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Blues Unlimited - The Radio Show
with your host, Sleepy Boy Hawkins
Down Home Post-War Favorites, Pt. 1
May 24, 2013 08:41 AM PDT
No particular theme on this one, just a grab bag full of post-war rockers and down home favorites from Lightnin' Hopkins, Dr. Ross, K.C. Douglas, Johnny Shines, Ralph Willis, Homesick James, Clifton Chenier, Leroy Dallas, Sonny Terry, and lots more.Down Home Post-War Favorites, Pt. 1
May 24, 2013 08:10 AM PDT
No particular theme on this one, just a grab bag full of post-war rockers and down home favorites from Lightnin' Hopkins, Dr. Ross, K.C. Douglas, Johnny Shines, Ralph Willis, Homesick James, Clifton Chenier, Leroy Dallas, Sonny Terry, and lots more.Soulful Stax Covers, Hr 2
May 17, 2013 05:25 PM PDT
Join us as we enjoy some great cover versions of blues, pop, rock, folk, and R&B classics that were recorded down at the legendary Stax label in Memphis, Tennessee. We'll hear from Albert King, Little Milton, Booker T. & the MGs, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding (pictured), and more.Soulful Stax Covers, Hr 1
May 17, 2013 04:49 PM PDT
To be included in this episode of Blues Unlimited, two simple rules were employed: it had to be cut for Stax Records (or one of their affiliated labels), and it had to be a cover version. After the smoke cleared and the dust settled, we selected 27 tracks that rocked, moved, and inspired — or in a couple cases, were just simply jaw-dropping. Sometimes, great art can come about in the process of redefining that which you find surrounding you, and in the case of Stax Records, as they redefined, reexamined, and reinterpreted the musical landscape in Memphis — and the blues legacy that that entailed — they, too, created great art. And almost as a bonus, gave us some of the fine musical experiments and top-notch offerings that we'll get to hear on tonight's program.
Pictured: the hit-making house band at Stax, Booker T. & the MGs (Left to Right: Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper, and Al Jackson, Jr.)Paul Oliver's "The Story of the Blues" (Pt. 2)
May 08, 2013 10:03 AM PDT
We continue where we left off, with sides three and four, and music from Leroy Carr, Casey Bill Weldon, Bukka White, Robert Johnson, Brownie McGhee, Big Joe Williams, Elmore James, and more.
Trivia Note: The cover to the British version of the set, with buildings in the background, reveals Oliver's other area of expertise -- in the field of vernacular architecture.Paul Oliver's "The Story of the Blues" (Pt. 1)
May 08, 2013 09:45 AM PDT
On this episode, 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.
In the first half, we'll cover the first two sides of the set, with music from Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, Peg Leg Howell, Barbecue Bob, the Memphis Jug Band, and Bessie Smith, amongst others.
Naptown Boogie: Blues from Indianapolis, Pt. 2
May 02, 2013 10:21 AM PDT
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we’re hopping in our time machine, setting the dial for the Blues Revival of the 1960s and our destination to the city of Indianapolis. Home to a once thriving Blues community, we’ll hear from some of the legends — and some of the forgotten heroes — of the Blues in Naptown, such as Scrapper Blackwell, Yank Rachell, Guitar Pete Franklin, and more.Naptown Boogie: Blues from Indianapolis, Pt. 1
May 02, 2013 10:01 AM PDT
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we’re hopping in our time machine, setting the dial for the Blues Revival of the 1960s and our destination to the city of Indianapolis. Home to a once thriving Blues community, we’ll hear from some of the legends — and some of the forgotten heroes — of the Blues in Naptown.Blues from the Outer Limits, Pt 2
April 24, 2013 11:12 AM PDT
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, join us as we explore the outer reaches of the Blues Universe. From fife and drum band music out of Georgia and Mississippi, to musicians who play quills, pan pipes and homemade instruments, one string guitar players from Florida to Los Angeles, and quick-witted street musicians from Ann Arbor and San Antonio, join us for Blues from the Outer Limits.
Pictured: Jesse Fuller and his setup, including his homemade "fotdella."Blues from the Outer Limits, Pt 1
April 24, 2013 10:58 AM PDT
In this special edition of Blues Unlimited, we pull out all the stops and dig through our archives in search of Blues musicians that play one-stringed instruments, Fife and Drum Band music from the Hill Country of Mississippi, Blues musicians that play pan pipes and trombones (no, not at the same time) as well as a variety of home made instruments. From cult favorites like Bongo Joe to the crowd-pleasing one-stringed boogie riffs of Lonnie Pitchford to the celestial sounds of Gospel singer Washington Phillips, we leave no holds barred on this one for a show dedicated to the odd, the unique, the bizarre and the downright wonderfully weird into one utterly delightful package. Includes rare and classic performances by One String Sam and Willie Joe Duncan & His Unitar, Othar Turner, Jesse Fuller (the one-man-band and his homemade ‘fotdella’); perennial favorites Hezekiah and the Houserockers; Ann Arbor, Michigan street performing legend Shakin' Jake Woods, and many more.
Pictured: Napoleon Strickland on fife, Jimmie Buford on bass drum, R.L. Boyce on snare drum, and Othar Turner dancing.A Legend at 19: A Tribute to Jody Williams, Pt. 2
April 17, 2013 09:49 AM PDT
Join us for a tribute to blues guitar legend Jody Williams. Making his debut on record at the age of 19, he became a highly influential guitarist, playing and recording with a who's who of Chicago legends like Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Bill Boy Arnold and Otis Rush — just to name a few. A tribute to guitar legend Jody Williams, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.
Pictured: From Jody Williams' first recording session as a leader, credited to "Little Papa Joe."A Legend at 19: A Tribute to Jody Williams, Pt. 1
April 17, 2013 09:30 AM PDT
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Joseph Leon "Jody" Williams moved with his family to Chicago when he was just 5 years old. His early musical heroes were the Harmonicats, with their number one smash hit of 1947, "Peg O' My Heart." It was an encounter with Bo Diddley at a talent show that convinced him he should put down his harmonica and pick up a guitar. As he later told writer Bill Dahl, he had never played any blues — but by all accounts, he was a fast learner. Absorbing the guitar styles of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and Robert Lockwood, Jody become one of the first important string benders to work in Chicago, influencing such up and coming stars like Otis Rush and Buddy Guy — and playing, recording, and touring with a veritable who's who of blues legends along the way.
It’s not many people who can lay claim to being an influential musician starting at the ripe old age of 19, but Jody Williams can, and on this episode of Blues Unlimited, we’ll be exploring that legacy in depth.
