- April 1st,1906-- Carl Martin
- April 15th.,1894-- Bessie Smith
- April 29th.,1927-- James "Big Jay" McNeely
- April 4 4th.,1960-- Sylvester Weaver
- April 11th.,2017-- John Warren "J" Geils Jr.
- April 29.,1997-- Keith Ferguson
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:
Some June Blues Births:
Answer to the May Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was Goree Chester Carter or Christer Carter (not sure of his exact birth name), born December 31, 1930, in Houston, Texas. He started playing blues music at the age of twelve, learned on a cousins' guitar. There were no guitarists living in his area from whom to learn, so he taught himself by listening to records, then "picking", string by string, then learning to form those notes into chords. By his early teen years he had started a band. In 1949 he had a "jump blues" band known as Goree Carter and His Hepcats, with which he signed a contract with Freedom Records, a local label, owned by Sol Kahal. That band featured him on electric guitar, two saxes, a trumpet, bass, and drums. Their recording, the first release by that label, was titled "Sweet Ole Woman Blues". Because Gorees' playing showed a strong influence by Aaron "T-Bone" Walker, he came to be called "Little T-Bone" at some of his live shows. He was sometimes also known as Rocky Thompson and/or Gory Carter. He recorded blues in the electric, jump, and Texas styles. He is best-known for the song "Rock Awhile", which he recorded in 1949, at the age of 18. That song is now recognized by many as the first Rock & Roll song, as it pre-dated "Rocket 88" by two years, and its' intro sounds a lot like the intros' on some of Chuck Berrys' recordings. To hear an example of Carters' blues style, listen to "Christmas Time", recorded in late 1948 and released in 1949. And now here's one of the problems with believing what you see/read on the internet: if you look that song up under Goree Carter, you'll find it, but also look it up under T-Bone Walker Jr., who is actually T-Bone Walkers' nephew, R.S. Rankin, you'll find that it is Goree, who was known as Little T-Bone, where-as Rankin was known as T-Bone Walker Jr. Rankins' first recordings were at a sit-in session with his uncle, the real T-Bone, for Atlantic Records in 1957. If you want to hear Jr.s' style, check out R.S. Rankin-- "Midnight Bells Are Ringing", done in 1962, on the Downey Records label. Again, never take for granted that what you read/hear on the "web" as being the "gospel truth" (or even correct). When Goree was 19, he was drafted into the Army, did his basic training, and was sent to Korea, where he was a "frontline" soldier in that conflict. When he returned to the U.S. and was discharged, his musical career began to falter. He recorded for several labels on his return, some of which were Coral, Imperial, and Modern. He wrote many songs during this period, but the labels wouldn't let him record them for the reason I stated before-- he was "too far ahead" of himself, so he stated that he "tore them up and threw them away". Before he was drafted and on his return from Korea, and then quitting the music business, he continued to work at a local business in Houston-- the Comet Rice Mill. He did sit in once in, 1970, with B.B.King. His last recordings were done in 1954. He passed away on December 29, 1990, in Houston, two days shy of his 60th. birthday.
Blues Question for June 2018: This bluesman is another "unknown", though you've probably heard him on others' recordings. He's the second cousin of one of the greats, with who he would sometimes work. He recorded on at least four different labels. Any ideas on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for June 2018: The topic of this song gets a lot of us started. The song is "Coffee Blues", and the artist is Lightnin' Hopkins. In our house (and I'm sure in others as well), nothing happens in the morning 'til I've had my coffee. Enjoy a cup, made of the "bean of life", along with a plate of the blues !!
Blues Trivia for June 2018: While researching some Lonnie Johnson recordings for Jim Reitz of NEOBA, I ran across a name that most won't recognize-- Elmer Snowden, who did a session with Lonnie. Every blues fan is familiar with the name William Christopher "W.C" Handy, who is recognized for his impact on Memphis blues, though he was born in Alabama. Elmer was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 9,1900. Early in his musical career he played all the reed instruments, later shifted to jazz/blues banjo and/or guitar. By the time he was 22 or 23, he had started a band called the Washingtonians. The bands' personnel changed often, as players moved on to other bands or went out on their own. He eventually moved the band to New York, but couldn't get a booking, so he called a former bandmember of his who had moved to New York earlier, to get his help finding a booking. He got a booking and, at one point, had five bands playing the area, under his name, much as Handy had done. He got into several disputes with the musicians' union and decided to move on, turning the band over to the bandmember who had gotten him the booking in the first place. That man was Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. If you go back and look at Snowdens' bandmember list, you'll find that he had the "who's who" of the jump blues/jazz musicians of all time working for him. After he turned the band over to Ellington, he worked almost full-time as a session player, though still having problems with the union. He finally had enough and moved to Philadelphia and taught music. He was working as a parking lot attendant when a Philly disc jockey, Chris Albertson, ran across him. Chris got Elmer together with Lonnie Johnson for a recording session in 1960, for/on the Prestige/ Bluesville label. One song from that session, "Blues for Chris", was probably a nod to Chris for getting them together. It's an acoustic blues, featuring Lonnie and Elmer on guitars, and Wendell Marshall on stand-up bass. After that session got him some recognition, Elmers' career was, once again, on track. In 1963 he moved to California, to teach at the University of California, Berkely. He later moved back to Philadelphia, where he passed away on May 14, 1973.
Some June Blues Passings:
First off, let us, at The Sound of Blue, offer our congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Blues Challenge hosted by the Northeast Ohio Blues Association (NEOBA, for short): in the Solo/Duo category-- Kristine Jackson, and in the Band category-- the Sam Hooper Group. Both of these acts have been at this for awhile and are deserving of their win. We wish them both well in Memphis in the January 2019 competition!
Some May Blues Births:
Answer to the April 2018 Blues Question: The blues singer we were looking for is/ was Mozelle Alderson, born Mozelle Fagans, on November 20, 1904, in Bedford, Ohio. Next to nothing is known of her personal life, but what is known is that after she married, she moved to Chicago. She recorded six songs for Black Patti Records (for more relative info on Black Patti records see the July 2017 Blues Blog in the Trivia section) in 1927. She recorded two songs for Brunswick Records, also in 1927 that were released in 1930. While in Chicago she also recorded for the A R C and Vocalion labels. In 1931 she recorded with Big Bill Broonzy and Georgia Tom (Dorsey) , as the Harum Scarums, on the Paramount label, at their Grafton, Wisconsin headquarters. If you want more info on Goergia Tom Dorsey, see the December 2014 Blues Question and the January 2015 Blues Trivia sections of the Blues Blog. There are other recordings featuring her, under some of her "performing" names: "Kansas City Kitty" (usually done with Georgia Tom), Hannah May, Thelma Holmes, May Belle Lee, and/or Jane Lucas. She was widowed by 1941 and went on to marry John Slocum in 1943. She passed away on February 15, 1994, in Chicago.
Blues Question for May 2018: This bluesman was a self-taught guitarist, both acoustic and electric, and drummer by the age of eighteen. He recorded his first song, which many believe is the first rock & roll song, rather than Jackie Brenston/ Ike Turners' "Rocket 88". He wrote and recorded most of his early material on a local label. Later in his career, he quit performing/ recording because he was told that he was "too far ahead of himself". Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for May 2018: The song is "I Put A Spell On You", and the artist is Angelina Jordan (I believe she's from Norway). She was 10 years old when she recorded this. The original was done by "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins, as a ballad, on the Grand Records label, in 1955. The version you're probably familiar with was done in 1956, on the OKeh label (Columbia), when Hawkins and all the band members were drunk. Some say her version is second only to Screamin' Jays', while others say his version is second to hers. Some others who have recorded it are: Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival (C C R), Manfred Mann, Jeff Beck, Bette Midler, Annie Lennox, And Samantha Fish. Oddly, after I had a rough draft of this blog and had decided to list Angelinas' version, I had a young, aspiring guitarist, Chris Marcic, who is currently studying under the tutelage of Mike Lenz, come in to look at some vinyl. The two 45's he picked out were "I Put A Spell On You", by Screamin' Jay and "Stormy Monday", by Bobby Blue Bland. When I see young people like Angelina and Chris, I'm glad to have started this store, and I see that some youngsters are actually looking into the "old Blues", and really aren't interested in the 120 decibel, 100 m.p.h., guitar-driven "stuff" of today. This is why we need to encourage, teach, guide, or help in any way we can, the coming musicians to learn about the blues.
