October 7, 2013

Blues and Rhythm Show 100 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 (1:00-2:30 pm)

This week will be our 100th original show. (We were absent a couple of times and the station played repeats.) Instead of any single theme, we’re going to survey the areas we cover on the program and, as always, we try to bring you music you aren’t likely to hear on any other program.

The emphasis on Swear to Tell the Truth falls upon the history of the music. There are other programs, including programs on CFMU, that place greater emphasis on contemporary blues and related music. We try to bring you an entire tradition, including the stuff on the margins. We like to play the classic recordings but we also like to bring you the less obvious tracks and things other programmers aren’t likely to bring to air.

The internet is changing the way music is distributed and disseminated but it remains the case that only some of the recorded history of the music is available to the public at any one time. Ace Records of Britain and Bear Family of Germany continue to reissue a great deal of music in definitive editions, and all of it properly licensed, but as large as their catalogues have become, there’s a limit to what they can make available and keep in print. Researchers and collectors continue to uncover music of the past and make it available but mainly to a specialist audience through “grey-market” labels. New material keeps on appearing but it is harder to find on albums with liner notes and session details, even as a lot of older albums have found a home on iTunes and other downloading sites. We have long passed the high point of major label reissue projects and a lot of what was available a decade ago is gone or consigned to digital downloads.

The internet has also made music available on YouTube and you can find both classic tracks and completely out-of the-way music on YouTube but it’s quite unpredictable and a very long way from being a comprehensive source.

We remember listening to Dave Booth (“Daddy Cool”) on CFNY and John Norris’ That Midnight Jazz on CBC, and other shows,  not just to hear music we knew about but to hear the music we didn’t know about and we think there should be places on radio today that serve that part of the audience that wants to dig a little deeper and find the hidden capillaries of blues, gospel and soul–as there should be for other forms of music. There are many more radio stations today than in the past and hundreds of blues shows but we think there is certainly room for more shows that delve into the history of blues, gospel, R&B and soul.

There’s a great irony in the fact that we know more today generally about blues than we do about the mainstream popular music of the day. How many people know about popular music giants of the nineteen tens to the thirties like Sophie Tucker, the early Bing Crosby, or Russ Columbo today, compared to those who know a bit about about Robert Johnson and Memphis Minnie? On the other hand, we think we the story of blues and gospel have been too much distorted by the perspective of today, with too little regard for the complexities and ambiguities of history.

To the extent that we are able to provide a narrative around the music we play, we want to make sure that it is the right narrative and not the clichėd, incurious,  and misleading story we often encounter. And we want to try to address questions about why and how blues, mostly an African-American creation, widely despised and denounced in their time, are important to us today. What is our relationship to the older music and people who created it and what do they mean to us today?

We try to address these questions on Swear to Tell the Truth and, more immediately, we try to understand the people who made and consumed this music as more than names on record labels and “good-time” or “hard-luck” caricatures.

On today’s program, some R&B, some blues, some gospel and some soul…

On the Show:

Monte Easter – Velma Nelson –  Calvin Boze – Pearl Woods – Fenton Robinson – Morgan Davis – Reverend Louis Overstreet – Sweet Inspirations – Sam Cooke – Majestics

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.mcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until November 5th.

Contact Us

To reach us with comments or queries, write us at sweartotellthetruth@gmail.com.

You can also follow the program at sweartotellthetruth@nosignifying on Twitter.

Next week (October 15th)

We’ll include a feature on great gospel soloists in the program.

Upcoming programs

We will definitely be presenting special features on the King and Modern record labels. We also have plans to look at the Library of Congress recordings of the thirties and forties in some detail. We’ll continue to look at different eras in blues as reflected in the recordings of the time and also some artist profiles, including Memphis Minnie and Big Bill. We’re looking at a couple of Gospel label profiles–Peacock and VeeJay, for now. We’d also like to do something with Duke and Peacock‘s Houston-based R&B and soul recordings. At some point, we plan to begin a series of year-by-year surveys of R&B hits and significant recordings. And we’ll make sure we fit in some programs featuring post-war electric blues.


We sometimes make mistakes on the air and we’ve decided to correct any mistakes we catch in this space.

Last week, we indicated both that Gene Phillips recorded for Modern in September, 1945, and that he first recorded for the label within a week of a September, 1946 session recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, in September, 1946. Obviously, the two assertions contradict each other and one assertion was incorrect. The session took place in September, 1946, and, as we mentioned, appeared not to be issued immediately.

Twoo weeks ago, we mentioned Frederick Knight‘s recording of “I’ve Been Lonely For Too Long”, in reference to the song “Hard Times by Johnny B. Moore. Knight recorded the song for Stax, not for Chimneyville, as we suggested.


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