Jazz Gillum Vol. 1 1936 – 1938
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Complete Recorded Works (3rd April 1936 to 25th January 1949)
Vol. 1: 3rd April 1936 to 16th December 1938
Featuring the recordings of:
Jazz Gillum, vocal / harmonica; Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; unknown, stand-up bass. Jazz Gillum (as Bill McKinley), vocal / harmonica; possibly Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; unknown, stand-up bass. Bill Gillum And His Jazz Boys: Jazz Gillum, vocal / harmonica (except on 9); Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; probably Blind John Davis, piano; unknown, drums. Jazz Gillum And His Jazz Boys: Jazz Gillum, vocal / harmonica; Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; George Barnes, electric-guitar; unknown, stand-up bass; probably Washboard Sam, washboard. Jazz Gillum, vocal / harmonica; Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; unknown, stand-up bass; probably Washboard Sam, washboard. Jazz Gillum, vocal / harmonica; probably Big Bill Broonzy, guitar; probably Joshua Altheimer, piano, prob. Ransom Knowling, stand-up bass.
Genres: Blues, Urban Blues, Early Chicago Blues, Mississippi Blues, Blues Guitar, Blues Harmonica, Blues Piano,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Like so many others living in the black ghettos of Chicago, Jazz Gillum had been born in the south; in Indianola, Mississippi, to be exact, on September 11th 1904. He was one of an indeterminate number of children born to Irving Gillum and Celia Buchanan. When both these parents died in his early childhood Bill, or Jazz as he was already nicknamed, along with his brothers fell under the control of their mother’s brother, the church deacon, Ed Buchanan. It was now that Gillum’s interest in music came to the fore and he taught himself to play the harmonium and badgered his brothers into teaching him the harmonica. However, either because of Buchanan’s religious convictions or naturally harsh nature life under this new regime was pretty unbearable and Jazz was only seven when he followed the example of his brothers and ran away to join relatives in Charleston, Mississippi. By the time he was eleven or twelve Gillum ran away again to work as a field hand in Minter City, Mississippi. In 1918 he got himself a job in a drug store in Greenwood, Mississippi. All this time he had continued with his music and had progressed to working the streets to supplement his income. Finally, in 1923, he followed the developing black drift and moved north to Chicago. In the Windy City Gillum kept up his casual involvement in music and gradually became a part of the local scene. Eventually he started working in clubs where his ability as a singer brought him somewhat to the fore. Through this work he came into contact with many other musicians, one of whom was the hustling Big Bill Broonzy. It may have been through this connection that Jazz Gillum made his first appearance in a Bluebird recording studio in June, 1934. Working with Big Bill and a pianist who was probably Black Bob he produced an instrumental Harmonica Stomp and sung Early In The Morning. These tracks were released as the two sides of BB B5565 (Document DOCD-5574) Jazz Gillum was still in the company of Big Bill Broonzy when he returned to the studio and this disc opens with the four recordings he made for Bluebird in April 1936. Their first number, in praise of Gillum’s “cross-eyed consumptive Sara Jane” is also well known in the white rural tradition of the period and illustrates just how well Gillum and Broonzy worked together. In June of that year Gillum followed a practice common at the time and “moonlighted”, recording for another company under an assumed name. In this case he became Bill McKinley for ARC but either because he was badly treated at ARC or because Victor reminded him of his contractual obligations, he had returned to the fold by October of 1938. Jazz or Bill Gillum’s Jazz Boys appeared at this time spreading their existence over some ten titles. Initially they were just Big Bill’s guitar and Blind John Davis‘ piano augmented by an unknown drummer but on the second of the two dates utilising the name Washboard Sam took over as percussionist and extra sophistication was introduced with George Barnes‘ electric guitar.Keith Briggs Copyright 1993: Document Records.