From Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom we get this upbeat blues number, “How Can You Have the Blues,” a flirty duet about a woman who appears to have it all, but is continually bogged down by depression. The name Kansas City Kitty may not ring any bells with the most enthusiastic American blues aficionados. It could be because there is a mystery behind the true identity of this sexy-voiced blues woman, but what we do know is that this track, recorded in 1930, features Thomas A. Dorsey, with a way out-of-character performance, on piano and vocals, playing under his popular pseudonym Georgia Tom. With its fantastic melody and conversational blues style, this number lends truth to the idea that money can’t buy you happiness. I chose this “Back in Time” version because it sounds the best.
John 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.
The “King Of Ragtime Guitar,” Blind Blake makes his 6-string sing on this swinging uptempo blues rag, “Hookworm Blues,” which also features the piano stylings of Alex Robinson. Blake’s vocal interlaces with the piano and guitar patterns to complete a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. This track really boogies, and it’s another fine example of an early blueprint for rock and roll. Famous for his innovative guitar work, Blind Blake recorded about 80 sides for Paramount Records.
Born Albert Clemens in Kingsport, Tennessee in March of 1887, Cripple Clarence Lofton was a key figure in the Chicago Boogie Woogie and Blues music scenes. His stage presence was legendary, with a live performance that included virtuoso piano work, singing, storytelling, percussion, and even his own high energy dance steps. In the 1930’s, Lofton recorded and performed with Big Bill Broonzy and other giants of pre-war blues, continuing to retirement the late 1940’s. Here is one of his great classic sides, “Monkey Man Blues,” on mp3 from the 78 RPM disc.
Here’s another great recording by the Mother Of The Blues, Ma Rainey, expertly accompanied by Thomas A. Dorsey on upright piano. The lyrics to this song are pure blues poetry, and Rainey delivers them with unrivaled sincerity, ease and power. Here is a clean digital transfer from 78RPM Shellac for all to enjoy.