Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Chitlin Circuit

"The "Chitlin' Circuit," like "Tin Pan Alley" and "Motown" and other legendary music locations, is both a real and symbolic term for the on-and-off-again venues--shoebox-sized bars, clubs, cafes and increasingly in the 21st century, casinos-- that support traditional rhythm and blues in a tenuous but tenacious thread through America's mostly rural (or low-profile urban) Bible Belt." Daddy B. Nice

" A circuit of nightclubs and theaters that feature African-American performers and cater especially to African-American audiences.

When Jim Crow and segregation were even more prominent in the United States, the Negro race, freed through emancipation, did not have equal access to public “White Only” places. The Chitlin’ Circuit - a connected string of music venues, diners, juke joints, and theaters throughout the eastern and southern United States that catered primarily to African American audiences was created.

The Chitlin’ Circit was the only option for touring Black entertainers such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ike and Tina Turner, B. B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, T.D. Bell and the Blues Specialists, Roosevelt "Gray Ghost" Williams, Eubie Blake, Robert Shaw, Big Joe Williams and many others begin touring in an effort to “eek” out a living when Jim Crow and segregation was even more prominent in the United States.

Historically, Baltimore was the first city on the Chitlin' Circuit. The Chitlin’ Circuit stretched through the South, bending Westward throughout Texas, extending Eastward on through Chicago, offering continuous opportunities for black entertainers." Urban Dictionary

"The "Chitlin' Circuit" is the collective name given to the string of performance venues throughout the eastern and southern United States that were safe and acceptable for African-American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers to perform in during the age of racial segregation in the United States (from at least the early 19th century through the 1960s) as well as the venues that contemporary African American soul and blues performers, especially in the South, continue to appear at regularly. The name derives from the soul food item chitterlings (stewed pig intestines) and is also a play on the term "Borscht belt" which referred to a group of venues (primarily in New York's Catskill Mountains) popular with Jewish performers during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Noted theaters on the Chitlin' Circuit included the Royal Peacock in Atlanta; the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama; the Cotton Club, Small's Paradise and the Apollo Theater in New York City; Robert's Show Lounge, Club DeLisa and the Regal Theatre in Chicago; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore; the Fox Theatre in Detroit; the Victory Grill in Austin, Texas; the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond, Virginia; the Ritz Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida; and The Madame C. J. Walker Theatre on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis.

The second historic marker designated by the Mississippi Blues Commission on the Mississippi Blues Trail was placed in front of the Southern Whispers Restaurant on Nelson Street in Greenville, Mississippi, a stop on the Chitlin' Circuit in the early days of the blues. The marker commemorates the importance of this site in the history of the development of the blues in Mississippi. In the 1940s and 1950s, this historic strip drew crowds to the flourishing club scene to hear Delta blues, big band jump blues and jazz." wikipedia

Much love to Wikipedia on this project, they have saved enormous amounts of time for me and most of what I've found so far is pretty informative and reasonably accurate. Believe me, I'll cheerfully point out where they got it wrong and do my own writing where necessary but the point of an encyclopedia is a place to cite information from and in this function they have been invaluable. On the music side I am deeply indebted to "Unky Cliff" for a huge portion of what appears here and for the books I am educating myself with as well. My morning discussions with him will often filter into the blog. The files here that do not come from actual rips or itunes, likely originated on other blogs through the years, thanks to all of them as well, your generosity to me is being passed on.  kc 

Shares and Requests

Here is a place to drop both your own shares and requests for shares in a central place everyone can check - you know how this works by now.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Eldridge Holmes - Unknown Southern Soul Master

In the past I've referred to Charles Brimmer as the Al Green of New Orleans; I'd call Eldridge the David Ruffins of NOLA singers. Same kind of power and passion to my ears.

The collection offered here IS NOT the one that goes with this or any other CD cover for that matter. The CD I started with had 18 tracks, but I have, over time,  managed (with a little help from my friends) to find 35 tracks of glorious New Orleans Soul!

As far as I can tell, this represents his entire output. If you listen carefully you can hear the development of New Orleans Soul over this time frame reflected through his material and delivery.

Even though The Meters are backing him through most of the second half of the collection, it is unlikely that they were ever actually in the studio together. The scarceness of information on this guy would lead me to simply paraphrasing the notes of my disc so I'm going to substitute a picture for a write up.

The Best of James and Bobby Purify

"The vocal duo of James Lee Purify (born May 12, 1944, Pensacola, Florida) and his cousin Robert Lee Dickey (September 2, 1939, Tallahassee, Florida – December 29, 2011, Tallahassee) formed in 1965. Dickey had previously worked as a guitarist with the Dothan Sextet. The duo were signed by Don Schroeder to Bell Records in 1966, with Dickey taking his cousin's surname as a stage name. They had immediate success with "I'm Your Puppet", written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn and produced by Penn at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The record, released in September 1966, spent 14 weeks on the US chart and sold an estimated one million copies.

