WFMU Ichiban, Rock and Soul with Debbie D

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fare thee well, Jack Dupree!



Thanks for checking out CDJ month, everybody!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jack Dupree and King Curtis live on stage in Montreux

As CJD month winds down, here's a concert appearance from Montreux, Switzerland in 1971.  Check out Aretha in the audience in the red dress!

This was released on LP as well, but it's really the sort of thing YouTube was invented for.



Green Mosquito

Monday, February 25, 2013

Somewhere On Skid Row: Hobos, Bums & Other Urban Outdoorsmen


1 Felix Slatkin: Happy Hobo
2 Al Jolson with Guy Lombardo Orch.: Hallelujah I'm A Bum
3 The Coasters: D.W. Washburn
4 J.B. Lenoir: Slow Down Woman
5 Porter Wagoner: Sidewalks Of Chicago
6 The Cowsills: Newspaper Blanket
7 The Cowsills: The Candy Kid
8 Reparata & The Delrons: That's What Sends Men To The Bowery
9 Rags Rafferty: The Bowery
10 Gene Pitney: That's What Sends Men To The Bowery
11 Jerry Lee Lewis: Skid Row
12 Freddie Hart & The Heartbeats: Skid Row Street
13 Merle Haggard: Somewhere On Skid Row
14 Merle Haggard: Skid Row
15 Johnnie Allan: Somewhere On Skid Row
16 Pete Johnson Sextette: Skid Row Boogie
17 Bob Durham: Skid Row Boogie
18 Gene Marshall: Skid Row Bum
19 Frank Sinatra: Don't Sleep In The Subway
20 Nappy Brown: Skidy Woe
21 Earl Curry: Hobo
22 Link Wray: Hobo Man
23 Porter Wagoner: The Alley
24 Louis Armstrong & His Orch.: Hobo, You Can Ride Dis Train
25 The Four Seasons: Beggar's Parade
26 Rhubarb Red & His Rubes: The Dying Hobo
27 Art Hodes: A Selection From The Gutter
28 Danny Reeves: I'm A Hobo
29 Johnny Cash: The Hobo Song
30 The Fantastics: Millionaire Hobo
31 The Honeyman: Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt)
32 The Rockin' Berries: Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt)
33 Snakefinger: Here Comes The Bums
34 Leb Brinson: Hobo A-Go-Go
35 Porter Wagoner: Skid Row Joe
36 Lightnin' Jr. & The Empires: Raggedy And Hungry
37 Luke Gibbons: Queen Of Skid Row

Champion Jack Dupree and T.S. McPhee: Groundhog in the Cabbage Greens

One of the most unusual recordings of Champion Jack's career was made in 1967 with T.S. McPhee from the Groundhogs. The 'hogs had backed up Champion Jack on a 1964 tour, and McPhee played on Champion Jack's first Decca recordings, alongside Eric Clapton and John Mayall.  When CDJ was signed to Decca blues spinoff writeoff Blue Horizon in '67, somebody had the bright idea to pair Champion Jack's voice with solo guitar accompaniment.



Jack doesn't play piano on these recordings at all - it's just him and McPhee's acoustic guitar.  The result is unique in the British-Blues-Personality-Plays-With-Blues-Legend genre, and it's a very pleasant listen. The songs are all short, and while some of them are readymades, they sound different than CDJ's usual readymades. Dupree's sounds warm and engaged, and McPhee is neither to staid or showoffy.


The recordings basically stayed in the vault until Ace released them on CD in 1997. A 45 of "Get Your Head Happy" came out in the late 60s in a limited white label only run.


You can hear the whole thing on Spotify.

The Snow Is on the Ground

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree - with no pants on!


Lest I give you the impression that Jack Dupree's European music was all sad sack introspection, here's an unreleased-until-the-Complete-Blue-Horizon-Sessions CD version of Fats Waller's "Sheik of Araby" wherein Jack and his mother-in-law finally settle the tension that's been building between them for something like 20 years.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Champion Jack splits the states

Dupree with pianist Curtis Jones and some unknown guide
Champion Jack Dupree left America for Europe in 1959. According to possibly sketchy internet/liner note lore, he made the decision to move to Europe when he went to the UK for his first appearances there. Apparently a customs officer called him "sir" and that token of respect was what sealed his decision.  Whether that tale is apocryphal or not, it's pretty clear from his recordings that his decision was based on the superior treatment and lack of racial segregation that he faced in the states.

His famous quote about racism, repeated many times in many variations in concert, goes like this:  "When you open up a piano, you see freedom.  Nobody can play the white keys and don't play the black keys.  You got to mix all these keys together to make harmony."

The first two albums Jack recorded in Europe were his 2nd and 3rd Atlantic LPs, Champion of the Blues & The Natural and Soulful Blues.  Champion, which is a solo LP and a fascinating record, contains a number of songs expressing his sorrow over the treatment of blacks in the US.  They were recorded in Denmark, and Jack was delighted to be there.  He even says, in "Daybreak Stomp" (which bears very little relation to the Mr. Bear song of the same title from his King era) that if he could live his life over, he'd stay in Copenhagen. In the liner notes to Champion of the Blues he describes his sense of what the blues meant to the people of the South.  


