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This Week on Blues Unlimited - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk (Hour 2)
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August 23, 2016 09:40 AM PDT
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Although Mercy Dee Walton, Sidney Maiden, and K.C. Douglas all recorded LPs for the Bluesville label (Douglas had two, in fact), for this West Coast edition of the "Legends of Bluesville," we had to bend the rules just a bit for Jesse Fuller, who recorded two LPs for Bluesville's sister imprint Prestige, and three for the Good Time Jazz label. These days, Good Time Jazz, Prestige, and Bluesville all fall under the umbrella of Fantasy Records, having been purchased eons ago — so, perhaps it's all a moot point anyway. In any event, we've got an exciting and innovative group of musicians lined up for the program, including the much celebrated one-man-band, Jesse Fuller.

His nickname was "The Lone Cat," and he certainly cut a formidable figure, playing the 12-string guitar, harmonica, kazoo, hi-hat, and his homemade foot-operated bass contraption, the "Fotdella" — all at the same time. On the label of his Good Time Jazz 45's — just in case anyone in the listening audience was skeptical — it bore this fascinating disclaimer: "Jesse Fuller sings and accompanies himself simultaneously on bass, drums, 12-string guitar, harmonica and kazoo. You hear him in actual performance. No over-dubbing or electronic tricks were used to make this unbelievable recording." Jesse Fuller's big hit, of course, was "San Francisco Bay Blues," which he recorded a number of times, and we might add — spent a LOT of time on the turntables of folk and blues enthusiasts in the 1950s and '60s.

K.C. Douglas had roots going back to Mississippi; he could lay claim to no less a mentor than the great Tommy Johnson, with whom he played in the 1940s. Sidney Maiden hailed from Louisiana, while Mercy Dee was part of the deep and proud tradition of Texas Piano Blues. Eventually, they all made their way to California — Mercy Dee describes this experience vividly in his magnum opus, "Mercy's Troubles" — where they all made their recording debut in the late 1940s.

Sadly, Mercy Dee passed away not too long after cutting "Pity And A Shame," his LP for Bluesville. It's not hard to imagine what a big hit he would have been on the Blues Revival circuit, charming audiences with his keen sense of irony and acerbic wit. K.C. Douglas lived on until the mid 1970s, cutting further sides for Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie label (it had, in fact, been Strachwitz that recorded these three gentleman for Bluesville. A small portion of the material that Bluesville did not end up using at the time later saw issue on Arhoolie, thankfully — some of which we've utilized here). As for Sidney Maiden, he reportedly married a young bride, and spent time between Fresno, California, and Arizona, where he presumably died in the late 1980s.

As for Jesse Fuller, well, all we can say is that they definitely broke the mold when they made him. Not since his passing, in 1976, has anyone been able to match his enthusiastic singing and playing, or the ease with which he simultaneously mastered a small cadre of instruments.

Although our list of artists ended up being a fairly short one for this installment of our "Legends of Bluesville" series, we hope you enjoy the diverse talent on offer from this celebrated and much beloved group of musicians — all of whom made an indelible and lasting mark on the Blues world.

Pictured: Jesse Fuller, in a 1950s promo shot, sporting his full one-man-band regalia.

This Week on Blues Unlimited - Legends of Bluesville, Part 3: West Coast Blues & Folk (Hour 1)
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August 23, 2016 09:34 AM PDT
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Join us as we continue our look at the legends of Bluesville, this time from the West Coast. That includes music from piano man Mercy Dee Walton, harmonica blower Sidney Maiden, guitarist K.C. Douglas, and one-man-band, Jesse Fuller. It's the legends of Bluesville, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: Jesse Fuller, in a 1950s promo shot, sporting his full one-man-band regalia.

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Got Lifetime Here: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Angola State Penitentiary (Hour 2)
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August 16, 2016 08:48 AM PDT
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"Some got six months, Some got a solid year. But me and my buddy, We got lifetime here." —Robert Pete Williams, "Some Got Six Months"

In the final installment of our "Prison Trilogy Series," join us as we take a trip down to the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. With a long history of corruption, nepotism, and brutality, it was once called the worst prison in the country. John and Alan Lomax would find Lead Belly there, in 1933 — a talented multi-instrumentalist who would go on to become a central figure in American folk music. A quarter century later, the legendary field recordings of Dr. Harry Oster would bring us the music of Robert Pete Williams, and many others. Along our journey, we'll showcase a forgotten piece of vinyl, "Southern Prison Blues," first issued by Storyville Records in the early 1960s. A trip down to "The Farm" at Angola, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: The gate to Angola. Photographer Unknown.

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Got Lifetime Here: Blues, Gospel & Worksongs from the Angola State Penitentiary (Hour 1)
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August 16, 2016 08:41 AM PDT
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Join us as we take a trip down to the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola — once called the worst prison in America. John and Alan Lomax would find Lead Belly there, in 1933, and a quarter century later, the legendary field recordings of Dr. Harry Oster would bring us the music of Robert Pete Williams, and many others. Along our journey, we'll showcase a forgotten piece of vinyl, "Southern Prison Blues." A trip down to "The Farm" at Angola, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: The gate to Angola. Photographer Unknown.

