January 8, 2019

Key to the Highway    
2019-01-09   2-5pm          
Big Bill Broonzy      1930 & 1956  
Art Blakey Quintet          1954
J.B. Hutto                 1965 & 1972
It has been a while since I’ve been on the air; so happy to be back.  First thing I wish to do is to thank Sneaker Cat for covering almost all of my assigned shows.  I saw the name Sneaker Cat on the DJ list for the 2018 Blues Marathon and wondered who the heck that was.  Turns out it was my friend Paul who I first met in the late 60s and rekindled a friendship when he appeared here at KKUP.  Eventually, Paul even took over this time slot alternating weeks with me until he got burned out on the grind.  Paul puts on a fine show, somewhat different from mine but very complementary.  I hope he will apply for another show soon.
I should also let you guys know why I wasn’t here.  I’ve had a chronic diabetic foot ulcer since 2006 and in mid-April I needed another surgery and, in order for it to heal quickly and properly, I had to stay off my foot absolutely as much as possible, including not driving for the first few months.  It is almost completely healed and it has never been a pain producer so I am truly fortunate.  So, today’s show . . . .
We open with what I believe to be the original recording of the show’s title song, Key to the Highway, by Big Bill Broonzy.  Actually, Bill is usually credited with authorship but Jazz Gillum also claimed to have written it so I presume it is Gillum providing harmonica on this version.
I used to open up each show with a different artist’s version for the first year and a half, more than thirty different versions, but I never had Broonzy’s version until recently when I found it on a reasonably priced various artists box set.  Only a guess but 1940 probably wouldn’t be far off for the release date judging from the sound quality.
I’m sure I’ll get into a full biography for Big Bill in the future, but just a few pertinent facts here.  Bill had a long career beginning in the late-1920s and I believe the rest of the songs in our opening set come from 1930.  He came to be one of Chicago’s favorite Bluesmen playing with people like Tampa Red and Washboard Sam in ensemble recordings.
When the Blues Revival of the 50s paid a lot of attention to what I like to think of as the front porch singers, meaning just a vocalist and his guitar, Bill was okay with fitting into that style to increase his chances of sharing his music.  Our second Broonzy set is a good example: a live solo set I believe recorded in 1956 and maybe in Britain.  The last tune of the set is another track from a various artists album so there is no data, but it’s been a favorite of mine since I first heard it.
It’s been so long since I’ve done a blog or a radio show so I should remind you that I have added a dimension recently to my shows, that the third artist in my normally structured show would be something complementary to my instinctively guitar-based Blues.  Quite often it might be a piano player, but more times it will be a horn-based segment.  Sometimes it’s a Blues shouter like Roy Brown or Wynonie Harris, or Soul of the Otis Redding, Sam and Dave or James Brown vintage, but since I am adding new zip to my own CD collection with so many low priced Jazz box sets that Bebop is probably the most often used category.  Jazz, as many aspects of my show, is meant to be as much a learning process for me as I wish it to be for you.
The only exposure I had previously with Art Blakey was his participation with sax man David “Fathead” Newman (best known to me for his work with Ray Charles) and pianist / guitarist Dr. John on the first Bluesiana Triangle LP.  Before they did their followup, Blakey had passed away.
So I picked up the Art Blakey Complete Blue Note Collection Part One 1954-1957, eight full albums on four discs for an attractive price.  Generally, and especially with Jazz, if I like a particular player I feel assured that he will pick similarly competent and like-minded musicians to work with, so I had no qualms when I discovered one of my favorite alto sax players, Lou Donaldson, is on the three albums we use for today’s show.  They are all from a gig in 1954, hence the title A Night at Birdland Volumes 1-3.
Drummer Blakey and pianist Horace Silver put together a hard bop ensemble with varying players under the name Jazz Messengers.  Silver would depart soon after this period, but Blakey kept the name going throughout his career.  In addition to Blakey, Silver and Donaldson on these albums are trumpeter Clifford Brown and bassist Curly Russell, at this time still going under the name the Art Blakey Quintet.
The first Messengers’ set is from the first volume from Birdland and I play them in the order they are on the album because it works, but also better because it is one of those that let the track run the intro for the next number before the cutoff.  I certainly don’t want to hear, “for our next number …” and then start a totally different tune.  By adding Mayreh to the end of Blakey’s second set, we complete the first LP of the trilogy.  We precede that with a pair from each of the other two volumes.
I’m still kinds waiting to get feedback from my listeners about the addition of Jazz to what became for almost thirty years more of a Blues show than I ever intended but replies have been few in coming.  Not that it would necessarily make much difference because I can only make a show thinking that if I like it you will, too, and I look for the same tenets I impose on my Blues as well: that it is usually full band, urban music with an active rhythm section and as many instrumentals as I can get.
In 1967 I was exposed to a great 3LP set of some of the best of the Chicago Blues players almost unknown at the time except in their hometown, several of whom would become household names in the national Blues community and a couple still headlining right up to this day more than a half century later.  Indeed, if anyone is not yet familiar with the name Buddy Guy I can’t imagine why you are reading this blog.  Others still active are Charlie Musselwhite and Otis Rush (Otis died since I started writing this entry), while James Cotton just passed away last year and was the subject of our Blues Marathon tee shirt.  Junior Wells is likely the best known of the rest, but Otis Spann was pianist on many of Muddy Waters classics and Homesick James played second guitar on the majority of his cousin, Elmore James’ tracks.
The third of these albums, released individually on Vanguard as Chicago/The Blues/Today! Volumes 1-3, was made up of the bands of a couple of veteran guitarists who still had a feel for the country Blues in their urban setting.  Harmonica player “Big Walter” or “Shakey” Horton appeared with both Johnny Young and Johnny Shines and was given billing as the third act on the album cover for the one number he did as Big Walter’s Blues Harp Band with Memphis Charlie (Musselwhite).  Shines spent a lot of time traveling with Robert Johnson, carrying on his legacy after Johnson’s early demise, and I was fortunate to see him perform in the early 90s at the San Jose State Blues Festival.  He also gave a talk at the University before he left town which I could still kick myself for missing.
