Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

UPDATES

• Additions to Eddie Bond discography.
• Massive update on Blake Records. Thanks to Eric from Goner Records (Memphis, TN)!
• Discography updates on Willie Gregg.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Sophisticated Black Women and/or Tough Cookies, Part II

Another bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin!

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday (Eleanora Fagan) born in Baltimore Maryland in 1915 was a jazz and pop singer with a very thin, almost waifish voice who, after a troubled childhood and playing Harlem clubs was discovered in 1935 and signed to Brunswick Records and then had major success on Columbia and Decca Records well into the 1940's, including "Solitude" featured here. "Lady Day" as she was known had a successful career, including three sold out concerts at Carnegie Hall during her lifetime and other venues including Europe and a cornacopia of solid jazz recordings right up to her death in 1959 despite the fact that her life was filled with professional and personal problems and financial problems intensified by her blatant use of alcohol and heroin, which killed her in 1959, essentially hospitalized in police custody and near penniless in a New York City hospital at age 44.Her life was a long and at times sordid story packed into those few short years which can be found elsewhere. Her music and her voice lives on, thanks be to God.


Billie Holiday - Solitude

Helen Humes born in 1913 in Louisville Kentucky, the only child of a well-to-do Black couple and was raised with a solid background in church singing and piano and organ lessons. By age 14, she had the good luck to be recorded by Okeh Records and again in in 1929. at age 16. Music did not appear to be in the cards for her professionally, but a trip to Buffalo New York turned into a $35.00 a week job singing with a small group for a long while. 1936 saw Helen at the Cincinnati Cotton Club still making that $35.00 a week. Count Basie came through Cincinnati about that time and offered Helen $35.00 a week to replace the now gone Billie Holiday. She turned him down flat as she was already making an easy $35.00 a week with Al Sears and his small group whom she originally played with in Buffalo N.Y. During a gig in New York City, producer John Hammond convinced her to record 4 sides with the Harry James Orchestra and that led to four years with the aforementioned Count Basie and his band. The nearly constant touring after four years took a toll on her health and, stressed out, she quit the band in 1942. After recovering at home in Louisville, John Hammond came calling again and insisted that she return to several dates in New York City. In 1944, Helen moved to L.A. and did work at film studios and limited tours with Jazz At The Philharmonic and started to record again in an early R&B style and had a couple of hits from 1945 into 1950, but otherwise her career stagnated and after some touring in Europe and a few American Jazz Festivals, Helen retired and stayed retired in Louisville until 1973 when she returned to the Newport Jazz Festival which was followed by very successful European tours and a series of LP's for the French label Black And Blue Records, also picking up the Music Industry Of France Award in 1973 and regular engagements in New York City. Outgoing and gracious to a fault to everyone, Helen was given the Key To The City Of Louisville Ky. in 1975 as well. Helen Humes died from Cancer in 1981 in Santa Monica CA. shortly after the release of her final LP "Helen", recorded live over three evenings June 17, June 18,and June 19 1980.

Helen Humes - Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness
 
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald born in Newport News Virginia in 1917, but grew up in Harlem, was to have one of the longest and successful careers in both Jazz and Popular music with 14 Grammy awards, A National Medal Of Arts, and a Presidential Medal Of Freedom at the top of her accolades. Her early years in the Depression 30's saw her in a girls reform school and street singing in Harlem for change. After winning an Amatuer Contest at the Apollo and a week with the Tiny Bradshaw & His Band at the Harlem Opera House. Ella was brought to the attention of Chick Webb, a noted bandleader who was in need of a female band singer. Reluctant to hire her right away, Ella got a try out at Yale University, and from that success came a job with Chick Webb with a lot of touring nationwide and stays at Webb's home base The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem until Webb's untimely death in 1939. At which time, Ella took over the band and kept it going through 1942 when she disbanded it for a variety of reasons not the least of which was a solo career and a movie offer. Universal Pictures put her in the Abbott & Costello film "Ride 'Em Cowboy" which also starred movie cowboys Dick Foran and Johnny Mack Brown. Ella's two songs "Rockin' And A Reelin' " and "A Tiskit A Tasket", were shot in such a way they easily be cut from copies of the film from wherever theatres in the South and elsewhere didn't want to show them. The songs were left in at various theatres around the country and in the re-releases as well. The film, being an Abbott & Costello film raked in a ton of money.

