sweartotellthetruth

February 2, 2016

Blues and Rhythm Show 215 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

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

The history of classic Rhythm & Blues has been written around the narratives of the various record labels that featured the music, especially the great R&B independents.  Of course, the music existed and thrived apart from the recorded product and the studios that produced the records but few places received the kind of attention that the city of Newark did in the book Swing City, so we don’t have a broad picture of classic Rhythm & Blues apart from what took place in the recording studios. Specialist magazines have provided detailed bios of some of the performers but there are full-length biographies of only a few figures–Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington,  Wynonie Harris. 

Product Details                              Early R&B Divas- Volume Two                              Product Details

The stories of the record labels depend a great deal upon the company accounts kept by the label-owners, upon session details , correspondence and, where available the acetates and tapes that have survived.  They depend as well on the availability of the label operators and other principals, producers, arrangers, sales-people. Art Rupe provided information about his Specialty label and Ace Records gleaned information about Modern-RPM-Kent when they leased and later purchased the catalogue and assets of the label. In the case of Aladdin Records, we have the details in the blues and gospel discographies but we looked in different places for further information and came up empty.

Our survey covers the years 1945 to 1951, years in which the Aladdin flourished as an independent specializing in R&B.  We know that the label owners, Eddie, Leo and Ira Mesner, operated a record store, The Philharmonic Music store in Los Angeles. They had money to begin with and the label reported 1.5 million dollars in sales for 1945, according to John Broven. One artist described the Mesners as “gamblers” but we don’t know how to evaluate that observation. The label was originally called Philo but the Philco Company threatened legal action and the name was changed to Aladdin. The label did well into the through to 1950 but there was a slowdown at the beginning of the new decade. How well the label adapted toe changes in the record market after the early fifties is something we we can’t say at this point but Aladdin is supposed to have been the leading R&B label between the years 1948 and 1952. 

Something that was noticeable to us in putting this show together was the large role of Maxwell Davis. Davis was present as a player on many of the records we selected for the program, identified as bandleader on several, and likely the arranger and, effectively, if not in name,  the producer on much of what was produced in Aladdin’s studio.  According to Dave Penny, in 1948 he signed a contract with Aladdin that gave him the title of session musician/arranger/musical/director, roles he’d been filling informally up to then free-lancing at what looked to be every Coast  independent R&Blabel. His influence on R&B recording on the West Coast was huge because he played a similar role with just about every label, including large independents Specialty and Modern-RPM-Kent. A three-CD survey of his work, entitled Wailin’ Daddy is part of series called Architects of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Maxwell, Davis, Architect of Rhythm & Blues might be right.                     

 On the Show:

Jay McShann’s Kansas City Stompers – Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers – Helen Humes – Jo Jo Adams – Effie Smith – Jimmy “Baby Face” Lewis – The Rockets – Joe Turner – Little Miss Cornshucks – Robins – Amos Milburn – a.o.

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 February 28th.

Image result for driftin' blues philo label photos                                 

 The Aladdin Records Story

 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 9th)

Mardi Gras

October 6, 2015

Blues and Rhythm Show 199 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, October 6th, (1:00-2:30 pm).

The Blues & Rhythm Show is not any one thing but it is first and foremost a blues show. We try to cover all kinds of blues, especially blues in the great tradition that endured into the 1960s. Certain blues styles, blues artists and record labels that specialized in blues have received a great deal of attention since the 1960s, and often at the expense of other blues styles, figures in the blues and other record labels. This was especially true especially early in the early years after the blues revival. For example, we have tried not to over-emphasize the Chess and Sun labels and recording artists in their respective catalogues on the program because these labels have received so much attention.

Blues from the Sun Record Company are an interesting case because the Sun label’s blues output was relatively small and just about all of it issued in a short period of time, 1952 to 1954. On the other hand, we can look at the output of Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis as having produced much more blues than the 25 or 30 blues records issued on the Sun label up to the end of 1954, the year that Elvis Presley came to the label. The Memphis Recording & Sound Studio produced records for Chess-Checker, Modern-RPM and Trumpet before Phillips formed his own label. It also turned out to be the case that Sun recorded and kept the acetates and tapes of a great deal of material that was never issued as 78 or 45 rpm discs. So, the Sun archives turned out to hold a large store of Delta region blues and R&B.

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Though the researches of Colin Escott and Martin Escott and various collaborators along the way the Sun story has been comprehensively unearthed and more and more of the Sun catalogue has come available to present-day listeners first through an extensive LP series on Charly in the seventies and the Sun Blues Box on LP in the eighties. The culmination not just for the blues catalogue but for the rock and roll and country catalogues as well came recently with three lavish Bear Family box sets from Germany.

We did a 90 minute overview special on the Sun label in our 25th show and we haven’t returned to the Sun label since then. This week, we take a look at the blues side of the label in the feature portion of the show. We have not included some of the bigger names who recorded for Sun or for other labels at Memphis Recording & Sound Studios but we will come back for a followup Sun feature in the near future and fill out the picture of the Sam Phillips’ blues recording.

Filling, out this week’s program, a couple of songs from the gospel side of Sun Records, a pair of recordings with Clarksdale, Mississippi associations and some retro R&B.

On the Show:

Rosco Gordon – The Robins – Colin James – Super Chikan – Doctor Ross – Willie Nix – Jimmy DeBerry – Mose Vinson – Billy “The Kid” Emerson – Jones Brothers – Eddie Chamblee

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 2nd.

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 (October 13th)

TBA

cmc

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