The second volume had a couple of younger performers who would have long careers.  James Cotton was stepping out of the shadow of being harmonica man for Muddy Waters, and Otis Rush, who had successes with Cobra Records under the tutelage of producer Willie Dixon in the 50s, was rekindling his popularity although he just never seemed to get any breaks until maybe a decade later in life.  Otis was another player who gave a great performance at San Jose State.  Homesick James continued his cousin’s legacy right out of Elmore’s band but never really made a dent like so many of the other slide guitar disciples.
But my favorite of the three albums, and in my opinion one of the few “must haves” for any Blues collection, has always been the first volume with Guy as the guitar-slinging sideman on harmonica man \ vocalist Wells’ opening five numbers, five tunes by Spann, and especially the five closing tracks by the bottleneck six-stringer J.B. Hutto whom, if you are not already, you should be familiar with by the end of this show.
Born Joseph Benjamin Hutto on April 26th 1926 in Blackville, South Carolina, the fifth of seven children (three brothers, three sisters) of Calvin, a preacher, and Susie Hutto, the family relocated to Augusta, Georgia when he was three.  There, the seven siblings put together their own group, The Golden Crown Gospel Singers with J.B. singing either first or second lead, but it was not until 1949 following his father’s passing, bringing about a family move to Chicago, that Hutto became truly intent on making music.  “I listened to the majority of the Blues records out then, but I wasn’t playing that.  I guess I was too young, anyway.  I listened to them and liked them, but I wasn’t really attracted to no kind of music until I hit Chicago.”
The move to Chicago occurred at the behest of the eldest brother, already settled in and working for the Milwaukee Railroad.  The Huttos had been a farming family, but once in the city J.B. mostly worked as a plumber or painter.  He was drafted for action in the Korean War and wound up driving trucks in combat zones.
As J.B. explained his early experiences to Bruce Cook, author of the 1973 book Listen to the Blues, “I was just a kid, but I’d sneak into those places like Sylvio’s, and I remember one night I had a long talk with old Memphis Slim, and that got me decided that playing the Blues was what I wanted to do.”
Hutto’s first instrument was drums, which he played with Johnny Ferguson and his Twisters.  “I played drums, but I was singing too.  Johnny was the leader, and he had a guitar.  But when he’d lay it down I had it.”  J.B. also toyed with piano before settling down to the guitar.
Early in the 50s, J.B. met the man who would inspire him to take up the bottleneck style of playing.  Again, to Cook: “One night I heard Elmore James someplace around in Chicago.  He was just getting started, and he was real heavy, you know.  He played it different from anybody.  Old bottleneck guitar had died out by then, nobody played it anymore.  And Elmore was the first I ever heard go at an electric guitar with a bar.  Well, I never heard anything like that before!  So I got me a guitar and a piece of pipe, and I went to work with the two of them.”  And to Forte: “He was the cat who made me see what I wanted to do.  He raised me.  He could pick some, but he didn’t do too much picking.  I think he was like me – he liked that slide.  If I could make this thing slide and cry like I want to, maybe I wouldn’t do so much picking.”
J.B. would do his busking in the outdoor flea market on Maxwell Street as had many Bluesmen, before and since.  This was where he met the one man band Eddie “Porkchop” Hines.  “I didn’t know about people playing in clubs and things of that nature – so I was still looking for house parties, fish fries, and things like that.  But there wasn’t nothing happening.  I began to make a few friends and began to talk, and they showed me around, and I started going to the clubs, seeing bands.”
With Porkchop and guitarist Joe Custom, J.B. graduated from Maxwell Street to gigging at The 1015 Club, adding “Earring ”George Mayweather before the club closed down and the band shifted over to the Globetrotter Lounge.  It was there that they were heard by an agent of Chance Records, receiving a two year contract.
As Mike Rowe put it in his book, Chicago Breakdown, “J.B. blew upon the Chicago scene with one of the noisiest and toughest bands ever.  Hutto’s singing is superb and his lyrics were carefully put together.  Singing in the fierce, declamatory style of his idol, Elmore James, and backed by the heavily amplified guitar of Joe Custom, the crude harp of George Mayweather, and the elemental percussion of Maxwell Street’s Porkchop, they sounded ready to devour anything in sight.”
This was the first ensemble that Hutto would call the Hawks, a name that would survive personnel changes through most of J.B.’s career.  “The Hawk’s the wind in Chicago, and when it blows, it’s cool!  You say to somebody, ‘You coming out?’ and they say, ‘No man, the Hawk’s biting tonight.’”  As J.B. and His Hawks in 1954, the foursome recorded nine tunes for Chance, six of them issued with the last pairing augmented by pianist Johnny Jones, best known from his accompanying of Elmore.  All six releases can be found on Boulevard Vintage’s CD Down Home Blues Classics: Chicago 1946-54.
As he told Cook, “There was really a lot of young talent around.  Everywhere you went there was a club with some kind of band … I don’t know what happened then, but things got pretty tight … People would hear you start playing the Blues and they’d walk out.  Right there on the South Side, too, where the Blues was home!”:
Despite the minor success of the three Chance singles, J.B. decided the music scene just wasn’t worth the trouble.  Rowe again: “J.B. lost his guitar when a woman broke it over her husband’s head, and he quit music for the quieter life of an undertaker.”  Not really an undertaker, Hutto did hold down a job as a janitor in a mortuary for over a decade until the 1963 death of Elmore got him reconsidering his music career.  More than a year later, in December of 1965, he went back into the studio to record the aforementioned Vanguard session backed by bassist Herman Hassell and drummer Frank Kirkland, who had been his Hawks while the house band at Turner’s Blues Lounge.
Pete Welding wrote, in the liner notes for J.B.’s Testamrnt LP, that, “J.B. reappeared in 1965, performing most often at Turner’s, a small tavern at 39th and Indiana on Chicago’s South Side … Word got around about those weekend sessions at Turner’s and they quickly became established as among the most exciting Blues events in the city within recent years.”
Turner’s was close to Walter Horton’s home so he often sat in as the weekend gigs became a favorite for many of the city’s musicians to stop by and join in.  This was likely what drew together the performers for J.B.’s first full LP, the June 1966 Testament album, Master of Modern Blues, featuring Horton, guitarist Johnny Young, bassist Lee Jackson and drummer Fred Below.  I had this on vinyl and the bass always sounded off to me but I purchased the CD anyway and don’t hear the problem.  I purchased the two disc set with Robert Nighthawk (who actually adapted the country slide style to electric guitar before Elmore) and Houston Stackhouse on the first disc because it was even cheaper than the single Hutto disc.
