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jeudi 4 juillet 2024

SHAKEY JAKE/ Complete Studio recordings

 SHAKEY JAKE/ Complete Studio Recordings

James D. Harris was born 12 April 1921 (or 1920) at Earle, Arkansas and raised on his parents' small farm. He came to Chicago still a teenager. There he listened to the numerous blues players of the Windy City and saw several times John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson who encouraged him to play the harmonica and sing the blues. He so started a musical career around 1945. With a warm and soft voice, he gained some recognition in Chicago clubs but always found a better way of living in working outside the music. Garage owner, taxi driver, cook, record label owner, strip club owner (and maybe a pimp!)... James earned his Shakey Jake's nickname as a noted gambler, shaking the dice (although some better informed people (?) once told me Jake was named "Shakey" by the numerous women he knew for his bedtime skills). Anyway, he resumed a full blues career during the 1950's in training, promoting, composing blues for and playing with his nephew, Magic Sam (Jake had just married Sam's aunt). Although he is not often credited for that, Shakey Jake played an important part in creating and defining the blues style that would be later on called "West Side Sound" and many of Magic Sam's songs were penned and arranged by his uncle.
            Under his name, Shakey Jake recorded two singles in 1957 and 1958 and two odd full albums for the then fledgling Bluesville label that were very bad received at the time of being issued but that finally are aging rather well. German promoters of the first American Folk Blues Festival wanted another and more famous harp player, also a Shakey, Big Walter Horton on the bill but Willie Dixon who was at the AFBF wheel in Chicago didn't want Walter because of him being not very reliable and instead took Shakey Jake. Jake fared quite well on the very successful tour, befriended with T-Bone Walker (and even won his shoes on cards!) but turned down several offers to record and play more in Europe. In 1968, he toured and recorded in California for the World Pacific label and feeling that the L.A. weather suited him better than windy Chicago's, he settled in Los Angeles where he became a favorite of the local young blues bands like Rod Piazza or William
Clarke. He opened a club (Safara Club), launched a record label (Good Time), recorded with his protégés. But the times were hard for Jake who lived in a very bad and dangerous area and had to sell discarded paper and cardboard to recycling centres for his bread and butter.
            Quite ill during the late 1980's, he finally came back to Pine Bluff, Arkansas where he died on 2 March 1990.
            He leaves us a nice blues heritage. We have gathered here almost all of his studio recordings that thus do not include his AFBF 1962 performances which are easily available elsewhere on CDs.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

mardi 25 juin 2024

ROY GAINES/ Early Recordings



ROY GAINES / Early Recordings



Roy Gaines was born 12 August 1937 in Waskom (Texas) from a large family of three sisters and five brothers, including his elder Grady Gaines who will become the saxophonist and showman that everybody knows. The family moved to Houston when Roy was six years old and Roy followed the musical path of Grady, learning at an early age piano and guitar thanks to Clarence Hollomon, a neighbour who will also become a top notched Texas bluesman. Roy was also under the influence of Guitar Slim, Gatemouth Brown and T-Bone Walker whom he met and get encouragements from. Roy began to perform on clubs and venues with Grady's band when still a young teenager. His guitar skills gave him quickly a strong reputation and he was soon billed as "Roy Gaines, the 14-year old sensation".

         Two years later, Roy moved to Los Angeles to live with his elder sister and try his luck on the fledgling Southern California blues scene. He soon managed to play and tour with Roy Milton's band. While touring extensively with Milton, Roy got musical lessons from saxophonist Jackie Kelso who taught Roy how to read and write music and arrangements. Roy got back to Houston to record as a session guitarist for Don Robey behind Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Big Mama Thornton and others. While playing in Dallas, Roy Gaines was contacted by a New York City agent who was in need for an accomplished jazz/blues guitarist to back Joe Morris' band for a tour including Big Joe Turner. He then became associated during almost three years with Chuck Willis when the singer was climbing up to stardom. Roy is on many Wills' records and hits and was the open act for Wills during their subsequent tours that saw Wills making a crossover from R&B to pop with more and more white audiences.