"You can go in them little country towns and hear the juke box playin' all night, nothin' but the blues. That satisfies their mind. That's the only thing that'll ease their minds, 'cause they're not happy people. Nobody in the South, in the line of colored people, is happy."

Jack eventually moved to Switzerland, then Denmark, the UK (where he got married for the third time),   then Sweden, and finally Germany. He'd record dozens of records while in Europe, and many of them would have songs expressing how happy he was to be out of the states.

There are numerous examples of Jack's sorrow over the condition of race relations in the states, including his eulogy to Martin Luther King and a sorrowful live cut called "Black and White Blues" (where he actually tells his European audience that they should be psyched to be white, making him one of the ballsiest of the blues revivalists of the late 60s playing to white college kids with romantic ideas of southern poverty).


Two non-youtoobabble examples I'll leave you with are the terribly sad "Poor Poor Me" and "I'm Happy to Be Free".  "Poor Poor Me" was cut in the Mid-60s for the first of his "jam with the popular British guitarists album", From New Orleans to Chicago, which featured John Mayall, Eric Clapton, and T.S. McPhee.  "I'm Happy to Be Free" was cut for a relaxed Mickey Baker session in the late 60s and appeared on the GNP LP of the same name.

Jack would not return to the states until the late 80s, when he recorded a couple of albums for Rounder in New Orleans.  He died in Germany in 1992.

"Poor Poor Me"
"I'm Happy to Be Free"
More thoughts on Copenhagen on "Roll Me Over Roll Me Slow"

A' Peelin' Music! (mp3 mix)

The Peel - Jim Pierce & the Pistols
Curb-Service - Billy Dee & the Super-Chargers
Bulldozer - Les De Merle & his Band
Goofin' - Robbie Robinson Orch.
Gibraltar Rock - The Rockets
Rat Trap - Ralph Grasso

Take it off!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree: Babs Gonzales and the Mother in Law Blues

Before we move to Europe with Champion Jack Dupree, I want to do a quick clean-up on a few stray tracks lying around that I haven't had a chance to note yet.  Specifically I want to talk about Babs Gonzales.


Babs Gonzales was a jazz and jive singer who lived in New York City and did the bulk of his recordings in the 40s and 50s.  His style of jive was less knocked out and random than, say, Slim Gaillard (he even wrote his own dictionary of jive much like Gaillard's published-on-Ichiban-somewhere Dictionary of Vout), and he eventually ended up in the weird world of vocalese, managing James Moody and no doubt sharing ideas with Eddie Jefferson and King Pleasure, occasionally subbing for Mel Torm√© at gigs. Champion Jack seemed impressed enough with his rap to incoprorate some of his nonsensery into his own introductions.


The two collaborated on the first side of the only Gonzales KING 45, "House Rent Party". Apparently Babs crashed a Dupree session to lay down this tale of crashing/mooching his way through a house party. Which, believe it or not, gets busted. Dupree lays down the piano on this cut.


In an interesting bit of expoobident coincident, the flip of this 45, "She's Just Right for Me", was apparently cut at a session led by last February's Ichiban front-figure, Joe Tex!

Since it's not on youtube, here's "She's Just Right for Me".

Back in Dupree land, here's him laying down his own rap, on one of his favorite topics.  From the Atlantic 45 and/or the "Natural and Soulful Blues" LP, here's "Mother-In-Law Blues".  She calls him son.  Too bad he can't say the rest of it on the record.




Monday, February 18, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree: Blues from the Gutter


In 1958 CJD went into the studio with producer Jerry Wexler, three musicians from his Vik tenure -Larry Dale (now playing under his real name, Ennis Lowery), drummer Willie Jones and sax player Pete Brown, and bassist Wendell Marshall, to record Blues from the Gutter, an album so filled with weed, smack, goofer dust, sex, booze, violence, disease, betrayal and evil that it makes Sticky Fingers seem sweet and innocent.

In internetese:
makes
sound like
This is not merely blogger hyperbole - it is also a ham-handed segue to the fact that Blues from the Gutter was one of the recordings that inspired Brian Jones to move from his home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire to London to learn how to play the blues.

That Blues from the Gutter was one of the first blues LPs Jones heard and was a huge influence on his playing is documented in several sources. But a description of his first time hearing the record is documented in the book Foundation Stone, by Graham Ride, a friend of Jones' in Cheltenham, and apparently the guy who introduced him to the record.

A description of that event, along with a good breakdown of Blues from the Gutter track-for-track, can be found in an excerpt from the book from the author's website.  The upshot of Ride's thesis is that before Ride played Jones BFTG* he was something of a trad/jazz snob, but after hearing the record he is a blues convert, saying more than once, "I just have to play this stuff . . . what a sound."

He got the habit
So whether or not the detailed description of Brian's first encounter with the blues in Foundation Stone is 100% accurate, the record certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Rockin at the Hops and The Best of Muddy Waters as one of them LPs what helped create the Rolling Stones.

