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vendredi 18 octobre 2019

CAROL FRAN/ Louisiana Swamp blues


CAROL FRAN/ Louisiana Swamp blues



           
Carol Fran, certainly one of the Queen of the Louisiana Swamp blues, was born Carol Anthony Martin in the city of Lafayette, at the very heart of the Cajun country, on October 23, 1933. Her mother wanted her to be a classical pianist and Carol followed piano (and dance) lessons at a very early age. But as she told in an in-depth interview to Living Blues Magazine (n°116), she hated those piano lessons and instead lent an ear to R&B local and national acts, particularly Ella Mae Morse, Dinah Washington or Camille Howard.
            Anyway, she was already a proficient piano player when, at just 15!, she started to play in the Louisiana clubs with the Don Coway Orchestra. Don encouraged her to sing and soon she was fronting the band and garnering good followings. Another step and Carol was hired by Bubba Lutcher's (brother of Nellie and Joe) agency from Lake Charles and she started to tour across the South West from Texas to California before settling awhile in New Orleans. There she sang in many cabarets of the French Quarter with many bands, those of Edgar Blanchard, Sugar Boy Crawford and even Guitar Slim, becoming a very favorite female singer of Bourbon Street and, of course, she married in New Orleans to saxophonist Bob François. She then dropped her maiden name and began a new career under the name of Carol Fran, thinking François was too difficult to pronounce in Texas or California!
            A two years and fruitful contract with the main venue of Ciudad Juarez at the Mexican border and Carol was at last recorded in 1957 by the ever smart Jay Miller from Crowley who recognized in Carol a major talent. The nice swamp pop ballad Emmitt Lee, penned by Carol and issued by Excello was a modest local hit but the driving and witty Knock Knock enjoyed a wider success and the song is still a Swamp blues/rock classic.
            Carol signed then a contract with the Lyric label from Lake Charles: The great pretender was a smash hit from Houston to New Orleans and Carol became a major New Orleans artist, singing at the Dew Drop Inn and the Sugar Bowl clubs and appearing with Earl King, Lee Dorsey, Joe Tex... This is on a tour with the Joe Tex Revue that she appeared in New York at the famous
At the Apollo. Courtesy Living Blues
Apollo Theatre and signing with the Port Records label for which she recorded her smoldering Crying in the Chapel, an instant hit that would be very soon recorded by Elvis Presley. She toured the USA from coast to coast with the Joe Tex Revue until, tired of the hectic life on the road, she settled in Miami and around 1977 in Houston, to be closer to her kinfolks. At that time, the opportunities were scarce but Carol formed a duo with her second husband, ace Texas guitarist Clarence Holliman. Her early records having a great reputation in Europe, she was "re-discovered" by local producers and Carol and Clarence started to appear in festivals all around the USA and Europe, recording a string of mostly excellent albums for Black Top and JSP.
            After the death of Clarence Hollimon in 2000, she was devastated but managed to pursue her career, touring Europe and recording a very emotional album Fran-Tastic backed by Louisiana guitarist Selwyn Cooper. She relocated in Lafayette, appearing in festivals all over the world and on records by Grady Gaines, Bob Corritore or Anson Funderburgh. She gained a National Endowment for the Arts Awards in 2013.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT
A lot of thanks to Benoit Blue Boy and Mike K. from Australia for their help and loan of rare records.