As far as "string bending" goes, just in case you’re not up to date with your guitar lingo, there are two main techniques for altering the pitch of a guitar string while playing. One technique involves the use of a bottleneck or a slide, like Elmore James, Muddy Waters, or Robert Nighthawk; the second is to simply bend the string up or down while playing, a technique employed by such movers and shakers as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King — who also happen to be Jody’s two main influences.
Another influence can be felt from Robert Lockwood, who often incorporated a jazzy sophistication that can be heard in Jody’s playing as well. Unlike Lockwood, however, Jody’s playing also has a gritty quality that fans of Chicago Blues know and love so well — and it’s his ability to incorporate these two differing styles into something unique that’s made the name of Jody Williams such an important one on the post war scene.
In the late 1960s, Jody Williams quit the music business in favor of a steady day job in the field of electronics, a trade he learned while in the Army. Opting for early retirement in 1994, it wasn’t until six years later that he was convinced to pick up his guitar again, resulting in a critically acclaimed comeback CD in the year 2001. Today, Jody Williams is still playing and touring, dazzling audiences with his patented fretwork and understated jazzy guitar runs that made him such a force to be reckoned with on the Chicago scene almost 60 years ago.A Legend Every Night: Blues from Antone's, Pt 2
April 10, 2013 04:40 PM PDT
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, a tribute to Antone’s night club. Founded in 1975 in Austin, Texas, it featured a who’s who of blues legends, live and on stage. Twelve years later, Antone’s also started a record label, capturing some of those memorable moments on tape. A "Who’s Who" of Blues legends — live from Antone’s — on this episode of Blues Unlimited.
From Left to Right: Clifford Antone, Pinetop Perkins, Sunnyland SlimA Legend Every Night: Blues from Antone's, Pt 1
April 10, 2013 04:20 PM PDT
If you wanted to go see a Blues Legend live on stage every night, where would you go? Well, according to Clifford Antone, between 1975 and 1985, there was no better place than his very own eponymous night club, Antone's.
Founded in 1975 by Clifford Antone and Angela Strehli, Antone’s, located in the heart of Austin, Texas, became one of the preeminent spots to go see live Blues — especially after a veritable "Who's Who" of Chicago veterans made the trek down south and found a new outlet — not to mention an adoring and appreciative audience — for their music. Clifford Antone’s philosophy was quite simply really. He once stated that he and his buddies wanted to hear some Blues, so why not bring the musicians to them rather than the other way around. It was a strategy that ultimately paid off, and one that helped put Austin on the map as an important city for live music. Although things were sometimes shaky at first — one story involves Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter Horton, and Eddie Taylor playing to an audience of about 5 people one night — through perseverance, the night club became a famous — if not infamous at times — home away from home for many blues legends during the twilight days of their careers (other stories involve a seemingly endless game of poker between some of the musicians that apparently had no discernible start or end to it, while someone else told a story about how Buddy Guy would come in every night that Jimmy Rogers or B.B. King were playing in the club, and sit up front, watching their every move — explaining that when he was growing up, those guy were "his heroes").
Thanks in part to Clifford's generous spirit, it seemed that the good times at Antone’s would sometimes never end. Sadly, that was not to be the case. In May 2006, Clifford Antone's body was found at his home in Austin, Texas. The club had recently celebrated it’s 30th anniversary, and he was just 56. Today, however, Antone’s is still going strong down in Austin Texas, and still carries the name of it’s co-founder, whose love for this genuine American Art Form it still bears witness.
Please help support these podcasts - visit us on eBay!
April 02, 2013 09:50 AM PDT
To help keep the flow of podcasts steady, your support is needed now more than ever. Please take a look at some of the blues-related goodies we have for sale by following this link! And we thank you!!!The British Blues Explosion, Pt. 2
April 01, 2013 11:09 AM PDT
Join us as we explore the British Blues Explosion of the late 1950s and the 1960s. From the originators — like Chris Barber and Alexis Korner — to the famous — like the Rolling Stones and Fleetwod Mac — to the not so famous — like Duster Bennett and Jo Ann Kelly — it’s a fascinating glimpse at a country that was positively obsessed by Blues Fever.
Pictured, from left to right: Dick Heckstall-Smith, Alexis Korner, Cyril DaviesThe British Blues Explosion, Pt. 1
April 01, 2013 10:54 AM PDT
If you were going to take a look at where British Blues Fever got its start, two names, more than any others, would come up over and over again — Chris Barber and Alexis Korner.
Barber was — and still is, for that matter — the leader of a traditional Jazz band, who saw that Blues and Jazz both had common roots. On the advice of John Lewis (one of the members of the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet), he brought Muddy Waters and Otis Spann over from Chicago to England for a series of concerts in the Fall of 1958. Once there, Muddy's presence helped galvanize the movement, and Barber continued to book other acts such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Champion Jack Dupree, among others. Starting in 1962, the American Folk Blues Festival Tours commenced on a yearly basis, always with a stop or two in England along the way — which helped further cement a national passion for the Blues that was virtually unequaled. For his role in jump-starting the British Blues Explosion, Barber has often been referred to as the "grandfather" of British Blues.
Another spark that helped ignite British Blues Fever was a man that came to be known as the "King of Skiffle," Lonnie Donegan. Although he got his start playing with Chris Barber, it wasn't until they did something called a "Skiffle Break" that he really came into his own. The idea was simple enough — send Donegan out on stage with an acoustic guitar and a rudimentary accompaniment of a washboard and a "tea-chest" bass (what we would call a "washtub" bass here in the states) and sing a few folk songs by Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie while — more importantly — Chris Barber and the rest of the band took a break between live sets. Donegan's first record, "Rock Island Line," became a hit in England and the U.S., making him an international star, and leading to the skiffle craze of the late 1950s.
If Barber was the grandfather, then, Alexis Korner, in turn, has often been referred to as the father of British Blues. A name barely recognized in the states, his band, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, sported a veritable who's who of talent. Almost anyone who was anyone seemed to have, at one point or another, played in his band. Young Blues enthusiasts of the day — such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, and Jimmy Page — would come to his gigs, hoping for the chance to sit in (being called up on stage by Alexis was considered an honor, back in the day). Teaming up with Cyril Davies, a multi-talented instrumentalist who had also gotten his start with Chris Barber (as had Alexis), Blues Incorporated was, for a time, Britain's premier Blues band. Dissolving the group in 1966, Alexis remained true to his Blues roots throughout the years, while many of those to whom he had given a start in the business found their way to Rock 'n' Roll, and in some cases, superstardom.