Blues Trivia for May 2018: I’m almost sure you've heard of Sam "Lightning" Hopkins, and possibly his two brothers, John Henry and Joel "Squatty" Hopkins (the three did an album together for Arhoolie Records). Did you know that Lightninin' has recorded more albums than any other bluesman, or that he was taught by his older, distant cousin, Alger "Texas" Alexander and Blind Lemon Jefferson? If you hear a band backing him on a recording, it most likely consists of Buster Pickens on piano, Donald Cooks on bass, and Spider Kilpatrick on drums. Some trivia: if you hear some harmonica work on his recordings, those dated up to 1969, it's by his cousin, Billy Bizor (sometimes shown as Bizer or Biser), a gifted, early style (basic notes) player who deserves wider recognition. Lightnin' performed at Blossom Music Center in 1969, and lastly, he also played, though infrequently, piano and/or organ. Just so you know, we stock the c.d. of the three Hopkins brothers performing together. We also carry one under Lightnins' name, which prominently features Billy Bizor and have on order another one which also includes the only album that Bizor recorded on his own.
Some May Blues Passings:
Some April Blues Births:
Answer to the March 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is/was "Little" George "Mojo" Buford, born George Carter Buford Jr., in Hernando, Mississippi, on November 10th.,1929. His grandfather was a preacher and his father was a harmonica player. By the time he was nine years old, he was singing in a church choir and also with local gospel groups. In 1944 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he worked outside the music field, but did watch and learn more about it. In 1953 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he formed his first band, The Savage Boys, and, later formed another, the Muddy Waters Jr. Band, to work in some of the bars, clubs, and lounges. From 1956 into the early '60's he worked in the actual Muddy Waters band. In 1962 he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he worked with Jo Jo Williams and others in local bars and clubs. During the 1960's, while performing in bands, he also worked outside the music field, at the University of Chicago. He got the "Mojo" nickname because, during that time period, he often filled in for Muddy when Muddy was on tour. One of the songs Buford performed was "I Got My Mojo Working", and was the one most often requested of him by the audience. Do you remember the original recording of that belongs to Ann Cole and the Suburbans? In the '60's and 1971, Buford recorded on six different small labels. Off and on, for over 20 years, he traveled and performed with the Muddy Waters band at venues and festivals around the U.S.A. and Europe. His final gig was at a place called Yoshi's, in San Francisco, California, with his old bandmates Hubert Sumlin and James "Superharp" Cotton. The following day he returned to Minneapolis. He went into St. John's Hospital in Maplewood, the town that's the home of the 3M company (a suburb about 10 miles north of St. Paul), for heart surgery, from which he never recovered. He passed away on October 11th.,2011, of heart failure.
Blues Question for April 2018: This blues singer was born in Bedford, Ohio. This artist is shown to only have recorded for four years, but had a considerable output, on at least five labels, with a few done under the birth name, but most done under "stage names", and, again, this is not a well-known person. Any idea on who this one can be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for April 2018: The song is "Texas Flood" (originally titled "Storm In Texas), and the artist is Moses "Whispering" Smith (also features Lightnin' Slim )
Blues Trivia for April 2018: If you follow the blues at all, you're familiar with names like Sam Phillips, Leonard and Phil Chess, Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic), Sol Rabinowitz (Baton), Ernie Young (Excello), Bob Koester (Delmar, later, Delmark), and many others who started their recording end of the music business in the 1940's and '50's. Let's add another name to that with which you're probably not familiar-- Cosimo Matassa, born April 13th.,1926, in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1944 he was studying to be a chemistry major at Tulane University. After 5 semesters he left school and founded/started the J & M Recording Studio, in the rear of his parents' grocery store, which was located in the French Quarter. He became known and recognized as a prominent figure in the development of the "New Orleans Sound" style of music, which showed up in Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll, Soul, Blues, and some Pop of the '50's and '60's. Some of those he made recordings of or for were Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Bobby Vinton, Tommy Ridgely, Smiley Lewis, Joe Tex, Babe Stovall, Albert King, Professor Longhair, Dr.John, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and many others. The one performer he managed was Jimmy Clanton. Those J & M sessions were done for labels such as Columbia, Imperial, Specialty, ACE Records, R C A Victor, Verve, Atlantic, and many smaller labels. He retired from the music field in the 1980's to manage the family's food store, known as Matassa's Market. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, first. He was then inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, as a "non-performer". In 2013 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He passed away on September 11th.,2014, in New Orleans.
Some April Blues Passings:
Some March Blues Births:
Answer to the February 2018 Blues Question: The bluesman we were looking for is Billy "The Kid" Emerson, born William Robert Emerson, on December 21, 1925, in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Having learned piano, in his teen years he performed with local bands. When he was 18 he joined the U.S. Navy, in 1943. After W.W.II and his discharge, he performed around Florida. In one of the bands in which he played, the band members dressed as outlaws, which is when and where he got his "Billy the Kid" nickname. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1952. After his discharge in 1954, while he was in Memphis, he was "recruited" by Ike Turner and joined the "Kings of Rhythm". Since Ike was also a talent scout for Sun Records, that's where Billy did his first recordings. He left Ike's band and joined another, led by Phineas Newborn, though he did continue to write songs and record vocals for Sun. In 1955 he joined Vee-Jay Records in Chicago, did some writing and recording for that label, but left shortly thereafter to join Chess Records. After recording for several small "indie" labels, he started his own -- Tarpon Records, in 1966. From what I can find, at least currently, there are seven 45's that were released on the Tarpon label, 5 recorded by Billy, 1 by Matt "Guitar" Murphy (12/29/1929), and 1, which was the debut recording, by Denise LaSalle (7/16/1939-1/8/2018). The Murphy and LaSalle recordings were shown to have been done in 1967. According to statements by Billy, there were/are more recordings that were done, but, as of this date, no more have been found. In the interim, from that time up into the mid-'80's, Billy toured with many other "big name" artists, performing at shows and festivals. In the early '80's he quit performing secular music and, instead, became choir director at the Christ Temple Apostolic Faith Church, at least, part-time. But before he became a full-time minister, he went on tour in Europe with several other blues artists, a tour that was quite successful. While he was in Europe, he and several of the other bluesmen on the tour did some recording for Big Bear Records. (We stock a compilation of those sessions, by Big Bear Records, titled "Don't Worry 'Bout the Bear".) When he began his full-time work as a minister, it was as The Reverend William R. "The Kishi" Emerson, in Chicago. He then moved back to his hometown of Tarpon Springs, where he started the Holy Praise Apostolic Church of Jesus, and also the Good Spirit Music Ministry. He continues to preach the Gospel today. Here's the odd part of all this-- most records indicate that he first recorded at Sun, in 1955, when he actually recorded 3 tracks in January 1954, backed by Ike Turner and The Rhythm Kings. In April 1954, he recorded with Raymond Hill, 2 songs by Hill, with Billy on piano, and 2 songs by Billy, with Hill on sax. At this session, however, there was a third song done by Billy: "When My Baby Quit Me", in 2 different versions. Version 1 is the one in which I'm interested. It's done in the true blues style, while version 2 is done in an R & B/soul style. Neither was released at that time because Sam Phillips was concentrating Suns' money and efforts on promoting another of his artists-- one Elvis Presley. None of these songs put Billy's name on the charts, but one recorded in May of 1955, did. It was based on a high school cheerleaders' chant, and wasn't blues. If you want to know what it was, you'll have to look it up (or call me). Oh, by the way, Billy was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Blues Question for March 2018: This bluesman came from good stock-- his grandfather was a preacher and his father was a harmonica player. He started his musical career with gospel groups, as a vocalist. Though not very well known, he recorded on seven different labels and, as far as I know, is only credited with writing one song, but I believe he probably did more. Any idea who this bluesman might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) For March 2018: The song is "Gravy Child" and the artist is George "Wild Child" Butler, on harp and vocals. The other artists on this recording make it noteworthy, as they are: Aron Burton on bass, Sam Lay on drums, Joe Kelly on rhythm guitar, Jimmy Rogers on lead guitar, and Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins on piano and organ. I picked this song because it's about this time of year-- high taxes and rent. There are many more blues songs that cover those topics, but this one is by a bluesman not as well-known as some of the others, and it's actually blues.
