Arizona Dranes – Complete Recorded Works (1926-1929)
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Complete Recorded Works (1926 1929)
Featuring the recordings of:
Arizona Dranes, vocal / piano; with Sara Martin, Richard M. Jones, vocal added on 3, 4. Arizona Dranes, piano solo. Arizona Dranes, vocal / piano; with Rev. F. W. McGee and Jubilee Singers. Arizona Dranes And Choir: Arizona Dranes, vocal / piano; possibly Coley Jones, mandolin on 11, 12, 13, 14; several female vocal. Texas Jubilee Singers; Vocal group; accompanied probably. Arizona Dranes, vocal / piano. Rev. Joe Lenley, sermons with singing; accompanied possibly Arizona Dranes, vocal / piano on 20. Southern Sanctified Singers (poss. a Rev. D. C. Rice group); Vocal group; accompanied unknown, trumpet; unknown, trombone on 21; unknown, piano; unknown, guitar; unknown, drums.
Genres, Gospel, Texas Gospel, Gospel Piano, Female Gospel, Mandolin, Sanctified Singers, Piano Solo
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Arizona Dranes was born in Dallas, probably between 1904 and 1906 and is thought to have been of black and Mexican lineage. She was blind from birth and learned the piano in her early teens, playing for religious meetings in the vicinity of Dallas / Fort Worth, where her abilities made her a favourite with the local Church of God in Christ. Reverend Samuel Crouch of Forth Worth recommended her to the Okeh Phonograph Corporation, and after Okeh sent their talent scout, Richard M. Jones to Texas in early 1926 to audition her, she was invited to Chicago for a recording session. Arrangements were made for blues singer Sara Martin to meet Dranes in Fort Worth and accompany her to the Okeh studio in Chicago. Upon arrival Dranes signed a basic contract which gave her twenty-five dollars per issued side and 25% of royalties collected on any of her compositions recorded by other artists. Her first session on June 17, 1926 had a rather formal character, as if Okeh was conducting a series of demonstration recordings and auditioning other facets of Dranes’ capabilities. (Indeed, Malcolm Shaw, who is the source of the majority of the biographical information, presented here, states that these were “a batch of test recordings” that serendipitously turned out well enough to be issued. The six titles were recorded in stylistic pairs: vocal/piano, vocal / piano with Sara Martin and Richard M. Jones added on vocal choruses, and sanctified piano solos. It’s All Right Now had its source in sheet music subtitled “(Jerry McCauleys dying words)” copyrighted in 1909 by Benjamin Franklin Butts (reproduced in Paul Oliver‘s Songsters & Saints). The titles with Martin and Jones are patently theatrical, and instead of capturing the fire of a holiness group, they magnify Dranes’ precise diction and formal performance qualities, giving these songs an almost vaudevillian redolence. The two piano solos are variations on the popular sanctified melody On A Hill Lone And Grey (compare Elder Curry‘s Memphis Flu, Document BDCD-6035; and Rev. F. W. McGee‘s With His Stripes We Are Healed and The Resurrection Of Jesus, Document BDCD-6031), and are rare examples of an unaccompanied Texas barrelhouse piano style that appears to have survived intact in the sanctuary of the holiness churches. At her second Okeh session in November 1926 Arizona Dranes was accompanied by Rev. F. W. McGee and his Jubilee Singers. On these sides it is obvious that her real strength was in the context of a group, particularly on Lamb’s Blood Has Washed Me Clean with its sanguine imagery and I’m Glad My Lord Saved Me where Dranes sparks a sanctified conflagration between herself and the singers. During 1927 Dranes was apparently involved with other performers in the Church of God in Christ, including singer Jessie Mae Hill (for whom she probably provided piano accompaniment on a May 5 recording session), and Rev, McGee (whose first session under his own name for Okeh was arranged by Dranes, who also accompanied on piano on May 6). It was more than a year until she returned for a session of her own, this time with a “Choir” and an unknown mandolin player who may have been Coley Jones. These are all fine performances with the odd, 3/4 time He Is My Story a standout. Late in 1928 she may have accompanied the Texas Jubilee Singers on the two titles they cut in Dallas, and one year later at the same location she was possibly the pianist/vocalist with Rev. Joe Lenley. Coley Jones was present in the studio on both occasions which lends support to their alleged connection. She still corresponded with Okeh for a short while, but never recorded again. It would seem she returned to the network of sanctified churches where a number of later gospel celebrities recalled her impact. Alex Bradford remembered her performing in Bessemer, Alabama at the “America Back To God Day” presented at the local white ball park, Legion Field: “And there was Arizona Dranes, the blind Sanctified lady. She’d sing ‘Thy Servant’s Prayer’ and crackers and niggers be shouting everywhere.” Rosetta Tharpe heard her sing “The Storm Is Passing Over” in St. Louis and writer Anthony Heilbut mentions her “impeccable, almost affected” diction and her huge influence on younger singers like Madame Ernestine B. Washington and Goldia Haynes (The Gospel Sound). Ray Funk, in the liner notes to Columbia Legacy CK 46779 mentions a last intriguing item: an August 1947 advertisement for a gospel concert with “an all-star program, the greatest ever presented in Cleveland” including “Nat’l known Blind Pianist Arizona Dranes” from “Chicago, Illinois.” For all we know, she may still be in a storefront church somewhere, fanning the flames of a sanctified fire.Ken Romanowski Copyright 1993 Document Records.