The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 86

Houston, TX

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's musical journey brings us to Texas - to Houston to be more precise. Just recently I got myself a 4 CD set titled Houston Might Be Heaven - and judging to the music on it, Houston was heaven. Maybe not so hip as Los Angeles or Chicago was in the late forties, but there was a lively music scene in Houston's third ward - traditionally the city's African American neighbourhood. Now many Houston musicians eventually ended up on the West Coast seeking for more succes - and today we'll see many of them. Like Peppermint Harris - whose real name was Harrison Nelson. He was nicknamed Peppermint, but it was the owner of the legendary Sittin In With label who accidently took his first name for his last and billed his recordings on the label as Peppermint Harris. As this label gave him his first national hit, Raining In My Heart, the name stuck. Here is the flip of that song - My Blues Have Rolled Away.

01 - Peppermint Harris - My Blues Have Rolled Away
02 - Blip Thompkins - Got A Feelin' You're Foolin'

Also on that CD box Houston Might Be Heaven - the obscure trombonist Willie "Blip" Thompkins with Got A Feelin' You're Foolin'.

Next Joe Houston who was only a temporary resident of Houston. Coming from Austin, TX he'd toured all of the midwest before he got a recording contract with Freedom records - the local Houston label. From that label listen to Your Little Girl Is Gone.

03 - Joe Houston - Your Little Girl Is Gone
04 - Lavada Durst - I Cried


05 - Conrad Johnson - Fisherman's Blues
06 - Willie Holiday - I've Played This Town

Well that were a few real Texan obscurities. On the Peacock label that was Willie Holiday backed up by trumpeter Eric Van Schlitz and his Big Six with I Played This Town. Then a then-celebrated musician "Prof" Conrad Johnson with the Fisherman's Blues. Johnson was an educated musician who, apart from performing in jazz and blues, taught music at Booker T. Washington and Kashmere high schools where he set up one of the best stage bands of the nation, and wrote a lot of music, for instance several titles for the Freedom label.

And then before the jingle you got Lavada Durst, also known as Doctor Hepcat, a name he adopted as a deejay on Austin's KVET where he presented a jazz program that he commented in jive slang. From him you heard I cried.

Next local club owner Carl Campbell on the Freedom label with Ooh Wee Baby.

07 - Carl Campbell - Oo Wee Baby
08 - Clarence Garlow - She's So Fine

On another - and much unknown - local Houston label, Macy's, Clarence Garlow with She's so fine, recorded in December of 1949 and released early in the following year. Macy's was started in December of 1949 by Macy and Charles Henry, and they lasted until June of '51 with a total of 18 releases in Rhythm & Blues and 53 in Country music. The best three of their R&B roster - Smokey Hogg, Lester Williams and Clarence Garlow - all headed for California and that meant the end of this little label. This Clarence Garlow single was on number 5001, that is their second release in their R&B series.

And from Macy's we go to another Houston label, Freedom, and Lonnie Lyons with the Flychick Bounce - apparently inspired by Joe Turner's style.

09 - Lonnie Lyons Combo - Fly Chick Bounce
10 - Robert Smith - Freeway Blues

On the rare Independent label the Freeway Blues and I wonder whether there have been more releases on this label. This was labeled 301 and most record labels use a prefix number, either indicating a series or just meaningless and the number after that is their sequence, in this case it's likely to be their first release. I found several e-bay entries for this Freeway 301 but nothing on subsequent numbers.

Robert Smith's name comes up in an interview with Grady Gaines, as a member of his band the Real Thing. They were one of these many bands playing the local clubs in Houston. Gaines later made fame as a session musician for Peacock records and as member of the backing band of Little Richard - the Upsetters. When Little Richard chose to quit music for the ministry, the Texas Upsetters stayed together for another fifteen years as a backing band for many artists including Sam Cooke, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Jackie Wilson and I found a picture of a very seventies-looking album of this band, that also features this Robert Smith that I played.

