Walter Roland – Complete Recorded Works Vol 1 (1933)
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Complete Recorded Works 17 July 1 933 – 20 March 1935
Vol. 1: 17 July 1 933 to 20 July 1933
Featuring the recordings of:
Walter Roland, vocal / piano on 1 / guitar on 2, 3. Walter Roland, vocal on 4 / guitar; Sonny Scott, vocal / guitar. Walter Roland, vocal / piano. Sonny Scott, vocal: accompanied by Walter Roland, piano. Walter Roland, vocal / piano; Sonny Scott, vocal or speech (except on 14 / probably percussion on 13); Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan), speech on 13. Jolly Two: Walter Roland, Sonny Scott, guitar duet. Walter Roland, vocal; accompanied by own piano on 18, 19 / own guitar on 17; Sonny Scott, vocal on 17 / vocal or speech on 19 / guitar on 17. Walter Roland, vocal; accompanied by own piano on 20, 21 / own guitar on 22, 23; Sonny Scott, guitar on 22, 23 / vocal or speech on 21 / probably percussion on 21, Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan), speech on 21.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Alabama Blues, Blues Piano, Blues Guitar, Country Blues Guitar, Guitar Duet, Hokum, Piano Solo, Boogie Woogie
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Mississippi, Texas, Georgia; all names redolent with the best of Southern blues, but Alabama? Surely the “Cinderella” state of the blues. Not that it hasn’t produced its share of outstanding blues artists but never a record industry giant; a Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins or B. B. King. Powerful performers like William Harris and George “Bullet” Williams remain virtual biographical blanks. What then of Alabama Sam, who made his first recording way up in the Big Apple on 17 July, 1933? We know little more about him, even though he made some 56 recordings between 1933 and 1935, mostly under what is presumed to have been his real name, Walter Roland, plus fifty-eight as accompanist to Bessie Jackson, alias Lucille Bogan, one of the toughest female blues singers on record, 16 accompanying Josh White and several with guitarist Sonny Scott, including the classic No Good Biddie. (Intriguingly Roland is dubbed “Walter Scott” on the label of one “Bessie Jackson” record, suggesting a relationship with Sonny, if it’s not just record company confusion.) From his association with Bogan and the influence of pianist Jabo Williams we know that Roland hailed from Birmingham, but his birthplace was, apparently, Tuscaloosa, 40 miles to the south-west in the “Black Belt” of Alabama. Like many pre-war blues artists, Walter Roland‘s first recording was his biggest, an early protest song Red Cross Blues, later recorded by artists as diverse as Leadbelly, Sonny Boy Williamson (as Welfare Store Blues) and Forest City Joe. The next master was “Red Cross” No. 2, his record company (A R C.) presumably anticipating big sales on No. 1 had him record a follow-up in advance! Bogan did her Red Cross Man at the same session, with quite different lyrics. The melody (and in Red Cross Man the repeated line “baby don’t you want to go”) link both songs with Kokomo Blues, yet to be recorded by Kokomo Arnold but already on record by Madlyn Davis, Scrapper Blackwell, Walter Fennell and Jabo Williams, the powerful pianist from “Pratt City” (a district of north Birmingham) who was almost certainly an early influence on Roland. There was considerable interchange of material between Roland, Bogan and Scott. Both Walter and Lucille recorded Schoolboy Blues and Screw Worm but Lucille’s versions weren’t issued. Sonny Scott recorded two versions of Red Cross Blues (both lyrically different to Roland’s), as well as a version of Early This Morning. On July 19th Roland and Scott recorded several superb mainly instrumental performances. “Jookit”, which features inspired boogie piano by Roland, with Scott shouting encouragement, was coupled with Whatcha Gonna Do, a hokum number with Bogan also joining in the fun. Issued as by the “Jolly Jivers“, as was the brilliant barrelhouse Piano Stomp, it appeared, along with Roland & Scott‘s sizzling guitar duet “stomps” as the “Jolly Two“, in Vocalion’s general series, perhaps hoping for wider sales than if they’d been exclusively “race” records. It says much for Walter Roland‘s musical talent that despite being best known as a pianist, he plays excellent guitar on Railroad Stomp and its companion pieces. Big Mama is one of Roland’s cover versions, being a lively reworking of Jabo Williams 1932 Fat Mama Blues (Paramount 13130 / Document DOCD-5102). Roland also “covered” Williams’ House Lady Blues (Paramount 13136 / Document DOCD-5102), which Big Joe Williams revived in 1947 (Columbia 38190). Early This Morning reworks Charlie Spand‘s big 1929/30 hit Soon This Morning (Paramount 12790 / Document DOCD-5108). That he recorded a “No. 2” in 1934 suggests that the formula was successful. Now slide back in time and listen to those Jolly Jivers shaking up a storm down in Jefferson County: “Jookit, Jookit”!Bob Groom Copyright 1993 Document Records.