The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 270

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.

And welcome back, my dear listeners, welcome back for a wonderful mix of jazz, blues and rhythm & blues from the years that no-one could ever think something like rock 'n roll would change America forever - and the musicians had no idea that they were brewing the ingredients of all of the music that came after them - for many, many decades to come, many decades from then, but still for many decades from now. Race music, as it was called back then, later got known as Rhythm & Blues but it was made by, and made for African Americans in a strictly segregated society, where the white public were mostly oblivious of their music.

Even artists that got mainstream recognition still started for the African American audience. That for sure applied to Louis Armstrong. By 1926, when this was taken, his recordings were on the Okeh label that by then had specialized on race music. Nowadays, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five recordings are appreciated as the best of jazz, but then they were released in between gospel, blues and simple goodtime jazz. But his talents are to be heard, like on this one. Listen to Jazz Lips.

01 - Louis Armstrong - Jazz Lips
02 - Duke Ellington - Song Of The Cotton Field

Porter Grainger's Song Of The Cotton Field and that was Duke Ellington on the Vocalion label from 1927. Like Louis Armstrong, in the twenties Duke Ellington had his followers and record buyers mainly with African-Americans, but then soon he was to perform at the strictly segregated Cotton Club - his stint with that famous or infamous venue started in December of 1927. And he must have been some sensation with his expressive jungle music, with the raw and dirty sounds of the trumpet of Bubber Miley and Tricky Sam Nanton.

To me, Duke Ellington's combo, and especially in its early days, it has been the best jazz band ever. Never I heard such an amount of the most imaginative, innovative and expressive tunes as on the Complete Jazz series that's been compiled on the Duke. Compositions like the Mooche, the East St. Louis Toodle-oo, the Black and Tan Fantasy, Doin' the Voom Voom and the Black Beauty - I can play them over and over again, and they never lose their appeal.

Now his most famous numbers, he recorded them numerous times for different record labels, and just comparing the versions of the is great, but on any of them the trumpeters do their most weird sounds. Ellington's style was unlike any other's and his music is easy to recognize. Ellington is often mentioned as America's greatest composer, and Wikipedia says he transformed jazz into an art form. Now I doubt that was the Duke's intention, and especially not for the jazz snobs - in the twenties and thirties jazz was made for entertainment rather than art with a capital A. Jazz was wild and exciting and that's how I think it should be, but just today I had a discussion with someone who preferred what he himself described as elevator jazz. Let's say - each to his own.

The next one definitely is not elevator jazz - but great fun music. Goodtime roaring twenties music and also, the very first issue of Brunswick's 7000 Race series. Here is the Cushion Foot Stomp of Clarence Williams.

03 - Clarence Williams - Cushion Foot Stomp
04 - Lonnie Johnson - Tin Can Alley Blues


05 - Blues Birdhead - Mean Low Blues
06 - Punch Miller - Somebody Stole My Gal

From 1930, Somebody Stole My Gal - that was Punch Miller on vocals, with the band of Francois Moseley - billed as Frankie Franko and his Louisianans. It was his only issued recording. The flip of this record on the Melotone label was the Golden Lily Blues, named after the Golden Lily Chinese Restaurant and Tavern on 55th and Garfield in Chicago and Moseley had a long time stint there. Now I wouldn't mind a good 30s jazz band spice up my General Tsao's Chicken and fried rice but I'm afraid they don't have that anymore. 1930 for sure was a hard time to live but hey, if you could afford a Chinese dinner with live music - the depression hadn't hit that hard on you yet.

I'll play you that Golden Lily Blues some other time. The track got a succesful re-release in 1950 on Biltmore, a bootleg re-issue label that brought tracks that were out of print for a long time.

You got more - that were four in a row. Before that goodtime depression goodie, you got from '29 on the Okeh label, the Mean Low Blues of Blues Birdhead, a rare harmonica jazz recording and his style is closer to the trumpeting of Louis Armstrong than to the blues harpists. James Simons as his real name was, also worked under the name of Harmonica Tim, and you may wonder why this man wasn't recorded more.

And then I have to account for that blues before the jingle - that was the Tin Can Alley Blues of Lonnie Johnson. It was also on Okeh and recorded in 1927.

Next the bluesman with the odd name of Funny Paper Smith - a mistake of the Vocalion label, as one of J. T. Smith's nicknames was Funny Papa. He also recorded as the Howling Wolf, of course someone else as the Chicago bluesman. Smith got this name after the Howling Wolf Blues that he recorded in 1930. He recorded in 1930 and '31, and again in '35, and in the meanwhile he served some time in a Texas prison convicted of killing a man in a fight in a gambling den. After he toured in '39 with Texas Alexander, he disappeared off the radar.

From his sessions with Vocalion in '31, here is his Whiskey head Blues.