Next Joe "Papoose" Fritz who won't ring a bell for many people either, but he's a noted saxophonist and singer in the Houston scene who did record several sides for the Modern, Peacock and Sittin' In With labels. From him, on the Peacock label, Real Fine Girl.

11 - Joe 'Papoose' Fritz - Real Fine Girl
12 - Lonnie Lyons - Down In The Groovy

Lonnie Lyons again on piano and vocal with Down in the Groovy and that was on the Freedom label. After his military service he recorded for the Houston based labels Gold Star and Freedom and the short bio that I found on him in the book Blues - A Regional Experience, he died in 1953 at the young age of 26 years in Houston's veterans hospital - the bio doesn't tell the cause of his untimely death.

Next Little Willie Littlefield, another Texas born musicians who at the age of sixteen already made fame in the clubs on Houston's Dowling Street and by then he also recorded on the local Eddie's label - the label of record shop owner Eddie Henry. Later he switched to the West Coast label Modern label - but he stayed in Houston until the late fifties when he moved to San Francisco. In the sixties his luck in America was over and he tried it in Europe - and that's how he landed in my little country - Holland - where he died in 2013.

The next song probably was recorded for Eddie's label. Here is the Boogie Woogie Playgirl

13 - Little Willie Littlefield - Boogie Woogie Playgirl
14 - Big Mama Thornton - Bad Luck Got My Man

Big Mama Thornton with Bad Luck Got My Man. Alabama-born Willie Mae Thornton got in Houston in 1948 and soon she was a popular singer in town where she stayed for her most succesful years that included her ground-breaking hit Hound Dog. The recording was done in 1951 for the small Houston indie label E&W, a little step-out under the name of the Harlem Stars, because by then she was under contract with the Peacock label.

Next Violet Hall accompanied by a combo billed as the Rhythm Kings, and that group included a few noted names of the Houston scene - Goree Carter on guitar and Ed Wiley on sax. This recording was from 1950 done in Houston for the Mercury label. Listen to the Six Foot Papa.

15 - Violet Hall - Six Foot Papa
16 - Clarence Samuels - Hey Joe

Hey Joe - that was Clarence Samuels on the Freedom label and other than most of the musicians that I featured on this episode of the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman, this man wasn't really a steady in the Houston scene - he had wandered all over the country and he had recording dates in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans and later in New York and Nashville. Neither was he a Texas man - he came from Baton Rouge, LA.

Now the compilers of that 4-CD album Houston Might Be Heaven, that I feature today on this show, they made a great album but they also omitted some obvious musicians that should be - I think - on a compilation like this. Why was this Clarence Samuels included and Joe Turner not - who done some of his best sides for the Freedom label. And why nothing of Goree Carter - Houston native and one of the more important and influential forerunners of Rock 'n Roll? Well - choosing means omitting, and the editors apparently chose to dedicate a full disc to Peppermint Harris and another one to Smokey Hogg, and two other discs to others who'd recorded in Houston. What made them decide whom to include and whom to leave out - I don't know and I don't even have a guess.

Still the set is great and I can definitely recommend it to you.

Well there's time for a few more so next you'll get Willie Johnson with Got The Boogie Woogie Blues.

17 - Willie Johnson - Got The Boogie Woogie Blues
18 - Bill Hayes - My Baby Loves Me So

And Bill Hayes closes today's show with My Baby Loves Me So. Hayes recorded for the Sittin' In With label - a New York label but they've recorded quite a few Houston artists including Smokey Hogg and Peppermint Harris.

I hope you liked today's selection, that I made from a 4-CD box titled Houston Might Be Heaven on the JSP label and for me it was a great addition to my CD collection and I can recommend it to anyone who loves Rhythm & Blues - probalby you or otherwise you wouldn't have come here to the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman.

You can leave suggestions, comments, questions and anyhting else you'd like to share with me, at my e-mail address and I guarantee I'll write you back with I hope the answer to your question or whatever you sent me. And if you want to review today's playlist or see what's on next week - just go to my website. A google search for the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman is the easiest way to get there. As for now, have a great and rocking day. I hope to see you next time, here on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!