WELCOME TO BLIND DOG RADIO

Back to the blues roots ... Blind Lemon Jefferson, Skip James, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Bessie Smith, Bukka White, Lead Belly, Ma Rainey, Blind Blake, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Mississippi John Hurt, Sleepy John Estes, Big Joe Williams, John Lee Hooker, Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, Kokomo Arnold, Bo Carter, Robert Nighthawk, Blind Willie Johnson, ... and many more.

Chess Blues 1947-1967 (Disc Two 1952-1954)

1. Walkin’ The Boogie (Alternate) - John Lee Hooker
(John Lee Hooker, Arc Music Corp., BMI) 
Recorded Detroit, circa May 1952
John Lee Hooker (vocal-guitar)
Originally released on Chess LP 8203, “Wizards From The Southside”

Today one of the elder statesmen of the blues, John Lee Hooker was born near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1920, and moved to Detroit in the early Forties to find work. One of several excellent bluesmen who emerged from the Detroit scene, he rapidly made the “boogie” rhythm his signature sound and today has parlayed a chunky, rhythmic guitar style and deep moaning vocal into a highly successful career, while his elemental style has remained virtually unchanged since his first recordings in the late Forties. The original version of “Walkin’ the Boogie” was issued as Chess 1513, and Hooker remembers, “We cut it two or three times, and they doubled it. Speeded it up. Ain’t no way I can play it that fast!” In deference to Mr. Hooker’s disclaimer we have used the original, non-speeded up take, which first saw release on an early-Eighties Chess LP.

2. Juke - Little Walter
(Walter Jacobs, Arc Music Corp., BMI) 
Recorded May 12, 1952
Little Walter (harmonica)
Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers (guitar)
Elgin Evans (real name: Elga Edmonds) (drums)
Originally Checker single 758

Walter had such an advanced idea of his own abilities that as early as 1952, while still in Muddy’s band, he was already pestering Chess to let him record as a leader. Barely out of his teens, young Marion Walter Jacobs had undeniable talent; he was a take-no-prisoners harp player, full of flashing brilliance. Though personally rather unstable, he had already musically outstripped his only possible rival, Sonny Boy Williamson. With studio time as cheap as it was, Leonard Chess saw no reason not to let him try. Walter cut the smash instrumental “Juke,” the first record issued under his own name, at a split session with his Muddy bandmates that also produced the Muddy Waters single “Please Have Mercy”. Fortunately or unfortunately, “Juke” was the hit, reaching #1 on the R&B charts; before the year was out, Walter took his place alongside Muddy and Wolf as the third major player on the Chicago blues scene. (Incidentally, this tune inspired the title of the excellent British magazine, “Juke Blues”.)

3. Conjur Man - Memphis Minnie
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded July 11, 1952
Minnie Douglas (vocal-guitar); with Little Joe & His Band: Joe Hill Louis or Little Walter (harmonica); Ernest Lawlers or Joe Hill Louis (guitar); Unknown (bass); possibly Elgin Evans (drums)
Previously unreleased.

4. Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone - Muddy Waters
(McKinley Morganfield, Watertoons Music, adm. by Bug/Arc Music Corp., BMI) Recorded September 17, 1952
Muddy Waters (vocal-guitar)
Junior Wells (harmonica)
Jimmy Rogers (guitar)
Elgin Evans (drums)
Originally Chess single 1542. Previously unreleased on U.S. album.

5. Broken Heart (Alternate) - Memphis Minnie
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded July 11, 1952
Minnie Douglas (vocal-guitar); with Little Joe & His Band: Black Bob (piano); Joe Hill Louis or Ernest Lawlers (guitar); Unknown (bass); possibly Elgin Evans (drums)
Previously unreleased.

Lizzie Douglas was born in Algiers, Louisiana on June 3, 1897, and died in a Memphis nursing home on August 6, 1973. By the time she recorded for Chess, she was already an established artist of several decades’ standing as Memphis Minnie, and although she didn't know it she was probably one of the earliest feminists in the blues world. She was tough and independent, wrote her own songs, played guitar as if she meant business, and made her way very well in what was then a man's man's man's world. She only did one session for Chess, and it came rather late in her career; both "Conjur Man" and "Broken Heart" feature Minnie's then-husband Ernest Lawlers on guitar. A full-length biography of Memphis Minnie by Paul and Beth Garon was published in 1992 by Da Capo Press of New York. 

