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Playlist: Steve c/o Ernest Franz's Portfolio

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Blues Unlimited #128 - Blues, Bad Luck N' Trouble: A Tribute to Arhoolie Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Recently, Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records marked their 50th anniversary. We'll celebrate by playing selections from three classic LPs from their catalog that were issued in the early to mid 1960s — some of which has never been reissued since then. A celebration of the Arhoolie label, on the next Blues Unlimited.

Bu128_large_image_small Recently, Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records marked their 50th anniversary. We'll celebrate by playing selections from three classic LPs from their catalog that were issued in the early to mid 1960s -- some of which has never been reissued since then. A celebration of the Arhoolie label, on the next Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #133 - Mississippi Blues Masters 1926-1931

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In this episode of Blues Unlimited, we take a look at a Who's Who of early Blues masters that lived and worked in the great state of Mississippi. All-time classics from Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and more. (Part 1 of 2)

Bu133_large_image_small In this episode of Blues Unlimited, we crank up the time machine and put it in high gear to go way, way, back for a program dedicated to some of the early Blues masters that hailed from the great state of Mississippi. We aim the spotlight on some of the true giants of the early days of Country Blues, like Mississippi John Hurt, Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, and Son House, as well as some of the lesser known figures like Ishmon Bracey, Rube Lacy, Garfield Akers, Geeshie Wiley, Blind Joe Reynolds, and Kid Bailey (who, according to some researchers, may possibly be a pseudonym hiding the identity of Blues legend Willie Brown).

Related Programs:



Blues Unlimited #134 - Mississippi Blues Masters 1931-1944

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We pick up where we left off last time, with a look at some of the great Mississippi Blues Masters who worked and recorded during the 1930s and the 1940s. (Part 2 of 2)

Bu134_large_image_small In this episode of Blues Unlimited, we pick up where we left off last time, with a show dedicated to profiling some of the magnificent Blues Masters that lived, worked, and recorded in the Magnolia State. In our previous episode, we started in the late 1920s and managed to work our way up to the early 1930s, and that's exactly where we continue this time around. Great, rare, and classic performances from Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Willie "Poor Boy" Lofton, Big Joe Williams, Freddie Spruell, Johnnie Temple, Isaiah Nettles, Sonny Boy Nelson, Bukka White, Tommy McClennan, and more.

Related Programs:



Blues Unlimited #135 - Blues from the Outer Limits

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, join us as we explore the outer reaches of the Blues Universe. From fife and drum band music out of Georgia and Mississippi, to musicians who play quills, pan pipes and homemade instruments, one string guitar players from Florida to Los Angeles, and quick-witted street musicians from Ann Arbor and San Antonio, join us for Blues from the Outer Limits.

Bu135_large_image_small In this special edition of Blues Unlimited, we pull out all the stops and dig through our archives in search of Blues musicians that play one-stringed instruments, Fife and Drum Band music from the Hill Country of Mississippi, Blues musicians that play pan pipes and trombones (no, not at the same time) as well as a variety of home made instruments. From cult favorites like Bongo Joe to the crowd-pleasing one-stringed boogie riffs of Lonnie Pitchford to the celestial sounds of Gospel singer Washington Phillips, we leave no holds barred on this one for a show dedicated to the odd, the unique, the bizarre and the downright wonderfully weird into one utterly delightful package. Includes rare and classic performances by One String Sam and Willie Joe Duncan & His Unitar, Othar Turner, Jesse Fuller (the one-man-band and his homemade ‘fotdella’); perennial favorites Hezekiah and the Houserockers; Ann Arbor, Michigan street performing legend Shakin' Jake Woods, and many more.

Blues Unlimited #142 - A Tribute to Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music"

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In this episode of Blues Unlimited, we've culled through all the great Blues and Gospel recordings from the legendary LP set issued on the Folkways label in 1952. It was all painstakingly compiled by one man -- a record collector and eccentric genius, Harry Smith. A tribute to the "Anthology of American Folk Music," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu142_large_image_small In 1952, Folkways Records issued the "Anthology of American Folk Music." A set of 3 volumes, each one consisting of two LPs, it became the ground breaking and influential spark that primed the 1950s and the early 1960s for the Folk and Blues revivals, not to mention having inspired countless musicians and fans alike. It literally opened the doors to an almost forgotten universe of Folk, Blues, Country, Gospel, and Cajun music that had been recorded in the United States during the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was the work of one man, an eccentric record collector, filmmaker, artist, magician, philosopher, bohemian, scholar, and ethnomusicologist Harry Smith. In this episode of Blues Unlimited, we honor the "Anthology of American Folk Music" and the genius of Harry Smith, by culling through the Anthology's Blues and Gospel recordings to pay tribute to one of the most influential reissue albums of all time.

Blues Unlimited #145 - Play That Guitar 'Til It Smokes: A Tribute to Willie Johnson, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Perhaps one of the most underrated blues guitarists of all time, Willie Johnson is best known for his incendiary, firebrand work with Howlin' Wolf. Starting his recording career in 1951 – right along side the Wolf – he helped to define and shape the overall impact of those early recordings that put Wolf on the map. Join us for an extended tribute to blues guitarist Willie Johnson (Note: Part 1 of 2).

Bu145_large_image_small Blues guitarist Willie Johnson was born in Tate County, Mississippi in 1923. Showing a talent for guitar at an early age, he crossed paths with the Howlin' Wolf in the late 1930s. At the time, Wolf had been playing with Son House and Willie Brown, and everyone agreed the teenager showed promise. Wolf taught the young Willie Johnson what he knew – Wolf had been a student of the great Charley Patton once – and from that point on, the two musicians formed a musical bond that would last the better part of 20 years.

By the late 1940s, Wolf and Johnson were playing together in West Memphis, Arkansas, but it was Wolf's appearance over the airwaves of local radio station KWEM that would probably change his life forever. Acting on a tip from a friend one day, Sam Phillips, founder of the legendary Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue, tuned in to hear the Wolf, and immediately sought him out to record him. Soon, the Howlin' Wolf and his guitarist, Willie Johnson, were making records together at Sam's tiny studio.

The story doesn't quite end there, however. Due to a handshake understanding that the Bihari brothers had with Sam Phillips, a fight quickly erupted between themselves and the Chess brothers in the Windy City after Phillips sent some of the Wolf's first recordings to Chicago instead of into the waiting hands of the Bihari brothers in Los Angeles. Soon, Joe Bihari was in West Memphis, making his own recordings on Howlin' Wolf, while Sam Phillips continued to record him across the river in Memphis, sending the resulting masters up to Chicago.

In the meantime, Howlin' Wolf and Willie Johnson continued to make musical history together, as these early recordings from their career easily testify.

Part one leaves off in 1953, Memphis, with the Wolf making the trip to Chicago in 1954. Soon afterwards, he would come back down to West Memphis to retrieve Willie Johnson, where they would go on to make some of the most iconic recordings in blues history.... but we'll save that for Part Two. 

Blues Unlimited #146 - Play That Guitar 'Til It Smokes: A Tribute to Willie Johnson, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for Part 2 of our extended tribute to blues guitarist Willie Johnson. Once called the linchpin of Howlin' Wolf's band, Willie and the Wolf made some of the most iconic blues recordings of all time, starting in Memphis in 1951, and continuing on in Chicago in the mid 1950s.

Bu146_large_image_small Picking up where we left off last time, part two of our extended tribute to Willie Johnson finds us in Memphis sometime around the late summer or early fall of 1953, with Willie and the Wolf making some recordings at an undisclosed location (now thought to be Lester Bihari's Meteor studios). In 1954, the Wolf left for Chicago for good, leaving behind Willie Johnson for the time being. The following year, 1955, he and Sammy Lewis cut a couple of tough sides for Sam Phillips, which appeared on his Sun label. One side featured Sammy on the lead vocal, the other, Willie -- it would end up being the only single ever issued under his own name (and it was only for half of the record, at that!)

After Wolf's new lead guitar player, Jody Williams, unexpectedly quit on him one day, he drove back down to Memphis and retrieved Willie Johnson, who would rejoin forces with the Wolf on stage and in the studio. By January 1956, the two of them were making records again, cutting one of Wolf's most iconic --and recognizable -- songs of all time, "Smokestack Lightnin'."

Their renewed relationship proved to be short lived, however. By 1959, the Wolf had had enough of Willie's antics, not to mention his drinking (it was considered strictly taboo by the Wolf while the band was onstage), and Willie decided to call it quits. He still appeared on the Chicago scene from time to time, but never for very long.

Part two traces the remainder of Willie Johnson's career, starting where we left off last time -- in Memphis -- and on to Chicago, where he would be a driving force on some of Howlin' Wolf's most memorable recordings. Rare sides featuring Willie Johnson backing up other artists are also profiled, as are some "comeback" recordings produced by Michael Frank in 1988.

A hugely influential artist in his own right, Willie Johnson will perhaps always be remembered as the Wolf's first great guitar player, but his trademark gritty tone and firebrand fretwork will forever be remembered in the hearts and souls of blues fanatics all over the world.

Blues Unlimited #150 - Chicago Blues from Norman Dayron

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we aim the spotlight on two fine LPs that came out on the Takoma label back in 1980, all recorded in Chicago in the early 1960s by a young blues enthusiast named Norman Dayron.

Bu150_large_image_copy_small On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we aim the spotlight on two fine LPs that came out on the Takoma label back in 1980, all recorded in Chicago in the early 1960s by a young blues enthusiast named Norman Dayron.

Blues Unlimited #155 - We Three Kings: Muddy Waters, Leroy Foster, and Little Walter

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we aim the spotlight on a key transitional period in the history of post-war Chicago Blues, by focusing on the early recordings of three influential figures: Muddy Waters, "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, and Little Walter Jacobs.

Bu155_large_image_copy_3_small When Muddy Waters, "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, and Little Walter Jacobs all walked into a recording studio one day in January 1950, they did more than just make music. They captured a definitive moment in the transformation of post-war Chicago Blues. It all happened thanks to Monroe Passis and his Parkway label, which he got up and running in the Windy City sometime in late 1949 or during the first few days of 1950. He was already running a record distributorship, and like many other entrepreneurial spirits, decided that making records would be a good addition to his business.

Muddy, who at the time was under contract to Aristocrat Records (which would become the Chess label in a matter of months), was frustrated that Leonard Chess wouldn't record him with his "working band." Leonard apparently insisted on repeating the "stripped down" hit formula that had worked so well in the past, although a mid 1949 session with pianist Little Johnny Jones and guitarist/drummer Leroy Foster was a notable exception. Even though the results were outstanding, Chess -- for whatever reason -- chose not to repeat them. At least not initially.

Unfortunately, Muddy's playing for Parkway behind Leroy Foster and Little Walter on "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" a smashing update of an old Delta classic, had proved a bit too enthusiastic, and his presence on the ensuing 78rpm single was easily detected by Leonard. Consequently, Chess rushed Muddy into the studio to cut a remake, and when the record came out on the market, as Leonard had predicted, it killed the Parkway version. Losing the steam of a burgeoning hit record was too much for the tiny company, and Parkway folded a few months later, having sold off their masters to another company.

After Parkway, Leonard Chess relinquished his tight studio grip over Muddy, finally allowing Little Walter, and eventually Jimmy Rogers, to accompany him on recording sessions. Leroy Foster moved over to the J.O.B. operation, but it proved to be short lived. His final session, in October 1952, was eerily prophetic. "The Blues Is Killin' Me," one of the titles he recorded that day, would predate his death due to alcoholism some six years later, a few days short of his 34th birthday.

After Little Walter had a smash hit with his first single for the Chess brothers, "Juke," he formed his own group, and Jimmy Rogers would come to occupy the "linchpin" position in the Muddy Waters band during the busy, heady days of the 1950s.

For a brief period of time, three musicians made musical history, and the Parkway recordings of Leroy Foster, Little Walter Jacobs, and Muddy Waters will always be remembered as one of those definitive moments in the history of Chicago Blues.

Blues Unlimited #160 - Crossing Boundaries: The Blues in Country & Western and Rock & Roll

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we cross musical and cultural boundaries to find out where the Blues, Country & Western, and Rock & Roll music all meet and intersect with one another. A fascinating survey tracing the influence of the Blues over the decades -- from the Carter Family to Canned Heat.

Bu160_large_image_small Decades before Elvis Presley took a page from the songbook of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup song and sang the Blues on his debut single for the Sun record label in Memphis, many other folks had done that very same thing -- that is, incorporated elements of Blues into their repertoire. Starting with the Carter Family and the 'Yodeling Brakeman' Jimmie Rodgers, in this special episode of Blues Unlimited , we explore the boundaries where Folk, Country, and Rock 'n' Roll all meet and intersect with one another. And following in the wake of Elvis Presley, wind up squarely in the Blues Revival of the 1960s -- catching a bit of that 'British Fever' along the way from the religious zealotry that inspired some of the best of the British Invasion bands. A fascinating glimpse at the enormous impact the Blues has had on American roots music from the 1920s on up.

Blues Unlimited #162 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In this program, we pay tribute to Joe Bihari, the down home field recordings he made with Ike Turner, and the series of albums that came out in 1969, the "Anthology of the Blues," which collected that material for the very first time. (Part 1 of 3)

Bu162_large_image_small It all started in 1969 when two Blues enthusiasts, Frank Scott and Bruce Bromberg, took an extensive journey through the tape vaults at Modern Records, and compiled a series of albums -- twelve in all -- entitled the Anthology of the Blues. To a large extent, the series was based upon Joe Bihari's legendary field recordings made in the mid and deep south in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in places such as Atlanta, Memphis, Greenville, Little Rock, Clarksdale, and others. With the help of a young talent scout, Ike Turner, Joe Bihari made some of the most definitive down home Blues recordings in the post war era.

In this program, part one of three, we pay tribute to Joe Bihari, the down home field recordings he made with Ike Turner, and the series of albums that came out in 1969, the Anthology of the Blues, which collected that material for the very first time.

Part one aims the spotlight on the volumes devoted to Memphis and Mississippi, along with a handful of tracks from the LP devoted to the Deep South, plus some additional titles by Elmore James and Lightnin' Hopkins (who, as part of the series, also had LPs of their own).

And to see a complete, illustrated discography of the original LPs in the Anthology of the Blues series, please visit Stefan Wirz's website.


Also in this series:

Blues Unlimited #163 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 2

Blues Unlimited #164 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 3



Blues Unlimited #163 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In part two, we continue our extended look at the "Anthology of the Blues" with classic down home selections from the Arkansas and Detroit volumes, plus the mystery men of the "Deep South" LP and a handful of cuts from the California installment. (Part 2 of 3)

Bu163_large_image_small In part two, we continue our extended look at the "Anthology of the Blues" with classic down home selections from the Arkansas and Detroit volumes, plus the mystery men of the "Deep South" LP and a handful of cuts from the California installment.


Also in this series:

Blues Unlimited #162 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 1

Blues Unlimited #164 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 3



Blues Unlimited #164 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 3

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We wrap up our tribute to the "Anthology of the Blues" and the legendary field recordings of Joe Bihari with selections from the California, Texas, and West Coast volumes, plus a few cuts from B.B. King, Elmore James, and Lightnin' Hopkins. (Part 3 of 3)

Bu164_large_image_small We wrap up our tribute to the "Anthology of the Blues" and the legendary field recordings of Joe Bihari with selections from the California, Texas, and West Coast volumes, plus a few cuts from B.B. King, Elmore James, and Lightnin' Hopkins.


Also in this series:

Blues Unlimited #162 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 1

Blues Unlimited #163 - Greenville Smokin': The Legendary Field Recordings of Joe Bihari, Part 2



Blues Unlimited #167 - A Great Day in Aurora, Illinois

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On May 5th, 1937, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson and Robert Nighthawk made their recording debuts. Accompanied in the studio by Big Joe Williams, the recordings these three men made that day helped shape the future of Chicago Blues as we know it.

Bu167_large_image_alt_small Over the course of two days, Tuesday May 4th and Wednesday May 5th, 1937, the Bluebird Record label arranged for extensive recording sessions with some of their current artists, as well as a few new faces, in the Leland Hotel at Aurora, Illinois (just to the west of Chicago). While some familiar names recorded the first day, Tuesday May 4th (Tampa Red, Washboard Sam, The State Street Swingers), a couple of new ones recorded as well -- Merline Johnson (also known as the "Yas Yas Girl") and Charley West, along with John D. Twitty -- the last two being fairly obscure figures who made just a handful of titles.

For the sessions the following day, five bluesmen drove up from Saint Louis in a 1930 Model A Ford. Veteran musicians Walter Davis, Big Joe Williams, and Henry Townsend were among those coming back into the recording studio, and along with them came Robert Nighthawk (he was known as Robert Lee McCoy in the pre-war days) and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. The latter two were making their debuts as vocalists, courtesy of Walter Davis, who in addition to being a popular Bluebird recording artist, also worked part time as a talent scout. No one could've imagined, at the time, a more propitious recording debut.

Teaming up in the studio with Big Joe Williams, the music that Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson made together was not only a harbinger of the small combo trio format that would gain popularity in the early days of post-war Chicago Blues, Nighthawk would go on to influence virtually every slide guitar player that ever worked in the Windy City. As for Sonny Boy Williamson, his musical legacy is something that Blues musicians still draw upon to this very day, not only in terms of his influential harmonica playing, but his incredibly rich catalog of songs. It's almost impossible to think of a Blues artist who hasn't, at some point in their career, performed or recorded a cover version of one of his songs.

As for the title of this program, we've "borrowed" the phrase from the famous photograph, "A Great Day in Harlem." Certainly, Wednesday May 5th, 1937, was a great day in Aurora, Illinois, as two important and influential Blues musicians got their start, changing the course of Blues history as we know it.

Blues Unlimited #169 - East Coast Slide Guitar

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

When you think of slide guitar, you probably think of Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Son House -- but did you ever stop to think about some of the bottleneck practitioners from the Eastern Seaboard? Join us for an illuminating look at the art and artistry of East Coast slide guitar, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu169_large_image_2_small When you think of slide guitar, you probably think of Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Son House -- but did you ever stop to think about some of the bottleneck practitioners from the Eastern Seaboard? Join us for an illuminating look at the art and artistry of East Coast slide guitar, including classics from Blind Willie McTell, Curley Weaver, Barbecue Bob, Peg Leg Howell, Sylvester Weaver, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Blind Boy Fuller, Dan Pickett, John Lee, and more.


Other Programs on Slide Guitar You Will Enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #213 - Titans of Chicago Slide Guitar, 1946-1951
Blues Unlimited #214 - Titans of Chicago Slide Guitar, 1951-1953



Blues Unlimited #173 - In The Blues Quarters: Mid '60s Chicago Classics Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we profile some mid-1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll be hearing selections from "Chicago/The Blues/Today!," rare LP-only tracks off of "Blues Southside Chicago" (it was never issued in this country), and some recordings made by Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander in May 1964. (Part 1 of 3)

Bu173_large_image_new_small

In the waning days of 1965, noted author and scholar Sam Charters, along with his wife Ann, had been so caught up in the flurry of activity involved with producing a series of Blues recordings for the Vanguard label, that when they entered a little café looking to have a late breakfast one blistery morning, they hadn't even realized it was Christmas Day.

Although they ended up having a good laugh about it, what they didn't realize is that the subsequent LPs that came out the following year would go on to be something of a defining, high water mark in the history of Chicago Blues. Three LPs, each sporting the work of three different musicians from the Windy City -- all of them entitled Chicago/The Blues/Today! With just a few tracks on each album designed to give the artists a chance to shine just a little bit -- that's exactly what they did, by the way -- it gave much needed boosts to already promising careers, and in other cases, ended up giving some of them the opportunity to start out fresh after their careers had become sidetracked years earlier.

As for the recordings on Blues Southside Chicago, it too presented a cross-section of working musicians in the Windy City at the time, with such artists as Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Boyd, Johnny Young, Homesick James, Walter Horton, Poor Bob Woodfork, and Robert Nighthawk appearing for a few tantalizing moments each. The tapes later wound up in England, where they were issued by the good folks at Decca, with liner notes written by Mike Leadbitter. Another reissue on the Flyright label a dozen years later was basically it -- the tracks were never slated for release in America, and as far as we know, never made the transition to the digital age.

Last, but certainly by no means least, is the work of Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander (roughly: uhl-lah hel-AHN-dur). He was born in Sweden in 1919, and became a serious admirer of Jazz and Blues from an early age. In 1947, he authored his first book on the subject, Jazzens Väg (The Road of Jazz), which became the first Swedish language work on the subject. Starting in the late 1940s, Helander began sharing his love and knowledge of the music over the Swedish airwaves, with a series of regular Jazz programs. In 1961, he made a trip to the U.S., spending several months hearing and interviewing musicians from New York to Los Angeles. In May 1964, he came back with a hand-picked sound engineer, Hans Westman, determined to make a documentary record of the music. Later, when he returned with a hundred recordings by more than a dozen different musicians, it became the basis for a ground-breaking 21 part documentary series on Swedish Radio called I Blueskvarter, or simply, In The Blues Quarters.

Partly by design, Helander set out not to record the big names of the blues -- people like B.B. King or Muddy Waters -- but rather, the overlooked and the forgotten: elder statesmen who hadn’t recorded in a while, or in some cases, a few fresh new faces just starting out. Once in Chicago, he set up shop at the Sutherland Lounge on Drexel Avenue, and word quickly got out that blues musicians could come and record and make a few bucks.

As for the Swedish public, Helander's documentary radio series became the stuff of legend. For some listeners, it was the clarion call that led to a life-long interest in this strange and fascinating music -- as one listener put it, after hearing Walter Horton's amplified harmonica playing for the very first time, he shook his head in disbelief, thinking that it wasn't possible for a harmonica to sound like that. Tapes of the radio shows circulated amongst collectors for years, while three subsequent repeat broadcasts made it one of the most requested shows in Swedish broadcasting history. The tapes essentially lay dormant in the vaults for almost 35 years, before a proper reissue program finally gave them the recognition they so richly deserved, starting in 1999. 

It is the driving passion and love for the music that led people like Willie Dixon, Sam Charters and Olle Helander to make these recordings, and as we dive head first into the Blues Quarters of the mid-1960s Chicago Blues -- the first of a three part series -- we can only offer our sincere and undying gratitude to them.

 

Blues Unlimited #174 - In The Blues Quarters: Mid '60s Chicago Classics Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we profile some mid-1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll be hearing selections from "Chicago/The Blues/Today!," rare LP-only tracks off of "Blues Southside Chicago" (it was never issued in this country), and some recordings made by Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander in May 1964. (Part 2 of 3)

Bu174_large_image_small

In the waning days of 1965, noted author and scholar Sam Charters, along with his wife Ann, had been so caught up in the flurry of activity involved with producing a series of Blues recordings for the Vanguard label, that when they entered a little café looking to have a late breakfast one blistery morning, they hadn't even realized it was Christmas Day.

Although they ended up having a good laugh about it, what they didn't realize is that the subsequent LPs that came out the following year would go on to be something of a defining, high water mark in the history of Chicago Blues. Three LPs, each sporting the work of three different musicians from the Windy City -- all of them entitled Chicago/The Blues/Today! With just a few tracks on each album designed to give the artists a chance to shine just a little bit -- that's exactly what they did, by the way -- it gave much needed boosts to already promising careers, and in other cases, ended up giving some of them the opportunity to start out fresh after their careers had become sidetracked years earlier.

As for the recordings on Blues Southside Chicago, it too presented a cross-section of working musicians in the Windy City at the time, with such artists as Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Boyd, Johnny Young, Homesick James, Walter Horton, Poor Bob Woodfork, and Robert Nighthawk appearing for a few tantalizing moments each. The tapes later wound up in England, where they were issued by the good folks at Decca, with liner notes written by Mike Leadbitter. Another reissue on the Flyright label a dozen years later was basically it -- the tracks were never slated for release in America, and as far as we know, never made the transition to the digital age.

Last, but certainly by no means least, is the work of Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander (roughly: uhl-lah hel-AHN-dur). He was born in Sweden in 1919, and became a serious admirer of Jazz and Blues from an early age. In 1947, he authored his first book on the subject, Jazzens Väg (The Road of Jazz), which became the first Swedish language work on the subject. Starting in the late 1940s, Helander began sharing his love and knowledge of the music over the Swedish airwaves, with a series of regular Jazz programs. In 1961, he made a trip to the U.S., spending several months hearing and interviewing musicians from New York to Los Angeles. In May 1964, he came back with a hand-picked sound engineer, Hans Westman, determined to make a documentary record of the music. Later, when he returned with a hundred recordings by more than a dozen different musicians, it became the basis for a ground-breaking 21 part documentary series on Swedish Radio called I Blueskvarter, or simply, In The Blues Quarters.

Partly by design, Helander set out not to record the big names of the blues -- people like B.B. King or Muddy Waters -- but rather, the overlooked and the forgotten: elder statesmen who hadn’t recorded in a while, or in some cases, a few fresh new faces just starting out. Once in Chicago, he set up shop at the Sutherland Lounge on Drexel Avenue, and word quickly got out that blues musicians could come and record and make a few bucks.

As for the Swedish public, Helander's documentary radio series became the stuff of legend. For some listeners, it was the clarion call that led to a life-long interest in this strange and fascinating music -- as one listener put it, after hearing Walter Horton's amplified harmonica playing for the very first time, he shook his head in disbelief, thinking that it wasn't possible for a harmonica to sound like that. Tapes of the radio shows circulated amongst collectors for years, while three subsequent repeat broadcasts made it one of the most requested shows in Swedish broadcasting history. The tapes essentially lay dormant in the vaults for almost 35 years, before a proper reissue program finally gave them the recognition they so richly deserved, starting in 1999. 

It is the driving passion and love for the music that led people like Willie Dixon, Sam Charters and Olle Helander to make these recordings, and as we continue our exploration into the Blues Quarters of the mid-1960s Chicago Blues -- the second of a three part series -- we can only offer our sincere and undying gratitude to them. 

Blues Unlimited #175 - In The Blues Quarters: Mid '60s Chicago Classics Part 3

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we profile some mid-1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll be hearing selections from "Chicago/The Blues/Today!," rare LP-only tracks off of "Blues Southside Chicago" (it was never issued in this country), and some recordings made by Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander in May 1964. (Part 3 of 3)

Bu175_large_image_new_small

In the waning days of 1965, noted author and scholar Sam Charters, along with his wife Ann, had been so caught up in the flurry of activity involved with producing a series of Blues recordings for the Vanguard label, that when they entered a little café looking to have a late breakfast one blistery morning, they hadn't even realized it was Christmas Day.

Although they ended up having a good laugh about it, what they didn't realize is that the subsequent LPs that came out the following year would go on to be something of a defining, high water mark in the history of Chicago Blues. Three LPs, each sporting the work of three different musicians from the Windy City -- all of them entitled Chicago/The Blues/Today! With just a few tracks on each album designed to give the artists a chance to shine just a little bit -- that's exactly what they did, by the way -- it gave much needed boosts to already promising careers, and in other cases, ended up giving some of them the opportunity to start out fresh after their careers had become sidetracked years earlier.

