IN MEMORY OF GREAT KING COUNTRY ARTISTS

Saturday, January 16, 2016


The early 1960's were a notoriously tragic period in country music history, for although the Nashville based industry was expanding rapidly, the growth came at a price as many of the genre's greatest performers lost their lives in a series of accidents related to the constant travel their careers required. The most storied of these sad tales is probably the March 5, 1963 plane crash that claimed the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and pilot/manager/Copas's son-in -law Randy Hughes. Syd Nathan's Cincinnati-based King Records had an extensive catalog of titles by Copas and Hawkins and in 1963 the label issued two LPs as memorial tributes (those albums were featured earlier at the Scratchy Attic, click here). In late 1964 King released yet another "In Memory" album, and while the liner notes refer to the collection as "Vol. III", its scope is expanded to include additional artists who had gone on to "Hillbilly Heaven".
"In Memory Of These Great Artists - 16 Of Their Best Songs" (King 887) features tracks by Copas, Hawkins, Jimmie Osborne, The Delmore Brothers, and Texas Ruby Owens. Jimmie Osborne was a mainstay of King's country output in the postwar years, performing in a classic southeastern style somewhat reminiscent of Roy Acuff. His biggest hit was 1949's "The Death Of Little Kathy Fiscus", the true and tragic ballad of a child who perished while trapped in a well. Unfortunately, Osborne himself would perish when on December 26, 1958, during a severe depressive episode, he inflicted on himself a fatal gunshot wound.
The Delmore Brothers, one of the most revered and influential acts in early country music, remained relevant and innovative from the early 1930's up until Rabon succumbed to cancer on December 4, 1952. Brother Alton briefly carried on as a single act, and then spent most of his remaining years teaching guitar and working odd jobs. Alton passed away on June 8, 1964, shortly before the release of the present LP.
Texas Ruby Owens performed for many years with her husband, the legendary fiddler Curly Fox. Like the Delmores, she also made her first records in the 1930's, and was a veteran performer by the time she was the victim of a house-trailer fire on the outskirts of Nashville on March 29, 1963. Ruby fell asleep with a lit cigarette while Fox was away playing at the Opry. Three days earlier, the husband and wife duo had recorded a comeback album for Starday, which was released posthumously.
All in all, this LP is an enjoyable, if somber, piece of ephemera from the golden age of country music, and a nice sampler of King's postwar country output. I often will include an album's original liner notes in such posts, but Seymour Stein' ponderous back-slick essay is so rife with factual inaccuracies I have declined to include it this time around. Of course, jacket and label scans are included in the download.

Tracks:

01-Cowboy Copas-Because Of You
02-Hawkshaw Hawkins-I Love You A Thousand Ways
03-Jimmie Osborne-We Can't Take It With Us To Our Grave
04-The Delmore Brothers-Brown's Ferry Blues
05-Cowboy Copas-The Hopes Of A Broken Heart
06-Hawkshaw Hawkins-If I Ever Get Rich Mom
07-Jimmie Osborne-Not Unloved Nor Unclaimed
08-Texas Ruby-On The Banks Of That Lonely River
09-Hawkshaw Hawkins-Walking The Floor Over You
10-Cowboy Copas-The Man Upstairs
11-The Delmore Brothers-Red River Valley
12-Jimmie Osborne-Son, Please Meet Me In Heaven
13-Cowboy Copas-Some Fine Morning
14-Hawkshaw Hawkins-Silver Threads And Golden Needles
15-The Delmore Brothers-I Won't Be Worried Long
16-Cowboy Copas-Forever

*download here*


CHRISTMAS TIME with...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Just in time for Christmas, I'd like to offer all the friends of Scratchy Attic this little collection of yuletide country classics first issued on Decca's subsidiary Vocalion in 1967. The ten selections are culled from the label's catalog of seasonal singles and albums, and range from the maudlin (Elton Britt's "Christmas In November") to the ridiculous (Lonzo And Oscar's "Jangle Bells"). While several of the selection are available elsewhere, a few are hard to find, such as Webb Pierce's 1965 single "Christmas At Home", and The Maddox Brothers And Rose's original 1949 version of "Silent Night". The original Maddox single paired the hymn with their spirited version of "Jingle Bells", and while that more upbeat selection has found its way onto some reissue CDs (you can download an mp3 of it here) as far as I know, "Silent Night" has never appeared before in digital form.

Includes jacket and label scans.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the followers of Scratchy Attic, and to all my fellow bloggers!

Tracks:

1. Jimmie Davis-It's Christmas Time Again
2. Loretta Lynn-Silver Bells
3. Elton Britt & The Pinetoppers-Christmas In November
4. Kitty Wells-Away In The Manger
5. The Maddox Brothers And Rose-Silent Night
6. Ernest Tubb-Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
7. Webb Pierce-Christmas At Home
8. Red Foley And The Little Foleys-Frosty The Snowman
9. Bobby Helms-Jingle Bell Rock
10. Lonzo And Oscar-Jangle Bells

*download*

LINKS TO ALL CHRISTMAS POSTS

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all followers of the Scratchy Attic. I thought a post containing a central list of links to all Christmas albums previously posted would be handy, so here it is. All the links are live, so enjoy the many seasonal favourites that have been featured on Scratchy Attic!


Just click on any of the titles linked below and the post will open.



MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY

 

WILF CARTER Christmas In Canada

 

CHRISTMAS JAMBOREE on Starday - King

 

STOMPIN' TOM Merry Christmas Everybody

 

Christmas With EDDY ARNOLD

 

Christmas Day With KITTY WELLS

 

Christmas With HANK SNOW

 

JIM REEVES 12 Songs Of Christmas

 

HOMER & JEHTRO Cool Crazy Christmas

 

Christmas With MAHALIA JACKSON

 

MERRY CAJUN CHRISTMAS

 

HANK THOMPSON It's Christmas Time

 

Christmas With DON MESSER

BLUEGRASS FOR COLLECTORS

Friday, November 13, 2015


Continuing in the vein of recent posts, here is another vinyl era reissue of great vintage roots recordings from the RCA Victor catalog, the 1974 offering "Bluegrass For Collectors". None of the ten songs comprising the album are exactly bluegrass; even the Bill Monroe tracks are from his 1940/41 pre-banjo Atlanta sessions. It is, however, a stellar collection of  the type of southeastern old time and country music that was highly influential on the development of bluegrass music, perhaps that where the "For Collectors" angle comes in. At the very least this LP is a worthwhile compilation and a  thoroughly enjoyable listen!

Liner notes are as follows:

Alan Lomax called Bluegrass “Folk music in overdrive.” Its fast tempos, close harmonies and banjo melody lines give it an excitement that has been rediscovered by those old enough to remember its evolution in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Bluegrass has also been newly discovered by young Americans who have elevated it from an underground music to one of the newest and most popular attractions on the college campus. Thanks to the dedication of a few country musicians—most notably Bill Monroe—who refused to add to this music new electric amplification for their instruments, Bluegrass today remains pure and little removed from the styles of its origin, the music retains the elements that made it the people’s music of the southern Appalachians.
Certainly the invention of the phonograph from a musical standpoint is nothing short of phenomenal. And with this ability to indefinitely preserve music and musical performance has developed a new breed of men whose interests lay not only in “what’s new” in music but in its past glories. They are the keepers of the flame. They are the record collectors and sometimes it is the collector with his hoard of old records who has been the only remaining source for certain performances. To the serious collector then, this album of timeless Bluegrass treasures is most sincerely dedicated. And to these collectors we furnish below the all-important vital statistics concerning this impressive assemblage of Bluegrass stars and their recordings.
BILL MONROE AND HIS BLUEGRASS BOYS recorded Mule Skinner Blues in Atlanta on October 7, 1940 in a session that produced seven other songs in a short two hours and fifteen minutes. Bill revived the Jimmie Rodgers tune with the help of the Bluegrass Boys; Clyde Moody’s guitar, Tommy Magnes’ violin, Bill Westbrook’s bass and Bill’s own mandolin. Almost one year later, on October 2, 1941, back in Atlanta they recorded the Clayton McMichen and Slim Bryant song In the Pines.
CHARLIE MONROE AND HIS KENTUCKY PARDNERS recorded two of his own compositions, the favorite Mother’s Not Dead, She’s Only Sleeping and the moody Down in the Willow Garden. The first was cut in Atlanta on September 30, 1946 and the latter in Chicago on March 24, 1947. Bill Sickler joins Charlie to sing the harmony parts.
J. E. MAINER AND THE MOUNTAINEERS recorded both these titles in Atlanta on August 6, 1935 in a marathon session that started at 8 AM and produced fourteen sides. Zeke Morris is heard singing This World Is Not My Home and he is joined by Wade Mainer on New Curly Headed Baby, Daddy John Love and J. E. himself filled out the instrumentation of banjo, violin and two guitars.
RILEY PUCKETT was recorded alone on When It’s Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia, another well accepted McMichen melody. The date was October 2, 1941 and the place was Atlanta. In fact, Riley’s session immediately followed the one previously mentioned by Bill Monroe. This legendary blind guitarist had earlier recorded in Atlanta, on February 5, 1940, but that time he was accompanied by an unidentified accordionist. The song When I Grow Too Old to Dream was not from the southern root source of most Bluegrass but an Oscar Hammerstein II and Sigmund Romberg success that proves an interesting example of the music form’s vast possibilities.
GID TANNER AND HIS SKILLET LICKERS cut both Back Up and Push and Skillet Licker Breakdown in San Antonio, Texas, on March 29, 1934. This session, described by the producer Elmer Eades as “a rip-roaring wild free-for-all,” also produced their biggest hit, “Down Yonder,” and for almost thirty years that hit, coupled with Back Up and Push, was consistently featured on the rural jukeboxes of the south and southwest.
BRAD McCUEN—Nashville


