Friday, May 30, 2014

Legends of Country Blues - Son House

 Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988) was an American blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing.

After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25. He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. In a short career interrupted by a spell in Parchman Farm penitentiary, he developed to the point that Charley Patton, the foremost blues artist of the Mississippi Delta region, invited him to share engagements, and to accompany him to a 1930 recording session for Paramount Records.

Issued at the start of The Great Depression, the records did not sell and did not lead to national recognition. Locally, Son remained popular, and in the 1930s, together with Patton's associate, Willie Brown, he was the leading musician of Coahoma County. There he was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. In 1941 and 1942, House and the members of his band were recorded by Alan Lomax and John W. Work for Library of Congress and Fisk University. The following year, he left the Delta for Rochester, New York, and gave up music.

In 1964, a group of young record collectors discovered House, whom they knew of from his records issued by Paramount and by the Library of Congress. With their encouragement, he relearned his style and repertoire and enjoyed a career as an entertainer to young white audiences in the coffee houses, folk festivals and concert tours of the American folk music revival billed as a "folk blues" singer. He recorded several albums, and some informally taped concerts have also been issued as albums. Son House died in 1988.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Legends of Country Blues - Skip James

Some of you may have figured out by now that the Blues posts have had us on the road to Robert Johnson ever since the Big Joe Williams collection. Bit by bit I have sought to give a realistic picture of what came before RJ and what his influences were. Certainly on the song writing level at the very least, Skip James seems to count as an influence. I've just now realized that I'd posted these songs earlier on the blog, but I'm happy to say this is a much superior remastering job.

At the bottom you will notice that Johnson's most direct influence, Son House, is on the last 7 tracks -- he is also on ALL of the next disc!

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Soldier's Sad Story - Vietnam Through The Eyes of Black America 1966-1973

This was intended for Monday but internet issues intervened. As someone who remembers the era all too well, I must say this brought more than one tear to my eyes.

01. The Monitors - Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam)02. Players - He'll Be Back03. William Bell - Marching Off to War04. Eddy "G" Giles & The Jive Five - While I'm Away (Baby Keep the Faith)05. Big Amos Patton - Going to Vietnam06. Mike Williams - Lonely Soldier07. Joe Tex - I Believe I'm Gonna Make It08. Johnny & Jon - Christmas in Vietnam09. Jimmy Holiday - I'm Gonna Help Hurry My Brothers Home10. James Carr - Let's Face Facts11. Zerben R. Hicks - Lights Out12. Richard Barbary - When Johnny Comes Marching Home13. Tiny Watkins - Soldier's Sad Story14. Emanual Laskey - Letter from Vietnam15. Gloria Edwards - Something You Couldn't Write About16. Mel & Tim - Mail Call Time17. The O'Jays - There's Someone (Waiting Back Home)18. Freda Payne - Bring the Boys Home19. Edwin Starr - Stop the War Now20. The Whispers - P.O.W. - M.I.A.21. Carla Whitney - War22. Bill Withers - I Can't Write Left Handed23. Curtis Mayfield - Back to the World24. Swamp Dogg - Sam Stone

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Scrapper Blackwell - The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell

Francis Hillman "Scrapper" Blackwell (February 21, 1903  – October 7, 1962 was an American blues guitarist and singer; best known as half of the guitar-piano duo he formed with Leroy Carr in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was an acoustic single-note picker in the Chicago blues and Piedmont blues style, with some critics noting that he veered towards jazz.

Blackwell was born in Syracuse, South Carolina, as one of sixteen children of Payton and Elizabeth Blackwell. Part Cherokee, he grew up and spent most of his life in Indianapolis, Indiana. Blackwell was given the nickname, "Scrapper", by his grandmother, due to his fiery nature. His father played the fiddle, but Blackwell was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of cigar boxes, wood and wire. He also learned the piano, occasionally playing professionally. By his teens, Blackwell was a part-time musician, traveling as far as Chicago. Known for being withdrawn and hard to work with, Blackwell established a rapport with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920s, creating a productive working relationship. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was "How Long, How Long Blues", the biggest blues hit of that year.

Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including "Kokomo Blues" which was transformed into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson. Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 sides. "Prison Bound Blues" (1928), "Mean Mistreater Mama" (1934), and "Blues Before Sunrise" (1934) were popular tracks.

