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mardi 25 septembre 2018

LOS ANGELES BLUES/ Volume 2



LOS ANGELES BLUES/ Volume 2

           
Le chanteur et pianiste (et non guitariste comme indiqué dans Blues Discography) Memphis Eddie, appelé aussi Memphis Eddie Pee est en fait né Eddie P. Johnson à Hughes (Arkansas) le 16 avril 1919 et décédé à Los Angeles le 16 juin 1963. Il demeure presque inconnu bien qu'il ait substantiellement enregistré pour Globe, Foto et RPM entre 1945 et 1950. J'ai essayé de regrouper tous ses titres mais il m'en manque encore plusieurs (merci d'avance à ceux qui posséderaient une copie de ces raretés en rouge dans la disco).
(cf les commentaires pour entendre quatre titres ici absents. Merci à hwolf et Mike Kradenac!)

            Le chanteur, violoniste, guitariste, pianiste Don "Sugarcane" Harris est évidemment beaucoup plus connu. Né le 18 juin 1938 à Pasadena (Californie), il apprend le violon auprès du bluesman L.C. Robinson. Encore lycéen, Don et son ami Dewey Terry chantent au sein du groupe doo-woop The Squires et enregistrent dès 1954 (Lucy Lou). Don & Dewey développent alors une carrière en vedette, chantant à l'unisson, jouant guitare et piano. Ils enchaînant les petits succès pour le label Specialty (Jungle Hop) durant quelques années entre 1957 et 1959. Don Harris (surnommé
Sugarcane par Johnny Otis) est beaucoup plus tourné vers le blues que Dewey et il grave en vedette une petite série de 45t, superbes instrumentaux blues au violon. Après s'être séparé de Dewey Terry, Sugarcane va jouer dans les orchestres de Harvey Mandel, Frank Zappa, Johnny Otis, Pure Food & Drug Act et surtout John Mayall avec lequel il signe plusieurs superbes solos sur les albums USA Union et Back to the Roots. Il enregistre aussi plusieurs albums sous son nom dans un style plus tourné vers le jazz avant-garde (il fera même un album en duo avec Jean Luc Ponty). Il décède d'une embolie pulmonaire à Los Angeles le 30 novembre 1999.

            Le trompettiste et chanteur Russell Jacquet (Robert Russell Joseph Jacquet), frère aîné du célèbre jazzman Illinois Jacquet, est né le 4 décembre 1917 à Saint Martinsville (Louisiane). Il a étudié la musique à la Texas Southern University avant de suivre son frère en Californie et de jouer dans son orchestre. Il a dirigé son propre orchestre durant quelques années (1945-49) qui présentait aussi la chanteuse Numa Lee Davis, jouant régulièrement au Cotton Club à Hollywood. Il a alors enregistré une petite oeuvre sous son nom entre blues et jazz, très typique de ce qu'on entendait à L.A. durant les années de l'immédiate après-guerre. Russell a par la suite rejoint l'orchestre de son frère puis avec divers autres groupes dont celui d'Arnett Cobb. Il est décédé le 7 mars 1990 à Los Angeles.

                                                                       Gérard Herzhaft

            Pianist (and not guitarist as it is written in Blues Discography) Memphis Eddie, also called Memphis Eddie Pee is in fact Eddie P. Johnson, born in Hughes (Ark) 16 April 1919 and dying in Los Angeles on 16th June 1963. He remains an almost unknown although he has recorded several 78s for Globe, Foto and RPM between 1945 and 1950. I have tried to gather all his sides but I'm still missing several (thanks to everyone who would have a copy of those and would will to share) (cf comments for listening four more titles by Memphis Eddie, thanks to hwolf and Mike Kradenac)