         When Wills died suddenly in 1958, Roy who had settled in New York City became easily an in-demand session guitarist for the main labels whether blues, R&B, pop, jazz or whatever: Mel Waldron, Coleman Hawkins, Bennie Moten, Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, Little Willie John, Mickey Baker & Sylvia Vanderpool, Brownie Mc Ghee and even Billie Holiday! Roy managed to cut many records on his own for several labels like Chart, Groove, DeLuxe, RCA, Del Fi, CuBeAr, Uni waxing blues, R&B, Rock'n'Roll (the frantic Skippy is a sissie) and even Country Music (Roy said he was always an Hank Williams' fan playing most of his repertoire, and he was managed for a while by Hank's widow Audrey!).

         At the end of the 1950's, Roy went back to Los Angeles recording with his former boss and friend Roy Milton, the Jazz Crusaders and under his name before being drafted by Uncle Sam in 1962. Based in Monterey, Roy took more music lessons from several musicians including Woody Herman. When he was discharged from the Army, Roy became a most sought after session man, recording with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Ted Taylor etc... He was also constantly on tour with Joe Tex, Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross... And Roy also was hired by famous bandleader Quincy Jones to record the soundtrack of several movies (Bob & Carroll & Ted & Alice). In 1985, Roy will also act and play in Spielberg's Color Purple!


In 1975, Roy toured France with organist Milt Buckner recording behind Milt (a fantastic version of Green Onions) and his first whole album for the Black & Blue French label (Superman).. He then toured several times in Europe, recording more albums while operating a complex in Los Angeles' Crenshaw district that housed a nightclub, restaurant and a recording studio! During the 1990's and early 2000's Roy recorded more great albums before passing away on 11 August 2021.

         This post gathers almost all Roy Gaines' early recordings under his name. Thanks a lot to Alan H. and mostly Rusty for their great help in gathering those tracks.

    Most of this article comes from Lee Hildebrand's work published in Living Blues 227.

                                   Gérard HERZHAFT

samedi 1 juin 2024



FLOYD JONES Complete Recordings



Lors d'un voyage à Chicago, j'avais réussi à retrouver Floyd Jones en téléphonant aux dizaines de Floyd Jones recensés dans l'annuaire. Alors qu'on affirmait qu'il ne jouait plus et qu'il était malade, Floyd se produisait alors régulièrement dans un bar miteux en compagnie de son orchestre qui comprenait Big Walter Horton, Homesick James et un batteur fantasque, Playboy! Floyd qui était le seul à ne pas boire, préparait la scène, accordait les instruments, établissait la liste des morceaux à interpréter... A la fin de la soirée, il ramenait ses compagnons, tous saouls, chez eux. La soirée que nous avons passée chez Big Walter Horton restera comme un des souvenirs les plus mémorables de mes ballades en blues. Malheureusement, malgré tous nos efforts, Floyd n'a jamais pu réaliser son souhait de venir jouer en Europe et il demeure comme le moins reconnu des grands créateurs du Chicago blues électrique de l'après-guerre.

         Floyd est entré en blues après une rencontre avec Tommy Johnson dans le Delta. Mais c'est surtout son association avec Howlin' Wolf qui le marquera le plus. A cette époque, le Wolf est une grosse vedette du Delta blues, l'héritier le plus évident de Charlie Patton. Floyd le raconte ainsi:

         " J'ai suivi Howlin' Wolf pendant plusieurs années. On écumait les juke joints, les bars et les salles de jeu du Mississippi au Texas et de l'Oklahoma au Tennessee. On a même joué plusieurs semaines sur un bateau qui remontait et descendait le Mississippi... Wolf était alors immensément populaire et gagnait beaucoup d'argent "

         Floyd gagne ensuite Memphis où il anime un petit orchestre électrique en compagnie des guitaristes Woodrow Adams (lui aussi un émule de Howlin' Wolf) et de Lee Rodgers, le père de Sonny Rodgers qui enregistrera aussi sous son nom.

