Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Few More Roots Gems




The last month and a half have been hectic and as a result, I have not been able to post as often as I did in previous months. In the coming months I plan to continue researching roots music and posting with a bit more frequency. As always, there is so much to work with and so little time to really do it justice.

This post offers a few real gems from different genres drawn from our vast repository of roots music. Some of these have been old favorites of mine for many years and others have come to my attention via youtube over the course of the last few months. As always, a couple of the artists here are likely to be projects for further research. Finally, thanks to all that have stopped by to check out what's happening. I appreciate all comments and hope this offering of roots classics elicits a few more.

Jazz: This early bop recording by Illinois Jacquet's band is a flawless example of the evolving bop style in 1947. Appropriately named "Embryo", it features a classic baritone solo by forgotten bari king Leo Parker. Also, Earl Hines offers the classic tune Rosseta by himself from 1939, showcasing his mastery of the stride style that actually goes a bit beyond. Superb. Finally, check out the magic of Lucky Thompson on Anthropology, a bop recording on video from 1959. Great piano work by Bud Powell and a very unique guitar solo by Jimmy Gourley.

R&B: Ivory Joe Hunter's classic 1950 recording of Old Man's Boogie is a hybrid piece, it combines elements of boogie, jump blues while setting oup the basis for rock n' roll. Also, Nappy Brown's very unique "There Come a Day" combines elements of Doo Wop, jump blues and early rock n' roll, on a 1955 recording. Great sax solo. Finally, the incomparable "Leave My Kitten Alone" by Little Willie John from 1959. Covered by the Beatles here in a 1964 recording that remained unreleased until 1995.

Rockabilly: Rusty York's 1957 cut Shake em Up Baby is my favorite York cut, probably influenced at some level by Roy Brown's Hip Shakin Baby.. Also, check out Tommy Blake's Flat Foot Sam shows Blake's talent as a rockabilly arranger, an overlooked talent for sure. His "Folding Money," recorded for Sun is also superb, wonderful guitar tone. Finally, blending nascent rock n' roll within a rockabilly framework is Jimmy Thomason's "Now Hear This," and his orchestra, simply a superb arrangement. Super guitar and sax solos from 1956. Finally, anytime I can find a way to work Grady Martin into the mix, well, check out Wayne Walkers' very unique "All I Can Do is Cry," with great work by Martin. Outstanding.

Western Swing: Hoyle Nix's Real Rockin Daddy is a classic Texas boogie arrangement. Excellent solos all the way around. Also, Curtis Gordon's Rock n' Roll Jump Jive demonstrates the fusion of boogie and western swing as they morph into rockabilly. Excellent cut.

Chicago Blues: Walkin by Myself by Jimmy Rogers from 1956 is an absolute classic of the crafted Chess sound, out of Chicago, mid fifties. Great vocals by Jimmy and an astonishing harp solo by Big Walter Horton. Also check out one of my all time favorites, Little Walter's "Last Night," an all time favorite that is unique among Walter's Chess recordings in that it lacks a harp solo. Louis Myers covers the space in perfect fashion.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guitar Slim and the Origins of Electric Blues Guitar



Sorely missing from a post on New Orleans R&B artists that appeared last summer was the incredible work of Guitar Slim. Although originally from Mississippi, Eddie Jones or "Guitar Slim" made a name for himself in the thriving post WWII club scene in New Orleans in the late 1940's as a flashy onstage performer who used outlandish showmanship. Guitar Slim's early work is contemporaneous with T Bone Walker and Clarence Gatemouth Brown's, both of whom were establishing the groundwork for electric blues guitar in Houston at the Bronze Peacock Club and later recording for Don Robey's magnificent Peacock Records. Also, Johnny Guitar Watson and Lowell Fulson must be mentioned as early contributors to the nascent electric blues guitar sound, Fulson's early recordings on Chess and Watson's on the Keen label are seminal. Both, along with Guitar Slim, Walker and Gatemouth Brown, are the genuine pioneers of the electric blues guitar sound that was forged in the 1950's through these early recordings. I have been wanting to post on Guitar Slim for some time but only recently have his finest recordings, from the 1953-1954 period on the Specialty Label, been put up on youtube. His later recordings with the Atco label are yet to be shared. On these recordings one can appreciate Slim's hauntingly unique electric guitar style that would later inspire Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and and New Orleans guitarist Earl King, who also recorded for Specialty during the same time period. Finally, it's noteworthy that Stevie Ray Vaughn covered the Slim's best known recording, "The Things I used to Do," heard here.

Here is a nice sampling of of Guitar Slim's work from the early 1950's, almost all from the Specialty Label.

1) Twenty Five Lies- Wonderful full band New Orleans sound with hot tenor solo and great lyrics by Slim. Has a Jump Blues feel.

2) Quicksand - Great shuffle blues with fine sax solo followed by great guitar solo by Slim.

3) Somethin to Remember Me By - Classic slower blues with that distinct West Coast blues flaver. Outstanding vocals that anticipate soul that emerges in the early 1960s'. Very strong guitar solo.

4) Trouble Don't Last - Another slower blues with a tight orchestral accompaniment. UNique guitar solo with early use of amplified sound distortion, years before it became commonplace.

5) The Things I Used to Do - Wonderfully conceived recording with excellent horn section and a nice guitar lead. New Orleans style R&B with great vocals by Slim.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Echale Salsita: Cuba and the Roots of Salsa



While the 1920's saw the consolidation of jazz as a true American art form, the musical effervescence of Cuba gave rise to another lasting musical art form that endures today as an internationally recognized genre. Although the roots of "salsa" are difficult to pinpoint and speak to the complex interplay of African and Iberian musical forms, its initial recordings can be traced directly back to the decade of the twenties, a period characterized by active cultural interchange between the United States and Cuba. While Cuban music enriched the cultural landscape of the U. S., American influence allows for sugar monopolies and the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado in a climate of generalized corruption in Cuba, at the same time giving the island the sport of baseball, still venerated by most Cubans.

Most musicologists trace the origins of salsa to the Cuban Son, an African based music form that appears on the island in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the first exponent of salsa is the Afro Cuban bass player Ignacio Pineiro, who formed the famous Septeto Nacional in 1927 and performed with the group at the Apollo Theater and the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. It has been reported that he also recorded for Columbia Studios in the late 1920's, original recordings from the period are at a collector's premium. Noteworthy is that the origin of the name salsa - which now encompasses are rather wide range of styles from the Spanish speaking Caribbean - can be traced to the Pineiro composition "Echale Salsita, " roughly translated "spice it up." For a taste of the piquant sound, give a listen to this composition of the same song which appears to capture the spirit of the original sound. While the rhythms and percussion are identical to the more contemporary salsa sound, absent is the full orchestra sound that salsa incorporates as exchanges between American jazz musicians and Cuban musicians became more pronounced during the mambo craze of the 1950's. A more contemporary rendition of "Echale Salsita" can be heard here.