Blues Trivia for March 2018: Some time ago, my wife, Lee, asked me how many types or styles of blues there are. When I got to somewhere between 15 and 20, she stopped me and said "I didn't realize there were that many different ones". Well, when you get into tracking the history of this music, you'll find that there are many more than that. If you look it up on the web, you'll find that it shows there are many more. The problem with that listing is that they have separated some that are actually the same, but they've been classified by the city in which they were/are played. Unfortunately, what was overlooked is all the variations, by geographic region, that developed over many years. The common terms you hear most blues fans using today when talking about blues is electric (usually meaning Chicago style), acoustic (usually meaning Delta style), and rock blues (which started out in England and has since moved here). Those are all valid, but in each of those lie many others, maybe not so well known. If you are truly a blues fan, you need to at least look into some of those variances. If you don't, you're going to miss out on hearing what real blues is about!
Some Blues Passings For March 2018:
Some February Blues Births:
Answer to the January 2018 Blues Question: I indicated that this gospel/bluesman was "obscure", when I should have said that he was/is obscure only to the average blues fan and well-known to the majority of blues musicians. He was/is "Blind" Willie Johnson, born January 22nd.,1897, in Independence, Texas. Willie's mother, Mary Fields, died when he was four years old. At the age of five his father gave him his first instrument: a cigar-box guitar. He wasn't born blind and most of his biographers agree that, at the age of seven, he was blinded by a solution of lye water splashed on him by his stepmother, who was being violently confronted by his father, about her "infidelity". Other theories have been offered, but this one seems to be the most likely to be correct. Not much else is known about his childhood years. In 1926 or early 1927 Blind Willie entered into an unregistered marriage with Willie B. Harris, who would sometimes perform with him on the streets and other gatherings. She was the one who recorded with him on vocals and/or piano at some of his recording sessions. He only did five sessions total, recording 30 songs, all of them released in his own name. They were released on the Columbia Records label, with two of those also released under the name "The Blind Pilgrim", on the Anchor label, a subsidiary of Columbia. There were also two songs recorded by him, under the name "Blind Texas Marlin", but they were never titled or released by Columbia, and the masters of them have yet to be found. In the early 1930's, Johnson is said to have married Angeline Robinson, sister of Louis Charles "L.C."/ "Good Rockin' Charles" Robinson. As of this time, no marriage certificates have been found for either marriage. At some point, probably sometime in the '20's, Blind Willie had become a minister and was an evangelist preacher, which is shown in his recordings. He travelled and performed with Evangeline (Anne) from the early '30's into the early '40's, in various towns in Texas. They ended up in Beaumont, where he opened a church, the House of Prayer. In 1945 his home burned to the ground and he had nowhere else to go and no money, so he continued to live in the remains of his house. There, exposed to the heat and humidity, he contracted malarial fever. Angeline stated in a later interview, that no hospital would admit him, either because he was blind, or because he was black. As near as I can find, that fire was early in 1945, and, over the course of the year he grew weaker from his illness. He finally passed away on September 18, 1945. His death certificate states that the factors contributing to his death were syphilis and blindness. If you are truly a blues fan, you MUST listen to his recording "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground". This is THE prime example of an acoustic guitar "weeping"(the slide sound). If you want to hear his gravelly voice, you have to listen to his recording of "John The Revelator". That one will surprise you as well. A couple of other points: in 1977 Carl Sagan was directed to compile a group of songs, to be recorded on a gold disc, and placed on the Voyager space probe, to be sent into space so if found by other life forms, they might have a point of reference about the human race. "Dark Was The Night" is one of those 27 songs (another artist included was Chuck Berry). In 2010, the Library of Congress added that song to it's list of songs it deems to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Blues Question for February 2018: This "bluesman" is listed as an R & B and/or Rock and Roll singer and songwriter, but his career also shows him to be in the blues vein. He was most active in music from the mid-1940's up into the late '70's. He has the distinction of never having a hit, but some of his recorded songs have been hits for others. Any idea who this "bluesman" might be ??
Blues Song(s) and Artist(s) for February 2018: Let's be a little adventurous here! The song is "Devil Woman", by Bruce Willis and the Bruce Willis Blues Band-- a live recording. Who knew?
Blues Trivia for February 2018: You're probably familiar with "fife and drum" music, such as that by Otha (Othar) Turner, but how about a flute on a blues song? One of the bluesmen to use the flute is/was Johnny Heartsman. He also played bass, piano, electronic organ, guitar, and did vocals as well. He is listed as a singer, songwriter, musician, and arranger. Some of the songs he wrote were: "Are You Gonna' Leave Me?", for Jesse James, "Goose Grease", for Roy Buchanan, "Got To Find My Baby", for John Hammond Jr., "Move On Down The Line", for Amos Garrett, along with several others for Joe Simon, with whom he toured, playing as an organist. His first all blues album was "Sacramento", in 1987. His second one was "The Touch", on Alligator Records in 1991. On that second album, he shows his versatility by playing different instruments and doing vocals. The song "Tongue" is an instrumental featuring the flute up front, with other instruments there, but subdued. The song "Walkin' Blues" features the organ, and the song "Let Me Love You Baby" features the guitar, both along with vocals. Sadly, he passed away in 1996, of a stroke, in Sacramento, California.
Some February Blues Passings:
Some January Blues Births:
Answer to the December 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is "Blind Blake", born Arthur Blake, in 1896 (some sources say 1893), in either Jacksonville, Florida, known at that time as Fort George Island (of the Sea Islands chain), or Newport News, Virginia. If you read about him in some of the books on blues history, you'll find his supposed birth name listed as Arthur Phelps. That was updated or corrected in 2011, when a group of researchers published copies of some documents, one of which was his death certificate. That showed that his parents were Winter and Alice Blake, and that he was born in Newport News in 1896. What is known about him to be (possibly) correct is that in his younger years he hoboed throughout Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, even up into Ohio, performing on the streets and at picnics, parties, suppers, and fish fries. He moved to and settled in Chicago in the mid- 1920's, where he lived in an apartment at 31st. and Cottage Grove. He started to record for Paramount Records in 1926, and his records sold well. He remained with Paramount his entire career. Some sources show that he recorded around 80 songs. I have found 85 listed under his own name, 6 as Blind Joe Martin, 2 as Billy James, and 44 as an accompanist to other artists. What you have to consider here is that at a recording session, there might have been up to 6 takes (in those days) of a song, and that, most of the time, only one take was actually released, with the others being either shelved or scrapped. Some of the ones I tallied in my count were never released by Paramount. In his hoboing years he went by the three names I've already listed and was also known as "Blind Arthur" and "Gorgeous Weed". He married Beatrice McGee around 1931. In around June of 1932, he recorded his two final songs at the Paramount headquarters in Grafton, Wisconsin. Those songs were "Depression's Gone From Me Blues" and "Champagne Charlie Is My Name", released under both his own name and the Billy James name. Some blues history experts and some musicologists say that the "Champagne Charlie" doesn't sound like Blake's picking style or voice and may be wrongly credited to him because of that. Those last two songs were done right before Paramount went "belly-up", and ended Blake's career. I t has been said that he met a "violent death" in 1934 (possibly hit by a streetcar), but that's incorrect. In April of 1933 he was hospitalized with pneumonia, from which he didn't fully recover. After a period of declining health, Beatrice, on December 1st.,1934, called for an ambulance for him. On the way to the hospital he suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage, and passed away. The official cause of death is listed as pulmonary tuberculosis. He passed away in Milwaukee and is buried in Glendale, Wisconsin. His style of play is comparable to ragtime piano, but on guitar. Thus, he is known as one of the first to help give birth to a style of play known today as "Piedmont Blues". You can look up anyone who has ever played that style or who is playing it today and you'll find they credit Blake as their biggest influence. Oh, by the way, if you've seen either of the "Jack Reacher" movies, you know that Reacher is the main character in 17 + novels written by Lee Child. In two of his books, "Killing Floor" and "The Affair", Reacher's character mentions that in his travels he hopes to learn what happened to "Blind Blake".
