Thursday, July 31, 2014

Soul Of New Orleans

**Double disc compilation cramming 62 tracks of early soul music and 28-page booklet of liner notes** "New Orleans.... home of jazz, birthplace of the funk and, some would say, of rock'n'roll. No great controversy there, but The Big Easy's role in the history of soul music has been less well documented. Part of the 'History of Soul' series, this compilation of tracks illustrates the depth and breadth of music produced in the city between 1958 and 1962. Music that went way beyond R&B, taking into soul the joyous rhythms of funky second line parade bands, the gospel-based piano triplets of barrelhouse wizards and the tight horn sections of Allen Toussaint and Dave Bartholomew, whose arrangements from would later inform the classic Stax sound. The familiar names are all here: Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville, Eddie Bo, Bobby Marchan but so are the lesser known but fabulous Ray Washington, Berna Dean, Martha Carter and Chuck Carbo. So prepare to be blown away by some of the most exciting, deep and affecting sounds that ever came from Louisiana and made their way into soul as we know it."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Earl Hooker - Blue Guitar

There is a far more detailed biography at wikipedia for those who are interested.

"If there was a more immaculate slide guitarist residing in Chicago during the 1950s and '60s than Earl Hooker, his name has yet to surface. Boasting a fretboard touch so smooth and clean that every note rang as clear and precise as a bell, Hooker was an endlessly inventive axeman who would likely have been a star had his modest vocal abilities matched his instrumental prowess and had he not been dogged by tuberculosis (it killed him at age 41).

Born in the Mississippi Delta, Hooker arrived in Chicago as a child. There he was influenced by another slide wizard, veteran Robert Nighthawk. But Hooker never remained still for long. He ran away from home at age 13, journeying to Mississippi. After another stint in Chicago, he rambled back to the Delta again, playing with Ike Turner and Sonny Boy Williamson. Hooker made his first recordings in 1952 and 1953 for Rockin', King, and Sun. At the latter, he recorded some terrific sides with pianist Pinetop Perkins (Sam Phillips inexplicably sat on Hooker's blazing rendition of "The Hucklebuck").

Back in Chicago again, Hooker's dazzling dexterity was intermittently showcased on singles for Argo, C.J., and Bea & Baby during the mid- to late '50s before he joined forces with producer Mel London (owner of the Chief and Age logos) in 1959. For the next four years, he recorded both as sideman and leader for the producer, backing Junior Wells, Lillian Offitt, Ricky Allen, and A.C. Reed and cutting his own sizzling instrumentals ("Blue Guitar," "Blues in D-Natural"). He also contributed pungent slide work to Muddy Waters' Chess waxing "You Shook Me." Opportunities to record grew sparse after Age folded; Hooker made some tantalizing sides for Sauk City, WI's Cuca Records from 1964 to 1968 (several featuring steel guitar virtuoso Freddie Roulette).

Hooker's amazing prowess (he even managed to make the dreaded wah-wah pedal a viable blues tool) finally drew increased attention during the late '60s. He cut LPs for Arhoolie, ABC-BluesWay, and Blue Thumb that didn't equal what he'd done at Age, but they did serve to introduce Hooker to an audience outside Chicago and wherever his frequent travels deposited him. But tuberculosis halted his wandering ways permanently in 1970." Bill Dahl, AMG

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blind Willie Johnson - Dark Was The Night

Blind Willie Johnson, according to his death certificate, was born in 1897 near Brenham, Texas (before the discovery of his death certificate, Temple, Texas had been suggested as his birthplace). When he was five, he told his father he wanted to be a preacher and then made himself a cigar box guitar. His mother died when he was young and his father remarried soon after her death.

Johnson was not born blind, and, although it is not known how he lost his sight, Angeline Johnson told Samuel Charters that when Willie was seven his father beat his stepmother after catching her going out with another man. According to this account, the stepmother then blinded young Willie by throwing lye in his face.