Not only that, but it's great from beginning to end, and while a lot of the material is recylcled from earlier Dupree recordings, the decision to gather together all of his material with grittier subject matter in once place was brilliant - I don't know that there was a blues LP before this one that had any kind of thematic unity.

 In fact, I don't know of any better "after hours" styled blues record than this one.  The recording is excellent, Dupree is in top-notch vocal form (I particularly love his Big Joe Turneresque turn on "Evil Woman") and the band is not only killer, they are extremely sympathetic and supportive of one another - the shouts of encouragement and pleasure that accompany the music are infectious. 


The album starts with "Strollin'", and once again, Dupree starts a record by saying "I want all you teenagers and bobbysoxers to gather around this jukebox", although the notion that any bobbysoxer in the late 50s would be attracted to this steaming pile of skid-row squalor (or that their parents would allow such a thing in their home) is pretty hilarious.  The CD reissue blew it initially and used the wrong take, and the 45 is edited, so the LP is the way to go.  Here's the whole track.

But the 45 sure is purty
I'm not going to go through every track, because you probably either already have this record, or you should just go find a copy to have for your own three in the morning nasty boogie woogies.  But here's a couple more - the excellent version of "Bad Blood", for me a distillation of what this whole record is about, and the version of "Stack-O-Lee" that closes the record with a classic album ending verse if there ever was one:  "Said I want Louis Armstrong and his band to play the blues as they lay my body down/I want 10,000 women to be at my burying ground."


*No, not Back from the Grave, but, hey - anagramology certainly rears its head on that coincidence. Blues from the Gutter begats the Rolling Stones who beget Back from the Grave which means somehow in the twisted world of Dr. Filth rock and roll logic (for this month anyway) Jack Dupree is the father of the Keggs.  Or at least "Orphan Boy".

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The House Where Jerry Byrd Lived

On a recent trip to Nashville, I headed for the library to dig around some old city directories in an effort to find out if the houses where Homer & Jethro used to live might still be around, but I came up empty. I couldn't find a listing for either of those guys for some reason.  I did, however, discover that Jerry Byrd lived here, at 4849 Aster Drive, in 1962.

Byrd (1920 - 2005) made a name for himself as one of the nation's top (non-pedal) steel guitar talents in the 1940s and '50s.  He spent time playing in Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours before departing to join up with Red Foley and play steel in his band for several years.  In the early '60s, he began exploring Hawaiian music and recorded several LPs in that vein.  Byrd eventually relocated to  Hawaii in the late '60s and remained there until his death.

Here's a track from his 1964 Monument LP, Admirable Byrd.

Jerry Byrd  -  Theme For A DJ   (2:06)


Friday, February 15, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree: I want all you folks to gather around this jukebox . . .

In 1956 Jack packed up his piano and moved over to RCA subsidiary Groove/Vik, where he continued to rack up the classic 7" platters.  His only 45 on Groove was a sequel to "Walkin' the Blues".  This time Jack is joined on his walk - and his retreat from mother-in-laws* - with Teddy "Mr. Bear" McRae, I guess figuring with Mr. Bear's radar they'll remain undetected as they clip and clop.


Dupree's guitarists for his Groove/Vik recordings are Mickey Baker and Larry Dale (who, under his real name, Ennis Lowrey, would play a key role in Dupree's next LP (post coming Monday!)).  Only the recordings with Dale got issued on 45, although there is very strong material from some sessions with Baker as well.  Dupree and Baker also backed Dale up on some great Groove records - that label kept it in the family.

Everything that CJD cut for Vik and Groove is available, for those of us who like it flat and round, on the excellent Charly LP Shake Baby Shake, which has a whopping 16 previously unreleased tunes from various Dupree sessions and is a solid winner of a purchase even if you don't normally sweat such stuff as (shudder) LPs or (shriek) reissues.

Lotsa killer, some filler
The Vik/Groove recordings basically build on the King formula, with slightly better production values (they were now working for a major label that cared about fidelity, as opposed to, oh, King) and a slight nod in to the teen market. There are some weird ones in the unreleased tunes, including the wild, echoey "Wrong Woman" and a vocal duet with Baker, "Women Trouble Again". Both have killer breaks. Beware, though, the fade on "Women Trouble" makes for a real tease.


Thanks, 9th Ward Jukebox!

There's even some unusual material on the real 45s - "Lollipop Baby", for instance, with its Mule Train cries, yakety sax and the clickety-clack square dancey beat is almost country. Dupree acknowledges this on an alternate vocal version of this song, which is not about lollipops but does advise the listener to change partners. I think the lollipop thing was one of those teen concessions I was talking about earlier.

if youtube ever takes you out I'ma have to entirely redo this month!

But the best cut that CJD laid down for Vik/Groove, and my choice for either tie or winner-by-a-nose in the #1 CJD dance floor killer 45 is a song so wild and profound that Bob Seger should wake up every morning and apologize to it for forever desecrating its name, "Old Time Rock and Roll".  