The success of Little Walter's "Juke" led him, inevitably, to leave the Muddy Waters band and set out on a solo career. Although he had only been with Muddy for two and a half years, he felt, rightly, that bigger and better things awaited him. Muddy replaced him almost immediately with the sharp young newcomer Amos "Junior" Wells, who is heard on harp on "Sweet Man". Walter's departure was a watershed for Muddy; it enabled him to begin what was to become a longstanding policy of taking some of the most outstanding young musicians of the day into his band to fill slots as they became available, and it gave the band's overall sound a chance to evolve. 

6. Truckin’ Little Woman - Willie Nix
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded Memphis, April 25, 1952 
Willie Nix (vocal-drums)
Walter Horton (harmonica)
Willie Johnson (guitar) 
Originally Checker single 756. 
Previously unreleased on U.S. album 

Country bluesman Willie Nix cut a session for Sam Phillips which produced this tough, exciting cut. Like several other Sun sessions, it was eventually bought by Chess. That's Howlin' Wolf's legendary cohort Willie Johnson on guitar, while Nix himself plays drums. 

7. Funeral Hearse At My Door - Rocky Fuller
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded possibly 1953 
Rocky Fuller (vocal-guitar)
Unknown (harmonica) 
Originally on Chess album 9330, "The Blues, Volume 6" 

Another down-home bluesman is Rocky Fuller - real name Iverson Minter - who is better known under his more commonly used recording alias, Louisiana Red. Fuller was one of many American bluesmen who would leave the States for permanent residence in Europe during the Sixties; like many others, he saw no reason to remain in America to work for small change and little or no respect when he could travel and live in Europe and be treated with the dignity he deserved. This track is an alternate recording of the song that would later become "Soon One Morning" (Checker single 753). Highlighted by some absolutely eerie harmonica playing (Little Walter?), this chilling version was unissued for years; it first came to light on a 1991 MCA reissue. 

8. Hard Time Gettin’ Started - Eddie Boyd
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded October 10, 1952 
Eddie Boyd (vocal-piano)
Llittle Sax Crowder (tenor sax)
Robert Lockwood, Jr. (guitar)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Percy Walker (drums) 
Previously unreleased 

Singer, songwriter and pianist Eddie Boyd was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on November 25, 1914. By the time he cut the previously unissued "Hard Time Gettin' Started," featuring the great Robert Lockwood and Willie Dixon, he was already an established artist on the Chicago scene, having recorded for RCA Victor, Regal and JOB. For Chess, he hit #3 on the R&B charts twice in 1953 with "24 Hours" and "Third Degree". In later life he, too, feeling himself an underpaid victim of unscrupulous promoters, would leave the U.S. to live in Europe. 

9. Don’t Need No Horse - Little Walter
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded circa January, 1953 
Little Walter (harmonica); probably with, Louis Myers, Dave Myers (guitar); Willie Dixon (bass); Fred Below (drums) 
Previously unreleased 

10. Eight Ball - Gus Jenkins
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded January 9, 1953 
Gus Jenkins (vocal-piano)
Walter Horton (harmonica)
Willie Nix (drums) 
Previously unreleased in U.S. 

11. Fast Boogie - Little Walter
(writer/publisher unknown) 
Recorded circa January, 1953 
Little Walter (harmonica); probably with, Louis Myers, Dave Myers (guitar)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Fred Below (drums) 
Previously unreleased 

1953 was a busy year for Little Walter. When he left Muddy's band, he joined an already existing group called The Aces, replacing their harmonica player, Junior Wells. In a typical game of musical chairs, Wells promptly replaced Walter in Muddy's band, leaving Walter free to record and tour with the Aces. They consisted of brothers Louis and Dave Myers on guitar and bass, and Fred Below on drums. As was becoming the standard at Chess, the Aces were also used to accompany other musicians when sidemen were needed, and soon they rivaled Muddy's own band in the frequency with which they were called in as a backup unit. The instrumentals "Fast Boogie" and "Don't Need No Horse" are from a previously unissued session; the latter title is arbitrary, drawn from an engineer's notation on the recently unearthed tape box. It may refer to a working title for the tune (referred to until now in discographies as "Untitled Instrumental") or it may be someone's sardonic commentary on the clip-clop rhythm of the track. Session personnel are not listed on the box, but are possibly the Aces, since they were known to be in the studio that month to back up John Brim. 

