Roosevelt Sykes – Complete Recorded Works 1929 -1957 Vol 1 (1929-1930)
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The Complete Recorded Works (14 June 1929 15 December 1944)
Vol. 1: 14th June 1929 1st June 1930
Featuring the recordings of:
Roosevelt Sykes, vocal, piano; Oscar Carter (Clifford Gibson), guitar on 2,3, 4,5, / vocal on 5. Roosevelt Sykes (as by Dobby Bragg), vocal, piano; probably Edith Johnson, speech on 9. Mae Belle Miller (probably. Bessie Mae Smith “St. Louis” Bessie”), vocal; accompanied by Roosevelt Sykes, piano. Roosevelt Sykes, vocal, piano; Harry Johnson (possibly Henry Townsend), guitar added on 19, 20, 21; Stump Johnson, speech added on 18. Bee Turner, vocal, accompanied probably by Oliver Cobb, cornet; Roosevelt Sykes, piano.
Genres: Blues, Arkansas Blues, Chicago Blues, Blues Piano, Boogie Woogie, Blues Guitar, Country Blues Guitar, Female Blues, 12-String Guitar,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Roosevelt Sykes had begun playing the organ as a small child, and was a piano player by his teens, learning from men like Jesse Bell and Baby Sneed. Working in Helena and West Helena as a dishwasher, then as a waiter, Sykes graduated to the piano stool at local gambling joints’. It was at this time that he met Leothus “Lee” Green. Sykes always credited Green with moving his playing from jazz towards blues. From Green, he learned the 44 Blues that Green himself had acquired from Little Brother Montgomery, and it was Sykes who was to make the first recording of the theme in 1929′. That event happened after Sykes had moved back to St. Louis, where the lively nightlife provided more work for a young man now confident enough to be a full time piano player; he approached Jesse Johnson, a music shop owner and Okeh’s race talent scout in St. Louis, and shortly Roosevelt Sykes, aged 23, was making his debut on disc in New York’. On most titles at this session, he was accompanied by Clifford Gibson, one of St. Louis’ most accomplished guitarists; probably Okeh were looking for a team to rival the success of Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell at Vocalion. (Gibson, who was under contract to QRS, concealed his identity behind the pseudonym of Oscar Carter.) It’s clear from these first titles that Sykes was a mature artist; his tumultuous version of Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie apart, he was a little more reticent than he later became, but he was already featuring his characteristic unsyncopated, four to the bar bass, his rhythmically complex right hand, and singing that ran ahead of the beat. (Also in evidence early was a talent for interesting sexual metaphor, as on Henry Ford Blues.) Before 1929 was over, Sykes had had two more sessions’ In September, he cut for Paramount, accompanying Jesse Johnson‘s wife Edith, who gave him his nickname, “The Honeydripper“, and making three excellent titles on his own account. These were issued as by Dobby Bragg; always well aware of contractual obligations, Sykes was never too concerned about fulfilling them if another company wanted his services. He took care to hide his identity though; in this case, “Bragg” was his mother’s maiden name, and “Dobby” a childhood nickname’. Returning to Okeh in November, Sykes cut a fine selection of titles, dealing mostly with low down themes, including floods, poverty and homelessness. He was accompanied on three numbers by Jesse Johnson’s brother Harry, a rather pedestrian guitarist. (Edith Johnson and yet another Johnson brother, James, nicknamed “Stump”, were also present at this date.) “Skeet And Garrett” is a brand of snuff, and Ten And Four Blues refers to craps; Bury That Thing, with its impish reference to Jesse Johnson, is one of Sykes’ many sexual metaphors, managing to be at once obscure and explicit’. As 1929 ended, the future was looking good for Roosevelt Sykes; recording artist.Chris Smith Copyright Document Records 1992.