            Singer, violonist, guitarist and piano player Don "Sugarcane" Harris is of course much better known. Born on 18 June 1938 in Pasadena (Ca), he learned violin with bluesman L.C. Robinson. With his high school pal Dewey Terry they joined, still teenagers, a local doo woop group, The Squires with which they recorded as early as 1954 (Lucy Lou). Under the name Don & Dewey they formed a duo, singing together and playing various instruments. They enjoyed several small hits with the Specialty label between 1957 and 1959 (Jungle Hop). Don Harris (nicknamed Sugarcane by Johnny Otis) is much more blues oriented than Dewey. He recorded a handful of 45s under his name, mainly a string of superb violin instrumentals. After leaving Dewey, Sugarcane played in several bands with Harvey Mandel, Frank Zappa, Johnny Otis, Pure Food & Drug Act and moreover inside John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with whom he will tour for a couple of years and record several wonderful violin blues solos on the Mayall's albums USA Union and Back to the Roots. After that, Don will record albums under his name in a style much more progressive jazz oriented (he even will cut an album with Jean Luc Ponty). Don died of blood clot in his lung in Los Angeles, 30 November 1999.

           
Singer and trumpet player Russell Jacquet (Robert Russell Joseph Jacquet) is the elder brother of famous jazzman Illinois Jacquet. Russell was born 4 December 1917 in Saint Martinsville (La), studied music at Texs Southern University before following his brother to Los Angeles and playing in his orchestra. Between 1945 and 1949, he formed his own band which featured female singer Numa Lee Davis, playing regularly at Hollywood's Old Cotton Club and recording several sides, quite typical of the Los Angeles jazz/blues scene of the immediate post war years. After 1950, Russell joined again Illinois' band and also played with several other small bands (namely Arnett Cobb's). Russell died in Los Angeles 7th March 1990.

                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT


MEMPHIS EDDIE (Eddie P. Johnson Jr), vcl; William Bates, a-sax; Prince Albert, pno; band. Los Angeles, Ca. juin 1945
01. Mistreated all the time
Going back to Smoky Mountain
Memphis Eddie, vcl/g; Prince Albert, pno; William Bates, a-sax; band. juillet 1945
Big leg mama (thanks to hwolf and Mike Kredinac for sharing this one)
My house fell down  (thanks to hwolf and Mike Kredinac for sharing this one)
Memphis Eddie, vcl/pno; g; bs. Los Angeles, Ca. décembre 1947
02. Trouble blues
03. Hep chick
Memphis Eddie, vcl/pno; band. Los Angeles, Ca. 25 mai 1950
04. Velma Lee
05. Lonesome change
Mercy blues  (thanks to hwolf and Mike Kredinac for sharing this one)
I believe  (thanks to hwolf and Mike Kredinac for sharing this one)
Memphis Eddie, vcl/pno; band. Los Angeles, Ca. 26 septembre 1950
06. Good time woman
07. Highway 61
08. Real fine girl
09. Baby Lou
DON "SUGARCANE" HARRIS, vcl/fdl/g; Dewey Terry, pno/vcls; Adolphus Alsbrook, bs; Ray Martinez, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. 1956
10. Fiddlin' the blues
11. Slummin'
12. My heart is aching
13. Miss Sue
Don "Sugarcane" Harris, vcl/fdl; Joe Wilson, tpt; Jackie Kelso, a-sax; Dewey Terry, pno; Mel Brown, g; bs; dms. Los Angeles, Ca. 1960
14. They say you never can miss
15. Elim stole my baby
Don 'Sugarcane' Harris, vcl/fdl; Dewey Terry, g/og/vcls; Pete Smith, bs; Sonny Gillette, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. 1962
16. Soul motion
17. Stretchin' out
18. Heart attack
Don't ever leave me (thanks to Tom Thumb for sharing this one)
RUSSELL JACQUET, vcl/tpt; Calvin Boaz, tpt; Teddy Edwards, a-sax; Maurice Simon, t-sax; Arthur Dennis, b-sax; Bill Davis, pno; Charles Mingus, bs; Chico Hamilton, dms. Los Angeles, janvier 1945
19. Penny's worth of boogie
20. Look what you've done to me
Russell Jacquet, vcl/tpt; Gus Evans, a-sax; Dexter Gordon, t-sax; Arthur Dennis, b-sax; Jimmy Bunn, pno; Leo Blevins, g; Herman Washington, bs; Chico Hamilton, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. 21 septembre 1946
21. Blues a la Russ I, II & III
22. Side saddle blues
Russell Jacquet, vcl/tpt; Gerald Wilson, tpt; Snooky Young, tpt; Ted Donnelly, tb; Preston Love, a-sax; Willie Smith, a-sax; Ilinois Jacquet, t-sax; Lucky Thompson, t-sax; Bill Doggett, pno; Freddie Green, g; Billy Hadnott, bs; Al Wichard, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. décembre 1946
23. Blues
24. Mean and evil world



