The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 146

Decca releases, 1940

This transcript of the radio show is an approximation of what I said in the show. The real spoken parts may differ slightly.

If you are a regular listener to this program you may have noticed that so every now and then I devote a show to spelling out the catalog of Decca and the last time I did that, I left you in the fall of 1940. While in Europe the war was going on and Hitler was conquering more and more of the continent, most Americans didn't have a notion that soon the nation would get involved. The blues pretty much reflected that - their subjects were on-going business just like the last years of the thirties.

Many of the releases had been recorded earlier that year though - or even the year before, like the first one of today. It was recorded in October of 39 and released as Decca 7797. Here is the Rainy Morning of Bill Gaither, who recorded as Leroy's Buddy in honor of his good friend Leroy Carr who died in 1935.

01 - 7797 - Bill Gaither - Rainy Morning
02 - 7798 - Peetie Wheatstraw - Cuttin' 'Em Slow

Cuttin' 'em slow was that and you heard Peetie Wheatstraw, recorded in August of 1940 as Decca 7798. His real name was William Bunch, born in either Tennessee or Arkansas, and in the late twenties he moved up to St. Louis and took that folkloric sounding name with the addition of either The Devil's Son-in-Law or the The High Sheriff from Hell - and his hardened character is pretty much like that of modern rap artists.

Wheatstraw never toured extensively and he left St. Louis only to record in Chicago.

Next the unknown George Davis, he did only four sides for Decca. He's another person than his contemporary, folk singer George Davis the Singing Miner. From the bluesman George Davis, here is the Fast Asleep Blues.

03 - 7799 - George Davis - Fast Asleep Blues
04 - 7800 - Johnnie Temple - Jive Me, Baby


05 - 7801 - Rosetta Howard - Headin' for the River
06 - 7803 - Lil Hardin Armstrong - Why Is A Good Man So Hard To Find

That were four in a row - after George Davis with his Fast Asleep Blues you got Johnnie Temple on Decca 7800 with Jive Me Baby. Then after the jingle, that was Rosetta Howard with Headin' for the River. On this she was backed up by a group named the Harlem Blues Serenaders, with quite a few great names in it - Buster Bailey and Barney Bigard on the clarinet, trumpeters Red Allen and Charlie Shavers, and Lil Armstrong on the piano.

Lil Armstrong's own band was the last one of the four, with Why Is A Good Man So Hard To Find. The ex of Louis Armstrong, she led her own band and most of her outings didn't go for this 7000 "race" series but on more prestigious series of Decca such as the Sepia or the popular series.

The 7000 "race" series - in these days the word for African American music - it was launced in 1934, when the American branch of Decca started. CEO Jack Kapp, previously boss of Brunswick Records, hired his former employee J. Mayo Williams to run the race department of the label. Williams had managed the race records of Brunswick up to '29 until the sales of records collapsed - together with the stock market. Mayo Williams, in the years between he had managed a football team - he'd been a top football player and athlete in the early twenties.

In any popular branch Decca USA managed to stir up the record industry that had suffered enormously under the Great Depression - in fact it was a stout move of British Decca to jump into the American market. Bing Crosby brought in the cash for the popular series and soon many other popular names followed. For the race series, just any bluesman or woman who'd made it in the clubs of New York and Chicago, also made their way to the studios. Some of them recorded hundreds of songs for the label. And just within months, Decca had secured its place as the leading label in African-American music.

Now just like today, every now and then I spell out a tiny portion of the catalog of Decca, but to get you an idea, if I would do that with all of the 7000 series and play both sides of each record, I could fill somewhat over a hundred shows of the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman. Add to that, that the Decca catalog has been extensively rereleased, and you see, that a Decca set is somewhat of an easy break for me - there are shows that cost me much more worries to get the playlist complete.