         Floyd s'associe ensuite à Big Walter Horton et Johnny Shines à Memphis mais gagne Chicago durant la guerre. Il est un des tout premiers à électrifier le blues du Delta dans les rues de Maxwell Street. Il enregistre dès 1947 avec son cousin Moody Jones et l'harmoniciste Snooky Pryor, une des premières séances du nouveau Chicago blues. Mais sa personnalité timide et réservée et des blues aux textes somptueux mais à l'atmosphère sombre et grave ne lui assurent jamais qu'un très modeste succès dans le seul ghetto des bords du lac Michigan. Il enregistre une poignée de titres entre 1947 et 1966 pour JOB, Chess et Vee-Jay, presque tous des chefs d'œuvre comme Schooldays, Stockyard blues (un des rares blues de l'après-guerre sur le chômage), Dark Road, On the road again qui deviendra un énorme succès pour les Canned Heat puis la musique d'une publicité pour une marque d'automobile!

         Malgré un excellent demi album en 1966 pour Testament, il rate largement les possibilités qu'offre le blues international. Il n'enregistre plus que très sporadiquement quelques faces ici et là. Un album enregistré par Al Smith pour Bluesway en janvier 1974 dont il attendait énormément ne verra jamais le jour. J'ai eu la chance d'en entendre quelques extraits grâce à Al Smith, Floyd était en grande forme et accompagné de Louis Myers et Homesick James aux guitares, Snooky Pryor à l'harmonica, Dave Myers à la basse et Fred Below à la batterie!

On n'a malheureusement jamais repéré où se trouvent les bandes.

         Floyd Jones est ne dans le Lee County (Arkansas) le 21 juillet 1917 et est décédé à Chicago le 18 décembre 1989.

         L'article le plus complet sur ce grand artiste a été écrit par Justin O'Brien et publié dans Living Blues 58 et 59.

                                               Gérard HERZHAFT


         During one of my trips to Chicago (fall 1979), I had the chance to meet Floyd Jones, one of my all-time favorite bluesmen. While I was told Floyd was sick and didn't play anymore, the man I met was in good shape and played regularly in a tiny blues bar situated on the West Side (If my memory is good) and he invited me to go with him to see his evening act. To my surprise, Floyd was backed by Big Walter Horton, Homesick James (they shared vocals) and an erratic drummer just named "Playboy". Floyd who was the only one not drinking alcohol dressed the stage, fixed the instruments and wrote a list of blues that would be played this evening... At the end of the sets, quite late in the night, he brought back Big Walter, drunk to death, to his home and the chatting hours we spend at Walter's home, would stay as one the most striking of all my blues memories! Unfortunately, despite all of our efforts, Floyd has never been able to play in Europe.

         Floyd Jones came to the blues through a meeting with Tommy Johnson in the Delta where he was living. But he cited as his main influences Charlie Patton and most of all Howlin' Wolf:

         " I followed Howlin' Wolf for several years. We were roaming the juke joints, bars and such through Mississippi, Tennessee and down to Texas and Oklahoma. We even played together on a steamer which went up and down the Mississippi River! ... Wolf was then very popular and we made a lot of money "

         After that, Floyd formed his own electric blues band in Memphis with guitarists Woodrow Adams and Lee Rodgers (father of Sonny Rodgers who will record a very good album). Then he will play alongside Big Walter and Johnny Shines before going to Chicago during the WWII's years. He is one of the very first to record the "new raw Chicago blues sounds" in 1947 and he is certainly a true pioneer of the post-war Chicago blues. His recordings are almost all masterpieces with very well crafted blues songs describing the social reality of the times: Schooldays, Stockyard blues, Dark Road, On the road again that will become a major hit for the Canned Heat, blues-rock group  and even the backing music for a major car company's commercials! That still provided important royalties to Floyd when I met him.

