Here’s another occasional series—or convocation if you will . . . clearly non-definitive, poorly researched, emotionally unbalanced . . . but good fun and good records. So, ahem, we venture into the Stack-O-Lee Symposium, with a panel composed of such illustrious names as Furry Lewis, Dave Van Ronk (special citation for funniest closing stanzas), Mississippi John Hurt (UFO award for most perplexing pre-song narrative, although all the story lines converge somewhere out in Deep Space, exact location unknown. You figure out:  who was wearing what and how was it magical,  where the whole cold thing went down,  what the participants’ real names were, as well as the names of spouses and various friends and family,  etc.), and Dion! We also have Archibald’s fine and rockin’ two-part New Orleans version from 1950. And Lloyd Price’s classic will do its own battle with Dion’s fine and dandy 1962 cover.
As a bonus big time Charley Patton checks in with Part I of his “Jim Lee” two-parter. Story: The Lee Line of Mississippi riverboats were named after, if I remember correctly, the sons; there was the Jim Lee, the Bob Lee Junior, and the Stacker Lee. Now guess which infamous murdering Stetson-wearing legend took his nickname from the third-mentioned boat. Somewhere in here you have a badass white guy who has been transmogrified by folk legend into a badass black guy. . . .
And then there’s the Frankie and Johnny mythology, about which more later.
This has been a favorite since the first time I heard it so many years ago I’ve forgotten where and when. Cecil Gant had a huge WWII hit off it . . . I think this is the hit version (he recorded it more than once in the same period), but no matter, it’s a good’un!
Pvt. Cecil Gant “The G.I. Sing-Sation” • I Wonder • 1944
Maybe sometime later on, I’ll play you Ray Charles’ and Aretha Franklin’s versions (actually, Aretha’s is here, I’d forgotten). . . .
Two takes of “Charley’s most ethereal bottleneck piece. . . . ‘Magnolia’s’ remarkable feature is the plaintive guitar cadenza that extends his vocal line, through first lines, continuing through spoken asides and replacing entire second lines. It’s an idea unique to these two songs, and to the blues, and its emotional appeal has been rarely matched.” —Dick Spottswood, from “Song Notes and Transcriptions” in Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton (Revenant 212, 2001)
The Hokum Boys were lots of different singers and groups. This aggregation is Jane Lucas (real name Mozelle Alderson) and Georgia Tom Dorsey, vocal duet; Georgia Tom Dorsey, piano; Big Bill Broonzy, guitar. Recorded in Richmond, Indiana, 20 Nov 1930.
This new series started life as a mix CD I made for my brother a couple years ago. But the songs are good and strong, revolving around a certain endlessly diverse and fascinating theme, and voila, we have ourselves another series. . . .
Let’s start out with an unissued take of “Whiskey River” recorded during the sessions that resulted in Willie Nelson’s 1973 album Shotgun Willie.
Willie Nelson • Whiskey River • 1973
Stay tuned! Up next: Lawrence Walker and Ray Charles, followed in the coming weeks by the Echoes of Zion, Flaco Jiménez, The Wailers and more!