Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958), American blues legend.

Born in Mississippi, he played guitar, piano and bass, and went on to pen many blues standards, and copyrighted over 300 of them. Also, he was one of the founding faculty of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music , in 1953.

His sides on Paramount and Vocalion (where he is sometimes called “Willie Broomzy”) are typically hard to find, they’re expensive, and are almost always pretty beat up from the jukebox joints etc. “I’ll Start Cutting On You”, a 1938 country blues on Vocalion #04095 is no exception – it is roughed-up and scratchy; but I love this tune and it still comes up wonderfully from under the hiss, promise (you could also very easily adjust the treble settings on your EQ for a less lived-in sound, and you would still enjoy the bouncy beauty of this rare pre-war gem)! Happiness.

 

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This gospel quartet caught-on in the U.S. national scene in the 1940s and kept up their popularity & musical quality into the 50s. The great Ray Charles has said that the Pilgrim Travelers, and particularly their baritone Jesse Whitaker, influenced him and his then developing musical style: a brew of blues, gospel and jazz which would eventually come to be known as “soul” music.

This acapella take of “I Was There When the Spirit Came” is vocally tight, light and snappy, especially much of the accompaniment behind the lead. ¬†On the Specialty label out of L.A., which was known for its many excellent black rock & roll and gospel sides, this is a pretty clean copy with plenty of lustre on the shellac, and the voices are clear and really ring out so beautifully.

 

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Mr. Olvera was born three days before Christmas 1936, in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He was blinded by lightning at the age of seven months, became a piano prodigy later on, and around 13yo began to play the Hammond organ in the Guadalajara restaurant where he worked. He eventually developed an original technique of gradually opening the organ bars in ways which created vocal inflections, to make the organ sound as if it was singing words! The first big success with his new style was this 1956 78, “Pancho Lopez”, a take on the popular “Ballad of Davy Crockett.” On the RCA label, recorded in Mexico, and such a very creative, colorful cover of this timeless frontier classic.

 

Ernesto Hill Olvera - Pancho Lopez

Willie “Billy” Gales was Ike Turner’s drummer during the 1940s and 50s, but he did cut a few sides as a singer in his lifetime. This tune, “If I Never Had Known You” is a Turner original; is a lyric about feeling low and ashamed (and grateful); is sung so tenderly, but in the way of a powerful gospel singer confessing himself to his congregation.

This is on Federal Records out of Cincinnati, which was actually Mr. James Brown’s first label. Released in 1956, it has that warm, hi-fi fidelity which is a feature of many great 1950s-era 78 rpm recordings.

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