Let's get with it!


The song itself is a variation on "Pinetop's Boogie". He first cut it as "Johnson Street Boogie Woogie" for Joe Davis in 1945, and would return to it several times throughout his career. But nothing quite compares to this.The very notion that there was such a thing as "old time rock and roll" in 1957 must have seemed odd, but as Jack explains at the outset, "We've been doing this since 1929. But the disc jockeys and the teenagers just heard it!"

This hard, real truth is quickly abandoned for one of the most surreal, confusing instructional dance record (a la the Madison) I've ever heard.*  CJD tells you he's going to give you the instruction, and what to do when you get it, but he never actually gives the command!  We're supposed to say stop when he says hold it, rock and roll when he says rock and roll, but he never bothers to say either. I guess he figured if the girl in the white socks couldn't handle it she didn't deserve to either rock and roll OR to hold it.*  

Whereas "Shim Sham Shimmy" gains most of its power from its guitars, "Old Time" is all about the drums, the piano and the crazy stuff Jack is saying. And Gene Moore's drums. The drummers on all of Jack's Vik recordings is either Willie Jones or Gene Moore, and even more than the guitar players they are the secondary stars of the sessions.

And just because I can't quit, here's a couple of Larry Dale solo cuts, backed by Dupree and Mickey Baker.  Both were unissued by Groove in the 50s.  Enjoy.

*

*A few words about Dupree and mother-in-laws.  Nobody this side of Ernie K-Doe made more musical hay about the notion of the bossy, fear-inducing mother-in-law than Jack Dupree. I was going to, at one point, post a compendium of every Dupree track that mentioned his mother-in-law troubles, but I gave it up.  As they say in bad e-Bay/Craig's List record lot auctions, "too many to list." Anyway, considering that Jack was on mother-in-law rants since way back in the 40s and K-Doe didn't have his hit 'til '61, I think it's safe to say that's yet another way he had a profound influence on New Orleans music. 

* Then again, I can't do the "Clapping Song" so maybe I am just instructionally challenged. 

*To continue with the theme of Jack's left hand, the break he throws down right after he says "Last time now" is one of his most thrillingly chaotic.

*word to the wise - even though these cuts were not issued originally (they do appear on the Charly LP Still Groove Jumping), Jazzman released the above cuts as a 45 as a part of their Jukebox Jam series.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do The Monkey With Mister Lance

I'm thrilled to have an Ichiban DJ set from Mister Lance who hosts one of my favorite radio shows - Monkey Time on Asheville FM!  Heard every Wednesday night from 6-7 PM.



major lance - the monkey time
robert parker - let's go baby (where the action is)
big jay mcneely and band - psycho serenade
danny burk & the invaders – ain’t goin’ nowhere
leon and james - ella rea
chris kenner - cinderella
lee Dorsey - eenie-meenie-minee-mo
ted taylor - the road of love
BED: The Pennyslvania Players Orchestra - The Cat
the emperors - karate
the chob - we're pretty quick
the standells - help yourself
jean knight - you think you're hot stuff
sam and dave - you don't know like i know
rufus Thomas - push and pull (pt.1)
gene chandler - it's time to settle down
BED: guitar gable - congo mombo
bill robinson & the quails - the cow
the jagged edge - now she's hurtin me
jack scott - leroy
ronnie self - ain't I'm a dog
bobby lee trammel - i tried not to cry
the contours - move mr man
donald & the daylighters - elephant walk

Champion Jack Dupree's King sides be walkin' upside your head

Champion Jack really changes his musical style for his run of singles on the King label.  The intensity is significantly lessened - the rollicking groove of the Red Robin recordings becomes much more of a laid back stroll. There is far more space between instruments, and both he and his accompanists play with far more restraint and deliberation. The overall effect is a real "uptowning" of his musical sound.


In direct contrast to this musical style change for the "sophisticated" is CJD's vocal persona and songwriting. These are the first recordings where the hick persona and folksy, spoken-word storytelling style come front and center. He rarely sings on his King recordings, instead musing and making asides, jokes and observations while the music grooves. To make matters even more bizarre, on about half of his King records he affects/perfects his "harelip" voice - a slurred, diffi-oot oo unnuhsan bit of jive that was apparently quite popular with record buyers at the time.  

the harelippiest

The end result of all of these changes is one of the most unique series of blues 45s I know about, most of which are collected on the strangely coherent Champion Jack Dupree Sings the Blues, his first full-length LP.

"Chew it up to the elbow, boy!"

Part of the change in sound is because of a change in the band, namely the guitar player.  Jack and Brownie McGhee had already moonlit for King, unsurprisingly, as a collective persona named "Big Tom Collins" (I assume they had plenty of big Tom Collins when they came up with that name).  McGhee would sing on some of the sides, Dupree on the other. While the vocal style of "Watchin' My Stuff" is a lot like the recordings he'd do under his own name at King, soundwise the band is pure Red Robin.  