Often touted as the best of J.B.’s albums was his next release, Hawk Squat for Delmark Records, recorded the end of 1966 and his second album in only about a year after the Vanguard session.  Piano legend Sunnyland Slim is added to J.B.’s working band, sometimes playing the organ.  It is hard for me to make an evaluation because my lack of a functioning turntable means I haven’t heard it for a couple of decades and I have much enjoyed each of my recent Hutto purchases, but it’s probably only a matter of time before I update from vinyl. 
It took four years for Delmark to follow up that success with two more albums, the live Stompin’ at Mother Blues and the studio LP Slidewinder, both from 1972.  Delmark’s head honcho then as now, Bob Koester, told Living Blues in the mid-70s, “J.B.’s music has always been so strong . . . almost violently strong . . . that just about everything he has done is worth listening to.”
Many of the Hutto quotes are extracted from an interview by Dan Forte in the March 1979 issue of Guitar Player Magazine and collected in Rollin’ and Tumblin’, edited by Jas Obrecht, which also contains info on J.B.’s choices of guitars and amps, but a little more interesting to us is this one: “Elmore played with a flatpick, but he could use anything – flatpick or finger and thumb.  But I think playing slide is good for playing with the thumb – Hound Dog Taylor used to play with the thumb.  You can always catch the strings better.  If I play very long without a pick, a knot will swell up on that finger.  One night overseas our stuff was late, and we had to play a college gig with new instruments – no picks, no nothing.  The next day I had to stick my finger in alcohol to cool it off.”
Hutto struck Cook as, “A mild, shy man in conversation, he is transformed before an audience into a sort of roaring, howling Mister Hyde, big-mouthing his Blues in memorably earthy style as he plays a slide electric guitar better than anyone else has managed to do since his mentor, the great Elmore James.”  Hutto used to dress for show, choosing bright colors for his wardrobe and anything from a fez to a cowboy hat to put on his head as he stretched out his fifty foot guitar cord into the crowd and even climbed up on the tables.
Hutto and his friend Hound Dog Taylor were the dominant slide guitar players to carry on the tradition of Elmore James, and when Taylor passed away in 1975, J.B. took on his House Rockers (drummer Ted Harvey and second guitarist Brewer Phillips), the only time he didn’t call his band the Hawks.  They never went into the studio, but live recordings were made during 1976 and 1977 including one gig at Boston’s Tea Party, coming on the market after J.B,’s passing as J.B. Hutto and the House Rockers, Live 1977.  One of three albums released by the Austrian Wolf label which included another 1977 release with the House Rockers, Hip Shakin’, and the 1980 issuance of Keeper of the Flame.
By the time of Keeper of the Flame’s recording, J.B. had relocated to Boston (apparently via Seattle) and put together his new Hawks with Steve Coveney playing second guitar and Leroy Pina on drums.  They were augmented on that album and their next, the Evidence 1982 Slideslinger (also issued on Black and Blue as Slidin’ the Blues) with various bass players.  The three Wolf discs are not highly recommended by my Penguin Guide to Blues so I have not purchased them, at least not yet.  (Slideslinger is as highly rated as any of his earlier material.)
Penguin does say, however, that his last session, the 1983 CD Rock with Me Tonight on Bullseye (and Varrick as Slippin’ and Slidin’) “augments the basic four-piece on several numbers with piano and the reedsmen from Roomful of Blues, putting a fat, chewy roll round the hot dog of Hutto’s voice and guitar.  His slide playing is his sharpest and fullest on disc, his voice is in fine shape, the music is excellent – altogether a near-perfect album, and one’s glad for his sake as well as ours that he was granted the time and resources to make it.”  This album will definitely be part of another show including J.B.
Hutto returned to the state where his career began, then died of cancer on June 12th 1983 in Harvey, Illinois at the age of 67 and was voted into the Blues Hall of Fame two years later.  Something that I either didn’t know or had forgotten about was that Ed Williams, of the very popular current Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, was J.B.’s nephew.  I’ll have to pay more attention to them and see just how well they have carried on the Hutto teachings.                      enjoy
Even though I consider Mr. Hutto to be the main focus of today’s edition, He was only given 35 minutes for his two sets while the other two bands each got a full hour.  Make any sense?
Okay, I’m getting a little rummy after working on this continuously for the last two days so let’s wrap this puppy up before I get too sarcastic.
It’s not normal that I publish my blog a full day ahead of the show, but under the circumstances I felt you needed a heads up . . . if you haven’t already forgotten me!
I have asked Paul to cover my next show in two weeks but I will be back on the fifth Wednesday airing.  Not sure what I’ll be playing, maybe some more J.B., but Johnnie Cozmik (KKUP 1st, 2nd and 5th Thursdays from 3-5PM and for about fifteen years my alternating host, not to mention good friend) has put out a live CD compiled from his international tours, so not with his American band, and I hope he will be sharing that with us then.  Johnnie does it right; he does not boast about his own music much so I have happily done the first airings of, perhaps, all of his other issues.  Another show you should enjoy.
And now, a word from our sponsor.  Okay, I don’t get to say that on KKUP, so here are some things you probably already know.  KKUP is accessed in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas at 91.5FM and, elsewhere, on the interweb.  Just go to our homepage at KKUP.org and select “listen live” and choose either computer or other device.  From the home page, you can also go to “our music” and get to the spinitron playlists to access past airings and often, if not always, for the show you are listening to.  And, of course, there is an option labeled “donate”, the closest thing to advertising you will have to put up with here at KKUP.  If for some reason you wanted to backtrack and read an old blog, they are all still available at key2highway@blogspot.  What more do you need to know to navigate life?
Key to the Highway
House Rent Stomp
Pig Meat Strut
Terrible Operation
Skoodle Do Do
That’s the Way She Likes It
Somebody’s Been Using That Thing
Eagle Ridin’ Papas
I Can’t Be Satisfied
Long Tall Mama
   Big Bill Broonzy   28mins
Split Kick
Once in a While
A Night in Tunisia
   The Jazz Messengers   30mins
When I Get Drunk
Evening Train
Hawks’ Rock
Hip Shakin’
Turner’s Rock
Stompin’ at Mother Blues
Guilty Heart
Young Hawks’ Crawl
   J.B. Hutto   22mins
Diggin’ My Potatoes
Careless Love
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
I Love My Whiskey
Take This Ole Hammer
See See Rider
When I’ve Been Drinkin’
Ridin’ on Down
   Big Bill Broonzy   32mins
Wee Dot
If I Had You
Lou’s Blues
Blues (Improvisation)
   The Jazz Messengers   29mins
Going Ahead
Married Woman Blues
Please Help
Too Much Alcohol
That’s the Truth
   J.B. Hutto and his Hawks   13mins   