Gus Jenkins was born in Birmingham on March 24, 1931, and died in Los Angeles, where he had been a longtime fixture on the independent recording scene, in December of 1985. The gritty "Eight Ball" was recorded at his only Chess session and has previously only been available on long-deleted European compilations. 

12. I’m Mad - Willie Mabon
(Willie Mabon, Republic Music Corp., BMI) 
Recorded February 5, 1953 
Willie Mabon (vocal, piano)
Fred Clark (tenor sax)
Joseph Bell (bass)
Steve Boswell (drums) 
Originally Chess single 1538 

13. Ice Cream Man - John Brim
(John Brim, Arc Music Corp., BMI) 
Recorded May 4,1953 
John Brim (vocal-guitar)
Little Walter (harmonica)
Eddie Taylor (guitar)
Elgin Evans (drums) 
Originally on Chess LP 1537, "Whose Muddy Shoes" 

14. Whose Muddy Shoes - Elmore James
(Elmore James, Arc Music Corp., BMI) 
Recorded January 17, 1953 
Elmore James (vocal-guitar)
J.T. Brown (tenor sax)
Johnny Jones (piano)
probably Ransom Knowling (bass)
Odie Payne (drums) 
Originally on Chess LP 1537, "Whose Muddy Shoes" 

15. Got To Have It - Willie Mabon
(Willie Mabon, Republic Music Corp., BMI) 
Recorded February 5, 1953 
Willie Mabon (vocal-piano)
Fred Clark (tenor sax)
Joseph Bell (bass)
Steve Boswell (drums) 
Previously unreleased 

In these early days, there was a more equal division between pianists and guitarists recording for Chess. Later the guitarists stole the show, but at this time the Chess keyboard roster could still boast, among others, Sunnyland Slim, Forrest Sykes, Eddie Boyd, and the fine singer/pianist Willie Mabon. Mabon was born in Hollywood, Tennessee on October 24, 1925, and was raised in nearby Memphis. The previously unissued "Got To Have It" and his follow-up (and copycat) to "I Don't Know" called "I'm Mad" were recorded at the same session, with the tongue-in-cheek "I'm Mad" soon hitting #1 on the R&B charts. 

“Ice Cream Man” is one of John Brim’s best known songs, largely because of its 1979 cover version by rock group Van Halen. He was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on April 10, 1922, lives in Gary, Indiana, and is still active on the Chicago club scene, though he rarely records any more. Not issued at the time it was recorded, “Ice Cream Man” was released on the 1969 Chess LP 1537, Whose Muddy Shoes, an album featuring performances by Brim and Elmore James.

The reputation of the legendary bluesman Elmore James (January 27, 1915 - May 24, 1963) rests almost entirely on his trademark slide guitar lick on “Dust My Broom” and variations thereof. However, “Whose Muddy Shoes” finds him playing in an entirely different vein, using a single note guitar technique instead of a slide, and with a horn sharing the musical leads. Unreleased at the time, the track was later issued as the title song of Chess LP 1537. 

16. I Declare That Ain’t Right - Henry Gray
(Writer/Publisher Unknown)
Recorded May 11, 1953
Henry Gray (vocal-piano); remainder unknown
Previously unreleased in U.S.

17. Remember - Alberta Adams
(Writer/Publisher Unknown)
Recorded July, 1953
Alberta Adams (vocal); remainder unknown
Previously unreleased.

18. Untitled Instrumental - Henry Gray & Morris Pejoe
(Writer/Publisher Unknown)
Recorded May 11, 1953
Henry Gray (vocal-piano)
Morris Pejoe (guitar)
Stovepipe (drums)
Previously unreleased.

