records, with further sessions for Johnson, with Wolf and several other artists, with the recordings, again, being released on many different labels. Some of the people with whom he recorded, as a sideman, were Wolf, Willie Nix and His Band, Little Junior Parker, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Elmore James, Rosco Gordon, and others. In 1955 he moved to Chicago, where he sat in with Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, J.T. "Saxman" Brown, and other local bluesmen. He recorded with Wolf, a few sides, for Chess Records. There were some of those recordings, done in '56 and '57, that some "Facebook experts" claim were wrongly credited to Johnson. By the way, his earlier recordings (in 1951) with Wolf were "How Many More Years", "Moaning At Midnight", and "Riding In The Moonlight"(recorded originally as "Baby Ride With Me"). Willie passed away, at home, on February 26, 1995.
Blues Question For February 2019: This bluesman, not real well-known, but should be, as you have probably heard his work. He recorded on at least seven different labels, toured extensively / sat in with some of the big names in the blues. He got his nickname because of another "trade" at which he was proficient. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for February 2019: The song is "Cold Weather Blues", and the artist is Muddy Waters. There were two reasons for picking this one: first, because it's this time of year, and second, because of the "sidemen": a young Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar, and Willie Dixon on stand-up bass. This came from the 1964 Muddy Waters album, "Folk Singer", on Chess Records.
(As I edit this blog it is -3 degrees)
Blues Trivia For February 2019: After listening to the aforementioned song, I got to thinking about Muddy and Willie Dixon. Willie wrote or co-wrote over 500 songs, some for himself, but most for others. The song I'm referring to in this section, has been, in some listings, shown as one of his compositions, but I believe those statements to be wrong, as I can find no record showing that to be true. Muddy was famous for "appropriating" writing credits on some songs. One that comes to mind is "I Got My Mojo Working", which is still mis-credited to him, which a lawsuit corrected years ago. This type of thing has been happening since the beginning of recorded music. Sometimes, it's done accidentally when re-issues of materials are done, but other times it's done on purpose, to sell more "product". Anyhow, here's the trivia part. About 1996 0r '97, when we started this store, I bought some discs from a distributor in Colorado. The two brands that I most often purchased from him were "Blues Encore" and "Giants of Jazz", that second one having some jump blues artists featured. One title on the Blues Encore items I ordered, I bought a copy for myself, to play here in the store, was a compilation cd, "Uncle Sam Blues". The disc has 18 tracks, songs done about the war times of W.W.II, Korea, Vietnam, and other references. One of those songs was "Atomic Bomb Blues", by Homer Harris. When I listened to it, I thought the guitar sounded familiar, so I got to digging. Turns out, it was recorded September 27,1946, in Chicago, on Testament Records(?), along with two other songs by Harris: "Tomorrow Will Be Too Late" and "I'm Gonna Cut Your Head, Mama". The backing band personnel were: Muddy Waters on guitar, James Clark on piano, Ransom Knowling on double bass, and Judge Riley on drums. If you look for "Atomic Bomb Blues" now, you'll find most listings for it under Muddy Waters. One listing credits it to Homer Harris. That's on the Bear Family Records label, out of Germany. It's on an l.p.-sized boxed set, containing 5 cd's, 1 dvd, and a 250 page hardcover book. The set is titled "Atomic Platters: Cold War Music", and the cd's have over 100 vintage cold war songs and over 2 dozen civil defense Public Service Announcements, voiced by celebrities such as Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Pat Boone, Johnny Cash, and many others. The dvd features 9 bizarre civil defense and anti-communist cold war short films of the '50's and '60's. If you're interested, the set has an msrp of $ 249.99 and can be ordered. The song is also available on some Muddy Waters compilations: an 8 cd set out of the U.K., and is in stock ($23.98), a 4 cd set, also out of the U.K., not in stock (also $23.98), and a 20 cd set, on the Sony label, again, from England, with an msrp of $ 93.99 (not in stock).