As for the recordings on Blues Southside Chicago, it too presented a cross-section of working musicians in the Windy City at the time, with such artists as Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Boyd, Johnny Young, Homesick James, Walter Horton, Poor Bob Woodfork, and Robert Nighthawk appearing for a few tantalizing moments each. The tapes later wound up in England, where they were issued by the good folks at Decca, with liner notes written by Mike Leadbitter. Another reissue on the Flyright label a dozen years later was basically it -- the tracks were never slated for release in America, and as far as we know, never made the transition to the digital age.

Last, but certainly by no means least, is the work of Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander (roughly: uhl-lah hel-AHN-dur). He was born in Sweden in 1919, and became a serious admirer of Jazz and Blues from an early age. In 1947, he authored his first book on the subject, Jazzens Väg (The Road of Jazz), which became the first Swedish language work on the subject. Starting in the late 1940s, Helander began sharing his love and knowledge of the music over the Swedish airwaves, with a series of regular Jazz programs. In 1961, he made a trip to the U.S., spending several months hearing and interviewing musicians from New York to Los Angeles. In May 1964, he came back with a hand-picked sound engineer, Hans Westman, determined to make a documentary record of the music. Later, when he returned with a hundred recordings by more than a dozen different musicians, it became the basis for a ground-breaking 21 part documentary series on Swedish Radio called I Blueskvarter, or simply, In The Blues Quarters.

Partly by design, Helander set out not to record the big names of the blues -- people like B.B. King or Muddy Waters -- but rather, the overlooked and the forgotten: elder statesmen who hadn’t recorded in a while, or in some cases, a few fresh new faces just starting out. Once in Chicago, he set up shop at the Sutherland Lounge on Drexel Avenue, and word quickly got out that blues musicians could come and record and make a few bucks.

As for the Swedish public, Helander's documentary radio series became the stuff of legend. For some listeners, it was the clarion call that led to a life-long interest in this strange and fascinating music -- as one listener put it, after hearing Walter Horton's amplified harmonica playing for the very first time, he shook his head in disbelief, thinking that it wasn't possible for a harmonica to sound like that. Tapes of the radio shows circulated amongst collectors for years, while three subsequent repeat broadcasts made it one of the most requested shows in Swedish broadcasting history. The tapes essentially lay dormant in the vaults for almost 35 years, before a proper reissue program finally gave them the recognition they so richly deserved, starting in 1999. 

It is the driving passion and love for the music that led people like Willie Dixon, Sam Charters and Olle Helander to make these recordings, and as we wrap up our exploration into the Blues Quarters of the mid-1960s Chicago Blues -- the third of a three part series -- we can only offer our sincere and undying gratitude to them. 

Blues Unlimited #177 - Deep Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Son House

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for a tribute to the life and extraordinary music of Son House. His recordings from 1930 and the early 1940s not only helped define the very essence of Mississippi Delta Blues, but his live performances from the 1960s dazzled audiences during the Blues Revival. The life and music of Son House, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu177_large_image_small

Son House may very well have been the greatest Blues singer that ever lived. Mind you, there was nothing fancy or complicated about his music or his guitar playing. But coming, as it did, from the very heart of the Delta, there is something about his music that is irreducible. It is such a part and parcel of the very essence of what we call the Mississippi Delta Blues, that it is hard to imagine anyone breaking it down into pieces more fundamental or elemental than what Son House brought to the table. You wouldn’t necessarily point to his music and say, “There’s a good example of what Delta Blues sounds like.” His music is the Delta Blues, and he, in turn, is the very essence of what the Blues is all about.

A former preacher and farmer who spent some time at Parchman Farm, Son House was born in the early days of the 20th century, and took up guitar relatively late in life. It was, in fact, the push and pull between the earthly desires of his physical being, juxtaposed against the soul’s yearning for redemption that largely informs his music. For instance, in the early days, he was known to sing the Blues all night long in a juke joint on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, wipe the beer bottles off of a table, get up on it and start preaching a hellfire and brimstone sermon. After he was done, according to legend, he would get down off the table, and he and his musical partner Willie Brown would go right back on playing the Blues for the hungover -- and we can only imagine somewhat startled -- patrons.

He made his debut recording session in the summer of 1930 for Paramount Records, but thanks to the Great Depression, they pretty much went nowhere. Out of the four issued 78s, two of them are so rare that only one copy of each is known to exist. One of them was found lying on the floor of an abandoned home in rural Virginia, while the other one didn’t turn up until 2005 -- some 75 years after the fact! Of the other two, only a few copies of each are known to exist.

In 1941, Alan Lomax came knocking on behalf of the Library of Congress, and further sessions were held -- this time, with one of the most exciting groups of Delta musicians ever assembled -- Son House on guitar and vocals, Leroy Williams on harmonica, Fiddlin’ Joe Martin on mandolin, and the legendary Willie Brown on second guitar. Sadly, Lomax had to pack up his equipment after recording only a few numbers, thanks to interference from the local authorities who put a stop to the proceedings. The few numbers that Lomax did capture, however, are priceless.

Alan Lomax came around again in 1942, recording further numbers with Son House, this time just solo. One of the standout pieces was a version of “Jinx Blues,” a tune associated with his musical partners Charley Patton and Willie Brown.

Sometime after this, he relocated to Rochester, New York, where he worked as a chef, and also as a porter on the New York Central Railroad. In 1964, three young Blues enthusiasts -- Nick Perls, Phil Spiro, and Dick Waterman -- came knocking on his door after a journey involving some 16 states and 4,000 miles. He no longer owned a guitar, however, and wasn’t sure he could sing again. Alan Wilson, later to go onto fame and recognition with Canned Heat, was employed to help Son “relearn” his music. Son, apparently, appreciated the help and support that the young man gave him. When they played together, Wilson was never showy or flashy, only complementing what Son was already playing. And others observed that Alan’s presence had a calming effect on Son when he was with him -- perhaps due to the fact that when he wasn't playing his beloved steel-bodied National guitar, his hands trembled.

People who saw him live in concert tell stories about him going to another place -- essentially leaving the building -- during his intense, extended pieces -- with everyone drained and exhausted at the end of each show. Quite frankly, they wondered how he was able to pour every ounce of his energy, every part of his being, so totally into his music. And yet he did, time and time again. Thankfully, footage from that era has survived, and it gives us an ever so brief glimpse in to the sheer power and passion of his live performances.

His last “great” public appearance came in the summer of 1970, in London. It was supposed to be his final European tour prior to a proposed retirement. However, retirement didn’t really come for another five years. His last recordings were made in April 1975, and are housed at an archive at Indiana University, remaining unissued. He died some 13 years later, in October 1988, at the age of 86.

In a 1970 interview, John Lennon offered this observation -- that the Blues were a chair. He said:

“[The Blues] are not a design for a chair, or a better chair... it is the first chair. It is a chair for sitting on, not chairs for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.”

Although John had the right idea, he may have missed the mark just slightly when choosing his metaphor. The Blues aren’t so much a chair, as they are, perhaps, a house. 

Or in this case, Son House.

It goes without saying that Blues singers like Son House only come along once. And fortunately for us, we have his incredible body of recorded work that lives on. Join us then, as we celebrate the life and music of one of the greatest Blue singers that ever lived.

Blues Unlimited #178 - Lower Chattahoochee Valley Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore the legendary field recordings of George Mitchell from the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley of southwestern Georgia and southeastern Alabama. An area historically overlooked by Blues researchers, his recordings are priceless treasures of a region steeped in rich musical culture.

Bu178_large_image_copy_small George Mitchell stumbled upon the music of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley area -- technically, those parts of Alabama and Georgia where the Chattahoochee River first touches the Alabama border, and the 18 to 21 counties (depending upon whose definition you use) that line either side on its way down towards the Florida border -- almost by accident. After making field recordings in Atlanta, Mississippi and Memphis, he had finished his master's thesis (which would become the acclaimed book, Blow My Blues Away ), and had accepted a newspaper job in Columbus, Georgia, pretty much in the heart of the Chattahoochee Valley.

He and his wife Cathy decided to take a drive one weekend to see if they could find some blues being played in the area. And as the old saying goes, boy did they ever. As George relates:

"[This was] a very different sound, one that I had never heard before, and one that had never made it to record. I assume this was because Columbus was the poorest area in Georgia, and it was very isolated. It didn't have a freeway connection, the residents didn't travel to Atlanta, and [talent] scouts never went down there. So on weekends and some nights we'd go look for people east and south of Columbus, and we'd usually find at least one person in every town that would play at least a few songs well. Most of them did not have big repertoires.... but there were a lot of people who could play a few songs really well, and could do a lot of songs from this style that no one had really heard of before."

As he had done before, George Mitchell started recording and photographing the blues musicians he encountered. Eventually, some of these recordings slowly but surely made their way onto LPs, books (In Celebration of a Legacy: The Traditional Arts of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley, was originally published in 1981, with a revised edition coming out in 1998 with two CDs of original field recordings), and eventually CDs, when Fat Possum Records started an extensive reissue program. Although some of the performers were reluctant to travel, George Mitchell managed to get some of them onto the stages of local folk festivals, and eventually -- in the case of Precious Bryant -- the international stage as well.

But Cecil Barfield, whom George thought to be one of his greatest "discoveries," was a colorful figure who was content to stay where he was. Part farmer and part country philosopher, Barfield asked George Mitchell to use only a pseudonym -- William Roberston -- on recordings of his that were issued in his lifetime (his fear was that money coming in from the recordings would jeopardize the welfare checks that he relied upon for living expenses). He was also superstitious -- perhaps to a fault -- when Southland Records issued an LP of his material, it appeared without his picture on the cover, because he feared that anyone could turn a photo of him face down and kill him. And of the money that came in for the recording, Mitchell suspects that it was all spent on traditional "root doctors," to help with Barfield's various ailments. Refusing calls to travel overseas for international Blues festivals, Mitchell finally succeeded in getting him up to Columbus, Georgia, just once, for a folk festival. Barfield said he'd been there one time before -- in World War II -- and apparently didn't see much of a need to go back (another George Mitchell "discovery" from the Lower Chattahoochee was a local fife and drum band tradition in Waverly Hall, Georgia -- stunning researchers, who had believed (up until then anyway) -- that it was strictly a northern Mississippi tradition).

Colorful figures such as Barfield and engaging performances from a whole host of musicians abound on this episode of Blues Unlimited. Come and join us, then, on a special musical journey as we travel through the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley, and celebrate these legendary field recordings all made by one person -- George Mitchell.

For more information about the Lower Chattahooche River Valley, including interviews with George Mitchell, audio samples, and small biographies of the performers, we highly recommend a visit to this informative website , which was great help in preparing this program.

Other programs of field recordings you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #295 - Go Down Ol' Hannah: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Texas State Prison Farms
Blues Unlimited #287 - Ain't Got Long in the Murderer's Home: Stories and Songs from Parchman Farm (1933-1978)
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues
Blues Unlimited #253 - Alan Lomax in the Hill Country of Mississippi
Blues Unlimited #237 - It Must've Been The Devil Goin' Up The Country: The Big Road Blues of David Evans
Blues Unlimited #206 - Down Home Delta Blues from 1941
 


 

Blues Unlimited #180 - Smash Hits of the Late 1940s

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s. It was a period dominated by Blues shouters, wailing saxes, and piano-playing balladeers — and Louis Jordan was king of the charts. But times were changing, with independent record producers making inroads into previously uncharted waters. With our top secret formula, we've made a list of the 34 biggest chart-busters of the late 1940s, and we're counting down to number one!

Bu180_large_image_small Join us as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s. It was a period dominated by Blues shouters, wailing saxes, and piano-playing balladeers -- and Louis Jordan was king of the charts. But times were a changing, with independent record producers making inroads into previously uncharted waters.

One iconic record that helped pave the way for what would become the burgeoning independent record scene of the late 1940s was "I Wonder," by Private Cecil Gant. It was just the right record, at just the right time, hitting upon the zeitgiest of World War II and homesick soldiers who would soon be stationed "a million miles away" from their gal back home. The original version was recorded in June 1944 by Leroy Hurte for his independent Bronze label, but when Hurte couldn't keep up with demand, it was quietly recorded again, for yet another independent label, Gilt-Edge. And as events played out, it was Gilt-Edge — not Bronze — that had the Billboard smash hit with it. It was such a huge seller that Gilt-Edge had trouble keeping up with orders as well, even into the early days of March 1945, months after its release.

But it set the record industry on its ear, so to speak. As a massive hit with broad crossover appeal, it was a clarion call to the newly emerging independent record industry that success was possible in a market mostly dominated by the major labels up until that time.

By far, though, Louis Jordan was one of the biggest stars of the era, turning in almost 50 top ten performances on the Billboard charts between 1942 and late 1949, with most of those making it into the top 5, or higher. With cleverly crafted songs and a band that cooked, it's pretty easy to see how he would go on to influence Rhythm & Blues rockers like Chuck Berry the following decade (One main difference between the '40s and the '50s? Louis Jordan's instrument of choice was the saxophone. Chuck Berry wielded an electric guitar.... need we say more?).

To come up with our list of the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s, we devised a special super-secret formula, giving weight to the number of weeks a record was on the Billboard charts, with bonus points given for number of weeks held in the top position. After hearing the show and seeing the playlist, however, some might wonder why some all time classics didn't make the cut.

One of the most widely heard records of the late 1940s had to be "Open The Door, Richard!" by Jack McVea. Essentially a comedy record cut for the L.A.-based Black & White label, it entered the charts on February 8th, 1947, but only enjoyed a seven week run, topping out at number two, where it stayed for two weeks. "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," Stick McGhee's homage to good times and cheap booze that helped put a fledgling Atlantic Records on the map, befell a similar fate. After a healthy run of 23 weeks on the charts, it stalled out at number two (a position it held for four weeks), but was unable to penetrate the grasp of three of the hugest hits of the decade that were making a run on the charts at exactly the same time -- 
"The Hucklebuck" by Paul Williams, "Trouble Blues," by Charles Brown, and "Ain't Nobody's Business," by Jimmy Witherspoon. And speaking of classics by Charles Brown, "Drifting Blues" -- cut in 1946 with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, and one of his most widely covered songs -- hit a similar brick wall when it ran up against Lionel Hampton's version of "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop," which was enjoying a 16 week run at the top slot that spring and summer. On the charts for 23 weeks, "Drifting Blues" finally topped out at number two, for two weeks.

Although Billboard chart statistics don't always tell us "the whole story" (so to speak), in any case, here are the hits that a generation of R&B fans danced to, heard on the radio, sung along to, and put their nickels in juke boxes all across America to hear again, and again, and again. Join us then, as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hit records of the late 1940s.

RELATED PIECES: 
Blues Unlimited #216 - Smash Hits of the Early 1950s
Blues Unlimited #217 - More Smash Hits of the Early 1950s

Blues Unlimited #310 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the Early 1950s
Blues Unlimited #311 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the 1940s

 


 

Blues Unlimited #181 - R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 1)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program — the first of three — we dive head first into "The Heroes of the Blues."

Bu181_large_image_small In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the first of three) we dive head first into "The Heroes of the Blues." Among the featured artists on this program are Peg Leg Howell, Blind Blake, Frank Stokes, Jaybird Coleman, Blind Willie Johnson, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and more.

Blues Unlimited #182 - R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 2)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program — the second of three — we continue our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues."

Bu182_large_image_small In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the second of three) we continue our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues." Among the featured artists on this program are Furry Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, The Rev. Gary Davis, Cannon's Jug Stompers, the Memphis Jug Band, Skip James, and many more.

Blues Unlimited #183 - R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 3)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program — the last of three — we finish up our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues."

Bu183_new_large_image_small In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program we finish up our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues" with music from Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Peetie Wheatstraw, Memphis Minnie, and more. 

Blues Unlimited #187 - Gems & Rarities from Genesis

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Depending upon your point of view, Genesis refers either to a book of the bible, a popular rock group, or a plot device from Star Trek. If you’re a blues fan, it only means one thing — a series of three box sets that came out between 1972 and 1975 celebrating the Chess catalog. Rare gems and classic nuggets from Genesis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Part 1 of 2)

Bu187_large_image_small Genesis was a legendary series of albums compiled by British Blues experts Mike Leadbitter and Mike Rowe between 1972 and 1975. They were a lengthy celebration of the Chess catalog -- each volume was a box set that held four different LPs, complete with lavish illustrations and extensive notes about the music and the performers.

Over the last 40 years, the Chess catalog has been extensively reissued, but some of the cuts off of Genesis remain rare and hard to find even today. Although Genesis volume one stuck largely to material that had previously been issued on 78, volumes two and three opened up the gates with rare unissued cuts and alternate takes that had not seen the light of day since they were first recorded. It’s those cuts off of Genesis that we’ll be focusing on most with this program -- along the way, giving us a chance to highlight these critically acclaimed series of LPs, while hearing some great nuggets from the Chess vaults all at the same time.

Although 12 volumes were originally slated for the Genesis anthology, it was sadly not to be. Critically acclaimed at the time they came out, it was either due to lack of sales, or perhaps due to co-compiler Mike Leadbitter’s untimely death in 1974 that saw the series grind to a halt after just three installments. The third and final volume, compiled by Mike Rowe, was dedicated to Mike Leadbitter when it came out in 1975. Today, they’re prized collectors items, holding a special place of honor among those who are lucky enough to have them in their collection.

Be sure to read our tribute to Mike Leadbitter, Simon Napier, and Blues Unlimited magazine:
Part 1
Part 2


Blues Unlimited #188 - More Gems & Rarities from Genesis

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We had so much fun pulling out rare gems and classic nuggets from "Genesis," we’re doing it all over again this time around as well! Join us for more great, rare, and classic cuts as we mine deep into the "Genesis" motherlode. On this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Part 2 of 2)

Bu188_large_image_small Genesis was a series of three box sets that came out in England between 1972 and 1975. Compiled by expert blues researchers Mike Leadbitter and Mike Rowe, they were lengthy explorations of the Chess catalog -- each volume contained four LPs and a lavishly illustrated booklet -- and featured classic selections and rare cuts, some of which are hard to find even today. 40 years later, the Genesis series has passed the test of time as a high water mark by which other reissues are judged, in terms of quality, selection of material, and level of research -- each of them now considered to be prized collectors items.

Mike Rowe would go on to author the definitive history of Chicago Blues with his landmark work, Chicago Breakdown , while Mike Leadbitter -- one of the founders of Blues Unlimited magazine -- for whom this radio show is named in honor -- would go on to write and edit countless articles and liner notes during his all too brief career. In addition, he was also the co-author of the standard discographical reference work, Blues Records , now in its fourth edition. The third volume of Genesis was dedicated to his memory when it came out in 1975, the year after he died.

When the review of the last Genesis volume came out in Blues Unlimited magazine in 1975, it was noted that there was an option for a fourth, similar volume. Sadly, this fantastic series would come to end with just three installments, but as the old saying goes, it was enough. It was not only testimony to a great record label and the musicians behind it, but also to a pair of passionate blues experts -- Mike Rowe and Mike Leadbitter -- who compiled the series and brought it to fruition. For that, we thank them for bringing this fantastic material to light, for all of us to enjoy.

Be sure to read our tribute to Mike Leadbitter, Simon Napier, and Blues Unlimited magazine:
Part 1
Part 2


Blues Unlimited #189 - A Conversation With The Blues (Edited For Broadcast)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for a special program featuring two legendary albums. The first, a "Conversation With The Blues," was recorded by Paul Oliver during the summer of 1960. The second, "Blues In The Mississippi Night," is a haunting documentary recorded by Alan Lomax in 1947. A conversation with the Blues — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu274_large_image_small Many critics would agree that one of the finest books about the Blues is one by Paul Oliver called Conversation With The Blues. To say that it is by Paul Oliver, however, is slightly misleading — like many similar books by Studs Terkel, it is actually an oral history of the Blues, spoken directly from the hearts and minds of the musicians who lived that life, told in a matter-of-fact, straightforward, and unadorned fashioned. Oliver collected these interviews during the summer of 1960, when he made an extensive sweep through the United States, gathering stories by Blues musicians from practically every walk of life. It took five years to transcribe the tapes that finally appeared in the book, and along with it, of course, came a companion LP of the same name. In 1997, after years of being out of print, the Cambridge University Press finally issued a second edition of the book, along with a companion CD, which contained a slightly different running order than did the orignal 1965 LP. On this episode, we'll be featuring most of the original LP, along with a couple of bonus selections from the 1997 Compact Disc.

The other album in the spotlight is one steeped in legend. One Sunday afternoon in March 1947, in New York City, Alan Lomax took Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson down to a recording studio, turned on a tape machine (actually, it was a rather primitive disc cutting machine), and sat back and watched while the three men talked frankly and openly about their lives — the first time they had ever done so in front of a microphone.

The recordings they made that day and the stories they told are nothing less than deeply moving and stunning -- at times, a jaw-dropping testament to the lives they'd all lived back in the south, before heading north to Chicago to pursue the life of a musician. And when Alan Lomax did a playback of the afternoon's events for these three titans of the Blues, they were literally terrified. Fearing reprisals and retribution on their loved ones back home for what they had said, Alan Lomax agreed never to issue the recordings during their lifetimes using their real names. It wasn't until 1990, when Rykodisc issued Blues In The Mississippi Night, that they were finally issued — for the first time — without using pseudonyms.

For the uninitiated, the stories on tonight's program are sometimes hard to take. The language is often coarse, brutal, and matter of fact. But after experiencing the stories you will hear on tonight's program, you will never think about the Blues — or the people who lived that life — the same way ever again.


NOTE: For an unedited version of this program, please see Blues Unlimited episode #274.


You might also enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #276 - Studs & Big Bill, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #277 - Studs & Big Bill, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #309 - The Blues is a Feeling: Stories, Songs and Conversation from Son House & Lightnin' Hopkins

Blues Unlimited #190 - The British Blues Explosion

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore the British Blues Explosion of the late 1950s and the 1960s. From the originators — like Chris Barber and Alexis Korner — to the famous — like the Rolling Stones and Fleetwod Mac — to the not so famous — like Duster Bennett and Jo Ann Kelly — it’s a fascinating glimpse at a country that was positively obsessed by Blues Fever.

Bu190_large_image_small If you were going to take a look at where British Blues Fever got its start, two names, more than any others, would come up over and over again — Chris Barber and Alexis Korner.

Barber was — and still is, for that matter — the leader of a traditional Jazz band, who saw that Blues and Jazz both had common roots. On the advice of John Lewis (one of the members of the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet), he brought Muddy Waters and Otis Spann over from Chicago to England for a series of concerts in the Fall of 1958. Once there, Muddy's presence helped galvanize the movement, and Barber continued to book other acts such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Champion Jack Dupree, among others. Starting in 1962, the American Folk Blues Festival Tours commenced on a yearly basis, always with a stop or two in England along the way — which helped further cement a national passion for the Blues that was virtually unequaled. For his role in jump-starting the British Blues Explosion, Barber has often been referred to as the "grandfather" of British Blues.

Another spark that helped ignite British Blues Fever was a man that came to be known as the "King of Skiffle," Lonnie Donegan. Although he got his start playing with Chris Barber, it wasn't until they did something called a "Skiffle Break" that he really came into his own. The idea was simple enough — send Donegan out on stage with an acoustic guitar and a rudimentary accompaniment of a washboard and a "tea-chest" bass (what we would call a "washtub" bass here in the states) and sing a few folk songs by Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie while — more importantly — Chris Barber and the rest of the band took a break between live sets. Donegan's first record, "Rock Island Line," became a hit in England and the U.S., making him an international star, and leading to the skiffle craze of the late 1950s.

If Barber was the grandfather, then, Alexis Korner, in turn, has often been referred to as the father of British Blues. A name barely recognized in the states, his band, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, sported a veritable who's who of talent. Almost anyone who was anyone seemed to have, at one point or another, played in his band. Young Blues enthusiasts of the day — such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, and Jimmy Page — would come to his gigs, hoping for the chance to sit in (being called up on stage by Alexis was considered an honor, back in the day). Teaming up with Cyril Davies, a multi-talented instrumentalist who had also gotten his start with Chris Barber (as had Alexis), Blues Incorporated was, for a time, Britain's premier Blues band. Dissolving the group in 1966, Alexis remained true to his Blues roots throughout the years, while many of those to whom he had given a start in the business found their way to Rock 'n' Roll, and in some cases, superstardom.

Cyril Davies, another major figure on the scene in his own right, left Korner's group to go out on his own after a disagreement about the direction of Blues Incorporated. When Alexis added a saxophone player, it was too much for Davies, who was something of a purist, and felt that it was taking the group in a "too jazzy" direction. Cutting the influential two-sided bluesy rocker, "Chicago Calling" and "Country Line Special" in 1963, it was released to rave reviews, and was even cited by Kinks founding member Ray Davies (apparently no relation) as the catalyst which led him to start his group. Sadly, a year after cutting "Country Line Special," Cyril Davies would be dead from a heart condition.

If there was anyone deserving of credit behind the scenes, it would surely have to be producer and engineer Mike Vernon, the co-founder of Blue Horizon records. Working tirelessly, he is one of the unsung heroes, without which a lot of the material on this program would have never been possible. For that, we give him a Blues Unlimited tip of the hat and our heartfelt thanks.

Overall, the British Blues Explosion was fueled by a passion for the music and a reverence for the original artists that bordered on religious zealotry. In a way, it was almost like they held up a mirror and pointed it back at their neighbors across the pond, as a way of gently reminding us of just how important all of this really was. And in no small way, we have them to thank for helping spark our own Blues Revival of the 1960s. But as they say, that's a story that we'll have tell on some other day.

Blues Unlimited #192 - A Legend at 19: A Tribute to Jody Williams

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for a tribute to blues guitar legend Jody Williams. Making his debut on record at the age of 19, he became a highly influential guitarist, playing and recording with a who's who of Chicago legends like Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Bill Boy Arnold and Otis Rush — just to name a few. A tribute to guitar legend Jody Williams, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu192_large_image_copy_small Born in Mobile, Alabama, Joseph Leon "Jody" Williams moved with his family to Chicago when he was just 5 years old. His early musical heroes were the Harmonicats, with their number one smash hit of 1947, "Peg O' My Heart." It was an encounter with Bo Diddley at a talent show that convinced him he should put down his harmonica and pick up a guitar. As he later told writer Bill Dahl, he had never played any blues — but by all accounts, he was a fast learner. Absorbing the guitar styles of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and Robert Lockwood, Jody become one of the first important string benders to work in Chicago, influencing such up and coming stars like Otis Rush and Buddy Guy — and playing, recording, and touring with a veritable who's who of blues legends along the way.

It’s not many people who can lay claim to being an influential musician starting at the ripe old age of 19, but Jody Williams can, and on this episode of Blues Unlimited, we’ll be exploring that legacy in depth.

