September 6, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 144 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, August 26th (1:00-2:30 pm)

This week, a program devoted entirely to blues and quartet gospel from Alabama in the 1920s and 1930s. Generalizations about blues from Alabama are difficult. There is simply a dearth of information even about relatively well-known figures like Ed Bell (aka Barefoot Bill). Birmingham was a location visited by record companies as early as 1927 and as late as 1937 but without really reflecting the local blues scene in any depth and there isn’t much hard information about some recording artists believed to be from Alabama. Blues historians and album compilers tend to group recordings and performers regionally. Alabama was the state where a lot of a pre-blues music could be found in the 1930s and still in the 1940s and 1950s when researchers like Harold Courlander and Frederick Ramsay were active recording traditional performers. Indications are that there was a healthy blues scene in Birmingham, including boogie piano, but it isn’t well-represented in commercial records.

We can be more certain about gospel quartet. Birmingham and Bessemer, both in Jefferson County, were the home of a distinct quartet culture, especially in the 1920s and thirties. Mobile on the Gulf Coast also had a gospel scene. We offer a selection of quartet gospel mostly recorded between 1928 and 1932. Two of the quartets in this set recorded in the post-World War 2  era and our set does not include the Heavenly Gospel Singers, whose records were all made between 1935 and 1941.

The years 1930 to 1932 witnessed a shaking out of the record industry and most blues and gospel performers–like most country artists who recorded in the twenties—would not record again when the labels began to build back their catalogues. The first five quartets in our survey did not record after 1931.  The Famous Blue Jay Singers first recorded in 1932 but not again until 1947.

On the Show:

Tampa Red – Daddy Stovepipe – Bogus Ben Covington – Jaybird Coleman – Walter Roland – Mobile Strugglers – Mount Zion Baptist Quartet – Bessemer Sunset Four – Slim Duckett & Pig Norwood – Famous Blue Jay Singers of Birmingham – Jimmy Hughes

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 September 30th.

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 (September 2nd)

Next week is Welcome Week at McMaster University. We will present a live show from the Atrium of the McMaster Student Centre. Blues, R&B, Gospel and Soul will all be represented in the mix.


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