1951

vs.
1955

By the time he starts recording as CJD for King in 1953, Brownie McGhee has lit out for good with Sonny Terry to do his own thing. His replacement, on about half of the King sessions, was the world's greatest rock and roll session guitarist, fellow orphan and future fellow ex-pat Mr. Mickey Baker!

Mickey and Jack in the 60s
Baker's hepcat, cool New York persona infuses just about every record he ever set his strings to, and it sounds particularly great with Dupree's primitive style. In fact, Baker really reigns himself in on these recordings, laying down a far less wild style of playing than he would with, for instance, another r&b vet he recorded with in the 50s, Louis Jordan for LJ's Mercury sessions. Mickey and Jack sound particularly fantastic together on the rather hilarious "Mail Order Woman".

Thank you Mr. Sears and Roebuck!
The King records are also significant in that it's the first time you can really hear Jack's foot on a record, particularly "Walking the Blues".  I've already mentioned the similarities between CJD and that other great blues footist, John Lee Hooker.  But while John Lee's foot is generally all Detroit drive, CJD's is New Orleans mellow. For a man with such pounding hands, CJD sure had a sly, subtle stomp.*


hey hey hey - keep on walkin, baby!

I love the King recordings and even though I could find something self-evident to say about just about all of them I'll spare you that. But I have to talk about one more, the King version of "Stumbling Block". 


Unlike Jack's other great dance 45s, which drag the dancers onto the floor with sheer drive and force, this version of "Stumbling Block" is all slow burn, mounting tension and slyness, underlined by the fantastic Baker guitar hook that builds and builds until he finally breaks it up with a fantastic, oddly abstract solo. Result = totally sexy dance track.

Dupree and Baker obviously had a real connection, and they recorded again together in Europe in the 1960s. We'll get to that in due course.  


*It has come to my attention that Mr. Bear is actually the foot on Walkin' the Blues

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree - SHIM SHAM SHIMMY like Jack Dupree

The rock 'n' roll era agreed with Jack Dupree.  I don't think that I'll be ruffling the suitfeathers of anyone who comes to this website's frequently by asserting that Champion Jack Dupree did the majority of his best work in the 50s.  His recordings for Red Robin, Groove/Vik and King are certainly the most Ichiban-appropriate material he'd ever cut, and some of the 45s he released in this era are iconic, exciting, dance floor monstrosities of undying magnificence.

Must be the backbeat!
Take, for instance his recordings for Red Robin in 1953/1954. "Stumbling Block" and "Shake Baby Shake" make their first appearances (under those names - an early version of "Stumbling Block" was issued as "New Low Down Dog" and "Shake Baby Shake" is a slightly spiffed up "Dupree Shake Dance"). While he does manage to top this Red Robin "Stumbling Block" over at King a couple years later, "Shake Baby Shake" is never better than the version released on Red Robin, with its ever escalating, distorted double-McGhee guitar attack and outstanding shuffle rhythm. The one on VIK is hot, but this is the one.

SHAKE BABY SHAKE on ROBIN (all the youtubes SLS).

But of course the crown jewel in the Red Robin trilogy, and I'm sure for some of you the greatest Champion Jack Dupree record of all times is the wild "Shim Sham Shimmy"/"Drunk Again" double shot.  I first heard "Shim Sham Shimmy" on the classic Lookey Dookey comp, released by some anonymous genius (he must want to remain anonymous because he's always wearin' shades).  If there is ever a party that this song can't take up to another level, I don't want to go to it.  "Take off your your  tie, hang onto your skirt, get down real low and reach right down in the dirt!"


The flip, "Drunk Again", shows Jack developing his oddball "hairlip" voice that he'd use on so many of his King releases. "Your breath smells like you've been chewing chinches or drinking bed bug juice!"

"Drunk Again"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree month: Happy Mardi Gras!


While Champion Jack Dupree was growing up in New Orleans, he was Spyboy for the Yellow Pocahontas tribe of Mardi Gras Indians.  This was in the 20s and early 30s, prior to his exodous from Nola to start his boxing career.

He talks about his experiences in the song "Yellow Pocahontas", originally from the pretty great When You Get the Feeling You Was Feeling LP.


According to the Elsewhere interview I've been quoting throughout the month, his time with the Yellow Pocahontas tribe affected him deeply.

"That's my mother's tribe. [Remember, Jack's parents were killed in a fire when he was one.] She was an American Indian and father was from Africa and I can't forget that. 

"In New Orleans there's Creole, Cherokee, Mohawk and the Yellow Pocahontas, which is the darkest race of Indians.  Each tribe has its own traditions and some of those Indians play good jazz or blues.

"Most of the musicians you get from New Orleans are the Black Indians."

Here's a later version of "Yellow Pocahontas", recorded after Jack returned to New Orleans, featuring famed Mardi Gras Indian/Wild Magnolia Bo Dallis.

I can't get the embed to work on that version, but you can check it out on youtube here.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! Stay pretty and don't bow down.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree live on French TV!