Some February Blues Passings:
Just For Your Info: We are now, once again, accepting credit card purchases.
Some January Blues Births:
Answer to the December 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Bumble Bee Slim, born Admiral Amos Easton, aka Amos/Shelley Armstrong, on May 7th.,1905, in Brunswick, Georgia, one of 6 children. In his youth he worked as a barber. In 1920 he left home to work in the travelling circus of Ringling Brothers. Interested in music early, he then hoboed across the U.S., singing and playing guitar in the streets, at parties, in juke joints, at fish fries, and in parks. He returned to Georgia around 1926 and was briefly married. In 1928 he travelled, on a freight train, to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he worked in the local juke joints. He lived there until about 1930, when he relocated to Chicago and worked in clubs and juke joints and at parties. While living in Chicago he often toured from Michigan to California. In 1931 he made his first recordings for Paramount Records, in Grafton, Wisconsin. In 1932 he recorded "B & O Blues", which was a hit for Vocalion Records. From 1932 through 1936 he recorded over 150 songs, spread between the Decca, Vocalion, and Bluebird labels. Almost all his recordings are vocals, with backing by others, such as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas), Peetie Wheatstraw (William Bunch), and Washboard Sam (Robert Brown), as Slim was not a great guitarist. In 1937 he moved back to Georgia. In the early 1940's he moved to Los Angeles, where he hoped to get into the movies as a songwriter or a comedian. In the period between 1951 and 1962, he recorded on the Fidelity, Marigold, Specialty, and Pacific Jazz labels, none of which met with much success. From 1962 on, he worked mostly outside the music field, but did continue to perform in local Los Angeles clubs until his passing on June 8,1968.
Blues Question for January 2019: This bluesman was a guitarist, born in Mississippi. As far as I can tell, he only recorded once as the lead performer, but recorded many times as a sideman to many of the big names in the blues of his era, both in Memphis and Chicago. He is sometimes credited with creating the guitar sound at the beginning of rock and roll. Any idea who this bluesman might be??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for January 2019: The song is "My Starter Won't Work" and the artist is Lightnin' Slim (Otis Verries Hicks). This was done on the Excello label #1452, on June 2, 1958, by one of the best of the swamp blues players. He did the vocal and played guitar, with Lazy Lester on harp, Guitar Gable, also on guitar, an unknown bassist, and possibly Roosevelt Samples on drums. I thought this song fitting for our normal January weather and its' usual causing of vehicle failures.
Blues Trivia for January 2019: In the August 2018 Blog, I started with a Blues Tidbit, listing Lazy Lester being featured in a Geico Insurance ad. As you should know, the Blog is written in the prior month, in this case, July. By that time, that ad had been running for some time. I must add a little more info on Lester. In his early years he worked outside the music field as a gas station attendant, a woodcutter, and in a grocery store. He was interested in music then and learned to play the harmonica, the guitar and drums. He was lucky enough to find a seat on a bus ride next to Lightnin' Slim, who was headed to the Excello recording studio for his first recording session. The harp player who was supposed to play on that session was a "no show", and Slim and Lester spent the afternoon hunting for him. Not finding him, Lester told Slim that he could play harp. Jay Miller, the producer for Excello, was so impressed by Lester’s' abilities on those recordings with Slim, that he decided to record Lester as a solo performer and to also use him as a session player on harp, guitar, or drums on others', such as Slim Harpo, Katie Webster, and Silas Hogan's recordings. Lester’s' solo recordings were of songs he himself wrote, but they were credited to Miller or Lester & Miller. Here's the trivia part: Lester’s' style was a combination of country, Cajun, and blues (country was his favorite). Knowing that, a session drummer suggested to Miller that he should let Lester record some country songs, to which Miller wouldn't agree and stated to the drummer why __"But look, he's colored". According to Lester, stated in a later interview, "Man, that was the hurtingest thing in the world". Lester also said in that interview that because of the statement by Miller and the fact that he received almost no royalties from Excello, he quit the music business, for about twenty years. Shortly after quitting he moved to Pontiac, Michigan, where he lived with Slim Harpo's sister. While there he worked outside the music field, in construction building roads, driving a truck, and as a lumberjack. When he did get back into performing, he moved to California. When he made that Geico ad he was living in Paradise, California, with his girlfriend, Pike Kaksonen. Sadly, I must report that he passed away on August 22, 2018, of cancer, which was the same month of the Blog in which I had listed him.