Blues Question for January 2018: this gospel/blues singer and guitarist was an early "slide" player who was an influence to Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf, just to mention a couple. There are probably many of today's players he influences, but they don't know it because of his obscurity. He got his first instrument, the good-old "cigar box guitar", from his father at an early age. When I list some of his songs in the February blog, you'll see that a lot of today's players are covering his songs. Any ideas on who this gospel/bluesman is ??
Song(s) and Artist(s) for January 2018: I know that New Year's Eve, technically, isn't January, but it does roll into it, so I'm listing one for the "Eve" and one for New Year's Day. For the Eve the song is "New Year's Eve Blues", by Smokey Hogg. For New Year's Day the song is "Happy New Year Darling", by Lonnie Johnson.
Blues trivia for January 2018: as I have stated before, the cigar-box guitar was the first instrument that early young "bluesmen" were given by their parents, as most were poor and couldn't afford to buy them a top of the line guitar, which, at that time, would have been a Gibson or a C.F. Martin. In 1871, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the Oscar Schmidt Company was founded by Oscar and Otto Schmidt. In 1899, the Schmidt company started the Stella brand guitar production company, a low and mid-level "entry" type guitar, which became known for its reasonable price and good tone quality. They also produced instruments under the "Sovereign" and "La Scala" brand names. The company survived the Depression, but merged with another company in 1931. That organization was then merged with another one in 1935, before falling into bankruptcy. It was sold to Harmony Company in 1939 and operated under that brand until 1974. Oscar Schmidt is now, currently a subsidiary of the U.S.Music Corporation, and is located in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. They still produce Autoharps (Schmidt owns the name), ukuleles, basses, banjos, and guitars. Some of the best known names have used the Stella's. You may know some of them-- Son House, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson, Skip James, R.L. Burnside, Willie Nelson, and B.B. King, just to name a few.
Some January Blues Passings:
Just To Let You Know: The blues calendars are in. The songs on the included cd have been re-mastered for excellent sound quality, as it's to be used on a P.B.S show. The artwork is great, as always. Also, if you're looking for "stocking-stuffers" for youngsters or your grandkids, we have kazoos (ages 3 & up) and slide whistles.
Some December Blues Births:
Answer to the November 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Robert Pete Williams, born March 14, 1914, in Zachary, Louisiana. The "Pete" was added as a teenage nickname. Zachary is/was located north of Baton Rouge, on U.S. highway 61, a route number all blues lovers should recognize. Unschooled, one of 9 children, he worked as a farm hand, as his parents were sharecroppers. In 1928 he moved south to Scotlandville, which was still north of Baton Rouge, and by today's standards, would be considered a suburb of that city. There, he worked in lumberyards. At age 20, somewhere around 1934, he made his first instrument, one of the traditional "starters", a "cigar-box guitar", with 5 copper strings. Shortly thereafter, he bought one of the cheap, mass-produced ones available in those times. Slightly after that he started to perform at Church gatherings, dances, fish fries, dinners, and other small events. He did that from the 1930's up into the '50's, all the while, his reputation as a performer, growing. In 1956 he was arrested, tried, and convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting of a man in a nightclub, in 1956. While serving time in/at Angola, he was "discovered" by ethnomusicologists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen, and recorded by them. After they recorded several of William’s songs, most about prison life, pleaded, on his behalf, to the parole board, for them to issue a pardon to Williams, which they did, and commuted his sentence to 12 years. In 1958, Williams was issued a "servitude parole", which required him to work 80 hours a week at a farm in Denham Springs, which is several miles east of Zachary. As you can imagine, that didn't leave much time for performing. In 1964 he was permitted to perform at the Newport Folk Festival, which was/is in Rhode Island, because his music was becoming more popular and recognized. By 1965 he was permitted to travel freely in the U.S.A. to perform. By 1966 he was performing in France, England, Germany, Italy, and other areas of Europe, and in the U.S.A.. He did this up into the late 1970's. He recorded on at least 15 different labels and appeared in several films, both in the U.S. and France. During those years, when not performing, he worked outside the music field. He passed away December 31, 1980, in Rosedale, Louisiana, of heart disease, and is buried in Scotlandville. Incidentally, as of the 2000 census, Rosedale, which is a western suburb of Baton Rouge, had 753 residents and was less than 8 square miles. All his songs are good, but the two most notable are "Pardon Denied Again" and "Prisoner's Talking Blues". About that second one, it has been said that while he was a "resident" at Angola and he performed that song for his fellow prisoners, that they would often break out in tears.
Blues Song and Artist(s) for December 2017: Since Christmas is this month, I have to go with a well-known and often-covered song-- "Merry Christmas Baby", recorded in 1947 on the Exclusive Records label, #254, by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, made up of Johnny Moore on guitar, Eddie Williams on bass, and Charles Brown on piano and vocal. It made it to #3 on the charts, in the Christmas season, in 1947, even though it was the "B" side of the record. It was a hit again in 1949 and 1950. Exclusive Records never paid copyrights and was taken over by Hollywood Records, which was owned by Don Pierce. When Exclusive was sold by Pierce, none of the artists or creditors got a nickel, even though it had been promised.
Blues Trivia for December 2017: This time the trivia won't be strictly about blues, but instead, on Christmas songs, some of them blues, but also pop, rock & roll, and touches of other genres. I'll give you just a few examples. How about the original 1953 recording by Earthe Kitt of "Santa Baby" (did you know that she passed away Christmas day,2008?); pop version of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Gene Autry, covered in doo-wop style by the Cadillacs, the Coasters, and the Temptations, then modified or countered by "Run, Rudolph, Run" by Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, with a rockabilly version by the Outlaws. Let me give you one blues standard: "Christmas Morning Blues", recorded by Kansas City Kitty, Victoria Spivey, Titus Turner, and Sonny Boy Williamson I. This last song, if you do some digging, has words in the title changed, removed, added, as have some of the lyrics, so it may not look the same, but as soon as you hear it, you'll realize that, like so many other blues songs, it's based on another recording. Seems as though things haven't changed much since performers started doing those "tricks" as soon as the recording industry started up.
Some December Blues Passings:
Want to wish all a Merry Christmas, and have a safe, Happy New Years eve and day !!
Just to let you know: The 2018 Blues Calendars with CD should be here by November 10th., and we have lots of blues Christmas CD's in stock.
Some November Blues Births:
Answer to the October 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was James "Iron Head" Baker, possible real name Reuben Avery Burrage, born approximately 1870, unknown exact place or date. James Baker was his prison name. The "Iron Head" nickname was given to him because, while he was on a work detail, a tree fell on his head. The tree sustained major damage, while he walked away, uninjured. He was first recorded on July 5,1933, 5 tracks, when he was 63 years old, at Central State Farm, Sugarland, Texas, a penitentiary. He was serving a 99 year sentence, not because he was a "major criminal", but because he was a repeat offender, guilty of burglary, not a violent crime. He recorded 8 more tracks there in December, one of which is the very first recorded version of "Black Betty". You have to look up that song to see what it is thought to describe, which includes a couple of references to prison life. He recorded 14 more tracks at Central State in May of 1934, including 3 versions of "Little John Henry", with 9 more in October. He is shown to have recorded 2 tracks in Dallas on April 7th.,1936. On May 3rd. and 5th.,1936, he recorded 2 versions of "Go Down, Old Hannah" at the state penitentiary in Rainford, Florida. On May 15th.,1936, he recorded 2 more tracks at the state penitentiary in Columbia, South Carolina. By May 29th.,1936, Iron Head is shown to be in Washington, D.C., where he recorded some 24 more songs, apparently as a free man. He had most likely been paroled due to the efforts of John Lomax, who was the man who had done all of the recording of Iron Head, and wanted his help to gain access to more southern prisons to record others. That relationship didn't work out well, so Iron Head moved back to Texas, where he was met by Alan Lomax, John's son, and Ruby, John's wife. She helped him find work, but by 1939, he was caught burglaring again, and sent back to prison at Ramsey State Farm, in Otey, Texas, where he recorded 3 more songs. In 1941 he wrote a letter to Alan, from which John quoted Iron Head telling Alan "Crime don't pay. I'm walking the straight road now and I won't turn back". I could find no info on him after that time. If you listen to some of his songs, you'll note that they're the "call and response" style used in "field hollers", chain gangs, and prison work details. His songs were classified as folk songs by John Lomax, who was commissioned by the Library of Congress to make these recordings. You'd be surprised how many bluesmen got their "start" in prison!