         But the shy and modest personality of Floyd prevented him to draw the limelight and he stayed mostly in the shadows of the others Chicago blues' big names. He didn't record much during the blues revival years: one excellent "half" album for Testament and a few tracks here and there on anthologies. In January 1974, Floyd also recorded his sole complete album for Bluesway (I heard some very good tracks from it thanks to producer Al Smith. Floyd was backed by Louis Myers, g; Homesick James, g; Snooky Pryor, hca; Dave Myers, bs and Fred Below, dms!) but it was never issued and nobody knows where the tapes are!

         Floyd Jones was born in Lee County, Arkansas on July 21st 1917 and died in Chicago, 18th December 1989.

         The most comprehensive portrait and study of Floyd Jones has been written by Justin O'Brien and published in Living Blues n°s 58 & 59.

                                               Gérard HERZHAFT

(photos by Jim & Amy On'Neal)


Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Snooky Pryor, hca; Moody Jones, g. Chicago, Ill. December 1947

01. Stockyard blues

02. Keep what you got

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Sunnyland Slim, pno; Baby Face Leroy Foster, dms. Chicago, Ill. 14 May 1948

03. Hard times

04. School days

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Sunnyland Slim, pno; Billy Howell, tpt; Moody Jones, bs; Alfred Wallace, dms. Chicago, Ill. 22 March 1951

05. Big world

06. Dark road

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Jimmy Rogers, g; Little Walter, hca; Willie Coven, dms. Chicago, Ill. 29 December 1951

07. Dark road

08. Big world

09. Overseas

10. Playhouse

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Jimmy Rogers, g; Junior Wells, hca; Albert King, dms. Chicago, Ill. 17 September 1952

11. You can't live long

12. Early morning blues

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Sunnyland Slim, pno; Moody Jones, bs; Alfred Wallace, dms. Chicago, Ill. 31 January 1953

13. On the road again

14. Skinny mama

15. Rising wind

16. I lost a good woman

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Snooky Pryor, hca; Eddie Taylor, g; Alfred Wallace, dms. Chicago, Ill. 3 February 1954

17. Schooldays on my mind

18. Ain't times hard

19. Any old lonesome day

20. Floyd's blue

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Eddie Taylor, g; Big Walter Horton, hca; Otis Spann, pno; Fred Below, dms. Chicago, Ill. June 1966

21. New Dark road I & II

22. Rising wind

23. Playhouse blues

24. M&O blues

25. Hard times

26. Sweet talkin' woman

27. Stockyard blues

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Big Walter Horton, hca. Chicago, Ill. 24 January 1970

28. Crawling kingsnake

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Big Walter Horton, hca. Chicago, Ill. November 1975

29. Hey little girl

30. Mr Freddie's blues

31. Overseas blues

32. Stockyard blues

33. Take a little walk with me

Floyd Jones, vcl/g; Honeyboy Edwards, g; Sunnyland Slim, pno; Kansas City Red, dms. Chicago, Ill. 8 June 1979