Tracks:

1. Bill Monroe-Mule Skinner Blues
2. J.E. Mainer-This World Is Not My Home
3. Riley Puckett-When I Grow Too Old to Dream
4. Gid Tanner-Skillet Licker Breakdown
5. Charlie Monroe-Mother's Not Dead, She's Only Sleeping
6. Charlie Monroe-Down in the Willow Garden
7. Riley Puckett-When It's Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia
8. J.E. Mainer-New Curly Headed Baby
9. Gid Tanner-Back Up and Push
10. Bill Monroe-In the Pines

*download here*

BLUEBIRD BLUES

Friday, November 6, 2015


Another LP collection of black roots music on the RCA Victor Vintage Series is presented this week, 1965's "Bluebird Blues". 16 tracks recorded 1932-1942 were dug out of the Victor vaults for this compilation featuring legendary bluesmen Blind Willie McTell, Tampa Red, Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson, Tommy McClennan, Sleepy John Estes, Arthur Crudup, and Lonnie Johnson. A great title in a great series!

Liner notes are as follows:

If the above line from Tommy McClennan’s Bluebird Blues and the picture of the label on the jacket design of this record evoke a rather nostalgic sigh from your person, you may rest assured that you are not alone. There are, more than likely, two directly contributing factors to this reaction: initially, and of lesser importance, is the almost staggering number of blues records which were released on the label between its inception (1933) and its termination for purposes of blues recording in 1946. Secondly, most important and singularly significant, is the fact that included within the Bluebird catalog were some of the most outstanding and memorable blues performances ever waned. A great many of these have been remembered down through the years for various reasons— perhaps because of a particularly inspired piece of singing or a substantially brilliant bit of instrumental work on the guitar, mouth-harp, mandolin or piano; perhaps the washboard or the twelve-string guitar struck your fancy and, quite possibly, you enjoyed the bottleneck approach to the guitar. Be that as it may, these are only several suggestions as to why one might have been unusually responsive to the label itself. And, of course, in the process many of the original 78-rpm releases have attained the well-deserved status of “collector’s items.” 
The Bluebird label first saw the light of day in 1933, during the height of the Depression, a particularly disastrous and distasteful interval in American history. But, notwithstanding this birth date, had it not been for the Depression it is entirely possible that the Bluebird label would never have come into existence at all. During the Depression, the costs of almost everything needed to produce records were greatly reduced. It soon became evident that the same product which had been in production for a number of years could now be produced at an infinitely cheaper rate. Thus the birth of the new Bluebird label of the RCA Victor Record Company which, in 1933, sold for thirty-five cents per record. In retrospect, it must be concluded that, even for those hard times, the return received was a handsome one in terms of listening pleasure and was well worth the investment.
The Bluebird label was produced until 1950, and included various categories, some of which were no less interesting or’ productive than blues. There were children’s records, Cajun music, an international series, popular music and jazz, country and western, rhythm and blues, Broadway shows, and even music of India. But, unfortunately, the year 1946, with all of its attendant post-World-War problems, marked the end of blues recording for the label. Prior to this date, especially in the late 1930s and very early 1940s, recording activities were extensive and many talents were introduced for the first time. The demise did come, though, possibly as a direct result of the Second World War, the resultant “sophistication” and the change in musical tastes which inevitably resulted therefrom. The receptive audience which constituted the buying public was no longer present in the large numbers that had existed in the pre-war period. The post-war emphasis was on rhythm and blues or highly amplified offerings. Many artists gave up and dropped out of sight while those who were able to keep up with the changing times, and coincidental demands, transferred their efforts to RCA Victor recordings. Thus a memorable period in the popular music history of America ended but, most certainly, not before leaving a lasting impact and imparting a substantial legacy.
By selecting the individuals presented in this anthology there has been no intention to slight the great many excellent artists who, at one time or another, recorded for the company. What is presented here is a survey of the vast expanse of material released on Bluebird. (The two sides each by Blind Willie McTell and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup also saw the light of day on RCA Victor issues.) Since approximately 2,000 sides were released, the recordings and artists offered are considered a representative selection of the wide latitude of blues styles recorded for the label.
Blind Willie McTell, who recorded as Hot Shot Willie for Bluebird and under his true name for RCA Victor, was, undoubtedly, one of the best of all recorded twelve-string guitar players—and certainly the most melodic. Originally from Statesboro, Georgia, he recorded numerous excellent efforts in the 1920s and ‘30s. He was active around Atlanta for most -his career and was known to have been there as late as c. 1960. On the two seletfons here, he exhibits his talents as both lead guitarist, Searching the Desert for the Blues, and as an accompanist, Lonesome Day Blues. Both offerings are fraught with good humor and the spoken interjections, by both Blind Willie and Kate McTell, ideally enhance the performances.
One rather interesting phenomenon concerning two of the performers featured here—Sleepy John Estes and Lonnie Johnson—is that both have been recently “resurrected” after extended periods of musical inactivity. The causative factors involved in their separate rediscoveries are directly traceable to the “folk-music” boom of the 1950s and ‘60s. A direct result of this has been a renewed interest in the blues as a meaningful art form and an almost studious interest in the important performers who, via commercial recordings, shaped both the city and country styles.
Estes had long been thought of as dead and, since having been found in his home town of Brownsville, Tennessee, has resumed his career as an active blues singer. His two selections include the intensely personal Lawyer Clark Blues (“he was the first man to prove that water runs upstream”) and his woman tome Little Laura Blues. Lonnie Johnson, a name long synonomous with the blues, was found doing menial work in Philadelphia, totally divorced from music. Johnson, one of the most recorded men in the entire field, has been one of the most influential of all blues singers and guitarists. Throughout his extended recording career he has been consistently good and Jersey Belle Blues and Crowing Rooster Blues are but two of his many excellent performances. On the former, his treatment of the traditional “milk-cow” theme, he is accompanied by the great blues pianist Joshua Altheimer. The latter item, one of his most popular recordings, was also reissued on the RCA Victor label. Johnson, like Estes, is once again an active performer.
Both Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, a wholly-neglected artist of substantial stature, and Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker) are alive, although neither appears to have been affected to any great degree by the aforementioned “folk boom.” Both of Crudup’s selections are indicative of the timeless quality and inherent poetic beauty in many blues songs. Black Pony Blues has been a favorite, in one form or another, with Mississippi blues artists in particular, while Death Valley Blues, with its ominous aura, stands as a prime example of outstanding blues poetry. Tampa Red, whose extensive recording career closely rivals that of Lonnie Johnson, is a master of the bottleneck style of guitar playing. The style is characterized by wearing the broken neck of a whiskey or pop bottle, or, at times, a metal tube, on one of the fingers of the fretting hand and sliding it along the strings to create a stinging, whining effect. As an employer of this style, Tampa Red has had few peers and both selections have been pointedly included to demonstrate this facet. Don’t let the woman’s occasional shrieking on Kingfish Blues (an unwarranted intrusion) detract from the delight of Tampa Red’s artistry.
Both Tommy McClennan and Sonny Boy Williamson are dead. McClennan died some years ago of (relatively) natural causes, while Williamson was murdered in 1948. Tommy McClennan was one of the best selling of all Bluebird artists, and this was undoubtedly because of his rough-hewn, “down-home” vocal delivery which was perfectly complemented by his earthy guitar playing. Bluebird Blues, an extremely popular item among the large number of Southern blues singers who moved to Northern urban centers, was his last recorded effort, and possibly his best, while Brown Skin Girl was made at his initial session in 1939.
Sonny Boy Williamson, prior to his tragic death, was one of the best of all recorded mouth-harp players and, in addition, another one of the best-selling artists recorded on the Bluebird label. His musical approach has influenced a great number of subsequent bluesmen, both vocally and instrumentally, and he was, in no small way, directly responsible for the emergence of a rather impressive group of mouth-harp players. On both offerings, he is joined by mandolinist Yank Rachel who, incidentally, has also been reactivated in the past few years.
Of all the men included in this survey, Poor Joe Williams is undeniably the stalwart artist for, notwithstanding the “revival” which has afforded him further employment opportunities, he has never fallen to musical inactivity. He has been an active bluesman throughout the years, and his recording history extends back at least thirty years, if not more. Williams’ Somebody’s Been Borrowing That Stuff, from his first Bluebird recording session, and Wild Cow Blues, another treatment of the classic “milk-cow” theme, are rough, almost primitive sounding, performances. On the former he appears with another excellent blues guitarist of the period, Henry Townsend, while on the latter he is accompanied by his own guitar, a washboard and a one-string fiddle—all of which contribute to a rather unique tonal result.

