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You try to sing like Muddy Waters, and play like Lightnin' sounds. But since I blowed on my harp you're feelin' mean and confused. It's got you chained to your earphones - you're just a white boy lost in the blues - Brownie McGhee, White Boy Lost in the Blues by Michael Franks performed by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

Author Topic: Who Was Kid Bailey?  (Read 7365 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Who Was Kid Bailey?
« on: January 07, 2007, 09:58:13 AM »
For nearly a quarter of a century the question "Who Was Kid Bailey?" regularly cropped up in the correspondence pages of Blues World and Blues Unlimited. In 1988, whilst researching a possible book about State Street Music, John Cowley came upon a stash of music registration forms. Five of these prompted Cowley to revisit the Kid Bailey "mystery" for Blues & Rhythm (issue 41 Xmas 1988).

Kid Bailey and Copyright
John Cowley
THE inclusion of Kid Bailey's superlative coupling from Bnunswick 7114 in Document's second volume of Delta Blues (DLP 533) affords an opportunity to examine these two classic Drew, Mississippi style vocal/guitar performances anew in light of State Street Music copyright information.

Five unpublished music registrations from Brunswick's famous September 1929 recordings, involving eleven performers, at the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, are relevant to this discussion:

E unpub 16107, (23 January 1930),
Rowdy Blues                : words & music Bob Jones
(Br 7114)                    (issued as by Kid Bailey).

E unpub 16109,            (23 January 1930),
Mississippi Bottom Blues          : words & music Kid McCoy
(Br 7114)                              (issued as by Kid Bailey)

E unpub 16122,     (23 January 1930)
It Ain't No Good             : words & music Kid McCoy
(Br 7118)                       (issued as by Charlie McCoy)

E unpub 21934, (17 May 1930)
Overtime Blues            : words & music Vincent McCoy
(Br 7141)                    (issued as by Walter Vincent)

E unpub 24473, (3 July 1930)
LongTrain                    : words & music Kid Bailey
(Br 7205)                    (issued as by Robert Wilkins)

The pattern of registration appears to relate to release dates although this requires further investigation.

Each of these titles was made during the course of sessions held at this time and, with the exception of Bob Jones (assuming as the evidence suggests Kid McCoy was Charlie McCoy), all the performers had recordings issued in their own names. On the identity of Kid McCoy, however, it may be relevant that Charlie McCoy (sic), Joe McCoy, and Minnie McCoy (Memphis Minnie) were used as names by State Street Music for individual unpublished copyright registrations associated with the Vocalion/Brunswick recording expedition to Memphis in 1930.

All this is relevant because of the continuing mystery surrounding the identity of Kid Bailey and his accompanist on these two recordings. David Evans notes that although Bailey's name was recognised by several Drew musicians, they were reluctant to talk about him ? Mott Willis calling him 'Killer' Bailey (Evans, Big Road Blues, 1982, p.194). Gayle Wardlow presents information that one 'Kid' made records with a Willie Brown (associated with Charlie Patton and Son House) when House was living in Robinsonville, Mississippi (Blues Unlimited, No. 147, p.8 ), and a description by Joe Callicot, of 'two little guys' making records in Memphis in 1929 (Living Blues No. 50).

Neither of these commentaries, however, add much to the information available on Bailey. Unfortunately, Wardlow's suggestion that there were two Willie Browns and his reference to the second's role as an accompanist on Bailey's record appears to be assumed hearsay rather than confirmed evidence. Son House, for example, remembered only one Willie Brown, he learnt Pony Blues from him - (interview following the performance for the Library of Congress, AFS 6608 A 2.)

The copyright registrations in themselves do not add much more light on the subject of Kid Bailey, but they do serve to introduce further lines of enquiry. These are raised on the basis that paperwork for the 'compositions' was not confused at the time of registration, a factor that should not be assumed, although most registrations by State Street Music appear accurate. The lines of enquiry are:

(i) A new name, possibly that of the accompanist, is introduced- Bob Jones. He could be a recording/publishing executive, but he might just be another Drew, Mississippi-style guitarist.

(ii) Bailey's association, via 'Kid' McCoy - if he is Charlie McCoy - with Jackson, Mississippi blues musicians from the period (although the link may be that the talent scout H. C. Spier, who was employed by Brunswick at these sessions). If Kid McCoy is Charlie McCoy he might be the accompanying guitarist. Charlie performed this role for Tommy Johnson - the Jackson-based bluesman who learnt his style direct from Drew guitarists-at Johnson's 1928 recording session for Victor, also held in Memphis.

(iii) A possibility (unlikely on aural evidence) that Charlie McCoy and Kid Bailey are the same person.

(iv) A possibility that if Kid McCoy is not Charlie McCoy, he might still be the same person as Kid Bailey.

