Chicago Blues Piano
Complete Recorded Works of Eddie Miller, John Oscar, George Noble (1929 1936)
Featuring the recordings of:
John Oscar, vocal; accompanied possibly by own or probably Eddie Miller, piano. John Oscar, vocal; accompanied possibly by Cow Cow Davenport or prob. Eddie Miller, piano. Eddie Miller, vocal / piano. John Oscar, vocal; accompanied by Eddie Miller, piano. John Oscar (as Big Oscar), vocal; accompanied by unknown, piano. Eddie Morgan (probably Eddie Miller), vocal; possibly Willie B. James or probably Big Bill Broonzy, guitar. Eddie Miller, vocal / piano. Willie Mae: Billie McKenzie, vocal; accompanied by Eddie Miller, piano. George Noble, vocal / piano.
Genres: Blues, Urban Blues, Early Chicago Blues, Blues Piano, Female Blues,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Many artists who recorded for the Race Catalogues are little more than names on record labels about whom almost nothing is known beyond what can be deduced from the records. These pianists, recorded in Chicago, are an example. JOHN OSCAR remains entirely obscure, despite these six recordings. It was once thought that he might be only a vocalist and Eddie Miller was named as pianist on some of his records. File data on an unissued piano solo from his second session established that he was a pianist, though unfortunately this solo has not been found. The TC- matrix reveals that his first recording started life as a trial. It seems to have been common practice at Brunswick, if the artist was judged acceptable, simply to issue the “demo disc” as the first release. Mama Don’t Allow No Easy Riders Here is curiously reminiscent of Jelly Roll Morton in its vocal approach. When he returned to the studio the following year, his piano was more “blue” and less “barrelhouse” but so was the subject matter. Whoopee Mama Blues is particularly notable for its more sorrowful than angry account of a woman who “turned out to be a whoopee-making fool”. Discographers have wondered whether the Big Oscar coupling is by John Oscar, aurally this seems certain. EDDIE MILLER‘S stylistic affinities, his statement in School Day Blues that he is “on my way back to Missouri,” and the choice of Miller to accompany the St. Louis based singer Charlie McFadden (BDCD-6041), all suggest that he may have come from St. Louis originally. The line in Freight Train Blues; “Catch a Market, catch a Market, transfer to a Broadway car,” doubtless has a geographic reference and it could be to St. Louis, but many other American cities must have had intersecting Market and Broadway street-car lines. Miller’s first release, Good Jelly Blues and Freight Train Blues on Brunswick 7133, was featured in Brunswick’s advertisement in the Chicago Defender of 1 March 1930. All three 1929 recordings have a weary sadness which inspires sympathy in the listener. The 1936 recordings are more upbeat, the jaunty atmosphere of Muddy Water at times weirdly at variance with the lyrics. The refrain, “I’d rather drink muddy water and sleep out in a hollow log”, was already widely disseminated. (Others have heard this as “sleep right in a hollow log”, but I believe “out” is what is sung, both by Miller and by Willie Mae the following month.) Despite the composed feel of the song, there are many differences between the takes. In Miller’s song, “whoopee” signifies the woman herself and the desire for her, rather than her own behaviour as it does in John Oscar‘s song. Willie or Billie Mae McKenzie made a number of records with other accompanists around this time. Proponents of the “everybody is everybody else” school of discography which is enjoying a vogue at present have recently proposed that EDDIE MORGAN is a pseudonym for Eddie Miller. Their speculations are sometimes correct and perhaps they are here, though it is less than clear why Miller should have needed a pseudonym. This reissue will at least enable many more listeners to have an opinion. GEORGE NOBLE drew his material from a notably wide range of sources. New Milk Cow Blues and Sissy Man Blues come from Kokomo Arnold‘s repertoire; On My Death Bed borrows the tune of Sittin’ On Top Of The World. Bed Springs Blues comes from Jimmie Gordon, and Dozing Blues is a curious (and presumably accidental) retitling of The Dirty Dozens after Speckled Red. He makes them all his own. Musically, his masterpiece is If You Lose Your Good Gal, but T. B. Blues (from New Orleans Willie Jackson) is perhaps his most powerful performance.
Howard Rye Copyright 1993: Document Records.