vendredi 21 septembre 2018

SIDNEY MAIDEN/ Complete Recordings


SIDNEY MAIDENComplete Recordings (New Links) 

              
Même si les quelques disques publiés par l'harmoniciste et chanteur Sidney Maiden lui valent une certaine réputation auprès des amateurs, sa vie demeure obscure. Même ceux qui l'ont enregistré ne se rappellent que peu de lui ou ne l'ont pas interviewé.
               Sidney naît en 1923 à Monroe en Louisiane, son père décède ou disparaît quand il a un an. Elevé par sa mère, il travaille très jeune dans une plantation tout en apprenant l'harmonica en écoutant des musiciens locaux mais surtout les disques de John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, une influence qui sera dominante dans sa musique.
               Incorporé en 1942, Sidney sert sur le front Pacifique puis est basé dans le comté de Contra Costa en Californie d'où il est libéré de ses obligations militaires. Il décide de rester en Californie, travaille dans les chantiers navals et s'associe avec K.C. Douglas pour jouer dans les bars fréquentés par les récents migrants noirs venus du Sud Ouest. En 1948, Maiden enregistre avec K. C. Douglas son "hit" Mercury boogie et chante sur la face B l'évocateur Eclipse of the sun, devenu un petit classique du down home blues californien.
               Il forme un petit orchestre, les Blues Blowers, et pendant quelques années joue les week ends un peu partout dans la baie d'Oakland. En 1952, Sidney enregistre à San Francisco une séance pour Imperial dont seulement deux titres (Thinking the blues et Honey bee blues) ont paru sur un 78t.
               On retrouve Maiden dans les studios de Los Angeles trois ans plus tard, gravant un titre d'un 45t qu'il partage avec le guitariste Cool Papa Sadler: Hurry hurry baby.
               A ce moment là et les années suivantes, Sidney vit autour de Fresno, travaillant dans la riche arboriculture de cette région. Il fait partie d'un petit groupe de bluesmen de cette ville comme Al Simmons et Guitar Slim Green qui jouent sous le nom des Boys of Fresno que l'infatigable Johnny Otis enregistre. Une fois de plus Sidney ne grave qu'un titre, Hand me down baby.
               C'est son vieux compère K.C. Douglas, devenu une figure incontournable du blues revival de Californie, qui l'emmène dans les studios pour plusieurs séances pour Chris Strachwitz et Kenneth Goldstein. Maiden accompagne K.C. et le superbe pianiste texan Mercy Dee Walton et enregistre aussi en 1961 un album complet qui paraît sur le label Bluesville et dans lequel l'influence de John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson apparaît considérable.
               Ce disque se vend de façon confidentielle et Sidney disparaît définitivement. Selon Richard Riggins (Harmonica Slim), qui vivait à Fresno, Sidney serait retourné en Louisiane peu de temps après ces séances afin de s'occuper de sa mère. Il serait décédé autour de sa ville natale de Monroe en 1970.
               Ce mp3 rassemble l'intégrale des enregistrements effectués par Sidney Maiden en vedette
               Merci à Kempen, Pierre Monnery et Gerrit Robs pour leur aide dans cette recherche.
                                                                                         Gérard HERZHAFT

