Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reverend Charlie Jackson - The Legendary Booker and Jackson Singles

An associate and friend of Elder Utah Smith who often preached and recorded in New Orleans but who was based in Baton Rogue was the Rev. Charlie Jackson. We are once again blessed by Uncle Cliff with this magnificent follow-up to the previous post.

  "Well if you need it, God's got it. He's got everything thing you need. He's got everything a poor man need." So the album begins. Apparently Reverend Charlie Jackson needed an earth-shattering voice, demonic blues-guitar skills, and a commanding stage--well, altar--presence. And he got it. With just his voice, a Fender Mustang guitar (with a beautiful vibrato-marinated tone), and a few stomping feet and clapping hands, Reverend Charlie Jackson immediately ignites any listener who can claim at least a spoonful of soul.

Charlie Jackson was born on a Mississippi farm in 1932. Ten years later, his cousin Buddy taught him guitar. Soon after, his mother told him she'd take his guitar away if he kept playing blues songs like "Brown Mama" and "Baby Please Don't Go." Charlie gave the blues away, but by the time he settled in Baton Rouge as a pastor in the late 1960s, God must have retrieved the blues and returned them twofold.

Jackson perfectly melds blues and gospel on God's Got It: The Legendary Booker and Jackson Singles, a collection of 18 songs recorded in the 1970's for Louisiana's short-lived Booker Records. His funky, shuffling guitar work could have landed him a job as a Chess Records session gun, and his mighty voice leaves you wondering if he swallowed John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters whole. But the songs themselves are pure, unadulterated gospel.

The sound quality of God's Got It is rough. The recording wasn't too clean to begin with, and this CD was mastered from the original 45s. But the recording quality is as much a part of the allure as any of the music. With the crackle and fuzz, as well as the stomping, clapping, and muffled shouting from the congregation, the record sounds timeless; I certainly wouldn't have guessed these tracks were recorded in the 1970s.

Jackson taps a wide range of emotion and dynamics on God's Got It. On slow, balladic tunes like "My Eternal Home," his falsetto pleas and sparing guitar accompaniment overflow with the relief and redemption that his characters so desperately seek. On up-tempo songs like the titular "God's Got It," Jackson cooks so hard that you wonder if you are listening to a Willie Dixon record with everything mixed down but the guitar and vocals. On some of Jackson's talking blues, it's impossible to tell where the sermon ends and the song begins. "Wrapped Up and Tangled Up in Jesus" features Jackson testifying in free tempo about his desire to be hooked on Jesus like a fish he's just caught, punctuating here and there only with bluesy hammer-ons, chunky chords, and extended one-note runs.

Every song on this album delights, but several stand out from the pack. "I Gave Up All I Had to Serve the Lord," with its vinyl crackling and hissing, and delicate, soulful crooning, could easily be mistaken for a Leadbelly recording. On "Testimony of Rev. Charlie Jackson," the good pastor recounts the tale of a stroke he had two years earlier. As he describes the hopelessness of his doctor and the swelling of his own resolve to live, even the most fervent atheist listener will be on his knees." Prefix (nice review eh?)


Elder Utah Smith - I Got Two Wings


I think that last week I posted this so late in the day on Sunday that it got missed, given the giant force that was Elder Utah Smith and his singular place in history, let's try this again! This rather precious and rare share comes once again from Uncle Cliff.

In both Mississippi and here in Louisiana we have a tradition of Guitar Preachers - I have to admit that until I started this musical exploration I was not aware of this. Unky Cliff has educated me with both this and the following post.

"Take one look at Elder Utah Smith and you know this man is serious about saving your soul. Guitar plugged in and turned all the way up, face stretched in rapturous joy, a pair of angel wings with a span that framed the already larger-than-life evangelist: the photograph on the cover of Lynn Abbott’s book I Got Two Wings says as much about the reverend as any of the howling, full-volume gospel recordings of his signature song, “Two Wings.”

I Got Two Wings reveals the personal history of the man arguably responsible for changing the electric guitar into a holy instrument, turning it from a tool of the Devil into “nothing short of a sanctified soul-saving device,” according to Doug Schulkind. Buried in an unmarked grave in 1965 after a 30-year career as one of the pre-eminent preachers of the massively influential Church of God in Christ, Smith’s legacy has been limited to three commercial releases from 1944 to 1953 and the tall tales of his legendary revivals, told mostly among church circles. And while the recordings are certainly remarkable, with Smith’s holy manic energy coming through loud and clear, the collection of stories, reminiscences and articles Abbott has compiled finally flesh out Smith’s role in the rise of electric guitar rock.

According to Smith’s family, he was one of the first, if not the very first, black man to own an electric guitar. The arrival of his instrument is recounted by the son of the founder of the Church of God in Christ, Bishop James Feltus, Jr.:

    When he got this electric guitar he was conducting a revival…And I’ll never forget, he put in an order for it, and everybody was waiting for it to come. They had just come out, and I had never seen one; so many of the people had never seen one. So, when it finally did come he announced he would have it the next night, and the people were there.

As historic as its arrival, though, is Feltus’s account of Smith’s emergence as the electric guitar evangelist:

    I remember the first time he hit on that guitar, it sounded good, and he had Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, everybody. The tent was full and all the grounds were full of people to hear him play that guitar. And he turned it way up high, and you could hear it everywhere, for a long distance.

These stories of wonderment and inspiration are commonplace in Abbott’s extensive research and documentation. Despite his obscurity in the wider popular culture, Abbott found a mention of Smith in a 1982 review of the gospel musical Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, putting Al Green’s over-the-top character in context by describing Smith’s own performances:

    "You ought to have seen the Rev. ‘Utah’ Smith come to your town with his circus tent. Opening up the program with his theme song “I’ve Got Two Wings,” with the sleeves of his robe practically touching the floor, this 250-pound man would run down the center aisle, arms spread-out, and jump 10 feet in the air, backed-up by a 100-voice choir."

On the accompanying disc, Abbott shows himself to be as capable a curator as a documentarian. The arrangements and original sources of Smith’s songs go even further in placing him within the gospel canon. Looking at the reverend’s repertoire in isolation would have missed the communal nature of this kind of music; the ancestors, contemporaries and followers that appear on this CD speak to the historical importance of the music, not just the musician.

Holding up Smith’s electric take on “Take a Trip” to Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s version of the old standard “I Have Good News to Bring” demonstrates how a little bit of wattage can completely reinvigorate and reinforce the old gospel ship. The stateliness and majesty of Tharpe’s interpretation remains the underpinning of a newly interpreted Word for a more kinetic post-war America. Separately, both songs are beautiful in their own right, but taken together, the shared history of the American vernacular tradition is manifested. Similarly, Abbott reveals how Smith would come to inform the next generation of soul singers by including Rev. Robert Ballinger’s “New World.” This hot and heavy R&B riff on Smith’s “A New World in My View” sizzles with the same energy as the original’s electric blues while sanctifying the emergent form of popular soul music.