The explosion and popularity of salsa throughout the Caribbean and on the American music scene during the 1960's and 70's continues today and undoubtedly qualify it as form of American roots music of Cuban origins. Some have suggested that the term "salsa" actually speaks to the amalgam of Caribbean musical styles that coalesce in New York City after the great Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican immigration waves of the 1960's and seventies. Many great salsa artists have taken up residence in New York and performed in the flourishing dance scene in the city over the last few decades.

With the election of Obama, cultural exchanges between Cuba and the United States have been resumed to the levels they were enjoying during the Clinton years, a time that saw famous Cuban groups such as Los Van Van and Orquesta Aragon come to the U. S. to perform. This year, in memory of the legacy of Ignacio Pineiro and his marvelous Cuban roots music, the Septeto Nacional, which has not performed in the United States since the presidency of FDR, has been invited to return. The group is currently doing a tour of the U.S. and has performed in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago. Eugenio Rodriguez, the groups leader, is proud to be a part of the Pineiro legacy and bring it to U.S. audiences, a little "salsa" that has been lacking on the scene for too many years.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Forgotten Classics of Arkansas Rockabilly




As a result of some research on Arkansas rockabilly, a few months back I posted on some of the better known Arkansas rockabilly recording artists, a few of whom are have become veritable legends. Arkansas rockers Sleepy La Beef, Sonny Burgess, Ronnie Hawkins, Larry Donn and Pat Cupp are still with us and active and recently we lost the legendary Billy Lee Reilly. Yet some of the lesser known rockers from Arkansas who also made significant contributions to rockabilly have seen their work has fall into relative obscurity for any number of reasons.

What I have come to discover in my research on Arkansas rockabilly is that the state produced more than its share of of recording artists, well over fifty according to my research. Due to its geographical location and demographics, Arkansas was perfectly situated to produce to hybrid fusion of black rhythm and blues and country "honky tonk" sounds. Most of the musicians listed here are from the eastern, Delta region of the state, where the proximity to Memphis and the exposure to African American music, either through radio or direct contact would have been highest. Many would also have been influenced by Joe Manuel's Saturday Night Jamboree in Memphis, The Louisiana Hayride and Porter Wagner's Ozarks Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri. One interesting feature of Arkansas rockabilly seems to be the use of the piano, which is featured on the majority of the selections offered here. While many of these tracks have appeared in reissued rockabilly anthologies, no attempt to recognize their cohesion from a regional perspective has been offered.


1) Skeets McDonald was born in Greenway, Arkansas and was a prototypical rockabilly figure. Most of his work is rooted in "honky tonk," yet his sound anticipates the Bakersfield sound and has a distinct rockabilly feel. Check out "Fort Worth Jail" from 1958. Outstanding cut with fantastic piano solo.

2) Doug Poindexter: From Vandale, Arkansas is an important precursor to rockabilly and one of the earliest white Sun recording artists whose association with Scotty Moore, Bill Black and the Starlight Wranglers and Elvis has been documented. "My Kind of Carrying On," a historical Sun recording from from 1954, predates the rockabilly wave and shows Hank Williams influence.


3) Mack Self from West Helena is now a living rockabilly legend. Mack also recorded for Sun, his "Easy to Love" and Vibrate have become classics in the genre. Self still lives in West Helena.


4) Jimmy Lee Fautheree, from Smackover, Arkansas, home of Sleepy Labeef. Jimmy is best known for his work with Johnny Mathis, with whom he performed on the Louisiana Hayride and made several early recordings that were to foreshadow the rockabilly sound. Here he teams up with Mathis to perform the classic "Sweet Love on my Mind" later recorded by Johnny Burnette. Nice guitar work here by Jimmy.


5) Jimmy Evans from Mariana in eastern Arkansas is known for his association with Conway Twitty, Billy Lee Reilly and Mack Self during their Sun years. Jimmy's classic, "The Joints Really Jumpin" is a great example of late rockabilly from 1962. Jerry Lee Lewis influence is obvious. Also check out "What am I Gonna Do?" from the same period. Very nice cut.


6) Glen Garrison from Searcy, Arkansas recorded "Lovin Lorene" in 1958 and, according to Rockabillyville, a very reliable source, is now considered a rockabilly classic. Not much is known about Glen, who died at age thirty.


7) Bill Carter from Eagleton, Arkansas. Not much known about Carter but he did move in and out of country and rockabilly throughout the late 1950's. What we do have is outstanding. Carters remarkable "Cool Tom Cat" from 1960 on the small Ozark label must be hard to come by these days. Nice guitar solo and vocals. Also check out his wonderfully conceived "I Wanna Feel Good" from 1957, great guitar.


8) Al Coker from Conway is a unique figure; he is the father of recording female recording artist Alvadean Coker . Al recorded a few classic rockabilly numbers for Decca in the late 1950's. "Don't Go Baby" is his best known recording. Very nice electric guitar lead.


9) Roy Moss, from Plainview, Arkansas, got a spot on the Louisiana Hayride with help from Elvis. He then joined the rockabilly rave, making several recordings in the late 1950's, beginning with "You Don't Know My Mind" and "Your My Big Baby" from 1956 and then the well produced "Wiggle Walkin Baby" from 1958. Great cut.


10) Sonny Deckelman, from Harrisburg, Arkansas made several rockabilly recordings during the the late 50's and early 1960's. Sonny's "I've Got Love" is from 1959 and contains a classic rockabilly guitar solo.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

News on Two American Legends: James P. Johnson and Thelonious Monk



The history of American Jazz piano begins in the late nineteenth century with the advent of ragtime pianists, whose initial recordings in the 1920's helped to define the style that would merge with others to eventually crystallize into the definitive jazz sound. One of the transitional figures who advanced the linkage between the ragtime and the emerging jazz sound is stride piano legend James P. Johnson. In remembrance of his artistry, a small group of contemporary jazz musicians and enthusiasts gathered at the small West Village New York club Smalls to raise funds to purchase a headstone for Johnson's grave. Wonderful gesture by musicians and jazz fans alike.