Carol Fran, vcl; band. Crowley, La. 12 June 1957
01. Tomorrow
Carol Fran, vcl; John Johnson, g; Guitar Gable, g; Fats Perrodin, bs; Clarence Etienne, dms. Crowley, La. 22 February 1958
02. Emmitt Lee
03. One look at you daddy
Carol Fran, vcl; band. Crowley, La. 18 June 1958
04. I quit my knockin'
If we should meet again
Carol Fran, vcl; band. Crowley, La. 24 February1959
05. Knock knock I & II
06. Emmitt Lee's come back
Carol Fran, vcl; band. Crowley, La. March 1960
07. One more chance
08. Run a while (Running and hiding)
09. Hold me
Carol Fran, vcl; band. Lake Charles, La. 1961
So tired of crying
10. Just because you're mine
Carol Fran, vcl; Cookie Thierry, t-sax; Sheldon Dunaway, t-sax; Ernest Jacobs, pno; Marshall Ladee, g; Joe Landry, bs; Soko Richardson, dms. Lake Charles, La. 1962
11. The great pretender
12. Please stand by me
Carol Fran, vcl; band. Lake Charles, La. late 1962
13. After a night out
It's you
Carol Fran, vcl; band. New York City, 1964
14. Crying in the chapel
15. I'm gonna try
Carol Fran, vcl; Sammy Lowe Orchestra. New York City, early 1965
16. It's my turn now
17. You can't stop me
18. A world without you
19. I know
Carol Fran, vcl; band. New York City, late 1965
20. Any day love walks in
21. Just a letter
Carol Fran, vcl; band. New York City, 1966
22. So close
23. Out of sight, out of mind
Carol Fran, vcl; band. New York City, March 1967
24. My runaway heart
25. C'mon let's make up
26. You're my pleasure
27. A woman in love
28. I was such a fool
29. Roll with the Punches


mardi 15 octobre 2019

MEMPHIS SLIM/ The Complete 1967 Clyde Otis Sessions


MEMPHIS SLIM/ The complete Clyde Otis 1967 Sessions

           
In 1967 ace pianist John Len "Peter" Chatman aka Memphis Slim was already living in France for 5 years and also remarried with a French lady. He was a very favourite of French and European scenes, either jazz or blues ones, was a regular at the Trois Mailletz, a Quartier Latin noted jazz club where Sorbonne's students (including yours truly) were gathering almost every evening. Memphis, a classy and smart Ambassador of the blues, was appearing in numerous French TV shows and even played some small parts in movies (for which he would also write the soundtracks) and of course was recording an enormous amount of albums, featuring him mostly as a solo act or just backed by his French drummer, Michel Denis or his fellow American expatriate Mickey Baker.
            He seemed to be quite happy to live in France with his new family but of course he liked also very much coming back to the States ("I miss a lot of things from the States " he once said "even the US TV commercials"), particularly in New York City where he was still in-demand in folk and jazz clubs.
           
It's during one of those trips in June 1967 that jazz and R&B producer Clyde Otis proposed him to record with an all US jazz band composed of stellar New York City sessions men like guitarist Billy Butler, tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee, bassist Lloyd Trotman and drummer Herb Lovelle. For a couple of days, Memphis Slim and his band waxed more than 20 tracks, Slim seeming very happy to be backed again by such a great array of musicians. He was in fine voice and as usual a wonderful piano player, bluesin' and boogieing as hell, and he left also plenty space for his accompanists to shine.
            We don't know for sure what happened really to those sessions. Clyde Otis was probably involved with more lucrative jobs or whatever... One 45 (Gone again/ Little lonely girl) was issued in 1967, selling very poorly and going nowhere, and the subsequent years several albums popped up here and there with some tracks from those sessions, sometimes re-titled, sometimes shortened (on the Beacon, Jubilee, Musidisc...). Even a couple of unissued tracks appeared decades later on CD!
            But those very good Memphis Slim 1967 sessions were never completely gathered on one disc. This is what we have tried to do here, so enjoy and relax while listening to the one and only Memphis Slim in top form.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

Memphis Slim, vcl/pno; Billy Butler, g; Eddie  Chamblee, t-sax; Lloyd Trotman, bs; Herb Lovelle, dms. New York City, June 1967
01. A long time baby
02. All by myself
03. Ballin' the jack
04. Broadway boogie
05. Dear Abby and Anne
06. Everyday I have the blues
07. Forty years or more
08. Freedom
09. Gamblers' blues
10. Gone again
11. I am the blues
12. I'm too poor to die
13. Key to the highway
14. Lend me your love
15. Let's get with it
16. Little lonely girl
17. Long time gone
18. Only fools have fun
19. Rock me baby
20. Sassy Mae
21. Strollin' thru the park
22. There's a fool in town
23. This little woman
24. Too late



photo courtesy Natalie Chatman

jeudi 26 septembre 2019

R.C. SMITH/ Complete Recordings (re-post)