Cyril Davies, another major figure on the scene in his own right, left Korner's group to go out on his own after a disagreement about the direction of Blues Incorporated. When Alexis added a saxophone player, it was too much for Davies, who was something of a purist, and felt that it was taking the group in a "too jazzy" direction. Cutting the influential two-sided bluesy rocker, "Chicago Calling" and "Country Line Special" in 1963, it was released to rave reveiws, and was even cited by Kinks founding member Ray Davies (apparently no relation) as the catalyst which led him to start his group. Sadly, a year after cutting "Country Line Special," Cyril Davies would be dead from a heart condition.
If there was anyone deserving of credit behind the scenes, it would surely have to be producer and engineer Mike Vernon, the co-founder of Blue Horizon records. Working tirelessly, he is one of the unsung heroes, without which a lot of the material on this program would have never been possible. For that, we give him a Blues Unlimited tip of the hat and our heartfelt thanks.
Overall, the British Blues Explosion was fueled by a passion for the music and a reverence for the original artists that bordered on religious zealotry. In a way, it was almost like they held up a mirror and pointed it back at their neighbors across the pond, as a way of gently reminding us of just how important all of this really was. And in no small way, we have them to thank for helping spark our own Blues Revival of the 1960s. But as they say, that's a story that we'll have tell on some other day.A Conversation With The Blues, Pt 2
March 22, 2013 07:40 PM PDT
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS PROGRAM CARRIES A LANGUAGE ADVISORY. LISTENER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
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Join us for a special program featuring two legendary albums. The first, a "Conversation With The Blues," was recorded by Paul Oliver during the summer of 1960. The second, "Blues In The Mississippi Night," is a haunting documentary recorded by Alan Lomax in 1947.
Pictured: Paul Oliver. In addition to being an author and scholar in the Blues field, he is also an expert in the field of vernacular architecture.A Conversation With The Blues, Pt 1
March 22, 2013 07:12 PM PDT
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS PROGRAM CARRIES A LANGUAGE ADVISORY. LISTENER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
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Many critics would agree that one of the finest books about the Blues is one by Paul Oliver called "Conversation With The Blues." To say that it is by Paul Oliver, however, is slightly misleading -- like many similar books by Studs Terkel, it is actually an oral history of the Blues, spoken directly from the hearts and minds of the musicians who lived that life, told in a matter-of-fact, straightforward, and unadorned fashioned. Oliver collected these interviews during the summer of 1960, when he made an extensive sweep through the United States, gathering stories by Blues musicians from practically every walk of life. It took five years to transcribe the tapes that finally appeared in the book, and along with it, of course, came a companion LP of the same name. In 1997, after years of being out of print, the Cambridge University Press finally issued a second edition of the book, along with a companion CD, which featured a slightly different running order than did the orignal 1965 LP. On this program, we'll feature most of the original LP, along with a couple of bonus selections from the 1997 Compact Disc.
The other album we're featuring tonight is one steeped in legend. One Sunday afternoon in March 1947, in New York City, Alan Lomax took Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson down to a recording studio, turned on a tape machine (actually, it was a rather primitive disc cutting machine), and sat back and watched while the three men talked frankly and openly about their lives -- the first time they had ever done so in front of a microphone.
The recordings they made that day and the stories they told are nothing less than deeply moving and stunning -- at times, a jaw-dropping testament to the lives they'd all lived back in the south, before heading north to Chicago to pursue the life of a musician. And when Alan Lomax did a playback of the afternoon's events for these three titans of the Blues, they were literally terrified. Fearing reprisals and retribution on their loved ones back home for what they had said, Alan Lomax agreed never to issue the recordings during their lifetimes using their real names. It wasn't until 1990, when Rykodisc issued "Blues In The Mississippi Night," that they were finally issued -- for the first time -- without using pseudonyms.
For the uninitiated, the stories on tonight's program are sometimes hard to take. The language is often coarse, brutual, and matter of fact. But after experiencing the stories you will hear on tonight's program, you will never think about the Blues -- or the people who lived that life -- the same way ever again.
More Gems & Rarities from Genesis, Part 2
March 11, 2013 11:27 AM PDT
We had so much fun pulling out rare gems and classic nuggets from "Genesis," we’re doing it all over again this time around as well! Join us for more great, rare, and classic cuts as we mine deep into the "Genesis" motherlode. On this episode of Blues Unlimited.
More Gems & Rarities from Genesis, Part 1
March 11, 2013 11:10 AM PDT
"Genesis" was a series of three box sets that came out in England between 1972 and 1975. Compiled by expert blues researchers Mike Leadbitter and Mike Rowe, they were lengthy explorations of the Chess catalog -- each volume contained four LPs and a lavishly illustrated booklet -- and featured classic selections and rare cuts, some of which are hard to find even today. 40 years later, the "Genesis" series has passed the test of time as a high water mark by which other reissues are judged, in terms of quality, selection of material, and level of research -- each of them now considered to be prized collectors items.
Mike Rowe would go on to author the definitive history of Chicago Blues with his landmark work, "Chicago Breakdown," while Mike Leadbitter -- one of the founders of "Blues Unlimited" magazine -- for whom this radio show is named in honor -- would go on to write and edit countless articles and liner notes during his all too brief career. In addition, he was also the co-author of the standard discographical reference work, "Blues Records," now in its fourth edition. The third volume of "Genesis" was dedicated to his memory when it came out in 1975, the year after he died.
When the review of the last "Genesis" volume came out in "Blues Unlimited" magazine in 1975, it was noted that there was an option for a fourth, similar volume. Sadly, this fantastic series would come to end with just three installments, but as the old saying goes, it was enough. It was not only testimony to a great record label and the musicians behind it, but also to a pair of passionate blues experts -- Mike Rowe and Mike Leadbitter -- who compiled the series and brought it to fruition. For that, we thank them for bringing this fantastic material to light, for all of us to enjoy.Gems & Rarities from Genesis, Part 2
March 05, 2013 08:54 AM PST
Depending upon your point of view, "Genesis" refers either to a book of the bible, a popular rock group, or a plot device from Star Trek. If you’re a blues fan, it only means one thing -- a series of three box sets that came out between 1972 and 1975 celebrating the Chess catalog. Rare gems and classic nuggets from "Genesis," on this episode of Blues Unlimited.Gems & Rarities from Genesis, Part 1
March 05, 2013 08:13 AM PST
"Genesis" was a legendary series of albums compiled by British Blues experts Mike Leadbitter and Mike Rowe between 1972 and 1975. They were a lengthy celebration of the Chess catalog -- each volume was a box set that held four different LPs, complete with lavish illustrations and extensive notes about the music and the performers.
Over the last 40 years, the Chess catalog has been extensively reissued, but some of the cuts off of "Genesis" remain rare and hard to find even today. Although "Genesis" volume one stuck largely to material that had previously been issued on 78, volumes two and three opened up the gates with rare unissued cuts and alternate takes that had not seen the light of day since they were first recorded. It’s those cuts off of "Genesis" that we’ll be focusing on most with this program -- along the way, giving us a chance to highlight these critically acclaimed series of LPs, while hearing some great nuggets from the Chess vaults all at the same time.