Although "I'm Your Puppet" was their biggest hit, they had several further successes on both the Hot 100 and R&B chart in the US in the late 1960s, including a revival of "Shake a Tail Feather", originally by The Five Du-Tones, and "Let Love Come Between Us". Oliver's cover of the twosome's 1968 hit "I Can Remember" reached the top 25 of the Billboard Easy Listening Chart in the mid summer of 1970. The duo continued to record and tour together until 1971, when Dickey retired from the music business for health reasons and returned to Tallahassee, where he worked as a city maintenance supervisor as well as singing and playing guitar with his church and as a member of the Bethlehem Male Singers.

James Purify then worked as a solo singer until 1974, when Penn introduced him to Ben Moore (James B. Moore, born 1941, Atlanta, Georgia). Moore had previously worked with Otis Redding, James Brown and as a member of Jimmy Tig and the Rounders, before forming half of the duo Ben and Spence, who recorded for Atlantic Records in the 1960s. Moore adopted the stage name "Bobby Purify", and the duo toured together until the 1980s. They re-recorded "I'm Your Puppet", which became a #12 hit in the UK in 1976, and an album, Purify Bros...

Moore began recording as a solo singer for Mercury Records in 1977, and (as "Bobby Purify") released an album, Purified in 1979. He also continued to tour as half of the duo with James Purify. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1983, in the category of Best Soul Gospel Performance - Traditional, for the song "He Believes In Me". In 1998, Moore went blind from severe glaucoma and completely dropped out of the music industry. With the encouragement of Ray Charles, however, he returned to performing and recording. Following a new Bobby Purify album, the Dan Penn-produced Better To Have It in 2005, he joined the gospel band Blind Boys of Alabama."

Sunday, September 4, 2016

James Booker - Hired Hands

A repost by request:  "New Orleans. The city's name just brings to mind music. Jazz and R&B are almost synonymous with its history. And, so are piano players. From the 19th Century classical composer, Louis Morreau Gottschalk, Storyville sporting house players, Tony Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton, R&B greats Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and Huey Smith, bluesier artists Champion Jack Dupree and Professor Longhair, to modern masters such as Harry Connick Jr. and Dr John, they have always held the center of attention. But, of them all, perhaps no one individual led a more eccentric or erratic life than James Booker. Haunted by mental health disorders and heavy drug addiction, the promising career of perhaps the Crescent City's most talented pianist came to an all too sad and early end. 
    James Carroll Booker III was born in New Orleans on December 17, 1939. His father was a one-time dancer from Bryan, Texas, who decided to change his life's work by becoming a Baptist minister and relocating to New Orleans.  His mother had been raised in Mississippi and she was a member of the Baptist church Gospel choir. With such a strong religious influence, it is not surprising that as a child, James' desire was to become a priest when he grew older.
    While still an infant, James and his sister Betty Jean were sent to live with their aunt in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  It was noted at a very early age that J. C. (as his family knew him) had musical skills. By the age of six, he was already playing the piano, learning classical music, as well as the styles of pianists Archibald, Professor Longhair and family friend, Tuts Washington. At the age of 10, he asked his mother for a trumpet.  Instead, she purchased a saxophone for him.  This did not upset young J.C. as he was still able to teach himself musical scales on the instrument.
    That same year, James was struck by a speeding ambulance and dragged for nearly 30 feet.  His leg was broken in eight places.  As a result he would forever walk with a limp.  But, even worse, he was given morphine for the pain.  This was an early introduction to drugs, which would play a hard role throughout his life.
    Booker's father died in 1953 and he was returned to New Orleans along with his sister to live with their mother. Enrolled at Xavier Preparatory School, he was classmates with Allen Toussaint and Art Neville.  He was a very intelligent student, especially in math, Spanish and music classes.  And, while still in school, he put together his first band, Booker Boy and the Rhythmaires, which also included Neville.
    During this same time, his sister Betty Jean was performing as a Gospel singer on radio station WMRY every Sunday afternoon. James began to frequent the studio while his sister was on the air.  Soon the station managers discovered that he could play the piano and James became a regular performer himself on a Jazz and Blues show which aired on Saturdays. He was quite impressive, often performing complicated numbers by composers such as Bach and Rachmaninoff.  Eventually, the entire Booker Boy and the Rhythmaires became the featured artists on the show.
    The broadcasts also caught the attention of Imperial Records' renowned producer, Dave Bartholomew. He invited the band to audition and shortly afterwards they recorded the single, "Doing The Hambone." Booker at 14 was the youngest artist ever to record for the label. The single did not sell very well, but Bartholomew saw promise in the young pianist.  In particular with his ability to play in the styles of many of the popular artists of the time.  One of Imperial's biggest stars was Fats Domino, who was in demand for live appearances constantly. Bartholomew decided to put Booker in the studio to record the piano tracks for Fats Domino, so when he returned home, all the hit-maker would need to do was to lay down the vocal parts.
    Booker's talents were also noticed by Paul Gayten, Chess Records' A&R man and a performer himself.  He decided to try his luck with James and scheduled a session for Booker and Art Neville. They were to be billed as Arthur and Booker, but Neville was unable to make the date and was replaced by Arthur Booker (no relation to James). The single "Heavenly Angel" was released, but much like "Hambone", it did not catch on either.