June 27, 2018

Key to the Highway    
2018-06-25   2-5pm           
Jimmy Reed   
Roy Brown  
Blind John Davis
I’m sorry it has been so long since my last entry but in April I had a surgery which will keep me from driving for several months ahead.  I am doing okay but just have to do everything possible to avoid infection, including staying off my feet absolutely as much as possible.  My cousin and his family are down from Vancouver and wished to see the station, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this show.  We also intend on seeing Johnnie Cozmik’s J.C. Smith Band at Mountain Charlie’s in Los Gatos in the evening before they head back north.  There Johnnie, I got that plug in!
Today’s show has been in the planning stages since the beginning of the year and, since it was intended to follow the pre-Jazz marathon show, I wanted it to be as strong a purely Blues edition as I could get while maintaining the format I have been sticking to.  What better representative could we have from the pure Blues vein than Jimmy Reed?  Filling the requirement of a horn-based entry, we have the dynamic voice of Roy Brown.  And true to our habit of finding a complementary third performer often being a pianist, we have Blind John Davis.  One thing missing from today’s airing is a power guitar player from Chicago’s 60s and beyond, but there will be few shows coming up with that same omission.
Since I’ve had these three artists chosen for almost six months now, you might think I had this essay in the can a long time ago, but I told you guys before that I’m a procrastinator and work best with a deadline, so I’ll be lucky to have this finished by Tuesday night before the show.
So make yourself comfortable and check out the show.     enjoy
In 1953, Jimmy Reed was disappointed that he had been turned down by the dominant Blues label in Chicago, Chess Records, due to their being too busy with established stars like Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf, but this decision wound up in no way hurting Mr. Reed as the upstart Vee Jay Records signed him to what would ultimately become one of the best pairings in Blues history.
Born Mathis James Reed in Dunlieth, Mississippi on September 6th 1925, he was one of ten children of sharecroppers Joseph Reed and Virginia Ross.  He was brought up with Spirituals, becoming an integral part of the Gospel group at Meltonia’s Baptist church in his teens, but music for the most part would just be a diversion from the everyday field work.  He did, however, make it a daily habit to be home for Sonny Boy Williamson’s fifteen minute King Biscuit Time broadcast out of Helena, Arkansas.
His friend Eddie Taylor taught him enough guitar and harmonica to get him performing and busking the streets of the area.  Whatever it was the youthful Reed did to antagonize a white boss, he was quick to heed a brother’s advice and take a fast train out of town, winding up in Chicago where he could stay with another brother.  Despite his all-too-limited rural education that still left him illiterate, Jimmy was anxious to pull his own weight and, after a brief stint as a cleaner, settled into a job with a coal company.
A 1993 collection of articles mostly from Guitar Player Magazine titled Blues Guitar: The Men Who Made the Music, is a wonderful resource for this essay and, I’m sure others to come, using today a 1976 entry by Dan Forte; not really an interview because he appears to ask no questions but just lets Jimmy tell his tale, as these examples attest.  “Didn’t nobody teach me how to play the guitar.  I just started off trying to fool with a box ever since I was about nine or ten years old.  I wasn’t making too much progress at it then, but I just kept trying to do it.  Eddie Taylor and me were raised up in the cotton patch together in Mississippi, and we’d fool around with guitars when we got off work in the fields.”
“When I was eighteen I went into the service, and when I come out, at about twenty, I wanted to try it all over again.  I was working in the steel mill and listening to that old Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, The Aces, all of them.”  (Noteworthy to me is his inclusion of The Aces, an underappreciated backing trio whom I hope to highlight in the near future.)
In 1943, not too long after his move to Chicago, Reed was drafted into the Navy but missed being deployed overseas when he came down with the German measles and wound up as a kitchen worker in California; this appears to be when he acquired his lifelong love of liquor.  Discharged in 1945, Jimmy returned to Mississippi and farming with his parents.
Within a year or two, Jimmy married his girlfriend Mary before moving on to Gary, Indiana, where he toiled for the Armour meatpacking company, worked the streets with single-string guitarist Willie Joe Duncan, and joined the Gary Kings, headed up by guitarist John Brim.  Indeed, it was the Kings' drummer Albert Nelson (a later name change informs us that, yes, the famous left-handed guitarist known as Albert King began as a drummer) who later got Jimmy to look into Vee Jay.
“So this friend, Willie Joe Duncan, had this piece of wire.  Him and me used to get together and fool around in the alley, drinking and going on.”  Although the pair was making more on the streets than their day jobs, Duncan pretty quickly relocated to California and eventually recorded for the Specialty label.  This was also about the time Jimmy fashioned a neck rack so his harmonica could accompany his guitar, something unique at least in the vicinity.
While in the Gary / Chicago area, Jimmy would find work in the steel mills and foundries and at a mobile home company, all the while expanding his musical companions to include guitarist Floyd Jones, pianist Blind John Davis (whom we will hear in another of today’s segments), but most importantly regrouping with Eddie Taylor.
Reed had prepared some demo discs and the first place he took them was to Leonard Chess.  “I asked him what he thought about them.  He said, ‘Well, I tell you what: they sound nice.  But I’m so tied up now with Muddy Waters, Walter and Wolf, I can’t accept nothing else right now.  You’re going to have to catch me again later.’”
Mary, later to be known as just “Mama” Reed, also recalled the incident.  “They would have recorded him….but they wanted Muddy Waters to play guitar for him and Little Walter to blow harmonica.  And Jimmy said, ‘No, I’m playing my own harmonica.  I don’t need Muddy Waters and Little Walter’.  So he just forgot about Chess.  And Leonard and them talked about that for years later:  ‘Sure wished I had ‘a cut Jimmy Reed.’”