LAWRENCE COHN
Contributor, Saturday Review

Tracks:

1. Blind Willie McTell and Kate McTell-Lonesome Day Blues
2. Blind Willie McTell and Kate McTell-Searching The Desert For The Blues
3. Tampa Red-Kingfish Blues
4. Tampa Red-Mean Mistreater Blues
5. Poor Joe Williams-Wild Cow Blues
6. Poor Joe Williams-Somebody's Been Borrowing That Stuff
7. Sonny Boy Williamson-Down South
8. Sonny Boy Williamson-Moonshine
9. Tommy McClennan-Bluebird Blues
10. Tommy McClennan-Brown Skin Girl
11. Sleepy John Estes and Son Bond-Lawyer Clark Blues
12. Sleepy John Estes and Son Bond-Little Laura Blues
13. Arthur Crudup-Black Pony Blues
14. Arthur Crudup-Death Valley Blues
15. Lonnie Johnson-Jersey Belle Blues
16. Lonnie Johnson-Crowing Rooster Blues

*download here*

JUGS, WASHBOARDS & KAZOOS

Friday, October 30, 2015


Following the popularity of the recent post of a vintage LP collection of jug band music, here is another, a 1967 collection on the RCA Victor Vintage Series titled "Jugs, Washboards & Kazoos". As was mentioned in the previous post's comment section, the RCA Victor era reissues tend to have excellent sound quality as they most likely had the original metal parts to work from. This LP does have some overlap with LX-3009 so I apologize for the duplication of tracks, but it does add many more great titles as well and I'm confident followers of the Scratchy Attic will enjoy and appreciate it.

Liner notes are as follows:

These lively and delightful tunes recorded three or four decades ago have many elements of the finest early jazz—strong rhythmic pulse, simple harmonics, high spirit, warmth and excitement. This music properly belongs on the jazz periphery, closely identified with its roots, but a measure removed from the mainstream. Along with the avalanche of vocal blues records which attained such immense popularity during the mid-1920s, the jug and washboard bands represent the first recorded examples of the folk backgrounds of jazz.
With a few shining exceptions, the men who play on these long-forgotten records are among the least known and most obscure musicians ever to perform for RCA Victor. They used the simplest of instruments—harmonicas, banjos, ukuleles and kazoos, beat on galvanized washboards with tin thimbles for rhythm, and blew into the spouts of earthenware jugs to make bass notes. As their music clearly demonstrates, they were relaxed, uninhibited individualists with no formal music training. They were completely unaware that they represented a sort of bridge between the world of pure jazz and the world of folk music. They lived and worked before the advent of critics and experts, playing music for its own sake and enjoying it on its own terms.
Musical tastes tend to run in cycles, and now, as this album is issued, American popular music has once again swung back toward its roots. Despite the gentle patina of age these records have collected over the years, it is important to remember that the vigorous music herein was the music of youth. It was played by young people—it appealed to young people. In many respects it foreshadowed the highly colorful “folk-rock” style so popular with our younger generation today.
Nothing points up this fact more clearly to me than the response my own kids had to these recordings. Not long ago they discovered the Dixieland Jug Blowers and the Five Harmaniacs among the thousands of old 78 rpm’s which crowd our house from cellar to attic. The reaction was instantaneous. They and their teen-aged friends were wild about this stuff. There is something in the banjo, guitar and kazoo sounds, the loose relaxed vocal choruses, the hokum talking, the jug and washboard backgrounds, to which they relate by instinct. To a much greater degree than the jazz classics of Armstrong, Oliver, et al, these records have something real and vital to say to them.
The five groups included on this album have certain elements in common—the use of unorthodox instruments, rollicking good humor, vigorous beat—but their performances represent varying degrees of affinity to the folk idiom. The Dixieland Jug Blowers, whom Samuel Charters has described as “the greatest of the city jug bands,” produced a level of musicianship which was a cut above the country jug music of the period but which still retained the latter’s distinctive style. Under the direction of Clifford Hayes, their fiddle-playing leader from Louisville, Kentucky, the Jug Blowers made a series of records in Chicago during the ‘20s that are classics of the genre. Boodle-Am-Shake, with its nonsense lyrics, and Don’t Give All the Lard Away are among my personal favorites because of their lilting, medium-tempo rhythm, the whimsical violin phrases which overlay the vocal choruses, and the strongly accented jug work. House Rent Rag opens with a waggish sermon on the shortness of women’s skirts and hair in 1926 and closes with some strong clarinet work by the New Orleans jazz master Johnny Dodds. (Dodds worked with the group for one recording session in December 1926.) Banjoreno, with its sparkling three-banjo ensemble, lends a ragtime/minstrel-show flavor to the album. Southern Shout, another fast instrumental number, contains a lovely jug break, some nice violin/jug counterpoint, and builds to a good climax in its later choruses, despite wobbly saxophone work at the halfway mark.
A young guitar and harmonica player named Will Shade was the moving force of the Memphis Jug Band and, although he claimed his music was inspired by the recordings of the Dixieland Jug Blowers, in performance it was very much closer to country blues and folk sources. The group recorded a long series of traditional blues and original novelty tunes in Memphis during the latter 1920s and early ‘30s and the records sold in great numbers throughout the South. Of the three tracks on this album, Newport News Blues and Sun Brimmers Blues are charmingly played and sung in the blues idiom. Overseas Stomp is a frolic—a delightful example of the bouncing joie de vivre that is so typical of many jug band numbers. It begins as a tribute to Lindbergh’s famed solo flight to Paris—and takes more than a few roguish twists and turns before returning to earth six choruses later.
The four sides here included by the Five Harmaniacs are cast in a somewhat different mold. Not as strong rhythmically as the jug bands (although they do occasionally use the jug themselves), the Harmaniacs identify more closely with guitar and banjo playing groups such as the New Christy Minstrels which are so popular now. Their stock in trade was the novelty number. My particular favorites are Sadie Green Vamp of New Orleans, an old Johnny Dunn tune which extolled the beauties of its heroine in the whimsical hyperbole of the 1920s (viz: “She’d make bald men tear their hair!”), and Coney Island Washboard, an original composition of the Harmaniacs which has become one of the standard classics in the repertoire of barbershop quartets.
Hartzell Strathdene Parham, nicknamed “Tiny,” was a 300-pound piano player, a native of Kansas City, who headed a number of bands and recording units in Chicago during that city’s bootleg years. He made some fine and long-neglected sides for Victor in ‘28 and ‘29 featuring the trombonist Ike Covington and other interesting sidemen. The two numbers included here, Washboard Wiggles and Sud Buster’s Dream, demonstrate the use of the washboard as a solo instrument. Ernie Marrero temporarily deserts his drums and, backed by Parham’s light piano touch, he shows how effective a washboard and thimbles can be in the hands of a skilled professional.
No album featuring washboard music would be complete without a couple of roaring sides by the Washboard Rhythm Kings. During the early 1930s this group of musical extroverts made several dozen records (sometimes using the name Washboard Rhythm Boys). Their utterly wild and distinctive style can be heard to fine effect in Pepper Steak and Shoot ‘Em. (You will not have to listen too carefully to the latter number to recognize why the original title listing on the Victor label was changed from Shoot ‘Em in the Pants!) These two final numbers, with their great outbursts of pure musical energy, represent a sort of ultimate communion of the worlds of folk and jazz music. At the same time they offer a captivating lightness of spirit which characterizes the entire contents of this cheery and buoyant album.

