The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 274

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 it's time again for your weekly amount of the best of blues, old-time jazz and Rhythm & Blues from the roaring twenties to the rocking fifties, when times where hard and the music was great.

And I start way back in 1923 with blues singer Callie Vassar. She'd been the star of many vaudeville and minstrel shows in the 1910s, and by the time the first blues were published as sheet music and recorded, she did four songs for the Gennett label. With Richard M. Jones on the piano, here she is with the Original Stomps.

01 - Callie Vassar - Original Stomps
02 - Ed Bell - Leaving Train Blues

The Leaving Train Blues of Alabama born Ed Bell billed as Sluefoot Joe on the QRS label and this was from 1929. Ed Bell first recorded for Paramount in 1927, and his debut Mamlish Blues left many wondering what mamlish means. The consensus now is, that it could be replaced by any intensifier, such as doggone or words that I'm not allowed to say on a decent radio show like this.

As Sluefoot Joe he laid down eight sides for the QRS label and he recorded for Columbia as Barefoot Bill from Alabama. Later he quit the blues to become a baptist preacher. He died in the sixties, and sources don't agree whether it was of natural causes, murder, probably for his involvement with the Civil Rights movement, or even black magic.

Next Charlie Patton, one of the great Delta bluesmen. Patton was born somewhere around 1890 and he was taken care of by Henderson Chatmon, the father of the brothers in the Mississippi Sheiks - Bo Carter and Lonnie and Sam Chatmon. Patton developed his style after he moved to Mississippi in 1897. Unlike most bluesmen who wandered and performed where they went, the well-educated Patton performed on a schedule. He was popular in the South, but he also performed in Chicago, and in 1934, in New York. Patton died in that same year from a heart condition.

From 1930 on the Paramount label, you get him with the Moon Going Down.

03 - Charley Patton - Moon Going Down
04 - Cora Garner - Wouldn't Stop Doing It


04 - Big Bill Broonzy - Mr. Conductor Man
06 - Bo Carter - Don't Mash My Digger So Deep

That was a whole lotta blues - you got four in a row. After Charley Patton, that was Wouldn't Stop Doin' It of Cora Garner with Clarence Williams on the 88s - recorded in 1932 for Columbia.

Then came the jingle and Big Bill Broonzy on the label billed as Big Bill Johnson with Mr. Conductor Man, and that got releases on several ARC labels. Broonzy moved to Chicago in 1920 after having served in Europe in the Great War, and in '27 he made his first recordings for Paramount - after Papa Charlie Jackson introduced him to J. Mayo Williams - by then he headed the Race department of the label. The Paramount records didn't go anywhere commercially - and in 1930 he switched to Lester Melrose. Melrose he teamed him up with Georgia Tom and Mozelle Alderson for a succesful party record, the Alabama Scratch. The goodie I played from him was from his next session. By then, he was popular in the clubs on the South Side of Chicago.

And then finally that was Bo Carter with one of the dirty blues he was famous for - this Don't Mash My Digger So Deep well fits in a line of songs like Please Warm My Wiener, Pin In Your Cushion and Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me. But he also wrote and sang the first recording of the standard Corrine Corrina - a song covered many times in all kinds of musical styles.

And for the next one we jump into the swing era with one of the greatest big bands of all times. Here is from 1941 on the Okeh label, the band of Count Basie, fronted by 'Mr. Five By Five' Jimmy Rushing, with the Harvard Blues.

07 - Count Basie - Harvard Blues
08 - Buddy Johnson - In there

Buddy Johnson was that with a great instrumental from 1941 titled In There - released on Decca's Sepia series. Johnson had moved to New York just three years before and he assembled a nine-piece band, and his sister Ella joined in '39. He soon was billed as the King of the Savoy Ballroom and his choice for the blues rather than the bebop made that he helped developing the jump blues style.

Johnson stayed with Decca, where he started, until 1952, switching to Mercury. And while big bands were out of fashion for a long time and from the mid-fifties most Rhythm & Blues acts fell out of favor, Johnson managed to remain popular until the late fifties with music that still didn't sound outdated.

Next from 1941 on the Columbia label the combo of Benny Goodman with, of course, the genius on the electrical guitar, Charlie Christian. As soon as he had joined Goodman's sextet, his popuarity soared and so did the combo's. But Christian did more than swing - he was often seen in Minton's Playhouse where he pioneered in jam sessions with a style that later got the name Bebop. But by the time it took off, Charlie Christian had died of tuberculosis. He'd been diagnosed with the disease in the late thirties, and he kept a hectic lifestyle - playing with Benny Goodman's band and late night jam sessions in Harlem venues.