Although 12 volumes were originally slated for the "Genesis" anthology, it was sadly not to be. Critically acclaimed at the time they came out, it was either due to lack of sales, or perhaps due to co-compiler Mike Leadbitter’s untimely death in 1974 that saw the series grind to a halt after just three installments. The third and final volume, compiled by Mike Rowe, was dedicated to Mike Leadbitter when it came out in 1975. Today, they’re prized collectors items, holding a special place of honor among those who are lucky enough to have them in their collection.Blues from Ann Arbor, '72 (and '69), Part 2
February 24, 2013 07:35 AM PST
If you were one of the folks who attended Ann Arbor during the festival's heyday years between 1969 and 1974, then you should thank your lucky stars. If not, then you can join us for rare, great, and classic selections from the '72 fest, and also a few highlights from Magic Sam's legendary set from 1969. Blues from Ann Arbor, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.
Pictured: The late great Magic Sam.Blues from Ann Arbor, '72 (and '69), Part 1
February 24, 2013 07:13 AM PST
The Festival at Ann Arbor originally started in 1969 at the University of Michigan, and was held just two weeks before another legendary outdoor concert got its start in upstate New York -- a little gathering of some 500,000 people you might’ve heard about called Woodstock. And while Woodstock has since gone into the history books as one of the greatest rock festivals of all time, in strictly blues terms, the 1969 Ann Arbor festival saw a gathering of talent that has been virtually unmatched to this very day.
Making a small profit and hailed as an artistic success, another festival was scheduled for 1970, but it lost money, due to a competing festival nearby. After going dark in 1971, the festival was revived -- with an expanded line up that included jazz icons like Miles Davis -- and was fortunately recorded by Atlantic Records, with a double LP set being issued the following year. And while a handful of cuts off of that LP were reissued on CD over the years, some of them (such as Otis Rush's blazing performance on "Gambler's Blues") remain maddeningly hard to find.
As for legendary, it's pretty hard to top Magic Sam, live at Ann Arbor, 1969. Most blues fans would probably agree that his set at Ann Arbor is one of the top live blues performances of all time. As for a young blues fan named Amy O'Neal who was in the crowd to witness it all happen (she's known as Amy van Singel these days), Magic Sam live at Ann Arbor was one of the best she's ever heard, before or since.
While the music at the 1972 festival was professionally recorded, in 1969, due to a technical snafu, recordings were made with a handheld cassette tape recorder out in the field. Years later, the tapes of Magic Sam were placed in the hands of Delmark Records, who subsequently released them on the critically acclaimed "Magic Sam Live." Needless to say, it's considered essential blues listening.
So catch the spirit of the times with these heady performances from Ann Arbor, 1972, and Magic Sam's blistering set from Ann Arbor, 1969 -- that is, just in case you weren't there to catch it the first time around.
Pictured: Otis Rush, who closed the show at Ann Arbor in 1972.
Chance Records Down Home Blues, Part 2
February 17, 2013 07:50 AM PST
Chance Records was a label owned and operated by Windy City businessman Art Sheridan from 1950 to 1954. During that time they released some incredibly raw, gritty, and spectacular down home blues, from the likes of Homesick James, Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, Willie Nix, J.B. Hutto, and more.
Illustration courtesy of the Big Joe Louis collection.Chance Records Down Home Blues, Part 1
February 17, 2013 07:28 AM PST
Chance Records was a label owned and operated by Windy City businessman Art Sheridan from 1950 to 1954. During that time they released some incredibly raw, gritty, and spectacular down home blues, from the likes of Homesick James, Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, Willie Nix, J.B. Hutto, and more. Down Home Blues from Chance Records, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.
Illustration courtesy of the Big Joe Louis collection.
Movin' & Groovin' to the Hammond B3, Part 2
February 10, 2013 07:18 AM PST
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we're movin' and groovin' to the sounds of the Hammond B3 organ. Popular in Jazz, Blues, R&B, Soul, and Gospel, we'll celebrate the history of this hit making instrument over the years, with rarities from Sam Lazar and J.C. Davis, plus all time classics from Bill Doggett, Booker T. & the MG's, Jimmy McGriff, and more. Photo by Jonah Kessel.
Movin' & Groovin' to the Hammond B3, Part 1
February 10, 2013 07:01 AM PST
The first Hammond Organ -- the Model A -- was introduced in the United States in 1935 by inventor Laurens Hammond. He originally intended it for use in radio broadcasting, as a replacement for the piano in middle class homes, and as an affordable substitute for the pipe organ in churches. In the mid 1950s, the B3 model was introduced, and it quickly found a home in blues, gospel, and jazz music circles -- becoming one of their most popular sellers.
On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we'll hear Hammond B3 rarities from Saint Louis-based keyboardist Sam Lazar (Jazz guitar legend Grant Green was an early member of the group) as well as J.C. Davis (his 45 for Chess, "Feznecky"), plus all time classics from Bill Doggett, Booker T. & the MG's, Jimmy McGriff, James Booker, and a special treat from Jazz keyboard legend Jimmy Smith.
Although the original Hammond B3 was officially discontinued in 1974, we’re pleased to say that Suzuki -- who now owns Hammond -- recently came out with an updated tribute model, which is said to duplicate every single aspect of the original. Whether on a vintage Hammond B3 or the newly redesigned one, we look forward to more fine music being made on the Hammond B3 in years to come.
Pictured: Keyboard legend Booker T. JonesR. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 3, Hr 2)
February 04, 2013 07:13 AM PST
In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program we finish up our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues."
Illustrations by R. Crumb, from the "Heroes of the Blues." Published by Yazoo Records, 1980.R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 3, Hr 1)
February 04, 2013 06:54 AM PST
In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program we finish up our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues" with music from Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Peetie Wheatstraw, Memphis Minnie, and more.
Latest Additions to the BLUES UNLIMITED Radio Network!
July 05, 2011 10:20 AM PDT
If you're looking for more opportunities to catch "Blues Unlimited" over the airwaves, and you happen to live in North Carolina, you're in luck!
Blues Unlimited is now airing on WNCU in Durham on Sunday nights from 10pm to Midnight, and WSNC in Winston-Salem on Saturday nights, 8-10pm (local time). Both offer live streaming, so you can tune in from anywhere!
We're also big lovers of community radio, so be sure to catch us over the Ithaca Community Radio Network in upstate New York..... 88.1FM in Ithaca, 91.9FM in Watkins Glen, and 89.9FM in Odessa. Saturdays from 8-10pm, local time.