Johnson's talents were multifaceted: composer of short pieces as well orchestral arrangements, technical wizard who integrates classical music into his hybrid style and innovator of the "stride style" that laid the groundwork for jazzier improvisations and whose influence on jazz legends like Duke Ellington should not be understated. Johnson's famous composition "The Charleston" helped define the decade of the Roaring Twenties in American Roots music. His well known "Carolina Shout" showcases his prodigious technical mastery in the stride piano style. Johnson's influence is simply fundamental to the development of American piano, his imprint on later greats like Eubie Blake, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson is unmistakable. Johnson's influence on other disciples was even more direct. The stride pianists such as Fats Waller, the incredible Missouri born Ralph Sutton and also his contemporary Jelly Roll Morton and the "professor school" of New Orleans boogie woogie rooted piano are all deeply indebted to Johnson's innovations. Johnson was a prototypical artist whose pioneering piano conmpositions help to define American Roots music.

Another hugely influential force in American Jazz is Thelonious Monk, an enigmatic figure who shunned the limelight and retreated into seclusion to produce some of the most strikingly innovative compositions of American post war jazz. The complexities of the artist and the "aura of cryptic genius" that have surrounded Monk and made him almost as inaccessible as the peculiar harmonic language he created on piano, transforming him into an almost mythical figure in American Jazz are all explored extensively in a new biography by Robin D.G. Kelley entitled "Thelonios Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original." This biography has just been released and promises to be a fascinating read for fans of Monk and of American Jazz in general. Based on extensive interviews with surviving members of Monk's family, including his wife Nellie Monk, this biography promises to lift the shroud of mystery that has surrounded Monk since his explosion onto the jazz scene in the early days of Bebop. Drawing on diverse sources such as Monk's own LP collection, access to the writings of Monk's producer Teo Macero, manuscripts from his British patron, lover and longtime associate Baroness Panonica known as "Nica," and extensive interviews with those close to Monk make this long awaited contribution to jazz scholarship a must read for jazz enthusiasts. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hillbilly Boogie and Western Swing - A Few Classics







One of the more interesting strains of American Roots Music that advances the genesis of rockabilly is "Hillbilly Boogie." Related in many ways to Western Swing, this style's origin is rooted in boogie - woogie piano styles that take us back to Meade Lux Lewis in the 1920's and the broader popularity in the 1930's, spearheaded by Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. By the 1940's, the Delmore Brothers had begun to embrace the boogie woogie style and helped launch its popularity among musicians recording in the country western music scene. At the same time, Western Swing was evolving along similar lines in Texas in Louisiana, and polka and some jazz based rhythms to the style. Both Hillbilly Boogie and Western Swing were essentially dance music genres whose popularity coincided wit the rise of honky tonk dance clubs in the south and western states. Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma and it's association with Bob Wills is a legendary venue from the late 1930's, as are the famous California Western Swing Ballrooms: Venice Pier Ballroom of Spade Cooley fame, the Riverside Rancho and the Santa Monica Ballroom, all very popular in the late thirties up to through the end of the WW II.

Hillbilly Boogie is characterized by and upbeat tempo, steel guitar, traditional and electric guitar and, as in jazz, an allotted lead space for featured instruments. Many of the electric guitar solos here are outstanding examples of the convergence of jazz and country sounds. In contrast to later rockabilly, percussion is not present, heavy bass lines are. Collectors on youtube have been putting up a quite a bit of this fascinating style that predominated country music during the war years before the unique amalgamations of the 1950's emerged.

1) Tex Williams: A little humor and advice in Tex's style and the band is tight and top notch with a jazz based sound. Check out "Never Trust A Woman" from 1947. Great western swing guitar lead.

2) Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West: The famous duo is caught live here on a boogie number here. Jimmy has a searing guitar solo and Speedy follows suit. Nice piano too. Superb.

3) Johnny Lee Wills: Coyote Blues is a quintessential boogie woogie number by another of Bob's bothers.

4) Zeb Turner: No More Nothing is from the early 1950's and is a fantastic example of the hillbilly boogie sound featuring piano, steel guitar and electric guitar. Outstanding work here by one of the most important forerunners to rockabilly.

5) Moon Mullican: Cush Cush Ky Yay is a classic cajunesque boogie by the pianist Mullican, one of the kings of the genre who helped build the bridge to rockabilly and rock n' roll.

6) Red Smith/Luke McDaniel/Jeff Daniels: Whoa Boy is listed as a rockabilly number on youtube but I would classify it in the hillbilly boogie genre. Nonetheless, an outstanding number by Red, aka Luke McDaniel. Some very nice guitar work and vocals.

7) Eddie Hill: The Hot Guitar is an absolute gem of the genre with some outstanding guitar work in classic medley style imitation of some of the other greats in jazz and country. "Smilin Eddie" was a deejay who worked to advance the popularity of the style. Could be Hank Garland of guitar.

8) Luke Wills: Take Me Back live here with brother Bob.

9) Casey Simmons: Jukebox Boogie is an obscure cut in the genre with some great piano work.

10) Spade Cooley: Steel Guitar Rag is a classic instrumental by Spade, one of the founding fathers of Western Swing. Wonderful guitar break.

11) George Stogner: Hard Top Race, from the mid 1950's, is situated within the enormous "auto race" genre which is boogie with a real rockabilly feel. Very nice guitar and piano leads from this largely forgotten musician.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Top R&B Tenor Kings from the 1950's



The origins of the predominance of the guitar as the featured instrument in much of contemporary music is rooted in the birth of rock n' roll in the fifties, as rockabilly merged with R&B. As combos became smaller, the prevalence of wind instruments began to fade. Interestingly, before the emergence of the electric guitar in the combo setting, the saxophone was the considered the ax, and the original "cutting sessions" were actual bouts between both jazz and R&B tenor and alto players.
By the late 1940's, a fascinating diversification was taking place in African American music that coincided with the onset of be bop and hard bop in jazz circles. Two different tracks began to bifurcate: be bop or hard bop, which was seen as the experimental track was shadowed by the increasing popularization of R&B based groups also rooted in jazz, many of which formed the instrumental backing of the Jump Blues phenomenon discussed in a previous post. What is particularly interesting is that some musicians, and many very talented saxophone players, moved in and out of both R&B and Bop oriented combos with facility. Some of the great players of the late 1940's and early 1950's such as Johnny Griffin, Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, Gene Ammons, Teddy Edwards, Harold Land, Jack Mcvea, Jimmy Forrest, Benny Golson, Earl Bostic, Hank Mobley , Clifford Jordan and Pervis Hensen could all move in and out of bop and R&B formats with equal fluency, and could also work with equal ease on ballads. In a sense, these players were drawing from the blues/ballad tradition established by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster and extending themselves into bop material that Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon were popularizing in the late 1940s. Most of the aforementioned players moved into more bop related material as the fifties progressed, yet most still laid down some wonderful R&B arrangements on occasion.