Blues Question for November 2017: Thought that since the previous month's Blues Question featured a musician who was a prisoner, I want to feature another musician who was, at one time, also a prisoner. This bluesman, however, fared much better than Iron Head, though he was convicted and sentenced to life for a fatal shooting, to be served at Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He was paroled after 3 years, due to the petioning of another musicologist who wanted to record him. He played guitar and kazoo. Any idea who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song and Artist(s) for November 2017: This song is about something almost everybody likes: "Oreo Cookie Blues", acoustic guitar and vocals-- Lonnie Mack, with second acoustic guitar by Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Blues Trivia for November 2017: In last month's Blues Blog I listed Will Shade and his Memphis Jug Band. That group had a fluid membership, one of which was Will Weldon, on guitar. The trivia part of that is on Weldon, born in Grenada, Mississippi in 1906, died April 30,1934, in Memphis, Tennessee. In some places, he is listed as Casey Bill (Will) Weldon. Casey Bill is shown, in some places, as being born July 10, 1909, others show February 2, 1901. His death is shown to be September 28, 1972 in some places, while in others it's listed as "unknown". Same with the place-- Kansas City, Missouri, or "unknown". I've spent 3 full days researching this info for this Blues Blog, and I still don't have a definitive answer. There is so much conflicting info on the Weldon name in music, including the fore-mentioned ones-- dates of recordings, what label they recorded on, where they recorded, travels in their later years, and on and on. My best guess is that there were TWO different Will Weldons, one who recorded with the Memphis Jug Band, from 1927 to 1934, and one who first recorded in 1935, as a sideman to Blind Teddy Darby, in Chicago. If you have more information and it can be verified as being correct, I'd like to hear from you.
Some November Blues Passings:
Some October Blues Births:
Answer to the September 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was William "Will" Shade Jr., aka Son/ Sun Brimmer, born February 5, 1898, in Memphis, Tennessee, to William and Mary (nee Brimmer) Shade, when Mary was 14 years old. In 1903, Mary became a widow when Will Sr. died of a gunshot wound. She then married a member of the Banks family, but was a widow again by 1920. Will credited her with teaching him harmonica, the instrument with which he was most proficient, but he also played guitar and the "bullfiddle" (washtub bass). His grandmother, Annie Brimmer, helped in raising him, and gave him the "Son" (Brimmer) nickname, which was short for grandson. The Sun Brimmer name came later on, when his band mates noticed that he had difficulty with the bright sunlight and used his hat brim to shield himself from it. He first heard jug band music around 1925, performed by the Dixieland Jug Blowers, who were out of Louisville, Kentucky. He thought it might be a good sound to be "introduced" into Memphis. He recruited some local musicians and formed the Memphis Jug Band. The original members were Lionhorse (sometimes called/named Roundhouse), a whiskey bottle blower who Will "converted" to be a jug blower (meant to create a sound somewhere between a trombone and a tuba), Tee Wee Blackman on guitar, and Ben Ramey on kazoo (meant to sound like a trumpet). Will played guitar, harmonica, and the bullfiddle. Vocal duties were shared. Will's country style harmonica playing was a big influence to both Sonny Boy Williamsons (I & II), Big Walter Horton, and Charlie Musselwhite, to name a few. Will wrote most of the bands songs, did all of their bookings, handled their promotion, and made sure everyone was paid their due. Over the years the bands personnel changed constantly, as many of them went on to their own careers, and others replaced them. The song I mentioned in the original Blues Question, the first recording by the Grateful Dead, was "Steain',Stealin' ", one which has been recorded by many others since, and is sometimes listed as "Stealin' ". That original song was recorded on September 15, 1928, in Memphis, on the Victor label. It featured Will on harmonica only, Ben Ramey on kazoo, Vol Stevens on banjo and mandolin, Jab (J.B.) Jones on jug, and Charlie Burse (pronounced Bursey) on guitar and vocals. By this time, Will had become a session player for Victor, and, with his wife, Jennie Mae Clayton, who sometimes performed with the band, together were able to purchase a house and $3,000.00 worth of stock in Victor Records. After the depression started in 1929, they lost both the house and the stock, leaving them basically destitute. The bands popularity declined in the mid-30's, due to changes in music tastes and the after effects of the depression, though they did perform up into the early '60's. Will passed away September 18, 1966, in Memphis, of pneumonia. He was buried in the Shelby County Cemetery, which is a public- owned cemetery with many unmarked graves, as most of its "residents" were broke when they died. Since Will was the "backbone" of the band, it ceased to exist after his passing. In 2008 a group of musicians sponsored a fundraiser and purchased a headstone for his grave. That same group sponsored a "Brass Note" on Beale Street, which was dedicated on August 1, 2009, the first such honor for a jug band.
Blues Question for October 2017: this bluesman made his first recording when he was 63 years old. In a six year period he recorded close to 70 songs. Little else is known about him. Any idea on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Song and Artist(s) for October 2017: the song is "Baby, Baby", recorded by Katherine Jewel Thorn(e), better known as Katie Webster, aka the "Swamp Boogie Queen", also featuring Ashton Savoy (Conroy) on vocals and guitar, and Little Brother Griffin on drums. It was recorded by J.D. Miller, in Crowley, Louisiana, in 1958, on the KRY label, Jemil Music #100. There are those who believe that rap and hip-hop is something new, but if you listen to some recordings of the 1920's, you'll hear the basis of those "sounds of today". I picked this song because it reminded me of some of Queen Latifah's early recordings, but more so because of a quote: "I can't understand how someone like me can be famous when Katie Webster isn't" --Robert Cray.
Blues Trivia for October 2017: you've probably heard of and are familiar with the name Sun Records, some of its artists, and Sam Phillips, its founder. The first recording made there was of Joe Hill Louis-- "Boogie in the Park", when the place was known as the Memphis Recording and Sound Service. The trivia part is that at the time, the beginning of the studio, Sam Phillips had a partnership/agreement with a local, well-known radio DJ named Dewey Phillips, no relation, who had agreed to help Sam get it up and running. Because of that "partnership", that first recording was released on the Phillips Records label -- the one and only one ever released under that name. That track was later released on the Modern label, for which Sam made many recordings. Oh, yeah, by the way, "Daddy-O" Dewey Phillips was a couple of years ahead of Alan Freed, as far as playing rock-and-roll on the radio. Daddy-O played what he liked, be it gospel, blues, R&R, R&B, pop, country, etc. If he had a song he really liked, he'd play it 15 times in a row, if he felt like it. Also, by the way, he was the first radio DJ to play Elvis Presley's first recording, "That's Allright (Mama)", an Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup song, on the air!, so he contributed to getting Elvis started in the music business.
Some October Blues Passings:
NOTE: With this month I'm adding a new, small section: Blues Song of the Month, listing a song and the performer(s). If there's pertinent information I'll include that in a short note.
Some September Blues Births:
Answer to the August 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was John Thomas Brown, best known as J.T. Brown, but also known/recorded as "Saxman" Brown, J.T."Big Boy" Brown, "Nature Boy" Brown, and/or "Bep" Brown, born April 2nd.,1918, in Mississippi. He first performed in a minstrel group, before he moved to Chicago. While living in Chicago most of his work was as a session player, though he did some of his own recordings. Some of the big names he recorded with, as a session player, were Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, Roosevelt Sykes, Muddy Waters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Washboard Sam, J.B. Lenoir, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, and on and on-- you get the idea - he was an "in demand" sax player. He recorded on the Harlem, Meteor, JOB, United, and Chess labels, along with some recordings on several smaller "indie" labels. When Delmark Records acquired the masters from the States and United labels, some of J.T.'s recordings were re-issued on Delmark's "Honkers and Barwalkers" titled c.d.'s. He passed away on November24.,1969, in Chicago, at the age of 51.
