Tuesday, June 18, 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 on 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.

Here, then, is a selection of great country blues that first made the transition from shellac to vinyl on the first half dozen or so OJL albums. 

click on individual song titles to listen:

Moon Going Down – Charley Patton, vocal/guitar; Willie Brown, 2nd guitar. 1930
Touch Me Light Mama – George “Bullet” Williams, harmonica solo/spoken; 
  unknown, vocal. 1928
Texas Easy Street Blues – Henry Thomas “Ragtime Texas,” vocal/guitar. 1928
Going To Germany – Cannon’s Jug Stompers: Gus Cannon, banjo/jug; Noah Lewis, 
  vocal/harmonica; Hosea Woods, guitar/spoken. 1929
Got The Blues Can’t Be Satisfied – Mississippi John Hurt, vocal/guitar. 1928
Rolling Log Blues – Lottie Kimbrough & Winston HolmesLottie Kimbrough, vocal; 
  Miles Pruitt, guitar. 1928
A Spoonful Blues – Charley Patton, vocal/guitar. 1929
Outside Woman Blues – Blind Joe Reynolds, vocal/guitar. 1929

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

Album covers courtesy American Music