In this post I would like to foreground some of the fantastic sax players who worked primarily in R&B during the same period. On some of these recordings one can hear some of the raunchiest, most raucous sax solos in the history of R&B from the heyday of the great R&B bands. Also, it could be said that these players lay the groundwork for the later work of King Curtis, Junior Walker and Eddie Harris. I do think this is a somewhat incomplete offering however, some of the best work from Sil Austin and Big Jay McNeely from this period are simply not available. That said, many thanks to the collectors on youtube.

1) Buddy Johnson with Pervis Henson on saxophone. This great tune, Down Yonder from 1949, in a big band setting, has an authentic R&B flavor with a great sax solo by Henson.

2) Joe Houston and his Orchestra: Houston recorded with greats Big Joe Turner and Amos Milburn. His Sand Storm from 1951 is another absolutely fabulous R&B based number with Houston laying down some unbelievable smooth and raucous blowing. A true gem of the genre that goes a little outside. Also, check ot Joe's All Night Long from 1955. Outstanding.

3) Red Prysock: Jump Red Jump is a classic from 1954 and really showcases Prysock's extraordinary talent in the R&B genre. A true headcutter, Prysock's playing is legendary.

4) Marvin Phillips: Mamo Mamo from 1955 is a unique tune that combines a Jump Blues feel with jive like vocals. Great tenor solo here by West Coast R&B legend Maxwell Davis.

5) Jimmy Forrest: Jimmy is best known for his 1952 hit Night Train. Here, on Blue Groove Jimmy lays down a slow R&B masterpiece. Unbelievably tight riffing and tone, sets up the King Curtis sound to come later. Absolutely top notch recording with only 68 views on youtube.

6) T. J. Fowler: Back Bite from 1951 is a very obscure recording but a real gem of the genre, great playing here in a more classic blues format.

7) Bill Doggett: Rum Bunk Shush is from a few years later, probably 1956 or 1957. Doggett is best known for his classic crossover hit Honky Tonk but here sax ace Percy France really tears loose and lays down some wonderfully tight R&B sax.

8) Willis "Gator"Jackson: Later Gator is a wonderfully tough 1957 R&B instrumental. Incredible playing here. Shuckin is later, from the early 1960's off the Prestige LP "Really Groovin." This is a jazzier arrangement with the great Tommy Flanagan on piano and the unbelievable Kenny Burrell on guitar. Jackson shows his mastery of the genre on the extended lead time.

9) Big Jay McNeely Jay made some premium recording for Savoy and King back in the late 1950's and this cut"Ice Water" probably comes from that period. Career spans over fifty years. Very nice sound, McNeely has made a comeback since the 1980s and is still playing today.

10) Jimmy Liggins: Cadillac Boogie from 1954. This is really more of a Jump Blues tune but the incredible Harold Land takes this R&B sound outside a little as he shows his versatility.

Friday, September 25, 2009

American Roots Music in Europe: A Surprise Finding



Most jazz fans are well aware of the expatriation factor, the movement of American jazz musicians from the United States to Europe during the 1950's and 60's. Following the lead of the Lost Generation whose obligatory jaunts to Paris have fueled many a Ph.D dissertation, jazz musicians also found life in Europe more accommodating and a public considerably more appreciative of their talents. Literally dozens: Kenny Drew, Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter just to name a few of the greats, made the move locales such as Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm, and never regretted it. The many sociological factors that motivated this movement are amply documented in Bill Moody's well researched study; "The Jazz Exiles: American Musicians Abroad," reviewed here.

Europe's fascination with American Roots Music runs deep and as I mentioned in a previous post, Spain has most recently become smitten with rockabilly. I recently discovered a function on youtube that confirmed some of what I had always heard anecdotally about the love for rockabilly musicians in Europe. The youtube fuction is "statistics and data" which appears above the listeners comments. A simple click on this function provides a most illuminating map, indicating in which particular countries the recording is most often accessed and listened to. Upon discovery of this fascinating function I immediately proceeded to check some rockabilly musicians from the 1950's whose music has essentially been lost in obscurity here in the United States. What I was able to glean without too much difficulty is a rather astonishing fact: Sweden is probably the world's most fanatical rockabilly nation. For example, and there are many more to corroborate this observation, the case of Carl Mann, a Sun and Jaxon recording artist who enjoyed a fairly strong following in his heyday here in the states back in the 1950's. Check out Carl's "Pretend" recorded for Sun in the fifties and check out the map. Do the same for his "Gonna Rock and Roll" Just to confirm this is not an isolated case, take a look at a more canonical artist like Carl Perkins and his well known "Matchbox." More interest in the U.S yes, probably as much related to the Beatles cover of the song than Carl's talent - yet the interest in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden is exceptionally strong. Also look at Ronnie Self, largely forgotten in the U.S. Ronnie's great tune "Flame of Love" is another example of the same interest in Sweden. Joe Clay, Gene Summers, Billy Lee Riley and Ronnie Dawson provide more evidence, and there is much more.

While researching the small, unknown and long since defunct Vaden label from Trumann, Arkansas I ran across this fascinating article that also speaks to Sweden's love affair with American rockabilly from the 1950's. Perhaps the question that remains is: why Sweden?
While I don't have a definitive answer, I do believe it is related to Sweden's use of its national budget to support the arts and radio programs tha feature American Roots Music and the Swede's tradition of embracing American Jazz musicians that dates to the 1950's.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rockabilly Guitar Solo Gems: The 1950's




The unique sound forged by rockabilly musicians became so contagious by 1957 that most country and western musicians were drawn at least temporarily into the rave that had become nothing short of a full blown cultural phenomenon. Country swing musician who had already dabbled in jazzier boogie woogie rhythms were also drawn into the vortex, and their jazz influenced guitar work left a distinctive imprint of several rockabilly recordings. In fact, the electric guitar solo itself, usually spaced after the second vocal verse, becomes a distinctive feature of rockabilly's two to three minute bursts of R&B inspired energy. Aside from the select few rockabilly guitarists whose fame is already assured: Cliff Gallup, Grady Martin, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Al Casey, Ralph Roe, Hank Garland and Larry Adair, many of the guitarists that are showcased on the recordings here are unknown and have remained in total obscurity today. Whenever possible, I have included the featured guitarists, but in several cases information about particular musicians is simply unavailable. I assembled this collection of classic rockabilly guitar solos after spending considerable time listening to solos attentively for sound quality, fluidity, and overall fit or contribution to the song's integrity. Enjoy these gems of 50's rockabilly, They constitute a truly unique and pivotal slice in the evolution of the electric guitar. Once again, many thanks again to the collectors on youtube who make this possible.