As far as "string bending" goes, just in case you’re not up to date with your guitar lingo, there are two main techniques for altering the pitch of a guitar string while playing. One technique involves the use of a bottleneck or a slide, like Elmore James, Muddy Waters, or Robert Nighthawk; the second is to simply bend the string up or down while playing, a technique employed by such movers and shakers as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King — who also happen to be Jody’s two main influences.

Another influence can be felt from Robert Lockwood, who often incorporated a jazzy sophistication that can be heard in Jody’s playing as well. Unlike Lockwood, however, Jody’s playing also has a gritty quality that fans of Chicago Blues know and love so well — and it’s his ability to incorporate these two differing styles into something unique that’s made the name of Jody Williams such an important one on the post war scene.

In the late 1960s, Jody Williams quit the music business in favor of a steady day job in the field of electronics, a trade he learned while in the Army. Opting for early retirement in 1994, it wasn’t until six years later that he was convinced to pick up his guitar again, resulting in a critically acclaimed comeback CD in the year 2001. Today, Jody Williams is still playing and touring, dazzling audiences with his patented fretwork and understated jazzy guitar runs that made him such a force to be reckoned with on the Chicago scene almost 60 years ago.

Blues Unlimited #195 - Soulful Stax Covers

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we enjoy some great cover versions of blues, pop, rock, folk, and R&B classics that were recorded down at the legendary Stax label in Memphis, Tennessee. We'll hear from Albert King, Little Milton, Booker T. & the MG's, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, and more.

Bu195_large_image_small To be included in this episode of Blues Unlimited, two simple rules were employed: it had to be cut for Stax Records (or one of their affiliated labels), and it had to be a cover version. After the smoke cleared and the dust settled, we selected 27 tracks that rocked, moved, and inspired — or in a couple cases, were just simply jaw-dropping. Sometimes, great art can come about in the process of redefining that which you find surrounding you, and in the case of Stax Records, as they redefined, reexamined, and reinterpreted the musical landscape in Memphis — and the blues legacy that that entailed — they, too, created great art. And almost as a bonus, gave us some of the fine musical experiments and top-notch offerings that we'll get to hear on tonight's program.

Blues Unlimited #198 - Lowdown Windy City Harmonica Jam

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we're enjoying some of our favorite, rare, and overlooked harmonica jams from the Windy City, courtesy of Little Walter, Snooky Pryor, Kid Thomas, Louis Myers, Alfred "Blues King" Harris, and more.

Bu198_large_image_small A while back, we did a show called "Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam ," inspired by a terrific LP on the Nighthawk label with the same name. The idea for this show was pretty similar, in that we wanted to spotlight some overlooked gems and rare items from the annals of Chicago Blues Harmonica (just as the Nighthawk LP had done for Memphis), all the while showcasing some outstanding performances. To that extent, we'll be hearing some rare outtakes from Little Walter, a handful of performances by Alfred "Blues King" Harris — an overlooked figure on the Chicago scene — as was Birmingham Junior and His Lover Boys. Little Willie Foster and Dusty Brown are also featured — both of them cut for Blue Lake and Parrot, incidentally — and we'll also hear from Louis Myers, who we often think of primarily as a guitarist, but whose harmonica chops were actually quite developed, thanks to his time spent playing guitar behind Little Walter. Finally, we'll also hear from Kid Thomas, who normally gets associated with the west coast, but whose 1957 debut session for Federal Records occurred in the Windy City.... and what a fine session it was, too!

Even if the good folks at Nighthawk Records never did issue an LP by the name of "Lowdown Windy City Harmonica Jam," we'd like to think that if they had, some of the performances on tonight's episode would have been featured items. So, join us for some lowdown jams, rare items, and overlooked gems from some of the best harmonica players to come out of the Windy City.


Also in the "Lowdown Harmonica" Series:

Blues Unlimited #166 - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #232 - Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #275 - Lowdown Harmonica Blues from Jackson, Mississippi



You might also enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #227 - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor
Blues Unlimited #239 - Big Walter's Blues: Early Harmonica Classics, 1951-1954

Blues Unlimited #201 - Pre-War Gospel Classics

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, it's time for our annual Gospel show! Special guest host Brother Hawkins takes over the reigns for two hours of delights from Blind Willie Johnson, Arizona Dranes, Bukka White, Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, and many more.

Bu201_large_image_copy_small On this episode of Blues Unlimited, it's time for our annual Gospel show! Special guest host Brother Hawkins takes over the reigns for two hours of delights from Blind Willie Johnson, Arizona Dranes, Bukka White, Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, and many more.


Other Gospel Programs You Will Enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #302 - Hill Country Gospel
Blues Unlimited #248 - The Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan
Blues Unlimited #223 - Great Gospel Preachers
Blues Unlimited #154 - Down Home Gospel Favorites


Blues Unlimited #202 - Vinyl Gems from the 1960s

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore two rare and long out-of-print LPs from the 1960s. "Living Legends" was recorded live at the Cafe Au-Go-Go in New York City, while "Ramblin' On My Mind" is a collection of songs all related to trains and traveling. Additionally, we'll hear a few selections each from Mississippi Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams.

Bu202_large_image_copy_small On this episode of Blues Unlimited, join us as we explore two rare and long out-of-print LPs from the 1960s. The first, "Living Legends" was recorded for the Verve-Folkways label at the Cafe Au-Go-Go in New York City, and features Bukka White, Skip James, Son House, and Big Joe Williams all captured live in performance, from 1966.

The second, "Ramblin' On My Mind" was issued by Milestone in 1965, and is a collection of songs all related to trains and traveling. Recorded by Pete Welding and Norman Dayron, it features riveting performances by Dr. Ross, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Big Joe Williams, and Johnny Young, as well as a few from some "lesser-knowns" such as John Lee Granderson, Leroy Dallas, Elijah Brown, and James Brewer.

Rounding out the show will be a few selections each from Mississippi Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams. One of our favorite LPs from Fred has always been "Long Way From Home," recorded in 1966 in Los Angeles for Milestone, while Robert Pete Williams' "Louisiana Blues," on the Takoma label, has long been a stand-out of his rather impressive body of work.

So sit back and enjoy as we dig into some classic and hard-to-find vinyl gems from the 1960s. On this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #203 - Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We aim the spotlight on one of the most beloved record labels of all time, Trumpet Records, of Jackson, Mississippi. Spearheaded by entrepreneur Lillian McMurry, it helped give rise to the careers of Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Willie Love, and Jerry "Boogie" McCain. Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu203_large_image_3_small We aim the spotlight on one of the most beloved record labels of all time, Trumpet Records, of Jackson, Mississippi. Spearheaded by entrepreneur Lillian McMurry, it helped give rise to the careers of Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, Willie Love, and Jerry "Boogie" McCain. Blues and R&B from Trumpet Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other Programs featuring Sonny Boy Williamson:

Other Programs featuring Elmore James:

Blues Unlimited #204 - Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky: More Moves & Grooves from the Hammond B3

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we celebrate — once again — some extended jams and hot instrumentals from the Hammond B3. We'll be movin' and groovin' to the fleet-fingered keyboard work of Booker T. Jones, Jimmy McGriff, Sam Lazar, Brother Jack McDuff, and more.

Bu204_large_image_small We had such a blast putting together our last tribute to the venerable Hammond B3 organ, that we're back with a second helping of delectable goodies from some of our favorite keyboard players, plus a few folks who got left out first time around. Extended jams, some great grooves, and a few hot instrumentals from Booker T. Jones, Jimmy McGriff, Sam Lazar, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, and more.

Other programs in the "Hammond B3" series:



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Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we're cranking up our time machine, and setting the dial for San Antonio in the late 1920s and 1930s. One of the regular destinations on the field recording circuit, all of the major labels made records there, including some fine piano players from Texas, along with Delta guitar legend Robert Johnson. It’s Blues from San Antonio, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu205_large_image_small In the mid to late 1920s, once the major record companies discovered that there was an appetite with the record buying public for Blues -- and when you consider the popularity of artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Country Blues in particular -- they set off for destinations such as Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas, in search of new talent and the next big hit. One of their regular stops on the circuit was San Antonio, which saw field recording units arrive as early as 1928, when sessions were held on Lonnie Johnson and Texas Alexander -- two big stars in the OKeh catalog back in those days.

Typically, they would set up shop at a local hotel -- the Peabody in Memphis was one popular recording spot, for instance -- with the Blue Bonnet Hotel and the Texas Hotel being two establishments utilized by the folks at RCA Victor and their Bluebird subsidiary while in San Antonio. Another advantage was the fact that a piano could be found there -- almost a necessity, when you consider the rich tradition of Piano Blues in Texas during the pre-war years.

Vocalist Joe Pullum and pianist Robert Cooper were paired up in the studio for their initial sessions, in 1934 and 1935, resulting in a big hit for Pullum, with "Black Gal, What Makes Your Head So Hard?" It made him a household name in Houston, with regular appearances on the radio.

Some of the other keyboardists being featured on tonight's program weren't quite so lucky, however. Alfoncy Harris may be the same person who recorded with Blind Willie McTell towards the end of 1929, while Big Boy Knox -- based solely on the lyrics to his song "Texas Blues" -- might very well have originally come to Houston by way of Louisiana. Andy Boy (his actual given name) was recalled as one of the top piano men in Galveston, but after recording eight titles of his own, as well as accompanying Joe Pullum and Walter "Cowboy" Washington (the latter recalled as a real-life cowpoke who frequented the sea-front taverns of Galveston), he fell off the radar screen, last rumored to have headed north in the 1950s for greener musical pastures in Kansas City.

Pianists like Son Becky worked the well-established "Barrelhouse Piano Circuit" from his original hometown of Wharton, Texas (a short trip down U.S. Route 59, on the way towards Victoria), on up through Houston, and into the Texarkana area as well, while Frank Tannehill (ten titles recorded for ARC and Bluebird) was thought to have been based in Dallas. Connie "Pinetop" Burks and Black Boy Shine (real name: Harold Holiday) were both apparently based in Houston, with "Dog House Blues" a tribute to a local 4th Ward Houston hangout that served soup and sandwiches to out of work piano players, during the lean, hard years of the Great Depression. And as a bonus, if you were lucky enough to catch one of the stray rabbits hopping through the nearby vacant lots, they'd cook it and fix it for you (be sure to listen for the reference in his song).

One person in particular, however, managed to outshadow almost every other musician on the program tonight. Robert Johnson, who was called to San Antonio to make his recording debut during Thanksgiving week, 1936, didn't return to Mississippi until he'd waxed almost two dozen sides. By any measure, it was an auspicious beginning, leaving the company impressed enough to recall him the following summer for another session -- this time in Dallas, which would turn out to be his last.

As the 1930s wound to a close and the 1940s began, the major labels likewise began winding down the field trips that had seen them recording such rich and varied talent. The American Record Corporation made two final trips to Dallas -- one in the summer of 1939, the other in May 1940, while Decca, a relative late-comer to the game that had never recorded much in the field anyway, made one trip to Dallas in April 1941. RCA Victor, along with their Bluebird subsidiary, made two trips in 1941, one to Dallas in April and one to Atlanta in October. With World War II looming on the horizon, things were changing. Never again would a major company send field recording units on trips to faraway cities for weeks or even months at a time, making the Blues that were recorded in San Antonio during the late 1920s and 1930s -- and the rich legacy of Texas Piano Blues -- the product of a bygone, forgotten era.


Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions





Blues Unlimited #206 - Down Home Delta Blues from 1941

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on some of the spectacular Down Home Blues that were recorded during the year 1941. From the Library of Congress field recordings of Son House and Muddy Waters, to the Delta stylings of Big Joe Williams, Arthur Crudup, Tommy McClennan, and Robert Petway, it was a year to be remembered.

Bu206_large_image_small By any measure, 1941 was a spectacular one when you consider all of the great Down Home and Delta-styled Blues that were recorded that year.

After some of the regular sellers had an opportunity to come back and make a few sides, such as Washboard Sam, Jazz Gillum, Roosevelt Sykes, and Lonnie Johnson, the major labels turned their attention to some new artists, and a few overlooked ones as well. Big Joe Williams was called back in March 1941, after having cut his last sides as a leader four years previous, in May 1937. Coming in for a session the day after Big Joe wrapped up his studio date was Robert Petway, making a rather impressive debut consisting of eight titles, one of which was to become a Delta standard, "Catfish Blues." A week later, Yank Rachell was called back, this time after a three year hiatus, where he cut "Hobo Blues," among others.

Tony Hollins was considered a popular figure down in his hometown of Clarksdale, which ultimately translated into a recording session for him in June, for the OKeh label. After getting called to serve in World War II, he managed to resume his career in Chicago, with a final session for Decca coming ten years after his debut. Meanwhile, a month later, in July 1941, Bluebird took a chance on two new artists -- Willie "61" Blackwell and Robert Lockwood. Blackwell cut eight sides, with Lockwood cutting four -- but, sadly, neither one received a call back to return for further sessions. It was an indication, however, that maybe the lean, dark years of the Great Depression were now, once and for all, finally behind the major record labels, indicated by their willingness to take a speculative shot on some new talent.

Late in August of 1941, John Work III, a professor from Fisk University, and Alan Lomax, on behalf of the Library of Congress, went to Mississippi, hoping to capture some of the local talent in the field. After making some inquiries, they stumbled upon a young guitar picker by the name of McKinley Morganfied, nicknamed "Muddy Waters," at Stovall Plantation. After recording half a dozen or so sides, Lomax and Work set off on a journey of more than 120 miles down the bumpy, dusty roads of Mississippi, in search of making further recordings at two different churches. Sadly, it resulted in the loss of one of Muddy's two master discs, which has not been played since (at that time, the Library of Congress was employing the use of glass master discs that were coated with a fragile layer of acetate. Muddy's second disc broke in half during the journey).

Next in line, at least judging by the master numbers that were allocated, was Son House and a group of exciting musicians that included legendary guitarist Willie Brown, along the harmonica and mandolin playing of Leroy Williams and Fiddlin' Joe Martin, respectively. After Son House cut a few titles -- some of the most thrilling in his repertoire -- each of the accompanying musicians got their chance as well. Although known for being one of the best guitar players in the Delta, Willie Brown turned in a rather mediocre performance with "Make Me A Pallet On The Floor," a selection that has left Blues fans scratching their heads ever since, and leading to conjecture that it may have been a personal request from Lomax.

Although it could be argued that Muddy's Library of Congress recordings would go on to change the course of music history, the best was yet to come. The month of September saw further sessions with the "Brownsville Contingency" -- in this case Son Bonds and Sleepy John Estes -- along with further sessions from Tommy McClennan, who had apparently made his debut session back in 1939 after escaping from a plantation in Yazoo City (where, incidentally, he was said to have mentored fellow resident Robert Petway).

Perhaps most significantly was the debut session of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Taking place on September 11, 1941, he was discovered living in a packing crate on the streets of Chicago. Lester Melrose, as was common in those days, sent him over to Tampa Red's house, which served as a temporary quarters for musicians newly arrived in Chicago, as well as a rehearsal space. Tampa apparently told him not to worry, that either he would -- or would not -- get a call back to cut further sides. In this case, Crudup got very lucky, with some 14 call backs over the space of 13 years. With his towering frame, he would go on to become one of the most powerful singers in the Blues, with his records becoming a staple of the airwaves, and one of the most popular sellers on the juke boxes (a lesson that was not lost on a young Elvis Presly, apparently).

As 1941 drew to a close, the United States' involvement in World War II must have seemed imminent. Although Tommy McClennan and Robert Petway would both get called back for a final session each, in February 1942, only Yank Rachell and Big Joe Williams would get a call back before the year was out -- just a few days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Considering some of the great Down Home music and Delta-styled Blues that was captured in the field and recorded in the studios during 1941, it was definitely a year to be remembered.


Related Programs:



Blues Unlimited #208 - Shoutin' & Cryin' the Blues: A Musical Celebration of Arthur Crudup

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode, we aim the spotlight on Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Known for being an imaginative songwriter, he was a highly influential musician of the 1940s and early 1950s. Many of his records went on to become standards, and were covered countless times over the decades. Join us as we celebrate the music of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.

Bu208_large_image_small On this episode, we aim the spotlight on Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Known for being an imaginative songwriter and a first-rate interpreter of traditional material, he was a towering figured that possessed a striking voice, and was one of the highly influential musicians of the 1940s and early 1950s. We'll listen to some of the more famous tunes in his catalog (many of which have since become standards), some of his early influences, and a few of the musicians he helped inspire along the way.

Blues Unlimited #210 - Down Home Blues from Gotham Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we feature some exciting Down Home Blues from Philadelphia's Gotham label, with music from Baby Boy Warren, Wright Holmes, Dan Pickett, Stick Horse Hammond, Ralph Willis, and more. If you like your Country Blues raw and gritty, it doesn't get much better than this.

Bu210_large_image_2_small Join us we explore some of the raw and gritty (translation: "exciting") Down Home Blues issued on Philadelphia’s Gotham label that were recorded in the late 1940s to the early '50s in Houston, Detroit, Shreveport, and yes — also Philadelphia. Although Gotham tended to set new standards in terms of fidelity (and we don't necessarily mean that as a compliment), nonetheless, we've got some all-time classic performances on tap for you with this special tribute to the legendary Gotham label.

Blues Unlimited #211 - Take No Prisoners: The Monster Guitar of Pete Lewis, 1947-1960

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

If you were going to make a list of all the West Coast guitar players, the name of Pete Lewis might very well be at the top. Joining up with Johnny Otis, his fiery fretwork sparked dozens of sides by Otis, and a host of others, from the late 1940s through the mid 1950s. A tribute to Pete "Guitar" Lewis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu211_large_image_copy_small While the name Johnny Otis is certainly synonymous with West Coast R&B, and certainly borders on what many people would call a household name, his one-time guitar player, Pete Lewis, is a virtual unknown whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Apparently, Johnny Otis "discovered" Pete Lewis at his Barrelhouse Club, in 1947, during one of the regular Thursday night talent shows. He went on to hire Lewis to be a part of his band, in what would mark an almost ten year relationship. Legend has it that Lewis came to California by way of his birthplace, now thought to be Oklahoma City, in the year 1913 (previously it was reported to be Louisiana, which we now know to be in error).

What Pete Lewis did prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, was that he was a guitar player like no other. A disciple of T-Bone Walker, he took the electric guitar to new heights, offering sophisticated turns of phrase that bordered on jazz-inflected, to low-down gut bucket riffs that were unceremoniously wrenched out of his instrument — sometimes, all in the same song, or if need be, in the short space of a twelve-bar solo. His playing is at once, crisp, precise, and gritty — not to mention endlessly inventive — the perfect compliment to Otis' rocking big band.

From what we can gather, Lewis must have been something of a character. One anecdote, related in the book Midnight at the Barrelhouseis that during a time of incessant touring, he arbitrarily one day decided to stop talking to his boss, Johnny Otis. After about a year had passed, he suddenly resumed talking to him, as if nothing had ever happened.

One member of the Otis band — a legend in his own right, tenor sax icon Ben Webster — admired Pete's playing, and the story goes that the two of them roomed together while out on the road (Be sure to listen for a couple of inspired duets between the two of them near the end of the first hour).

Although reports vary to the exact date, sometime around 1956, Johnny Otis and Pete Lewis parted company for good. Rumor has it that it was Lewis' problems with alcohol that lead to Otis seeking a replacement, which he found with yet another young and inspired talent, Jimmy Nolen.

Thanks to cracker-jack research detective Rob Ford, we happen to know that Pete Lewis was still playing guitar in the clubs of Los Angeles as late as 1962. After that, details start to get murky. According Johnny Otis, the last time he saw Pete Lewis, it was shortly after the L.A. riots of 1966. In the intervening years since he’d last seen him, Lewis had become a wino, apparently living on the streets. Lewis died a short time later, in 1970, at the age of 57. A sad and ironic end to a man whose guitar playing took no prisoners, and had few equals.

Note: Thanks to Bob Eage and Eric S. LeBlanc, whose book, Blues: A Regional Experience, provided some missing details of Lewis' life.


Blues Unlimited #212 - T-Model Fords & Cadillacs: An All-Star Tribute to the Automobile

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we pay tribute to the automobile. Revered in story and song, it’s always been a favorite topic of blues artists, lending itself to every possible metaphor under the sun. From T-Model Fords to Cadillacs, it’s all about the automobile.

Bu212_large_image_small On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we pay tribute to the automobile. Revered in story and song, it’s always been a favorite topic of blues artists, lending itself to every possible metaphor under the sun. From T-Model Fords to Cadillacs, it's all about the automobile, with music from an all-star cast that includes Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Lightnin' Hopkins, Lowell Fulson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, Guitar Tommy Moore, Jerry "Boogie" McCain, Brownie McGhee, and many more.

Blues Unlimited #213 - Titans of Chicago Slide Guitar, 1946-1951

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We’re headed up to the great city of Chicago, to hear from some of the titans of the slide guitar. The late 1940s were dominated by Tampa Red, Muddy Waters, and Robert Nighthawk, and we’ll hear how each of them helped to change the game in the Windy City. It’s Chicago slide guitar, on this episode Blues Unlimited.

Bu213_large_image_small Chicago has always been a great town for slide guitar, essentially starting with Tampa Red's recording debut in 1928, on up through the current day, with performers like Little Ed Williams. In between those two bookends, however, is a lot of fascinating history.

Tampa Red's slide guitar technique was fluid, smooth, and rather advanced, in that he used the instrument to play modern-styled single-note guitar solos (unlike most players from Mississippi, who would typically use a chordal approach, playing several stings at once), and he dominated the Chicago scene, virtually unchallenged, for many years.

One who did was a young up and coming talent, Robert Nighthawk, who had been taught a few pointers from his buddy, the legendary Hosuton Stackhouse. After his 1937 debut on wax, his style continued to progress, showing an obvious influence from Tampa Red (for more on Nighthawk's 1937 recording debut, see A Great Day in Aurora, Illinois ). By the time the late 1940s rolled around, Nighthawk's matchless technique bore no equals, and he would go on to influence virtually every slide guitar player who came afterwards, including Earl Hooker, Elmore James, and Muddy Waters.

Although Muddy arrived in Chicago in the early 1940s, he didn't make his commercial recording debut until 1946. First, on an obscure outing for the 20th Century label (that wasn't "rediscovered" until decades later — Muddy said he'd forgotten all about it), and then a couple months later, with another session for Columbia. Apparently, he failed to make an impression with either operation, and a year later, would be recording for Phil and Leonard Chess. As they say, the rest is history — or, in this case, almost.

After recording a number of sides for Aristocrat (the label that immediately preceded Chess), it wasn't until late 1947 that Muddy brought his Mississippi roots to bear front and center — which he did on a legendary slice of wax: a single that was issued the following June as Aristocrat release #1305. It featured "I Can't Be Satisfied" on one side, and "I Feel Like Going Home" on the other. In a time honored tradition, Leonard Chess distributed copies of it out of the trunk of his car to almost 200 retailers, distributors, barber shops, beauty parlors, and Pullman Porters (and even a few record shops!) on the West and South sides of Chicago. Although Chess had complained, during rehearsal, that he couldn't understand what Muddy was singing, his partner, Evelyn Aaron, said, "I think he's got something." Certainly, after the first pressing sold out in about 12 hours, Leonard Chess realized exactly what Muddy was singing about. The resulting sales made Muddy a star of the Aristocrat and Chess operations — a relationship that would last even after Phil and Leonard sold their label in 1969 — and registered a shift-change in the consciousness of the record buying public for the foreseeable future.

After sticking with the "hit winning" formula for a couple years (Muddy on slide guitar, with Big Crawford on bass), Muddy finally got himself in trouble on a moonlight session for Parkway. His enthusiastic slide playing on some recordings, which featured Little Walter and Baby Face Leroy as the lead vocalists, was easily detected by Leonard Chess. One record, in particular, "Rollin' And Tumblin'," has since been regarded as one of the high water marks of postwar Chicago blues. Even so, Leonard had Muddy come in and cut his own version of the song, which effectively killed the Parkway version, and along with it, the fledgling Parkway Record label (for more on that story, see We Three Kings: Muddy Waters, Leroy Foster, and Little Walter ).

As 1950 drew to a close and 1951 was about to dawn, Muddy, Nighthawk, and Tampa were still making some great music. However, with the 1952 arrival of a fresh face from Mississippi, everything was about to change in the Windy City once again.

But we'll have to leave that for next time.... 

Special thanks to Bill Greensmith for help with material, to Mike Rowe, whose "Chicago Breakdown" was an invaluable reference, and also to the good folks at the Red Saunders Research Foundation .


Other Programs on Slide Guitar You Will Enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #169 - East Coast Slide Guitar
Blues Unlimited #214 - Titans of Chicago Slide Guitar, 1951-1953



Blues Unlimited #214 - Titans of Chicago Slide Guitar, 1951-1953

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We continue exploring slide guitar in the Windy City, this time from the early 1950s. We’ll hear from the old masters, Tampa Red, Muddy Waters, and Robert Nighthawk, as well as a fresh new face who would shake things up a bit, Elmore James. More Slide Guitar from Chicago, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu214_large_image_2_small We continue exploring slide guitar in the Windy City, this time from the early 1950s. We’ll hear from the old masters, Tampa Red, Muddy Waters, and Robert Nighthawk, as well as a fresh new face who would shake things up a bit, Elmore James. More Slide Guitar from Chicago, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Other Programs on Slide Guitar You Will Enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #169 - East Coast Slide Guitar
Blues Unlimited #213 - Titans of Chicago Slide Guitar, 1946-1951




Blues Unlimited #216 - Smash Hits of the Early 1950s

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we count down the number one smash hits of the early 1950s! Using our top secret formula, we've made a list of the biggest R&B records to hit the charts between 1950 to 1952, and aren't stopping till we get to number one! Along the way, we’ll hear music from Little Esther, B.B. King, Ivory Joe Hunter, Lowell Fulson, The Clovers, Ruth Brown, and many more.

Bu216_large_image_new_small Join us as we count down the number one smash hits of the early 1950s! Using our top secret formula, we've made a list of the biggest R&B records to hit the charts between 1950 to 1952, and aren't stopping till we get to number one! Along the way, we’ll hear music from Little Esther, B.B. King, Ivory Joe Hunter, Lowell Fulson, The Clovers, Ruth Brown, and many more.

Related pieces: 

Blues Unlimited #180 - Smash Hits of the Late 1940s
Blues Unlimited #217 - More Smash Hits of the Early 1950s

Blues Unlimited #310 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the Early 1950s
Blues Unlimited #311 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the 1940s

Blues Unlimited #217 - More Smash Hits of the Early 1950s

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for more smash hits of the early 1950s, this time from the years 1953 through 1955. Using our top secret formula, we've come up with a list of 36 selections, and we're counting our way down to number one! Blues and R&B classics from Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Etta James, Big Joe Turner, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and many more.

Bu217_large_image_new_small Join us for more smash hits of the early 1950s, this time from the years 1953 through 1955. Using our top secret formula, we've come up with a list of 36 selections, and we're counting our way down to number one! Blues and R&B classics from Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Faye Adams, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and many more.

