According to the jacket of this 70s collection of rare 78s, Bluebird Records released more than 2,000 blues singles between 1933 and 1946. The album appears on RCA’s “Vintage Series,” which also included whole collections of single artists who recorded for the label and its various subsidiaries. Bluebird was its budget label during the 1920s-40s, but its distinctive sound influence blues and early rock and roll in the following decade.

Considering Third Man Records has produced  lavishly-packaged collections of recordings from Paramount Records (the Wisconsin label known for its blues catalog) we wonder whether the Bluebird catalog could merit a more substantial reissue program. Individual artists who recorded for Bluebird have certainly been anthologized by Document Records on CDs.

We’re surprised and fascinated by the sales of similar records which anthologize blues and roots recordings from the 1920s, and sixteen out of two thousand is hardly a fraction of a single percent of the blues records Bluebird released during this period.

This single by Tampa Red is from the same period as his biggest hit, “Let Me Play With Your Poodle,” a song which reached #4 on the “Harlem hit parade,” which was Billboard’s early R&B chart. Although he recorded from 1928 until 1961, he only released two albums — both on the Bluesville label late in his recording career. In another of traditional music’s tragic tales, his life fell apart due to alcoholism after his wife’s passing in 1953, and Tampa Red died in poverty and anonymity in 1981.

In addition to recording stack of singles in his early career, Tampa Red collaborated with Thomas Dorsey (then Georgia Tom) who went on to become “the Father of Gospel Music,” and also backed singers such as Ma Rainey and Memphis Minnie. He can be heard on the recent Memphis Minnie reissue, Keep on Goin, which collects some of her early records for labels such as Columbia, Okeh and Vocalion.

A couple years ago Bloodshot Records celebrated its 20th anniversary with a triple LP compilation, from which we posted a song at the time. The whole record is a really interesting hodgepodge because it features a wide variety of performers covering songs from the label’s catalog. This lead to some unusual combinations, and in other cases some perfect marriages of different styles. Covering Bloodshot’s range of blues, folk and country, its one of the most enjoyable compilation albums we’ve heard in a while.

while no one was looking

One of the songs on this collection is a cover of Ben Weaver’s “East Jefferson” recorded by Andrew Koji Shiraki, who usually performs under his middle name. The song, first posted when Ben performed here for the first time at Hymies, is from his second album for Bloodshot Records, Mirepoix and Smoke. Weaver, who released his next album after that on our own in-house label, is working on a new album and will be be here for our Record Store Day Block Party along with a list of other great local musicians (the list is here).

Earlier this month the folks at Third Man Records released a 7-inch of two new songs recorded by the Blind Shake in their “blue room.” They asked the guys where they’d like to debut the single, and to our surprise our favorite local band chose us! At the time, the blue vinyl of the singles were delayed and they’re finally here. So if you’re a colored-vinyl freak and you were waiting to hear these killer live takes of “I Shot all the Birds” and “Tar Paper,” today’s your day!

<—– Look! Blind Shake live at Third Man on blue vinyl while they last!

“The Mooche,” recorded October 20th, 1928, is one of the most enduring of the early Ellington recordings. Its growling muted trumpet and feral clarinet provide the perfect example of the era’s “jungle style,” popularized by the Duke’s already legendary orchestra.

The trumpet on this recording is performed by the tragic and short-lived Bubber Miley, whose distinctive style was carried on by future Ellington alumni such as Ray Nance and Cootie Williams.


The clarinet on this first of many recordings of “The Mooche” is performed by Barney Bigard, last noted here on the Hymies blog (with his name unfortunately misspelled) when we listened to recordings of another Ellington standard, “Caravan.” Bigard remained the lead clarinetist for the Ellington Orchestra all through the Cotton Club years, and sometimes doubled on tenor sax as well. He and Ellington wrote “Mood Indigo” together during this period.

We are thinking of this first great incarnation of the Ellington Orchestra today because our friends, the Southside Aces, will be performing a program of Duke’s small group classics on Friday night at Vieux Carré in St. Paul. We are often reminding folks that the Aces appear the second Thursday of every month at the Eagles Club #34 right here in our neighborhood, but Friday presents a unique opportunity to hear some songs by the single greatest composer our country has produced. They are rounding out the regular group with guest pianist Rick Carlson, and promising the brass will be bringing along “buckets of mutes.”

Several years ago we put together a whole post of alternate takes of famous tune from the likes of John Coltrane, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. At the time we must not have added this double LP to our collection, or we would have included one of its numerous Chuck Berry alternates.

Here’s an early take of “Johnny B. Goode” recorded December 30th, 1957.

Rock and rollers around the world today are mourning the passing of the music’s primary architect, Chuck Berry. The larger-than-life icon passed away at his home in St. Charles County, Missouri yesterday at the age of ninety.

It was sixty-two years ago that his first single, “Maybellene,” first appeared, combining blues and western swing into an entirely new creation. The single would be the first in a rapid series of hit singles for Berry on the Chess label, most of which have gone on to become rock and roll standards. Its inspiration in a Bob Wills song and its b-side, a smoldering blues tune called “Wee Wee Hours,” are evidence of Berry’s unique ability to blend the different traditions. Of the single, Rolling Stone later wrote, “Rock and roll guitar begins here.”

While so many of Berry’s songs are universally familiar, it was his showmanship more than his songwriting which made him a star in the late 50s. His stage presence and his explosive runs on the guitar, all accented by a signature “duck walk” move established rock music’s over-the-top escapism.

Berry’s career was derailed several times by, to quote one of his songs, “too much monkey business.” He had not recorded a new album since 1979, but had announced last year that he was recording a new record which would feature two of his children as accompaniment. At this time there is no release date for the new record, titled Chuck.

This 1960 sequel to “Johnny B. Goode” is one of our favorite songs from Berry’s original run of hits for Chess Records, even though it is not one of the twelve found on the classic Greatest Hits LP. “Bye Bye Johnny” was one of several of his songs covered by the Rolling Stones (whose first single was a Chuck Berry tune) and was also adapted, uncredited, into an elegy for Elvis Presley by Bruce Springsteen in the 80s. Like its predecessor the song tells a story with vivid details and a sly wink towards the American dream of social mobility.

In keeping with yesterday’s Irish theme, we present today Molly Bloom’s soliloquy which comprises the final episode of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Our son is fond of using the word “epic” (this must be a thing with kids these days), but it truly applies to the eight sentences that make up this nearly thirty-minute monologue, as read on this LP by Sibohan McKenna.

In all, Molly Bloom’s soliloquy on her relationships with men and ultimately the marriage proposal of her husband is over four thousand words long, containing only two punctuation marks. Joyce’s own wife, Nora, is often remembered for having asked her husband, “Why don’t you write books that people can read?”

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