DOCD-5047 Barbecue Bob CRW Vol 2 1928-1929
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Barbecue Bob (Robert Hicks)
Complete Recorded Works 25 March 1927 – 1 December 1930
Vol 2: 25th April 1928 to 3rd November 1929
Featuring the recordings of:
Barbecue Bob (Robert Hicks), vocal / guitar. Nellie Florence, vocal; accompanied by Barbecue Bob, guitar / laughing / speech.
Genres: Blues, Atlanta Blues, Georgia Blues, Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, 12-string Guitar, Female Blues, Hokum
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. By the time he recorded Mississippi Low-Levee Blues, Barbecue Bob was a star on race records; one proof is simply that he produced a sequel to his hit of the previous year. Another is that he is careful to refer to himself as “Barbecue Bob“, the name by which the public knew him, rather than as “Robert Hicks“, as he’d done on Mississippi High Water Blues. At the end of this April 1928 session, Columbia recorded the sexually aggressive singer Nellie Florence, a childhood friend of the Hicks brothers, with Bob playing guitar and, it’s said, Laughing Charlie doing the hooting, extrovert cackle – though it sounds very unlike his mirthless, stagey trademark as heard on records. On Jacksonville Blues, Florence was singing a song credited to “Williams”, who was Spencer Williams, at that time an employee of Joe Davis. In October 1928, Bob himself was to record two more Spencer Williams compositions, Cold Wave Blues and Bad Time Blues and Black Skunk Blues was another. Meat Man Pete had been recorded by Monette Moore as far back as 1924. Evidently, writing sequel songs wasn’t the only way Bob’s music was affected by the manipulations of the music industry. One wonders, incidentally, about the identity of “Carter”, credited with the erotically urgent Ease It To Me Blues, copyrighted by Clarence Williams. He probably wasn’t Bo, who hadn’t recorded at this date, and he seems unlikely to have been George Carter, who recorded in a similar style to Bob, but was unremembered in Atlanta. Dollar Down Blues is almost a documentary account of the perils of easy credit; Freeze To Me Mama is a love song for grownups; and Trouble Done Bore Me Down belies its title with its witty observations:
“You got a large family, you don’t need no more, The doc drop by, you get four or five more”.
As well as these blues, and others like the fierce California Blues, and Yo Yo Blues, which was based on Curley Weaver‘s No No Blues, by April 1929 Bob was adding a new style of music, one that took account of the craze for the sexually allusive hokum blues that had been sparked off by Tampa Red & Georgia Tom with It’s Tight Like That, recorded in September 1928. Whether this was his own idea, or done with record company encouragement, we can’t know for certain; probably both factors were at work. It Just Won’t Hay takes close notice of It’s Tight Like That, but it’s still unmistakably Bob; even more so is Honey Your (sic) Going Too Fast. Who else would come up with
“The gals up north, speedin’ like cars, Gals in Atlanta don’t wear no shoes,”
instantly confirming by indirection that the flat chested look of the 20s had gone out of fashion? As if to confirm that he was the master of new music crazes, not their servant, on Red Hot Mama – Papa’s Going To Cool You Off, he takes crazy liberties with the structure of this nominally 16 bar – but try to count them – song. By the end of 1929, the greatest of the “panics” Spencer Williams had referred to in Bad Time Blues was under way. Nevertheless Columbia were to persist with recording Barbecue Bob, for he was a proven good seller in economically happier times, and his last recordings, made all through 1930, are to be heard on Document DOCD-5048.Chris Smith Copyright 1991 Document Records