I don’t think Champion Jack ever took the Hippocratic Oath. This song is almost silly with it’s other-man side of the black snake/ice man blues tales – The song almost ends up like a lesser Lil’ Johnson track – warm, but not bawdy – but there is a certain darkness that runs under the song “If you believe I’m A Good Doctor/I Got the remedy right here in my hand.” A double innuendo that doesn’t have the charm or good natured humor of a typical blues song.
This track from Jesse Thomas is a little bit outside of the range of years normally covered hear, but its so fantastic I couldn’t keep it to myself. Thomas was a session player (most famously with Bessie Tucker) and played mostly around Texas during the pre-war years. This track is from 1948 and he has plugged in, but still retains the purity of the pre-war blues guitar. I love love love the guitar song on this recording.
The next song on this Kent release is another pre-war star’s initial post war recording – Whistling Alex Moore, under his birth name Alexander Moore – does a rowdy Texas Blues number called Neglected Woman – and it’s a rave. The full band here is fantastic and Moore does a great job on piano keeping setting the blazing pace of this number. I wish the drums were a little more in the mix – but it still has the great sound that is also present on Jesse Thomas’ song. I’ve also added an mostly instrumental version of Lillie Mae Blues from that same Alexander Moore session.
I don’t really make apologies for posting mostly piano based music, but the sheer number of emails asking more guitar based blues tracks this week has given me pause.
Ed Andrew recorded a couple of sides in the early 20s for Okeh – the first of which is usually referred to as “the first country blues” record made. While I haven’t really done the research to state that claim without warning, It does appear that this is one of the earliest, but more importantly it’s one of the most solid examples of the genre that would sweet out of Georgia and and cover most of the non-delta South. Andrews is tired but plaintive on this side as he gives a overview of his life long blues. Andrews has a weird wobble on the end of his stanzas – I’m not sure if it’s from the recording of possible medicine show past – but it lends an element of weariness that the track benefits from I think.
I hadn’t heard of Mosaic Select until the other I heard a story on Fresh Air about a new Boogie-Woogie Box set released released by them. Mosaic appears to be somewhat like an American grown Bear Family records specializing in box sets of jazz artists – especially of well known jazz artists little known recording periods. I’m not really an expert in jazz by any means – but these sets look fantastic – The Complete Charlie Parker on Benedetti? Yes Please.
Mosaic’s three disc set of boogie-woogie might be the first serious look at boogie woogie and blues piano in the pre-war era. The set is limited to 5,000 copies and priced at $49 which is high considering the set it self looks like a JSP Box, but without the shadiness and with excellent and extremely well documented notes.
I’m going to pick three tracks, one from each disc just to sample the set, the first track is a showy piece (even for a boogie woogie number) by Meade Lux Lewis – that is a perfect example of the style and just a great composition. The next is an star-studded number with Pete Johnson on piano and Hot Lips Page on trumpet and the great Joe Turner on vocals who complains about the tempo being too fast at the end of this unissued take. I think the tempo is is just right – and the last third of the side has some of the best call and response from a vocalist and his band that I’ve heard. The last track is from the great Cripple Clarence Lofton with a track that sounds like proto-southern soul, wonderful play between the drummer and Lofton, though it features more Lofton’s warbly voice than his fantastic piano skills (though he gets his lines in), I’m just in love with this track.
This was a busy week, lots of new songs – some really great verisons – I’m hoping to start actually posting the songs in another week, pending on if I can twist Ms. Honey into making some a funeral march of bees. Also for all the wordpress users out there that haven’t updated to 2.5 it’s amazing – the dashboard is actually useful (can someone make a mint plug in for this?) and the overall layout and look is much nicer.
Also special thanks goes out to John from Dem Bluez for a lot of these tracks – check out his site for some wonderful Snook Eaglin tracks.
1. Cab Calloway (1930, 1941×2)
2. Dr. John (2004)
3. Kent DuChaine (Live ?? , 1993)
4. Little Mack Simmons (1996)
5. Roosevelt Sykes (1971)
6. Julia Lee (1944)
7. Cephas & Wiggins (1984)
8. Marva Wright (1998)
9. Bobby Bland (1987, 1961)
10. Buddy Blue (2003)
11. Mojo Buford (1979)
12. Alex Harvey (1964)
13. Angela Brown (1989)
14. Bill Coleman (1951/2)
15. Butch Thompson (1995)
16. Wingy Monroe (194X)
17. James Solberg Band (1995)
18. Dick Curless (1957/8)
19. Stan Kenton (1942)
20. Robert Crumb (???)
21. Pérez Prado (1955)
22. Brownie McGee (?)
total 77 artists, a couple more takes than that.
as a bonus check out this awesome video of the Isley Brothers singing Stagolee and pulling a gun out on stage in front of a bunch of Londoners.
These are the tracks that have come in since the last list was posted, I’ve made a few corrections to the first list as well. I still need help tracking dates, especially on the primary list – any help would be wonderful. I haven’t decided if I’m going to separate The Gambler’s Blues away from St. James, but this list includes them together.
John Lomax Jr.
1. Arlo Guthrie (2007)
2. David Van Ronk (1959?)
3. Harlem Hot Chocolates (1930)
4. Snooks Eaglin (1958)
5. David Van Ronk & Ramblin’ Jack Elliot (1999)
6. Alex Hill and his Orchestra (1929)
7. George E. Lee and his Novelty Singing Orchestra (1929)
8. Mattie Hite (1930)
9. Rube Bloom & His Bayou Boys (1930)
10. Roy King (1952?)
11. Jimmie Rodgers (1930)
12. Hokum Boys (x2 1929)
Okay here is the list as of 3/29. the years are marked where noted – i need help with dates (It’s hard on some discs to determine when the actual recording took place, those i’ve marked with the release date of the disc and a ?) and of course more songs. Big thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. No order should be implied by this list. Thanks!
