This 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!
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 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.
Guitarist Napoleon “Nap” Hayes and mandolinist Matthew Prater recorded this instrumental gem in Memphis, Tennessee in February of 1928. “Easy Winner” combined elements of ragtime and blues into a string band format, borrowing freely from Scott Joplin’s most famous piece, “The Entertainer.” Though biographical information about Hayes and Prater is scarce, we do know they performed as the Blue Boys and also as the Johnson Boys, leaving behind a handful of brilliant instrumental recordings on the Document Records label for us to enjoy.
Ragtime is known as “the music that got lost” – mostly because jazz stole its thunder and captured the public’s attention after 1917. Ragtime showcases brilliant pianists like Alonzo Yancey, the lesser known of the Yancey brothers. Alonzo, raised in Chicago, recorded “Everybody’s Rag” in 1943. He serves his piano straight up, and one can only imagine what it’s like to move your fingers as fast as this melody requires. A compelling and ferocious performance.
You can trace much of American popular music back to the blues. This is most obviously evident in Rock n’ Roll. But in tracks like Gus Cannon’s “Madison Street Rag,” you can also hear the roots of Rap and Hip-Hop. Released on the Paramount label in 1927, Gus Cannon’s gravelly voice sounds like he’s freestlying on the street corner as a passerby looks on in amazement. The banjo pickin’ is brilliant too. Ragtime folk blues goodness with a great lyric. Enjoy!
A true American classic, “A Hot Time in the Old Town” is an American ragtime song penned by Theodore August Metz and Joe Hayden. It’s been covered countless times, but few versions compare with this one, sung by the one and only Bessie Smith.
Oscar “Buddy” Woods was a member of the first mixed-race country blues group, and a pioneer of lap-steel-bottleneck blues. He composed music through the Harlem Renaissance and through Prohibition. “Don’t Sell it, Don’t Give it Away,” Woods’ signature tune, is an upbeat good old-fashioned break-up number that swings, big time. Clean mp3 of the original vinyl. A true gem.