Some January Blues Passings:
Three items I'd like to cover before the blog:
1: The 2019 blues calendars are in. We now have all of that series of them in stock, starting with the 1st. one, 2004, through the newest, 2019, all with free cd.
2: Thanks to Dennis McCartney for his comment on the September 2018 Blog. It's comments like that which makes all the work that goes into putting the blog together worth the effort!
3: I have to apologize for my errors in the October 2018 Blues Blog. Before it gets into the form that you see/read, it's written out longhand, pen on paper. Then items are added to or removed from that draft. That usually takes 3 to 5 days, working on it part or fulltime, as necessary/available. It's checked for content, structure, chronology, or any other of those items that can be better shown. The Blues Births and Passings shown are from another hand-written list that I put together and is also constantly add to or/and updated. The next header shown is "Answer to the Blues Question" of the previous months blog. After that content, the next header should have been "Blues Question for November 2018". Instead, in error, I put the header "Blues Song and Artist for---". Following that content should have been the header "Blues Trivia for---". What I typed in was "Blues Question for---", but, if you read that content, you'd have seen that it was actually the Trivia info. What I did was omit the content for the next months' Question and the header for the Trivia section, and get what was there out of the proper order. Again, I apologize for those mistakes--I don't know how I made them, but it's certain that I did! Now, on to the blog--
Some December Blues Births:
Answer to The November 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Peetie "Pete" Wheatstraw, born William Bunch, on December 21, 1902, in either in Ripley, Tennessee, or Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Supposedly, he was born in Ripley and the family moved to Cotton Plant when he was very young. That's where he grew up, so it's what he considered to be his hometown, at least, according to Big Joe Williams. Peetie was born to James and Mary (Burns) Bunch, one of many children, and was interested in music at an early age. In 1927 he left home to hobo through the Southern states, then settled in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1929. By that time he had become proficient with the guitar and not quite as good on the piano. While living there he played at the Lovejoy Club and a juke joint above a barbershop, on West Biddle Street. There's a Delmark cd titled "Biddle Street Barrelhousin' " (we stock that disc), that features some of the piano players who worked the clubs/juke joints on that street, but he's not on it, as it was made at a later time. His only "touring" was done between East St. Louis and St. Louis, Missouri and towns in between that had a club or juke joint where he could play. His travelling was only done for recording sessions in Chicago and New York City, for the Vocalion, Decca, and Bluebird labels. He recorded with Bumble Bee Slim (Amos Easton), "Neckbones", real name unknown, James "Kokomo" Arnold, and Lonnie Johnson. All his recordings except 2 were done under the name "Peetie Wheatstraw, The Devils' Son-In-Law", or "Peetie Wheatstraw, The High Sheriff From Hell". His recordings show a hardened and somewhat egotistical attitude, which go along with those nicknames. Some sources show he made 161 recordings, while some others show 164, so I can't confirm either for sure. Because of his thumping style he is often compared to or believed to be an influence on todays' rap artists. He only played piano on his recordings, though the only known picture of him shows him with a National steel guitar. He influenced many of the bluesmen of the day, both pianists and guitarists, but that list is too long to show. One for sure, however, was Robert Johnson. On his 39th. birthday, Peetie and a couple friends decided to take a ride. One friend of his, "Blind" Teddy Darby, wanted to also ride along, but his wife wouldn't let him go. The three then left in a Buick one of his friends owned, with Peetie in the back seat. The car hit a standing train, and his buddies were killed. Peetie died a couple of hours later, at the hospital, on his birthday, December 21, 1941.