    Over the next few years, James took on work with many of the popular bands of the day. Unlike Fats Domino's constant life on the road, Huey "Piano" Smith did not like to travel at all.  Again, because of James' gift for sounding like other performers, he went on tour throughout the South making appearances as Huey Smith.  It was a win-win situation for both of them and sometimes he even performed local gigs when Smith accidentally double-booked himself. James also did several tours with people like Earl King, Shirley & Lee and Joe Tex.
    Through Joe Tex, Booker was introduced to producer, Johnny Vincent, who signed him to a three-year contract with Ace Records. But, the partnership did not last long. Booker had recorded "Teenage Rock" and "Open The Door" for Ace, but still did not receive much fanfare. A third number was recorded and Booker discovered Vincent dubbing it with Joe Tex's vocals over his own. That was enough for him and he dissolved their contract based on the grounds that he was under-aged and could not legally sign it for himself.  Disenchanted with the recording industry, Booker left New Orleans and enrolled in Baton Rouge's Southern University in 1960.
    But, involvement with heavy drugs began to take its toll on Booker during this period also. So he returned to performing in order to make money to supply his habit. Traveling to Houston, he began working for Don Robey at the Duke/Peacock label. He recorded an organ-driven instrumental single titled, "Gonzo," named for a character in the film "The Pusher."  The single hit the charts on November 13, 1960, and remained there for 11 weeks, peaking at number 43.  Unfortunately, it would be the only time in his career where he would chart as a solo performer.

    Throughout the 1960s, James Booker would work with a number of reputed artists on tour and in the studio. Among these were Little Richard, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Lloyd Price, Wilson Pickett and B.B. King. He traveled to New York, where he recorded for Atlantic Records with Jerry Wexler, on albums by King Curtis and Aretha Franklin (who included Booker's own composition, "So Swell When You're Well"). Wexler also spent time recording James as a solo artist, but these tracks have never been released.
    During the late 1960s, Booker also worked with his life-long friend, Mac Rebennack, known better as Dr. John. The two had known each other since the 1950s, often working together in Cosimo Matassa's New Orleans studios with Dave Bartholomew. Booker's stage presence started becoming more eccentric also, wearing wigs, capes, eye patches and even a glass eye for his missing left orb.  The story behind his lost eye varies, depending on who tells it.  Some say it was drug-related, but Dr. John claims in his autobiography that Booker lost the eye after pulling a scam on some record producers they'd written arrangements for. Booker had somehow conned the producers into paying for their services three times and was pushing his luck with a fourth attempt.  The producers caught on though and had Booker beaten up so badly that he lost the eye. Booker was said to comment afterward, "If I lost the other eye, too, then I might be able to play as well as Ray Charles or Art Tatum."
    Booker was always a handful for Dr. John.  He consistently upstaged the other performers in the band and was quite open with his homosexuality, often hitting on those assigned to share his room or to bringing men to the room who he picked up on the road, much to the horror of his roommates.  Drugs also took their toll on his dependency to make shows.  Finally, Dr. John had enough and released Booker, giving him two-weeks pay.  Dr. John claims that once he left the band, James went to Joe Tex, Fats Domino and Marvin Gaye each and agreed to take a role in their respective bands. He was given two-weeks advance pay from each, only to run off back to New Orleans.

    There his life took a drastic change. Outside of the city's famed Dew Drop Inn, Booker was arrested for possession of heroin and was sentenced to serve two years at Angola Prison. While an inmate, he worked in the prison's library and also developed a musical program within the system. His efforts paid off and he was granted parole after only serving six months. When he returned to New Orleans, he found that the music scene had hit a slump and was not very prosperous. Seeking work, he violated his parole by leaving the state.
    Booker returned to New York, where he worked as session musician and recorded with people such as Ringo Starr, Maria Muldaur and the Doobie Brothers. Jerry Wexler also recorded Booker's vocals for the soundtrack of "Pretty Baby" on the Jelly Roll Morton song, "Winin' Boy Blues." After spending two years in New York, he moved around the country settling in locations such as Dovington, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia), Cincinnati and Los Angeles. While in L.A., he did sessions with both Charles Brown and T-Bone Walker.  In 1973, he recorded sides in L.A. with a group of fellow New Orleans musicians who had relocated to the city.  That session would be released 24 years later, 14 years following his death, as the "Lost Paramount Tapes."