R.C. SMITH/ Complete Recordings (Re-Post)



           
Robert Curtis Smith, né en 1930 à Cruger (Ms) près de Clarksdale, est une des meilleures découvertes faites par Chris Strachwitz et Paul Oliver durant leur voyage conjoint dans le Sud des Etats Unis en juillet 1960. Un chanteur et guitariste de blues, dans le pur style du Delta, qui compose des morceaux relatant sa vie quotidienne et qui est âgé d'à peine 30 ans! Même pour l'époque, il s'agissait vraiment d'une trouvaille majeure.
            C'est par hasard que Chris et Paul croisent le chemin de R.C. Smith alors qu'il discutait avec son ami Wade Walton dans le petit salon de coiffure que ce barbier/ bluesman tenait dans le quartier noir de Clarksdale. Après que Wade eut impressionné ses visiteurs exotiques de quelques morceaux à la guitare, à l'harmonica et surtout en battant le rythme avec une lame et la sangle de rasoir de sa boutique (un "truc" qu'il rééditera devant chacun de ses visiteurs de plus en plus nombreux au fur et à mesure des années), R.C. a à son tour interprété quelques morceaux avec la guitare de Wade (il avait mis la sienne au clou pour payer les cadeaux de Noel à sa femme et à ses huit enfants)
            D'emblée, Oliver et Strachwitz décident d'enregistrer les deux compères. Smith ne grave que quelques titres et c'est l'année suivante en juillet 1961 qu'il peut s'exprimer sur un album entier qui sortira pour Bluesville, un des meilleurs LP de ce label, avec notamment quelques très grands moments personnels comme le désespérant Council Spur blues. Malheureusement le label Bluesville n'a jamais brillé par sa distribution et l'album sorti presque en catimini à une époque où le blues revival n'était que balbutiant ne se vend qu'à quelques dizaines d'exemplaires!
            A part quelques dollars bienvenus, le disque ne rapporte rien du tout à R.C. Smith qui retourne à sa métairie, conduisant un tracteur pour un salaire misérable. Il confiera être très fier qu'un seul de ses enfants soit décédé! Vers 1969, il abandonne le blues pour la religion, quitte ensuite le Mississippi dans les années 1970 pour une meilleure vie à Chicago.
            Son superbe disque – malheureusement devenu très rare et jamais réédité ni en LP ni en CD – intrigue cependant le cercle des amateurs de Delta blues un peu partout dans le monde, en particulier le fondateur de Living Blues Jim O'Neal qui, grâce à Wade Walton, réussit à le retrouver en 1997 et à le faire monter sur scène (sans doute sa seule apparition en concert) durant le Sunflower blues festival. Mais Smith doit regagner Chicago et élude donc l'idée d'enregistrer l'album que veut O'Neal.
           
L'année suivante, Matthew Bock tombe sur lui un peu par hasard tandis qu'il dirige une congrégation dans le South Side de Chicago, continuant à jouer de la guitare et à chanter, mais cette fois uniquement des gospels. La voix est devenue un peu plus rauque mais sa musique religieuse semble aussi pleine de vigueur et d'inspiration que les blues qu'il avait enregistrés près de 40 ans avant! Il enregistrera cinq nouveaux titres.
            R.C. Smith décède en novembre 2010 à Chicago.
            On ne peut que regretter que ce talent qu'on devine d'importance au vu de ses quelques disques n'ait pu davantage figurer dans les festivals de blues et fréquenter davantage les studios. But anyway this is the real story of the blues!
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