Blackwell made several solo excursions; a 1931 visit to Richmond, Indiana to record at Gennett studios is notable. Blackwell, dissatisfied with the lack of credit given his contributions with Carr, was remedied by Vocalion's Mayo Williams after his 1931 breakaway. In all future recordings, Blackwell received equal credit with Carr in terms of recording contracts and songwriting credits. Blackwell's last recording session with Carr was in February 1935 for the Bluebird label. The recording session ended bitterly, as both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr's death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner of seven years ("My Old Pal Blues") before retiring from the music industry.

Blackwell returned to music in the late 1950s and was first recorded in June 1958 by Colin C. Pomroy (those recordings were released as late as 1967 on the Collector label). Soon afterwards he was recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt for Doug Dobell's 77 Records.

Scrapper Blackwell was then recorded in 1961, in Indianapolis, by a young Art Rosenbaum for the Prestige/Bluesville Records label. The story is recounted by Rosenbaum as starting three years before the recordings were made. While still growing up in his hometown of Indianapolis, an African American woman that Rosenbaum knew said he "had to meet a man that she knew, who played guitar, played blues and christian songs, they'll make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck." Rosenbaum goes into more details of meeting Blackwell; "I met the gentleman across the street from the Methodist hospital in Indianapolis". Scrapper's friend said, "well he hasn't got a guitar", so Art said "well I got a guitar." Scrapper than said that he needed some 'bird food', with Rosenbaum being confused as to what he was referring to, Scrapper continued, "you gotta get some bird food for the bird, before the bird sings... beer!" Rosenbaum said, "I'm too young!" Scrapper and his friend continued, "we'll buy the beer, you just give us some money." Art concludes the meeting, "So we did, and he started playing these beautiful blues. I didn't realize he was Scrapper Blackwell til I mentioned his name to a blues collecting friend." To which then the friend exclaimed, "you met Scrapper Blackwell!?"

He was ready to resume his blues career when he was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley. He was 59 years old. Although the crime remains unsolved, police arrested his neighbour at the time for the murder. Blackwell is buried in New Crown Cemetery, Indianapolis.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cookie and the Cupcakes - Kings Of Swamp Pop

"Cookie & the Cupcakes were among the first to blend Cajun music with rock & roll to create the musical hybrid known as swamp pop. The eight-piece band reached its peak in 1959 when their lively dance tune "Mathilda" reached number 47 on the Billboard charts. Although they subsequently toured as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, Cookie & the Cupcakes mostly played in the Texas/Louisiana region, with many performances in New Orleans hotel clubs.

Launching their career as the house band at the Moulin Rouge Club in Lake Charles, LA, in 1953, Cookie & the Cupcakes began performing "Mathilda" in 1957. Although they approached numerous record labels, they failed to spark interest until radio station KAOK agreed to let the band use their studios to record the song. Initially released by George Khoury, who sold thousands of copies on his Khoury label, the song was leased for national distribution to Judd Phillips, the brother of Sun Records owner Sam Phillips. Cookie & the Cupcakes were also the supporting band for Phil Phillips' hit "Sea of Love." In January 1995, the group was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame at the Musical Heritage Exhibit of the Museum of the Gulf Coast." AMG

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Elvie & Geeshie - Hard Women in Hard Times

In 1930 Paramount took two young women from Houston north to Wisconsin to record six sides of remarkable music that has been shrouded in mystery ever since. Blues historians knew NOTHING until a recent NY Times article by John Jeremiah Sullivan finally uncovered who these women were. See

Unfortunately there is more than a little controversy over the means in which he acquired some of his information, see

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lonnie Johnson - The Original Guitar Wizard

It is about time we looked at another pre-war 'guitar wizard'.

"Johnson was a pioneering Blues and Jazz guitarist and banjoist. He started playing in cafes in New Orleans and in 1917 he traveled in Europe, playing in revues and briefly with Will Marion Cook's Southern Syncopated Orchestra. When he returned home to New Orleans in 1918 he discovered that his entire family had been killed by a flu epidemic except for one brother. He and his surviving brother, James "Steady Roll" Johnson moved to St. Louis in 1920 where Lonnie played with Charlie Creath's Jazz-O-Maniacs and with Fate Marable in their Mississippi riverboat bands.

