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.
To say Bessie Smith was a superstar in her time is no overstatement. She had no less than fifteen chart-topping hits on Columbia Records, starting with her debut single “Downhearted Blues” which went to number one and sold over 2 million copies, a staggering number back then. “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” is one of Smith’s later hits, featuring her majestic vocal performance, expertly accompanied by by Porter Grainger on piano and Lincoln Conoway on guitar. This digital transfer from a 78 RPM record is clean as a whistle, and the track is an absolute gem.
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.
Jug music pioneer and Memphis blues great Will Shade created most of his over 100 recorded sides as leader of the Memphis Jug Band. But he also created a few solo tracks along the way, including this piano blues gem called “Better Leave That Stuff Alone.” A classic 78 RPM record with a timeless message.
A contemporary of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, Bessie Jackson was as bold with her lyrical humor and sexual innuendo as she was with her vocal instrument itself. She recorded this sizzlin’ slab of vaudeville blues in 1935 in Chicago, with her longtime accompanists the greats Josh White on guitar and Walter Roland on piano. The track more than stands the test of time, and you also can hear clearly how this group helped lay the groundwork for the rock and roll music that would follow in decades later.
Though Arthur Petties only released six tracks in his recording career, he left an indelible mark. This classic, “Out on Santa Fe Blues,” finds the piano blues troubadour swaggering along with a sexy rhythm guitar in his unmistakeable vocal style. The recording is sublime – a single microphone captures the whole performance, and puts you right in the room. It doesn’t get more legitimate than this.
Ida Cox – also known as the “Uncrowned Queen of the Blues” – worked her way up through the early blues circuit to become a popular headliner. A versatile artist, Cox also achieved fame as a successful vaudeville performer. Check out her powerful and evocative vocal on the classic, “Mojo Hand Blues”. A hard-to-find 78 RPM vinyl side, here to enjoy as MP3.
You know I’m wild about this! Great recording, immaculate voice, all the elements that continue to feed my fascination with the immortal Bessie Smith. She had a remarkably prolific recording career and was a major star in her time. Overflowing with unabashed passion, backed by expert guitar and piano accompaniment, here’s Bessie Smith ruling on “I’m Wild About That Thing.”