            Robert Curtis Smith, born in Cruger, Ms near Clarksdale in 1930, is certainly one of the best discovery made by Chris Strachwitz and Paul Oliver during their July 1960 blues trip in the Deep South. Here was a blues singer in his early 30's playing the guitar in the true Delta style who also wrote personal lyrics about his everyday life! Even for the 1960's he was a major find and he should certainly have enjoyed concerts, records and international recognition.
            Chris and Paul crossed the path of R.C. Smith while he was chatting with his old friend Wade Walton in Wade's barbershop situated in Clarksdale's "colored" quarter. Wade was mentioned as an old-styled bluesman by several people, leading Oliver and Strachwitz to his shop. After Wade had impressed his exotic visitors in singing and playing the guitar and harmonica and moreover playing his razor strap (a gimmick he would do again umpteenth times for visiting bluesfans from all around the world during the next decades, including yours truly!), R.C. also mentioned he was able to play and sing the blues even he had no guitar of his own at that time (he had to put his guitar at the pawnshop the previous year to be able to buy Christmas gifts to his children and he hadn't been able to buy it back).
            Paul and Chris decided at once to record the two hitherto unknown bluesmen. R.C. Smith recorded only four titles and he had to wait the following year to make a whole album which would be issued on the Bluesville label, certainly one of the best (and much sought after) of these series with some striking numbers like the hopeless Council Spur blues. Unfortunately the Bluesville label was very poorly distributed and Smith's LP sold only a handful of dozens (I was once told less than a hundred!)
            Smith grabbed only a handful of dollars from this record and nothing else happened: no gigs, no more records, nobody coming to see him! R.C. was still living precariously and when asked decades after he said his main pride was to have raised his large family with only one lost child! Around 1969, he gave up entirely the blues for the church and at the end of the 1970's he left Mississippi for Chicago, becoming a fulltime preacher.
            His great LP - unfortunately very hard to find after the mid-60's and never reissued on CD - had nevertheless gained the worldwide blues buffs' attention and it had the indefatigable energy of Jim O'Neal (founder of Living Blues and then relocated in Clarksdale) to at last (and thanks to Wade's tip) find Reverend R.C. Smith in Chicago during 1997. Thanks to O'Neal, R.C. made his first and only stage appearance at the Sunflower blues festival. Jim hoped to record R.C. but it never materialized.
            The following year Matthew Bock crossed R.C.'s path by chance and made him record five new titles, only Gospel numbers, delivered with the same feeling and energy R.C. had 40 years before!
            R.C. Smith died in Chicago in November 2010.
            We can only have regrets this excellent bluesman had not been more on the focus. He probably was able to make strong appearances in big festivals like Newport, the AFBF and others also record more great LPs and become an important name of the blues revival.
            But sadly it's anyway and so usually the story of the blues!
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

R.C. SMITH
The Complete Recordings
R.C. Smith, vcl/g. Clarksdale, Ms. 24 July 1960
01. Stella Ruth
02. Going back to Texas
03. Lonely widower
04. Lost love blues
R.C. Smith, vcl/g; Sam Moore, dms. Clarksdale, Ms. 28 July 1961
05. Please don't drive me away
R.C. Smith, vcl/g. Clarksdale, Ms. 28 July 1961
06. Rock me mama
07. I believe we love each other
08. Put your arms around me
09. Catfish blues
10. I hate to leave you
11. Council Spur blues
12. I feel so good
13. I'm going away
14. Ain't that lovin' you baby
15. Get a real woman
16. See my chauffeur
17. Sunflower River blues
18. Katy Mae blues
19. Goody goody
20. Can you remember me?
R.C. Smith, vcl/g. Chicago, Ill. 1998
21. The Lord will make a way somehow
22. Lye Water conversion
23. Thank you
24. Calvary
25. Milky white way

samedi 21 septembre 2019

TEXAS BLUES Vol. 8/ Willie Johnson Plus

TEXAS BLUES Vol. 8/ Willie Johnson +


Houston, Tx. Eldorado Ball Room c. 1960
Thanks to our generous friends Mike G. & Mike K. from Australia, we now may post 5 very very rare Willie Johnson's tracks that fill most of the gaps in his discography:








Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; The Groovy Five, band. San Antonio, Tx. October 1949
Lost baby
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; Third Ward Sir-Cats, band. Houston, Tx. janvier 1951
Sad and blue
Rocket 88
So happy

