The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 252

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.

Yeah thank you for your applause, thank you, and thank you for joining me again, my beloved and faithful listeners, another week has passed by so it's time again for a musical journey through time, from the roaring twenties to the rocking fifties. And with the first one I start at the end of the year 1925.

The music industry had to regain their market share in home entertainment from the radio manufacturing companies. In the early twenties radios for home use had become commercially available, still expensive, but so was a phonograph and not only had radio much more diversity to offer, but also a much better sound quality, and that is, we're still talking the early days of AM radio. But the acoustical recordings on shellac, they were in fact horrible.

And so in mid-'25 the recording companies all adopted the new recording technology General Electric offered using microphones and they proudly advertised their records as 'electrically recorded' - well it was an enormous improvement.

The next one is on the OKeh label, but for some reason not done in the electrical recording studio. So here is, from the last days of the acoustical era, Alberta Hunter with Your Jelly Roll Is Good.

01 - Alberta Hunter - Your Jelly Roll Is Good
02 - Louis Armstrong - Wild Man Blues

From '27, also on Okeh, the Wild Man Blues and Louis Armstrong is showing off that he's not just a trumpeter. Improvisations like this were unprecedented in his era, melodic, sophisticated and innovating. It seems like the trumpet solo has been invented by him, that is, early jazz was more an ensemble playing together, and if a musician played solo it was often a play on the main theme of the music. These are solo improvisations. Our modern ears are used to it, but in '27, solos like this goodie, they were unheard of, and still after over ninety years his virtuoso skills stand out.

Louis Armstrong mastered playing the straight sound of the trumpet - you seldomly hear him doing the jungle style that was made popular with the band of Duke Ellington - the growling, talking and wah-wahing sounds, the dragging, low-down trumpeting that Bubber Miley did, is quite a contrast to the crisp and clean sound of Armstrong. Now in several radio shows I told you that I very much love that Bubber Miley style, but I can keep on listening to a record like this.

In the twenties, Armstrong was still on the Okeh label, being marketed at the African American public, advertised as Race music. Armstrong soon crossed over appealing to the general audience with his virtuoso playing, his typical singing style, and more often doing the popular tunes of the day. He got the celebrity status where in a time when that was hardly impossible, his skin color hardly mattered anymore, and there's just a very few musicians reaching that status.

Now what a difference to the next one - and still, very enjoyable, the piano of J.C. Johnson and Earnest Elliott on the clarinet accompanying Mary Dixon in a '29 recording for Columbia. Here she is with All Around Mama.

03 - Mary Dixon - All Around Mama
04 - Little Hat Jones - Bye Bye Baby Blues


05 - Kokomo Arnold - Chain Gang Blues
06 - Charley West - Hobo Blues

A whole lotta music - you got four in a row. After Mary Dixon that was the Bye Bye Baby Blues of Little Hat Jones on the Okeh label from 1930. This is from his last session, and the few sessions he did were in a very short time span. He kept on performing at fish fries and parties but for some reason never saw the inside of the studio again. There's just ten takes left of him plus nine where he accompanied Texas Alexander. This song, the Bye Bye Baby Blues was featured in the cult movie Ghost World in 2001.

Then after the jingle, that was the Chain Gang Blues of Kokomo Arnold, from 1935 on Decca, and Kokomo Arnold got his name after the town of Kokomo, IN, that he did a blues on a year before. He had moved to Chicago in '29 to run his liquor bootlegging business, and after prohibition ended he tried his luck in music when Kansas Joe McCoy introduced him to Decca producer J. Mayo Williams. He done 88 sides for the label and then dropped out of music to work in a factory.

Then there's the last one I have to account for, that was the Hobo Blues of Charley West and that was on the Bluebird label from 1937.

For the next one a vocal trio named the Ebony Three. Backed by Sammy Price they done four sides for Decca in May of '38 - two spirituals and two secular songs. From that session, here is the Mississippi Moan.

07 - Ebony Three - Mississippi Moan
08 - Jay McShann - Dexter Blues

From '41 the Dexter Blues of Jay McShann and his band - and it's one of the few recordings of McShann's band in full. Decca manager Jack Kapp rather saw him accompany blues singers in a small setting than his whole swing band. But in their gigs it was the complete band rather than what survived of him on Decca's records.

McShann was from Oklahoma but his orchestra resided in Kansas City, and that was a real hotbed for jazz bands, most of them eventually flew out to New York. And so did McShann - that is, in '41 he also recorded in Chicago. The band had saxophone wizard Charlie Parker on board - but he was a notorious heroin user, and so unreliable that McShann had to fire him. The same was the matter with Walter Brown, for some time the featured singer of the band.