So far I think Stuff Smith’s is my favorite. The Doors’ take on the song might be as bad and luckily as short as Elvis’ aborted Stagolee take.
1. Doc Watson and Richard Watson (live, 2006, 2000)
2. Gene Krupa (Live, ???, DBK in concert disk)
3. Rosa King (Live, 1991?)
4. Louis Armstrong (Live, 1947)
5. Louis Armstrong (1928)
6. Louis Armstrong (?, From Gold comp, different from above two)
7. The Animals (1968)
8. The Dirty Dozen Jazz Band (1984)
9. Humphrey Lyttelton (Live, 1951)
10. Garland Wilson (1931?)
11. Roy Eldridge (1975)
12. Henry Red Allen (x 2 1951?)
13. Eddie Condon (1957)
14. Kid Ory and Henry Red Allen (1957)
15. Hot Lips Page (1950?)
16. Henry Red Allen (live 1951)
17. Turk Murphy Jazz Band (live 1957)
18. Henry Red Allen (1957)
19. Jack Teagarden (1942, 1963, 1950?, 1954, 1940)
20. King Oliver (1929)
21. Jonah Jones (1957)
22. George Lewis (??? Oxford Series 10)
23. Billie and De De Pierce (1959)
24. Kid Ory (1953)
25. Doc Evans (???)
26. Bob Crosby (???)
27. Buck Clayton (1961)
28. Artie Shaw (part one and 2 1941)
29. Pete Fountain (1959)
30. Sidney Bechet (1939?)
31. Stuff Smith (1944)
32. Art Hodes (1944)
33. Josh White (1944)
34. Johnny Kendall and the Heralds (1964)
35. Jackie Wilson (live 1962)
36. Joe Cocker (1973)
37. Kathy Kersh (???)
38. Suspense Radio Show (1953)
39. Van Morrison (live ???)
40. The Ventures (???)
41. White Stripes (1999)
42. Dixieland Rhythm Kings (1922)
43. Kansas City Frank and His Footwarmers (1929)
A few years ago we did a weeks worth of Stagolee tracks to much success, this year I hope to collect a number of versions of St. James Infirmary Blues as well as Dying Crapshooter Blues. I’m working on compiling a list of what i have (around 70-80 tracks so far), but unlike Stagolee which for as much as it was sung – it had a much more limited audience than St. James. I’m going to contact Rob Walker who wrote an amazing essay on the subject and who also maintains No Notes dedicated to the song and music in New Orleans.
Please send mp3s to pkpatnaik @ prewarblues.org
below is a the St. James Infirmary section of Betty Boop’s Snow White
John Bondurant left a couple of comments on the Buel Kazee and Wise County posts from a few months ago – and linked to Berea College’s wonderful collection digitalized field recordings from Kentucky and the greater Appalachia area. It’s a revelatory website and really well laid out – you can even search by county! Check it out here.
I received the new Dust To Digital Release, Victrola Favorites from Ms. Honey for Christmas, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since then. I think that Dust To Digital is a pretty hit and miss reissue group – but all their releases have a striking amount of detail and love poured into the song choices (though the art direction and build quality of another one of their new releases, Art of Recording, leaves a lot to be desired and has prevented me from reviewing it fairly thus far.) and this one might be their best work yet.
The set is loosely themed around a collection of 78s from around the world compiled by collectors Jeffery Taylor and Robert Mills and design to simulate a Victrola parlor or I guess more accurately – their Victrola parlor where they play long forgotten 78s they have found from all corners of the world and through many different means. The collection of sides is wonderfully sequenced and each song moves smoothly into the next despite being all different corners for the world. The names and records are mostly unfamiliar to me – which is a pleasant surprise – as this is not just a good collection of sides in the way Goodbye, Babylon or Tikont’s Flashback series are, but it’s a masterful and well documented collection of songs, unheard a much more challenging feat – and one that puts this collection on a short list for one of the best collections of songs that I’ve ever heard. The collection is two discs and held in the covers of a 144 page booklet with amazing detail shots of the 78 labels, sleeves and advertising that accompanied these sides. I can’t really say this strongly enough, but I highly recommend this release.
Continuing the trip through my past I stumbled upon this compilation of county and blues songs about Coal Mines produced by the Lonesome Pine Office of Youth, a community group located in Southwest Virginia (Wise, Lee and Scott counties.) I lived in Wise, Va for a time best known as the birthplace of George C. Scott, Dock Boggs and that they shot a few scenes of Coal Miner’s Daughter at the Wise Inn (that was closed the entire time I was there). The surrounding areas produced such country legends as the Carter Family and Ralph Stanley.
This set is Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields a two disc set of songs about coal mining and the effects it had on the people and land. Disc one is a collection of traditional songs recorded pre-1950 (or around there, I don’t have the set yet) and the second disc is more contemporary takes on the coal mining song. I’m particularly impressive of the inclusion of a blues number by Trixie Smith, the only blues song about the coal mining condition that i know of, and the number of field recordings and lost takes the researcher was able to pull together. This track is by Orville Jenks, the most noted writer of coal mining songs – who sings in a plaintive Irish ballad voice that’s one of the best I’ve heard. Trixie Smith I’ve posted about a few times(1,2), this song is a nice departure from the risqué and abusive blues she’s known for singing. I still think Trixie belongs on the short list with Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey and Sara Martin, though I might be in the minority on that one.
Buy it here !