Noble work from Brewster Kahle, who founded the Internet Archive. They compiled a treasure trove of music recorded when the recording industry was in its infancy, and records were cylinders, or 78 RPM discs. From this collection I’ve learned so much about music that was made before I was born. Converting these recordings to digital storage is complex, and done by music-loving collectors. Serving these works on-demand is the Archive’s role, as the best music library on the planet. I found this stupendous recording by Johnny Dunn’s Original Jazz Hounds (not to be confused with Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds.) The trumpet work is great, once you’re past the 78 needle-noise at the beginning. “Hawaiian Blues” is performed by the first lineup of the Jazz Hounds, before they added Edith Wilson as vocalist.
You can download MP3, or other formats from: Archive.org
It’s not difficult to explain the appeal Blues music has had to me. These extraordinary communicators transform time and space. I never lived the life depicted by these Blues practitioners. I’ve never been flooded out, or lived in a southern rural region in the 1920s. BUT I can begin to understand`by listening to their narratives in song format. This school of art is simply known as the Blues.
BOGUS BEN CARRINGTON
Adam & Eve In The Garden
Not much is known about Bogus Ben, but it is suspected that he and Ben Curry, who recorded one of the earliest versions of the Dirty Dozens, were one and the same person. “Bogus” Ben Covington earned his living by pretending to be a blind man on the minstrel circuit. Covington was also known as “The Human Pretzel.” This song is so haunting and weird, I had to make it #1 on the list.
No list about American Blues would be complete without Charley, the “Father of the Delta Blues.” He inspired most Delta Blues musicians while creating a great body of music. I included “Poor Me” because it explains the Blues mindset.
KANSAS JOE McCOY & MEMPHIS MINNIE
When The Levee Breaks
This brilliant recording about the great flood of 1927 is Blues communicating at its best. Joe McCoy’s recounting of the flood, accompanied by Memphis Minnie’s guitar, makes a powerful piece.
You might recognize Minnie’s guitar influence in the much later Led Zeppelin version of this song.
PEG LEG HOWELL
Peg Leg Stomp
Peg Leg lived the Blues life to the max! He lost a leg and incorporated it into his act. I added this to YouTube after mastering it for streaming.
Originally recorded as “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” by Robert Johnson, this classic was redone by the “King of Slide Guitar,” Elmore James. In my humble opinion this is the best recorded version of this amazing song, which has been performed by many. This version got to #9 on Billboard’s R and B charts!
Covered by many, yet understood by few, “Midnight Special” was traditionally a folk song which originated among prisoners. The country-blues version, sung by Bill Cox, hums along like a freight train, encouraging the light of the powerful locomotive to inspire those out of their destitution.
Enigmatic blues legend Kid Bailey (AKA Willie Brown) left behind scant few recordings, and clean copies are difficult or perhaps impossible to come by. We downloaded the best audio we could find of Bailey’s classic “Rowdy Blues” from Archive.org, and asked producer Michael Rosen to employ his studio magic to reconstruct the audio with glitches and pops reduced and the warmth of the original recording brought to the fore. It’s a great live take from nearly a century ago, and we are happy to be able to share it for new audiences to enjoy today.
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.
Legend has it that “Bogus” Ben Covington earned his title by pretending to be a blind man on the minstrel circuit. Very little is known about Ben Covington, but it is also suspected he and Ben Curry, who recorded one of the earliest versions of the Dirty Dozens, were one and the same person. Convington was also known as “The Human Pretzel.” With so many monickers, who needs a definitive bio? Bogus Ben Covington’s blues reflections on “Adam And Eve In The Garden” were not your average Sunday School fare! Just a banjo, a fiddle, and Bogus Ben’s distinctive voice. Enjoy!
Several decades before Bob Dylan recorded his breakthrough “Highway 61 Revisited” album, the folk-blues song “Highway No. 61” was interpreted by numerous blues singers including Charlie Pickett, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy, The Sparks Brothers and others. Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band recorded this classic version with fiddler Will Batts on vocal duties. According to Dylan, when he told his record label the title of his new album in 1965, they didn’t understand it, and only agreed to let him call the record what he wanted after to he went all the way “up the fucking ladder” to insist on it. The rest is history.