Big Bill Broonzy – Complete Recorded Works 1927 – 1947 Vol 8 (1938-39)
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Big Bill Broonzy
Complete Recorded Works (c. November 1927 – 15th September 1951)
Vol. 8: 15th September 1938 to 10th February 1939
Featuring the recordings of:
Big Bill And The Memphis Five: Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; accompanied by Walter Williams, trumpet; Buster Bennett, alto sax; Blind John Davis, piano; possibly Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Joshua Altheimer, piano; unknown, stand-up bass. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; accompanied probably Walter Williams, trumpet on 7; probably Buster Bennett, drums on 8; probably Horace Malcolm, piano; probably Fred Williams, drums on, 8. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal; accompanied by Joshua Altheimer, piano; unknown, guitar; Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Albert Ammons, piano; Walter Page, stand-up bass. Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Joshua Altheimer, piano; Fred Williams, drums. Big Bill And His Memphis Five: Big Bill Broonzy, vocal, guitar; Walter Williams, trumpet; Buster Bennett, alto sax; Blind John Davis, piano; probably Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass.Genres: Blues, Guitar Blues, Urban Blues, City Blues, Early Chicago Blues, City Blues, Arkansas Blues, Piano Blues,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. It was probably no accident that Big Bill Broonzy should follow his W. P. A. Rag with Going Back To Arkansas. In the depressed northern cities of 1938 life in the south could take on a golden glow of a nostalgia that ignored the facts of the case. The world of collard greens, ham hock and the benign “boss” that Broonzy evokes was just a myth and he had no plans for returning. Maybe Vocalion recognized this feeling as being a fanciful fabrication of the truth. Arkansas nor I Believe I’ll Go Back Home from this session were issued at the time. There was certainly nothing countrified about the treatment afforded last track cut by The Memphis Five at this time where the instrumental sound of Louise approaches swing – and I believe that Bill was bluffing when he threatened, on Trouble And Lying Woman, to “get me a sissy man and let all you women go”. Just over a month later Bill was back in the studio capitalizing on his hit Trucking Little Woman with a No. 2. At the same time he failed to make an acceptable cut of Flat Foot Susie. He tried again in October but the result had to wait almost ten years before it was released. 1938 was a seminal year for both Big Bill Broonzy and the blues generally. For the first time the music was brought to the notice of the white public at large. The story of John Hammond‘s search for Robert Johnson to represent the blues on his Spirituals To Swing concert of December 1938 is well known. That, in his failure to locate Johnson alive, he should turn to Big Bill seems an odd course today, the similarities between the intense Johnson and the laid-back Broonzy being marked. Maybe the choice was made on the strength of Bill’s earlier recordings and his proficiency on the guitar; maybe it was just a panic reaction to fill out the program. Whatever, Bill, playing with support from Albert Ammons and Walter Page, charmed his audience, as can be heard from their reaction to Done Got Wise, and, almost inadvertently, set ajar a door for the blues that was to open further after the war and finally swing wide in the 1960s. When, in February of 1939 he cut a session with his stalwarts Josh Altheimer and Fred Williams, he included Done Got Wise and a statement of his personal philosophy in Whiskey And Good Times – “and a woman will do the rest”. Also on the sheets was that rarity a “gospel blues” on which Bill warns that “you may be having a good time with other women, but you may go to hell that way” and then qualifies his advice with the coda “don’t do as I do – just do as I tell you to”. The ironic Just A Dream was to become one of Bill’s best known songs and later, during his concert hall period, he converted it into a mild protest song that went down well with his liberal white audience. Five days after he cut Just A Dream Bill re-convened The Memphis Five using a trumpet, alto and a string bass along with the piano of Blind John Davis to produce the last five recordings on this disc, including the Mother Fuyer variant Fightin’ Little Rooster which was issued under his own name’Keith Briggs Copyright 1993: Document Records.