“You Are My Sunshine” as performed by Wilf Carter

you-are-my-sunshine-200“You Are My Sunshine” is an example of country music’s large contribution to American music. This version shows off the song’s country roots. The tune was made popular by Jimmie Davis, who would later became governor of Lousiana. The song was written by a Paul Rice, but the songwriting was credited to the Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, who purchased the song from Mr. Rice.

Wilf Carter, who performs this version, was a Canadian who often used the nickname of “Montana Slim.” Carter’s version evokes the deep melancholy in the song. The contrast between the cheery chorus (the most recognizable section), and the tone of the verses, make this version unique.

One curious part of this recording, the fluttery instrument that emerges during the first chorus, sounds like a direct reference point for a similar texture The Clash would employ on “Somebody Got Murdered,” several decades later.

Clayton McMichen – “Grave In The Pines”

ClaytonMcMichenPDBorn in January of 1900 in Allatoona, Georgia, Clayton McMichen had his great success recording with Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers and Hometown Boys, and also as a solo artist. His solo effort performance of “Grave In The Pines” is a starkly sweet and sincere lament to a fallen love. McMichen performed regularly in Louisville, Kentucky until retiring in 1955, and later returning to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.

Paul Whiteman with Mildred Bailey – “All Of Me”

Mildred_Bailey_300x230In the American songbook, there are Standards and there are Standards. This would be a front cover of Standard Magazine. “All of Me” by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons was first recorded by singer Ruth Etting.

This was later recorded and performed by many others including Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and even Frank Sinatra. Mildred Bailey’s lilting vocal helped put this great song on the map, with this early recording by Paul Whiteman’s orchestra.

Bill Brown and His Brownies – “Hot Lips”

brownies-hot-lipsHot Lips, baby! Bill Brown and his Brownies really put something together on this side, recorded for the Brunswick label in 1927. This full combo performance featuring brass, reeds, banjo, tuba, piano, washboard and percussion is as air-tight as it is humorous and fun. Note, the record label states plainly: “For Dancing.” They weren’t kidding! This is so hot, you’re gonna need some lip balm.

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Tiny Parham And His Musicians – “Washboard Wiggles”

tiny-parhamBorn in Canada in 1900, keyboardist and composer Hartzel “Tiny” Parham grew up mostly in Kansas City. As a young man, Parham relocated to Chicago where he established himself as a bandleader and also worked as an arranger and talent scout for Paramount Records. He cut numerous sides for Victor Records, under the name Tiny Parham and His Musicians. Here is one of those classic sides, the ebullient and musically very advanced “Washboard Wiggles.” You had to be on your toes to keep up with this cat, and they were, and they did! Enjoy.

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Memphis Slim – “I Just Landed In Your Town”

Memphis_Slim-300pxJohn Len Chatman, better known as Memphis Slim, started his life in (you guessed it) Memphis, Tennessee before emigrating to Paris, France in the 1960’s. He made over 500 recordings in his career, for Bluebird, Okeh, Miracle, and other original blues and folk labels, teaming up with Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, Willy Dixon and many other blues greats along the way. This early recording of “I Just Landed In Your Town” features an incredible vocal and piano performance by Memphis Slim, accompanied only by guitar.

Bogus Ben Covington – “Adam And Eve In The Garden”

CranachAdamEveCrop250pxLegend has it that “Bogus” Ben Covington earned his title by pretending to be a blind man on the minstrel circuit. Very little is known about Ben Covington, but it is also suspected he and Ben Curry, who recorded one of the earliest versions of the Dirty Dozens, were one and the same person. Convington was also known as “The Human Pretzel.” With so many monickers, who needs a definitive bio? Bogus Ben Covington’s blues reflections on “Adam And Eve In The Garden” were not your average Sunday School fare! Just a banjo, a fiddle, and Bogus Ben’s distinctive voice. Enjoy!

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Joseph and Cléoma Falcon – “Allons a Lafayette”

Joe-And-Cleoma-FalconJoe and Cléoma Falcon’s “Allons a Lafayette” is probably the first commercial Cajun music recording ever released. The record is credited to Joseph Falcon, and in their day it was considered improper for a woman to perform in dancehalls. But this didn’t stop them. The couple performed extensively in southern Louisiana and Texas in the 1920’s and 30’s, together enjoying a large following and becoming a major and lasting influence on Cajun music. Cléoma played guitar, Joe played accordion, and they both sang. First released on Columbia Records, this song has since been recorded by many Cajun artists and remains a standard of the genre.

Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band – “Highway No. 61”

Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Highway No. 61Several decades before Bob Dylan recorded his breakthrough “Highway 61 Revisited” album, the folk-blues song “Highway No. 61” was interpreted by numerous blues singers including Charlie Pickett, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy, The Sparks Brothers and others. Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band recorded this classic version with fiddler Will Batts on vocal duties. According to Dylan, when he told his record label the title of his new album in 1965, they didn’t understand it, and only agreed to let him call the record what he wanted after to he went all the way “up the fucking ladder” to insist on it. The rest is history.

Syd Valentine’s Patent Leather Kids – “Rock And Gravel”

Syd Valentine's Patent Leather KidsThis uptempo instrumental romp from Syd Valentine’s Patent Leather Kids features some expert piano, banjo, and trumpet work. The players perform solo and together in a tightly arrangement they called “Rock And Gravel.” Hailing from Indianpolis, Indiana, the group’s main personnel were Syd Valentine, James Helm and Paul George. When the trio played live however, they often had as many as ten pieces in their orchestra. They recorded six songs accompanying Blues singer Hattie Snow, and a few more instrumentals on their own, on the same day that this number was recorded. Enjoy!

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