Smith’s performances of “Two Wings” always varied, and to have four recordings of it showcases the versatility of both the composition and the singer. The song’s message was consistent, the words literally heaven sent (he would have you believe), but how they were delivered, and for whom, provides present-day gospel enthusiasts with invaluable insight into what distinguished Smith as such a force. Be it the professional quality of the 1953’s Checker Records “Two Wings,” the original 1947 version “I Want Two Wings,” or the BBC-recorded ethnographic “Two Wings and Everyman’s Got to Lay Down and Die,” Smith showed how adaptable his message truly was in his singular goal of spreading his good news.

The most stable element of the reverend’s sermonizing is the steady and unshakable clapping of his congregation. Such a strong foundation lets Smith really take off to reach out and up with a palpable fervor. It’s this chorus of the faithful that makes him so eminently followable. He becomes a real leader of men and women instead of another bombastic street prophet with an amp. Holiness comes from the congregation’s belief in the word rather than the reverend himself. On “Glory to Jesus I’m Free,” no matter what kind of ramble Smith and his guitar veer off upon, the congregation’s extolling of Jesus keeps the song’s feet on the ground, eyes turned upward. Convincingly preaching with such abandon through riff and sermon requires a constant context, and his choir provides just that.

There’s no denying the power and singular importance of Elder Utah Smith’s sanctification of the electric gospel. It’s easy enough to hear his sacred exuberance in the post-war blues, gospel, and soon-to-be rock ‘n roll sound. Yet, despite the charisma and influence Smith wielded – not in just in his own Church of God in Christ but in African-American scared music as a whole – his legacy has not been understood outside of his small community of friends, appreciators, scholars and collectors. What Lynn Abbott’s small but enlightening investigation of the man behind the religious force does is provide a personal and definitive document on Smith’s place in history. The rarities of both song and story present here illuminate a real character worthy of story, and praise, and a whole lot of testifying."


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blowing the Fuse 1954

 And back to the magnificent Blowing the Fuse series from Bear Family.

1954's set demonstrates a radical turn in what is rocking the jukeboxes, the vocal groups are taking over. If you look back through the earlier sets, from 1945 through 1950 there is only one vocal group represented in each year on the 28 or 29 tracks. In 1949 & 1950 the tracks are dominated by LA club blues, southern/Chicago bar blues, Jump/band jazzy blues, New Orleans R&B, and country blues with only the Ravens and the Orioles representing a different concept. In 1951 the number of vocal groups swells to 6 and holds there thru 52 and 53 but in 1954 the number explodes to 11!

In this set the road to Rock n' Roll is becoming plainly evident. The set begins, appropriately enough, with one of the many vocal groups seeking to emulate the Orioles with a bird name (the list is endless), the Crows. The move towards music directed to the teen market is on and this bouncy, super clean, testimony of teen angst is clear evidence. Little Walter follows with his uniquely sophisticated take on Chicago Blues; at this point in time Walter's own records actually far outsell his employer, Muddy Waters'. Johnny Ace is at the peak of his popularity featuring a style somewhere in between the L.A. Club Blues of Charles Brown and the Band Blues of his Beale Street brother Bobby Bland. Faye Adams comes in with a Jump Band piece complete with wailing sax and then the Spiders with Chuck 'The Barber' Carbo singing lead show that the New Orleans version of the new vocal groups  was still loaded with plenty of Bartholomew/Domino style R&B. 

Throughout the rest of the compilation, groups like the Harptones, the 5 Royales, the Clovers, Hank Ballard's Midnighters, The Chords, The Cadillacs and the Charms all take their shots at simple teen-age ballads with similar results, only The Robins 'Riot in Cell Block 9' and The Drifters latin beat driven Honey Love featuring dynamic vocalist Clyde McPhatter show any imagination.

More interesting is what still exists here side by side with the ballad crooning groups; Buddy and Ella Johnson offer a great Jump Jazz piece, Guitar Slim follows with his epic 'Things I Used to Do', Ray Charles and B.B. King both establish what will be a steady presence for many years to come, Muddy and the Wolf are growling out some of their finest raw bar blues. Big Joe Turner has not only jumped into the R&B world with both feet but is pointing the way to Rock N' Roll with his classic 'Shake Rattle and Roll'. Chuck Willis begins his meteoric rise as does Ruth Brown hers. Sugar Boy Crawford and Dave Bartholomew demonstrate that New Orleans hasn't lost it's appeal despite the unusual lack of a Fats hit this year, Shirley Gunter & The Queens give us our first example of a girl group but they are still far more adventurous than their white counterparts like The Andrews Sisters. The set closes with a strong Jump Blues instrumental ala Bull Moose Jackson or Earl Bostic from Joe Houston.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sherman Robertson - I'm The Man



One of our regulars around here, Guitar Gus, left this one in the shares and I thought it deserved a spot out front and he deserved to present it. 

Sherman  Robertson  is  a  blues singer/guitarist born in Louisiana in 1948 and raised in Houston, Texas . He started playing professionally in his teens in the local bar scene and spent some time, during his formative years, on the road as Bobby Bland’s  guitarist.

Clifton Chenier heard Robertson’s  band  at a Blues Festival in 1982 and invited him to join his band – He appeared on a couple of his albums and stayed with him for 5 years up until Chenier ‘s illness and subsequent death in 1987.

Robertson went on to join the bands of Rockin’ Dopsie and Terrance Simien & the Mallet Playboys. He also made an appearance on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album (on the track Crazy Love Vol II).

After going  solo  Robertson released his first album ‘I’m The Man’ in 1993 on the UK Indigo label produced by Mike Vernon , famous for his productions of  John Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton , Peter Green/ Fleetwood Mac’s early recordings and many others. The album received numerous positive reviews, and was nominated  for a W C Handy Award  He has since toured internationally and released further albums, Here & Now (1996) Going Back Home (1998) Guitar Man - Live (2005) all receiving critical acclaim .

Bruce Iglauer , President of Alligator Records, had this to say about him :
“When I saw him...he was on fire .He ruled the stage. had the audience in the palm of his hand, and his just plain physical showmanship reminded  me of Albert Collins... He’s got that Texas energy, great guitar chops, and is a wonderful, soulful singer,”  

It was reported early this year that Robertson had suffered a Stroke but I have been unable to find any up to date reports on his recovery – Here’s hoping  he’s doing well
I got this CD when it was first issued ( now no longer available on the Indigo label) and really enjoyed the songs. his voice and his clean fluid guitar style. It still sounds great today . My rip & scans.