Related pieces:

Blues Unlimited #180 - Smash Hits of the Late 1940s
Blues Unlimited #216 - Smash Hits of the Early 1950s

Blues Unlimited #310 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the Early 1950s
Blues Unlimited #311 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the 1940s


Blues Unlimited #218 - George Barnes & the Early Electric Guitar Heroes

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

One of the first people to use an electric guitar on a blues record was a 16 year-old kid from the suburbs of Chicago. The incredible true story of George Barnes, and the early heroes of electric guitar, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu218_large_image_new_small It's almost like something from a rejected plot line for another sequel to Back To The Future, or some other time-traveling Hollywood flop: a 16 year old kid from the suburbs of Chicago, admiring Django Rheinhardt, Louis Armstrong, and Jimmy Noone, grows up in a musical family, makes his recording debut at the age of 15, and then returns to the studio 18 months later, in March 1938, to lay down some of the first electric guitar licks on wax — behind a group of seasoned Blues veterans — who, by the end of the day, can be heard exhorting him to "Pick it, Mister Man!" during almost every one of his solos.

Incredibly, this isn't from a Hollywood script or a cheesy "movie of the week" TV special. It's the unlikely true story of George Barnes, a musical prodigy born in the suburbs of Chicago in July 1921, who claimed he was playing an electric guitar at the age of 10, had joined the musicians union when he was 12, and had formed his own quartet at the ripe old age of 14. Although his main influence was clarinet blower Jimmy Noone, who had, interestingly enough, started on guitar as a kid, it was blues legend Lonnie Johnson who apparently took him under his wing and showed him a few pointers. But even early on, young George had some ideas of his own, stating that he didn't want to sit in the back of the bandstand and play rhythm, he wanted to play lead. And an opportunity to make records with some blues legends, in the spring and summer of 1938, was the perfect vehicle for proving he could do just that.

His first recordings with an electric guitar — at least as far as we know, anyway — came behind Big Bill Broonzy on March 1, 1938. Accompanying him that day was someone with whom he would become fast friends, Chicago keyboard man Blind John Davis (it very well could have been Davis who lined him up for the gig — at this point, we really don't know). In a recent turn of events, the Chicago musicians union had just opened their doors a little wider, making room for Blues and Jazz musicians to join. Big Bill, in typical fashion, apparently saw no reason to rush over and enlist, and as a result, had to put his guitar aside on this session date, becoming just a vocalist for the occasion (oddly enough, singers were not required to be a member of the union; only musicians were).

Just about two weeks later, on March 14th, 1938, George had a big day in the studio, first playing behind Washboard Sam, then Jazz Gillum, and lastly, singer Lorraine Walton. It's fascinating to hear things progress, as George, at first, limits himself to some rather tasteful solos behind Washboard Sam, only to warm up tremendously by the time Gillum and Walton stepped up to the microphone. It must have made for an unlikely sight in the studio that day — Gillum, who at times could rifle off some truly bone-chilling lyrics, and by all accounts had the demeanor of a crusty, seasoned blues veteran, and George Barnes — a kid from the suburbs, still four months shy of his 17th birthday. Nonetheless, they shared a few inspired moments together, with George playing some meandering runs throughout, as well as taking multiple solos, all encouraged by an enthusiastic Gillum, who throws some top notch harmonica blowing into the mix. By the time Lorraine Walton took her turn, probably a nightclub singer who was spotted by Chicago music boss Lester Melrose or one of his talent scouts, Blind John Davis and his younger guitar-playing buddy were in fine form, with excited responses from Walton encouraging them on.

It's not too surprising then, that Barnes got called back for further Blues sessions in 1938. By the time 1939 rolled around, however, he had mostly moved on. Signing with NBC radio in Chicago, he became the youngest music conductor and arranger they'd ever had. Not only was the pay decent enough, but the environment — compared to the smoky bars he was used to playing in — much better for a 17 year old kid.

After being drafted for service in World War II, Barnes returned home and resumed his prolific musical career. By his own estimation, he recorded scores of albums, and participated in hundreds, if not thousands, of recording sessions. While we can’t be too sure about the reliability of those numbers, all we can say, is that before his death at the age of 56 in 1977, he secured for himself a unique place in blues history — as one of the first people to record with an electric guitar. Not too bad for a teenage kid from the suburbs of Chicago.

P.S.: As for some of the other musicians who were noted for being early adopters of the electric guitar on their blues records, be sure to look for a special segment towards the end of the first hour.

Special thanks to Scott Dirks, and also especially to Dave Penny for help and invaluable assistance with this episode. For more on George Barnes, be sure to visit the George Barnes Pages.

Blues Unlimited #219 - It's All About The Boogie! (Rockin' Piano Blues 1928-1985)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for two hours of our favorite Boogie Woogie piano. From the "Big Three" — Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis — to some of the greats, like Willard McDaniel, Lloyd Glenn, Hadda Brooks, and Professor Longhair, it’s a Boogie Celebration that’ll have you dancing on your feet!

219_large_image_3_small Although the Boogie Woogie "craze" apparently was sparked by Pete Johnson's 1938 appearance at Carnegie Hall, at John Hammond's legendary "From Spirituals to Swing" series of concerts, it was actually a 1928 recording by Clarence "Pine Top" Smith (cleverly entitled "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie") that first saw that peculiar phrase emblazoned upon a record label. And pretty much ever since, the words "Boogie Woogie" have been an enduring part of the American Lexicon.

In order to "make the cut" into this program, we looked for masterfully and/or joyously executed piano instrumentals, with the one condition that the word "Boogie" be a part of the title. Since we had to draw the line somewhere — arbitrarily 
excluding pieces with the word "Stomp" or "Breakdown" in them — it seemed like as good a place to start as any. And also, since there were at least a hundred cuts or more that we didn't have time for, you can pretty much bet on a sequel sometime soon.

Over the decades, countless artists have made their own special contributions to the universe of Boogie Woogie piano, and on this program, we celebrate just a few of our favorites.

Other Programs Featuring Piano Blues:

Blues Unlimited #143 - New Orleans Piano

Blues Unlimited #153 - Prestige and Bluesville Keyboard Legends

Blues Unlimited #161 - West Coast Piano

Blues Unlimited #207 - What About Black Bob? (Rockin' Piano Blues 1934-1938)

Blues Unlimited #236 - Gentle Giant of the Keyboards: The Piano Blues of Big Maceo

Blues Unlimited #282 - The Candid Records Blues Sessions

Blues Unlimited #299 - Great Songwriters of the Blues, Part 1: Leroy Carr


Blues Unlimited #221 - Memphis, Detroit & Texas: A Tribute to the Blues Classics Label, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on a legendary series of albums from the Blues Classics label. Founded by Chris Strachwitz as a companion to Arhoolie Records, we’ll hear selections from three of our favorites — "Detroit Blues," "Memphis and the Delta," and "Texas Blues."

Bu221_large_image_small It's hard to imagine, going back some 50 years in time afterwards, the impact that a single LP might have on someone, but when it comes to the Blues Classics label — founded by Arhoolie's Chris Strachwitz, as a way of "liberating" (as he once put it) the 78s in his rather extensive collection — that influence has literally been inestimable. At a time when other labels were almost exclusively issuing pre-war blues (with the exception, perhaps, of Mike Rowe's "pwb" label), Blues Classics bucked the existing trend by issuing a wide variety of material, up to and including postwar Blues and Gospel records from the 1940s and '50s.

Blues Classics apparently got its start in 1964 with a Memphis Minnie LP (we use the word "apparently" here rather advisedly, as firm issue dates are hard to nail down when it comes to the label - for a full illustrated discography, click here), and by the time of their fifth LP, a year later, had started in on their highly acclaimed Country Blues Classics series, in which performances by Elmore James and Johnny Shines appeared right alongside those of Frank Stokes and Scrapper Blackwell. It was not only indicative of the broad musical interests of Arhoolie's founder, but also his impeccable taste as well.

With the issuance of their eighth LP, a compilation devoted to Chicago Blues of the 1950s, Blues Classics inaugurated a regional series that has since become the hallmark of their catalog. Other volumes that followed paid homage to Detroit, Texas, and Memphis and the Delta (the latter three, the focus of this program), as well as a standout collection of Down Home Blues, simply entitled Juke Joint Blues. And for those who were lucky enough to have gotten their hands on these precious slabs of vinyl at the time they were first issued, they were like gifts from above — eye openers that added new names to our roster of beloved artists, and timeless performances that have endured beyond the passage of years.

Over the last 30, 40, or 50 years, reissue albums have since come and gone, and for Blues fans who've been around a while, we've more than seen our fair share. But albums that stand up not only to the test of time, but continue to remain vital, relevant, and important decade after decade are rare indeed. They not only possess a 
special place of esteem in our collections, but also in our hearts as well. A sentiment that many others would certainly attest to as well.

So, thank you, Mr. Strachwitz, for "liberating" all this great music so many decades ago. 
"Blues Classics" indeed. In the end, you couldn't have picked a name any more appropriate than that.

Blues Unlimited #222 - Texas, Chicago & the Juke Joints: A Tribute to the Blues Classics Label, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for part two of our tribute to the Blues Classics label. Founded by Chris Strachwitz as the 'unofficial' reissue arm of Arhoolie Records, we’ll hear selections from rest of the Texas volume, as well as a pair of our favorites — "Juke Joint Blues," and "Chicago Blues - The Early 1950s."

Bu222_large_image_small Join us for part two of our tribute to the Blues Classics label. Founded by Chris Strachwitz as the 'unofficial' reissue arm of Arhoolie Records, we’ll hear selections from rest of the Texas volume, as well as a pair of our favorites — "Juke Joint Blues," and "Chicago Blues - The Early 1950s."

To see an illustrated history of all 30 albums in the Blues Classics series, be sure to visit Stefan Wirz's American Music website.

Blues Unlimited #223 - Great Gospel Preachers

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look at some of the great gospel preachers. From vintage favorites by the Reverends J.M. Gates and A.W. Nix, to postwar classics like the "Rock And Roll Sermon," don’t miss this special Blues Unlimited tribute to the art and artistry of gospel preaching.

Bu223_large_image_small Perhaps you've heard it said many times over the years, that a lot of Blues musicians got their start in church. And if any definitive proof of that were ever needed, some of the performances on this episode of Blues Unlimited might be good examples.

Although popular gospel preachers like the Reverends J.M. Gates, A.W. Nix, and J.C. Burnett sold records by the thousands back in the 1920s and 1930s, it was a tradition largely overlooked by scholars and researchers. As a result, information about Nix, whose "Black Diamond Express To Hell" has become a perennial cult favorite, is seriously lacking (formative years spent in Alabama before coming to Chicago shortly after World War I has so far been offered, which is at least something). Perhaps it was sermons being preached on topics such as going to hell for dancing the "Charleston" that embarrassed scholars, causing them to view the genre in a generally derogatory light. But amidst the fire and brimstone deliveries, one thing is evident. Gospel preaching, like the blues, covered almost every imaginable topic, from the hard times of the Great Depression and current events of the day — even to subjects like the death of Blind Lemon Jefferson. From that regard, then, the social commentary becomes an invaluable historical record, and the oratorical skills, which are often captivating and eerily spell-binding, almost a thing of bygone, forgotten era.

Another device richly used by gospel preachers is that of the metaphor, and in that regard, perhaps none was used more dramatically than in the Rev. C.L. Franklin's all-time classic, "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest." According to at least one critic, it's been called the greatest piece of gospel preaching ever committed to tape. His sermons, which were recorded live at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit by Joe Von Battle, and then shipped over to Chess, reputedly sold in the millions of copies (and just for the record, yes, he's the father of another famous Franklin you've possibly heard of, named Aretha — who started her musical career right there in his church while still just a teenager).

As the old saying goes, there could be no jazz without the blues, and it's also been said that without gospel, there could be no blues. In that regard, then, blues and gospel merely occupy different sides of the same coin, and as we listen to some outstanding and impassioned oratory, we can only think of all those blues musicians who sat in church Sunday after Sunday when they were kids, memorizing and absorbing the vocal nuances and cadences from the man in the pulpit as he preached the gospel.



Other Gospel Programs You Will Enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #302 - Hill Country Gospel
Blues Unlimited #248 - The Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan
Blues Unlimited #201 - Pre-War Gospel Classics
Blues Unlimited #154 - Down Home Gospel Favorites



Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

In July 1939, the engineers from Vocalion Records set up shop for two weeks in Memphis, cutting almost 170 sides by more than a dozen artists. The 78s they made, by Blind Boy Fuller, Little Buddy Doyle, Jack Kelly, and Charlie Burse, among others, marked the last chapter of recording activity in the Bluff City prior to World War II. It’s the last great field trip to Memphis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu225_large_image_copy_3_small

When the major record labels, like Columbia and Victor, figured out there was money to be made by selling blues, jazz, gospel, and down home country music, sometime in the mid to late 1920s, they started sending out small armies of field recording units to cities like Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Memphis, to see what talent they could find. In the Bluff City, a place that has always been blessed with a rich musical tapestry, field recording units first arrived in 1927, with annual followups taking place every year. But with the advent of the Great Depression, 1930 was something of a "last hurrah" — with visits by Brunswick/Vocalion in February, and by Victor in May and November of that year.

Sadly, it would be more than eight years before another record company would send a field unit to Memphis, which happened late in June 1939, when Vocalion set up shop for two weeks. Recruiting more than a dozen artists, they waxed almost 170 titles over a two week period — only taking time off for Sunday, July 2nd and July 9th, when no recordings took place at all. 

With the exception of Little Buddy Doyle, who made three titles on Saturday, July 1st, most of the first week was devoted to country and western. The Alley Boys of Abbeville — named after their hometown in Louisiana — kicked things off on Saturday, June 30th, cutting some 16 sides. Hank Penny and Roy Acuff were in the studio two days later, cutting almost three dozen titles over a four day period, with The Andrew Brothers and Slim Smith dominating the proceedings on Friday, July 7th.

It was back over to the blues for Saturday, July 8th, when Charlie Burse cut ten sides, with the Swift Jewel Cowboys taking over for Monday and Tuesday, July 10th and 11th. Wednesday, July 12th was another bluesy day, with Blind Boy Fuller, Bull City Red (aka "Brother" George Washington) and Sonny Jones waxing a total of 18 sides. After Gene Steele (6 titles) and the Swift Jewel Cowboys cut a few more sides, for the rest of the trip, it was blues all the way. Bull City Red, Jimmy DeBerry, and Sonny Jones all cut titles on Thursday, July 13th, with recordings by Jack Kelly and Little Buddy Doyle commencing the next day, Friday the 14th. Finally, Charlie Burse returned on Saturday, July 15th. After cutting an additional ten titles, the engineers at Vocalion called it quits. Over the two week period, they'd cut a total of 168 sides on more than a dozen artists. Years later, the son of one of the recording engineers said that the events of July 1939 were (we can only hopefully assume) fondly remembered — through a haze of marijuana smoke — perhaps the major contributing factor to the largely unknown identities of the accompanying musicians on the blues sessions (which, if it ever was known, has now been lost to the sands of time).

For the city of Memphis, when Vocalion wrapped things up and left town, it marked the end of an era. No further recording activity would take place in the Bluff City until 1950 — when a man by the name of Sam Phillips set up shop just a few blocks east of downtown, at 706 Union Avenue. But as they say, we’ll have to leave that for another time.

A most special thanks to Howard Rye, Chris Smith, and Tony Russell for their inestimable help and research assistance with this episode.


Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions

 

 


 

 

Blues Unlimited #227 - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we pay tribute to one of the pioneers of postwar Chicago blues harmonica, Snooky Pryor. Making his recording debut in 1948, he cut some spectacular sides, along with his friends Floyd Jones, Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Young, and more. It’s the blues world of Snooky Pryor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu227_large_image_new_small

When considering a list of the top harmonica players in the Windy City during the late 1940s and on through the 1950s — and to be sure, there were lots of them — the name of James Edward Pryor, better known to his friends as "Snooky," may not necessarily be the first one you'd put down. But almost certainly, it would at least make the top five. Because as it turns out, Snooky Pryor had a front row seat not only as a participant in some classic late '40s recording sessions, but also was an early experimenter with electricity and amplification, down on his home turf, playing on Maxwell Street.

As was the case with so many others who landed in Chicago, Snooky Pryor got his start in Mississippi, where he born in the Delta town of Lambert, not too far east of Clarksdale, in 1921. During World War II, he started experimenting with his company's P.A. system, allegedly blowing reveille with his harmonica to what we can only imagine must have been the startled response of his fellow G.I.'s. After his service was over, he took the concept with him to the legendary Maxwell Street market, bringing along an amplifier to help him be heard over the din of the noisy crowd, who could be found there on the weekends, looking for bargains.

Over time, he made the acquaintance of both Floyd Jones and Johnny Young, and late in 1948, each of them cut a 78 for a local businessman, Chester Scales. Snooky recalled him as a pretty smooth operator, but not necessarily in a good way. One oft-told tale involves Johnny Young going down to see Chester Scales because he hadn't received any money from his recording session, only to find himself the lucky recipient of Scales' fist, and a night or two in Cook County lock-up. The story takes an interesting plot twist, however, with Floyd Jones hearing about all this, and reputedly taking a gun with him down to Scales' office, until he had forked over enough cash to get Young out of jail and have some leftover to split between him and his fellow musicians. Although some details tend to stretch credibility (just a little  bit), it still makes for a great story.

Pryor continued to be involved in further ground-breaking sessions, cutting some early sides for the J.O.B. imprint in 1950 with Baby Face Leroy Foster, with the two of them joining forces behind Sunnyland Slim later that year on the politically oriented "Back to Korea Blues." In 1952 and 1953 he recorded again for J.O.B., and also backed up Willie Nix and Homesick James on their sessions for the Chance label. 1954 saw another flurry of activity — another fine single for Parrot resulted, along with session work for Blue Lake and Vee Jay, where he became part of a "super group" aggregation that involved Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, and Sunnyland Slim all joining forces in the recording studio. For Floyd Jones, his 1954 Vee Jay sides would be his last as a leader, at least for the vintage market, but Snooky wasn't quite done yet. Two years later, he was back at Vee Jay, where he cut the masterful "Judgment Day." It wouldn't be until about six years later, when he came back to J.O.B. in the early 1960s, that he cut his last 45, an interesting political piece, "Uncle Sam Don't Take My Man." 

After the 1962 or 1963 J.O.B. date, Snooky Pryor quit the music business in favor of more steady work as a carpenter. Fortunately, it was a relatively short-lived retirement, because he was back in the studio in 1972, cutting a terrific album on the Today label. He continued to tour and record, with a fine series of albums appearing before his death at the age of 85, in 2006. In the end, although he’ll always probably take a back seat to Little Walter when it comes to the annals of postwar blues harmonica — who recorded more extensively and was better known — there would indeed be a huge void in the rich recorded legacy of Chicago Blues had it not been for Snooky Pryor.


You might also enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #166 - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #198 - Lowdown Windy City Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #232 - Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #275 - Lowdown Harmonica Blues from Jackson, Mississippi

Blues Unlimited #239 - Big Walter's Blues: Early Harmonica Classics, 1951-1954


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for a look at Saint Louis, where the country blues meet the city. Over the years, some critics have claimed it was the place where prewar blues were at their very peak. This time, we’ll take a look at the guitar players, like Charley Jordan, Hi Henry Brown, J.D. Short, and Henry Townsend. It’s the blues from Saint Louis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited (Note: Part 1 of 2).

Bu228_large_image_new_small

Join us for a look at Saint Louis, where the country blues meet the city. Over the years, some critics have claimed it was the place where prewar blues were at their very peak. This time, we’ll take a look at the guitar players, like Charley Jordan, Hi Henry Brown, J.D. Short, and Henry Townsend. It’s the blues from Saint Louis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited (Note: Part 1 of 2).

Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings  
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions



Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for part two of our look at the blues in Saint Louis from the 1920s and '30s, this time focusing on the piano players. We’ll hear from popular favorites like Peetie Wheatstraw, Walter Davis, Henry Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, the Sparks Brothers, and more! It’s part two of the blues in Saint Louis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited (Note: Part 2 of 2).

Bu229_large_image_new_small Join us for part two of our look at the blues in Saint Louis from the 1920s and '30s, this time focusing on the piano players. We’ll hear from popular favorites like Peetie Wheatstraw, Walter Davis, Henry Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, the Sparks Brothers, and more! It’s part two of the blues in Saint Louis, on this episode of Blues Unlimited (Note: Part 2 of 2).

Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions
 


Blues Unlimited #231 - Good Time Tunes: Songs About Drinkin' & Havin' Fun

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we celebrate the good times, with songs about drinking and having fun. With music on tap from Ike Turner, J.B. Lenoir, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and more, how can you possibly go wrong! A celebration of the good times, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu231_large_image_new_small Join as we celebrate the good times, with songs about drinking and having fun. With music on tap from Ike Turner, J.B. Lenoir, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and more, how can you possibly go wrong! A celebration of the good times, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #232 - Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We've taken a whole great gob of our favorite down home country blues harmonica blowers, and lined them up for one incredible episode we're calling a "Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam." Music from Papa Lightfoot, Sam Myers, Buster Brown, Johnny Woods, Whispering Smith, and more.

Bu232_large_image_small We've taken a whole great gob of our favorite down home country blues harmonica blowers, and lined them up for one incredible episode we're calling a "Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam." Music from Papa Lightfoot, Sam Myers, Buster Brown, Johnny Woods, Whispering Smith, and more.


Also in the "Lowdown Harmonica" Series:

Blues Unlimited #166 - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #198 - Lowdown Windy City Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #275 - Lowdown Harmonica Blues from Jackson, Mississippi



You might also enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #227 - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor
Blues Unlimited #239 - Big Walter's Blues: Early Harmonica Classics, 1951-1954


Blues Unlimited #233 - Rockin' on Down in Harlem - Bobby Robinson's Happy House of Hits

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on independent record producer, Bobby Robinson. Not only could he lay claim to a legendary series of labels — such as Fire, Fury, Enjoy and Red Robin — but had an equally impressive string of number one hits. A tribute to late, great Bobby Robinson, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu233_large_image_small Join us as we aim the spotlight on Harlem's legendary independent record producer, Bobby Robinson. Not only could he lay claim to a prized series of labels — such as Fire, Fury, Enjoy and Red Robin — but could also boast of an equally impressive string of number one hits from such musicians as Wilbert Harrison, King Curtis, Buster Brown, Lee Dorsey, and more. In addition, recordings by such icons as Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup also became high water marks of their later careers. Originally, he got his start in the music business back in 1946, with his now-famous record shop, conveniently located just a few steps away from the hallowed ground of the Apollo Theater for over 60 years. A tribute to late, great Bobby Robinson, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #234 - The Pride of Houston: Lightnin' Hopkins & Bill Quinn's Legendary Gold Star Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on Bill Quinn’s legendary Gold Star record label. Founded in Houston in the late 1940s, he recorded some of the cream of the crop of Texas postwar country blues, including Thunder Smith, L.C. Williams, Lil' Son Jackson, and — our man of the hour — Lightnin' Hopkins.

Bu234_large_image_new_small Shortly before the start of World War II, a man from Massachusetts and his small family, on their way to Florida for the winter, detoured over to Houston for a visit with his wife’s sister. When they rolled into town, the axle on their car broke, and — as fate would have it for blues history — decided just to stay where they were.

The man turned out to be Bill Quinn, born 1903, with a background in electronics and experience working as a sound man for a carnival show. In Houston, he started repairing radios, and as another twist of fate would have it, everything changed one day when a customer brought in a disc-recording machine that needed repair. Quinn became fascinated with the concept, and purchased one for himself. Short afterwards, The Quinn Recording Company was born, late in 1941. At first, he did custom recordings and commercial jingles for radio stations, but soon ventured into the record business, with the short-lived Gulf label. Once again, everything changed a couple years later, in 1946, when he released a 78 entitled “Jole Blon” by a gifted Cajun fiddler, Harry Choates. It struck a nerve with the record-buying public and became a huge hit on the Billboard charts.

At the time Quinn entered the record business, however, the manufacture of phonograph records was a closely guarded secret by the major companies. It was something he had to largely figure out for himself, which took a lot of trial and error. Cutting directly to fragile acetate discs, the master would be placed into a tank for processing, where it was subjected to electrolysis and undergo metal plating. Once accomplished, the acetate could be peeled away and discarded, with the metal “master” leaving an exact reverse copy of the original. Using the master, a “mother” disc could now be made, and from the mother disc, finally, we get the stampers — which are used to press the actual record. It’s an elaborate, intensive process with a lot of steps that can go wrong. Quinn admits that many of the fragile acetate masters never materialized out of his homemade processing tank — and with no backup of any kind (audio tape was not in widespread use at the time) — the recording was simply lost forever.

The year after Gold Star hit big with Harry Choates, in 1947, Quinn started in recording blues, with Lightnin’ Hopkins quickly becoming his other biggest seller. During the years between 1946 and 1950, Lightnin’ was laying down the framework for what would become one of the most celebrated careers in the blues, recording for both Aladdin and Gold Star. At first, he was spotted by a talent scout and shipped off to Los Angeles for his 1946 studio debut, but was soon back in Houston, apparently cutting a 78 for Bill Quinn anytime he needed an extra $75.

Overall, Lightnin’ made up almost a third of the total blues-related output on Gold Star — which numbered to some 60 or 61 different 78s depending upon who’s counting. But by 1952, Bill Quinn had simply had enough. With Lightnin’ recording for anyone who had the cash, the government breathing down his neck seeking to collect excise taxes on his record pressings, plus the untimely deaths of his big star, Harry Choates, and his first wife, Lona, to cancer — he folded up Gold Star and called it a day. “Jackstropper Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins would become the last 78 to be issued using the distinctive yellow and red label design of Gold Star records, complete with its now legendary description emblazoned across the middle: “King of the Hillbillies.”

Fortunately, Bill Quinn kept his studio open for business, and went on to record artists like George Jones, The Big Bopper, Freddy Fender, and Doug Sahm, among others. Today — after a number of different permutations and name changes over the years — it remains the oldest continually operating recording studio in the Southeastern United States.

The legacy of Bill Quinn, however, won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The down home material he recorded for Gold Star will forever remain a high-water mark of postwar Texas Country Blues.


Other programs featuring Lightnin' Hopkins:
Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast
Blues Unlimited #282 - The Candid Records Blues Sessions
Blues Unlimited #309 - The Blues is a Feeling: Stories, Songs and Conversation from Son House & Lightnin' Hopkins



Blues Unlimited #235 - Live and On Stage: Blues Classics from the 1960s

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore some of the very best live blues performances of all time — B.B. King at the Regal, Muddy Waters at Newport, Robert Nighthawk on Maxwell Street, Magic Sam at Ann Arbor, and more. The blues, quite simply, doesn't get much better than this.