It is believed that Johnson married at least twice. He was married to Willie B. Harris. Her recollection of their initial meeting was recounted in the liner notes for Yazoo Records's "Praise God I'm Satisfied" album. He was later alleged to have been married to a woman named Angeline. Johnson was also said to be married to a sister of blues artist, L.C. Robinson. No marriage certificates have yet been discovered. As Angeline Johnson often sang and performed with him, the first person to attempt to research his biography, Samuel Charters, made the mistake of assuming it was Angeline who had sung on several of Johnson's records. However, later research showed that it was Willie B. Harris.

Johnson remained poor until the end of his life, preaching and singing in the streets of several Texas cities including Beaumont. A city directory shows that in 1945, a Rev. W.J. Johnson, undoubtedly Blind Willie, operated the House of Prayer at 1440 Forrest Street, Beaumont, Texas. This is the same address listed on Johnson's death certificate. In 1945, his home burned to the ground. With nowhere else to go, Johnson lived in the burned ruins of his home, sleeping on a wet bed in the August/September Texas heat. He lived like this until he contracted malarial fever and died on September 18, 1945. (The death certificate reports the cause of death as malarial fever, with syphilis and blindness as contributing factors.) In a later interview, his wife, Angeline said she tried to take him to a hospital but they refused to admit him because he was blind, while other sources report that his refusal was due to being black. And although there is some question as to where his exact grave location is, Blanchette Cemetery (which is the cemetery listed on the death certificate but location previously unknown) was officially located by two researchers in 2009. In 2010, those same researchers erected a monument to Johnson in the cemetery, but his exact gravesite remains unknown.

Johnson made 30 commercial recording studio record sides in five separate sessions for Columbia Records from 1927–1930. On some of these recordings Johnson uses a fast rhythmic picking style, while on others he plays slide guitar. According to a reputed one-time acquaintance, Blind Willie McTell (1898–1959), Johnson played with a brass ring, although other sources cite him using a knife. However, in enlargement, the only known photograph of Johnson seems to show that there is an actual bottleneck on the little finger of his left hand. While his other fingers are apparently fretting the strings, his little finger is extended straight—which also suggests there is a slide on it as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Solomon Burke - Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions

This one-off record (and it's xtras) comes from the period immediately following Burke's departure from Atlantic after spending most of the 60's carrying the soul side of the label for Wexler until Aretha exploded and made him expendable.

Big Sol signed with independent Bell Records for what turned out to be a very short tenure. Solomon journeyed down to Muscle Shoals to record (and co-produce) for his new label at Fame Studios, where he found the seasoned Southern Soul pros down there to be a refreshing change from the NYC studio pros that Jerry Wexler had always used on his Atlantic sessions. He also found the creative process to be far more organic and stimulating with these guys and it lead to some choices of material that were a bit different from what he had been doing up North.

The album title cut comes from John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater, other tracks come from Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, Penn and Roger Hawkins, Mac Davis, Bob Dylan, Delaney Bramlett, Sam Cooke and a handful from Solly himself. The suits at Bell were less than pleased that they did not get a seamless continuation of what had worked at Atlantic and terminated Burke's contract at around the same time that they released the album (i.e. BEFORE they had any chance to judge public reaction). BIG MISTAKE!! The album went to #15 R&B and #45 pop and suddenly the Bell execs were left scrambling, trying far too late, to re-sign the man in whom they had showed so little faith.

He was already gone to MGM.

Screamin', Baby Please!

I have a serious weakness for those Southern Soul singers with that slightly 'unhinged' quality to their voice and delivery -- this mix features 17 of those guys including Little Willie John, Howard Tate, O.V. Wright, Buddy Ace, Joe Haywood, Garnett Mimms, Roscoe Robinson, J.P. Robinson, Spencer Wiggins, Percy Sledge, Joe Hinton, Sonny Green, and more.

