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samedi 4 avril 2015

FOREST CITY JOE



FOREST CITY JOE

           
Forest City Joe, aujourd'hui connu pour les enregistrements de terrain effectués par Lomax en 1959, a cependant failli s'affirmer comme un des grands harmonicistes de Chicago de l'après guerre. Comme le dira Muddy Waters: "Joe était le meilleur des élèves de Sonny Boy mais il n'a pas su s'accrocher et il n'a pas eu de chance".
            Né Joe Bennie Pugh à Hughes dans l'Arkansas le 10 juillet 1926 dans une famille de métayers, il a très jeune appris à jouer sous l'influence de sa mère Mary Walker de la guitare, du piano et plus tard de l'harmonica particulièrement en écoutant les disques de celui qui deviendra son idole et son modèle, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. A partir du début des années 1940, celui que l'on nomme désormais Forest City Joe joue un peu partout dans les juke joints du Mississippi et de l'Arkansas, parfois en compagnie de Big Joe Williams qui l'emmène tenter sa chance à Saint Louis.
            De Saint Louis, l'étape obligée est Chicago, d'autant plus que pour Joe, il espère y rencontrer Sonny Boy. Ce qu'il réussit à faire, profitant même de quelques leçons du maestro. La réputation de Forest City Joe est suffisante pour que les frères Chess lui fassent enregistrer une séance pour leur label Aristocrat le 2 décembre 1948. Son guitariste devait être Muddy Waters (et la séance aurait été certainement tout autre) mais Muddy indisponible est remplacé par un obscur guitariste de Memphis, J.C. Cole qui se contente de quelques accords pas toujours très affirmés. Sur les huit titres, deux seulement (Memory of Sonny Boy/ A woman in every street) seront édités en 1949 sur un 78t, essentiellement pour "profiter" de l'émotion engendrée par le meurtre récent de John Lee Williamson.

            Le disque ne se vend guère mais permet quand même à Joe d'apparaître dans les clubs en compagnie de Otis Spann, Muddy Waters ainsi qu'à West Memphis au sein de l'orchestre de Howlin' Wolf et avec le pianiste Willie Love, lui-même membre de l'orchestre du Wolf. Quant à J.C. Cole, on l'a retrouvé trois ans plus tard à Memphis gravant une séance pour Sam Phillips (restée inédite des lustres) dans laquelle il apparaît comme un émule de John Lee Hooker!
            Mais Forest City Joe n'arrive guère à vivre de sa musique et, détestant Chicago, il retourne vivre à Hughes, conduisant un tracteur en semaine et jouant les week ends dans les juke joints locaux.
            L'histoire aurait pu s'arrêter là si Alan Lomax et Shirley Collins, au cours de leur célèbre expédition dans le Sud, ne s'étaient pas attardés à Hughes un vendredi soir de septembre 1959. Joe se trouve devant un bazar/bar local, le Old Whiskey Store et joue de la guitare. La conversation s'engage et quelques jours plus tard, Lomax enregistre Joe dans le juke joint de Charlie Houlin où Forest City se produisait régulièrement en trio avec l'excellent guitariste Sonny Boy Rogers (qui gagnera Minneapolis et y enregistrera) et le batteur Thomas Martin. Cette superbe séance a paru par bribes sur diverses anthologies, en particulier The Blues Roll on mais, grâce à la Fondation Lomax (Cultural Equity) et à sa générosité, nous disposons désormais de l'intégrale de ce qui demeure un formidable témoignage de la musique et de l'atmosphère des juke joints sudistes à la fin des années 1950.
            Dans la foulée, Lomax enregistre aussi un autre trio présent ce 1er octobre 1959, emmené par le chanteur harmoniciste Boy Blue (Roland Hayes) que l'on retrouvera quelques années plus tard au festival de Memphis et qui comprend le guitariste Joe Lee Jones qui grave aussi un titre en leader.
            Sous la houlette de Lomax, Forest City Joe envisageait de relancer sa carrière musicale et devait enregistrer un album complet pour Columbia ou Vanguard quand, le 3 avril 1960, de retour d'un engagement, Joe s'est probablement endormi au volant de son van, décédant dans l'accident qui s'ensuivait.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT
Encore tous mes remerciements à Cultural Equity et John Barstow pour leur aide.