1) Harvey Hurt: "Big Dog Little Dog," is a completely obscure gem by Harvey who was probably from northern Kentucky or southern Ohio. The sound seems to indicate late rockabilly, probably 1960 or 61. The guitar work is simply extraordinary, the jazz influenced playing is obvious. Unknown player.

2) Sammy Masters: "Whop T Bop" from 1956. Sammy was from guitar rich Oklahoma and true to the region he conflated jazz with his own unique brand of rockabilly. His guitar player, Ralph Roe, is absolutely on fire on this gem, jazz and be bob like Charlie Christian runs are heard throughout.

3) Coldy Coldiron: "Rockin Spot" from 1956. This is a sizzling rock n' roll based number with a red hot guitar solo, but also listen to the guitar comping throughout. Exceptional. Totally obscure.

4) Wes Holly: This gem, "Shufflin Shoes," is a great example of the confluence of country swing and rockabilly that was in full swing by the mid 1950's. From Iowa, Wes was a successful country swing musician drawn to rockabilly's irresistible rhythms.

5) Gene Vincent: "Who Slapped John?" Gene gives Cliff Gallop plenty of space on this one, a two part lead in fact. Remarkable phrasing and tone by Cliff, one of the true greats of the decade.

6) Del Reeves: "My Baby Loves to Rock" is a classic, echo laden rockabilly cut with a horn section. The short guitar solo is classic in tone and economy. Very nice cut by Del, primarily known for success in country music.

7) Bash Hofner: "Rockin and a Bopin" has a unique chord structure for rockabilly and the guitar solo is in two parts and extended. Very fluid, jazz like playing here on this gem of Texas rockabilly. Altogether, a fascinating cut. Unknown guitar work.

8) Wolf Opper: "Stompin to the Beat." Another unique arrangement with a very sweet guitar solo by a totally obscure deejay. Unknown session guitarist.

9) Bob Temple: "Vim Vam Vamoose" is another peculiar rockabilly recording that incorporates elements of the jazz jive sound with a short but searing guitar solo with great tone. Not much known about Temple, unknown guitarist.

10) Jack Lewis and the Americans: "Tood A Lou " is another classic crazed and frenetic rockabilly cut with the echo turned up full throttle. Also a classic because of the guitar solo by legend Eddie Cochran is excellent in tone and style. Not much known about Lewis, other than his work with Cochran.

11) Don "Red" Roberts: "Only One. " Absolutely classic rockabilly from 1957 with a wonderfully conceived guitar break. Great energy on this obscure recording, unknown guiatrist.

12) Gene Maltais: Gene's first recording"Crazy Baby" for the famous Decca label is raw unbridled rockabilly energy at its best. Guitar solo by legendary Hank Garland is superb, it has has typical phrasing and fine tone and fits the feel of the song perfectly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Few More Roots Favorites



This time of the month this feature appears on the blog and allows me a bit more latitude to include artists from different genres I am in the process of researching to be included in future posts. I also try to include material that has not been featured in previous posts but that probably will show up at some point in the future as part of a more focused post. Also, I wanted to thank the new folowers to the blog, I appreciate your following and it serves as an inspriration to continue to post material that is usually not found in other similar music blogs.


Jazz: Hard not to be a fan of the "Jug," Gene Ammons. Gene really did have one of the smoothest and blusiest tenor sounds among jazz tenor players in the 1950's and 60's. Here he showcases his skills on the popular ballad "It Might as Well be Spring" accompanied by John Coltrane on alto and Mal Waldron on piano, probably from the early 1960's. Another old favorite is the octave king of jazz guitar, Wes Montgomery, playing "Jingles" here in a trio setting. Very smooth.

R&B: The 1950's produced so much quality R&B that there is an almost endless supply of quality material to choose from. Chuck Willis, primarily known for penning his famous C. C. Rider, is superb in his "I Rule My House," delivered in a jump blues format from 1956. I'ts also hard to keep Hank Ballard's 1956 classic "Look at Little Sister" out of this mix, a marvelous number with an astonishingly crisp guitar break, popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughn's cover in the 1980s.

Rockabilly: Also a wealth of material to choose from and more emerging all the time. Ersel Hickey cut some very strong material in the mid to late 1950's, as evidenced here by his "Going Down that Road" from 1958. Also, Red Sovine, principally renowned for his success in country music, lays down some tough rockabilly here on "Juke Joint Johnny" on the Decca label from 1956. Wonderful guitar. Also, listen to the incredible Billy Barrix on "Cool Off Baby" from 1957 and think again about all those rockin' cats who Alvin Lee was paying homage to in his searing Woodstock piece "I'm Going Home" with Ten Years After.

Country Blues: It doesn't get much better than live video of the almost legendary Big Bill Broonzy, doing an amazing version of "Hey Hey," probably from the early 1960's. What a right thumb! Also live is Texas National Steel guitar king the Black Ace, here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Black Rockabilly?





In several previous post last spring considerable attention was given to the forays rockabilly musicians made into the the world of black R&B musicians, borrowing both musical techniques and extensively covering R&B material as they went about forging the rockabilly sound. One outgrowth of the surge in popularity of rockabilly recordings after 1955 that has not been received attention is how black R&B musicians responded to the ascendant popularity of rockabilly. With the exception of the Chuck Berry, whose material draws from country and R&B traditions and exemplifies the hybridness that was to become "rock 'n roll, not much at all has been written about black musicians in the 1950's who dabbled in rockabillysque recordings. Perhaps the best example of this is Berry's iconic 1955 hot rod hit Maybelline , which seems to be derivative of the of fiddler Russ Fratto's "Ida Red," popularized by Bob Wills in 1938. While not exactly rockabilly in a pure sense, Chuck seems to be nodding to that dimension of American Roots music in this classic hit.


