Memphis Blues Vol 2 1927-1938
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– This Download Album includes illustrated booklet notes & detailed discography.
The Memphis Blues
Complete Recorded Works Vol. 2: (1927-1928)
Featuring the recordings of
Ollie Rupert, vocal; unknown, jew’s harp; possibly Will Weldon, possibly Will Shade, guitar; unknown, speech on 2. Walter Rhodes, vocal /vocal effects on 3 / accordion; “Pet” and “Can” (Maylon and Richard Harney), guitar / speech. Pearl Dickson, vocal: accompanied by “Pet” and “Can” (Maylon and Richard Harney), guitar duet. Madelyn James, vocal; accompanied by Judson Brown, piano; unknown, guitar added on 7 unknown jug added on 7. Charlie “Bozo” Nickerson, vocal / piano; Charlie “Bozo” Nickerson, vocal: accompanied by; Judson Brown, piano. Sam Townsend, vocal / guitar. Hattie Hart, vocal; accompanied by; Allen Shaw, vocal / guitar on 17; prob. Willie Borum, vocal / guitar on 17. Hattie Hart, vocal; accompanied by; Allen Shaw, guitar; prob. Willie Borum, guitar. George Torey, vocal / guitar. John Henry Barbee, vocal / guitar; Willie Bee James, guitar; unknown, Stand-up Bass.
Genres: Country Blues, Memphis Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Country Blues Piano, Female Blues, National Guitar
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. When ‘race’ recordings really took off, in the 1920’s, a whole underworld of blues activity was discovered to be in existence in the city, centred on the ‘black’ thoroughfare of Beale Street. A prime mover on this varied scene was Will Shade who, apart from being a core member of the Memphis Jug Band, seemed to have his finger in all sorts of musical pies. Once the Memphis Jug Band commenced recording he seems to have functioned as a sort of unofficial talent spotter for Victor and he may just possibly have been involved in getting some of the obscure performers heard on this disc into the studio. Certainly the best-known performer here, at least as far as the European audience goes, is John Henry Barbee. Although his pre-war recording career was limited to the five tracks appearing on this disc at the very end of his life he toured the UK and the continent as part of Lippmann and Rau’s American Folk Blues Festival. The strong voiced Hattie Hart was an associate of the Memphis Jug Band, with whom she had recorded in 1929/30. By the time she cut records under her own name in 1934 she was a well-known figure on the Memphis scene. She may have been the Hattie Bolton who recorded in Chicago in 1938. Otherwise all that is known about her is that she left Memphis for good in 1946. Also a possible associate of Will Shade was the pianist Charlie ‘Bozo’ Nickerson who two cut tracks accompanying himself in Memphis in February1930. These seem to have impressed the recording company enough for them to invite him up to Chicago a couple of months later, where he made three abortive attempts to produce further parts of What’s The Matter Now on his own before he finally achieved the objective supported by the piano of Judson Brown. (Parts Three and Four of this epic can be found on Document DOCD 6045 Piano Discoveries.) Judson Brown also worked with Madelyn James – and that is about all that is known about this obscure lady. Another shadowy figure is Pearl Dickson. Speculation has been made that she was related in some way to the hardly less enigmatic Tom Dickson but nothing concrete has been discovered. However, she was a fine singer and received sterling support from Richard ‘Hacksaw’ Harney and his brother Maylon recording as ‘Pet and Can‘. More exotic, if possibly less musical, instruments are to be found behind Ollie Rupert and Walter Rhodes. Rupert, who was probably another associate of Will Shade, employed a Jew’s harp to give an oddly ‘white’ edge to the backing on her two 1927 sides. Rhodes favoured the accordion, ‘windjammer’ or ‘squeezebox’ an instrument rare in blues even though it was employed to good effect by Leadbelly. When researching his book, Memphis Blues, Bengt Olsson was informed that Rhodes had died in the forties after being struck by lightning! Neither George Torey nor Sam Townsend actually recorded in Memphis; Torey cutting in Birmingham, Alabama, and Townsend in Atlanta, Georgia. Both men remain biographical blanks. The specific invocation of Lilly Kimball, hardly a common name in black circles, gives the impression that the song named for her was a reflection of Townsend’s feelings for a real person. The artists appearing in this collection may not be the ones that spring to mind first when the Memphis Blues are mentioned, but listening to this album underlines the fact that, especially in the blues, the ability of a performer is not necessarily indicated by a long discography.
Peter Cooney Copyright 1993: Document Records