Next a very late recording for Lil Green and in these years - we're talking 1949 - she recorded for Aladdin, but this one seems not to have been released. I think Lil Green made more impression in her pre-war years for Decca. But here she is, with Walkin' And Talkin'.

09 - Lil Green - Walkin' And Talkin'
10 - Joe Liggins - Lonesome Guitar

This nice instrumental is the Lonesome Guitar of Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers on the Exclusive label and in the background you hear another goodie of him, titled the Key Jam.

This was the last year of operation of the Exclusive label and in the fifties, Joe Liggins moved to the Specialty label where he had some more big hits - but never as big as his signature song the Honeydripper, that sold 2 million copies in 1945 and topped Billboards Rhythm & Blues hitlist for a solid 18 weeks.

Next the band of Jack McVea with a recording from 1947 and it features singer Arthur Duncan. Here is Evening.

11 - Jack McVea - Evening
12 - Paula Watson - Tennessee Walk

That was the Tennessee Walk of Paula Watson on the MGM label from 1953. Watson started her recording career with the Supreme label and her novelty song A Little Bird Told Me became an instant hit - but then it was covered by Evelyn Knight for Decca with much more success. The tiny Supreme label filed a lawsuit against Decca for using their arrangement, but they lost it and the label could not bear the cost. Watson ironically signed with Decca and there she done some pretty unsuccesful rhythm & blues in the style of Nellie Lutcher, and in '53 she moved to MGM.

Next Little Willie Littlefield's debut single on the tiny Eddie's label - that was on Houston's Dowling Street and active from 1947 to '49. As rare as these records are, they made it to a compilation CD that's unfortunately a little hard to find. Little Willie Littlefield was 18 years old when he done this, and soon he made it to the Modern label that brought him to fame.

But here is that debut record - Little Willie's Boogie.

13 - Little Willie Littlefield - Little Willie's Boogie
14 - Lightnin' Hopkins - Miss Loretta

Recorded for Aladdin but the label didn't issue it at the time, that was Lightnin' Hopkins with Miss Loretta. Now his own guitar playing style got him a place in Rolling Stone Magazine's top 100 list of best guitar players - and his talking blues style is uniquely his. And you know listeners - I think he deserved better than that 71st place on the Rolling Stone list. I can listen to Hopkins blues all day.

Hopkins was discovered in Houstonby a talent scout of Aladdin records and he did a few sessions in Los Angeles, but he apparently was more at ease in his home town and he rarely left it - having enough work in the joints on Dowling Street. And some way this well fits with the feeling of his blues - that gimme the feeling he's just not a cosmopolitan.

Next a nice instrumental of pianist Lloyd Glenn, one of his nice goodies from the Swingtime label. The record was backed by The Highway Is My Home of a musician he done the piano backing for, Lowell Fulson.

Enjoy the Tickle Toe Two Step.

15 - Lloyd Glenn - Tickle Toe Two Step
16 - Wynonie Harris - Man, Have I Got Troubles

Man Have I Got Troubles - Wynonie Harris on the King label and well this one didn't chart when it was released in '51, but these were the heyday years of his career.

In '47 he joined the King label and that's where his string of hits really began - and that included Good Rocking Tonight in '48, a cover of Roy Brown's version and that triggered a whole fad of Rhytm & Blues songs where the words rock and roll just had to be present in the title, together with a strong afterbeat rhythm derived from the gospel - after all, Good Rocking Tonight initally was a gospel parody.

With that Harris has been an important factor in shaping Rock 'n Roll but like so many bluesmen of the forties and early fifties, he didn't survive the changes in taste of the public, and the changes in the public itself, as a new crowd of white teenagers took over the trending fashions in American popular music, rooted in the blend of blues and jazz that we called Rhythm & Blues, a change that I consider the essence of rock 'n roll.

On here - I play the ancestors of nowadays music, the blues, the jazz, the Rhythm & Blues, all African American music and I keep on doing this, remembering the music that got so forgotten in the mainstream audience. And with this radio program, my dear listeners, I can only try to keep the memory alive, and the notion how important this music is as the roots of our popular music. I hope you like what I play and tell you - and of course you can let me know - feedback is greatly appreciated and the address is

Over the last five years I researched a tremendous amount of information on the music, and all of that is to be found back in the transcripts of the shows, that you can find on my web site - easiest way to get there is to search the web for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman and it will show up first in the results. Of course there's all about today's show too, and you're gonna need the number of it - that is show number 252.

For now time's up, listeners, and I hope to see you again next time. Until then, and I'll be back with more great Rhythm & Blues, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!