Shakey Jake Harris moved north to Chicago at a young age and became a blues singer and harmonica player. He has the writing credit for Roll Your Money Maker, but like Elmore James’s Shake Your Moneymaker, it’s a song that probably was around in one form or another for some time. Roll Your Money Maker was originally released in 1958 on Artistic and reissued by Vivid in the ’60s. Jake doesn’t play harmonica on this one, where he’s backed up by Willie Dixon’s band, featuring Magic Sam (and, depending on who you believe, also either Freddy King or Syl Johnson) on guitar. Sam and Jake were related and Jake mentored and sometimes managed Sam. It’s Magic Sam’s scene-stealing guitar licks that will have you rolling your money makers to this over and over.
James Milton Campbell, Jr. and Oliver Sain were both born to musical families in Mississippi. Like many other artists whose sobriquet includes the descriptive little, Little Milton’s career started when he was young. While working as a talent scout, Ike Turner heard his guitar playing and signed him to Sun Records. Their he recorded several singles, but none of them sold particularly well – don’t worry though, Sun Records did okay for themselves with another young singer/guitarist around the same time. Sain was also a teenager when his musical career began as the drummer in his stepfather’s band. By the late 1950s, Sain had switched to saxophone and had his own band, for which he hired Little Milton to be the vocalist. They recorded together for Little Milton’s own St. Louis based record label, Bobbin, before signing with Chess Records’ Checker label and moving north to Chicago. In 1962 they co-wrote and released Satisfied, which has the beefy, tight, city blues sound that peaked musically in Chicago at that time. This is the sound that is sometimes retroactively described by music nerds, record sellers and other people who like to give names to things, as New Breed.
It’s a safe bet that any song called Sax-ony Boogie by a guy known as Sax Man Brown is going to contain its fair share of saxophone, and today’s selection doesn’t disappoint. Sax Man Brown was also known as John Thomas Brown, J.T. Brown, Big Boy Brown or Bep Brown. He travelled from Mississippi to Chicago in 1945 to play tenor sax in the booming blues scene. He cut his own jump blues sides for a bunch of labels and also played sideman for bluesmen such as Roosevelt Sykes, Washboard Sam and Elmore James, who’s band, the Broomdusters, backs him on this 1954 Meteor release.
Released in 1958 as the flip to Checking On My Baby, It Takes Time is tough, epic sounding blues. A prime example of the giant West Side style of Chicago Blues that was spearheaded by Cobra Records, under the stewardship of Willie Dixon. As with many Cobra records, Dixon provides the solid bass line on today’s selection. However, it’s Otis Rush’s powerful vocals and sizzling guitar that are obviously the main act.
mp3: Otis Rush – Homework
After seeing several copies of this monster 45 evade my clutches on a certain online auction website, I finally managed to capture one just the other week. Otis Rush’s Homework contains some of the heaviest horns you’ll ever hear growl their way through a blues song. The southpaw Chicago bluesman recorded this in 1962 for Duke Records afters stints at Cobra and Chess. For some reason, it was the only thing he released on that label. Quality over quantity. The full, sophisticated and soulful sound of Homework signified a turning point for Chicago blues into the more slick and predictable style that lives on in blues societies today.
This is a record with a great story behind it. George Crockett was a Mississippi born blues singer who, like so many others, ended up in Chicago in the 1950s. He recorded Look Out Mabel in ’57 for Mel London, who released it on his Chief label as Look Out Mable by G. Davy Crockett. The Davy being added in an attempt to cash in on the wave of popularity the American 19th century frontier folk hero, Davy Crockett, was enjoying at the time. It was a failed attempt. Despite its obvious brilliance, the record faded into obscurity.
Fast forward to 1965 and Crockett, who hasn’t released anything in the interim, has a minor hit with It’s A Man Down There. This success inspires London to lease an alternative take of Look Out Mabel to Chess Records, who release it on Checker – one copy of which recently made its way into my collection. Again, although this record has a rockin’ beat and killer keys, it failed to shift significant units.
Fast forward a bit more to the 1970s and our hero G.L. Crockett has now passed on, but in the Rockabilly scenes of Europe, Look Out Mabel finally gets its dues. If you’re hankering to find out more, you can on the incredibly useful BlackCat Rockabilly site.
I usually post only one side of a record. Although it obviously depends on how much I love the each side, sometimes it’s just because I want to highlight that one particular tune. That was the case last year when I posted Going Back Home, the flip of today’s Howlin’ Wolf offering. Having recently rediscovered the simmering brilliance of My Life, I’m very happy revisit this 45 here and now. Watching a recent BBC documentary on the blues, I was reminded of just how incredible Howlin’ Wolf’s voice was. I could listen to him singing or speaking about his life all day long.
Want to know what knocks me out? This record! In 1956, Harold Burrage on vocals/piano together with Willie Dixon and his band produced one of the rockin’est R&B records ever, She Knocks Me Out. More quality from Chicago’s Cobra label right here. Really looking forward to spinning this out at Heavy Sugar tonight.
From Betty James to Betty Jean. Here’s a top tune from Harold Burrage, a singer and pianist from Chicago. The man recorded for a bunch of labels, but the records he put out on Cobra under the tutelage of Willie Dixon are just incredible. Betty Jean is wild rock’n’roll in the vein of Little Richard. It features Otis Rush on guitar and was released in 1958 as the flipside to I Cry For You. Burrage died in 1966 aged just 35.
Elmore James – Stranger Blues
Elmore James – Anna Lee
Fire Records founder, Bobby Robinson, led an interesting life. He served with the US Army in Hawaii during WWII. His job was booking entertainment for the troops. While there, he made a bit on the side as, in his own words, a loan shark. It was enough that when he was discharged and returned to the mainland, Robinson was able to buy a former hat store on 125th Street in Harlem. In that spot he opened a record store, one of the first black-owned businesses in the area. Robinson also started several record labels — Red Robin, Whirlin’ Disc, Fury, Fire and Enjoy — and throughout the 50s and 60s produced some incredible blues, R&B and doo wop. In the late 70s, Enjoy even released some early hip hop, including Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five’s first record.
Elmore James was one of Fire’s biggest artists. He was a well established bluesman — singer, guitarist, songwriter, band-leader — before he began recording with Robinson in 1959. Today’s selections were released in 1962, not long before James dusted his last broom. Stranger Blues has a forceful rhythm. Each instrument comes out sounding strong, particularly James’ guitar and Johnny Acey’s piano. The vocals contain a heavy echo effect, which could have been Robinson’s input. Anna Lee is a slow but powerful blues of the forlorn love variety. Listen out for the horns. Although these tracks were recorded in New York, they have a distinctly Chicago feel.
An Aquarium Drunkard
Be Bop Wino
The B Side
Carlos Rene's Scene64
Derek's Daily 45
The Devil's Music
Flea Market Funk
Frankie Bundle's Mazzetta78
Home Of The Groove
Jester Wild Show
Kogar's Jungle Juice
La Dimension De Trastos
Liam Large's Rekkids
Mean Mojo Mathias
Night Beat Records
So Many Records, So Little Time
You Got Good Taste