Arthur Big Boy Crudup Vol. 1 1941 – 1946
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Arthur Big Boy Crudup
Complete Recorded Works 1941 1954
Vol. 1: 11th September 1941 to 6th September 1946
Featuring the recordings of:
Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, vocal / guitar ; Joe McCoy, imitation bass. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, vocal / guitar; Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, vocal / guitar; Melvin Draper, drums. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, vocal / guitar; Charles Saunders, drums. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, vocal / guitar; Jump Jackson, drums. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, vocal / guitar; Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass; Judge Riley, drums.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Mississippi Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Urban Blues, Early Chicago Blues, Blues Guitar,
Abridged from this album’s original booklet notes. In the late 1930s the blues record market had become increasingly dominated by the Chicago-based groups, fronted by popular artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Jazz Gillum and Washboard Sam. The surprise success of Tommy McClennan in 1940 with out-and-out Mississippi country blues like Bottle Up And Go and Shake ‘Em On Down encouraged Bluebird to record other down-home artists. McClennan sound-a-like Robert Petway, a fine artist in his own right, recorded for them in March, 1941 and scored a hit with a version of the traditional Catfish Blues. In July of that year Robert Jr. Lockwood recorded four vocal / guitar masterpieces with just string bass support. In September Bluebird recorded Arthur Crudup for the first time and immediately struck gold.
Crudup went on to record some 80 titles for Bluebird and its parent company Victor, over a period of a dozen years. Playing acoustic guitar for the only time on record (he switched to an electric instrument for his second and subsequent sessions) and accompanied by Joe McCoy on imitation string bass, Crudup delivered 4 powerful vocals. His first recording, Black Pony Blues, became a staple in his repertoire under the tide Coal Black Mare. Its direct antecedent was Big Bill Broonzy‘s 1936 recording Black Mare Blues. Death Valley Blues was a sombre piece (“I went down in Death Valley, nothing but tombstones and dry bones”) which Sleepy John Estes recorded twenty years later. Lonnie Johnson had, of course, recorded his own Death Valley piece back in 1930. Kind Lover is Arthur’s equivalent of Robert Johnson‘s Kind Hearted Woman. If I Get Lucky, sung in a high, keening voice, is almost a field holler with accompaniment and it harks back to Arthur’s rural roots. He was born in 1905 in Mississippi, Growing up in farm country. Arthur knew hard labour at an early age received the nickname “Big Boy“. Crudup did not take up the guitar until he was over thirty. By then he had moved to the Delta, living in towns like Belzoni and Clarksdale, and developed an interest in the blues as a possible alternative to the unremitting toil of working on the plantations. He headed north to Chicago arriving there about 1939 with a basic knowledge of the guitar, a striking voice and the ability to compose his own songs, but very little money in his pocket. He lived under an abandoned packing crate and played on the streets for tips, avoiding the beat police as best he could. Later he got to know Big Bill Broonzy and other recording artists and Lester Melrose was sufficiently impressed with his singing and song-writing to arrange a session with Bluebird. He did not stay in Chicago all the time, preferring to return to Mississippi after recording dates to work and support his family. Arthur did relatively little club work in Chicago and blues certainly didn’t do a lot for him financially. Big Boy Crudup‘s second session, in April 1942, featured a regular string bass to strengthen the rhythm. Standing At My Window is an atmospheric blues. Gonna Follow My Baby is the first version of a classic Crudup composition later recorded as Greyhound Bus (Station). Give Me A 32-20 was a big seller, America having recently entered World War 2. A decade later, at the time of the Korean War, B.B. King recorded it for R.I.M. as Questionnaire Blues. Crudup’s final verse mixes patriotism and cynicism.
Mmm, ‘hero’ is all I crave, Now when I’m dead and gone, write ‘hero’ on my grave.
Mama Don’t Allow Me, also a favourite of Big Joe Williams and Bukka White, harks back to a traditional blues theme, first crystallized on record by Sleepy John Estes (as Drop Down Mama). Arthur’s railroad blues Mean Old Frisco became a standard, later recorded by artists like Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry and reworked by Arthur himself as Mean Old Sante Fe. The excellent Raised To My Hand is a Big Boy Crudup original about the “Southern-raised woman” who goes wild (or slips her leash?) when she gets to Chicago. The Petrillo recording ban and shellac rationing meant that despite his popularity with record buyers, Crudup had to wait nearly three years for his next recording session. Ten days before Christmas, 1944, Big Boy Crudup entered the Bluebird studios and cut one of his finest blues, Cool Disposition. On the up-tempo Who’s Been Foolin’ You, also a favourite of Big Bill Broonzy and Sleepy John Estes, the extra “thrust” of the drummer (preferred to a bass player) gives it a proto-R & B feel. Although Rock Me Mama was one of Arthur’s biggest records and he claimed authorship of the song, it is closely based on Big Bill Broonzy‘s 1940 recording Rocking Chair Blues (Okeh 06116). Bill recorded a powerful version (as Rock Me Baby) with drummer Kansas Fields in Paris in 1956 and in the early ’60s B.B. King had considerable success with his recording of it (Kent 393). Keep Your Arms Around Me was one of a number of songs credited to Crudup and “St. Louis Music Corp.” in the Rhythm and Blues booklet published by BMI in 1968 (Joe Hill Louis recorded a much changed version of it, but with recognizable Crudup-like guitar, for House of Sound). Crudup was also philosophic about life, as he sang in That’s Your Red Wagon;What’s the use of me worryin’, life and death is only a dream (x2), Now if you don’t want me, baby, some other woman [will] care for me. Bob Groom Copyright 1993: Document Records.