(v) Kid McCoy may be Joe McCoy ('Kansas' Joe), married to Minnie McCoy - Memphis Minnie. In this guise he might also be Bailey's accompanying guitarist. These suggestions, however, seem unlikely, as Joe was Charlie McCoy's elder brother, adding to the evidence that 'Kid' was Charlie's nickname (Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who, 1979, pp.354-6).

(vi) Bailey's possible association with Robert Wilkins - the latter certainly performs Long Train Blues.

Although, at this distance from the events, these trails are very cold indeed, they are presented just in case they might spark further evidence and/or investigation into this enigma. [BH note: David Evans took up the trail in Blues Revue Quarterly four years later]

Offline Rivers

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2007, 04:51:33 PM »
Thanks for throwing some light on the enigmatic Kid Bailey BH. We can only hope some more emerges, though as noted the trail is stone cold by now.

Offline dj

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2007, 05:38:20 PM »
Sufficient light for me was thrown on the subject by Son House.  To quote David Evans from his "....Ramblin" column in Blues Revue Quarterly No. 8 (Spring 1993):

"Many researchers, myself included, asked Son House if he had ever heard of Kid Bailey and played the two pieces for him.  The name didn't ring a bell with Son, but he insisted without wavering that it was the voice of his good friend and partner Willie Brown."

If Son House, who was best friends with Willie Brown and played with him regularly for over 10 years, thought that the Kid Bailey records were by Willie Brown, that's good enough for me.

The quote above is excerpted from a long article in which Evans makes a good case for the identifying Brown as Bailey based on an analysis of Bailey's Brown's vocal and guitar technique, melodies, and some coincidental information from the Memphis session at which Kid Bailey's sides were recorded.  A scan of the article was generously provided to me by Bunker Hill, as my copy of the magazine has long since disappeared.

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2007, 06:36:08 PM »
"Many researchers, myself included, asked Son House if he had ever heard of Kid Bailey and played the two pieces for him.  The name didn't ring a bell with Son, but he insisted without wavering that it was the voice of his good friend and partner Willie Brown."
One takes what one can get with this sort of thing, and I'm not being critical of anybody's research methodology, but one wonders whether the researchers (and I assume that in addition to Evans) also played, say, "Future Blues" and "M&O Blues" either separately or substantially concurrently with playing House the Kid Bailey sides and asked about that.  That is, was there a control group and, if not, does the lack of one give that "testimony" less probative value?
« Last Edit: January 09, 2007, 09:51:42 AM by MTJ3 »


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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2007, 09:43:01 AM »
Isn't Kid Bailey's voice kinda similar to Sam Collins'?

Offline dj

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2007, 12:43:01 PM »
Son House wasn't the only one to hear Willie Brown on Kid Bailey's recordings.  When Gayle Dean Wardlow and Stephen Calt were doing research in Missippi in the 1960s, these were some of the reactions when Kid Bailey's "Rowdy Blues" was played (from King Of The Delta Blues: The Life And Music Of Charle Patton, p. 166):

Mandy Wigham:  "That sounds just like Willie...  Ain't Willie makin' music on there?  I think that's Willie makin' music."

Elizabeth Moore:  "Him (meaning Willie Brown) and Son could both make that introduction on their music...  sounds like that music and that voice - pretty close there if it ain't him (Brown)."

As Wardlow and Calt point out, no one interviewed in the post-war period ever knew Kid Bailey well enough to know his real name or where he was from.  If Bailey existed, he was a pretty shadowy figure.  One wonders of Willie Brown had a parent or step parent with the surname Bailey.

Offline wreid75

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2011, 09:42:14 PM »
Utilization of the scientific method would be wonderful but unfortunately not possible in research like this where theories are developed decades after a conversation.  Discounting them all together is like discounting all of archaeology because they don't use the scientific method either.  King Arthur is an example of minute evidence but there is reason to think he was a real person.  We are re defining what we know in Latin America and Egypt because of reevaluation the evidence.  Just like in archaeology many have a hard time thinking through theories that threaten their life's work, i.e. sphinx or Peru pyramids or aliases in the Mississippi delta, even some of the writings questioning aspects of country blues golden boy RJ.  I am not saying anyone here fits that description.  Is Bailey and Brown the same person?  Hell I don't know.  Do they sound alike, hell yea.  Could the differences be inflection of voices?  Sure depending on the talent level of the singer.  Could Brown have done it?  I'm not sure.  Just because there is not a control group and the evidence isn't gathered by a non bias random group of a population should not mean we throw out the baby with the bath water.  The scientific method is wonderful but when dealing with some of the variables that make testing difficult does not mean that we shouldn't use it or entire fields of study would need to be done away using comparable information.