Check out this fantastic solo piano footage from CJD, recorded in France in the 60s.  Dupree's set starts at 13:41. The pianist who plays the first set is Joe Turner (not the Big one), a stride pianist whose sophisticated style makes for great contrast to the Champ's enthusiastic finger stomp.



Jack's set is about 20 minutes long and covers the basic gamut of his techniques.  Drinking with his left hand while playing with his right?  Check.  Foot tap solo?  Nice one, at 21:00.  Shakespeare mangling?  Yup.  Story about a "chicken" house where they sold whiskey called "Sonny kick your Mammy" and reefer called "Brother Jones"?  Yes.

He also explains his wild left handed style (at 28:20) by saying, "They keys I hit, I don't know - you'll have to ask Joe Turner.  I just hit anywhere.  Like Shakespeare say, black and white will do."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

CJD Month: MEAT HEAD JOHNSON and His Blues Hounds



Of the many different names the Champ and Brownie McGhee recorded under in the late 40s, it's difficult to beat Meat Head Johnson and the Blues Hounds (although I will also give it up for Duke Bayou and the Mystic Six).  It's pretty difficult to beat Meat Head's recordings, too, mainly because not only does Brownie McGhee play guitar on them, he's joined by spo-dee-o-dee loving brother Stick.  

Barrel House Mama

The song "Old Old Woman" was recorded under the name "Old Woman Blues" for Apollo, but the Meat Head version is better - better lyrical delivery and wilder guitar.  Get your morning exercise!

Listen to "Old Old Woman"

And while we're at it, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that Dupree played on a Brownie McGhee session for Savoy in 1947.  Here's "Auto Mechanic Blues".


Friday, February 8, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree on Apollo

As the rhythm and blues era continued throughout the 40s, Champion Jack continued to ply his trade and in 1949 made half a dozen records for the famous New York based Apollo label. Some of the most interesting of these were made with "Big Chief Ellis and his Blues All Stars".

Here's a couple of hot ones.

Deacon's Party

Just Plain Tired

This weekend I'll be posting some tracks Jack recorded under other names in the 50s and then we'll be back to the long-windedness on Monday, as Jack enters the 45 era with three stellar runs on Robin, King and Groove.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree: Post WW II Blues



November, 1941 was Jack Dupree's last recording session until 1944. He spent two of the intervening years in a Japanese POW camp.

According to Graham Reid, who published an interview with Dupree on his Elsewhere blog, his time as a prisoner of war was possibly more hospitable than being in the actual army.

"Black people lived good because they weren't put with the whites.  We cooked for ourselves and played ball. The Japanese people were funny.  They thought Americans were getting black slaves from Africa to fight for them so they didn't see they were fighting us."

And, according to John Orr:  "I cooked for the [Japanese] officers, so I had to eat what they ate, so it wouldn't be poisoned. I had help and everything, a nice room, a bottle of cognac a month, cigars, cigarettes -- it was just like working in a hotel, but with no place to go."

Upon returning from the war, Dupree did a couple of solo dates for the Joe Davis label.  To my ears the most interesting of these is "F.D.R. Blues", the first of Jack's tributes to historical figures he admired.  He'd eventually toast people like Martin Luther King, Louis Armstrong, and Big Bill Broonzy in memorial songs. I don't know that much has been made about CJD's dignity in the face of racial adversity in his songs. I love how he says in this one, "He was a good man - he was a credit to our race." 


Dupree's recordings for Joe Davis milk a lot of the same territory as his OKeh sides, but things get, to my own tastes, considerably more exciting when he moved to the Continental label later in '45. For one thing, he gets the first of his significant guitarist collaborators, Brownie McGhee.  McGhee and Dupree would work together, with and without McGhee's other collaborator, Sonny Terry, for the next ten years. 

As we have noted in the past, Dupree was not perhaps the most technically skilled pianist ever to lay his elbows down on 12 bars. He also has a limited number of song structures which get repurposed to great effect. His best records, especially his fast ones, tend to have a sympathetic string-man to help with the arrangements and to add color to his sounds. Near as I can tell, Dupree's most sympathetic guitar accompanists were McGhee, Mickey Baker (King, GNP, Decca), Larry Dale (Groove, Atlantic), and, believe it or not, Groundhog T.S. McPhee, all of whom we'll hear more from later in the month. All of these guys are on recordings that stand out from the rest of the CJD pack, not only in terms of sonic excitement, but also in the energy and focus of CJD's performance. I think the man liked him some electric guitar.  Check out the way he, McGhee and  bassist Count Edmonson make mincemeat out of the "Dupree Shake Dance" template on "Let's Have a Ball".  

PLAY ME SOME!

In addition to adding some guitar flash, Dupree really turns up the raunch on his double entendr√©. His first record for Continental features "I Think You Need a Shot" on the b-side. This is the first version of "Bad Blood" on Blues from the Gutter, but it is lyrically even more lascivious than that better known (and already pretty filthy) version.  

Throw your legs up on the wall!

Special shout-out to 9th Ward Jukebox, an amazingly valuable internet resource with unflaggingly great taste. Saved me a lot of uploading time.  


