Saturday, March 19, 2016
While rummaging through a box of cassettes I've hung onto through the years, I ran across a tape that brought me a pang of nostalgia. It was a Maxell XL II-S 100 onto which I had taped both sides of 18 of my favourites of the Buff Bluebird 78s I had at that point managed to latch onto. I taped them about fifteen years ago, before computers had entered my life to any real extent, when with the exception of a few CDs that I enjoyed, the majority of my music consumption was an analog affair. At that time I was living between the family farmhouse outside Chatham and an apartment in the west end of Windsor, Ontario, where I was regularly playing the bars, or anywhere that would let me bombard patrons with my repertoire of old time, western swing, country, jazz, blues, or anything else I could figure out by listening to the hoard of old records I had gathered. I would often tape material from old records to either play in my truck, trade with other collectors, or to hand out at my shows to both proselytize the music and make people remember the weirdo who gave them a tape and perhaps come out and see me again!
I made these tapes directly without any processing, although I did learn that running the signal back to mono on 78s (or mono LPs) made the results sound MUCH quieter (a concept that many in the digital age seem to unfortunately have not yet embraced). For 78's I used a BSR changer with a ceramic cart run through an unnamed 50s vintage mono tube preamp, and despite the humbleness of the setup, the results stand up fairly well today. Therefore I have transferred the cassette as is, applying only a slight bit of noise reduction to the tape hiss, but in no way have I declicked or denoised the actual 78 signal. Looking back, I really was living a charmed life, able to spend countless free hours lounging around a country house, listening to 78s long into the night, smoking a pipe with my feet up, and learning the material off them to play to appreciative crowds in some of the last of Southwestern Ontario's old school smoky dives...
Some of the performers here are well-known, some not, and some of these tracks are widely available on legit reissues while some seem not to have circulated in digital form. A few notes about the artists and the tunes follow, with more detail given for more obscure performers.
Jesse Rodgers: Jesse was Jimmie Rodgers' first cousin and was groomed as his successor in the years following the "Yodeling Brakeman's" death. He sort of sounds like a much "croonery" version of his famous cousin. Biography here.
Fred Kirby: Kirby was a veteran country singer and children's TV host who is best remembered for his 1945 topical song "Atomic Power". "My Heavenly Sweetheart" is fairly typical sentimental fare, while "My Man" is anything but. While it was not entirely strange for singers on old recordings to sing from the perspective of the opposite sex (Sara Carter often did), I can't help but think this song may have been recorded with the intention of eliciting a few snickers around the jukebox. Biography here.
Blue Sky Boys: "The Dying Boy's Prayer" is also known by its first line "Companions Draw Nigh".
Bill Boyd and His Cowboy Ramblers: I use the term "hillbilly" loosely to describe this collection, it includes a range of rural North American styles popular during the depression from old time ballads and fiddle tunes to cowboy songs and western swing.
Jimmie Revard and His Oklahoma Playboys: More great early western swing. Biography here.
McClendon Brothers with Georgia Dell: From "Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South" by Patrick Huber (2008):
Ralph Rupert McClendon (1907-76). Native of Alabama (probably born in Randolph County); husband of Adelle Bassett (who performed under the name Georgia Dell); worked as a weaver in a LaGrange, Georgia, textile mill, along with his father and several of his siblings; fiddler and singer for the McClendon Brothers with Georgia Dell, which recorded a total of nineteen selections at RCA-Victor field sessions in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Rock Hill, South Carolina, between 1936 and 1938.
From "Country Music Records : A Discography, 1921-1942" by Tony Russell (2004):
McCLENDON BROTHERS [WITH GEORGIA DELL]
McClendon Brothers With Georgia Dell: Rupert McClendon; prob. Buster McClendon. g; Georgia Dell, v-3.
Sunday, October 11, 1936
02507-1 The Story Of Love Divine -3 BB B-6740
02509-1 Gamblin’ On The Sabbath -3 BB B-6740
Monroe Brothers: Credited on the label as "Charles and Bill" (!).
Rambling Rangers: From "Country Music Records : A Discography, 1921-1942" by Tony Russell (2004):
Curtis Streets, Edward Conway, Norwood Conway, v trio; acc. prob. one of them, g.
Thursday, February 18, 1937
07141-1 Wyoming For Me BB B-6914, MW M-7366
07142-i Memory Lane BB 8-6914, MW M-7366
Delmore Brothers: "No One" is a Delmore original that seems reminiscent of Albert E. Brumley's "Rank Strangers".
Jordan Brothers: From "Country Music Records : A Discography, 1921-1942" by Tony Russell (2004):
JORDAN BROTHERS (THOMAS, CHALMERS & HERSHEL)
Thomas Jordan, md/v; ChalmersJordan, g/v; Hershel Jordan, g/v
Monday, August 2, 1937
011837-1 Georgia Mountain Home BB B-7123
011838-1 Goin’ Back Home BB B-7235
011839-1 When We Put On An Old Pair Of Shoes BB B-7235
011841-1 An Answer To Birmingham Jail BB B-7123, MW M-7655
To my ears, the Jordan Brothers sound highly influenced by the Callahan Brothers.
Arthur Smith Trio: The Arthur Smith Trio was of course Fiddlin' Arthur Smith accompanied by Alton and Rabon Delmore. A pairing of fiddle tunes and a pair of sides with vocals are included here.