Blues Question for September 2017: this bluesman, born in Memphis, put together a band that recorded around 100 sides for RCA, in a seven year period. It was the first (arguably, of course, by some) of its kind to be performed in Memphis, and was quite popular at local shows at all types of venues. The Grateful Dead's first recording was a cover of one of their songs. This bluesman was an influence to many of the harmonica players of the period and is also regarded by some of today’s harpists as their influence. Sound familiar? Any idea who this bluesman might be?
Blues Song & Artist (s) for Sepember 2017: the song is "Snowed In", by Albert Collins. All of the sound effects you'll hear were done by Albert on his guitar and/or on his mic.
Blues Trivia for September 2017: if you're familiar with R.L. Burnside or Junior Kimbrough, you should also know the Fat Possum Records label. There seems to be some question as to it's exact founding date, as it is shown to be 1991 and/or 1992. It was founded by Peter Redvers-Lee, then the editor of Living Blues magazine, and Matthew Johnson. Around 1994 Redvers-Lee left and Bruce Watson took over his duties as manager. Fat Possum's original goal, which they achieved, was to record the raw, rural sounds of North Mississippi Hill Country blues, hence Burnside and Kimbrough. But they found others, too, including T-Model Ford (James Lewis Carter Ford), CeDell Davis (Ellis Davis), Robert "Wolfman" Bellfour, Charles w. Caldwell, and Little Freddie King (Fread Eugene Martin), among others. By the mid- 1990's, the label, which had been having some long-running money problems, got temporarily out of the "red", with the releases of "Not The Same Old Blues Crap, Vol.III" (following I & II), and "Chapter VII; All Men Are Liars". Then came a legal battle with Capricorn Records, who were supposed to be distributing Fat Possum's releases, which pretty well drained off the money that was there. After some of their main artists started passing away, they started to release archived recordings, acquired the rights to Al Green's recordings, and became the distributer of/for HI records, which included some of John Lee Hooker's earlier sides, Ann Peebles recordings, and some Willie Mitchell offerings, among others. The trivia part is that, also, during this period of changes, they came to the conclusion that there was no more "raw, rural blues" talent to be found, that that was a hopeless cause, and, out of that deduction, have started to record "indie" rock bands, punk rock, even, to me, anyhow, it seems to be rap. Thankfully, at least, most all of their earlier blues recordings are available, along with the folk and country they also recorded, like Hasil Adkins.
Some September Blues Passings:
Some August Blues Births:
Answer to the August 2017 Blues Question: the blues person we were looking for is/was Sister O. M. Terrell, born as Ola Mae Long on August 18th.,1911, in Atlanta, Georgia. At age eleven she had a "conversion experience" at an annual summer "tent revival", which was put on by the Fire- Baptized Holiness Church. The Holiness Movement was born out of disapproval with the "formality and worldliness" that was taking root, at that time, in the Baptist and Methodist faiths- the late 1800's. It was basically the African- American members who left those two faiths, along with poor whites, to start the "Fire- Baptized" faith. They didn't approve of the "needless ornamentation" of women. They also considered it a sin for men to wear a necktie. In 1975 the church group changed its name to the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Yes, there are some local "Fire- Baptized" congregations in our area, but enough on that score. In her early years, after joining that church, Sister Terrell played her guitar (self-taught) and sang songs, most of which she wrote, on Atlanta's vice- ridden Decatur Street, from the 1930's up into the 1950's, as did many other itinerant "street preachers" of that time. She was brought to the attention of Columbia Records by Robert T. Christie and Lauren Moore, managers at radio station WPAL, in Charleston, South Carolina, where, for a time, Sister Terrell did a live show on Sundays. Everything I've found shows that she recorded six sides for her Columbia recording session, but I've found eight. I don't know if the two extras were done at that Columbia session and not listed or if they were done elsewhere. Her recordings didn't sell because Columbia mistakenly released them as "country" rather than "gospel". Gospel recordings at that time were selling as fast as they could be produced, so, because if the mislabeling, Sister Terrell was an unknown to the gospel fans. Because of that she received no royalties for her efforts, became disgusted, and walked out of the Columbia studios, never to return. Things haven't changed much today as some rock and country recordings are labeled as blues. Bruce Nemerov, who wrote some of what info is contained here, talked with a music publisher some time ago who asked him to try to locate Sister Terrell, as he had some royalty checks waiting. I don't know what the date was, but Bruce found her in a nursing home in Conyers, Georgia. He stated that the money allowed her some material comfort in her last years. She passed on March 3rd., 2006, in Conyers, Georgia.
Blues Question for August 2017: this bluesman is relatively unknown but you've probably heard him on other artists and/or bands recordings. He first played in a minstrel group before moving to Chicago and getting into the blues market. He recorded and/or played with some of the big names in the blues, usually as a sideman/band member, or as a studio musician. Any ideas as to who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia for August 2017: there have been many bluesmen who, over the years, started in gospel music, performing and/or recording it. One of those was Joel Adams, known as Jo-Jo Adams or Doctor Jo-Jo Adams. Born in rural Alabama around 1918, he first sang with the Big Four Gospel Jubilee Singers, before moving to Chicago in the early '40's. He started performing in the clubs on the South Side, as a jump blues singer, a comedian, a dancer, or as an m.c. His singing style was like that of Cab Calloway (remember him in The Blues Brothers movie, in his white tux with tails ?). Jo-Jo had his tux custom- made, featuring 55" tails. He often said that "when I spin around you could shoot dice on them". He then went to Los Angeles to record on the Aladdin label. On his return to Chicago he recorded on the Aristocrat label (later to become Chess Records) for Leonard Chess. In 1949 he did a risqué version of The Hucklebuck in the all African- American casted revue film "Burlesque in Harlem". He did his own revue, The Jo-Jo Show, which sometimes featured Joe Williams and Willie Mabon, among others. He also performed with Memphis Slim and Terry Timmons in several Chicago clubs. His last recordings, in 1952 and '53, were on the Chance and Parrot labels. His very first recording, in 1946, was Jo Jo Blues, on the Melody Lane label, with bandleader Freddie Williams, who was also a guitarist, owned a record store--and the Melody Lane Records label, which was started in March of 1946. Here's the Trivia part -- shortly after that first recording, the labels name was changed to Hi-Tone Records when Russian-born Nathan Rothner, a jukebox operator, became involved. Hy-Tone closed in 1948, after King Records in Cincinnati bought some of the master recordings of Hy-Tone from Rothner. There have been several record companies who have used some form of the Hy-Tone name. Among them are Hytone, started by the Indestructable Phonograph Company in 1921; Hi-Tone, set up in New York City as a susidiary of Signature Records in 1949; Hy-Tone, also set up in New York in 1957; another Hy-Tone, which produced gospel records in California in the 1960's; HighTone Records, based in Oakland, California, in 1983. That last one closed its doors in 2008 and sold its entire catalogue to Shout! Factory. In 2016, the HighTone part of Shout! Factory, was sold to Concord Bicycle Music. That company was founded in 1973 by Carl Jefferson, an auto dealer and jazz fan, in Concord, California. He sold it to Alliance Entertainment in 1994. In 1999, Norman Lear (that name ring any bells ?) and Hal Gaba bought that company and moved its headquarters to Beverly Hills. From that day to this, that company, now known as Concord Music Group, has been buying up record labels/companies-- way too numerous to list them all here-- but if you're a true blues fan, you'd recognize quite a few of them. And, if you think there's not a lot of money in that, consider this: on June 2nd.,2017, Concord Music Group bought music publisher IMAGEN for $500 MILLION !!
Some August Blues Passings:
Some July Blues Births:
Answer to the June 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Louis Washington, possibly born Louis Jackson, born October 1895, exact date unknown, in Wadesboro, Florida. He used his given name for his gospel recordings. For his blues recordings he used the name "Tallahassee Tight". He is shown to have recorded in 1933 and '34 in New York City on the American Records Corporation (A.R.C. label?) label. There is only one disc that features all his recordings and those of one of his contemporaries -- Spark Plug Smith. On that disc there are 4 songs under Louis' own name and 10 as Tallahassee Tight. The first bluesman to have his name get full credit on the label of a record was Sylvester Weaver, that recording being made on November 2, 1923, in New York City, on the OKeh label. They were guitar instrumentals -- "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag". Here's the tie-in with Washington, for which Washington should be recognized. Again, taken from the information I could find, he was probably the first Florida resident bluesman who was recorded during this time period of commercial blues recordings. I could find no record of him after 1934.