Down in Florida, you can still catch us in HIGH DEFINITION (ain't that cool, eh?) on WUCF's HD2 feed every Saturday Night from 10pm to Midnight. They also stream live so you can catch us that way as well!
And, for Blues Unlimited fans in Southwest Alaska, don't miss us over the airwaves of KDLG, Dillingham, on FM 89.9, from 7-9pm local time, every Saturday. And no, they don't stream the feed over the internet. You have to actually BE in Alaska for that one!
Thanks for tuning in! And remember -- radio stations pay attention when listeners like you write in. If you want YOUR local station to carry "Blues Unlimited," write them, call them, or fire off an email or two and let them know about us! Because every new radio station that comes on board helps keep us doing what we're doing!R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 2, Hr 2)
January 27, 2013 09:12 AM PST
In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the second of three) we continue our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues."
Illustrations by R. Crumb, from the "Heroes of the Blues." Published by Yazoo Records, 1980.R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 2, Hr 1)
January 27, 2013 08:55 AM PST
In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the second of three) we continue our exploration of "The Heroes of the Blues." Among the featured artists on this program are Furry Lewis, Big Bill Broonzy, The Rev. Gary Davis, Cannon's Jug Stompers, the Memphis Jug Band, Skip James, and many more.R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 1, Hr 2)
January 19, 2013 04:22 AM PST
In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the first of three) we dive head first into "The Heroes of the Blues."
Note: Illustrations by R. Crumb, from the "Heroes of the Blues." Published by Yazoo Records, 1980.R. Crumb's "Heroes of the Blues" (Part 1, Hr 1)
January 19, 2013 04:02 AM PST
In 1980, the good folks at Yazoo Records issued a box set of 36 trading cards called "The Heroes of the Blues," with drawings by legendary illustrator and cartoonist R. Crumb, and text by noted researcher and author Stephen Calt. They've long been favorites with Blues fans, and on this program (the first of three) we dive head first into "The Heroes of the Blues." Among the featured artists on this program are Peg Leg Howell, Blind Blake, Frank Stokes, Jaybird Coleman, Blind Willie Johnson, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and more.Smash Hits of the Late 1940s, Part 2
January 13, 2013 10:28 AM PST
Join us as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s. It was a period dominated by Blues shouters, wailing saxes, and piano-playing balladeers -- and Louis Jordan was king of the charts. But times were changing, with independent record producers making inroads into previously uncharted waters. With our top secret formula, we've made a list of the 34 biggest chart-busters of the late 1940s, and we're counting down to number one!
Pictured: Cecil Gant, whose "I Wonder" became one of the big smash hits of the late 1940s.Smash Hits of the Late 1940s, Part 1
January 13, 2013 10:10 AM PST
Join us as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s. It was a period dominated by Blues shouters, wailing saxes, and piano-playing balladeers -- and Louis Jordan (pictured) was king of the charts. But times were a changing, with independent record producers making inroads into previously uncharted waters.
One iconic record that helped pave the way for what would become the burgeoning independent record scene of the late 1940s was "I Wonder," by Private Cecil Gant. It was just the right record, at just the right time, hitting upon the zeitgiest of World War II and homesick soldiers who would soon be stationed "a million miles away" from their gal back home. The original version was recorded in June 1944 by Leroy Hurte for his independent Bronze label, but when Hurte couldn't keep up with demand, it was quietly recorded again, for yet another independent label, Gilt-Edge. And as events played out, it was Gilt-Edge -- not Bronze -- that had the Billboard smash hit with it. It was such a huge seller that Gilt-Edge had trouble keeping up with orders as well, even into the early days of March 1945, months after its release.
But it set the record industry on its ear, so to speak. As a massive hit with broad crossover appeal, it was a clarion call to the newly emerging independent record industry that success was possible in a market mostly dominated by the major labels up until that time.
By far, though, Louis Jordan was one of the biggest stars of the era, turning in almost 50 top ten performances on the Billboard charts between 1942 and late 1949, with most of those making it into the top 5, or higher. With cleverly crafted songs and a band that cooked, it's pretty easy to see how he would go on to influence Rhythm & Blues rockers like Chuck Berry the following decade (One main difference between the '40s and the '50s? Louis Jordan's instrument of choice was the saxophone. Chuck Berry wielded an electric guitar.... need we say more?).
To come up with our list of the biggest #1 R&B hits of the late 1940s, we devised a special super-secret formula, giving weight to the number of weeks a record was on the Billboard charts, with bonus points given for number of weeks held in the top position. After hearing the show and seeing the playlist, however, some might wonder why some all time classics didn't make the cut.
One of the most widely heard records of the late 1940s had to be "Open The Door, Richard!" by Jack McVea. Essentially a comedy record cut for the L.A.-based Black & White label, it entered the charts on February 8th, 1947, but only enjoyed a seven week run, topping out at number two, where it stayed for two weeks. "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," Stick McGhee's homage to good times and cheap booze that helped put a fledgling Atlantic Records on the map, befell a similar fate. After a healthy run of 23 weeks on the charts, it stalled out at number two (a position it held for four weeks), but was unable to penetrate the grasp of three of the hugest hits of the decade that were making a run on the charts at exactly the same time -- "The Hucklebuck" by Paul Williams, "Trouble Blues," by Charles Brown, and "Ain't Nobody's Business," by Jimmy Witherspoon. And speaking of classics by Charles Brown, "Drifting Blues" -- cut in 1946 with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, and one of his most widely covered songs -- hit a similar brick wall when it ran up against Lionel Hampton's version of "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop," which was enjoying a 16 week run at the top slot that spring and summer. On the charts for 23 weeks, "Drifting Blues" finally topped out at number two, for two weeks.
Although Billboard chart statistics don't always tell us "the whole story" (so to speak), in any case, here are the hits that a generation of R&B fans danced to, heard on the radio, sung along to, and put their nickels in juke boxes all across America to hear again, and again, and again. Join us then, as we count our way down through the biggest #1 R&B hit records of the late 1940s.Recycling The Blues Again, Part 2
January 06, 2013 08:39 AM PST
Join us as we take a look at yet another handful of iconic, world famous blues songs, and trace their roots back through time to their original version or incarnation. It's a fascinating glimpse at the development of some of the most beloved songs in all of blues history. We're recycling the blues again, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.
