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)



December 9, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 159 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, December 9th, (1:00-2:30 pm)

Part of the show will be devoted to a feature on Classic-Vaudeville Blues of the 1920s. The artists we chosen are not the performers whose names are usually cited when we talk about this music. A quick survey suggested there may have been 200 or more singers who performed this style of blues. Some were basically vaudeville performers who had little feel for the blues. Some, and they were probably a minority among those who made records, were well-experienced in singing blues. On both sides, the singers had performed on the vaudeville stage in theatres or in travelling shows, where the programs took place under a tent. By the end of the twenties, a different kind of singer was emerging, women who had sung in barrelhouses and saloons. Meanwhile, the Theatre Owners’ Booking Association (T.O.B.A.) circuit that was the livelihood of the theatre singers was a victim of the economic decline that gripped the American economy and the record companies, responding to the decline in consumer purchasing power, and to some extent to the competition from radio, wound down their activity, after reaching an early peak in 1925 and 1926. The singers in our feature were not major recording artists. Arguably, some of them should have been but recorded performance was not as important in the twenties for establishing one’s name or promoting one’s appearances as it would be later in the century. It’s possible that some artists were simply not interested enough in making records. Apart from that, bad timing, not being close to the major recording centers, life circumstance, or simply being on the wrong label meant that these performers were not recorded more than they were. Whatever the reason for their obscurity as recording artists, we think we have found some excellent blues performances.

Also on the show, the very recently deceased Curley Bridges and soul recordings from the Hi label, several featuring Mabon “Teenie” Hodges.

On the Show:

Lester Williams – Peetie Wheatstraw – Frank Motley with Curley Bridges – Frazey Ford – Dorothy Dodd – Edmonia Henderson – Hattie McDaniel – Bertha Idaho – Ora Alexander – Ann Peebles – and others

Listen to the program at FM 93.3 in Hamilton or on CFMU online at cfmu.msu.mcmaster.ca. The program will be available to stream or as a podcast until January 7th.

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 16th)

On the last show before our Christmas special we’ll mix things up, maybe focus on a few significant CD releases from the past year. We’re not certain at this point.


February 25, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 120 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, February 25, 2014 (1:00-2:30 pm)

We’ve never devoted a feature to St. Louis–until this week. St. Louis and East St.Louis, across the river in Illinois, supported a unique blues culture that nurtured distinctive styles of playing and singing blues. Like Memphis, St. Louis was a destination for migrants from the south and a staging point for others who wished to go on to the north, especially to Chicago. It was definitely a blues city and, in the late twenties and the thirties, it attracted musicians like Lonnie Johnson, Joe Lee Williams and Roosevelt Sykes.

On the Show:

Ciro’s Coon Club Orchestra – St. Louis Bessie – Henry Brown – Henry Townsend – Charley Jordan – Peetie Wheatstraw – St. Louis Jimmy – Charlie “Specks” McFadden – Johnnie Strauss – Teddy Darby – Milton Sparks – 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 March 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 (March 4th)

Next week we’ll we’ll be looking for your support for CFMU 93.3. Make a pledge by phoning the station at 905-528-9888 while we’re on the air or pledge online at cfmu.mcmaster.ca. We;ll be playing some great music and we’ll have some giveaways available for those who make a pledge.



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