Tears come falling down

Thanks again, guys!

lundi 16 septembre 2019

TEXAS BLUES/ Volume 8



TEXAS BLUES/ Volume 8

           
This eighth volume of our Texas blues series is focused on three pianists, this instrument having been most important on all traditional Texas blues.
            I haven't been able to grab much about singer and pianist Melvin Daniels who seems to have been quite active in the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the early 50's. He is only mentioned in blues magazines and books for having sheltered a young King Curtis in his band. Curtis is present on the six nice titles recorded in 1953 by Daniels and those are - if I'm right - his very first recording tracks even with one instrumental (Tenor in the sky) where he is leading the band.
            Lavada Durst is a well known DJ, pianist and singer (and even baseball commentator!) from Austin and he has been very well documented in blues
magazines and books and he has even been the subject of an excellent Austin University's thesis by Peter Okie Weiss! Durst was born in Austin on January 9th 1913. He learned the piano at an early age while hearing and meeting many local blues pianists like Robert Shaw or Baby Dotson. Lavada became "Dr Hepcat" a well loved DJ on KVET radio in Austin between 1948 and 1963, drawing strong audiences with his choice of top R&B and jazz records of the era as well as his jiving between records, public service announcements and commercials. Despite being quite famous locally, Lavada Durst recorded only six tracks, all in 1949 for Uptown and then Peacock, his composition Hattie Green being a small local hit. After going into religion and playing only Gospel music, Durst resumed his blues career during the late 1970's, recording several excellent sessions. He died on October 31st 1995 in his hometown.
            Last but not least, Willie Johnson (not to be confused with the others Willie Johnson, guitarists from Mississippi and Memphis) was a prolific piano player around Houston and San Antonio during the 1940's-50's. He recorded quite extensively as an accompanist of many Texas blues and R&B stalwarts and under his own name (Willie or Bill Johnson) or under group names (Groovy Five, Groovy Trio, Third Ward Sir-Cats!). Surprisingly, almost nothing is known about him and - as far as I know - he has not been the subject of any article in blues magazines! I have been able to gather many of his recordings but too many are still missing and if anyone who would own those quite rare and hard to find tracks would like to share, a .mp3 copy would be appreciated.
            Thanks a lot to Alan Govenar, Jeff and Carlos Rodriguez for their help.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT


TEXAS BLUES
Volume 8
MELVIN DANIELS, vcl/pno; King Curtis, t-sax; Vonzell Tucker, t-sax; Orion Villette, b-sax; Webster Armstrong, g; Henry Dodds, bs; Vernon Lewis, dms. Fort Worth, Tx. 1953
01. I'll be there
02. Boogie in the moonlight
03. If you don't want my loving
04. Hey hey little girl
05. No more crying on my pillow
06. Tenor in the sky
LAVADA DURST (as Dr Hepcat), vcl/pno. Austin, Tx. February 1949
07. Hattie Green (Uptown)
08. Hepcat's boogie
Lavada Durst (as Cool Papa Smith), vcl/pno; band. Austin, Tx. May 1949
09. You better change your ways woman
10. Christmas blues
Lavada Durst, vcl/pno; Wilmer Snakesnider, a-sax; band. Houston, Tx. December 1949
11. Hattie Green (Peacock)
12. I cried all night
WILLIE JOHNSON
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; bs; dms. Los Angeles, Ca. April 1949
Square bear
Fat daddy blues
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; bs; dms. San Antonio, Tx. May 1949
13. Squeeze my baby
14. Too late baby
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; The Groovy Five, band. San Antonio, Tx. October 1949
Lost baby
Wrong love blues
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; Ed Wiley, t-sax; Don Cooks, bs; Ben Turner, dms. Houston, Tx. 16 May 1950
15. Sampson Street boogie
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; Henry Hayes, t-sax; Ed Wiley, t-sax; Goree Carter, g; Don Cooks, bs; Ben Turner, dms. Houston, Tx. June 1950
16. Boogie in blues
17. Weeping little woman
18. Got the boogie woogie blues (vcl: Hubert Robinson)
19. That boy's boogie
20. Shout it out (vcl: Slim Reese)
Willie Johnson (as Bill Johnson), vcl/pno; prob. same band. Houston, Tx. October 1950
21. Bill's boogie
22. Worried blues
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; Third Ward Sir-Cats, band. Houston, Tx. janvier 1951
Sad and blues
Rocket 88
So happy
Tears come falling down
Willie Johnson, vcl on *; Thelma Johnson, vcls; Lee Allen, t-sax; Salvador Doucette, pno; Ernest Mc Lean, g; Frank Fields, bs; Earl Palmer, dms. New Orleans, La. 18 December 1952
23. Here comes my baby
24. Sometimes I wonder why*
25. Love me till dawn
26. Don't tell mama
Willie Johnson, vcl/pno; band. New Orleans, La. 1954
27. Say baby
28. That night