Recycling The Blues Again, Part 1
January 06, 2013 08:11 AM PST
Join us as we take a look at yet another handful of iconic, world famous blues songs, and trace their roots back through time to their original version or incarnation. It's a fascinating glimpse at the development of some of the most beloved songs in all of blues history. Featured on this episode: "Key To The Highway," "Shake 'Em On Down," "Matchbox Blues," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Standing At The Crossroads," and more. We're recycling the blues again, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.Lower Chattahoochee Valley Blues, Part 2
December 29, 2012 09:52 AM PST
Join us as we explore the legendary field recordings of George Mitchell from the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley of southwestern Georgia and southeastern Alabama. An area historically overlooked by Blues researchers, his recordings are priceless treasures of a region steeped in rich musical culture. Pictured: Cecil Barfield. Photo by George Mitchell.Lower Chattahoochee Valley Blues, Part 1
December 29, 2012 09:31 AM PST
George Mitchell stumbled upon the music of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley area -- technically, those parts of Alabama and Georgia where the Chattahoochee River first touches the Alabama border, and the 18 to 21 counties (depending upon whose definition you use) that line either side on its way down towards the Florida border -- almost by accident. After making field recordings in Atlanta, Mississippi and Memphis, he had finished his master's thesis (which would become the acclaimed book, "Blow My Blues Away"), and had accepted a newspaper job in Columbus, Georgia, pretty much in the heart of the Chattahoochee Valley.
He and his wife Cathy decided to take a drive one weekend to see if they could find some blues being played in the area. And as the old saying goes, boy did they ever. As George relates:
"[This was] a very different sound, one that I had never heard before, and one that had never made it to record. I assume this was because Columbus was the poorest area in Georgia, and it was very isolated. It didn't have a freeway connection, the residents didn't travel to Atlanta, and [talent] scouts never went down there. So on weekends and some nights we'd go look for people east and south of Columbus, and we'd usually find at least one person in every town that would play at least a few songs well. Most of them did not have big repertoires.... but there were a lot of people who could play a few songs really well, and could do a lot of songs from this style that no one had really heard of before."
As he had done before, George Mitchell started recording and photographing the blues musicians he encountered. Eventually, some of these recordings slowly but surely made their way onto LPs, books ("In Celebration of a Legacy: The Traditional Arts of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley," was originally published in 1981, with a revised edition coming out in 1998 with two CDs of original field recordings), and eventually CDs, when Fat Possum Records started an extensive reissue program. Although some of the performers were reluctant to travel, George Mitchell managed to get some of them onto the stages of local folk festivals, and eventually -- in the case of Precious Bryant -- the international stage as well.
But Cecil Barfield, whom George thought to be one of his greatest "discoveries," was a colorful figure who was content to stay where he was. Part farmer and part country philosopher, Barfield asked George Mitchell to use only a pseudonym -- William Roberston -- on recordings of his that were issued in his lifetime (his fear was that money coming in from the recordings would jeopardize the welfare checks that he relied upon for living expenses). He was also superstitious -- perhaps to a fault -- when Southland Records issued an LP of his material, it appeared without his picture on the cover, because he feared that anyone could turn a photo of him face down and kill him. And of the money that came in for the recording, Mitchell suspects that it was all spent on traditional "root doctors," to help with Barfield's various ailments. Refusing calls to travel overseas for international Blues festivals, Mitchell finally succeeded in getting him up to Columbus, Georgia, just once, for a folk festival. Barfield said he'd been there one time before -- in World War II -- and apparently didn't see much of a need to go back (another George Mitchell "discovery" from the Lower Chattahoochee was a local fife and drum band tradition in Waverly Hall, Georgia -- stunning researchers, who had believed (up until then anyway) -- that it was strictly a northern Mississippi tradition).
Colorful figures such as Barfield and engaging performances from a whole host of musicians abound on this episode of Blues Unlimited. Come and join us, then, on a special musical journey as we travel through the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley, and celebrate these legendary field recordings all made by one person -- George Mitchell.
For more information about the Lower Chattahooche River Valley, including interviews with George Mitchell, audio samples, and small biographies of the performers, we highly recommend a visit to this informative website < http://southernspaces.org/2004/blues-lower-chattahoochee-valley > which was a great help in preparing this program.
Pictured: Jimmy Lee Harris. Photo by George Mitchell.Deep Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Son House, Pt. 2
December 02, 2012 06:49 AM PST
Join us for a tribute to the life and extraordinary music of Son House. His recordings from 1930 and the early 1940s not only helped define the very essence of Mississippi Delta Blues, but his live performances from the 1960s dazzled audiences during the Blues Revival. The life and music of Son House, on this episode of Blues Unlimited.
Pictured: Son House with his manager, Dick Waterman, after one of his very last public performances in 1974.
Deep Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Son House
December 02, 2012 06:30 AM PST
Son House may very well have been the greatest Blues singer that ever lived. Mind you, there was nothing fancy or complicated about his music or his guitar playing. But coming, as it did, from the very heart of the Delta, there is something about his music that is irreducible. It is such a part and parcel of the very essence of what we call the Mississippi Delta Blues, that it is hard to imagine anyone breaking it down into pieces more fundamental or elemental than what Son House brought to the table. You wouldn’t necessarily point to his music and say, “There’s a good example of what Delta Blues sounds like.” His music is the Delta Blues, and he, in turn, is the very essence of what the Blues is all about.
A former preacher and farmer who spent some time at Parchman Farm, Son House was born in the early days of the 20th century, and took up guitar relatively late in life. It was, in fact, the push and pull between the earthly desires of his physical being, juxtaposed against the soul’s yearning for redemption that largely informs his music. For instance, in the early days, he was known to sing the Blues all night long in a juke joint on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, wipe the beer bottles off of a table, get up on it and start preaching a hellfire and brimstone sermon. After he was done, according to legend, he would get down off the table, and he and his musical partner Willie Brown would go right back on playing the Blues for the hungover -- and we can only imagine somewhat startled -- patrons.
He made his debut recording session in the summer of 1930 for Paramount Records, but thanks to the Great Depression, they pretty much went nowhere. Out of the four issued 78s, two of them are so rare that only one copy of each is known to exist. One of them was found lying on the floor of an abandoned home in rural Virginia, while the other one didn’t turn up until 2005 -- some 75 years after the fact! Of the other two, only a few copies of each are known to exist.
In 1941, Alan Lomax came knocking on behalf of the Library of Congress, and further sessions were held -- this time, with one of the most exciting groups of Delta musicians ever assembled -- Son House on guitar and vocals, Leroy Williams on harmonica, Fiddlin’ Joe Martin on mandolin, and the legendary Willie Brown on second guitar. Sadly, Lomax had to pack up his equipment after recording only a few numbers, thanks to interference from the local authorities who put a stop to the proceedings. The few numbers that Lomax did capture, however, are priceless.
Alan Lomax came around again in 1942, recording further numbers with Son House, this time just solo. One of the standout pieces was a version of “Jinx Blues,” a tune associated with his musical partners Charley Patton and Willie Brown.
