The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 251

Legends Mix

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

It's been a week again, my dear listeners, so it's about time to get you some great Rhythm & Blues again, from a time past, when life was hard and the music was great. And as so often I start in the roaring twenties, and these were the heyday years of the band of Clarence Williams. The next one got got the voice of James P. Johnson on it, and it was recorded in July of 1928 in New York for the Columbia label.

Here is the Farm Hand Papa.

01 - Clarence Williams - Farm Hand Papa
02 - Duke Ellington - East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

Duke Ellington recorded dozens of versions of the East St. Louis Toodle-Oo and they all sound different. I got the Complete Jazz Series volumes up to 1933 of the Duke, and I think this is one of his most brilliant compositions.

I chose to play this version version from April of 1930 'cause it's perhaps the dirtiest sounding version I know and even, it hasn't got the trumpet of Bubber Miley on it - he left the Duke's band in '29. Instead it got a rasping trumpet chorus - and did you hear that saxophone, what a gritty sound it got on it. Duke Ellington's orchestra was known as the dirtiest sounding band in the famous Cotton Club where he was the regular attraction.

Now I said the famous Cotton Club but maybe it's better to call it the infamous Cotton Club. It had a segregation policy that meant strictly whites only at the front door, no colored person was allowed as a patron. The artist's entrance, though, it was blacks only, and it featured the best and most flamboyant bands of New York, and the best show dancers. The female dancers were advertised as 'tall, tan and terrific' - all dropdead gorgeous young ladies and they were not only selected for their dancing skills and looks, they had to be African-American women with a light skin color and otherwise you wouldn't qualify.

Now these were the early thirties, so qualifying looks and a talent to dance, it secured you a job where most New Yorkers, and African Americans especially, had to struggle real hard to survive. So I guess it was no time to protest against the racial discrimination, nowhere, when you had to focus on getting yourself a few nickles to buy some bread for the day and to pay the rent.

Duke Ellington was expected to play 'jungle music' for the white audience, fitting in the imagery of black savages in the jungle or 'darkies' in the Southern cotton fields. Well the Duke had his own artistic ideas on that and he let Bubber Miley and Tricky Sam Nanton develop a style with growling, rattling dirty sounds from their horns and man, the audience loved it, but not just the white people in the club, his style was a sensation to everyone who heard his music - live or on record.

Of course, this was the Harlem Renaissance - the first emergence of Black pride in urban, African American life - and it happened right here. African-American culture got a touch of cool - and for sure Cab Calloway, another star of the Cotton Club, contributed to that.

Here he is - in a 1931 recording for the ARC labels, with the Down-Hearted Blues.

03 - Cab Calloway - Down-Hearted Blues
04 - Barbecue Bob - Barbecue Blues

(jingle)

05 - Lizzie Miles - Too Slow Blues
06 - Triangle Quartette - Doodlin' Back

Four in a row - after Cab Calloway that was from 1927 on the Columbia label the debut record of Barbecue Bob - the Barbecue Blues. Now Robert Hicks as his real name was, he was a cook in a barbecue joint and the Columbia talent scount who discovered him in Atlanta, he dubbed him Barbecue Bob. The only two photographs known of him are promotion pictures, both in cook's clothings.

The Barbecue Blues sold a solid 15,000 copies and no Columbia artist had sold so many records before. In a four years time Barbecue Bob got to record 68 sides - either in his hometown Atlanta or up in New York. In 1931 he died of a combination of tuberculosis and pneumonia.

You got more - after the jingle came the Too Slow Blues recorded on the Victor label in 1930, of singer Lizzie Miles. She was originally from a French speaking Creole-of-color family in New Orleans - and half-sister of blues singer Edna Hicks and Herb Morand, the trumpeter in the Harlem Hamfats. Her career started in the Crescent City as a teenager, with greats such as Joe Oliver, Kid Ory, and A.J. Piron - we're talking the early jazz scene around 1910. From 1922 she started recording. It's mostly blues recordings that were left of her early time, but she done a lot more. Until her death in 1965, she sang in jazz combos in many venues, including the first, 1958 Monterey jazz festival.

Then finally the obscure Triangle Quartette with a recording from 1929 on the Paramount label - titled Doodlin' Back.

For the next one, a 1935 recording of Chick Webb and his band. By then, he led the house band of the Savoy ballroom in Harlem, and in the famous Battles of the Bands this venue held, his band nearly always won. Here he is with Blue Minor.