HERB SHULTZ 
Mr. Shultz has been studying and writing about jazz and folk sounds since the ‘30s. He has contributed to such publications as the Saturday Review.

Tracks:

1. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Boodle-Am-Shake
2. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Don't Give All The Lard Away
3. Dixieland Jug Blowers-House Rent Rag
4. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Banjorena
5. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Southern Shout
6. Memphis Jug Band-Newport News Blues
7. Memphis Jug Band-Sun Brimmers Blues
8. Memphis Jug Band-Overseas Stomp (Lindberg Hop)
9. Five Harmaniacs-Sadie Green The Vamp Of New Orleans
10. Five Harmaniacs-Coney Island Washboard
11. Five Harmaniacs-What Makes My Baby Cry
12. Five Harmaniacs-It Takes A Good Woman (To Keep A Good Man At Home)
13. Tiny Parham And His Musicians-Washboard Wiggles
14. Tiny Parham And His Musicians-Sud Buster's Dream
15. Washboard Rhythm Kings-Pepper Steak
16. Washboard Rhythm Kings-Shoot 'Em

*download here*

Backgrounds of Jazz DIXIELAND JUG BLOWERS/MEMPHIS JUG BAND

Sunday, October 18, 2015


This neat little 10" LP of early recordings by the Dixieland Jug Blowers and the Memphis Jug Band was issued on RCA Victor's short-lived "X" label in 1954. It is comprised of eight recordings first released on Victor 78s between 1926 and 1928 and surely represents some of the earliest serious interest in such material.

Original liner notes:

In recent years, considerable attention has been focused on the African origins of American jazz. The how and how much of African influences and direct carry-overs will undoubtedly continue to be investigated and debated for quite some time, particularly since anthropologists and musicologists in more than a few universities have now begun to be fascinated by the intricate mystery of the roots of jazz. 
One important obstacle to proper documentation of such studies has been, inevitably, the scarcity of actual recordings that can serve to illustrate and substantiate theory. In some areas from which slaves were first brought to this country, time has apparently stood almost still; field recordings there can show source music in something very much like “pure” form. But in the half-century since jazz first took definite and recognizable shape, life in America has moved and altered at great speed. Even by the early 1920’s, when jazz first began to be recorded to any appreciable extent, the music had taken strides that made it far from easy to connect it directly with Africa, or to see just what role should be assigned to that continent in sorting out the many different influences on jazz: some European, some perhaps entirely attributable to white and Negro American patterns of life, others undoubtedly African. 
There are records that can be considered as the look-for “missing links” in the picture. But they are extremely rare; it has been many years since they were readily available, and they tend to be overlooked by, or perhaps to be unknown to, even the serious student of jazz. This is unfortunate for more than one reason—as the music of these jug bands should clearly indicate. 
For these numbers are not at all like any dry history lesson you ever heard. More than anything else, they are strong, exciting, imaginative, uninhibited, highly rhythmical jazz performances. But even the “legitimate” instruments here are used in comparatively primitive fashion, and prominently included is such non-standard equipment as kazoo and jug. It seems to call for no great stretching of the imagination to find the ancestors of some of these in the instruments used in the tribal music of West and Central Africa. 
Take the jug itself, the key instrument in these groups, which is usually of the familiar earthenware variety. One anthropologist, Alan P. Merriam of Northwestern University, has noted great similarities in playing technique between it and the menda, a clay jug to be found in the Congo: “The player blows into the mouth of the menda, producing a deep tone, on the accented beats; on unaccented beats he draws in his breath sharply, producing a high, clear tone.” The American Negro’s quite early use of the banjo may be attributable to its similarity to African stringed instruments, including one made of animal skin stretched across a wood frame. The violins that are played here in strictly “alley fiddle” style may be traceable back to African violins that were long ago derived, in turn, from the Arabian rebec; and eVen the kazoo, played entirely by breathing into it, may be related to the side-blown gourd of tribal music. 
It would of course be misleading over-simplification to carry such comparisons too far, and to present these records as anything like pure “Africanism.” Although they reflect backgrounds of jazz, they are themselves, in a sense, anachronisms. Far from being among the earliest of records, they were made in the late ‘20’s, when a number of bands much like these were playing for Negro audiences. But these musicians appear to have been influenced only slightly by the more conventional jazz bands of the day. Essentially, they are playing the music of their fathers’ and grandfathers’ generation, on the same instruments and in the same style. The indications are that they were descended from slaves and freed slaves who went into the rural, “backwoods” areas of the deep South, and there retained much of their earlier way of life. They played primarily in Tennessee and Kentucky, far from what are generally regarded as the beaten paths of jazz; they may have been no more than part-time entertainers. If they came into the big cities to play and record at times, they nevertheless resisted being absorbed to any great extent into the main-stream of 1920’s jazz, and thus their stomps and blues remain far closer than most to being classifiable as source music, as a survival of the pre-jazz music of a less “Americanized” people. 
Little is known of the identities of these men. The probable personnel listed for the Dixieland Jug Blowers is based on the belief that this group was at least in part made up of members of Clifford Hayes’ Louisville Stompers (a conclusion reached partly through aural evidence, partly because members of the Stompers are credited as composers of Jug Blowers tunes, and also because Hayes is known to have directed at least some Jug Blowers recording sessions). And it’s interesting to note that their Banjoreno tosses in a strong dose of a very different pre-jazz source, with a banjo style (featuring no less than three banjos) that is clearly linked to minstrel-show music. The Memphis Jug Band is even less identifiable, although they are known to have made a substantial quantity of recordings, beginning with the date that produced three of their numbers here.

The above note were of course written before the folk revival of the late fifties and early sixties aroused interest in such groups and their recordings; biographies of both the Dixieland Jug Blowers (click here) and the Memphis Jug Band (click here) are widely available.

Tracks:

 1. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Southern Shout
 2. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Banjorena
 3. Dixieland Jug Blowers-Boodle-Am Shake
 4. Dixieland Jug Blowers-National Blues
 5. Memphis Jug Band-Stingy Woman Blues
 6. Memphis Jug Band-Newport News Blues
 7. Memphis Jug Band-Sun Brimmers Blues
 8. Memphis Jug Band-Overseas Stomp

*download here*


PATSY MONTANA and the PRAIRIE RAMBLERS

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


This 1984 collection, part of CBS's "Columbia Historic Edition" series, compiles twelve sides cut during 1935-1940. Although its cover would make it appear to focus on Patsy Montana, the LP actually includes many of the Prairie Ramblers' solo sides, including some they cut as the Sweet Violet Boys, as well as those on which they accompany Montana.
Like all the albums released in this series, the LP features excellent presentation, sound, and liner notes, reproduced below:


Patsy Montana is justly celebrated in country music history as the first woman to have a million-seller record, 1935’s “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” But there are more reasons than that for listening to her today. She pioneered the cowgirl/buddy image in country music establishing a new female entertainment personality. She was a successful country composer during the era when commercial songwriting in that genre was in its infancy. And she recorded with The Prairie Ramblers, arguably the greatest string band of country music’s “Golden Age.”
She was from rural Arkansas. They were from rural Kentucky. Yet the music created by Patsy Montana & The Prairie Ramblers was a fusion of hillbilly instrumentation and jazzy urban rhythms, with perhaps a dash at ethnic polka and schottische styles thrown in for spice. It was hybrid music. It had bright, clear yodel bursts, immense good humor, dazzling instrumental passages and tremendous popular appeal. That is why Prairie Ramblers music still sounds fresh today.
When Montana and the Ramblers teamed up in 1933 both had recognized careers. Born Ruby Blevins, the then 21 year old inger/fiddler/yodeler songwriter had already established an image as Palsy Montana in California and over KWKH radio, in Shreveport, Louisiana. And the string band then known as The Kentucky Ramblers, had already secured a regular cast spot on the WLS National Barn Dance radio show in Chicago.
They teamed up on WLS — a not inconsiderable factor in their subsequent rise to prominence. The Chicago station was the most powerful popularizer ci country music in the world at the time. The same year that Montana joined the show, WLS went nationwide over the NBC radio network. WLS Artists Bureau pioneered road shows for its acts, thus beginning the country booking agency business. And the mighty station reached millions of Northern, urban listeners, thus bringing a regional style to national attention. At least part at WLS’ vast, overwhelming success was due to a distinctive sound d featured. There was a warm, homey, fireside, reassuring tone about it it. Its stars had dulcet honeyed styles that gave them a friendly, neighborly quality. It was at once immensely folksy and incredibly professional. Patsy Montana & The Prairie Rambters epitomtzed this sound.
Montana’s performances were feminine in the then-dominant “mother,” “sweetheart,” and “comedienne” modes for country music women but her introduction and popularization of the “cowgirl/buddy/lover” musical personality provided a new role model for female country acts. The singing cowgirl came along at a time when huge numbers of working class women had to enter the work force alongside their husbands. Patsy’s western fantasies of male female equality coincided with women s emergence from the kitchen. The exuberant singing cowgirl was a respectable way to swing.
To accommodate their new member’s western image and repertoire, the four WLS string band members who had been performing together since 1931 — Floyd “Salty” Holmes (guitar, tenor vocals), Jack Taylor (bass), CharIes “Chick” Hurt (mandola) and Shelby “Tex” Atchison (fiddle) — renamed themselves the Prairie Ramblers. Montana’s main contribution to the act was her sense at showmanship and image but this was enough to distinguish the group from being just another National Barn Dance act to being a headline attraction. The band was so hot that when Atchison moved west in 1938, Patsy Montana & The Prairie Ramblers attracted the equally fluid fiddler Alan Crockett and continued their radio record and touring popularity.
Both as separate acts and together Montana and the Ramblers had recorded for Victor, but it was not until their discovery by the American Record Company’s (later CBS’) Uncle Art Satherley in 1935 that disc stardom arrived. By then the market for records was quite low. Few new artists were being recorded; and female country acts, in particular, were not considered good prospects. Nevertheless Satherley believed in the band and its lead vocalist enough to take them to his company’s New York studio in August, 1935. He emerged with the biggest records that both Patsy and the band were ever to make. On August 15th, The Prairie Ramblers recorded their biggest hit, “Nobody s Darling But Mine,” and the following day came Montana’s self composed classic “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”
Over the next five years (the period of the act’s greatest popularity), they embellished Montana’s cowgirl/yodeler image and continued to mine the country jazz idiom as an acoustic swing band. A delightful addition to these twin toe tapping types of releases were those by “The Sweet Violet Boys.” This was a recording pseudonym adopted by The Prairie Ramblers to record slightly off-color material. Patsy wasn’t allowed in the studios for these, but often Sweet Violet Boys sessions included guest appearances by Will Thawl (clarinet), Bob Miller (piano), George Barnes (guitar), John Brown (piano) and other country-jazz aficionados. The merry results were often in a vaudevillian jug band style, with Holmes switching from guitar playing to jug blowing for the occasions. Sometimes 78s were released with The Prairie Ramblers billing on one side and The Sweet Violet Boys name on the other.
The classic Prairie Ramblers, Patsy Montana, and Sweet Violet Boys recording sessions were from 1935 to the dawn of World War II, the period from which all the selections on this reissue come. The team broke up in 1940 when Montana went to Decca Records. The band eventually added drums and electric guitar and became a jazz ensemble. Montana continues with her western songs and yodeling to this day. In 1970 she was honored with a Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music.
The Grand Ole Opry and Nashville have dominated country music history since World War II; and this fact has tended to overshadow the importance and overlook the impact of the music made by the WLS National Barn Dance acts. One listen to what’s in these grooves, however, ought to set the record straight.
Listen closely. This is the sound of the mountains meeting the sound of the city. It’s east meeting west. It is country music taking its first steps out of babyhood toward adulthood. And its mighty, mighty pleasing; for there’s something still thrilling about a wild and reckless jazz fiddle break, a stinging and sizzling mandolin lick, and a head-to-the-sky, wide-open-spaces yodel.

—ROBERT K. OERMANN The Tennessean, Nashville


Tracks:

1. Deep Elem Blues
2. A Rip Rip-Snortin', Two-Gun Gal
3. Monkeys Is The Cwaziest People
4. Gonna Have A Feast Here Tonight
5. Hi-Falutin' Newton
6. I Haven't Got A Pot To Cook In
7. I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart
8. With A Banjo On My Knee
9. Goodbye To Old Mexico
10. Cowboy Rhythm
11. There's A Man That Comes To Out House
12. Beaver Creek

*download here*


COPULATING RHYTHM Volume One & Volume Two


Another set of albums containing classic risqué material, this time on the Jass label, both issued in 1986. These make nice companions to the Stash label "Copulatin' Blues" LPs posted last week. Both Stash and Jass were products of Bernard Brightman, who used the label to, for the most part, reissue jazz age recordings dealing with sex and drugs. It was a surprisingly extensive catalog, which can be surveyed here. An obituary of Mr. Brightman, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 82, is here.
Unlike the "Copultin' Blues" set, the present collections have no real liner notes to speak of, but some recording data is contained on the jackets, scans of which along with labels are included in the download folders.

Volume One

Tracks:

1. Rosetta Howard-The Candy Man
2. Bessie Jackson-Tired As I Can Be
3. Ora Alexander-You've Got To Save That Thing
4. Bo Carter-Ants In My Pants
5. Chicago Black Swans-Don't Tear My Clothes
6. Lil Johnson-My Baby
7. Napoleon Fletcher-She Showed It All
8. Lil Johnson-Honey, You're So Good To Me
9. Dallas Jug Band-You've Gotta Have That Thing
10. Lil Johnson-If You Don't Give Me What I Want
11. Bo Carter-Please Warm My Weiner
12. Bea Foote-Try And Get It
13. Johnny Temple-Grinding Mill
14. Memphis Minnie-If You See My Rooster
15. Blind Boy Fuller-I Don't Want No Skinny Woman
16. Lil Johnson-Take It Easy Greasy

*download here*


Volume Two

Tracks:

1. Georgia White-Get 'Em From The Peanut Man (Hot Nuts)
2. Blind Willie And Partner-Southern Can Mama
3. The Hokum Boys-Let Me Pat That Thing
4. Ethel Waters-My Handy Man
5. The Chocolate Dandies-Six Or Seven Times
6. James Stump Johnson-The Duck's Yas-Yas-Yas
7. Miss Edith Wilson-My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More
8. Chicago Swingers-I Wonder Who's Boogiein' My Woogie Now
9. Blind Boy Fuller-What's That Smells Like Fish
10. Red Allen & Victoria Spivey-How Do They Do It That Way
11. Memphis Jug Band-Papa's Got Your Water On
12. Hattie North & Count Basie-Honey Dripper Blues
13. Bo Carter-All Around Man
14. Tampa Red & Half-Pint Jaxon-Easy Rider
15. Lonnie Johnson-Uncle Ned Don't Use Your Head
16. Bessie Smith-I'm Wild About That Thing

*download here*


BROTHER CLAUDE ELY At Home and At Church

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Another gem issued late in the King label's run is this 1969 slab by the impassioned Brother Claude Ely. Side one (At Home?) consists of  recordings that may have been new at the time of the album's release, while side two (At Church) features tracks recorded by King during a Pentecostal revival in the Letcher County, Kentucky courthouse in 1953. The live 1953 recordings were originally issued on singles and are much prized by collectors. Hopefully this rare and classic LP makes for good Sunday listening, enjoy!