34. Over the seas blues

35. Banty rooster

36. Mr Freddy blues

Floyd Jones, vcl/g. Chicago, Ill. June 1984

37. Take a walk with me

38. Stockyard blues



samedi 25 mai 2024



SAINT LOUIS JIMMY/ Complete Recordings



Goin' down slow, Soon forgotten, Murder in the first degree, Take the bitter with the sweet... ne sont que quelques unes des très nombreuses compositions de James Oden dit Poor Boy Burke dit Saint Louis Jimmy. Né à Nashville, Tn le 26 juin 1905 James Burke Oden est le fils d'un danseur qui décède alors que James est très jeune. Il sera élevé essentiellement dans un orphelinat. Il arrive à Saint Louis en 1917, apprend le piano et chante à l'église. Mais très vite il devient un adepte du blues dont la scène de Saint Louis est alors très riche. Il écrit des blues encore plus pour les musiciens de la ville que pour lui-même, joue avec Big Joe Williams et Roosevelt Sykes, chante dans des réceptions privées et des bars de voisinage tout en travaillant comme coiffeur. Des ennuis avec la police le poussent à quitter Saint louis en 1932 et aller s'établir à Chicago qui restera sa résidence jusqu'à sa mort. Il débute une carrière discographique cette année là (1932) qui durera une trentaine d'années enregistrant pour quantité de labels (Decca, Bluebird, Victor, Black & White, Columbia, Bullet, Duke, Miracle, Aristocrat, JOB, Mercury, Apollo, Savoy, Herald, Opera, Parrot...). Malgré l'énorme succès de son Goin' down slow, et un style très personnel (voix amère et désabusée, mêlant style parlé et chanté) ainsi que la très haute estime de ses pairs, Jimmy ne sera jamais considéré comme un artiste majeur du Chicago blues. A Chicago, St Louis Jimmy va devenir parolier, arrangeur, producteur, propriétaire de labels tel JOB et même copropriétaire d'un club à Indianapolis!. Un grave accident de voiture en 1957 le handicape considérablement et il passera alors l'essentiel de son temps à son domicile qui se trouve au rez-de-chaussée de la maison de son fidèle ami Muddy Waters. Dans les années 1960, le Blues Revival lui permet de graver quelques titres pour Delmark, Candid et Spivey ainsi qu'un album pour Bluesville.

            Jimmy décède à Chicago le 30 décembre 1977, laissant une œuvre importante que nous présentons ici dans son intégralité pour la première fois.

                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT



photo: Jacques Demêtre

Goin' down slow, Soon forgotten, Murder in the first degree, Take the bitter with the sweet... are only some of the numerous compositions by James Oden aka Poor Boy Burke aka Saint Louis Jimmy. Born in Nashville 26th June 1905, James Burke Oden is the son of a dancer. His parents die when James is a very young boy and he then is raised in an orphanage. He moves in Saint louis in 1917, plays piano and sings in church. But soon he becomes enthralled with the very busy Saint Louis blues scene of that era and he is a very gifted blues composer who easily writes songs for his fellow musicians. He also sings and plays with people like Big Joe Williams and moreover Roosevelt Sykes, sings at private parties or local clubs while working as a hairdresser. Some troubles with the law urge him to leave Saint Louis to Chicago in 1932, a town where he will stay until his death. There he starts a recording career (1932) that will last more than thirty years, waxing tracks for numerous labels: Decca, Bluebird, Victor, Black & White, Columbia, Bullet, Duke, Miracle, Aristocrat, JOB, Mercury, Apollo, Savoy, Herald, Opera, Parrot... But despite the enormous success of his most famous blues,
Going down slow
and a very personal singing style (a bitter and disillusioned voice, half sung half spoken) and the high reputation he had among his fellow bluesmen, Saint Louis Jimmy will never be considered a big name of the Chicago blues. He is a composer, A&R man, producer, label co-owner (JOB) and even owns a club in Indianapolis. In 1957 a very serious car accident curtails his musical career and he will stay mostly at his home which will be for a long time in the basement of his long time friend Muddy Waters! During the 1960's the Blues Revival brings him again in the studios, recording some tracks for Candid, Delmark and Spivey as well as a whole album for Bluesville.

            Jimmy dies in Chicago on 30th December 1977, leaving a strong blues heritage and an important recorded works that we are entirely gathering here for the first time.