mardi 10 septembre 2019

SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON/ Live Recordings (Re-post)

SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON (Rice Miller)/
Live Sessions


           
Si les enregistrements en studio pour Trumpet, Chess ou Storyville de Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) qui regorgent de chefs d'œuvre et sont devenus des classiques du Chicago blues, sont aisément disponibles sous diverses formes, les enregistrements en concert ou dans des radios effectués par cet immense bluesman demeurent plus confidentielles et disséminées sur de nombreux albums, souvent très difficiles à se procurer aujourd'hui.
            Nous avons essayé de regrouper tous ces enregistrements "live", l'immense majorité ayant été effectuée en Europe (seul un programme radiophonique en studio à Helena provient des Etats Unis). Evidemment, à l'exception des concerts qui proviennent de l'American Folk Blues Festival dans lesquels Sonny Boy est accompagné de superbes musiciens comme M.T. Murphy, Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim, Memphis Slim etc... les autres sont beaucoup moins musicalement réussis. Derrière Sonny Boy, nombre de très jeunes musiciens anglais qui sont alors au tout début de leur carrière font plus montre d'enthousiasme que d'empathie réelle avec leur leader d'un soir. Mais Sonny Boy est Sonny Boy et dès qu'il chante, parle, susurre, souffle dans son harmonica, claque des doigts, l'instant est magique. Et finalement ces enregistrements, souvent réalisés dans des conditions précaires et qui, parfois, n'étaient même pas destinés à être publiés, constituent un apport très intéressant à l'œuvre du maestro.
            Sauf erreur, tout ce que Sonny Boy a enregistré live dans les années 1963-65 se trouve ici. A l'exception de six titres provenant d'une séance privée que je n'ai pas inclus.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT
Les Rolls Royce des Harmonicas sont ici

            If the studio recordings for Trumpet, Chess or Storyville made by Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) are full of blues masterpieces and are still easily available today, his live recordings (made in concerts or for radio programmes) are much more confidential and scattered on too many albums, very often hard to get. And some that you'll find here are also hitherto unissued.
            We have tried to gather all those live recordings, essentially captured in Europe (with one exception coming from Helena, Arkansas). Of course, with the strong exception of the American Folk Blues Festivals' concerts where Sonny Boy is backed by great American fellow bluesmen (M.T. Murphy, Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim, Memphis Slim etc...), the others are much less musically successful. Behind the great bluesman, many very young British musicians who are at the very beginning of their careers display more enthusiasm than real empathy to their revered one night leader. But Sonny Boy is Sonny Boy and as soon as he sings, talks, groans, whispers, blows his harp, snaps his fingers... the moment becomes just magical! And finally those recordings, very often made in very precarious and technically rough conditions - several were not even aimed to be issued! - are anyway a very rewarding addition to the maestro's complete works.
            Unless I'm mistaken, everything Sonny Boy has recorded live between 1963-65 (nothing was done before, the track on the Argo's Folk Festival album was in fact a studio recording with handclaps added!) is gathered here. With one missing exception, six titles coming from a private recording that I've not included.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON/ Live Discography


The Rolls Royces of the harmonica are here