Following Albert King’s suggestion, Jimmy went to a record store in Gary run by Vivian and Jimmy Bracken, who were just starting up their Vee Jay label.  As Vivian recalled, “At first when he came, he just played regular Blues.  No gimmicks, no nothin’, just Blues.  So I said, ‘Jimmy, you gotta get a gimmick.  So just sit there and play your guitar and maybe you’ll hit on something’. …And there after seven hours he hits this: da-doom da-doom da-doom da-doom.  I said, ‘That’s it, Jimmy!  Just play it over and over and over’.  And that took him for over fifteen years”.
Calvin Carter, an influential member of the Vee Jay team, recalled it substantially differently to writer Mike Callahan in Goldmine: “. . . he was playing harmonica for a guy named King David that we were interested in.  So we were having a rehearsal with them one day, and we heard Jimmy play.  We asked him. . . .‘Do you have any songs you’ve written?’  And he answers, ‘No, but I’ve got some I’ve made up.’”
He did his first session around June 6th 1953 backed by an unremembered bass player and a couple of his Gary Kings bandmates, guitarist John Brim and drummer Albert King, although the name Morris Wilkerson is also mentioned as possibly the drummer.  The date produced Jimmy’s first two single releases, High and Lonesome b\w Roll and Rhumba and Jimmie's Boogie b\w I Found my Baby.  The Brackens were just getting established so they gave initial distribution and promotion for the first pairing to Chance Records, but quickly reissued it as Vee Jay #100.
After his Vee Jay session, in December 1953 Jimmy joined the Brims, John and his drummer wife Grace, for their Parrott single of Tough Times and Gary Stomp, the latter considered to be possibly Jimmy’s career-best harmonica segment.
Reed was not really a good instrumentalist, leading to his writing much of his own material and creating a somewhat crude sound unique in the Blues, with songs interpreted by many but never duplicated.  A major factor in Reed's success was his teaming up again with guitarist Taylor; nobody knew better how to complement Reed’s musical abilities (or lack thereof) than his childhood companion.  Eddie was there for Jimmy’s second session in December of 1963 along with drummer King and guitarist John Littlejohn and was present almost without exception through 1959.  The December date’s result was Jimmy’s first chart posting with You Don't Have to Go b\w Boogie in the Dark reaching #5 after entering on March 5th.
“. . . she had Eddie Taylor there to play background behind me!  So on some of them records there was him, me, (guitarist) Lefty Bates, a drummer – and my son (Jimmy “Boonie” Reed, Jr.) had been fooling with my guitar and got pretty good himself.  So I had something like four guitars, and the drums made five, and I was blowing harmonica, too, just like I do it now.  The one that made me want to get a harmonica was old man Sonny Boy Williamson -- the original (John Lee Williamson), the one that did ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”.  He could play some stuff!  I was fooling with it in Mississippi and started playing with a harness in about ’52.”
As Eddie Taylor recalled the early sessions to Mike Rowe, “We teamed back up together.  At that time he wasn’t going nowhere.  Wasn’t hitting no nothing.  Just rapping on the guitar and blowing on the harmonica.  So I just told him lighten up off his guitar and blow his harmonica and I PUT THE BEAT TO IT.”
Here’s a quote about Taylor from the Forte article: “He helped me on all my records but about two.”  And his son: “He don’t like the Blues.  He’s a Rock and Roll type. . . .  I think he was, I should say, ten or eleven years old when he first played on a record of mine.”  According to Charley’s liner notes to the 6CD box set The Vee Jay Years, which is the source for all of today’s Jimmy Reed music, Jimmy Reed, Jr. first appeared in 1961.
“Back in 1954 Vee Jay put out this thing I had cut about You Don’t have to Go with Boogie in the Dark, a stone instrumental, on the reverse side.  One evening I was coming home from the Armour Packing Company – I’d quit the iron foundry and was working as a butcher – and I heard this old number about You Don’t Have to Go over the air.  The guy on the radio said, ‘That’s Jimmy Reed; he’s going to be out in Atlanta, Georgia, this Friday and Saturday night’ – and this was Thursday evening!  I didn’t know that I was booked in Atlanta.  I headed home, grabbed my junk, headed to the studio to cut a couple of numbers, and told Eddie Taylor, ‘Eddie, I’m supposed to be in Atlanta, Georgia.  You going down there with me?’  He said, ‘Yeah, wherever you want to go!’  So we bought a little jug and struck out driving to Atlanta.”
Taylor recalled to Living Blues, “Jimmy ain’t never had no band.  He’d always get one guy to drive and he’d do his own show, play with the house band.  Mostly, we’d play for white.  That’s all they’d ask for – Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino.”
“That was the first time I had went on the road or played anywhere before the public.  I’d just been playing up and down the alley or at friends’ houses.  I went to see other guys in Chicago playing in clubs – go by just to holler at them.  I didn’t want to play or see the show either; I just wanted to speak to them.  Muddy Waters, B.B. Kin, all of them big cats – ‘Oh, you’re Jimmy Reed?  I’m so glad you came down here to see me.  How much they charge you to come in?’  ‘Oh, they let me come in for nothing.’  ‘Well, come back in the dressing room.‘  And I’d go back and listen to them talking about this, that, and the other, but it didn’t mean too much to me; I didn’t know nothing.”
One session Taylor was not there for was a July 1955 date which featured two of Howlin’ Wolf’s sidekicks, pianist Henry Gray and drummer Earl Phillips.  Phillips’ inclusion is especially noteworthy because, after sitting out Reed’s next two sessions, beginning in October 1956 he began a streak backing Jimmy on every recording through 1961.  This July date brought out Jimmy’s next hit at #12 after I Don’t Go for That, paired with She Don’t Want Me No More, hit the charts on September 24th and set Jimmy’s career away from the local club scene, instead appearing with artists like Laverne Baker, Big Maybelle, and the Flamingos in package tours such as The Cavalcade of Rock and Roll along with concerts at high schools, stadiums and nightclubs throughout the next decade.  Hometown Chicago became just a place to recuperate and record.
It was personally upsetting to me when, around 1967, a band I hung out with at most of their gigs, The Druids, appeared as the opening band for Reed at Losers North, a full alcohol club so I could not get in.  Hell, none of these guys was over twenty-one and the lead singer was almost two years younger than me!
After Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby was released in February 1956, it became the biggest hit of Jimmy’s career, climbing to #3 R&B.  With two more chartings that year and four in 1957, the last two also appearing in the Pop rankings, Reed was no doubt a major star of the Blues.