J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers: Two spiritual sides, one a departed mother adaptation of "Lamplighting Time In The Valley". Although not credited on the label, the vocal on "Lamp Lighting Time In Heaven" is by Leonard Stokes, while "I'm Living The Right Life Now" (later popularized by Molly O'Day) is a vocal duet by Leonard Stokes and George Morris.
Bob Hartsell: From "Country Music Records : A Discography, 1921-1942" by Tony Russell (2004):
Bob Hartsell v/y acc. unknown md-1; unknown g.
Monday, February 15, 1937
07005-1 I’m A Handsome Man -1 BB B-7439, MW M-7169
07006-1 Rambling Freight Train Yodel BB B-7439, MW M-7169
Bob Hartsell also recorded as a member of The Three Tobacco Tags on two 1938 sessions.
The Rambling Duet: In addition to the many recordings by the Dixon Brothers, Howard Dixon cut several sides with Frank Gerald, a fellow East Rockingham, N.C. mill worker.
The last four selections were releases on Bluebird's Canadian line, recorded in Montreal.
Smiling Dick: Little seems to know about "Smiling Dick, The Saskatchewan Roamer". The present disc is the first of his four 78s released on Bluebird, all in 1936. In "Cogitations II" by Victor P. Epp (2005) a chapter written by the author's father, Peter W. Epp (1887-1983) recounts his early life in rural Saskatchewan and contains following passage:
"In the spring of 1913 the Funks bought a farm in the Gouldtown district, where the Bengt Rosetts later lived. That is where Dick Funk or Smiling Dick the Saskatchewan Roamer grew up. As a young man he sang, yodeled and played his guitar over a radio station in Saskatoon, and later in Calgary. This was during the hungry thirties."
The text also recounts that the elder Epp married into the Funk family.
Tex Cochrane: Nova Scotian Tex Cochrane made sides issued on Bluebird in late 1930s at the time when the label's output was dominated by Wilf Carter and Hank "The Yodeling Ranger" Snow. Biography here.
1. Be Nobody's Darling But Mine (A)
2. (In A Little Shanty) Hummin' To My Honey (B)
Jesse Rodgers, Singing With Guitar (B-6066) 1935
3. My Man (A)
4. My Heavenly Sweetheart (B)
Fred Kirby, Singing and Yodeling With Guitar (B-6597) 1936
5. The Dying Boy's Prayer (A)
6. I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail (B)
Blue Sky Boys (Bill And Earl Bolick), Singing With Mandolin And Guitar (B-6621) 1936
7. An Old Water Mill By A Waterfall - Fox Trot (A)
8. Show Me The Way To Go Home - Fox Trot (B)
Bill Boyd and His Cowboy Ramblers, With Singing (B-6715) 1936
9. Ride 'Em Cowboy - Fox Trot (A)
10. Triflin' Gal - Fox Trot (B)
Jimmie Revard and His Oklahoma Playboys, Singing By Eddie Whiteby (B-6739) 1936
11. The Story Of Love Divine (A)
12. Gamblin' On The Sabbath (B)
McClendon Brothers with Georgia Dell, Singing With Guitar (B-6740) 1936
13. I Am Thinking Tonight Of The Old Folks (A)
14. Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms (B)
Monroe Brothers (Charles and Bill), Singing With Guitar And Mandolin (B-6773) 1936
15. Wyoming For Me (A)
16. Memory Lane (B)
Rambling Rangers (Curtis Streets, Edward and Norwood Conway), Singing With Guitar (B-6914) 1937
17. Take Away This Lonesome Day (A)
18. No One (B)
Delmore Brothers (Alton And Rabon), Singing With Guitars (B-6998) 1937
19. An Answer To Birmingham Jail (A)
20. Georgia Mountain Home (B)
Jordan Brothers (Thomas, Chalmers and Hershel), Singing With Mandolin And Guitars (B-7123) 1937
21. Beautiful Mabel Clare (A)
22. Beautiful Memories (B)
Arthur Smith Trio, Singing With Violin And Guitars (B-7203) 1937
23. Goin' Back Home (A)
24. When We Put On An Old Pair Of Shoes (B)
Jordan Brothers (Thomas, Chalmers and Hershel), Singing With Mandolin And Guitars (B-7235) 1937
25. Lamp Lighting Time In Heaven (A)
26. I'm Living The Right Life Now (B)
J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers, Singing With Mandolin And Guitar (B-7412) 1938
27. I'm A Handsome Man (A)
28. Rambling Freight Train Yodel (B)
Bob Hartsell, Singing With Yodelling And Guitar (B-7439) rec. 1937, rel. 1938
29. Indian Creek (A)
30. Smith's Breakdown (B)
Arthur Smith Trio, Violin And Guitars (B-7511) rec. 1937, rel. 1938
31. Prisoner's Plea (A)
32. There's A Place In My Home For Mother (B)
The Rambling Duet (Frank Gerald and Howard Dixon), Singing With Guitars (B-7574) 1938
33. I Long For The Old Home Again (A)
34. The Girl Who Played Injun With Me (B)
Smiling Dick ("The Saskatchewan Roamer"), Singing And Yodeling With Guitar (B-4609) 1936
35. Goin' Home In The Twilight (A)
36. I Miss You Dear Old Dad (B)
Tex Cochrane "The Yodeling Trail Rider", Singing With Guitar (B-4638) 1938