Big Joe Williams Vol 2 1945 – 1949
Big Joe Williams; vocal, Nine-string guitar, bottleneck guitar.
Includes; Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson, harmonica; Chasey Jones, vocal, washboard; Ransom Knowling, bass; Judge Riley, drums and others…
Genre: Mississippi Country Blues
Informative booklet notes by Bob Groom.
Big Joe Williams was born in, most likely in October, 1903. Joe’s first recordings were made for Bluebird in February 1935 and in October of that year he recorded with two other musicians, Chasey Collins from Alabama probably played the washboard, while an old timer from Memphis, “Dad” Tracey, played the one string-fiddle. In addition to four Joe Williams vocals, Chasey Jones sang two excellent blues; Walking Blues is unrelated to the Son House / Robert Johnson blues but has verses used earlier by Kokomo Arnold and later by Tommy McClennan (“You Can Mistreat Me Here”). Joe later adopted the piece as “Walk On Little Girl”, Atlanta Town is a vocal tour-de-force, with wild accompaniment, which makes one wish that Collins had recorded more.
Joe’s ten year association with the Bluebird label (see Document BDCD-6003) ended in 1945. A final session in July, again with Sonny Boy on harmonica, produced only four sides and Bluebird chose to issue only two of them, a revamped Somebody’s Been Borryin’ That Stuff and Vitamin A, which became a staple in Joe’s extensive repertoire. Drop Down Blues is the progenitor of a piece that later became known as “Overhaul You Machine”, rather than a version of the Sleepy John Estes Song. Wanita concerns a wrong-doing girl friend, later recorded for Trumpet, Delmark and others as “Juanita”. Fine Sonny Boy harmonica, while Jump Jackson’s drums give these tracks a more “citified” sound. Around this time Joe had a recording issued on a small independent label, Chicago (presumably named after the city in which it briefly operated: His Spirit Lives On. The recording was coupled with another tribute, Good Mr Roosevelt, by harmonica player James McCain.
Two years elapsed before Joe was in the recording studio again, this time to cut a dozen titles for the major Columbia label. Sonny Boy Williamson played harmonica on both sessions and Chicago stalwarts Ransom Knowling (string bass) and Judge Riley (drums) provided a heavy backbeat to create a more “urban, post-war sound. At the first session, Jo revived some of his best pieces. Baby Please Don’t Go featuring high register harmonica, is a strong version of his theme song (the closely related Don’t You Leave Me Here was recorded at the second session) while Stack Of Dollars was the old Estes / Rachell song he had recorded ten years earlier for Bluebird. At the same session he had first cut Wild Cow Moan. Mellow Apples, similar to Yank Rachell’s “Peach Tree Blues, is reminiscent of a John Estes performance and it is interesting to hear Sonny Boy playing just like Hammie Nixon in support.
An old Charley Patton railroad special Pea Vine Blues opened the longer second session, with Joe at his exuberant best and Sonny Boy playing his heart out. Bad And Weak-Hearted Blues, left unissued by Columbia, utilises verses from Sonny Boy’s “Million Years Blues” and “Mattie Mae Blues” (both recorded in 1941). King Biscuit, a thunderous stomp is Joe’s version of the theme tune of the Interstate Grocery Co. programme on radio station KFFA broadcasting out of Helena, Arkansas, created by its featured blues artist, Rice Miller, alias Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2. Highway Man reworks Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” but Williams has forged a new song in the tradition of recomposition. Charley Patton’s Banty Rooster Blues is given a rowdy treatment, quite different in conception from the original. Mean Stepfather is somewhat less impassioned than the 1935 7 1960 recordings of this very personal blues. House Lady Blues, which is reminiscent of “Pokino Blues” by Teddy Darby, rocks along with the help of Walter Roland and Jabo Williams.
A single 1949 recording for the small Nashville-based Bullet label coupled Jiving Woman, later to be known as “Arkansas Woman”, and Married Woman, set to the “Boots And Shoes” tune. For the first time on record, Joe’s guitar is noticeably amplified. Three years were to elapse before he was to record again, this time for the Trumpet label in Jackson Mississippi. His last recording for a black record buying market would be for Vee-Jay in 1956.