    Eventually, the charges for his parole violation were lifted and Booker returned to New Orleans in 1975.  He appeared at that year's Jazz and Heritage Festival where he drew the attention of record scouts. Booker was suddenly regarded as the talented musician that he was. He began tutoring a young politician's son by the name of Harry Connick, Jr., in whom Booker saw a resemblance to himself as a child prodigy.  He recorded the album "Junco Partner" for the Island label in 1976 and it received praise from many critics with its fine showing of Booker's dexterity, performing music ranging from Chopin to Earl King, alongside his own material (something that came quite easily for Booker, as he often combined classical and modern music in his stage act, as well, often within the same song).
    This also led to Booker's traveling to Europe for the first time to appear in several festivals. His performance at the Boogie Woogie and Ragtime Piano Contest in Zurich, Switzerland was recorded in 1976 and released as "New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live!"  The recording was a triumph for Booker, honored with the Grand Prix de Disque de Jazz award as best live album in 1977.  He followed that up with more European shows the next year, including the illustrious Montreux International Jazz Festival.

    But, when Booker returned home, he was a changed man.   He no longer adorned the extravagant capes or eye patches and his mental condition was beginning to fail. He often checked himself into the mental ward at New Orleans' Charity Hospital. By the 1980s, his shows were becoming more and more erratic. Though he was now a featured performer at the Maple Leaf Bar, working with the astounding team of Johnny Vidacovich on drums, bass player John Singleton and saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler, the shows did not always come across. When they did, Booker was arguably the best the city had ever seen (captured magnificently on the posthumous releases, "Resurrection Of The Bayou Maharajah" and "Spiders On The Keys").  But, too often, he would refuse to play, or would walk off-stage mid-set and occasionally even vomited onto his own piano keys.  The crowds began to disappear.
    Rounder Records decided to record Booker in 1982.  The sessions almost seemed doomed before anything even took place. A week prior to the session dates, Booker collapsed in a seizure and was admitted to Charity Hospital. His condition seemed to worsen and he was transferred to Southern Baptist Hospital where it was determined that his liver had suffered irreparable damage after years of alcohol and drug abuse. Miraculously, he recovered in time to make the recording dates. But, the first day he refused to play, the second he appeared unable to; and, on the third, he returned in spirits as if he had never been sick in his life and laid down more than enough tracks for the album that would become "Classified."  Two days later, Booker disappeared, only to be found several days later jailed for disturbing the peace.
    Booker tried to take on a more acceptable life-style. He took a job with City Hall as a clerk typing and filing in 1983.  But, he soon began drinking again despite his liver ailment and lost the job. He still had his Maple Leaf gigs, but he began missing them altogether. The last show he performed there was on October 31, 1983, with only five patrons in attendance. For the next show on November 7th, he didn't show up at all.
   On November 8, 1983, James Booker took a deadly dose of low-grade cocaine and passed out.  He was driven to Charity Hospital and left in the emergency waiting room in a wheelchair where he sat undiscovered for probably half an hour. When he was checked on, he was already dead, having suffered heart and lung failure. He was only 43 years old.
   New Orleans is known for its elaborate funeral processions.  Especially when it comes to its beloved musicians. The funeral for James Carroll Booker III was sparsely attended with very little floral arrangements. He was laid to rest in a family plot at Providence Memorial Park (I go visit the grave once a year or so. kc)in nearby Metarie, Louisiana.  A sad farewell for a musician now honored as one of New Orleans' true piano geniuses, regarded perhaps only second to Professor Longhair."  Greg Johnson, Blue Notes 2002

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mississippi Juke Joint Blues

A very unique collection of tracks compiled from the actual records of the jukebox company supplying the singles to four different Mississippi juke joints circa 1940-41.

The notes, which I've included in full, describe the sources and the method used to compile this 4 cd set. I think you will be as surprised as I was as to the is not what I expected.

This is another of Cliff's recent acquisitions...I think he was surprised too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spencer Wiggins - Feed the Flame The Fame and XL Recordings

And how could I do one without the other...