But Jimmy’s musical status was not paralleled by any type of business acumen, spending his royalties on fine clothes and a Cadillac, all the while under an alcoholic cloud.  Reed suffered savagely from alcoholism to the point that Mary, better known as Mama Reed, would famously have to whisper the lyrics in his ear at his performances, even in the studio, all leading to a 1957 inaccurate diagnosis of delirium tremens when, in actually, it was epilepsy.
“I wasn’t never no pot smoker, and I never did fool with any of that cocaine or junk or crazy pills, but I’d drink me some liquor.”  Somewhat of an understatement.
To assist Reed, a minder cum manager was appointed in Al Smith to oversee Jimmy’s spending, try to keep him sober enough to play, to save him from beatdowns or possibly even being shot.  The Charley notes relay one example, “recalled by Red Holloway whilst working with Reed in Florida in 1958, when a promoter hearing of Reed’s drunken state (and possible cancellation of the gig) called the police to help out….Jimmy saw the police, and Al Smith said, ‘Jimmy….the man said that you’re drunk and that you wasn’t going on….and they’re gonna put your black ass in jail’.  The threat was enough to sober Jimmy up enough to play.  So, Al said to the policeman, ‘Hey, you wanna job?  Just stay with us so we can keep this fucker in line’.  Smith would remain with the Reeds into the 70s.
Byther Smith saw one upside to Jimmy’s drinking, as he explained to Norman Darwen in Blues & Rhythm.  “He would ensure that we got paid before we did the show.  He would say to the owner that he may be drunk at the end of the evening.”
Jimmy’s chart success slowed down with only one R&B hit in each of 1958 and 1959, but Down in Virginia did reach #93 on the Pop listing.  The first two Reed sets today are a chronology of his chartings with Vee Jay and this concludes the first playlist.
Despite the drop-off of recent hits, there was no such drop-off in Jimmy’s touring popularity, and things fell back in place with three more entries in both 1960 and 1961.  It is hard for me to realize that my favorite Reed hit, the March 1960 release of Baby What You Want Me to Do, would only make it to #10, but perhaps the musical tastes had changed since none of his other tunes would climb higher except the September 1961 release of Bright Lights, Big City, which would tie for his all time high at #3.  It appears that from 1962 on, the R&B charts may have been dropped and everything went into the Pop standings, but that is merely an observation, not a fact. 
I would also note that, while it was more likely during the 50s that Reed would not include a bass player on his recordings, the habit seems to have changed in the 60s and Willie Dixon played on the March 1960 session that included Big Boss Man.  Unfortunately, the Charley CDs do not list the composers but I seem to recall an A. Dixon being listed, and Willie’s participation on the song leads me to wonder if he didn’t assign authorship to a family member, an action not uncommon, but this too is unfounded conjecture.
By this time, 33&1/3RPM LPs were becoming a strong part of a label’s arsenal and Jimmy became the first Blues artist to make it to the album charts with his August 1960 release Found Love, which featured recent tracks recorded between March of 1959 and March of 1960.  All told, Vee Jay put out fourteen albums, many failures.  One successful double release combined At Carnegie Hall (recorded there but not in concert) with The Best of Jimmy Reed.
Another LP was Jimmy Reed Sings the Best of the Blues, where Reed played some classic numbers, as Mama Reed explained to Living Blues, “Jimmy never wanted to do anybody else’s tunes….Boy, we had a hassle with him.  Calvin (Carter) was tryin’ to get him to do these tunes….Take Out Some Insurance on Me was another….Jimmy did not want to record.  Because he said it looked like everybody that recorded these type of tunes, they didn’t live long!”
Likely the worst album was one where they took some of Jimmy’s tracks and deleted his vocal, replacing it with a twelve string guitar for the melody.  How does that qualify as a Jimmy Reed album?  More like the Hollyridge Strings!
In November 1964, Jimmy did a month long tour of England which included an appearance on the BBC’s radio show Ready!  Steady!  Go! where he mouthed his September hit Shame Shame Shame and Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby.
Jimmy did his last session for Vee Jay in 1965, not long before the label folded.  Reed came up with one more hit in 1966, Knocking at Your Door for the Exodus label.  ABC-Bluesway released the album The New Jimmy Reed; and other albums of new material were released but failed in comparison to his older material which was still available at more reasonable prices.
Reed made it to Europe again in 1968, this time with The American Blues Festival, but his drinking affected his performances and the next year his alcoholism and health were so bad he had to give up appearing.  In 1971 he made a return with new subpar recordings and a busy road schedule.
His comeback was halted in 1973 by further mental and physical health issues, not to mention a breakup with Mary.  Jimmy spent much of 1974 in rehab, putting a lot of time into playing, as he told Mr. Forte, “During my first two or three records I wasn’t doing nothing but blowing the solo on the harmonica and starting off the intro on the guitar.  Then the rest of the band would haul off and head into it. . . .  I started trying to play my intro part, as much of the lead part as I could get in, do my singing part, blow the solo on the harmonica, and play the bass part all the way through, too.  I started doing all that myself, which was a pretty hard thing.  But it got me to the place where if I ain’t playing the lead part, it don’t sound right now, since I been doing it a few years.”
Jimmy was now over his alcoholism and 1975 saw a return to his touring until his death in Oakland from respiratory failure on August 29th 1976, eight days shy of his 51st birthday.  He is interred at the Lincoln Cemetery in Worth, Illinois.
An abbreviated list of artists who recorded Jimmy Reed tunes would include The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds (with Eric Clapton), The Animals, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Jr, Lou Rawls, Van Morrison (when he was with Them), Charlie Rich, The Grateful Dead, Wishbone Ash, Etta James, Hot Tuna, Johnny and Edgar Winter, The Steve Miller Band, even Bill Cosby (back when we thought he was a human being).  Kent “Omar” Dykes and Jimmy Vaughan put out a full album in tribute, On the Jimmy Reed Highway.  Jimmy was voted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and both Big Boss Man and Bright Lights, Big City (coincidentally, two of the songs you can hear Mama Reed keeping him on tempo) are included in the latter’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