Blues Question For December 2018: This bluesman's first work was in a circus. Later in his life, after learning guitar and piano, he wanted to become a songwriter and comedian. Any thoughts on who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for December 2018: The song is "Christmas Present Blues", and the artist is Jimmy Reed, recorded in 1969, at/for Columbia Studios, for release on/for Roker Records, out of Hollywood. At the time of its release, it was sold on a lp titled "As Jimmy Is". It was also released on an Ampex reel to reel stereo tape (that's before 8 tracks and/or cassettes). Ampex reel to reel tape decks were/are considered to be the gold standard of/for tape decks. It was released shortly thereafter on a 45.
Blues Trivia for December 2018: In this one I'm going to slightly expand on the Item #3 at the beginning of this blog. Yes, I made some errors in a blog-- no denying that-- they're here for all to see. We all make them. Some admit it, some deny it, and some try to hide them. The purpose for which I started this store, and the reason I do this blog, is a simple one-- to help the true blues fan by keeping the true blues alive, and providing information, when I can. If I do any less than my best at either of these endeavors, I am defeating the whole purpose of both of these, besides doing a disservice to all the blues fans out there. If you see an error in what I've done or shown, please make and leave a comment so I can see or figure out what I got wrong. Tell me where you found the info you have so I can take a look at it too. Thanks for being patient with me and I hope you enjoy what I/we do!
Some December Blues Passings:
Just an info note: the 2019 blues calendars, with free cd, should be here by November 15th.
Some November Blues Births:
Answer To The October 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Little Willy Foster, shown (in different sources), to having been born either on April 5 or 20, 1922. Another question is that one source says he was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and another lists his birthplace as Dublin, which is about ten miles south of Clarksdale. His mother, Rosie, passed away when he was five, and he was then raised by his father, Major, who was a local musician, who taught him to play on the family's piano. As most youngsters of that area and time, he worked in the farm fields of the plantation on which they lived. He later taught himself to play the guitar and harmonica. In 1943 he moved to Chicago, where he met and became friends with "Big Walter" Horton, from whom he learned the Chicago- style of blues harp playing. By that time he had teamed up with his cousin, "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, Floyd Jones (remember him from last month's blog?), Eddie Taylor, and Lazy Bill Lucas. This was the group on his first recording session, which was done January 14, 1955, on the Blue Lake label, a subsidiary of Parrot Records. They recorded two sides, and on the printed label on that record, the artist is listed as "Little" Willy Foster. There was a second session on June 10, 1955, with the same group, with the addition of Ray Scott (real name thought to be Walter Spriggs) on drums. There were three sides recorded, but they weren't titled or released, and were scrapped. His second actual recording session was in March of 1957, on the Cobra label. On their printed label for that recording, the artist is listed as "Little" Willie Foster. The two different spellings of his first name on those labels is why you'll find him listed under either. That session had the same musicians, with the addition of Triolue High on guitar, and probably Willie Dixon on bass. After that, Willy's life started going downhill. He was at a house party, when a woman, playing with a gun, shot him in the head, which caused partial paralysis and also limited his ability to speak. He made a slow recovery, but rarely played in public after that. In January of 1974, he turned himself in, after he shot and killed his roommate. In court, he pled self- defense and impaired judgement, due to his prior brain injury. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a state hospital, in 1975. He passed away November 25,1987, of cancer of the kidney. There are only four songs he recorded. Also, he is not to be confused with Willie James Foster, another Mississippi blues harmonica player/singer, who was known around his home of Greenville, as "the Godfather of the Blues".