In 1925 Johnson married Blues singer Mary Johnson and won a Blues contest sponsored by the Okeh record company. Part of the prize was a recording deal with the company. Throughout the rest of the 1920s he recorded with a variety of bands and musicians, including Eddie Lang, Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In the 1930s Johnson moved to Cleveland, Ohio and worked with the Putney Dandridge Orchestra, and then in a tire factory and steel mill. In 1937 he moved back to Chicago and played with Johnny Dodds, and Jimmie Noone. Johnson continued to play for the rest of his life, but was often forced to leave the music business for periods to make a living. In 1963 he once again appeared briefly with Duke Ellington." Red Hot Jazz Archive

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Chosen Gospel Singers - The Lifeboat

"Despite notching a series of hits between the early 1950s and early '60s, the Chosen Gospel Singers remain one of the most elusive groups of gospel's golden era -- plagued by constant lineup changes, the ensemble's proper history remains sketchy at best, and even the exact involvement of their most famous alumnus, Lou Rawls, is something of a mystery. It's known that the Chosen Gospel Singers were formed in Houston in 1950, and originally consisted of J.B. Randall, Aaron Wyatt, Willie Rose, and two shadowy figures later recalled by their surnames of "Sheridan" and "Files". On the advice of manager Joe Johnson, himself a founding member of the Pilgrim Travelers, the group soon relocated to Los Angeles; upon arriving on the West Coast, the first of countless roster fluctuations struck, and in seemingly no time, Randall was the only surviving original member.

Tenors E.J. Brumfield, George Butler, and Fred Sims, in addition to baritone Oscar Cook, were soon recruited to flesh out the Chosen lineup, and in November 1952 this quintet made their first recordings for the Specialty label, yielding the hit single "One-Two-Three." (Ted Taylor, later a soul singer of some renown, was also briefly a member during this same period, although he did not appear on record.) The steady personnel shifts have been attributed in large part to the group's status as a semi-professional venture -- the Chosen's grueling weekend touring schedules played havoc with the individual members' day jobs, and for many, the frustrations of constant firings ultimately ended in rejecting music in favor of finding steady work. Additionally, many had family commitments which made touring outside of the West Coast impossible.

When the Chosen went back into the studio in mid-1953, only Randall remained from the previous incarnation; his new collaborators included low tenors John Evans, J.T. "Rattler" Ratley, and Preston Whitted, and baritone Sam Thomas. During a subsequent tour stop in Chicago, they recruited 17-year-old lead vocalist Lou Rawls, already a gospel veteran through his work with the Teenage Kings of Harmony, the Holy Wonders, and the Highway QC's. In February 1954, Rawls made his first recordings as a Chosen Gospel Singer; another session followed just two months later, but in the interim, both Evans and Ratley apparently exited the ranks. Also gone was Randall, the sole remaining link to the group's origins; he was replaced by Raeford Blair. There is some evidence that E.J. Booker, later of the Pilgrim Travelers, was also in the group at this juncture, although other accounts deny such a claim.

Rawls joined the Army prior to the Chosen's final Specialty session, recorded in early 1955; he was replaced by Brooklyn native Bob Crutcher for the studio date, which generated the hit "Prayer for the Doomed." Later that year, the Chosen signed with the Nashboro label; Crutcher remained in the lead slot, with Tommy Ellison of the Harmonizing Four soon joining him at the helm. Rawls resurfaced on their fourth Nashboro single, "Walk with Me," which may or may not have been first cut prior to his military tenure; both Sims and Brumfield definitely returned to action, however, with the latter fronting the final incarnation of the Chosen, a lineup which also included the members of a Tyler, TX quartet led by singer Willie Neal Johnson known as the Gospel Keynotes. When Brumfield quit soon after, he handed the reins to Johnson, who restored the name to the Gospel Keynotes, bringing the Chosen's convoluted story to a close." Jason Ankeny

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tampa Red - Guitar Wizard

"Out of the dozens of fine slide guitarists who recorded blues, only a handful — Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson, for example — left a clear imprint on tradition by creating a recognizable and widely imitated instrumental style. Tampa Red was another influential musical model. During his heyday in the '20s and '30s, he was billed as "The Guitar Wizard," and his stunning slide work on electric or National steel guitar shows why he earned the title. His 30-year recording career produced hundreds of sides: hokum, pop, and jive, but mostly blues (including classic compositions "Anna Lou Blues," "Black Angel Blues," "Crying Won't Help You," "It Hurts Me Too," and "Love Her with a Feeling"). Early in Red's career, he teamed up with pianist, songwriter, and latter-day gospel composer Georgia Tom Dorsey, collaborating on double-entendre classics like "Tight Like That."

