sweartotellthetruth

October 27, 2015

Blues and Rhythm Show 202 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, October 27th, (1:00-2:30 pm).

We were looking for an angle for this week’s program when we realized we’d never done a program examining the blues of the 1950s as we had earlier decades. The fifties are often viewed as a golden age of blues, especially in Chicago, but blues were one strain of a broader musical category of rhythm & blues, which in the fifties also encompassed African-American rock and roll, doo wop and more gospel-derived vocal group music as well, as the jazz-influenced R&B that emerged from the 1940s. We thought it would be interesting to separate straight blues–traditional and down-home styles–from the rest of the larger R&B scene. Our idea was to extract the straight blues hits from R&B hits as they appeared in Billboard Magazine rankings and to do this we used Big Al Pavlov’s The R&B Book: A Disc History of Rhythm & Blues, a book that ranks the top Billboard R&B hits each year up to 1959 and includes an additional list of recordings that were regional hits and/or jukebox hits in each year.

Even in the twenties and thirties blues was the music of a minority of the minority but we found that there were fewer blues records among the hits on the R&B charts for the fifties than we might have guessed. A great many blues records were issued, however, so long as there was a stable and reliable customer base. It’s simply that the great majority of records  and most blues artists, including many who are famous today, didn’t sell well enough to appear in the R&B charts. Many of the blues artists who did reach the charts are the biggest names of post-war blues while there were some whose names are much less well-recognized today.

Our survey will spread over two programs. This week we cover the years 1950 to 1954. We’ve tried to maintain a representative balance of blues styles, geographical locations and labels, as far as possible and we’ve organized the material, so far as possible in the sequence it was released. For reasons of space, we had to leave some important figures out but many other names are missing because the artists never reached the charts during the years 1950-1954.

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At some point we may come back and survey the entire field of recorded blues singles from the 1950s but we thought it would be interesting to concentrate on the national and subnational hits for this particular series of programs. After we have covered the fifties, we may at some point go back in time to the forties and look at the blues hits within the R&B charts for the immediate post-war years.

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No women on this week’s program. The only female blues artist to have even a regional market hit between 1950 and 1954 was Memphis Minnie and that particular record wasn’t judged as meriting airplay on this program, nor as good as several non-hits by Minnie from the same period. We don’t quarrel with the popular taste of past a era but we don’t regard it as infallible either.

On the Show:

Lowell Fulson – Smokey Hogg – Stick McGhee & His Buddies – Jimmy Rogers – Memphis Slim – Elmore James – Lightnin’ Hopkins – Little Walter – Willie Mabon – Mercy Dee – Guitar Slim

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until November 23rd.

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 (November 3rd)

TBA

cmc

October 20, 2015

Blues and Rhythm Show 201 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, October 20th, (1:00-2:30 pm).

It’s election day in Canuckistan. Not a lot of time on election night to put this blogpost together of the program itself, for that matter.  At the heart of the program this week, a brief and not entirely representative survey of Roosevelt Sykes‘ recording career.  The Southern Piano Ace was a star of the 1929-1942 era of blues and still an important name in blues and R&B in the post-war era, known as “The Honeydripper” after his 1936 recording with that title. He was also part of the Blues Revival (We don’t like the term but we don’t have a better one) of the 1960s and later. No piano player in the blues made more commercial singles.  He also contributed some memorable songs to the blues songbook including “Driving Wheel” and “The Night Time Is the Right Time”.  He worked solo and in duos, trios and quartets in the thirties, then adapted his style to approximate what the R&B jump combos were doing in the post-war era.  On this program we’re touching on a few points in Sykes’ career and we are likely underemphasizing his early recordings from the period when he was most popular but we’ll return to that period in a future program. Sykes could fairly have expected more recognition in the later years and he possibly deserves more recognition even today when almost all of his early music is available.

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Also on this week’s program, a bit of African-American rock and roll, a pair of tracks collected by Art Rosenbaum, first recordings of a couple of songs whose origins interested us and some latter-day soul.

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On the Show: Eunice Davis – Willie Egan – Leon Bridges – Hokum Boys – Scrapper Blackwell – Lee Green – Roosevelt Sykes – Johnny Rawls & Otis Clay – et al.