After World War 2, Ella's career hit the heights and stayed there until she was forced to retire due to ill health and diabetes in 1993. Her most notable albums were devoted to famous pop and jazz music composers and a lot of touring in America and Europe and elsewhere. She shared the stage with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and many, many more in many venues world wide and was truly a household world. Ella Fitzgerald passed away in 1996 from diabetes.

Ella Fitzgerald - Putting on the Ritz

Friday, December 2, 2016

Howard Chandler on Marble Hill

Howard Chandler - The Poverty Rag (Marble Hill 300), 1968

Only snippets of info have survived on Howard Chandler, a local Memphis country singer who recorded demo tapes for Sun at some point in 1957. He also released a couple of records on his own labels but otherwise has fallen through the cracks.

Although it is stated James Howard Chandler hailed from Mississippi on the back of the Redita LP "Rock from Memphis" (Redita LP #102), Chandler spent most of his live in Memphis, on 1171 Central Avenue to be precise. It can be assumed he did occasional gigs around Memphis from the 1950s onwards and sent a tape of his "Wampus Cat" to Sam Phillips at Sun Records. A countryfied and primitive rockabilly piece with steel guitar backing, Chandler nevertheless got the chance to record another song for Sun, "Golden Band." Nothing else came of this session and both tapes vanished into the Sun vaults.

Chandler then simply set up his own record label, Wampus Records, which he operated out of his home on Central Avenue. He re-recorded "Wampus Cat" and released it with "Island of Love" on the flip early in 1958. Two more records on Wampus followed. In 1968, Chandler went into partnership with John Cook, a local label owner and gospel singer, to form Marble Hill Records. Cook also ran the country/bluegrass/gospel label Blake Records and performed country gospel music with his wife Margie. Chandler had the debut release on Marble Hill, "The Poverty Rag" / "No One Will See the Teardrops," on Marble Hill #300. By then, Chandler had switched to strictly country music and at least one more disc on Marble Hill followed.

Little else is own about Howard Chandler. He spent the rest of his live in Memphis, where he died in 1989.

Discography

Wampus W-100: Island of Love / Wampus Cat (1958)
Wampus 104:  Black Gumbo Land / A Million Friends
Marble Hill 300: The Poverty Rag / No One Will See the Tears (1968)
Marble Hill 307: There's a Wolf Around / My Bluebird Has Flown (ca. 1970)
Wampus 105: Mean Ole Tomcat / Before You Wanted to Be Free (1972)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Muleskinners on Twin Town

The Muleskinners - Muleskinner Blues '65 (Twin Town TT 708), 1965

Here's a nice version of the old Jimmie Rodgers classic, "Mule Skinner Blues," by a band called the Muleskinners. Released on the Minneapolis based Twin Town label, it was a rip-off of the Fendermen's hit version. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Herbert C. Woolfolk on Camaro

 
Herbert C. Woolfolk and the Stargazers - I Wonder Why You Said Goodbye (Camaro 45-3431), 1971
 
Born on October 25, 1932, Herbert C. Woolfolk hailed from Nesbit, Mississippi, which is located just a few miles south of Memphis and the Tennessee-Mississippi state border. Woolfolk made a couple of unreleased rock'n'roll recordings, which were cut "in Herbert's garage in his lovely home just outside Memphis in the late 50's" according to Cees Klop on his 1986 "Memphis - Rock'n'Roll Capital of the World, Volume 3" White Label compilation. Klop also further explained that Woolfolk backed up Stax and Fernwood recording artists during this period.

In 1964, Woolfolk released "Strenght of Love" / "Diamond of My Hear" on Tateco Records (Tateco #45-446) out of Senatoba, Mississippi (south of Nesbit). He was accompanied by the Rocketts on this disc, which included Billy Yount, Billy Hardison, Herbert J.C. Hicks, Rufus Waldron and Willard Speers. Band member Billy Yount also had a brother Harold, with whom Woolfolk would perform occasionally.

