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)



November 11, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 155 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, November 11th, (1:00-2:30 pm)

As we began working on this weeks show, it dawned on us that we were broadcasting on Remembrance Day and we decided that we should pursue a theme that links to November 11th, especially as the date is so much in the news this year after the recent murder of the soldier in Quebec and the shooting of a reserve soldier at the Cenotaph in Ottawa. What we decided to do this week is to look at some blues and gospel recordings made before, during, and immediately after World War 2 on the conflicts in Europe and Asia and the American experience. It seems incomprehensible now but it is a fact that the American Federation of Musicians were waging a strike for the better part of the war years in the U.S., a ban on recording with instruments that began August 1st, 1942 and lasted until, at various times around 1944, the different record labels settled with the A.F.M. This meant that no blues records were made in the first two years of the U.S. engagement in World War 2. It also happened that shellac was largely unavailable because of the needs of the war industries, so far fewer records would have been pressed in any case. Still, there were records made with wartime themes and we’re looking at those recordings that we do have from the era of the second world war. Not many of the available records deal with the soldier’s experience of war but they do shed light on attitudes towards the war and armed service.

Anyone who is interested in this subject should check out a book by Guido van Rijn called Roosevelt’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on FDR, which reminded us of some songs we might have missed from our survey. As with many topics in blues song, there are several clusters of song to do with the war in which the themes and lyrics of songs are very similar, even versions of the same song. We’ve tried to avoid a lot of repetition of ideas and lyrics, so far as we were able.

On the Show:

Nat King Cole Trio – Jessie Mae Hemphill – The Florida Kid – Doctor Clayton – Southern Sons – Golden Gate Quartet – Joe Turner – Cousin Joe – Quincette Singers – Chuck Berry

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 10th.

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 18th)

Yet to be determined.


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