Blues Question for July 2017: In the early days, in the South, there was a considerable number of "street-corner evangelists", who usually played guitar or harmonica to accompany their singing of religious songs or prayers. Most often this took place in the poorest section of the town. "Blind" Rev. Gary Davis was one of these but he's not the one we're looking for. Any idea who this one is ??
Blues Trivia for July 2017: this whole section is a collection of facts related to one man and how he touched so many. Any true blues fan is familiar with the current disc/record labels, such as Alligator, Blind Pig, Delta Groove, Ruf and many others, but have you heard of Black Patti Records ? Most likely, you haven't, as it's from 1927 and was only in operation for seven months, shutting down in September of that year, after having produced 55 different records. That label and its' parent company, Chicago Record Company, were owned by Jay Mayo "Ink" Williams. That nickname came from his ability to get musicians to sign contracts with him. He was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When he was 7 years old, his father, Daniel, was murdered. After that, his mother, Millie, moved the family back to her hometown of Monmouth, Illinois, where he grew up. He then went on to attend Brown University, an Ivy League school in Rhode Island, where he was an outstanding track and football star. He served in World War I, and graduated in 1921. Starting in 1921 and up until 1926, he played professional football for the Canton (Ohio)Bulldogs, the Hammond (Indiana)Pros, the Dayton (Ohio)Triangles and the Cleveland (Ohio)Bulldogs, who were originally known as the Cleveland Indians. The Cleveland Indians got that name when they "recruited" players from the Akron (Ohio)Indians (earlier named the Akron Pros), who, by the way, had won the very first NFL championship. A Cleveland jeweler, Sam Deutsch, who owned the Indians, bought the Canton Bulldogs, moved the team (seven players only) to Cleveland, combined it with the Indians, and re-named it the Cleveland Bulldogs. Check that one out--lots of controversy there! Anyhow, Williams was one of the first black athletes in the NFL, and in its' first year. During those years Williams also worked in a Chicago office for Paramount Records as a producer. Some of the first artists he signed and recorded were Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, "Papa" Charlie Jackson, and "Blind" Lemon Jefferson. It was when he left Paramount that he started Black Patti. He named it that because he admired a black opera singer, Matilda Sissieretta Joyner, who was called "The Black Patti", in reference to Italian opera singer Adelina Patti, who sang in the same style. After shutting down Black Patti Records, Williams went on to run, manage, or work for many other labels and co-write many of the blues standards you would recognize, but are too numerous to list here. Some of the labels with which he was involved were Decca, Brunswick, Vocalion, Harlem, Ebony, and Chess. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2004. The reason I picked this person and subject was to illustrate that the blues that you listen to, whether it be the early type indicated here or the current style, is tied into everything-- music, sports, manufacturing, automobile industry, foodstuffs, or any others you think of, which are common to all of us!! Oh, by the way, if you look Williams up somewhere, you'll see that he was one of the first to record a lot of musicians who are considered to be the Who's Who in the genre of the blues. Also, the "logo" on the Black Patti records was of an "art deco" peacock. Later, that same style peacock was used by Nick Perls' "Belzona Records" on those labels. After 5 releases, the Belzona name was changed to "Yazoo Records" and again retained the peacock artwork.
Some July Blues Passings:
First of all, The Sound of Blue congratulates the winners of the 2017 Blues Challenge, hosted by NEOBA : Chris Yakopcic in the solo/ duo category, and J.J. Vicars and the Desiatos, in the band category, and wish them the best of luck in their next level of competition !!
Some June Blues Births:
Answer to the May 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Jewell "Babe" Stovall, born October 14th.,1907, in Tylertown, Mississippi, one of twelve children. Again with the discrepancies -- there are other sources that suggest that he was the youngest of eleven children, hence the "Babe" nickname. Anyhow, he was born, raised, and worked on a farm. By the age of eight he had taught himself to play the guitar. He quit school to work outside the music field. During the 1920's and into the '30's, he travelled and performed with his brother Tom, who played the mandolin. During this time period he met guitarist and kazoo player Tommy Johnson. It was Johnson's playing style that influenced the style in which Babe played during his career. From the '30's through the '50's, he lived in the Franklinton, Louisiana area, where he worked mostly outside the music field, but occasionally performing in the area's streets, juke joints, and parks. During the late '50's into the mid-'60's, he toured/ played in New Orleans, Louisiana, Boston and Providence, Massachusetts, Brooklyn and New York City, and coffee houses in California. From the mid-'60's into the early '70's, he played in Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia. During his career he recorded on the Verve, Spivey, Rounder, and Blue Horizon labels. Babe passed away on September 21st.,1974, in New Orleans, of natural causes, in his sleep. It has been stated that the song "Mr. Bojangles", written by Jerry Jeff Walker, was written as a tribute and to honor Babe, after having met and befriended him. Over the years, Walker has given several different answers to that question, none of which has stated that to be correct. Who Knows ??
Blues Question for June 2017: this bluesman, almost totally unknown, did recording sessions during a two year period. Some of the songs were under his own name, while others were under his nickname. He does, however, have one distinction in his recording career. Any ideas on who this bluesman is ??
Blues Trivia for June 2017: Walter "Furry" Lewis (Jr.), who was born March 6th.,1893, in Greenwood, Mississippi, is another discrepancy question. There are researchers who list his other possible year of birth as 1895, 1898, or 1899. He taught himself to play on a home- made guitar by age six. At around age seven, his family moved to Memphis, where he worked the street, playing for tips. At about thirteen he ran away from home to work in passing medicine shows. At fifteen he returned to Memphis, where he performed with the W.C. Handy Orchestra or performed as a solo act. At 23, he lost a leg in a train accident. From 1916 to 1922/23, he performed in local clubs, in the streets, and with various "medicine shows". In 1922 he took a job in Memphis as a street sweeper, a job he held until he retired in 1966. That job allowed him to keep performing in Memphis. He recorded on at least fourteen different labels and appeared in seven films and/or documentaries. His cause of death on September 14th.,1981, in Memphis, is also an "unresolved" question. One source lists it as lung cancer while another states that he contracted pneumonia, and in his weakened condition, died of a heart attack. Anyhow, the trivia part is that in his last film appearance, his character was "Uncle Furry", in the movie "W.W. and The Dixie Dancekings", starring Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Art Carney, Ned Beatty, Mel Tillis, and several others of note. It was released in 1975. Two years later, some of the same actors were in another movie that was based on the type of story of the W.W. movie. You might remember the second movie-- "Smokey and the Bandit".
