Blind Willie McTell and Curley Weaver were running partners around Atlanta from the mid-20s up into their later days in the 50s. They appeared on each other’s recordings and, as here, shared repertoires. First up, Curley’s jaunty late 40s update of a song Willie recorded in 1930 as “Talking to Myself” which follows.
The CD pictured arrived in yesterday’s post-holiday mail. Before putting the CD in to play, I pulled out the booklet and flipped through it quickly. Later I went back to compiler/note writer Chris King’s notes. They begin: “Listen with presence of mind, receptivity, and without distraction, to the first track, Epirotiko Mirologi, but read no further.”
Well, OK, I was up for the game. So about 11:30 p.m. I popped the CD in and listened to the first track, mesmerized. Then I read the rest of the intro notes. King asked some quasi-philosophical questions, quoted Jake Gittes from the movie Chinatown (there is also an epigraph on the front page of the booklet that quotes from Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon) and encouraged the listener to “play the first track again and unravel this yarn.”
OK, again. I was ready to play it again. And again. Over and over. What a track. Mesmerized? I was ready to give up my lifetime love of blues music for a tune/record like this. (I know some of you out there probably think I already did that.) The rest of the CD (I’m only about halfway through it) hasn’t quite hit me yet like the first track and I haven’t read the rest of the booklet notes. All I can say at this point, in the mortal words of Gomer Pyle, is, “Gol-lee!”
Have a listen and see if you don’t immediately agree. . . .
Throughout his career, Marty Robbins strayed far from his “straight” country base, making records, and hits, in several different genres; western ballads, Hawaiian, Caribbean, pop, etc. Here, on his second Hawaiian collection from 1963, he delivers a lovely chicken-skin inducing hapa-haole falsetto rendition of “Wailana.”
Another day, another song cycle. If you listen carefully over the next 14 or so weeks, when this set will have been finally presented in full, you will be able to hear—and see—quite clearly . . . um, a thematic presentation of more than a dozen songs from different genres and eras and provenances that fit together rather nicely and illustrate precisely, er . . . well, anyway, here’s a nice collection of songs for your hopeful enjoyment.
Sometime around 1970 the Flyright label in England put out a couple of LPs that helped broaden the old roots music horizons a great deal. Jambalaya on the Bayou Vol. 1 contained recordings of 50s and 60s Cajun music from original labels like Kajun and Khoury’s and featured, among others, Nathan Abshire, Floyd LeBlanc, a teenage Joel Sonnier, and two fantastic live recordings of Lawrence Walker. The second Flyright album, Chicken Stuff: Houston Ghetto Blues, featured a whole LP side by Hop Wilson, the great steel guitarist, and on the flip Big Walter Price and early recordings by Juke Boy Bonner. The Cajun album really piqued my interest as later that year I was going on a cross country road trip. On that trip I stopped in Ville Platte, Louisiana, visited Floyd’s Record Shop, and bought several Nathan Abshire and Lawrence Walker 45s. On Chicken Stuff I heard the great, unsung Hop Wilson for the first time and marveled at the really tough sound he got from his lap steel, a sound which complemented his anguished vocals perfectly.
So this week and next we’re playing some of these great records here on Blues All Kinds. Hope you enjoy them. . . .
The boys is back so keep those cards and letters coming with high praise and special requests, and they’ll be attended to shortly. Coming your way in the next few days: the Mississippi Mud Steppers, Freddy Fender, Little Walter, Marty Robbins, and the late great Hop Wilson. . . .
We jump ahead once again, with this series, to the early fifties and Arkansas. From Little Rock, Junior Brooks leads out with a mash-up of the “44” theme and Big Bill’s “How You Want It Done,” played “Delta meets Chicago” style. Next up, just across the river from Memphis in Helena, drummer Peck Curtis leads a harmonica-driven group featuring Sonny Boy Williamson and either Drifting Slim or Frank Hawkins, or maybe all three! Both recordings come from field trips that Joe Bihari made through the deep South in 1951 and 1952 for his family’s Modern group of labels.
Junior Brooks • Lone Town Blues • 1951
James “Peck” Curtis • 44 Blues (take 2) • 1952
Junior Brooks, vocal/guitar; Baby Face Turner, guitar; Bill Russell, drums. North Little Rock, Arkansas, c. Nov 1951.
James “Peck” Curtis, vocal/drums; Sonny Boy Williamson, harmonica; Elmon Mickle and/or Frank Hawkins, harmonica; Robert “Dudlow” Taylor, piano; poss. W. C. Clay, guitar. Helena, Arkansas, c. 22 Jan 1952.
“We’d like to do a number that was written by one of the finest writers and blues singers I know, and that’s none other than Big Bill Broonzy. We want to do his ‘Key to the Highway, booked out, and billed, and I’ve got to go.’” So speaketh Brownie McGhee, introducing a “blues classic” to the white kids assembled at Newport on a July day in 1963.
Here’s Brownie and Sonny’s “R&B” version from a decade earlier. . . .
Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters
Key To The Highway • 1952
Brownie McGhee & His Jook Block Busters: Brownie McGhee, vocal/guitar; Sonny Terry, harmonica; Bob Gaddy, piano; Bob Harris, bass; George Wood, drums. New York, 1952.
For this latest edition of our long running Odds & Ends series, we have gathered, seemingly from the four winds, an even dozen of the finest records by some of the top artists of our day. These are names you will recognize at the drop of a pin.