Bu235_large_image_new_small From Chicago's opulent Regal Theatre, to an intimate coffee house in New York City, to the back alley ways of the legendary Maxwell Street market, and onto live festival stages at Newport and Ann Arbor, the blues — captured live in performance, anyway — doesn't get much better than this. Here, then, are a few recordings from the 1960s that frequently get picked by fans and critics alike as "the best live blues recordings of all time," and just for fun, we've thrown in a few personal favorites as well. Classics from B.B. King ("Live at the Regal"); Robert Nighthawk ("And This Is Maxwell Street"); John Lee Hooker ("Live at the Cafe Au Go-Go"); Magic Sam (Live at Ann Arbor); Muddy Waters ("At Newport"), and more.



Other Programs of Live Blues You Will Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #278 - When Giants Walked the Earth: The 1968 & '69 Memphis Country Blues Festivals
Blues Unlimited #259 - Live at Tipitina's: Rockin' the House Down in New Orleans
Blues Unlimited #226 - Rock This House: Chicago Blues Legends Live at Antone's
Blues Unlimited #191 - A Legend Every Night: Blues from Antone's
Blues Unlimited #209 - Music from the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Blues Unlimited #186 - Blues from Ann Arbor, '72 (and '69)


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #236 - Gentle Giant of the Keyboards: The Piano Blues of Big Maceo

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for a tribute to keyboard legend Big Maceo Merriweather. Although his recorded legacy is not all that large, he left an indelible mark in the city of Chicago, leading the way for others, such as Johnny Jones and Otis Spann, to follow in his wake. A tribute to the gentle giant of the piano, Big Maceo, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu236_large_image_small With just 20 different 78s to his credit, recorded over the course of a decade, some might say that Big Maceo didn’t leave much behind in the way of a legacy. But what he did leave helped shape the future course of the blues in Chicago, and made an indelible impact on the world of piano.

It wasn’t until he was 36 — in the summer of 1941 — that he made his first recordings, having been born in Georgia, in 1905. One of 11 children, he was born in the town of Newnan, just to the south and west of Atlanta. At first the family farmed, but when he was a teenager, they moved closer to the city, where legend has it he first developed an interest in the piano. Not long afterwards, he moved to Detroit, following the trail of other family members who’d since moved there, looking for better work and a higher standard of living. If Maceo belonged to any piano tradition in Atlanta, it’s been forever lost to the misty fog of history, as it was a city known for guitar players, not piano technicians. Only 19 when he arrived in the Motor City, he would go on to “cut his teeth” at nightclubs, house parties, and barrelhouses in Detroit. By the time he arrived in Chicago, in 1941, he was a seasoned veteran.

Tampa Red, who acted as a talent scout and liaison for Lester Melrose — the de facto studio boss in Chicago during the 1930s and ‘40s — would help Maceo secure his first recording date. “Worried Life Blues,” based upon an old Sleepy John Estes composition, was the first tune committed to wax right out of the starting gate. Although it could rightly be regarded as one of the true universal classics of the blues, in a rather curious move, Bluebird held back on releasing it, saving it for his third 78 — if only to prove, once again, that record company executives don’t always “get it.”

Unfortunately, one of the songs Big Maceo recorded, “Tuff Luck Blues,” might very well be viewed as prophetic. With his recording career just getting underway, the pause button came down in a big way on August 1st, 1942, when the Petrillo Recording Ban started (allegedly over concerns about royalty payments to union musicians ). Fortunately, Maceo had cut a few sides just days before, but the overall effect was deleterious. He wouldn’t be back in a recording studio until February 1945, taking work as a railroad porter to make ends meet in the intervening years.

1945 saw Maceo blooming, however. Instead of just recording with Tampa Red, as he had in 1941 and 1942, he cut sessions with Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, and Jazz Gillum. His records, usually thoughtful and somewhat introspective, had more of rhythmic drive to them, bolstered by his left-hand bass work on the piano — something that came easily to Maceo, who was a natural southpaw.

In October 1945, he cut his “magnum opus,” an instrumental of such drive, passion, and keyboard wizardry, that almost all words to describe it seem inadequate. “Chicago Breakdown” was his shining moment of glory, the sum total of his powers; and with its storming right hand and intricately pounding bass runs — said to be a piece that only someone who was naturally left-handed could accomplish.

Unfortunately, Maceo would never again duplicate the magic that he achieved on “Chicago Breakdown.” Sometime during the summer of 1946, he suffered a stroke, which paralyzed him on his right side. Never again would he play with the authority he once did, in spite of several heartbreaking attempts.

Reports about his life are at once murky and somewhat contradictory, but through them, a picture emerges of a man who loved his drink, was plagued with ill health, and seemingly burned his candle at both ends when the opportunity presented itself. As his older brother Roy recounted to blues historian Mike Rowe (who named his definitive history of Chicago blues after the Big Maceo instrumental):

“ They call him from New Orleans, ‘Be here tomorrow night...’ I don’t care what time of night it was, he’d get out of the bed and they pick him up in a car and take him down to New Orleans. They let him play all day and night too and then again. Let him lay down and rest awhile. Right back to Dayton or Detroit again and that’s how he had his stroke, on account of he didn’t rest enough.”

In the end, it seems, the fast-paced life of a musician simply overtook him. A final session for RCA Victor was held in 1947, with Eddie Boyd on piano. In spite of the fact that his smoky, understated vocals were as strong as ever, it just wasn’t the same, and he was dropped from the label. Another studio date came about in 1949 thanks to Art Rupe of Specialty, but again, we have Johnny Jones — perhaps his star pupil — on the keyboards instead. A year later more recordings were held, with husband and wife team John and Grace Brim, for the Fortune label. Although the effort was commendable, with James Watkins taking over the right hand piano work and Maceo handling the left, it made for a rather sad epitaph. One final session for Mercury, in early 1952 — still unissued all these years later — would be his last time in a recording studio. A little over a year later, this gentle giant of the keyboards would be forever silenced — just a month shy of his 48th birthday.

While his legacy might not be all that extensive, perhaps leaving us with an unfulfilled wish for there to be just a little bit more for us to enjoy, in the end, it was enough. Enough to bridge the gap from the work of earlier keyboard icons such as Leroy Carr and Walter Davis, and to pave the way for others, such as Johnny Jones and Otis Spann, who followed in his wake.

Special thanks to Mike Rowe, whose research proved crucial in piecing together Big Maceo's story.

Other Programs Featuring Piano Blues:

Blues Unlimited #143 - New Orleans Piano
Blues Unlimited #153 - Prestige and Bluesville Keyboard Legends
Blues Unlimited #161 - West Coast Piano
Blues Unlimited #207 - What About Black Bob? (Rockin' Piano Blues 1934-1938)
Blues Unlimited #219 - It's All About The Boogie! (Rockin' Piano Blues 1928-1985)
Blues Unlimited #282 - The Candid Records Blues Sessions

Blues Unlimited #299 - Great Songwriters of the Blues, Part 1: Leroy Carr 



Blues Unlimited #237 - It Must've Been The Devil Goin' Up The Country: The Big Road Blues of David Evans

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on the legendary field recordings of David Evans. An intrepid researcher, most of what he captured in the mid 60s and early 70s are fascinating documents of a time and place that otherwise might’ve been lost to history. It’s the field recordings of David Evans, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu237_large_image_small Join us as we aim the spotlight on the legendary field recordings of David Evans. An intrepid researcher, most of what he captured in Mississippi and Louisiana, in the mid 60s and early 70s, are fascinating documents of a time and place that otherwise might’ve been lost to history. It’s the field recordings of David Evans, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Also, be sure to check out this related piece: Blues Unlimited #319 - Blues from Bentonia, Mississippi



Other programs of field recordings you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #295 - Go Down Ol' Hannah: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Texas State Prison Farms
Blues Unlimited #287 - Ain't Got Long in the Murderer's Home: Stories and Songs from Parchman Farm (1933-1978)
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues
Blues Unlimited #253 - Alan Lomax in the Hill Country of Mississippi
Blues Unlimited #206 - Down Home Delta Blues from 1941
Blues Unlimited #178 - Lower Chattahoochee Valley Blues



Blues Unlimited #239 - Big Walter's Blues: Early Harmonica Classics, 1951-1954

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we pay tribute to one of the all time greatest harmonica players, Big Walter Horton. Making his first recordings with Sam Phillips in Memphis in 1951, what he was capable of doing with a simple harmonica has been amazing and astounding audiences ever since.

Bu239_large_image_new_small Join us as we pay tribute to one of the all time greatest harmonica players, Big Walter Horton. Making his first recordings with Sam Phillips in Memphis in 1951, what he was capable of doing with a simple harmonica has been amazing and astounding audiences ever since. In addition to classics he cut for Sun, Modern and RPM, we'll also hear some of his work with Willie Nix, Joe Hill Louis, Johnny Shines, Muddy Waters, Tampa Red, and more.


You might also enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #166 - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #198 - Lowdown Windy City Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #232 - Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #275 - Lowdown Harmonica Blues from Jackson, Mississippi

Blues Unlimited #227 - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we journey to the Queen City of the South, Charlotte, North Carolina, to hear some of the rich blues and heavenly gospel that was recorded there primarily during the late 1920s and ’30s. We’ll hear some pretty rare 78s, and some amazing quartet singing. It’s blues and gospel from Charlotte, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu240_large_image_new_small Join us as we journey to the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina, to hear some of the rich blues and heavenly gospel that was recorded there primarily during the late 1920s and ’30s by RCA Victor and their Bluebird subsidiary. We’ll hear some pretty rare 78s, and some amazing quartet singing. It’s blues and gospel from Charlotte, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings  
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions
 


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #241 - More Killer Grooves & Hot Rockers from the Land of the B3

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take another trip down to the land of the Hammond B3. We’ll hear some killer grooves and hot rockers from some of our old favorites like Brother Jack McDuff, Sam Lazar, Jimmy Smith, and Booker T. Jones. In addition, we've got a whole slew of folks making their first-ever debut on the program, such as Milt Buckner, Wild Bill Davis, Shirley Scott, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Baby Face Willette, and more. We’re having fun with the B3, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu241_large_image_small Join us as we take another trip down to the land of the Hammond B3. We’ll hear some killer grooves and hot rockers from some of our old favorites like Brother Jack McDuff, Sam Lazar, Jimmy Smith, and Booker T. Jones. In addition, we've got a whole slew of folks making their first-ever debut on the program, such as Milt Buckner, Wild Bill Davis, Shirley Scott, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Baby Face Willette, and more. We’re having fun with the B3, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Other programs in the "Hammond B3" series:

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Blues Unlimited #242 - Five Easy Pieces: "The Blues" on Chess, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on a classic series of LPs from Chess Records. Simply called "The Blues," they issued five volumes between 1963 and 1966. For many blues lovers, it was their primary introduction to one of the most famous independent record labels of all time (NOTE: Part 1 of 2).

Bu242_large_image_new_small Join us as we aim the spotlight on a classic series of LPs from Chess Records. Simply called "The Blues," they issued five volumes between 1963 and 1966, plus a sixth "bonus" installment a quarter century later, in 1991. For many blues lovers, it was their primary introduction to one of the most famous independent record labels of all time. In part one, we'll focus on the first two volumes, plus the first half of volume three, along with a handful of rarities from volume six. Includes music from Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, and many more.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #243 - Five Easy Pieces: "The Blues" on Chess, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we finish up our tribute to the "The Blues," a series of five LPs issued by Chess Records in the mid 1960s. We’ll hear classics from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Rogers, and many more.

Bu243_large_image_new_small Join us as we finish up our tribute to the "The Blues," a series of five LPs issued by Chess Records in the mid 1960s (along with a special "bonus volume" of rarities and outtakes issued in 1991 as a companion to the original albums). We’ll hear classics from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Rogers, and many more.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #244 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 1: East Coast Folk Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for the launch of a new and ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, our focus will be on the Eastern Seaboard, with music from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the Reverend Gary Davis, Pink Anderson, Blind Willie McTell, and more. It's the Legends of Bluesville Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu244_large_image_small Join us for the launch of a new and ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, our focus will be on the Eastern Seaboard, with music from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the Reverend Gary Davis, Pink Anderson, Blind Willie McTell, and more. It's the Legends of Bluesville Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in "The Legends of Bluesville" Series:

Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast

Blues Unlimited #255 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk

Blues Unlimited #266 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 4: Memphis & the Delta

Blues Unlimited #281 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 5: Blues from St. Louis

Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues



Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for part two of our new and ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, we’ll aim the spotlight on Texas and the Gulf Coast, with music from Snooks Eaglin, Robert Pete Williams, Smoky Babe, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. It's the legends of Bluesville Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu245_large_image_small Join us for part two of our new and ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, we’ll aim the spotlight on Texas and the Gulf Coast, with music from Snooks Eaglin, Robert Pete Williams, Smoky Babe, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. It's the legends of Bluesville Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in "The Legends of Bluesville" Series:
Blues Unlimited #244 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 1: East Coast Folk Blues
Blues Unlimited #255 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk
Blues Unlimited #266 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 4: Memphis & the Delta
Blues Unlimited #281 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 5: Blues from St. Louis
Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues



Other programs featuring Lightnin' Hopkins:
Blues Unlimited #234 - The Pride of Houston: Lightnin' Hopkins & Bill Quinn's Legendary Gold Star Records
Blues Unlimited #309 - The Blues is a Feeling: Stories, Songs and Conversation from Son House & Lightnin' Hopkins



Blues Unlimited #246 - The ARC Files: 1930s Rarities from the American Record Corporation

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we go back to the 1930s and dig out some of the rarest blues of all time. From Leroy Carr and Robert Johnson to Big Bill Broonzy and Blind Willie McTell, these tunes all have one thing in common — not a single one was ever issued at the time they were made. Rare blues from the American Record Corporation, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu246_large_image_new_copy_small Join us as we go back to the 1930s and dig out some of the rarest blues of all time. From Leroy Carr and Robert Johnson to Big Bill Broonzy and Blind Willie McTell, these tunes all have one thing in common — not a single one was ever issued at the time they were made. Rare blues from the American Record Corporation, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Other programs you will enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #267 - One-of-a-Kind Wonders: The Rarest Blues 78s of All Time



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Blues Unlimited #247 - Dark Muddy Bottom: 1950s Down Home Country Blues from Specialty Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for some terrific Down Home Country Blues from Specialty Records. In addition to Frankie Lee Sims and Clifton Chenier — two of our all-time favorites — we’ll also be featuring a legendary LP, "Dark Muddy Bottom Blues." Down Home Blues from Specialty, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu247_large_image_new_small Although most people might think of sophisticated West Coast R&B, Gospel Groups like Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, or even Little Richard when it comes to Specialty — the legendary Los Angeles record label founded by Art Rupe in 1946 — the truth is they also cut some killer down home country blues in the early to mid 1950s. We'll be digging into that rich vein of material on this episode, largely focusing on the original 45 and 78 rpm singles issued on Specialty and also Fidelity — a short-lived subsidiary imprint that issued about a dozen sides.

In addition to hearing a few cuts from Frankie Lee Sims and Clifton Chenier — two of our all-time favorites — we’re really excited to also dig into a legendary LP that came out in 1972, called "Dark Muddy Bottom Blues." It’s a five-star item that belongs in any blues lover’s collection, and was compiled (largely of rare outtakes, we might add) by one time Specialty staff member Barret Hansen — perhaps better known to the world as radio legend Doctor Demento.

Although the down home material on Specialty did not make up a very large percentage of their overall output, what they did record — like pretty much everything else on Specialty — was top notch. And as we "go to press" (so to speak) with this episode, we still have with us label owner Art Rupe to thank, as well as Barret Hansen, who retrieved a lot of this material out of the Specialty archives in the early 1970s. We give a "BU Tip o' the Hat" to each of them for their work behind the scenes in bringing us these fine down home performances.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #248 - The Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On our annual Gospel Show, "Brother Hawkins" takes the reins as we aim the spotlight on some of our favorite guitar-slinging ladies of Gospel music, including the Two Gospel Keys, Sister O.M. Terrell, Mary Deloatch, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, among others. Don't miss the "Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan," on this episode of Blues Unlimited!

Bu248_large_image_new_small On our annual Gospel Show, "Brother Hawkins" takes the reins as we aim the spotlight on some of our favorite guitar-slinging ladies of Gospel music, including the Two Gospel Keys, Sister O.M. Terrell, Mary Deloatch, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, among others. Don't miss the "Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan," on this episode of Blues Unlimited!

Other Programs You Will Enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #302 - Hill Country Gospel
Blues Unlimited #223 - Great Gospel Preachers
Blues Unlimited #201 - Pre-War Gospel Classics
Blues Unlimited #154 - Down Home Gospel Favorites
Blues Unlimited #288 - The Sweethearts of Decca



This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #249 - Chicago Blues and R&B from Chief Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look at the small but mighty Chief label, out of Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1957 by entrepreneur Mel London, it was only in operation for a few years, but became home to a handful of blues legends like Elmore James, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, and Earl Hooker. It’s Blues and R&B from Chief Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu249_large_image_new_small Join us as we take a look at the small but mighty Chief label, out of Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1957 by entrepreneur Mel London, it was only in operation for a few years, but became home to a handful of blues legends like Elmore James, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, and Earl Hooker. It’s Blues and R&B from Chief Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #250 - Finally Ready for Eddie: A Tribute to the Blues Guitar of Eddie Taylor

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us — on our 150th episode! — as we pay tribute to one of the real unsung heroes of Chicago Blues, guitarist Eddie Taylor. He worked and recorded with a who’s who of music legends, including Elmore James, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. A tribute to the great Eddie Taylor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Note: Part 1 of 3)

Bu250_large_image_small Join us — on our 150th episode! — as we pay tribute to one of the real unsung heroes of Chicago Blues, guitarist Eddie Taylor. He worked and recorded with a who’s who of music legends, including Elmore James, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. A tribute to the great Eddie Taylor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Note: Part 1 of 3)

Blues Unlimited #251 - Finally Ready for Eddie, Part 2: The Best of the Vee-Jay Years

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue our tribute to Chicago blues guitar legend, Eddie Taylor. Most famous for the recordings he did for Vee-Jay with John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed, we’ll be diving head first into that remarkable body of work, focusing on the years 1955-1960. It's the blues guitar of Eddie Taylor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Note: Part 2 of 3)

Bu251_large_image_small Join us as we continue our tribute to Chicago blues guitar legend, Eddie Taylor. Most famous for the recordings he did for Vee-Jay with John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed, we’ll be diving head first into that remarkable body of work, focusing on the years 1955-1960. It's the blues guitar of Eddie Taylor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Note: Part 2 of 3)

Blues Unlimited #252 - Finally Ready for Eddie, Part 3: Gems, Classics & Rarities, 1956-1985

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us we wrap up our tribute to Chicago Blues guitar legend, Eddie Taylor. We’ll be hearing some standout selections from his solo work — plus some rare, classic, and hard to find cuts from the 1950s and '60s. It’s part 3 of our tribute to Eddie Taylor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Note: Part 3 of 3)

Bu252_large_image_small Join us we wrap up our tribute to Chicago Blues guitar legend, Eddie Taylor. We’ll be hearing some standout selections from his solo work — plus some rare, classic, and hard to find cuts from the 1950s and '60s. It’s part 3 of our tribute to Eddie Taylor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. (Note: Part 3 of 3)

Blues Unlimited #253 - Alan Lomax in the Hill Country of Mississippi

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we follow Alan Lomax through the Hill Country of Mississippi, in September 1959. We’ll hear some exciting fife and drum band music, old fiddle tunes, inspired gospel singing, and Fred McDowell’s very first recordings. It's magic from the Hill Country of Mississippi, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu253_large_image_small On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we reconstruct one of Alan Lomax's greatest field trips. In a lengthy and quite distinguished career that involved thousands upon thousands of recordings, our opinion is that, quite simply, "it doesn't get much better than this." When Alan Lomax and his assistant, a 19 year-old Shirley Collins, first rolled into the community of Como, Mississippi, in September 1959, he not only brought with him modern stereo recording equipment, but he also sought out a wide variety of performers and musicians to capture on tape — including fife and drum band music, guitar and fiddle duets, children's nursery rhymes, dynamic and powerful gospel singing from a nearby church in Tyro, Mississippi, and last but certainly not least — Fred McDowell's very first recordings.

Along this magical journey, we'll also slip into our time machine and make another brief detour back to 1942 — when Alan Lomax first recorded legendary Hill Country multi-instrumentalist, Sid Hemphill. Among others, the occasion marked the first time that Mississippi fife and drum band music was ever captured for the sake of posterity, and it seems only fitting that Lomax and Hemphill would find each other again some 17 years later, in 1959.

So, join us as we re-assemble this historic journey through Como, Senatobia, and Tyro, Mississippi, in September 1959 — in roughly chronological order — giving us a glimpse of what it was like to have been alongside one of the great folklorists and song catchers of the 20th century, as the magic of Mississippi Hill Country unfolds right before our very ears.


Other programs of field recordings you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #295 - Go Down Ol' Hannah: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Texas State Prison Farms
Blues Unlimited #287 - Ain't Got Long in the Murderer's Home: Stories and Songs from Parchman Farm (1933-1978)
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues
Blues Unlimited #237 - It Must've Been The Devil Goin' Up The Country: The Big Road Blues of David Evans
Blues Unlimited #206 - Down Home Delta Blues from 1941
Blues Unlimited #178 - Lower Chattahoochee Valley Blues



Blues Unlimited #254 - Instrumental Madness: Classic Grooves & Hot Rockers from King & Federal Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for an all-instrumental extravaganza, as we put the spotlight on King and Federal Records. While other labels certainly recorded instrumentals, it was King who made them into an institution. We’ll hear from Bill Doggett, Freddy King, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Jimmy Nolen, King Curtis, Ike Turner, and a whole lot more. It’s King and Federal instrumentals, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu254_large_image_new_small Join us for an all-instrumental extravaganza, as we put the spotlight on King and Federal Records. While other labels certainly recorded instrumentals, it was King who made them into an institution. We’ll hear from Bill Doggett, Freddy King, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Jimmy Nolen, King Curtis, Ike Turner, and a whole lot more. It’s King and Federal instrumentals, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Blues Unlimited #255 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue our look at the legends of Bluesville, this time from the West Coast. That includes music from piano man Mercy Dee Walton, harmonica blower Sidney Maiden, guitarist K.C. Douglas, and one-man-band, Jesse Fuller. It's the legends of Bluesville, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu255_large_image_gtj_small Although Mercy Dee Walton, Sidney Maiden, and K.C. Douglas all recorded LPs for the Bluesville label (Douglas had two, in fact), for this West Coast edition of the "Legends of Bluesville," we had to bend the rules just a bit for Jesse Fuller, who recorded two LPs for Bluesville's sister imprint Prestige, and three for the Good Time Jazz label. These days, Good Time Jazz, Prestige, and Bluesville all fall under the umbrella of Fantasy Records, having been purchased eons ago — so, perhaps it's all a moot point anyway. In any event, we've got an exciting and innovative group of musicians lined up for the program, including the much celebrated one-man-band, Jesse Fuller.

His nickname was "The Lone Cat," and he certainly cut a formidable figure, playing the 12-string guitar, harmonica, kazoo, hi-hat, and his homemade foot-operated bass contraption, the "Fotdella" — all at the same time. On the label of his Good Time Jazz 45's — just in case anyone in the listening audience was skeptical — it bore this fascinating disclaimer: "Jesse Fuller sings and accompanies himself simultaneously on bass, drums, 12-string guitar, harmonica and kazoo. You hear him in actual performance. No over-dubbing or electronic tricks were used to make this unbelievable recording." Jesse Fuller's big hit, of course, was "San Francisco Bay Blues," which he recorded a number of times, and we might add — spent a LOT of time on the turntables of folk and blues enthusiasts in the 1950s and '60s.

K.C. Douglas had roots going back to Mississippi; he could lay claim to no less a mentor than the great Tommy Johnson, with whom he played in the 1940s. Sidney Maiden hailed from Louisiana, while Mercy Dee was part of the deep and proud tradition of Texas Piano Blues. Eventually, they all made their way to California — Mercy Dee describes this experience vividly in his magnum opus, "Mercy's Troubles" — where they all made their recording debut in the late 1940s.

Sadly, Mercy Dee passed away not too long after cutting "Pity And A Shame," his LP for Bluesville. It's not hard to imagine what a big hit he would have been on the Blues Revival circuit, charming audiences with his keen sense of irony and acerbic wit. K.C. Douglas lived on until the mid 1970s, cutting further sides for Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie label (it had, in fact, been Strachwitz that recorded these three gentleman for Bluesville. A small portion of the material that Bluesville did not end up using at the time later saw issue on Arhoolie, thankfully — some of which we've utilized here). As for Sidney Maiden, he reportedly married a young bride, and spent time between Fresno, California, and Arizona, where he presumably died in the late 1980s.

As for Jesse Fuller, well, all we can say is that they definitely broke the mold when they made him. Not since his passing, in 1976, has anyone been able to match his enthusiastic singing and playing, or the ease with which he simultaneously mastered a small cadre of instruments.

Although our list of artists ended up being a fairly short one for this installment of our "Legends of Bluesville" series, we hope you enjoy the diverse talent on offer from this celebrated and much beloved group of musicians — all of whom made an indelible and lasting mark on the Blues world.


Also in "The Legends of Bluesville" Series:

Blues Unlimited #244 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 1: East Coast Folk Blues

Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast

Blues Unlimited #266 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 4: Memphis & the Delta

Blues Unlimited #281 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 5: Blues from St. Louis

Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues



Blues Unlimited #256 - (It Was) Really! The Country Blues (That) Fell This Morning: LP Classics from the Birth of the Blues Revival

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

If you're curious about where the Blues Revival of the 1960s got its start, you might want to take a look at "The Country Blues," from 1959, "Blues Fell This Morning," from 1960, and "Really! The Country Blues," from 1962. It's three classic slabs of vinyl from the very advent of the Blues Revival — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu256_large_image_new_small If you're curious about where the Blues Revival of the 1960s got its start, you might want to take a look at "The Country Blues," from 1959, "Blues Fell This Morning," from 1960, and "Really! The Country Blues," from 1962. While the first two were designed as audio companions to groundbreaking books of the same name — by Sam Charters and Paul Oliver, respectively — the third one, from Origin Jazz Library, was conceived, apparently, as a deliberate act of "one upmanship" over Sam Charters (Pete Whelan, one of the founders of OJL, later complained that the country blues Charters had written about hadn't quite been "real enough"). Each of them, in their own way, were highly influential when they came out — and in no small part, helped to spark the Blues Revival of the 1960s. Join us then, as we celebrate three classic slabs of vinyl from the very advent of the Blues Revival — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #256 - (It Was) Really! The Country Blues (That) Fell This Morning: LP Classics from the Birth of the Blues Revival

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

If you're curious about where the Blues Revival of the 1960s got its start, you might want to take a look at "The Country Blues," from 1959, "Blues Fell This Morning," from 1960, and "Really! The Country Blues," from 1962. It's three classic slabs of vinyl from the very advent of the Blues Revival — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu256_large_image_new_small If you're curious about where the Blues Revival of the 1960s got its start, you might want to take a look at "The Country Blues," from 1959, "Blues Fell This Morning," from 1960, and "Really! The Country Blues," from 1962. While the first two were designed as audio companions to groundbreaking books of the same name — by Sam Charters and Paul Oliver, respectively — the third one, from Origin Jazz Library, was conceived, apparently, as a deliberate act of "one upmanship" over Sam Charters (Pete Whelan, one of the founders of OJL, later complained that the country blues Charters had written about hadn't quite been "real enough"). Each of them, in their own way, were highly influential when they came out — and in no small part, helped to spark the Blues Revival of the 1960s. Join us then, as we celebrate three classic slabs of vinyl from the very advent of the Blues Revival — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #257 - The Blues Came Down at Midnight

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore blues songs that all have to deal with the subject of midnight. Sometimes, you get midnight showers of rain, other times, it's the blues that come down at midnight. You might be out late having fun with your friends, doing the "Midnight Jump" or the "Midnight Boogie," or you might be sad and lonely, because your baby left you at midnight. It's all about having the blues at midnight, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu257_large_image_new_small Join us as we explore blues songs that all have to deal with the subject of midnight. Sometimes, you get midnight showers of rain, other times, it's the blues that come down at midnight. You might be out late having fun with your friends, doing the "Midnight Jump" or the "Midnight Boogie," or you might be sad and lonely, because your baby left you at midnight. Classics, gems, and rarities galore from Leadbelly, Leroy Carr, Bessie Smith, Big Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, Little Willie Littlefield, Lowell Fulson, Roy Brown, and many more!