I continue with number 7805 of the catalog and that's got two Ollies on it in a typical feelgood man/woman duet. Ollie Potter is the most obscure of them, her name leaves no trace in the history of Rhythm & Blues except for this session. The other Ollie is Ollie Shepard and his group the Kentucky Playboys were not a country outfit but an urban blues and swing band. His music, up to the start of the war, is easy to find on two volumes of the Document series on him. He done sessions in 1942, in 1950 with Hot Lips Page and even up to 1960 he got in the studio, most of it never got released and his biography on is just right, this cries for a third CD with his later material.

Here are these two Ollies with Steppin' Out Tonight.

07 - 7805 - Ollie Shepard & Ollie Potter - I'm Stepping Out Tonight
08 - 7806 - Frankie Halfpint Jaxon - Turn Over

Singer and comedian Frankie 'Half Pint' Jaxon shows off his specialty, and that is vaudeville-like songs. You heard Turn Over as number 7806 of the Decca catalog. The next one is of Georgia White, another prolific artist on Decca, she did over a hundred tracks for the label. Apart from the Decca sides, one recording of her survived, from 1930 with Jimmy Noone's orchestra.

From her, here is her Worried Head Blues.

09 - 7807 - Georgia White - Worried Head Blues
10 - 7808 - Virginia Four - I'd Feel Much Better

The Virginia Four with a nice acapella song titled I'd Feel Much Better - among the Decca Race series there weren't that many vocal groups. They recorded from 1921 for Paramount and Okeh as the Norfolk Jazz Quartet and the Virginia Jubilee Singers and their latest sides were on Decca where they used the name Virginia Four.

Next, under the name of the Honeydripper, Roosevelt Sykes with the Eight Ball Blues. In his young days he travelled the juke joints along the Mississippi and he got himself a repertoire of bawdy and explicit lyrics and ended up in St. Louis where he met St. Louis Jimmy Oden. A scout of OKeh brought him to New York for some sessions, and later he moved to Chicago and there he did some of his best recordings for Decca. From him you'll get the Eight Ball Blues.

11 - 7809 - Roosevelt Sykes - Eight Ball Blues
12 - 7810 - Blind Willie McTell - Cold Winter Day

The Cold Winter Day of Blind Willie McTell and this was recorded over five years earlier, in April of 1935. Together with his wife Kate they'd gone to the Decca studio on invitation of J. Mayo Williams and did a session, and on a few of them she sings. A lot of these sessions never got released and this is a rare and obscure late release of an old master still somewhere on the shelf.

And next, on number 7811 of the catalog, Sam Price and his Texas Bluesicians. I played one of the sides just a few weeks ago, titled The Dirty Dozens so here's the flip, a real nice version of Oh Lawdy Mama.

13 - 7811 - Sam Price - Oh Lawdy Mama
14 - 7812 - Bill Gaither - Bloody Eyed Woman

Once more, Leroy's Buddy whose real name was Bill Gaither. You got the Bloody Eyed Woman on Decca number 7812. There's little information on Gaither apart from his professional life as a musician - and that counts for a lot of pre-war bluesmen and women. For sure he was close to Leroy Carr and he did three tributes to his friend. Another highlight is his tribute to Joe Louis that he recorded the day after the boxer won a fight against German Max Schmeling in just one round.

The next issue brings us New Orleans born Blue Lu Barker and her typical voice. Next to her own talent, her husband Danny Barker brought her in the scene of the great jazz musicians. From her you'll get Scat Skunk.

15 - 7813 - Blue Lu Barker - Scat Skunk
16 - 7813 - Cow Cow Davenport - The Mess Is Here
17 - 7814 - Sleepy John Estes - Mary Come On Home

And these three conclude today's show of the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman. The Blue Lu Barker song that you got first was paired with Cow Cow Davenport and that is such a great goodie, that I just flipped the record and played that as well. The Mess Is Here was together with Lu Barker Decca 7813.

Then last one was Sleepy John Estes with Mary Come On Home on number 7814 of the catalog. And with that, I filled the hour and I just got time to tell you about my web site where you can find all that I told you today, and find out what'll be on for next week. And of course you can let me know what you thought of the show and send me an e-mail. The address is

There will be another show next week same time, same place. So hope to see you again, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!