Guitar Gus

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Buddy Ace - The Real Thing & From Me To You (Incomplete)


 Here is a bit more Buddy Ace in response to the request by KC.   The Silver Fox gave me quite a few unforgettable evenings in the SF Bay Area back in the day.   He was a very dynamic live performer with an incredible voice.   I have still never heard anything on wax that generates quite the excitement that he could in concert.   But I haven't heard it all yet.  I would be forever grateful if somebody could post all of Buddy Ace's Duke singles on this blog.  I have heard only a few of them.

Quite frankly, "The Real Thing" is very much a mixed bag.  To my ears, a number of the songs sound hastily and poorly arranged, and often fail to inspire Buddy Ace.   On a few numbers, they don't even choose an appropriate key for Buddy's voice.   That said, there are a few nice songs on the album, including "I Kicked the Habit," even if it is pretty much in a straight Bobby Bland mold.  I would enjoy the title track a bit more without the overly obtrusive background vocals.  The real highlight on this album for me is "Do What You Think Is Best," where Buddy evokes the spirit of Otis Redding over the infectious riff that Wilson Pickett used for Soul Dance Number Three.   Nevertheless, "The Real Thing" falls quite short in my book of being prime time Silver Fox.

From Me to You is another matter, an exceptionally fine tribute from Buddy Ace to his mentor, Bobby Blue Bland.  Ten Bobby Bland classics with tasteful no-frills accompaniments clearly inspire Buddy Ace to put his heart and soul into every song.   I have to apologize that two of these tracks, Two Steps From the Blues and I Pity the Fool,  are not here.  I will try to rectify that fact when I get back home to my source record collection in the States (I am currently working abroad).  For now, enjoy these eight!

I miss Buddy Ace.





Earl King - New Orleans Blues

How about some Earl King with the mighty Meters, Allen Toussaint and that Sansu horn section that usually included Gary Brown and Clyde Kerr and a rotating cast of other guys. This album has been out under the names Street Parade and A Mother's Love as well as New Orleans Blues but never seems to stay around for very long. A damn shame too because this is some of the best of all Earl's work; it was the one he seemed to personally like best, at least that's what he said in a interview I recall hearing a year or so before he died. Most of the songs are Earl's of course but a couple are penned by Toussaint. The Meters give it all a funky under layer but most of these tunes lean more towards blues and r & b than the pure NOLA funk usually associated with the Funky Four. There are 3 or 4 more tracks from these sessions that haven't been included for some reason but ya takes what ya gets.

Earl King - New Orleans Blues
Sansu 1972, Tomato 2005 [uber std mp3]

01 Mother's Love
02 Part of Me
03 Am I Your Dog
04 Fallin'
05 I'm Gonna Keep on Trying
06 Love Look Out for Me
07 Mama & Papa
08 Medieval Days
09 Some People
10 Street Parade
11 Do the Grind
12 Real McCoy
13 Up on the Hill
14 This Is What I Call Living
15 You Make Me Feel Good

Lee Dorsey - Yes We Can and then some


Lee Dorsey..the man with a big smile in his voice...New Orleans' answer to Al Green.

Born Irving Lee Dorsey in New Orleans, Louisiana, Dorsey moved to Portland, Oregon when he was ten years old. He served in the United States Navy and began a career in prizefighting. Boxing as a light heavyweight in Portland in the early 1950s, he fought under the name "Kid Chocolate" and was quite successful.

Dorsey met songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint at a party in the early 1960s, and was signed to the Fury record label. The song that launched his career was inspired by a group of children chanting nursery rhymes - "Ya Ya" went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. He recorded other songs for Fury before the label folded, and Dorsey went back to his car repair business.

Toussaint later came back on the Amy label and began to work with Dorsey once again. From 1965 to 1969 Dorsey put seven songs in the Hot 100, the most successful of which was "Working in the Coal Mine" in 1966. It was to be his second and last Top Ten song. In 1970 Dorsey and Toussaint collaborated on an album entitled Yes We Can; the title song was Dorsey's last entry in the singles chart. It was later a hit for the Pointer Sisters under the title, "Yes We Can Can".

Dorsey appeared on an album with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which led to more recordings on his own with ABC Records in the late 1970s. In 1980, Dorsey opened for English punk band The Clash on their U.S. tour.

Dorsey contracted emphysema and died on December 2, 1986, in New Orleans, at the age of 61.


Dorsey's songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Petula Clark ("Ya Ya Twist," a 1962 French version of "Ya Ya") and Devo ("Working in the Coal Mine"). "Ya Ya" was also covered on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album, and The Beatles Let It Be... Naked contained an extended live jam, with Tommy Sheridan on vocals.

  Ask anybody in New Orleans who knew him about Lee Dorsey and you get the same response "Man that was the nicest dude you ever want to meet". This is usually accompanied by glistening eyes as they remember that he's gone.

This album was his master work; Allen Toussaint wrote most of the songs and arranged them all, the music comes from the endless supply of tunes he had the Meters work up in the studio (they were never in the studio with Lee). These tunes all come from the heyday of Sea-Saint / Sansu with Allen, The Meters, Gary Brown, Harold Batiste and AFO... just a boatload of talent. The fact that this record did not break through sent Lee back to auto body shop, convinced that the music scene wasn't for him. Listening to this album today you can understand his frustration because they couldn't have made a better record than this, it stands as my numba one fave from this period (1970). Thankfully this reissue also contains quite a few extra tunes that wouldn't fit on the LP. There are so many highlights amongst the songs it is unfair to single out any - they are in fact 'all killer, no filler'. Enjoy this, it is a treasure!

Lee Dorsey - Yes We Can and then Some
Polydor Records 1970
[uber std mp3(vbr)]

1 Yes We Can part 1
2 Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley
3 Occapella
4 Riverboat
5 O Me-O My-O
6 If I Were a Carpenter
7 When the Bill's Paid
8 A Place Were We Can Be Free
9 Hello Good Lookin'
10 As Quiet as It's Kept
11 Lonely Avenue
12 Games People Play
13 On Your Way Down
14 When Can I Come Home
15 Tears, Tears and More Tears
16 If She Won't, Find Someone Who Will
17 Gator Tail
18 Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further
19 Yes We Can part 2
20 Freedom for the Stallion

Lee Dorsey vocals
with Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Gary Brown
Harold Batiste and AFO, others

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Little Richard - The Formative Years

Those of you who recall my earlier take on Little Richard may well be surprised to see this here, so am I. The links for this set were sent to me by Morris who is an author over at Bolden's Backroom. He sent them back in August and at the time I wasn't all that interested, I had decided that the 18 months of brilliance in New Orleans were all that was worth the time.

Even once I had finally managed to download the file it sat in my inbox unopened until this morning. I finally gave it a listen today and I must say I was pleasantly surprised, these tunes are better than I remembered. Perhaps it is the lovely Bear Family remastering or perhaps my ears are better educated to the influences that he is reflecting here but I must say that even though nearly all the material is directly derivative of Billy Wright or Roy Brown, it is easy to see why they were recording him. Richard's voice is more powerful than Wright's and more facile than Brown's, he was only the proper material and circumstances away from a hit in this style but somehow that never really happened. Instead fate waited for him to have Bumps Blackwell hear him ape a filthy bar ditty in the style of his friend Eskew Reeder (Tutti Frutti), and a clean-up rewrite later, history!