Blues Unlimited #258 - Big Blues from Little Labels: Down Home Favorites from the Lone Star State

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

We take a look at some killer down home blues from the great state of Texas — all of it from small, independent record labels in operation during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Some of them issued a couple dozen 78s, while others are barely more than a footnote in blues history — putting out just one or two. Join us as we take a journey into the independent spirit of postwar Texas country blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu258_large_image_new_copy_small We take a look at some killer down home blues from the great state of Texas — all of it from small, independent record labels in operation during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Some of them issued a couple dozen 78s, while others are barely more than a footnote in blues history — putting out just one or two. Join us as we take a journey into the independent spirit of postwar Texas country blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. Includes music from Frankie Lee Sims, Willie Lane, Ernest "Buddy" Lewis, Smokey Hogg, Lightnin' Hopkins, and many more.

This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #259 - Live at Tipitina's: Rockin' the House Down in New Orleans

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we head down to Tipitina's in New Orleans, for a great big helping of live blues and house-rockin' gumbo — served up piping hot by the good folks at Black Top Records. On tap, we’ve got Hubert Sumlin, Sam Myers, Grady Gaines, Nappy Brown, Earl King, Snooks Eaglin, and many more! We're rockin' down in New Orleans, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu259_large_image_small Join us as we head down to Tipitina's in New Orleans, for a great big helping of live blues and house-rockin' gumbo — served up piping hot by the good folks at Black Top Records. On tap, we’ve got Hubert Sumlin, Sam Myers, Grady Gaines, Nappy Brown, Earl King, Snooks Eaglin, and many more! Plus... we'll have a couple of mini-tributes to two legendary vocalists — Bobby "Blue" Bland and Little Junior Parker. We're rockin' down in New Orleans, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.



Other Programs of Live Blues You Will Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #278 - When Giants Walked the Earth: The 1968 & '69 Memphis Country Blues Festivals
Blues Unlimited #235 - Live and On Stage: Blues Classics from the 1960s
Blues Unlimited #226 - Rock This House: Chicago Blues Legends Live at Antone's
Blues Unlimited #191 - A Legend Every Night: Blues from Antone's
Blues Unlimited #209 - Music from the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Blues Unlimited #186 - Blues from Ann Arbor, '72 (and '69)



Blues Unlimited #261 - Down Home Rhythm Rockin' Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode, no particular theme, just two hours of our favorite Down Home Rhythm Rockin' Blues. We’ll hear from Woodrow Adams, Lightnin’ Slim, Ralph Willis, Doctor Ross, Boyd Gilmore, Charley Booker, Muddy Waters, and a whole lot more! It's Down Home Rhythm Rockin' Blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu261_large_image_new_small On this episode, no particular theme, just two hours of our favorite Down Home Rhythm Rockin' Blues. We’ll hear from Woodrow Adams, Lightnin’ Slim, Ralph Willis, Doctor Ross, Boyd Gilmore, Charley Booker, Muddy Waters, and a whole lot more! It's Down Home Rhythm Rockin' Blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #262 - Hot Memphis Guitar from Calvin Newborn, 1950-1955

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we pay tribute to the hot, jazzy guitar of Calvin Newborn. Coming from a renowned musical family, he made his recording debut at the age of 17, working with a who’s who of blues legends. We’ll be focusing on the early to mid 1950s, during his Memphis days. A tribute to Calvin Newborn, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu262_large_image_new_small Join us as we pay tribute to the hot, jazzy guitar of Calvin Newborn. Coming from a legendary musical family — his older brother was Phineas Newborn Jr., the renowned pianist — he made his recording debut at the age of 17, working with a who’s who of blues legends. We’ll be focusing on the early to mid 1950s, during his Memphis days. A tribute to Calvin Newborn, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

“I always did like the blues because I could get attention playing the blues. I could do something with the guitar that a lot of guys couldn’t do. I had expression, and I moved with the guitar. I got that from my granddaddy – he used to play his guitar in his church, and walk all over the church playin’. I guess I inherited that.”
–Calvin Newborn in Living Blues magazine



Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for the start of a new series, called "Desert Island Classics." The idea is to showcase blues albums that are so essential, you wouldn't want to be without them if you were ever unexpectedly stranded on a remote outpost somewhere. For the initial installment, we’ll be taking a look at four LPs from Delmark Records — all of them, at least in our book anyway — essential listening for any blues fan.

Bu263_large_image_small Join us for the start of a new series, called "Desert Island Classics." The idea is to showcase blues albums that are so essential, you wouldn't want to be without them if you were ever unexpectedly stranded on a remote outpost somewhere. For the initial installment, we’ll be taking a look at four LPs from Delmark Records — all of them, at least in our book anyway — essential listening for any blues fan. That includes "Hoodoo Man Blues" by Junior Wells, and Magic Sam's "West Side Soul;" two LPs that have earned the respect of critics from around the world, received industry awards, and decades after their release, still consistently land near the top of any "Best Of" list. In addition, we'll hear two more five-star offerings from the Delmark catalog, "The Legend of Sleepy John Estes," and "Piney Woods Blues," by Big Joe Williams. Along the way, we'll have time for guest appearances from Speckled Red (who has the distinction of being the very first blues artist to record for Delmark back in 1956), and also, slide guitar master, J.B. Hutto. It's the first four picks from our list of "Desert Island Classics," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the “Desert Island Classics” Series:

Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3
Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4
Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5
Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6
Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7




Blues Unlimited #264 - The J.O.B. Chicago Blues Masters, Part 1 (1949-1952)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on J.O.B. Records. A legendary imprint run by a man named Joe Brown, J.O.B. recorded some of the finest talent the Windy City had to offer. In part one, we’ll take a look at the early years, from 1949 to 1952. A tribute to the J.O.B. label, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu264_large_image_small Join us as we aim the spotlight on J.O.B. Records. A legendary imprint run by Joe Brown — a colorful if not enigmatic figure — J.O.B. recorded some of the finest talent the Windy City had to offer. Never really known as a smoothly running operation, the label enjoyed just one R&B hit record ("Five Long Years" by Eddie Boyd) during its 25 year run. Employing a numbering system on their original 78 and 45rpm releases that has defied logic and baffled experts, piecing together the history of the company has remained excruciatingly difficult over the years — thanks in no small measure to Joe Brown's aversion to being interviewed. Fortunately, the good folks at the Red Saunders Research Foundation were up to the task, and we've utilized their extensive "blow by blow" commentary as our guide.

In part one of this two-part special, we’ll take a look at the early years of J.O.B., from 1949 to 1952, with music from Eddie Boyd, Sunnyland Slim, Baby Face Leroy Foster, Snooky Pryor, John Brim, J.B. Lenoir, Floyd Jones, and more.



Blues Unlimited #265 - The J.O.B. Chicago Blues Masters, Part 2 (1952-1963)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we wrap up our tribute to J.O.B. Records. A legendary imprint run by a man named Joe Brown, J.O.B. recorded some of the finest talent the Windy City had to offer. In part two, we’ll focus on the years 1952 to 1954, when the label enjoyed its final period of peak activity. A tribute to the J.O.B. label, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu265_large_image_new_small Join us as we wrap up our tribute to J.O.B. Records. A legendary imprint run by a man named Joe Brown, J.O.B. recorded some of the finest talent the Windy City had to offer. In part two, we’ll focus on the years 1952 to 1954, when the label enjoyed its final period of peak activity — and scored its only Billboard chart hit ("Five Long Years," by Eddie Boyd). We’ll hear classics, gems, and rarities from J.B. Lenoir, John Brim, Johnny Shines, Snooky Pryor, Sunnyland Slim, Memphis Minnie, Robert Lockwood, Floyd Jones, and more.


Blues Unlimited #266 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 4: Memphis & the Delta

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for another installment of our ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, we’ll hear from Furry Lewis, Big Joe Williams, and Mississippi Fred McDowell — with a few surprises along the way — as we focus on Memphis and the Delta. It’s "The Legends of Bluesville," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu266_large_image_copy_small Join us for another installment of our ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, we’ll hear from Furry Lewis, Big Joe Williams, and Mississippi Fred McDowell — with a few surprises along the way — as we focus on Memphis and the Delta. It’s "The Legends of Bluesville," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in "The Legends of Bluesville" Series:

Blues Unlimited #244 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 1: East Coast Folk Blues

Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast

Blues Unlimited #255 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk

Blues Unlimited #281 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 5: Blues from St. Louis

Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues



Blues Unlimited #267 - One-of-a-Kind Wonders: The Rarest Blues 78s of All Time

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on the rarest 78s of all time. We’ve got some real classics from the 1920s and 30s, that have exactly one thing in common — only one copy was all that was ever found. We’ll hear from Son House, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Skip James, King Solomon Hill, Frank Stokes, and many more. It’s one-of-a-kind blues 78s — on this episode Blues Unlimited.

Bu267_large_image_new_small Join us as we aim the spotlight on the rarest 78s of all time. We’ve got some real classics from the 1920s and 30s, that have exactly one thing in common — only one copy was all that was ever found. We’ll hear from Son House, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Skip James, King Solomon Hill, Frank Stokes, and many more. It’s one-of-a-kind blues 78s — on this episode Blues Unlimited.


Other programs you will enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #246 - The ARC Files: 1930s Rarities from the American Record Corporation


Blues Unlimited #269 - Sweet Giants of the Blues: A Tribute to the BluesTime Label

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we pay tribute to the BluesTime label — a short-lived subsidiary imprint of Flying Dutchman. Their main claim to fame was a legendary album called "Super Black Blues," issued 1969, featuring Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker, along with a second volume that was recorded live at Carnegie Hall (with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson and others) the following year. Along the way, we'll enjoy a few rarities, as well as a few selections from the very last studio LP of keyboard giant, Otis Spann. It's a tribute to the BluesTime label, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu269_large_image_small Join us as we pay tribute to the BluesTime label — a short-lived subsidiary imprint of Flying Dutchman. Their main claim to fame was a legendary album called "Super Black Blues," issued 1969, featuring Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker, along with a second volume that was recorded live at Carnegie Hall (with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson and others) the following year. Along the way, we'll enjoy a few rarities, as well as a few selections from the very last studio LP of keyboard giant, Otis Spann. It's a tribute to the BluesTime label, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Special thanks to Chris Stovall Brown for help and assistance.

Outside Link: Illustrated BluesTime Discography


Other programs featuring Otis Spann:
Blues Unlimited #282 - The Candid Records Blues Sessions

Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for another installment of "Desert Island Classics." This time, we turn the spotlight on three LPs that came out on the Imperial label in 1968, called "Rural Blues." Compiled by Bob "The Bear" Hite and Henry Vestine of Canned Heat, almost 50 years later, they’re still considered essential listening. It's three classic LPs from Imperial, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu270_large_image_new_small Join us for another installment of "Desert Island Classics." This time, we turn the spotlight on three LPs that came out on the Imperial label in 1968, called "Rural Blues." Compiled by Bob "The Bear" Hite and Henry Vestine of Canned Heat, almost 50 years later, they’re still considered essential listening. We'll hear selections from Volume 1, subtitled "Goin' Up The Country;" Volume 2, "Saturday Night Function;" and Volume 3, "Down Home Stomp." Includes music from Lightnin' Hopkins, Thunder Smith, Clifton Chenier, Lil' Son Jackson, J.D. Edwards, Papa Lightfoot, Slim Harpo, Snooks Eaglin, Boogie Bill Webb, and more.


Also in the “Desert Island Classics” Series:
Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3
Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4
Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5
Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6
Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #271 - The Blues Unlimited 1st Annual Year In Review Special: Best of 2014

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2014. In a year filled with highlights, great blues, and a bunch of good music, we’ve hand picked a few standout segments for our first annual year in review special. Don’t miss the "Best of 2014," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu_final_revised_reduced_small Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2014. In a year filled with highlights, great blues, and a bunch of good music, we’ve hand picked a few standout segments for our first annual year in review special. Don’t miss the "Best of 2014," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue with another installment of Desert Island Classics, this time around, putting a legendary slice of vinyl, "Drop Down Mama," into the spotlight. Issued 1970, it comes from a group of LPs compiled by Tom Swan, called the "Chess Vintage Series." Along the way, we'll also enjoy a few Chicago postwar favorites from John Brim, Elmore James, J.B. Lenoir, and Jimmy Rogers, who were also featured in the series as well. It’s Desert Island Classics from Chess, on this episode of "Blues Unlimited."

Bu272_large_image_new_small Join us as we continue with another installment of Desert Island Classics, this time around, putting a legendary slice of vinyl, "Drop Down Mama," into the spotlight. Issued 1970, it comes from a group of LPs compiled by Tom Swan, called the "Chess Vintage Series." Along the way, we'll also enjoy a few Chicago postwar favorites from John Brim and Elmore James ("Whose Muddy Shoes"), J.B. Lenoir ("Natural Man"), and Jimmy Rogers ("Chicago Bound"), who were also featured in the series as well. It’s Desert Island Classics from Chess, on this episode of "Blues Unlimited."

Special thanks to Dick Shurman, Scott Dirks, and the Red Saunders Research Foundation for help and assistance!

Also in the “Desert Island Classics” Series:
Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4
Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5
Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6
Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #273 - Talking While the Music's Playing: Narrative Traditions in the Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look at narrative traditions in the blues. Starting with Speckled Red in 1929, we’ll hear classics along the way from Bo Diddley, Jack McVea, Pigmeat Markham, Robert Pete Williams, and B.B. King. It’s a whole program dedicated to talking while the music's playing — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu273_large_image_new_small Join us as we take a look at narrative traditions in the blues. Starting with Speckled Red in 1929, we’ll hear classics along the way from Bo Diddley, Jack McVea, Pigmeat Markham, Robert Pete Williams, and B.B. King. More than just a cursory "Roots of Rap and Hip-Hop" history lesson, we'll dig into ground-breaking hits like "The Dirty Dozen," "The Hambone" and "Open The Door Richard," the latter of which captured the pop zeitgeist of 1947. Twenty years later, it was Pigmeat Markham and "Here Comes The Judge" (think "Laugh-In," the comedy TV show); another big hit that, in retrospect, easily comes across as an early Rap record. And while Bo Diddley and Jerome Green may have taken the fine art of trading insults to a whole new level with their ongoing series ("Say Man," "Say Man, Back Again," "Signifying Blues,") other spoken passages on the program come from a deeper place within. "Prisoner's Talking Blues" by Robert Pete Williams is one of the most moving pieces ever recorded — in any genre — while "Lucille" is a touching tribute to one of the most enduring relationships the Blues has ever known — B.B. King and his guitar Lucille. And finally, if you're a die-hard blues fan, you probably won't need a cue card to recite right along with John Lee Hooker during the spoken passages of "Boogie Chillen," the massive number one hit that put him on the map in the late 1940s.

As it turns out, there's a long and proud tradition of "Talking While the Music's Playing," and on this special episode of Blues Unlimited, we've pulled out a couple dozen of our favorites.

Blues Unlimited #275 - Lowdown Harmonica Blues from Jackson, Mississippi

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a ride down to Jackson, Mississippi, to hear some lowdown harmonica. We’ll hear from the master — Sonny Boy Williamson, plus, Papa Lightfoot, Sam Myers, Jerry "Boogie" McCain and many more. It’s lowdown harmonica from Jackson, Mississippi, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu275_large_image_new_small Join us as we take a ride down to the “City with Soul,” Jackson, Mississippi, to hear some lowdown blues harmonica. We’ll hear from the master, Sonny Boy Williamson, and some all time classics that were recorded for Jackson’s very own Trumpet label. In addition, we’ll also hear from a handful of other homegrown enterprises — Ace and Champion (Johnny Vincent), plus, the short-lived Delta label. In addition to Sonny Boy and his Trumpet Records pals (Elmore James and Arthur Crudup), we’ll also hear from Jerry "Boogie" McCain, Papa Lightfoot, Sam Myers, and a handful more. It’s lowdown harmonica from Jackson, Mississippi, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the "Lowdown Harmonica" Series:
Blues Unlimited #166 - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #198 - Lowdown Windy City Harmonica Jam
Blues Unlimited #232 - Lowdown Backwoods Harmonica Jam



You might also enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #227 - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor
Blues Unlimited #239 - Big Walter's Blues: Early Harmonica Classics, 1951-1954



This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #276 - Studs & Big Bill, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take an extended look at the legendary interviews of Studs Terkel and Big Bill Broonzy. We’ll hear stories, conversation and song, along with special guests Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Bu276_large_image_new_small What do you get when you take one of the foremost oral historians of the 20th century, and sit him down with one of the most beloved blues musicians of all time? The legendary interviews of Studs Terkel and Big Bill Broonzy, which took place over a period of several years, between 1954 and 1957. Luckily for us, some of these were captured for the sake of posterity at the WFMT radio studios (where Studs hosted a daily radio show for almost half a century), finding eventual issue on the Folkways Record label. A box set of his last recording sessions, “The Big Bill Broonzy Story,” also featured music and additional dialogue between these two iconic figures, and fast friends.

As for Studs, he always seems to ever so gently guide the proceedings, while clearly taking delight in what transpires. Although he never appears to be intrusive, he does occasionally stop to ask a question, if it seems that some minor point needs clarifying. As for Big Bill, he seems most intent on telling his story — his truth, as it were — so that the events and details of his life could be shared and remembered. So that we could know, firsthand, what it was like to be a blues musician or a railroad porter, a short order cook or a plowhand, a janitor or a dishwasher, or to work on a levee camp — in other words, too many to count. But as Big Bill later reveals, to have the blues, you had to have lived that life. And in turn, everything that Big Bill was or ever did, became the very fuel and fodder for the hundreds of blues songs he wrote and sang over the decades.

Although it’s hard to know exactly how to describe what you’re about to hear over the next couple of programs, suffice it to say that we find two men — each of whom has great respect and admiration for the other — engaged in a fascinating and compelling dialogue. One that is coupled with an underlying and ever so faint sense of urgency. To try and get the story out before it’s too late.

The week after Big Bill’s last recording sessions, in July 1957, he underwent surgery for lung cancer. He’d had a rather worrying hunch about it, one that he confided to Studs. He told him he was afraid they were going to cut his vocal cords. Studs tried to reassure him, saying it wasn’t his throat they were after, it was the lung. “But the knife....” he told Studs. But the knife....

Big Bill Broonzy passed away one rainy and stormy August morning in Chicago, in 1958. As Studs later put it, it was just one more storm this Big Man was passing through.

After interviewing thousands of people around the world and authoring countless books, Studs Terkel passed away at the age of 96, in October 2008. And while it’s hard to grasp the enormity of his lifetime of achievement — being, as it were, the ears to the world — there remains something extraordinarily special about those times that two old friends, Studs and Big Bill, sat down in front of a microphone and talked about the blues. One of them had a guitar in his hands. The other kept an eye on the ever-revolving spool of audio tape. And what transpired between them, it’s fairly safe to say, will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of blues fans.

Other programs of oral history you might enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues


For further reading, we highly recommend I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy , by Bob Riesman .

Book excerpts taken from "Talking To Myself," by Studs Terkel. Published in 1977 by Pantheon Books. Due to broadcast time constraints, some passages were edited.

Blues Unlimited #277 - Studs & Big Bill, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for part two of our special on the legendary interviews of Studs Terkel and Big Bill Broonzy. We’ll hear stories, conversation and song, along with special guests Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Bu277_large_image_new_small Join us for part two of our special on the legendary interviews of Studs Terkel and Big Bill Broonzy. Things get lively as special guests Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee help Big Bill and Studs discuss the spirituals and the blues; Big Bill pays tribute to some of his old friends during his last-ever recording session; and Pete Seeger and Big Bill tell stories and swap verses on old favorites like "John Henry" and "The Midnight Special." Our host for all this is Studs Terkel, the preeminent author, broadcaster, and oral historian of the 20th Century.

For further reading, we highly recommend I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy , by Bob Riesman
.

Book excerpts taken from "Talking To Myself," by Studs Terkel. Published in 1977 by Pantheon Books. Due to broadcast time constraints, some passages were edited.

Other programs of oral history you might enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues


Blues Unlimited #278 - When Giants Walked the Earth: The 1968 & '69 Memphis Country Blues Festivals

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on the Memphis Country Blues Festivals of 1968 and 1969. We’ll hear from Bukka White, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and many more. A tribute to the Memphis Country Blues Festival, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu278_large_image_small The 1960s were heady times when many "rediscovered" Blues musicians of the 1920s and '30s enjoyed a second career — playing and touring overseas and around the country, and occasionally making records. In Memphis, however — a city rich in musical history — one didn't have to go very far to hear a genuine, bonafide blues legend whenever you wanted. In an attempt to bring greater recognition to some of this living history, the Memphis Country Blues Society was formed, in part by Bill Barth, resulting in the short-lived Memphis Country Blues Festival, held between the years 1966 and 1970. Luckily, recordings were made at the 1968 and '69 Festivals, which will be the focus of this program. We'll hear from classic and legendary performers like Bukka White, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and many more. A tribute to the Memphis Country Blues Festival, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.



Other Programs of Live Blues You Will Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #259 - Live at Tipitina's: Rockin' the House Down in New Orleans
Blues Unlimited #235 - Live and On Stage: Blues Classics from the 1960s
Blues Unlimited #226 - Rock This House: Chicago Blues Legends Live at Antone's
Blues Unlimited #191 - A Legend Every Night: Blues from Antone's
Blues Unlimited #209 - Music from the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Blues Unlimited #186 - Blues from Ann Arbor, '72 (and '69)



Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join as we get into our time machine, and journey back to Dallas, December 1927. That was when Columbia Records became the first major label to make extensive recordings there — on Washington Phillips, Blind Willie Johnson, Coley Jones, Lillian Glinn, and more. It’s blues and gospel from Dallas, Texas, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu279_large_image_new_small Join as we get into our time machine, and journey back to Dallas, December 1927. That was when Columbia Records became the first major label to make extensive recordings there — on Washington Phillips, Blind Willie Johnson, Coley Jones, Lillian Glinn, and more. In addition, we'll hear from two primary movers and shakers of the Dallas music scene in the late 1920s, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Texas Alexander (a figure that is largely overlooked today).

Closing off the program is a fascinating little footnote from the Rev. William McKinley Dawkins. Included for the sake of "historical accuracy," his performance dates to the fall of 1925, when the OKeh label became the first record company to send a field recording unit to Dallas. As far as we know, he was the only blues or gospel artist recorded during that 1925 trip. Why OKeh didn't record anything further is a puzzle that remains a mystery to this day. It would be another two years before another field recording unit came to town, which would be Columbia, in December 1927.

For the last word, it is given to Blind Willie Johnson's timeless, ethereal masterpiece, "Dark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground." It was, quite famously, chosen for inclusion on NASA's "Sounds of Earth" golden record that accompanied Voyagers 1 and 2, into outer space. We've been told, by someone of good authority, that when it came time for the committee to select pieces of music for the Voyager project -- that there were no arguments and no discussion when it came to "Dark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground." The vote was unanimous by the committee.