While Roy Brown gained his fame as one of the early Blues shouters, he began his career as a crooner in the style of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, etc.  While his first released and most famous song, Good Rockin’ Tonight, only reached #13 on the R&B charts, primarily because Wynonie Harris’ version came out immediately afterward and essentially absorbed all of the energy in the room, he had a full dozen top ten hits between 1948 and 1957, seven of them in 1948 and 1949 alone and two of those reaching #1.  In 1956, Elvis Presley also had success in taking the Brown-written song to a new generation, as the tune became one of the most recorded numbers since versions came out through the decades by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, James Brown, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, Montrose, and even that great “Rhythm and Blues master” Pat Boone (quotation marks provided to show sarcastic intent).

One of many black artists of the era whose birthdate falls into some dispute, it is considered most likely that Roy James Brown was born on September 10th 1920 in or near New Orleans, Louisiana.  Roy and his mother, with the unique name True Love Brown who sang and played the organ in church, moved about the area and, at age twelve and living in Eunice, Louisiana, Roy became part of a spiritual quartet.  After their performance of their original song Satan’s Chariots Rolling By in church had the members clapping, shouting, tapping their feet, and just generally feeling the rhythm, Roy expected his mother to be pleased but instead received a whipping for jazzing up the spirituals.

Relocating again, the youthful Brown would work in the sugarcane and rice fields between Morgan City and New Iberia.  Roy listened to the field workers’ rhythms and lyrics but, always remembering his earlier punishment, he dared not join in the singing.

True Love Brown died of pneumonia when he was fourteen and Roy dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles.  Strengthened by his work in the fields, Brown decided to take up professional boxing in the welterweight division for a while.  Needing money, Roy went against his deceased mother’s wishes and began a less painful livelihood by crooning in amateur night competitions, including winning the Million Dollar Theater prize with his rendition of a Crosby number, There’s No You (Proper’s liner notes say it was I Got Spurs That Jingle, Jangle, Jingle).

By late 1943, Roy had relocated to Texas where Bill Riley hired him at his Shreveport club, Palace Park, because Brown was a black man who sounded white when he sang.  It was during these nine months that Roy began to infuse Blues numbers into his repertoire.

All during the war being kept out of the military due to flat feet, in 1946 Roy moved on to Galveston, Texas, where he continued his crooning at the Club Granada.  The Granada was run by Mary Russell, who also ran a brothel and dealt drugs, keeping her nightclub open by bribing police and municipal leaders and thus was able to employ the top local musicians including Roy’s six piece band, the Mellodeers, who even assisted in selling marijuana between sets.  It was this colorful environment that was Brown’s inspiration to write and first perform Good Rockin’ Tonight.

Resulting from an affair with the wife of a Grenada financier, Roy departed quickly to New Orleans, arriving early in April 1947.  Needing money, Roy wrote down the words to his song on a grocery bag and offered them to one of his idols, Wynonie Harris, who was performing in town.  “When I was in high school, I used to attend the auditorium dances when Wynonie Harris was singing with Lucky Millender.  I’d always say if I was ever going to be a Blues singer, I’d like to be that guy.  He was flamboyant, a good looking guy, very brash.  He was good and he knew it.  He just took charge, I liked the style.”

Just off the bus, clothes disheveled and with cardboard covering the holes in his shoes, Roy walked to where Harris was appearing, only wanting a few bucks for his song just to get him by.  Wynonie was a hugely popular Blues shouter, but he was just as well-known among the music world for his rude ways of dealing with people and his meeting with Roy was no exception, refusing to waste his time by even reading the lyrics.  Brown recalls, “He’d walk into a bar and shout, ‘Here come the Blues . . . the drinks are on me – get to the bar’.  Now you talk about conceited.  I thought I was conceited, but this guy!  He and Joe Turner would be on the same stage.  He’d walk up to him and say, ‘What you gonna sing, fat boy?’  Joe Turner couldn’t read or write and Wynonie would say, ‘Sign this autograph!’”

Roy then walked a few blocks to where pianist Cecil Gant was playing.  Unlike Harris, who didn’t even look at the song, Gant asked Brown to sing it.  He was impressed by the song but even more by Roy’s voice and, despite it being 2:30 in the morning, called Jules Braun, the president of DeLuxe Records so Brown could sing it to him over the phone.  The drowsy Braun listened once, then asked Roy to sing it again and, without a response, asked Brown to return the phone to Gant, reportedly telling him to “Give him $50 and don’t let him out of your sight.”