"Spencer Wiggins was ... indeed, is the consummate Southern soul man. Born and raised in and around Memphis he served his musical apprenticeship in the Church before trying to eke out a living on the Memphis club scene. A residency at the legendary Flamingo Club landed him a recording deal with the equally legendary Goldwax label and a few years back Ace/Kent issued a most excellent CD of Spencer's Goldwax best. At the time the Kent crew knew that a smattering of Wiggins' Goldwax cuts had been sold on to Fame – the label he eventually signed with in 1969. There he recorded a further nine tracks, but lack of success saw him finally move across town to Sounds Of Memphis/XL, where – again – despite some excellent recordings he failed to break though. The lack of commercial success, however, doesn't, of course, mean that the music he crafted was sub-standard in any way. Far from it. This 22 track collection of all the aforementioned Fame and XL recordings proves that vocally Spencer Wiggins was the equal of any of the great southern soul men. At one moment he could sing as sweetly as say William Bell, the next he could come on as fiercely as Wilson Picket. No, Wiggins' problems were the usual lack of promotion and less-than-dynamic management. Still – thanks to Kent we can now enjoy the music and, incredibly a good half of the cuts here are seeing the light of the day for the very first time. Of the previously unreleased cuts – the opener, 'I'm At The Breaking Point' is absolutely superb – big, bright and brassy it typifies the very best of up-tempo southern soul. .Stuff like 'Water', ''Love Me Tonight' and 'Love Works That Way' represent the other end of the spectrum – lugubrious ballads with that odd mix of the Church and country music about them. Add to that superb covers of Bettye Swan's 'Make Me Yours' , Solomon Burke's 'Cry To Me' and Etta James' 'I'd Rather Go Blind' and you have a wonderful Southern soul set, which - taken with the earlier Kent collection on Wiggins will give you all the man's secular recordings. Yes, as you might have guessed a disillusioned Spencer went back to singing in the church (in Florida –where he'd relocated in 1973) but the news is that Kent's Dean Rudland has coaxed him to play at a 6T's weekender – and who knows where that might lead."

Spencer Wiggins - The Complete Goldwax Singles

A reposting has been requested!

"Spencer Wiggins (Memphis, Tennessee 1942) is an American soul - and gospel singer. He is an exponent of the so-called deep southern soul and is considered one of the best kept secrets of soul music."

Wiggins was born in Memphis, Tennessee, where he grew up encouraged by his parents to engage with music, especially gospel; his mother sang in the choir of the Baptist Church where she attended services. He lived in the same area as singers James Carr and Bobby Bland. While at Booker T. Washington High School, he formed a gospel group with his brother Percy and sister Maxine and, on leaving school, formed an R&B group, the Four Stars, that included his brother Percy and David Porter, later to become a leading songwriter and record producer.

In the early 1960s, he began singing in clubs in Memphis, where he was discovered by Quinton Claunch, head of Goldwax Records. In 1964 Wiggins recorded his first single, "Lover's Crime", produced by Claunch, for the label, though his early recordings were licensed for release through the sub-label Bandstand USA. The recording was followed by eight further singles, but none became a hit. His recordings for Goldwax included "Uptight Good Woman", written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and "I Never Loved A Woman (The Way I Love You)", recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals with guitar by Duane Allman.

In 1969, after Goldwax collapsed, Wiggins went on to Fame Records, where he recorded two more singles, including "Double Lovin'", which reached no.44 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1970. However, other singles for Fame, and for the Pama and Vivid Sound labels, were unsuccessful.

In 1973 Wiggins left Memphis, married, and moved to Miami, Florida, where he became active in the Baptist church and in gospel music. He became a deacon and choir director at the New Birth Baptist Church in Miami, and worked with a number of gospel choirs. He has since released gospel recordings, including Keys To The Kingdom released by Tavette Records in 2003.

The Japanese label Vivid Sound released a compilation of Wiggins' singles from Goldwax, and in 2006 the Kent label issued another compilation. Due to copyright issues, however, this compilation contains fewer songs than the Japanese release. The album was widely acclaimed and led to Wiggins being seen as one of the greatest unknown soul singers.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Otis Rush - The Cobra Recordings 1956-58

Church is out...the last choice bit of the weekend remains...time for some good time blues!... I gotta tell ya Otis is one of my personal all time faves!

"Otis Rush (born April 29, 1935 in Philadelphia, Mississippi
) is a blues musician, singer and guitarist. His distinctive guitar style features a slow burning sound and long bent notes. With similar qualities to Magic Sam and Buddy Guy, his sound became known as West Side Chicago blues and became an influence on many musicians including Michael Bloomfield and Eric Clapton.

Rush is left-handed and, unlike many other left-handed guitarists, plays a left-handed instrument strung upside-down with the low E string at the bottom. He played often with the little finger of his pick hand curled under the low E for positioning. It is widely believed that this contributes to his distinctive sound. He has a wide-ranging, powerful tenor voice.

After moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1948, Rush made a name for himself playing in clubs on both the South Side and West Side blues scenes. From 1956 to 1958, he recorded for the Cobra Records and released eight singles, some featuring Ike Turner or Jody Williams on guitar. His first single "I Can't Quit You Baby" in 1956 reached No. 6 on Billboard's R&B chart. During his tenure with Cobra, he recorded some of his well known songs such as "Double Trouble" and "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)."