It seems Woolfolk stayed true to his rock'n'roll sound, as he released another marvelous disc in 1971 on Style Wooten's Camaro label. These were recorded with the Stargazers, the band of Woolfolk's friend Ken Lynes. Woolfolk gave the old Ernest Tubb song "I Wonder Why You Said Goodbye" an overall new sound and rocked his way through it with nice guitar work, a billowing organ and a dynamic background chorus.

Woolfolk died on October 11, 2013. A great portion of his recordings were issued by Cees Klop in 1986 on the "Memphis - Rock'n'Roll Capital of the World, Volume 3" White Label compilation. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

R.I.P. Scotty Moore

In honor of legendary guitarist and main rock'n'roll influence Scotty Moore, who passed away today at age 84.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sophisticated Black Women I

Sophisticated Black Women and/or Tough Cookies

Another Bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin!

This blog post is featuring 25 recordings and 25 small sketches of Sophisticated Black Ladies and/or Tough Cookies which will be fleshed out in a series of articles sans recordings in the Swedish music magazine "American Music" at a later date. "Separate But Equal" was the law of the land in the USA from civil war days until 1954 when it was struck down. Segregation however hasn't gone away, toned down maybe, but still here in various forms. Things have always been separate but never equal in the USA and in the music business in particular. These profiles are of recording artists who in ways both large and small broke through to wider audiences in America and world-wide as well. Some of these songs are quite well know and others rather obscure, but all were picked to show-case the recording artists and sometimes the menutia of the recordings selected. All were recorded between 1947 and 1980 or so for maximum sound quality. Enjoy these for the gems they are. Bobsluckycat


Jackie "Moms" Mabley born Loretta Mary Aiken in 1894 started out with a tragic childhood that included the deaths of both parents in horrific accidents and the birth of two children from rapes at a very young age and the loss of those children to the state. At 14, "Moms" ran away from home and joined a minstrel show as a comic. She traveled far and wide on the Black circuit playing clubs, theatres, and every other wide spot in the road that catered to Black folk, honing her persona of "Moms" Mabley over a 40 odd year period. She never had made a recording until November of 1949 with Pearl Bailey, when she made the attached. She was not known to white America. She had made a couple of film appearances through the years aimed at Black audiences. She, at some point, made the Apollo Theatre in New York City her "unoffical" home base and at times commanded a salary of $10,000.00 per week. She holds the record for most appearances there to this date. In 1960, a record producer took some of her tapes to Chess Records in Chicago, who sprung them on a wide white audience to great success and fame not known to her before. Mercury Records continued the series of comedy LPs into 1971. Nearly dying in 1973 from a heart attack while filming and starring in "Amazing Grace", "Moms" finished the film and saw it's release before she passed away in 1974, going out on top.

Alberta Hunter born in 1895, ran away from home at age 11 to Chicago, hoping to be a singer but took work for a dollar day in a rooming house in Chicago. Soon joined by her mother who became her manager, she was making $35.00 dollars a week singing with King Oliver's Band and touring to points in England and Europe in 1917 during World War I. Starting in 1920 and into the 1930's, Alberta recorded extensively for various recording companies in the USA and England. By 1928, Alberta was famous and appeared opposite Paul Robeson in the stage production of "Show Boat" in London. Moving her home base to London then, she played various venues in England and Europe as well as America until the outbreak of World War 2, when she again returned to a new base in New York City. She continued to be busy in the states and on Black USO tours throughout WW2 and Korea until the 1957 death of her mother. Taking 20 years out then to work as a nurse, retiring from that at 82, and took up a renewed singing career based in New York City at "The Cookery", recorded some albums for Columbia Records, toured far and wide including Europe and South America and played by invitation of the President at the White House, dying in 1984, never having ever retired.