Link added

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Dixie Nightingales

Before there was Ollie & the Nightingales, there were the Dixie Nightingales.
One of the most successful Southern gospel groups of the late '50s and early '60s, the Dixie Nightingales served as a training ground for future Temptations vocalist David Ruffin (1941-1991). The group, which featured the lead vocals of Ollie Hoskins, was heard every Saturday morning on Memphis radio station WDIA. As they were reaching the peak of their popularity, the Dixie Nightingales experienced a drastic change in 1962. Signing with the Stax label, they shifted their focus to R&B and re-christened themselves Ollie & the Nightingales. They disbanded shortly afterwards. Although he maintained a low profile for more than four decades, Hoskins mounted a serious comeback in the mid-'90s. Signing with Ecko in 1995, he released three impressive singles -- "I'll Drink Your Water, Baby," "Tell Me What You Want Me to Do," and "Make It Sweet" -- before succumbing to a heart attack resulting from complications of pneumonia, in October 1997. The son of a minister, Ruffin had toured with Mahalia Jackson at the age of six. After leaving the Dixie Nightingales, he went on to be a founding member of the Temptations, singing lead on such classics as "My Girl" and "I Wish It Would Rain." He had a Top Ten solo hit with "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" in 1969. He died from a drug overdose in 1991.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ollie & The Nightingales

Contributed by my local buddy Paul -- this group was originally a Gospel group called The Dixie Nightingales. At one time the group included David Ruffin who would go on to help found the Temptations. I've got some of their Gospel on tap for Sunday.

"This Memphis group included some excellent vocalists, although they didn't enjoy as much success as some other Stax artists. Ollie Nightingale (born Ollie Hoskins), Quincy Clifton Billops, Jr., Nelson Lesure, Bill Davis, and Rochester Neal were the original members. Billops had been in the Mad Lads. Their biggest single was "I Got a Sure Thing" in 1968, which made the R&B Top 20. It was also their lone hit. Nightingale left in 1970 and was replaced by Sir Mack Rice. Neal, Billops, and Davis became the Ovations in 1972."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blind Willie McTell

 "Blind Willie" McTell was one of the great blues musicians of the 1920s and 1930s. Displaying an extraordinary range on the twelve-string guitar, this Atlanta-based musician recorded more than 120 titles during 14 recording sessions. His voice was soft and expressive, and his musical tastes were influenced by southern blues, ragtime, gospel, hillbilly, and popular music. At a time when most blues musicians were poorly educated and rarely traveled, McTell was an exception. He could read and write music in Braille. He traveled often from Atlanta to New York City, frequently alone. As a person faced with a physical disability and social inequities, he expressed in his music a strong confidence in dealing with the everyday world.

McTell was born in Thomson on May 5, 1898. Few facts are known about his early life. Even his name is uncertain: his family name was either McTear or McTier, and his first name may have been Willie, Samuel, or Eddie. His tombstone reads "Eddie McTier." He was blind either from birth or from early childhood, and he attended schools for the blind in Georgia, New York, and Michigan. While in his early teens, McTell learned to play the guitar from his mother, relatives, and neighbors in Statesboro, where his family had moved. In his teenage years, after his mother's death, he left home and toured in carnivals and medicine shows. In the 1920s and 1930s McTell traveled a circuit between Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah, and Macon. This region encompasses two major blues styles: Eastern Seaboard/Piedmont, with lighter, bouncier rhythms and a ragtime influence; and Deep South, with its greater emphasis on intense rhythms and short, repeated music phrases.