               Although the handful of records he made has earned him some reputation among the blues buffs, Sidney Maiden's life and whereabouts are quite obscure and he has unfortunately never been interviewed.
               Born on a plantation near Monroe (La) in 1923, Sidney loses his father at a very early age and has to work in the fields with his mother. He learns the harmonica with local musician and utmost in listening to the records of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson.
               In 1942, Sidney is drafted and sent on the Pacific front. Discharged in 1945 on a base in the Contra Costa County, Maiden decides to stay in California, works in several plants. He met there K.C. Douglas (see the item on him on this blog), plays with him around the Bay. In 1948 they record a successful 78 for producer Bob Geddins. Sidney blows his harmonica behind K.C. on the famous Mercury boogie and sings as well on the flip, the classic Eclipse of the sun.
               Sidney leads a small band, The Blues Blowers, that play a little bit everywhere and he records for the Imperial label in 1952 a lengthy session. But only two titles are issued (Thinking the blues and Honey bee blues)
               He must waits 1955 to record again (still a sole title, Hurry hurry baby) with the Los Angeles guitarist Cool Papa Sadler.
               At that time and the subsequent years, Sidney resides in the Fresno area, making a living out of the fruit tree industrie. He is part of the small group of downhome bluesmen who live in Fresno (Al Simmons, Guitar Slim Green) called just The Boys of Fresno. They record for Johnny Otis and, once again, Maiden sings only on one title (Hand me down baby).
               His old friend K.C. Douglas who has, meanwhile, become some kind of a folk icon among the Californian blues revival circles brings Sidney again in the studios for several sessions for Chris Strachwitz and Kenneth Goldstein. Maiden blows behind K.C. and the wonderful Texas piano player Mercy Dee Walton. And in 1961 he also manages, at last, to record a good LP under his own name in which he displays a very strong influence of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson.
               After that, Sidney Maiden disappears completely. Accordingly to Richard Riggins (Harmonica Slim) who also lived in Fresno, Sidney, shortly after his album, went back to Louisiana to take care of his ageing mother and he would have died around Monroe (La) in 1970.
               This mp3 comp gathers all the recordings made by Sidney as a leader.
               Thanks to Kempen? Gerrit Robs and Pierre Monnery for their help and contributions to this article.
                                                                                         Gérard HERZHAFT

SIDNEY MAIDEN/ The Complete Recordings
Sidney Maiden, vcl/hca; K.C. Douglas, g. Oakland, Ca. 1948
01. Eclipse of the sun
Sidney Maiden, vcl/hca; band. San Francisco, Ca. 15 avril 1952
02. Working woman
03. Up the river blues
04. Broke and busted
05. Harpin' the boogie
06. Honey bee
07. Honey bee blues
08. Thinking the blues
Sidney Maiden, vcl/hca; Cool Papa Sadler, g; g; Bee Brown, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. 28 juin 1955
09. Hurry hurry baby
Sidney Maiden, vcl/hca; Guitar Slim Green, g; H. Robinson, pno; Al Simmons, dms. Los Angeles, Ca. 1957
10. Hand me down baby
Sidney Maiden, vcl/hca; Mercy Dee Walton, pno; K.C. Douglas, g; Otis Cherry, dms. Stockton, Ca. 5 février 1961
11. Chicago blues
12. Mercy's party
Sidney Maiden, hca; Mercy Dee Walton, pno; Otis Cherry, dms. Berkeley, Ca. 16 avril 1961
13. Sidney's shuffle
Sidney Maiden, vcl/hca; K.C. Douglas, g. Berkeley, Ca. 16 avril 1961
14. Buy me an airplane
15. Sweet little woman
16. My black name
17. Sidney's fox chase
18. San Quentin blues
19. Tell me somebody
20. Blues and trouble
21. Hand me down baby
22. Sidney's worried life blues
23. Me and my chauffeur
24. Coal black mare
25. I'm going back home


mardi 18 septembre 2018

THE CATFISH BLUES SAGA



This volume gathers for the first time together the two parts of this world acclaimed "blues novel" about the career of Theodore Roosevelt Young who, from the Mississippi cototon fields to Beale Street in Memphis and then the Chicago ghetto will become the new King of the blues


