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Fellas - don't ever let your woman cook for you when she's mad. You probably won't end up dead but you'll sure wish you was! - Big Joe Duskin, boogie woogie master of the 88s, in concert Nov 12 1999

Author Topic: Blues of St. Louis  (Read 13516 times)

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Offline LB

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2006, 08:23:22 AM »
Johnm,

Very enjoyable topic and thread. An entirely new playground. I know absolutely nothing about these players but it sounds like a good direction. Thanks for the heads up and the information and all the other posts.

LB

Offline dj

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #31 on: March 10, 2006, 09:21:27 AM »
I've always listened to Lane Hardin's recorded songs and said "There's someone I wish had recorded more".  Well, maybe he did.  I just came across an online catalog description for Ace CDCHD 1057: "The Modern Downhome Blues Sessions, Volume 4", which reads in part:

"In around 1950 a group of artists sent in a batch of unlabelled acetates that were discovered at Modern in 1970. These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since. Kent required names for the "Blues From The Deep South" LP, so Arkansas Johnny Todd and Leroy Simpson were invented for two sides released. This time around we hear all four performances including "Simpson's" unissued Bluebird Blues and the totally superb 13 Highway. His perfect diction and the intense double tempo guitar heard behind the voice always seemed to hint that he only sang, while several commentators noted that "Todd" sounded uncannily like Lane Hardin who recorded just two sides for Bluebird in 1935. While "Todd" performs very different hokum-styled pieces here, the guitar behind Simpson is identical to that heard on Hardin's mesmerising California Desert Blues (now available via a BMG reissue) which has a vocal that is clearly identical to our "Todd". Jim offers more evidence and insights but clearly "Todd" is Hardin while "Simpson" (still an unknown) is accompanied by Hardin."  ("Jim" is Jim O'Neal, who wrote the liner notes.)

I guess I'll have to start saving my pennies for this.   :)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #32 on: March 10, 2006, 10:47:21 AM »
These recordings have remained a focal point for intense discussion ever since.
Just to muddy the waters somewhat, here is the first to kick off the debate concerning singers appearing on those two Kent LPs. It come from Blues Unlimited 112 (March/April 1975) which attempted to make a case for Pinetop Slim being Lane Hardin:

Pinetop Slim ? A Tentative Identification.
John Cowley
A singular performer, judging by recorded evidenced, Pinetop Slim ranks as one of the top post war 'country' blues enigmas. Frank Scott has reported that 'Pinetop Slim was discovered in 1949 by Joe Bihari. He was playing and singing on a street corner in Atlanta, Georgia and Joe took him to a radio station to record . . .' [sleeve notes to Blues From The Deep South, Kent (LP) 9004, 1969 ]. According to his discography in Blues Records (p. 379), Slim recorded seven titles at this session on Wednesday 23 February 1949. Of these seven titles, four - together with an unlisted one, Fast Life - are available on the Kent album. Interestingly this album has an alternate take of Applejack Boogie to the one issued on 78 (Colonial 106) and reissued on Country Blues Classics Vol. 2 [Blues Classics (LP) 6]. Alternate takes of other titles may therefore exist. In BU 73 (June 1970) Frank Scott stated that Slim had recorded ten titles at this session so Fast Life could be one of three undocumented titles or possibly Wonder If I'm Right Or Wrong mistitled.

On all his issued recordings, Slim plays the guitar using a very distinctive 'bottleneck' technique. In this instance, judging by other recordings I have heard on which the performer produces a similar 'bottleneck' sound (for example Reverend Jack Harp; Baby Tate) the slider he uses is probably the back edge of a knife or a like metal implement. As well as an easily distinguishable guitar technique Slim has a recognizably vibrant and occasionally guttural singing voice.

I have heard no other post war blues recordings by persons sounding remotely like Pinetop Slim (although this obviously does not mean that none exist). There is however one pre war blues artist who might well be either Slim himself or a close influence; that is Lane Hardin.

At a Chicago session for Bluebird on Sunday 28 July 1935, Hardin recorded two songs, Hard Time Blues and California Desert Blues. They were issued on Bluebird B 6242. A total of twenty six titles were cut at this session and some of the other participants, Walter Davis, Big Teddy Edwards, Pinetop and Milton Sparks are known to have come from St. Louis and it is conceivable that Hardin may have travelled with them. It is likely that he was a rambler, judging by the lyrics to his one reissued title California Desert Blues [Roots (LP) RL 319] which also suggest that he had memories of the First World War for they refer to the Hindenburg Line. Thus if Hardin had been an active participant in that war, by 1935 he would probably have been in his late thirties.

Aural comparison of California Desert Blues with Pinetop Slim's recordings of fourteen years later shows some resemblance between the two, for both Slim and Hardin have similar voices and guitar techniques. Differences that do exist could be accounted for by the fourteen year gap in recording dates. Certainly Slim's repertoire, which includes such pre-blues titles such as John Henry and Poor Boy Long Way From Home, suggests that he may have been just over fifty years old when he recorded - the age Hardin might have been in 1949.