Previously on Blues Unlimited - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor (Hour 2)
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August 09, 2016 07:02 AM PDT
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When considering a list of the top harmonica players in the Windy City during the late 1940s and on through the 1950s — and to be sure, there were lots of them — the name of James Edward Pryor, better known to his friends as "Snooky," may not necessarily be the first one you'd put down. But almost certainly, it would at least make the top five. Because as it turns out, Snooky Pryor had a front row seat not only as a participant in some classic late '40s recording sessions, but also was an early experimenter with electricity and amplification, down on his home turf, playing on Maxwell Street.

As was the case with so many others who landed in Chicago, Snooky Pryor got his start in Mississippi, where he born in the Delta town of Lambert, not too far east of Clarksdale, in 1921. During World War II, he started experimenting with his company's P.A. system, allegedly blowing reveille with his harmonica to what we can only imagine must have been the startled response of his fellow G.I.'s. After his service was over, he took the concept with him to the legendary Maxwell Street market, bringing along an amplifier to help him be heard over the din of the noisy crowd, who could be found there on the weekends, looking for bargains.

Over time, he made the acquaintance of both Floyd Jones and Johnny Young, and late in 1948, each of them cut a 78 for a local businessman, Chester Scales. Snooky recalled him as a pretty smooth operator, but not necessarily in a good way. One oft-told tale involves Johnny Young going down to see Chester Scales because he hadn't received any money from his recording session, only to find himself the lucky recipient of Scales' fist, and a night or two in Cook County lock-up. The story takes an interesting plot twist, however, with Floyd Jones hearing about all this, and reputedly taking a gun with him down to Scales' office, until he had forked over enough cash to get Young out of jail and have some leftover to split between he and his fellow musicians. Although some details tend to stretch credibility (just a LITTLE bit), it still makes for a great story.

Pryor continued to be involved in further ground-breaking sessions, cutting some early sides for the J.O.B. imprint in 1950 with Baby Face Leroy Foster, with the two of them joining forces behind Sunnyland Slim later that year on the politically oriented "Back to Korea Blues." In 1952 and 1953 he recorded again for J.O.B., and also backed up Willie Nix and Homesick James on their sessions for the Chance label. 1954 saw another flurry of activity — another fine single for Parrot resulted, along with session work for Blue Lake and Vee Jay, where he became part of a "super group" aggregation that involved Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, and Sunnyland Slim all joining forces in the recording studio. For Floyd Jones, his 1954 Vee Jay sides would be his last as a leader, at least for the vintage market, but Snooky wasn't quite done yet. Two years later, he was back at Vee Jay, where he cut the masterful "Judgment Day." It wouldn't be until about six years later, when he came back to J.O.B. in the early 1960s, that he cut his last 45, an interesting political piece, "Uncle Sam Don't Take My Man."

After the 1962 or 1963 J.O.B. date, Snooky Pryor quit the music business in favor of more steady work as a carpenter. Fortunately, it was a relatively short-lived retirement, because he was back in the studio in 1972, cutting a terrific album on the Today label. He continued to tour and record, with a fine series of albums appearing before his death at the age of 85, in 2006. In the end, although he’ll always probably take a back seat to Little Walter when it comes to the annals of postwar blues harmonica — who recorded more extensively and was better known — there would indeed be a huge void in the rich recorded legacy of Chicago Blues had it not been for Snooky Pryor.

Pictured: Our man of the hour, Snooky Pryor.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/gvk9azb

Previously on Blues Unlimited - The Chicago Blues World of Snooky Pryor (Hour 1)
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August 09, 2016 06:51 AM PDT
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Join us as we pay tribute to one of the pioneers of postwar Chicago blues harmonica, Snooky Pryor. Making his recording debut in 1948, he cut some spectacular sides, along with his friends Floyd Jones, Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Young, and more. It’s the blues world of Snooky Pryor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

Pictured: Our man of the hour, Snooky Pryor.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/hbc2jgg

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam (Hour 2)
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August 02, 2016 08:21 AM PDT
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In 1976, the good folks at Nighthawk Records issued an LP by the name "Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam." Using that as a jumping off point, we feature tracks off the original album, as well as a few of our own favorites. Find out why Memphis can lay claim to some of the finest harp blowers in the business, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/z6jpsf4

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam (Hour 1)
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August 02, 2016 08:14 AM PDT
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In 1976, the good folks at Nighthawk Records issued an LP by the name "Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam." Using that as a jumping off point, we feature tracks off the original album, as well as a few of our own favorites. Find out why Memphis can lay claim to some of the finest harp blowers in the business, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/hu92saj

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Paul Oliver's "The Story of the Blues" (Hour 2)
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July 26, 2016 07:29 AM PDT
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Join us as we pay homage to Paul Oliver’s legendary double LP set, "The Story of the Blues." Published as a companion piece to his critically acclaimed book of the same name, it’s been revered as one of the best anthologies of its kind, and has been beloved by blues fans ever since it first appeared, in 1969.

Pictured: The cover for "The Story of the Blues," as issued in the U.S. by Columbia Records.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/zsuvyqd

Previously on Blues Unlimited - Paul Oliver's "The Story of the Blues" (Hour 1)
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July 26, 2016 07:18 AM PDT
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Join us as we pay homage to Paul Oliver’s legendary double LP set, "The Story of the Blues." Published as a companion piece to his critically acclaimed book of the same name, it’s been revered as one of the best anthologies of its kind, and has been beloved by blues fans ever since it first appeared, in 1969.

Pictured: The cover for "The Story of the Blues," as issued in the U.S. by Columbia Records.

To hear this episode in its original full-fidelity high quality audio, it may be downloaded from Bandcamp at: http://tinyurl.com/hot3l5g

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