Blues Question For November 2018: This early bluesman played guitar and piano, and sang. He recorded over 160 sides in his career. His actual place of birth has been in question, as has his ability to play guitar, but the only known picture of him is with a guitar. He was only 39 years old when he passed away. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) For November 2018: The song is "Swamp Creature", and the artist is Kenny Neal. I know that Halloween is October31st., but the normal partying usually carries over into November 1st. This song is on a cd titled "Garage Blues Halloween", on which there are 23 tracks, featuring artists such as Johnny and Shuggie Otis, Pat Travers, Dr. John, Johnny Winter, and Junior Wells, just to name a few, and, yes, we do stock that cd, along with about 50 others, featuring songs, stories, or sound effects, for Halloween.
Blues Trivia for November 2018: Kenny Neal, mentioned in the above section, is one of the ten children of Raful Neal, a Louisiana bluesman born in Baton Rouge County. Kenny plays what is considered by some as the new swamp blues. Eight of the other children are also blues musicians. Here's the trivia part, though it is NOT a trivial event. That number of family musicians is now --seven, as one of them, Jacquiline "Jackie" Neal, born July 7,1967, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, James White, on March 10,2005, in Baton Rouge. By that point of time, she had recorded four albums, sometimes featuring her brother, Tyree Neal.
Some November Blues Passings:
Some October Blues Births:
Answer to the September 2018 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Hudson Shower, sometimes incorrectly shown as Showers, born September 6, 1919, in Anguilla, Mississippi. He is best known as "Little Hudson". His father, Elijah, was a guitarist; his mother, Ida, was a pianist and guitarist, but as I stated in the original Question, they weren't the ones who taught him how to play the guitar. That was done by an uncle, when Hudson was around 12 years old. The family had moved to Louise, Mississippi, in 1928, and he was raised there up to 1939, when he moved to Chicago and worked outside the music field up to about 1945. At that time he started sitting in with/ backing bluesmen such as Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Mabon, Big Maceo (Major Merriweather), Lazy Bill Lucas, and Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), prior to forming his own group to work in the local clubs. He did this from 1946 to 1950. The various people who worked in his group during this period included Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, a name you should know. His group was considered by many as a "training ground" for bluesmen who were just getting started. Little Hudson formed his first recording group in 1950, The Red Devil Trio, with Henry Gray on piano, and a drummer known only as "Al". Al was shortly replaced with/by James Bannister. Next, Gray was replaced by Lazy Bill Lucas. This second group is the one with which he did all his recordings. All his regular recordings were done January 31, 1953, on the J.O.B. label. The first record was, sides A & b respectively, titled "Rough Treatment" and "I'm Looking for a Woman". The second one was two different versions of side A -- "Things Going So Tough With Me", the first being "take 1", the second listed as "take 4", with the B side for both being "Don't Hang Around". His sixth track recorded was "Shake It Baby". The true blues tracks are "Rough Treatment" and "Don't Hang Around", with the others being kind of a blend of Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues. He and the group did record one additional song, in 1958, "No Money Down" (not the same as Chuck Berry's song), as a radio commercial, shown in some listings as being for a record store (had to be one expensive record store !!), while others list it as being for a furniture store. The only place you can find that recording is on a long out of print l.p., and expect to pay a collectors price. Anyhow, Little Hudson played up until about 1964, in small, local clubs. After that he worked outside the music field. He passed away March 22, 2009, in Chicago.
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for October 2018: Well, we're roughly a month into the "school year", so I thought this one, however oddly, to be appropriate: the song is "Schooldays on My Mind", and the artist is Floyd Jones.