Memphis Minnie was one tough cookie to be sure, born Lizzie "Kid" Douglas in Louisiana in 1897, raised mostly in Mississippi and ran away to Memphis at age 13 to sing on street corners off and on until the money ran out at times and then she returned home until the urge to entertain put her back on the streets of Memphis. Minnie was part of the Ringling Brothers Circus in the years from 1916 through the 1920 season and then back to Memphis' musical scene. From 1929 on for several mostly related recording companies until 1950, Minnie recorded extensively in the country blues vein and some of her recordings were just plain "white folks" country and had she not been Black, could have appeared on WSM's "Grand Ole Opry" and other such programs but didn't, couldn't or wouldn't. Take your pick. The 1952 recording, selected from the original master tape, is a cross between the old and new Blues styles being born of high fidelity and tape. Minnie could have mastered that but didn't. After a long stay in Chicago and points east and north, Minnie suffered some extensive strokes and finally passed away in 1973 in Memphis. Truly one of a kind.

Julia Lee born 1902 was a piano playing singer who joined her brother George Lee's band in and around Kansas City Missouri at the start of prohibition in 1920 and stayed with him into 1935. Female singers were relegated to doing risque and double-entendre songs and comical "coon" songs in those years. Julia Lee made them her stock in trade. She recorded for Capitol Records from 1944 into 1952 and had several which did not get airplay on white radio and not too much on Black radio, but several of her records jammed jukeboxes and sold a lot of records besides. The one selected was her last recording from 1952. Julia Lee was a local favorite in Kansas City until her untimely death from a heart attack in 1958 at age 56 just following a brief film appearance in an early Robert Altman film.

Nellie Lutcher born in 1912 in Lake Charles Louisiana to a musical family. Daddy played bass, Mama played organ in church and gave Nellie piano lessons, and brother was Joe Lutcher a noted saxophonist and big band and jazz band leader. In 1924, Nellie filled in for Ma Rainey's regular pianist, who was ill and couldn't make the date. She was 12. At 14, she joined her father in a travelling jazz band. By the mid 30's, Nellie had re-located to Los Angeles and giged around the area through World War 2. In 1947, she was signed to Capitol Records and recorded several hits through 1950 for that label. (editorial comment; I always thought that was strange. Capitol had Julia Lee already signed to the label as well as Nat "King" Cole's Trio and white artists working in the same type of music pretty much, Freddie Slack, Ella Mae Morse, and Merrill Moore . Separate but equal, again, I guess?) I would never have known of Ms. Lutcher but a local D.J. had known her from his WW2 days on the West Coast and he raved about her new recording which came out on Decca Records in 1955 and which he proceeded to played to death on the air locally to no avail. Nellie Lutcher continued to gig in the L.A. area for many years. Rich from property ownership, song copyrights and other income, she slowed things down by the becoming an officer with the local L.A. Musicians Union for several years as well. Retiring in the 1990's completely from performing, Nellie Lutcher died in 2007 of pneumonia at age 94.


Mabel Scott born in 1915 in Richmond Virginia and grew up in New York City singing Gospel music in church and by 1932 was a featured singer with Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club in Harlem. 1936 saw her playing in Cleveland and the surrounding area. Following that, Ms. Scott toured England and Europe until WW2 came along and forced her back to the USA. While in England she recorded some sides for Parlophone Records in England. Ending up on the west coast as a vocalist for The Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra for a while and then became a mainstay with Wynonie Harris at the Club Alabam in L.A. until the war ended. Post war Mabel Scott had early hits on Exclusive Records and then went with King Records, Coral and Brunswick subsidiaries of Decca Records and had no hits. The song I've selected is a R&B cover of Hank Penny's Country hit from 1951. Not happy with her career and personal life as well, Mabel Scott quit the business and returned to singing gospel music, passing away in 2000 in L.A. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

John Avery Mote

John Avery Mote - How Can She Lie Beside Me (JAM 45 102), 1977

Here we have a sweet country ballad by John Avery Mote from the 1970s. 

Mote is better known for his "Grandpa's Twist," which he released on JAM #903 under the name of "Avery & the Country Boys." It was featured in 1998 on Buffalo Bop's "Rockabilly Shakedown" compilation as well as on Cees Klop's anniversary CD "41 Years Collector Records (40 Was Not Enough)" from 2008. Wayne Russel, who authored the liner notes for the latter, suggested JAM was based in Georgia and "Grandpa's Twist" was from the early 1960s. Apart from the fact that Klop's White Label/Collector LPs and CDs usually contain wrong information and edited tracks, which are presented as "alternate" or "unissued tracks," Terry Gordon gives November 1970 as the release date for "Grandpa's Twist," derived from the BMI database. 