While the term "black rockabilly" may seem oxymoronic on the surface, there are some great examples of 1950's recordings that demonstrate a conscious attempt to at least incorporate certain elements of the essence of the rockabilly style. And although it might be said that these recordings are not typical nor pure rockabilly, and that they are really more akin to R&B material, a close listening will reveal that they do possess some fascinating features, some of which are very close to rockabilly. Whether these musicians were motivated by the potential for success in the style or by the style itself remains unknown. Some of the recordings, like Roy Brown's "Hip Shakin Baby" have become collectors items owing to their uniqueness, and the sheer scarcity of black musicians who recorded in the rockabilly style. This list is probably not complete, and the unavailability of G. L. Crockett's "Look Out Mabel" and Roscoe Gordon's "Sally Jo" on youtube leaves a somewhat incomplete picture. That said, enjoy these unique recordings I have been to locate and comment on.

Roy Brown: Brown is best known for his R&B and Jump Blues recordings but his Imperial recording of "Hip Shakin Baby" from 1956 is included in rockabilly anthologies and really does exude the style in the echo vocals and piercing guitar. Excellent.

Ray Sharpe: Roy's incredible recordings from the late 1950's are influenced by country music and have the feel of rockabilly and are brilliantly conceived. Check out his incredible "Linda Lu" from 1959. Very nice guitar work. Also check out his "Monkey's Uncle." Superb.

The Cues: Generally classified as a pure R&B group,this forgotten group from the 1950's recorded some great R&B, some of which has the feel of rockabilly. The echo like sound and twangy guitar lend to this feel on "Killer Diller" and "Cracker Jack." Very nice sound.

Young Jessie: Generally classified as rock n' roll, Jessie recorded some Doo Wop material as well as a few songs that have the feel of rockabilly. Check out "Hit Git n Split" from 1956 and the incredible "I Smell a Rat." Guitar has a distinctly rockabilly feel.

Mickey and Sylvia: This fascinating R&B duo is generally not associated with anything close to rockabilly. That said, their recording "No Good Lover" has the energy and style of many of the rockabilly recordings from the same period. Great guitar solo.

Junior Parker: Love My Baby is a R&B Sun recording from 1953 that I had to include because it was so influential on subsequent rockabilly recordings. Also, the guitar, in sound and style, sets up the rockabilly style to follow.

Big Al Downing: Big Al is typically known as a black musicians who was successful in the country idiom during the 1960s. Al's 1958 recording "Down on the Farm" combines the raucous style of rock n' roll in a rockabilly format. Excellent recording. Some of Al's later recordings are pure rockabilly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jazz Piano Aces from the 1950's




The decade of the 1950's saw profound changes in the forms of American roots music that have been discussed here. Jazz was no exception. By 1950, as Bebop began to take hold and become more mainstream, there was a decisive shift away from the big band format. In its place emerged smaller combos, quartets and above all, the trio. Most smaller jazz combos retained the piano as an anchor, and in most trios it was always present. This greater emphasis on on piano gave rise to some magnificent players during the decade, some of whom became leading innovators in the contemporary jazz scene. Stylistically, these players possessed fluency in all the primary modes of expression in fifties jazz: bebop, hard bop, ballads, pop arrangements as well as R&B based material. Most of the players highlighted here went recorded extensively in the 1950's on the 33 rpm disc, on labels like Verve, Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside and Savoy, and a lot of these recording are pure treasures of American small combo jazz. Also, most all of these players went on to enjoy continued success, and a couple are still performing live today. Since the 1950's are featured in this post, I have attempted to include recordings from the period, there are a few exceptions, McCoy Tyner for one. The order of the pianists included here is in no way hierarchical, it's random. Finally, many thanks again to all the collectors at youtube who have made these recordings accessible to all of us.


1) Hampton Hawes: Hawes is rooted in bop but is very comfortable in all the idioms of the period. Check out "Walkin," recorded with his trio in 1955. Excellent.

2) Bill Evans: 1950's association with Miles Davis and Charles Mingus earn Evans a highly respected position in this group. Check out this 1950's composition of the classic ballad "My Foolish Heart" for a dose of Bill's measured, ethereal style.

3) Thelonious Monk: Monk is a veritable jazz icon and Bebop pioneer who was a tenacious innovator in style throughout the decade. Check out his trio doing "Blue Monk" from 1958.

4) Hank Jones: Hank is one of the true patriarchs, having studied with the legendary Art Tatum and played with virtually everyone, including Coleman Hawkins, Billy Eckstine and Charles Mingus. Hank is over 90 years old and still performing today. Check out this live trio recording with Buddy Rich and Ray Brown from the 1950 entitled "Ad Lib." Hank really shows his stuff here.

5) Tommy Flanagan: Another of the living patriarchs, Tommy is best known for his work on two historically monumental saxophone albums of the 1950's: John Coltrane's Giant Steps and Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus. Check out Tommy in a trio setting here with Elvin Jones on drums and Wilbur Little on bass from 1957 doing "Eclypso." Outstanding.

6) Red Garland: Garland performed with the giants of the 1940's: Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge, and this experience served him well as he emerges as a top post bop performer in the 1950's, recording solo for Prestige and also extensively with Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Jimmy Forrest. Check out "Billy Boy" by Red and his trio from 1958. Very smooth.

7) Oscar Peterson: One of the all time greats, the Canadien Peterson was just getting started in the 1950's as he forged his longstanding relation with bass legend Ray Brown. This fascinating recording from the late 1950's is entitled "Cubano Chant," and demonstrates the influence of Cuban rhythms in this trio setting, with Brown and Ed Thigpen. Incredible playing.

8) Horace Silver: A prolific composer, Silver was a mainstay with the Blue Note label throughout the fifties, recording primarily hard bop, R& B flavored material and some ballads. Check out this Latin influenced composition; "Senor Blues" from 1959.

9) Milt Buckner: Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Milt was also an organ player, and is primarily known for his "block chord" innovations on piano. Check out this organ/piano arrangement of "The Beast," from the 1960's, a composition chosen by Angelo Badalamenti to be used in David Lynch's neo-noir film Mulholland Drive.

10) McCoy Tyner: Having seen Tyner perform with his own ensemble in 1973, I will always be a huge fan of this incredibly talented player. This early example of Tyner's prowess, recorded with John Coltrane from 1959, is entitled "One in Four" and is astonishingly good, listen for Tyner's solo at 4:30. McCoy is still going strong today, and has just released a new album.