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2011, 07:04:50 AM »
Just to add a little something to the original article posted by Bunker Hill...

I'm not sure if David Evans made mention of this in his longer essay, but Memphis Minnie was also know as Lizzie "Kid" Douglas (her maiden name). Not really enlightening, perhaps, but it makes one scratch one's head a little more when considering the "Kid McCoy" and "Kid Bailey" copyrights.

Offline Shovel

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2011, 08:08:41 AM »
Firstly, DJ speaks much sense. 

Even independent of those opinions though, it certainly sounds like Willie Brown to my ears, but with a less affected voice than in 'Future Blues' and the like, and with a remarkably similar guitar style..

Offline LD50

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2011, 07:06:23 AM »
Wardlow commented on this just last month. He found several people who remembered Bailey. See his posts in this thread: Be sure and read both his posts on the subject.

Offline dj

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2011, 09:23:21 AM »
He found several people who remembered Bailey.

It would be more accurate to say that Wardlow found several people who claimed to know of Bailey, but nobody who knew him - that is, no one who could describe him, knew where he was from or where he lived, who he hung out with, etc.  This is an important distinction.  The most detail on Bailey comes from Ishmon Bracey, but Bracey's memory was not always 100% reliable. 

Note that that last sentence is not a put-down of Bracey.  No one's memory is 100% reliable.  We have very accurate information on all major league baseball games, and we know that when old ballplayers recall games played 30 years ago (more or less the time that had passed when Bracey recalled meeting Bailey), they routinely get a lot of the facts wrong.  Based on the information we have now, I'd trust Son House's identification of his long-time best friend's voice, guitar, and repertoire more than I'd trust Bracey's memory of a one-time encounter.  But the cold hard reality is that at this point we'll almost certainly never know the truth about Kid Bailey.

Offline LD50

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2011, 11:37:26 AM »
Well, this looks like the most solid remembrance of Bailey that GDW got, I'd be very reluctant to just dismiss this:

"Elizabeth Moore who lived in Tunica County on a plantation near Robinsonville and knew Willie Brown and Son House and Robert saw Kid and Willie Brown playing together there in a juke in Robinsonville for a few weeks together.
Willie told her they had made a record together but she doubted it as she never saw it. Willie only called him "Kid." Brown is the second guitar but sounds like the lead on "Rowdy Blues" but is barely audible on the other side. That's the connection. She made those comments after she listened to the Kid Bailey record. She said that's Willie's music and it sounded like the way he played-- "Rowdy Blues".
She also saw Willie and Robert together on many occasions playing together. Bailey played mainly from Leland over to Moorhead and was raised up near Leland at the Triplett community just outside Leland on Highway 82. Booker Miller saw him in Moorhead. But he was only called Kid Bailey--probably a childhood nickname."

Offline TonyGilroy

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2011, 01:04:58 AM »
House clearly knew Brown well and it might be thought likely that he'd have known if Brown had made a record under the name of Bailey.

I think that we have to accept that there's much we'll never know. Any new research is gratefully received by me but I think we should resist trying to join up dots so as to seem to clear up mysteries.

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2012, 01:37:07 PM »
The Voices are NOT the same person, Willie Brown and Kid Bailey.
The guitar is nearly identical and also Kid has a second guitar accompany.

You have to look at who was at the studio on that day....
Plus the possibility of an unknown being recorded that day by his older friends that probably called him Kid...

I have an idea who he is but I can't say until I research more but I have it narrowed down to a few...

RSKKZ Randy Meadows
luvthatzeppelin on Youtube

Offline SJ

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Re: Who Was Kid Bailey?
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2013, 09:31:13 AM »
Recently I came across some links relating to Kid bailey and Willie Brown that make me wander about greater connections to the two artists. I wander if you might shed any light on this with your greater knowledge. Firstly with regard to the track, Ragged and Dirty. I have seen this attributed to William Brown as recorded by Alan Lomax in 1942, as is the track East St.Louis Blues. I have also read that these two tracks were recorded by Kid Bailey in his September 25th 1929 sessions in Memphis but issued as by William Brown, when he recorded the tracks you mention. Do you know who actually recorded these tracks??

What i found interesting about this is that Sleepy John Estes recorded his version of 'Broken Hearted, Ragged & Dirty too' on September 26th 1929 in Memphis also, the following day to the Kid Bailey session. All in all listening to the William Brown version, i would say they are very similar in the interpretations which would either be possible if any of the artists were present to absorb the other version. If it was recorded later by William Brown then of course he could have heard the recording by Estes, but i feel it uncanny especially because of all the confusion between Bailey and Brown that there remains this song, which although tenuously linked by this connection that i propose, is linked by recording sessions a day apart in the same place, maybe the same studio? Any thoughts back would be greatly appreciated  :)


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