CATFISH BLUES

The youth and the genesis of a great bluesman… and of one of the most famous titles in the history of blues:
Catfish blues or Rolling Stone that will give its name to the band of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards!
Mississippi, Years 1930ies. Theodore Roosevelt Young, a young Black raised by his mother, has only one role-model: his uncle Eddie, this “bad Negro” who has chosen the traveling life of a bluesman.  Against all odds, from Delta to Memphis and at the junction of Lyon, Ms., Theodore will walk in the footsteps of his uncle Eddie, following his dream and becoming Catfish the bluesman.  And this after a passionate path, painful and made of encounters vivid in color. 

Gérard HERZHAFT who knew a number of great bluesmen and Muddy Waters in particular, describes with feeling and accuracy of tone the world of Black Mississippi of the 1930ies, the world of blues.  Re-issued several times, Grand Prix High School of Ile de France, adapted into a cartoon, this novel considered as one of the “great novels on blues”, is finally available in paperback and in a new english translation.

IN CHICAGO, A HARMONICA SOBS THE BLUES

          The young Amos, who has nothing but a vague memory of his natal Mississippi, lives in Chicago with his alcoholic father since the death of his mother, shortly after their arrival to the North.  Amos sells newspapers by shouting out, but dreams of becoming a great harmonica player like Slender Bill, the aging king of Chicago blues in the years 1947-48.  Thanks to cousin Steve who knows all sorts of traffic in the ghetto, Amos has the opportunity to penetrate into the world of the Chicago blues.  He encounters Catfish, a musician who begins to be known, and he also succeeds in softening Slender Bill and his wife who take him under their protective wing.   
          But the paths to glory are tortuous: Slender Bill who no longer has favor with anyone except with the aged female listeners, is a good professor but is he the future of Amos?  When the brothers Silverberg, who moved from one ghetto to another by emigrating from Central Europe to America, decide to launch a new and very ambitious blues label, they choose to promote Catfish who, precisely, is looking for a young harmonica player. 

"In Chicago, a harmonica sobs the blues" is partly a follow up to  "Catfish blues".  It is not just another novel on the blues.  Gérard Herzhaft describes the characters, the dialogues, the situations of the Chicago blues such as it were with the blue words that have the color, the flavor and the consistency of the blue notes.

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON/

USA:

United Kingdom:

France:

Spain:

Deutschland:

Italia:





lundi 17 septembre 2018

DETROIT Jr: Complete Early Recordings (New Links)


DETROIT Jr/ Complete Early Recordings
(New Links)

