sweartotellthetruth

December 8, 2015

Blues and Rhythm Show 207 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

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

This week, we carry on with our survey of blues hits from the R&B charts of the 1950s. We left off our first installment in this series, somewhere in 1954.  In this week’s program we resume our survey of 1954 and move to the year 1955. 1955 was the year that rock and roll emerged as a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, a development that would have a large impact upon blues and R&B. 1955, however, was a year in which there were a significant number of blues hit records within the R&B charts. What we can observe is that down home blues records largely disappeared from the charts  in 1953 and ’54 and what remained, with some notable exceptions, was the electric blues of Chicago, the “urban” blues style of Memphis and Houston, and, from the Coast, the former Memphis Blues Boy,  B.B. King’s recordings. Of course, this is partly a matter of definitions. Was Johnny “Guitar” Watson a figure in blues or R&B? We place him on the R&B side, as we do Earl King, who, for a time, filled engagements for Guitar Slim, whom we have placed in the blues category. We think most people would agree that the artists we will be featuring are “blues” artists. Some may quibble with some of the exclusions.

Product Details                                                            ARTHUR GUNTER - BLUES AFTER HOURS  (BLUE HORIZON LP)                           

Whatever else it meant, rock and roll ushered in a new era of youth-oriented music for a youthful audience. Blues and R&B were adult-oriented and came to be seen as something from the past by the new youth audience. But we think there were larger cultural forces at work at the same time. 1954 was the year of the Brown versus Board of Education decision, the legal case that is said to have paved the way to integration and certainly was a catalyst and inspiration for the Civil Rights movement Blues continued to appeal to a segment of the adult population but to an ever smaller demographic.  The rise of Soul music also pushed blues further to the margin in the sixties. There’s a longer argument to be made but we won’t make it tonight.

J.B. Lenoir

Whatever the future of blues in 1955, blues continued to have a strong appeal in the cities of the Midwest, and in the South and blues records could still occasionally attain the upper reaches of the R&B charts. 

On the Show:

Guitar Slim – Howlin’ Wolf– B.B. King – Lowell Fulson – Arthur Gunter – Billy Boy Arnold – Little Junior Parker – Louis Brooks and the Hi-Toppers – J.B. Lenoir– Little George Smith – Little Walter – 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 January 4th

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 (December 15th)

TBA

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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

January 27, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 116 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, January 28, 2014 (1:00-2:30 pm)

Two themes on The Blues and Rhythm Show this week. We’re playing a fairly random assortment of blues from the Chess label of Chicago. Some big names and an ace inastrumentalist in the mix. Also, a wide-ranging selection of R&B tracks recorded between 1945 and 1960. 

On the Show:

Sidemen – Little Walter – Muddy Waters – Little Milton – Fenton Robinson – Mr. Bear & His Bearcats – Jesse Price – Sam “Highpockets” Henderson – Lee Roy Little – Jack de Keyzer

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 February 24th.

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 (February 4th)

We’re doing research for a program of railroading songs and railroad themes in blues, R&B and gospel song. We haven’t settled on a theme for next week’s program.

Last week

We played Booker T. & the MGs’ “Chinese Checkers” and described it as a clever bit of “chinoiserie”. According to Rob Bowman, the song wasn’t originally conceived that way. Booker T. Jones devised the piece on an electric piano he had obtained. Some of the keys didn’t work and he wrote the piece using a 5-note scale. By the time the piece was recorded, however, its “Chinese” character seems to have been something Booker T. and the band embraced.

 

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