Mae Glover – Complete Recorded Works (1927 – 1931)
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Mae Glover (May Armstrong / Side Wheel Duffie)
Complete Recorded Works (1927 1931)
Featuring the recordings of:
May Armstrong (probably May Glover), vocal; accompanied by unknown, violin on 1, 2; unknown, mandolin on 3, 4, 5; possibly Lonnie Johnson, piano; unknown, guitar on 3, 4, 5. Side Wheel Sally Duffie (possibly Mae Glover), vocal; accompanied by Will Ezell, piano. Mae Glover, vocal / yodelling on 12; accompanied John Byrd, guitar / vocal on 14 / speech on 11, 13. Mae Glover, vocal; accompanied James Parker, trumpet on 15, 17, 18, 19, 20 / vocal on 16; Charles O’Neil, piano.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Urban Blues, Female Blues, Blue Violin, Country Blues Guitar, Blues Guitar, 12-string Guitar, Blues Piano,
Abridged from this album’s original booklet notes. Mae Glover was probably one of many professional or semi-professional female singers working the tent shows and vaudeville stages in the 1920s. In order to survive, these entertainers had to be versatile, as they might perform for a rural audience one week and a more sophisticated city crowd the next. Like most of these singers, Glover was reliant upon outside musicians for her backing, and the availability of good accompanists was not guaranteed. In John Byrd she found an ideal partner. Byrd was from rural Jefferson County in south Mississippi and was known to have performed on occasion with Tommy Johnson in Jackson, an active musical centre in the state. He reportedly moved from town to town playing for the sawmill workers in that vicinity (Blues Unlimited No. 142, Summer 1982 interviews with Ishmon Bracey and Johnny Temple). Although Dixon and Godrich (Blues & Gospel Records 1902-1943) are reluctant to identify Walter Taylor as Washboard Walter, John Byrd is listed as having recorded with both entities and an association with Taylor’s small string band from Louisville, Kentucky is probable. As “Walter And Byrd” they recorded a tribute to Blind Lemon Jefferson: Wasn’t It Sad About Lemon for Paramount (Document DOCD-5641 Rare Country Blues Vol 2 1929 1943). Byrd’s only issued solo efforts were the intriguing blues ballads Billy Goat Blues and Old Timbrook Blues (DOCD-5641) which suggest he was a songster from the pre- blues generation. When he recorded his duets with Mae Glover in July 1929 Byrd also cut two religious titles for Gennett which were credited to Rev. George Jones And Congregation (DOCD-5641). It is possible that the Sister Jones appearing on this record is Mae Glover, and this speculation coupled with the genuine rapport on their duets is fuel for a theory that their relationship was more than professional. Byrd’s powerful twelve string guitar playing (an uncommon choice of instrument for a Mississippian) and Glover’s strong vocals appear to be overloading the recording microphone, creating a hot signal on the verge of distortion on the duet titles. All four are outstanding, but of particular interest are the blue yodel Pigmeat Mama, which attests to the enormous popularity of country star Jimmie Rodgers among both white and black audiences, and Gas Man Blues, a hilarious battle of the sexes loaded with double-entendre in the vaudeville style popularized on records by Butterbeans and Susie. It is most unfortunate that Glover didn’t have more inspired accompaniment for her session in February 1931. Pianist Charles O’Neil and trumpet player James Parker never rise above mere competence, and Parker’s lacklustre singing on the vocal duet Grasshopper Papa spoils a potentially good number. Glover’s version of “Forty-Four Blues” is, as Paul Oliver points out in Screening The Blues, the first recording of that theme by a woman and is related to the versions by Lee Green. The last verse: “I got the blues, will last me nine months from today” (presumably a reference to pregnancy) supports Oliver’s theory that “Fourty-Four” (at least the Lee Green version) was originally sung by a woman and that Glover’s version is closer to the original form. It’s just a pity that a pianist the calibre of Roosevelt Sykes or Little Brother Montgomery wasn’t present to help Glover out on her version. Whether May Armstrong and Side Wheel Sally Duffie were pseudonyms for May Glover is a question open for discussion. They were both strong vocalists in the raw and rugged Ma Rainey fashion and Duffie had the benefit of solid piano backing from Will Ezell, a Paramount scout and recording artist who had recently supplied sympathetic accompaniment at sessions with Ora Brown, Lucille Bogan, Elzadie Robinson, and Bertha Henderson. Whatever their true identities may have been, Armstrong and Duffie were fine vocalists and this is a welcomed opportunity to hear their impossibly rare discs.Ken Romanowksi June 1993 Copyright 1993: Document Records