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree: Too Early in the Morning

In the interest of further illustration of Champion Jack's awesomely inaccurate left hand as a piano player, check out this cover of Louis Jordan's "Early in the Morning", here called "Too Early in the Morning", from one of his mid-60's albums, New Orleans to Chicago. While the album cover bills a ton of British Blues guitarists, this performance is solo, except maybe for the drum break, which may or may not be a washboard or CJD beating on his piano.  I suspect that the fumbling nature of this recording may have to do with Jack being fairly well lubricated at the time it was recorded, but it swings like a dazed boxer in a ring who doesn't know any better than to fall down.

DUPREE! DUPREE! DUPREE! DUPREE!



Tennessee Border



It was sixty-four years ago today, Red Foley and company headed into a Nashville studio and cut the timeless Tennessee Border, written by George Morgan. Teenaged steel guitarist Billy Robinson is not only still kicking, he still gigs occasionally in Nashville, as he did a few weeks ago, playing with Chris Scruggs & His Air Castle All Stars, a truly world class outfit, at a west Nashville establishment called the Stone Fox.  

The information below appears courtesy of Bear Family records:

February 6, 1949; Castle Studio at the Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Avenue, Nashville, TN.  Producer: Paul Cohen

Red Foley: vocal
Zeb Turner: electric guitar
Grady Martin: guitar
Billy Robinson: steel guitar
Ernie Newton: bass
Owen Bradley: organ

Ezra Stoller


Columbia Records, 1953.  Photo by Ezra Stoller.

If I were in NYC, I would most certainly plan on dropping by the Yossi Milo gallery in Chelsea to check out the display of architectural and industrial photographs taken by Ezra Stoller.  More information about Stoller and his wonderful work can be found in this New York Times article.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Infamous Eye-ties: Part Deux

By Gene Sculatti
Who would thunk it? This wacky thing about ethno-geographic phenotypes? The whole school has been given new life with the discovery that two immortal Italo-Americans of conspicuously similar facial features sprang forth from the same good earth: L.A., in the late Twenties-early Thirties. Namely Nino Tempo [ne Lo Tempio], famed Spector cohort and star sibling of April Stevens (Hoots mon! Here they are, killin’ in kilts on TV’s Shivaree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luPRSXyaItU ), and Don Gordon (ne Guadagno), perennial sidekick/heavy. He was the former in McQueen’s Bullitt, the latter in Den Hopper’s “punk” flick Out of the Blue. Don’s cheekbones beat Nino’s, but both work that semi-perpendicular hairline riff on a receding Caesar frame. Here’s Gordon, from a 1965 Kraft Mystery Theater, wrestling a rival to the mat. He shows up at around 6 minutes into the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgIs2kWGips

Champion Jack Dupree month: The OKeh Sides - Better than welfare grapefruit juice




Jack wound up his career as a boxer in Indianapolis, where he took a job as a bouncer at Sea Ferguson's Cotton Club. It was here he met Leroy Carr, who influenced Jack's New Orleans barrelhouse piano with his more uptown, nascent Chicago Blues style. It was a combination of these two styles that made up his playing for most of the rest of his career. He travelled to Chicago, where, according to the song "See My Milk Cow", he met Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, and Jazz Gillum, who helped him get his first recording contract, with OKeh.  He made his first recording in 1940 and is often credited with being the first New Orleans blues pianist to be recorded.

Jack talks about his early career as a musician at the start of "See My Milk Cow", ca. 1968
Top row:  Jazz Gillum, Tampa Red, Scrapper Blackwell
Bottom row:  Jack Dupree, Big Bill Broonzy
in front - Tampa Red's whiskey drinking dog.
Hear Jack talk about this very photo in "Reminiscin' with Champion Jack" from the Champion of the Blues LP!

His first release was "Warehouse Man Blues," a song that combines a number of elements that would be cycled and recycled throughout his work. It's pretty funny, but it's also a striking bit of social commentary about being black and poor in a white man's world. CJD would address these issues more fully in the 60s - it was pretty much why he abandoned the United States for England and mainland Europe.

"My grandma left this morning with a basket in her hand
she going to the warehouse to see the warehouse man
she got down to the warehouse, and white folks said 'ain't no use,
the governor ain't giving away nothin' but that canned grapefruit juice.'
It's a low down dirty shame the way these projects doin.

Now Uncle Sam paid the men that bonus
You know that was mighty fine
You fill them street walkin' women up with that moonlight wine
You spent all your money, you spent it mighty fast 
Now this winter breeze bout to jam you with a . . . yeah! yeah!
Don't you know the relief is closing down?
It's a low down shame the way they really do."

(Paid for) sex, booze, poverty, righteous anger at injustice, double entendre, a woman who has mother in her name that is not quite the singer's mother - it's just about all there, except for the heroin and the cabbage.  And the shaking.

Jack cut enough tracks to release four records on his first date in 1940, including the utterly stompin' "Cabbage Greens" and "New Low Down Dog", an early version of "Stumbling Block", one of his best known and loved rockers.

