Wednesday, July 24, 2013


In the years between Harry Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music and the start-up of Nick Perls’ Belzona/Yazoo Records in 1967, Pete Whelan and Bill Givens began to reissue country blues 78s on LP under the Origin Jazz Library imprint beginning in 1960. They drew upon the pioneering collections of Whelan, Bernard Klatzko, James McCune, and others, who had begun to acquire obscure country blues records back in the 1940s when very few record collectors paid much interest to the genre, concentrating instead of classic jazz. OJL’s first issue was Charlie Patton! 1929-32, the first microgroove collection to collect a dozen of Patton’s sides in one place. OJL kept up a modest reissue program through the mid-60s, issuing full LPs by Henry Thomas, another Charley Patton volume, Crying Sam Collins, and many anthologies featuring Mississippi blues, early female country blues singers, jug bands, early jazz, etc. Two of their country blues collections, Really! The Country Blues and Country Blues Encores introduced the folkie crowd to such great country blues artists as Tommy Johnson, William Moore, Son House, Skip James, George “Bullet” Williams, Garfield Akers, Blind Joe Reynolds, Jaybird Coleman, Charlie Jordan, and many others. The cover graphics were crude but effective, many of the LPs had booklets with essays and discographical information inside the sleeve, the remastering was adequate for the time period (Yazoo’s Nick Perls would bring 78 remastering up to state of the art a few years later), and the musical selections were outstanding. In 1967 Pete Whelan bowed out and Bill Givens took over, continuing to issue LPs up until his death in 1999. By that time, Yazoo had long been the premier reissue label for classic country blues, issuing on their own collections many of the blues sides originally put out by Origin with state of the art remastering, and the Austrian Document label was pretty far along in its ambition to issue every single prewar blues 78 ever recorded. Many of these records have made it to CD in the past 20 or so years, and Yazoo again often has the superior sound reproduction and presentation.  

Here, then, is a selection of great country blues that first made the transition from shellac to vinyl on the second eight OJL releases. Tunes from the first eight can be found at

click on individual song titles to listen:

Going to Town – Dewey Jackson’s Peacock Orchestra. 1926
Whoopee Blues – King Solomon Hill (Joe Holmes), vocal/guitar. 1932
Dough Roller Blues – Garfield Akers, vocal/guitar; Joe Calicott, guitar. 1930
I Am Bound for the Promised Land – Alfred G. Karnes, vocal/harp-guitar. 1927
Rock of Ages – Blind Willie Davis, vocal/guitar. 1928
John Henry Blues – The Two Poor Boys: Joe Evans, vocal/guitar or mandolin; 
  Arthur McClain, vocal/guitar or mandolin. 1931
Stomp ’Em Down to the Bricks – Henry Brown, piano; Lawrence Casey, guitar/speech. 
Lonesome Road Blues – Smith & Irvine: W. M. Smith, — Irvine, piano duet. 1932

Most of the songs heard here can be found in top sound quality on various Yazoo and Blues Images CDs.

Album covers courtesy American Music.


  1. Very informative post, Frank. The sound quality (to my ears) is really quite good. I've always liked Alfred Karnes and Garfield Akers. The Two Poor Boys 'John Henry' is good too and I haven't heard that before - it's fun comparing the different versions (white and black) of that ballad. I was also taken with King Solomon Hill - he has quite a unique voice.

  2. Thanks so much Ms. Grooves! The Alfred G. Karnes record has been a "top" favorite since I first heard it on In the Spirit No. 1 many long years ago. And Garfield Akers and his partner Joe Calicott both made some incredible records, though too few. If you're interested in comparing songs, the Two Poor Boys also recorded a fine version of "Two White Horses in a Line" (aka "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"). It was thought for a while that King Solomon Hill was the same artist as Crying Sam Collins, but isn't. Thanks for checking in. . . .