The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 262

Decca 7000 series

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

And today brings us to the years 1934 and '35, the first year of operation of the Decca label, and its 7000 Race series that put them on the map as a major competitor for Vocalion and Bluebird. I spell out the catalog of the early days and I start where I left you last time, that is, nearly three months ago when I did the previous show on this 7000 series.

So starting with number 7018 in the catalog, here is Tee McDonald with the Beef Man Blues.

7018 - Tee McDonald - Beef Man Blues
7019 - Memphis Minnie - Banana Man Blues

Memphis Minnie was that together with her husband Kansas Joe McCoy with the Banana Man Blues. It was their last session before they divorced in '35 - most assume that Joe McCoy did not like her to be much more succesful than he was. She'd been recording with him since '29 when a talent scout of Columbia found them busking Beale Street in Memphis. It was at Columbia where she was dubbed Memphis Minnie - her name was Lizzie Douglas - and Wilbur McCoy got the name of Kansas Joe - though he'd never seen that state.

And the next release of Decca is for Jimmie Gordon - from the same Chicago circle of blues musicians as McCoy. There's little known about this pianist apart from his recording career - where he worked with Buster Bennett, Papa Charlie McCoy, Joe McCoy, Scrapper Blackwell and Zutty Singleton.

After Gordon's last session in '46, for J. Mayo Williams' independent record company but released on the Queen label, he disappeared off the radar - we don't know where he went and when he died.

Here he is with the Yo Yo Mama Blues.

7020 - Jimmie Gordon - Yo Yo Mama Blues
7021 - Bumble Bee Slim - Cruel Hearted Woman Blues


7022 - Brownsville Son Bonds - All Night Long
7023 - Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie - Give it to me in my hand

A whole lotta music - after Jimmie Gordon came a double-sider of Bumble Bee Slim, the Cruel Hearted Woman Blues, on Decca number 7021 and it's the 7000 series of Decca that I spotlight today, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman. Bumble Bee Slim's real name was Admiral Amos Easton - born in Georgia and in '28 he took the train North, to Indianapolis where he met Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr.

The three later moved to Chicago, one of the centers of the recording industy, and he recorded for Paramount and Vocalion. From '34 he switched between Decca, Bluebird and Vocalion and done more than 150 sides. It's from these years that we have his legacy of recordings - in 37 he went back to Georgia, and later he tried his luck in Los Angeles aspiring for a movie career - with no success. Later recordings for fifties and early sixties albums went unnoticed.

Then after the jingle, that harmonica blues was All Night Long of Brownsville Son Bonds. Bronwsville was the birthplace of Abraham John Bond Jr. - he took the stage name of Son Bonds. The harmonica is done by Hammie Nixon - one of his regular musical friends.

Then finally another one of Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy - you heard Give it to me in my hand.

The next one is the flip of a classic that I played more than once here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - the hokum blues Rubbin' On The Darn Old Thing of Lovin' Sam Theard. That was the first version, his re-recording in 1936 made more impact. But as I said, I done that one more than once, so I'll play the other side this time.

Here is Lovin' Sam Theard with That Rhythm Gal

7025 - Lovin' Sam Theard - That Rhythm Gal
7026 - Kokomo Arnold - Old Original Kokomo Blues

The song that gave Kokomo Arnold his nickname - the Old Original Kokomo Blues, originally a blues of Scrapper Blackwell that was about the city of Kokomo, IN. Arnold originally had come to Chicago to run a liquor bootlegging business but after the end of Prohibition in '33, he had to take up music for a living. It was Kansas Joe McCoy who introduced him to J. Mayo Williams, the Decca executive responsible for the 7000 Race series that I spotlight today.

Now - I mentioned that name before today, J. Mayo Williams. Williams had extensive experience in the recording business up to 1931 when the industry collapsed due to the harsh economic circumstances, In '34 the American branch of Decca was started by Jack Kapp, and he hired Williams to head the department for blues records. Williams had a knack for getting everyone to sign for him - but most musicians seem to have been working on a pay-per-session base rather than an exclusive contract. Many of the Decca stars also recorded for Columbia's subsidiary Vocalion or RCA Victor's subsidiary Bluebird, both with the freelance A&R man and producer Lester Melrose.