           
De l'Arkansas (où il est né à Haynes le 26 octobre 1931) à Detroit et Flint - un séjour qui lui donnera son surnom - puis Chicago en 1955, l'itinéraire d'Emery Williams Jr ne diffère guère de celui de la plupart des bluesmen de sa génération. Les années d'apprentissage passées dans les juke-joints du Sud laissent leur marque sur son jeu de piano, sans subtilités mais puissant et carré, ainsi que sur sa voix qui semble perpétuellement essayer de dissiper une brume épaisse de fumées et de vapeurs d'alcool. Son ton laconique fait encore davantage ressortir l'humour grinçant de la plupart de ses compositions.
            Pris sous l'aile protectrice d'Eddie Boyd dès son arrivée à Chicago dans les années 50, Detroit Jr devient un pilier des clubs de la ville. Il fait partie des orchestres de Morris Pejoe, Lefty Dizz, Little Mack Simmons et enregistre pour Bea & Baby, Chess, CJ, Palos plusieurs blues marquants dont certains sont des succès locaux: Money tree et le désopilant Call my job en 1965. Mais le Chicago blues de cette époque est en crise et seuls les grands noms vont réussir à survivre. Detroit Jr reprend son rôle d'accompagnateur dans divers groupes, en particulier derrière Howlin' Wolf. Le Blues Revival ne fait que l'effleurer malgré, en 1971, un excellent microsillon, Chicago urban blues, produit par Al Smith où Detroit Jr, en grande forme, est accompagné par le guitariste Mighty Joe Young. Cette verve est intacte sur les quatre titres que le pianiste enregistre en 1980 pour l'anthologie Living Chicago blues (Alligator).
            Par la suite, Detroit Jr a continué d'écumer les clubs de Chicago, parfois en compagnie du guitariste L.C. Roby, enregistrant encore quelques excellents albums, notamment Blues on the Internet, son dernier pour Delmark. Il décède le 9 août 2005 à Chicago.
            Tous nos remerciements pour Steve Wisner, Robert Barleigh. et Blues4Sale qui nous ont généreusement fourni les titres les plus rares de Detroit Jr.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

            From Haynes, Arkansas (where he was born on 26 October, 1931) to Detroit and Flint where he get his nickname and where he worked three years in automobile plants to Chicago in 1955, Emery Williams Jr has followed the same path that many Chicago bluesmen. He learned the church organ at an early age and became a noted piano player in local juke joints. He will always keep his no-nonsense «barrelhouse» style of playing and his effective and fascinating voice, seeming always winning a hard battle against alcohol vapors and curls of smoke. All along his career he will also be able to write some first rate blues filled with a very personal wry and caustic humor.
            When in Chicago, Detroit Jr was taken under his wing by Eddie Boyd who introduced him in clubs and studios. During the 1950’s and 60’s Detroit Jr played with several bands (Morris Pejoe, Lefty Dizz, Little Mack Simmons) and recorded substantially for Bea & Baby, Chess, C.J., Palos, gaining local hits with Money tree or Call my job, two titles that have become blues classics until this day. But in the mid-60’s, the times were hard for the blues. Despite a very good LP for Al Smith, his solo career went nowhere and Jr found a better and steady job as a regular member of the Wolf Gang, behind Howlin’ Wolf and, after Wolf’s death, with Eddie Shaw’s Wolf Gang. He will have to wait the 1980’s and his excellent participation to Alligator’s legendary series Living Chicago Blues to resume his solo career, touring Europe quite often, staging on the main blues festivals and recordings several good albums whose the best might be his last for Delmark, Blues on the Internet. Detroit Jr died in Chicago on August 9th, 2005.
            A lot of thanks to Steve Wiseman, Robert Barleigh and Blues4Sale who have generously shared their very rare records.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT


DETROIT Jr/ Early Recordings
Complete Recordings
Detroit Jr (Emery Williams Jr), vcl/pno; Little Mack Simmons, vcls; Eddie King, g/vcls; Bob Anderson, bs; Robert Whitehead, dms. Chicago, Ill. 18 février 1960
01. Money tree
02. So unhappy
Detroit Jr, vcl/pno; saxes; Eddie King, g; Willie Dixon, bs; Fred below, dms. Chicago, Ill. Mai 1960
03. Too poor
04. You mean everything to me
Detroit Junior, vcl/pno; Milton Bland, t-sax; Phil Upchurch, g/bs; Freddy Robinson, g/bs; Billy Davenport, dms; Harold Burrage, bells/sp. Chicago, Ill. 1960
05. This time for Xmas
06. Christmas day
Detroit Junior, vcl/pno; Johnny Campbelle, t-sax; saxes; band; The Troyettes, vcls. Chicago, ill. 1962
07. Money’s no problem
08. Different dances
Detroit Junior, vcl; saxes; James Wheeler, g; Lafayette Leake, pno; Johnny Howard, bs; dms. Chicago, Ill. 11 juillet 1964
09. Zig zag
10. I’ll find me another girl
11. Can't take it
12. Mother in law
13. Don't unpack
Detroit Junior, vcl/pno; Ike Perkins, g; band. Chicago, Ill. 29 mai 1965
14. Talk fast
15. It’s bad to make a woman mad
Detroit Junior, vcl/pno; Maria, vcls; Lonnie Brooks, g; bs; Harold Tidwell, dms. Chicago, Ill. juillet 1965
16. Call my job
17. The way I feel
Detroit Jr, vcl/pno; Fenton Robinson, g; Burgess Gardner, t-sax; Bob Anderson, bs Billy Davenport, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1966
18. All through with love
19. Come on in
Detroit Junior, vcl/pno; Lafayette Leake, pno; band; Louis Satterfield, bs. Chicago, Ill. 27 septembre 1967
20. Secret love
21. Young blood
Detroit Junior, vcl/pno; Mighty Joe Young, g; Little Mack Simmons, hca; Jimmy Richards, bs; Bill Warren, dms. Chicago, Ill. 1972
22. Money crazy
23. Windy city blues
24. Dance with me baby
25. So unhappy (1972)
26. Welfare blues
27. Don’t get in my shape
28. Call my job
29. My weakness is women
30. Alice
31. Christmas blues (1972)

vendredi 7 septembre 2018

ROBERT PETE WILLIAMS/ Complete Early Recordings 1959-63



ROBERT PETE WILLIAMS/ Complete Early Recordings 1959-63




            Lorsque l'ethnomusicologue Harry Oster pénètre en 1958 dans le pénitencier d'Angola pour enregistrer des chants de prisonniers, il ne s'attend pas à trouver un artiste de la stature de Robert Pete Williams. Qui y purgeait une peine de prison à perpétuité pour meurtre et n'avait jamais imaginé de devenir musicien professionnel.
            C'est un talent majeur que Oster découvre au pénitencier! La musique de Robert Pete Williams (né à Zachary, Louisiane le 14 mars 1914) - même si dès ses débuts on note une certaine influence de certains grands bluesmen texans comme Lil Son Jackson - est largement originale car il a toujours vécu sans électricité et donc sans disque ni radio. Le timbre impassible de sa voix cache une flamme surgissante et il utilise sa guitare presque toujours en accord ouvert de ré mineur, tisse une trame rythmique complexe, à la limite de la dissonance. Au mieux de sa forme, il est extraordinaire: sommets d'émotion, textes improvisés d'un grand lyrisme. Oster enregistre à Angola certaines des plus belles séances de l'histoire du blues des années 1959-63 comme avec les longs poèmes de désespoir Letter from Penitentiary ou surtout Prisoner's talking blues qui émouvra tant Big Joe Williams, pourtant loin d'un cœur tendre, qu'il dictera une réponse envoyée par lettre à Robert Pete!
            Robert Pete Williams est, quelques années plus tard, libéré sur parole grâce aux efforts d'Oster et assigné à résidence chez un fermier de Louisiane. Il enregistre alors plusieurs albums, est enfin autorisé à participer aux grands festivals comme Newport en 1964 puis l'American Folk blues festival en 1966. Le public découvre avec étonnement cet inconnu qui interprète avec une passion débordante un blues intense. Tout en continuant à travailler dans sa ferme, Williams joue alors régulièrement et sur une base professionnelle. Il rencontre ainsi de nombreux autres bluesmen comme Johnny Shines, Big Joe Williams, Sleepy John Estes... Ceux-ci l'influencent et sa musique change alors substantiellement de nature, se discipline, s'ouvre aux grands styles de blues mais perd parfois une partie de sa puissance dramatique.
            Après sa libération, tout en vivant largement de son métier de ferrailleur, Robert Pete n'a pas cessé de tourner dans les grands festivals du monde entier, d'enregistrer des albums aux USA et en Europe. Cette carrière de musicien reconnu et apprécié lui a apporté une visible sérénité d'esprit. Il décède le 31 décembre 1980 à Rosedale, Louisiane.
            Ses meilleurs enregistrements demeurent ses premiers, véritables chefs d'œuvre, remplis d'une atmosphère tragique et oppressante, souvent d'une qualité émotionnelle exceptionnelle. Beaucoup de ces morceaux étaient devenus extrêmement difficiles à trouver. A l'exception d'un nombre de morceaux toujours inédits (hélas encore assez importants!), nous avons réussi à rassembler tous ceux qui, enregistrés entre 1959 et 1963, ont fait à un moment donné l'objet d'une parution ainsi qu'une poignée d'inédits, ce qui permet d'apprécier pour la première fois la superbe musique de ce grand bluesman.
            Nos plus vifs remerciements pour leur aide à la réalisation de ce projet vont à Klaus Killian, Brian Pounders, Alan Braun et Xyros.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