Blues Question For October 2018: You're familiar with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller/ Alex Ford, previously) and the many songs he recorded (some "borrowed" from Sonny Boy I (John Lee Williamson} and that he did a lot of travelling with many different other bluesmen and bands, even the Yardbirds and the Animals. In his earlier days he worked the streets for tips, played on the "King Biscuit Flour Hour", with Robert Lockwood Jr., another bluesman you should also know. One that he toured with, playing club dates, was Nelson Carson, aka Nelson Carter. Carson, born September 18, 1917, in New Boston, Texas. He moved to Houston in 1934, after learning guitar, where he performed at local dances until 1942, when he joined the U.S. Army. When discharged in 1945, he settled in Ashdown, Arkansas, working local gigs. There he joined Jay Franks' Rockets of Rhythm, touring/playing all over the South and on cruise ships, out of Houston. He recorded on the "Sittin' In With" label, of Houston, in 1950. Then it was back to Ashdown, again working local gigs in clubs, and touring with Jay Franks group, up into the 1970's. I can find no info on him after that time; sorry for that! This is just a little trivia note about Sonny Boy's associated performers.
Some October Blues Passings:
Some September Blues Births:
Answer to the August 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Alger "Texas" Alexander, born September 12th.,1900, in Jewett, Texas. He worked outside the music field up into the 1920's, in Leona, Texas. At that time he sometimes worked as an entertainer at parties and picnics. Around 1922 he worked the streets with Blind Lemon Jefferson, for tips. In his career he travelled a great deal, so documenting exactly his musical career is almost impossible, as is figuring out what area influenced his style. In the late '20's he recorded with Lonnie Johnson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and others in New York City and San Antonio, Texas. In New York City he also recorded with the King Oliver band. In some of his own shows later on, he went by the name King Oliver. In Texas, he worked the streets, in different towns, with Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins. He toured with the Howling Wolf (that's J.T. Smith, aka "Funny Paper"/"Funny Papa"/"Howling Smith"),(not Chester Burnett), Lowell Fulson, and George "Little Hat" Jones. Alexander, who was a vocalist (though, reportedly, could also play the guitar), did his first recordings with Lonnie Johnson on guitar, in August of '27. He recorded from '27 through '30, skipped '31,'32,and '33, and was back in the studio in '34. He didn't record after that year until his final recording session in 1950, with "Benton's Busy Bees", comprised of Buster Pickins and Leon Benton. In different publications it is shown that he murdered his wife, was tried and convicted, and served time from 1940 through 1945 for it, in a prison in Paris, Texas. Yet again, an "info" problem. I could find no reference to said crime and, there was/is no prison in Paris, Texas. There was a county jail there, in the city hall building, but that burned to the ground in 1916. If you have the time, please look up Paris, Texas's history-- It'll give you a good idea how tough that town was on those who dared to break the "law". There's also controversy over his musical relatives. In some listings he is shown to be a cousin to Frankie Lee Sims, while in others he's shown to be his uncle. Lightnin' Hopkins was Sims's cousin, and, therefore, even though distant, related to Alexander. Some articles state that Alexander and Hopkins are not related at all. Alexander died April 16th., 1954, in Richards, Texas, of syphilis.
Blues Question for September 2018: This bluesman was originally from Mississippi, but like so many others, moved to Chicago. Both his parents were musicians, but they weren't the ones who taught him how to play. He recorded only six sides. Any ideas on this bluesman ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for September 2018: The song is "Ball and Chain", and the artist is Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. This song was covered and made famous by Janis Joplin, who insisted that writing credit, on the records' label, be shown as Willie Mae Thornton. That finally gave Thornton some long-deserved recognition, which was way overdue.
Blues Trivia for September 2018: Let's take a little look at Big Mama Thornton's early career. Early on she was represented by Johnny Otis (yes, the same one who "discovered" Etta James). He made an agreement with a couple of young "promoters", to record some of her songs, and make all of the arrangements to do so. They promptly took one of those and sold it to another "promoter", who had one of his up-and-coming "stars" record it. That went on to become a hit for the other performer, but with no royalties or recognition to Thornton. Otis promptly sued the first two promoters. That suit was lost, as the judge determined that the two were underage, and therefore, not in breach of contract since they were juveniles, and not legally able to sign a valid contract. Those two, who I will leave nameless, are today credited and recognized as great songwriters. This just another "tidbit" on how musicians are scammed, but, rest assured, the musicians also scam-- both other musicians, and sometimes, those who are honestly trying to help them.