Now Melrose held the biggest market share for Chicago blues - but then, Williams shared his interest and presence between Chicago and New York, and so he got a good amount of artists in both cities. Together they covered the complete Chicago blues scene - from the mid-thirties there were no other competitors in the market.

Next a piano solo of Charlie Segar - advertized on the label as the Keyboard Wizard Supreme. He made just eight recordings for Decca and Vocalion - among that the classic Key to the Highway that later was done by Jazz Gillum.

But here he is with that piano solo titled Southern Hospitality.

7027 - Charlie Segar - Southern Hospitality
7028 - Alice Moore - Riverside Blues

The Riverside Blues of Alice Moore - and she got a very own, haunting style and her typical, nearly unreal voice very much adds to that - just like this fiddler. In other blues, she used accordions and trombones to achieve a very unusual and eerie effect. Her Black and Evil blues - probably her most famous - it's a real dark and depressing blues on how African-Americans automatically are being associated with evil. It's got three recorded versions by her - one is the flip of this record.

Apart from the years when she recorded there's little known about her. She was part of the St. Louis blues scene and in a long-term relationship, but not married, to Peetie Wheatstraw. After her last recordings in '37 she disappeared off the radar.

Next the obscure combination of John Oscar and the band of Bank Chesterfield - now those are names that don't bring up extensive biographies when you search them on Google. They were one a Document CD titled Swinging The Blues - re-issued from Decca number 7029. John Oscar's name pops up as the probable leader of the Chicago Swingers, a combination that included Odell Rand on the clarinet, of later fame in the Harlem Hamfats, and likely Kokomo Arnold on guitar, and they were backing a few songs of Sam Theard in '36.

On this one, pianist Oscar leaves the 88s for a friend - you hear him say Play it boy, play it, swing it Albert Ammons, swing it boy.

So here are these John Oscar and this band of Bank Chesterfield that apparently included Albert Ammons, with You Can't Last Long Like That.

7029 - John Oscar & Bank Chesterfield - You Can't Last Long Like That
7030 - Barrelhouse Buck McFarland - Mean To Mean

St. Louis pianist and blues singer Barrelhouse Buck McFarland was that, with a newfound style of a growling voice that well matches the anonymous fiddler that's not just on this record, but on quite a few more that I played, an as anonymous clarinettist and Peetie Wheatstraw on guitar.

And the next one, and we're talking number 7031 of the catalog then, is one more of Bumble Bee Slim. Here is Ain't It A Crying Shame.

7031 - Bumble Bee Slim - Ain't It A Crying Shame
7032 - Lee Green - Doctorin' Fool Blues

The Doctoring Fool Blues of pianist Leothus Green and that was Decca number 7032. Green also went by the nickname of Pork Chops. He was a main influence to Roosevelt Sykes, the two met in 1925 in Helena, AK and decided to tour together, where Sykes learned to play the blues from Green.

Green first recorded for the Gennett and Supertone in 1929, and a few sides for Vocalion and after '34 he signed with Decca where he done 14 sides. After a session for the Bluebird label, he fell out of the music scene and little is known of him, apart from that he probably died in or around 1945.

We got time for one more - so that will be Decca number 7035 and that is the obscure Johnnie Strauss with the Old Market Street Blues.

7035 - Johnnie Strauss - Old Market Street Blues

The Old Market Street Blues - you heard Johnnie Strauss and he done one session for Decca that made it to two releases. And with that this show comes to an end - in a future episode I'll continue my specials on the Decca Race series. There's enough to fill dozens of shows, in fact, in the last five years I already dedicated sixteen shows on the label, four for the Sepia series and twelve on the 7000 series. I hope you like these Decca specials, well of course you can let me know - feedback is greatly appreciated. The address is

And on my web site you can read all of todays's story again or take a sneak peek on what'll be on for next week. Easiest way to get there is to type Legends of the Rocking Dutchman in Google or your favorite search engine, and it'll show up first. Once in, this was show number 262 in the episodes list.

For now I'm done so I hope to see you again, next time on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!