JAM was likely owned by Mote and was a shortcut of his name (John Avery Mote = JAM). This disc was released in 1977 and by that point, the label had moved to Nashville, Tennessee, which puts the Georgia location into question. There was at least one more single by Mote on JAM.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Big Bee Bishop

Nuel "Big Bee" Bishop and the Oeb Mohawks - I Told a Lie (Big Bee BBS-501), 1967

The guitar and the overall sound of "I Told a Lie" always reminds a bit of Sleepy LaBeef's Wayside version of "Lonely." Compare it, I just want to know if anyone feels the same.

I have not much to say about this record. The flip side, "I Guess I'll Always Be a Fool for You," was written by "Mr. and Mrs. Nuel James Bishop" and copyrighted on June 20, 1967 (according to the "Catalog of Copryright Entries"). I guess the guy who choose a silver font on a light blue colored label didn't exactly know what he was doing. There was also a different pressing with a bright red yellow label and green print ot it, which made it much more readable.

I believe this disc to be one of Wayne Raney's Rimrock custom pressings, judging from the facts 1.) that it was an Arkansas based label and 2.) that the catalogue number is BBS-501. Rimrock custom pressings used to carry numbers created after the same pattern: Two or three letters (label name + S) and a two or three digit number. In addition, the dead wax bears the Nashville Matrix stamper and Rimrock's account number at Nashville Matrix, #88 (Rimrock used metal parts from them for the pressing plant). Oddly, also a Columbia custom code can be found in the dead wax. Conclusion: Raney sent the tapes to Columbia to master them but did press the record with his own plant? Comments on this?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ray Lunsford on Excellent



Ray Lunsford - Shelia (Excellent EX-400), 1958

Here we have a nice record by Ray Lunsford, "King of the Electric Mandolin." Lunsford (somtimes mis-spelled as "Lunceford") is mostly remembered as being Jimmie Skinner's mandolin player but otherwise largely forgotten today. Not more than a footnote in country music history, his impact on Skinner's distinct sound is nevertheless noteworthy. Also, he was one of the few musicians to play an electric mandolin as a lead instrument in a band during this era, being mentioned in the same breath as Tiny Moore of the Texas Playbos or Bob White of the Brazos Valley Boys.

Raymond "Curly" Lunsford hailed from Brodhead, Kentucky, and was born on November 8, 1908. Therefore, he was only a couple of months older than his later long-time companion Jimmie Skinner, who was born April 29, 1909, on a farm in Blue Lick, twenty miles away from Brodhead. Eventually, the Skinner family moved north to Hamilton, Ohio. Jimmie Skinner started out in the music business with his brother Elmer, auditioning unsuccessfully for Gennett Records in 1931 and for Bluebird ten years later in 1941. During the early 1940s, the Skinner brothers recorded a couple of demo sessions that included Skinner's later claim to fame "Doin' My Time." 

Reportedly, Skinner and Lunsford were neighbors for several years when Skinner invited Lunsford to a barbecue and discovered he was a musician. Skinner had worked as a deejay and also tried his hand at songwriting. In 1946, Ernest Tubb recorded his "Let's Say Hello (Like We Said Goodbye)" and in late 1947, Skinner held his first professional recording session at E.T. Herzog's studio in Cincinnati. The backing for this session consisted of Ray Lunsford and an unknown bass player, possibly Joe Depew. This sparse line-up was a bit reminiscent of later rockabilly bands, especially the slap bass technique. The results from this session were released on Red Barn Records (Red Barn #1101), a custom label.

In early 1948, Skinner and his band, consisting of Lunsford on electric mandolin, Esmer Skinner on fiddle, and Joe Depew on bass, returned to Herzog's studio in order to cut more sides, including the famous prison song "Doin' My Time," which became a classic in country but especially bluegrass music.