McTell also journeyed from Georgia to New York City. Along the way he entertained wherever he could find an audience: passenger train cars, hotel lobbies, college fraternity parties, school assemblies, proms, vaudeville theaters, and churches. As he followed the tobacco market from Georgia into North Carolina, he played for farmers, buyers, and merchants at warehouses, auctions, livery stables, and hotels. By the mid-1920s McTell was already an accomplished musician in Atlanta, playing at house parties and fish fries. He had also traded in the standard six-string acoustic guitar for a twelve-string guitar, which was popular among Atlanta musicians because of the extra volume it provided for playing on city streets. By 1926 record companies had begun to take an interest in recording folk blues artists, mostly men playing solo with guitars—Blind Lemon Jefferson from Texas, Charley Patton and Tommy Johnson from Mississippi, and Peg Leg Howell from Georgia. Beginning with his first recording in 1927 for Victor Records and his 1928 recording session for Columbia, McTell produced such blues classics as "Statesboro Blues" (later made famous by the Allman Brothers Band and Taj Mahal), "Mama 'Tain't Long 'for' Day," and "Georgia Rag." In 1929 he recorded "Broke Down Engine Blues."

Like other musicians at the time, he recorded on different labels under various nicknames to skirt contractual agreements. Thus he was Blind Willie for Vocalion, Georgia Bill for OKeh, Red Hot Willie Glaze for Bluebird, Blind Sammie for Columbia, Barrel House Sammy for Atlantic, and Pig 'n' Whistle Red for Regal Records. The latter name came from a popular drive-in barbecue restaurant in Atlanta where he played for tips.

In 1934 McTell married Ruth Kate Williams, with whom he recorded some duets.
In 1940 folk-song collector John Lomax recorded the versatile musician for the Archive of Folk Culture of the Library of Congress. These sessions, which have been issued in full, feature interviews as well as a variety of music.

McTell was the only bluesman to remain active in Atlanta until well after World War II (1941-45). With his longtime associate Curley Weaver, he played for tips on Atlanta's Decatur Street, a popular hangout for local blues musicians. His last recording was made in 1956 for an Atlanta record-store owner and released on the Prestige/Bluesville label. Afterward he played exclusively religious music. From 1957 to his death he was active as a preacher at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Atlanta. He died from a cerebral hemorrhage on August 19, 1959, at the Milledgeville State Hospital (later Central State Hospital).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Pilgrim Travelers - Better Than That

Good Morning, time for Sunday morning service.

"The Pilgrim Travelers were Specialty's most prolific group, recording more than any other ensemble in any style. They were versatile enough to be sensational as an a cappella unit, and almost as magnificent with instrumental accompaniment. The 28 cuts from this most recent anthology shows them adjusting to instrumental support, as lead vocalists Kylo Turner and Keith Barber effectively duel and contrast against organs, keyboards, bass and drums. The collection also contains 13 previously unissued songs, most of them incredible unaccompamied performances. They may not have been Specialty's greatest gospel group, but The Pilgrim Travelers weren't far behind The Soul Stirrers."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Joe Simon - Lookin' Back

Hmmm....did somebody ask about a set of Joe Simon's Sound Stage 7 / Monument tracks? I believe you can also find some links to a couple of the actual albums in the Shares and Requests, but here is a compilation of Simon's work with John Richbourg. (btw Sound Stage 7 was a subsidiary label of Monument.)

It looks like a little bit of Spring material is included in the 1970 material the rest is SS7.

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Born on September 24, 1893, in Coutchman, Texas, singer and guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson was one of the most influential blues performers of the early 20th century. He is considered one of the founders of Texas blues and a leading figure in country blues. According to, Jefferson was born blind and was one of seven children. His parents were sharecroppers.

In his teens, Jefferson began performing in Dallas. There he met another future blues legend, Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly. The pair worked together for a short time. In the 1920s, Jefferson married Robert Ransom, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

Discovered by a talent scout in 1925, Jefferson soon went to Chicago to launch his recording career. He put down more than 90 tracks, mostly for the Paramount label. Jefferson helped popularized blues across the country with such songs as "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," "Black Snake Moan" and "Matchbox Blues."

In addition to blues, Jefferson also recorded several gospel tunes, such as "I Want to Be Like Jesus in My Heart," under the name Deacon L. J. Bates. He toured extensively as well, playing gigs in his native Texas and other parts of the South.