The first 12 songs here are with RCA and while they did not sell, a) they did pay him $750 for each session which was quite good money then and b) they attracted the attention of Don Robey who was impressed enough to literally beat Richard into signing a contract. If Robey hadn't given up on him, history suggests that Richard would have been there until Robey died. The remainder of this material was recorded for Robey's Peacock label.

I would still say that nothing in the set is earth shattering by any means but the blues ballads in particular show a side of Penniman that would later be lost. Much like James Brown, Little Richard was forced to stop being such a good singer in order to cross over to the pop market.

We have Morris to thank for this lovely flac rip.

Lee Dorsey - Ride Your Pony - Get Out My Life Woman

Some day I would love to know what in the hell this cover has to do with this album; I mean who are those people? None of them have anything to do with the album, nor does the New York or Chicago city scape behind them. What the hell does this smiling group of urban teens or twenty somethings have to do with a Southern Soul album from New Orleans? Baffling!!

This album is in the pocket of Lee's second wave of success in the mid 60's (he had first enjoyed success with "Ya, Ya", "My Old Car" and such in the early 60's).  The first 12 tracks here are from the original Bell album Ride Your Pony; the first group of musicians listed play of those tracks.

Tracks 13 thru 23 are with the second group of musicians including the Mighty Meters. These are recorded from 1967 thru about 70 but at no time over that period - including the Yes We Can sessions as well - were The Meters and Lee ever in the studio together. The Meters never even knew who their music was intended for and weren't informed or paid when these and other records came out. As a general rule at Sea-Saint, the only people who ever made money were Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn, everyone else had to be satisfied with crumbs while they drove Rolls Royces (well, at least Toussaint did).

1.  Ride Your Pony (2:51)
2.  The Kitty Cat Song (2:06)
3.  Shortnin' Bread (2:52)
4.  So Long (2:31)
5.  People, I Wish You Could See (2:05)
6.  Work, Work, Work (2:26)
7.  Get Out Of My Life, Woman (2:26)
8.  Here Comes The Hurt Again (2:32)
9.  Hello Mamma (2:30)
10.  Can You Hear Me (2:13)
11.  The Greatest Love (2:19)
12.  Feelin' (2:02)
13.  I Can't Get Away (2:14)
14.  Go-Go Girl (2:22)
15.  I Can Hear You Callin' (2:35)
16.  My Old Car (1:59)
17.  Love Lots Of Loving (2:59)
18.  Take Care Of Our Love (3:16)
19.  Vista, Vista (2:41)
20.  Cynthia (3:15)
21.  Wonder Woman (2:40)
22.  Four Courners - Part I (3:04)
23.  Four Corners - Part II (2:59)

PERSONNEL
Lee Dorsey - vocals
Collective personnel includes:
Allen Toussaint - producer, composer, piano
Deacon John Moore - guitar
Vincent Toussaint - guitar
Walter Peyton Sr. - bass
June Gardner - drummer

Marcel Richardson - piano
Arthur Neville - organ
Leo Nocentelli - guitar
George Porter, Jr. - bass
Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste - drums

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Best Of King Gospel

Some of these artists we haven't heard from yet, and for those we have - it's a great mix of songs.  Enjoy!!


The expert Opal Louis Nations has selected four tracks each by the leading King gospel groups: the Spirit Of Memphis Quartet, Swan's Silvertone Singers (later the Swan Silvertones), the Nightingales (later the Sensational Nightingales), the Trumpeteers, the Four Internes, and the Cumberland River Singers. These quartet recordings were cut in Gospel's Golden Age, between 1949 and 1953.

In his notes, Nations describes how King boss Syd Nathan dipped his toes gingerly into the spiritual waters after spotting the vast potential for race and hillbilly records from his Cincinnati, Ohio outpost. As the 1940s advanced, Nathan must have been impressed by the success of his fellow independent record men with gospel music, but in the early 50s the market became so competitive that he took a backward step.

While Nathan was involved seriously in gospel, he accepted only the best. Take the quality lead singing of Claude Jeter with the Swans' and Jet Bledsoe with the Spirit Of Memphis. In particular, Bledsoe tears up the house on the 1952 live recording of Lord Jesus. A real highlight is the Cumberland River Singers' heartfelt rendition of I Wonder Who Cares, an anguished plea to congregations to fill empty church pews in the troubled era of the Korean War. The Atomic Telephone is another period gem.

The harmonies of all the groups will delight gospel and, yes, doowop fans everywhere. The sound, from the original masters, is superb.

Opal Louis Nations ends his notes with a personal sermon, which speaks for itself: 'Let us hope, with your help, that this long awaited collection sells well enough to warrant further explorations into the treasures of the mighty King gospel catalogue.'

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Clifton Chenier - Louisiana Blues And Zydeco

Another drop dead classic from the only King you're gonna hear around these parts.  Get yuh boogie on!!

Arhoolie Records 9053
1965

Clifton Chenier (vocals, accordion); Cleveland Keyes, Felix Benoit (guitar); Elmore Nixon (piano); Fulton Antoine, Joe Morris (bass); Bob Murphy, Madison Guidry, Robert St. Judy (drums); Cleveland Chenier (rubboard).

Recording information:
Bill Quinn's Gold Star Studio, Houston, TX (05/11/1965);
Gold Star Recording Studios, Houston, TX (05/11/1965);
Sierra Sound Laboratories, Berkeley, CA (05/11/1965).


This was the first full album by a zydeco artist to be released by Arhoolie. It became something of an advance scout as the Cajun accordion army began to spread its music outside of the Louisiana bayous, with Clifton Chenier winding up with a Grammy for his efforts, as well as performances all over the world. This album puts together a few different instrumental lineups for recording at Houston's Gold Star studios, a facility with an important place in Texas blues history. Nonetheless recording sound is a tad thin, as perhaps the engineers were frightened by some of the manic moves of a few of the instrumentalists. Although this style of music is known mostly for the accordion and rubboard antics as featured on the second side, the tracks on the first side also include some ferocious piano and electric guitar playing. Some tracks just really cook and should put any listener in a good mood. The instrumental "Hot Rod" has a great drum part and accordion improvising that sounds totally relaxed, followed by an under-recorded but nasty-sounding guitar solo. Too bad it fades out so quickly. Altogether, lots of variety, plenty of creative musical ideas, and some deeply soulful singing delivered by this great zydeco artist just as his career was starting to lift off.  - Eugene Chadbourne/AMG

The Story Of Vee Jay: America's Premier Black Music Label

I am really enjoying these label comps, and the Vee Jay story is a heavy one.  Great music throughout...  enjoy!!