Names like Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, and The Fireballs. An especially fine bonus feature of this collection is the inclusion of the very rare first version of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.” In addition, we have some very nice cover versions of songs made famous by others. A cover version, in music business jargon, is a song that is or was a hit performed by the original artist which is now being performed or “covered” by another artist whether contemporaneous or original. Some of these will be obvious to the dedicated music fan among you. For instance we have Sam Cooke’s great rendition of “Summertime” originally performed by the Gershwin Brothers, The Cat Powers’s “Lost Someone” by James Brown, a Cajun rendition of “Memphis, Tennessee,” and one of the earliest cover versions of Richard Berry’s immortal “Louie Louie,” performed here by Little Bill and his aggregation. This is only a partial listing and we invite you to discover the others as you listen and try to determine which song is the original and which is the “cover.”
Again, we hope this collection meets your satisfaction and very high expectations. We will be back soon with more “Odds & Ends” for your listening pleasure.
Have you ever heard yodeling pyrotechnics of this order? Pretty cool stuff in spite of the late-to-the-party whiteface minstrel-era racist dialogue. By the way, that’s our man Goebel Reeves, the “Yodeling Rustler” doing both voices.
The Texas Drifter (Goebel Reeves) • The Yodelin’ Teacher • 1934
Here’s a hot one. Even with Moon Mullican on piano and vocals, Cliff Bruner’s fiddle, and an incendiary amplified mandolin solo by Leo Raley, Bob Dunn’s electric steel guitar intro and closing solo turn this happy little ditty into a Bob Dunn spectacular!
Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers
When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) • 1938
Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers: Cliff Bruner, fiddle; Bob Dunn, electric steel guitar; Leo Raley, electric mandolin; Moon Mullican, vocal/piano; Joe Thames, tenor banjo; Dickie McBride, guitar; Hezzie Bryant, string bass. San Antonio, Texas, 14 Sep 1938.
“Duralde is a little community near Mamou, Louisiana. This haunting fiddle tune was recorded in LeJeune’s kitchen on the newly invented tape recorder. Wilson Granger plays the fiddle and Alfred Cormier is on guitar. Eddie Shuler said that LeJeune’s house had been made of green wood, so when the wood dried there were cracks left in the walls. This let all the outdoor noises come into the house, including the barking of LeJeune’s dog which can be heard on this recording.” — Ann Allen Savoy, 1992
Two months after Roosevelt Sykes made the first recording of “44 Blues” Sykes’ mentor Lee Green recorded his take on the piece, “Number Forty-Four Blues.” Two months later, accompanied by Blind Leroy Garnett on piano, James Wiggins sang a powerful “cover” of Sykes’ record, called “Forty-Four Blues.”
Lee Green • Number Forty-Four Blues • 1929
James Wiggins • Forty-Four Blues • 1929
For the next installment in our saga, we will again jump ahead to the 1950s and the Mississippi Delta, with featured artists Junior Brooks and Peck Curtis. Stay tuned. . . .
Note: The Kid and I will both be out of the office for a few days, but keep those cards and letters coming, and we’ll tend to them just as soon as we can. Happy listening. . . . —FJ
“George Katsaros . . . performed in a wide variety of styles, from Italianate ballads to down-and-dirty urban Greek ballads like this one. The title is translated on the original label as ‘What A Hobo Am I,’ where the Greek slang word mangas is given as ‘hobo.’ But a modern American vernacular equivalency makes it more like ‘badass’ or ‘outsider.’ . . . . [T]he rhythm is that of a zembekiko, a slow solo men’s dance named for the independent Turkish militias from the mountains of Anatolia.” — Ian Nagoski, from the notes to To What Strange Place.*
George Katsaros • Vre Ti Mangas Pou’Mai Go
(What a Hobo Am I) • 1930
*To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora 1916–1929 (Tompkins Square 2608, currently available only as a download).
Here’s a couple of fine originally unissued 1949 tracks from longtime BAK favorite, Jesse Thomas. Thomas, brother of Ramblin’ Thomas, was from Shreveport, Louisiana, and made a couple of records in Dallas in the late 1920s. He then reappeared on record after WWII cutting a handful of idiosyncratic amplified country blues records for various Los Angeles labels before moving back South in the late 1950s where he continued to record for small labels in the ensuing decades.
Both of these songs (or versions thereof) can be found in better sound than these old LP dubs on a couple of Ace CD collections: The Travelling Record Man (CDCHD 813) and The Modern Downhome Blues Sessions Vol. 4 (CDCHD 1057).
By the late 60s all I knew of Roy Orbison was his big Top 40 hits of the early- to mid-60s. Then somewhere I found out he had recorded for Sun in the 50s, and heard about “Ooby Dooby.” I managed to track down a Sun 45 on somebody’s auction or set sale list and picked it up for ten dollars. Since there wasn’t a lot of hard information available in those days, there was plenty of misinformation and somehow my friends and I got the impression Carl Perkins played lead guitar on this one. I barely knew who Carl Perkins was at that point so it worked for me. Well, this is Roy and the Teen Kings out of Wink, Texas with Roy on vocals, of course, as well as two fierce guitar solos. He had originally recorded “Ooby Dooby” for a small Texas label called Je-Wel earlier the same year, but this is the rerecording the Teen Kings made for Sun in Memphis.
Well, folks, in the past month we’ve traveled the world—from the Hawaiian Islands to Japan; the eastern Mediterranean and western Europe; all over the southern United States—and here we add one more stamp to our passport with a jumping instrumental from Albania, featuring Paulin Pali wailing away on his braç and sounding almost like he could have emerged from some dark Appalachian holler (well almost but not quite). Stayed tuned to Blues All Kinds where you’re sure to find something to tickle your ears if you stay around long enough. . . .
Paulin Pali • Taksim Shoyptar • 1929
The above pictured LP Don’t Trust Your Neighbors should still be available from Hinter Records.