After quickly signing Roy to his label, Braun set up a session on May 12th 1947 at the Black Diamond and asked Roy to have four numbers ready, the other three being Lollypop Mama, Long About Midnight, and Miss Fanny Brown.  It was a small studio in the rear of a record store and a tight fit for Roy and the members of Bob Ogden’s band, consisting of drums, bass, piano, trumpet and tenor sax, known as the Flashes of Rhythm.  Roy was quick to credit the band.  “I merely sung the song.  They did a very good job, they did the arrangements . . .  It was a good rockin’ thing, you know, and man, I just started singing . . . and I felt right at ease.”  The tune is mentioned as the first recording incorporating Gospel into the Blues.

Cosimo Matassa, just starting out his studio and the man who would soon be responsible for recording much of the important R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll that came out of New Orleans from the late 40s into the 70s, was in the control room.

Roy would always remember Gant fondly.  “He didn’t have a sensational voice, but he had something in that voice, something catchy . . . he made you feel what he was trying to convey to you.  He was terrific, he was beautiful, he was responsible for my career.”

Roy’s stay with De Luxe brought in fourteen chartings from mid-1948 through 1951, with 1950’s Hard Luck Blues being his top seller.  Brown stayed with De Luxe through 1952 but began recording for King Records the next year and Imperial in 1957.  In 1952, Roy became one of the very few black artists of the 50s to win a lawsuit for back royalties.  This might be linked via blacklisting to his sudden drop in recording success, but Brown was still capable of drawing good crowds even as the music scene was trending toward Doo Wop and Rock and Roll, the latter owing much of its existence to folks like Roy Brown. 

Brown also had a problem with the IRS, even going to Elvis Presley for help, who wrote him a check on a brown paper bag, but that was insufficient to keep him from serving time for tax evasion.  In order to get by in the 60s, Roy would sell his rights to Good Rockin’ Tonight and found jobs outside of music, including selling encyclopedias door to door.

He made a brief return to King in 1959 and continued to record occasionally during the 60s to little success, but his appearance at the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival as one of the lead vocalists in the Johnny Otis Revue, resulting in one of my favorite live recordings of all time, brought him back into the limelight enough to sign with Mercury who had a hit with Love for Sale and later, in 1973, an album for ABC-Bluesway.

Brown’s life was taken on May 25th 1981 at the age of 56 by a heart attack but, as I hope today’s show attests, his music still throbs.  He died near his home in the San Fernando Valley and the Reverend Johnny Otis performed the funeral service.  Not long before his death, Brown performed at the Whisky A-Go-Go in West Hollywood and was among the headliners at the 1981 New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival.  As B.B. King said, “As a singer, he had balls.  He belted out tunes like Rockin’ at Midnight and Boogie at Midnight that everyone wanted to hear . . .  Listening now, these records sound like early Rock ‘n’ Roll – but then again, so does Louis Jordan.”  Roy was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981.

Blind John Davis was born in Hattiesberg, Mississippi on December 7th 1913, but moved to Chicago when he was three.  His vision loss occurred when he stepped on a nail at the age of nine and he took up piano in his teens in order to be able to earn an income playing at his father’s “sporting houses”.  Mostly into Blues and Boogie Woogie, he could also fit some Jazz or Ragtime in, even a Tin Pan Alley tune every now and then.
He had the talent to become one of the key figures in the stable of famed producer Lester Melrose, creator of the “Bluebird sound”, from 1937 to 1942, backing such stars as Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Memphis Minnie and Merline Johnson, whom he had performed with since his early days.  He was also vocalist on his own recordings.  He paired up with Lonnie Johnson in the 40s after being a part of several of Johnson’s sessions and appeared on most of Doctor Clayton’s later recordings. 
From 1949 to 1952, he recorded with his own trio for MGM, then in 1952 made a tour of Europe with Broonzy, believed to be the first such engagement by any American Blues artists.  Davis became better known in Europe than at home so he made most of his later recordings there.
In 1955, Davis’ wife died in the fire that burned down his Chicago home, at the same time destroying his collection of 1700 78s, many of which were unissued.  He died on October 12th 1985 at the age of 71.
Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word.  I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access.  If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE.  By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile.  I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed.  As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time.  I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening.  (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.)  Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada.  Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
You Don’t Have to Go
I Don’t Go for That
Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby
Can’t Stand to See You Go
I Love You Baby
Honey Where You Going
Little Rain
The Sun is Shining
Honest I Do
Down in Virginia
I’m Gonna Get My Baby
I Told You Baby
   Jimmy Reed   33mins
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Lollypop Mama
Hard Luck Blues
Roy Brown Boogie
Miss Fanny Brown
Trouble at Midnight
Boogie at Midnight
Long About Midnight
Rockin’ at Midnight
Ain’t Rockin’ No More
   Roy Brown   28mins
Paris Boogie
O Solo Mio
Everybody’s Got the Blues
How Long Blues
Home Town Blues
Davis Boogie
   Blind John Davis   19mins
Baby What You Want Me to Do
Found Love
Hush, Hush
Close Together
Big Boss Man
Bright Lights, Big City
Aw Shucks, Hush Your Mouth
Good Lover
Shame, Shame, Shame
   Jimmy Reed   25mins
Bar Room Blues
Love Don’t Love Nobody
Queen of Diamonds
Big Town
I’ve Got the Last Laugh Now
Rainy Weather Blues
Please Don’t Go
Cadillac Baby
Black Diamond
Mighty Mighty Man
   Roy Brown   28mins
I Ain’t Got You
You Got Me Dizzy
State Street Boogie
Caress Me Baby
Goin’ to New York
Blue Carnegie
I’m Mr. Luck
Take Out Some Insurance
Goin’ by the River (part one)
   Jimmy Reed   23mins