Kokomo Arnold’s left-handed slide guitar playing and vocals, delivered with the same intensity and conviction as a sermon from a Sunday preacher, made his records sound 20 years ahead of their time. From 1934, “Sissy Man Blues” has a place in gay music history, with the famous, and perhaps the most lucidly sung phrase on the record, “Lord if you can’t send me no woman, please send me some sissy man.” This is evidence of the presence of a queer vibe in 1934, when this song was written.
The Empress Of The Blues, Bessie Smith, got her start busking with her brother in Chattanooga as a young girl. Still a child when she auditioned for the Stokes troupe, she won the gig as a dancer, not a singer, because that chair was already filled by none other than Ma Rainey, The Mother Of The Blues! Both singers became major stars, enjoying long and prolific performing and recording careers. Bessie Smith’s “Thinking Blues” is a great intro to this magnificent and hugely influential American music legend. I found a very good sonic version at YouTube.com
Backed by her Georgia Jazz Band, here is the great Ma Rainey, reflecting on the joy and consequences of “Booze and Blues.” So good. This Youtube post “show more” is a great biography of this talented woman who was truly a force in the Blues.
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, here to enjoy as a video.
This scratchy copy of a Son House classic is pure gold. A master at creating unusual chord structures, Son House uses his vocal and guitar to create moving double-harmonies. Jack White of White Stripes fame dedicated the White Stripe’s first album to Son House.
This song is personal favorite of mine. Carl Martin’s humorous admonition to all prize fighters, telling them to stay off Joe Louis’ beat is a classic. There isn’t a wasted word in this song, and Martin’s delivery is as solid as a punch from the champ himself. It’s a shame the 78 has the snap, crackle, pop of an old recording.