07 - Chick Webb - Blue minor
08 - Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) - Easy Towing Mama

From '39 the Easy Towing Mama of Merline Johnson - better known as the Yas Yas Girl. Apart from her career and that she's probably related to LaVern Baker, there's very little known of her. Somewhere in the mid-thirties she popped up in the Chicago scene and from '37 up to '41 she done most of her recordings. After her last recordings in '47 she disappeared off the radar.

Next one of the four takes of Gene Gilmore - that is, under his own name as he also was a member of the Five Breezes, the first vocal group that had Willie Dixon and Leonard 'Baby Doo' Caston on board. Gilmore's solos were recorded on Decca's Race label. Here is from 1939, the Charity Blues.

09 - Gene Gilmore - Charity Blues
10 - Al Cooper - (If You Donít Know What Your Doing) Stop! And Ask Somebody

Al Cooper and his Savoy Sultans, a band popular in the Savoy Ballroom but the recordings he done for Decca all sound very much alike. The strong rhythm will have been in favor with the dancers in the Savoy. Anyhow, a single track sounds pretty enjoyable, so I hope you liked it.

Next, one of the tracks of the album Josh White done for the Keynote label. With an album, you have to think of a boxed set of 78s with the sleeves for the records bound together like a booklet. The word album stayed when the Long Play 33 RPM record came and still with a CD we call it an album because of the name it got in the 78 RPM era.

The album was called Southern Exposure, an album of Jim Crow blues and it has blues protesting against segregation and discrimination. Now record companies normally refused to issue civil rights songs - but then, Josh White was not just a blues singer. Growing up in extreme poverty, he'd worked himself up to the most exclusive venue in New York, the Cafe Society, and he'd become close friends with the Roosevelt family. The album, it did cause some uproar in the South, but instead of falling out of favor, White was invited to perform at the White House and he had a long talk with the President on the matter.

Here is the Jim Crow Train.

11 - Josh White - Jim Crow Train
12 - Helen Humes - Keep Your Mind On Me

Helen Humes with the band of Leonard Feather with Keep Your Mind On Me - written by Feather. Feather was a British jazz fan - and and he moved to New York in 1939. He well understood the blues and a few of his early compositions like the Evil Gal Blues and the Blowtop Blues, they have become jazz and blues standards - and favorites with me. Helen Humes, Etta Jones and Dinah Washington done the best versions of his compositions.

And the next one is a nice goodie of Slim Gaillard - recorded in Los Angeles it somehow got in the hands of J. Mayo Williams and he traded it off to Syd Nathan of the King label. By 1945 when this was released, the Rhythm & Blues series was named Queen, and King did hillbilly. So here is Slim Gaillard with Slim Gaillard's Boogie.

13 - Slim Gaillard - Slim Gaillard's Boogie
14 - Lowell Fulson - Baby Don't You Hear Me Calling

From 1947 on the Swingtime label that was Lowell Fulson with Baby Don't You Hear Me Calling - one of his early recordings. Fulson of course is best remembered for his soul blues Tramp, that was made to a big hit by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas - that was twenty years later, in 1967.

And the next one also is from '47 - a very productive year in Rhythm & Blues with the upcoming second strike of the American Federation of Mucisians. Here is the band of Johnny Otis fronted by Cathy Carter on the Excelsior label with the Alimony Boogie.

15 - Johnny Otis - Alimony Boogie
16 - Andrew Tibbs - Married Man Blues

The Married Man Blues on the Aristrocrat label from 1947 is the last one for today. You heard the typical sound of Andrew Tibbs and his band and he's one of those blues shouters that have a very own way of singing. Another show has come to an end and that brought you today the sound of the Harlem Renaissance - the Cotton Club bands of Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, then some pre-war blues, the dreamy jazzy blues style of Leonard Feather and three goodies from what's must have been the most productive year in Rhythm & Blues, 1947. A lot of variety and I hope you like that, well of course there's e-mail to let me know, and feedback is greatly appreciated, the address is rockingdutchman@rocketmail.com.

And then all of what I told you today, you can find it on the website of your favorite program, and you get there with a simple web search for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman. They'll lead you to my site, them search engines, and once in, this is show number 251 in that long list of shows.

I'm done for now, and I hope to see you back in a week, for more great Rhythm & Blues, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!