Hardin's Hard Time Blues may provide further clues (can anyone supply a tape?), so too may Joe Bihari. He might remember Pinetop Slim's approximate age - for Slim was the first artist Joe recorded in the 'field'. There is also the matter of the tradition that Hardin (and Slim, if they are two different persons) represents. Are there any more performers who play 'bottleneck' guitar in this distinctive way and if so, do they come from a specific localized area? Whether or not Slim and Hardin are one and the same person, their blues recordings are definitely of a high quality.

Frank Scott suggests that Slim was an Atlanta bluesman but this seems improbable for he sounds unlike any known Atlanta stylist. He might however be from further south, from Alabama or Florida, those most undocumented of southern blues states.

There is no irrefutable evidence that Pinetop Slim is Lane Hardin, only the aural connections I have suggested so the subject is worth further investigation, if only to disprove my theory!

[30 years later his theory seems to have been finally disproved :) BH]
« Last Edit: March 10, 2006, 10:49:49 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #33 on: March 10, 2006, 01:11:08 PM »
Yes, I saw this CD in a store awhile back and didn't pick it up because I was already buying too many CDs. I meant to post about it, since I didn't recall anyone ever alluding to more recordings by Lane Hardin, but forgot. As I recall, the liner notes do identify Todd as Lane Hardin (the store I shop at has their CDs open for perusal, with the discs behind the counter). I don't remember exactly what they say, but there's no other reason for that information to be in my head.

(edited for confusion of names)
« Last Edit: March 10, 2006, 01:12:44 PM by uncle bud »

Offline blueshome

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #34 on: March 11, 2006, 04:32:16 AM »
I have this CD and the notes do make the link between Lane Hardin and Todd. I lent it to JMM at EBA Bluesweek last year and if my memory serves, he also felt it could be Hardin. On re-listening to the 30's recordings I have little doubt.


Phil

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #35 on: March 11, 2006, 11:35:58 AM »
Hi all,
As Phil says, he loaned me the CD at EBA Blues Week last summer.  As I recall, there were two cuts tentatively credited to Lane Hardin.  On one of the them, the guitar was so different from his two early recordings that I would be leery of identifying him as the player.  The other cut, though, sounded very much to be the same singer and player who had done "Hard Times" and "California Desert" several years down the line.  The singing, in particular, seemed unmistakeable.  Lane Hardin had a very unusual timbre to his voice, and this singer sounded exactly like him.
All best,
Johnm

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #36 on: September 15, 2008, 07:27:28 PM »
Hi all,
I have been listening a lot the last couple of days to a St. Louis bluesman who was new to me, though I'm sure some of you have heard of him before:  Arthur Weston.  I picked up his Testament Records CD, "Arthur Weston--Pea Vine Whistle", TCD6005, from Roots & Rhythm ( www.rootsandrhythm.com), and it is terrific.  The first eleven cuts, which feature Arthur singing and accompanying himself on guitar, solo, are by far the most interesting portion of the CD's 20 song (!) program.  On the remaining nine cuts, Arthur Weston is joined by Big Joe Williams on guitar and either George Robertson or Andrew Cauthen, both of whom are strong players, on harmonica.

Though little is known or presented about Arthur Weston in the biographical sense, based purely on his sound you would pretty much have to peg him as a transplanted Mississippian like Charley Jordan, Henry Townsend or J.D. Short.  In the solo portion of the CD's program, Arthur Weston plays four songs out of E position in standard tuning:  "Pea Vine Whistle", "Cryin' Won't Make Me Stay", "Stack O' Dollars" and "Gonna Tell You".  All of these tracks are excellent, but the middle two, in particular, are superlative.  Arthur Weston's sense of time was strong, distinctive and nuanced, and he was able to execute his ideas.  His "Stack O' Dollars" compares favorably with the best of E blues from any period, and that is saying something.  He sang in a raspy baritone with some strategic phlegm rattling around in there.  His "Gonna Tell You" opens with one of the all-time great "Huh?" taglines I have heard in the blues:
   I'm gonna tell you, baby, like the Dago told the Jew (2)
   You can't be my woman, Lord, and someone else's too
For the remainder of Arthur Weston's solo pieces, and the ensemble portion of the program, he plays in Spanish tuning.  He had some real variety in Spanish, playing "Poor Boy" in lap-style slide, "Pure Religion" in conventional slide, and conventional fretting on the other numbers.  He excelled at thumb-popping of his bass strings, and the solo portion of the program is beautifully recorded.  Arthur Weston was also particularly strong at phrasing an instrumental rendering of the melody right under his singing, something that's effective if done well, but hard to do really well.  His "Throw Your Arms Around Me" is a great boogie number, and the very strong "Indeed I Do" is a sort of re-working of "Someday Baby".
The remainder of the program, while perfectly fine, effaces the more distinctive aspects of Arthur Weston's music.  Part of the problem is that Big Joe Williams was such a strong player and rhythmic dynamo that he swept all else before him.  Probably the most exciting number in this later portion of the program is a delirious version of "Meet Me In The Bottom", in which Joe Williams' impulse to keep things moving along bumps into Arthur Weston's tendency to phrase his vocal long and behind the beat.  The result is a kind of  exciting and really fun shambles of a type that doesn't show up very often on records--more's the pity!
I really like Arthur Weston's music and would recommend it very strongly to anyone who likes players out of Mississippi who were in their sixties in the '60s.  Arthur Weston sounds sort of like the guy down the block from you that played music, if you lived in a Southern or Eastern city back then and were incredibly lucky.  And at a price of less than $10.00 for the CD from Roots & Rhythm, I feel like I got more than my money's worth halfway through my first time through the CD.
All best,
Johnm 
   