            When ethnomusicologist Harry Oster entered at the end of 1958 the Angola's Penitentiary researching folk and blues talents among the inmates, he probably didn't expect to meet such a major artist like Robert Pete Williams who was there serving a life sentence for murder!
            Robert Pete Williams (born 14th March 1914 at Zachary, La)'s music was strikingly original and moving beyond anything else Oster had heard before during his collecting jobs. Although his guitar playing and impassionate singing styles reveals some influences from Texas popular bluesmen like Lil'Son Jackson, Robert Pete's music was then essentially his own. He had always lived out in the country as a sharecropper, in a shack without electricity (and no radio or records player) and the few gigs he played were strictly in his vicinities. He almost always plays his guitar with an open chord (of D, most of the time), weaving a complex weft sometimes almost jangly that didn't please every blues and jazz critics at first. And his blues, mostly improvised on the spot (he said he was just catching lyrics in the air while playing) are at best absolutely extraordinary and never less than very good. Between 1959 and 1963, Harry Oster will record some of the most moving blues of that era, like Letter from the penitentiary or Prisoner's talking blues which will move so much a Big Joe Williams (certainly not a soft heart!) that the bluesman will dictate a letter for Robert Pete and send him to the Penitentiary!
            Thanks to Oster's continuous efforts and after many false attempts, Robert Pete Williams is released on parole but still under house arrest to a Louisiana's farmer. There he records again many wonderful field sessions. At last he is freed and he may then travels and appears at main blues festivals like Newport 1964 or Europe on the AFBF 1966 tour, playing before a huge audience of blues, folk and jazz fans stunned by this real deep bluesman largely hitherto unknown!
            While making a living as a scrap metal dealer and a farmer, Robert Pete will by now regularly tour across the USA and abroad, making enough money to buy his own land and also meeting and playing alongside other bluesmen like Johnny Shines, Big Joe Williams, Sleepy John Estes... He absorbs some of their musical styles and thus his music changes substantially, becoming more disciplined, less original and sometimes losing some of its dramatic power. During the late 1960's and 1970's Williams will record many albums and this musical recognition brings him a visible real peace of mind. He dies on 31 December 1980 at Rosedale, La.
            His very best recordings are his first, field recordings made in Angola's pen or while on parole in a nearby farm between 1959 and 1963. They are full of masterpieces filled with a gripping tragic atmosphere. Many of those early recordings had become very hard to find and just hear. With the exception of a (unfortunately large) number of still unissued titles laying on some vaults, we have here gathered all of those recordings which appeared on LPs or even a rare 45 during this period plus a handful of hitherto unissued tracks. It is thus more easy to fully appreciate the superb music of this major bluesman.
            Our heartfelt thanks for their great help to Klaus Killian, Brian Pounders, Alan Braun and Xyros among others.
                                                           Gérard Herzhaft