"America's Premier Black Music Label" says the small print on the front sleeve, and while that's highly disputable, Vee-Jay was undoubtedly one of America's premier black music labels from the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s. This two-CD, 50-song set is a strong and varied selection of their wares, focusing mostly but not exclusively on their hit singles and better-known performers. Vee-Jay went into every area of black music, and though their jazz roster isn't represented here to keep the scope more manageable, every other genre is: R&B, doo wop, blues, gospel, rock & roll, and early soul. As with any select condensation of a huge vault, there's bound to be some argument among knowledgeable fans as to what tracks were selected; it seems odd that Billy Boy Arnold's "Rockin'itis" is here rather than his seminal blues "I Wish You Would," for example. But you can't argue with the bounty of hits that are present, from Jerry Butler, Betty Everett, Jimmy Reed, the El Dorados, Dee Clark, John Lee Hooker, the Spaniels, the Dells, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Gene Chandler. Hits like "Duke of Earl," "The Shoop Shoop Song," "For Your Precious Love," "Every Beat of My Heart," "Raindrops," and "Boom Boom" (all here, of course) might be expected from any Vee-Jay compilation, but to its credit this also has a lot of smaller hits or non-hits that have escaped oldies rotation. There's Fred Hughes' fine midtempo soul-popper "Oo Wee Baby, I Love You," for instance, a number three R&B hit in 1965 that barely made the pop charts; Memphis Slim's mordant blues "Mother Earth"; Hank Ballard's first version of "The Twist," predating both his own hit version and Chubby Checker's cover, recorded in 1958 but not issued until 1985; Little Richard's mid-'60s single "I Don't Know What You Got But It's Got Me," with Jimi Hendrix on guitar; Betty Everett's "You're No Good," just a moderate hit in 1963 but a much bigger one for Linda Ronstadt in the '70s; Jay McShann and Priscilla Bowman's jump blues "Hands Off"; Rosco Gordon's oft-covered R&B classic "Just a Little Bit"; and Gene Allison's early soul ballad "You Can Make It if You Try," covered by the Rolling Stones on their first album. Perhaps it might have made more sense to make the stylistic tone more even and not include gospel cuts as well. But the gospel acts represented here are undeniably important, including the Original Blind Boys of Alabama, the Swan Silvertones, and (on the mid-'50s sides) the Staple Singers.  - by Richie Unterberger /AMG


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blowing the Fuse 1953

A quick look at the song list tells you that 1953 was a VERY good year. Ruth Brown, Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, and Dinah Washington are all belting it out for the ladies. Ray Charles first Atlantic hit with Mess Around, The Beale Street Boys - BB King, Junior Parker, and Johnny Ace all have hits, Fats Domino, Amos Milburn, and Little Walter keep chuggin' and another new light named Clyde McPhatter dazzles the girls....yes 1953 was a very good year indeed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

James and Lucky Peterson - If You Can't Fix It

Okay if This one one don't set some tongues awaggin' then I will be speechless. You are discovering this particular album at very nearly the same time as I.

An ongoing conversation behind the earlier Sada post brought up the subject of Lucky and I knew I had one or two but I checked the net and found a live link to This marvel with a path that lead to an extinct blog. Whosoever you may be my friend I thank you and I will keep your link alive by continuing to use it here.

" Lucky Peterson (born Judge Kenneth Peterson, December 13, 1964, Buffalo, New York is an American musician who plays contemporary blues, fusing soul, R&B, gospel and rock and roll. He plays guitar and keyboards. Music journalist Tony Russell, in his book The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray has said, "he may be the only blues musician to have had national television exposure in short pants."

Peterson's father, bluesman James Peterson, owned a nightclub in Buffalo called The Governor's Inn. The club was a regular stop for fellow bluesmen such as Willie Dixon. Dixon saw a five-year-old Lucky Peterson performing at the club and, in Peterson's words, "Took me under his wing." Months later, Peterson performed on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and What's My Line?. Millions of people watched Peterson sing "1-2-3-4", a cover version of "Please, Please, Please" by James Brown. At the time, Peterson said "his father wrote it". Around this time he recorded his first album, Our Future: 5 Year Old Lucky Peterson for Today/Perception Records and appeared on the public television show Soul!.

As a teen, Peterson studied at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, where he played the French horn with the school symphony. Soon, he was playing backup guitar and keyboards for Etta James, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Little Milton.

The 1990s were a prolific period for Peterson. Two solo Bob Greenlee produced albums for the Chicago-based Alligator Records (1989's Lucky Strikes! and the following year's Triple Play) remain his finest recorded offerings. He then released four more for the record label, Verve Records (I'm Ready, Beyond Cool, Lifetime and Move). While with Verve, Peterson collaborated with Mavis Staples on a tribute to gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, called Spirituals & Gospel. Peterson played electric organ behind Staples' singing.

More albums from Peterson came after 2000. He recorded two for Blue Thumb Records (Lucky Peterson and Double Dealin'), and one for Disques Dreyfus entitled, Black Midnight Sun. In 2007, he released his latest album on JSP Records, titled Tete a Tete."

Blowing The Fuse 1952

 I haven't done one of these in too long so here is the next one -

The magnificent jukebox march through musical history continues -- talk about a diverse and fertile year, this is certainly one. Blues shouters like Big Joe Turner, Tiny Bradshaw, and Wynonie Harris are at their peak, some of the Beale Street Boys like BB King, Roscoe Gordon and Johnny Ace are making their first appearances, vocal groups like the Orioles, Clovers, Ravens, Swallows & Dominoes, hard blues from Elmore James and Little Walter, Dinah and Ruth, the New Orleans contingent represents with Fats, Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price and Roy Milton, and a pair of wild card gems in Little Caesar and Willie Mabon doing what I assume is the original of a song we have all heard from someone.....Man this stuff is good.

1952



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moving In The Spirit - Worship Through Music In Clear Creek, Mississippi

This morning we have a more authentic church experience complete with sermons. These are field recordings made in Clear Creek, Mississippi at a single church over several months in 1987.

"Clear Creek is one of many small, black communities that is a satellite to the predominantly white town of Oxford in Lafayette County, northeast Mississippi. Ethnomusicologist Therese Smith conducted research in this and other neighboring black communities over a period of several years before returning in the fall of 1987 to continue research and, along with sound engineer Britt Fitts, to make the recordings for this album.  This album, rather than limiting study to a particular genre, style or area, is intended to document the wide range of musical expressions used by one small, rural, black community to worship their God. It is, of course, music best experienced in the context of this community, where the wood panelled church reverberates with the sound of singing and the patting of feet, where one is surrounded by warm and serious faces, new dresses, colorful hair ribbons, best suits, tears and smiles. But even through the artificial medium of a sound recording, the power of expression is evident."

