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)



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