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

May 10, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 129 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, April 29, 2014 (1:00-2:30 pm)

Our program from April 29th is still available to stream or download until May 26th. The show was a followup to out April 15th program devoted to what we called the prehistory of “The Blues Revival”. In the program we traced the evolution of mainstream interest in the blues from the so-called folk blues of the “rediscovered” artists of the twenties and thirties who suddenly found their music in demand from a new folk-oriented blues audience to the electric blues of the 1950s from performers who had already given up full-time music, like J.B. Hutto, and some who were grinding out a living playing for a diminishing black audience, For all the artists involved the new interest was very different from anything they had experienced before. When Hound Dog Taylor found himself in demand beyond the Chicago clubs he’d been playing, his peers warned him he would now have to subject himself to interviews, nothing he;d had to worry about before. The electric bands, who had to decide to what extent they accommodated or fended off requests from African-American audiences for contemporary soul numbers, now heard shouted requests every night for “Sweet Home Chicago” from their new audiences. 

Whatever the quality of the music the “revival” produced, the shift in the audience demographic changed the music so that even the corners of the commercial music industry that still catered to a hard-core African-American blues audience couldn’t completely escape the influence of the new blues market. On the other hand, the blues revival began a more-or-less systematic appraisal and rediscovery of every stream and tributary of blues history and schools of devotees dedicated to pre- or post-war blues, “classic” or “country”, “electric” or “down-home”, “rhythm & blues” and, eventually, “soul blues”. And in every school could be found a hard-core of purists. 

Of course, there was another aspect to the Blues Revival and that was the rise of mostly white blues players, who did not grow up in the tradition–those for whom blues was a stage in the development of their musical style and those who dedicated a career to a version of the blues. We only touched on this part of the story in this program and our earlier show of two weeks ago. And perhaps we should devote a program to that particular phenomenon, which may not be so well known in detail even if it is an essential part of the history of Rock.

On the Show:

Lightnin’ Hopkins – Mississippi John Hurt – Skip James – Mance Lipscomb – John Lee Hooker – Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Otis Spann – J.B. Hutto – Reverend Robert Wilkins – and others

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 May 26th.

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 (May 6th)

We can say now that our May 6th program was a 90 minute feature devoted to early rhythm & blues sounds. 

cmc

 

July 22, 2013

Blues and Rhythm Show 89 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 (1:00-2:30 pm)

We were late patching this show together. We’re going to be looking at some diverse R&B tracks but, in the middle of the program, we’ll be looking at Lightnin’ Hopkins and a few of his forerunners and contemporaries. As it happens, we finally got hold of the Alan Govenar biography of Sam Hopkins, which was published about three years ago and, since we don’t plan a Lightnin’ Hopkins feature in the near future, we thought we’d follow a few threads suggested by the book.  

On the show: 

Smiley Lewis  –  The Dixieaires  –  Amos Milburn – Earl King – Buster Pickens – J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith – Lightnin’ Hopkins – Floyd Dixon – Harrison Kennedy – Martha Bass – and others

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 August 20th.

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 (July 30th)

Louisiana Music 90 minute special on July 30th and we plan to present a repeat of the Alan Lomax Southern Journey special for August 6th.

cmc

June 30, 2013

Blues and Rhythm Show 86 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 (1:00-2:30 pm)

We were putting together our program and having some difficulty doing it when we happened to learn of the passing of Bobby Bland–Bobby “Blue” Bland. So, the latter part of the program will be a hastily assembled tribute to “The Man”. We’ll also have some blues and gospel with a Texas connection and an example of the earliest commercialization of blues as sheet music.

On the show: 

Fathead, W.C. Handy Preservation Band, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Louisiana Red, Hosea Hargrove, Jo Ann Kelly, Reverend K.M. Williams, Bobby “Blue” Bland. others

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 July 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 (July 9th) – Victor label blues

Following up on our Bluebird label special of several months ago, we plan to present a feature on the Victor label’s entry into blues and gospel recording before the program was transferred to the Bluebird logo. This feature would cover the years 1926-1932,  roughly.

cmc

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