Gray was born in Kenner, Louisiana on January 19, 1925, and is best known to Chess blues fans for having been Howlin’ Wolf’s piano player on occasional studio dates. He recorded “I Declare That Ain’t Right” under the nickname Little Henry, with Henry Strong, Morris Pejoe (1924-1982), and the interestingly names “Stovepipe” on drums. Gray and Pejoe’s “Untitled Instrumental” is a real treasure, a previously unreleased stomper from the same session.

There were, sadly, very few women being recorded on the Chicago blues scene in the early Fifties, and little is known about the excellent Alberta Adams, who turns in a fine, bluesy version of “Remember,” with strong piano support. 

19. Blues With A Feeling - Little Walter
(Walter Jacobs, Arc Music Corp., BMI)
Recorded circa September, 1953
Little Walter (vocal-harmonica)
Louis Myers, Dave Myers (guitar)
Fred Below (drums)
Originally Checker single 780

The much-imitated classic “Blues With A Feeling” finds Little Walter in an unusually meditative mood. The Sixties saw the song return to popularity via a terrific cover by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

* * *

1954 marked the year the Willie Dixon’s presence began to be felt more and more throughout the Chess studios. Dixon, who was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 1, 1915, had moved to Chicago at age 17 and after a brief career as a professional boxer became a full-time musician. (Extensive biographical information about Dixon can be found in the liner notes in the booklet which accompanies the box set, Willie Dixon: The Chess Box.) As a member of the very successful Big Three Trio he had recorded extensively for Columbia, was already an experience songwriter, and had toured the East Coast with great success. From the early Fifties until his final departure from Chess in the early Seventies, he was featured on innumerable sessions as bassist, songwriter, singer, A&R man, sometimes uncredited session producer.

As Dixon became more deeply involved, and as Leonard Chess became more experienced in the studio, the Chess sessions developed a more “produced” sound; both Dixon and Chess can often be heard on the session reels, instructing, exhorting or persuading, as the occasion required. Leonard’s well-known habit of exchanging forthright language with his artists is documented on some of these session reels; the use of a combination of goading and insults ay have been Leonard’s way of getting a good performance out of a riled-up Sonny Boy Williamson or Little Walter, but other Chess artists took it less than kindly. When things got too hot, it was often Dixon who smoothed things over, deciding which instrument would take a break, and when; both Chess brothers felt confident in Dixon’s ability to get good performances out of his fellow musicians, and at times left the recording process entirely in Dixon’s hands.

Although nobody knew it at the time, the year 1954 was the beginning of the end for the Delta-derived, down-home sound of Chicago blues. Although Leonard Chess had all three of his label’s heavy hitters - Walter, Wolf and Muddy - in the studio that year, his pal Sam Phillips down in Memphis had found a young white truck driver named Elvis Presley who knew an old Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup song, and the music business was about to undergo a cataclysmic shock from which it never looked back. The Chess label’s efforts in the R&B and rock ‘n’ roll fields from this period, including those by such artists as Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Jackie Brenston, are omitted here since they will be the subject of the next box set in this series, Chess Rhythm & Roll.

20. Hoochie Coochie Man - Muddy Waters
(Willie Dixon, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug, BMI) 
Recorded January 7, 1954
Muddy Waters (vocal-guitar)
Little Walter (harmonica)
Jimmy Rogers (guitar)
Otis Spann (piano)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Fred Below (drums)
Originally Chess single 1560

The Willie Dixon-penned “Hoochie Coochie Man” was destined to become one of Muddy Waters’ two signature songs. It features a stop-time riff and one of Muddy’s finest bands with Little Walter rejoining the group for this session. A perfect example of Dixon’s ability to tailor a song to a specific artist, the song was an immediate hit, and by the end of his career audiences wouldn’t let Muddy off the stage until he performed it.