Listeners who only know Tampa Red's hokum material are missing the deeper side of one of the mainstays of Chicago blues. His peers included Big Bill Broonzy, with whom he shared a special friendship. Members of Lester Melrose's musical mafia and drinking buddies, they once managed to sleep through both games of a Chicago White Sox doubleheader. Eventually alcohol caught up with Red, and he blamed his latter-day health problems on an inability to refuse a drink.

During Red's prime, his musical venues ran the gamut of blues institutions: down-home jukes, the streets, the vaudeville theater circuit, and the Chicago club scene. Due to his polish and theater experience, he is often described as a city musician or urban artist in contrast to many of his more limited musical contemporaries. Furthermore, his house served as the blues community's rehearsal hall and an informal booking agency. According to the testimony of Broonzy and Big Joe Williams, Red cared for other musicians by offering them a meal and a place to stay and generally easing their transition from country to city life.

Today's listener will enjoy Tampa Red's expressive vocals and perhaps be taken aback by his kazoo solos. His songwriting has stood the test of time, and any serious slide guitar student had better be familiar with Red's guitar wizardry."

Isn't it interesting how the fact that Tampa Red, Lonnie Johnson, and Leroy Carr were very popular and influential in the actual time, somehow now is turned against them and they are now viewed as less important than other far more obscure (i.e. less popular) contemporaries? Let me also mention that Red's kazoo playing is in a class by itself! I have never heard anyone make convincing MUSIC like this on that 'instrument'.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Southern Sons - Deep South Gospel

"- the first embodiment of the gospel group known as the Southern Sons -- appeared in the '30s. Over the years there were changes in the membership, but the music stayed true and strong. Some of the artists that have been part of the Southern Sons are vocalists Clifford Givens, James Walker, Bob Holloway, David Smith, and Roscoe Robinson; saxophonists Sammy Downs, Clarence Hopkins, and Earl Ratliff; guitarists Tim Pruitt and Calvin Hobson; and organist Robert Claybourne.

The Southern Sons reached a height of popularity in the '50s. Four decades later, the group was still around, though the lineup had changed a few times. Some artists moved on to other groups, like the Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Dixie Hummingbirds.

Music from the Southern Sons offers fans a taste of deep-southern style gospel. Some of the songs the group has recorded include "Live So God Can Use You," "Oh, Lord, I'm in Your Care," "Jesus Is Ready When You Are," "He Answered My Prayers," "I Found the Lord," "Prayer Will Fix It," "The Son Came Out in My Life," and "Whatever You Want From the Lord." ~ Charlotte Dillon

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tampa Red - The Guitar Wizard 1935-1953 [VINYL RIP]

Also known as "the Guitar Wizard," the blues musician Tampa Red was a master of the slide guitar..."Tampa Red" Whittaker, born in Smithville, Georgia, was raised in Tampa, Florida, and became one of the most prominent blues musicians in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1930s and 1940s. Whittaker made several successful recordings with "Georgia Tom" Dorsey, a blues pianist and fellow Georgia native. Though little known today, he was a popular and influential performer whose recording career extended from 1928 to 1960.

Born Hudson Woodbridge on January 8, 1904, in Smithville, Georgia, he was raised in Tampa, Florida, by his grandmother's family, the Whittakers, whose name he adopted. He was already known as Tampa Red when he arrived in Chicago in the mid-1920s, fresh from the southern theater circuit. He worked a day job but played guitar on street corners and in clubs, looking for a break. It came when he was hired to accompany Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, through whom he met pianist Georgia Tom Dorsey. In 1928 Tampa Red and Georgia Tom recorded "It's Tight Like That." A jaunty, ragtime-influenced number with whimsically bawdy lyrics, it was a national hit on the Vocalion label. Tampa Red and Dorsey recorded several successful follow-up songs as the Hokum Boys, and the "hokum" style became a depression-era fad.

Such early recordings demonstrate Tampa Red's already sophisticated slide guitar technique. Playing a metal-bodied National Tricone guitar and sliding a bottleneck along the strings, he created a clear and pure sound, marked by deft single-string solos. His session work appears on many recordings by other artists, including Sonny Boy Williamson and Memphis Minnie. His urbane musicianship stood in sharp contrast to earlier slide-guitar blues and would help set the direction for the postwar style.

