June 28, 2016

Blues and Rhythm Show 233 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, June 28th (1:00 to 2:30pm)

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In the late 1990s the Charly label issued three CDs devoted to “Rare Soul” on the One-derful!, M-Pac and Mar-V-Lus labels. These CD compilations made available much of the catalogues of an important African-American owned and operated company in Chicago between 1962 and 1967 on well-researched and documented compilations. More recently, in 2012, Charly distilled the three compilations, which had gone out of print, into one double-CD set with 30-odd fewer tracks and a few additions. We made use of the Charly collections and other scattered resources to play music  from One-derful!, M-Pac and Mar-V-Lus on the air. One could hope that another company might dig further into the label’s history and its tape archives to fill out the picture but it seemed unlikely that would happen in the current state of the record industry.

In fact, that is just what happened as the Secret Stash label of Minneapolis embarked on a reissue program documenting not just the three labels in the Charly series but the other labels operated by the Leaners–the Halo gospel label and the Midas and Toddlin’ Town labels, as well.  What distinguishes the new series, called the One-derful! Collection, is the depth of research and extensive liner notes, on the lines of the Stax singles boxes and Numero’s Syl Johnson box. The cooperation of the Leaner family and many of the musicians and singers associated with the company made it possible to fill out the details of the labels’ histories. It was known that there were unissued recordings in the vaults but access to the United Record Distribution warehouse and tape archives turned up previously unknown and undocumented recordings by the Leaners’ artists.

George and Ernie Leaner’s company specialized in the Chicago equivalent of Southern deep Soul but didn’t feature that style exclusively. Like other great independent labels, the company’s offices and studios provided a laboratory for experimentation and rehearsal and somewhere that some of the musicians chose to be day after day. It seems that the record company was well-funded. Ernie and George Leaner operated United Record Distribution for a decade before they ventured into record making. Producers had a relatively free hand to try out artists and musical ideas but George Leaner is supposed to have had a strong interest in blues and he received his own training in the business from Chicago’s blues record boss, Lester Melrose.

Our feature will  be based upon the One-derful!, M-Pac and Mar-V-Lus catalogues, including several of the previously unknown tracks turned up in the Secret Stash researches. Also on the program, contemporary, ’60s, blues and gospel.

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On the Show:

Lonnie Brooks – Sonny Boy Williamson II– Willie Mabon – Johnny Sayles – Cicero Blake – Ringleaders – Liz Lands – Josephine Taylor – Donald “Preacher” Gay – Otis Clay

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 download until July 26th.

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 (July 5th)

Next week, we are off. The station will air a repeat.


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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)



January 13, 2014

Blues and Rhythm Show 114 on 93.3 CFMU (Hamilton, Ontario)

Swear to Tell the Truth for Tuesday, January 14, 2014 (1:00-2:30 pm)

We said on air this week’s show would be a grab-bag and so it is. Some R&B recorded between 1950 and 1959, including tracks from  the under-estimated Derby label; some 1950s Chicago blues especially for those who think we don’t play enough; a few live soul recordings. We try to bring you the essential tracks as well as the stuff you are unlikely to hear on other shows and, in spite of our haste in putting this program together, we think it qualifies.

On the Show:

The Majors – Eunice Davis – Titus Turner – Big Jay McNeely – Snooky Pryor – J.B. Hutto – Willie Mabon – Geno Washington – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Mel Brown – 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 February 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 (January 21st)

Haven’t had time to figure out next week’s show. We’ll try to provide some advance notice.


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