Sometime after this, he relocated to Rochester, New York, where he worked as a chef, and also as a porter on the New York Central Railroad. In 1964, three young Blues enthusiasts -- Nick Perls, Phil Spiro, and Dick Waterman -- came knocking on his door after a journey involving some 16 states and 4,000 miles. He no longer owned a guitar, however, and wasn’t sure he could sing again. Alan Wilson, later to go onto fame and recognition with Canned Heat, was employed to help Son “relearn” his music. Son, apparently, appreciated the help and support that the young man gave him. When they played together, Wilson was never showy or flashy, only complementing what Son was already playing. And others observed that Alan’s presence had a calming effect on Son when he was with him -- perhaps due to the fact that when he wasn't playing his beloved steel-bodied National guitar, his hands trembled.
People who saw him live in concert tell stories about him going to another place -- essentially leaving the building -- during his intense, extended pieces -- with everyone drained and exhausted at the end of each show. Quite frankly, they wondered how he was able to pour every ounce of his energy, every part of his being, so totally into his music. And yet he did, time and time again. Thankfully, footage from that era has survived, and it gives us an ever so brief glimpse in to the sheer power and passion of his live performances.
His last “great” public appearance came in the summer of 1970, in London. It was supposed to be his final European tour prior to a proposed retirement. However, retirement didn’t really come for another five years. His last recordings were made in April 1975, and are housed at an archive at Indiana University, remaining unissued. He died some 13 years later, in October 1988, at the age of 86.
In a 1970 interview, John Lennon offered this observation -- that the Blues were a chair. He said:
“[The Blues] are not a design for a chair, or a better chair... it is the first chair. It is a chair for sitting on, not chairs for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.”
Although John had the right idea, he may have missed the mark just slightly when choosing his metaphor. The Blues aren’t so much a chair, as they are, perhaps, a house.
Or in this case, Son House.
It goes without saying that Blues singers like Son House only come along once. And fortunately for us, we have his incredible body of recorded work that lives on. Join us then, as we celebrate the life and music of one of the greatest Blue singers that ever lived.
Photo of Son House at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival by John Rudoff, M.D.The Blues Unlimited Thanksgiving Special: Playing With Food, Pt 2
November 22, 2012 05:59 AM PST
In part two, we'll hear classics from Pee Wee Crayton, Freddie King, Sam Price, James Booker, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, Hop Wilson, Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, Eddie Boyd, and many more.The Blues Unlimited Thanksgiving Special: Playing With Food, Pt 1
November 22, 2012 05:39 AM PST
Remember when you were growing up and your mom told you not to play with your food? Well, we're tossing that advice out the window, as we play with our food for two solid hours. We'll hear classics like "Strawberry Jam," "Bar-B-Q Sauce," and "Onion Rings," as well as "Candied Yams," "Cold Turkey," and many, many more.In The Blues Quarters: Mid 60s Chicago Classics, Pt 3/Hr 2
November 17, 2012 10:06 AM PST
Join us for the final hour of our extended look at some mid 1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll hear from Robert Nighthawk, Walter Horton, James "Yank" Rachell, Paul Butterfield, Johnny Shines, and more. Pictured: Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander.In The Blues Quarters: Mid 60s Chicago Classics, Pt 3/Hr 1
November 17, 2012 09:40 AM PST
Join us as we wrap up our extended profile of some mid-1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll be hearing selections from "Chicago/The Blues/Today!," rare LP-only tracks off of "Blues Southside Chicago" (it was never issued in this country), and some recordings made by Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander in May 1964.In The Blues Quarters: Mid 60s Chicago Classics, Pt 2/Hr 2
November 11, 2012 06:30 AM PST
In part two of our extensive look at some mid 60s Chicago Blues classics, we'll hear from Junior Wells, Johnny Shines, Willie Mabon, Johnny Young, Poor Bob Woodfork, Homesick James, James Cotton, Walter Horton, Otis Spann, and more. Plus, a few delectable rarities from Robert Nighthawk. Pictured: Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.In The Blues Quarters: Mid 60s Chicago Classics, Pt 2/Hr 1
November 11, 2012 06:04 AM PST
Join us as we profile some mid-1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll be hearing selections from "Chicago/The Blues/Today!," rare LP-only tracks off of "Blues Southside Chicago" (it was never issued in this country), and some recordings made by Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander in May 1964. (Note: Part 2 of 3) Pictured: South Side Chicago. Photo by Erik Lindahl.In The Blues Quarters: Mid '60s Chicago Classics (Pt 1, Hr 2)
November 04, 2012 07:47 AM PST
Join us as we profile some mid-1960s Chicago Blues classics. We'll be hearing selections from "Chicago/The Blues/Today!," rare LP-only tracks off of "Blues Southside Chicago" (it was never issued in this country), and some recordings made by Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander in May 1964. Pictured: J.B. Hutto at Turner's Lounge, Chicago.In The Blues Quarters: Mid '60s Chicago Classics (Pt 1, Hr 1)
November 04, 2012 07:26 AM PST
In the waning days of 1965, noted author and scholar Sam Charters, along with his wife Ann, had been so caught up in the flurry of activity involved with producing a series of Blues recordings for the Vanguard label, that when they entered a little café looking to have a late breakfast one blistery morning, they hadn't even realized it was Christmas Day.
Although they ended up having a good laugh about it, what they didn't realize is that the subsequent LPs that came out the following year would go on to be something of a defining, high water mark in the history of Chicago Blues. Three LPs, each sporting the work of three different musicians from the Windy City -- all of them entitled "Chicago/The Blues/Today!" With just a few tracks on each album designed to give the artists a chance to shine just a little bit -- that's exactly what they did, by the way -- it gave much needed boosts to already promising careers, and in other cases, ended up giving some of them the opportunity to start out fresh after their careers had become sidetracked years earlier.
As for the recordings on "Blues Southside Chicago," it too presented a cross-section of working musicians in the Windy City at the time, with such artists as Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Boyd, Johnny Young, Homesick James, Walter Horton, Poor Bob Woodfork, and Robert Nighthawk appearing for a few tantalizing moments each. The tapes later wound up in England, where they were issued by the good folks at Decca, with liner notes written by Mike Leadbitter. Another reissue on the Flyright label a dozen years later was basically it -- the tracks were never slated for release in America, and as far as we know, never made the transition to the digital age.