After Cobra Records went bankrupt in 1959, Rush landed a recording contract with Chess in 1960. He recorded eight tracks for the label, four of which were released on two singles that year. Six tracks including the two singles later came out on "Door To Door" album in 1969, a compilation also featuring Chess recordings by Albert King. He also went into the studio for Duke Records in 1962, but only one single "Homework/I Have to Laugh" was issued from the label. It also received a release in Great Britain on Vocalion VP9260 in 1963. In 1965, he recorded for Vanguard which can be heard on the label's compilation album, Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol.2.

In the 1960s, Rush began playing in other cities in the U.S. and also to Europe, most notably the American Folk Blues Festival. In 1969, the album Mourning in the Morning was released on Cotillion Records. Recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites (then of Electric Flag). The sound that incorporated soul and rock was a brand new direction for Rush.

In 1971, Rush recorded the album Right Place, Wrong Time in San Francisco, California for Capitol Records, but Capitol decided not to release it. The album was finally released in 1976 when Rush purchased the master from Capitol and had it released by P-Vine Records in Japan. Bullfrog Records released it in the U.S. soon after. The album generally has since gained a reputation as one of the best works by Rush. In the 1970s, he also released some albums on Delmark Records and also from Sonet Records in Europe, but by the end of the decade he stopped performing and recording.

Rush made a come back in 1985 making a U.S. tour and releasing the live album, Tops, recorded at the San Francisco Blues Festival. In 1994, Rush released Ain't Enough Comin' In, the first studio album in 16 years.  Any Place I'm Goin' followed in 1998, and Rush earned his first Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1999.

Though he has not recorded a new studio album since 1998, he continued to tour and perform. In 2002, he was featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album Hey Bo Diddley - A Tribute!, performing the song "I'm A Man" produced by Carla Olson. However, he suffered a stroke in 2004 which has kept him from performing since. In 2006, Rush released his latest CD, Live and From San Francisco on Blues Express Records, a live recording from 1999. Video footage of the same show was released on the DVD Live Part 1 in 2003."

1947 - 1954: The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi

A repost by request:

"The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi was a post-war gospel quartet. Powered by lead singer Archie Brownlee, their single "Our Father" reached number ten on the Billboard R&B charts in early 1951. It was one of the first gospel records to do so.

The group originated in 1936 as a quartet of students from the Piney Woods School near Jackson, Mississippi. The students — Brownlee, Joseph Ford, Lawrence Abrams, and Lloyd Woodard — originally sang under the name "the Cotton Blossom Singers", performing both jubilee quartet and secular material, to raise money for the school. Their teacher, Martha Louise Morrow Foxx, helped organize the blind singers at the behest of the school founder Laurence C. Jones. On March 9, 1937, Brownlee and the others recorded sacred tunes (as the Blind Boys) and three secular numbers (as Abraham, Woodard, and Patterson) for Library of Congress researcher Alan Lomax. After graduation in the early forties, they began performing professionally singing pop music as the Cotton Blossom Singers and religious material under the name the Jackson Harmoneers. They were often backed by a female jazz band which originated from the same country school known as "The International Sweethearts of Rhythm." In the early 1940s, Melvin Henderson, also known as Melvin Hendrix, joined the group making them—like many so-called quartets—actually a quintet.

In the mid-1940s, Brownlee and the others relocated to Chicago, and changed their name to the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Under the influence of R.H. Harris of the Soul Stirrers, Brownlee moved away from the jubilee style of singing and towards a more popular hard gospel style. Even though Harris' influence was pervasive—the Blind Boys at first covered Soul Stirrers songs almost exclusively—Brownlee's high voice, which could move from a sweet croon to a devastating scream, was one of the most recognizable in gospel. His dynamic stage presence also became legendary: though blind from birth, he would sometimes leap from a stage into the screaming audiences below .

With the addition of hard gospel shouter Rev. Percell Perkins (who replaced Henderson), the Blind Boys moved into their period of greatest fame. Perkins, who was not blind, became the group's manager, and they began to record, first for Excelsior in 1946, then for Coleman in 1948. Ford was replaced by another blind bass singer who later regained his sight and had to leave the group. He was replaced by J.T. Clinkscales, in that year, and in 1950 the group moved to Peacock Records where they recorded the hit "Our Father" at their first session.

