Leroy Carr Vol. 1 (1928-1929)
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Complete Recorded Works (19 June 1928 – 25 February 1935)
Vol.1: 19 June 1928 to 19 March 1929
Featuring the recordings of:
Leroy Carr, vocal, piano; Scrapper Blackwell, guitar.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Country blues Guitar, Blues Piano, kazoo, Indianapolis, Tennessee
The little that is known of Leroy Carr‘s early life was garnered by Duncan Schiedt in the late fifties when he interviewed his sister, Eva Mae, and Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell. Carr was born in Nashville, Tennessee on March 27th 1905, the son of John Carr and his wife Katie Dozier. The family moved to Indianapolis when he was six and his sister recalled that when he was a young teenager a pianist came play at the Pot Roast club and Leroy copied what he’d heard being played at the club on her piano at home. By the time he was twenty he was a proficient singer-pianist. His early life is typically obscure but it is known that he joined a travelling circus and even served in the army at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Duncan Schiedt was shown a photograph in the possession of his sister of the young Carr in full army uniform holding his discharge papers. At some point a music store owner named Guernsey introduced him to guitarist Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell and they formed a piano and guitar duo. In June 1928 Vocalion sent a field unit to Indianapolis to record, probably, Blackwell who pointed them in the direction of Carr. On 28th June, at the age of 23, Leroy Carr, accompanied by Blackwell recorded My Own Lonesome Blues and How Long How Long which were released two months later on Vocalion 1191. How Long, How Long was the lead side and the record became an instant success. For a record to be successful back then probably meant sales were in the region of ten thousand copies. The tune was unforgettable as was Carr’s mournful vocal even though the lyric had its root in an Ida Cox song and the structure was that of Crow Jane. So popular did the song become that the pair were recalled to the Chicago studio the following month. On 20th July they cut three titles each, none of which saw release, and they returned the following month for another attempt. Of Carr’s eight titles all but two were released and those all maintained the plaintive, nostalgic air, of his first record. “My home ain’t here, it’s in dear old Tennessee”, he lamented in “Tennessee Blues” and to a train rhythm played with the left hand and assorted railroad imitations, Mean Old Train Blues, carried the “How Long” theme further,
“Number One’s at the Station, Number Two out on the road, I keep on wonderin’ where did my baby go”.
Twenty years later the song was successfully re-cut by Cecil Gant as Train Time. For You’ve Got To Reap What You Sow Carr and Blackwell adopted a new melody which prominently featured Scrapper’s guitar. This melody was used two years later by the Mississippi Sheiks for their recording Sittin’ On Top Of The World. That November / December saw a similar pattern of recording – one abortive session followed by a successful retry which included two remodeled versions of How Long. Over the next six years there were to be a further three variations on the How Long theme (which will be covered in future releases in this series). The December session produced Prison Bound, based on his experiences in the Indiana State Farm. In later years the song became synonymous with Josh White and much copied by Piedmont artists. The following February, Carr recorded eleven titles only three, however, saw commercial release one being his crooning rendition of Irving Berlin‘s popular song, How About Me?. Eight of the eleven were remade in March and one of the releases was the two part Straight Alky Blues. For a relatively young man Leroy Carr was an inveterate drinker and his observations on the effect of drinking neat alcohol are frighteningly well observed. His addiction to alcohol was eventually to end his life at the all too young age of thirty.Alan Balfour Copyright 1992: Document Records.