Here is on the Columbia label from 1941, the Airmail Special, also known as Good Enough To Keep.

09 - Benny Goodman - Airmail Special
10 - Erskine Butterfield - J.P. Dooley III

J.P. Dooley III - a recording that Erskine Butterfield made in 1941 for radio broadcast and in 1983 it was released on record. This is one of the few recordings he made that he didn't write himself. Erskine recorded with Decca where his releases got on the popular and Sepia series, and with Joe Davis where he cut eight titles as Erskine Butterfield and his Blue Boys.

After the war, Erskine's light style got out of demand and apart from a few recordings for small groups, little was heard of him until he re-united with Joe Davis in 1956.

Next on the Bluebird label Kansas Joe McCoy, the former husband of Memphis Minnie. In 1942, a heart condition kept him out of the military and he formed a band named Big Joe and his Rhythm. From this outfit, here is the Got To Go Blues.

11 - Big Joe McCoy & his Rhythm - Got To Go Blues
12 - Erroll Garner - Twistin' The Cat's Tail

On the Imperial label, recorded in 1945 that was Twistin' The Cat's Tail. It was released in 1950. Don't know what that voice is at the end. I found numerous compilations and albums that included this piano instrumental but they all have it so I suppose it's little mistake on the original recording.

Garner was a child prodigy - as a young kid he could play complete pieces he'd heard once. He never lost that ability, and probably for that, he never needed to read music - or as he would say, No-one can hear you read.

Next, also from 1945, the band of Tab Smith with a prominent role for the bassman, Joe Brown. Now Tab Smith is best known for his fifties recordings with the United label - most of his records there pair a ballad with an uptempo jump number. In the mid-forties he chose the new jump style instead of bebop, Rhythm & Blues rather than the more adventurous jazz styles. This Riffin' The Bass is a typical example, still rooted in the swing era.

On the New York based Hub label, here is Tab Smith.

13 - Tab Smith - Riffin' The Bass
14 - Jack McVea - Two Timin' Baby Boogie

From 1947 that was saxophonist Jack McVea and his band with the Two Timing Baby Boogie. It's got Rabon Tarrant on vocals.

McVea's father was a banjoist and band leader, and the young Jack soon also played the instrument. At age twelve, he played along with his father in his band, the second bamjo. When the saxophonist of the band died, the alto was left behind in McVea's house and that's how he learned to play the sax. In 1932 he joined the band of Dootsie Williams as a tenor man and played in the prestigious Club Alabam on Los Angeles Central Avenue, and in 1940 the band of Lionel Hampton.

In '43 he formed a small combo for his own modeled after Louis Jordan's band, and went to play jump blues in San Francisco - with little competition. In '45 a session for the Hollywood based Melodisc followed and a few sessions for the Black & White label, including his famous adaptation of the comedy routine Open The Door Richard. This was after, so on the label the band was credited as Jack McVea and his Door Openers.

And the next one comes from 1949 on the Decca label. Here is Fat Man Robinson with My Bucket's Got A Hole In It.

15 - Fat Man Robinson - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It
16 - Jimmy Liggins - Brown Skin Baby
17 - Big Mama Thornton - They Call Me Big Mama

Barely two minutes of rocking blues - that was from 1953 Big Mama Thornton with They Call Me Big Mama and she was backed by the band of Kansas City Bill on this release on the Peacock label. Before that the Brownskin Baby of Jimmy Liggins - indeed the brother of - and that went on the Specialty label in 1952. And so again we end in '53 where we started in '23 - three full decades of great music and well you can hear how much changed.

I try to educate you listeners, with the history of African-American music before the Rock 'n Roll era in all of its aspects - be it country blues, hot jazz, all the roots of Rock 'n Roll and all of our modern popular music. I hope you appreciate the music and the stories that come with it, so if you dug this show, let me know - the address is

And all of what I told you today, it's on the website of the show where you can read it again in case you missed something - easiest way to get there is to search Google for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman, and it will show up first. Once in, look for episode number 274 in that sheer endless list of episodes I done up to now.

Well for now I'm done. There's more to come next week. Until then, there's more at this radio station to listen to, and I hope to see you again, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!