November 4, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 154 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, November 4th, (1:00-2:30 pm)

Last December we presented a special on Nashville Rhythm & Blues, Gospel and Soul recordings. This week we take a close look at Nashville R&B between 1946 and 1955. Nashville was like a lot of U.S. cities in that it produced and supported a local rhythm & blues scene. It was different because it also developed a local independent  record industry and this several years before the city became Music City, U.S.A. and the establishment of recording studios by major labels. The local blues and R&B scene drew from the surrounding region, both from Tennessee and Kentucky, especially, but also, like Memphis, it attracted some musicians who came from Mississippi, and some came from other southern states. Although there was little documentation, Nashville was supposed to be a strong city for African-American jazz in the thirties and forties, so it’s not difficult to imagine the development of an an indigenous  R&B musical community. What we know suggests that the live R&B in the city was richer and more diverse than what we are able to hear on record because so many recordings were made using the same session musicians over and over.  This would tend to be true even in a major recording center like New York but more pronounced in a smaller place like Nashville where the same small group  of musicians could appear on most sessions. The local labels, especially the Bullet label, did not restrict their recording to the local scene. Bullet recorded such acts as Wynonie Harris and the Big Three Trio and it bought masters from places like Detroit or Dallas. Our feature special will stick mostly to artists who were based in Nashville, whether they were natives of the city or resident there for a year or two.

Few of the artists in our special are well-known names but you wonder if some of them might have been had they been recording somewhere other than Nashville. The fact that gifted performers made only one, two or three singles may have something to do with the size and distribution reach of the labels that recorded them. All things considered, Nashville produced some great rhythm & blues. As with any edition of this program, this one involved research and it was a learning experience for us. Much, if not most, of the information we gleaned came from Martin Hawkins whose research into Nashville R&B was supposed to be published in a book. It was but the book is not available without the Bear Family set Nashville Jumps: A Shot In the Dark. It’s a hard-bound book that serves as the liner notes to accompany the multi-CD set.

On the Show:

Cecil Gant – Sherman Williams – Tom “Shy Guy” Douglas – Don Q. Pullen – Tucker Coles – Billie McAllister – Christine Kittrell – Gay Crosse – Kid King – Louis Brooks – Good Rockin’ Sam

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 December 3rd.

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 11th)

No special theme next week but a lot of good blues, R&B, gospel and soul.


December 3, 2013

Blues and Rhythm Show 108 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 (1:00-2:30 pm)

We’re very late posting this. This week’s program is a 90 minute feature on R&B and Soul music in Nashville. Nashville had a thriving R&B scene and developed its own local record industry. That Nashville became Music City, not just the historic home of the Opry but the center of the multi-miliion dollar country music industry, doesn’t seem to have meant a lot to the independent labels producing R&B and soul. They lasted as long as did independent labels in other places in the U.S. Meanwhile Nashville maintained its own distinct African American music scene and the record companies had a well of local talent from which to draw. Other components of the local music scene in Nashville were the record mail-order businesses operated by Randy Wood and Ernie Young, powerful radio stations, especially WLAC, and the “sound alike” recording companies who provided work for performers who could closely approximate the sound of hit recordings.

The local record companies recording R&B didn’t produce a lot of national R&B hits and even fewer crossover hits, but there appears to have been sales enough to sustain a number of labels, though many were short-lived. By the sixties, the local labels were attracting talent from around the South but our feature will mostly concentrate on Nashville performers on Nashville labels. We’ll play recordings from 1946 to, at least, 1969. Our intention was to carry our survey as far as the R&B revival in Nashville that took place in 1990s, but we decided that was a bridge too far.

On the Show:

Johnny Jones – Nashville Washboard Band – Radio Four – Sherman Williams  – Christine Kittrell – Rudy Greene – Larry Birdsong – Roscoe Shelton – Lucille Mathis – 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 December 31st.

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 10th)

We don’t have a plan. No special feature next week. It will be a mixed bag.



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