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until November 16th.

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 27th)

TBA

cmc

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October 13, 2015

Blues and Rhythm Show 200 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

   Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, October 13th, (1:00-2:30 pm).

No special theme on our 200th original show. Blues, R&B, Gospel and Soul this week. We’ve gone back to some vinyl sources for some of tracks for this show. As is often the case, we’re following up on some threads pulled loose on earlier shows. Blues recordings from the 1930s and from the Blues Revival era, storefront and streetcorner gospel, a sampling of R&B records, a few random Soul tracks on the program.

We can’t represent all the music we play every week, or any week, so we try to rotate styles, eras, artists from  week to week. We didn’t have a plan when we put this week’s show together but we wanted to play a few particular recordings, some of which made the cut and others that didn’t. The rest of the show fell into place.

                                                                              

There are two competing pressures that influence us when we put together the program each week. The first is the compulsion to play everything we’d like to play in 90 minutes per week. The other is the instinct to save every great selection for exactly the right context in the right program. Some weeks we’re happy with the result. Other weeks, not so much.

On the Show:

Jimmy McGriff – Ricky Allen – Bumble Bee Slim – Flora Molton – Linda Hopkins – Duke Robillard – Shakura S’Aida – Rev. Anderson Johnson – Roy lee Johnson – Sam Cooke – et al.

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until November 9th.

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.

Errors and Omissions:

Last week, we identified Willie Steele as the guitar player on the “Prison Bound Blues”  by Willie Nix. It was, of course, Willie johnson. Willie Johnson and Willie Steele both played in Howlin’ Wolf’s band before he moved to Chicago. Steele was the drummer.

Next week (October 20th)

TBA

cmc

October 6, 2015

Blues and Rhythm Show 199 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, October 6th, (1:00-2:30 pm).

The Blues & Rhythm Show is not any one thing but it is first and foremost a blues show. We try to cover all kinds of blues, especially blues in the great tradition that endured into the 1960s. Certain blues styles, blues artists and record labels that specialized in blues have received a great deal of attention since the 1960s, and often at the expense of other blues styles, figures in the blues and other record labels. This was especially true especially early in the early years after the blues revival. For example, we have tried not to over-emphasize the Chess and Sun labels and recording artists in their respective catalogues on the program because these labels have received so much attention.

Blues from the Sun Record Company are an interesting case because the Sun label’s blues output was relatively small and just about all of it issued in a short period of time, 1952 to 1954. On the other hand, we can look at the output of Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis as having produced much more blues than the 25 or 30 blues records issued on the Sun label up to the end of 1954, the year that Elvis Presley came to the label. The Memphis Recording & Sound Studio produced records for Chess-Checker, Modern-RPM and Trumpet before Phillips formed his own label. It also turned out to be the case that Sun recorded and kept the acetates and tapes of a great deal of material that was never issued as 78 or 45 rpm discs. So, the Sun archives turned out to hold a large store of Delta region blues and R&B.

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Though the researches of Colin Escott and Martin Escott and various collaborators along the way the Sun story has been comprehensively unearthed and more and more of the Sun catalogue has come available to present-day listeners first through an extensive LP series on Charly in the seventies and the Sun Blues Box on LP in the eighties. The culmination not just for the blues catalogue but for the rock and roll and country catalogues as well came recently with three lavish Bear Family box sets from Germany.

We did a 90 minute overview special on the Sun label in our 25th show and we haven’t returned to the Sun label since then. This week, we take a look at the blues side of the label in the feature portion of the show. We have not included some of the bigger names who recorded for Sun or for other labels at Memphis Recording & Sound Studios but we will come back for a followup Sun feature in the near future and fill out the picture of the Sam Phillips’ blues recording.

Filling, out this week’s program, a couple of songs from the gospel side of Sun Records, a pair of recordings with Clarksdale, Mississippi associations and some retro R&B.

On the Show:

Rosco Gordon – The Robins – Colin James – Super Chikan – Doctor Ross – Willie Nix – Jimmy DeBerry – Mose Vinson – Billy “The Kid” Emerson – Jones Brothers – Eddie Chamblee

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until November 2nd.

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 13th)

TBA

cmc

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