Brownlee died of pneumonia while touring in New Orleans on February 8, 1960 at the age of 35. and not long after Perkins left as well. Brownlee was, at first, replaced by Roscoe Robinson and, after Robinson left the group to go out on his own, by the very able lead Henry Johnson,who, like Brownlee, made devastated screams. Quartet veteran Willmer "Little Ax" Broadnax took the position of second lead. He was later replaced by Willie Mincey. Broadnax, in particular, had a high voice which was comparable, in some respects, to Brownlee's. Other singers who worked with the group for a time included Rev. Sammy Lewis, Rev. George Warren, James Watts, and Tiny Powel. By the end of the 1960s, the group had released 27 singles and 5 albums for Peacock. In the 1970s and early 1980s, they recorded some material for Jewel, and they continued to tour into the 1990s. Of the three remaining members of the original group, Lloyd Woodard died in the mid-1970s, Lawrence Abrams passed on in 1982,and Henry Johnson passed in 1999."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Arbee Stidham - Tired Of Wandering

This is a second repost by request:

  "Arbee Stidham (February 9, 1917 – April 26, 1988) was an American blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, most successful in the late 1940s and 1950s.

He was born in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas, United States, to a musical family - his father, Luddie Stidham played with Jimmie Lunceford and his uncle with the Memphis Jug Band. Arbie Stidham learned to play harmonica, clarinet and saxophone as a child. Before his teens he had formed his own band, the Southern Syncopators, which backed Bessie Smith on tour in 1930-31, and played on radio and in clubs in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee.

In the mid-1940s he moved to Chicago and met Lester Melrose, who signed him to RCA Victor in 1947. His biggest hit, "My Heart Belongs to You", was recorded at his first session, and reached # 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart in June 1948. He spent the rest of his career trying to emulate its success, recording for Checker, States, and other independent record labels as a jazz-influenced blues vocalist. After a car accident made it impossible to play the saxophone, he took up the guitar in the 1950s under the tutelage of Big Bill Broonzy, and played it on his early 1960s recordings for Folkways.

Stidham continued to record occasionally up to the early 1970s, and also made many music festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He lectured on the blues at Cleveland State University in the 1970s, and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. (He was active on the Cleveland club scene, frequently at Euclid Tavern which was also Robert Jr Lockwood's home bar)
He died April 26, 1988 in Cook County, Illinois, aged 71." wiki

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Junior Parker - I Tell Stories Sad and True.... [vinyl rip, flac]

a re-post by request:

One of Parker's final albums before dying prematurely from a brain tumor only months later. I just finished the rip for Cliff last week.

  I Tell Stories Sad and True, I Sing the Blues and Play Harmonica Too, It Is Very Funky [United Artists, 1972]
"Once a big man on the blues circuit, Parker was turning into the forgotten Beale Streeter by the time he died last year, and this is a respectful farewell--Sonny Lester, who wrecked his recent collaboration with Jimmy McGriff, keeps things simple (well, fairly simple). Never as penetrating as B.B. or Bobby, Parker smooths his way over the arrangements with the calm of a man who was mellow before the concept existed, at least in its present de-racinated form. Highlight: the sad, true story that goes with "Funny How Time Slips Away." " [R. Christgau]

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Solomon Burke - Blue and Soulful

Solomon Burke - Blue & Soulful

Was Solomon Burke the greatest soul singer of all time? Well producer Jerry Wexler, writer Peter Guralnick and Philly DJ icon Jimmy Bishop will all say that Solomon was The Dude any day of the week even with a borrowed band!

If you listen to the the stunning variety of vocal tones and colors he exerts in the 60 songs here it is pretty easy to understand their enthusiasm; quite simply THIS GUY COULD SING ANYTHING! Across these songs he seems capable of taking on ANY song, Any style, Any sound or even any diction and he sounds completely effortless.

Almost any singer who has been featured here on the blog was within his seemingly limitless range. In the course of this exploration we have seen one great singer after another prove incapable of conquering inferior material. Wynonie Harris, Little Willle John, and countless others prove unable to maintain excitement without good songs that fit them. With Burke it really does not seem to matter, he likely could have sung the Yellow Pages and made it riveting, he was just THAT good. From deepest baritone to highest falsetto there was never even a hint of loss of control that I have ever heard, NOBODY else could do that.

In his mid teens during his first music career he toured in a show with Little Willie John and Joe Tex and stole the show every night. During his second music career he toured with a show that included Otis Redding, Joe Tex and Garnet Mimms.....Burke was the unquestioned headliner. Today he is somehow remembered more for his girth, throne and crown than his blinding talent.

When Ray Charles left Atlantic in 1959 it sent shock waves throughout what was then the greatest R&B/soul label going. Ahmet Ertegun felt deeply betrayed and retreated from the labels' R&B permanently, focusing first on pop like Bobby Darin and Sonny and Cher and later rock bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin and Buffalo Springfield. Jerry Wexler was still committed to black music but without his star he was lost. Between 1959 and 1961 Atlantic had lost it's per-eminent position in the music and sales declined sharply, then one fine day in late 1960 a giant fresh faced young man appeared in Wexler's office and over the next four years not only saved the label but carried them to previously unheard of heights. Go to Wikipedia today and they act like he was never as successful as Charles, Brown, Pickett or Redding but that just isn't true when you look at the actual history. Were it not for Burke, the Atlantic of 1965 that boasted Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding would likely have never happened.