Jefferson died on December 19, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois. His exact cause of death is unknown. Reports vary from him suffering a heart attack during a snowstorm to being in a car accident. His body was returned to Texas, where he was buried in an unmarked grave in Wortham. It wasn't until 1967 that Jefferson's grave site received a proper memorial.

Although his career was brief, Jefferson has served an important influence on a range of performers, including B. B. King, Lightin' Hopkins and Bob Dylan. His songs have been covered by the likes of the Beatles and Carl Perkins. Jefferson was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Road to Robert Johnson: A Rough Guide to Country Blues

My friend Cliff and I share the opinion that perhaps a bit of artificial importance is currently given to Robert Johnson, due to the timing and circumstances of his recordings being re-released. Here is a 32 track odyssey that places him amongst his actual peers and predecessors and perhaps shines a more realistic light on his place in the pantheon. He is, to me, a later synthesis of many players, songs and verses that came before him; his 'signature licks' often a simplification, a codifying of more complicated originals. Some of this may well be attributable to his sudden rise (by all accounts) from a barely able to play youth to a surprisingly polished young man in around 2 years. His true genius may well have been his ability to adapt 'licks' to his own skill set with exceptional timing, and his ability to combine song fragments and floating verses into powerful, coherent stories.

SO....this project began from an odd-ball add on disc in an unusual 2 disc Blind Lemon Jefferson set that had an entire disc of non-Jefferson material. The alleged lure of the set was the remastering, but the Jefferson material did not sound better to me, so I was left with a nicely done, but oddly tagged 25 track set of Country Blues that was good as far as it went, but incomplete by my reckoning. I've pumped it up to 32 at this point. I've already thought of a few more guys, how about you?

10 Lost New Orleans Soul Heroes

My most recent mixcloud reflects the change in legal use laws here that restricts me to 3 songs per artist in this format - no more artist spotlights, but this is fun too.

10 Lost New Orleans Soul Heroes by Kingcake on Mixcloud

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jr. Walker & The All Stars - Shotgun & Soul Session

Walker was born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr. in Blytheville, Arkansas, and grew up in South Bend, Indiana. His saxophone style was the anchor for the band's overall sound. The other original members of the group were drummer Tony Washington, guitarist Willie Woods, and keyboardist Vic Thomas.

His career started when he developed his own band at the age of 14, in the mid-1950s as the "Jumping Jacks." His longtime friend Billy Nicks (drummer) formed his own team, the "Rhythm Rockers." Periodically, Nicks would sit in on Jumping Jack's shows, and Walker would sit in on the Rhythm Rockers shows.

Nicks obtained a permanent gig at a local TV station in South Bend, Indiana, and asked Walker to join him and his keyboard player (Fred Patton) permanently. Shortly after, Nicks asked Willie Woods, a local singer, to perform with the group; shortly after Woods would learn how to play guitar also. When Nicks got drafted into the United States Army, Walker convinced the band to move from South Bend to Battle Creek, Michigan. While performing in Benton Harbor, Walker found a drummer, Tony Washington, to replace Nicks Eventually, Fred Patton (piano player) left the group, and Victor Thomas stepped in. The original name, "The Rhythm Rockers," was changed to "The All Stars". Walker's squealing gutbucket style was inspired by jump blues and early R&B, particularly players like Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet.
The group was spotted by Johnny Bristol, and he recommended them to Harvey Fuqua, in 1961, who had his own record labels. Once the group started recording on the Harvey label, their name was changed to Junior Walker & the All Stars. When Fuqua's labels were taken over by Motown's Berry Gordy, Jr. Walker & The All Stars became members of the Motown Records family, recording for Motown's Soul imprint in 1964.