A great NPR radio feature and article about Brother Claude Ely can be found here.

Tracks:

1. Sweet Jesus
2. I'm Going To That City
3. Don't Trifle With The Lord
4. Don't You Want To Go
5. Lost And Doomed
6. There Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down
7. There's A Leak In This Old Building
8. Talk About Jesus
9. Farther On
10. Little David Play On Your Harp

*download here*

COPULATIN' BLUES Volume One & Volume Two

Friday, April 10, 2015


Early this week I posted a collection of postwar risqué R&B called "Risky Blues". The two LPs presented here are contain more of the same type of ribald material, the bulk of it from the prewar era. Volume One and Volume Two were released on the Stash label in 1976 and 1984 respectively, and feature liner notes as reproduced below:


Volume One


This album is a show piece in the blues continuum, described by Leroi Jones as moving from its birth in the post-Civil War period from a highly personalized amalgam of the work-shout and the spiritual through the country blues to the sophisticated evolvement of the city blues coincident with the great migration from the rural South to the urban North after World War I.
This olio of predominantly urban blues does not represent a focus on the tragic aspects of being black in America, but rather the strong counterforce of joy, uninhibited, unrestricted, to be found in sex . . . the one area of black life over which the ruling whites had no control. Raw, earthy, unabashedly direct and more explicit than innuendoed, these are the genre called the dirty blues.
The historic development of the blues, traces in music the social history of the Black American. Its evolution demonstrated more forcefully, perhaps, than any other phenomenon how a people are molded by environmental factors that override genetic influences.
That the direct sensuality expressed in these blues could be called “dirty” is a commentary on the sad quality of the lifeless puritanism of the Anglo- Saxon Protestant ethic against which American youth are moving today, but which Blacks rejected long ago, that is with the exception of upwardly striving Black bourgeoisie who wished to become carbon copies of the white masters. In fact, among the “respectables”, as St. Clair Drake points out in Black Metropolis, the blues was not even allowed in the house because it was considered lower class.
As Leroi Jones puts it, most succinctly the blues could not exist if the African captives had not become American captives” . . . song was a cushion against the chains of that captivity.
Here are rarities for the collector, not even mentioned in such anthologies and studies as Leroi Jones “Blues People”, Eric Sackheim’s “The Blues Line” and Phyl Garland’s “Soul Music”, they express no awareness of the artistry of Coot Grant, Johnny Temple and Lil Johnson, though all of them do note Tampa Red.
You can’t talk about the blues without the dancing. These songs came Out in a period when the dancing was as earthy as the music, if not more so. Rollin’ butt, dry fuckin’, the grind, dancin’ on a dime, the bump and the mess around — all names accurately describing the movements of the dance.
These songs bring to mind Small’s Paradise, dancing waiters, twirling their trays on one finger, Virgie At Dickie Wells, the after-hours joint, snatching rolled-up dollar bills off a table with her vaginal orifice — Amy Spencer was said to be able to pick a dime up with hers as the depression shortened the loot.
Much of the material on Harlem never saw the light of day. It was considered “too raw” for conservative tastes. Fortunately, realism and honesty, “telling it like it is”, “. . . or was” has opened the doors for depiction of a music coming from a background that was the backstage, back door and backseat of the U.S.A.
On SHAVE ‘EM DRY Lucille Bogan rolls out an unbowdlerized “stomp- down” whore-house song that makes the latest erotic limerick sound like the ladies finishing school poetry.
PREACHIN’BLUES opens with an unadulterated barrel-house piano that presages the boogie-woogie. Père Bechet (Pops), in his prime, slides in on the intro with his magnificent full-bodied soprano saxaphone. One almost wishes there’d be a full chorus of intro before the singer, Wilson Meyers, comes in and makes you forget the opening. Close listening will reveal the phenomenonally light, but distinctive and avant-garde touch, of the brushwork of Kenny “Kluke” Clarke who was later to join with Yardbird Parker and Diz Gillespie in creating BeBop.
DO YOUR DUTY is one all-around gas, with Bessie Smith vocalizing in top form against an all-star background. Integration (pardon the expression) was way out in front in music . . . Jelly Roll Morton had played with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in the Twenties and here Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden play in a mixed outfit in 1933 with the much underrated revolutionary trumpeter, Frankie Newton, lovingly haunted by the inspiration of “Pops”, the phenomenal and unique “Chu” Berry, a tenor sax tone as smooth as honey, Billy Taylor on string bass providing the background for Bessie and on this track it is clearly a labor of love.
DON’T YOU MAKE ME HIGH is worth listening to as a contrast to Maria Muldauer’s version with Benny Carter, the old pro, heading her back-up band. When it first came out in the late 30’s everybody in Harlem was singing the lyrics. Dig the little-known saxaphone of Buster Bennett and Big Bill Broonzy on guitar.
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY MOJO brings to mind Timmy Roger’s saying, “Romance without Finance is a Nuisance” a witty short poem on the pursuit of alternative entrepreneurial modalities by folk barred from participation in mainstream society.
All the tracks deserve comment, but why not . . . dig it yourself on the rest?

Howard “Stretch“ Johnson


Howard Johnson, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at New Palz State University College, is intimately connected with the music and life of the 30’s. He, with his sister, Winnie, danced at the famous Cotton Club — described as the place where Broadway, Park Avenue, Hollywood and Harlem rubbed elbows . . . worked with Winnie and younger brother, Bobby in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1936 and with Duke Ellington’s Revue in 1937.


Tracks:

1. Sidnet Bechet and his New Orleans Feetwarmers-Preachin' Blues
2. Lil Johnson-Stavin' Chain (That Rockin' Swing)
3. Bessie Smith-Do Your Duty
4. Oscars Chicago Swingers-New Rubbin' On The Darned Old Thing
5. Lil Johnson-Press My Button (Ring My Bell)
6. Johnny Temple acc. by the Harlem Hamfats-Stavin' Chain
7. Merline Johnson (The YasYas Girl)-Don't You Make Me High
8. Lil Johnson-You Stole My Cherry
9. Bessie Smith-I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl
10. Coot Grant (Viola B. Wilson) and Kid Wesley Wilson-Get Off With Me
11. Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band-My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)
12. Grant & Wilson-Keep Your Hands Off My Mojo
13. Jelly Roll Morton-Winin' Boy
14. Lucille Bogan (Bessie Jackson)-Shave 'Em Dry (second version, Unissued)
15. Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan)-Barbeque Bess
16. Georgie White-I'll Keep Sittin' On It (If I Can't Selll It)

