J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith (The Howling Wolf) – Complete Issued Titles (1930-1931)
J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith (The Holing Wolf) vocal, guitar.
With contributions by: Magnolia Harris, vocal duet; accompanied Howling Smith (J.T. Smith), guitar.
Dessa Foster, Howling Smith, vocal duet; accompanied Howling Smith (J.T. Smith), guitar.
Genres: Texas Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Teddy Doering.
There are quite a few blues singers/guitarists from Texas who made records in the late 1920s and in the 1930s. What is it that makes “Funny Paper” Smith rank among the outstanding blues artists of his time? In my opinion, it is not so much his singing, nor his guitar playing. His guitar was often out of tune, and most of the time he accompanied his singing with simple chords. The one thing, however, that was his trademark and in which he was superior to most other blues singers, were his lyrics. We must consider him one of the great “blues poets” (men like Lightnin’ Hopkins or Sonny Boy Williamson II [Rice Miller] also come to mind). Most of Smith’s songs consist of absolutely original lyrics that had never been recorded by any other blues singer. Smith was so full of ideas that he had to pack his verse in the two sides of a record. He just couldn’t confine himself to the three-minute-limitation of a 78 record.
So his Howling Wolf Blues, his greatest success, had two parts, and a later continuation also appeared on either side of a record. The same thing happened to his Seven Sisters Blues, as well as to some of his duo recordings with Magnolia Harris or Dessa Foster respectively. Funny Paper Smith’s master piece, however, is Fool’s Blues. At the start, he states in a seemingly naive way: “You know, I’m a single-handed-fool. An’ gettin’ old, too. Well, they say, God takes care of ol’ folks an’ fools, and I guess he will Here I am.” And one might add: “And now let’s see if this is true.” In the following stanzas he tries to find out what a shape he is in and then asks: “God, when I was born, wonder was there any mo’ mercy left.” Later on, he remarks: “Look like I’m laid off and cryin’ both day an’ night / Everybody talks about me an’ nobody don’t treat me right.” Then he turns bitter: “This musta been the devil I’m servin’, it can’t be Jesus Christ / ‘Cause I asked him to save me and look like he try in’ to take my life.” In the last stanza he describes the state of his health: “I got TBs, ill teeth, I got third degrees and Boll’s disease /My health is gone now, left me with the sickness blues”, and then he comes to the conclusion: “People, it don’t seem like(ly) to me that God takes care of ol’ folks and fools.” A true masterpiece, indeed.