           
« Last Edit: September 15, 2008, 07:30:23 PM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #37 on: September 10, 2010, 08:34:42 AM »
Hi all,
I've been listening a lot to Arthur Weston lately, and I think his music is even stronger than I originally thought it to be.  His "Stack O' Dollars", is really spectacular, my favorite version of a song with other very strong versions by Charley Jordan and Sleepy John Estes.  I originally thought Arthur Weston's version was in E, standard tuning, but after more listening, it sounds more like cross-note tuning, for which there was certainly precedence in the playing of Henry Townsend.  Arthur Weston's time-keeping and the integration of his vocal with his accompaniment on "Stack O' Dollars" is about as good as it gets. 
Cross-note is a funny identification, for it is done, to a great extent, by noting  the absence, of a IV chord, or more particularly, a low root for the IV chord.  Since the lowest root for the IV chord in cross-note lives at the fifth fret of the sixth string, it is effectively taken out of the picture as a note that is practical to employ in the bass.
As noted on the previous post, Arthur Weston's CD on the Testament label, "Arthur Weston--Pea Vine Whistle" has been available in the past from www.rootsandrhythm.com, and if it is still available, it is definitely worth picking up.  It's one of the strongest country blues recordings from the '60s and '70s, I think.
All best,
Johnm   

Offline Michael Cardenas

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #38 on: November 29, 2010, 04:30:06 PM »
I only wish for all the sophistication St. Louis had in its sound that more players could have had gumption to take Arthur Weston's approach. On average I prefer the vocal style of the more popular St. Louis players, but Weston's guitar playing is Blues exemplar.
LISTEN TO BLUES MUSIC

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2014, 08:55:24 AM »
Hi all,
One thing that I've noticed about the players coming out of St. Louis and recording in the '20s and '30s is the absence of religious songs among their recorded works.  Henry Townsend, Clifford Gibson, Teddy Darby, Charley Jordan, Papa Eggshell, and Jaydee Short did not record a single religious song between them.  When you look at players from other areas, such a choice is much less common.  It would be interesting to know how it happened to turn out that way, and whether the choice not to record any religious songs reflected some mindset common to these St. Louis musicians or was just happenstance.
All best,
Johnm

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #40 on: December 22, 2016, 09:54:07 AM »
Hi all,
I have a recording personnel question for anyone who has a copy of D,G & R:  Which of the Sparks Brothers cuts had Henry Townsend playing guitar?  I'd appreciate that information from anyone who has it.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm

Offline harry

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #41 on: December 22, 2016, 10:19:04 AM »
Tell Her About Me
Workhouse Blues
Grinder Blues
Every Day I Have The Blues
I Wake Up In The Morning
Got The Blues About My Baby
Ina Blues
Erie Train Blues

   

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #42 on: December 22, 2016, 11:14:42 AM »
Thanks, Harry!
All best,
Johnm

Offline eric

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #43 on: March 17, 2020, 11:19:55 AM »
After JohnM posted Peetie Wheatstraw's Police Station Blues the other day, I found this 16-year-old (!) thread on St. Louis players.  There's some great discussion here and some of the links, like this interview with Henry Townsend, still work.  http://www.stlblues.net/henryinterview.htm. So I thought it might be worth reviving. As some of you know, John also has a Guitar Workshop DVD devoted to St. Louis players and it's really good.

Here's Arthur West's Stack'O Dollar:

--
Eric

Online Johnm

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Re: Blues of St. Louis
« Reply #44 on: March 17, 2020, 01:23:12 PM »
Thanks for reviving this thread, Eric, it's a great one.  I had thought of moving the Arthur Weston CD review a couple of posts in the thread above yours to the recordings and discography Board, but it's now in a spot where folks can see it if they wish to without having to look too hard for it.  It is a great CD, especially his solo numbers in E, standard tuning or EAEGBE.
All best,
John

 


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