           
As Muddy Waters once told: " Forest City Joe was probably one of the best Chicago blues harp player ". Born Joe Bennie Pugh around Hughes, Arkansas on July, 10th 1926 among a sharecropping family, the boy, under the strong influence of his mother Mary Walker, started to sing and play piano and guitar. Later on, Joe fell in love with the harmonica sound through the records of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson and soon became good enough to play in the local juke joints. During the mid-1940's, Joe plays with Big Joe Williams who brings him to Saint Louis and try his luck there.
            The next stage of the trip is of course Chicago. For Pugh, now known as Forest City Joe, this is also and maybe utmost the opportunity to meet his idol John Lee Williamson. His strong harmonica playing allows him to play in clubs and on Maxwell Street. And at last Williamson gives some harp lessons to his young admirer! Forest City Joe's reputation is strong enough for, just after the tragic death of John Lee Williamson, persuade the Chess Brothers to bring him in the studio and record a session on 2 December 1948 for their Aristocrat label. The guitarist had to be Muddy Waters but unexpectedly busy this very day, Muddy is replaced by an obscure guitar player from Memphis, J.C. Cole who backs Joe with some simple and not always reliable chords. Some years later, Cole will record a session in Memphis for no one than Sam Philips in a style reminiscent of John Lee Hooker! From the eight Forest City Joe's recorded titles, Chess will issue only two (Memory of Sonny Boy/ A woman on every street) on a 78t that goes nowhere.
            Anyway, Joe plays for awhile in Chicago with Muddy, Otis Spann and in Memphis with Howlin' Wolf and his pianist Willie Love. But, failing to support a large family with his music, Joe goes back to Hughes where he will make a living as a field labourer and tractor driver, still playing the blues on week ends on the local juke joints.
            This is here on Friday 30th September 1959 - in front of the local Old Whiskey Store - that Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins, while in Hughes during their famous Southern field trip, find Forest City Joe who is there playing the guitar and singing. After a fructuous conversation, Lomax decides to record the following day (1 October) Forest City Joe and his band (the guitar player Sonny Boy Rogers who will settle to Minneapolis and record there LP and CD; the drummer Thomas Martin) at Charlie Houlin's juke joint where Forest City Joe had to play the week end. This superb session has been only partially issued on several anthologies on Bluesville and Atlantic (The Blues Roll on) but thanks to Cultural Equity (The Lomax Foundation) we can now listen to the much longer complete session. Lomax also records another local band, the trio of another excellent harp player, Boy Blue (Roland Hayes) (1922-80) who will be seen several years later at the Memphis Blues Festival and behind Joe Willie Wilkins. Blue's guitarist Joe Lee Jones also sings on one track. Those recordings are exceptional, not only for the excellent blues music played by all but also because it lasts as one of the very rare testimony of the strong true atmosphere and feeling of a Southern black juke joint in the late 50's.
            Seizing this unexpected opportunity, Forest City Joe tried to resume his musical career. He planned to go back to Chicago and had to record a whole album for Vanguard or Columbia but while coming back for a gig, he probably fell asleep at the wheel and died in the accident on April, 3d 1960.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT
A lot of thanks for their invaluable help to Cultural Equity and John Barstow.

FOREST CITY JOE DISCOGRAPHY

18 commentaires:

  1. Complete Forest City Joe/ J C Cole/ Boy Blue/ Joe Lee

    CD1/
    http://www85.zippyshare.com/v/ZwAipuTO/file.html

    CD2/
    http://www24.zippyshare.com/v/sINwxM77/file.html

    OK?

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  2. Muchas gracias Gerard, no conocía a este músico. Gran labor. Mucha salud y mucho blues. Un saludo.

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  3. CD2 can't be opened. Maybe you can fix it.
    Keep up the good work, one of the best blogs around!

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    Réponses
    1. It works perfectly well for me. The bug must come from the zip/unzip software you use. Don't use winzip which very often don't work, but instead 7Zip
      http://www.7-zip.org/
      probably the best (freeware) in this category
      or IZarc

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  4. Thanks for this excellent post. Got to thinking when hearing Joe Lee's Rock, did Roland Hayes relatives or Alan Lomax ever get paid royalties after Moby sampled it on 'Find My Baby' and made millions.

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    Réponses
    1. I wouldn't say... I didn't even know Moby took his track! Roland Hayes had a very bad reputation of being an inveterate drunker and a non reliable person that's why I guess he didn't make it. And note that the famous 1959 field trip was the result of a collaboration between Alan Lomax and British folk singer Shirley Collins who played a great part on it without being very well credited...

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  5. Great compilation again! other 2 musicians are not familiar to me; tyvm for including these tracks!

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  6. It's always a great day when a new compilation appears on your blog, Gerard. Thanks for all the great music you provide us with.

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  7. Very good as always Gerard, I look forward to hearing these very interesting tracks over the next couple of days.

    Agree with you about 7Zip, that's the one I use mostly, if 7Zip fails then PeaZip will always come to the rescue. Both are freeware.

    Thanks again Gerard for all the hard work you put into making these rare gems available to us.

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  8. magnifique merci Gerard
    BBB

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  9. Hi Gerard - I tried unzipping CD2 with Stuffit Expander and also RAR Expander, but it doesn't open. The above you recommend are for windows? Thanks for any help.

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    1. I really don't understand why the link of CD2 doesn't open for some. So I've re-uploaded it through another uploader. Hope it will work for you:
      Forest City Joe CD2: (alternative link):
      https://mega.co.nz/#!idgk3YzK!tnOd-km04kmDK27yNxtBZiDAVt5jHiGcUIJYGZQbZfQ

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    2. merci Gerard pour la nouvelle link
      les Mac & les 7z sont rarement d'accord
      BBB

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  10. Thank you for this great post !!

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  11. Although I have a good chunk of these that's a good complete set and on MP3!!!
    Gerard, as always you are a gentleman and a scholar...literally! ;-)

    Another to add to the Blue Eye collection.

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    Réponses
    1. Thank you Marineband... glad to be useful even to the hardcore blues buffs! Thanks must also go to the Lomax Foundation that make available those treasures

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