This is a powerful and moving document, the male singer on side one and the little girl on side two are particularly moving. This cover above is not the cover of my copy, mine is utterly mint and for sale if anyone is interested.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Walter Wolfman Washington - Sada

A man who has quietly become one of the music giants of New Orleans and one of the sweetest human beings I have ever had the pleasure to know, Mr. Walter Washington.

Walter Wolfman Washington was born in 1943 and grew up with the golden age of New Orleans R&B percolating all around him. By his late teens he was playing professionally and in his early 20's he became the guitar player in Lee Dorsey's road band while they were touring in support of Ride Your Pony and Working In A Coal Mine (it is not him on those records, that was my French Quarter Neighbor Deacon John).

Walter spent 2 years on the road with Lee, playing in halls from California to The Apollo in New York. Stints with Irma Thomas and Dave Lastie followed and an intermittent band of his own called Solar System that cut some singles on the Hep Me label, these are collected on New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, vol 2.

In the 70's Washington began his second key apprenticeship with a great New Orleans vocalist when he became Johnny Adams guitar player and musical partner. The relationship lasted for more than 20 years of Chitlin Circuit traveling and weekly local gigs at Dorothy's Medallion in Mid-City and on into Adams late career rediscovery and Rounder fame that sent them around the World and served to re-launch Walter's solo career as well.  

Perhaps it is the guitar that first made Rounder attempt to fit him into a Blues niche but it is well established that we don't segregate Blues, Soul, Jazz and Funk down here and Walter's music is well spiced with all four. I have spent countless nights with both The Roadmasters and The Chosen Few at Banks Street Bar and dba and The Maple Leaf and lesser known venues. The music is pure soulful New Orleans and Washington and bassist Jack Cruz are always mining interesting material for covers and writing new tunes all the while

Walter is typically modest about his guitar playing but the longer you listen the deeper he gets and for the last 10 years or so he has been pursuing more opportunities to play Jazz with guys like James Andrews and power trio Funk with Joe Crown and Russell Batiste. He even listens to the Pat Martino records that I gave him and slips little bits into solos here and there when you aren't expecting it then lights up that big grin. Still musically curious and growing even now in his mid 60's!

For some reason his two Virgin/PointBlank titles have both been allowed to fall out of print so I'll put them both up here in time, here is the first of them; not his best album by any means but a nice one none the less. Even with some less than exciting production Walter's wonderful warmth and honesty wins out and shines through, this is Deep Southern Soul New Orleans style.

One of the many things that Walter picked up from Johnny Adams is his love for very sharp monochrome ensembles. If you have ever wondered where one goes to get the perfect red, yellow or blue shoes to match that suit and guitar, well now you know (this picture came from a recent local article where Walter took the interviewer shopping)

Artie 'Blues Boy' White - Different Shades of Blue

An Unky Cliff special--Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Artie White's first public musical experience was singing gospel with the Harps of David. Moving to Chicago in 1956, White continued to sing gospel, now with the Full Gospel Wonders, switching over to blues in the early 1960s. Over the next two decades, the journeyman singer recorded a number of singles with independent labels such as PM, Gamma and Al Tee. White briefly reached the R & B charts with "You Are My Leanin' Tree" on Al Tee in 1977.


After a stint owning and operating Bootsy's Lounge in Chicago, White signed a recording contract with Stan Lewis's Ronn/Jewel/Paula consortium in 1985. In 1987, White moved on to John Abbey's Ichiban label where he was a fixture until he signed with Waldoxy in 1994. White's version of "You're Man Is Home Tonight" signaled that Waldoxy had moved decidedly into the same territory of soul blues that Malaco had been mining since Z. Z. Hill first signed with the company in 1980.

1. I'm Gonna Marry My Mother-In-Law
2. Hot Wired My Heart
3. There's Nothing I Wouldn't Do
4. When You Took Your Love from Me
5. Willie Mae Don't Play
6. I've Been Shackin'
7. Did Alright by Myself
8. Ain't Nothing You Can Do
9. I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy
10. All in the Open Now

Personnel: Artie "Blues Boy" White (vocals); Big Mike Griffin (guitar, guitars); William Thomas (guitar); William Andrew Thomas (guitars); Jim Horn (flute, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); Harvey Thompson (tenor saxophone); Jim Williamson (trumpet); Charles Rose (trombone); Clayton Ivey (keyboards); Bob Babbitt (bass instrument); Paul Lee (drums); Valeria Kashimuri, Jewel Bass, Thomisene Anderson, Valeria Kashimuri (background vocals).
Recording information: Malaco Studios, Jackson, MS; Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Sheffield, AL.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' & Co. / Smokes Like Lightnin'

BVLP 1061   Lightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' & Co.


Billy Bizor (hca, vo) Lightnin' Hopkins (g, vo) Spider Kilpatrick (d)
Houston, TX, February 17, 1962
 
Buster Pickens (p) Lightnin' Hopkins (g, vo) Donald Cooks (b) Spider Kilpatrick (d)
Houston, TX, February 20, 1962
 
Lightnin' Hopkins went from gigging at back-alley gin joints to starring at collegiate coffeehouses, appearing on TV programs, and touring Europe to boot. His once-flagging recording career went right through the roof, with albums for World Pacific; Vee-Jay; Bluesville; Bobby Robinson's Fire label (where he cut his classic "Mojo Hand" in 1960); Candid; Arhoolie; Prestige; Verve; and, in 1965, the first of several LPs for Stan Lewis' Shreveport-based Jewel logo. Hopkins generally demanded full payment before he'd deign to sit down and record, and seldom indulged a producer's desire for more than one take of any song. His singular sense of country time befuddled more than a few unseasoned musicians; from the 1960s on, his solo work is usually preferable to band-backed material. Filmmaker Les Blank captured the Texas troubadour's informal lifestyle most vividly in his acclaimed 1967 documentary, The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins. As one of the last great country bluesmen, Hopkins was a fascinating figure who bridged the gap between rural and urban styles. - AMG
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BVLP 1070   Lightnin' Hopkins - Smokes Like Lightning

Lightnin' Hopkins (g, vo)
Houston, TX, January, 1962
 
Billy Bizor (hca, vo) Lightnin' Hopkins (g, vo) Spider Kilpatrick (d)
Houston, TX, February 17, 1962
 
Buster Pickens (p) Lightnin' Hopkins (g, vo) Donald Cooks (b) Spider Kilpatrick (d)
Houston, TX, February 20, 1962
 
One of the most weirdly compelling elements of Smokes Like Lightnin' is Mack McCormick's liner notes, reproduced from the original 1963 LP. Almost breathtaking in their ferocity, McCormick's notes characterize Hopkins as a spoiled crybaby whose only redeeming quality is his ability to make music. The album, recorded in three 1962 sessions, consists simply of Hopkins and his guitar, except for three songs that are performed with a full band. The sound is spare and very loose, with a re-recording of "T Model Blues" and the dance song "Let's Do the Susie-Q," a musical exhortation that seems unlikely to inspire dancing. A brief and uneven album, Smokes Like Lightnin' is less compelling than Hopkins' '50s recordings, but strikes an appealingly lazy acoustic groove.  - Greg Adams/AMG

Clifton Chenier - Bayou Blues

Clifton Chenier (June 25, 1925 - December 12, 1987), a Creole French-speaking native of Opelousas, Louisiana, was an eminent performer and recording artist of Zydeco, which arose from Cajun and Creole music, with R&B, jazz, and blues influences. He played the accordion and won a Grammy Award in 1983.  He also was recognized with a National Heritage Fellowship, and in 1989 was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame.  He was known as the 'King of Zydeco'.