Join us, then, as we explore some amazing blues and gospel from Dallas — including everything from the fiery and low down to the celestial and the heavenly — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2
 


Blues Unlimited #280 - The King of Distortion: Pat Hare & His Killer Guitar (1952-1960)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we pay tribute to a firebrand guitarist, Pat Hare. Joining up with Howlin’ Wolf when he was just a teenager, he went on to record with James Cotton, Junior Parker, and Muddy Waters, among others — leaving a distinct and influential mark on the Blues world. It’s a tribute to Pat Hare, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu280_large_image_small Join us as we pay tribute to a firebrand guitarist, Pat Hare. Joining up with Howlin’ Wolf when he was just a teenager, he went on to record with James Cotton, Junior Parker, and Muddy Waters, among others — leaving a distinct and influential mark on the Blues world. It’s a tribute to Pat Hare, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #281 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 5: Blues from St. Louis

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for another installment of our ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, we’re going to St. Louis, to hear from Henry Townsend, Big Joe Williams, Daddy Hotcakes, Roosevelt Sykes, Henry Brown and more. It’s "The Legends of Bluesville," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu281_large_image_small Join us for another installment of our ongoing series, "The Legends of Bluesville." This time around, we’re going to St. Louis, to hear from Henry Townsend, Big Joe Williams, Daddy Hotcakes, Roosevelt Sykes, Henry Brown and more. It’s "The Legends of Bluesville," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in "The Legends of Bluesville" Series:

Blues Unlimited #244 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 1: East Coast Folk Blues

Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast

Blues Unlimited #255 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk

Blues Unlimited #266 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 4: Memphis & the Delta

Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues

Blues Unlimited #282 - The Candid Records Blues Sessions

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look at the recordings that Memphis Slim, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Otis Spann made in New York City for the Candid label in 1960 and 1961. Plus, we'll hear selections from a rare and fascinating LP of field recordings made in the greater Houston area by legendary song hunter, Mack McCormick. It's blues from Candid Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #283 - A Tribute to “The Chairman of the Board”: B.B. King’s Biggest Hits

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we celebrate the life and music of B.B. King, by counting down the biggest hits of his career. Spanning the course of four decades, we’ve compiled a list of 29 songs that define the man, and his music. A tribute to “The Chairman of the Board” — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu283_large_image_small Join us as we celebrate the life and music of B.B. King, by counting down the biggest hits of his career. Spanning the course of four decades, we’ve compiled a list of 29 songs that define the man, and his music. A tribute to “The Chairman of the Board” — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other "Countdown" Episodes You Will Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #180 - Smash Hits of the Late 1940s
Blues Unlimited #311 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the 1940s

Blues Unlimited #217 - More Smash Hits of the Early 1950s 
Blues Unlimited #310 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the Early 1950s


Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue with our ongoing series, Desert Island Classics. This time around, we’ve got a handful of five-star vinyl, all from Atlantic Records. We’ll hear music from Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, T-Bone Walker, Blind Willie McTell, and more. It’s another installment of Desert Island Classics, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu284_large_image_new_small Join us as we continue with our ongoing series, Desert Island Classics. This time around, we’ve got a handful of five-star vinyl, all from Atlantic Records. We’ll hear music from Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, T-Bone Walker, Blind Willie McTell, and more. It’s another installment of Desert Island Classics, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the “Desert Island Classics” Series:
Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3
Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5
Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6
Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us we continue with our ongoing series, Desert Island Classics. This time, we put two giants of the harmonica, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, into the spotlight. We’ll also hear classics from Howlin' Wolf's legendary "Rockin' Chair Album," plus, a few from John Lee Hooker "Plays and Sings the Blues." It’s more Desert Island Classics from Chess, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu285_large_image_new_small Join us we continue with our ongoing series, Desert Island Classics. This time, we put two giants of the harmonica, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, into the spotlight. We’ll also hear classics from Howlin' Wolf's legendary "Rocking Chair Album," plus, a few from John Lee Hooker "Plays and Sings the Blues." It’s more Desert Island Classics from Chess, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the “Desert Island Classics” Series:
Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3
Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4
Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6
Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2


Blues Unlimited #286 - Play Your Guitar, Mr. Hooker: The 1969 (and '66) Bluesway Recordings

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for a special tribute to slide guitar master Earl Hooker. During the spring and summer of 1969, he recorded extensively for Bluesway, behind folks like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, and more. A look at the Bluesway recordings of Earl Hooker, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu286_large_image_small Join us for a special tribute to slide guitar master Earl Hooker. During the spring and summer of 1969, he recorded extensively for Bluesway, behind folks like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny "Big Moose" Walker, and more, becoming one of the highlights of his career. In addition, we'll also be featuring a few selections from the tribute album, "Do You Remember The Great Earl Hooker," composed of recordings he made in Sauk City, Wisconsin, in 1966 and 1967, with the help of Freddie Roulette. A look at the Bluesway recordings of Earl Hooker, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #287 - Ain't Got Long in the Murderer's Home: Stories and Songs from Parchman Farm (1933-1978)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for an extra special program of stories and songs collected from Parchman Farm, one of the most notorious prisons in the United States. Aside from a few legendary pieces recorded "on the outside" by Bukka White — perhaps the most well-known former inmate of that facility — virtually everything you'll hear was recorded by either John or Alan Lomax, over the course of several decades. It’s a stark, yet unforgettable look at life on the inside. A trip down to Parchman Farm, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu287_large_image_new_small Join us for an extra special program of stories and songs collected from Parchman Farm, one of the most notorious prisons in the United States. Aside from a few legendary pieces recorded "on the outside" by Bukka White — perhaps the most well-known former inmate of that facility — virtually everything you'll hear was recorded by either John or Alan Lomax, over the course of several decades. It’s a stark, yet unforgettable look at life on the inside. A trip down to Parchman Farm, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the "Prison Trilogy Series":
Blues Unlimited #295 - Go Down Ol' Hannah: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Texas State Prison Farms 
Blues Unlimited #301 - Got Lifetime Here: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Angola State Penitentiary

 


Other programs featuring material collected by Alan Lomax :
Blues Unlimited #206 - Down Home Delta Blues from 1941
Blues Unlimited #253 - Alan Lomax in the Hill Country of Mississippi
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues




Blues Unlimited #288 - The Sweethearts of Decca

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we celebrate "The Sweethearts of Decca," with a program dedicated to just the ladies. Our inspiration comes from the "The Decca Blues Box" — a two volume set that came out in the mid 1970s in Germany. We’ll hear classics from the 1930s and 40s, from Georgia White, Alberta Hunter, Victoria Spivey, and many more. It’s "The Sweethearts of Decca," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu288_large_image_new_small Join us as we celebrate "The Sweethearts of Decca," with a program dedicated to just the ladies. Our inspiration comes from the "The Decca Blues Box" — a two volume set that came out in the mid 1970s in Germany. We’ll hear classics from the 1930s and 40s, from Georgia White, Alberta Hunter, Victoria Spivey, and many more. It’s "The Sweethearts of Decca," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Other Programs You May Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #248 - The Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan



Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for another installment of "The Legends of Bluesville," as we aim the spotlight on the city of Indianapolis. Home to a once-thriving musical community, we’ll hear from some of the legends — like Scrapper Blackwell and "Guitar" Pete Franklin — as well as some of the forgotten heroes of the Blues in Naptown. It's "The Legends of Bluesville," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu289_large_image_small Join us for another installment of "The Legends of Bluesville," as we aim the spotlight on the city of Indianapolis. Home to a once-thriving musical community, we’ll hear from some of the legends — like Scrapper Blackwell and "Guitar" Pete Franklin, as well as some of the forgotten heroes, like Shirley Griffith, J.T. Adams, and Brooks Berry — of the Blues in Naptown. It's "The Legends of Bluesville," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Also in "The Legends of Bluesville" Series:

Blues Unlimited #244 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 1: East Coast Folk Blues

Blues Unlimited #245 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 2: Texas & the Gulf Coast

Blues Unlimited #255 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk

Blues Unlimited #266 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 4: Memphis & the Delta

Blues Unlimited #281 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 5: Blues from St. Louis


Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we get into our time machine, and go back to the year 1927, to take a look at the very beginnings of the blues in Memphis. We’ll hear classics from Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, Gus Cannon, the Memphis Jug Band, and more. It’s Memphis blues from 1927, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu290_large_image_new_small Join us as we get into our time machine, and go back to the year 1927, to take a look at the very beginnings of the blues in Memphis. From the first recordings made by Victor in February — to the last sessions, held by Columbia in December — we’ll hear classics from Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, Gus Cannon, the Memphis Jug Band, and more. It’s Memphis blues from 1927, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the Blues Unlimited “Vintage Travelogue Series”:

Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions

 

This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2

 



 

Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue our look at the blues in Memphis, this time from early 1928. We’ll hear recordings made for Victor by Cannon’s Jug Stompers, Frank Stokes, Tommy Johnson, The Memphis Jug Band, and more. It’s Memphis Blues from early 1928, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu291_large_image_new_small In the first of a two-part series, we take an in-depth look at the recordings made by the Victor label in Memphis, in early 1928. Victor was the first company to make recordings in Memphis the previous year, in February 1927, and also the first to make a return trip, eleven months later, in January 1928. As the old saying goes, "the early bird gets the worm," and Victor wasted no time in gathering all the hottest acts that had recorded for other labels the previous year — cutting sides on Jim Jackson, Frank Stokes, and Gus Cannon. Also making their recording debut, in February 1928, two Mississippi Blues icons — Ishmon Bracey and Tommy Johnson. We'll also hear some rousing gospel numbers, and of course, more classics from the Memphis Jug Band.

In Part Two, when we continue our look at the Blues in Memphis, we'll focus on the recordings made by the OKeh label in early 1928, including classics from Mississippi John Hurt, Lonnie Johnson, the Reverend J.M. Gates, and many more.


Other programs in the "Vintage Travelogue Series":
Blues Unlimited #205 - Blues from San Antonio, 1929-1938
Blues Unlimited #225 - The Last Great Field Trip to Memphis  
Blues Unlimited #228 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 1: The Guitar Pickers
Blues Unlimited #229 - Country Meets the City: The Blues in Saint Louis, Part 2: The Piano Players
Blues Unlimited #240 - Rare Blues & Heavenly Gospel from Charlotte, North Carolina
Blues Unlimited #279 - Preachin' the Holy Blues: Field Recordings from Dallas, Texas (1927)
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions 



Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue our in-depth look at the blues in Memphis, from early 1928. This time, we’ll take a look at the recordings made by the OKeh label, including classics from Mississippi John Hurt, Lonnie Johnson, Tom Dickson, The Reverend J.M. Gates, and more. It’s Memphis blues from early 1928, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu292_large_image_small When you're talking about the blues in Memphis, 1928 was definitely the year the flood gates opened. The previous year had proven what a rich musical legacy the city had to offer, and the first company to waste no time proving that was Victor — sending a field recording unit in February 1927 to capture some of the city's finest talent. They were also the first record company to make a return trip, setting up shop in the Memphis Auditorium, in January 1928. Trying to get a piece of the action, Columbia had sent a field unit to Memphis, in December 1927, but their results apparently were disappointing — fully half of what they recorded remained unissued, never to see the light of day.

By the time February 13th, 1928 rolled around, when the engineers from OKeh were just getting underway, Victor was getting ready to pack up their equipment and leave. Their return visit had indeed proved fruitful, having cherry-picked some of the Bluff City's top acts, like Frank Stokes, Jim Jackson, and Cannon's Jug Stompers — not to mention a pair of heavy hitters from Mississippi — Tommy Johnson and Ishmon Bracey. As the old saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm,” and in this case, Victor certainly proved that to be the case.

To be fair though, the roster of musicians that OKeh lined up was far from second string. Blues legend Lonnie Johnson was a presence felt throughout the proceedings — cutting sides on his own, as well as lending guitar and violin support to several different acts over the two week period that recording took place. The Reverend J.M. Gates also made the trip over to Memphis, but whether or not the executives at OKeh knew that he’d been in Atlanta two days previous, recording sermons for one of their competitors (Victor), is hard to say.

One of the most exciting groups to record for OKeh during this time was Elder Richard Bryant’s Sanctified Singers. Although he too had recorded for Victor just three weeks previous, he returned — with a completely unknown backing band — to make further sides. Although it’s tempting to make a few wild guesses about who the musicians might be, this merry and joyous group recorded some of the most rousing gospel performances ever committed to wax.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we find folks like Tom Dickson and Mississippi John Hurt, with their delicate and delightful finger picking guitar styles. Although Tom Dickson has remained maddeningly hard to track down — he’s failed to show up yet in the census, and the best we can offer is that he may have been from Arkansas — Hurt would go on to become one of the most beloved performers in the annals of the blues. Based on a tip from a pair of country musicians, OKeh music director Tommy Rockwell added him to their recording roster, for Valentines Day, 1928. His debut session would encompass eight titles, only two of which were chosen to be issued as a 78. Fortunately, it proved to be a big enough seller for him to get a call back. The remainder of Hurt’s vintage recorded legacy would be captured in shellac later that year, when the company sent for him to come to New York City, from his quiet home in Avalon, Mississippi. Impressed by the Big Apple, Hurt decided to leave a clue behind in one of his songs, which would ultimately lead to his “rediscovery” 35 years later. But as they say, we’ll have to leave that story for another time.


Other Programs You Will Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings


Blues Unlimited #293 - The Blues Unlimited 2nd Annual Year In Review Special: Best of 2015

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2015. In a year filled with highlights, great blues, and a bunch of good music, we’ve hand picked a few standout segments for our second annual year in review special. Don’t miss the "Best of 2015," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #294 - American Blues Legends from Big Bear Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look at Big Bear Records — one of England's oldest independent labels — and the 1973 and '74 American Blues Legends tours. We’ll hear from Homesick James, Eddie Taylor, Snooky Pryor, Lightnin’ Slim, Doctor Ross, and many more! It’s American Blues Legends from Big Bear, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu294_large_image_2_small Join us as we take a look at Big Bear Records — one of England's oldest independent labels — and the 1973 and '74 American Blues Legends tours. We’ll hear from Homesick James, Eddie Taylor, Snooky Pryor, Lightnin’ Slim, Doctor Ross, and many more! It’s American Blues Legends from Big Bear, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Related Links:
Big Bear Records Illustrated Discography

Blues Unlimited #295 - Go Down Ol' Hannah: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Texas State Prison Farms

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this moving and unforgettable episode of Blues Unlimited, we’re going on a journey back in time — to hear the haunting, timeless worksongs of men who endured a hellish existence while laboring under the brutal Texas sun. We'll hear field recordings from 1951, collected by Pete Seeger and company; some of the very last recordings made in Texas, by Bruce Jackson in the mid 1960s; and some of the very first prison recordings, made by John and Alan Lomax, in the 1930s.

Bu295_large_image_new_small On this moving and unforgettable episode of Blues Unlimited, we’re going on a journey back in time — to hear the haunting, timeless worksongs of men who endured a hellish existence while laboring under the brutal Texas sun. We'll hear field recordings from 1951, collected by Pete Seeger and company; some of the very last recordings made in Texas, by Bruce Jackson in the mid 1960s; and some of the very first prison recordings, made by John and Alan Lomax, in the 1930s.


Additional material that may be of interest:
To see some of Bruce Jackson's photos, click here
To see the half-hour film, "Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison," click here


Also in the "Prison Trilogy Series":
Blues Unlimited #287 - Ain't Got Long in the Murderer's Home: Stories and Songs from Parchman Farm (1933-1978)
Blues Unlimited #301 - Got Lifetime Here: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Angola State Penitentiary



Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we venture down to Louisiana, for some five-star slabs of vinyl! We’ll hear selections from "Rooster Blues" by Lightnin’ Slim, "Raining In My Heart" by Slim Harpo, and a double-LP from 1970, called "Swamp Blues." It’s Desert Island Classics, from Excello Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu296_large_image_new_small Join us as we venture down to Louisiana, for some five-star slabs of vinyl! We’ll hear selections from "Rooster Blues" by Lightnin’ Slim, "Raining In My Heart" by Slim Harpo, and a double-LP from 1970, called "Swamp Blues." It’s Desert Island Classics, from Excello Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other programs you will enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #148 - Excello Records


Also in the “Desert Island Classics” Series:
Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3
Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4
Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5
Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7


This episode is also available for purchase in a high quality digital download from Bandcamp:
Click Here for Hour 1
Click Here for Hour 2



Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we spotlight three classic slabs of vinyl from the golden years of the 1960s Blues Revival. We’ll hear selections from "Mississippi Blues" by Bukka White, "Louisiana Blues" by Robert Pete Williams, and "One Man Band" by Dr. Isaiah Ross. It’s Desert Island Classics from Takoma Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu297_large_image_new_small Join us as we spotlight three classic slabs of vinyl from the golden years of the 1960s Blues Revival. We’ll hear selections from "Mississippi Blues" by Bukka White, "Louisiana Blues" by Robert Pete Williams, and "One Man Band" by Dr. Isaiah Ross. It’s Desert Island Classics from Takoma Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Also in the Desert Island Classics series:

Blues Unlimited #263 - Four from Delmark: The Desert Island Classics, Part 1
Blues Unlimited #270 - Three from Imperial: The Desert Island Classics, Part 2
Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3
Blues Unlimited #284 - Five (Plus Two) from Atlantic: The Desert Island Classics, Part 4
Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5
Blues Unlimited #296 - Three from Excello: The Desert Island Classics, Part 6



Blues Unlimited #298 - The Keepers of the Flame, Part 1: Mud Boy & The Neutrons

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we start a new series, "The Keepers of the Flame." Designed to spotlight individuals who've made extraordinary contributions to the world of the blues, our first installment pays tribute to Lee Baker, Jimmy Crosthwait, Jim Dickinson, and Sid Selvidge — collectively known as Memphis cult favorite, Mud Boy & The Neutrons. Plus, we’ll hear Jim Dickinson’s legendary slab of vinyl, "Beale Street Saturday Night." All that and more, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu298_large_image_new_small Their live shows were the stuff of legend. Their voices — an impromptu, ad hoc mixture of deep bass to high falsetto — blended together like a fine country quilt. Waiting for them to tour outside Memphis? Don’t bet on it. Like a lot of blues musicians I can think of, they recorded very little, and rather infrequently. One of them was a painter, sculptor, and puppeteer who had played washboard with the irascible Bukka White. Another had been best friends with Furry Lewis — a fire-brand guitarist capable of playing everything from old folk ditties to heavy metal, and just about everything in between. Another was a talented multi-instrumentalist, Hill Country philosopher and all-around iconoclast who spent the bulk of his career making other people sound good. And the fourth one? An anthropologist and 20th century renaissance man, who possessed an unforgettable, golden voice.

Together and on stage, they were a force to be reckoned with. A name that was simply made up on the spot. “They’ve got to know I’m not going on the road with no Mud Boy and the Neutrons!” proclaimed Ry Cooder to Jim Dickinson, when his record company asked if he would go on tour as the opening act for Alice Cooper (as recounted by Robert Gordon in his book, It Came From Memphis ). Dickinson immediately loved the name. They figured that if anyone ever asked them who Mud Boy was, they’d simply answer: “That’s Mister Boy to you.”

From the get-go, the emphasis was on playing and artistic integrity. Not touring, and not commercial success. Hence, the legendary live shows, and the all-too infrequent recording dates. And if you’d like to know more, I highly recommend Gordon’s book, where he gets into far more detail than I can here.

Flash forward to January 1988. I was a young graduate student who had just transferred, mid-semester, to Memphis State University. I had come to study the blues. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing there, but I was following a call I thought I had heard. Not having time to find an apartment that semester, I opted instead for a dorm room. As was typical, the first thing that got set up was the stereo. Tuning in to the left end of the FM dial, I clearly heard the sounds of the Velvet Underground coming out over the airwaves. It wasn’t blues, necessarily, but it was calmly reassuring, nonetheless. Making me feel that, perhaps, I’d made the right decision afterall.

The station was WEVL, a volunteer-driven community operation, with an under-paid staff of one. Over the next few days, I found out that they were holding a fundraiser at the Hoka Theater in Oxford, Mississippi, just a short drive away. So, on a Saturday night in January, I made the 90 miles or so down to Oxford, and for five bucks (all I had was an out-of-town check, but they accepted it anyway), I got to see a screening of the Chuck Berry film, Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll , was fed a spaghetti dinner, and got to see Mud Boy and the Neutrons play live in performance. It may very well have been the best five bucks I ever spent.

Quite naturally, the members of Mud Boy were big supporters of the station, and if the weather was right and the wind was blowing in a south-easterly direction, they could sometimes be cajoled into playing live on the air for WEVL’s semi-annual membership drives.

To say that I was friends with Mud Boy would be a misnomer. I became involved with the station, and because of that, knew who they were, and sometimes got to be in the same room that they were in. One of my friends has a cassette tape of Lee Baker and a few other musically inclined souls, all jamming together down at the station; myself included, apparently, on 12-string guitar — although what I could have possibly contributed to the proceedings is beyond me.

The passing years, however, took their toll. Mud Boy’s live shows became further apart. One by one, their blues heroes passed on — some of them, cared for in their final years by Lee himself. There were kids to raise, careers to pursue, and families to run. Lee Baker formed a group, The Agitators, to play around town. Sid Selvidge could be found strumming his trademark acoustic guitar at the North End, downtown, on Friday nights (later, he would go on to became the executive producer of the critically acclaimed “Beale Street Caravan” radio program). Jimmy Crosthwait continued painting and making fanciful metal sculptures, in addition to running an art gallery east of Memphis. Jim Dickinson busied himself in the recording studio, becoming a sought-after producer who had the talent and a knack for making other people sound good. Legend has it that he always carried a copy of the Mississippi Fred McDowell LP, “Amazing Grace,” just so that there’d be “something real” in the studio for people to listen to.

In September 1996, however, a bomb was dropped on the Memphis music community. It had all started a month earlier, apparently, when Lee Baker’s home was totally destroyed in a fire. Based on conjecture from those who knew him — and we must stress here that details are sketchy at best — it’s believed that some would-be thieves caught wind of the fact that Lee had saved up some money to pay for the pressing of The Agitators' new album. It’s now thought that the robbers grabbed the money but bungled the job, and to cover their tracks, set fire to Lee’s home.

It was a devastating blow. Decades of priceless and irreplaceable memorabilia — including, I believe, Furry Lewis’ guitar — were gone in a few moments.

Vowing to move on, Lee and his family found temporary residence with his aunt, for whom he also helped collect rent from her various tenants. Described as a “country outpost,” the thieves apparently found them about a month later — Lee and his aunt — shot them both, took the rent money, and set the place on fire, once again, to cover their tracks. As Jim Dickinson later said, the church in Memphis where the service was held couldn’t hold all the friends, family, and admirers who came to pay their respects and mourn his loss.

After that, Mud Boy formally disbanded. In the meantime, Jim Dickinson’s sons, Luther and Cody (“my greatest productions,” he once quipped), made quite a stir in the music world. In 2005, the remaining three members of Mud Boy were lured to London, for one last performance. It was apparently filmed — with intentions for release — but still has not seen the light of day.

In 2009, Jim Dickinson succumbed to the after-effects of triple-bypass heart surgery. Four years later, Sid Selvidge would follow, after battling cancer of the mouth. Today, Jimmy Crosthwait is the last surviving member of Mud Boy & The Neutrons, although a new group, “The Sons of Mud Boy,” help carry on the tradition they started.

In every sense, Mud Boy & The Neutrons were the “Keepers of the Flame” of Memphis music, representing, as it were, the best that the city had to offer. For those of us lucky enough to see them play live, an experience we’ll never forget. And although they may be gone, they will certainly never be forgotten.

P.S. - As for Jim Dickinson’s now-famous rallying cry — ”World Boogie Is Coming!” — we, the disciples of Mud Boy, patiently await its imminent arrival.

Blues Unlimited #299 - Great Songwriters of the Blues, Part 1: Leroy Carr

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for the start of a new series, dedicated to the great song writers of the blues. Our first installment pays tribute to Leroy Carr, who wrote some of the timeless classics of the blues, and influenced generations of musicians. It's a tribute to Leroy Carr, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu299_large_image_new_small Join us for the start of a new series, dedicated to the great songwriters of the blues. Our first installment pays tribute to pianist Leroy Carr, who — along with his guitar playing partner, Scrapper Blackwell — became one of the biggest sellers of the day. "How Long, How Long Blues," cut during his debut session as a leader in June 1928, became an "instant hit," and catapulted the two of them into the limelight. Over the next seven years, until his untimely death in 1935, he would go on to write some of the timeless classics of the blues. With his trademark understated delivery and generally introspective lyrics, his music demonstrated an urban sophistication that would go on to influence generations of musicians to come. Join us then, as we pay tribute to the great Leroy Carr, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other programs you will enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #289 - Legends of Bluesville, Part 6: Indianapolis Blues


Other Programs Featuring Piano Blues:

Blues Unlimited #143 - New Orleans Piano

Blues Unlimited #153 - Prestige and Bluesville Keyboard Legends

Blues Unlimited #161 - West Coast Piano

Blues Unlimited #207 - What About Black Bob? (Rockin' Piano Blues 1934-1938)

Blues Unlimited #219 - It's All About The Boogie! (Rockin' Piano Blues 1928-1985)

Blues Unlimited #236 - Gentle Giant of the Keyboards: The Piano Blues of Big Maceo

Blues Unlimited #282 - The Candid Records Blues Sessions



Blues Unlimited #300 - Paul Oliver's "The Story of the Blues"

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode, we pay homage to Paul Oliver’s legendary double LP set, "The Story of the Blues." Published as a companion piece to his critically acclaimed book of the same name, it’s been revered as one of the best anthologies of its kind, and has been beloved by blues fans ever since it first appeared, in 1969.

Bu300_large_image_small On this episode, we pay homage to Paul Oliver’s legendary double LP set, "The Story of the Blues." Published as a companion piece to his critically acclaimed book of the same name, it’s been revered as one of the best anthologies of its kind, and has been beloved by blues fans ever since it first appeared, in 1969.


Other episodes you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues
Blues Unlimited #267 - One-of-a-Kind Wonders: The Rarest Blues 78s of All Time
Blues Unlimited #256 - (It Was) Really! The Country Blues (That) Fell This Morning: LP Classics from the Birth of the Blues Revival

 


Blues Unlimited #300 - Paul Oliver's "The Story of the Blues"

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode, we pay homage to Paul Oliver’s legendary double LP set, "The Story of the Blues." Published as a companion piece to his critically acclaimed book of the same name, it’s been revered as one of the best anthologies of its kind, and has been beloved by blues fans ever since it first appeared, in 1969.

Bu300_large_image_small On this episode, we pay homage to Paul Oliver’s legendary double LP set, "The Story of the Blues." Published as a companion piece to his critically acclaimed book of the same name, it’s been revered as one of the best anthologies of its kind, and has been beloved by blues fans ever since it first appeared, in 1969.


Other episodes you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #297 - Three from Takoma: The Desert Island Classics, Part 7
Blues Unlimited #274 - A Conversation With The Blues
Blues Unlimited #267 - One-of-a-Kind Wonders: The Rarest Blues 78s of All Time
Blues Unlimited #256 - (It Was) Really! The Country Blues (That) Fell This Morning: LP Classics from the Birth of the Blues Revival

 


Blues Unlimited #301 - Got Lifetime Here: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Angola State Penitentiary

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a trip down to the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola — once called the worst prison in America. John and Alan Lomax would find Lead Belly there, in 1933, and a quarter century later, the legendary field recordings of Dr. Harry Oster would bring us the music of Robert Pete Williams, and many others. Along our journey, we'll showcase a forgotten piece of vinyl, "Southern Prison Blues." A trip down to "The Farm" at Angola, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu301_large_image_small

"Some got six months,
Some got a solid year.
But me and my buddy,
We got lifetime here."
—Robert Pete Williams, "Some Got Six Months"


In the final installment of our "Prison Trilogy Series," join us as we take a trip down to the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. With a long history of corruption, nepotism, and brutality, it was once called the worst prison in the country. John and Alan Lomax would find Lead Belly there, in 1933 — a talented multi-instrumentalist who would go on to become a central figure in American folk music. A quarter century later, the legendary field recordings of Dr. Harry Oster would bring us the music of Robert Pete Williams, and many others. Along our journey, we'll showcase a forgotten piece of vinyl, "Southern Prison Blues," first issued by Storyville Records in the early 1960s. A trip down to "The Farm" at Angola, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.