Burke and his family carefully crafted an entire mythology about his birth, his grandmother claiming a vision of him 10 years before his birth and knowing the path his life was destined for. Burke claimed to be born in 1940 (at least 1 source claims 1936) and was a child preacher by age 7. He included gospel singing in his ministry and soon began to attract wider attention. Without question the preacher persona was the source of the comfort and easy confidence he felt on stage. Very few people in history have dominated a room the way this man could, his 'presence' and charm were actually far greater than his considerable size. 

At 15 Burke was signed to Apollo records and from 1955 to 57 and he enjoys a fair amount of success but when he began to ask uncomfortable questions as to whether his label and manager are dealing straight with him, his career ends abruptly. Burke was devastated to the point of withdrawing from the business and the world as a whole, according to him spending some time begging on the street until an epiphany moment which includes him being hit by a car driven by a relative who owned a mortuary. (Like I said there is more than a bit of mythology to his story) The woman sent him to mortuary college and in short order Burke became a successful mortician and returned to his ministry. We may well have never heard any more of him were it not for the determination of a man named Babe Shivian who so wanted to manage Burke that he essentially blackmailed him by parking his inappropriate bright red Lincoln in front of Solomon's funeral home each day until the singer relented. (Shivian then gave him the car)

After a couple of singles Solomon marches into Jerry Wexler's office and answers all of Wexler's prayers; the question of what to do after losing Ray is answered in this total package that shows up on his doorstep fully formed and ready for damn near anything. Burke embarks on his second music career with of all things a country song "Just Out Of Reach", replete with a white chorus and fiddle, he delivers the song completely straight, sounding for all the world like a better Elvis. After a few machinations the song is a hit with most of it's audience having little clue that the singer was black.

What follows over the next 4 years is well represented in the dizzying array of these 60 songs, although for my part they could have let out everything, no matter how many discs it takes. I defy any of you to listen to the lot of them straight thru and not come away stunned by the versatility of his voice; Elvis, Hank Snow, Bobby Bland, Ray Charles, James Brown? Yeah, no problem, got that covered. Al Green, Sam Cooke, Wynonie Harris? Yeah got all of them too. He even does the unthinkable in covering Lee Dorsey's "Get Out My Life Woman" and he absolutely crushes it! (Track 59)

The greatest soul singer ever? Well he sure as hell is in the conversation!

Z.Z. Hill - The Malaco Recordings

 "Texas-born singer Z.Z. Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard's soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs "Down Home Blues" and "Somebody Else Is Steppin' In" have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades). "Texas-born singer Z.Z. Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard's soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs "Down Home Blues" and "Somebody Else Is Steppin' In" have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades)....But Hill's vocal grit was never more effective than on his blues-soaked Malaco output. From 1980 until 1984, when he died suddenly of a heart attack, Z.Z. bravely led a personal back-to-the-blues campaign that doubtless helped to fuel the subsequent contemporary blues boom. It's a shame he couldn't stick around to see it blossom." Bill Dahl

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Z,Z, Hill - Love Is So Good When You're Stealin' It [Columbia 1978-79]

Bill Dahl

"Much of Hill's 1978-79 output for Columbia was laced with disco rhythms, but there were also plenty of soulful throwbacks to the sort of intense testifying that Hill did best: the surging mid-tempo "That's All That's Left," and a string-enriched "This Time They Told the Truth," an insistent "Need You By My Side," and the smoldering title tale of cheating in the wee hours that hit big for him. Ichiban has cobbled together both of Hill's Columbia LPs, the first being infinitely superior to the brutally formulaic disco-dominated encore.

The Heavenly Tones - New York Grass Roots Gospel

worth a second post: Rare Gospel from Cliff's tape archives.

The transfers came out sounding quite good. These were all from the Library of Congress recommendations of the time and we have quite a few of these rarities.

The Heavenly Tones were all Southern transplants to Brooklyn, and schooled in the older Quartet tradition. All accapella  and less emphasis on pyrotechnics than the hard gospel groups, but still very moving.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Golden Jubilees & The Gospel Christian Singers

More digging back into the tape vault posts.

We are once again deep into Unky Cliff's Gospel tape stash with a double offering. First up are the wonderful Golden Jubilees and their glorious bass singer Joshua Hankinson. This tape series has really opened my ears to the Jubilee Quartet tradition that preceded the 'Hard Gospel' Quartets like the Soul Stirrers. One thing that seems to be true in this singing tradition as opposed to hard gospel is that it is not so hard on the singers physically and so they seem to enjoy greater longevity.  The second offering today is a perfect example of that, I don't think that any member of the Gospel Christian Singers is younger than 75 years old and yet their harmonies are still sweet.