11) Ahmad Jamal: Another exquisite player who emerges in the 1950's, Jamal flourished in the all popular trio setting of the decade. Give a listen to this live performance of "Darn That Dream" from 1959. Sublime.

12) Randy Weston: Born in New York and of Jamaican origin, Weston recorded extensively in the 1950's for Riverside. Randy enjoyed association with jump blues, jazz and R&B musicians alike. In the 1960's he recorded with many of the avant garde greats. This fascinating tune, "Little Niles" from his 1956 Riverside LP "With These Hands," is extraordinary and seems to anticipate the more experimental sounds to follow in the 1960's.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jump Blues Kings



The rise in popularity of "Jump Blues" after World War II is related as much to societal changes as to those that took place in the music industry itself. The role that record companies, radio stations and the proliferation of smaller clubs all favored the splintering of the traditional instrumental big bands as musical tastes in African American urban communities began to favor urban blues delivered with electric instruments. Another offshoot of these trends was the Jump Blues, whose smaller combos combined elements of jazz instrumentation, ( and many fine jazz musicians) and boogie woogie based rhythms with fascinating lyrics to provide an upbeat style whose purpose was to promote club dancing. Almost all Jump Blues recordings are characterized by a wild saxophone solos after the second verse. Jump Blues lyrics, which exalt alcohol consumption, conviviality and erotic pleasure more explicitly than those of white musicians at the time, contribute to the festive, raucous atmosphere the music creates.

Another important fact about Jump blues is that the style really is the crucial transition not only to rock n' roll but also to rockabilly. Both are greatly indebted to the new ground Jump Blues prepared, and draw from songs and stylistics of Jump Blues. And while most would not agree with hugely influential Jump Blues bandleader Louis Jordan's claim that rock n' roll was nothing more than white musicians playing rhythm and blues, it is really undeniable that both rockabilly and rock n' roll would not have developed in the same way without the groundwork established by Jump Blues in the 1940's. While the list of Jump Blues artists listed below is by no means exhaustive, it does provide a pretty representative sampling of most of the major artists. Thanks again to the generous collectors on youtube who have been gracious enough to share these treasures of American Roots Music with us.

Louis Jordan: Louis, from Brinkley, Arkansas, provides both the vocals and the sax solo on "Let the Good Times Roll," a song he performs live with his Tympany Five. This one is a prototype of jump blues from the mid to late 1940's that demonstrates the jazz influence on the genre.


Calvin Boze: Calvin's highly influential "Safronia B" is often cited as a bridge piece that anticipates the advent of rock n' roll. That said, it is classic jump blues with a nice sax and trumpet solo by Calvin himself. Great dance tune.


Wynonie Harris: Perhaps more than others here, the very talented and prolific Harris embodies the spirit of Jump Blues. Check out his fabulous vocals on "Loving Machine." Simply fantastic music with a great band behind him.


Lucky Millinder: Lucky had one of the best Jump Blues bands from the early 1940's on. Check out his wonderful "Chew Tobacco Rag." Great sax solo on this classic dance number.


Tiny Bradshaw: Hugely influential, Tiny also sported one of the finest bands on the Jump Blues touring circuit. Best known for penning the famous "The Train Kept a Rollin," check out the quality of Tiny's band on "The Bradsahw Boogie." Superb.


Jimmy Liggins
: Jimmy also had an outstanding smaller combo and an outstanding rhythm and blues voice. Check out his wonderful "I Ain't Drunk" from 1950.


Bull Moose Jackson: Jackson is best known for his frothy double entendre songs in a great Jump Blues format. Best known is the famous "Big Ten Inch" but his "Nosey Joe" from 1949 is also superb. Great band and vocals, and sax solo.


Floyd Dixon
: Texas born, Floyd is not as well known as some of the others on the list here, but he was a superb pianist and had a very tight west coast band that could really lay it down. Check out his "Roll Baby Roll."


Roy Brown: One of the most prolific and intriguing musicians of the 1950's, Brown worked in several genres and is known for his voice and versatility. His "Good Rockin Tonight" which so many have covered is performed with a band in a jump blues format. Wonderful sax break.


Jackie Brenston: It would be difficult to leave out Jackie's classic 1951 recording "Rocket 88" which Sam Phillips claimed to be the first rock n' roll song ever recorded. In any event it's a true jump blues classic, recorded with Ike Turner's band. Vocals and sax by Jackie.


Big Joe Turner
: This classic blues shouter recorded some wonderful jump blues material in the forties and fifties. Check out this this live performance of "If You Remember" at the Apollo Theater in New York from 1955. Outstanding.


Rudy Green: Rudy is not well known and there is scarce bio information available, but his "It's You I Love" is a fantastic jump blues number with excellent guitar and sax solos.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rest in Peace Mike Seeger



I realize that this comes about a week late, yet I firmly believe Mike's contributions to American roots music are more than worthy of mention here. Mike Seeger was the half brother of the legendary Pete Seeger and emerged as a player in the folk music revival scene that developed in the late 1950's. Instead of following a "Bluegrass" path, Mike became devoted to "old time" southern music, whose traditions stretch back to the early nineteenth century. In 1958 he formed The New Lost City Ramblers, a string group which not only explored traditional southern music as they heard it played on recordings from the 1920's and 30's but also the origins and development of banjo and guitar picking techniques in the "old timey" style. Mike's legacy is far reaching, in many ways the explosion of interest in Bluegrass and old-timey music which accelerated in the 1960's and 70's can be related to Mike work with The New Lost City Ramblers, heard here. Rest in peace Mike Seeger, and thanks for all the great music you left us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Latin Rhythms in American Rockabilly?



While reading an essay by Paul Clifford recently on the birth of rockabilly, I was struck by an assertion I had never considered. Rockabilly musicians of the 1950's, while searching for "exotic beats and rhythms" to integrate into the fresh style, willingly infused some of their material with Latin based rhythms without realizing their origins. Since syncopated percussion in rockabilly constitutes a major shift from the "drumless" country music groups of the 1940's and 50's, these rhythms are often heard in drum acompaniments. Also, Clifford notes that rockabilly musicians used "hybrid guitar lines" that accentuated certain notes of a boogie- woogie line, creating the unique feature of rockabilly rhythms. Clifford also offers interesting examples of this same phenomenon in the left hand piano work on Fat's Domino's "Blue Monday" and the saxophone sections of Little Richard's 1956 recording "Slippin and a Slidin."