Also in the "Prison Trilogy Series"

BU #287 - Ain't Got Long in the Murderer's Home: Stories and Songs from Parchman Farm
BU #295 - Go Down Ol' Hannah: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Texas State Prison Farms



Blues Unlimited #302 - Hill Country Gospel

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for our annual gospel show! Guest host Brother Hawkins will lead us on a journey down to Memphis and the Hill Country, to hear music from Mississippi Fred McDowell and the Reverend Robert Wilkins. Plus, selections from a five-star slab of vinyl — one of the most beloved documentary LPs of all time. It’s the annual Gospel Show, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu302_large_image_small Join us for our annual gospel show! Guest host Brother Hawkins will lead us on a journey down to Memphis and the Hill Country, to hear music from Mississippi Fred McDowell and the Reverend Robert Wilkins. Plus, selections from a five-star slab of vinyl — one of the most beloved documentary LPs of all time. It’s the annual Gospel Show, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Other Gospel Programs You Will Enjoy: 
Blues Unlimited #248 - The Gospel Sisters Guitar Caravan
Blues Unlimited #223 - Great Gospel Preachers 
Blues Unlimited #201 - Pre-War Gospel Classics 
Blues Unlimited #154 - Down Home Gospel Favorites

Other Programs of Field Recordings You Will Enjoy:
Blues Unlimited #253 - Alan Lomax in the Hill Country of Mississippi

Blues Unlimited #237 - It Must've Been The Devil Goin' Up The Country: The Big Road Blues of David Evans

 



Blues Unlimited #303 - The Legendary Parkway Label

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we dig through the remains of the Parkway label, a Chicago independent who was only in business for a short time during the first few months of 1950. Their major claim to fame was one amazing slice of wax by Little Walter, Muddy Waters, and Baby Face Leroy Foster — which ironically, would also prove to be their downfall. Tune in to hear the story of Parkway Records, and the other Windy City blues legends they recorded, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu303_large_image_copy_small

The Parkway Label - A Guide to the Recordings on this Program

If you happened to have visited the Red Saunders Research Foundation Parkway page, to read the history of this tiny but fascinating Chicago record company, then you know that, technically speaking, we have a bit of a problem when it comes to some of the material presented on this program. As Robert Pruter and Robert Campbell report:

“[Parkway] was in business for little more than four months and produced only 23 recordings, of which 14 were released at the time — four by the Baby Face Leroy Trio, four by the Little Walter Trio, two by Memphis Minnie, two by Sunnyland Slim, and two by... Robert Jenkins. Just four singles are known to have come out on Parkway. But what extraordinary records they were.”

In compiling the material for this episode, we relied heavily on their research. Among the 36 performances on the program, we included all 14 of the originally issued sides — the four known Parkway singles, plus three other 78s that were recorded by Parkway, but were either leased or purchased by Fred Mendelsohn at Regal, and first released on his label (all six of those can be found at the end of hour one). So, doing some quick math: 14 from 36 leaves 22 sides unaccounted for. Two additional performances come from a 45 rpm single released by Louis Records in 2012, which include two alternate, previously unissued outtakes of Parkway material — one by Baby Face Leroy, the other by Little Walter. Now we’re down to 20.

Another 5 were recorded by Parkway, but never issued until decades later. This includes the opening performance by Jimmy Rogers, plus two each by Memphis Minnie and Sunnyland Slim (you’ll find them near the end of hour two). That leaves us with 15.

Four performances by Roosevelt Sykes, attributed to a March 1950 recording date, fall within the time frame that Parkway was still a viable, operating entity (three of them can be found in hour one, one more is tucked away towards the end of hour two). Whether or not they were recorded by Parkway and later snapped up by Fred Mendelsohn at Regal — a theory that is certainly plausible, at best — is unknown. That leaves us with 11 recordings to go.

Hour two opens with three more cuts by Roosevelt Sykes, plus two titles by the enigmatic Essie Sykes — her relation to Roosevelt, as yet unknown. The Essie Sykes 78 is SO rare, that it wasn’t listed in any of the standard blues discographies until 2006 — some 55 years after it was first recorded. Traditionally, the session date assigned to these titles was April 1951, and, going on some rather vague information on the current Red Saunders page that they possibly could have been recorded earlier, we decided to include them anyway. Plus, quite simply, it gave us an excuse to dust off the exciting Essie Sykes titles for this program. That leaves us with six sides still unaccounted for.

Five of those remaining six, all found in hour two, and recorded by Little Brother Montgomery and St. Louis Jimmy in 1949, don’t really “fit” within the time frame that Parkway was operating. However, as Pruter and Campbell point out at the Red Saunders page, St. Louis Jimmy was under contract to a personal management firm set up by Parkway founder Monroe Passis, and another veteran of the Chicago music scene, J. Mayo Williams. All we can say for certain is that Fred Mendelsohn never came to Chicago to hold recording sessions on behalf of Regal. That leaves us with a bit of a mystery, however. If these sides were not recorded by Fred Mendelsohn, then who did record them? Since St. Louis Jimmy was under contract to a company that Passis and Williams had set up, it’s tempting to point fingers in that direction. As for the two sides by Little Brother Montgomery, they “sound like” they fit in with this time frame, and with a 1949 recording date also attributed to them, they tend to fall under the category of “if they weren’t cut by Mendelsohn for Regal, then who did cut them?"

Finally, we have one remaining title, by Muddy Waters. This is one we know for sure that was NOT cut by Parkway. Instead, it was cut by Leonard Chess, deliberately in the hopes that Muddy’s version of “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” would kill the Parkway version, on which he can clearly be heard. In the end, Leonard Chess got his wish. It not only killed the Parkway version, but along with it, the Parkway label. Without the money coming in from their “break out” record, the company collapsed under its own weight, and with the departure of George and Ernie Leaner (two key figures who helped get Parkway off the ground), there was apparently no point in soldiering on.

After Regal, Fred Mendelsohn went over to Herald, and after Herald, wound up at Savoy. The last known original release of Parkway material (as a 45 or a 78) was on Savoy, in 1956.

For such a tiny company, the legacy of Parkway Records remains, to this day, quite remarkable — and their impact on the history of Chicago blues — one that will not be forgotten for some time to come.


For a blow-by-blow rundown of Parkway, the artists they recorded, and a glimpse into the inner workings of the postwar music business, be sure to visit the Parkway page at the Red Saunders Research Foundation.

Special thanks to Louis Records, for help and assistance with this episode.




 

Blues Unlimited #304 - Goin' Down To Eli's: Robert Nighthawk & Friends, Live on Maxwell Street, 1964

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

If you like your blues raw and gritty, then join us as we head down to Maxwell Street. That’s where filmmaker Mike Shea went with his cameras in 1964, to make his legendary slice-of-life documentary, "And This Is Free." In the process, he captured some of the greatest live blues recordings ever made. Join us for a trip down to Maxwell Street, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu304_large_image_small If you like your blues raw and gritty, then join us as we head down to Maxwell Street. That’s where filmmaker Mike Shea went with his cameras in 1964, to make his legendary slice-of-life documentary, "And This Is Free." In the process, he captured some of the greatest live blues recordings ever made. Join us for a trip down to Maxwell Street, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other Programs of live blues you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #278 - When Giants Walked the Earth: The 1968 & '69 Memphis Country Blues Festivals
Blues Unlimited #259 - Live at Tipitina's: Rockin' the House Down in New Orleans 
Blues Unlimited #235 - Live and On Stage: Blues Classics from the 1960s
Blues Unlimited #226 - Rock This House: Chicago Blues Legends Live at Antone's
Blues Unlimited #191 - A Legend Every Night: Blues from Antone's
Blues Unlimited #209 - Music from the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Blues Unlimited #186 - Blues from Ann Arbor, '72 (and '69) 

 


Blues Unlimited #305 - Rare Paramount 78s from the Collection of John Tefteller

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore some of the rarest of the rare — John Tefteller's legendary collection of Paramount 78s. One of the most important blues labels of the 1920s and early 1930s, we’ll hear classics from Skip James, Charley Patton, Son House, Blind Blake — and, the $37,000 Tommy Johnson 78. It’s rare Paramounts from John Tefteller, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu305_large_image_small Join us as we explore some of the rarest of the rare — John Tefteller's legendary collection of Paramount 78s. One of the most important blues labels of the 1920s and early 1930s, we’ll hear classics from Skip James, Charley Patton, Son House, Blind Blake — and, the $37,000 Tommy Johnson 78. It’s rare Paramounts from John Tefteller, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

A personal note from the producer: John Tefteller's yearly calendars are a treasured tradition in the blues community, and have been for well over a decade. Even in the best of times, this labor of love is a "break even" sort of proposition. To help support this unique and incredible body of work — and help guarantee future blues calendars in the years to come — here's a link where you can purchase the 2019 edition of his calendar.

Special thanks to Bob Eagle, David Costa, and John Tefteller for help and assistance with this program.


Other programs you will enjoy:



Blues Unlimited #306 - Blue Horizon Records Presents the Giants of Country Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we dig into some of the great recordings made by Mike Vernon's Blue Horizon label during the 1960s. This time we’ll be focusing on some of the giants of country blues — like Furry Lewis, Bukka White, Joe Callicott, and more. It’s country blues from Blue Horizon, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

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Join us as we dig into some of the great recordings made by Mike Vernon's Blue Horizon label during the 1960s. This time we’ll be focusing on some of the giants of country blues, like Bukka White, Furry Lewis, and Joe Callicott, drawing our inspiration, in part, from a series of four LPs they produced, entitled "Presenting The Country Blues." Along the way, we'll hear a few other treats, such as selections from Doctor Ross' "The Flying Eagle" — Blue Horizon's very first long-playing entry — and the long out-of-print Roosevelt Holts LP. It’s country blues from Blue Horizon, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Special thanks to Chris Stovall Brown for help and assistance with this program.

World Boogie is coming. 

Blues Unlimited #307 - The Blues Unlimited 3rd Annual Year In Review Special: Best of 2016

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2016. In a year filled with highlights, great blues, and a bunch of good music, we’ve hand picked a few standout segments for our third annual year in review special. Don’t miss the "Best of 2016," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

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Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from 2016. In a year filled with highlights, great blues, and a bunch of good music, we’ve hand picked a few standout segments for our third annual year in review special. Don’t miss the "Best of 2016," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other programs you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #293 - The Blues Unlimited 2nd Annual Year In Review Special: Best of 2015

Blues Unlimited #271 - The Blues Unlimited 1st Annual Year In Review Special: Best of 2014

 


Blues Unlimited #308 - Hot Wax & Down Home Classics from Checker Records (1952-1953)

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we put the Checker label in the spotlight. Started by Phil and Leonard Chess as a subsidiary imprint in 1952, Checker issued some spectacular down home blues, and was also the home label to harmonica wizard Little Walter — who went straight to the top of the R&B charts with his smash hit, "Juke." Join us for an in depth look at the first couple years of the Checker label, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

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Join us as we take an in-depth look at the early days of the Checker label — an important subsidiary imprint of the legendary Chess family of labels. Not too long after Phil and Leonard formally launched Chess Records in 1950 (which picked up on the heels of where Aristocrat — the Chess brothers' first label — left off), they started operations at Checker. Although Chess is deservedly famous for it's all-star lineup of blues giants like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Checker would come to be known as the home label to artists like Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Little Milton. Little Walter is our “man of the hour” (whose frequent releases brought early success to the label), and we’ll explore some of the spectacular down home blues they issued, from John Brim, Elmore James, Willie Nix, Morris Pejoe, Woodrow Adams, Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, and more.

Other programs you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #303 - The Legendary Parkway Label

Blues Unlimited #285 - Four More from Chess: The Desert Island Classics, Part 5

Blues Unlimited #272 - Drop Down Mama: The Desert Island Classics, Part 3

Blues Unlimited #243 - Five Easy Pieces: "The Blues" on Chess, Part 2

Blues Unlimited #242 - Five Easy Pieces: "The Blues" on Chess, Part 1


Special thanks to the Red Saunders Research Foundation, and also to Tony Glover, Scott Dirks & Ward Gaines, authors of "Blues With A Feeling: The Little Walter Story," for help and research assitance with this program.


 

Blues Unlimited #310 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the Early 1950s

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

On this episode of Blues Unlimited, join us as we pay tribute to a remarkable collection of records that all have one thing in common — they were all within reach of the number one position on the Billboard R&B charts, but never quite made it to the very top. With music from Big Joe Turner, Tiny Bradshaw, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Little Walter, and more, we'll count our way down through some of the biggest "hits that missed" of the early 1950s.

Bu310_large_image_small There's an old saying, when it comes to baseball anyway, that nobody remembers who comes in second. On this episode of Blues Unlimited, join us, then, as we pay tribute to a remarkable collection of records that all have one thing in common — they were all within reach of the number one position on the Billboard R&B charts, but never quite made it to the very top. With music from Big Joe Turner, Tiny Bradshaw, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Little Walter, and more, we'll count our way down through some of the biggest "hits that missed" of the early 1950s.


Other programs you will enjoy

Blues Unlimited #180 - Smash Hits of the Late 1940s
Blues Unlimited #311 - Hits That Missed: The Biggest Number Two R&B Records of the 1940s

Blues Unlimited #216 - Smash Hits of the Early 1950s
Blues Unlimited #217 - More Smash Hits of the Early 1950s




Blues Unlimited #312 - Goin' To Brownsville: Sleepy John Estes & Friends, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we get into our time machine, and go back to the 1920s and ’30s, to examine the blues traditions in Brownsville, Tennessee. At the epicenter of it all was one extraordinary man, who 'cried the blues.' Join us for Sleepy John Estes and friends, on this episode of Blues Unlimited (Part 1 of 2).

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Join us as we get into our time machine, and go back to the 1920s and ’30s, to examine the blues traditions in Brownsville, Tennessee. At the epicenter of it all was one extraordinary man, who 'cried the blues.' On this episode, the first of two parts, we’ll focus primarily on the recordings that Sleepy John Estes and his buddies — Yank Rachell and Son Bonds, among others — made for the Victor and Bluebird labels, between 1928 and 1941.

Part 2
Blues Unlimited #313 - Mr. Estes' Neighborhood: The Blues in Brownsville, Part 2



Other programs you will enjoy:

Blues Unlimited #290 - Memphis Blues, 1927: The Legendary First Recordings 
Blues Unlimited #291 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 1: The Victor Recordings
Blues Unlimited #292 - Memphis Blues from Early 1928, Part 2: The OKeh Sessions 


Blues Unlimited #313 - Mr. Estes' Neighborhood: The Blues in Brownsville, Part 2

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for part two of our look at the blues traditions in Brownsville, Tennessee. This time, we’ll focus primarily on the Decca label, and hear some of the mid-1930s recordings made by Sleepy John Estes, Hammie Nixon, Son Bonds, and Charlie Pickett, among others. We’re going to Brownsville, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu313_large_image_small Join us for part two of our look at the blues traditions in Brownsville, Tennessee. This time, we’ll focus primarily on the Decca label, and hear some of the mid-1930s recordings made by Sleepy John Estes, Hammie Nixon, Son Bonds, Charlie Pickett, and Lee Brown. Plus, during a special segment, we’ll also take a brief detour over to Vocalion and the American Record Corporation, so that we can hear a handful of sides, also recorded in the mid-1930s, by another small contingency of Brownsville blues musicians — including Yank Rachell, Allen Shaw, and John Henry Barbee. We’re going to Brownsville, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Part 1:
Blues Unlimited #312 - Goin' To Brownsville: Sleepy John Estes & Friends

Blues Unlimited #314 - Uncle Sam Called Me: The Blues and War

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we dig into a collection of blues songs all dealing with the topic of war. Featuring commentary, insight, and criticism on Vietnam, Korea, and World War Two, we’ll hear classics from Doctor Clayton, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Lightnin’ Hopkins, J.B. Lenoir, Junior Wells, and many more. The blues goes to war, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu314_large_image_small Join us as we dig into a collection of blues songs all dealing with the topic of war. Featuring commentary, insight, and criticism on Vietnam, Korea, and World War Two, we’ll hear classics from Doctor Clayton, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Lightnin’ Hopkins, J.B. Lenoir, Junior Wells, and many more. The blues goes to war, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Blues Unlimited #315 - The Low Down Gut Bucket Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for two hours of our favorite gut bucket blues! We’ll hear low down classics from Lightnin’ Hopkins, Joe Hill Louis, L.C. Green, Elmore James, Calvin Leavy, and many more. It’s the low down gut bucket blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu315_large_image_small Join us for two hours of our favorite gut bucket blues! We’ll hear low down classics from Lightnin’ Hopkins, Joe Hill Louis, L.C. Green, Elmore James, Calvin Leavy, and many more. It’s the low down gut bucket blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #316 - Great Songwriters of the Blues, Part 2: Jimmy Reed

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for another installment of our "Great Songwriters" series, as we aim the spotlight on Jimmy Reed. Enjoying more R&B hits than any of his contemporaries in the Windy City, he's a figure that's often overlooked. We'll hear classics from the man himself, plus a "Who's Who" of special guests. A tribute to Jimmy Reed, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu316_large_image___vj_logo4_small Join us for another installment of our "Great Songwriters" series, as we aim the spotlight on Chicago blues hit-maker, Jimmy Reed. Enjoying more top-twenty Billboard R&B entires than any of his contemporaries in the Windy City — Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson #2 — he's a figure that, today, is sadly overlooked. Often described as employing a simplistic formula, the accessibility of his music made him a major influence on budding guitar and harmonica players from all walks of life — from blues and rock, to folk and country. And when it comes to crossover hits to the Billboard Pop charts, nobody in Chicago could lay claim to anything approaching the success that he had. A staple of the Vee-Jay operation, starting with the label's inception until the early 1960s, one in every twelve issues, on average, was a Jimmy Reed record. Suffice it to say, then, that Jimmy Reed was indeed a giant of the blues. We'll celebrate that musical legacy with classic performances from the man himself, plus a "Who's Who" of special guests. It's a tribute to Jimmy Reed, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other programs you will enjoy:




Blues Unlimited #317 - 25 from Bob Koester

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for an extra special treat! We asked Bob Koester, founder of the legendary Delmark Records, for a list of his favorite performances. All we can say is that this is one episode you won't want to miss. It's 25 from Bob Koester, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu317_large_image_4_small Join us for an extra special treat! We asked Bob Koester, founder of the legendary Delmark Records, for a list of his favorite performances. All we can say is that this is one episode you won't want to miss. It's 25 from Bob Koester, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Other programs featuring material from Delmark Records:


To see Bob Koester's comments regarding the LP he's holding in this picture, Hoodoo Man Blues, be sure to visit the "One LP Project." 


Blues Unlimited #318 - Animal Symbolism in the Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we explore the rich and fascinating history of animal symbolism in the blues. Ever since the very first recordings, from the 1920s, blues artists have used metaphors and images from the animal kingdom to illustrate their songs. We'll hear a few of our favorites, plus, some all time classics from Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams, Robert Nighthawk, and (of course!) The Howlin' Wolf. It’s animal symbolism in the blues — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu318_large_image_small Join us as we explore the rich and fascinating history of animal symbolism in the blues. Ever since the very first recordings, from the 1920s, blues artists have used metaphors and images from the animal kingdom to illustrate their songs. We'll hear a few of our favorites, plus, some all time classics from Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams, Robert Nighthawk, and (of course!) The Howlin' Wolf. It’s animal symbolism in the blues — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Blues Unlimited #319 - Blues from Bentonia, Mississippi

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we aim the spotlight on the Bentonia, Mississippi blues tradition, and the handful of practitioners — such as Skip James, Jack Owens, and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes — who have kept the style alive over the decades. Known for its complex melodies and haunting, otherworldly lyrics, Bentonia blues has long been loved by scholars and fanatics alike. It's blues from Bentonia, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

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Bentonia blues, with it's own distinct sound, tunings, and repertoire, is a style of music that has haunted fans and scholars alike for decades. Nehemiah "Skip" James, who cut 18 sides for the Paramount label in 1931, left behind the largest body of work from this school, until his rediscovery more than three decades later. Shortly thereafter, a couple more Bentonia musicians were discovered — Cornelius Bright and Jack Owens — who both made their debut recordings in 1966. Forty years later, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes would record his debut album, and he is now considered to be one of the last surviving practitioners of this genre.

Never a group with large numbers, the Bentonia school has a small but proud tradition, largely centered around Henry Stuckey, who was interviewed but never recorded. According to legend, he learned the eerie, minor guitar tuning that is part and parcel of the Bentonia sound from two soldiers overseas in World War I — who, by varying reports, were either Gypsies, or from the West Indies. After returning to Mississippi, he taught the tuning to a young Skip James, who incorporated it into his repertoire shortly thereafter.

In this special episode of Blues Unlimited, we trace the history of Bentonia blues back to Skip James' historic 1931 recordings, through the rediscovery period of the 1960s, and all the way up to the 21st century, with recordings made by Jimmy "Duck" Holmes (some of them at the legendary Blue Front Cafe), for such contemporary labels as Fat Possum and Broke & Hungry.

 

Other programs you will enjoy: 

Blues Unlimited #237 - It Must've Been The Devil Goin' Up The Country: The Big Road Blues of David Evans

Blues Unlimited #267 - One-of-a-Kind Wonders: The Rarest Blues 78s of All Time

Blues Unlimited #305 - Rare Paramount 78s from the Collection of John Tefteller


 

Blues Unlimited #320 - Unsung Heroes of St. Louis Blues

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we journey to St. Louis, and celebrate some of the talented musicians that called the River City their home. We'll hear modern classics and vintage rarities from Oliver Sain, Johnnie Johnson, Bennie Smith, Clayton Love, and a whole lot more. This is one episode you don't want to miss! It's the unsung heroes of St. Louis Blues, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

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St. Louis, located near the southern end of the central Midwest, for many blues musicians making the trek north to Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s, was simply a stopping over point before continuing their journey. For others, such as the musicians being featured on this program, St. Louis was their home, and where they spent the bulk of their career. Unfortunately, unlike Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, or New York, the River City was never a major recording center — and without a successful independent label like Atlantic, Chess, Stax, or Sun — opportunities to record were few and far in between. For a talented artist like James De Shay, who we find here captured by a BBC film crew in 1976, the opportunity to record commercially never came at all, while harmonica blower Doc Terry finally ended up cutting a few singles on his very own D.T.P. label in the early 1970s. Johnnie Johnson, of course, might be the most well-known name on the roster here, thanks to his long association with Chuck Berry — who found success in Chicago thanks to a tip from Muddy Waters, who told him to go see Phil and Leonard Chess (the rest, as they say, is history). Tommy Bankhead also came up from Mississippi, along the way, playing with a Who’s Who of blues legends that would make anyone envious today. Bennie Smith, on the other hand, was a St. Louis native who became a mentor to so many other budding electric guitarists, it’s hard to count them all. Among his students was Ike Turner, who we plan on profiling in a future episode. Pianist Clayton Love, it turns out, was a friend of Ike Turner, going back to their days in Clarksdale, first recording together in 1954 for Modern, and again in 1957 for the Federal imprint, in Cincinnati. Like Turner, Oliver Sain was another master craftsman who called St. Louis his home, descending from an impressive blues lineage. Not only was Dan Sane his grandfather (musical partner of the legendary Memphis guitarist Frank Stokes and one-half of the musical duo, the Beale Street Sheiks), but his step-father was also Willie Love, who recorded with Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson for Trumpet in the early 1950s. Sain, in turn, wore so many musical hats, it almost defies belief: multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, arranger, bandleader, producer, music publisher, and owner of a recording studio. Ironically, it was a random sample from one of his 45s, by a famous rap group, that brought him the greatest financial success of his career. At the other end of the spectrum, we find the obscure Guitar Tommy Moore, cutting a bona fide St. Louis classic in 1964. The label, Ultrasonic, was one of many owned by Gabriel — a famous disk jockey, who, as of this writing, can still be found plying his trade over the airwaves of his hometown. Blues expert Jim O’Neal has spent fruitless hours trying to track down the elusive Moore, with Gabriel saying all that he remembers about Moore, at this late date, is that he looked like Benny Hill. As they say, you can’t really make this stuff up.

St. Louis was home to many talented musicians, and on this episode of Blues Unlimited, we pay tribute to a handful of them.


Special thanks to our good friend, radio colleague and fellow blues-lover Tony C., for help and assistance in preparing this program.

For more information on the artists featured on this program, be sure to visit STLBlues.net - where you can also find interviews with Bennie Smith and Tommy Bankhead.


 

 

 

 

Blues Unlimited #321 - Legend of the Slide Guitar: Elmore James, Part 1

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we start a new, ongoing mini-series dedicated to the life and musical career of one of the most beloved figures in blues history — slide guitar legend Elmore James. In part one, we'll start with his first recordings in Mississippi for the Trumpet label, with Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Love, and end with his initial recordings in Chicago, made for producer Joe Bihari, with the Broomdusters.

Bu321_large_image_small Join us as we start a new, ongoing mini-series dedicated to the life and musical career of one of the most beloved figures in blues history — slide guitar legend Elmore James. In part one, we'll start with his first recordings in Mississippi for the Trumpet label, with Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Love, and end with his initial recordings in Chicago, made for producer Joe Bihari, with the Broomdusters.

Also in this series:

Blues Unlimited #322 - The Sam Phillips Masters, Part 1: The Modern & RPM Sides

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we begin a new series, exploring the blues recordings made by Sam Phillips at his legendary Memphis studio. In part one, we’ll take a look at the 78s he cut for the Bihari Brothers, for their Modern and RPM imprints, in 1950 and 1951. It’s part one of the Sam Phillips masters, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu322_large_image2_small Join us as we begin a new series, exploring the blues recordings made by Sam Phillips at his legendary Memphis studio. In part one, we’ll take a look at the 78s he cut for the Bihari Brothers, for their Modern and RPM imprints, in 1950 and 1951. It’s part one of the Sam Phillips masters, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.


Other programs featuring material recorded by Sam Phillips:
Blues Unlimited #136 - The Sun Records Blues Vaults

Blues Unlimited #323 - The Sam Phillips Masters, Part 2: Chess & Checker

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us as we continue our exploration of the blues recordings made by Sam Phillips. This time around, we’ll dig into the 78 masters he cut for the Chess brothers in Chicago. Great, rare, and classic performances from Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner, Rufus Thomas, the Howlin' Wolf, and more. It’s part two of the Sam Phillips Masters, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Bu323_large_image_small Join us as we continue our exploration of the blues recordings made by Sam Phillips, at his legendary studio, located at 706 Union Avenue, in Memphis, Tennessee. This time around, we’ll dig into the 78 masters he cut for the Chess brothers in Chicago, during 1951 and 1952. Great, rare, and classic performances from Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner, Rufus Thomas, the Howlin' Wolf, and more. It’s part two of the Sam Phillips Masters, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Also In This Series:




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Blues Unlimited #325 - The Keepers of the Flame, Part 2: Nick Perls & Yazoo Records

From Steve c/o Ernest Franz | Part of the Blues Unlimited series | 01:58:59

Join us for another installment of our ongoing series, "The Keepers of the Flame," where we aim the spotlight on those individuals who've made extraordinary contributions to the world of the blues. This time we pay homage to Nick Perls, who founded Yazoo Records back in 1968. We’ll celebrate by cherry picking our way through the first half a dozen LPs he issued. A tribute to Nick Perls and Yazoo Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

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Join us for another installment of our ongoing series, "The Keepers of the Flame," where we aim the spotlight on those individuals who've made extraordinary contributions to the world of the blues. This time we pay homage to Nick Perls, who founded Yazoo Records back in 1968. We’ll celebrate by cherry picking our way through the first half a dozen LPs he issued on his now legendary imprint — widely considered to be the finest pre-war reissue label of all time. A tribute to Nick Perls and Yazoo Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited. 

About the images
: Clockwise, from upper left: Yazoo Records Catalog, featuring Charley Patton; The first Yazoo LP; Photo taken on the day Nick Perls, Dick Waterman, and Phil Spiro met Son House, June 23, 1964 in Rochester, NY; A perennial Yazoo favorite, the “Heroes of the Blues” trading cards; illustrations by R. Crumb. Images courtesy of Stefan Wirz’s American Music website.

Also in this series: