August 16, 2016

Blues and Rhythm Show 236 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, August 16th (1:00 to 2:30pm)

This is a program from the You Never Miss What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone department.

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The Document label is in the midst of liquidating its inventory of CDs. The intention is to continue to operate as a digital download only label, A new website is supposed to support downloads of music files and PDFs of liner notes. Document began producing CDs in 1990 and by 2000 label operator Johnny Parth had made available just about all pre-World War 2 blues and gospel and related “race” recordings. The catalogue also included traditional jazz a significant old-time country music series and a fair bit of traditional blues and gospel from the post-war era. In 10 years Austria’s Johnny Parth pretty well fulfilled his purpose of making this catalogue of 800-900 CDs available to all and in 2000 he sold the company to Gary and Gillian Atkinson in Britain who have operated the label since 2000 in the era of digital downloads and illegal file-sharing.

We have relied on the Document catalogue a great deal in putting together this radio program and we thought this interval while Document is selling off its physical inventory and setting up its new website was an occasion to recognize the breadth of the Document catalogue and its remarkable coverage of pre-war “race” music , traditional race music from the post-war era along with some early rhythm & blues, and old-time country music. Digitization of musical recordings, like that of written works may or may not be a good thing but Johnny Parth’s grand project has made it possible to make almost all of pre-war race music available online.

In the series that contain the blues and gospel records of the pre-war era can be found the music of songsters, classic blues singers,  blues guitarists, harmonica and piano players, jug  and string band music, vocal groups, blues combos. gospel singers, gospel quartets, choirs, preachers on record, Holiness groups and guitar evangelists. If they made records, all the records that have been found, with only a few exceptions, are part of  the Document 5000 and 6000 series or in the more jazz and pop oriented 1000 and 1500 series. All good records and bad, even some terrible records that qualify for inclusion, can be found on Document. (There’s also a Document series dedicated to unissued material from the Edison label. pop, jazz, blues and country material recorded between 1914 and 1929 but never issued by Edison as commercial records.)

The new owners of Document intended to give similar coverage to post-war music but they appear to have experienced difficulties in maintainingg the huge existing catalogue in print all the time and adding as much to the catalogue as they would have liked. They did produce some fine additions to the catalogue though fewer than planned. Perhaps they can realize more of those plans as a digital only company.

We can’t do justice to the sweep of the Document catalogue in one show but we wanted to mark the label’s achievement as its owners make the transition to digital-only with an all-Document program.

On the Show:

Hightower’s Night Hawks – Barefoot Bill – Gene Campbell – Peetie Wheatstraw – Georgia White – Maggie Jones – Southern Negro Quartette – Eddie Head & Family – Mitchell’s Christian Singers – Allen Brothers – Stick McGhee – a.o.

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton, live on Cogeco Cable 288 or on CFMU online at cfmu.msumcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or download until September 13tth.

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.

Document Records Catalogue

We’re not sure what remains of Document’s CD inventory but the label was also selling off remaining copies of the catalogue pictured above for a cost of £1.99 plus shipping. Besides serving as a guide to the albums themselves, the catalogue is something like a map of pre-war race music on record. Studying its contents a useful guide to how much and how little pre-war material in different genres can be found on record between 1890 and 1943. It’s a research tool that can be used alongside Godrich, Dixon & Rye’s Blues  & Gospel Records, 1890-1943. Not just the albums are listed but every song on every album, which is to say, just about  all pre-war blues and gospel records as well as the other material on, say, 150-200 CDs that are not pre-war blues or gospel.

Next week (August 23rd)



March 8, 2016

Blues and Rhythm Show 220 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

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

This year, March 8th falls on a Tuesday. We try to devote a show to International Women’s Day each year. Up to this year, we’ve surveyed blues, R&B, gospel and soul on each of our IWD programs. This year, we thought to devote the entire show to women in R&B but we were diverted into starting the show with a survey of the late thirties, when there was a revival of the record companies’ interest in female performers and a bit of a surge in recording. These pre-war recordings are often treated as a footnote to the real history of the blues and we thought we’d present a sort of counter-argument by surveying these 1930s recordings before getting into the early figures in women’s R&B. As a result, straddling two eras, with World War II and the first American Federation of Musicians recording ban of 1942-1944 serving as dividers, our survey of women’s blues and R&B takes us only from 1935 to 1947.  As with male performers, not many of the singers in the pre-war group of recording artists made records in the R&B era but R&B wasn’t a completely different music. There were many continuities.  We see blues and classic R&B as one tradition and we treat them that way on the program week to week.

Dinah Washington - Salty Papa Blues / I Know How to Do It - album cover                                 Savoy-565-miss-rhapsody-before-judgement-day-sisters-under-the-skin-e-e_4105585                             ,Complete Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Vol. 1: 1938-1943

As to the content of the songs, we mostly let them speak for themselves. Is there a feminist thread to women’s blues and R&B? Sometimes there is.  Often there isn’t. Is the full range of women’s experience reflected in blues and R&B by female singers? Since the great majority of songs are about relationships, love and the absence of love, we’d have to say no, but other concerns aren’t absent altogether. In any case, IWD, gives us the opportunity to present the story within the story and correct for the imbalance in men’s and women’s recordings after the classic or vaudeville era of blues, if only one time a year.  The vast majority of records in blues and R&B after the classic era were made by men. The record industry was run by men and it was almost always men who decided who got to record and what songs they recorded. In addition, it was men who wrote most of the songs women recorded, even in the classic era.

On the Show:

Christine Chatman – Georgia White – The Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) – Rosetta Crawford – Ida Cox – Dinah Washington – Miss Rhapsody – The Blues Woman – Ella Johnson – Gladys Bentley – Betty Hall Jones – and others

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 April 4th.

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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 (March 15th)



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