*download here*


Volume Two


Hayakawa, in his ground breaking essay on the nature of the blues, argues that mainstream popular songs tend to glamorize and idealize romance, while the lyrics of the blues deal with the subject on a much more realistic, down to earth level. However, in posing this polemic, Hayakawa overlooked what would have been the single biggest argument in his favor — the dirty blues, which describe the most basic aspect of human relations, intercourse itself, in a frank and open manner.
Even before the current rock era, wherein guitars serve as obvious phallic symbols and fornication is seemingly the sole subject of all lyricists, we find sexual subjects coming into popular music. The point of this album is to illustrate how sex, like drugs (see Stash ST1O1-106-117-118), was always part of the music scene. Until the ‘50s, however, one had to delve into the sounds of the various American subcultures to find these elements. But they were there all right, creeping up from the blues and into all other genres of the prerock era: dance music, personality and vocals, hillbilly and country music, and jazz.
An example of the latter, The Duck’s Yas-Yas opens this collection, much the same way it opened up the career of Duke Ellington’s fine trumpeter, Harold “Shorty” Baker. This track, like most on this album, is admittedly selected for it’s musical as much as it’s pornographic value. However, it’s metaphoric substitution of the term “Yas-Yas-Yas,” for an unmentionable part of the anatomy renders it suitable for inclusion. Again, like everything else on this album, it has never been issued on LP in this country (the one foreign LP it did turn up on being long out of print and our copy being a rare mint condition original 78).
From the metaphoric to the literal, Frankie and Johnny and Bye Bye Cherry are performed by an unknown singing cowboy who does a first rate impersonation of then rising western star Gene Autry (EDITOR'S NOTE, 2015: These recordings actually are Autry.). He performs these thoroughly filthy ballads with the heartfelt sincerity that was always Autry’s trademark, singing “bye bye” to his girlfriend’s “cherry” like a French soldier bidding “au revoir” to his “cherie.”
Next comes the first of two versions of the pornographic classic, Shave ‘Em Dry (aka I’m Gonna Shave You Dry). These provide the exact, 180 degrees opposite of the idealized love celebrated by tin pan alley tunesmiths. Usually, most performers of the erotic blues prefer to use humor and double entendres. For instance, the merchandise described in If I Can’t Sell It, I’ll Keep Sittin’ on It, Before I Give It Away (heard on Stash 117) that turns out to be a chair (ha-ha!) and the “thing” that Ukelele Ike takes out in Take Out That Thing, turns out to be an insurance policy (take out a policy — get it?). On the other hand, Lucille Bogan and Walter Roland, the performers of both versions of both versions of Shave ‘Em Dry, and Claude Hopkins, their great jazz pianist, who leads his band through It’s Too Big Papa, prefer their entendres single, and explicitly so.
Take Out That Thing also illustrates how the “party” (meaning dirty) record market used superstar talent on it’s way up (such as an unnamed cowboy heard elsewere in this collection) and down, meaning Cliff Edwards. The once major vaudeville headliner and movie star was in fact reduced to recording pornography inbetween comebacks (in one of which he supplied the voice of “Jimminy Cricket,” in Walt Disney’s Pinnochio) to pay for his divorces and drugs.
We can’t be sure which of the great philosophers was the first to use the familiar felis catus as a code-word for the female sex organ, but Benjamin Franklin, who said “All cats are grey at night,” has to be somewhere in the running. In songwriting then, a surefire way to keep your audience amused is to gravitate between referring to the animal and the orifice. George Gershwin penned a tune late in his life called “Here Pussy Pussy Pussy Pussy . . .“ (supposedly Gertrude Stein’s pet name for Alice B. Toklas) in which he clearly means the house cat. But the Light Crust Doughboy’s Pussy Pussy Pussy, is open to either interpretation as is packed with great jazz solos besides. On the other hand, Pussy, by the up and coming British bandleader, Harry Roy, utilizes a strictly sexual connotation of the term (Roy being a sort of British alloy of Ted Lewis and Cab Calloway who not only jumped around a lot in front of his band, but played clarinet and alto, sang loudly and tap-danced). Not included in this album is Duke Ellington’s classic instrumental feature for Johnny Hodges, ultimately renamed Warm Valley but with an original title that listeners should be able to infer by now.
Somebody’s Been Ridin’ My Black Gal and She Squeezed My Lemon are by the under-recorded Chicago bluesman Art(hur) McKay, and further demonstrate the use of the substitution of an ambiguous slang term for a four letter word. Art could, in fact, be referring to any number of anatomical members as his “lemon.” The phrase “riding,” means “love making,” thereby giving new significance to the ‘30s movie gangster cliche “Take him for a ride!”
Clara Smith’s It’s Tight Like That (the phrase “tight” conveying a delightfully succinct reference to either sex, drugs or money) and the Hokum Boys’ It Feels So Good are variations on the same theme, the latter actually being more of a paraphrase of the former, which was a big race-record hit as recorded by Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Noone and others. Clara Smith is often described as having the nicest voice of all the Smith girls as well as the most interesting jazz accompaniments, and It Feels So Good spotlights the great jazz and blues guitar pioneer Lonnie Johnson and the composer of the popular standard I Ain’t Got Nobody, Spencer Williams.
A Bird In The Hand (as it was renamed on a later party-label records issue) depicts musically an X-rated male-female encounter set in a doctor’s office It’s very much a period piece (no pun intended) that uses then-prevalent radio techniques to paint a mental picture of such a scene. All in all, it reminds me of a story told by the mother of a friend of mine, who remembered, growing up in the ‘30s, the village idiot, who would read “girlie” magazines (referred in those innocent times as “f. .k Books”) to himself while chanting over and over “oh boy! oh boy! oh boy . .
We end with a second version of Shave ‘Em Dry, perhaps the single most explicit tune ever put on vinyl. The main thrust of the late ‘50s rock revolt to take this brand of material, performed with considerably less excitement, and move it out of the ghetto subculture and into the dominant children’s pop music scene — where it has remained ever since.

—Will Friedwald, 1983


Tracks:

1. Eddie Johnson and his Crackerjacks-The Duck's Yas Yas
2. unknown cowboy-Frankie And Johnny (dirty parody)
3. possibly Walter Roland; Lucille Bogan, aka Bessie Jackson-I'm Gonna Shave You Dry
4. Cliff Edwards, aka ''Ukelele Ike''-Take Out That Thing
5. The Light Crust Doughboys-Pussy, Pussy, Pussy
6. Art McKay-Somebody's Been Ridin' My Black Gal
7. The Clovers-Darktown Strutter's Ball (dirty parody, The Rotten C...S..ker's Ball)
8. Claude Hopkins and his Band-It's Too Big Papa
9. The Hokum Boys, Lonnie Johnson and Spencer Williams-It Feels So Good
10. unknown cowboy-Bye Bye Cherry (dirty parody of Bye Bye Blackbird)
11. Harry Roy and his Bat Club Boys-Pussy
12. Art McKay-She Squeezed My Lemon
13. possibly Butterbeans and Susie Edwards-A Bird In The Hand (real title unknown)
14. Clara Smith-It's Tight Like That
15. Bessie Jackson-Shave 'Em Dry

*download here*

EDDIE VINSON Cherry Red Blues

Thursday, April 9, 2015


The last three LPs posted at Scratchy Attic are from the "King Blues Master Series" which appeared during 1970 and 1971, very late in the label's initial run. In 1979 Gusto revamped many titles from the original series as expanded two record sets of which this excellent collection of classic sides by Eddie ("Cleanhead") Vinson is an example.

Liner notes (by William "Hoss" Allen of WLAC Radio, Nashville) are as follows:


EDDIE “CLEANHEAD” VINSON

The simpler art forms are often the most enduring. So it is that in the broad field of American music today, the simple blues exercises an influence that can only be termed tremendous.
Record companies have met this growing awareness and King Records has accepted the challenge head-on with its Blues Masters Series. This album features Eddie Vinson, or as he was affectionately known, “Mr. Cleanhead.”
There is little divergence in Vinson’s blues style. It’s authentic, rooted in the traditions of the Southwestern part of the United States, and reflects the Kansas City style of presentation.
Eddie was born in Houston fifty years ago and began his career playing in and around that large area. After a stint with Cootie Williams, he formed his own group in 1945. All through this period, Vinson was not only developing his unique style of blues singing, but also had acquired an earmarking sound with his alto sax playing.
In 1947 he recorded his greatest hit, “KIDNEY STEW BLUES”, and was immediately booked into the Zanzibar, one of the showplaces on Broadway. In subsequent years, with the decline of the band business, Vinson was one of the first to cut his aggregation and continued to tour extensively. He always, however, augmented his group into a large band for recording dates, and this is the Eddie Vinson you hear on this album.
His blues style is special — combining the “shout” technique with his own tricks of phrasing such as you will distinguish on “MY BIG BRASS BED IS GONE.” Like all great blues singers, however, he treasures one attitude which is more important than any stylistic trick; that is, he sings from the heart. Take note of “I NEED YOU” and “PERSON TO PERSON.” There is another element. That is the song material. It is the stuff of life. It is the endlessly repeated story of love or unfaithfulness, of tragedy and pathos. Dig “ASHES ON MY PILLOW.” Vinson can “go to church” with his shouting style with equal eloquence, as he shows so clearly on “FEATHERBED MAMA” and “GOOD BREAD ALLEY.”
As to instrumentation, the arrangements are marked by soulful and inventive passages packed with color and mood with a relaxed feeling that will, in turn, relax the listener.
It’s sort of like “the hair of the dog”, try some blues when you’re blue, especially Eddie Vinson’s brand.