With the repeal of prohibition in 1933, venues for blues music proliferated in Chicago, and Tampa Red became one of the city's hottest live acts, often with the backing of his band, the Chicago Five. With his close friends Big Bill Broonzy and Lester Melrose, a producer for Bluebird Records, Tampa Red was a leader of the Chicago scene. His wife, Frances, acted as his business manager, and their home became an informal boarding house, booking agency, and rehearsal space, where many newcomers to the city found encouragement and support.

By 1940 Tampa Red had made the transition to electric guitar, and he reached the top ten on the rhythm-and-blues chart several times in the postwar period. His 1949 song "When Things Go Wrong with You (It Hurts Me Too)" became a signature tune for the artist Elmore James. Robert Nighthawk, Fats Domino, and B. B. King also scored hits with cover versions of his songs.

His wife's death in 1953 was a blow from which Tampa Red never recovered. He had always been a heavy drinker, and his alcoholism became acute. Like many of his contemporaries, he was "rediscovered" by a new audience in the late 1950s. He went back into the studio in 1960, but his final recordings were undistinguished. He died destitute in Chicago on March 19, 1981, and was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame the same year. He is buried in Glenwood, Illinois.

Fred McDowell Vol. 2 [vinyl rip]

"... Two albums, Fred McDowell, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, were released on Arhoolie in the mid-'60s, and the shock waves were felt throughout the folk-blues community. Here was a bluesman with a repertoire of uncommon depth, putting it over with great emotional force, and to top it all off, he had seemingly slipped through the cracks of late-'20s/early-'30s field recordings. No scratchy, highly prized 78s on Paramount or Vocalion to use as a yardstick to measure his current worth, no romantic stories about him disappearing into the Delta for decades at a time to become a professional gambler or a preacher. No, Mississippi Fred McDowell had been in his adopted home state, farming and playing all along, and the world coming to his doorstep seemed to ruffle him no more than the little boy down the street delivering the local newspaper..."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Itchy Twitchy Feelings - Sue Records 1958-1966 [vinyl rip]

Various ‎– Itchy Twitchy Feelings: Sue Records 1958-1966
EMI America ‎– ST-17203
Legendary Masters Series –
Vinyl, Compilation, LP
US: 1986
Rock, Pop
A1     – Bobby Hendricks     Itchy Twitchy Feeling    
A2     – Poets, The (4)     She Blew A Good Thing    
A3     – Prince La La     She Put The Hurt On Me    
A4     – Johnny Darrow     Don't Start Me Talking    
A5     – Derek Martin     Daddy Rollin' Stone    
A6     – Don Covay     Believe It Or Not    
A7     – Bobby Lee     I Was Born A Loser    
B1     – Inez Foxx     Mockingbird    
B2     – Baby Washington     That's How Heartaches Are Made    
B3     – Ike And Tina Turner*     A Fool In Love    
B4     – Tina Britt     The Real Thing    
B5     – Baby Washington     Leave Me Alone    
B6     – Soul Sisters, The*     I Can't Stand It    
B7     – Ike And Tina Turner*     It's Gonna Work Out Fine

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Texas Blues Volume 2 [vinyl to flac]

Another recent vinyl rip for Cliff in FLAC. Some very fine and very rare stuff here, but it would be fair to say that  this is for collectors rather than general audience. Most of this material was originally published in 1968.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Detroiters-The Golden Echoes - Old Time Religion

"Old Time Religion showcases two great gospel vocal quartets from the '40s and '50s: the Detroiters and the Golden Echoes. The first half of the disc features 15 cuts from the Detroiters, 11 of which are previously unreleased songs recorded at United Sound. The Golden Echoes are represented with 11 songs recorded in 1949, ten of which have never been released. Usually, large sections of unreleased material would mean that the disc is primarily of interest to collectors, but that's not necessarily the case here. Both quartets are excellent examples of impassioned, moving and plain entertaining classic gospel, blessed with remarkable voices -- the Detroiters' lineup boasted Oliver Green and Leroy Barnes, while the Golden Echoes featured Paul Foster, Sr. and Wilmer "Little Axe" Broadnax -- and true spirit; it's a pleasure to hear them in any setting. Granted, some tastes may find the preponderance of alternate takes a little tedious, but if you program them out, you're left with a sterling collection of classic gospel." AMG