Born on a farm in Eatonton, Georgia in March of 1888, Joshua Barnes Howell taught himself to play guitar at the age of 21. He took the name “Peg Leg” after losing his right leg when he was shot in a fight. Howell then moved to Atlanta to pursue music full-time and in 1926 he was discovered and recorded by Columbia Records. On “Peg Leg Stomp” as on a series of releases through the 1920’s, Howell was accompanied by Eddie Anthony on fiddle and Henry Williams on guitar. Decades later, during the 1960’s blues revival, Peg Leg Howell was rediscovered by George Mitchell, who recorded him again.
In his long career, Big Bill Broonzy wrote and copyrighted over 300 songs. Many were original, some were adaptations of folk songs in the oral tradition. You can hear in this early Broonzy recording of “How You Want It Done,” the seeds of rock and roll guitar playing which would later sprout in the hands of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and many others in the 1950’s. We’re fortunate to have a nice clean digital copy to enjoy today.
This is one fine early example of amply motivated walking in song, from a group called Akins Birmingham Boys. Little biographical info is available online about these ukelele strummin’ and fiddlin’ singers, but we do know they recorded this and one other side for Columbia records, and the songs more than stand the test of time. Great vocals on this early pop country gem.
The Mississippi Sheiks from Bolton, Mississippi were a popular band in their time, and their recorded songs have been covered by an impressive list of artists that includes Howlin’ Wolf, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte and Bob Dylan. Three of the Sheiks were brothers Lonnie, Sam, and Armenter Chatmon, the latter of whom is famously known as Bo Carter, who enjoyed a successful solo career while he managed and was a part time member of the band. This recording of “Please Baby” captures their distinct blend of country, folk, and blues.
“Last Gold Dollar” is the first of several sides Ephraim Woodie and the Henpecked Husbands recorded for the Columbia label in 1929. Led by Ephraim Woodie’s affecting vocal, this North Carolina group featured Clay Reed on fiddle and multi-instrumentalist Edison Nuckolls on banjo. Original pressings of their records are rare and highly sought-after by collectors, and we are lucky to have this nice clean digital copy to share and enjoy. This song is about as sincere and uncomplicated as any love song ever could be.