                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT



(courtesy Living Blues)

mercredi 15 mai 2024

TARHEEL SLIM/ Complete Recordings


TARHEEL SLIM/ Complete Recordings



Tarheel Slim (real name Allen Rathel Bunn) has recorded many tracks in various styles, Gospel, doo-woop, pop, Country blues, R&B, Country and even proto-rockabilly... His best blues tracks are highly praised among blues buffs all around the world but a lot of his recordings (mostly outside the "real" blues idiom) have been neglected. This post tries to gather all the sides recorded by Tarheel Slim from the 50's to the 70's, whether blues or not, whether still great and masterpieces or corny and a little outdated. It thus gives a truer portrait of an important artist who left us much too early. There is still one track missing. If anyone got it and would share here it would be great.
Thanks to our friend Peter Diederichs here is the missing track (TARHEELSLIM28A Love bug bite me)

         Born 24 September 1923 at Bailey, NC. Allen Bunn worked as a child in the tobacco fields while listening to her mother's record collection, mainly Blind Boy Fuller's discs. He learned guitar with local bluesmen,

Brownie McGhee's lessons and Fuller's records and he joined the Selah Singers, a local Gospel group who would also record secular material as The Larks or The Four Barons. Bunn often sang lead and played guitar with the group, recording a few tracks during the late 40's/early 50's. That lead him to his first recording as a feature artist in 1951 under his real name Allen Bunn. Those records while excellent went nowhere and our man had to wait to meet New York City producer and record store owner Bobby Robinson to see his records being better distributed and enjoying good sales.


In 1955, Allen Bunn married the singer Anna Sanford aka Little Ann and together they recorded duos which sold quite well under different names (The Lovers, Tarheel Slim and Little Ann..). But it's his December 1958 session that led him to blues fame when, under the wise guidance of Bobby Robinson, Tarheel Slim waxed two all time masterpieces Wildcat tamer and Number 9 Train. The backing band is first rate with scratchy guitar by Wild Jimmy Spruill although it must be stated that it's Slim himself who plays the fantastic guitar solos. For a while Tarheel Slim himself or with Little Ann enjoyed a good dose of commercial success and went to tour the USA with R&B packages. But the mid-60's were hard for those kinds of music and Tarheel Slim dropped out of sight, making a living outside music. He was anyway "rediscovered" by the great and unflagging Pete Lowry who recorded him at several opportunities and made him possible to appear as a solo guitarist (in the pure Piedmont style) on several Festivals. He had to play on Festivals in the USA and tour Europe and Pete Lowry was preparing another Tarheel Slim's album, this time with a band when Tarheel was diagnosed with throat cancer. He finally lost his battle with the disease in a New York Hospital on 21 August 1977.

         His wife Little Ann (born in 1935) lived until 2004.

         Thanks a lot to all who helped for this post, mainly Jose Yraberra, Alain J., Pete Lowry of course and Ballas.


                                                         Gérard HERZHAFT



dimanche 28 avril 2024






We're going back this time to our Los Angeles Blues series with, for this 5th Volume, several excellent but very few known blues artists.

            Despite several records under his name, singer and saxophonist Paul Clifton is very poorly documented. We just know he was a member of the Ollie McLollie band and that he was highly praised by his colleagues musicians around Los Angeles during the 1950-60's. He leaves us some very good tracks, some having been fairly reissued, others not.

            I've tried quite hard to find anything about pianist and singer Herb Fisher  who recorded a lot between 1950 and 1953 but in vain. I've been able to gather the most from his recorded works but some are missing and any help would be welcome. Like Paul Clifton, many of his tracks are very good.

            Chance Halladay was a jazz singer, sometimes cornered on the Rockabilly genre perhaps because he was white. His music is very blues oriented and his version of the Dickie Thompson's classic Thirteen women is a treat. Hallady was although known as a talent scout and a producer around the Los Angeles area for awhile.


R.S. Rankin
(born 22nd February 1933 in Royse City, Tx) is T-Bone Walker's nephew (as T-Bone himself explained to Living Blues Magazine in an interview) and he recorded a handful of excellent tracks under the name T-Bone Jr. Rankin was also a member of T-Bone's band for awhile. He is the only bluesman from this post who had a short article written on him by Darryl Stolper in Blues Unlimited n°115! Although he is probably dead by now, we don't know nothing of what happened to him after the 1970's.

            Thanks to all who helped me for this post and if anyone have more details, facts and/or music, it would be great.

                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

LOS ANGELES BLUES/ Volume 5/ Discography