He was back six months later for another one, when he unleashed the "Dupree Shake Dance" and a song that would have a huge influence on the sound of New Orleans rhythm and blues (and by extension rock and roll in general), "Junker Blues".


You hear a lot about the key piano professors of New Orleans, and too often Jack Dupree does not get mentioned on the list.  But his rolling figures and general acceptance of all facets of human behavior are at the heart of New Orleans music. Fats Domino would take this song, remove all of the references to drugs and squalor (not easy, since that's just about all there is to the lyrics), and create "The Fat Man" in 1949, a song that's often one of those many "first rock and roll" songs you hear so much about.  So, by logical extension, in this month's version of the story, rock and roll was created on a bed of needles, reefer, and cocaine. Something to keep in mind. "Junker's Blues" plays an important part in another key development in the history of rock and roll, but we'll get to that in a couple of weeks.

vs.

"Dupree Shake Dance" is another key piece of early rock and roll spirit, mainly because it's such a racket. One thing about Champion Jack Dupree - he does not play with the ease of other New Orleans pianists like Professor Longhair on one side or Jelly Roll Morton on the other. And it's his enthusiastic approximation of a sophisticated boogie that provides a great transition from jazz to rhythm and blues.  He beats the crap out of the keys, playing like he still has his boxing gloves on, going a few rounds with the piano and creating an imprecise splatter of left handed clams that adds a righteous element of chaos to his faster boogies. This leaves him sometimes on the nose wrinkling end of blues critic-type assessment of his work, but for the purposes of rock and roll it is completely on point - you can't guess exactly where his fingers are going to fall, and the whole mess ends up sounding like an Esquerita solo or something.


Jack recorded one more session for OKeh, in November of 1941.  This session included another New Orleans styled r&b number, "Heavy Heart Blues", and some very cool early Chicago style blues which include the first appearance of electric guitar on his records.

His fledgling musical career was interrupted, however, by his first trip overseas, to serve time in World War II.  He wouldn't pick up his musical career again until 1944.

Listen to "Warehouse Man Blues"

Monday, February 4, 2013

Champion Jack Dupree made a LOT of records


Champion Jack Dupree made records for over 50 years.  His first sides came out on the OKeh label in 1930, and his last album was released in 1992.  In the 40s he cut dozens of single sides for about as many labels - including several under different names (like Meat Head Johnson).  Most of these only came out on 78, and were largely unavailable in any other form until the CD-era. He made lots of LPs for a variety of European labels after moving there in the early 60s, and made one of the best blues albums ever for Atlantic. Most of the 45s he recorded were cut from '53 - '59, for Robin, Groove, and King. The Euporean blues afficianado for whom he recorded in the 60s seems to have favored the long player.

The jist is that CJD made a LOT of records. He was the John Lee Hooker of barrelhouse piano (in more ways than one, since some of his best recordings are just him, his piano and his stomp). He was always happy to reinvent one or more of his Dupree specials for whoever might be willing to give him some bread. Like John Lee, he got thrown in with an awful lot of younger, white blues players in the 60s, with similar mixed results. But he made records both rockin' and righteous all his life, he tells great autobiographical stories in a lot of his songs, and he casts a shadow over the history of enough Ichiban-oriented interests to keep us amused for a month. Plus he's hilarious.

And he knows his Shakespeare

Jack Dupree was born in New Orleans in 1909 or 1910.  Like Louis Armstrong, he claimed to have been born on the 4th of July, and like Armstrong, that claim has proven to be inaccurate. Also like Louis Armstrong, he was raised in New Orleans' Home for Colored Waifs, after he lost his parents in a house or store fire that may or may not have been set by the Ku Klux Klan. Jack talks about this on his song "The Death of Louis Armstrong" and makes reference to the fire in a song called .

Jack taught himself to play piano after the orphanage acquired one from the Salvation Army, and apprenticed in the juke joints with Willie Hall, also known as Drive 'Em Down, who apparently taught him one of his signature numbers, "Junker's Blues".  He reminisces about Drive 'Em Down at the start of the song "Workhouse Blues", from an early 60s session for Storyville, recorded in Denmark.

In the 30s he split New Orleans for Detroit, where he became a boxer. Here he earned, either honorably or ironically, the nickname "Champion", depending on whose stories you believe. One imagines he got sick of hitting something that hit back, so he moved to Chicago at the start of the 40s and started playing the piano again.

Listen to "The Death of Louis Armstrong"
Listen to "Workhouse Blues (Talkin' Bout Drive 'Em Down)"


sorry about so many slow songs today - we'll get to boogie plenty by month's end . . . 

Relative to his large body of work and the colorfulness of his life, there does not seem to be a lot of information about Champion Jack Dupree out there. He is not the subject of any biographies, and he doesn't get a lot of mention in the blues history books I've checked. Francis Davis's History of the Blues offers a useful if slightly condescending three page biographical overview.  

This blog post has a great interview with CJD and will be returned to frequently this month.

Big thanks to the exhaustive Champion Jack Dupree discography here.  Pretty much my only tether to reality this month.


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