Chenier began his recording career in 1954, when he signed with Elko Records and released Clifton's Blues, a regional success. His first hit record was soon followed by "Ay 'Tite Fille (Hey, Little Girl)" (a cover of Professor Longhair's song).  This received some mainstream success. With the Zydeco Ramblers, Chenier toured extensively. He also toured in the early days with Clarence Garlow, billed as the 'Two Crazy Frenchmen'.  Chenier was signed with Chess Records in Chicago, followed by the Arhoolie label.

In April 1966, Chenier appeared at the Berkeley Blues Festival on the University of California campus and was subsequently described by Ralph J. Gleason, Jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, as "... one of the most surprising musicians I have heard in some time, with a marvelously moving style of playing the accordion .. blues accordion, that's right, blues accordion."

Chenier was the first act to play at Antone's, a blues club on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. Later in 1976, he reached a national audience when he appeared on the premiere season of the PBS music program Austin City Limits. Three years later in 1979 he returned to the show with his Red Hot Louisiana Band.

Chenier's popularity peaked in the 1980s, and he was recognized with a Grammy Award in 1983 for his album I'm Here.  It was the first Grammy for his new label Alligator Records. Chenier followed Queen Ida as the second Louisiana Creole to win a Grammy.

Chenier is credited with redesigning the wood and crimped tin washboard into the frottoir, an instrument that would easily hang from the shoulders. Cleveland Chenier, Clifton's older brother, also played in the Red Hot Louisiana Band. He found popularity for his ability to manipulate the distinctive sound of the frottoir by rubbing several bottle openers (held in each hand) along its ridges.

During their prime, Chenier and his band traveled throughout the world.

___________________________________________________________


Bayou Blues compiles a selection of 12 tracks Clifton Chenier cut for Specialty Records in 1955, including the original versions of "Boppin' the Rock," "Eh, Petite Fille," "I'm On My Way" and "Zodico Stomp." It may not be a definitive retrospective, but it's an entertaining and necessary sampler of Chenier at the beginning of his career.  - Thom Owens/AMG

Here is where the Chenier legend began. This disc contains the 12 Bumps Blackwell-produced tracks Clifton cut in 1955 in Los Angeles for Specialty Records. On tracks like "The Cat's Dreamin'" or his first hit single, "Ay 'Tète Fey" ( which is the Cajun-French form of its better-known title, "Eh, Petite Fille" meaning "Hey, Little Girl" ), Chenier's amalgam of blues, R&B, and rock & roll mixed with traditional French dance tunes is still rough but already has the power and drive that he (and his accordion) would later hone to a fine edge. Instrumental greats and mainstays of Chenier's early road bands like tenor saxman Lionel Prevost and guitarist Lonesome Sundown add their considerable talents to these sessions. The starting point for any comprehensive Chenier collection. ~ Robert Baird

Bo Diddley - The Chess Box

Ellas Otha Bates (December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008), known by his stage name Bo Diddley, was an American rhythm and blues vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer. He was also known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and George Michael, among others.  He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple, five-accent rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.  Accordingly, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was known in particular for his technical innovations, including his trademark rectangular guitar.

_________________________________________________________


Not every single track you'll ever want or need by the legendary shave-and-a-haircut rhythm R&B/rock pioneer, but a great place to begin. Two discs (45 songs) in a great big box with a nice accompanying booklet contain the groundbreaking introduction "Bo Diddley" (never again would he be referred to as Ellas McDaniel), its swaggering flipside "I'm a Man," the killer follow-ups "Diddley Daddy," "I'm Looking for a Woman," "Who Do You Love?," and "Hey Bo Diddley;" signifying street-corner humor ("Say Man"), piledriving rockers ("Road Runner," "She's Alright," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover"), and numerous stunning examples of his daringly innovative guitar style.  - Bill Dahl/AMG

Bo Diddley (vocals, guitar, violin); Jerome Green (vocals, maracas); Jody Williams (guitar);
Eddie Drennon (violone); Little Willie Smith, Lester Davenport, Billy Boy Arnold (harmonica);
Henry Gray, Lafayette Leake, Otis Spann (piano); Clifton James, Frank Kirkland (drums);
Cornelia Redmond (maracas, tambourine);
The Carnations, The Flamingos , The Moonglows (background vocals).

Recording Information:
Bo Diddley's Washington, D.C. Home (03/02/1955-12/??/1968);
Chicago, IL (03/02/1955-12/??/1968);
Cleveland, OH (03/02/1955-12/??/1968);
New York, NY (03/02/1955-12/??/1968).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Buddy Ace - Don't Hurt No More

This guy was another of the miracles who performed at Eli's Mile High Club in Oakland, CA. (I didn't get to see him, sadly) Eli's was most definitely a Chitlin Circuit bar/ Blues club. It was a hell of a place and I never had less than a stellar time there but it wasn't always easy to convince others to go with me and even if you took a cab there it was not easy to get one back home; Eli's was in a rough neighborhood.

"Buddy Ace (November 11, 1936 – December 26, 1994) was an American blues singer, known as the "Silver Fox of the Blues." His best known tracks were "Root Doctor" and "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man".

Born James Lee Land in Jasper, Texas, United States, he was raised in Baytown, Texas, and began his singing career by singing gospel together with Joe Tex. He joined Bobby "Blue" Bland and Junior Parker, before being signed to Duke/Peacock Records in 1955. His hits include "Nothing In the World Can Hurt Me (Except You)." In the late 1960s, he moved to California performing on live shows.

Buddy Ace died of a heart attack performing in Waco, Texas, in December 1994, aged 58."