07 - J.T. 'Funny Paper' Smith - Whiskey head Blues
08 - Buddy Moss - Hard Road Blues

On Vocalion and several of the ARC labels that was the Hard Road Blues of Buddy Moss. Now Buddy Moss only recorded from 1933 to '35 when he was tremendously popular, and he made ten dollars per recorded song - unheard of these days. But in '35 he was convicted of murdering his own wife. When he got released on parole, the interest for his acoustic blues were gone and initially he was not rediscovered with the blues revival of the sixties until 1964, when he visited his old friend Josh White in a blues concert in his hometown Atlanta. He made some more records in these years, but most of them remained unissued until after his death in '84.

Buddy Moss is one of the greats of the blues, comparable to Blind Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller, but far less known, probably for his short recording career and - as is mostly said - due to his difficult personality.

The next is a blues of Johnnie Temple, a Chicago bluesman originally from Jackson MS, and part of the circle of bluesmen around Joe McCoy. When Decca started its Race series in 1934, producer J. Mayo Williams soon had contracted all of these musicians. Many of the recordings of Temple were backed by the Harlem Hamfats but this one just has a pianist and the guitar of Temple.

Here he is with the East St. Louis Blues.

09 - Johnnie Temple - East St. Louis Blues
10 - Walter Davis - Doctor Blues

From '39 that was the Doctor Blues of Walter Davis on the Bluebird label. Davis was a St. Louis based bluesman, with a thundering piano style, and well, he done some 150 sides for the labels of ARC and Victor and he was quite succesful in his days. His recordings though are not very special. He worked in music until the early fifties when a stroke hit him.

More piano blues with Cripple Clarence Lofton and he got his name for walking with a limp but he wasn't that cripple - he started his career as a tap dancer and on stage he gave an energetic performance. By the time he recorded this, in December of '43 for the Session label he lived in Chicago.

That Session label was the initiative of jazz affectionados Phil Featheringill and David W. Bell and it ran out of the Session record shop - specialized in old hot jazz records. Some of the Session issues were re-issues of old jazz records by Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver, but they also released new material. They had a marathon session on piano blues in December of 1943 and a second wave of recordings in February of '44 with jazz combos.

This is from that December '43 session. Here is Cripple Clarence Lofton with the Policy Blues.

11 - Cripple Clarence Lofton - Policy Blues
12 - Pete Brown - Midnight Blues

Saxophonist Pete Brown with a 1945 recording on the Savoy label - that was the Midnight blues. Brown had been working as a sideman in many bands and orchestras, including Clarence Williams and Jimmie Gordon's Vip Vop Band and from '39 he led his own combos in various line-ups, including Sammy Price and Dizzy Gillespie. Later Brown began to suffer from diabetes and had to cut on his full-time work as a sideman, but he continued to gig and record until 1960.

Next a saxophonist from Count Basie's band, Buddy Tate, but during that time he also recorded under his own name and with the octet of Karl George. Here he is in a 1945 recording, Two Left Feet.

13 - Buddy Tate - Two Left Feet
14 - Lightnin' Hopkins - Honey Babe

The distinctive guitar picking of Lightnin' Hopkins with a recording for Aladdin that didn't make it to a release then. Sam Hopkins was brought to Los Angeles to record for Aladdin by their talent scout Lola Ann Cullum - she saw him with his cousin Texas Alexander when he played the joints of Dowling Street in Houston.

There are different accounts on how she brought him to Los Angeles and what he was paid. Now Hopkins used to exaggerate these stories to the max, telling he was paid a thousand dollars up front - now that is pretty unlikely. Another story retold by someone who was just a child when he heard it from Hopkins' mother, mentions just fifty dollars. For not getting in trouble Hopkins had to take the back seat, and Lola Ann Cullum bought him a new outfit, as he was dressed in ragged workers clothes.

Anyhow the Aladdin releases put him on the map as one of the greatest of Texas country blues, and a great player on the electrical guitar. Once back in Houston, he recorded for many labels and always demanded being paid up front, and categorically refused to do a second take on a song. It very much defines his style, unpolished and improvised, and he rather is a story teller than a sleek performer - but it's just right that he made it to Rolling Stone's top 100 guitar players, be it that I would have valued him higher than just the 71st place.

It's quite a contrast with the next one - a lot of sax honking, trumpet screeching and piano pounding in this instrumental of Jack McVea. On the Black & White label, here is the Frantic Boogie.

15 - Jack McVea - Frantic Boogie

And that was it for today, folks, the Frantic Boogie of Jack McVea is the last one for this show. Time flies when you're listening good music, and so the hour went by as fast as it began.

I hope you liked today's selection made up of the best of blues, goodtime jazz and Rhythm & Blues from the decades when times were hard and the music was your only consolation. Well you can tell me if you liked it, or comment on the stories that came with it, simply drop me an e-mail. Feedback is greatly appreciated. The address is

And to find out all about this show, you can get to the website, and easiest way to get there is to search Google for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman and it will show up first. Once in, this was show number 270 in that long list of episodes that I done until now.

For now I'm done. Don't get the blues cause I'll meet you again in a week, with more of the best music ever made, here, on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!