Musicologist Roy Brewer's concise definition of American rockabilly; "the hybrid of blues and country that became rock& roll," does seem to capture the essence of this unique 1950's music style. Interestingly, Brewer goes a step further to assert that rockabilly musicians, much like most all African American music forms, incorporate the "habanera rhythm" into their music while remaining unaware that it is of Afro Cuban origin and comes into American rhythm and blues through jump blues and New Orleans style dance bands. Brewer goes on to offer fascinating examples of the "habanera rhythm" in American rockabilly such as the famous and very controversial Elvis performance of "Hound Dog" on the Milton Berle show from June of 1956. The famous Elvis gyrations scandalized many, and Scotty Moore and D.J Fontana do actually slow the cadence of the song to allow Elvis more wiggle room. Due to the controversial nature of this television performance, Brewer also notes that "Presley's producers did not exploit the habanera pattern with his subsequent releases regardless of the overwhelming success of "Houndog." According to Brewer another good example of the habanera rhythm can be heard on Scotty Moore's guitar introduction to "Don't be Cruel, " and on "I'm Left, Your Right, She's Gone." A close examination of the many lesser known rockabilly recordings from the period would undoubtedly reveal that this is not an isolated tendency. With the demise of rockabilly by around 1961, habanera rhythms disappear from the scene.

Clifford cites a few other interesting examples of the obvious use of the habanera rhythm technique in music of the period. Some of the most interesting are Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock," and "Teenage Partner" by Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, which demonstrate hybrid guitar lines with unique accentuation of notes. On the Cochran classic the "habanera rhythm" is used on by the guitar and bass during the verses, imbuing the song with it's unique feeling, a feeling that is one of the central differentiating features between rockabilly and country music. Unfortunately, as Brewer points out, this original and distinguishing trait of 1950's rockabilly was lost to the revivalists who helped resurrect the music in the 1980's.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One of the Kings is Gone: Rest in Peace Les Paul


In spite of the fact that his enthronement in the pantheon of great American musicians was secured decades ago, he continued to play, to do that which he loved most of all. Monday nights at the at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York belonged to Les and he continued to play all the way up to late this spring, astonishing those who came to see the legend and his assortment of jazz, pop and guitar wizardry that he pioneered himself back in the 1930's, listening to Eddie Lang and Django Reinehardt. Les Paul was the indisputable patriarch not only of jazz guitar, but also of the electric guitar in general, and Les and George Barnes are generally credited as being the pioneers of electric jazz guitar. His influence is recognized by all electric guitar players. Although more press and attention has been given to the rock musicians like Jeff Beck, Steve Miller and Jimmy Page who cite his imprint and signature guitar, I believe there were other guitarists who absorbed some of his vaunted techniques and built them into their own style. Among these I would mention Phil Baugh, Jimmy Bryant, Danny Gatton, Tommy Emanuel, Bucky Barret and John Jorgenson. Give a listen to one of Paul's early recordings, "Lover," featuring multi-tracking, one of his technical innovations. Also, "How High the Moon" with Mary Ford is a must. Rest in peace Les, you will be sorely missed but your legacy will continue to grow with time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Few More Roots Favorites





As a monthly interlude between more focused posts I have been including "Roots Favorites" as a way to post and briefly discuss a few great roots tunes that to date have not fallen neatly into other posts. I generally choose two or three representative songs from the different genres and briefly comment on them. I spent a good deal of time pouring over youtube looking for cuts I consider to be of high quality and believe me, I listen to a whole lot of material that is quite good but the ones I include here are some of the finest I have heard. It's remarkable how much new material is being put up on a daily basis on youtube, but there continue to be gaps. While there is a noticeable scarcity of urban blues records (78's and 45's) from the fifties, rockabilly, early rock n' roll and country swing material seems to grow daily. There probably is a good reason for this. Quite a few of the selctions here are from artists I have yet to mention on this blog, others are more familiar names.


Country Blues: I have been a fan of Piedmont Blues guitarist Blind Boy Fuller for years, and his classic "Step it up and Go" from 1940 is a tune often covered by country musicians such as Big Jeff, here. Also, Elizabeth Cotton and her unique left-handed approach are a genuine national treasure. Her "Wilson Rag" is preceded by an interview with Pete Seeger.

Urban Blues: Magic Sam's well known "21 Days in Jail" on the Cobra label from 1958 is indicative of the new trends in Chicago blues during the late 1950's. Outstanding vocals and guitar. Texas born, Pee Wee Crayton makes a name for himself in California in the 1940's and 50's, following the lead of T- Bone Walker. This recording "Do Unto Others" from 1954 on Imperial is outstanding and showcases his talent as a guitarist and vocalist. Great backup band.

Rhythm And Blues: Junior Parker's recording with Sun date to the earliest years of Sam's empire. This 1957 Sun recording, "Next Time You See Me" is a fantastically conceived R&B tune with an outstanding supporting cast. Memphis Slim's "Got To Find My Baby " is a blues number with an R&B feel, outstanding vocals and sax solo. Finally, a jump blues classic by Jimmy Liggins and his band from 1954: "Boogie Woogie King." Superb.

Rockabilly: After listening to many hundreds of rockabilly recordings over the years this one just sticks in my mind as one of the very, very finest. Sid King's 1956 recording "Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight" is early rockabilly before the echo craze but man this one has a natural backbeat that won't quit and Sid's voice is unmatched. Another favorite is Bill Mack's 1956 "Cat Just Got in Town," which is full of the attitude, symbols and language so representative of a rockabilly musician in 1956. Finally this incredible cut by Louisiana cat Tommy Blake: "All Night Long" from 1958. This one has a distinctly Louisiana feel and some wonderful guitar work.

Western Swing: Some would classify these cuts as rockabilly but for me they are really more akin to Country Swing. "Whoa Boy" was recorded by Luke McDaniel before he signed on with Sun to record some great rockabilly. Red Smith does a very nice cover of the same song here. Also check out the incredible "Country Cattin" by Jimmy Swan. Finally, in a bit more of a boogie vein is Tommy Sosebee's "All Nite Boogie." Very nice guitar and pedal steel work here.

Jazz: Tenor sax ace Don Byas is one of those players who lived through the transition from swing to Bebop and on into modern jazz. It's often forgotten just how many great jazz musicians came out of Oklahoma. Don's "One O'clock Jump" from the late 1940's is classic bop and Erroll Garner's piano work is sublime, as is Byas. Superb. Also very impressive is Ahmad Jamal's ethereal rendition of "Darn Tha Dream" from 1959. Extra cool and smooth.