Such a tiny bit of biographical info at wiki. I can only find a little bit more:
"Born Jimmy Lee Land in Jasper, TX, on November 11, 1936, bluesman "Buddy Ace" was known as "The Silver Fox of the Blues". His name was changed to "Buddy Ace" by Duke's Don Robey after Frankie Ace's younger brother (St. Clair Alexander) had no success with it! Lee Land was in gospel groups at first (one contained Joe Tex) before going R & B in the early 50s. He played in Bobby Bland and Junior Parker's bands before he finally got a record contract with Duke/Peacock in 1955. In the mid-'60s, Ace scored several R&B hits but never scored a major breakthrough. Relocating to Los Angeles in 1970 and later to Oakland, he spent much of this period touring in and around the Bay Area. Ace continued to perform and record into the '90s with 3 albums released on Leon Haywood's Evejim imprint. On December 26, 1994, Ace passed away in Waco, TX." Soul Blues Music   

This guy's discography is tiny; the Duke singles disc plus four albums, hopefully we will find all of them before we are thru.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden - Blues, Ballads and Jumpin' Jazz

I have had a copy of Blues & Ballads for most of my adult life so imagine my joy when they finally released the second album of material from the session (it only took 38 years!) These songs are a joy to listen to - two old masters who had not seen each other in decades are clearly enjoying this chance to musically reminisce. The entire session is combined to one link here.

Blues, Ballads and Jumpin' Jazz, vol 2

1. Lester Leaps In 6:13   
2. Blue And All Alone 5:39   
3. On The Sunny Side Of The Street 6:50   
4. C-jam Blues 4:12   
5. New Orleans Blues 2:21   
6. Careless Love 4:58   
7. Stormy Weather 10:34   
8. Stormy Weather 10:34   
9. I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None O... 5:28   
10. Birth Of The Blues 2:54
Blues & Ballads, vol 1

 1. Haunted House 5:02   
    2. Memories Of You 4:24   
    3. Blues For Chris 5:07   
    4. I Found A Dream 4:37   
    5. St. Louis Blues 3:08   
    6. I'll Get Along Somehow 4:30   
    7. Savoy Blues 4:14   
    8. Back Water Blues 5:07   
    9. Elmer's Blues 3:31   
    10. Jelly Roll Baker 4:16   

"New Orleans–born guitarist Lonnie Johnson was perhaps the only musician to have been a pioneering major influence in both the jazz and blues fields. He was as at home in the company of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington as he was accompanying blues singers and crooning the blues himself.Blues and Ballads, a 1960 album that paired Lonnie Johnson with fellow guitarist Elmer Snowden, produced some of the most moving performances of Johnson's prolific career. Now, 38 years later, comes more from that remarkable session. Four tracks are typically melancholy Johnson vocals featuring his sweetly stinging guitar, while the other six are instrumentals showcasing Snowden's rhythmically riveting jazz attack. One of those, the gently loping "Careless Love," is a Johnson-Snowden guitar duet that recalls Johnson's celebrated work of three decades earlier with Eddie Lang."


Singing guitarist Lonnie Johnson looms as a major stylistic innovator in both the jazz and blues fields. His single-string approach to soloing and sophisticated harmonic sense left a profound mark on several generations of guitar players, including Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, and B.B. King. “He had a somewhat modern style—that is compared to the stuff that I was playing and a lot of other people were playing,” King said in 1968. “He had a modern technique of chord progressions.”

Born in New Orleans, either in 1889 or ’94, Johnson was originally a violinist and later learned banjo, mandolin, guitar, and piano. During the late 1920s, the versatile Johnson was much in demand as a guitarist for recording sessions and was as comfortable accompanying “primitive” country blues singer Texas Alexander as he was in the faster musical company of Lang (with whom he recorded a remarkable series of duets), the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five.

It was as a vocalist, however, that Johnson received the greatest public acclaim. His recording of the sentimental pop song “Tomorrow Night” spent seven weeks at the top of Billboard’s “race” chart in 1948. He had three additional hit singles on King Records over the next two years, but by the end of the Fifties, he had dropped out of music entirely and was working as a janitor at a Philadelphia hotel. Disc jockey Chris Albertson located him there in 1960 and brought him the attention of Prestige Records, for whom Johnson recorded seven albums over the next two years. He remained an active performer until his death in Toronto in 1970.



Elmer Snowden (October 9, 1900 – May 14, 1973) was a banjo player of the jazz age. He also played guitar and, in the early stages of his career, all the reed instruments. He contributed greatly to jazz in its early days as both a player and a bandleader, and is responsible for launching the careers of many top musicians. However, Snowden himself has been largely overlooked in jazz history.

Born in Baltimore, Snowden is remembered today mainly as the original leader of the Washingtonians, a group he brought to New York City from the capital in 1923. Unable to get a booking, Snowden sent for Duke Ellington, who was with the group when it recorded three test sides for Victor that remain unissued and are, presumably, lost. Ellington eventually took over leadership of the band, which contained the nucleus of what later became his famous orchestra. Snowden was a renowned band leader – Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Bubber Miley, "Tricky Sam" Nanton, Frankie Newton, Benny Carter, Rex Stewart, Roy Eldridge and Chick Webb are among the musicians who worked in his various bands.

Very active in the 1920s as an agent and musician, Snowden at one time had five bands playing under his name in New York, one of which was led by pianist Cliff Jackson. Unfortunately, most of his bands were not recorded, but a Snowden band that included Eldridge, Al Sears, Dicky Wells and Sid Catlett appeared in a 1932 film, Smash Your Baggage. Snowden also made numerous appearances as a sideman on almost every New York label from 1923 on. Unfortunately, he rarely received credit, except for two sides with Bessie Smith in 1925, and six sides with the Sepia Serenaders in 1934.

Though Snowden continued to be musically active throughout his life, after the mid 1930s he lived in relative obscurity in New York. He continued to play throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s, but was far from the limelight. After a dispute with the musicians union in New York, he moved to Philadelphia where he taught music, counting among his pupils pianist Ray Bryant, his brother, bassist Tommy Bryant, and saxophonist Sahib Shihab (Edmond Gregory).

Snowden was working as a parking lot attendant in 1959 when Chris Albertson, then a Philadelphia disc jockey, came across him. In 1960, Albertson brought Snowden and singer-guitarist Lonnie Johnson together for two Prestige albums, assembled a quartet that included Cliff Jackson for a Riverside session, Harlem Banjo, and, in 1961, a sextet session with Roy Eldridge, Bud Freeman, Jo Jones, and Ray and Tommy Bryant—it was released on the Fontana and Black Lion labels.

In 1963, his career boosted, Snowden appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. He toured Europe in 1967 with the Newport Guitar Workshop. He moved to California to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, and played with Turk Murphy.

In 1969, Snowden moved back to Philadelphia, where he died on May 14, 1973.

My friend and morning coffee mate Les Muscutt is also a banjo/guitar guy who was friends with Elmer and Elmer told him it had been decades since anyone expressed interest in his guitar playing when Chris Albertson asked him to do this session. He surely must have been playing at home because his playing here is phenomenal. Lonnie defers most of the solos to Elmer despite what reviewers who think Elmer was playing rhythm might say - they clearly did not listen well enough to either the playing or the conversations between the two.