Volume One

Tracks:

1. Cherry Red
2. Ashes On My Pillow
3. Kidney Stew
4. Queen Bee Blues
5. Somebody Done Stole My Cherry Red
6. Lonesome Train
7. Person To Person
8. My Big Brass Bed Is Gone
9. Rainy Mornin' Blues
10. I Need You Tonight
11. Featherbed Mama
12. Good Bread Alley

*download here*

Volume Two

1.I'm Gonna Wind Your Clock
2.I'm Weak But Willing
3.No Good Woman Blues
4.Jump And Grunt
5.Big Mouth Gal
6.The People On My Party Line
7.Peas And Rice
8.I Trusted You (But You Double-Crossed Me)
9.Bald Headed Blues
10. If You Don't Think I'm Sinkin'

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WYNONIE HARRIS Good Rockin' Blues

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Another in the great "King Blues Master Series" and a great companion to "Risky Blues" is this 1970 collection of postwar rhythm & blues by the fantastic Wynonie Harris (biographies of Harris are available on Wikipedia here and Allmusic here). The majority of King's output aimed at the postwar "race" market was the type of R&B exemplified by Harris, and most of the LPs in this series focused on this kind of material.

The liner notes (by William "Hoss" Allen of WLAC Radio, Nashville) are as follows:


You may be strong as a lion, you may be humble as a lamb.
You may be strong as a lion, you may be humble as a lamb.
Just take your mind of f your wife and put it on Uncle Sam.

                                                 Roosevelt Sykes, November 1941

As the 1940’s began, the most significant event in the lives of all Americans, black and white, took place on December 7, 1941. The requirements of the armed forces and of the industry which supported the war effort brought about population shifts, changes in social patterns and the transplanting of musical tastes.
Blues recording very nearly came to a halt in the early forties because of the war, the shortage of shellac, a musicians strike and because the national effort, which the war required, dominated the energies of the black community.
It was during the war that the term “race” was changed to “rhythm and blues”, a phrase which is useful because it describes a category of music wide enough to cover most of the many styles originally listed as “race”.
Out of this grouping jumped Wynonie “Mr. Blues” Harris, sometimes also known as “Sugar (Peppermint) Cane” and the “Mississippi Mockingbird’”, even though he was born in Omaha, Nebraska and as far as anyone knows never was in Mississippi unless it was for a show date.
In his later years Wynonie made his home in Oakland, California, and it is believed he was around sixty-one or sixty-two years at the time of his death. He made his way up in the music world as a “buck-dancer”. And in the early thirties people who knew Wynonie referred to him as “Sugar Cane”. He picked up the “Mississippi Mockingbird” tag when he joined the Lucky Millender band, one of the great music groups of the middle and late forties. He also recorded his first national hit with Lucky, WHO THREW THE WHISKEY IN THE WELL? Then came GOOD ROCKIN’ TONIGHT, GOOD MORNING JUDGE and BLOODSHOT EYES.
These all came, after the recording ban was lifted in 1945 and with the advent of the disc-jockey as an important element in the entertainment field, records began to reach a greater segment of the public. In areas where there were heavy Negro populations, radio programs playing R and B began to appear.
Wynonie Harris and many other great blues artists sired some of the best blues of the era. Some of Wynonie’s best have already been mentioned but for the whalloping, shouting happy style of blues so reminiscent of Harris, grab an earful of GRANDMA PLAYS THE NUMBERS or ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS ROCK. Wynonie was a “shouter” most of the way, but members of the Lucky Millender band I’ve talked with say he could handle a ballad with the best of them when he felt like
As Melvin Moore, now an executive with Brunswick Records, and who followed Wynonie on the Millender band show with his sister, Anisteen Allen, says, “Wynonie was a mess, man, all he wanted to do was rock ‘em and roll ‘em.”
So Starday-King, from its Blues Master Series, gives you a “mess” of blues featuring Wynonie Harris.


Includes jacket and label scans.

Tracks:

1. Good Rockin' Tonight
2. I Feel That Old Age Coming On
3. Bloodshot Eyes
4. Rot Gut
5. Mr. Dollar
6. Grandma Plays The Numbers
7. Good Morning Judge
8. Adam Come And Get Your Rib
9. All She Wants To Do Is Rock
10. Quiet Whiskey
11. Lovin' Machine
12. Tremblin'

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PAUL HOWARD & RALPH WILLIS Faded Picture Blues

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


While yesterday's post featured "Risky Blues", an LP on the "King Blues Master Series" comprised mostly of postwar rhythm & blues, today attention is turned to a collection from the same series featuring two fairly obscure Piedmont singer/guitarists. Both artists performed and recorded under many pseudonyms. Edward P. Hughes recorded for King as Paul Howard and was also known as Carolina Slim, Country Paul, Jammin' Jim, and Lazy Slim Jim. Ralph Willis also appears record as Alabama Slim, Washboard Pete, and Sleepy Joe. Wikipedia biographies of Hughes and Willis are here and here.
The original King edition of this album was first released in 1970 but, as with "Risky Blues", the present copy is a Gusto edition dated 1976. For some inexplicable reason, the latter jacket omits the liner notes; fortunately I was able to find a scan of the original King back slick and have included it in the download folder. The notes from that scan (by William "Hoss" Allen of WLAC Radio, Nashville) are as follows:


There are several things immediately evident on listening to the recorded efforts of Paul Howard and Ralph Willis. First, the similarity of the beat, “a flat slap” effect peculiar to the Carolinas or in “geechee” country. Secondly, in the inflection of the lyrics. This is odd because Paul Howard died in his early twenties and Ralph Willis did not record these sides until he was in his late forties.
They were both however, from “geechee” or “gulla” country. This is a rather isolated strip extending from Savannah Georgia to the Carolinas The area was settled, according to the only research available, probably by Angolese slaves or those brought from the Angola province of West Africa. Angola became “gulla” to the black man, a pigeon language of French, and English with African intonations. Both “gulla” and “geechee” are popular slang terms in the aforementioned area. “Geechee” is probably the best known and while it is undoubtedly derived from “gulla”, nobody seems to know why or when. Paul Howard and Ralph Willis, however, were both steeped in the tradition of Spanish moss, dirt yards, and rickety shacks.
Their blues themes don’t differ too much from the Delta Blues, except in the rhythm patterns which never vary. There are numerous changes in the “goonbay” beats of the Bahamas and the “calypso” of the West Indies but the “geechee” seems to lay down a rhythm pattern and never wanders from it.
Both of the artists traveled extensively up and down the Atlantic Coast but as far as is known their paths never crossed. It is interesting to see how their approach and treatment of certain tunes are so much alike. Take for instance Paul Howard’s “SIDEWALK BOOGIE” and Ralph Willis’s “GONNA HOP ON DOWN THE LINE”. Paul Howard is continually upset with the fact that his “baby is gone” or that “he has to die”. These are the dominant simplicities in “ONE MORE TIME”, “AIN’T IT SAD”, and “YOUR PICTURE DONE FADED”. On the other hand, Ralph Willis does wander lyrically to his vocal demise about how his woman “throws away his money” in “WHY DID YOU DO IT” and infidelity in “DOORBELL BLUES”.
Musicians, especially black, have long been known for their sense of fair play and were never reluctant to “borrow” from some other artist’s rendition. So it’s especially interesting to hear how these two interpret predominantly public domain tunes. In other words, the relationship of the black listener to the music that he regards as “his” has always been a very deep and personal one no matter who the artist how the interpretation might have traveled from the original.
Call it what you like, back-door, cotton-field, or down-home blues. If you are a real ‘bed-rock’ blues fan, I guarantee that Paul Howard and Ralph Willis will give you an extensive journey and convincing experience into what the blues really are.


Tracks:

1. Paul Howard-Your Picture Done Faded
2. Paul Howard-Sidewalk Boogie
3. Paul Howard-Black Cat Trail
4. Paul Howard-Mother Dear Blues
5. Ralph Willis-Gonna Hop On Down The Line
6. Ralph Willis-Do Right
7. Paul Howard-Since I Seen Your Smiling Face
8. Paul Howard-I'll Never Walk In Your Door
9. Paul Howard-One More Time
10. Paul Howard-Ain't It Sad
11. Ralph Willis-Door Bell Blues
12. Ralph Willis-Why'd You Do It

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