Some June Blues Passings:
Some May Blues Births:
Answer to the April 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for is/was Jack Owens, born as L.F. Nelson, on November 17, 1904, in Bentonia, Mississippi. The "Owens" surname came from his mother while the "Nelson" came from his father, who deserted the family when Jack was around 5 or 6 years old. While he was still in the picture his father and an uncle taught the youngster some chords on the guitar. As I stated in the question Jack also learned, as a youth, fiddle, piano, and fife, but stayed with the guitar as his instrument of choice. One of his local peers, Nehemiah "Skip" James, travelled to Jackson to get an audition with Henry Columbus "H.C." Speir, a record store owner and talent scout for several companies producing records. Out of that audition came a trip to Grafton, Wisconsin, to record several sides for Paramount Records. He had tried to get Jack to also go but Jack was not interested in traveling to perform. He chose instead to stay in Bentonia where he worked as a farmer, sold home-made bootleg liquor on the side, and ran a local in-town juke joint on weekends. He preferred to play his music on his front porch. Eventually his house became known as "Jack Owens' place, since, by then, all the furniture had been removed from the front parlor, and an opening cut in the wall, through to the kitchen, to pass through food and drinks. Some of the locals, which included Skip James and Henry Stuckey (who had taught both Skip and Jack how to play), played there sometimes. Jack would perform too, for the dancing. He could play and sing loud enough to be heard over the dancers. While playing he would keep time by stomping on the floor with his feet, a style that became known as "the Bentonia School". There's another bluesman, from Tutwiler, which is about 110 miles north of Bentonia, who used that style. Him, you probably know -- John Lee Hooker. Jack made no recordings until the late 1960's. He was first recorded one night, September 7, 1966, by musicologist David Evans. Two of those songs were released on a compilation album in 1968, "Goin' Up The Country". That album was made up of several bluesmen from Mississippi and Louisiana, with one or two songs by each, and was released on the Decca label. Jack's second album, again recorded by Evans on September 7, 1970, released in 1971, on the Testament label, featured Jack and his long-time friend, Benjamin "Blind Bud" Spires accompanying on harmonica. That album was titled "It Must Have Been The Devil". Spires was the son of Arthur "Big Boy" Spires who recorded with Chess Records in the 1950's and '60's. Jack's third album, "Jack Owens: Bentonia Country Blues", on the Albatross label, was recorded August 13 and 16, 1978, in Bentonia, by Gianni Marcucci. There was a 4th. album, "Blues From the Blue Front", recorded in April 1996, by Peter Redvers-Lee's Midnight Creeper Records, but it closed before it was released. Featured on it were Jack, Blind Bud Spires, Tommy Lee West, Mookey and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Cleo Pullman, and Jacob Stuckey. There are several compilations currently in print featuring a few songs by Jack. In the years after his 3rd. album, Jack performed at music festivals across the U.S.A. and Europe. He passed away on February 9, 1997, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
Blues Question For May 2017: this bluesman, born in Mississippi, moved to Louisiana in his teens. He spent most of his life working outside the music field, but did perform, on the side. He recorded on at least four different labels, all in widely- spaced geographies and years. He performed from Massachusetts to California. He was one of 12 children and went on to have 10 of his own. Any idea who this bluesman is/was ??
Blues Trivia (kin'da, again) For May 2017: while putting together the info on/about Jack Owens, I was also looking into some old "string band" players -- James "Butch" Cage and Willie B. Thomas, who often performed together. One of their more daring tunes was "Kill That Ni@@er Dead", which was not racial, but rather about going after another man who you thought had "wronged you" with your woman. Ever curious, I kept looking and found quite a few more songs peppered with the "N" word. I found that it was also used by a lot of the Delta bluesmen. While looking through them I ran across another spot on Jack Owens, but not of that type of thing. Along with him, several other Bentonia area bluesmen were shown in reference to a cafe that opened up in Bentonia in 1948. It is the "Blue Front Cafe", where a lot of the locals and also the travelling bluesmen would perform, including Jack. It was founded by Carey and Mary Holmes, and is run today by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, one of their sons, who is said to be the "last Bentonia School" player. The cafe is listed on the Mississippi Blues Trail. Here's the important part. While going through all of this hunting, I stumbled into a listing of a couple of videos that looked interesting. Boy, talk about under-estimating something! These two videos, about an hour long each, are time well-spent! There is a combination of historic footage not normally seen, from the early days of the development of the blues, leading into New York City, into Memphis, into Chicago, and into present-day blues-rock and blues. There is an interview with a bluesman, sitting in a chair in the side yard of the "Blue Front Cafe". As soon as I saw that spot I knew this video has to be passed on for all to made aware of and to see! Those videos are titled "Blues America, Part 1 and Part 2". If you love the blues and really want to learn more about it, watch the show, learn, and, above all, ENJOY!!
Some May Blues Passings:
Some April Blues Births:
Answer to the March 2017 Blues Question: the bluesman we were looking for was/is Robert Lee "R.L." Burnside, born November 23rd.,1926, in Harmontown, Mississippi. He played harmonica up until he was around 16, roughly, which is when took up the guitar. He was playing in public by age 22. One of the first people he had heard playing the blues, when he was 7 or 8 years old, was one of his neighbors, Mississippi Fred McDowell, who would, in later years, teach R.L. on the guitar. He moved to Chicago in the mid/late 1940's, where, as I listed in the question, his time there was troubled, to say the least. After that he moved south again and married Alice Mae Taylor, in 1949. He moved several times between Memphis and northern Mississippi, which is where he would eventually settle, mostly, at first, staying in remote areas. Up into the 1980's he only played music part time. His full time or day job was as a sharecropper, farming soy and/or cotton, a truck driver, or as a commercial fisherman, selling "product" door to door. In Holly Springs, R.L. played gigs in local juke joints, bars, at picnics, and at his own house parties. His first recordings were made in 1967, as field recordings, by George Mitchell. He recorded more sides in 1969, 1975, and again in 1979/80, all done stateside. In the late '70's/early '80's, he met and formed a "partnership" with another "Mississippi Hill Country" bluesman-- Junior Kimbrough. Between 1980 and 1986, he recorded almost exclusively in France and the Netherlands, while on tour there, and at least once in New Orleans, Louisiana. Those albums, and a videotape, were only released in Europe. About 10 years later, after R.L. had shut down "Burnside's Palace", he moved next door to "Junior's Place", a juke joint that Kimbrough owned in Chulahoma, which originally was a church. That venue was burned to the ground in an arson fire on April 6, 2000. In 1991 R.L. had signed with Fat Possum Records, with whom he would remain until his passing. He recorded albums in 1992, 1994,and 1996. That '96 album was with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and was credited to R.L., titled "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey". The album won critical acclaim from most, but Living Blues magazine called it "possibly the worst blues album ever made". Later, there were more recordings and also some albums put together using re-mixes of earlier recordings. After a heart attack in 2001, followed by another in 2002, he no longer played guitar but did do guest appearances/performances as a singer up into 2004. He passed away September 1, 2005, in Memphis. There are many c.d.'s and vinyl albums of his recordings available, including a 7-disc set titled "The George Mitchell Collection, Volumes 1-45", which includes the field recordings he made, along with other Mississippi bluesmen being featured.
Blues Question for April 2017: this bluesman, at a very young age, learned some blues chords on guitar. While still a child, he was also taught to play fiddle, piano, and fife. He didn't want to be a professional musician and, for years, he only played on his front porch. He worked mostly as a farmer but he did have other "sidelines". Any idea who this bluesman might be??
Blues Trivia for April 2017 (kinda): This is more for your information rather than straight trivia. When The Sound of Blue was started I had the lofty goal of having in stock every current blues recording that was available at that time, which included tapes, c.d.'s, vinyl (45's and albums), VHS tapes, and DVD’s. At that time there were roughly 6,000 items, with another 4 to 6 thousand available that were duplicates, on other labels or other formats. It didn't take too long to figure out that my initial goal was not to be. It took a little while longer for me to accept it, though. Today, just in the catalogue of one vendor from whom I purchase, there are over 18,000 available. Same problem as before, a lot of them are duplicates on different labels. Same artwork, same appearance, sometimes vastly different prices. There's another problem that pops up also: what or who you're hunting for may not show up in the genre you think it's in. I have found that when a blues fan is trying to find a particular performer/album/song, or hunting it some other way, the info they have is either incomplete or totally wrong. Biggest problem appears to be "genre" listings, as these can be determined by the artist, the record company, whoever manufactures the item, the guy who enters it in the computer at the warehouse level, and sometimes the stock boy who puts it away. When you're hunting for blues, especially today's artists, it may be listed as: blues, psycho-blues, folk, world, jazz, rap, hip-hop, soul, rock, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, oldies, pop, or even big-band. I'll give you one quick example: Chuck Berry. He was the first one I heard playing blues, on a 45: "Deep Feeling" (an instrumental using a lap steel guitar), which was the flip side of "School Day". Since his passing, I was browsing through his catalogue, and there are 93 items with him listed as the main artist and over 1,100 with him or his music/songs available. While going through that list, I found him listed under jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, oldies, Hawaiian, and world. Here's a little bit of trivia: Chuck first started playing in public when he was in high school, Sumner High School in St. Louis, at the school. While still in high school, he was arrested, tried, and convicted of armed robbery, for which he served 3 years, 1944-1947.
Some April Blues Passings:
Proprietor of The Sound of Blue record shop in Kent, Ohio.