During the next years, Lunsford played on nearly all of Skinner's recording sessions. Approximately in 1948, Skinner moved to Cincinnati, where he met Lou Epstein, who signed him to a recording and managing contract. Epstein owned the Radio Artist label, which released several singles by Skinner and his band during the years 1949 and 1950. Afterwards, they recorded for Capitol (1950-1953), Decca (1953-1956), and Mercury (1957-1962). At some point in 1961, Lunsford dropped out of Skinner's recording band.


Already in 1952, Lunsford had backed up Estel Lee on some of her recordings for her own Excellent label (first based in Hoover, Ohio, then moved to Cincinnati). In 1955 and 1956, Lunsford also made some solo recordings for Excellent. He returned to Excellent in 1958 to record the instrumental "Shelia," written by him and Skinner. It was released in 1958 (Excellent #400) with the flip by Ralph Bowman "Tragedy of School Bus 27." Lunsford followed up with an EP on Hollywood's Sage label in 1959 featuring mandolin instrumentals.

In 1966, Lunsford appeared on a single on Style Wooten's Style label of Memphis. Credit was given to "Randell Barker, Ray Lunsford and the Melody Boys" and the disc featured "Down and Out Feelin' (Called the Blues" b/w "Mt. Vernon Rag" (Style #45-1928). In the late 1970s, Lunsford reunited one last time with Jimmie Skinner and recorded a session at Rusty York's Jewel recording studio in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. The results were released on a Rich-R-Tone LP. Jimmie Skinner died on October 27, 1981.

Ray Lunsford passed away nearly two years later on October 17, 1981. Please visit hillbilly-music.com, emando.com and The Ohio Valley Sound for pictures of Ray Lunsford.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tommy Mitchell

Tommy Mitchell - Juke Box, Help Me Find My Baby (Mercury 70930X45), 1956

I first heard Tommy Mitchell's version of Hardrock Gunter's "Juke Box, Help Me Find My Baby" on the Redita LP "I Want a Rock and Roll Guitar," even before the original version. Hardrock Gunter had recorded it around June 1956 at radio WWVA's studio in Wheeling, West Virginia, with Gunter on vocals and guitar, Buddy Durham on fiddle, and Bob Turston on bass. It was originally released on Cross Country #CX-524 but oddly, was picked up by Sun Records (Sun #248) soon after. With its back wood flavor, it was not really aimed at the rising rock'n'roll market that Sun tried to reach.

Tommy Mitchell was a Dallas based artist, I assume, and performed there as early as 1954, when he was a regular on WFAA's Saturday Night Shindig, a live stage show from the Dallas Fair Park Bandshell. Billboard also reported that he made a guest appearance on the Circle Theater Jamboree with Doc Williams that year. Williams performed regularly on the WWVA Jamboree like Hardrock Gunter - a connection? However, in the summer of 1956, we find Mitchell recording for Mercury "Little Mama" / "Juke Box, Help Me Find My Baby," which seems to have remained his sole release on the label that year. It was also released in New Zealand by Mercury. The same session yielded also another song, "If You Love Me," which remained unissued.


Billboard August 25, 1956, C&W review

In 1957, Mitchell joined the cast of the Big D Jamboree. From one of those shows, a live tape of Mitchell performing Elvis Presley's hit "Too Much" has survived. In 1960, Mitchell was back at Mercury recording "My One and Only Love" / "Completely" (Mercury #71638X45). There was also a Thomas Mitchell from Grenada, Mississippi, whose real name was possibly Thomas Mitchell May, according to Terry Gordon's RCS site. He owned (and recorded for) the Flash label - actually, his "I'm a Wise Old Cat" was recorded at Fernwood Studio in Memphis. Dave Travis states in his liner notes to the CD "Fernwood Rockabillies" that he is the same Tommy Mitchell on Mercury and hailed from Louisiana. Nevertheless, I doubt he is the same Tommy Mitchell.

Mercury one page ad in Billboard, August 11, 1956, advertising amongst others
Tommy Mitchell's disc. Note the wrong title of "Juke Box, Help Me Find My Baby."