The members of the band changed after the acquisition of the Harvey label. Tony Washington, the drummer, quit the group, and James Graves joined the group in the Motown family. Their first and signature hit was "Shotgun," written and composed by Walker and produced by Berry Gordy, which featured The Funk Brothers' James Jamerson on bass and Benny Benjamin on drums. "Shotgun" reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1965, and was followed by many other hits, such as "(I'm A) Road Runner," "Shake and Fingerpop" and covers of the Motown tracks, "Come See About Me" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)". In 1966, Graves left and was replaced by old cohort Billy "Stix" Nicks, and Walker's hits continued apace with tunes such as "I'm a Road Runner" and "Pucker Up Buttercup".

In 1969, the group had another hit enter the top 5, "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" A Motown quality control meeting rejected this song for single release, but radio station DJs made the track popular, resulting in Motown releasing it as a single, whereupon it reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the R&B chart. From that time on Walker sang more on the records than earlier in their career. He landed several more R&B Top Ten hits over the next few years, with the last coming in 1972. In 1979, Walker went solo, disbanding the All Stars, and was signed to Norman Whitfield's Whitfield Records label, but he was not as successful on his own as he had been with the All Stars in his Motown period.

Walker re-formed the All Stars in the 1980s. Foreigner's 1981 album 4 featured Walker's blistering sax solo on "Urgent". On April 11, 1981, Walker was the musical guest on the season finale of Saturday Night Live. He later recorded his own version of the Foreigner song for the 1983 All Stars's album Blow the House Down. Walker's version was also featured in the 1985 Madonna film Desperately Seeking Susan. In 1983, Walker was re-signed with Motown.

In 1988, Walker played opposite Sam Moore as one-half of the fictional soul duo "The Swanky Modes" in the comedy Tapeheads. Several songs were recorded for the soundtrack, including "Bet Your Bottom Dollar" and "Ordinary Man," produced by ex-Blondie member Nigel Harrison.

Junior Walker died of cancer at the age of 64, in Battle Creek, Michigan, on November 23, 1995. He had been inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation that year. Junior Walker is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Battle Creek, Michigan, under a marker inscribed with both his birth name of Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., and his stage name.

Walker's "Shotgun" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Holmes Brothers - Jubilation (1992)

Time for some upbeat church music too - this is the album of Gospel that the brothers recorded for Peter Gabriel and Real World Records during their stint with Rounder. You can get up and dance in THIS church! C'mon pmac, you gonna like this one!

"The Holmes Brothers – Wendell Holmes (guitarist/pianist/vocalist/songwriter), Sherman Holmes (bassist/ vocalist/songwriter) and brother-in-spirit Popsy Dixon (drummer/vocalist) – are true treasures of American roots music. For 35 years, The Holmes Brothers’ joyous and moving blend of blues, gospel, soul, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and country has been captivating audiences around the world. Their spine-tingling three-part harmony singing, mixing Wendell’s gruff and gravelly vocals with Popsy’s soaring falsetto and Sherman’s rich baritone, brings the spirit of gospel-inflected deep soul music into every song they perform. Equally gripping is the rhythmic foundation laid down by Sherman’s bass playing and Popsy’s drumming, perfectly complementing Wendell’s blues-soaked guitar solos and church-inspired piano playing. The band expertly blends Saturday night’s roadhouse rock and blues with the gospel passion of Sunday morning’s church service. Rolling Stone says The Holmes Brothers play “impressive, fervent country soul.” Entertainment Weekly goes farther, declaring “The Holmes Brothers are juke joint vets with a brazenly borderless view of American music…timeless and rapturous.”

The Pilgrim Travelers - Walking Rhythm

This is the first of two CD collections of prime a cappella close harmony gospel in walking rhythm by The Pilgrim Travelers. Contained are unissued, alternate, and previously issued-on-wax sides from the stunnning lead chops of Kylo Turner and Keith Barber, who fronted L.A.'s Travelers during the 1947-1956 Specialty sojourn. The quintet cut over 100 sides during this time. The selection here is drawn from the 1947 through 1951 time frame. They're taken from original 16-inch metal masters and filtered through a non-noise system to produce fine presence and sound clarity.  Opal Nations