Wesley Wilson

Wesley Wilson, b. October 1, 1893 in Jacksonville, FL, d. October 10, 1958 in Cape May Court House, NJ, blues and jazz singer and songwriter. His stagecraft and performances with his wife and musical partner, Coot Grant, were popular with African-American audiences in the 1910s, 1920s and early 1930s. His stage names included Kid Wilson, Jenkins, Socks, and Sox (or Socks) Wilson. His musical excursions included participation in the duo of Pigmeat Pete and Catjuice Charlie. His recordings include the songs "Blue Monday on Sugar Hill" and "Rasslin' till the Wagon Comes".

Wilson was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. He played the piano and organ, and Coot Grant played the guitar and sang and danced. The duo was variously billed as Grant and Wilson, Kid and Coot, and Hunter and Jenkins, as they went on to appear and later record with Fletcher Henderson, Mezz Mezzrow, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. Their variety was such that they performed separately and together in vaudeville, musical comedies, revues and traveling shows. They also appeared in the 1933 film The Emperor Jones, starring Paul Robeson. Wilson and Grant wrote more than 400 songs during their career, including "Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer)" (1933) and "Take Me for a Buggy Ride" (both of which were made famous by Bessie Smith's recordings of them) and "Find Me at the Greasy Spoon (If You Miss Me Here)" (1925) and "Prince of Wails" for Fletcher Henderson. Their own renditions included such diverse titles as "Come on Coot, Do That Thing" (1925), "Dem Socks Dat My Pappy Wore," and the unreleased "Throat Cutting Blues". Grant and Wilson's act, once seen as a rival of Butterbeans and Susie, began to lose favor with the public by the middle of the 1930s, but they recorded again in 1938. Their only child, Bobby Wilson, was born in 1941. By 1946, after Mezz Mezzrow had founded his King Jazz record label, he engaged them as songwriters. This association led to their final recording session, in 1946, backed by a quintet including Bechet and Mezzrow. Wilson retired in ill health shortly thereafter, but Grant continued performing into the 1950s. In January 1953, one commentator noted that the couple had moved from New York to Los Angeles and were in considerable financial hardship. Wilson died of a stroke, aged 65, in October 1958 in Cape May Court House, New Jersey.

His entire recorded work, with and without Grant, was issued in three chronological volumes by Document Records in 1998.

by Eugene Chadbourne
While just about every early blues musician used a pseudonym at some point, there are some who carried the practice to such extremes that it threatens the possible brevity of any biographical essay. Wesley Wilson was such a creature, although it might be surmised that he could see into the future and was simply avoiding possible associations with the ridiculous Chicago songwriter and performer Wesley Willis, who didn't come along until much later. Wilson was one half of the extremely unappetizing-sounding duo of Pigmeat Pete & Catjuice Charlie, and also recorded as Kid Wilson, Jenkins, Socks, and either Sox Wilson or Socks Wilson. He was most often in the company of Leola Wilson, who was hardly partial to pseudonyms herself. She was better known as Coot Grant, and while their duo did sometimes actually appear as Grant & Wilson, many other names were stuck up on their marquees and emblazoned across their record labels. These include Hunter & Jenkins as well as Kid & Coot.

The duo teamed up around 1905, marrying seven years later. Born Leola Pettigrew, the female artist picked up the nickname Coot Grant as some kind of extension of "cutie." The origins of the name Catjuice Charlie are unknown, but speculation is certainly encouraged. Pigmeat Pete's real name was Harry McDaniels. Wesley Wilson played both organ and piano and was extremely active as a songwriter with his wife, their most famous creation being the demanding anthem "Gimme a Pigfoot," a song strongly associated with classic blues queen Bessie Smith.

Listeners who are made queasy by the subject of noshing on pig's feet may want to avoid this songwriting duo's repertoire of some 400 songs in order to avoid any possible traumatic reactions to ditties such as "Find Me at the Greasy Spoon (If You Miss Me Here" and its companion, "Dirty Spoon Blues." While "I Don't Want That Stale Stuff" and "Boop-Poop-A-Doop" present a gross aura, worst of all might be the scent of "Dem Socks Dat My Pappy Wore." In a rare display of good taste, record companies declined on issuing the pair's "Throat Cutting Blues" completely.

No matter what they called themselves, the Wilson duo did very well in the '20s and early '30s, performing with top bands such as Fletcher Henderson and the collaborative Mezz Mezzrow-Sidney Bechet Quintet. The duo commanded the stage in musical comedies, vaudeville, traveling minstrel shows, and revues. Artistic and professional highlights included working with Louis Armstrong and an appearance in the film Emperor Jones starring Paul Robeson. Despite these promising happenings, the duo wound up doing badly from the mid-'30s onward. There was a complete gap in terms of recording activities from 1933 through 1938, then nothing for nearly a decade until the duo showed up writing material and recording for Mezzrow's King Jazz label. By 1949, Catjuice Charlie seemed to run out of juice, Wesley Wilson's health deteriorating to the point where he was forced to stop performing. His wife was active in the music business for a few more years, then apparently dropped out of sight.