21. Forty Four - Howlin’ Wolf
(Chester Burnett, Arc Music Corp. BMI) 
Recorded October, 1954
Howlin’ Wolf (vocal-harmonica)
Otis Spann (piano)
Jody Williams, Hubert Sumlin (guitars)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Earl Phillips (drums)
Originally Chess single 1584

22. Got To Find My Baby (Alternate) - Little Walter
(Willie Dixon, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug, BMI) 
Recorded May 22, 1954
Little Walter (vocal-harmonica)
Otis Spann (piano)
Louis Myers, Robert Lockwood (guitar)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Previously unreleased.

23. Evil - Howlin’ Wolf
(Willie Dixon, Hoochie Coochie Music, adm. by Bug, BMI) 
Recorded May 25, 1954
Howlin’ Wolf (vocal-harmonica)
Otis Spann (piano)
Jody Williams, Hubert Sumlin (guitars)
Willie Dixon (bass)
Earl Phillips (drums)
Originally Chess single 1575

The Wolf had moved from Memphis to Chicago by the time he recorded “Evil,” but his music hadn’t calmed down one bit. Still the feral, raw and raging Wolf, he had added the superb young Hubert Sumlin to his permanent band, and they are heard here with “Evil”’s composer, the ubiquitous Mr. Dixon, and fellow Wolf band members. This was one of Wolf’s earliest Chicago sessions, and marks the beginning of his long and successful association with Willie Dixon’s songs. “Forty Four” features the same personnel, this time revving up a pulsating rhythm track. From this point on for the rest of his life, despite occasional four-letter differences of opinion with Leonard Chess, Wolf never recorded for any other label.

This version of Little Walter’s “I Got To Find My Baby” is a somewhat slower alternate to that issued as Checker single 1013, with the cream of the session pool again in attendance. 

* * *

“I wrote a song, finished it, and I happened to be touring with a band down in Texas - Fathead Newman, Leroy Cooper, and the boys. I told them, ‘Man, I got a tune I’d sure like to cut, but I can’t go back to Chicago with all you guys…’ The boys said, ‘We’ll do it with you,’ and there was a recording studio there. I called the Chess brothers, and they told me, you want to cut it there, no, come to Chicago with us, I told them, ‘No, I’m not coming to Chicago. I’ll cut here, or I’ll just keep the song.’ They said, ‘All right.’ So I produced my own, ‘Reconsider Baby’ and ‘Check Yourself.’ I went down to Studio Seven in Dallas and cut it, and then Chess had Stan Lewis from Shreveport come along and pay the musicians. The masters were sent right back to Chess, and, oh, I’ll say in a couple of months, I had a record out.” 

– Lowell Fulson

* * *

24. Reconsider Baby - Lowell Fulson
(Lowell Fulson, Arc Music Corp. BMI) 
Recorded Dallas, Texas, September 27, 1954
Lowell Fulson (vocal-guitar)
Fathead Newman, Phillip Gibeaux, Julian Beasley, Choker Campbell (saxes)
Fats Morris (trombone)
Paul Drake (piano)
Leroy Cooper (bass)
Chick Booth (drums)
Originally Checker single 804

Lowell Fulson (born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in March, 1921) cut “Reconsider Baby” in Dallas with what was then his touring band. His first Chess release, it was enormously successful, going to #3 on the R&B charts, and was partially responsible for his nearly decade-long stay at the label.

25. Mama Talk To Your Daughter - J.B. Lenoir
(J.B. Lenoir - Alex Atkins, Arc Music Corp./Ghana Music, adm. by Bug, BMI) Recorded October 6, 1954
J.B. Lenoir (vocal-guitar)
Lorenzo Smith (tenor sax)
Joe Montgomery (piano)
Al Garvin (drums)
Originally Parrot single 809

J.B. Lenoir (his full name is J.B.; the initials don’t stand for anything) was born in Monticello, Mississippi on March 5, 1929, and died on April 29, 1967 of injuries suffered in a car crash. He had an unusual voice, with a register so high that it was sometimes mistaken for a woman’s. His lyrics, too, often contained strange imagery not usually found in blues. One of his biggest hits was “Mama Talk To Your Daughter,” recorded on October 6, 1954, for Parrot, later acquired by Chess and issued on Lenoir’s Chess LP 410, Natural Man.
Source: AlbumLinerNotes.com