Some September Blues Passings:
First, a little Blues tidbit: If you've been around me for any length of time, you've heard me say that "people hear the blues every day -- they just don't know that it's blues". With that in mind, have you seen the Geico insurance ad showing the gecko on a front porch, with an older gentleman, sitting to his left, in a rocking chair, blowing some notes on a harmonica ? You should recognize him -- it's Leslie Johnson. You've probably heard him if you like the "swamp blues", but most likely under his performing or stage name -- Lazy Lester. He recorded from 1956 to '62 on the Excello label, in Crowley, Louisiana. He did a full album for them, "I'm a Lover, Not A Fighter", but also did a lot of session work for that label, on other artists songs/albums, as a harp player, a guitarist, or a drummer.
Some August Blues Births:
Answer to The July 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for was/is Monroe Vincent, born, depending on where you look, on December 9, shown either 1919 or 1926, in Woodville, Mississippi. I believe that the 1919 is correct, as he is shown to have moved around in New Orleans, then on to New York City, in the 1930's. He was in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1954. He lived in New Orleans from '54 up into '58, when he moved to Baton Rouge, where he sometimes worked with Lightnin' Slim, performing in clubs or working the streets for tips. He played harmonica when he was the frontman, and harp or drums as a sideman. Most of his recording was done in 1959 (?) on the Excello label, with a few done on the Zynn label, both located in Baton Rouge. He recorded under the names Mr. Calhoun, Vince Monroe, or Polka Dot Slim, in different sessions. In 1963 he recorded on the Instant label, in Detroit. He supposedly died of a heart attack in Oakland, California, on June 22,1981. Another source lists his death occurring in April,1982, no day given. Neither, at this time, can be verified or confirmed by me.
Blues Question For August 2018: Another "not well-known" bluesman who had some relatives who were prominent and well-known. He served some prison time for the murder of his wife. Now, keep in mind that this info is from one source, where another disputes all those statements/facts. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for August 2018: The song is "Let Me Be Your Hatchet", and the artist is Silas Hogan, and the recording was done "live" at Tabby's Blues Box, in Baton Rouge. I chose this song and artist because it's tied to and a big part of the "swamp blues" I mentioned in the "tidbit" at the beginning and in the Blues Question Answer. Silas Hogan was another artist who recorded for Excello.
Blues Trivia For August 2018: Since I already included some Excello swamp blues artists earlier in the blog, thought I might as well add another one here -- Ernest Joseph "Tabby" Thomas, born January 5,1929, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After high school he joined the U.S. Air Force, which, in 1959, after his discharge, put him in San Francisco, where he won a talent contest that was sponsored by local radio station KSAN. Out of that, he did some recordings for Don Pierce's Hollywood Records (NOT the same as the current Disney- owned Hollywood Records!), but they weren't successful. He then moved back to Baton Rouge, where he recorded for several small, local labels. He finally had success when he recorded for Excello, in 1961. From that point, up into the late '60's, he performed locally with his band, the Mellow, Mellow Men. He also worked for the Ciba- Geigy company, and was a union steward there. He semi-retired at that point to start his own record company-- Blue Beat Records (Not the same as the current Blue Beat, which mostly records reggae, hip-hop, rap,punk, etc.), to record both his own music and that of other local musicians, In 1978, he, along with other family members, started "Tabby's Blues Box and Heritage Hall ( I mentioned Tabby's Blues Box in the song of the month section), in an old, run-down building, to be an authentic blues club. The club moved to another location in 2000, and shut down in 2004. Here's the trivia-- one of those family members who helped start that club was his son, who you should know-- Chris Thomas King !!
Some August Blues Passings:
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:
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.