Last, but certainly by no means least, is the work of Swedish broadcasting legend Olle Helander (roughly: uhl-lah hel-AHN-dur). He was born in Sweden in 1919, and became a serious admirer of Jazz and Blues from an early age. In 1947, he authored his first book on the subject, "Jazzens Väg" ("The Road of Jazz"), which became the first Swedish language work on the subject. Starting in the late 1940s, Helander began sharing his love and knowledge of the music over the Swedish airwaves, with a series of regular Jazz programs. In 1961, he made a trip to the U.S., spending several months hearing and interviewing musicians from New York to Los Angeles. In May 1964, he came back with a hand-picked sound engineer, Hans Westman, determined to make a documentary record of the music. Later, when he returned with a hundred recordings by more than a dozen different musicians, it became the basis for a ground-breaking 21 part documentary series on Swedish Radio called "I Blueskvarter," or simply, "In The Blues Quarters."
Partly by design, Helander set out not to record the big names of the blues -- people like B.B. King or Muddy Waters -- but rather, the overlooked and the forgotten: elder statesmen who hadn’t recorded in a while, or in some cases, a few fresh new faces just starting out. Once in Chicago, he set up shop at the Sutherland Lounge on Drexel Avenue, and word quickly got out that blues musicians could come and record and make a few bucks.
As for the Swedish public, Helander's documentary radio series became the stuff of legend. For some listeners, it was the clarion call that led to a life-long interest in this strange and fascinating music -- as one listener put it, after hearing Walter Horton's amplified harmonica playing for the very first time, he shook his head in disbelief, thinking that it wasn't possible for a harmonica to sound like that. Tapes of the radio shows circulated amongst collectors for years, while three subsequent repeat broadcasts made it one of the most requested shows in Swedish broadcasting history. The tapes essentially lay dormant in the vaults for almost 35 years, before a proper reissue program finally gave them the recognition they so richly deserved, starting in 1999.
It is the driving passion and love for the music that led people like Willie Dixon, Sam Charters and Olle Helander to make these recordings, and as we dive head first into the Blues Quarters of the mid-1960s Chicago Blues -- the first of a three part series -- we can only offer our sincere and undying gratitude to them.
Snow on the El tracks. Photo by Ann Charters.Motor City Blues Masters of the 1950s & '60s - Pt. 2
October 26, 2012 08:45 AM PDT
We pick up where we left off last time, with more great Blues from Detroit. Classics from John Lee Hooker, Baby Boy Warren, Bobo Jenkins, Eddie Kirkland, Eddie Burns (pictured), Doctor Ross, Little Sonny, One String Sam, and more.
October 26, 2012 08:26 AM PDT
We pick up where we left off last time, with more great Blues from Detroit. Classics from John Lee Hooker, Baby Boy Warren, Bobo Jenkins, Eddie Kirkland, Eddie Burns, Doctor Ross, Little Sonny, One String Sam, and more.
October 19, 2012 10:16 AM PDT
Detroit was home to a thriving Blues scene in the years immediately following World War II. On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we showcase some of the finest talent to come out of the Motor City, from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. Pictured: A real Detroit classic from one of the finest songwriters to come out of Detroit, Baby Boy Warren.
October 19, 2012 09:46 AM PDT
Although not as well known as other locales famous for their Blues -- such as New Orleans, Chicago, or Memphis -- the Motor City had plenty of talented songwriters and Blues musicians. It's just that, for the most part, the record labels that operated out of Detroit were either local labels that had little or no distribution, and/or quite often lacked proper 'hi-fi' recording equipment. In spite of these odds, however, some of Detroit's greatest Blues musicians did manage to find their way into a recording studio -- some of which were no more than a tape recorder and a mic or two in the back room behind someone's storefront -- to make some of the finest Down Home Blues of the Post-War era. Rare, classic and legendary performances from John Lee Hooker, L.C. Green, Baby Boy Warren (pictured), Eddie Burns, Walter Mitchell, Robert Henry, Eddie Kirkland, Detroit Count, and many more. Photo courtesy of Bill Greensmith.
October 12, 2012 06:33 AM PDT
When you think of slide guitar, you probably think of Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Son House -- but did you ever stop to think about some of the bottleneck practitioners from the Eastern Seaboard? Join us for an illuminating look at the art and artistry of East Coast slide guitar, including classics from Blind Willie McTell, Curely Weaver, Barbecue Bob, Peg Leg Howell, Sylvester Weaver, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Blind Boy Fuller, Dan Pickett, John Lee, and more. Illustration by R. Crumb.
October 12, 2012 06:17 AM PDT
When you think of slide guitar, you probably think of Muddy Waters, Elmore James or Son House -- but did you ever stop to think about some of the bottleneck practitioners from the Eastern Seaboard? Join us for an illuminating look at the art and artistry of East Coast slide guitar, including classics from Blind Willie McTell, Curely Weaver, Barbecue Bob, Peg Leg Howell, Sylvester Weaver, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red, Blind Boy Fuller, Dan Pickett, John Lee, and more. Illustration by R. Crumb.
October 05, 2012 12:41 PM PDT
Join us for a grab bag of uptempo, hot and fast Blues and R&B. Rock on down to classics from Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Lightnin' Hopkins, Hop Wilson, Sam Price, Cal Green, and many more. Get your dancin' shoes on! This one's all killer and no filler! Pictured: Hop Wilson
October 05, 2012 12:23 PM PDT
Join us for a grab bag of uptempo, hot and fast Blues and R&B. Rock on down to classics from Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Lightnin' Hopkins, Hop Wilson, Sam Price, Cal Green, and many more. Get your dancin' shoes on! This one's all killer and no filler!
September 29, 2012 07:46 AM PDT
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.
September 29, 2012 07:29 AM PDT
Many years ago, Nighthawk Records released an LP with the title "Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam," and we decided it was a fine idea for an episode of Blues Unlimited. So, we took some of the tracks from the original LP, and expanded it into a program dedicated to some of the fine harmonica players that graced the Memphis scene with their presence. Classics from Joe Hill Louis, Walter Horton, Doctor Isaiah Ross (pictured), Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Coy "Hot Shot" Love, Woodrow Adams, Sleepy John Estes (featuring Lee Crisp on the harp), Junior Parker, and more.
Join us as we explore the wonderful world of the Blues, and it's history, heritage, and rich cultural traditions.
Sleepy Boy Hawkins has been a blues fanatic for almost 30 years. His radio shows draw not only upon his extensive knowledge, but also his vast collection of CDs, LPs, 45s, and 78s. Each podcast will have a slightly different theme, presented in two one-hour segments. If you like what you hear on this podcast, we encourage you to contact your local community or public radio station and let them know that you would like to hear Blues Unlimited over your local airwaves! Blues Unlimited, The Radio Show, is dedicated to the memories of Mike Leadbitter and Simon Napier (who founded "Blues Unlimited," the world's first magazine devoted solely to Blues), and to Peter Aschoff and Dee 'Cap'n Pete' Henderson, Blues radio programmers extraordinaire.
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